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One writing prompt a day, meant to inspire the stories of your life.

Write them down here in the comments section if you want to share or in Google Documents if you want to keep your writing private. Or both.

Write for five minutes, fifteen minutes or even an hour. Do it with your coffee, at the end of the day or save some up for your vacation. Share them with friends if you want to. Make it a family project. All up to you.

There may be some topics you do not connect with because they seem too silly or trivial. That’s fine. There may be others that would be too difficult to write about. You don’t need to.

This site also includes some writing prompts put out by Plinky.  When you see the Plinky icon, you’ll know that the prompt came from them. Love those guys.

If you have an interest in preserving the stories that make up your life, join in. Sign up to get notification when a new writing prompt appears.  Ideas welcome!

Learning something hard

What is something you can do that was hard to learn?

I took a lot of lessons when young and also tackled certain obligatory skills like riding a bike, playing chess and knowing the difference between a weed and an expensive flowering plant. Some of the things I learned were really difficult for me. I eventually mastered  bike riding, but not without a series of dramatic encounters with the pavement. I can use a sewing machine for basic hemming and stitching. And I could probably get up on board and ride a horse if I happen to come across one that needs a rider.

But I can’t play bridge, despite numerous lessons. I can’t sail a boat and I can’t dance.

I think the hardest thing I ever learned is how to stop talking and actively listen.

When I was young, I think I talked too much. I prattled away endlessly, even if no one was listening to me. I don’t think I had anything very interesting to say, quite frankly. As I got older, I may have had more knowledge about various topics, but I don’t think I balanced the art of listening with the skill of conversation quite correctly.

As an adult, I began to appreciate my friends who are good listeners and I began to really value their reactions to others who went way overboard with their endless blabbering. I made a conscious choice that I was going to be a better listener.

It took time. I was used to talking a lot. But soon my new skills as a listener became easier and I was able to balance healthy conversation with focused listening. It allowed me to deepen my friendships and appreciate people in new ways. The quieter friends, who before had been a good audience for my silly observations, became more open and honest themselves as I quieted myself down. The louder, more vocal friends found a new listener, and they became more open, too. Our friendships became more meaningful. And the content of our conversations became much more interesting. I learned that the best conversations do not begin with talking but with listening.

Now, I see myself as a listener more than a talker. It was not easy for me, but I like this attribute. I am glad I learned it. Maybe some day I will finally learn how to play bridge.

What is something you can do that was hard to learn?

I am glad I…

I am glad I…

like to collect books. It’s a quirky hobby, and one that many people really don’t understand. I’ve seen the eyes of my friends glaze over when I start in on the minute details of my latest discovery or my greatest treasure. I’ve watched their glances shoot back and forth, questioning my sanity. I’ve witnessed their complete lack of interest when I mention traveling to a library sale, a used book shop or a thrift store in search of new acquisitions that will enhance my collection.

Like any collector, I just like it. It’s a healthy hobby because I do not go into expensive book sales or auctions looking for heavily advertised first editions signed by long dead authors. I don’t have one narrow focus, like 17th Century English Literature. I don’t actually want to spend a lot of money on my book collection. I like to find a book that costs under ten dollars, knowing that it’s worth a lot more. That is really fun for me. Slowly, I have learned more about the value and condition of various books and can recognize something special pretty quickly. I have also made my share of inexpensive mistakes. In some ways, those errors in investment are more valuable than the ones that prove to be a source of income. I spend a dollar or two and learn exactly why that is all it is worth- a dollar or two. That’s very helpful as I go out prowling.

I have found great used books just about everywhere. I now own a strong collection of signed and inscribed first editions, poetry, and non-fiction. I have the signatures of some famous prize winning authors, including Madeleine L’Engle, David McCullough, Art Buchwald, Frank McCourt and Jonathan Krakauer. I’ve sold some of my books over the years when I needed to, even though I did it with reluctance. One was a fantastic signed copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. He had drawn a picture in it, signed it and inscribed it to a friend. When I sold it, I made a lot of money.

Sometimes I find pictures and reviews slipped inside a book. Once I found a lot of wedding photographs. Last year, I found a copy of a book signed by Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner that is not valuable but I’m such a fan, it made me happy. Plus it was free.

Wherever I go, I have fun looking at used books and I am just delighted to have it as a hobby.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

Jorge Luis Borges

What are you glad you…………

Sports

Do you have a favorite sport?

Growing up, I was not very coordinated, but we were an active family so I hung around a lot of athletic events. I was always losing my own races and matches right away, becoming a life long, dedicated fan while failing as a participant. I was especially enamored of tennis, figure skating and baseball, all sports I attempted myself. Although I became a sensation at my country club when I hit a five on a par five hole the very first time I ever played golf, it was down hill after that. Lessons and lengthy afternoons in the scorching sun only weakened my game and my interest waned when the cute club champion went off to college on the west coast and never came home.

Although I still appreciate most sports, my favorite is baseball. Thanks to my brother, I learned some of the basic strategies when I was young, and I have great memories of the Miracle Mets, led by Tom Seaver, Bud Harrelson and Cleon Jones. It was 1969 and the whole country became Mets fans. When they won the World Series, my school erupted into a mass of screaming, crying fanatics. I was hooked for life.

I’ve been to a few games over the years and have developed a deep affection for the Boston Red Sox, who I read about before drinking my morning coffee. I have even taught a major league player, who showed early promise when he was a pudgy eighth grader throwing clay at the ceiling. I was recently in an elevator at Fenway Park with Jim Palmer, the Hall of Fame Baltimore Orioles pitcher as famous for his underwear ads as for his fast ball. In fact, when I asked him if he was Jim Palmer, a question I had to stammer out with the self confidence of an eight year old, he said, “Yes, I am. Did you recognize me from my underwear ads?”  He had a big smile and was happy to shake hands with the young kids I was with.

I missed seeing Yogi Berra by two minutes once in New York, which I deeply regret to this day.

But I did see Jackie Robinson twice. He was a handsome and dignified man with silver hair. I sang my heart out at our school assembly, wanting him to notice me.

Baseball is the ultimate sport for fans. The drama, the stories, the strategy, the amazing brilliance that comes along with great pitching and hitting, the personal stories of failure, redemption and heart break. The Red Sox have recently given me Clay Buchholz’s no hitter in his second major league start, followed by Jon Lester’s no hitter after his recovery from cancer. I watched both games in Boston, on TV, and could hear the city around me letting loose as each ninth inning drew to its dramatic conclusion. And this year there was Daniel Nava, hitting a grand slam home run on his first major league pitch. They did not even have a picture of him on the team’s roster.  All of a sudden, he was the home town hero, and who does not love a story like that?

Baseball is filled with stories, which is probably why I love it so much. Fans can recreate games and share opinionated beliefs attached to their own memories. Look at any newspaper article on line about a baseball game, and you can see how many fans argue about what they would have done differently, who should be traded or who should be batting third.

My shelves are filled with baseball books, but I do have a favorite. It’s Doris Kearns Goodwin’s ode to baseball called Wait Til Next Year. It is one of the best baseball books ever written and a tribute to the best game ever.

Spring training begins my year. The World Series ends it. I am a baseball fan and always will be. I may not be able to participate in many sports these days but being a fan has its own rewards. Baseball; my favorite sport.

Do you have a favorite sport?

Describe one early memory

Describe one early memory.

When I reach back into the memories that still remain in my foggy brain, the very earliest one I come up with has no story line but contains a strong visual image. It involves nap time, a crib and poodles on the wallpaper.

I have a very concrete memory of standing in my crib, staring at the wallpaper in my bedroom which was pink striped with black poodles splashed all over it. The poodles were the French aristocratic types with balls of curly fur on top of their heads and another fuzzy pompom at the end of their tails. I am assuming I was about two or three and not wanting a nap. I once asked my mom if they had this kind of wallpaper in that particular house, and she said they did, so I guess this memory is not based in the fantasy land of some dumb dream or misdirected home decorating images from House Beautiful.

One other very early memory comes from when I was four and a half. We were in a different home at that point and I had acquired a delightful sister to play with. On this day, she was about three. We were playing outside in our front yard when my dad drove up and parked the car in the driveway. It was the middle of the day, so we instinctively knew something was up. I don’t remember having any advance notice that our lives were about to change.

Dad burst out of the car and strode over to the corner of the yard where my sister and I were playing quietly in the sunshine of a warm, fall day.We lived on a sheltered dead end street and were near the road, surrounded by golden rod and Queen Anne’s lace. I don’t remember a baby sitter or anyone else nearby.

Dad threw his hat up into the air- this was 1960 and he was wearing one of those men’s hats that were the fashion- and he shouted out loud that we had a little brother. What? I remember being a little stunned by this information but obviously I was also very excited. Who doesn’t want a new baby in the family? And Dad seemed to be so excited about it that it made us happy.

Next month my little brother turns fifty. He brought a lot into our lives and continues to bring us joy. I will never forget that early memory of the day he was born. It beats the poodles and the pink striped wallpaper memory by a mile.

Can you describe an early memory?

Sweets

Do you have a favorite sweet?

Growing up, we were not a big sugar-eating family. We had amazing, traditional meals filled with friend chicken, cheese burgers, roast beef and lots of salad greens. Dessert was an after thought and usually consisted of a couple of scoops of Breyer’s ice cream or a slice of ice box cake, a family favorite.Both of my parents were good cooks but were focused on the healthier choices in a meal. We never had candy, so when I won 42 Milky Way Bars in an elementary school raffle, I was in orbit.

Baking and candy making weren’t part of my family history on any level, but as I got older, I grew more interested in home made sweets. After mastering the basic toll house cookie recipe, some quick breads and cakes, I bought a candy thermometer and moved on to the complexities of home made candies. Not wanting to amass a lot of extra weight during this phase, I restricted myself to candy making during the winter holidays when I could give most of it away in little candy boxes.

I made a fabulously rich dessert called Chocolate Indulgence that my kids still talk about even though it’s been years since we have slobbered over this delightful addictive fudge-like treasure. I also discovered an amazing carrot cake recipe, pumpkin cheesecake and a strawberry mouse that seldom lasted long enough to get to the right consistency. We just spooned it up in a rather runny state.

Now I am a vegan, which means no butter, no cream, no eggs and no cream cheese. So I bake without them and have been having a great time discovering new recipes and products that make cookies, cakes and candy as delicious as their more traditional cousins. Living alone, I am always looking for people to hand out my treats to, so if you are ever in my neighborhood, come on over for some goodies. Advance notice is seldom required.

Here is my new favorite recipe. I have made some adaptations by changing the type of sweetener and experimenting with the type of peanut butter, but I can honestly say that this recipe has been the most popular thing I have ever made. People always want this recipe and most of the people who demand it are not vegans themselves. This peanut butter cup recipe comes from Alicia Silverstone’s book, The Kind Diet. It is easy to make and will make you very popular at your next pot luck!

Do you have a favorite sweet?

Beginnings and babies

Do you remember some special beginnings?

The birth of a baby represents the ultimate beginning. Right now, several of my friends are becoming grandparents as our children hit their twenties. It makes us all feel older, of course, but it also beings in an amazingly thrilling sensation. Adding a new generation to a family brings so many emotions into a household. So much hope and joy as we realize what the future promises for this special child.

Every morning of every day we can begin with freshness and hope for positive change. Every year on January first, we make new commitments to be healthier, to quit smoking, to write that novel. The start of a new school year brings on new ambitions and promises. I will do my homework as soon as I get home. I will make the honor roll. I will make the team.

The start of a new relationship always brings the faith and belief that THIS time I will get it right…THIS is the one. Some people thrive on the beginning stages of relationships. When the newness of it all wears away into the familiar, they are gone.

People have all kinds of beginnings. We give birth to ideas, start companies, begin retirement or a vacation all with the familiar emotions that accompany anything new. Excitement, nervousness, hope and a little fear thrown in to keep us grounded.

But of course, the ultimate beginning is that of a new life.

My first child was born twenty-six years ago. She was the first grandchild on both sides of the family, so there was much anticipation as the time approached. New to the experience of pregnancy, I read everything I could find on the subject, asked all kinds of questions and took really good care of myself. I loved being pregnant despite the aching varicose veins and some sore feet. I bought horrible looking maternity pants with wide elastic panels and shared lingering conversations with many friends who were pregnant at the same time. Some of the women felt better than others. Some were know-it-alls, dominating every conversation with facts and figures. Others decorated their nurseries months ahead of time with coordinating linens, curtains and slipcovers.

I made my baby a simple quilt of pale lavender and orange fabrics, knowing it would work for my baby boy or my baby girl. I pieced it and stitched it all by hand. Then I made a framed needlepoint of Peter Rabbit, to be followed later by one with my baby’s name and birth date. I bought books, favorites from my own childhood, and placed them on a shelf in the room that would soon belong to my child. Friends of my mother’s gave me a shower and I received an amazing amount of sweet outfits, toys and soft cuddly creatures for my unborn child. These gifts soon filled up the warm bedroom waiting for a new presence. It had been a sterile extra space in our small house but it slowly transformed into a gentle, welcoming bedroom, complete with rocking chair and lace curtains. That room had a new beginning, too.

Because I gained quite a  bit of weight, my doctor decided to do an ultrasound, questioning the original due date. In those days, having an ultrasound was rarely done.  And no one knew the sex of their baby ahead of time. I had no idea if we were having a son or a daughter.

When the ultrasound results came back, I was told that our due date was a month off and that the baby’s size indicated a late February birth instead of one in early April. As we only had about three weeks left in the month of February, we hastily prepared for out little one’s arrival and then sat around until April 7th when I finally went into labor. She was just a big baby. She was right on time.

Our hospital was small and my doctor was a wonderful man. The labor went quickly, but there were signs of distress coming from the baby, so my doctor said he was considering a Caesarean. No way was that sounding like fun to me. Fortunately, with a few large pushes, my beautiful daughter arrived.

Never had I felt such joy.

We were a family. I was a mother. It was the beginning of a treasured experience that remains my greatest source of pride and happiness. My baby girl. A new beginning unlike any other I had ever known.

Her birth was not dramatic. She did not arrive in the back seat of a car or in an elevator. She did not cause too much of a fuss when she slipped into the world. But her arrival set me on the path of motherhood, a role I cherish more than any other. It was a fabulous new beginning.

Do you remember some special beginnings?


“No river can return to its source, yet all rivers must have a beginning.”

Hot summers

What are your summer memories?

Right now, we are having a heat wave. It is over one hundred degrees where I live and everyone is talking about it. The parks have opened up all of their sprinklers and fountains, so kids (and some adults) are standing under the cool streams of water and not budging. The old guys on the park benches are panting like the dogs creeping into the shade. People stop into air conditioned buildings and stay put. It is hot. When the power went out last night for a few hours, the entire neighborhood emerged onto the street to analyze the problem and compare notes on who was hottest. I had never seen so much camaraderie in my neighborhood and am now on a first named basis with three new people.When the power came back on at last, cheers erupted all around. And everyone went back inside.

My hot summers were always different growing up. Some summers we stayed home and did nothing. We had few plans. We spent many happy hours at our country club, playing tennis, swimming, eating grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers and fries. There were tennis tournaments with other clubs, swim meets to watch and friends to connect with. We’d go through books at a rapid pace, inspired by our summer reading list that the school librarian put together each year. I loved getting my summer reading list and couldn’t wait to attack some of the new books.

For a couple of summers, I went to a day camp run by the older sisters of some friends. We learned to sew and cook and had an overnight camping experience at Pound Ridge Reservation. I had so much fun that I later modeled my own day camp on that experience.

We organized lemonade stands, various theatrics, and cook outs. It was a time for reading, solitude, reconnecting with family members and summer friends who did not go to my school.

We usually went to visit my grandmother in Newport for about two weeks, which was an amazing experience because her life style was so unusual. Every now and then we’d travel up there by boat, leaving Connecticut and going up the coast line with stops at various points along the way. Block Island, Watch Hill and Cuttyhunk all made it onto the itinerary. Dad loves being on the water so this was important for him.

Sometimes our family would take a trip during the summer. We went to Ireland about four times, often stopping off in other countries along the way. We stayed in a fantastic spot in Austria, various B and Bs in Scotland and some haunted houses in England. On one of these trips, we brought my grandmother, Nana, who helped entertain us during long car trips by telling us stories.

Other summers we went to Nantucket which was very different in those days. It was stunning in terms of its natural beauty but it was a simpler place. We went fishing, waterskiing and picnicking. Our days revolved around food. Go into town to get Downyflake Donuts and fresh Portuguese bread, still warm. Then make about 20 sandwiches with fresh tomatoes, cold cuts and lettuce. Then head out for the day, exploring coves, hitting the beach and just plunging into summer. In the afternoons, we discussed what we should have for dinner, and the preparations would begin for the next meal. Steaks, corn on the cob, fruit salad, fish, lots of lettuce and tomatoes….Always surrounded by friends and relatives. We rented different houses. First in Wauwinet, then Polpis and then Monomoy. We always had our dogs, Twinkle, Bambi and Dooney with us. They adored it. Friends from home would come visit and we made lots of new friends. At night we played Kick the Can and ran around in the fresh air before bed time. It really was special.

One summer I went to Don Budge Tennis Camp in Baltimore. It lasted about three weeks. I was such a bad tennis player that I was stuck with all of the other misfits into the “C Group.” My friend was an A. The biggest high light was seeing Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, a Baltimore Orioles game and Don Budge’s wife parading around in teeny tiny outfits made for someone half her age.

This is just a general description of summers in the heat.  More detail can come at another time.

What are your summer memories?

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