A joke prompt to start off the month on April Fool’s Day! I’m hoping we get a great response. Lord knows we need a laugh these days.
I wish I could think of something humorous, but I’m terribly not spontaneous that way. Some people have told me I’m funny as in amusing, but also as in weird. I am amazed at naturally quick-witted people. I can’t tell jokes. I forget punchlines or worse – I start off with the punchline, and as you can imagine, its downhill from there.
If I’m in a conversation and something strikes me, I can be funny with an off the cuff flip answer of sarcasm or cynicism, double meanings, or a pun. Sometimes, I’ll break into a song, jingle, or tv program theme. Maybe it’s the result of watching too many musicals in my lifetime. Doesn’t everyone burst into song if the moment is right?
Try as I might, I can’t think of a joke right now, not even a corny “dad joke,” not even with help from Google!
I went through a phase when I was obsessed with old radio and tv comedy shows. I had to do my own research to compare if the acts were really funny or just the nostalgia that made them classics. It continues to amaze me that these entertainers can be so hilarious without spewing obscene graphic language. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that there are situations when only a powerful four-letter word will do, but sometimes I watch these stand-ups – male or female, and it seems they have no talent or imagination, so they go in for the shock value.
I still enjoy listening to George Burns and Gracie Allen, Red Skelton, and of course, the incomparable “I Love Lucy.” One of my all-time favorite comedy routines, though, is Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” They began performing it in the 1930s, and about 55 years later, in the 1980s and 90s, our local radio station WCCM would play it every year on the Opening Day of the baseball season. I’ve loved it ever since.
Thanks for doing the Discover Prompts this month. I hope it will help me get back on the saddle.
As some may have noticed, for the past several months, I’ve had a hard time getting back into a regular rhythm of writing and posting at “Self Censored.” I can write about why and where my energy is going, but the bottom line is I’m trying to figure out where I want to go with this blog. This ambivalence makes it easy for so many other things to get in the way.
For example, while I’m on a roll and in the groove at the computer today, Eliza – my furry baby girl jumps on my lap because she wants to go out. I put her down, but she gets back up and desperately tries to get my attention by licking my face. Naturally, I stop and go out for a while as she examines all the spots she missed the last time we were out. Needless to say, when we get back, she needs a snack to reward her for doing her business outside, and while I’m at it, I decide to warm up the pumpkin muffin that is still waiting in the fridge.
Let’s get back to why I’m here today. I want to change things up a bit on my blog. I’m thinking about changing the layout, title, and domain name. I’ve been working on WordPress.com, but I’ve been recommended to try WordPress.org because it has more flexibility. As I’m mulling ideas about the nuts and bolts, I’ve also been thinking about my content. Is the “About” page still accurate? Are my goals the same? Is my motivation the same? Who I’m writing for? Maybe I don’t want to be censored anymore.
The idea for change came one day as I was at the library working on “collection maintenance” (re-shelving books, straightening up and making the place look presentable). That day I found a little book called “Why We Write. Twenty Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do.” By Meridith Maran. I tend to be a wee bit superstitious and thought to myself, “Hmmm, maybe this is the insight I need right now.” Truth be told, the book did turn out to be encouraging and stimulating. Of course, there was the usual advice from well know authors about perseverance and dealing with rejection, but it was the similarities to my thought process that inspired me.
Like myself, many of the authors included in the book found reading and writing as an emotional outlet early on. I’ve been journaling since I was a kid. I had poems and prose entered in my school papers and yearbooks since middle school. At one point, I thought I would make journalism a career. A friend and I fantasied as kids about working on projects together. He’d be a famous photojournalist, and I’d be the writer. Ahhh youth….
In the book, I found some authors began writing to explain or to make sense of the changing world around them – first to themselves and then to connect with others with the same uneasiness in spirit. They described taking ordinary moments from one’s particular point of view, “freeze-dry” the moment to let the reader “add water,” connect with the notion and make it their own. As I read, I could hear that voice of affirmation and validation in my head.
It was from this book that I decided to write fantasy or magical realism instead of continuing with the short stories and snapshots of my memories. It was with this new project in mind that I started connecting with co-workers in the Nanowrimo model. But alas, here I am reaching the end of November but still quite far from finishing a novel or novelette or whatever. I do however have a better idea of what I want to write, how, and most importantly why. I’ve done some research to move my story and characters forward, and I count that as progress. I see my finished project as a female version of Santiago the Spanish Shepard looking for The Alchemist, meets King Arthur’s Merlin at The Shack with Mack. Wish me luck!
As for you, keep writing. I check in to the blogs I follow and get inspired. I enjoy getting updates, reading your stories, and delight in how creatively you let your voices be heard.
In my life, the summer months bring anniversaries filled with memories of lessons learned, loved ones who have passed or chosen to move away. I celebrate the lessons learned by remembering a friend who taught me that you have to take a chance and savor the moment because you don’t know if or when the opportunity may come again. I celebrate my Mom, who will forever be a part of me. I send a virtual package of loving vibes to family far away in celebration of life.
This month, I’ve enjoyed getting into my fantasy fiction piece and taking a break. I’m totally appreciating the fact that it’s not an actual event or a true story. I feel it gives me a bit more license to explore other themes or enter other realms. The story that I’m working on had been floating in my head for years, and I wondered how I would bring it to life. As is true to much of my other writing, this story started with a snapshot of a memory. A seemingly insignificant incident has blossomed into a fantastic account of what could be if we were to believe in alternative truths. In our current society, we cringe at the words “alternative truths.” There is a dark side to an “alternative truth,” but I want to make this one fun, positive and thoughtful.
I have been encouraged to put extra energy into this project after a writer friend from work, reserved a small virtual cabin at CampNaNoWriMo 2019. Three of us share this cabin, which I believe, sits next to a beautiful, clear lake in the woods where there are no mosquitos or snakes, and the temperature is never above 75 degrees – even during a Florida summer. The virtual campground seems endless, and along with countless other campers, we each pick out a time and a place that best suits our creativity.
At registration, we were asked to identify our favorite camp activity. My first inclination was to respond that what I like most about cyber camping is sleeping in my own bed and not in a sleeping bag on the ground. I won’t have to worry that night critters are trying to get in my tent. I conceded, however, that I enjoy singing campy songs around the fire and walking on trails to take in all the sights and sounds of the forest. To get inspiration, I sit out on the imaginary porch with a glass of iced tea or climb into my hammock and start swinging to get into the rhythm of my story – all in my head, of course, just a warm-up.
I’ve written before that I like letting my imagination explore beyond the edge of reality. I’m looking forward to discovering where this story will take me. So far, it’s been fun, gathering unusual individuals who coincidently have some characteristics of people who have crossed my path or shared valuable lessons in different stages of my life. I’m working on telling the story in a way that has a message while still being amusing, sensational, and unpredictable.
Next installment coming soon.
Photos are my own; taken with my phone on recent walks. I find them a bit odd or surreal but inspirational for my story.
I joined a new book club because I like to read and discuss books with likeminded people. A book club offers the opportunity to explore books and authors that wouldn’t otherwise catch my attention, and I was glad to find this one through my local writers’ group. The club’s focus is Twentieth Century Classics from a writer’s perspective. This month’s pick was “Quartet in Autumn” by Barbara Pym.
I have been writing and making up stories all my life, but it has been within the past few months that I’ve decided to own the title of “writer,” or “unpublished writer” to be exact. It had been a while since I had participated in a book club group and I liked the idea of reviewing the book as a writer to determine what makes it a classic.
The author and her book
The author, Barbara Pym, introduced the Quartet, the four main characters, at a 1970’s London office where they create an ensemble of unremarkable and unmarried middle-aged office clerks waiting to retire. Working together for many years, they develop a vague relationship bordering on friendship, but the characters, accustomed to living alone, can’t imagine crossing the line from co-workers to friends. The book has moments of British humor and elements of surprise.
I had never heard of Barbara Pym. As I began to enjoy the story, I looked her up to see what else she’d written. It turns out she has quite a following, and she often is compared to Jane Austen. There is even a Barbara Pym Society. While her writing has similarities to Austen’s stories of everyday English life, one book critic in a 2015 New Yorker article points out that Pym’s novels don’t have the fanciful happening ending. In “Quartet in Autumn” however, the story of these unassuming characters leaves one with this message from Letty Crowe: “But at least it made one realize that life still held infinite possibilities for change.”
How it relates
I liked the book from the beginning and considered it a page-turner as I read with anticipation trying to guess how the writer was going to play out the lives of the low-key characters in the story. You may have noticed that my tagline “Verbal Snapshots of a Simple Life.” That is precisely what caught my attention about “Quartet in Autumn.” It triggered an interest in more books by Barbara Pym especially after I read critics describe her work as “comfort food.” That’s precisely the feeling I would like to create in my writings. The book speaks to my conviction to treat each person with kindness because I don’t know what they struggle with in their life. Her stories focus on people doing mundane things, as everyone does in real life. If we take the time, we can notice that each person has a story and as I’ve learned, each person is the star of their own movie.
Six people besides me attended the book club meeting; three didn’t like the book at all, one was lukewarm, and the woman who recommended the book is a member of the Barbara Pym Society. Discussing books in such groups highlights the power or magic of the written word. It reminds us that how we receive a book or a story depends on where we are in our own lives. Is the writer tapping into a universal truth? Can the reader identify with the characters, why or why not? Is there anything familiar in the storyline such as time, place, occupation, relationship or social nuance?
For example, half the group thought the main characters were mere “blobs.” They saw the characters as grey people in a dark room and read the book with no expectation that it was going to offer anything more. Their final synopsis was that the novel was boring and depressing. I think however that the author’s intention was just the opposite. I think she wanted to show that we adapt to changes in our lives and find unexpected opportunities where we thought there were none. Sometimes life forces us to find alternatives to suit our personal evolution.
Writing style and expectations
It is not surprising those folks that found the book boring appeared to be of the mind that an adventure is around every corner and if it’s not there, one is obligated to find it. Fortunately, not every writer is a Hemmingway or in need an adrenaline rush to make life appear worthwhile. I tend to enjoy finding treasure in simple things. I don’t mind a quiet walk in the mornings. I do enjoy exploring and experiencing new adventures, but I am content with living a simple life where each day may or may not bring new opportunities for drama or swashbuckling pirates for example.
In the interpretation of the book, beyond the printed word, one realizes that the people portrayed in the story are not monochrome at all; they all have a particular story, and their backstory brought them to where they are in the present. The characters dreamed of different plans for their life. They didn’t envision themselves in a backroom office waiting to retire, but life happens, and they made it work for them. Even at this stage of life, they found as long as one has breath, it’s never too late to change course, and make a difference one person at a time. That is a message that I want to send in my writing as well.
I would recommend this book to curious minds like myself, willing to discover what’s beyond that which you expect to see. I would challenge the reader to see the value and worth in others that may not be like you but have a place in your world. Take a good look at the people in your neighborhood such as the clerk at the deli counter, the valet at the parking lot, or the maintenance man in your building. Say good morning, thank you or I appreciate your service. It means I see you; I recognize the humanness in you is the same as it is in me. I believe if we can regain that human connection we make the world better one person at a time.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my book review. I’m planning to continue to share my impressions and let you know what I’ve learned from these great writers. It will be my turn soon to pick three classics for the book club to choose. We have a list, but I’d like to hear your recommendations. Thanks for stopping by.
The task for this assignment was to “mine” material, or story ideas from the web, old drafts, social media, etc. the inspiration came at me from Discover on Reader. The post is https://integratedschools.org/2018/05/30/the-problem-with-great-schools/comment-page-1/?blogsub=confirming#blog_subscription-6 Author Ali McKay from Integrated Schools.org, wrote an article which addressed questions that had been on my mind for some time. I understood the piece was encouraging parents to look beyond the numbers published by the GreatSchools.org rating systems. She explained that based on her own experience, she was pleasantly surprised that although the school she chose for her family was not in the top percentile, the school has been a good match for her children of different ages and skill level. The system does not give a complete picture of whether or not that school is a good fit for your child as it doesn’t take into account other tangibles such as the human factor. Ms. Mckay also notes there appears to be a correlation between racial percentages and the number indicators. The author notes that GreatSchools’ president, Mathew Nelson, encourages parents to visit the school and talk to parents in the community before making the decision that’s right for them. Where I come from that is called CYA on the part of Mr. Nelson. Check out the article attached for more.
There are many aspects of the public education debate that cause me to have concerns. As I was doing additional research to substantiate my post, I went down the proverbial rabbit hole. I found more unsettling articles about where our political leaders are taking public education, and as I have said before, these problems did not start with the 2016 elections but at least back to the Reagan area. I decided to leave a good portion of my findings to dole out in smaller increments and will publish them over the summer.
Questions about the future of public education have been swirling in my head for decades; since I sat on School Improvement and Education Reform meetings when my own kids were in school. However, now that I have a granddaughter who just finished Kindergarten in a Public School system this year, I’m forced to look at the question that I’ve been avoiding – “now what?” On a personal level, we are grateful that she had an uneventful year, considering that active shooter drills are now part of the school experience. Some liken them to fire drills or duck and cover drills in my era – but not quite. She’s a bright, resourceful and caring child but she is not a fan of going to school because she hates just sitting around for long hours (paraphrasing). She enjoys learning, and her parents make sure she and her sister have plenty of resources at home to complement their education.
The school, my granddaughter, attended last year was about a couple of miles from her home and was rated an overall 7 and 8 for test scores by GreatSchools.org. According to the report on the site, the student body is 85% white, 4% mixed race/ethnicity, 3% black and 12% are considered low-income families. For the most part, her parents heard good things about the school and yet at the beginning of the school year, they worried about the choice to send her public schools. Both parents are college grads, volunteer on a once or twice a month on a regular basis. They find the administrative support staff is pleasant and the teachers that they have encountered seem interested in the success of the students. The school has one principal, no assistant, and one counselor hour for every one hundred students. There is one nurse and one art teacher that come to the school two days a week and work at another school two days a week. They have a resource room to watch pre-recorded lessons, a library and they have a computer room. It appears that this school’s focus is teaching to test scores.
By comparison, a friend of the family has children in public schools within the city limits approximately ten miles from the other school. On GreatSchools.org that school has an overall rating of 5 and for test scores a 6. The student body makes up is 43% white, 36% black, 10% mixed ethnic/race, 67% low-income families. Both parents also college grads and both parents also volunteer in the school. The school has a more interactive educational approach and a fine arts and recreation program which include music and art lessons after school. The kids seem to have a more enjoyable experience, but l may be projecting.
When this family wanted to move, they tried to find an affordable house within that school district. With the fluctuation of the housing market, they did not find what they were looking for. The other option was to move out of the city limits, which would put the kids in the County’s School system and they could then apply for the School Choice Option. If accepted the parents had to pay fees comparable the city’s cost per child rate. On paper the idea sounds great, at least if they don’t live in the district, they can take still take advantage of the school’s programs, without using tax dollars. Keep in mind this is a “low rated” school.
I worked Real Estate for several years and more often than not, I would meet young families with corporate transfers who had researched schools online and would not consider anything outside of the recommendations of the school rating system, often these homes had bigger price tags. Interesting to note is that many of the ads on these sites are sponsors by real estate companies. Ali McKay’s article presents this as an example of modern segregation in today’s education system and consequently the Real Estate market.
To emphasize Ms. MacKay’s point about GreatSchools.org ratings, I found just by comparing these two schools; the score is not necessarily a reflection of how good or bad a school is. The school in the city with a more varied student body was rated 2 points lower than the other school. I find it ironic that the school with the better test scores and higher rating has limited resources in some essential areas. Is it that the school has not requested additional funds or it is overlooked in the budget because the school with the better scores has already tested well? What are we missing? What is the X factor?
Day Sixteen: Mine Your Own Material #everydayinspiration
Even though we have had severe weather warnings and plenty of rain, I decided to take the scenic route this afternoon. Rather than go a short ride up the Interstate, I decided to drive along the shore to one of the only beaches in the area where I can go with my Baby Girl. She’s not a fan of the beach or too much sun and heat. It doesn’t matter that she was just groomed and her hair is short. She hates getting her feet wet or walking for too long on the hardened sand that still manages to get in between her toes and stuck to her.
I have to excuse her; she is a mixed-breed, and her identified ancestral lineages were designed and destined to be lap dogs for royalty. She likes to play catch and tug-of-war, but she is perfectly content if she is cuddling with a human on the couch or in bed. I don’t usually take her to the beach, but if the weather is right, she doesn’t mind the outdoors and is happy to sit quietly with me to people watch.
We saw the black clouds hanging in the sky at a distance as we crossed the bridge to the island. It’s always a treat to look over the bay and inlets as we drive over. We noticed that water was starting to accumulate on some of the front lawns and gardens. I was wondering if any streets were going to be a problem, although it was probably too soon for any roads to be underwater. I was hoping we were driving just behind the rainstorm so that we could stop in at the beach and sit for a bit. We opened the windows to smell the ocean air and minimize the wet-dog smell.
The beach was gray today. On the far end of the shore, the clouds parted to let the sun peek through, but here the sky and the water, even the sand took on the gray tinge. The wind was steady and strong; it seemed to have rummaged through the depths of the sea to bring up the pungent smells of musty seaweed and briny marine life. My Baby Girl didn’t like that either; she squinted her eyes when the wind picked up around her and sniffed the air. Not far away another dog barked excitedly when he saw her, but she prefers to play with people. She looked up but ignored him and continued on her way examining all the smells along the shoreline as we walked.
Except for the wind and crashing waves of the unusually turbulent surf, the beach was quiet. Snowbird season is over, lawn furniture was put away, and many houses looked vacant. There were people sprinkled about on blankets and a few walkers near the water. There was not the usual laughter, the noisy buzzing of conversations or music playing. A group of young people talked among themselves trying to decide if it was worth it to put up the volleyball net. They seemed to have decided it was. Baby Girl and I sat on a bench for a little bit longer but she was getting restless, and it was getting late. We could hear the traffic start to form on the road, so we packed our things and headed home.
Day Ten: Let the Scene Write Itself #everydayinspiration Please remember that I am looking for ideas for my assignment #15. What do you think I should write about and how? Add a comment to this post or go to Contact Me at the top of the page. Thanks, much appreciated.
I admit that it seems that since I started writing a couple of months ago, I’ve done nothing else. I’ve taken courses at Blogging U and joined a twenty-six-day writing challenge, all with the sole purpose to get me to write every day. Between writing, editing and reading other blogs, this has become my life. I do get out to socialize a bit or to club meetings, and of course to spend time with family but I have been extremely pre-occupied; afraid to fall off the writing wagon again.
Over the past few days, I have been giving thought to structuring my days differently to make room for things I enjoy. I know daily posting is not something I can sustain indefinitely. I have great sensory awareness; I write best when I am directly affected by life around me. I need to get out to experience different things first hand. I need the smells, the visuals, the sounds to transport me to another time and place when I write. I like to feel a connection to a story.
I know I need to get back to the walks on the beach in the early morning where I can stop to watch the pelicans fishing. Getting back to yoga and the gym would be nice for health reasons. I also want to laugh with friends at karaoke or a comedy club or a movie. I’d like to people watch at outdoor festivals while listening to a cover band. I like to dance like no one is watching, think Elaine Benes on Seinfeld. I am aware that I need to live to write about life. A personal challenge for me in a new city is to get out there, “just do it.”
P. S.- Please remember that I need I ideas from my readers for my Day Fifteen assignment. Please let me know what you think I should write about. What type of post would you like to see me write; poem, an essay? Is there a particular topic you would like me to address? Please share your ideas in the comment section of this post, or you can go to my Contact Me page. https://rosalind.life/contact-me/
I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for your help.
Day Nine: Writing and Not Writing #everydayinspiration
“I can’t decide if procrastination kills creativity or is essential to it.” Grant Snider@grantdraws Twitter
Today is the test. Has procrastination murdered my creativity? I’ve been putting off completing this assignment all day. I don’t know why, but maybe the very essence of the word procrastination is enough to make me fall off the wagon. I think I’m doing pretty well since I decided to make my blog a priority. I knew keeping up with a consistent writing routine was going to be a test of dedication to my craft. I’ve joined Writing Challenges and participated in courses at Blogging U just to make sure that something would stimulate me or hold me accountable to get to the computer to write.
In the past, when a project was due, I was one that pondered, ruminated and at the final hour moved forward with all my might to catch up. I have found though that if I have a thought, an idea or an inspiration, I need to grab it and run with it at that moment. If the sentiment passes, it goes up like a cloud of smoke, and it’s much harder to be creative because one can’t force the arts. I can understand when someone cries that the muse is gone and with it the intention to be fresh and original.
I’ve said before that I have learned that I am a binge writer as explained by Kara Daly from Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog. https://brevity.wordpress.com/2018/03/26/staying-out-of-the-headlights-on-finding-my-own-writing-process/. I need my imagination stirred; I need a catalyst to start churning ideas in my mind. When I feel it moving, thoughts start flowing, and I write; it may be poems, essays, sometimes it’s a story without end, and I need to find a wrap-up. Lately, I’ve been better about jotting the random thoughts that come about as well. I may not use all of the material that flows, but then I have something in the pipeline for when the muses don’t stop by.
In short to respond to the tweet by Grant Snider@grantdraws; Procrastination kills creativity for me because if I wait until the last minute, I am stressed and worried about the time. Procrastination may be alright in other areas but not when I want my creative juices flowing.
Please remember that I need your help too with ideas of what you want to see me write about for the final lessons. You can put suggestions in the comments section of this blog post or go to the Contact Me page on the menu section at the top of the page. Thanks.
Day Seven: Let Social Media Inspire You #everydayinspiration