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Mankind Was My Business

“Mankind was my business; . . . charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all, my business.” I scanned past the many videos on social media of people fighting over things during Black Friday sales. People elbowed others to claim televisions or rice cookers. They trampled each other and wrestled dolls and video games out of outstretched hands, then they laughed derisively as they headed for the checkout counters. *** The term Black Friday has a long history –before it came to represent the big sales day after Thanksgiving where stores vie with each other to attract sales, it used to refer to the Wall Street Crash of the 1860’s. It all has to do with money and economics. Merchants willingly go into the “black” to meet sales quotas, but don’t let that fool you. If done right, they do not lose any money. They make up any loss by selling in volume, and often, once customers have been lured into their store, they buy other items. I think we should take the evolution of the word Black…

Just Yesterday

Just yesterday, I was twenty years old. In college. Getting my teaching certificate. The world ahead was wide open. My dreams were finally blossoming. Just yesterday, I was in my forties. Married. Three children. A career that I loved. Things weren’t perfect and my dreams had taken a 180, but I wasn’t complaining. Just yesterday, I was in my sixties. Divorced. Remarried to someone who understood me better than anyone. Kids grown, married, with families of their own. One wonderful career accomplished; a second one just beginning. Just yesterday, I couldn’t hurry fast enough to get everything done that I wanted. Now I am here, at this stage of life. I look back to yesterday and it is full of memories, people, family, good times and bad. Just yesterday, I started with a list and now I hold this scrapbook in my hands. It is full, pieces stick out of the pages, stuffed full of memories. Every picture, every entry, every tiny scrap, good or bad, reminds me of trials, hugs, laughter, experien…

Getting my Money’s Worth Out of my TV

At the end of my day, I retreat into my living room and turn on my TV to relax. I pay for over 400 channels and feel I should get my money’s worth, but I have a hard time finding something I like to watch that keeps me entertained. I watch local news and avoid the national news. I do it because I need to bring down my blood pressure and not elevate it. Adulting has bombarded me all day long with its heaviness and I need to relax and feed my brain with positive thoughts. I watch game shows, rerun comedies, and old movie favorites. I find I go through cycles. I’ll watch the same game shows for months and then when I tire of that I switch to reruns. If I am in the mood for a movie, I’ll do a search and choose one that might sound interesting. If none sounds good, I go to my DVR’d list and watch one that I’ve seen multiple times. I’ll let you into some of my TV watching secrets. I’ll tape Jeopardy and then go back and watch the episode, answering the questions before the participants. I pr…

Seasoned

One writer friend wrote a memoir about her grandmother’s youth, a lovely photograph of how Grandma met Grandad. Another friend wrote a bio about her father and the hardships he encountered in his youth. Both wanted to capture these moments for future generations so that these dear people and their lives would not be forgotten. Another friend wrote a Christian devotional about the seasons in one’s life. Written like a workbook, the reader studies and assesses each facet of their lives. An eye opener, the book assures the reader that it has nothing to do with age; it might be possible to be at the start of one project or relationship in life (the spring) while at the same time be at the end of another cycle (the winter). I have never been one to notice age. As a child, I held my own among the adults around me. When I graduated from college and started out into the world, I stood shoulder to shoulder with my fellow adults, regardless of age or experience. I often forget that I might be am…

Unconventional Character Study

When I decided to try my hand at writing a novel, I thought it would be a piece of cake. Writing was easy. I would be rich and famous before I turned forty, retire from the daily grind, and spend the rest of my life touring the country – the world! – sharing my deep and intense knowledge of all things writing. I labored over that first attempt for years. I read every craft book available about character building, plotting a novel, and writing scintillating dialog. I wrote and wrote and wrote, but there was a disconnect between what the craft books said and what ended up on my paper. My biggest weakness was a realistic grip at “characterization.” Craft books back then focused on building a character from the outside in, how the character looked, instead of looking at what motivated the character and then how it projected itself outward onto how the character dressed and acted. So, I resorted to skulking, stalking, and slinking. I packed up my kids. At the time one was in elementary scho…

Scuttling my One Ship

Like Hernán Cortés, the infamous conquistador, I have decided to scuttle my ships and march forward to meet my destiny at all cost. Knowing I would retreat at the first sign of unpleasantness, I ditched all my other options and chose one course – forward. There is no looking back.

Cortés took on the whole Aztec Empire against all odds, and succeeded in defeating two great leaders, Moctezuma and later Cuauhtémoc, thus claiming Tenochtitlán and the whole interior of Mexico in the name of God and king.
Or so he said at his trial. 
In reality, Cortés could care less for either (he was an immoral and greedy man), and his tactics and character left much to be desired, but his determination is admirable.
I love the whole bit about scuttling all the ships so his men had no other option but to go with him into battle (and possibly live), or to stay behind and let the hostile territory or its inhabitants kill them off one by one. 
Now that is what I call guts.
Last January I decided it was time to ma…

Word Count

A lot of my friends are writers, so I get to watch them work. Each one has a different process of how they come up with characters, plot, and conflict. They especially work at different paces.
I have one friend who jumps into the writing immediately and isn’t satisfied unless she can accrue thousands of words on paper each day. I also have one friend who has to have a looming deadline (like days away) before she can sit down to write, and then spends complete days nonstop to meet that deadline. I have friends who write and write and write and then when “finished,” go back to edit and trim their manuscripts. Others edit as they go, polishing each chapter to perfection before moving on to the next. Some plot everything before typing a single word; some type and let the words create the flow of the plot as it forms on the paper. This is known as the plotter versus pantser (fly by the seat of their pants) conundrum. I’ve had to learn the hard way as to what works for me. Until a few years …

Story is in our DNA

Every night, my father would tuck us into bed with a story, a prayer, and a blessing. Not necessarily in that order. We’d clamber into bed, giggling at the thought that we might get a story out of him, and we were usually right. He’d cover us and start to tuck us in, but we would beg for a story and he would relent. Most days he would repeat one his mother told him as a child; those were our favorites, but other days, he took requests and allowed us to give him the parameters – scary or funny, male or female protagonist, real or fiction. On days we chose scary, he would turn off the lights to increase the fright quotient. We knew he would pounce on us with the terrible ending, but we looked forward to it, squealing and giggling afterwards. Mom would yell at us to settle down and go to sleep, and she would scold Dad for riling us up and giving us nightmares. We didn’t care. We loved Dad’s stories. Humans have always been wired for story. One only has to look at cave drawings or th…

My Growth as a Writer

A good friend suggested I join her writing group nine years ago. She thought it would be a good fit. Now, I had belonged to writing groups before and I was doubtful that was true, but she insisted and I went. She was right. It has been a good fit, but you have to know I am an introvert. People laugh when I say that, but there is a big difference between being shy and being an introvert. I am not shy; I can be rather bold, but introvert is often mistaken with shyness. After a day out with people, I have to retreat into my shell and recover. It’s like my soul has been depleted and I need time to let it refill itself. Thank goodness this group only meets once a week. Plenty of time to gear up for the following Monday night meeting. I have taught “writing” all my life, both to children and adults, but this writing group has taught me so much more than I ever thought it could. It has taught me facets of myself that I had not explored. I learned that I am a terrible writer unless I have an o…

Are You a Writer?

I don’t think my answer is what the person asking the question has in mind. They’re expecting Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, J.K. Rowling. I’m an author. I ponder and create sentences, characters, stories. I authored them; before me, they didn’t exist, so, yes, I am a writer. The person then wants to know, “Are you famous? What have your written? Where can I get your books? How about a selfie?” Whoa, there. Yes, I’m published, but you won’t find me on Amazon, or Goodreads, or Forbes. I have sold a few things. Some very kind people read anything and everything I write, but you may want to hold off on the selfie. Ask me instead, why I write. I cannot pass up a clean sheet of paper and not want to scribble something on it. Anything. A list, a word, a memo. I find myself molding a sentence in my brain and remolding it until it captures my thoughts in words, sings of sincerity, and I have to scramble for pen and paper before it is gone. I have created characters and breathed life into them. …

Writer’s Block-aid

After six months of writer’s block, I am back. To be honest, it was more like writer’s coma. I’d been blogging faithfully for nearly eight years, posting every Monday morning with only a handful of skips, and realized one day my focus had shifted to things other than writing. Back in April 2011, things like brand and tribe and algorithms were foreign to me, but the more I blogged, the more these concepts evolved and became clear to me as a writer. I needed a change; my blog needed a change, but when the will shuts down, the brain follows, so I went into a writing coma. I am here to tell you all that advice about soldiering through writer’s block is a bunch of hooey. What works for one person doesn’t work for another, but even in my comatose state, I kept all the advice and good intentions in the back of my foggy brain, knowing that in the end, if I were to recover, it would be solely up to me. Google informed me in early 2019 that some of the widgets I used on my blog were being elimin…

The Girl Who Eats Canned Spinach

I went to a Catholic elementary school run by strict Belgian nuns, and we could not leave the cafeteria until we ate everything served on our food tray. Once a week, they served warmed, canned spinach with our meal. The spinach tasted nothing like the way my grandmother made it, but I ate it. I gulped it down in three or four bites and it amazed my table mates. I told them we ate it at home so I was used to the taste. Now, my real problem began the day I ate the spinach off my friends’ trays so we could go play outside. As soon as the nun monitoring the cafeteria turned her back, my friends ate something off my tray I didn’t want, and I ate their serving of spinach. I only did it for two of my table mates, but the word spread. On the next Spinach Day, kids followed me to my table.I was suddenly very popular, and as soon as the nun marched off to the other end of the cafeteria, my friends and an army of others who only knew me as The Girl Who Eats Spinach, begged me to take their servin…

Swimming Underwater

The university where I got my BA required all students to take a semester of swimming in order to graduate.I had been to the beach on occasion in my nineteen years on Earth, but I was from south Texas, desert country, and few of us knew how to swim.I waded.I let the waves splash me.I had no idea what to expect from a “swimming class.” While the other students took off like fish, I had to learn how to keep my eyes open while holding my breath under water. The college instructor required me to come in every day and she would help me learn the basics. I went from scared-to-death tadpole to swimmer in that one semester. To get my PE credit, I swam twenty laps across the school’s Olympic- sized pool, demonstrating a different swim stroke with each lap.I did twenty dunks in the deep end where I had to plunge myself downward, hit the pool bottom, and shoot upward to catch my breath before going back down again. It was the most frightening experience I had ever faced, but I had no choice if I…

Why I Wear Purple

One whole year.My Mom has been gone one whole year. She passed away late on a Friday so we had plenty of time to plan her memorial and burial for the next weekend. She had a lot of family and she was among the last three of her generation, so we knew folks would need time to plan their travel if they were to say their goodbyes. The following morning after she passed away, I rifled through my closet for all and anything that I owned in purple.My mother loved bright colors and among her favorites was purple. She had been a great fan of the actress Elizabeth Taylor, the beauty with the violet eyes, so my brothers, sisters, and I decided we would wear purple to her celebration. We met the following Monday to plan her funeral and afterwards I went shopping for more purple or violet to wear.It was near the Easter season and I figured it would be easy to find nice things in that color, but it wasn’t, so when I wasn’t planning details for her memorial, I went shopping.I only needed a few items…

A Choice is Not a Regret

My grandmother and I had a very special relationship. She’s been gone thirty years, yet there isn’t one day that I don’t remember her in some way. Sometimes, it’s a recipe, or how to do a chore, or a saying, but she is right there, next to me. She lived with us since before my birth until she passed away in her eighties. As a child I resented having a third parent, but somewhere in my late teens, we became friends, almost like comadres. She would share details of her life to me and I would learn from the many sacrifices she endured. Her father died when she was twelve and almost overnight, she, her mother, and siblings went from being well off to being dirt poor. My grandmother ended up working for the woman who used to be their laundress. She married young but my grandfather was no better off than she was, so my grandmother worked as a live-in maid and my grandfather worked as a laborer, doing odd jobs and going off for months to do migrant work in the northern states. He rarely sent…

How to Respond on Social Media

Being on social media nowadays reminds me of the school yard playground when I was a kid. Pretty much everything went unnoticed by the monitors unless a fight broke out or someone ended up taking a spill off the jungle gym. To survive, you had to learn to look out for yourself. Dust yourself off and keep walking. Why are we so attracted to this medium?Is it for entertainment and news, to keep up with friends and family, to build a brand and sell a product, or has it become so much a part of our culture we cannot look away? Whatever the reason, you have several options in order to survive the social media playground. You can play it safe; you can read and not post or respond. You can choose what you read, deleting posts you find offensive.You can unfriend and block “friends,” especially those who continually criticize and taunt you, thereby keeping only those who agree with you. Or you could jump into the fray. You can post or respond, but remember once you do, you make yourself visibl…

The Two Plants

When my father passed away, the funeral director asked us to take home the potted plants people had sent to adorn the chapel.The cemetery only wanted fresh-cut flowers at his grave site. We each chose a plant and for the last thirteen years I have struggled to keep mine alive. Every plant in the pot died except for one. It’s a tall woody thing with green leaves striated with yellow stripes. There have been years when it was near death and I could only get it to keep two or three leaves.I have tried to recreate what the arrangement looked like and bought new plants to fill the empty spaces, but they never last. This past year, it took on new life.It filled out with leaves though I had done nothing different. When my mother passed away last year, the funeral director asked my brothers, sisters, and me to take home the potted plants people had sent to adorn the chapel where we held her visitation and rosary. I let everyone choose first and took home the one that remained. I put it on the …

Facing My Fear of Guns

With the ownership of firearms comes responsibility, so I had asked HoneyBunch several times to teach me how to shoot and to help me get my License to Carry. I got my wish two weeks ago. HB and I signed up to take a LTC class. He bought me a gun, one similar to his, that would be the type we needed to show shooting proficiency, and for one whole week he tried to get me to become familiar with it, but I was hesitant. I read the booklet that came with the gun. I practiced loading and shooting it in what is called dry shooting (no bullets), and since the flyer said I would have to shoot thirty shots at different distances, I finally tried with it loaded. I was a nervous wreck. The class of twelve turned out to be close to forty people. We were of all ages, colors, and genders, and I was glad I wasn’t the only woman my age. The shooting test came first, and we were separated into two groups. Those who were proficient (or thought they were) would shoot first, and those who were novices wou…

I HATE Mountain Cedar

Before I moved out here into the wilds in 2006, my husband asked if I was allergic to cedar. I told him I didn’t think so. The only cedar trees with which I was familiar were the two, tall, roly poly trees that stood at opposite ends at the front of my childhood home in the city. We grew up calling them our Christmas trees, but since they were so dense, we never played with them like we did the oaks or the pecans. Those trees were easier to climb, so we stayed away from the decorative cedars though I never found they added much to the aesthetics of our home. As for cedar pollen, I told HB I never recalled any in the fifteen years we lived in that house. He warned me that the cedar pollen to which he was referring was from a more aggressive tree – the Ashe juniper or mountain cedar of the Texas Hill Country. It would waft into our area in the winter months and no one was immune. I poohpoohed him and said if it hadn’t affected me in fifty-plus years, it probably wasn’t going to now. Fas…