Monthly Archives: September 2016

Banned Book Week

1289926514-Mark TwainMany people may not be aware that this is Banned Book Week. And yes, there needs to be an entire week devoted to this. In fact, there could actually be an entire month devoted to this topic.

Book banning isn’t a new concept. The Qin Dynasty in China banned Confucian writings as early as 221 BC. Writings by Descartes, Copernicus, Pascal, and Galileo were all banned during their lifetime because they thwarted modern ideology of the day. King Charles IX of France would only allow books to be printed that had won the approval of crown. By the 1700s, the practice began to fall out of favor although most governments still kept a close eye on the books circulated within their realm. By the early 1800s, many European countries had begun enacting laws that allowed for freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

You would think with such a long history of fighting for the freedom of information that book banning would be a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, it is not!

Even today, thousands of books are banned by governments at the local, state, and federal levels throughout the world. Many of these are in dictatorships where one would expect regimes to limit information. China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan dot that list en masse.

But, no one is immune to book banning. Even here in the United States, the home of the free, book banning is still in place. Usually this is done at the local level by well meaning officials who are desperately trying to prevent children and citizens from overwhelmingly harmful influences. Some would argue it’s our duty to keep things such as pornography, overt sexual conduct, and violence away from small children.

I totally get that argument and I am in favor of the age appropriate discussion about books. I personally don’t want to see 50 Shades of Grey in an elementary school library. Heck, I don’t think it belongs in a high school library, but that’s because I personally feel it has no literary value whatsoever. (That’s another discussion for another day!) The same argument could be made for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It also has extremely graphic sexual content and explicit violence but I have no problem with that book being in a high school library. It’s an amazing book series that delves deeply into government corruption, abuse, and psychological illness. I would not let my 15 year old daughter read it, but I would have let her read it at the age of 17 if she had wanted to. I felt she was old enough and mature enough at the time to handle the subject matter. (For those of you who are against violence, explicit sexual content, and foul language, DO NOT read either series!!)

My personal feelings about those two books aside, if a local school board deemed them as too mature for students under the age of 18, I would have no problem with their decision.

However, book banning is something far more insidious. Book banning seeks to actively limit the information available to the populous in the hopes of controlling the morality and ideas of a group of people. It is an endeavor to inject a culture with one’s own personal beliefs regardless of will of the people. It is not about protection. It is about control. And control is maintained through limitation.

I could spend days discussing this topic and listing all the books that have been banned for one reason or another. The list is that long. Instead, I’ve chosen to discuss my top five. Here are 5 of my personal favorite banned books.:

  1. The Harry Potter Series —  In addition to earning the title as the highest grossing literary phenomenon EVER, JK Rowling’s series about a group of young wizards attending the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry have also earned the dubious title of most banned books in the United States. This is primarily because those who have never read the books are concerned that young minds will be drawn into the occult world of witchcraft. As a fan of the series, I know nothing could be further from the truth. Christian themes run rampant throughout these books. And while magic does play a key role in almost every scene, JK Rowling’s books are adamant that it is the choices we make that determine our outcome, not the talents we are given. (By the way, I’ve tried to apparate. It doesn’t work!)
  2. Huckleberry Finn & Tom Sawyer — Two of Mark Twain’s most famous works were routinely banned during his lifetime and continue to be banned in various regions today. Librarians of Twain’s day felt both books offered low grade morality, vulgarity, and poor examples for young people. Although Twain himself saw the commercial value in such a recommendation at the time, I’m sure he would have never imagined the modern day sensitivities becoming so tender as to require a softer, gentler telling of his fabled tales. Such was the case several years when some of the more offensive words were eliminated from both works. Do yourself a favor and find an unedited, unabridged version. You won’t regret taking a ride down the ol’ muddy river.
  3. Call of the Wild by Jack London — I was truly surprised to find this classic on any banned book list. This is an amazing work about a man and his dog fighting against the rugged Alaskan wilderness. Unfortunately, it’s not the tender, lovable dog story everyone wants to read. It was seen as too dark and violent for younger eyes. As I said earlier, I can understand helping younger readers find age appropriate books to help stir their imagination and I’ll support a parent’s right to do that. But this book invites the reader into adventures and perils unknown in today’s world. It’s timeless in its utter grasp of human fortitude. It’s easily London’s best novel. Quite simply, it’s a must read.
  4. 1984 & Animal Farm — Yep! George Orwell’s classics were banned in the Soviet Union and North Korea. Personally, I love both of these books. 1984 still scares the stuffing out of me every time I read it. Not because it was designed to be a horror story, but rather because so many instances within that work have now come to pass. Big Brother watches us from every street corner. Texting and political correctness are indeed forms of Newspeak. The parallels are uncanny and frightening. Personally, I believe everyone should read these works.
  5. Where the Wild Things Are — Honestly, I can’t even believe this work was ever seen as anything other that an amazing children’s book, but it too has been banned. Apparently, the violent overtones of monsters were too much for some parents and librarians. This completely baffles me.

Other famously banned books throughout the world:

  1. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  3. Beloved – Toni Morrison
  4. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – Dee Brown
  5. The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
  6. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  7. For Whom the Bell Tolls — Earnest Hemingway
  8.  Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  9. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  10. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  11. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  12. The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane
  13. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  14. A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams
  15. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
  16. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  17. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  18. Junie B. Jones (series) – Barbara Park
  19. Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
  20. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

And the list could go on for pages.

So during this week long event, I encourage you, dear reader, to exercise your right to read books thought to be too dangerous for others. Broaden your mind with a banned book or simply relive the adventures you’ve already enjoyed. For each time you exercise your right to read, you are thwarting the Thought Police. You are saying, “I will not conform to the ideals of others. I will think for myself.”

Be bold. Be brave. Rebel against those who would seek to limit your ideas. Read a banned book!

Happy Reading and Down with Big Brother!

The Miracle of the M&Ms!!

img_20160923_205318I’m still trying to wrap my head around the football game I experienced last night. It was quite the conundrum.

Let me first preface this entire story by saying (for those who don’t actually know me) that I am a somewhat passionate football fan. Although I like to watch most sports, football is my favorite. Each year I wait eagerly for fall, not because of the pumpkin flavored everything and cooler weather, but because fall brings football. And what’s better than that?

But I digress.

Last night was a fierce matchup between my son’s high school, Houston County High (HoCo) and Spalding County (the enemy). Incidentally, for those outside the middle Georgia area, that’s pronounced House-Ton, not Hugh’s Ton like they do in Texas.

But I digress again.

This was an away game to be played at Spalding County in which Griffin is the major city. So far, everything with this story seems perfectly normal. And indeed, I had no inclination as I made the hour long drive up to Griffin that adventure of monumental proportion would ensue.

It started when I drove to the campus of Spalding County High looking for a football game and maybe, just maybe a stadium. Their Jaguars and my Bears were nowhere to be seen. There were no towering lights blazing, no fans cheering, no bands playing. In short, there was no stadium to be found.

Hmmmm.

Well, maybe it was around that next corner. No. It wasn’t, but there was a young woman jogging down the road. I stopped and asked her where the stadium was.

She was very nice and helpful. She told me it was near the old Coca-Cola plant. I didn’t know where that was. Then she mentioned some other plant that apparently had also closed. I didn’t know where that one was either.  We finally got down to actual street names which I found a bit more helpful. She mentioned some street named after a guy. She did warn me that parking was a bit tricky. (By the time I’d made the second turn, I’d forgotten the actually street name, but it was definitely guy-ish.)

So off I went in search of this stadium and this guy sounding street name. Once I was back on the main road, I felt pretty confident in my navigational ability. I had after all, driven through Griffin before and was basically familiar with the city layout. It’s not an overly complicated city design. All I had to do was to find this guy-ish named street, make a left, and find this stadium.

And then I started running into street numbers. I found 4th Street. (I’m not sure where the other 3 went.) There was a giant church where 5th Street should have been and then there was 6th Street. This is the area that I noticed all the people. They were footbally type people. They were gathering for something in the area. I must be getting close.

But there was no stadium to be seen. ANYWHERE!

There wasn’t a sign for a stadium. Not even a make shift sign. Nothing. So I drove a little further thinking maybe I was wrong and I should still hunt for this mysterious street named after a guy.

A couple of blocks later, I made the decision to stop into the AutoZone and ask for additional directions. Those two gentlemen were very nice and told me with a fair amount of conviction that there was no stadium anywhere in the city. They suggested I try Griffin High. There was a stadium there.

Hmmmm.

Nope. I think I’m trying my luck with the crowd of people around the church. I’m either going to find a football game or a revival. But I knew miracles awaited in that direction. And so I meandered my way through the traffic, turned down 4th Street, and found (created) a parking space on the side of the road. When I asked one of the parents, she confirmed I was headed to the right area. There was indeed a stadium in the area.

I started walking with the crowd. I could hear the bands playing. I could hear the fans. But I still couldn’t see a stadium. Then, I noticed a scoreboard peeking through the trees. Literally peeking through the trees.  The stadium was up ahead.

That’s odd. The stadium was basically a city block. And you kinda had to walk down to get to it. And the reason parking is a bit odd was because there was NO designated parking area. This stadium was literally boxed into a standard city block. The semi for our band had to double park on the street corner. Our buses were parked on the sidewalk.

Finally, I found the gate for the visitor entrance, reached in my pocket, and no cash. I remembered it was sitting on my counter at home. Didn’t that just make the adventure even better? I walked back down the block to my truck, headed over to the bank (which I passed earlier), drew out some moolah, then headed back to this city block stadium, and tried to find (create) another parking space.img_20160923_205234

Once I finally made it into the stadium, I walked over to the concession stand which looked a bit like an oversized plywood outhouse. My request was simply – peanut M&M’s and a coke.

The gentleman working the stand looked at me and said, “You know, I sold the last one of those last week and forgot to get anymore. But I gotta Snickers.”

Let me pause the story here for a moment to explain that I eat a bag of peanut M&Ms at each of our games and going into this game we were 5-0. Some may say that’s a coincidence, but I’m enough of a seasoned sports fan to know you never challenge something like that.

Back to the story, I repeatedly ask him about the candy selection, but no matter how long I inquired, peanut M&Ms never materialized. What the heck was I supposed to now? These people were seriously trying to put a hex on the whole darn game!

Finally, I settled for a pack of Reece’s and a Coke.img_20160923_194926

Then I got to take a good look at the inside of this stadium. Now, I’ve been to quite a few games over the years and I’ve seen all sorts of stadiums. Some are a lot nicer than others. This stadium was a new one on me. There was no fencing around the perimeter although the trees were pretty thick through there. And those trees were growing right behind the goal posts. I promise you the branches were only a foot or two behind them. There were trees on the other side as well, but I couldn’t see how close those were to those posts.

And behind the tree line, there was the street. I swear after one long PAT, I could hear a car alarm going off in the background.

But I have digressed once again.

When I found a seat in the stands and looked at the scoreboard, I could see it was going to be a long night for my Bears. They were down by a field goal and playing pretty poorly. Our quarterback couldn’t find the broad side of a barn. Both our defensive and offensive lines looked like they’d never played a single game before. They couldn’t block. They couldn’t stop penetration. They were getting walloped.

And I couldn’t help them because I didn’t have any M&Ms.

I never did figure out why a tree was growing between the goal post.

I never did figure out why a tree was growing between the goal post.

I ate the Reece’s cups as quickly as I could but soon discovered Reece’s Cups have absolutely no effect on a football game whatsoever. In fact they may have made things a bit worse.

Things were really starting to look bad toward the end of the 2nd quarter. The enemy was ahead 17-0. I knew I had to take drastic measures to get some good luck M&Ms. I went over to the band leaders and found the parent photographer who agreed to buy some peanut M&Ms from the home concession stand. Only official band people were allowed to go over to the home side.

Now, let me just say that if you ever (as an adult fan) tell other adults that your HS team is losing because you haven’t eaten any peanut M&Ms, they will look at you like you’ve lost your mind. Thankfully, I did not let that detour me from my quest.

As soon as I gave her the money, we scored a TD with a 2 pt conversion. And the half was over. Maybe, just maybe things were looking up. But we still had a long way to go. Did we have enough time for the M&Ms to work their magic?img_20160923_205806

It was the start of the 3rd quarter when I got the bag. There wasn’t a moment to lose. Y’all, I have never eaten a bag of candy so fast in my life. Thank goodness nobody got that event on camera because it was far from ladylike. I’m not even sure I chewed them all.

And miracles started happening on the field. Our QB found a receiver. Then another. The O Line was blocking everybody. HoCo scored a TD. 17-14. We were catching up.

Then the Jags fumbled on the first play after the kickoff. We had the ball on the 25. We scored again. We were up 21-17. The Jags punted with a three and out. Jake Fromm, our wonderful QB ran it in for another TD. We were up by 11. The enemy scored one more TD. (A very questionable one, I might add.) 28-24. All we had to do was run the ball for a 1st down and run out the clock. That last minute was a grueling slugfest pitting warrior against warrior.

And HoCo came out victorious!!

Some people may say that there is a strictly scientific explanation for the drastic turn around HoCo experienced last night. They will say that me eating a bag of M&Ms had nothing whatsoever to do with winning a football game.

Those people are wrong.

It’s all about the M&Ms, baby. And I will continue to support my home team by eating a bag of peanut M&Ms at each game. Next time, I’ll be better prepared with a backup bag just in case the enemy tries to hex us again.

And don’t be surprised if I bring in a 5 pound bag for the Northside game. Lord knows that’ll be a tough one and we’ll need all the peanut miracle power available!

Go Bears!!

 

 

Down With the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!

I don’t often write posts about blatant criminal activity. Usually, I try to be upbeat and positive in most situations. But it has come to my attention that a new brand of bandit is sweeping the nation and I felt all of you should be made aware. These fiends are causing uproars within their cities. Challenges the very foundations of positive civil establishments.

What new criminal element is this? Is there a new drug sweeping the nation? Vandals, violent gangs, bank robbers? Surely this may be the work of international terrorists.

No. These rebel rousers are far worse than any of that. These people are actually encouraging their neighbors to read!

{Giant gasp!}

Can you imagine the audacity of some people?!?!

And how are these perpetrators organizing such a movement? By constructing ‘Little Lending Libraries’ on their property.library-1220101_1280

You read that correctly. These master minds of the underground are constructing tiny lending libraries and putting on their on property. Then they are filling them with their own books and allowing neighbors to borrow those books any time someone wants a good read. They use subversive slogans like, ‘Need a book, Take a book. Have a book, Give a book.” And they’re doing so without permits from their cities and municipalities.

They’re circumventing the bureaucracy!

Now, granted most cities have policies about buildings and structures. There are rules and regulations. No one wants a building randomly coming down on top of people. Those are good policies to have in place. I personally don’t want a building to fall on me.

But lending libraries are by their very definition little. These structures are about the size of a dollhouse. They’re usually elevated on posts or stands. As of the date of this posting, I personally know of NO physical injuries sustained in conjunction with a little lending library.

Cities such as Los Angeles and Shreveport have begun investigating people who build lending libraries. Citizens have been told they will be required to buy permits, in some cases for several hundred dollars, in order to continue to have the structures. And in Leawood, Kansas a nine year old boy was told to remove his library because it was an illegally detached structure. The city had apparently received a complaint from a neighbor.

Now, I’m not going to suggest that this neighbor probably doesn’t need to be in close proximity to other people. Far be it for me to judge the sanity of a whackadoodle that would find fault in a nine year old giving books away.

But I will call foul on these cities and their so called ‘crack down’ on little lending libraries. Since the movement started several years ago, thousands of these structures have helped bring communities together in a way that is often unheard of in today’s social media based world. Neighbors are actually encouraging their neighbors to get out and meet each other. They’re sharing what they have with one another. They’re talking and socializing. And what’s more, they’re reading.

I’ve been interested in this movement for many years. I’ve always thought it was a brilliant idea. And something I definitely wanted to try. However, I’ve procrastinated. Other things always seem to come up. Now I think it might be time to act. It might be time to become a rebel myself. I think I need to be a bit of further research and figure out how to build one of these. If for no other reason than to stand up to the overwhelming idiocy that seems to stagnate so many areas.

And I encourage you to do the same. How wonderful would it be to see a return of intelligence? So if you have a book then give a book. Let’s encourage reading, thinking, and most of all, some good old common sense.

Happy Reading all you rebels! Go share those books!

Happy Birthday Daddy

13423976_10201878882250043_4216523626264368096_nToday is my Daddy’s birthday. He would have been 78.

Every year on this day I stop and think about the greatest man I ever knew. My daughter remembers him. She was six when he died. My son was just a baby. He never got the chance to get to know his grandpa.

I often wonder how my son would have been different if the two had spent time together. His life would have certainly been enhanced. I can imagine Dad taking my son, John, fishing on the pond or taking him down to feed the cows. I’m sure there would have been many hours spent around the barn or picking vegetables in the garden.

But that wasn’t meant to be. Dad passed away at the age of 64 about one month after his birthday. This years marks 14 years since we lost him.

Now my son only knows of Daddy through our stories. Some of you have met him as well. Beneath the Mulberry Tree is based on his struggle with cancer.

Whenever the family gathers, it’s inevitable that some long forgotten incident will come up into the conversation and we’ll all end up laughing for hours. Those are the best kind of family gatherings. Sitting around the dinner table laughing about adventures long since forgotten. It’s how I will spend most of my day today, with my mom and my sister, celebrating life and remembering the best Dad anyone could hope for. I don’t know what stories we’ll tell but I know there will be laughter.

Today as always, I love you Dad. And I miss you more than you will ever know.

Time or Inspiration?

propiska-a-notes-cernobilaI always knew that one day I wanted to be a writer. Even in my youth when I dreamt of doing everything under the sun, I could always see the day when my name was on the cover of a novel. Today, that dream is a reality.

For many years, though, I struggled with writing. I had tons of ideas, some good, quite a few bad, and even a handful that were downright horrible. Yet, I was never able to actually put pen to paper long enough to complete anything worth reading. I’d fiddle around with a beginning to a story. Maybe I’d jot down a few passages from the middle of another. Very rarely, I’d sit down and write the ending to anything.

I didn’t have the time to write.

Like so many other would-be writers, I didn’t have the time to devote to my craft. I owned a business, was a wife, a mother, and managed the day-to-day affairs of a household. I took the kids to the dentist. I took the cats to the vet. I shopped for groceries. In short, I did what countless of other novelists do on a daily basis yet they still found time to pursue their dreams of writing.

I couldn’t because I was too busy.

And then things changed. The economy tanked. My business closed. I got divorced. We lost everything and had to start completely over. Our family went through a financial and emotional upheaval. It was an abysmal time to say the least.

But something happened during that process. At rock bottom, at my very lowest point, when those who I thought were friends were nowhere to be found and I was alone, I began to hear that still, small voice in my mind. Stories began to form in a way I’d never experienced before. There had always been a dull drone in the back of my mind where ideas and characters went to die a slow and forgotten death. Yet now, it was as though I could finally hear, in crystal clear detail, what they’d been trying to say all those years.

I began to jot down some ideas. Slowly at first. It had been so long since I’d actually written anything that I wasn’t even sure how to begin. Initially I would describe something or someone. A simple, short paragraph. Nothing overly impressive. Certainly nothing worthy of publication. Then I saw two characters, two ladies, as clear as the noon day sky. I saw everything they were doing. I could hear they conversation. It was like watching a feature length movie.

I had no choice but to write.

In less than four months, I’d written their story completely. My first novel. I had given birth to my first full length manuscript! That single accomplishment meant more to me than any of the business accolades I’d ever received. It meant more to me than owning a business. It felt as though I’d successfully climbed Mount Everest!

And in a way I had. I’d overcome my biggest obstacle in life. By every definition, I was the single biggest failure you could imagine but through it all, I had survived and found my voice.

Today, I can’t imagine NOT writing. It’s almost a compulsion. I have to do it. Even though I’m still a mother, I still have to work, I still have to run a household, I still have to go to appointments and cook dinner. I haven’t gained any extra time in the day. I have 24 hours just like everyone else.

Looking back at the differences in my life now versus where I was a few years ago, I realize how much happier I am today than I was back then. I had let everyone else’s expectations and desires drown out my own inner voice. I had followed other people’s dreams down a path I didn’t want to be on. I had stayed in a marriage that should have ended far sooner than it did. I was miserable.

I didn’t abandon my writing because I had no time. I abandoned my writing because I let my misery drown out my voice. I wasn’t inspired to write. I wasn’t inspired to do anything. I was merely muddling through life on a predetermined trajectory. Once I was finally out from under that weight, my writer’s voice came back with a vengeance.

I can’t say that there’s an easy answer to the ‘time’ issue of writing. I certainly wish I had more time to write than I do. I still struggle with making deadlines and meeting my expectations of when a project should be finished. I am far from the perfect example of time management skills.

But now I find myself squeezing in time to write wherever I can find it. I’ll jot down ideas or story sections while waiting at my son’s orthodontist appointment. I’ll scribble frantically on those little paper place mats in a restaurant. I actively look for interesting ideas that might make a good story in the future.

Finding time is easy once you find your inspiration. Once you find your voice.

I sincerely hope that no one goes through the pain and turmoil that my family and I went through. In the end, it turned out for the best. I’ve been able to follow my dreams. I’m building a new life that I love. I’m happy. I’ve found my inspiration and my voice. But it was fraught with agony. I’m sure there should have been a less dramatic way for me to learn some of those lessons although I know that I was probably too hard-headed to listen.

I do, however, hope that all those who eventually hope to write take a few minutes to truly examine what is really holding them back. Is it actually a lack of time or have you created a life that denies your writer’s voice to shine through? Are you truly inspired to get up every morning and write? Are you willing to slog through the difficult times of novel writing because you know the story you’re telling must be told?

There’s no right or wrong answer to that question. We each have our own lives to lead and must find our own path to happiness. I encourage you to make sure that path you’re traveling on is actually one of your own choosing.

Best Wishes and Happy Writing!

15 Years Ago

13445249_1135924726449918_5186079892555005673_nLike so many Americans, today I find myself looking back to the day my world stood still. I remember exactly where I was at the time. I was serving with the 48th Infantry Brigade in Macon, Georgia. It was a rare morning when I arrived at work before my coworker. She came through the door and asked if I’d heard anything on the radio. There was a brief report about some plane hitting the World Trade Center.

What? Planes don’t crash into buildings. It had to be some sort of freak accident.

We quickly tried to look things up online but the traffic to all the news sites that day was unprecedented. When we finally connected and watched the video, it was clear, this was no accidental crash. Moments later, the second plane hit. Our country was under attack. I stepped into the Colonel’s office and told him the news.

As you can imagine, things escalated fairly quickly from there. I called my husband, who was a police officer working the evening shift. He normally wouldn’t wake for several more hours, but on 9/11 normal schedules were abandoned. Then I called my parents. They wouldn’t turn on the television until the late afternoon or evening so they hadn’t heard the news either. I made arrangements for them to watch my daughter.

On that day, I was a pregnant service member with a young daughter. My husband was a veteran and a police officer. We were your typical, public service family with too many bills to pay and not nearly enough money to pay them. And in the blink of an eye, everything we’d been trained for and thought would never happen was coming true.

I was terrified. Not for me, per se. But for my kids, my daughter and my unborn son. For my husband who would be thrust into harms way within a few hours. And for the rest of my family who were honest, hard working individuals just out trying to make a good life for their families.

And I was furious! I wanted vengeance against the bastards who attacked our country and those who celebrated the attack. I wanted them to suffer. I wanted them destroyed.

I don’t remember the exact chain of events that unfolded over the next few days and weeks. Things were a bit of a whirlwind. I do remember the eerie silence in the skies. I lived south of Atlanta in one of the major approach patterns for Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Not seeing daily planes overhead was surreal. I also remember attending a prayer vigil in downtown Macon. All the churches participated, Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, Greek Orthodox. and Jewish. There was a brief memorial service in each of the churches followed by a prayer vigil in the downtown area. Blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians — it didn’t matter what ethnicity you were. On that day we were all Americans. And we all held each other and cried for the attack on our nation.

My son was born about four months later. He’s a freshman in high school now and he’s learning about 9/11 as a historical event. His sister who is six years older remembers the day very well. She lived through it as a young child. It’s certainly a day she’ll never forget. As we remember the 15th anniversary of that tragic day, she is serving as an active duty Marine.

A lot has changed in our country since that day. A lot of people have forgotten the pain caused on that morning. In some ways, that’s a part of the healing process. We have to let go of some of the pain in order to move forward.

In other ways, that’s a bad thing. Many have forgotten that we are all, in fact, Americans. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is, when tragedy strikes, we all bleed red. We all feel pain, sorrow, anger, pride, and happiness. These emotions aren’t limited to the color of our skin. These are universal characteristics that everyone experiences.

America has problems. We always have. That’s as true today as it was two hundred years ago. We’re not a perfect country. We probably never will be. That doesn’t mean we can’t strive for perfection.

But that does mean we shouldn’t ignore all the wonderful things that make our country great. Ours is a free country. We have rights and privileges that millions of other people throughout the world only dream about. We have a plethora of natural resources and the ability to sustain ourselves.

And we have chutzpah in the face of adversity. We may fight among ourselves from time to time, as all families will, but let someone else try to attack us. We’ll unite and face that challenge with a mighty force.

I’m proud to be an American. I’m proud of our flag. I will never sit down as long as the Anthem is played unless I’m no longer physically able to stand. And I will NEVER apologize for that pride. I love my country. I love my fellow Americans. Some of them make me mad sometimes. Some of them make me want to say bad words sometimes. But I still love them. They’re my family. They’re my countrymen.

So, today, as we look back, let’s not forget that we’re also united. We’re Americans. We live in the greatest country in the world.

God Bless all those individuals who lost their lives 15 years ago. God Bless all the men and women in uniform who strive daily to protect our freedoms. And God Bless this wonderful country of ours!

 

 

My Writing Playlist

violin-924349_1920One of the most frequent questions I get asked about writing is what music do I listen to when I’m writing? For the most part, the answer is none when I’m actually putting pen to paper.

However, during the time that I’m writing a particular novel or piece, I’m usually listening to some type of music that will help get me into the general mood of the character. For example, while I was writing The Face in the Mirror, I spent quite a lot of time listening to opera, Broadway musicals, and classical music. Maggie Arnet loves her concertos after all! I spent hours pouring over the great arias and listening to various movements of different sonatas.

By contrast, when I was working on Beneath the Mulberry Tree, I needed to connect with a completely different era and mindset. There’s nothing like some great old jazz and swing to do that. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and, of course, my personal favorite, Ella Fitzgerald, were regulars on my playlist. These songs helped to put me in a frame of mind when romance was thought of in a completely different way. In many ways, romance was far simpler and more straightforward. Through the lyrics, I was reminded that love is not the convoluted experience we know today.

Now, I’m working on a different novel. The main character has an down-to-earth, country feel. He enjoys the simpler things in life and has a solid foundation in old fashioned values. So, what’s on the playlist? Country music from the 80s and early 90s. Before the cross-over pop culture infiltrated the airwaves. Artists that I miss hearing on a daily basis: The Judds, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Trisha Yearwood, George Straight, Vern Gosdin, and many, many others.

Many writers find that listening to music during the writing process is relaxing. Frankly, I don’t. To me it’s very distracting as I’ll get caught up in the lyrics of the song. Like the constant distractions of the internet and Facebook, too much music will draw me away from the ideas I’m formulating and the images I’m trying to convey. I’ll become wrapped up in another artists’ work.

If I do listen to much while writing, it’s usually a very meditative, new age type instrumental piece set to a low volume. My kids will sometimes joke with me that I keep my music so low that no one can actually hear it. For me, that’s the point. I want something calming but not distracting to the writing process.

Of course, when I do turn up the volume to try and immerse myself in my character’s mindset, my kids will groan and mumble at the music selected. Not always, but fairly often. I guess going between several hundred years of musical trends is not common. Thankfully though, my eclectic musical choices have rubbed off on them even if they won’t readily admit it.

In the end, if you’re a writer, the type of music you listen to during your writing process is as individual as the story you are telling. There is no right or wrong answer. What matters most is that the music doesn’t in any way hinder your process. If you detest Country, I certainly wouldn’t suggest listening to it while you write. Likewise for any other type of genre. Find the type of music that helps elevate your own unique voice, not the one that drowns it out. Then, the music you listen to will become an asset rather than a hindrance.

Happy Writing and Have a Great Weekend!