Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June 28, 2017

When I was about ten years old, I decided to write a script for my favorite television show of the day. I was the youngest of three children, with a mother who by then was a single mother who worked full time to support us. My mom was not affectionate by nature. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times she hugged me in my life. I didn’t understand at the time, of course, that some people simply aren’t able to show affection, even with their own children. My daddy had been one to hug and snuggle and read stories to me. But he was gone.

One of my fondest and earliest memories is being tucked into my bed in the winter by my daddy, who took my sheet and two blankets out to the space heater that was in our living room. He warmed each one, one at a time, and then tucked them around me. I was about five and still in a crib. I shared this bedroom with my parents, and my sister, so until my parents got a three-quarter bed that I could share with her, the crib was all there was space for in that tiny room.

To this day, I get a wonderful, cherished feeling whenever, being chilly, I’m comforted by a warm blanket.

My father died when I was eight and a half, and by the age of ten, I missed him keenly. I’d already learned that I couldn’t talk to mom about daddy. She’d either refuse to talk about him, or end up in tears. In later years—when I was 16 or so—she could talk about him some, but not then, not when I was ten. Her loss was still too new. At the time, my brother was twenty, and totally into the woman he was dating, the woman he would marry the next year (they just celebrated their fifty-second wedding anniversary). And my sister was too busy with her many “boyfriends” to pay me much mind. And when she did pay attention to me, it often didn’t work out well for me at all.

So, there I was, a ten-year-old child, lonely, hurting, and inwardly raging that life was unfair. Why not, then, create my own world, one that could be fair? I lost myself in writing, from that time forward. I made the mistake of showing my sister, once, something I had written (I kept trying with her, for all of our lives. It never worked out, but at least I know that I did what I could). That day, the day that I, full of hope, showed her my great screenplay, was the day when I learned that I have a very thin skin and that ridicule is nearly the most painful thing in life to endure.

Her ridicule didn’t stop me from writing, however; it only stopped me from sharing that writing with others—until well after I was married, in fact. When times became particularly difficult to endure, all through my life, my writing was there, a sanctuary for me, a place where I could lose myself, forget reality, and simply be. My ability to write is the greatest gift I’ve ever received, next to my family.

It took my becoming an adult who had an early heart attack at the age of 48 to consider that the time was right for me to do more than just escape into my own stories. Now, as a woman who has survived, so far, nearly fifteen years post-triple by-pass, as one with more than 50 novels published, I can see how all things have worked together to bring me to where I am today. And I can how see those times that were the hardest to bear in fact have ended up being blessings to me.

Nobody likes emotional pain. Loss is hard, no matter our age, or who (or what) we lose. If our heart has been engaged in the relationship, the loss of that loved one, even that beloved pet, hurts. No, no one likes emotional pain, and yet to some degree we all experience it. For me, emotion pain became the foundation for the development of empathy. Empathy is crucial if one is to be an author of works that move or touch other people.

It was never my goal to get rich writing. It was never my goal to become famous, writing. Did I imagine the pleasure of maybe, someday, stepping into a book store and seeing my book up on the shelf? Oh, most certainly. But not because it meant either fame, or fortune.

That joy would stem from a logical conclusion. If my books were on the shelf in a book store, that meant people were reading them. And if people were reading my words, then I had to be touching lives and/or moving hearts.

I’ve heard some wonderful stories from readers that have brought me to tears, because they’ve shared with me how my words have done just that—how my words have helped them.

That is my goal. That is my mission. That is my ministry.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

June 21, 2017

My, but aren’t we human beings difficult creatures? And aren’t we just filled with complaints? If it’s not too cold outside, it’s too hot. If it’s not too dry, why, then it’s too wet. We go from “I wish the air would move a little”, to “Oh dear Lord, that wind is going to sweep me away!”

Sometimes I wonder if our complaints about the weather are made because it gives us an outlet to bitch. You have to admit, that is one thing you can grumble about and that really, no one individual can feel they’re the target of your vitriol. If your nearest and dearest complain about the weather, well, that has nothing to do with you, does it? You can tell them to have at it without a care.

I think we need to complain, and I believe it’s a way for us to unleash our aggression. Ideally, that’s one of the benefits of the sports we put our young boys and girls into. Oh, sure, I’ve heard all the opinions about building team work, learning fair play, self discipline, and getting exercise. As a member of society who really wants society to work, I can agree with all those benefits. But it is essential for us, as we grow, to learn how to get rid of that aggression.

The problems arise, when we fail to remember one salient point about humanity. For all that we’re intellectual and sentient beings, for all that we consider ourselves civilized, we are also a part of the natural world. We’re animals, with animal instincts, and not all of those instincts, thanks to our origins, are refined or even polite.

I firmly believe if we do not give our young boys and girls, men and women, sufficient outlets for their natural animal-based aggression as they grow, we harm them, sometimes irreparably. In my opinion, aggression repressed is not aggression destroyed—it’s merely aggression delayed.

There are parallels between the natural world and people living in society because despite our best efforts to be civilized, despite our best efforts to believe we are above the natural world. I believe that when humans are forced from a young age to tamp down their natural aggression, it never goes away, it truly is simply delayed. Delaying aggression only builds pressure within. Eventually, pressure suppressed long enough is a pressure relieved by a cataclysmic explosion. We see this in nature, and we see this in us.

Just ask the folks living around Mount St. Helens. Or look at the people who are guilty of road rage incidents. Or, that very modern-day phrase, people known for “going postal”.

When I was a kid—and sorry, the older I become, the more I turn into one of those old-timey kind of folks always saying that, but I digress. When I was a kid, there would be fights in the school yard. Teachers would pull kids apart after a few punches were exchanged, and, (this is important) aggression expelled. If the cause was severe, there would be a meeting in the principal’s office, but otherwise, it was just a school yard fight. Sure as hell, no police would called, and no one stuck labels on anyone else for these childhood fisticuffs.

I understand the movement toward all the efforts to stop aggression (not talking about bullying here, that’s something else altogether), I understand the motive is to stem violence. But what we have to do is channel that need to blow, that need, yes, for violence, into something that uses the energy and emotions that combine to create that aggression in the first place.

I believe that this is a need as basic to humanity as food, water and air. I really believe that. I also believe we can ensure our kids learn to recognize it and then to relieve it in a healthy manner.

Simply telling kids it’s wrong to feel that way isn’t good enough, and it’s not the way to go.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

June 14, 2017

Each Mother’s Day, I go to the floral department of my local grocery store and purchase three miniature rose bushes in pots for the girls. By the girls, of course, I mean my daughter, my second daughter, and my daughter-in-law. It’s a small tradition that I began years ago. You may have guessed I’m big on traditions. There’s so much uncertainty in life, it’s nice, I think, to have a few things one can count on.

The girls, for their part, individually chose to plant those rose bushes in their gardens, rather than keep them in the pots. Another tradition, and one that means the world to me.

Come Father’s Day, there’s just my oldest son, as well as my husband, to show appreciation for. Rather than a rose bush, I’ve tended to gift our son with other things instead. Most usually, it’s clothing. This year for the first time, I will give him a gift card. That seems to be my fall-back gift, lately. It isn’t that I don’t want to take the time to actually shop, although my stamina for that activity is much less than it used to be. It’s more my belief that it’s better all around if the person being gifted can choose their own gift.

I don’t recall celebrating any Father’s Days when I was a kid. I’m sure I did, with my siblings, but there is just no memory in my head of ever doing so. There never has been. When I was eight and a half, my father died, and after that devastating point in my life, the next fathers I knew were my husband and my father-in-law. In those days, the gifts were more of a token, as was the card. It seemed more important to give a nod of recognition to the fathers, on their day.

Fathers play a vital role in the lives of their children. They are the bulwarks, the guardians, the ones we look to in times of trouble, or fear. Fathers, in the ideal state, never tremble, never show uncertainty or dread to their families. We cling to them, our fathers, and receive our sense of security from being able to do so.

What an enormous burden we lay upon the shoulders of our fathers!

In this day and age, it is sad to say, the role of father is being redefined. I say sad to say, because so many younger fathers think their job is done after the procreation moment. However, for those who choose to go beyond procreation, choose to become fathers to their children, that role no longer has a single sense to it, in that individual families, individual fathers, seek their own definitions. In some families, for example, the women remain working outside the home and the fathers stay home and take care of the house and the child until the child hits school age. That is different from all that I knew—although my mother did work outside the home when I was little and my father did cook and clean and do laundry sometimes. But just because the role of the father is different than what I knew, that really doesn’t make it less.

People should have the freedom to define themselves. What remains steadfast, in my opinion, is the general principle of parenting. If you are bringing children into the world, then as adults, whether you’re the mother or the father it is your responsibility to care for that child, to nurture, to protect, and to equip that child with the tools he or she will need to become a productive, happy adult.

That is a tall order for anyone to fill. It requires taking one’s eyes off one’s self, and keeping them firmly fixed on someone else. Someone smaller, weaker, and needier than you.

A tall order, indeed. So, to the fathers out there, I say Happy Father’s Day. We honor you for your service and encourage you in your mission. It’s not an easy one, but then the truth is that nothing worthwhile ever is.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

June 7, 2017

I’ve come to a greater appreciation that it’s the quality of a moment, and not it’s duration, that is the most important aspect of any event.

Remember how I waxed near poetical about anticipating the day when I would be able to take in the aroma of my lilacs and lilies-of-the-valley at the same time? That was a moment I’ve been anticipating since I panted both the lilac bushes, and the lily bulbs at the front of my house.

Lilac bushes don’t seem to grow quickly, at least not compared to other flowering shrubs. They take time. Lots of time. I wish I could remember exactly how many years ago I panted mine, but it has to have been at least 4 years ago. They’ve only grown a few inches in height in that time, and have gained a bit of girth. Every spring, I count the appearance of those tiny green buds as the bushes/trees proclaim new life, a victory. Last winter wasn’t as harsh, here, as the winter before. That doesn’t mean I was any less on pins and needles, waiting to see those buds. I really don’t take their survival for granted.

What I didn’t know was that this spring’s blossoms would finally reach the point of being bountiful enough to release a good amount of fragrance into the air. And yes! I was finally able to inhale both scents at the same time. I didn’t know it was going to be this year. But, as I am prone to do, I’d hoped.

It was a wonderful handful of mornings. Not a full week, more like four days. Yes, I’ve been waiting for years and I got about four days during which those two aromas mingled.

I wonder if that’s a metaphor for life, in general. Do you suppose that a lot of things are that way, that the anticipation appears to outweigh the actual event? I know many would say it’s so. I hope I am never among those that do.

You see, I count anticipation as part of the event. I’ve always done that. I enjoy planning for a trip, working out what clothing I’m going to take, what sights I want to see, even what I might like to bring back for my grandchildren as gifts. To me, that has always been a part of the experience of vacation. That way, the “trip” if you will, isn’t only the week or so of the actual time away from home, but includes the months leading up to it.

Similarly, the years that I’ve spent hoping for, and waiting for, that sense of scent (pardon my pun) had as its crescendo, the few mornings recently past, when I stepped onto my porch, inhaled deeply, and received as my reward an emotional homecoming of sorts. But the anticipation of that first day, that first moment, that first breath—well, that was as much a part of the experience, don’t you think?

We live in an instant society, when we expect everything to be fast. I’m guilty of that myself. Patience? I pray for it every day but many days sadly go without that admirable quantity. You should see me at my computer some days. I open one browser, click on the site I want that’s in my bookmarks—and if it’s not opening in five seconds, I’ll close that browser and open another. Nope, sometimes, there’s no patience here.

But that saying, patience has its rewards? It’s true, if you make anticipation a part of the event or experience you’re aiming for.

That almost seems counter to what I said last week about not wishing away time, but it’s not. It’s more like savoring your time. I try to savor each day, to find something to appreciate and be thankful for.

Because, at the end of my time here on earth, I don’t want to regret that I was in too much of a hurry to look forward to and embrace the small miracles of life.