Category Archives: On writing

“Back in the Saddle”

 

Oh my. I haven’t written a blog post since Joe died, more than a year and a half ago.

It’s been way too long. Much has taken place since then.  Significantly, a year ago in February, I got really (REALLY) sick, and missed three weeks of work, and then began a slow upward trend healthwise. I escaped into knitting, the first thing I felt I could try, but largely ignored my multi-media artwork (although I did organize all my craft bits by color, which was actually quite an accomplishment).  I started walking the stairs in our library to build up some endurance and graduated to running the bleachers at the high school football field in the summer.  Peter gave me a FitBit; it says I’ve walked across New Zealand (990 lifetime miles, or least that’s the distance I had walked by the end of last year). I started dancing again last fall (yay for Oula!), and have lost about 15 pounds.   I started re-evaluating the stress level I can handle and determined I wasn’t doing so well in that regard, professionally.  Most recently, after four-plus years, I retired from my full-time job as a project manager at Tyler Technologies; tomorrow I start a part-time position here in Teton Valley, giving back to the community, assisting the local school district with PR. In a nutshell, I’ve gone through some life changes since you last saw a blog post from me.

This record is not meant to be a diary of doings, and I appreciate you hanging in through that last long paragraph. Several constants bear mentioning right here, though: Peter and family and traveling  — all of which I love to write about, although one lesson I’ve learned better as I grow older is to respect other’s privacy. (Not everybody wants me to write about them, in other words.)

So — what is my blog going to be about now, if I am going to revitalize it?

Our trips provide never-ending fodder for writing. I must have several hundred ideas of things I think merit exploration.  I jot these down by the dozens in whatever notebook I happen to be carrying on a journey.

In the Piazza di Pietra in Rome  And the photos!  We have some 2,000 pictures *just* from our most recent adventure in Italy and Malta, and about half that many from Singapore and Cambodia last fall (the only reason being it was half as long a trip). But all of them need to be organized and sifted through with some discipline before sharing — a daunting task in and of itself. That will take a while, I know, so will start with just this one, in the Piazza di Pietra, Rome.

I’m also reading, a LOT, again, which has re-widened my world, which I’d somehow let slide into smallness.  In fact, my Tyler teammates all gave me books at my retirement party — a gesture so touching and so personal I’m moved to tears whenever I look at one of the notes that went along with each gift.

But that starts my inner debate — How do I pick THE book to write about?  Would the two book clubs I belong to mind if I write about what we’re reading there (and maybe even relay parts of their respective discussions)? Should I reactivate the old grouping “My Weekly Reader” to talk about books on a regular schedule?

Which prompts another internal discussion: in the past, I’ve often set goals to write a post every day for a month about a single topic, or to do one a month for a year, or whatever.  I’d set limits like a maximum number of words, or using only ONE picture per post. However, Peter has (wisely) shown me that this kind of self-imposed obligation, while helpful in providing structure and creating expectations on the part of readers, can be demoralizing if I don’t meet whatever goal I’ve set.  And that’s not why I want to write….

That said, writing a blog, as I’ve told others, is only worth it IF YOU DO IT. In other words, it’s not enough to just “have a blog.” It needs INPUT. It needs THOUGHT. It needs ATTENTION.  The words don’t just appear magically.

And that’s why I’ve been reluctant to get “back in the saddle,” I guess.  The stats say this blog has had 12,000-plus posts; I know I have many friends who have been loyal readers, and I don’t want to let them down.

Can I even live up to my own expectations?

When every day provides new inspiration from — and concern about —  so much of the world’s happenings — where do I start?

Well, for now, I’m just going to begin.

It might take a while for me to gear up; when I sat down at my laptop today, I didn’t even recall how to access my site to start composing. I’m fuzzy on adding links; it took 10 minutes to refresh my memory on how to insert a photo (and it has no caption or anything fancy like that).  How exactly does the rollover to Facebook work? I’m not exactly sure. Have I already written so much that no one will read this whole entry?

None of that matters.

I certainly have “the need to express life in a creative way.” As I explained to a friend earlier today, that’s the BEST reason I want to resurrect this blog. (It’s also the reason  why, as we speak, I’m also planning out a new artwork.)

Here’s hoping I will find some leftover wordsmithing ability deep in my brain, an insight or two into the universal condition that will strike a chord, an observation about a place or happening to bring a smile or the spark of curiosity to someone.

This post has a new grouping that’s called “The Sunday Open.” While I may not write every week, this day of the week has proven to be good creative time for me. Plus, it provides, at least, a catch-all category with a suggested timeline, with no commitment except the goal of posting on a fairly regular basis.

Please comment here or on FB — I’d love to hear your impressions and reactions.

Thanks and see you on the trail of new “Jewelry and Junk” to come!

 

 

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Filed under Journeys..., On writing, Sorting things out, The Sunday Open

I’m working on a book….

Yes, my friends — actually it’s another one (in addition to the in-process novel set on Easter Island and the ongoing Doors project)….you see, I simply don’t have quite enough to keep me busy these days — ha! The book that I’m working on now, however, will likely never see the light of day because it’s not written down and I’m creating it only at night.

I have always been a bit of an insomniac, and the slightest hint of a lupus flare can leave me tossing and turning. And I’ve always been the kind of person who jumps into whatever I’m involved in with both feet and with 121% of my energy — and inevitably, that extra 21% seems to try to make itself felt long after the sun has set. I need something more effective than internally yelling at myself to “Quit working!”

So, I’ve started a new book and it’s helping me tame the sleepless monster.

I call it Jeanne’s Giant Journal of Joy. Silly title, huh?

The sub-title is “The Chronicle of my Complex, (sometimes) Contradictory and (often) Crazy life.” Also silly.

It started out from a serious source. Not too long ago, I read Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel, a book about the Allied soldiers (museum curators, mostly) who, as Germany lost its grip on Europe in World War II, sought to keep remaining art treasures from the Nazis — and then these non-military types proceeded to find the plunder that had already been stolen. These art works include many that Peter and I have been lucky enough to see during our travels, including favorites like the Bruges Madonna and the Ghent Altarpiece.  You can read more about this important historical incident here.

So one night when I found myself awake, I was thinking of these artworks and all kinds of other “monuments” that have graced my life. I realized I’ve not just seen so many special things, I have experienced so many special things.

So I started cataloging them.

The first list I decided to come up with: “Monumental Moments of our Trips.” Let me tell you — no lack of ideas for memories to include there. I determined something resembling the top five; then I fell asleep.  The next couple of nights, I noodled with those some more in my head; yep, that list has remained somewhat constant. I’ve written about all of these, one place or another — mostly here in this blog — so won’t mention them here.

The next week, I thought I’d start figuring out what numbers six through ten would be — and I thought of at least 15 more absolutely incredible places and vignettes to include.  Once again, I feel asleep each night, without allowing any “to do” items to crowd out my enjoyment of this simple recall exercise. Assembling them in some sort of mental order, and deciding it was OK that the some really great ones had slipped to “honorable mention” — good for several more nights.

However, I soon realized that even if I expanded this concept to several chapters, monumental moments while traveling was just too limiting.

Thus began the germ of the idea for a “bigger” book.

I now have a whole list of other lists that I return to, or add to.  Something can be included in more (sometimes many more!) categories. Some happened in only once instance, other memories are more inclusive and were built up over time. There are absolutely no rules in this “game.”

big book on the shore croppedTo me, this photo represents it well — everyone knows a book wouldn’t float, but somehow these ideas surface on the beach of my mind…. get the drift?

I started by thinking of one theme per page. Then a theme might evolve into several individual ones. It’s fairly creative, actually. But most importantly, thinking about these wonderful memories turns off the noise in my head; seeking specific kinds of things in the file cabinet of my expereicne is a relaxing way to relive them — and to fall asleep.

For example, take “Historic Hikes and “Unforgettable Urban Walks” — lots and lots of those! Climbing Table Mountain the first time — going up the face trail in snow in early July — is one example of the former. For the latter, among many city-travel explorations, is a special one of the repetitious: when we lived half-way up Queen Anne Hill in Seattle, after dinner and washing dishes in our pint-sized kitchen, we would often head out to make about a four-mile circuit around the crest of the hill. Nothing particular unusual in that one, but we did it in the evenings, together, often going blocks and blocks either chatting nonstop or just enjoying the silence of a city evening.

Another easy-to-recall group is “Family Favorites.” You can read about some of these here.

They range from the ridiculous to the sublime. I’ve got a page about “Satisfactions,” with everything from being a good daughter-in-law and caring about my community to taking up knitting again and (still) liking to read. Another centers on Up With People experiences, from on the road four decades ago and through the years since. Some are embarassingly personal, like “Inside Jokes,” expressions that mean nothing to anyone but to Peter and to me, and “Faux Pas I Surprisingly Survived.”  Topping this one was the time I cut an apple with a Swiss Army knife while driving 80 miles an hour on the Interstate across Wyoming — and I did not slice off a finger!

Of course the book is jammed with people — Peter, family, friends from near and far, children I’m invested in;  “Angels” grace one whole list — loved ones I’ve lost who I like to think are smiling down on me from heaven.

The other evening, when I was thinking about writing this down here, I remembered a song that Irving Berlin wrote and Bing Crosby sang, in White Christmas. If you don’t know this short little ditty, it’s easy to learn, and the lyrics go like this:
               If you’re worried and you can’t sleep,
               just count your blessings instead of sleep….
               and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.

Yep, that pretty much sums up the whole idea behind my Giant Journal of Joy! Next time you can’t sleep, give your internal voice a break and take a walk down memory lane. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you, too…. 🙂

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Filed under Journeys..., Matters of the heart, On writing, Scrapbook

More than paint: O/N it 3

From my very first days as a journalist, when I used to write the “St. Mary’s Report” for the high school page of the Wyoming Tribune (or was it the Eagle?), right through my days on Wingspan at Laramie County Community College, decades later at the Teton Valley News, in all the Powder Mountain Press publications, on the op-ed page of the Idaho Falls Post Register and as a guest columnist for the Valley Citizen,  I always thought it was just a little bit fun to see my “byline.”

It’s an ego thing, I know. But there’s something about writing something, putting it out there for people to read, and then rereading it yourself and saying YES, this is good work, recognizing that the words you’ve crafted together actually say what I want to say and in the way I wanted to say it….

I’m sure architects feel something of the same rush when a building they’ve designed is finally bricks and mortar and people are actually walking in and out of the doors — I’m sure theirs is a much bigger rush!

Oh well. it’s ll about scale and satisfaction.

I don’t see my byline in print as much as I once did, but it seems just as fun in cyberspace, especially when it’s NOT here on my blog.

Right now I especially like writing for my friends at CityPASS, the Victor company that offers combined prices for admissions to must-see attractions in about a dozen cities. Here’s a sample, a look at Philadelphia’s Murals, which was just posted on the CityPASS CityTraveler blog yesterday.

This photo is  somShelter_Mural_detaile of the cute-critter detail of the “Gimme Shelter” mural. You can almost hear that dog barking, can’t you?!

It’s just one of the many pix I have of these Philly treasures. It was tough to chose which of them to send to CityPASS. It’s never a bad thing to have more images than fewer, as selecting just the right ones becomes part of the communication challenge, a step on the journey.

Here’s to a great Sunday, whoever’s bylines you might be reading, whatever pet you might be caring for, and wherever your feet may wander today.

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Filed under Around the Valley, Fun art, Journeys..., O/N it, On writing, other finds

Who cares? O/N it 2

Two perspectives, both about the crazy impact of social media in our lives, came to my attention this week. Both came to me via Facebook.

The first was from author Lance Olsen of Salt Lake City; Lance was Idaho’s Writer-in-Residence and came to Dark Horse Books way back when we were still on the eastern side of Main Street (i.e., 1996 or 1997):

  • :::: there’s SO much not right about Facebook’s structure & crypto-corporate ideology, but one of the things that’s SO gladdening is its daily ritual of the birthday-greeting exchange, an invitation to reach out & say, yep, we’re all still present, still moving forward, still part of various vibrant tribes: if not that, then what, you know?

The second is this post, “7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook,” a scathing look at people’s motivations for different kinds of status messages.

Thus I have been thinking a lot about why I write and what I write after reading the Wait but Why piece and taking it to heart. I started examining the benefits of the posts the blogger takes to task.

I hope what I post isn’t annoying to others; if it is, I hope they do what I do and JUST DON’T READ IT.

I must say I’m way more partial to Lance’s interpretation and it came at a timely moment. Relating to him, if not for Facebook, how else would we connect?  Sure, he’s only five hours away but FB brings him right back to Driggs in an instant.  And how could I have followed his year of teaching in Berlin and his trip to South Africa?

Beyond the experiences of vicarious travel (as Lance is certainly not the only adventurer I follow on FB), I found many more reasons for me to continue using this odd-ball method of staying in touch.

I love seeing photos of my friends and their kids, even those from our next door neighbors. It’s like having these families pop into the bookstore and give me a chance to complement them on a new haircut or to see their offspring’s latest missing tooth or to buy Girl Scout cookies or whatever.   And I’m of the age when nearly everyone has grandkids — so fun to share! And no toys to buy at Christmas!

I agree about depressing posts, and “what a good banana” types of things. Not for me! But for the wonderful cooks I know — well, please keep on sending that terrific recipe for kale soup and tips on how to grill a perfect fresh-venison steak and where to find that oh-so-special ingredient.

Fellow booklovers: I love to see what you’re reading at the moment (one of the things I miss most from our Dark Horse days.)

I know I use FB to learn stuff. Maybe it’s not rocket science, but so what?

Inspirational posts: well, honestly, I just eat those up. Sometimes I share them right away; other times, I store them away for when they’re needed to provide a bit of light to a dark day. As far as I’m concerned, they are something to save and to savor, the same way I would clip a New Yorker cartoon or write down a quote that someone mentioned at the bookstore or copy something funny I saw in a bar.

I also like that quotes come from such a wide assortment of people and sources. So for all those who share bits of enlightenment, from (uber-athlete) Lisa Smith-Batchen to (retired teacher) Janet Cain to (cousins) Kevin Kiger (in California) and Cathy Raymond (in Kansas) and everyone else, too — well, all I can say is THANK YOU.

Lastly, the essay’s comment that only a small percentage of people who are your Facebook friends “love you….” well, that just may be the case. But that’s the case whether you use social media or not.

It really is about personality. People are different, and some folks take to this “chatter” and some don’t. And it’s likely similar to how we are in person.  At the grocery store, I want to spend time and visit with folks I haven’t seen for a long time, which can turn the expedition into a lengthy affair.  Peter — not so much. He loves markets and menu planning and the whole process of preparing and sharing meals, period. (That doesn’t mean he’s unfriendly, he just does his catching up in a different way.)

Does this sound defensive? Certainly not my intention.

I must admit: I *am* a person interested in connecting with the people who have so greatly enriched my life. I’m the one who’s blessed by them!

For me, it’s about balance; I’m the only one who knows what that scale should say for myself. I take that hard close look more often than some folks, perhaps.

At the moment, though, I won’t be swearing off FB too soon. In fact, time to post this! So I’ll finish with, as Jon Stewart would say, “today’s moment of zen….”

inspiration_kisses_of_the_world

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Oct-Nov — “O/N it” 1

I have no single particular overall theme in mind for the blog post series I begin here — but recently I have been bothered by how quickly time flies, and how elusive it is to capture the brilliant moments of life. So that’s my goal, to share one “something” that’s completely relevant at the moment. Some of my more perceptive readers might catch on that that’s what I *always* try to do in these eclectic essays….

Today it centers on the numbers, and the symmetry that surrounds us if we only see it.

* The series will run for the next five weeks. Why? We leave on another trip about then, and it’s been almost five weeks since my last blog post — the former exciting, the latter not so. (Haven’t I had anything to say since early September? In a word: YES — so better get “on it!”)

* I’m shooting for 20 posts in the series.  This seems entirely reachable, an average of four per week.  Setting the target to write daily always strikes Peter as a “homework assignment,” and my intended-to-be-daily series tend to dribble off at the end.

* Eva Dahlgren is a special friend who never fails to inspire me — she and husband Dan have recently remodeled their house and wow, does it look great! Plus she’s heading back to grad school in a few months (at the same time as juggling full-time work and a busy household that also includes two kids, three dogs, and a cat.)  I admire her courage and willingness to jump into the unknown future. The timing doesn’t work for either Eva or I to lead the Young Writers After-School program this year, though. Recalling last November’s intense crunch with the kids during “National Novel Writing Month,”  it feels absolutely right to recommit to my own writing; this blog is just one part of it.

* We watched the Teton High School Homecoming parade standing on Eva’s front lawn on Friday morning. An “aha moment” of historical perspective as I saw the flatbed truck marked “Class of 2014” drive by: I was part of the Class of ’74 (forty years ago!), and if my mother had attended high school, she would have been part of the Class of ’34, forty years prior to that. Just think how much change the world has seen in just our two generations!

* Thus another bit of symmetry: I’m nearly exactly the same age that my mother was when she met our Up With People cast in San Sebastian, Spain in September 1973 — a memorable visit, for sure. One of the things I distinctly remember is turning to Cast Director Ken Ashby, who had driven me to the airport to pick her up, and saying “Oh my gosh, she has way more wrinkles than I remember.” A teenager’s comment, embarrassing in its bluntness even then. And humbling to recall: when I look in the mirror now, I see so many of her characteristics in my own face.  I now know how well-earned was every single one of those wrinkles!

* We have no fewer than a dozen books to read and refer to about our next destination and I’m doing the “sponge thing” to absorb as much as I can. Sometimes what sticks out isn’t sightseeing advice or a tidbit about history, but instead a line is applicable to other parts of life. So, these  two quotes, gleaned from some weekend perusing, bear repeating here:

  • “Failure was so often better than success: there was so much more to be learnt from it.” (~ Peter Stothard, referring to Roman historian Symmachus, in Spartacus Road)
  • “Great travelers always enjoy gazing upon rivers.” (~ Bruno Racine, in Living in Rome, regarding a couple with homes on both the Tiber and the Seine).

You may have figured it out — Trastavere, here we come!

*Lastly, we picked up a box of peppermint tea on Saturday at the grocery, and the box had an “inspirational commemorative tin” inside. On the back was this bit of wisdom:inspiration_moments_when

Really?

Hmmm. Golly, this seems to be one of these times for me.  I’m looking for work, and what an exercise it is to compress one’s life into a single-page resume, sorta like the history one carries on one’s face.  While I face the daunting task of finding a job, feeling concern about aging but yet as excited about the challenges of life and the opportunities of travel as ever I was when younger…. well, I might as well start a new blog series.

Have a great week, everyone!

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Grammar 101

Can you believe it’s Labor Day weekend already? I hope you are enjoying a well-deserved respite from whatever occupies your work world.

As for me, I’m plunging into a goodly number of writing projects this month.  Several are already well in motion — finishing the final report and sending out thank you notes for Tin Cup — while others require fresh attention, like updating my resume, pursuing some promising job opportunities, and continuing to work on the novel I started last November.

Competing for time and energy are new literary undertakings, like researching several additional book ideas. I’d also like to create some photo books of our travels; turn other various collections into something marketable (I’m thinking of a calendar of door images for Christmas gifts this year); and tackle cataloging books from our library that we’d like to sell online. Throw in a couple dozen blog posts I want to pull together (some as a freelancer, others for here), a full volunteer schedule, and well — you get the idea — plenty to accomplish.

Coming to everything, as I do, with an editor’s viewpoint, it never hurts to be reminded of the basics: stay focused, communicate clearly, self-correct when necessary.

I ran across this image sometime back (yes, probably on Facebook, although there’s no site mentioned) and liked its fairly easy-to-digest English lesson. In only a few lines, it zeroes in on what it means to “write clean copy.” And that’s my REAL goal for this month (and always!)

Isn’t it just the perfect thing to start off a busy and productive September?!

English_lesson_inspiration

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March Madness 8: Writers Humor

inspiration_funny_how_to_write_goodDashing off to finish the first round of changes to the “first book” of the next issue of Teton Home and Living — so this is sent out to everyone who’s ever battled a deadline, dangled a participle, red-lined poorly proofed text, or recognized the difference between AP style and Chicago Manual of Style…..

This does not happen to be from the Facebook page called Writers Write, but that *is* the source of a lot of great cartoons, funny puns, and notes about noteworthy authors. Check it out.

TGIF, everyone!

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