Wednesday, December 24, 2014

To Fred

This year is winding to a close.  We just have to do Christmas and New Year’s and before we know it, it will be a brand new year, 2015.  

For myself, I have one more thing to get through--my husband’s memorial service on Saturday the 27.  Fred passed away on December 16 from cardiac arrest.  He was sixty-six.  

As I’ve mentioned many times in this blog, we moved from California to North Carolina last year to be nearer to family.  Fred wanted to make sure I was close to my family in case something happened to him.  He knew that with his health history, he would most likely not outlive me.  

I am so glad we made this move, had a year to get settled and get to know people, and get established in a church.  We even bought me a car so I wouldn’t be saddled with driving his truck.  It would appear that God waited until everything was in place before taking Fred.  

Family is everything at a time like this.  My daughter Cyndi has been a mountain of help and I’m glad we’re only fifty minutes away instead of three thousand miles away.  Her husband, Bill, is taking over the process of selling the truck and some of Fred’s firearms. My daughter, Tammy, and her husband, Curtis, will be arriving from Connecticut at any moment to stay with me at least through Christmas and Saturday’s service.  I await their arrival with eager anticipation.  They, too, will be a help and a comfort to me.  My son is here in spirit since he’s not able to make the trip from Connecticut.

Fred supported my writing and so I dedicate this blog post to him.  Rest in peace, Fred.

Quote of the Day:  Lives of great men all remind us
                               We can make our lives sublime.
                               And, departing, leave behind us
                               Footprints on the sands of time.  Henry Wads-worth Longfellow



Friday, December 5, 2014

Wheat Belly?

I trust you all had a healthy and heartfelt Thanksgiving. We certainly enjoyed our day with family. That is after all, one of the reasons we moved to the East Coast.

Fred and I did cheat a bit on our diets on Thanksgiving. What diets, you say? Well, one of Fred’s doctors recommended a ketogenic diet which is high protein and fat and very low carbs. Another of his doctors recommended he read a book called Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD. (You knew I had to bring in a book somewhere in this post, right?)



Two weeks before Thanksgiving, Fred went on the ketogenic diet, eating meat or eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In those two weeks, he lost thirteen pounds and his blood sugar stabilized to the point he needed far less insulin. He has since lost another seven pounds. He’s also beginning to lose the inflammation in his hands that have plagued him for so long.

At the same time, I started reading Dr. Davis’ book and began cutting wheat out of my diet. Do you have any idea what it means to cut wheat out of your diet? It means, no bread, rolls, bagels, English muffins, doughnuts, pasta, pizza, cereal, gravy, cake, pie, cookies, chips, tacos (not a big loss to me), pretzels, biscuits, pancakes, hot dog and hamburger buns, etc. etc. etc. There are very few items on the store shelves that don’t have wheat in them.

Why no wheat? According to Dr. Davis, wheat “is not the same grain our forebears ground into their daily bread. . . Wheat strains have been hybridized, crossbred, and introgressed to make the wheat plant resistant to environmental conditions. . . .reducing the proud ‘amber waves of grain’ of yesteryear to the rigid, eighteen-inch-tall high-production ‘dwarf’ wheat of today.” The result is, although today’s loaf of bread may look and even taste like what our grandmothers made, there are biochemical differences that our bodies have not adapted to in the fifty or so years that wheat has been genetically modified.

So what? So, today’s wheat can pack on the pounds, increase blood sugar, cause bone fragility, inflammation, heart disease, affect your sight, your brain tissues, your skin, peripheral neuropathy, and more.

Basically, Fred and I are on the same diet; by avoiding carbs, he’s avoiding wheat. I wish I could say that I, too, have lost twenty pounds since we started, but I can’t. I can say, however, that the scale is going down a little every day and I’m seldom hungry. 

If you have celiac disease, then you know about gluten. But for us who don’t have celiac disease and never realized that bread, even if it’s called whole grain or high fiber bread, is worse for us than a Snickers bar, we need to watch what we eat. Look around and you’ll see many wheat bellies, of which I have one, and so does Fred, but we’re doing something about it.

I'm not preaching, I'm just saying if we see results, we must be doing something right.

Quote of the Day: O beautiful for spacious skies/For amber waves of grain. Katharine Lee Bates

Friday, November 14, 2014

It's November

It’s November. It’s getting chilly. The frost is definitely about to be on the pumpkin. I just turned the space heater on in my office so I have warm air blowing on me. Ahhh, heat, wonderful heat.

It’s November. A time when we celebrate our servicemen and women. A big shout out to all of you who took the time to defend our country and way of life. Thank you for your service!

It’s November. The month we celebrate Thanksgiving. We’re having family over this year, the first time in decades we’ve been close enough to family to be able to have them at our Thanksgiving table. There will be ten of us, ranging from the oldest, me, to the youngest, my great grandson Aiden, who is seven. In our San Diego years, Fred and I would cook a small stuffed chicken, with a few of the accompaniments. If I was lucky, I could get him to eat at the table instead of in front of the TV. Rather than make a whole pie, or two because he likes apple and I like pumpkin, I’d buy one slice of each at the grocery store. This year, it will be turkey, ham, and all of the accompaniments, complete with apple pie, pumpkin pie, and maybe even a chocolate cream pie. What a difference having family around makes. For that I am very thankful.

It’s November. The month I turn a year older. Next week at this time I’ll be seventy-four and I find myself driven to complete the current book I'm writing, Leaving Mark. At this age, anything could happen at any time and I want to make sure my book gets finished before I do. And, who knows, I might just have a few more stories in me that need to be written.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Quote of the Day: Come, ye thankful people, come; raise the song of harvest home. Henry Alford

Friday, October 17, 2014

Regrets Anyone?

Do you remember Frank Sinatra? You do? Boy, you’re old. A line in his song, My Way written by Paul Anka, (another oldie but goodie) says: Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.

A year ago, we sold half of our belongings, packed up the rest, and headed east to parts unknown. We knew that Fred could play golf anywhere, I could write and we could do our LegalShield business anywhere, so we weren‘t tied to San Diego by anything other than our great friends. Do we have regrets? Not really. Do we miss the white sand beaches and palm trees, great attractions, and nearly perfect weather year ’round? A little. Did we ever avail ourselves of the white sand beaches, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, or Balboa Park? Nope. Not often, anyway.  We pretty much stayed in El Cajon. That’s about thirty miles inland for you non-San Diegans. Do we miss our friends, definitely. Am I glad we’re on the East Coast within driving distance of family? You betcha.

Fred filled his truck today at a station where gas was $2.94 a gallon. Do we wish we were still in California? Not one bit.

Do I yearn to look out my home office window onto a busy street instead of now looking at deer wandering on our front lawn? No way, Jose.

We made a big change moving to an area where even the weather changes from day to day. It’s now fall and the Creator has dipped his paintbrush in alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow, and burnt umber to color our new world. The paths we walk in White Deer Park are strewn with crunchy leaves, like rose petals before a bride.

Last winter was a BIG change, having to drive in, walk in, and shovel snow. We hope that everyone who told us, “Oh this is most unusual” meant it and this winter will be a bit milder.

Happy Halloween everyone! May the ghosts of your past offer you no regrets.

Quote of the Day: Nothing endures but change. Heraclitus

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I'm Not Chinese

I have a special treat for you today.  I'm sitting with author Ray Wong who's here to tell us about his new book, I'm Not Chinese:The Journey From Resentment to Reverence.

 
 
Welcome, Ray.  Let's start with the basics; please tell us where you live and if you're married and have children.
 
Sure.  I live in San Diego, CA.  I am grateful to have been married to my wife, Quyen, for 16 years. We have two children, Kevin--13, and Kristie--10. We feel blessed that both children are avid readers.
 
How long have you been writing?
 
I took my first creative writing class in the early 1990s at Grossmont Community College and have been at it since.
 
What type of writing do you normally do?

I'm interested in people and why they do the things they do. This is probably why I studied counseling for my graduate degree. I also earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University LA last year. Writing allows me to combine my fascination about people with the creativity to uncover truths about life. I specialize in creative nonfiction.
 
Give us a brief synopsis of I'm Not Chinese: The Journey from Resentment to Reverence.
 
I'll give you the first two lines from my prologue: "The first thing you need to know is I'm not Chinese. My name is Raymond Wong, and I stopped being Chinese at the age of five."

What prompted you to write this book?
 
I had been running from my culture and family all of my life. A trip to Hong Kong and mainland China in 1996 forced me to stop running. I had to write about it. There was no other choice.

How long did it take you to write the book?
I started it in 1996 and finished my first draft in 1997. I worked on revising it right up to the fall of this year.
Do you have a favorite line from the book?
I think every line in the book has to connect and have a purpose. The first two lines from the prologue launched me on this journey of self-discovery so if I had to pick a favorite, I owe it to those two lines for giving me a start.

Is this book published and, if so, when and by whom?
It will be launched on October 1st, 2014 by my publisher, Apprentice House, in Baltimore.
How can my readers get a copy?
It will be available on my website:  www.raymondmwong.com. It will also be available on Amazon and through the publisher's site.
What do you do besides write, Ray?
Is there time to do anything else? I haven't really even had time to write lately with the book about to be launched. Setting up speaking engagements and practicing my presentation have taken up all my writing time these past couple of months.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully a Pulitzer!  :-) I have started a project, which I haven't been working on lately, so I might get back to that once the marketing end of things quiets some. I actually have a few ideas for books so we will see which one grabs hold of me and won't let loose.
Ray, what is your advice to would be writers?
Live and write your truth. Even in fiction, find the truth of the story and what the characters want to teach you.
One final question, Ray.  What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?
How truly crazy you have to be to become a writer! You have to write because the madness sinks its claws into you and won't let go.
Thank you, Ray.  It's been a pure pleasure having you here today.
 
Folks, I've spent some one-on-one time with Ray in the past and I urge you to get his book as soon as it comes out in October.
 
Quote of the Day:   What thou lovest well is thy true heritage.  Ezra Pound
 
Answers to questions posed in my last post:  1 (a); 2 (b); 3. (c); 4. (a).






Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It's All Techno Greek to Me!

A good part of writing is the research that goes into a story or article. I am glad to be writing in this day and age when information is at the tip of my fingers. I can stop writing, go to Google and ask a question, and get right back to writing, all in a matter of minutes. No more going to get an encyclopedia or making a trip to the library.

As part of Willard Manor, I had to look up a variety of items and dates. For instance,

1. When was the telephone first in general use in this country?
A. 1880s
B. 1860s
C. 1900s

2. How many slaves escaped via the Underground Railroad?
A. 10,000
  B. 100,000
  C. 300,000

3. Prohibition lasted from?

A. 1900 - 1941
B. 1915 - 1936
C. 1919 - 1933

4. The Amendment giving women the right to vote is which one?

A. 19th
B. 20th
C. 16th

I also had to look up the years of WWI, the battles of the Civil War, the Great Depression, the Woodstock festival, how to grow marijuana, septic tanks, indoor plumbing, electricity, and how to demolish plaster walls, among a host of other things.

What amazes me, is that ALL of that information is available on line. Someone, somewhere, inputted all this information. I don’t care what question you type in Google, or any other search engine, someone has already asked that same question and the answer is there. I keep thinking I’m going to come up with a question no one has yet thought to ask, but I don’t.

Thirty years ago, I bought my son a Commodore 64 computer. It was amazing. He learned programming by writing three pages of instructions to make a ball bounce. I saw how much work went into that small task and I think of it every time I see a video on the computer or find an answer to any question I may now or any time in the future ever ask. Someone, somewhere, had to input that information. It blows my mind. But then, the idea of a radio and voices coming over a wire, or heaven forbid, a wireless radio, can equally blow my mind.


I have learned to accept that even though I don’t understand how all this works, I am very glad someone does and I can benefit from it. Take a techno geek to lunch today to thank him or her.

Quote of the Day: The computer is no better than its program. Elting Elmore Morison.

 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Living on the Wild Side of Life

We moved to N.C. to be closer to family. I had no idea that would include moving closer to Mother Nature.

Yesterday morning I sat at the computer and looked up to see a doe and her fawn wandering around our front lawn. I watched them for a few minutes, then they crossed the street over to another lawn. 


 

Later that day I cut up an apple and threw little apple chunks into the backyard.
Within an hour or two, Fred called me to come look out the kitchen window. There was a doe enjoying the apple bites. Then a spotted fawn came out of the woods and joined his mother. Fred went on the back porch and threw out bread for them and, miraculously, they didn’t run away but stayed right there eating. As I watched, I saw a second fawn, a little bigger than the first one, come into the backyard to join the other two. I was ecstatic!




I haven’t seen Carl, our male cardinal, in over a month, but I do see his wife, Carlina. We also have a bunny rabbit that has enjoyed our backyard a couple of times. Our bluebirds have gone to parts unknown. After the last of their babies flew off, mama and papa have not been seen at all. Dragonflies seem to prefer our frontyard.




Fred and I are now going to nearby White Deer Park to walk the hiking trails every day. We use walking sticks to help us old folks handle the one mile loop through the woods. On our walk I’ve seen a goldfinch, flowers, and this brown bird, whatever he is. 



I’ve found that the walk is a wonderful way to start the day and get my metabolism going.  I come back refreshed and energized with new ideas for the novel I’m working on called Leaving Mark.


Thought for the Day:  Life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth. Martin H. Fischer

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Feeling Awe-ful


I had an awe-ful moment this week. Not a bad moment--a moment full of awe.

We came back from a hasty two week trip to Connecticut and threw stale bread and hot dog buns on the ground by the bird feeder, knowing they wouldn’t go to waste. Shortly thereafter, Fred whispered to me to come look out the kitchen window. Eating the bread was a doe and, a few feet away, her week-old spotted fawn scampered about on the grass. I looked to see if Thumper and the rest of Bambi’s friends were nearby. The fawn was adorable! I wanted to get my camera and record this aaw! moment, but I didn’t want to make any movement that might scare them away. I also didn’t want to leave them, even for a few seconds, and miss the scene being played out before me. All too soon, they walked back into the woods and out of sight.  I'm sorry you don’t get to see a picture of our beautiful fawn and his mom in this post.


And I had an awful moment.

While packing to go to Connecticut, I transferred my newest book-in-progress to a flash drive so I could work on it up north. A few days later, I plugged it into my sister’s computer and lo and behold, nothing. In my haste to take it with me, I forgot that I work in Microsoft Works, an easy to use word processing program that it seems nobody else uses. Since my sister has Microsoft Word, not Works, the flash drive couldn’t, or wouldn’t (since I think anything computer related has a mind of its own), open. I called my techno savvy son and he suggested I go to Word and tell it that the file I want to open is on the flash drive. I did that and voila I had my file. Except that the formatting was all wrong. I spent a good part of the rest of my stay retyping the story. The up side to that is I had a chance to edit and rewrite as I went along. Now that I’m back home, I’ve transferred the file back to my computer so I can work on it, after more formatting, cutting and pasting. Whoever said writing is easy.

As I write this, I am especially thankful for two things: that my sister is alive and well after a heart attack, and that I had the chance to watch a precious little fawn play in our backyard.

Quote of the Day:  Be not afraid of life.  Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.  William James

Monday, June 30, 2014

Funny Papers, Where Art Imitates Life, or Vice Versa

Funny papers, comics. graphics--whatever you want to call them, they’ve been around since the time of cave paintings. I didn’t get to read those early comics, but my memory of the funny papers does go back to the mid-forties. I was probably eight or nine when my sister and I took piano lessons for a year. Mrs. Duke gave lessons in her house, so after my lesson and while my sister was having hers, I curled up in a big stuffed chair and read the comics in the newspaper that was sitting on the coffee table. I didn’t know then, reading Katzenjammer Kids, Li’l Abner, Joe Palooka, Pogo, and others that it was the start of a life-long interaction with the funnies.

Walt Kelley’s Pogo was an opossum who lived in the Okefenokee Swamp with his swamp friends-- Albert the alligator, Churchy LaFemme--a turtle, Howland Owl, and others. Walt Kelley lived in Bridgeport, CT and in 1953 my family and I moved to Bridgeport, the home of P. T. Barnum. The name of Pogo’s boat is often called the P. T. Bridgeport. Pogo was philosophical; two of his great lines were, 1) We have met the enemy and he is us, and 2) A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a horse of a different feather. You can’t beat lines like that.

Al Capp’s Li’l Abner lived in Dogpatch with his parents, Mammy and Pappy Yokum. Pipe smoking Mammy Yokum could often be found saying, “If it makes you happy to be happy, then be happy.” Profound wisdom that my mother used to love to quote. In addition to Li’l Abner’s long-time girlfriend, Daisy Mae, Sadie Hawkins also lived in Dogpatch. Sadie was the homeliest girl in town so every year, her father organized the Sadie Hawkins Day Race where all the eligible men in town were given a head start, then the eligible women would take off after them, hoping to catch a man. By my sophomore year of high school, we had moved from Bridgeport to its suburb, Fairfield, CT. Our sophomore dance was the Sadie Hawkins Dance where the girls asked the boys to the event. Because I didn’t have to wait for someone to ask me, I asked a boy and got to go to the dance. Thank you, Sadie Hawkins.

Chic Young’s Blondie was also a favorite. My sister and I had a lot of paper dolls when we were young and among them were Blondie, Dagwood, their kids Cookie and Alexander, and even Daisy the dog, and her pups.

I still like to start the day with a smile and a few chuckles. Now I find that my favorites are Pickles and Zits. Jeremy, in Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman’s Zits, reminds me of my son when he was a teenager. One day he was five foot four and the next day he was six foot four and the apartment was no longer big enough for him and his long legs.

Brian Crane’s Pickles used to make me laugh because Earl and Opal Pickles were so much like my parents. I don’t know how or when it happened, but suddenly Fred and I are Earl and Opal, forgetting where we left our glasses, not being able to hear each other and accusing the other person of mumbling.

If old age is our enemy, then, we have met the enemy and it is us! Now that’s something to smile about.

Quote of the Day:  Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent."  Walt Kelly via Pogo.

 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sweet Lady...Dirty Little Murders

I have a special treat for you today.  I'm sitting here with my friend and author, Marcia Buompensiero. Marcia is the author of Dirty Little Murders and writes under the pen name, Loren Zahn.  Welcome, Marcia.  Let's start by finding out a little about you.
 
                     
Let's start with where you live, are you married, and do you have children?
I live in San Diego, California.  Married, yes to my long-suffering husband, Joe. For any writer, a long-suffering spouse is a necessity! My son Dave is a photojournalist with five Emmys under his belt for news reporting. He is also the inspiration for my mystery novel protagonist. My stepson Matt is equally talented and writes political satire blogs. 

How long have you been writing, Marcia?
Putting pen to paper—since grammar school. However, I really began crafting fantasies with imaginary friends as early as five. That got me into trouble and expelled—my first day—from kindergarten. It was during nap time when, armed with my mental storyboard inspired by my favorite Robert Luis Stephenson classics,  Robin Hood and Treasure Island, I stood atop my folding cot and incited my classmates to riot—or I scared them—memory is fuzzy on that.

What type of writing do you normally do?
My Theo Hunter mystery series fits the mystery/suspense/romance genre. I am also working on a fictional three generational family saga that incorporates actual events from my own family history.

Give us a brief synopsis of Dirty Little Murders.

San Diego – A sparkling city by the bay—but its shining image hides dirty secrets. Theo Hunter’s job is to dig them out. She's good at it—too good. But her career as an investigative reporter is nearly destroyed after her honest reporting embarrassed her newspaper’s biggest advertiser. She lost her job, reputation, and the man she loved.  As Theo begins to rebuild her ruined life, her friend Stella goes missing. When Stella’s body washes up along the marshy US-Mexico border, her death is ruled accidental drowning—Theo doesn’t buy it. Despite a police cover-up led by her ex-fiancĂ©, Theo unravels the dark secrets of Stella’s double-life and her connections to the city’s corrupt top officials. The political scandal she uncovers could bring down the city’s leadership. But before Theo can expose their corruption, she is thrust into the cross-hairs of a vicious killer.
 
What prompted you to write this book?
Dirty Little Murders is a work of fiction. While the idea for the novel’s elements was drawn from a real political scandal involving three San Diego city councilmen indicted for corruption several years ago, the murders were fictional and the characters are figments of my imagination. Any similarity between them and their exploits as depicted and any person living or dead is purely coincidental. As an author, I am captivated by the idea that real suspense and mystery happen every day in our lives. How well do we really know those in our communities and neighborhoods?  The people we work, live and play with? Nothing is as scary as the sociopaths who live among us. When self-preservation is at risk, they will gain our trust and stalk the halls of our daily lives, waiting for the right moment to catch us alone.

How long did it take to write it?
Less than one year. The basic outline, plot and scenes were developed in two months. The research, fact-checking, editing, and rewrites took another six months. Most writers will agree that editing is never done. Most books would never be published if someone (usually the publisher or editor) didn’t yank the manuscript from the author’s hands.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?
In one scene, Theo Hunter is describing a vicious political battle fueled by religious zealot extremists. She says, “I decided a long time ago, just because you go to church, it doesn’t necessarily make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.”

Is it published and, if so, when and by whom?
Dirty Little Murders was published in 2009 by Xlibris Publishing.

How can my readers get a copy of the book?
Thank you, for the plug! It is available on Amazon.com and Xlibris.com.

Tell us about your character, Theo Hunter.
Theo is a principled young investigative reporter dedicated to uncovering corruption. This gets her into trouble—professionally and personally. It complicates her love life with police detective Frank Marino who thinks she takes dangerous chances and wants her to quit her job. Their on-again/off-again relationship is awash in conflict. Theo is dedicated to her friends, especially her best friend Abby Archer. Abby is Theo’s true north when it comes to philosophy and judgment. If Theo followed Abby’s advice more she could avoid some near-fatal situations. But, then, we’d have no story. What’s the fun in that!

What’s next for you?
I am in final editing (yes, final—my editor says so) of the next book in the Theo Hunter series, Dirty Little Lies, which will be published in the fall of 2014. Here’s a brief synopsis:

All hell is about to break loose in San Diego. A retired priest is murdered and a note at the scene brands him a rapist. Father Tony Machado—a one-time student of the dead priest and now a US Navy Chaplain—thinks it’s a set up. When Father Tony asks his old flame Theo Hunter to set the record straight, she agrees to help against her better judgment. Theo interviews several men, upstanding pillars in San Diego’s social and business community, who were once students at a prestigious boy’s school where the dead priest taught for thirty years. The men all vouch for his reputation—case closed. Theo is about to wrap up her findings when one of the men is killed. Within days another is murdered. When she uncovers evidence that ties them and the murdered priest to a decade’s old unsolved crime, her gut tells her someone is trying to settle an old score. Theo narrow’s her suspects to two—one the killer, the other the next target. Finding out which is which puts Theo dead center in the killer’s sights.

What is your advice to would be writers?
When I started, I was clueless about the publishing industry. Make no mistake, it is big business. Anyone who hopes to be successful will find that even with a traditional publisher the author must be willing to do a certain amount of marketing on his/her own. Unless you are James Patterson, Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, you will have to learn to sell yourself as well as your work. The business of marketing may be daunting, especially to writers who are often reclusive, do your research. There are publications about all aspects of the business. Acquaint yourself with them. Step out of your comfort zone and meet fellow authors. Join writer critique groups and find a writers organization that will encourage and help you to grow. I found the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild (SDW/EG) to be a good fit for me. My association with its members who are professionals in the writing field has been a tremendous help.

What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?
It would have been helpful to understand more about the publishing and marketing end of the business. As I said, research and reading about publishing will help to some extent, but my involvement with SDW/EG has taught me much more and exposed me to so many industry professionals who are willing and anxious to share what they have learned.

Oh, and don’t expect to make millions! Writing is a labor of love—which, as many authors will tell you, is its own reward.
 

Thank you, Marcia.  It's been a pleasure!
 
Quote of the Day:  There will be time to murder and create.  Thomas Stearns Eliot. 



Sunday, June 8, 2014

Family, Flame, and Fallen Heroes

Memorial Day and the following week was time well spent for us as I hope it was for you.  My daughter Cyndi, her husband Bill, Fred, and I drove to Connecticut to spend the time with family.  We first spent a few relaxing days in Manchester, CT with my other daughter Tammy Sue and her husband Curtis.  Sitting around a fire pit at night, listening to Curtis play his guitar, family reminiscences, it was all good.



Memorial Day we drove to Seymour, CT. to spend time with my son, Michael, and his fiancĂ©e Kari and her family.  It was the first time in years that I’d been with all my kids at one time and I cherished every minute of it.  That was, after all, why we moved to the East Coast.


Mike, Cyndi, Tammy, Me

We spent the following week in Fairfield, CT. with my sister, Donna, and her husband Joe.  They’ve been married going on fifty-six years and are the epitome of what a solid marriage should be.  I hadn’t seen them in six years and it was important I see them before any more time elapsed.  Donnie and I are in our seventies, Joe is eighty.   Time is not on our side any longer so we no longer have the luxury of saying, “Maybe later.” The time was now. 

On the drive back south, we stopped at Arlington Cemetery.  Cyndi and I had been there before but Fred and Bill never had so it was important we stop and look around.  No matter how many times I visit Arlington, I am overcome with the honor and respect and reverence that exists with every step.  
           

On the way to the Tomb of the Unknowns, we stopped at JFK’s grave site and the eternal flame.  Forty years ago when I visited Arlington, his grave site and flame were on a grassy area next to Bobby Kennedy’s grave.  I know it was on grass because as I stood there gazing down and reflecting, the lawn sprinklers came on and I got wet!  Now, the eternal flame is on a cement platform with marble steps leading up to it, surrounded by a wall with President Kennedy’s “Ask not” speech engraved in the wall.  Next to the marker for President Kennedy is the marker for Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis, their infant boy and a stillborn girl.
Bobby Kennedy’s grave site is now a distance away, on grass.    

A walk down a flight of stairs brought us to the Tomb of the Unknowns.  The guard is changed every half hour during the summer so we were there in time to witness the ritual. The precision, timing, somberness of the occasion are what speaks to us visitors.  The sentinel takes twenty-one steps across a rubber mat, turns and faces the Tomb for twenty-one seconds, turns and faces the length of the mat for twenty-one seconds, switches his rifle to his shoulder nearest the crowd to show he is protecting the Tomb from any possible threat, then begins his (or her) twenty-one steps and does the same thing at the other end of the mat.  This process has gone on, day and night, good weather and bad, without interruption, since 1927. Twenty-one stands for the highest honor awarded a fallen serviceman; i.e., a twenty-one gun salute.  On the Tomb are these words:  HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD. 


Arlington is a place everyone in this country should visit to get back to our roots of what makes this country great.  From Arlington Cemetery one can look out and see the top of the Washington Monument reaching high above the trees.  It is difficult not to feel patriotic in such a setting.  Forty years ago, the sprinklers did not extinguish the eternal flame, weather will not prevent the sentinels from guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns, and neither terrorism nor politics will extinguish the pride that is a birthright of every American.

Quote of the Day:  God Bless America!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Whistler's Mother's Day

Yesterday was most assuredly a “family” day.  Fred and I met with my daughter, Cyndi and her husband Bill and the four of us drove two hours southeast to Wilmington, NC.  If you were to travel east across the country on I-40, it ends at Wilmington which is right on the Atlantic shore.  


Wilmington is a charming little city, full of history and southern ambiance.  Certainly a writer’s and artist’s haven.  I wouldn’t say it was in the Deep South, but you could sure see it from there when you looked through the moss-covered trees.  


The city was established in 1733, first called New Carthage, then New Liverpool, then New Town, and finally Wilmington after Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington.  It is a subtropical climate with Cape Fear River slicing right through the middle.  Parts of Iron Man III were filmed at Wilmington.  There, so much for the encyclopedia version.  Now for the human version.

We took a guided trolley tour around the city’s historic district, and learned that a house with a red historic marker meant that the house was at least 75 years old.  A black marker meant it was at least 100 years old.  Almost every house had a marker of one color or another.  It would take a week just to walk around and check out every historic marker in the town.  But, here’s the one that fascinated me the most--a street marker showing the location of Whistler’s mother‘s home.  We’ve all seen the picture he painted of his mother, now we know where she lived.  I thought it was appropriate to see, on Mother’s Day, where a very famous mother lived.  :-)


After a short drive to the beach where we could see the white sand being caressed by  mild Atlantic Ocean waves, we ate lunch on a restaurant’s outdoor patio with gentle breezes blowing by. We then walked two blocks to a famous donut shop for dessert, Britt’s donuts, along a boardwalk populated by beach denizens.  Approaching the store, we saw a line and got in it.  We learned that there is always a line at Britt’s.  Britt’s has been around for over fifty years and is still going strong.  What is amazing is that they only serve one style donut, glazed, with coffee and soda.  Period. We watched them dip the donuts in the hot grease, turn them, then use a yard long dowel to take them out and line them up on the dowel,(like a curtain rod with curtain rings on it).  They then dipped the hot donuts in a glaze and hung them up to be sold.  We ordered a half dozen and ate the first two right there while they were still hot.  Oh my!!  

Lined up at Britt's Donuts

I spent the day with one daughter and got phone calls from my other two children while in Wilmington, so it was a day to be fully aware of my many blessings.

Quote of the Day: Life is beauty, admire it.  Life is bliss, taste it.  Mother Teresa




Monday, April 28, 2014

Our Own Bluebirds of Happiness

In California, Fred and I owned a little two ounce ball of fluff--a cockatiel. She was yellow and her name was Crash due to her most ungraceful landings on the floor. When we left El Cajon, we gave Crash to a friend who loved cockatiels and would take good care of our bird.

 
In Garner, NC we no longer own a pet bird, but we have some very special bird friends. There’s a bluebird and his wife that have started a nest in our birdhouse placed outside the kitchen window



where we can observe them.

The only bluebirds I’d ever seen were in Disney movies. It seems Cinderella and Snow White were young enough and agile enough to pop out of bed in the morning with a song on their lips. Their songs attracted bluebirds who flew in to help them dress. I have yet to train our bluebirds to help me dress, maybe it’s because I don’t pop out of bed with a song on my lips. It’s more like a creaky crawl with a groan.

We also have a bright red cardinal that comes to our bird feeder in the backyard but I’ve yet to be able to photograph him.  He gets jitterish and disappears as soon as I get my camera in hand. But the bright red against the green forest is stunning.

Since this column is supposed to be about writing, and since I want to promote my latest book, let me give you a brief snippet from Willard Manor that mentions birds.

Chapter Twelve
1908
Ruth and Esther were in the back yard, their mouths and apron pockets full of clothespins. The wind snapped the wrinkles out of the white sheets that hung on the line stretching from the apple tree to a maple tree. While hanging pillowcases, a loud ruckus interrupted the soothing sounds of birds chirping and honeybees buzzing. Esther turned toward the sound. “Good land! What on earth could be making that racket?" They walked around to the front yard and found Henry and Benjamin standing in front of a black automobile, both men grinning from ear to ear.

Benjamin looked at Esther. “What do you think, old girl? Do you like it? This is a brand new 1908 Model T Ford automobile!”

“Well I never!” sputtered Esther. “Who would have thought that we’d actually own an automobile in our lifetime?"

“Come around here,” said Benjamin, “Take a look at these headlights, solid brass they are, just like the side lamps, the horn…”

“My, my,” crooned Esther, “and just smell those leather seats!”

Ruth ran her hand lovingly over the car. “Can we go for a ride?"

Henry hugged her. “Wonderful idea! Let’s get the boys and go into town for ice cream."

Ruth and Esther removed their aprons, adjusted their long skirts and climbed into the back seat. By sitting close together, they had room on the back seat for Samuel and Thomas. Henry turned the crank while Benjamin started up the car, then Henry jumped in the front passenger seat.

Driving into town, the Willards and Wilburns wore smiles that couldn’t be wiped off. At the ice cream shop, customers in the store and passersby on the street stopped to stare at the automobile and ask questions about it. Benjamin and Henry became instant local celebrities as they proudly showed off their new Model T. They had entered a new era and style of living and were moving up in the world.
-0-
 
Quote of the Day:  Praise to thee, my Lord, for all thy creatures.  St. Francis of Assisi.



 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Nature - Up Close and Personal

Since moving to North Carolina we've learned that the weathermen here have a lot more work to do than the ones in San Diego.  About all a San Diego weather reporter has to say is, “Overcast in the morning, high in the mid seventies by afternoon.”  Day after day after boring day.  

Here, outside Raleigh, every day is different and the weathermen are kept on their toes. And surprisingly, they pretty much nail it every time.  If they say it’s going to start snowing at noon, by gum you’d better be prepared for snow at noon.  (We found that out the hard way.) 

Last Saturday night, we got an up close and personal look at the job the weathermen do in this area.  Fred and I were playing Yahtzee at the dining room table when my cell phone went off like a siren, warming us of a tornado alert.  Almost instantly, my daughter texted me that a tornado just went by their house in Lillington and was headed our way.  We turned on the TV and sat mesmerized by the accurate, street by street description of where the tornado was, every step of the way.  When it  got to the intersection of I-40 and I-42, we knew it was six miles away.  Then it got to I-42 and Benson Road - four miles away.  Then it was at Benson and 1010-a mile away.  By now, we were in our “safe place” as we’d been told to do which, for us, was our bathroom.  We kept the door open so we could look down the hall at the TV.  Pretty soon we heard that the tornado was a few streets over and on its way north to Raleigh so we went back to the dining room.  I must confess it was scary but exciting at the same time.  My first tornado alert!  The tornado did touch down at one place in Garner but not much, if any, damage was done.  We’re very thankful that we and my daughter and her family came through unscathed.  I have to say that the weathermen really work for their pay here.  

This Saturday Fred and I got up close and personal with four does that walked into our front yard then wandered around to our backyard and stayed around for an hour or so.  We threw bread out to them and they happily ate it.  We were able to sit in our rocking chairs on the back porch and watch them and take pictures of them.  They seemed to be in no hurry to leave; certainly we were in no hurry to see them leave.  After a while a fifth one joined them; none of them seemed particularly threatened by us.





Living in North Carolina keeps life interesting.  Now that the good weather is back, we’re loving it here.

Quote of the Day:  In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.  Aristotle

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Good News/Bad News Moments

I have good news and bad news today. The good news is that the temp has been in the seventies most of the week and we could finally go outside without a coat. The bad news is that this morning it was in the low thirties and only plans on getting about ten degrees warmer today. Back to a coat again.

More good news/bad news for you. The bad news is that Port Yonder Press rejected my novel, Willard Manor. I send my heartfelt thanks to all of you who kept your fingers crossed for me. You can uncross them now. The good news is that today I self-published my book on CreateSpace.



I’ve spent the last week experimenting with various cover designs and running them by my “test panel” for their input. What you see here is the final version. Shortly, you will be able to go on Amazon.com and see and order the book. It will also be available on Kindle in short order.

Willard Manor is historical fiction in that it covers generations of the Willard family as they interact through the years with the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, the Great Depression, Prohibition, World War II, Woodstock, and more. The house also undergoes changes over time with indoor plumbing, electricity, an automobile, a telephone, a television set, and much more.
Here is an excerpt from around 1910.
A knock on the door interrupted Ruth’s chore of folding clothes. She opened the door and saw a man in a work uniform standing there, a tool belt around his waist and boxes in his hands. “Ma’am, a Mr. Wilburn asked me to stop by and install a telephone at this location.”

“A telephone? For us?”

“Yes’m. He’s paid for it, wanted to surprise you, so if you could just show me what wall you want it on, I’ll come on in and install it."

Ruth called to Esther. “Mother, come quickly! Henry’s gone and ordered us a telephone!”

“Well, if that don’t beat all.”

Together the two women walked around the downstairs grinning and looking for the perfect spot.

“If it were up to me,” said the installer, “I’d put the phone on the kitchen or living room wall; someplace where you can get to it conveniently.”

“How about here?” asked Ruth, “In the foyer against the living room wall.”

“That’ll be fine. I just need to run some wires and get everything hooked up. Then I’ll show you how to use it.”

Ruth and Esther brought two kitchen chairs into the foyer. They sat and watched intently as the installer mounted the oak box with its black crank and mouth piece. Now and then Ruth took Esther’s hand and squeezed it out of pure delight and amazement. Then the installer called the operator and asked that the new phone number be called to make sure the phone worked. The ringing phone startled Ruth and Esther so much they jumped right off their chairs.

The installer said, “Now this here’s a party line, and that means not every ring is yours. When you hear two long rings and one short ring, then you can answer it. Any other combination of rings means it’s for someone else. Okay?”

“Okay,” said the women.


Quote of the Day:  Times do change and move continually. Edmund Spenser