Tailor-Made Dental Appointment?

Hi all. Hoping all my American friends enjoyed the extended, Independence Day weekend, and that everyone else got to do something productive, fun and/or relaxing too.

Today I’d like to dedicate to my dad, gone twenty years on this date. Rather than get into something long-winded, I figured I’d share a little episode from back in the day when my dad was still here. (If you’re into reading tributes, feel free to access his here, written two years back.)

I am a crafter. I love making pretty things! Back in my hospital-working days, I loved splinting, too. Always found it so cool to take a flat piece of plastic and custom-mold it into an object of healing.

I’ve painted, made photo albums, frames, stenciled—just name it. (Yes, writing absolutely counts. Writing a scene makes me so happy: taking a blank screen and giving it sight, sound, taste, smell. People talking, living, etc, all b/c of a thought or idea that took on life via how words are combined.)

Just recently, I tried my hand at a very simple quilt.

Quilt (front)  05-2014  Made my own binding! (Raise your hand if you love YouTube. 🙂 )

Assembling the pieces with pins reminded me of a time I took my dad to the dentist. (You’ll get the connection very soon, I promise.)

Quilt (back) 5-2014 This is the flip-side. LOVED this simple fabric!

Long story short, the dentist started poking around in my dad’s mouth. After a while, he asked if my dad had worked as a tailor.

I was flumgubbered. “How on God’s earth could you know your patient’s occupation by looking into his mouth??”

Dentist went on to explain that tailors tend to put pins in their mouth, often when measuring clients for alterations. (I’d witnessed that action many times—do it myself every now and again, too.) Over time, the pins leave tiny scrapes on the enamel; these are visible to the dental expert’s eye.

Go figure!

Your turn: have you ever had someone guess at your (or someone else’s) profession, vocation, day job, etc) via some ridiculously seemingly unrelated clue?

Have a great week, friends!

Joanna

Keeping It Quick While Circling the Seasons

Hi all. School is back in session, making this a shorter, much busier week. All our snow days threw off the report card schedule, so things have to be done a li’l bit faster. (Annoying when you have to use the district’s network to get some work done. I’m not a fan of bringing the day job home, but I could have paced some stuff out. Just sayin’.)

Anyway, I’m a huge fan of spring and have been wanting to rerun my second-ever blog post for a while now.  Back in that day  I was ridiculously green and afraid to hit PUBLISH. Now you lovely, loyal faithful, who are kind enough to show up post after post, are subject to anything that comes through the fingers. Bless you. Bless you.

Rather than subject you to the whole post from May 2009, I decided to include here only the part that connects to writing, as well as to many things in life in general. I think of this often:

Several years ago my husband and I purchased a cottage about three hours away from my home. Built on an old Christian campground situated in the woods, we have access to it year round, but really use it only six months because the pipes supplying water are too superficial to not freeze during the winter months. This translates into having running water from mid-April through mid-October, which means during our travels we get to watch nature as it moves through three seasons.

Summer is always gorgeous but pretty consistent in its green. Fall is positively glorious in its array of golds, oranges, browns, reds, maroons, yellows and even some shades of purple. Spring is traditionally known for its pinks, lilacs and paler greens. What caught my attention, however, on one of our spring trips out there, were the very, very early spring colors. I was surprised at how many paler versions of fall colors I saw.

That took my thoughts in a totally different direction, to a workshop given by Jane Porter. She opened her talk by stating that the beginning of a book should always point to the ending. Some books are absolutely blatant in that. Peruse the opening of Phillippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl as an excellent example of such. And everywhere in nature I happen to look, I see other ready illustrations, ranging from as relatively simple as the life cycle of a leaf to as complex as the stages of a human life.

Okay. ‘Nuf said on that. Thank you for indulging me.

Just for fun, here are links to two great photos I came across this week:

Love this one!  (Cat and/or animal lovers will too. Too cute!)

For the tennis fans. (It’s not Rafa. But it’s a great photo just the same, lol.)

A final aside: I’m excited to be presenting on point-of-view to a teacher-friend’s fifth graders this Friday. Wish me luck!

Have a great one, folks.

Joanna

Guests Bloggers at The Write Practice Inspire!

Happy Tuesday, everyone,

And a happy birthday shout-out to my daughter-from-another-mother. Older Son’s girlfriend turned the big 1-7 yesterday. (This post was supposed to go live on Monday, but I forgot to click the SCHEDULE button after I set the date.)  She’s been around four years already, something I still can’t believe sometimes. Luckily, she’s a very nice young lady and there is no real drama between them.

I’m always  a bit sad watching an Olympic flame go down. Being a lover of athletic ability in so many forms—especially since God did not put superstar status coordination into this writer girl—I  so enjoy living vicariously watching the grace and power of those who are. (I get to the tennis courts whenever I can. Luckily, I can hit a few good flat shots–I so can’t do any spin on the ball–and let’s not talk serve.)

I will NOT  miss listening to the rather biased coverage and talk involving American-Russian rivalry re: medal counts, hockey games, etc. That’s just not me, and the Olympics is a place where the world supposedly comes together, right? (Just sayin’…)

Sochiolympicflame

Image credit: Flickr via Wikimedia Commons (Pretty sure I did this properly. Feel free to let me know in the comments or privately if I didn’t. Thnx!)

Having my life back from the TV is always nice (barring Law & Order SVU re-runs—those suck me in almost every time; Modern Family is starting to get me too and I just walked away from auditions for The Voice). Indian Wells, the ‘fifth slam’ of tennis starts March 6th…Dancing with the Stars is about four weeks away… There goes Monday night…again.

Back on track: I haven’t written about writing for a while, nor do I plan to now. What???

I did, however, come across a couple of great posts from The Write Practice, to whose posts I subscribe. I recently moved from lurker to commenter/participant and am finding a very supportive community. (Writers can be like that, cheering each other on, helping each other out, paying it forward…you know.)

In lieu of musings by me, I figured I’d share an exercise prompted by this post, Let Me Be Your Muse. Writer/blogger Joy Collado of the Phillipines suggests I do nothing but write in response to what my character(s) have to say about their feelings relative to me and getting their stories into some kind of existence. Let me tell you, some of mine are pretty dang frustrated, lol. Here is a very short excerpt of the fruits of that effort:

These are one of my POV character’s thoughts. She’s a tad annoyed waiting for me to get it together, to find a direction for her story, and to get things right between her and her hubby.

“So you’re letting me be the muse, huh? It’s about time you stopped trying to figure out my story and started committing to putting down something concrete about it.”

From there my character pretty much outlined her story and gave me a great framework to draw upon. My next step is to do the same with the other POV characters. I’m hoping I don’t choke myself (again!) with all the ideas that come from this kind of brainstorming. That’s what happens: I get overwhelmed with all the info and can’t seem to find a start point to make functional use of it.

Becca Puglisi‘s guest postPurging Your Writing Fear spoke to me too. From that I was inspired to jot down two key affirmations. Those are on my nightstand. I’m seriously considering fancying them up a bit and framing them, so that they’re that much more visible to me on the day to day.

Here is one of them: I am can and will make _____ and _____’s story into a viable suspense/romantic novel. (It’s that suspense part messing with me. New territory.)

So, what are your thoughts on these topics? Have you tried Joy’s technique or written down affirmations/goals the way Becca suggests? Do you feel it’s been helpful? If so, how and/or why?

Thanks and have a great day!

Joanna

Questions: Part of the Writer’s Make-Up

Hi all,

Hope all is well with all of you. I’m trying to stay consistent but no promises for now. Life has this loverly way of getting in the way while I make plans. Ever happen to any of you?

The other day I caught up with a post about asking questions from my good friend and author, Stacey Wilk. This article in particular sparked one of my longer-winded comment responses, which I figured would work nicely as a post of my own. Doing so also gave me an opportunity to point those of you interested to check out her li’l corner of the WWW.  She always brings up highly relatable topics of interest, and does better than I keeping her thoughts short and to the point. 🙂

Stacey talked about people misinterpreting the intent behind many of the questions she poses in the many settings she frequents. (Reading her post will give you a bit more background. She definitely got me thinking.)

MHO: asking questions is this writer’s nature. I want to have a first-hand account of information whenever possible, as I believe it lends authenticity to the situation in any story. And yes, people have looked at me strangely, ESPECIALLY when I was so focused on my question I didn’t think ahead to how the recipient might perceive the inquiry…

Case in point: I wanted to know about survivor benefits in the event a police officer is killed in the line of duty. AFTER I introduced myself to our school’s DARE officer as a writer, I went right for it. Don’t remember her answer, just the look on her face.

Another time, I queried a Yahoo! group about a fairly serious pediatric condition relative to one of my novel’s storylines. Not only did I get responses based from medical personnel who did this for a living, someone connected me to his daughter, who’s infant son had lived through this condition. (I’m an east coast girl; she hangs her hat at the Pacific end of the continent.) I spent a good 90 minutes on the phone with her, and took tons of notes. She even offered a photo  of her son from the recovery room, hooked up to tubes galore. Let me tell you, I believe there is authenticity in the related fictional write-up.

I have no plans to stop asking questions or looking up information. Person on the receiving end is free to NOT reply, and I typically preface my inquiry saying so. Nor do I know where my query will lead. I’m a firm believer in “the only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked.”

Anyway, thanks again, Stacey, for inspiring me in more ways than one. And as always, my gratitude to all of you who so kindly scare precious time to stop in, read, comment and/or share.  Words cannot express how appreciative I am.

Take care and have a great day and week,

Joanna

Post #300–Wow! How Did I Get Here? and THANK YOU!

Am I out of my mind? (Answers do not have to be recorded for my reading pleasure, thank you! ;))

Believe it or not–I certainly don’t–this is post #300! Had I been paying attention I probably would have gotten it up sooner.

Yes, friends, you’ve dealt with me for close to three years and 300 incidents of my musings, opinions, recipes and reflections (and surprisingly close to the three-year anniversary of my first post–so not planned). Every now and again, I’ve hopefully taught something, got you thinking, elicited a smile or chuckle or turned you on to a recipe you’ll use for years to come.

One could also hope I’ve created the desire for you to come back, despite the inconsistency of my posting at times, as well as the seemingly random subjects I’ve touched upon. I truly wish I had more time (and better focus and organizational skills) to really explore or chat about everything that interests me in some shape or form.

I THANK EACH OF YOU WITH ALL MY HEART for taking the time to visit and making me feel I am not alone here in cyberspace. (Giant hugs go out to those who comment regularly and to those of you who share my content.)

There are no words for how humbled one feels.

My sincerest gratitude,

Joanna

Risotto and the Hero’s Journey–Part 1

Happy Wednesday, all! I might have posted Monday had I not been so distraught over the Packers’ undoing by Colin Kaep–I mean, the 49ers (;D)–just kidding. Hey, I pulled for Packers but the better team won. Call me a front-runner (some man I’d never met before did in Wendy’s last week, AFTER he told me and my younger son to go incinerate our Giants’ jacket and hoodie–any wonder the man sat down alone to eat?), but I’ll watch the next 49ers game–awesome is as awesome does.

Let’s move on. Hope all is well and no one has the dreaded flu circulating the Boston area. Brings to mind author and online friend Carrie Rubin’s excellent debut novel, The Seneca Scourge. Crazy parallels going on with that story, which Carrie released earlier this year. If you’re interested, read my thoughts on it here. (But don’t forget to come back!)

What I adore about the internet is the connections one gets to make all over the globe. Should I ever make it to my Aussie cousins and the Australian Open Tennis Championships–Rafa Nadal pulled out so I figured I’d skip the trip this year ;)–I’ll make sure to look up today’s guest! I’ve been inspired by his posts: he challenges the hero in each of us to answer the calls life puts out there and be our very strongest. 

About the Author: James Stratford is an educator and author of numerous publications on the hero and international strategy. His blog, Beyond the Call, shares reflections on his own approach to  learning and personal development that are often inspired by the great hero ancient and modern stories. James is also a keen cyclist and traveler and a lover of great food – preferably all together. He lives with his wife and son in Melbourne, Australia. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Note: James has been terribly patient waiting for  me to finally get this post up–thanks, James. The floor is yours:

You’re probably wondering what risotto, the classic Italian rice dish, has to do with heroes. I can assure you, absolutely nothing.

Well almost nothing.

I realized the other day that it was almost twenty years ago exactly when I cooked risotto for the first time and when I first saw Joseph Campbell interviewed on the Power of Myth, thus starting my long relationship with the hero of myth and epic. I ended up devoting the next twenty years to researching one of the great ancient hero myths, Homer’s Iliad, which features the hero Achilles.

The hero myths stuck with me not merely because they’re wonderful stories, but because I’ve always found they resonate with whatever phase of life I’m in. I wrote about this in my book, Discover the Hero Within (published in Spanish as Descubre a tu heroe interior by Aguilar Fontanar–read an excerpt here). I’ve also found that the epic, and the hero’s journey generally, has held vital lessons which have inspired me and reminded me of the most resourceful strategies for living in the world and getting through some of the toughest times.

Eating and hospitality centered around the sharing of food have a subtle but important place in the journey of the hero. In the Iliad, meals take on a range of significance. When Achilles receives the embassy who have come to secure his return to battle, before any discussion takes place he instructs Patroklos to prepare food for his guests as an expression of xenia, or ‘guest-friendship’.

On the other hand, after the death of Patroklos, Achilles denies himself all food and is nourished by the gods who infuse him with nectar ambrosia. In the final and, many would say, the finest, book of the Iliad, Achilles graciously offers food and lodging to the old king, Priam, who has come to ransom the body of his son, Hektor, killed by Achilles in battle (in savage revenge for the death of Patroklos).

The sharing of food stands so simply and effectively as a ritual that embodies the natural order of the living. It is also symbolic of Achilles’ return to this world, not in a literal sense, but metaphorically as an agent of order rather than as a bringer of the chaos and death that characterize his grief-fueled return to battle. If you’re familiar with the Iliad, food has a similar significance in the closing stages of Book 1. When the Greeks appease the wrath of Apollo by returning Chryseis to her father, the troops bring closure to the episode by having a great feast and singing to the god. Order restored.

This is only a taste. If you read the Odyssey, eating plays an even more important role, and we see it used both properly by the venerable heroes of the Trojans and abused by the band of suitors who effectively hold Odysseus’ family under siege, and the infamous cyclops who turns Odysseus’ men into a meal.

But I don’t want to leave you on that grim image.

Rather I want to urge you to contemplate the significance of food on your journey:

the great meals you’ve shared; the satisfaction of eating simple foods after hard days in the bush, hiking or skiing or doing hard physical labour; great meals in foreign cities.

Then there are the real feasts, meals that we share to mark the most important days in our lives – marriage, birthdays, graduation.

Which ones stand out most and why?

I suspect that when you reflect on this you might find that while beautiful food is often central, what it’s really about are things like the nourishment of the spirit and the honouring of our relationships with one another. It’s no wonder food has such an important place in all the old cultures. It’s not much of an exaggeration to suggest that the sharing of food is really the axle around which our cultures function, all starting at the family meal.

We’ll stop here for today. Friday, James will share the his own special risotto recipe. Definitely a weekend undertaking, given the time and dedication James discusses for this particular dish’s preparation. In the meantime, we’d love for you to take a moment and talk about how food figures into your life and relationships, be it cooking, eating, socializing, celebrating–it’s your call. Go for it. And if you please, do take a moment to SHARE via one of the buttons below.

Thanks so much and see you Friday 🙂

Joanna

Reese’s Pieces Sundaes on a Saturday

Happy weekend, friends. Hope the first of 2012 is relaxing and joyful!

Today, I’m having some fun.

Sometimes you realize something ridiculously simple has memories attached to it that you’ll carry always. Hopefully, those make you smile.

That’s what a Reese’s Pieces sundae at Friendly’s does for me. Took my son there last night. Of course I asked for the smallest but the waitress told me it wasn’t worth it over their junior size. I’d just take home what I couldn’t finish, right?

Uh huh. My son and I were both scraping the sides of our cups but that’s neither here nor there. As I dove into my sundae—with extra peanut butter sauce, thank you very much—I realized I have very specific memories associated with that dessert.

The first ties to a friend with whom I am still in touch. Her daughter was two at the time and I was invited to tag along. Mom ordered the Reese’s Pieces sundae for her little girl, who dove under the table shouting, “Pieces!” every time one fell out. (Think they put a lot more candy into the dish then.)

Another time I ordered the junior version (three scoops of cookie dough) but wound up being handed the regular (five scoop) size. The waitress told me they’d charge me for the junior but suggested I keep the large since they’d probably toss it otherwise. I left one spoonful of ice cream in that bowl-on-a-pedestal.

 (www.friendlys.com)–the 5-scoop version :). Awesome, isn’t it?

I also recall a time I got one to go. Don’t ask why but I put that container at my feet directly under the heater on my side of the car. At home I pulled a container of cold soup into the freezer—I mean, if it were lousy after it refroze I could toss it then, right? Fast forward a few days: my best sundae ever. All those flavors came together in the most amazing way. (I still lick my lips thinking about it.)

Yes folks, I had to get in a post, lol, and meet that personal, two-blogs-a-week goal. It’s also Saturday and hopefully, a laid back day for many. (I’m blowing off the house and looking to sneak in two dates with hubby.)

Now how about some of you sharing a light and fun memory? Do you have a favorite dessert, or something you think about when engaged in a specific activity? (Like a teacher/coworker who, when I met her, told me, “I know you from the back!” Not my best side, I promise, but turns out she frequently drives past my house and often saw me working a small garden just outside my side gate.)

Did your memories make you smile? I certainly hope so. Take care and ttys next week!

Joanna

Coffee and Because I’m Slow On the Uptake

Hey friends and followers,

Happy final Friday of 2011! Can’t thank all of you enough for all the ways you’ve made this blog such a happy place for me. You may have contributed a post or a comment, told somebody else about it or simply clicked LIKE and/or FOLLOW; maybe you just read or happened by via search engine. No matter what, you’ve touched me whether you know it or not! Please know how precious you all are, whether I know you by name or not.

       

Now, since I forgot to announce this on Wednesday (that’s the ‘Slow on the Uptake’ part of the this post’s title–the ‘Coffee’ woke me up ;)), I’m inviting y’all to Calisa Rhose’s Chit-Chat space for a cup of virtual coffee and discussion on why sittin’ and chillin’ has gone wayside in today’s digitally-driven, insanely busy world. Plus, her first published historical romance, HOME, debuted this week, on her birthday. And being the kind soul she is, she reminded me (during her recent virtual visit here) that I celebrated NO MATTER WHY‘s second anniversary this month too.

So, if you can spare a few, come on down!

A safe and happy new year to all (though I’m thinking this is my 199th post–why not close out the year with Number 200?),

Lotsa luv,

Joanna

Faith and Angels–Part 1

Happy Tuesday everyone. I am a week behind when I originally planned on putting this one up. (Hope you found it worth the ‘wait.’ :)) The post is also a little longer than I would have liked, but the editing monster won’t let me cut it back any more so I broke it up into two parts. (Sorry, friends. God made me a chatty storyteller!)

Once upon a time I was a religious person. Not so sure about the dogma and discipline part, but I rarely lack for faith, primarily in a universal higher power I choose to call God. I try to practice many of the tenets taught by Jesus Christ. I also revel in the spirituality and peace-of-soul that comes to me via the philosophy and adoption (and adaptation to my unique needs) of the twelve steps.

Once upon a time, anxiety could get me up in the night, wreaking havoc with my mind while playing scary games with my heart. (During a particularly difficult period at my first hospital job, I’d go to sleep with music playing—crazy how I had to stop listening to Sting’s Nothing Like the Sun CD–after a few episodes of waking up in a stereotypical cold sweat and heart palpitations to  the cut Fragile. (Took me a long time to listen to that incredible song after that.)

This little recounting brings me back to my beliefs. I hold dearly to the idea that God gives me what I need exactly when I need it—not on my time, but on His—and yes, that may include an angel or two. (More on that in Thursday’s post.)

On one of those mornings when I was work-bound to that hospital where I felt I was losing my mind (I alluded to that time in this post), after one of those nights I’d awakened to Fragile, I remember tuning into a Christian radio station as I drove. I was immediately slammed with this Bible quote: “Do not be anxious about anything. But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

I did a double-take at the radio. Coincidence? Maybe. But that was exactly what I needed and I’ve often fallen back on that moment or spontaneously called upon those words too many times since.

That’s one example and possibly a reflection of the way I choose to see how things happen in my life. Just the other day I was fretting about this month’s bills when hubby tells me we got an Escrow refund and our mortgage is going down. (When is the last time that happened–and exactly in time to help fund a fairly large but unexpected car repair?) Hubby also found a way to lower our auto insurance without losing coverage. We got an ALDI market in our neighborhood and now there is $$ left after food shopping. Need I go on?)

Uh…yes, but I’m saving that for the next post! Stop in Thursday for part two!

In the meantime, I’d love to read about your experiences with how you got what you needed exactly when you needed it. Take the floor folks. It now belongs to you!

Joanna

Far-Reaching Words: Impact and Resonance

Hope all of you had a wonderful weekend. (They’re never long enough :)) Thought I’d share some thoughts appropriate to a PEM (Positive Energy Monday) to start off the week!

Not too long ago, within the space of two days, at least two people told me how different things I said to each one resonated with them.

One person went so far as to tell me I’d “saved her life” when I told her she might feel a certain (negatively-perceived) way about a given situation for the rest of her days. She felt that freed her, as if those words gave her permission to feel the way she still does this many years after the inciting string of incidents.

Another person was dealing in anxiety over another situation and talked to me a bit about it. She also was very clear about ‘not feeling ready’ to address the issue directly by taking certain suggested steps she knew—from her own experience—would be helpful. She said I asked her, “What do you want for your daughter?” For whatever reason, that simple question worked at her end.

Funny. Flattered as I was by both people I couldn’t pinpoint either occasion. Of course I was very glad someone was moved or touched by something I said.

This also brings me back to something I know I’ve shared here before, and frequently quote, when chatting with others who hold back. This applies to writing, interactions with others, etc.

I attended a workshop where multi-published author Jane Porter spoke. Ironically enough, what resonated with me tied into this very topic of touching others. I was sitting in the front row, close enough to see her eyes suddenly appear glassy-wet. Her voice turned very passionate as she told us to never underestimate the power of our words and who we might reach by putting them out there.

Makes me think too, of those occasions when I was on the receiving end of those types of comments. My favorite came from a playground mom whose daughters have frequently shared classes with both my sons since kindergarten.

We were talking about exercising and how to make time and/or stick to a routine. This woman stated her husband HAD to be out the door at six-thirty every morning or he wouldn’t make it to work on time. Since she was a stay-at-home mom whose husband worked long hours, she needed to get in her daily run in before he left for the day.

“I had to be back before my husband left for work. My shoes were next to the bed, and my feet were in them before my eyes were open.”

She told me that while we waited for our kids to exit school when our older ones were in third grade. That was six years ago and I think of her every time I’m not in the mood to reach for my sneakers. She motivated me to move then and still does. Whenever I get the chance, I remind her how her words impacted me.

The most powerful (and probably life-changing) thing someone said to me came from a coworker at my first job, someone close in age who is an occupational therapist too. He is Asian, brilliant and an excellent healthcare professional. During what was—to this day—the lowest time I ever experienced in a work setting, a time when I doubted every skill I ever had and was even asking for employment applications at the toll booth I drove through daily to get to my job site, this man saved my professional life.

That day, I was getting ready to change rotations and feeling as if I’d been demoted. Another co-worker and friend, who had only four months more experience than I was going from a first-level supervisory position to the next. Due to lack of confidence and resultant mistakes I made from being too nervous to even ask questions, I was lucky I had my job. (My director liked me.)

I was supposed to be giving report to this guy who would be taking over my outpatient cases. He waited until no one else was around and very quietly stated, “You have better skills. She just knows how to be organized and look better.”

I went into that new rotation with a different attitude. Very soon, I was in counseling and attended some groups where people with similar issues shared and networked. Within a few months I achieved a first-level supervisory position. Nine months after that, I left that hospital to take on a department of my own—a one-person show that I thoroughly enjoyed for the next five years. Interestingly enough, my first day in that new position I had to make a pair of splints that I’d goofed up terribly in my previous job—badly enough that my Asian friend was told to take over and make them for me.

In my new job, all I did was drape the material over the patient’s hands and let both those splints take shape on their own. First try was a perfect fit. Blew my mind how that skill was there; the right setting allowed it to simply flow. (Maybe a topic for another post?)

Your turn: how have you impacted someone and/or how have they impacted/inspired you?

Wishing everyone a wonderful day,

Joanna