Captain Brett Crozier and the USS Theodore Roosevelt

Isn’t it funny how we often lament not having enough time to do what we want? Well, at least that has been a running excuse in my life. I can’t (read, sew, write, listen to music) because I have to (go to a meeting, make dinner, go shopping, meet a friend for lunch). Yet in these days of directed or self-imposed quarantine, I have lots of time yet find myself daydreaming the days away.

It is Friday again. I had made a commitment to blog on Thursdays. I was under the impression that I had written and scheduled my blog for April 2, but today when I went to make sure it had launched properly, there was nothing there! Why? I had forgotten to write it. So here I am, a day late but with the same enthusiasm and hopefully next Thursday I will be on top of things.

How has it been going for you these Covid-19 filled days? It is my hope that all who enter here are doing okay both physically and mentally. There is no doubt that the uncertainty of our future is reason to despair, to throw in the towel and perhaps hibernate in unhealthy ways but the truth of the matter is that we have been challenged before and will come out of this victorious and wiser.

The recent firing of US Navy Captain Brett Crozier has really interested me. After learning the alleged reason (not following the chain of command with regards to the letter that was leaked to the press), I have been compelled to investigate more about it. I have become equally fascinated with aircraft carriers, but that is a story for another time.

I have been known to remove myself from situations and groups where I felt my personal ethics were in direct conflict with majority feelings. With the “facts” the way I see them right now, Captain Crozier has my support. I am pretty sure this is not the last we will hear on the subject and I hope he has a good memory or good notes. It seems to me the warmth of the send-off is something to ponder. And who knows how many lives he has saved while sacrificing his position?

I didn’t intend on writing about this today but there and here we are.

 

 

 

A New Way of Connecting…Zoom!

My writers’ group met by Zoom this morning. We were all present. We all had something recently written to share. It was a productive time that allowed me to experience the truth of the situation we are in (hibernation) and the ways we can actually continue to be productive despite setbacks.

I brought three chapters of a novel I am developing to read and listen to critique on. In general, I am reluctant to let others see my work, editing on my own until I feel there can be no further improvement. In the spirit of owning the responsibility I have to my group to provide a glimpse into my work, I decided to let go of the shyness and send off those three chapters to be read out loud by me this morning.

The reception and feedback was positive. I was able to see and agree with the need to introduce more dialogue and also to narrate less and “show” what’s going on. This expert advice hit home, I never took a proper course in writing so it is terrific to have another person’s take on my work.

This particular blog site is intended to focus on my writing. I will endeavor to write here once a week, devoting it to sharing any insights I have made into my own or other people’s work.

I would love to have your input on ways in which your writing has been improved by having a close circle of friends review and comment on it.

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Nurturing The Muse, With Confidence

There was a time in my life when I really believed in myself, in my ability to tell an interesting story in a way only I could tell it. It seems like a long time ago. It was a long time ago, when I was in my 20´s.

I got married then, continued to fantasize that I would be getting my stories out there, never prompted by money or the idea that I would one day be rich from my writing, I had a regular day job for that, I was never going to go hungry. No, I just wanted to write like my favorite authors (P.G. Wodehouse, James Thurber, Erma Bombeck….see a thread here?) and thought I could. I boldly submitted a short story to an agent and it was sent back to me with suggestions on how to improve it. I paid the agent money to edit and market and after a prudent time, they told me they were sorry, they were not able to sell it. Rejection was a big blow to me, I had very high expectations.

My now ex-husband was jealous of anything I did that didn´t focus on him, so eventually, I stopped writing in front of him and put that idea on hold for the duration of our marriage. The idea never left me though. During the 35 years that I have been divorced from him, I have done a lot of writing. Three years ago, I stopped publication of an e-magazine that focused on expats in my small town, an endeavor of love and service that actually showcased local writers, a few who have gone on to publish their books. I don´t know how I became the ¨wings beneath the feet¨of so many people in my lifetime but failed to devote any real passion to my own works. I am not talking about writing here. I have helped people accomplish things they never thought they could just because I hated to see others disappointed. That meant though, that I was taking up my time for someone else´s dream. Often, the relationships soured when I set limits, this was very disappointing to me, realizing that I was sought out not for myself but for my willingness to share my time, my money, my talents. Once I limited those, I was no longer useful. There were so many people in my life who have used me this way, I had to stop and examine the kind of energy I was putting out there. But I digress, this is not a blog about catharsis or therapy!

We are in serious quarantine mode in my country of Costa Rica. Even though I have been away from the paid labor force for almost 30 years and am collecting my modest social security, I still have plenty of responsibilities (some chosen, some just life). I belong to a writers group that meets regularly, this week by Zoom, and we are a wonderful source of inspiration for each other.   I have several story ideas in the works, hopefully one or all of them have a future in 2020.

I believe I am finally grasping the truth. I am a writer, I do communicate, I am the only one that can tell my stories my way. With the bit of extra time I have, I will put aside childish notions of failure and get back to the time when I had confidence in myself. It is a silver lining of Covid-19.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you’re spending your quarantine.

Is This The Beginning of a New Normal?

Talk about the irony of being asked to self-quarantine in the face of the Covid-19 that  is going around the world! What better way to have no more excuses and to just sit and get those words out on paper?

I have an extremely modest number of followers on this blog. I have done you all a great disservice by not spending any significant time on this particular exercise of writing regularly. I apologize for that because whether I have 1 follower or 1,000 you are all my ideal reader! I thought this was going to be a breeze, writing every day in service to myself and my craft. Alas, real life gets in the way every single day and I rarely get to this particular blog before the end of the week, let alone every day. Of course, if I wrote in this blog every day, you would probably be bored with me!

So here we are. The world has gone almost exclusively virtual. I remember watching movies when I was a kid and wondering if a cyber world would ever really be true in my lifetime. Lately I have been wondering about conspiracy theorists, paranoids and also the “new world order” idea a good friend of mine has been whispering in my ear for years. I also think about those inevitable encounters I run into with people who are just cynical and worse-case scenario addicted. I can’t get away from them fast enough, I don’t need that kind of negative energy in my life.

I was just informed that my daughter-in-law has gotten laid off. This can be an anxiety-producing reality but we are grateful that my son has his job and they have saved some pennies for a rainy day. Not everyone is so fortunate. I am sure that once things get back to the new normal we can expect, she will be rehired. Any employer is lucky to have her. I would bring her to my tropical paradise but unfortunately, we have closed our border and she is not a citizen of my country. We need to take measures to make her so! Perhaps on their next trip here, they can get married and start the process. For now, her pets and my son will no doubt enjoy the extra attention she is sure to lavish on them.

What about you? What do you envision your “new normal” might become? For me, it will be all about devoting more time to my writing and looking for ways to sell the things I write. It will also be about connecting to the subjects (for writing) that bring out passion in me. If I can engage with just a few more readers, I will feel I am going in the right direction.

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Why Do I Write?

I have been dreaming of selling my (writing) work for more than 40 years. I know that it is true because I have known my husband for more than 40 years and he has confirmed that he noticed a copy of the Writer’s Digest magazine and other writing “tools” in my possession shortly after he met me. I can’t really explain why I allowed one rejection letter to keep me from finishing more work and sending it out for queries.

In 1994, I purchased the “Writer’s Market” directory…probably full-price. I don’t know what I was thinking since at the time I had a toddler and was thinking of getting pregnant again. I am happy to say that the second baby is now 24 years old and her older brother will turn 28 tomorrow. That part of my life (parenting) has been satisfied, I cannot say that it had been a lifelong ambition, but I can say without any hesitation that my children bring me immense joy and satisfaction. I am proud of them as human beings and count them among the pinnacle of my “success”.

I had an older sister who was always (silently) competing with me. I am not sure that I was as aware of it when she was alive than I have been in the almost 18 months since she died. My brother was the one who had the (doubtful) pleasure of clearing out her belongings from the ashram in Iowa where she last lived and although I asked him whether he found any material worth publishing, all he found really were her journals in which she wrote sporadically. I have no interest in looking those over because there is no reason for me to believe her journals tell a different (honest) story than the one she tried to convince us was her reality.

It was about 6 years ago that she ran out of personal projects (becoming a distance- healer was the latest) that she latched on to mine. I have taken on (and quit at the appropriate time) a number of projects that have included being president of a local chamber of tourism, homeschooling my children, hosting radio shows, taking music lessons, blogging, etc. Right now I am in the process of concluding my last 18 months as treasurer of an important local organization for Senior Citizens which will finally conclude (for me personally) my need to contribute to my community. After that (June 2021), I will feel that I have done what I need to do and can get on with my desire to do something (or nothing) for the rest of my days.

I tell people that the stories I want to write are the ones I would like to read. What would I like to read? Mature love stories that are full of deep love and longing but not graphic sex scenes. Is there any interest out there for that? I cannot know until I write and begin to pitch it for publication. I am hopeful that my Ideal Reader (IR) will be someone like me. Since I consider myself a pretty middle of the road person who has many counterparts, I hope I will be successful. I just need to eke out the time and get to it.

I blog quite a bit but on different topics. Now is the time I need to begin to focus on writing my story, developing my characters, seeking my ideal readers. It’s all doable!

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Why violence?

“Wait a minute”, she said to me,”do you mean to tell me that you don’t get paid for the work you do in the Chamber of Commerce?”

The minute she finished the sentence I realized why the townspeople resented me for the work I was doing. They thought I was getting a salary. They thought that was the reason I felt compelled to knock door to door seeking “volunteers” to help me set up the tables for the upcoming fair. It never occurred to me and now my naivety disturbs and embarrasses me. Why in the world did I sign up for that job? Oh, yes, I remember now. I didn’t sign up, I felt coerced when one of the leaders of the group dug her nails into my leg when I politely declined to accept a non-paying position to help her win the town’s respect and perhaps an elected or appointed position in the municipal offices. How silly was I? I thought we were friends and the last thing I expected years later was to be stabbed in the back the minute I said no to something, meant it, and stood firm by my decision.

It has come to me as a revelation that I have many times in the course of my lifetime succumbed to other people’s directives whenever the mere suggestion of physical harm appeared. I don’t know when that began happening to me. As a child, my parents were rarely violent, I can not recall my father ever hitting me and my mother’s infrequent use of force to coerce me to do anything was limited and should not have been the reason for this unreasonable acquiescence even in my adulthood.

I can only explain it one way. I attended a catholic (nun-run) grammar and high school. The teachers all had some quirk, the nuns had plenty of their own and although they should have been the models of kindness, generosity, good humor, etc. it was not unusual to see the nuns distributing hurtful remarks and random physical harm on students. I remember seeing one of the nuns box a classmates ears when he didn’t stop talking after she asked him to. I can understand getting punished by losing a grade point, let’s say, or having your parents come to school for a conference that involved telling on you, but the physical harm done to my classmate was strangely unnerving and made a mark on me.

My older sister was also pretty generous with fisticuffs. I did my best  to stay out of her way and made sure I never told on her to my parents or things would have been even worse for me. I always wondered what happened to make her so unkind? I was almost 3 years younger and can’t know if between the years 0-3 she experienced so much trauma that all that was left was for her to act as she had been treated even though she should have known better. She died before I ever had a chance to bring it up, but I doubt I would have done so anyway, we were not close at the end. I am working on summoning empathy or sympathy or even grief…that is how distant our lives were. For the moment, I will accept and continue to live my life the way I have until now.

I have never been violent. If a fight or argument is developing anywhere near me, I panic and look for the nearest exit. I suppose one could label me a coward; I prefer to label myself a self-preserving pacifist.

Peace.

An end of year resolution for 2019!

Although I often claim that I am not a visual person, I admit that I love pretty plants and flowers. Their vivid colors transport my soul and keep me competing with nature to match exact color combinations to use in my home or wardrobe.

I recently returned from a trip to Puerto Viejo, Limon, Costa Rica where I was able to spend a couple of days doing nothing but being a tourist. I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy being a tourist in my own country. When I arrived back home, I instantly set about decorating one of our boring bathrooms. I went for a bold purple on the walls which matched perfectly with a canvas oil painting our daughter had left behind when she went to college years ago. I had been displaying the painting in my office but the background yellow was not doing anything for this vibrant artistic expression.

After the walls were painted and the canvas hung, I set about making the perfect curtains from a sarong I purchased at one of those ubiquitous artisans’ craft fairs. It had been folded and getting dusty for years until the muse visited me and reminded me that fabric is fabric is fabric…the result is spectacular and I invite everyone who visits me to spend a few minutes in that particular bathroom and then give me their feedback. So far no one has been disappointed!

The bougainvillea which opens this blog has been struggling for years and does not seem to be getting any taller but the colors of its flowers make me want to plant several more in a nearby garden that I am starting to cultivate. My end of the year resolution is to write more, plant more, think more and eat less!

Welcome 2020!

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Catharsis at the Beach

Some years ago, I took my children and some friends to Punta Leona.  My children have always enjoyed going to the beach but have relied on their Dad to take them since I have always preferred the mountains for my recreation and renewal.   In my ‘new me’ attitude, however, I volunteered for the outing, noting that it would be the first time we would travel in that direction on the new highway, satisfying my need that something new be seen or learned!

We began our journey before 9 a.m. and I was impressed by the road.  We were behind a couple of slow vehicles and I soon forgot my intention to time the trip exactly so we could compare it to the old way via San Mateo and Orotina.  As we made our way along the road, I was particularly struck by the absence of colors of nature, reminders of the dry season we were in.  I commented to my daughter that I preferred the rainy season; that I couldn’t wait until we were on the road again in a few months.  She answered that I needed to look at the present offering the way an artist (she) does, noting the different shades of a particular color (in this case yellows) and admiring their beauty.  I thanked her for her insight and thought about her comment for the rest of the day, resolving to look at things from another perspective.

When we arrived at the beach, my children took the lead and found a spot where we would ‘camp’ for the day.  The spot was perfect for sitting and relaxing; close enough to the water but far away enough from other beach lovers and their things.  The five teenagers who were with me took themselves off to the water (I do have my limits!) and I was left alone to ponder and observe things around me, one of my favorite activities under any conditions!  I watched as sea gulls flew with abandon and pelicans did it with purpose.  I observed small children run around carefree and others working to make their sand castles.  I saw couples walking leisurely along the beach and a few athletes running instead.  I glanced at tourists taking pictures and others just absorbing the sensations of nature.

My eyes were suddenly captivated by the sight of a solitary man who set up his ‘camp’ very close to the water.  He took his time arranging his chair until it was exactly the way he wanted.  He proceeded to remove his items from his backpack and I became aware of an uncomfortable feeling in me of recognition.  The man took out his iPod (for music), a book (for learning), a cell phone (lest he get a call), a notebook (for that important idea), a laptop (for writing to his fans?). By the time he began applying his sunblock, I was exhausted!  I made a promise to myself in that moment of solitude that I would not take out a single one of my matching items and that I would not even bring them on subsequent trips (well, maybe the cell phone).

It was a wonderful day for me.  I absorbed all the sights and sounds around me and felt wonderfully connected to everything.  I realize now that it is all the ‘stuff’ I felt I needed to pack for these outings that made a trip to the beach feel heavy. Isn’t it funny how things can change in an instant?  It’s a good idea to get rid of stuff to make our lives lighter!

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Where is your Adult?

When I was 20, I married an emotionally abusive older man. I cannot honestly say that I didn’t know what I was getting into. I already had met many adults who were abusive and immature. I tried, successfully for years, to dismiss any thoughts of abandoning the marriage because I desperately wanted to prove to myself and others that the martyr-like behaviour I partook in was worth the effort.

We lived in New Jersey. I worked in Manhattan, at a small firm in the shipping industry. My employment gave me great satisfaction, especially when combined with nice wages that allowed us to purchase all the creature comforts that I felt I needed in order to prove to myself that I was an adult. My husband never let up on his constant criticism of me, my body, my background, etc. I had somehow talked myself into believing I actually had more worth than he gave me credit for, so I was able to survive his abuse for a long time.

One day I was reading a popular magazine and I came upon an article describing what it meant to be “emotionally abused”. I was shocked to discover that what I suffered actually had a label and that there were centers available should I ever desire to be helped.

My latino upbringing meant that I did not discuss my problems with anyone, another plus for the abuser. After reading the article, I began to notice subtle changes in myself. I looked at my situation from the point of view of an outsider and realized it was not difficult for an outsider peeking in to know what my reality was like. On several occasions, a co-worker would take me aside and hint at my situation, often ending her delivery with a kind word implying her willingness to help me with more than just talk. I always declined politely, knowing it was my own decision that kept me in that awful situation.

As time went on, my husband’s sarcasm and abuse continued. I made the best of it but did begin to feel that life was hard and that I was just slipping into a kind of depression that I had no desire to get out of. His attitude was not unlike the attitude of every bully I ever met, but this bully was my bedfellow. I don’t recall the exact moment that I began to fear for my life.  I do recall, however, that at some point, I felt depleted and no longer interested in being his emotional punching bag. I stopped fighting back, bought lots of black clothing (it’s either him or me but someone is not going to live long!) and generally resigned myself to “this is as good as it’s going to get”. I can’t remember what or who pulled me out of that funk but I am very happy it happened. My life today bears no resemblance to the life I had 40 years ago.

I watch world leaders. There are several in particular who are nothing but bullies. I am concerned with the one that we have all grown weary of. It occurred to me just this week that his re-election is not even a remote possibility. I have seen many leaders in my career. The bullies who are ignored by the people who just go on and do their jobs day after day eventually fall by the weight of their own mistakes. I see it happening now. It brings me comfort, it puts a smile on my face, it ignites passion in me. I am not alone. He is very alone right now. Even though he is filled with ego and rage, a part of me feels sorry for him. He has lost every shred of decency, something he will never get back. I felt sorry for my ex-husband too, although he did not deserve any sympathy. This is not a good time to be a bully. I ask him today: Where is your adult?

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Connecting with a Friend!

I recently caught up with a friend over coffee at a local shop we used to frequent when he lived in the same town as I do. It had been a long time since we had seen each other and as we all know, conversations with really good friends pick up wherever they left off when we last connected and are very satisfying.

My friend’s life and mine are so different it boggles the mind. I write and manage the many aspects of my life as best as I can, while he is busy developing a business in the homeopathic realm. We have nothing in common and our friendship is one of the many mysteries of life. Yet when we are together, the laughter is constant and reminds me of how wonderful it is to have a close friend that one can laugh with in comfort.

I spend a  lot of my time looking at the clock trying to figure out the one best way of executing any task. I believe I owe my strong interest in this as a consequence of having watched the movie “Cheaper by the Dozen” when I was a youngster.  If I am faced with deadlines, I try to break the jobs down to their most basic steps in order to see where I might economize a minute or two so I can come up with an extra five minutes for reading or writing. It sounds like something a crazy or obsessive person might do but I do it constantly, and I don’t think of myself as crazy or obsessive, just wanting to profit from every second in my day. We all start the day with the same number of minutes, but every person lives his life differently and many people might as well just stay in bed since they get nothing done in a day.

Not sure how I got off topic like that but hopefully it made an interesting paragraph you can all analyze. My friend is married to a woman many years his senior. He dotes on her and it has been heartwarming to witness the devotion with which he has stood by her through thick and thin. She is no longer able to do routine things like dress and eat by herself. He has worked out a system where two women work for 16 hours every day and he picks up the third shift. He is an example of pure love and his passion for homeopathy was also inspired by his love for his wife when he saw that her health was declining and that the medicines prescribed for her seemed to be doing more harm than good. He is not your typical husband, but then again, he is not your typical human being either.

I feel blessed and energized to have someone like that in my life, he challenges me to be a better person.

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