Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Answering the Muse

Cat Ni, 7 — Orange Fuzzy Cat

Morning Thoughts and Cat No. 7

          I can procrastinate with the best, but underneath I’ve always had a strong work ethic – from doing homework assignments on time to always doings what I’ve signed up to do, which includes showing up for my writing even when the muse is on vacation in Paris or Timbuktu.

          As Octavia Butler says: “Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t.”

          Or as Natalie Goldberg says: “There’s no such thing as a writer’s block. If you’re having trouble writing, well, pick up the pen and write.”

          But life has changed for me. I’m no longer a working mother or a woman chasing a career. I’m a retired old broad. And while I keep myself quite busy, I no longer have a time schedule to follow.

          For the first time in my life, I am able to answer the muse when it visits, and to follow Henry David Thoreau’s advice to “Write while the heat is in you … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.”

          It’s exciting to be able to sit down and write when an idea crossed my little gray cells. But I have to admit, the outcome doesn’t seem to know the difference. The butt in chair action doesn’t seem to care if the muse is looking over my shoulder or not. In the end, the important thing is to just do it.

          And that, if you remember, is my New Year’s Resolution.

          Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

Cat No. 6 — Happy Fat Cat with Blue Eyes

          Somewhere around 5 a.m. this morning, a nearby pack of coyotes begin to howl.  My canine bed-partner Scamp sat up beside me and listened – and continued in that same position until I finally got up at 6 a.m. to walk him.

          The coyote howls brought back the time I had encounters with coyotes on Antelope Island in Great Salt Lake. I saw one or two often, especially when I visited the island to bird watch in winter.

          Once, when I was researching a story about coyote research at Utah State University, a playful coyote stole my camera bag. I admire the animal’s survivability, despite mankind’s desire to eliminate the species. 

          I live in Tucson, a city of more than half a million people, in a large apartment complex, near the corner of two busy four-lane roads, with banks, grocery stores, a MacDonald’s, two bagel places, a Starbucks, an animal clinic, two pharmacies, an Ace Hardware, a UPS office, several restaurants, and more businesses to the north and east.

          South and west of me is a scattered residential area broken up by desert ridges, washes, and even a dry river bed, to accommodate the area’s occasional monsoons, which recently have been rare.

          If you like having all the conveniences of a city but still a bit of nature in your life, as I do, it’s an ideal place to live.

I’ve seen bobcats in the parking lot, great horned owls raising chicks in large trees I walk by daily, rare North American birds from my third-floor balcony, and once or twice passed by javelinas that came into the complex when someone left a gate open.

          And then there are the coyotes that serenaded me and Scamp this morning. It was a good song, I thought, remembering my recent repair bill because desert packrats got into my car’s engine compartment.

Without coyotes, the desert rodent population might rise to take over Tucson. Just because they are different from us doesn’t make them evil.

          Hmmm! Now that’s a thought that can be expanded on.

          Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

           

Read Full Post »

Limiting One’s Options

Cat No. 5 — Black and White Striped Cat

Rethinking Ideas.

          Having options is a good thing. True or False?

          Without much thought, I would answer true. Then I read what

Carla Sonheim, author of Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun, and who dreamed up that crazy idea to draw 30 cats that I accepted as a challenge, has to say about having too many options.

          “Even though I love drawing and have completed hundreds, each day I have a little mini war with myself when I face that blank page.”

          To get over that hump, she has what she calls an arsenal of starter exercises – rules, restrictions and challenges to work within – to get herself going.

I immediately understand.

Carla’s starter exercises for her art are the same as prompts writers use to start their brains. “It’s a paradox: when you have complete freedom, you often freeze up and do nothing,” she says.

OK! Back to drawing cats. I’m actually having fun with the exercise.  

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

Cat No. 4; Cat in a pink room.

Morning Thoughts and Cat. No. 4

About the Cat: It’s my version of one of the cats given as examples in the art book: Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun. The goal was to quickly draw 30 cats from imagination while lying in bed. I guessed that the goal was to get the reader/artist to stop feeling like they had to be perfect, because the cat illustrations were certainly not drawn realistically.

Learning to accept that I wasn’t perfect, somewhere in my mid-30s, was one of the best moments my life. Remembering this got me thinking about other lessons learned during my 81 years on Planet Earth. I decided to make a list of 10 things, but only got to eight before my brain shut off. They are:

          No. 1: Accept that you’re not perfect and be happy about it.

          No. 2. Don’t take anything personal unless it makes you feel better.

          No. 3. Realize that people are more concerned about how they look than how you look.

          No. 4. Get a dog and walk it daily.

     No. 5. Find your passion in life, and follow it.

     No. 6. Get back on the horse when you fall off.

     No. 7. Learn something new every day.

No; 8: Get enough sleep most nights. I say most nights because us old broads still gotta have fun once in a while.

Perhaps readers can lengthen the list by sharing things life has taught them.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

Cat No. 3: The Covid Cat

          I moderate a writer’s chat group called Writer2Writer for Story Circle Network, an international writing support group for women. Each Wednesday, I provide a writer’s prompt.

          This week, wanting to inject a little silliness into the life of writers, who like all of us are living on Covid time, I asked them to have a conversation with an animal who could respond with words instead of just a nodding of the head.

          Below is what my oldest daughter, Deborah, who is a member of W2W, wrote. I laughed all the way through. So, to give a bit of time to dog lovers to go along with my promised 30 artful cats, I decided to share it. I hope reading it brings a smile to your face.

Nightcap with Whiskey and Kahlua

By Deborah Bean

Welcome to the world of a new senior citizen (me) and my two lovable dogs. Whiskey weighs in at 25 pounds and is a Schnauzer/Cocker Spaniel mix — a Schnocker that you have to imagine with a Scottish accent. Ten-pound Kahlua is an energetic, sometimes frenzied Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix – a JackChi. Ironically, re names, I’m a teetotaler.  

Me: (Nighttime, Take 395) Okay, Whiskey, bedtime.

Kahlua: (Scampers downstairs) I’m going, I’m going, I’m going.

Me: Whiskey, come on.

Whiskey: (Opening one eye) Harrrrumph. (Then he closes that eye)

Me: Whiskey, it’s time for bed.

Whiskey: Your bed be much morrrre comfortable. Just leave me be.

Me: Whiskey! Time for bed!

Kahlua: (Scampering back upstairs and starting to bark) Hey it’s bedtime. Time to go pee and then I get a treat! I like treats. Treats are good.

Whiskey: I be in a bed, ye frrrenzied Kahlueless. And it be comforrrtable. And Mistress, if ye please, get idget down tharrre to be quiet.

Me: Whiskey, it’s bedtime. Coooome ooon. (Grabbing his hind legs and pulling slowly, I work his body off the edge of the bed)

Whiskey: (Still not getting up) Hey! What be you doing? And keep yerrr bloody hands offin me prrrivates! (I gently slide him off the bed so his hind feet touch down before I pull him all the way off) And how, the now, did I get down herrre. Ye bloody well tricked me, ye wench.

Kahlua: (Racingdownstairs and back up a second time) C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! Time to go outside – then I get a treat! Treats are good. Don’t you want a treat Whiskey? And we’ve got a comfortable crate with pillows and blankies.

Me: Alright. Downstairs now.

Whiskey: I be strrrrretching. And yawning. And be ye sure ye don’t want me back in that tharrrre comfortable bed. I’d be keeping you warm all night.

Kahlua: (Racing up and down the stairs a third time) Time to go pee. I’m a good puppy. I know what to do.  Go outside, go pee, get my treat, and then off to bed in our crate.

Me: Whiskey, let’s go. It’s bedtime. Come on.

 Whiskey: (Grumbling all the way down to the kitchen door) And it’s a crrruel human ye be. Forcin’ me out of me comforrrtable spot. And now you sends me out into the darrrk to be a’peein.

Kahlua: (After making several circuits of the yard before stopping to go potty) I’m done. See, I went potty. I’m a good puppy. You love me because I know what to do. I’m loved, I’m loved. (Then races up the stairs to see the husband, barking all the way. He sends her back down as Whiskey saunters in from the yard. Kahlua is panting)

Me: Okay, into the crate, both of you.

Whiskey: (Giving me the evil eye, again) And, I be askin’, what will ye be givin’ me? Kahlueless over there may be willin’ but she be titched in the head.

Me: Of course. Here’s your treat. Now into the crate.

Kahlua: I got a treat. Treats are good. Now I’m in the crate. I’m a good puppy!

Whiskey: I’ll not be likin’ this a bit, but since thare be a treat, so shall it be.

Me: (Sighs) Why do I put up with this? It’s a good thing you’re such a snuggle bunny.

Whiskey: Hey! Who ye be besmirchin’ wit’ your bunny talk? It’s a fierce fighter I be — at least five minutes of the day. Hmph!

Me: Night puppies. Love you. See you in the morning.

Whiskey: Hmph! Well, at least there be comforrrtable blankets. Scootch over ye idget. Give me space.

Kahlua: (Snuggles between Whiskey’s legs) I did good! I said goodnight, peed, and went to bed with a treat. I’m a good puppy!

Whiskey: Quiet little beastie. I be tryin’ to sleep here.

          Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

Cat No. 2: Green Eyes and Glasses

Some People Might Call It Stubbornness

          Although I love cooking, and am reasonably good at it, I never bake cakes these days. I tried in my younger years but almost always they were dismal failures. They drooped, didn’t rise, had raw centers or a dozen other mishaps.

          That’s because I can’t ever seem to follow rules. While I can successfully add or subtract to my favorite one-pot dishes, leaving out or adding something a cake recipe calls for rarely works.

          I thought about that as I was drawing one of the cats for the first assignment in Drawing: 52 Exercises to Make Drawing fun. I sort of fudged yesterday when I wrote that the first exercise was to draw 30 cats.

          The exact words of the exercise were: “Draw 30 cats from your imagination while sitting or lying in bed.” But that didn’t seem fun to me. I’m not a daytime bed person, rarely even taking naps. So, I simply snipped off the end of the assignment to suit my style.

          The truth is I’m one of those people, whoever they are, who only read instructions when all else fails. And telling me I must do something is like waving a red banner in front of an angry bull.

          My journal writing has helped me understand these and many more of my failings — or strengths if you look at things from an opposite angle. I doubt I’m going to change at my age. But I am going to eventually draw 30 cats.

          More journaling and cats to come …

          Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie (Available free on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

First assignment from Drawing: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun. Draw 30 cats. This is Cat No. 1

          When I was in my early 20s, I wanted to become both a writer and an artist. Writing won out. For over half a century, writing was as important to me as breathing. Actually, it still is.

          As a newspaper journalist for 37 years, I felt what I wrote was important – because I was keeping people informed of what was going on in the world and what they needed to know. Thankfully, that was the priority goal of the newsrooms I worked in from 1967 to 2004.  

I cringe today when I read, or hear, so many journalism personalities (certainly not reporters) editorialize their version of events. I belong to the days of journalists like Walter Cronkite, who ended his news shows with “And that’s the way it is.” I’m not sure when demonizing and hate-mongering to win readers and viewers became so prevalent.

Ok. Enough of that. I didn’t plan on a soapbox rant for this blog. I was going to write about how these days my writing mostly consists of journaling. It’s helping me, at the grand age of 81, to connect the dots of my life. I find it quite enjoyable and rewarding, as well as helping me better understand who I am.

But I’ve also begun to piddle more with art, and finding it also rewarding.  I’m too old, however, to take it seriously, which is why I picked up Drawing:52 Creative Exercise to Make Drawing Fun.

The first exercise is to draw 30 cats. Above is my first one.

More journaling and cats to come…

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

Good-Bye 2020

A Few of Story Circle Network’s Writing Sisters during conference in Austin, Texas

In the cookies of life, sisters are the chocolate chips.” (I dedicate this blog to my writing sisters.)

Sisters of My Heart, If Not My Blood

I’ve belonged to Story Circle Network for 11 years now. It’s an international writing organization that supports female writers in many ways, like giving me the voice I needed to publish my book, Travels With Maggie.

I met a half dozen of the women in my circle at an SCN writing conference held in Austin, Texas back in 2010, when I was still traveling around the country in my small RV. Over the past decade these same women have become the sisters I never had.

SCN members range from prolific writers like Susan Wittig Albert, who founded the organization, to women who are trying to get published, to women who write only for themselves. Most feel the same about writing as I do: To write is as important as to breathe.

The prompt for my writing circle this month was the question: How has Covid changed your life during the past year?

I answered that question in my previous post, noting that because I was retired, didn’t lose my income and was already nesting, the changes to my life were few.

While I’m still puzzling over what to write for the circle, others in the group responded immediately. The piece submitted by Nancilynn Saylor, whose memory of hugs I hold dear from attending five SCN writing conferences with her, delighted me so much that I wanted to share it with others.

So, here goes.

End of the Line

By Nancilynn Saylor

A cold snort from old man winter

Today, does not deter

This aging woman holding

Her broom. No

Quite the contrary

She props the front door open with

Deliberation, determined to finish

Her task with

No dust pan needed.

Each speck and loathsome particle

Sails with precision across threshold into the blustery abyss.

Au Revoir

Auf Wiedersehen

Adiós

Adieu,

Ciao

Sayonara

Then, remembering a phrase from her long ago youth:

“Make like a shepherd and get the flock out of here!”

She wiped her hands together, then slammed the door

Firmly against the jamb.

The scent of black-eyed peas simmering on the stove,

Enticed her back to the kitchen.

Good riddance,2020!

           Nancilynn is a Texas girl who knows that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck for the coming year. I had mine. Did you?

          Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

A two-week safari in Africa was certainly a mile-marker in my life. Here I’m standing at an overlook of the Ngorongoro Crater in front of a sign with mile markers to various cities around the world. — Photo by Kim Perrin

My Story Circle’s writing prompt this month was to write about life’s mile markers. I chose to create a 10 point list of people who helped get me through some of those times.  Here’s my list – which easily could have been much longer.

1: My grandmother. During my early years, the only person I was for sure loved me was my grandmother. Our dysfunctional family lived with her. She was not a sweet granny, although she cooked like one, but a woman with strong opinions and standards that she expected to be met – and she favored a supple switch to the back of the legs if they weren’t.  But I could outrun her and she had a quick-to-forgive nature. Sadly, she died when I was 11.

2: My mother, although I wouldn’t realize or accept it until I was in my mid-30s. She, too, was a strong woman, one who took what life allowed her before equal rights was even considered. She loved her four children but was not vocal about it, or a hugger. She was the rock that made sure the family had food on the table and a bed under a roof to sleep in at night. She was not a complainer but a doer.

3: A cadre of “village” women – Dorothy, Louise, Jeri – who took a too-young woman with five children under their wings and supported her until she could get her own feet on the ground.

Kim and I shared Africa together, and here is a photo of us after a very long, but wonderful, day of bouncing in the back of a Land Rover over the Serengeti.

4: Roberta, the city editor who pushed a wanna-be writer and would-be reporter over and over again to the crying point, teaching her how to become a professional and ethical journalist who would go on to have a successful 37-year award-winning career in the newspaper industry.

5: David, a gay man and my reporter colleague at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who supported me during the hardest two years of my personal life, which included divorce and family failures.

6: Cliff Cheney, a managing editor who believed in my journalism potential. He hired me for a very difficult job, and when I whined after undertaking it, and asked him why he had done this to me, he sat back, put his feet on his desk, and said: “Because I knew you could handle it Pat.” He died in a car accident that very night, but his words empowered me for rest of my career.

7: My friend Kim, who has been in my life for 40 years now. We fill each other’s holes because we are two very different people. We have worked together, played together, celebrated birthdays together, hiked together, argued together, traveled together, gotten lost together, and these days Zoom together because we now live in two different states. My life is richer because Kim is part of it.

A recent Facebook picture of my friend Jean, who is a teacher and having her own mile-marker moments of learning to teach online. She makes me smile and laugh.

8: All the wonderful, talented women in Story Circle Network who helped me find my personal, non-journalistic voice after I retired.  Without the support of this group, my book Travels with Maggie would never have been published.  This group also keeps me daily in touch with like-minded, caring intelligent women who encourage this old broad to keep writing.

9: My friend Jean, who like Kim is as different from me as night and day. It is the best kind of friend to have because it ensures that life is never boring. Jean is part of my daily life here in Tucson, the kind of friend this old broad needs to stay on her toes. Jean challenges me to continue thinking outside my comfortable box, brings the world into my apartment where I’ve tended to get too comfortable, and makes me laugh. She’s my Happy Hour a couple of times a week, and the person my kids call when I go missing for more than a few hours.

10: Last, but certainly not least, is my family. I have five children and their families, 15 grandchildren and their families, and seven great-grandchildren. I have a different relationship with each, am closer to some than others, but all have a place in my heart. I regularly learn from them. They fuel my life and make it feel meaningful.

 

 

 

,

Read Full Post »

Into every life, flowers should fall. So here’s mine to you for today. — Art by Pat Bean

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. John Adams

When I was city editor, I attended a daily meeting to decide what five or so stories would go on my newspaper’s front page for the upcoming edition.

The men – I say men because except for me the only other people in the room were usually all male — and I pretty much agreed without much discussion on four of the stories.

The fifth story, however, almost always prompted disagreement – even among the men. It came down to news judgment, although I must admit that my choice of the last story to be chosen was often gender based and I would end up being the lone holdout for one particular story or another. Sometimes I won the argument and sometimes I lost.

But I was always a proponent of the policy that a newspaper was obliged to print what readers needed to know, not what they wanted to know. And although my colleagues were of a different gender, with perhaps a different outlook, we all still shared that sentiment.

And then the Internet came along and took newspapers’ main source of funding away, advertisements. The after effects were just beginning to be felt a few years before I retired in 2004. I will always remember the day it affected my newspaper’s coverage.

An assistant managing editor proposed that a Britney Spears story be placed on the front page. In my mind that was equal to blasphemy. Only “real” news belonged out front. Celebrity news belonged inside on the entertainment page.  But only myself and one other editor in the room that day felt that way — and we were overruled.

That one move, in my opinion, downgraded the newspaper. But similar moves were being made all across the country, the idea being that if you give the readers what they want to read, they will continue to buy the paper, or whatever product is being marketed.

It was a sad day, in my opinion, for journalism.

But it’s a practice that is prevalent in today’s world. For example, what you read online is a good example. The number of times a story is visited – it’s called hits – the more likely you are to see more and more similar stories.

So, if a story on what Brad Pitt has for breakfast gets a million hits and a story on global warming gets only a thousand, that should explain why there is so much celebrity gossip being written and talked about than the kind of news we should know.

My brain follows that idea by thinking about the zillions and zillions of people who are clicking on Prince Harry and Meagan Markle stories. We are getting what we are asking for.

As Pogo said: We have met the enemy and he is us.

Just something to think about as you read today’s news online.

My canine companion Scamp

Bean Pat: To all the media outlets that continue to stick to facts and write about what readers need to know. And yes, there are still some, and I hope you are daily reading or listening to one.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »