Fun with Instagram! #30DaysShowVSTell (#AtoZChallenge)

Fun with Instagram! #30DaysShowVSTell (#AtoZChallenge)

I was distracted from the #100Words100Days flash fiction challenge on Instagram by the annual A to Z Blogging Challenge; then I was distracted from the #AtoZChallenge by the #OWFI21 Instagram Photo Challenge. I was distracted from all of them by the Toastmasters District 56 International Speech Contest, and the only prize I won all weekend – May 1, 2021 – was First Place in OWFI’s Technical/How-to category. As a retired technical writer, it would have been embarrassing to admit that I hadn’t even placed in that one!

At some slap-happy point in the week leading up to juggling both Toastmasters and OWFI conferences, I discovered that I was far more popular impersonating a sunny yellow slime-mold than I was as an author. In just 24 hours, “Herman,” a boisterous and personality-loaded example of Fuligo Septica, aka “dog-vomit slime mold,” the sentient alien-like creature that came from my compost bin and invaded my veggie patch, had garnered his own fan club and started an Instagram account.

This was all so much crazy fun that I decided to throw you all a new Instagram challenge! But instead of being strictly photos, I thought it might be fun to illustrate writing concepts using visual imagery and words. Feel free to sketch, draw, paint, use photos – go wild! (Well, keep it PG “wild,” please!) I don’t believe in asking people to do anything I’m not willing to do, myself, so I’ll be playing along! Start whenever you start – you don’t have to wait for the first of the month, or a month that has only 30 days in it, or a month with an R in it as if diving for oysters. Start tomorrow. Skip a day if you need to – self-care matters, too! But put some thought and creativity into it and let’s see what we can come up with. They say “show, don’t tell”? Well, let’s show the world what that looks like, while sharing some writing tips or examples! Homeschooling parents: Have the kids join in the fun.

30 day instagram challenge using writing concepts

Be sure to use the hashtag #30DaysShowVSTell – I’ll follow it, and feel free to leave your links in the comments, below.

I also use Instagram to promote Cy-Fair Super Speakers Toastmasters Club and bToasty Toastmasters Club. Both of these clubs welcome visitors during any regular club meeting (we meet online, and Cy-Fair Super Speakers has resumed “hybrid” meetings: both online and in-person, simultaneously).


In case you’re thinking, “Hey, isn’t the A to Z Challenge thingy over already?” Yes. Yes it is. But I signed up, and I’m determined to finish what I start!

I’ll tell you about another “distraction” in an upcoming post! Distractions are better than dogged determination to plod through life without ever veering from the plan. Trust me on this.

 

Happy 1st of NaNoWriMo!

Happy 1st of NaNoWriMo!

A Walk in the Park

November and NaNoWriMo have become as much of a tradition for me as apple cider and ghost stories in October. To kick things off right, I recommitted to my health and fitness goals, last week. I’m inordinately proud of the fact that I took two long walks – 6.5 miles – around my favorite local park, this week. The first time, I was exhausted and in pain. I took three days “off,” and the second time was a breeze. I didn’t even have to stop for rest, and averaged about 18 minutes per mile. The more I exercise, the more I realize I don’t want to derail my efforts with unhealthy eating, though I did pay for that Trick-or-Treat Blast from Sonic on Friday, and will finish paying it off today. Fortunately, the weather is great and a walk in the park isn’t really much of a chore.

Health and well-being should never take a back seat to anything. It seems obvious, but we all tend to forget that. Even the “fitness nuts,” as they pursue their addiction to the gym with grim determination, sometimes forget that a well-lived life is a well-rounded life. I think this is why my favorite exercise is a long walk in the park. “Travel” is (mostly) out of the question, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take little “day trips” and appreciate our usual surroundings. Combining this with “cardio” – power-walking several times around the 1.7 mile path – hardly seems like work. I’m “getting my steps in” while I get lost in my thoughts, listening to music or reveling in silence and birdsong. I can listen intently for the scurrying of tiny feet, stopping suddenly, inches away. It’s comical how squirrels seem to think that if they freeze, staring back with beady little black eyes, we won’t see them.

“Hi, Squirrel.”

His bent tail reminds me of a story my mom used to tell me about her own childhood. She and her brother had a BB gun. They were playing around in the back yard, and she took a turn. Shot a squirrel in the tail. That squirrel haunted her for years – she’d see it running around with its broken tail, glaring at her as if it knew, making her feel guilty. She owned a gun, but never shot at another living creature again. I saw this squirrel in the park, and for half a second, wondered if he had a message to give me.

It’s been years since I last saw a grasshopper, but they seem to be making a comeback. Scroll fast if you’re squeamish about insects, but remember that grasshoppers are vegetarian and don’t bite or sting humans.

Walking in the park, yesterday – Halloween – was fun. Earlier in the week, I ran across this spooky Jack-o-Lantern. A grinning orange pumpkin head, washed up on the muddy banks of a gloomy lake.

Someone should have added a headless scarecrow, just to make the picture complete.

I found some more “hidden” Jack-o-Lanterns there, on Halloween. They seemed happier. Maybe that’s because they were perched atop bales of hay, and seemed to be having a lively, friendly conversation. They didn’t seem to mind my eavesdropping, and taking a selfie with them!

We have an overabundance of Halloween candy. Despite the pandemic, Trick-or-Treating, done with the usual levels of parental hypervigilance, ought to have been safe enough. And so, we set out carefully wrapped bags of factory wrapped treats.

I thought it was a little sad, at first, but as we went outside to gather up the treats, we saw that the street was full, and little costumed children were emerging from cars. “Wait,” I said to my husband, thinking that, although the hour was late, they might want candy. But no – a neighbor was hosting a party. I guess I know who I’ll be avoiding at the mailbox for the next two weeks or so.

No, chocolate is not “NaNoWriMo fuel.” It is a reward for walking 6.5 miles – twice in one week – at the park.

Halloween Acrostic & a Bonus Hidden Message

I think only one person found the “hidden message” and I practically had to lead him to it and point it out. Which is fine, because Mitchell Allen has been writing word puzzles and brain twisting stories for as long as I can remember, so for him to admit that I “got him” with this is serious bragging rights for a day! If you see it, leave it in a comment below (no fair helping, Mitchell!).

Hallowed haunts all children know on Halloween!
A witch’s brew, spooked lemonade — as little happy
People cram their sacks with sweets to eat!
Pretending merry mischief, upon the stoop they creep, to
Yell the chorus, “Trick or treat!” Good
Heavens, it’s a sequined devil! Princess? Something
Airy, like a fairy — Tinkerbell! And me,
Lighting up the entry way, I hear them give
Little squeals, delighted, as shuffling zombie feet
Outside signal their arrival: More of my
Well-mannered ghouls. Autumn’s crisp, clean smell
Evinces all the joys of fall; this, but one treat.
Evening comes to send them scattering home — or
Now, one wonders, were they there at all? Oh, marvelous trick!

The 1st of NaNoWriMo – Kick Off to a Month of Literary Abandon

This will be the first NaNoWriMo in which I have the entire month off work! This is my work. Which means there really are no excuses, this month, doesn’t it?  And since “excuses” include this blog, which does not, itself, count towards the word count, I must be off!

Healthy breakfast: :heavy_check_mark:
Coffee: :heavy_check_mark:
Big tumbler of water close at hand: :heavy_check_mark:

Although the required daily word count to “win” this thing is only 1667, I’m aiming for 2000+, so I can enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday guilt free, without derailing any goals.

Till later, Commentaters.

 

 

 

 

Doing Art

Doing Art

My sister-in-law encourages me to dabble in art – she’s even said she likes some of my little sketches better than $750 paintings we’ve seen, together, at an art gallery. I’m not sure why, although I’ll admit that the thought of anyone paying $750 for the paintings we saw hanging on the gallery walls was encouraging – my first thought was, “I could do that!” And it wasn’t that they were bad, or amateurish, but that – unlike when I study a detailed, luminous, realistic, oil painting by Jacque Louis David – I honestly felt like those paintings represented an attainable goal. So does Jackson Pollock or Jo Baer, and I could do Duchamp but my husband disposed of our old porcelain toilet before I could take a Sharpie marker to it.

Sunday, I fell into her trap. “Have you been doing much art, lately?” she asked.

“No,” I said. I couldn’t think of any art projects I’d done in the past couple of months. “Not really. I’ve been writing, but that’s not art.”

“What about the sketches you’ve been posting to Instagram?”

The what? Oh. Splat! Face first, right at the feet of my biggest fan.

“Inktober! Yes, I guess I have been ‘doing art.'”

I don’t take myself seriously when it comes to art. Not the way I do with writing. It’s not a thing I can imagine doing professionally. But that’s not the point, is it? I “do art” the way some people meditate. To relax. Those sketches, if I really work on them, force me to slow down, to have patience with myself, to study and see the details in a thing.

I am learning not to compare my sketches unfavorably to artists who have spent a lifetime learning and practicing, becoming artists. I am humbled when I post to Instagram, and one or more of the artists I admire clicks the little heart. They don’t sneer; they are welcoming and encouraging. Of course, they might sneer, if I pasted my sketches on that art gallery wall with a price tag of $750. Maybe we can all have a laugh, go out for drinks on my ill gotten gains, the day I work up the nerve to do that.

Sunny Sundays

Sunny Sundays

Cooler temperatures, blue skies, and sunshine mean one thing: long walks in the park. Kickerillo-Mischer is still top of my list of favorites. The alligators haven’t been spotted in the lake since Hurricane Harvey; I’ve asked a few times. But that’s good news for the raptors, apparently; the fish are more plentiful and a large osprey was circling the lake, diving for his dinner, skimming the surface of the water. Graceful, snow-white herons watched from the shore. Even a gaggle of geese strutted about in the woods.

Chinese geese are so called because they descend from the wild swan geese of Asia. According to Ashton Waterfowl, “there are two kinds of Chinese geese: those that hate the world and everything that moves within it, and those which have to be picked up and carried to their shed. They are so tame that they prefer to stand around your feet and won’t be driven.”

My experience with geese up until this weekend has been limited to wild Canada geese, and they’ve invariably been of the first type. While camping with my son at Lake Somerville, many years ago, I encountered a small flock of Canada geese. I gave the giant birds a wide berth, as three teenaged girls approached, presumably to pet the cute beasts. “Stop. No. Don’t,” I thought, silently, not even bothering to channel my inner Willy Wonka. Those girls ran through five campsites without stopping to ask permission to enter. The birds grew bored by the fourth. 

This flock of Chinese geese waddled right by me, their feathers unflapped. 

Listen While Reading!

A walk in the park is a great way to burn calories! Homemade traditional Scottish Shortbread is a great way to replace them:

Cream together two softened sticks of butter and a half cup of sugar. Mix in 9 ozs. of all-purpose flour. Bake at 300º F for 35 minutes. Cut and let cool, or scoop out of the pan with a spoon and eat warm!

Almost too easy…