Linda Schueler has worn many shoes in her lifetime including:
primary caregiver for a parent with dementia.
Her passion is learning, so it is no surprise that she has gravitated towards writing, a profession where she can research totally random subjects every day. She has worked as a travel and educational writer and currently also writes for children.
Linda loves holistic medicine and has studied many forms including Therapeutic Touch (levels 1&2), and Reiki (levels 1&2).
1. Favourite iced tea: Chocolate rooibos iced sun tea
Chocolate iced tea? Nope, you’re not dreaming. Take a chocolate rooibos tea blend and sit it in the sun for two or three hours, strain it, and set it in the fridge overnight. It’s as easy as that. Yum!
2. Favourite logic puzzle: Cool circuits
We love logic puzzles in our family, and this award winning one is challenging but fun. Click here to see a video of how it’s played.
3. Favourite YouTube channel for learning German: Easy German
My daughter would like to learn some German, but it’s hard when you don’t have many opportunities to practice. So I’ve been focusing mainly on teaching her how to cook German recipes, as well as on German culture.
I’ve been enjoying the often hilarious channel Easy German. A couple of weeks ago we made the German pancakes in this video.
4. Favourite adult book: Stephen King’s “On Writing”
This is the memoir and writing craft book we selected for our book club, and we are nearing the end of it. Though a bit of an older book, the advice is still very relevant. It surprises me that much of King’s writing philosophy is the same of mine.
This is one of my favourite quotes from the book:
“The idea that creative endeavor and mind-altering substances are entwined is one of the great pop-intellectual myths of the time…Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak. They drank because it’s what alkies are wired up to do. Creative people probably do run a greater risk of alcoholism and addiction than those in other jobs, but so what? We all look pretty much the same when we’re puking in the gutter.”
King writes about this issue coming from his experience as a former addict and alcoholic.
Click here to see some tongue in cheek writing tips from King.
5. Favourite children’s book: “What Happened When We All Stopped”
This poem about living in harmony with nature has been animated and is narrated by Jane Goodall in this video. There is a link you can click to download a version under the video. “Help turn the whisper into a roar.”
-I read one book for the Mount TBR challenge. Click here to read about it.
-I read one memoir this month.
“Rosalie Lightning” by Tom Hart
This is a memoir in graphic novel form about the unexpected loss of Hart’s daughter shortly before her second birthday. It was a challenging read for me, but then books about the death of a child always are.
Many people are musing about how travel will change after Covid-19. Gillett also addresses this issue.
“The potential for smaller and smarter crowds in the places I visit is welcome. But I need to look in the mirror and examine myself as well. What do I contribute when I travel? What do I take? Is there some balance to my explorations, something more meaningful than simply the online purchase of carbon offsets?”
I can totally relate to Wood’s essay, as I break chain letters too, because I don’t like imposing on others:
‘Of the “thanks but no thanks” notes I received, one in particular resonated because it helped me clarify what I dislike about chains. “I hate to be a party pooper,” my friend wrote, “but I truly don’t do chain letters. … I hate imposing on others.”’
Leung writes about the experience of wearing masks in Asia vs. wearing masks in Canada.
“In truth, wearing a mask is a sign of solidarity; its strength comes from numbers, from the collective action, from the many willing to take a small sacrifice and inconvenience for the well-being of strangers in an unsung and unheroic fashion.
Wearing a mask is not just a proven tactic to fight the spread of disease, it’s also a symbol: it shows the world that you care, both about yourself and those around you. I am wearing a mask now so one day we won’t have to.”
My dad liked to people watch, and so I enjoyed reading this essay.
Levine buys her mother her own park bench on her 80th birthday, as people watching on benches is her favourite thing to do.
“It went like this: 1. Choose a particular passerby, pair or group. 2. Notice their expressions, their posture, their gestures. Take note of gender, age and so on. If they are talking, you listen for snippets of conversations. Listen for tone. Notice who talks more, who interrupts. 3. Invent a story of what is going on. If you’re with a co-conspirator, invent as you go along, each of you adding tidbits as the story unfolds. Facts are not required, just some keen observational skills and imagination.”
As her mother lays dying of Covid-19, Giles reads her three children’s books over and over.
“I ended up choosing three books to take with me that second day: Todd Parr’s The Goodbye Book, and Kathryn Lasky’s Before I Was Your Mother. And of course, Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I figured those three books sort of ran the gamut for the day Momma and I were about to face, so I packed them along with my mask, my gown, my gloves, and my hand sanitizer, and tried to prepare myself.”
-I read 5 picture books per week. Here are my favourites:
“The Eagle Feather Story” written by Francois Prince and performed by Mark Barfoot; pictures from the community
I had the pleasure of being able to not only read but also listen to this interactive book in both English and the language of the Dakelh (Carrier) Peoples.
The eagle feather is sacred to the Dakelh Peoples, and those who have an eagle feather are to be respected. In this book, the eagle shows how feathers are earned, and gives feathers to several animals for their acts.
“Tanna’s Owl” by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley; illustrated by Yong Ling Kang
The book is based on Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley’s experience of raising an owl. Main character Tana raises Ukpik the owl after her father gives the owl to her. Owls are considered magical because they bring land and sea together.
“Encounter” by Brittany Luby; illustrated by Michaela Goade
Fisher and Sailor meet in 1534. Despite their differences, they are able to find common ground.
The book is a reminder that Jacques Cartier and his crew were visitors when they arrived in North America, and there is a focus on Stadaconan knowledge.
“The Little Book of Big What-Ifs” by Renata Liwska
The book explores many different what-if questions, often opposites, e.g., “What if you can’t think of anything?” vs. “What if your imagination runs wild?”
“Sterling the Best Dog Ever” by Aidan Cassie
Sterling the dog wants a home, so he disguises himself as a fork, but when he sees the family eating with hands, Sterling figures that he needs to be something besides a fork.
I laughed through the entire book!
Click here to access an article that has a list of Canadian children’s writers who have shared readings of their books—some picture books, some not—online.
This webinar is available until October 16. The book is a fictional book about helping surviving Tasmanian tigers. in reality, Tasmanian tigers have been declared extinct, yet there is a belief that some still survive.
This year Hillside Festival was free online the weekend of July 24-26.
I watched Evelyn Lau read poems from “Pineapple Express”, Joy Kogawa read an excerpt from “Obasan”, Chelene Knight read from her hybrid memoir “Dear Current Occupant”, Madhur Anand read from her half biography half memoir “This Red Line Goes Straight to your Heart”, and Karen Solie read from her book of poetry “Caiplie Caves”.
All of them impressed me and made me want to read their books. So far I have secured a copy of “Dear Current Occupant”, which I will write about in August’s wrapup.
-I spent at least one hour a week working on one of my many guided journals.
-I blogged one time a week, and I even wrote an extra blog post yesterday.
-I wrote about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary.
I first heard of the Six Degrees of Separation challenge last month from my critique and book club partner Bev. Thanks Bev! It sounded like so much fun, especially because there are so many possible connections to make, that I decided to participate this month.
“On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.”
“Join in by posting your own six degrees chain on your blog and adding the link in the Linky section (or comments) of each month’s post. If you don’t have a blog, you can share your chain in the comments section. You can also check out links to posts on Twitter using the hashtag #6Degrees.”
Here is my “six degrees of connection”.
The book that starts it this month: “How to do Nothing” by Jenny Odell
I’ve not yet read this book, but I’ve wanted to for a long time. I’ve currently placed it on hold at my local library.
From my library’s website: “A galvanizing critique of the forces vying for our attention–and our personal information–that redefines what we think of as productivity, reconnects us with the environment, and reveals all that we’ve been too distracted to see about ourselves and our world. Nothing is harder to do these days than nothing. But in a world where our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity. doing nothing may be our most important form of resistance. So argues artist and critic Jenny Odell in this field guide to doing nothing (at least as capitalism defines it).”
When I was a child, I had the ability to do nothing—and it was one of my favourite things to do—but I have found that it has waned over time. I am currently rediscovering this skill. And yes, it’s become a skill, the ability to resist all the calls of you to be doing “something”, especially something productive.
“The Art of Noticing” by Rob Walker
This is one of my favourite books, and I’ve done several of the exercises from it.
This book “will help you to rediscover your sense of joy and to notice what really matters”. For me that is sometimes doing nothing, which is where I made this first connection.
“The Art of Bev Doolittle” by Bev Doolittle
I focussed on the word art, and I thought of another of my favourite books. I love Doolittle’s pictures, as they are all puzzles. Trying to figure out what is camouflaged in each picture is pure joy.
“Sneaky Art: Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight” by Marthe Jocelyn
Continuing to focus on the word “art”, I chose this next book. I won this book, and I have actually done several of the activities in it. The art installations are meant to be displayed publicly.
I know that one of the art installations my daughter and I did brought great joy to a neighbour in a much needed time.
“Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature” by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter D. Sieruta
Here I connected “wild” to “sneaky”. It’s a book that is on my TBR list, and hopefully I can read it as part of the Mount TBR challenge.
From the book jacket: “…this book chronicles some of the feuds and fights of the children’s book world, reveals some of the errors and secret messages found in children’s books, and brings contemporary illumination to the fuzzy-bunny world we think we know.”
“Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words” by Susan G. Wooldridge
“Crazy” connected to “wild”. This is also one of my favourite books, and I have done several exercises from it.
From the get go, the book is magical. Consider the opening paragraph: “Poems arrive. They hide in feelings and images, in weeds and delivery vans, daring us to notice and give them form with our words. They take us to an invisible world where light and dark, inside and outside meet.”
“In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop” by Steve Kowit
Which takes me to the last book, related by the theme of poetry.
I forget who recommended this textbook to me as one of the best guides about creating poetry.
From the back cover: “If you long to create poetry…that is magical and moving, this is the book you’ve been looking for. In the Palm of Your Hand offers inspiring guidance for poets at every stage of the creative journey. It is a book about shaping your memories and passions, your pleasures, obsessions, dreams, secrets, and sorrows into the poems you always wanted to write.”
Do you keep a list of your favourite words? I first heard of this idea from Karen Benke in her book “Rip the Page”.
In the book “Journal Sparks” by Emily K. Neuburger, I decided to try the “Tiny Poems” exercise. In one variation Neuberger suggests that you use a word jar filled with your favourite words. Perfect. I printed out and cut up a list of some of my favourite words and then made a word jar.
Then Neuberger recommends you draw 1-3 words and write a poem between 2-30 words using those randomly drawn words.
Here is one I came up with using the words “sparrow” and “rasp” in a 16 word poem:
Sore throated sparrow
Rasped through the notes in his repertoire
Attracting the “wrong sort” of bird.
I choose most of my favourite words based on their sounds, not their meaning. For example, I love to say the word “broth”, and the word “tumble” almost always finds its way into any story I write.
What about you? What are some of your favourite words?
Bonus: If you want to get your kids thinking about their favourite words early, I recommend the book “The Word Collector”. To learn more about this book, watch this video of author Peter H Reynolds talking about his book. The book is also a great read for the young at heart.
Our trip to Germany has been cancelled. My daughter’s camps have been cancelled. And it’s hot—oh so very hot. It figures that the summer that has been postponed by Covid-19 would also be oppressively hot.
Nothing to do but to regroup and find other things to do besides sitting around all day on our devices.
Here are some of the things my teen daughter and I have been up to:
There are a wide variety we like to use including “The Storymatic” and “The Writer’s Toolbox”.
Susanna Leonard Hill also has some great “What’s the Story?” cards. Click here for more information.
The possibilities are endless. Last time we did a writing exercise, my daughter even decided to combine some of “The Writer’s Toolbox” prompts with some of the “What’s the Story?” cards.
“How to Have Creative Ideas: 62 exercises to develop the mind” by Edward de Bono
This book encourages creativity and lateral thinking through exercises built around picking random words.
The latest exercise we did was to find out connections between random pairs of words. For example, I paired bee and publicity. The connection? Both create a buzz.
“The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday” by Rob Walker
These exercises are designed to help you see the world anew and find out what matters to you.
One exercise that my daughter and I did recently had us walking around the block and periodically looking up to see the world from a different point of view. It’s amazing how I rediscovered things that were there all along, but that I had stopped noticing a long time ago.
“Journal Sparks: Fire Up Your Creativity With Spontaneous Art, Wild Writing, and Inventive Thinking” by Emily K. Neuberger
This book has been a recent favourite. Yesterday I drew with a non dominant hand, and this morning I illustrated a map of yesterday’s activities.
Here’s one my daughter did.
All of these exercises are appropriate to break out of a creativity rut or to entertain your teen (and older children).
Do you have any suggestions? Feel free to leave me a comment.
Growing up I used to help my mom make jams and jellies. We would pick loads of strawberries and make some into strawberry jam, combine others with rhubarb from my mom’s patch in the backyard, and freeze the rest. She had currants galore out back, and the highlight for me was the black currant jelly, which I still love but somehow it never tastes as good as my mom’s did. We would eat her jam and jelly all through winter, appreciating the taste of sunshine we got on those shivery days.
I stopped making all those delicious concoctions—it seems many people my age did. We all started to buy instead of cook them, saving time and energy, and it seemed silly to freeze strawberries when they became available year round.
Yet I always missed those creations. Somehow jam that a company makes lacks something that homemade jam does. And imported strawberries never taste as good as those summer ones that have been kissed by the sun mere hours ago.
So recently I have been exploring kitchen wisdom. I have gone back to my ancestor’s (plant) roots, a time when they would harvest what was available around them instead of hightailing it to the grocery store for frozen sweet potato fries flown in from another country. I am discovering how to make my own kitchen creations whether it’s mustard garlic pesto or radish leaf salad.
Here are three of my latest creations:
I worked hard to create this nettle one.
I love hibiscus, but mint is also delicious.
Not to be eaten! I look forward to using these creations topically.
Are you interested too? These are three resources that I recommend:
The author reflects on how writing makes her feel fine during this pandemic.
“That’s, really, the true order: I’m not writing because I’m fine, I’m fine because I’m writing.”
“I’ve had no moments of epiphany during my writing, no moments of sweet release, but without being consciously aware of it, writing has acted as a shelter from listlessness and potentially devastating anxiety, which allows me to feel fine, to feel more or less the same as I did before all of the uncertainty, and while that gift may be a quiet one, it’s one I am truly thankful for.”
Reid-Benta just won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for her book “Frying Plantain”, which is on my TBR list.
Enright ponders the question whether the lockdown was worth it. He also writes about the differences in the north vs. the south.
“At last count, Brazil was registering 30,000 new confirmed cases a day. Russia and India, about 8,000 cases a day. All told, poorer countries account for three-quarters of the 100,000 new cases detected worldwide each day. And those numbers likely suggest an undercount.
Which means if we truly believe the cliché “We are all in this together,” richer countries should be planning huge humanitarian programs now, and looking at issues such as debt forgiveness and financial support.”
“I’ve been thinking of the imprisonments of addiction, disability and unemployment; of being limited in one way or another by gender, race, or poverty. I’ve been thinking of Indigenous people, born into a cultural confinement by virtue of a colonial system they didn’t ask for. I’ve been thinking of all the jails I could never see before because they weren’t pushing up against my own easy-street life. Now that my own freedom has been stripped away, replaced by time to think about it, to feel it, I see these imposed structures much more clearly. Now that I’m being inconvenienced by a lack of Lysol wipes and a shrinking RRSP.
I’ve been forced to look at myself — at how many freedoms I’ve always enjoyed but never really noticed, and certainly didn’t cherish. Invisible freedoms of affluence and education, food security and choice.”
“I hope I don’t get too preoccupied with the details of my own economic survival to see the walls, still standing, where they have always been, the invisible barriers that already, before COVID-19, imprisoned so many. I hope I remember that what was temporarily taken away from me, so many others never had to begin with.”
-I read 5 picture books per week. Here are my favourites:
“Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies” by Megan Lacera and Jorge Lacera
Mo, a zombie, loves to eat vegetables. He grows and cooks them secretly, because his parents don’t like veggies. Mo tries to figure out how to convince his parents to eat more vegetables. Mo also wonders if he actually is a zombie.
“Hello Neighbor! The Kind and Caring World of Mr. Rogers” by Matthew Cordell
This fabulous picture book biography details the journey of Fred Rogers from childhood to TV icon.
“What Grew in Larry’s Garden” by Laura Alary; illustrated by Kass Reich
Grace helps next door neighbour Larry in the garden. They are not just growing vegetables, but plants that Larry’s students give away accompanied by a letter in order to connect people. After a fence is built by neighbour casting a shadow over the plants, Grace has to figure out a solution.
The main character is based on a real person. Alary read an article about a disagreement over a fence and the book was born.
“You Matter” by Christian Robinson
My favourite line refers to the sun (and perhaps some people we know and love):
“Even if you are really gassy. You matter.”
“Just Like Me” by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
This is a lovely book of poetry for children. Two of my favourite poems are “The Day I Decided to Become Sunshine” and “All in Together Girls”.
“You and Me Both” by Mahtab Narsimham; illustrated by Lisa Cinar
Jamal and the main character like doing the same things, and they think they are twins despite the differences in skin colour.
You may have heard the true story in which two five year old boys, one black and one white, get the same haircut to fool their teacher. The author wrote the book after reading the story. Click here to read about the boys.
“Going Up” by Sherry Lee; illustrated by Charlene Chua
The main character is going to a party on the 10th floor; the elevator stops at every floor to pick up a diverse cast of characters.
These are a couple of older picture books that I love.
“The Wakame Gatherers” by Holly Thompson; illustrated by Kazumi Wilds
Set in Japan, the main character is bicultural and biracial. She lives most of the year in Japan but spends her summers in Maine. When her gram from Maine comes to help with the wakame harvest, the main character worries about being the translator between her and her Japanese granny.
“Ron’s Big Mission” by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden; illustrated by Don Tate
This is a picture book biography of late astronaut Ron McNair, who at 9 demanded that he be allowed to take out library books just like others despite his skin colour.
“When it comes to maintaining well-being and finding success, environments matter. In fact, they may matter just as much, and likely much more, than individual thoughts, feelings or behaviours. A positive attitude may be required to take advantage of opportunities as you find them, but no amount of positive thinking on its own is going to help you survive a natural disaster, a bad workplace or childhood abuse. Change your world first by finding the relationships that nurture you, the opportunities to use your talents and the places where you experience community and governmental support and social justice. Once you have these, your world will help you succeed more than you could ever help yourself.”
There has been such a focus on what we are going to do after isolation ends. However, during the height of Covid-19’s isolation, I came across this thought: What do I want to take with me from this experience? It’s not the usual focus, but it’s one we should all consider as things start to open up.
Here’s a list poem that I made:
10 Things I Want to Take Away from Covid-19’s Isolation
-the question: “Do I really need it?”; “Do I really need this grocery item or smoothie?”
I had two friends who invited me to participate in two different Facebook challenges at roughly the same time, so I turned it into my own creation, which I called the “Life is Good with Books I Love” challenge. Now the problem with the challenge was I was only supposed to post the pictures of the books with no explanation. <Gasp> Asking writers to not talk about their favourite books is like…well, let’s just say that it is a different sort of challenge. So I thought I could at least blog about it. So here they are, the seven books I chose and why.
“Embers” by Richard Wagamese
I blogged about what this book meant to me earlier this year. I’ve been turning a lot to books that soothe my soul in the past year or two, and I found this one to be so magical that I bought it. For excerpts from this amazing, soul soothing book, click here.
“Loving vs. Virginia” by Patricia Hruby Powell; illustrated by Shadra Strickland
I had never heard of the story of this interracial couple who fought to decriminalize interracial marriages until last year. This beautiful novel in verse, which was eye opening for me, alternates between Richard and Mildred Loving’s viewpoints.
Read this article for some of the background of the case and for some books, including this one, that tell the story.
“Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Last week I wrote about how I am reigniting my love for my garden, and this is the book I mentioned in that post.
First published in 2003, the book has had a resurgence in popularity. Read an interview with the author here, in which she talks about the current pandemic situation and hope for the future.
“Light a Candle” by Godfrey Nkongolo and Eric Walters; illustrated by Eva Campbell
Before he became the president of an independent Tanzania in 1962, Julius Nyerere had the idea of lighting a candle at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, and this did indeed happen after he became president. The book is the story of the Uhuru (freedom) torch.
My father was born in this country before it became independent and when it was called Tanganyika (Territory), and so I have always had an interest in the country.
Click here to read what I had to say about the book in a previous blog post.
“A Many Splendoured Thing” by Han Suyin
This novel about Eurasian Suyin and her English lover Mark provided comfort and insight in the early years of my marriage, while I was living in Beijing. The author Han Suyin was half-Chinese and half-Belgian, which gave her a unique perspective on bicultural and biracial relationships.
“Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
A gift from my bestie, this book is as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1992.
If you don’t have time to read it right now, this article contains an excellent summary.
“The Art of Bev Doolittle”
I love optical illusions and I love nature, and Doolittle’s art combines both. I fell in love with her art when I was a young woman.
Watch this video for examples of her pictures.
I could likely do this challenge for a year and then some, so there were many books I left out like my childhood favourites “Anne of Green Gables” and “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
What books would you put on your list? Leave me a comment below.