Musings and Amusings

Posts tagged ‘Creative Non-Fiction’

Will the Real Annie Please Stand Up?

Did any of you watch that 50’s-60’s show called ‘What’s My Line?’ where four people come on stage and say something like, “I’m Annie, and I’m an author”?

Only one of them was really an author named Annie but they all answered author-ish questions from a panel of celebrities (Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf) who would then guess which contestant was the real Annie.

Finally the host, John Charles Daly, would say, “Will the real Annie please stand up?” and the audience would gasp at how cleverly the contestants fooled the panel.

That’s how I felt back in January when Elizabeth wrote about reading Anne LaMott’s book Small Victories.

The gist of our comments was:

Me: “I’m so glad you are enjoying Annie Dillard …

 Elizabeth: “Who is Annie Dillard?”


I’d done it again. Been flummoxed by the Annies.


Summertime!! Iced Coffee? Arnie Palmer? Fruit Smoothie?

If we were having coffee, I’d confess I’m a little more gripe-y in person than I am on my blog, so I’d start our conversation by whining that whoever invented the leaf blower (which I might point out is used against all laws of nature to blow cut grass from one side of the street to the other and to blow dirt out of the driveway into the curb gutter after which the wind blows it right back into the driveway) should be strung up by his thumbs and forced to listen to that deafening, polluting noise until his ears fall off.

If I was writing about it on my blog instead of bitching to you in person, I’d write it in a more positive tone, something like this:

I will gladly give my  virginity, first born, chocolate stash,‘favorite books’ collection to the genius who invents a SILENT MOTOR that can power everything from leaf blowers to lawn mowers to motorcycles to Budget Rent-a-Trucks to air conditioning compressors.

For the love of God, am I the ONLY person who expects motor-free time outdoors in the summer?

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest …

June 2015 Tangle

I’d tell you that Sparks and Raqi were done with school yesterday, and Raqi’s 9th birthday is this weekend – nine years of idyllic love for my Bella Boo-ski Baby Cakes. I like nicknames. I can’t tell you all of Sparks’ because he uses them in his video games passwords. I’d tell you, but then he’d surely terminate you.

Raqi asked us to come stay overnight on her birthday (Awww) and she wants to go to Golden Corral for dinner because, you know, … chocolate fountain!

Raqi's Birthday Card

Raqi’s Birthday Card

We’ve got plans for a family week at a very special place in July (more on that later), and I want to take them to Arapahoe Park (horse races where they let you wander the stables) and trek north to Fort Collins to visit stables housing some of the Budweiser Clydesdales. Plus we’ve got Sparks’ golf camp and baseball. Time at the pool – well, let’s just say each summer we discover a new place to splash.

Obstacle Course - Field Day Plan B 'cuz of Storms

Obstacle Course – Field Day Plan B ‘cuz of Storms

We must pack it all in quickly because their next school session begins the first week in August!

Tower Competition - Field Day Plan B 'cuz of Thunderstorms

Tower Competition – Field Day Plan B ‘cuz of Thunderstorms

Hub and I are enjoying a series on the Smithsonian Channel titled ‘Aerial America’ – an aerial history/travelogue of each of the 50 states. So far we’ve visited Minnesota, New Jersey, Maine, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and South Carolina. All I have to say is after each hour we look at each other and chime, “I wanna live there!”

OK, maybe not live there, but definitely visit or re-visit what we’ve missed. (and an aside to Joey – Indianapolis was highlighted in a very favorable light, not least because you live there!).

The music on Aerial America is TOO LOUD. I had to turn on ‘closed caption’ because the music drowns out the narrator even for the not-hard-of-hearing.

But that’s a bitch best left for the Love-Hate Challenge.

We are truly blessed to live in such a vastly rich, diverse country.

I am delighted and grateful  to have each of you in my life.

If you don’t hear from me next week, well … death by chocolate fountain isn’t a bad way to go!


Maps and A Sense of Place

What is a map if not ultimately a tool to help us in our discovery of ‘Place’?

Place can be as meaningless as a red X proclaiming, “You are Here” or as monumental as your internal compass at some point in your life’s journey whispering, “You belong Here.”

Occasionally Place can be conflicting heartstrings, as when you return to your childhood hometown, wanting to find what existed long ago exactly the way your memory locked it in.

Stranger or Friend

Book Cover for Stranger or Friend

Silvia Villalobos, an author and Romanian transplant to Los Angeles, recently published her first novel, Stranger or Friend in which Los Angeles lawyer, Zoe Sinclair, returns to her hometown only to find her best friend murdered and her mother succumbing to age-related illnesses and refusing medical care.

As Zoe investigates her friend’s murder, she finds once-friendly townspeople reluctant to share what they know. Zoe is forced to confront more challenging circumstances than she anticipated as she realizes how much the town she once knew has changed.

Silvia creates believable characters and relationships, and brings her story to a satisfactory conclusion (something I find missing in many novels). I recommend her novel for the storyline as well as the many themes Silvia incorporated. If anything, I hope she delves deeper into a few of her themes in her planned Zoe sequel, especially the conflicts that come as towns become more demographically diverse, forcing changing workforces and cultural adjustments.

What I enjoyed as much as the novel itself was the amount of thematic background Silvia provided during April’s A to Z Challenge. One theme that resonated with me is our human need to find our sense of place.

 In Silvia’s words, “People suffer through bad times – hurricanes, fires – and return to rebuild, as they feel they belong to the place as much as the place belongs to them.”

 Silvia’s novel takes place in Wyoming, and she specifically references the northwest corner of the state where Yellowstone National Park and the majestic Teton Mountain Range are the state’s crowning beauties.

from Google Images

Yellowstone’s Beehive Geyser from Google Images

from Google Images

Wyoming’s Teton Range from Google Images

While I have traveled to those tourist-heavy natural wonders, I know a different Wyoming – that of the central and eastern plains where families have passed down homestead ranches and where mineral excavation and oil/gas drilling are the lifeblood of the economy.

from Google Images

Wyoming Plains from Google Images

A Wyoming where the wind blows so steadily no matter the season; the snow blusters so forcefully; and the sun blisters so intensely, you’ve got to develop a thick crust and a ‘git ‘er done’ attitude to survive, let alone thrive. Silva rightfully uses weather as a driving theme in her novel, and highlights the effect it has on the sociability and personality of Wyoming’s residents.

Stegner photo

Collected Stories of Wallace Stegner Back Cover

While I was reading Silvia’s novel, I was finishing up Collected Stories of Wallace Stegner. Much to my surprise and delight, two of the final four stories, “The Wolfer” and “Carrion Spring” take place in Wyoming. Stegner wrote about the spring of 1907 after four months of brutal forty degree below zero cold snaps with intermittent wild, warming Chinook winds and continuous blizzard whiteouts and fog. Most of the cattle did not survive; the wolves were running rampant to feast on the carnage; and the wolfer and his vicious hound dog eventually succumbed in gruesome scenes when their trapping plan went awry.

Coincidentally, when I reread Silvia’s A to Z posts, I realized she quoted Wallace Stegner in her ‘Place’ post, “The knowledge of place that comes from working in it, making a living from it, suffering from its catastrophes, loving its mornings and evenings…”

Much as I like to think of myself as a Pioneer Woman, I haven’t worked the land in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico or Arizona nor suffered most of their catastrophes, but I love the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains and Southwest Desert. Every fiber in me knows this is where I belong … my sense of place.  Much of my heart resides with my Michigan family but Colorado is my rightful home.

Thanks to Silvia Villalobos and Wallace Stegner for celebrating ‘Place’.

I’m curious about my readers.

  •  Are you transplants who have found your ‘place’?
  • Lifelong residents of your birthplace?
  • Feel like a foreigner when revisiting your birthplace?
  • Multi-placers who split you time living in more than one place? If so, is one ‘home’?
  • Still seeking? How? Where?

I am also interested to hear about authors you like who write about ‘YOUR place’ in a way that holds meaning for you. (Prompt?)

Occasionally I scroll through Andrea Reads America where Andrea provides author quotes linking the author to their state . She reads and reviews several books taking place in a state then she ‘moves on’ to another state. Fascinating!



It’s the Map; It’s the Map *

Titled borrowed from Dora the Explorer who always carries her map …

Perhaps you spent childhood Sundays as I did – morning church followed by delicious pot roast and veggies then an afternoon drive in ‘the country’ with the whole family in tow.

The back roads in Michigan are unparalleled rural beauty – hilly, curvy dirt roads with borders of massive tree trunks hoisting broad green canopies so thick it’s like riding through tunnels. back road 1Looking back to see the cloud of dust in our wake; following Dad’s finger pointing out a deer, a fox, a coyote in the field beside the road.

Occasionally as we backed out of our driveway, we kids would scrunch down in the back seat – below window level – with our eyes closed. Dad would turn out of the driveway and about 15-20 minutes later, he’d stop by the side of the road and we’d have to guess where we were. Although I suspect it might have been his ploy to keep us quiet for a stretch, his stated aim was to help us develop our sense of direction.

Dad’s ability to know where he was, and how to get home, was uncanny. It came from his years of living on a farm outside of town where he and his 11 siblings spent their time after chores wandering miles along streams and through woods, developing a sixth sense for navigational accuracy.

Despite Dad’s skill, we’d often end up on a road no one recognized. Alarmed, Mom or one of us would say, “Dad, are we lost?”back roads funny

No. We’re just taking a short cut.”

 No matter how convoluted that ‘short cut’ was, Dad eventually delivered us home without consulting a map.

I couldn’t internalize Dad’s directional aptitude in Michigan. My dilemma was three-fold. Because the terrain all looked the same and there weren’t any distinguishing markers on the horizon, I didn’t know where I was hence I couldn’t figure out which direction I should head and, even if I did, I couldn’t discern that direction from nature’s clues.

The sun, even when it wasn’t obscured by tree tunnels or cloudy skies, never seemed like a marker I could read. Sure sunrise was east and sunset was west, but during the daylight hours, I had a hard time discerning anything from the sun (or from the moss that supposedly grew on the north side of trees, for that matter).

Colorado is different. Not only does the sun more distinctly position itself in the northern sky in winter and the southern sky in summer, but WE HAVE MOUNTAINS! A mountain range I can see from anywhere on the plains. No matter where I am, I can head for the mountains and sooner or later I’ll come to a north/south road at the base of the foothills. I know which way to turn because I know which mountaintop rests miles above my next-to-the-foothills abode.

front range 1

Nevertheless, my consistent use of maps – a stress saver in Michigan – has carried over to Colorado. Not so much because I need one, but because I have developed a fondness for maps that goes beyond finding my way from here to there.

Maps are both literary and visual art (more on that in a future post).

They lend themselves to time travel. Have you ever spent time at the library looking at old census maps or comparing a regional map from a decade ago with a current one?

Maps provide off-the-beaten-path routes. They invite exploration in towns with culturally intriguing names. Do you like to take ‘the back way’ down an unfamiliar road or spontaneously divert to a town whose name intrigues you?

They offer geographical lessons. Do you ever spend an evening with a map of your country – refreshing your memory about which states, provinces or regions border others? (I’m always flummoxed by where Connecticut and Rhode Island are in relation to the bigger surrounding states.)

east coast map

 Maps jog our memories. Do you point with delight to a long-forgotten vacation spot and spend an hour reminiscing about the highlights of that trip?

Maps promote dreams of future travel. Who hasn’t browsed an atlas and identified several ‘musts’ for your bucket list?

I am very happy with my GPS, Silvia, who has reconciled herself to the fact that I often ignore her sage directions, even when I’ve asked for her help. Secure in the knowledge that Silvia  – like Dad – will eventually lead me home, I can even sneak in a stress-free, solo ‘country roads’ drive during my annual Michigan visit.

Silvia gets me where I’m going when that’s all I need, but there’ll always be a place on my bookshelves and in my travels for my maps.

What about you? What part, if any, do maps play in your lives?

 And finally … Can you fold a map along its original lines or does yours look like this?


Coming soon … Bemuzin on the artistry & creativity of maps.


Getting Creative With Creative Blogger Award

I’m woefully behind in acknowledging a few awards I’ve received. I truly appreciate the purpose of these awards and the generous support from my fellow bloggers.

As I’ve written, I have mixed emotions about accepting awards because the work can be quite time-consuming, and sometimes the thought of answering certain questions causes me discomfort. I’m responding to a fun one today while not officially following its rules.


Joey at Joeyfullystated nominated me for the Creative Blogger Award. Thank you, Joey!

This was certainly an apt award for Joey to receive herself. I think of Joey as my RR&R blogging buddy (surprise, Joey). She Rants, Raves and Reveals – I never know what I’ll be reading when Joey scrolls into view, but I’m always entertained, educated and excited by her writing.

Ever think so much could be written about doors? Just see what Joey has to say.

According to the rules, I’m supposed to tell you five things about myself. I decided to focus on five creative things …

Hear the sound of that screeching halt?

I rarely think of myself as creative. Capricorns plod; we don’t create.

But here goes:

I was a child prodigy as a contemporary artist. Remember those springtime wriggly worms that so fascinated me? Mom tells me  when I was about three and she’d send me out to play, she’d look up and find me breaking off pieces of fresh earthworm and ‘painting’ on our front window. When a piece would dry, I’d just break off another and continue my masterpiece.

Look at that HUGE earthworm. I'm not gonna touch it. YOU touch it!

Look at that HUGE earthworm. I’m not gonna touch it. YOU touch it!

When I was a kid, Dad taught me to ‘laugh’ like a loon. I was good at it. Every time we passed a lake or a pond, my siblings would turn to me in the car and say, “C’mon Sammy. Laugh like a loon.”

Loon Laugher on the Right

Loon Laugher on the Right

When I was in the fourth grade, I won the $10 first prize at the American Legion Halloween costume contest dressed as a little old lady. Now I am a little old lady.

Not my Halloween costume, but OLD clothing!

Not my Halloween costume, but OLD clothing!

I owned and operated an Irish Pub with my first husband. Our pub offered Guinness Stout on tap and a menu of authentic Irish fare. Saint Patty’s Day – as you can imagine – was wild! As is so often the case, our restaurant venture was more successful than our marriage. I wonder how the Irish say “C’est la vie.”

Irish saying

Authentic Irish Patrons!

Authentic Irish Patrons!

I took my first dance class (jazz) at age 31 and performed onstage.


To a recording of Elvis singing Jailhouse Rock.

Hub proposed to me anyway.

In subsequent years, I took classes in ballet, African, modern and – most recently at age 62 – tap. I like jazz best and in my next life I will be performing in Cats during its Broadway run. When that happens, you’ll see a photo.

I’m pleased to pass this award to four bloggers whose creations I look forward to every week – rich offerings that enhance my life.

I do hope you’ll take a peek at their Creativity.

Katie is in the midst of art journaling for International Fake Journal Month, and she has chosen to travel to Italy. Her daily posts are so whimsical and delicious, I’m tempted to try this challenge next year.

Elen is participating in the A-to-Z Challenge for her first time, and her F made me laugh out loud

Raye’s paintings make me green with envy (even when I mistake her figs for eggplant). As if that skill wasn’t enough, her writing stops me in my tracks.

I discovered Sand, Salt, Moon a few weeks ago. She’s picked up a long-lost watercolor practice … paint me green with envy. Again.

Remember, there’s NO pressure with these awards. In case you like rules, here they are:

 The Rules

  • Nominate 15-20 blogs and notify all nominees via their social media/blogs
  • Thank and post the link of the blog that nominated you (very important)
  • Share 5 facts about yourself to your readers
  • Pass these rules on to them

Never underestimate the power of a question

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