The Morning Stretch #14 – Kaleidoscope writing

Different pictures formed from the same jumble of crystals in a kaleidoscope. Some writers manage the same with words. (Pic courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are some writers—Neal Stephenson comes to mind—who treat words as if they were various colored crystals in the lens of a kaleidoscope; they throw them together, jumble them up, and bizarre, often beautiful, patterns emerge. You have to wonder—applying that word’s double meaning of  awe and confusion—whether the message you have divined from the mystical pattern is one the author intended. Sometimes you doubt any true meaning is contained in the ornamental arrangement on the page, even as you stand in awe of the artistry.

While I believe a writer, in most cases, should use the simplest combination of words to achieve his desired outcome, I can’t deny the pleasure I sometimes derive from complexity. But if a sentence is constructed to maximize its lyricism, as opposed to its meaning, the writer risks confusing and losing the reader. If that’s the goal, you should write poetry. (No offense to poets intended :-).)

So, why take the risk? For one, I’d consider being called an artist whose canvas rests between the covers of a book as high praise indeed.

Today’s exercise … craft a lyrical sentence whose meaning is secondary to its beauty.


Plowed free by the tip of a pen, rough stones write the history of my run on the moldy carpet; hard testaments of a conquered trail soon swept out the cabin door and returned to the mountain from whence they came.


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A Cupcake Day

This is a semi-regular guest post from the point of view of my grandson,  C, for whom I am now the full-time nanny. The initial is not an indication that C is average—he’s far from average in this humble grandpa’s opinion. It’s just a way to grant him a little anonymity. When he runs for President in forty years, I don’t want his opponents using these infant ramblings against him. 🙂

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Dream Cakes cupcakes ... Wow!

We (Mommy, Grandmom, Granddad and me) are in Santa Fe. Mommy had important work stuff to do and Granddad’s along since he’s my nanny and Mommy doesn’t think I’m old enough to watch out for myself in the hotel room all day. And she couldn’t leave me at home because she didn’t want to be away from me for five whole days, especially since I’m nursing still. I put up with formula on occasion, but there’s nothing like Momma’s milk … it’s the best! Five whole days without it and I think we’d both be getting cranky.

So, here we are in this historic old hotel in Santa Fe. You know what I found out? Historic means “itsy bitsy little rooms.” Geez, my nursery’s bigger than the room the four of us are packed into! But they do have a lot of neat old stuff, and pictures, and a big front porch with real tall windows so I can watch all the people sitting and talking or walking by on the sidewalk.

I like watching people a lot. Now that I’ve figured out how to tell Mommy and Daddy and Grandmom and Granddad from everybody else, it’s not scary at all. Anyway, Santa Fe has been an adventure, that’s for sure. Our first day here, it was sunny and warm and the next it was snowing! Granddad’s been walking (or running) me around in the jog stroller a lot and we’ve seen some cool things; the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the Santa Fe plaza, a couple of parks, an art gallery with colorful pictures and bronze statues and other stuff … and even a cool toy store where he bought me a goofy orange aardvark or anteater, or, I don’t know weird animal with a long nose.

My granddad has to be one of the craziest nanny’s in the world. All those awesome things we’ve seen and you know how many pictures he’s taken? One! And guess what it was … cupcakes! They were pretty and all, but come on … cupcakes? All that running must be making his brain tired or something.

I’ve been doing a good job keeping him in shape but I guess he didn’t think it’s enough. This morning he got up real early and went for a long run. He was gone over two hours! A little later he took me out for a walk. We were gone an hour and I could tell he was starting to drag, so I’ve been taking it pretty easy on him all day.

Guess what! I’m officially five months old! And what do I get for being such a sweet little baby on my five-month birthday? They bought the most scrumptious looking cupcakes in the world to celebrate and didn’t let me have a single bite!

Better watch your back tomorrow, Granddad!

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The Monitor Game

This is a semi-regular guest post from the point of view of my grandson,  C, for whom I am now the full-time nanny. The initial is not an indication that C is average—he’s far from average in this humble grandpa’s opinion. It’s just a way to grant him a little anonymity. When he runs for President in forty years, I don’t want his opponents using these infant ramblings against him. 🙂

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Just because I’m almost five months old doesn’t mean I have a lot of free time on my hands. There are four adults in the house and keeping them all wrapped around my little finger takes some effort! But there is a game I like to play with Granddad when I have a few moments to spare. It is called The Monitor Game.

Mommy bought a Safety First Crystal Clear baby monitor so that everyone can hear me when I wake up from my naps. Not that my lungs aren’t plenty strong when needed. Anyway, the monitor is what makes this game possible. The basic rules are: 1) It must be nap time. 2)  Granddad must be trying to write.

That’s all there is to it. He walks around with me on his shoulder, singing (OMG! I’ll have to post about his frog voice someday soon) until I fall asleep … or so he thinks. Once he puts me down in my crib and takes the receiver, I wait until he’s had enough time to grab a snack and head for his computer. Then I let out a few fussies and the fun begins. When he comes in to check on me, I pretend to be asleep. He goes back to his writing, I fuss, he comes back, I pretend to be asleep, he goes back … can’t you see what awesome fun that is? I get tired of the game after a bit, but I keep at it until I hear the magic words “Oh, you little rascal!” By then I’m ready to zonk out for … oh a good twenty minutes or so.

But I think I’m starting to get too old for this game! Lately I’ve been working on a new one. It is called The Half and Half Nap. Granddad seems uncertain about it right now; but, once I get it perfected, I’ll be sure to share it with the rest of you.

Now it’s time get Granddad up and hopping again. Catch ya later!

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The Morning Stretch #13 – Ticket to Paradise

Since my wife and I are going to win the $540 million dollar Mega-Millions lottery tonight, it is possible that this will be my last post for a while. After all, I’ll be spending  a lot of time talking to lawyers, accountants and long-lost relatives.

Therefore let the last stretch be an easy one … fantasize about what you would have done with the money if you’d won. (My stretch, on the other hand, will be realistic planning.)

This evening, my wife and I—after our winning numbers have been drawn—will probably scream our selves hoarse … and then cry ourselves dry. After that’s out of the way, we’ll talk about whether to take the $540 mil as a lump sum ( about $359 million before taxes ) or settle for almost $21 million a year for the next 26 years. It’s likely we’ll take the lump sum so we can find out what it’s like to burn through that much money in record time, like many past winners have done.

Once that’s done, we’ll work on the obligatory list of all the causes and charities we’ll want to fund. I’m fifty-five and forgetful already, so the Alzheimer’s Association will probably get a big chunk. 🙂

Then, until dawn the next morning—since there is no way I’m sleeping tonight—I’ll be planning the Ultimate Writers and Runners Retreat.

Where I'll be heading after I hit the lottery tonight.

First, I’ll search the internet for a small piece of land in the Rocky Mountain region, something in the 50,000 – 500,000 acre range. This one’s a bit small and it’s in Canada, but it gives you the general idea.

After I’ve found the right property, I’ll start planning the loops of running and biking trails that will run through the property. They’ll be from a few miles up to ultramarathon length … and all within the borders of my runner’s retreat. We’ll have a guest house big enough to fit thirty or forty of our closest running friends; we don’t actually have that many close friends, but I’m sure that will change. And I’m figuring on putting a few small cabins around the most picturesque locations where inspired writing will take place.

I’ll need a private air strip so I can fly in my grandkids (yes, mom and dad, you can come, too), as well as the runners and writers I’ll invite. On occasion, my wife and I might use the jet to visit all the most beautiful, remote places in the world and see how they compare to the paradise that sprang from our lottery winnings.

That’s all the planning I can do right now. Figuring how to spend my winnings is going to take so much time I better use the rest of the day to clear my schedule.


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Teaching Granddad Nanny

Hello! My name is C and I’m five months old.  Last month Mommy and Daddy went back to work and I started spending my days with a nanny. Not just any nanny, but a HE nanny who is also my Granddad … Granddad Nanny. Teaching Granddad about this nanny business is hard work.

It's hard work taking care of Granddad!

He’s doing a pretty good job but he’s confused sometimes because he thinks the answer to anything is on the internet and boy-oh-boy is that wrong.

So, I thought I’d start doing these posts to help Granddad keep things straight. Besides, he thinks I’m funny when it’s really him that’s hilarious, so I wanted to set the record straight on that.

For example, lately I’ve started clocking myself in the head when I’m feeding. These aren’t little love taps, but full-bore, Mike Tyson knockout punches. Naturally, GN (Granddad Nanny) googled and came up with a bunch of stuff like it was a “manifestation of tantrum behavior” or that I was frustrated, or teething. For crying out loud! I’m five months old, besides I do it while I’m eating—nursing or taking a bottle, it doesn’t matter which— and eating is something I love to do almost as much as peeing on GN when he’s changing my diaper. Believe me, it isn’t a temper tantrum or frustration.

What I’m teaching GN is that, at my age, everything is about sensation; new experiences, new feelings are what I’m all about. Okay, I’ll admit it, a good punch in the cheek does take my mind off my gums, but that’s just a small part of it. The real reason I do almost everything is that everything is all so new! Not much bores me yet … oh, except those phony sneezes. They cracked me up a month ago—you looked so ridiculous!—but, seriously Granddad, you need to get a new shtick.

Anyway, giving myself a good whack on the noggin stimulates some different senses. Yeah, it hurts a little, especially now that I’m building some arm strength, but that’s all part of the learning process. Yes, I admit it. I don’t know it all … yet. That will take a few more years. In the meantime, I’m learning that if I hit myself smack-dab in the corner of my eye … IT … IS … PAINFUL! But, oh the rewards! The look on GN’s face was priceless! He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I had to do it again just to see that goofy, wide-eyed shock and hear that strangled guffaw. And he thinks I’m funny.

So, there it is … my first post. I wonder if Mommy will try to put this in my baby book. I’ve got lots of stories to tell on Granddad—the triple poop, the dorkiest dance in the world, the monitor game,  how he sucks on my thumb and tells himself it is only because it makes me laugh—and he keeps doing new silly stuff everyday! I don’t know how I’ll keep up.

Now it’s time get Granddad up and hopping again. Catch ya later!

Oh, the other reason I like to duke it out with myself? I’m learning to be tough … I heard preschool is brutal!

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The Morning Stretch #12

It looks like I might be falling into a hard-easy-hard routine with these writing exercises. Today’s stretch is hard … or at least harder.

A character with “issues” grabs a reader’s attention, whether they are physical or emotional doesn’t usually matter. They can be an important part of the story, such as Monk’s various phobias, or a minor tic that adds comic relief when needed. The right “flaw” can be used to manipulate a reader’s feelings toward a character.

Write a scene introducing  a character with an unusual problem. This can be a fictional condition or malady, as long as it is believable.


Harry clenched his teeth and tapped his left foot rapidly on the floor of his Buick Wildcat, taking care not to hit the brake peddle—he couldn’t afford to lose a second. The spot where his shoe beat against the carpet was worn bare. Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead and soaked into bushy brown eyebrows, or swept down the hook of his nose. He took a deep breath and blew it out through thin, pursed lips; sweat splashed onto the leather steering wheel cover.

None of his efforts reduced the pressure in his bladder which had increased dramatically the moment his destination came into sight. “Arrival anxiety” the urologist had called it. What crap! It happened even when I’m coming home from the grocery store; why would I be anxious about that? Naming his “problem” hadn’t yet produced a solution.

When he started flapping his knees together, Harry was sure that Sandra’s eyes were boring holes in the side of his head. Why the hell did I think I’d get away with this? She probably thinks I’m having a mental breakdown. Although it was their third date, it was the first time he’d picked her up instead of meeting somewhere. Harry felt as dry as a bone—no drinking since lunchtime, not even water—and had spent the last moments before leaving the house in a desperate effort to squeeze out every last drop … and still he was dancing desperately in the seat with a burning tingle in his lap, feeding the flames of his panic.

After wiping the back of his hand across his forehead, he jammed it into his crotch and squeezed, hoping that his jacket would cover the movement. The sharp intake of breath coming from the passenger seat proved that hope fruitless. Bright red spread up his neck, but he’d rather be embarrassed now than when he arrived at the posh restaurant with a dark, wet stain on his pants.

The physical sensations were all too real, but Harry knew that, if there were no destination waiting, he could probably drive all day without a pit stop. Instead, he raced the last block, sped under the awning of The Flapping Goose, and slammed on the brakes. He jumped out of the car and tossed the keys to the valet.

“I’ll be right back,” he yelled over his shoulder to Sandra as he sprinted to the entrance. The startled maitre d’ pointed when Harry burst through the doors and gasped.”Where’s the men’s room?”

Relief, when it finally came, was so strong his knees buckled; he had to grab the chrome fitting of the urinal to keep from falling. What came next was just part of the routine. Washing his hands, he looked in the mirror. “Ol’ Buddy,” he said to his reflection, “we really need to do something about that plumbing of yours.”

He wasn’t surprised when he returned to the curb, but still raised a questioning eyebrow toward the valet. “She hopped in a cab as soon as you went through the doors.” The kid looked like he was about to apologize until Harry glared at him. Instead, the valet asked the logical question. “Should I bring your car around?”

He had a brief, dark thought of going through it all again so soon. He shook his head and went in for dinner.

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AA for Garmin addicts

Hello, my name is Michael … and I am an addict. The past week has driven home this truth and I must face it honestly.

I have become psychologically and, I believe, physically dependent upon my Garmin 405CX. The highs it offers are impossible for me to resist:

Garmin frees me to explore trails like this.

the happy, surprised thrill when the pace dips below 7:00 minutes, the deep satisfaction when the miles click past twenty, and the delirious exhilaration of exploring my running world—I’m freed by Garmin to roam forested trails, mountain meadows, and endless prairie roads knowing that every turn is tracked, every mile recorded.

Before now, I would have been affronted by the slightest intimation that I was not a strong and self-reliant individual. I vehemently denied, to myself and others, that any addiction existed. Proof was offered up in the form of the rare occasion that I would step out the door without my trusty blue and gray running partner.

Now I realize that those short, naked runs were actually evidence of my addiction. Few were naked by choice, but the result of failing to have my device properly charged. When leaving Garmin behind was truly my decision, it was comparable to a cocaine junkie turning down one fix while still high after weeks of shooting up.

No doubt there are drawbacks to this addiction. Garmin sometimes quits on me, especially in cold weather. Sometimes it lies. It doesn’t hold a charge worth a damn. But I love it all the same.

My addiction problem began revealing itself five days ago on a Sunday morning that was black despite the hazy sunshine. My daughter dropped my son-in-law and me off at the Hutton Wildlife Refuge for a planned thirteen mile run back home. As I was about to get out of the car, disaster struck! My fully charged Garmin had crashed, frozen-up … apparently dead. It had decayed into something no better than a wrist watch. Neither buttons nor bezel changed the monotonous, unhelpful time and date which taunted me with intimations of the withdrawal pains that would soon strike.

I felt the first tremor in my lungs. The early pace was too fast, but without Garmin to confirm, I was hesitant to back off, so I huffed and puffed and blew on down the road. Next was a distracting unease that kept me mentally estimating our distance run every few minutes, anxious about whether I was leaving enough in the tank for the final third of the run. Approaching seven miles, a very real aching built in my legs as lactic acid accumulated. The run was pretty much a disaster, but it wouldn’t have been enough to convince me of my addiction without what came later.

Garmin had been left in the backseat of my daughter’s car; no point in wearing if it would just be teasing me the whole run.  I forgot to retrieve it after the run on Sunday. My son-in-law took the car to work on Monday. Without Garmin, it was easy to decide Monday was a rest day. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday went by and I somehow failed to recover my Garmin from the car. Subconsciously, I think I was worried it might be permanently dead.  Every day, my whole body hurt, far more than seemed called for by the run. And I just couldn’t get myself out the door for a run, knowing that Garmin wouldn’t be there with me. My daughter stepped in and dragged my out on Thursday, but the run was harder than it should have been considering the pace and distance … my heart wasn’t in it.

On Friday morning, I was certain that I had again missed the opportunity to reclaim the dead carcass of my Garmin. But my son-in-law hadn’t left,

Garmin Forerunner 405 (Crop)

My Garmin looked like this (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

so Garmin was tenderly removed from the backseat. Though it shouldn’t have been possible, my depressed state dropped lower at the sight of its blank, lifeless face.

Hosanna! Hallelujah! Hours later, my beloved Garmin had been brought back from the dead, its bezel and all its buttons apparently none the worse for having spent five days in purgatory. I’m anxiously awaiting today’s run.

Addiction? What addiction?


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