Gifts and Gratitude, Again

I was really touched by an article I read in the Chicago Tribune last year. “The Gifts that Stay With Us for a Lifetime” was a collection of stories about ‘gifts’ and their lasting effect. You may remember I blogged about the article and requested people share their memories.

I ran THREE days worth of gift-laden blogs. Sharing sentimental, touching, humorous stories about Thanks, Gifts, and Giving. In a year like the one we’ve had, are having, continue to have, I think it’d be great to share more positivity through personal tales.

I want YOU to share YOUR stories. What ‘gift’ (present, object, lesson, etc) were you given that ‘impacted’ your life (with a purpose, lasting memory, influential feeling, etc)? If you need guidance or inspiration, click on the highlighted text above and you will be taken to the original posts.

Here’s another one of mine:
I was recently going through a box of ‘keeper stuff’– newspaper articles, old photos, Christmas cards, etc, and I found a post card dated September 1975. It was sent from my mom to a close friend and mentor. The card thanked Mrs. Pike for the plants and mentioned she’d taken them to school.

“They really brighten up my room, but I don’t know what they are! Especially the one with tiny purple flowers. I think that’s my favorite.”

My mom goes on to mention how glad she is that the tests came back negative. She expects only a few more months of treatment.

She died just short of a year following the postmark of that card.

I remember when Mrs. Pike gave me that note. It was in an envelope with a collection of photos. She hesitated to include it because, well, we all know how the story ended, but she wanted me to have that little peek into my mom’s personality. She said that although she had been thanked in person for the plants, she really appreciated my mom taking the time to write and send a card.

I’m grateful she shared this example of my mom’s gratitude with me. It’s the best kind of ‘regift’. Mrs. Pike passed away several years ago. I wish I had asked her what the tiny purple flower plant was. I think it might be my favorite, too.

Your turn to share a Gifts and Gratitude story. They can be as long or short as you need. Send your story in the body of an email to LiteraryMary@comcast.net by December 21, 2020. Accompanying photos are welcome, as well. I plan to publish the collection the last week of December. Let’s wrap up this year with positive reflections.

Thank you.

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Imaginate

When my six year old grandson comes over to visit, he spends a lot of time playing. He runs, jumps, and bounces. He kicks, lunges, and swings various limbs. He lands, tumbles, rolls, and repeats. He hops from chair arm to ottoman to sofa cushion, over and back again. He talks when he’s playing–giving orders, shouting commands, and there are plenty of sound effects, too.

If you ask him what he’s doing, he states matter-of-factly, “I’m imaginating.”

What a great word!
He doesn’t even know he’s combined “imagine” and “creating”, but I do, and that makes me sproud! Super proud!

Shakespeare is credited with introducing at least 1,700 words into the English language, things we still say today. He took creative liberties by combining words, adding prefixes, suffixes, or both, and changing nouns into verbs (hello, all you folks proudly adulting, ahem, Shakespeare beat you to the verbing thing). I was surprised to learn that the word ‘imaginate’ predates Shakespeare and is accredited to poet and translator, John Bellenden (1495–1548). Now that I’m familiar, I think we should introduce it into contemporary conversation.

“Imaginate” doesn’t have the same rhythmic nuance as the word “imagine“, which must be why John Lennon chose not to use it.

Consider the difference in their meanings:
Imagine: (v) form a mental image or concept of; suppose or assume
Imaginate: (n) imagined; imaginary; (v) to create imaginatively

Do you recognize the distinction? Subtle, but important.
Imaginate is active–to create imaginatively.
Create imaginatively all the people living for today.
Create imaginatively all the people living life in peace.
Imaginate all the people sharing all the world.

I’m just sayin’.

Imaginate.
Dream actively.
It’s easy if you try.


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A Patterson Chapter

James Patterson is a prolific author having written nearly 150 novels. In fact, he holds The New York Times record for the most #1 New York Times best sellers by a single author, a total of 67, which is also a Guinness World Record.

He is both admired and reviled in the industry. But the reason I am referencing him today is because he writes notoriously short chapters. An “average” chapter length in fiction is about 3,000 to 4,000 words. Patterson chapters are approximately 650 words. Two to three published pages.

Personally, I’m a fan of short chapters. When reading and writing. I enjoy the sense of accomplishment in completing something in a brief amount of time. I believe short chapters fit into our immediate gratification focused lives. The whole text/tweet/message mentality.

Last week I wrote about Metaphors and how Maass had said anything could be one. It occurred to me that a Patterson Chapter might make a good metaphor. His chapters are fast, easy, usually satisfying, and leave you wanting more. Remind you of anything? 😉

On the contrary, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, also a best selling and award-winning author, has chapters that run about 65 pages. Long, drawn out, potentially painful, occasionally complicated, sometimes absolutely unbelievable. Again, I ask, remind you of anything?

I think a Patterson Chapter would make a good metaphor for a single scoop ice cream sundae. What did you think I meant? And a Goldfinch Chapter could be aptly applied to 2020.

Sticking with my interpretations, how would you apply a Patterson Chapter as a metaphor? A Goldfinch Chapter? Have fun with it. Post your answers in the comments.

Please don’t think I’m comparing authors, styles, or genres. This is purely about chapter length and potential metaphors. I’ve read my share of bad Patterson, but I read it quickly! And, although I did not care for The Goldfinch overall, 2020 is MUCH worse. Honestly, I’ve never read a book I’ve disliked as much as I dislike this year.

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Metaphors

When I was at NIU (the second time) studying Visual Communications, we were assigned a metaphor project. It proved challenging to a lot of us. What exactly is a metaphor and how can we show it visually?!

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. NOT LITERALLY APPLICABLE.

A metaphor is also a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract. SYMBOLIC OF SOMETHING ELSE.

Got that?

It’s not a comparison, a like or as–that would be a simile.

Metaphors can be tricky. Or clunky. Or cliché.

When I attended the Donald Maass writer’s workshop, he addressed the importance of using metaphors. He made it seem so simple. “Anything can be a metaphor,” he told us. Then he proceeded to compile a list of examples. The most visual of them was the conference room carpet. Loud with broad stripes of brown, gold, and orange, it was spotted and patched, worn and dated. The carpet was bold, functional, obviously old but the grandeur still visible, and cheaper to keep than replace. This carpet is your parent’s relationship. This carpet is the state of education in America. This carpet is the 1976 beauty pageant winner, today.*

Isn’t that interesting? He made it seem so easy.
I reflect on his words often when I’m writing. Seeking a symbolic representation of my character’s emotional situation or relationship status.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that art project lately…and by “lately” I mean pretty much every four years since it was assigned in 2000. Limited only, I assure you, by the date of the assignment. I have no idea where my mounted image is, but as a degreed Visual Communicator, I can tell you about it. Envision if you will, a plunger perfectly fitted over the dome of the Capitol Building. Not literally applicable, but definitely symbolic of something else.

*I don’t remember Maass’ examples exactly, but I think the three I listed are pretty good. Random and yet–you get it.

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Give Me a Minute

I’ll get it–I will!
I just need a minute or two to think about it…or, you know, purposely NOT think about it. (Because for whatever reason, THAT works.)

We all suffer on occasion from that “tip of the tongue” thing.
Which, by the way, has a scientific name.
Lethologica is the inability to remember a particular word.

Of course, I am able to tell you EVERYTHING else about the misplaced word, everything except what it is. But with enough clues, you’ll get it.

Communication is a team effort.

If only you were here to tell me why I walked into this room


A mental quandary which also has a scientific title.
The Boundary Effect is caused by the brain adjusting to the boundary event–entering a new room–and moving on to a new thought.

When I’m out walking
I strut my stuff
And I’m so strung out
I’m high as a kite
I just might stop to check you out

LET ME GO ON!

Back out and reenter as needed.
This might explain how I have fifty projects going and nothing complete.

Give me a minute, though…I’ve almost got it.
With a bounce in my step and a tune on my tongue, it’s all good.

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Making Senses

I am happy to say that I spent this past weekend working on book two in my Pandoran Legacy series. No, please sit down, no ovation necessary. Your hearty applause is kudos enough. The follow up to A Stranger’s Child is taking its time to emerge, but every little edit is progress in the making.

Anni, my eighteen year old protagonist, has recently discovered she is a descendent of Pandora and it’s fallen to her to collect the evils that her ancestor released into the mortal world. As you can imagine, that’s a tall order which elicits many a reaction. Let’s not forget, she’s an emotional teenager and naturally sensitive. The intensity of her experiences, both new and nostalgic, offer opportunities for me to delve into her sensory world. She’s had an unusual life so far, and this new twist is equally unprecedented. She responds to these duties in a variety of ways–each decision she makes affects the next. Some experiences good, some bad, some powerful, some humbling.

One key to connecting with the reader is to utilize the senses. The character needs to see, smell, touch, taste, and feel in a way that the reader can identify with. Not just “looking” (that’s the easiest, the most used, and also most overused sense), but putting the reader in the scene with the character. The damp heat of a curl-frizzing sauna. The sweet and spicy aroma of a fresh baked cinnamon-apple pie. The icy bite of a door handle on a gloveless hand in a Midwestern Illinois January. The writer needs to invoke an emotion so strong that even the Californian reader who has never had their fingertips seared to frozen metal can relate.

https://blog.leithnissan.com/simple-tricks-open-frozen-car-door-in-no-time/

My Anni’s moods and development are reflective of the things she sees, smells, hears, tastes, and touches. The handsome boy that makes her blush, the tangy thick exhaust of the subway train, the clatter of the switchblade dropping to the blacktop, the delicate pop of the juicy berries on her tongue, and the coolness of the smooth marble column in the forbidden garden.

I’m having a lot of fun living vicariously through her.
I hope my readers will as well.

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Remember when I used to write?

Yes.
That was awesome.

I have SIX publications!

And so many more in the works…except that by “works” I mean not so much working on.

But why?

I want to finish book 2 in the Pandoran Legacy series.
Kimmie has many more ghost mysteries to solve!
Foe Be Us is a gold mine of potential–I have half a dozen phobias written towards the next collection of 13.
And those are just the continuations of series I’ve already begun.
The list of NEW novel ideas is twice as long.

I’ve gotten away from writing focused blog posts. I’m going to try to get back in the groove. Interesting, inspiring, informational resources, reviews, and reflections rife with alliteration, lol, that hopefully writers, readers, and followers will enjoy.

Thank you for your continued support. I enjoy sharing my Monday musings. It will be nice to rediscover my passion for writing–if I don’t tell these stories, who will?

NOBODY, that’s who!
And that’s not fair to my fabulous imagination.
(Look at that–already diving deep into the fiction!)

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a waiter.

Waiters can have groove, too.

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Um, er, ah–

It’s official. Or–I’m finally at a place to recognize that it’s official. I may have been failing for much longer.

Huh? Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

I seem to have lost my ability to verbally communicate. With very little practice the past five, six, SEVEN months, I find myself conversationally challenged.

I met some new people Saturday night. Sunday morning I went to message them–only to realize I never introduced myself! I wanted to tell them it was a pleasure to meet them but unfortunately, they never actually met me.

This revelation has me conjuring other conversations I’ve had in the sort of recent past.

Why didn’t I ask how she did when the young woman referenced my DeKalb jacket saying she’d been there earlier in the day for a track meet?

How is it that I forgot to comment on the cool décor of the shop?

Why is it so hard for me to make small talk with a seasonal sales clerk?

Why do I lose track of my next thought in the middle of a chat with a longtime friend?

I replay these verbal absences after the fact, obsessively so, yet I’m no better the next–rare–time I have an exchange.

Friends have called me a “social butterfly“, told me I am their “social glue“. Someone just said that my lockdown life must not be much different since I don’t work 9 to 5. I was like, “WHAT?!” My life is SO different. Before covid I was out of my house almost every day. Driving here, there, everywhere. Meetings, lunch dates, dinners, bbsitting, conferences, concerts, shows, retreats…My entire life was being social. Oh man, has my life changed.

Of course my response was probably a mute nod as I tried to conjure audible thoughts through my face hole.

I have a feeling that once I’m able to hang out and catch up in true social form I will be a volcano of exploding globs of words and phrases and hopefully after repeated exposure, full flowing sentences.

In the meantime, I think I’ll practice talking to myself. And the dogs. And maybe the television. “Oh, Dr. House, why you gotta be such a lovable ass all the time?”

Of course I’ll have to answer on his behalf to fully benefit from the oral exercise.
That should make for lengthy conversations, lol.

I MISS MY PEOPLE!

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Five Amazing Words

I think I know a lot of people.
I think I know a lot ABOUT a lot of people.
That’s why I love when I’m having a conversation with someone and they reveal something about themselves that’s new to me.

I did not know that!”

Five little words. Common, every day words. But in this particular context, they are magical.

I recently discovered that my longtime concert buddy–we’re talking three decades and easily over a hundred shows–doesn’t wear black concert t’s. She stated this and I had to pause, reflect, consider, and finally realize– I did not know that!

Did you know William Shatner is releasing a Blues album? Probably not, but that’s not exactly going to summon the desired response. We were listening to a promo on the radio and they referenced his nationality. William Shatner, he of ecclectic fame throughout my life, is Canadian. I did not know that. Yes, I was more surprised to learn about his Montreal roots than I was to hear about him singing (!?) the blues.

Once in a great while, I learn something new about my husband. We’ve spent pretty much every day together for over thirty-five years. It’s hard to imagine there are things we haven’t discussed. And yet…occasionally I’m blown away by an

“I did not know that!”

factoid.

I think those revelations are wonderful. Not planned. No truth or dare or tell me a secret kind of shenanigans. Totally organic conversational discoveries.

Isn’t it nice to meet someone and find out–later–that they are a vegan? Or teach Pilates? Or love cats? I tease, but it’s true.

I guess it’s because of the millions of details that make up your life, that constitute YOU, that I struggled with the “I AM” mask message that stated the obvious. Sometimes details are visually indisputable. Sometimes they are verbally immediate. Assumptions can be made, extrapolations occur, but isn’t it nice when someone states a personal fact that you didn’t assume, guess, or already know?

I look forward to the I did not know that moments. Bursts of personal history peeking through, illuminating people in a new light.

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