Wednesday, May 24, 2017

We Are All Disabled

This was my cousin, Bill. He operated those huge hydraulic excavators, crawler cranes, crawler tractors and crawler loaders. He took flying lessons, earned his pilot's license and bought a plane. He rode motorcycles and jet skis  One day, he dove into his pool and broke his neck. Afterwards, he was still Bill. Still a man who could make people laugh. Still a man everyone loved despite his limitations. He died too young from pneumonia. 

There are other disabled people in my family.  Some have a profound hearing loss. Some have mobility issues. Some are greatly restricted by their disease.

Everyone is damaged in some way. There are no perfect specimens. Romance writers do dream up some mighty, incredible heroes, but in truth no one is immune from limitations. Even though Achilles was a hero he had that thing with his heel, and that's what defeated him.

From the day we're born we come with all kinds of built in boundaries such as congenital "defects" and genetic tendencies handed down to us by our predecessors. Over the years we endure traumatic events in childhood, which leave a mark forever in our psyches. Then there are illnesses, accidents, and finally the inevitable slide into the decay of old age which brings further limitations. Not a single human on this planet will not be disabled in some way sooner or later. 

I believe the majority of people attempt to distance themselves from the disabled because they are afraid. They turn away--as if not seeing the victim will prevent them from enduring such a fate. Some folks are deliberately cruel and make fun of those who are noticeably different in their physical appearance or those who must use adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs.

Once, when my cousin was in the hospital for an infection, he told me one of the psychiatrists had asked him about depression. "As if I could jump out the window." Bill shook his head.

Some progress in accommodating the disabled has been made over the years. Buildings are now planned to allow wheelchair access. Sidewalks have ramps. Still, there is a lot more to do in making accommodations for those who are restricted in their movements. 

Education is a key factor. It wasn't that long ago when children with Down's Syndrome were institutionalized, but now they work everywhere. Some have become movie stars and models. 

There's hope, but we do need to keep an eye on our representatives and vote out those who ignore the marginalized. Vote out those who intend to cut Medicaid and programs that feed children and provide them with health care. Vote out those who would cut disability programs for people like my cousin. 

We must not allow those in power to ignore the less fortunate.

Join the Facebook group No Longer Faceless or Voiceless for further discussion on this topic. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

AMAZON GIVEAWAY!

OUTSIDE BLESSINGS is a paranormal historical young adult story set in 1896, in New Jersey. The hero is a member of the U.S. Lifesaving Service. The heroine is seeking to clear her sister's name. Town officials believe her sister committed suicide and in those days, a suicide was not allowed to be buried in the hallowed ground of a graveyard. 

Here's the blurb:

Welcome to Blessings, N.J. .... a seaside town with dark and dangerous secrets. Neema wants to prove her sister was murdered, that she didn't commit suicide, but the murderer is still out there, still dangerous, and Neema could be the next victim if she asks too many questions. She has a secret, one she dare not divulge, even to Emmett, the young lifeguard she falls in love with. But Emmett has a secret of his own.

Until May 25, 2017, you have a chance to enter a sweepstakes for a free digital edition of OUTSIDE BLESSINGS!

All you have to do is go to:

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/bdca43e0d30a9390

And sign up! It's super simple. Amazon picks the winners. If you win, you claim your prize, download the book, and enjoy!


Monday, May 08, 2017

The Bridal Shower


Daughter #1's bridal shower went well. I had planned an afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, but several guests brought extra food so we had more than enough for everyone to eat and plenty of leftovers. Everyone seemed to enjoy each other's company and conversations went on after all the gifts were opened. Best of all, Daughter #1 now has a wealth of household items to begin her married life.  

I could feel myself getting emotional about the event as I watched her open gifts. The women oohhed and ahhhed when the contents of each box were revealed. Some made funny remarks and some noted which gifts were the most useful. 

I recalled the bridal showers I hosted for both of my sisters years many, many years ago. I thought of the bridal showers given for me. I was lucky enough to have several--one hosted by my coworkers, one in Brooklyn with hubby's family, and then one hosted at my parents' house for friends. Back in those ancient times, bridal registries hadn't been invented yet. I wound up with three Crock-Pots. I kept two and gave one to my mother. I used my Crock-Pots quite a bit and a few years ago, Daughter #1 bought me a new, larger one, which I love. 

One of the guests at Daughter #1's shower had gotten married around the same time as I did. She also got a Crock-Pot, but she claims she never used it. I was surprised because to me it's been one of the best appliances, but I do like to cook. I also like to try new recipes. However, I very much love to have to wash out only one pot when dinner is done. 
🤗
Pushing the old memories to the back of my mind, I kept returning to check on things in the kitchen or busied myself by getting something for this guest or water for that guest. The time went quickly and soon the guests departed. I changed into my old jeans, put my feet up on a chair, and shared a bottle of beer with Daughter #2 who had the job of recording which guest brought what gift. It's a long list, and I am very grateful to all those who were so generous. 

Life is made up of changes. This will be a big change, but a happy one. I can tell Daughter #1 that after forty years of marriage, I have few items left from my bridal showers. Still, while the sheets, towels, and appliances didn't last that long, love did--and that is the most important part of any marriage. 

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Fingernails


I decided I might try and grow my fingernails. I usually cut them down because if my nails are more than 1/16th of an inch long, they annoy me. I grew my fingernails once before when I was going to get married. I stopped playing the guitar a month beforehand. My fingernails looked lovely for the wedding and the photographer took a few photos of them. However, when it came time to select photos I opted for pictures that included more than just my fingernails.

Now Daughter #1 is getting married so I am the Mother-of-the-Bride. Impressive title--right? When I was shopping for my MOTB shoes, hubby saw fingernail polish that appeared to be nearly the same color of my dress. I bought it. When I got home I found out it was not the same color, but I put it on my fingernails anyway. Two coats. It annoyed me. I felt like I had weights on the tips of my fingers.

Today I decided to take it off. But my non-acetone polish remover was not very effective in removing the polish. I asked hubby if I could borrow his lacquer thinner. That worked much better than the polish remover. (Though you can still see bits of light blue in the photo.)

I searched online for methods of growing stronger nails, but I don't want to spend all my time obsessing over my fingernails. My fingers are always busy. I write, crochet, paint, cook, pull weeds, and do all sorts of chores.

Daughter #3 glues on fancy nails for special occasions. Maybe I should try that, too.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Eternal Optimist


Several years ago, I took the photo above of my flourishing chives. I love chives. When they are fresh, they are delightful sprinkled on just about everything. Maybe not on ice cream, but they're good on eggs, pasta, fish, and a whole bunch of other foods.

Suddenly, this spring, I'm left with one miserable-looking chive plant. To remedy this situation, I bought seeds. I prepared a nice, sunny area. I sprinkled the seeds on the ground and added water. Now I have to wait for the magic to happen--or not. I'll have to remember to water the seeds and if the seedlings are too close to each other, I'll have to spread them out and hope I don't kill them when I lift them from their bed and move them.

In the earliest stages, plants are delicate. It doesn't take much to do them in.

Since I'm a writer, I couldn't help comparing the process of growing plants from seeds to writing. After all, in a writer's early years, it doesn't take much to crush talent. Especially if someone is an introvert, which the majority of writers seem to be. Negative comments can completely end a writing career before it's even begun. Continuing to write requires bravery and eternal optimism.

Not that writing isn't fun. It can be a blast. I entertain myself for endless hours moving my characters around in my plot. I don't worry about the next book idea because the seeds for stories are constantly being planted in my mind by the experiences I have, by the people I meet, and the history I often delve into. I can't use all those story ideas at once, but each seed will stay nearly forever if they're stored away in a safe place.

When I need to use one of my story seeds, I plant it, start typing, and wind up with a book. It's rather miraculous.

Of course, story seeds are one thing and real seeds are another. I'm looking forward to more chives to sprinkle on my eggs. But it will happen because I'm a writer and an eternal optimist. Grow seeds, grow.

Friday, April 14, 2017

African Bean and Peanut Soup



A long time ago, when our daughters were young, our church handed out pamphlets to guide parents in making Lent meaningful for children. One of the recipes in the pamphlet was African Bean and Peanut Soup. It turned out to be an enduring favorite which is now served regularly at our house on Good Friday.

The following recipe is intended for preparation on a stovetop. However, this can be easily adapted for a slow cooker. In that case, add only two quarts of water AND add all the ingredients at once. Then cook on high for four hours.

Enjoy.

African Bean and Peanut Soup

Serves 8

3 tablespoons butter
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
3 quarts boiling water (Remember, only TWO quarts if you're preparing this in a slow cooker.)
1 cup dry black-eyed peas
1 cup dry navy beans
1 cup diced green peppers
3 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup salted peanuts, chopped
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon basil leaves, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander


    1. Melt butter in large stockpot. Add carrots; cook 5 minutes.
    2. Add water, black-eyed peas, navy beans, green pepper, salt and crushed
    red pepper. (Add more water if necessary, to cover ingredients.)
    3. Cook, covered, until ingredients are tender (1 1/2 to 2 hours).
    4. Add peanuts, onion powder, basil and coriander during last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking.
    5. Taste to correct seasonings. Soup should be thick.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Weaving Life Into Your Writing


I love rag rugs. They remind me my maternal grandparents' house where these rugs were scattered everywhere on the linoleum floor. In the wintertime, when there wasn't any farming to be done, my grandfather would take all the scraps of used cloth, set up his handmade loom in the basement, and set to weaving. Bits of flannel shirts, Grandma's stockings, and her worn out aprons were tightly woven into each rug. Every rag incorporated into the pattern had a history. You could almost read the story of my grandparents' lives in those rugs.

My grandparents were the original recyclers. They never wasted anything.

As a writer, I incorporate true experiences and emotions into my writing. All the little details and scraps of events lend reality to the story. My plots are fabrications but the way the characters react, their feelings, and mannerisms are often borrowed from life. In addition, I use settings I know well or have thoroughly researched.

There are a myriad of particulars I've used to add substance to my stories. For instance, in The Cowboy's Miracle one character suffers with dementia. I've been close to family and friends with the same sad disease. However, even an ordinary and mundane situation such as baking bread can be used in a story, which I did in Patriot's Heart. Then there's Grace and her little turtle friend in Daddy Wanted. Have you ever had a pet turtle? I did.

A good book must have a plot with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The story should be cohesive and most of all it should make sense. However, adding touches of truth can heighten the authenticity and draw readers into the narrative.

Gather all your life experiences together and use them in your stories. Tiny scraps of old memories and frayed emotions from long ago can give fiction a vital force that keeps readers turning the pages.