Writing Weather – Baby It’s Cold Outside

We had plenty of warning for this monster storm, but that doesn’t make it any less “chilling”. Oregon and much of the Pacific Northwest is hunkered down at home (as we expect to do this time of year) just waiting on/enduring the big blast of frigid air that has come thundering down from the north. Temps tumbled from the upper 30s (degrees Fahrenheit)) at noon yesterday to about 20 in less than 3 hours. Cold, but dry; too dry for snow.  The +45mph winds kicked up around 10pm last night (as Merlin and I went for our last walk of the day), and even though I was wearing two parkas, it cut right through all that down. Eye-watering cold. This morning, the thermometer on my balcony (rimmed by pink lights) registered at 20 degrees (with wind chill, we have a ‘feels like’ temperature of 0 degrees (that’s -17 Celsius for my friends in Australia and the UK)), and that is the expected high temperature for today. 

What little snow we’ve seen thus far is just powdered sugar, whipped up by the winds.  It’s too cold and dry to be worrisome, but sometime later today, the bitter winds and sub-freezing temps will collide with an atmospheric river of rain driving up from the south and sit right over the Portland area for a couple days.  Actually, based on the weather warnings, the heart of the ‘weather event’ is expected to be right over me and several of my writer-peep friends here in  Beaverton. I’m keeping an eye on the bird bath and hummingbird feeder, and thawing out both every hour for the birds.  I’m also keeping the porch and deck lights on so the birds have a somewhat warmer place to seek shelter fro the wind and cold. Not worried about snow or rain; it’s the ice that will keep me & the dog inside. It’s not a sure thing, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Nothing to do now, but write. 


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Happy Solstice: The Return of the Sun

A few years ago, I gave up the madness of the Christmas season (when people celebrate Chris) for a quieter, nontheistic celebration of the first day of Winter, and the return of the light. I no longer have to face the herds of desperate migrating travelers as we all attempt to reach the lands of our clans. Instead, I spend the ‘me’ day working on my goals and deliverables for the coming year and updating/honing my 5-year strategic plan. I ponder things and think thoughts.  

I do indulge in a small tree or cedar boughs; festooned with Nordic goats, birds, and symbols that represent hopes and dreams for the future (cottages, hearts & luck). An altar with items from the past year that made me happy and candles lit at sunrise to greet the sun always brings a swell of positivity to my heart.  It’s a nice way to start the day…and the year as well.

Wishing you all a peaceful holiday season and a more positive world in 2024. 


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Positive Words of Wisdom and an Epiphany

The past three years have been tough on all of us. The pandemic, the insurrection on January 6th, the horror of mass shootings and senseless murders at the hands of police officers, and an  incomprehensible war in Ukraine represented but a few of the headlines in the global news.  Add to that our uniquely individual silent traumas, and I think the word tough might actually be an understatement.  But wait, this blog post is not going to be about wallowing in negativity. This is a positive blog post.

Stay with me on this, for I am about to share the secret of how I recently switched from a negative belief system to a positive belief system, based on words of wisdom shared by a couple of master creatives.  One is  a new-to-me discovery; the other a venerated Wizard of Words.

It all started a couple of months ago with Amazon Prime.  I got a recommendation (as we do) based on my shopping history (which, best as I could tell, was prompted by recent purchases of Ray LaMontaigne’s Trouble and Ouroboros CDs as well as a new The HU, Rumble of Thunder CD (Mongolian throat singing heavy metal rock– I kid you not, these guys are fantastic in a very primal way).

My taste in music is eclectic to say the least, so I am thinking that maybe the Amazon bots thought my choice in music was a bit on the dark side and figured I should lighten up a bit.  Anyway, they popped up with  list of comedian videos, one of which was Eddie Izzard’s Emmy-award-winning 2002 performance, Dress to Kill.

With a few exceptions (Robin Williams, Steve Martin) I don’t normally enjoy stand-up comedians; they mostly seem angry and shouty to me. But I watched the Dress to Kill preview and was hooked almost immediately. Needless to day, I laughed myself silly.  I spent the next several weeks binge-watching his videos, from the earliest to the most recent.  I even watched the 2009 documentary on his life, Believe, which was nominated for an Emmy for best documentary. Eddie Izzard’s comedy style is surreal and apparently, so is my taste in comedy (your funny bone mileage may vary).  I watched and rewatched and laughed my head off every day.  It felt good. And the thing is, the good feels stayed with me, long after the videos ended.

I realized that I hadn’t laughed much in a very long time.

But beneath the humor, I marveled at the word choices, sentence structure, em-PHAH-sis and rhythm of his chatty style of humor. The more I watched the performances, the more certain I became that I was enjoying a master class in writing (as well as performance).  Although the medium of stand-up is different (and obviously more challenging), all good comedians necessarily have to be good writers.

Not so different from me.

Yeah, yeah, I know you (writer peeps) already know this from comedy TV shows and Saturday Night Live, but for some reason it didn’t really hit home for me until I read Eddie Izzard’s New York Times bestselling autobiography, Believe Me.  Here is a creative (transgendered) person who knew exactly what he wanted to do in life from a very young age, but for whom the path to success had some hugely daunting obstacles to overcome and decades of ‘no’ to endure. For me, the key takeaways were having a rock-solid positive belief system (oh yes I can!), stamina, patience, and determination (and a dollop of courage) that will (eventually) get you where you want to go. I found the book to be to be supremely inspirational. And then, because he is a performance artist, I bought the audiobook as well, which has many additional (and fascinating) footnotes that the printed book did not have. It became evident to me that Eddie Izzard does so much more than ‘just’ act or write or perform. He/she has a vision of a better world and backs it up as a dedicated activist for causes that are important to him/her. I am awed.

After this glutting myself on laughter and inspiration, I also reread what I consider to be the best book on writing ever written: On Writing by Stephen King. Two hundred and eighty-eight pages of wise words. Yes, I reread this on every year and every year it’s chock-solid full of advice to writers and an account of his experiences coming up as one of the best (and one of my favorite) novelists of the past 50 years. I reread this book every year, and every year (as my craft improves), I get more out of it.

Re-connecting with laughter over the past several weeks and reading these two books has drastically rebooted my outlook on life in a purely positive way. I feel freshly enthusiastic again about my plans and dreams for the future. My well of positivity, determination and yes, even stamina has been refilled.

And thus, just this morning, I reached an epiphany:
– All of us need more laughter in our life; I don’t think it’s possible to kill people, plan an insurrection or invade a country when you’re enjoying life. Glut yourself on funny movies or videos or whatever tickles your particular funny bone.  I recommend a two-week binge, at least.
– Make a daily affirmation to embrace a positive belief system.  One where you look forward to reaching every goal and imagine the feelings of how wonderful it will feel when you get there. Wean out the nay-sayers in your life. Dream great good things for yourself.
– Remember the golden rule and treat others as you would prefer to be treated. What goes around, comes around, and change is the only constant in life. Kindness and politeness are an essential part of a positive belief system.
– Acknowledge that every little step you make towards that goal is progress.  I believe that when we marry intention with action, miracles happen.

So yeah.  My positive message distilled from two masters I admire greatly: Laugh more. Embrace a Positive Belief System. Dream big. Practice the golden rule. Aim to take a step closer to your goal every day. I hope my epiphany adds a bit of positivity to your day.

Welp, that’s all I’ve got.
Oh, and read (or listen to!) good books.

Posted in 2023, Amwriting, belief systems, Believe Me, Eddie Izzard, Stephen King | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2022: The List & The Lesson

Another year gone by.
After three years and three pandemics we tighten our global resolve to beat the virus(es), curb inflation, stop global warming, and end a senseless attempt by oligarchs to annihilate an entire county and kill the millions of people who live there.

We have no way forward but through change. This is the way it has always been: we adapt to survive. When the old ways no longer work, we innovate. We partner with our friends (and in so doing, help ourselves), building strength in numbers. In solutions. In ideas. Eventually, the momentum will turn, and change will come. As it must.

The only constant is change.

As a writer, this is a lesson we already know: we can’t keep writing the same story.  We constantly look for new ideas; explore new worlds; seek to understand where our  futures will go and how it will look. How will these changes affect our lives? Our politics? Our ideas and goals?

In that vein, I changed up my reading genres this year.  Thanks to Roku, I enjoyed the televised milieus of Michael Connelly’s LAPD Detective Harry Bosch (on Bosch) and Ann Cleeve’s DCI Jimmy Perez (Shetland). Connelly’s books already take up a good portion of real estate in my bookshelves, but I hadn’t discovered Cleeve’s work.

After reading a dozen or more of her novels, I can say her her Jimmy Perez series, starting with Raven Black was my FAVORITE READ BY NEW-TO-ME AUTHOR this year. While I think the television series for both authors is better (in a different way) than the books, the Shetland series doesn’t capture the island culture and politics of the series quite like the books do, and Connelly’s Bosch series has better characterizations/relationships in secondary characters and builds a stronger sense of immediate danger better than the novels. Honorable mention goes to N. K. Jemison’s The Fifth Season, which (to me)  wasn’t exactly enjoyable as much as admirable.

FAVORITE CLASSIC: I reread the entire Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling this summer, one right after the other. Twenty-five years later and it’s still magical; it still works. Oh what a wonderful world she built.

FAVORITE READ BY FAVORITE AUTHOR:  Hands down, Naomi Novik’s Scholomance series, particularly the third book, The Golden Enclaves was the best ending to a series I’ve ever read (a place previously held in my heart by Robin Hobb’s Blood of Dragons). Having just finished rereading all about Hogwarts, I was wary that this was just another magic school trope, but it is/isn’t in the most acerbic/stunning way. In fact, Novik’s three-volume Scholomance series got better with each book, and I sobbed (for lack of a better word) with both joy and horror the entire last third of the book, an emotion I have never experienced before. Utter cruelty and brutality in a single thought. The pinnacle of heroism in a single word. Novik’s Temeraire series made her an auto-buy author for me, but this one is just…Wow.

The lesson to me is to keep evolving. Keep exploring new ideas. Live a life of constant learning.  Keep in touch with friends and keep making new ones. Value new experiences; good or bad, you will learn something new. As we learn, we change. As we must.

Oh, and keep reading.

Posted in 2023, Boasch, Bosch, Robin Hobb, Scholomance, Sharon Joss, Shetland | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter Has Come

Winter has come.
With it, a ‘storm in a generation’ has begun a thorough tour of most of North America, just to remind us all that in the timeline of eternity, the Ice Age was mere moments ago. Oregon isn’t known for harsh winters, but it was 18 degrees this morning, with sustained winds of 40mph.

Serious Weather.
Good thing I’ve lived in both central New York and Idaho, and know what to do. I donned two sweatshirts, a down vest, two down parkas, a hat and scarf to walk the dog this morning. By tomorrow, temps are expected to go into single digits or below. The ice storm is expected to start tonight, and deposit at least a half inch of solid ice on every exposed surface. Too dangerous to even attempt walking. Merlin and I will limit outdoor time to very brief breaks on the lawn outside. And whisper a prayer that the power doesn’t go out.

This is dangerous weather. Primal.
I can almost recall some sort of ancestral uneasiness. Hunker down in front of the fire. Don’t go out there. We are helpless before the storm: the winds that bite, the ice that kills. Stay inside. Be safe. Let it blow itself out.

The sun will return. While the winter solstice brings the longest night, we also welcome the return of the light. Of hopes and dreams for the future. Of better times to come.

Be well. Be warm. Dream of the sun to come.
As it does.

Happy Yule. Happy Solstice. Happy New Year.

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Mall Crawl

Until this weekend, I had not been to a shopping mall for more than 3 years.

It’s not that I was ever such a big-time mall shopper, but there were regular visits; you could say we were well-acquainted. In addition to rainy-day retail therapy, there was birthday/wedding/new baby shopping, sales and all the other usual reasons one goes to the mall. I always had a secret-squirrel parking spot that I parked at that magically put me close to a little-used mall entrance (just outside the lingerie department at Macys).

Then COVID came along and those field trips to the mall were no more. When the mandatory masks came off (the first time), I barely had enough time to get used to the idea and go to the grocery store without a mask before Omicron and it’s successors had the mask proponents shaking their heads ominously. I chickened out, not daring to brave any sort of crowd without a mask (crowd being newly defined by me as more than 1 masked person standing 6 feet away from me).

This weekend, while the rest of the West is suffering through a 20-year drought and my little corner of Oregon is so wet that the sidewalk squishes when I walk on it, I decided to chance it and go to the mall. I mean, I’m vaccinated four times over and I’ll be masked up with my hand sanitizer handy. Why not?

Gotta say, it’s a big mall, and I hadn’t been there in a long time. There was a lot of traffic. The Nordstroms wasn’t where it was in my memory. Neither was Macys. In fact the place I thought was Macys was closed up and dark, and there’s now a big foodie court in the parking lot where the cars used to park. I figured Macys must have been a pandemic casualty. Such a shame.

I couldn’t exactly remember the location of my secret squirrel parking spot. But having committed to the mission, I wasn’t about to back out. I parked right outside Nordstroms and walked in with my eyes wide with excitement.

I am not saying I expected to be greeted like Norm when he walked into Cheers, but I did expect to feel like you do when you revisit your old high school. A sense of nostalgia, mingled with a bit of ‘oh yeah, I’m back’ and maybe an encouraging smile from the woman behind the cosmetics counter?

But no. Instead it was overwhelmingly busy. Sooo many people! Way more than you’d see even at Safeway on a Friday evening. Salespeople sooo busy. Sooo many products and counters and racks and displays with goods offered in such a profusion, the eye cannot settle on any single thing, but instead flits to the next and the next and the next…leading you deeper into the bustling hive.

And the noise. Somehow, after three years of online shopping, I’d forgotten how loud everything is at the mall. Virtually everyone on their phone or calling to their kids or significant other from the escalator. Children screaming incessant bloody murder louder than a car alarm at 4am. And I must confess, stepping onto an escalator for the first time in three years was a bit intimidating.

After about twenty minutes, all I wanted to do was leave, but I wouldn’t let myself. I had all this pent-up desire to be OUT, and I wasn’t going leave. My accustomed hermitry would  just have to adjust. I was determined to follow through and at least walk the length of the mall.

I exited Nordstroms and merged in to a sea humanity, like salmon, fighting their way upstream, with rapid changes in direction to enter or exit the stores lining the mall. I also changed lanes, as I kept thinking I was going in the wrong direction. In my memory, you always walk to the right, but on this day everyone seemed to be walking and running every which way and stopping and turning around at random. Oy.

I took refuge beside the mall map, and scanned the directory. So many of the stores I was accustomed to seeing there were gone. Where was Mrs. Fields? Where was the Cheesecake Factory? The Disney Store? I caught sight of a familiar name and did a double take. Macys was still there!

But not where I thought it was. I must’ve driven in from a different direction. Apparently, Nordstrom is on the opposite side of the mall from Macys. I tried to tell myself that maybe Macys had moved to the other side of the mall during the pandemic. But that didn’t seem likely. The Cheesecake Factory was still right next door, where it always had been.

With my bearings now firmly set, I gathered my resolve to get to Macys. Whatever else happened, Macys would be my grail-inspired destination for the day. I would do it. I set out with fresh determination and vigor.

Rush hour traffic on the freeway is less mind-numbing than being bumped and jostled repeatedly by people who are all around you and not paying any attention to what they’re doing or where they are.  By the time I got to Macys, I was numb. I toured most of the departments, and managed the escalator like a pro, but the store itself was all a blur. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

I don’t really remember much about the hike back to Nordstroms; only that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find my car. I’d parked on the second level of the parking garage, but after the Macys fiasco, I’d lost confidence in my sense of direction. And memory. But the car was there, and I got home safe and sound. Next time, I’ll start with something smaller, like Target.



I promptly ordered a couple of tee-shirts online and then lay down for a nap with the dog.

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Dancing to the Omicron Jive

Welp, here we are; week 100 of the pandemic, by my count. Friends have gotten sick. Friends have died. In two years, it’s morphed from COVID-19 to Delta, and again to Omicron, which by any other name should have been a bee-bop dance craze. As in, “Doin’ the Omicron jive, man; like everybody’s doing it!”

But no one is dancing.

Instead, I’m socially distancing, and the only high point of my week is dragging my sorry wagon to the grocery store. No need for makeup; I’m wearing a mask, so what’s the point? I’ve been working from home for the last two years and although I am *very* thankful for the job, I don’t really get out of my flannel house pants all that much. These days, it’s too much effort to put on proper shoes, so I pretty much walk the dog in slippers.

I’ve been vaccinated once, twice, three times now (five, if you count the two flu shots) with no end in sight. We are halfway through the second winter of our global discontent and no, we’re not there yet. Sigh.

So there I was last weekend, entertaining myself with a little virtual browsing on Amazon and Etsy (as we do now), when it happened: the cutest pair of shoes on the planet smacked me upside my virtual face and said, “Lookie here, Sista.” In my size, my color. I didn’t even have to think about it.

I clicked the BUY NOW button.

And everything changed.

The agony of anticipation has begun. Those shoes have my name on them and I can’t wait for them to arrive. My feet will dance of their own accord. They will look great with my jeans and I’ve got a favorite shirt that I haven’t worn in a such a long time, that I can’t wait to wear again. The people at the grocery store won’t even recognize me with my hair brushed. They’ll see the undeniable pep in my step, and wonder what my secret is. They’ll notice my shoes and think, ‘dang, those are nice shoes! Been a long time since I bought some new shoes…’

And as I skip out of the checkout line, they’ll nod to themselves and make a mental note to do a little shoe shopping of their own. And as I prance past the customer service desk and out the door, they’ll hear me humming a happy tune.

Get yourself some cute new shoes.  You’ll feel better.

New Shoes by Paolo Nutini https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmbUNF1Q4R8

Woke up cold one Tuesday
I’m looking tired and feeling quite sick
I felt like there was something missing in my day to day life
So I quickly opened the wardrobe
Pulled out some jeans and a t-shirt that seemed clean
Topped it off with a pair of old shoes
That were ripped around the seams
And I thought these shoes just don’t suit me

Hey, I put some new shoes on
And suddenly everything is right
I said, hey I put some new shoes on
And everybody’s smiling, it’s so inviting
Oh short on money but long on time
Slowly strolling in the sweet sunshine
And I’m running late and I don’t need an excuse
‘Cause I’m wearing my brand new shoes

Woke up late one Thursday
And I’m seeing stars as I’m rubbing my eyes and I
Felt like there were two days missing
As I focused on the time
And I made my way to the kitchen
But I had to stop from the shock of what
I found a room full of all my friends all are dancing round and round
And I thought hello new shoes
Bye bye blues

Hey, I put some new shoes on
And suddenly everything is right
I said, hey I put some new shoes on
And everybody’s smiling, it’s so inviting
Oh short on money but long on time
Slowly strolling in the sweet sunshine
And I’m running late and I don’t need an excuse
‘Cause I’m wearing my brand new shoes

Take me wandering through these streets
Where bright lights and angels meet
Stone to stone they take me on
I’m walking to the break of dawn
Take me wandering through these streets
Where bright lights and angels meet
Stone to stone they take me on
I’m walking to the break of dawn

Hey, I put some new shoes on
And suddenly everything is right
I said, hey I put some new shoes on
And everybody’s smiling, it’s so inviting
Oh short on money but long on time
Slowly strolling in the sweet sunshine
And I’m running late and I don’t need an excuse
‘Cause I’m wearing my brand new shoes

Oh hey, I put some new shoes on
And suddenly everything is right
I said hey, I put some new shoes on
And everybody’s smiling, it’s so inviting
Oh short on money but long on time
Slowly strolling in the sweet sunshine
And I’m running late and I don’t need an excuse
‘Cause I’m wearing my brand new shoes

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