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Showing posts from 2018

Putting Me First – NY Resolutions 2019

People who gripe about New Year Resolutions and refuse to make any don’t realize they just did.   Not making a resolution is just that – a resolution. As for me, I make resolutions all year long.   I start anew every day, readjusting my goals.   Being positive and productive keeps me active, alert, and alive. I look forward to 2019.   It’ll be the last year I spend in my sixties. Voicing my age aloud may not surprise others but it does surprise me.   I don’t feel old, but I can no longer claim myself as young.   On demographic questionnaires, I have to scroll to the bottom of the page when it asks my age. It’s like those of us who get to live this long are not allowed to be first anymore. Oh well, so what is new for 2019 for this vintage girl? Besides the usual – diet, exercise, lose weight – I’m going to walk a 5K, maybe a 10K, by next December. Might as well work toward a bigger goal than just fitting into the clothes in my closet. HoneyBunch and I have decided “to stay

Choose to Smile By Raquel Martina Martinez

  “. . . let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18 (NIV) Every Christmas, I used to include myself in the purchase of gifts.   I’d often take advantage of the sales and bought myself a new car or the latest electronics. One Christmas, however, what I needed the most could not be bought.   I felt an emptiness that affected everything around me. Nothing I could buy would assuage the pain. I needed to forgive the person who hurt me, and I needed to forgive myself for my part in that failed relationship.   It wasn’t easy to let go of years of anger, so I started by verbally forgiving the person, and then, I forgave myself. My words became actions, and my actions transformed me.   Last Christmas, I chose another such gift. I gave myself permission to walk away from vitriolic “friendships.” We may not have parted how I would have liked, but I am much happier without the constant bickering.   We can choose to smile or frown, love or hate,

The Matriarch

Bossy, intrepid, little girl All skinned knees and unkempt pony tail More afraid of being afraid than getting things done A thin, teenaged beauty A sweet siren smile and long, brown hair Afraid she won’t have time to do things, see things, go places A career woman, a wife, a mother Youth a fading flower but a full life spreads out before her Afraid of losing hold of her dreams A grandmother wearing a silver crown Gone are the days she conquered mountains and broke hearts Her only fear – that of being forgotten

The Chicken or the Egg/The Book or the Movie

Our book club chooses one book every four to six weeks to be discussed at a later date.   When we get together, the six of us enjoy a lively discussion even though we each have differing opinions. We are perfect examples of what is called reader-response theory. Reader-response theory suggests that the written word’s (author’s) intention and what the reader understands are two different things. The good news, these two different views do meet somewhere in the middle.   Regardless what the author intended, the reader adds to what is on the page based on his or her own past experiences. This happens with any created object. What the “artist” presents to the world is often seen and appreciated differently by the reader, the audience, or the consumer. This often happens with movies. The director creates a movie, but the movie critic sees one thing, and the movie goer sees another. We each respond to the film based on our past experiences, our likes and dislikes. Knowing this, w

I Blame the Magi.

I blame the Magi.   They started this whole giving gifts at Christmas thing, but let me warn you, though I have no use for frankincense or myrrh, I could use some gold around this time of year. Christmas giving can be expensive, so it is best to plan before you go shopping instead of spending your hard-earned cash on gifts that won’t be appreciated.    When I was a preteen my mother gave me a present that still gives me nightmares, yet I am sure that was not her intention.   She gave me a Christmas outfit that she forced me to wear to midnight Mass.   It was a green, bonded knit skirt that came with a long sleeved, green and white, horizontal striped top. It wasn’t even Christmas green, but this garish lime green that next to my complexion made me look jaundiced.   It also gave me a skin rash, but Mother demanded I wear it because it was expensive. It wasn’t around for long, because, hey, how was I to know bonded knit wasn’t supposed to be ironed? Her money would have been bet

The Eight Rules of Write Club/Critique Groups

1.     You do not talk about write club. Oh, but you do.   You have to.   There are several things to consider when forming a critique group . It needs at least three members; otherwise, what you have is a critique partner . Right? A good group size is about six; any more members and adjustments to the work load have to be made.   A good critique group should be divided into genres – fiction, non-fiction, short stories, novel-length work, poetry, children’s books, etc. Each genre has its own focus, rules, and expectations, and the members cannot be expected to be experts in each. The group must decide when, where, and how often to meet.   Some critique groups work online only and others meet in person.   The best place for in-person critique groups is to meet in neutral zones, places without distractions, like a library meeting room or an office. Restaurants and private homes compromise the owners into hosting the event. Also talk about how often the group will meet.   Once

To Write, Perchance to Sleep

I’ve blogged nonstop once a week for the last seven years, and in that time, I’ve skipped that many blogs or less because of lack of time. There are only so many hours in a day and sometimes other things happen. Fellow writers sacrifice sleep, family, and other obligations because their writing commitments take precedence.   I admire them for that, but I can’t. I get physically ill if I don’t get my sleep.   I never fought naptime as a child and have been this way all my life.   I can get by with five or six hours of sleep at night, but only if I get to nap sometime the next day. My optimum writing time is in the early hours – morning through late afternoon, but come evening, my brain is fried and the quality of my writing starts to falter.   When that happens, it is best for me to set the alarm for an early hour and go to bed because nothing much is going to get done when I am physically tired. My family are THE most important people in my life.   Helping them in an emerge

Post-Christmas Blues

As far back as I can remember, Christmas has been my favorite holiday. As soon as I could write, I’d pen my letter to Santa.   I’d start with all my merits – obedient, kind, star pupil – then, I would hit him with all the things I felt I deserved, my purchase order list of Christmas wants. I’d direct him to the better buys, where he could get my toy at the best price, and if that didn’t work (I knew who the real Santa was), I’d leave catalogs lay about the house, opened to the page and with the item circled in ink pen. Sometimes, I’d sigh loudly and mention that the “Barbie I want is on page 362 of the Sears Catalog.” In the twenty-two years I lived with my parents, I never once got anything I had asked from Santa. I got stupid things like a pink teddy bear (pink?), a neon green outfit that enhanced my sallow skin (and I looked like I had jaundice), and a second-hand boy’s bike my parents found at a garage sale when I turned eighteen (I was past the bike stage and ready for a c

Nothing Stops Me from Celebrating Christmas

One Christmas, my youngest son packed his torn-down Volkswagen into our two-car garage. Its motor took up one-fourth of one parking space, and the body took up the whole other half of the garage. To fit everything into the limited space, he had to push it all up against the storage boxes that lined the front wall. As Christmas neared, I was able to get to the Christmas tree and the Nativity set I always used but not the boxes and boxes of decorations. I complained to both the husband and the son, but neither had the time nor the inclination to move all that metal so I could get to my things. We were going to have Christmas that year with presents around a bare tree, so two days before Christmas, I gave up on them and went in search of more decorations.   Everything was half-priced but it was also picked over. I bought lights and odds and ends, just enough to cover the tree and call it a go. Nothing was going to stop me from celebrating Christmas.               *      *      *

My Thoughts and Prayers

This phrase has come under scrutiny lately, called trite, overused, ineffective, insulting.  Yet, when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in August 2017, there was little more most of us could do other than contribute money and goods, and offer our thoughts and prayers. When the lone gunman killed all those innocent people while they attended Sunday services in November 2017, there was little most of us could do other than contribute money and goods, and offer our thoughts and prayers. Very few of us are trained in rescue efforts or how to take down a shooter.   If we tried, we would slow the efforts of those who can, so we help in the best way we can.   We offer our sympathy and our prayers. Instead of on our knees or offering sympathy, those who make fun demand instead that we should be on our feet, marching and demanding change. Their displaced anger blinds them to the fact that as human beings we need emotional and physical support as much as we need food, water, and safety/she

Five Things I Hate About Badly Written Books

For years I taught literature to secondary students. Most were reluctant readers so I would teach the elements of a novel or the short story by comparing them to popular TV shows or movies. A sit-com is a three-act play compacted into thirty minutes, so there is a premise, a situation to be solved, and the ending or resolution. A movie is its longer cousin, so we’d discuss a popular movie and separated it into its three acts. Once we did that, we turned our focus on the short story or novel we were reading in class. We all agreed a good story is a well-written story. Nothing irks me more than to spend my hard-earned money or waste my precious time on a book that fails to keep its promise to the consumer. If it’s a mystery, I expect to be surprised.   If it’s a romance, I expect to see it develop.   If it’s an adventure, I expect to raft the rapids. But please do not promise me a date and then take me for a boring ride around the neighborhood. I hate books that are badly writt

How to Raise a Child

Several years ago, the mother of a newborn was suddenly overcome by the responsibility of raising a child, and she asked me how to go about it.   First off, I told her she was a good person and she would be a good mother, but a good compass is to think forward and decide what kind of grownup she wanted her baby to be one day. If she wanted her child to be a kind adult, then train the child to be kind.   If she wanted her child to be intelligent, then teach the child to read and learn and be curious.   If she wanted her child to be polite, then teach the child manners.   All of these traits have to be taught through example as well. If she wanted her child to believe in God, then she had to go and take the child to church. She had to show and live a Godly life.   If she wanted her child not to use vulgar language or watch objectionable shows, then the mother could not prohibit the child and then use that language and watch those shows herself. It’s the same with eating bro

The Insidious Abuse

There are moments in your life when you realize you’ve been walking around with your eyes half closed, seeing and feeling only what you want to admit to yourself. Several years ago, I was sitting on my bed, watching a special on spousal physical and sexual abuse, feeling self-righteous that even though I had survived a terrible marriage, it wasn’t abusive. Our divorce was taking twice as long to finalize than it should, but it gave me time to heal from the marriage and for the sadness to abate.    As the show went to commercial, they announced the second half of the special would focus on emotional abuse, the one where the blows to the victim target the inside and not the skin.   I considered turning the TV off; after all, it didn’t apply to me, but in my laziness, I didn’t get up in time. As I reached for the remote, it was like I had been sideswiped by an oncoming auto. It was like someone had turned the camera and was filming me.   With my finger on the off button, I reali

To a Humble Man

There are times when you don’t have anything to say.   There’s this blank page in your brain that refuses to light up with words.   This week was one of those days. I lost a cousin last week.   His family kept his illness to themselves until they could no longer hide it.   It was time to tell the family that his days were few and we should prepare ourselves for his departure. He was one of those kind people who always asked if he could help, always offered a smile or a joke, always stood in the background opening doors and allowing others to take center stage. We depended on his unpretentiousness to make us feel important. When compared to him, we are nothing more than pompous, self-important fools.   Without him, we have no audience, no revelry, no wind to our sails. He blended into the background and we took him for granted.   It took his death to make us realize how much we needed him cheering us on from backstage. He accomplished more in his short life than a dozen of

Using Scene Cards to Plot a Story

Writing for publication isn’t as easy as one thinks.   Some of us are naturals at this, but nothing about my learning process has ever come easily, still I love to learn and write. When someone suggested I write a blog, I did my homework.   It was similar to a weekly column I wrote for three years, so I thought it would force me to keep deadlines and exercise my “voice.”   It’s been mildly successful. I wrote two children’s stories and they both placed in the top ten in a national contest, so that gave me some encouragement. I dusted off a book I wrote that a publishing house rejected ten years ago, so I spent a year fixing it and pitched it again; this time to an agent. She not only rejected it; she trashed it. It sits in my office licking its wounds. Two other books are going through their fourth or fifth rewrites. I’ve lost count. Most of my writer friends write straight into their laptops, no notes, no outlines.   They let “their characters lead the way.” They’re called p

Those Who Can’t Teach

“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches .”  (George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman) Thanks, Bernard. What exactly were you saying with that? That anyone not good enough for any other job or profession, can always turn to the profession of teaching? If one cannot function in the real world, the teaching profession is always so dire for help, it will take all and any rejects? “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” (Woody Allen, Annie Hall) Those who can’t what? Get a job anywhere else? Cannot face a job that demands long hours? Demands a persistent attitude working with a resistant client? Does not want to work under a stressful deadline? Let’s try teaching!   They work short hours, have weekends and summers off, paid holidays.   They teach kids.   How hard can that be? Whee!   Well, let me tell you, Bernie and Woody, teaching is a PROFESSION, one that demands more than any other job.   That 8 to 5, paid summers and holidays myth is a lie, and your cutesy, funny quot


HoneyBunch and I come from families who do not believe in throwing away  food, ergo, The Leftover is sacred in our homes. Any little scrap of food goes into plastic containers with tight fitting lids or gets wrapped in plastic with the same reverence as an Egyptian mummy. It shows up at the next meal either in its original form or under a clever disguise.   Handfuls of leftover vegetables get thrown into stews or soups; old fries get scrambled into eggs, and though not much can be done for a leftover enchilada, smothering it with soupy beans can make it edible. When my own kids were young, I “forced” a weekly clean-out-the-refrigerator buffet on them but gave them fair warning.   They knew when I called them to the table, they’d better hurry because it was first come, first served. The last one to the table ended up making do with The Leftover Leftover , usually something doubly unrecognizable and inedible. HB is really big on not wasting food, but I do set limits.   In its or