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Easter Greetings!

I hope this finds you all healthy as we observe an unusual Easter at home. Whether you celebrate this as a religious holiday or not, I wish you peace and a sense of hope this spring, even as we live with uncertainty and loss.

My attention span has begun returning to pre-virus settings and my anxiety quelled a bit as I occupy myself with life-giving pursuits along with staying abreast of the COVID-19 concerns. Here's a bit of what I've been reading, writing, and enjoying. What's feeding you right now? I'd love to know.

I was fortunate enough to have Leslie Leyland Field's mentorship when I pursued my MFA in Creative Writing more than ten years ago. She encouraged me to dig deep into those snippets of memory that had stayed with me for decades, to write into those moments until I understood the more important story and truths behind them, rather than just recounting the details of the situations. It wasn’t easy, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever get there, but Leslie had faith in me, and my writing is so much better for her instruction and influence.

Now Leslie has poured her support and encouragement into her new book, Your Story Matters.  Whether you’re writing (or want to write) about your life for yourself only, your family and friends, or a wider audience, Leslie is a wise guide in the process from inspiration through revision. She has faith in your ability to find and write the stories that matter to you, and you’ll feel it in every page of this book as she reveals the difficult process of writing her first memoir, and as she celebrates the successes of her students, sharing their words at the ends of many chapters. She even shows you to use her techniques in your own writing groups—and her methods will work equally well in virtual settings as in person. I'm thrilled to be part of her launch team and to help spread the word about this fantastic resource for new and experienced writers alike.

Purchase her book and you can join Leslie for a free 10-week online Your Story Matters class beginning April 21st! This act of generosity, born from cancelled book launch plans, is going to be an incredible experience. Don't miss out.

Writer. Real Estate Broker. Home Renovator. Erica Baurmeister wears the same hats I do, and after hearing her speak at Gig Harbor's Write in the Harbor Conference last November, I couldn't wait to get my hands on her upcoming book: House Lessons: Renovating a Life.

I was fortunate to obtain an advance e-copy through NetGalley, a site that "helps readers of influence discover and recommend new books to their audiences." Anyone who reads and recommends books (through blog posts, retail site reviews, or newsletters like mine) can use NetGalley for free

I wasn't disappointed. There are plenty of thoughtful life lessons in Bauermeister's House Lessons as she artfully interweaves the story of renovating a derelict house with reflections on home, motherhood, marriage, and vocation. Those of us who've followed our intuition and taken risks despite facts and logic find ourselves validated in these pages. Those considering such a leap will find encouragement in her example. And anyone who has undergone even a minor home remodel will find a friend to commiserate with in House Lessons. A beautifully written, heartfelt and entertaining account of everything that can and did go wrong in the process of making things right.
Consider ordering e-books from e-retailers or local bookstore as an alternative to print while warehouse and delivery workers are overtaxed.

Borrow instead of buy if finances are an issue. Almost all library systems are offering online library cards since their physical facilities are closed. Once you have an online card, you'll have access to thousands of audiobooks (including Harry Potter with no waiting list in April), e-books, movies, music, and magazines. You can locate your library system here.
Spring Cleaning: Window Tips

In case spending so much time at home staring out the windows has you thinking about cleaning them. Here are a few tips.
  • Screen pull tabs are meant to be mounted on the inside,
    allowing interior removal 
  • Rinse them in the shower & dry with a clean microfiber cloth
  • Or place on driveway/deck spray with a hose & air dry before remounting.
  • The opening window can be lifted out between mounts on the top
    or sides for cleaning
  • The track at the bottom of vinyl windows can often be removed for cleaning
  • Overspray and bugs can be removed with a straight edge razor blade
Both my daughters are spring babies, and this year, since they couldn't go anywhere, it seemed even more important to celebrate with phone calls and special meals in our own abodes. We even had a virtual party one night with the House Party app on our cell phones which allowed us to see each other and play games.

Wacky cake was born in The Great Depression when butter, eggs, and milk were in short supply, and lends itself well to cooking from pantry staples. Here's my recipe:

Grease a 9 X 9 pan* and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl:
1 1/2  cups flour (I use a gluten-free flour blend containing xantham gum)
1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup this time and it tasted like quick bread, not cake)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons baking cocoa (omit for a vanilla cake)
[optional add in: 1/2 cup chocolate chips or dried cherries]

In a glass measuring cup combine:
1 cup water (or milk or milk alternative if you have it)
1/2 cup cooking oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla (use 1 tablespoon for vanilla cake)

Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to liquid mix (I use apple cider vinegar) and stir quickly.

Pour liquid ingredients into bowl with dry ingredients. Mix by hand until just blended.

Pour into a greased  9 x 9 baking pan and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. 
Cool. Eat plain, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or frost if desired. 

*Or use the amazing Baker's Edge pan, where every piece is a corner piece. Mine was a Christmas gift from my daughters who grew up never being able to eat a corner brownie.
You may remember that I'm sending out a poetry prompt every day from March 15 - April 30. The web of participants has expanded beyond my small local list to include people I've never met, and the poems the participants are writing are amazing. Many of them capture the terror, anxiety, poignancy, hope, and connection that have arisen as we write out of physical separation and crisis. I will be editing and publishing Viral Verse an anthology of these poets' contributions that make meaning directly out of the COVID19 pandemic. If you'd like to participate in the poetry prompts or offer a poem for the upcoming book, let me know. 
Bowl of Sorrows
On Good Friday 2020
This morning I place an empty bowl atop my coffee table
a vessel in which to pour our suffering and sorrows —
our beloved dead we cannot mourn together
our ill and dying lying in isolation
our elders in lockdown waved to from windows
our incarcerated overcrowded and incited to riot
our perilous pre-existing conditions
our harrowed healthcare providers working in horror
our first responders and essential workers risking their families

our homeless without a place to call or stay home
our immigrants and refugees who can’t find refuge
our brothers and sisters without the privilege to shelter in place
our fear of black men wearing masks
our fear of everyone unmasked

the classrooms closed field trips furloughed
the commencement ceremonies unscheduled
the valedictory addresses vanished
the college tours cancelled libraries locked
the athletic seasons suspended

the wedding festivities forgotten
the dissolutions of marriage delayed
the tempers flared the doors slammed
the abuse behind curtains closed ever tighter
the mutual understandings unraveling
the first loves by distance fractured
the employed identity whittled away
the blurred boundaries between work and home
the emptying pantries and pocketbooks
the layoffs and lost jobs
the indecipherable applications for assistance
the travel plans terminated borders barricaded
the birthday parties banished
the beaches bunkered campgrounds closed
the worship services via wi-fi

the hugs held hostage smiles masked
the stress-snacking and viral insomnia
the gray roots exposed the ends splitting
the things I cannot even think of
The heartbreak of being healthy and happy
the shame of sacrificing nothing for my safety
No grief is too insignificant to acknowledge
or too monstrous to mourn
When Jesus suffered the unspeakable
he pleaded for our pardon
Before it was finished
he fashioned a family
Together we carry this bowl of sorrows

~Cathy Warner

Just For Fun
Mass Bolero: A Tribute to Torvill and Dean. Not new but a wonderful video of regular folks "ice dancing."

The Getty Museum challenged people to recreate art masterpieces with household items and post to Twitter. The results are hilarious. Here's an article about it.
Copyright © 2020 Cathy Warner, All rights reserved.

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