Category Archives: Life

New Release – Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance by Elizabeth Gauffreau

Hot Press! Hot Press!

It’s an exciting day today to share the good news with you about my friend, Elizabeth Gauffreau’s new release Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance.

About the Book

Blurb

“Poetry readers willing to walk the road of grief and family connections will find Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance a psychological treasure trove. It’s a very accessible poetic tribute that brings with it something to hold onto–the memories and foundations of past family joys, large and small.”
~Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review

“Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance is a passionate ode to loved ones lost and an intimate portrayal of one family’s shared grief. It holds the key to solace in home photographs and illustrates just how special our singular moments can be. ~Toni Woodruff, Independent Book Review

“A beautiful, personal collection of family photos and poems that express the author’s most inner feelings. Nostalgic and heartfelt, Gauffreau’s poems are written in the Japanese style of tanka, simple, thoughtful, and full of love. Filled with wonderful memories of the past.” ~Kristi Elizabeth, Manhattan Book Review

My Review

Grief Songs: Poems of Love and Remembrance is a poetry collection written in Tanka form. After her mother passed away, Elizabeth Gauffreau cleaned up the “forbidden rooms” and found the “hidden photographs.” These are the photographs of the author and her father, mother, and brother George.

Grieving is a personal process that can last for any length of time. The memories of the loved ones could be fleeting or lingering moments, and the emotion of grieving could be of the surface or intensely deep.

In Grief Songs, the photos brought back the intensity of the precious memories to the author. Elizabeth expressed her grief in poetry. She paired the poems with each photo included in this collection.

One poem was about the author’s mother took her and George to the vaccination. Their mother gave the kids a treat of root beer floats for being good for the occasion. By the way, root beer is a soda, not a beer with alcohol! Another fun poem was about a youth group picnic when the author and her brother waited for their dad in the car after the picnic. Apparently, their dad didn’t come right away. They pressed the honk for so long that when their dad finally came back; the battery was dead. I loved the poem and the photo with Elizabeth and George sitting on their father’s lap for reading time as a nightly ritual. The lines were, “Waiting until your father gets home, not a threat but a promise.”

There were poems about Elizabeth as a kid for the first sacrament, confirmation, and baptism. What precious memories as she could see the history from the beginning of her life when father and mother holding her in their arms that led to her present life.

Family time such as clam bake at the beach and the family reunion always flashed back fond memories that ache the heart yet bring smiles on the face. The dying takes away a part of the ones left behind yet leaves them something sweet and long-lasting.

The poetry is a short read, yet the emotion of joy and sorrow lingers long after I put down the book. Highly recommended

Ratings: Amazon Goodreads

Purchase Link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B098TQBM1R

Trailer:

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Elizabeth Gauffreau

About Elizabeth Gauffreau

Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a B.A. in English from Old Dominion University and an M.A. in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. She is currently the Assistant Dean of Curriculum & Assessment for Champlain College Online, where she is an Associate Professor. Her fiction and poetry have been published in literary magazines and several themed anthologies. Her debut novel, Telling Sonny, was published by Adelaide Books in 2018. Liz lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire with her husband.

Website/Blog: https://lizgauffreau.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Gauffreau/e/B07NTZFVSF?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LGauffreau

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liz.gauffreau

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Book Review: Flashes of Life: True Tales of the Extraordinary Ordinary by Pamela S. Wight

Several weeks ago I read and reviewed Pam Wight’s Flashes of Life: True Tales of the Extraordinary Ordinary. It’s my pleasure to share the review with you.

An image posted by the author.

About the Book

Blurb

Wow! Life goes by in a flash.

Philosophers and mystics ponder the mystery of these flashes. Pamela Wight writes about life flashes in her short stories that include family and friends, love and life’s challenges. Wight’s “Flash Memoir” promotes the belief that we all share sparks of the extraordinary that occur in our everyday life. Each short story is true and brings a smile of recognition to her readers: that life transports and enthralls us in all its confusing, amusing, challenging, and astonishing ways. Each story is light-hearted and short – like a flash – but be prepared for a page-turner that keeps you in your seat, smiling.

Flashes of Life will draw you in and put a smile on your face. These poetic, personal, fun, and funny vignettes of life are uplifting and relatable. Love, joy, and care exude from the pages, which are beautifully written and fondly shared. By the end of this book, you’ll wish the author was your own mother, daughter, sibling, or friend!” Liesbet Collaert, author of Plunge

Purchase Link:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B096PPGZWZ/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Borgo Publishing: https://www.borgopublishing.com/product-page/flashes-of-life-epub

My Review

Pamela Wright’s Flashes of Life is a short read which could be done in one sitting in a late afternoon or evening. It’s refreshing to read about the author’s honest emotions, humor, and deep appreciation of life. Wright’s flashes are the fond memories of her childhood, her life as a daughter, mother, wife, and grandmother. They are the everyday experience many readers could relate to. I felt like we chatted on the phone as she recounted them, and I couldn’t help but chuckled over so many.

As a child, she asked her parent what her middle name was again and again. Eventually, her parents told her they couldn’t agree on one, so they didn’t give her a middle name.

She feared flying. On one trip, she and her husband were on the plane, and she wanted to get off because she didn’t want to walk all the way to the last row of the aisle. A passenger in row 5 volunteered to switch seats with her. Eventually, she got over the fear of flying and got to a point of fear of not flying because she didn’t want to miss seeing the grandkids and some exotic places.

There are many memories of food. She talked about shrimp not being her favorite food but loved it when her son-in-law cooked shrimps. She elaborated on why she loved it.

Wright loves music, and she responded to the Rock-and-Roll with twisting hips feeling like in her twenties. Then she glanced at the mirror on a far wall that showed a middle-aged woman.

There are many more light-hearted stories many would love to read. I highly recommended this book.

Ratings: Amazon Goodreads

About Pamela S. Wight

Pamela Wight is a successful author of romantic suspense novels; two illustrated children’s book.

Her first book, The Right Wrong Man, got rave reviews for taking readers “on an exciting adventure with lots of intrigue, unexpected plot twists, and romance.” A year later, Wight published her second novel, Twin Desires. “Lots of suspense, plot twists, romance, and excellent character development makes this a fun read!”

The gorgeously illustrated children’s book, Birds of Paradise, finalist in the 2018 International Book Awards, has received many enthusiastic reviews: “This creative, compassionate story about birds will inspire children to notice the everyday adventures of backyard birds.”

Wight’s second picture book, Molly Finds Her Purr, published Fall, 2019, follows Molly the Cat, who can’t find any friends. And almost worse, she can’t find her purr. After looking for friendship in all the wrong places, Molly learns that making friends is as easy as looking up in the trees and on the ground, where other lonely creatures are hiding in plain sight. Whether hard-shelled or soft as a bunny, everyone needs friendships that help them find their purr. Both books are for ages 3 to 93.

Pamela earned her Master’s in English from Drew University, continued with postgraduate work at UC Berkeley in publishing, and teaches creative writing classes in Boston and San Francisco.

She lives in the Boston area with her “right man” and hikes the New England trails while concocting her stories. Wight travels frequently to the San Francisco Bay area for additional inspiration. She speaks to book clubs, schools, and libraries in both locations.

Contact Pam Wight at:

Blog

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Pinterest

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Remission 12th anniversary

Photography by Miriam Hurdle

I was diagnosed with a rare melanoma cancer in July 2008. None of the doctors who treated me had seen it. It started with stage I or II but turned into stage IV within a few months. I completed the year-long bio-chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation on August 1, 2009. Today marks the 12th anniversary of remission. I’m thankful to be alive, enjoy my family and have the joy to watch the grandchildren grow. I have been writing about my cancer journey since 2016. The distance from the event allows me to have reflection and a proper perspective. It will be a part of my legacy to pass on to the generations to come. This was a one-day-at-a-time journey of faith, hope, and strength. It was a journey cheered and supported by family and friends.

To celebrate the 12th anniversary of my remission, I wanted to share an excerpt with you. The working title of my legacy is The Winding Road, and I’m working on the tagline.

Chapter 2

The hysterectomy surgery was on July 31st, 2008. I wanted to rest for two or three weeks after the surgery before returning to work when the new school year began. 

My husband, Lynton, drove me to St. Jude Medical Center which was 3 miles from home. He stayed with me until the hospital attendant transported me to the surgery room. After the attendant and nurses lifted me onto the surgical table, the anesthesiologist called my name and introduced himself to me and said Dr. Gray was on the way. Before I smiled at him, the blackness came upon me. 

I woke up in the hospital room in the afternoon. There was no pain in the abdomen. Perhaps the anesthesia was not worn off yet. Lynton came with a bouquet almost the same time I woke up. He stayed with me until dinner time and said he would call me early in the morning. It was a relief that the fibroids I had for years were out for good.

At 10:00 p.m., Dr. Gray came to the room and greeted me with a smile. I returned a grin with apprehension because no doctors would visit patients late at night unless there was an emergency. He sat down by the bed. “The surgery went well,” he said, “and I wanted to share the pathology result with you.”

My puzzling grew but nodded and kept smiling.

“The pathology result shows that the vaginal mass was melanoma. I’ve never seen it before, not in vagina, so I did some research. The research shows that melanoma is the most aggressive, invasive and dangerous cancer.”

He detected the perplex on my face, and said, “It looks like it’s in stage I or II, the beginning stage and the cancer has not spread into other parts of the body yet.”

I wanted to ask questions, but my mind went blank. What questions could I ask? The moisture saturated my eyes.

“I have lined up the referrals for you to see the specialists for treatments. Call my cell phone if you have questions. I’ll start my vacation tomorrow.” He handed me a note with his phone number. It seemed like he did a lot of homework that afternoon.

“But you’ll be on vacation,” I said, still tried to find words.

“That’s what a cell phone is for.” he smiled. “I’m glad God put you in my care.”

His visit transported me to the thickest fog in the dark.

~ ~ ~

The next day, I still had no pain after the anesthesia was worn off.

Lynton called me around 9:00 a.m. to let me know he was coming to see me later that day. He told me his dad passed away, and he was on the phone with his siblings. His dad had been in Loma Linda ICU since last Wednesday with a heart-attack and a kidney infection. The infection went into the blood and his condition went downhill. After the infection was gone, he was on dialysis to give the kidney a break to see if it could be reversed. Lynton and I went to see him last Wednesday. He was unconscious when we got there. The entire family of twelve people were there talking to each other about the latest progress. Lynton’s dad heard our voices and opened his eyes. We went close to his bedside to hold his hands and spoke to him. His eyes sparked a little and then went back to unconsciousness. That was the last time I saw his dad.

“Would you ask your family to schedule the funeral service after I get home from the hospital? I want to be there.”

“Don’t worry. My family will consider that when they plan for the funeral service. I’m on my way to the hospital to see you.”

When he arrived, I gave him the news. He faced me with the brooding look and said he would research on melanoma as soon as he got home.

“How are you feeling?” the nurse came in to check on me.

“I’m feeling very well with no pain. Can I go home today?”

“The attending doctor is not here yet. Let me check your incision and change the dressing. I’ll let the doctor know of your condition. He has to authorize the discharge.”

The doctor came in an hour later. After checking my progress, he authorized the discharge.

“Thank you, doctor,” I said to him while my mind spun at a record speed, miles into the search engine, chasing the meaning of melanoma.

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #154 One Photo Two Ways

This week, Tina would like us to think about the various ways we create the images and show the same subject captured using different approaches.

I love visiting my daughter’s family in Portland, Oregon, especially during spring and autumn seasons. During my previous visit in May, my daughter and I went on walks once or twice a day. It was amazing to see the beautiful blooms in the neighborhood. I especially admired the rhododendrons and irises. The rhododendrons in my California neighborhood are bushes, whereas in Portland, they grow into trees as high as a two-story home.

The first photo is a close-up of the flower. As we walked further away from the plant, I took the view of the entire plant.

My other favorite flowers are irises of all kinds of colors. I gravitated toward darker purple and lilac colors. The name of this purple iris is Eleanor Roosevelt. The first photo is a single flower and the second shot is the patch of irises.

In my teaching days, I only went to the zoo on field trips for the students. My daughter and her friends have annual passes and take their kids to the zoo often. One of my favorite animals is giraffe. I took several shots following the giraffes as the three of them roamed around in their areas. I only captured the two that seemed to stay together.

There is an elementary school with a playground right across from my daughter’s house. Playgrounds are open to the public after school hours. Autumn’s favorite is climbing the net climber. It’s interesting to watch her trying to climb to the top and down when some ropes are close and some further apart. Autumn is an enthusiastic climber.

Nora is a good helper to her dad in gardening and mowing the lawn. She mowed the entire lawn by herself!

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #154 – One Photo Two Ways

Thank you for reading. I always appreciate your generous comments. Please click HERE if you would like to participate.

Have a wonderful Day!

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #148 – Spots and Dots

Ann-Christine’s Photo Challenge this week is Spots and Dots. She wants us to have fun with it! But, also recognize and enjoy the different interpretations, meanings and importance of these two little words. Spots and Dots. Because even if they are small…they can make a big difference.

I came back from a delightful Mother’s Day week visiting my daughter and the grandkids. My daughter Mercy talked with Autumn about Mother’s Day celebration and Autumn understood the relationship of mothers. She said, “My mommy is a mommy. You’re a mommy and you’re my mommy’s mommy. I’m not a mommy.”

Autumn loves to have the undivided attention of grandma. She has a huge appetite for books. On the days when she didn’t go to school, I read about ten books to her after breakfast. Then she played for a little while. Her latest favorite was building a fort with tunnels. She took out all the cushions from the couches to build the formation and covered them with blankets. She didn’t want my help but wanted me to watch (with attention).

Apparently, she has nap time at school, but she doesn’t take naps at home. Mercy wants her to have quiet time when Nora takes a nap. It’s also the time when Mercy takes a nap. It takes a lot of energy to care for a toddler and a baby.

There are boxes of books from my teaching days. I pick the age-appropriate books with me on each trip.

After the quiet time, I read another ten books to Autumn. She likes to listen to the same books over and over again, especially the books with longer text. She picks up more details of the stories from each repetition of reading.

The day is getting longer, and the sun doesn’t go down until about 8:00 p.m. We take the kids to a school playground across the street from the house. The neighbor next to the school has a home farm with chickens and six or seven goats. Many kids love to feed the goats.

After the walk or playground time, we read several more bedtime books to Autumn. She would ask to read “one more,” but we must be firm, otherwise, we’d be reading all night long.

In the afternoon on Mother’s Day, my daughter’s family, joined by another family went to the zoo. Autumn wanted to see the Polar Bear and carried the white stuffed bear with her. The Polar Bear was in the water under the cave for a long time but swam outside for a little while. I was glad that Autumn was not disappointed.

Nora turned one-year-old in March, so she is learning to climb the stairs and playing with different toys. She loves to follow her big sister and does the same thing. During the several days of my visit, she learned to do new things. It’s amazing to see the kids making so much progress at these ages.

There are many small dots of progress in the child development but in a long run there’s a huge impact in one’s life these small dots make. Research shows the first two years of a human life make the fastest and most growth within the shortest period compared to the remaining life span. As parents and careers, we could facilitate and make the small dots and spots colorful ones in the kids’ lives.

Mercy’s orchid plant
Spots at the zoo
More spots at the zoo
This gorgeous guy was in another garden showing off his spots and dots

This is Autumn at the zoo. How many dots and spots can you see?

Nora was fascinating to watch all the spots and dots flowing in different directions. She was trying to catch some of them.

Thank you for reading! Have a wonderful week ahead!

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The Covid Effect – Exercise

Do you go to the gym?

I have had a membership at different gyms since 1980. My first gym was a small outfit owned by a couple. The wife led the aerobics class until late in her pregnancy. My routine was using a some weight resistant machines, doing the aerobic, and finishing it with 15 minutes in the spa.

I later joined the LA Fitness in 1989 and stayed with them until present. They were closed because of the lockdown.

During my twenty-five years of working, going to the gym on the weekend was not a luxury but necessary to keep me going for another week. My routine was doing yoga on Saturday, using the machines and swimming on Sunday.

When Lynton retired at the end of 2016, he wanted me to join him going to the gym. We went to the gym together for four years. Besides working out with him, I kept my weekend swimming schedule.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, the gym closed. It was difficult for our bodies to come to a haul from a regular workout routine. Lynton kept the running schedule in a local park but needed more for the upper body. He bought a manikin to practice boxing. Gradually, he modified it to make it look like an actual person. He called him “Bob.” Punching “Bob” was still not enough exercise for him. He resurrected the dumbbell set for weightlifting.

It’s more difficult for me to adjust the workout routine. I try walk 30 to 45 minutes five days a week. When I get busy with other routine such as blogging or gardening, I conveniently forget going for my walk. I tried to do yoga with YouTube, but it was hard to stay motivated without actual people around me.

Something wonderful happened during our visit with my daughter, Mercy, and the grandkids. Mercy and I took Nora with us to go for a morning walk. She used an app Strava to track our walk. I used to have an app to track my steps, but it had too many commercials, so I uninstalled it. The one Mercy uses doesn’t have commercials, so I downloaded it. One good thing is that we can follow each other. After I downloaded the app, I followed my son-in-law, Will, and one other person. The followers could click “kudo” to show support of anyone’s walking, biking, and other athletic activities.

I now feel motivated to stay with my walking and doing the recumbent bike at home. Even though Mercy and I are not walking together physically but we keep track on each other. I was thinking about the accountability but on a second thought, no, we’re not holding each other accountable. We just want to stay in touch and cheer up each other! To me, it’s the connection, and connection, and connection that counts!

Do you go to the gym? What do you do to keep up with the exercise? I would love to hear your ideas.

These are some of the comments:

Claire Fullerton One of my favorite topics, Miriam! I taught a ballet barre/Pilates mat class in Malibu for 8 years, and although I don’t teach anymore, I stay on top of the movements as a way of being in the world. I’m at my desk a lot, and still practice what is basically a combination of yoga, ballet, and Pilates. I use free weights– never over 2 pounds because more can be taxing on cartilage and joints. Weights are great for isometric engagement, alone. All this counters the time I spend at my desk. I also recommend stretches after getting out of a hot bath. And walking is the best exercise of all. I’m of the belief use it or lose it, as the saying goes. The older I become, the more I realize it’s worth the effort.

Hedy Bach Wonderful Miriam yes yoga and walking the mutt but missing my pool and weights hoping things open up more here but who knows … spring is arriving so fun in the sun 🤞happy weekending ~ smiles Hedy ☺️💫

Chelsea Owens What a great idea! I used to go to our community gym before COVID and pregnancy, but haven’t made time for it again or felt safe yet. I mostly do YouTube videos and agree that we need yoga once a week.

Toni Pike Hi Miriam, That app looks great, thanks for that. I like walking for exercise and doing some exercises at home, so I’m not worried about the gym. But I’ve put on some Covid kilos over the last 12 months, and really need to lose them to get back in shape. Toni x

Hints of Life Great post! 👍🏻 I try getting 20 minutes run 4-5 times in a week. Somedays, nothing better than simple stretches and yoga. 😊🙏🏻

Pete Springer I was going to the gym 4-5 days a week for three years after I retired. It was the longest I’ve ever stayed that disciplined about going. I’ve never liked to run, but I did find that I felt better and got a sense of accomplishment each time I finished. Now, I haven’t gone in more than a year since the pandemic began. I walk 5-6 days a week and miss it when I don’t. I’ve put a few of the pounds back on that I lost before the pandemic. I get as much mentally from walking as I do physically. It’s where I seem to do my best thinking.

 Janet Gogerty My favorite exercise apart from walking, gardening and swimming in the sea is aquarobics. Alas, even before Covid my various aquarobics classes were always disappearing – either the teacher would leave or the pool would close down! I had an app on my phone to measure walking distance, but it kept talking every time I stopped to cross the road or met someone I knew.

Stevie Turner I always walk and cycle every day. I cycle for half an hour and walk for about an hour and a half. It keeps me fit.

Elizabeth Gauffreau Between working, blogging, and writing, my home exercise routine that I’ve had for years is falling by the wayside–and I’m feeling it. I need to make a change. I think I’ll start with walking, as getting outside will be a big motivator from an enjoyment perspective.

Norah Colvin Exercise and I are only passing acquaintances, Miriam. We haven’t really got to know each other yet. I think exercise might be a bit bossy for me, and exercise doesn’t like the way I ignore them. Perhaps one day. I agree with you that it’s the connection that’s important.

Jill Weatherholt I workout each day. It’s been part of my routine for many years to combat stress. In my early 20’s, I had a membership, but I always found excuses not to go. It was raining, the traffic is terrible, etc. Investing in my own equipment works best for me. Is that a Schwinn recumbent bike? It looks exactly like the one I purchased during the pandemic after my treadmill died. I also have an elliptical, a trampoline and a stair stepper. I could start my own gym! 🙂

Barbara Vitelli Hi Miriam – I don’t go to a gym but I walk and do aerobic workouts with weights in our basement. I have been doing the same indoor workout since my twenties, when I did go to aerobics classes at a gym. I memorized the routine and have not needed to go. It’s hard to keep up with the walking when we get busy, isn’t it? I try to do a walk a few times a week and squeeze in a walk during one of my work days. I’m glad you like Strava. My sons and I use RunKeeper which is similar. It’s fun to see where each of us goes. One uses it for walking and running and the other uses it for biking.

Willow Dot I used to go to the gym three times a week for years after breaking my back, both times. Then about 5 years ago I switched to Pilates twice a week and gym twice a week. Then 4 years ago I stopped the gym and just carried on with Pilates.
During lockdown I carried on the Pilates lessons via zoom. Then I got ill so for last 8months I stopped Pilates. I now do Leslie Sansone health videos, walking for life usual a 3mile work out, plus usually I get out and walk daily. It’s not perfect but it’s better than nothing.

Alethea Kehas Hi Miriam, my kids and I convinced my husband to got a Nordic Track Peleton-like bike for Christmas and it has been the best motivator for me. I try to do five rides on it a week, which are around 30 minutes. I enjoy it because you can “travel” with the instructor to different places around the world. Other than that, I teach two Zoom yoga classes during the week, so that motivates me to get some yoga in too. And, I walk our dogs every afternoon.

John Steiner Good morning. Like you, my wife and I miss our visits to our respective gyms as well. They have opened up again, and in the next few weeks, when we get back to North Dakota, we’ll rejoin. For the duration of the lockdowns, we’ve been using the online versions of the training programs we are used to doing. Lynn does her yoga, several types, and I bought a barbell set to continue my weight training.
Though the equipment was expensive, the total cost to retrofit our home was less than the monthly fees we saved by only paying for the virtual programs available from our gyms.

Roberta Cheadle Hi Miriam, this sounds like a lot of fun. I’m glad to know you have found a way to stay connected while walking.

Jacqui Murray Great post. I don’t go to a gym–haven’t for decades–but walking here and there used to keep me in shape. Pandemic meant I couldn’t. I took up walking, often with my husband. I love the look of that app. I’m going to check it out, see if I can get my son on it (he is in Okinawa and walks all over that island!). I downloaded the app, figured out the setup and can’t wait to try it tomorrow.

Mae Clair I’m not a gym person, but I do jog five days a week. I used to do yoga, but ran into lower back issues. Now I just do stretching on top of my jogging. I’ve also got a Fitbit that lets me track steps, sleep, etc.
I’m going to have to check into the app you mentioned.

Bette A. Stevens I walk and join my Soaring Seniors group on FB since COVID. Grateful. Being part of this awesome group is not only fun, it inspires me to do the work! Thanks for sharing, Miriam!

Jan Sikes Walking and yoga stretches are my favorite forms of exercise. I have not heard of this app, but will check it out. Thanks for sharing, Miriam!

Yvette Calleiro I was walking until I formed a heel spur. Now, I’m stretching and riding my bike around the neighborhood. I’m hoping to incorporate more walking soon. Great post, Miriam. 🙂

D. Wallace Peach I’m so impressed with your dedication to staying fit, Miriam. I’m on the couch way way too much. The walking app sounds wonderful, but we don’t have walkable roads where I live – no sidewalks, sharp blind corners, and logging trucks. That said, my goal is to exercise every day for the month of April to start making it a habit and get over my initial resistance and excuses. Wish me luck and keep it up, my friend. You’re an inspiration!

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #136: Subjects Starting with the Letter–S

For this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #136, we’re circling back to the alphabet. This time, Patti invited us to focus on the letter S. She quoted Mike Wilks who strung a sentence with all the words begin with the letter S and indicated on the shelves in his store stacked with stock of 1,234 Ss to see.

I don’t want to list some seventy-seven S-things. I only chose several to be included in this post. I simply tried to have samples.

“May you see sunshine where others see shadows and opportunities where others see obstacles.” – Anonymous

Sunny sky above the summer sand

“Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine.” – Mario Fernandez

Sunny sky above the snowy summit

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.” Helen Keller

“If roses tried to be sunflowers, they would lose their beauty; and if sunflowers tried to be roses, they would lose their strength.” Matshona Dhliwayo

Sunflowers surged into the sky searching the sunlight

“Millions of trees in the world are accidentally planted by squirrels who bury nuts, then forget where they hid them. Do good and forget. It’ll grow someday.” – Anonymous

“Little squirrel opens human heart because they have lots of practice with the nuts.” – Swapna Ch

Squirrel, squirrel, what do you see?

“A smile is happiness you’ll find right under your nose.” -Tom Wilson

“Life is like a mirror. Smile at it and it smiles back at you.” – Peace Pilgrim

Sweet smiles from my daughter Mercy

“Having a sister is like having a best friend you can’t get rid of. You know whatever you do, they’ll still be there.” – Amy Li

“Sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.” – Margaret Mead

Songs sisters Autumn and Nora sing together

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #136: Subjects Starting with the Letter–S

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Lens – Artists Challenge #135: Glimpse into your world

This week, the theme from Sheetalbravon is ‘A Glimpse into your world’She invited us to show the things we love that make our world spin or things about our world that make us delirious with joy.

The immediate world that fills me with inspiration and amazement is my garden. My morning routine, especially in the summer, is to visit the garden while I drink my coffee. After coffee, with the gardening tools in hand, I check the flower bushes, trim the dead branches, or dig up weeds.

I started feeding birds from 2014 and the regular visitors are Ruby Throat Hummingbirds, mourning doves, American Finch, American God Finch, Scrub Jay, Song Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow, and a few I couldn’t quite identify. Over the years, there were baby Mourning Dove, baby House Finches, and One baby Hummingbird born in my garden.

There are other animals such as squirrels, stray cats, and lizards roaming during the day or at night.

I have many hobbies, more than I have time to fully enjoy each of them. Not included in the images here is photography, which I started as a teenager when the photos were black and white. Another hobby is ceramic. I did the whale free hand with clay. I made it into a nightlight for my baby daughter. When my daughter was nine years old, we took a ceramic painting class together in the summer. It’s something we continue doing separately until these days.

I learned to draw and watercolor painting as a young adult. After retirement, I took classes on both and used some watercolor painting to illustrate the poems in my book.

My immediate community of 35 years is a church fellowship and the group of ladies. They are a part of my world for fun, for friendship and support. Some of these friends’ kids and my daughter grew up together. The ladies gave a bridal shower to Mercy for her wedding. Some friends still send gifts to my granddaughters as their own.

Music has been my world since I was a kid. I didn’t have a family background to nurture my love of classical music. It seems to be a natural favorite. The first time I performed Handel’s Messiah was when I was still in Hong Kong.

Most of my family except for one sister are in Hong Kong. Lynton’s family is my extended family, and we see each other regularly.

The biggest world to me is my daughter’s family. My granddaughters lighten my heart and give joy every day. My daughter has a TinyBeans.com account where she posts multiple photos and videos daily to chronicle the kids’ growth and family activities. There was not one day I go without checking on what they do. Nora’s birthday on March 22, and I wish to visit them.  

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Thank you for reading. I hope to hear what the things you love that make your world spin or things about your world that make you delirious with joy.

Lens – Artists Challenge #135: Glimpse into your world

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Chinese New Year – Memories, Calendar, Legend, and Traditions

Chinese New Year begins on Friday, February 12, 2021. It is the year of Ox. The holiday was traditionally a time to honor household and heavenly deities and ancestors. It was also a time to bring the family together for feasting.

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Childhood Memories

When I was a kid, my favorite family time was Chinese New Year. We had one week off from school and my dad had five days off from work. On New Year’s Eve, Flower Markets took place in major parks. They were open from early evening to 5:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

One year, I went to the Flower Market with my older sister and her boyfriend. We lived in western side on the Hong Kong island, and took the tram to Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. By the time we finished walking through the entire market, there was no tram in operation until morning. We followed the tram track and took one hour and thirty minutes to walk home.

Victoria Park Chinese New Year Market
Victoria Park, Causeway, Hong Kong

I was half asleep even though my feet were moving with one hand holding my sister’s and other hand holding something she bought me. I dropped the bag on the ground many times, bent down, picked it up and continued walking on autopilot.

By the time we got home, my mom had made special food as part of the Chinese New Year ritual. I liked sweet rice balls. We ate and went to sleep for a few hours. On New Year’s Day, everyone put on new clothing. Kids would say “Gung Hei Fat Choi” (Wishing you prosperous) to the parents and adults. My parents and the adults in the neighborhood gave us kids Lucky Money in red envelopes. It was the tradition for the married people to give Lucky Money to the kids and unmarried adults. We visited our relatives on the second, fourth, and fifth day. Kids loved that because we could keep all our Lucky Money. 

We anticipated with excitement on the 3rd day. There were three activities became our family tradition. In the morning we went to Tiger Balm Garden, which was a private mansion and garden that eventually became a public garden. After Tiger Balm Garden, we went to the Botanic Arboretum, and visited the Governor’s Garden, which was open to the public during Chinese New Year.

Being able to spend five holidays with my parents was the best thing for me as a kid.

Why Chinese New Year is on a different date each year?

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Chinese New Year is based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar. It functioned as a religious, dynastic, and social guide. Oracle bones inscribed with astronomical records show the calendar existed as early as 14th century B.C. when the Shang Dynasty was in power.

A lunar calendar is based on the monthly cycles of the Moon’s phases, with the new moon being the first of the month and full moon the middle of the month.

Each lunation is approximately ​29 1⁄2 days. The lunar calendar alternates between 29 and 30 days a month and an average of 354 days a year.

Leap Year

The Gregorian calendar has an average of 365.25 days a year, and therefore 365 days a year with 366 days in a leap year every four years.

Approximately every three years (7 times in 19 years), a leap month is added to the Chinese calendar. To determine when, we find the number of new moons between the 11th month in one year and the 11th month in the following year. A leap month is inserted if there are 13 New Moon from the start of the 11th month in the first year to the start of the 11th month in the next year.

Chinese New Year usually begins when the new moon occurs between January 21 and February 20, and it lasts about 15 days until the full moon arrives with the Festival of Lanterns.

The Legend of Chinese New Year celebration

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Lion Dance, Chinese New Year, Hong Kong

According to Chinese mythology, a Nian is a beast lived under the sea or in the mountains. It was unclear whether the Nian was an authentic folk mythology or a local oral tradition. Some sources cited it resembled a lion’s head with a dog’s body. Towards the end of winter, on Chinese New Year’s Eve, the Nian came out to feed on crops and sometime children. All the villagers hid from the beast. One year, an old man came to the village. On the New Year’s Eve, after the villagers escaped, he put red papers up and set off firecrackers to drive off the creature. The next day, the villagers came back to their town and saw that nothing was destroyed. They later found out the old man discovered the Nian was afraid of red and loud noises. It became the tradition the villagers celebrated the New Year wearing red clothes, hanging red lanterns, and red scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian.

Chinese New Year Traditions and Symbols

New Clothes

The Chinese New Year is a time of change and new beginnings, wearing something new is a symbol of removing the old and welcoming the new. Red is the color for celebrating any happy occasion, as it represents prosperity and good luck.

Lucky Money Red Envelopes
The married people give the Lucky Money red envelopes to children or unmarried adults to bless them with good luck/fortune and happiness/abundance.

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Plum and Peach Blossoms

People decorate their homes with fruit blossoms to symbolize a plentiful crop in the new year. Peach blossoms symbolize long life, romance, and prosperity.

Fish

The homophone of the Chinese word ‘fish’ is the same as the word for ‘surplus’ inferring more than enough. By hanging up fish decorations or eat fish, people hope the New Year will bring wealth and prosperity.

Tangerines and Oranges

Both fruits symbolize abundant happiness. The homophone of ‘tangerine’ is the same for the word ‘luck’ and the homophone of ‘orange’ sounds the same as the word for ‘wealth’. When visiting family and friends, it is a custom to take a gift bag of oranges or tangerines.

Rice-cake — Progression or Promotion

Glutinous rice cake is a lucky food eaten on Chinese New Year’s Eve. This is play on words to infer “getting higher year after year.” It can imply children’s height, rise in business success, better grades in study, or promotions at work.

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Rice Cake

Sweet Rice Balls — Family Togetherness

The homophone of ‘ball’ and round shape are associated with reunion and being together. They are favorite food during the New Year celebrations.

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I hope you enjoyed finding out something interesting!

Wishing you a

Happy Chinese New Year!

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Meet Sue and Join The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic

I’m happy to announce an exciting event in this blogging family. We gather around to cheer and support one of our own – Sue Vincent.

Sue is living in the south of England. She is a poet, a commissioned painter, an accomplished writer, and a director of the Silent Eye, a modern mystery School. She is a supper-supportive blogger at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo where she hosts the weekly #WritePhoto challenge and posts all the works from the participants, and writes #Midnighthaiku. She invites bloggers to guest post on her “Be My Guest.” Click any link to find more about Sue or participate in her #WritePhoto at https://scvincent.com/2021/01/28/thursday-photo-prompt-guarded-writephoto, or read her #midnighthaiku at https://scvincent.com/2021/01/29/gifts-midnighthaiku-5.

I love landscape painting and chose this as Sue’s sample paintings.

Oil on Canvas by Sue Vincent

Sue has been a caretaker of her son for 11+ years since he suffered from the traumatized attack. Besides the challenge, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. This is the time she would appreciate the support when she can’t run full speed because of the side effect and the exhaustion from the treatment, plus the impact from the Covid pandemic.

Carrot Rach has created a Rodeo Classic to orchestrate the support event. It calls for a 99-words flash fiction contest. To take part, you write a flash fiction story of 99 words or a poem of 99 syllables, using the photo prompt at Carrot Ranch to find the “Hidden” Inspiration, and enter the contest using a form on the post, then you’d be invited take part in a small donation to support Sue.

“Each story needs to have a beginning, middle and end. Poems must have distinctive theme, movement, and rhythm; no rhyme scheme is necessary, but neither will rhyme be punished…” – H.R.R.

There is a $100 grand prize and five runners up will each receive one paperback from Sue’s collection of published books (those who live in a region where the paperback is unavailable may receive an e-Book instead).

The contest will close at midnight on Friday, February 19, 2021. Winning entries will be announced and read at CarrotRanch.com/blog on March 22, 2021.

I hope you would participate and enjoy the fun!

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You may find Books by Sue Vincent and those written with Stuart France available in paperback and for Kindle via Amazon.

Sue Vincent – UK – USA – France – Germany – Japan – and India.

Stuart France: UKUSFranceGermanyJapan and India

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