Monthly Archives: November 2014

Writing Habit

The Prompt: Winning Streak—What’s the longest stretch you’ve ever pulled off of posting daily to your blog? What did you learn about blogging through that achievement, and what made you break the streak?

Writing Habit

I’ve written every day since April 1, 2014, except for yesterday, when I couldn’t get online all morning. I then got involved in working with the illustrator of my next book, who came to visit for two days to work on the covers. They are now finished, except for the lettering, and he’s done a wonderful job. Thrilling! I actually did answer yesterday’s prompt today and I’ve answered every other WordPress Daily Prompt since May, when I switched over from the NaPoWriMo prompt. I have not, however, managed to post a pingback to the WordPress Prompt page 3 or 4 times in the past and have not now been able to do so for the past 7 days, which is frustrating. I wonder if anyone reading this knows what the problem is and why some can trackback/pingback and others are unable to?

Blogging and the WordPress and other prompts have given me two things: a daily audience and pressure/permission to make writing a priority. I write every day, first thing, with very few exceptions. I now exercise in the late afternoon instead of the morning, giving me the entire morning to write if I need it. If I have activities, I get up early to write and sit waiting for the prompt like the parent of a teenager out after curfew.

I also sometimes post things I’ve written as a draft, waiting for a prompt to which they will relate. This serves as a backup as well, but so far I haven’t had any writer’s block. I think writing every day helps to prime the creative flow. I expect it to be there, so it always is. I also try not to censor myself. It’s necessary to let thoughts flow naturally. One can always delete or edit things later, but sometimes what feels not up to par when being written actually ends up being good. We need to give ourselves a chance and to be as supportive of ourselves as we are to our fellow writers.

Long Roads, Short Lives

The Prompt: This week its all about roads, paved or unpaved.

First of all, here’s a little background music for you to view these pictures by.  You’re in for a treat if you do listen to Norah Jones singing her rendition of Long Way Home.

 Long Roads, Short Lives


Some roads less permanent than others, but still roads


Making tracks on tracks


Sometimes the road becomes the traveler.


What happens to roads during a heavy storm in La Manzanilla.

How to Keep Warm in an Avalanche

The Prompt: Under the Snow—You were caught in an avalanche. To be rescued, you need to make it through the night. What thought(s) would give you the strength to go through such a scary, dangerous situation?

How to Keep Warm in an Avalanche

To be buried while I’m still alive? One of my greatest fears—
tons of snow muffling my screams and freezing all my tears.
If I knew rescue was coming and had sufficient air,
how would I keep from panicking in this wintry lair?

Perhaps I’d think of old loves, from sixth grade up to now.
Every silent signal. Every declared vow.
The first boy who “chose” me—the pleasure that was new
of knowing I’d been noticed by a boy or two.

Unsure and not quite ready, those crushes quickly passed
as they moved on to other girls that I considered fast.
I lived up to the adage “sweet sixteen and never been kissed”
and started to be sorry for what I knew I’d missed.

By seventeen, I found out and luckily my first
was all that I had hoped for—like slaking a long thirst.
I remember all of that initial long embrace.
His heartbeat next to mine, his fingers on my face.

The dizziness, the giddiness. I couldn’t walk quite straight.
All that was wrong with that first kiss was that it came too late.
Though there have been other lovers, I must admit to this.
Never did another compete with that first kiss.

Then I’d think back to others, up to the present day,
making mental lists and then remembering what I may.
Cowboy, lawyer, carpenter, railroad man and teacher,
but no accountant, coach or doctor, bank robber or preacher.

Bartenders, salesmen, bass players and once a Green Bay Packer
would join this list of loves, but ne’er a lazy man or slacker.
I’d think and think, remembering names without the written word.
A tourist guide, two salesmen and a computer nerd.

And after a long night of this, kept warm by memories,
they’d find me curled up in a ball, my arms around my knees,
covered in a blanket of fine-sifted powdery snow,
caught fast in dreams of those who kept me warm so long ago.

Beachside Refractions and Other Poems


(Click on photos to enlarge)


Here are three poems that I wrote while being held prisoner on my porch for two days waiting for the internet man.  He came after a half dozen phone calls and a half dozen promises to be there in 1/2 hour, but never did get my internet up, so I’m sitting in a closed palapa restaurant in the dark, listening to the surf and using their internet, which I’ve paid them to use.  I actually had a wonderful day spent watching the pelicans, fishermen and frigate birds, then went way out and did my exercises in the ocean, watching the sunset.   There were fishermen and little boys on boogie boards all around me…and a young girl standing on a paddle board and paddling back and forth between me and the sunset.

Beachside Refractions

When I wake up at six that man
is out collecting bait.
And he is still out fishing
when the sun goes down at eight.

I guess that staring at water
and at the sky is fun,
for in the week I’ve been here,
he’s only landed one!

The tide comes in each morning,
bringing us new gifts;
transforming everything to sand
it sifts and sifts and sifts.

The frigate birds sail over all:
the headland and the town.
I don’t know what they’re looking for.
They never venture down.

A string of pelicans fly north.
Seconds later, they fly south.
guess the reason is not one
has fish within its mouth.

The beach cat sits here looking
out to the open sea,
willing all the fisherman
to “Bring a fish to me!”

The tide comes within feet of me
when it is at its height.
Tucked away here, in the shade,
I do not feel its bite.

When tide goes out, I go with it
to float beyond its curl.
It does not know if I am fish
or shell or boat or girl.

All the local folks collect
each evening at the beach.
Sand within their sandals,
and tequila within reach.

They talk the long day over
and orchestrate the sun
to sink beneath the seascape
to prove the day is done.

They come to view the sunset,
though they talk into the night.
It cannot be the sun they seek,
for it’s gone out of sight.

When most go home still one or two
stay to feel the night.
Their voices drift over the sand
sibilant and slight.

Whispers, merely whispers
by the time they get to me.
Unconnected syllables
for which I have no key.

The moon has not yet risen
and the stars are hidden by cloud.
And all the words that wait for me
are not yet voiced aloud.

All around me, darkest night
surrounds me like a womb.
I think words wait for me in dreams
just in the other room.



They float upon the gentle swells,
with chins tucked in politely.
Of all the birds, most dignified,
their movements never sprightly.

They look like grumpy butlers
named Oliver or Jeeves
in morning coats of softest gray
with wings tucked in their sleeves.

They may be only scouting
the source of their next meal,
for soon they take off to the air
with energy and zeal.

And soon they’re diving down again,
straight like an arrow shot,
into the water’s surface
to see what can be caught.

Bobbing once again,
they lift their bills and then let slide
all that’s in their pouches
to another place inside.

I wonder if the fishes flop
all the long way down,
and this is why the pelicans
then fold their arms and frown?


The Magnificent Frigate Bird

They polonaise up higher,
far above the rest.
Not once dipping to the land.
Do they ever nest?

I never see them fishing,
foraging or chewing.
As though their wings are made for art
but are not made for doing.

A gentle crease within their wings
looks folded and unfolded,
but keeps its shape no matter what,
as though it has been molded.

This rhyme is not so fragile
nor so graceful as these birds.
I guess such elegance as theirs
cannot be caught in words.

The Prompt: Leftovers Sandwich—Today, publish a post based on unused material from a previous piece –a paragraph you nixed, a link you didn’t include, a photo you decided not to use. Let your leftovers shine!

Thanks Be to Pure Hearts

The Prompt: Never Too Late—Is there a person you should’ve thanked, but never had the chance? Is there someone who helped you along the way without even realizing it? Here’s your chance to express your belated gratitude.

Thanks Be to Pure Hearts

 Thanks be to that creator of the universe—
the one I can no longer pray to in a church
because of those powers who take truth prisoner
and lead the masses to wherever they can be most safely trusted
to surrender reason to them.

Thanks be to that man who turned water into wine.
Not a teetotaler. Not even abstinent, or so some say.
That man who loved all and who would not strike anyone
except for merchants making a living from the church.
Two thousand years ago,
he saw that merchants and moneylenders
would lead the world wrong—
using the little minds of frightened men
to turn faith into a weapon.

Praise be to those at the beginning of it all
who tried to set a true course but made the mistake
of leaving the compass in the hands of human fools
who saw over all, how to use it for their own glory,
making power their god and oiling their way upward
not toward salvation
but toward ever higher places in this world.

Those who are not fools might speak our enemies’ names
yet be shouted down by those
Dunning and Kruger have named as their adjutants—
the countless mindless who speed the world toward ruin.

Yet for this day, I want to turn my back on those I’d rather curse
to thank pure hearts who still can see the way.
There is still, I know, a part of them in all of us,
evident in everyday things: a mother’s sheltering arms
or in as simple an act as taking the smallest piece of pie.

So when we give thanks today,
thank those who remain kind within the world,
carrying along the spirit
of those first beneficent acts
that started with the dust of stars
and from it created consciousness
and then implanted some good turn of will
so as to give hope in a world
that feels divided in the blackness of the universe,
lonely in this night
but steering by those pinpricks in its cover
through which light shows, even in the darkest dark.

Sate´d, Shaken and Stir-fried

The Prompt: Shaken and Stirred—What’s the most elaborate, complicated meal you’ve ever cooked? Was it a triumph for the ages, or a colossal fiasco? Give us the behind-the-scenes story.

Sate’d, Shaken and Stir-fried

When I was in Thailand, age 19, I purchased a teak-handled brass cutlery set of 144 pieces—twelve place settings of 11 pieces each, 12 serving pieces. It was a beautiful set in a teakwood box the size of a suitcase, and I actually bought two of them! I was traveling by ship and so had no weight or luggage restrictions. Once I got back to the reality of the U.S. and realized what a pain it was to hand wash and polish all of these pieces, I never used them (and neither did my sister, who was the recipient of the other set)—except for once. I decided to plan one grand meal for 12 and to plan a menu that made use of every knife, spoon and fork. Although I’m sure I won’t be able to remember every course, I’m going to try, but as a memory aid, I first need to remember all of the pieces. Here goes: shrimp cocktail fork, salad fork, dinner fork, cake fork, demitasse spoon, teaspoon, soup spoon, ice tea spoon, steak knife, butter knife, table knife, cheese knife sugar spoon, 3 large serving spoons, salad serving fork, salad serving spoon, meat carving knife, meat serving fork, bread knife, pie server. Phew! I can’t believe how easily I remembered the pieces. It renews my faith in my memory and as an exercise, probably staved off Alzheimer’s for a few more years.

So, what I served, if I recall correctly, was an Indonesian meal and it probably included: shrimp cocktail in a sweet chili sauce, lemongrass sweet and sour coconut milk soup, cucumbers and sweet onions in yogurt and dill sauce, nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) with mixed fresh vegetables, chicken sate in peanut sauce, kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), deep fried rice noodles with scallions  (to replace the shrimp chips usually served with the nasi goreng), more sweet chili sauce to put over the rice and noodles. coconut ice cream (I believe we used the demitasse spoons for the ice cream) green tea ice cream, some sort of cake (This must have been so, to enable us to use those cake forks.) Tsing Tao Beer, iced tea and wine. I don’t know how I worked the cheese and butter knives in—probably during the hors d’ ouvres course.

I had set all the tables elaborately, using sarongs purchased in Bali as table cloths as well as batik napkins I’d had made there. Unfortunately, a friend who didn’t quite realize the planning that had gone into this, arrived late, just as we were sitting down to our meal, with four uninvited friends in tow! I am afraid I was less than gracious as I tried to gerrymander an extra table with regular stainless cutlery. The best-laid plans!!!! Many years later, I served a 13 course Chinese meal where I had guests bring the ingredients for one dish, which I sent them a list of. (I had on hand the unusual ingredients they would have had a hard time locating.) I think I was responsible for most of the dishes, but wanted them personally involved. When they arrived, I had a Chinese chef there who helped each to prepare their individual dish. Some of mine, I’d already made, but had him help me with one more complicated dish.

Most of the evening was spent cooking, but it was so much fun and by the time we sat down to our late meal, everyone’s mood had been elevated by numerous large-sized bottles of Tsing Tao beer—a vice I’d discovered in China and found a supply of in the trunk of the car of a drapery salesman whom I dated once—just long enough to buy the entire case of beer. I don’t know why he had it and why he was wanting to get rid of it, but it was another case of the synchronicity of those years in L.A. when all of life seemed to get sorted out and when I finally got on my way to becoming closer to who I wanted to be.

Calling Uncle Duckie

for some reason they won’t post me here today, so I’m trying again.  If you go to my post just before this one, you should be able to link for my posting done early today. Has anyone else had problems linking with pingbacks to today’s and yesterday’s prompts?

Calling Uncle Duckie

The Prompt: Calling Uncle Bob—Have you ever faced a difficult situation when you had to choose between sorting it out yourself, or asking someone else for an easy fix? What did you choose — and would you make the same choice today?

Calling Uncle Duckie

I can’t get my link established. Guess I’m just unlucky.
Luckily, I have a fix. I just call Uncle Duckie!
He can fix most anything from formatting to routers;
but you’ve got to stay real calm. He doesn’t work with pouters!

“Uncle Duckie, dear,” I say via email or on Skype.
“I want to post my post now, but I have a little gripe.
I can’t get my poem to post in single space, my dear.
It looks too long when double-spaced, and I have a fear

no one will read a two-paged poem. Long postings are no fun.
Is there any way that I can get it down to one?”
“Hit shift-return at ends of lines,” he tells me really pronto.
On my blog he wears the mask. And me? I’m merely Tonto!!!! **

** Note: In Spanish, “Tonto” means stupid. In other words, if viewed in Guadalajara, our favorite childhood program would be called, “The Lone Ranger and Stupid!”

Risking It

The Prompt: Envelope Pushers—When was the last time you took a risk (big or small), and pushed your own boundaries — socially, professionally, or otherwise? Were you satisfied with the outcome?

Risking It

What risks are left in life at 67? That big risk of childbirth far behind me (and since I said no to it, so is the risk of my life being detoured by the products of it); travel no longer the thrill it once was; too tired to build and decorate any more houses; and love seemingly something that is going to be experienced in online spurts for the rest of my life; it seems as though the only risk left is that big one. And I fear it. Actually, resent it. I don’t want for life to ever be over.

I can’t stand the thought of fading into nothingness. Yes, my “work” might live after me, but my work is just the rumor of me. It is only the part of me I have been able to express. What about that entire unexplored rest of me? Where will it go? Will it ever have another chance? I feel the press of my own potential. Have I let it down? Will Hell really be the fleeting awareness, as I fade away, that I have left the most delicious offerings on the plate of life untasted?

I am not an athlete. I was never a mother. Although I have made some brave decisions in my life, nonetheless, I have feared too much. I fear being laughed at, rejected, passed over—so much so that at times I haven’t even tried. Like so many others, I have too often escaped. The power of books and films is that they afford us the opportunity to live vicariously those risks we put off taking in our own lives.

Then, the internet. Finally, the opportunity to control our fantasy lives—to create personalities for ourselves where we can leave out the parts we don’t want to face. We can always be 40 on the internet. Frozen at 145 pounds. Our successes are there on our cyber page for all to see and we can simply neglect to mention our failures. The internet is like a scrapbook with all of the faces we don’t want to see, ever again, relegated to Facebook, where we can block them with the push of a button.

Online, we get to think before talking, or at the very least, a chance to review and edit before hitting the “send” button. We are able to choose greater exposure with fewer risks. Or, one can opt for the “voyeur” stance—simply watching and imagining without ever taking the risk of exposing ourselves.

There is a swimmer a hundred yards off shore who swam by going in the opposite direction a half hour ago. A kayaker paddles by as close to the shore as she can safely travel without being swamped by waves. Two more kayakers come into view 500 yards out, paddling for shore.  It is not only the large decisions in life that expose us to risk, but there is risk, also, in the everyday details. You rent a kayak, yes, but how far out into the bay are you willing to paddle it? You go to potentially dangerous places, but to how much of that risk are you willing to expose yourself? We are all here at the same place at the same time, but I am sitting on my porch, well-shaded by the palapa roof.

The tern bobs just beyond the surf line, ducking his head underwater now and then, in search of any fish who are dumb enough to make it easy for him. Up above, magnificent frigate birds are executing their perpetual ballet—this time on our stage. Even clams stick their necks out now and then, albeit to their peril. Younger women and men jog by. Buxom grandmothers plod by. Children draw hopscotch patterns in the sand and poke at a large dying fish. I want to tell them to leave the fish alone as the child touches the eye, but when the fish doesn’t flinch, I hope it signals the end of its too-long death, gasping for air it can’t draw in now that it is surrounded by too much of it.  Simply by going after his own breakfast, he has taken a risk that will lead to his becoming someone else’s.

Part of taking risks is going into worlds we are not familiar with, to risk the discomfort of adjusting ourselves to that world. I think the secret is, however, to find familiar worlds within every world we take ourselves off to. It is not that we are rejecting the new, but rather that we are clinging onto those parts of ourselves that make us “us.” When I come to the beach, I occasionally meet with other writers. This keeps me reassured that I am sane to spend so much my life in recreating that life in words. It keeps me less lonely. It gives me a timeline and a goal. Without these touchstones that remind us who we are, we can all too easily become wanderers without purpose, going on to the next place in search of ourselves.

Sitting here on the porch, I am not necessarily any safer than the man or woman swimming so far offshore. It is my own risks I’m taking. I risk telling you something that will make you like me less. Something that will make me look foolish, deluded, poorly-informed, naïve, even crazy. A bigger risk is that in this writing I might see a part of myself I don’t like. This prompt today has done that: raised a question I don’t want to answer, even though I know the answer is hiding there somewhere within me. I know what the risk is that I’m afraid to take, but like the name of that acquaintance whose face I know so well but whose name suddenly eludes me, I just can’t quite put my finger on it. There is at least one risk left to take before that final risk formerly alluded to. Now I just need to set about trying to remember what it is.