Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 11: A Cup of Coffee

Toddy coffee cold-brew system
Toddy: The Night Before the Morning’s Coffee

If we were having coffee together, today, I would share some fresh, cold-brew coffee with you. Hot, warm or cold, made with water or milk or some of each. There’s also a selection of black tea in the cupboard and cold water in the refrigerator. The puppies aren’t used to having company, but they’ll lie down, once they’ve said “Hello”, and go back to sleep while we visit.

If we were having coffee together, today, I would tell you that my day went well. My husband is building a woodworking shop in the back yard, and today he was able to finish his To-Do List without my help. Tomorrow I’ll be back up on a ladder, lifting boards and holding them in place while he measures them or nails them onto to the studs. The building is taking shape with windows, doors, and exterior walls done, but for the siding.

If we were having coffee together, I would show you some of the photographs that I took, today, in the back yard. The cool quiet shade of the cotoneaster bushes providing the perfect spot to pull up camp chairs, a step stool for a table between them. Do you remember when film was expensive, as was having the pictures developed, and so we would limit our picture-taking and not be able to look at the photographs for months? That was on my budget, anyway. My parents, with a true sense of history, hauled their cameras with them wherever they went. Even to the Philippine Islands and Hawaii, when they were stationed there during WW II. There are so many photo albums in the family home, which one of my brothers bought after their deaths, that we could never get through them even to label the subjects of the photos or where they were taken.

If we were having coffee together, I would remind you that I have been changing around my various blogs and domains and their content as life is changing, here. We are back to going through papers, books, clothes, and such, and tossing the excess. I hope to get the longer desk in my back sitting room moved out to the workshop, so that I have more room for bookshelves. I would like to move those out of the basement, just in case we also get heavy rainfall here. One must think of those things. I have replaced many books with e-editions, but I still have hardcover books that I cherish.

Anyway, I went through The Art of Disorder and set all of my posts before May to “Private”. Instead of using that blog for tracking my health numbers and nattering about how I feel tired, I plan to use it more for challenges. I am feeling well enough, now, to try keeping up with the weekly photo challenges and the daily prompts from WordPress. This blog will go back to poetry, short stories, and perhaps essays, that don’t fit in with my Quilted Poetry posts at WordPress. Do you compartmentalize your creative efforts? I think that my flower photographs and my recipes/cooking activities go together, so I am not changing that for now. This is the blog where I posted my “Poem a Day” for the 2017 NaPoWriMo challenge. I did that with a group, this year, which was a lot of fun.

Everything will get sorted out eventually. Or not.

I am glad that we were able to get together for coffee, this evening. I hope you will stop by again.

Best wishes!
Lizl

P.S. (Almost) every weekend, I take part in the #WeekendCoffeeShare on my Stray Coffee Breaks blog (also on WordPress). Please drop by if you’re in the neighborhood!

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 10: Let the Scene Write Itself

I quietly observe the world around me through the eye of the camera, more often than not.

large, green fly atop the center of a Plains Coreopsis flower
Taking It Easy

So far, we’ve found inspiration from our own experiences, images, words, and more. Today, let’s quietly observe the world around us and write about what we see.

the garden’s abuzz
bees hiding in the clover
just a fly in view

“abuzz”. Copyright © 2017-08-30, by Lizl Bennefeld.

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 9: Writing and Not Writing

What do you do when you’re not writing? How do you reset and return to the dashboard, refreshed? What do you need in your day-to-day life to maintain balance: Running? Yoga? Gardening? Painting? Cooking? Today, tell us.

A lot of pastimes were interrupted by health problems (approximately 2012-2015) and periodic flooding that caused a lot of upheaval (emptying the basement library/bedroom for a number of spring flood and rain incidents). Adding to that were the stresses of deaths in the family (2013-2017) and both my husband and I retiring in 2012.

Music

I started taking piano lessons at age six, when I was in second grade, and I’ve continued playing throughout the decades. I resumed playing the piano, last year. Basically exercises and beginning pieces, as I rebuild the muscles in my wrists, hands, and arms. I enjoy the movement involved in piano playing. A couple years ago, I gave away my cornet and trumpet, but I still occasionally play my soprano recorder and my harmonica.

Exercise

I use the elliptical machine in the front room when the weather isn’t suitable for the exercise bike that lives in the backyard gazebo, which is enclosed, but doesn’t have heat or air conditioning.  I try to spend at least fifteen minutes, one to three times a day, on one or the other. Recently, I have added my hand weights while I pedal (6.6 lb and 3.3 lb) to develop a better sense of balance (pedaling while not holding onto the handlebars). My goal is to continue rebuilding my arm and leg muscles. To help me get back into other activities I’m used to doing and beginning to pick up, again.

Carpenter’s Helper

My husband has started building his woodworking shop in our back yard, and I’ve helped in many ways with measuring, raising walls, carrying delivered materials from place to place, and getting on the ladder to hold the siding for measuring and nailing it into place. I’m beginning to feel more comfortable at the top end of the ladder (9-ft. ceiling). It’s a lot of fun. I haven’t really built anything since my mother and I made furniture for my first apartment. The woodworking shop will have room in the back (separate room with lock) for other hobbies, so as to free up basement space.

Gardening

I haven’t been growing herbs or culinary plants for several years, now, as my initial garden plot was displaced to make room for the concrete slab on which the woodworking shop now sits. The previous summer (2015?) we had work done to raise the ground around the house, addressing the problems with drainage and water seepage. Also, we put in an egress door. I have fencing to install around the new, 50-ft. garden at the bottom of the back yard, next time I’m not hauling around or bracing siding. Also, I’ve been fermenting spent coffee grounds to put in as a base when I dig up the silt around the house in sections to mix it with the peat moss. Also, I will be dividing the tulip, daffodil, and iris bulbs/tubers so they’re properly spaced.

Photography/Photo Art

The garden was the basis for my formal photography/photo art business from 2004 to 2009; I continued to sell through RedBubble until I collected my last commission check in the spring of 2015. Every morning, when the puppies and I go outside, I take a camera with me. I love taking photographs of the animals and insects, berries on the shrubs, leaves in the grass…I could spend whole days doing that. When my husband and I were going out with our ham radio club for Skywarn storm spotting with the National Weather Service’s weather spotter activities, I would take a camera and photograph interesting cloud formations, trees in motion, and such. I still do that to a limited extent here in town, but Skywarn duty was really fun. I still have my ham radio license and check into the local net every once in a while.

Student

Current serious reading includes Fukuyama’s Political Order and Political Decay, which I had to buy after I read the first volume: The Origins of Political Order. I am rereading some of my favorites from high school and college; the most recent is Buber’s I and Thou (intro. by Walter Kaufmann.) (My mother turned me on to Buber, Barth, Boltmann, Bonhoeffer et al., and my dad handed off a lot of history books and contemporary literature). I am also working my way through Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society: Bridging Research and Practice. I got interested in bereavement, grief, and counseling while meeting with the grief counselor from Hospice after my parents died. I am fascinated by the concept of non-finite grief and finding the topic addressed in other books that my counselor recommended. I started college in math and the hard sciences, but made the move into the humanities the summer before my junior year. Completed an English major (literature and composition), and then picked up a major in philosophy. I have enrolled in a workshop that will be coming up pretty soon: Introduction to Japanese Poetry. I started writing haiku in 1965 or ’66, and I am looking forward to digging deeper into it. I’ve been reading The Haiku Handbook, this summer, but have on hand to read next a book on Haiku and one on Tanka that were written by the person who’s doing the online workshop.

Reader

Currently I am rereading L.E. Modesitt’s Imager Portfolio while waiting for the next book in the series to come out. I also favor Anne Bishop’s The Others series, anything by Julie Czerneda, Doranna Durgin, and William Sanders, as well as Sharon Shinn, Laura Anne Gilman, and a couple dozen other authors who write science fiction, fantasy, cozy mysteries, “sweet” and traditional Regency romances, and having inherited the family’s Great Books of the Western World set upon our parents’ deaths, including the ten study guides and the inclusive Great Ideas Today yearbooks, I am rereading old favorites and thinking about tackling another guided study. (My mother took a speed reading course at a local college while I was in junior high school, and then sat me down to do all of the exercises; she also took me to the lab, where I practiced the techniques on the speed-reading equipment with a timer. Supposedly, it increases comprehension and retention.)

Target Pistol Shooting

Before I started having respiratory problems, I was involved in target pistol shooting, including practices for Bullseye competition (with my husband). The other objective of my exercising is to be able to shoot to that level again. Also, with the diabetes, my eyesight has changed. Now that the blood glucose levels are down, I am hoping that my next pair of eyeglasses will allow me to shoot at 50 ft. again. In the meanwhile, I have work on reloading for my favorite guns, because the price of factory ammunition is too high to be affordable. I am building up a good stock, because I will need a lot for proper practicing.

Cooking and Nutrition

With both diabetes and gluten sensitivity/celiac disease in the family, I spend much enjoyable time cooking for myself, coming up with new and different ways to cook the foods that I select, and collecting good cookware (when it goes on sale, preferably). I spent some time each day reading the community forums on the American Diabetes Association website. It is fascinating, coordinating food, sleep, exercise, and minimal medication to reach and maintain health weight and diet and deal effectively with any problems that arise.

I enjoy playing with the dogs, taking part in activities as I am able, doing chores, and having enjoyable discussions and daily conversation with my husband. An added pastime, this year: I am enjoying the New York Times daily crossword puzzles online. And I do write a lot of poetry along the way. I enjoy the variety in my life and the balance between acquisition, quiet for assimilation, and creative action.

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 8: Reinvent the Letter Format (or not)

blue wild flax flower in the garden with stems; colour altered
Blue Wild Flax

Some might say a post in the form of a letter is trite and overdone. But with the right approach and tone, a letter can tell a great story and get your message across (and it doesn’t have to be negative or shaming — a letter can be joyous).

Today, write your post as a letter. About what, and to whom? Up to you!

As it turned out, I wrote a letter, sent by email, to a cousin who lives out-of-state, whom I have not seen face to face since we both were in high school, if I remember correctly. We have gotten into contact because of deaths in our immediate family: her parents (October and July) and mine (December and February). I wrote to her again yesterday, and I received an answering letter today.

That, of course, has brought to mind correspondents that I have not written to in years. One friend that I exchanged letters with in 2011-2012 has not responded since then, and I did not because of my poor health at the time. The other person? In the midst of all, I totally lost track of time, between my mother’s failing health, coping with the new puppies, and seemingly getting hit hard by the diabetes that was diagnosed this last December. I believe that she was the last one to write.

I don’t care to “reinvent the letter format”. What I do care to do, now that my other sister and I have begun exchanging notes again, is pick up some of the dropped threads. Over my lifetime I have enjoyed sending and receiving letters. It’s a whole different thing from blogging and texting.

That brings me to another thought. The ephemeral nature of electronic media. The intangible nature of it diminishes it, even as it makes it easier to hold onto during one’s life. (I take photos of letters I receive and stick them on my backup HD and a flash drive. My new puppy devours paper products. Loves sheets of paper and envelopes in particular. Especially if crunchy see-through windows are involved.)

Since I have hosted blogs, I expect that almost all of my poetry and photographic art will disappear within a short time after my death.

Ephemeral works of art. I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

 

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day Seven: Let Social Media Inspire You

dirt road in farming country, grass growing down the center past the crossroad

One of the goals of this course is to help you tap into new and unexpected places for post ideas. Today, let’s look to Twitter for inspiration. Don’t worry — you don’t need an account. Even if Twitter isn’t for you, you might be surprised at how you can find starting points for our own writing there.

Below, you’ll see five tweets, and we hope one will elicit a response from you.

Blogging University, WordPress.com

I found a couple of the provided tweets that recall echoes from across the decades.

I found that to be a useful discovery early on. Being confident that I did not know, let me release the panic and terror of not knowing everything (a seeming demand for perfection and omniscience placed upon me by parents, neighbors, teachers et al.), so that I could concentrate on learning what was at hand. Knowing that I knew nothing, I had so many interesting paths to discovery! And no embarrassment for not having answers for anyone else’s questions. Ultimately, it took away the pressure of parental and academia’s unrealistic expectations and allowed me to continue on a carefree romp through my life of study.

Yeah, but nobody’s going to blame me for a star’s dying, even if they found out about it. And rightly so! On the other hand, my worrying about tomorrow’s work might actually prevent catastrophe. One that I could rightly be blamed for. The disparity of scale makes the comparison a bit silly.

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 6: The Space to Write

I usually like to be in the midst of things as I write. That means, here, being in the front room, where I’m just steps from whatever I need. Our dogs keep me company, and taking them outside every hour or so is helpful, because I have a tendency otherwise just to sit in one spot. Getting proper exercise has become more important as I age, and so I’ve added an elliptical machine to the front room and moved the (used) exercise bike to the three-season gazebo. I’ve also free weights for exercising my arms while I’m pedaling.

My writing environment is, now that I look at it, designed to keep me from writing or reading to the exclusion of everything else. The “writing” part comes automatically, while thinking is taking place. The Space to Write betters my chances of being able to continue writing in the long run, while making it easier to interrupt the writing to take care of everyday needs for food, rest, recreation and playing fetch with the dogs. There is a quilt for taking a nap, and I’ve got a larger-size lap desk that doubles as a foot rest when placed on the bottom shelf’s Great Ideas Today yearbooks.

Another thing that I appreciate about the arrangement is that if I get restless or just want to lose myself in motion for a while, my piano is within easy reach. I can play familiar pieces, distract myself with trying to learn a new piece, or just let my mind wander while I play arpeggios or multi-octave scales. I no longer have room for the exercise mat in the front room. Moved it out into the gazebo for use during the warmer weather.

Again, I’ve extended the day far too long. We were up and out in the back yard, Friday morning, siding my husband’s new woodworking shop, and so I have added my writing to the other end of the day.

Blogging University Course: Writing: Finding Everyday Inspiration

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 5: Begin with a Quotation

One need not hope in order to undertake,
nor succeed in order to persevere.
— William I, Prince of Orange (1533–1584)

I don’t recall when I first came across this quotation attributed to William I, Prince of Orange, but it’s stuck with me through decades. It connects in my mind with the poem that I wrote for my parents as a Christmas present (see “Born of Love”), a few years after I quit corporate to start my own freelance business. Took a while for the business to take off, but stuck with it.

It has been important to me, in great part, thanks to my parents, that I make decisions on the basis of what seems right to me. “Everybody’s doing it” is not an excuse for refraining from a right action or for following a path that doesn’t lead to where I want to be in the long run. There are no guarantees of success, even if the decision is faultless and praiseworthy. One acts because acting is the right thing to do, or refrains from acting because the action would not be the best. Even when I pick my battles, I sometimes lose them. That doesn’t mean that I should not try. Taking the easy path or “going with the flow” because it’s easier or less dangerous (or doesn’t make me look like an idiot to other people) … well, one just didn’t do that. Even when there’s no path marked out.

Over the decades it’s turned into a pretty solid commitment. A way of living. A way of life. Choosing life. Weighing the consequences is important in terms of ramifications for family relationships and commitments, but that could no longer be the deciding factor. It’s not about winning or losing, but about choosing the right paths and taking the right actions. And accepting that others do not have to understand. Each of us is unique. Each has one’s own paths to follow, directions to go, decisions to make.

And now, my eyes are tired and I can no longer see to write.

Best wishes!
Lizl

Finding Everyday Inspiration: A WordPress Course

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 4: In Transit

In Transit

In Transit:
Nth Dimension Travel

the perfect place, filled
with people going somewhere—
step aside from them

picture one unnumbered world
where green, vibrant valleys wait

cross over, mindful
to watch your step–don’t look up
and lose the pathway

two stations, many journeys
may you new tomorrows find

Copyright © 2017-08-24, by Elizabeth Bennefeld.

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration: A WordPress Course

Everyday Inspiration, Day Three: One-word inspiration

Select one word from this list as your post inspiration. Have you always wanted to write about the decision that changed your life? Are you a long-term traveler looking for a place to settle?…

Or, one can look at the list of six words and realize that as a group, they are a poem that wants to be discovered:

  • hope
  • regret
  • home
  • choice
  • secret
  • abundance

 

‘children, after
loss of parents’

home is no more
with grief
comes an abundance
of regret

in secret, our hope
each makes the choice
to outrun death
and mourn alone

Copyright © 2017-08-22, by E.W. Bennefeld.

 

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration: I write because . . .

great books of the western world, great ideas today

Why do I write? At its most basic, I write to find out what I think, or, what I am thinking about. I write prose to discover, to remember, and to understand. I write poetry/prose poetry to discover how I feel about what I think.

I have journaled since my high-school years. Previous to that, I took in information whole. I don’t recall making any value judgments. Nor do I remember thinking about the emotions I experienced when I was a child. They were exterior to me. Which isn’t to say that I did not experience emotions. They simply did not transfer or communicate the experience to my thinking self.

Secondly, I write because I am not in dialogue with anyone, anymore, except with my husband. Having a joint life, we communicate freely about common and individual interests, thoughts, and feelings. He is so much a part of me/the world in which I daily live, that there seems to be no I/Thou, but instead, us. Dialogue with—dare I say “outsiders”?—serves the same purpose of discovery. I discover thoughts, lines of thought, and deep truths within myself. That I then write, to clarify for myself my thoughts, reactions, feelings, and related values.

Related to writing, I recall Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages”, which I do not write in the proper manner, because I get allergic reactions to my hand’s rubbing against paper, and in more recent decades, cramping in my fingers that cuts short the physical experience of writing.* The discomforts derail my trains of thought. Second, I don’t seem to have “unloading” to do. Burdens carried that must be spewed forth onto the page in order to be dealt with and forgotten.

I loved to write letters, but ran out of people to send them to. People who might read them and respond. I suspect that my thoughts are majorly boring, aside from my short poetry. I sometimes wrote letters with no intention of mailing them. It’s almost like corresponding with someone else, because I went back over the letters and reread them. Like favorite books written by favorite authors.

I have discovered—we have, we siblings—that our parents maintained correspondence throughout the war, no matter where they each were stationed, and again when our father was called up during the Korean Conflict.  That encourages me, finding out that writing volumes (and also, taking photographs, which we have in plenty from before our parents met and throughout their lives), that my sense of self-awareness and the need to take notice/note of my surroundings and interior life is a family trait. As has been voluminous reading. Reading through letters written between them, I realize how much, how deeply they were involved in each other, through good times and bad, until the very end. And now beyond.

Writing. It’s like talking to myself out loud while taking a long walk through the pastures and thickets and along the river. Everything seems more clearly defined. Manageable, or not, but more real.

* * *

*Our mother, who used to do typing exhibitions at her state fair when she was in school, raised a brood of touch typists, I suspect. She considered typing (keyboarding) to be a survival skill, and her skills transferred over to her computer keyboard.

Copyright © by E. W. Bennefeld. All rights reserved.