April 1: Art and #AtoZChallenge

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“A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles.”~Mignon McLaughlin, American writer
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Welcome to Day 1 of the AtoZ Blog Challenge. Today I feel more Zzzzzz than Awake. April is just one of those busy months. And, really, how did it become the 4th month of 2016 already?

I chose an easy enough theme this year so I could actually complete AtoZ this year, and I totally forgot what April is. April is National Poetry Month. That I knew, but I wasn’t thinking about that at all when I decided to do Alphabet Haiku as my AtoZ Challenge.

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What I didn’t know is that this year marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. The social media hashtag #NationalPoetryMonth is exploding throughout the creative writing world.

Creating writing and catching up is just another theme with me this month, as I will complete the remaining letters of last year’s AtoZ Challenge: 26 Ways to Distract a Writer. Did you ever have one of those nagging things that you just can’t let go of, no matter how practical or useful it is to do that? For me, last year’s AtoZ is that. I’ll post those new links here as they get posted, which means you’ll have to come back every day if you want to find out how Jayne and her Writerself tale ends…for now.

If you want an idea of what Jayne is up to, read about her first day on the procrastination journey here.

Art is something I’ve struggled with lately, from Artist Trading Cards to Zentangle. I was an active member on ATCs For All, a delightfully creative online site for people to trade art with other artists. One of the most delightful events there was the monthly Bizarre Holiday Swap. Even my husband enjoyed seeing those cards! This is a mixed-media card I made from one of the those swaps:


Today’s Bizarre Holiday: One Cent Day. One cent and the 1st day of April. No April Fools here.

It’s been awhile since I’ve created art like that. I stepped back from that because I lost the interest and the thrill. I know when I feel the pull of it again, I’ll enjoy it even more.

For now, I’m enjoying my poetry journey. I hope you do, too.

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A #WeekendCoffeeShare about Christmas, writing and out-of-town family

If we were having coffee…

It’s nice here, isn’t it?

My in-laws take us out for brunch every year at the William Penn Inn here in…is this Lansdale? Chalfont? North Wales? Oh, I always forget the town, but I do remember the food. And the family. This year it’s just the four of us, and you, of course.

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I thought I’d be too tired to eat after the drive yesterday. My husband drove this time, and I was surprisingly awake most of the way, just dozing a bit through central PA. Going across I-80 instead of the turnpike saved us about $37–one way! We’re going back that way for sure, but not for another week. We’ve got all sorts of plans: shopping, the City, of course more puppy time, maybe even a movie.

My husband was on vaca all last week. Me, I finished up work and still spent Christmas Eve finishing wrapping presents. Of course, we saw the Star Wars movie on Christmas Eve Day, and it was as good as all the hype. Are you one of those last minute gift-wrappers, too? No matter what I do or how I plan…. Well, the movie was worth it, as well as the writing.

Oh, didn’t I tell you? I planned to make some progress on my latest Jimmy the Burglar book, and I accomplished that in a solid rough-sloppy second draft. I threw in an additional conflict and tied in this one sock element with a new twist. I feel so clever! I’m having fun writing this book, and I’m working this week to get Jimmy out into the world by Dec 31st so I have a book to enter in the NFPW contest.

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It’s not as crowded in here today as past years. It’s still festive with the green trees and white lights and red ribbons. White tablecloths and flowers on the table make this feel so casual while being formal. The food’s just as good–are you getting seconds? I am. The eggs, French toast and hand-carved ham are especially good today. The Peach Nectar Ambrosia is quite good; I’ve never had champagne with breakfast, but I’m feeling festive.

I’m going to get a sampling of desserts? Want some? Be sure to ask for another refill of coffee. I want to hear about your week.

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Writing afternoon in the D: Motown #WeekendCoffeeShare

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”~George Burns, American comedian

If we were having coffee, we’d be at Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company in Detroit.  I’m already on my second cup of Brazil.  My husband is here, too, having driven me to my Motown Writers Network meeting this morning.  He’s the friendly type, so he’d discuss the music playing, his own musical interests and the latest internet news.  However, there’s no more of his chocolate brownie from Avalon Bakery.  You’ll have to buy your own here.

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Weekend coffee in downtown Detroit

Today’s speaker was a college instructor who lectured on the aspects of heroes and villains in books and movies, noting how all stories follow a 9-step process from character introduction to resolution and ending.  After that talk, I so want to watch The Matrix again, Kill Bill Vol.1 or 2, Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Harry Potter series, all movies he used as examples.  The most meaningful point I connected with was that villains are a reflection of the hero and are more focused.  Villains know what they want and how to get it, as long as the hero doesn’t interfere.

I knew there was a reason I like villains, besides the fact that they have the awesomest outfits and the best lines.

During the after-meeting networking session, one woman approached me to discuss changing her healthcare stories from clinical to creative text. After we talked for about 10 minutes, she said that I inspired her and she was coming here to check out my website.

I’m somebody’s inspiration.  That is so cool.

Then I met up with the woman who helped her mother write a memoir, 9 Houses. After discussing my NFPW awards and the progress of my memoir, she said I was in a good place to branch out and seek additional interviews and exposure events.  Weird; I think of myself as a writer, but I don’t think of myself as “important enough” to warrant such attention.  Not yet, anyway, because I haven’t finished my full-length memoir yet.  She believed in me; why can’t I do the same for me?

She recommended an editor and a cover designer, services I have been procrastinating about.  She invited me to a reading or discussion event this Friday in Detroit.  I know nothing about it, but I’m exploring the YouTube channel for the Secret Society of Twisted Storytelling.  The group’s name alone sounds amazing.

Here there be Haiku

“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life.”~Walter Anderson, German writer

I’m in a whimsical poetic mood. Enjoy.

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New news in a Zentangle New Year

“Life isn’t about finding yourself; life is about creating yourself.”~George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright

February 14th was Valentine’s Day. My husband and I had evening plans in Detroit, but snowy weather and a busy week for both of us changed our minds into a snuggly day together. We went to two different local coffee shops and played a total of FIVE Yahtzee games. We ordered take-out from Palermo’s, a pizza place we haven’t eaten in for entirely too long. We drove to Penn Theater in Plymouth and also picked up an extra-large bag of popcorn so we could enjoy some new DVDs at home movie-style.

As such, I almost missed this blog post because it published on Valentine’s Day. Thanks to my friend’s email, my news is officially official.

Seriously, it’s exciting Zentangle class news. Check it out here. Go ahead. It opens in a new window, so I’ll wait.

Love it, love it, love it! Since I’ve began attending in 2007, Mega Meet has opened up to the new and exciting everything. Scrapbooking has transformed over the years into something beyond matted pictures and precut stickerss on colorful paper. I blame–or thank–some of that to the popularity of Tim Holtz, a man who met an unspoken need in the market: artsy scrapbooking and art crafting.

My class is the best of all worlds: Zentangle techniques, creative simplicity and repurposing old items. It’s a great mixed-media technique, and I am thrilled that the organizer, Kate, has been open to such amazing class suggestions. In the past years, some of the more popular classes have been the mixed media classes such as art journaling and book binding. People know how to put pictures to paper; now there’s a craving for something new. I’m excited to teach this class. Seeing my name next to a class like this is always as exciting as seeing my name in print, whether it’s one of my books or my Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine articles. The class is unique, combining an artform I’ve fallen in love with the drawing artform that started this whole journey.nd is something that a combining of an artform that has caught my eye with my drawing passion.

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This is a great way to start the New Year. I discount January somewhat because I was sick and unfocused for most of it. February has been the cool month–and the cold month, so I’m dreaming of the spring Blue-White game.

So it was serendipity that this week’s Diva Zentangle Challenge #205 is to use inspiration from the Chinese New Year. The Zodiac sign for 2015 is the sheep. Taking a cue from Laura’s tile, I pulled out a pre-strung Zendala tile. Yes, Zendala. It’s not been my favorite Zentangle medium, but this week is was fun to rediscover it. I chose tangle that began with the letters S-H-E-E-P. Turns out there are five spaces in this tile, so away I went.

Shattuck – Huggins – Ennis – Evoke – Purk. It was actually fun to work on a Zendala again, although part of that made be the pre-strung aspect to it. It was a simple string, flowed well with just a few tangles. I felt a pull towards red, so I used my Inktense pencils to play with color shading.

If you’re in Detroit for Mother’s Day weekend, be sure to check out this class. It blows my mind that the scrapbooking community might embrace such a class in this public venue once again. I can’t wait to share this with students. My friend who sent me the email exclaimed that this is DEFINITELY one of classes she plans to take. That’s an honor: my friend is taking my class for the technique and not just because we’re friends.

Remember December

“Work hard for what you want because it won’t come to you without a fight.”~Leah LaBelle, Canadian musician

It’s the middle of the month. Right about now, resolutions are falling faster than snowflakes.  Mine have been sidetracked by one nasty, lingering cold. Now is a good time to reflect on the past.

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I’ve been doing a December-Photo-a-Day project since 2007. Great memories. Every year it’s amazing what I do that’s new. It’s fun to see the events that have become traditions and how those same events have changed. My Deadwood Writers Group is one of those. We have a holiday party the first week in December, and I insist–dare I say “force”?–that we do a group photo. The size of the group has grown, yet some faces are the same since that first year. My husband and I always see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen at Penn Theater in Plymouth. My compositions of the photos are interesting to compare.

It reminds us, especially during the busiest of seasons, to stop and appreciate what’s around you. To remember.

That is different than my Photo 365, which has turned into a year-long adventure.  Here, as in other months, I was with friends, I played Yahtzee and wrote in coffee shops, I created art and I played with Zentangle.  Unique to this month was that I published my third book, visited family out of town and hugged a long-time college friend, discovered new used book stores, and had a tooth filled in the Fun Room at my dentist’s new office.  My husband cooked me breakfast, a Tweet of mine was favorited by a famous TV show actor.  I cheered the Nittany Lions and celebrated victory from Yankee Stadium section 409 when Penn State won the Pinstripe Bowl.

What do you remember from December?

Why you should not start over in the New Year

“My best friend is the man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.”~Aristotle, Greek Philosopher

I have failed my New Year’s Resolution every year. It’s not even a specific task that can be quantified, like “I will lose 10 pounds” or “I will read a book every week” or “I will not drink caffeine.”

My resolution has been: Keep Up.

That always works through January, and then somewhere…**poof**

I believe it is a noble resolution, one that I intend to…well…keep up on my list. This year, however, I am adding two more elements that should help me keep that first one.

Diana’s 2015 New Year’s Resolutions

1–Keep Up

Let’s review that one. The plan here is to keep current with emails, voice mails, sympathy cards, emails, social media, organizing workspaces, birthday cards, emails, phone calls, membership renewals, blog sites, blog posts, emails….

You see the real theme here.

This two-word goal can be hard to maintain, and once you fall behind, it’s almost impossible to catch up. So no catch up. No starting over. That’s where the next resolution comes in:

2–Start from where you are

When I finally owned enough variety of scrapbook material, I wanted to scrapbook everything: my college days; my childhood trips; my pet parakeets; my dating experiences; my film project career; my wedding; my friends and everything else. No way I could do that because it’s too overwhelming. So I chose to start documenting from the place that made sense to me. My first official archival-safe scrapbook page was of me and my husband opening our wedding presents when we returned from our honeymoon. I can always go back and memorialize the other stuff later, but as any scrapbooker will say, you are “always behind” in the pictures you want to scrapbook.

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Encouraging idea at the theater where we saw The Hunger Games: Mockingjay–Part 1 today

This one may sound like starting over, but I’m not reinventing anything. I’m fine-tuning what I already have in place. I don’t need to start over with a new website; I need to flash it up moving forward. I don’t need to start writing something new; I have ideas and drafts to work on. This resolution element is an exercise in letting go. Do not focus on the past or on the past failures.

I have an aggressive posting schedule on my blog, one I can maintain, but some 2014 blog post drafts have not been published due to computer problems, WordPress app issues and human neglect. Bloggers suggest planning posts ahead of time when you are traveling. Sometimes I want that structure. Sometimes I want spontaneity. However, not keeping up has sabotaged best plans. I have perhaps 10 mostly-completed posts that were never finished for one reason or another. Those I will wrap up and publish. I will not create new past posts from scratch just to fill up the missed dates. Nope. I’m starting the new year where I am: today.

For me, emails are not something I can just wipe out. While I am quite certain that an unread email from 7 months ago may no longer be relevant, I need to confirm that. That’s where the third part of my resolution comes in:

3–Deal with it

This does not refer to the current TV show, although it is the only “reality” show I will watch. This aspect is about taking all those elements that I have started from and making sure I keep current.

See how they all relate to each other?

So…if I have three emails that I can’t instantly delete and require some attention, make the time to deal with them at that moment with a reply, research, whatever.

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High five: it’s a Yahtzee!

Conventional wisdom states that you will be more productive when you focus on only one thing at a time. I recall a few months ago that I opened my Facebook app every time a notification popped up on my phone. I found that this instant action was relaxing because the post was usually nothing important and I didn’t play catchup later. That was a good feeling. I want to feel that way again.

I realize that I will not always have time to immediately take care of everything. Some things can slip by, get missed, are purposefully ignored and just plain become annoying. As such, this also means that it’s okay to let go. If I don’t do everything–or sometimes even anything–perfect, just accept that, deal with it and move on. Whatever it takes to keep up and not catch up.

Perhaps if I keep repeating these mantras, I’ll be successful beyond the month of January. What are you doing for 2015?

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Today ends with a glorious southeastern Pennsylvania sunset

A fanciful twist on a Halloween party

The party’s tonight,
what’s there to do?
Halloween planning
and costumes and food.
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Time to go shopping
for last minute treats,
spooky decorations
and lots of good eats!
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Decorations and
favors chosen with care
will make this party
one festive affair.
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What’s a party without
some entertainment?
Movies and music
add to this event.
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Shuffling through choc’late,
pouncing on candy,
so many good things; the
shopping cart’s handy.

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The chains have been hung
by the gravestone with care
in hopes that party guests
soon will be scared.
(boo!)

Bats fly through the leaves.
Ghosts float by the trees.
Punkins stand guard to
greet guest attendees.
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Just past the gravestone,
the house on the hill.
Black cat welcomes you
“Follow me, if you will.”
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Catch them while you can
quick, shifty spiders.
Don’t pass up a sip
vampire blood cider
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Booberry muffins,
bloody good cupcakes,
goofy punkin smiles,
and the vault of grapes.

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Bite size appetizers
scrumptious finger food,
sweets, treats and meats,
finger-lickin’ good.
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There’s food all spread out
to tantalize all
and once guests arrive,
we’ll all have a ball.

And here they come now….

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Pandas with cocoa.
Pooh, honey and tea.
As for the goldfish,
they’re just so tasty.
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What happens, Catnap,
no more candy corn?
He’s prowling around,
and looking sixlorn.
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Owls huddle and chat,
times screeching good.
Puff and his minions
march off to find food.
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Be it dark or light,
spooky or bright, beware
those who might pounce on
candy, unaware.
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Farewell for now, dear
partygoers. Come
back through the year for
more visual fun!
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Zentangle: Pretty in pink

“Understanding is joyous.”~Carl Sagan, American scientist

Cancer has affected my life. Among Dad’s many health conditions, he developed cancer in his later years of life. My one aunt had skin cancer. I expect that another family segment of relatives would have developed lung cancer from being lifelong smokers, but sometimes those people get lucky and just infect others. THON is the charity that defines Penn State students and alumni, supporting children with cancer through The Four Diamonds Fund, and I have danced twice so far to support the cause. I have not been affected physically by that disease…yet…and I’m hoping never to be.

This week’s Diva Zentangle Challenge #190 is to use the color pink in your art in support of breast cancer. I say use pink to support the fight against any type of cancer. Men used to wear pink, and those who still do can be quite dashing; Ralph Lauren certainly thought so for the movie The Great Gatsby, and who can argue with that stylish designer?

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Diva #190: dancing in pink

And so my entry into this week’s Challenge does not focus on gender but on the name. I used Printemps, Ixorus, ‘Nzeppel and Knightsbridge as my tangles. I did not find a direct “pink” color in my set of Derwent Inktense pencils, but I found something pink-esque, and used one definitely-pink gel pen to play counterpoint to the softness. I’m pleased, and it’s not often that I say that about my first attempt.

Support the fight against any cancer any way you can. It’s all a good fight.

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