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Today as I lay in bed and watched dark turn to light, my mind drifted back about four decades when Saturday morning meant two things: Mom making us a nice breakfast and Saturday morning cartoons. These were standards we could count on. Breakfast would be something like French toast or pancakes and cartoons were Scooby Doo, the Flintstones, The Jetsons and a few other favorites. Early animation at its best.

black crt tv

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After a hearty meal and a couple hours of cartoons and probably some School House Rock, it was time to let the rest of our day unfold.

Those carefree Saturdays are long gone behind me, but the memories apparently still linger. The deeper question is what made me think of that now, today, after all these years? So, as an excuse to lay in bed a bit longer, I pondered that. And here is what I’ve come up with…

As a kid, we usually can’t wait to grow up. The whole string of childhood years is marked by “I can’t wait to be ___ years old!” or “I can’t wait until I grow up!”, at which point we do mature and quickly wish we were kids again. Responsibility is a tough word,  both to spell and to live with. Perhaps, at some subliminal level, my subconscious is seeking a break from all this adulting stuff and wishes to spend a little time in that easier era where the weight on my shoulders wasn’t quite so heavy.

woman standing on road

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The other thought is this: we are living in uncertain, scary times. To a lesser degree, so do most kids. So much is out of a child’s control, they are at the mercy of so much we adults don’t usually stop to consider. There is so much they don’t understand yet and so much they worry about. The questions we adults are asking during the pandemic are similar to what kids routinely ask. Granted, the weight of those questions differ greatly, but the emotions are familiar.

So could my mental stroll back to youth been another subconscious break from the pandemic stress? Could I have been connecting with the child of my past, where we can share questions rooted in uncertainty and worry, and see that it all worked out back then,  so I can assure myself it will probably work out now? Back then, and through the years, I’ve had to reinvent myself and find a new normal when the old ones were ripped away. It was tough, scary, rough, and stressful, but I managed, took those leaps of faith, and landed on my feet. This would be no different.

The kid that lived for Saturday morning cartoons and French toast is the same kid that stumbles to the coffee pit after letting the dogs out, the one who grabs the morning devotionals instead of Scooby Doo, and plans my day around an appointment calendar instead of mom’s agenda.

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These days I have dozens of magazine articles and several books under my belt. I have signed contracts for more books to come. I am considered to be a serious writer by my friends and family. So when I say I can’t go somewhere or take part in some event, because I have deadlines or edits, they accept it peacefully.

But that hasn’t always been the case.

Back before I ever had an article or story published, I was mostly a closet writer. Few people other than my immediate household knew I wrote. Many knew I loved to read, but no one put a connection between the two. Writing remained a secret endeavor of mine.

adult frowned male writer working on typewriter at home

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When I was working on something great and was asked to attend something, it would be awkward to find excuses not to so I could stay home and write. Sometimes I really didn’t want to attend the function. I wanted–needed–to stay home and write but the explanation would go over as well as saying I couldn’t go out because I was washing my hair. Without published clips, I lacked the credibility to say I had to stay in and write.

But the fact is, writing those early “learner” stories, short shorts, poems, articles are all just as important as our tenth or twentieth published, or “real” book or article or poem. They all need to be drafted, written, revised, polished, etc…. Whether they make it fully through the road to publication is immaterial to their value–even in the eyes of our family and friends.

crop woman with coffee writing in notebook on bed

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The ones that end up in the bottom of the drawer are just the necessary stepping stone to publication. But are they valid “writing”? Enough to be used as an acceptable excuse to avoid temporary socialization? Can we say we need to research now or have edits due back to the publisher Monday or submission deadline and be viewed as legitimate? Or just using a lame excuse?

woman in gray sweater sitting on wooden floor typing on portable computer

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When do we become the “writer” or “poet” or “artist” who can use our craft as acceptable validity to remain in and work just as any other real work worker? The lawyer preparing for trial, the student studying for finals, the medical professional, the self-employed person who has after hours admin. All of them are excused because they have “work to do”. When does the literary artist cross that line and join their ranks?



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via Friday Features September’s Song by Ryan Jo Summers

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I’ve been writing a story for a little while now, and happened to a scene where one character needed to put on a Christmas-y smelling perfume. I’ve already written a few lines here and there about pine tree scent and cranberries and such hackneyed things, but I wondered, okay, what does a Christmas-y perfume smell like?

christmas cookies on tray

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Disclaimer here, I have anosmia, which means no sense of smell. Zero. Never have and doubtlessly never will smell a single thing; good or bad. It’s just one of those quirky things that makes us all different.

Actually, since I’ve never smelled anything, I don’t have a clue what I am missing out on, which is okay in my book. On the flip side, I did nearly burn the house down once and did try cooking a bagel in the microwave for five minutes once. Both ended kind of badly since I had my back turned away and did not notice the black smoke directly behind me. So lessons learned. It could have been worse on both counts.

photo of woman smelling red flowers

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Yet, on the other hand, I also don’t know how to describe everyday things. Fresh cut grass for example. I’ve heard it smells good, but it’s very hard to research what it really does smell like. I’ve heard flowers and fresh baked goods are pleasant. Again, hard to pinpoint exactly what makes them good. The list is endless.

Same for bad. What makes a fart bad? How come some are bad and some are not even noticed? How long does the scent linger in the air from bad odors? Why do people say a dog smells like a dog? What is it supposed to smell like? If the air outside is smoky and smelly, and you open the windows to air something out, wouldn’t that same smoky and smelly stink get inside? And if so, how do you get it out?

I have so many questions regarding smells, it would literally take days for researching them all or someone to explain this stuff to me. But back to my Christmas-y perfume quandary for the story. I found this place on line that makes oils, candles, and all sorts of things for every scent possible. Literally every scent one could want.

I was in awe. They have Christmas scents, childhood scents, pet scents, (ya know I had to check that one out) masculine scents, Easter scents, spa scents, and on and on and on. Oh my stars! It was like Narnia or something. I kept clicking away, trying to figure out what made these things smell good.  Again, not much to work with in the understanding department, but I was trying.

And some of these scents just made no sense. (Yes, pun intended)

Doodlebug. Boogeyman. Bite me. (Vampire) Black tie.  Best friends. Bermuda triangle. Elf sweat. Aliens. How in the devil does one know what those things smell like? How can one make a candle, or whatever that smells like that? Yeah, hey, come on over and sniff my new boogeyman candle. What do ya think? Just like the real boogeyman, right?

aroma aromatherapy aromatic blur

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But aside from the improbable scents to nail down, they had an impressive array of things that sent me scrambling for a notepad and pen. Coffee scents is a big one that that stumps me. It smelled like coffee. Not good enough. The chocolate page is great, but it made me want to run to the kitchen for some chocolate. Men’s cologne is another one that stumps me. Now I have some names in my arsenal.  Not sure what they all are, but I can work with what I now have.

beverage breakfast caffeine chocolate

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And the impressive thing is there are other holiday scents I can tap into and even events if need be. And this is just one site I discovered. What if there are other pages like this one, dedicated to describing the scents that go into making sense of the smells? Really?

I am just in awe.

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With a title like that, several things could come to mind. Hair extensions, contract extensions, or maybe extending a warranty. Except I was thinking of a house porch. My porch measures only 12 feet by 7 feet, and probably like a lot of people, wish it was larger. Or at least wish it stretched a little longer along the house.

white wicker padded bench

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Whatever it’s size, I really like my porch. It is a continual on-going source of work. When I bought the house, the porch was painted completely white, including the steel door, and the porch boards were a nice blue/gray. Over the years I painted the door two shades of complimenting green with a gold highlight. I also painted the top and bottom porch rails a pretty mint green and alternated the vertical pickets the same mint green and white. Finally I touched up the blue/ gray flooring and added white lattice all the way around the foundation.

And since doing that, I have had to re-sand and re-do parts of this as I work on finishing the end result. Because my  house hints at Victorian design, I am aiding it along by making the porch as Victorian as possible, despite it’s small size. When I get it finished, there will also be horizontal boards along the top of the porch header, with matching green, white and gold spindles to frame the porch. Lots of work, but well worth it when it’s done.

However, today it occurred to me the porch is more of an extension than just a project constantly in the works. I see the porch as an extension of the house. An open-air room that needs cleaning up but not necessarily dusted. It’s the first thing guests see upon reaching the driveway and it’s a spare room to sit and visit. Yes, I even have a porch swing and wicker sofa/ coffee table on my porch. It is where I display my green thumb in the warm months and some of my ceramic critters. It’s another room despite it not being counted in the official square footage. It is an extension of the inside living space. When I can, I love to sit out there and watch the rain fall or write while listening to the windchimes and birds calling.

And it occurred to me today the local wildlife see my porch as an extension of the outside living space. Birdfeeders hang from the porch and bird baths, bird houses, and other feeders are spaced around the yard. The birds, squirrels, and chipmunks routinely visit the porch in search of seeds and other goodies. To them, it’s just one more place food might be found.

selective focus photography of house finch perched on bird feeder

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So that got me to thinking, how many other things in our lives serve a dual purpose, sometimes without us even being aware of it. A vehicle can be a mode of transportation to get us from A to B to C and back again, or it can also be a status symbol. Or an oddity if it’s a collector’s vehicle. A phone is a devise to call someone. Call mom, call the boss, call home. (Remember E.T.?) Yet our phones do so much more. Mine doubles as a map, camera, texting devise and sometimes a timer.

You can probably see where I am going with this. Just as a doorway is a way in to or out from, many things in our lives pull double duty as we just travel through our days. As they say: perception is everything, and how something works or is viewed by us is based on our perception of it at that moment.

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As I write this, everyone everywhere is caught in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are sick, dying, going bonkers in quarantine and missing out on valuable family memories. Some are getting creative in how they cope and some just struggle through the madness one moment at a time.

assorted silver colored pocket watch lot selective focus photo

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For me, the quarantine isn’t so bad. I’m a homebody who finally gets to stay  home. I’ve yearned for some time alone at home for years now. I’m sorry it has come at such a huge cost to the world, and the nation, but overall, I am handling the stay-home order well. I have supplies, food, and pets. I’m good.

What does upset me is the zillions of people posting on social media sites of how incredibly bored they are. Bored?? I wish! My problem is quite the opposite. For starters, like millions of others, my small business has all but dried up. No one needs dog walkers or pet sitters at the moment, so all my business income is gone. I am hoping this will be a temporary set back, and not a year-long problem. My larger dilemma at the moment is my health.

Beginning a few weeks before coronavirus was a well-known word, I began having discomfort in my left hip, leg and foot. It worsened so that by the time everyone cancelled on me, I was actually thankful for the break due to the excruciating agony of trying to drive, walk, etc… required of me.

So now I had spare time at home–lots of spare time–and I hurt too bad to enjoy it. I look at the dusty house, disorganized garage, plants that never got planted in the gardens last fall, and the mounds of writing I have to get done (since some of it is already past due). Unfortunately I still cannot sit for long, bend, kneel, or do much of anything. The pain killers I take to manage through the day only make me too groggy to write. This gift of time at home each day is sadly being wasted. And I’m upset at the thief who is stealing it.

person near apple keyboard and cup with coffee beans

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I have a surgery date scheduled and if the hospital does not cancel elective surgeries, I will soon be okay, and pretty much able-bodied. Perhaps then I can sit long enough to write, plus clean and organize or maybe plant some things in the yard. In the meantime when I read people complaining on social media about  how bored they are, I want to scream. Then I want to invite them over and greet them at the door with either a broom, dust mop, brush, rake, or shovel. I can fix ‘bored’. What I cannot fix is time stealing all my free stay-home days that are systematically being wasted.

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Gamechanger has been a word used in my life a fair bit lately. When I reflect back over the previous twelve months, I can see several gamechanger events that blended together and made 2019 resemble a fruit smoothie.

Some have been good events, a few planned out and brought to fruition and others just a happy happenstance. A few were tragic, negative or just plain bad. Either way, they each added to the mixture.

A few happy examples include the installation of a secondary fenced yard that eliminates the need to leash walk dogs now.  Not only does that make walking multiple dogs easier, that became critically important in December.  A surgery in December proved to be helpful in long-standing health concerns. A new book release with a new publishing house last fall has opened more literary doors.

Most recently a chance occurrence with my old house lead to a partial bathroom remodel, that includes the happy addition of  a 1925 Kohler claw-foot tub, which happens to be a long-term dream of mine to have. I have a wonderful old soaking tub now, which is a positive gamechanger.

In the spring, I impulsively bought some day-old chicks, and then some more chicks. It was crazy when they outgrew their brooder and started wandering all over the house because everywhere I put them, they quickly outgrew it. It was several months before I finally got their outside coop finished and they moved out of my house. That was a gamechanger in itself, but it also taught me I could transform my little courtyard to a backyard chicken coop.

Negatively, February 2019 brought a tragic shock that took me about six weeks to even begin to recover from. Big gamechanger. In September my middle-aged computer crashed and I lost everything on it. Merrily I’d been storing files and pictures to a cloud-based storage, confident I had a good backup should I ever need it. Was I ever surprised to learn for three years everything that showed as uploaded on my end never actually reached the cloud. It was simply lost somewhere in the ozone.

Three years of everything was simply gone. Big gamechanger. One of those ‘gone’ things was the novel I’d been pounding away on for three years. It was to go to the publisher that coming weekend, I had the contract signed, a rough release date, and cover work was starting. Now it was Gone. Not a scrap was salvaged. That series of September losses took me two months to begin to get over.

As I run 2019 back through my memory, with the exception of those two massive setbacks, it hasn’t been too bad. I adopted a senior dog and enjoy her company immensely. I have stayed busy in my “day job” business and it feels good to know I am appreciated and needed.

I have learned to master new technology tricks, especially with my smart-alec phone, and they’ve certainly been gamechangers. I can now verbally dictate notes into the phone, send it to my email and retrieve it later on or text verbally on the go to clients, saving time I used to just sit and text. Gamechanger. Using the zoom and key photo options, I can capture great action shots of my clients, which makes them happy. Gamechanger. I have Lucille, the GPS map program that gives  me shortcuts to places I need to go, saving me untold hours each month in lost travel time. Huge gamechanger. All that stuff is just sitting in the palm of my hand.

Thinking of all these gamechanger advances and revelations, I can only hope to use them positively in 2020. My hope is to remain more diligent with blogging. Time escaped me in 2019, and maybe I can reclaim some of it going forward. I might even get to reading a few of the countless books I’ve purchased in the last couple of years and start leaving reviews here again. I do read, but I am not at liberty to post those reviews.

I’d like to bring back the “I’ve been thinking…” feature. I do think–a lot–usually as I am running up and down the roads like the cartoon Roadrunner. Now that I’ve mastered the “Suri, send me an email” gamechanger, perhaps I can dictate the bones of my “thinking” and get it moved over to the blog relatively easily. Maybe.

With a houseful of critters, and those who live outside, I’d like to post pictures, anecdotes, and more. Heaven knows they keep me in stitches any given day.

Are there any special posts you’d like to see in this blog? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts. This blog exists for others to read it. If I can put something meaningful here, that is all I can ask for.

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via Wednesday Writers–September’s Song by Ryan Jo Summers

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via By Rote with Ryan: Criticism

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