Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Get to Know Me – Part 1

Do you ever get a series of “get-to-know-you” type questions to copy and answer from a Facebook friend? I get them pretty regularly. They remind me of the Favorites Notebooks that were all the rage when I was in junior high.

The first page of a spiral notebook had the question, “What’s Your Name?” at the top, and then each line was numbered. After that, every page had a question on the top, and numbers down the page. Most of the questions were “What’s Your Favorite…” but there were others, too. We’d pass the notebooks around, and write our answers on the same number on each page. It was a quick way to get to know more about each other.

It occurred to me that many of you don’t know me well, so I thought I’d do some “get-to-know-me” posts. This one will be “favorites.” If you leave a comment, I’ll get to learn more about you, too!

My favorite:

Color: Green – almost any shade, but not neon/lime/fluorescent. I’m especially partial to earth tones.

Flower: Daisies – unassumingly simple, but still lovely – and Indian blankets, also called blanket-flower and fire-wheel, which brighten Texas pastures as the weather begins to really warm up.

Animal: Elephant. They aren’t necessarily the cutest or cuddliest, but they’re incredibly intelligent, compassionate, and sensitive. They’re socially responsible and make wonderful mothers. How can you not love that? Besides, have you seen baby elephants? They are pretty darn cute.

Food: Anything homemade from scratch, but especially chicken pot pie and enchiladas.

Drink: Sweet iced tea and lemonade (but not together).

Season: Autumn! After the long, hot summers of Texas, the crisp mornings of autumn are a wonderful relief.

Holiday: This is a tough one, but I’m going with Thanksgiving. All the family togetherness (and food!) of Christmas without the stress of present-expectations. And it’s all about counting blessings, which is always a good thing.

Game: You’d think a writer/editor would like word games best, but I actually like puzzles better. Of course, word puzzles are tops!

Music/song/musician: Impossible to choose, especially since it depends on my mood at the time, but John Denver is a go-to for singing along with, and Celtic Woman is often playing when I write. I like most music, except for country and hard/metal/rap.

Book/author: Really impossible! Too many books to name. Too many authors, too, but some standouts include Laura Ingalls Wilder, David McCullough, Jodi Picoult, Jane Austen, Lucy Maud Montgomery, David Quammen, Bill Wallace, Maya Angelou, Mary Roach, and Charles Dickens. (Everybody always says Dickens, but he really is one of my favorites. Best of his: A Tale of Two Cities.)

Movie/TV/actor: I don’t watch a lot of TV, but love Jeopardy and Good Witch, and I’m addicted to The Americans (only a few episodes left on that one).

Movies are not as good as books, but there still many great ones. In addition to any adaptation of any book by the above authors, I’ll stop anything to watch these: An American President; Ever After; Little Women; Man from Snowy River; Meet Me in St. Louis; Miss Potter; Old Yeller; Out of Africa; Return to Me; Stepmom; The Natural; The Road Home (Chinese, subtitled); Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken; and You’ve Got Mail.

I also like the DisneyNature “Earth” series; Martian Child; First Knight; Hidden Figures; and Love, Simon.

 I thought the best acting I’d ever seen was Viola Davis in Fences; she was amazing in that movie. But then I saw Hostiles, and Rosamund Pike was PHENOMINAL. The entire gamut of human emotion, exceptionally well portrayed. Christian Bale excelled in that movie also, but Rosamund Pike gets the prize.

Oh, and I have to mention the YouTube short “Validation.” Go watch it now.

Advertisements

This Not That for Writing

What Will You Say?

Let’s say you and your spouse/SO build a home. The two of you design and build the whole thing yourself. (Just go with it; in this scenario you’re excellent builders.) Then you furnish and decorate it together, exactly the way you want it. It’s your dream home, and one day when you both retire, you’ll move into it. 

Now let’s say you have some relatives who’ve fallen on hard times. There’s company layoffs, and medical issues. Their children are in danger of ending up in foster care, or on the street.

So you do the compassionate thing and let them move into your dream house. But you tell them to take care of it; if they trash it, you’ll trash them.

Now let’s say you find out that some other family members will be needing the house in a few months. They’ll need it even more than the current residents. So you tell the folks who live there now that they need to start looking for another home.

Then let’s say your spouse/SO dies. You can’t stand the idea of living in the home you designed and built and furnished and decorated together, all by yourself; so you decide you’ll eventually sell it.

You tell the people living in the house now, and the ones who are looking forward to moving into it in the future, that the home will not be available indefinitely. They need to find a new place, as soon as possible.

 What if the current residents decide that since you’re going to sell the house anyway, they don’t have to take care of it anymore? They quit mowing the lawn. They don’t change the air filters or clean the chimney. There’s a kitchen fire from all the grease, and they don’t repair the damage. They even start hocking the furniture and artwork to pay for their new car.

How would you feel? Would you say, “Oh, well, I wasn’t going to keep it anyway.”?

My guess is, no. You’d probably get mad, maybe even “trash” them, throwing them out.

Here’s the thing, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now: You and I, and everybody else now living, are the current residents. The other family members, waiting on the house – our earth – are future generations.

Someday, this world will cease to exist. But it’s not up to us to bring that about ahead of schedule, stealing from future generations the resources they need to live.

If we don’t care for our home – hocking the furniture by destroying habitat to such an extent that species go extinct, or burning the kitchen by strip mining – what will the Builder of the house think of us? Even if you believe the builder is going to destroy it anyway, was it given to you or I to say when? No.

If you don’t believe there’s a builder, then what about your children’s children? What will you say to them when they ask why we didn’t save the elephants and the whales and the forests when we could, so that they could enjoy them too? Or when they ask why we didn’t stop pollution so they could drink without boiling water and breathe without getting asthma? What will you say to them?

For Your Consideration (aka, Help a Writer Out?)

I’m experimenting. Below is a possible opening for an upmarket novel set alternately between the present day and Nazi Germany.

Would you give it read?

 

Ruth waited until she heard the front door slam, signaling that her great-grandsons had left for school, before she shuffled into the kitchen. Her grandson Abel had already gone to work, so only his wife Rebecca – Becky – remained. What was wrong with the name Rebecca, heaven only knew. But the nickname was the least of it. Ruth had raised Abel the best she could when his parents died, but her teaching didn’t stick. There was so much he’d let go of, and so many other things he’d embraced. Why, last night Re – Becky – made hamburgers from non-Kosher beef, and even let the boys put cheese on them!

 

“Good morning, Bubbe. Coffee?” Becky held up a mug. At least they all used the familiar Yiddish term of endearment. Ruth didn’t think she could stand being called Granny.

 

Yo – yes, thank you.” Ruth dropped into one of the steel-framed chairs at the modern table. She ran her gnarled hands over the top. Smooth and light, it was another reminder of how quickly things were changing. Never again would she sit at the sturdy, oak table she and Isaac had raised their family around, feel the grain of the wood as she polished it, remembering what caused each ding and scratch. It was gone now, sold with the rest of her things. She’d wanted to stay in New York, where her friends and memories were.

 

There, everything was familiar. The Kosher butcher knew what cuts of meat she preferred. Her neighbor Miriam brought her chicken-matzah-ball soup every Sunday. When Ruth spoke Yiddish in New York, everyone understood her. And no one spoke of church or Christmas, because they all went to synagogue and celebrated Hanukkah. But when Isaac passed – just a month ago – it seemed like yesterday, and yet so long – Abel insisted she come live with him and Rebecca. In Kansas of all places.

 

Here, nothing was the same. She had to become a vegetarian just to keep Kosher. Lights and appliances were turned on and off all Sabbath. Abel was the only one who understood Yiddish. Kansas even smelled different. There were no aromas of falafels or freshly-baked challah. Only artificial scents, purchased with the groceries, touched her nostrils here. And people said “Merry Christmas” all the time. Rebecca always answered, “You, too,” but Ruth couldn’t bring herself to do that. Not just because she didn’t celebrate it, but—

 

“Bubbe!” Becky’s voice brought her back to the kitchen. “Did you even hear me?”

 

Neyn—no, I’m sorry. What did you say?”

 

“I said I haven’t gotten everything I need for Hanukkah. There’s not a Judaica store nearby, but the Hallmark Store has some things. Would you like to come along?”

 

It would be the perfect chance to get a card for Miriam. “I’ll be ready in a few moments.”

 

#

 

Becky kept complaining about the crowds, but they didn’t bother Ruth. She was from the largest city in the nation, after all – these spacious stores didn’t know the meaning of crowded.

 

What bothered her was Christmas. It permeated her very body: lights shone in her eyes, carols flooded her ears, cinnamon and bayberry invaded her nose. How could Abel and Rebecca stand it? At least they didn’t have a tree in their house, although Ruth suspected they might have, if she wasn’t there. She’d seen Becky surreptitiously peeking at things to hang on one.

 

As Becky paid, Ruth fumbled in her purse for some change to pay for Miriam’s card. Becky moved out of the way. Ruth looked up just as the cashier said, “Merry Christmas!”

 

And now, will you let me know what you think? (You’ve always wanted to tell a writer what was right/wrong with their writing, haven’t you? Now’s your chance!) Here are a few questions that you can address, or just leave any feedback you wish.

  • Would you continue reading it or set it aside?
  • Can you “see” Ruth? The setting?
  • Did you stop reading or skim any of it? If so, at what point did that happen?
  • Any part you thought was especially touching, or intriguing?

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, or PM/email me privately.

Thank you so much!

Ring Out the Old, Ring In the New

 It’s that time again, when everyone is posting “Best of” lists and annual evaluations of life, and setting goals or making resolutions for the coming year.

 

I had a good year. Here’s the broad picture (I’ll spare you the details).

I accomplished the two career goals that I really wanted, both related to writing and editing. There was a third I-don’t-want-to-but-feel-like-I-should goal that I did work grudgingly hard toward for about six months, and finally decided it just wasn’t worth it. So glad I did; that one just wasn’t for me.

I didn’t have a book published this year, but have worked on two novels that I’m writing, and have edited several for other people. One of the more interesting was the Sing & Cook book. I’ve done cookbooks before, but the “Sing” part made it unique and intriguing.

I advocated a bit more for causes I believe in. Not on social media so much, but in real life. I’d like to do much more; this is definitely an area ripe for improvement.

I volunteered.

And I enjoyed plenty of play time, including a trip to Missouri to attend LauraPalooza and visit friends. This was certainly a highlight.

I did something new: glassblowing.

I learned something.

Something I set no goals for and therefore did not happen: better health. Too much chair time (but that’s how I met my career goals!), not enough moving time. And too much Blue Bell. And menopause certainly hasn’t helped. When I set goals for 2018, this shall be addressed.

Something else I didn’t do last year, or ever before: choose a word to focus on through the year. I’m choosing one for 2018: Rise, inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem. I want to rise above fear to courage, rise above stagnation to progression, rise above complacency to action, rise above anger to compassion, rise above helplessness to helpfulness. Of course I try to do these things anyway, but perhaps by keeping the word before me and making a concerted effort, I can do even better.

I don’t do “Best of” lists. This is partly because it’s too hard to choose, and partly because often what I’d choose is out of date – I’m reading books and watching movies from last year, or even last decade. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair to rank those among the current year’s releases, especially when there are many current things I know would rank higher if I’d read/watched/listened to them.

So here are some of my goals for 2018:

  • Finish writing my novel The Jew’s Ornament
  • Write at least two blog posts a month
  • Assist in getting the novelized memoir of one of my clients accepted for publication
  • Implement the marketing/publicity/advertising plan I’ve prepared for my writing and editing
  • Move an hour a day, at least 4 days a week
  • Do something I’ve never done before
  • Learn something new
  • Volunteer at least an hour a week

I hope your new year is filled with joy, accomplishments, and peace.

The Good King

Today is the Feast of Stephen. Where have you heard that recently? Oh, yes, in that carol: “Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen…”

A fellow writer recently blogged about favorite Christmas songs. I commented that one of mine is the carol about the good King. I love the imagery of a king going out to physically help a peasant.

 

Did you know this song is based on a real ruler?

   Wenceslaus was born in Prague about 905 to a Christian father, the Duke of Bohemia, and a pagan mother. He was raised and educated by his grandmother (his father’s mother), who was also a Christian.

The Duke died when Wenceslaus was about 13 years old. His mother became regent and began to impose a secular reign. The grandmother disapproved of this, and encouraged Wenceslaus to usurp his mother’s power. The power struggle between the two women was fueled by various advisors who pitted Christians against pagans in an effort to advance their own interests. It wasn’t long before the grandmother was murdered (strangled with her own veil) and the mother exiled for the deed.

Wenceslaus took power when he turned 18. He tried to unify Bohemia under Christian rule. He was known as a pious, educated, and intelligent man who cared for the poor and the sick, and widows and orphans. It is believed by many that Wenceslaus even took a vow of poverty, though there is no direct evidence of this. He established several churches, including the rotunda of Saint Vitus at Prague Castle.

He also sought to ensure peace by forming an alliance with Germany. For a few years Bohemia enjoyed tranquility and security. During these years Wenceslaus married and had children, including a son who became next in line to the Dukedom. This removed Wenceslaus’s brother Boleslav from the line of succession.

 In 929 the peace ended when German king Heinrich I the Fowler invaded Bohemia and forced Wenceslaus to submit. Boleslav took this opportunity to undermine Wenceslaus’s leadership and turn people against him. A group of knights aligned with Boreslav assassinated Wenceslaus on the steps of a church as he was entering to attend Mass.

Wenceslas was considered a martyr and a saint immediately after his death, and legends sprang up about him within just a few years. One written account states, “rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he [Wenceslaus] went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.” (Centuries later Pope Pius II, who walked ten miles barefoot in the ice and snow as an act of pious thanksgiving, proclaimed this legend to be factual.)

Holy Roman Emperor Otto I posthumously “conferred on [Wenceslas] the regal dignity and title” and Wenceslaus was viewed as a “righteous king,” one whose power stems from his piety. Thus we sing about “Good King Wenceslaus.”

May his example and lesson encourage those of us who live with plenty to remember and care for those less fortunate.

Good King Wenceslas looked out      
on the feast of Stephen,
when the snow lay round about,
deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night,
though the frost was cruel,
when a poor man came in sight,
gathering winter fuel.

Hither, page, and stand by me.
If thou know it telling:
yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?
Sire, he lives a good league hence,
underneath the mountain,
right against the forest fence
by Saint Agnes fountain.

Bring me flesh, and bring me wine.
Bring me pine logs hither.
Thou and I will see him dine
when we bear the thither.

Page and monarch, forth they went,
forth they went together
through the rude wind’s wild lament
and the bitter weather.

Sire, the night is darker now,
and the wind blows stronger.
Fails my heart, I know not how.
I can go no longer.
Mark my footsteps my good page,
tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
freeze thy blood less coldly.

In his master’s step he trod,
where the snow lay dented.
Heat was in the very sod
which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing,
ye who now will bless the poor
shall yourselves find blessing.

Merry Christmas!