Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 20: Wrap It Up

Mother and me, doily on my head

Mother and Me, 1940s

 

What I enjoyed (and did not)

I enjoyed the prompts. They were not earthshaking, but they served their purpose. The subjects were predictable, but the techniques/methods for addressing the prompts were varied. I was able to bypass the techniques I needed to and choose from alternatives that fit me better. One thing that I tried to do was to avoid responding to every (or every other) assignment with a poem. I think I got away with only 10% being poetry, and the only original-to-the-project poem the Acrostic for Day 13. Since I usually write 3- to 7- or 10-line poems, 16 lines stretched beyond my customary word count.

What I missed with this course, and what made Writing 201: Poetry so rewarding, was the active push to community and interaction that came with the private WordPress form for that particular class, starting and ending at the same time, so that there was a coordination of activities. The #everydayinspiration tag in the WP Reader helped, as did finding bloggers with whom I am familiar who were also beginning at approximately the same time. As my schedule eased, I reached out to a few more, some of whom will end up on my Reading list for this particular blog. (I have a number of blogs, each with a different general focus and tone.)

Variety

I also had fun with the Mine Your Own Material assignment, where I chose as my unifying subject “Food”. I located a couple of favorite recipes (a breakfast omelet and a gluten-free cake-in-a-cup). Also, I pulled out an old science fiction short story that I wrote in 2005 for a 48-hour short-story-writing competition; a light romance and a consideration of variations of plants that should be first grown on community/agricultural space habitat. For having been written in two days, I thought it didn’t turn out too badly, considering that I hardly ever write short stories, and have only had one published (in the previous century … in a limited edition anthology … not in the United States).

An “Aha” Moment

In between my first and second jobs out of college (computer programmer and computer operations), I lived with a fellow for about seven months, when he graduated from college at the end of summer school and joined the U.S. Army (his number in the draft lottery was 038). During that time, I was going through my notebooks and boxes of papers, time after time, looking for my senior philosophy paper, of which I was particularly proud. I could not find it. What killed the relationship was my discovery that he had taken my paper, presumably retyped it, and then handed it in as his senior physics paper. Evidently he did well, or he would have been panicking about having to (re)write the paper at the last minute or face not graduating on time.

I was a help to him in his adjustment to having to go out and live in the world, as I provided a structure for him that served him well until his death (late winter or early spring of 2014). But as I was writing the blog post about making my own decisions, it dawned on me that I had never forgiven him, even though my actions toward him were loving actions. I refused ever to see him again, finally, some time after his discharge, and suggested that he not phone me anymore, and he made his way successfully in the world, generally. The “aha” moment was when I recognized that recalling him in the process of writing about that particular time period in my life evoked a sudden, powerful rage.

I think that I want to think about that for a while. I think that I over reacted and that he was right to believe that I would not be understanding about his appropriation of my work.

As I continue blogging

As I continue blogging, I plan to continue being open to what I may learn about myself and others. And how I feel at a particular moment about a situation, a person, or a group of people, does not have to govern how I will act or react. It has not in the past. I think that’s probably a good thing.

Years from now

Having lost to death seven close relatives within the past eleven months has affected how I feel about planning on/for continuity in our lives. My writing and photographs are on the Intenet, an ephemeral medium. They will not continue to exist past the funds that pay monthly or yearly for my blog space and domains. As I have always written for myself and for the now, I will bear that in mind as I continue. I write because I am a writer, and I trust that those who also might/should look at my photos, art, or writing, will find it. If not, there always will someone else to write, to see the world as effectively as I do, albeit from their own perspective. We are as much or more a collective being, we humans, than individual. Nothing needful is lost.

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 18: A series of anecdotes

Not likely…Instead, a few pictures with comments.

These photos are from my personal album. My parents took a lot photographs throughout their lifetimes. As we left home for college, we each received a large photo album with a copy of every photograph that included us. Mine is on the bookshelf just to my right as I sit in the front room. This first group is photos taken the first winter in our “new” house. They started out building a basement house, adding the upper story (which my mother designed and drew up the blueprints for) before I finished grade school. My mother’s father took endless correspondence courses, and she and her father took architecture courses together; she also worked at the hardware store until she left for college.

In the summertime, Mother would send Dad and me out of the house, so that she could take care of the younger children and get housework done. (I was an active, precocious child.) I enjoyed going fishing, learning how to remove the scales from the fish, learning how to mark a trail through the “woods” in the pastures along the river, and going out into the fields with my father and his brothers when they went hunting for pheasants. (When I reached the proper age for such, I was the only girl in the school-sponsored Hunter Education Program.) The table at which I am sitting in that last photograph above is a picnic table that my parents built to serve as a kitchen table in the basement. (Mother’s father had a lumber yard, back in Iowa, and she was really handy at planning and building shelves, bedsteads, daybeds and whatever else needed doing. Together, she and I built the furniture for my first apartment after college and refinished some pieces that we picked up at the Salvation Army Store.)

Three more photographs.  First is the “gathering of the Wicker clan” for Father’s 100th birthday party, the day after Mother’s memorial service in the home town. The second is a photo that Dad had taken to send to Mom while they were in the service (Army and Navy, respectively). The third is a portrait photo of Mother in uniform.

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 17: A Map as Your Muse

For this day of “Finding Everyday Inspiration”, I am once again “mining my own material”. “Right-of-Ways” was written in response to a Poetry 101 Rehab prompt (March 2015). The Google Map encompasses various places I traveled to, whether by train, plane, bus or car, or in the 60s and early 70s and short of cash, hitchhiking. As the tenor of this country’s mood has become tense, concerning the Dreamers and DACA, I recall my own dreams and the often treacherous freedoms of my childhood and early adulthood.

Right-of-Ways”

Rivers and railroad right-of-ways
were the trails of breadcrumbs
that led me away from home
to adventures in long hot days
of childhood’s summers.

They tempted me to run across the tracks,
then follow until the railroad bridge
spanned a river. Tree branches overhung
a bend where I could fish and dive and swim,
sheltered from the rapid currents.

Later, because one cannot hike or swim
through all the years of growing up,
I saved my allowance to travel the right-of-way.
A commuter train would take me to the city
with its wonders of a Five-and-Dime with escalators.

The right-of-ways felt right. They
ran both ways: between home’s safety
and a world of new sounds and hotdogs with
mustard and tall buildings and people
who didn’t all talk or look like us.

Sometimes railroad right-of-ways
divide a village into two. The ‘right’ and
‘wrong’ divide themselves from one another.
The right-of-way can turn into a wall of
self-defense against humiliation, others’ pride.

We have need of right-of-ways, the trains and
rivers that guide us, move us from traps and tears
to dreams and possibilities. Roadways not barred,
right-of-ways that offer open passage
to wherever we are called to become.

Copyright © 2015-04-30, by Liz Bennefeld.

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 15: Take a c(l)ue

Rather than poll my readers (hi, Mara!), I turned to the alternatives listed for Day 15 on the Resource Page and selected three related suggestions:

  • Tell us about a book that opened your eyes when you were young.
  • Describe a life-changing experience with a book.

When I was in grade-school, I read “In Hiding”, a novella by Wilmar H. Shiras, and later, Children of the Atom, based on “In Hiding” and two other subsequent stories. (Our village librarian knew that I was into science fiction novels, and I got a steady supply from her and from the regional bookmobile from second grade on up.) The child who was the central character in the book had interests beyond his age and had developed self-protective practices that helped him maintain a fairly normal front to the rest of the world. The novel deals with his finding other children like him and gradually forming community with them and beginning the process of integrating with society.

Because I found it difficult to communicate with peers, with few interests in common, I started developing some of those techniques as a camouflage. That is, I pretty much quit talking to people in general, outside of my family, except for librarians, who could be counted on to provide me with reading material beyond my grade level. I also shadowed a couple of students in my class who seemed to have no other friends, and that gave the three of us a group to be part of: to sit together during school events and to walk with, going from one classroom to the next. I don’t think I formed any friendships as such until my last two years in college. Almost none of those “took”, but at least I knew and was known by a fair number of people. As I look back, I don’t think I was quite so invisible during my college years as I had thought at the time. I still wasn’t paying much attention to anything outside my head.

Another thing that Shiras’ stories and others taught me was to start making decisions about my own life, and not just follow the path of least controversy. In college, lacking only two courses to complete minors in chemistry and mathematics, I started an English major the summer leading into my junior year, and the summer leading into my senior year, I began a philosophy major. The philosophy department arranged for me to take one of the required courses by independent study, so that I would graduate on time. My parents had been set on my becoming a scientist (and making a lot of money with a major corporation). My changes in coursework did not go down well, but since I had previously arranged with my chemistry advisor to have him talk with my parents about my decision, should that become necessary, I prevailed. But had to borrow more money, my senior year, than I’d planned on to pull it off.

Anyway, Shiras provided a “role model” for me that made me comfortable moving through society without more than minimal interaction. After I ended my corporate career to work freelance, I began to meet more people with similar interests. That was really good, being able to have conversations with folks. Talk about almost anything. Sometimes, still, I don’t find the right words to communicate what I see in my mind, but that also doesn’t bother me so much anymore.

  • Where do you like to read?

When I was very young, I liked to climb from the top of the bookshelf into the casement of the window and hide behind the curtains to read. Ours was a basement house in the early years, and so I could look out the window at ground level. Later, I learned how to open the window from the inside and slide the screen out, so that I could disappear into the horse pasture just beyond our back fence. The village was not well lit at night, and on the other side of the pasture’s windbreak, to the west, I see the sky clearly, the moon (I drew maps) and the constellations (I drew maps). Lovely escape into another world!

 

An assignment in WordPress Blogging U’s course Writing: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 14: Making My Day

This morning, 7 September 2017, I awoke after eight hours of sleep (or more). I’d practically fallen into bed, last night, before the sun had set. Exhausted, I think. I had fallen asleep towards the end of the afternoon, was awakened by hungry puppies, and did not really come alert, again, afterwards.

Toddy coffee cold-brew system

Toddy: The Night Before the Morning’s Coffee

Wednesday was a scattered day. I awakened without the alarm, as usual, at 8:30 o’clock or a little after, let the Scampers outside, took my fasting BG test, fed the Scampers, and, picking up my point-and-shoot camera, took the Scampers outside, again. The temperature was in the high 40s °F. There were no open flowers in the wildflower garden, other than the Plains Coreopsis, and so we went back inside to nap (the Scampers), make coffee (for Al), and find something to eat (my breakfast).

Thaddeus, outrunning Charlie, who is not in the picture.

In Hot Pursuit, 2017-09-06

I ate, brought coffee to Al, who was still in bed, and settled in to read the news and drink my first cup of Toddy coffee of the day (homemade cold-brew coffee concentrate diluted with whole milk). The Scampers napped. We went outside again at a little after 10:00 o’clock, and the Scampers raced around the yard while I took photographs. The sun was out, the temperature had risen a bit, and there were insects to photograph. Oddly, a lot of them stopped to pose for the camera!

Meanwhile, Al got boards measured and trimmed for the morning’s task of installing the soffits on the south side of the in-progress woodworking shop building in the back yard. I get the tall ladder, so that I have something to hold onto. This project has been an exercise, not just physically, but also in dealing with my dislike of heights. I continued to take photographs, off and on, while Al trimmed the next boards we were to put into place.

After lunch, we went to the mall, where I got my six-week haircut. The salon is being remodeled, and so everything was set up in half of the salon space. I am certain that exposure to the various chemicals quite near to me contributed to my fatigue and breathing problems. Upon leaving the mall, we stopped at the grocery to pick up some essentials (lots of meat, forgot to buy more milk), and then went home, again. I took a nap while Al went out to do more chores, and I ended up in the gazebo for a while before I made a sandwich for supper, drank another cup of Toddy coffee, and went to sleep, again.

Shelter at Evening, 2017-09-06

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 13: Play with Word Count

thick snowfall partly obscuring windblown tree branches

Snow Before the New Year

 

Mostly, I write short verse. What SFPA refers to as “Dwarf” poetry (10 lines or fewer). Writing a longer poem than usual would qualify, I think, as playing with the word count. On a whim, I also upended habit by employing a different technique and structure, as well as a change of topic. This was written on a whim, once through, so please forgive any fumbling in the writing.

 

Lapse Into Winter Sanity

Trees grow along the road
Hiding fields and gardens
In shade and shadows
Safe from brutal winds

Aside the bales of hay
Lurk deer and cattle, mingled
Snug behind the thick, dried straw
Open to the warm midmorning sun

Winter snows pile up
Inside the windbreaks
Leaves insulate foundations
Last service by dormant trees

Peace covers the countryside
As the winter wears on, isolating
Sleeping towns and villages
Spared floods and fear and fools

Copyright © 2017-09-05, by Elizabeth Bennefeld.

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration, Day 12: Critique a Piece of Work

Today, express your opinion on a topic or a piece of artwork. This is your opportunity to comment on something you’re passionate about, or review a piece of entertainment that you love or despise. | You can approach this assignment in your own style and preferred format, and write about work in any genre or medium that speaks to you.

This assignment has presented a conundrum. A discontinuity. Critique and review are not the same thing, nor is a critical review or comments on an object of passion or entertainment. In the Resources section for this course, I read the alternative, “Offer your perspective on a topic of your choice (from politics to public education, from feminism to the environment, or any other topic you’re passionate about).” I wonder if we’re just asking, Do you feel strongly enough about some subject to speak about it?

According to the online Cambridge Dictionary, passionate is defined as “having very strong feelings or emotions”. I would go so far as to say that I have convictions. A conviction is defined as “a firmly held belief or opinion”; synonyms include “idea, stance, thoughts, persuasion, article of faith,” &c.  I think that convictions translate more directly into decisions and actions, in contrast to passion, which I associate with reactions, rather than decisions, and less objectively focused with regard to consequences.

I don’t know why, but an incident…a couples questionnaire that my husband and I filled out during premarital counseling, required in order to marry in the church of our choice. The instrument was designed to analyze the family of origin in terms of structure and power. My husband’s family was categorized as rigid and authoritarian, while my environment was described as chaotic anarchy. And so, my opinions are my own and closely held, but I believe that I would be uncomfortable at finding myself among other people like me.

 

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 Seven: Let Social Media Inspire You

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

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.