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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Direction

Where, exactly, do I pay?

As tomorrow begins a new month (already?!), I thought today would be a good time to officially lay out the formula I’d like to follow for blogging the rest of the year. I’m finding it easier to make time each day to blog, and the process seems less like a chore than it did when I began 58 (whoo hoo!) days ago. My husband has been very supportive, giving me the time I need after dinner in the evenings to “do my homework.” Sometimes though, I still have difficulties deciding what to write about, so simple posts can suck up a couple hours of precious time. During a recent episode of writer’s block, I was perusing other bloggers’ pages and discovered that some of the most successful bloggers have created a schedule for the content of their writing so that regardless of how often they post, they know what, at least in general terms, they are going to write about. In addition to reducing their stress as they sit before a blank screen, they are letting their readers know when to tune in to find the particular genre(s) they like–if a reader’s sole interest is poetry, there’s no need to visit Blogger X’s site every day if she only posts a poem on the third Friday of each month. Now assured that having a formula is not somehow cheating, here’s the plan for Things I See and Know going forward…

Monday Mix No telling what you’re going to get from me on Mondays. Could be a response to a weekly photo challenge, a book review, a testing-out-a-new-recipe saga à la Julie and Julia, a kid’s story, a poem, a letter to the guy who cut me off in the roundabout…

Tuesday Tales It’s all about fiction on Tuesdays. I’m sticking with flash fiction for now, so it’ll be a story of 1000 words or less. The six-sentence format has been challenging and rewarding, so expect to see more of those on Tuesdays. The subjects of my stories will come from photos I’ve taken, prompts from sites like The One Minute Writer and StoryADay, and sometimes out of thin air. Any and all reader suggestions will also be considered!

What’s She On About? Wednesday This’ll be the day when I can ramble about the antique chair I rescued at the auction, voice my opinions about hot topics in the news, whine about another day with no sun, reminisce about the days when I could eat a banana split without dramatically affecting my waistline… I’m just gonna pick a subject that’s on my mind, then tell it like it is, no apologies.

Deep Thought Thursday Thursdays will be the day I tackle a question from Gregory Stock’s The Book of Questions. It’s available online in pdf format, so I hope I’m not violating any copyrights by posting a question each week. I’m nervous about Thursdays, because I’ve previewed some of the questions and they are far from easy. The answers will require a very thorough examination of my ethics, my beliefs, and my dedication to each in difficult situations. I promise to choose each week’s question at random, not to pre-select easy or noncontroversial ones, and hope that my honest responses will perhaps inspire some conversation in the comments rather than unleashing a flood of judgement and condemnation.

Fiction Friday The other night when I was supposed to be writing, I was instead surfing other blogs for inspiration and came across a Friday Fictioneers post on Joe’s Musings. The idea is to study the featured photo of the week and use the image to weave a fictional tale of just 100 words. I’ve been having such a blast trying to fit a beginning, middle, and end into my six-sentence postings, that I couldn’t pass up this challenge. Friday will have the added benefit of being able to use someone else’s picture for the day, so it cuts me a little slack in the photography department. Watch this space tomorrow for my first attempt at Friday Fictioneering!

Six-Word Saturday I like the idea of looking back–on the week, on a certain event, on a specific time in my life–and summing up my feelings about it using only six words. The challenge is to come up with a succinct yet catchy phrase that I can then expand upon as I see fit.

Sunday Best I don’t mean to imply that this will be my best piece of writing for the week, rather that on Sundays I will respond to the prompt I liked best during the week, most likely supplied by The Daily Post.

So there you have it, my road map for the rest of the year. I reserve the right to occasionally deviate from the schedule as events dictate–tomorrow, for example, is Peanut Butter Lover’s Day, so if I had not already promised you a Friday Fictioneers piece, I’d be penning an ode to creamy Jif. I hope this plan will help you find the kind of pieces you are looking to read (I promise to also clean up my categories/tags and use them more consistently) as much as it will help me focus my energy when my steaming mug of tea and I sit down in front of the computer each day.

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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Puffin’

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After a very early start and a full-throttle, pedal to the medal kind of day, I was up till after midnight last night scanning 150 pages worth of dead tree back to our finance company in the States. So I hoped that when I finally crawled into bed and curled up next to the hubby, it would be a deep and dreamless sleep kinda night. I should have known better. I don’t know the last time my brain just shut off and let me sleep peacefully through the night; Alice’s Wonderland’s got nothing on the wackiness between my ears when the lights go out. If the tendency toward crazy, colorful dreams is genetic, I blame my grandfather–my mom says he was always recounting screwball tales conjured in the wee hours by his supposedly sleeping brain.

Last night I dreamt of puffer fish. Dozens of them. I was standing shin-deep in the clear waters of a shallow ocean cove. A few yards out, the sandy sea floor dropped off sharply, but that did not cause any waves to break as they rolled in…the surface just undulated gently. Puffer fish rode the currents from deeper waters into the cove, and when they reached the shelf on the sea floor, they rolled over onto their backs and drifted upside down, barely fluttering their pectoral fins to maintain a course that would bring them within my reach. Whenever one was near enough to touch, I leaned down and stroked its belly, just once from chin to tail, before it righted itself, grinned at me appreciatively, and swam back out to the deep. I repeated this over and over, as the fish ignored the other waders in the cove and headed only for me, like I was some kind of fish whisperer.

Needless to say, I’ve been thinking about puffer fish all day today, so I finally broke down and Googled their meaning on a dream interpretation website. In someone’s expert opinion, “To see a puffer fish in your dream signifies suppressed or unexpressed anger. You are holding something in that is on the verge of erupting at any moment. Alternatively, the dream indicates that others tend to underestimate your abilities or misjudge you.”

If anger is going to erupt at any moment, it’s going to be a surprise to me as much as anyone else. I am not currently aware of being angry at any person or situation, much less suppressing a boiling cauldron of wrath. Sure, I have a peevish moment every now and again, but it takes a lot to make me truly angry, angry enough that I’d summon an army of puffer fish. As to the other interpretation, it wouldn’t surprise me if people underestimate me, especially if they don’t know me well. But again, I’m not aware of anyone misjudging me or my abilities recently, and even if they had, I don’t feel like it would have troubled me enough for my subconscious to rally a school of puffers. Besides, the fish in my dream were all as laid-back as the Hawaiian one in my photo…not a single one of them was “puffed” and ready for battle. It seems that the so-called experts may have gotten this one wrong; I think I’ll just chalk it up to weird family genes. Thanks, Granddad!

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in On Me, True Life

 

Yarns

Sturbridge (13)-001In the spirit of trying to set up a regular routine for the content of my blog posts (as discussed on 21 February), I’m trying out Thoughtful Tuesdays. While browsing online, I’ve come across a list of fairly deep, thought-provoking questions from a book by Gregory Stock, PhD. According to the introduction, the questions will force the reader interpret his past, project himself into hypothetical situations, face difficult dilemmas, and make painful choices. I’m not sure I’m anxious to face difficult dilemmas or make painful choices, but at a glance, I can see how these questions could be a journey of personal growth, so I’m willing to take a chance.

For today’s entry, I randomly selected Question 65 (whew, it’s an easy one to start this new feature!):
When you tell a story, do you often exaggerate or embellish it? If so, why?

When I tell a story, I want people to be entertained, so yes, I do try to spice things up. I don’t exaggerate to the point where the twelve ounce bass I actually caught becomes a leaping, lunging twelve pound monster in the retelling, but any chance I get, I make the details more colorful without sacrificing the overall veracity of the tale. I remember telling a story as a child, no more than eight or nine years old, and I substituted the word historical for hysterical (or it could have been vice versa). I wanted to use big words to impress my audience, but ended up sending my mom and our neighbors into fits of giggles with my ill-chosen vocabulary. My already fragile young ego certainly did not appreciate being laughed at, but in time I found that if I stuck with words I knew and wove them together just so, I could get people to laugh WITH me. That was a heady feeling, almost as if I had a secret power. I lived to find some mundane event I could retell at Sunday breakfast so I could witness my parents laughing so hard that they would refuse to drink their coffee for fear it would come out their noses.

As a writer, I strive even harder to put just the right spin on my words. I want my readers to be engaged in my story, whether it is fact or fiction. I hope that, depending on the subject and their own experiences, the reader walks away laughing, crying, thinking, or remembering.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

1990

OBX1990When The Daily Post‘s prompt asked me to dig around and look at the date on the first coin I came across, then write about what I was doing in that year, I figured I’d get around to it eventually. However, I was cleaning out the backpack I’d used over the weekend and buried deep in the front pocket I found a Japanese five-yen piece. I’d forgotten the coin was in there, a remnant of my climb up Mt. Fuji three years ago–it had come into my possession as change when I purchased my climbing stick at the base station. Later, I learned that five-yen coins are considered lucky because the Japanese pronunciation of the coin’s denomination “go en” is the same as the pronunciation of one of the numerous phrases that mean good luck. Considering the coin had seen me through the arduous climb up Mt. Fuji and the even more harrowing descent, I decided maybe there was some truth to its lucky powers and left it in the backpack for future travels. The thing is, when I pulled it out today, I couldn’t find a date. That’s because the go en is the only Japanese coin that doesn’t use an Arabic date–it is still stamped with the nengo dating system, consisting of the name of the reigning emperor and the year within his reign that the coin was minted. After a Google search and a bit of decoding, I discovered my coin was struck in the Heisei period, in the second year of Emperor Akihito’s reign–1990.

The inaugural year of the 90s was an important one for me. The beginning of the year saw me in the middle of my senior year of high school, flying high after receiving the acceptance letter from my first (and only) college choice. I was editing the high school newspaper, forging through AP classes, perfecting my driving skills, spending hours on the phone (remember how we communicated in the days before the internet?), hanging out with friends…typical teenage pursuits. Things weren’t all sunshine and roses though, as my grandfather in Virginia was fighting a losing battle with lung cancer. He passed away on June 1, my first experience with death coming just days before my graduation. In the midst of my family’s sorrow, we found out that my dad’s job in New Hampshire was at its end, and his company would be relocating us before the fall. Whenever I wasn’t at work that summer, I was sorting out which of my possessions would go with me to college in Virginia and which would go on the moving van to the new house in Texas. All of my college-bound junk was loaded into the family car in early August, along with the vacation gear we’d need for a week-long family reunion in the Outer Banks, NC, in the same spacious house that we’d shared with my grandfather the previous summer. While sixteen of us tried to enjoy our time together, I felt sadness for our family’s loss warring with nervousness about my upcoming boot from the nest, and under it all, a sense of mourning for the impending demise of my childhood.

The first semester of my freshman year passed in a flurry, marked by bonding with roommates (easier than expected for a girl who’d never shared a room before), making new friends, avoiding the freshman fifteen in the buffet lines of the dining hall, truly studying for the first time in my school career, taking sole responsibility for my own laundry, shopping, budget, and curfew, and counting down the days until Christmas break, when I’d be able to fly to my new, as yet unseen, home in Texas. On the ride from the airport, across the dark flat plains outside Fort Worth, I shared with my parents the pride I felt at having successfully navigated the first four months of my independence. In my new bedroom I found a small stuffed panda sporting a sign hand-written in my dad’s block letters, “Welcome home, Michelle. We have missed you!” A flood of love and relief overwhelmed me as I was accepted back into the family fold.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in How It Is, Memoirs, On Me

 

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Impasse

They had nothing to say to each other. Everything that could have been said, and a few things that shouldn’t have been, had been. “I’m not changing, you change,” each one had shrieked in outrage upon emerging from her respective bedroom to find her flatmate attired in nearly identical accoutrements. “I can’t be seen on a double date with the hottest guy on campus looking like your twin!” The argument had raged for hours, and had finally spent itself only when the chiming of the hall clock intruded to remind them that the doorbell had not rung at the agreed upon time. Meanwhile, across campus, two of the university’s hunkiest frat brothers, wearing ensembles that could be differentiated only by the color of their socks, had nothing to say to each other…

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2013 in Fiction

 

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Uncle

100_1548Longing for an end to winter

I guess when I saw the sun for the entire day on Monday and was able to shed the outermost layer of my typical winter armor, my mind and body got this crazy idea that winter was on its way out. Tuesday tried to ease me out of that idea by bringing back the clouds while maintaining the mild temperatures, but Wednesday blew in to remind me that both calendar-ly and meteorologically, it is still winter. Thursday and Friday conspired to reinforce that knowledge by becoming progressively cloudier and colder, and then today, that big bully Saturday thought it’d be fun to spit snow at me all day while Winter pinned me down.

Uncle. I cry uncle. Winter, please let me up now. I’m tired of layering sweaters to survive at work, tired of pulling on three pairs of socks when I wear my wellies, tired of slathering endless layers of moisturizer on my wind-chapped cheeks, tired of scraping frost off my car windows, tired of counting down the hours until the end of each day when I can go home and defrost my aching bones in a steaming hot shower. Please, give me a chance to pack away my flannel pajamas and woolen mittens. Let me open the windows to air out the house. Make way for lambs, daffodils, green grass, and most of all, sunshine. Uncle, Winter, UNCLE!!

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2013 in How It Is, True Life

 

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Forward

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I’m really not exaggerating very much when I say it’s been raining here in England since last April. Almost as soon as the Met Office updated its drought declarations to cover the lower three-fourths of the country and instituted hose-pipe bans that affected 20 million people, precipitation began to fall. And fall. And fall. It has not rained all day every day for these last ten months, but breaks of sunshine have been depressingly few and far between. I took this photo in December during one of those blessed breaks. Standing in the shadows and aiming my camera into the sun without benefit of any filters is probably one of the first mistakes they tell you not to make in Photography 101, but the resulting image really moves me, body, mind, and soul.

I want to move forward down this path, out of the darkness and out of the debris scattered by the latest round of floodwaters, to the higher ground I can see just beyond the curve. Whatever is up ahead, the future shrouded in the mist, holds no fear for me, because ahead there is light. The luster of the sodden path beckons hypnotically, propelling me onward in search of its source, until all I want is to feel that light pressing its warmth into my scalp, beating against the flimsy defenses of my closed eyelids as I tip my face to the sky. I want to wrap my entire self in this light, and stuff my pockets with it so I can take it out and revel in its brilliance whenever I feel the darkness closing in. This light is freedom…freedom not just from a string of bad weather, but freedom to get out of the house and out of my head. I’ve been closed in and closed up for too long, though not realizing the enormity of the oppression until it was lifted. Moving forward into the light, I feel weightless and clean and strengthened and renewed. I am alive again, right down to the last cell, and dazzled by the possibilities exposed before me in the light.

Today’s blog is in response to “Forward,” the Weekly Photo Challenge over at The Daily Post.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2013 in On Me, True Life, Weekly Photo Challenge

 

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