Monday
Oct012018

SEPTEMBER MORN

             Sunday mornings at my place usually consist of staying out of the office for a while and picking up stuff and straightening up of the house.   The couch cushions are checked for hidden treasures such as tennis balls.  Shelby’s bones and toys go into her basket and the rug gets vacuumed.  As I leave the room I can hear her emptying the basket and throwing everything back where it belongs.  Wash get done and put away and the sink emptied. 

                I’ve mentioned before that Sunday mornings always include music.  There’s no real rhyme or reason as to what goes into the mix.  Sometimes the list may go from Andrea Bocelli to Rod Stewart to Rod McKuen to Sarah Brightman.  Queen makes the list frequently as does Charles Aznavour and the Bee Gees.  Another favorite is Neil Diamond who takes up a lot of shelf space in my record collection. Seeing as how this is being written on September 30, Neil’s “September Morn” album is on the turntable.

                I have been a Neil Diamond fan since the late 1960s and Jerry always made sure to keep me supplied with any new album that came out.  He appreciated the fact that I had a few favorite singers, such as Neil, that he thought that could actually carry a tune.  It also helped that his slow songs were perfect for dancing to in our living room. 

                We moved from the Chicago area to Northeast Georgia late in the 70s and soon afterward were able to bring down my parents, thus forming our own mob-like enclosure.  Small town life suited us just fine and we busied ourselves with family and writing.  Then came August of 1984!  Neil Diamond was coming to Atlanta!!!

                Jerry not only got tickets for us but for our two kids and for my mother.  The kids had listened to his songs since they were babies. I’m sure my mother didn’t have a clue as to who he was or where we were going but it sounded like an adventure, for sure.  Boy, was she right.

                Having avoided actually going into the downtown Atlanta area up to this point, we suffered the consequences.  We had planned on leaving in plenty of time to get to the Omni, find our seats and settle in before the concert but… The interstate was a mess and there was nothing we could do except inch forward along with the rest of the traffic.  We were finally able to get off at what we thought was the correct downtown exit only to find out that we were wrong.

                 By this time Jerry was losing that thin veneer of adult confidence and cool we try to maintain in front of our children, right before we blow up and become the primal savages we really are.  Mapquest directions are not easy to follow when the vehicle is going really fast on unfamiliar streets while looking for a large building you’ve never seen before.  The kids were loving the roller coaster ride and my mother sat quietly with her eyes tightly shut, probably thinking that this was a big mistake.  I was already in the “It’s ok if we get there a little late mode,” and Jerry wasn’t buying it.  He knew this concert was important to me and he wasn’t going to let me down. 

                We eventually found the Omni, memorized the location and then spent more time circling the area to find a parking lot that still had space.  After paying almost the cost of a concert ticket for a little piece of real estate, we trekked back to the venue, dragging the kids and grandma.  We presented our tickets and walked into this humongous auditorium. Our seats were in the nosebleed section and the lights were already dimmed.  We never saw Neil walk on stage or actually see him sing his opening selection because we spent that time trying to get to our seats without falling.  Jerry had to contend with a night blind wife who lost all sense of balance in the dark, two young children who were too busy looking around to keep up and a seventy-eight-year-old mother-in-law.

                Grandma was a trooper and didn’t have a heart attack that night, thank goodness.  She did live until just shy of one-hundred years old.  The concert was great and we all had a wonderful time.  The kids didn’t lean forward and fall out of their seats onto the heads of those tiny people way down below and, we almost forgot that we still had to get everyone back down to the main level when it was over.

I was gifted with a concert tee shirt, which I still have, and the memory that Jerry always tried to keep his promises, even if meant endangering our lives to do so.  We found our car parked where we left it and drove at a much more comfortable speed on the long drive home.

Although Neil Diamond continues to write songs and to record, he has had to retire from touring because of Parkinson’s Disease.  His music has spoken to us for over fifty years and I hope for many more to come.  Thank you for all you have done to sing the words we all have in our hearts and for all the fond memories you have given us.

I remain,

Forever in Blue Jeans

Sharon

Monday
Aug272018

SURVIVE WHAT?

There’s a lot of talk today about survival, and how with the right combination of tools and gadgets, any obstacle can be overcome.  Some of us put up vast quantities of food and water and medical supplies in order to endure the coming catastrophe, whatever it may be.  Companies have grown by leaps and bounds, supplying us with all these necessities that will keep us safe and secure, no matter what the situation.             

 Most of us who try to plan ahead in case of power outages, floods, and other such disasters may feel confident that we can prevail over the bad and come out on top.  Living without electrical power for a day or two might bring the family closer together.  A night spent huddling in the basement telling stories or singing songs while waiting for the tornado to pass over sounds like fun.  Even the notions of breaking open your cache of survival supplies and actually using some of the items sound exciting!  Did someone remember to buy oil for the oil lamps?  Where did you stash the batteries? 

Eventually, reality will enter the picture and the fun of living “in the rough” will turn to, at the very least, an inconvenience and possibility something worse.  By now you’re having second thoughts about bringing your mother-in-law and her ancient, incontinent Chihuahua over to ride out the storm.   Next time remember to have a covered trash can in the basement to hold the dirty diapers your grandchild gifted you with.

Soon, the damage left behind from the storm has to be taken care of.  A lot of hard work needs to be done before normalcy returns but stories will be told for many generations about your survival readiness and skills. Other stories about you will be told when you’re out of earshot.

Some disasters just don’t share the same kind of charisma that’s associated with the “big” ones.  How does someone cope when their company suddenly goes belly up and they are out of a job?  A child needs medical treatment or medication and insurance doesn’t cover it?  The young man who is trying hard to keep his job can’t read very well?  Their only mode of transportation sighs its last breath and there’s nothing left in the till to replace it; how do they get to work?   A child has no one to look up to or talk to about their fears.  The old soldier looks out the window and sees nothing but his past, no future. She is feeling old and useless and nobody cares.  Does it get to that point when a person loses hope? How do they survive?

Stories like these are not on the evening news because these disasters affect only a few.  No organization is outside their home passing out doughnuts.  No pop stars are putting on a benefit concert.  Their neighbors probably don’t even know them or their problems.

We all get wrapped up in our own troubles.  Every day brings on more things to worry about, more drama to deal with.  Yes, be prepared for the “big” ones but take time to look for the smaller, more personal disasters that we might be able to help eliminate.  Sometimes it takes no more than a hug or a smile or perhaps sitting down and listening.  A promise of a ride, even to the bus stop could mean the difference to a person’s survival or a meeting at the local library, deciphering words necessary to excel at their job.

 While we wait for the next cataclysmic incident, hopefully, we can take the time to use our hearts and hands to share our resources with others who may need a boost. Remember that regardless of how many items we carry in our bug out bag, only a certain few will matter when we take that final walk up into the Retreat.

Sharon

 

BTW  We're working on volume #4 or SURVIVE LIVE WELL AND LIVE WISELY and it should be available shortly as an Amazon Kindle.  While you are waiting, check out volumes 1,2 and 3.  Only $2.99 and loaded with articles aimed at making your life better.

Wednesday
Jul112018

Summer Memories

Somewhere, I’ve not seen them for a while, I have a shoebox filled with spoons, hundreds of them and not one has ever been used as an eating utensil although one in particular was destined for such a task until I received it.  The collection started with an 1893 Chicago World’s Fair souvenir spoon and a few others equally as old that were given to me for some reason I really don’t remember.  I purchased an inexpensive spoon holder and hung it on the wall, happy to display them but now needing to fill in the vacant notches with more spoons.  Then, whenever we traveled we picked up a spoon to add to the group. 

State spoons, museum and zoo spoons, everywhere we went there seemed to be a spoon we could buy inexpensively.  Soon the spoon rack was filled and another had to be obtained, then another.  Friends would be on the look-out whenever they traveled and bring back a spoon; business associates would send me spoons from around the world.  An elderly friend of ours after seeing the rather large collection I had by now, contacted friends of his in Russia and had a miniature hand painted spoon made especially to join the display. In what seemed no time at all, an entire wall was covered in spoons.  My memory wall…

A little boy, now a man, “stole” a plastic spoon from a fast food restaurant still in its plastic wrapper.  That spoon always was in a special place of honor.  Another little boy gifted me with a black spoon that was over a foot in length.   I have spoons with animals on them, some with United States presidents and others depicting famous buildings or landmarks.  Each spoon has a story, just like friends.

 

Swan came to visit her son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter, staying with them for almost a year.  He was a college professor specializing in seed biology and could identify a plant from its seed but couldn’t tell you what it was once grown up.  His wife was a lovely young woman who understood and spoke very little English but her million dollar smile was a great communicator.  Their daughter, who was just starting school when they moved in next door to us, usually did duty as translator.  Once over the summer, they took a vacation and for some reason, they gave us their garage door opener to look after.  Not having such a contraption, many moments were spent pointing the opener from our kitchen window toward their garage door, just to watch it in action.

From that same kitchen window, we first spotted this tiny oriental woman dressed in pajamas posing in their backyard.  She moved slowly and gracefully from one position to another, one knee bent forward, arms stretched out in front of her, hands arched as if pushing against a wall, then curling back and repeating the motion, bending her other knee forward.  Oblivious, so it seemed, to her surroundings, she would add more movements that required her hands to be above her head while looking skyward then, dropping them slowly toward the grass below her feet and ending with hands outreached, as though ready to deliver a supplication.  At the end of the routine, the woman would just sit quietly on a bench for a few minutes before retreating back inside.

One early summer afternoon she came close to the fence while I was working in my vegetable garden, giving me a big smile and a hello.  She pointed to some of the plants and inquired as to their names then repeating them after me with a slightly different pronunciation. She then motioned to me to come over into her yard, wanting to know what was growing there.  Through a lot of pantomime and silly faces, we found a way of communicating.

She was a widow; her husband had been a doctor with a very successful practice and left her well taken care of.  Her children, two living in the States and one in Europe, would welcome her into their homes for as long as she wished, then put her on a plane when she was ready to move on, carrying photographs and stories and gifts to her next child’s abode.  I guess you could say she was a family ambassador, keeping everyone up to date on the other’s activities.

Over the course of that summer, we learned a little about T`ai Chi and the names given to the various positions like “part the wild horse’s mane” and “grasp the bird’s tail.”  She taught us how to play ping pong although she was so fast we never had a chance to keep up; her six-year-old granddaughter was even too good for us. We retaliated by taking Swan to a local gun range and teaching her -- a seventy-something, non-English speaking lady -- how to shoot a handgun and, we kept her secret from the rest of her family that she thought her daughter- in- law’s Chinese cooking left a lot to be desired. Swan had become addicted to fried chicken and whenever the rest of the family went out of town, she’d hitch a ride to her favorite chicken take out joint. We tried to teach her how to drive but that got way too scary. That was a summer filled with happy times.

Sharon

 

Thursday
Jun072018

How Reagan and Gorbachev Helped Us Write a Book

I just finished reading THREE DAYS IN MOSCOW, by Bret Baier and Catherine Whitney, and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the blow by blow account of how Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev changed the world and ended the Cold War. Reagan, known for his anti-communist views while president of the Screen Actors Guild, continued to chisel away at the wall of communism with his frankness and the sincere conviction that all people should be free during his tenure as President of the United States. 

Previous attempts with earlier communist hardliners had proven frustrating and unfruitful but when Gorbachev took hold of the reins of the Soviet Union, Reagan sensed that finally, here was a person with whom he could talk to.  What we might see as an easy situation to take care of -- just call up and set up a time and place and we’ll talk -- became a political and logistical nightmare for both sides.  Reagan and Gorbachev involved themselves in a game of chess where the balance of the entire world was at stake.  Reagan brought to the game his unwavering sense of “right will always prevail” and Gorbachev, his knowledge that economically and socially, the Soviet Union was breaking apart and change had to come. Gorbachev was also aware that the communist “old guard” had no interest in change and nothing but distrust towards the US.

Over the course of years, through face to face negotiations, phone calls and letters, the two men gradually became friends, not always agreeing, but seeing opportunities where they could find common ground.  Their coming together finally initiated the end of the Cold War and eventually, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.    Peace, if a somewhat tenuous one, had been achieved between our two nations.

Read the book no matter what your political persuasion.  The back story and the many fascinating characters make this a page-turner. So many of us were around during this long process and the eventual outcome, but not many of us were aware of the roles played by the leader’s wives, as well as the protocols having to be followed.  A true cat and mouse game, indeed.

Along with the rest of the world, Jerry and I were interested in seeing if there would be any changes once Gorbachev took the reins of power in the Soviet Union and a dialogue was started between the two men.  Some people thought that life would go on as usual and some thought that world peace was sure to come at any moment.  We were attending a book convention and one of the writers, upon hearing of the beginnings of negotiations between the two leaders, exclaimed that “peace has broken out!”  Jerry and I had more of a wait and see attitude.

On the long drive back home from the convention we started talking about what if peace DID break out?  Of course, being the demented people we were, all we could think about were all the ways this peace would not be a good thing. We came up with a scenario involving an alliance between the Soviet Union and Washington bureaucrats who wanted nothing less than removing power from the people of the United States, for their own good, of course.  Freedom fighters, beautiful women, guns and knives and something called the Beacon of Peace, way up in space, pretty much explains the novel that we published originally in 1986 entitled THE FREEMAN.  Peace can sometimes be messy.

Things settled down for a while between the Soviet Union and the US.  Trade deals worked well for both sides and Reagan’s hopes for more human rights given to the Russian people were achieved.  Today, Putin has taken a harder stance on our two country’s relationship with one another and time will tell what will happen.  Later this month, unless it gets called off again, President Trump will be meeting with the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.  Let us hope that they can find some mutual ideas with which to begin a relationship that will benefit us all and, we have the patience and understanding that this will undoubtedly not be a one night stand.

Sharon

Tuesday
May012018

Is it Just Me?

I was speaking with a young lady friend of mine over the weekend and during the course of our conversation I mentioned a historical novel that I had just finished reading and how much I had enjoyed it.  After one or two sentences about the book I could see her eyes glassing over and I stopped talking.  She told me that she enjoyed writing, but had no use for reading anything other than school assignments.  I’ve noticed that this is a trend, one that worries me.

              Some kids remark that reading takes too much time; watch the movie and be done with it!  Many years ago another young lady of my acquaintance chose to watch the movie, The Good Earth rather than read the relatively short Pearl S. Buck novel.  She watched the 1937 black and white adaptation starring Paul Muni and Luise Rainer and with all the confidence in the world took a test on it the next day in her literature class.  Can you guess what her grade was?  The movie is excellent but she missed out on such a wonderful story bypassing the original work.

                 I grew up on Chicago’s south side.  We didn’t own a car and, for a long time, didn’t have a television.  When we finally got one, there were only two channels available and after a certain hour, no shows were broadcast until the next evening.  This is not a call for sympathy but just stating reality.  We even had a two-party line for our rotary dial desk phone.  The radio was on quite a bit with programming that brought a variety of news and entertainment. As a family, there were those occasions when we actually would discuss a particular show that we had just listened to.

                No, I’m not a nerd but I was an early reader and would read everything I could.  I found some books left in the basement of a house we had moved into and they kick-started my passion for reading.  Of course I played outside, riding my bike and playing catch with my dog, but short winter days and times when staying indoors was a much better idea were perfect for curling up with a story that took me elsewhere.  Speaking of elsewhere, Robin Hood was first read under the covers, aided by a flashlight and I was introduced to Shakespeare sitting on top of a ladder while my father painted the living room walls.          

                My dad would walk me to our neighborhood library which was more than a mile each way.  The library was located in a large park which had ball fields.  He would take me close to the entrance to the library and find a baseball or soccer game to watch.  Keeping a close eye on the big clock on the wall, I knew I was good for an hour or two.

                The library was big, with dark wood on the walls and what seemed to me, miles of bookshelves waiting to be explored.  I would first find books that I wanted to take home – volumes from the Black Stallion series, Jim Kjelgaard’s Big Red series and books by Jack London.  I read biographies about people doing extraordinary things with their lives and I even read poetry.  After I had my “take home stack,” I would continue to wander around pulling out books at random just to take a look to maybe consider them for a future trip home with me. 

                At the predetermined time, I checked out my books and walked toward the ball fields to             meet up with my dad.  If a game was still in progress, we sometimes stayed there, he watching the game, me continuing reading.  Eventually we took the long walk back home, my arms hugging the books close.  Today, I continue to wander through our local library, wondering what I’ll find to bring home with me. 

                I worry that so many young people today have lost both their patience and their imagination.  Visual entertainment is thrust upon them 24/7; the world can be seen and “facts” from both reliable and questionable sources, given without them moving out of their chair.   Stories that authors wrote and rewrote until it met with their expectations, sweated over, characters defined… Fast forward and delete are instantly available.  Change and replace… move on.

      Maybe this is just progress, maybe I’m just too old to understand, but when I close my eyes I can still see the Black stallion running down the sandy beach the way I imagined the scene, not the way a movie director filmed it.

Sharon