Ah, Life!

I started to post this little complaint ruse on Facebook, but thought I might get a little long-winded, so I’ll do a blog post instead. I can’t make any promises about not being too long-winded, however.

In the last several days, squeezed in during Tommy’s naps and my evening hours, I’ve been packing and preparing three presentations I’ll make next week between here and Chicago:

Saturday, August 23 – Springfield Writers’ Guild, 1:00 pm-2:00 pm at Heritage Cafeteria, 1364 E Battlefield in Springfield, Missouri. I’ll be presenting a workshop on Interviewing Your Characters.

Thursday, August 28 – Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, 12:00 pm-1:30 pm at Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State Street (Video Theater, Lower Level), Chicago, IL. I’ll be conducting a workshop titled Wearing the Red Kimono, which will teach participants different methods to turn family history into stories.

Thursday, August 28 – Japan America Society of Chicago, 6:00 pm-7:30 pm at Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State Street (Video Theater, Lower Level), Chicago, IL. Book signing and Q&A about The Red Kimono.

Saturday, August 30 – Japanese Festival-Missouri Botanical Gardens, I’m excited to attend Obon (and see Steve try to dance) and I will be helping and selling my books at a booth from 4:15 pm-8:15 pm.

If you’re in the area, come by to say “hi!”

IMG_3811 (2)Anyway, back to my day. As my mind raced with everything I need to get done before we leave on Friday, as I tried to figure out what to pack, as I organized my presentations, as I “re-directed” Tommy now that he’s learned to climb over my pillow barricades (time to get safety gates!) . . . I received an email that my townhouse, which I’m renting, is on the market AND the realty company will be putting a lock box on my front door on Friday, the day I’m leaving.

Which means . . .

I ALSO HAVE TO CLEAN MY HOUSE BEFORE I LEAVE!!! Of course, I probably would have done so anyway, since for some reason, I always clean house before I leave. Nothing like coming home to a clean house, just to clutter it up with dirty laundry and bills that need to be paid, right?

Let’s not forget I’ll be packing up and moving in the weeks after my return. . . again. But, no complaints! I’m excited to say, this time into a house. I plan to stay for awhile, and I’m looking forward to making it home.


I guess I thought the surprise notice from the leasing company gave me something to complain about. Plus, it gave me a good excuse to post my schedule. Oh, and I also got to brag that Tommy is crawling, too. 

Still, I think I need an excuse to soothe myself, as well as an excuse to end this blog post. I think I’ll go out for a milkshake.

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Something New: Day–oh, who cares!

In case you hadn’t noticed, life has gotten in the way of my “Something New” series. Oh my, I just checked to see when I last posted about trying something new, and it was June 26, when I dreamed about renting a beach house! Geez. I’ve been even more remiss than I thought.

Anyway, taking care of Tommy, making trips to Tulsa to check on my mom and buying a house have all squeezed themselves on top of blogging on my list of things to do.

But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t TRIED new things — I just haven’t written about them. And, because life DOES often get in the way, and I’ve taken on a more “go-with-the-flow” attitude, I’ve decided to keep trying new things, but it probably won’t happen every day, and I probably won’t write about every new thing I try, because some of it frankly, not very interesting.

But, I DID try something new last weekend that was fun (and surprising,) and it’s something that’s been on my (secondary) bucket list for a long time — riding a mechanical bull!

Steve and I attended Taste of Dallas on Saturday, and, in an attempt to escape the 108 degree temperatures, we entered one of the air-conditioned buildings. Lo and behold, there, right at the entrance, was a mechanical bull, and beside the bull stood two rather bored-looking teen boys who appeared to be wondering why nobody wanted to ride their bull.

So, the conversation between Steve and I went kind of like this:

Jan: “Do you want to try it?”

Steve: (Grinning) “Uh, no.”

Jan: “Oh, come on. I’ll do it if you do it.”

Steve: “Okay, you go first.”

Jan: “No way, you go first.”

Steve: “Nope. Let’s go play basketball instead.”

Jan: “Oh, okay. I’ll go first, if you promise you’ll go after me.”

Steve: (Still grinning.) “Deal.”

I have to admit, it was kind of like that old Life cereal commercial from the ’70s. Remember it, the one where Mikey was finally the only one brave enough to try it?

Well, I was the brave “Mikey” to ride the bull first that day. But first, I had to figure out how to get on his back. Of course, I didn’t want to make a fool of myself, attempting (and failing, I’m sure) to hoist my leg over. And I sure didn’t want to leap (and fail miserably) on top like a real cowboy might.

photo 5 (2)


Finally, after enough scratching my head as I circled around the bull, one of the teens felt sorry for me and offered his knee.

I was able to save face–at least temporarily.

Now, mind you, I hadn’t planned to ride a bull that day. So, I obviously wasn’t wearing the proper attire, which added to the rather mismatched pairing of Jan and Bull. No cowboy hat, no blue jeans and no cowboy boots, not to mention I was trying this for the first time at the age of 56.

photo 2 (5)

Here’s how my very short ride went:

Though the bull moved like he was even older than I am, I still struggled to hold on, even grabbing his horns at one point, at which the teen behind the controls stopped and shook his finger at me.

Oh, you mean I’m only supposed to hold on to this tiny piece of rope?

Before mounting the bull, I’d imagined myself waiving my hat in the air, yelling “yeehaw” to the world, but instead, all I could do was press my thighs tight against that bull, clinging for dear life. The crowd began to grow and cheer me on. to watch the crazy old woman fly off the bull.

Finally, eleven seconds later, (I think that was including the three seconds where the teen shook his finger at me) I could hold on no longer and gave up the fight.

But it was fun, fun, fun! And, Steve did fulfill his part of the deal, with just a little coaxing. After all, he DID have to follow my performance.

But best of all, after we rode the rides-of-our-lives, a long line formed, and we left those two teens much happier than they had appeared when we first walked into that nice, cool, air-conditioned building.

blog-smileSo, this was definitely a thumbs-up experience!




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Getting to Know Author, Gwen Plano

I’ve gotten to know Gwen Plano (so far) only through Facebook and visiting her website. I related to much of what I found on her website, especially her journal-keeping and wanted to get to know her better. So, I invited her for a blog chat. Now, more than ever, I look forward to meeting her in person one day. I think you’ll enjoy meeting her, too!

Gwen Plano

Gwen Plano

JAN:  Because I’ve always kept a journal, I was drawn to the fact that you, too, write many of your hopes, dreams, joys, disappointments and prayers in a journal. When did you begin journaling and why?

GWEN: I grew up on an isolated farm where the only books available to me were books about the saints and Nancy Drew mysteries. This strange mix of religiosity and adventure, fed my dreams of travel to worlds unseen. I was just a child when I wrote about these fantasies, but with the passing of time, my diary morphed into a journal, which then included heartaches and loves imagined. I scribbled in notebooks and on scraps of paper as ideas or questions came to mind. And, I was particularly productive if I was struggling with a life crisis. I learned to wait for answers, and as these tidbits of wisdom emerged, I recorded them. Ultimately, my journal writing became a way for me to process life.

JAN: Do you still have your earliest journals? If so, what have you learned from them?

GWEN:  I’ve kept many of my early journals and in fact, I reread them before writing Letting Go into Perfect Love. Walking through the pages of time, I was humbled and at times deeply saddened by what I found. The younger me was insecure, sometimes frightened and often felt alone. I wanted to embrace and reassure her that all would be well, but in the end, I simply let the tears flow. As I reread the volumes, I also noticed the threads of stories that ran through the journal entries—the longing for love, the fear of failure, and recurrent hopes and dreams. And, I saw that the writing process itself had helped me sort through the confusion of the day. It brought clarity and insight; and once there was understanding, I could better craft my way. 9807883

JAN:  Why did you write Letting Go into Perfect Love? What do you hope your readers will take from your book?

GWEN:  When I began writing, I expected to simply tell my story—of love found and lost, of terrors known and of joys discovered. As the pages unfolded though, I realized that my story was everyone’s story. Letting Go into Perfect Love is not a tell-all book; rather, it is a book about a journey—through life’s challenges and heartaches to the one love we all seek. As I wrote, I experienced compassion—for the young me who did the best she could, for the old me who has found peace, and for all humankind. This unexpected sentiment redirected my writing, and quite frankly, my life. My hope is that readers recognize themselves in the book. Though my journey is unique to me, the emotions accompanying those details are universal. We all know sorrow, fear, or regret; and, we all travel through life trying to make sense of it all. What I hope I conveyed is that we are never alone, every moment is imbued with meaning, and even the most devastating circumstance is held tenderly in the heart of love. My deepest desire is that readers feel hope as they walk with me through the pages of my book.

JAN:  How do you define “perfect love?

GWEN: Perfect love is a love that has no limitations or conditions. It simply IS. Religions across the world call this love by many names, as it is all-inclusive. For me, though, perfect love is what I understand as God. And, I believe that what is not of love is not of God. I have found that the more I trust and let go into this love through prayer and meditation, the more I know peace. And with this peace, I have found joy.

JAN:  If you could speak to any one person, living or dead, who would that be and why?

GWEN: Much of the turmoil in the world is due to conflicting understandings of God or religious texts. People justify killing because of their interpretation of the divine; they violently protest one cause or another because of religious texts; they imprison and torture others based on their beliefs. It seems that no facet of life is more divisive than man’s perception of the Source of all love. Though there are many religious leaders with whom I would like to speak, I would especially like to talk with Jesus. And, if I could do so, my first question would be to ask him if Christianity has faithfully represented him. He who lived among the poor, who healed the infirmed, who taught in the streets and in the temples, who forgave those who hurt him, who respected women and held them in a place of honor, he who died among thieves….this man is who I want to meet.

Gwen, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know more about you and I look forward to meeting you in person soon! Thanks for visiting with us today!

Gwen will be giving away a copy of her book, Letting Go into Perfect Love to one lucky person who leaves a comment. Drawing will be held at noon on Friday, July 11!

Here’s more about Gwen:

Synopsis of Letting Go into Perfect Love:

In Letting Go into Perfect Love, Plano recounts her experiences in a twenty-five-year abusive marriage, and as a survivor who came out of that relationship determined to start over, artfully depicting the challenges and triumphs of balancing the obligations of motherhood and career with her family’s healing process. Alternately heart-wrenching and joyful, this is a story of triumph over adversity–one woman’s inspiring account of learning how to forgive the unforgiveable, recover her sense of self, open her heart, and honor the journey home.

Follow Gwen:

Website:  www.GwenPlano.com

Facebook: Gwendolyn Plano, Author

Twitter:  @gmplano

Amazon: Letting Go into Perfect Love

Click here for Gwen’s Press Kit.

And the winner of Gwen’s book, LETTING GO INTO PERFECT LOVE, is . . . sustainabilitea!!

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, and thank you again, Gwen, for visiting with us on my blog!


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Something New: Day 11

Welcome to Day 11 of my challenge to try something new/creative for 30 days.

I sat on the couch today, occasionally popping up like a kernel of corn over an open fire every time USA approached the goal. In the slower moments of the game (huh?) I took at peek at Facebook, while in the back of my mind I wondered what my “new” thing for the day would be.

Then I came upon a post by Natasha Hanova:


It gave me fuel to keep going on a 30-day challenge that sometimes gets more challenging than I’d anticipated. Trying to think of something new that I can complete in one day and that will be entertaining enough for people to want to read. I’ve succeeded with a few posts, failed with others.

When I read this quote, it reinforced the value of trying things I’ve never done.

So, the first thing I did was to think of what I want that I’ve never had. It may sound shallow, but the first thing that popped into my head was to live in a house on the beach. It’s the one thing on my bucket list that I have doubts I’ll ever accomplish.

I dream of having a house with a writing place that overlooks the ocean, where I can open the window and smell the salty air, hear seagulls cry and waves roar to the shore. Better yet, I dream of falling asleep to the ocean’s rolling lullaby.

writer spaceRemember the house in Something’s Gotta Give, and the place where Diane Keaton’s character wrote? That’s the place I dream of. Hey, if you’re going to dream, you might as well dream big, right?

My next thought was to think of something I’ve never done that would (1) move me toward living on a beach and (2) accomplish my goal for the day.

I’ve never really searched for beach houses. Instead my dreams have stayed in my head, halted by the voice inside that says, “That’s silly. You’ll never be able to do that.”

Of course not, if I listen to that voice.

So, I googled beach houses, knowing that barring any unforeseen miracles, I’d never be able to own a house on a beach.

Well, lo and behold, the first beach houses to come up were rentals. So, while I’ll probably never own a beach house, I do believe I can look forward to renting one someday. A few nights of seaside sensory delights is better than nothing!

Years ago, I trained for a job in San Diego for a couple of months. Some evenings after work, I would go to the beach and walk. As the waves tickled my toes, I daydreamed about one day drinking a glass of wine on the deck of one of the houses that overlooked the ocean. Needless to say, that’s where I began my search.

What? Oceanfront is $500-$1400! Not per week, but per NIGHT! No way I would (or could) pay that much. Find another beach. So, I checked Florida next, but most of those were high rises and I’d rather have a house.

Feeling only slightly discouraged, I tried Alabama and that’s where I found what looks like a perfect beach getaway.

beach (2)


Finding these beach rental houses has brought me one step closer to a dream, all because I tried something new.


I can smell the salt air already–a definite “thumbs up!”

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Something New: Day 10

Welcome to Day 10 of my challenge to try something new/creative for 30 days.

Today I played with something I’ve been wanting to try since the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Conference in May, when Heather Davis, during one of her workshops, mentioned sharing her PowerPoint presentation via a website called SlideShare.

So, today, almost two months later, I decided to give it a try and uploaded the presentation for one of my most popular workshops, “Interviewing Your Characters.” I’m not sure it’ll have the same “punch” without my verbal stories of what I learned about Sachi, Nobu and Terrence (and even myself) from interviewing my characters, but it’ll give you the method I use and a good list of questions you can start with.

So, here’s the presentation for “Interviewing Your Characters,” now on SlideShare:



blog-smileI’m giving today a “thumbs up,” not so much for the presentation I uploaded, but because if I hadn’t been struggling to think of something new to do for my challenge today, I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten around to finally giving SlideShare a try.

Let me know what you think!


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Something New: Day 9

As any of you who follow me closely will note, I missed Day 8, mostly because it was Monday and I couldn’t think of anything new. Actually, I did think of something new that I’ll use on another day, I just couldn’t motivate myself to do it.

I did, however, make a post on (one of) my other blogs, www.theredkimono.com, titled “Yuri Kochiyama: Sachi’s Mentor.” That counts for something, doesn’t it?

Day 9’s “New” thing for the day: I believe today was the first time I used the word “aphorism.”



noun –a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation.

It’s funny that I don’t recall ever hearing that word before, and now, in the last few days, I’ve heard it several times. Today, in fact, I actually used it for the first time, when I told my friend, Ruth, that I love her aphorisms.

Now, admittedly, I’m not all together sure I’m using the word correctly, so if not, please feel free to correct me. Still, I love the way the word rolls off my tongue.

Here are a few of Ruth’s:

Tans my hide
Trips my trigger
Frosts my cookies
Chaps my chipper

Are those aphorisms?

blog-smileWhatever they’re called, every time I hear them they make me laugh, which definitely earns a ‘”thumbs up!”




I was pretty sure I was not correctly using “aphorism” and have since learned that Ruth’s phrases are colloquialisms. That’s okay. I like the sound of colloquialism even better than aphorism. And, it’s more challenging to spell, too. :)


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Something New: Day 7 – Exposed

Welcome to Day 7 of my challenge to try something new/creative for 30 days.

As I lay in bed this morning, listening to the lovely rain pattering against my window, I remembered one of the things my dear friend, Ruth Weeks, suggested I try for this 30-day challenge:

Dance naked in the rain.

Dancing in the rain at Grandma's house. (I'm the goofy one in the middle.)

Dancing in the rain at Grandma’s house. (I’m the goofy one in the middle.)

Though it’s something I’ve done before as a child, I’ve never done it as an adult, and it sounded like a marvelous thing to do. There’s a Kenny Chesney song I love called “Something Sexy About the Rain.”

There’s something sexy about the rain
She said as it came pouring down
It feels like kisses on my skin
She spread her arms and spun around
In a summer island storm
In a field of sugarcane
She taught me how and showed me why

Kisses on my skin. Only two things to prevent me from doing it for this challenge:

  1. I’ve already done it before — as a child.
  2. I live in the middle of a big city and I’m not about to do it where God and everybody can see.

So, that left me with what to do for my challenge today. And I decided instead, I’d expose myself in a different way. Because, my next thought, after realizing I couldn’t do it in the middle of Dallas was to think, “Well, I could have done it at the farm.” (For those who don’t know, “the farm” is where I lived prior to my divorce in early 2013.)

Next thought?

Yeah, but I can’t write about that. It’s too personal. [My ex-husband] wouldn’t want me to write about it.

I can’t tell you how often worrying about what someone will think of something I’m going to write blocks my writing. And there, came my idea about what to do today that’s new:

If you can’t be exposed by dancing naked in the rain, dance naked with your words.

Isn’t that what we as writers should do–be honest with our writing? Isn’t that what connects our readers–sharing the experience of something personal, vulnerable?

So, here goes.

I loved the farm. I hated the farm.

I loved that it was so far in the country that there was only one stop sign on the way to work. A traffic jam was a herd of cattle that had somehow found the one place in the fence line where the barbed wire had broken.

I hated that it took thirty minutes to get to the nearest grocery story. Or that if I realized I forgot something once I got into town, I’d either have to do without, or take 90 minutes out of my day to retrieve it and return to the office.

I loved the sounds of the farm–the whisper of wind through the trees, the wind chimes we’d placed all over, the songs of robins and cardinals in the day and the serenade of crickets and frogs at night, the mournful howl of coyotes in the distance, the hooting correspondence I’d have with an owl.

I hated the bugs. The flies that tried to spoil many a happy hour we had outside, not to mention the chiggers and ticks that covered me when I worked in the garden, even though I sprayed myself with detested Deet.

I loved the gardens, the pastel pinks, purples and yellows of spring and the vibrant golds and reds of autumn. I even loved the desolate white of winter, a time to rest inside by the wood stove.

I hated the weeds. Oh, I supposed I didn’t mind them in the spring, when they would first start to grow. They were easy enough to keep up with then, and it was always a good excuse to go outside and work. But by August . . . I hated the weeds and in the hot humidity, they usually won the battle that had gone on for months through spring and summer.

I loved walking with Jubie and Bear. It’s probably what I miss most about the farm–experiencing my dogs’ joy when they knew it was time for a walk, watching them chase each other through the woods, fight for a stick in the pond.

In the past, I probably would have only written about the things I loved about the farm, and there were many things. You see now that it’s true there were things I didn’t like, too, though it is what I loved that I reflect on.

Which brings me back to what started this post — dancing naked in the rain. To talk about what I didn’t like about the farm feels exposed, an imperfection, perhaps, that I didn’t like everything about the farm, or my life there. But nothing in life is perfect.

The following excerpt is from The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning (Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham)

…don’t fight the truth of yourself. The self “comes clean” when it’s most exposed, most vulnerable to its own imperfection.

In this post, I’ve come clean about a part of me. Small though it may be, talking about the things I didn’t like about my life at the farm was something I wouldn’t have let on about in the past because someone I loved didn’t want to hear about it.

But seriously, do we love everything about anything?

So you see, in a metaphorical sense, today I did dance naked in the rain.

Posted in Creativity Challenge | 11 Comments