Politics and Religion

That’s me in my first communion garb, when I got married to Jesus. I grew up with a Catholic mom who didn’t attend church and an atheist father. It was strange. I never went to church after I was on my own.

I felt like “Jesus is just all right with me” (remember that song?) but I had my own personal Jesus (remember that song?) I didn’t think too deeply about it. “Jesus freaks/out in the streets/handing tickets out for God.” (Remember that song?) Inevitably, my friends who became Jesus freaks had been busted by their parents for smoking pot.

I went to church again when I had kids. I felt like, well, I’ll give them this base and then when they’re old enough, they can decide. They went to cathecism and got all their sacraments. Our pedophile priest went to jail. When the priest who wants your sons to be altar boys goes to prison, it changes you. Also, I didn’t like other things. Their anti-abortion stance. No women priests. No married priests. It was so messed up.

I tried a few other churches but when my favorite “non-denominational” church fired our minister because she was Jewish, I lost faith. It feels really good to have faith but no matter, mine was gone. I hope there’s something after death, but chances are, there’s not. I still pray, and it works, there’s something inside me that responds to prayer. I’m comforted by the Buddha, who, when asked if there was a God, did not respond. Nobody knows, and that’s a fact. But I accept and understand the place religion has in people’s lives. I just don’t like the thing where it has to be one religion.

As for politics, I’m from a working class background and so is my husband. Our families have been union people from the beginning and we have always voted Democrat. I used to say I was an independent but I have never voted Republican. I take it election by election and I always like the Democrat candidate better. Usually they are more in line with every woman’s right to make all decisions concerning her body. I hate racism and bigotry and I see more of that in some candidates than others.

So, why did I just say all this? Well, this week I did a few political posts on Facebook, and I don’t usually do that. So I’ve been thinking about it all. Why is it a thing that we don’t talk about politics or religion? They seem like important topics to me, more now than ever. Yesterday, for 28 minutes, Hawaii believed they were being hit by a nuclear bomb. I think about that every day. That any day could be that day, and it seems this president more than any other kind of wants that. So maybe having a conversation or two about the politics and religion behind war and bombs isn’t a bad idea. Maybe it’s a very good one. Namaste.

Reading & Listening

I just listened to a woman read the opening from A Paris Notebook, my first novel from The Wild Rose Press. She’s fabulous. She’s hired! When my publisher hooked up with Amazon to offer TWRP authors a shot at Audible, I was right on it. 30% of people now listen to their books as much as read them.

Not many people read novels. It’s a tiny percentage of the reading public, most prefer non-fiction. It used to be the only people who read poetry were poets (and me). Let’s hope that’s never true for novelists. I know there are a zillion of us out there. And then some of them, like prolific Nora Roberts, write hundreds of (really good) books spanning their careers. I just finished Year One by The Nora and loved it. She’s written 200 books which just plugging in a few numbers I figure must be something like 5 books a year. So a book in 2.5 months. How does she do it?

This is a bit of a shaggy post. Lots of people are talking about the book by Michael Wolff that claims our current president acts like a child, doesn’t read and doesn’t listen. I feel bad for Trump. It’s so clear that he needs approval so he puff himself up with praise (mostly inaccurate) at every opportunity. I wince when I read things like “I’m a genius, and, like, mentally healthy, too.” That was a paraphrase, not a quote. But he did use the word genius to describe himself on Twitter.

I bet Nora Roberts wouldn’t do that. Neither would Oprah, who I hear may be mulling a White House race in 2020. If Trump runs again, we could call it the Celebrity Election. I really hope it doesn’t come to that. I like Oprah but I also like my Presidents to know how government works. I want them to know foreign policy. I bet she would do some homework before taking office. Because at least Oprah reads. She’s a really good listener, too.

New Year, New Spirit

Happy new year! I went to the bookstore yesterday looking for motivation. I need to move more. I’m not as active as my body likes here in Michigan during the winter months. I found a book (I always find a book) but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for…then I remembered an email I’d received from Cassie Steele about esoteric spiritual practices. Cassie writes for the website Backpack Universe and she sent me a link to an article on on using Tarot to deepen understanding of our life path.

I have been reading Tarot for many years and knew I could use Tarot to unlock the secret of motivating myself to move, but before I even got out the cards, I realized the universe had already taken care of me. I’ll be leaving Michigan for warmer climes later this month, to my new home in Florida, where exercise is effortless because I simply live differently there. I don’t hibernate. I do much more purposeful walking there and I dance more there, too. I eat more healthfully. I engage more with physical life in general. Until then I resolve to do some gentle yoga by the fire every day. Just a couple of asanas listening to “Here Comes The Sun” will work.

I’m a true believer in diving deep into self-awareness. I’ve read about everything in the bookstore on my particular favorites which have led to a greater understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses. I’ve had psychic readings, religiously read Astrology Zone every month, Astrobarry every week, and of course, read Tarot as a guide, and, more lately, a portal to my intuition. I recently did a day of reading other people’s cards in a Facebook group and found I didn’t need to consult any of my (many) Tarot books. I saw the symbolism of each card immediately and intuitively. Several of those I read for connected right away with my take on where their life is at and what they can do to improve it.

I also follow the phases of the moon. Kate Surgery, a psychic who did a reading for me a few years ago, writes a lovely essay on the phases of the moon every so often. We have a super full moon today so I’ll be checking out what Kate has to say about it. Susan at Astrology Zone worried that the full moon would intensify the already wild energies spent on New Year’s Eve. It didn’t happen that way for me. I had a single glass of champagne and was tucked in bed reading well before midnight. Perhaps due to the moon, I was more restless than usual and ended up awake anyway to see in the new year.

If, like me, you’re looking in the bookstore for a quick start kick off to a resolution, you might check out some of these less traveled paths to deepen your connection to body and soul in 2018.

 

Coping with the Holidays

My beloved Granny died on Christmas day many years ago. I remember going to the hospital in the morning, as we were visiting Al’s family later than afternoon. I walked into her room and she wasn’t there. I’d seen the flowers I’d sent out at the nurse’s station, so I had a foreboding feeling, but not trusting my intuition I asked a nurse if she’d gone for tests. Although there were no more tests and we all knew it. Granny was DNR and under hospice care.

Driving home, I wondered why I hadn’t gotten a call from my mom. I told Al I couldn’t face a party and he stayed home with me. We tried calling everyone in my family but nobody was answering phones. We went to my grandparents’ home, where there had been so many wonderful Christmases, and my grandfather answered the door. He looked dazed but stoic. Before we left that day, I had a much better understanding of how far his dementia had gone. Granny had kept that to herself.

Since then Christmas has been hit or miss for me. Some years it’s wonderful and some years it sucks. This year it was more better than bad. I saw all my grandchildren. I saw my kids and my folks. I had trees in Florida and Michigan and Al was with me. He’s had most of the month off, saving all year to have this vacation time together with family. I could not have done any of it without him. My anxiety for whatever reason goes into hyper mode during the holidays. As much as I love them, I can’t navigate them alone near as well as I can with Al handling the tough stuff.

I’m blessed and I know it. But I’ve had awful Christmases alone and with others so I think about those people who may not be doing so great, for whatever reason, this season. I can’t speak to the horror so much of the world has to cope with right now, I can only tell you how I lightened a dreary mood upon my return from Florida. This is something anyone who has a tree, holiday decorations, and ornaments can do. It really helped me and maybe, when you start taking down your wreaths and angels and candles, it will help you too.

A few years ago there was a wildly popular book about the magic of tidying up. That might have been the title. I didn’t read it but I heard about the premise: take each item you own and hold it while feeling the emotion it evokes. Does it bring you joy? Is it useful? Keep it. If it doesn’t, donate it. I did that in a small way with my tree ornaments this year. We didn’t have any on the one in Florida, just lights. Then the kids came and we got two very special ones. I decided I wanted every ornament that went on my tree to give me joy. (Much easier than doing with every possession you own!)

So over the course of two days I whittled my 300 ornaments down to less than a hundred. What I found was that joy didn’t come from expensive ornaments. They didn’t have to be shiny or beautiful. Joy came from remembering who had given me the gift. My granny gave me an ornament one year when I first started teaching. When I held it, just as I held the ornaments from my children and grandchildren, I felt joy.

I donated the rest of the ornaments to Salvation Army in the hope that someone will find joy in all the dazzle that just didn’t spark for me anymore. And that’s my recipe for a little Christmas magic. It doesn’t work half as well if you just put the joyless ornaments in the basement. You need to give them away. Only then will your joy be complete. Until the next disaster. We all have them. But this year, I hope your burdens are light and your joy shines.

Good Tidings

I read, signed, and sent my contract for Lily White in Detroit to my publisher yesterday. Yay! Now I must knuckle down and do some work on the ending as I promised my editor I would. Maybe I didn’t mention that before…she loved my story, yes, but the ending fell a little flat for her.

But why? I already knew. It was an epilogue and a clumsy one. My critic partner Tom had already suggested I cut it, but I didn’t, because I had an idea for my character and her arc and I didn’t want to give it up. I still don’t. I have ideas of how to layer those last actions Lily takes to personal freedom into the story a little earlier.

Think I’ll put it in the chapter I was afraid to write, so didn’t. I should have been braver but sometimes a writer just needs her editor to give her a little nudge. It’s a pretty fair bet that if you are afraid to write something, you must do so. Immediately.

Meanwhile, I have a few weeks to make the shift from my St. Pete set next book to editing Lily White, because it’s my publisher’s annual holiday shutdown.

In other news I am still reading Christmas novels. Just finished Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah. I’d read a few of her books before, The Nightingale, Firefly Lane. So when I got a BookBub deal for her older Christmas novel, I took it. And loved it. It might be my favorite Christmas novel this year.

This has been a different kind of holiday, but I’ve really enjoyed it so far, and I hope you have too. I went to Florida, helped Al paint and furnish a guest room, saw my son Mike and his family for five luscious days. They all four fit in the new guest room just fine! Came back to Michigan and maybe eight or so inches of snow, but there will be much more up north when Al and I go see our other son and his family later this week. They live in the snow belt and routinely get way more snow than we do here.

Counting blessings here, my grandchildren are the best. I don’t see them as often as I’d like, so every minute we have together counts. It was so fun to play with Owen and hold little baby Julia in my arms as she napped. I’ve done that with each of them as babies, feed them, they fall asleep in my arms, and instead of putting them down for a nap, I just hold them and drink them in. Babies to hold, books to write, books to read…Christmas doesn’t get any better than this.

 

 

 

 

Character Building

Still in Florida. Had a lovely visit with family and will be heading back to Michigan in a day or two. Don’t want to go. But don’t want to be without Al at Christmas more. All the while down here I have been thinking about my story and especially my main character. It’s like an old-fashioned flash bulb going off: click, click, click.

Each click, another part of her personality fits into place. Or a plot point. Or an important setting, like where the murderer came from and how he got into a secure gated community with a 24 hour guard. All this is happening like it always does at the start of a new project, without effort. Effort will come later. There’s so much to writing novels that requires work. I love this part, when things are first taking shape.

It feels like anything can happen. The story is wide open.

Those story clicks happen in all sorts of places. Having coffee at the clubhouse, sitting watching a sunset, strolling through the Dali. While the guys were off on a pirate ship, my daughter-in-law, Jessica, liked the museum option. My main character is involved in the art world, so going to the museum with Jessica and Julia produced a whole slew of clicks. Jessica was an art major in college, so I explained a little about the character and said “I may be calling you with questions.” She’s fine with that.

Meanwhile, I listened to the docent for the entire Dali experience for the first time. When I couldn’t quite see what she meant, Jessica helped me see those double exposures and things. Third trip to the museum, first time really getting into Dali’s art. (Those other times I was just consumed with Frida. I still am.)

Dali’s paintings remind me of tarot cards in the way that they are dense with symbolic images that a casual observer might miss. The docent and Jessica were there to answer questions and point out all the stuff I hadn’t really seen before. Dali’s an interesting artist and the museum is lovely but I’m not particularly drawn to his work. That’s okay. He’s inspiring to me for so many other reasons. Click.

My Struggle

I have been trying to read the first in the memoir series called My Struggle by Karl Ove. I gave up after about a hundred pages. Maybe I’ll get back to it but I don’t think so. It’s really a guy’s book; I don’t enjoy reading about teenage male boners. He’s an interesting writer in that he gets so into detail and that part of the reading experience can be lovely. I also felt for him as he was a teen living alone and I too had been a teen living alone. The feeling I grew up with was that my family didn’t want me. They all lived in one house and I had my own little place my dad owned. At the time, I thought it was cool to be so free from authority, but honestly, deep inside I was lonely and could have used some support and guidance. So, I did relate to that part of Karl’s struggle.

Kind of went off on a tangent there. I really do have a struggle of my own I wanted to write about today. Looking at my last post I see I had totally one hundred percent failed to take into account that I would be on the road eating restaurant food for four days in December. I am afraid to weigh myself. I had actually batch cooked some food on my diet plan and meant to bring it in my cooler but Al got me up very early to hit the road ahead of rush hour and I forgot nearly everything.

You can’t eat plant-based whole foods in restaurants. I did my best. Wait. That’s a lie. I caved in by lunch and things just went downhill from there. I had to buy stronger medication as the Lactaid alone wasn’t cutting it. You know, one thing I learned early in life is to love myself and forgive myself. So I have done that. And I have gotten back on the right eating plan. But it took five days, because we don’t keep food in our house in Florida. Bugs like it when people leave for six months. So we had nothing, not even salt and pepper, when we finally got here.

I knew exactly what to shop for our first day here and I started eating my Starch Solutions meals. So that’s half a plate of potatoes, rice, or other whole grains, a quarter plate of veggies, and a quarter plate of fruit. Al eats what I do, plus he’ll grill salmon or chicken. He also will pick up treats for himself like KIND chocolate breakfast bars and Skinny Pop popcorn. He’ll say “Look! It’s vegan!” And it is, but I can’t eat it if I’m trying to lose weight. Or even just not gain.

This part is hard to say but you’ve heard it before. Wine and vodka mess with my body more than anything, but wine has been my go-to de-stressor forever and I’ve grown fond of the occasional martini. I keep reading books about how to be more moderate in my drinking. I don’t think I’m an alcoholic. I just think I let myself have something if I really want it. And having a glass of wine always leads to two. Then I switch to water for the rest of the night. This is why I don’t think I have a serious drinking problem. I don’t drink until I pass out. I can stop after one or two drinks. I actually want to stop.

I might have a little problem, well, I know I do, because I make promises to myself and then I don’t keep them. Be it food or wine or whatever. Then I think, well, don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re human. You’re 62 years old. You’re trying to completely change the way you eat. As for alcohol, some days I’d like to just quit drinking. Other days that feels like too harsh of a punishment. And every day I’d like to quit eating outside my diet. I feel so much better eating PBWF. It is the diet my body loves. Now that I’m here and set up for cooking and eating this way, I’m sure I’ll be fine. Most of the time.

The other thing is the kids are coming. My parents are coming today, just to visit. They have their own condo not far away, like literally five minutes. My mom has always been a healthy eater and she doesn’t drink so that’s a plus. I can make us a salad and she’ll be good with that. The kids, on the other hand, are coming to stay. Al and I are in the middle of changing my office into a guest room. Mike and Jessica love sushi and so I know I can serve that, but there are bound to be times when we are eating out as a family. I am overjoyed at the prospect of seeing little Julia (just six months old now) and Owen. And of course Mike and Jessica. My parents will be meeting Julia for the first time.

It’s an exciting and happy time and I am not going to make it all about me and food. My family doesn’t read my blog; they don’t know my struggle. They know I’m always on a diet. They know I don’t eat meat or dairy. They are not food pushers. I’ll be fine with them, happy to see them and spend time with them. It’s just me I’m trying to be fine with right now.

And in keeping with that holiday spirit, we have bought a Christmas tree even though we will be back in Michigan in a week or two. I love Christmas and I knew it would be make me sad not to have at least a tree. It’s so pretty lit up at night, and our community goes all out with the outdoor lights. Last night I wasn’t sure what was shining brighter, that big gorgeous moon or the lights here below. Here’s hoping you are enjoying the lead up to the holidays, too. And if you struggle with food issues like I do, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t be perfect. xo

 

 

Dieting During the Holidays

I am always on a diet, so dieting during the holidays is not new to me. But the diet I’m on now is different. Some of the foods I’ve given up in order to reverse the diabetes and lactose intolerance trends in my body are: sugar, dairy, alcohol, meat, and oil. What I eat impacts my health. I feel the effects of dairy almost immediately, while other stuff takes awhile, as I have learned after  the temporary amnesia that kicked off the holidays.

On Thanksgiving, friends made a wonderful feast — all the traditional holiday foods. There were plenty of fruits and vegetables and grains. There were other things too, but it was Thanksgiving, and relaxing my vigilance for one day would not kill me. I had a little of everything and ate every bite on my plate. I also enjoyed cocktails plus a sliver of pumpkin pie. No whipped cream. Virtuous, right?

Well, not really. Dairy makes me ill. Lactaid pills work, but only to a degree. I knew there’d be cream and butter in the mashed potatoes, I saw the bacon in the Brussels sprouts, and my hostess informed me that she’d used mozzarella and parmesan cheese in those yummy potatoes as well. They were delicious and I felt fine.

Perhaps the pomegranate martini helped. And the wine. You can eat PBWF and still have a glass of wine once in awhile. But probably not three. At least that is what my pounding head and desert dry mouth informed me when I woke in the middle of the night. Lying in bed, trying to sleep, remembering the dinners out with friends on Wednesday and Friday, the nights before and after Thanksgiving, I tried to count the ways I’d veered off the PBWF path. Things were a bit hazy, but I knew I’d overdone it again, me and millions other folks this time of year.

Yesterday I felt tired all day. I was happy my friend had packed lots of leftovers from her  turkey dinner for us to take home. Al could eat that. I wasn’t really hungry. I wasn’t exactly sick…I just lacked energy…I tried to explain to him how I felt. He said “Sounds like you’re hungover.” What?

I don’t get hung over anymore. I hadn’t had that much to drink. Then I realized, maybe I was hung over, and not just on alcohol. Dairy products, sugar, salt and oil are used in almost all restaurant food, sometimes in abundance, unless you order a salad without dressing and a plain baked potato. Which I hadn’t done.

I have a plan for December. Cook everything myself. And don’t drink any wine. Drinking just encourages me to eat things I shouldn’t, like those nachos on Friday night. Plus alcohol is nothing but empty calories. This holiday season I vow to eat less calorie dense food, like fruits and vegetables and whole grains, which will give me energy, help me lose weight and just maybe, if I get my Christmas wish, reverse diabetes.

 

Holiday Reading

I love the holidays and one of my favorite kick-offs to the season is reading Christmas-themed novels. I don’t usually read historical novels these days but adore sinking into Regency and Victorian settings this time of year. So far, every holiday book I’ve read, from contemporaries set in the States, to one in Cornwall, to the historicals that are strictly British, has been a top star experience.

It’s not always easy to find the perfect Christmas novel, so in case you’re like me and eat these up like candy, I’ll list the ones I’ve enjoyed below, in no particular order because they were all yummy.

Jane Feather’s delicious “A Holiday Gamble” was so much fun that after turning the last page, I immediately ordered her “Twelve Night Secrets.” They are both Regency set. I’m a high stickler for proper period novels and Feather gets it just right.

Also adored “Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery” by Jenny Colgan, “Away for Christmas” by Jan Ruth, “A Christmas Return” by Anne Perry, and “Winter Solstice” by Elin Hilderbrand.

Next on my list, I’m going to hunt up Jan Ruth’s other Christmas title, this one a set of short stories. Ruth is a new author to me, so she’s a particularly delightful find.

BlueLakeChristmasMystery_w11004_100

Sending the blessings of the season, along with ten copies of my own 2016 Christmas novel Blue Lake Christmas Mystery to the winners of my Goodreads giveaway. If you missed the giveaway, it’s still on Kindle for 99 cents. Not sure how much longer that sale will last, maybe another day or two. My publisher puts those sale prices up at my request, but only for a few weeks.

Sexual Assault

Who knew it would get worse after Cosby? Who knew even our country’s president would be one of the sexual predatory creeps out there? And Al Frankel! Jesus, it breaks my heart. I wrote this post a few years ago. With so many women speaking up now I’m hopeful things will change. And for those guys who ask “Why’d she wait so long to tell?” Sure blame the victim. I’m 62. So many women in my generation thought change would never come. That’s just the way some men are and YES some old men like teenager girls. Men with power will almost always try to use it on some woman somewhere. Hollywood, come on! This has been forever. The term “casting couch” is ancient.

Cynthia Harrison

614SObutttonWEBMaybe because of the Bill Cosby news lately, maybe because the fiction I’m writing deals, in part, with a rape and its aftermath, maybe because I’ve been sexually assaulted five times–whatever the reason, this is the post I never wanted to write. And yet, I have to tell this story. You wouldn’t know by the statistics, which are lower than I expected, but I think it’s almost every woman’s story.

Five times. Is that a lot? I can’t bring myself to dig that deep into the raw data, and anyway, most victims are probably like me and don’t report these crimes. Being assaulted sexually, short of rape, seems tame. Seems like whining to complain. Seems like I got off easy. Should be grateful. Should shut up about it and get on with my good life. Which, until today, I mostly have.

Nobody knows my number. Five. I didn’t know my…

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