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Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

You’ve come a long way baby! Well, maybe not..

The words to a poem started coming to me this morning as I had my morning cup of coffee. I wanted to use the word “wellspring” in my poem, but I wanted to make sure that I was using it in the right context. I didn’t have my computer on yet, so I grabbed my paperback copy of the Merriam-Webster dictionary I had bought a few years back, before I realized that the online version was much more useful.

As I turned to the W’s toward wellspring, I happened to notice a definition listed for the word “well-endowed”; a word that I thought would never merit an entry in a dictionary. But there it was, and just for fun I read the definition, which soon turned my smile to a frown. I read the two definitions listed – 1: having plenty of money or property  and 2: having large breasts. Seriously? Really? Someone actually had the male chauvinistic, misogynistic gall to write and then allow the second definition to be published? It was almost as if someone had channeled the spirit of Noah Webster himself, from the early 19th century he lived in, and asked his definition of the word. Because this could not possibly be the work of any respectable 21st century writer; hadn’t we come so much farther than that?

So my question to Merriam-Webster would be, in the light of modern day equal rights for both men and women, where was entry 3, which would most certainly be:  having a large penis. That might help to take away the sting from the slap in the face that definition number 2 seems to be, and let’s give the guys their time in the spotlight too, right?

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Only in Portland

Keep Portland Weird! The bumper stickers with this quirky catchphrase in bright yellow letters can be seen all around town. Some of the locals find it trite, but for me it was a draw to this “weird” city, a place where the eccentric are encouraged to come out in full force. The origin of this slogan was actually a campaign started by a company to encourage shopping at local merchants around town, but it really defines the energy of this very interesting city.

Another aspect of Portland that makes it so unique is its almost overzealous love of dogs, rivaled only by some European cities. Instead of most major cities who would have to post a “dogs allowed” sign in the window of any business, Portland assumes that dogs are allowed everywhere! The only sign posted here is “only service dogs allowed”. And Portlanders are not shy about taking their dogs everywhere, often dressed in cute little doggie clothes, making them as eccentric as their owners. I have seen dogs in many restaurants, coffeehouses, all kinds of local businesses and even in the grocery store. But this morning as I was picking up a few things at the grocery store across the street, I encountered a surprising lack of Portland patience for our canine friends.

I was in the produce section, trying to size up the pomegranates and figure out what makes one pomegranate better than the other, when I heard the announcement from a less than happy employee – “Would the person who owns the dogs chained outside to the bike rack please go and take care of them – they will not stop barking! Thank you.” And this is something else that amazes me, is the honor system that is in place; allowing people to leave their dogs chained up outside an establishment while they take care of their business, never giving a worry or second thought that someone might come by and steal their precious pooch. Only in Portland…

And in another vein of quirkiness, I am proud to say that I live in the city that houses America’s Largest Hat Museum, simply named The Hat Museum. I had the good fortune to be able to take a tour through it with a women’s writing group one rainy Saturday afternoon. Reservations are required, and only groups of up to six people are allowed, so it is not like just any old museum that one might stroll through.

The museum is located in the Ladd-Reingold house, a vintage house through and through, built in 1910. Of course for many years it was a private residence, but now it is literally filled to the rafters with hats of all kinds. I was greeted at the door by Alyce, our tour guide, dressed in a wonderful outfit from the turn of the 20th century; a beautiful vintage dress circa early 1900’s, black lace gloves, black leather boots from that period, and of course an extremely flamboyant hat full of ribbons, feathers and flowers.

We started on the first floor, gazing in awe at the stunning collection of antique and vintage hats, some of which were adorned in very ostentatious ways. Then we moved on to a more modern day collection, learning all along how hats have really been a huge part of our histories and cultures. The second floor houses a massive collection of men’s hats, where we learned that because of the overwhelming desire for beaver hats in the day, the poor beaver was almost hunted to extinction. After that we moved on to the unusual collection of novelty hats, which included hats for every occasion and holiday, even one that was made to resemble a Thanksgiving dinner table – very quirky! We finished up with the collection of international hats, most of which have been sent to the Hat Museum from people all over the world.

So it is with great pride and joy that I shout out to all who will listen – Keep Portland Weird! And I love being able to relay stories to my non-Portland friends, beginning with the words, “Only in Portland”…

https://i2.wp.com/www.keepportlandweird.com/images/products/KPWLB.jpg

When reading blogs becomes a full-time job, and why I had to go part-time

When I first started my blog and actually began to gather followers, I was so grateful, and I felt an obligation to follow each one of them in turn. And that was fine for a time, when the numbers were low. But things quickly spiraled out of control, and I found myself unable to keep up. Reading all the lovely blog posts started to take up much more time than I expected, and I found myself starting to resent having to read so much. How sad, because I love to read!

I tried spacing it out a bit, only reading a few here and there. But soon I found myself overwhelmed with so much in my inbox that I had times where I had to sweep it all away in a massive deleting. This broke my heart; callously clicking away others words without so much as a glance. So I decided that I needed to start being a bit more selective in the blogs I follow, so I could help my oversensitive self not panic by being inundated with so much information. Now that I follow a smaller number of blogs, I find I am relaxed and once more enjoying the world of blogging.

And as I look at the flip side of things, I notice that I actually have 77 followers now; yet if I’m lucky on a good day I might get 7 people who read and/or like my post. And that is perfectly fine, as I write for the joy of it, not the adoration. But I have to wonder if other bloggers have also amassed an unmanageable amount of blogs they follow. Like some kind of blogging fever that strikes when a blogger is fresh and new, excited and ready to take on all the wonderful offerings that are out there to read.

It all reminds me of days past, when people used to read magazines and actually subscribe to  them, having them sent to their homes. It used to be a common problem once upon a time; getting carried away with too many magazine subscriptions and never enough time to read them all. The solution for that problem was picking out only one or two that really merited interest and not renewing the rest.

Well now the same seems to hold true for the plethora of blogs available to read, and I find myself having to select a reasonable number that I can give quality time to reading. And as with all things in life, that is ever changing. As I un-follow some blogs, I find new ones that I want to follow – and I’m sure that the same is done with my blogs. Such is life, always full of change, and such is the reason that I am only a part-time reader of blogs.

The gifts of perfect timing

I took a break from reading the 500 some page book club book about Teddy Roosevelt to check and see if the mail had arrived yet. As I walked into the foyer of my apartment building, I saw a large wooden desk sitting there with a yellow post-it note proclaiming “Free”. I have been keeping my eye out lately for a desk of some type, but it needed to be smaller than this one. I was anxious to replace the TV tray that I had been using as a combination desk to write at and kitchen table to eat at. Rick and James were in the office, the manager and assistant manager of my building, and I lamented to them how much I would have loved that desk but it was just too big for my studio apartment. One of them mentioned a smaller desk they had seen in the basement, in the corner where people leave “free stuff”;  things that are let go for one reason or another, usually because it is easier than trying to haul large and bulky items to the nearest Goodwill.

I found the adorable white wicker desk just sitting there in the corner, amongst a mattress, a broken entertainment center, a battered tool box and a box full of old clothes and shoes. I felt like I was at the humane society, picking out the perfect pet. Instead I had found the perfect desk! I ran up to the office, out of breath and proclaimed, “I’ll take it!” James graciously offered to bring it up to my apartment on the fourth floor; good thing he was there at the time or else I don’t know how I would have managed it on my own, and then I may have lost my chance to have such a great find – for free!

But wait, there’s more!

As I started to rearrange things in my home to accommodate my new piece of furniture, I heard a knock at the door. I answered it and there stood Rick with a lovely black office chair that looked as if no one had spent any time sitting in it. Another free gift! Rick must have been paying attention to me when I was rambling on about how I have the world’s most uncomfortable plastic folding chair that I bought only because I didn’t feel like driving all over to find something better and yeah I hate to complain but it really would be nice to have something a bit more comfortable and on and on. And now here he was, with the perfect chair to match my perfect desk – yes, what a perfect day!

After all was said and done, with my new desk in place and the drawers full of all the things I had previously kept on a kitchen shelf, I could see how perfect timing, what is called synchronicity, played a part in all of this. I had to come down to get my mail, just at the time that the desk was there, just at the time that Rick and James where there to tell me about a better desk and to hear about my sad chair story, just at the time that James was there to carry my treasure find to my apartment, just at the time that Rick thought to give me his old office chair. This is how the Universe lines up the dominoes of our life’s happenings, then gives them a joyful flick to fall into perfect succession – this is how it’s done!

As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as luck or fate or serendipity; there are no coincidences. We are all part of a much greater plan than we can imagine. And when we take the time to step back and stop trying to control everything, we might just find ourselves the recipients of perfect gifts that can only come from perfect timing.

From this….

…to this!!

 

 

The other side of writing

Today I started my 24th journal, in four years time, and that works out to filling up a journal every two months – wow! I guess I have a lot to share with myself. The pages I fill contain so much – my thoughts and dreams, love and heartache, all that I am and all I am experiencing in this lifetime. In this way, journaling is a gift, a godsend, a way for my soul to spill out and for me to archive a permanent record of who I really am.

I often look back on all my lovely pages, inspired by how far I’ve come, or enlightened by words I’ve written but long since forgotten. My journals become a kind of self-help book written by me, for me – who better to help me through the ups and downs of life but my own unique soul? But I am also guided by words I find from others. I often write down inspirational quotes or phrases I find or hear, as well as decorating the pages with pictures or artwork that touch my heart. It is a joy to see and read the soul filled expressions of others.

My journals are a manner of creative expression as much as my other modes of writing are. Even though I fill the pages with haphazard writing – misspelled words, grammatical errors, run-on sentences – it is the free flowing expression of pure thought, not impeded by my logical side that stops me from saying what I long to say. There is much truth contained in those pages.

In the corner of the room, I see my lovely collection all lined up like soldiers at attention, but not wearing the same uniform; each one is unique on the outside as well as the inside. Some are covered with pretty pictures or artwork, and some I have decorated myself when the cost of a $10 journal was outside my budget. Those forays into art are some of my favorites – there is the one with the man in the moon picture I cut out and glued to the front of a $1 composition notebook, or the notebook I bought in the college bookstore one day and transformed into a journal by covering the front of it with inspirational quotes I love.

All of my precious journals contain the unique energy of me, a true self that I find cannot be fully revealed at times. Those are the times when the sanctity and security of my journal becomes a very dear confidant to me, allowing me to always be me.

My first journal, October 2008

One of my “homemade” journals

Blogging, just because…

It’s time again to revisit the reason I started a blog in the first place, as I find myself pouting recently over the minute number of responses to my blogs – oh, get over it! is what I keep telling my overactive ego. I have fallen into the self-gratifying habit of checking and rechecking my site stats, poring over the numbers like a statistician and trying to figure out how to attract more readers. Maybe I should only publish posts during the week and not the weekends; seems like that’s when more people view my posts, during the week, and early on in the day, not later in the evening. Then I start to ponder, what do the people want? Obviously it isn’t always what I think is interesting or entertaining or enlightening. Otherwise I would have surely been on Freshly Pressed by now – and by the way, what does it take to earn that featured status? Oh, the sad manipulation, all to try and gain attention – just like a child.

I ask myself the most important question of all, why do I write in the first place? Is it to try and get somewhere, to an exalted place in the world of writing or blogging? Or maybe, just maybe, it is the real reason that I started writing – because I love to write! When I rediscovered the joy of playing with words, with having thoughts come to me in a poem or a musing or a short story, I found a part in me that had been hidden for so long. I found that I am creative! And I found the most enjoyable outlet for my creative juices, the art of writing.

And really, I do this thing, writing, because it is a kick to create something. I often find myself reading my poems and stories over and over, and I love them! And I have to know that even if I only connect with one solitary soul as I write my blog posts, then I have done a great thing in reaching that soul. We don’t have to do such grandiose acts of connecting with one another to affect joy and inspiration in our fellow human beings. Sometimes we can touch others in ways that we may never know. My words are out there, the energy behind them is out there, and that is the key to why I blog. Holding back what I have to give in lieu of attention getting defeats the whole purpose. Reaching in and letting myself create, and then sharing that creativity is what this blog is all about, no matter if one person reads it or no one at all.

A rhumba of rattlesnakes? The idiosyncratic world of animal & bird group names

Because I love to write, I love words. I love putting words together to form thoughts or a story, but sometimes I love words in and of themselves, just enjoying how they look and sound. Words like cacophony, plethora and gallivant have a quaint look and rhythm all their own, making them fun to say as well as making me appear well spoken when I can actually use them in the proper context. That may be a bit pretentious though, don’t you think? Do I want to be one of those people trying to impress others with my extensive and unique vocabulary? Well, obviously I am not the only one who wishes to be noticed by using interesting words. I recently discovered a list of group names of various animals & birds, and I’d have to say that the biologists or ornithologists or whoever appointed themselves to the task of naming these groups must have been either drunk or trying to impress fellow colleagues as they came up with some rather peculiar pairings.

As I read through the list, I realized how clever some of the names are. I could certainly attest to a prickle of porcupines, a shiver of sharks (and they do make me shiver!), a quiver of cobras (another creature that yes, makes me quiver!), and a tower of giraffes. There are some group names that imply a character trait: an implausibility of gnus, a mischief of mice (and isn’t that one so very true?), a wisdom of wombats (who knew they were wise?), and a pitying of turtle doves. I found that some groups were named on the basis of their actions: a leap of leopards, a lounge of lizards, a romp of otters, a cackle of hyenas, and a crash of rhinoceroses. But the ones I enjoyed the most were the totally off the wall labels that had to have been chosen by those in a mind-altered state, or perhaps on a dare, or maybe just for the hell of it, because they could! : a kettle of vultures, a consortium of octopuses, a charm of hummingbirds, a bloat of hippopotamuses, and my personal favorite, a murder of crows.

I am envious of those who were given permission to label the creatures of the earth and their groups with such creative license.  So the next time you go to the zoo, remember the zeal of zebras, the streak of tigers, and the coalition of cheetahs, and say “thank you” to those who sprinkled a bit of levity into the animal kingdom.

A flamboyance of flamingos

A barrel of monkeys

A flock of seagulls
(also the name of a popular 80’s musical group)

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