How Do I Write Thee? ( with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, How Do I Love Thee, Sonnet 43)

Not too long ago, I saw an interview with a writer who claims to do his best writing in unique, beautiful settings or on a cruise ship. He claimed these venues inspired and informed his writing. They even had pictures of him actually writing while in one of those beautiful places!

I admire that quality. At one time, I found I could easily focus on a specific task (balancing my check-book, listening to my child, correcting student work, writing letters) while sitting on the living room floor with the television blaring. I literally did not hear what the television was broadcasting, so strong was my focus.

I imagine, with my ability to shut out the world and focus on a task, if I tried to actually write while in one of those beautiful settings, the beauty would be lost on me. That’s why we have photos – they allow for delayed inspiration.

I find I no longer can focus on one task in the face of chaos – or maybe it’s just that I’ve redefined “chaos”.  I need a quieter, less demanding environment in order to write. I recently completed a first draft of a picture book. After reading it aloud, I find I really don’t care for the story. I feel obligated to attempt to “fix” the draft, mostly because of time already spent on the task. Perhaps it’s time for a little “delayed inspiration.”

 

Orchids found in one of Hawaii’s botanical gardens. Now that’s inspiration!

Peace

 

 

 

 

Paradise Lost

I am a creature of habit. I like my routines. They make the small tasks easier and less time consuming. That allows me to focus on more important matters. I get cranky when those routines are disturbed for more than a few days.

when my sister and nephew’s family had to evacuate their homes during the Camp Fire in Butte County, I could not begin to imagine the disturbance and devastation that comes from such a disaster. My sister, her grand-daughter, grand-daughter’s friend and small dog, spent eight hours on a cement parking lot. They were waiting, along with first-res-ponders, for a way to break through the flames that enveloped one of the two main escape routes known as the Skyway. They were fortunate. The escaped without injury. The first-res-ponders were amazing.

If you have seen the videos or photos of the Camp Fire, my sister, and nephew assure me, they are not exaggerations. Flames, whipped by wind, towered over forty-foot tall pine and redwood. The thick black smoke changed the blue sky to black in minutes. The air was toxic. When the flames died down and moved away from Paradise and Magalia, the area looked as if a bomb had dropped. There were some surviving homes, but even those most likely suffered damage from the smoke and soot.

So what is next? No comforting routines or habits will help. Those are gone and will only be re-established in the future. The only thing that can be done is to take one step at a time.  Food, clothing and shelter first, and then consider long-term issues. Do you rebuild, or do you move? If you move, where to? How long will it take to rebuild the infrastructure to support homes and business?

There are groups tackling the long-range issues. Paradise School District had found buildings in nearby Chico to house their students. School will re-open on December 3, 2018. The schools are an important community center, particularly in a small town of 27,000.

Paradise, Magalia and the residents of Butte County will  need all the help they can get, both short-term and long-term. You can contribute to victims of the fire and first-responders  in several ways.  Cash and gift cards are always appreciated and offer the most flexibility. The Salvation Army and Red Cross are collecting donations and can be  found on-line. Firefighter support sites include Members, International Association of Firefighters Charitable Foundation, North Bay Fire Relief through the Redwood Credit Union and NVFC Volunteer Firefighter Support Fund, all found on-line.

Part of the history of Paradise. My BFWW won the prize for the Best Reconditioned Production Car – a 1922 Willys. The event, sponsored by the Horseless Carriage Association of America, took place in  the town of Paradise in the 1960’s.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes – You Want a What?

 

I like my local tech store, really, I do. But I only visit the store about every six months and in that time, things change. Like most stores, they occasionally move inventory from one place to another. So, each time I visit, I have to ask the clerk, (AKA * sales person, agent, representative, techie, team member) where I can find a specific item.

Since my tech vocabulary isn’t up to date, the conversation usually goes something like this:   “Hi. Can you tell me where to find the memory sticks or the thumb drive thingies?”

There is a blank stare from the clerk (sales person, agent, representative, techie, team member) and then they reply, “Your looking for a what?”

I respond in my pre-tech language,  “You know, that little thing you plug into the side of the computer so you can copy something from the computer.”

“Oh! You mean the flash drives. Right over here. I’ll show you.”

The language of tech changes very rapidly, probably more rapidly than any language in human history. But all language changes, even if it is at snail-mail speed.

For example, here are some phrases and terms from a  novel set in San Francisco in the 1880’s.

Free-booter

Mare’s Shank

Lucifer (not a biblical reference)

carbon copy

xerox

mimeograph

(Just kidding. The last three are from the 1960’s)

Some fun books to read about San Francisco in the 1880’s (pre-earthquake) are Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini’s Carpenter and Quincannon mystery series featuring a male and female detectives and M. Louise Locke’s mystery series featuring a female business woman and a male attorney.  Both series are very well researched. If you have ever visited or lived in San Francisco, or even read about it, these books help you realize how far San Francisco has come and how much our language has changed.

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Peace

Confessions of a Cat Mom

 

I have two resident cats, plus one that drops by for breakfast and dinner on the front porch most weekdays. I live in suburbia near a wooded area and a creek, a perfect place  for a burgeoning feral cat population.

In spite of county animal control and a very dedicated cat rescue group, we are flooded with cute kitties every May. My two cats were rescued as kittens as was their mother. All were taken to a vet, spayed, given initial vaccinations, taken in to recuperate by the local rescue group and then returned to my backyard. I have no regrets. They have proven to be delightful companions for the past five years;  but I fear I am in danger of becoming a full-fledged Cat Mom.

It’s not just that I talk to my cats, I do (but at least so far they have not talked back) -it’s the paraphernalia that accompanies cat “ownership.” The bags of kitty food, the kitty toys and the bedding can be overwhelming.

And then, there’s this.  A few days ago, Mom cat showed up for her evening meal. She will only eat on the front porch and does not stay around to socialize afterwards. It was a cool evening, so I left the front door open, but closed the screen door. When I checked on her later, she was curled up on the front door mat where she could see into the living room, purring loudly. A pretty nice thank you from a very skittish cat.

 

Just a nice picture to contemplate.

Sunset over the Great Lakes

Peace

 

Word Play – Beware of Context -a tongue in cheek commentary

Teachers know that reading is a complex skill. It requires everything from knowing letters and sounds, having a well-developed sight word vocabulary and being able to use the other words in a sentence (context) to determine the meaning of a new word. Reading comprehension also depends on what knowledge and experiences the reader already has.

For example, a person with a lot (maybe too much) experience with all things nautical might use the following nautical term in a way that the  average land-lubber might not understand.

“Your other port! Your other port!” yelled the coach.

or

“Tie a bow on the present.”

The next example shows the influence of experience in the jewelry business on the author:

“The video will loupe from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. on channel 23.”

In American English, loupe is the eyepiece used by a jeweler to inspect a gem.  (These directions actually appeared on a ship-board video system.)

Sometimes local dialect and vocabulary can cause confusion to outsiders as in this example:

The upper (OOper) rubbed his hands together in glee as another fudgie entered the shop.

Translation: an upper (OOper) is an inhabitant of the upper peninsula of Michigan. (I have no idea what they call those who live on the lower peninsula of Michigan.)

A fudgie refers to a tourist on Mackinac Island, MI. Since there are seventeen fudge shops on Mackinac, many tourists purchase fudge.

Often a picture provides context, such as the one  below showing a fudgie leaving one of the seventeen fudge shops with five pounds of fudge in a bag.

 

Peace

A Reading List for Our Time (Warning – Politics Ahead)

We live in puzzling times, particularly in the U.S.  It is difficult to determine what is the result of a disinformation campaign and what is real. We suffer from verbal whiplash in trying to follow the reasoning behind public statements of our officials. We live in Topsy-Turveyville (yes, I know not a real word). In order to help deal with this confusion, I have developed a suggested reading list built around the classics.

1) Hugh Lofting  Dr. Doolittle – while the title is apt, focusing on one of Dr. Doolittle’s animals, the pushmi-pullyu can be  particularly helpful in understanding how the legislative process works. (We have many of them in congress.)

2) Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. While most of the characters are amusing and confusing, I find the Mad Hatter particularly interesting. (I think he has a political future!)

3) George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. (Cautionary  tales- ’nuff said)

4) Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels – This seems to be the current basis for U.S. foreign policy.

Peace

 

 

 

 

California Driving – It’s No Dream (Sorry Mamas and Papas)

 

I learned to drive in an Edsel station wagon on the Los Angeles freeway system. Obviously, I’ve been driving in California for a long time. Throughout  the years, I’ve noticed a variety of driving “sins” committed by my fellow Californians ( but not by me, of course.)  There is the precarious, unannounced lane change, which causes a parade of brake lights. A variation includes turning on the turn signal after the lane change has been completed. And then, there is the famous California STOP. (Skid Tires On Pavement).

But very recently, I witnessed a driving “sin” that was truly hair-raising. In California on some streets, we have turn lanes. For example, a four lane road may have two lanes on each side separated by a middle lane, which is a two-way turn lane. The turn lane is bound by two yellow lines. Usually, the outer line is solid, and the inner line is broken. This marking indicates drivers on either side can enter the turn lane in order to make a turn, as long as they don’t head-on someone going the other way trying to make a turn. The turn lane is not a driving lane, nor is it a passing lane. (Sorry, but I’m taking my first written driving test in twelve years, so I’ve been reviewing the law.)

Driving in the center lane (not the turn lane) was an older model Mercedes about four car lengths ahead of me. Traffic was light. To our immediate left was a turn lane with a red pick up truck sitting there. The truck was signaling a left turn. The Mercedes pulled into the turn lane, drove toward the truck without slowing down, then cut to the left of the truck and drove about fifteen feet in the oncoming traffic lane. It then cut in front of the truck, went out of the turn lane and back into the traffic lane ahead of me. At the stop light, the Mercedes moved into the left turn lane and politely turned on it left turn signal.

Fortunately, there was no oncoming traffic and the truck driver was aware of the Mercedes. He could easily have t-boned the Mercedes, injuring himself and the Mercedes driver.

I’ve decided the only way to explain such drivers is that they must subscribe to the philosophy  that  “I’ll do it my way, no matter the cost to others.”

 

Stay safe

 

 

 

 

 

 

April Showers and Sunshine

April used to be a month of celebrations for my family. There were four April birthdays; my son, my husband and two brothers-in-law. It marked the end of  what passes for “the rainy season”  in California. Recently, one local weatherman commented that usually  the end of the rainy season in California is marked by “tax day” – April 15th.

In the past four years, two of my April birthday family members have passed away; my husband and one brother-in-law.  It is still a time to celebrate, but the sadness is there as well.

We don’t forget those we lost. The bitter-sweet memories return at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. No one can “replace” someone you lost, but they can add to your life and help you make new memories.  April does bring sunshine as well as showers.

 

Peace