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I am a published author! In 2011, I published my first book, Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: a Journal. In 2014, I published my second book, A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way. In 2017, I published my latest book, Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read. At this rate, book four should be ready in 2020. Yikes! It’s almost time to consider a topic.

In the meantime, I’m going to write a talk that I can deliver to audiences, sharing my experiences authoring, publishing, and promoting my books. What will I say?

That depends on what audiences want to know. For now, I’ll put my imagination to work and think about one member of my audience—you.

Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty

You might like to know that before I started writing about Froggy and his critter friends, I could feel a book percolating. Then on Leap Year day, February 29, 2016, the bubbles surfaced. Froggy has a wart that one day is gone, gone, gone. He wasn’t sure how this happened. Froggy, Flutter By, Orchid, Sweetie B, Bobalong Bird, and their other critter friends would help me to explore and discover healing and wellness.

You might like to know that while writing about Froggy, I was ensconced in a happy place. I sat at the beautiful cherry writer’s desk that my woodworker brother built especially for me. Using a new laptop computer, I wrote in brief stints of maybe an hour or so before starting my workday. From the window at my left, I looked at the changing seasons and let the stories—30 or so slices of life—write themselves.

You might like to know that while writing about Froggy, it occurred to me that, if Mom were still alive, she would be 100 on May 28, 2017. That gave me a goal. Books would be in hand to distribute to family and friends who would gather on that day. I am happy to say, “Mission accomplished.”

A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That

You might like to know about the origins for this book—a combination cookbook, inspiration, and memoir. I called my cousin to wish her well on upcoming surgery. The worrying tone changed when I asked for one of Grandma’s famous recipes. “Let’s start a cookbook,” she suggested. “You send an email to all the cousins, with a copy to me, requesting favorite recipes,” I responded. And so it began.

You might like to know that a few recipes trickled in. Then a few more arrived. I forwarded all arriving emails so that the cousins and others could see how this project was taking shape. More recipes arrived as well as requests to include Larry’s Potato Latkes (pancakes), Aunt Jeanette’s Stuffed Cabbage, Mom’s Chocolate Sponge Cake, Grandma’s special Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie. Stories accompanied the recipes and the requests—heartwarming remembrances of cooks and kitchens that continue to nourish and sustain.

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An excerpt from Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud by Judith Ellison Shenouda

When all is well and good in Froggy’s world, there’s a sense of light—light weight, light load, light mood, light head, and light heart.

Froggy stretches and straightens all fours and jumps higher and higher. As if on a springboard and becoming weightless, up, up, up Froggy goes and then gently lands, this time on the lanky, long, lush, green grass growing from terra firma, swaying to and fro, right next to Froggy’s watering hole.

With all the leaps and bounds, Froggy seeks nourishment. A teeny, tiny bug and a wayward ant are just enough to satisfy his hunger and yet maintain a lithe Froggy physique.

During this particular day, Froggy feels especially playful. After all, today is the summer solstice and the sun rises early and sets late. This is a day of light, more light, and more light still. On this day, the hot sun with a powerful, strong beam feels so, so good drying Froggy’s damp, soggy back.

Venturing from the pond, the thick, silky grass tickles Froggy’s toes and legs and tummy, making Froggy laugh and laugh and laugh again. “Croak, croak, croak. Ha, ha, ha.”

“How my critter friends amuse me, day in and day out. Let me explain.”

For Froggy’s explanation and more slices of life well lived, read Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud, available at Create Space, Amazon, and other online stores. There’s fun, inspiration, and wisdom on every page.

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A word cloud of sweet talk you’ll read in Froggy’s World of Plenty

On February 29, 2016, Leap Year Day, I started a story here about Froggy. I added a another blog entry about Froggy and his critter friends, and then I added another, and then I added yet another. Along the way, while writing and imagining the critters’ perfect world of plenty, I set a goal. On May 28, 2017, Froggy’s story would be a book that I could distribute at a gathering to honor my dear mother on what would have been her 100th birthday. That wonderful day has now come and gone. Family and friends have their books in hand.

Here is a slice of life just for you from Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud.

A hobby makes one limber, lively, and lovely

The critters all had hobbies, activities that brought them pleasure and joy.

Some of the hobbies were physical. Anty Annie, believe it or not, was into body building. She would position each limb, assume a perfect posture, and pose.

Bumbler B and Sweetie B often listened to the birdsongs around them, and they would whirl and twirl and dance, dance, dance.

Flutter By was crafty, indeed. She loved fabrics, textures, and colors, and could she ever sew and knit caps, capes, and other wearable art.

Fuzzy Chick Chick loved teaching Baby Chick Chick how to decorate egg shells with squares and diamonds, dots and lines, and curls and swirls.

Mama Orchid and daughter Minnie O loved to collect and categorize. They had samples of every type of orchid around. They could identify even the minutest details of their pedigree.

Mr. Tree was deeply into genealogy. He meticulously observed the roots and scrupulously studied the origins of his many critter friends. Read More

bookclub

Are you a member of a book club? If so, you may wonder if your book club is representative of the many, many book clubs that thrive in so many venues and so many communities throughout the U.S. and the world. If you are not yet fortunate enough to be part of a book club, you might have wondered what exactly occurs.

To book club members who are curious about other clubs, to book club wannabes, and, especially, to members of the Nonfiction Book Club I’m attending tomorrow, here’s a sneak preview of what to expect.

Our book club protocol

In our book club, members arrive promptly, since the room typically is full with 20 or so serious readers gathered around a large conference table in our town’s library. Club membership is exclusive, only in the sense that we are serious readers. We each attend voluntarily and welcome whoever walks in the door. Often first-timers become regulars.

We select our books for the coming year in December, and, at each month’s meeting, the library provides copies of the book for the following month, which we check out and begin to read. Club members take turns leading the discussion and do so willingly (or with a gentle nudge). Each month’s leader brings a unique, personal style to the table. What all share is a commitment to creating an atmosphere that is respectful. We talk and we listen. We explore many facets of a book and we learn.

Our book for this month is The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan. It will be my pleasure (truly!) to lead tomorrow’s discussion, since I loved, loved, loved this book.

Here’s what I have in mind:

Greet everyone who walks in the door—the regulars and the newbies. Be sure that everyone has a nametag, a copy of the year’s schedule, and “Talking About Nonfiction Books”—a discussion sheet that club members assembled over time.

Kick off the discussion with a brief introduction (my name, length of time with the book club, interests, and so forth) and ask others to do the same. As part of their introductions, ask them to share a few aspects of the book that they want to discuss.

With pencil (yes, always a pencil with an eraser) in hand, I circle items on the discussion sheet that we should cover during our time together and scribble notes. For me, this sheet, with everyone’s input noted, guides the give-and-take that ensues.

I then let people talk. Let them ask. Let them discuss. Let them argue (amicably). The task is to simply herd the cats.

My two cents

Every now and then, I throw in my two cents. Read More

Remember I wrote about Froggy who wonders what made that annoying wart wander away? Well, every now and then, I think about Froggy and his human friends who experience wellness, somewhat mystified as to how the healing really occurred.
I committed to writing Froggy’s story and I’ve made some progress. I’ve dipped into my own well, my reservoir, my creative source for exploring wellness. I needed a place to hold what pokes through the gray matter and created a template for my new book. I simply took the file for my earlier book, stripped away the content, and had place savers for a book title, subtitle, front matter, chapters, and end matter. I had styles for headings, paragraphs, lists, and quotes. With a container all set to go, I pasted my start to Froggy’s story into a chapter. With the momentum building, I was on a roll.
About This Book started to take shape.

Wellness is all encompassing. It touches all aspects of one’s being. Wellness permeates—and transcends—the person. When one is well, there’s a sense of wholeness, a sense that all is right with the world.
Annoyances, irritations, aches, and pain subside, fade away, dissipate, and disappear. One becomes open to the light. One is free to attend to the good, the sacred, even the holy.
Experts in various disciplines know something about wellness. The doctor… The nutritionist… The athlete… The naturalist… The musician… The entertainer… All have their take on the subject.
Yet, the composite from the many disciplines is not the whole story. A mystical ingredient exists. In the process of writing this book, I am hopeful that the known ingredients of wellness and the mystical might just meet.

The Dedication helped me to establish a timeline.
With my late mother’s 100th birthday one year from now, I have a goal—to honor the occasion with a book in hand, one that serves as an expression of a daughter’s love and admiration.
Progress is sweet.
What I have, thus far, accomplished are little steps toward turning an idea into a book. Yet, little steps are steps nevertheless. Progress is sweet. I feel good.

Judy and Franken

Judy and Franken

Over the Thanksgiving holiday with siblings in the home where I grew up, I was delighted to see the beautiful cypress bench that my woodworker brother Larry crafted and placed in front of the house. We considered the text that would go on a plaque. Larry’s idea is to get to the point!

Back in Happy Days when families roamed this street, here resided the Shulmans, Ellisons, and Sohls. A ’57 Chevy in the driveway. Kids playing ball, riding bikes, going to music lessons. The Euclid of old, a different place, a different time.

When I arrived back home for our Christmas Day gathering, the bench was occupied. There sat Franken, the newest addition to the neighborhood. While getting acquainted, I had a thing or two to share about our family home, our refuge for five generations. As it turned out, Franken had some words to share with me.

Judy Talks to Franken

Franken, I love seeing you here, waving to the many passersby who are walking, biking, and driving on this busy street, often on their way to classes, work, ballgames, and activities at the nearby campus. Some fitness enthusiasts are passing by the house—and you—before crossing the street to climb the 176 steep steps that lead to a vista of the neighborhood and the city with its landmarks and parks, its drumlins and lakes.

When my Grandpa Shulman (also known as Poppy or Pa) bought this two-family home in the spring of 1951, he had lots of company. There was Grandma, who passed away before the year was over, two daughters—my mother Gertrude and my Aunt Jeanette, my dad Sam, and four Ellison and three Sohl kids. In time, another Ellison baby added to the tumult of a lively family home.

We Ellisons lived upstairs, and our Pa and the Sohls lived downstairs. It made no difference whether you lived up or down, since doors were rarely closed and never locked. Pa, a very handy man, always seemed to be painting, wallpapering, chipping plaster, making a little hole into a big one in one room or another. If there wasn’t enough to do upstairs or downstairs, he was outdoors, pouring concrete to repair the sidewalk.

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With the support of its sponsors—both Impact Earth and Education Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Executive Leadership at St. John Fisher College—Thinking Forward, a speaker’s troupe I helped start, celebrated National Swap Ideas Day on September 10 with a program that included talks from three Millennials and a dance performance from the Avenue D Afro Latino Dance Group.

The Millennials, the young dancers (aged four to 13 years old), and the more seasoned participants in the room all wrote out their answers to the following question, shared it with someone in the room, and placed it in an Idea Box. Here is what they wrote, clustered into various categories.

What is needed to transform this world into a richer, more vibrant place?

Friends and neighbors

My idea is to move more and smile.

My idea is to give more hugs because everyone is struggling with something and hugs are free!

Make more connections to change other people’s lives!

My idea is to be a friend and be grateful. How to be grateful? That means you need to be nice!

We can say hi to people we pass on the street and our neighborhood.

Say hello to everyone in the neighborhood.

We need to get to know our neighbors first and then go beyond and introduce ourselves to someone new!

Pet Introduction Day. A small group of people meet to introduce their pets and, in doing so, meet each other. It’s like a blind date for dogs or cats with people as the hosts. It would help single and elderly people with pets meet each other.

Sharing

Have more food shares.

Start with a potluck with your neighbors.

Have community tool shares.

Swap houses.

Have one month of tech that’s free.

Involvement

Find time during the year to donate energy, time, and resources to a cause that influences the local community. Get involved!

I would like more activities that allow us to get involved.

Use the Slow Road idea of getting up off your couch to motivate students to explore new ideas that will help everyone contribute to something positive for the community.

Invite others to come out and try something.

My idea is not to make things worse.

Cleaning

Clean garbage in the street and keep it clean.

I can clean and keep promises and respect everyone around me.

One thing I could do to improve my community is to have a cleaning group every week to clean my community.

Safety

We should have more police present in the community.

Create a safe public place for people to gather and exchange ideas on a regular basis.

No more violence in the world.

Parks and gardens

I love vertical community parks and gardens.

I would like to see more community gardens.

My idea is to start a neighborhood garden with all of my friends.

Schools

My idea is to make my school a better place.

Arts and music

Have people tell their stories so everyone knows what everyone else is doing.

Do storytelling.

I think everyone should learn to play a drum.

Have music in the community. Different types of musically inclined people gather at various venues and play for each other.

To make the dance group a better place is to make sure that everyone comes on time and every day.

Have more community dance groups.

Sustainability

Bring your own reusable bags (BYOB) initiative.

Take compost buckets to work.

Do recycling in public schools. There is so much paper and waste.

Make a sustainable impact.

Chocolate

I would like to encourage everyone to know where chocolate comes from and what community is impacted. Read More