Humming Along with Spring

Sunlight is dull and muted as it hits the winter-faded tangles of grass and weeds. Is there a bulb garden left under there?

Layer by layer the plastic red rake strikes out against loose detritus over and over. One pass. 2nd pass. Bugs scattering once their covers are carried away. Worms bathe in the bright sunlight, uncertain which way to go.

Taking a closer approach. Getting muddy, up close and personal with green weeds wending their way skyward. Some almost breaking through the dirt beyond their purple runners. The smell of fresh dirt finally makes it way to my nose. Ahhh. Now, now this is spring.

Weeds are still smaller than the five yellow crocus – blooming strong since they’re uncovered. Those 5 crocus strengthened my resolve and inspired a bit longer work with the still small weeds, because there are tons more waiting to burst through after being released from the gridlock covering them all winter. (Whose idea was it to fertilize the gardens last year?)

Three Azaleas. My quest the next day. Last year passers-by couldn’t see them through the sticky-seed-weeds and grasses that grew. Cinderblocks placed around them didn’t stop the ever-pushy lilies from crowding in, attempting to drown the azaleas. This garden was created with the left over lilies as the backdrop. Purple geranium clumps and yellow-orange day-lilies were added to the end. Three Azalea bushes planted with hostas in front, rounding out the shape of the garden. Two or three years ago the cinder-blocks were no longer needed elsewhere, so I placed them between the lilies and azaleas, knowing how lilies act and like to take over.

Cleaning this area out took two rakings, two passes with the flat hoe, then the final go-round with a pointy hoe. The flat hoe was a gift from friends, what a fantastic old tool. Weathered wood, slightly rusted blade, not a danger to anything but stubborn as heck to pull out ground-hugging foliage and roots. Many layers of leaves, dried together, they come right along as if carried by a stream from below. Old hosta stalks break off and are carried closer as well. Tomorrow I’ll pick off sticky-seed weeds -gloves, pants, jacket…oh well. Better than in the ground. We’re humming right along!

Two or three more garden areas to clean up. Two tree and bush areas to completely clear under and minimize maintenance in the future. Liberal use of landscape fabric and mulch to the azalea garden. Rain garden will be enlarged again and simplified, persistently sprouting bushes taken out for the last time.

Who knows when things will get completed but we’re using a “slow-drip” approach this year. I’m wishing we’d been able to put in that prairie after clearing this end of the yard a decade ago. Looks like we could in the future with neighboring lots changing. Old dreams for younger people perhaps.

I’m taking the advice I found myself sharing with so many people in the past year…”At our ages, we’ll never have more energy to complete large projects, than we do this year.” We’ll likely have fewer abilities and stamina moving forward. Mostly I was talking with people who’d been admitted to the hospital multiple times within 12-18 months and needed to discuss their true goals and intentions.

Then it hit me. I love our yard and gardens, but there are 19 areas that need tending for weeds and such. I love being outdoors but weeding is relegated to early spring plus a little, then autumn. Ours is not a manicured look. I seem to do well cutting weeds all season long before they seed and spread, pulling them out by the roots. Tracing runners…this year with our friend, the pointy hoe. Simplification is the goal. One of my friends said that’s why she’s kept hers to 2 gardens and very low maintenance. Smart choice for her.

Balance and not overwhelm this year. Writing, gardening, weed management, time with loved ones. Health and time are the greatest gifts I get. Take care and best wishes!

Restructuring, revisiting, revising, refusing, then Onward!

How can a writing corporation of someone who isn’t yet published, restructure? Time spent: Sitting on the curb, scanning areas of growth, interest, strengths and weaknesses. Perusing opportunities offered and possible. Identifying potential.

Explorations these past few years have been bountiful! I have much gratitude for new friendships and supports, opportunities, travel; and stretching and exercising of my mind, heart, and spirit. Joy and passion continue. I’ve declined what isn’t a passionate match for roles and projects moving forward. Revised my mission statement. Revisited and recycled drafts into potentially new projects. New paths and partners connected and added to previous supports. And set a priority to build skills I’ve craved, and read many more craft and mentor books.

I rearranged my bookshelves according to current projects and fewer priorities. Synthesizing and reorganizing files, learning Scrivener. And moving my writing space back to how I had it, when it was more comfortable to create in. There’s plenty to restructure, revisit, and revise.

A little less intensity and drive, much more doing what needs to be done after caring for and time for myself and loved ones. Oh yeah, and the bill-paying job I’m still passionate about, Occupational Therapy.

Onward! Or Forward! I oscillate between the two. Sometimes moving forward first involves a pause, or isn’t precisely forward when motion is applied.

Oh, and we’ll locate the January blog that seems to have wandered off, as it’s writer sometimes does.


Richmond, Indiana

November and December 2019 were times of reverence in our home.

We had a deep respect and consideration for one another, and how we spent our time. We decorated and participated in holiday gatherings. We stopped while we still had energy. Which translates to our decorations were sparse but beloved, and we attended 2 delightful holiday parties.

For the first time, we did no huge meals, bought no gifts for anyone. We gave to charities, as is our tradition. Throughout the year as we found items that would delight family or friends, we wrapped and shared them immediately.

We spent each holiday in nature, meeting old and new friends. It was a rare warm December in Wisconsin, with mud instead of snow. The last weekend of the year we enjoyed the wedding of a dear friend in my hometown.

My husband and I were able to have extra days off work together. We took time for ourselves and each other. Family and friends shared time with us throughout these two months.

I smiled when talking with friends about new approaches they tried this year. One couple decided to have their adult children and grandchildren together in January instead of December for their holidays. No one had to rush from one set of family to another. When they were tired, they were able to return home to rejuvenate.

Another friend said whatever shopping was done by Thanksgiving, that was it for gifts. They had some decorations. She thoroughly enjoyed “not buying into the chaos and frenzy” this year.

May you find a balance to meet your needs for any holidays you celebrate.

Anytime Gift Ideas

Gift Ideas to ask for yourself, or consider giving to others any time of the year…

#Taking Care of yourself

AAA membership, even if the person only drives around town. It’s piece of mind to know they can call someone. Ask about annual limits of free towing per membership level just to make sure you get what is needed. I think miles towed free also varies per level of membership.

Vouchers for transportation options the person trusts.

Hire fix-it crew or handy-person to work on your to-do/ta-da lists. This is an excellent gift in many ways.

Search for adaptive equipment/tools for hobbies or chores, any activity that may be getting more frustrating or concerning for you. Or a loved one. Computer search results for adaptive hobby and chore tools have vastly improved.

Buy a few long-handled reachers to use in various places. Vertical open/close tend to work best for the kitchen, and for lower body dressing. I’d buy one with a magnet on the end, 2 sizes of divots/cut-outs on lower jaw piece (one holds pens, utensils, etc.). Often the horizontal closure reachers with circles (almost look like suction cups) work well in yards, garages, or in a storage room.

Fewer trips up a step ladder for people, especially anyone with balance, blood pressure, vision, strength issues, etc. A complete rearrange for how you want your kitchen cupboards/shelves, supply closets, or bedroom closets set up could be nice – as long as you’re involved in the process. This can be wonderful for people with shoulder, wrist, etc pain & limitations.

Ask for yourtools to be sharpened. Shovels, hand tools, all yard-work & gardening tools. Kitchen and sewing tools. If you have decreased sensation due to diabetic neuropathy, stroke, nerve damage, etc please buy cut proof gloves.

Jar openers, there are many to choose from. Tip: for anyone who has painful hands, the silicone or rubber gripping circles/pads don’t seem to help. For anyone with lower/altered vision you may need to try a few to figure out which may be intuitive/useful. The one below works well for many people.

Kuhn Rikon 5-in-1 Jar Opener, Opens Jar Lids, Beer Bottles, Soda Cans, 5Pull Tabs, Plastic Bottle Caps and Small Bottles

Shoes, vision, medications review, blood pressure are all related to falls prevention. Many communities now host Stepping On courses and other falls prevention learning.

Different memberships that people on limited budgets may need to reconsider, but that benefit them greatly. Gym or book clubs, other. Pharmaceuticals, could help contribute to that or gift card.

A bidet can be life changing for people with limited motion, skin concerns, and more.

Simple things like telescoping skin check mirrors with lights for people with neuropathy of their feet and lower legs. People with partial paralysis use these as well. The sooner things are noticed, the better.

Shower chair, transfer bench, grab bars that are well installed in the studs of the wall, hand-held shower. Long-handled lotion applicator, long-handled sponges are also well received gifts.

Adaptive writing tools can make a world of difference. The writing bird is one that many people with arthritis, or other writing challenges like. What is needed depends on the issues making writing more frustrating or harder.

Funny thing about monthly blogs, they’re every month (except July which I take off intentionally). I have many that are near ready but don’t seem finished yet, or don’t fit my current mood. So I’ll share this while I work on profound, entertaining and informative writing for next month.

I have a list of books from many areas of the globe that won 2019 Crystal Kite Awards, but that isn’t my information to put out there…so here is the link if you want to see amazing variety in outstanding books. This award is to books that represent excellence in the field of children’s literature, the Crystal Kites Awards are peer-selected, voted on by SCBWI members from local regions. Congratulations to our wonderful 2019 winners for books published in 2018, listed here by regional division. 

Ode To Clarice Jackson

As I write this, I have no clue how to create an ode, but Clarice Jackson is getting one written to her when I learn how.

Clarice Jackson was one of my first guardian angels that I set eyes on. Who knows what brought a woman of color to central Wisconsin in the early 1970’s, but as she was moving away with her family she took time to see a little white girl.

No one visited us. Our house was not open to visiting unless invited
and planned for well in advance. As a kindergartner I had full awareness
of this. I knew girls and women were less than men, extended and
immediate family reminded us weekly or more. I was third of three girls,
I knew I was wrong before I started.

Not looking like the models, not being thin, tall & gorgeous was
bad. Clarice was tall and beautiful, gorgeous in my eyes. But not thin.
And I already sensed not being white wasn’t right either. And she was
here to see me. She really wasn’t on good footing.

I’m pretty sure my eyes were as big as they could get. My young life was spent being invisible and being useful. If you’re not familiar with those sentiments, a sincere good for you. That’s not this story. So there stood Mrs. Jackson, my Sunday School teacher, right in the front hall. She came to see me. On top of that she had a gift for me. I’m pretty sure my expression didn’t hide all the “supposed to’s” she was tromping on. From her smile and graciousness, her focus only on me, as well as her insistence on seeing me herself, she did too.

Mrs. Clarice Jackson, wherever you are, thank you. You are loved, often remembered and cared about. I loved my Children’s Picture Bible. I carried and read that book that was almost as big as me, for years. I colored in that book, just a little. I still have it, and I have precious little from my growing-up years. I have never forgotten your spirit. Thank you for writing in the book, so I know you actually existed.

You might be asking, did Mrs. Jackson visit all the kids from class? Yup. I was the only child in that class at the small church. It was kind of dying out. The church was closed and torn down 3 or 4 years later.

Inspiration Abounds

These turn perceptions on their heads!

Perspective 2019

Perceptions, perspective, and hope guide my life. Participating and attending the 2019 NY SCBWI Conference greatly enriched my internal and external lives. I gained the perspective that far more time is spent in our life NOT having a book release or a book birthday, than having it. If I am in this business for 60 years I may have 378 books written (like Jane Yolen) but most of my writing will have had rejection slips and bumpy journeys to being printed. Some work will be put aside to percolate for a while, or stay silent. Whether author or illustrator, this could be true.

My journey may result in one, or many published books. Exploring bookstores in NYC strengthened my perceptions and perspective. There were entire stores of only children’s books, with shelves up to the ceiling of children’s books, ladders needed to reach them all. No wonder we need to research, and research some more; we need to revise, revise, and revise some more in order to stand out, to create our best work. Then we’ll search & search until we get a great match with an agent and publisher.

No one benefits from a mismatch. No one: no author, agent, editor, nor illustrator takes up a project hoping it fails or never sees the light of day. At 2019 NY SCBWI I listened to agents and editors all weekend share what life in the publishing world is like for them. How their hopes and dreams connected with your book (author and illustrator) flounder or die when others decline it being published. They’ve felt tingles or a spark about this project, they’ve asked difficult questions and committed to at least a year or more of living with this project. But it isn’t to be. AND they have to now tell the agent or illustrator or author, and their entire team that this one didn’t get picked.

We’ve heard of the 100’s and 1000’s of letters that cross agents and editors desks weekly, monthly, annually. No wonder so many more books are written than published, whether self published, traditionally published, or somewhere in between.

May you have a firm foundation for your life. May you explore, see and live so you have perspective and hopes. May your perceptions, preparations, perspiration, and plans be what they need to be for your hopes and dreams to be fulfilled. May you have grace, support, and hope to go on when projects are declined. May you have perspective to listen when you are told your project is good or great, but a mismatch. May you listen with your heart, mind and spirit when suggestions are given that will carry the project along to your vision for it. May you have the strength and energy to explore the suggestions to see what that end result looks and feels like. Then you, the artist, decides if that is your story or you stick with the original work.

Dreams and hopes are fluid. Mismatches happen. Not everything we create is destined for others to see. If your hope falters or deserts you, please reach out and tell someone. Ask for support. To use a friends’ wonderful analogy: sitting on the curb a while is fine. Feel, be, and breathe. Rest a while. If you find yourself slipping into the gutter or being carried down to the sewers, reach out. Others can help. We are a village. It takes a village to raise, nurture, grow, and to support an artist.

Non-Dominant Explorations

Taking Care of Your 80 year Old Self

How well do you use your non-dominant hand & arm?

Stretch your brain power and perceptions. Apply toothpaste with your other hand. Brush your teeth with your other (non-dominant) hand.

Practice with balled up pieces of paper & a garbage can, or dirty laundry & a bin. Throw a sponge, washcloth, or something into the sink or bathtub if that is a better place for you to start. Whatever works for you.

Some fun and very useful things to explore:

Throw a ball or toy to a dog with your non-dominant side of your body. For optimal body mechanics get your other foot forward, be in a good stance. For shoulder protection use your legs and core/trunk to power your throw. Really get your body’s wind-up involved, which will move & power your arm and lastly your hand. Pay attention all the way through your follow-through.

Hopefully you are using your entire body for tossing and throwing, for supporting yourself through the following explorations. That would be why I chose the title I did, this involves your perceptions, mind, nervous system, musclo-skeletal systems, motor planning, and more.

Next time you’re filling a vitamin or pill container explore using your other fingers. Pair other fingers with your thumb, not just your index finger. Explore using your non-dominant hand.

If there are no safety consequences, explore using your non-dominant hand & side of your body for cooking tasks such as stirring or adding ingredients. Make and eat your breakfast using the other side of your body. I don’t recommend pouring hot water, dealing with hot oil, or other health & safety hazards.

Changing things up helps our brains, vision, and coordination. There are plenty of research summaries and resources out there these days about brain plasticity and other topics if you want to read more.

I recommend exploring doing things in a different way for the added benefit of if/when something happens to your dominant side you’ll be more aware of what’s ahead. You will have had some practice and hopefully that will help lessen your frustration. There is often “enough” frustration & pain with whatever situation put you in need of using your non-dominant hand.

What do I mean? Sprains, fractures, wounds, stroke, carrying something in that hand and can’t switch it. Maybe someone dear needs a hug but one arm and hand are full.

Some places tether a computer mouse or trackball so it can only be used with a right hand. What if you have an amputation? Many farmers, machinery workers, and other people have missing digits or parts of arms.

It may take months to feel proficient using a mousepad/mouse/trackball with your non-dominant hand & upper limb but there are many benefits for long-term health. It can also help with over-use syndromes.

Perhaps notice what standardized things occur due to right handedness as ‘the normal’ in our society and thus is catered to. Some examples: opening doors to buildings, scissors, car controls and more. Ever wonder what other “normals” are catered to, to the detriment of others?