WELCOME TO THE NEW YEAR!

I’m not sure any year has been as anticipated (in my lifetime) as 2021.
Congratulations, we made it.
What that actually means remains to be seen…2020 didn’t get rough until mid-March. Not to be a pessimist, but there’s still time for this “newness” to take a startling, sharp, unprecedentedly cruel and deep dive.

Wow, that went dark fast, lol. Skeptical much?
THANKS 2020.

A new year traditionally means new opportunities. Changes in routine, ideals, etc. We adopt new habits and give up old. I’ve written before in defense of resolutions. After a lengthy 9+ months of up-close and personal uninterrupted self-evaluation, I’d guess we’re all open to improving ourselves. As much as we’re able to do considering our social limitations and restricted resources.

I have said it repeatedly and repeatedly say it–
I HAVE NEVER HAD SO MUCH TIME AND SO LITTLE MOTIVATION.
Lockdown and laziness. *sigh*
My resolution? To change that. Since sheltering in place doesn’t seem to be lifting–and for those of you who may be confused by this term, let me specify that I live in Illinois, enough said. Regardless of assent, I’m at the mercy of the former, so I hope to tackle the latter.

I VOW TO BE MOTIVATED IN 2021!

First up is a reinvigorated dedication to novel completion. Yes, I’ve said that before…but SHAME is so 2020. Let’s practice NOT using it this year, okay?

Second, in support of the first resolution, I will no longer be posting every week. No more Good Monday Morning MaryFranSays Musings.

I know, so disappointing. But, it’s for the best. I mean, YOU will certainly be dedicated to your own improved behaviors and won’t have the time to properly commit to a weekly essay. Also, I will still blog! But I’m hoping to save them for BIG NEWS! Like a new publication announcement. And eventually, reading and speaking engagements in support of said publication.

Over the past eight years, I have posted over 500 three minute reads, averaging about 550 words each. That’s roughly 275k words, a word count equal to three (of my) novels and a couple novellas. It’s time to put my motivation where my novel is.

Fear not, I shall return…the OPTIMISM of a fresh start is strong with me–I’m already fashioning my NEW BOOK RELEASE announcement (in my head).

May this NEW YEAR bring changes for the BEST in your life.
Until we Monday Meet again–

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Gifts and Gratitude

This post is about the “gifts” that stay with you, that leave an abiding and memorable impression. Just the good ones, lol. After the year we’ve had, we could use some positive and lasting inspiration.

Please take the time to read through each personal tale of Gifts and Gratitude. These stories are full of humor and heart.

A REAL GIFT

I am SO glad you decided to do this again! I submitted last year about a note my brother gave me that stopped me from running away and helped put things in a better perspective in my teenage brain. My brother read it and laughed at me. He claims he doesn’t even remember doing it. He said that doesn’t count as a “gift”. So I’m resubmitting with a literal gift. I’m glad he can’t read this until after Christmas because his GIFT this year is a framed print of the Time Man of the Year Magazine cover–1985. I used an app to put his teenage face on the cover. I think this will be both hilarious and memorable!

Sharon R.

***

There are so many gifts over the years that have meant a lot to me, especially quilts made by my mom, dish towels embroidered by my Grandma, paintings drawn by my kids. This time of year, when decorating the Christmas tree, the gifts that ping at my heart and bring tears to my eyes, are the ornaments my grown children made as kids either in school, in Scouts, or at home in secret. You know, decorations using Styrofoam, tin foil, popsicle sticks, wrapping paper, toilet paper tubes, etc. And of those, the ones that have their pictures attached are especially endearing.

Flash forward 25-30 years and the icing on the cake is seeing my four grandchildren marvel at the pictures of their mom, aunt and uncle when they were their age, because yes I still put them on the tree. And I hope when I’m long gone, my children will put them on their trees, and their children will put them on their trees. Gifts don’t have to be big and fancy to be memorable. It’s the gifts that are homemade and come from the heart that have the most value.

Debbie D.

***

So I been thinking for a week now about my most “special gift” and being older and not as materialistic as I once was, I have come to realize that those gifts were given to me roughly 40 years ago. Given to me in a big brick building on Rockton Ave. How can anything be more special than unconditional friendships. I certainly didn’t deserve them. And now 40 years later I can still call those people friends. We might not see each other more than a cpl times since we walked through the gym in our gowns and got a piece of paper but I would do almost anything for those people and like to think they would do the same for me just cause we’re friends. Tell me, short of having a child or being married…that gift of true friendship has to be close.

David B.

***

Gratitude.

Thankful, Grateful, Appreciation…

As a 16 year old junior in high school, I remember my first time hearing the word “appreciate.” I didn’t just hear it, I soaked in the meaning and it resonated deeply within me.

That first time I really listened to the word… “appreciate”… my heart felt so full. I began to realize the significance of the word. Appreciation means being deeply thankful for that which I’ve recognized to be beneficial and that which may not be as apparent.

Personally, I’ve learned that appreciation fills a void in my life. When I feel useless, or depressed, I remember how thankful I am for all that I have in my life. Gratitude keeps me grounded.

My most prized possession was given to me long ago when I was a baby. It’s a two foot tall stuffed animal – a polar bear, who I simply named “Mr. Bear.”

Although I grew up with two brothers, they are so much older than I am. I felt like an only child for a big part of my childhood, except I always had Mr. Bear. This bear has become so significant in my life that even today, it is the one comfort I have as an adult when depression and anxiety creep into my life. This seemingly insignificant childhood toy has become my saving grace during these emotionally testing times.

Gratitude is and always will be a constant part of my life. I honestly don’t think I’d have a life to live without Mr. Bear. He was my first dance partner. He keeps my heart beating. Who knew a grown woman would rely on a stuffed animal for company at night when no one else is there to hold? I appreciate you, Mr. Bear.

Ami G.

***

The best gift I ever received was my original birth certificate, the one from Illinois, which listed my genetic birth parents. 

I have always known my circumstances as an adopted child, and I was loved and raised and cared for. However, as someone very different from the family that raised me, I always wanted to know my birth origins. My nature versus my nurture. The idea that there were people in the world who looked like me; my eyes and hair color, my big ears. 

Receiving my original birth certificate was a pandora’s box of answers and problems, new relationships, and challenges. It was also the best gift I’ve ever received. 

Thanks for letting me briefly share the best gift I ever received. 

C. Deborah O.

***

OKay, so this is embarrassing and I don’t think I’ve ever talked about it to a stranger, but I saw on FB that this person recently passed away and the memory hit me like a tidal wave. When I was in junior high, I “became a woman” in the middle of Algebra class. I was totally unprepared, naïve and totally embarrassed, so when the teacher, Mrs. Joyce, asked to speak with me after class, I assumed that in addition to being embarrassed, I was also in trouble. When the room was empty she opened her closet, grabbed some stuff and came to sit in the desk next to me. She offered me her track suit jacket and two folded maxi-pads. She told me to wrap it around my waist to hide my butt and go to the bathroom. She was so cool about it. The items were great, but honestly, the ‘lasting gift’ was the advice she gave me. “First, always carry two. Also, flush the toilet as you peel the strip so no one will hear it. Your body is nobody’s business.” I think of that advice monthly, lol. Farewell, Mrs. Joyce, you will be missed.

Sarah M Q

***

Not sure if this story counts as one of Gifts and Gratitude, but the examples I read made me want to share my story. I met my wife when I was six. Her family moved into the house next door. Our moms became friends and we spent a lot of time together. She was my best friend. A few years later, my family moved away. I was really mad, sad, angry, but before we left, I gave her a note with a question and two boxes on it, one that said “yes”, one that said “no”. She marked a box and returned it to me. I tucked it away somewhere ‘safe’ and forgot about it. We were in different towns, different schools, our moms got new friends, we didn’t see each other for years! Reunited at a Freshmen dorm mixer almost eight years later, we fell right back into the friendship we had when we parted at age ten. A few years ago, my mother found that folded and smudged original note in a box of my old books and stuff. She gave it to me and I realized I had written, “Will you marry me?”. And she had put an ‘x’ in the yes box! I framed the note and gave it to my wife for our thirtieth anniversary. Thanks for letting me share our love “note”.

Todd S.

***

Across Generations

“If you never believe anything else I’ve said, believe this…”

Eighteen, holding my infant son, I sat inches away from Sister Clotilde in the Ursuline Convent’s parlor adjacent to my high school. Eight months earlier, in the secretive early 60s I’d been expelled for becoming a pregnant teen. Sister taught my older brothers and me science, philosophy and theology. To no avail, she urged my principle, a position she’d held years earlier, to allow me to complete my senior year in spite of my transgression. I knew what Sister Clotilde intended to tell me, continue your education, complete high school, go to college and graduate as your parents and older brothers did ; her words a similar message to my mother’s mantra, “Every woman must be educated and able to support herself.”

Sister Clotilde disrupted my musings, “Years go fast, faster than you can imagine.” She placed her hand on my knee. Her fingertips graced my infant’s leg. “Don’t be a parent who looks back and says, ‘I wish I had taken more time with my children.’” Her voice rose in a gentle admonition, “Your chores can wait until after they are in bed.” She soothed, “Always make time for you children.”

My family grew – no matter the challenges I shouldered – in the evenings, after dinner and when chores tempted me I settled on the floor and built block houses and forts, played Pick- up-Sticks, Tiddlywinks, Monopoly and Clue, and every night I read to my children from Golden Books, Just So Stories , Fairy Tales, Dr. Seuss books – a favorite; Green Eggs and Ham , which they memorized – Treasure Island and Mark Twains’ adventurous short stories and novels.​

I earned my high school equivalency diploma and started college at the age of twenty- eight when my children were ten, six, and four while we lived within the uncertain pressure of their father’s alcohol abuse. His absences after work and late arrivals home afforded many opportunities for shared activities with my children. Often times we sat at the kitchen table and did our home-work together. I wonder how they remember the time I brought home my Vertebrate Zoology assignment to dissect a preserved-in-formaldehyde pregnant cat. I hope I didn’t traumatize them when I placed the bagged corpse on a large cookie sheet, sliced the bag open and recoiled from the pungent fumes. My children were thirteen, nine and seven; the dissection afforded a perfect opportunity for a sex education discussion. I revealed the internal organs, identified the fertilization path, and removed the kittens from the sacs enveloping them. Even now I question the sanity of bringing home that particular home work.

When May 1978 arrived, Sister Clotilde, in her seventies, boarded a bus in Decatur, IL bound for Joliet, IL to attend my cum laude graduation from The College of St Francis. I was thirty-one and had earned a Bachelor of Science degree. My joy swelled when I heard my children, my mother, and Sister Clotilde cheering the loudest as I received my diploma and had an honor’s stole slipped over my head. Now, forty-two years later I share Sister Clotilde’s wisdom with my granddaughter, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, who joyfully handed me a pillow emblazoned with, “EXCELLENT Grandmas GET PROMOTED TO Great Grandmas .”

Catherine C.

***

THANK YOU to everyone who submitted to this post. Thank you for sharing your Gifts and Gratitude with others.

Not as many submissions this year as last, but that’s okay. It’s been a rough year and motivation may be hard to muster. As long as you are grateful, you possess the greatest of gifts.

May you all have a very Happy Healthy (and productive) New Year!

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WE HAVE A WINNER!

TODAY MAKES 500! I can’t even believe it! FIVE HUNDRED POSTS!

Thank you to the readers who submitted blog titles to the contest. I was both impressed and amazed at some of the selections.

Match Game, a post from July 2015, had the most votes! With almost–literally–500 articles to choose from, I wasn’t sure ANY would have multiple votes. I didn’t ask for a reason, just a title, so that’s all I got, repeatedly. This choice was very surprising–how surprising was it? Exactly.

There were several with multiple votes, including Permission to Cry. One person left the comment, “I find myself sharing this advice with others. Too often, it seems.”

Another that received a couple of mentions was Sweet Nellie, an emotional ode to a beloved pet. A simple one word comment accompanied one submission, *sob*.

A post with two votes was Monday the Metaphor, from 2014. “Momdays! I love it!”

There were a handful of titles that were selected individually, including the drawing winner who picked Metaphors, a recent post, and left this comment, “Excellent post about metaphors. Talented, articulate, enthusiastic Mary Lamphere clearly revealed in your post.”

But I swear, I used a random name picker for the results.

CONGRATULATIONS, CCW! Your prize is in the mail.
(please let me know when you receive it!)

This 500th post is also a final reminder to submit to next Monday’s post, Gifts and Gratitude. With your help, we are going to end this year on a thankful and appreciative note. ❤

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Easy as One, Two…

ONE
Don’t forget to leave me a message with the TITLE of one of my blog posts so you’ll be entered into a drawing for a FIFTY DOLLAR PRIZE! Simply comment wherever you see this post or email me at LiteraryMary@comcast.net. Details can be read here. The winner will be randomly selected and announced next Monday in my 500th publication!

TWO
I am currently accepting short essays for the Gifts and Gratitude collection to be published December 28th. For inspiration, click here to read last year’s entries. All are welcome to submit!

That’s it! TWO THINGS! Go now–get ’em done! And have a great day.

Peace out.

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You could WIN!

You may remember way back in June, I posted my 443rd blog.
Today’s post is #498…I’M ALMOST TO FIVE HUNDRED!

In honor of reaching this goal, I’m hosting a contest. My 500th post will feature a WINNER. That winner could be YOU!

Entering the contest is easy. All you have to do is leave a REPLY below, COMMENT on the FB or Twitter posting of this, or SEND your selection to my email, LiteraryMary@comcast.net with the TITLE of your FAVORITE of my blogs. Additional comments are welcome, and I do hope you actually READ a post or two, but only the title is necessary to be entered into the drawing.

Considering that there are eight years worth of posts, well over four hundred to wade through, I’m going to offer some navigational tips.

First:
You can connect to the MaryFranSays Blogs from the Home page of my website.

If you are reading this in your email, click on the title and it will take you to the web page.

Second:
Each post lists the previous and the next at the top. You can advance through the collection by clicking those titles.

Third:
Entries are Archived by month and also by Categories. Click on a date or a category for a list of those posts.

Fourth:
You will notice that there is a search bar on every page. You may enter a keyword and a list of articles containing that word will show up. Some recommended keywords that might interest you: BBs, Corgi, Favorite, Writers, Review, Love

Set aside an afternoon and get to browsing! Choose your favorite personal essay and let me know which one you liked. I will use a random selector app to pick a winner. The prize will be a collection of my FAVORITE things–many are listed in my essays. I haven’t completely decided yet, but I promise it will have a minimum value of $50 and be a prize worthy of this landmark achievement.

You have until December 18th to read, select, and submit. I will ‘draw’ a name and announce the WINNER on December 21st in my 500TH POST. The prize will go out in the mail, so I will require the winner’s mailing address. Limit one entry per person but feel free to share this opportunity!

I want to THANK YOU. I wouldn’t still be doing this Monday musings thing if I didn’t have your continued support. Five hundred publications! Pretty impressive.

Also, coming up on December 28 will be the Gifts and Gratitude stories. If you’d like to submit, click here for details. I would love for you to be part of my future posts.

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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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