Friday, March 31, 2017

Shining a Light onto Autism

Thought for the day: We need to embrace those who are different, and the bullies need to be the ones who get off the bus. [Caren Zucker]

[wikipedia]
April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, and in the U.S., the entire month of April is National Autism Awareness month. Since I'll be taking my customary month-long break from blogging in April, now's my best opportunity to post about this important issue.

I think, as a whole, most of us are much more aware of autism today than we used to be, and many of us know someone personally who is somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Autistic people are... different. They view the world differently, and they are also different from each other. There's a wide range of behavior and perceptions within the spectrum, and above all, what autistic people crave is to be accepted just as they are. 

The following post is an update of one that first appeared on April 8, 2011, with the title Understanding Autism: A Long Way to Go. At the end of the post, you'll find information about a book I read recently. Why am I telling you about it now? All proceeds from book sales will be donated to autism research.

                                                           *     *     *     *    *   *    *


Thought for the dayI've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.  Maya Angelou

Today's blog is going to be a little different. It's going to be about some people who are different, and I hope to help you gain a better understanding of them.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and with statistics showing that autism currently affects anywhere from one in 120 to one in 150 of the babies born in the US, you may already know one of these children ... or adults ... personally. In any case, in honor of autism awareness, I'd like to share a few things about this brain disorder with you, based solely on what I've learned from books and personal observations.

When I was growing up, I don't remember hearing anything about autism. In those days, children with special needs were lumped together in a special education classroom at school, or relegated to the mercies of a state facility.

In the late 60s, I briefly volunteered at one of those state facilities. Caroline, a co-worker and fellow do-gooder, and I were closed into a medium-sized room with 35-40 children. The only furniture in that room was a TV set, which sat on a shelf mounted high up on the wall beyond the reach of little fingers; and the only toys, rubber balls. Lots and lots of rubber balls. All colors, all sizes. And those balls were in constant motion. Rolling around the floor, bouncing off the walls, smacking into the children, smacking into us. Four or five children screamed non-stop. Two spun in circles until they fell to the floor. Then, they'd get up and spin some more. Two others curled on the floor at opposite sides of the room, either in drug-induced stupors, or near-catatonic states brought on by their conditions. Another child banged his head against the wall. Some children, who were incredibly strong, reached for us, and in their enthusiasm, pulled us to the floor.

 In retrospect, it's very likely that some of those children were autistic, but at that time, from what I saw, those children, as wards of the state, were simply being warehoused. All thrown together, regardless of diagnosis, if there even was a diagnosis. From what I learned later, the spinning behavior and general disconnect we observed at that institution are typical manifestations of autism. And all of those balls flying around the room must have been sheer hell for them.

Fast forward ...

During the eighties, I volunteered at our church's respite care program. This was a two-Saturdays-a-month venture, in which parents could get a much-needed respite by leaving their special needs children in our care for the day. Many of these children were autistic, enrolled in a special school, and receiving the best help available. Some of them also had severe physical challenges. But, all in all, they were amazing children, and they taught me a lot about the human spirit.

Autism strikes four times as many boys as girls, so that may explain why we had more boys than girls in our care. I'd like to tell you about one of these boys. His name was Steven.



Steven's body was painfully thin and twisted, and his spindly legs were strapped to a wheelchair. Leather straps buckled around his chest, pinning him in place, and a tray was clamped in front of him.

Unable to speak, he'd make loud guttural noises, shake his head back and forth, and flail his arms. We'd wipe the spittle from his chin, but tears would fill his eyes.

Then, he got an amazing electronic keyboard fitted to the tray of his wheelchair. Teachers showed him how to use it, and boyohboy, he was an amazingly fast learner. And know what? He became calmer. For the first time in his life, he could press a button, and a computer would say, "I'm thirsty!"  or, "I'm hungry!" or simply, "I'm mad!"

And to everyone's delight, we discovered that he had a terrific sense of humor.

Steven taught me, taught all of us, to always look for and remember the person inside. No wonder he was angry! He was trapped inside of a body that didn't work, but his spirit proved to be strong, once he was given a way to express himself.

I recently read a book called The Tell-Tale Brain, by V.S. Ramachandran, which he describes as "a neuroscientist's quest for what makes us human." He accomplishes that by exploring the workings of the human brain, and he also does an excellent job of explaining some of the differences in the autistic brain.

There are specialized neurons in the human brain called mirror-neurons. Say you're watching someone scratch his nose. These mirror-neurons will trigger activity within your brain that's identical to the activity that would be triggered if you were scratching your own nose. You don't actually move your hand to your nose, but at a basic level, you can relate. As you can imagine, these neurons are essential in the development of empathy, and in the formation of connections to the people around us. And there is a stark deficiency of these cells in the autistic brain.

So, without an innate sense of connection, these children, these people, find it very difficult to connect. Often can't look another person in the eyes. Don't want to be touched. Have a sense of isolation. It's been theorized that because of this sense of disconnect and isolation, some of these children inflict wounds upon themselves just to reassure themselves that they're alive. Sensory overload is a major issue. Too much light, too much noise, too much activity are all maddening to an autistic person. Strict routines and a reliably non-changing environment are important. The spectrum of autism is wide, and the degree of functionality and integration into society vary greatly. Great strides have been made in understanding and treating autism, but there is still a long long way to go.

And each of us can help. The more we try to understand, the more empathy we have, and the more acceptance we show for those who are different, the better this world of ours can be. In this, Autism Awareness Month, let us all be more aware of these struggling children, of their parents, often divorced and/or isolated themselves, who care for them, and who know that no matter how different their children may appear to the rest of society, they are also brilliant, creative human beings and a source of great joy.

Every person deserves the chance to reach for their highest hopes and fulfill their greatest potential. [Barack Obama, on World Autism Awareness Day, 2015]

                                                      *     *     *     *

At right is a cover pic of the book I mentioned earlier in this post. Fifteen authors, who write in a wide range of genres, combined their talents to create this anthology in loving support of autism research. This is a book you can enjoy in bits and pieces, or as a forget-it-I'm-not-moving-until-I-finish-reading-the-whole-darned-book manner. (Closer to my particular style.)

In the U.S., you can purchase this book
here, and it is also available through Amazon in other countries, as well.




Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.





Friday, March 24, 2017

Entering Uncharted Territory

Thought for the day:  You know you're getting old when the candles cost more than the cake. 


I clearly remember reading a book as a young girl in which the main character was a sixth grade paperboy named Henry, and I, all six or seven wide-eyed years of me, thought Henry was... really old. Isn't it funny how our perspective changes? Hell, look at me now... now I have the chutzpah to pretend I'm not old.

We're only young once, but with humor, we can be immature forever. [Art Gliner]



When Karen Walker asked if I'd like to submit an essay for an anthology about aging, I jumped at the opportunity. (Okay... I hobbled... let's not split hairs here, people.) Why would I want to do such a thing, you ask? The way I see it, even though bazillions of people have already ventured into the murky seas of old age, it's still uncharted mysterious territory for each of us as individuals, which can make the transition much scarier than it has to be. So... wouldn't it be great if some of the folks who've already taken the plunge provided a road map of sorts for those who are about to enter those uncharted territories? How? By sharing some of their words of wisdom.

With old age comes wisdom, but sometimes, age comes alone. [Oscar Wilde]

Okay, I'm not saying I'm to be counted as one of the wise folks who contributed to this book, but I am a wise-ass, which is almost as good, right? The question of the day is: Who are we? Are you the person the world sees when it looks at you... or is the real you the ageless person you are inside? No matter how old I am, I am still me. Sometimes the world forgets that, but this book does a beautiful job of reminding us. Whether you're curious about what may lie ahead of you in your golden years, or whether you're already knee-deep in them, this is a book everyone can enjoy.

When you come to the edge of the light that you know, and you are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen. There will be something to land on, or you will learn to fly. [anonymous]

This book will help make the unknown more... known. Less scary. And for those of you who are already dealing with some of the issues described in this book, you'll be reassured to know... you ain't alone, baby.  And let us all remember, when we look at another person, no matter what their age, there's always much more to that person than meets the eye.

If you close your eyes and take a deep breath, how old do YOU feel inside? With me, it varies. Sometimes Smarticus tells me I act like a two-year old, but I think that's the exception.

Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art. [Stanislaw Jerzy Lec]

                                          (Too bad my artist is Picasso...)

                     Read on to see how you can win a FREE copy of this book.

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

P.S. This old broad will be hanging out with four of her grandchildren for a while, so it'll take longer than usual for me to respond to your comments and visit your blogs. But fear not...I'll be Bach.



It’s a pleasure to be participating in the Blog Tour for STILL ME … AFTER ALL THESE YEARS: 24 Authors Reflect on Aging by Karen Helene Walker through MC Book Tours.

This is a charming, funny, and enlightening collection of essays about aging. In addition, Karen is offering a tour-wide giveaway featuring two (2) print copies (U.S. entries only) of STILL ME and two (2) eBook copies of STILL ME (International entries). See how you can enter to win below.

STILL ME…AFTER ALL THESE YEARS: 24 Authors Reflect on Aging
◊ By Karen Helene Walker
◊ Kindle: 2000 KB, 102 pages
◊ Genre: Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction
◊ Publication Date: April 4, 2017
◊ Language: English
◊ ASIN: BO6WWRK82K

Poignant...Humorous...Brutally Honest!



A collection of personal reflections guaranteed to keep you inspired and entertained on that journey we all travel together: The Journey of Aging.
With a blend of grace, dignity, warmth and humor, women and men from 60 to 90 and from all walks of life candidly share the blessings and pitfalls of aging – from keeping dreams alive and keeping sex lives active to dealing with retirement, loss of independence and a growing sense of mortality.

A BOOK ABOUT LIVING EVERY MOMENT OF LIFE!

STILL ME is available at the following sites: Amazon (print and Kindle), Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes. Be sure to add it to your shelf on Goodreads.


Rev. Clara Alexander is an ordained New Thought minister who creates and performs sacred ceremonies, including unique weddings, funerals, memorial services, baby blessings and house blessings. She is also a popular speaker, inspiring groups with her talks on how we cling to our grudges, how we overuse the phrase “I’m sorry” and how we can live the life we love.
Wendy Brown recently retired from a career in wildlife biology, where she studied sandhill cranes and whooping cranes as they migrated from Idaho to New Mexico. Wendy eventually found a permanent home in Albuquerque, where she and her husband enjoy the sounds of sandhill cranes from their deck. Since retiring from state government in 2014. 


Valerie Capps has bypassed the porch rocking chair to pursue her life-long passion for writing, thereby proving that in today’s world, life can begin again at 65! Valerie lives in Nashville with her husband and their spoiled-rotten Welsh Corgi. www.amazon.com/Valerie-Capps/e/B016VD9V72
Mary W. Clark retired from her law practice in 2007 and transferred her observation and composition skills to travel writing. She is currently working on a book about her father’s World War II experience flying “the Hump” from India to China over the Himalayas. Mary lives in Paris, Texas. www.maryclarktraveler.com
Fran Fischer: “I was born at a very young age and that happened 82 years ago, so I don’t remember much about it. I’ve crammed as much living into my life as possible, and I’m not through yet. I’ve traveled extensively and I even flew in the same zero-gravity plane that the astronauts trained in. I live in California with my first (and only) husband, and we celebrated our 62nd anniversary this year.”
Pat Garcia (Patricia Anne Pierce-Garcia Schaack) is an American expatriate living in Europe. An accomplished musician as well as a writer, she has been writing (and reading) since childhood.
Mark David Gerson is the author of more than a dozen books, including critically acclaimed titles for writers, award-winning fiction, and compelling memoirs. Known as “The Birthing Your Book Guru,” Mark David works with an international roster of clients as coach and consultant, helping them get their stories onto the page and into the world with ease. www.markdavidgerson.com
Holly Deuel Gilster plays “make believe” for a living. In other words, she is a professional actress and musician. Holly also loves painting with words as an accomplished poet, an award-winning short-story writer and a book reviewer for The Or Echo.
Aaron Gordon is a retired social sciences community college professor. He and his wife, Ellie, have been married for 65 years and have three children and grandchildren.
Ellie Gordon is a retired public school teacher who spent the best 20 years of her life in the classroom. A Chicago native, she now lives in New Mexico.
Karla “Rosie” Harper recently retired from teaching elementary school, freeing her to return to her early love of dancing. Today, when not helping out with her grandchildren, Rosie is taking dance lessons, spinning on a dance floor or performing in senior centers and retirement communities with Albuquerque’s Sugartime, as a singer as well as a dancer.
Linda Hoye is the author of Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude, available through major online retailers. A native of Saskatchewan, Linda currently lives in British Columbia (by way of Washington State) with her husband and doted-upon Yorkshire Terrier. www.lindahoye.com
E.V. Legters hasn’t so much retired as she has exchanged one life for another — from rewarding years with career and children (while pursuing the arts on the fly) to a life with the arts at its center. She is the author of Vanishing Point and Connected Underneath and is currently hard at work on her third novel. www.evlegters.com
LD Masterson lived on both coasts before becoming landlocked in Ohio. After twenty years managing computers for the American Red Cross, she now divides her time between writing, volunteer work and enjoying her grandchildren. Her short stories have been published in several magazines and anthologies, and she is currently working on a new novel. www.ldmasterson.com
Kathleen Messmer not only runs a film production company with offices in the UK and the US, she is an avid photographer and wildlife advocate. In the unlikely event that she ever retires, Kathleen plans to live on a ranch with draft horses and pygmy goats and vineyards and fruit orchards, somewhere near the water. Oh, and a cowboy...maybe. www.kathleenmessmer.com
Karen Norstad has worked as cashier/gift wrapper, secretary, boutique seamstress, administrative assistant, manager of employee stock options, executive assistant, and budget analyst. Now retired, Karen’s life revolves around lounging about, wearing PJs until four in the afternoon, obsessing over the news, reading, fusing and slumping glass, practicing piano, keeping a small balcony garden and cooking.
Matt Nyman’s nonlinear career path has included working in the geological sciences, teaching high school, stay-at-home parenting and, currently, training tomorrow’s teachers. Poetry equently resides near the surface of his existence, occasionally erupting onto paper.
Jill Plaman was born and began aging in Milwaukee, but she has lived and worked in Albuquerque since 1977. She holds a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MSW from the University of Minnesota. Her special interests are travel, international folk dancing, reading, hiking and spending time with family and friends.
Maureen Polikoff is a clinical social worker/ therapist who has always pursued many other creative endeavors, including painting, playing music and, now, writing. A Connecticut native, she lives in New Mexico with her husband, Michael.
MaryFrank Sanborn left Boston 33 years ago, to apprentice with photographer Walter Chappell in Santa Fe. Still in love with the beauty of the Southwest, MaryFrank photographs, writes, hikes, travels, teaches yoga and meditation, makes soups on Sundays, and dreams of the ocean and whales.
Patricia Stoltey is the author of four mystery novels. The most recent is Wishing Caswell Dead. She lives in Northern Colorado with Sassy Dog, Katie Cat and her husband, Bill. www.patriciastolteybooks.com
Susan Swiderski grew up in Dundalk, Maryland, where everybody calls everybody hon and eating steamed crabs is a sacrament. Although she’s happy in her adopted Georgia, part of her heart still lingers on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, explaining the setting for her novel, Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade. Susan is currently working on a trilogy, proof that this old gal is still a pathological optimist. www.susan-swiderski.blogspot.com
Jan Castle Walker is a retired teacher and an active artist. She lives in Davis, California with her husband, Mack. www.jancastlewalker.com
Karen Helene Walker is a novelist, memoirist and essayist and the author of The Wishing Steps and Following the Whispers. When not writing, Karen is tap dancing, folk dancing or performing with the musical group Sugartime at retirement communities. Karen is currently working on her second memoir. www.karenfollowingthewhispers.blogspot.com 

You can follow Karen and the other authors along on their tour by checking out the schedule HERE.




This tour-wide giveaway is for two (2) print copies (U.S. entries only) and two (2) eBook copies of STILL ME … AFTER ALL THESE YEARS: 24 Authors Reflect on Aging. The giveaway will end at 12 a.m. (EST) on Tuesday, April 4.

To enter, click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load so please be patient.

Thanks for stopping by today. Be sure to check out this charming book.



a Rafflecopter giveaway






Friday, March 17, 2017

The Wearing of the Green

Thought for the day: It's fine to pretend to be Irish on St. Patrick's day; we pretend to be good on Christmas, don't we?


Yep, today's the day even folks with a last name like Swiderski can celebrate the Irish. Why not? I'm all for wearing a bit o' the green and talking a bit o' blarney, no matter what day of the year it is. As for today... just call me O'Swiderski.

What follows is a St. Patrick's Day post from three years ago. Seeing's as today is St. Patrick's Day AND my usual day to post, I thought it's be a foin idea to run it again. Then I'll have more free time to do the jig or something.

Care to join me... and a one and a two and a...(pant, pant, pant)

Never mind. You dance. I'll watch.







***********

Thought for the day Never borrow money from a leprechaun. They're always a little short.

[Wikipedia]
Yep, it seems like everybody wants to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day, doesn't it? Doesn't matter a shillelagh what your actual lineage is, either, for 'tis a grand day for dusting off that "Kiss me; I'm Irish" button, and pinning it to your shirt.

Know what's kinda funny about that? (shhhh) St. Patrick... wasn't Irish!








[Wikipedia]


Aye, and that's the truth, it is. St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, wasn't born in Ireland at all... and neither were his ancestors. However, he is credited with introducing Christianity to the Emerald Isle, where he evangelized for thirty years.



[Wikipedia]










He used the shamrock... the three-leaf clover... as a visual prop to teach the concept of the Trinity. We talk about the luck o' the Irish, and associate the shamrock with the Irish, but it's the four-leaf clover that's considered the lucky pick, simply because of its rarity.

[seniorark]


Even though many people use St. Patrick's Day as an excuse to guzzle even more beer than usual these days, from 1903 until 1970, it was a religious holiday in Ireland, and thus...a dry day. No booze. It converted to a national holiday in 1970, and the taps have been flowing freely ever since. (Obviously, the guy in that picture is a purist... his beer isn't green.)

[Wikipedia]


St. Patrick's Day, as celebrated worldwide, is marked with parades, festivals, shamrocks, wearing o' the green, drinking Irish whiskey and green beer, and sometimes... eating corned beef and cabbage. Many buildings of the world use decorative green lighting, and rivers, lakes, and ponds galore are dyed green. Even the fountain in front of the White House glistens emerald.

[Wikipedia]

Heck, what am I saying? The celebration of St. Patrick's Day is even outta this world. Dare ye to doubt me? Check out this picture of astronaut Chris Hadfield in the International Space Station, wearing his spiffy green bow tie while orbiting the planet on St. Patrick's Day, 2013. (Kinda looks like he's doing an Irish dance, too, doesn't it?)


Talking about Irish dances, have you seen this video?




                                                      See? Even chimps wanta be Irish.

[one of my favorite pins]

* Think there's any truth to the theory that the Irish dance was born because there weren't enough urinals in the pub? (Think about it...)

* Know why you should never iron a four-leaf clover? It's never a good idea to press your luck.

*  Know how to tell if an Irishman is having a good time? Easy. He's Dublin over with laughter.


Okay, I'll stop.


Since St. Patrick's Day is already here, it's too late to try this corned beef  recipe this time around, but you might want to give it a whirl next year. It isn't that much work, and I guarantee you, it'll be the best corned beef you ever ate. There are no nitrites in it, so the meat doesn't turn that unnatural red color, but it is gooooooooood.


For the salt and spice mix, you'll need 1 1/3 cups of Kosher (or coarse) salt, 3 T sugar, 1 T cracked peppercorns, 2 t allspice, 2 t thyme, 1 t sage, 1 t paprika, 1 large bay leaf, and 2 large cloves of garlic, minced.
Cut of meat - brisket, chuck, eye round roast, or bottom round, about 4-5 pounds

To Cure- Trim excess fat. Blend salt and spices, and rub the mixture into the meat. Liberally. Place meat into a large plastic bag and toss in the remaining salt/spice mixture. If you'd like, you can add a sliced onion and sliced carrot, too. Squeeze out as much air as you can, and then seal the bag. Put it into a a large bowl, cover it with a plate or pan, and weigh it down. (Put something on top of it that's heavy enough to keep the plate firmly pressed against the meat.) Place in the bottom of your fridge. Turn and knead the bag at least once a day until the curing process is completed. You should cure for at least two weeks, and up to a full month.

After curing: Wash the meat in cold water, and then soak it in a large bowl of cold water for about 24 hours to get rid of excess salt. If you'd like, you can tie it with butcher's twine, but it isn't necessary.

To Cook: Put meat in a large pot, and cover with water. Add an onion stuck with four cloves, a large carrot, and two celery stalks. Bring to a simmer, and skim off the scum for several minutes. (And I mean "scum" in the nicest way ...) Cover, leaving lid askew to allow for circulation, and simmer for 3- 3 1/2 hours, or until the meat is deliciously fork tender. Enjoy!
****************



 Until next time, take care of yourselves, and each other. 
Bless your little Irish heart, and every other Irish part.



May your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head always be strong. And may you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you're dead.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Intrepid Flyers

Thought for the day:  Endurance is the price tag of accomplishment.


Wouldn't it be cool to fly like a bird? To soar and swoop and make some lazy circles in the sky... it's a dreamy thought, isn't it? But not a new one. Man has always been enthralled with the idea of flight.

Today, we're going to talk about some very unusual flyers... the first from the bird kingdom, and the next from the human ranks. One thing these groups have in common is determination. Determination and endurance. (Okay, two things.)

                                                                 First, the bird.

[source:Henri Weimerskirch, CNRS, France]
It practically takes an act of Congress to get some children out of bed at times, but not so for juvenile frigate birds. No sirree, and it's none of that lazy circles in the sky stuff for them, either. It isn't at all unusual for a young frigate bird to take off from his cozy nest and fly non-stop for the next 185 days straight... covering as much as 34,000 miles.

[source: Aurelian Prudor, CNRS, France]



These amazing birds, with their lovely forked tails and wingspans of up to seven and a half feet, (2.3 meters) fly an average of 255 miles per day... and can do it for months on end.

They accomplish this by making brilliant use of the wind currents, and they can ascend to 2000 feet and then drop back down to sea level with only a single flap of their massive wings.
[wikipedia]


Another interesting fact about these birds is, even though they're classified as seabirds... they can't get in the water. Why? Their feathers aren't waterproof. If they were to dive into the water or even land on its surface, they'd get waterlogged, and wouldn't be able to fly again. So if they choose to eat during their long journeys, they have to swoop down and grab small critters from near the water's surface.  According to scientist Henri Weimerskirch, of France's Center for Scientific Research, (CNRS) who tracked 80 of these birds for two years and learned about their remarkable ability to master air currents, "There is no other bird species like them."  (No wonder this male's chest is all puffed out!)


The human flyers were part of a remarkable group, too, and since it's only a couple days after International Women's Day, it's rather fitting that they were also... women.

[credit: Sovfoto/ UIG- 1944]





Meet the Nightwitches, aviators of Russia's all-female 5880th Night Bomber Regiment. These brave women, ages 17 to 26, some of whom had never even seen an airplane before they joined the regiment, played a vital role in World War II, and struck terror in the hearts of their enemies.






[wikipedia]


These women flew in Polikarpov PO-2s, re-purposed biplanes from the 1920s, which were constructed of wood and canvas, and had been used mainly as crop-dusters prior to the war. These planes were slow, obsolete, and contained no radios or radar, so rudimentary navigation hinged on a stop watch and a map.

[[credit: Quality Time]






So what was so terrifying about these women, and how did they get the nickname Nightwitches? That's the English translation of the name bestowed upon them by German soldiers, who called them Nachtexen. (which, um, obviously means the same thing...) See, what these women did as they conducted their night missions was as they approached their targets, they shut off their engines. Then they'd glide down to drop the bombs, so the only sound accompanying their descent was the whoosh of their planes cutting through the air... which sounded like witches' brooms to the soldiers below.

[credit: The Image Works]


After dropping their bombs, the airplane engines then had to be re-started in mid-air, and if that meant a navigator had to climb out onto the wing to give the prop a spin, sobeit.

Because the planes were only capable of carrying two bombs at a time, each night's mission consisted of multiple flights ... as many as eighteen harrowing sorties in a single night. Weight limitations of these planes didn't just dictate the amount of armament they could carry, either. It also meant no parachutes.

At its largest, this battalion contained forty two-person crews, and in total, these gutsy gals carried out 30,000 missions, and dropped 23,000 bombs. At first, Russian male pilots thought these brave young women were a joke, but they soon learned to respect them for their courage, their ability, and their endurance.

[courtesy the Image Works]

Nadia Popova, who was sometimes referred to as Russia's Amelia Earhart, said, In winter, when you'd look out to see your target better, you got frostbite, our feet froze in our boots, but we carried on flying." 

After one mission, her airplane was riddled with forty-two bullet holes, and she was shot down a couple of other times. Still, she persevered and continued to serve as a Nightwitch commander. She passed away in 2013 at the age of 91, and she and her fellow witches will long be remembered as some of Russia's most intrepid flyers.

Determination is doing what needs to be done even when you don't feel like it. [author unknown]

Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough. [Og Mandino]

Determination gives you the resolve to keep going in spite of the roadblocks that lay before you. [Denis Waitley]

Endurance is the price tag of achievement. [author unknown]

Each of us, in our own way, has the ability to fly. Maybe not across an ocean like a frigate bird, and maybe not in daring night missions in antiquated airplanes... but we can fly; we can succeed. Those birds don't back down when faced with the daunting task of flying for weeks and months on end; they just do it. Those women, many of whom had never even seen an airplane before, didn't say, "We can't do it;" they just did it. Like them, with determination, we, too, can overcome obstacles, and we, too, can fly. We can achieve, and we can make our dreams come true, so never settle for less. Remember, even the grandest oak tree started out as a little acorn that refused to give up. Surely we nuts can do the same.


                                  Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Flipping a Floppy

Thought for the day:  A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.  [Richard Back]

[morguefile]
Praise be, I have returned safely from battle.

Okay, so it wasn't actually a battle; it was more of a book club meeting, featuring yours truly as the main course.

The bottom line is, I got through last Thursday's meeting unscathed, and didn't even have to draw my sword once to defend myself from hurtful criticisms hurled by disappointed readers. Matter of fact, it was awesome. I only hope the other folks who were there enjoyed our discussions half as much as I did.

As soon as I arrived, I surreptitiously searched the premises and didn't find any buckets of rotten tomatoes hidden anywhere, so that was a reassuring sign. Then when everyone got there, I asked if any other writers had ever attended any of their meetings. When they said I was the first, I knew I had it made, because even if I did a lousy job, I would be the BEST writer who'd ever visited them. Woo HOO! So I relaxed, and just had fun. I think they did, too, because I was told the meeting usually lasts for about an hour, and we were there for two and a half. It was such a terrific group of ladies, (and obviously very bright, too, because they all liked my book. HA) I wish they held their meetings a little closer to where I live, so I could join them as a member. It was a terrific experience. The only downside? Even though the gals all said they'd post a review, none of them did. Oh well. C'est la vie.


Yep, it's that time of the month again. Time for insecure writers (i.e. ALL writers) to share the ups and downs encountered along our bumpy writing paths. Once again, thanks go to ninja writer Alex Cavanaugh for coming up with the idea of forming this group and for making it such a successful reality. If you're interested in joining, please do! You can go right here to sign up, and you'll also find a list of the other participants there, so you can check out their posts, too.

Okay, I've already told you what a positive experience the book club meeting was, so let's move on to the question of the month: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?
.
Yes.

Oh... you want details?

[morguefile]
Nowadays, in spite of society's proclivity for quick fixes, disposable everything, and instant gratification, there's also been a huge resurgence of people who are dedicated to diligently refurbishing and re-purposing, whether it be a falling-down house in dire need of TLC, or some treasure pulled from a dumpster or purchased inexpensively from a flea market, so why shouldn't  we writers do the same with our old manuscripts? (Assuming they're something you flip over, and not a dismal flop. If it sits long enough, you can tell...)

Mine sat plenty long enough.

This particular manuscript sat abandoned in the back of my closet gathering dust for years. Although it wasn't painstakingly written on a scroll with a quill, or etched in stone, it was darned near that bad, because it was saved on... (gasp!) floppy discs.

Yep, I typed the first draft of Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade on an Apple II E computer. Luckily, in addition to storing the manuscript on floppy discs, I also had the foresight to print it out in... (gasp!) dot matrix.

Fast forward about twenty years, and I decided to read the manuscript again. (Talk about letting a story sit a while, eh?)

I decided it was worth rescuing, but in order to work on it again, I had to scan the manuscript, one page at a time, and save it in a file on my new no-more-floppies computer. Not terribly difficult, but a time-consuming pain in the patootie.

Countless rewrites and many changes later, the manuscript finally became a book. It hasn't made me a bunch of money, but that was never my goal, so yeah, I'd say it worked out. If you have a poor little orphan manuscript languishing in the back of your closet, why not pull it out and give it another look-see? It just might be something worth saving, and my guess is... it isn't saved on floppy discs.

         WAIT! STOP THE PRESSES!!! 

(Haven't you always wanted to say that...) Okay, so technically, there aren't any presses to stop, but I did want to take a quick sec to sneak in an announcement before putting this post to bed. It's about a book. (Surprise!)

For quite some time, fellow blogger and author Karen Walker had a dream about putting together a book in which a group of writers offers candid reflections about the blessings and curses of aging. I'm pleased to say her dream is about to become reality, and Still Me... After All These Years is scheduled to be released in early April.

But you can pre-order an e-version NOW. In U.S., you can order here

In this upcoming anthology, two dozen writers from ages sixty to ninety... including yours truly... tell it like it is about keeping dreams alive, putting rusty sex drives in gear, and dealing with the ups and downs of retirement and the loss of independence. Touted on the back cover as being poignant, humorous, and brutally honest, this book promises to be a collection that will hold appeal for all ages.

All proceeds from the sales of this book will be donated to Alzheimer's research.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.














Friday, February 24, 2017

That's Not Peanuts!

Thought for the day:  Don't take life too seriously and always remember: it is just a passing fad. [Mick Jagger]

[Mick Jagger 2013- wikipedia]
Whatever Jagger's opinions may be about life, it's probably a safe bet that he's gotten more than a little satisfaction over the fact that the Rolling Stones proved to be a whole lot more than a passing fad.

Nope, not gonna be writing about the Stones today, although I did amuse myself for a few minutes by jotting down a bunch of their song titles, and wondering how many of them I could slip into this post without anyone noticing. I dunno why. Just for kicks? A challenge? Because I'm listening to one of their CDs right now? Take your pick. But as fun as that idea might be, I'm going to let it loose for  now, so I'm free, instead, to shine a light on kicks, challenges and wagers, and some of the crazy things ordinary salt of the earth people are willing to do on the basis of a drawn card, a pair of tumbling dice, or a simple handshake.

[morguefile]
In some areas of our country, bizarre stunts are often predicated by a guy telling his buddies, Here, hold my beer. But sometimes, people... usually of the male persuasion... are simply daredevils looking for a blast of adrenaline. Okay, I get that. A whole team of wild horses couldn't convince me to pull any of those boneheaded antics, but still, I get it. Sorta.




Ormer Locklear- 1920 [wikipedia]

Then again, I wasn't around in the 1920s. Back then, thrill-seeking was practically a national pastime. No wonder the decade was dubbed the Roaring Twenties.

Last month, I did a post about a guy who, as the result of a drunken bet, stole an airplane and landed it on a New York street right in front of the bar where he left his buddies. (If you missed it, you can find it here.) But in the '20s, people got their kicks out of walking on the wings of airplanes... and hanging from them... and doing all kinds of other nutso stunts. And not usually because of a bet, either... because they wanted to do it! It was a fad, as was swallowing live goldfish, walking on tightropes, and sitting atop flagpoles for prolonged periods of time. I can understand sittin' on a fence, within a nice safe hopping-off distance from the ground, but a way-up-there flagpole? For days and days and days on end? Um, no thanks. Ditto the live fish-eating and the tightrope walking. Heck, I have no self-expectations about walking safely across a perfectly flat piece of land without tripping over an errant blade of grass, so no way I'd have any interest in trying to walk over a canyon on a lousy piece of wire...

[Herbert Hoover -wikipedia]
Anyhow, today's story is about another bet, although this one doesn't involve anything illegal, or particularly dangerous. A little on the wacky side, perhaps, but it was the '20s...

In 1928, a Texan named Bill Williams made a wager with his father-in-law over the upcoming presidential election. (There's no indication whether or not adult beverages were involved in said transaction, but come on... I think it's a fairly safe bet they were.)

Anyway, Bill bet that Al Smith would be elected, and his father-in-law picked Hoover. The stakes? If Smith won, the father-in-law would have to stand on his head in the middle of the Rio Hondo bridge for an HOUR. If Hoover won, Bill had to push a peanut over that same bridge with his NOSE... and keep on a-pushin' until he reached the next town... eleven miles away. It took the poor schnook nine days to complete his crazy peanut-pushing trip, at which time, I'm sure he had one mighty sore schnoz and was plenty torn and frayed at the end, but he did it. (His father-in-law must have had a heart of stone to make him follow through... I mean, couldn't he have ended the ordeal after, I dunno, five or six days... or better yet, after a few hours?)

[morguefile]

Never mind. Bill probably wouldn't have backed down from the challenge, even if his father-in-law offered, because evi-damned-dently, he wanted to do it. Know how I know? Because after meeting that challenge, he made a new peanut-pushing bet with his buddies. According to the Mysteries of the Museum website, the stakes were five hundred dollars, and some other accounts claim it was fifty bucks. Either amount of money wasn't exactly peanuts  in 1929. But all accounts agree on what Williams had to do to win the bet...
[Pikes Peak- wikipedia]

Most people are enthralled with Pikes Peak because of the glorious views. In fact, in 1893, the view inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write American the Beautiful.

Apparently, Bill Williams had other thoughts when he looked at the picturesque mountain. He thought it'd be a grand place to push a peanut with his nose, and he bet he could make the 22-mile trip all the way up Pikes Peak Highway to the top of the mountain in 22 days. This time, however, he made sure he was better prepared than he was for his initial peanut-pushing adventure. He brought extra peanuts, wore leather pads on his knees, and brought multiple pairs of shoes and canvas gloves. Oh yeah, he did a better job protecting his poor schnoz this time, too. He wore a face mask with a two-foot metal extension attached to his nose. Bottom line? He did it, and it took him 21 days, so he won the bet. He was the first Pikes Peak peanut pusher, but he wasn't the last. In 1963, a rock 'n' roll musician named Ulysses Baxter accomplished the same feat in 8 days, and in 1976, a college student pared the time down to an astonishing 4 days, 23 hours, and 47 minutes.

Quite a feat, eh? As for me, if I'm ever there, I'd rather use my God-given feet to hike up that road, (Oh, who am I trying to kid? I'd be in a CAR.) and if someone ever gave me a fistful of peanuts, my first inclination wouldn't be to push them anywhere, especially with my nose. Nope, give me peanuts, and they're going into that orifice under my nose. I'm jolly well  gonna eat 'em.

Well, it looks like I'm running out of time to be on the computer for now, so I'd better run. (Okay, walk slowly...) As for this post? It's all over now.

                      Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

P.S. In case you were counting, I used thirteen song titles in this post. (What??? So I fibbed a little. You can't always get what you want.) Oops... make that fourteen.

The most dangerous risk of all: the risk of spending your life not doing what you want to do on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later. [author unknown]

Friday, February 17, 2017

Oopsie Moments Gone Bad

Thought for the day:  Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important. [Janet Lane]

[reddit]
 Have you ever done something so bone-headed, you would've liked to hide your head in a bag for a while? Or to crawl in a hole and lie low until things blew over?

Nowadays, that's easier said than done. Now that every Tom, Dick, and Mary seem to carry a phone capable of taking photos, and then they immediately post said pics on the Internet for all the world to see, doing something idiotic has never been more open to public scrutiny.

When out on a group date many years ago... in the good old days... after we all gorged ourselves on pizza, I was trying to be as fast as possible in the rest room, because I didn't want to keep everyone waiting. In my haste, I obviously didn't pull my red-and-white striped petti-pants (WITH a spiffy white fringe!) all the way up, because as we were walking to our cars, they, um... fell down! (Leading my date to refer to me as Droopy Drawers for some months afterwards.) It was hilariously embarrassing, but the other giggling gals very kindly shielded me from view while I yanked them back up again. Nowadays, something like that would have (shudder) been immortalized on the Internet forever. One moment of embarrassments turned into a lifetime's embarrassment... UGH!

Anyhow, what follows is a post that originally appeared on March 29, 2011 with the title Under the Looking Glass? It didn't get many visitors back then, so it will be new to almost all of you.

****************************

Thought for the dayNo matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

Ever have one of those great big oopsie moments? You know, where you do something unbelievably stupid and just pray nobody's watching? Or if they are, you hope they have a really crappy memory?

One of my stupid moments was caught under a brilliant spotlight. Lucky me, huh?

I was a senior in high school at the time, and was selected by my drama teacher to perform a scene from  Tea and Sympathy for a big PTSA open house. Now, I was a bit of a nerd, meaning I was all about the academics, and drama was an elective course for me. I enjoyed it, and was okay at it, but Meryl Streep I wasn't. Still, I was pretty excited at the idea of showing my stuff.

Unfortunately, my friend and fellow nerd Robby, who happened to be manning the spotlight, was also interested in showing my stuff...

In the scene, I was an "older woman" who was about to (ahem) get up-close and personal, shall we say, with a younger man. My closing line was, Years from now... when you talk about this... and you will... be kind. While delivering the line, I was also slowly unbuttoning my blouse. And oh man, I really nailed that line, if I must say so myself. That line was supposed to be the cue for my smart-ass buddy to fade the spotlight to darkness.

It would've been oh-so-dramatic.

Was supposed to be dramatic, damn it.

My "buddy" thought it'd be great fun to leave the light on to see what I would do. Oh yeah, it was hysterical.

So what did I, the academic nerd, do? I looked straight at the spotlight and snarled, "LIGHTS!"

Kinda spoiled the effect, ya know? (But he DID douse the light.)



OK, you got me. This isn't me, but it's pretty much how I FELT, only with a little more hair ...



Anyhow, what made me think about all this was the incredible train wreck I observed on the internet yesterday. A self-published writer from England committed an enormous oopsie. She had what amounted to an emotional melt-down over a review of her book. The funny thing was, the review wasn't even all that bad. The reviewer said that her story was quite good, actually, but because of the plentiful spelling and grammatical errors, he gave her a two-star rating. That should've been the end of it. But it wasn't. Her subsequent postings, which by the way, were chock full of misspellings, grammatical errors, and tortuously convoluted syntax, were laced with profanities. Dropped the f-bomb a couple times. Snarled at anyone and everyone who tried to soothe her anger or offer guidance. Insisted that there was nothing wrong with her writing, although, clearly, there was. All of this, mind you, on a website frequented by other writers, agents, and publishers. More and more people joined the fray, as news of the "happening" spread through Twitter and other websites.

She single-handedly put herself in the spotlight, and then committed professional suicide. It's a shame, really, but I suppose she could always ... change her name.

But the bottom line here is: remember, on the internet, you're more than in a spotlight.



                                                You're under the looking glass.

And it doesn't matter if the people watching you screw up have a crappy memory, either. Once it's on the internet, it STAYS on the internet... providing a potential eternity of shame. Thank God YouTube wasn't around when I was a teenager. For that, I am eternally grateful. (I'll bet YOU are, too!)

                                    Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.