what I’ve been writing

Although you can’t tell from the count of my recent blog posts, I have been carving out some writing time.

Unfortunately, you can’t tell that from my poetry output either, although I do have one recently written and accepted piece that I will share when it is published. I have had to compose a fair number of cover letters as I have done quite a few chapbook and full-length submissions, as well as some individual poems. I’ve gotten a number of rejections, but currently have the chapbook manuscript under consideration in four places and the collection in nine. I can hear my fellow poets saying that’s not enough, but I’m hoping to get a few more in later this week.

I spent a major amount of time thinking about, writing, and editing comments for a listening session with our bishop in preparation for a diocesan synod and the World Synod of Bishops called by Pope Francis to discern the future path of the church. The official title in English is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission”. In keeping with this, individuals were asked to share our hopes, dreams, and experiences with the church and our visions for the future. I chose to focus on the voices that have been marginalized in the church, concentrating on the voices of women. I prepared written remarks and then a shorter version that I could read aloud at the session within our three minute time limit. I do not like speaking in public but, inspired by others, especially some teens and young adults, I managed to do it. There was a lot of “speaking truth to power” at our session, one of at least twenty planned for our diocese, which is doing a credible job in reaching out to the people. Some diocese around the world are not doing much outreach, which could limit the effectiveness of the process when the bishops convene in 2023.

I have also been doing some holiday-related writing. My first priority was to write a letter to people on my parents’ Christmas card list who may not have heard about Paco’s death in September or even Nana’s in May 2019. It was difficult to write but I’m glad that I made myself do it because I heard back from several people who expressed their sympathies and shared memories with me. I also had the opportunity to do some reflective writing about this in conjunction with a support group I have been attending on preparing for the holidays after the loss of loved ones.

After sending out the letter to my parents’ friends, I tackled my own list, which was a bit more complicated. I did a family newsletter, still a difficult thing when having to report a death, that went in some cards, while others got a handwritten note or just a signed brief greeting, depending on how regularly I have been in contact with the recipient. All the addressing, stuffing, and stamping of envelopes adds to the time involved but most of them are in the mail now. A few are set aside for other members of the family to complete.

Now, there is, finally, this blog post. I’d like to say that I will post regularly from now on but I know that would be more wishful thinking than promise. B, T, and I are preparing for an extended holiday trip, which could create more leisure time for writing or be a total whirlwind with too little sleep to be cogent.

Which will it be? Stay tuned…

BPP online anthology link

The fall online anthology of the Binghamton Poetry Project is now posted here. I had written about it in this post, which I have updated with the link, but thought I’d do a new post announcing it because quite a bit of time has passed. Enjoy!

JC’s Confession #19

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

I am still on Facebook and feel guilty about it.

I’m confessing this now because it is top of mind after reflecting on Ellen Morris Prewitt’s post on leaving Facebook. Ellen is an amazing author, blogger, community volunteer, and former lawyer from the American South. She shares her insights on a range of topics and has recently published a number of powerful posts about race and racism. I urge everyone to visit her blog and subscribe.

I confess that, despite my dismay over Facebook spreading false information, their exploitative business model, and the vagaries of their newsfeed algorithms, I am staying with the platform for now.

I’ve tried to make my own Facebook experience as insulated from harm as possible. I use Social Fixer, which allows me to hide sponsored posts, political posts, and other parts of the page that I don’t want to see. I spend almost no time scrolling through my newsfeed and do not use Facebook as a news source. I do automatically send posts to my blog page and then link them to my personal timeline for added visibility, although I remain annoyed at how few people can actually see my posts due to the aforementioned vagaries of Facebook algorithms.

I admit that part of the reason I stay with Facebook is that there are people with whom I am connected only via Facebook and don’t want to lose touch with them. I also am one of the administrators for a private Facebook group for my college class and don’t want to abandon that responsibility.

I know those are personal excuses that in no way forgive my responsibility in participating with a platform that causes harm. I do favor policies and regulations that will make Facebook a safe, honest cyberplace.

I’m probably hopelessly naïve to think that that is possible.

But that is, perhaps, a confession for another day…

One-Liner Wednesday: Paco tribute

Because I announced my father’s death in this One-Liner Wednesday post, I’m linking the promised tribute to him with thanks to him and to all my friends and readers who have been sending out prayers and good thoughts on our behalf over the years.

Please join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2021/10/13/one-liner-wednesday-aaaand/

SoCS: Paco and puzzles

After having announced Paco’s death on One-Liner Wednesday this week, I had thought I wouldn’t post again until I had time and mental space to put together a proper tribute post or, perhaps, a post about last days and good-byes.

Then, the SoCS prompt arrived and it was puzzle and I knew I needed to post for it.

Until these last few months when he was too ill, Paco worked puzzles as part of the routine of his day. He still got the daily newspaper in print and did their wordsearch, which had the added twist that the remaining letters could be unscrambled to solve a question that was posted with the puzzle. Paco also had wordsearch books that he would work on. Wordsearches seemed like an unlikely type of puzzle for Paco to enjoy because he was dyslexic, something that he did not discover until his youngest granddaughter was diagnosed as a child with an inherited form of dyslexia. This led to a number of fundraisers organized by first Paco’s grandson and later his aforementioned granddaughter to raise money for Learning Ally, which helps people with visual impairment or print disabilities to access written language. These fundraisers came to be known as the Paco Project in his honor.

Another word puzzle that was part of Paco’s day was watching Wheel of Fortune in the evening. It came on right after the national news. My older sister would often call him at the time and they would watch part of the show together, even though they were hundreds of miles away from each other.

Paco’s other puzzle passion was jigsaws. When he was in his apartment in independent living, there was a card table in the corner of the living room with a puzzle on it for him, Nana, and visitors to work on whenever the mood struck them. For many years, he made 500 piece puzzles, with the occasional 750 piece thrown in. However, over his last couple of years as some dementia developed, he cut back to 300 piece puzzles. He worked on those until he fell in June and never recovered his ability to be up and about and clear enough mentally for puzzles.

At some point, after we get through this initial period of busy-ness with paperwork and bureaucracy following a death, we will find a home for the several shopping bags’ worth of Paco’s jigsaw puzzles that we brought home with us. I expect we will keep a few special ones as mementoes for ourselves and donate the rest for others, who we hope will enjoy them as much as he did.

*****
As you can tell from this post, Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is puzzle. As always, you are invited to join us. Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2021/09/17/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-18-2021/

an update and a plan

I have been posting less than usual over the last couple of months as we have been dealing with health difficulties with my father, known here as Paco. He had a couple of falls in June, resulting in some cracked bones, which have been healing well while he has been in a rehab program. Unfortunately, he also suffers from dementia, which has worsened, and from a number of other health conditions, which are not unexpected in a 96-year-old but which have necessitated remaining in a nursing home rather than being able to move back to the assisted living floor where he lived previously.

It has taken a lot of time with in-person visiting and inordinate amounts of time dealing with paperwork and red tape. My sisters have been coming into town to help, but I am still not finding time to write as much as I would like.

On Monday, I’m happy to report that the UK contingent of our family – our daughter E, her spouse L, and their two children 4-year-old ABC and just turned 1-year-old JG – arrived from London for a two week visit. It is our first opportunity to meet JG in person. She is adjusting to our actually being flesh-and-blood people rather than images on a screen. It’s amazing that she is able to deal with being a different place with different people after being in lockdown so much of her life, especially when you consider it took two large airports, a plane, and the longest car ride of her life to get here. Also, five hours worth of jetlag. It’s also amazing how much ABC remembers from when she lived with us, given that this is her first time back here since she moved to the UK in October 2019.

Because of the delta variant’s prevalence, we haven’t ventured much from the house over these last days and probably won’t be taking the children to many indoor spaces, given that they are too young to have been vaccinated. We do plan a visit to Paco later this week. When the weather is better, we will also be able to go to the parks and take rides on the carousels for which Broome County is known.

My younger sister is here visiting and helping with Paco and my older sister and her spouse will arrive next week for a few days. My plan is to carve out a bit of time for some posts which will update topics about which I frequently post; I’m hoping to be brief, which is always a challenge for me!

Let’s see if I manage to follow through with this plan…

7th blogiversary!

WordPress has helpfully reminded me that today is my seventh blogiversary!

Sending out a big THANK YOU to all my readers, including my 1,400 followers!

Okay, it’s time to calm down and not end every sentence with an exclamation point.

Over these past seven years, I have published 1,383 posts and had over 24,000 visitors from 119 countries. It boggles my mind. I hadn’t really thought about stats seven years ago when I started. Truth to tell, I don’t think about stats that often now, either, but I do appreciate sharing my thoughts with so many people around the world.

I also appreciate that I have been able to keep my blog eclectic. I knew starting out that the recommendation was to target a blog to a specific topic with a regular posting schedule and a plan to build followers, but I chose to take a path that fit my personality better. I have wide-ranging interests and like to be able to bring them up as they become “top of mind.” Circumstances have arisen that have had me writing more about my personal life than I had originally expected, but having an intentionally eclectic blog accommodated that.

For millions around the world, 2020 has been hard to navigate in terms of time. People’s schedules have been disrupted to such an extent that a week can simultaneously feel like forever and a flash. For me, most of the past seven years have been like that, as I’ve lived in a web of intergenerational health problems, moves, on-site and long-distance caretaking, and lots of unpredictability. I didn’t know seven years ago how important writing poetry would become in my life. I didn’t know that we would lose both my mother and mother-in-law. I didn’t know I’d now have two precious and faraway granddaughters.

Sometimes, in writing a post, I need to look back into my post archive to refresh my memory on when something occurred. In reading older posts, I am gratified to find that, in most cases, the writing has held up pretty well. You all have an open invitation to stroll through the posts from prior months and years. You might stumble across something that interests you.

I have never kept a diary or journal going for any length of time, so I am glad to have Top of JC’s Mind as a keepsake of these past seven years.

Which reminds me, I really need to figure out how to do a proper back-up…

signs of hope

As I was posting about yesterday, things are pretty distressing in the United States these days.

I am, though, finding support and reasons to hope.

Although I wish it hadn’t taken such a dire convergence of events to do, I find hope in the millions of people around the world who are drawing the fights against injustice, inequity, climate change, oppression, inequality, poverty, violence, and lack of education, opportunity, health care, affordable housing, etc. into a new vision for the common good, for care of each person and community, and for the planet. The massive disruption that we are experiencing from the pandemic and the resulting social and economic impacts gives us the opportunity to re-build in a positive, sustainable way. The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis has just released a major “Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America.” This is the kind of thinking envisioned by many long-time social justice advocates and by Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’. While there will be obstacles to enacting such large-scale change, there finally seems to be momentum toward adopting and implementing meaningful reforms, which gives me hope.

There are personal signs of hope, as well.

Sometime this summer, a new grandchild will arrive, a sibling for ABC. While we have no idea when it will be either allowed or advisable to travel to London, both ABC and the new little one are signs of hope for the future, as well as powerful motivation to makes things better for them.

Earlier this week, a lovely surprise appeared in my mailbox, a card with a beautiful photograph of a mother wood duck swimming with two ducklings. It was from two Smith college friends who are twin sisters, vacationing together on a lake in New Hampshire. They were thinking about me awaiting our new far-away grandchild “across the pond” and sharing their own family stories, filling my heart with love and joy.

They both mentioned my writing, which I appreciated. I’ve also recently received a couple of emails from a poet-friend in reaction to my posts here at Top of JC’s Mind. I enjoy reading and responding to comments here, on the TJCM Facebook page, and on my personal page, too. Sometimes, it seems as though I write and publish posts – and have no idea if they are actually reaching anyone. I don’t often look at my blog stats, but, even when I do, a visit doesn’t necessarily equal a read. My visit stats also don’t reflect people who receive posts via email. I sometimes find myself surprised that friends know certain stories or viewpoints from me when I know we haven’t discussed it, forgetting that I had posted about it. (Conversely, I sometimes think that everyone knows a certain thing because I’ve written about it, forgetting that many friends and family members don’t read my blog.)

Perhaps, hope is not the proper word, but I do so appreciate the sense of connection that comes through sharing our words and thoughts and emotions with each other. When I do have the privilege of interaction, it reminds me that I am not just scrawling words into cyberspace without purpose.

There is always the hope that someone is reading, mulling, and reacting.

Thank you, Readers. ❤

Testing 1-2-3

So, here I am, trying out the new block editor, as promised here: SoCS: new editor . Not sure how to make the link show up with text I choose, but at least it is there.

I’ve tried reading some of the introductory articles, so I think this is a second paragraph blog, not just a continuation of the first block. Okay…

When I do my JC’s Confessions series, I start with a block quote, so I am trying out a block quote block. “Block quote block” is an awkward phrase…

So, when I finished that block, it defaulted back to paragraph block, which is nice because I’m sure I will use that the most.

Sometimes I use bullet points. Let’s see how that works.

  • Click on the black plus sign
  • Choose the List block
  • This is the default option, but I could number instead and I think change the indentation?

The other thing I do sometimes is insert images. Hmmm…what should I choose to try that out?

random picture of a strawberry rhubarb pie that B made star-spangled

Okay, it was a bit tricky to get out of my caption of the photo, but I managed to start a new paragraph block. Somehow, though, I lost my sidebar that had the category, tagging, and other post stuff….

Yay! I managed to get it back. It had gotten moved over to having info for just the block I was working on, but now I have gotten it back to Document mode.

While I’m sure this exploration of the basics of the block editor has been fascinating – not – I’m going to try to throw on some categories and tags and get it published.

Fingers crossed…

SoCS: new editor

Change is good.

Change is difficult.

Change is necessary.

Change is easier when you have a choice about it.

Obviously, many of us have made a lot of changes due to the pandemic, but this is not going to be another one of my pandemic posts. (Silent cheering.)

Instead, it is about being faced with WordPress retiring the classic editor in favor of the block editor. Those of you with newer blogs are probably already using it – and, I’m sure, many of the people with older blogs are, too.

I admit to not being especially tech-savvy, but I learned to use the classic editor well enough to be able to keep Top of JC’s Mind going for six years and counting. I admit that it has been frustrating at times, especially in getting poetry to format properly. White space is not a friend of the classic editor. I had to learn to add photos, but I tend to post text only most of the time. My brain processes words better than images and I don’t like having to think about copyright issues and such when I’m posting.

I did do a bit of experimenting with the block editor a few months back when I began to set up a new website for the Boiler House Poets Collective. [Note to self: Get the site public soon.] I found it very confusing, so I swapped back into the classic editor. “It” in the prior sentence meaning the block editor.

Yesterday, when I logged in to post about the first anniversary of my mom’s death, I was faced with the news that the current classic editor is being retired as of June 1 in favor of the ever-so-superior block editor. I was not in the mood to experiment at that point, although I did read the short article about it and opened a tab with a longer article for future reference.

Later in the day yesterday, I wrote a post scheduled for tomorrow, using the classic editor.

And here I am on Saturday morning, writing this post using the classic editor.

I’m promising myself to read more about the block editor later today. I’m really hoping I can learn to use it without a long and painful learning curve.

If push comes to shove, though, I do have the instructions to revert to something that is very close to the classic editor.

I’ll try not to wimp out and use it, though.

Promise.

Change is good. Right?
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is basing the post on a word beginning with ch. Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/05/22/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-23-2020

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
https://www.quaintrevival.com/

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