My novel is done! + Pod38: Royal Beauty + Birgit’s True Elfins

This post's title over artist Ann Newmarch's poster of a woman carrying a man. Under it is written, "Women hold up half the sky."
I can’t believe I never saw this image before, though Australians have known it for decades. It’s by artist artist Ann Newmarch.

Royal Beauty + Birgit’s True Elfins Happiness Between Tails

#Beauty #Elves #Flamenco #StoryTelling #Aging #Body How do you define beauty? Birgit, who is from Germany and blogs from Denmark shows us how ugly-cute trolls are! Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Royal beauty and about today’s guest 1:05 Birgit’s True Elfins My question for you HBT outro Spanish iconic painter, Goya Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Birgit’s Stella, oh, Stella site Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my novels-in-progress. About María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba About Spanish iconic painter, Francisco de Goya. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Birgit in one of her gardens. The surprise she found in her garden. María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, the 18th Duchess of Alba. Later in life. Earlier in life. Francisco de Goya’s “Black Duchess.” An incredible loaf of bead I baked in under two hours, with a link to where I got the recipe. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of “Royal Beauty + Birgit’s True Elfins.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places.

Yay! It’s done! I finally finished (I know, I know it took foooor-ever!) writing my book #1 (Flamenco & the Sitting Cat) of the two novels (#2 is Tango & the Sitting Cat) that are linked, but that can each stand alone.

Ulp! Now what?!

First up is to record the beginning section of it. The book a series of letters (a.k.a. epistolary) grouped in 12 parts (a nod to the 12/12 rhythm of flamenco). There’s producing a teaser, an intro, an outro, and the first set of letters. When it’s publicly aired, there will be a press release to write.

For now, the audio sample will only be to give agents a preliminary listen, in the hopes that the audio sample will create extra sparkle. Acting experience of a prior life demonstrated that there’s a lot more to agents than merely attracting one.

The real ginormous trick is to find a phenomenal one; someone who is fair and communicates well. Most of all, someone with great connections and who’s belief in the potential success of our collaboration can motivate them to work hard. That means I need to cull a list of appropriate agents and write an enticing pitch.

My inclination is to continue listing stuff to do because I’m so excited, but I’d just be repeating the same whirling thoughts over and over. So, moving along…

But wait, I also need artwork that looks equally good as a book cover and a smartphone thumbnail. One that can apply to the podcast too, and be easily customized for each new show segment.

Thanks much, blog friends who pointed out a while ago that my old cover resembled something for kids or teens.

Moving along once more in what’s turning out as hodgepodge as my brain at the moment…

For anyone out there doing the WordPress-blog-to-Anchor-podcast two-step — is it just me or do you also have to wait an entire 8 hours for your newest show episodes to appear on WordPress’ podcast editing block’s drop-down menu? After a chat and emails with WordPress, they said they would look into it, but you know how that’ll probably go.

More on podcasting: editing podcast shows on iMovie is easier than learning GarageBand. Nervous that my shows may technically suffering in ways I can’t hear, I scrounged for official comparisons. Seems iMovie is just as good, given that I’m using only voice, occasional sound FX and music, not mastering elaborate music compositions.

Again on podcasting: in the same way that blog posts can look different, for better or worse, depending on the device, so can audio shows. I asked Anchor if there’s a way to ensure that sound levels don’t vary. Basically they answered “no,” but that they would put it on their list.

More on Anchor: grousing, but also bringing up these complaints so you won’t think it’s just you doing something wrong — why is it too much trouble for Anchor to add page numbers for one’s editing list of show episodes?

More Swiss cheese thoughts…

A couple of days ago, I finished listening to humorist/autobiographer/essayist David Sedaris’ latest book, Happy-Go-Lucky.

Cover of "Happy-Go-Lucky" by David Sedaris.

He admits his dark humor isn’t for everyone. With each book, I’m smitten with how searingly self-searching he is and doesn’t settle for “all-good/all-bad” depictions and outcomes tied with neat bows.

This time he totally blew my mind with his honesty about his dad. Like me, he had one monster of a father who in old age showed flashes of something akin to softness and a smidge of regret. But so, as the “fruit” of such a person, what does one do with that?! Like when my father got nicer yet was still creepy and came onto me a couple of years before he died? In many ways, it was easier when he was just blatantly horrible…

My review of it for Amazon and Goodreads:

One of his best. Happy-Go-Lucky hits the nail on the head when it comes to showing how things aren’t always black or white — that they can lie within the confusing rainbow in between.

Each of his books, all his thoughtful self-disclosure, brings to mind the 1970s Women’s Lib phrase, “The personal is political.” Upon googling it, turns out some criticized it for really referencing white woman privilege. I’d like to reclaim it to define how, when we get really day-to-day honest and authentic enough to strive for better, it helps everyone.

Like how blogging makes the world smaller and small voices bigger.

Included in Wiki’s information on the slogan was a reference to bullseye-scoring Ann Newmarch’s artwork at the top of this post.

Here I flit to a happy thing, a quotation I just found that dovetails with a major theme within my novel…

Director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up): I used to think, “Oh, these are coming-of-age movies.” But I think people are still coming of age at 80 and 90.

And now I’ll trip to some thank you’s to Infidel753, who’s guested at Happiness Between Tails here and here. He’s got quite a following and each time he’s kindly featured me among his Sunday round up posts, lots of new people check out my site. His round-ups are a rollercoaster of links: from political horror to outright silliness, and glorious to nails-on-chalkboard ugly. And he keeps visitors updated on safe abortion information to use in these barbaric times. 

Thanks too, Fair and Unbalanced (in addition to blogging, he podcasts), for mentioning me in your thought-provoking roundups.

Before I wear you out with all this jumping around inside my head, here’s my Amazon and Goodreads review of, Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes “the French Chef,” authored by Alex Prud’homme and illustrated bySarah Green.

Captivating for any age! Beautiful artwork and lovely writing. A real delight!

Cover of Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes "the French Chef,” authored by Alex Prud’homme and illustrated bySarah Green.

Now to end with a sweet pro-old-lady clip from Disney’s Moana…

Have you scored any victories this week?

Long Covid + Intentions n Grace + Pod34: Hair Color 4 Men n All

Heading over photo of K-D doggie with da-AL.

Hair Coloring 4 Men and All Happiness Between Tails

#Men #Hair #Coloring #Beauty #Henna #DIY What do thing about hair dye for men or anyone else? Here’s what I’ve learned about coloring hair. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Hair Coloring 4 Men and All My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Many pictures of the entire process discussed. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of Hair Coloring for Men and All.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places.

Writing this, I’d only just gotten my 4th Covid shot and was feeling woozy. Rather than working on my novels, for several days I slept, hence this post is short. Fortunately, as of this morning, I’m back to a very grateful normal. Besides the added immunity, I’m especially appreciative that for the first time since I got Covid a year and a half ago, earl grey tea doesn’t smell like moldy onions, and lemons don’t give off a chemical non-citrus fragrance. These things can come and go, so I’m almost superstitious about telling you that perhaps my long Covid is finished…

Wouldn’t life be so much easier if all good people wore white cowboy hats and bad ones wore black ones? Something, anything, to give us a one-size-fits-all way to sniff out flower-scented nice folk from stinking pee-yew creeps?

This is a plea for all of us to remember that intentions are everything.

Micro and macro aggressions definitely exist. To expect them before we’ve hardly laid eyes on someone, however, is to water seedlings of distrust and to give them free rein to take over.

It’s bad enough we had the Trump reign dividing us. Then came covid, with all the finger-pointing of who washed, masked, and vaccinated. Gender labels and pronouns (explained here by Suzanne Craig-Whytock) can be tricky for some (a video about it here) more than others. Lately I’ve read that inquiring into someone’s cultural background ought to be off limits.

Like I said, intentions are everything. Bearing that in mind, the world becomes a wonderful place.

Using differences as opportunities to learn more about each other, we build bridges. If someone asks us something, it’s okay to ask them why they want to know and not answer. Personally, I love learning about others and they’re often flattered that I’m interested. Allowing missteps to become gentle teaching moments, we learn what someone’s intentions are.

A couple of yoga class examples, from pre-pandemic days when I didn’t take zoom classes, that I know aren’t exactly the same thing but somehow relate:

  1. One day a classmate arrived a little late and was clearly frazzled. When she put down her mat, it blocked the view of a student behind her. The rear student fumed, yet didn’t say anything to the distracted yogini in front. “Yogic serenity” for everyone nearby, though, was decimated. Thank you, rear classmate, for teaching me that when someone later blocked my view, the answer was to tap their shoulder and gently ask them to move a few inches.
  1. Inside that yoga studio’s dressing room, the beleaguered rear classmate encountered a tote bag on the changing bench. She fumed that she couldn’t sit down. It wasn’t mine, but I placed it on the floor. Problem was solved.

When I shared these types of stories with a friend, she argued that one shouldn’t have to “shoulder the burden” of educating cretins. Bravo to anyone who’s never an ignoramus. Alas, I can and will be one all too often. Thank you, thank you, thank you nice people who’ve been gracious to me.

Please don’t let us all become so afraid of each other that we make ourselves miserable and we never mix with people unlike ourselves. Let’s try to assume the best, speak from our hearts, and think of each other as individuals we might have more in common with than not, rather than generalities.

(For sure this is off-topic — but just wonderin’ and to see whether you’re still with me — I recently was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. If you’re vegetarian and count carbs and/or glycemic load, yet avoid getting overloaded with fats and becoming a walking skeleton, what are your best tips?)

Being gracious costs nothing. Better yet, it doesn’t make anyone lose sleep, doesn’t raise blood pressure, and maybe even prevents someone from kicking their dog — or worse…

What do you do when a stranger gets on your nerves?

Norooz + Twinkl + Cats Fable Vid + Pod26: Ashley’s Easier Publishing

Khashayar with me at our Persian New Year haft-seen table.
Khashayar with me at our Persian New Year haft-seen table.

Self-Publishing: It Gets Easier by Ashley L. Peterson Happiness Between Tails

#MentalHealth #Books #Authors #Publishing #SelfPublishing #GuineaPigs Mental health nurse and author Ashley L. Peterson of Mental Health At Home dot org blogs out of Vancouver, Canada, and writes from both a personal perspective as well as that of a medical professional. She’s written a host of books on the subject. Have you considered self-publishing, and what's your experience with publishing and building a platform? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Self-Publishing: It Gets Easier by Ashley L. Peterson 2:00 My question for you 3:30 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Here’s the original blog version of this podcast episode. Ashley’s website Photos available at the HBT posts for this show: Ashley and her hard working guinea pigs. Covers of her books. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of this blog post of “Self-Publishing It Gets Easier by Ashley L. Peterson.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Persian New Year partying is a two-week affair, so we’re still in the midst of it! Here’s the haft-seen table that Khashayar arranged. In another video, I explain the history and the items.

More to celebrate: given that I’m writing soon-to-be-published novels, Twinkl (a resource by teachers, for teachers and homeschoolers in early childhood and elementary settings that featured me before) listed me among authors and bloggers on their To Be Read List 2022: Top Book Picks From Authors and Bloggers!

Now for a story with a moral. The lives of Lucy and Mooshie are Grimm-inspired reminders of how smarts are better to have than good looks (more about Mooshie here)

 

What’s your fave book or fable?

Happy Nowrooz + D. Williams’ Memoir Tips + Pod25: Caz’s Can vs. Can’t

Photo of Diane Williams, author, blogger, speaker, and more!
Coach Diane, author, blogger, speaker, and more!

Focus on What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t, by Caz Happiness Between Tails

#Chronic illness #Pain #Strength #Courage #Health Faced with challenge, it’s easy to get bogged down by what we can’t do. Caz encourages us to focus on what we can do. A blogger from England, outwardly she appears physically strong, yet inwardly she deals with chronic pain. That’s why the name of her blog is InvisiblyMe. Are you or anyone you know challenged by invisible pain? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction About today’s topic and guest 1:00 “Focus on What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t,” by Caz2:00 My question for you 5:00 HBT outro Links for this episode: The original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my novels-in-progress. InvisiblyMe.com Photos available at the HBT post for this show: A photo of gorgeous sassy Caz! — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of this blog post of “Focus on What You Can Do, Not What You Can’t, by Caz.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Here’s the full LinkTree list of 50+ places.

Happy Spring and Persian New Year!

Spring has sprung early here in Los Angeles. Blossoms perfumed the air, sun warms and brightens the days, and it’s official that despite some recent rain, we’re in a drought.

Spring also means that it’s Nowrooz. My husband being from Iran, we celebrate not just January 1st, but Persian New Year. Here’s a post and another post and a video I did about Persian New Year. Once the celebration of this year’s gets in full swing, I’ll upload some photos for you to see.

Between readying for the two-and-a-half week celebration (cleaning, shopping, and decorating), as well as for when my brother-in-law moves in soon, I’ve had scant time for novel-writing. Fortunately, I attended a couple of Shut Up and Write/Meetup sessions. They’re virtual opportunities for writers of all ilks to rally each other while offering camaraderie and accountability.

An author I’ve had the pleasure to meet thanks to this Meetup is Diane Williams. Working out of California, she writes, coaches, trains, and encourages audiences great and small to achieve their best and happiest. She’s published a memoir, “The Invisible Child,” along with a collection of 17 inspiring stories called, “Angels in Action.” Get to know her better and see her books at her blog as well as her Amazon pageher Amazon page.

Using herself as an example, here she shows us how everyone deserves joy and our wellbeing helps others…

Photo of Diane Williams, author, blogger, speaker, and more!
Photo of Diane Williams, author, blogger, speaker, and more!

How to Write a Memoir in Twenty Years by Diane Williams

The writing process I used to write my memoir, The Invisible Child, took me twenty years to complete. I didn’t have a desire to write a book about my life. However, my life took a dramatic change; it plummeted. My once vibrant healthy body was invaded by the disease called rheumatoid arthritis. The doctor prescribed drugs and a wheelchair for treatment. The effects of this disease on my body left me helpless, jobless, and husbandless. The most devastating of all, I had to parent our young daughters, ages seven and eleven, alone — on my back.

Through it all, I developed a fearless desire to live life with relentless faith.  Folks began to ask how I keep going while living in an immobile body. I repeated the story so many times, folks suggested I write my story, and thus it began.

I devoted three hours per day to just brainstorming and freewriting every thought that entered my mind. Some days I wrote two or three pages and other days a few paragraphs. Next, I drafted an outline by grouping topics, scenes, timelines. That whole process took a couple of years including my much-needed breaks.

Immediately after my break, I increased my daily writing from three hours to five, and I began to write chapters. I brought my work to the community critic group to be critiqued. They were graciously forthcoming with feedback on my theme, voice, character development, plot, scenes, timelines, and libel laws. Thus, I began to rewrite.

While writing, I began to feel stronger, energized — a cathartic victory. This gave me momentum and much needed motivation to push forward. I found a professional editor, and she complimented my message and emailed me a thick file with suggestions for style, edits, a guide for the timeline, and content such as how to raise conflict and when to reach the climax. I increased my writing time to nearly seven hours per day.

As I wrote the story, I began to thank Charles Babbage, considered by some to be the “father of the computer.” I am most appreciative of the copy and paste device. I had a quick thought about how long it would have taken me with the white, correction tape. 

After twenty years of writing my story, my memoir, The Invisible Child is born. And now, I am on to my next project, Unbelievably True Caregiver Stories, to be launched November 1, 2023 on National Caregivers Day.

I love to bring value to people and remind them that they matter because I want to live in a world with happy successful people; this is my main reason for sharing so much of my personal scars and victories.

I have lived a life of complete health, and life was good, then an uninvited disease entered my body, it felt like a truck ran into my home and wrecked everything and everyone. As we all know, when one family member suffers it changes the dynamics of the entire family. I truly hope this story inspires readers to care for their health and well-being to live a healthy, independent, and vibrant life, we deserve.

When does Spring spring where you live?

Project Do Better: A call for helping hands

Here’s a reminder for anyone who wants to help Shira help us all do better to make the world a better place for everyone. She was first a guest at Happiness Between Tails H-E-R-E.

Inspiring Critical Thinking and Community via Books, Lessons, and Story

    Project Do Better works  to create a society where every child is safe, and that is more fully inclusive for all of us. 

       Feedback: comment here, please, on this current 5th draft.

     Project Do Better presents a vision of a world in which we all work toward a full safety net, and a better tomorrow, for all of us. 

   I have a request to make:

   I believe that planning ahead is a good idea, so:

 

  We need, still,  a better central portal set up for the project (any volunteers to do that, please?).  This temporary page works for now, I guess, maybe?

Oh, and a logo, please, although a friend of a friend may be working on this, not verified yet.

   The sections, of my nonfiction WiP Do Better, every Wondering Wednesday,  seek  to build…

View original post 434 more words

It’s OK 2 Say Nope 2 Holidays + Pod 14: Dog Days + L. Brummet’s Leeks

extreme close-up of gingerbread cookie face.

Cool Doggie Days + Lillian Brummet’s Leeks Recipe Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Cooking #Veggies #Photography #Gardening #Pets #Dogs #MonarchButterflies #Butterflies #Recipes Hungry? Backyard fruits and veggies are the best. Lillian Brummet, a blogger from Canada who’s written many books, says hot weather means leek season. Here’s her recipe for “Leek n’ Mushroom Bundles.” What are you hungry for these days? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction 1:00 Today’s topic and about today’s guest 2:05 Lillian Brummet’s “Leek n’ Onion Bundles” recipe 4:18 My question for you 6:28 HBT outro Photos available at the blog version (H-E-R-E) of this show: Serendipitous photos of shadows and beautiful Los Angeles blue sky. Closeup of green onion flower. Lillian and Dave Brummet Links referred to in this episode: About the novels I'm writing. Video of K-D dog serenading. About monarch butterflies. A wild PBS video about monarch butterflies. Recipes by Khashayar for Happiness Between Tails: a great hot soup, a crunchy salad, a fruity dessert and a carrot cake, an entree, and this appetizer and this one. Lillian Brummet's site with info about her, including her books. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of “Video: Cool Doggie Days + Lillian Brummet’s Leeks Recipe,” which you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Close-up of gingerbread cookie face.

Wish the holidays would just go away? It’s okay to tell them to go away.

Holidays can be nice — and terrible! Family can bring us to our knees — both to swoon and to cringe. Romance can make our hearts flutter or seize.

From Halloween to New Year’s, at least here in the United States, we’re inundated 24/7 with messages of how this is the time for families and lovers. We’re instructed to either kiss, or to kiss and make up.

fullsizerender-5Sometimes none of that is possible or isn’t in our best interest.

Traditional or sacred, I invite you to join me in acknowledging that ignoring any special day is perfectly acceptable. Never, sometimes, always; we can give any number of them a rest, whenever we please.

What matters is that we do everything to get through them as best we can — whatever it takes to mark time, to survive, to thrive through and into gentle holiday-free January.

Do you ever prefer to ignore holidays?

Happy Persian New Year and we just got our 1st COVID-19 vaccines


Happy Persian New Year!

Note: I just got my 1st COVID vaccine, a Moderna, yesterday. I won’t lie — it’s knocked the stuffing out of me so I’ll keep this post brief. Make no mistake, as uncomfortable as I feel (achy, chills, fever, headache, poor sleep, which means my body is building protection, doing what it’s supposed to do), I most certainly will get my 2nd shot and totally recommend everyone get immunized.

Persians like my dear husband celebrate the Iranian New Year on the first day of spring. The celebration is two solid weeks of partying and time off from work, much like our winter holidays. Same as the European New Year, Nowrooz is a secular holiday. However some regard it also as a holy time.

No-rooz mobarak: Happy New Year
Eid-eh shoma mobarak: Happy New Year to you (formal)
No-rooz pirooz: Wishing you a prosperous New Year
Sad saal be in saal-ha: Wishing you 100 more Happy New Years

Here we stand before the “sofre” that Khashayar puts together annually. Items represent a plethora of auspicious things that start with the letter “s” (in Farsi, of course). Here and here when I posted earlier about it, you can find out more. What a delight to see that my local Ralph’s grocery store put out a sofre with detailed explanations.

Khashayar and da-AL standing before their Happy Persian New Year arrangement.
Khashayar and da-AL with their Happy Persian New Year spread.

And what would a holiday be without a cute little dog licking her lips at the sight of those tasty pastries?

Our doggie sits politely for pumpkin seeds.
Anyone got a pumpkin seed?

Have you been immunized against COVID-19 yet? If so, which brand did you get, and how were your first days, and later?…

Making Music Blind During Covid by Noé Socha: with videos

(Note: an audio/podcast version of this blog post is H-E-R-E.)

Musician Noé Socha.

“Even if my marriage is falling apart and my children are unhappy, there is still a part of me that says, ‘God, this is fascinating!’” — Ernest Hemingway

Noé Socha is a musician who’s life is absolutely not falling apart due to his being blind — and goddesses, his life is fascinating!

Got writing blues? Covid blues? The “when will the world learn that fear and hate aren’t the answers” blues? A couple of minutes with Noé’s guitar and harmonica will color them into rainbows.

CBS New York news interviewed him a couple of weeks ago.

I first learned of Noé thanks to Kenya Greaves, a friend I met through her work as an online writing tutor. She’s a great help with editing my novels. Watch Noé’s video below (one of many at his YouTube Blind Selfie channel) for Kenya’s appearance as a backup dancer.

Noé grew up in Carpi, Italy (a lovely place, which like my Los Angeles, knows earthquakes). Now he’s based out of Brooklyn, New York, where Covid first walloped the United States.

He’s released albums and garnered top awards from the Berklee College of Music and Billboard Magazine. In addition, he’s toured, performed, and recorded with artists including Nona Hendryx (Labelle), Vernon Reid (Living Color), and Grammy winners including Javier Limón and Paula Cole. Breedlove, an Oregon guitar manufacturer, added him to their stellar lineup of signature artists. The oldest harmonica manufacturer, Seydel, a German company founded in 1847, invited him to collaborate; here Noé demonstrates one of their harmonica holders on his Facebook page.

Even Mastercard has added him and his music to their “Something Priceless” roster.

Read on for his thoughts in his words about living creatively through Covid…

My Experience as a Blind Musician During Covid by Noé Socha

The beginning of Covid was very strange for me. I’m from Italy, so I saw all my friends going in full lockdown a couple of weeks before the states, but I still had performances every day until March 15. It was hard to stay focused, knowing how everything would have changed in a very short matter of time. I was questioning myself; I felt selfish taking all these chances, but I also felt like I couldn’t do any different.

I came back to NYC from PA on Monday, March 16, and I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing Times Square deserted at 9 PM. It didn’t seem real.

The next month or so was very challenging for me, I didn’t have any inspiration to play, people were dying and getting sick, it felt wrong to post music. All my musician friends were doing online streams, but nobody was making any money from them. Teaching guitar online was hard, I don’t feel I can help people very much without being able to touch their hands, and I can’t have close-up shots of myself. I also live alone, so I would go thirty plus days without seeing anyone. 

I decided to start posting again when I realized I was losing my chops on the instruments, I couldn’t let all the work I put into it go to waste, and I needed something to look forward to artistically. I take selfies with my phone. The shots may not be very good, but I thought it would be interesting and different to have a blind person videotaping himself. George Floyd’s homicide and all the people that spoke out and told their stories after that gave me even more motivation to use my artistry to stand in solidarity and support.

In the summer, the gigs came back, sort of. I was playing outside bars, on the sidewalks, for tips. It was very nice to see how eager people were for live music, but it was also stressful trying to respect social distancing. I found myself hesitating when I needed help getting places; I wasn’t sure how to get people’s attention without getting close to them, and I didn’t want to make anybody uncomfortable. I am fortunate to be able to use Access-A-Ride, so I didn’t have to take public transportation.

Now we’re back in lockdown, and it feels like we’re in March again. I keep posting my videos, hoping to increase my followers and inspire people. I’ve realized that it’s important to have something to keep us motivated, even if we don’t see many results. Persistence is key. If I get somewhere with the videos, I want to show that all the work and struggle we’re going through will be rewarded someday, in ways we didn’t necessarily predict.

Has Covid impacted your creativity?

Inner Critics: Meet Annie’s and mine

Charles Schultz, the creator of “Peanuts,” did other stuff besides that comic strip. It’s said he battled his own gang of gremlins. Lucy, the psychiatrist from hell, for one…
Charles Schultz, the creator of “Peanuts,” made other work besides that comic strip. It’s said he battled his own gang of gremlins. Lucy, the psychiatrist from hell, for one. (Peanuts image courtesy of pixy.org)

My inner monsters are the inner critics who attack me as I write my novels. Inner criticizing is just the beginning — they’re outer and everywhere. Mine barge in with droves of friends.

Have you got any? If not, how the heck do you pull that off?

I could list mine for days and days: Why you takin’ so long with them books you keep talkin’ ‘bout? Ya really gotta do that instead of this or those things or them stuff right now? Lookie here, there’s this to do that’s way more pressing and tons more fun! You’re wasting your time, so scrap that durned project already, just quit it. What in tarnation gave you the notion you could write anything of interest to anyone but you? People are just being polite when they compliment your work, don’t you know that? Who in their right mind will want to read your novels, much less spend hard-earned cash-ola on them? Seriously, if they do, they won’t finish them. And if they finish them, they won’t talk about them. For sure, if they talk about them, they won’t say anything nice. And promotion — you gotta be kidding me! — what do you know about that?

Some days, those are the nicer things I tell myself.

Read on, and you’ll see how Annie, a blogger from the United States east coast, makes perfect sense when she encourages us to name our inner critics.

Like my own name of da-AL, mine has a hyphenated moniker. “Them” goes by “A-Holes.”

How about you? What’s your inner demon(s) named? Maybe yours and mine could meet for drinks, get really plastered together, and meantime leave us alone for a spell?

More about today’s guest: Annie is a writer of many things, including poetry. In the past, she has even earned some real money from her writing! Here’s her advice — and a question for which I have no answer but send her lots of good wishes in solving it — for all of us. She blogs about whatever she pleases, including stuff that makes her and maybe us laugh…

Annie, a blogger and professional writer, gives her inner critic the one-two punch!
Annie, a blogger and professional writer, knows how to give her inner critic the one-two punch!

“My Attempts to Play Nice With My Inner Critic” by Annie

Whether or not you practice mindfulness meditation, as I have for several years, you are probably familiar with the voice known as the Inner Critic. It’s that part of us that says: “I’m such a dope!” “I’ll never be what I hope to be.” “How could I have done that?” “I just don’t measure up!” “My father/mother was right/wrong about me.” “Sure, I’m doing fine, but that’s because people really don’t know that I’m winging it.” “I’m not bright enough, attractive enough, witty enough, kind enough, tall enough, thin enough, tough enough, strong enough, sensitive enough, thoughtful enough…”

You get the picture. That negative voice has long been with us, often from childhood, from societal messages, maybe from a single cruel teacher, and on and on. I was raised by two loving parents. My mother felt I could do no wrong, but I still recall my father casting a questioning eye on my report card and asking: “What’s this A-minus?” 

The origins of the Inner Critic form a complex topic that I’m barely touching on here. But I know that I’m still the A student who goes nuts when autocorrect incorrectly changes “well” to “we’ll”—and I fail to catch it! Is that worth an iota of energy or distress? Of course not.

The Inner Critic certainly interferes with the goal of mindfulness coined by Jon Kabat-Zinn: “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” Nonjudgmentally, indeed!

Several years ago, I wrote an article about mindfulness for an online women’s magazine. One of my interviewees was Sharon Salzberg, a renowned mindfulness educator and author who cofounded the highly regarded Insight Meditation Society at Barre, Massachusetts with two other giants in the field.

Salzberg’s special area of interest is lovingkindness, which begins with one’s self and then extends outward in ever larger circles to loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and the entire world.

Salzberg, who has written that her childhood troubles started her on a path that led to Buddhism in India decades ago, said she is constantly aware of her Inner Critic. How to deal with this negativity? She suggests giving your Inner Critic a name.

She named hers Lucy, after the famous Charles Schulz comic character who tells her hapless friend: “The problem with you, Charlie Brown, is that you’re you.” I asked her if I could adopt Lucy, and she agreed.

But I soon realized that borrowing someone else’s inner critic doesn’t work. I needed my own. I named her “Flibberty,” which is short for “flibbertigibbet.” That’s a Middle English term for a flighty, excessively talkative person, a gossip.

One of the reasons I’m happy with Flibberty is that although she’s a pain in the gut (that’s where I experience stress), her name includes the word “liberty.” I know I must free myself from the heavy burdens that Flibberty sometimes bestows upon me. 

Mindfulness practitioners learn that you never try to fight with these negative forces; doing so simply enlarges their impact. Rather, you seek peaceful coexistence. When Flibberty rears her officious head, I say, “Oh, there you are, Flibberty. How ya doing?” That’s generally enough to move my mind into a better place.

Lately, however, perhaps because I’m essentially housebound due to COVID-19, Flibberty has been flitting about in my vicinity quite a bit. I’d call her a “FlitBit” who’s gauging my absence of activity, rather than the reverse, but then I’d be exposing my propensity for bad puns. I’d never want to do that!

Flibberty covets my desk. She tells me I’m being ridiculous, working in such a messy space. She laughs knowingly when my TV remote won’t work because the old New Yorker magazines are piled so high on the table in front of my couch that they block the signal.

Now here’s the tricky part, and I welcome your suggestions. I often write blog posts that require research, and I type them on my computer before cutting and pasting them into my blog. I then add the printouts of my collected newspaper and magazine articles—and my printed out computer entries—to the piles of previous papers that surround me.

The piles are increasing in both numbers and height. Some are approaching the tottering stage. 

Have you heard of the Collyer brothers, who hoarded books, newspapers, and other items to such an extent that when their bodies were found, they were surrounded by 140 tons of stuff? 

I haven’t reached that level, but I do wonder whether my Inner Critic’s reminders about what I’m failing to do with my papers might actually be positive after all. So I say, “OK, Flibberty, let’s attack this pile.”

I pick up a bunch of papers, look through them, wonder what to do with them, and set them aside. And then I tell Flibberty that I appreciate her concern, I really do, and I will get to them in good time.

I feel so much better. Flibberty is quiet.

But the piles are flourishing—testimony to my diligent work. And still…

If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, I might hire an organizer to help me through this mini-crisis. If I were bolder, I could just throw all the papers into the shredder and move on. (Never mind, Flibberty; forget what I said about being bolder.) 

And thereby hangs my dilemma. Can you, kind readers, presumably some of whom are better organized than I, provide some common-sense suggestions concerning what I do and do not need to keep for posterity? I want to ensure that the contents of my blog are intact as a legacy for my family.

Or will you encourage me to just say, “Screw it, Flibberty. We’re doing fine. We can both relax.”

In other words, am I using Flibberty as a balm—or an excuse?

Flibberty and disorder notwithstanding, my wish is that you, we, and the entire world be filled with lovingkindness…

Annie

How about you? Got an inner critic to comment on below?…

DIY Heaven by da-AL

Photo of my Cousin Ana's new rooster.
Cousin Ana’s Roco: Ro + Co = “rojo” (Spanish for “red”) + “colorado” (Spanish for “colored red”).

What if, despite what some writers and books tell us, there’s no afterlife? But there’s still a heaven, yet it’s one we make right here, right now. Better yet, what if it doesn’t take much to create? If easy micro-kindnesses wend far and meander back to us?

The holidays are upon us. It’s definitely not my favorite season. Not at all. It’s contrived; there’s so much expectation, manipulation…

Yet this last week turned me mushy. Not in the faux sentimental way depicted on TV and billboards targeting us to spend, spend, spend. It’s not by chance that Xmas decorations look sad in daylight. Ugh, these two months can really get on my nerves.

Back to mushiness. Years ago, when a sweet friend was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, another great friend and I pledged to do a walkathon for MS. One of those where we collected donations in advance of all the miles we planned to walk.

Walkathon day came… and… what can I say other than, the truth is not pretty? It was hot and crowded and yucky, and that was while we searched for parking. The two of us ate our sandwiches in the car and promptly drove home. Sans walking, we mailed in the monies. In my case, I’d amassed a few hundred dollars over just an hour or so of cubicle-hopping around the ad agency I temped for.

What’s stayed with me is how out of the thirty or so people I begged (please don’t ask me to attempt math here), most gave anywhere from a few to twenty dollars. A little pitched in by each person within a bunch added up very quickly!

Another personal story of how one small gesture can ripple wide, this one recent

Last April, a friend mentioned she’d begun foster parenting. It was the start of Los Angeles’ quarantine, and Covid-19 was creating a worse need than ever for people to take care of kids. (Note to self: when I am Goddess of the Universe in my next life, foster parents automatically get express tickets to heaven.) For anyone who isn’t aware, the 24/7/365 job requires half a year to get certified and pays heck, as this foster parent reveals.

My friend is Wonder Woman when it comes to embracing all that life presents. A devoted mother, wife, business owner, daughter, and more, she and her husband are now fostering an adorable baby girl with health issues and a super charming little boy with challenges too. When I mentioned to my husband what she was doing, he decided to knock on the doors of several of our neighbors who have kids. He requested whatever hand-me-downs they could spare and Voila! Over two weeks, even the friends’ friends contributed to what became quite a heap of helpful kid things!

Further confirmation that our little gestures can create a positive groundswell was in my local newspaper a couple of days ago

(And by the way, this also shows why local news is a necessity, not a luxury. Every city would benefit greatly to have a news outlet of its own.) Turns out the good deeds of a man living on the street have given rise to much more goodness. As you’ll see in this article about him, as well as this one that includes a video link, generosity small and large boomerangs all over the place and continues to add up to a whole lot of fabulous! The comments on the GoFundMe page that Bruce De Mille put together are beyond heart-melting.

All this leads me to explain these delightful pictures

Any little stray dog or innocent chick who meets my Cousin Ana has hit the sweetness jackpot! Her house is t-h-e place to go to be safe, sound, and never eaten…

Cousin Ana's chicken, Pepa, was 11 when she passed away not too long ago...
Cousin Ana’s chicken, Pepa, is 11 years young…

 

When Pepa was gone, Cousin Ana got 5 baby chicks. Here they are, 3 months old now! Surprise, one is another rooster...
When Pepa was gone, Cousin Ana got 5 baby chicks. Here they are, 3 months old now! Surprise, one is another rooster…

 

Cousin Ana's is heaven for needy little dogs! (L-R) Here's Tiky, Albert, Bella, Nike, Beethoven, Charlie. The last ones are brothers and sister.
Cousin Ana’s is heaven for needy little dogs! (L-R) Here’s Tiky, Albert, Bella, Nike, Beethoven, Charlie. The last ones are brothers and sister.

 

Beethoven loves modeling whatever Cousin Ana knits.
Beethoven loves modeling whatever Cousin Ana knits.

 

Here's Cousin Ana's Albert, on his way home from the groomer's.
Here’s Cousin Ana’s Albert, on his way home from the groomer’s.

When I try to be kind or when I see others being nice, I feel safer and happier — like heaven is here, right now.

How do you create your own heaven?