Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tuesday Chatter-Scars

I enjoy writing about the writers group I've been blessed to be part of for nearly twenty years. As might be expected, to hang around with one group that long, it must be a pretty compatible group. And it is. Many of them have been around longer than I. Because they accepted me as a bona fide author when even I wasn't sure if I qualified, I will forever be grateful. For some unfathomable reason, for the last six years or so I've been their purported leader. Actually co-leader as a committee of four others ably assist me. And writing exercises similar to the one I wrote about below happen regularly. May they keep happening as we travel this road together.
* * *
    Most people have scars. Some are from accidents. Some from prior surgeries. Some deliberately acquired. This last saddens me.
    A couple of years ago I handed out a list of five story idea prompts for a writing exercise at a writers guild meeting. Of those present probably ten or so participated and wrote short pieces which most shared with the group. One of the prompts involved telling the story of how you received a scar. Any kind of scar, not necessarily physical. Of the respondents, fully half had chosen the prompt about a scar. This surprised me.
    My own scar is minor. And though it is on my face, can only be seen when the light hits it a certain way. In the distant past of my childhood Coca Cola, as well as other soft drinks, was sold in six ounce glass bottles. If you've ever seen one of them, you know the rim at the top of the bottle's neck was thicker than the rest of the bottle. Somehow the boys at my school managed to remove that glass rim and wear it on a finger as a ring. God alone knows why. I was a tiny first grader, just the right height for the glass ring on one of those tall country farm boys to accidentally strike across my nose as I ran down the hall among them. It bled copiously and I was taken to the doctor and then home, but I had no long-term ill effects. No law suit was filed either.
    Maybe those of us who have scars long to confide in someone about how we received them. I can't remember any specific stories that the writers told that day. Just that some were actual physical scars, like mine. One or two were psychological scars. This surprised me, too. Psychological scars are the ones we're most prone to keep close, not want to tell anyone about. I believe the fact that they were wiling to share these personal stories speaks to the trust this group of writers have in each other.
    Since I have inherited co-leadership of the group, my hope is that this atmosphere of trust and support will continue for a long time.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Friday Rambles-Dual Citizenship

The below column written several years ago is one of my favorites. I suppose because it sort of centers on my beloved Tennessee. I was an adult when I first came to live in Tennessee. But  it kind of felt like home from the start. I've written in other places about a family story which I can't verify and which might explain why I feel about it as i do. If you believe that the places our forbears lived is imprinted on our DNA. Other explanations abound. Such as an unhappy childhood so a relocation might be sought. But my childhood was fairly happy, even though we were poor. As a child I figured Georgia would always be my home and felt no desire that life be otherwise. My daughter has returned to Georgia to live now. Perhaps she'll stay. Or not. Life often brings changes we never anticipated. If someone had told me I'd spend the far greater portion of my life in Tennessee and eventually write novels I would have been amazed. But so it happened.
 * * *    
    I was born in the state of Georgia. So I have to say I’m a Georgia native even though I have lived in Tennessee more than three times as long as I did in Georgia. Similar to a person who holds citizenship in two different countries, I call it ‘dual citizenship.’ Probably a lot of people fit that description. My late husband was born in Virginia but his family moved to Kingsport when he was two years old and he grew up here. He served in the Navy for four years but Kingsport was still home. After the Navy he lived in South Carolina for about a year and then Georgia, where we met, for a couple of years. But the major part of his life was in Tennessee.
    A writer friend was born in Kentucky but her family moved to Kingsport when she was very young. She grew up, married a Tennessean and has continued to live in Kingsport. They visit Kentucky far more often than I visit Georgia, since their daughter lives there. So she could plausibly claim to be a Kentucky and a Tennessee native. Though I doubt that would be acceptable on the myriad forms we all have to deal with in daily life.
    Another writer friend was born in Southwest Virginia but her family moved to Tennessee when she was barely a teenager.  She was graduated from high school here, married, had two sons. She returned to Virginia and lived there until about twelve years ago when she moved back to Tennessee to be near her family. Most likely more than a few folks in these adjoining corners of Tennessee and Virginia have followed a similar path, in both directions.
    My own daughter was born in Atlanta, Georgia during the two years we lived there after I married. But she lived in Kingsport, graduated from Dobyns Bennett, attended Maryville College and ETSU and worked in Kingsport. She always wanted to go back to Georgia and eventually she did move to Atlanta. About six years was enough for her. She returned to Tennessee and seems quite satisfied to be back. Like myself, she’s happy enough to acknowledge that she was born in Georgia, but these Tennessee mountains are home.
   

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Tuesday Chatter-Rambling about Writing

Here it is November and NaNoWriMo again. I wrote the column below after just two or three NaNoWriMos. This will be my sixth or seventh, need to count again. I thought I'd have trouble getting into it this year as I'd be away from home the first weekend. But I'd made some notes, and had some idea about the story I wanted to write. And to my surprise I've written the words I needed to stay on track to finish-so far. It's still several weeks until the end of the month. But I'll give it the ol' college try again. And, hopefully, will finish my 50000 words or more by then. This month of writing often gives me the kickstart to get immersed in writing when I've been procrastinating. Have to see if it lasts. Hope so, I really want to finish this story.

 * * *     
     November seems to be a month that I get focused on writing. The impetus, I expect, is it being National Novel Writing Month, a number of opportunities for selling books as well as regular meetings of my two writing groups.
     I write in several genres, mystery being my favorite. But my first venture in getting my writing into book form was Eight Miles of Muddy Road, a memoir of growing up as a sharecropper's daughter in (very) rural central Georgia. Available on Amazon, in print and ebook format. Or from me.
     Prior to that first venture into print, I'd had a couple of mystery/crime stories published in small circulation print magazines, several published online and more since. I've also had stories published in print anthologies and an ebook anthology by a traditional publisher. That publishing contract for a novel length mystery still eludes me. But we persevere.
     A couple of years ago I gathered several of my mystery short stories and self-pubbed a book, Best Served Cold, Revenge a la Carte. Also available from me, the author, and Amazon.
     Two of my mystery main characters star in their own series. Well, the first book of their series anyway. And one is under consideration by a publisher. Their second outings are Works in Progress. Both characters are female, one is an amateur trying to solve a crime to clear her stepson and the other is a professional private investigator, a former battered wife.
     In a recent conversation with other writers about series characters, I realized one probable reason that we like to write series. Our characters become so real to us that we want to keep them around.
     I decided I needed a blog to showcase my writing, and finally settled on a name. Mystery Lane Rambler. My main writing website is ramblinscribe.com. So I decided to stay with the 'ramblin' theme. Along with 'rambling' about my writing, I post bits of writing advice and titles of writing books that have helped me through the years.
 

Friday, November 1, 2019

Friday Rambles-No Slam Dunk

So here it is November 1. NaNoWriMo time again. National Novel Writing Month. Six or seven years ago I began this crazy thing I'd read about. Write a book in thirty days? Oh? It didn't have to be print ready? Just get 50000 words written down? If you succeeded, you'd be designated a winner. The 'book' could be revised, polished afterward. With my obsessive, compulsive, perfectionist writing nature, could I do that? But I gave it a whirl. The column below was written about my 2nd or 3rd NaNo year. And I did it. And have kept doing it ever since. Only one of those years I didn't get the number of words done. Can't remember the circumstances that interfered. Never mind, the others are either in print or awaiting their turn at revision, polishing. Some longer than others. Maybe this year won't be a slam dunk either, but I'll give it the ol' college try.
 * * *
   Readers not interested in the writing process might wish to tune out for the next couple of weeks. Not that I want to lose readers, of course! But that's where my head is right now. I'm trying to fit another major writing project into my schedule.
   November has been designated as National Novel Writing Month for several years, as I think I've mentioned here once or twice. I'd never participated though until last year. Since I enjoyed it and was able to reach my goal I figured I'd try again. This year is a totally different experience. For various reasons I haven't been able to just shove everything aside and concentrate on THE NOVEL.
   I have the general outline of it. But actually getting the words written is turning into a struggle. Uninterrupted time to pull them out of my brain and onto the page has been hard to come by. Writing all night might be an option. But the other inhabitants of my home are worse night owls than me. And I do get too tired to imagine the next big trouble to throw at my protagonist.
   During the daytime there's the dog to walk, eating, minimal personal hygiene, laundry and housework. More regularly scheduled meetings have seemed to fall into this month, too, and extra workshops and groups that I had committed to attend.
   All this does not even take into account the urge to procrastinate that is common to all writers. Any normally disliked task sings a siren song that we can’t resist.
   I hate to rake leaves. My neighbors' yards are mostly free of the crisp evidence of fall's arrival. The two trees in my yard are finally bereft of leaves. But a combination of guilt if wind sent my leaves to neighboring lawns, brain weariness and procrastination sent me to the shed for my rake and a couple of hours outside. Leaving aside the fact that exercise is good for me, I know that procrastination was the main motivator for my burst of activity.
   So here I am, fingers on keyboard again. After I send this piece to the editor, I'll be back wrestling with THE NOVEL. Since more hindrances lie in wait for me before month's end, this NaNoWriMo is obviously not going to be a slam dunk.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Tuesday Chatter-New Plot?

Yep, still searching for that elusive plot which will catapult my new book (if I get it written) to the top of the best selling heap. Not likely? That's right. Plot alone will not a best seller make. Readers want to find a character they can sympathize with, maybe even identify with. At least so we writers are told. And since that is true for me, I bet it is for many other readers. No namby pamby character, either, he or she must be ready and willing to fight for what he or she wants. I expect even readers who don't exhibit that characteristic want to read about characters who do own it. Do my characters have it? I'm not sure I know. I hope so. And if not, I hope readers will tell me so I can try to improve.
.* * * 
   Many of us writers wrack our brains to think up new plots for our deathless prose. Forget it. It’s all been done. The best a modern writer can hope for is to put a new twist on a good old plot.
What 90's television sci-fi adventure series and fifties comedy series have the same plot structure? Give up? Gilligan’s Island and Star Trek Voyager are the two, though they are wildly different on the surface.
   The Captain, Gilligan and a half dozen or so pleasure yacht passengers only expected to be on their trip through balmy waters for three hours. The one hundred eighty nine member crew, and their holographic doctor, on Voyager started a shakedown cruise in space. They thought they’d be among the stars for a few days at most. In both cases, an unexpected calamity extended their trips far longer than their expectations. Though probably the actors, writers, producers, etc were quite happy those trips lasted as long as they did.
   Several books and columns on writing that I’ve read recently suggest taking a look at the classics for inspiration if you’re stuck on what to write about. The premise of star crossed lovers, such as Romeo and Juliet, is at the base of a lot of romance stories and novels. One of the most notable that comes to mind was printed over twenty years ago The Bridges of Madison County was, unexpectedly, a wildly popular tiny book. Though mostly we moderns like for the lovers to wind up still alive, and together, by the end of the book.
   Sherlock Holmes would probably retire to a castle in the Highlands if he were a practicing detective these days. He might feel lost among the countless PI’s, former police detectives, caterers, and other women and men of various ages solving crimes in print.
   Readers still love to read about fictional dark deeds of the gentry a la Lady Chatterley’s Lover. A writer’s imagination might have to work overtime to outdo the real life stories available now, and bringing megabuck advances for their first person authors.
   The next time I’m stuck for something to hang a plotline on, I’ll dust off my own modest classics collection or take a trip to the library. Hey, if something worked for Doyle or ol’ Will it’s good enough for me.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Friday Rambles-Writers, Actors and TV

Television is still as popular as when I wrote the column below, about six years ago. I really can't say that the quality has improved, personally it seems the opposite is true. Be that as it may, my viewing habits are still about the same, though what I watch is received via air channels, not cable or satellite. I do miss the music channels, but the two or three I listened to are not worth the annual small fortune I'd have to pay to receive them. Mostly I watch old television series hits during the still less than twenty hours a week I turn on the set. Only on Wednesdays do I indulge in a current craze-binge watching. I loved JAG when it was a prime time series for several years and still do. So I have enjoyed JAG reruns on MeTV's 'The Dayshift' this summer. Sigh. The network will probably end the series before I'm ready to let them go again.
* * *
 I seem to write about television regularly for one who, on average, watches it probably twenty hours a week, compared to the thirty-five to forty national average. Fifteen to twenty minutes of my daily tv fare is watching local news and weather. I almost always switch it off or to a music channel rather than watch the sports reports. My household was chosen recently to keep a Nielsen journal for a week. It would probably be a safe bet to say we were one of the far outliers toward the zero end of television watching.
    I attempt to keep in mind when and on which channels my favorite shows are scheduled and turn the set on at those times. I seem to have lost track of the summer replacement Rookie Blue. I watched the first couple of episodes but don't remember what day. If any reader watches it, please let me know.
    I'm also pretty set in my ways about the authors I read. One of those favorites is David Baldacci, who just happens to be a Virginian who hails from Charlottesville, I believe. Several of his books formed a series with ex-Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, who both resigned when the persons they were assigned to protect were killed. After five books I could find no more and wondered if Baldacci was finished with the pair.
    Then I saw a commercial during my limited hours of television. King and Maxwell were coming to the home screen in a new series called King and Maxwell. I caught the first episode, almost by accident. I was and am delighted, if I can only remember when the show comes on! Part of my delight is because of the actor cast as Sean King. I've been a fan of Jon Tenney since he was Kyra Sedgwick's FBI boyfriend and later her husband on the long-running The Closer series. When Sedgwick left, by choice or not I don't know, that show morphed into one called Major Crimes. I do not watch it even though many of the same characters did stay. To me, Sedgwick was the show. Maybe because I've lived in Alabama and her character moved to California from Alabama.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Tuesday Chatter-Music and Crayons

I was surfing around on YouTube, listening to some of the musical artists of my youth. Could have been using the time for more productive activities, like finish putting away winter clothes, do a load or two of laundry. But, as they say, where's the fun in that? I realized I hadn't uploaded a blog post yesterday. Since I'd been into music, I thought I'd see if I had an old column with something about  music in it. Came up with the one below. It's still apt. I still haven't unearthed any musical talent in myself, Wal-Mart still claims to be lowering prices, but so far as I know nothing is yet free. I still wait in line more or less patiently when I have to. World peace? Nope, not yet on the horizon.
* * *
Did you ever notice how much truth there is in cliches, old chestnuts, old sayings, whatever you call them just before you quote one to somebody?

I like the thought behind this one, and hope those who have music inside them share with us while they're still living. Unfortunately for me, if I have any music inside, I've yet to find it. It's a little late, but I'll keep looking.
Most of us go to our grave with our music still inside of us.
This one resonates with me, especially when I'm a little short on cash. Which I've been a time or two. Okay, maybe more than a time or two.
If Wal-Mart is lowering prices every day, how come nothing is free yet?
My husband was one of those whose jollity was quite lacking when he had to wait more than a few minutes for someone or a movie or program to begin. I don’t like waiting for someone who's late, but since I try to carry a book, or something else to occupy me while waiting, most times I can endure without having a meltdown.

Ever notice that the people who are late are often much jollier than the people who have to wait for them?
Tears and laughter being almost universal this is one to take to heart. Except that the things you would smile about because they happened seem to fly past at the speed of light. While the ones you'd rather forget just linger and linger.
Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened.

World peace? Maybe we could take a lesson from a box of crayons. Nothing else seems to work.
We could learn a lot from crayons:
some are sharp, some are pretty,
some are dull, some have weird names,
and all are different colors - but
they all exist very nicely in the same box.

Friday, October 18, 2019

More Than One Dream - Part 3


I continued to be active in the writing group and have been instrumental in the production of three anthologies of members’ work. I joined another writer’s guild and now serve on its board of directors. The guild has partnered with a regional community college and we will host our fourth Writers Symposium this year. Along with several other board members I’ve served on the planning committee for the Symposium all four years.
As might be expected involvement with these activities takes time away from writing itself. I have managed a few more publication credits and did actually finish a novel, though not the first one I began. Fulfillment of my writing dreams gave me a feeling of validation as a person, something I could stand on. I am very sure God knew I would need that a few years down the road.
Less than a month after celebrating our fiftieth anniversary my husband suffered a massive stroke. He never regained use of the left side of his body and his condition steadily deteriorated over the next three years. The toll on my own health and mental state was heavy as I watched the strong young man I married become a shadow of himself until his final release.
I had managed to keep up some writing activities even while caring for my husband. But after his death it took about eight months before I could get my head back into writing seriously. An essay was accepted for a literary journal. I worked on another novel.
The first Christmas after my husband passed away I decided (a nudge from God? I think so.) to work on several short essays and pitch them to a local newspaper for a weekly column. A few days after I sent a dozen to the editor he emailed me to ask for a headshot to run with my column.
When the column first appeared in print I, trying for nonchalance, posted the news to my Facebook page. The paper has a website and my column is (edit: was) published on it as well, but I didn’t think to post the link. I signed off and took a shower. When I later signed back in to Facebook I was bowled over by the comments and congratulations from family and friends. A cousin had looked for the website and not found it. My sister-in-law found it and put it up for them. I am so grateful for the family God gave me and their unfailing support. Never once have any of them even hinted that I have some nerve calling myself a writer. That, too, I consider part of God’s gift in fulfilling my writing dreams.
(edit/update) The Writers Symposium I mention was quite successful and was an annual event for nine years, tho after the 4th or 5th, I resigned from the Planning Committee because it was going well and I tired of the long drive. This current year the Lost State Writers Guild, my local group, sponsored a one-day writing workshop (another long-held dream of mine) and many attendees requested that another be held next year.) 

Friday, October 11, 2019

More Than One Dream - Part 2


The acceptance of my story encouraged me to keep trying. I wrote essays and stories, submitted them, read books about writing. and attended my first writing conference. That conference helped me begin to think of myself as a writer, which even that first publication didn’t do.
I had bought my first personal computer when my company gave employees the opportunity. I was sure it would make writing easier and it did. I upgraded to a better computer and then the Internet opened up the cornucopia of instant knowledge and communication. Internet magazines, ezines, sprouted. A few accepted my stories, and then another print magazine accepted one.
I wanted very much to be among other ‘real’ writers, even though I still didn’t feel comfortable calling myself a writer. But something – God? – kept pushing me until I found a group and found the courage to go to a meeting. At first I didn’t tell them about my writing acceptances, the magazines were not mass circulation, who would care? Finally I did tell them and was amazed that they were impressed.
I learned of another larger writing group and joined it. The leader of the group and a few members had published books. I loved being associated with them and they actually accepted me as a writer. Several of us attended a writing conference out-of-state and the workshops galvanized me.
The first novel I had begun years before languished in a file folder. I began thinking of writing a book about my family, a memoir. But if I did how would I get it printed? Most vanity/self-publishing companies were very expensive. Eventually through the Internet I found a new self-publishing website that would format and publish one’s book and charged no upfront fees. Authors could buy as many or few of their books as they could afford instead of thousands.
Does the fulfillment of a dream always feel like you’re still dreaming? Did Joseph feel like that when he was finally released from his prison dungeon and made second in command under Pharaoh? Even when I held the first copy of Eight Miles of Muddy Road in my hand it felt as unreal as that first magazine publication. Later I found another company where my computer skills enabled me to have my books printed even more economically and have published two more.
(update)As of last count, 12 paperbacks and ebooks. Several more in pipeline.)

 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

More Than One Dream - part 1

This post is the first part of a longer piece I wrote about my life and dreams. It was too long for one of my newspaper columns and I chose not to publish it in three parts at that time. I'm going to do so today and Friday this week and the last part next Tuesday. Just in case someone's interest is strong enough to want to read all of it! Most of the events in it have appeared in one form or another in my memoir, Eight Miles of Muddy Road or in other columns and posts.
* * *
    I always knew God gives dreams. The Bible is full of examples. In the Old Testament there is Abraham, told in a dream to leave his home country; his son, Joseph, dreaming his brothers would bow down to him; and the dream God gave Pharaoh and Joseph’s fellow prisoners. Jacob, who dreamed of a ladder to heaven. In the New Testament as well we find Joseph, Mary’s husband and his dream of an angel telling him to take his family to Egypt and then again when they could return.

     Are dreams from God today? If He gives us dreams while we sleep, are the dreams and longings in our hearts when we’re awake also from Him, too? I think the answer to both is – yes. Not all, of course. Sometimes it might be the cheese and pepperoni on the pizza we ate late in the evening. If we’re granted one dream, is that it? Or will God bless us with others? In my own life the answer to that question is also ‘yes.’
     A mother, grandmother and great grandmother now and can look back at a life filled with dream fulfillments, even though at the time I might not have fully realized it. We humans are so prone to attribute the realization of our deeply held desires as due to good luck, hard work, or just the way things worked out.
     I grew up dirt poor in rural Georgia. That I would ever fly in one of the airplanes I saw high above the cotton field was not a possibility even in my constant daydreams. But fifty years later my younger sister and I flew across the ocean as part of a group which toured Israel and also spent two nights in Rome, Italy. Forced early retirement from the job God provided twenty years earlier and a generous severance pay package made the dream trip possible.
     I dreamed that I’d grow up, strike out on my own, marry, become a mother. Time passed, I met a young man from Tennessee, we married, and God blessed us with a beautiful daughter. Amid the ups and downs of marriage, family, and job I always knew God was the Giver of answers to my dreams. But I didn’t consciously turn my dreams over to Him. And I had several that I never, ever mentioned to anybody.
     My older sister had dropped out of school and worked to help provide for our family of ten. I longed for college after high school graduation, but instead I found a job and also contributed to the family. Many years later came an opportunity for college, though I finished the last class needed for my degree after retirement.
     My husband loved to tell of my reaction when he told friends I’d earned my college ‘diploma.’
     I’d quickly correct him. “It’s a college degree.” God is indeed the fulfiller of dreams, but not necessarily on our timetable.
     I learned to read when I started school at five years old and immediately fell in love with books. That love only grew stronger as I grew up. Sometimes a fleeting thought that I might write something myself that would be published crept into my mind. No, too far-fetched. What did I have to say that anyone would want to publish? Or read.
     Over the years the thoughts of writing didn’t go away and I finally bought a used Underwood typewriter. I sent out a few things. Which were rejected. I worked on a novel, still unfinished.
     Sometime before my trip to Israel I had submitted a story to a small magazine. When we returned to the States we landed in Atlanta and I called my husband in Tennessee.
     We chatted a few minutes and then he told me, “A woman called, an editor. Something about wanting to publish your story.”
     It didn’t actually seem real to me until a couple of months later I held the magazine in my hand, my name and story title listed in the table of contents.


(next-part 2)

Friday, August 2, 2019

Frustration - redux

It's been more than a few years since I wrote the newspaper column below. A few things have changed, more than a few actually, in that time. Now living alone, so I have no one else to blame for many of the frustrations I encounter. Some are the normal aggravations in life that everyone encounters, of course. Some due to changes in the world around us, when we might prefer that things stayed the same.
Nowadays 'responsive' is the buzz word when it comes to web site building. An even steeper learning curve than first learning HTML code, I discovered. But, as with the coding, I've learned a smattering of the subject. And I'm glad I learned a little about coding. When my responsive design won't do what I want it to do, I can look at the code, and maybe, possibly, get a hint of the reason. And sometimes I look at the code and don't have a clue, to re-coin a hoary phrase.
* * *
I don’t deal well with frustration. So of course many things in life seem to conspire to frustrate me. Say I set out to tighten the drawer knobs on a small chest of drawers for which I’ll need several items. Can those items be found? Certainly not. That would make it too easy. Some gremlin has moved the screwdriver from where it has resided for years in the front of the junk drawer. After half an hour I locate it in the secondary junk drawer underneath the plastic baggie of tiny leftover screws from a DIY shelf unit.
Muttering inaudible, I hope, imprecations I clutch the screwdriver and go to the kitchen drawer which normally holds tools I use more often. I’ll need the needle-nose pliers to hold the washer inside the drawer while I tighten the knob. I use the pliers most often to rip open those tabs on milk and other liquid container plastic lids, another long-term source of frustration.
Frustration is not limited to the physical. It has been my daily fare for the last few weeks as I try to clean up the code on several web pages. I created the pages two and three or so years ago while attempting to learn the basic skills of website building with HTML code. I learned a little and made working pages, after a fashion. I kept learning in fits and starts as I wanted to make changes to the pages. Then other interests and duties kept me from working with code on a daily basis. Lately when I would look at my early coding in the source code I itched to do more than make minor changes, to clean and tighten it up. I just couldn’t seem to find time or feel I could concentrate enough to do it. Finally, housebound periodically by snow this winter, I tackled the job. Only to find that evidently my little gray cells failed to retain enough knowledge and I’ve had to dig to figure out how to get the pages to do what I want them to do. Perhaps another benefit for all this cerebral activity will be to keep some of the bugaboos of old age at bay.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

My Country, 'Tis of Thee

When I was in school, we used to sing this song the beginning of our school day. And recite the Pledge of Allegiance with our hands over our hearts, turned toward the U. S. Stars and Stripes flag. Without these things, America might not have produced what is now called The Greatest Generation. Hundreds of thousands of young men and officers who were willing to lay down their very lives so that their families, the citizens of their United States, and most of the rest of the world, might not fall under the rule of tyrants. Tyrants named Hitler, Mussolini, and others. My heart breaks that so much of the world, including many in this country, have forgotten.Some elected leaders, sworn to uphold our Constitution and follow the clearly expressed will of the people, have not forgotten either. They simply choose to employ those same tactics used by the would-be tyrants to undermine and overthrow the will of the people. But as long as enough young and old Americans DO remember, those modern-day would-be tyrants who choose riches over integrity and patriotism will also fail.

Consider these lines, first stanza of the song title of this blog post:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of Liberty, Of thee, I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside, LET FREEDOM RING!




Sunday, May 26, 2019

Honor to Whom Honor Is Due

I'm old enough to remember May 30 as being called Decoration Day. People went to the cemetery, cleared off graves, placed flowers/wreaths near the markers (tombstones) in memory of the people they were honoring. This was done particularly to honor those who had fallen in battle in defense of their homeland. Later when the designatiion of many holidays was changed to the nearest Monday, providing a three day weekend, Decoration Day was among the ones changed. I don't remember, perhaps that was also when the name was changed to Memorial Day. Either name is fitting. I am just glad many people still revere those who were willing to lay down their lives to defend the freedoms we who remain enjoy in this country in which we live. Can we do less than our share to ensure that those freedoms continue? 
The piece below, despite its title, was inspired by two different events, a visit to the car wash and a visit to pay my respects when one of the replicas of the Vietnam Wall was brought to my city.


Dancing Ladies



When I was in high school I took one year of Spanish. Almost all of what I may have learned has disappeared from my memory. I can count to five, know hacienda means house. Beyond that, not much. I’d like to learn more of that language, but doubt I’ll ever devote sufficient time to do it. So I suppose it is not a strong desire.
This musing about language was brought to mind by a note I’d written a while back while at the local car wash. I watched the conveyor belt pull my car through the long, flapping strips of material and streams of liquid soap and water. The strips bounced up, down and sideways, then slowly, sensuously dragged across the top of my car as it moved along. What are those strips made of anyway? Canvas? Felt? Surely it would have to be a special kind of felt. Whatever they are, my car seemed to be meekly surrendering to their ministrations. To be saying, I need to be clean, wash the pollen from my windows, dirt from my wheels, bird droppings from my roof. Fanciful thoughts, but we humans are prone to such about the inanimate things we care about.
I dubbed the incessantly moving car wash strips ‘dancing ladies’ because they reminded me a little of a flower I’ve seen. The plant has a long, twelve or more inches, almost bare stem topped with lovely, spherical blooms which dance constantly in the smallest breeze. Though also inanimate in the sense that they do not consciously dance, as far as we know, they project a sense of happiness in the mere act of movement. Much as talented human dancers do in a ballet or musical production.
I think many things we encounter in daily life ‘speak’ to us in a language our subconscious may understand but can’t interpret for us. I recall when a replica of the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial Wall was brought to Kingsport. I thought it was my fancy that there was a heavy quietness around that wall. But since then I’ve read that others feel it, too. Spirits of those mostly young souls, or our own sorrowing spirit? I prefer the latter, and that the brave ones are in a better place.
 
sylvia@sylvianickels.com

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Cyber Millionaires

 My phones, some would say Luddite that I am, landline and cell, ring so often I'm tempted to turn ringers off. Most are telemarketers and I am loath to be really rude to them in hopes they will take me off their list. After all, they are working in an almost universally disliked job to earn a living and to me that's commendable. So many, in present times, are not willing. So I don't answer if the number is not familiar. What does aggravate me very much is that some unscrupulous places have the ability to 'spoof' numbers and names. This is fraud, pure and simple. I learned by trial and error(answering) not to be fooled if a number is very similar to one I know. Names from different providers sometimes do not show, unfortunately, so memorize the numbers you want to talk to!
The piece below is a column I did a number of years ago for a local weekly newspaper. Even more valid, today, I'm sorry to say.



Completely Free 

Riiiight! How many times are we taken in by that phrase? I know I have been too many times to count. And its cousin, ‘If dissatisfied, cancel anytime.’ Uh huh. Just try calling the number you’re given to call and cancel the subscription to Clutter-Free Living after six unread issues clutter your coffee table. If you persevere through half a dozen pass-the-buck call transfers, or manage not to be disconnected, you might get to talk to a live person. You very calmly explain that you wish to cancel your subscription and receive a refund on unused issues. The person oh so sweetly wants you to tell them why you could possibly be dissatisfied with such a stellar periodical. When you remind them you were told you could cancel for any or no reason, you get more circular talk. And to please hold while the representative confers with the ‘circulation manager.’ ‘Circulation manager’ comes on the line to persuade you how much you need the magazine. You yell and scream and finally are told that yes, of course, your subscription will be cancelled. Relieved, gullible you hang up. Only to have to go through the same thing for the next two months when the magazines keep piling up. By the time the next-to-last issue is due to ship, your subscription might be cancelled. Three months pass and eventually a check for five dollars arrives in your mailbox. Once upon a time we only got into these predicaments if we unwisely allowed a door-to-door salesman – or an earnest student ‘working his or her way through college’ - inside our front door. Now telephone solicitors calling from huge boiler room operations, and online offers too good to pass up, lie in wait for us multiple times daily. Online websites which charge for information are masters of this sleight-of-hand scam. Sign up and browse for free. Only once an account is created a credit card number is required before any useful information can be accessed. Humans are so constructed that once they’ve invested time in a project, they are more willing to invest money. Thereby are cyber millionaires created, from ‘free’ stuff.