Filling in the Blanks

Like many of my compatriots here in Bloglandia, I chose to close my awards-acceptance shop after having been gifted with a generous helping of them. We all learn very quickly that this is an incredibly open-hearted and open-handed community, and the reassurance of being recognized in this way is a grand encouragement to keep working. It can also demand a fair amount of work and dedication just to go through the proper procedures each award requires for acceptance and the passing of the torch to other deserving souls, this on top of the way that the regular work of producing the blog not only continues but tends to increase if one wants to ‘grow’ the blog in any significant ways regarding its style, content, purpose, and so on ad infinitum. On top of that, there is the increase of comment correspondence that, in turn, inspires other changes and improvements along the way but also means one is devoting larger and larger amounts of time to the correspondence itself.

That is all good and great stuff. Really. Even if I were to quit blogging cold turkey this very moment I would say unabashedly that it has been wildly enriching, educational and happy work for the last nearly three years in ways that I couldn’t have imagined or replicated with any other kind of activity. I’m still almost entirely income-free in every way, though I’ll admit I’m starting for the first time to consider advertising here onsite for commercial partners in addition to the previous, occasional tiny plugs for my ArtSparks store at Zazzle.com or my book on Amazon or my Pinterest accounts, all of which combined make me an amount of money that I assume would send any self-respecting modern teenager into tizzies of fiery revolution if offered as their allowance. Again, not a complaint, as I am a happily kept woman whose partner willingly arranges his life to do the income earning while I blog, tend the household’s needs, and accompany him when I’m able. A surprising twist (to me) is that leaving a full-time job teaching at university and becoming a homemaker in a one-car family didn’t turn me into a hermit and a fearful little creature who hides in the hedgerows, but rather brought me out of my shell in developing and sharing what skills and arts I like to cultivate and in corresponding with and befriending a slew of people doing similar things all around the world.

digital drawing (BW)

Not a fearful little creature who hides in the hedgerows.

Whether this work of mine benefits anyone outside my household is a matter for all visitors to decide for themselves, but I know that I derive both pleasure and growth from working here, in one way and another. I think I lead a far more colorful and expressive life internally, and that has external ramifications that effect useful change and direction in what I do—and how and when and why and with whom.

So I was happy to be tagged in a recent round-robin writing meme that requires little labor I wouldn’t already be doing and offers in return an opportunity for thinking about what does happen hereabouts and for learning how that is similar to, and different from, what happens in others’ blogging territories. I thank the marvelous Rosemary, whose blog is full of constant delightful, piquant artworks, brain-stretching turns of phrase and ideas that get my gears turning each time I have a chance to stop by there, for inviting me to be another participant in these collective ruminations.

Part of the meme process is to publish on the Monday after being tapped, and ask your nominees to do the same. I failed to get even close to the right timing, being on my own weird schedule as always. It didn’t, however, prevent my thinking further on the topic, so I’ll just pretend I was timely and wax philosophical when I’m good and ready, and if you need to, you can pretend it’s Monday the 28th of April all over again.

The rules of the process that I can follow merely require that I answer four questions about how I write and nominate three others. My nominees may well be no-award bloggers, too, (always or by now) but might find the questions worth asking themselves yet again, for these are questions we all ask or are asked often enough, those of us who write regularly whether for self alone or with wider purposes. Have fun with it, or if it doesn’t in fact offer that possibility to you, just ignore it while digging through the big basketful of thanks I’m sending your way for what your writing means to me.

What am I working on at the moment?

I’m working on blog posts, books, art commissions, planning for other posts-books-artworks, and doing what reading and research I need to inform and guide all of those things. The book of art and poetry I published in January used about a tenth of the content I’ve been creating and amassing over the last decade or so, leaving bunches of other books to be refined from the collection. I’m currently compiling sets of related, somewhat thematic poetry with which I intend to combine my visual art and texts as in the other books, but in these particular instances will collaborate with composers to set the texts to music. The art projects include a piece for a friend and former university colleague’s change of job celebration and a companion artwork for one of my graphite drawings that was bought at a fundraising auction. The latter won’t engage my writing skills, but the former is going to be a mixed-media piece that will allow me to play with textual content, another element I greatly enjoy incorporating quite often in my visual work. One feeds the other, always, just as my reading and correspondence inform what I do here.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have no idea what genre my work actually fits. Seriously. This has been a problem as long as I can remember: it seems no one else knows how to classify me, either, and if I can’t be conveniently and recognizably enough pigeonholed, apparently no one can figure out any ways to market my work. I’ve posted about it before.

I roam down so many strange little byways every time I stop to write that if “genre” applies, I suppose I must move from one to another regularly. I consider myself an essayist, artist and short fiction enthusiast in what I typically do here; my self-selected projects, like book number one, virtually always have substantial overlap somewhere between those. Adding to the oddity is the spill-over from my personal blend of contented immaturity, constant rambling from piquancy to pathos and beauty to the bizarre. If I can figure out how to make a one-page piece that combines visual art with text and ranges from terrifying to hilarious, tenderly thought-provoking to ridiculously unexpected, then I am likely to be truly happy. And oh, so un-sellable. Blogging at least allows me to practice, enjoy, and air out whatever variety of my inclinations and artistic urges I choose, so it doesn’t merely stay bottled up, endlessly mouldering.

Why do I write what I do?

It may well be that I’m driven by forces far beyond my conscious choices. I’ve never embraced nonfiction much when choosing my reading; maybe that made it seem too much like work, like required reading, and you already know of my deep aversion to Effort. So no, I wouldn’t have chosen to write nonfiction any more than to read it. But of course, it could be argued that blog autobiography of the sort I practice, barring my being obviously delusional, is a generally factual forum in itself. Very much on the other hand, I have always loved goofing around with wild and outrageously unlikely fictional and fantastic ideas, subjects and stories. It’s so much fun to invent and flesh out my fantasies with all sorts of odd details and unexpected turns of phrase and plot and character development, the best of those in my practice being the ones that can develop in extremely short and shallow tales that fit into a single blog post or book page. I have a short attention span, so I prefer to treat even pretty sophisticated topics with this kiddies’-picture-book approach, quite often, knowing that it’s what will appeal to me first, and any somewhat like-minded reader after. If there are any such readers.

How does my writing process work?

I am, and have long been, a scribbler. Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve kept notebooks, scratch paper, and notepads stashed everywhere I’m likely to come to rest for even the shortest time: bedside, by my reading chair, on the kitchen counter nearest the table; next to the toilet, in the glove compartment of the car, on my desk. When the tiniest idea pops into my head, I’m likely to grab one of these and whatever pen or pencil I’ve put with it and scrawl as fast as I can. Story, drawing, list, note, sketch or poem? Maybe a combination of them. I might have my laptop or iPad handy and go directly to digital, but the medium matters less than grabbing hold of the idea while it lasts. I can always transcribe, scan, photograph or otherwise capture my paper scribbles, and those stashes of mine are much easier to access in most of the places where my day and night find me, so part of me is still very old school in this regard.

PS—I know there’s a long and honorable tradition of early morning writing—really early morning writing, by my standards—being a great and grand way to produce fabulous stuff and have a lasting career and all of that. I am not in that tradition. When I write in the early morning hours, it’s because I’ve been writing late and am still at it at 3 a.m. I would rather sleep ten or eleven hours a night, every night, than be a great writer. If that’s what it takes. Until I have confirmation that early morning writing is the only path to artistic excellence and writerly happiness, I’ll keep writing in snatches and patches of day and night that leave me free to sleep when and as much as I want and need. That’s my process, for good or ill. So far, it keeps me mighty happy. And happy to be here.

And now, I nominate these three writers to participate in a Writing Process Blog Meme:

Diane @ http://bardessdmdenton.wordpress.com

Christine @ http://journeyintopoetry.wordpress.com

Jim @ http://gingerfightback.com

If you accept my nomination, you will write an article prompted by the following four questions and post it on your blog on Monday, April 28, 2014. Just like I did! Wink-wink. The four questions (just to jog your memory from the above bits):

What am I working on at the moment?
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Why do I write what I do?
How does my writing process work?

I completely understand if this ‘isn’t your thing’. No obligation. Just having fun!

digital illustration

Even for a shy little goof like me, life can get pretty colorful when I plunge into writing wholeheartedly.

Over the Top

photoFew people have as many reasons to be happy as I have. Being aware of that fact is, in a maybe slightly tautological way, a great reason for happiness in its own right. And so: I am happy. Very.

One of the finest reasons to be happy–and forgive me if this sounds a little tautological too–is that I am not depressed. Having spent as many of my younger years clinically depressed and struggling with anxiety as I did before getting treatment and medication that allowed me to be at ease, healthy, hopeful and, well, happy, I may have a deeper appreciation of simple, ordinary happiness than many. Every day that I’m not depressed, sad or anxious is a gift. I think I can be pardoned for thinking myself one of the happiest creatures on earth, even if I don’t go bounding around giggling to prove it.

Another chief source of my joy is the tremendous community of friends and loved ones surrounding me at all times. This has served not only as an essential part of my recovery and continued success in keeping my mental health and spirits on a positive trajectory since my emergence from the chrysalis of that darker self of years past. If that isn’t reason for being well and truly happy, I don’t know what is. I suppose it’s a further sign of general contentment and happiness that when there are times of stress, struggle or sorrow that are fleeting, they serve to reinforce happiness rather than otherwise, since they serve to remind me of the contrast between those times of trial and their wonderful opposites.

The biggest mystery in all of this is perhaps the astounding truth that I keep getting rewarded further for embracing my sources of happiness. Good friends come into my life and share their kindness and wisdom and humor and expansive spirits with me and I respond as any such fortunate person would, by turning to them like a flower to the sun. And then they in their turn give me more of their kindness and so forth. I am overwhelmed with thanks.

Among bloggers, one of the signs of mutual support and friendship that arises in this setting is the sharing of blog awards, and of late I seem to have built up quite the collection once again. So I am taking this moment to express my deep gratitude! Given the range of kindnesses being showered upon me in recent times, I am taking the liberty of blending the recognitions into one post and revising all of the requirements–with an invitation to those I nominate in response that they might follow this new rubric as well.

First of all, I present to you the generous friends who have shared their blog awards with me, and the awards they have passed along on the way.

Afsheen http://afsheenanjum.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/awards/ Dragon’s Loyalty Award + Versatile Blogger Award + Blog of the Year 2013 AwardDragon's Loyalty AwardVersatile Blogger AwardBlog of the Year Award 1 star jpegRosemary http://randomrose.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/the-sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-award/ The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers AwardSisterhood of the World Bloggers AwardCarolyn http://carolynmalone.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/best-moment-award/ Best Moment AwardBest Moment AwardAnne http://talesalongtheway.com/2013/12/01/sunshine-award-and-inner-peace-award/ Inner Peace Award + Sunshine Award + Versatile Blogger AwardInner Peace AwardSunshine AwardVersatile Blogger AwardDimple https://shivaaydelights.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/liebster-awards-ii/ Liebster AwardLiebster AwardSamina http://saminaiqbal27.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/most-influential-blogger-award/Most Influential Blogger AwardMost Influential Blogger AwardDiane http://bardessdmdenton.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/inspiration-awarded/ Very Inspiring Blogger AwardVery Inspiring Blog AwardKind friends all, I am once again moved and daunted by your generosity. But I shall do my best to be worthy, or at least appropriately thankful and generous in my own turn. For my  official dance of acceptance, I shall share a selection of revelations, factoids and other wildly inspirational (or mildly amusing) items to divert you for a while. First, however, I must tell you there are a number of darling persons of my blogging acquaintance and friendship who deserve your visits, readership, following and devotion. And any number of awards. So whichever of the awards you below-named friends have not already received (multiple times, some of you!), I will be ever so glad and honored if you will accept my nomination to share with me. For I am glad and honored to be in your company, just as I’ve been saying.

Ginger, purveyor of outrageously great humor and creative writing at gingerfightback; Marie, lovely proprietress of her own Little Corner of Rhode Island (where wildlife and fabulous young household members run wonderfully rampant); David Reid, insightful and gloriously gifted artist; Antoinette, Spree-cooking in a magical kitchen and celebrating family love; Mark, overseeing a variety of creative marvels through graphic design, music, travel and more, at The Vibes; Mandy the magnificent at The Complete Book, where cats and cookery and the sweet beauties of South Africa abound; Bishop, the master of clever home gardening, beer making, whiskey tasting and regional explorations; Claire, who Promenades through England and France with exquisite gardening and travel and foodly inspirations; Nitzus, gloriously photographing travels and family with equal aplomb; Diane Denton, Bardess of a multitude of grand artworks combining poetry and paintings and all sorts of visual and verbal art; John, busily cooking up family history and delicious dishes with which to ingest them in the Bartolini kitchen; Lauren, who writes love poems so well that instead of making me feel like a spy on her personal life they seem admirably universal; Tyler, the superb writer-photographer-poet-biologist at the helm of The Ancient Eavesdropper; Jeanne Kasten, queen of her beautiful art studio; Mick the Meticulous and his great and celebratory photographs of people, places and things in ways that remind us to see with new eyes; Laura Macky, outstanding and artistic photographer-blogger; Michael, Taggart and his Amazing Flower Photos; and Anne-Christine, the great lady presiding over the joys at Leya: please step up and accept my accolades, my admiration, and my best wishes for your continued success and happy productivity.

Friends, if your name doesn’t appear on this little list, rest assured that I am pleased to share my blogging life with each and every one of you whose blogs I visit and follow as well. Your work makes my days so much the richer, and I consider myself privileged to be in the midst of this entire blogging company. Those of you who read here now and have not yet ‘met’ the bloggers whom I am naming above, please take a cue from my list and pay a visit to these terrific people’s places the first chance you get!

Now, a selection of bits about moi, in case you haven’t already been sickened by the TMI that is my blog. Happy perusing.

1   One of the very few sport-related things I ever did with reasonable success was drop-kicking in football. Surprisingly, I did not pursue this as a career.

2   I love the scent and taste of cardamom.

3   I’d like to own less Stuff. Trying to be smarter about that.

4   I’ve only been under general anesthetic twice. As far as I can remember. Not counting a few speeches I’ve sat through.

5   One of my early boy-crushes was on Morgan MacLaren, with whom I shared a double desk in first or second grade, and I swooned and mooned over him for a long time, but it ended abruptly when he contracted the current plague of the Hong Kong flu and threw up all over our desk.

6   I really like sitting on a swing, and I like standing on it even better. But swings are made too Safe nowadays for properly aggressive elevation. Thanks, lawyers.

7   I’m a huge fan of Mid-century Modern design. Not very surprising, I suppose, as I grew up surrounded by the stuff when it was new. But I admire its clean lines and grace anyway.

8   My pet goldfish, the first and only pet I ever had, had a middle name. Turns out to be the first name of the first-and-only man I ever married, too.

9   Eating raw eggs doesn’t worry me (but I wouldn’t choose to eat them plain).

10   I prefer thigh-high stockings to pantyhose.

11   I’m generally an optimist. Is that why I prefer thigh-high stockings to pantyhose? Oh, come on, I was simply referring to the relative probability of their staying properly in place during the regular course of a day without help from garters.

12   One of the stupider things I’ve done was responding to having come back to my car after visiting the library one night, finding a teenager in a hoodie inside it going through my glove compartment, and instead of going off to call the police as I should have done, opened the door and yanked the kid out by his jacket, yelling at him, and shoved him away while he, stunned, regrouped and ran off to catch up with the confederates who had failed to warn him I was returning to the car. I am happy he was even stupider and more afraid than I was so I’m here to tell the tale.

13   I like cedar better than pine. Mostly.

14   I learned how to drive a manual transmission vehicle, but I’m terrible at it. You should all be thrilled that automatic transmissions exist. The world is a safer place.

15   When the space shuttle Challenger exploded, I was standing in line at a paint store where they had a television on behind the counter, so despite the improbability of it all, I saw the disaster on live TV anyway.

16   I’m very intimidated by singing in front of anybody. I know there’s no earthly reason to be afraid of it, but it frightens me all the same.

17   I was fond of vampires and monsters and that sort of stuff long, long before they entered their current phase of popularity, but I still don’t think of myself as dark and morbid (even if others might)–I only like that stuff for its amusing entertainment value. Maybe that in itself is morbid!

18   If an Agatha Christie villain had ever tried to poison me with cyanide I’d probably have been an easy mark, because I find the smell and flavor of almonds enticing.

19   Birds love the seeds I put in two of the feeders out back of our house or on the patio but they won’t touch the remaining feeder, with the same seeds in it.

20   I would’ve made a good architect, if I hadn’t been such an awful mathematician and, oh yeah, also had no engineering knowledge and a pretty poor work ethic. Great sense of practical yet beautiful space and all of the smaller designs within it, though.

21   I am in awe of people who are great at any service profession (teaching, medicine, humanitarian work, and so forth).

22   My parents never disowned me. Go figure.

23   A man of Norwegian descent taught me my first Chinese words and taught me how to use chopsticks.

24   I had the chicken pox as a kid.

25   If all of this isn’t more than enough information about me, I don’t know whether to be astounded or just feel sorry for you, but I hope you’ve been a little amused along the way. And considering that you’ve stuck around this long, I thank you for your patience and good manners and hope you’ll extend your attentions enough to visit some of the many great blogs of my friends’ that I commended to you above. Cheers!   photoWith this, I am going to cease accepting blog awards henceforth. Obviously, I am not opposed to them in any way! But I have already been so generously inundated with awards that I have no need of more, and the companionship, advice and friendship I receive has always been the richest of the rewards. I thank you one and all and wish for everyone as much happiness as I am blessed to enjoy.

Trading Bouquets All ‘Round

photoI’m rather pleased with myself, but then that’s hardly a new thing, as anybody can tell. At the moment, part of my self-congratulation stems from passing the 500 posts mark on my blog, almost all of those posts at the rate of one a day. Yes, this blog is my multivitamin! I get so much affirmation, yes, but also so much practice writing, drawing, working out topical ideas, cooking, photographing and all sorts of other things that it’s beneficial in more ways than I can count.

I also continue to gain enormous amounts from the fellowship I find here with blogging friends and readers, where we share our thoughts and inspirations, and often, our hearts on a regular basis. This is a world that, considering I didn’t even know of its existence very few years ago and even then, had no idea of its potential influence on my life and others’, has become a remarkably important part of my every day as well as a challenge and quite frequently a great pleasure.

It doesn’t hurt that the kindness of previous strangers in my circle of blogging friends has also included cheering me on in the form of blogging award recognitions, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say, with a deep bow, Thank You to them once again for the gracious support and encouragement that make me feel happy to be here far beyond the initial drive that found purpose merely in enforcing my need to practice and to be accountable for doing so regularly. I am in fact trying rather hard these days to apply the same sort of discipline to getting back some seriousness about both useful physical exercise and some degree of greater mindfulness about my eating, both of which I know from experience serve to make any intellectual and artistic practice more feasible and more enjoyable too.

So to my generous and gracious co-bloggers Subhan Zein (passing along the Sunshine Award, though he himself is one of the brightest rays of light in the blogosphere!), Kate Kresse (she is so amazing she knows how to make me feel Illuminating, Versatile and Lovely whether she’s flying by to grant me awards or not!), and the London Flower Lover (whose land of peace-love-and-joy compels me and delights me at every visit!), I say that however slow my public acknowledgement of their sweet open-handedness is, it is truly sincere and grateful. Along with all of you dear people who have cheered me on with awards and readership and, especially, your constant comments and conversations with me, this has been a richly rewarding place to be for this last year and a half, and I will gladly keep ‘living here’ for the foreseeable future in your marvelous company if you let me! Your popping by this ‘daily diary’ of my thoughts, artworks and adventures makes every second of it a worthwhile treasure, and I thank you all. Bouquets to each and every one of you.photo

Curtseying & Polishing My Tiara Madly

digitally-painted photo

Now, there's really no need for you to go putting up any monuments in my honor or installing any statues of me . . .

photo

. . . and while I love a good concert and the after-parties are outstanding, it's not necessary to write compositions in my honor and get the marching band ready for a parade . . .

photo

. . . and while I do love a good monetary recognition, it's hard to explain any sums sizable enough to be really impressive when our fine friends from the Internal Revenue Service start paying attention to the numbers . . .

photo

. . . so I think I'll just say that my heart is warmed immensely by the kind light you've shone on me, and that in return I hope that I can be a little brighter and a little more generous with my light to the rest of you, and that you will all pass it along as well . . .

Once again I have been receiving kind and generous notices of recognition over the last few weeks from my gracious blogging friends, and I’m overdue to say appropriate thanks in response. So here I am at last, with another lovely gift-basket filled with Genuine Blogger, Versatile Blogger, Sunshine, and Kreativ Blogger Awards and feeling overwhelmed as always at the munificence of the online community. These latest are conferred upon me, regardless of my deserts, by my fellow poets, artists, foodies, gardeners, essayists, music lovers, travelers and others with whom I’ve so fortuitously crossed paths out here in the ether and am enjoying the marvels of mutual entertainment and discovery.

It is with a humble and happy heart that I thank Meg, Susie, Mark, Mars, Kofegeek and Tamara. Some of these have been friendly correspondents of mine for a lovely while now, and others are quite new to me, and I highly recommend that you have a look at all of their blogs! Meg is a veteran traveler for her relatively few years’ opportunity, and always posts marvelous pictures and original thoughts and ideas about places visited and things done there. Susie writes with great good taste, artful illustration and photography, and shares stories and samples of fabulous food and outside-of-kitchen adventures, too. Mark, an outstanding graphic designer in the UK, sometime DJ and constant educated music listener, gardener and traveler, always has a wise and witty twist to his posts. Mars has lived a rather cosmopolitan life but keeps a grounded and sensitive point of view, traveling, writing moving and insightful observations about life’s vicissitudes, and seeking beauty and light in the world. Kofegeek brings ingenious humor and insightful discourse to matters of science and math, cats and coffee, and much more. Tamara is a marvelous gardener from Ljubljana who is working to create intergenerational conversation about that earthy art.

Meanwhile, I am required by the rubrics of these awards to do a little personal sharing with you, my readers, and to introduce to you other worthy bloggers, and so I am going to combine my efforts and ask that you have a good visit to some truly worthy sites elsewhere as well. Share the love!

First, 10 blogs and bloggers worthy of your attention:

Cynthia @ http://lesplaisirssimplesdelavie.wordpress.com/ (photos, thoughtfully captioned with brief yet expansive and often lyrical text)

Natasha @ http://comeduemaiali.wordpress.com/ (seriously, how can you not enjoy eating ‘like two pigs’? I know I do, oink oink) Important update announcement: I am clearly not as smart as even one little piggy, because I completely missed that Natasha had been one of my award benefactors in the first place. But I’ll pretend I Meant to Do That just so that I could pass on the other awards back in her direction! Because, and I am not making this up, she really deserves them anyway!

Becky @ http://beckyfrehse.wordpress.com/ (a longtime friend, Becky is a tremendously versatile mixed media expert, visual artist, collaborator, teacher and all-around cool person)

Lorelei @ http://incidentallearner.wordpress.com/ (rediscovering her incredible painting gifts, she’s a watercolorist and storyteller extraordinaire)

Bente @ http://bentehaarstad.wordpress.com/ (no, I’m not prejudiced just because she’s from my ancestors’ homeland, Norway–she’s a really fine photographer!)

Sue @ http://suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com/ (another distinctive and fine photographer, capturing other parts of the world, caught my eye)

Pat @ http://rantingchef.com/ (making all sorts of stellar and luscious foods sound and look fairly simple to make, and worth the effort even if not so easy)

Maggie @ http://thelittledesignstall.wordpress.com/ (a Pinterest-style blog full of gleefully over-the-top and often spectacularly inventive and gorgeous design images from all over)

Maenamor @ http://antiquityandadventures.wordpress.com/ (guiding us around scenic bits of England and Wales and sharing special local events with their fascinating stories)

Robi @ http://kabyahe.wordpress.com/author/robijiz/ (introducing cultural and natural beauties of the Philippines in outstanding journalistic and artistic photography)

Meanwhile, back to talking about myself, because I’m so incredibly exciting!

I think almost anything could be improved by the addition of browned butter (beurre noisette), possibly including a plain spoon about to be stuck in my mouth;

&   I have rather excellent printing (lettering) skills because my cursive handwriting, though perhaps interesting to look at, is almost indecipherable even to me;

&   If I don’t sleep at least nine hours a night I am not very likeable company;

&   Classical music is often my go-to choice, but there are others that have particular allure for me at different times or under varying circumstances, i.e., Blues music during physical labor, vintage ZZ Top, Oingo Boingo and Van Halen on road trips, reggae on a beachy sunny day, jazz and swing for hanging around people-watching in a cafe, and so forth;

&   The smell of coffee is heavenly to me, but I don’t drink it often and then only as flavoring for lots of cream and sugar;

&   Perhaps because of my temperate Northwest upbringing, I think of green as a perfect neutral color, just as much as the traditional black-white-grey-brown palette;

&   I’m not particularly girly (in the ruffles and bling and pink sort of pop-culture way) but I am fond of being female and even sometimes live up to sex stereotypes, if accidentally;

&   Not much of a crier (maybe I tend to try to be stoic when genuinely sad), except at the most silly sappy stuff, but I am an inveterate hugger and hand-holder;

&   I’m so old that I went to a school where there were no lockers, only a cloakroom; that the houses and cars in the neighborhood were all generally left unlocked; and that the older kids piled loosely in the backseat of the car while the baby sat in Mom’s lap up front;

&   I’m so young that I think Bucket Lists are for people thousands of years older than me because I have all the time in the world and naively believe that I will get around to anything that matters enough, eventually.

On that note, I really must finish this up for today and get it posted, because despite my limitless future I find that blogging is a time-consuming joy and can easily eclipse numerous other activities that may well turn out to be worth the doing if I don’t get too obsessed and distracted leaping around the meadows of the Internet in the grand company of my many admirable blogging playmates and mentors and companions.

Virtual Queen of All I Survey

I’ve already told you that I am in reality an empress: the Empress of the Ordinary. And that that is not only, in my mind, a good thing and no insult or self-deprecation at all, but also something that I have learned to appreciate and cultivate over the years. In addition to that, I have learned here in the ether that I am another fine sort of royalty: the kind of royalty that is conferred by generous and gracious friends. One of my favorite tokens or badges of such worth is of course the marvelous and sometimes delightfully over-the-top supportive, helpful and complimentary comments I receive here on my posts and the companion ‘chat’ of thoughtful, responsive conversations I get to hold with friends over at their blog homes.

Another sign of my acquired dignity here in Bloglandia is the wondrous array of blog awards handed to me by my blogging friends. It took me some time to figure out that, unlike some other kinds of awards, I need not have earned them in some way with outlandish personal achievements or superhuman qualities, because they are gifts. I am Versatile, Appreciated, Liebster, Educational, Lovely, a Candle Lighter, a producer of Awesome Content, Kreativ, Sunshiny, Stylish, Inspiring and Sweet not by birth or accomplishment but because my friends have designated me so, have named me so.

So I acknowledge these latest halo handouts that have been granted me by the magnanimous Mandy, lavish Lauren and noble ‘Nessa with a full heart (not to mention trophy-case!) and I hope, still being honest or modest enough to understand that my worth is found in the kind hearts of others, not in all of these admittedly shiny and impressive titles they give me to reflect that kindness. For a little fun, I am posting, along with the representations of those awards not previously dwelling on my blog’s sidebar, photos of myself as I have attempted to measure up to them over the years.

Sunshine Award Logo image

photo

I have not always been Little Miss Sunshine, as anyone can tell you, but here I was at Auntie Ingeborg's, practicing; if ever there was a person who practiced the deliberate art of being sunshiny and inspired others to try it on for size, it was Auntie.

Stylish Blogger Award logo image

photo

Once I was invited to a gallery opening whose invitation instructed all attendees to put on their best "Sleaze-Gauche" look for the occasion. I had a lot of fun thrift shopping, and outfitted myself quite completely for a very respectably tiny sum.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award logo image

photo

Never mind being Inspiring, just being Inspired isn't always easy. I have to admit to having occasionally attempted to acquire the latter state by artificial means. Of course, this was before graduate school, where we all learn to be perpetually inspired and inspiring (insert sound of raucous snorts of laughter here)!

The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award logo image

photo

I could just kiss you all for being so sweet to me. But since we're at some distance from each other, I'll have to settle for the proxy of my Gravatar smooch planted on the lovely door-guardian camel at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, a place on which I also happen to be sweet.

I Know My ABCs, but I’m Not So Clear on My Ps & Qs

What I don’t know: what happened to yesterday’s post (this is it, again). I could swear I’d posted this and even gotten a comment or two on it already. Where it went baffles me. Apparently it’s now keeping company with the magically disappearing previous post about coulrophobia, which I also had to re-post. Go figure. So here’s Round 2 of Yesterday’s Post.

That slyly generous character ‘Nessa, over at her Stronghold, has tagged me once again, this time to participate in a bit of speculative introspection via the medium of the ABC award. I am happy to state that she did not give me the ABC award in the sense that I knew it as a young squirt, when we generously offered our playmates ABC gum (Already Been Chewed). So while I know from reading her post that ‘Nessa did indeed ruminate on the award before sharing it, I am glad to announce that there was no saliva whatsoever on the award when she passed it along. In fact, it was much like getting a good and playful cyber-hug, something I would call quite the opposite in a very nice way. So I send many thanks to dear ‘Nessa and will give many thinks to the alphabet I am to present to you as a response.

Awesome Blog Content Award

Rules of this award:

1. Pass this on to unlimited fellow bloggers.

2. Share some things about you, using the alphabet.

You know that I am going to put my own spin on the whole thing, because that’s just how my strange little brain prefers to work. While the award’s tradition appears to be that one offers a personally resonant word for each letter of the alphabet with a couple of words of explanation for each choice, I feel compelled to do some of my rhyming play with the puzzle, for no good reason of course, so I’m off to scrawl an alphabet of quatrains.
And as for sharing the award, I must tell you that the reason I subscribe to your blogs and read them as faithfully as time will allow (whether I have a moment to comment or not every time) because your blogs are simply brimming with awesome content. So I would be horribly remiss if I didn’t share this award with each and every one of you with whom I am so happily carrying on commentary-conversations and from whom I am delightedly learning new and funny and moving and useful and otherwise wonderful stuff every single day via my subscriptions. That means that if you’re reading this and we have conversed about our blogs, I am offering you the opportunity to play this amusing game yourself and consider me a grateful sharer of the fun. If you’re too busy, private, tired of blog tagging, or committed to more meaningful activities, believe me, I will not be insulted by your opting not to join in the play. I bless you for choosing to do or not do what suits you best.
Here, then, is today’s Alphabet of Me. I cannot promise to mind my Ps and Qs despite the alphabetical mandate, because behaving properly tends to chafe me. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
photo

A is for Art

Art I seek, and fain would honor Art
with skill and courage, for the larger part
of life and love and light that may be found
awaken to Art’s call, no other sound.
Balance neatly conjured from unlike, unequal parts
is best achieved by using that most delicate of arts
which we might call diplomacy or mediating care
or just the coaxing of agreement from the thinnest air.
Community is my desire: I would the flame become a fire,
the bloom become a garden whole, the note float into barcarolle,
the morsel be a meal complete enough for everyone to eat,
the joy be broadcast far and wide until there is no Other Side.
Doggerel dances its jigs in my brain
until, irresistibly, I can’t refrain
from making up poems as silly as dogs
would be to write doggerel verses for blogs.
Ethereal loveliness, sweetness and grace
all whisper their zephyrs of breath as they chase
my sorrows and fears and my troubles away
and replace them with lyrical words night and day.
Flora, garden goddess thou,
wreathed with flowers upon thy brow,
what scented bowers have you grown
that leave my senses overthrown!
Gothic grotesqueries fill the abyss
of night in my cranium; stranger than this
is that, while they are creeping their hideous way
into my grey matter, it still feels like play . . .
Hungry every minute,
always looking for a spoon,
my midst has something in it,
but I wanna eat more, soon!
Idiosyncratic me,
how idiotic would it be
if I should be less odd? Absurd–
also unlikely, ‘pon my word.

photo

J is for Jester

Jester to the king and queen and to the populace,
I’d like to have the wisdom and the humor to express
what should be said for betterment and conscience-pricking itch
without offending quite so far as be condemned a witch.

 

The Red Shoes Dairy

mixed media illustration

The Human Animal strikes again. And if you recognize the tune, I'm not using it to *blame* anyone, mind you, just to say we're all in this together . . .

Since I’ve already allowed as to how I’m pretty much a farm animal at heart, doing what comes naturally to me and without excessive amounts of couth or savoir-faire, I’m constantly amazed at the ever-so-much-cooler people who deign to hang around with me. Maybe my rare moments of actual and impressive wonderfulness have sufficiently inured them to my shortcomings so that they can kindly turn a blind eye when despite my wanting to be on my best behavior and attempting refinement I fail, sometimes spectacularly, to do so. I dress up in my prettiest red high-heeled shoes and yet I still go and Step in It. And if you don’t know what I mean by It, you have clearly not been paying attention around here.

photo

My own Ruby Slippers have taken me to many an Oz . . .

Yet despite my persistent trippings-up and fallings-down, somehow I have thus far not only always ended up right back on my red-shod feet but in the midst of this great, forgiving, and ever so friendly good company, wherever in this world or my own universe I’ve happened to land. So I have ceased to be surprised when people come knocking at my door bearing presents and kisses and kindness of every sort. It’s not my deserving, you see, nor any prowess I’ve shown for being dignified and distinguished, so much as the boundless goodwill and generosity of spirit in those around me. While I may not be fabulously tasteful myself, I do have fabulous taste in other people.

Thus it comes as less of a shock than a delightful piece of exceeding niceness when my admirable and ever-sparkling muse over at Year-Struck has popped by with another glamorous pair of red heels for me to try on and admire. Maybe even to grow into, if I can. It’s not that my feet are so dainty in size but that my Educator skills are pretty itty-bitty and underdeveloped. However, if the award allows for conferral upon those who are getting a superb education here ourselves, why then I’m your woman.

With that, I will gratefully and happily accept the challenge. My wish is to share the award further, however, with some blogging friends who are educator-bloggers. I bow to those who have been particularly good at educating me and others, both with the content of their posts in which they teach us great and useful and desirable things and in their mentoring commentaries and the supportive role they play for those of us who follow in their admirable footsteps. Please rise and sing a hymn of happiness with me for these guardian angels in our midst:

Cecilia (thekitchensgarden), Marie (mylittlecornerofrhodeisland), Claire (promenadeplantings), Steve (portraitsofwildflowers and wordconnections), and John (fromthebartolinikitchens). The only rule I’ve been able to ascertain as purportedly attached to this award is to use it to recognize five of my most supportive commenters from recent posts, and as it happens, these folk are not only stupendous teaching mavens in their respective areas of expertise but are just that sort of supportive commenters referred to in that single shining rubric. So I can fulfill my own agenda whilst pretending to comply with the award’s original intent. Pretty much the way your Miss Passive-Aggressive correspondent tends to behave most of the time. I wink at you in your newly conferred complicity.

The Lovely Lauren Scott, meanwhile, has also graciously extended One Lovely Blog Award to reach me over here in my gift-strewn cubbyhole. As her blog is simply shimmering with genuine loveliness, I can easily ascertain why she would be a recipient herself, and can only assume that she is able to accomplish such a beautiful environment there by wearing some nearly-purple-they’re-so-rose-colored glasses, whereby I appear worthy of the award myself. Another excellent reason for me to be thankful I surround myself with such fine companions!

This award does ask that we share a little bit about ourselves once again in order to ‘earn’ the honor, which I think is only fair. To me. Not so much to those of you who have sat through over half a year of my yammering about myself, but bear with me.

What haven’t I already revealed to you about my inner workings (or playings, if we’re to be realistic about it)?

Did you know that:

I love a good thunder-and-lightning storm. Throw in some hail and I’m entertained for a long time. But don’t get it on my car or happening with me stuck under a big tree with my umbrella up, please.

When I try to wear ‘warm’ colors, especially a good deep yellow, I look just like I have severe jaundice and must be rushed immediately to the emergency ward. People who have to look at me when I wear such colors should also be treated with some kindness, to help them recover from the horror of my appearance.

I took an Archery class in college and enjoyed it quite a bit; I was even fairly decent at it. I probably couldn’t even draw a 60-pound bowstring nowadays. But give me a half hour and I’ll give it a try.

Dante Alighieri wasn’t quite thorough enough for my taste as he missed describing a particularly subterranean Level where Bullies should take up their eternal residence.

Being near natural water sources–oceans, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, ponds, and all of their cousins–is a source, also, of tremendous pleasure and comfort to me.

I would like to have the resources to design any object, from buildings to clothing, tools, pieces of furniture, vehicles, jewelry, gardens, hardware, housewares–you name it–and then hand off the plans to world-class craftspeople and see the designs realized. And then put to use, hither and yon.

Funny sounding words make me happy. Blubber! Flabbergasted! Cooties! Marsupial! Splurge! Glyptography! Carbuncle!

One Lovely Blog Award logo

This is my chance to recognize some really lovely blogs and their creators, those who fill each post with heart. I know a whole lot of people who are especially gifted at creating an environment that, for sometimes very different reasons from one blog to another–or even from one post on the same blog to another–compel me to return again and again. These are bloggers who make magic on a regular basis, with words and images and ideas that carry me along and fill me with amazement and inspiration, dark reflection and introspection and great measures of pleasure. I commend to your attention these marvelous and yes, truly lovely bloggers.

Barbara (just a smidgen)

Desi (The valentine 4)

B. (Just Add Attitude)

Raymund (Ang Sarap)

Geni (Sweet and Crumby)

Dennis (The Bard on the Hill)

Cyndi (Cfbookchick)

Caroline (sweetcarolinescooking)

Eve (Redwater Ramblings)

Eden (litrato-ngayon)

Allison (“Il Faut Goûter”)

Bella (winsomebella)

Nors (Foodtrip)

Sawsan (Chef in disguise)

‘Nessa (Stronghold)

David (DFB Poetry and Painting)

Lindy Lee (Poetic Licensee)

Teri (Images by T. Dashfield)

Tanya (Chica Andaluza)

Belle (belleofthecarnival)

Geraldine (Alternative Poet)

I was just reminded by one of my ‘honorees’ of the many fine reasons for politely declining blogging awards, not least of which is the duty imposed by response and acceptance. While one of the excellent reasons for declining would clearly be modesty or humility, as you all know I have neither. But I was also taught that accepting an undeserved gift with good grace is a certain sort of return gift in itself.

Furthermore, as I told my correspondent in this instance, the real reason I perpetuate any of these awards is simply to bring the standouts among my blogging compatriots to others’ attention. If not for that, I would indeed have declined all of these kindly meant notices myself, but this gives an unknown like me the chance to showcase some of the other writers and thinkers whose work I really admire for one reason or another, or for many reasons. Having responded to a number of these awards, I know that simply responding properly is in fact quite a bit harder than making up one’s usual post, because the content is externally dictated, and let’s face it, even a mathematical dullard like me can do enough basic sequential thinking to realize not only that the passing out of the laurels to new honorees becomes an obvious exponential impossibility but that merely fulfilling the self-revelatory or self-evaluative portion of the requirement becomes onerous when repeated. Especially when all I ever talk about on my blog is All Me All the Time anyhow!

Therefore I refuse to enforce any “rules” among the honorees I choose, hoping only that you and your companions will accept my personal admiration and accolades and feel free to bask privately, if that’s not anathema. So there are no chains requiring the smiting, nor any other attachments except the one of hoping that each of you will allow me to trumpet your blogs to my modest yet lively readership because I know others will appreciate what you offer! If you like to ‘play the game’–why, that’s another thing entirely! Passing along gifts in blog-dom is not the same as Re-gifting in the wrapping-and-ribbons world, so my real gift to you, since I believe you all earned the recognition, is that I don’t require you to respond in any particular way, or at all, if you don’t wish.

photo

Having Red Shoes has never turned me into a dancer, alas, but only a vain creature . . . this is an instance when I greatly prefer my own sort of amusing fantasy to the dark old fairytales . . .

PS–I wasn’t (entirely) trying to be cruel, tricking you with that post title and all, so if you are here just hoping to catch a glimpse of David Duchovny, I’ll give you something to ameliorate my sins if you’ll forgive me once again. The Red Shoe Diaries aren’t exactly my sort of thing, but you know how my frivolous mind works, and when I see a pair of red shoes, no matter how Educational they’re meant to be, well . . .