writing

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Autumn Blues: A Bittersweet Transition

Daily Prompt:

As a kid, were you happy or anxious about going back to school? Now that you’re older, how has your attitude toward the end of the summer evolved?

A Bittersweet Transition

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Ah, the end of summer. Always a bittersweet time for me as a child.  Until I was in my teens we spent our summers in a cabin near a lake.  It was the mid  1950s to the  early 1960’s, and those were our halcyon days.

On sunny days we went fishing, swimming and hiking. We took walks in the early evening to the clubhouse to watch movies, play bingo and buy penny candy. On rainy days we would color and draw, or lay on the cots on the porch and read the day away. I read everything from the Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, to the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and the Hardy Boys (the last two compliments of my cousin, Ricky).IMG_3809

We kids, which included me, my sister, Mary Lou, my brother, Steven , and cousins, Ricky and Susan, and our moms stayed at the lake all summer and the dads would come up for their 2 week vacations and every weekend.

Toward the end of August we would make a trip home, to pick up our uniforms, buy our black and white saddle shoes and our school supplies. As much as I loved the easy pace of summer, the warm days, time to just lay in a hammock and rock back and forth, catch fireflies in the evening, and toast marshmallows in the outside fireplace, something inside me would awaken as we walked past aisles full of pencils, erasers, crayons, pencil cases, lunch boxes, and the icon of my school supplies, the black and white composition books. I still have my first three composition books from kindergarten.IMG_3806

To me they epitomize how I felt at the start of a new school year. The  new composition book is fresh and clean, ready and waiting for the school year to begin. On the first day of school, I, too, will be fresh and clean, my black and white saddle shoes shined and my uniform crisp and tidy.  These images spell new beginnings to me, a whole new year of learning and growing, a fresh start, a chance to get off on the right foot and fill that composition book with perfect penmanship.

But not to worry. We would return to the lake for a few precious weeks, which included the celebration of Regatta Days and the Labor Day weekend. Days filled with games, competition and barbeques.  Although at home my uniform hung ready, my books and supplies packed, all I needed was a little more time, time for swimming and fishing and rocking in the hammock, sweet and slow.

Bittersweet, those last precious days of summer, as they marked the end of one thing and heralded the start of another. I miss that transition now, but perhaps I can recapture the feeling with these:

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(I don’t have a pair of black and white saddle shoes, but guess what? I looked on the internet and they are now designed by Ralph Lauren and sold at Nordstrom’s!) Anyway, back to the black and white composition book. It sits there ready and waiting for me to make that first entry, forge a new beginning, and write….the first lines of a new poem…

September

A month of fresh starts… a new school year… new pencil cases and clean lunch boxes…the smell of chalk …the polished sheen on my new black and white saddle shoes…and the blank pages of a composition book beckoning me to record the endless possibilities that lie ahead with the precise point of a newly sharpened pencil…(more to come)

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Daily Prompt: Futures Past/Staying in Focus

Daily Prompt: As a kid what did youwant to be when you grew up?How close or how far are you from that vision?

Oh, the dreams we had in childhood! The other day, my granddaughter (age 8) was talking about what she wants to be when she grows up. She had a list of possibilities including a doctor, an entomologist, a geologist and an archaeologist – all within the realm of possibility, given her abilities and talents.  My grandson (age 5) had much shorter list: either a superhero or a dad. Also in the realm of possibility, as most fathers are superheroes, at least in the eyes of their young children.  The capes begin to get a bit tattered as adolescence takes hold, but the super powers recharge and superdad is back, once they realize that the superhero was right all along.

I, too, had a list of possibilities when I was young. The earliest I can remember considering was being a nun, part of my catholic school indoctrination. I couldn’t get past those habits they wore, though. They were heavy, dark brown, woolen gowns with headpieces that enshrouded their heads completely – all you could see were their faces and hands – everything else was a mystery. We used to wonder what color their hair was, hidden under that headgear. In second grade we had a novice nun, one who had yet to make her final vows. Her name was Sister Annette and she had a head of flaming red hair. Halfway through the school year she was whisked away to make those vows and cover that beautiful hair forever.  How sad! Another minus for the nun choice – you couldn’t have a boyfriend or get married, so by fourth grade this career choice faded away for most of us.

I briefly considered nursing, as I read my way through the Cherry Ames, student nurse books, but all those needles I’d have to stick people with was a turn-off.  I considered archaeology myself, but scorpions and spiders and hot, dusty places were not my favorite things. So I enjoyed the career vicariously through the Amelia Peabody book series about a woman archaeologist in the late 1800s, written by Elizabeth Peters. Just before I started high school, my Aunt Jeannie had a baby boy with Down’s syndrome. She became involved with the March of Dimes campaign to prevent birth defects, and I joined her efforts. This led me to my eventual choice of career in special education.

Also about this time I started writing poetry, and keeping a travel journal of my summer adventures with my family. In high school, I had great fun writing a parody of Moby Dick with my friend, Kathi. This was a class project and our revenge against a vicious literature teacher, who wielded a red pencil on our compositions like a sword, slashing it to bits and pieces. But despite this, I continued to write, took as many lit courses as I could in college, for they were easy As to boost my GPA.

I graduated from college, got married, and one day my husband  and I, both science fiction fans, started discussing some of his ideas in politics and somehow we decided that we could fit this into a science fiction novel.  It was designed to be a trilogy and I did finish the first book, but I got derailed along the way by a couple of kids and a full time job. I submitted it to several publishers without any luck. During this time, however, I began writing articles for magazines, and had some luck in the small press with that. My first published piece was on my experience as an extra in filming the movie, The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the book by Margaret Atwood. The article is on this blog page (see title on heading above). In the meantime, I continued writing and finished a children’s book. I enrolled in creative writing classes and online courses and finally finished and self-published (thank you,  Amazon) another children’s book, Escape from Mount Sanctuary. I began this blog on May 2, 2012, and this is my 253rd  post  on this blog. As they say, the rest is yet to be written…

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Groupthink

Daily Prompt: Groupthink : Write a post that includes dialogue between two people — other than you. (For more of a challenge, try three or more people.)

For a recent writing class, our assignment was to interview the protagonist of one of our stories. I turned the tables, though, and had the characters interview (more like gang up on) me. These characters were from the first book of a sci/fi trilogy I was writing. I finished book one, but I failed to write books two and three. Needless s to say the characters were not happy. The interview went something like this:

“I simply cannot believe, Author, that you would just leave us there, for YEARS without a by your leave. Do you even remember the last line you wrote about us?” asks Alex Tanner (a political leader).

“Well, not exactly”, the Author replies, chastened by his tone.

“ALAN (an artificial intelligence), if you please, recite the last lines of the Terran Confederation Chronicles: Book One: The Chencin Encounter.”

“You named the book after us? “Prime Y’ Abu interrupts, his waving tentacles signifying pleasure.

“Don’t get too excited, Y’Abu,” Matt McNeil (the protagonist) says, blowing dust off the manuscript’s cover. “You are on the cover of a very heavy paperweight unless the Author here finishes this trilogy! ALAN?”

ALAN clears his throat as if he had one. “…and to anyone observing from within the confines of the Sol system, a tiny pinprick of light far out on the solar system‘s edge, blinked momentarily, and disappeared…”

“You must admit, Author,” that it is most unfair to leave us like that, never knowing our fate,”  Alex Tanner says, disapproval in his voice.

“Okay, Okay. I see your point. What do you propose?”

“Your writing teacher says a page a day …” ALAN replies.

“Oh, so now you are reading my ed2go lessons. “

“We apparently have nothing else to do,” Matt says, sarcasm dripping from his words.

ALAN continues “365 pages by the end of the year. Book II complete.”

“All right, we’ll give it a try, but this time, I’m the writer.”

As if.

Staying in Focus: Focus on: Just Between You, I and Me

Linda and I are almost finished with the revising and editing of my book, Safely to Aurora. It has been a lot of fun for Linda and me.

I hope my beleaguered editor gets a chuckle out of the sentences above, for despite her sincere efforts, I continue to exasperate her with my misuse of the I/me rule.  There is no excuse, especially as the Harbrace College Handbook and a copy of Woe is I by Patricia O’Conner sit on my bookshelf in full view, as I write. My only plea is that I write from conversations in my mind and some of those characters are as bad at grammar as I am!  I even look for such gross misuse of grammar when I proof-read and still I miss them.  That is why, I have concluded. a writer is only as good as her editor is sharp.

I must add one more plea for forgiveness from my editor, as it seems the great bard himself once wrote, in a conversation between Antonio and  Bassanio, “All debts are clear’d between you and I, if I might but see you at my death.” (from The Merchant of Venice).  Now, in all fairness to the bard, perhaps the I/me rule had not been firmly established at that time. Or, mayhap, he, being the great bard, felt himself above such limitations. Can we claim poetic license? More than likely, I think, it was just a matter of his editor not being as sharp as mine.

It’s hard to find a good editor these days, as proper grammar and correct spelling are being corrupted by the cryptic language of the Internet, so shop carefully for one. Just remember, between you and I, you can’t have mine! lol

(So, Linda, are you ready to start on my next book, The Secret of the Dreamtime Spirits: An Arthur and Eleanor Mystery?

Daily Prompt:Staying in Focus: Writing Regrets

Daily Prompt  :Regrets, I’ve Had a Few

I entered the classroom, palms wet with sweat and stomach in knots.  I took my seat and glanced at the enemy, the overhead projector, standing ready to aid in my total humiliation. The teacher entered the room without a word, and flipped the switch. The enemy sprang to life.

“Today we begin with a short story by Pat…”

A loud buzzing filled my ears, blocking the drone of her voice.  I closed my eyes, too, so I could not see my paper, projected in what seemed like letters ten feet high, slashed and savaged by the ruthless attack of her red pencil.  I only wished the ground to open up and swallow me.  My anxiety about sharing my writing began that day.

My biggest regret is letting the comments of a high school English teacher keep me from writing seriously for such a long time. Her unkind comments and the slash of her vicious red pencil alone were enough to make me swear off writing for life. Then when she started using an overhead projector to beam my savaged papers on the classroom wall, I wanted nothing more than being as far away from this killer of dreams as I could get.

There are ways to critique and there are ways to cripple and this person embraced the latter approach. Happy was the day I graduated from high school and pushed her into the farthest reaches of my mind, but so insistent was her voice, and so deep the trauma, that even though I received an A on every paper I wrote in college, the niggling feeling that I could never be a  real writer persisted.

I wrote for myself. Even my nemesis could not still my need to write. I wrote poetry, and kept travel journals, and a personal journal, and then, one day, when my children were young, my husband and I were discussing his ideas on politics, the space program, life in outer space, and being science fiction fans, we decided to take some of his ideas and write a science fiction novel. We sketched out an outline and I was ready to go.

The next day I dropped my son off at preschool, drove to the library, pulled out my newly sharpened pencils and a legal pad and began to write. The floodgates opened then, and when I left the library I had a prologue and the first chapter completed. When I gave them to my husband to read, he was pretty amazed. I wrote that entire book out in longhand. I initially planned to include the book in a trilogy but life intervened and I never did finish the saga. We had various people read the book when it was finished, all of whom really enjoyed it, but still that niggling voice would break through now and again. I sent out a few queries and sample chapters, but lost my momentum after a while as work and motherhood took over my time.

Where I did find my niche as a writer is in writing essays.  I have had several published over the years in newspapers and magazines. My first published piece is on my blog, listed on the right side of the heading. And now, with this essay, I will have published 184 posts on WordPress. I think I’ve finally silenced the voice, but I still regret not finishing that trilogy. The book needs a lot of revising now, as science has progressed and theories come and go, and the Soviet Union in no more, but I really should finish it, if nothing more than for closure, not for me so much as for my poor characters, left battling aliens in space for all these years…

In the end, however, I really  have no time for regrets because I’m too busy writing!

Staying in Focus: A Rainy Saturday Read

Daily Prompt: Three – Tenths:  Staying in Focus:   A Rainy Saturday Read

Scribble down the first ten words that come to mind. Pick three of them. There’s your post title. Now write!  My three words :Saturday, rainy, read

A  Rainy Saturday Read

What to do on a rainy weekend in August? Thanks to Mother Nature, the plants outside do not need watering.  The house could use some cleaning and the laundry needs to be done, but my inclination on such a day is to spend it lost in writing, creating a world of my own imagination,  or being  drawn into the world of someone else’s imagination – in other words, reading a book.

This weekend I just happen to have a new book to read, written by my nephew, Matt Seidel.  Matt has written and told stories since he could talk.  An interesting anecdote comes to mind here. When Matt was little, he didn’t talk much. It seemed like instead of being on output as most people are, Matt chose introspection, taking information in. His parents, though, were concerned and sent him to a speech therapist. I don’t know if it were the sessions he attended with the therapist, or the fact that Matt decided he had taken in enough and was ready now to share his words with the world, but once the floodgates opened, they never closed. Matt wrote stories, told stories, and made up stories on the spot throughout his childhood.  On one visit to our house, he retold the entire Star Wars saga using the army of action figures he had collected. Today, Matt teaches at a community college in Bloomington, Indiana. He is also a musician, video game designer, and now, published author.

This is Matt’s first published novel, entitled Saviors, and I used my rainy Saturday to finish reading the book.  It is one of those books that is hard to put down because the author deftly paces the chapters, revealing  just enough to keep you hungry for more. The story revolves around Tobias,  a  serial killer, who believes he is on a mission assigned him by God , to save the souls of individuals who lack morality (bullies, murderers, a man who beats women, for example) by torturing and killing them. Tobias meets a young woman named Emily, and as he is drawn into her world, he finds himself losing touch with his mission. But circumstances evolve in such a manner that Tobias must ultimately choose between the two. The novel ends with the reader contemplating the question, who are the saviors and who are the monsters? Matt offers interesting insights and raises questions concerning matters of morality, life and death, religious convictions, atheism, justice and ultimately, the condition and salvation of our very souls. I’m not one who can handle torture in any form, but Matt handles the serial killer scenes without resorting to lengthy, gratuitous sessions of violence. In fact, given the subject matter, I was expecting a dark novel of late night shadows and illicit deeds.  Although the book does deal with these dark matters, most of it is spent in the world Tobias is trying to protect and the people  around him who are moral and involved in helping others less fortunate with compassion and sincerity. Tobias is a multi-dimensional character, one I could not completely like or totally condemn.

This book will have readers thinking and book clubs talking long after the coffee and cake are served.  I can’t deny some prejudice in that the author is my nephew, but I know a good read when I read it, and Saviors more than fits the bill. The book will be available on Amazon soon. I’ll keep you posted.

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Life After the Blog

Daily Prompt: Life After the Blog

Once we become part of the online world there is no turning back. To disconnect from that wealth of information, from social networking and email, from Google and Wikipedia would be like being placed in a sensory deprivation chamber.

I look forward every morning to see the Daily Prompt challenge of the day, or the subject for photo of the week. I look forward to reading what my fellow bloggers have to say. I take online courses and have an entire virtual classroom of classmates with whom I discuss my writing or photography or poetry. I check Facebook to see how my friends are faring.

I had limited access to the internet on our recent cruise – the charge for the connection is quite hefty. I made a few entries on Facebook, but otherwise, I concentrated on my new experiences so that I could write about them when I arrived at home where my computer sat waiting for my return. I missed it, but I knew it was only a temporary separation.

A writer has a visceral need to his share words with others; a photographer yearns for others to see the world as she does, through the lens of her camera; a poet lives to see his words touch another with emotion. All these forms of communication are right at our fingertips, in the keyboard before us and through blogging we can reach so many more people than we could have before the advent of the internet and websites like WordPress to inspire us and offer a platform from which to reach out and connect with others. I could go back to a typewriter if I had to, mail my letters or submissions, but we would lose sight of one important possibility should that ever happen.

I believe that it may be the internet that finally connects us all in such a way that the barriers between us fall away and we can move on and advance our civilization in a positive way. The more you  get to know people personally, gain insights into their lives and experiences, the more they coalesce into individuals and are no longer part of that nebulous group we call “they,” and the harder it is to wish them or do them harm. Communication is the key to understanding , and communicate is what we bloggers do best.

As with anything, the internet can be used for both good and evil. But as the “blogosphere” grows, I think the interconnections we make will make the difference. Blog on, my friends!

Focus On: Challenges, and Gratitude


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It has been a year of challenge for us, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon. Mom wasn’t able to tolerate the pill form of the chemo, and now, after a week or so to recover from that protocol, she is starting weekly intravenous chemo, which will more than likely cause her to lose her hair as well as having to weather the same side effects .as before – mouth sores, diarrhea and nausea.  We explained the situation as clearly we could, and she is determined to try again.

We are born with an innate strength to survive and hang on to life as long as we can, to struggle to beat the odds for a little more time. Time to be with family and friends, time to enjoy what this world has to offer.

When I wake up in the morning, the world seems full of possibility. I sit in my favorite chair in my “snuggery” and watch the sun rise. It does so, like clockwork, and everyday we can count on it to be there . The birds awaken and the sweet morning air is filled with their cheerful song. We are surrounded by gifts too great to count, and too often we fail to express the gratitude we should have for them.

Sadly, life, the greatest gift of all, is often treated with the least amount of reverence and care and we are bombarded daily by the news of yet another war, another murder, another threat  to our lives and our well-being. It’s no wonder so many people are depressed and anxious.

I look at my mother, at 90, facing the fight of her life, for her life, with a strength I can only hope to emulate as my disease progresses. Her current battle has me looking my own mortality right in the face. I can either crumble before it, or refuse to be intimidated, and continue to find joy in the things I’ve always loved – my writing, my  photography, gardening and nature, the joy I find in this beautiful world, in the people I love and who love me  in return. Time passes too quickly not to grasp at joy and happiness while we can.

Michael J. Fox once said, “Parkinson’s disease is the gift which just keeps on taking.” With his characteristic, positive insight, he can acknowledge that even within the diagnosis of a progressive disease,there can be  found a hidden gift. In his  case the diagnosis was a wake-up call. He was, at the time, partying a little too hard, his train on the wrong track. In his book, Lucky Man, he says, “I am no longer the person described in this chapter, and I am forever grateful for that. I would never want to go back to that life – a sheltered, narrow existence fueled by fear and made livable by insulation, isolation, and self-indulgence. It was a life lived in a bubble, but bubbles, being the most fragile constructions, are easily destroyed. All it takes is a little finger.” He goes on to explain that absent this neurophysiological catastrophe, he would have never have embarked on the journey he has taken, or been so profoundly enriched. I am not yet at the point of saying I am glad I have PD, but I admit I am more conscious of the gifts I have been given, and  am grateful for them. Right now, I am grateful for the meds that keep me moving and the researchers working on finding a cure.

At some point most of us will be faced  with a serious challenge. Some of us will win, and some of us will lose, but most of us will have fought the good fight and will know when it is time to let it go. My mother is prepared to take another stab at fighting this disease. With her fortitude, I think she can make it, but I also think she’ll know when enough is enough.  I know I will have a hard time dealing with that and I ardently hope that it is much later than sooner,  In the meantime, we will make the most of our precious moments, and  express gratitude for what we have, right now.. My gift to you, this poem, on gratitude: Take some time to think about what you are most grateful for, and  tomorrow morning, when the sun rises again and the world is full of possibilities, go out and find them.

With Gratitude…

For sweeping skies of crystal blue
And mighty mountains standing tallPhoto06_1 - Copy
For the new grown green of early spring
And the brightly colored leaves of fall
For butterflies and singing birds
Morning light and summer showers
For treasured books, filled with words
A special place to read for hours
For Christmas trees and twinkling lights
For gathering with those most dear
For silent snow that frosts the night
And dreams of peace to conquer fear
For delicate flowers and a star-spangled sky
For the marvel that is our universeIMG_7633
For the sense of wonder as we try
To unravel things mysterious
For the light and warmth of the golden sun
For ocean waves that rush to shore
For spending time just having fun
with my close friends, whom I adore
For the doctors who take care of me
For my family, how I love them so
For the best of times, most certainly
and for all there is to learn and know
And all the things still left to do
I’ filled with heartfelt gratitude.
                       -pc 2012

 

Focus on: Painting and Planning and Parkinson’s

Life is a trip.Don’t miss the boat:)
– pc 2013

   

 I had a visit with my neurologist on Thursday.  So far, so good.  Meds are working and I seem to be in a holding pattern. Bill and I decided to take advantage of this and book a cruise around the British Isles in July.  It will be a 12 day cruise, with 2 days to explore London after we leave the ship.  We will tour Ireland, Scotland, England and spend a day in Paris We are looking forward to the trip.  Neither of us has been to Europe and although we took a nice stroll through the neighborhoods of Victoria, Canada last summer, the final port of call on our Alaska cruise, we have yet to acquire a stamp on our shiny new passports.
 Right now, there are days I almost forget I have a degenerative neural disease, but I know that will not always be so, unless a cure for Parkinson’s is discovered, So I want to do what I can while I can.! That means getting enough exercise to keep the body moving, and challenging the mind so it stays sharp.
  I find that anything I do with my hands is very helpful in keeping my fingers nimble In addition to exercises, So I do some cross stitch, make jewelry and I love to paint. I’m not an artist, however, but I enjoy  paint-by-number painting.  It helps my fine motor coordination; is a calming activity and I get to practice patience as well.  Here are a few of what I call masterpieces. from a wannabe artist:

I found this little garden angel irresistible

I found this little garden angel irresistible

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There’s something about a barn in the snow…

.  I  find the paint- by -number to be more relaxing because you don’t have to figure out the color   scheme. .However, as I paint, I begin to see how the artist  used the colors to achieve the total effect, so it is a learning experience as well. I am in awe of anyone who has this natural talent. My niece, Becky ,is one of them. Her paintings are so intricate,  She will work hours on just a small section of a painting, and her finished work is amazing. What a wonderful gift!

King Tut. I am fascinated by all things ancient Egyptian

King Tut. I am fascinated by all things ancient Egyptian

Just recently I came across something new in the paint- by -number scene, from a company called Diy oil paintings, and they are bright, abstract and delightful to paint. I chose the one I did because the blues match the colors in my living room. I have ordered a second one before I finished the first. What makes these stand out, besides the bold, abstract style, is that they are printed on a canvas you have to stretch over a stretcher frame supplied with the kit.I have found the paints to be of excellent quality – not the thin, runny stuff you find in other kits. Here is the finished product. Different, isn’t it? I like the bold strokes of the primary colors, the effect of wet pavement shimmering in the lamplight. In this small sample it may appear there is one person walking, but there are two, if you look closely you can make them out. Where are they going on such a cold, wet night? Maybe they couldn’t resist walking together, no one else about, under trees decked in autumn dress, the colors glowing in the lamplight, surrounded by a cloak of midnight blue. 

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I’m anxious to start the next one! I have dabbled a bit in painting on my own.  Mostly mountain, sunsets and butterflies. I’d like to try this style now.

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I painted this butterfly to match the blue-greens of my kitchen. The first mountain sunset is in acrylic, the second is a watercolor.

So for as long as I can, I will challenge myself with new ventures. Painting is much easier than my other current challenge – algebra. I never mastered it in high school, but I can say I’m getting there, There is a sense of satisfaction when I come up with te right answer. My online courses have been superb. My next one will be Introduction to Internet Writing Markets.

I have just wrapped up my course on magazine writing and will be sending out some articles to test the waters.

I also have plans for the publication of two of my books, more about that next time.

In the meantime, take some time to let your creativity loose. You may be surprised about what you can do. In                the words of my favorite painter, Vincent Van Gough, If you hear a voice inside you say ‘You cannot paint’, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.

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Staying in Focus: New Beginnings, Resolutions and a Touch of Nostalgia

My kindergarten class of 1959

My kindergarten class of 1959 I’m in the first line, first child on the left

One thing I always associate with the new year is a new journal, filled with empty pages just waiting for me to fill with my thoughts, dreams, fears, hopes and challenges.  I think it hearkens back to the first day of school and a black and white composition book, shiny and new, pages crisp and clean, waiting to be filled with handwriting exercises and homework lessons. By the time the book was filled, the covers were worn around the edges, dog-eared and dog tired.  They had served their purpose, their work done. Or maybe not.  Maybe, they can serve as inspiration for a blog post 55 years later!

For believe it or not, I actually have three of my very first black and white composition books from kindergarten (1958).  These books are more black and sepia-toned now, as they are 55 years old.

my kindergarten composition books

Here they are,  my very first composition books! I actually still use black and whites for my “morning pages”, freewriting exercises to get the creative juices flowing. I’m glad, however, that these exercises are not being graded for either handwriting or content.  One of the challenges i have with Parkinson’s disease is keeping

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my handwriting legible. Perhaps if I wrote in letters as large as these , I would be more successful.  My kindergarten teacher obviously had a sense of humor when she chose  quotes for us to copy. She sure needed a sense of humor as there were 65 children in my kindergarten class!IMG_9867

I certainly hope I passed this test! I assume it was a test on writing my name, not on knowing it!

I try to write carefully as I begin a new   journal, to start off with positive thoughts, hoping it will set the tone for the new year.  I wait a few days to spell out my resolutions, trying to be honest, but not set myself up for failure. It’s disconcerting to look back in December at those January resolutions and realize I didn’t accomplish any of them!  Better to start with small, reachable goals and add to them as the year goes on.  When I was in college and taking teaching courses, we learned to write specific, measurable goals when writing lesson plans.  Also a  good plan to follow when listing resolutions.  A resolution to lose 50 pounds this year is far more daunting than to resolve to lose 12 pounds by spring, then 12 by summer, etc. The same goes for writing.  Instead of resolving to write the Great American Novel this year, I can resolve to write a page a day, and have 365 pages complete by the end of the year.  I have to see progress to stick with things, so I try to guarantee that when setting my goals.  So much better to find I’ve exceeded my expectations, than to have failed them!

A new year, like a new pair of shoes, needs to broken in gently.  I tend to take things one day at a time lately, and so I intend to enjoy what January may have to offer.  Cold days can be warmed with a bowl of hot soup, a cup of tea and one of those great books I received for Christmas.  When I get a new book by an author I love, I often put off reading it, savoring the anticipation of reading it.  A cold, dreary winter day may be just the right time.

After New Year’s Day, there are no other big holidays in January.   I find that comforting after the big Christmas rush. Things get  back to normal, time to take a breath and relax .January can be a time to plan – for spring planting, summer vacation, visits with family and friends.  Having something to look forward to keeps the blues away. Here in the south, January can surprise us with a sunny day in the 60s or 70s, and occasionally , but fortunately not often, with some snow..  Both have their positive sides.  A warm day invites a call to a friend for a lunch at an outside cafe, and there’s nothing like a snow day as an excuse to stay home from work,  cook up a pot of chili and enjoy an unexpected holiday.  I love to take snow pictures, especially since we don’t often have the opportunity to do so.  But here in North Carolina, a big snowfall can turn into many snow days  if it doesn’t warm up fast.  And as they say, too much of a good thing…  We’ll see what January has in store for us as we celebrate each day.. which is a gift in itself!

January

a month of new beginnings
and yet, a time of waiting –
waiting for the cold to ebb
and for the sun to gather strength
and call forth the leaves and flowers,
waiting for the birds to return
and fill the air with song.
but January has its gifts –
a blanket of freshly fallen snow
gently coating the landscape,
an icy wrap on limb and leaves
glistening in the winter sun,
the bright red of berries and cardinals,
and the green tips of crocus
poking through the warming soil,
to see if it’s time to emerge.
a month of waiting,
a month of hope,
a month of new beginnings
and treasured memories…
– pc 2009


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