January 2018 RAW NEWS Update

Even though this is my third month of living my RAW NEWS framework, it feels different and new because it is January. I adore new beginnings, although usually not for a good reason. New beginnings typically trigger my nasty perfectionism. I usually consider January (and the first of every month) an unspoiled opportunity to finally get everything right.

However, this year I looked only for progress in January, not perfection.

…your new vision remains merely talk until it enters the practice of your day.

John O'Donohue
I focused on honouring the mandates of my vision board which were to notice (my word for the year) and to act rather than plan. Here’s a summary of how it went:

hand drawn icon of bookRead

Thanks to some bitterly cold days and a week of stomach flu, I’m off to a great start at achieving my Goodreads goal of 155 books.

Of the 16 books I read this month, 4 were novels and 12 nonfiction.

One of the novels got a five-star rating from me. In Goodreads terms, five stars means “It was amazing.” That book was The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper. A failed novelist, Patrick, joins a creative writing circle where he hears some incredible tales of murder and mayhem. These acts are duplicated in real life as various members of the circle meet gruesome ends. A review in The New York Times says it well – “Taken as either a classy ghost story or the chronicle of one man’s mental breakdown, this is a terrific yarn.”

hand drawn icon of painting with brush and pencil on topArt

I didn’t do as much in art as I’d intended to this month, but what I did was new and mostly enjoyable.Prima water soluble oil pastels

For example, I bought water-soluble oil pastels which I thought would be a sloppy mess when I added water. I was wrong. The colours are gorgeous and creamy, with and without water.

I’m so glad I learned about balance in art. My work is much more pleasing to my eye now that I know that whatever I do to one side of a piece, I need to do to the other.

I did some writing about my grandmother (see below) and tried to capture the concept of invisibility in my art. That didn’t work too well. I don’t have the drawing skills yet, and never will if I don’t start practicing. But I was impatient to see results so I used a progression of simple shapes and tried to fade colours, first with acrylics and then with watercolours. It was a valuable experiment and I made notes about what worked better (watercolours) and what to do next, but I haven’t gone any further.

Finally, I made two small pieces that I’m quite happy with – a watercolour, and a set of icons.

hand drawn icon of book with pencil on topWriting

It has been fascinating to work on a piece about my late grandmother, using the transcripts of interviews I did with her three daughters. I’ve got it down to nine scenes or vignettes, each giving a perspective on a woman whose outer life of wife, mother and community member overwhelmed and masked her inner life. I’ve only written four of the scenes but here’s what I’ve already noticed:

  • I didn’t think I could write a scene from a three-year-old’s perspective without it sounding either false or saccharine. I noticed that I can!
  • Writing from a man’s perspective is very difficult for me. It has been too long. I’m guessing those of you with husbands and partners have an easier time of it?
  • I didn’t think I would remember details from the one or two memories I have of my grandmother. I actually remembered a ton. In fact I realized just how hyper-aware I was of unspoken feelings when I was a child and a teenager.

    manual typewriter and man's fedora on desk
    Thanks to my HanxWriter app, I feel like Ms. Hemingway.

Two Invaluable Writing Resources

The HanxWriter app: Available from iTunes for your phone and tablet, this app is the brainchild of actor Tom Hanks who has a lifelong love affair with manual and electric typewriters. Choose your typewriter and typewriter font, turn on the sound and you will swear that you are working on a typewriter. There’s even a ding on the carriage return. This app brings back fond memories of my typewriter days (why did I ever get rid of them?), and I am convinced it’s making me a freer and more relaxed writer.  HanxWriter is so awesome I’ll happily replace my old iPad before any of my other old Apple technology, even though I don’t use my iPad for much else.

Foundations of Fiction course: Available from Udemy, this online course is nicely divided into chunks on characterization, dialogue, point of view, narrative style, setting, and plot. All of these elements are essential to telling a good story, whether that story is fiction or the creative nonfiction I’d like to write. I’ve only worked with the chunk of lessons about characterization but I’m already much improved at showing rather than telling my grandmother’s personality.

hand drawn icon of apple with bite out of itNutrition

I’m back into meditation after several months absence. I’ve started with a redo of a 22 day meditation that I bought from Deepak Chopra and Oprah called “Shedding the Weight: Mind, Body and Spirit.” I need their positive affirmations dripping into my brain, especially after consuming several bags of Ripples BBQ potato chips.

I am also just starting Intuitive Eating, something brand new to me and quite exciting.  I’ll say more later in a blog post devoted to the topic.

hand drawn icon of stylized person in motionExercise

I missed four consecutive weeks of Pilates Reformer workouts for various good reasons. Add that to multiple days of -25 to -30C before accounting for windchill and the above-mentioned Ripples chips. The result has been a month of feeling sluggish, blimpy, and achy.

However, on the good news front, I’ve enjoyed a few long, fast walks on an indoor track with a friend, and several long, challenging hikes with my dogs.

Speaking of my dogs, Linda (dog expert friend) and I spent an enjoyable hour  teaching Toffee to weave around obstacles, run through tunnels, and walk up and down a plank set against a workbench. Toffee is so agile and smart she could easily be a circus dog. Of course it helps that she will do absolutely anything for food.

A couple of weeks ago we had a night of really heavy-duty thunder and lightning. Shylah isn’t usually bothered by thunder, but this was of the house-rattling kind. She climbed up on my bed in the middle of the night and lay trembling tight against my leg. I didn’t mind at all. I’m so happy to be her safe place. We fell back asleep as I cuddled her.

hand drawn icon of open boxWonder

5 encyclopedia britannica on edge
There are 32 of these puppies in a set.

I’ve been learning all kinds of new things this month, thanks to the work of A.J. Jacobs. His book, The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World is a hilarious account of his efforts to read and retain all 33,000 pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Here are five fascinating facts I’ve learned and intend to retain by copying them here:

  1. Cleveland, Ohio was named not for Grover Cleveland but for Moses Cleaveland,  a surveyor. “In 1832, the a in ‘Cleaveland’ was dropped because ‘Cleveland’ fit better on a newspaper masthead. That was the reason. His name was bastardized to fit a newspaper’s masthead? They couldn’t have reduced the font? Did they consider changing ‘Ohio’ to ‘Ohi’? That would save some ink, too.” (p.47)
  2. In traditional Balinese society, boy-girl twins were forced to marry because it was assumed they had sex in the womb. (p.142)
  3. “The ‘rod’ was once defined as the length of the left feet of 16 men lined up heel to toe as they emerged from church. What? What’s a church got to do with it? Do men’s feet change size when they leave a good sermon?” (p.201)
  4. The Mother Goose rhyme “Jack and Jill” is “actually an extended allegory about taxes. The jack and jill were two forms of measurement in early England. when Charles 1 scaled down the jack (originally two ounces) so as to collect higher sales tax, the jill, which was by definition twice the size of the jack, was automatically reduced, hence ‘came tumbling after.'” (p.233)
  5. Three rambunctious people are all that’s necessary to be legally considered a riot.

hand drawn icon of lotus flowerSelf-Care

January has been a good month for meditation, a few Hygge days at home, hot baths, lunches out with friends, celebrating Winnie the Pooh, and movies at night pre-recorded so I can fast forward through the commercials. By the way, did you know that we’re subjected to 3000 advertisements each and every day? Now there’s a depressing fact.

How was your January? 

Join the tribe:


  1. What an enjoyable update on your RAW NEWS, Karen. I am impressed that you have read so many books in the month of January. This is an area I say I want to improve upon, and yet I still relegate reading books to bedtime. And after a few pages my eyelids are heavy and I have a hard time remembering what I read when I pick up the book the next night. It is slow going when you re-read the same pages each night. I have read a couple of A.J. Jacob’s books and really enjoyed them. He is so funny. I must read the one you’ve just finished. You know I like a good laugh. I like your honesty in your review and am anxious to see how things progress over the course of 2018.

    1. Hi Molly,
      I’m not at all surprised that you like AJ Jacobs since his writing is laugh aloud funny and so is yours.! I’ve now read all of his books and have to say that The Know-It-All is my favourite. Maybe it’s because it’s his first one or maybe because I liked the variety of topics he covered. Either way, I do think you’d enjoy it.

  2. Your monthly RAW NEWS always contains so much to comment on – from 16 books read in one month (wow!) to those bizarre facts from One Man’s Humble Quest.

    I hope you’ve left the flu well behind you and are back to full form. It’s shocking how many people are getting sick this season. Sad to hear you were one of them.

    These monthly posts continue to be very inspirational for me. I could certainly relate to the line ” I usually consider January (and the first of every other month) an unspoiled opportunity to finally get everything right.” It’s Feb 1st and yet again, I will continue to try 😉

    1. Oh I hear you, Joanne. New journal, fresh start on Feb 1st – all that. I’m just trying to back off my extremes of perfection or completely blowing off whatever I wanted to achieve until after month rolls around – preferably one where the first day of the month is on a Monday.
      Thanks for the sympathy about the flu. I was fortunate in having a fairly mild dose. The worst part for me was the incredible lethargy. I did not care about a single thing – not good for that pursuit of perfection problem.

      1. I hope this 1st day of the month is going well for you so far. One of my bosses from many years ago liked to say that perfection is impossible, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to reach for excellence. It’s just a little more forgiving. That’s my thought as we head into this new month. 🙂

  3. So much to comment on here…but the one that made me laugh out loud is “3 rambunctious people are considered a riot”! Oh dear, I’m going to be worried about police intervention on our next mid-week foodie outing. We are certainly rambunctious at those events – drinking, laughing, and being quite loud. I love those events!

    I’m glad you were so honest with your month, both achieving your goals and slipping into older habits. I’m a huge potato chip lover (and you are so not surprised by that I am sure)….so eating bags of chips this month, I totally understand! I’m trying so hard to not even buy them at the store…and fail that willpower test totally. Hubby has decided he needs to loose weight (a good thing!) and is now weighing his snacks (nuts, not chips) and eating fruit. Hopefully he will inspire me not to munch out going forward…because I too spent too many days last month reading & eating wrapped in a blanket against the cold. My books – romance novels! But I’m putting a couple of the ones you mentioned on my to-read list. Maybe I will learn something new…like worrying about being rambunctious with 2 other people. 🙂

    1. Ah yes, Pat. Wrapped in a blanket, a bowl or bag or chips beside me, a book in my hand – that is my definition of extreme self-care (until I think about the consequences of all of that sitting and munching and then I start calling it self-abuse and I beat myself up for beating myself up.)
      I’ve given up on the not buying at the grocery store because then I get determined to have them at any cost and I actually get in the car and drive to the local convenience store where I plunk down an extra $1.50 for the exact same thing.

  4. Hi Karen! You can learn a lot about a person by their Raw News Updates 🙂 Because I am relatively new to your blog it was a great way to understand what is important to you on many levels. Good for you for your honesty about what’s working–and what’s not. I think we all have lists like that! And good for you for your reading list! I do my best to get through a book every week or two so I admire your commitment. And yes, isn’t that awful about commercials. We DVR every show we watch so we don’t have to put up with them. But I think I read somewhere that even people with DVRs only something like 20% of the people use them regularly!!! Meanwhile, stay warm! ~Kathy

    1. Hi Kathy,
      I appreciate you commenting on my honesty about what worked and what didn’t in January. I especially appreciate your kind words because I didn’t start writing personally oriented posts until the last few months. Earlier posts had a few personal elements but were heavily researched. I was concerned that talking about my own life might be boring for my readers and I wanted/want my site to be useful. If RAW NEWS was interesting to you, I’m happy 🙂

  5. I enjoy these updates so much! They are honest, inspiring, and insightful.

    First off, can I just say that your pastels look yummy! I hope you will share your creations from time-to-time. Second, 16 books??? I struggle to read more than one a month for my book club (mostly because I read just before falling asleep, so I only get so far into them each night). I appreciate the two suggestions, though and may look for them at my local library. Third, I am thrilled to know that Shylah now thinks of you as her “safe place” when she is frightened. Cuddling with her must have been heaven. And last (I could go on… there are so many great things in your post to comment on), that HanxWriter sounds like a hoot! Must download soon.

    Happy February!

    1. Hi Janis,
      Yummy is the perfect word for my oil pastels. (It makes me grin to be rhapsodic over art supplies. I never saw that coming!)
      Thanks for commenting on the progress with Shylah. She is such a sweet pup. She makes leaps of progress and then, every so often, a hard and disruptive right turn into crazy land. It always helps so much when someone else notices and comments on the good moments.
      I hope you’ll enjoy HanxWriter. It is so much fun.

  6. Hi, Karen – Like others have commented, I love your unapologetic honesty in your RAW NEWS….and your sense of humour!

    Congratulations on your many successes. Although I consider myself an avid reader, my book-count pales in comparison.

    Thank you for the recommendation on the Hanx-Writer app. I am off to check it out now (after I munch on just a few more potato chips that is)! 🙂

    1. Hi Donna,
      I think I remember in a comment you made to Pat – those potato chips you are munching are plain, right? I like them too, especially if Ripple. I don’t know – there’s something about potato chips without ripples that makes them taste a bit greasy. Ripples allow me to convince myself that there’s minimal grease. That and never once putting them down on a piece of paper towel for any length of time or the jig would be up.
      HanxWriter really is a blast. You need a separate keyboard to really get the effect because then you can type with both hands. But if you’ve got that, as I do, there’s nothing better for feeling like an intrepid, on-the-job writer.

  7. That’s a lot of achievements! Impressive. I found the five facts fascinating (though I vaguely knew the Jack and Jill one). John’s siblings are mixed sex twins – I hope they don’t know that about Bali ( and I’m not going to tell them).

    1. Good plan, Anabel, re John’s siblings that is.
      I wonder if it’s the librarian and researcher in us that makes facts so fascinating? Here’s another one in case you ever visit Chicago. Chicago, as you probably know, is nicknamed the Windy City. It’s assumed by many that the nickname comes from the fact that Chicago is indeed windy. However, the nickname actually comes from some early Chicago politicians who were full of hot air. I love that.

  8. You’re still reading an incredible number of books Karen – and every time I sit down to read a book (day or night) I manage to fall asleep. I have, however, used your vision board post; you suggested buying new magazines (whatever caught my fancy) and then going through those magazines to find out what interested me and putting the pictures on a vision board. Well, Karen, I found that I didn’t need an actual board to know what my “vision” is because all the magazines I picked up were travel magazines – you were spot on about my vision board showing me the way Karen – Norway, Tahiti, Belarus, Melbourne, Hong Kong……. are calling.

    1. Hi Anna,
      A quick scan through the comments will reassure you that many Profound Journey tribe members fall asleep when they start to read. Maybe books need to be marketed as aids for insomnia!
      Well, good to know what your vision is, Anna. Since a vision board is usually for one year, I’m wondering if we have to say goodbye to you now and see you again next January. It will take that long, I bet, to get to all of those places. 🙂

  9. Wow, great update Karen! Sounds like you’re off to a great start, illness and BBQ chips notwithstanding. Progress, not perfection (as I keep telling myself!). I hope you show us your artwork, especially what you’ve done with your water soluble crayons. I bought a package of them last year but I don’t think they were very good quality – I didn’t like them that much.
    Looking forward to your February RAW update!


    1. Hi Deb,
      I wonder if you bought watercolour crayons rather than oil pastel crayons? I have some watercolour ones that aren’t that great. If it was the oil pastel ones, I encourage you to give Prima a try. They really are creamy and yummy. I like having them because oil pastel, as you know, will cover over any other media and sometimes (okay, often) I need that quick fix at my disposal.
      I will share as soon as I get to something I’m even halfway happy with. I’m such a novice compared to you 🙂

      1. Hi Karen,

        Mine say they are “water soluble wax crayons” so I think you are correct in your assessment!

        I encourage you to put your stuff out there, regardless. That’s what I force myself to do. I’m almost never happy with the finished results – I see all my mistakes. (And I use that knowledge to do better on the next piece.) As time passes, my work does start to grow on me.

        But no one else really does (see the mistakes) – they can be more objective and just react to the piece as a whole. Which is encouraging! And we all need encouragement, especially starting out.


        1. Water soluble wax crayons? Oh, yuck. I can’t imagine you’d be very happy with those. I wonder why anyone even makes those unless it’s so that kids crayon work can be erased from living room walls 🙂

          I do appreciate what you’re saying, Deb, and you’re right that encouragement and evidence of progress (mentioned in your next comment) are very necessary, especially starting out. No promises because I don’t want to put pressure on myself, but I will definitely keep your thoughts in mind for an upcoming RAW NEWS update.

          Many thanks.

  10. What a great January RAW NEWS update Karen! I found myself hanging on every word as I read down the page. I am totally impressed with your books read count. It is nice to know that the water-soluble pastels weren’t as messy as you thought. Great news on writing about your Grandmother and discovering that you remember more than you thought you did. I have found the same thing when I look back at my memories, there is so much more than we know our brains have taken in that stand out when we go searching years and years later. Showing rather than telling is something I need to remember and try to do when writing my memoir. That is quite the progress with little Shylah, wow! I bet that felt so good to know she sees being by your side as her safe place. I think that bonding thing is really starting to kick in. Yay! I like fascinating facts too…to me I think of them as “things that make you go hmm.” I definitely don’t want to become the smartest person in the world though if that is what is required, lol.

    I have now started reading Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King (currently on page 405 of 700). Not too bad considering I usually only read before bed and on car trips to the city (25 minutes each way). Other than that my January was a blur. I was so busy and tired there were days when even a nap didn’t help. I have now sorted out my Big Boulders (I think) so that I can prioritize how I am spending my time so hopefully, February will not be a blur too. I have gotten a lot of YouTube videos created and uploaded to my channel, they are scheduled to go public every other day. I only need to do Learning Guitar Weekly Update videos as they come due and of course, keep making other videos as I can to add to the scheduling list. This has allowed me to see more freed up time. My audience on YouTube has been very complimentary about the number of videos I am uploading now. Yay! I am playing my guitar, not as much as I should, but enough to keep my callus built up on my fingers. More Yay! I have also received confirmation that my finger positioning is good from a guitar player in Australia that we know who saw one of my Weekly Update videos.

    1. It sounds as if you’ve have a productive, albeit exhausting, January, Susan. I hope your upload of so many videos will give you the breathing space that you crave and need. And I hope that only a bit of that breathing space will be used to build up more calluses. Be good to yourself, and don’t forget to breathe!

  11. Hi Karen, What a great RAW NEWS update and your sense of humour made it fun to read. Congrats on your many successes! I’m so impressed with your Reading, and am glad that you enjoyed your Art experiment and Writing, as well as the HanxWriter app. We had extreme cold days in the first part of January and with the flu, I think your Self care made sense. Have a fantastic February! Look forward to your next update.

    1. Thanks, Natalie. Best wishes to you too for an excellent February. I won’t hope to match your exercise routines, but I’ll definitely try to up my count this month 🙂

  12. My January did not contain any advertisements, because I don’t watch TV. Actually, I’m lying… Because we were staying at the home of my in-laws mist of that month, I was subjected to ads when my father-in-law watched his news programs. But, I left the room each time there was a commercial, to attend to dinner, and because I can’t stand ads.

    Being sick is perfect to get some reading done. Because of having the flu during one of my three weeks back east, I managed to read one book! Yay!

    Not much exercise for us either, due to freezing temps in the Boston area. Once we returned to San Diego, we managed to walk an hour a day again, since January 28th.

    Funny facts Mr. Jacobs reports on! Thanks for sharing. And, I’m also happy that Shylah had some extra cuddles and found a protector in you. Our own dogs were scared of thunder and fire crackers (especially in Mexico) as well.

    Happy February!

    1. Hi Liesbet,
      Happy February to you too. I’m glad you’re back in San Diego and back to your regular, television-free lives. Oh how I long for the ability to walk an hour a day, every day, without boots and heavy coats, sweaters, scarves, hats, mitts. I’m sure you have a new appreciation for the luxury.

  13. Hi Karen
    Just a couple of comments:
    -I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of my typewriter as well. There is something satisfying about the sound it makes and then throwing the return at the end of the line.
    -I look forward to reading more about your grandmother and glad you are remembering so much about her both in feelings and actions
    -Shylah’s story continues to be fascinating.
    -And i am looking forward to your post on Intuitive eating.

    1. Thanks, Fran.
      The HanxWriter app is so much fun that, if it ever stops working, I’ll seriously consider buying a typewriter…as long as I can still get ribbons for it. I suspect I can. I just the other day read a post by a 20something woman who bought a typewriter because she wants to start sending personal letters to friends. Everything old is new again.

  14. Wonderful update, Karen. I am so glad that you have come through the retirement transition period with a framework and set of goals that works for you. You sound happy.

    Between walking, hiking, skiing, and yoga, I am finding that I have been more active this year so far than last year. I always feel best when I am active and outdoors.

    I presently have three books in progress — a non-fiction one, a novel, and an academic book. I do find that blog reading and other online reading is edging out some of my book reading time.


    1. I’m so impressed with your physically active lifestyle, Jude. That’s something that has never been hugely strong in my life, but has really fallen by the wayside even more in the last few years. I’ll have to take a page from your book and get out there more!

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