Back to the Basics

It’s strange to be typing right now, and not just because I have temporarily lost the use of one of my fingers.

When I was younger, I carried paper with me everywhere. I always had a few extra sheets in my workbooks or binders so I could write at school. When I got a little older, I began to collect journals to keep my stories together. I always wrote a scene down on paper first, and then typed up a second draft. It took longer, but I enjoyed the simple act of pouring over my own written imagination.

By the time I was getting used to my college courses, I couldn’t even pretend that I had the free time to do much writing anymore, and certainly not writing things down twice. Sadly, this means that my journals have held nothing but notes and the occasional scene scribbled down while at doctor’s offices. I don’t even use word process anymore. I usually just type everything in google docs or evernote.

All that changed last week. I don’t know if my brain was particularly slow that day or I was tired of sitting at a desk or it was just long overdue…it was probably a combination of all three…but I found myself stretched out on the floor beside a stack of loose notebook paper and writing with *gasp* a pen. 

The words just flew out of that pen. I spent half that day and then my free time over the next several days on the floor, crossing out one adjective after another, worrying that I’d misspelled everything, writing sentences out past the red lines until all I could see was black scrawlings. By the time I reached a stopping point, I had written 35 pages. I know that’s not much when typed up, but it felt amazing to me.

I have sense typed everything up in evernote and thrown away the papers. I was more afraid I’d lose a page more than anything else. But I think I’ll be returning to my journals very soon. There really is nothing that can compare to gripping a pen in one hand and running the other over paper. It’s kind of like the difference between a nook and a paperback. Both get the job done, but it’s really all about the feeling.

What about y’all? Do you use journals, a laptop, or a combination? Why?

Taming the Wild Creature (aka Reading to My Cavy)

I know the saying actually goes “Taming the Savage Beast.” I just can’t bear to call my Gwenie Pig a savage beast.

You see, I’ve been wanting a guinea pig for a couple of years now and my husband decided that a baby cavy would make the perfect Christmas gift. We’ve had her for almost a week now and she’s come a long ways from the shivering little bundle of fur that we brought home. 

I can’t help but think that our Guinevere did not have an easy first six weeks. She was taken from her mother to be sent to a pet store, but along the way she was also separated from the siblings that she was supposed to be quarantined with. We adopted her the day that she got out of quarantine. Confused. Alone. Scared. Never having eaten vegetables or been handled for humans for long periods of time.

I had been researching guinea pigs for two years, so I knew the basic rules:

  1. Give them some time alone to adjust to their new cage.

2. Constantly talk to them in soothing tones, using their name a lot.

3. Try to hand feed them treats so that they associate their love of food with you.

4. Spend as much time as you can handling them, petting them, holding them, and talking to them.

5. Never pick them up with just one hand or handle them harshly.

Gwen still doesn’t like to embark on the long journey from her cage to the couch or the play pen, but she has learned to not run away every time my husband or I reach in to the cage to stroke her or give her a slice of cucumber. She settles down on our laps during cuddle time and allows us to pet her and hand feed he. She roams around her play pen, discovering new hidey areas and treats. More over, she has started coming out of her hidey corner when I come to her cage with food.

She is only six weeks old…well, seven now…so she has a long way to go. She isn’t completely tame yet, but my heart soars every time she popcorns (runs around and randomly hops) after being put back in her cage after floor time or after she discovers a new treat in her food bowl. (Seriously, it is so cute! Look up “guinea pigs popcorning” on YouTube.)

What has been the best method of success?

I’m sure the cuddling sessions in the morning and afternoon are helping her get used to human touch, and showing her that her food doesn’t just appear out of thin air is a big help. The route to a guinea pig’s heart is through their stomach. However, I think reading is a very important tool in my taming arsenal.

Reading?

Hear me out. Baby cavies aren’t used to humans talking. It’s their owners’ responsibility to help them get used to hearing sounds all day long, especially the sound of human voices. For the best results, this is supposed to hear the voices for more than ten minutes at a time. In fact, many guinea pig owners will tell you that, for best results, guinea pigs need to immediately and constantly hear human voices around their cage. The faster they get used to hearing voices, the easier it is to handle them. We tried to take at tip from a useful friend and leave a talk show on Pandora while we were out. It was a good idea…but we didn’t want to leave the TV on and our laptop only plays Pandora for so long before it shuts down. And besides, it wasn’t our voices. We wanted her to get used to our voices and associate them with pleasant things.

As much as I love Gwen, I didn’t want to spend an hour at a time on my knees next to her cage just talking. That’s when I came up with the idea of reading next to her cage. I can read for hours if I have the time. I just place a chair to the side of the cage, just outside of range of Guinevere’s line of sight, and read. That first night, I read to her for over an hour. She hid in her corner at first, but she soon realized that she wasn’t about to be plucked from her cage and she started to move around her cage. The next day, she began to explore her surroundings more. She still hid every time we opened the cage door, but she didn’t seem to mind our voices or our presence outside the cage as much.

I’ve continued to read to her every day. It’s a win win situation. She gets used to my voice and I get reading breaks. A thirty minute reading break after lunch and an hour reading break before bed seems to make everyone happy.

I’m not saying that Gwen’s progress is all do to my reading…but it definitely isn’t hurting matters.

Everybody loves a good book. 😀

Has anyone else read to their pets before? Why? What happened?

P.S. In case you were wondering, Gwen has been reading Anne of Avonlea with me and helping me finish my Old Testament bible study. .

 

A Trip to the Library

A day that includes a trip to the library is never ordinary…


You check the clock on my car for the 10th time. You still have an hour before the library closes. That should be enough time. Still…

You glare angrily at the red light. As if it feels the sting of my gaze, it flashes green.

Finally.

A few more minutes and you pull into the library’s parking lot. Book bag – check. Library card – check. List of books – check. As you push open the doors, a burst of cool air hits you square in the face. You stop and admire the feeling of being back in my favorite place. The sound of pages turning and keyboards clacking fills the air. A deep breath reveals the smell of old books. You trail my hand appreciatively down book spines as you pass shelf after shelf.

A few books catch your eye and you stop to pick them up, admiring their covers. There’s a glossy new copy of Calculus for Dummies that might help you pass the midterms, and a thick book that’s full of Western short stories, and a book with a red bird on the cover that is, regrettably, written in another language. But they don’t hold your interest, so you place them back on the shelf and walk on.

You amble along in no particular hurry until you finally reach your favorite section in the library. A dozen new books are waiting for you to pick them up from an aisle rack. After careful examination, you choose a promising looking novel by a familiar author.

Three books. You promised yourself that you would only pick up three books this time. That would last you the whole week. As you walk down the aisle, you pull your list out of your back pocket. The first five books have already been checked out. You furrow your brow in frustration and hop up on the ladder. There’s one. You pluck it gently from the top shelf and hop down.

You find another book on the next shelf. That makes three. With a wistful glance back at the shelves you didn’t get a chance to investigate, you take your little pile of books over to an armchair and open the top one. You only meant to read the first few pages, ten minutes tops. T0e next thing you know a library worker is tapping you on the shoulder and telling you that the library is about to close.

You glance up at the wall clock. You’ve been reading for half an hour. Oh no. You’ll be late for dinner.

“Just a minute.”

The library worker humphs as you rush over to the catalog computer. There are a few books that you want to reserve. You’re in such a hurry that you don’t see the message that pops up on the screen. Two books are waiting for you at the front desk. You are genuinely surprised when the librarian at the check-out counter adds them to your pile.

You really should put a few books back. You were only supposed to check out three…But perhaps a couple more books wouldn’t hurt. 

“Thanks!”

You carefully place the books in your bag and rush out the door. The sun is already starting to drop in the sky. You pause as the door closes behind you, blinking heavily against the loss of silence and air conditioning, but you clasp your bag tighter and smile. You’re taking five new worlds home with you.

And you’ll be back next week.

library-narrative-post

Image found on Pinterest

A Nerdy New Year’s Resolution

Someone asked me last week if I had made a New Year’s resolution to read a certain number of books in 2017.

I said, “No, why would I? I like reading.”

Apparently, that was the wrong answer.

Looking back, I realize that I’ve always associated New Year’s resolutions with negative things, like breaking a certain habit or going on a diet. It has to be something difficult that you don’t want to do. Right? So why did I get a blank stare in response to my earlier statement.

Maybe it’s time for me to finally make my own New Year’s Resolution. And maybe it doesn’t have to be something that I don’t want to do. Maybe I can just try to push myself a little.

So what do y’all think? Should I set a resolution to read a certain number of books or write a certain number of pages next year? If so, what number do you thnk would challenge me? What is your nerdy goal for next year?

Thanks! And Happy almost New Year! 🙂

 

Poetry About Books…Nothing Could Sound Sweeter

People have tried to ask me to write poetry before…None as persistent as one of my college writing professors. She did get me to write down a few. I’m not going to share those with you – you will thank me for that later – but I do remember reading a lot of beautiful poetry in that classroom.

Of course, the ones that stayed with the most are the ones about books and writing. So here are a few of my favorites:

There is no Frigate like a Book By Emily Dickinson

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry.
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll;
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul!

I Opened a Book By Julia Donaldson

I opened a book and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.

I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king,
And dived in a bottomless ocean.

I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.

I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.

Good Books By Edgar Guest

Good books are friendly things to own.
If you are busy they will wait.
They will not call you on the phone
Or wake you if the hour is late.
They stand together row by row,
Upon the low shelf or the high.
But if you’re lonesome this you know:
You have a friend or two nearby.

The fellowship of books is real.
They’re never noisy when you’re still.
They won’t disturb you at your meal.
They’ll comfort you when you are ill.
The lonesome hours they’ll always share.
When slighted they will not complain.
And though for them you’ve ceased to care
Your constant friends they’ll still remain.

Good books your faults will never see
Or tell about them round the town.
If you would have their company
You merely have to take them down.
They’ll help you pass the time away,
They’ll counsel give if that you need.
He has true friends for night and day
Who has a few good books to read.

Partial submission by Louise Carson

I thought of mailing you a paper-clip
then thought again
for surely you must have some
in a similar small green tray
or palm-sized round jar (on its lid
a scene of camels, desert, sun)
or in a drawer, a chain
of collected shining metal wealth.

So I removed the strangely precious thing
and mailed these poems
loose
in a brown envelope of pain.
When you receive them,
you can add your own.

As you can probably tell, because I’ve told you so, I didn’t write these. I just wanted to make that clear. I think there is something so beautiful about poetry that I will never be able to capture in prose. It’s a cross between a song and a story. I have a deep admiration for all poets. I feel that although we do not speak the same language, we might speak a similar one, and so if you need a friendly ear just give me a ring and say, “Jolly Good Day!” and I will say “Hello!” and we can be writing friends.

🙂 Yep, that’s as close to anything as “poetic language” as you’ll probably get from me. 

Are there any poets out there who wouldn’t mind sharing some of their favorite poetry?

The Em Dash?

I was an English major. I was a Technical Writing minor. I took grammar classes and diagrammed sentences for fun.

And yet I’m still learning things every day. 

For instance, did you know the difference between a hyphen and a dash? If you answered yes, did you know that there are four different kinds of hyphens/dashes regularly used in printed text? That’s right – five.

When someone first asked me about “em dashes,” I played along. “Yes. Sure. Of course I know what that is! I’ll make sure to double checks all of the…uh…m hyphens.”

I can laugh about it now, but that one conversation sent me on a frantic hour-long googling session. Here’s what I found out.


According to CSM, these are all the kinds of hyphens/dashes:

Hyphen –

En dash —

Em dash —

2-em dash—-

3-em dash——

And they all have specific purposes!


It suddenly occurred to me—Commas. Ellipses. Spaces. Numbers. Basic grammar. Did I know anything?

It turns out that CSM isn’t all that different from MLA, but I had to break a sweat discovering that. And it was…reassuring…to know that I’m not done learning. It feels like I just finished college yesterday. I don’t think I ever felt that “I’ve got the world on a string,” feeling as a post-graduate, but I’m sure many people have.

News flash! We never stop learning. If we do, then something is wrong.


Could I get through school with out knowing that? Yes.

Can I have this job without knowing that? Apparently not.

Do I now add proofreading marks and word comments to my personal writing? Yup. (It’s kinda scary and yet oddly satisfying to have a conversation with myself like I have with the Press’ authors.)

Will I  still keep learning? You betcha!

Who’s with me?

You Can’t Jog in a Bookstore

 

I’ve got another confession to make: I’ve become a runner.

Well, sort of…not really. I hike for 56 minutes and jog for four one-minute increments, but I’m getting there. I started walking along the trails near my apartment, because I wanted to get out of the house more. An at-home computer job doesn’t lean towards much exercise. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d enjoy it.

My motto was always been: I’d rather read.

Do you want to go to a party? No, I’d rather go back home and read. Do you want to go out and get some pizza. I’d rather have the pizza delivered here so I can read. Do you want to go the part? Um, do I have to…because I’d rather stay home alone and read!

But I’ve found that my morning hikes actually allow me to get more work done. Sure, I might still want to be reading, but I’m beginning to really enjoy my morning outings.

Sometimes I take my earphones and sing along while I jog. (Or dance along the trails 🙂 ). Sometimes I do my bible study before going out and pray while hiking. But more and more lately, I’ve just begun to enjoy being alone with my own thoughts. It’s helped me to organize my thoughts and tasks for the day and, more importantly (yes!), it’s allowed me time to think about my writing. Most days, I just can’t wait to get home from my walk and open my laptop to write.

It’s fantastic! I knew that ideas usually hit writers when they can’t write them down, but this is something else entirely.  Did anyone else know that getting out into nature and exercising could jog the imagination so much, and if so, why didn’t you tell me?

Of course, many days (like today), I can’t just open up my laptop and start writing whatever I want. I do have to work. But jotting down a few hurried notes before opening my email is almost just as satisfying. 😉

I don’t think I’m going to become an exercise nut anytime soon…or ever. But I have gained a new apparition for nature. After all, you can’t jog in a bookstore…

Or see a deer. For fun, I’ve included some pictures of the trails near my home.

I want to know if anyone else has experience this feeling before. Is there something else that you enjoy doing that helps to relax you and exercise your imagination?


20161105_162009.jpg