Special Guest Joan Gregerson on Gratitude!

International_Peace_Day_logoSeptember 21st is observed around the world as the International Day of Peace. Joan Gregerson is a writer, a teacher, a member of my writing group, the author of Tuning Into Inner Peace: The Surprisingly Fun Way to Transform Your Life, and a purveyor of peace in general, ramping up to September 21st with a free online course, The 29-Day Inner Peace Experience. She devotes today, Day 16, to Gratitude. I’m especially happy to have her here today because Gratitude transforms my life on a daily basis, in ways both big and small — “The good sense to be grateful” often makes the list in my Gratitude Journal, and in my opinion we can’t find our way down the path to peace without it. Please welcome Joan and her Barney Rubble feet. As she says, “The first step in making a better world is learning how to become more peaceful ourselves. Together, we can create a culture of peace!”

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I Love You, My Barney Rubble feet

By Joan Gregerson

Like many people, by the time I got to the age of 40, I had decades of body critiques filed and at the ready. Look like a boy. Big nose. Droopy boobs. A spare tire. A double chin. A long torso. Thunder thighs. I didn’t think of myself as pretty or ugly, just painfully plain.

Raised Catholic, married young, and working as an engineer, being plain seemed to work in my favor. I definitely did not attract attention because of my striking beauty. And sexuality, well, it was just better all-around if no one ever brought that up. As far as my appearance, I wouldn’t say it was self-loathing, more just self-nothing, or self “meh”-ing. Continue reading

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Our Writing Group’s Tasty New Anthology

Tasty YearHas it been a tasty year for you?  It certainly has been for the members of my writing group, who, in all of our free time between the novels, Ph.D theses and live theater pieces that we’ve inspired and encouraged each other to produce, have also been stirring together the ingredients of Tasty Year: A Food Anthologywhich we are pleased to announce is now ready to enjoy!  Think of it as a paperback Crockpot, into which we each tossed an ingredient every month or so, simmering a seasoned blend of poems, haikus, essays and micro-fiction into a hearty stew of memories, discoveries, and brownie recipes that you can share with friends or gobble up in one sitting all by yourself.  (No shame in that game, we’ve all done it.  With books, I obviously mean…)

As writers and artists, we, the members of the Open Book Writing Group, have found that writing and art get us through some difficult times. And more than that, the creative expression brings a level of confidence, healing and fun to our lives.  Half of our net proceeds from this anthology will be donated to Art from Ashes, a Denver non-profit that seeks to empower youth through creative expression and personal transformation.

My February contribution is even about the Crockpot (we’re nuts about slow cookers, our group).  It’s 100 words about it being ridiculously freezing cold, like it’s been in Denver the last few days, and about how sharing a simple pleasure (like chili, or your good-lookin’ self in a cute-fitting sweater) is sometimes all it takes to chase away the chill.  I offer it up here as a little amuse-bouche (and, if you live in Colorado, to see if it helps warm you even a little bit on this freezingest night), and invite you to visit our blog, like our Facebook page, or find us on Amazon to dig into the complete anthology, for your Kindle or in paperback.

100 Word: Nothing Fancy

“I just did some chili in the crockpot,” he squeaks, chin down. “It’s nothing fancy.” It’s February, I almost had to cross country ski over here, the kitchen window’s steamed over and the whole place smells of slow-cooking cumin and crackling fire. My veins are packed with snow and my eyelashes are icicles — him in that green sweater’s all the “fancy” I need. Can of beans, hunk of meat, let’s eat. “I figured a ton of garlic was OK,” he’s saying. “Only person I’m planning on kissing is you.” And just like that, I’m warm inside before I’ve eaten a bite.

Writing Exercise: 10 Minutes About This

So today my writing group warmed up with a ten-minute writing exercise.  We each wrote down a color, a place, an animal, and a name, and then passed them to the person on our left, who was then charged with shoehorning those four items into whatever else flowed from his or her pen in the ensuing ten minutes.  The results, as always, were diverse and mostly hilarious.  I wrote this.auburn tequila

My Color: Auburn

My Place: Tequila Bar

My Animal: platypus

My Name: Umberto

“You have such beautiful auburn hair.”  Thanks, Umberto.  Or whatever he said his name was.  When you’re still wrapped around your stool at the back of the tequila bar come closing time, you get a little fuzzy on the details.  All I remember for sure are the wide-set eyes/short arms combo that put me in mind of a duck-billed platypus, and the fact that he wanted in my pants so bad he was trying to pick the lock of my button fly before he even bothered with the pick-up line, such as it was.

I remember for sure, though, that is was my first time in Mexico.  I had run off to Mazatlan to try to drown my memories of Travis in ocean spray and cheap tequila when moving to Albuquerque and dying my hair that cheap Walgreens magenta — sorry, “auburn” — hadn’t done the trick.  It’s not like Umberto wasn’t handsome — as best I can remember.  But he was more desperate even than I was for a night of “Let’s Pretend This is My Life,” and that’s saying something.  “Gracias,” I said, wishing one of us would pass out already and spare us the morning’s awkward goodbyes.

Watermelon, Man…

If you’ve flown at all in the last six days — and I’ve flown every one of them — you know that Summer Time is here.  Airplanes full of kids, crazy weather delays, and in my black uniform, it’s been hot hot hot.  And where there’s Hot, there should always be Watermelon.giant-watermelon-with-bathing-beauty

As I’ve told you before, my writing group is cobbling together an anthology all about food.  Memories, poems, recipes and other of our members’ favorite tasty morsels.  My poem of the month for June is a haiku about my hot summer love of watermelon.  I have waxed ecstatic about the joys of watermelon before; this poem  was inspired my my second Best Food Moment Ever.  Not my second-best, mind you; I have two Best Food Moments Ever, which is allowed because they both involve the same juicy and delicious fruit.  And here we’re gonna tie it all together: my other Favorite Watermelon Memory is of a day out in Korea, which is where the member of our group who’s curating this anthology is currently living.  (Thanks, internet!)  See how it’s all a rich tapestry?

So I’m driving to the airport the other day, in the middle of a six-day stretch, so hot in my black uniform and black car that I’m purposely driving practically in circles to only drive up shady streets, and my favorite local jazz radio station comes through, as they always do, with the perfect splash of musical refreshment. I’ve always felt a certain seasonal affinity with summer.   Ushered into this wide and wacky world on its first day, we’ll consider me, for the purpose of wrapping up this post, something of an expert on the topic of How To Enjoy Your Summer Time The Most:  1. Check out our yummy anthology as it comes together right before your eyes at Twelve Months of Tasty Morsels.  2. Listen to plenty of jazz. And 3. Don’t forget the watermelon.  I do love my watermelon, man.

Writing Exercise: Pandora’s Random Box

My writing group met yesterday, and, as we love to do, before we got down to the business of being awesome and motivating each other to set new and challenging goals, we did a few group exercises.  Yesterday’s pen-pusher was an old favorite: using the next song to pop up on Pandora as a prompt, you use its title as the title of your piece, then write whatever falls out of your head while we listen to the song.  Is there nothing Pat Benatar can’t do?

“Shadows of the Night”

I feel like an ass falling offa these platform shoes, but in for a penny… I don’t know whose stupid idea this was, or where this yellow mullet wig came from, but here we are, every one of us taller than 6’2, in leather bustier drag waiting to get into this club.  All very underground, very “now” according to J, which doesn’t explain the 80s throwback motif of the line, most of whom will learn about the 80s in History class and probably think a Golden Girl is some kind of glittery tequila shot. But they’re liking the look of our crowd and threatening to let us in, when really all I want is to climb down offa these shoes and go eat some Thai food.

“Guess Who?”

I know there’s somebody out there, except of course there isn’t.  It’s those cats again.  And that mariachi band up the street that thinks “midnight” is English for “start practicing.”  The funny thing is, there’s always so much shit going on back there that Allen could stalk me and lie in wait if he wanted to.  But he doesn’t have the guts, and whatever we had wasn’t worth all that.