in which Theresa considers a blogging anniversary

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Do you think about why you blog?  Do you set goals, have a schedule of blog posts?  Perhaps you participate in blog challenges, such as weekly photo challenges or topics.  What makes you thrilled about blogging, what keeps you motivated, what do you most enjoy about blogging?  What do you enjoy the least?

This spring I realized I am coming up on the fifth anniversary of my “Lab Notes” blog in August.  When I started this blog I had no idea where it would take me.  In fact, I wrote a blog post about the start of this blog last year (Feb. 2017), in which I described hoping for a way to overcome writer’s block, a difficult challenge that has plagued me all my life.  What I didn’t realize then is how much I would enjoy the community I had become a part of.  I am grateful for those blogger-writers who have touched my life, and I theirs.

Writing is a solitary pursuit, and I am grateful to those who have taken their time to read my work, and those who have shared their thoughts in a message.  Even though you may be across the globe from me, or across the country, your warmth and kind reassurance have been important and affirming.  Thank you!

As I approach the five-year anniversary of my Lab Notes blog, I would love to hear about what makes blogging worthwhile for you.  Have you changed how you blog over time?  Do you have specific goals or objectives with your blog?  How does your blogging become a part of your other creative pursuits?  What advice would you give someone who is just starting their own blog?

Thank you for visiting!  I’m looking forward to hearing even more from you soon.


Throwback Thursday: Barker Garage
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

For many years my grandfather operated an auto repair shop in Tucson, Arizona, “Barker Garage.”  Located on 6th Street, it still had the sign on the building back in 2010 when this picture was taken (found on Flickr).  My grandfather’s name was Howard Barker; he learned to work on cars in the first World War, according to my dad’s retelling.  A few years back my younger son had to interview a veteran for a school project, and my dad shared some photos of my grandfather’s service time in WWI.  My dad told us that my grandfather learned the trade of engine repair during the war.  He also fell in love with motorcycles; in fact, there is a family story that Grandpa Barker made his own motorcycle from spare parts!

My father told stories of working in his father’s garage as a teenager, and I remember him working on cars he owned while we were growing up.  During the 1960s he owned a series of sports cars, including an Aston Martin, a Lotus Elan (!), and eventually a ’70s Corvette T-Top.  When my dad owned his sports cars, I was too young to truly appreciate them, but I do remember riding in these cars at various times when we visited my Dad on weekends, and those memories bring back a smile.

Back in the day, my dad might take my sister and me to Volunteer Park in Seattle, and we’d park in front of the Seattle Art Museum.  Out front were two camel statues from China, which we nicknamed as we climbed on them.  (A long tradition existed of museum camel-climbing before conservators moved them indoors and provided climb-friendly replicas a few years back, as I discovered in this blog post from SAM.)  We called them “Yesterday” and “Tomorrow.”  My dad would park in one of the open spaces right in front of the museum, and we’d scamper off to the camels while he’d wax his car in the parking space.  One way to pass the time!

I never had the chance to visit my grandfather’s garage in Tucson, but I found an interior shot of the building from Flickr that was taken a few years back.  The photographer has noted that the equipment “must be 50-60 years old, still works fine,” and my thoughts are, what a wonderful family legacy, to think of our grandfather’s workplace still being intact in 2007 when the photo was taken, even though my grandfather had long retired, and he had passed away before the end of the 20th century.  There is something about seeing a palpable representation of one’s family history like this that really connects you to a sense of heritage and shared family feelings and accomplishments.


Photographer’s caption:  “This is an alignment pit. The cars are driven out onto the calibrated ramps, the front wheels onto the turntables. Nowadays, car alignments are computerized done with a lift. The equipment must be 50-60 years old, still works fine.” (Photo dated Jan. 2007)

Our family still reminisces about our time in Tucson, even though we’re spread across the country these days.  It’s hard to believe, but the building is still there, at least according to Google maps!  – Minus the “Barker Garage” sign.  135 East 6th Street

Screenshot-2018-5-31 135 E 6th St
From Google Maps.

Does your family have traditional recollections?  Do you ever revisit a place you spent time at when you were young?

Have you ever looked at tea?

Photo by Theresa Barker.

This morning I made a cup of tea.  Have you ever looked at tea?  If you take a look at tea, before the leaves are brewed, each leaf is curled up into itself, like a little piece of a mystery.  And then, when you add hot water, voilá!  The leaves unfurl and emit their special fragrance and taste.

Doesn’t that seem magical?  Every time I scoop out a spoonful of tea leaves and drop them into a tea leaf infuser I just think, wow.  It may be a tiny thing, but it’s a lovely and wonderful thing, all the same.

Photo by Theresa Barker.

And here’s the result! A lovely cup of oolong tea and the basket infuser of unfurled leaves. Doesn’t that look amazing?

Do you drink tea?  What is your favorite type of tea?  I’m partial to Oolong, but I also enjoy Darjeeling, Assam, and other flavors and types of tea.  If it’s really good tea, the first swallow makes me feel happy.

Indie Bookstore Day, part 2

Photo credit: Third Place Books, Seward Park, Seattle.

This weekend my daughter and I had the chance to go to another bookstore and claim our “prize” for making it all the way around our bookstore tour earlier this month.  We had refreshments, including yummy spice cake with cream cheese frosting, and we visited with other bookstore lovers and staff.  Super-fun!  Here we are!

Tea and Writing . . .

. . . My adventure with tea (above) reminded me of the power in small details.  If you are a writer, photographer, artist, you know what I’m talking about!  There is a talent – isn’t there? – in being to take a moment to see things, really see things, that are small and easy to miss.  And they say, that’s the way into poetry and other art, noticing small details.  And making something out of them!  What do you think?




Independent Bookstore Day! – April 28th

Photo credit: Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Last month my daughter and I took off on adventure – in our own back yard!  Inspired by an article in the Seattle Times by literary critic Moira Macdonald, we took the challenge to visit 19 different bookstores in the Seattle area in ONE DAY, thereby qualifying for a 25% discount ALL YEAR at the bookstores on the tour.  Wow.  We started at 7:55 in the morning on Saturday morning, riding the Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island, where we visited two bookstores on the same street, including Eagle Harbor Books (our photo above).  For fun, they had tiny muffins for us to munch on, – and! they took our photo beautifully for posting on Instagram.  So fun!

Fast-forward through 18 more bookstores, we visited Poulsbo, Edmonds, the Eastside, and then several bookstores in a variety of Seattle neighborhoods.  Taking a break for lunch at another ferry terminal – yummy crepes! – and an afternoon tea break at Petit Pierre Bakery – scrumptious French tea! – before winding up at Ada’s Technical Books on Capitol Hill at 8:00 pm.  Whew!  We were exhausted.  Luckily for us, right next door we had a delicious and well-deserved meal at Coastal Kitchen.  I had savory Arctic Char, and my daughter had hearty Wild Boar meat pie, from their “Quebec Touring Menu” and I can still taste the delicate and robust flavors we enjoyed at that meal.  – Not to mention an illuminating conversation together about all-things-books!

What I remember most about our day together is the feeling of visiting bookstores we had never been in before.  We visited a colorful cookbook-store, an inviting poetry-only store, several local- and welcoming-stores, old favorites, large and small spaces, places with old-fashioned typewriters set out to type on, and lots more.  It was truly an adventure – although also a very long trek, lots of driving and parking and walking and driving and parking and walking and . . . you get the idea.

But, I’m already thinking ahead to next year, when I’d love to “cherry-pick” our favorite places and go back there.  If you visit three or more shops and get your passport stamped, you get a one-time 30% off discount, and that will be enough.  It’ll be fun to really stop and enjoy our favorites over the day without the mad rush to visit all nineteen!

What a lovely gift of a whole day together with my daughter.  Just in time for Mother’s Day!

Where have I been?

Where have I been, where have I been?  I’ve been enjoying catching up on other bloggers’ posts, even while I’ve been somewhat absent on my own blog recently.  I have been putting all my focus on my “Little Book of Lies” collection, during the last part of April, and even before, striving to get the complete manuscript done.  This is my small-book-sized collection of stories involving various kinds of lies and lying.  I’m delighted to report I completed the manuscript on May 1st.  Hoorah!

What a wonderful feeling, to have a whole complete set of writing that you’ve invented and developed, edited and polished, to read each story and feel a sense of satisfaction that you’ve got the story doing what you wanted it to do.  It can take a long time to get to this point; I first started drafting this set of stories back in 2016, as all flash-fiction, and then I came back to the stories last fall (2017), to evaluate which were ready and complete, and which need strengthening.  All winter and early spring I’ve worked on bringing these stories along, so that I could have a complete manuscript ready for submission.  It’s a great feeling to see the nearly-85 pages in one chunk on my desk, to leaf though them and recall the sense of wonder as I recall each character, the settings and the stories, and to feel I’ve done my best.

The manuscript is a short one – only about 22,000 words – where a novel-length book runs about 60,000 to 80,000 words.  However, I’ve got a couple of other companion projects in the pipeline, which I’m calling “The Little Books of Monsters” and “The Little Book of Fables.”  Assuming those projects run about the same length (20K-25K words), I may be able to present all three books together for a publishable project.  How fun.  Wish me luck on these two upcoming projects!

Looking Up!

Photo by Theresa Barker.

Remember those lobby photos I’ve posted about before? Here’s an updated photo! When I walk through the lobby of this building every week I think of all of you on my blog. Thank you for your interest!

For cat lovers

My friend and fellow writer and blogger Luanne Castle often posts about her cats, and I always enjoy catching up on her cat household.  Here’s a photo of one of our cats, Pickles.  She’s looking very hopeful for getting attention.

Photo by Theresa Barker.

A postscript about bookstores

Why are we celebrating independent bookstores?

Independent bookstores are not just stores, they’re community centers and local anchors run by passionate readers. They are entire universes of ideas that contain the possibility of real serendipity. They are lively performance spaces and quiet places where aimless perusal is a day well spent. – from the “Independent Bookstore Day” website

Do you have a favorite bookstore?  Or how about a favorite library, even better!  Are you working on a writing project of your own outside the world of blogging?  I’d love to hear from you.  Happy May!

April 2018

It’s Earth Day! My April author newsletter has a small poetry study, and a writing tip, “Improvisations,” featuring the work of poet William Carlos Williams. Take a look!

Theresa J. Barker

Photo by Theresa Barker.

I am sitting at my desk this Sunday morning, looking out at the overcast sky that promises sun later on. The 100-foot Douglas Fir tree outside my window is popping forth with small orange mini-cones – pollen pods? – on the tips of its green-needle branches, like little kernels of orange popcorn dusted across its boughs. A squirrel prances along a long branch inside the sheltered-needle casing of the tree, two – no three! – stories above the ground.

Squirrels are so amazingly unafraid to scamper along waving boughs of maple trees in my neighborhood, or atop the thin wire of an electrical connection to the power pole outside. They seem to think nothing of it. It makes me think: what am I afraid of, and how might I overcome my fears? Years and years of evolution have probably given the squirrels in my yard their…

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