Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 31, 2016

In two day’s time I will leaving on a journey that I have wanted to make for the last three years. On my own, I’ll be driving to Indiana to spend time with one of my writer friends.

It’s not as far a drive as you might think, since the woman I’ll be visiting lives in the northern half of Indiana. I’ve never driven there before, but I have a Garmin, and I sort of know how to use it. And yes, I’m anal enough that I’ve printed off driving directions from the Internet, just in case.

I’ve always enjoyed driving. That was a good thing because I used to drive about 120 miles every day, ferrying my husband to and from work, as he doesn’t have a driver’s licence. This was something I did for a good couple of decades. In the beginning, it was actually half of that, as I was going to work as well, so it was one trip to and one trip home per day. But in the last several years that I chauffeured him after I no longer worked outside the home, the daily task consisted of two round-trips, which would have been two days worth of driving previously.

Fortunately, my daughter took over playing chauffeur to her dad a few years ago, because it wasn’t only distance that was a factor. Two round-trips to the rural community where my husband works took nearly three hours out of my day. More, actually, because I would have to go back to bed after the very early morning run. I’d be getting out of bed again around ten, and then having to leave to get him at around three-thirty. That severely cut into my writing time. When my husband and daughter both expressed the opinion that I should be putting more books out there, I challenged them to take something off my already very full plate. I’m very grateful they came up with the solution they did.

In return for the chauffeur service, we pay for all of our daughter’s gas, almost all of her vehicle repairs, and her daddy takes her on a vacation each year.

I haven’t undertaken a solo trip away from home since I flew to Texas in 2013. I don’t have the travel bug the way my husband does, and the lack of going places hasn’t bothered me except that I really want to spend time with my friends who live in the U.S.

My husband and daughter will be going someplace tropical in November, during which I will be home alone (or as alone as one can be living with a neurotic dog and an unpredictable cat). Father and daughter enjoy traveling together, and I really am happy to stay here and write.

I’m excited about this trip. I’m really looking forward to a couple of days of brain-storming story ideas, and simply catching up. Those who spend their days creating worlds and stories know how energizing it is to spend time with someone of like mind. Creative minds coming together is a truly beautiful thing to experience. It is, to me, the greatest natural high.

I’d begun to wonder if this trip would ever happen. Originally, I thought I’d have that gallbladder surgery, and then be good to go. But it didn’t happen according to the time table I wanted. It was delayed a couple of years while the doctors made certain that all of the symptoms I was having had to do with that particular organ, and were not something else.

 Finally, as you know, the surgery took place last September. I’d always planned for either an early spring or an early fall trip, because my friend is very busy, with a schedule filled with professional commitments and deadlines. Now I’m actually counting down to the day of departure.

I won’t be packing a whole lot because I’ll only be gone a few days. I’ve never been a fussy dresser, and I don’t tend to wear make-up unless it’s an extremely special occasion. I think I was too lazy to ever develop that habit, and now at 62, I’m comfortable letting everyone see my naked face. I was once asked by a female manager, at the company where I worked for more than a decade, why I didn’t wear makeup? She said she believed I could almost be pretty if I did. I immediately replied that I was so beautiful in my natural state that were I to wear makeup, the rest of the women who were my co-workers would feel woefully inadequate by comparison—so out of kindness to them, I abstained.

Yes, I’ve always been a smart ass and rarely at a loss for words when being insulted.

Fortunately for me, this visit will be spent with true friends, in a private setting. My writing friend doesn’t judge a person based on outside appearance, and neither do I. That shouldn’t surprise anyone.

We’re writers. We’re far more concerned about what lies beneath the surface than with whatever may superficially cover it up.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 24, 2016

The Internet is an amazing example of modern technological achievement. It seems like not that long ago, although it has been more than 25 years, we first heard talk of an “information super-highway”, and wondered what it would be like. It was simply too huge a concept for me, at least, to wrap my head around!

 What I recall of those days, there was a lot of concern about things that in the end, never came to be. But I also remember, there was no concern about some things that did come to be, and that is very interesting.

 There was a lot of talk that with the ease of computer use, our kids would stop reading. However, with the way information “goes viral”, that is no longer a concern. There are more kids reading than ever before—remember the Harry Potter craze? Followed by the Twilight craze? All fueled in part by the Internet. No, they don’t teach “cursive” in schools anymore, and that’s a damn shame. But I don’t think we need to worry about reading going out of style anytime soon.

 Another positive that I have touted often with regard to the Internet is the way it has helped the elderly and the shut-in to re-connect with society again. That was my first lesson. I first “went on line” in the aftermath of my open-heart surgery in early 2003. While I healed and tried to focus on writing, it was a comfort for me, this Internet, especially when I found a free game site. There, playing bingo online, I ‘met’ several wonderful women and men, some of for whom that game site and others like it were their only socialization, their only source of fun and their best contact with the outside world. What a blessing for me, and for so many others, to be able to find a place to get together, to chat, and to be entertained without having to go anywhere when that going would be so difficult to do.

There are so many benefits to be found with this amazing medium. The Internet itself is neither good nor bad. It’s the usage of this medium wherein the wiles of the user are revealed. It is ultimately the user who determines if this instrument is wielded for good, or for evil.

There are several ways that the Internet is used for ill, and I don’t think we imagined such would be the case at the dawn of this new age. At least, I know I didn’t.

It’s now much easier for those looking for illicit things—child porn, the drug trade, and even those who would become terrorists—to find what they want on line. There are hackers who specialize in ‘identity theft’ and who manage to take the unwary for thousands of dollars every year. Cyber-Crime is a growing industry on both sides of the law.

But to me, the most insidious use of all is the spread of misinformation, under the guise of “the public has a right to know”. It continues to baffle me, the degree of success those people have who spout ridiculous conspiracy theories. Also incomprehensible to me is the following those who like to spread hate-filled diatribes are able to claim. Where once someone making a speech about the craziest of stories or theories, or who would slander another person’s good name without real proof, would have been jeered off their soapbox, now, there’s an entire realm of crazy talk, crazy theories, and hate to which more than just the crazies are drawn—unfortunately. Remember that old saw, “if it’s in the newspaper, it must be true?” Yeah, that has no place in our reality anymore—neither in newspapers nor on the Internet.

Just because you can read it on line doesn’t make it true. You have to use your brain; you have to use your discernment. Some people with very high IQs, and allegedly very high morals, believe some of the most ridiculous and vile things about the so-called famous—things that absolutely defy logic or anyone’s definition of decency.

Some of the weirdest stuff of course, has a political bent to it. It doesn’t matter that most of the wildest stories circulating these days have been proven false. These characters who spread this crap care nothing for the truth. There are, with every new election cycle, people who haven’t heard those old lies, and thus, new people who now believe them starting the cycle of insanity all over again.

Did you hear the one about the Royal Family of Great Britain all being reptilian, and that at certain times, during secret ceremonies, they eat babies? I can’t tell you much more about it than that. It took me a few seconds for my logic to overcome my shocked disbelief to get the hell out of that video. If you have the stomach for it, go ahead and search YouTube. Seriously.

Now, some of you are going shrug, and say, “hey, there are crazies all over the world, and we all know there’s a lunatic fringe out there.” Yes, there are and yes, there is, true enough. And as long as they remain in the “fringe” category, I really have no problem with that. People have the right to believe whatever far-out crap they want to believe. They have the right to be crazy.

I’ll say that it again. People have the right to be crazy.

My only problem? What happens when the lunatics take over the asylum? When the fringe bleeds into the mainstream? And if you think there’s no danger of that happening, well, my friends, you haven’t been paying attention to the news lately.

I hope and pray and choose to believe that those of sound and discerning mind will continue to outnumber the wackos, at least for the foreseeable future.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go line my hat with aluminum foil to keep the aliens from reading my mind.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

August 17, 2016

There are memories right on the surface, so close sometimes I swear I could reach out, take a step and be there again. Over the last little while I’ve come to compare two phases of life—elderly and newborn—not something I was planning on doing, of course. But I’m an author—that is who I am down to the bone, more than it is my occupation. We who are authors do three things, mostly.

First we observe life around us, then we think about what it is we’re seeing, and then we write about it.

Have you ever spent any time simply watching a newborn baby? I’ve heard all sorts of things about these wee beings. There are assertions that they really can’t see anything, in the way that you and I see things, not in the first few days or even weeks; that’s why their eyes move so often, why it appears their gazes just roam. And when they stare at something? Why, it must be because something particularly bright has caught their attention. Oh, and no, that’s not really a smile, not at all and not yet. Of course it isn’t. It’s only gas.

But I wonder.

Have you ever spent any time simply watching someone who’s elderly? Someone who seems to be not one hundred percent in this world, mentally? They sit quietly, their gazes roam, not seeming to fix on anything. But every once in a while, they stare. There are assertions that granny is just getting old. She’s not really with us all the time, you understand. If she were, she would certainly be responding the way we are, hip deep in the conversation, as it were, living in the moment. She’s likely off in her own little world, thinking about the past. Maybe she’s recalling her wedding day, or perhaps some other important event in her life. Don’t mind her. In fact, let’s just pretend she’s not really here.

But I wonder.

Have you ever spent any time simply watching an older pet? Have you ever wondered what they’re thinking? Their eyes seem to look all over, except once in a while, when they stare, and you wonder what they’re looking at. And what do they dream about, anyway? I know a lot of people assert that when a dog is twitching in his sleep, he’s dreaming about “chasing a rabbit”. I would argue that a lot of dogs who’ve only ever been urban dwellers likely don’t even know what the heck a rabbit is.

But I wonder.

I wonder, because in those eyes—the eyes of the newborn, the eyes of the elderly and the eyes of an older pet I see something more than nothing. Is there a connection between this life, and the next? Is there a portal between times? Could there be a level of existence and thought and communication that we’re not even aware of?

Maybe babies really do see fairies and ghosts, because no one has told them yet that they can’t. Maybe the elderly really are able to visit the past in a more literal sense than we mean when we say they’re back there. And maybe, our pets bond with us on a level we don’t even know exists. Maybe there’s a point in life, near the beginning and near the end, when communication with our four footed friends is completely normal, natural and yes, psychic.

Can you imagine a park bench of ethereal proportions? The newborn, the elderly woman or man, and the pet, all sitting side-by-side-by-side, watching the world that is in progress around them—separate from it and yet a part of it—as they share thoughts and words of wisdom.

What would that conversation be like? If we could manage to break through that barrier that separates the spiritual from the physical, what words could they offer us as encouragement, words we could hang onto that would serve us for all the days of our lives?

The baby might express a sense of infinite wonder. He might tell us how vast the beauty and the hope and the possibilities really are, and how enormous and miraculous life realized truly is. The baby might urge us to always keep a sense of that wonder close to our hearts, for times when life becomes difficult.

The elderly might caution us to not be in so much of a hurry, because at the end of the day, everything happened in but an instant—here, and then gone so, so fast. Slow down, they might say. Slow down and cherish every single moment, of every single day, and never lose sight that it’s the little things that make a life worth living.

And the dog? Well, the dog might tell us that no matter how busy we are, or how important all the stuff in our lives may seem, it’s crucial that we don’t ever forget one thing: we should never forget the importance of play.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

August 10, 2016

This coming Monday, our great-granddaughter turns 3 years old. We’ll be having a party, of course on Sunday—this time at her maternal grandmother’s home which is, oddly, just a few doors down from our house.

Abby is a singularly formidable little girl. She knows what she knows and she wants what she wants, and that is it. I’m delighted to have a front row seat to the show, to be perfectly honest. I’m very grateful that I don’t ever have to be the person responsible for her, and therefore on the front line, dealing with her on a daily basis. She really is quite a handful.

I predict, that if she can turn that charm and determination and force of personality in the right direction when she gets older, then she will go very far in life.

Just as grandchildren were different from children, so, too, great-grandchildren are different yet again. There’s another layer of separation, which is a good thing. Most great-grandparents are much older than we are. By the time our grandbabies have babies, we’ve usually earned the right to just sit and smile. For the most part, that is what we do. We see her and her brother on a fairly regular basis. When they come for supper, we spend time with them, of course—and then they go home, and our house returns to it’s quiet, natural state.

A week ago, we’d just returned from Pennsylvania. It’s not a long drive down to visit our friends—about six hours. Our daughter accompanied us as she has the last few times, and we took the dog, as well. Our daughter joins us each year for two reasons. The first is so she can have a few days when she doesn’t have to be responsible for anyone. Her job is a very busy and taxing one, and her son and his family live with her, so times of peace and quiet are few for her. She brings her e-reader, and spends at least a couple of days in her jammies—except when she changes to go to the pool.

Her other reason for accompanying us is to go shopping. It isn’t a question of cheaper prices, either. It's because the selection of products available is so much different down there than it is up here. When she isn’t buying things for her dogs, she is shopping for her grandbabies.

Some of what she bought on this trip was for their birthdays. Abby’s celebration is first, and her brother, Archer, has his next month, in September when he’ll turn 2. The day before we headed home, our daughter carefully packed two little gift bags, to be given to the kids on her return. The rest of what she purchased for them was craftily hidden in her luggage, awaiting their birthday parties.

Of the things my daughter bought her granddaughter to receive as soon as she got home was a pretty summer dress, and “princess shoes”. Abby is a girly girl, a complete opposite of her nanny, who was a tomboy. She loves dressing up, and she absolutely loves anything that is sparkly or shiny. Those shoes were both. Of course, she had to have them on as soon as she saw them.

My daughter was pleased with herself, and I’m certain we can all relate. There’s something very satisfying when you give your grandchildren gifts they love. Well, Miss Abby loved her dress, she loved the toys, but she really, really loved those princess shoes.

She loved them so much she refused to take them off for bed.

I don’t know how they handled the situation, exactly. I do know that it involved a fight. Abby can be quite insistent in getting her way, and she can also, I have seen, eye a person with what I swear is cunning calculation. Yes, she will go far when she is older.

Another thing about being a great granny is that family tends not to ask me for advice. That’s fine. I do believe in letting parents and yes, even grandparents, figure things out on their own. But I’ve begun to slide into what I consider the golden reward for having endured so many years and generations of my own family. I’ve begun simply giving my advice, without a care as to whether it’s wanted or taken or not.

Of course, I had two suggestions on the subject. The first was that they could have convinced her that her shoes could sleep beside her in her bed—because after all, since they spent so much time with her, they had to be tired, too.

Or her parents could have simply let the little girl fall asleep in her shoes. They would be easy enough to remove when she’s snoring.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

August 3, 2016

How do we define “humanity”?

A quick search online gave me two definitions. The first, of course, is The Human Race. Us. Our entire species. The second definition reads: humanness, benevolence. The synonyms given in this second definition are listed as compassion, brotherly love, fraternity, fellow feeling, philanthropy, kindness, consideration, understanding, sympathy, tolerance.

The first definition is a physical one, explaining that we are living beings, different from others that occupy space on this planet such as monkeys or worms. The second definition has to do with that which is not physical. It refers to the inner being, to our emotional and spiritual aspirations. I use the word aspirations because of all that I have been seeing lately as I watch my nightly newscasts and surf the web. I see many examples of people who lack the essence of the second definition. I see many who appear to lack humanity.

We cannot change the fact that we are human beings; we can, however, exercise control over the level of our humanity. The first definition is etched in stone. The second is a matter of choice.

We began our experiments in society, we human beings, in caves. There is evidence to support this fact. We likely banded together for survival, and not just from other clusters of human beings. I imagine at one point the large, carnivorous predators on this planet outnumbered the humans.

As our social development progressed, we made our structures more complicated. Beginning in ancient times, there was a small upper class—the nobles, if you will, that held all the power and made all the rules; and then there were the serfs and the slaves—the workers who barely survived, but who knew their place and continued to work for the nobles because they didn’t know any better.

Serfs and slaves were drone-like, and completely expendable. The concept of that second definition of humanity had not yet been created. It had not yet been discovered or chosen.

Through the ages, we’ve changed and evolved in our societal structures, although it wasn’t a unified journey that was species-wide. In this day and age there exits several different forms of society on earth, running the gamut from uncontacted tribes, living as they have since the dawn of time, to democracies, where there are neither noble classes, or serfs by birth.

Just as during this process we came to know the depths of the negativity we humans could sink to, so we also discovered the heights of positivity to which we could rise. We learned to define that which was best in us, as our “humanity”.

Modern life is complicated, no question about that. Change is happening at an ever faster rate. The world around us seems unstable. There are wars and rumors of wars. There are those who hate with such fierce devotion, they would kill in cold blood all those they see who are not like them. We call those people terrorists, because they use their violence to breed terror in us.

Others use fear as their weapon of choice, to destroy not the body, but spirit. I’ll leave it to each reader to come up with a name for them.

There are many who believe the best way to combat this fear is to turn back the clock. They believe they can end the reality of terrorism by stopping the forward momentum of our social evolution. These people would like to go back to what they call the “good old days”. Those days in their minds were the days when people knew their place, when life was good, when the “right people” had the jobs in the mines and the sweat shops, giving them money and security.

I feel sorry for anyone who actually believes this. Thousands seem to support the concept of regression and they’re all convinced that not only can they make this happen, but that they’ll somehow come out on top when they do. They will no longer be powerless or insignificant or whatever it is they believe they are now. But you know what? It’s kind of a funny thing, really. All those people who are decrying modern society and wish to somehow create a tumble back in time? They will not, as they believe, suddenly become the elite, the nobles, the ones who will be, to borrow an English expression, in the catbird seats.

No, the ones who will be at the top will be that same 1% that we have at the top, financially speaking, now—because they already are. Those believers will be the serfs, the ones doing their overlord’s bidding—because they already are.

They will, in truth, have sacrificed their freedom and their humanity for a prison of ignorance.