Famous, Infamous, and Notorious Firsts Revisited by Janine M. Donoho

Self portrait

When this website launched, I introduced myself via firsts, and a giddy lift-off it was. Never fear, the navel gazing implicit in attempts at age 7 to write about planets (of which Pluto no longer qualifies), my angst-riddled teen poetry, and my first produced play at 16? Omitted. In fact, I didn’t want to write about writing at all. Instead, consider this my hand extended to those who relish a shared virtual journey.

Cowgirl

Cowgirl resolve

So, ahoy, fellow voyagers. Let us cast off from the shores of Mundania and make this fun. There will be pictures…beginning with my 1st cowgirl hat.

Springer spaniel Pete & me

Springer spaniel Pete & me

1st best dog buddy: Springer spaniel Pete, who saved my diaper-clad butt by grabbing onto it as I rolled out the car door on a corner in South San Francisco.

1st best girlfriend: Teresa Giles, with whom I fished for catfish and carp, rode horseback through the Ponderosa pine forests and sagebrush steppes of our youth, and survived the first 10 years of schooling in Washoe Valley, Nevada.

Swing in Washoe Valley - Polly Jo, Robbie, moi, Shell, Teresa

Swing in Washoe Valley – Polly Jo, Robbie, moi, Shell, Teresa

1st amazing son: Chad Elliott, young man extraordinaire, who finds his joy with his equally brilliant and beautiful companion Shannon. He spins and mixes incandescent music, then prepares incomparable meals paired with

My oh-so-cool DJ/Chef/Sommelier son

My oh-so-cool DJ, chef, & sommelier son

the perfect wine.

1st best horse buddy: Jumpin’ Jack Flash, who I miss daily; great-hearted beauty of thoroughbred and quarter horse ancestry.

My very own Jumpin' Jack Flash

My very own Jumpin’ Jack Flash

1st whippet: Amanda Pandemonium, a washed-out show dog at birth, who brightened my day with her liquid gaze and joyous attitude even as she proved lethal to rodents.

Patrick & Mandy

Patrick & Mandy

1st rescued greyhound: Patrick, a magnificent companion gone from this world. This greyt continues to romp through my dreams.

1st girlfriend trip through EuropeBackpacks and public transportation saw us through France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. Gnocci, anyone? Here we are at Der Hofbräuhaus in Munich.

Besties in Munchen at Hof Brauhous

Besties in Munchen at Hofbräuhaus

Malaysian gate 17

Land of extravagant gates

1st trip to Malaysia: I emptied my backpack to bring back gorgeous fabrics and other lush trifles.

1st trip to Morocco: Yes, I went to Morocco and all the boys at home got Moroccan soccer jerseys. For me, mint tea began to equate with stunning rugs.

Rugs and mint tea

Rugs and mint tea

Intrepid Guy, dad & adventurous soul

Intrepid Guy, dad & adventurous soul

1st Class whitewater rafting: We began in Tumwater Canyon on the Wenatchee River—and yes, I went for my first swim. Here’s a river picture with the Captain of my Heart.

1st trip to Greece: History, anyone? Also, dogs & cats galore with all their bits attached—so shocking to Americans, who spay and neuter most domestic critters.

Nafplio - Dog, butcher shop, guy with opposable thumbs--perfect

Nafplio – Dog, butcher shop, guy with opposable thumbs–perfect

Clockwise in the thumbhole to make a wish

Clockwise in the thumb hole to make a wish

1st trip to Turkey: Cities carved from the earth and amazing textiles became my focus along with a millennia of sustainable agriculture. I once considered living there…

1st trip to Spain: Otherwise known as the sangria tour. We wept at the beauty and rhythmic poetry of Andalusian stallions, who danced just for me.

Seville April Fair

Seville April Fair

Hiking along the Portuguese Med

Hiking along the Portuguese Med

1st trip to Portugal: Can tiles be more beautiful? Also, we experienced the best calamari ever eaten.

1st trip to Egypt: Baksheesh demanded and sheesha experienced; Bedouins on the Red Sea. ‘Nough said.

Donkey drover & me

Donkey drover & me

1st pedicure: Yep, and most likely the last. Too much lost life in maintenance, don’t you know?

Now let us raise a glass to all the firsts in life—and perhaps to those finales we’ll have before we’re done. What’s on your list of firsts?

1st Moroccan carpet

1st & perhaps last pedi offset by Moroccan carpet

Passageways: Breaking through to the other side by Janine Donoho

Snow gateWhile hiking in the snow today, a freestanding gate materialized from the mist. Not intended to protect livestock, this was another silly human attempt to restrict access. It clamored “mine, mine, mine” even as deer, coyote, and bobcat prints infringed on its periphery. My response? Gateways offer a way in—a transition between this side and the other. In other words, a call to adventure.Alhambra

EgyptWritten transitions elicit the same sense of excitement for me. No, I’m not talking about those boring, yet necessary, expressions that unify your opus via “and, whereas, because, yet, immediately…” Yawn. I’m more interested in the movement between one action and the next, which eventually develops as conflict, plot, and story arc. Those, I want to be dynamic, elegant, and somewhat imperceptible.

Now back to corporeal entryways. During international journeys, each culture’s approach to either invitation or deterrent fed my curiosity. Thus I’ve filled albums, both virtual and concrete, with photos of portals between one space and another. What insights I’ve gained animate my writing.Malaysian gate 17

Essaouira, MoroccoSo enjoy this visual of portals. May they rouse your inquisitiveness and make you want to explore what’s on the other side. Our efforts as storytellers aspire to invite readers in, after all, and travels to the other side can enrich that experience.GatesMoroccan doorCasablanca

Gone Missing by Janine M. Donoho


You may find it astonishing that a person can go missing from the electron cloud that defines our world. Especially to those in such forward-thinking nations as Malaysia and Nigeria, where most commerce occurs on smart phones, this seems far-fetched.

However here in the United States of America, we enjoy spotty coverage at best. And when a monster wildfire like Carlson Complex melts the few fiber optics supplying this rural area, well, some of us disappear—or at least temporarily plummet from the vibrating electrons that generate the cloud.

Frankly, when measured against the loss of 300 homes, 250,000+ acres of living earth and incalculable numbers of dead and maimed critters, both wild and domestic, this proves an infinitesimal concern.

So allow me to direct you to a storyboard of summer in the Okanogan desert of Washington state. Let the photos serve as chronicle.

Now before the next supercell of thunderstorms rolls in, I’m off to finish my edit of SOUNDINGS, Water Elemental.

Where We Are Now by Janine M. Donoho

Memories can be triggered by scent, sound, and touch–basically any sensory input. Or we can find we’ve lost a vital link when we need it most. Having experienced both ends of the spectrum, I’ve learned it helps to absorb where I am now.

A stunning Irish setter named Harold comes to mind. Upon release from the van, he repeatedly leaped straight into the air. Once he discharged sheer exuberance, he shot off into the intoxicating unknown stretching before him. Harold never looked back to see where he started. Not once. Okay, he was Dog and lived in the moment. I get the difference.

During last year’s escapade to Malaysia with the fabulous Ying, who served as tour guide and hunter-gatherer extraordinaire, none of those breathless lost moments reared their shaggy heads. You know the ones. They unexpectedly flare up in foreign environs where language skills fall flat. We experienced two super malls that elicited ‘turn-to-see-where-you-start’ flashes. Queen’s Mall in Penang proved an easy warm-up to the monstrous edifice of Mid Valley Kuala Lumpur. We could still be wandering the parking levels there. Instead we memorized where we started.

Being present or ‘in the moment’ may come across as new agey. Yet why not try it? I’ve wallowed in the past to the point where anthropology courses offered a great fit. I’ve also hyper-anticipated events, then missed what was right in front of me. These experiences count as warm up phases to the idea of now.

Mistborn Trilogy Comes

During months of travel through ancient lands, I learned the tough way to turn and study where my trek began. Many landscapes in Europe, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey and North Africa are laid out in medieval fashion. You can wander for hours before stumbling onto a familiar place. This turns out to be especially true after long ferry, train or bus rides when your brain’s in freefall and language skills falter. Breathing helps.

Of course, now I plant myself in my writing chair nearly every day. Yes, I still sink into story, which takes me elsewhere–and follow gladly. However as I revisit my MISTBORN world, wending my way through avenues and topographies I designed, I find it’s good to look around and take note of where I begin. Sometimes it even works.

Tripping II by Janine M. Donoho

Rambutan, mangos, papaya…
“One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.” While Henry Miller’s words can be life-changing, actual journeys take me further. Thus, Malaysia trumps even Miller’s edgy writing.
            Now a confession. During the interval between May and now, a case of the doldrums swamped me in a ludicrous attempt to ‘overcome life’. After all, the permanent solution to life is, yes, death. Suffice it to say that a death, a wedding, a breakup, and a retirement scattered among friends and family along with my body’s new and exciting autoimmune responses have rolled me down bumpy slopes and over a few rocky hummocks. Where I am now serves as a dynamic resting point. Cue the music for ‘That’s Life’.
Yum–breakfast dessert
            With little interest in rushing toward that absolute end, let this be a resurrection of sorts–an attempt to celebrate this moment or, if nothing else, occupy this moment. Let me start by celebrating the amazing women I met in Malaysia. Of course, this includes my travel companion, the fabulous and often brilliantly contrary Ah-Ying. She drove us along the wrong side of the road, parked in places too small to possibly accommodate our vehicle and took me on food gathering forays that exemplify her intent to ‘eat her way through Malaysia’. Yes, I was her boon companion in this, too. So much tropical fruit, so little time.
A cuppa with Anna
            I met Anna at her and her partner’s hawker stall, where they offered a brisk trade in locals’ favorite American breakfast. While I passed on the fare, the Malaysian white coffee turned me from teetotaler to current French Roast aficionado each morning. Later at a private club, Anna’s marvelous vocals coaxed me into dancing barefoot with another woman. Somehow we blended Middle Eastern and Malaysian dance sensibilities into a memorable evening.
Juliet’s Fluffy Pups
            During a time when we travelers sharply missed our home dog packs, Juliet shared puppy love from her poodle litter. Fluffy little bundles of fur staved off the worst pangs. Then cut to a night of karaoke where I learned that when someone takes the mike and stands up, prepare to be astonished. Juliet and her guy Robert provided brilliant moments of vocal beauty.
            Can we talk shopping? Ah-Ying, stepmom Joann and Ang Guat furthered the daunting task of accumulating music and costumes for my dance troupe. They marched me through Little India and the best Malaysian shopping centers, then celebrated our successes with sublime traditional Chinese food.
Dr. Tan’s racers
            Then there’s Lin, whose memorable ‘Sh-t, sh-t, sh-t’, offered in the way of a kitten sneezing, made me laugh. She engenders the most blissful approach to life and her circuitous tour of the best hawker stalls and restaurants equates with a professional foodies’ tour. Through her husband, Dr. Tan, a veterinarian and thoroughbred horse trainer, I got close enough to touch, smell, and bliss out those stunning four-legged athletes.
Ah-Ying & Yuk Lin in durian heaven
            Sakmoi, Sean Hoay, Jackie and other teachers proffered both insights and energizing conversation over scrumptious meals. Evidently, Chinese-Malaysian children do not freeze in the bright light of profound learning. While here in the states, parents express concerns over maintaining ‘authenticity’ in our children versus the necessity of learning well and deeply, Chinese-Malaysian graduates participate successfully in this increasingly competitive world. Galvanized by high parental expectation along with after-hour tutorials in physics, mathematics and other tough subjects, their children thrive before rising to become their best selves. Yuk Lin, an attorney who now lives in Singapore, epitomizes this approach to success. For fun Ah-Ying, Yuk Lin and I hiked Penang Hill before eating well of laksa and durian in Balik Pulau.
Women in Ah-Ying’s Family Tree
            After an upscale meal in Kuala Lumpur, we shivered deliciously over ghost tales in Adeline’s plush hotel room overlooking the stunning cityscape. In attendance were the extended family of women in Ying’s tree including Annie and Mei Queen.
Auntie Anna’s Restaurant
            Just before leaving, Ah-Ying and I sat with Auntie Anna, wife to the marvelous Chee, who serves as adviser to the Peat Forest Recovery group. We ate sublimely of beautifully prepared food from Anna’s ‘restaurant’.
           At 36 hours away by planes, trains and automobiles, allow me to raise a cup of coffee to these extraordinary women. I wish you well, my distant friends. Thank you, one and all.
For more pix, go to my Facebook page.

Tripping I by Janine M. Donoho

I’m going away, I cannot stay, I’m leaving my true love today…’ These words came from a singing round that recalls long bus rides and deep friendships. They also carry with them the excitement and joy of seeing new places and experiencing life outside the box. Which is why when my friend YingYing Lim invited me to travel to Malaysia this year, I jumped at the chance. Okay, jumped wouldn’t be entirely correct. In truth, I counted my rupees and knew, knew that no way could I afford this trip. At the same time, I also knew I could not afford emotionally and mentally to miss this chance. Thus, I’m paying the exorbitant fee airlines charge for 38 hours of transit and going.

My last long sojourn occurred five years ago and encompassed Egypt and Morocco with short stays in Paris and London both between and afterward. The actual Egyptian trip proved more difficult than any other treks before. Almost immediately, my travel partner became ill with a parasite. The places we stayed often challenged the body to recuperate from long jags with public transportation. Additionally, this Muslim-male dominated country tested me on personal issues that no other trip had done. For instance, should I have stayed out of the fray when a feral pack of young males beat and tormented a mother dog and her remaining pup? Probably. But I didn’t. My shock and sadness over how depleted Egypt’s historical wonders had become along with the continuing plundering made me realize I wasn’t interested in returning to this country again. I’ve never felt that way before. Plus, I tend toward being a communicator and many Muslim males simply refused to complete that necessary circle, even for simple questions. Over all, street anger was palpable. The day we flew out of Cairo, the first bombing of disembarking tourists occurred. Still, when I see where Egypt’s going now, I feel guardedly hopeful. In my mind, if the Egyptian musicians I love engage in this transition, Egypt could be fabulous.

 Morocco, our second leg of the same trip, was a completely different experience; full of joyful surprises and natural beauty. I felt that like Turkey, I could live there for a long while and enjoy exploring both history and country in more detail.

Next up–Malaysia with its predominately Malay population that calls itself 60% Islamic has called–and I’m answering. Of Chinese origin, YingYing’s primary family lives in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, while other family members live in nearby states and territories like Ipoh. Having visited and loved Singapore nearly 15 years ago, I’m looking forward to opening myself to this experience, too. Yes, I’m reading the requisite travel books by Lonely Planet, working on my polite Bahasa Malaysia phrases and tossing too many things into my backpack, soon to be distilled into essentials. The old version of ROUGH GUIDE SINGAPORE sits on my desk as does MOUSE CLUTCHING WINTER MELON (Loh Sin Kip Tong Kua) by Kuan Gnat Choo. It’s signed by the family friend to Mee Lian, YingYing’s stepmother, where we’ll be staying for a time. We’ll be hand-delivering this beloved tome to her.

Famous, Infamous, & Notorious Firsts by Janine M. Donoho

Ooh, ah. My first website as an author. I’m actually giddy with it. Since it’s a first, my brain immediately switches to firsts that led to this one. Never fear, though. You will not be inundated by my attempts at age 7 to write about planets, of which Pluto no longer qualifies, or my angst-ridden teen poetry or even my first produced play at 16. In fact, this won’t be about writing. Instead, let’s make this an intro into firsts that shaped me on a seismic level. There will be pictures…including me with my 1st cowgirl hat.

1st best dogfriend: Springer spaniel Pete, who saved my diaper-clad butt by grabbing onto it as I rolled out the car door on a corner in South San Francisco.

1st best girlfriend: Teresa Giles, with whom I fished for catfish & carp, rode horseback through the Ponderosa pine forests & sagebrush steppes of our youth, and survived the first 10 years of schooling in Washoe Valley, Nevada.

1st amazing son: Chad Elliott, young man extraordinaire, who finds his joy with his equally brilliant & beautiful wife Trina. He spins & mixes incandescent music, then prepares incomparable meals.

1st best horse buddy: Jumpin’ Jack Flash, who I miss daily; great-hearted beauty of thoroughbred & quarter horse ancestry.

1st whippet: Amanda Pandemonium, a washed-out show dog at birth, who still brightens my day with her liquid gaze & joyous, although deleterious, attention to rodents. We blondes stick together. 1st rescued greyhound: Patrick, a beautiful companion gone from this world. This greyt continues to romp through my dreams.

1st girlfriend trip through EuropeBackpacks and public transportation saw us through France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. Gnocci, anyone? Here we are at Der Hofbrauhaus in Munich.

1st trip to Malaysia: I emptied my backpack to bring back gorgeous fabrics & other lush trifles.

1st trip to Morocco: Yes, I went to Morocco and all the boys at home received were Moroccan soccer jerseys. For me, mint tea began to equate with stunning rugs. 1st class 4 whitewater rafting: We went to the end of Tumwater Canyon on the Wenatchee River–and yes, I went for my first swim. Here’s a river picture with the Captain of my Heart. 1st trip to Greece: History, anyone? Also, dogs & cats galore with all their bits attached-so shocking to Americans, who spay & neuter their domestic critters.

1st trip to Turkey: Cities carved from the earth and amazing textiles became my focus along with thousands of years of sustainable agriculture. Note the picture of Mustafa and me. I could live there…

1st trip to Spain: Otherwise known as the sangria tour. We wept at the beauty, rhythmic poetry & sadly narrow lives of the Andalusian stallions, who danced just for me.  

1st trip to Portugal: Can tiles be more beautiful? Also, we experienced the best calamari ever eaten.

1st trip to Egypt: Baksheesh demanded and sheesha experienced; Bedouins on the Red Sea. ‘Nough said. 1st pedicure: Yep, only 2 weeks ago.

Now let us raise a glass to all the 1sts in life–and perhaps to those finales we won’t know of until we’re done.

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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