Going to Plan C

You’ve probably heard the joke, “Do you want to know how to make God laugh?”
“Tell her your five-year plan.”

The garden pictures were all taken on the last official day of winter. These are volunteer nasturtiums growing in an old tree stump.

Well, in the last post I planned to write about critique groups and Liebster, Part Deux. After reading the proposed blog to my critique group, I decided the critique group part needed more work. So I shortened that blog and planned to finish the Liebster tasks last Thursday. You may have noticed a certain absence last week.

In the journey of life, I’m flying through some turbulence. Don’t worry. It’s not hurricane-level. Just some headwind that throws off the ETA and may slightly alter some of the course for the next few weeks. But the current plan is that things will settle down fairly soon and I’ll be back to regular Thursdays. I hope that’s not laughing I hear in the background.

A small orchid.

In the mean time, I’ve missed telling you about books, glorious books. My current reading has been focused on bears and re-reading some of my older books before I pass them on. It’s still evident why the award winning books won, but it seems to me many of these older stories wouldn’t pass the publishing gauntlet today. Someone would have said, “You’ve got to change this, tighten that, and two other things before this is ready for publication.”

The last two books I’ve read are going to continue to reside on my shelf. They are both middle grade with a slight connection to my current bear mania.

This plant is in the sage family. I think its common name is autumn sage.

THE BEARS’ HOUSE, written by Marilyn Sachs and originally published by Doubleday & Co. in 1971, has shown up in this blog before as one of the influential children’s books in my life. Although I read it as a young adult, the lonely child I had been was deeply touched by the story. Fran is the middle child in a family of five children. The father has deserted the family, and the mother is nonfunctional in her depression. The children want to stay together and decide to hide the situation from any outsider. Fran loves her baby sister and takes care of her as best she can, but has fourth-grade child-care knowledge.

I wish I knew for sure how I’d have reacted if I read it at age ten. I think it would have somehow left me feeling more connected even though Fran’s life was very different than mine. I wouldn’t have understood everything the adults did in the story. But I found the story so affecting, it stayed with me for years. It’s one of those stories that has layers for children to explore as they mature.

My dad’s old ashtray. How long has it been since you’ve seen one?

This time I was also thinking about the bear connection. The bears’ house is a playhouse her teacher had as a child. Mrs. Thompson is foreboding, but not unkind. She is about to retire and will give the house to the child who makes the most progress over the year. Fran loves the house. She imagines the bear family loving her and tolerating Goldilocks because of their admiration for Fran, who is low-status in the classroom. The bears fulfill their ancient role as the animals closest to being human and  as nurturers of children.

Okay, I’m searching for my copy to take a cover photo and it is not to be found at the moment. See what I mean about turbulence? But when I check on-line, the book has a new cover anyway and has been reprinted by two other publishers. That should convince readers this is a book to check out.

DOGSONG next time.

Liebster Part Deux

Task #3

Last week I told you about the Liebster Blog Award and completed my first two tasks. I thanked the wonderful artist and blogger Dan Miller, and I answered his questions. The third task to to list eleven random facts about myself.

Riff-Raff, one of our three cats.

I have been a cat person since the age of four or five when I started bringing home stray cats and dressing them in doll clothes. Only Puff stayed.

I went to a small elementary school in the Los Angeles area. We had eight grades in   three classrooms. It was actually great for a kid who liked to read.

I have four younger siblings, who still don’t follow my direction.

Does this photo inspire fear?

Being a Whittier College Poet at football games contributed to my love of paradox. ”Go Poets, Give ‘em the ax, the ax, the ax.”

As evidenced by Carolyn’s Black Forest torte, I’m a firm believer in “less is more.” I am a happier person today because I resisted a second helping.

However, also as demonstrated by Carolyn’s wonderful torte, I do not believe that  “none is best.” I would not be a happy person today if I hadn’t had any dessert. I’m sure there is some great truth hidden in the lesson of Carolyn’s torte.

 Bats, bears, and bugs are among my serial consuming interests.

I am married to a truly great guy, owner of an active fantasy life, who only wishes to be known as Johnny Danger. Between us, we have five children, which add a second non-random fact.

My sister and I learned to belly dance a long time ago, My performing name was “Colorada.”

I was an exchange student to Howard University in Washington D.C. in in the 1960’s.

State of the Garden as on 3/7/13–Daffodils are still blooming, but fading.

Last weekend I went to a 60’s, sixtieth birthday party and I’m nonplused that the years of my youth are now fodder for nostalgia.

Coming next week—the final tasks for the the Liebster Blog Award.

Native California poppies not quite ready to pop yet.

I’d Like to Thank the Academy . . .

I’m hoping that posting Thursdayish is ok this week. Here is one of my excuses er . . . reasons. I did several school events this week including a reading for Read Across America and a fundraiser at a Barnes and Noble.

Actually, I’d like to thank Dan Miller, a Colorado artist and blogger, who passed the Liebster Blog Award to me a while back. The Liebster Blog Award is given by one small blogger to another small blogger. Let me clarify. Small does not refer to one’s personal size (I would meet a short height requirement. Dan would not.) The award is for blogs with 200 or fewer followers. No voting is involved. An individual blogger who has received and accepted the award then passes it on to others. It means a fellow blogger has deemed one’s blog worthy.

So thank you, Dan. It means a lot to me that you have read and enjoyed my blog. I am

Tree trunk in the labyrinth. My son came to remove it and distracted me from writing. He made the tracks for his Alaska mill which includes his chainsaw. He’s experimenting with making boards.

grateful for your support and vote of confidence and for your art.

Dan’s blog is called Impression Evergreen. On a visit you will see samples of his detailed and wonderfully textured colored pencil art and his beautiful nature photographs. He finds truth and beauty through the windows of nature, art, religion, and science. His blog is thoughtful and inclusive. Go visit. If you want to see more of his landscape, wildlife, and portrait art go to:   danmiller-art.crevado.com

Here’s Matt cutting off the top layer. I had to watch.

The second requirement is to answer 11 questions from the nominator. Dan’s answers to his questions were right to the point. Sorry, but I seem to be incapable  of answering Dan’s questions so succinctly so bear with me.

1)  Where were you born?
It sounds so boring to say Bell, California, and there’s no family story involving cabs or anything else. But I am a native Californian daughter of a native Californian son.

2)  What is your astrological sign?
I’m a Scorpio who has forgotten where her moon was at the time even though Cynthia

Here’s what the first board looks like. The other side is bark, and the thickness of this “board” is very uneven. Part of it was flexible.

means “belonging to the moon.”

3)  Where do you live now?
We live in a house that is celebrating its 100th birthday this year in La Mesa, CA, a suburb of San Diego.

Now Dan poses three very difficult questions because he asks for favorites in different categories and I always have trouble narrowing it down.

Matt didn’t need to use the chainsaw track for the next board. The Alaska mill attachment helps keep the chainsaw cutting a consistent thickness.

4)  Who is your favorite artist?
This is not an easy question for a person who loves picture books. Where do I start? Richard Jesse Watson, Ana Juan, Aurelia Fronty, James Endicott, just to name a few who draw me in. Dan is doing a cover for one of my books (which is how we came to know each other) and Miranda Marks is illustrating a picture book. More about both of these projects down the line. Out of the world of children’s books, artistsI have always loved include El Greco, Ben Shahn, and Andy Goldsworthy’s partnership with nature is so beautiful it makes me ache.

The seagulls at Sunset Cliffs were also a writing distraction. And the picture fits with this question.

5) What is your favorite bird?
One of my life-long dreams had been to have a wild bird land on my hand. And one day while watering the garden with a hose, a hummingbird landed on my hand so it could take a bath in the stream of water. I tried to stand as still as a statue until he (or she, I don’t know) finished. Later I heard that hummingbirds get so into their ablutions, that’s one of their most vulnerable times. I also love their chuzpah. Those tiny little birds don’t take  guff from anybody.
Then there’s the mockingbird who builds a nest outside our bedroom window every summer. She loves to sing to the full moon.
Hawks, when they soar, seem to carry you on their wings.
When I was little, my dad said he liked crows. Actually, maybe he said he didn’t like crows, but either way, crows always make me think of my dad and I have always liked them. They’re smart and funny. Young, urban crows have been dubbed YUCKIES. They often move to suburban areas when they’re ready to settle down and have families. On You-tube, you can even find a video of a crow and a dog playing with a ping pong ball.
And owls. Check out WESLEY THE OWL, by Stacey O’Brien. It is a remarkable story of a long relationship and the unanticipated level of avian intelligence that close relationship revealed.

Back to Matt, who cut three boards and will now see if he can dry them without warping (the boards, not Matt). He left us a part of the trunk so we can make a bench.

See why favorite questions are so hard?

6)  What is your favorite movie?

I’m actually going to limit this one by answering my most surprising favorite movie. I may be the only person you’ll run across who really liked ISHTAR. I loved that the Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty characters believed in and encouraged each other with absolutely no objective justification. And their dream came true (although not in  the way they expected). We should all be so lucky—oh, wait a minute, I am.

Green with the color purple is especially wonderful.

7)  What is the one thing you absolutely could not live without? I decided people were not included in this question and I had to eliminate a number of things I’d merely rather not live without—like Dan’s answer of chocolate and dirt. I could live without chocolate and I can imagine hydroponic gardening, but I can’t imagine life without green.

8)  If your life was a motion picture, what would the title be?
Titles are hard for me—maybe JOY IN QUIET PLACES? (I’m trying to speed this up.)

9) What’s something you’ve never done, but have always wanted to do?
I’ve always wanted to be a back-up singer—preferably for Bette Midler as a Harlette. But considering my musical abilities, this is more unlikely than you might imagine (see ISHTAR).

10)  Do you collect anything?
Books, of course. Fabric—talk about unsung artists. Versions of “The Owl and the Pussycat.” And weird little toys—a ball shaped like a rock, another plastic ball that reverses parts to change color midair, a thunder drum—you get the picture.

Finally: 11)  What inspires you?
Stories, nature, people who help others and love deeply.

I have three more tasks to fulfill for the Liebster—another day. Now go check out the artists, Wesley the Owl, and the crow video.