Gifts from Where You Live

Gifts from Where You Live

I’ve kept my early publications.

On any given day, writing is my escape, my amazing friend, my intellectual stimulation as I seek and often find the right word, the exact phrase–or dream about finding it. Either way I go to writing to find myself, always hoping to give back something of value to my readers. I think of writing as a special gift and yet I have often referred to it as THE JOYFUL BURDEN, because I cannot walk away from it–even if rejections and disappointments are part of the entire process. Writing is something I want to give anyone who will read it. Writing is a gift from where I live.

A Story Here an Article There — My Writing History 

There was that two page story about a tornado, written in pencil in the fourth grade. There was an awful poem, written in freshmen year of high school that won a prize. There was my creative writing teacher in senior year, who knew I would always raise my hand with an offering, but encouraged me to be more judicial in what I considered FINISHED or WELL DONE. She taught me not to LOVE everything that went down on the page.

Things were more challenging in college and I struggled through my Creative Writing course. When I thought I had a gift and could breeze through assignments–I wasn’t even close. And there were a lot of people who could write better than I could. Still I had two things accepted in the literary magazine and my writing dream stayed afloat.

I taught English grammar, writing and literature at the secondary school level, which did not afford me much time to write. But in the Illinois community where we lived a newly chartered university, Governors State University, offered me another opportunity. It was the early 1970s and a woman named Helen Hughes started a literary magazine entitled THE CREATIVE WOMAN. I was introduced to Helen, started sending her stories and articles and again, I was published.

As a young mother raising two daughters I was able to squirrel away early morning hours to  write short stories. They were big in the eighties and my goal was to publish in REDBOOK or McCALLS. (I actually was on a first name basis with the fiction editor at both publications, but never made the cut.) So I gave my work to little magazines, one called GREEN’S MAGAZINE. I also had a few columns published in THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Bottom line, I kept writing.

From Fiction to Medical Writing

After going back to school and becoming a registered nurse, I wrote CEU’s for Nursing Spectrum now called NURSE.com. A totally different kind of writing, it required a lot of research and footnotes. But I enjoyed it. During that time, I also co-wrote and then published through Meredith Books, MIAMI INK–text and color photographs that complimented the television program about tattoo artists.

The internet changed everything about writing and publishing. In the late eighties and beyond, I was composing at a keyboard and loving the ability to erase large blocks of text in seconds. Spell check was a bonus too. From 1998 to 2007 I wrote three novels. By 2009, I was blogging and have been contributing to Boomer Highway weekly ever since. I am back to  writing fiction and published a collection of my stories this last May–entitled A Mother’s Time Capsule, it actually contains some of the work I had written in the 80s.

Finding Those Gifts 

Writing and publishing has moved into a new world since I began writing. Before, I used to hold my breath for the mail–waiting for that letter from a magazine editor. Now it’s an email. But the internet has allowed so many people to find and develop their own personal gifts, and from where they are living and working. Etsy has moved product from studio, backyard, shed, garden, sewing room out to the general public. Blogs do similar things, allowing artists, sculptors, screenwriters, novelists, seamstresses and people with a new idea to shout to the world–here I am, see where I live and what I have to offer. Abundant gifts.

So this is just a thank you to my readers for hanging in there with me as I find new topics and research and write about them.

Do you have a health issue I could research? Have you written some nonfiction that could benefit from a read and an analysis? Leave me a comment. I’ll let my fingers walk the keyboard and see what I can find. Now it’s back to my fiction. See you soon.

Comfort Versus Rejection--Which Do You Choose?

Thank you always, Charles M. Schulz

From the Creative Woman: Table of Contents in the late 70s.

Fertile Goddess by Tobi Casselman 24

The Goddess in Three Bodies by Tobi

Casselman 24

Waiting for Christine by Elizabeth A. Havey 25

Creative Lives: Lynn Thomas Strauss by

Margaret Brady 28

Book Review: Dreaming the Dark: Magic,

Sex and Politics
by Starhawk

Gifts from Where You Live

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruckus About The Caucus: My Iowa Life

Ruckus About The Caucus: My Iowa Life

Campaigning in 2008. I was able to shake our future president’s hand.

In the late 90s my family moved from Chicago to Des Moines, Iowa–my husband got a dream job we couldn’t turn down and the idea of living “in the country” appealed to us. We did buy a lovely rambling house surrounded by trees on a quiet street and though we were in the city, in Des Moines we could get anywhere in 20 minutes. John’s commute for years was 90 minutes. Now if he did leave at 5:00, which was rare, rush hour lasted about 20 minutes. We enjoyed the Des Moines Symphony, the Des Moines Metro Opera and met some amazing friends. More on that later.

Being political animals, we also participated in the Iowa Caucuses, some years being more exciting than others. General definition: The Iowa caucuses are an electoral event in which residents meet in precincts in all of Iowa’s 1,774 precincts and elect delegates to the corresponding county conventions. The Democrats and the Republicans caucuses are slightly different.

The DEMOCRATS break into groups that publicly declare their support for a candidate. If the number of people in any group is less than a 15 percent viability threshold of those attending the caucus, they can either choose not to participate or can join another candidate group. That’s what makes the event exciting, as leaders for one group encourage their people to go around the room and persuade folks whose candidate is low in numbers to switch to their candidate. It’s a numbers and a persuasion game. It’s politics right there in the gym on a cold Iowa night. (One year, an older wild attorney who I admired, sequestered his Biden supporters in a side room, so that no one could get them to switch to another candidate. It didn’t work.)

When the groups are organized, the number of “votes” is determined by running the number who support each candidate through a formula that determines final votes based on a county-by-county analysis of Democratic performance in the last governor and presidential elections. Besides determining which candidate wins the caucuses, the results are the first step in determining delegates who are expected to support candidates at the national convention.

For Republicans, it’s a much simpler matter of giving supporters of each candidate a chance to give a brief speech, then everyone privately marks a ballot. The ballots are counted, then communicated by a local caucus organizer to the state party via a new smartphone app, developed for both parties. Even though it’s a vote, it’s not binding for Republicans, who determine delegates at county and district conventions later in the year.

Even though winning is a goal, many candidates are simply eager to exceed expectations. Though a candidate might finish second or third, he or she can claim a victory by noting they finished near the top and received more support than expected. It’s all politics, it’s a numbers game, but it’s the American way.

MY IOWA POLITICAL HISTORY 

2000 and 2004

The first year I caucused, I joined my neighbor Alan and we drove through ice and snow to the local grade school where we were ushered into a small room for our candidate. He won–it was a foregone conclusion and not exciting at all. He lost the general election – Gore VS Bush.

Then in 2004, my husband and I went together–the same school but we were in this huge cafeteria and the place was wild. Groups had gathered with signs and people were agitating to bring voters into their territory. Thus our eyes were opened to this process. My neighbor Alan now supported John Edwards and we were supporting Howard Dean. That night John Kerry and John Edwards beat out Dean and he famously went a little crazy at the Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines. We went home–we missed it.

Dean had been ill for several days and when he went to the rally to speak to his volunteers his aim was to cheer everyone up. But somehow as he was shouting over the cheers of his enthusiastic audience, the crowd noise was being filtered out by his unidirectional microphone, leaving only his “screams” to be audible to TV viewers. He sounded like he had lost it. He sounded not very presidential. But Dean survived, led the Democratic party for a while and is still very involved in politics.

Ruckus About The Caucus: My Iowa Life

2008, 2012, 2016

Above, I referenced Iowa friends. One is Dr. Andy McGuire, now the current head of the Democratic Party in Iowa, mother of seven, a medical doctor who also has an MBA and from the start has been involved in politics. She ran for lieutenant governor when we lived there and I feel certain there’s a political role of some consequence in Andy’s future.

In 2008, she worked in the Clinton campaign, as we did, but she had a big role. She would call us, suggesting we go to the Drake Diner at 5:00 am as Hillary was doing an interview there. Other times, Andy and her husband Dan filled there big home with political activists and we attended–thus able to meet folks like George McGovern, Tom Vilsack, once Iowa’s governor and now Secretary of Agriculture, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and many state and senate members from the state government. It was stimulating and fun.

But the caucus in 2008, you will remember, didn’t work out for Hillary. Barack Obama road to a specific victory. The night of the caucus, my husband and I were once again in the grade school’s big cafeteria, supporting Clinton. Our son Andrew, who was supporting our future president, was also there. But when he arrived with the Obama supporters, we knew immediately that they would win. They filled the entire back of this huge room as we clung to our few numbers. Barack’s win was predicted within the hour.

Andy McGuire had worked tirelessly for Hillary and she was exhausted and down–having to leave the school and drive downtown on this cold icy night to stand with her candidate and cheer her on. Hillary actually came in third, John Edwards second. Later, in New Hampshire, Hilary had 39.1 of the vote, Barack Obama, 36.5 and Edwards came in 3rd.

In 2012 the Caucus for Dems was a foregone conclusion. We gathered at a large venue and watched an address from the President. But his last stop in Iowa was November 5th where crowds swarmed the East Village and he thanked them for their support. At this moment it’s hard to say what 2016 will bring.

Ruckus About The Caucus: My Iowa Life

Living in Iowa provided me with an education in politics.

Iowa Caucus Monday, February 1st, 2016

I won’t be at the Caucus this year, as I am now living in California. But I will be eager to see how both the Dems and the GOP do on caucus night. Andy McGuire https://twitter.com/DrAndyMc will certainly be working like crazy, supporting the Democratic candidates and using her influence to once again bring a Democrat to the White House. Iowans of all persuasions will head to schools and churches, auditoriums and recreation centers to support their candidate.

There was so much about living in Iowa that I enjoyed, and I have to say that rubbing elbows with candidates, reporters, hard-working volunteers and lending my own support–was just awesome. Again, it’s the American way.

Photos Courtesy of the Des Moines Register

Ruckus About The Caucus: My Iowa Life

East Village of Downtown Des Moines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update on THAT SPARK of JOY

Update on THAT SPARK of JOY

Guru Marie Kondo doing a tidying consult.

Last year in my post Cleaning and the Spark of Joy, I wrote about Marie Kondo’s best-selling book that deals with a topic rather dear to my heart: cleaning. Entitled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo taught millions that going through your belongings and deciding what to keep and what to save was a zen-experieince and one that we should all practice. Now she has come out with a sequel: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying UpAnd she’s not kidding, there are illustrations on folding, for example. If you have the time and the patience to learn how to FOLD clothing all over again, check out this video.

When I read Kondo’s basic principles I felt they had some weight. But then I encountered the concept that is truly over the top: the magical element of her method. That’s where the spark of joy comes in. You touch each item and wait for it to communicate to you. How does your body feel when holding this item? Do you feel down–your entire body responding negatively to this item? Or DOES IT SPARK JOY? That’s the key. If it sparks joy, it’s a keeper. And Kondo acknowledges that you might be skeptical. But she believes in her method saying IT WORKS.

Ann Friedman in the LA TIMES, took on Kondo in a recent article. She slices into the current phenomena bemoaning the fact that the readers of Kondo’s ideas are mostly women. And she asks why, saying that this is just a rebirth of GOOD HOUSEKEEPING and that Kondo is again chaining women to these chores when she insists: “Tidying is the act of confronting yourself. Cleaning is the act of confronting nature.” And Friedman counters saying that basically women are confronting OTHER PEOPLE’S MESSES.

Friedman acknowledges that more men have moved into the kitchen, but that Kondo’s book is sneakily making women forget that cleaning is a chore and that subsequently, men are not sharing it. And she cleverly analyses Kondo’s theory in the following way:

  • If we are having trouble getting rid of an item, Kondo wants us to ask what our past attachment is to the item or our fear of not having it in our future.
  • Bingo! Is cleaning after everyone in our family an attachment made in the past and therefore something we fear losing in the future? For me I have to admit, yes and yes.

I began tidying up when I was two–my mother said I would toddle around the house straightening rugs. That penchant grew as my mother’s life prevented attention to cleaning and tidying (she was our sole breadwinner) and I gradually took over those chores. I liked it. To this day, I like to clean, because I have CONTROL over my environment.

Yes, my husband and family have helped me–my husband still does. But I always find myself going back to make sure the furniture is just where it should be after a floor is washed or vacuumed. Is there a cure? Friedman says the SPARK OF JOY will truly occur if women reconsider their domestic roles. If Kondo’s books are written to push us deeper into the proverbial joys of cleaning, then maybe we have to find ways to release ourselves. Thanks, Ann, you’ve got something there. And I’ve got a solution.

Following Kondo’s MAGICAL process, this is something all women might do when tidying up, but at their own individual peril. Because I’ve been there done that, as they say–everyone of my family coming to me later to complain–but give it a shot!

Kind of following Kondo, when touching an item that belongs to a husband or teenager I’m betting that you are NOT going to feel THAT SPARK OF JOY. Great, toss the ripped pants, the no-longer viewed video game, the piles of old shirts that are always held back by a husband or partner because: “Oh that will make a great painting shirt.” Really? “How many painting shirts do you need?” And also, “I really can’t remember when I last saw you with a paintbrush in your hand!”

I marvel at the success of Kondo and her cleaning initiatives. But today, I think I’ve found a great way to interpret or re-interpret her magical concept. I should write to Ann Friedman and let her know. I think it’s an idea that would give her a SPARK OF JOY.

Thanks to the LA for the Photo

Discovering What’s On My Desk!

Discovering What's On My Desk!

It’s a new year, time to look through things I’ve saved on my desk–information that I want my readers to have. So under the overall banner of health, here are a few goodies for 2016.

INCREASE YOUR HEALTH BENEFITS: GROW HERBS

Did you know that the scent of rosemary may improve memory and that basil leaves can reduce swelling from a sprain? Of course if you have ever done any gardening, you know that it’s vital to your health–you use muscles and tendons of your body through lifting, raking, digging, lugging bags of dirt around and you are up and down constantly. At the beginning of the gardening season you’ll be using muscles you might not know you have as they shout back at you after a long day working the soil. But it is a truly rewarding activity and the National Gardening Association states that nearly 35% of U.S. households grow some food at home or in a community garden.

Gardening reduces stress; ecotherapists believe that even working a small patch in your backyard provides benefits–you are in touch with the earth regularly, you are making a physical and mental connection with that which supports humanity.

Herbs can be started from seed and indoors in a sunny window, then moved outside when the weather is right. Read catalogues or speak to a specialist where you buy your garden flowers. Herbalist Nancy Smithers suggests growing the following herbs and adding to that list: lavender, garlic, onion and parsley.

  • basil: has anti-inflammatory properties, good source of Vitamin A and magnesium; a study done in India states that basil can help diabetics manage blood sugar levels; Note: any new element in your diet could cause an allergic reaction;
  • mint: relaxes smooth muscle of the stomach and intestines, peppermint squelches pain, gas and constipation; it is rich in antioxidants, maganese, copper and vitamin C; peppermint tea is soothing when you have cold; peppermint oil spread on the forehead 3 times in 30 minutes can reduce tension headaches. But if you have GERD, avoid as it relaxes the muscles of the esophagus and could make your problems worse.
  • rosemary: research says the mere smell of rosemary can improve cognition and short term memory; rosemary oil can improve your mood and reduce anxiety; a days worth of Vitamin A is packed into 100 grams of fresh rosemary and it’s rich in fiber, vitamins C and B6, calcium and iron. If pregnant avoid using oils from herbs, but culinary use is okay.
  • tarragon: use fresh, before the oils dry; French tarragon has the most flavor; the volatile oil eugenol gives tarragon a pain-numbing action and it has been used for toothaches; studies are being done to see if it helps with diabetes.
  • thyme: traditionally used as an antiseptic, it contains an oil that is used in mouthwashes. In Germany thyme tea is approved for use in treating upper respiratory infections like bronchitis and whooping cough. Find recipes for making thyme tea; antibacterial affect of thyme can tame acne. Fresh thyme is a good source of vitamins, C&A, iron and maganese.

Also, you might be interested in this book: The Allergy Fighting Garden: Stop Allergies and Asthma with Smart Landscaping by Tom Ogren.

 

CIRCUMCISION: IS IT RIGHT FOR YOUR MALE SON or GRANDSON ?

Whether a male child will be circumcised is definitely the choice of the child’s parents. Though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend and promote the health benefits of this “elective” medical procedure, the decision belongs to the parents and religious, cultural and individual preferences can affect it.

Dr. Megan Chen, MD affiliated with UCLA in Santa Monica, CA. states that parents should be counseled on potential benefits and risks. Benefits: reductions in both urinary tract infections (UTI’s) and sexually transmissible viral infections; circumcision has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV transmission through heterosexual sex only.

Risks? In some cases, circumcised boys are more prone to meatal stenosis, a condition in which the opening for urine to leave the body is constricted. Newborn circumcision has a 0.5 percent risk of complications–commonly those being minor bleeding and pain. Uncircumcised males have a 5% chance of needing circumcision later in life because of health problems related to infections of the glans and foreskin, or retraction problems with the foreskin. Dr. Jennifer Singer, a pediatric urologist with UCLA, states that parents should be counseled by a physician before their choice is made. They should be able to ask questions so they will have knowledge of the true benefits and risks.

THE VA’s LEAHY-FRIEDMAN NATIONAL PTSD BRAIN BANK

Battle fatigue, shell shock, these were the terms used in previous wars to classify what we now call and know to be PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder. The definition–PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

The Leahy-Friedman National PTSD Brain Bank is a major advancement in the fight against PTSD. Dr. Friedman explains: Although we have learned a great deal about abnormalities in brain structure and function from brain imaging research, there is no substitute for looking at the neurons themselves. Understanding the cellular and circuit contributions to abnormal brain activity in PTSD is critical in the search for potential biomarkers of susceptibility, illness and treatment response and for developing new treatments targeting the conditions at the cellular level. The National PTSD Brain Bank’s findings should help pave the way for new approaches to diagnosis and treatment of individuals with PTSD.

Veterans are optimistic. Jim Doyle spent 1969 in Vietnam and subsequently struggled with PTSD for15 years. “PTSD is real. It’s not somebody trying to scam the system.” He is hoping that the brain bank means that the next generation of soldiers won’t need to wage a second battle when they come back home. Doyle’s comment refers to finding the condition at the cellular level: “That way, the next guy in the next war won’t have to go through years of fighting himself, and everyone around him, because he’s not sure what’s going on inside his own head.”

THE CODE OF HUMANITY  (love this)

  1. I choose to communicate truth.
  2. I choose the reality of life.
  3. I choose to heal, NOT hurt.
  4. I choose education over ignorance.
  5. I choose the Power of Peace.
  6. I Choose to Love God (or Good) and see God (or Good) in all Humanity.
  7. I choose to seek the Soul in all things.
  8. I choose to link to the World of Inspiration.
  9. I choose the Principle of Sharing.
  10. I choose to become a co-creator in life and live it more abundantly.

So while you are decluttering, check out the things on YOUR desk. You might find something interesting too. P.S. I am still having some commenting issues related to my being notified. Please comment; I will find your comment and respond. Thank you for reading Boomer Highway.   Beth

Thanks to: UCLAHEALTH.org, LA TIMES, TIME MAGAZINE, The Creative Group

Photo from Pinterest: MakeIt-LoveIt.com

The Last Piece of Bread: Thoughts on A New Year

The Last Piece of Bread: Thoughts on A New Year

A New Year. What does it say to you, what feelings does it elicit? Being positive– it’s the blank calendar full of possibility. It’s the soul of your actions wiped clean, so the possibility to make things right with someone or some situation is again yours. It’s a list of promises. It can even be a totally clear and definitely new vision.

JANUS, That Guy Has Two Faces!!

The clear flute of champagne or the honest glass of beer is raised to salute another attempt to make things right. We wave goodbye to the positive and negatives of the year we are leaving behind only to welcome the new year with hopefully more positives than negatives coming our way. Such a celebration can be traced to ancient Rome and the feast of the Roman god Janus. Being the god of doorways and beginnings, he had two faces, one looked into the past and the other forward to the future. January of course is named for Janus.

New Year or Decisions Forgotten

After our modern celebrations have taken place with a ball drop, fireworks, hats, balloons noisemakers whatever, we are left to our own devices: does this new and pristine block of time mean anything to us or are we going to plod ahead as we have always done?

Possibly. Magazines and articles on the net (this one included) like to offer ideas about how to MAKE CHANGE. Removing clutter from your life is a popular topic, though it’s grown from putting away holiday decorations to reorganizing one’s life.

Peter Walsh in his book “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight” states rather profoundly: ONE DEFINITION OF CLUTTER IS DECISION DELAYED.

I actually love that. He suggests that we aim to eliminate the word LATER from our vocabulary. The scenario we all can envision is super simple–if we have decided to do the following later:

  • clean the garage
  • apply for a new job
  • ask Aunt Lucy for forgiveness
  • finish a degree.

Because we are in fact CLUTTERING our lives with indecision and when each new year arrives we are feeling badly, at some deep level, about our lives. The cure? Walsh says  it’s about creating a new habit. So if every time you walk to the garage and you don’t just set something down on the floor BUT DEAL WITH IT, the job starts to get done. But if you  just assume you will never be able to change jobs and don’t search, investigate, redo your resume, YES, you’ll stay in the same job. And if you shun Aunt Lucy or whoever–you get the point. Even family feuds are clutter.

Positive Stuff: Small Beginnings Get Bigger

A beginning can be as tiny as vowing to go through one drawer a week. Only one?? you might ask. Hey yes!! It’s a start. Small starts lead to big finishes and better habits. You could work 30 minutes on that resume and send Aunt Lucy a note–just saying hello.

I’ve written about habit change before in regards to losing weight, avoiding triggers etc etc. But it’s standard and valuable information. Habits make us or break us. If I want people to read Boomer Highway, then I must follow the habit of writing a post at least once a week. I cannot say later, I must say now. And if I need to clear the air with someone, I must begin now.

And habit change of any kind takes work. It is not silly stuff. Because making an attempt to declutter your environment helps declutter your mind. Henry David Thoreau wrote: I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and I threw them out the window in disgust. ...A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.

Negative Stuff, It Still Exists 

But the new year doesn’t fool us. Hours after the ball drops signaling our hopes for peace and understanding–the news is full of anger and sorrow. People across the globe still face hunger and war, intolerance and persecution. Refugees are still streaming from their homelands. And I have to admit that making a resolution to clean a drawer seems almost stupid in the face of that angst in our world.

The Infinite Possibilities 

But it’s not. Have you ever looked into a mirror that is reflecting another mirror and the image is repeated over and over as if into infinity? It is something to marvel at. Like life. We have to decide to clean that drawer or whatever resolution we make–because it is a start. The change in the clutter and chaos of the world can begin in a simple place–you, your home, your environment. And it then can CHANGE you, maybe in a small way. But in a good way. And that small changes moves out like the reflection in the mirror and touches someone else–eventually. Example: you find in the cluttered garage the box of photos that your mother-in-law has been asking you about for months. Your relationship is buoyed and improved, a small but good thing.

Patch Adams, Viktor Frankl

Making change in 2016 is about choice. As Peter Walsh would say it’s about NOT delaying decisions. It’s about digging in. And when you do, that process changes you and hopefully for the better. The key word is HOPE. Because deep inside each of us is the desire to help ourselves and others. Oh yes, in some people that desire has been stomped on and twisted so that anger and hatred take its place. But healing can occur little by little. I like to think about Dr. Patch Adams who travels the world with his clown costume bringing laughter to the sick and dying. Adams says: the practice of medicine can be a thrill, an exchange so fundamentally loving that it’s difficult to contain the excitement … Scientific brilliance is an important tool, but it is not the magic inherent in healing. Because for Adams it’s the gentle touch, the warmth of communication that truly holds healing power. It’s the human contact that brings hope in the face of living and in the face of death. And are we not capable of that?

Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, and German concentration camp survivor wrote: We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts, comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Thus I am wishing for you hope in this year 2016. I am wishing you good decision-making and the human freedom to choose your way, your path as 2016 unfolds. From small habit changes to big decisions, offer to someone your own gift of hope, it might just be for them that last piece of bread.

 

Photo Thanks to oxford dictionaries.com, www.rawstory.com

Life Lessons My Mother Taught Me

Life Lessons My Mother Taught Me

Art by Steve Hanks

This is a great time of year to think about mothers. Many of them are at this moment quite exhausted from preparing for the holidays and doing everything in their power to provide magic for their children. And many mothers do this while working full or part time, watching the budget that threatens to explode because of the season’s needs and continuing to monitor homework, prepare meals, and keep a household running efficiently.

Now We Are Six…How My Mother Financially Supported 3 Kids 

To steal from A. A. Milne’s book of poetry, I can remember six, a time when my older brother was 9 and my younger 3. A widow, my mother worked at home typing insurance policies in our dining room. At night she did what she called “processing” her day’s work. All we knew was her routine of sitting at a card table in the living room with paper clips, a stapler and even glue—a stack of paper gradually piling up until she was finished. And of course while doing this, my mother monitored our television watching or reading or stopped to help us with our homework. And this was every night, except weekends.

My mother taught me the rewards of a consistent and well organized routine—maybe today we call that multi-tasking.

Christmas and All the Trappings

So how did she ever find the time to do Christmas? One year my mother actually sewed a bra for the anatomically correct doll that I asked for, but who arrived without the proper foundations. If something needed to be assembled: a toy airplane or a pup tent—there was no one else but Mom to make sure things were Santa-ready.

There was the annual trip to Van Laten’s, the fresh vegetable store, whose parking lot at Christmas became a forest of freshly cut trees. Somehow we got one home each year—my older brother must have learned early how to lift the tree into the trunk of the car and tie down the trunk lid. Luckily our drive was short.

We never were disappointed during this economically challenging time of year. My mother must have scrimped and saved to make it happen. And we were always excited, full of the magic and truly grateful.

There were years when Mom developed a cold around the holidays—probably from exhaustion—but even so, she would get herself to our local church to sing Midnight Mass, somehow getting her high, clear soprano voice to function—a mini Christmas miracle.

My mother taught me commitment.

All We Need Is Music, Music Music

What can you do when there are dishes to wash or other mindless chores that must be accomplished? Easy, you can sing while doing it. How can you distract your five-year-old who doesn’t want her hair washed? Again, you can sing through it. My mother sang to us. Often. She had a beautiful voice. My grandmother did too, she being the fountain of good parenting, making sure that each of her children learned how to play the piano and another instrument of their choosing. Though my grandfather traveled and money was always tight, my Nana knew how to instill in her children a love of music, literature and art. And so did my mom. She drove used cars—but we had a piano! And eventually a good turntable and speakers—my older brother doing all the research and helping make this happen. Music filled our house.

My mother taught me love of the fine arts and that when you are feeling sad, you might try singing.

Kind and Generous

Through her openness and warmth my mother showed me and my brothers that acceptance can lead to happiness. There might have been a few weeks in my mother’s life when she felt anger or disbelief that she’d been left with three small children when my father died suddenly of a massive coronary. But there’s that old line about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off. Metaphorically, my mother did that–and never looked back. She made her life about us, and about always helping anyone who was experiencing sorrow of some kind. She replaced sorrow with gratitude.

The doorbell would ring and there was Gen and her daughter Mary Jane with a box of hand-me-down clothing for me. Hey! It was great. The clothes were lovely, Mary Jane growing faster than I did. There was also the friend who worked in a toy store or had some connection with one. Once a year, he’d arrive with very expensive toys—one for each of us.

When you can accept the generosity of others, the upside of that action is giving back. My mother always had a bag or box or envelope for people who cleaned for us. Thank you were two words that were often heard in our home and we took them with us, bestowing them on others throughout our lives.

My mother taught me to accept gifts graciously and to give back.

The Role of Motherhood

All my life I have been fortunate to be witness to good mothering—and I’m talking about my mother, my grandmother and the wonderful aunts in my life—role models all of them. They believed in me and helped me believe in myself, a process that is still on-going, a process that fuels the writing I do here and my book A Mother’s Time Capsule. One reader graciously wrote: I think your stories about motherhood had a striking effect on me because the stories brought home some things I think I knew unconsciously about motherhood (mine and my mother’s). So thanks for being able to write those stories.

You are so welcome! And thanks, MOM. You taught me well.

P.S. Google has made some changes, as Google often does. Currently, these changes have affected my POSTS being delivered to YOU if you use gmail. Please check your SPAM and move my posts, if you choose to, to your In-Box. I am working on this problem, but it is not solved yet.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, Beth

Art, Steve Hanks via Pinterest

Life Lessons My Mother Taught Me

 

Promise Yourself: I Will Not Be Afraid

Promise Yourself: I Will Not Be Afraid

This time of year is the season of miracles–for though religious faith might not settle in all hearts–the ground hardens in most of the world, snow falls but still we believe in the miracle of spring, growth and rebirth. People bond and have children and believe that the child born to them will thrive. This is human nature. This is casting aside FEAR for belief in life–the sun rising each day and life continuing.

Because every day we need to find a small miracle to believe in–the smiles of our children and grandchildren, the love of a pet, the miracle of an increase in a paycheck. Karl Rahner wrote: “I don’t believe in miracles, I rely on them to get through each day!” And William Falk writes in THE WEEK as he warns against becoming neurotic, paranoid and unhinged: “It’s Not All Bad. Let’s all lighten up. A fresh new year beckons. The sky is not falling.”

THE TEDDY AWARDS

Joe Klein in TIME recently quoted Teddy Roosevelt who praised the doer–and not the critic of the doer. Roosevelt said:”The credit belongs to the man (or woman) who is actually in the arena…who spends himself in a worthy cause; who …in the end knows the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Klein presented what he calls THE TEDDY AWARDS to those who fit the above definition. Here are a few of the winners with a brief description from Klein.

  • President Obama: who sang AMAZING GRACE in the midst of his lovely eulogy for the Charleston churchgoers, which was the emotional highlight of the year, and of his presidency. Thanks, Mr. President. We needed that.
  • Vice President Joe Biden: who had a terrible year, given the loss of his son, but he showed grace and a somber humanity–the sort of humanity often trampled at the intersection of public and private life.
  • George H. W. Bush, whose good words were revisited in Jon Meacham’s essential biography. Bush the elder remains an exemplar of civility in office, especially in the arena of foreign policy, where he remade Europe and reunited Germany after the Cold War by refusing to rub Russia’s nose in its defeat. Now that was a reset.
  • John Kasich, a contender for the GOP nomination, for his sanity and willingness, finally, to fight the rancid hate-mongering that threatened (and still does) to rot his party.
  • And finally, a Teddy to all the diplomats out there (Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton included by me!) John Kerry, Mohammad Javad Zarif, representative from Iran to the U.N., and to the unsung Americans toiling everywhere from Baghdad to the U.N. Because being politically correct in some cases is diplomacy. And diplomacy counts because words are never forgotten. Saying the correct word can mean the difference between talks that lead to peace and talks that lead to war.

Klein ends his piece by referencing President Bill Clinton, “who once said, diplomats are the exact opposite of terrorists. They struggle for peace, against all odds, in a world that seems to want only war.”

And so during this season when many of us are drawn to spiritual rebirth–fight against fear with hope and with knowledge. Seek to dig up the truth and don’t be led like a dumb lamb to the slaughter because of frightening words and images of hate. Madeleine Albright said:

“The magic of America is that we’re a free and open society with a mixed population. Part of our security is our freedom.” 

Fear can blind one to the truth. Fear is a close companion of hate.
 “A leader who sows confidence will reap excellency and legacy. A leader who sows fear will reap stagnancy or complacency.”
― Israelmore Ayivor, Leaders’ Ladder

Marie Curie, noted thinker and scientist said it best: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Promise Yourself: I Will Not Be Afraid

Thanks to: www.dailypainters.com and to fineartamerica.com

Quotes From The Tree of Books

 

Quotes From The Tree of Books

Wouldn’t this be an amazing tree to have in your home year round? A tree of books! I thought for a few moments about building one for this post and taking a picture–but I decided against it–mine would probably collapse during the building of the tower. And though we cannot see the titles of the books, appreciation of the printed word calls out to us. Knowing that throughout history, writing, free expression and books were banned and often burned, the very presence of pieces of paper bound between two covers is a gift of freedom.

Yes the internet is freedom too–I am using it right now to express my opinions. But there is nothing like a book that responds whether or not you have electrically in your home or are connected to wifi. A book can almost be forever.

Quotes From The Tree of Books

More Creativity with Books

So let’s dip inside and read something.

“Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.”
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

“In many respects, the United States is a great country. Freedom of speech is protected more than in any other country. It is also a very free society. In America, the professor talks to the mechanic. They are in the same category.”
Noam Chomsky

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation…deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
― Rudyard Kipling

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Back when Mom was alive, we’d go out “tree hunting.” That’s what she called it, anyway. I think other people might use the word “trespassing.”
Jenny Han, Fire with Fire

“CALVIN:
This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn’t make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery?
If the guy exists why doesn’t he ever show himself and prove it?
And if he doesn’t exist what’s the meaning of all this?
HOBBES:
I dunno. Isn’t this a religious holiday?
CALVIN:
Yeah, but actually, I’ve got the same questions about God.”
― Bill Watterson

“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”
Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express

“One true king knew when to step aside and give up the reins of power—to remove his crown and relinquish his kingdom—all for the sake of glimpsing, just once in a lifetime, the face of a holy child. He was the Fourth to follow the Star. His gift was a secret. The rest of his journey is unknown.”
― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

“You wanted a peaceful, comfortable Christmas, with all reminders of poverty, injustice, or other people’s griefs well out of sight, so as not to disturb your pleasure. That isn’t what Christmas is about, Wallace. Christmas is about offering hope to all people, not just those like ourselves. Christmas is about everyone: rich or poor, friend or stranger. The moment you exclude anyone, you exclude yourself.”
Anne Perry, A Christmas Hope

“Lifting the child from the bed. The bathroom window blue with snow and moonlight. Though safe inside the walls of their home, out of wind and the biting of snow, Ella now shivering with the weight of the fragileness of life—her life, Sarah’s. Thinking, the blessed infant braved the cold and more, thinking, how much more sorrow was still outside that window and that Ella and every other parent never knew when it might come through the door, crash through the glass. Then a startling, heart-stopping thud above their heads. Ella hugging Sarah closer, hoping only ice-laden snow sliding from the highest eaves. “Santa?” Sarah saying, lifting her head to the light. Of course, Santa. “Do you see him?” Ella asking, telling herself to get a grip. Sarah shaking her head “no,” burrowing into her mother’s shoulder.” —Elizabeth A. Havey, On Strange Ground (work in progress)

Finally, books make wonderful Christmas gifts and supporting your independent books stores is good for everyone! Enjoy strolling through a book store, sampling books on tables and shelves, maybe even enjoying a book tree–if they have one. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Reading. Beth

 

Quotes from The Tree of Books

Thanks to booknerdreviews.com, pinterest.com, and FB Barbara Davis, author.

Once Upon A Time: New Ideas Clashing with Old

Once Upon A Time: New Ideas Clashing with Old

This creature is a metaphor for a NEW SCARY IDEA.

If we were to compose a story about who we are and what we believe, we might begin with the words: Once upon a time. The composition might be a letter or a simple statement. But it would reveal things and thoughts that happened to us in our PAST that have carved us into the people we now are in the PRESENT. In most cases, we cannot divide one from the other–what we believe about life, about ideas in the present are always shadowed by our past.

Living is never static and how we see yesterday is colored by what is happening today and vice versa–how we see today is colored by how we lived in the past.

For many that explains why THE PAST seems to shine more brightly as if the reality we lived BEFORE has more power over us than the present. Photographs can be metaphors for this: we look upon snapshots of graduations, weddings, family portraits and the youth we see in them creates a profound longing. Nostalgia becomes a physical feeling. And we think: life was better then, life was simpler, the grass was greener, youth allowed us to conquer negatives and to plunge from one day to the next.

Sound familiar? Actually some of it is true. The younger a healthy human is the further away from death he or she mentally resides. The powerful feeling that life extends into some unknown infinity allows the car or motorcycle racing, the experiments with drugs and sex, the instant fights that hurt friends etc. Because there’s lots of time to fix things. Death or illness or accidents aren’t on the wavelength–at all.

The variable, of course, is individual life experience: the child with cancer has more empathy and knowledge of the preciousness of the future than many adults. The immigrant who is finally living in a warm building with plumbing and three meals a day complains little about the weather or traffic on the highway.

But all of us –the young, the rich, the dying, the discriminated against etc–have ideas about living and often live for those ideas. And because ideas vary there are clashes in thought and arguments about those thoughts–about the way people look, dress and live.

Once upon a time, I grew up in a middle class neighborhood of whites, Catholics and Protestants. If there were clashes, they were between the last two–like a priest telling us we couldn’t frequent the YMCA. Fortunately, those days passed, along with lots of others that included racial discrimination–insidious, but present. I wrote about this in my post: Fires a Story About Anna, THE HELP, in My Life. When Anna cleaned for us, I was a child and I had some understanding and empathy–but not enough. In high school and college I began to live in a more integrated world, but teaching in an integrated school truly woke me up.

My close friend Linda and I attended what our high school called a Human Relations Workshop. We were eager to participate, our desire to be fully a part of society newly awakened–after all we were college graduates bearing the shining flags of freedom, inclusion and yes, empathy. But the awakening that night was daunting–the African Americans who ran the sessions at one point singled me out and accused my father of raping black women. I didn’t get it–I shouted out NO, I started to cry–how could they say that–my father was a good man who died at a young age. The method was to break me down, to take away the barriers I didn’t realize I had built.

I get it now. I had to cross some threshold, to realize how prejudice lodges deeply in the brain and rears its ugly head–sometimes when we are not even aware of it. Having lived in the world I had lived in I was in some way complicit. I changed. THESE WERE NEW IDEAS and they frightened me at first, until I could get my proverbial head around them.

It’s a continuum: the acceptance of change, like our very own body that changes on us. Oh yes, we fight back with diet and exercise, with creams and sunblock–but it’s unwinnable–unless you have tons of money for cosmetic surgery, but that won’t stop your heart from wearing out or other system failures. We must accept bodily change and death, because we have no choice.

But on a much more positive note, we must accept new ideas for the same reason. And it is how we accept, the nature of our acceptance that can make a difference–that can have us longing for the future instead of the shadowy past–even though new thoughts can be frightening. I like to look at the words UNITED STATES and then abbreviate it to US–which is the objective form of we–in other words us. Let us approach new ideas with open minds. Evaluate, consider, refrain from immediately yelling NO!! Could we become the United States of new ideas?

Marie Curie wrote: Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas. (what a potential leader’s ideas are)

Joseph Stalin supposedly said: Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.

Pope Francis implores us: Even today we raise our hand against our brother… We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal that we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death.

Do you have NEW IDEAS about how to live in the coming weeks, months and years? I love this commercial from GE. At first I didn’t GET IT, until I really looked and realized that yes, new ideas are scary, frightening, but they are the legacy of living. We bring children into the world to replace us–our minds generate new ideas to alter, change, perfect the old ones. Once Upon A Time, we changed the world. And we must be an US (us) country that represents inclusion (people get angry when they are not invited to join in), helpfulness and inevitably peace. We cannot go backwards to fear, exclusion and hate.

Thanks to Brainy Quotes, Thanks to Bodin Sterba Design

Nothing Better Than A Book

Nothing Better Than A Book

No matter where you are in holiday gift giving–there is nothing better than finding a good book to stick in a stocking, wrap up and put under the tree or offer for one of the blessed days of Hanukkah. Thanks to author and friend, Normandie Fischer, this post is bringing you seven amazing fiction choices to add to your Gift List. Check out the summaries below and head to your favorite book seller–after all tomorrow is Cyber Monday! And please join our author group for our Facebook Party on December 10th at 1:00 pm EST for Giveaways and chats.

Normandie FischerTwo From Isaac’s House, A Story of Promises Journey with Rina Lynne who though recently engaged decides to spend her inheritance before settling down. Her travel adventure starts in Italy where Rina meets Tony (aka Anton) an engineering geek whose Israeli cousins have convinced him to become a sort of spy.  When Rina comes on the scene, Tony loses a grip on his assignment and Rina, who is part-Jewish, forgets her fiancé, allowing herself to become involved with this Arab-American. Against the gathering storms of the Middle East, certainly more storms are brewing.

Ashley FarleyMerry Mary This novel explores a theme that is perfect for Christmas. Investigative journalist Scottie Darden longs for a child. While photographing the homeless for a series she calls Lost Souls, Darden comes upon a tent in a downtown city park were an infant child is alive, but the mother dead. Lacking her cell phone, Scottie follows her instincts and takes the baby home. She promises herself she will report the child’s situation, but as a strong bond forms, she rationalizes her decision to keep the child, knowing she might face a life on the run or worse–imprisonment for abduction. Farley’s story examines the connection between a woman who stumbles into the role of mother and the child who definitely needs that person.

Wendy Paine Miller–The Short and Sincere Life of Ellory James Ellory James has six months to live and she is only seventeen. As her mother frets and worries, Ellory agrees to create a bucket list for her remaining time on earth. But Ellory is mischievous, asking her neighbor Pete to help her make it look like she’s truly carrying out ten of her lifelong dreams. She’s actually decided to fake the entire bucket list concept, until she completes the first one of the ten, which just might be the most important one of all. Miller’s book asks the question: what if life isn’t about the things we do as much as it is about WHY we do them and who we do them with.

Me, Elizabeth A. Havey–A Mother’s Time Capsule Yes! I’m included in this lovely seven author group, but because you’ve heard about my book before, I’ll make it truly short. The book of 13 short stories about motherhood includes: a hyper-fearful mother; a mother struggling with the life-chore of revealing what sex is; an empty-nest mother facing surgery and loneliness;  a mother whose daughter attempts suicide; a pregnant single mother; a mother whose child goes missing–and more. “Lovingly detailed, sometimes heart-wrenching stories of real women who come alive on the page. Moving and powerful.” Anne R. Allen, bestselling author of the Camilla Randall Mysteries

Jane Lebak–Half Missing  As an arsonist inspector, Amber Brickman sifts through burn sites looking for evidence, working against the memories of weeks before her wedding when her fiancé was murdered. But family history never departs and Amber’s mother insists that Amber had a twin, stolen at birth. When a woman on the news looks and sounds like Amber, her mother is convinced–this is the missing twin. At first Amber wants nothing to do with what she considers insanity. But as her mother pursues the past, Amber is drawn into the search–one that requires she risk everything, her job and her heart, in the process.

Heather Webb–Rodin’s Lover Known for her historical fiction, Heather Webb’s Rodin’s Lover is the story of Camille Claudel, an aspiring sculptor who becomes the apprentice of the amazing and world-renown Auguste Rodin during the Belle Epoque in France. Claudel becomes his muse and as their love affair proceeds they inspire one another to create groundbreaking works of art. But being a woman in a time period unable to honor female achievements, Camille’s success is pushed aside by Rodin’s rising star. When she finds herself caught in a tragic dilemma, obsessed with him and with her art, crossing the line into madness just might be her only escape.

Robin Patchen– Finding Amanda  Seduced as a teen by her psychiatrist, Amanda Johnson is now a chef and a popular blogger. When she decides to write a memoir that will include the devastating events in her teen life and help her heal, her estranged husband Mark, a contractor and veteran soldier, tries to stop her, worrying that the psychiatrist might reenter her life and attempt to silence her. Amanda fails to listen to such advice and to hear that Mark still loves her. Vulnerable, she travels and does encounter her abuser from her past, only to have a stranger rescue her and offer protection. Now Mark must save Amanda from the psychiatrist who threatens her life and from the stranger who threatens their marriage.

As December approaches, I wish all my readers warmth and happiness. Holidays can be joyous–but they can also be stressful. Remembering the important things, like the love of family and friends, is what should truly be our focus. Sounds like a topic for another post!