Caramel ApplesYesterday, my husband and I took a walk on the Loveland bike trail. We hadn’t walked there for a while. Each time we go, I try to walk a little further than we did the previous time. Even though the extra distance isn’t that much, it still gives me pride that I am improving. My goal is to someday be able to participate in the 5K walk/run which is held there on Wednesday evenings.

When we were done with our walk, I noticed a black chalkboard sign by one of the Loveland shops which read “Caramel Apples”. When I went into the shop, I was immediately impressed with the display of caramel popcorn and candy suckers and such, wrapped in Halloween foil. I didn’t see the caramel apples, so went to the counter and told a lady, probably the shop owner, I wanted a caramel apple, to go. She asked if I wanted one with peanuts, M&M’s or plain. “Plain” I replied, as I noticed the caramel apples on a metal tray in the area behind the counter. She wrapped it for me, explaining how she was first wrapping it in a clear non-stick wrap, “which won’t stick to the apple.” She seemed very proud and continued with “I specially ordered this wrap.” She then placed the apple in a clear plastic bag and used a twist tie to seal the bag shut. I paid for it with my credit card, finding the right slot for my card in the card reader with a little guidance from the shop owner. I tried not to be embarrassed and she acted like it was no problem. I walked out of the store, a happy customer.

Today I gave a signed copy of my most recent book, A Penguin Story, to a couple who are our neighbors. I explained to them that I had written the book. “It’s hard cover, too!”, the husband told his wife. He made me feel proud, even though I tried not to show it. (I was backwards as a child and still am, a little.) “I have a friend who loves penguins!”, his wife told me. I told the couple of my book launch event coming up next Wednesday and asked the to invite their friends. I left their house without saying more, hoping they would read my book, wanting to let my book speak for itself.

I enjoyed consuming my sweet (and sour) caramel (green) apple. It brought back memories of when my sisters and I made caramel apples when we were kids. We had fun making and eating them. We were proud, too, of our accomplishment.

It’s nice when life gives us something to be proud of, isn’t it?

“Some Ideas About Writing I’ve Been Tossing Around In My Mind” — from a J Kassalen - Essay Speechspeech I gave at an essay themed open house for Wilmington Expressives toastmaster club.

“Squeaky dove into the crystal-clear waters of the Antarctic Ocean. He darted this way and that through the water with his tiny flippers. Zoom! Zoom!” (From my latest children’s book, “A Penguin Family . . . Finding Joy”)

The very first line or opening of a book can be designed to capture a reader’s attention, by throwing them into the middle of some dramatic action or by generating curiosity about an intriguing character, unusual situation, or important question.

One can be creative in how they write the first paragraph of an essay. I like the way my niece, Michelle, a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati, started an essay she wrote on “Space and Place in Architecture and Archaeology” in this fashion . . .

“I happened to pull out a very specific deck of playing cards that was sitting on my desk. This deck is unlike a usual deck of black and white or red and white cards with only the value and suit on display. This particular deck is called a “Cincy Deck.” What is unique about this deck is each card is a place (or event, or icon) in Cincinnati, Ohio.”

The perfect hook helps ensure a reader will be fully immersed in the argument of a persuasive essay or the fantasy world of a children’s book or novel.

Descriptive words describing motion, I.e. dizzy bees and bow-tied fruit flies, which Sandra Cisneros uses in her book entitled “The House on Mango Street” can intrigue a reader. Each of the chapters of her book may be considered short essays, Michelle told me. She thinks Jamaica Kincaid’s “A Small Place” can be considered an essay. It is an eighty-one paged small book where the author explains the history, culture and politics of Antigua, a ten-by-twelve-mile island in the British West Indies where she grew up.

Sometimes ideas will come to you in a flash of inspiration, I.e. you may see something in the room you are sitting in, or recall something you experienced on a camping trip or other type of vacation. Other times ideas will take more prompting. You can get ideas from reading books. Thomas Edison read everything he could get his hands on.

When my husband finished reading Edmund Morris’s 634 page book entitled “Edison” I asked him how he would describe Thomas Edison. He answered, “He was driven.” There will be setbacks in writing a book (and even after you think you are done). You have to be driven, motivated to finish it.

Illustrations make children book stories come alive. This is very true looking at the illustrations Laura Yoder drew for both of my children books. You may also include pictures in an essay to help show what you mean. I saw an illustration in one of the essays Michelle gave to me to read. It was very helpful.

For an informative essay or book, you may want to start with a personal story. It can make the readers feel more connected to an other-wise fact heavy piece of writing. Witold Rybczynski, a professor of architect at the University of Pennsylvania, told a personal story throughout his book “The Most Beautiful House In The World” about the designing and building of his home.

When I asked Michelle what tip would she tell someone about writing an essay, she said, “Pick one topic. Stay with it throughout the essay. Have flow.”

Essays and books you author are keepsakes, snapshots of what you have learned and who you are. Be proud of them.

Don’t procrastinate. The sooner the better. Soon makes room. Also, leave a couple of days to set your book or essay aside. Let things toss around in your mind. Take breaks. Make time for relaxation and play.

From my niece’s essay: “There are many points architects are taught throughout their schooling and one of the best summaries of these points is the book, “101 Things I Learned in Architect School, by Architect, Urban Designer and Adjunct Professor Matthew Frederick.”

Last lines of a book tend to be remembered (if you are one of the classic authors). In the concluding paragraph of an essay, one restates the thesis.

Michelle’s essay conclusion:

“. . . There are 101 points. The nine discussed here relate to a spatial discussion of the importance of looking deeper and comprehending what places can tell the observer in terms of culture, social position, economics, environmental factors, and others. Architects and archaeologists look at the same set of factors to reach their conclusions about: What is space? What is place?”

I will conclude with the last lines of my book (“A Penguin Family . . . Finding a Joy”):

“The penguin family found even the smallest squeak can bring joy. And this cannot be denied.”

“How would you motivate (justify) your answer?” was apparently a test question written by a school teacher. One student’s answer was “Go, answer, go!”

What motivates you to get up in the morning? Having an appointment to make such as a dentist appointment might help. If I don’t have an appointment lined up I may want to get a couple more winks of sleep or I might have my own personal reasons for getting up, such as wanting to make a french toast for my husband and me. Or trim my toe nails. Or organize the papers on my desk. Or practice my harp, banjo and viola. Or plan a day trip. Take a walk. Ride my bike. Add soil to some of my houseplants. The list is getting bigger . . . and could get much more bigger. I would feel good about accomplishing any of these tasks. It would reduce the pain and guilt of knowing I hadn’t yet completed something on my to do list.

Growing pains. Sometimes we need to wade through frustrations, work on learning how to do something, before we get to celebrate completing a task. We have to get over the fear of trying something new.

Sometimes I put up with unpleasant experiences. I recently join a quartet, actually an octet because there are two of us on each part — two first violins, two second violins, two violas and two cellos. Sometimes during a practice I might feel bored, frustrated, tired or angry. Usually the head violinist starts us off by counting a full measure of music such as, “One, two, . . .” then leads us in. At one practice, someone suggested he start us off by saying “Ready, set, go!” I thought to myself “we’re more intelligent then that.” “No! Don’t start that way!” I responded ( to my and everyone else’s surprise). I like classical music in general and feel I have at least some musical ability. The hope I might learn something new or we might play better together in the future encourages me to stick it out, to keep being a member of this quartet. Besides, if one decides to quit over one (or two) bad notes/experiences, it could end up being a mistake. You would never know what you missed.

Looking at things differently can be beneficial. Ask yourself, how can I make this situation better. I knew someone who would always ask himself “What can I learn from him/her?” when meeting a new member of a toastmaster club. One day he admitted to me “I wasn’t sure what I could learn from you when you first joined the club.” (My first speech was a disaster.) “After hearing your speech tonight, I . . . I can learn sincerity from you.”

We do the best we can. Our parents did the best they could. Our former teachers did the best they could. Our coaches nudge us in directions they believe are good for us.

No one is perfect. We certainly won’t get very far believing we’re better than everyone else. There is no weakness in forgiveness.

Acceptance of ourselves (and others), where we’re (he/she is) at, right now, knowing we (they) can grow into better person is a good thing. Working towards being worthy of our accomplishments. Of success. Of happiness. All good things.

“Yes, I found ‘joy’”, I told my neighbor who ask me if I had found Joy yet. I had given him a copy of my book  “A Penguin Family . . . Finding a Joy” a week or two earlier after which he quipped, “I didn’t know Joy was missing.” “Well did you tell her to get her ‘bottom’ back home? She better get her ‘bottom’ back home.”

So what’s next? A book signing? A book reading? Entering book contests? A book celebration event? Yes, yes, yes, and yes!

To conclude, let me say, I think the joy of an accomplishment, justifies the work it t takes get there. We just need to decide which goals to pursue, or not.

Ready, set, . . . Go, (Your Name), Go!

P.S. “Joy” is back home, now. Grounded in her room till she can learn how to fully appreciate what she has accomplished and find motivation. Motivation to reach more amazing goals.

I didn’t go to my two scheduled activities, first because I felt I had other things I needed to catch up with, and second, my husband was worried a storm with heavy rain and hail might brew up making it too dangerous to drive. I took time to take a stab at cleaning the shower curtain, a long overdue task. I cleaned it twice, sprayed it with Lysol cause I could still see mildew on it, then took almost everything out of one closet looking for my scrub brush without avail. When my husband came home, I Scrub Brushasked him if he had seen the scrub brush. He found one in our garage, brought it inside our house and placed it on top of the pile of stuff I had removed from the closet for me to get later. When I was ready to use it, I was disappointed it wasn’t “my” scrub brush, the one I used to use. I wrote “scrub brush” down on my grocery list thinking I would find one at the hardware store similar to the one I used to have. “Mine” was smaller and the bristles weren’t as worn. I thought I should try to make do with “his” for now. I set it on the bathroom sink ready to use later. Later turned into tomorrow. I liked the ice cream and enjoyed feeding the fish at Caesar’s Creek. I made my husband and I a tasty supper, washed dishes, then we watched a Netflix documentary about Naomi Osaka, a Japanese tennis player, who, by the way, got to light the torch at the opening ceremonies of the 2020 Olympics. In the documentary , I heard her say “You have to be happy with yourself when you’re not playing your best. That’s what a champion does.” Find something at which you want to be champion. Believe in yourself. And if you work (scrub) hard enough, you’ll get there (or you can always buy a new shower curtain . . . or rewrite your dream).

P.S. The storm did not come to our home, but a tornado was spotted a little North of here, and they got 4 inches of rain.

I will be remembering two fathers this Father’s Day. My first book, Flip, Flap, Try . . .A Cardinal’s Journey, was dedicated to my father, Ray White. My second book is dedicated to my father-in-law.  It will be launching soon.

Ray WSunday’s were special growing up at the “White” house. Even though Sunday was a day of rest, our dad had to work. He was a minister. He would review his sermon in the morning and leave for church a little earlier than my mom, me and my two sisters, to get ready for the church service. The church was close enough for my Dad to walk to. The rest of us rode in the family car. We attended Sunday School, then “church”. Our dad had various responsibilities, but the main one on Sunday, was preaching his sermon to the congregation. He was usually serious in his delivery, but occasionally included a side joke about something which happened in our family which somehow related to the message of his sermon. My dad would visit the sick in the hospital on other days of the week, something the church members told me he did really well. He was very compassionate. I assume he was also very helpful to the sick because he had a deep understanding of medical conditions/procedures. Other than being a minister, our dad was like most dads. He liked to tinker in his workshop, read Mechanics Illustrated, and watch John Wayne movies. He acted silly at times (not always on purpose), sang silly children’s songs, and told jokes/stories. Besides studying the Bible, Dad was an avid reader on a variety of topics all the way from the children’s book “The Glob” to “The Ascent of Man”. We both enjoyed reading the Cleveland Plain Dealer Sunday comics. (He read all the newspaper, me, just the comics.)

“My dad never spoke a bad word about anyone” Frank Kmy husband says of his father. He was someone he could trust and follow his example. “He was my dad.  I was his son. He was protector, humble, strong . . . strong faith. He liked growing a garden. Kind. Making bread (in a bread machine).” And he helped to raise six children. He drove a milk truck, loved ice cream. When milk trucks were no longer, he sold encyclopedias, then learned how to hang wallpaper. I am honored to dedicate my second book, “A Penguin Family . . . Finding Joy” in memory of my father-in-law, Frank Kassalen.

I’ve lost another brother-in-law. Both of my brother-in-laws died while undergoing chemotherapy. I never realized how difficult chemotherapy was before this. I wish things would have been different. The only blessing in my most recent brothers-in-laws death is he will have to suffer no more. I miss being able to hear him sing. I can hear his singing in my mind. At least I have that. I feel his presence in my heart. I have that, too.

Some things I’ll remember about my brother-in-law Michael:

IT troubleshooter, Mr. Electronic
Instructor, help desk coordinator

Musician, singer, tenor or bass
Tuning my harp with tuning app

T.V. speed race watcher, monster trucks
Action movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger “I’ll be back”

Paddling for Cancer Awareness website designer
Kentucky Thoroughbreasts dragon boat team supporter, race timer

Protector, safety minded
House complete with alarms, cameras, and cackling witch sounds

Mike on shedRoofer, truss lifter, shed builder
Mr. Know-It-all

Pinecone Home shop assistant
Building boxes for everyone
He made mine with a touch of color from orange and blue markers saying
joyous, gratitude, smile and blessed.
I can choose which word to display
Depending on how I am feeling on a particular day, Michael told me

Storyteller, story of night hunting for rattlesnakes with a crazy guy.
Wendy’s store manager, story of meeting Dave Thomas

Norwood Christian Church spaghetti dinners
Dishing out spaghetti expert

Steak griller, fire pit fires
Sharing outdoor movie night during COVID

Rescuing me when I was exhausted and stranded
On 100 mile bicycling event

Cheese lover
Diet pop

Taking my husband and I on
25th wedding anniversary boat ride

Dismetholic Christian
Faithful, sincere

Dinners with my sister’s familyMike at dinner
Johnny Appleseed song prayer led by Michael

Things he could not understand,
Being misunderstood

Cat lover
Tail puller

My Irish brother-in-law,
Say “Hi!” to my Polish brother-in-law Alan.
I miss you both

On December 8, 2015, I gave a speech at Seven Hills of Cincinnati Toastmasters club. It was entitled: The Penguin That Couldn’t Talk. I was at the part of my speech were the three penguin friends were lost. “Scooter and Scamper were wondering around aimlessly, not sure which direction to go. ‘Squeak, Squeak!’ (Stay put) ‘Squeak, Squeak!’ (Stay put) They stopped; formed a huddle, trying to stay warm in the frigid Antarctic weather. Snow started forming on their backs, making it harder for someone to find them, if someone was looking for them.” I could sense my audience feeling the gravity of the situation in which my three penguin characters were. I paused for a moment, happy my story was being well received, then went on and finished it. One of the members said something like “That was good.” Coming from him, someone who had been negatively critical of some of my previous speeches, it meant a lot. His positive reaction to my speech, helped to keep me believing in my story through all my struggles revamping the words.

On January 30, 2018, I sat down in a grassy park-like area near the bed and breakfast in Palm Springs, Florida, where my husband and I were staying at the time, and started working on my book. I had walked to the beach in the morning, by myself. (My husband was working.) It was 68 degrees Fahrenheit. I was relaxed. It was such a joy, imagining what my characters would say. I had lunch at Too Jay’s Deli near by. I signed up to work with my book coach a day or two later.

On March 27, 2018, I drew a “Happiness is a Choice” picture. I am not an artist by any measure of the word, but it meant a lot to me at the time. I posted it on Facebook.

In April 2018, we had new flooring put in most of our house. I gave a copy of my first book to both of the workers.

March 31st, I had my husband take a picture of me by a stuffed animal big yellow duck. Just an example of me being silly.

June 2, 2018, my husband helped me set up a yard sale in our front yard. It was the first yard sale I had ever had. Mostly give away stuff (to get rid of stuff), but it was a monumental experience for me. I even sold a customer a copy of my first book.

ACE Toastmasters, also in Cincinnati, was the first toastmaster club to whom I read an early version of my story. It wasn’t very well put together at that point, but one of the members said “I think your second book will be better than your first.” I didn’t believe her at first, and wouldn’t for quite some time. (I really loved my first book, “Flip Flap Try . . . A Cardinal’s Journey”.)

August 2, 2019 was the day I sold the 300th copy of my first book to someone, a good friend of my sister Brenda. August 8th, my husband and I saw the penguins at the Toledo Zoo. I had my husband take a picture of me by a stuffed animal gray hippo. August was around the time I finished working with my book coach.

Around June 2020, I did make some final (at the time) changes with the words of my second book and sent it on to the illustrator. My husband finished building the harp he made from scratch for me on June 12, 2020. A symbol of love and joy which we are working into a new logo for my business, Morrow Circle Publishing.

By the end of 2020, my second book had a title: “A Penguin Family . . . Finding Joy”. The finalizing of my book has spilt out into the first quarter of 2021. We will be celebrating World Penguin Day on April 24th. I hope to have my book ready for publishing real soon. I have learned many things in the process of it’s creation (the importance of relaxing, taking time for myself, and working with the challenges of unknown variables) and am thankful for everyone hanging in there till we figure it out and get it ready to share it with the world. It’s a great story and the illustrations are fantastic! We’ll get there!

Our parents lived through WWII and the Great Depression. We children have lived through one year of a pandemic and some other crazy stuff going on in our country.  I’m so glad our first day of spring was pleasant weather-wise and my day has been going well. Hope yours has also. Saw a group of bicyclists when I was out and about today. I looked at my bicycle when I was in our newly House Plantbuilt shed. Tires could use some air. Hoping my husband can help with inflating them. I envisioned myself driving to a park. At least that’s a start, like an athlete getting mentally prepared to run a race. I had a Toastmaster’s meeting this morning for which I had to mentally prepare myself. I was speaker number two. A newer member was speaker number one. It is courteous to let newer members speak first, so they can get it over sooner because they may be a tad more nervous. We evaluated each other’s speech. The newer guy said he couldn’t find anything wrong in my speech to tell me about. My ears heard him say “perfect”. Then he added, “I’m a new toastmaster,” like he might not be experienced enough to find something which needed improvement. The grammarian found plenty on which to report. I’ve become pretty lax in my older age, since not working outside the home. Like, you know, who cares, and ah . . . I mean, isn’t juggling the food in the refrigerator to keep something from going bad, more important? “You mean I left the plastic container of fresh fruit out all night?” I asked my husband who had just devoured a piece of cantaloupe from the same container. “I wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t said something,” he said. I guess it’s a good thing in my speech at Toastmasters I told everyone “I love my husband” twice, once at the beginning and again at the end of my speech.

It’s good, I feel silly, and witty, and bright . . . and I’m happy for the hope, amid caution, starting to seep out in our everyday vocabulary. Of course, I’m just a relatively new author . . . hoping my second children’s book will soon hit the shelves.

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”.