We began the Clean-The-Basement task this past week. I just finished with writing the book, I could take on another monumental task, couldn’t I? Hopefully, it will not take as long.

It began because my son needed some space in his living/sleeping/library home. Besides, the boxes went under the stairs…you know, the basement stairway in old houses with rock basements…well, you may not…suffice to say it’s deep and wide and dusty, and the boxes went in there ten years ago when we moved into this house.

I’ve written a memoir with a fair amount of whining because I kept moving and unpacking and packing. I haven’t moved in ten years. Moving often is useful. You don’t store stuff.

Another reason I was loath to tackle the under-stairs was that I knew, at the far back against the wall corner, I’d have to open my mother’s box. The last box from the nursing home after she died, just odds and ends, and which I’d packed in February of 2001 and put into the storage cage for my first apartment in Kansas City and moved here, to the house in far back corner under the stairs, in 2005.

Not much smelled like her. For that I was glad.

Mostly, it was clothes, sheets, a few odds and ends. I put them all in the washing machine, and dried, and carefully folded.

Here’s my mom in a snapshot.

Mom's shirts (2)She was a lady. A very short lady, four feet eleven and three-quarters, as she said. She graduated from high school.jeanette's hs px (3)

Note shoes.

She also embroidered although these two shirts are machine made. I found one pillowcase, careful and tiny stitches, in another box. Stephen said it may have been his, but he’s not likely to use it. So I got it.

What this photos also shows, however, is her crazy. The shirt isn’t only black and white check, it’s a crossword puzzle. Mother was a reader and a writer and she loved crossword puzzles. I do not take after her in that regard. And a farm wife. I’m enough of a farmer. I didn’t need to marry one.

All her clothes are soft, soft fabrics, soft comfort. This is her robe. Almost everything I wear is soft. I’d not connected that line before.Mom's robe (2)

I write often about my mother in the memoir. She liked Hawaii, too, and went there most every winter to my sister’s.

Mom's Hawaii (2)This is Hawaii.

There’s a scene in the book where my mother comes to visit me in the jungle retreat center near Hilo and I take her to Hilo Hatties to buy a short muumuu. I found that muumuu too. I’ll keep it.

Transformations. I hear many talking/doing/living transformations. It’s a muddled time, there’s no doubt about that.

This is the end of our dining room table. It’s November. There’s roses, still, from the garden and pumpkin/squash from Trader Joe’s. And Mom’s muumuu, hanging on the back of a chair, ready to pack for her next trip.

table (2)


A “Finished” Book

So this blogging every day thing, obviously, did not materialize, since I last sent out a post on the 7th and it’s now the 10th.

However, I did reread the “finished” manuscript (perhaps a book is never exactly finished), first sentence to last, and made more revisions; and then I went through again and made sure formatting matched all the way, chapter headings and spacing, that sort of thing. And then last night I sent out email to those who are reading the manuscript and sending comments, BETA readers they’re called, and two emailed back so this morning I sent it to those two.

And checked several times to make sure the correct version was in Dropbox. It is. And the desktop. Given my ocd tendencies, I’m likely to save it to a flash drive too but I haven’t yet.

But. If you’ve reached this far reading and haven’t thrown up your hands in boredom or frustration at something else you could be reading, here’s a quote I found on an empty page divider, just after I’d finished reading the journal for what-came-next. This came next.

I Remember Your Name in the Night, a book by Donagh O’Shea.

I need to give myself profoundly to the future; that is part of what it is to love time, to love life itself. Love casts out fear. If I can be courageous in the face of the future, then when my future comes it will be mine. And only when it is mine can I give it away. To God and to others. For you I will be who I will be.

The G.M.O. debate

gmo-genetically-modified-organism_50290d5e92a11_w1500An article in the New York Times Sunday Review section from October 25, troubled me this morning, an opinion piece by Mark Lynas titled “Europe Turns Against Science.”

The context is the continuing argument over genetically modified seeds, or GMOs. European countries “announced bans on the cultivation of genetically modified crops.”

I’ve watched this argument, GMOs vs. non-GMO foods, and cannot find a reasonable answer. My nephew, an organic farmer, is vocally opposed to GMOs. I understand and appreciate his position. Here at our house, we buy organic produce and organic chicken and good quality meats. We rarely go out to dinner, but we eat well.

My problem with the furor is two-fold. 1. It reminds me of the furor over immunizations for children and the ensuing measles and whooping cough outbreaks; and 2. my dad was planting GMOs back in the 1950s with NC+ seeds. In other words, GMOs have been in our food chain for sixty years.

Which is not to say there isn’t a problem. But the problems are wide spread and complicated in our complicated world.

From the article: One study found that G.M.O. cultivation has led to a 40 percent reduction in insecticide spraying worldwide.

That’s huge. Insecticide use produced ecological problems throughout the world. Think honey bees and their decline. Weed spraying is also reduced by GMO use. Think monarch butterflies and the milkweed pods they need. Although the reduction of milkweed also has to do with the increase in corporate farming. Drive along most country roads and you’ll see what I mean. Uncultivated fence rows rarely exist anymore. As I said, most answers to problems are complicated.

Following Europe’s lead, no country in sub-Sahara Africa, except for South Africa, permits GMO. cultivation. Lynas writes, “Yet from drought-tolerant maize to virus-resistant cassava, many biotech traits are being developed that could quickly improve the livelihoods of poorer African farmers.”

He goes on to write of visiting malnourished children in Tanzania whose families were hungry because the cassava “were wiped out by brown-streak disease.” Modified cassava has resistance to that virus.

But here’s the line that got to me: because of the ban, “we are witnessing a historic injustice perpetrated by the well fed on the food insecure.”

My family is well-fed. I’d rather not make those who are “food insecure” less secure.

I understand the argument against Monsanto’s wide-reaching dominance, but the argument against G.M.O.s leads me to remember the 1950s yellow NC+ sign, proudly guarding our country farm’s lane.

Our farm family never had much money, but we always had food.






Writing Tools #2

Good morning, boys and girls. As I promised yesterday, when offering Wordle, here’s a super tool for your writing–and from Princeton. Yes that Princeton.

From the website: WordNet superficially resembles a thesaurus, in that it groups words together based on their meanings. However, there are some important distinctions. First, WordNet interlinks not just word forms—strings of letters—but specific senses of words. As a result, words that are found in close proximity to one another in the network are semantically disambiguated. Second, WordNet labels the semantic relations among words, whereas the groupings of words in a thesaurus does not follow any explicit pattern other than meaning similarity.

That may be more information than you need, especially the “semantically disambiguated” part; however, this digital tool is so much more useful than thumbing through Rogers Thesaurus, although I have a much-thumbed copy…..however, I just realized, after looking for Rogers, that I’ve used WordNet so long, I don’t know which shelf hides Roger.

WordNet is right on the taskbar. I can pull it up, enter a word, and it pulls up not only synonyms, but noun, verb, adjective, and adverb synonyms. All with a click.

If you go to the site, you can download the program.

I like it so much, in fact, that recently I donated to a recent fundraiser to extend the language and uses of WordNet. The premium was choosing a word to sponsor. I choose dwindle.


What have I done…

wordleby inserting myself into NaBloPoMo Blogroll with a commitment to blog every day in November. Not interested in writing a Na…whatever it is that writes a novel in a month, I have jumped into blogging every day for a month. Along with finishing The Memoir.

I didn’t even know about NaBloPoMO until this morning, November 1st, when I opened the page to pass on information on two writing tools I’ve come to love and use. And then I saw it and then I signed up. Ya gotta wonder.

So, in order to get at least two days of blogging planned, I’ll do them one at a time.


From the site: “Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to your own desktop to use as you wish.”

The above image is a cloud from this particular blog post. Using “word” often I understand, but did I really write “really” often enough to make it stand out? 

You will need Java, so if you don’t have it, get it first.

Here’s what you do. Go to the site. Click on Create. Paste in a bunch of text, I use as much as thirty or forty pages at a time, click Go.

Wordle creates this most amazing word cloud of the most used words, the really really most used jump out at you, and you can then paste that word into find and rewrite all the sentences in your manuscript that contain that too-used word. Fabulous.

I found “home” a lot. That’s reasonable since the memoir is about finding where I fit. Another word, came, was not as useful. Nor was went or turned.  I won’t bore you with the list of words but you get the idea.

The cool thing is being able to SEE one sentence at a time and the sentences around it and revise. It’s helped to focus on one sentence rather than a paragraph with meaning.

Test it out. You’ll be glad you did.

Tomorrow, and hopefully tomorrow I’ll remember I committed to this, a tool from Princeton.