Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fun Times Ahead

 We are in a winter wonderland out here on Windy Bay. Our kids are headed back to their busy lives. The house is cozy and warm.
 Before I begin my New Year's Resolutions, I always look up what I vowed to pay attention to last year. Tim Cork  provided an excellent list:

I will be grateful
I will listen… focus on being present
I will do my best everyday
I will share
I will collaborate
I will compliment people
I will live without regret
I will respect myself at all times
I will forgive and accept myself when I make a mistake
I will read something new every day
I will write in my journals
I will read 40 books this year
I will launch my new book … “G3”
I will speak to over 25,000 people this year
I will listen to self-help audio books in my car … your car is just a University on wheels
I will make those around me feel loved
I will forever pursue happiness regardless of what occurs
I will take responsibility for my actions
I will surround myself with people who inspire me
I will laugh at myself
I will hug my wife and children often
I will help those in need
I will use kind words in difficult situations
I will live with an attitude of gratitude
I will respect others points of view
I will pick myself up when I fall
I will work out every day
I will drink lots of water (and wine)
I will say sorry when I make a mistake and mean it
I will take a break when I need it
I will live every day as if it is the first and the last
I will not be driven by fear
I will find extraordinary in every day
I will enjoy my food
I will be patient
I will get up early
I will teach leaders and learn from leaders through my work
I will read this list every morning
I will not take myself too seriously
I will cry when my emotions tell me to
I will listen to my inner voice
I will focus on the attitude of giving
I will play hockey, golf, tennis, swim and ski regularly in season and stay very active

"Whether you think you can or can't, you are right" - Henry Ford       

I read my list every day when I wake up and it jump starts my day … positive affirmations & repetition creates excellent habits and a life of abundance and success.

Make it Straight A's Week & Year!  
Seasons Greeting and all the best for 2015!

Tim Cork

Are you getting Straight A's in life?
Find out at

Monday, December 22, 2014

1 Corinthians Christmas Version

 I Corinthians A Christmas Version by Sharon Jaynes

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling
lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at
mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I
have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend
a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus
on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to
kiss the husband. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love doesn't envy
another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they
are there to be in the way. Love doesn't give only to those who are able to
give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all
things. Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be
lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

Merry Christmas and lots of love to you and yours!

Friday, December 19, 2014

How a Stranger Restored My Christmas Spirit

My Christmas spirit deserted me until a stranger’s words revived 
my belief in the magic of the season.

Everyday pressures and the news of the world overwhelmed me this year to the point that Christmas lost its meaning.  As the season approached, nothing lifted my spirits.  The flickering lights and glimmering tinsel on our Christmas tree didn’t do it.  Watching my favorite Christmas movie didn’t do it.  Even the joy I felt after spending an afternoon baking Christmas cookies with my grandkids deserted me as soon as their cheery voices faded away.

Everything overwhelmed.  Two days ago we cancelled our plans for our anniversary dinner after an unexpected visit from a family member.  Yesterday, unforeseen responsibilities again upset our plans.  So this morning, filled with determination rather than joy, we left home armed with a numbered, to-do list, our Christmas gift list, packages, sizes, addresses, a fistful of sales flyers, and the intent to celebrate our anniversary with lunch and a movie.  After a half hour delay to return home to pick up forgotten gifts that needed to be delivered, we headed off to our favorite restaurant. 

With little thought, I suddenly heard myself say, “Let’s eat lunch there.” as we passed an unfamiliar eatery.  My husband shrugged and nodded his agreement.  I was paying to park when I heard him speaking to someone.

I turned to see him talking to a young woman in a car with another woman and a young boy.  She was asking directions in good, but halting English.  She seemed confused by his directions. 

He explained again … and again, yet she didn’t move.  Sensing her distress, I joined in, trying to give more exact directions.  We were standing out in the cold on a sidewalk, just seconds from finally celebrating our anniversary.  Traffic zipped past as we each struggled to be understood. 

She thought we were leaving the restaurant and asked us to lead her to the address she was looking for.  We said we just arrived and would lose the money we paid to park.  She offered to pay for our parking if we would help her.  I finally offered to draw a map.  While my husband went to get pen and paper, she told me she had been looking for the Toys for Tots address since 9 a.m. … it was now 2 p.m.  They had been driving around the same few blocks for hours, confused by construction, one-way streets, east-west address changes, and a language barrier. 

I made up my mind to help.  I offered to ride with her to show her the way and she could bring me back.  She said, “No, I couldn’t.  I don’t want to lose you!”  We smiled at each other.  When my husband returned I told him we were going to lead her where she needed to go.  He agreed with a smile and we returned to our car and backed out. 

No, I couldn't.  I don't want to lose you!

We nearly lost her car a couple of times due to heavy traffic and changing lights, but about ten minutes later, arrived at Toys for Tots.  We got out and hugged.  She said, “Thank you, thank you.  You are so kind.  I will never forget you.  This was my first time driving here.”  Her young son thanked us and with a huge grin, jumped out of the car and ran up the front steps. 

Her heartfelt words were an unexpected gift, 
rekindling my joy in the season.  

We left, our Christmas spirit returned through the simple words of a stranger for the gift of kindness.  Our parking place was waiting for us when we returned to the restaurant. 

Merry Christmas to you all as you celebrate this time of year in your own special way.  Writing North Idaho is going to take a couple of weeks off and we will return with regular blogs on January 5.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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Monday, December 15, 2014

The Joy of Prosody: The Joy of Pastoral Poetry

By Liz Mastin

Pastoral poetry is a huge genre and one can only touch on it in a column. “Pastoral poetry,” according to poet Edward Hirsch, “comes from the Latin word pastor, meaning Shepherd.” He continues, “the Greek poet Theocritus originated the pastoral in his ten poems (“idylls”) representing the life of Sicilian shepherds.”

According to Wikipedia, the ideology of pastoral, is that of “shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to the seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It lends its name to a genre of literature, art and music that depicts such life in an idealized manner, and is geared typically for an urban audience.” Pastoral poetry stemmed from a yearning for perceived earlier times, when man lived more closely to nature. It sometimes seems to be a flashback to the Garden of Eden. “Pastoral is a mode in which the poet employs various techniques to place the complex life into a simpler one.”

Previous to Theocritus, the ancient Greek poet Hesiod, in his exposition “Works and Days” presented what he termed a golden age when people lived together in close harmony with nature; the golden age being the best age. The setting for the pastoral poem is usually a “Locus Amoenus,” or beautiful place in nature. Pastoral shepherds and maidens usually have Greek names, reflecting the origin of the pastoral genre, one famous Locus Amoenus (being) Arcadia, a rural region of Greece and the mythological home of the god, Pan. According to Wikipedia “the tasks of these shepherds with their sheep and other rustic chores is held in fantasy to be an almost wholly undemanding lifestyle which abandons the shepherdesses and their swains in a state of almost perfect leisure. This makes them available for embodying perpetual erotic fantasies!”

Some famous writers of pastoral poetry are the Roman poet Virgil, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser, Michel Drayton, Christopher Marlowe, William Browne, Alexander Pope, (and) Alexander Barclay, Katherine Philips and Ben Jonson with their Country house pastorals. But many famous poets, besides, have written the pastoral poem. I enjoyed Katherine Phillip’s opinion that “the joys of the countryside and the lifestyle accompanying it (being the first and happiest life when man enjoyed himself) may be maintained by living detached from material things, and not over-concerning oneself with the world around us.

Virgil believed that a “young poet should learn his craft by writing pastorals before proceeding on to the grander form of the epic.”

Example of a pastoral poem:

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
By Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me and be my love
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hill, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherds’ swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Come live with me and be my love.

Friday, December 12, 2014

All the World's a Stage

All the World's a Stage

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sleep Tips for Writers

                                                             Dr. Hugh Smythe

Where do you rest your weary head? An unsettled mind will wake you up in the middle of the night. What do you do then? Get up? Stare at the ceiling? Go to another room? Read? Turn on the computer and abandon hope of any decent rest? I know, you are thinking, all of the above.

Have any significant contributions been made to the science of sleep? Yes. My uncle, the late Dr. Hugh Smythe and his friend, Robert F. Clark, created the shaped pillow. Dr. Smythe used his knowledge of medicine to study how mankind has dealt with sleep through the ages. With his electric carving knife and some foam padding he went to work to invent a better pillow.

Do you toss and turn and punch your pillow? Do yourself a favor and get a new one that supports your head and neck. As writers we cannot afford to block any ideas that may flow in the night. You will not be sorry, I promise you.

When writing My American Eden, I took a trip to Plymouth to see what how colonials lived in the mid 1600's. Floored by the short beds, I asked the guide, sitting at her spinning wheel, to explain why people did not lie flat. Pneumonia, the old man's friend, was the answer. Fearing death in the night had weary farmers sitting up. Noting the pillow, as was my training from my uncle, I saw that they used round and quite firm bolsters. The sheets were made of linen, hence where we get the term bed-linens, and it looked altogether Spartan to my jaundiced eye.

The expression, sleep on it, has always made good sense to me. Our brains are over-stimulated, and that condition gets worse by the minute. Sleep specialists always advise not to watch television as an aide to insomnia, as it only makes the condition worse. A long walk, in the fresh air, followed by a healthy diet, during the day, restricting processed foods and refined sugar, dining early, and other good habits really do help. Yet so many nights I am wide awake at an ungodly hour. Warm milk with turmeric and cinnamon, a tip I learned from watching Dr. Oz works wonders. Years ago, I used to refrain from getting up and would lie in bed driving myself crazy running through a litany or worries. Now I get up and read until my eyes are tired, or I listen to sleep tapes I found on YouTube. If I find that I am at a loss for words during the day, and thus am awake and trying to sort out whether a chapter in my novel should stay or get the ax, I often find the answer in the morning. Stephen King was on a vacation in London when he he awoke in the morning with a story in his head. He told his wife he had to write, asked the hotel manager to set him up with a desk and wrote Carrie. The rest is history.

Nothing changed my sleep problem as significantly as a visit to this website:
Having purchased memory foam shaped pillows in department stores I have long been sold on this concept, but the real deal is much much better.

“Through human history, people would sit on soft pillows during the day but set them aside at night in favour of neck support pillows. Ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Japanese, Polynesians and Africans all used neck supports made from a variety of relatively unyielding materials, including: wood, ceramics, leather, alabaster and ivory. The bolster used widely in Europe is mechanically similar.”

Good health to ye.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pull and Bloody Pull

Boys in the Boat

Many great accounts filtered down to me regarding Daniel James Brown's account of Boys in the Boat. When a book is recommended that highly, it rarely disappoints. That goes double for this amazing re-telling of the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the lads from Washington.

One of the members of the Best Food Ever Book Cub, posed this interesting question: “What made the boat speed through the water faster than any other boat? Coaching? Pocock's design and cedar cut from the B.C. coast? Determination, competitiveness, and will? The Fates?” These are all great questions, and I know the discussion will be very lively as we look for answers.

It is my personal belief that champions are born, and champions are also made. What kept me turning the pages of this book that topped the New York Times bestseller list, is the recreation of a time and a place. A quest plot drives the action as we are literally pulling for every member of the crew. From hard working circumstances and the depths of the depression, these young men prepare to make themselves champions. The coaching is superb. There are words of inspiration for us to read and tuck away in our minds, on our blackboards, and in our diaries.

“One of the first admonitions of a good rowing coach, after the fundamentals are over, is “pull your own weight,” and the young oarsmen does just that when he finds out that the boat goes better when he does. There is certainly a social implication here.” George Yeoman Pocock P. 149

Reading of all the various obstacles overcome by the crew members, the grueling conditions in which they trained, the brute strength they were able to call upon when needed, makes this book an inspiring read. How I wished I had a rowing machine in my basement, or that I could get out on those glassy early mornings in my kayak or my canoe once again. I longed to feel my back muscles stinging, and I wanted to watch whirlpools in the water. I longed to glide along driven by my own steam. There is something so satisfying and immediate about the whole mode of travel that I wanted to feel all that beauty again.

Certainly the boys from Washington had an inner toughness that we long to see again. I can remember that in my youth the hockey players who worked in gravel pits and on farms in Ontario, gaining strength while putting food on the table for their families. Can true grit be found in a gym? I am sure it can, but I have always wondered if overcoming adversity as a child adds to what goes into the  making of a champion.

“Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They're the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them, civilization is out of whack. And that's why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it. That's what he gets from rowing.” George Yeoman Pocock P.357

If you have a reader on your Christmas list, or like me, you give books to everyone, Boys in the Boat will be a highly valued addition to any library.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Books on Your Holiday Gift List?

She’s 12; she reads voraciously; she has eclectic taste in genres; she reads above her grade level; she’s ready for Gone with The WindThe “she” in this case is my oldest grandchild. She is receiving this book for Christmas because (A) it is one of my all time favorites,  (B) she is ready for the subject matter and (C) she is old enough to do research on her own about the Civil War to better understand the setting and meaning of the book. I am excited for her to receive it but more excited to talk to her after she has finished reading it. I am also giving her another book, a blank one, A Private Reading Journal. I wish I had kept a journal or log of all the books I read starting when I was twelve. It would be fun to look back ands what I thought a book when I was fifteen, 25 or 65 years old. 

Do you give books as holiday gifts? I have friends who devote their gifts exclusively to books and have done so for years. One buys the book she decides is her favorite from the past 12 months of reading and gives it to the adults on her list. This is tricky finding a book that will appeal to all. Another loves searching, contemplating and then buying the right book for each person on her list. Both these friends read many books and belong to several book clubs so they have a wide variety of books from which to choose. Sometimes it is a classic that makes the list, other times, a new hardback book. Another idea is a gift card to a bookstore and the receiver can choose his own selection.

Here are some web sites for you to peruse to find the right book you would like give. books on writing tips for writers notable children’s books 2014 by American Association of Library Services for Children   children’s lists of best books 2014 chosen by children for ages 5 to 12.

Here are some other gift suggestions for the book lovers on your list. All are available by clicking on this link: 
Selection of soothing music

Book or e-reader holder

Woman's tee shirt

Lighted magnifier
Gift basket with book related goodies

Monday, December 1, 2014

Goood Mooorning Vietnam!

“GOOOOD MOOOORNING VIETNAM!” In this movie Adrian Cronaur, aka Robin Williams, talks about Lyndon Johnson visiting the camp.
            “Excuse me, Sir. Seeing how as the VP is such a VIP…shouldn’t we keep the PC on the QT, ‘cause if it leaks to the VC…he could end up an MIA and then we’d all be put on KP."

These are a textbook perfect example of acronyms.:VP-vice president; VIP-very important person; PC-press conference; QT quiet; VC-Viet Cong; MIA-missing in action; and KP-kitchen patrol. 

For writers these acronyms provide a quandary. How do we use them? What is capitalized, how do I print it when my character is saying an acronym? Is this acronym known or understood in another country? There is no universal agreement on the use of acronyms or on written usage because the topic is too broad, used many different ways and may mean something else in another context. The answers I researched said YOYO (you're on your own.)

Acronyms, also called initialisms, are words formed from the initials of other words: laser, sonar, scuba, AIDS, and NATO.  Additionally there are many sub categories of acronyms.

1.     Pronounced as a word containing only initial letters
MoMA (Museum of Modern Art in NYC), LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association), OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries)

2.     Pronounced as a word Necco (New England Confectionary Company), URL (Uniform Resource Locator)

3.     Pronounced as words or letters depending upon the speaker: IRA (individual retirement account, also spoken I-R-A meaning the same or I-R-A meaning the Irish Republican Army), FAQ (frequently asked questions), SAT (Scholastic Achievement Test), AARP (American Assoc. of Retired People which dropped the full name in order to appeal to all adult people)

4.      Pronounced only as the names of letters ABC (American Broadcast Co.), DNA, IBM, GQ Magazine (originally Gentlemen’s Quarterly), USA, NAACP, BP (British Petroleum now British Products), AT&T (New York stock exchange abbreviation for American Telephone and Telegraph), Seattle’s Best Coffee became SBC when it went national but quickly changed back to its full name, AOL (American Online); DMZ (demilitarized zone)

5.      Pronounced but with shortcuts NCAA can be N-C double A, or N-C-A-A; NAACP can be said as N-double A-C-P;  AAA (American Automobile Assoc.) or triple A; Amateur Athletic Assoc. is said in short cut: three As

6.     A variation called orphan initialism involves cases where the name of an organization changes to match its initials. For example, GAO used to be General Accounting Office and is now Government Accountability Office (imagine what that cost us tax payers for new letter head stationery, business cards, etc.) TCBY used to stand for This Can’t Be Yogurt but a law suit forced it to change to The Country’s Best Yogurt.

7.     Pseudo-acronyms are basically what IM (instant messaging) uses. CULT (see you later), BB4N (bye bye for now) and hundreds of others.

Writers need to write so that acronyms are in the proper context and with clear understanding so the readers know what the letters stand for and how to read them, i.e., hear them spoken in their mind.

“Good Morning, Vietnam” was written by Mitch Markovitz, directed by Barry Levinson with much of Robin Williams’’ material improvised.