General Considerations for Poetry Forms

I love poetry forms! They provide a gently disciplined way to force us to mold our ideas into a format. In the process, some really interesting insights can emerge. Not only do we reap the overall benefits of journaling, but we may also wind up with an original poem we really like! Who knows? We might even create an ode we can publish!

Rhyming poetry has gone through periods of time in which it was loved and hated by the literary elite. A decade or two ago, it seemed that serious poets rarely used any rhyme scheme. Now, with the popularity of rap music and spoken word artists, rhyming is popular again! In my opinion, that’s good! It’s true that racking your brain for rhyming words can result in a poem that sounds trite, but it can also be a lot of fun, and I think many of us lay poets (to distinguish us from the pros) really prefer to have our poems rhyme. And I think that among the general population, many folks have always liked for poetry to rhyme.

There are a few terms I’ll be using when describing poetry. One is that I will be listing rhyme formats by letters. This means that each successive line’s rhyme will be an a, b, c, or so on. A simple example:

My puppy is black and white

He usually wags his tail

He howls relentlessly all night

And keeps me awake without fail.

The lines in the verse above follow an abab rhyme scheme. In other words, white and night are the (a) rhymes and tail and fail are the (b) rhymes.

Another term we will use is “feet.” Each line of a poem has a number of feet. This can vary a lot from poem to poem, but some forms pay a lot of attention to how many “feet” each line has. To demonstrate what feet are, let’s look at the puppy poem again. When you read it aloud, you’ll find yourself accenting several syllables in each line, or….

my PUP-py is BLACK and WHITE

he U-sually WAGS his TAIL

he HOWLS re-LENT-lessly all NIGHT

and KEEPS me a-WAKE without FAIL.

In the example above, I have put the accented syllables in all caps. Each accented syllable is a “foot” so we see that in this simple example, each line has three feet.

A third term that comes up a lot in poetry forms is the syllable. Many poem forms count syllables. The most memorable is probably the haiku, which has lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables. Or, to take the puppy poem and make it into a haiku, we might say….

Puppy black and white

Wagging tail, howling all night….

Now I rarely sleep.

And with that crude beginning, we’re off. And by the way, don’t worry if these ideas seem new or odd. You will get used to them if you stick with me through this month of exploring the poetry forms as a vehicle to enhance our personal journaling journey.

cropped woods

So last post, I touched on a long term hope I’d had to take the training to become a WRAP facilitator, and now, I am! The training was both exhilarating and exhausting! I definitely hit my limit when it comes to driving and being around people, but it was worth it.

My perception of the WRAP, or  Wellness Recovery Action Plan (developed by Mary Ellen Copeland) has changed a little, or perhaps I should say, it’s fleshed out a little. I know a lot that I didn’t know before. But perhaps my  most striking observation that I hadn’t realized before is how appropriate it is for WRAP to be facilitated by a peer specialist. But that shouldn’t surprise me, seeing that WRAP was developed by people who were in the trenches, so to speak. People who were dealing with mental health challenges first hand, who knew the reality of unwanted hospitalization, stigma, medications, and frightening mental health symptoms.

The concept of a Certified Peer Specialist is so smart! Let people have some credit for their lived experience, train them in a reasonable amount of time, and pay them well to serve on the mental health team. If anyone is reading this and has dealt with a diagnosis and all that entails, and would like to help others who are struggling, you should consider getting trained. Training appears to be offered on a state by state basis. Here’s a link to Missouri’s Peer Specialist website.

Anyway, hopefully I will be involved in helping lead a WRAP support group in the near future. Not exactly sure how that will transpire….

For some reason, I felt a strong desire to lead a poetry writing journaling group on Facebook during the month of August. If you are at all interested, go over to the Wisdom’s Heart Facebook page and join us. I plan to provide daily prompts as well as ideas for forms of poetry. You don’t have to post what you write if you don’t want to, but it would be wonderful if you did!

I’m hoping to take the prompts and resulting poetry and put them together in an ebook to pass along to posterity. If you join us and share a poem, I will definitely let you have time to polish the poem before publishing it in the ebook! And you’ll get a by-line, if you want one!

Blessings! Stay cool in this dreadful August heat!



What WRAP Means to Me

me and dad smaller pic

A Personal Look at the Wellness Recovery Action Plan

I am in the process of getting trained to be a certified WRAP facilitator, and I am really excited about it. I first heard of the Wellness Recovery Action Plan, developed by Dr. Mary Ellen Copeland, about six years ago. At the time, I hate to admit it, but I ran across what I assume was a pirated copy of a pdf version of the workbook and downloaded it to my computer. It immediately resonated with me as a valuable tool for helping me maintain balanced emotions.

What is WRAP? It is a notebook* system for monitoring, improving, and reducing any unwanted nervous symptoms a person may have. It was originally developed to counteract symptoms of depression and manic-depression (bipolar disorder), but has evolved to be used for many other health and lifestyle challenges, such as weight loss and diabetes.

The sections of WRAP include a description of how you look and behave when you are well, a list of your common symptoms, a list of things that trigger those symptoms, and things you can do that help. Beyond those basics, the WRAP should eventually contain a written plan for what to do in the case of a breakdown, including what people you want helping you.

But probably the most important section of the WRAP, for me anyway, is the “Wellness Toolbox.” Psychiatric wellness tool lists are perhaps not a unique idea, but it was a new idea for me, and the original lists I made six years ago have helped me a lot as I’ve navigated some pretty big changes.

What I originally loved about WRAP was the simplicity of having a centralized place to keep track of my symptoms and triggers, what made me feel better, and what made me feel worse. In a way, that’s so obvious! Yet, until I ran across the idea of the WRAP, I never developed those lists on my own.

Anyway, I’ve wanted to get the official training in WRAP for years now, but two things held me back. First, it’s a bit of a financial investment. Second, there is an ethical agreement they require you to sign, and given my spiritual journey, I was not at a place in my life where I could agree to all the tenets until recently.

I guess I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to “making vows” and to me, signing an ethical agreement amounts to making a vow.

Well, I’m ready to sign the “vow” now, for what it’s worth, and by two weeks from now, I should be a certified WRAP facilitator! I really hope I find many ways to share these tools and techniques to help other people around me who are challenged by life changes and unpleasant psychiatric symptoms.

*WRAP began as a physical paper notebook system, but can now be maintained digitally through apps and the WRAP website. Some people record their WRAP for an auditory version, as well.


Serenity: What it Is,and What it Isn’t

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change….”Serenity

Lately it has occurred to me that being peaceful can seem like a negative thing. But it really isn’t. If each of us were peaceful within, there would be peace on earth!

As a person who has a tendency to be anxious and worried much of the time, I long for peace. Relaxation practices like deep breathing and stretching help in the moment, but over the long term, I often let go of my serenity. Why is this, and what can be done about it? I think the answer can be found in examining what serenity is….and what it isn’t.

Serenity is NOT complacency.

It occurred to me the other day that being relaxed and at peace can feel like I don’t care. To my twisted way of thinking, I am proving I care about people by the amount of worrying I do about them. When you put it like that, it sounds kind of stupid, doesn’t it?

No, instead, serenity is simply trusting that all will be well.

Serenity is NOT irresponsibility.

It is taking responsibility for our own self-care by maintaining a balance between work and play.

Serenity is NOT grim resignation.

It is a calm acceptance of tasks and circumstances that we don’t particularly like. We have the peacefulness to decide if we want to do the task now or later. We don’t have to condemn ourselves for the choice either way.

Serenity is NOT idleness.

Sometimes it rolls up its sleeves and gets dirty in the service of others. Sometimes it gets all sweaty during a vigorous exercise session. While seasons of stillness can contribute to inner tranquility, being peaceful does not require constant stillness of body.

Serenity is NOT blind ignorance of the suffering all around us.

It is faith that the reprehensible things that happen in the world will end, and there will be redemption. It is the hope that maybe one’s small contribution of money or prayers can make a difference for someone in trouble.

Serenity is NOT passivity.

Serenity is not necessarily silent. Silence can be a characteristic of peace within, but a serene person may also speak out in the presence of injustice without concern about what others will think.

But most importantly, serenity is NOT impossible!

It is the birthright of every child of God who desires peace and is willing to pursue it.

“Those who desire life
    and desire to see good days,
let them keep their tongues from evil
    and their lips from speaking deceit;
let them turn away from evil and do good;
    let them seek peace and pursue it.”

(1 Peter 3:10-11 NRSV)

What’s SUP? Examining My Relationship with Plastic

SUP title pic

I heard the term SUP the other day for the first time. I’ve been watching YouTube videos about zero-waste living—what a concept that is! Anyway, they used the term SUP, Single Use Plastic. It got me thinking about my/our use of plastic, particularly how many things are designed for a single use.

Just the idea of “single use plastic” is kind of ridiculous if you think about it. We have this hard, moldable, air-tight substance that can be used to make durable goods of all types, from clothes hangers to hospital beds, and we relegate it to single use status. Just use it once, then throw it away.

I guess we must have an endless supply of the stuff, or whatever you use to make it, as well as an endless supply of places to put it after its maiden voyage, its one and only use.

Yeah, right.

Where did it all begin? How much SUP do we North Americans, individually and collectively, go through in a day or a year? Is it cause for alarm? Does SUP cause any damage to the environment? And what can one concerned individual do to turn the tide in some small way?

(And, no, Google, I’m not talking about Stand Up Paddle sports. Sheesh. Guess I’d better be more specific.)

Rather than bore you with statistics, I’ll share a couple of links. One quick stat, the truth of which I cannot totally verify—we throw away enough plastic every year to encircle the earth four and a half times. (That’s a lot.)

I might mention I have a personal grudge against the medical industry for using so very many plastic things one time only. I understand why with the need for sterilizing everything, but wow, what waste!

This is a neat infographic that illustrates plastic statistics.

This page contains 22 facts about Plastic Pollution and some ideas for combating it.

Some single use plastics I can see from my desk include:
-a padded mailer I was planning to reuse to send some things to a family member
-a coffee creamer can with colored pens in it
-all kinds of plastic wrap scraps from things purchased, such as clothing, furniture, etc.
-the container from a birthday cake that is holding a variety of tools in my “tool box”
-some bubble wrap I was saving to give to a little boy with autism who loves bubble wrap

A stroll around the house reveals:

-Numerous examples of bags holding things like potatoes, bread, beans, potting soil, -Epsom salts, etc.
-Several boxes of sandwich bags, zipper freezer bags (a particular vice of mine), and plastic wrap
-Containers filled with margarine, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.
-Bottles and jars filled with milk, mayo, vitamins, shampoo, laundry detergent, cat litter, etc.
-At least one of those zippered bags that bedding comes in
-Sturdy dog and cat food bags
-And far too many plastic shopping bags

I’ve been a pretty avid recycler for years, so I reuse a lot of those things, but you can only be so creative before there are more of them than you can find jobs for. I save plastics that can be taken to the city recycling bins, but we don’t have curb-side pick up, and I can tell you it is a pain in the rumpus to have to load those babies up and take them, not to mention the eye-sore they are while accumulating. Which doesn’t take long.


The Plastic Free Challenge  is scheduled to begin on Earth Day, Apr. 22, 2016. You take a pledge to reduce the amount of plastic you use and throw away. I think I’ll give it a go. but I don’t want to wait until April 22 to get started. Here are a few things I’ll try in the meantime to slow down my consumption of SUPs….

-Keep using reusable shopping bags every where I go. Encourage my kids to do so as well (a seemingly lost cause, but I can keep trying!)

-Rig up some reusable bags for bulk produce.

-Look for places around the area where you can buy foods in bulk. I noticed you could get pinto beans in bulk in the grocery store I use the most. We have Amish bulk stores in the area, but they bag things up to sell them. I could ask how they feel about us bringing in jars or what have you.

-Get my plastic mailer reusing system more organized.

-Cook from scratch more instead of using premade things like individually wrapped veggie burgers and entrees that come in single use microwave dishes.

-If I must drink soda, use my reusable cup and fill it at the convenience store fountain instead of buying it in a plastic bottle.

-Try to get off some mailing lists. (Amazing how much plastic wrap comes into the house in the mail!)

And might I encourage YOU to take the challenge, or at least examine your own relationship with SUPs?

You know, if everyone did something, a lot would get done.

Are You Ready?

happy face daisies


Are You Ready for Something Better?

Sometimes I have so much message resonating in my heart that I just want to flood hurting people with love and compassionate truth. I so want people to be happy. To enjoy living in their own skin. To have everything they need.

God loves you, my friend. God promises to provide all your needs (Philippians 4:19.) God promises that if you have faith, you will never be put to shame (Rom. 10:11.)

To never be ashamed….Isn’t that a beautiful thought?

That means you don’t have to feel embarrassed because your legs jiggle when you’re working out at the gym. You don’t have to hate yourself for taking a second piece of birthday cake. You don’t have to change your hair and your make-up and your personality in order to be a person worthy of love.

You are worth it to God. He cares enough about you that you are still in this world. He is NOT disgusted with you any more than he is disgusted with anyone else.

On the night Jesus was born, the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.” To me that means that God was extending good will toward humanity.

He is not disgusted with the human race. He might feel sorely grieved when we are unkind to each other, especially to those who are weaker, but he is not mad at you. Especially if you are a dedicated believer trying your best to live a righteous, Christ-honoring life!

But as I was thinking about this and feeling frustration about it, something occurred to me. These young ladies (it’s usually young women) might just be enjoying youthful angst and have no real desire to overcome those feelings of self-disgust and remorse.

They just aren’t ready for change. And a person will not change if he or she does not make the decision or have the desire for a change.

Counselors can counsel, teachers can teach, coaches can coach, but if the individual listening rejects the message and prefers to stay in their self-perpetuating world of depression and anxiety, well….

That’s the end of the story! (For now.)

As an older person who has struggled with poor self-esteem, anxiety, and even depression throughout much of my life, I look back and realize that many, many beautiful, love-filled moments of my life were tainted with the stench of worry and not feeling good enough.

Hey, folks, nobody’s perfect. And God loves people!

Take an old lady’s advice. Learn to love yourself and accept love from your spouse, your kids, friends and acquaintances, and God, while you are still young. Don’t delay. You’re only wasting your chances for delirious joy and happiness today.

If you are ready for change and want to get a “revelation of God’s love for you,” as Joyce Meyer puts it, here is an exercise to try. This is actually something I did for a solid YEAR, and I cannot tell you how much of a difference it made in my heart.

Find or make a picture of a smiley face that says “God loves you.” The bigger, the brighter, the better. Hang it up where you are forced to look at it every day. Many times a day. For me, that was the wall across from the spot where I sat at the kitchen table.

Think about it every time you look at it. Say it to yourself. Again and again. Emphasize each word in turn. GOD loves me. God LOVES me. God loves ME.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

If you’re not ready for change, well, that’s ok, too.

However, be aware that some day you may wake up and realize how many beautiful moments you missed.

New Cookbook and Bean Sandwich Spread


A few years back, I was looking at the cookbook collection of my dear vegetarian friend, and ran across this gem: Lean and Luscious and Meatless by Bobbie Hinman and Millie Snyder. It was published as part of a Lean and Luscious series in 1992 by Prima Publishing. I decided to look for it on Amazon and was able to get a nice used copy for a song.

What I like about this cookbook is that the recipes are simple to make and use ingredients that are easy to find. They don’t require a lot of fresh herbs or exotic vegetables that you can’t find in your typical grocery store. And in spite of that, the ones I have tried have tasted really good.

I decided to try the “Great Northern Mock Tuna Salad” but the closest thing to great northern beans I had in the pantry was navy beans. Close enough. You just drain and rinse them (1 can makes about 4 servings). Then mash them up in a bowl and add the stuff you would put in tuna salad. They recommended 2 T. sweet pickle relish. I didn’t have any, so I chopped a small dill pickle up fine. Onion and celery chopped fine, to taste. They recommended light mayo. I used real mayo because I just love it. I didn’t add salt, but used Mrs. Dash instead, because I’m watching my blood pressure.

Anyway, made into a sandwich on light whole-grain bread with some lettuce and tomato….yum. It was really good.

Oh, yeah, I made up a little quote—don’t know if it’s totally original, because people say all kinds of stuff all the time, and someone may have said this before, but it occurs to me that it is possible to call yourself vegetarian and live on pasta, peanut butter sandwiches, and the occasional banana. So here’s my little quote (more to remind myself than anyone else!)….

“If you’re vegetarian and you’re not eating vegetables, you’re doing it wrong.” –Barbara Wood