Tag Archive | writing

Holiday Greetings: Ringing in the Last Month of 2015

Ringing in the Last Month of the Year: Happy Holidays 2015

Greetings of the season, Stumbler readers! I stopped by to change the seasonal colors — naturally, I forgot how that is done, so had some fiddling around to do…not positive this is the one that will stay. I really like this one, but it comes up way too much blue:

© debra valentino

snowy tree branches

I thought while I was here I should at least wish you a happy month of crazy. How are your festivities going, if you are one who celebrates Christmas?

For starters, I decorated our mantel for our grand baby the way I used to when the kids were small.  I thought it would be a good idea because it’s so child-friendly, but then I realized the style is looking sorely out of date…even if the garland does light up. This was just a quick job to get some of the decorations out of their boxes, but still…I think it needs a little sprucing up; perhaps a new banner (which will one day become outdated as well). Still, I would love to find the time to craft one:

mantel decorations

 

I always loved those blocks that spell out “Merry Christmas.” My goodness, they are a year or two older than my oldest child! The doll on the top reminds me so much of my mother. She loved Christmasy dolls. The nutcrackers always make me think of my son–except that this year when I asked my daughter if she wanted any of my old Christmas decorations, she surprised me by saying, “Maybe just the nutcrackers.” The Bambi in the back was my son’s, and he loved the nose on that little thing. Each of those stuffed toys has memories. Of course, we move the stuffed animals before we light the fire!

I used to put the whole collection of stuffed animals in one big basket, but in all the rush to move to help with my mother before she passed away, I now have no idea whether I even still have that basket. I got a lot of use out of that Moses-style basket, but for the life of me cannot recall where its origin. I think that is one of those facts I lost with my head injury–I used to know every minor thing, it seemed. I do remember, fortunately, that before that basket (the one that’s not even pictured in the photo above) was the stuffed animal house, it was an Advent Book Basket. That is because, long before Pinterest was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, I came up with a Christmas idea for my children: I wrapped new books for them and allowed them to open one each day after school during the season of Advent. They were so young they were enchanted simply by the idea alone that each book was “a gift.” They enjoyed unwrapping the colorful papers. Then, they were anxious to explore the book of the day, and easily became enchanted by the story. It was a great way to get them reading.

To this day, one of my most favorite Christmas memories is the quiet that fell over this very family room, as both kids and the hubby sat reading silently. It was truly beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful, I took a photo today while I was walking the dog. I tried editing it with a new app on my phone, and this is what it rendered:

© debra valentino, all rights reserved

photo taken on walk, December 2, 2015

I think it’s a spectacular image. It was a really gray, dreary day today, and the branches on this tree seemed like some sort of crescendo to the wind, which seemed colder than I expected. I walked cautiously, as the news of yet another mass shooting was unfolding, this one in San Bernardino, California. It seemed the school children were dismissed early, and I started paying attention to parents pulling up in a way I never have before, thinking what I would do if someone opened fire the way they were doing in California today.  Then, when returned home and I saw the heart shape in this image centered in the clouds above, it felt like some loving spirit had been present, perhaps weeping over the tragedy of the lives lost. I guess we have to try to make meaning when so many random acts of violence go unexplained. This picture is already so special to me, and I just shot it this afternoon. I hate what happened in San Bernardino, but as art often does, this photograph brings me comfort and joy. I love in it the contours of color and the contrasts of shape and texture.

~~

Well, I guess after 61 days of writing here I got so used to writing that I just had to return. I’m hosting a cookie baking party next weekend, and maybe I’ll return to blog about that. There is so much to do and to document in the month of December, as you likely understand. Last year, our Christmas holiday was a somewhat quiet one. This year, our Thanksgiving holiday was quiet–but super wonderful–just hubby and me. He was recovering from hernia surgery, so we stayed home alone and listened to some great music, and just ate a small turkey meal with all the fixings by candlelight. At first we were depressed about not seeing the kids or any friends or family, but it turned out so lovely that in the end we were sort of rejoicing. We had peace and quiet, not a lot of cleanup, and we got to rest completely commotion free, which was what my husband especially needed. He’s still not 100%, but sleeping soundly as I write. I know he will be so happy in the morning when he receives the notification that I’ve posted to the blog. He is always so supportive of my writing. I love that about him.

As for you, dear readers, I hope you will be able to go with the flow as much as possible this holiday season. *It’s not about how much you do!* It’s about how it feels. I guess that is why I came back to write. Writing makes me happy. It’s only been a few days, and I already missed it and everyone here. We should never underestimate the good fortune of being able to read, or (as I know too well) of being able to write.

Happy December 2015!

**HOWEVER**: It’s not about how much you do…HOWEVER…if you would like a wee bit of help organizing your holiday tasks, here is a link to some free planning pages: FREE HOLIDAY PLANNING LINK

Enjoy!

~~

© debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved

 

The Great Halleluia: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 30

http://boardofwisdom.com/togo/Quotes/ShowQuote?msgid=607898#.VlwInrQ-Cb8

Day 30:  I am grateful for endings.

I am grateful for endings. You know, the great “Halleluia!” that comes when something is accomplished, or work has been a labor in progress. Some endings are a golden relief. There is the ending of the school year, for example, or the ending of the work week…the ending of a healthy pregnancy and a successful labor. The ending of a root canal. The ending of a bad movie. The ending of a mortgage…generally rare, but always something to celebrate.

The ending of a good meal is followed by dessert. What we love about endings is what follows–or, if not what follows, then well, what ends: a vigorous exercise workout, an arduous hike, a long swim…the bibliography of a research paper, final exams, a trade-in of an old vehicle for a new. Not all endings are happy, but most are necessary.

When I taught, I told students that a paper is finished when the due date arrives; that writing can be only confined by its deadline. Otherwise, I explained, writing might continue indefinitely, at the very least in terms of polishing and editing. Few texts are perfect as is, but at some point the writer must release them, that point being when they are out of time. The deadline or due date always arrives, and usually sooner than the text is perfect. Writing doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be nearly so–on its way to being perfect.

In some cases, however, the deadline can’t come soon enough; the writer is ready to stop writing–at least on that piece or project. I know this feeling well, and I am celebrating it today…

As today is Day 30, this is the last post of a series that I have written focusing on the topic of gratitude for November 2015. These thirty days of blogging gratitudes have been very interesting, but they also turned out to be a much bigger commitment than I envisioned. The writing was the most fun, but the formatting on wordpress is slow, and slower still depending on my location. When the internet wifi is plodding, I waste hours trying to reformat and polish, because the electronic changes all take anywhere from one to five minutes a piece. It was a major time suck. But I got to share with many new readers, and that really did make it worth the time.

Once tomorrow hits and I no longer have a gratitude post to process, I imagine it will feel something like daylight savings time, where I gain not just one but several hours each day.

I am looking forward to that change.

I’m also looking forward to more sleep, since often I was up writing long past my husband had gone to bed. AND I get to start our Christmas…lots of fun plans already in the making for that for our family, which I may find time to blog about.

I hope you have enjoyed following these 30 days of gratitude. I am grateful every day, but I do not imagine I will be blogging another 30 Days of Gratitude next year. I am considering making this set into a book to give to one of my loved ones as a gift. It will be interesting to see how it turns out, if I do that.

I guess in some ways the true test of what a daily gratitude practice renders is about to be answered.

I am grateful to be writing, and I am grateful to be completing yet another writing project.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Thanks for reading Stumbler.

~~~

© Debra Valentino, all rights reserved, www.firstlightofevening.com

Ballpoint Pens: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 28

http://www.pentel.com/store/pentel-rsvp-ballpoint-pen-config

a stash of my R.S.V.P. Pentel pens

Day 28: I am grateful for good pens.

Small things matter, and one of my favorite things in life is a good pen. Pens are important to writers like me, who don’t just write with keyboards, but also do gobs of longhand writing. I have always written a lot of everything–notes, memos, letters, journals, doodles, lists, cards, you name it. As a teacher, I used pens even more often, most particularly to grade and comment on student essays and projects. Suffice it to say that with all the words I have placed on paper, I have had oodles of longhand writing experience, and plenty enough to know which writing instruments are the best–or, at least, that is, the best for me. And I might mention that when it comes to pens, I’m as picky as a fashion model is with lipstick.

For years, my favorite pen of choice has been the fine point Pentel R.S.V.P. pen. Dubbed the “mastermind” of all ballpoint pens, the R.S.V.P. stands up to the hard work of a writer, and is equally tough in practice for them as is accepting some invitations (hence, the RSVP designation).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSVP_(invitations)

definition of R.S.V.P.

As the following diagram shows, the pen has a durable steel tip, along with a latex-free comfort grip, which make the pen both durable and comfortable. Did I mention affordable? As described in Pentel’s product information:

Quality-crafted, economical ballpoint pen with an ergonomic barrel design and Latex-free Comfort Zone™ grip for writing comfort and control. Writes expressive medium lines with vivid black ink. Crystal-clear barrel is complemented by a variety of bright grip and trim colors.

http://www.pentel.com/rsvp

Pentel pen features

You can purchase this pen in medium or fine points, but I personally have never even tried the medium tip. I prefer the fine point  in most pens, unless I’m writing something that needs to stand out, such as an envelope. I might also add that it is specifically and particularly the RSVP pen that I favor even over other Pentels (although I’ve never tried the pricier variety).

This disposable and/or refillable fine point pen gives a clear and visible mark without ever leaking or blotching–which is really my favorite thing about this pen–along with its sleek design. Some people prefer clickable pens so they don’t have to worry about misplacing the top, but I don’t mind that it has to be capped, because I always nearly always place the pen top on the end of the pen as shown, so I have rarely ever lost one.

http://www.pentel.com/store/pentel-rsvp-ballpoint-pen-config

Pentel R.S.V.P. capped ballpoint pen.

I also like the color selections available for this pen, although I have never seen one of the sky blue varieties.

pentel ink colors

http://www.pentel.com/rsvp

I use the violet purple ink nearly as much as the black and the blue color, with black probably being my favorite, but black and blue being the two I run out of most often. However, I’ve probably used as many purple Pentels as both the blue and the black put together. Because I often write cards, letters or journal in the purple ink, I have gone through a lot of purple ink, while the black and blue are reserved usually for more formal correspondence or envelope writing.

www.pentel.com

Pentel pen pack

I usually buy these packs for just over a dollar a pen. Recently I found the refills online, but up until now have not recycled as well as I hope to going forward. These pens are great and something I feel I can depend on, but you don’t have to just take my word for it, you can also read this article here.

Loving these pens the way I do, I had an idea for Christmas this year.

I might suggest for the family gift exchange that we each bring something inexpensive to share with one another, with the caveat that this something must qualify as one of our favorite things. If the items are small enough, they can be placed in a stocking, but I might do something original like us a wrapped box, a designated table or a pillowcase to gather each person’s stash of gifting favorites. By receiving a small favorite item such as a Pentel pen, we can all learn a little more about each other and about gratitude, and also receive something that comes well recommended.

I’m so glad I discovered a pen I can always count on. This year, as in many before, I remain grateful for the Pentel R.S.V.P. ballpoint pen.

~~~

Receive my daily gratitude posts by subscribing with your email address to Stumbler on this page at the upper right corner. _______________________________________//

You can locate all gratitude posts on this blog by searching under the category at the right: GRATITUDES November 2015 ———————>>>.

You can also follow my daily gratitude posts on Facebook at Stumbler:

https://www.facebook.com/stumblerblog/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Follow me on Instagram:

https://instagram.com/firstlightofevening/

On this Pinterest board:

In Praise and Thanksgiving 2015

If you have any questions or you want to share your gratitudes, you may post them in the comments, or email me at:

stumblerblog@gmail.com

~~~

© debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved

Mentors: 30 Days of Gratitude, Day 24

Reading a poem when I was a student, on an outing with my friend Macrina.

Day 24: I am grateful for mentors.

Today I am grateful for teachers and mentors.

In my life, I have been blessed with wonderful mentors who believed in me long before I believed in myself. My first mentor was my sixth grade teacher, who had interests in science, which is one of my favorite subjects. My sixth grade teacher was also my homeroom teacher, and even though we had a separate teacher for Language Arts, my homeroom teacher reinforced language arts with additional class work in reading and writing.

In our 6th grade class, we had a specialized reading program (the one where I first learned the word “vista,” which I wrote about here), as well as a weekly hour dedicated to Creative Writing, where our teacher gave us a prompt on which to write longhand for 30-40 minutes. It was those early creative writing papers, and more specifically my teacher’s feedback on those papers, that cemented my academic leanings toward English and writing. My teacher, Mr. Wharton, who became my first mentor, encouraged my writing both in his written responses and in after school conferences. Not only did he tell me how well I had written, but he also on occasion discussed with me the ideas expressed in my writing. His positive confirmation and enthusiasm helped me to see writing as its own endeavor, and to focus on the necessary learning that all writers need to embrace to become better writers. I have always appreciated my sixth grade teacher’s positive input, as well as his treating me like a person with a brain, and not just another student to be dismissed.

Although my 6th grade teacher became a lifelong friend (today happens to be his birthday: Happy Birthday, if you are reading this, Don!), not all of my mentors are still accessible. My favorite university professor, also coincidentally named Bob Wharton, also encouraged me as a thinker and as a writer. Above all, Dr. Wharton inspired my love of literature, as he was the consummate teacher and scholar. Under his tutelage, I studied the great literary masters and works, and he too always had a kind, if not thought-provoking and inspiring word for my writing. When I applied to graduate school, unbeknown to me until decades later, Dr. Wharton also made laudatory reference to one of my essays in his letter of recommendation, which helped me to win acceptance into the program. Dr. Wharton became the dearest of friends, and I visited him at his bedside when he was dying of Alzheimer’s disease. I feel he is still connected to me to this day, cheering me on, encouraging me even as I work toward my own golden years.

Most of my mentors have been writers, thinkers, scholars, teachers, or poets. I also worked with the renowned Carolyn Forche‘ in poetry workshop, and she was wonderfully encouraging and supportive in every way. I feel to this day that I let her down by not becoming a poet a fraction as prolific as she, but I know she would understand the way my life broke down, tearing me away from the writing we both so loved. As she still contributes regularly, she inspires me never to give up–that poetry, word, thought and the love of language remain ageless and available. I don’t think Carolyn would say that you have to publish your work in order for it to matter, although I do think she meant to inspire more in me the courage to share. Here is a famous work of Carolyn’s that she autographed to me while I was her student:

Carolyn Forche'

Forché, Carolyn, Gathering the Tribes, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1976

Other mentors I am grateful to, particularly for inspiring my writing and interest in language, are teachers and poet Miller Williams, rhetoricians Dr. Jenefer Giannasi and Jasper Neel, along with close friends monastic nun Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, my husband Rich Arment, and several former students who are waiting in line for me to finally publish a book. My husband Rich’s contribution is perhaps the greatest of all, as he provides daily for me a safe environment in which to focus and to flourish, where I can write all day every day as often as I choose. He gives me the kind of support and freedom every writer needs to do what they love. I am forever grateful to my dear partner and husband, and to all of these valuable people who have encouraged and appreciated my work over the years.

~~~

Receive my daily gratitude posts by subscribing with your email address to Stumbler on this page at the upper right corner. _______________________________________//

You can locate all gratitude posts on this blog by searching under the category at the right: GRATITUDES November 2015 ———————>>>.

You can also follow my daily gratitude posts on Facebook at Stumbler:

https://www.facebook.com/stumblerblog/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Follow me on Instagram:

https://instagram.com/firstlightofevening/

On this Pinterest board:

In Praise and Thanksgiving 2015

If you have any questions or you want to share your gratitudes, you may post them in the comments, or email me at:

stumblerblog@gmail.com

~~~

© debra valentino, www.firstlightofevening.com, all rights reserved