My Journal and what it means to me

13 Aug

In 1997 I made the decision to leave Colorado after many years. I had settled down there, raised my sons, and had a long career. But the wind had shifted; it was time for a change. For several reasons I began to write more and more. I believe now it was part of the decision-making process, asking myself daily the questions I most wanted to answer: where would I go? what would I do? What I wanted out of life.

The process of daily journal writing began with “The Artist’s Way” and soon became the method by which I kept the writing discipline in place and my thoughts pouring on to paper. That was sixteen years ago. I haven’t counted how many journals I’ve filled. That’s not important. Most of the contents has been mental junk: whining, complaining, bitching…just my thoughts hitting paper almost every day for sixteen years.

But writers, hear me. I don’t get “writer’s block”. I can always write. Like a long-distance runner doing his daily run, performing the discipline regardless of the storms and upheavals life has presented, the practice has made all the difference in the performance. My work is not tied to where I sit down to write or if my desk is clean or messy, or if I have the right pen, light, or atmosphere.

You can do this too.

Writing is now so much a part of my daily existence that my only hope is that I will be able to write every day until my last.

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Approaching Odyssey

9 Jun

It’s almost been magical the way things have fallen neatly into place. In a way, I suppose it’s just that a great combination of things have occurred to make it feel that way. My own planning, the help and support of people who love me, the advance handling of work and personal affairs, the last-minute tasks and obstacles seemed to lose significance as I simply handled them. But isn’t it always this way when a goal is strong, pulling you toward it?
I’ve heard people say, ” Well, it could’ve been worse.” we’ll duh, anything could be worse. Ugh, sayings like that, meaningless mutterings that fill space in the brain…
Look all I know is this: not hell or high water will keep me from getting there and throwing my heart and soul into this. And there are fifteen like-minded people making their journeys toward the Saint Anselm campus and our date with Writer Destiny. Onward and upward!

iPad Frustration

18 May

Bloggers, does anyone else have the problem of getting pretty far down into writing a blog and the #%£€>% IPad won’t let you go back and edit a line?

Restaurant Review: Balti Tandoori Restaurant in Sterling, Va.

18 May

Do you want your food thrown in a paper bag and shoved across the counter by some kid who couldn’t care less if he forgot your fries? Or do you want amazing foods prepared by people who care about you and are proud of what they serve? Thought so.

If you desire the home-cooked flavor of Indian cuisine, you need look no further than the Balti Tandoori Restaurant in Sterling, Virginia (46005 Regal Plaza, Ste. 140). It’s an easy-to-find location and steps away from the cinema if you’re out for a wonderful dinner before a movie. Ample parking and a warm welcome are just the start of a special dining experience. Family run and serving traditional and some modernized Indian dishes, Balti has a flair for just the right sauce to accompany dishes sure to please the palette.

We decided to visit in the off-hours between their busy lunch and dinner services but still the regulars were coming in in a steady stream. Besides our group, probably everyone else in the restaurant had been there before, a sure sign that we were in for a tasty treat.

We started with a mixed appetizer platter which contained vegetable samosas, pakora, and sheesh kabobs ($12.95). We added an extra order of samosas ($4.50) and an Indian style vegetable wrap ($5.95) for our vegetarian guests. The wrap was light and delicious with sauces provided to heat it up or make it sweet. The pakora was perfect and samosas worthy of being called a “signature dish”.

Our group was eating light so we decided to share an order of the vegetable korma ($9.95) and it soon had us raving about the dish, a perfect blend of vegetables, nuts, and spices. At the next table, they were enjoying the Palek Paneer and Bhindi Masala, surely two dishes that will be on our order next time. Our dessert was some very nice Indian Chai and  Kheer, the traditional Indian rice pudding.

The experience was something we still talk about: delicious food served by caring people who bring the tastes of India to this small and inviting Virginia location. Visit but don’t go alone…be sure to bring along a special friend to enjoy this exceptional food.

Feeling Short

7 May

For those of you who have not studied the lingo of Worrld War II, there developed many expressions during the conflict that people still use on a daily basis and have no idea some sailor in the Pacific theater coined the phrase which spread to popular usage. Things like “SNAFU” or Jerry-rigged were just part of the normal language of the forties. All this leads to my own condition of the moment: I’m feeling short.

With just 32 days to go until I sail off to the enchanted land of New Hampshire and submit myself to the tutelage of Jeanne Cavelos, the days seem to pass too quickly, the TO DO lists grow and diminish, tasks knocked down only to be replaced with greater, more urgent, stress-inducing ones. Leaving “real life” behind for many weeks is what I need, I know, but still is wrought with danger. There’s the mail delivery, bills to be paid from a distance, and the plants whose needs are not as quickly noted as a pet or baby but still are a matter of life and death.

Whew! Before me lies seclusion and work, behind me lies stress and work. John Lennon said, “Life is work, you know.” But sometimes it’s work and sometimes it’s WORK. That’s not very good writing is it? Give me a break…a six week one, if you please!

Movie Review: “The Raven”

7 May

This past Sunday, when everyone I saw in the cinema was headed in to watch the exploits of superheroes, I took the path far less traveled (there were two other people in Theater 12) and settled in to see “The Raven” starring John Kusak. You may have already heard the plot: in the last days of his life, Edgar Allen Poe, just steps away from achieving the happiness which eluded him in real life, is due to wed the love of his life when a serial killer begins murderIng the citizens of Baltimore, patterning the killings after those described in Poe darkest (and most popular) imaginings.

In one of the goriest scenes I can remember in recent movies, the Pendulum, built with all the steam punk one could wish, clanks and  meshes its way to inevitable gruesome finality, slicing the victim right before you in living spattering color. If ever you doubted the horror of Poe’s original story, I suggest you reference this version, bound to please the most bloodthirsty of movie-goers.

So the rush and desperation with which the director infuses this movie maintains its tension until, just as we approach the end, one scene turns the dial of tension DOWN when it should be ratcheting it UP. To wit, Poe and the police ride out to a church in the country. Why? A church in the city where 90 percent of the rest of the story occurs would have worked just as well, better even. The fake tombstone cross would have seemed eerily out of place next to the venerable tombs surrounding it (and harkened in us the thought that this place resembles the same where Poe would later rest).

Don’t spend all that time working to build tension only to pop it like a balloon.

John Kusak is well cast and puts his great energy into this one. It’s worth seeing…once.

Great Writing…my litmus test

7 May

It happened when I read “Tom Sawyer” for the first time. The natural follow-up, “Huck Finn” repeated the phenomenon. It probably happened with “I, Robot” and “Stranger in a Strange Land” and every other time  I read great writing. It became and has remained my litmus test for the basic clue that what I’m reading is exceptional… “How far do I get in a book before I finally look up to see what page I’m on?”

It’s a simple enough yardstick. How much does the writing capture me? How entranced am I that I do not pay attention to the passage of time or the “effort” it takes to read the author’s tale. Great writing does that. It says, “Never mind the cover, the surroundings in which you’ve chosen to sit and read. Just listen to this for it is worth your time to do so.”

And your heart clues in, your mind forms the images, and your sensory memories come into play, sights, sounds, smells…

Page 32, that was where I got with Tom Sawyer. And Huck? I was so far into that book before I looked up, well I couldn’t tell you.Bruce Catton’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book “A Stillness at Appamattox” got me to page 27 before I came up for air and realized I had read those pages standing in my mother’s living room. Just standing…transfixed.

And so my goal as a writer is clear…if I can get you so into my story and hold you there past page 27…well, I guess I’ve done my job.