Writing My Life

Now and Then


NaNoWriMo Update

As you can see by the new widget in my sidebar, I have accepted the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge. I know I am crazy, but I ALSO know this is the ONLY way I will EVER complete a novel.

Craziest photo I could find of me - t'was taken LAST November in Bahston

I’ve tried the SANE way – writing every day… worked for a minute; writing a certain amount of words daily … ditto; writing at the same time each day … no luck; write with a buddy … buddy bailed; tried a “MiniWriMo” … same sad story; started and stopped writing a mash-up novel by sort of plagiarizing Thomas Hardy. Sigh.

So here goes.

I told G.E. about my goal and he didn’t even say, “What? Are you NUTS? Aren’t you busy enough? You’re already glued to the computer.” Etc.

I shared my writing idea with him AND read the first 1000 words to him. He was “almost” enthusiastic. Hey! That’s good for the man, okay? He even fell asleep last night without growling – and I mean literally growling – at me to turn off the light. (The growl is really cute and always makes me smile.) Anyway, I typed for about an hour! And then read “until I learned something.”

I plan to leave “mini-posts” to document my progress along the way, but not until after I post my “Autumn Album” tomorrow – LOTS of cute pix of my grandkidlets between September and November.

In the meantime AND if your curious, I’ve written – drum roll, please –

4161 words!

and yes, I’m behind.


… the time to hesitate is through …

Ever since moving back to Utah some 6 years ago, I have wanted to attend the Writers and Illustrators for Young Readers Workshop (WIFYR). Formerly held at Brigham Young University, the conference always collided with the Secondary Literacy Institute that I had to attend because of my job. Well, this year, WIFYR was relocated to Waterford, a private school in Sandy, UT, and the Literacy Institute started a week later than it did in year’s past. All this “backstory” is to tell you, I am attending this year BECAUSE “the time to hesitate is through.” Jim Morrison AND my son told me that.

Sooooooooo this is how my first day went – typical Renae. Sigh.

WIFYR – Day 1: Well, I did it: Walked into the auditorium laden with huge, ugly computer bag, Walmart reusable bag filled with books, lunch, and soda, AND my purse to envy. Searching for a seat in the quarter-filled auditorium, I wandered across the front to the empty seats on the south side. Rounding the corner, I TRIPPED over who-knows-what. The carpet? The slight incline? My own 2 feet?

Of course, I SPRAWLED, along with the computer bag, grocery sack, and cute green purse. Books and lunch slid out of the Walmart bag and people came rushing. Well, 2 concerned folk ran to my aid, INCLUDING Brandon Mull. Yes, the Fablehaven author came to my rescue, and all I could say was “I’m all right. I do this all the time.”

Brandon’s reply: “Oh, a grand entrance, huh?” Yeah, I guess you could call it that, but I catalog it as just plain CLUMSY!

Later that morning: My first class with Cherie and Rick, authors extrodinaire, was fun and enlightening. The most rewarding writing segment ignited a plot idea for the story idea I’ve been pondering. YaY.

Afternoon: Great breakout sessions with Alane Ferguson, Young Adult mystery writer – among other things – who talked about “finding your character’s voice.” Lots of good ideas, tips, warnings, etc. (She doesn’t exactly admire Stephanie Meyer’s lack of the writer’s craft.)

And the second session with Brandon Mull was just as great as he shared ideas about strengthing the story by developing 5 essential elements. Brandon was entertaining and honest. Maybe too honest. Upon leaving this breakout session, I realized I’ll be lucky to publish ANYTHING EVER! And luck just does not follow me. Read on.

Late afternoon: Can’t find my keys. Again. I finally remember that I shoved them into the book bag when I sprawled upon the auditorium floor. Of course, the book bag is locked in the morning’s classroom. I call for help. Twenty to thirty minutes later, I meet up with Carlos who VERY KINDLY opens the door for me. I find the keys. Whew!

After 5:00: I head for my PT Cruiser, only to find that the keyless entry won’t work. Why? Because the *#$&% battery is D.E.A.D. Seriously. I’m NOT kidding. It is DEAD! Being an old school sexist, I start looking for MEN with JUMPER CABLES to help me jump start the problem car. Three men later, I get help from Carrie – yes, young, capable, “I-am woman-hear-me-roar,” Carrie. She has jumper cables AND know-how!

A few minutes and a little maneuvering later, the car turns over; I drive from Sandy to the western desert where I live, stopping off to check the battery life. The news: It’s a good battery. What could this mean? A dying alternator, perhaps? OH NO!

And that, my friends, was day 1. (Although I am leaving out the spilled coke and over-flowing toilet episodes.)


after 383 days and 108 posts, am I a bona fide blogger?


I didn’t know what to write, but I started anyway. Now, over a year later, I’ve posted 94 entries and 14 pages, equaling 108! If I divide that number into 383 days, I learn that I averaged a post every 3.5 days for just over a year. ADDITIONAL division (is that an oxymoron?) indicates I added about 9 entries month  to seasons. Now the question is this: Am I a bona fide blogger?

When I launched my blog on April 29, 2009, I read some data about how long the average person lasts before bailing out of the blogosphere. I can’t remember how long that definitive time is, but I think I’ve passed it. And I hope I’ve posted often enough to be considered a practicing, dedicated, determined blogger. Are there criteria out in the blog world that defines such web loggers? If so, are longevity and frequency of blogging the deciding factors, or are there more?

I remember one time I missed out on an award that co-bloggers (cobloggers? coggers?) bestow upon one another. In order to receive the recognition, the writer had to post quality and frequent entries. My new blogging friend sent me a message saying that she would have passed the honor onto me, but she didn’t think I posted often enough. I was okay with that because she posted often and surpassed my efforts. Her message actually inspired me to write more because I WANT AN AWARD, dang it!!

Actually, I started writing more because I LOVE BLOGGING/WRITING/CREATING/COMMUNICATING/ REMEMBERING/REFLECTING/and LEARNING! To commemorate this blogging milestone – which is a little weird because this post doesn’t honor the year date or the 100th post or anything like that (I zipped right past both of those occasions! Duh!) – I think I should look back over the past 383 days and 108 posts to examine what I’ve discovered about blogging and about me.

  1. It is ridiculously hard to come up with a creative name for a blog. good times AND seasons is the latest in a long string of ideas. I started with the site’s address, The Sixth Season because I had turned 60 and saw each decade as a season of sorts, but then I was reminded that if that was the case I was actually embarking upon my 7th season. Duh! I’m still not satisfied with the good times … title, but I DO love the Ecclesiastes reference.
  2. Post titles are also hard to create, AND they are really important because a catchy title can attract readers AND might be enough to “get featured on ‘Freshly Pressed'”! I think one of my best post titles is “hair-i-tic” but it better fits one of my pages, and so now I have “hair-i-tic” and “hair-i-tic 2 ~ a PLEASANT hair-raising experience” – a not-so-great title.
  3. It is VERY difficult to create a unique blog that continually features unusual, entertaining posts. I tried to come up with something few, if any bloggers, had thought of. My first idea was Needing Naomi, a blog site dedicated to mothers-in-law because, like stepmothers, I think m-i-ls get a bad rap. But I couldn’t think of a way to sustain the idea without getting in trouble with my own daughters-in-law, and I do that enough without writing about it. Until some INCREDIMAZING idea hits me, I’ll stick with remembering, observing, and reflecting – boring, I know, but right now, it’s all I’ve got.
  4. It’s VERY hard to be creative, and when I try too hard it blows up in my face. When I first started my blogging avocation, I struggled with writing ideas, and thus came up with some very strange ones. Here are a couple:
    1. …  time to dislike … (a post about voles. Yes, v.o.l.e.s.)
    2. …a time to embrace – love in the spring … (a post about worms. Yes, w.o.r.m.s.)
  5. I’ve also learned that you can NEVER guess what will attract readers. The most popular entry I posted is “… a time to ramble …”. I’m not sure why 1,539 people have clicked on it. Could it be links to David Letterman and Sarah Palin? Or references to Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee? Or a silly discussion about old-fashioned slang terms or outdated hairstyles? Could I be riding on the popularity of Ann Cannon’s Deseret News column or her blog because I quoted her? Could it be the tags I listed? Not many visitors left comments, so I am really IN THE DARK!

Well, there SO many more things that I have learned – like how to use a camera so I can post pix on blogs – but the 2 BEST lessons I have learned are …

1.) there are an unbelievable number of good writers in BlogWorld! I am constantly impressed with the humorous, insightful, descriptive, and entertaining writing available in blogs throughout the world. And they are written by everyday people like me, but more talented. A-FREAKIN’-MAZING! My hats off to the multitudes of bloggers out there who light up this sometimes dismal world. I LOVE YOU GUYS!

2.) There are lots of terrific people I’ve met through words and photos posted on web logs. I feel a real kinship to several, and although I’ve never squeezed their hands in greeting or seen their flesh and bone bodies, I admire these people. They inspire me, impress me, entertain me, and make blogging more rewarding than I ever imagined. And whether or not I’m a bona fide blogger, I’ll keep on because it is a big part of my life now, as are the friends I’ve met via this unusual route.

Thank you so much!


… mamas, daughters, and washdays …

As I mentioned in one of my tributes to Bonnie Howe Behunin, my cousin wrote several poems about her parents. I shared the poem she wrote to honor her father, my Uncle Pete, and promised to include lines dedicated to Aunt Ida, too. Actually, there are several poems about Bonnie’s mama, and it is too hard to decide on one because each reveals a different facet of this kind woman who was large in stature and heart. (In fact, Meryl Streep’s physical appearance as Julia Child in Julie and Julia reminded me of Aunt Ida’s height and breadth.)

As I reread the tributes, some verses stimulated my own memories, and I realized that’s another reason I feel compelled to share Bonnie’s work. For example, the following poem talks of a time LONG past, but many of us can remember that in our childhood,  household tasks were backbreaking chores! Take wash day, for example ~  now we can throw a load or two of dirty clothes into the washer and dryer EVERY day, completing the job in under an hour. (I don’t particularly care for that task and have often repeated that I hate to RUIN every day by washing clothes, and so I still leave that chore for Saturdays.) Back in the “olden days,” however, moms NEEDED at least one WHOLE day to process shirts and blouses, pants and skirts, sheets and table cloths through the wringer washer before hanging them on clothes lines strung between poles in every back yard.

I remember our family’s “wash room” was located in the basement, and Connie and I sent our soiled clothes sailing down the laundry chute,  that was disguised as a drawer located near the baseboard in the hallway. I was terrified of the washer as I was sure the wringer or the cogs would grab my pudgy little  fingers along with the pillow cases and crush them, thus forcing immediate amputation! (Sadly, that horrible scenario actually happened to G.E.’s mom when she was a little girl, causing a life-time of embarrassment for her as she always hid her 1-jointed pinky behind the folds of a hankie.)

Pencil Art by Don Greytak

Maybe my mom worried about the same thing because I don’t remember helping with the wash as much as I do recall sprinkling and rolling up  handkerchiefs and pillow cases after pulling them from the clothes lines. At some point I also learned to iron those items. While none of this may sound the least bit fun, the companionship of working together as mother and daughter is what often lingers in our hearts and minds. Here is Bonnie’s recollection of those days.


~ Bonnie Howe Behunin

Slick and soft, and smelling clean,

The soapy laundry smell

Of when Mom rubbed the extra lotion

From her hands to mine:

Mom and wash day.

A round washtub for soaking clothes,

The agitating, guiding of each piece

Through wringer to the rinse and bluing,

Then to the line.

We brought the clothes in:

Mom piled them, fresh, high in my arms

Until I could not see over

Or breathe past the clean to the sky.

We folded and stacked and finally finished,

Sprinkled the clothes to be ironed tomorrow.

Then Mom shared her lotion,

Cupping my small hands,

First one, then the other

In her big ones.

I think of those nights in my bed

With my hands on my face,

Breathing my mother

As I cling to wash day.


… winter poems … just in time for SPRING …

OK. I’m not the poet my cousin Bonnie was, but I have dabbled in versification since I could put together sentences. I have a couple examples that I wrote in 4th grade, I think. (I’ll share those at another time.) The poems I want to share now are ones I wrote WITH my seventh-grade students W-A-A-A-Y back in the ’90s.

Starting after Thanksgiving, we created “formula” poems – verses that follow “a set pattern of instructions.”  For example, Haiku is a formula poem. Not everyone favors this kind of poetry, but I always enjoyed it because I was often surprised with the end result. I think these endeavors require writers to precisely choose the perfect word with the right number of syllables and still create lines of magic. I’m not saying my efforts achieve that,  but some came close. And many of my students surprised themselves, too.

After playing with poetry for a week, we chose our favorite originals and constructed books to present as Christmas presents to people who love poetry or us. The first time I assigned this project was pre-computer/writing lab days, and so we handwrote our poems and created our own “clip art.” Knowing that talented poets may not be talented artists, I brought in magazines to aid the “old-school” version of “cut and paste!”

I didn’t want to be a teacher who could “dish it out, but couldn’t take it,” so I always worked on the same assignments I gave to my students. The “hand-crafted” book I created that year remains my favorite. There is something about a handwritten work that makes it a bit more intimate, even if the subject isn’t necessarily personal. Rather than type up the poems from my bookLET WinterScape, I scanned them so my dear readers can feel that personal touch of which I speak! (OK, you can stop snickering!)

I found this illustration in a magazine and loved it . I have NO idea what it was advertising, but I want to credit that anonymous ad-man/woman for inspiring the theme AND the title  for my little book.

This is my favorite! “The Guardian” is called a “concrete” poem, and the first line starts near the brim of the hat:: “A black silk stovepipe hat sits atop the snowman’s fat face.” Can you wind your way around the rest of the verse?

Each of these two 5-line poems are examples of a “cinquain.” Requirements demand that a certain number of nouns, ajectives, gerunds, and synonyms combine to create succinct verses!

While nearly every student in the world knows Haiku, the ancient formula poem is difficult to create. Traditionally, the subject involves nature, but the commentary is also profound – don’t look for that in these efforts!

The “diamante” asks the poet to create 5 lines of adjectives, nouns, and gerunds that move from general to specific!

“Winter Ready!” is a “list” poem. My poem was inspired by a scene from every kid’s life! To introduce list poems, I played songs that featured lyrics of lists. Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and Faith Hill’s “This Kiss” are two examples.

Well, I think that’s it. I know I should have posted this in January and my January Valentine post tonight, but I’ve learned that you go with what you’ve got when blogging becomes part of your life. Still, I wish you all a wonderful Valentine’s Day.




… Bonnie, in memoriam …

Artist: Bonnie H. Behunin

If you log onto the Internet and type Bonnie H. Behunin or Bonnie Howe Behunin in a search window, you will find her. You may learn that she authored a book, Wake the Unicorn, and you might find it is still available on Amazon.com for $8.95. The copy “is signed by author. Very minor cover wear. Text clean, no marks. Pages tight. Purchase aids a non-profit animal hospice.” (I didn’t know there WERE animal hospices.)

Another link shares an excerpt from Wake the Unicorn, and you’ll learn the book was the … 

Utah State Poetry Society Book of the Year

1983, Wake The Unicorn by Bonnie Howe Behunin

The Witch

Sometimes children taunt me,
small eyes whispering
behind hands extended
like open Chinese fans.
―Her face is smooth.
She is not old at all.
But I am old.
Old as the rocks
on the Greek shores
of my birth.
Old as your fear
of the unknown,
unopened box
of my smooth face.
Guard your fear.
This distance
between us
may be the only separation
preventing you
from becoming me.

You might be curious enough to look up “Utah State Poetry Society” (USPS) or “Utah Poet of the Year,” and there you will see the long list of those honored since the award’s inception. Among those dates and names, you will find hers:

1983    **Bonnie H. Behunin  Wake The Unicorn

You will notice the two asterisks hovering near that capital “B”. Slowly, you scroll down to the bottom of the list, passing a few other starred names along the way. Double-spaced below the 1965 poet, “Vesta P Crawford Shortgrass Woman,” you find the key: “**deceased.”

Somewhere on the WorldWideWeb you might learn that Bonnie was born on February 22, 1948 to Pete and  Ida Howe, but that would take longer than you have time. I doubt you would discover that she attended  a one-room school house in Atomic City, Idaho or that she was diagnosed with “sugar diabetes” at age. 12. Your research may turn up her death date, and you may wonder if that vile disease brought her down at age 36. It did.

If you ordered Wake the Unicorn from Amazon or the USPS, you could read “About Bonnie” on page 57. The paragraphs would fill in some gaps – 4th of 5 children, rode the bus 2 hours a day to high school, read scores of novels during those rides and into the night, graduated from Brigham Young University with a double major in art and English,  enrolled in every creative writing class that she could find, and her poems were published.

Before leaving the short biography, you discover that she adopted her two-year-old neice, Kristina in 1978 and married Newel Behunin at age 32. You won’t read that she taught school in Vernal, Utah until she went blind, but you will learn that “her close-knit family [had] been an inspiration to her … when her health [had] been precarious.”

If you peruse her poetry, you will most likely agree with the author of her biographical sketch who wrote, “Born … on George Washington’s birthday, this writer can ‘never tell a lie.’  Her poetry is honest, sometimes painfully so. She weaves memory into the fantasy of universal experience in a unique way.”  And then you’ll re-read the judges comments:

Wake the Unicorn shows a consistent pattern of development; the voice in the poems is one of honesty and integrity … the strength is in its fresh imagery and sustained emotional impact. While the book is regional in its flavor, it escapes being too provincially involuted and bounded by the author’s ego.

Here is fresh perception, sensitive, genuine. There is a lovely, restrained tragic sense, but it is an un-self-centered and moving sorrow, and soul searching. This is artistic without artiness.

The author is facile, has caught in minor tunes, the major themes in life through a lovely simplicity.

If you read her poetry, you’ll see into Bonnie’s heart and mind and will feel the sensitivity, the honesty,  and the tragedy. We were cousins, Bonnie and I, but I didn’t really know her. At age 7, I visited her in Atomic City and went with her to that one-room school for a day. I chatted with her at family reunions and ran into her now and again at BYU. We caught up with family news and then drifted back to our own lives.

In 1983, I attended the poetry reading and reception that honored her as Utah’s Poet of the Year. Dr. Max Golightly read her poems, and I was so proud OF and FOR her. I still am.

Bonnie haunts me, however, and so I want to remember and honor her during this month of her birth, this February with its Valentines Day and presidents’ birthdays.  You see, Bonnie Howe Behunin lived as a poet, and her words memorialize her.