Out and about in St. Augustine

By Mike Jastrzebski

I haven’t posted in several weeks. Mary works Saturday, Sunday and Monday and those have become my writing days. As a result I’ve been working hard on the rewrites of the new Wes Darling book, Stranded Naked Blues, which is set in the Bahamas. Today I finished my final rewrite and Mary will begin the editing this coming week. She’ll go through at least one and probably two edits.

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This past week Mary and I did a little exploring in St. Augustine for her birthday. We took the Old Town Trolley around the city and stopped at two very different museums.

First we hit the Lightner Museum.

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Damn big shells

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Cow horn furniture

IMG_3424Blown glass engine

And then I talked Mary into heading over to Ripley’s Believe it or Not. What a hoot.

IMG_3443Standing next to replica of the world’s tallest man

IMG_3441Toothpick Cathedral

IMG_3445The floating faucet

After that we went out to dinner and then back to the boat. Overall, despite the chilly weather we’ve been having, it was a very nice day and I was happy to spend it with my wife and best friend Mary on her birthday.

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Give and take

ChiliChoice

by Christine Kling

People who dream of going off cruising often think of how great it will be to relax and play all day sipping a cold adult beverage while anchored in the aquamarine water off a tropical island. Okay, there is quite a bit of that in this lifestyle — but for many people only doing that doesn’t lead to a very fulfilling life.

Then there are the cruisers who work at sharing their skills with the local population, whether it’s fixing a fisherman’s outboard motor, guest teaching at a local school, handing out glasses from the Lion’s Club, dentists and doctors providing check-ups, or helping to set up a solar panel and battery array so the island can have ubiquitous Internet not dependent on a generator.

One thing that many who dream of cruising don’t know is that many Pacific Islanders are experiencing severe health problems due to the change from their traditional lifestyle that interaction with the outside world has brought. Of course it’s not just cruising boats that have caused this, but when cruisers find themselves in those wonderful ‘off the beaten track’ places where islanders are living a traditional lifestyle, we need to be conscious of not causing harm.

Here in the Marshall Islands the harm started with the strong American presence after the war. Fifty years ago diabetes was rare in the Marshall Islands. People ate local fruits and vegetables like coconut, breadfruit, taro, pandanus and fish. They walked and got plenty of exercise. Today, there is a diabetes epidemic in these islands: an estimated 28 percent of people over the age of 15 have type 2 diabetes. For those over the age of 35, the figures are closer to 50 percent. At the hospital, the most common surgery is amputation, and studies have shown this is all due to the change from their traditional diet to a diet of processed foods and sugars and a lack of exercise.

There is now a church sponsored Wellness Center next to the hospital in Majuro, and for several years there has been a strong effort to change the local diet from the current donuts, white rice, fried chicken and sugary soft drinks back to more nutritious, high-fiber foods.

The Wellness Center booth

The Wellness Center booth

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My favorite lady won us over based on presentation as well as taste!

That’s why on Wayne’s birthday Friday, instead of me cooking a dinner for the captain, we found ourselves tasting and voting at the Mieco Beach Yacht Club’s Chili Cook-Off. For this fun event, the yacht club partnered with the Wellness Center and EZ Price Mart (who provided the tents, tables and the space). There were 11 entries, including the Wellness Center’s own vegetarian chili, another super spicy yummy veggie chili made by a Marshallese lady on behalf of EZ Price Mart (can you tell she got my vote?), and several entries by yachties and other island residents that included green chili, chicken chili, hominy, black bean and garbanzo chilies. The variety was amazing. Across from the chili tasting area, the Wellness Center had a booth set up offering free health check-ups and information on the offerings at the center. The money raised will go toward the yacht club’s Out Island Health Initiative where the catamaran Pogeyan, captained by a physician, takes meds, reading glasses, and sports equipment to the the outer islands as they have for the last 3 years.

ChiliCooksOnce again, I am struck by how great it is when cruisers don’t just show up and take from a community by expecting an island to take their trash while the yacht’s crew goes out spear fishing in the island’s local waters. There are some yachts who do that, but thank goodness they aren’t the majority. The majority of cruisers seem to have learned the lesson that, as Wayne often says, the giver gets the gift.

The cruising lifestyle is much more fulfilling when you can think of ways in which you can give as well as take, whether you cruise on a local bay, an inland waterway, or among far flung islands. And it’s not always easy to figure out how to do that in a way that won’t do harm to the local culture or cause the local people to look to yachts only for money and handouts. The Seven Seas Cruising Association refers to this as their clean wake philosophy: “To leave a clean wake is to show respect for others and for our environment so that those who follow in our wake will be warmly welcomed. It is our most cherished tradition.”

As we waddled back to the dinghy, our bellies full of chili, I thought, Kudos to the Mieco Beach Yacht Club! They figured out a way to make feeling full fulfilling.

 

Fair winds!

Christine

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Playlists and Writing…

C.E. Grundler

I’ve got a strange and eclectic mix of music on my phone, but don’t look at me — it’s not all mine. Really, it isn’t! You see, I like to write with headphones on, blocking unwanted distractions and setting the mood for the scene playing out on my screen, particularly if it involves emotions I’m not feeling. For example, I understand jealousy from a psychological standpoint, but never really grasped on a personal level. But no worries; as I’m trying to fathom an obsessively jealous character’s actions, there’s a wealth of music on that messy subject. Or having your heart torn out and left in shreds as the object of your desire moves on? Turn up The Airborne Toxic Event’s (yes, that is the name of the band) ‘Sometime Around Midnight’ — every word, every note bleeds with anguish. Obsession? Garbage’s #1 Crush. Or Neko Case with ’This Tornado Loves You.’  True love, in it’s purest innocence? No Doubt, with ‘Running’. Bitterness and rage: Concrete Blonde - ‘Days and Days’.

As a result, it’s not really my playlist, actually — it belongs to those crazy people populating my head. At this point it contains several hundred songs, each chosen for the mood it sets and the neurons it fires, or what how it resonates with a certain character. In essence, I suppose it’s just one more way to get into someone else’s head for a bit. Too many heads, however, and hitting ‘shuffle’ could be amusing, but not very effective as background noise. (Case in point, right now the Talking Heads claim we’re On the Road to Nowhere, right after Lois Armstrong sang What a Wonderful World.) So I decided I’d sort things out by character and events. I’ve never been one of those ‘Character Sheet’ writers, but I must admit, what emerged is intriguing and amusing.

Hammon’s playlist has a fair helping of Blue October and Dashboard Confessional, Oingo-Boingo, The Cure, Death Cab for Cutie, All-American Rejects, and Travis. Lots of Emo — no surprises there.  Hazel, on the other hand, is a bit more diverse, with a mix of Justin Townes Earle, Shooter Jennings, Concrete Blonde, Neko Case, Talking Heads, and Vampire Weekend, with a touch of Glenn Miller to keep things interesting. And I haven’t just stuck to POV characters — these playlists help me peek into everyone’s head. And that’s got me to wondering — how about the rest of you — what music do you or your characters listen to when you’re writing?

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Midnight On The Bay

by John Urban

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(A summer evening at rest; Cuttyhunk Harbor, Buzzards Bay)

As I sat down to write today’s post I read Christine Kling’s most recent blog entry once again. It’s dark here at home and the stars I see differ from those taken in by Chris and Wayne as they look up at the night sky above the Marshall Islands. Still, I feel connected by water and sky. I think, too, of my other fellow bloggers – CE on the Hudson, Mike in northern Florida as he and Mary anticipate a crossing to the Bahamas, and Michael in Key West, a crossing to Havana now that much easier with the relaxation of federal travel restrictions. I am likewise connected, and I am encouraged that today’s post appears on January 20th, which welcomes the first “New Moon” of 2015.

I stopped by the boatyard earlier today and examined a section of the mast that needs some attention, looked over the hull, and gave some thought to the prep work that will come in the spring. It’s only mid-January and winter will lock-in on us for a few more months, but today brought the expectation of a new boating season. For now, though, my boating will come via entries by fellow bloggers and various other means of escapism.

During my teens, I began listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Through the years I’ve seen them play in many combinations – together, in pairs, and Stills and Young as solo acts. Tonight, I am listening to Neil Young’s “Midnight On The Bay.” The song, which features Young’s vocals and Stills’ lyrical mid-range guitar, was recorded in Miami. Maybe written there, too, considering references such “a cool ocean breeze blowing down through the Keys.” However, if you close your eyes, you can place this song just about anywhere on the planet, maybe even on the Hudson River or in St. Augustine, Key West, or the Marshall Islands. Sometimes even, this may help you reach those spots furthest away where you can imagine sitting with family and friends who hail, as Tennyson referenced, from locales across the bar.

If you’re so inclined, turn up the volume when you click the link below.

Midnight On The Bay

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There’s more than one reason we like it here

The beach we anchor off here at Eneko.

The beach we anchor off here at Eneko.

by Christine Kling

This past Saturday, the local Mieco Beach Yacht Club had a swap meet so the cruisers here could unload some of the stuff they’ve been carrying around. We wanted to sell off some more of the gear Wayne and JJ had salvaged off Ocean Echo 1 so we could send a little money off to JJ. He is the Canadian who shipwrecked here on Majuro atoll back in November and he is trying to put his life back together back in Vancouver. So, on Thursday we let go of our mooring and motored the 6-8 miles back to town.

This time we had spent two weeks at Eneko without returning to town. There is no place to disclose of garbage at Eneko, so we arrived with the dinghy looking a bit like a garbage scow. Even though we try to dispose of all boxes and packaging we can, we still can accumulate a startling amount of trash in a couple of weeks. So our first stop ashore was the dumpster.

Then it was off to the Post Office to pick up a couple of packages. Because Majuro used to be an American territory, when they went independent they arranged to maintain an affiliation with the USA. That means there is an American Post Office here and this place a US zip code as well as a state code. You know those Priority Mail boxes that say, “If it fits, it ships?” Well, it costs the same to send one here as it would to send one from Florida to California. And the currency here is the US dollar, too. These are just a few of the many  appealing reasons cruisers like to spend the cyclone season here.

newspaperAfter the PO, we took a taxi to the K&K supermarket where we bought groceries for the next couple of weeks. Sometimes, if the weekly supply ship has been delayed the produce and dairy sections are very thin, but on the whole the food shopping here is very good. We live well. And by taking advantage of sales, we can eat well for not much more than one would pay stateside. They don’t have all the rules here against selling food that passed the expiration date. So the half gallon of Florida Natural Orange Juice that was $6.79 last week is on sale for $3.99 this week. This shot of the Payless ad in the local Marshall Islands Journal gives a pretty good idea of the price of food here.

Friday night my fella took me out to dinner for Chinese food at Wan Hi Shein. That’s another of the enjoyable aspects of our visit to the big city. Cook’s night off!

Saturday, the day of the swap meet, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) decided to move over top of us, and it poured. Wayne still sold some stuff though, and with the rain, someone told him this funny story. It seems there was a singlehander who arrived during the two weeks we were out at Eneko, and when he dinghied ashore he asked the first cruiser he saw how to get a key to the showers and where to dock to take on water. He had run out of water en route here, and he had no water catchment system nor water maker. What makes it funny, you see, is that these things don’t exist here. The yacht club here doesn’t have a club house or a dock – and it costs all of $30/year to be a member. There is no marina nor fuel dock. It really makes me realize how much the South Pacific has changed since I first sailed there in the 70′s. This guy got all the way to Majuro before he wasn’t able to find a marina. The fact that there isn’t a marina here is also one of the things we like about this place.

We decided that while we like to be in town to get stuff done, it’s so much nicer out at our little island, we would head right back out there. We collected our laundry, made it out to the boat before the next deluge started, and then motored back to Eneko in the rain.

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Back to where we can take the dogs to the beach.

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Back to where we can snorkel on the reef.

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And visit the clown fish.

Back to where I can find the peace and quiet, without chores, to get this book finished.

Fair winds!

Christine

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How do you to Carnegie Hall?

C.E. Grundler

Conventional wisdom tells that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to master something. The concept known as the 10,000 Hour Rule contends that success is a direct result of relentless practice. It doesn’t matter what the pursuit, be it engineering, music, writing, chess, painting, taking over the world. It’s simple: the more time you put into something, the more likely it is you’ll eventually get better at it, and with a little luck, succeed. Don’t expect success after a week, and don’t throw in the towel when it still isn’t easy down the road. Give it time, and don’t give up.

But 10,000 hours? How did they come up with that number?  Was someone actually tracking all that time?  And how much time is that, in days and seasons and years? Does a pop-up timer go off, or maybe a big apple rises up, and fireworks go off, like when the Mets win. And that’s not accounting for the variations in mastery. I’ve seen people with no training whatsoever sit at a piano and play the most magnificent music by ear. I’d imagine their time/mastery curve would be far shorter, as opposed to a tone-deaf individual with zero rhythm, such as myself. I’d also like to imagine by time I pass the 10K mark, I might be able to knock out a half-way tolerable rendition of  ‘Chopsticks’.

But that 10K is the number I keep hearing? WHAT is 10K, really?  By the numbers, we’re looking at 416 days. Yup. One year, 7 weeks, 2 days, 10 hours, and 11 minutes, to be specific. Hmmm. That doesn’t sound so bad. So why aren’t we all masters of the universe by now?  Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to master the whole working 24/7 thing, so I guess that’s my excuse. It’s nice to eat and sleep occasionally.  So let’s see how it looks if we break it down to forty-hour weeks. 10,000 divided by 40 leaves us 250 weeks to our Mastery degrees, or 4.8 years. I’ll just round that up to an even 5 for holidays and sick-days.

Okay, so that works on paper, but you could say the same thing about the Chevette, and you don’t see too many of them on the roads…even when they were new. But it is safe to say if you apply yourself to anything you want and truly put in the time, you will be better for it. Theoretically, you could ‘master’ two things every decade, and every so often I read of someone who lived that way, as though they wouldn’t let a moment slip through their fingers without putting it to good use.  Those hours and days and years will pass one way or another, and when they’re gone, you don’t get them back.

As for me, I’m still clocking my hours, mastering this writing thing, and it’s time to punch back in. Catch you all next week — or in 168 hours, whichever comes first.

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Butt in chair time

I do love my hermit crabs!

I do love my hermit crabs!

by Christine Kling

The concept sounds great. Writing is a very portable skill, so why not choose to live on a boat and sail all over while writing?

The problem? Keeping that butt in the chair when there are so many sirens calling you away.

For Christmas, Wayne gave me a new underwater camera. It’s an Olympus Tough TG3 and it takes really terrific underwater photos. It has not one but three special settings for shooting underwater. When the fish are skittish, like they are around here, it takes time and good breath holding to get a good shot. There’s a reason I like to shoot hermit crabs —they’re slow. You see, taking underwater pictures is another skill that takes patience and practice.  These days with the deadline for the new book a little over two months off, I have time for neither.

So I got this great new camera, and I’ve only been snorkeling with it once since Christmas. Every day, I look longingly at the reef and then head down to my office to try to get inside the heads of some really nasty bad guys who are out to destroy the world. And when I get there and stick my butt in the chair, I think to myself—

DAMN! Am I lucky or what?

Fair winds

Christine

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Things I love about this weird line of work…

C.E. Grundler

There’s the dream of being a full-time, for real writer. You know, banging out masterpieces in your tweed jacket, bent over a beat-up old manual typewriter on a sturdy wood desk, surrounded by stacks of papers and a wire waste basket overflowing with balls of wadded up pages. Or fingers tapping away on a laptop at Starbucks, lost for hours in artistic creativity as you compose that next New York Times Bestseller.  If that lady who wrote those Twilight books could do it, and even that other lady who fan-fictioned Twilight into Fifty Shades of Spank did it, surely anyone can. After all, it’s just a matter of putting a whole lot of words together, and how hard can that be, really?

Well, that’s the dream.  The reality is that it is damned hard. Even harder than that. Torturously, mind-numbingly hard at times, and those times are what weeds out the dreamers and the delusional optimists, leaving only those delusionally optimistic dreamers too stubborn or persistent to give up. Because writing WILL make you question your reasoning and doubt yourself. It is full of criticism (including self) and rejection. It will cut into your confidence, hobbies, time, relationships, and so on, but once you give up, it’s game over.  Writing takes dreams, persistence, and a whole lot of caffeine, all in good balance. Oh, and being delusional definitely helps.

However, beyond the romanticized ideal and the gritty reality, writing offers some wonderful job perks I’m especially fond of. For example, at this very moment it is a whopping 3 degrees out, and feels like -20, according to my weather app. Yet I’m well-provisioned for the next few days, so the farthest I plan to go is out with the dogs for their walks. And that got me to thinking about some of the other benefits this job offers, such as:

—  Super easy commutes. Every morning when I listen to news radio, I remind myself of that one.

—  No dress code. I can wear the same ratty sweater, pajama pants, and crocs as often as I like, and no one comments.

—  Every day is bring your dogs to work day. Technically, it’s bring your work to dogs, but either way you get the idea.

—  My colleagues never talk when I’m writing. They do, however, interrupt me for walks.

—  My colleagues never take issue with my choice of music or question my dining choices, and are happy to share lunch, be it reheated pizza, sardines, or soggy Toasty-Os.

—  I get to bump off people I don’t like. Not for real, of course, but I doubt there’s a writer who hasn’t incorporated elements of certain dislikable people they’ve known into characters who meet with some form of misfortune or another. That’s why there’s always that whole disclaimer: Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Yeah. Coincidental. And very therapeutic.

—  When asked what you do, being able to answer “Novelist.” Or “Crazy writer.” Or my personal favorite: “I spend my days killing fictional people.”

—  It’s okay to be just a bit crazy. Writers are supposed to be crazy. I’m not saying that I wasn’t always, only that now I’ve got a good excuse.

But above and beyond all that is the writing itself. Nothing feels better than thrill when everything comes together, when you’re so wrapped up in the story there’s nothing else you would want to do get every though and word down.  Over the holidays, activity interrupted my flow, and I soon became cranky and irritable. I wanted to write. I needed to write, as much to keep on a work schedule as to keep my brain from exploding.  Seriously, it felt like that at times, with so many ideas backlogged in my head and on my computer.  It was all coming together, so perfectly, there were catastrophically big things coming down in my imaginary world, and that’s where I wanted to be. And as soon as I post this, walk my colleagues, and then thaw my fingers around a cup of tea, that’s where I’m going.

Just chilling', literally.

Rex and Emma, just chilling’, literally. Loki was having none of this cold nonsense.

Emma has made it up to a whopping seventeen pounds.

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Gerda

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Gerda. It’s a lovely name, don’t you think. The Gerda III – a lovely name and a lovely boat.

In early December of last year I began work at Mystic Seaport. Mystic, a maritime museum housing a collection of more than 500 watercraft, now that’s a lot of fodder for a wooden boat guy who sits down every other week to pen a post for Write On The Water. Yet, only one of Mystic Seaport’s boats comes to mind as I begin 2015 and that’s Gerda.

There is a lot going on at Mystic Seaport, a place known as The Museum of America and The Sea. There’s the 17 acre museum that provides visitors with experiential learning on land and on the water; the Williams-Mystic undergraduate program with Williams College; a vast collection of ships plans, artwork, photographs and maritime artifacts; the recently rebuilt Charles W. Morgan, the very last of the wooden whalers and our nation’s oldest commercial ship; the 62-foot Sparkman & Stephens Schooner, Brilliant, that sets sail for weeklong voyages. And many amazing vessels from small Adirondack guide boats to tall ships, from yachts to working craft.

DSC_4091MysticSeaportGerdaIIIAAA

And in this museum of American maritime history sits a gray-hulled double-ended boat that carries the flag of Denmark. This boat, the Gerda III, is as handsome as could be, lovely in the way that form follows function, her canoe shaped-stern giving her balance in a following sea, her sweeping sheer and rising bow giving her strength with oncoming waves. And Gerda, which was built in 1926 as a lighthouse tender, is no ordinary boat.

The events that define Gerda took place in 1943. Henny Sinding, the 19-year-old daughter of the boat’s manager, along with a four-man crew, used Gerda to save the lives of more than 300 Jewish refugees, hiding them in the ship’s hold, 10 to 15 at a time, setting out on her scheduled route and detouring to the nearby Swedish shore where the refugees could flee Nazi persecution. And during the war, Gerda’s service was also called upon for water rescues of allied airman who were shot down off the coast of Denmark.

Henny and Gerda were not alone in this type of endeavor. In total, more than 7500 Jewish refugees were saved in a similar fashion in 1943, making the trip from Denmark to Sweden. But it is Gerda that lives-on to help us understand this history.

As someone who loves wooden boats, I was first drawn to Gerda for her graceful lines and pleasant shape. Soon, I learned more.

My above words and the accompanying photos could never effectively communicate the feeling experienced when standing alongside this vessel, imagining events from its history. Fortunately, Gerda lives to convey this remarkable story.

By John M. Urban

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My 3 words 2015

starrynight

by Christine Kling

In 2013, I changed from the habit of making New Year’s resolutions to following Chris Brogan’s “My 3 Words” exercise. I found that my resolutions ended up being like the Christmas decorations. I trotted them out over the holidays and sometime around the end of that first week of January, I boxed them up and stuffed them in a cupboard and didn’t think about them at all the rest of the year.

To be honest, I don’t revisit my 3 words often enough throughout the rest of the year, either. But whenever I come across one of them in a book or an article, they resonate with me, and I am reminded of the path I chose back when the year was a newborn. Also, I’ve found that choosing the words is a way of thoughtfully reflecting on where I am and where I want to be in the coming year.

Here were my word choices for the last two years:

My 3 Words 2013  Intend, Treasure, Stretch

My 3 Words 2014   Awe, Tribe, Heart

My 3 Words For 2015

Star  I chose this word after reading an end of year blog post by the amazing Chuck Wendig. His advice for writers is to be both big and small. He ends the piece with this lovely metaphor that I hope to think about every time I see the word star this year:  “Be the writer you want to be, full of power and might and confidence, but one who also is gracious and nice and part of something larger. Earlier I mentioned the stars in the sky, and perhaps there is no greater metaphor, here: each star is impossibly large, a massive shape of fire and gas and light. And yet, when seen at a distance: tiny lights across the night, like sequins cast on the floor, like holes pricked in a dark blanket with a prodding pin. Big stars, but small stars, too. Be then like the star: both big and small at the same time.”

Brave  I love the look of this word. It makes me picture the girl from that Pixar film Brave with her wild red hair and hunting bow in her hands. I want to be fierce. Some people think I am already brave because of some of the things I’ve done in my life, but at my core, I am still that elementary school girl who wants to please the teacher and never gets in trouble. I’m a pleaser now, but I want to be a warrior. I recently read a fascinating article in the Atlantic called The Confidence Gap. I could relate to all the ways in which I sabotage myself due to my lack of self-confidence. “Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence… The good news is that with work, confidence can be acquired.”

Connect  The concept of connection has always been a powerful one to me, and this year I want to live a life that focuses on connecting. Both my son and I are getting married in March, and that is a huge connection change in the structure of my family. I want to connect with more readers, too, on social media and through blogging, taking photos, and sharing videos. We plan to visit new islands, and I want to make authentic connections with people from other cultures. This word also means creativity to me. New ideas don’t pop out of the blue — they are born when the mind makes new connections. Invention is connecting elements that have never been connected before. I want to be more inventive, more original in my writing.

These are my 3 words for the new year. I hope some of you will share yours in the comments.

 

Fair winds!

Christine

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