If you want my honest opinion…and yes, I know many people don’t…

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Hello to my friends—If you don’t want my honest opinion please don’t ask me for it. If you ask for my opinion, my honest opinion I will give it to you. Take it for what it’s worth. I won’t offer it at all unless it’s asked for, but because I am a writer with a degree in writing people often ask me to look over something that they’ve written and give them my “honest opinion”. But I am always forgetting and forever being reminded, that when someone asks me for my honest opinion they almost never really want it.

I worked hard through many years of attending a school where my focus was on writing, whose primary grading system was to use written feedback instead of grades;(punctuation is NOT my strong suit LOL; commas and I will always duke it out) and in the many years since then, to learn to both take and give constructive feedback (my opinion) or as some people would call it, criticism, on what works and doesn’t work when a written piece is read. I’ll be the first to admit that this was not always easy for me. Personal insecurity makes it difficult for most people to hear anything that doesn’t agree with their worldview without some sort of reaction, usually defensiveness in all it’s many guises, I can agree that I’m one of them too, and I work hard to manage my expectations. Through the process of my education I learned to provide an opinion (feedback, criticism) carefully couched in the positive. I will always try to find something (and maybe a lot) to say that is positive about your; paper, action, work – (I never give totally honest opinions about –kids, relationships, homes, outfits or haircuts– too subjective and personal, and hey, what works for you works,far be it for me to tell you otherwise), and then any feedback I have to give I try to provide only if I have suggestions or examples of how it could be—fixed, better, clearer, more constructive, etc…I stay away from personal attacks and concentrate only on the work that’s on offer. I feel that between all of the years I have spent writing, and the many, many more years that I have spent as a voracious reader of anything written that I am ably qualified to respond to someone’s writing.

So when someone asks me for my opinion, “be honest, I want to know what you think”, and then proceeds to dismiss it as useless; “All done, nothing can be changed,” or “Well, I’ve already changed it three times and I’m not going to make any more changes,” or “I’ve already had someone far more qualified than you look at it and they don’t think it needs anything else,” then quite frankly I’m annoyed. DO NOT ASK ME FOR MY OPINION IF YOU DO NOT WANT IT! I work hard to craft a thoughtful, positive response and don’t appreciate being told that my time has been wasted.

If what you really want is for me to look at something that you’ve done, such as your writing, and tell you that it’s fabulous then say that. I’ll be happy to tell you, my friend, that you’re fabulous and let the rest of the world tell you that it isn’t true. There’s certainly enough of that out there, and we can all use a cushion of softness and love around us. I’m all for that. So if what you really want me to say is, “You are fabulous!”, “Your writing is fabulous!”, “I wouldn’t change a thing!”, then I am happy to tell you that you are fabulous, your writing is fabulous, and I wouldn’t change a thing. But if you ask me for my opinion, my honest opinion, then I will take the time to craft a response, give it to you and I’d appreciate it if you would take it as I gave it, with thoughtfulness, and the belief that it is offered as support for improvement not negative criticism of you personally.

As you can probably tell by the irked tone of this post, I was recently asked for my opinion, my honest opinion, by someone I know, who once knew me well, but hasn’t known me at all for many years, and doesn’t know the process I’ve worked for the last fifteen years, for my opinion, my honest opinion, on something that they wrote. In hindsight, and really, knowing this person from all those many years ago, I believe now that what they were really asking for was that I tell them they are “fabulous”, and they are, but perhaps they thought they had to manipulate me to get that. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that I won’t be offering them my “honest opinion” again anytime soon. We’ll have to know each other much better again before I take that kind of time and put in that kind of effort.

Postscript:

But I will say that discussion forums on the internet are fair game and if you put something out there that I think is ignorant, rude, thoughtless, stupid (you people know who you are) I will give you my opinion
and don’t care if you like it, because by putting it out there you left yourself wide open.

On the road taken

Walking the dogs, Alley gardens, a nice surprise…

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Walking the dogs. Good for them, good for me. But honestly walking the same route over and over is boring. We aren’t hardcore walkers here. Little woman, little dogs, we’re what you might call amblers. The dogs are sniffers extraordinaire and though I try to follow the teachings of dog guru Cesar Milan I’d say I’m only about halfway successful. With two dogs it seems like I’m always stopping for one or the other to “mark the spot” or sniff out a particularly lovely squirrel tree. One is always dashing ahead to the end of her leash and the other one often seems to need to take a break from his exertions and lie down in the shade for a bit (to be fair he has pretty short legs). Along with being bored by taking the same route(me, not them, they always seem to find new smells to be excited about), we also have the issue of constantly running into other dog walkers, bike riders and runners. No I’m not totally anti-social (ok I am a little bit)and it’s great that others are out and about getting their fresh air and exercise, but my cute little babies are not always the most well-behaved little doggies. They aren’t bad; they don’t bite, but they do charge at bike riders and bark at runners, and before you ask, yes I’ve watched the “Dog Whisperer” and I’ve trained myself to be the ‘pack leader’ but it can get tiresome always having to yank them back, staying aware of whose coming at me on a bike, or jogging up behind me (btw if you’re running and you come up on someone walking their dog(s) give them a heads up unless you want to get tangled up in an extendi-leash, just sayin’). Between getting bored with the route, and hoping to avoid too many encounters with other outdoor folks, I have been known to make a turn down a side street or into an alley if I see someone coming toward me walking their dogs. Luckily my town’s alleys aren’t New York City alleys and I’m sometimes met with very pretty surprises. Apparently a lot of people here live in their backyards and decorate and garden accordingly. Who knew? My “alley” dead ends into three of my neighbors driveways and goes nowhere, and it ain’t exactly pretty. One recent walk found me wandering down a couple of the local alleys to avoid a lovely lady and her pretty, big and I’m sure much better behaved dog, and I couldn’t resist taking these snaps of “alley gardens” in my neighborhood using my cell phone camera. Cheers to these folks for making themselves a pretty spot in an unexpected place and thank you for sharing, even if you didn’t know you had. I’m sure I’ll be taking more detours, even on purpose. :-)

caption id=”attachment_54″ align=”aligncenter” width=”224″ caption=”Alley gardens”][/caption]

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Tart and sweet, I love lemons

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I love lemon. I love the smell of lemons, so tart and sharp but also sort of sweet. I love the color of lemons, such a bright yellow that a bowl of them draws the eye from anywhere in the room, giving a bright jolt that pleases my senses. I love lemon anything I’m always buying lemons and I use them to add flavor to plain water; I squeeze the juice down the kitchen sink drain to freshen the sometimes funky smell, I always pick the lemon scented cleaner on the shelf, and I’m currently trying a recipe for a household cleaner that I found in “Woman’s World” magazine that uses white vinegar and citrus (in this case lemon) peel put together in a spray bottle to use as a general cleaner. You put them together in the bottle and let them sit for several weeks. I love lemon meringue pie, and lemon poppy seed muffins and today while searching for a recipe for wings in a crockpot I came across this recipe for a lemon blueberry pound cake, http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/1700/lemon-blueberry-pound-cake145088.shtml

The before

Since I had just cleaned out my freezer and knew I had half a bag of frozen blueberries and I had two fresh lemons sitting on the kitchen table (Do not refrigerate citrus please) I decided I was going to make this recipe. I did need to go to the store for that pound of butter (two sticks) that goes into a pound cake but I was going anyway so just added butter to the list. It’s a simple mix, butter, sugar, eggs, lemon juice and zest, mixed with some flour and the blueberries, and baked for 80 minutes, it took me almost longer to wash the mixer blades, grater and bowl than it did to mix the cake! I have to admit that I’m guilty of being one of those people that can’t wait until things cool down before I start tasting, (admit it, who of us hasn’t burned the roof of our mouth getting that first, still warm chocolate chip cookie off the baking sheet so the warm, melty chocolate can coat our taste buds?). So I tried the pound cake warm, and I tried it cooled, the one thing I didn’t try was grilled, though I meant to…really, I don’t know what happened. It was there, and then it wasn’t. Mmmmm it was yummy though, so since it’s blueberry season and lemons are always a tart refreshing addition to baked goods maybe you can try it for your Labor Day get together. I’ll bet it’s even better with fresh blueberries, and if you make two, because pound cake freezes well, you could pull one out of the freezer some dreary winter’s day, slice it up and put it on the grill, or warm it in the toaster oven, drizzle it with warm blueberry syrup or a sweet, lemon glaze, take a bite, close your eyes and remember summer. Lemons, a sight and scent that always brings you summer.

The after

Books, books and more books

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The bookcase I had to sort and clear

So I mentioned in my first post that I like books. I also mentioned that I have several home projects that I want to do. Well one of those projects is to take up the carpet in my living room and dining room. I have hated this carpet since I bought the house 20 years ago, but with (at the time) small children and tenants living below the decision was made to leave the carpets for the time being even though I love hardwood floors and I know that there are oak hardwoods under that hideous carpet. The kids are grown now and the time has come to yank these suckers up. One thing standing in my way was this bookcase, placed on the only long wall I have in the two rooms, which just happens to be my dining room. Having never been a big, eat at the dining room table, kind of person, the room just never took real shape. The bookcase has stood in the same place for 20 years, holding a small portion of my family’s huge book collection. Books are my “crack” and my kids always knew that while I might say no to some things books was one thing I almost never could say no to and they worked it. LOL.

Before I could even begin to take up the carpet that bookcase and all of its books, stacked in at least two rows, with random books we’ve recently finished stacked on top, has to move. So the first task was to gather a bunch of boxes and go through all of those books! A lot of the books are books we don’t really want anymore, a mix of textbooks from both my and my daughter’s college careers, novels for a brain break from textbooks and academic writing, how-to books, mostly on how to live life more graciously and gratefully, with style and pleasure, (I’m working on it, I’m working on it. LOL) but some craft books too (my daughter’s-I am just not crafty) and way in the back, under piles of other books, the books from my kids childhood ithat I loved to read to them over and over, including one of my personal favorites, “Mrs. Santa Claus”, which was one of my favorite christmas books, because it was about how when Santa got sick right before Christmas, Mrs. Santa used her resourcefulness to bring Christmas around the world, had an exciting adventure, and gratefully returned to her loving family of elves, reindeer and of course, Mr. Santa.

Mrs. Santa Claus by Penny Ives

My daughter went through the bookcase and selected the books she felt were must keeps ; One I really like is a book she has called “Craft Hope” by Jade Sims, filled with simple projects to make clothing and toys for children in need: Aleks has made one project already, called the pillowcase dress, where you use the open end of the pillowcase as the hem, cut off the top to the length you want, cut a rounded sort of square for the arm holes, run elastic through the top, front and back and then sew bias tape around the arm holes, leaving enough length to tie the top, totally adorable.

A pillowcase dress

The Craft Hope book
Then I went to work sorting. Ten small packing boxes later, six boxes will be going first to a rummage sale, then to Half-Price books and then hopefully on to someone else’s library. Next step…rip up the carpets…Fun (???!!!) We’ll see. 20 years of dogs and kids makes me think I’ll have my work cut out for me!
 
 

Inspiration!

As a writer I am always looking for inspiration. I observe the world around me and and am inspired by so many things. I am also opinionated and love to share my opinions about books, tv, magazines and issues related to global women’s rights and the protection of the world’s children. I love gardening and cruising farmer’s markets. One of my inspirations is Mireille Guiliano, the author of “French Women Don’t Get Fat” and her passion for freshness in food and enjoyment of life. Reading her book got me started on an obsession for reading books by authors who had moved from other countries to France, their experiences and what they loved about the country. It has created a huge desire in me to see France someday, starting with Paris of course! Which is kind of why I picked the new Chateau template for this, my first blog. It looks so French! Another author who inspires me (believe me I was more surprised than anyone…) is Tori Spelling. I honestly didn’t think I would like her beccause all I had known about her previously was the show 90210, but she hooked me with her reality show about her life and family and her energy has inspired me to try living my life more in the present moment. I’ve read all of her books, and find them surprisingly amusing and touching. She has a new website http://www.torispelling.com that she updates regulary with ideas about style, fashion, food and fun. She is like a refreshing, sparkling, cool drink on a hot summer day. Mostly my hobbies are reading (lots!) and watching tv (hello HGTV!) that gives me ideas about changes I want to make in my home and my life. I’ve got several home projects lined up so I’ll be writing about those too. With summer finally here in the upper Midwest I’ve actually gotten a start on my garden, including getting a compost pile started, and love to hear others tips on what works and what doesn’t while trying to grow things organically. I’m a big believer in trying to live with the creatures in my environment and except for the time that the squirrels tried to take over my garage I live an let live. I made my first foray to the farmer’s market today. I look forward to seeing all the fresh produce and handmade products that the vendors bring for all of us to buy. Today I wandered around getting the lay of the land because this was a new market that I hadn’t been to before-the South Milwaukee Farmer’s Market. I bought a huge bag of lavender because I just love the smell and my tiny pot hasn’t started producing any buds yet. I really enjoyed talking with the woman running the table, finding out that she gets her products from her husband’s family’s lavender fields in upstate New York. I bought a couple of muffins from the Puppy bakery for my dogs Maggie and Jake. I share fruits and vegetables and a little bit of eggs and meat with them but not sweets so this was a little treat for them. They definitely liked the muffin and I’ll check back with the woman running the booth when I go back next week, as she told me she changes things up pretty regularly. I forgot to go back to the lady with the local honey (I’m out of the stuff I bought last year), but there is another local market on Saturday morning the South Shore Farmer’s Market, and I’m hoping the guy I bought honey from last year will be there. I stopped to talk to the boys from the SM High School Robotics Club. They had a totally cool robot that they had designed and built and that got them all the way to the National competition in their very first year! They were clearly excited to share their accomplishment and answered all my questions. Rock on guys! Today was a good day for summer and I really enjoyed today’s Freshly Pressed post “104 degrees and ten great things about summer”. The writer Rachel (http://aspenandella.wordpress.com/) did such an awesome job of evoking the things of summer that I’m probably going to pick up a watermelon when I go out to get groceries later even though I don’t live in Texas and am very thankful that it isn’t 104 degrees in my not air conditioned house!

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