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Gallimaufry

101_3451Wasn’t feeling like I had much focus on the letter G today, so I set about looking through the dictionary for the first G word that was new to me. Found this gem, gallimaufry, on page 297 (the second page of Gs) in my “New Edition” (well, it was in 2004) Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It means hodgepodge and seemed appropriate given my wandering thoughts on this particular letter. I’m taking this serendipitous find as permission to just spew about where the letter G has taken me today…

Grandparents–Three of my four biological grandparents passed away in April, so there’s sort of a black cloud hanging over this month, but I look back on each of them with love and fond memories. Grandma W will forever be my inspiration for her strength and determination in overcoming physical adversity. She was also a damn good cook, feeding thousands of kids during her reign in the school cafeteria, and passing along some of her best recipes (I use that term loosely…she could tell you what ingredients she used in a dish, but I don’t think the woman ever used a measuring cup) and advice to her own kids and grandkids (My favorite tip: Cheese sauce tastes better once you’ve stuck your finger in it.) Granddad H was sort of stern and gruff on the outside, but had a heart full of love for his family. There were always many miles between our homes, which made summer visits all the more precious. I wish his willingness to talk about his time in Africa during WWII had blossomed sooner–his death left many nameless faces in faded photographs and many stories untold. Grandma H passed just last year, and though I spent more time with her, I’m not sure I really knew her any better than any of my other grandparents. Her tendency to go off on numerous tangents when telling a story was legendary in the family, and often raised more questions than she answered. When her body and mind were strongest, I did not have the patience to follow the paths of her winding tales, and when I finally found the patience, she no longer had the strength or clarity to answer my questions. You know that hypothetical dinner party where you can invite any five people, living or dead? There’s three-fifths of my guest list right there.

Garden–One (and maybe the only) good thing about this extended winter we’re having is that the garden isn’t awake yet. A couple (fool)hardy daffodils have poked their heads out, but little else is stirring. This time last year, I was in the middle of a three-month bout of back-to-back respiratory infections, and while I was bed-ridden, the garden was running amok. If I keep a careful eye, this year I might just manage to maintain the upper hand over the roses, laurels, honeysuckle, dandelions, thistle, and other nameless greenery that threatened to overtake the entire neighborhood twelve months ago.

Grime–My husband and I have become addicted to the fortnightly sale at the local auction house. We’ve collected some interesting pieces for ourselves, and have bagged some bargains with the intent of selling them on for a profit when we return to the States. One item we feel will be fairly profitable is old bottles, so any time we can snag an assortment for cheap, we frantically wave our bidding number in the sightline of the auctioneer. I’ve just started the cleaning process on the latest lot…over 100 bottles are undergoing their first soak in the bathtub. Tomorrow will mean several hours with a bottle brush and non-scratch cleaning pad, trying to remove decades, if not centuries, of grime and filth. We think it’ll help sales if prospective buyers aren’t worried whether they need a tetanus shot to pick up and examine the merchandise.

Guffaws–We’re going to meet up with some friends to see a comedy show this evening. The “Comedy Squadron” of Bryan Ricci, Freddy Lockhart, Greg Freiler, Jill Bryan, and Chad Miller are making their rounds of American military bases in Europe, putting on free shows for the 18 and older crowd. I don’t recognize any of the names or faces, but am looking forward to a good laugh. I’ll be the one in the middle-back of the audience, doing my best to be inconspicuous.

Getting ahead–Am going to be away from my computer for four days this week, and after the snafu two weeks ago when I couldn’t post due to lack of internet in the hotel, I’m trying to prepare the weekend’s posts to publish automatically on the required days. Since I’m participating in this A to Z Challenge, there’s really no excuse for not knowing what to write about on a given day, so it’s just a matter of banging out the material in the midst of all my normal daily chores.

Guess that’s about it for the Gs. Hope the rest of my A to Z Challenge colleagues found more inspiration than I!

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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Poo

Poo. And I don’t mean Winnie. This is a rather indelicate subject, I’m afraid, but one I encounter often on my walks around the local area. In the UK, dog fouling is a serious issue, as it should be, since there are an estimated 7 million dogs on these islands producing 365,000 tonnes (about 800 million pounds) of feces per year. To ensure walkers aren’t slogging hip-deep through the stuff, most districts have erected disposal stations along sidewalks and footpaths, and enforce fines for those who refuse to scoop the poop. In my district alone, there are several hundred dog bins (I pass at least six on my three-mile circular route around the neighborhood) emptied regularly by a disposal company contracted by the local councils. Across the nation, the minimum fixed fine for dog fouling is £50, but could reach as high as £1000 if the case goes to court. It is interesting to note that fouling offenses and the accompanying penalties do not apply to working dogs or guide dogs. The anti-fouling scheme seems to be working, because not once have I returned home from a walk with dog crap caked in the soles of my shoes.

That does not mean my outings are feces-free; I am constantly dodging road apples in our rural village, and am confused about why there are no horse fouling laws. DEFRA estimates that there are somewhere around one million horses in the UK. While this is less than 15% of the dog population, the beasts are poo machines, letting loose 8 million tonnes (18 billion pounds) of dung annually. Much of this manure falls harmlessly in fields and stalls, posing no hazard to innocent pedestrians, but it only takes one pile of equine excrement to completely ruin a hiker’s high. Horses and walkers share many of the same paths around here, those paths often being the neighborhood roads. Without going into a complicated physics lesson about dung density, vectors, and angular velocity, suffice it to say that poo exiting a moving horse’s backside tends to cover quite a bit of asphalt, unlike the humble dog pile which is delivered from a stationary pose with a much lower trajectory. It’s not always easy or safe to navigate around horse droppings on a single track road where cars are whizzing by at 60mph. So why aren’t horse owners responsible for clearing these minefields for the good of the wider public? Why is there such a doo-doo discrepancy? Why are dog owners persecuted when Fido fouls the footpath, but horse owners ride off into the sunset with impunity when Mr. Ed litters the landscape? I’d look more closely into this issue, but I’m too busy watching where I step.

 

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

 

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

 

Digesting

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As I sit here in a carb coma from tonight’s two-lasagna dinner, wondering what on earth to write about, The Daily Post comes to the rescue again. Rather than posting a writing prompt today, michelle w. offered up some wisdom about maintaining a healthy blog:  “A healthy blog is like a healthy colon.” Of course, that metaphor could be followed down numerous avenues, but her focus was on regularity. It seems, for the most part, blog followers are less concerned with the frequency of posts on their favorite blogs than with a regular schedule. Posting too frequently, especially if the content is, “I’m too busy to write a real post,” can kill off readership just as surely as posting too infrequently. Statistics show that regardless of whether they post once a day or once month, successful bloggers maintain a loyal following by establishing a manageable schedule and sticking to it.

I set myself the goal of blogging every day in 2013, and barring any extreme circumstances, I intend to stick to that. Instead of needing to establish the frequency of my writing, my challenge is scheduling what to write. There are obviously days when I have more time and creative energy, and can set down some quality (I hope) words and/or photos on the page. But on those days when the words don’t flow and I haven’t captured any decent snapshots, I need a back-up plan. Reading through the comments inspired by The Daily Post’s tip, I see that some bloggers like to follow a “recipe” so both they and their readers know what to expect and when. For example, each week a blogger might have two poetry days, a kid’s story day, one flash fiction day, one mash-up (any topic, any style) day, and two photo-only days. They’ve chosen a mixture that accommodates their creative needs but also does not interfere with the other demands of daily life–they know they’ve budgeted a couple “easy” days, and if they are on a roll with one genre, they save the extra pieces for a time when the well has run dry. I had been toying with this type of plan, but feared that it would be cheating somehow. Now that I know other bloggers swear by following a formula, I’m anxious to spend some time this weekend scouring their blogs for inspiration to build a schedule of my own. Thanks, DP, for giving me food for thought…

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Balance

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Tutoring.
Teaching English.
Working on base.
Free-lance writing.
Volunteering.
Exercising.
Cooking.
Cleaning.
Laundry.
Shopping.
Correspondence.
Blogging.
Sleeping.

Thank goodness I don’t have kids in the mix of responsibilities I’m trying to balance day to day. Some days run like a well-oiled machine, and I’m able to move smoothly from one task to the next, meeting all my obligations for the day. Other days, I can’t even get one project started, much less finished, because all the other things I need to do are choking my mind like kudzu. Today, the kudzu is winning. Maybe some sleep will help me claw through the vines and start tomorrow on a more even keel.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Valentine

The Giant's Heart in the pathway to the castle

In pre-dawn shadows I come looking for closure;
This day meant for lovers especially brutal.
For weeks it seemed best to maintain my composure,
But on the dark sand that effort seems futile.

When life was too hectic this beach was our haven,
Where rhythm of waves drowned out worry and stress.
You laughed when I noticed the circling raven;
My fear of death’s omen you refused to address.

I dream of a future that’s now out of reach
And mourn the soul mate too soon snatched away.
You’re not coming back no matter how I beseech,
So I must say farewell this St. Valentine’s Day.

Gulls ride the breeze on which your ashes are blown
The sea whispers back that I’m never alone.

Prompt from Writer’s Digest:  Write a Valentine’s Day poem of no more than 20 lines about spending a Valentine’s Day all by yourself. The only rules are that it must rhyme and the final line of the poem must include the title of your favorite song. I opted for a Shakespearean sonnet and chose the song “Never Alone” by Jim Brickman featuring Hillary Scott & Lady Antebellum.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Poetry, Uncategorized