GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #11: Instinct


GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #11: Instinct













As always, the guidelines are simple. Blog on this week’s prompt in any way you see fit. Once you’ve posted to wherever you normally blog, drop the url to your post below.

REMINDER: use the url to your entry for this week’s specific topic post, NOT to your blog’s home page!

If you haven’t already done so, you are welcome to join GBE 2 at its main headquarters over on Facebook (We currently have 184 active members and we’re growing every day!). Just visit GBE 2’s Facebook page and request to join the group. Everyone is welcome, so tell your friends! :O)

For those of you who use Twitter, the hashtag for the group's posts is #GBE2, and we can increase readership if we all tweet early and tweet often. ;O)

That’s it! Easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy!

You have until Saturday (8-6-11) to post your blog and leave your link…

Again, this week, our prompt is: Instinct

Ready. Set. Blog!

Happy blogging!
Beth




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The Power of Words





For as long as I could remember, my mother had been sick. She had emphysema and had suffered enormously for years, the disease progressing until every day became a struggle, every breath a gift. Yet, despite her certain fate, she was kind, optimistic, and joyful. Brilliant and accepting, my mom raised her kids to be independent thinkers, to question, and to love without fear. The single best piece of advice she ever gave me was, "Trust yourself and you'll do just fine." She was right. Those words were emblazoned on my psyche at a young age and to this day, I find that when I trust myself, everything turns out okay.

One night in the fall of 1978, I woke to the sound of sirens. By the time that I made my way to the dining room, the paramedics were surrounding my mother, who was on the floor, drifting in and out of consciousness. My brother held me back from barging through the circle of uniformed men, and we followed the ambulance to the hospital.

My mom fell into a coma and her condition remained unchanged for the next few weeks. The doctors told my father that they had no idea what was keeping her alive. Years of smoking had taken their toll on every system in her body and she was not going to recover. She hung in there, baffling the medical staff simply by virtue of remaining alive. While they didn't understand why she hadn't passed, I did.

For much of my childhood, my mom tried to prepare me to live without her. I objected to the idea that she wouldn't be around to see my kids, but whenever I did, she'd just smile in a sad way, and I knew in my heart that she was right. She was determined, though, to see me graduate high school and head off to college, and mentioned that wish repeatedly. In the years immediately preceding her death, it seemed unlikely.

A few days into her coma, my dad made me go back to school, but every day after class, I went to the hospital, sat by her bed, held her hand, and told her about my day. One of her nurses (bless those women) encouraged my efforts and told me that although one of the others had said that my mom couldn't hear me, she believed differently. "Talk to her, honey. She knows you’re here."

As the weeks continued and I looked at my mom, once so animated and full of life, lying still and emotionless in that bed, I came to a decision. I knew that she was hanging on for me, and I decided to give her permission to go. The next afternoon, I sat by her hospital bed and lied to my dying mother.

I told her that I had just come from my high school graduation and I talked about my plans to leave for the university in the fall. I said that I’d be okay. I thanked her, told her how much I loved her, and I kissed her goodbye.

The next morning, I was called from class. The teacher walked with me to the office, telling me that my father was waiting for me. I didn't have to ask. I knew why he was there.



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America's Invisible Children

The McBlogger bloggers are writing about guilt this week. I have to admit that mostly, I think that guilt is a wasted emotion. Really, we all know what we should be doing, so when we choose to do something else, something that we find easier or more pleasurable, mucking it up with guilt sort of defeats the purpose. There goes the pleasure, and berating ourselves takes away the ease, too. Bah.

Sometimes, we (well, not me, but some folks) feel guilty when we eat something decadent, take a day off from work, or say no to someone’s request. To me, those things are prime examples of times when guilt is definitely a bad call. There are other circumstances that may warrant a visit from Jiminy Cricket, but even then, guilt alone is pretty much useless. If we behave badly or shirk our responsibilities and then feel crappy about it, but do nothing to rectify the situation or at the very least, vow (and stick to it) to never repeat our misdeed, we may as well have simply reveled in our wrongness.

The only time guilt has any value is when it spurs action.

The other day, I parked my butt on my comfy couch in my comfy house and watched TV. The show was a rebroadcast (though I didn’t realize that until later, when I looked for more info on the computer) from 2007, but unfortunately, I’m sure that its message is as valid and urgent today as it was four years ago. Hosted by Joan Lunden, America’s Invisible Children documents the lives of a number of homeless children, with a specific focus on the difficulty of seeing that they get an education. These kids struggle to go to school, to get regular meals, and because they are often in different places from day to day, to keep track of their few belongings. Kids who could be mine, or yours. Kids who are mine and yours.

I watched, speechless, as the stories unfolded. Simple poverty, dysfunction, mental illness, or parental substance abuse played roles in leaving these kids without permanent addresses, but it hardly matters how they got where they are, the bottom line is that every day, these children walk a tightrope, one misstep away from death.

Kids in America literally starve to death.

After the show, I began to research our homeless crisis, especially as it pertains to children. Some become victims of violent crimes, predatory adults, or a system that is so overloaded that even with good intentions, kids in dire need are passed right by. Some grow up to repeat the cycles of dysfunction that landed their families on the streets. Some die.

Others, though, draw from something deep within themselves and emerge strong and victorious, fueled by sheer determination to make better lives for themselves. And despite the overwhelming odds against them, they win. They finish high school and go to college. They somehow look beyond their current circumstances and focus on building their futures.

Surprisingly, these kids don’t seem to whine about their lot in life. I get a little pissy if I open my filled-to-capacity fridge and don’t see anything that looks especially yummy at that exact moment. Pitiful. While I watched the show, Jiminy Cricket showed up to deliver my well-deserved ass-kicking, which I took rather gratefully.

By the closing credits, I was sobbing.

But like I said, the only time guilt has any value is when it spurs action. My family has been involved in The Box Project, which pairs donors with needy families, with donor families providing not only tangible goods, but support and friendship, as well. When my kids were young, they enjoyed choosing items to include in the boxes that we’d send monthly to our sister family, and my children would often exchange notes and drawings with the kids that they knew only through our ongoing correspondence. It’s a wonderful organization, but while helping one family is a good thing, unless everyone who is able reaches out, The Box Project can make a difference to only so many families each year.

What about the rest?

I’m on the lookout for opportunities to make a difference in meaningful and tangible ways. And as for Jiminy, I think he’ll see to it that I do my part.


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GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #10: Writer’s Choice! Summer OR My Favorite Thing

GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #10: Writer’s Choice! Summer OR My Favorite Thing













As always, the guidelines are simple. Blog on this week’s prompt in any way you see fit. Once you’ve posted to wherever you normally blog, drop the url to your post below.

REMINDER: use the url to your entry for this week’s specific topic post, NOT to your blog’s home page!

If you haven’t already done so, you are welcome to join GBE 2 at its main headquarters over on Facebook (We currently have 181 active members and we’re growing every day!). Just visit GBE 2’s Facebook page and request to join the group. Everyone is welcome, so tell your friends! :O)

For those of you who use Twitter, the hashtag for the group's posts is #GBE2, and we can increase readership if we all tweet early and tweet often. ;O)

That’s it! Easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy!

You have until Saturday (7-30-11) to post your blog and leave your link…

Again, this week, our prompt is: Writer’s Choice! Summer OR My Favorite Thing

Ready. Set. Blog!

Happy blogging!
Beth


*** Thank you Maggie for suggesting this week’s topic! ***



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Fiction Writing Tips: Cutting the Fat

Other than harping endlessly about point of view, writing instructors spend more time stressing the importance of showing, rather than telling readers what you want them to know than they do most any other single aspect of good fiction writing. And it’s no wonder—writers who create rich images draw readers into their stories and hold onto them, sometimes long after they’ve finished reading. Great fiction lingers.

Writing students—which I believe includes everyone from children to well-published pros, for I believe that the goal for each of us is to be better today than we were yesterday, but not quite as good as we will be tomorrow—get what might seem like mixed messages. We’re told to be descriptive, to make our readers see, feel, hear, smell, and taste what we write, to pluck them from the comfort of their reading chairs and launch them headfirst into the worlds of our creation. But then we’re quickly cautioned to avoid being verbose. “Great writing is concise,” professors remind students. “Every word needs to propel the story forward. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t belong.”

So, how to you paint vivid pictures with your words while being borderline-stingy with them? You select them judiciously and once you’ve written, you go back, reread, and then slash a bunch of your beloved prose. Then you do it again. And sometimes, again. You must be brutal; this is no sissy task. Cut. Cut. Cut.

Editing—especially self-editing—can be a painful process. We fall in love with our words and hate the idea of discarding any of them, but it’s a necessity. Go on, you can do it—clippity-clip. Don’t want to? I understand. I've never liked that part either, so I came up with a compromise. If I find a line or a paragraph or even a giant chunk of text that I need to remove from my work, I cut and paste it into one of several documents that I have saved, each a graveyard treasure chest for goodies that I hope to use one day. It makes the process more palatable.

When you’re done, you’ll have more than a skeleton, but the ideal finished product should be lean—meaty, yet muscular, with not a scrap of fat to be found. Great fiction is toned and sculpted like an athlete, every component designed for performance. Once you’ve created an Olympian, you’re ready to submit.


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Waltzing My Muse

I am a night person living a day person’s life. I grew up in a house that kept Vegas hours: it never slept. My folks had their first three children in rapid succession and then waited eight years to add my second brother to the mix. By the time that I came along, eight years after that, my siblings were 20, 18, 16, and 8. So when I was up for a 2 a.m. feeding, it wasn’t unlikely that I had plenty of company.

In addition to living in a jumpin’ house, I made my entrance into the world when my parents were middle-aged and a whole lot more relaxed about child-rearing than they’d been with the older ones. Or maybe they were just tired. In any case, set bedtimes weren’t a part of my childhood, so while my friends begged their parents for the privilege of staying up until midnight, all I had to do to meet the new day was, well, stay up. And I often did, at least during the summer months.

I’ve always liked nighttime. Still do. The night sky speaks to me, its vast span of blackness sprinkled with fire-bright stars, and as much as I love trees at any hour, there is something especially lovely about them in the misty darkness of midnight.

I feel alive at night and I feel at one with the world at night. I feel most like me at night.

My best writing happens after dark, too, when my creativity increases exponentially. During the day, I can spit out article after article about whatever a client might want, but it is not until after the sun goes down that I usually bother with the writing that I care most about. Midnight is when my muse likes to dance.

Despite my fondness for the midnight hour, the life I’ve chosen requires that I be a functional human while the sun shines, so I’m typically asleep at midnight. Except, of course, when I don’t have to be, because then, I’m just getting going when the calendar flips. And that’s how I like it.



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GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #9: Midnight


GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #9: Midnight














As always, the guidelines are simple. Blog on this week’s prompt in any way you see fit. Once you’ve posted to wherever you normally blog, drop the url to your post below.

REMINDER: use the url to your entry for this week’s specific topic post, NOT to your blog’s home page!

If you haven’t already done so, you are welcome to join GBE 2 at its main headquarters over on Facebook (We currently have 168 active members and we’re growing every day!). Just visit GBE 2’s Facebook page and request to join the group. Everyone is welcome, so tell your friends! :O)

For those of you who use Twitter, the hashtag for the group's posts is #GBE2, and we can increase readership if we all tweet early and tweet often. ;O)

That’s it! Easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy!

You have until Saturday (7-23-11) to post your blog and leave your link…

Again, this week, our prompt is: Midnight

Ready. Set. Blog!

Happy blogging!
Beth




Weber’s Bakery—Chicago’s Answer to Heaven on Earth


My dad was a watch-every-penny kind of guy long before it became trendy. He was pretty green too, though that stemmed more from his frugal nature than an abiding love for Mother Earth. Fix it up, use it up, and make it last—those were his mantras. He reminded us to turn off the light when we left a room, harped if he heard the water running while we brushed our teeth, and believed that open windows were all the air conditioning a human being needed. He was definitely not an indulgent man.

Despite his rather thrifty personality, there were a few pleasures that even my dad could not resist. The first was a Rainbow Cone, which considering the fact that he was a dairyman and our freezer was pretty much always stocked with ice cream, says a lot about how much that particular treat spoke to him. Every summer, he’d pack us up in the car to get the oversized treats—giant cones layered with several flavors of ice cream—and while we all ate the things, he was definitely the happiest kid in the car.

The only other indulgences delightful enough to make my father willingly open his wallet came from Weber’s Bakery, a haven of baked bliss in Chicago. On special days (or days that he wanted to make special), my father would get up early and drive from our suburban house into the city to choose a box of pastries. By the time that we’d be stretching, yawning, and grumbling our way down the hallway, he’d have the coffeepot going, milk poured, and the selection of soft, fresh, perfectly baked goodies on the dining room table. When we’d spot Weber’s signature box, all grumbling would immediately cease.

Weber’s bakers are certainly equipped with an array of terrific family recipes, but I think they might have a little magic in their fingertips, as well. While I haven’t sampled all of their offerings—I mostly stick with my tried and true favorites—I have had enough of a selection to know that no matter what the box holds, if it’s from Weber’s, it’s gonna make your tastebuds happy.

My daughter’s wedding cake was lovingly baked by the Weber men (carrot cake—it got rave reviews), their brownies are moist, dense, and richly chocolicious, they make a fresh strawberry & cheese coffee cake that is well worth every single calorie, their kolacky is unrivaled, and I’d challenge you to find a cake more palate-pleasing that their Banana Split Torte—two layers of banana cake and one layer of chocolate cake, filled with home-made custard and topped with fresh bananas, whipped cream, and fresh strawberries. The thing is heaven on a platter.

My dad has been gone for many years and I haven’t had a Rainbow Cone since the last one that he bought for me, but Weber’s Bakery is still my favorite place to go to soothe my sweet tooth. My husband usually makes the Weber’s run these days, and just as it did when I was a child, waking up to find a box of their pastries still has the ability to turn a regular day into one filled with sweet, sweet promise.


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*I swiped the photo from Weber’s Bakery website, but I’m guessing that they won’t mind.



GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #8: The Bakery

GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #8: The Bakery



Brenda and Mike--this one's for you guys!








As always, the guidelines are simple. Blog on this week’s prompt in any way you see fit. Once you’ve posted to wherever you normally blog, drop the url to your post below.

REMINDER: use the url to your entry for this week’s specific topic post, NOT to your blog’s home page!

If you haven’t already done so, you are welcome to join GBE 2 at its main headquarters over on Facebook (We currently have 167 active members and we’re growing every day!). Just visit GBE 2’s Facebook page and request to join the group. Everyone is welcome, so tell your friends! :O)

For those of you who use Twitter, the hashtag for the group's posts is #GBE2, and we can increase readership if we all tweet early and tweet often. ;O)

That’s it! Easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy!

You have until Saturday (7-16-11) to post your blog and leave your link…

Again, this week, our prompt is: The Bakery

Ready. Set. Blog!

Happy blogging!
Beth



The Empty Chair

The chair sits in a corner of my dining room, ignored now, except for a weekly dusting. I love its old-fashioned simplicity, gleaming oak instead of today’s plastic monstrosities. What I love most about it, though, are the memories that it holds.

My husband and I found it on one of our weekend escapes, brand new, but created in a style befitting the age of our house. We were riding the crest of prospective grandparenting, our daughters’ bellies full of promise, and we took on baby shopping as if we were training for an Olympic event. I’m not ashamed to say that we were a little crazy, giddily awaiting a grandson and granddaughter, both scheduled to arrive by that summer’s end. On more than one occasion, my husband gently reminded me that not everyone needed to or even cared to know that we were going to be grandparents, because it became my main topic of conversation. He’d tell you now that I had a severe case of grandparentitis, but I can assure you that I was not the only one afflicted at our address.

We brought the chair home, set it beside the dining room table, and then stood there grinning at it as children might look wondrously at a Christmas tree, knowing that it would soon bear witness to unbridled joy. And it did. The first two grandchildren covered themselves in yogurt and berries and pureed sweet potatoes while seated in that chair. Three more followed, each taking their turn as the guest of honor at countless family meals. The chair’s tray has a few dings and nicks now, which only serve to increase its beauty and solidify its place in our family’s history.

But then, as babies do, our little ones got bigger. Too big to sit at a chair with a tray, too big to paint their hair and faces with strained peas and mashed bananas and ice cream (oh hush now, Grammy and Grampy have been afforded a great deal of latitude and we take full advantage of it). So the chair sits, empty and ignored, except of course, for its Saturday wipe-down. It usually gets a quick once-over these days, for there are never any bits of missed food that require giving it more than an obligatory swiping with the cloth.

A few weeks ago, though, our son and his family stopped by and brought us some news. Sometime around Valentine’s Day, their little guy is going to be a big brother. They’re thrilled, we’re thrilled, and soon, the chair will again be put to good use. After they’d gone home, I carried our dishes to the kitchen, but I stopped for a moment in the dining room, hands and heart full, to grin at the chair.


Faces

This is my entry for this week’s GBE2 writing prompt—a story complete in exactly 100 words, title included. If you’d like to blog with us, click the link and join in. All are welcome!










Faces


Marina wrote again about enlightenment, and posted to her blog. She spoke of her love for humanity and how she cherished all mankind.

After she signed off, she offered a bit of seed to Max, her only roommate, before leaving for work. The bird chirped happily on his perch as Marina pulled into traffic, silently cursing the other drivers for their inconsiderate ways. On the job, she counted the hours until she would be free from the backstabbing and hypocrisy she saw around her.

Once home, Marina returned to her computer. “It’s important to live with love,” she began.


GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #7: 100 Word Stories














As always, the guidelines are simple. Blog on this week’s prompt in any way you see fit. Once you’ve posted to wherever you normally blog, drop the url to your post below.

REMINDER: use the url to your entry for this week’s specific topic post, NOT to your blog’s home page!


If you haven’t already done so, you are welcome to join GBE 2 at its main headquarters over on Facebook (We currently have 165 active members and we’re growing every day!). Just visit GBE 2’s Facebook page and request to join the group. Everyone is welcome, so tell your friends! :O)

For those of you who use Twitter, the hashtag for the group's posts is #GBE2, and we can increase readership if we all tweet early and tweet often. ;O)

That’s it! Easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy!

You have until Saturday (7-9-11) to post your blog and leave your link…


This week's Writing Prompt:

This week, you’ll be writing a story, fiction or non-fiction, that is exactly 100 words (and your title IS counted in that 100)—no more, no less. Your entry needs to be a story, complete in 100 words, not just a descriptive paragraph about your hand. Well, we can make an exception for members who are very good friends with Mary Jane—you guys are allowed to write about how miraculous your hand is. Everyone else, though, should come up with a start to finish story. ;O)

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Ready. Set. Blog!

Happy blogging!
Beth



Swimmingly Happy

Well, here it is July and I’m gonna try my hand at NaBloPoMo (again). I pretty much bellied up in June, but new month, new opportunity, so here goes. Counting this post, I'm on a 2-day streak. Woo-hoo!

Today’s prompt: Where would you love to go swimming? Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. :O)

I lovity-love-love the water. I can be stressed and exhausted and crabby (What? Me, crabby? Never!), but after just a few minutes in water, I’m blissfully content. Water and trees, those are the elements I need for happiness.

So where would I love to go swimming? I suppose that there are a number of potentially impressive responses to this question. I could tell you that I’ve always dreamed of swimming with dolphins, moving gracefully through the water with the gentle animals. Or maybe that I long to join the ranks of those who have swum the English Channel. A fistful of Olympic medals might have been my goal, though at my age, that ship would have pretty much sailed some decades ago. An aching wanderlust could have me yearning to cliff-dive into a Hawaiian lagoon, float on the salty sea, or feel the force of a powerful river against my swimsuited form.

I could tell you that stuff, but none of it would be true.

I like ponds and wee little lakes, but mostly, I like to sit beside them, beneath a tree, to dream or sketch or read or write. For swimming, I like my water chlorinated and fishy-free. I don’t want to feel seaweed on my toes and I have no desire to dive headfirst (or even feet first) into murky waters.

Truthfully, I’d be delighted to do all of my swimming in a ‘cement pond,’ a la Elly May Clampett. Fish free and crystal clear to the bottom. Yep, that’s the way to go.


Cinquain: Ravage



This time, Marian offered the next topic. Hers: Ravage












A cinquain follows this structure:

First line is two syllables
Second line is four syllables
Third line is six syllables
Fourth line is eight syllables
Fifth line is two syllables

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Ravage



Hunger
Those eyes, those lips
Pulling me closer in
There is no resisting, no hope
I’m his



Next: Alone



Cinquain: Believe

Diana Jillian offered “Believe” as the next topic in the cinquain chain.













A cinquain follows this structure:

First line is two syllables
Second line is four syllables
Third line is six syllables
Fourth line is eight syllables
Fifth line is two syllables

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Believe


Trust it
The voice within
God whispers the answers
Be still and listen for the truth
All’s well




Next topic: hatred




Cinquain: Rain


From Diana to me...her topic: Rain














A cinquain follows this structure:

First line is two syllables
Second line is four syllables
Third line is six syllables
Fourth line is eight syllables
Fifth line is two syllables

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Rain


split-splat
plop, piddle, plop
dim the lights and listen
mother earth requests your presence
rain dance



Next: myopic