Joy. What is joy? (I hoped to write a blog about joy this month seeing February is the month we celebrate Valentines.) Joy is something you feel in your heart. You can choose joy. Joy is paying for a zoo membership, knowing you did a good thing. (Money from zoo ticket and membership sales helps support the care of zoo animals.) Joy is a blessing. I am blessed with a comfortable chair, a warm blanket, fuzzy slippers. I have the joy of washing dishes, dusting my house, whistling while I work, hearing the whistling call of a fairy blue bird from Asia from one of the cages in the World of Wonders exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo.Asian Fairy Bluebird I got to see a penguin flapping his flippers in excitement as he led the penguin parade, like a majorette showing off his majestic skills with a silvery baton leading a band down a street lined with cheering crowds. How precious! Amazing penguins can keep their balance as they make their forward side steps on the pavement. Maybe penguins prefer waddling on ice, ‘cause if they fall, they can slide better on it, the ice breaking their fall more smoothly. Skaters on the ice, when they fall, scoot a bit. As a child I recall watching ice skating events at the Olympics on T.V. where the skaters just picked themselves up, brushed themselves off, and continued on with their routines as assuredly and gracefully as they could if they happened to fall during their routine. None of the penguins fell on their parade at the zoo when I saw them this past Friday, but I did see a penguin poop. “It happens every twenty minutes,” per one of the penguin caretakers. ‘No big deal’ is the feeling I got from the tone of her voice. The penguin just kept on walking. And we bystanders just continued enjoying the penguin parade.

Despite difficulties and hardships, we can chose to find joy in our lives. May you accomplish much this coming month while cherishing the small joys of life. Onward March.

 

Hello to my reading audience. This is my first blog of 2021. I just finished recording the highlights of my accomplishments for 2020 in my iPad. I usually record my accomplishments throughout the year under “Accomplishments” so I have something to boost my self esteem when it needs boosting. Everyone can use a little boosting in the thoughts we have of ourselves. Recently, I learned about self compassion, being kind to ourselves. I guess the chocolates I ate with my lunch could be considered being non-compassionate to myself, even the dark chocolate ones with crunches, even the ones with yummy tasting peanuts. I am allowing myself some relax time, some lying on the couch writing time. Writing is a way of recording my thoughts, a way of making sense with the world. I can sometimes be inspired to write; and vice versa. Sometimes my writing inspires me to be a better, happier me. Or releases tears. It helps me realize how much I care for something or someone.

SqueakyI am anxious for and close to my second children’s book to being published. I have worked, worried, and struggled over it for several years. For a long time I worried it wouldn’t be as good as my first book, “Flip, Flap, Try . . . A Cardinal’s Journey”. I made changes in the story to try to express it’s joy more fully, the joy of parents of a child with a speaking impediment hearing his/her first words. I wanted the reader to be able to feel this joy when reading my story. I want to encourage parents to be happy with each step in a child’s progression towards adulthood be it very small (as a little squeak) or as big as being a village hero (helping you and your friends be rescued after being lost on a hike). Children learning hiking safety tips which might actually help save their life someday is another wish I incorporated into the story. I also wanted to instill hope in the minds of children who may be lost, hope someone will find you (alas, the seek birds who travel the world looking for lost children).

I’ve never had a child of my own, but birthing this book may end up being the closest thing to it. The South Polar Fishy Soup recipe is an extra bonus stemming from my previous career as a dietitian. I give you, “A Penguin’s Family . . . Finding Joy”.

Why? A child’s favorite question is “WhWhy? on chalk board.y?”. Everything in the world is so new to them; there are so many things to understand. My dad was a pretty smart guy. I always thought he knew the answer to everything. He liked tinkering in his workshop and reading Mechanix Illustrated, a magazine (about the size of my sisters and my copy of Cat In the Hat). Like the Cat, my dad had plenty of tools to help him do his work; if he didn’t have one he needed, he made it. There was a vice secured to a work bench, across the room from the door of the workshop (and one step to your left). It got used a lot. My dad was always using it to tightly hold a metal pipe or such which needed sawing. I remember tightening the vice with its shiny, smooth lever with knobs on both ends so it wouldn’t fall out of the hole. Tightening a vice is a fun thing for a child to do. You get to use two hands, each pushing in opposite directions (as hard as your little arms and hands could). One quick knock with a dad’s sized hand is best for loosening the vice’s lever. Then a young child can easily twist the lever to open the vice’s jaw.

Memories from childhood are nice to have. Thank goodness we are blest with brains to recall the past, function in the present, and dream about the future. Thank goodness for the smart scientists hunting for and finding solutions to help fight the grip the 2020 virus has had on our and all the countries of the world. It has been hard to understand all that has happened this past year. The children are not the only ones asking “Why?” Helping each other has to be part of the answer for where to go from here. There is a joke out there about 2021 winning. My not recalling exactly how it goes is immaterial. I just want to end by saying, I wish all of you will receive happiness, health, safety and a caring hand in 2021.

I made it to Puerto Rica to be with my husband for pelicanThanksgiving since he is working there. Sun is shining, cotton ball shaped clouds highlight a royal blue sky. A row of palm trees are near the beach with fingering branches, some green, some brown, with golden yellow spines. Coconuts can be spied. We can hear the roar of the massive grayish blue ocean dabbled with white foamy cresting waves. Vavoom! Wisshh! Powerful tumbling, turning into white sprays. Cloudy white waters retreating back away from the shore. Three brown pelicans. wings with trims of black, and long pointy noses leading their way, mockingly flew by reminding us this is their home, not ours. Variant repetitious waves calling out “I’m here!” Crash! Swish! Crescendos. Crashing over rocks. Bellowing their arrival. Diminuendos of retreating waves saying, “Till we meet again.” Overall, a constant relentless roar. An occasional squeak from a bird. Waves washing against, over, and through some of the rocks of the shore. The sounds of the ocean filling our ears, our minds. The clouds near the horizon were graced by a fading in and out rainbow earlier this morning. We tried taking some pictures. Relaxing, engulfing, inspiring sights and sounds. Ours for the taking if we so choose.

Though we have been through many challenges this year, probably most of us have amazing things for which to be thankful this 2020 Thanksgiving Day.  Feel free to share what you are thankful for with me. If I’m lucky, I will be able to give the world a new gift this year — my second book entitled, “A Penguin Family . . . Finding Joy”.

PumpkinIt’s Halloween! Time for some fun. Yes, the nights are getting longer, we have to move our clocks back an hour tonight (which messes up our internal clocks), and we have a scary virus lurking in the aisles of our grocery stores, shops, and restaurants, but we must not be defeated. We must carry on in our new ‘normal’, social distancing, building up our immunity, using our best hand washing techniques.

Sometimes life is not fun. In fact, it can be very hard. Challenging. I learned that a friend’s husband, who is in the military, works too far away to get a lunch or dinner. In the past I’ve had the thought “I’ll probably end up on a deserted island somewhere with a can of food, but no can opener.” Fortunately, now a days they make cans with pull tops. So if you are buying canned food for a disaster, I suggest getting those or food sealed in packages.

Sometimes we have to be a MacGyver.  Do what we can with the skills & materials we have to find a way out. I just had to retrieve a spray bottle from between my clothes dryer and the wall of my laundry closet. It took some effort. I was finally able to grab onto it with one of the fireplace tools. One time our cat got behind the washer. A broom helped that time. I had to coax the cat to grab the straw of the broom and hold on till I could raise him high enough for me to grab him with my free hand. He was a black cat. We didn’t let him out on Halloween.

I may not know all the answers, but know enough to understand, in the grand scheme of life, being kind is important. So is taking time to have some fun, to get your mind off of worries.

It’s Halloween! Come up with some creative costumes for you and/or your kids. Figure out a safe way to celebrate. Have fun! Life’s too short.

In the past, my husband had teasingly asked me “Do you do windows?” I would avoid answering his question. In life, we have opportunities to do small and large tasks. Completing tasks/goals, especially those important to us, can give us a feeling of satisfaction, happiness, and something of which to be proud. Those acts can build our self-esteem and confidence. So, how can we plan for more successes?My clean windows

Several months ago, I cleaned the windows in our sun room. I recall I had plenty of other to do’s to accomplish, but our sunroom windows really needed my attention. My husband had plenty on his plate. I decided I would see what I could do to get the ball rolling. I worked at getting them to open out like they are suppose to so one has an easier time at cleaning them. I ended up only having to ask for my husband’s help a couple of times, like when a window was too stuck for me to open it. (He’s stronger than I.) I ended up cleaning a couple of windows at a time in the rest of our house over a period of time. I even got the opportunity to make a trip to the hardware store to get a screen repaired. More that a month had gone by and I still needed to clean the windows in our master bedroom. One morning I decided this was the day it was going to happen. I put on my older jeans and t-shirt so I would be in the right outfit to wash windows, part of preparing myself for success. My husband asked me how I was going to clean the windows. I wasn’t completely sure, but gathered what I thought I might need. Then I started cleaning the windows. I didn’t have to have all the answers to begin. I just began the task at hand. When I got to the point where I needed help, I asked for it.

To succeed in life we need to wear the right armor (appropriate clothes and footwear to protect us depending upon the job at hand). It helps to keep our bodies in top shape by eating healthy, exercising, and doing things to keep our spirits high like getting plenty of sleep or keeping busy with mentally stimulating activities. (When is the last time you put a puzzle together or played a board game?) It’s important to nurture our relationships with family, friends, neighbors, or whomever, so we have someone to reach out to when we need help emotionally or physically. We take risks every day. Sometimes we fall. When that happens, pick yourself up and keep going. Think of something positive.

Anyway, all windows of our house have now been washed. When my husband asks if I do windows, I can answer confidently, “Yes, with a little help from you!”

 

cardinalToday marks the 6th anniversary of my writing The Cardinal That Kept Quitting speech. It was written for my completion of one of the projects in the Storytelling Advanced Manual, part of Toastmasters International’s communication track towards becoming a Distinguished Toastmaster, at the time. The objective of the project was to write a story with a moral. This was something I had never done before. My husband and I had been on a camping trip not long before then where we encountered a persistent cardinal that kept attacking the windshield of his red truck Explorer. I wondered if I might be able to come up with some sort of life lesson and story about that cardinal. I pondered and thought hard about it. It came to my mind, the idea that sometimes continuing to be persistent isn’t good. That poor little red cardinal would probably end up hurting himself badly had not my husband move his truck to a different location. The idea that sometimes quitting can be good came to my mind. I decided to do a little research on the internet to see if anyone else agreed with me. I didn’t want to share my idea if it was too far out from the ordinary. I tried several search words related to my idea and ended up stumbling upon a speech by Deepak Malhotra, a Harvard professor. It concurred with my thoughts about how sometimes quitting, not being persistent to a fault, can be a good choice. He gave the example as how quitting one’s job may be a good choice in certain circumstances. In my speech, the cardinal tries out and quits several jobs till he finds a job which makes him happy. The cardinal in my speech uses parts from his previous jobs to build a toy for a little boy to help make him stop crying. The walnut sailboat idea was from a childhood memory of my Dad and I making and racing our little walnut sailboats together.

Nutshell BoatI delivered my speech, the same day I wrote it, at my ACE Toastmaster club meeting that night. It was well received. The story of how I eventually went on to publish my book entitled Flip Flap Try . . . A Cardinal’s Journey goes on from here. I will have to share that story another day.

Janet’s speech at TV Toastmasters Club (another club Janet attends) can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKt_k-Y5OZ4.  The speech begins about 20 minutes 46 seconds into the meeting.

Janet autographing a hotdog bun at Tony Packo's in Toledo, Ohio.The 3rd anniversary of the launch of my first book, “Flip Flap Try”, is July 7, 2020.  To date, I have sold 372 copies. More importantly, I have made connections with many people and shared the messages in this book, especially about the importance of keep trying till you find your dream job. This past year saw the launch the soft cover edition of my book. It’s acceptance has been positive. The most fun thing I got to do was to autograph a hotdog bun at Tony Packo’s in Toledo, Ohio. I have been making final edits for my second book. Sticking with the bird theme (first book is about a cardinal), my second book is about one of our bird friends from the Antarctic, a penguin. I have gotten to visit several zoos across the United Sates and seen penguins there. I have talked with some people who have had the opportunity to visit the Antarctic.

Being an author and having my own business, Morrow Circle Publishing, has continued to be a learning and rewarding experience. Most importantly I have learned focusing one’s time and energy on being creative can be valuable, if not economically, at least for my personal growth and hopefully the benefit of my readers and audience at large.

Dealing with the pandemic has had some negative effects. I have not been able to have books signings recently. One new event I have incorporated is my First Friday Book Reading using FB Live. I have also increased the number of blogs I have written. My Instagram followers has risen to over a hundred thanks to Peter Wietmarschen, who helps with my social media.

Thanks for your loyalty. Keep safe and working towards being the best you that you can be.

Sing, play, and be happy!
Me and Rainier

I pretty much remember how I came about talking my husband into painting our guest bedroom closet. It all started when the members of one of my writing groups decided to take a part in a virtual writing project. Our leader started the story and emailed it to the next person on the list, who in turn emailed it to the next, and so on. The story turned out to be about ants, not just any ants, but ants form Australia, which turned into giant ants when they ate Zoute, Dutch salted licorice drops. I had to do some research on my computer about old ant movies such as “The Empire of the Ants” and “A Bug’s Life”.

Seeing all the dust, because of the morning sun’s rays shining on my laptop computer screen, triggered me to finally organize and dust my desk. That task, which took half a day, was enough justification in my mind that I felt my husband and I could afford hiring someone to help clean the rest of our house. After all, that would give me more time to write. An acquaintance of mine cleans houses for a business. I asked her to help. Her cleaning our house triggered me to do some housecleaning before and after she came. Mind you, there was plenty of dusting for the both of us.

There was another chain of triggers that happened. I spied a bug in a box under our guest bedroom bed. I called for my husband to take a look. “It’s a silverfish. They like to live in people’s houses.” That little silverfish was a trigger for me to want to clean under the bed. I felt our house would not be a clean safe place to live with that little bug there. When we (I talked my husband into helping sweep under the bed) got that house cleaning project done, I decided I would vacuum the floor in the guest bedroom closet, too. I wanted to get rid of the Easter grass that had fallen on the floor of the closet when I put the Easter basket away. I took all the boxes and bags out of the closet. When I did that, I noticed the walls of the closet were marked up. I had thought I would just paint the walls of the closet myself (my husband is a very busy man) but decided to mention to him that the closet needed painted. Fortunately for me, and our future house’s owners, my husband tackled the task. He did a fabulous job! The Easter grass is now back in a Ziploc bag on a newly painted shelf in the closet, so it can’t mess up the closet floor again or at least not anytime soon.

Something can trigger us to take action. In fact, we are creatures chained to psychological triggers. Triggers (even a little bug) can cause emotional responses. We have to decide for ourselves if the trigger is legit and what behavior actions we choose to take.(1)

1. 5 storytelling triggers that spur your readers to take action – Market Land. 1/31/17

JengaSeveral months ago, I was at one of my Cincinnati Civic Orchestra get-togethers. One of the musician’s sons came up to me and asked if I wanted to play Jenga. I said “Alright. What’s Jenga? How do you play it?” The young man set up the tower of blocks, then gave me a brief demo. “You remove one of the blocks by pushing it out of the tower with one of your fingers. Then you place it on top. Now it’s your turn.” I sort of remembered playing it before. “OK.” We proceeded building the tower higher and higher. I tried developing my strategy by observing my opponent. Alas, he won the first game when, on my turn, the tower came tumbling down rather surprisingly. CRASH! We giggled. We played a second game and possibly a third. By that time, he tried giving me a handicap. He would remove two pieces on his turn while I only had to remove only one. At the time, I wasn’t sure if that was an advantage for me or for him. Irregardless, he beat me every game. I decided he was out of my league.

Leslie Scott created Jenga. It was based on a game that evolved within her family in the early 1970’s. They lived near and purchased children’s wooden building blocks from a sawmill in Takoradi, Ghana. The name of the game comes from the Swahili word “kujenga” which means “to build”. As of 2017, 80 million games were sold world wide.

Playing this 54 block game takes physical skill, patience, concentration and perseverance. Also , a child can learn how to deal with surprise and change. I think it is kind of fun to hear and see the blocks come crashing down when the unsteady balance causes it to fall. It makes the losing experience not as difficult to accept. As with any game, one must learn how to be a gracious winner or loser.

I am glad my fellow orchestra member’s son asked me to play Jenga. We not only got to build a wooden tower, we got the opportunity to start building a friendship. For that I am grateful. Now it’s my (your) turn to ask someone to play a game.