Writing Prompt Day #7


Today’s StoryStorm writing prompt suggested using one’s neuroses as prompts.  You know, like fearing that if you swallow a watermelon seed it will grow out of your stomach.  That was a childhood fear of my husband’s after someone kindly told him it would happen.

It took me a few moments but I came up with a few.  The most obvious one is that  I have a bit of a spider phobia,  more now as an adult than as a child, strangely enough.  Spiders are used not infrequently in stories as scary monsters.  I can think of Shelob in the Lord of the Rings who was truly terrifying and Aragog from Harry Potter.  Of course, then there was Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web.  She was amazing and friendly and safe.

I’m selfishly holding onto my other phobias.  They are my ideas and quirky enough to be mine alone.  There was an idea I had while I was outside earlier today and didn’t write down. That one is now gone.  Maybe I can develop a new phobia–mysteriously disappearing ideas, similar to the way dreams are forgotten.

You might want to check out today’s Google Doodle.  It is the dream of a 2nd grader of becoming a paleontologist and is beyond cute.  Plus the little girl won a college scholarship and her school got a grant.


Junk drawer inspiration

OK, the prompt for generating ideas today from StoryStorm Day 6 suggests a dive into the junk drawer. The contents are a little embarrassing to share–a Lego man, 10 British pounds, a ruler, my never used tuning fork from medical school, a Chicago city sticker from my car, a Mariano’s market loyalty card.  What fun though as long as I don’t think about needing to clean the drawer out.  Everyone is obsessed with Marie Kondo these days.  I doubt there is much in my drawer that would spark joy but I think I can spark a few writing ideas.  The Lego man seems irresistible.  I have the idea now and need to run off and write it down before I forget!  See you tomorrow.

Weird Stuff


Today’s writing prompt is “Weird Stuff.”  I think the prompt idea is working.  I already have 4 pages filled in my January journal.  I did a bit of digging through my photos and found a praying mantis.  I think they are pretty weird with their overlarge eyes and the way they seem to watch you watching them.  I think one would eat me if I were a bit smaller.  Seeing one eat another insect isn’t weird.  It’s downright disgusting.

crop circles 2

Did anyone ever wonder why there are circles of crop land in the Midwest? It turns out they are due to center-pivot irrigation. It makes sense but the circles are weird-looking to me.

Enough weirdness for one day. Thanks to Tara Lazar and her Story Storm for today’s prompt.

Reinventing myself (again)

A bad day to be a toy

Thank you to a writing friend who connected me to Tara Lazar’s website on writing for children.  It is not too late to play a far more childlike version of NaNoWriMo, aimed at shorter writing for kids.  I have already landed on two new ideas, including one that I am already quite fond of (but won’t tell –it’s mine, after all).

2018 wasn’t one of my best years ever.  It began with a recovery period from a minor surgery which wasn’t too bad but around the time I was feeling back to myself and ready to start exercising again, I simultaneously developed a severe case of shingles and a frozen shoulder, both in the same arm, my left.

I have not been a happy camper.  I have my arm strength and range of motion back nearly entirely but still have residual neuropathic pain.  I won’t go into the gory details right now as I am focusing on writing.

I have been lucky enough to become part of a critique group for the middle grade novel I have been trying to finish for some years now.  Whether to procrastinate or merely to grow as a writer, I also started submitting an essay I wrote to some literary journals.  The hours spent scrolling submission sites and magazines also led to a happy moment.  One of my photos came out this week in a journal!  Thank you to 3Elements Literary Review for my second magazine photo (my first is in Reptiles Magazine) ever published.

So here I am:  child psychiatrist, photographer, children’s writer, and essayist.  I’d better get on with it.


March On

Fund Healthcare

Last week I went to my first protest march of 2018.  This was the second Women’s March, subtitled the March to the Polls.  Although I have missed an occasional midterm election, I have voted in every presidential election since I turned 18.  It saddened me when my younger son didn’t even register in time to vote in 2016 because he felt it didn’t matter.  One goal of this year’s march was to register more voters.


I suspect most of us were there to share our outrage at politics as they stand.  While waiting to march, too far back to hear the speeches, people were checking their phones and muttering about the government shut down.  Blame who you will, the government should not close.  It is not a store, it is not a union operation that may go on strike.  It seems increasingly that our government officials are shielded from accountability.  They are rich, have great health care, if the government shuts down they still get paid, if they harass women their legal fees are paid for by we the taxpayers.  The things that don’t work in our democracy do not affect them directly at all.   I fear that even if we vote the old guard out, the new guard will probably not be any better.

Grannies and Cis-ters

This year’s march surprised me in its numbers.  I heard that here in Chicago we had between 250,000 and 300,000 marchers.  I missed most of the speeches and tired of standing waiting for the actual march to begin.  When I moved closer to the speakers and could hear bits and pieces, I was unimpressed.  The speeches seemed more politics as usual mixed with some self-promotion.  The protest signs were the best part, as they were last year.  There is so much creativity in people’s wrath.  All those women, all those pink hats.  Yes, and men, children, LGBTQ folks and people of color.  While I would have liked to see the march more representative of all Chicagoans, it was a day to remember.

A great city for a protest

I still intend to protest and vote.  I have thought long and hard about a more active form of advocacy and remain stuck before implementation. In the meantime, see you at the polls.

Year in Review–Part 2

Memories are Sacred

My retrospective of 2017 resumes in July. July was a mishmash of events: picture taking around Chicago, a trip to the Michigan Dunes, a road trip to Iowa for a writing workshop, a trip to New York for a choral festival and a health care protest.

Goosing Liberty

August was largely a domestic adventure. We began work on our house which was built in the 1880’s. This round was largely external–remove the siding, foam insulate the entire house and replace the siding with new materials. Repaint. Suffice to say, the work is not done yet although the house is warmer this winter than previously. This is a good thing since temperatures have been in the single digits this week. The enterprise involved men on scaffolding outside nearly every window of the house which did little for privacy. This noise was equally hard on my nerves and those of my poor cats. The house waits for warmer weather and a final coat of paint but it does look good.


August 21st was one of the year’s highlights. We took a family trip to Oregon to intersect the total eclipse. Despite threats of massive crowds we viewed the totality just the three of us off a road in rural Oregon. The sudden darkness and chill, the silence and eerie shadows made it well worth the trip. After the event, which passed far too quickly (only around 2 minutes of total eclipse, after all), we hit the road and found the traffic. We missed our rendezvous with family in Washington, spent a night in a hotel and then joined up in Chelan, Washington.

Cloudscape in Chelan

Not a bad sunset, eh? So it seems I won’t finish my 2017 retrospective tonight either. The fun continues tomorrow.

Year in Review

What a year. I feel as though just December encompassed a year’s worth of content. It seems wiser to look it through in sequence, so I will start with January.
The year started a bit slowly, well, no it didn’t. I spent a few weeks just hanging out, working and taking pictures. My son was home for the semester and he began cooking dinners for us from a subscription service that sent us the ingredients twice a week.


The real fun began with a protest or two. I became politically engaged and marched to protest the inauguration on January 20th. I then joined with two other friends on January 21st in the Women’s March in Chicago on a surprisingly warm and sunny day. If good weather is proof of celestial approval, then our cause was a good one.

A Sea of Faces

A week later, rather jet lagged and hungry, I stumbled into a different march in a very different location. These folks were participating in an anti-government march but they represented a right wing group and I was in Rome.

Roman Protest

For around a month, I took an unpaid sabbatical in Italy. It was an escape from winter, Chicago-style, from the stresses of work and a chance to work on a book I had written. I rented an apartment in Baria, Italy in the southern region of Puglia. I enjoyed sunny 60 degree weather, edited and learned the ropes of submitting a book to agents, walked on the waterfront, ate good food and studied Italian. All of this by myself. On weekends and at the beginning and end of my trip, I toured around the region and had some amazing experiences. I also achieved my goal of feeling more as though I lived in Bari and less of a tourist. It is wonderful to stay in a place long enough to develop favorite walks, cafes, stores and restaurants.

Bari Waterfront

I can’t even come close to describing even the highlights of my stay. I visited towns throughout the area. Polignano a Mare, Trani, Altamura, Lecce, and on the way home a drive through the Amalfi Coast and a visit to Pompei. The picture below is of Matera, one of my more interesting stops.

Matera view

I returned to Chicago in March and caught up on work and home routines. I protested again on tax day and marched for science with my son on a rainy day in Seattle.

Science Saves Lives in Seattle

May found me taking in the Jardins in Paris. More good food, good coffee,great art and long walks in historic places.


It wasn’t all fun and games, of course. I learned my father had cancer a year ago today. He is doing well but the long term is still not clear. His sister, my aunt, was also diagnosed with cancer around the same time. She has had more struggles with painful chemotherapy and radiation treatment. My 14 year old cat was diagnosed with lymphoma. After much suffering she didn’t make it. She is much missed but our family has been enriched by a new baby, adopted from the local shelter.

Saturn, soon to be known as Shadow

I am now in June and will break off my year at the half way point. Expect further reminiscences tomorrow.

Happy New Year to all. I hope 2017 was a good year and 2018 will be even better.