National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is just around the corner for 2022! I invite anyone who is interested in writing fiction of any sort (romance, fantasy, Western, mystery, etc) to take part.
If you’ve been meaning to start writing, this is a good way. I entered for quite a few years before I actually finished the required 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. Once I did that, I found that words came easier and easier.
That doesn’t mean you won’t have to struggle! No matter how many times I start a new book, I worry that this time I won’t make it. Once I begin writing, however, the story seems to take form.
My suggestion, whether a new writer or a seasoned one, is to make an outline before NaNoWriMo starts. Have some vague idea of what you want to write about, perhaps even write a few character sketches. Then when you finally start writing on November 1, you’ll be more prepared. The first time I entered, I waited until November 1 to even think about what I wanted to write. Big mistake!
I’ll see you in November in NaNoWriMo. If you want a virtual writing companion, let me know. We can give each other encouragement! But you need to register early. That can’t wait until November 1, either.
From childhood until today, I have written poetry. Thoughts and visuals come to me that seem to attract an assortment of word combinations. This happens in joyful times as well as sad and lonely times.
Many people think poetry needs to rhyme in specific patterns, but this is not necessarily true. I like writing in free verse, which is what you’ll find in Love Cycles.
I also write a lot of Haiku (originally a Japanese form), and perhaps I’ll put those in a book someday. And I love writing lyrics for my brother’s compositions and arrangements (more about that in another post).
I encourage you to explore your own thoughts this way and see what words call to you. When I taught this as part of a college level “Psychology and the Expressive Arts” class, I led the students through various exercises to show how easy it is to write poetry.
Please leave a comment about how you’ve experienced your own “love cycles” and perhaps how you write poetry for yourself.
Retirement is an odd concept. In fact, in Okinawa, Japan there is no word for retirement and yet they have one of the longest lifespans in the world. They know how to live.
August 31, 2021 was my last day of being a full-time faculty member. It was the second career I had officially retired from, although I had “retired” from several other careers. I had been working at some sort of job or career since I was a junior in high school. Many of you can say the same thing.
My 87th birthday took place one month after I retired, so I suppose it was time. I was still healing from back surgery and although I continued to teach, it seemed that my energy level was waning. I’ve been a hyperactive person since birth, so this “slowing down” process was not a welcome experience.
The first six months of retirement were not happy times for me. For the first time in my life, I found I had no identity to grab onto. Being retired wasn’t a designation I had looked forward to with joy. What would I call myself now if not “pastor” or “professor” or “counselor” or any number of other labels? “Retired” wasn’t a pigeon-hole that I fit into easily.
One morning I was looking for something in my old journals that I had kept over the years, and one comment kept popping up repeatedly.
“All I really want to do is stay home and write.”
Of course! Why had it taken me so long to remember that? With retirement, I finally could “stay home and write.” I began looking through old Word docs in my computer and discovered that in my spare time over the years, I actually had written several books. I never did anything with these manuscripts except give them a tentative title and close the file until the next time I had a few extra minutes to write.
Since that day, I have published three books; all had been on my computer just waiting for me to do some editing and give them life. One is a self-help book (Feral Fables) and two are the first in a mystery series – a community saga. Shadowy Tales is the first in the series and Washboard Tales is the second. I am half-way through writing the third in the series (Bayou Tales), which will be out in spring 2023.
At last, I have an identity again – I’m an author!
People are living longer and healthier today than ever before, so we can continue to be productive longer – if we want to. There are some who can play golf or cards every day and never get tired of it. Others enjoy not having to be somewhere or do anything, so they read or watch TV or get involved in some other activity they’ve looked forward to in retirement.
If you are anticipating retirement, please think carefully about what it is you’ve always wanted to do, and make sure that whatever it is will fulfill your need to remain an active member of society. We are enough without that identity, of course, but it’s gratifying to know that we can remain engaged in life and be whoever or whatever we want to be for as long as we are able.
Years ago, I was a member of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). I recently discovered the original group had ceased, and that a new group has formed on Facebook in an effort to revive the old group, or at least what the old group had been created for in the first place. In keeping with my current primary theme of writing, below is a re-post of my original blog for NaBloPoMo in 2010.
(May 2010) As a member of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), I occasionally decide to do a post each day during the month. Since school is (almost) out, I decided May would be a good month to get my mind around something besides grading assignments. The theme for NaBloPoMo changes each month, and the theme for May is “Look Up.”
This can mean many things, of course, but one of the meanings is to “look up” reference materials. I’ve shown only one of my many bookcases here, to give you an idea of just how much “looking up” I can do!
Yes, I’ve read all these books, and I still refer to them when I’m preparing for a class, or when I’m writing an article. I have gardening books, cookbooks, music books, history books, books on theology and psychology, books on sailing and horsemanship, even fiction – and on and on. So many books, so little time to re-read them all!
This is the end of a semester, and some of my students are graduating. I know, however, that many of you who read this blog are past your school years. May I suggest that you not stop learning, but continue to “look up” anything that you either aren’t sure about, or whatever you’d like to learn more about.
It’s fun, and the best way to keep from aging is to keep your mind active. Go “look up” something this week!
I have a special guest blogger for this morning’s post, my brother and only sibling, Hilton Jones. On Tuesday, I will celebrate my 88th birthday, and the post below the picture is his “gift” to me and to all my readers. His words are important to all of us, regardless of the numbers we use for our age.
There are many responsible actions and decisions we need to make as we get old. Yes, I said “old,” not “older.” B.F. Skinner, the famous founder of behavioral psychology refused to refer to himself as “older.” He insisted on “old.”
I share this insistence. I’m almost 78, my partner is almost 80, and my sister is almost 88. We’re old. “Older” is just a subtle self-delusion.
Tibetan Buddhist monks sometimes practice meditating in charnel grounds, surrounded by rotting corpses being picked apart by carrion eating birds. It’s useful and clarifying to not kid ourselves about where we really are in respect to the inevitable.
Some of the things to do in light of this situation are legal or medical and there are many articles about these things. Some are happily positive, as in enjoying life to the hilt: within reason, not being too restrictive in dietary pleasures. As my sister’s son said to her recently when she was fretting about her diet, “Mom, you’re not 60 anymore. At 88 I think you can probably eat whatever you want!”
Or, within reason not being too stingy with oneself…as a dear, now deceased, Boston Irish friend was fond of saying, “Shrouds don’t have pockets!” Avoiding dealing with things that are scary only makes things worse; depriving oneself of pleasure within reason is counterproductive and just adds to your misery.
The issue I think the old need to deal with before it becomes a problem is cognitive decline. This cause is near and dear to my heart. My partner has dementia.
If someone resists getting professionally tested for cognitive decline, I suspect that resistance is an indication of a secret recognition of what the person knows to be true but denies out of fear. Sadly, denying something won’t keep it from being true.
What my partner and I did to soften the fear and stigma and overcome our own denial was to go together for testing as part of a community health program about 5 or 6 years ago. It was a program held at various locations around the bay area by the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute (https://health.usf.edu/medicine/byrd).
It was illuminative for both of us. I just barely “passed” the exam, but my partner’s results encouraged further testing by the institute which we did and resulted in the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment. Part of that testing was medical, radiological, electronic, and road testing of driving. It’s this degree of professional evaluation that’s necessary.
Don’t delude yourself into thinking the results of a “test” you take in Reader’s Digest or Prevention Magazine or some website are of any value whatsoever. Get tested—together—professionally!
Don’t attempt to be your own doctor or lawyer. Don’t attempt to self-medicate with some internet vitamin regimen or over the counter product claiming to increase your memory. Take the meds your doctor prescribes!
As my partner’s disease has progressed, we have lived through the early stages of this journey: denial, anger, agitation, confusion, getting lost when wandering, embarrassment, sadness, further decline.
Now, we’re in a quiescent stage of quiet times together. Now that the isolation of the pandemic is drawing to a close, we’re returning to the simple world activities we enjoy: orchestra concerts and occasionally dining out. I don’t know if we’ll be able to travel again, but perhaps. Part of this stage is not fretting over what’s not possible; rather, enjoying what is right now and keeping the inevitable future at bay as long as possible.
There are many forms of dementia. (Feel yourself saying, “But not me”??? Remember, that could be a sign you’re ignoring what you secretly know to be true.) As far as I know, none of the different forms are curable, BUT, as the neurologist reminds us at every appointment, the goal of therapy is to slow down the inevitable decline.
If you let things go too far, too soon, your legal options are diminished and others will wind up having to make them for you, better to act now while you’re (mostly) of sound mind and body.
But for me, the most important reason to deal with reality is that the earlier you catch the problem, the sooner you can slow the decline, the more time you and your partner, friends, and family will have together. The treatment exists to slow the progress of this miserable disease. Why wouldn’t you want to do that? Pride? Fear?
Take courage and get tested. As Marcus Aurelius said, “You may leave this life at any moment: have this possibility in your mind in all that you do or say or think.” — Meditations. 2.11 (Hammond trans.)
If you look back over the fourteen years of this blog, you’ll see articles on travel, saints, food, writing, gardening, and so much more. In its recent renovation, I have intended for this blog to follow my path of writing as well as to encourage others to also write. And yet, occasionally I want to include something of the “old” blog features. Don’t be surprised if you find something like “Sourdough Cranberry Rolls” in the middle of my ramblings about writing.
I love anything made with sourdough. When I lived in Alaska, I was given a starter that dated back to the 1800s (at least that’s what I was told, but Alaska is known for yarns as big as the state). At any rate, it had been going a long time, and was deliciously sour. I have made sourdough chocolate cake, sourdough fruitcake, sourdough pancakes and waffles, sourdough breads – any recipe I can get my hands on.
The sourdough starter or madre that I use now also came from Alaska, this time from a friend who used to live there, too. This recipe was adapted from The Tassahara Bread Book and I used dried cranberries instead of raisins. Their original recipe calls for fermenting the raisins, so I wasn’t sure if it would work to ferment the dried cranberries. I imagine you could use dried blueberries, as well.
The Tassahara bakers seem to keep a sourdough raisin roll starter on hand at all times, and this might add to the flavor each time it is used. I probably won’t make this recipe as often as they do, so I didn’t keep anything out for the next time, other than replenishing the regular madre as usual.
Sourdough Cranberry Rolls
1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon 4 cups whole wheat flour 1 cup sourdough starter 1 3/4 cups water and fermented cranberries * 2/3 cup dry cranberries Whole wheat flour as needed for kneading.
Mix the salt and cinnamon with the flour. Put the sourdough starter on top of the flour and stir in the water from the cranberries, a little at a time to form a soft dough.
When the mixture is too thick to stir, work with your hands and knead for several minutes. Add the fermented cranberries, and knead a bit more. Add the dry cranberries, and knead them in, too.
Keep the dough on the moist side as much as possible, but add more flour as needed to keep it from being too sticky to work with. Let the dough sit for 20 minutes or so.
Divide the dough into twelve pieces for large scones. Shape into balls and place on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel and let them sit overnight, at least 15 hours or more.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until well browned.
* Fermenting the Dried Cranberries: Place 1/2 cup of dried cranberries in 2 cups of water. Cover and let sit for 3-4 days, unrefrigerated. Stir daily. Don’t change the water because it will be used in the recipe.
NOTES: 1) This may seem like a long drawn-out process, but it only takes a few minutes each day, rather than taking up a whole day of preparation. I tried this recipe for Sourdough Cranberry Rolls with great trepidation, but it was so easy! I’d like to try another dried fruit. I mentioned blueberries above, but wonder about chopping up something like dried mango or ginger. Oh my!
2) The damp towel part didn’t work well for me. It seemed to weigh down the rolls too much, so I took it off and it worked better. I think my tea towel was too thick, not thin like the old flour sack towels my grandmother used.
3) I got twenty large rolls/scones instead of twelve. Also, the recipe calls them “rolls,” but I think they are more like scones, so that’s what I call them. Whatever you want to call them, they were delicious!
4) After they were cool, I wrapped each one in waxed paper and froze them. They are warm and ready to eat after about 20-25 seconds in the microwave. Slather with butter and enjoy!
This sequel to Shadowy Tales will be available in time to give as a Christmas gift to friends who enjoy mysteries- or as a gift to yourself. There will soon be a link available for pre-sales with Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other outlets.
If you haven’t read the first book in the Shadowy River Series (Shadowy Tales), now is the time to immerse yourself in the lives of the people who work, live, and love in Piney Falls, a small Mississippi town in Shadowy River County.
Washboard Tales, this second book in the community saga of Shadowy River County opens with the brutal murder of Beverly St. John, the wife of the Piney Falls Chief of Police. Her death triggers fear among the women in this small rural community.
Major changes are taking place in the lives of other familiar individuals of this town that intertwine with the search for the murderer. Through her own ingenuity and fast thinking, Pastor Frances Anna Keeton must save herself from death at the hands of the wily perpetrator or become one more murder victim.
Realizing rescue is not imminent, Fran creates a list of potential perpetrators and their possible motives for the death of Beverly St. John. This list prompts her to make another list consisting of triad romantic relationships, including her own.
As Fran struggles to help solve the murder of Beverly St. John, challenges mount in the “coming of age” story of Allie Bolger, the expectation of a new heir to the wealthy and influential Capriano family, the success of Glory Bautista’s newest book, and the disruptive arrival to Piney Falls of a visiting professor from England.
The idea of an outdoor shower is one of those notions that stays in my mind, and perhaps yours, too? Maybe someday I’ll finally get to put one in my own home. I’ve had friends who included one in their building plans.
The Hawai`ian queens took that notion one step beyond my own fantasies. Can you imagine being able to walk out your back door, saunter down a steep incline, and take your bath in a warm tropical pool? No doubt they had a few servants to scrub their backs or to help them dry off.
The photo of Queen’s Bath above is one I took on a trip to Kauai quite a few years ago of such a place. For a look at the hike we made down to the pool, check out this You Tube from last year that shows just how treacherous yet fascinating that hike can be. The video is about 20 minutes long, so you don’t need to look at the whole video. Watch enough to see the difficulty of the hike.
With the mobility issues I have today, I could never make it again, but walking down that path was an experience I’ll never forget. Be careful, however – it can be dangerous!
I love to honor my children, especially as we all get older. My two oldest daughters have birthdays this month, so I wanted to wish them both a very happy birthday. They were born two years and three days apart. This opening picture was made on Easter, 1958.
They love to visit me here in Hawaii, especially when they can cruise around in their mom’s blue Miata.
Showing off their new Hawaiian bags for flying.
And the most recent picture of their Christmas tamales. They get their white hair from me! Or did I get mine from them?
Mahalo for being two of the most wonderful daughters a mother could ever have. I look forward to your visit in November!
Happy Birthday!! I love you more than you’ll ever know!
A hui hou!
P. S. I’ll honor my two sons in another post soon.
From an early age, as a preacher’s kid (or P.K. as everyone referred to us) I was led to believe that you can’t get into Heaven without a covered dish. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Midwest where a potluck supper was a primary social occasion, but usually a casserole doesn’t appeal to me. It always felt like an unappetizing way to get rid of leftovers.
Since I’ve become an adult, I have discovered that a casserole doesn’t have to be the lifeless, tasteless dish I remembered from childhood. I adapted this recipe from the March 2011 issue of Cooking Light, and made it into one of those “quick and easy” ones that might be worth fixing from time to time.
Chipotle Chicken Casserole
Coat either an 8-inch square glass baking dish or a glass loaf pan with cooking spray. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
I used 5 of the largest chicken tenders (breast meat) out of a large Costco package. I zapped them in a microwave until softly cooked. In other words, they weren’t raw but they weren’t overcooked, either.
I shredded these into a bowl and added about 1 ½ tablespoons of chopped cilantro, 3 ounces cream cheese (fat-free works here), ½ teaspoon each of ground red pepper and ground cumin, plus salt and pepper to taste.
In a saucepan, sauté half a large onion and lots of garlic (I used 6 cloves). Add a cup of chicken broth, and about a cup of your favorite salsa verde and a little water. I used my own chipotle salsa; see my recipe below. I stirred in the chicken, cream cheese and seasonings combo with the liquid mix in the saucepan.
In a large skillet, I heated 10 6-inch corn tortillas, about a minute on each side, then cut them into quarters.
Starting with a layer of the chicken mixture, alternate layers of the tortilla quarters, ending with the chicken mix. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese, or Mexican Cheese mix over the top and bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned and the cheese is bubbly.
Before serving, I topped it with more fresh chopped cilantro and served with sour cream on the side. Fat free sour cream can be used here, if you are watching your fat intake (I’m not).
I might add more salsa next time, as it seemed a bit dry to me. Also, I like things fairly spicy, so I suggest you use your own taste buds to determine how much to add. I served this with corn on the cob and salad. It made two meals for two people, but we ate large servings. Again, let your own needs determine how many it will serve.
I think this could easily be doubled if you plan to take it to one of your own potluck occasions! This is one of those recipes that you can play around with, I think, but isn’t that true of most casseroles?
Roasted Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa
What better complement to your grilled veggies or meats than a tasty, easy to make, salsa?
This recipe was given to me by my daughter, Inga. I’m not sure where she got it, but once I tasted it at her home, I knew I had to make it soon! The day after I got back from my trip to the mainland, I bought the tomatillos and got to work. I already had all the other ingredients. I’ve eaten some everyday since then!
If you are a gardener, you might want to try growing your own tomatillos. Inga has great luck with them, but I haven’t. I may try again this year, but they are easier to find in my local grocery store.
I know you’ll look for any excuse to make this – and eat it, too! For those of us who watch our waist, this recipe contains almost no calories and no fat!
Roasted Tomatillo-Chile Salsa Recipe
10 ounces tomatillos, husks removed, tomatillos rinsed and dried
(The number would depend on the size of tomatillos, but generally about 12-15)
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 chipotle chiles (canned in adobo sauce)
1 teaspoon coarse salt
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat broiler. Place tomatillos and garlic on a baking sheet. (I sprayed it with a light coating of canola oil spray)
Broil, turning occasionally, until charred, about 8-10 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, squeeze garlic from skins into a blender. Add chipotles and tomatillos to blender. Process until combined. Add salt, sugar and cilantro. Pulse until smooth.
Notes from Inga: I don’t cut the tomatillos. They get very soft after cooling down from the broiling and you can throw them in the blender whole. I buy the smallish can of chipotles and it will usually make 3-4 batches. I get a few baggies opened up and ready to fill. Once I open the can, I put 3-4 in each baggie, plus the ones in the blender for the current batch, then split the remaining sauce between each baggie. I keep the baggies in the freezer for the next batches. Some chiles are bigger than the others, so that’s why some baggies get 3 chiles and others 4. Just eyeball it.
A hui hou!
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