Blog a Day Challenge: January Report

I admit that when I set this challenge up for myself near the end of December, I did so with trepidation:

  • Would I be able to find something to write about EVERY SINGLE DAY?
  • Would I be able to do all the research necessary for each post during a single day?
  • Would I be able to find enough overlap between the three areas of my current life (reading, writing, retirement) to make all three areas interesting?
  • Would I neglect other areas of my life in order to get a post written and published every day?

I did manage to write a post a day for the first month. Here’s what I’ve learned from the challenge so far:

  • It was easy to find topics to write about once I began paying attention to what goes on in the world around me.
  • Not every post needs to be a research project. (Since I tend to approach everything new that I come across as a research project requiring a lot of background investigation, this lesson was perhaps the most difficult but important one for me to learn.)
  • The various areas of my life do cross-pollinate each other once I begin to think that way.
  • So far I have not felt that I am neglecting any important parts of my life, probably because I’ve made an effort not to compartmentalize the several aspects of my life but rather to see them as complementary parts of a whole.

One challenge I still have to face is how I’ll keep up with writing and posting when we travel.

But overall, I’ve found this first month of the blog post a day challenge in 2015 to be enlightening and rewarding.

Here are my January stats:

Number of posts written: 31

Shortest post: 55 words

Longest post: 1,360 words

Total words written: 19,115

Distribution of posts across my three blogs:

The total of posts here may not equal the number of posts written last month because I occasionally publish the same post on more than one blog. However, I have included each post only once in my total word count.

Last month’s featured posts:

1. 8 Lessons College Bowl Season Teaches About Writing

I’m featuring this post because it resulted from the first time I saw how something in one area of my life (personal experience) applied to another part of my life (my writing). I see posts like this all over the internet and often find them interesting, but in the past I just didn’t think this way. But this one appeared out of nowhere while I was watching college football, an example of how synchronicity happens once you open yourself to the possibility of it.

2. Flow

I’m featuring this post because it’s my first attempt at defining a technical term for a general audience on my blog.

I’d appreciate it if you’d take a look at this post and then leave a comment telling me whether you think I’ve succeeded.

Three Things Thursday

Once again it’s time for the blog challenge Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

three-things-thursday-participant

Since we’ve recently moved to Tacoma,WA, USA, after living in St. Louis, MO, for more than 40 years, I’m still discovering awesome aspects of my new life. Today’s offering is a 3-in–1: 3 things that we saw around the neighborhood on a walk last Sunday, January 25. It was a beautiful, sunny day that we felt we had to take advantage of, because we don’t get many days like that during a Pacific Northwest winter.

1. I used to think that moss growing in trees was a strictly Southern thing, but I discovered it isn’t. Here’s what one of the trees outside our house looks like when it has no leaves:

Tree Moss

Here’s a close-up of some of this green growth on a twig:

twig and moss

Maybe this isn’t really moss at all. Some time I’ll have to look it up.

2. I hope you won’t get tired of seeing photos of Mount Rainier. I won’t keep posting them during the summer, when we can see the mountain on most days. But in the winter views of the mountain are much rarer, and therefore photoworthy.

Mt Rainier Jan25_05

3. There’s a cargo slowdown at ports all up and down the Pacific coast, including here in Tacoma. I don’t understand the politics of this situation, nor do I have an opinion on it. But it does mean that we get to see lots of big cargo ships lined up in Commencement Bay awaiting their turn at the port.

cargo ship

“If you don’t like the weather. . .”

I grew up in Connecticut, where I often heard the old Yankee saying “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a minute and it will change.”

When we moved to St. Louis, MO, right after getting married, we didn’t initially have a car. I had to take a couple of different buses to get to work. On my first day of transferring from one bus to another, I asked an older woman at the bus stop if I was in the right place to get the bus I needed. She told me yes, I was. Then she asked me if I was new in the area, and we began to chat. Out of the blue she said, “One thing about St. Louis weather: If you don’t like it, just wait a minute and it will change.”

Now we’ve retired to the Pacific Northwest, and guess what people say about the weather here. Yes, “if you don’t like it, just wait a minute and it will change.” But this time people are right.

I arrived in Tacoma, after a week on the road from St. Louis, the night before I was scheduled to move into my cottage at the retirement community. I stayed at a nearby hotel that night. When I arrived at my cottage at 10:00 the following morning, it was pouring heavily. I was thankful that I had an attached garage to keep me dry as I unpacked my loaded-down little hybrid car. By 11:00 I had all the boxes out of the car and placed in the appropriate rooms (though not unpacked). I was ready to head off to Costco, Target, and Safeway for additional necessities such as food, a coffee maker, a vacuum cleaner, and kitchen storage containers. And when I left to run my errands, the weather was beautiful: a sunny, clear, warm spring day. What a difference an hour had made.

After about a year and a half here, I’m still getting used to this changeable weather. In St. Louis the hottest part of a summer day was usually from noon until about 2:00 or 3:00. After that the temperature would usually begin to go down at least a bit. But here in Tacoma the hottest part of a typical summer day is from 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon until sundown. In the winter we do get quite a bit of rain here. (Have you ever noticed that when a movie or television show is set in Seattle, the indicator of the setting is always rain?) But even in winter a day often starts off with drizzle and fog that gives way to sun, or at least less rain, by mid-morning or early afternoon.

In fact, I find the weather here one of the attractions of the Pacific Northwest. I know that if I don’t like it at any given moment, all I have to do is wait a minute and it will change.

Three Things Thursday

Once again it’s time for the blog challenge Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

three-things-thursday-participant

Since we’ve recently moved to Tacoma,WA, USA, after living in St. Louis, MO, for more than 40 years, I’m still discovering awesome aspects of my new life. Here are three of them I experienced over the past week.

1.  We had one clear day last week when we could see our glorious Mount Rainier. Thanks to my husband for sharing this photo.

Mt. Ranier Jan 13, 2015

 

2.  One thing I’m still getting used to since moving here to the Pacific Northwest is the fact that moss grows on EVERYTHING: on roads, on sidewalks, and, as here, on our driveway.

moss

3.  On Sunday afternoon our Seattle Seahawks had a dramatic come-from-behind victory over the Green Bay Packers to earn the chance to defend last year’s Super Bowl title on February 1. Go Hawks!

ML King Day at WA State History Museum

Yesterday we attended a panel discussion called Diversity and Changemaking in Children’s Literature in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day at the Washington State History Museum in downtown Tacoma. Here’s a summary of the panelists and their messages.

Belinda Louie, Ph.D.
Dr. Louie is a professor of education at the University of Washington Tacoma. She immigrated to the United States from China to attend college. ( See her website ). In her presentation she stressed two points:

  • Authenticity.  She exhibited two books that present the same Chinese fairy tale. One of the books she bought in China. The other was published in the West. She pointed out that the illustrations in the two books are very different, with the Western version picturing a Chinese woman in a way that would not appear in China. She made the point that when looking at books aimed at diversity, it is important that the books depict the authentic experiences and beliefs of the culture represented.
  • Empathy.  Books that present the experience of people of diverse cultural backgrounds help children develop empathy. As an example she offered Black Misery (1969) by Langston Hughes.

Sundee T. Frazier
Frazier is an award-winning novelist of books for young people. All of her books feature biracial main characters. She stressed that seeing a main character in a book who is like them is a validation of children’s right to exist in the world. All children deserve this experience, she said, and she hopes her books show that being from a biracial or interracial family is normal. ( See her website ).

Richard Jesse Watson
Artist Richard Jesse Watson is a best-selling children’s book author and illustrator. His work was featured in a recent solo exhibition at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art and is also on display at the Washington State History Museum. In his illustrations especially he aims to present people from all over the world. ( See his website ).

Laurie Ann Thompson
Thompson’s books aim to inspire and empower young readers. Her first book, Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, is a guide for teens who want to change the world. Another book, Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, is a picture book about a young man from Ghana who changed his country’s perception of people with disabilities. ( See her website ).

Lois Brandt
It took Brandt 10 years to find a publisher for Maddi’s Fridge, her children’s book about friendship, promises, and childhood hunger. No one wanted to publish a book about childhood hunger, she said. The book is based on Brandt’s personal experience of visiting a friend whose refrigerator was as empty as a display refrigerator in an appliance store. ( See her website ).

Carmen Bernier-Grand
Bernier-Grand is a native of Puerto Rico. She said that she was surprised when a publisher asked her to write a children’s book about César Chavez because she was not Mexican. Apparently the publisher thought that anyone who spoke Spanish could write the book. She took on the challenge and immersed herself in the life and culture of her subject. She has since written several more children’s biographies of Latino artists and changemakers. She is a professor of creative writing for children at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts on Whidbey Island. ( See her website ).

Jesse Joshua Watson
Jesse, the son of Richard Jesse Watson, is an artist whose passion is portraying the diversity of people from all over the world. He said that he loves expressing both the differences and the similarities among people in his illustrations. ( See his website ).

Kathleen (Katie) Monks
Monks is head of instruction services at the University of Washington Taooma. She manages the children’s book collection at the university’s Tioga Library. The collection was begun with the donation by Professor Belinda Louie of her children’s books. The children’s and YA (Young Adult) collection now holds more than 8,200 books.

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Another source of information about the need for diversity in children’s literature is We Need Diverse Books:

We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.

The organization also has a Twitter page and a hashtag: #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

Retirement Lifestyle

It’s not necessarily your parents’ retirement anymore.

On the Road with the ‘Workampers,’ Amazon’s Retirement-Age Mobile Workforce

Last fall writer Spencer Woodman visited a campground called Buckeye Mobile/RV Estates outside of Coffeyville, Kansas, where a number of migratory workers were waiting to start temporary work at Amazon’s nearby warehouse. Called workampers, they are “mostly retirement-age migrant workers who have taken to the road in RVs and camper vans in pursuit of temporary jobs to make ends meet.”

But the workamper lifestyle isn’t just about finding temporary work:

Although workampers’ schedules can be grueling, they are quick to express appreciation for the community and sense of belonging that their migratory life offers them. The workers at Buckeye not only lived and worked together but formed close bonds and shared a fierce camaraderie.

One workamper told Woodman, “You need to just get in the RV and explore. You won’t get rich doing it, but you get a lot of experiences and you meet the greatest people.”

Woodman wondered if such enthusiasm for the migratory lifestyle might be rationalization, a means of glossing over the harsh economic realities that force people to keep moving in a search for one temporary job after another. But, he writes, many workampers talk about the lifestyle with a zeal that “can become almost evangelical.” Most of them see this life as a way to throw off the shackles of a stationary, materialistic view of life, to abandon “the entire orders of value that workampers have left behind.”

Several comments posted under the article reinforce this view. Len Randol wrote:

At the age of 36 I went fulltime and left our sticks and bricks life behind. I had a job in corporate management and took my family to live a life full of adventure, a life building memories. Connecting with nature and community in a way that didn’t seem possible in in our wash/rinse/repeat lifestyle of before.

Cheryl Henry posted:

Thousands of us WILLINGLY gave up our sticks and bricks home and a life style that is stressful and/or boring! Sure there are those who struggle, but they probably did when they were anchored to one place… . Most of are NOT running around saying “oh poor me”! We are happy traveling to places of our choice, seeing places in this country we could not have afforded to go visit even for a few days. Now we not only get to go, but get to stay for months at a time if we so choose. If we don’t like the place or the neighbors, we move! We have been across the country east to west, north to south and met some wonderful people and made great friends.

Georgia Bissonette said that after the loss of her son:

I wanted to live again, I wanted to get out of bed and my overwhelming grief and fall in love with this world again! I live and love in a 28ft space with my husband,2 cats and our old dog! And I couldn’t be happier! We are leaving Tennessee this weekend, where are we heading? Where the wind blows us!

This lifestyle is obviously not for everyone, but both the article and the comments suggest that, for some, it is an appealing choice.

Retirees Turn to Virtual Villages for Mutual Support

I had not heard of “virtual retirement villages, whose members pay a yearly fee to gain access to resources and social connections that help them age in place”:

At the core of these villages is conciergelike service referrals for members, said Judy Willett, national director of the Village to Village Network. Members can find household repair services, and sometimes even personal trainers, chefs or practitioners of Reiki, the Japanese healing technique. Most important, the villages foster social connections through activities like potlucks, happy hours and group trips.

One major benefit of virtual retirement villages is that it counters the social isolation that aging adults often experience. Members keep in touch by telephone as well as on websites and by email and social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

virtual villages are popping up all over the country. Currently, there are 140 villages in 40 states, according to Village to Village Network, which helps establish and manage the villages. Another 120 virtual villages are on the drawing boards.

For more information, see Village to Village Network.

Three Things Thursday

Although so far in my challenge to write a blog post a day this year I haven’t had a problem finding things to write about, last weekend I went looking for a couple of blog challenges to participate in. Participating in these challenges will not only give me something to fall back on when I’m short on either ideas or time, but should also add a bit of variety to the kinds of posts you’ll see here.

This week I’m digging into the blog challenge Three Things Thursday, courtesy of Nerd in the Brain. The purpose of this challenge is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

three-things-thursday-participant

So here goes!

1. Last weekend we finally made it to the movie theater to see the third (and final, thank goodness) installment of The Hobbit. I saw this bumper sticker in the parking lot:

Hillary

And I was reminded that, since we’ve now had our first Black U.S. President, it’s time to start thinking again about a female President.

2. No, this is not a full moon over Stonehenge. It’s the sun trying to pierce the fog of a January morning here in Tacoma, Washington, USA.

fog sun

3. While at the movies (see #1) we saw trailers for upcoming new additions to both the Terminator and Jurassic Park_ franchises. I’m not exactly sure what I think about this, but I find it interesting that movie studios apparently think it worthwhile to resurrect these concepts for a new generation. Will there truly be new takes on the underlying ideas of these films, or will the success of the new movies rest on the fact that special effects are so much more advanced now than they were when the original movies were made?