Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Team Lost Last Night


One of the reasons I fell in love with HoneyBunch was his love of sports.  He made it clear that the woman he married had to love the Dallas Cowboys. (I did.) I told him the man I married had to love the San Antonio Spurs.  (He did.)
          We both agreed baseball was best watched live, but he kept secret that he has a terrible TV addiction to professional golf, though I would have agreed to marry him anyway.
          This love of sports runs in his family.  His parents are avid St. Louis Cardinal fans, his older brother races cars and yachts, and his younger sister lives at the gym.  In fact, she and her daughter teach classes there.
          My family was never much interested in sports.  Only my sister Mari and I have ever taken a gym class aside from those required in school or college.  Mari and I have joined gyms, taken dance classes, and walked or jogged many a mile, and our kids carry on the legacy. Both her daughter and my three have been in extracurricular sports and can watch a game with a better-than-average understanding of the rules. 
          I love games and sports are just that – physical games. Like in life, they have rules.  There are breaks, and there is bad luck.  The good guy doesn’t always win, but sometimes, the real winner isn’t the one with the trophy – it’s the one who demonstrated the most persistence, integrity, and courage. 
          The San Antonio Spurs lost their bid for the NBA Western Conference Championship, but I could not be prouder to call them my team. I have been a fan of theirs since the mid-seventies.

          Football season is a long way off, and until then, we will be watching a lot of professional golf on TV. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

My Life is a Series of Plan B


Every time the movie The Martian comes on TV, I watch it.  It does not matter how much of it I have missed.  I love it all.  I have the book on my TBR pile but have not had the time to read it.  I hear it is better than the movie, but for now, it is me and Matt Damon.
I love the character Mark Watney and I love the way Matt Damon portrays him.  The determination of the human spirit to succeed against steep odds speaks to me.  At the end of the movie, when Mark Watney introduces himself to the astronaut candidates, he voices the theme of the movie: to succeed in life, you solve one problem, then the next, then another, and so on.
I totally agree.  Life is a mixture of courage and confidence.  Courage is the embodiment of all the good traits inside a person, and confidence is trusting in those traits to get the job done, no matter how impossible, uncomfortable, or challenging.
Life is never giving up hope. It is Plan B after Plan A blows up in your face, followed by Plan C and D and so on until you run out of alphabet and you start using numbers. It is fighting until the very end.
I have had my share of challenges, some sad and some silly.  All of them have made my life memorable.  One key I use when in doubt is to ask myself, “If I do not do this, will I regret it?”  If the answer is yes, then I find the courage or the confidence to try.  It does not always get me the result I wanted, but I have never regretted trying.
One of the most amazing secondary themes of the movie The Martian is the resilience of the character.  He persists with patience and hope and humor. And grace. He knows himself better than anyone.  He knows what he needs to keep going.  He depends on himself, his intelligence and perseverance, and he goes to it in a methodical manner. At the end when he cries, it is because all his sacrifice pays off. 

Life is never giving up on yourself. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Unexpectedly, The Adverb Turned into a Swan!


          Contrary to some self-help advice, the adverb should not always be the first to go in the revision of the first draft.
          Yes, it is often overused, but it is also misunderstood.
          Most often the rule of thumb is to eliminate all adverbs, especially those with an -ly ending, but a better measure is to read the sentence both with and without the adverb.  If the sentence is stronger without, then do without the adverb. Another common piece of advice is to eliminate the adverb and substitute the verb with a stronger version, one that blends both the original blah verb and the overworked adverb.
          But better yet, why not look at the adverb from a new perspective?  Use it to change the meaning of the verb; use it to contrast with the verb, and not just to modify or intensify the verb.
          Do not look at the adverb as a simple -ly annoyance no one wants to claim, but look at all its many versions.  Besides the single-word adverb, which when used to contrast with the verb can be very effective, remember your high school English classes.  There is the adverbial clause, the adverbial infinitive, the adverbial participial phrase.
          The adverb is a swan; not just an ugly duckling. (Pun on the -ly ending.)
          Let’s review:
1.      Opening adverb (at the start of a sentence and separated by a comma):
Mistakenly, adverbs are usually the first to go in the revision of the first draft.
2.    Delayed adverb (tucked inside the sentence and surrounded by commas):
Beginning writers are advised, indiscriminately, to eliminate all adverbs and replace them with stronger verbs.
3.    Adverbial clause (a clause – has a noun and verb in it - that explains the verb further):
They edit all adverbs, slashing as they go, although the original sentence was stronger because of them.
4.    Adverbial infinitive (an infinitive – to plus the verb - that explains the verb further):
The trusting, new writer sometimes sacrifices his voice to pacify general advice.
5.    Adverbial participial phrase (-ing word that creates a phrase (non-sentence) that explains the verb)

Studying the correct use of the adverb, the writer can contrast and manipulate it to create lyrical prose.  

Monday, May 1, 2017

Have Blog – Will Write


With over 340 million registered blog sites worldwide (as of 5/1/17), why do I blog?  What makes me think any of my postings will ever matter?  Well . . .
1.      I have this burning desire to write.  It has been my lifelong creative outlet.  I am lost without a pen or paper within reach. Others paint.  Some act or sing or dance.  I write. I have been blogging once a week for the last six years.

2.    Like any other talent, it must be harnessed, practiced, and perfected.  Not all my posts are masterpieces, but blogging forces me to find ideas, shape them, and present them in written form to an audience.

3.    Blogging exercises my writing voice.  Does it appeal to an audience? Do they want to read more?

4.    Having to blog on a regular basis musters my mental muse whether it wants to be mustered or not. Coming up with a weekly blog teaches me discipline and responsibility both to myself and to the reader.

5.    It builds a body of work.  It is a visual resume.  It increases my readership and my SEO.

6.    Claiming my domain and using it as my blog name protects my brand and my platform from others.

7.    Blogging has taught me a lesson about keeping my voice genuine, uplifting, and responsible to the reader.  I try to never give advice that would hurt the reader in any way.

8.    It has become an example of my writing range – biographic, humorous, introspective, fictional. I have used it as a reference on several occasions on queries and applications.

9.    When folks ask about blogging, I can point to my six years of experience, my over 350 blog posts, and the analytics that come with my dedication to this writing form.

10. Bogging has given me feedback that I use as I evolve as a writer – not just in the exercise of writing but also in marketing and in keeping abreast of the latest internet media. With over half of the world’s population on the Internet, a true writer/author needs to be able to employ this canvas. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My 1963 Rambler, El Tanque


My first car was a 1963 Rambler.  My dad bought it for me in 1971 because I needed transportation to get from college to my student teaching assignment.
A boxy looking sedan, engineered by the American Motors Corporation to be economical and sturdy, the Rambler was not exactly what I envisioned as my first ride.  A putrid pink, somewhere between flesh color and throw up, I nearly fainted when Dad drove home with it.  
On one of my first outings, I turned the wheel too much while backing out of a parking space and scraped the whole side of the car parked next to me.  It looked like it had been hit by a semi-truck. My car did not have one scratch.
Made of solid iron, I named my pink baby El Tanque, the tank.  
A few weeks later, I t-boned a mustang that belonged to some high school football hero who lived down the street from us.  For the record, the kid was at fault this time and not I, so he got the citation. I was following him when he slowed down and rode along the curb on the right. When he came to a complete stop, I started to pass him. It turned out he was making a wide turn to the right before turning into his driveway on the left. Thankfully, I wasn’t going too fast when I plowed into his driver’s door. This was before seat belts, so the impact threw him into his passenger side and that saved his life. His new Mustang was totaled and he was in crutches for several months.  The Rambler had a scratch of paint on the bumper that came off with some Ajax.
When I called home a week later to report I had been in another accident, my dad was in good cheer because I was innocent once again.  He said bad luck usually happens in threes, so maybe this was it. This accident was caused by a woman who was not paying attention to the traffic lights. While I waited for the light to change to green, I noticed in my rear-view mirror that she was not going to stop, so I jammed my foot on the brake and gripped the steering wheel.  The woman hit me so hard, the Rambler jolted and so did I.  Once again, the Tank held up but the woman’s car had to be towed away.  
By now the Rambler and I were infamous, a joke in the family.  I prayed it would all stop before something worse happened.
Not long after that, I was in the middle of a busy street, waiting to turn left into a parking lot, when suddenly, a man driving a motorcycle coming toward me lost control of his bike.  It went one way and he flew straight into my windshield.  Like a rag doll, he barely made any noise on impact.  He looked at me as he melted softly off the right side of my hood unto the street.
I was afraid to check on him, thinking he was dead, but an ambulance and the police soon appeared and assured me the motorcyclist was okay, a few broken bones, but nothing serious. When Dad got there, I cried.  I bawled.  I wailed and I told him I thought the Rambler was cursed.  He assured me that wasn’t true.  It was just temporary bad luck and it would all end soon. He said, one thing for sure, the Tank would keep me safe through good or bad.
I made him promise me that was true.  He laughed but he promised.

I kept that car for almost ten years before I traded it in for a bigger family sedan.  I had three children and we needed a new vehicle.  I cried when I gave it up.  El Tanque and I were family.  We had been through so much together, so many trials and adventures. She wasn’t a beauty on the outside, but she was my first car and my protector, and that made her special.