Gender Vid + Beaman’s 7 Memoir Tips + Pod 11: Girl Scouts Trans Allies

Writer/blogger/memoirist Marian Beaman.
Writer/blogger/memoirist Marian Beaman.

Transgender Rights, Coyotes, Girl Scouts, and Gaslighting Happiness Between Tails

#Transgender #Coyotes #Coyotes #GirlScouts #Gaslighting (Thanks for the photo, Magda Ehlers from Pexels) Girl Scouts turned away a $100,000 donation because the money came with a stipulation that the organization wouldn’t be allowed to help anyone who is transgender — better still, they collected $250,000 from people who were overjoyed by their integrity! In this interview, a couple of scouts work hard for their community… Growing up, did you join youth groups? How many homes did you reside in and schools did you attend? Speaking your truth combats gaslighting.  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. Links for this episode: Happiness Between Tails blog post with the links below, plus photos of the telephone pole sign the girl scouts made, and a screenshot of their website. The Coyote Crew Wikipedia’s overview of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Video of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt addressing Girl Scouts in 1937. List of vintage Girl Scouts TV commercials on Youtube. Back in 2002, the Girl Scouts aired this ad of a sassy young girl putting her dad in his place. A clever 1976 TV commercial for the Girl Scouts. Time Stamps (where segments begin): 1) Happiness Between Tails intro 2) da-AL chats about today’s topic and a little about today’s guests 2:00 3) Girl Scouts guests, Ava and Jamie 5:30 4) This episode’s question with info on how to comment and learn more about Jamie, Ava, and da-AL 12 — 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 audio show is the audio version of “Ableism: Discrimination Against Disabled People by The Wheelchair Teen,” which you can read the text version of H-E-R-E. (This show has a new graphic to reflect that it’s shortened from an earlier version that included information that’s become outdated. Anchor’s tools make editing easy!) 

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 and Google Podcasts and Breaker, to Pocket Casts and RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

  • By the way, check out T-H-I-S end-of-the-year round up video that Spotify just sent me about my podcast.

I go by she/her. What pronouns do you go by? It’s as simple as that. Any writer (I’m working on a couple of novels) and reader knows words are important…

Don’t let fear of unintentionally offending others keep you from interacting. Whether that person goes by they/them, he/him, ne/nem, or prefers not to be referred to by gender at all, it’s always appropriate to ask.

Thanks to the Los Angeles Public Library, this video simplifies pronouns:

Ever worry that your voice doesn’t need to be heard or that it’s too late to start your dream? Writing takes imagination — and courage! It helps to meet writers who have been our shoes yet still pushed ahead to success, such as Marian Beaman. (Also, H-E-R-E’s the site where, for free, I separated her face from the background) …

Author blogger Marian Beaman’s childhood was as a Pennsylvania Mennoite, who are also known as “plain people.” She went on to a career as a college professor, and now writes books from her home in Jacksonville, Florida. Visit her blog for more about her, her other social media, and links to her books. Here she invites us to glimpse her writing process and offers seven tips for memoire writing.

Writer Marian Beaman stands in front of a bookshop window featuring her book, "Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl."
Writer Marian Beaman stands in front of a bookshop window featuring her book, “Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl.”

How Writing Memoir is like Riding a Train by Marian Beaman

Trains take me back to grade school, evoking the fondest of memories, like this one.

My friend Wayne and I paused in our play in the woods during summer vacation. We waited for the dusty, black engine to emerge from the heat haze around the feed mill on the edge of our village. The slight curve of the train’s coal cars behind it cut a path beyond the trees. We sprinted to get a closer look and then stopped in our tracks, observing the slow, rhythmic bursts of the steam engine pulling toward us from the east. To us, the Pennsylvania Railroad train was more than a space on the Monopoly board.

Other snapshots of train travel spring from my memory, all in the present tense:

  • My Aunt Ruthie Longenecker takes my sisters and me to Philadelphia, my first recollection of a train trip. I feel the rocking motion of the Pennsylvania Railroad train car we occupy, the clickety-clack of the wheels on the rails, and the prize of the big city zoo at the end of the trip: lions and tigers and elephants, oh my!
  • When I pick plump, red raspberries with Grandma Longenecker, I hear the train’s clatter-clack over segments of track speeding from Lancaster to Harrisburg. With our round aluminum kettles laden with berries and handles that cut into the palms of our hands, we stand just 50 yards from the track, gazing in awe and feeling the vibration of the passing train through our shoes.
  • I travel with Aunt Ruthie to Temple University, taking the train from Lancaster to Philadelphia. We feel the rocking rhythm of the train when it slows and stops as the conductor calls out “Coatesville, Downingtown, Paoli” before we reach our destination at the 30th street station in Philly. 

The train trip from Lancaster to Philadelphia was not an express train. It made 5-6 stops on the 80-mile route from the countryside of Pennsylvania to the big city. By fits and starts, we made the journey in time for our 9:00 a.m. classes at Temple University. Same on the return trip. Slowing down and starting up again got us to and from our destination. All in good time.

It strikes me that writing novels, memoirs or other non-fiction is much like train travel. Lots of pausing, stopping, but sometimes even joyfully going full throttle through the countryside. The most important part of the plan: Staying on track. 

Here’s how I followed my unique route, writing my memoir, “Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl”:

Memoir Lesson 1

Be prepared to spend at least a year, or even five years to complete your book. Simply put: It takes as long as it takes. Writing is certainly rewarding, but learning a new skill (as I did) can be hard. I had done plenty of writing as an academic, but switching to a new genre like memoir required a totally different skillset. I took two family history writing classes to prepare. You? Start somewhere. Doodle or write poetry. Write prose in a journal. Begin a blog. 

Memoir Lesson 2

A memoir is a slice of your life, not a biography. Ask yourself some serious questions: What part of your life will you depict–-scenes from your childhood, a traumatic experience, a thrilling adventure like sailing around the world? Can you sketch out this “slice of life” in a series of memorable moments? Write an outline? Scribble random thoughts on colored sticky notes? Draw turning points on a timeline? 

Memoir Lesson 3

What is your theme? If it’s success after a failed first marriage, that controlling idea will be the filter through which you tell your story. Flashbacks can add dimension to writing, but only if these stories connect to your theme. I enjoy cooking, but  I don’t open up the spice cabinet or pull down everything from my dry ingredients’ shelves and dump them into the bowl. I have to be selective. Just so, you can’t tell every story that happened in your life. Select scenes to fit your theme.

Memoir Lesson 4

Memoir writing, like fiction, requires a series of steps. Here are a few: writing multiple drafts, revising, revising (Did I say revising?), and deciding whether you want to pursue traditional publishing or independent publishing. If you self-publish, as I did, I had to find beta readers for early drafts (often author friends with whom I reciprocated the favor), searched for a developmental editor, copyeditor and proofreader. A helpful tip: I looked on the acknowledgements page of authors whose books I admired and found one wonderful editor there.  

Memoir Lesson 5

Super important: Read what you’ve written aloud occasionally. Train trips engage the senses. Invite your readers to be your seat mate on the ride. Help them escape into your world. Slow down the narrative as you let them see the view from the window. Help them feel the rocking motion as the train speeds along. Let them hear the sound of wheels on the rails. Listen to strangers carry on conversations around you: making unobtrusive notes may help you write realistic dialogue later on.

Memoir Lesson 6

Plan for publication. I began blogging six years before my book hit the shelves. It’s never too early to establish yourself as a writer. From the beginning, my blog posts appeared on Facebook and Twitter. Instagram has been also a great place to share fun stuff. Personal relationships too are very important and so rewarding.  I found rekindled friendships and connections to author friends invaluable as I organized my book launch and marketing.

Memoir Lesson 7

Take breaks. The train to Philadelphia made frequent tops. At some of the stops, I got up from my seat, went to the restroom, or walked up and down the aisle. Sometimes en route, I stopped reading my textbook and just gazed out of the train window. I enjoy reading, so sometimes my break was reading an entertaining book. Like the cadence of clack-clack on train tracks, the rhythm of someone else’s words refreshed my mind.

And finally, “Celebrate!”

Be sure to party along the way, not just when you hold that newly minted book in your hands, but other times too: Finishing your first draft, receiving a compliment from an early reader, picking a title, approving your cover design. Enjoy the entire ride!

Do you fear it’s too late to pursue your dreams?

Hair Coloring 4 Men and All + Pod10 What’s Ableism? by Wheelchair Teen

Ableism: Discrimination Against Disabled People by The Wheelchair Teen Happiness Between Tails

#Ableism #Disability #Teens #Blogging #Girls #Black #Media #InspirationPorn Inspiration porn: How much do you know about real, everyday people with disabilities? Do you see them praised for doing basically nothing? What do you think about media depictions of disabled people? Comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Ableism: Discrimination Against Disabled People by The Wheelchair Teen 1:55 My question for you 12:50 HBT outro Links referred to in this episode: Happiness Between Tails blog post for this episode. The Wheelchair Teen – My life as a black, disabled teenager. The Wheelchair Teen’s research citation Photos available at the blog version of this show: The Wheelchair Teen in her wheelchair, her wheels, giving a presentation about disabilities to children at a primary school, with her hand over her mouth and the words: “Stop stifling disabled voices in media” on them, and The Disabled Teen having fun in front of a carnival wall. Artwork for a disabled character she created for a comic. — 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 audio show is the audio version of “Ableism: Discrimination Against Disabled People by The Wheelchair Teen,” 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 Spotify and Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts and Breaker, to Pocket Casts and RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Strong + flexible + tough + soft = healthy looking hair.

A dear friend recently complimented me on my hair and requested I do a blog post on hair coloring for men. I’m not a man and my husband doesn’t die his hair, but hair is hair, right? And after all, any novelist (H-E-R-E’s about the books I’m working on) worth their salt can imagine, no?

In my late teens, I hated my straight hair so much that I permed it. When my hair turned into something that looked like a cheap wig, I spent the next 10 years trying to fix it with chemical treatments that all looked like hell, hell, and more hell.

Enter color! It took a while to get the hang of, but when at long last I did, my hair became something other than either limp and greasy or fried and broken. Henna in particular gives it body and shine, and nourishes the hair and scalp.

Regardless of the type of hair, the way to avoid breakage and dullness is to steer clear of toxic chemicals (I try not to put anything on my scalp and skin that would kill me if I ate it) and heat. That means keeping to a minimum stuff like hairdryers and products with strong chemicals (the scalp takes in whatever we put on it almost as readily as our mouth membrane), including ammonia, peroxide, and alcohol. Sprays of any kind are iffy because they usually include alcohol. Moreover, they’re not so great for the lungs.

Buyer beware: “natural” doesn’t always mean what it should, so read the ingredients. T-H-I-S site lists a bunch of places where you can analyze beauty products. Products don’t have to be pricey to be healthy.

Scalp and root care are as important as hair care. Our scalps easily absorb whatever we apply. Don’t over-stress follicles with excessive massaging and brushing.

  • Hair is weakest and stretchiest when it’s wet, so gently comb it with a wide-toothed comb. If it’s too tangly to manage, detangling sprays can help.
  • Warm to cool water, not hot, helps immensely. Think fluffy wintry cats and dogs, versus short haired ones that live in hotter climes.

Many men, of course at all, have shorter hair. If one ruins short hair, it grows out relatively quickly. Keep in mind that the longer one’s hair is, the more pummeling it gets when mistreated.

Hair Repair: Olive Oil

Lots of oils and conditioners are out there, but olive oil works wonders for me. Once a week or so, first thing in the morning, I don grubby clothes that I don’t mind getting stained, slather it on, then I go about my business (as long as it’s not the kind of business where I need to look presentable) for a couple of hours. It soaks in while I eat breakfast, write, clean my house, and talk on the phone. Then I shampoo it out.

Conditioner is also great for mending hair and can be used in place of shampoo.

Dyes in General

  • What color to choose if you want to stay close to natural and are only covering grays or roots? To avoid looking artificial, first try a shade slightly lighter than your darkest strands. It’s easier and gentler to hair to darker over a mistakes than it is to go lighter, which is quite involved and can be damaging.

Everything requires gloves. Get any on your fingernails and be prepared to have to grow that tint out. Try to keep as much of them off your hairline so you don’t stain your face (some dyes stain worse than others). Many people apply a thick oil like vaseline to prevent their foreheads from getting marked.

I’ve dabbled with semi-permanent and permanent dyes. Again, read their ingredients or you’ll wind up with awful hair. Application for both is the usually same, always marked on their boxes: in a nutshell, leave it on for roughly 20 minutes, then wash it out.

Coloring: Root Touchups

These are meant more for covering what shows, i.e. temples and where you part your hair. They wash out immediately and come in many forms: sprays, crayons, powders, and mascaras. Check customer reviews so you don’t wind up one that rubs off onto hands and pillow cases.

Spray: A dear one recently mentioned they were wearing a spray. Even after they showed me, I couldn’t tell at all!

Semi-Permanent Dye

These are less likely to include harsh ingredients like ammonia, though read the ingredients. Depending on brand, color, and frequency used, they wash out in anywhere from a week to a couple of months. As a result, it’s easier to go back to natural, if that’s what you want. They fade gradually, as opposed to needing to be grown out, and the contrast between dyed hair and undyed roots is lessened.

By the way, semi-permanent tints also come as “coloring shampoos.” For the sake of this post, I tried two. Neither deposited any color I could see, though maybe it was just the type of hair I have? Worse, though, the one supposedly for men and with added conditioner made my scalp burn. When I shampooed the following day, after doing my best the following morning to make up for the abuse by applying olive oil and letting it sink in for several hours, there were quite a few more hairs than usual in my drain.

** NOTE: anything that results in hair loss and/or the sensation of burning and/or itching are to be avoided at all costs. Remember, scalp health is paramount.

Permanent Dyes

These last longer, but depending on the brand (read the ingredients), they’re harder on the hair. Also, growing them out involves sporting the zebra look.

Natural Dyes: What I Use

Basic henna is what I use. Henna, a.k.a. lawsonia inermis, is powdered tree leaves. It’s cheap and I have yet to find that one brand is superior to another, so don’t be fooled by the expensive varieties. You can buy it by the box at most Indian and International grocery stores, or online in bigger bags, like I do.

If the package of henna doesn’t say only “natural henna” and lists a variety of colors, it has other stuff added to it. Beware that often those are as chemical-laden as commercial dyes.

Bulk packages of cream of tartar, indigo, and henna can save you a lot of money.

Basic henna is a greenish powder that dyes coppery and translucent, meaning it shows the color of the hair beneath it, same as water colors reveal the color of papers they’re applied to. They stain coppery orange, as you can see H-E-R-E. The lighter the hair, the brighter the result. To tone down the orangy red, I continually experiment with adding stuff to it, which I’ll get to later.

It helps to keep dying powders in recycled jars.

The more frequently henna is applied, the richer and more permanent the color deepens. Hairdressers often warn against using it, because it can’t be bleached out if you don’t like it, though you can apply a darker dye over it.

Photo of henna powder.
Henna powder is green but dyes reddish orange.

The night before, I mix henna powder with olive oil (or inexpensive natural conditioner) and water. For my length of hair, I use four ounces of henna, one cup of cool (not hot) water, and roughly 2 tablespoons of olive oil. (From what I’ve read, unrefrigerated henna keeps its dying strength up to 12 hours.)

The trick is to stir in whatever liquid incrementally, so you can add enough that it’s not overly thick and stop before it’s too runny. You’ll be leaving it on your hair for a couple of hours, so you don’t want it driving you crazy by running down your neck and spilling into your eyes. Conversely, you don’t want it so pasty that you can’t spread it down to your roots.

Cover it and let it sit overnight. The dye is said to be “released,” when it turns extra dark in places. The next morning, scrape the sides of whatever container you use and give everything an extra stir.

Henna paste in an iron pot.
Henna gets darker in an iron pot.

Using an iron pot darkens henna, which is why I use this one intended for Korean cookery. The plastic shower cap I later use on my head protects the charming wooden lid, even though I use this pot only for henna.

Photo of reused gloves, plastic wrap, clothes pins.
Reusable gloves, plastic wrap, clothes pins, and tape come in handy.

Henna Add-Ins

To help it take better hold, I stir in a bit of acid, like lemon juice vinegar, or cream of tartar, which I buy in bulk at a fraction of the cost of small grocery store shakers.

Photo of cream of tartar powder.
Cream of tartar added into henna helps the color to grab into hair.

Eucalyptus oil is said to stimulate hair growth. So are rosemary and thyme.

To offset the orange color, sometimes I add a couple tablespoons of cheap instant coffee granules (no need to waste the good stuff).

I haven’t tried it, but some people dye their hair simply by mixing instant coffee granules with conditioner, no henna, and letting that sink in.

Indigo

This greenish powder from T-H-E-S-E leaves dyes blue-black. It was used to color the first jeans. It’s great for dampening the reddish hue of henna.

Photo of indigo powder.
Indigo powder dyes blue-black.

Indigo requires 10-20 minutes to get wet, but if you wait a lot longer, it loses its coloring ability.

First thing the following morning, I heap a couple of mounded tablespoons of indigo into a separate container. Sometimes I just stir it directly into the henna, but I think it stains better with this extra step. Dyes stain, so using plastic containers, like clean empties from yogurt, is a great way to recycle.

Photo of indigo paste.
Indigo paste mixed with olive oil takes 10-20 minutes to set.

Applying the Henna Treatment

Wear something dark enough to not show stains and grubby enough to not bother you if it does stain.

In the bathroom, where I have enough mirrors to see the back of my head, I clothespin old bedsheets that I use as drop-cloths to prevent staining walls and floors. (Any messes that happen anyway are easily removed with a couple of drops of bleach.)

Photo of old sheets pinned around bathroom as drop cloths.
Old sheets make great drop cloths.

Dampening hair beforehand (I spray mine with a conditioning detangler) enables the henna to slide on easier and more thoroughly down the the roots.

Gloves on, I massage the henna into my scalp and through my hair. Then I cover it with the cheapest shower cap I can purchase in bulk. Wrapping keeps the henna moist and prevents brown smears on every wall I pass. For good measure, I tightly wrap a length of plastic wrap around my hairline and tape down the end to keep it from unraveling. With the protective film on, I continue to press the henna down to ensure it nourishes my scalp as it works.

Two hours or more later (I hear some people keep on henna overnight, though I haven’t tried it), after I’ve eaten breakfast, cleaned the house, done some writing, texted friends, etc., I’m ready to wash it out.

Rather than shampoo, I use conditioner, working it in and rinsing it twice, similar to how I use shampoo. For the sake of conditioning, though, I let the second application soak for several minutes. Then I rinse it in cool water until the water runs clear.

Use a darker towel to dry your hair, so you don’t have to worry about stains.

If you can help it, don’t shampoo for at least a couple of days, for the color to intensify over time.

Comment or leave a question and I’ll use it to update this blog post.

3 Blog and Pod Tricks + Pod 8: Dwayne Sharpe’s Sci-Fi

Photo of K-D-doggie giving da-AL a sloppy kiss.

1st podcast!! + D. Sharpe’s Sci-Fi “Another Day in the Twilight Zone” Happiness Between Tails

#ShortStories #Podcasting #Novels #WritingLife #Authors #Drama This very first experimental installment premiered during the early days of the first COVID-19 lockdown in Los Angeles. First it discusses podcasting, then Dwayne Sharpe reads his sci-fi short story, “Another Day in the Twilight Zone.” As always, I welcome your insights and questions. Record them at my Anchor site — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Links referred to in this episode: Video version of this episode. Blog post with this episode in text form. This episode first resided here at Podbean, a podcast host. A Happiness Between Tails blog post where I sing public library praises and another one here. A video with my honey and a super cute baby chick in New Zealand, and this amazing cat video I made in Spain. Get Dwayne Sharpe’s books, "Thomas' 100 Cat Tales” and “Blaze Mysteries,” here. He also enjoys geocaching, which you can learn about here and here.) Los Angeles County Library Virtual writing groups offered through Shut Up & Write. Photos available at the blog version of this show: Dwayne Sharpe, the cover of his book, “Thomas’ 100 Cat Tales,” and the cover of another of his books “Blaze Mysteries.” Time Stamps (where segments begin): 1) Happiness Between Tails intro 2) Background info about today’s show 1:09 3) How I started this show and about today’s guest 1:59 4) Dwayne Sharpe's Sci-Fi, "Another Day in the Twilight Zone” 4:49 5) Happiness Between Tails outro 7:53 — 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 show is the audio version of an earlier post. There’s a video version of it H-E-R-E (and at the end of this post) — and a text version of it 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 Spotify and Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts and Breaker, to Pocket Casts and RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher, plus many more and an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

1. Getting the word out about Happiness Between Tails Podcast takes time away from writing my novels. Rather than worry I’ll never get my books done, I remind myself this stretch of learning is an investment for when I’m ready to produce serialized audio drama versions for the novels.

To that end, it occurred to me — duh, after all this time lol — that while Happiness Between Tails is meant to be a play on “tales” as well as “tails,” only the wag-able kind is represented in this site’s photo. A few days ago, I was feeling rather under-the-weather pasty, but hey, my hair was clean and brushed. Time to set aside excuses and dust off the selfie stick. The new masthead and the photo below are the results. The books? There’s a pile of them on my lap, but they kept sliding, so the book stamped onto my shirt must suffice.

2. Do you have business cards? Does anyone use them? I dunno, but it seems like the thing to have “just in case” if one is to be in business, so here’s mine. The two versions are because I discovered sites like t-h-i-s o-n-e that offer free QR codes. Who knew COVID would bring them back in style?

Screenshot of da-AL's business cards.

3. Podcasting and some lingo: It’s one thing to have a hosting site, like AnchorFM, where one’s podcast lives. “Directories” are also needed to get it into listeners’ smartphones and desktops of various operating systems, and such. For weeks I’ve researched “directories,” among them Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pandora, and so on — they’re the apps and sites that catalog and feature podcasts.

It would be impossible to get onto all the zillions that exist, so I just did my best and now I’m done, at least for now. Take a look at the list, not merely for to know where to listen, but to copy for when you submit your own podcast to directories.

The extended list of directories and other pertinent links are H-E-R-E at Linktree. It’s a site where, among other things, multiple links can be simultaneously funneled into a “master link.” A click of the screenshot below will also take you there…

Screenshot of Happiness Between Tails at LinkTree.
All Happiness Between Tails links are listed and scroll-tap-click-able at LinkTree.

Time-saving Linktree tip: before adding links there, first organize them in another document. Then drop them into Linktree starting with the last one. The last one loaded lands at the top.

Back to today’s podcast — here’s a video version of it…

Dwayne Sharpe submitted the story when Los Angeles was first quarantined, so… 

When you first heard about COVID, how did you think your life would be impacted?

COVID, Friendship, Writing, and Books: We’re better

It’s official — as of yesterday, I can smell the cinnamon in my oatmeal and taste hot chocolate — hurrah! Smelling flowers is uplifting — but no longer worrying that I could be snuffed out by toxic air or spoiled food? — mega-hallelujah!

Senses, mwah and mwah! Please don’t ever leave me again! Here’s to hoping that a benefit of COVID will be more research spent to help all who have limited abilities to smell or taste…

Illness is dreadful, but now that I’m securely on the other end of it, I see it provided me some upsides. For one thing, it’s reminded me how beyond-lottery-winner-fortunate I’ve always been in regards to wonderful friends — and that includes you, dear reader. Most strangers are merely people we haven’t yet had the opportunity to become friends with, no?

Besides appreciating the kindness of pals and soon-pals, I wish I could say I completed extensive writing on my “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat” novels, but my writing energy was nowhere to be found.

However, sitting and lying about  enabled me to do some reading. Without revealing plot points, here are my reviews of four books I’ve just finished. When I review books I appreciate, I notify the authors. Occasionally they email me back 🙂

Cover of "Earthlings" by Sayaka Murata

Earthlings: A Novel by Sayaka Murata

Pardon the gray matter, but my brain just exploded. This book is like nothing I’ve ever read before — and I read a lot of books and genres.

Picture Sayaka Murata’s earlier book, “Convenience Store Woman,” as a string of firecrackers that cleverly illuminates how soul-sucking capitalism can be. “Earthlings” is akin to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when 80,000 people vanished in the blink of an eye and 200,000 mostly civilians perished.

Equal parts sci-fi, reality, magical realism, comedy, horror, satire, and gore, she says this is her other-worldly response to a Japanese health minister’s announcement. In 2007, he said, “The number of women aged between 15 and 50 is fixed. Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can do is ask them to do their best per head … although it may not be so appropriate to call them machines.”

Granted, there are beaucoup reasons “Earthlings” isn’t for everyone — but I have no time for those who’re simply offended that the story isn’t as cutesy as the iconically Japanese cover. The same goes for reviewers who lament the dearth of “likable” characters. For Murata, no one is all-good or all-bad, and no gender or age has it easy. Surely when Murata named an essential character “Yuu,” she knew the meaning of “you” in English.

Cover of "Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends" by Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano

Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends by Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano

This is a wise and chatty culmination of what the authors learned as co-hosts of their “Friendshipping” podcast. Their mantra: “Friendship is a skill.” Indeed, it’s one that merits continual honing, for which they offer great suggestions.

Cover of "The Listening Path: the Creative Art of Attention" by Julia Cameron

The Listening Path: the Creative Art of Attention by Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron’s 12-week manual, “The Artist’s Way: a Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” is ultra groundbreaking to creatives of any ilk. Each non-fiction book Cameron has published since then reiterates much of her original teachings — but for me, the repetition often works. This newest text is a 6-week DIY course that emphasizes the value of listening to each other, our environment, and ourselves.

Cover of "The 90-Day Novel" by Alan Watt

The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within by Alan Watt

Good chance Julia Cameron fans will enjoy this, given that there are a few similarities. If Cameron doesn’t resonate, you still may find this bread-crumbs/inside-to-out writing approach useful.

Are you reading or writing lately?

27 Blog Tips, Word Fun, & More by da-AL

Are you sprouting something new under your mask?

Are you sprouting something new under your mask?
Are you sprouting something new under your mask?

  1. Grooming or the lack of it under our anti-COVID masks.
  2. Words so special to a country that we borrow theirs, such as “Schadenfreude.”
  3. Blogging tips.

What do they have in common? They’re among the activities that have unexpectedly cropped up since we’ve been sheltering-in-place.

  • Hair: Some friends are letting theirs grow. Others have shaved their scalps. A bunch are letting their color and texture go natural.

This friend's working-from-home mustache looks so cool! I had to grow one my own!
This friend’s working-from-home mustache looks so cool! I had to grow one my own!

  • Authors are digging into writing and stats show that readers are reading for fun again. That’s how I discovered “Schadenfreude.” It’s an English noun borrowed from two German words, Schaden ‘harm’ and Freude ‘joy.’ Combined, they refer to pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.

On my Facebook page, I invited friends to riff on “Schadenfreude”…

Pam Christmas: I enjoy singing it to the tune of Danke Schoen. Schadenfreude, darling, schadenfreude. A favorite word and feeling.

Angela L Brown: Holy crap! Did that dude who keeps yelling about my dogs just get bit by his own?! Schadenfreude, sucka!

Stella B. Katz: Here’s a GREAT example of what Yuman is feeling. My Yuman will be experiencing Schadenfreude when Drumpf loses in November.

Chrys Mumma: I hope when I experience schadenfreude, that I recognize it as hateful.

Robb Fulcher: Carl Jung surpassing his former mentor gave me Sigmund Schadenfreude.

Tao Walker: I cannot help but have this feeling of schadenfreude over the Jerry Falwell Jr. scandal.

Bonnie Noble Pacego: Lily felt schadenfreude when she secretly found the loot the robber dropped as he fled the bank!

Beth Pottiger Gorman: The schadenfreude on Johnny’s face was obvious when he found the baseball someone else left lay.

Corky Anderson: Rump = Schadenfreude “joy at the misfortune of another.”

John Saffery’s link here.

Carol Snyder Jarvela: I prefer the southern belle term “mean bitch thrill.” It’s easier to spell and is self-explanatory.

Peter Basson: Me and my friend, Sigmund, were very hot so we stood in the schadenfreude.

Susan Sobon: Trump is a master of schadenfreude.

  • Lastly, people are doing more blogging, vlogging, and podcasting!

I listed some of what I’ve learned about blogging in a prior post. In no particular order, here are more tips I’ve gathered while working on my own blog and visiting other sites. Feel free to add your own insights in the comments section.

  1. Nothing detracts from a post as much as poor writing. The software that comes with a word processor isn’t enough. Fortunately, lots of useful apps like Grammarly have decent free versions.
  2. Reading aloud helps tremendously. Sometimes I even have my word processor read to me. That way, I can hear how my writing sounds without my own inflections.
  3. Finding an empty ‘about’ page feels like maybe there isn’t a real person managing the site. And when there’s no photo, I hope the blogger isn’t worried that their looks will frighten people.
  4. It doesn’t take much to keep a site’s background theme from looking cookie-cutter by adding photos and changing colors.
  5. Composing a post: sometimes WordPress leaves important messages in the right column.
  6. Ideas are precious. I capture mine by texting myself or jotting them into the notes section of my smartphone.
  7. Before publishing a post, I check how it looks on a smartphone, desktop, and tablet. Sometimes I need to replace a photo and break up my text more.
  8. Dimensions for photos: this is a fabulous link.
  9. Featured photos: a) make sure to select one, and b) lately, I’ve noticed that people who’re successful on social media add text to their main pictures. Canva’s free version does an adequate job.
  10. My workspace: desk clutter saps my creativity and efficiency. I try to keep only what I’m working on in front of me, and every night I tidy up.
  11. Sound: A fan, such as the one inside my compact space heater, is impressive at muting noise pollution.
  12. SEO, a.k.a. “search engine optimization”: to help get at the top of internet searches, use keywords in post headings and first sentences.
  13. Heading: again for SEO, keep them 70 characters or shorter.
  14. Categories: select less than ten.
  15. Tags: five is plenty.
  16. Visitors enjoy interacting with their fave bloggers. Ask readers to subscribe and share. End posts with something they can comment on.
  17. Invite visitors to look around your site by linking posts to other posts.
  18. Images: only use ones you have legal rights for (royalty-free is fab) and always credit where you got them from.
  19. Befriend other sites like yours — visit, comment, link, and meet their fans.
  20. Reblogs are lovely—and even nicer when introduced with comments of your own. Add your thoughts when you click “reblog” or later within your site’s editor.
  21. Composing Posts: Begin them with a sense of where you’re going, and conclude them with a quick review.
  22. It takes time and care (a.k.a. love) to compose a blog post that’s worth reading.
  23. Good writing is all about rewriting. Let a post sit, then review it a couple of hours later or the next day.
  24. Continually study how to use social media more effectively.
  25. Hosting: Self-hosting works for some. In my case, I use WordPress dot com and find that having them host my site is inexpensive and easy. Also, most of my followers come to me via the WordPress Reader, which I don’t think is available on self-hosted.
  26. It’s never too early to start collecting an email list — ugh! — in my case, I’m learning this far too late, so I’m now researching how best to start mine.
  27. WordPress Editor: Frustrated by WordPress’ block editor? I still mostly use Classic and here I explain how.

Let me know how you like my first attempt at adding a poll…

 

What tips have you learned? If you’re using self-hosted WordPress dot org, do you have a way to get your posts listed on the WordPress Reader?

WordPress Classic vs. Block Editor Blog How-To by da-AL

Photo of da-AL asking whether you prefer WordPress Classic or Block Editor.

Readers and writers alike, happy blogging! If you publish your blog from your phone, I hold you in the highest esteem — you’re one heck of a dedicated blogger!

As for me, I have the luxury of blogging from a desktop computer, a 2013 iMac. Which is to say that it’s super easy for me to stick with WordPress Classic editor because yes, I most definitely prefer it. In a recent blogging class I attended, even the teacher recommended a workaround for students to use Classic! Given how many folks read blogs from their phones, Guttenberg’s block-fanciness is worse than useless. When I read anything on my 5s iPhone, the simpler the layout, the better.

This is how I use WordPress Classic Editor on my desktop: in the admin page, I pull up a list of my posts. Then I hover my mouse pointer over a post title. Below that, a selection appears, which includes the choice to use Classic Editor.

See how on the bottom left is the option to use Classic Editor? Using a desktop computer, just hover your mouse under your blog post title on your admin page. See how on the bottom left is the option to use Classic Editor? Using a desktop computer, just hover your mouse under your blog post title on your admin page.

If I wanted to write a post from my iPad, WordPress offers an abbreviated version Classic. To switch over to it, tap on the three dots in the screen’s upper right corner.

Clicking on the 3 dots in the upper right corner of your tablet gives you the option to use Classic. Clicking on the 3 dots in the upper right corner of your tablet gives you the option to use Classic.

Using an iPhone works similar to an iPad.

Here's when I clicked on the 3 dots in the upper right corner of my phone. Here’s when I clicked on the 3 dots in the upper right corner of my phone.

For a more detailed explanation, but that doesn’t include the way I described that I do it from my desktop computer, WordPress has this link.

In another post with blogging tips (and here’s more of my blogging tips), the mention of WordPress’ newer editing system got people talking, so here I’m offering you a chance to comment below. Vent? Praise? Either way, when I let WordPress know about this post with your comments on it, maybe they’ll actually listen to us.

Again wishing you joy — and ease — whether you’re blogging, reading, writing — or are you traveling online?

How do you deal with computer annoyances?

Guest Blog Post: More Eats from Less by Angela Bell

Do you adore lyrical, thoughtful novels? I want to meet you! Thank you, blogosphere, for introducing me to blogger Angela Bell who I met through her love of books. Self-described as, “New England-born, Pennsylvania raised, and 100% Italian-American, ” Angela’s posts are filled with intelligence. My favorite line of hers is, “While time marches on, life around you, if you allow it to, also becomes more interesting, more stimulating, and even a tad freer… and age, in fact, matters less and less.”

Here Angela teaches us how everyday forgotten abundance can be diverted from landfills and nourish us…

Blogger Angela Bell.

Making the Most of Stems and Scraps by Angela Bell

My daughter Emily is a Culinary Institute of America graduate with a nutrition certification from a Cornell program. She points out that if this (COVID10) confinement continues, we may have to learn to make better use of what we have. Recognizing that everyone is overwhelmed and probably worried about managing the household food right now, she and I had the following conversation.

Me: Can you give us some ideas for using our kitchen scraps?

Emily: Soup! If you have broccoli or cauliflower stems, dice them, add onion if you have it, and sweat in fat — oil, butter, rendered chicken fat, or bacon fat — over medium heat. When they’re soft, dust with flour and add chicken or vegetable stock. Stir to thicken, season, and puree. You’ve now made a classic French soup from kitchen scraps.

Angela performs alchemy on scraps to achieve epicurean delights.

Me: You taught me to do this with whole broccoli and chicken stock. It’s delicious—a creamy soup without the cream.

Emily: You can make a vegetable stock with any vegetables or vegetable scraps you have on hand, or make a chicken or beef stock with bones leftover from a roast. The longer you simmer the stock, the more collagen you’ll extract. Collagen adds body and may have health benefits. Add vegetable scraps to the pot with the bones, cover with water, simmer for about two hours, strain, and season. Roast chicken or turkey carcasses make great stock, as do bones from beef roasts and fish bones for fish stock. Add that meat “jelly” in the bottom of the roasting pan, too—that’s pure collagen. If you have a pork bone, just throw it in with a pot of beans or a pot of spaghetti sauce, rather than make stock with it.

Me: If I don’t have time to make stock from a roast chicken carcass, I freeze it. All the flavor in the roast chicken, from the herbs or vegetables, roasted it with transfers to the stock. I add water and let the slow cooker do the rest, then strain when it’s done, cool, and use or freeze.

Ice cube trays are handy for freezing pesto and stock.

Me: You mentioned using bacon fat.

Emily: Save rendered bacon fat after cooling and straining, and use in place of olive oil or butter. It adds so much flavor! If you’re making soup or a stew, you can sauté anything that’s going into it in bacon fat first. This is another classical French technique. Refrigerate rendered fat and use within two weeks, or freeze.

Me: What else can we do with stock?

Emily: If we get to a point where we can’t get meat because of supply chain interruptions, we’ll appreciate having stock and rendered fats on hand for flavor. You can cook rice in it, add it to beans, use it to flavor sauce or gravy. I freeze stock in ice cube trays in case I want to deglaze a pan or thin out a sauce.

Me: Some of us have loaded up on fresh vegetables, perhaps more than we can use. How can we prevent waste?

Emily: If you have vegetables ready to expire, blanch, and freeze them. Some, like carrots or green peppers, can be sliced and frozen raw. For best results with vegetables that don’t freeze well, like celery or escarole, prepare a dish and freeze that. You can also make pestos. If you have a bunch of a particular herb, purée it in the blender or food processor, along with the flavorings or ingredients you like, and freeze in ice cube trays. You may want to add a bit of oil to facilitate this. Enjoy over pasta or add to other dishes for flavor.

Vegetable soup is a great way to use up miscellaneous vegetables. The key is not to overcook the vegetables. I sweat them until they’re about half cooked, then add the liquid and simmer just until they’re done. Use water if you don’t have stock—just season it well. You can add shredded leftover meat, rice, pasta, beans, whole grains like farro or bulgur.

When you’re going through the refrigerator or freezer, use a first in/first out mentality. Before buying food, think about using something from the freezer to free up space.

Me: I’ve promised myself I’m going to use up what I have on hand.

Emily: It’s going to take some planning and thought to prevent waste. That might mean taking a look every other day at your fresh fruits and veggies, then deciding to bake some apples or juice some lemons, or make a soup and freeze half of it.

Me: If you’re blessed to be healthy and practice good personal and kitchen hygiene, you can always leave a care package on a neighbor’s doorstep.

Emily: Absolutely, and if you’re experiencing food scarcity for financial reasons or an inability to get to the store, there are programs now to address that. Check with your municipality to see what is available in your area.

Here’s a longer version of this post at Angela’s site.

What are your tips for getting more out of less?

Guest Blog Post: Discovery and Connection in Stories by Maria Alfieri

Exciting books — thoughtful stories — across land and time, into ourselves and others, they take us everywhere!

Author/blogger Maria Alfieri, who lives in Sussex, England, is on a mission. She’s out to create peer support and community when it comes to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Her most powerful tools are reading and writing…

“Freedom.” Photo of Maria Alfieri by Flora Westbrook.

How I Rediscovered Myself through Reading and Writing by Maria Alfieri

I came to collate The Silent Scream Anthology based on my own experiences of struggling silently in dealing with my childhood sexual abuse. I developed anorexia aged 11, for which I was eventually hospitalised aged 12-13. Anorexia was a physical demonstration of a trauma I could not vocalise. I spent many years starving myself and self-harming. My anorexia developed into bulimia. All my reckless and self- destructive behaviours were a way of me yelling to the world ‘I am not okay!”

Despite gaining some control over my eating disorders, I still struggled, sometimes daily, with that inner dialogue, which told me that I wasn’t worthy. That I needed to harm myself. My mind would sometimes take me to dark places, and I would have to talk myself back from the edge.

I found a way to heal through reading, as this was the first step on the ladder to connection with others — something I’d run away from for most of my life. I’d self-isolated much of my life, as many of us do when struggling emotionally. Mostly because of a deep sense of shame and a belief that I was unworthy of belonging. But reading stories similar to mine made me realise that I wasn’t broken and that I wasn’t ‘the only one’ feeling this way. Through stories, either fiction or non-fiction, we share empathetic connections, reaffirming our humanity. They remind us that we are part of a collective. Through reading, and then writing, I came to understand myself better.

Reading and writing are part of the process of connection; firstly, connection with ourselves, and then connection with others. And connection is vital for healing, growth, and change. Writing about my past, in particular, was an extremely cathartic process. Ultimately for me, reading and writing were the tools through which I recovered the person I want to be.

They brought me into this shared community that we created through The Silent Scream Anthology — a community of courageous and inspirational people who empowered me in many ways and helped me to unravel further the depths of my own unhelpful conditioning. It is my greatest wish that The Silent Scream Anthology is the passing of the torch for its readers — the light which sparks hope in moments of darkness and a stepping stone on the path of connection, healing, growth, and change.

As a collection of raw, honest and inspirational memoirs, anecdotes, poems, and artworks about a variety of mental health topics, The Silent Scream Anthology is aimed at anyone who has ever struggled silently, felt trapped by shame and felt alone in their experiences, no matter what those experiences are.

Cover of “The Silent Scream Anthology,” by Maria Alfieri.

Prior to collating The Silent Scream Anthology, I qualified as a teacher and taught English across secondary schools before having my four children. Stories have always been an important part of my life, and today I make it my mission to promote the power of connection through empathetic literature.

More about Maria Alfieri here. Her “The Silent Scream Anthology” is available in hardback here and here, in paperback here, and in both here.

What book or story has made the most impact on you?

Guest Blog Post: The Gift of a Book by Tom Darby

The smallest kindnesses of strangers, things that they probably no longer remember doing, have benefitted me for my entire life. Those gestures combined with the sorcery of books can conjure magic potent enough turn lead into gold!

Tom Darby is a blogger and writer, born in Chateauroux, France, raised in Klamath, California, residing in Spanish Springs, Nevada. He is an award-winning journalist and hall-of-fame radio jock. You can find his stories and other articles here.

Read on for Tom’s example of exactly what I mean…

One of Tom Darby’s “Trees of Mystery” tags.

“The Gift of a Book,” by Tom Darby

The roadside tourist destination opened at seven in the morning, and I was expected to be there an hour later, ready to work. My job was to place a red-on-yellow piece of 15-by-5 inch cardboard on each automobile that read: ‘Trees of Mystery’ in large letters and ‘Shrine of the Redwood Highway,’ below that.

We called them ‘tags,’ those who put them on, ‘taggers,’ and the act of doing so, ‘tagging.’  The object of the job was to slip a piece of wire through the holes at either end of the tag and hook the wire over the bumper so that the tag could be seen as a vehicle passed by on the highway. 

Advertising at its simplest.

There were usually three or four taggers on duty each day in the summer months. Each boy hauled a hundred tags and twice as much precut wire in a leather satchel in, through and around the vehicles that quickly filled the parking lot.

One early morning I approached a young couple from British Columbia, Canada, driving a burnt orange Volkswagen bus and asked if they’d like a tag on their vehicle. They did and I obliged them.

As I stood up I saw a thick paperback book shoved down between the dashboard and windshield. The artwork of a ‘naked woman’ swimming with a gigantic shark, mouth agape and swimming out of the depths to gobble her upheld my attention.

“I jus’ finished it,” the woman said, “Do you want to read it?”

“Yes, please.”

She retrieved it and handed it to me.

“Thank you,” I responded.

It took me all of the summer of 1974 to finish “Jaws,” written by Peter Benchley. That gift helped to germinate, not only my young but ripening imagination but also my continuing desire to write.

Has the kindness of a stranger ever affected you profoundly?

Guest Blog Post: Peni Jo Renner’s call for book reviews

Books can defy time and geography, age and gender, culture and politics, fact and fiction… and they’re among the best friends one can acquire!

Do you absolutely adire books too? Author/blogger Peni Jo Renner has written for Happiness Between Tails here and here and hosted me here. Peni wants to feature your thoughts on your favorite book…

Historical novelist Peni Jo Renner has self-published three books!

Musings of an Author

So what did you read in 2019 that you particularly enjoyed?  Or maybe even less reecently–in the past 2 or 3 years?

Whether it was fiction or nonfiction, I’m looking for book reviews written by fellow readers (and writers!) that I can post on my blog. Whether you loved or hated or were even indifferent to a book, let me know!

If you’re interested, please email me at puritanwitch@gmail.com. Or PM me on Facebook;https://www.facebook.com/PuritanWitch/

I’m looking forward to getting some great recommendations!

brown book page Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

View original post