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Finding Home

In 27 days.

Good morning from sunny Vermont. It’s supposed to get quite hot and humid today–the more the better, that’s what I say! Meanwhile, I’ve a bit of news. My contract is signed, and if I’ve read it right, Quill Point should be out by February or thereabouts. I’m waiting for my editor to send me first round changes. Frankly, I’ve forgotten what I’ve written, so it will be like reading my book for the first time.

A happy Father’s Day to all those dads reading my blog. I hope you have an excellent day getting lots of grateful hugs and lovely phone calls.

Stella Ramone continues to develop. I have to decide quickly if I’ll be writing “She claimed the odd shaped room on the first floor as her office, because it was the only free space left in the building, and it had a sweet view of the little courtyard next to the cafe. Sometimes she saw birds and chipmunks.” Or, “I claimed the odd shaped room…”

Do I write in first person or in third? Do I really want to slip into a character with some hard knocks under her belt? Or is some distance required so that I don’t get too emotionally involved? Each perspective has its merits. No decisions yet; I guess I’ll just keep writing and see what happens.

With that, I wish you all a good week. I leave you with a photo of where I’ll be in 27 days. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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The Yes You May Cafe

Good morning from sunny, chilly Vermont. It’s got me now, this new story that has taken up residence in my brain’s corner of Writers Town. I started typing it yesterday. Meet Stella Ramone Queen, my latest protagonist. Two year’s ago, she moved from Tucson, Arizona to the main street of Hardwick, Vermont. She owns a building right near Rick’s Clip Joint, rents out the bottom to the Chamber of Commerce and the Yes You May Cafe, and calls the entire upstairs her home. Her parents are both still alive; they live a few towns over in Danville, and she’s got a brother in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. What kind of life did she have in Tucson? Why did she move to Hardwick? Me, I have a general idea, but you readers won’t know for quite a while.

Last night I reviewed my contract for the publishing of Quill Point, and I signed it this morning. I’ll scan it and email it back tomorrow, and that will start the clock ticking regarding edits. I’m excited, because I really love this book. I’m rereading Vinehart Farm to immerse myself in my characters. Before Quill Point comes out, you might want to do the same.

I woke up grateful this morning, for the good night’s sleep I got, for another sunny day, for chores done yesterday, and for our porch chairs, one of which is waiting for me and my cup of tea when I finish blogging. I leave you with another of Serena’s garden photos.

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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The woman who helps people write letters.

Good morning from sunny, gorgeous Vermont. I’m on the porch with Scout and my cup of tea. After a busy day yesterday, I’m ready to lay low today and get some summer into my pockets.

Some updates. No contract yet, so I’ve decided to heed the voice inside me that’s been saying, “Start writing another book!” I’m mulling over possibilities. I like the idea of the woman who helps people write letters, but it needs more depth, and I think I have just the way to add it. No deaths–I promise. And I’ve a few blog topics to write about–an update on Serena’s illness, for one. I’ll need a pad of paper and a sharp pencil with a good eraser to tackle that one. There’s so much to say, and each word carries its own pain.

Liv has her finals this week, and then she’ll be a junior. She’s had her own challenges this past year, and she’s rocked me with her fortitude and courage. We’ve raised some amazing daughters.

I end this short blog with a photo from Serena’s recent garden series. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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Someone–redirect me!

Good morning from rainy Vermont. I was wrong. Zero waste means you don’t have anything to recycle either. Man, is this going to be a challenge. Then there’s this entirely different lifestyle I want to embrace–the raw food vegetarian diet. Help! Someone redirect me!

I thought today I’d do something different and give you a part of Quill Point. It’s taking ages to get my contract, and I don’t want to lose my audience. So here’s a scene:

“Eva never got caught up on a live electric fence, just the old, rusted kind that popped up now and then in the middle of the woods. There was an art to the bend, swoop, and rise needed to clear the current. Somehow, she learned without her parents’ modeling. As far back as she recalled, her mom and dad were always tall enough to step over the fences if they stood on their toes.

She kicked a stone down the road with her sneakers. Now, with her renovated house and sheltered school life, she felt removed from the fears she once wore in her back pocket. The danger of cows kicking her face as she attached their milking machines. The danger of tipping the tractor over as she led a wagon stacked eight hay bales high down a crooked slope. Or the risk of flipping that same tractor as she navigated the slippery, muddy, and rutted paths of the sugar woods.

The electric fence acted as a thorn in her parents’ relationship. Her mother, Emma, hated for their Jerseys and Holsteins to be harmed in any way. For the most part, their herd was gentle. But her father, Randy, hated when the cows trampled his cornfield. Without current, nothing deterred a cow from fresh corn. Eva, forever a Gemini, saw both sides. Even with electric fences, her mom had woken her up in the middle of the night to gather the cows back into their pasture. She remembered the results of the cows’ late night forays, rows of corn stalks torn down, stepped on, and irredeemable.”

Do you remember Eva? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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Duck Duck Go.

Good morning from cool and rainy Vermont. After watching several documentaries together, like The Plastic Gyre and Toxicity, Tim and I are slowly heading toward minimal plastic use and zero waste. Those little kids looking through a dump site for something edible and/or metals to sell? Those teenagers snorkeling in and round plastic water bottles and other trash? They could be our grandchildren. So we’ve decided to slowly, slowly change what we can here at Soft Landing.

We’ve made some cool discoveries. You can buy 48 rolls of comfortable toilet paper that are wrapped in festive recyclable paper for only 65 cents a roll. They arrive in a simple cardboard box, and shipping is free. Toothpaste made of coconut oil, baking soda, and essential oils comes in glass containers. You can also make your own, but I’m not there yet. And toothbrushes made of bamboo are compostable. (The bristles are not–the company is still working on that.) We’ve found a compost bucket for the freezer. I’m reusing all the various-sized plastic bags we have left by soaking them in dish soap, vinegar, and water and then airing them dry. And we are using Serena’s empty containers of ghee to store our food so we don’t have to buy any more small plastic bags.

Our next step is to figure out what we can use to house the garbage we do have at the end of the week. You can make them by using old newspapers and folding them just right, but neither of us has the time or the newspapers (and we don’t want them), and frankly, I’m not spatially oriented so what I’d come up with would look more like a giraffe than a garbage container.

I’m still looking for another zero waste blog to follow for more ideas. There’s this one https://wildminimalist.com/blogs/news and this one https://www.goingzerowaste.com Perhaps these are enough for now. We are down to one medium-sized trash bag a week, and I’ll keep you up-to-date on this new journey of ours.

Another development–sorry, still no news about my book, although Tim’s boss told me his wife loved my first two books. She’s saving Vinehart Farm to read together with Quill Point, when it comes out next year. Where was I? Oh, right–Algorithms of Oppression. I read this book to help me prepare new library instruction for my summer classes, and it changed my world. Turns out that the humans behind the algorithms at Google are very biased against women and women of color, and ultimately you have no privacy with this database and its search engine. So I’ve switched my email to Protonmail, and am using Duck Duck Go as my search engine of choice, as it appears to be the least biased and most ethical. I’m weeding through my Gmail so I can close it down.

Small steps, I know. But they mean a lot to me as I try to add goodness to this planet instead of taking it away. Especially as I get older. Any ideas on zero waste? Check in next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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Math-based formula and a measuring tape.

Good morning from sunny Vermont. Weather-wise, we anticipate a good Mother’s Day here. Last night some areas of the state got a dose of frost. Just another reminder to not get those pansy flats out before Memorial Day.

Do you know what I’m looking forward to? Tomorrow, our little family will gather on the stoop for a lunch of cold shrimp on a bed of greens and blueberry shortcake (gluten free, of course). We haven’t really been together since Christmas.  I look forward to hearing the girls laughing and showing each other their thrift finds (found online for Serena and at Second Chance for Liv). I look forward to sitting outside and writing, or maybe even doing nothing but tip my face to the sun. I like doing nothing.

I’ve started knitting again. One of my sisters is hoeing out her house and found her book on knitting sweaters in the round. You make the sweaters any size, any color, and any weight by using this math-based formula and a measuring tape. Before starting on a sweater, the author has you knit a sampler of every type of knitting pattern you might need. I just got through my third type of ribbing. Yesterday, while the Red Sox were trying to outscore Toronto, I knitted quite contentedly, humming inside. That’s what a good knitting project makes me do, hum.

Now it’s time to honor and thank the mothers in my life. To my mother, who every day models what goodness means. To my oldest sister, who takes care of all of us. To my next oldest sister, who mothered 1,500 kindergarteners during her teaching career, and still has the energy left to make me gluten-free cupcakes when I’m feeling down. To sister number three, who took Liv in once a week during her freshman year so she could get a break from commuting. She packed the best lunches. To sister number four, who once a week for years has traveled to a home for young moms and read to their children, and she makes quilts for all the cribs too. To my sister-in-law, who raises with love anyone who falls into her path, and has saved me from multiple disasters.

And here’s the thing, there is one more. My dad and his younger brother married my mom and her younger sister. All us eleven kids share most of the same genetic material (or maybe all? What’s the science here?). To my fifth sister (who– hurray–is younger than I) who is the first one to step up when a young child in her Houston community is in need. She’s like the mom in the movie The Blind Side. I love her!

You are all wonderful in my eyes, and I’m lucky, so lucky, to be living and sharing this life with you. And to all those other mothers out there, my hat’s off to you. It’s a heck of a trip.

Check in next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

Rope, Clothes Line, Clothes Peg, Map, Postcard

 

 

 

 

 

Having to keep the flies out.

Good morning from sunny, blustery Vermont. As I wait for the kettle to boil, I’m enjoying rolling nature scenes from our three large one-pane windows. I’ve turned the heat on–temperatures dropped after our crazy thunderstorm last night. I’m once again in a short window of being. I tell you, it feels pretty good. But that’s not what I’m blogging about. This blog is about screen doors, as in, we are getting one this month.

Reach back to your youth–do you remember one or both of your parents shouting out, “Don’t slam the door!” And how you started right then to perfect the art of holding one foot back to take the door’s weight as you juggled a book and lemonade, escaping from their voices into the back yard, finally free from door rules and having to keep the flies out. Reach back again. Do you remember shouting to your children, “Don’t slam the door!” as they tore out of the house, one behind the other, to the kick and slam, kick and slam of a different but similar screen door?

And right now, perhaps, during these early days of spring, you get out of the car after a day of work and head to the porch, seeing your little dog’s nose through the screen and his joyful tail going zigzag zigzag–and maybe letting a few barks escape–as he waits for you to get inside? And this dog, he never slams the door, and there are no flies in the city.

It’s warming up outside. Today will be a good day for a walk on the rail trail. A good day for making this year’s first batch of sun tea. An even better day for sitting on my red bench outside and reading the late Anita Shreve’s The Stars are on Fire. (The story takes place in Maine.) Are you using your screen door?

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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I just want it to be.

Good morning from sunny but doubtful Vermont. I just checked my email to see if my contract for Quill Point came in, and nothing yet. I’m getting to the point where I’m wondering, “Did I really write another book?” I haven’t looked at the manuscript for so long that by the time I get my first round from my editor, it will seem like a new story that someone else wrote.

With this book and the more difficult proposition of marketing a sequel, I hope to really crack how to successfully push a book into the world. I’ve received so many good ideas, from both professionals and amateurs, but it seems like I’ve never had the time to give to it. You ask, “How is this book going to be any different?” Don’t know. I just want it to be.

I found a nice blog format I’d like to borrow to revamp this one. It’s here: http://redpincushion.us/blog What do you all think? I like how the photos and text are placed on the page. And I like the font this librarian blogger uses. Anybody recognize it?

I leave you with a photo of sunny San Antonio. I frequented this outdoor restaurant twice while I was there, first for lunch and then for happy hour. I sure do miss that hot sun. That’s it for me this week. Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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“In a hundred years from now.”

Good morning from sunny, chilly Vermont. As early as I can remember, when something bothered me, my dad would say, “In a hundred years from now, no one will ever know the difference.” This answer would drive me crazy. I thought he was refusing to hear me. I thought he was dismissing my valid concerns. Now that I’m of “a certain age,” his comment has begun to make sense. In fact, I often conjure it up as a response to the situations in which I find myself as I go through my day.

Will I have time to blog this week? In a hundred years from now, no one will ever know the difference. Did I remember to pay the phone bill? In a hundred years from now, no one will ever know the difference. You get the idea–it’s the Rene Marcoux rendition of the Serenity Prayer. So many of the things I fret about aren’t really worth using up the time that’s been assigned to me in this world. So why not let go?

Well, I’ll tell you why. I’m genetically hard-wired to fuss. If I’m oceanside with my feet on the ground, the wires soften and shrivel up; it’s magic. If I’m at Lake Elmore sitting on my raggedy picnic quilt hanging out with my husband and the Barretts, the wires soften and my labored inner breathing eases. If I’m at Soft Landing sitting out on our bench with my face to the sun, the wires at least relax. If I’m in a rocking chair with the soft, sure weight of a sleeping baby or young child (or a little white dog), the wires actually sag.

Epigenetics. The tangle of genes and environment. Give me the right setting, and my high-strung genes relax. So to stay healthy and sane and capable, I keep tabs on where I put myself. Every one of my books includes a peaceful setting, with the ocean playing a role in each storyline. (Quill Point is no exception.) Growing up on a farm gave me autonomic every day grounding. Soft Landing provides some of that. The rest of what I need I create or travel for.

Today the sun is out so I’ll sit on the bench and take a walk with a friend. I’ll go to church and be still. Having no babies to hold, the dog’s on my lap. And if I start fretting about tomorrow, my dad’s voice will be there, saying: “Lisa–in a hundred years from now, no one will ever know the difference.”

What’s your take on epigenetics? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

 

 

 

 

 

Real paper tickets.

Hello from cloudy, cold Vermont. Tuesday afternoon, if all goes well, I’ll land safely at San Antonio Airport and take a cab to the Riverwalk, where I’ll be staying for the better part of the week. I’m attending a distance learning conference for online librarians, the first real professional development I’ve had since I started at the college almost twelve years ago. When I began working at the library, I read all I could find about embedded librarianship, I talked with a few librarians who worked with online students, and then created my own distance learning program. I started with a pilot of four courses, and now I’m in 84 classes, posting lessons regarding information literacy, and answering both faculty and student reference questions. I continue to question my approach.  I always ask myself, “How can I do this better?” “How I reach more students?” How I can I foster deeper relationships with faculty?”

At this conference, I’ll be surrounded by peers. I can’t wait to absorb what they say, and I can’t wait to attend lots of workshops so I can learn new approaches to information literacy. The hotel looks stunning on the website, the Riverwalk lively and beautiful, and the weather promises to be in the seventies and eighties. I’ve borrowed Serena’s travel carryon and dug out my spring purse. I think I’m ready as can be, as long as I remember my tickets and passport.

I am nervous about going through security. Last time I flew was maybe twelve years ago, back when they still had real paper tickets. Now I have this print off from Expedia that says it’s a ticket, but where’s the stub? Where’s the part you keep in your pocket to slip into your journal as a reminder of where you went? Hmm. And I had to choose my own seats online. If I did that right, then I’ll have a window seat for each part of my flight. If not, I’m not quite sure what will happen. Do I go back home? All this “self-service” gives me the jitters.

Besides attending the conference, these are the things I’m looking forward to: stretching out on a pool chair and getting some sun. Finishing crossword puzzle number 46. Journaling. Seeing the Alamo. Sleeping on the plane, sleeping through the night, sleeping on the pool chair. And checking out all the shops on the Riverwalk to find that perfect souvenir to bring home to my family.

I return on Saturday evening, probably just in time to walk the dog and stack the dishwasher for the night. When I return to work on Sunday, I will sport a tan and a new perspective.  And I might let out a few yodels.

Have you ever been to the Riverwalk? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

 

 

 

 

 

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