Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Hi. My name is Annis, and I’m a hope-and-positivity-aholic. But I won’t lie. These last ten days have thrown me down. Down is foreign to me, as foreign as a speck in my eye, as foreign as Greek road signs. Down is heavier than a lead suit.

I gave myself a day to wallow. I sobbed in disbelief and sorrow. And I took the defeat personally. While out for a walk, I scanned the faces of approaching hikers, wondering whether they had voted against “me.”

My daughters phoned. They happened to be together in D.C. that week. “We just wanted to see our mama,” one said.  Then, the three of us sat on Face Time, shaking our heads, moaning our disappointment, trying to fathom what had just happened.

On Day Two I started doing the things that usually get me through a crisis. I talked to Judy about my feelings and fears, spoke with like-minded friends, and wrote in my journal. I walked, meditated, saw an inspiring movie, surrendered to the power of poetry. My coping mechanisms started to work. The gloom began to lift – but, as my mom, Ms. Ruthie, would say, as “slow as molasses in January.”

Donnel posted a poem by David Whyte on Facebook, “Despair”. A couple of safe Facebook groups, in which people wrote of their fears and feelings, shared their stories, and propped each other up with encouragement and validation, sustained me.

New friends from the summer writing workshop, Glint of Light, began to share poetry. Zia, one of our Canadian friends reached out first with a poem by John O’Donohue, which she offered as a blessing. Its beautiful ending, “May your soul calm, console, and renew you.” And soon more of the group wrote, sharing the poems of Neruda and Piercy, and telling of their own feelings. Each post became a soothing balm for my heart.

Time with my local writing groups, my buddies, buoyed me up with their words and friendship -- and a bit of wine and cheese and homemade cookies.

And finally, I am able to write without ranting. Ten days. Ten days passed before I could sit down and be that hope-and-positivity-aholic again. I sure missed that woman!

As horrible as these past days have been, I see actions that send me back to HAPA-land. People are talking. Conversations about the government, the political system, and the fact we have become complacent and lazy, leaving the heavy lifting to others. Groups are mobilizing to create change, long-needed change, at the local and state levels. Our attention has been grabbed. School boards, city councils, state and US congressional representatives will hear our words.

Folks are saying, “I will be bolder. I will stand up for other people. I will be a safe person for anyone who is harassed or afraid or needs a safe harbor.”

A small and commonplace thing, the safety pin, has taken on new meaning, has become a symbol of solidarity, love, sanctuary. A middle school teacher reported one of her students asked about the safety pin she wore. “It shows I‘m a safe person and here to help anyone who needs it.”

Her explanation opened the door for him to tell her he was hungry, his parents hadn’t filled out the necessary reduced lunch application, and he had no money. Now, this teacher began to understand him. She had an idea why her student was behind in his work, didn’t complete assignments. She bought his lunch. Within days, he appeared with the forms.

Clearly, the safety pin is not merely – as someone in the blogosphere wrote – “a way for White people to make themselves feel better.” It’s a signal of solidarity, compassion, and love for others.  It’s a small thing that can have an impact.

Standing strong and together, we can make it through these frightening times, through inevitable upheaval and chaos. Let our enthusiasm reign, our voices be heard, and our good intentions transform into actions that support and uphold each other. Commitment. Conversation. Hope. Positivity.  
                                           ~ xoA ~

Monday, October 10, 2016

I Need a Break

March 2016

I need a break.

The United States’ 2016 presidential election campaign has gone on longer than a rhino’s pregnancy (about 450 days). It’s outlasted a walrus’s gestation period (about 15 months). And, it’s in strong competition to beat the gravidity length of a whale or dolphin (17-19 months).

Millions of American babies were born between the time candidates began announcing their intentions to run for office and the end of the 2016 primaries. That was 14 months for the Democratic nominee and 12 months for the Republican. Now we’re four months past that!

I’ve watched debates, rallies, forums, and videos, listened to sound bites and newscasts. I’ve read magazine and newspaper articles and rants and jokes by Facebook friends. I'm on overload.

Experts are saying the extended election period and our unlimited information access are major factors in Americans’ heightened election stress and anxiety levels. Counselors and massage therapists reported seeing more clients who seek relief from election anxiety. The American public is becoming overwhelmed.

My head is too full. I am taking a break. Hundreds of other activities can fill my time and mind.

I have writing to do.  I’m participating in OctPoWriMo 2016, where I have committed to writing a poem each day of the month. I have my writing class, critique group, and my on-going memoir, commitments for The DayMaker and articles for two different newsletters. And, what about that chapbook of poems I’ve been threatening to put together?

Exercise.  I can take myself to the gym to work out on my own or participate in group classes like Zumba and body sculpting. Strengthen my core. I have my Fitbit and need to make those 10,000 steps per day – minimum – preferably out in nature.

Read. Just sit down and read a good book. A book that enthralls me. A book that teaches me something about writing or the world or myself. A book that makes me laugh or cry.

Meet up with friends for coffee or a glass of wine. And, allot a very short window, maybe 5 minutes, for political talk – or make it completely off limits.

Clean house. Clean up my computer files. Clear some clutter. Switch to my fall/winter purse.

Limit my social media time. I remember how relaxed and good I felt in Canada that week of the writing workshop I attended. No phones, no internet, no television. No political news.

The campaign will proceed without me for a few days while I recoup. I’m taking a break.

Maybe you need a break from the political fray, too. Without mentioning your political peeves or position, let us know if you’re feeling a bit of election anxiety and how you’re coping with it.

Meanwhile, take care of YOU.

~ xoA ~

Monday, September 19, 2016

Colors by Guest Blogger Marilee Yeend

I’ve invited friend, artist, and fellow writer Marilee Yeend to share her recent essay as a guest blogger for The DayMaker.  

Marilee Yeend
Over the several years I’ve known Marilee, through writing classes I conduct in Coos Bay, I’ve observed how her artist’s view informs her written eloquence. She read her timely piece aloud in last week’s class, and when she finished, a collective gasp rose from the group. Painting pictures with her words, Marilee touched us all and made us think. She’s kindly allowed me to post her essay. Thank you, Marilee.

Mondrian painting (Internet)
   In the movie “Gettysburg” there were soldiers marching in a line, going toward the enemy line of soldiers, determined to break through.  I saw in my mind a Mondrian painting our teacher Steve showed us in Art History.  It had several black lines at right angles to each other, forming boxes.  Each line seemed to hold the others in place.  In some of the boxes there were primary colors, but they were held firmly in place by the interconnecting lines. They had no way of escape, no where they could go, no pathways to explore. They could not flow, could not touch another color to form something new.  A new color was prevented from being born because they could not interact with each other from the imprisonment in their respective cages.
   Another painting had lines also, but they seemed to be in constant motion, one flowing into another, interacting with each other in such a way that created movement. Rather than being static, rigid, imprisoning, there was a flow -- like a flag blowing in the wind.
   We tend to think of lines as being hard, crisp, unyielding; one side good, one side bad.  One side right, one side wrong. But upon closer inspection they become blurred, moving, one side blending into the other.  Both sides right, both sides wrong, both sides good, both sides bad. After much destruction, pain and loss, with neither side the winner, the line disappears for a while to re-appear yet again at another time, in another place, because the lines were not erased from their minds.
   We make up lines and form boxes around our thoughts.  One thought is not allowed to interact with another thought for fear it will destroy a belief.
   I see these lines in progression: opinion is thin and when not reinforced with many others, could be swayed in another direction, bent, or eliminated.  Judgement is a thicker line that helps hold opinions in place, and is not easily changed.  Belief is a thick line reinforced by many opinions and judgments, nearly impossible to change unless something very strong breaks through and allows freedom of thought.
   When will we learn to appreciate the differences, to accept them and not feel threatened by them?  When will we learn that who we are is not defined by what we believe?  Our safety and peace of mind do not come from everyone accepting what we find to be true for ourselves.

   Different colors woven together in a pattern make a tapestry that the eye blends into a beautiful whole.

Tapestry (Internet)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Writing Workshop Wonderment

Google Images

When the opportunity occurs to work with masters of the craft you’re striving to hone, you go. 

“A Glint of Light on Broken Glass” -- a week-long writing workshop taught by Ellen Bass, a poet, teacher, and person whom you admire and respect, along with author and teacher Pam Houston, whom you don’t know, but hey, she’s with Ellen Bass. So you check Pam out and discover she’s a terrific writer and a prof at UC Davis.  For sure, you’re going.

Lake Connamarra
You take two planes, stay over at a hotel, meet up with three women writers you don’t know and rent a car together. You drive to the mountains, two-and-a-half hours east of Vancouver, BC, to reach The Inn at Lake Connamarra.

Everything works out fine.Your travel companions are gracious and kind. Thanks to your trusty Google Maps phone app, the watchful eyes of your new friends, and a turn-by-turn set of directions from the rental car agent, you don’t get lost. You make it to your destination in time for dinner.

You and your here-to-fore unknown roommate mesh perfectly, both of you friendly, encouraging, and considerate of each other’s comfort. You like to shower at night. She prefers mornings.  Her name is the same as your sister’s.

The other writers, some, like you, first-time workshop attendees and others, veterans of this mode of learning, congregate in the dining room and introduce themselves. They are from Washington, California, Arizona, Colorado, New York, and British Columbia. All of you are focused on the same goal: writing better. Slick as silk, thanks to an exercise orchestrated by Ellen, everyone knows everyone else’s name by evening's end.

You all understand the ground rules and structure. This is a generative workshop. You will create. You will be respectful of others’ right to write. If you see someone writing, you pass quietly, no need to engage them. If you see someone staring into space and holding a pen or a pencil or gazing at a blank screen, fingers poised above their keyboard, that’s writing. Keep going. When listening to others’ writings, you will “admire what is admirable.”

Learning Center
Your days in this beautiful natural setting glide by like a golden eagle. Your head and heart are filled with lectures, models, questions, personal stories, clever words and lines and twists. You are a witness to some of the finest, most honest writing from a host of gifted writers. Their example encourages, teaches, inspires.

During the week, you are schooled on intentional observation, using your surroundings as springboards, the power of writing for discovery, the importance of form, “nuts and bolts” like metaphor, tension, and tenses. You get a lesson on point of view – 1st person (I),  2nd person (you),  and 3rd person (he/she/they/it). You learn it’s OK to write in the “you.”

You stretch and grow your writing muscles, your concentration, your commitment to writing, and your friend list. You will miss these people, these week-ago strangers.

You leave filled with ideas for more pieces, filled with the satisfaction of accomplishment, filled with wonder at how much you learned. You bask in the warmth and brilliant light of your fellow participants. Before you can reach home, you are eager for the next time. 

~ xoA ~

Thursday, August 11, 2016

My Encounter with Home-grown Racism

By my outward appearance, no one could tell. I stood tall and straight as I pushed my grocery cart toward the parking lot. But inside, my stomach roiled. My chest burned. My thoughts raced: In my 73 years I haven’t come face to face with anything like this. No wonder young black people are so angry.

While I shopped, a boulder of a man stood across one of the produce aisles from me. Over the piles of potatoes and onions, I only saw his massive shoulders and the bear claws tattooed on his scalp. I’m a writer so I observed the size of those claws and how the sharp toenails pointed skyward. I made a mental note: when I get to the car, I’ll jot that in my notebook.

Twenty minutes later, I found myself behind this same man in the checkout line. His raft of groceries and sundry items covered the conveyor belt, and the cashier was ringing up his purchases. I noticed his heavy brown shoes, laces on his left shoe trailing on the floor, his legs like silos stretching up to his large body. Then I saw the tops of his forearms, heavily tattooed with some kind of leafy pattern. He reached to place a full plastic bag in his basket. On the side of his arm, a tattoo that ran from wrist to elbow flashed. The letters, within a border that was pointed on both ends, spelled WHITE.

Now I had to see the other arm. So I put my groceries onto the belt and strolled past the man to the front aisle. After pretending to look at a poster on the wall, I turned around to see him placing another filled bag in his basket. His right arm sported a similar huge shape with a word inside. As I moved to pass him to return to my spot in line, I stole a glance at the word. PRIDE.

I was standing within inches of a person who silently, yet openly, displayed and spewed his hatred. That’s when my body reacted. Heat in my chest and a sickness in my belly. Sure, I knew people like him are out there, both individuals and hate groups. But in line beside me? Right here in my Oregon community?

No wonder young black people are so angry. Too many Americans don’t get it. They ask why blacks don’t just forget about the days of slavery, the Civil Rights movement, the killing of young black men. Too many don’t get that the words “black lives matter” are not only a call for justice but also a reminder to ourselves, in the face of everyday blatant racism: we matter.

I’m grateful for this jolting experience. As a black woman whose brushes with overt racism have been few, I’ve been educated about racism’s prevalence and its effects at the visceral level. It put me in tune with how many people of color must feel -- and deal with these attitudes -- on a too-regular basis.

There is little we can do to alter the hard-core, ingrained prejudiced beliefs and behaviors that exist in some members of our society.

But all of us can work to create change in the system. We can make a conscious effort to raise our children in a culture of “one nation” that connects rather than divides. A country and culture that believes it and means it when we recite “with liberty and justice for all.” 

Then maybe one day, no one will be so angry.

~ xoA ~

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What Matters

Stopping the violence matters. It’s what Black people have been saying for decades. It’s the message of Black Lives Matter: “Stop the police violence against Blacks. Stop killing us.”

Over the last few years, Black Lives Matter organizers and followers of all races who believe in equality and the humanity of all people turned out en mass in peaceful protest. By speaking out and demonstrating, they were labeled as divisive and instigators.

Some took it that “Black Lives Matter” meant “other” lives didn’t. Wrong. The statement is an affirmation: “Our lives are not throw-away lives. They mean something in this world. Too often our lives are deemed expendable.”

It was not a case of Black lives matter –- to declare others don’t matter, don’t mean anything. Or that Black lives are more than others. The emphasis is on the “matter.” Black lives matter, (too).

In the past two weeks, a couple of deranged Black individuals have taken it upon themselves to exact revenge upon police. Now the general public, police chiefs, local government officials, even governors and presidential candidates are saying, “Stop the violence.”

Stopping the violence matters for everyone –- every person, Black, White, or Blue. Every ethnicity, every culture, every age, every neighborhood. Each citizen wants to feel safe and to be safe. Each person wants to live, to belong, to be productive, to be free, and to have power over their own lives. Each yearns to be unafraid and to contribute to their communities. That includes Black people.

Everyone wants the violence to stop. And, everyone must take steps to ensure an end to the violence that has threatened, horrified, and killed far too many people.

When do we start taking care of what matters? It has to be now. It has to be before even more lives are snuffed out in rage and frustration or in misguided demonstrations of power. It has to be now to ensure our young people have a chance to grow up and all of us can live without fear, knowing WE matter.

~ xoA ~

Saturday, July 9, 2016

"I Will Never be Desensitized" by Guest Blogger Wanda Olugbala

“I Will Never Be Desensitized”

By Guest Blogger, Wanda Olugbala

Stunned, I watched the murder of Alton Sterling in a parking lot in Baton Rouge. I had no words. Just tears and heart-sickness and anger.

Ms. Wanda Olugbala
But my Detroit sister-friend Wanda Olugbala, mother of an eight-year-old son, had all of that AND the words. She captured the essence of the experience of women of color in her poem, “I Will Never Be Desensitized.” 

³ ³ ³
Never be
Do not show me videos of
My brother’s execution as though
His death is some staged movie scene where
Cut was called and he got up, brushed off and
Headed home to reheat Monday’s Barbque
His life is sacred to me
I have washed him in his infancy
Fought for him throughout his childhood
Prayed over him in my prayer closet
Fussed at him in open combat
I shielded his body from switches, and
Belts and open hand insults never once
Did I blink when it meant saving him over
Sacrificing me, he is me, I am him
His body is sacred to me
It is my responsibility to prepare him
On his final journey home, my tears
I gather to wash his wounds, my clothes
I rip to swaddle his now lifeless body
Leave me in my grief as I care for this body
I loved and nurtured and protected
Do not steal his dignity with his life
His is not martyr, his body another prop for
Your political defense, this is my brother

© 2016 Wanda Olugbala on FearFree Living at

And then, there was Philando Castile. And then, there was Dallas. We must not let ourselves become desensitized to violence and hate. We must think and feel and act to transform the injustice, violence, and racism that plague our country. We must recognize the humanness of each person, open our hearts, and spread love. Our survival as a people and nation depend on it.

~ xoA ~

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Putting it Out There

“Rejection letters are badges of honor.” That’s a favorite slogan at Writers of Kern. We celebrate rejections because when writers receive rejections, it means they are writing -- and submitting to publications.

Recently, some of those responses have been "Yes."

Over the years, I’ve amassed a body of work -- short memoir pieces, poems, personal essays, and snippets of possible stories. And lately I’ve been trying my hand at fiction. I’d had pieces published before I became “serious” about writing, but submitting my work for consideration didn’t happen much until 2015. That’s when I gathered the courage to dust some of these pieces off, polish them up, and send them out into the world.

The result has been affirming , gratifying, and exciting. Published in print and online journals, my work is being read by an even wider audience.

It took some prodding and encouragement. The taste of acceptance came when the online journal, Yellow Chair  Review , picked up my first poem, “Talk,” for its Inaugural Issue in May 2015. That sent me scurrying to my computer and practice notebooks to look for more poems. At the beginning of this year, Scarlet Leaf Review published my first fiction piece, “The Blessing,” and a few months later, several poems.

Sure, I’ve received rejections -- and wear them with pride. But, remembering those decisions are subjective, I may rework the piece, ask for help from my critique group, or just send it out to the next publication I think might accept it. It’s a matter of persistence and luck. Writers must connect with the journal whose style and subject matter fit with theirs.

Since I’ve been putting my work out there, this spring a number of Acceptance letters flew into my Inbox. Most recently, a flash fiction piece called “King of the Playground” was published on a local online zine site, The Kit Fox. My poem, “Porcelain Smile,” went up on Bitchin’ Kitsch. And, arriving in my US Mail box, was my contributor’s copy of the 6th In the Words of Womyn (ITWOW) InternationalAnthology with my poem, “When Did I Get Old?”

In April, I was honored to write two poems and read them at the California State University, Bakersfield library along with a dozen or more other local poets. This event was one held to celebrate National Poetry Month. Students, faculty, community members, and Don E. Thompson, Kern County’s first ever poet laureate,  read their poems on the subject of Drought. Organizer, professor Matt Woodman designed a beautiful keepsake chapbook containing all the poems. 

Because these poems and stories got out, rather than remain stashed in their file folders on my computer, my life has become even more rich. Not with money, of course, as most of these journals do not pay, or pay very little. But rich with the knowledge that my words are being read and folks are enjoying or relating to them.  That’s a great feeling, a good reason to continue to write and submit my work. 
~ xoA ~

YCR's first anthology included "Talk"

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Preschoolers ‘Get It’

Seventeen faces lit up and a low buzz began when I entered Classroom A at Fairfax Head Start Center. My mission was to read to the children. It’s Dr. Seuss week. Taking part in this event was something I’d wanted to do, but it never seemed to fit into my schedule. The children sat in a small space at the front of the room, where teacher, Miss Maggie, was finishing a lesson. Seventeen musial voices greeted me in unison, “Good morning, Miss Annis.” They had me right then.

The day before, I immersed myself in the charming, narrow picture books at our main library. It was hard to choose from the crammed-full shelves that lined the walls, wound around corners, and filled in the nooks. So, I went to a favorite from when my own children were young, Ezra Jack Keats’s Whistle for Willie, and also decided on an Elmer the Patchwork Elephant book called Elmer and Butterfly by David McKee.

The third book I read, Herbert the Snail by Cheryl Brown, came from one of those free-standing Little Libraries on our neighborhood walk route.

Before lining up in pairs to go to the decorated reading area outside, the children donned their red-and-white-striped Dr. Seuss hats. The hats, freeform replicas with strips of construction paper and a headband that displayed their names, made everyone look like miniature Seusses.

They gathered on the colorful round tarp and sat at my feet, their hats bobbing until they focused on me when I was ready to start. And, with a minimum of fidgeting, this little group of three-and-four-year-olds sat quietly, answered my questions, and asked their own pertinent questions.

Reading in appropriate voices, with the book facing out to display the pictures, I felt the familiar thrill of introducing new experiences, thoughts and vocabulary. I felt the warmth of all these sunny faces looking up at me. The children’s reactions, smiles, hugs, and sweet good-byes filled my heart.

As I drove away, I remembered how the adults we come in contact with every day were once like these little ones -- inquisitive, helpful, caring, displaying good behavior. That means it’s in their nature. It reminds me that good qualities reside in each of us. While that’s evident in many folks, we may have to search in others. But if we take time to look for the good, we’ll find it.

~ xoA ~