Monday, June 18, 2018

Note to Self: How to Write Gooder



I belong to a writers’ critique group that meets once a week. I’ve been at it now for seven years, but the group has been around for twenty. Amazing, isn’t it?
We swap pages and give each other feedback on our writing.  Some of us are published, but all of us are writers. I have learned more from being a member of this group than from any class I have ever taken on the subject of being a published writer.
Here is what I have learned (the hard way) that might help other aspiring writers.
1.    Get into the practice of formatting your manuscript pages in a professional manner. Type it in Times New Roman, 12-point font, and double space it with a one-inch margin all around. Indent your paragraphs. Learn to type in a header with your name and the title of the manuscript, and number your pages.

2.     Study how to use all punctuation correctly, especially the use of the semicolon and the quotation marks. Become an expert at it (or as near an expert as you can be.)

3.    Learn to discern the different points of view (first, second, third), and if you move from one to the other, how to do it correctly.

4.    Learn to discern the use of verb tense (past and present, for example), and if you jump from one to the other, how to do it effectively.

5.    Study sentence boundaries. Look at where each sentence starts and where it ends, and be able to identify independent clauses, dependent clauses, run-ons, comma splices, etc. Learn how to punctuate them and use them well.

6.    Make sure objects (including characters) do not appear suddenly when they were not there in the previous paragraph or scene.  A knife should not show in a character’s hand suddenly, or a character should not be standing when he was kneeling a moment ago, unless you go back and write the action or the prop into the story previously.
7.    Go back and search for passive verbs and rewrite the sentences so you remove most of them.

8.    Read through for adverbs and rewrite the passage with descriptive verbs or phrases instead of limiting it to an adverb.

9.    Learn to describe emotions with physical characteristics or actions instead of using adjectives.

10. The most important tip of all is to learn how to keep the exciting promise you offered your reader. Each scene, each chapter, must move the story forward. If it doesn’t, then it is not necessary, and you will lose your reader.  Each scene or chapter must keep the reader engaged, and if it doesn’t, then it needs to be removed or rewritten so that it does.  

Monday, June 11, 2018

Big Daddy Dreams



          While driving my grandson home from kindergarten the other day, he announced he will one day be a daddy.
          Snarky is a proud genetic trait in my family, so I didn’t rein it back. “Shouldn’t you learn how to do addition, make your bed, and finish high school first?’
          “Don’t you want me to be happy?”  He snapped. 
          (Obviously the snarky gene has not skipped a generation.)
          He was buckled into his car seat in the back so we had to look at each other through the rear-view mirror.  “Well, of course, I do. I’m just saying you’re very, very young to be thinking of marriage.”
          “I want to get married to a woman one day and have lots and lots of kids.”
          I suppressed the need to tell him that “lots and lots” might not be something to mention to “a woman” on their first date. Instead I said, “Well, I am very happy for you, but what brought this on?”
          “I want to grow up and be the best daddy in the whole wide world, just like my dad.”
          Who can argue with that?
          “And,” he said, “I’m going to let you babysit them.  You’ll have more grandchildren to love.”
          I shot him a look through the rear-view mirror.
          I’m his grandmother.  I subscribe to AARP and get Medicare. I’m that old.  
This is where the knowledge of learning to add and finishing high school might come in handy to a little man who I love with all my heart, a little man buckled into his car seat dreaming big, daddy dreams.
         

Monday, June 4, 2018

Leaving the Nest: Life After the High School Graduation Announcement


          It’s that time of year when my mailbox is full of graduation announcements.  All those grads have plans: off to college, the military service, or the workforce.
          Even those who aren’t doing any of those things, have plans of their own. They plan on living rent-free off Mom and Dad while they take a year off to “breathe” and explore their options.  They have “creative talent” and need room to develop it further.  They were “flooded” with options but felt rushed and needed time to choose from among the multitude.
          I understand.
          Not everyone has a clear view of what comes next after high school, not even those packing for college, the military, or the new apartment.  They too have their share of doubts.
          I’ve seen some college students speed through their classes, anxious to get the degree and start their careers.  I have also seen some meander their way, semester after semester, including summers, taking courses with dubious titles that have nothing to do with a tangible degree until the parents demand an outcome to their investment.
          The steps one takes learning to fly after high school graduation are both formidable and freeing.  I can see why life after high school isn’t for the fledgling. 
          It takes courage to soar and survive on one’s own.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Narrative Point of View: Staying in Your Lane



When my daughter-in-law first moved here from China, among the first things she wanted was to get her driver’s license. She had never driven a car; she had never even been in the front seat of one.
I told her learning to drive looks differently depending on where you are seated inside the car. To prove my point, I gave her a quick driving lesson.
First, I verbalized all the steps I took, both physically and mentally, as I cruised around our three-acre property.
Next, we changed places and I walked her through all the same steps while she drove in between the house and the other four buildings on our place.  I helped her ease around corners, made her stop, start, reverse, and change direction and course.  The last trip around, I told her to drive the car and I would not say a word until I told her to stop.  
As the final step, I asked her to sit in the back seat while I drove into town on an errand. It was too soon to let her do anything but observe, but I hoped she was more aware of what it took to drive.  I wanted her to examine her perspective and see how it had changed.  
What does this have to do with narrative point of view? 
Everything.
In second person narrative, “you” are the instructor.  You give the directions and make comments. Opinions are thrown in extra at no cost. Though the driver is the central person in the car, the driver’s vision is limited, while the passenger is better able to both listen to the instructions and look about and see what is happening both inside and outside the car.  The driver decides the course but the person addressed as “you” sees how the instruction and the narrative come together.     
In first person narrative, “I” is the driver. The responsibility shifts onto “I’s” shoulders. The narrator relates the driving experience through what is seen, handled, smelled, or heard. “I” reacts when he/she goes through a red light or experiences a skid. Driving a car may be second nature to many of us now, but remember how it felt the first time we took off in Mom’s car?
In third person narrative, the narrator’s viewpoint shifts to that of the passenger. The narrator is there to observe and recount what the others are doing as they travel down the road.  If seated in the front seat, the narrative is expressed through more action and less telling because “his or her” actions are up close and tangible. If seated in the back seat, the scope widens with the distance. The narrator is able to observe everyone inside the car, along with some of what is happening outside. As more passengers come along for the ride, each one adds their own voice, personality, and quirks. Everyone will have an opinion on the speed limit, when to stop for lunch, and who gets to sit by the window the next time we all climb back into the car.   
On your next trip through a novel, whether as a reader or as a writer, keep an eye on the narrative point of view.  Where are you seated?  Who gets to call the shots? Is everyone staying in their own lane?  

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Passionate Pseudologist



When I was eleven, my teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up.  I pondered that question with all earnestness and narrowed my options down to three:  doctor, writer, teacher.
She suggested I might want to narrow my choices further for the sake of the essay we were going to write, so I asked her for advice.  She said one should choose with passion; one should look forward to going to work every day.
I nixed “doctor” when she asked me how I felt about cutting people open, the sight of blood, and caring for the sick and dying. That was eye-opening and I quickly switched my essay topic to something less “passionate” - teacher, and years later, saw that become a reality.
Fast forward thirty-seven years, and I retired from a career where I was required to work twelve to fifteen-hour days, seven days a week. I spent my “vacation” time taking classes, compiling research, and writing curriculum units without pay. Only those close to me witnessed the hours I dedicated during my time off or the amount of my own money I invested fortifying classrooms with the necessary supplies and books we needed.  
If it sounds like grousing, it isn’t. I loved that career.  I was passionate about it and looked forward to going to work every day until I retired. A career well done takes time, effort, money, determination, dedication.
I am pursuing a second career now, an encore to the life I had before.  To pursue a career in writing takes all of the above plus more.  I am passionate about it.  I cannot go a day without writing something.  Pencils and pens lie in every room.  Stacks of papers cover tables and bed stands. Ideas surface at the oddest times and places, and I gleefully annoy everyone around me with my latest inspirations.
My sixth-grade teacher would be proud of me today.  I am still taking her advice.   

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Mother’s Day Without My Mother



This was the first Mother’s Day without my mother.  I tripped when I wandered by mistake into the grocery aisle with all the cards, the candy, the flowers, but I soldiered on and browsed at all the pretty things, knowing some other Mommy would be enjoying all those little trinkets.
I always bought childish cards for my mom though I haven’t been one in a long, long time.  She would get a kick out of my nonsense.  She would giggle and show it off over and over. “Aye, que muchacha.”
These last few years I stopped buying her presents and enclosed money, cold hard cash, into her envelope.  We never said it out loud, but we both knew she wouldn’t live to see things wear out, so why not spend it NOW, since she couldn’t take it with her?  I also learned my lesson the year I spent hours and hours (and a big chunk of change) selecting a present only to find it on her sales table at a garage sale two months later. We laughed about that and her audacity at trying to sell it back to me “for a price.” “Te lo doy barato.”
I loved my mom.  I miss her, but I do not wish her back. She is where she needs to be, and I am here.  She is at rest and enjoying glory.  
My loss does not keep me from celebrating Mother’s Day. Almost every woman I know has been a mom or a parent or a caregiver at some point in their lives, so why not enjoy the day, besides I don’t really believe in waiting to tell folks how much we love them on only one designated day of the year.
You see, my mom and I did it right.  We fought with each other, yet afterwards, we asked each other’s forgiveness and made up. There were times we hurt or disappointed each other, but yet again, we asked for forgiveness and made up. She wasn’t perfect and neither am I, but she was my mother, my strongest ally, my truest friend.
On the day before she passed away, she asked us to honor her DNR. She also asked us to celebrate her life, so we made sure to do what she asked.  “Gracias, hija.”
The day she died was our last Mother’s Day. She was a strong woman and taught us to be strong, so we said our goodbyes like the grown women we are.

Monday, May 7, 2018

White Carnations



          When I was a child, I remember the men’s society at our church would sell carnations before and after Mass on Mother’s Day weekend. My dad, always the gentleman, would buy a carnation corsage for my mother and another for my grandmother (his mother-in-law), and they would in turn buy him a carnation boutonniere. They would fuss and giggle as they pinned them on each other.
          I always asked for a carnation, either a tiny corsage with a sprig of baby’s breath or a long-stemmed beauty, but my mother would scold me that they “were for grownups only” and hurried us into the church for Mass.
          One year, as we walked out of the last service for the day, the men’s society announced that a few flowers hadn’t sold and were free to anyone who wanted one. I ran to claim a freebie before my mother could hold me back.  While others chose a corsage or boutonniere, I plucked a lonely, long stemmed carnation that sat by itself in a bucket filled with water. I would have preferred a red beauty but I was happy with my white carnation.
          As I walked back to my parents, I noticed that my flower had tiny red speckles on the edges of the petals.  This may have been why it hadn’t sold.
My grandmother said that wearing a red carnation on Mother’s Day meant you honored a mother who was still living and a white carnation meant you remembered a mother who had passed away. To help me remember, she said mothers in heaven wore angelic white gowns, and that was why she and my dad wore white flowers and my mother’s was red.
My mother scolded me for taking off without permission and – horrors! - for choosing a white carnation. I should have gotten a red one. I defended my choice, saying it looked abandoned in the bucket by itself.  I wanted it for all the mommies who didn’t have someone who remembered them that day.  I was allowed to keep it but not without a scowl.
This Mother’s Day, I am going to buy bunches of white carnations.  They will probably be the least expensive because everyone will fight over the reds or the most colorful.  I am going to trek out to the cemetery where we buried my dear grandmother, then my handsome dad, and just a few months ago, my formidable mom. I want them to look down from heaven and know I haven’t forgotten them. 
I am going to cover their lonely graves with white carnations.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Inside This Pencil



“Inside this pencil
crouch words that have never been written
never been spoken
never been taught

they’re hiding”
W. S. Merwin

I’ve enjoyed blogging this month about poetry.  It is a nice respite from my usual form, and I hope you have enjoyed our attempts at penning verses.
To end this jaunt, you might browse your public library or a bookstore.  Find the kind of poetry that speaks to you and add to your library. 
Buy a journal, something fun and inviting, and emulate the poems you enjoy, stretching your creative muscle and drafting a few poems.
Read a poem or a Psalm from the Bible.  Use them for meditation before the start of each day. Journal using words, phrases, verses that call to you.
Introduce poetry to those around you. Besides those I referenced in my April 9, 2018 blog, try Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky or Ogden Nash for the younger people in your life.
To explore the male or female point of view, read Judith Viorst, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, or Emily Dickenson; or Pablo Neruda, Billy Collins, or Robert Frost.
For the crafter in you, refer to George Ella Lyon, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, Georgia Heard, or Dunning and Stafford. Their suggestions are enlightening.
There are so many books out there, waiting for you to discover them and add them to your library. Enjoy what is crouching inside your pencil, waiting to be spoken, and try your hand at poetry. Best of luck.


Monday, April 23, 2018

The Six-Room-Poem: Flamenco


Writing poetry does not come easy for me, but that does not mean I don’t occasionally try my hand at penning a few verses.
My poetry collection numbers close to 100 books.  It intrigues me so some of those books are on the craft of writing poetry.
This week’s “how to write a better poem” suggestion comes from Georgia Heard’s Awakening the Heart.  It is a technique she uses with students called the Six-Room-Poem that I found amazingly helpful.
You take a sheet of paper and fold it into six boxes and position the paper landscape, three boxes on top and three boxes on the bottom.
In box 1: describe thoroughly an image or a memory you want to use as the subject of your poem. You are not writing a poem yet, so just fill this box with description. If you are stuck, hold on, since you might get more ideas as you fill the other boxes.
In box 2: describe the quality of light or shadow or colors about your topic.
In box 3: describe your topic/image using the following senses: smell, taste, sound or lack of, and touch.
In box 4: what questions does your image elicit, or what questions might it ask you? You could also use this square to note quotes or verses from other sources that fit your image/topic.
In box 5: what feelings/imagery come from observing or describing your topic?
In box 6: go over the five boxes and find an image, word, verse, sentence that stands out.  Write it in this box three times.
Go back over the six boxes and fill in more descriptions and images, build imagery using similes and metaphors or other figures of speech.
If you have been successful, you now have enough material to write your poem.

I have included a sample of what my six-room-poem looks like.

Flamenco
The sun gathers her skirts
          pinks and purples.
Her song over  
          she steps off the stage.
Blinding brightness
          shafts of light
          cling to the end of her dance.
A magnificent spectacle
          Her beauty on mute.
She throws her arms into the air,
smiles,
And darkness follows.
         


Monday, April 16, 2018

A Found Poem Using Psalm 91



 In my previous two blogs for the month of April about poetry, I gave two suggestions: trying your hand with a “found poem” and imitating a favorite poem or poet by copying one example and substituting its form with your own words to practice “writing a better poem.”

To illustrate how a found poem works, I took a favorite Psalm from the Bible and did the following:
1.     I copied words, phrases, or verses from the psalm that I really loved unto a sheet of paper, one example per line, then I cut them into movable pieces with a pair of scissors.
2.    In a found poem, you are not allowed to add or change ANYTHING; you can only work with the words, phrases, or verses you have chosen. You cannot punctuate differently or add punctuation where it might be needed, but you can repeat words, phrases, or verses to create a refrain or make transitions or to emphasize images.  It will look very “modern.”
3.    I took my bits of paper and moved them into different positions, paring phrases down to single words if necessary and creating line breaks where I wanted.   
It is always best to show an example so below is my version of Psalm 91. I hope it inspires you to try your hand at a found poem. Happy April is Poetry Month!

Psalm 91: I Will Be With You
I will protect those who know my name
You will not fear the terror of the night
I will be with them
When they call me, I will answer them
command angels
                     find refuge
                     bear you up
          no evil shall befall you
guard you in all ways
                     from the snare of the fowler
You will tread on the lion and the adder
You will not fear the terror of the night.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Writing a Better Poem



Do you want to learn how to write a better poem?
1.     Read poetry.  Immerse yourself in it.  Find and sift through until you find the poets and the poems you like and admire.
2.    Imitate their poems.  I do not advocate plagiarism; I advocate practice and study.  Imbue yourself in the form, the spacing, the use of line and rhythm – all the elements that interest you. 
3.    Copy your poems into a journal or notebook, or copy and paste it into a digital folder, and also keep ideas, lines from favorite poems, figurative language, vocabulary, pictures, and practice, practice, practice.  Keep finished and unfinished poems in one, easily accessible place.
4.    Hunt, search, research for new poets and poetry.  No need to spend money.  Use libraries, bookstores, the Internet.  Use recommendations from Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble.  Remember there are thousands of novels available, but we only read the few genres we like; likewise, with poetry, there are thousands of poets and poetry out there waiting to be discovered, read, and enjoyed.
5.    Join a group of poets who write, share, and critique each other’s work.  So much can be learned from those who understand the genre best.
Looking for ideas? Try:
1.    Julia Alvarez.  Homecoming
2.    Niki Giovanni. The Women and the Men
3.    Trinidad Sanchez, Jr. Why Am I So Brown?
4.    Tupac Shakur. The Rose That Grew from Concrete.
5.    Alice Walker.  Revolutionary Petunias.

Monday, April 2, 2018

April is Poetry Month: THE Found Poem


One of my favorite teaching units when teaching middle and high school students was The Poetry Unit.  
The kids would groan; the poet beaten out of them in elementary school, what with haikus, and tankas, and diamantes forced upon them by well-meaning teachers, year after year.
I allayed their fears, promising them I would take their concerns to heart and maybe teach them something new, something innovative, something that would change their minds about April is Poetry Month that would not be too painful.
I started off by brainstorming on the white board everything everyone knew already about poetry. 
“It rhymes.”
“It sometimes doesn’t rhyme.”
“It’s short.”
“It’s sometimes long.”
“It follows conventions.”
“It sometimes breaks conventions and rules.”
And so it went until we had covered the white board with everything everyone offered.  During lulls, I would ask questions to get more ideas.
“Why do some poems rhyme and others don’t?”
“How does a short poem get its message across?”
“What are some poetic conventions?” and if that didn’t work: “What are some rules you have seen a poet break?”
When the white board was covered with all of their ideas, I showed them a quick way to write Poem #1 (and copy notes off the board).
THE FOUND POEM
Take a sheet of paper and number 1-20, skipping lines in between your numbers.
Copy twenty ideas from the white board that stand out to you the most.  Maybe they are new ideas or contradicting ideas or ideas that you feel a need to remember most. At this point just copy twenty ideas, one per line. Copy them exactly as written on the board. 
Do Not Change or Add Anything.
When you are done, double check that you chose the twenty ideas you want to remember the most about today’s lesson. Scratch out one you do not want to keep and replace it with one you do want to keep.
Read your list of twenty.
Reorder them in any fashion you prefer; renumber the list out in the margin: most important to least, or least important to most, or mix one of each per line, or short line followed by a long one, or the reverse, clump together in stanzas, or clumped together in stanzas but the final line ending each stanza has the most importance.
Remember a poem does NOT have to rhyme, so have fun with this.
This is your rough draft, so when you are ready, rewrite (or if working on a laptop, move) your lines into their new positions, adding spaces between lines or stanzas.
When finished, there should be twenty “lines.”
Some follow up lessons to this were lessons on enjambment, refrain, and punctuation, but one look at their finished products always lend themselves to other ideas.
HAPPY APRIL IS POETRY MONTH.
  

Monday, March 26, 2018

Getting Good at This: Losing a Loved One


Odd, what some people say when offering their condolences.  In an attempt to say something meaningful, they stumble out what they think is kind and well-intentioned but sounds rude instead.  At my mother’s funeral, one stark comment that stayed with me was, “You’re getting good at this.”
Good at this?  What did that mean? Losing my family? Managing a funeral? Penning eulogies? I would rather be good at anything else but this. I know those who said this to me did not mean it to be rude, so instead of being offended, I try to understand why they think I am “good at this.”
I was in my early 30’s when my grandfather was dying from cancer.  In their grief, my grandmother, mother, and aunt hadn’t thought about getting him a priest to give him “Anointing of the Sick,” what non-Catholics like to call Last Rites. I called my mother’s parish priest and he came immediately. My grandfather died soon after. I like to think he found comfort in this rite.
A few years later, I did the same for my dear grandmother.  As a matter of fact, I got her two priests.  One came immediately after she was admitted into the hospital after her heart attack, and the second one came later in the day.  At her bedside, I joked with her though she was in a coma.  She probably thought we heathens had forgotten our obligation and she would face eternity without her last rites. She too passed away soon after the second priest left, probably relieved that we hadn’t forgotten our Catholic upbringing.
Years later I did the same for my dad, my grandson, and my brother.  I asked for priests or chaplains to come pray with us so we could keep God and His angels close as our dear ones met their ends on this earth. I know it gives those left behind comfort for I have seen the sense of relief prayer gives them in their grief and loss.
Yes, I am getting “good at this.”  I could see my mother was losing her battle here on earth the day she died, and as difficult as it was to be strong and grown up and resolute, it would have been unforgiveable to be anything but.  If I truly believe in Jesus Christ and life everlasting, then I had to be like Him at that moment: committed to my task and mission, kind and compassionate, afraid but brave. I only hope that when my time comes, someone does the same for me.   

Monday, March 19, 2018

My Grandmother’s Tamales



Grandma Ene made sure I had the recipe for her tamales.  She stopped and waited for me to write each step down before adding another.
“Una cucharra de sal y una poquita mas porque se pierde cuando los cocinas.” Add a little more salt than usual because they lose their saltiness while you cook them, she said.
I think she may have known she would not last forever and none of us, including my mother, had ever bothered to learn her recipe for tamales. I wrote it all down, translating “handfuls” into table- or teaspoons and “tanto asi” into measuring cups.
The filling was made with pork and beef mixed together in a red chili pepper sauce and a whole box of raisins thrown into the simmering pot.  The raisins were an Old-World addition that cooled the hotness of the spices.  She supervised the making of the dainty tamales, a thin smear of corn masa inside a corn husk and a stingy tablespoon of meat tucked into the center. She made sure they all looked and felt the same.
The Christmas after she passed away, we decided to make Grandma Ene’s tamales. How hard could it be?  We labored over the process, using the recipe I had written down a few years earlier. We laughed because our tamales were of all sizes and weights but we got them done, knowing Ene was looking down at us from heaven, shaking her head.
We tasted them and were pleased with our results but something was missing. Maybe a little more salt? A little less red chile?  We all preferred the dainty tamales over the husky ones. Then we realized what was missing. 
We missed her supervising our efforts, handing out orders, redoing the fat tamales into trimmer versions. She missed her patient voice, showing us over and over how to make tamales.
We never tried to make them again, instead we trekked to a tamaleria and bought them by the dozen.  Even when we find some that claim to make half pork/half beef/with raisins, they don’t taste the same.
There are just some things, moments, and people who cannot be replaced.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Living our Life Story/ Autobiographical Writing Prompts


Among the many preparations for my mother’s funeral last week, I was responsible for collecting and scanning photos to create a video of her life.  I also volunteered to deliver her eulogy, a presentation and a farewell for a long life well lived. 
Not everything I collected was used.  Both the video and the eulogy were heavily edited by me, not because my mother lived a scandalous life, but because some things were private. 
Some folks sent pictures that out of context were no longer funny.  Some things that happened in her ninety years on earth were not for display.
All of this makes me aware of how I have lived my own life.  Some things were not of my choosing and also not for public display.
My maternal grandmother once told me one should have no regrets at the end of the journey on this earth.  I asked her how one accomplishes that, and she said, “Forgiveness.”  Forgive yourself and the other person. Life is full of mistakes, but instead of dwelling on them, forgive yourself, learn from it, and move on.
Wise woman.
Here are some autobiographical writing prompts.  They dwell on the positives in our lives.  Use them as a guide as you move toward a life with no regrets.
1.    Who did you love most and why?
2.    What are your best accomplishments and why?
3.    What are your best characteristics/the best things about you?
4.    What were the best days of your life and why?
5.    Who were your best and truest friends and why?
6.    Who are/were the people who made the most difference in your life?
7.    For what would you like to be remembered?
8.    Make a list of “firsts,” firsts that shaped you into the person you are today:
first kiss, first car, first love, first encounter with death, first moment you realized you were now an adult, first heart break, first disappointment, first . . ..

Monday, March 5, 2018

Be the Hero of Your Own Story



Half a lifetime ago, an acquaintance walked up to me and handed me a worn paperback book.  She thrust it at me in passing and said the book reminded her of me.  I was caught off guard.  We were nothing more than fellow employees so I was intrigued by what she meant by that.  I looked at the book and noticed its imprint.  It was a romance novel. 
She took off, back to work before I could ask more from her, but she did yell over her shoulder that she wanted me to return the book once I read it. Since it was Friday and the weekend loomed ahead, I decided to read the book and return it the following Monday.
It was long ago but I remember the plot and the author’s name.  It was about a single mother of three who falls for the hunky neighbor next door.  Since both my neighbors were happily married and only one kind of fell into the hunky description, I figured that was not the part that reminded my fellow worker about me, besides there was no way she would know either of these two men unless she stalked my neighborhood.
I must have reminded her of the lead character – a single mother of three and her sad sack life:  divorced from an abusive, freeloader of a husband, one who abandoned all responsibility onto the ex-wife.
How this woman knew my personal life is the bane of all small, tight working communities.  Everyone knows the other person’s business and feels it is their right to interfere and offer counsel. Either this woman was offering me hope – I would one day find a hunky handyman and live happily ever after, or she wanted me to stop with the hangdog frump and get my act together.
I pasted a smile on my face when I returned her book and thanked her, not for the comparison to the protagonist, but for introducing me to Nora Roberts. She looked surprised, probably thinking I had missed her not-so-subtle hint, but unless she came out and voiced her insulting opinion of me, I wasn’t going to let her off the hook.
I now own about half of everything Ms. Roberts has ever written but that is because it does not include her J.D. Robbs’ books. My library includes first-hand and second-hand purchases.  I even own an original copy of her very first romance novel that I found at a used book store. As a true fan, it means more to me that owning a diamond ring.
I have forgotten the name of the lady who handed me her worn out paperback, but that day is etched in my mind forever. I decided I would not wait for some handsome hunk to save me from my distress. I would save myself, thank you very much. Ms. Roberts would expect that from me. 
And if I ever met a handsome handyman (shout out to HoneyBunch), he would love me for being the hero of my own story.  

Monday, February 26, 2018

Once Upon a Time . . . There Lived . . .



          I love movies with well-told stories, interesting characters, and realistic endings. 
          When Rhett Butler walks away from Scarlett in the last scene of Gone with the Wind, my heart breaks for her but I go with him.  Though his character changes in the story, hers doesn’t.  She will continue to be who she is, while he learned, though painfully, from their experience together.
          In Something’s Gotta Give, an aging playboy, who has always dated young women barely old enough to vote, wonders if he can settle down with one woman, especially one more his age, one eligible for AARP benefits.  Harry Sanborn spends the better part of Act II facing and atoning for his past before trying to reunite with Erica Barry.  As the credits roll, I wonder how long before his eyes start roaming again, but more importantly, what happens to Dr. Julian Mercer?  
I suggest a sequel.  Since he seems to go for older women, I picture the following: he treats me for the H3N2 flu and sees past my runny nose, watery eyes, and commanding cowlick.  My inner beauty erases the heartache and memory of the fickle Erica and we live happily ever after.  (At least, I would. What?  I know I said I like realistic endings, but this could happen.)
Another favorite movie is Sabrina.  I own both the 1954 and 1995 versions but prefer the more recent edition better.  The Humphrey Bogart/Audrey Hepburn age difference always makes me cringe, while the Harrison Ford/Julia Ormond version is not only more believable, but the actors are also more likeable on screen.  When the viewer is given the backstory of all the times Linus Larrabee noticed Sabrina Fairchild before her ugly-duckling-into-swan transformation, I agree she should chose him over the flighty playboy David who has always been more concerned about looks.
There are many other favorites, but you get the picture:  good story line, identifiable characters, sensible ending. You might have noticed these three examples depend on the male lead’s transformation more than the female’s but I am saving those for a future blog, so I leave you with this. . . once upon a time. . .