Friday, December 14, 2018

A Single Candle

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

 If you folks in the southeastern part of the United States happened to see a massive glow in the sky yesterday, fear not. It wasn't Armageddon, or anything. The blaze atop my birthday cake just got a teensy bit out of control is all. (I TOLD Smartacus not to use a blow torch to light all those darned candles.) Anyhow, the fire department must be getting real tired of coming by the house every year to extinguish the bonfire, so I think we'll skip covering the cake with candles from now on. The truth is, I'm creeping ever closer to that age where there'll once again be a single candle on my cake, and everybody will tell me what a good girl I am if  I can summon enough hot air to blow it out in a single try.

Know what? Maybe it'd be better to skip the cake altogether, and just have a glass of wine.

Hey! I'm OLD. I can do that if I wanta.

Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.  [Stanislaw Jerry Lec]
                      (Too bad my work of art is being painted by Picasso...)

You don't stop laughing because you grow older. You grow older because you stop laughing.  [Maurice Chevalier]      

I'm happy to report that my inner child is still ageless.  [Jane Broughton]
You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old.  [George Burns]

So maybe we can't do a thing about getting older, but do you think a single candle can make much of a difference? I do. (For one thing, there's no need to call the fire department...)

Okay, I'm gonna be serious for a minute, because I want to tell you about a very special woman whose single candle radiated enough light to hold the powers of darkness at bay. Her name was Irena Sendler, and she truly embodied the Chinese proverb: It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

This is what she looked like in 1942, when the young Polish Catholic woman lived in German-occupied Warsaw. As a social worker and nurse, she was allowed to enter the Jewish ghetto. She saw their suffering first-hand, and knew that people of all ages were being  forcibly removed from their homes, never to return. And she also knew what the penalty was for trying to help them.


She knew what the penalty was, because signs like this were posted all over Warsaw. 

These signs issued a clear warning that helping anyone leave the Jewish settlement without authorization was punishable by death.

And yet...
[credit: German Federal Archive]
And yet, the dark plight of the children tore at her heartstrings, and she had to DO something. As a member of the Zegota resistance movement, she smuggled 2500 children out of the Warsaw ghetto, provided them with false identities, and got them to a safe location... to private homes, to orphanages, to convents. She took the children out in ambulances, under the pretext that they were infected with typhus; she carried them out in tool boxes; she transported them in coffins. Whatever it took, she did it. One after another, desperate parents turned their beloved children over to her, a virtual stranger, in the hopes that their children would be spared from the horrors of living... and dying... in a concentration camp. Each child's name, Sendler recorded on paper, along with their new identities and locations. Then she tucked those papers into jars and buried them under an apple tree in her yard. Following the war, the information in those jars was used to reunite some of the families. Unfortunately, most of the parents were already gone, but thanks to Sendler and other members of the resistance, their children survived.


In 1965, Israel recognized Sendler as Righteous Among the Nations, a designation honoring non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews. And risk her life, she did: Sendler was captured, tortured, and sentenced to death... and spared from execution by virtue of a bribe. The Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations is part of the Yad Vashem complex on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem.


At the entrance to the Garden stands the Tree of Irena Sendler. I don't know what kind of tree is it, but an apple tree would be perfect, wouldn't it?

[credit: Mariesz Kubik]

This picture, taken in 2005, shows Sendler with the grown-up versions of some of the children she smuggled out of that Warsaw ghetto during the war.

[credit: Mariesz Kubik]

In 2007, Sendler was presented with the Order of the Smile, an international award given by children to adults distinguished in their love, care, and aid for children. A year later, she passed away.

In 2009, Poland issued a commemorative coin in honor of three women. One was Irena Sendler, a woman who proved that one person... one candle burning brightly in the darkness... can indeemake a difference.

In a world full of darkness, in a world full of pain,
All it takes is a sparkle, all it takes is a flame,
To make joy out of sadness, to bring hope to a life,
Like the promise of the dawn
On a long winter's night.
[from the song Light One Candle, by Ronnie Spector]

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

Let it shine! [Wikipedia]

For my birthday, a present for you guys. Sorta. Both e-versions of my books are on sale for 99 cents. Woo HOO. (I would've made them FREE, but those darned candles cost a lot of money, ya know...) Clicking on the book images in the sidebar will transport you to Amazon. U.S. Amazon, that is, but the book is also on sale in the U.K.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Comforting Clutter

Thought for the day: When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. [Franklin Roosevelt]

We may not be at the end of our ropes, but we sure are approaching the end of the year at a breakneck speed. Before we know it, it'll be a brand new shiny year, and we can all make fresh starts. More or less.

At any rate, it's time for the last monthly gathering of the year for that fine group known as the Insecure Writer's Support Group. This, the first Wednesday of the month, is when writers all over the world post about the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the ins and outs... of writing. We celebrate... we complain... we commiserate. Whatever we need, this is the place to find it. Humble thanks and a jolly tip of the Santa hat go to Alex Cavanaugh, our fearless ninja leader and the originator of this fine group. If you'd like to join (It's FREE!) or would like to read some of the other posts, please go HERE

Years ago, when we went to our favorite Chinese restaurant, I got the coolest fortune ever in my cookie. So cool, in fact, that it's still pinned to the bulletin board here in my office. It says, You have a charming way with words and should write a book. 

SEE? Totally cool, right? If I opened a fortune cookie today, it would probably say something obnoxious about writer's block.

Not that I have it. Exactly. I just don't feel motivated to work on my WIP. My gut tells me not to let lousy sales figures and the dearth of reviews for book one of my trilogy stop me from forging ahead with books two and three... but my brain seems to have a different opinion. I'm still writing... in short spurts... but my brain seems to be sitting in the corner with its back to me. Pouting. But since I've never been one to hold a grudge, I'm hopeful my brain will get with the program and snap out of it soon. I am excited at where the story's going... I just have to get it there... in due time, I suppose.

Sigh. Enough belly-aching. I'm not feeling particularly insecure or blocked. Just lazy. (Well, you have heard of a Lazy Susan, haven't you...?)

Okay, let's move on to this month's question, shall we?

What are five objects we'd find in your writing space?

The major thing in here is my desk. It's a huge L-shaped beauty with lots of room for all of my organized chaos.

 Hmmm, I guess I should've tidied up a bit, but why put on the dog, right? (Besides, our cats wouldn't appreciate it.)

In the center of the L sits my computer. Surprisingly, there isn't a cat's derriere parked in front of it at the moment. To the right of the computer is my all-time favorite mug: Pink Freud. Nine times out of ten, if I'm working at the computer, that mug is right there beside me.

The equally messy left side of my desk contains a small bookshelf. There are a few very good reference books there... and also, just some very good books. There's a much larger bookshelf behind me... also filled to the brim with books.

The right side of the desk contains a bunch of CDs, the printer and... Dash. (She and Dot usually keep me company in here... and they are oh-so helpful.) So I guess you could say the cats are an integral part of any writing endeavor... or any other activity, for that matter. Like I said, they are extremely helpful.

See that print of Dali's Last Supper hanging on the wall? I bought it on a school field trip to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. many years ago. Know what's totally cool about it? Smarticus was also on that same field trip, and out of allllll the art in the museum gift shop, he bought the same exact print. It was several years later before we realized we'd purchased the same piece. (See? We were meant to be!)

I'm not satisfied with only having one messy desk in my office... so I have two! This one was built by my paternal grandfather, so it's kinda special. The stack of stuff with the notebook and pen on top is where the magic happens. HA! (If only...) I carry the whole pile into the living room in the early morning, and write in that notebook until Smartacus gets out of bed. Also in the pile? A dictionary, thesaurus, The Emotion Thesaurus, and a bunch of notes and outlines in the yellow folder. That little stack of books in the back include several military manuals about munitions, booby traps and unconventional warfare. Don't worry. I'm not planning a coup. I used them while doing research for Explosive Beginnings.

I guess that covers my five things... desk, computer, Pink Freud, books, and cats, but I'm going to highlight one of the things on my big desk. The picture on the bottom. The fella in the foreground is Smartacus, and the picture was taken when he was in Vietnam. Keeping that picture where I can readily see it every day is one way to remind myself to never take him for granted.

Well, folks, I don't want to take you guys for granted, either. I've taken up more than enough of your time.

So until next time, please take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Full Disclosure: I'm Not a Trend-Setter

Thought for the dayNo man has ever been shot while doing the laundry.

I just came in from hanging a tablecloth on the clothesline. Perfect day for it, too. Wall-to-wall sunshine, and a nice breeze blowing, the kind of day that does a lickety-split job of drying, and leaves everything smelling like the great outdoors. As I hung it, I thought about the tons of clothes I've clipped onto clotheslines over the years...

We lived in a row home when I was a kid, and had a fold-up umbrella type clothesline. In those days, every back yard in the whole congested neighborhood held a clothesline of some sort, and hanging clothes outside wasn't just a necessity; it was a time for bona fide over-the-fence socializing.

I reckon our love affair with computers have changed that scenario quite a bit, eh?

 But anyhow, back then, hanging clothes was a time for gossiping, political opining, recipe swapping, and talking about the latest guest on the Ed Sullivan show. I was a latchkey kid, so most of the time, I was the one out there hanging clothes behind our house, and for some unfathomable reason, the neighbor ladies accepted me as their pint-sized equal.

Now, not all the memories of those times are rosy. Trying to fold frozen clothes with equally frozen fingers wasn't a whole lot of fun.

Wasn't too great when one of our dogs completely shredded everything hanging on the line, or when a flock of mulberry-eating birds selected our humble sheets as a primary bombing target, either. But all-in-all, I remember those days fondly.

The first house Smarticus and I bought boasted a killer clothesline. Big sturdy metal tees with half a dozen long lines stretched between them. (As Tim Allen would say, "R-R-R-R!") The thing was, it was a pretty big yard, so there was never any socializing over the fence while hanging clothes. Then, most everybody got clothes dryers, so it became a rarity to even see anybody outside with a wet basket of laundry.

When we moved here to the sunny South, there were no clothesline to be seen in our neighborhood at all. Zip, zilch, nada. I reckon it was considered "common" or "old-fashioned" to hang clothes on the line in 1971. Anybody who was anybody had the latest, greatest clothes dryer by then. Even me. But I also had a clothesline in the back yard. Something big enough to hang sheets, because, really, is there anything that smells as wonderful as bedclothes filled with the smell of sunshine? Alas, in time, I, too, grew weary of hanging clothes. It's too bloody hot here in the summertime. And well, yeah, a dryer really is convenient.

But I still have ONE line strung out back, and always will. And when I was out there hanging that tablecloth this morning, lo and behold, the man who lives behind us was hanging something on a line in his yard, too! He's a new neighbor, and it's a brand new line. And get this: we exchanged greetings. It wasn't exactly heavy-duty socializing like days of yore, but it sure felt good. And I've noticed that some of the young families moving into our neighborhood are putting up clotheslines, too. Going green, they say. But I say, what's old is new again.

Like lots of other things. Our daughter used to tease me unmercifully because of some of the clothes I wore. Like clam diggers. In fact, she teased me so much, I finally got rid of them. And wouldn't ya know, they're all the rage now. They call 'em capri pants these days, but as far as I'm concerned, they're just good old clam diggers with a fancy name and attitude. So in years to come, if you should happen to see me sporting a suddenly popular pair of bell bottom pants, it won't be because I'm a trend-setter. It'll be because I never got rid of my old ones. And if red patent leather platform shoes ever come back into style, I'm all set. And (shhh) just between you and me, I'm never giving up my slouch socks.

Hmmmm, maybe I should teach my granddaughters how to play jacks. We could be starting a new trend ...

How about you? Are some of the "old things" from your past becoming new again? (Face lifts don't count!)

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. Think I'll go pull out my old bag of balls and jacks. My skills could use a little brushing up.

P.S. Hanukkah, an eight-day festival celebrating the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, and spirituality over materialism, begins this weekend. To all who are Jewish, I wish you a very happy Hanukkah. For the rest of us, I believe we, too, should embrace the ideals of light over darkness.

If you're gonna be lighting a menorah, I bet you won't be doing it quite like THIS: