Has Anyone Seen My Summer?

Sad woman silhouette worried on the beach

This week, our resident hound supplied our writing prompt: “Is there a particular season or month (or time of year) in which your writing seems more productive?”

Up until this year, my most productive writing month was summer. It’s no secret that I juggle a full calendar, but from May through most of August, I don’t have to think about school or orchestra rehearsals. Unless it’s raining, my mom can drive herself to where she’s going (unless it involves a highway or she needs to get home after dark). Sometimes hubby and I take care of our grandkids, but they’re old enough to keep themselves busy, or ask grandpa for help. So normally, I’m able to devote a lot more time and energy to writing during the summer.

When it’s warm outside, I can get away from the TV that’s constantly on during the day. I can sit on three-season porch at the patio table with my laptop and a big glass of iced tea. If it gets too quiet for me, I can play music from my iTunes library or find a classical music radio station.

Last summer was an exception. We spent the entire months of May and June clearing out my mom’s house so that we could sell it, and the rest of the summer figuring out what to do with all her stuff. Almost every weekend was spent cleaning, tossing, selling, recycling, donating, and setting things aside for family members who wanted certain items. During the week, I dealt with realtors, repair persons, and other issues that kept popping up. I started to write about all the headaches we encountered in that experience, but then I realized this post is supposed to be about writing, not about roadblocks. Suffice it to say, this past summer I did not get the writing done that I had planned. I had a writing deadline that I missed by over a month. But somehow (through lack of sleep, canceling on a few planned activities, and being somewhat anti-social) I completed the promised work, though it meant non-writing projects were neglected.

Once the school year began, it became even more difficult to write. I’ve been able to complete edits, blogging commitments, and necessary promo only by participating in weekly sprints and attending weekend writing retreats away from home whenever I could. But even that writing time is often taken up finishing school paperwork, since a number of additional issues have arisen surrounding the sale of mom’s house.

Presently, I’m caught up on school work, but I’m still trying to catch up on the house projects and upkeep that were neglected during the family’s major summer activity, and I’m starting to get frustrated because a holiday is coming up and we’re hosting. I need to clean up, which is a major task in the best of times, and nearly impossible when I’m preoccupied by other facets of my life. But the semester is coming to an end, and I’m hopeful things will calm down a bit after the holidays. In the meantime, I’m brainstorming characters, conflicts, and plots so that the next time I’m able to write I’ll be able to make headway on a new project!

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Posted in Patricia Kiyono, summer, writing | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

I Be-leaf Autumn is My Favorite Season

Ah, my favorite thing about Autumn?

EVERYTHING.
When I was growing up, we lived in a very temperate zone, with four distinct seasons. They eked into each other at the beginning or the end at times, but Winters were generally cold with snow, (sometimes less, sometimes more). Springs started out windy and the temperatures were moderate. The Summers were hot, usually sunny and humid.

The Falls were cool and crisp.

When I was a child, I’d play outdoors. In the Autumn, I would go around the edges of the yard and gather all sorts of different seeds from the plants and grasses, pretending to make stew. (I did it enough that some wondered if I was making witch’s brew!) I just liked the different textures and colors.

When I was a teen, we moved from that house to an old house with a wondrous yard, full of different kinds of trees, ornamental grasses and hydrangeas. My mother taught me to make arrangements of the dried grasses and flowers and they were lovely. Later on, in other houses, I’d add the brightness of Bittersweet and whatever else I could find that dried well, such as Baby’s Breath.

I moved out west as an adult and the first thing that hit me in SE Idaho was the scarcity of trees and the lack of colorful Autumns. I soon moved to Colorado and the same thing hit: they brag about “Golden Aspen” but in reality, it’s a bunch of yellow leaves.
Which brings me to the point of my most favorite thing about Autumn: Leaves!

In the aforementioned old house in Virginia, there was an incredible variety of trees and bushes. All of the leaves were of different shapes and sizes, plus the colors were incredible. I tried many times to take photos of patches of ground where they had fallen, but snapshots on film never did it justice. I said just the other day how I wish we had digital cameras back then.

When I lived in Colorado, I had a small townhouse yard, but I planted as much as I could and for color, I had a high-bush cranberry. I hope the people who lived there afterwards kept it.

It was a hard decision to move to Kentucky, but one redeeming factor was that I hoped that being so close to where I grew up in Maryland and Northern Virginia that I would see real Autumnal leaves again.

We have an unusually glorious Autumn year this year! We had the rainiest Summer on record and in between that, a great deal of heat. I assume the combination has led to the fantastic colors that we have this year. Most of the Falls have been so disappointing; this one has made it up to me!
I didn’t get out to take pictures before it rained hard again, but this was posted by a former co-worker from behind her house:Cheryl's house

Halloween is always fun for me. Now comes Thanksgiving, which is so rich in family and friends, gathering to enjoy each other and good food. It transcends any differences between ideas religions, creeds. Here, I have found all sorts of grasses and cattails to make lovely arrangements to add to the atmosphere.

And this year, we’ll have pretty leaves and scenes to usher us into preparing the feast.

Do you decorate for Autumn?

Posted in America, Autumn, blessings, childhood, experiences, Family, holidays, inspiration, memories, Tonette Joyce, traditions, Uncategorized, youth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

My Favorite Aspects of Fall Season

What I Love About Autumn

By Jeff Salter

As much as I enjoy the spring each year, I think I truly prefer the autumn. Nothing particularly quantifiable — purely subjective.

fall-2015-B

These are what we call the “big” woods — about five acres — behind our house on the family farm. This shot taken in late October, 2015.

As I was mulling over the aspects of Fall that I really enjoy, I thought back to a column I posted some three years ago. As I re-read that older treatise, I realized there wasn’t much more I could say about autumn. I love the Look, the Sound, the Smell, the Feel, and the Taste of Fall. If you don’t mind the trouble of one additional click, please read my treatment from 2015:

https://fourfoxesonehound.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/autumn-when-senses-come-alive/

I’ve had an unruly week and midnight Wednesday sort of sneaked up on me. I hope youse guys aren’t disappointed that I had no remaining brain cells to ponder this topic anew.

Question:

How do YOU feel about autumn?

[JLS # 408]

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Autumn in Pisgah

What’s not to like about autumn? In my part of the world the weather finally gets cool enough to enjoy being outside. Leaves are turning brilliant scarlet, rust, red, and gold. It’s football season too. In South Carolina we do love our football. Anticipation swirls in the air as well. We know that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas aren’t too far away. So yeah, autumn is very special to me.

But what’s the best part? Our annual fall picnic. Sometime near the end of October the family gets together and heads to Pisgah Forest, North Carolina. Pisgah is a truly spectacular place that I wish you could see.

Once we get to Brevard, the little town at the forest entrance, we stop at a local store and buy what we want to eat. We usually carry some homemade goodies with us, but we supplement it with the store bought food. What does a typical lunch look like? Fried chicken, homemade pimento cheese sandwiches, potato salad, potato chips, baked beans, deviled eggs, chocolate cake, various kinds of pie, and anything else people wanted to bring.

We drive into the forest to our usual picnic area, and once we are there we try to get our favorite table. I’m posting a picture of the view from the table so you’ll understand why we like it.

After we eat, my son and his wife play on the mandolin and guitar for us, we walk the dog along a little trail in the picnic area, and we go down to the river which smells clean and fresh. The water is always freezing, but it’s cold even in the summer. This particular area has white squirrels. They’re pretty, but they look a little odd. We like to see them, though.

The entire family looks forward to our fall picnic so I don’t think we’ll be giving up this tradition anytime soon. What about you? Does your family have any autumn traditions?

picnic

Posted in Elaine Cantrell, Family, favorites, Life, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Family, Food, and Fire

The air has turned cooler, the colorful array of leaves cover the ground, and the nights are longer. Autumn is here and that means more time with the family! I enjoy Autumn, the air is crisper and cleaner. The farmers are harvesting their crops and preparing their fields for winter. It just seems like things are winding down.

Every year at the end of October my mom throws a Halloween party for her grandkids. We all have a blast. This year there was a scavenger hunt, a relay race, all the usual stuff, and then it all ended with the family gathered around a fire toasting marshmallows for smores. Though I think more toasted marshmallows were eaten than smores. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting around the fire enjoying the company of your loved ones.

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Last week alone my kids and I went down to my parents’ house to sit by the fire and visit. After a stressful day its amazing how family and fire can soothe it all out.

The second best part of Autumn is the food. Dad and I both start baking. I’m trying to learn all I can from him. He’s amazing! Pies, cobblers, cookies, brownies, and breads can often be smelled when walking into their house. The kids love when I decide its time to bake. I think that’s the only time they all come into the kitchen and ask if I want any help. Dinners are often homemade soups. My youngest and I enjoy going into the kitchen and creating something new for dinner. We take some down to share with my parents. The soups that get good reviews from everyone get added into our recipe book.

If you haven’t guessed already my favorite part of this time of year is family, food, and fire. What do you like best about Fall?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Autumn’s Harmony

 

Colorful music background

This week one of our foxes asked, “What’s your favorite part of autumn?”

I guess I’ve always been a busy person. My parents encouraged it, because they figured it kept my brothers and me out of trouble. And it was easy for us to engage in a lot of after-school activities, because the high school was only five blocks from our house (the district is tiny and no one has to walk more than three-quarters of a mile). So during the school year I learned to keep a calendar and check it before committing to anything new.

During the summer, I enjoy having a lot of unstructured time. Normally, this is when I get a lot of crafting done, and sewing projects and other things that got put on the back burner. But by August, I’m ready to return to my breakneck schedule and live on caffeine and adrenalin. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the 40-plus years I’ve spent as a teacher, but I’ve always looked forward to the start of school: meeting and getting to know new students, starting with a clean slate and trying new techniques. It’s a time of optimism and new goals.

Now that I’m not teaching full-time and my children are on their own, the back-to-school preparation isn’t as frenzied as it once was. I teach only two days a week at the university, so my own wardrobe needs are minimal and I use my car only a fraction of what I used to (the university is half the distance from my house from the elementary school where I taught). But my time has been filled with other seasonal activities that make me happy.

Calvin

November 3 concert at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI

Now that my evenings are my own, I’ve filled several of them with other things. Some, like the community band, scrapbooking, and card-making, meet year-round, but others are seasonal, such as the two local community orchestras I have the pleasure of playing in. Grand Rapids is fortunate to have a top-rate professional symphony orchestra as well as several groups open to amateur musicians. I consider myself a hybrid; I have the training to be a professional musician (I’m even a card-carrying member of the musicians’ union!), but I lack the drive to practice and work toward the perfection necessary to make it my vocation. So two nights a week I travel across town to play, and I practice only enough to not embarrass myself. Each orchestra has already performed once this season, and one of them is finished until January, so I’ll have Tuesday nights free for awhile. The other group is preparing for a December concert.

I’ll have a little break over the holidays, and then all three performing groups will start up again in January. I enjoy the winter season, but driving is often scary in our unpredictable weather. So I have to say that the autumn season wins the title of my favorite season for making music!

What do you enjoy about autumn?

Posted in Autumn, favorites, Music, musicians, Patricia Kiyono | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Wheel Was Not Spinning

You are incapacitated and can neither bear to read or write: How do you spend your time?

I posed this week’s question because it has happened to me.

I had radical neck surgery and it did not occur to me that I would not be able to read while I was recovering. In fact, I had packed a book in the bag which I had ready to take with me to the hospital until just the night before, when I thought better of it and took it out.

The recovery has been long and hard. Even after months, I cannot read for long. For months I could only type a few lines to communicate a bit. I still can’t type for very long, so writing had been out of the question as well. We’ll get to other reasons in a moment.

Recently, I had started listening to audiobooks more and more and I heard a great number of them while I was cleaning, arranging, cooking and getting everything done that I could think of,(or was capable of ),before my surgery. I assumed that I would be able to listen to them afterward, to fill in time.

Boy, was I wrong. My neck pain and the headaches would not allow headphones or earbuds to be used, so I was stuck. Trying to listen and pay attention was difficult with even speakers because of the tinnitus that has been a real trial after the accident, (the cause of my neck to need surgery), and I’d fall asleep on them.

So what did I do? Binge-watched series and saw movies on TV that I never would have taken the time to watch when I could read and write. Many shows had been on my ‘Interested’ list. I saw a lot of good ones, ditched a lot of disappointing ones.  I made good use of Netflix, Amazon Prime  and YouTube via my Xbox. My husband has put on many of the movies we have collected, DVD and VHS, which I often nodded off or downright slept through. (I still do sometimes.)

Without rehashing the story, I’m unable to use heavy pain medications, so I rely on heavy doses of nerve blockers and had been on heavier doses of muscle relaxers. I’d fall asleep watching movies and shows, and I’d have to double-back. Some days, I’d do it several times in one show.
I had my husband fill me in on the others, if he watched with me.

It’s much easier to comprehend a story, find your place and be reminded of what came before with visuals, yet another reason why audiobooks, unless they were short stories, would not have worked.

I had considered setting up the voice-to-text on my computer so that I could write, but I am glad that I didn’t bother. I had no idea that the medications would, (at times), not even allow me to finish a sentence. I still never know how much the medications will affect me day-to-day. At times I still have difficulty in remembering things that have just passed. I lose track of what is going on, so when the meds were heavier and the pain was bad, there was no way to recall storylines.

I’ve had my husband rather shaken up, and I cannot safely drive more than very short in-town trips on my own, and then only on a few good days. I am still having trouble with the perception that more time has passed than it has, (in actuality), hours or days.

I am glad that I couldn’t write or use voice-text; I may have totally destroyed stories that have already been in the works. I think of them, mentally work on them, but have not dared to risk doing damage to them.

There are still many days when I cannot read for long or type for long, but now I can listen to audiobooks. The earbuds and earphones are back. My pain is lessened, so my meds are cut back and my mind is clearer; I can put sentences together again, even if I ask my husband once in a while for a word I am looking for, or someone’s name, or where something is, (all of which is in my brain somewhere). In fact, I edited this post several times, because in places it was redundant.

Maybe you can see a difference in my writing; I’d hate to ruin nearly-finished stories.

I had done several months’ worth of blog posts and interviews in advance of my surgery and they are used up, but I am back in the ball game. I am determined to get into my stories in earnest, and not just in my head.

I think that the wheel is turning and the hamster is getting back into shape!

Posted in audiobooks, author's life, big plans, connections, disability, imagination, Life, movies, reading, Tonette Joyce, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments