J. E. Pinto's Blog: Looking on the Bright Side

March 17, 2019

St. Patrick's Day

Millions of Americans celebrate St. Patrick's Day every year. But beyond wearing shamrocks and enjoying corned beef and cabbage and Irish beer and whiskey, many of us have little knowledge about the beloved patron saint of Ireland.

The person who would come to be known as St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. At the time, Britain was a Roman colony. At age sixteen, the young man, whose Roman name may have been Maewyn Succat, was taken captive by Irish pirates and put to work as a shepherd. During his six-year captivity, he converted to Christianity and took on the name of Patrick.

After six years, Patrick escaped from slavery and returned to his family. He continued to study Christianity. Eventually, he went back to Ireland as a missionary. He challenged kings and convinced many women from wealthy families to join Catholic convents, becoming a powerful figure and upsetting the political status of the day. He taught the people about the Holy Trinity--God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, using the shamrock, a plant with three leaves. Legend has it that Patrick even caused all snakes to flee from Ireland, chasing them into the sea after they attacked him during a forty-day fast he had undertaken. The conquering of the snakes was reminiscent of the way Moses and Aaron had prevailed against the serpents of Pharaoh's sorcerer's, with the staffs of each side turning to snakes in the Book of Exodus. However, scientific evidence suggests that there hadn't been snakes in Ireland at all since the last Ice Age.

Prayer of St. Patrick:
As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
St. Patrick, orate pro nobis
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March 16, 2019


By J. E. Pinto

This is the snow I remember from my childhood--drifts of it, mounded in the sunshine, waiting to be jumped on, plowed into, climbed, carved, kicked, rolled down, and perched atop with both arms spread wide, like the queen of the world.

These days, I'm a little too old for jumping, plowing, climbing, carving, kicking, rolling, and perching. My spirit is willing, but my body has other ideas.

I walked with my fifth grader to the park, where she met her three best buds from the neighborhood. I hung out for a little while, feeling the warm sun on my face as I listened to them chase each other like young goats over the huge snowdrifts in the open field beside the elementary school. They climbed and slid, struggled and skidded, laughed and shouted, and had the kind of fun I recall from distant memories of winters long past.

Climate change is a serious problem, a terrible menace. But today, for now, I'll put those grim thoughts away. All I want to think about is four pre-teen girls having fun on an early spring afternoon in the kind of snow we hardly ever get around here anymore. I hope they never, ever forget this day.
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Published on March 16, 2019 12:48 • 1 view • Tags: children, climate-change, memories, nostalgia, snowdrifts, spring

March 14, 2019

National Pie Day

National Pie Day

Today, March 14, is National Pie Day. PI is a formula found in mathematical equations. You have probably used it at least a few times in your life, maybe not since your school days, to find the area of a circle. The formula for that is PI R squared, where R equals the radius of a circle. We celebrate pie today because of the date, 3.14, which also stands for the numbers the PI formula begins with. Any reason to enjoy good food, right? PI is never-ending, because the numbers after 3.14 go on forever. The value of PI was estimated by the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes around 200 B.C. and has been a thorn in the side of schoolchildren ever since. Some say the Egyptians approximated PI up to 1500 years earlier than Archimedes did!

In honor of the PI formula, I’ve chosen to share a recipe for one of the first pies I ever learned to make, back in my junior high home ec class, some thirty-five years ago. It’s an oldy but a goody. Home ec classes are long gone from schools these days, sadly; I guess I’m showing my age here. I think home ec taught valuable skills to both girls and boys, as did welding, wood shop, photography, auto mechanics, agriculture, drafting, and so many other courses that have gone by the wayside. Anyway, to the pie!

Chocolate Peanut Crunch Pie

Chex Crust:
4 cups Corn or Rice Chex cereal, crushed to 1 cup
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped cocktail peanuts (the salted, shelled kind that come in a bag or jar)
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

1-1/2 cups milk
1 4-1/2 ounce package chocolate instant pudding mix
1 cup dairy sour cream

To prepare Chex crust, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie plate. Combine crushed Chex cereal, sugar, and chopped peanuts. Mix well with hands. Add melted butter or margarine; mix thoroughly. Press mixture evenly onto bottom and sides of pie plate. Bake ten minutes; cool completely.

To prepare filling: mix milk and dry instant pudding powder in large bowl. Beat one minute with mixer on low speed until all powder is incorporated into milk. Beat in sour cream just until blended.

To assemble: turn filling into cooled pie shell. Chill about one hour or till set. Garnish with whipped cream or additional peanuts. Best served same day, while crust is at its crunchiest.
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Published on March 14, 2019 11:51 • 2 views • Tags: chocolate, circle, egyptians, greeks, home-ec, national-pie-day, peanuts, pi, pie, radius, recipe, schoolchildren

March 12, 2019

Clever Definitions

Clever Definitions

I didn’t write these. I wish I had. 😊

A cook that leaves Arby's to work at McDonald’s.

The act of torching a mortgage.

What a crook sees through.

What a bullfighter tries to do.

Workers who put together kitchen cabinets.

What the bank robbers did when their bag was full of money.

What a man in a boat does.

What you see from the Eiffel Tower.

Two physicians.

A helper on a farm.

What trees do in the spring.

What you do to relax your wife.

What the owner of a seafood store does.

Brought litigation against a government official.
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Published on March 12, 2019 21:58 • 8 views • Tags: clever-definitions, humor, jokes, puns, wit, wordplay

March 10, 2019

Johnny Appleseed Day

Johnny Appleseed Day
by J. E. Pinto

Today, March 11, is Johnny Appleseed Day!

Sometimes the little-known holiday is celebrated on September 26, commemorating the birth of the actual man behind the American legend. But more often it is observed in the spring to take advantage of tree-planting season. John Chapman was born in Massachusetts on September 26, 1774. His mother died two years later giving birth to a second son, Nathaniel.

Johnny Appleseed has become a larger-than-life character in American mythology and a beloved hero to adults and children alike. He is portrayed in stories and songs as a kindly character who traveled the wilds of the frontier, sprinkling generosity and apple seeds wherever he went.

In truth, John Chapman was more practical than random in his efforts, although his work went far in making apples an enduring American institution. He planted orchards throughout Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and the lands that would eventually become West Virginia, returning every few years to tend the young trees.

John Chapman was also a missionary who preached the Gospel as he journeyed across the land. He had a fondness for children and would often regale eager young listeners with tall tales about his travels till after sundown at the homes and hamlets where he stopped. Sometimes he would leave candy or other small gifts for the children, then disappear before they awoke the next morning. He may have been one of the earliest ethical vegetarians in America. His deep love for animals, including insects, was well-known.

“One cool autumnal night, while lying by his camp-fire in the woods, he observed that the mosquitoes flew in the blaze and were burned. Johnny, who wore on his head a tin utensil which answered both as a cap and a mush pot, filled it with water and quenched the fire, and afterwards remarked, “God forbid that I should build a fire for my comfort, that should be the means of destroying any of His creatures.”


So today, bite into a crisp Red Delicious or have a piece of warm pie topped with ice cream. Think of John Chapman's efforts to make the humble apple an intregal part of the American identity. And while you're at it, give the furry friends in your life some extra cuddles, or listen to the birds when you step outside. Catch the scent of spring in the wind, watch the sunset--Johnny Appleseed must have enjoyed those experiences as he made his way across America, spreading apples and kindness wherever he went.

Do you have a favorite recipe for Johnny Appleseed Day?
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March 9, 2019


This is a guest post from Campbell's World, the blog of my good friend and promotions assistant, Patty Fletcher. That being said, I remember the mean green machines that played "talking books" from the Library of Congress throughout my childhood on vinyl records. Later, cassette players seemed far less cumbersome. The voices of the volunteer readers who narrated classics such as Roald Dahl, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Judy Blume became as much a part of my life as my own friends and family. I'm working to get my novel, "The Bright Side of Darkness" into the NLS collection so it will be accessible to blind, dyslexic, and physically handicapped readers.

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Published on March 09, 2019 22:10 • 10 views • Tags: audio, bard, blind, braille, cassettes, digital, dyslexic, library-of-congress, music, nls, physically-handicapped, talking-books

March 5, 2019

Plumbing, Panic, and Providence: Passing Along the Blessings

Plumbing, Panic, and Providence
Passing Along the Blessings
by J. E. Pinto

Indoor plumbing is a lovely convenience most of us don't think much about till it fails. By the 1950’s, running water and up-to-date waste disposal had become commonplace in homes throughout the United States. A generation or two removed from backyard pumps and corrugated washboards, we don't often consider how different our lives would be without built-in garbage disposals and high-efficiency washing machines.

I know whereof I speak.

A week ago last Sunday, my other half got a load of laundry going, and I started filling the dishwasher. Some chores never end, no matter how many modern luxuries are invented to make them easier. As soon as the washing machine started to drain, greasy, rancid water bubbled up in the kitchen sink and seeped out from under the washer onto the laundry room floor. A moment later I heard a terrific gushing sound outside my sunny kitchen window. A geyser of reeking liquid exploded upward through a small hole in a rusty vent pipe on the side of my house and splashed across the driveway.

Luck seemed to be with me at first. Most of the noxious flood had landed outside. Some bleach and a steam mop took care of the mess in the house. My dad brought over a plumber’s snake and some liquid drain cleaner. He felt something give way when he shoved the snake down the drain underneath the washing machine. We figured the snake and a few gallons of hot water, along with the chemicals, had probably cleared the line.

“That was an easy fix,” my dad said.

How wrong he was!

Another putrid flood happened the next time we fired up the washing machine, and when we turned on the dishwasher, the geyser in the driveway was truly epic. After that, we started getting foul-smelling water in the kitchen sink and under the washing machine at odd times even when we didn't use any appliances. My dad ran the snake again, as deep as it would go, to no avail.

So I called in the cavalry. The plumber, who had stellar online reviews, informed me that when my house was built a hundred years ago, garbage disposals hadn't been invented yet. Instead, grease traps were buried underground to keep sludge and cooking oil from flowing into the city sewer lines. Basically, a 420-gallon concrete tank of water and ancient kitchen grease hidden under my driveway had finally gotten full and started backing up into my home. The only way to fix the problem would be to rip out a piece of my driveway and dig up the ground beside my house, then install a new pipe that would bypass the monstrosity entirely.

"How much?" I asked.

"Let's see ..." The friendly plumber did some calculations while his assistant fussed over my guide dog and told me he had a Labrador just like her at home. "Five thousand, eight hundred dollars. We can put you on the schedule tomorrow if you let the office know before three o'clock this afternoon. You better take care of this before the snow comes in over the weekend."

Shocked, I just laughed.

"We've got financing."

I laughed again.

"You don't want all that oily water backing up in your basement when the grease trap overflows. It's expensive because we're dealing with old lead pipes. They're hazardous."

"Listen, I'll call you. I'll figure out something."

"You've got a pretty pup," the assistant said as the two men walked out my front door.

Five thousand, eight hundred dollars! I felt panic coursing through my body, like the sharp tingle that begins when the bitter cold sets in, starting at my fingertips and earlobes and spreading swiftly toward my heart and mind.

Grasping for a sense of calm, I turned to Google. I had feared that the plumber was trying to put something over on me, a blind woman home alone. But he had been truthful. Installing underground grease traps was a common practice for houses built in the 1920's. Bypassing those century-old concrete tanks when they get full is the standard solution these days, albeit an expensive one.

Again I reached out to my dad. He has built houses and done heavy construction locally for more than four decades and earned a reputation for honesty and fairness. He has made sure justice prevailed when workers who deserved promotions were overlooked because of their brown skin and given troubled young men second chances to turn their lives around in the building trades. Now reaping some of the goodwill and generosity he has sown, my dad contacted a plumber he knows who operates a small company with little overhead. The plumber agreed to help me for the price of materials if someone else would dig out the grease trap. My dad found another man willing to do the digging and concrete work at cost. I’ll have to wait several days to fit into the schedules of both contractors, but my plumbing bill will be slashed from thousands of dollars to hundreds.

I was so relieved I nearly cried. While sharing my joy with a friend, I said the only problems I had left to conquer were the mountain of laundry that had piled up while my washing machine was idle and the heaps of gnarly, greasy dishes I had no way to scour and sanitize. My family was rapidly running out of spoons, socks, and underwear. My friend couldn't help me because she and her four children had the flu. But her mother, a human angel if I ever met one, drove to my house in the snow and piled me into her Jeep along with three baskets of dirty clothes and a box of nasty, smelly dishes. She settled me in a comfy chair with hot coffee while she loaded up her dishwasher and her washing machine, fixed dinner for me and my family, and sent us home a few hours later with full bellies, clean dishes and clothes, and paper plates and bowls. We also have enough precooked meals from her in our freezer to get ourselves through the next several days without using many pots and pans, till our kitchen is fully functional again.

What had begun as an almost insurmountable problem, a bill that could have knocked my family flat, turned into an outpouring of love that has been nothing short of amazing on many fronts.

The day after my domestic angel did the laundry and dishes for my family, I sat down to check e-mails. I opened a message of crisis from my good friend and promotions assistant, Patty. I knew her computer had flown from her lap during a short bus ride when she moved to a new home last year. Patty is blind. The driver on the Paratransit bus should have secured the computer on the floor but did not, and the machine had been damaged. Although the computer had limped along for months, Patty had texted from her phone to say the machine had finally shorted out completely due to internal problems.

Patty was understandably devastated. She runs a home business, as I do, and her computer had been the nerve center of her writing and author promotion operation. What would she do? How would she continue to make a living? I replied to her message, asking her to call me. I could at least offer her some comfort and brainstorm a few ideas about the future.

Patty, who never has been one to stay on the mat for long, quickly found a way to replace her broken computer with an affordable refurbished machine from an organization called Computers for the Blind. Several other friends and clients had already offered assistance, so by the time she updated me about what was happening, she only needed thirty dollars to ship her newly ordered computer to her home. I sent the money to her in a heartbeat. I'd just been gifted with a plumbing bill that had shrunk to perhaps ten percent of what it could have cost me, and an armload of blessings besides. I was more than ready to pass the blessings along. That's how God's math works. There are no zeros, ever.

To find out more about Computers for the blind, a nonprofit organization, please click here:
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March 1, 2019

Guest Post on Poetry Blog

Today I got the opportunity to appear on the blog of Kevin Morris, a poet from the UK. Kevin happens to be blind like I am. He writes fun limericks and profound poetry. Here's my guest post on his blog. Be sure to check out his books while you visit.

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Published on March 01, 2019 17:01 • 42 views • Tags: blindness, fiction, guest-post, kevin-morris, limericks, novel, poetry, the-bright-side-of-darkness, writing

February 28, 2019

Two Great Books on Writing

Two Great Books on Writing
By J. E. Pinto

I’ve read a lot of books about the writing craft over the last three decades. Many hold worthwhile advice, and a few have been truly helpful in my career as an author. But two have been nothing short of revolutionary for me. Both of them are by Stant Litore. The first is “Write Characters Your Readers Won't Forget (Toolkits for Emerging Writers Book 1), and the second is “Write Worlds Your Readers Won't Forget (Toolkits for Emerging Writers Book 2).”



If you follow the practical advice and complete the writing exercises in these books, your characters and settings will leap to life on the pages of your novels and short stories. These books help you think about why human beings act and feel the way they do and how their strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes, habits, secret fears, behaviors, and motivations are intertwined, and then how those emotions and actions make the characters interact with their families, churches, and other social institutions. Conflicts and plots seem to flow like magic out of character and setting, which before may have been only side notes to the story..

I discovered these books when I attended a workshop Stant Litore taught about characterization. I’ve sat through character-writing classes before; I thought I knew the tricks of the trade. Give your characters defining physical attributes or gestures, certain catch phrases that set them apart, particular foods they like or dislike, personality traits readers will relate to. But we bypassed all of that in a few moments and went deeper. We started talking about love and loyalty, fear and rage—the deep motivators that lift characters off the pages of books and propel them into the hearts and souls of readers, that turn them from ideas that fade when novels end into memories that live and breathe in people’s minds for years or even lifetimes.

If you choose only two books to study about the writing craft, obtain these small volumes by Stant Litore. You’ll get out of them what you put in, so complete the writing exercises and look up the examples. Your fiction will improve dramatically as a result of your efforts. And if you happen to travel to Denver, catch Stant locally at one of his live workshops. You’ll be glad you took the time to hear him teach.
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Published on February 28, 2019 11:11 • 36 views • Tags: characters, come-to-life, craft-of-writing, fiction, imagination, novel, setting, short-story, stant-litore, world-building, writing

February 23, 2019

Party Time!

It's that time again. Charles French is having the "February Promote Your Book Party"--a monthly feature he does on his Reading and Writing blog. It's a very generous offer he makes on behalf of other emerging writers like himself, partly because he knows how difficult it is for independent authors to find places where they can promote their work and partly because he enjoys finding new books.

This month, in addition to "the Bright Side of Darkness,"www.amazon.com/author/jepinto
there are some wonderful books I'd like to highlight:
aya Ronkainen has written a short book of poetry, "From the Depths of Darkness," about the migrant journey. The topic is current, and I believe the story needs our attention in these times.
"My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds" by Abbie Johnson Taylor discusses adult caregiving in tender, practical terms. Caring for elderly parents and spouses is an issue more and more people face as baby boomers retire and deal with their golden years in record numbers.

As a history buff, this also caught my attention.
Marina Osipova

How Dare The Birds Sing by Marina Osipova.
The story will take you across the 1930s Stalinist Soviet Union and WWII in a tale whose characters are bound by secrets, love, hatred, and unthinkable quirks of fate.
Available on Amazon, Kobo, B&N, itunes.apple, play.playster, scribd, etc.
Hope you check it out!

Enjoy these selections! Happy reading!
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Looking on the Bright Side

J. E. Pinto
All of my writing, whether it’s my novel, a short story, a blog post, an advocacy piece, or even a letter to an elected official, flows out of one of my deepest core values as a human being. I believe ...more
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