Saturday, May 30, 2015

Thoughts For The Weekend.

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.  It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.
~ William Pitt. British prime minister

Compassion is not weakness and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.
~ Hubert Humphreys, US Vice President

Every institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man. His character determines the character of the organization.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher

The finest words in the world are only vain sounds if you cannot understand them.
~ Anatole France, novelist, essayist. Nobel laureate

Neither genius, fame, nor love show the greatness of the soul. Only kindness can do that.
~ Jean Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, preacher journalist, and activist

It doesn' matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are.  If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.
~ Richard Feynman, physicist, Nobel laureate

All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.
~ Kahlil Gibran, poet and artist

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Recently, we repainted the outside of the house and by default all trimmings, plants, bushes, and hooks had to be removed.  The walls had to be smooth and clean of any protrusions which could affect the finish.  To my surprise, first thing this morning my husband John was engaged in returning to a place of prominence the flag's stand.  It's Memorial Day 2015 and he could not let the day pass without displaying Old Glory.

It's what he should do, right?  After all, his father served in WWII, his stepfather in Korea, and his brother-in-law in Vietnam.  And so, I have watched him do this year after year with a modicum of reverence, but never quite grasping the full impact of his actions.  However, when I began to research the Vietnam War for Destiny's Plan, the rite took on a new depth and significance.  You see, John was lucky.  His lottery number was high. While other young men were pulled away, their lives truncated by the hated Draft and sent to a despised and misunderstood war, he didn't have to worry.  He could sleep at nights knowing he wouldn't be called. 

We've had many discussions on this subject. As an inquisitive female, I always tried to get to the core.  What did he feel back then?  What was it like?  But we never reached the marrow, I always got the usual brush off, "Aw, honey it was crazy." End of conversation.  

This morning it hit me like a ton of bricks.  For him, it's a private ceremony, respectful and quiet, without any fanfare or speeches.   He remembers the fallen and thanks the merciful God that kept him away from hell.  For make no mistake it was Gehenna on Earth.  From all the books and testimonials I've read—a topic for another day—our boys had no clue what awaited them.  They were cannon fodder, sent to feed the insatiable appetite of the Gods of War and their minions.  But the biggest crime of all, was the reaction of our nation.  When our boys came back, the fortunate (insert irony here) who came back with their spirits shredded and their bodies wounded we treated them like pariahs as they suffered in silence.  Some are suffering still, from chemicals sprayed in the jungle and an unending, incomprehensible PTSD.  What shame.  We shall bear a dark mark for a long time.  

Today we are different, thank the Lord.  We have turned the page and acquired a new awareness.  No longer do our men and women return from serving without their due honor.  It took a cataclysmic act in September 2001 for us to realize, they get in the way of the bullet that would harm us, they protect us day and night and don't even know us.  It should always be this way.  In the meantime, let's just take one more minute of silence and remember the names etched on a long black wall.  

Friday, May 22, 2015

In the course of writing a book many people are involved and if the writer is fortunate, sometimes he/she finds excellence.  I like to take this opportunity to thank the two ladies who have painstakingly edited and cleaned up Destiny's Plan to make it fit for publishing.  Copy editor Linda Ingmanson and proofreader Toni Lee.  They're an outstanding duo and have a new website, I highly recommend them.

On the publishing side, Mari Christie has been a force of nature. She's the artist behind my new website. Destiny's Plan.  In addition, she has simplified my life by linking my blog with the new website and my Twitter page.  Mari Christie is a woman of many talents. Her website.

Thoughts to Live By

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. -Arthur Conan Doyle.

In words as fashions the same rule will hold./Alike fantastic if too new or old;/Be not the first by whom the new are tried,/ Nor yet the last to lay the old aside. -Alexander Pope.

When women love us, they forgive us everything, even our crimes; when they do not love us, they give us credit for nothing, not even our virtues. -Honore de Balzac

Red roses for young lovers. French beans for longstanding relationships. -Ruskin Bond.

I found one day in school a boy of medium size ill-treating a smaller boy. I expostulated, but he replied: 'The bigs hit me, so I hit the babies; that's fair.' In these words he epitomized the history of the human race. -Bertrand Russell.

Words are like leaves; and where they most abound/ Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found. -Alexander Pope.

I feel fairly certain that my hatred harms me more than the people whom I hate. -Max Frisch.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ever since a friend lent me a copy of The Prophet, Khalil Gibran became a favorite poet, essayist, and thinker.  It's hard to imagine the critics received the book less than enthusiastically.   But, the general readership must have appreciated the beauty of his prose, because the book sold very well.   The 60's was the decade of his true vindication.  The hippie counterculture re-discovered his writings and The Prophet was passed from hand to hand and lines from his essays went from lips to lips on a daily basis.

When I began writing Destiny's Plan, I knew that —if I were to keep it authentic and do it justice—somehow or somewhere in the text Gibran had to appear.  To my utter satisfaction, Matthew rose to the occasion.  Even though Raquelita is also an enthusiastic reader, it made perfect sense Matthew would be the one to appreciate Gibran's writings.  Matthew is an "out-of-the-box" voracious reader. He loves Lorca—one of the best Spanish poets ever—and did enough research on Lorca to learn about his comments on "dark sounds" darned difficult to explain.  Therefore, his admiration for Gibran is a given. Thus, the line,

"Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror." 

The quote is not complete, but to Matthew, who was suddenly and thoroughly smitten by Raquelita it was enough.  Her clear golden eyes acted like a mirror to infinity, he saw his image reflected again and again. Quite the experience.  

Gibran wrote about love and beauty, but his themes were not always on carnal love, he wrote about spiritual love and about God.  Below I have included some of my favorite quotes.  Sorry, Matthew.

On God:

"When you love you should not say, 'God is in my heart,' but rather, "I am in the heart of God." And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course."

On love:

"Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips."

"To know the pain of too much tenderness."  This is pure ambrosia to my romantic muse and my soul.  Can we relate to these thoughts in our skeptical and fast-paced world? Do we have the time to  grasp and meditate on what it means "To be wounded by your own understanding of love"?
"Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself", this is one of the biggest truths ever stated, but first we must give in to love, real and true.  How many of us can say that? 

Monday, May 11, 2015

"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o'er-wrought heart and bids it break."
~ William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."
~ Khalil Gibran

"Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
~ William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Only in the darkness can you see the stars."
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater."
~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Musings on Grief

I know this is not the ideal subject for a blog dedicated to the different aspects and experiences of a newbie in the world of writing.  For this, I ask everyone’s forgiveness. The fare should be light, easy to digest and entertaining. But when death makes an appearance, we need a safe place where to pour our thoughts and this is mine.  It began on July of 2014; when the inevitability of life found me.  Moments no human can escape.  If we are to live with a modicum of sanity, then we must strive to face and endure such events with the same serenity, acceptance, and peace as when we admire any of the Lord’s works, like a beautiful sunset or a glorious sunrise.    

It began with the loss of my beloved mother to dementia. The denigration this decease inflicts it’s impossible to explain.  In order to comprehend the meaning of impotence and despair, one has to witness the unrelenting disappearance of a brilliant mind into the void, along with the complete deterioration of a strong body, to such a weakened condition, that even the most basic tasks couldn’t be accomplished.   

I don’t know if all the seven stages of grief apply in this situation. I do know, however, that in the span of three years after my mother’s diagnosis, both my younger sister and I sped through denial and shock right into bargaining.  Nothing too lengthy or filled with promises, it was a simple request, “please dear Lord take her.”  We felt no remorse, guilt, or anger, sheltered by the conviction the Lord did not intend for anyone to languish in a state of oblivion.  If humans were made in the image of the Almighty and for his glory, there was nothing glorious about this. This was not living for her and it was hell for us.

It’s difficult to reconcile the need to speak with your mother, the woman who always listened and cared, who loved you more than anyone else in the world, and had the most interesting conversations, with this stranger.  The face is familiar, but the blank stare and the jerking reactions to random impulses from a damaged brain, are not.  She had become unreachable, virtually gone. 

The day I had a doubt about our family’s past and realized I could never ask her again, I began to mourn my mother.  I had taken for granted she would always be here to keep my connection to the past and to my roots alive.  The memories left with her and I was left behind feeling incomplete.

The second blow was the day after Thanksgiving 2014. My sister through marriage, an angel in our midst, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.  If that wasn’t bad enough the damned disease had metastasized to the brain. The floor below my husband and me disappeared in a nanosecond, and we were left hovering in the air lost and confused. Why?  How? When?  No! No!  Shock and denial are vicious blows to the chest.  They leave us gasping for air. 

I will never forget her expression when she heard the six-month sentence or her words, “I’m not ready to go.  I want to see my grandchildren grow.” How can anyone answer that?   Banal excuses and pedestrian words of encouragement are meaningless. As I heard my husband’s heart splinter into tiny shards, mine cried in silence, for him and his family.  Just as quickly we learned a powerful lesson in strength and endurance. Moments later, Angie wiped her eyes straightened her mussed hair and her declaration left us stunned.  “I will beat this.”

In the ensuing months, she took her radiation treatments valiantly, followed by her chemo without a complaint. She embraced the disease as uniquely hers, and as such, she was convinced she owned the power to vanquish.  But the Lord had other plans.  He took her quickly, before the predicted sixth months. Before the disease would ravage her body and strip her mind of all traces of valor. Before she could understand what was happening to her.  Before fear destroyed the lovely spirit.

Here we are, life goes on, with or without grief.  Death is harder on the living, the departed are at rest as they wait for us to join them.  In the meantime, my perspective has changed.  It’s imperative to live hard and full, kiss often, say I love you every day, let go of anger and resentment, fulfill dreams, even in a small scale, and the most important, never take anything for granted.  That is life’s biggest waste.