Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thank You Everyone

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I want to take some time to say thank you to all who visited my humble little weblog this year. Though I have other writing I worked hard to accomplish, one goal for 2008 was to further build my presence as a writer online [both here and at Soul Echoes~Quill of the Heart], and to keep this blog active and up to date.
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My health issues kept me from completing a great deal of what I'd set out to do, but I'm learning from this experience. The Draft Folder still holds tidbits that have yet to see the digital light of virtual day. I've also mentioned a time or three, I continue to maintain a word.doc file for blog pending entries. And, I remain hopeful that I'm not merely talking to myself.
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I view this blog as my journey as a writer. And I can only trust that one day, someone else may find some inspiration in my efforts; some humor to brighten their day; wisdom or source of information they may otherwise not have found. Not everyone ventures to leave a comment, and others will never return. But to those who do or will, I say thank you for finding your way to my thoughts, my words, my rants and ramblings, and to my echoes.
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Though there is much strife in the world today, may those who found their way here know much peace and joy in the coming year.
You can have anything you want if you want it desperately enough. You must want it with an exuberance that erupts through the skin and joins the energy that created the world.
~Sheila Graham
Many blessings to you all

Monday, December 29, 2008

Side Bar Add Ons

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This is just a quick update to let you know there are a few new features on my side bar.
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I added an inspirational Quote of the Month. There's also a Word of the Day widget from http://www.dictionary.com/. Plus, if you scroll down past the Writing Tip of the Day, you'll find that RESOURCES list I mentioned a few posts back.
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[ADDED/UPDATED 12-31-2008] Buy way of an invitation to be a Friend, I opened up a FaceBook account today. Just click here and view my fledgling profile. I don't know all the ins and outs of FaceBooking, so be patient with me while it grows. It will blossom in its own time. Whilst the seed doeth germinate, stop by and say a writerly hello.
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Scroll down a little farther and you can enjoy my YouTube Playlist of Music to Inspire Your Muse. There are currently 40 songs in my Soul Echoes Mood Music Channel; a companion to this blog. You'll find several videos in the playlist from both David and Diane Arkenstone, and almost as many from Loreena McKennitt. There are also the Adagio for Strings, Agnus Dei, and Moonlight Sonata. And, a few vocals from Josh Groban, Peter Gabriel, Enrique Iglesias, and Jon Secada.
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So, you can take a gander below and see what might inspire, or simply scroll through, find a song you like, and partake in a little background music while you visit my blog. If you click on the arrow on the left, that will take you to the Adagio, a couple versions of the Sonata, and to the vocals. Clicking on the arrow to the right starts you off with the Arkenstones, followed by Loreena McKennitt.
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My list of favorites will grow with time, and I'll no doubt create more mood-specific playlists, i.e., native drums and flutes, vocals separate from instrumentals, etc.; but, for now~~ .. I offer the current list purely for enjoyment! Okay-- I'd like to inspire as well.
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More soon.
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Blessings

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Kwanzaa

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Kwanzaa begins today. And for the next seven days, each of the following values will be addressed, honored, and celebrated.

NGUZO SABA Swahili for~ The Seven Principles

Umoja (Unity)To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for
ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose)To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity)To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith)To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

This is the time of year when many of us focus on setting goals for the coming year. But before we can chart the proper long and short of it all, one needs to focus first on their core values; those principles and qualities that are of the highest priority.

First comes [and in no particular order]: honesty, integrity, family, service to others, health, frugality, generousity, community, financial security, justice, attitude, spirituality, and these are but a few. And second, the setting of one's goals is a matter of renewal; Sprititually, Physically, Intellectually, and Emotionally. Hence the tradition of New Year's resolutions. I'll speak more about this in the days to come.

In the meantime, Happy Kwanzaa!

Blessings

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Eve!

Just in case you haven't found your way, here's the link to Norad Tracks Santa. He's currently over Uruguay, South America.
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As for me, well the last few days have not been good. Though I did get out to the grocery, I spent the day before in recovery; from trying to finish up with my Christmas decorations. And yesterday it would seem the flu may have hit. It was a miserable afternoon and night.
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I'm still not feeling right and I may not make it out to my sister's farm tomorrow for Christmas. No one out there needs what I may be suffering through, so-- it would seem I'll be spending Christmas at home, alone, with my girls.
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Speaking of whom-- while they laid all nestled in for a long afternoon nap, I stuffed their Santa stocking with sparklely goodies: various balls, mousies, and these new little pastel color-blocked cubes that Pearl likes. She's so darn hard to shop for. And, we spent a little while, this afternoon, playing in fresh catnip.
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Fatigue is setting in and I need to get back to It's a Wonderful Life.
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Blessings

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Hanukkah!

Photobucket Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights. It is an eight day holiday which commemorates "miracle of the container of oil" at the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, during the Maccabean Revolt [Second century, BCE].
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There was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. The miracle is the oil burned for eight, which was the number of days it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil.
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If you are wondering why there are nine candles represented on the menorah, the ninth serves as a reminder to adhere to the prohibition [Tracate Shabbat 21b-23a], against using the Hanukkah lights for anything other than the celebration of the holiday. The light emanating from the eight candles should not to be used to read by, or as the primary source of household light. So the ninth candle, or light [servant or guard], is made available if extra illumination is required. It is also used to light the eight.
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The reason for the Hanukkah lights is not for the "lighting of the house within," but rather for the "illumination of the house without," so that passers-by should see it and be reminded of the holiday's miracle. This is why the oil lamps or candelabrum are set in prominent windows. Hence, the Festival of Lights.
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Blessings, and a Happy Miracle to All

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

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Today marks the Winter Solstice; the longest night of the year. Where many consider this to be the beginning of Winter, for many cultures it marks the middle of winter and the return of the Sun's for its winter nap.

I intend, this year, to light a candle at sundown and let it burn through the night; saying good-bye to the longest of nights, and the gradual return of the light of day.

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Blessings

Thursday, December 18, 2008

To Say, or Not to Say

I'm sorry, but I have to ask why is there even a question?
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Earlier this week I forwarded an update of my Pearls of Wisdom site, and I offered a rare quote of my own on, Pearls of the Holiday Season. You'll find it by scrolling down to the last section of quotes. Granted this is not the time of year to aggravate my readers, but someone needs to put an end to the whining about, "We're not allowed to say Merry Christmas anymore!"
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Let's expound upon that here. Yes we are! No one ever said we couldn't. As I indicated in my Pearls quote, we can say Merry Christmas to our family and friends and those we know celebrate in the same way. This isn't a matter taking the Christ out of Christmas, for heaven's sake. But the birth of Christ is not the only recognized holiday celebrated at this time of year.
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There are those who honor the Winter Solstice, which falls on Dec. 21st; this coming Saturday. Hanukkah begins at sundown on the same day, and is celebrated by millions through Dec. 29th. And, though still relatively new (and its validity questioned by some), Kwanzaa begins Dec. 26th and ends Jan. 1st. Least we forget there are those who don’t follow the Christian or Judean faiths, but work among those of us who do.
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I worked for a Dutch-owned corporation (prior to my going on LTD), and my co-workers came from all walks of life, beliefs, and nations; Christians, Pagans, Muslims, and Jews. There came a day when our supervisors could no longer schedule a "Christmas Luncheon," and called it instead, a "Holiday Luncheon" or-- outing of such. Worked for me!
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Unfortunately, it’s the Christians that put up the greatest fuss. I was baptized as a Methodist and grew up within the Christian faith. But I know Christianity is far from the only belief system, and there are hypocrisies that can be argued of any faith. We’ve all seen them play out in the news.
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But this is a season that claims above all else, ‘good will towards men.’ Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings are matters of Grace. They are salutations that exclude no one. I argue here that when we find ourselves gathered among people of many faiths and nationalities, the gracious thing to do is to be respectful and inclusive.
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Many Blessings and Happy Holidays, to All

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

So That's Why!

I opened up an email today and found the following link to a very funny video. I tried to embed it, but the only option available is to upload from my personal files. So, here is: Why the Printer Won't Work. Enjoy!
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My long-haired tuxedo kitty, Sophie [who has since passed], used to sit in front of the printer and wait for the paper to come out. I dubbed her My Little Printer Guard. I still have a few hard copy sheets torn by her claws. I thought of her today, while I watched and laughed out loud at PerthPurplePenguin's cat.
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There's a picture of Sophie, somemheres, guarding that printer. I'll have to dig it out and scan it in. Check back. I'll update this entry when I find it.
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The photo to the right is Lucy and Pearl at the birding window, downstairs.
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Now, Lucy [she'd the dark one, more chocolate than black] comes running every time I hit print. Where Sophie merely wanted to help the paper out, Lucy's interested in catching the cartridges as they ride back and forth. Pearl? [she's the one in the tuxedo] She could care less. The printer holds no interest for her whatsoever.
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..The photo to the left is them up here in the studio. Pearl claimed the stash of fabric on the pending projects chair, and Lucy's back there lounging on top of an old typesetter's desk.
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I should take this time to give them their due. They've been my saving graces these last couple of years. Were it not for them, I would have spent far too much time on the couch and stayed in a much darker place, emotionally. And, while answering a few workshop-related questions during Muse2008, I also know them as my stress relief. The simplest of antics make me laugh, and for that I am truly grateful.
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They are as much my therapy as they are caregivers. Pearl keeps a watchful eye on me when I'm not feeling well. She can be quite attentive, and there's a true look of concern on her face. And Lucy always lets me know when it's time to take a break. She can also be quite the Shakespearean tragedy when it comes to her hunger pangs. Though she wants what she wants, when she wants it, her patience with me is commendable.
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Needless to say, there will be something quite special [as much as I can afford] in their Santa stocking next week.
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That's it for me today, I need to take a break from sitting up here. I need to get my legs up and I've knitting to finish for Christmas.
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Blessings

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blogger.com Reading List

Photobucket ...Today I thought I would comment on how much I'm enjoying the relatively new feature on Blogger, Blogs I'm Following. The feature allows us the ability to add any blog, regardless the service, i.e., Wordpress, Quick Blogcast (GoDaddy), etc., [you get the picture], and it provides a list of daily updates of all the blogs I'm interested in following. Every morning I simply review the Dashboard and see who's updated. This is quite handy, what with my struggle with memory lapses. After the holidays I'll spend a little more time and add to my current list.
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I looked out of the studio office window one afternoon last week, to check on the birds, and was so pleased to find one of my neighbors added a brand new feeder to the humble little pine out front. How sweet! I've yet to determine exactly who it is [this is a four unit building], but I will extend my gratitude, for their joining in the cause, as soon as they are discovered.
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Over the weekend, I put a hold on the pending Quill of the Heart update. The subject matter is somewhat heavy, and I gave thought to its not being appropriate to the season. So. I've decided to leave, How Will You Live, until after the first of the year. Also, I spent a couple of days updating my Pearls of Wisdom website and will spend tomorrow collecting the quotes for the Winter/Holiday update. You can check out the four new videos added to Pearls of Turtle Island.
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That's it for today. I'm trying to get some things done around here like: clean the kitchen; pack away the Autumn decorations; pull out the ones for Christmas; and start a load or two of laundry. Drafting out this post is merely me, taking a break. So! Since I know I'm not going to accomplish all of the above yet today, I'm off to do what I can get done.
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Blessings

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Unsuccessful Queries

Saturday I shared, A Family Tradition. That story came about when I responded to a writing prompt on the Writing Exercise Board, back in 2007. One of the community leaders at the time, suggested the possibility of publishing it. So, earlier this year I bought a Writer's Market and researched potential publications. They all prefer to be queried. If they want the manuscript, they will ask for it later.
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I sent queried six different publications. Several online, via e-mail. Others via snail mail. None showed interest. I gave the first two the benefit of doubt. Maybe they'd seen or already had enough Christmas stories related to family traditions. No worries! When no one requested to see the story itself, I began to wonder whether I even nailed the query letter.
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It's not like I didn't research the requirements of a good query. But-- that I lack any true publishing credentials isn't exactly in my favor. After the first of the year I'll take a look through the handouts from Muse 2008, and see what I can glean from the workshops.
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Below is the actual query letter. Feel free to offer a critique if the notion strikes. I'm open to wizened observations.
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Blessings,
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Dear [Editor],
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Each family celebrates Christmas based on their own long-established traditions. I’d like to tell you how my mother and father took the wrapping and opening of packages to a grand level.
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My family has never been satisfied with the idea of a simple gift box, wrapping paper, and a bow. I grew up seeing a reproduction of a steam engine near the family Christmas tree, along with a battle ship, space shuttle, and an Apollo-style rock over the course of as many years. There were also follow-the-string and riddle games that took us all to task and throughout the whole of the house. We’ve all become experts with what I term bait-n-switch boxes, but when my father passed, it all changed. A Family Tradition was inspired by a gift to my brother-in-law; one that returned a very special memory of our father.
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When I shared an earlier draft with a former co-worker (to get a feel for how someone else would read my story), she wrote the most kind-hearted email, “I remember you telling stories of your Christmas traditions … and one Christmas I did do to a version of your game with the clues with my kids and my little nephew … it was so much fun.” I was so touched and surprised. I admitted, “I never knew (or shamefully forgot) that you’d tried some of our ideas.” To which she replied, “You didn’t know because I don’t think I ever told you. I just though it sounded so fun. I think wrapping a gift is so much of a waste, because most people don’t even look at it; they just start ripping at it. But, if you do something like what your family did, making it look ships and space rockets— that is so cool.”
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The length of A Family Tradition would run the standard 2000 – 3000 words. This query is being simultaneously submitted.
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I publish the following blogs: Soul Echoes, Soul Echoes – Quill of the Heart, and Diary of a Prisoner.
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Thank you for your consideration of this article. I hope to hear from you soon.
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Sincerely,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Christmas Story

A Family Tradition
..........................by L.L. Abbott
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My father ruled as the wrapper of grand packages. An endearing tradition that grew over the years. My mother had not choice, at times, but to comply. She decorated around an old-fashioned steam engine one year. Made from torn down cardboard boxes and left-over paints, we could stand inside and wave out the window.
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I remember a package in the shape of a house, with a steep pitched roof. Smoke billowed from the chimney on Christmas morning. And arguably his weirdest package is when he collected all the emptied wrapping paper tubes, rewrapped them in various new papers, and then taped them all together to form — an abstract sculpture. I don’t know how long it took my mother to pull out all the crumpled news and tissue paper [from most every tube] until she found that little velvet box with a ring inside.
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He had one bad year, though, when he bought a huge lava rock for her garden, and couldn’t come up with anything better than draping it with one of those quilted blankets that movers use to pad furniture. He affixed a big red pre-made bow; but, didn’t get off without being chided for the effort.
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There were the years where my sister and I actually had to work for our gifts. Follow the string or cryptic message games lead to pre-placed envelopes, and could take an hour of riddle-solving torment. They would take us to every room in the house and depending on the weather, the clues could also lead outdoors.
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One year my sister and her husband took our parents to task. The new sunken family room proved the perfect stage for that year's riddle game. We'd been through several rounds of presents—everyone took a turn; everyone watched the other—when my sister provided them with their first envelope. They had one minute to solve the riddle, find the next envelope, and return to the top of the stairs.
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Once back they opened and read the next riddle aloud. Each riddle led them to another room. The basement, den, bedrooms, bathroom, the attic— I don't remember the order. Each time they returned, both breathed a little heavier. Each stood giddier with laughter. And each reading got progressively more difficult to understand. And every time they took off—after a "times a wastin'" or "the clocks ticking" jibe—my sister, brother-in-law, and I giggled just a little bit harder.
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When they finally returned with a box that took both of them to carry, we cheered. We let them catch their breath and spout off their 'how-could-you-do-this-to-us' complaints as they lowered the heavy box on the floor. When they sat beside it and started to tear off the paper, Grandma (who sat comfortably; waiting for their return and the silliness to end) said, "It looks like a microwave!"
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My sister turned immediately around and shot a look my way.
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Oh Dear!
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Her stern eyes and pursed lips told me that's exactly what it was. We both looked at Grandma, who sat oblivious to our stare, then back up at our parents. By then the gift had been revealed. Though completely surprised, my sister felt, after all that effort, somewhat let down. For years (though lovingly at our grandmother's expense) depending on which package best resembled it, someone would inevitably exclaim, "It looks like a microwave!"
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Over the years the packages became more elaborate. There was the USS Bud Light. Four feet of cardboard and Navy drab paint; with turrets and guns. He modeled a striking replica of the space shuttle that hung suspended over the pool table. A lot of aluminium foil was sacrificed for that one.
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My brother-in-law eventually took on the challenge the following year and built an Apollo-style rocket; made from graduated PVC piping. Complete with tinsel at the base—backlit with a strand of red lights simulating take-off—it stood over 6 foot tall and hid components of the garage door opener.
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Over those same years, I became the official judge of the unofficial Christmas Package Challenge. Unfortunately, that pleasure lasted only two more years. When my father passed [some eleven years ago now], so too ended the most fun part of Christmas.
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Oh. We still have what I liken to Bait-n-Switch packages. Boxes within boxes. Boxes substituted for what's actually inside. My mother mastered the art of opening boxes—sealed in cellophane—emptying the contents and then using them for socks; a bowling ball cloth; or teddy bears. There can be a Box No. 2 to the Box No. 1. And there is the occasional envelope bearing a riddle inside. Anything is fair game; anything to throw off the other.
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I removed the holiday trappings one year to find a box of dog biscuits. "Do I need a box of Dog Biscuits?" I asked.
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"It’s not biscuits." She replied, before I started to look for the dog to go with them.
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Because the cellophane was sealed, I asked, "How did you get this open?”
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She just sat there beaming with Mom-gotcha pride.
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A few years back, I made what I considered a grand package attempt. Only because I believed I had my father's blessing. I bought one of those extra large balloons and a tank of helium. I gathered up some light-weight cording, a rattan ring, and one small basket. I wrangled up a few macrame knots, and attached the basket, and yes! Think Wizard of Oz. My little hot-air balloon held a stuffed kitty hugging an envelope with tickets to see one of the last performances of Cats. Oh, she loved the tickets. [And enjoyed the show!] But my grand effort went completely unacknowledged. I never tried again.
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That said, a couple of years later, I found these beautiful hand-blown glass butteryfly ponds. They came with a steel rod stake with a spiral base where the glass sat down inside. I bought one each for my sister and mother. I wrapped the stakes inside an emptied wrapping paper tube and the colored glass flower ponds in a separate box.
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On Christmas day, I gave my sister the long tube package, and my mother: Box No. 2. When my sister found the gift tag also included my mother, she called her over to open it together. They pulled the steel rods, with the spiral tops, free of their trappings and sat bewildered.
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When they looked over to me, I hummed, “Hum. There must be another box.”
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“Oh! That’s mean!” they declared.
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You’ve got to be kidding! I mused. “I learned this stuff from you people!” I said.
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My mother then searched for and they opened the other box. They marvelled at the glass and talked about where they could put them in their respective gardens. My brother-in-law sat quietly and said; in my direction, “Wait until next year!”
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O-o-o-o-o! If I had my boots on, I'd so be shakin'. NOT!
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2007
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With absolutely no money to spend last year, I had to depend entirely on my creativity and what lay stashed in my studio. My mother and sister were easy. A hand knit scarf for one [the wind blows hard and harsh during winter on a farm] and a hand beaded brocade bookmark for the other. For my brother-in-law? Though it took weeks to figure out, I remembered a treasure I alone knew existed.
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In 1974, after loosing her only other son [my grandfather died many years earlier], my father's mother decided to move out of her two and a half story house and into a much smaller single level ranch. It took weeks to sort through everything and left dozens of boxes piled up for future garage sales. Certain of things, though, were gifted to one family member or another. I received the small black King James Bible my father received, from his pastor, when only 5 years old.
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I had only to turn to the first page to read the hand-scribed passage I knew to be there:
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This book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this book.
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The old blotted-ink coffee-colored inscription was followed by the name of the church; my father's childhood name; and the date of 1935.
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It was fragile the day I accepted it, and read through it with great care. Thirty some years later, bits of the frail yellowed paper crumbled and fell away in my hand as I carefully flipped through the pages. The edges of the cover and binding were thread-bare, and the gold gilding from the words Holy Bible had long worn away. And each sewn section of pages threatened to separate from the next. I didn’t want to cause it further damage, so— I set it down and left it alone.
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I looked at it for days wondering how best to clean and restore it. When I picked it up the Saturday before Christmas, I knew exactly what to do and to whom it should now belong.
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My brother-in-law loved my father. He lost his own to leukaemia. When my father passed two years later, he not only lost a second father, he lost his very best of friends. I thought of this as returning a part of my father my brother-in-law never even knew.
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That morning, I cleared space on a worktable in my studio and collected a bowl of water, a pair of surgical gloves [from a first aid kit], a handful cotton tips, mineral oil, and a towel.
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I pulled on the gloves and began to dampen the first cotton tip. I worked very small areas at a time and then blotted with the towel. I laid the aged book to rest upon a clean sheet of printer paper. I used mineral oil next; repeating the same tedious process. The old leather-like cover drank it in. The oil helped to restore a little lustre and made the words Holy Bible (the gold gilding long worn away), stand out more.
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I clipped off the longer strands of tattered threads, but left the rest. I reglued sections of the cover that had split apart; along with where the end sheets were torn from the spine. I then laid the book down, lined up all the sections square, and left it to set and heal.
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Throughout I kept thinking, how am I going to wrap this?
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The following morning, I collected tissue paper and a few boxes. But, before I wrapped it, I cut a piece of mid-night blue organza ribbon. I sorted out various seed beads, threaded a needle, and beaded (encrusted) the top edge. I cut the bottom at a sharp angle and placed it inside the first page. I wanted the inscription to be the first thing he saw.
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As for the wrapping? In order to make sure I didn’t cause more damage, I needed to make sure (once wrapped) it wouldn’t move around. That meant I could use only one box. BUT! It didn’t mean it had to be the first box he sees.
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I rolled a piece of tissue paper and placed it under the edges so they wouldn't get turned under or bent, then wrapped tissue paper around the entire Bible. I secured it with a very narrow black grosgrain ribbon. I set it back down upon the printer paper to lift and set it inside an old Ralph Lauren perfume set box, i.e., the Bait-n-Switch begins! Then I stuffed it with tissue paper to insure it wouldn't slide around.
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Another thing to consider-- Pocket knives were standard issue Christmas Day implements. They were freshly sharpened and readied for any one who couldn't tackle the ribbon drawn up all on four sides or those tape-jobs that covered every point of entry; meant to keep you at bay for as long as possible. I would need to make sure my brother-in-law didn’t use of his pocket knife to cut the ribbon; so as not strain the precious little book. Wrapping the box took a little longer since I didn't want to turn the package upside down.
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Once wrapped it was time for the traditional cryptic message, which I wrote inside a fancy die-cut card and sealed it in an envelope; with the subsequent boldly written message:
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THIS SIDE UP
HANDLE WITH CARE
FRAGILE! ~ FRAGILE!
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Now— On to the Bait-n-Switch!
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I made a very small envelope out of the same gift wrap and sealed the spare key to my car inside. I wrote the following verse inside another die-cut card:
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So sorry that these boxes
were nothing more than junk.
To find your real gift
you'll need this key to my trunk.
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The envelope with the key went inside this card, which I then slid into the matching envelope. That envelope went inside a larger manila envelope, which I placed inside a small gift box. I wrapped this box in gift wrap and tied it with ribbon. This package went inside another box, which I set into yet another box. Again, wrapped and then tied with a much larger bow. That’s a total of four boxes, four envelopes, two cryptic verses and one key to the trunk of my car.
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Christmas Day!
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That morning, I spread a fresh laundered sheet inside the trunk and secured the real gift and envelope; with the cautionary instructions. The other box and gifts, along with my homemade whipped cream and eggnog, sat up front as I drove to my sister’s house.
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After dinner my brother-in-law took his brother downstairs to shoot a few rounds of pool, while the rest of the family [that would be the females of the respective clans] passed out and opened presents. The lonely Bait-n-Switch remained under my sister’s tree.
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When everyone started to pack up and say their good-byes, my brother-in-law saw everyone to their cars. I sat around the table with my mother and sister, contemplating eggnog and more dessert. When he returned, I merely pointed him and then toward the tree. I pointed back to him and said, "That one’s yours!"
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He walked on into the family room. But when my mother and sister showed no interest in joining him, I remained seated, reluctantly, at the dinning room table.
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Though I watched him pick up the package, he turned to sit in an over-stuffed chair that had its back to me. I couldn’t even see as he opened it. [Remember that 'let down' my sister experienced?] I listened, but could not hear the first audible word. He suffered my trial in relative silence. Until— He rose and came back into the dining room, grabbed his coat, and mumbled something about, 'so many BOXES!' [not entirely sure there wasn't an expletive in there somemheres!] then headed through door to the garage.
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My sister whispered harshly, "I told you not to spend any money!"
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"I didn't." I replied.
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When I heard the door close behind him, I broke the conversation to relay, "I cannot stress enough how fragile this is. I would prefer that he open this box, here at the table. And, I don't want him using a pocket knife to cut the ribbon. Can you get a pair of scissors?"
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As she went for a pair of scissors, my mother remarked, "You should have told him how fragile it is."
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"Oh! He'll see that when he opens the trunk."
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"Are you sur..."
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I interrupted her to indicate, "Handle with care is printed loud and clear on the envelope.”
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When my brother-in-law returned, my sister told him where to sit and he quietly opened the next envelope. Though he read the card to himself, she took it from his hand and then read it aloud:
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Seventy two years ago
a now fragile page was signed,
and given to a father
of both yours and mine.
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"Hunnnf!" she mouthed thoughtfully; to no one in particular.
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She's clueless. Good! So was my mother who hovered quietly over my shoulder.
..
As he gingerly peeled away the wrapping paper and removed the lid bearing the designer logo, I stated, "I cannot stress enough, how careful you need to be with this."
..
I watched as he gingerly he removed the top layers of tissue paper which revealed the bundle tied with the grosgrain ribbon. He gently pulled out the rest of the tissue. Taking hold of the edges of the printer paper he pulled it free. My sister pushed the box away, handed him the scissors and told him, "You need to use these."
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He cut the ribbon and pulled the rest of the tissue away. "Wow! It's an old Bible.” Since he has a fondness for antiques he thought I'd just given him an old timey Bible.
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He lifted the bottom edge of the bookmark, opening to the pre-selected page and read the inscription and our father's name aloud.
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"I'd forgotten all about that." My mother said softly.
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The thoughtful look from my sister told me I couldn't have found it a better home. But, in the next moment, my brother-in-law picked up the key to my car, and announced he wanted to check the oil. On Christmas Day? He took off and remained gone far longer than it took read a dip stick and top off the oil.
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In his absence my mother said, "He'll find a very special place to put this." [As I knew he would.] She and my sister continued to relay where he puts all of his special and secret things.
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When he came back in, my sister followed him as he headed for their back room. She returned with a gift box of tea. "Yes, we're re-gifting this, but no one here drinks tea.” Then my brother-in-law walked up with a little gift bag of cookies and gift cards.
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I hadn’t needed anything more than they’d already given and maybe my package wasn’t all that grand. But I left their house knowing I did a very good thing. And whether it revives a cherished family tradition— who knows what this year will bring or whether someone will choose to retaliate. At this writing, I no longer care. What's done is done and most likely belongs in the past; where some of the best of our memories live.
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THE END
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Friday, December 12, 2008

My Seasonal Prayer

I wish for all
a wonderful holiday season
filled with peace, joy, and
the bountiful love of family and dear friends.
May you all know safe roads for your journeys
and may those far from home
find warm hearths upon their returns.
May the spirit of the season live on in all hearts.
And may the new year ahead
hold many blessings in store.
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Stop by tomorrow for My Christmas Story ~ A Family Tradition.

Blessings

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Editing Fibers

Oy! As Lynda would say. This upcoming Quill of the Heart post is giving me fits. The draft is currently around 1500 words, and though the numerous tangents are obvious, it's still missing certain fibers to complete the thread. And only just yesterday, I found a couple more sources from which to glean perspective, and a better focus of the matter behind the question I mean to pose. I am reminded that all things come in their proper time.
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While considering the subject matter for today's post here, my mind wandered to recent thoughts of shopping for and replacing my old carders. And there is was! What are carders you ask? And how could readying fibers for spinning have anything at all in common with writing?
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Organizing one's thoughts is a little like the preparation of wool into roving for the spinning of yarns. After washing, carding helps to remove any further impurities [i.e., sundry barnyard anomalies] from the raw fleece. It also combs out the tangles of the precious natural fibers. But in the end, the handspun yarn is only as good as the splices of roving.
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Communicating one's thoughts, the delivery of words—whether spoken or written— requires purposeful preparation. Editing, like carding, works to remove certain impurities and brings out the words best suited to task of relaying the echoes of one’s soul. For once an echo is set free, it can never again be caged.
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Hold on! Blue Jay is here, or-- [dashes (being a relative term these days) off to the window!]
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Okay, I'm back. I’m not always sure whether it’s the jay or a hawk out there. Especially when opening the door a few days back, to take out seed, I saw a small hawk fly into the pine, flutter about, and carry off a member of Clan Sparrow. I saw its little silhouette in the hawk's talons as the hawk flew across the street into the neighboring tree. It all happened so quick and I've yet to specifically indentify the species, but— I digress!
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Blue Jay found her way to my feeders recently, and dines daily among the squirrels, Clan Sparrow and the Mourning Doves. How apropos that she announced her arrival during the writing of this entry. Whether she comes to ensure I use my power properly, to remind me to embrace my talents and life to the fullest, or merely to partake of a seed or three, I welcome her as a royal guest.
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It's a cold, grey, and rainy day. And there's a nagging unfinished blog post that requires my attention; if I’m to see it to fruition. I've fibers to comb and roving to spin; thoughts to provoke and echoes to inspire.
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Blessings

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Recipe from Me to You

I'm working on a post for my Quill of the Heart blog, so today I thought I would offer up the recipe for that Sweet Potato Souffle. It's the long time favored dish of a local dinner theather, La Comedia, and it made the rounds at many a corporate holiday luncheon.
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For the best, optimum flavor-- do yourself a huge favor and don't skimp on the ingredients! DO NOT use canned sweet potatoes. Trust me on this; peal and cook them fresh. Use real vanilla extract [the best you can afford], butter [not margarine], milled cane sugar, sea salt, and eggs from free-range chickens. [rant]Keep it as organic, unprocessed, and free of growth hormones as possible. And please don't ruin it by topping it off with Cool Whip.[/rant]
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
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Potatoes:
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Cook the sweet potatoes and set aside. Blend together the following ingredients:
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...1 cup sugar
...2 eggs
...1/2 cup milk (half/half-for richer flavor)
...1/2 tsp. salt
...1/3 stick butter (melted)
...1 tsp. vanilla
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Add mixture to:
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...4 cups mashed sweet potatoes (in a large bowl)
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Pour into a buttered 9 x 12 baking dish.
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Topping:
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...1 cup brown sugar
...1/2 cup flour
...1/3 cup butter (melted)
...1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
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Crumble topping evenly over souffle mixture.

Place dish on middle rack. Bake (uncovered) for 35-40 minutes. Serve warm. [with or without homemade whipped cream]
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Blessings & Enjoy!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Partners in Marketing

Writing Tip of the Day: Dec. 7, 2008
Every book author (whether fiction or nonfiction)
needs to partner with their publisher to sell books.
Each author must create their own marketing efforts.
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I cannot emphasize my amazement enough, in regards to how much is expected of an author’s participation in initializing the marketing of their published work. It’s not just talent that writers must bring to the table, but their marketing skills as well. My fear is that I'll fall short in this area and my physical limitations will be seen as a hindrance. But, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
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First, I need to start looking at my writing as a job and not just what I do when I have time; when everything else is done and out of the way. I also need to look at marketing as part of the craft of writing. Where one goes the other simply follows. What time I carve out to write must also compete with the time allotted to market.
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Lastly, I’m devoting part of December to organizing my writing goals for 2009. Though it'll more than likely carry over into Jaunary [Christmas is nigh, so-- I've got to keep it real!], I’m readying my planners and To Do lists; updating my Wants & Needs; and pulling out my recent brainstorming Word docs. And, with this particular tip in mind, I recognized the one missing factor. Marketing is nowhere to be found. As of this post, that factor is now remedied.
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But first-- I believe I'm going to focus on getting something published! Well, before anything else, I truly need to focus on my health, or I'll accomplish nothing.
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[See my comment to Lea Schizas' question regarding Writing Habits]

Saturday, December 6, 2008

MIA, but-- On the Mend!

Photobucket I trust everyone had a good Thanksgiving dinner, and that it was spent among family and friends. Though my oven ended up on the fritz-- No Worries! I merely went ahead and cooked the sweet potatoes, prepared the soufflĂ© and topping, and cooked it once I got to my sister’s house. It's more like a dessert anyway, so it didn't interfere with her preparations and it baked while we ate dinner. I also took along some fresh made (all organic) whipped cream. After learning the true ingredients of Cool Whip--a family holiday staple [See: wired magazine: issue 15.05 Polysorbate 60 & Sorbitan Monostearate]--I vowed to never eat it again. So, I now take my own dessert topping to all holiday functions.
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And yes. As the lack of entries shows, I
admit to being out of action since my last post. When I last communicated my NaNo Stats, that break ended up much longer than I'd intended. And when I came back up here that night (and in the days that followed), to resume my effort, aside from the pain, I simply couldn’t concentrate! But-- I'm back. Well, sort of-- though, in a different kind of recovery mode.
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Earlier this week I had one of my regular follow up visits with my GP. After reading off a laundry list of issues, he said it was time to run a few tests. He had a technician draw blood and then sent me home. The initial blood work revealed I’m dehydrated. "You’re kidding!" I replied in disbelief when the medical assistant called to tell me to, "stop taking your PB meds and drink plenty of fluids."
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"I drink all kinds of liquids." I assured her.
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She indicated there was likely another cause, but wouldn't say anything further. Except that my GP wanted me back in straight away. That was Wednesday.
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Once in the examination room, the technician came in to draw more blood. And when my doctor finally walked in [to ease my burgeoning wonder], his first words were, "You’re in trouble!"
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Okaaay! Not my first choice of introductory words. And I admit I sat there agape; absolutely speechless. He then proceeded to explain the tests indicate a severe depletion of potassium. The numbers were such that it warranted another test to verify that they were indeed correct. He also stated my blood sugar was too low and mentioned the dreaded “D” word. When he asked if Diabetes ran in my family, fortunately, I was able to say it does not.
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The good news of the day? My thyroid is fine. Woo-hoo there!
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So. After doing my own research, Thursday, on the depletion of potassium and low blood sugar, the symptoms I’ve suffered of recent [i.e., that laundry list of complaints], now makes much more sense. I filled the prescription to supplement my potassium and am working to get myself back up to par. Though I'm still waiting for the results of the second round of tests, and further instructions from my GP, I feel better just knowing the foundation. The rest will come in time.
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That's it for now. More soon.
Blessings

Sunday, November 23, 2008

NaNo Day Twenty Three ~ It's Hopeless!

NaNo Stats: I haven't even hit 20K yet! [dismal & still counting]
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A friend stopped by Friday to help me with a few things around here. BUT! In order for the place to look respectable for company, I spent most of Thursday running the vacuum in the bedroom [where she helped me change out the bedskirt], and the upper landing. I managed to dust a little and then I crashed on the couch--in pain--for the rest of the evening. Early Friday morning, I started the entire process over in the living room.
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By the time she arrived late in the afternoon, I could barely move. She helped carry the 25# bag of bird seed and 21# bag of cat litter from the trunk of my car to their respective places inside. She also carried two tubs of yarn down from upstairs. I do my knitting when I'm in recovery mode. So, the better place to store it is in the closet under the stairs.
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She sat and visited for awhile, and we talked for about our families and how things are at work. When she left, I loaded up on the pain meds, crawled under the down comforter and fell asleep on the couch. I woke once when my girls pawed for their dinner, but I returned as quick as possible to the comfort of sleep.
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My entire body ached so bad Saturday, I physically felt ill. I tried to do a little work up here yesterday, but merely accomplished a blog post. I just couldn't sit here, much less stay focused. So, I gave in to another day of recovery.
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I'm feeling better today, but I need to take a break after posting this. BUT! I'll be back up here for more NaNoing. I've not given up!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What's Your Type?


While researching symbolism this morning [See SYMBOLIC MEANINGS], I found an interesting analysis site based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, (or MBTI), Typealizer.
I submitted my blogs for analysis and was not at all surprised by the results.
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Soul Echoes: soulechoes2.blogspot.com/
ISTP: The Mechanics
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The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts. The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.
These two both scored the same:
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Soul Echoes ~ Quill of the Heart: quilloftheheart.blogspot.com/
Diary of a Prisoner: theforbiddenworldchronicles.blogspot.com/
INTP: The Thinkers
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The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications. They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.
Throughout my 17 years in electronic publishing I’d taken the Myers-Briggs personality type test on three different occasions, and each time the results indicated I’m an INTP. [See: Wikipedia]
Extraversion/Introversion
Sensing/iNtuition
Thinking/Feeling
Judging/Perceiving

[Click here for a breakdown of the dichotomies. See also: Carl Jung for the psychology on which Myers-Briggs based their questionnaire.]

Though the company had obvious ulteriors for psycho-analyzing, my first experience came when the entire editorial department received the lengthy questionaire and everyone shared their results. It's an excellent team building exercise and helped us all to better understand our co-workers.
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I saw the same lengthy set of questions from a placement agency, as part of the company’s effort to prepare our quests for new jobs when those of us working the 12-24 month project received potential walking papers. This just happened to coincide with the current corporate reorganization. Yeah! It’s just fancy expression for layoffs. One among the many including, Downsizing, Rightsizing-- call it what you will. Fortunately, many of us ended up transferred to other editorial departments in the parent company.
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I took it a third and final time [albeit a much shorter version], while attending a company-sponsored career seminar. During open discussions, my comments were to the effect, ‘I KNEW it was more that just being different. There’s a category for me! But why did my family never know this?
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When you have time, visit Typealizer and have your blog analyzed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Resource List Pending

Writing Tip of the Day: Nov. 20, 2008
Always take the attitude of a learner in your writing
and be open to new insights from any source.
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I'm a proponent of learning being a never-ending process. The creative mind simply never knows when inspiration might strike, and is many times clueless of what source may ignite the flame. There is never a promise of where one ends up discovering that perfect tidbit of knowledge they didn't even know to look for, and I believe it important to share what I found of value with those who may otherwise never have sought it out.
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As stated in a previous post [Click here for: Lea's Rotating Disc Method], I'm going to include a Resource List in the side bar that most likely will not appear until after the first of the year. The idea simply hasn't found its proper place, yet, in the milieu of goal setting priorities.

A Woolly Resurrection?

NaNo Stats: 17,486 [dismal & counting---]
Photobucket While doing some research yesterday online, nope! It had absolutely nothing to do with ANY of my pending storylines, but I simply couldn't pass up the argument with an idiot that believes it's a good thing to clone and bring back the Woolly Mammoth! [See: Woolly Mammoth Resurrection, "Jurassic Park" Planned & Mammoth's genome pieced together] My Good God! Medicine can’t seem to even provide the masses with permenent cures to what ails us most, and we’re going to allow the repopulation of pre-historic mastodons? Did they not read or see Jurassic Park? You know, that line uttered by Jeff Goldblum's character, [paraphrased] 'just because we know a thing doesn't mean we should do a thing?'
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Africa is killing off the elephants because human beings can't control themselves and continue to leave them less and less territory in which to live. [See: South Africa to cull excess elephants ] And on the whole we’ve failed miserably as masters of the stewardship of this planet we call Earth. Who exactly is going to end up suffering most from the stupidity and arrogance of a handful of highly-educated minds who want the opportunity to better study them? What more do we truly need to know? And to what end? So that—well, providing they even survive the process and aren’t mentally challenged beyond pooping and pacing—it's easy enough to see their ultimate demise by helicopter tours. Ending up as head mounts on the proud and glorius walls of private or secluded retreats of wealthy Great White Hunters.
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There's my rant for the day. Exc-e-e-p-t! [extended rant]There’s a new movie coming out [no, I don’t remember the title], but the trailer shows a family (or friends?) sitting around the table while someone uses the word, “conversate.” Please, please, P-L-E-E-E-A-S-E tell me someone is going to correct him in the subsequent dialog! If I hear that word (along with “conversating”) in an immediate one-on-one conversation ONE MORE TIME— well, I simply cannot be held responsible for the carnage that is likely follow. Heaven help the soul that converses and evokes my rath![/extended rant]
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As you can determine above, yesterday's NaNo writing didn't proceed as planned. I ended up conversing at length, with my sister over the phone, about the upcoming holidays and family matters. Thanksgiving is going to be simple, but-- I did want to take my sweet potato souffle. I don't have the money to pay back my sister and brother-in-law for the new car battery and the groceries they brought to me during the Great Wind Storm of 2008, but I know he (and my mother) likes that dish. So, it's the least I can do. I may surprise them all with a quart of homemade pumpkin ice cream as well. No. They don't read my blogs, so they'll be none the wiser!
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I also spent some time sorting through some of my more recent digital photos of orbs. I'm working on an entry for Quill of the Heart, but I'll probably upload and share few more images on my Pearls of Wisdom site for the Thanksgiving update.
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All that aside, if I'm going to accomplish any writing other than this today, I'd best be off and get cracking!
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Blessings to All,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

NaNo Day Nineteen Word Count:

NaNo Stats: 17,486 [currently & holding: ---]
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COLD, COLD, COLD!!!! That’s the forecast for— well, they don’t really know how long it'll be before we warm back up. Meaning, the local weatherman stated last night we're running at least 10 degrees below normal for this time of year. That holds with my belief that the seasons are off. Even last week there were still too many trees holding on to most of their leaves. Fall is not quite over and Winter is simply too fast setting in. And, while I'm on the topic of weather, the morning and evening clouds [though not the first time] were an odd shade of red yesterday. And the sky in the east last night— I grew up with the old grammar school adage, "Red Sky at Night, Sailors Delight" —it was not that kind of red.
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On a much lighter and healing note, a friend circulated a link to the YouTube video of Many Voice and their performance at the Maumee Powwow in October. Raymond Roach, [born on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, SD & sitting in the plaid shirt] is the drumkeeper. I responded to his email first to say thank you for forwarding the link, and that it was nice to finally see Many Voice on YouTube, but second to relay how listening just made me feel good. The best medicine doesn't always come via the traditional prescription pad. I just wish the video ran the full length of the song. Enjoy! powwow2008
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Now, on to the business of writing. I visited Lea Schizas' blog again yesterday and want to share the following post: Lea's Rotating Disc Method. I already have it noted for my upcoming goal setting sessions. I can see the benefit and this may well remedy the dreaded Out of Sight, Out of Mind Syndrome.
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As I finished sharing Lea's recent post, I gave thought to setting up a Resource header on the side bar. I like the idea of sharing posts, articles, etc., that I've found helpful. Look for that soon.
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Okay, though it's another late start, I'm off to NaNo. My goal today is to hit 20K!
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Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NaNo Day Eighteen Word Count:

NaNo Stats: 17,027 words [@ approx. 8:35 p .m.]
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With the exception of a few cumulus clouds, Southern Ohio finally has a relatively clear blue sky this morning. We haven't seen the Sun shine in a few days. And, though it was only 30 some degrees outside, I had the window open for a little while. I like to have fresh air circulating in through the windows, so when I can the windows are open. Through that opened window, a Chickadee sang. And rather loudly I must say. Had it been closed I might otherwise have missed its voice, and I truly love to hear their song.
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We had a barely-discernable flurry of snow Sunday morning. But, we had a lake-effect dusting pretty much all day yesterday. There is something quite beautiful about the first snow of the season; a little like comfort food and the best of childhood memories. As an adult though, my favorite walks were when it snowed.
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I did a little online research last week for a new chair, here at my desk, and am going to risk my already shaken budget and order it. It has a padded headrest [something I was looking for!], it swivels [that means I won't have to totally rearrange my workspace], and a 'detached' foot rest [that's what bugged me about the recliner idea]. Just not sure if I can handle next month or will wait until after the holidays. Not that I have any money for Christmas!
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Okay, back to business. Yes, I’ve been somewhat MIA of late. The first week of NaNoWriMo took every bit of effort I had to stay in this seat, stay focused and concentrate. And, though I finished out the week ahead of my word count goal, I accomplished next to absolutely nothing else. It was writing, and then recovery mode. Fight fatigue, back to writing, stuck in recovery mode. A vicious circle to say the very least.
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So, I took last week to get done what I could around the house—which was much less than I would like, because EVERYTHING requires recovery! Enough about that. I will take it all as a lesson learned and will concentrate next month on how best to set and achieve my future writing goals.
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That said, I had a very good NaNo day, yesterday. Also my new Moist Heat Heating Pad came in last week and I put it to work. Though I didn't meet my 15K goal, neither did I to beat myself up over the matter. Reaching 50K now, at this late date, does indeed seem daunting. But, I hope to have another good day of writing and that means I need to get started.