On Going Off Facebook

IMG_0085_Fotor Dorothy

Something odd happened to me today.  I no sooner got finished telling someone how happy writing makes me, than within hours I felt sick of it.  I thought maybe I would drop out of this challenge, even though I never had that thought before.  I thought maybe I don’t really like the activity of writing so much that it eclipses all other activities.  I thought maybe I don’t really want to publish a book, after all.

I got busy with my day and didn’t think too much about it again until I sat down to write my post just now for Day 13.

A question came up on Facebook on our Write31Days group page, and yet again the very defensive administrator with a lot of bravado was rude in response to my follow-up question.

I decided just to think about her retort; perhaps to address it tomorrow, if not disregard it altogether.

Then I poked around for a bit, and independent of the thought of her curtness or any other specific impetus, I decided on a bit of impulse just to deactivate my Facebook account.

I’m really surprised I did this.  And yet I am not at all surprised.

Ever since I started this challenge, and the actual putting into practice-do as I say Breaking Free from Fatigue-I have really been too busy for Facebook.  And I also have not been as reliant on it…

Facebook was a perfect go-to when I was fatigued, but now that I am trying so hard to push past the rest it required, I find I not only don’t have the time for Facebook, I also find I am losing interest in it.

For one thing, I have a stack of books I want to read, a party to plan, a bunch of writing to do, and a house to prepare for guests, along with meals to prepare to feed them.  Plus, I am still trying to walk 5 miles a day.  Just the party prep could take me the whole of the rest of this week.  I wonder what life will feel like without the daily connection that is Facebook?

Actually, as this 31 Day Writing Challenge continues, I think going off Facebook is the perfect thing for me to do.  It’s such a perfect idea, I really don’t know why I didn’t think of it in the first place.

Perhaps it was because at the time this writing challenge launched, I was involved with 100 Days of Happy Photosand wanted to finish that challenge, which was also initiated on Facebook. In fact, tomorrow is our last day: it will be exactly one hundred days that I’ve been sharing in the group, mostly daily, photographs of things that bring happiness my way each day (the featured photo above is one I took for this group).  I feel a little badly about abandoning the 100 Happy Photographs project, but I can always post my photo(s) here, if I want to. Or, I can explain when I return.  I will go back on Facebook in time–I just don’t know when.  Perhaps I will wait until this 31 Day Writing challenge is over.

Most importantly, being off Facebook will give me more time to focus on the new habits I am trying to build, in order to replace the physical rest that dominated my days.  This will be a great day for me, if not being exhausted ever occurs–a day I’ve long awaited!  In addition, I feel burned out on the pettiness that happens on Facebook, which I try most of the time to ignore.  I get tired of the superficiality and some of the practices that goes on there.  I feel as though I am looking for deeper, more meaningful connections, as I have always had in real life, since I try to avoid wasting time frivolously.  When I was fatigued, I had a lot of reading time but not always the best concentration.  Facebook was great for little blips of interest, even though I often fell asleep laptop in hand.

Yet, being as communicative as I am, it is difficult for me to spend five minutes and then disappear for six days–or worse, just to post a photo of a contorted cat that says, “Hang in There,” or some such thing, and then move away.  I don’t think in soundbites.  I may be too expressive for Facebook.  Too contemplative, maybe.  I don’t like the rituals that remind me of junior high/middle school, even though, again, I rarely let myself be bothered by them.  I’m just aware…and I need a break from all of it, apparently.

Besides, now that I am finally beginning to feel like a normal person, I want  to return to in person relationships, not just virtual.  I think this break is going to be beneficial, although I will probably miss all sorts of important news and changes in people’s lives.  I guess someone will have to call me, or I just won’t know…

This move is a big change for me, as I have been reading Facebook posts nearly daily for the whole latter five years or so of my recovery.  The operative here is “move.”  Alas, movement!  This has been my goal for so long.  It is exciting to be finally achieving such an important goal (even as my head hurts just a bit still).

Indeed, while almost completely unanticipated, going off Facebook feels like a huge evolution.  I mean, I knew I was aggravated with it at times, but I never realized I would be able to make such a swift, clean break.  I also guess I never let myself realize just how aggravating it has become.  I always tend to focus on the positives, and there are many positives to social networking.

Perhaps blogging fulfills a similar sort of social need that Facebook does?  There certainly is not the same amount of interaction.  Same with tweeting, I suppose, which is also different from the Facebook culture.

I do worry somewhat that people won’t know what happened to me, since I made no announcement of my leaving, and maybe even that I will lose “friends” I don’t want to lose.  But anyone who cares should know how to find me here; at least they say they are reading my blog.  All and all, if they really want to connect, I’m sure they will be able to find me some other way other than Facebook.

I don’t think anything urgent will happen while I’m gone–except, OOPS, I was supposed to go pick up a Halloween costume for $6.00 for our granddaughter from someone I don’t know and will no longer have contact information for.  Oh, my.  Like I said, I really didn’t think it all the way through.  At the time, it just seemed like the perfect thing to do.  Surely it is better than stopping my writing challenge, no?  Better than giving up writing for good?  And by for good, I mean for forever.  If I have to choose between writing, moving and Facebook, Facebook is going to lose every time…

I do wonder how much time will pass before I return to Facebook.  I’m hoping that I at least take the rest of this month off.  It’s going to be interesting to see how this goes.

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can’t I?

This is Day 13 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue


© debra valentino, all rights reserved,

Remembering John Denver


Today is the 18th anniversary of the fatal air tragedy that took the life of popular American folklorist/singer/songwriter John Denver.  You can find a vast amount of information about John’s accident and his career on the internet.

I have also written about John Denver frequently on this blog.  A lifelong fan, I was led to an even deeper appreciation of his work during my recovery from acquired head trauma.

Please feel free to remember John by visiting any of the following links:

On Tributes, Love Letters, and Sentimentality: To John Denver from Aspen

On Writing It Down

Aspen In October 2012, Introduction, Part 1

(there are three posts that follow this):

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Talk About Opening Doors: A Tribute to Steve Weisberg


This is Day 12 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue


© debra valentino, all rights reserved,

The Old Man Who Cared

I heard a touching story today.

An elderly gentleman was leaving a doctor’s appointment.  On his way out of the office building, he saw a woman sitting outside on the steps.

He wouldn’t have given this a thought, except he noticed that the woman’s shoulders and head slumped down low into her body.  She looked dejected.  He wasn’t sure if she was physically hurt, or dangerously upset.  Something about the sight of her seemed alarming.

The old man with the wobbly gait and arthritic hands held onto the railing as he slowly made his way down the stairs, gingerly navigating one concrete step at a time.  His legs carried pain that couldn’t be treated.

He noticed the woman’s face, and described it as “tortured.”

There was no denying the woman looked uncomfortably sad.

The old man did not know what to do.  He felt bad for the woman, and wasn’t sure if she was okay.  All of this began to make him worry.

He wondered whether the woman was safe enough to speak to, since one never knows in cases like these. You can’t just approach strangers that you know nothing about, he thought to himself; you don’t know what they will do.

Still, the man sensed the woman needed assistance.  Though he didn’t want to bother her, he imagined he ought to try to do something.

“How’ you doing?” the old man asked, the words spilling quietly from him.

The woman, who appeared disheveled, with hair unkempt, looked to be about 45 years of age.  Much younger than the man.  Yet notably careworn.

The woman, looking tearful, turned reluctantly toward the man.

“You are going to be okay,” the old man reassured her.  Then, with an urgency:

“You are the best there is!”

The woman remained silent.

The old man could see that the woman was utterly dispirited.  He was just hoping to help in some small way, uncertain as to how.  Her crisis was unclear, but he felt badly for her unknown suffering.

“You are the best person you know,” the man continued.

The woman slowly lifted her head into the sunshine.

“Don’t ever doubt yourself,” the old man added affirmatively, “There is no one better than you.  You know that.  No one is better than you.”

“Thank you for your words,” the younger woman said, “I appreciate them.”

The man nodded his head and started at last to move on.

With hesitation and a bit more concern he added, “Do you have a ride?”  He didn’t feel she should just be left alone in the state she was in.

“Yes,” the woman said, “A cab is on the way to get me.”

“Good,” the man said, turning to go, taking another step away.

Yet again, something made him pause, perhaps it was her sadness, the thought of where she might have been or where she might be going.  Would she be safe?

“Do you have kids,” the old man asked, not meaning to pry.

“Yes,” the woman said quietly, “I have three.  But, one committed suicide,” she added.

“Ohh, that’s hard,” the man said, “really tough.”

The man then opened up to the woman with the very first thing that occurred to him.

He knew it might not be the best thing to say, but if he could, he wanted to make her feel less alone, hopefully less despondent.

“I had a similar situation,” the man confided.  “My own son became seriously ill.  Eventually he died too. It was very hard.”

“Both situations,” the man continued, “yours and mine–they’re so terrible.”

“We can’t give up.  We just can’t, even though it hurts so much,” the man concluded.

The woman agreed, and now lent her sympathy to the man as he shared with her a little more about his son.

“I am so sorry to hear about your son, Sir.  I’m just so sorry,” the woman offered.

“Well, you just remember what I said,” the old man said.

Then, as he turned to go the final time, he said:

“You are valuable.”  “Your other two kids need you.”  And then he repeated, “You have as much right to be here as anyone else.  No one is better than you.”  “Don’t forget I said that.”

“Yes,” the woman said, still looking sad, still disheveled.  She did seem perceptibly a wee bit stronger, her head and shoulders a bit less slumped, perhaps breathing a little deeper.

“Take care of yourself,” the old man said as he walked away, hoping he had made some difference, that he had been of some small help to this sad, broken woman he knew so little about.

“Sometimes,” the old man–who was actually the one telling the story–said to me, “The smallest fact is everything you need to know.  That’s when a small fact can become the major fact.”

“That’s a good story,” I said to the man telling it to me:  “I love you, Dad.”


This is Day 11 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue


© debra valentino, all rights reserved,

The Space that Keeps Us Honest and True: Last Night and This Morning

DSC03123_Fotor john prine

John Prine fans love stories.  Beyond the American folklorist’s songwriting success is a fundamental interest in writing, as described here: “I guess I always loved to write, but I never had anything to really encourage it. I never thought I could be a journalist or novelist or anything, I just had a wild imagination and songwriting gave me enough rope to run with it.”  This doesn’t sound exactly like an authentic John Prine quote to me, maybe it’s a paraphrase, but there is no disputing that John does have a wild imagination, and no doubt John experienced an early interest in writing.  He and I certainly have that in common, even though he makes a lot more money than I do.

Indeed, John Prine generally has had greater fortune than most of us.  Like some of us, however, the famous lyricist has had his share of health scares, and like some of us, he continues to work hard to persevere.  Without any of these challenges, he would still be admirable. Yet, I might point out that his health challenges likely include the sort of debilitating fatigue that is the focus of this 31 day writing challenge for me.

Certainly it feels a bit disingenuous to be comparing myself to John Prine, but as a writer, comparisons and differences come automatically.  They are instantly recognizable, and then sometimes, well, undeniable. The fact that one of  the greatest living songwriters of our time shares interests and ailments in common with one of the most unknown bloggers on the internet seems a rather compelling synthesis–and this connection with the ordinary person explains, in part, what makes John Prine’s writing so successful.  His humility enables him to identify with his fans, and we in turn, identify with him.  He comes before us as a regular guy, albeit in his trademark black suit and carrying his guitar or guitar case, but on stage he laughs with us, he connects with us, and even shows his appreciation for us.

In all the John Prine concerts I have attended, my favorite ones have occurred since my head injury. Because of my growing adoration for him, my gratefulness to still be here able to enjoy art, and at that very moment, his music in particular…or maybe just because of the emotional lability that comes from concussion, after his finishing a song with his band (which is awesome and worthy of its own post), I have screamed to him on stage at the top of my lungs, “I LOVE YOU, JOHN! I LOVE YOU, JOHN!”  During last summer’s 2014 concert at Red Rocks near Denver, Colorado, he clearly heard me (we were in Row 11; although I am pretty sure he heard me at other concerts, too; it may have been that he even recognized me as that screaming fan again), to my surprise, he didn’t turn away or act annoyed, but instead looked right at me and said with love, “Thank you.  We appreciate that.”  The man has a heart so big that he truly appreciates his fans’ appreciation. Like all great artists, neither joy nor sorrow escapes him, and we hear this in his music, we witness it at his concerts.

One characteristic most praiseworthy about John Prine’s work is that he takes cliche’s and spins them into extended metaphors of high art.  Or to borrow a teaching metaphor, he turns “D” writing into “A” writing. I’m not sure he has to work all that hard to do this; at least he makes it appear effortless.  His Irish whimsy and sense of the absurd seem ever present, and this elevates his language from prose to poetry, as if his inner William Butler Yeats is always there having a beer with him.  His lyrics are filled with literary embellishment that employ tropes, wit, satire, sarcasm, irony, and even once in a blue moon, allusion.  The best thing is when he draws his own characters, real or imaginary, such as “the oldest baby in the world,” “Sabu,” “Mr. Peabody,” the “big old goofy man dancing with a big old goofy girl” and “some humans [that] ain’t human.”  Like a fine novel, his songs will make you laugh and they will make you cry.  He’s like a modern day Dickens contrasting the great expectations of a people, large and small–but mostly examining the life of the small.  Or, as John Prine plainly puts it in “Humidity Built the Snowman, “The scientific nature of the ordinary man / Is to go on out and do the best you can.”

That idea is certainly the philosophy behind Stumbler.  We live our lives, take a few hits and a few falls, pick ourselves up as long as we can, and keep trying.  That’s what’s happening with this piece, too, as I write spontaneously and a bit rushed to finish it a day later than hoped–hoping to have the day I hope to have today.  Yesterday, I just got to busy living and then too tired to write about it. So, because writing is what matters here, this is what I stitched together last night–after the Cubs beat the Cardinals 6-3 in the second of five games in the National League Divisional Playoff Series–Lord knows (and John surely knows) that that was rare tv worth watching.  Even though it was his birthday, John even may have been following the game himself…



It’s just past ten o’clock on the 10th day of the tenth month of the year, October, 2015.  It also happens to be the tenth day of my 31 day writing challenge and one of the busiest Saturdays this woman has seen in a long time.  I completed Day 9 of this writing challenge at about this same time last night, however mostly with my eyes closed.  I’ve got no guesses as to what all of these tens could mean, but hopefully I will figure out something.  I’m a little slap-happy here, but let’s see what happens.  We can relax, because even though we’re on the internet and all, it’s only blogging.  And we don’t really care that much; the point is to write.  Sleepers may sleep, but we writers–we don’t sleep.

As I fight the fatigue that has plagued me for so long by forcing change in the ways I have been discussing on this blog and more particularly in this challenge–and mostly by just good old fashioned keeping busy–I find the days flying by, seemingly as quickly as the years that are already gone, including the long-suffering ones which were all but lost entirely.  The decade and the decades–gone in a whoosh!  But that’s cliche, I know.  So I hope everyone will forgive me if nothing gold comes from this keyboard tonight–because I really hate to have to be writing this on the fly.  Real writers write ahead of schedule; they make no apologies, but I’m just working a  writing challenge, trying to figure out what all to say, and mostly trying to make my deadline by midnight tonight, because…

Today is the birthday of the great American singer/songwriter John Prine.

That is 10/10/46.

He is (or was) 69 years old today!

You would think that on such a great writer’s birthday I could get it together to permit the possibility of writing earlier in the day when one hopefully suffers less fatigue…but alas, I could not.  I’ve been busy planning another birthday party; in fact, this one for my father’s 85th–a mere one week away.  I had to get the cake ordered, the balloons, the photos…and there’s been some drama.  So, stay tuned for all of that.


I just figured out the significance of all of these tens…even though it’s probably passe’ to say it now,

John Prine is a 10!  /  John Prine is a 10!

So, please allow me to trace, if you will, a summary of my affiliation with “John,” as most of his fans know him.  I first heard John’s music coming from my brother’s bedroom stereo around 1971.  Back then, I didn’t pay much attention; my brother was always listening to music; I just heard it enough to notice that it wasn’t Cream’s “White Room” or Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”  I remember lifting my head toward the newness, then I kept right on staying out of my big brother’s hair, the way he and I both preferred.  Most likely, I was on the phone.  The land line.  We called them house phones back then.  They plugged into the wall and they had cords that were coiled and cords that were extenders, so we could walk around the room, kind of like we walk around the mall now, phone in hand.  I had a phone that was pink.  It was called a Princess Phone, and it had a rotary dial.  I wonder whatever happened to all the phones people had.  Was there a telephone landfill?  John Prine started out as a mailman.  I don’t think he ever worked for the telephone company, though lots of people did.  Telephones have changed a lot over the years.  I don’t think John has ever written a song about telephones.  Maybe Bonnie Raitt has.  If you know, you can tell me in the comments below.

So, my brother was a senior in high school, a gymnast, and four years older than me.  John Prine was six years older than my brother; that is, the “middle” one–I had two older brothers, so one year older than my oldest brother, I would later learn, and also, whadd’ya know?, a gymnast, as both my brothers were–which was a huge deal in our family–and at a high school not twenty miles down the road from where we lived. I’m not sure what all these coincidences mean, other than it must have been meant to be that I found John Prine.  I’ve got to be one of his biggest fans, in my way; certainly much bigger than my brother who still listens to him, but has become more like one of the people John sings about…

But back to then, the 1970s and 80s–years that felt like days passed….I didn’t hear John Prine’s music again until I was with my brother during his senior year and my freshman year of college when we were driving the long distance back home from the university we both attended (because my parents, imagining he would look after me, made me go to the same school as my brother).  Of course, he didn’t look after me at all…but we did drive to and from school together whenever the occasion arose.  Actually, he drove while I endured his driving.

So, one spring day toward the end of the semester, we were driving along in my brother’s old Pontiac Catalina convertible, listening to an 8-track audio tape of one of John’s most famous songs, “Illegal Smile.” Since this time I was stuck in the front passenger’s seat of the car with nothing but time, I now listened more carefully.  My brother has always been more prone to “illegal smiles” than I, but to see us both, you would expect that even this first time listening that I was enjoying the song every bit as much as he was.

I remember how my brother and I laughed when John sang the surprise ending, which includes the words–with a big, sloppy caesura, a catastrophic pause to set the scene–

“Sonofagun /my sister / is a nun!”  

We laughed at the irony of the tale of a stoner pulled over by a cop, nervously reciting all the excuses lawbreakers do to try to persuade cops to let him off the hook…because way back then, marijuana was not even close to legal.  We laughed, too, at the wordplay of the sister being a nun, since as Catholics we always knew nuns really to be sisters…and of course there I was in the flesh, the always holier than thou, in fact biological, sister!  If neither one of us was stoned at the time, we both certainly were beginning to feel like we were.  As we laughed, we were bonded in a collision with our innocence, and I always remember this as one of my favorite memories of being with my brother.

The years went by, and we experienced tragedy in our family.  Above all, we lost our oldest brother, whom we were both closer to than each other.  It ripped the hearts out of my brother and me, and of course out of both of our parents.  We all dealt with it in the individual ways that people do, and before we knew what to think anymore, my brother and I; that is, my only living brother and I, had grown divided and stopped speaking to one another altogether.  In our disunity, we both remain John Prine fans to this day, some thirty years after the drive with Sam Stone in my brother’s convertible.

Here is a John Prine song that encapsulates some of these sorts of experiences between siblings, between me and my only two older brothers, both of them now gone from me.  It has the lines, “We lost Davey in the Korean War / We don’t know what for / Don’t matter any more,” called “Hello In There.

Hello In There

Here is another song I shared yesterday on the John Prine Facebook page, called, “All the Best.”

All the Best

Awww, shucks, this has been fun.  Yesterday, I woke up thinking of John on his birthday and then throughout the day.  What I’ve found is that I could just write and write and write about John Prine.  Maybe I will have to write about him again another time.

Fortunately, thank the heavens, I got some living to do.

Fortunately, thank everything I know, I got some gold inside me, too.

Here’s to all of you, John Prine fans old and new, remember always “You Got Gold.

You Got Gold

This is Day 10 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue


© debra valentino, all rights reserved,

Oh, Those Sister Wives

Oh, Those Sister Wives

One remedy for breaking free of fatigue is to find a way to be amused.

Millions of women have somehow become interested in the TLC Sunday night show The Sister Wives.  If you ask these women what the show’s appeal is to them, they say they don’t know.  They’re not exactly sure why the series fascinates them; they’re not planning on joining the polygamist lifestyle, nor are they studying world religions, which is just as well because religion really isn’t the focus of the show, anyway.  Most watch the “reality-based” episodes to study and albeit be entertained by the complexity of the interpersonal relationships this peculiar dynamic engenders.

The peculiar dynamic resides between the four wives–Meri, Christine, Janelle and Robyn–as well as their occasional interactions with the 14 children among them, interesting in itself, and most especially the one husband in command, Kody Brown–the self-proclaimed “guy with the big boy panties” at My Sisterwife’s Closet, the ladies’ latest entrepreneurial endeavor.

There is a lot to be amused by in this television show.

While women viewers may get sidelined by the appeal of having girl time together daily, the price of a few laughs and a good vent with the girls gets murky for viewers when the requirement is that each woman has to be intimate with the one husband who is husband to all; that’s right, husband-sharing.  A bit of a deal breaker for most of us, but not for these sister wives, however.

Yet, the true comfort level of each sister wife is really the center of the question, and probably what has us watching so closely. While they each proclaim repeatedly that they believe in the polygamist lifestyle, most Sister Wives’ viewers are pretty confident it’s doomed to fail.

As we watch, count up the failures do we do.  The women are often crying, sometimes bickering either with the kids or each other–and lately, with the master hair-tossler himself, their shared husband Kody.

Interestingly, Kody has a mop of blonde hair that rivals any of the women’s tresses in beauty.  He keeps it sun-kissed and shoulder-length, perhaps as an apparent sign of his virility, but also we see, to disguise the balding head we know is just beneath it.  This physical characteristic seems emblematic of his persona, which also carries an undeniable air of deceit.  Somehow, we get the impression that Kody’s jovial, child-like playfulness is fooling no one but himself.

Most of the sister wives at any given time seem depressed; yet, they are full of smiles and long in-his-eye gazes whenever Kody is around. Perhaps it’s the competition to look and behave like the perfect wife as defined by their own family standards, or maybe it’s just that absence does make the heart grow fonder. With various commitments to each wife and the children she bore him, Kody flits from house to house in episode after episode, which appears to viewers more the attempt at creating the impression that he is all in.  Indeed, Kody Brown’s visits give new meaning to the term “bosom buddy.”

The show can be confusing, and feminists especially can find themselves outraged by the subservience both handed to the wives by Kody, and so readily taken on by themselves.  Viewers are constantly wondering what the women could possibly be thinking.

It is nearly impossible to tell what each of the wives really thinks, because they work so hard at going along with the tenants of the polygamist lifestyle and the expectations of the husband, Kody.  In a most recent episode, for example, the #2/4 wife Christine finds herself frustrated with Kody after they share an anniversary trip away from the rest of the family.  (It is Christine and Kody’s 21st wedding anniversary, and each wife has her own wedding day and anniversary date and celebrations.)  Kody makes the mistake of saying at the start that it is his and Christine’s 22 anniversary, and when she quickly corrects him, he jokes, “Whatever; okay it’s our 100th anniversary!”  Female viewers, and apparently Christine herself, find his childish retort exasperating.  Shall we just say that Kody could use a few pointers in the art of foreplay?

To cover his slip-ups, Kody likes to pretend that he is above pedestrian concerns, such as how many years he’s been married to his first three wives or which wife he made love with last, whatever the inconsequential case may be (to him). Kody’s clearly got bigger things on his mind–which generally seem to center around himself, his beard or his hair.  Nonetheless, he seems to want us to believe that it is “the family” that is the big picture, and the decided object of his concern and passion.  Of course, we never really seem to see him go to work to provide for this ever-increasing family, as most of his time on air is taken up by trying to placate one of his tearful wives.

And, Oh, there are a lot of tears shed on the set of Sister Wives.

In some moments, one feels incredible compassion for the women, but in most one feels even greater frustration and anger that each of them seems so un-evolved for a woman of the 21st Century.  Between their denial and Kody’s audacity, we end up “hate-watching” Sister Wives, even as we yell at our television sets for somebody to wake-up and leave, or at least kick this man to the curb.

The attention from Kody never gets divided fairly among the wives or the children, but how could it.  He is, after all, human?  Interestingly, Kody addresses this problem and any complaints that come his way by demanding family unity.  When on their brief and unsuccessful anniversary trip, Kody’s and Christine’s marriage therapist (you read that right) assigns the couple the task of building a tower from rocks on the beach, Christine complains that she has to do everything Kody’s way and that he doesn’t bother to consider her thoughts or desires.  She tells Kody, who dominates the endeavor and makes the project a facsimile of the family, that she wishes he put the focus a little more on her and on their relationship because it is after all, their time together, and she would like some reassurance of his love.  Kody shames Christine for speaking up and basically for putting their marriage before the family by being quick to tell her,  “I am looking for a solid structure in our family.  Honor our ENTIRE family, and I will love you.”

You get the formula:  “Everybody has to love everybody, but I get a pass, while most of all, everybody has to love (and obey) me.”

Once one gets past the unnerving tone of Kody’s words to Christine, one can see that Kody’s agenda is to force her acceptance, bonding and cooperation of the other wives.  In other words, by “honoring the family,” she must express no protest to anything Kody has to do in the name of keeping the other three wives happy.  Naturally, because she really is human (while somewhat misguided), Christine responds nearly in tears, saying that she needs Kody to trust her, and she emphasizes the word trust.

Christine wants to assert that she is a good girl, a team player, fully on board and cooperative to his expectations (and really, demands).  Yet, the irony is not lost that she is asking the man who kisses other women right in front of her and oh, lord in her pesky imagination to trust her, even though he’s the only man she’ll be kissing until the end of time.  Still, Christine wants to underscore that she wants Kody to trust that she indeed loves her sister wives…

For her cooperation, Christine gets from Kody her first smack/peck of the filming, almost on the mouth but not quite–although it happens so fast it’s nearly missed entirely.  Viewers have to wonder, probably along with Christine who’s got to feel it deeper within, what the *#@%’s  up with that?

It’s hard not to get frustrated with Christine’s tolerance and regret, particularly when she pleads Kody’s forgiveness for “just not getting it” about the crucial intent of being tied into the family (which is really Kody’s intent).  And it’s really hard not to get frustrated, if not angry, with Kody.

One has to wonder what Kody is avoiding; what he is trying to secure.  The answer, as everyone seems to complain is the case, is that he favors #4/4 wife, Robyn, thus keeping a noticeable distance from the other three wives, both emotionally and physically.  And herein the proverbial plot, as it were, thickens.

The truth appears to be that three of the (older) wives are all at least sub-consciously aware of Kody’s disinterest in them and his undeniable favoring of the fourth (younger) wife Robyn.  As a result, there is a good deal of tension and frustration in each household and each of the wives seems increasingly depressed –including the fourth wife Robyn, but only because she’s taking a lot of flack these days for being Kody’s chosen girl.

Robyn’s perch shows us that in fact all these women are at the least psychologically and emotionally abused, because even the “winner” of Kody’s attention and affection is also naturally a “loser” when she is put in the position of being resented by the other sister wives. How are you going to get along with the family when nobody trusts you? This is to say that Robyn’s unique and also controlling personality plays right in to Kody’s mis-conceived agenda. As a result , polygamy ends up looking like a lose-lose-lose-lose, for each of the four wives and many more losses for each of their individual children. Kody is the only winner, and yet with most viewers, he is really the biggest loser of all.


This is Day 5 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue

Day 5, #write31days

© debra valentino, all rights reserved,

Artists of the Spirit

IMG_7447_Fotor Spirit2 floe

Artists of the Spirit

We are all artists.  Some of us have different talents and interests, but we all have spirits.  It is so important to have an inner life, and with that to nurture our spirits.  One way to break free from chaos, pain, confusion, and certainly fatigue is to turn toward the spirit within yourself.

There is a saying that we are always the same age inside.  For me, I also feel that constancy in my spirit. In many ways I’m still that same child who sensed the first stirrings of a sacred presence beyond the self. Sundays are good days to ponder our spiritual journey, and to break free from old disappointments.  They are like days of cleansing and renewal, when all is washed away in celebration of the week that passed and in anticipation of the week ahead.

Consider the words of the wise don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, in the quotation above, and then the advice in the Four Agreements as posted below.

the four agreements

May you each enjoy your Sunday.

May you feel the freedom to express yourself in your own particular way.

May you express your love openly.

May your life be an artful masterpiece.


This is Day 4 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue

Day 4, #write31days

© debra valentino,, all rights reserved

A Truth That’s Told with Good Intent

autumn's first leaves

A Truth That’s Told with Good Intent

On July 6, I began a 100 day photography challenge that I wrote a bit about here.  Today was our 90th day. The simple purpose of the challenge was to take one photo each day of something that made us happy. Most of us took our photos on the fly with just our cell phones, but a few more professional posts were taken with digital cameras.  We started out with a group about twice the size as we ended up with; so about half of us are still participating with only ten days left to go.

When I started, I was in a whirl of agony from a couple of traumas I have no control over; not little stuff, big stuff.  I was determined to do what I could to get through the storms and to enjoy summer as much as possible, mostly because I’m just tired of suffering.  It wasn’t easy, but I was flabbergasted by how this photography challenge helped me.  On my worst days, I did not participate, but as soon as I could rejoin the group, I did.  What I found was that wherever I went, I was looking for the good.  To do so is my nature in the first place, but everyone is only human, and sometimes heartaches throw us off course.  I needed this assignment.  With the discipline of this challenge, I was able to add more joys to my day each and every day.

Years ago I adopted the philosophy of the English poet, William Blake, who wrote centuries ago about seeing heaven in a wildflower (Auguries of Innocence).  This focus enables us to experience delight in the smallest, most ordinary things, and to value them.  Because this challenge of focusing on something that makes me happy came easily, on a few days I was even hard pressed to decide which photo I wanted to post.  Other days, I knew instantly.  On a few occasions, I was unable to take the photo that captured my attention, because I did not wish to be intrusive.

Still, often enough, I came upon images, particularly on my daily walks. Here are a few photos I shared in the group from my nature walks and walks around town…

100 days photo

one hundred happys

little library
IMG_1917 (1)


Then there were the occasions, the dinners with friends and breakfasts with my husband, the family vacation, preparing for our granddaughter’s Sweet 16 birthday party, not to mention our occasional road trips and bike rides, gifts given and recelk 100 happy dr seived..along with the simple, everyday things like reading a book at the library, taking the dog for his walk and watching the children flock to pet him;                                                               a IMG_1678visit to one of my favorite doctors who takes good care of me and seems to care genuinely about my healing; the day I received my t-shirt for this challenge; seeing the grand baby grow and make her first friend….All of these things and more brought joy to my days.

100 happy days dad's giftday 50 happy pics

IMG_1192 100 happy days
Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 6.40.40 PM






baby with dog

romeo and the kids 100 happy days

grandbaby and her first friend one hundred day pics














In the collective, these daily photographs made me realize that our suffering is actually a small part of us, though it feels constant.  We should keep this in perspective, and focus on the good to the best of our ability.  Even if we have to look back or forward, the good is there.

Even with all this happiness, life can be hard.  We all must do what we can to break free from the trials that plague us.  It’s all a matter of how you want to define your life.  Do you want your illness to define you?  Do you want tragedy or heartache or disappointment to define who you are or how you face your days on this planet?  All of us are living on borrowed time.  All of us know sorrow.  If you are a person who suffers, try searching for whatever makes you smile.  If you are a person who is greatly blessed, try doing what you can to bring a smile to someone else’s face.  Remember though, it is not so much what we can do for others–though that surely brings joy–but more to the point, what we can do for ourselves.


This is Day 3 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue

Day 3, #write31days

                                       © debra valentino, all rights reserved,



On Breaking the Rules

mykonos stairs
On Breaking the Rules
(and Some Happiness on Day 2)

Yesterday I broke one of my own writing rules.

I always told my students, both in class and when they came to me whining or even crying, never to write while they were tired.

There is no sense in it.  Writing is thinking.  It takes energy, focus.  It draws on everything you know and were ever taught.  It even draws on all the questions you have or will ever have.

It’s a mistake to write while you’re tired.  If you do, you will spend a lot more time trying to articulate what you want to say.  You will get angry and frustrated; you won’t enjoy it…and writing should always be enjoyable.  At least that is the goal.

Not to mention the mistakes you will make.

If you want to embarrass yourself, write when you are tired. Even if you save face, you’re likely to get mad at yourself for doing it.  The only benefit to it is that you have written.  But sometimes all that yields is bad writing.  Fortunately, I had lessons for my students on what to do with bad writing, too.

Most people cannot write effectively when they are sleepy or muddled, and yet I did that yesterday.  I did it because of this 31 Day Writing Challenge, which has already taught me to be intimidated by it.

So, today I’m writing first.  I’m getting it out of the way (did I just say that?) (haha, it doesn’t take long for an opportunity to feel like a task)!  I am going to re-calibrate.

The amazing thing is that even though I broke my own rule yesterday, I also achieved my number one goal for this challenge, at least the blogging part of it.  I OVERCAME MY OWN FATIGUE.

I DID THAT.  ON DAY ONE.  Day one of the challenge, and I put into practice a technique that I had only hoped to achieve.  I stayed busy the entire day.

And I didn’t die!

I think this proves that I am a LOT wiser than I ever imagined.  Or, a lot stupider.  Ha!

You see, my premise is that it is possible that the lingering effects of my physical fatigue from my head injury have become rote.  That the behaviors of all my long days of healing somewhere along the line became habituated.  That I do not need to rest, so much as I think I need to.

I’m trying to break this habit.  I’m wondering if we don’t become identified with a thing (in this instance, fatigue), and that thing then informs our actions.  I know that as a mom, I think like what I believe a mom should be.  As a wife, I behave like a wife — I like to tell my husband that I don’t even know how to flirt, so he better not leave me.  I sharpen the skills that matter, and don’t pay a lot of attention to the ones that don’t.

Do you do this, too?

Yesterday was such a big day for me.  It was the launch of this challenge, which I have never before attempted.  And it was just a regular day.  Except it was more like a regular day from my old life, than a regular day from me current life.

That is incredible.  When something like this occurs, it’s a metaphoric closing of the briefcase.  We can turn out the lights and go home.  Class dismissed.   We have accomplished what we set out to do.


So, while I am mad at myself for blogging last night at midnight after a long day with no rest at all, I am also very proud and rather astonished.  It’s like I gave myself the suggestion, and it was done.

Can you imagine the changes we could make in our lives if we were always this successful?

How did this happen?  I must have been ready.  But I didn’t feel ready.  And it was such a whirlwind, I am still feeling tired…

Does it matter what I did with my day; did that influence my success?  I suppose it did.  I did not get my walk in.  Lately, walking has been my priority–but it always seems to wipe me out.  All exercise does.  I thought I would die on Labor Day when we took a 35 mile bike ride.  It took me days to recover from that. It doesn’t matter if I walk one mile or ride my bike 35, I always get fatigued.  That wasn’t my pre-injury habit; my pre-injury habit was to keep going until the day was done.

Yesterday, I did not get any physical exercise, but I kept going until I finished my first official 31 Days blogpost.  I went shopping with my husband for the first new table and chairs I’ve gotten since 1985.  It took HOURS at the furniture store.  Hours to select, hours of listening to the saleswoman drone on.  I was amused by how she would always say how great something was, but never include the cost.   Despite my pointing that out to her (we brain injury survivors can be a bit unmonitored), she kept doing it, even when she knew the price without looking it up.  I wondered if that was just her or some faulty sales training.

When we finally escaped the furniture store, samples in hand, I remembered that I had promised to call an elderly friend early in the week, and that it was now already Thursday.  I telephoned her as my husband drove.  Naturally she needed my help.  The weather has changed and she was freezing, with her thermostat still set to air conditioning.  I hadn’t planned on a visit with her, but alas, I couldn’t let the poor woman freeze, and made time.

First, however, we had to stop at my father’s to switch his regular-sized bed frame to the low-profile bed frame we had just picked up from the furniture store with the chatty saleswoman.

That took longer than hoped.  My dad kept getting in the middle of the furniture shifting.  He’s 84, overweight, and no longer exactly agile.  “DAD, sit down,” I kept saying.  I kept seeing tragedies.  I was relieved when we finally got the job done and no one had gotten hurt.  My father was happy with the three inch height adjustment.  Success!  Falls averted.

Then it was time for my haircut.  I never do three appointments in a row these days; especially not three so intensive, time-consuming, stressful ones.

Just before I went into the salon, I turned on the car radio and heard the news of the Oregon school shooting.  That threw off my whole day, as I used to teach in a similar environment and have a lot of trauma connected to school violence.  I was never really okay once I heard this news, and I am still feeling unsettled about it even as I write…

On the rest of yesterday’s occurrences:

You know us women with our haircuts. I had some anxiety about getting one.  I have hair I could write novels on.  Anyway, we got through it, and the stylist was very pleased with her artistry.  I admit that I looked 20 years younger when she finished, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the styling.  That was okay, though, because I usually never am.  I am a bit more plain than the sort of girl my hair belongs on.  I never know how to carry myself with confidence with a fancy, show-stopping hairdo.

Then it was time to check on my elderly friend.  I figured out her thermostat, then she wanted me to sit down.  I thought I could spare 20 minutes, but I was there well over an hour.  She needed to talk, and the conversation turned to her end of life planning.  We had a lot to say about it, even though she kept repeating the same stories and asked me seven times what city my daughter lives in.  It was apparent that it was high time she did some thinking about this.  I was proud of myself for how much I knew about end of life planning–I didn’t even realize I knew as much as I do–and all the examples I was able to give her, mostly from experience with my own parents.

When I finally got to leave, she seemed motivated and changed, maybe even hopeful.  She kept telling me that she used to be able to travel unattended–but I told her she used to be able to dance, too.  I made her face the hard realities that what is ahead is cause enough for her to do the planning now, and I even mentioned while she is still lucid.  Similar to talking with my students, it was easier than talking to my own children.  I could talk straight with her, when I am not equally as effective at having the same conversation with my own father.

When I returned home, my dear sweet husband was just waking up from a nap.  Wait.  He took my nap–the nap I never got!  Believe it or not, he said he was too sleepy to fix dinner.  I didn’t expect that, but neither one of us had eaten since breakfast.  SO I FIXED DINNER.

WHO was this super girl I had morphed into in just one day?

Then my daughter called.  She talks more than the furniture saleswoman.  “Honey, give me your update, quick.  I need to blog!”  We both laughed.  She always laughs at my writing urgency.  After all, she sees me as her mom; she just can’t make the leap into serious blogging woman that I am.

My daughter’s updates are never uneventful.  It’s a good thing she calls me daily.  I could never take a full summary.  Last evening it was the fundraiser she attended with 200 people and the co-worker that came to her office and closed the door.  In her mother’s fashion, she drew out the story…what was happening; why did she close the door?  She said it was an employee wanting to secure permission to help another employee’s boyfriend stage an engagement proposal at their office.  It was all interesting and rather exciting, but I still had to get some writing done.

So, you have to forgive me for yesterday’s post, which I wrote while exhausted.

Please do celebrate along with me, though, the change accomplished that is the focus of this challenge.  I broke free from fatigue!

On Day 1.

Here are some photographs from today’s proposal, which happened this morning at my daughter’s offices. She said the boy brought his mother along.  In the video link that follows the photos, you can hear the mother calling the young woman her “new daughter-in-law.”

You know I love that.


proposal acceptance


engagement proposal video

Day 2, #write31days

© debra valentino, all rights reserved

Welcome to 31 Days of Breaking Free

Today is the first official day of writing for the 2015 October writing challenge that I joined not knowing anything more than that I wanted to commit to writing daily.  I’ve already discovered some amusing factoids about this particular challenge that I may be addressing later, most hopefully when I am more awake than I am at the present moment.  For one thing, I never got my nap today.  Or this morning.  Or this evening.

Ironically, I wrote yesterday but not today.  Even though, as I said, today was the scheduled first official day of writing.  I didn’t mean for this to happen and I certainly didn’t expect this kind of launch…but here I am, going on midnight (did I mention without any nap?), trying to string together something cogent–not because writer’s write, but because I committed to a 31 Day writing challenge.

I am nothing if not dedicated.

So here I am fatigued, writing about fatigue.  We’re talking about keeping it real.  And not falling asleep at the keyboard.  (I do that a lot; do you?)

Let me just say that during this challenge, I would like to write all day every day.  I love to write.  Even when I don’t write well.  Writing is so liberating that even after just one day, I think I am already feeling physically better than I have all week.  I mean, I hated today’s news about yet another school shooting, and I am disappointed today got so busy that I couldn’t write until the last minute, but I am still here.  Maybe it’s just as well that I am so tired, because with all that occurred today I would want to be writing about that.  Now I am too tired to fuss with myself.  I can leave those subjects for another day.

I wish that during this challenge I could write all day every day.  Given the opportunity, I truly believe that I could write for days on end; that is, if fatigue didn’t stop me.  I hope to take at least one day each week of this challenge and do just that.  Write only. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

For the blogging part of this challenge, I have chosen Breaking Free from Fatigue as my focus  because I have been battling fatigue for eight years now, something I couldn’t even clearly define before I suffered an acquired traumatic brain injury.

So intense a blow to the head was it that it took me years to recover, and I still have the vestiges of post-concussive syndrome that undeniably includes fatigue.  You might think that it would have resolved by now, but in truth it has improved notably but not completely.  Nearly every day is still disrupted by at least some level of fatigue.  I just can’t move at the pace I once did, nor at a pace I can live with.

The truth is that a person doesn’t have to be hit in the head to experience fatigue, which comes from a myriad of conditions and origins.  Millions of people suffer from fatigue for all sorts of reasons.  Fatigue can be a surprising teacher, and there are both literal and figurative things to say about it.

One thing to know about fatigue is that at all costs, you do not want to suffer it.  When a person suffers from fatigue, it is kind of like giving themselves up for adoption, only to discover there are no fit parents available.  It’s not at all a fun way to live, because it really isn’t living; it seems more like some form of paralysis.  And it is very tough on your body, which needs movement to thrive.

When you suffer daily from fatigue, you just want to get rid of it. With the many new and traditional treatments I have tried that resulted in only small increments of improvement, I have finally wondered if maybe the last vestiges of my fatigue are not being caused by my identification with it.

You know how it is–you do something long enough, it becomes part of your identity. Your psyche takes over and before you know it, your behavior is informed by what you think you are, by what you imagine that thing to be.

I wonder if writing daily about Breaking Free from Fatigue could put an end to my suffering the effects.  I want to break free and reclaim my life to a closer proximity of how I once knew it.  I know many people are mired in this same challenge.  I also hope to prove that a person can return from the hollows of death, can survive, and thrive, even and especially when others have written them off…and that even if they do not, their life is still sacred, still valuable, still worth living. I also want to share (and to finally experience) how a full recovery can not only overcome impossible odds, but maybe even be natural.


So, if you have a challenge in your life, if you need to break free from some pattern of thinking or behaving or being that plagues you–or if you know someone you wish would do the same, I invite you to follow my daily posts to see how I untangle myself from this mess that was not of my own creation…but in the end, may be.  In addition, how we can break free even from messes that are of our own creation.

If we have anything to do with who we are, if will and desire and effort count for anything when it comes to change, I hope to show both of us just how it could happen that it is not our maladies that define us, but our determination.  I hope to show that on some level the only prison we are in is the one we allow ourselves to occupy.

Come along and break free with me.

This is Day 1 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue


@ debra valentino, all rights reserved,

Writing About Writing

fotor butterfly floe
This summer, I took an unanticipated break from blogging to experience my fullest summer since being injured in Fall 2007. It turned out to be a truly memorable summer with sorely-missed outdoor time and plenty to share and reflect upon. Yet, as the warm, sunny days of summer morph into the cooler, wind-biting days of fall, I will undoubtedly be ready to return to the delights of blogging here on Stumbler.

“OCTOBER!” she cried!

With 2015 nearly over, I have some writing goals that have yet to be addressed. As such, I’ve been gearing up for a writing challenge without really knowing anything about it–except, how to write. This challenge requires a commitment to writing every day for 31 days, the whole of October 2015. Even though I already write daily, I love the idea of committing in this public way, because of the following attributes of such a writing plan:

  1. Writing: It feels like it forces a more focused type of writing than I usually commit to daily (which is also something I need more discipline around).
  2. Learning: Such new approaches stimulate creativity and open possibilities, as well as enhance learning. And wow, have I learned already in just two days(!)–mostly about new blogging techniques such as buttons and linkys, along with dashboards and apps such as Buffer, Hootsuite, Canva, Feedly, InLynx, Katch and of course Periscope, which remain frustratingly foreign to me. If you want to remain humble, learn some new technology.
  3. Sharing: By joining the group, I am imposing an element of openness and networking that I have generally avoided, as I continue to be reticent about sharing my work. This 31 Days group is also a decidedly supportive group. Their encouragement may help me climb out from under my proverbial writer’s rock, which was crafted with precision by others in the writing workshops and academic arena I once roamed like some sort of modern day Sisyphus that I certainly never tried nor wanted to be.
  4. Reading: By taking this challenge, I get to expand my exposure to different types of writers  (some 1,500 of them) and their various subjects. I had already expected to do more reading during this challenge; what I didn’t anticipate was that it would include other bloggers like me. It’s always exciting to share the efforts of a homogeneous group of craftspeople.

As a writer, I currently permit myself to write what I want when I want.

While writing daily takes discipline in itself, I am otherwise untethered and free floating in my writing habits. Some days I might compose a poem, some days a short story, some days a chapter for my never-ending book project, some days morning pages, reviews, assessments, editorials, or even comedies. I especially love to journal, but rarely find time these days.

Again, the nemesis of my writing life is that I have always been reluctant to share my work. With varied and sundry reasons for not wanting to share (as alluded to above), this is nevertheless something I am finally willing to conquer. I think.

With great anticipation then and the t-shirt to prove it (photograph forthcoming), I am going to give this writing every day for 31 days a go. What’s more, but with some trepidation, I am going to try to do my best to publish here on my blog at least something each day, if not the exact writing I have done for that day. Uncensored, unedited, unselfconscious…

This says a lot about you, my blog readership. So generous have you been in your responses and support, that I am trusting with you what initially was to be a private experiment.

I have prepared a list of topics (for these purposes called a series). These topics fall under one specific category, which my next post will address. As the daily posts are composed, I shall link them to this page so that in the end they can all be found in one place.

In addition, I have some surprises planned. No new Oprah cars, but hopefully some smiles.

I am also requesting on this post your feedback on any particular subjects you would like to see me write about. Perhaps it is something you are experiencing, something you read about in an earlier post, or an issue in your daily life or the news–really, whatever comes to mind as a reader of this blog. You can also send me questions, and these questions will be addressed this month in a special post called Ask the Author.

I invite you to leave your responses in the comments below or to email them to me, Debra Valentino, at

It’s going to be challenging to find the courage, time and energy to post each day…and interesting to see how it all turns out in the end. Either way, I am grateful and excited to share this journey with you.

31 Day Writing Challenge

As always, thanks for stopping by Stumbler.