How to Complain, without Hurting Others

It’s easy to complain today, because there’s so much to complain about.

Because we live in a society dominated and shaped by mega-corporations, we deal a lot with inefficiency, products that aren’t necessarily made with an eye for quality, and interesting “customer service.” While it’s something we reluctantly expect and accept, at the same time, we know it’s wrong, and things could be better.

hailey girl female country flower spring portrait innocence Steve Henderson art

There is a child inside of all of us who wants to be accepted and treated with dignity. Hailey, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

Layers of people between us and the CEOs and shareholders — the ones with actual power to change things — mean we get frustrated and irritable when we feel that we’re being put off, ignored, stuck on hold, and not listened to.

So, we get cranky with the person we’re dealing with, a person with limited ability to make any changes, who’s working there because they need a job and probably doesn’t like the situation any more than we do. The messenger, so to speak.

And this makes the day poor for both us and them. It also doesn’t solve the problem of products that look nicer (and bigger) in the ads than they do in our homes, and the vague suspicion that, to many billion dollar profit making entities, we are nothing more than a piece of currency.

But there are solutions beyond attacking the messenger, perhaps one of the best ones being that — if our voice cannot reach the ears at the top — we look elsewhere for the same product, preferably from a business (small? mid-sized? local? start-up?) that is more attentive to quality and customer service. (Don’t give up! We spent years thinking we were stuck with an impersonal, inefficient, and frustratingly inept bloated company that effectively monopolized our rural options, but we never stopped looking for alternatives. We finally found one.)

The artwork, Hailey, is a reminder to us of what individual people — us, and those we meet in person and on the phone all day, look like. Like children, we are vulnerable: nobody likes to be yelled at, denigrated, publicly embarrassed, and excoriated.

And while mega-corporations — which are not individual human beings but, in the U.S., carry many of the same rights that individuals do — can handle critique and excoriation, the wage earners who work for them are our brothers and sisters on the planet, and they could use a smile, a polite greeting, kindness, an egalitarian interaction that reminds us both that we are equals.

As individual people, valuing honesty, respect, compassion, kindness, and goodness, we can make a difference. One individual person at a time.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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That Incredible Thing You Do (and Make)

When is the last time you made something with your hands?

Better yet, when is the last time you valued something that you made with your hands?

santa woodworking workshop creativity christmas toys steve henderson art

Heart, hands, mind, spirit — they all join together when we create. In the Workshop, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

We live in a world of mass production, of products churned out on assembly lines. And because they’re made by the thousands and hundreds of thousands and millions, they’re uniform and homogeneous. Each loaf of bread, each plastic doll, each black sweatshirt with a company logo on it, looks just like its multitudinous mates.

Rarely are there unexpected alterations, the type of “flaws” we expect when an individual person starts from the beginning on a project, works through the middle, and makes it to the end. For efficiency, cost-cutting, consistency, and dependability of the final result, assembly lines are the way to go.

But if you’re looking for something unique, unusual, and with the touch of the human spirit, you need human hands touching, human brains making decisions, human hearts infusing their compassion, love, creativity, energy, joy, and purpose into what they’re making.

The artwork, In the Workshop, invites us into a place we don’t often see — Santa’s personal space where he creates. It’s understandable that Santa, because he has been doing artisan work for so long, is really good at what he makes. There are few mistakes — but intriguingly, those that exist, he works with and turns into an element of the final creation:

“Wow,” the observer marvels, “the engine is shorter and fatter than the cars it pulls — but I like it. It’s innovative.”

And Santa smiles.

So it is with us when we create with our hands — whether it’s a chocolate cream pie or a knitted cap, a wooden train or a greeting card — it will probably be, like the person who made it, slightly imperfect. But it will also be something that we poured our heart into, with a result that is intangible, invisible, and unable to be touched, recorded, charted, identified, analyzed, and profited by.

It will be one of a kind, just like the person who made it.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts that complement this one are

Why Your Life on This Planet Means Something

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When Will You Be Honored for What You Do?

“What is your favorite color? Your favorite food? Your favorite animal?”

Children ask these questions incessantly (as do social media quizzes, but the latter are mining information for advertisers).

blossom woman spring flowers colorful steve henderson art

Life is rich and good, with many colors that work together to create beauty. Blossom, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

It’s difficult to explain to seven-year-olds that while you may like blue, it’s not your ultimate favorite, all the time, and many colors are beautiful in their own way. The interrogators keep insisting:

“But what’s your FAVORITE?”

Adults do this as well, but in a more sophisticated manner, choosing to name society’s favorites by awarding public encomiums with accompanying plaques.

“This is the PERSON of the year!” magazine covers announce.

“Here is our STUDENT of the MONTH!” schools pronounce.

Or, at specialty banquets — for work, an organization, some civic event, church — a presenter drones from his or her notes before announcing the SOMEONE of the YEAR!

(Sometimes, the someone is kind of cool, and we nod our heads and say, “Okay, if they have to give out awards like this, that person is a good choice.”

But other times, we think, “Seriously? That person? Were the choices that limited?”)

The artwork, Blossom, is an encouragement to all those people who will never be a Someone of the Year, or, if they do stumble upon such a human-driven honor, will feel it was given for all the wrong reasons.

The young woman in the painting has no favorite color. Her dress is blue, her wrap is orange, the blossoms above are pink and the surrounding landscape glows green. Breathing in deeply the heady aroma of spring, she is aware of the beauty around her, and knows that if you remove even one element of it — that branch reaching down toward her hands, say — you’ve changed the whole picture.

There is no Someone who is so important that they deserve the entire year. There is you. And there is me (I know, grammatically incorrect). And there are our neighbors, our co-workers, our cousins, our acquaintances, and a whole planet of complete strangers, some of whom would be instant friends if we met them, and others who . . . might take a bit more time.

We’re all colorful.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Do We Like What We See in the Mirror?

“That’s not me, is it?”

Most of us are surprised, not necessarily pleasantly, when we unexpectedly catch sight of ourselves in a shop window, mirror, or, nowadays, tagged in a Facebook post.

santa claus christmas eve dolls statues surprise steve henderson holiday art

It’s a bit of a surprise when you run into yourself in an unexpected place. An Unforeseen Encounter, art print by Steve Henderson.

We always look older, wider, sloppier, more stooped, or whatever concerns us when we run into ourselves without warning. In our minds, we are different: graceful, elegant, secure, confident, beautiful.

And so, in many ways, we are. Our society’s over emphasis on youth and its very narrow definition of beauty keep too many people feeling insecure about themselves.

But in other ways, we are not what we think we are, a fact that comes as a shock when we become aware of what other people see, and we don’t.

“Do I really come across as rude . . . impatient . . . unkind . . . over competitive . . . thoughtless?” we wonder when someone —  a friend, family member, sometimes a complete stranger — tells us how we just made them feel.

There’s a fine line between seriously listening to the words of others about ourselves and being over concerned about general opinion and our self-image.

The artwork, An Unforeseen Encounter, gives a visual of this fine line. As a public figure, Santa is well used to seeing himself portrayed in many formats, and he is inured to that. He already knows that he doesn’t have a six-pack, and he’s also aware that he’s no longer 20 (was he, ever?).

So he recognizes some truths about himself, and he works with those issues. He doesn’t take himself so seriously that he can’t admit that he’s not perfect: there are elements that can be worked on (an extra helping of something other than a cookie at dinner, say).

At the same time, he isn’t so focused on himself that he has to use an app on his Facebook to slim down, tuck up, youth-erize, promoting an image of himself that isn’t real, genuine or meaningful.

Santa’s saving grace — and ours, if we choose — is that he spends more time thinking about others than he does of himself.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Quiet People Have a Lot to Say

I’ve lived long enough to see many people blast into my life, and then leave.

They’re not the pillars — family, friends, wise individuals who leave behind a feeling of goodness to the room when they depart. Rather, these are the confident, aggressive “leaders,” the ones who capture a group or organization, plan church events, or grasp at micro-managing their co-workers lives.

river muse woman thinking country stream henderson art

People who take time to think before they act or speak generally have words worth hearing. Riverside Muse, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

One example should suffice.

Years ago, there was a woman in our little children’s play group who whooshed into the room like a wind. Around a quickly assembled flock of acolytes, she pronounced judgment on what TV shows to watch, the best and only way to potty train, rather harsh disciplinary measures to apply against recalcitrant children, and the necessity of buying cheap fried chicken at the grocery store on Madness Mondays. (A couple years later, when she changed her diet, she condemned Madness Mondays, along with anyone who bought cheap chicken that day. No longer was this a sensible, approved, or spiritual way to save money.)

We never got along, because early on, I didn’t agree with something she said. It only took once to be off her list.

And then, after years of determined rule . . . she left.

Gone, off to new vistas to promote the virtues of tofu, which colleges are the best for those now grown-up, formerly recalcitrant children, and the only qualified candidate for whom to vote.

The artwork, Riverside Muse, is a reminder and an encouragement to not give in to such people. The woman standing at the river is quiet, reflective, non-aggressive, thoughtful – a lot like many people. She has good things to say, ideas worth hearing, but she is not about to push her agenda on those around her.

Too often, people who are quiet, reflective, non-aggressive, and thoughtful allow themselves to be bowled over by those who promote, and then later condemn, buying cheap chick on Madness Monday. They mistake non-aggression for shyness, and pull away from expressing themselves, because they consider that they have nothing worth saying.

But they do. Oh, how they do.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Is It Impossible? Maybe Not.

By what age do we stop believing in six impossible things before breakfast?

I’m not sure, but I do know that too many of us have not only stopped believing in, and reaching for, impossible things. We also give up on “wildly improbable,” and worse yet, “possible, but with a lot of determination and perseverance.”

santa christmas holidays season girl tea party magical steve henderson art

The wonder in the little girl’s eyes is because she knows what is happening to her is impossible. But it’s happening. Tea for Two, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

I thought of this when a friend told me about her recent experience changing the  number of her landline phone to her cell. The first person she went to, her go-to tech friend, said that it was impossible.

“But I know of two people who said they did it,” my friend objected.

“I’ve never heard of it. It’s highly unlikely.”

Sound familiar? Statements like these are the reason people tend to keep to themselves their private dreams, their outlandish goals, their secret hopes (which go far beyond, I hope, transferring their phone numbers).

When they do, they hear:

“I’ve never heard of that happening, ever.”


“It’s not logical (reasonable, probable, likely).”

Oh, and this one,

“EVERYONE would like something like this. What makes you think you can get it? Are you so very special?”

The artwork, Tea for Two, encourages us to keep the child in us alive, the little person who — despite what all the grownups say — believes that the most wildly improbable things can, and do, happen. Not yet school age, she hasn’t begun the inoculation into “thinking like a scientist,” — only believing what she sees, hears, and touches. (Incidentally, given the technology of what can be done with visual and voice manipulation, it might be wise to question more of the things we see and hear.)

She just knows what she would like, and wonders if there’s a way that it could happen.

(By the way, my friend got her number changed over. It took time, persistence, patience, determination, and the insistent belief that there was no reason it couldn’t be done.)

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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The Power We All Possess

Most ordinary people feel as if we have no power.

I’m not talking the “calm the wind and the waves” and “heal the blind” sort of power. Even the most delusional of earth’s mighty men and women know that they don’t have that.

angels landing zion national park hiking steve henderson painting

Climbing to the top involves a series of small steps. Where Angels Land, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

What most ordinary people feel is that we have no power to make a difference, because we don’t possess outrageous amounts of money, and the ability to influence (or manipulate) people and circumstances that accompany those funds. But that attitude overlooks the power that every human being possesses, regardless of who we are, who our father was, and how many people scrape and bow as we walk by.

All of us have the power to choose how we will act: honestly or dishonestly, kindly or harshly, honorably or with cowardice. With a word or a tone, we have the ability to build up another human being, or tear them down to a point of devastation. We can judge, critique, slander, and demolish. Or we can withhold judgment, listen, encourage, and build up.

Every single day, throughout the day, we have the power to do this.

“Ah, but my words and actions don’t affect millions,” we say. “I’m just a nobody.”

First of all, nobody is a nobody.

And secondly, we really need to get away from this misconception that quantity matters so very, very much. The fear that our actions and thoughts mean so little prevents us from actively going out and doing good. But to the person to whom we show compassion, brotherly love, understanding (or if nothing more, the lack of malice), we have made a difference. These things build upon themselves.

The artwork, Where Angels Land, shows the heights we can reach when we’re willing to continuously put one foot in front of the other. One of the most popular trails in Zion National Park (where 4.5 million people visit a year), Angels Landing is difficult: five miles round trip, 1,500 elevation gain, 21 steep switchbacks at the end, and a 1,000 foot drop off at the spine.

Theoretically, a rich, powerful person could get there on a helicopter, but millions of ordinary people make it to the top, one small step at a time.

Every word, every action, every thought is a step — and every step takes us upward or downward, depending upon where we choose to place our feet.

That’s a power that we all possess.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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You’re Unique — So Be Unique

Every human being is unique, different, and distinctive.

The imaginary world of movies pretends to celebrate this fact, and maverick protagonists are popular. But their problems aren’t our problems, and their issues are rarely if ever solved in a realistic, believable fashion. Too boring.

woman walking zion southwest heels beauty steve henderson art

As we walk our path in life, let us do so with singularity, distinction, and grace. Light of Zion, art print by Steve Henderson

In the real world, we battle with constant pressure to conform, much of which is thanks to those movies, “reality” TV shows, magazines, and celebrity Instagram feeds. If we don’t watch it, we’ll focus on being cool more than anything else — driving the right car, wearing trendy clothes, speaking savvy jargon, and walking along — head bobbing and body twitching to the music in our ears (how cool is that?)  — as we pretend to be in a movie of our own.

But in focusing on being cool, we are in severe danger of no longer being ourselves.

The artwork, Light of Zion, celebrates the beauty and . . . idiosyncrasy of being ourselves.
A young woman walks through the landscape of Zion National Park in Utah, but, contrary to conventional and logical expectations, she isn’t wearing sporty attire and hiking boots.

Rather, she dons heels, long dress, a gauzy wrap — an ensemble more appropriate to a party than a hike.

“That’s weird,” observers think. “If she twists her ankle she deserves it.”

Such is the reaction people get when they choose to be themselves — when we follow our heart, walk the path set before us, think and question, pursue our goals, dream our dreams. To outsiders, what we’re doing looks unrealistic and incongruous — unconventional and illogical — and there is always that helpful person who assiduously points out to us the challenges, drawbacks and difficulties we face, as if we had not thought of them, nor dwelt upon them, ourselves.

But there is a fine line between “facing reality” — which to the helpful persons consists of giving up on the fantastic and settling for the confines of a box — and diligently moving forward to achieve something difficult, in the face of improbable odds.

In the movies, it’s all tucked up and solved in two hours.

In real life, it’s a daily walk — a walk of beauty and grace, of determination and grit, of distinction and aplomb. And for some, sandals instead of hiking boots.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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People Who Can’t Say “Please” and “Thank You” Have a Problem

The words “please” and “thank you” are great equalizers. When we use them, we’re saying to another person,

“I am asking you to do something as a favor to me, and I am grateful for your willingness to do it.”

The understanding is that we, in another situation, will do the same for them.

stillness indian women grand canyon serenity steve henderson art

Side by side we are with one another, we are brothers and sisters who share one planet. Stillness, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

In our society, we are taught — often without words — that some people do not need to use please and thank you because Who they are, and What they ask, is so much greater  than the relationship between them and other people. The military comes immediately to mind, and on its heels, the defense of its practices:

“Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if commanding officers had to say please and thank you, all the time, to their subordinates? They require instant obedience to their commands.”

It’s a valid thought, but another thought is,

“Can you imagine how bad it is for people to have the illusion that they are greater, grander, and more important than other people, and thereby do not need to behave with courtesy?”

But let’s say that it’s appropriate, within the military, to dispense with democratic politeness. The problem comes when we adopt a military attitude throughout our society: corporations, schoolrooms, churches, even families — any place with an artificial hierarchy is in danger of creating a caste system, one in which the demands of those who call themselves leaders are expected to be acceded to by those deemed followers.

Sadly, many good people who want to be good parents have been taught — by certain charlatans who call themselves Christian — that they are the general of the family (man first, woman second), and the privates, the children, need to snap to attention, instantly obey, and say “Yes, Sir,” and “No, Ma’am.” One of the places military thinking definitely does not belong is within the home. Rather, the family setting is the place to learn how to treat one another well and kindly, so that when we go out “into the world” — the office, the grocery store, the sidewalks — we act toward others the way we want others to act toward us.

The artwork, Stillness, reminds us of who we are on this planet. Two women — one sitting, one standing — look out into the vastness of the Grand Canyon, marveling at their place in the world. They are not leaders, magnates, generals, royalty, celebrities — they are people, sisters on a planet, part of a family of human beings who get along best when we don’t consider one better than the other, privileged to demand as opposed to ask.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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It’s Time to Trust Our Own Judgment

It’s amazing — and sad — how little we trust our own judgment.

Of course, it’s not unusual. We’ve been trained since childhood to listen to the teacher, follow the pastor, accede to the dictates of the doctor, nod at the words of the politician, buy products hawked by the celebrity, and accept the pronouncements of the scientist.

silver sea coast beach ocean woman umbrella wading steve henderson art

The purpose of our lives, why we are here, what dreams we long to pursue — each one of us is the expert on these. By the Silver Sea, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

These are the experts, we are told, and their words trump our thoughts. And while there is much to be said about students learning from teachers — not all people who call themselves teachers are necessarily so, not all “experts” agree, and not all leaders deserve to be in their position.

Indeed, one of the hallmarks of a person of true wisdom is that they readily admit they don’t know everything. They could be wrong. They may know a lot about a subject, but the more they know, the more they recognize what they don’t know. In all honesty, they cannot propound statements in stone.

A wise person — and to become one of these is a reachable goal for all of us — seeks out other wise people, and we learn from them. The wiser we grow, the more easily we see the counterfeits — the “confident” speaker, the arrogant promoter, the person who pronounces his opinion and expects us to accept it without question.

The artwork, By the Silver Sea, shows a young woman wading barefoot in the surf. A slight smile plays upon her face because she is alone with her thoughts, and she is comfortable with their presence. Whether she is an “expert” — a speaker, a scholar, a scientist, a preacher, a teacher, a person with multitudinous Instagram followers — we do not know, because what matters is that she is an expert on herself: she knows what she likes, she knows her dreams, she knows it will take much to achieve them, she knows her limitations, and she is willing to undergo the process of learning, questioning, trying, failing, falling, picking herself up, and continuing to move forward.

She uses her judgment to live the one and only life she has been given on this earth. Not somebody else’s.


Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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