Loopholes For Beginning Bloggers

hlsabWhen a beginner wants to write but can’t due to a lack of basic HTML code knowledge, it keeps the future blogger away from starting a blog. Well, worry no more. There are actually tricks or loopholes for making blog sites for people who don’t have any idea about HTML codes. Well, everyone has to admit, creating a site using basic HTML is really difficult. You have to memorize the arrangement; you have to memorize the code that corresponds with the output, etc. In short, starting a blog without basic knowledge of HTML coding is a pain in the neck!

There are actually domain hosts that help you in terms of starting a blog really easily since all you have to do is input your text and the site will automatically turn your input into an instant HTML code! There are several sites that offer this amazing feature. One of the few everyone knows is WordPress. This blog site enables you to create a website for free and lets you do the above mentioned.

How Do You Start A Blog With SEO Keywords?

When you hire a search engine optimization expert before you start your blog, it will be much easier for you to decide what your site will be about. With search engine optimization, you will know what people often search for, what is currently tending, and what kind of news people view the lost. But how do you start a blog after getting enough information from search engine optimization experts?

It is really easy since after knowing what will make your blog site easily exposed because you already know what people wants. But how do you start a blog? It’s easy if you know what codes you need to use for the HTML.  Now all you need is the proper layout that will make the audiences think that they did the right thing to view your website. Aside from the layout, you should worry about getting the correct tabs, buttons, and categories.

A way to win audiences is by following the search engine optimization expert’s advice about the proper keywords you need to include in your blog so it will turn up in the top list of the search results. It is really simple to make your blog famous in the search engine, it’s only the codes that make blog making hard.

How Long Can I Afford To Pay My Back Taxes?

hlcipmbtIf you have back taxes, it will be hard for you to regain your good credit score. A bad credit score can affect you in so many ways. If you have a bad credit score, it will prevent loan companies from lending you big money or even approve your loan because of your bad credit score. One way of clearing your past due taxes is to get back tax help from a trusted tax relief company (like this one). They are easy to find especially with the use of internet search. However, do not anticipate much to find one, always take time to investigate about the company that will give you back tax help.

Nowadays, there may be many tax relief companies but not all of them can be trusted. Aside from being possibly a scam, they may have bad customer service. If a tax relief company has a bad customer satisfaction rate then they don’t care about their services.

With back tax help you can be able to pay your back taxes little by little and not in one payment! Now, that’s affordable! With paying the tax relief company in installment, you can still save up for the next month’s tax payment!

What Is An IRS Tax?

An IRS tax or Internal Revenue Service tax is the tax collected by the tax revenue from employed people or business owners. Tax is everywhere and all the taxes that are paid go to the Internal Revenue Service. Just like ordinary people, not everyone can afford everything with high prices because of tax. That is why there is an IRS tax help open for everybody. You just have to fill out forms if you need assistance with your taxes.

Everything that you pay for has tax in it. You may not know it but yes, there are taxes in everything that can be bought by money. Not everyone would get an IRS tax help but it is open to everyone. There are many tax relief companies that offer an IRS tax help but people don’t directly get help from Internal Revenue Service tax since they are afraid of the charges that might be added to their next taxes.

There are many ways how you can tell where taxes are and one of them is by always computing the 12 percent in something that you are paying for. Taxes are constantly the 12 percent of the prices in everything that can be bought by money.

Letting Professional Technicians Fix Hard Drive Clicking Problems

ptThere are several professional technicians who can fix hard drive clicking. However, the challenge is to find a well experienced individual so that there is an assurance that you have your computer fixed effectively. To get started, have at least three companies who can potentially fix hard drive clicking. Be sure that these companies are reputable and have been in the business for quite some time. If you are having a hard time finding three companies, then ask recommendations from friends or search the internet. The internet provides a wide selection of computer services. The only thing that you have to do is to narrow your research and ensure dealing with the right company.

As soon as you have the list, compare the services provided and know the possible amount that you have to pay. It is important that you are aware with the necessary fees because you might be charged more than what you expect. Do not transact with a company that has several hidden charges. This can be identified by reading reviews or basing on the feedbacks given by other people. Take your time in finding the right individual that has the necessary skills to fix hard drive clicking (HDRS).

Ensuring The Best Source On Where To Get Affordable Data Recovery

If you want to ensure that you are transacting with the best source, then you have to know where to get affordable data recovery. It is quite challenging to find where to get affordable data recovery because low cost offers do not always give you the best. Hence, to ensure that you spend less at a reliable source, take time to research. As much as possible, you have to know the credibility of the company. Consider the product reviews posted on their website or to other sites. Do not forget to know the terms and conditions of the company so you get an assurance that the money you invested is going to be worthwhile.

Spend a lot of time comparing the offers from one company to the other. Through this way, you will be able to see why such offer is quite expensive than the other. Know every feature that has been added to the data recovery software and know how it individually cost. If it sounds difficult to you, then consider the opinions of your friends. Finding where to get affordable data recovery can definitely give you the best experience. This is because you pay at a good price and your lost files are retrieved.

Choosing An Anti-Snoring Device

asdPeople have different choices when it comes to anti-snoring devices. What works for one person may not necessarily be an answer to another. As much as the Vitalsleep device works for various individuals, there are others who have not been successful where this device is concerned. Some people easily choke on oral anti-snoring devices. Others do not feel very comfortable in them and may opt for other gadgets. One such item that is preferred is the anti-snore pillow. It is one of the easiest to use. This is not a regular pillow one gets from the shop. It is a special type of pillow that has been designed especially for snorers to give the head and neck support in a given way.

Apart from the VitalSleep, another oral anti-snoring device is the good morning snore solution. It holds the tongue forward, stopping it from lapsing to the rear of the throat. Just like the vitalsleep, it also widens the airwaves, thereby eliminating the loud noise from a snorer. Another device is the good-morning snore solution. It is also an oral gadget that works almost the same way as VitalSleep, though they differ in shape, size and the material used. There are tablets like sleep answer that help in stopping the snoring problem too.

More About The Vitalsleep

The VitalSleep device is sold for $49.95 and at given times, they offer a ‘buy one get one free”. The product is well stocked for anyone who needs to buy in bulk or otherwise. It can be shipped the same day with proper arrangement. When used regularly, the product lasts for a period of between 9-12 months. The company offers a year’s warranty in case it gets damaged or is not properly fitting. All orders received by the Snore Reliever Company before 4pm in a given day is shipped to the destination. They do not ship to Canada, though they have orders from several international destinations.

The company accepts major credit cards e.g. the Master card, Visa, Discover, American Express, PayPal, Checks and Money Orders. The company offers one year’s warranty. There is also a 30 day guarantee satisfaction period for customers to check if there is any need for replacement or even refunds. Customers pay for shipping and if they need to return a product, they have to pay for shipping costs. Before using the mouthpiece, customers are asked to heat it in boiling water before fitting it into the mouth. While it works for most people, many have confessed that the device is hard to sleep with in the mouth.

Get Rolling Right With Customer Service Software

gfcssA  provider for your business needs may be online Customer Service Software because it helps you to reach all the facilities, information and services that you need in a very small frame of time. With it, you can get the details and information of a product very easily. Moreover, you can get to contact the company if you have got any kind of problems, queries or other matters that you need to talk about with the required company. It is not difficult now to find all of these things only at one place and that is your software available online.

If you want the company to do something for you, if you have to make any complaint just use your customer service software available on the internet. It is a search desk that has been for the customers so they do not have to waste their time in things that are time consuming for no reason. The availability of services at any time is the best thing that helps the customers. You do not have for the day or night to go with the thing, whenever you get the time right for yourself, you can do the task and track the product or the company very easily.

Understanding IT Asset Management Software

If you wish to understand what IT asset management software is, you have to know the fact that every company depends on the inventory of its assets. In earlier times, company assets included all the hardware that went into the infrastructure. This could include the desks and tables as well as the stationary items. This is an important part of every company and is included in the overhead. However, with the advent of IT, companies are going into automating several of their functions with the help of software. Simply put, companies now depend on the hardware that helps them implement software solutions. Hence, the categories that now need inventoried and monitored include IT asset management software.

The fortunate thing is that even this is now automated. By installing the right IT asset management software, you get to keep track of all the software throughout their life cycles. By this, I mean that you can now monitor the purchase, installation, its usefulness and its upgrades with the help of a single software solution. This has done away with files and folders in hard copies that use up a lot of space in any office. A truly paperless office has come into being with the help of such software.

Using Your Personal Power For Change

WHAT happens when a respected mainstream education organization is taken over by an activist with a hard-core agenda? The National School Boards Association is about to find out.

aaouwAnne L. Bryant has just resigned the directorship of the American Association of University Women to become director of the National School Boards Association. If she is as effective at her new post as she was at the AAUW, we shall soon be seeing the NSBA diverted from its primary mission of improving education to the more activist goal of alerting the public to how the nation’s schools are “failing at fairness.” It was Anne Bryant who promoted the false but widely credited belief that the nation’s girl students are being drained of their self-esteem in a school system that favors boys.

The 56-year-old National School Boards Association, a staid but powerful organization, has been called a sleeping giant. With an annual budget of $18 million, it represents 95,000 school-board members who preside over elementary and secondary schools serving 90 per cent of America’s student population. It publishes a journal, holds conferences, lobbies Congress, and works at the local level as a community advocate for public-school children and their schools. But in recent years the organization has been criticized for being “too reactive.” Louis Grumet, the executive director of the New York affiliate, criticized the NSBA for taking “weak namby-pamby stands that won’t offend anybody.” In December, when the board sought a replacement for the retiring Thomas A. Shannon, it turned to Anne Bryant to do for it what she had done for the AAUW.

When Mrs. Bryant first arrived at the AAUW, its membership was dropping and its mission was uncertain. With women on the way to becoming more than 55 per cent of college students, it was no longer easy to argue that they were suffering from gender bias. But, through the artful manipulation of statistics, little girls could still be portrayed as victims of a gender gap.

A former consultant for trade associations in Washington, D.C., Mrs. Bryant developed a plan to move the AAUW into the limelight. She commissioned two studies that would “prove” that our nation’s girls were being drained of their self-confidence by sexist schools. Then, with great fanfare, she released the findings to an uncritical, even enthusiastic, media. At the time the first study was made public the AAUW candidly explained to the New York Times why the research was undertaken in the first place. It was pure advocacy: “We wanted to put some factual data behind our belief that girls are getting shortchanged in the classroom.” Needless to say, belief should come after, not before, data-gathering. But Mrs. Bryant and the AAUW got what they wanted. AAUW brochures were soon referring to the state of girls’ self-esteem as “an unacknowledged American tragedy.”

The AAUW’s conclusions were inconsistent with the literature on adolescent development, and their dramatic results have never been replicated. Anne Bryant once told Philadelphia Inquirer writer Cathy Young that the AAUW’s self-esteem research had been “duplicated more than 20 to 30 times,” but when Miss Young asked for a list of published titles, Mrs. Bryant could only refer her to an article in Sassy magazine. As far back as 1991, Science News ran a story reporting the disbelief of leading researchers.

Mrs. Bryant moved quickly to do a second, equally unscientific, study of gender bias. Education Week reports that she spent $100,000 for the study and $150,000 on promoting it. The promotion was spectacularly successful. As Mrs. Bryant boasted in a recent fundraising letter: “Our report opened the eyes of Congress, the media, and the public to the tragedy of gender bias in the schools today.”

cqSHE had every right to boast. The parlous state of girls’ self-esteem had achieved the status of a national emergency. Congress quickly reacted by passing the Gender Equity in Education Act “to help make school an environment where girls are nurtured and respected”; girls are now officially categorized as a “historically underserved population” by the United States Government. Millions in grants were awarded to learn how to cope with the insidious bias against girls. A spate of popular anecdotal books — with titles like Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls and Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls — deplored our “girl-destroying culture.” Novelist Carolyn See declared (in the Washington Post), “The most heroic, fearless, graceful, tortured human beings in this land must be girls from the ages 12 to 15.” According to Dr. Mary Pipher, whose Reviving Ophelia has been on the New York Times paperback best-seller list for more than seventy weeks, “Something dramatic happens to girls in early adolescence. Just as planes and ships disappear mysteriously into the Bermuda Triangle, so do the selves of girls go down in droves. They crash and burn.”

The public’s perception of what was going on in the nation’s schools had been permanently affected, and AAUW membership shot up.

It hardly matters that the so-called tragedy of America’s victimized and diminished girls exists only in the minds of feminist ideologues. Anne Bryant had put the AAUW on the map. A recent book describes how she felt when the second “shortchanged girls” study was so warmly received by the media. “Anne [Bryant] said, ‘I remember going to bed the night our report was issued, totally exhilarated. When I woke up the next morning, the first thought in my mind was ‘Oh my God, what to do now?”‘

Well, what will she do now? First, we may be sure she will neutralize the relatively conservative membership of the NSBA and surround herself with her own kind of activists. She makes no bones about her intention to lead on the issues as she sees them: “When you take on a position, not everyone is going to love you.” Second, she will be up to her old tricks of sponsoring advocacy research, announcing “findings,” and getting the public aroused to new “unacknowledged tragedies.” Education Week reports that she is already engaged in forming an NSBA Foundation she “hopes to use to conduct research on issues facing school boards.” So while we do not yet know the details, we know what to expect: more use of “educational initiatives” for political ends; more aggressive shaping of the public perceptions of what is going on in the nation’s schools; and above all, more government money for educational apparatchiks to deal with phony issues that have no conceivable educational value.

Keep Your Ego In Check

kyeicSo the passage ends this way, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath” (3:36). Eternal life isn’t just living forever; it’s also real life now, a life of quality. True life, fulfilled life, complete life, joy–it isn’t the result of getting our silly desires, or even the occasional desire we might have that isn’t silly. It’s the result of dying to ourselves and letting Jesus live through us. The alternative is a miserable life.

But none of this makes any sense unless we understand that we’re in the hands of our loving God. If we understand this, we can live out the outrageous teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. We don’t have to fight for our rights; we don’t have to protect ourselves; we can die to ourselves and to the endless clamoring of our voracious egos.

Paul summarizes it this way: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the” Son of God (Gal. 2:20). If Christ is living in us, we can entrust ourselves to Christ and stop being so anxious about our lives, because we know that God will take care of us. As we do this, as we die, we come to life. Finally.

Mary says it beautifully, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). We should all have that written over the mirror we look into every day. It might remind us to ask ourselves at least once a day, “Will I accept the will of God in my life today, or do I have to try to control everything myself?”

To the degree that we have control needs, we are dead. To the degree that we can leave the control to God, we have faith and are alive. That’s what faith in God means–not some intellectual belief that God exists, but complete trust in God.

OF COURSE, DYING TO yourself makes no sense to people who have never encountered our loving God. Most modern people are captivated by self-esteem psychology. And to those folks, all of this sounds like a prescription for negativity and asceticism. Their alternative is to perform well and tell themselves about it.

It’s no accident that any Christian psychology will sound like gobbledygook to unbelievers–until hey personally encounter the great and loving God (perhaps in us). If a mighty God doesn’t exist who loves us all, then the rest of the world is right: We darn well better take care of ourselves and fight to fulfill our potential.

But it’s out knowing this God that gives us perspective on ourselves. That’s what tells us who we are–and what our problems and desires amount to.

It’s hard to take yourself seriously in the middle of the ocean. On a night away from city lights when you can see the Milky Way and know that the nearest star is many lifetimes away (even at the speed of light)–it’s hard to get all solemn about your importance.

pThe disconcerting thing is that many Christians are almost as entangled with self-esteem psychology as are those who have the excuse of not knowing God. The secular world is all too successful in squeezing the children of God into its mold. Remember Baal and the children of Israel? Today, a primary Baal competing with Jesus for lordship is self-esteem. It’s our messiah in the here and now, the thing we hope will bring us real life on earth. Jesus may save us after death, but today our salvation depends on self-esteem. Or on some other do-it-yourself, pop psychology.

But these do-it-yourself schemes are a hopeless chase. For self-esteem psychology, like other pagan gods, is a cruel taskmaster. It requires us to perform well. In it, salvation comes by performing well at something, and telling ourselves about it. But the Bible (not to mention life) makes it clear that salvation is by grace or not at all. Our worth rests in being loved, mostly by God; it doesn’t rest in performing well, especially not well enough to have self-esteem.

I have a severely handicapped son. He can do few things well. What gives him worth? Is it his psyching himself into thinking he’s neat?

To the extent that Judy and I love him, he will know that he’s worthwhile and will be able to experience the love of God. To the extent that we and others fail to love him, he will fail to know his worth and will have to struggle to know the love of God. To that same extent, he will struggle to perform well enough to earn our love and boost his self-esteem. But love isn’t the sort of thing that can be earned. Nor is self-esteem.

NOW MANY PEOPLE will misunderstand what I’m saying here. They will think I’m saying that people are junk. Fallen junk.

That’s not it. That’s not it at all. My son is not junk. Psalm 8 puts it best, describing us humans as “a little lower than God,” and “crowned with glory and honor” (v. 5). Translators are sometimes embarrassed by the strength of the passage and change it to “a little lower than the angels” (KJV). But the Hebrew is clear. We are only a little lower than God, than the Divine.

That makes us more wonderful than the stars or the ocean or the Rockies. And that is no less true of those who are severely handicapped or who have given themselves over to sin. For our greatness doesn’t reside in our performance or in our ability to control the universe. Our greatness resides in the love God has for us, a love that gives us the gift of Jesus.

Only when we are astonished by the wonder of this love will we gain enough perspective to forget ourselves. It isn’t a matter of hating ourselves but of realizing that our greatness lies precisely in decreasing.

How pathetic we are, then, when we try to claim center stage for our self-esteem and our silly little egos. We become fully alive as we leave center stage to God. Ifs the only way to avoid full-blown twititude. The only way to become complete. To get fulfilled.

Getting Your Creative Self Back

gysbDriving down Route, 89 south from Montpelier toward White River Junction, I tried to remember exactly how long it had been since I’d had sex. Although we didn’t actually separate and agree to divorce until February of 1993, the last time my husband and I had made love–and the last time I’d had sex–was in late May of 1992, and here it was, the Fourth of July, 1994. Two years and one month later, One hundred and nine weeks. Seven hundred and sixty five, days.

The numbers mattered. They were real when little else seemed to be. But each day arrived like a new witness for the prosecution, reiterating the case against me and leading me further from the truth.

I had just 24 hours off from school. One free night in an 11-day residency. The annual Fourth of July poets vs. fiction writers softball game would go on without me that afternoon, and with me or without me, incredible as it sounds, the poets would win this year as they did every year.

It had been 14 years since I’d slept with Kevin Stevenson. Fourteen years. I’d done the math weeks before, at Kevin’s first invitation to visit him over Fourth of July weekend when we’d both be in Vermont instead of Los Angeles and New York. We had seen each other few times since our year together, most recently over drinks at my hotel two months earlier when I happened to be in New York.

Except for a pair of wire-rimmed eyeglasses and a bit of gray in his sandy hair, Kevin had looked very much the same in the bar of the Essex House. Still extremely fit. He said the same was true of me. While I am the same weight as I was at 25, I know better than to believe that either my face or my body is the same as it was at 25.

In fact, I no longer had any idea of what my body really looked like. Its image had been wildly distorted, first by my husband’s disinterest, then by his abandonment. My scorn had followed his. I looked at my body every morning as I stepped into the shower or out of the tub and tried to see it–to see it with kinder eyes than his–but could not. And now I was taking this 14-years-older body to a man who remembered me as I remembered him–sexy, fun, responsive–and I was afraid. But also very interested.

Two days earlier, I’d sat with my new faculty adviser to discuss my plan for the last semester of my MFA in writing. Sena had asked me to bring a list of what I wanted from the final six months. From the way she’d phrased the request, I felt she meant what I wanted beyond the most obvious aspirations of a couple of good new stories for my thesis manuscript. So my list was topped by these wishes: I want to stop feeling like a fake, and I want to be excited by my own writing.

“I can help you with these,” Sena said in her gentle, Southern voice. “I’ve helped others.” She did not look away from me as she said this and I thought of another student’s description of her, “an iron fist in a velvet glove.”

We agreed I needed to write more. I was a classic avoider/resister, writing in spurts, against deadlines, late in the afternoon when I’d run out of all possible distractions. I’d quit my job a few months earlier to focus on my writing and was, instead, napping and reading a great deal. My new writing schedule would be 8:30 to noon, Monday through Friday.

“No newspaper with breakfast,” Sena said. “Make it your first reward with lunch. No phone calls, no interruptions, no exceptions.”

How would I find something to say every day? I’m not one of those writers who has a back room packed with new story ideas. Three and half hours every morning without a thought in my head, just me and the voice in my ear saying, “You don’t have anything to say.”

“You need to nurture yourself when you write,” Sena said, and I knew I was in trouble. Nurturing myself is not in my nature. Not in writing, not in

“I don’t know how to get the critic out of the room,”, I said. “I understand the concept, but. . “My voice got very small, barely squeezing out of my throat. Even to myself I sounded slight and lost and 10 years old. Still she didn’t look away.

“I can help you with this. Start writing right now.”

“With you here?” It was as if she’d said, “Okay, now strip.”

“With me here. Come on.” An iron fist steeped in Southern Comfort.

I opened my notebook. She waited. “I don’t know what to write,” I said.

“Just write that down.” I wrote.

“There,” she said, practically purring, “you’ve begun. You’ve got your first sentence. Good job. Now another.”

Blinking back incipient tears of shame and exposure, I wrote, “I don’t know how this will become a story.”

“Good, Joan. You’ve got two sentences. You’re on your way. Now look outside, how does the light look to you?”

After two or three seconds, I wrote: “The light is soft, diffused, promising.”

“Promising,” Sena read. “I like that. Go on, tell me more.”

Instantly I wrote: “It reminds me of the mornings on the island, by the sea, the whole day ahead.”

“Now you’re interested aren’t you?” she asked.

And I was. Interested and full–almost to bursting–with relief.

“You can do this,” she said. “I know you can.”

Vermont highways are very different from our California freeways. Just two lanes wide in each direction–half the size of even the oldest LA freeway–yet still uncrowded to the point of sparsity. And Vermont has it all over Los Angeles in terms of speed: 65 mph limit, no cars, no cops. It was still 2 1/2 hours before I got where I was going.

Kevin and I ate tuna sandwiches and went for a good hike to nearby falls. I never thought I’d join those two words, good and hike. My ex-husband loved to hike, but he would understate the steepness and length of trails, making me feel snookered into more than I could handle, and he didn’t look back often enough to be sure I was right behind him. Hours were spent watching his back, fantasizing about just stopping; sitting down and waiting to see how long it would take him to notice I was gone.

dfcBut with Kevin I had a good hike. It was late afternoon and the woods were sleepy and still under the surprising heat of that July day. Kevin walked beside me. He pointed out good handholds, warned of loose, dead trees and slippery rocks. With a disposable Fuji camera he took pictures of me, sweaty and smiling, beer in hand, surrounded by falling water. Kevin moved over the trail with the natural grace of a man raised outdoors, and being with him in the woods, I felt cloaked by his instincts.

Later, after serving cocktails, dinner, a bottle of wine and a sky full of stars, Kevin took my face in his hands and began kissing me. Nothing that happened after those first kisses surpassed them for pure pleasure and excitement, and everything that followed was wonderful and easy and natural. Exactly as I’d hoped it would be. Those first kisses, though, they were beyond even my fantasies. In that small moment of hands and lips and breath, I was brought back. Resuscitated. And the life that rushed back into me was so strong it almost knocked me to the floor.

I had expected my visit with Kevin to be a fun fling, a rare chance to relive the sexual delight of my younger self I was completely unprepared for how profoundly touching, how deeply moving it would be. I’d known I “needed” sex, but the extent of my need for kindness had been buried; had I anticipated the full impact of our encounter, I doubt I could have undertaken the trip.

Yes, Kevin had done everything right–waiting on me, providing sufficient quantities of liberating substances, wanting me and showing me his want, saying my name aloud as we made love–but it went beyond his careful orchestrations. I felt more known having sex with Kevin–a man I truly no longer know and who hardly knows me anymore–than I’d ever felt making love with my husband. And to be knowable is to be familiar and unalien. Visible, memorable, lovable. It is to be a part instead of apart.

I returned home from Vermont optimistic and ready to begin anew. The residencies have always had the effect of refueling, but this time I returned home feeling that I held a secret next to my heart. That first Monday I sat down in my chair, pen in hand, and the words came. A story that had been floundering three-quarters finished for months shook itself out and found its missing pieces. Three-and-a-half hours resulted in eight good pages and, finally, the recognition of the path the story would take to get from here to that final there.

By the end of my first week back, I’d finished that story and begun another. The new story excited me. I was with my character and we were traveling and her world interested me. My imaginative landscape was suddenly teeming with life, everyone crowding around the bubbling watering hole.

Of course I’m suspicious. Of course I expect this small gift to be taken back as unexpectedly as it was given. But despite this fear, I feel wonderful. Better than I have in years. No matter that I’m making no money and have dates with men I don’t like. I have stopped eating what I’m not hungry for and turned off my TV. Dogs like me again. I am going to the gym and calling old friends. I notice men noticing me, the way my walk has a bit of hip-swing to it now. In quiet moments, I hear two voices inside, echoing. The first is soft and Southern: I know you can do this. The second, hoarse, urgent: Oh Joan, now. Now, Joan.

And so I ask myself, Is it the sex or is it the writing? Which one has renewed my membership in the world?

Is this flood of imagination and possibility the result of Sena’s special brand of Southern faith healing, her laying-on of writerly hands, or a happy byproduct of making love again? Of making love in that way that connects us, one to another, yet at the same time reminds us of our secret selves, just as good writing does.

If only for awhile, I no longer feel like a fake and am excited by my own work. But this time has been long enough to see how good these goals are–for life as well as for school.

A friend told me that there is a place we each hold inside ourselves that remains uninjured and alive even under assault from the worst life has to offer: divorce, the death of a loved one, the loss of a certain future. She described it as a place that sometimes seems to go dark, a place we cannot always remember our way back to. But the way is there. Sometimes we find it through just the right set of words, or the right moment in the woods, or the right touch.

I believe my friend. I believe that the truest expressions of both my body and my mind originate in that sacred inner room. And the final happy truth of it all is that writing begets writing, and feeling lovable begets love.

Don’t Be A Personal Hater

Is there a vein of misery that runs deeper in all our lives than self-loathing? A fault line that guarantees our failure ever to be truly happy, no matter how much we accomplish or accumulate, or in whose arms we lie?

Woman, heal thyself.

dbaphIf I were to assign a color to self-loathing, it would be the bluish-black purple of an ugly bruise. This is what self-loathing is, an ugly bruise that erupts on the surface of our lives or on our bodies; a warning sign that something serious is happening on a deeper level. We bruise when we bleed within. Self-loathing is the silent hemorrhaging of the soul. You don’t feel or see the life force fleeing until it’s no longer there, and then, of course, it’s too late.

Loathing is grief that has festered. To loathe something or someone is to detest with disgust and intolerance. This is what self-loathing is, although we never call it that. It’s easier to tell ourselves and others, “Oh, I’m a bit hard on myself.”

How do we loathe ourselves? Let me Count the ways. Some of the world’s most famous beauties can’t stand the sight of themselves. Self-loathing is an equal opportunity oppressor.

In short, we may loathe our human frailties, flaws, and foibles in a world that approves only perfection; loathe our oddities, eccentricities, and ugly habits; loathe our inability to avoid insidious comparisons; loathe our buying into the illusion that good men would save us because it was easier than striving to save ourselves, or believing that we could.

We loathe ourselves for constantly capitulating to the needs of others by disavowing our own, for ignoring the careless cruelties of loved ones in order to keep the peace, for struggling to live up to the expectations of people we don’t even care about, t0r denying the validity of our own unrequited desires.

We loathe ourselves because we don’t look quite like the multiorgasmic sex goddesses we once thought we’d become; or because we’re not quite the natural, fully bonded mothers we hoped we’d be when we held that baby in our arms for the first time; or because we haven’t quite fulfilled the promise of our astonishing authentic gifts.

When was the last time you started off a conversation with “I’m sorry” and you weren’t? I did it yesterday.

“She had developed a passionate longing for making other people comfortable at her own expense,” Phyllis Bottome wrote in 1934 about a woman we all know too well. “She succeeded in getting other people into armchairs…with nothing left for herself but something small and spiky in a corner.”

Let’s look at ourselves now. Are you pretty? Are you plain? I’ve got my good days and I’ve got my bad. We all do. But the reality doesn’t matter. If your mother or father thought you were plain, you may still reflect that image. This is the origin of self-loathing or our looking-glass shame, which is what the English novelist and critic Virginia Woolf called the malady that breaks our hearts.

apogWe are marked in many ways. A photograph marked me. When I was 10 there was a garbage strike in our town. For weeks the garbage piled up in front of trim suburban homes. One day a newspaper photographer drove up in front of our house and asked if any children lived there. He wanted to photograph children near the garbage pile to emphasize how much had accumulated. When he came to the door, I was standing shyly behind my mother, so I was selected and propped up on piles of garbage for the photograph. “Just think,” my mother exclaimed, “you’re going to have your picture in the newspaper.” And I certainly did. On the front page. When I went to school that day I was taunted by classmates who called me “a pile of garbage.” I was marked. In order to handle this public humiliation, I became numb to my own beauty for a very long time. For years I wouldn’t have my picture taken; I was terrified of what would be reflected there. To this day I still don’t feel comfortable being photographed–and I’m always amazed (and so grateful!) when the pictures come out well. It is nothing less than miraculous that I am no longer blind to my own radiance; it has been a lifelong struggle.

The reason we loathe our bodies is that we’re sure others secretly do. (Haven’t they been talking behind our backs since high school?) Forget other people; it’s really we who are most disturbed by our cellulite thighs and lined faces. We can’t believe that anyone could possibly love a woman with a little flesh on her bones. Of course they could–and the right ones do! We may be blinded by our own perceived flaws, but others have clearer vision. I have a man-friend who swears that once men pass their “breeding years”–after 45 or so–they become blind to a woman’s physical defects, especially if the woman respects her body, has a healthy sense of self-esteem that’s not based on her looks alone, and loves sex. “What could be better?” he asks. Starting today, if you can’t be with the body you love, love the body you’re with.

It’s time to declare a detente with our imperfections, to lay down the artillery of self-abuse we aim at ourselves, the potions, prayers, and punitive diets, cosmetic artifice, and extreme customized corrections. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a place for hair color, makeup, and cosmetic nipping and tucking if it’s going to help you awaken to your own inner beauty. But I am telling you that nothing will help you get over looking-glass shame if the transformation doesn’t begin from within. First you have to be willing to seek ways of renewal that honor your body and restore it to its rightful place, as the sacred garment of your soul. “The body must be nourished, physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” nutrition therapist Carol Hornig tells us. “We’re spiritually starved in this culture–not underfed but undernourished.”

One of the truths I’ve learned is that if you embark on a spiritual path within, it will be reflected on the outside. Time well spent in meditation gives us more serenity, and it shows on our faces. A half hour of walking every other day increases our vitality and energy level, and we find ourselves less depressed. Suddenly we become more relaxed and fun to be around. We smile, maybe even laugh. When we catch a reflection in a mirror we’re pleasantly surprised: “Who’s that babe?” As the actress Rosalind Russell once said, “Taking joy in life is a woman’s best cosmetic.”

A plastic surgeon once told me that he will not perform cosmetic surgery on women he knows are in shaky marriages or those he suspects have severe self esteem problems. Instead, he gently advises them to seek therapy and come back to him in six months. Why? Because he can’t promise that a face-lift will save a marriage or that breast implants will attract Mr. Right.

Learning to accept ourselves exactly as we are today gives us the motivation to move forward to the next step, whether it’s searching for a healthier way of eating or finding an exercise program that’s fun to do alone or with a pal. For years I starved myself in a desperate battle to stay at a certain weight. I didn’t exercise. I said I didn’t have the time, but the truth was that the very thought made me want to hit the snooze button. Then, out of desperation to relieve stress that couldn’t be alleviated with self-medication, I started walking around my neighborhood a few times a week. Oddly enough I began to notice that on the days I walked, I felt better. What’s more, I could eat food without feeling guilty or bungee-jumping off the scale. My Suburban saunters became such a pleasant part of my daily rounds that my daughter and I began going to a gym twice a week. Suddenly, sleeveless dresses! Sleep, instead of tossing and turning! The benefits of being kind to one’s body are astounding.

Now when I reflect on my body-ography something surprising happens. Like the archaeologist who unearths a priceless porcelain fragment from a lost civilization, I can feel only appreciation for all the places my body has taken me, and for the memories it stores, and the secrets it keeps. For the children it has carried, nourished, and nurtured, for the exquisite pleasure my body has bestowed on me, for the exultation of passion it has expressed through me.

Today, embrace the lines that stare back from the mirror, the parts of your body that sag in the middle or stick out where you think they shouldn’t, the hair that never keeps a curl or never loses it.

Each one of us is created unique and authentic. And yet we copy and clone so that we fit in. But fit in where exactly?

We’re not meant to fit in. We’re meant to stand out. As Marianne Williamson has written, “We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” But “actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. [You] were born to manifest the glory of God that is within [you].”

Some Notes On Self Esteem

snoseSince criminals have high self-esteem, it isn’t surprising that our government has made the distribution of self-esteem to everyone a matter of national urgency. The result: Even as the old welfare state passes away, a new karmic state is coming into existence. Instead of giving money to poor people, we will ensure that every American suffering from even minor bummage gets his or her fair share of self-esteem. Everybody wants to feel good.

The last time I felt good, I was hitting 80 in a 65 with “Born to Run” on the stereo. The subsequent encounter session with a trooper cost me $150. It was mean-spirited and it made me feel bad. So maybe the esteemers are right: Maybe feeling good ought to be a kind of psychic entitlement, like food stamps for the soul.

If it feels good, esteem it. This is certainly consistent with the worldview of my peers. We spent decades feeling groovy and it changed everything for us, and now for you, too, dear lads. Before Boomer enlightenment, guys used to ask themselves, “Is this the right thing to do?” They asked that question every time they had to make a decision about some big deal in their lives or in the life of their community or nation. It must have been hellish to make all those calls, trying to decide right from wrong and all that. My Boomer tribespeople came up with a superior methodology: We measured our decisions on the feel-good/ feel-bad axis. That’s still the way many people make their highly nuanced judgments and fine moral distinctions. Self-esteem fits in perfectly with this sensibility, because self-esteem always feels good. And if something feels good, you know what to do next.

Esteem-peddling capitalists have moved into this market, too. When people want a lot of something, private enterprise always picks up where government stops. So thanks to the free market, you don’t have to settle for the one-size-fits-all esteem the government gives you. You can dial in the exact kind of self-esteem you want. If you’re a housewife feeling low esteem because your friends are all swanking it up downtown, you can get your esteem boosted faster than they can get their faces lifted. Salesman? Loosen that sweaty collar. You’ve got everybody from Dale Carnegie on down telling you not to take all those rejections so personally. Telemarketers, repo men, collection-agency dunners–they all have esteem-builders out there waiting to lend them applause. A friend of mine calls this stuff 12-step programs for the terminally modest.

You don’t have to buy esteem. You can make your own. Because esteem is based on increasing your perception of your worth without actually increasing your value, there are risks associated with this strategy. But to feel good about yourself, isn’t it worth it?

nasa* Blackmail your boss. Tell him NASA wants to hire you as a rocket scientist. To keep you around, he’ll up your pay and be nice to you for a week.

* Date an ugly woman. She’ll adore you, and there’s nothing like a little adoration to fill a man’s head with esteem.

* Forgive somebody. Call a woman you dated once and then dumped. Tell her you forgive her.

* Advertise. Make sure your friends always know when you’ve done something to help them. Remind them until they thank you.

* Announce your holiness. A bumper sticker that tells the world you’re in favor of peace is a sign of very high self-esteem.

Easy does it better. The great thing about self-esteem is that it replaces actual accomplishment. It’s a BarcaLounger’s dream. Kick off your shoes, lean back, and tell Uncle Sam to bring you a big, cold mug of respect, pronto. With self-esteem, you get to feel good about what you could do if you really felt like it, or if the evil bastards weren’t oppressing you, or if you weren’t a girl. As a government ambition, it’s a perfect leveler. Instead of a redistribution of wealth, we can have a redistribution of self-worth. That way, if I get to feeling too good about myself, you can tell me it’s damaging your self-esteem and I can then tone it down a little, making you feel better and me worse. This, by the way, is how we hope to reeducate jocks in America.

The confidence game. Maybe what little schoolgirls and all the others suffering from esteem-deficit syndrome need isn’t more self-esteem at all. It’s self-confidence.

There’s a big difference between the two. Self-esteem is what you feel. Self-confidence is what you earn. To gain self-confidence, you have to demonstrate, even if it’s only to yourself, real proficiency at something. The better you are at it, the more self-confidence you earn. When that happens, the worthless respect you gain from government statutes about workplace civility and all that becomes as worthless as it truly is. It’s replaced, however, by the respect you’ve gone out and bought with your sore fingers or your weary back.

Trading self-confidence for self-esteem is a big mistake. A person getting by on self-esteem without any real basis for self-confidence is out of whack. It’s like a chemical imbalance or something. The result is usually irrational behavior. Take Madeline Albright. For those with no confidence, loss of face is everything. That don’t-dis-me sentiment is one familiar to every boy in every ‘hood.

The best way to gather some self-confidence? Cultivate a little self-loathing. Look at the job you’re doing right now. You have two choices: You can either hate the job because it doesn’t give you enough self-esteem, or you can be disgusted with the crappy work you’re doing and do it well enough to merit a little self-confidence.

My favorite self-confidence artist is my blind donkey, Jack. Jack lives in a pasture with a very irritable mare. Every now and then, Jack entertains a dirty idea and follows his nose to trouble, and sure enough, whack, Jack gets it between his useless eyes. But once a year or so, Jack gets lucky (and we get a little mule). It’s not a big reward, maybe, and Jack doesn’t get much respect. But once a year he accomplishes enough to give him sufficient self-confidence to take another year of head-kicking. He just doesn’t care.