Tag Archives: Not Poetry

Ireland, here or there

I recently traveled to Ireland with my son, and we experienced the wonderful scenery, the friendly people, the history, and the delicious food and drink that this island has to offer.  We flew into Dublin – and after an exciting time on Saint Patrick’s Day – we set off by rail to the western, more wild part of the country.  The scenes from the train changed from urban to countryside, as we made our way to Cork.  All the little village stops along the way were quaint and the conductor would announce the stop in both English and Gaelic, concluding with a thank you:

Thank you for riding Iarnród Éireann. (Thank you for riding Irish Rail).

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To my ears, it sounded like he said, “Thank you for riding, here or there.

This thought resonated throughout the journey as we went by bus or shuttle to remote locations or simply walked through villages and towns in which we spent the night. There is something exciting and wonderful about rambling through the country-side and discovering new places.  Whether it was the colorful row how houses above Cobh harbor or the barren stones and sea/landscape of the Burren, forests near Killarney or the city street, Ireland offered what seemed like all possible combinations.  And these were accessible from points A and B or C or…Z

Just by what seemed a random direction, any number of beautiful sights and experiences could be found by wandering.

It is no wonder then, that the Irish poets and storytellers, or those that emigrated over the last couple of centuries, spoke and sang so fondly of this beautiful country.  It stands in stark contrast to the tragic history of conquest, famine, civil war and unrest that has plagued the people of Ireland over the centuries.  Both sadness and beauty erupting from the same surroundings is remarkable, and dare I say, poetic.  The countryside simply cries and laughs and inhales – everywhere you look.

Here or there.

 

Opened

I’m having serious writer problems.

Nothing inspires me to write at the moment.

For the past 6 years, I have had a run of productivity that was enjoyable and creative.  I looked forward to the times I could sit down and craft a poem or write a quick blog post.  There was the period in 2014 (while job hunting) that I put together a chapter book of poems and I wrote about everything from gardening tips to snippets about life.  Heck…I even wrote a short story earlier this year.  I once told myself that I would never write long pieces – I didn’t have the attention span.  I probably shouldn’t doubt my ability like that, or make a big deal about “can’t/won’t do” something.  The universe typically calls your bluff.

I’ve been reading more posts lately.  It seems that many of my past favorite blogs have faded as well, so I’ve been searching for new things to read – and I’ve found a few.

The Haunted Wordsmith
Some prolific output in short fiction by a talented writer and engaging posts.

O at the Edges 
Mr. Okaji writes poetry in eloquence and brevity. I’ve been following him for some time now, and I aspire to the ability he demonstrates (and frankly, the output of poetry he produces).

Derrick J Knight
A blog diary of sorts. Mr.Knight is recovering from knee surgery at the moment and writes about his day. He has a beautiful garden.

One of my favorite blog entry formats is the list.  Other people’s lists are ways to get me to open my mind again and thinking of my own. Perhaps it will get me back on the path of writing.

Thanks for reading.

//John

It’s a new year -let’s summarize the old one

2015 was a strange and pivotal year.

Early this year, I was unemployed, job searching, writing, baking, painting, and cooking. I worked on a chapter book of poems that I self-published on Amazon (Accidental Songs). It was a challenge, and I’ve still got a lot to learn. I hope to do another one soon.

In the spring, I became employed!  So I wrote less, baked and cooked less, had nothing to paint (all rooms were done). I planted tomatoes and a single pepper plant.  All did remarkably well!  Lots of pasta sauce and salsa during the summer!

I still managed to finish NaPoWriMo, then probably averaged about a post a week on my blog.  In retrospect, I delved a lot more into rhyme and meter this year than in the past.  I gained some new followers, some real, some not … ;).  Thanks to all who discovered and followed my blog in 2015.

In the summer, my eldest son got married!  Beautiful wedding. Wonderful time.  Great daughter-in-law!  Then they moved all the way across the country… 😦

Then the rest of the year just flew by…

Things I would like to do as a writer(and not a writer) in 2016:

  1. Personally meet more blogging acquaintances.  Something difficult to manage, given the global nature of the medium.  But, we are human, and humans need social interaction.  I’ve never personally met a single blogging-“friend”…
  2. Submit more poems for print publication – I’ve tried this, and was sorely disappointed.  But, I believe this is a valid goal for any writer. So I keep trying.
  3. Do another chapter book.  I enjoyed the process.  In the future, I would like to try a collaboration with another writer or illustrator.  How has this worked out for anybody?
  4. Attend/participate in a writing workshop.  I did this in 2014, and really enjoyed it, but missed the one that was local this year – it wasn’t as well advertised – and I didn’t see the notice until too late.  Anyone have any good/bad experiences with this they would like to share?
  5. See more baseball stadiums (I didn’t get to a single new park this year).
  6. Walk more, eat less, control my blood sugar better, be more attuned to people – be a better human being.

And that concludes 2015.  I wish you all a safe and happy New Year.

John

 

persistence

I have a confession.

I like jello.

It’s simple consistency and the ability to hold different flavors makes it the perfect dessert. Strawberry, lemon, cherry…lime is my favorite -by far. Green jello. It is easy to make: Just add warm water, mix, and let it set. It can be served up in little dessert cups, in larger pans and then cut into slabs or cubes. This delicacy is unique. It holds form. You can depend on it…mostly…to be the same every time you make it, only becoming distasteful when it is stale.

I recognize that this love for jello goes back to my childhood. During my hospital stays for various surgeries, the food was never a favorite – it was not consistent – nor was it the easiest to eat at the time. I don’t really remember the meals, but I remember the jello. Cool and soft, flavored, and easy to eat.

It is also versatile. You can mix it with other things to contribute that flavor. Mix with whipped white topping giving a fluffy fruit flavoring. Or mixed with fruit itself. Or as shots with liqueur. I’m not as much of a fan of jello salads, perhaps I feel the other ingredients overwhelm the flavor in the jello itself…which is funny, because gelatin is really only a medium to hold things together. The fact that jello is flavored is a bonus, I suppose.

I seem to appreciate that bonus, so I don’t really care for the desserts that “contain” jello.

When we eat at our favorite chinese buffet restaurant (the one that plays smooth jazz), I always check out the jello dessert on the salad table. My son looks at me with doubt, and says “You know you are always disappointed that the jello is stale.” This is true. Jello that is “old” develops that toughened layer on top where it has dried out over time. This ruins the trifecta of form, flavor, and texture. Nine times out of ten, I am disappointed. But I keep trying the jello. I’m persistent like that.

They don’t serve lime-flavored, though.

lime jello
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I recognize that my use of the term ‘jello’ may be implying that I endorse a particular product of gelatin dessert. Jello has become such a ubiquitous product that it’s identification is similar to kleenex ~tissue, coke~carbonated beverage, etc.

I am working at it

Please forgive me if my poetry wanes a bit over the next “while.” I feel as if NaPoWriMo 2015 exhausted me. For a writer who generally lets things stew a bit before committing them to characters, 31 poems in a row takes it out of you. I don’t know how the poem-a-day folks do it. You could tell by the end of April, I was grasping and relying on simple forms to get me over the line. They might turn into bigger things someday.

Further, I’ve got a lot of life juggling going on right now. The good news is…I’m back to work. YAY! After 9 months of slogging away in the job market (it is no picnic), I received a job offer from where I least expected…and wasn’t even considering- my former employer. I am very grateful and hopeful for a better direction than my previous position offered. I am excited about learning new things. It’s a little weird going back to work at a place from which you were dismissed. Even if the reasons are business/budget/headcount-related – getting let go is painful. But, it is going to be fine.

Just to keep in the habit of writing, I thought I’d post a bit about my unemployment “by the numbers.”

9 months unemployed
which translates to 276 days
1 remodeled/refloored bathroom
3 painted rooms
1 repainted front door
23 donations made to charity via closet and basement cleaning
70 Beanie Babies donated to worthy causes
24 loaves of bread baked
15 new recipes attempted
4 batches of salsa made and consumed
3 batches of green tomato salsa made and consumed
3 batches of tomato sauce made and consumed
1 book of poetry assembled and self-published
> 200 jobs applied for
7 different versions of my resume’
2 site interviews
1 online video interview (weird experience)
7 multiple phone interviews
150 loads of laundry completed
26 VHS home movies copied to digital format
3 seasons of Rat Patrol watched
4 seasons of Warehouse 13 watched
4 weeks employment at a Home Improvement Store
81 blog posts (including 31 days of NaPoWriMo)

I think it was a productive time, though filled with doubt and stress at times. I definitely felt the support of friends and family, especially my wife and two sons.

So, if you are going through something like this: Stay busy, putter, focus on what matters, give yourself some time to grieve and move on, allow yourself some fun, learn something new, don’t give up.

Good things happen all the time.

Popcorn thoughts of kindness

I’ve been doing a bunch of bits and pieces of things over the past week, I feel very scattered. I haven’t really had time to sit down and write much. This is OK. Life happens. I do have a lot on my mind these days.

I had some blogworthy tidbits I wanted to jot down, but they were not worthy of single posts…kind of like kernels of popcorn that presented themselves.

National Poetry Writing Month is just around the corner. I last participated in 2013 (I think). I proudly completed the entire month for the first time. Well, I’m committing to do it again in 2015. It’s a good way to stretch your poetry legs, gets some things written down, try new forms, and shake out the dust. If you are a poet, and are participating, let me know. So we’ll see how this goes.

A reminder, my very first chapter book Accidental Songs is available on Amazon. I self-published this collection. I invite you to check it out, purchase it 🙂

Spring is getting its claws in the seasonal change, judging from the number of robins that I’ve seen recently, the rapid changes in weather that are apparent, and my allergies ramping up. I’m looking forward to the green landscape though.

I happened to read this quote in my twitter feed this week,

“We’re all smart, distinguish yourself by being kind.”

This was posted in a twitter account entitled “ShitAcademicsSay”. I don’t know the origin of the quote, and have been looking for it’s primary source. The original context apparently has to do with academic publishing and review, but I see it as a more universal restatement of the golden rule. I like it.

I heard Nat King Cole’s version of Smile a few weeks ago. The music by Charlie Chaplin, John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added the lyrics and title in 1954. It was a mantra for a few days in the bleakness of winter. I love how a verse, a song, a quote, or even a picture can present a moment of beauty and relief.

That’s it. Popcorn’s done.

Incongruence, or How to Make a Salad

It was Friday.

A cold snowy day. My wife was home from work, sick with a cold and I was the dutiful caregiver – supplying her with ice cold drinks and extra blankets.

We decided that we wanted salads for lunch. My wife’s favorite salad is a Sante Fe style salad, with chicken, lots of crunchy tortilla strips and usually ranch dressing.

Luckily, I had cooked half of a package of chicken tenders two nights before (when I made a chicken pot pie), but seasoned with a homemade taco seasoning – comprised of chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, red pepper and cumin. These days, I am intrigued by the opportunity to play with the spices we have in our cabinet. Sure, it is more difficult than just using a packaged taco seasoning, but it appeals to the scientist in me.

Anyway, I had cooked those chicken tenders on Wednesday night. They were looking for something useful to do. I cut them into small chunks, and set them aside.

I pulled out a bag of Romaine lettuce. Now, you may ask, why didn’t you use a whole head of lettuce? Fewer things in the kitchen bore me more than chopping and cleaning a head of lettuce. This is interesting, because I will prep and cut onion, peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumber…even carrots, just about any vegetable. Lettuce bores me.

I poured the precut salad mix into a bowl and inspected it for undesirable components, rinsed it, and moved on. I chopped two Roma tomatoes (see comment above) and added to the lettuce. I grabbed a handful of grated monterey jack/cheddar cheese – this is about a cup – and mixed it into the salad bowl. Finally, I tossed in another handful-and-a-half of tortilla strips.

For the dressing, I mixed 2 parts of Country French with 1 part Chipotle Ranch and stirred. This gives the “right” combination of sweet and spicy. Flavor chemistry is an interesting subject. The Country French sweetness is detected by a combination of receptor proteins in the roof of the mouth and the back of the tongue. These receptors synapse with the glossopharyngeal nerve and the chorda tympani, which means the signals are transferred up the center of the neck as well as along the sides of the skull, through the inner ear.

Spicy flavors, on the other hand, are detected by the VR1 receptors in the mouth. What is interesting is that they are designed to detect heat, such that we don’t consume hot food that will burn our mouths. The detection of capsaicin (the chemical in most peppers) is accidental, but activates the “heat” response of the VR1 receptors.

I poured the dressing over the salad mixture and tossed liberally to coat the lettuce, cheese, tortilla strips and tomatoes. At this point, I heated the chicken in the microwave for about 90 seconds.

To serve, I scooped out a serving (or two) of the salad mixture onto a plate, then topped it with the warm taco chicken. What you get is a delicious, yet incongruous, mixture of ingredients.

Crunchy, yet smooth
sweet, yet spicy
vegetable, yet chicken-y
warm, and cold

Serves 3 to 4 people, was eaten by 2.

So, in summary:

5 or 6 chicken breast tenders, cooked with taco seasoning or similar spices, then chopped
1 bag Romaine Salad
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 Cup Monterey Jack/Cheddar grated cheese
1 1/2 cup thin tortilla strips
2/3 cup Country French Dressing
1/3 cup Chipotle Ranch Dressing

Soundtrack for making the salad:
Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers Band
Smile – Nat King Cole