Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May = Farmer's Markets

Here in Ohio May signals the beginning of open air markets. I am fortunate to have a delightful one within walking distance of my home. Well, it is about a mile and a half away, an easy distance there but often a challenge back. Not everything fits easily into a backpack!

This is especially true at the beginning of the season when many of the offerings are plants. Right now is the time to stock up on lush hanging baskets, heirloom tomato plants, flats of flowers and vegetables and perennials for the garden beds. You can easily see the transport issue! I compromise by walking to the market, usually accompanied by my Yorkie Buddy,  leave my purchases with the vendors, and drive back later to do pick up.  I've considered a wagon but then couldn't manage Buddy and he really loves being a market dog. Have you noticed that many of the folks who shop at farmer's markets are also dog lovers?

Spectacular hanging basket

Last Saturday, in addition to some chartreuse hostas, lavender, and three huge geraniums, I bought fresh eggs, granola mix, and some delicious crusty bread. Next week the first of the season greens will be available.

It's good to know the people who care for the chickens who provide my eggs!

Cooking with Amber
The market has a new feature this year, Cooking With Amber. Amber has a small cooking spot set up and creates a dish using what is available at the market that day. The latest offering was French Toast made with eggs from National Trails Farm, Challah bread from Rinaldo's Bakery, and served with several vendors' local maple syrup, jam, or honey. To everyone's delight Amber had a sous chef this week, her darling baby on her back.

Don't you just love farmer's markets? Food for the body and food for the soul!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Just Write!

In November of 2012 I participated in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. The goal was to write the first draft of a novel, defined as 50,000 words, in thirty days. That breaks down to 1,667 words per day. An idea for a novel had popped into my head one day in late August. In September, while vacationing with my son and dogs on Bald Head Island, North Carolina, I did the character development and a general plot outline.

So when November 1st, the first day of NaNoWriMo and also my birthday, rolled around I was ready. Over thinking and striving for perfection can derail writing. This process allows no time for either of those. One has to let go and just write, write, write. There is no stopping to look something up or rethink the structure of a sentence. There is no time to seek that perfect word or phrase. To get the job done you have to sit down and just plow through.

I learned if I had two possible directions to go to just pick one and go there. And if that didn't feel right when I got through it to just grab that other direction and write from there. I did not delete any wrong turns or less than lovely sentences; I just wrote.

And amazing things happened. The more I wrote the more the words came. A new character appeared. A new plot line emerged. Dialogue flowed. Now was all of this golden? Of course not! But as I kept going I stopped worrying about it and just wrote.

I had two goals. I wanted to get to 50,000 words and I wanted a draft that had a beginning, middle, and an end. So I planned that when I got to 40,000 words I would begin to craft an ending. I was not completely successful. I ended up with three possible endings and wrote them all. I finished the challenge early, on Thanksgiving Day, and submitted my 51, 516 words to join the winner's circle.

I let it sit for a week or so and then read the draft. The good news is that I liked it, a lot. How did that happen? How did some fine writing come from this crazy process? Yet, there it was.

Not all of it was good. Some I just cut. Some I realized was probably the basis of another novel, a different story. There were gaps in the story line. I had vacillated between first person and third person. I experimented with using multiple points of view. In other words, lots of work to do!

I needed some motivation to move to the next step and found it in Camp NaNoWriMo. While NaNoWriMo specifies that you begin a new novel, Camp NaNo is designed for works in progress.  I set a goal of 25,000 new words to fill in the gaps and flesh out the story. At 25,621 new words, I did it!  I can proudly add a Camp NaNoWriMo winner badge.  I'm planning to go to camp again when it is offered in July with the goal of polishing this draft to the point where I can give it to some trusted readers for feedback.

If you're a writer and looking for a process to fuel your work, I recommend this. Check it out at  NaNoWriMo and just write!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fontanelle, Rome’s Little Fountains

I love travel. I love being in a new place and discovering what makes it unique, its specific charm. One of my favorite quotes is, “Travel is the one thing you buy in life that makes you richer.” Today I am feeling very rich indeed.

I’ve just spent a lovely week in Rome. It was not my first visit there and as I was meeting some friends to write; I was not focused on the tourist high points, amazing as they are, but rather on feeling like a Roman going about my daily work.

It was about a two-mile walk from my hotel in the Veneto area to my writing group at University of Washington University Rome Center near Campo dei Fiori,  just a few minutes from the Tiber River.

As I knew I would be indulging in delicious Italian cuisine all week, I vowed to walk to and from Campo dei Fiori to burn some extra calories. Walking and writing... bliss! The weather was glorious, sunny and in the seventies. I had a date with some friends at Mercato Hostaria on the campo the night before the group was to meet. This was an opportunity to familiarize myself with some walk routes and time it so I could arrive promptly the next day.

I purchased a bottle of water to store in my backpack for the walk. When I got to the restaurant, within view from our al fresco seats I could see a small fountain, nothing pretty or elaborate, with water running continuously from a down spout. As I watched, people refilled their water bottles. The vendors from the square were also filling buckets to use in their booths. Upon inquiry, our waitperson declared the water not only safe to drink but delicious. I had to try this. Not only was the water good, it was icy cold! It was not necessary to buy bottled water. 

I began to look for other fontanelle, “little fountain,” and realized they were everywhere, most are iron containers with a plain metal down spigot but some are more decorative. There are about 2,500 in Rome. The photo at the top is my personal favorite located a few steps off Campo dei Fiori on one of the charming side streets. I think the animal head is a boar.

The other name for the fountain is nasoni, “big nose”, a reference to the shape of the metal spigot. You can cover the bottom, nostril if you will, with your thumb or palm and the water will spurt through a hole in the top making a drinking fountain for those without bottles to fill.

Given the drought in many parts of the USA, I was amazed by the constantly flowing water. I was glad to learn the water is recycled. The elaborate fountains in Rome, such as Fontana di Trevi and Fontana del Pantheon get their water from aquifers as well. The height or force of the fountain spray is related to the gravity available, depending on the source for the water. Trevi was deliberately sunken to allow for more gravity and a higher spray. The fountain near the Pantheon has a gentler flow. Fascinating!

Trevi Fountain

Fountain at the Pantheon

If you are fortunate enough to visit the Eternal City, don’t hesitate to refresh yourself with a drink of icy cold, delicious water from a nasoni, a unique Roman pleasure. And then have another drink for me!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Less Traveled Road

My writing spot by the Miami River

Good Friday was a day of self-care and reflection for me. I scheduled an early massage appointment at Harmony Farm because I wanted to have time to walk the labyrinth on the grounds before having lunch in Tipp City.

The massage was blissful, opening my mind to new thoughts and connections. The weather was perfect, the first day in weeks with temperatures warm enough to want to do the hike down to the labyrinth and be comfortable walking slowly. My mantra, Solvitur Ambulando, It Is Solved By Walking, guides my steps. As I navigated around the twists and curves of the labyrinth, I stayed open. I found myself asking, who am I? The immediate answers were wife, mother, friend, writer, creative, and teacher. That wife came first was eye opening. I am no longer a wife. But its place in the list tells me how important that role was to me. And though I am no longer a wife, it does not mean I wasn't a very good one because I was. It's been a long journey to recognize and accept that. 

After the labyrinth, I decided to walk down to the Miami River. Harmony Farm has picnic tables and benches there, a fine place to write, reflect, and enjoy nature. As I walked I kept noticing forked sticks. After the fourth or fifth one, I decided to pick one up. I had a flash back to Lent ten years ago. I was reeling from the discovery of my husband's affair and was in my home town in Pennsylvania. I fled there while my husband remained in Ohio to decide if he wanted me or the twenty three year old woman with whom he was having an affair. As I write that I am astounded that I tolerated that. I expect that most folks who know me are surprised as well. Severe trauma can do that; it can bring us to our knees. Literally in this case. I remember going to confession and sobbing out my story to an elderly, very startled priest. He had no idea how to help me. I did not know how to help myself but I knew I needed help. Which brings me to these forked sticks in my path. I had to make a choice back then. I chose to survive and I chose to do whatever it takes to feel whole again. 

People react to trauma in different ways. With regard to affairs and divorce, it is quite common to see some divorce quickly and then immediately find another relationship. Some folks stay together without doing any healing work and live with toxic hurt and mistrust bubbling below the surface. Some couples work together, maybe for the first time in their relationship truly being honest and vulnerable with one another, and create a better, stronger marriage. In my case there was no quick divorce nor was there any healing. So it was up to me to do the work on my own. PTSD is not something one heals from quickly. But I chose to walk that way; I took that fork in the road. Perhaps all these sticks in my path were there to remind me to do it again. To look at the possibilities and decide where to go next. The journey was difficult but rewarding. I'm glad I took the time to sort through all the hurt and pain and examine who I was, who I am, and who I choose to become. My first, most important role is to be myself. Only then can I successfully meet others' needs. To get here required time. To get here required making difficult choices. I needed to be on my own. I did not need to fill the hole created by divorce with another person; I needed to fill it with myself. Now I wake each day with gratitude and say, "I choose to be happy." I've put on my traveling shoes and look forward to the journey.

Embracing life!

The last stanza of Robert Frost's poem,  The Road Not Taken: 
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Winter Be Gone!

Although it is officially spring, Dayton is covered in snow. I've been away from this blog since November first when I began participation in NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month. I've also been doing some extensive traveling in the past year: Cuba, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and will be in Rome in April. With the travel, finishing the draft of my first novel,  following my beloved Dayton Flyers basketball team and then the NCAA beginning rounds here in Dayton, I've been neglecting my blog. I'm happy to be back and will do some catch up posting on my travel and writing experiences to get back in the blogging groove.

When all this snow arrived I decided I needed a dose of spring, set out to find some pansies to buy, and saw this sign. This was just the booster shot I needed. I got my free pack and purchased several more. When the snow melts I'll plant them in a large pot by my front door but for today they are braving the snow surrounding a garden stone I made. Enjoy!