Friday, May 8, 2015

10 Suggestions for Commenting on Blogs

Identify what you want and learn how to ask for it. 

Lisa: So I was just wondering if there was one general thing that you've found over the years to be generally true in a general way that would help anyone in any situation?
Psychiatrist: That's a great question, yes, I would say figure out what you want and learn how to ask for it.
Lisa: OK. Those are both really hard.

The above quotations are from the movie "How Do you Know." I appreciate this movie psychiatrist's advice as it relates to writing as well. Many writers are intimidated to ask for what they need related to feedback. In fact, it is difficult to know what types of feedback will have a favorable influence on your work. Most of us have experienced that situation where a reader's feedback was tough and caused us to stop writing for a while. The best kind of feedback helps writers to move forward in a writing project. The following suggestions are given to my students so that they can benefit from and give helpful feedback on their class blog projects. They are adapted from Peter Elbow and Pat Belanof's book, Sharing and Responding. New York: Random House, 1989.

TYPES OF FEEDBACK for Blog comments:
I. No Responding: Sharing
1. Just read the blog out loud; see what the words sound like. What is your reaction? (Write this)

II. Descriptive Responding:

2.   Sayback
Write back in your own words some aspect of the post. But say it more as a question--Are you saying...?
3.   Pointing
Write the words or phrases that stick in your mind. Which passages/features did you like best? Don't explain why.
4.   Summarizing
What is the main point? Subordinate ones?
5.   What's Almost Said or Implied
Explain what is almost said, implied, or hovering around the edges. What would you like to hear more about?"
6.   Center of Gravity
What is the source of energy, the focal point, the seedbed, the generative center for this piece
7.   Structure
Comment on the Voice, Point of View, Attitude toward Reader, Level of Abstraction/Concreteness; Language, Diction, Syntax
8.   Metaphorical Descriptions
Describe the blog in terms of weathers, clothing, colors, animals.
9.   Believing and Doubting
Believe or pretend to believe everything that was written. Offer ideas and perceptions to help the case. Then doubt everything that was written. Say arguments that can be made against what was written.
10.   Movies of the Mind
Tell the writer what happens inside your head as you read the words in the blog.

These tips are a way to improve both the reader and writer's experience. Let me know how they work for you.

Oasis Writing Link™

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


In the garden, the delphiniums were in flower. Through scented twilight the girl in the white dress walked with a step as light as a cobweb. That evening, she hadn't a care in the world.

Mrs. Delahunty, My House in Umbria

Mrs. Delahunty: I may be dead next month. The moon may have crashed into the earth. Who knows what dreadful things may come to pass? But at the moment, I'm happy. What else matters?

Colonal: Carpe Diem

Mrs. Delahunty: I'm never really sure just what that means.

Colonal: Oh. Seize the day. Embrace the present. Enjoy life while you've got the chance.

Mrs. Delahunty: Carpe Diem. I'll remember that.

My House in Umbria


Lately, I am aware that I have to do just that, carpe diem, because everything seems to have a feeling of impermanence. Not in a dark somber way but in the way that you feel that something's moving and changing.

I wonder why after you hit a certain age, you wake up with memories of people and places that you haven't thought about in a long time. Often fragments of youth-inspired dreams come back to your mind with a strong force. When I was a teen, I wanted to travel to Europe and it became one of my main goals to tour England, Scotland, Ireland as well as France and Denmark. After much saving, planning and determination, I finally was able to make the unforgettable trip. I think my early obsession with travel was connected to my love of romance novels. Though the love story obsession was left in my teenage years,  the enjoyment of other lands and people remained.

I think that's why I love Maggie Smith in My House in Umbria. The film is set in Italy, where she plays the lead character Miss. Emily Delahunty but (as she tells us) her name is not important. In fact, we learn that she has many other nom de plumes and we realize that she actively creates her own fluid identity. She's a writer of romance novels who feels most alive when she's helping others. In one scene, she invites a group of complete strangers to move in with her after a train explosion. Through her engagement with the other characters, we fall in love with her quirky personality. Whenever I want to imagine myself in another life this movie does the trick.

If you can watch My House in Umbria and not yearn to travel to Italy, you are a strong person.  If you are having an Italian themed movie night, you might watch Under the Tuscan Sun or go out to see Letters to Juliet. Both of these movies will make you feel as though you have been in Italy or that it's essential for you to go there now!

I have read the memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun (Frances Mayes), and found it to be richly satisfying. I loaned this book to a close friend who found it tedious with detail about the Italian countryside, garden restorations and house renovations. However, I like these details of ordinary life. I like to see how people make decisions and what occupies their time. I'm interested in both real and spruced-up life. (A little magic making fantasy is fine with me.) Another popular book made into film that has an enchanting section on an vacation in Italy is Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. (Julie Roberts plays the author Gilbert in the movie.) There is another saturate-yourself-in-Italy movie that I have already mentioned in previous blogs, Enchanted April, which documents a life transforming month in an Italian Medieval castle. Gorgeous scenery!

In the London Times, a small classified ad appears:

“To those who appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine:

To let for the month of April - a medieval castle on

the Italian Mediterranean shore.”

Photographs and movie review here.

If you want to explore Italy or imagine yourself there in real life, try Rick Steves' link to travel. Now I wonder, which movies you watch (or books do you read) that bring you into lovely romantic Italy? Have I missed any? 

Do you hear Italian music...


Waking up on the Island of Enchantment that is also know as Puerto Rico, I plan to bake a fragrant pan of vegetarian lasagna, toss a green salad and toast garlic bread.

I promise myself that at every moment I will carpe diem!

On a side note: my struggling gardenia bush finally bloomed after three years of waiting, hoping, and supplementing it with coffee grounds. 

I like to believe that this momentous occasion is symbolic, perhaps it's foreshadowing a trip in the near future?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

On Seeking Home

Oasis Reflection: Obstacles are a matter of perception...

La Ventana "Windows" Park in Condado. San Juan, Puerto Rico
What is your view?

Recently, I've been reading On Moving: A Writer's Meditation on New Houses, Old Hauts, and Finding Home Again by Louise DeSalvo. the author addresses the topic of "home"and the strong desire people have to choose the perfect home. I started to think about how often people move and how most of us hope that a new location will solve most of our problems.

However, I am sure that we bring our problems with us wherever we go. What I mean is that the cause of our dissatisfaction is often not external, but internal. It's part of our personality and/or is shaped by our attitude.  I admit that like DeSalvo, I love to travel.  I love to imagine my life in those new unknown places; nevertheless, it's healthy to remember that our disturbances come with us wherever we find ourselves.

What do you see in the photograph above? Do you notice the rock in the center? The water flowing over the rocks to form a small pool of water in the right foreground? Or the deep blue ocean in the distance? Our perspective informs what we allow ourselves to see and experience. The rock can be seen as an obstacle to blocking access to the water or an interesting formation to scale up and over - an opportunity to see the unobstructed ocean from the top. However, what we see remains with us no matter where we go.

I believe that we have to be bravely curious about our obstacles in life and learn from these ever present rocks.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,  
Come, you may stand upon my  
Back and face your distant destiny,  
But seek no haven in my shadow.  
I will give you no hiding place down here.

Excerpt from "On the Pulse of Morning" by Maya Angelou

Simon and Garfunkel "I am a rock"

© 2014 Cynthia Pittmann

Monday, November 3, 2014


Photo credit

I fell into a hole.

It really was just a broken place in the sidewalk but I had a flash of insight, which is why I' m writing about it here. The fall was accompanied by one of those familiar memories of the future where an event seems to be repeated but it's the first time it happens - as in déjà vu.  Has this happened before, I questioned. I tried to think of similar experiences of falling. The first memory I thought of happened after moving into a new house in Puerto Rico. I was jogging and following my bliss down a quiet side street

in a romantic dreamy fog when

Photo credit
I noticed a large Victorian house to my right that was set in the middle of a lush green yard filled with slightly overgrown but cultivated plants. (It looked like this photo of a sub-tropical Victorian home in Springfield, Georgia.) Still thinking about the possible residents of this romantic looking home, my senses were jarred by the view of a new condominium building project. Reflecting about the possible demolition of the aging house, I was suddenly shin deep in a small metal encased hole in the sidewalk. I was cut and a bit in shock. I realized that the accident happened because someone did not replace a cover over a water meter. At first, I was angry because of the missing cover, but then I wondered why I didn't see the hole right in front of me. I felt uneasy as I remembered that when I was younger, I was often told that

I had my head in the clouds. I was a daydreamer. 

Keep your eyes on the road! (photo credit)
Once while driving on the scenic panoramic route on California's coastal highway (California State Route 1), I was so captivated and excited by the view that I nearly drove off the cliff. Talk about entering the moment! So I remember that time of falling into the hole and wondered if I was daydreaming. I keep thinking of Alice and her adventures while she was falling into a hole. I'm showing myself in my own looking glass by observing the way I react.

Thinking now, I remember that I had sprained my ankle exactly twice in my life, and both times I had to be rushed to the emergency room. The first incident happened because I was riding on the butterfly handlebars of a new pink Schwinn bike that my younger brother was steering. (I was twelve.) I was thrilled with the fun loving ride until my foot caught up in the spokes of the front wheel. The second time occurred at the same age. I was when I was sitting on the wheel cover of a tractor driven by my father and my foot slipped into the wheel. In both incidents, I remember the face of the driver, my brother and my dad, looking pained and guilty, which may have contributed to my profound hurt at being wounded. I felt seriously sorry for myself both times. I have an insight as I realize that I want someone else to be guilty and sorry when I am hurt.

The incident of falling into an uncapped-water-meter hole on the sidewalk repeatedly returns to my mind because I notice that I'm looking for someone to blame.

Years ago when I moved to Puerto Rico, I complained to my director about the parking problem at work. I am a bit ashamed to admit to it now but I was overly critical. It bothered me that people would park their cars everywhere and sometimes double park so that I could not leave. In busy times, cars were parked on the sidewalks or drivers would create a middle parking lane behind the legally parked vehicles, which made it impossible for them to leave because they arrived early enough to park their car in an assigned space. My director listened to my explanation about being late to class because I was blocked in and she said, "Yes, this is a small island and parking is competitive." Was I supposed to infer that people didn't have a choice but to break the rules? My angry reaction to illegal parking occurred many years ago. I've learned that rules are flexible and subject to interpretation by the drivers.

The most recent time I fell into a hole, I realized my orientation had changed. I no longer took it for granted that the sidewalk ahead would be evenly paved over. I accepted that I needed to look out for myself in this life. I know I cannot prevent every falling incident (read mistake) from occurring but I noticed that I have accepted responsibility for my own well being rather than blaming others. I realized that thinking or focusing on someone's behavior (rather than my own) resulted in my victimization. I have to pay attention in life.

Living in Puerto Rico (where my expectations are frequently challenged) has taught me to pay attention. I'm grateful for this experience.

© Cynthia Pittmann
Oasis Writing Link ™

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Inspiration for Change

I’m organizing people, tasks, plans
at work and in my dreams. I’m
living my work life twice,
once awake and once asleep.
Let me out!

Walking down the street,
I’m shucked as new corn –
Exposed, raw, open.
It’s New York City in the fall
Curtains blown through -
caught, held, pinned.
(Muse refuse?)

 Outside the box
walking through Washington
Square in clear air
Green corners filled out
In secret places
rendezvous and parlez-vous
“Bonjour mes amies!”

Feeling life, living, alive
Holding together, letting go
Convex, concave
light and loose …
– it’s now or never.

© Cynthia Pittmann 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Oasis Reflection


 "The moment your judgement stops 

through acceptance of what is, 

you are free of the mind. 

You have made room 

for love, 

for joy, 

for peace."

The Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

 The sun is shining this morning in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As the breeze gently 

catches the ocean mist, I'm reminded of the goodness in this life. It's so easy 

to forget to notice the beauty that surrounds us everyday but today I am reminded to accept:

I'm lucky! I'm so fortunate to live here on this beautiful island. I appreciate my friends 

and family all across the States and Puerto Rico who welcome me into their homes and 

make room for me in their lives.  It's good to know my health, if not perfect is good ! (I've 

done my summer routine checkups and I'm fine.) 

I'm looking forward to little pleasures, for example, soon we will have bikes to ride around 

the town and to the beach! My girl is coming home for a couple of weeks! Oh, yes, I'm 

happy indeed! 

In our ordinary moments, we can let go and just be in this moment and 

experience it without any changes. 

It's lunch time now. My simple pasta is warm and sprinkled with freshly cubed 
tomatoes. Soft and sweet peaches, freshly sliced, await. No, I think I'll try a bit of fruit right 

now with the pasta. Why not?! I'm moving along at an even pace at home and at work

...look for this, look for that's a mellow yellow kind of day. 

I hope your day is brightly imbued with radiant joy.


They call me mellow yellow

(Quite rightly)

They call me mellow yellow

(Quite rightly)

They call me mellow yellow

Some comments by Donovan about the lyrics and his inspiration:

"In an interview with the June 18, 2011 edition of the NME,
Donovan was asked what the song was actually about? He replied: "Quite a
 few things. Being mellow, laid-back, chilled out. 'They call me Mellow
Yellow, I'm the guy who can calm you down.' Lennon and I used to look in
 the back of newspapers and pull out funny things and they'd end up in
songs. So it's about being cool, laid-back, and also the electrical
bananas that were appearing on the scene - which were ladies vibrators." (What!? These are the songwriter's risqué words! haha)

is also published in Oasis Writing Link™

©Cynthia Pittmann 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dear Diary

I have written in you for years
You have helped me with my fears
I have poured all I have inside
Things that I have learnt to hide.

You have helped me through
Confusion, through pain and love
I have found in your pages
All that I am.

My mind needs your help
To straighten out the thoughts
To unravel the tangled emotions
That are caught in its claws.

I trust you to listen to allow
Me the time
For in your world there is 
No time-

Just space and patience
A place where I can
Lay the past to rest
Bearing all of it 
Not just the best.

Your lines give me structure
To create a new path
You are open and welcoming
Like a loving old Aunt

You lay there waiting for me
Never pushing or pleading
Ready for me whenever
My heart is bleeding or needing
A release.

Thank you dear Dairy
Thank you for your peace