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Archive for August, 2015

Life is like a prism. What you see depends on how you turn the glass. (Jonathan Kellerman)

The four-syllables in mortality sound less harsh than the one-syllable, no-coming-back word, death. I roll both terms through my brain. I may be a senior citizen, but at age 69 I play on the floor with my grandchildren. And I get up again without complaints from my knees. I can tread water for well over an hour before my bladder says it is time for a break.

In many ways my success in life has just begun. “The Curse Under the Freckles” is available online. I just found out that it is also available at Barnes and Noble. As soon as I receive copies I will schedule local signings.

But the finality notion arises because my husband and I sit in a cemetery office—as we make our own funeral arrangements. We are choosing the greenest options, as well as the cheapest-possible. Something like trying to find a bargain at a high-scale store without gasping at the sticker price. Green burial may be our choice, but green cash is disappearing from our savings.

However, we do not want our sons to add hassle to their lives. It comes to everyone and more is unnecessary. I’m amazed at how comfortable I feel. Maybe it’s the outgoing personality of our planner. Maybe I’ve learned to savor life now.

I’ve never organized a party where I knew I would not be invited—well, except this last one where I will wait on the sidelines for incineration. (Hopefully only the earth version, as if I had the slightest vision of the surprises on the other side. Although I choose not to anticipate bizarre visions.)

This moment is not morbid. In fact, I send a message to my sister to tell her she needs to keep her gorgeous voice intact. When she is in her late eighties and I am about one-hundred and something I expect her to sing at my memorial service. I leave the message with a vague reference saying that I will keep in touch. About what? The funeral or my next grandchild story? She catches the humor.

The sun shines and a gentle breeze has pushed the August heat out of the way for a while. Our lives are not perfect; no one’s is. But the grounds at Spring Grove are beautiful. I savor the lines in my skin the way I celebrate bright flowers contrasting gray rock.

I’m not sure I could honor beauty if I had never seen its opposite.

Peace upon all wherever this moment leads you. I pray that it leads you into a more powerful life.

life before death the optimism revolution

 

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“What makes the desert beautiful,” said the little prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well…” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

As I study Philip R. Rogers’ powerful rendering of my main character in “The Curse Under the Freckles” I recall the bottomless well when the story began, and the empty buckets that came to the surface. “The Curse Under the Freckles” can also be found at Joseph Beth online.

When Chapter One appeared in my first draft the tale had a different title as well as an older audience. I wanted to take a third-grader’s vocabulary and write a book for seventh graders. Although my granddaughter with Down syndrome was already showing an interest in every word in her story books, she opened my eyes to the larger world of kids with special needs.

Older children with limited reading abilities do not want to pick up a story about bunnies and kitties. Yet, the adventures prepared for teens and preteens contain too many words, too many syllables.

As I put together scenes, however, I felt as if I were trying to build a believable fantasy with stale super-sweet mini-marshmallow bricks. The plot reflected it, as predictable as an alphabetical listing and twice as boring. No subplots, insufficient conflict.

Bottom line—I wasn’t ready to serve. Many people believe that writing for children is easy. It isn’t. The editor and publisher’s expectations are higher for the author of children’s material.

Stories need to be fresh and entertaining yet stay within the realms of a young person’s understanding as well as the limits of respectability.

I don’t remember when I knew that giving up on my original goal was no longer an option. But I do know that is when the story took off—with plenty of hurdles of course.

Chase Powers, my hero, lost a few years. He became eleven instead of fourteen. He developed a sense of humor. His foes grew mightier. Some of my critique partners began comments with, “I don’t get this at all. But then I don’t even like fantasy…”

Oh well! Oh, very deep, what-the-heck-is-down-that-imagination-of-yours well?

One of my magical characters says, “It takes no courage to climb a steep mountain when you have been lifted to the top.” Sometimes this writer needs to listen to her own creations.

In the future I hope to help kids who have difficulty reading by writing in a style that is super-easy to read. This book travels through a 560-660 Lexile measure, fifth to sixth-grade reading level.

Perhaps, if I work hard enough I can tell a story with small words that touch and capture the wise. I know it can be done. My grandchildren have shown me that route. Often.

I’m not there yet. In the meantime I plan to have a signing at our local YMCA, and give a portion of my earnings to their autism program. These young persons have a lot to give; the program helps them to find those gifts. I have no idea how much water I can bring to the desert. But those extra drops aren’t noticed in the ocean.

One drop, one word, one action at a time…

back cover the curse under the freckles

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You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Perhaps I have too much chaos within me because I feel crowded in water aerobics class—actually there are only about twelve participants. Not exactly a mob. But the instructor directs us to continuously travel back and forth. The possibility of bumping into someone seems high to me.

My energy feels almost electric. I’m more than busy at the moment with babysitting duties and preparing for a newly published book to appear. In the water that electricity seems dangerous even if it is only a metaphor. So I swim into the deeper water and tread through the moves. I love the feel of suspending. And I see another benefit: a tall friend is here today. She buoys me with her spirit.

She and I look as different as a mountain and a valley. I need to stand on a step stool to get sufficient pressure at the locker’s swimsuit spinner. At six-foot tall she is at the deeper end of the indoor pool, but doesn’t need to kick to stay afloat. I look up to her physically—and as a person.

This lady talks about her dedication to family with the same offhandedness a person would use when counting loads of laundry. She gives because the need is there. She is not aware of her own beauty.

As we talk I sense similar teen experiences. When adolescence hit I would have pronounced angst with an accent on every letter if sharing feelings had been permitted in my home. Since they were not, the not-good-enough notion imploded and almost destroyed my spirit. Changing that attitude has taken time and effort. But I don’t regret the past. Because of it I am less likely to judge someone else. I also have  a storehouse of great fictional characters, all based on a confused, normal young girl—me.

My friend shares a current difficulty she is facing. It sounds familiar. She has a family member in hospice. Cookie-cutter supportive care doesn’t work for everyone. Sure, it would be great if so-and-so would play the let’s-have-fun-while-we-can game. But, sometimes the individual wouldn’t have played when he or she was twenty-three.

Later, I see my giving friend helping someone else. Her gift delays her departure when I know she has other tasks to perform, a long agenda for the day. I would like to give more details about that moment, but don’t want to break this woman’s anonymity.

Instead, I simply shout-out thanks into the electronic universe and hope treading water with her has brought some positive energy into me. I am thinking about her now with the hope that my words serve as a mirror reflecting the goodness I see.

It is contagious, in a positive way.

garland of beautiful deeds

 

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An ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. (Hans Hofmann)

 A warning on the side of the pool reads: eleven feet three inches deep. Even if I were tall enough to function in my kitchen without a handy-dandy step stool, I would need to tread. And that is okay with me. Making peace with something larger than I am seems to be the right move. Actually, making peace with me may be the next goal.

In a recent blog I wrote about the week when I battled daily headaches. A beautiful, psychic, and talented massage-therapist friend brought me unexpected answers. Sure the weather and stress were valid factors in my discomfort. But she discovered clues hidden inside my muscle memory. And she helped me to diffuse those interruptions into the universe. Then I could begin again. And accept both my gifts and need-improvement areas. Amazingly I was having more difficulty accepting success than frailties.

As I was growing up girls were not encouraged to do more than scrub floors and find a husband. In my life compliments came from outside my family every other blue moon, if I was lucky. I wouldn’t have considered repeating encouraging words at home. My mother would have shot them down. Her aim had bulls-eye accuracy.

However, I gained other-side-of-the-coin benefits from my experience: encouragement matters. The facade a person presents is not necessarily who he or she is inside. I have met saints as well as people who are more than a little rough around the edges. I have never met anyone who wasn’t human. Usually superiority claims fail somewhere—so do inferiority assertions.

The pool doesn’t care who enters. It makes room for a timid-toe or an entire body, whether it belly flops or swan dives. Not many people have come to the Y pool today. The sky is gray, overcast. Rain is expected at any moment. But a woman somewhat younger than I am joins me and my husband. Something about her radiates common interest, although I have no idea what that could be. I ask her name and make a mental note of it. We are both interested in the arts.

Before long we share who we are. In more than a superficial I-like-chocolate-and-movies kind of way. I feel honored by her sincerity. She hasn’t had an easy life. Yet, she gives to her family and doesn’t complain about it.

She inspires me and I doubt she realizes how much. Her sharing verifies what I am learning. Body and spirit work together. Opportunities to grow abound. Even the fact that a gloomy day has kept the crowds down feels like a gift. We would not have had the freedom to express ourselves during an every-whisper-is-heard moment.

“I hope I see you later,” I tell her as my husband and I leave.

I mean it. But even if this time is meant only for the few minutes we shared it is worthwhile.

As I hang my wet towel on the back porch I look out into the yard and speak to my recent comrade, even though she is probably busy tending to matters more difficult than anything I will need to handle tonight:

You reminded me that beauty is not sterile…

A statue is chiseled, not daintily pecked…

Worthwhile takes a while…

And when the necessary speaks, love needs to be the final word.

Thanks.

learning to be brave and patient

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Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. (Arthur Ashe)

I can tell by the expression on a young friend’s face her news isn’t good. “No change in the tumors,” she says.

She reports no noticeable response to her chemotherapy regimen. She needs a miracle. Now. Something so dramatic it belongs in science fiction. An event the media could exploit. I want a cure that turns a staunch atheist into a street preacher. But I stay with the reality and look her in the eye.

I thank her for continuing to stand upright, giving what she has—sometimes more. I tell her about her innate goodness and hope she is able to recognize it, too. She shares an upbeat moment she had when she volunteered at vacation bible school.

You’re the one who helped me,” a little boy said with enthusiasm. She had taken time with him on a project he had found difficult. I have no idea how well she felt that day. Nevertheless, she saw the beauty in the everyday, the glue-sticky-fingered mundane. I pray for that innate beauty to shrink her tumors. Eventually. Somehow. No matter how impossible that seems to be.

She does what she can…

Loss, I want to avoid it. That wish doesn’t come true, even in less serious matters. Today is the last day for a favorite aerobics instructor. She has found a full time job in her field. My good-byes are one of many.

Then I ask a member of the class how she is doing. She seems quieter than usual. Her brother-in-law has recently died. She is concerned for her husband as well. He was his only sibling.

Fortunately she is a hugger. I use my arms as comfort. They are the only tools I have. The woman’s brother-in-law will not return. But her smile tells me my arms are enough. For now.

This moment leads into the next as it plants possibilities into a limited, yet amazingly full existence.

not reduced by what happens to me Optimism Revolution

 

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