Sunday, January 30, 2011

Glorious Day

What a glorious day. Here I sit, outside in my back yard, enjoying clear skies, a warm, 72 degree breeze and the sun on my back. It is Mother Nature's deception because I know an arctic front is back there, behind me, moving in within the next thirty-six hours.  I won't enjoy another day like this for at least two weeks, maybe longer. So I will glory in today.

I am in my "mobile writing" mode. This means my barefoot self and all my nifty technological gadgets are parked in a chair outside on the patio. I still find it hard to believe this is possible. I have an iPad which wirelessly connects to the network inside my house and a Bluetooth keyboard which wirelessly connects to my iPad so I can type with all my fingers on the keys. Just how spoiled am I?

The only hitch is that Blogger will not operate in compose mode on my iPad. In English, this means I have to type this text into another program, then cut and paste it into Blogger. There is an update I can download that will eliminate this step, but that would mean I would have to go inside, connect to my desktop computer and figure out how to do it. My brain would totally go into "business" mode and I would lose the feelings that I am experiencing outside. So I will worry about technology later.

Even the mild winter we have here in Texas has taken its toll on the back yard. The grass is brown and, except for the live oaks, the tress are bare. My herb garden still shows signs of life and there is a dormant crop of sweet pea waiting for spring to signal that it is time to shoot up and bloom. I love this old-fashioned flower. My grandmother always grew sweet pea on the fence surrounding her chicken yard. Every spring day was filled with their unmistakable fragrance (the flowers, not the chickens,) both inside and outside, so just a whiff takes me back there. They don't like the heat so as soon as summer begins to encroach, they are done. That is why you have to plant them in the fall to get their roots established before it gets cold. Unless you have a really cold winter with snow or ice, they will not freeze but just go dormant at about eight to ten inches in height. Then when the warm sun comes, they grow rapidly and bloom very early, a welcome sight after winter. 

If you've been keeping up, you may realize that this talk about the coming storm seems in conflict with my views on "Winter Envy." But there I concluded that my adult self doesn't really like the cold and snow too much; it is my child self that wants to sled down the hill and make snow men. But today my adult self is happy and content. I can overlook the brown leaves everywhere, including those lying in rain puddles that have collected in the pool cover, producing some kind of primordial ooze. Even those look rather nice today in the sunshine. 

When I close my eyes, lean my head back and listen, this is what I hear: the flapping of the plastic door of the greenhouse behind me; the music produced by three sets of wind chimes in my "bling tree;" a motorcycle roaring down Ranch Road 12; the hum of the pool equipment, purifying the unseen water beneath the cover; the crunch of the leaves beneath my dogs' paws as they race across the yard on squirrel patrol -- again; dogs barking in the distance; birds conversing with each other -- animal voices, but no people voices anywhere. 

The Bling Tree

The back door is open, pulling some fresh air into the house and bringing back with it the smell of the beef short ribs in red wine that are slowly braising in the oven. That will be a fitting end to this glorious day. I wish you could join me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

She Keeps Me Going

My great-niece is seven years old. She is a precocious child, sometimes seeming like an adult in a child's body. She has an uncanny sense for when an adult is just feeding her the "party line" when it comes to things like Santa Claus, where you go when you die and other tough questions. You cannot lie to her; she will bust you every time. And she is my girl.

 Here's my girl on the left...

and her mom in 1977, about the same age, on the right.

It's a little scary, isn't it? Let me tell you, sometimes it really messes with my head. I have conversations with my girl that turn into conversations with her mother. All the time. I'm not sure which one I'm talking to.

Her mother was born when I was in the seventh grade so she and I grew up together. She seemed in many ways like my little sister, particularly when it came to arguing. I taught her to drive and, in most situations, we think and act the same. That similarity has carried on with my girl, and that, too, can mess with your head. Recently my girl treated us all to a "concert" with her child-size electric guitar simulator. The "song" plays and the child can make very real sounding guitar effects in the process. My girl's solo was complete with hair tossing, tongue flicking and dance moves she has seen on some video. Almost whole time, her mother and I were locked in eye contact, wordlessly communicating with each other this message, "How strange does it feel to watch yourself reborn in her?" It is very strange.

She isn't a carbon copy of either of us, except in the remarkable resemblance to her mother. She is definitely her own person and special in her own right. Her world is full of potential that I joyfully and hopefully watch her achieve every day. I can't wait to see what she becomes. I have a friend in his 70's who tells me he hopes he lives long enough to see her grow up, just because he knows she will be something special. I share that dream. 

My girl was born about a year before Scott and I lost our youngest boy, at age 12, in a car accident. In the dark days and years following, sometimes my girl brought the only moments of joy I could find. She kept me going then and keeps me going now. I have other nieces and nephews who I love dearly, too, but this one is my treasure. 

We had a discussion yesterday when the photo in this post was taken. Her mother had put the wash-out pink streaks in her hair to match her new outfit and I told her what a cute little girl she was. She took exception to the classification "little girl," telling me she wasn't little anymore. I told her that in my eyes she was still my "baby girl," so it was a compromise that I even upgraded her to "little." She thought about it and said, "OK, I'll accept that compromise." That's my girl.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Baby

My husband loves chocolate and today is his birthday. Years ago I started the custom with him and my boys that I would bake them any cake they wanted for their birthdays. Normally I could steer them toward something in my Hershey's Chocolate Cookbook, something familiar which didn't test my baking skills. Now, I am a very good cook, even if I do say so myself. It's something I really enjoy and have honed my skills and techniques, especially in the last ten years. But a baker I am not. I can do a good job on most cakes, pies and cookies, but I don't like to make pastries or candies. 

I love cookbooks and have way too many, but it is an addiction. About twelve years ago I bought one called Gourmet's Best Desserts. That is Gourmet as in Gourmet Magazine. The photos in this book are fabulous and I just wanted to drool over them and perhaps try some of the less-challenging ones. But my husband found the book, saw the chocolate cake on the cover, looked it up and said, "This is the cake I want for my birthday."
Gourmet's Best Desserts - Chocolate Mousse Cake with Ganache Icing

Isn't it beautiful? Who wouldn't want to try to make this beautiful creation for their loving husband? Well, I tried it that first year and since then, every year, he asks for this cake. Let me tell you, it is a killer. I have made it four times and dread it each time. But this week I decided I had to do it again. I had no good excuse not to. I felt fine, his birthday was Saturday so I couldn't claim I had work to do and I had plenty of time to buy the ingredients. Still, I started today less than enthusiastic about my endeavor. Let me explain why.

First of all, this cake takes up four pages in the cookbook - one page for the ingredients and three for method. There is a two-layer cake with chocolate mousse between layers and on top and then a chocolate ganache on top of the mousse. Each of these is flavored with Grand Marnier (orange liqueur.) It takes twenty-five ounces of semi-sweet chocolate -- eight for the cake, nine for the mousse and another eight for the ganache. There are eight eggs in the cake and six in the mousse, plus butter, sugar and, surprisingly, less than a cup of flour. I don't even want to think about the total calories, but, it is his birthday and he can afford a piece or two. (The rest will be snatched up by his poker buddies tonight.)

Second, for someone who doesn't like to follow recipes, this is a nightmare. I know enough about baking to know that you can't just wing it like you do as a cook. Alton Brown has taught me that baking is chemistry and that measuring and method are critical. This cake's instructions are detailed and delicate and remember, there are three pages of them. I started the cake at 10:00am today and did not get it into the refrigerator to chill until 3:00pm. That is five hours on one cake. To be fair, some of that time was chilling time - the mousse has to chill before and after you put it on the cake and then the ganache has to chill after you pour in on, before you can pipe the buttercream for decoration. 

Third, it has to be decorated. My typical cake decorating consists of swirling the icing around or putting colored sprinkles on top. This cake requires a pastry bag and piping on the cake, something in which I do not excel. But I did my best and here is the result:

As you can see, I skipped all but one of the orange slices in the decoration because, when I tried that before, the juice from the oranges made everything a little messy. I made a noble effort and the bottom line is, Scottie (husband) loves it and it tastes unbelievably good.

So Happy Birthday, Baby. You can have your cake and eat it, too. 

As for me, I'm already thinking about how I can get out of making it again next year.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Chicken Neck House

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago my sage women friends and I were discussing a number of topics, one of which was trying to decide who is the craziest person in town. I mentioned that it was a tight race and now I would like to submit some evidence to prove that I was not exaggerating. 

There is a small white house in town, surrounded by a small white fence. On the fence the owner has attached wooden cutouts of chicken heads and necks to create the illusion there are real chickens poking their heads through the fence. Now one might say there's nothing crazy about that. It may not be to your liking, but it's even a little cute in a kitschy, country kind of way. And I would agree with you, to each his own. Except for this -- 

The "necks" aren't just poking through the fence. What once was a cute idea for a little country decoration has become some sort of Alfred Hitchcockian nightmare of disembodied chicken heads attached to every structure in the yard. Necks protrude from trees, necks are mounted on top of posts; they're everywhere and they keep multiplying. 

AND, they are inspiring other "art." Just take a look.

Note how perfectly the red Lone Star Beer emblem accents the "wing" of the chicken, simulating the true coloring found in nature.

I don't know the owner of the Chicken Neck House, as it has come to be known. I don't know where this love of chickens and "art" comes from and I have been too afraid to ask. I need to just march up to the door one day and ask the owner, "Why?" for this is the prevailing thought I am left with each time I drive by. My writer's brain creates stories to answer the "why," but most likely none of them are as entertaining as the truth. In my novel, something has to happen at the Chicken Neck House; it's just too rich with possibility. Don't you agree?

We Got A Little Confused

It was cold at Camp Four Dogs last week and the campers got a little confused about their dormitory assignments. Each had a designated dog bed where they were supposed to sleep, leaving the bed available for Camp Directors Annette and Scott. By Wednesday, this plan went out the window, finally enabling me to get that group photo of all four dogs . . .

. . . right down the middle of our bed.

(Bottom to top: Nemo, Lucy, Ruffles, Sierra)

Camp is over now and I can finally get back to writing something a little more creative. Although it would be interesting to write about trying to do a 30 minute yoga relaxation with four dogs attempting to get into the room with you, furious because you had dared to close the door. We'll see; more to come. Thank you for coming back today.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Envy

I have lived in Texas all my life. Most of the time it is wonderful here, particularly in the Hill Country, but it is hot. Summer heat is a burden all Texans endure and the ability to do so becomes part of our general psyche. It's what makes us "tough." It's also what makes us flee every winter to ski resorts and the other destinations "up north." I like to call it winter envy.

When I started school in the mid-60's, our textbooks were the Ginn Basic Readers. We didn't have Dick and Jane; we had Tom, Betty, Susan and Nan. We lived on the Gulf Coast and never, ever saw snow. The children in our readers made snowmen, rode sleds, skated and had wonderful fun every winter while we sang, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" as if it were a prayer. Each year when the Sears Christmas catalog arrived I would eagerly find the pages with sleds, red sleds in particular, and beg my mother for one. At first she would try to explain to me that you had to have snow to use a sled and we didn't get snow where we lived. I knew this was true, but somehow thought that if I had a sled, it would snow and I would have winter fun like the kids in the readers.

From On Cherry Street, Ginn Basic Readers, 1957

I wanted to build snowmen, big shiny white snowmen like Frosty. On the one day it snowed at home during my school days, we rushed outside, eager to throw snowballs and build our village people. My dreams were finally coming true, even if I didn't have a sled. Of course, when I say it snowed, I am using the term loosely. There was enough snow to cover the ground, barely, and our snowman was full of leaves and twigs. Somehow it just didn't match up.

From On Cherry Street, Ginn Basic Readers, 1957

Since those days I have learned that the reality of winter is not nearly as fun as the Ginn Readers made it seem. It is really cold, like "I could die out here," cold. Snow makes driving dangerous and deadly, and it gets gray and ugly after it has been on the streets a day or two. When I go skiing I keep a constant dull headache from the altitude, and that's not fun either. I see the forecast for the huge storm that is about to hit the northeast, paralyzing all traffic and endangering thousands of lives and think that maybe the relatively balmy 40 degrees outside is fortunate, even if there is no snow. This is my adult self looking at winter.

But deep inside, my child self still has winter envy. The more I think about it, the more I believe that what I want is for winter to be like it was for the children in the readers. I want to be a child in that book. 
Susan laughed and laughed.
"What a funny old snowman!" she said.
"See his cowboy hat go up and down.
Come and look, Mother!"
Just then Tom jumped up.
"It is Tom," said Susan.
"Tom was back of Mr. Snowman all the time."
Mother laughed with the children.
They had a happy time in the snow.

From On Cherry Street, Ginn Basic Readers, 1957


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Camp Four Dogs

This week I fear my creative writing output will be minimal because I am in the midst of conducting the winter version of "Camp Four Dogs," a recreational camp for dogs whose owners are out of town. This week our guests are Nemo and Sierra. Their moms, Traci and Kelly, are spending the week in Las Vegas. 

                  Here's Nemo...

                         ...and Sierra

Actually I am just dog-sitting, but my friends always tell me that when their dogs stay here, it is like summer camp because I am a board-certified dog spoiler. That's right; I love them and they love me because I allow them to do things their parents usually prevent. Nothing bad, but like the stuff you got away with at Grandma's house. 

Activities at Camp Four Dogs include eating, sleeping, squirrel-chasing, pushing contests to see who gets petted or scratched the most and the ever-popular "let's all run to the front door and bark really loud, even if there's no one there."

Nemo and Sierra are not strangers here. They visit us every week when Traci and Kelly come to clean our house. Sierra and my Miss Lucy are the same age (2) and they have been together since they were puppies. Still, even though our guests love to come here and play, they are having separation anxiety issues. Nemo stays glued to me, wherever I go, and Sierra has decided that she doesn't want to eat. It has only been 24 hours, so I'm not worried; she will eat when she is ready. On all other levels she is fine.

Normally campers pose for a group photo to have a remembrance of their fun time and new friends. When the campers are four dogs, this is a nearly impossible task. Here is my first attempt:

You will note that there are only three dogs, (left to right) Sierra, Lucy, Ruffles. Nemo is not cooperating and they are all staring at him, while he is sitting on my feet.

I'm not sure how to overcome this, but I will keep trying and keep you posted.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

All Aboard

Each month five of my friends and I get together to play Mexican Train. For those of you who have never heard of it, Mexican Train is a game played with twelve dot dominoes, rather than the regular six dot. There is some strategy involved, but not much. Mainly you try to match numbers each turn, with the goal of having the lowest points possible at the end of the round. Mostly it is a social game and we look forward to our play day each month.

The ladies in the group range in age from 50-ish to 70-ish, all very vital and active in the community. We have, between the six of us, thirteen marriages, fourteen children and lifetimes of wisdom. With that much experience, you can imagine we have strong opinions about everything and, if put in charge, could pretty much solve all the problems in our town and most of the ones in our nation. Here is just a sample of the topics we discussed yesterday, when we had this month's get-together.
  •  Recipes for all the great food we made at Christmas.
  • Winter weather in Texas vs Montana (just for you, Lisa.)
  • Everyone we know who is battling cancer.
  • Whether I should get involved in a situation in my hometown where an old family friend has become a hoarder.
  • Who is the craziest person in our town. Believe me, this is a tight race.
  • How one of us has a God-given gift for finding lost jewelry.
  • The ups and downs of taking Vicodin.
  • Arranging the schedule for meals to be brought in for one of us who is having knee-replacement surgery next week. 
  • Online yoga.
  • Parents with Alzheimer's Disease.
You can see our knowledge is limitless. But in all seriousness, I love these women. I love their strength, energy and sense of family. I draw from the well of their goodness each month and come away refreshed and happy. How could a day be any better?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Squirrel Watch - Doggie Reality TV

I am a dog person, always have been, always will be. These days my children are two miniature schnauzers, Ruffles and Miss Lucy Brown. Ruffles is a rescue, from a home where the owner committed suicide. It was so sad and I was thrilled to be able to get this dog. She is, as you can imagine, extremely devoted to me. Miss Lucy Brown came from an outdoor market in our little town where I volunteer for the charity sponsor. Dogs or any other animals are not supposed to be sold at the market. The manager got a report that a booth was selling schnauzer puppies and sends me, of all people, to deal with them. I told them it was against the rules, they promised never to do it again, but they had one puppy left. I solved the problem by buying her myself. So now Lucy is notorious around town as the "illegal market dog."

These dogs have filled our lives with joy and love. My husband and I laugh at them every day and never lack for live entertainment.

There is a large oak tree just outside the sun porch, my favorite room in the house. The tree has a large knothole where, every winter, a family of squirrels moves in and lives until spring. The knothole is at eye level for the dogs when they sit on their favorite  toy trunk and look out the window, and it is only about four feet away from them. It is Doggie Reality TV and they are glued to the “set.” They bark and quiver as the squirrels move in and out, bringing in leaves, etc. for their nest.

 Most of the time they are still and transfixed, exactly like this photo. Squirrel Watch, "I know they are in there and if I wait here, still and patient, I know I will catch them."

I keep trying to get a photo of one of the squirrels poking its head out the hole but I haven't been successful. I've seen one of the little critters sleeping with his head poked out into the sun, while the dogs sit and stare, never moving.

Periodically all hell breaks loose and the dogs rush madly to the door to get out and run through their “intruder alert” drill where they follow the squirrels from the ground as they move from treetop to treetop, all over the yard. This happens, on the average, about eight times a day. It is hilarious because each time they are sure it will be the time they catch one.

By the end of the day they are exhausted. As soon as it is too dark to see, they climb into bed, ready to recharge so they can tune in tomorrow for another episode of Squirrel Watch - Doggie Reality TV.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mayberry Moments

I live in a small town. It's not one of those bumps in the road with a post office, Dairy Queen and little else, but it is small, less than 5,000. Having lived all but my college days in and around Houston, it was quite an adjustment when I first moved here about 12 years ago. My husband and I thought a smaller town and its schools would be a better place for our boys and we had always loved the Texas Hill Country. Now I can't imagine living anywhere else.

There are drawbacks to living in a small town--like no public utilities. Everyone here is on septic and well; that's an adventure. When you live in a city like Houston, you take for granted the ethnic diversity of the restaurants. I miss Vietnamese, Cuban, Brazilian and other exotic cuisines. Here, our most exotic choice is whether to have sweet potato or regular fries with that chicken fried steak. But these things are minor when I think of the friendships and sense of community we found here, deep in the heart of Texas.

There are those moments in my small-town life that make me pause and laugh, almost every day. I call them Mayberry Moments. Here are just a few and, I swear, every one of these is true, or at least mostly true.

You know you live in a small town when . . .
  • You buy your makeup and hair spray at ACE Hardware.
  • The City Judge, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and your brother-in-law are the same person. He is also your lawyer.
  • You make a lunch date by saying, "Meet me at the Cafe at 11:30."
  • Before you get to the Cafe, you already know what the lunch special is: Monday, meatloaf; Tuesday, chicken/spinach enchiladas; Wednesday, chicken and wild rice; Thursday, hamburger steak and Friday, fried catfish. When you get to your table, the waitress asks you whether you want to look at a menu because she knows you have it memorized.
  • You are standing in line at the Jitterbug Coffee Bar when the phone rings behind the counter and the girl says, "Yeah, she's right here," and hands you the phone. Then the caller tells you he knew he'd find you there because his secretary just drove by and saw your car in the parking lot. Mayberry moment.
  • The only place in town to see a movie is a walk-in, outdoor theatre. You bring your own lawn chair and the feature starts 15 minutes after "dark." It is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night and you get first run movies. If the movie happens to be a western, the horses on screen will rile up the horses in the corral next door and they will run up and down the fence during the show.
 It's not all Mayberry; we do have have crime -- theft, vandalism (mostly bored kids,) drugs and the occasional gruesome suicide or death. But not every day. For this I am grateful.

My novel will be set in a town like this, full of quirky characters and just a little evil. The story is rambling through my head, grabbing bits and pieces from here and there, not ready to emerge. Until it does, I'll be here, writing my novel. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Glen Campbell Brain Worm

Ugh, I did it. Yesterday's post, filled with lofty and noble visions of kindness, could have fueled me through the rest of the day filled with love for mankind. Instead all it did was fill my head with Glen Campbell's Try A Little Kindness. It's still there this morning. It's a brain worm.

For those of you too young to remember, Glen Campbell was a superstar in the 1970's. He made the crossover from country music to popular music and movies even before Dolly Parton did. He played the part in True Grit that Matt Damon plays in the current remake of that classic. Along with Try A Little Kindness, he had hits with Rhinestone Cowboy, Galveston, Wichita Lineman and a host of others. For several years he had a weekly music/variety show on TV called The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. I was an avid viewer. Yes, it was a little hokey, particularly the obligatory comedy sketches that this type of show featured. But, in the pre-MTV days, it was one of the few ways fans had a chance to see musical stars performing their hits. Each week Glen had guest stars perform on the show; it was one of the highlights of my week.

Glen wasn't alone in this type of show. Of course Ed Sullivan was the prototype, but Johnny Cash, Sonny and Cher, Flip Wilson, Judy Garland, Dean Martin and many others hosted their own weekly programs at one time or another. Check out YouTube sometime for some pretty incredible songs performed on these shows, captured in the moment, never repeated. Like Judy Garland performing duets with Barbra Streisand, Bobby Darrin and others. Incredible.

But back to Glen ("just shine your light for everyone to see..." running in my head.) One week his guest was Bobby Sherman. THE BOBBY SHERMAN. The one who I adored, whose photos from Tiger Beat Magazine were plastered all over the walls of my room. He sang Julie, Do You Love Me, dancing around in a gorgeous suit with a wide lavender tie. I must tell you that we had a black and white TV, so the fact that I saw the tie in lavender tells you just how powerful this image is for me. All because of Glen Campbell.

So thank you, Glen. Because my memories of The Goodtime Hour are so wonderful, I choose to overlook the fairly recent episode when you were arrested for intoxication and your police photo was plastered over the internet, and I try not to remember any details of your tumultuous and violent relationship with Tanya Tucker years ago. I will try a little kindness. Oh shoot, there it goes again.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Try A Little Kindness

So here I am, day two of my adventure, writing about whatever is on my mind in hopes that this exercise brings new ideas. Thanks so much to those of you who sent encouraging comments on my first post; you are fueling my fire. 

"And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been." Rainer Maria Rilke

I, too, love New Year's Day, because it sets a tone, if only for one day, of hopefulness and a positive outlook for the days ahead. This year I sat and pondered about 2011, trying to set achievable goals for myself, ones that would improve my quality of life. Yes, losing weight and regular exercise are always there, but this year I am also thinking about my state of mind. Did you know that the ability to think about what you are thinking is one of the characteristics that separates man from animals? But, let's not go there. 
My yoga instructor, Lisa, would be so happy to know that I actually listen to what she says and that these things stay with me for days and weeks afterward. She tells us to be kind to ourselves; not to be critical when we can't do a pose "right" or to its full extent, which makes me think about kindness in general. What has happened to kindness? Where did it go and when did it become a sign of weakness? Our society is bitter, critical and mean-spirited; kindness is in hiding and underrated. Just think about the last time someone said or did something for you that was kind. I would be willing to bet that you not only felt good but also a little surprised to be treated so well. The fact that an act of kindness is a surprise is a sad commentary.

If I have any resolution for this new year, it will be to try to surprise people with kindness as often as I can. I received a “Happy New Year” email from a friend last week which ended with this thought, “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” So I have decided that, even though I may have to bite my tongue in half and my inner voice may be shouting a perfect, sarcastic, witty comeback, I am going to strive to be kinder than necessary. And sometimes the kindest thing we can say or do is nothing; those who know me will know that is the hardest battle of all.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Just Do It

"Some day I am going to write a novel." 

These words are spoken by most lovers of reading, books and language, and I am no exception. Oh, I have written for years as part of my job. I can write a clear and concise business letter or news story better than most. My advertorial copy for a worthy foundation can make you want to whip out your checkbook and donate right away, but where is my voice? 

I've prepared for "writing my novel" my whole life. I've done all the things that successful writers recommend, particularly reading good books. James Michener always asked aspiring writers what they were reading. "How can you expect be a great writer if you are not a reader of great books?" Advice I have taken to heart and always will. But for the last year or so, I have become more and more disenchanted with writing for others and more compelled to write for myself. Author Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones (a gem filled with practical advice and exercises) tells you to just do it. Write. Write every day. Write about anything. Write what you know and write about things that scare you and push your boundaries. Just do it and you will hear your voice and it will become stronger. 

As if that wasn't enough of a push, I recently reconnected with a dear friend after losing touch over the years. She writes her own blog,, which I am reading and feeling, once again, the power of written words to bring us together. She has been so supportive and encouraging of my writing a blog that I am having trouble thinking of excuses not to do it anymore. 

So, here it is. I am taking the first step of an adventure. That orange button at the bottom of this page, Publish Post, is daring me to click it. Do I have the courage?