Gratitude Challenge


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Unsubstantial fear seldom lingers long enough to take root in my mind and suck me into its clutches. Perhaps my eternal optimism makes me somewhat delusional in that I always strive for a positive outcome when faced with a negative situation. Some might caution that concerns about the aging process fall into the realism category rather than just an apparition. As I near the age of collecting social security, the search for a balance between the two worlds becomes more difficult.

While the days of scheduled doses of meds for high blood pressure remain at arms length, wrestling with uncle Arthur (aka: arthritis) has become all too familiar. During one of my restless nights of trying to find a position that did not apply pressure to an unhappy hip or knee, which is nearly impossible if you sleep on your side, my mind began to slip into a dark abyss. Abhorring the notion of getting back up to take something for the pain, I began searching for an alternative distraction. Prayer often serves as my relief and after a few decades of the Rosary, I eventually squirmed myself into an acceptable shape with the use of extra pillows and a little luck.

As I mentally traveled some of the by-ways in my journey, I wondered if I could somehow avoid the daily use of pills by pre-medicating with gratitude. Could Philosophical Schools of Thought delay the inevitable aches that accompany the Golden Years? And with that in mind, I challenged myself to write at least one good fortune each day, for at least a month, and see if it made a difference. Even if it doesn’t aide in warding off the need to swallow an Aleve now and then, the resulting list of blessings might come in handy when (or if) I become physically or mentally challenged and need an affirmation of the prosperity I have enjoyed for so long.

And so began the month of August. With pen in hand, I began testing my inspirational hypothesis.

August 1: Today I’m thankful for more than 22,000 days of exceptionally good health. So many others have been challenged from birth, yet for some reason, I have been one of the lucky ones. Short of a broken wrist and irritated gall bladder, my visits to the doctor have been few and far between. Meanwhile, my volunteer hospice visits warn me how fortunate I have been. Even my worst day does not compare with what others are experiencing.

August 2: I joke about the challenges of being together with my spouse 24/7. Seems we’re glued at the hip. Reality is, I am blessed to share my retired years with my caring and playful partner. Just last year, three of my dear friends buried their husbands, leaving them to struggle alone. Everyday household chores, decisions and adjustments to finances create new hurdles for them to overcome, besides the silence of an empty home and the loss of a faithful friend with whom to share their thoughts. My heart aches for each of them and watching their struggles deepens my appreciation for the gift of being married nearly 42 years.

August 3: Bright morning rays pour through my bedroom window long before I’m ready to rise each morning. A room-darkening shade could take care of that, but the greeting serves as a reminder that my eyesight allows me to revere a sunrise at my choosing. A world void of masterfully detailed butterflies, brilliantly perfect flowers and warm precious smiles would be difficult to endure. DSCN0372Fall Bouquet

August 4: Mother’s don’t get much better than the one who raised and nurtured me. She would have been 85 today and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her unselfish ways. Tears still fill my eyes with each memory, yet, I strive to celebrate the 82 years she spent with our family, and not dwell on the years she has been gone. Mom and PumpkinsHappy Birthday Mom. Miss you bunches.

I’ll continue to share my thoughts through my blog as the month progresses. Why not join me in my gratitude challenge and share some of your thoughts.

No blood and guts, please


I confess. I have never read the Twilight series http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/twilightseries.html. My remote control would never stop on a channel airing The Vampire Diaries http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/twilightseries.html. I’d rather go to the dentist than be forced to watch a blood and guts movie.

The ability to create fantasy escapes me. In fact, I have a difficult time closing my eyes and imagining that I am someplace I’m not. Perhaps my DNA makeup does not include much of the imagination gene.

My interests focus on real life stories, not the reality shows aired on television today, but the slice of life stories of everyday people. Humor often serves as my crutch in difficult times and I make light of challenging situations rather than defer to the martyr syndrome, as evident in my book, Peaks and Valleys http://www.amazon.com/Peaks-Valleys-Mrs-Diane-How/dp/0967490170.

While my imagination may be limited, I still love to write and my dream is to write other people’s stories. I firmly believe everyone has a story, although I find most people think no one would be interested in hearing about his or her life.

It doesn’t require imagination to write someone’s life review. It does take time to listen and ask open-ended questions and it takes honesty by the person who is sharing their story. The end product can serve as a legacy for younger generations who will someday want to know about their ancestors’ journey.

The Missouri Humanities Council and Warriors Arts Alliance http://www.mohumanities.org/proud-to-be-writing-by-american-warriors/ recognized that the unembellished stories and poems written by veterans do not need props or imaginary characters to be worthy of inclusion in their anthology of remarkable and inspiring stories. In fact, they currently are accepting admissions for their next book.

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At a recent writers meeting http://www.saturdaywriters.org/, I listened while four American veterans read excerpts from the recently published book Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors. Their tales brought tears to my eyes and stirred intense feelings from years of reading similar letters while working for the Department of the Army.

Although the painful process of writing the story reflected in the quiver of each voice as the scripted words were read, there was a therapeutic benefit for each of the veterans. Each shared his reason for having done so during the question and answers period that followed.

Having listened to the veteran’s stories, I realized that not all writer’s need to have a vivid imagination. While my reading material and viewing time is limited to less imaginative works, there are many possibilities for me to suceed in my writing efforts.

How about you? Do fanciful characters dance in your head? What stirs you to pick up paper and pen and write?

Rock, Paper, Laptop


hieroglyphicsYellow PadsLaptopComputer

Ancient Egyptian writers depended upon chisels and stone as the medium for their hieroglyphics. I’m sure many of them embraced the advances in technology that introduced other resources for their passions. Yet, I imagine there were some who struggled to move forward gleefully.

There was a time when pads of yellow paper graced nearly every table top of our home, patiently waiting for any random thoughts of gibberish to find its way onto a meticulously clean surface. With my companions, a smooth writing pen and lined paper, I delight in sitting cross-legged on my couch or out on the deck, scribbling away with the security of knowing I can rip off a page, crumble it and have a clean slate ready for my next attempt.

Much like reminiscing through old photographs, I can pick up a journal or notebook stuffed with pages of deep thoughts, easily revisiting my attempts to imitate Robert Frost http://www.poemhunter.com/robert-frost/ or Erma Bombeck http://www.ermamuseum.org/home.asp. Sometimes, the words I scripted are buried so deep in the recesses of my mind I don’t recognize the words, yet I always know they are mine because of the handwriting.

It isn’t that I don’t know the capabilities of the black box that had been assigned its own room in the house for many years. My job required extensive knowledge of numerous, ever-changing, complex programs, including the infamous MS Word. Perhaps the challenges forced upon me daily formed a callous on my brain that makes it too painful to imagine drafting my work on my computer.

Seldom did I take the time to store my creations electronically. The few that made it through the final stages of editing onto the complex contraption were lost when the hardware failed. (Thank goodness for my archaic backups!) The thought of composing something while sitting at the keyboard was as foreign the thought of writing a romance novel.

My daughter frequently reminded me of the century we now live in and the advances in technology that she believed would make my life easier, if only I would try something new. The way she rolled her eyes when I’d pick up a tablet and began writing reflected her frustration in my failure to listen. Bless her heart. Instead of nagging endlessly, she generously provided me with a laptop upon my retirement. “You can use it anywhere, mom. You’ll love it.”

So I tried sitting cross-legged on the sofa with the slim blue device balanced on my lap. That lasted about ten minutes before the phone rang and I had to untangle my legs from the wire to get across the room to the phone. What wires you say? The one attached to the mouse of course. Yes, I know others may use the one built into their machine, but using the touch pad doesn’t work for me because I keep resting my thumbs as I ponder my next line. If you have never been gifted in this ability, let me describe what happens next. The perfect words you struggled for fifteen minutes to compose transform themselves into paragraphs and sentences for which they were not intended. The time it took to find and edit them is just long enough for the thought to pass and there you sit staring at the screen again. I fixed the problem by disabling the gizmo – ok, I had to have help with that too.

I often found myself reverting back to paper and pen. It wasn’t until I decided to write my first novel that I considered the time-consuming effort it would take to write a 50,000 word manuscript and then transpose it onto the computer. One day, after much deliberation, I relented and established a work zone in my dining room where I began typing and editing the dozens of pages I had written before coming to my senses.

I opened the French doors leading onto the deck and felt a delightful breeze drift in. The chirp of a nearby cardinal provided for an opportunity to procrastinate and it wasn’t long before I ventured out onto the deck with all tools in hand. My fairybook visions of spending the next few hours accomplishing great things dissipated in seconds. The gentle wind turned into a gust and blew my stacks of paper high into the sky. With arms flailing, I scrambled urgently to retrieve the papers in flight for fear of a neighbor stealing page 10 of a best seller.

Once I even tried taking my laptop on a daytrip to the river where my husband docked his boat. He often liked to visit for hours with a friend who lives there. What a great opportunity, I thought. I’ll be inspired as the river carries barges through the lock and dam. Surely a poem or some type of masterpiece was waiting to find its way into my laptop. I proudly headed to the lovely swing where I had often written in my small journal.

I shifted the mouse and pad from my leg to the bench of the swing. I tried numerous positions to no avail. I decided to remove the accessory and use the touchpad. Try as I might, I could not remember the sequence of steps my friend had shown me to reactivate the function. By the time I successfully retrieved the info from my wary brain, the battery died on the laptop. I bit my lower lip to keep from screaming and quietly closed the lid and stood up, dropping the mouse and pad at my feet. Anger turned into tears as I gathered all of the pieces and headed back to the car.

My frown turned into a smile when I opened the door and glanced down at the yellow pad and Cross pen that patiently waited for my attention. In one hand, I tossed the laptop on the seat and with the other, I embraced my faithful companions, hugging them close as I strolled back to the wooden swing and settled in for a lovely afternoon.

The transition from rock to paper to laptop has not been easy for some of us. Still, there are benefits to each. Had it not been for the stones that ancient Egyptians carved, much of history would have been lost. Yet hieroglyphics presented many challenges, especially in portability. Paper is readily available, portable and can be treasured for many years, yet it is fragile and fades in time. A laptop stores immense amounts of data, offers unlimited features that transform the written word into works of art, and advances nearly daily in new technology, but with the touch of a delete key, a year’s worth of work can be forever lost into space.

I’ve taken small steps to embrace the wonders of digital technology, but I doubt I will ever relinquish the comfort of paper and pen.

Can you relate?

Is it Really Quicksand????


Have you ever been mired in quicksand?

I remember the day I made my First Communion in the Catholic Church. I have a picture of myself in a white, frilly dress, wearing a veil and shiny patent leather shoes.  It was supposed to be a day that I would remember as a beginning of a new era in my life.

We went to visit my grandmother who lived next to a large field that led to a playground.  I begged my parents to let me walk with my brothers to the playground, promising not to get dirty or ruin my dress and shoes.  We had gone there before without any incident and I reassured mom and dad I could do it without any problem.  They finally relented and the three of us ran off to have some fun.

About half way to our destination, I became mired in quicksand, at least that is what my brothers called it.  I sank down to my knees in something muddy and deep.  The more I fought it, the worse it got.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get out of the muck.

My brothers ran off to summon my father.  I still remember the feeling of desperation while I was immobile and alone.  The tears streamed down my cheeks as I stood in the middle of an open field embarrassed and wanting to disappear before my dad arrived.

My pain was not from the sting of the spanking I received for my mud-packed shoes, socks and dress.  It wasn’t from the cold water as dad hosed me off.  The look of anger and frustration on my parents face would have been enough, but I can still see my grandmother who wept at the sight of me.   It was the disappointment of not keeping my promise and for ending a special event on such a sour note.

Like many others, I dove into November by challenging myself to complete my second novel (50,000 words) in 30 days (NANOWRIMO).  I zoomed through the first 25,000 words and my novel came to an end.  I went back and tried to find places to add more words, but the story line was complete.

I got mired in quicksand.  I couldn’t move forward.  I pulled and tugged and wanted to cry when I realized I would not be successful in completing the NANOWRIMO challenge.  I stopped writing anything.

For the past 7 days, I have sat hopelessly in front of my laptop glaring at the computer screen.  I felt much like the five year old girl who could not move an inch without sinking further into the mud.  I could not seem to pull myself out.  I failed to live up to a commitment I made, one that probably means little to anyone except me, but feels much the same as.

Then I remembered, I’m not that five year old little girl and I’m not in quicksand.  Writing is more than a thirty day commitment.  I’ve printed out my manuscript and read it.  It needs work, but it is a beginning and today is a new day, worthy of a new beginning.

To all my fellow writers who think they are mired in quicksand, it’s probably not quicksand that is holding you back.  Write.  You’ll feel better soon!

An Old Dog Or An Old Fool?????


I have always proclaimed my ineptness when it comes to computers and their infinite ability to make me feel ignorant, though never more than through this week’s efforts to the weekly writing challenge – And Now For Something Completely different.

How can it be so difficult to insert more than one picuture into a post?  It’s not like my portable einstein gives me a clue as to what I’m doing wrong- well, perhapps it does, but it is in a foreign techinical language that I have yet to master.

Still, I am a hopeful person, so I persist.

Perhaps my theme is designed to hold only one photo.  I may be on to something.  Let me struggle for another two days and see if I can get the grasp of this.  Oh look!  Third picture and I successfully changed positions.  Thank you new theme!!

Please tell me I am not the only one who struggles to make sense out of something that was designed to be so simplel  I need some support and encouragement.  Can an old dog learn new tricks or will I remain stuck in the paper and pen world until I fade away?

Seasonal Thoughts


My Old Friend

You were my friend, you beckoned me

You listened to my pain

You caught my tears, you dried them up

You were my shelter in the rain

Not even once did you turn away

Nor secret did you tell

You listened to my tender thoughts

You knew me oh, so well

The thought of you would comfort me

When we were far away

I’d close my eyes and you’d be there

In your arms I longed to stay

Too young to know our time would end

We’d part our ways too soon

Now cherished memories are all I have

Beneath the harvest moon.

North, South, East or West?


Devoting time to the start of my third book and family emergencies have distracted me from writing on my blog recently, yet each day on my journey in life brings me closer to understanding the direction in which I am heading.

When I began my blog in March, my search for a purposeful life (after retirement) was evident in my posts What Now and What Now Continued.   I hoped that my mission would become evident to me through my writing.  I often find that the veiled truth is revealed in such subtle ways that only come to light when I script my thoughts.  I have struggled to find a constant theme for my blog, but I may be getting closer to identifying a topic of interest that would bring the results for which I was hoping.

Volunteering with a hospice group has provided me with an opportunity to share my poetry and books in a way that provides comfort and/or distraction to others who desperately want to find peace in their lives.  The satisfaction that it brings to me means more to me than any number of books that I have sold.  I would love to incorporate more of that into my blog.

Another opportunity to share what I consider a gift also presented itself this week.  I am blessed me with a calm, insightful demeanor that seems to sooth others during a time of crisis.  I find unexpected words of comfort and often, friends and family have related that my efforts helped them find peace.

My niece has been a caregiver for her grandmother for five years.  Her grandma is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease and the time has come where caring for her in her home is no longer advisable.  While some may find it a relief to relinquish the responsibility, others struggle with strong emotions, such as guilt, that surface during such a transition.  Hopefully, my words are helping her to get through this painful experience.

My niece said she could not stop crying.  I shared with her that grieving is not only appropriate, but necessary.  It comforted her to realize what a special gift she has been given in the unique relationship with her grandmother she has served.  It cannot be replicated by anyone who did not serve in the same role.  For every difficult moment, there were many cherishing memories that she will be able to hold in her heart for years to come.

As caregiver, she served in a parenting role, always setting limits and having to insist on difficult tasks like bathing and taking medicines.  Now she has the opportunity to return to the role of granddaughter and enjoy the remaining time by bringing love and tenderness to her grandmother during her final days.

The Peaks and Valleys of my life have blessed me with peace, strength, and a sort of wisdom, which are meant to be shared through my blog.  Perhaps a new opportunity presents itself.