For Those Missing WP’s Daily Prompt & Community Pool

Edar on Pixabay CC0 Creative CommonsSince WordPress dropped their Daily Prompt and Community Pool at the end of May, other sites have stepped in to fill the gap.  If you feel adrift, here are three sites to both jiggle your brain cells, and help you connect with others in the blogosphere. It’s a great way to discover new blogs, help new writers, and find new fans of your writing.  Enjoy!

SwimmersDaily Prompt and Community Pool

“Have you just published a new post and need some feedback? Do you need some advice on your blog theme & layout ? Maybe you’re a newbie and need to increase your audience? Just leave your question in the comment section adding your blog’s address.”

Ragtag Daily PromptDaily Prompt

“To participate in the Ragtag Daily Prompt, create a Pingback to your post, or copy and paste the link to your post into the comments. And while you’re there, why not check out some of the other posts too!”

FOWC with FandangoDaily Prompt

“FOWC was designed to fill the void after WordPress bailed on its daily one-word prompt at the end of May and I want to thank each and every one of you for being so supportive and for participating in these prompts.”

Photo source: Edar on Pixabay


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Crazy Lady and Swallow NIMBYism

147685 on Pixabay. CC0 Creative CommonsThe swallows have returned to the neighborhood. We watch them through our large, plate glass windows as they scope out the houses for the perfect spots to build their nests. They like the eaves of our house: high up; well-protected.

I love swallows.

Continue reading “Crazy Lady and Swallow NIMBYism”

Online Beginning Writer’s Workshop

59_InfectiousWorkshop_5-17-18I want to write, but without a deadline or structure, my practice gets wiffly.  My journal gets used when life gets sucky. Good news is, life has been agreeable lately. Bad news is, I haven’t written as much. So, to encourage myself, I started this blog two months ago with a goal to post every day. It put a structure in front of me that helped me stay on the writing rails.

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The Long Red Reach of Costco

57_CostcoLabelI was attending a memorial service at a fancy San Francisco golf club. I had a few lingering friendships I’d held lightly onto from decades earlier when I’d lived in the city; those friendships that merit an annual birthday email and the once-every-few-years lunch. My friend’s wife had died in October and he was holding the memorial near the December holidays.

I had driven down to the city from my home an hour away in the wine country; a rural lifestyle that offered a mellow contrast to the more stylish and urbanized energy of the city.  With the short, dark, cold of the December evening, I had dressed warmly: slacks, top and a long black cardigan. Flat, non-designer shoes. On the practical side of the design-scale. My normal.

The cars in the parking lot were well-appointed, recognizable breeds: Mercedes-Benz; BMW; Lexus. My Altima felt overshadowed. As I walked into the clubhouse I was amidst a number of other folks heading to the memorial.

Continue reading “The Long Red Reach of Costco”

Dictated Voicemail Messages

53_Dictation_4-30-18

I’ve recently taken to using the dictation app on my phone to capture ideas when 1) I’ve no paper to write on, 2) no pen to write with or, 3) where taking both hands off the wheel isn’t a bright idea (like, ever).

Other than Siri sometimes deciding I meant something other than what I said, I like it.  It works best if I review the transcript sooner rather than later, because if too much time passes I can’t even begin to guess what I was thinking.  Or I can, but Siri’s interpretation was way more entertaining than the original.

Like this text message Siri transcribed for me, en-route to a friend’s house:

“I’m on my way. I’m at the intersection of Highway 12 and fucking. So probably 15 minutes. I have soup. And cornbread. Celibate.”

Siri is exhibiting her Freudian slips. Or cognitive dissonance. She clearly doesn’t know what she wants.

But despite these little kerfuffles, I’ve embraced dictating; and, it turns out, astonishingly, some new habits are easy to learn. Despite all the propaganda about habit-learning to the contrary, I quickly learned to tell Siri “period” and “new paragraph” and “question mark” as I dictated, to ensure she properly punctuated things as she wrote stuff up. Because, yes, punctuation matters.

The thing is, my dictation device–my phone–is also, well, a phone. I call people. They don’t answer. I go into voicemail. I leave a message by recording my voice on their device, and when my friend gets that message, they listen to my voice speaking my message.

And, because I’ve so easily adapted to dictating, my voice messages now include not only the substance of my call, but a meta-message: instructions for periods and question marks and paragraphs.

Which will be very helpful comma should my friends decide they want to transcribe my voicemail period

 

Daily Post-Prompt: Astonish


 

Cooking Without a Net

44_MomsCooking_4-24-18Some things I take for granted. Knowing how to cook is one of them. I don’t mean just being able to follow a recipe, but knowing how to ferret through the fridge and create something out of nothing. “Let’s see what the refrigerator has for dinner tonight.”

I read that a lot of people don’t know how to cook. I can’t imagine what that would be like. A grocery store would seem overwhelming, especially the produce department, with all those weird-shaped fruits and vegetables. I get intimidated when a new vegetable shows up I’ve never seen, but at least it’s surrounded by familiar friends.

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Costco Shopping Daze

Clark Young, UnsplashI like to think when I walk into a retail store that I’m going to walk in, stride over to what I need, check out, and go home.

Rarely does it go that smoothly.

Retail stores know how to entice. Their shelves and displays, with their temptations, sale signs, and ever-changing inventory, pull me in and before I know it, I’m in a shopper’s daze.

Costco is fiercely adept at this retail game: they constantly move products around; provide no signage, forcing wayward wandering; go big on seasonal displays; and eliminate products with enough randomness to suggest the idea of future scarcity.  Must. Buy. Now.

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On Hold and A Handbasket to H*ll

39_Hold_Handbasket_4-20-18I call my insurance company and a robotic voice answers, telling me to press 1 for English. The voice returns and tells me to enter my account number.  I punch 9 digits. Brief silence and then robotic voice tells me to press 2 for sales; 3 for billing; 4 for…I press 3, listen to a few rings, and get another robot, who again wants my account number. I re-enter the same 9 digits. Another brief silence and then I’m advised that the “next available representative will take my call” and “this call may be recorded for training purposes.”

Some sites give me an idea how long I can expect to wait. Most sites have some looped-music that plays to keep me distracted, although some leave me sitting in silence.

This happens with almost every vendor I call.

Continue reading “On Hold and A Handbasket to H*ll”

Whiny Words

35_Song_4-15-18A song came on Pandora, a recent country hit. Two verses played before she stomped across the room and hit the “thumbs down” button.  Her ex-boyfriend had previously “liked” it.

“Stupid song,” she whined to her roommate. “Too damn bad we can’t “unlike” some of our stupid, whiny friends this way.”

Her roommate looked away and silently agreed.

Daily Post-Inspired: Song


 

Mixed Minds on My Facebook Break

33_FB_Break_4-9-18Maybe it was my upcoming birthday, or the arrival of fall, or simply an icky sense that I spent too much time on Facebook and the quality of my life was affected.  I don’t know. I do know that, with a spontaneity that surprised me, I decided to take a Sabbatical from Facebook; an extended break.

Once I decided I wanted to do it, I wasn’t entirely sure how to do it.

I’ve been active enough on Facebook that friends consider it a way of reaching me and sharing things. I get messages from friends, invites to events, and news.

I thought, what happens if I just don’t show up? If I stop reading my news feed? Stop “liking” friends’ posts? Stop posting things and sharing things? Simply, quietly, disappear?

On one hand, I worried no one would notice.

On the other hand, I worried people would expect a response from me when they sent me something and they’d be met with…silence.

So, I decided to announce my Facebook break on Facebook itself.

I decided the best way to do it was to change my cover photo. I quickly designed a new banner:

“I’m taking an extended break from Facebook*

*If you want to reach me, call or email”

I uploaded the new banner to FB. My announcement was officially made to the world on Thursday, September 28, 2017, at 1:45 pm.

I logged off, all the while feeling itchy-fingered to log back on, anticipating a rush of comments from people as my news filled their feeds.

“No, really? You’re leaving FB? Why? How?”

I deleted FB from my tablet. I logged off the app on my phone. I wanted to make accessing FB a bit harder. But I didn’t cancel or delete my account, so the siren-song of FB notifications remained. I knew the candy was still in the house; it just required a few more steps to get to it.

I wanted to log on.

But having just announced to the world I was taking a break, what incentive did anyone have to comment about my departure? I certainly wasn’t going to be around to read it and “like” it, right? Hadn’t I just informed everyone of that?

It turned out that, except for one “like” and one “heart” on my post; a private message from a friend; and one comment from Bubba, my decision to take a break went largely, quietly, unnoticed.

The feeling inside? A weird combination of distress/disappointment and…relief.

Distress that disappearing didn’t result in anyone sending out a search party to look for me.

Relief, in knowing that the consequences of disconnecting were, in fact, pretty non-existent.  Nothing blew up. I didn’t miss anything important. And without the temptation to share and read and post on Facebook, I actually freed up some quality time.

Daily Post Prompt: Rush


 

Uncluttering Thoughts and Beliefs

20_IdenticalYou know how some people hold onto stuff and others seem to be able to freely let go?

I often have to trick myself into letting stuff go.  Because, you know, stuff is worth something. Especially once I own it.  It’s the endowment effect, “the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them.”

That’s true for me. My stuff is worth more once it’s mine. The identical item in the store? Not worth as much as mine on my shelf.

My attachment seems to be enhanced if there’s a story around the item: it came from a garage sale; a dear friend gave it to me; I got it on vacation as a trip memento; it was my great-great-grandmother’s; it was a super-bargain. Any and all of those stories burnish the value of the item for me.

Even if I know an item has lived beyond its usefulness, I frequently still hold onto it, often to be reminded of “the story.” Even if it’s in the way or possibly holding me back.

I’m aware of this dynamic when it comes to stuff. Once “stuff” becomes mine, it’s hard to part with. It’s suddenly shinier; prettier; sticky-er.

Recently I started to wonder if this tendency applies not only to things, but also to thoughts and beliefs.

Continue reading “Uncluttering Thoughts and Beliefs”

Blogging as a Spiritual Workout

16_Provoke_Blog Spiritual-croppedThe world is awash in words. Words meant to inspire, encourage love, espouse hate. Words intended to inform or designed to deceive. Words unrestricted by paper shortages; digitally unlimited.

Bloggers number in the hundreds of millions. Social media allows us to reach out and touch others. How far our reach goes depends on whether or not what we have to say resonates for others and how good our marketing is.

I’ve joined that blogging world. Twice.

I started my first blog, Pursuing Podcasts, last year. It was about podcasts. About other peoples’ work and thoughts. It continues to exist, albeit lightly used.

My second blog, Walk the Goats, I started on March 1, 2018. This year. Fifteen days ago. Walk the Goats is about my thoughts, thoughts from my inner landscape.

I write about things Bubba and I talk about: relationship stuff; “divine” versus “relative” selves; internal “characters” who show up to deliver their lines and take their positions when they hear their cues. I write about things I think about and want to share, including observations on personal growth and life and aging and random other stuff.

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Which Character is Gonna Appear?

12_Which CharacterDriving the country roads of Sonoma County is a joy, regardless of the weather. It calls to me, and the mystery of a shrouded day brings particular pleasure. On one recent outing, the clouds were low in the sky, some stuck on the treetops. The road was damp; it meandered. Trees curved over it like a cathedral ceiling. The autumn leaves had succumbed to the winds and to age and were scattered along the roadside and in the woods.

A dirt road—likely a driveway—appeared on my left, curving like a shadowy “S” away from the main road, before disappearing into the woods. I glanced over and noticed an old, large oak had fallen across the drive, blocking access.

My first thought was that life can block our way, as quickly and solidly as that tree blocked the drive, preventing any car from passing by as long as the tree was there.

How we respond to those moments fascinates me.

My own response falls into two parts. One involves practical, “external-landscape” factors; the other involves more emotional, “inner-landscape” factors.

Continue reading “Which Character is Gonna Appear?”

“Quality Control” Character and the Bathroom Stall

10_qc_character-2-e1520730768748.jpgLast October I was at a friend’s 80th birthday party in Northern California. The party was held on the top floor of an old three-story building that looked as if it had been there a while, confirmed by the cranky elevator.  Having driven 5 hours to get there, I went into the ladies’ room before joining the party.

The stall I entered was large, designed for a wheelchair. I turned to lock the door, reaching out to the normal place a lock is located, about mid-waist.

My hand flailed. Nothing. No lock.  I swung my eyes across the door and—surprised—discovered the lock was installed on the top left edge of the door. The top left edge. Above my head. In a stall designed for a wheelchair.

On that cue, one of my characters showed up.

Continue reading ““Quality Control” Character and the Bathroom Stall”

“Scared to Write” Character

9_Wonder-3I want to share my writing with Bubba. And what I want from him is supportive enthusiasm that I’m writing. I don’t want suggestions for how I might write something different or better.

It’s not because I think my work is brilliant and doesn’t need editing.

It’s because writing and sharing my work scares the living daylights out of me.

And in that place of fear, anything that discourages me feeds the fear. And stops the writing.

Which is why I’m looking for swords of light that encourage the what of what I’m doing–writing–rather than the skill with which I do it.

The thing is, when I share my writing with Bubba, I’m also sharing it with his mother, Jan.

Continue reading ““Scared to Write” Character”