It's been awhile...
Are you wondering what I've been up to? Yeah, me too.
The last time I posted anything about my work in progress I told you that I was about 12 chapters into it, and guess what? Still there. I could come up with all sorts of excuses, but they don't hold water. What does is the truth: Everyone needs a vacation occasionally. As much as I love my invented world of Emrysia, I have been living there too long without a break - far longer than you, dear reader - and other projects have been calling to me. I've been trying to ignore them, but find I don't really want to anymore. In fact, I never wanted writing to be a job at all, which is what is was becoming. I like it far better when it's my passion.
To keep it that way I'm doing a little scribbling just for fun, following wherever inspiration leads. Right now that means into lines of poetry, down the dark alleys of a short mystery, and maybe even onto the scaffolding of my own life story. There is a children's book or two (or twenty) that I would like to finish illustrations for, but I don't want that to be an "in my spare time" struggle. I'm giving myself permission to just create, and it feels good.
So, all you Emrysia fans, enjoy a little time off with me, won't you? Visit other worlds, explore new hobbies, take chances and get messy. Life is more fun that way. And don't worry; the prequel and sequel are still whispering their secrets, begging me to listen. I'm not a gossip, but I do love sharing a good story.
What about you? Where have you been, and what are you up to now? Inquiring minds want to know...
Once upon a time not so very long ago, in a land even further north than the magical Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, a wizard was born... and promptly abandoned by his parents. The wizard was adopted into the loving home of an evangelical preacher who, five years later, moved the family light-years away to a place where Munchkins dwelt in relative peace and harmony. A place named for James, the Saint, just down the coast from the City of Angels. The wizard matured and as he did, he went by the name of - Art Linkletter. Those with a juvenile sense of humor may have sometimes warped that proud moniker into something less than illustrious (Fart Bedwetter?), but whether or not the wizard was ever actually bullied or teased by his peers, he developed a deep love and appreciation for childhood wit and sensibility. He grew up and became a famed radio host, and eventually went on to appear in living rooms throughout the land by way of a magic box called “the boob tube”. His program was called Art Linkletter’s House Party, and aired five times a week for nearly twenty years. Enjoyed far and wide and across the generations by lovers of all things innocent and good, one particularly popular segment of the program (and subsequent book) was called “Kids Say the Darndest Things”...
I remember howling with laughter as a child (right along with the studio audience) as Art Linkletter peered out of our humongous, 19” black and white television screen - deadpan, or as near to non-snickering as anyone could humanly manage in the face of such hilarious, half-pint interviewees - over 20,000 of them over the years! The show was totally unscripted, so you never knew what you were going to get. From the mouth of babes came some of the funniest moments in television history... and some of the most insightful.
I have my own hilarious wise-cracker sitting across from me at the dinner table every night. Sometimes, while she is ostensibly finishing up whatever offensive item remains on her plate, my husband will pull out his guitar, and serenade us. Often she’ll join in, adding her sweet, budding alto to his mellow baritone. Their latest duet of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” melted my heart - and then had me in stitches as, with eyes closed in an effort to appear wistful, she warbled out the following line:
“…where troubles smell like lemon drops…”
(Oh, how precious! I’ll probably never correct her.)
Later though, as so often happens, I thought about what she sang in a totally different way and found myself growing wistful for a simpler time. Blame it on being tired, a little too much introspection, or maybe even heartburn, I suddenly equated this incredibly sweet misperception of hers with a disconcerting symptom of our current culture.
Somewhere along the line between the House Party heyday and today, we've hardened. We've lost our love of purity and truth - of innocence - preferring instead to tell ourselves comfortable lies. We no longer know what is good for us, no longer recognize trouble for what it is. No longer live in a time where it “melts like lemon drops” – inevitably, often despite unnecessary worry, with sweetness and tang inexorably blended until nothing but memory remains.
Nowadays, instead of melting away, trouble lingers at our invitation, its scent clinging to the very fabric of our lives. It has been redefined, turned on its ear. Like children who misunderstand that which is meant to make them stronger as they pass through it, we now perceive trouble as something to be savored, an indulgent treat. What used to be a burden to bear for whatever time it took to divest ourselves of it has become our favorite candy, and darn it! - we want more! We intentionally create more, without stopping to consider the long term effects.
Why? Because we no longer value discipline and self-control. Conflict and vice are relished in our day-to-day lives instead, even more so in our entertainment... and entertainment passes for news. Shaming our neighbors, spewing opinions and flinging insults, we vie to impress friends and followers undeterred by compassion or reason. Not recognizing and regretting our personal failings, we seek –no, we demand! – approval. Conflict was once universally acknowledged as detrimental to our well-being, and that of society. It was something to overcome. But now our personal media feeds filter down to us supporting opinion and little else, distracting us with cat memes and crude humor until the mind-numbing gulf is unbridgeable, and our narcissistic selves can no longer distinguish right from wrong, beauty from the repulsive, truth from lies. We see it on our screens, so it must be so.
Compassion is dead. Innocence is lost, and with it - our consciences.
But... innocence is optimism, it is hope...
We’ve opted to throw hope away, carelessly discarding what we most need for healing. Instead, hopeless, we cling to this new, self-righteous reality somehow thinking more of it will make things better. More personal freedom (as long as it is PC), more ranting, more claiming offence at every little thing – more, More, MORE! More everything except humility, and listening to that still, small voice that convicts us.
We’ve convinced ourselves that trouble only smells like lemon drops, and isn’t that just wonderful? Aren’t we all just so happy here in our little, intolerant bubbles?
Just listen to me rant... I'm sorry.
Do I want to be a child again? No, but I would like a return to child-like innocence. As an adult, that means making a conscious effort, recognizing that I am part of the problem, and working to overcome my own prejudices. Unlike innocent children, I know more about the world; that doesn’t always mean I know better. Listening to viewpoints other than my own might just help me understand where someone else is coming from. It may not change how I view the world, but it might help me appreciate the fact that my viewpoint is not the only valid one.
We all come from a place of brokenness. It will take all of us to fix it.
Throughout his 97 years of life the wizard knew joy, and he knew trials. He married the girl of his dreams and raised a family. The year I reached the age of reason, his 20 year old daughter fell to her death from a sixth story window during a flashback from LSD, motivating him to speak out against drug use. The year I graduated high school, one of his sons died in a car accident; years later he buried another who died from lymphoma. The wizard persevered. He spent his life spreading joy throughout the land, becoming a philanthropist, founding a dance school, and earning his own star on Hollywood and Vine. He was fined once for claiming false citizenship, but paid his dues, and became one. He was accused (and cleared) of an unsavory scheme, then served on the Presidential Council on Service and Civic Participation. He was quoted as saying - "I believe none of us should ever stop growing, learning, changing, and being curious about what's going to happen next. None of us is perfect, so we should be eager to learn more and try to be more effective persons in every part of our lives."
He held several honorific degrees, and throughout his life promoted laughter as the best medicine. He invested in the hula-hoop, supported his friend Walt as Disneyland got up and running, and his image graces the $100,000 dollar bills in the board game called Life. In later years he suffered a stroke, and two years after that, just months shy of his 75th wedding anniversary, he died.
The wizard, Art Linkletter knew what troubles were, and that they melt like – not smell like – lemon drops. And he would have been amused at those who thought otherwise.
I have always been a foodie. even before it became a thing. As a child, I preferred blue cheese to American, spinach to watermelon, liver & onions to pizza, and I still do. Now my tastes have developed to include a wide variety of unusual and ethnic foods as well. What does food have to do with a writing blog? Bear with me and you'll see.
Among my many culinary discoveries are a few surprises that opened up a whole new area of obsession - food as medicine. This idea is nothing new. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ― Hippocrates certainly had it right. But there are some things even Hippocrates didn't know about.
For instance, my new favorite morning beverage is chaga tea. Brewed from chunks of a blackish fungus that grows only in certain birch trees, this powerful antioxidant stimulates and regulates the immune system, reduces inflammation, helps with ulcers and gastritis, normalizes cholesterol and blood pressure levels, slows aging, and improves skin. Since Chaga grows wild only in the birch forests of Russia, Korea, Eastern and Northern Europe, Northern areas of the United States and in Canada, it is doubtful the Father of Modern Medicine ever heard of it.
Chaga has been referred to as the King of Mushrooms, and for good reason. But lately, I've become even more fascinated with a flavorful, fermented beverage called kombucha. This healthy brew dates as far back as 2000 years ago in ancient China, where it was consumed regularly to combat inflammation and ward off cancers. Despite it's vinegary fizz, many today consider it a refreshing alternative to less healthy sugary or diet sodas, and drink it for taste as well as its probiotic qualities. I find kombucha (along with yogurt and home-cured sauerkraut) to be incredibly yummy, and excellent for promoting healthy gut flora. My first home brewed batch is fermenting on my kitchen counter as I write this, and I can hardly wait to try it!
We all know the world is a better place because of mold, at least, the penicillin and cheese producing varieties. (Just imagine if Dr. Alexander Flemming had come back from vacation and thrown out all of those moldy petri dishes he found in his lab!) Composting experts confirm that a little bit of rot works wonders for the garden. Bacteria and fungus are responsible for fine wines and gastronomic wonders, not to mention they are nature's clean-up crew. We would be lost without them. It only follows then that, as a writer, I have great appreciation for literary decomposition.
The simplest things make the most sense.
When I first sat down to write about the world I'd been mulling over for decades, I began with the most basic of elements; a name. My main character, named for a drawing I had done, was Aryelle - no matter how much I tried to think of her as someone else. Breaking that name down into syllables, I came up with a meaning for it. That led to a history, genealogy, and eventually an entire language, which included references to ancient wisdom revered by her race of empaths, as recorded in the Book of Illumination. Those adages became the basis for numerous side plots, bringing to life not only new characters, but entire races of people. What had started as the simplest of elements mushroomed into the rich soil of Emrysia, now three books strong, with a prequel and sequel well underway.
Decomposition, at its finest, always leads to growth.
The characters coming to life now in the prequel are Ladhonna, Leandra and Kayanna - The Daughters of Ka'Dharron. This trio's sibling relationship will determine who they become as adults, and the roles each of them will play in Aryelle's life. As author, it's fascinating to see these characters grow and develop; the why and how lies in the sum of experience. Since this book is all about construction through deconstruction, it is my kombucha moment - a little sweet, a little tart, and full of good, healing things. I hope you as a reader will enjoy it, too, but you have to want the healing to happen. You have to look for it. Otherwise, all you may taste is vinegar.
“The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.”
People will tell you to write what you know, what you love. It's advice worth listening to...
For years now, in addition to my novels and poetry, I have been blogging. While this site is mostly about writing and becoming your best self, earlier blogs were all about family life and the foibles of being a Momster. (Check out imustbeoffmyrocker.blogspot.com/) It was cheaper than therapy, and killed more than the proverbial two birds with each post: I got to stay home with my kids, exercise my creative muscles, grow my tech skills, and help other moms know they weren't alone in their struggles. It was, and still is, a way to impact the world while bettering myself. Parenting is kinda the same.
I love my kids. They are amazing people despite the fact that I have no idea what I'm doing half of the time as a mother. Dwelling on all the mistakes I've made along the way, I sometimes get overwhelmed - with guilt, with regret... and with a longing to do better. It's that last one that matters most. No one is perfect, but acknowledging our flaws and moving forward from there is the only way to improve. Every. Single. Time. I may stumble more often than I'd like, but eventually, if my goal is the mountaintop, I will get there only by continuing to put one foot in front of the other. It's important to remember that - not just as a writer and parent, but as a human being - and to keep trying. We are all works in progress.
There are times within a family that it's members are like sandpaper, rubbing each other the wrong way. That friction is what smooths out our rough edges, and polishes us for our role in the world - a place just chock-a-block full of grit. (The world takes its polishing seriously!) Similarly, in a novel there is always conflict. How the characters push through it is what makes up a good story. Show me a life without conflict, and I'll show you a story that is going nowhere.
"A flat road won't take you up the mountain."
I think that might be my best quote yet. As someone who seeks to continually learn and better herself, it gives me the proper perspective for my climb. Here's to your journey and mine; may it be filled with just enough grit and stumbling blocks to make it interesting.
If you liked this post feel free to share. Photo credits to K. M. D. in this shot of her sister, J.E.D.
In a few short days we will take our fourth child off to college. In fact, in the same trip we will be delivering two daughters to their respective places of higher learning. That will leave only our bonus baby - now nearing double digits - at home. It feels bittersweet.
I'm not gonna lie, there have been times when parenting a whole handful of kids has been almost more than I could handle. But for the most part, it has been a blessing. We've watched them grow into caring, mostly responsible adults with aspirations to make the world a better place. Now, we're back to the waiting and wondering stage...
What will they be?
Where will they live?
Who will they love?
Will they forget everything we taught them?
When will they be back?
Why did we worry so much?
Time will tell.
I commemorate this new stage of "almost empty nestdom" with a poem. I hope you like it. And, if you see one of my kids being their awesome selves out in the world, tell 'em their momma misses them.
I Loved You, First
I loved you,
first with hungry heart waiting,
worried you would arrive with too few fingers or toes,
or that I, in my own imperfection, would somehow fail you.
I loved you then -
shaken by the ferocity of feelings your squirming, six-pound frame evoked -
with a heart so full of pride it must burst.
I watched you crawl, then walk, then run
and knew there would be no holding you back
when the time came for you to fly.
Year after year,
pouring out my love
my heart grew inexplicably more full,
expanding to envelop your siblingssometimesrivals
like some mad sci-fi monster, never sated
and spiraling to ruin
...because by then, you see,
I had realized that,
I would love you all
with a heart broken only by my own fragile expectations.
One by one you leave the nest,
ready to conquer the world,
and my heart is still full -
full of awestruck, fearsome powerful love,
finely tempered by these hollowed, mother bird’s bones
which still, and forever, remember
that was mine
Dear readers: I hope you all had relaxing summers, and that this next season finds you supercharged for whatever challenges lay ahead. Keep writing, keep reading, and keep your chin up! We can make a difference in this world by daring to be our best selves!
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You've heard it a thousand times: If something isn't working right, unplug and give it a minute - including yourself.
This is really great advice, but for some reason, hard to get through my thick skull. Fortunately, at least once a year - whether I want to or not - I have to unplug . It's called Family Camping Reunion.
Each summer I spend about three weeks preparing for our 16 hour road trip (one way, give or take) and camping extravaganza. This includes extensive list-making, fine-tuning all of the necessary arrangements for our house and critters while we're away, organizing and packing not only clothing, but everything required to provide a relatively comfortable home-away-from-home stay in as little (and probably damp) space possible, and then rethinking it all at night instead of sleeping. While I love seeing our extended family, I gotta confess that on more than one occasion, I have dreaded the whole affair with the air of one being led to the guillotine. Cramped pop-ups or tents do not always happy campers make - especially those who are just slightly OCD and more than a little resentful picking up after everyone! Give me a beach in Bali with a swim-up bar and no responsibility, and I'll show you one relaxed momma, but a sand-filled sleeping bag and cooking over an open flame without the aid of my normal kitchen equipment is not what I call a "real" vacation...
...until this year.
The first thing I unplugged was my attitude; not an easy feat for this compulsive whiner. It's amazing how much difference letting go of expectations makes - not to mention how much easier it is on the ears! I tried to go into this year's trip with the thought that any change would be a good one. What with writer's block and feeling depressed a large chunk of the time, I wasn't doing so hot with all of the standard creature comforts, so really, why let impending discomfort take the blame for what I was slowly recognizing as an internal deficiency?
Next, I let go of perfection (or what passes for it around here) and went with the bare bones. Since only three members of our household were making the trip this year, we downsized everything including our mode of transportation. Want a puzzle? Try fitting a cooler, suitcases, tent, cots, sleeping bags and various other necessary camping accoutrements into a tiny Suzuki with enough room left over for passenger comfort. I did it, but only with a lot of creative crevice filling, and ditching whatever we could survive without.
The trip out was actually quite pleasant. Hubby had burned CD's with each of our top ten favorites, and with fewer souls to wrangle, pit-stops were shorter and less frequent. We arrived already ahead of the game, and fair weather lasted all week. With hubby's help, I unplugged my pride and, to the best of my ability, my mom-guilt. When he offered to cook not once, but twice, I let him, and did not even care that my daughter ate little more than hotdogs and chicken all week; at least she was fed. And, whenever I could, I let myself relax into the upsides of camping: later bed times, morning walks on the beach, no make-up, and most of all, no tech! Facetime takes on a whole new meaning when the person you're chatting with is sitting around the campfire with you. I didn't take a single picture, make a single call (other than to check in at home), tweet, check Facebook or gmail. I didn't market my books, not even once, and I for sure didn't miss it!
We're back home now, and soon I'll be just as "connected" as I was before we left. But, maybe with a few modifications. My batteries have a little more charge now, and I'm seeing things with new perspective. I have rebooted. I must have. I'm already looking forward to camping again next year.
Photo credit - Ron DeKett