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.

Pen Pals in Today’s World


Computers rock! LaptopComputer
I can’t believe I just wrote that, but it is true. I’ve often written post in support of pen and paper (Rock, Paper, Laptop). Don’t get me wrong, they still occupy plenty of space in my home and always will. Yet, my appreciation and respect for my keyboard increased significantly during the past five weeks.

My daughter sent me a link, https://www.coursera.org/courses?stats=upcoming, because she knew I might be interested in taking a class that was being offered, Crafting an Effective Writer. Coursera is an education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. I’m all about learning and jumped at the chance to take a free class to update my grammar and punctuation skills. For the record, the site also offers many classes that have nothing to do with writing.

Besides refreshing my over 60 brain on the proper use of pronoun antecedent agreement and compound-complex sentences, it connected me to the rest of the world, much like pen pals could when I was young. Information shared in the discussion forums indicated 43,000 participants initially signed up for the class.
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Imagine my delight in communicating with students from Mongolia, Egypt, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Ukraine, just to name a few, who all shared a similar interest in writing.

I gained a profound appreciation for my native tongue. For a large majority of the students, English was a second language. Having only taken Latin in high school, all of which I have since forgotten, I couldn’t imagine trying to achieve success in a challenging course written in another language. I admired and learned a great deal of humility from my fellow writers across the world. I also hope to take a second language as soon as the class becomes available.

One of the first expectations of the course was to record the weekly writing assignments in a blog, such as WordPress http://wordpress.com. My knowledge of this blog site, as limited as it is, helped me immensely and the weekly assignments gave me new ideas for my posts. What a win-win situation and I even gained quite a few new followers.

Yes, I can honestly proclaim, computers rock. Getting and giving immediate feedback is better than snail mail, especially when you are taking a five week course, but there is still something endearing about finding a handwritten letter in my mailbox from time to time.

Preserving the Written Word


There are many benefits to having writing as a hobby, especially if the tools used are pen and paper. DSCN0788

Letting ink flow on unblemished, pre lined paper is an inexpensive opportunity to relieve stress, release unspoken emotions, provide entertainment and possibly fulfill a life-long dream, like publishing a book. Divulging one’s deepest fears, childhood memories or built-up resentments in private could save a person many dollars and hours in treatment. Besides, even if carrying years of unnecessary baggage buried deep inside doesn’t apply, perhaps a humorous antidote will emerge, providing a good laugh when needed.

In addition, scripting your thoughts can be done any time day or night. No reservations are necessary and inclement weather does not prohibit participation, in fact, it can provide a perfect setting, such as It was a dark and stormy night. Some of my favorite poetry spilled forth while sitting on a sandy beach in Maui while waiting for my daughter to get off from work.
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Whether it is five minutes or five hours, having two simple items within reach have made me feel I wasn’t wasting time while sitting and staring at four walls in a doctor’s office or waiting for the dryer to finish the cool down cycle.

While many people enjoy hobbies that require physical stamina, I’m sure there must be some calories burned during the challenge of writing. Why else would they call it an exercise? Of course, taking long walks provides me with loads of inspiration and sometimes I carry a small notebook or voice recorder to remind me of what it was – not that my memory is slipping or anything like that.

Yet, my strongest reason for writing with my trusty ballpoint and spiral notebook is to preserve the art of the written word. While I must confess that I have long used a laptop to record my stories and novels, I continue to scribble my first thoughts on a yellow pad or record them in a journal, DSCN0792which I keep close at hand at all times just in case a treasured thought floats by and justifies the effort.

One thing for sure, even though writing a thoughtful poem or interesting article may have slipped my mind over the years, I recognize my own handwriting and I know that I composed something that was worth committing to paper. It’s fun and satisfying to see how I’ve grown as a writer and a person. Life’s challenges have changed dramatically over the years, and so has my reaction to them.

So to all of the people who have not tried writing with good old fashioned pen and paper, I recommend turning off the television, silencing the phone, grabbing the nearest ink pen and blank piece of paper, and get writing. Who knows where it will take you! Give it a try and let me know if it feels as good to you as it does to me.

Fireflies and Starlit Skies


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Dozens of flickering fireflies dance merrily among the fragrant cedar trees. The only other visible light comes from the millions of twinkling stars that embellish the midnight skies above me. I can feel the damp fog creep silently into the valley as I listen to the steady hum of the visiting locust and the distant whippoorwills. I drift off into a gentle slumber, dreaming peacefully until a bird’s delightful warble echoes through the woods and greets me at the break of dawn. The enticing smell of bacon drifts in from the nearby kitchen and I open my sleepy eyes. My grandmother stands near the stove, humming and smiling as she turns each strip once it is perfectly crisp. I watch her in awe and wonder if I will ever master the skills necessary to follow in her footsteps. Full of energy and eager to help, I change my clothes quickly and join her near the sink. She instructs me on the proper placement of the knives, forks and spoons as I set the table for breakfast. With two hands, I carry a towering plate of pancakes to the table as my grandmother carries the dish of bacon and sets it down. I run to the refrigerator and grab the maple syrup and creamy butter before the family is called for breakfast. I press my fingers together tightly close my eyes as I thank God for the wonderful day.

So what childhood memories fill your mind when spring turns to summer? I’d love to know.

What’s your quest?


What’s the quest that drove you to blog?

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I drained the last of my second bottle of cabernet into my wine glass, took a deep breath and clicked on the Publish immediately prompt on my first post twelve months ago. https://authordianemhow.com/2012/03/09/what-now/#like-7
It took every ounce of that liquid encouragement to jump into the unfamiliar blogging world. The yellow paper that sat next to my laptop reminded me of why I should take the plunge.

Here is what it said.
1. Sixty is not too old to learn something new.
2. Twenty-four x seven is too much togetherness for two retirees.
3. Either throw the journals out or do something with them.
4. With thousands of ears out there, surely someone will hear me.
5. Why not?

Here’s what I know today.
1. Sixty-one isn’t too old either. Widgets still elude me, but I’ve learned to add media, change my theme and was Freshly Pressed once. https://authordianemhow.com/2013/01/24/rock-paper-laptop/#like-273
2. Twenty-four x seven is still too much togetherness for two retirees.
3. Some of my journals are worth re-reading and sharing.
4. I’m not alone. The positive affirmation I’ve received gives me encouragement. I’m down to two glasses of wine.
5. Why the heck not!

So what is your story? What passion makes you tap away at the keyboard till early morn?

The Disciplined Writer


A great writer shows discipline; she adheres to a plan
She’s seldom distracted by the presence of man
She embarks on a mission with an outline in hand
Ignoring the dishes, the mop and dust pan
Her coffee gets cold while she’s pecking away
Till wee hours of the morning at her laptop she’ll stay
I think she’s fictitious, this goddess of pens
She exists in the mind of imaginary friends
Too many distractions that get in the way
Too many expectations in the course of a day
Like Smartphones and Ipads, tv and much more
The children and shopping and knocks on the door
And even at night when the rest are in beds
Temptations invade us and dance in our heads
There’s red wine, dark chocolate, tidbits of cheese
Sudukos and novels, guilty pleasures to seize
Procrastination some call it; excuses others say
But a writer who avoids them? I don’t believe it. No Way
by dianemhow

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?