Writing this, I’d only just gotten my 4th Covid shot and was feeling woozy. Rather than working on my novels, for several days I slept, hence this post is short. Fortunately, as of this morning, I’m back to a very grateful normal. Besides the added immunity, I’m especially appreciative that for the first time since I got Covid a year and a half ago, earl grey tea doesn’t smell like moldy onions, and lemons don’t give off a chemical non-citrus fragrance. These things can come and go, so I’m almost superstitious about telling you that perhaps my long Covid is finished…
Wouldn’t life be so much easier if all good people wore white cowboy hats and bad ones wore black ones? Something, anything, to give us a one-size-fits-all way to sniff out flower-scented nice folk from stinking pee-yew creeps?
This is a plea for all of us to remember that intentions are everything.
Micro and macro aggressions definitely exist. To expect them before we’ve hardly laid eyes on someone, however, is to water seedlings of distrust and to give them free rein to take over.
It’s bad enough we had the Trump reign dividing us. Then came covid, with all the finger-pointing of who washed, masked, and vaccinated. Gender labels and pronouns (explained here by Suzanne Craig-Whytock) can be tricky for some (a video about it here) more than others. Lately I’ve read that inquiring into someone’s cultural background ought to be off limits.
Like I said, intentions are everything. Bearing that in mind, the world becomes a wonderful place.
Using differences as opportunities to learn more about each other, we build bridges. If someone asks us something, it’s okay to ask them why they want to know and not answer. Personally, I love learning about others and they’re often flattered that I’m interested. Allowing missteps to become gentle teaching moments, we learn what someone’s intentions are.
A couple of yoga class examples, from pre-pandemic days when I didn’t take zoom classes, that I know aren’t exactly the same thing but somehow relate:
One day a classmate arrived a little late and was clearly frazzled. When she put down her mat, it blocked the view of a student behind her. The rear student fumed, yet didn’t say anything to the distracted yogini in front. “Yogic serenity” for everyone nearby, though, was decimated. Thank you, rear classmate, for teaching me that when someone later blocked my view, the answer was to tap their shoulder and gently ask them to move a few inches.
Inside that yoga studio’s dressing room, the beleaguered rear classmate encountered a tote bag on the changing bench. She fumed that she couldn’t sit down. It wasn’t mine, but I placed it on the floor. Problem was solved.
When I shared these types of stories with a friend, she argued that one shouldn’t have to “shoulder the burden” of educating cretins. Bravo to anyone who’s never an ignoramus. Alas, I can and will be one all too often. Thank you, thank you, thank you nice people who’ve been gracious to me.
Please don’t let us all become so afraid of each other that we make ourselves miserable and we never mix with people unlike ourselves. Let’s try to assume the best, speak from our hearts, and think of each other as individuals we might have more in common with than not, rather than generalities.
(For sure this is off-topic — but just wonderin’ and to see whether you’re still with me — I recently was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. If you’re vegetarian and count carbs and/or glycemic load, yet avoid getting overloaded with fats and becoming a walking skeleton, what are your best tips?)
Being gracious costs nothing. Better yet, it doesn’t make anyone lose sleep, doesn’t raise blood pressure, and maybe even prevents someone from kicking their dog — or worse…
What do you do when a stranger gets on your nerves?
Share + Like + Rate + Comment + Follow + Email me at ContactdaAL@gmail.com
Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of young people leave home to start college. In one case, friends were driving their son to begin university classes in San Jose, 400 miles north of Los Angeles. My husband and I flew to meet up with the parents and then the four of us enjoyed a leisurely drive back south.
Along the way, we also visited a young cousin from Spain who that very week relocated to attend college in Santa Barbara, a stunning affluent beach town.
These images are from that drive…
Seeing these teens on the precipice of adulthood got me thinking of when I was their age and how I set out on my own.
Dear reader, what was that transition like for you?
The way I was raised, girls absolutely must not aspire to anything beyond the role of ultra meek wife, and mother. That was my father’s indoctrination, and my mom supported it, although she was also the family’s breadwinner.
By age seventeen, I resided in at least fourteen different apartments and attended about ten schools. That year, my parents and I lived in Miami, Florida.
Video Note: Piedras Blancas is the beach of choice for many elephant seals. Average males grow to 16 feet and 5,000 pounds, so babies risk getting smothered by them. Learn more about them here.
My sole plan was to make it out with my sanity intact and to never return, even if it meant resorting to prostitution. I set to earning good grades and a high school diploma. To save money, I worked at the local mall’s pet store and earring kiosk. My parents didn’t charge me for rent and food, and I saved my earnings, carefully spending only for needed doctor and dentist visits, and clothing.
My father greatly admired Pablo Picasso, a fellow Spaniard. Everything I’ve read about the famed artist paints him as a complete horror of a family man, so much so that even his grandkids still fume about him. My dad was fond of paraphrasing one of Picasso’s milder sentiments, which was that offspring should be given the boot the moment they reach eighteen, and they should never get financial help or guidance.
Video Note: The entire length of Pacific Coast Highway is phenomenal.
It was generous that my parents waited the extra couple of months between my birthday and graduation to move to Spain.
I want to kid myself and believe that’s when I left home. A little before they departed, my mother asked if I’d like to join them. The relief in her posture when I shook my head no was enough to deduce this was one move where an insubordinate wasn’t welcome. That’s when I realized it was me who was being abandoned.
My father’s farewell was more honest than hers. He shook my hand and said, “Look us up if you’re ever in Spain.”
They saved me feeling guilty and ambivalent. A whole new life was plenty enough to contend with.
Video Note: Morro Bay is famed for Morro Rock. The historical site was formed about 23 million years ago from the plugs of long-extinct volcanoes. While we visited, Otters were doing log-rolls and lounging tummy-up in the water, but they were too far off to snap a good photo.
The necessity for compassion is a running theme in my blog posts. Often I urge people to keep in mind our interdependency extends far beyond our families of origin.
Lucky for me, a friend took me in. Her parents had completed a mean divorce and she lived with her dad. He spent his days smoking and drinking and lamenting his loss of work because of his drinking. He’d been a long-time executive at a major airline and now he was passing time until he could draw his pension. As un-promising as that may sound, he was kind and patient in a way I hadn’t experienced a man to be. He and his spirited daughter provided a good family to me. They gave me confidence and taught me the basics of adulthood.
As for young people, author/blogger Darlene Foster has written eight books for them (and everyone else) in ten years! She writes full-time from Spain, and also writes and does some editing for other writers. She says, “I also travel whenever I get the chance and consider it part of my research. It’s a good life.”
When I asked her to let us know how she went about getting published, she emailed back:
“It took me three years to write my first book and five years to find a publisher. I sent out query letters to many publishers around the world, received many polite rejection letters and eventually found a publisher in my own neighbourhood. Go figure! Central Avenue Publishing is an independent traditional publisher and I am very happy with the professionalism and dedication of my publisher. The lesson here is, never give up!”
Learn more about Darlene, her books, where to get them, and all her social media links, at her blog.
One of my favourite memories from my childhood is sitting on a large rock in the middle of a prairie field making up stories in my head. I had a wonderful childhood, although I didn’t always appreciate it at the time. I found it lonely, as I like being around people, and often wished I lived in a big, busy city. But it gave me plenty of time to daydream and create characters and adventures that later fuelled my desire to write. In grade three, I had a wonderful teacher who encouraged me to write down my stories. She also taught us about other countries in such a fun, interesting way that made me want to travel the world and meet interesting people. I owe her a lot and have since found her and thanked her for making a difference in my life. When I was twelve, one of my stories was published in the local newspaper. I decided then that I wanted to be a published writer one day.
Why did I choose to write children’s adventure books? I love writing for children, they are like sponges and eager to learn. They enjoy adventures and characters who can get themselves out of a tight spot. I can better express the excitement of travelling to new places when I write from the point of view of a child.
Interestingly, many adults read my books and enjoy them as well. Kids’ books aren’t just for kids!
The stories in the Amanda Travels series are inspired by my real-life travel experiences.
When I visit an interesting place, I get a strong desire to share my experience with the rest of the world. The best way for me to do this is to write about it. I am always thinking of how I can work a setting or situation into a story. I take notes and many pictures during my travels and think about what would interest a young person.
I have travelled to all the places Amanda has been. However, I do not have all the adventures Amanda has. She has more fun, excitement and scary experiences in her travels than I do. For instance, I took a riverboat cruise down the Danube with my best friend and our husbands a few years ago, on a boat called, The Sounds of Music. It was a trip of a lifetime, with stops in Germany, Austria, and Hungary. I knew immediately it would be the perfect setting for an Amanda and Leah adventure. Including music in the story was a no-brainer. This is how Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music was conceived.
On another occasion, I travelled to Taos, New Mexico with my aunt, who is also one of my best friends. We had such an amazing time. Besides being steeped in history, the place has a very paranormal feel about it. We even visited a haunted hotel in Cimarron. Everywhere we went, I kept saying, “Amanda would love it here.” When I returned home, I immediately started making notes which eventually became, Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind.
I love to read and so does Amanda. Books are important to both of us. When a vintage novel goes missing, Amanda feels compelled to find it. I love visiting the many used bookstores in England so I wanted to include one in the novel. I found a quintessential bookstore on the Isle of Wight which was perfect for the story, including a resident Main Coon cat. Rupert, the cat, plays an important role in Amanda in England: The Missing Novel.
My latest book in the series, Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady was a result of a trip I took with my hubby a couple of years ago. I loved the history and culture of Malta and felt it would be an ideal setting for an Amanda Travels book. I tossed in some endangered birds, a missing artefact and a friend in danger. Amanda would do anything to help her friend. One reviewer said, “I love the author’s ability to bring the settings alive, from the Blue Grotto to a beautiful cathedral in Valletta, all while keeping the suspense high.”
It took me three years to write the first book, Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask. It was a steep learning curve as I had so much to learn. I am still learning, but I can write a book in a year now. Keeping things fresh in a series is a challenge. I keep up with today´s young people, hang out with them and listen to their conversations. I introduce new characters in every book to keep it interesting. The character of Caleb, a classmate and good friend of Amanda’s was introduced in the New Mexico book. He was so well received he appears again in Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady.
Publishing eight books in ten years is a huge accomplishment for me. I have also won prizes for my short stories and have had stories published in several anthologies. A milestone for me was visiting my former school in rural Alberta and reading from my books to the current students. Seeing my books available online, and on shelves at bookstores and libraries is the most incredible feeling. Having readers tell me they enjoy the stories and hope I write more is like a dream come true.
If this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up!
Amanda is the twelve-year-old I would have liked to be. It is so much easier for kids to travel these days, but I didn’t travel on an airplane until I was in my mid-twenties. I would have so loved to see the world as a child. I am doing it now through my writing!
That’s why I love writing for kids. (And grown-up kids)
What was the day you became an adult?
Share + Like + Rate + Comment + Follow + Email me at ContactdaAL@gmail.com
Whenever a holiday looms, my first reaction is to gag at all the goopy generalities that pop up more vigorously than do the weeds in my lawn. At least those I can pull up. But what do I do with celebrations that dictate only one way to feel?
Take, for instance, Father’s Day. Everywhere, right about this time of year, are messages of how wonderful dads are. Okay, let’s say that some fathers are. And a bunch aren’t, right? The same goes for Mother’s Day and “blessed is the family” designated events such as Xmas, Thanksgiving (and don’t get me started on other sundry celebrations).
Back to Father’s Day. No matter how relentlessly someone tries to gaslight me into their parallel universe, the fact remains tht mine wasn’t “nice,” to use a shorthand for all the ways he was relentlessly “awful” (an understatement). Writers who go into detail about stuff like that deserve the utmost respect. But if I elaborate further now, my loved ones will be stuck with a glum me for the rest of the day.
Besides, my purpose here is to, a) remind you that it’s okay to not get warm fuzzies over any kin-dedicated day — and, b) to let you know about a way to enjoy an avatar father! A do-over of the very best kind!
Some people are scared of strangers. From childhood on, they were most comforted “in the bosom of family” (a term that for me conjures only snarky innuendos). My growing up was the other way around. I love strangers. Some could be dangerous, but ditto for relatives. Better still, with strangers, there are no expectations. Moreover, they don’t have to be in my home.
Any nicety from a new person warms my heart better than finding treasure on the sands of a long-deserted beach. Ta dah! Enter Virtual Dad!
During my ongoing education that’s poised toward a future podcast of my novels, I googled some things about microphones. After bumbling upon Josh’s Youtube channel and thanking him for the info, I saw his offer to record personalized fatherly praise.
Cynic that I can be, I almost didn’t ask, figured nothing (or worse) would come of it. Then, to prove my own point to myself, I typed in a request…
Waddya know?! — within a matter of days, he answered with this. Basically, all I’d said was that I was working to publish my first podcast episode. Clearly, he researched my blog so he could get the shoutout just right. Plus he pronounced my name perfectly…
…and wouldn’t you know it, I surprised myself by how it bowled me over! He doesn’t ask for cash, he doesn’t proselytize, and thank goddess he’s neither racist nor bigoted — he’s just — dare I type this? — a decent person.
His Youtube “about” page tells how he — wait for it — basically wants to be a good father to his own four kids and to help others along the way. He describes everything from how to shave and how to avoid scammers, to the three best ways for young people to succeed in life and how to whip up easy eats like a grilled cheese sandwich golden and crispy enough to smell through the screen.
To be clear, dear readers, I’m not into guns whatsoever. In your interest, I watched his episode on them. Hallelujah, he wasn’t promoting gun ownership and he prefaced his talk with extensive stats on how truly dangerous they are and seriously they must be taken. Having served in the United States Air Force for twenty years, some of his duty in Afghanistan, and losing many friends, his weapons experience is vastly different from mine.
In addition, despite that I’m a vegetarian, for your sakes I sat through his chicken grilling DIY. His interspersed recount of a near-killing incident was in no way self-aggrandizing, was totally sober and compassionate. He’s obviously from a different culture than I was raised in and definitely overly young to be a real dad to me — but that’s just fine. I don’t ache for a father, not in the least. That said, the aforementioned sincere kindness of strangers has always served me well.
Essense of dad? Eau de dad? Dad-ness? It’s all good. Maybe it will be for you too?
If you’re not into father stuff, but appreciate something vaguely in the same vast range, here’s this…
There you go, friend. For anyone anywhere yearning for kind words from a father-ish nice adult any time of the year, and for whom Opie’s dad character on the Andy Griffith TV shows isn’t interactive enough, consider a virtual alternative.
Have you ever felt Happy Un-Father’s Day-ish? If you know of anyone or want someone to understand, please share this post. Maybe they’ll find comfort in that Un-Father’s Day, any day of the year, is okay.
Share + Like + Rate + Comment + Follow + Email me at ContactdaAL@gmail.com