Tag Archives: bloganuary

Just step outside

Bloganuary: Where is the best place to watch the sunset near you?

This one is easy: our back deck.

True, we can’t see the horizon.

The property is surrounded by hills and trees.

The pond is covered with duckweed and doesn’t reflect the light.

Still, the way the sun filters through is amazing.

Granted, once the sun starts to sink, you don’t want to step down onto the grass—unless you’re fond of mosquitoes. But in the last couple of years, we’ve been deliberate about what we plant in containers we keep on the deck. If it has the slightest reputation for repelling mosquitoes, into a container it goes.

This works! Well, more or less. It’s a lot better than standing in the yard.

We also get some fairly excellent sunrises.

So despite not having a home for the vacuum, our house is a keeper.

2 Comments

Filed under bloganuary

The story of our lives

Bloganuary: What would you title the chapters of your autobiography?

I’m not sure I would write my autobiography. (Isn’t that what a blog is for?) But if I did write one, I do know this about the chapter titles:

Puns would be involved.

I love puns and plays on words. If you’ve read any of my Coffee and Ghosts episodes, you already know that. Of course, it often takes me a long, long time to think them up. This is the reason Coffee and Ghosts is called Coffee and Ghosts.

Initially, this was the working title for the series. But when it came time to publish, I kept spinning my wheels for a better title. At last, I kept the working one because, if nothing else, it’s accurate.

Silliness aside, I am noodling a memoir. I almost hesitate to mention it because this might not come to pass. Every time I inch closer, I take a step back. This might be because I’m not ready to write it. It might be because I know it’s going to hurt.

But here’s the thing. I want to explain how caring for my mom during the last six months of her life was like being at war. It was like seeing the elephant all over again. I want to explain—if only to myself—why these two things are linked. Because somehow, they are linked in my mind and my heart. Maybe, if I can explain the why and the how behind that, I can help someone else.

But for now? I’ll simply ponder it.

2 Comments

Filed under bloganuary, Writing

How does your garden grow?

Bloganuary: What is something you learned recently?

I’m only a few lessons into the Master Gardener course, but I’ve learned a lot:

  • Like how I can get a soil test from the University of Minnesota
  • Or how I should rotate the “crops” in my raised beds this spring
  • Or how to improve my compost pile—add water. But not now since everything—including the compost pile—is frozen solid
  • Or how I properly (and somewhat unintentionally) prepared my raised beds last year (I’m kind of proud of this one—I was winging it)

Each lesson has additional resources and links and downloads. There’s enough information to provide a framework, but not so much that it’s overwhelming. It’s a nice way to spend a couple of hours each Sunday.

I’m looking forward to spring for so many reasons, but I’m really excited to put this new knowledge into practice.

4 Comments

Filed under bloganuary

In which I ask our AI robot overlords to bake me a cake

Bloganuary: Describe your perfect birthday cake

Mmmm. Did someone say cake?

I love cake. My perfect birthday cake would involve chocolate (maybe white or dark) with raspberries. Or maybe white and dark chocolate with raspberries! And ganache. I love a ganache.

For fun, I ran various descriptions through DALL·E just to see what it would come up with.

The prompt I used was: a dark chocolate birthday cake with raspberries professional food photograph in the style of a bestselling cookbook.

Something isn’t quite right here. You know? I mean, it’s close, but it’s like DALL·E has never actually seen a cake and is winging it. Also, I’m not sure what those spikey things are in the bottom photograph, but they’re frightening.

So I changed the prompt to: a dark chocolate birthday cake with raspberries and happy ghosts professional food photograph in the style of a bestselling cookbook.

Ah, now this is a cake! Although I’m not sure why we’re celebrating my birthday in some sort of futurist prison.

So, I tried again.

Now that’s more like it! I think we have a winner. And you doubted the abilities of our AI overlords.

2 Comments

Filed under bloganuary

My tomato friend

Bloganuary: What are the pros and cons of procrastination?

Poor procrastination. It gets such a bad rap. Blame the productivity/industrial complex for this (h/t Becca Syme).

One thing I like to remember is that procrastination is simply trying to tell you something (and that something isn’t that you’re lazy).

It’s unearthing what it’s trying to tell you. That’s the tricky part.

Can’t write? Maybe you need to ponder the story a bit more. Or maybe it’s tax season, and you need to clear the decks and finish your taxes. Maybe you’re procrastinating at work because there’s a problem elsewhere in your life.

Maybe you’re approaching burnout and really, really need to take a break.

How to tell? One trick I use is the Pomodoro technique. I set a timer for 25 minutes, focus on the thing I’ve been trying to do (but procrastinating), and see what happens. At the end of those twenty-five minutes, I’ll know whether I was wrestling with garden-variety resistance or if there’s a larger issue at hand.

2 Comments

Filed under bloganuary

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Bloganuary: What language do you wish you could speak?

Sigh. I wish I could speak the ones I’ve actually studied.

Over the years, I’ve studied German, Russian (my college major), a smattering of French (high school), and even a little Swedish.

But studying languages does not mean they can come out of my mouth. While stationed in Germany, I even took a beginning Russian class taught at the German equivalent of a community center.

Fortunately, the instructor also spoke English, which was handy for when I got stuck, which I invariably did. Two foreign languages at once? I don’t think my brain has hurt so much before or since.

I never had any issues with reading in a foreign language. My listening comprehension was adequate. Ask me to talk?

Then, it’s all over.

I visited Russia near the end of my tour overseas. When I returned to Germany, every time I attempted German, it came out as a strange mishmash of Russian and German. It was so bad that the locals looked alarmed every time I spoke.

Even ordering dinner was fraught.

So there you have it. I would dearly love to speak a foreign language.

1 Comment

Filed under bloganuary

Wild and precious

Bloganuary: What is a song or poem that speaks to you and why?

I recited Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day at my mom’s celebration of life. You’d think that, as a writer, I could come up with my own words. But that wasn’t happening. Some writers are brilliant in the moment, conjuring up the right thing to say without hesitation.

My writing BFF Darcy was like that. She could dazzle at a moment’s notice. On the other hand, I need to pause. I need to think and then go think some more.

These days, I’m more comfortable telling people I need to think before I produce words or give them an answer.

But back to the poem. It does encapsulate my mom’s love of nature. She had deep passions that included birding and gardening. Despite life-long and chronic back pain, she did both for as long as she was able.

I want to do things for as long as I’m able as well.

Perhaps this is why I hear the echo of those last lines more and more frequently:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

And I pause. I stop what I’m doing—the busy work, the chores, or whatever—and remember I only have this one wild and precious life.

And I want to embrace it for as long as I’m able.

2 Comments

Filed under bloganuary

Martha Stewart, Snoop Dog, Mary Richards, and me

Bloganuary: How do you show love?

These final week prompts are getting a little personal.

I don’t know how true this is, but the first thing that came to mind was I do things for the people I love.

But not big things.

I’d be terrible at throwing someone a surprise party. Sure, I’d be able to keep it a secret. But, if you’re of an age, you may remember The Mary Tyler Moore Show. You may remember Mary Richards and her inability to throw a party.

I make Mary Richards look like Martha Stewart. I’m assuming Martha can throw a party.

People, wait. Wait. I just Googled Martha Stewart and discovered she had a reality show with Snoop Dog called Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party. How did I miss this? Okay, I’m going with yes. Yes, Martha (and Snoop) can definitely throw a party.

Anyway, we’ve established I’m not throwing a party for anyone. (And really, how can you compete with Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party?) But everyday things? Like making someone a cup of tea or finding their lost keys? That’s totally me.

In fact, if you’ve lost your keys, give me a call.

I might be able to find them—along with your missing homework assignment, the jazz shoes you need for dance class (the black, not the tan), and your favorite T-shirt.

However, if it’s a party you want, you’ll need to consult Martha and Snoop.

1 Comment

Filed under bloganuary

The stakes are a lie

Bloganuary: What’s a lie you tell yourself?

Well, this one’s a bit salty.

For me, it’s this idea that sometime in the misty future, I’ll be able to earn a living with my fiction writing.

This notion is so ingrained I’m not sure I can completely rid myself of it. But I’m trying to. Not because I dislike making money from my writing. I enjoy that.

But it was never my original motivation for writing fiction in the first place. I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past several months. Interestingly, writing these prompts every morning has helped clarify some of the thinking, even those prompts that don’t relate to success or goals.

Or maybe especially those. It reminded me that I love to write. That my first motivation for doing so was to have stories I couldn’t find anywhere else.

When I started writing, I recognized the gap immediately. What I was writing did not match what I was reading in published novels. This frustrated me.

So I used publication as a way to gauge my progress. It was a great way to work with editors and learn.

At some point, instead of being a means to an end, publication became the end. Back in the days when traditional publishing ruled, the author with the most contracts (or awards or bestseller lists) won.

And I was—frankly—miserable. I maybe didn’t show it, but deep down, I was.

Then indie publishing came along. For a good couple of years, I had so much fun—again, learning and making progress. I love creating books, from the wispy first ideas to the finished project.

But then sales and money became the markers of success, to the point where it’s binary. If you aren’t earning “good money” (however you define that) with your writing, you should quit. Or at least, this is what it feels like. The notion permeates so many conversations about writing and publishing. It’s the water we swim in. (Which is why I’ve opted out of most of those conversations.)

For me, at least, it’s not a binary choice. Perhaps this is unique to American culture. But holy cats! We don’t need to monetize every last thing we do. Writing has worth. Whether you earn six figures from it or you simply blog for the joy of it.

I’m trying to unlearn this lie. And while I like it when people buy my books, it’s not why I write them.

So I’m searching for a new way forward. Perhaps, if I reach into the past and take the hand of the woman I once was, we can find our way into the future.

1 Comment

Filed under bloganuary, Publishing, Writing

Girl Detective to the rescue

Bloganuary: What was your dream job as a child?

It was my heart’s desire to be a girl detective.

When I wasn’t reading the Betsy-Tacy books, I was probably reading a mystery. I even wandered into the adult stacks at the library and pulled Agatha Christies off the shelf when I was still fairly young.

But the mysteries I loved most were the Trixie Belden ones.

Yes, I read Nancy Drew. But Nancy was so … so … perfect. Trixie? Not so much. Trixie got into trouble, sometimes said the wrong things. To my young mind, the mysteries felt like they really could happen, and Trixie (and her club) really could solve them.

Which meant that maybe there were mysteries out there for me to solve.

I was certain there had to be. For instance, at least one mystery must have been going on in the dilapidated old workshop at the end of a dirt road not far from my house. It stood next to a copse of manicured pines—a strange sight for this part of our town. We had the slough and hills of deciduous trees, but these pines were clearly cultivated, but for what purpose wasn’t clear.

Truly a mystery. And they made excellent cover for spying on the neighborhood, particularly that old workshop. I only gathered the courage to approach the main door once. Then I thought I saw a face in the second-floor window (probably the old man who worked there and whom I was no doubt annoying). I’m not proud to say it. But.

I ran.

So much for my career as a girl detective.

On a positive note, I did not get into trouble for trying to solve mysteries that didn’t exist.

Sometime later, I realized that you could experience mysteries and adventures by not only daydreaming them but writing them down.

What a revelation!

I’m not sure where this early love of mysteries came from. Even now, I love reading (or writing) stories with secrets and mysteries. And I think I may need to go find one. The temperature is below zero, with no signs of warming up, and I could use a good mystery or secret to help me brave the day.

1 Comment

Filed under bloganuary, Books, Reading