Monday, June 23, 2014

Interview with The Written Word

Last night I filled in as a last minute guest for The Written Word on blogtalk radio.  You can click the link and hear me talk for about an hour if you would like.   --Enjoy this discussion on "What Mattered" to the Greeks and "What matters today" all while discussing my book and writing, my children and family.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Why I wrote Pray for Peace as a Facebook Status the Other Day

Feeling pensive today. Probably going to get me into trouble.  

This week, I've had fewer children at home, which gave me time to do something I don't often get to do. I read the news.  And I posted "Pray for peace, pray for peace, pray for peace."  Someone asked afterwards, why in particular. 

Everything I read made me think of the quote. "War is upon us, whether we will it or not," as Aragon says.   The world feels topsy-turvy when the paper and the internet news sites frame the officials of Iran as reasonable for stating the obvious danger of ISIS in Iraq, and seem more morally solid than the United States.

But when I read deeper into the news, it is the same fight over again.  Iraq is ruled by Shi'te elite.  Iran also is run and ruled by Shi'te also known as Shia and Shiites (from what I could research).    The insurgence is Sunni.  It is a vicious cruel new chapter in the civil war between the Sunni and the Shia, one which will destroy anything we've done over since March 20 of 2003, and reveals the true complexity of this situation.  

The Shi'te cooperated with the US from the get go, ergo we deem them the good guys.  The Sunni followers are the largest Islamic sect.   Iran offering to help, is also Shi'te, Sunnis in Iran are not allowed to build mosques and has numerous restrictions on those who practice a Sunni as opposed to Shia form of Islam.   Abuses and attacts on this minority in Iran (9%) are common place.  So when Iran offers to help fend off the rising militancy of the Sunni in its neighbor Iraq, it's not exactly out of neighborly goodness or feeling shocked at the atrocities those engaged in ruthless rounding up and shooting of policemen, border troops, bombs of military buildings and government offices and public executions and beheadings.  It's a both and situation.  As the  al Qaeda backed leader of the insurgency chillingly boasted, "I'll see you in New York." 

These are terrorists, racing through Iraq, killing people and taking over cities.  They are militarized and obviously organized and armed with bombs, guns and a fierce and calloused will. 

And it is beginning again, as the United States is quietly sending  Iraq and I love the term, "300 military advisors." according to the New York Times.   There isn't a shining right answer, but like in math, there are an infinite number of wrong ones.  One of which is doing nothing, another of which is thinking we know everything.  I do not envy anyone in leadership right now.  I'm praying for them.

 We're going to have to decide how to act as a country, we know what is being done is wrong, rather than merely react to what happens.   If past is prologue, we will ignore until we get hurt, and then it has to really hurt, at which point, we will overreact in response.  I'm hoping we've learned something from history. Evil must always be opposed, or it spreads.  The question is how to oppose evil. 

That's why I wrote:  Pray for peace. Pray for peace. Pray for Peace.     

Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Have an Awesome (really) Summer

10. Make a plan.  You may not get to everything, but make a plan. Otherwise, when the kids say "I'm bored." you will either spend too much money, turn on a screen or miss the opportunity to make really lovely memories.  We have a list of 100 things to do this summer on our refrigerator.  This alone takes care of a day, just making the list!

9) Be Spontaneous. Yes, it seems like it contradicts #10 but it doesn't.  Today you go to the pool. Tomorrow the park, the day after that, the library. They don't know what you've got planned, but they know, you've got a plan, that makes the kids, be they 16 or 6, ready to go along, to trust you've got something up your sleeve.  

8) Be present.  The best days?  When I sit and play cards with them, when we turn on the radio and dance, or buy ice cream from the truck and read six box without getting up.  None of those require massive cash, only presence.  A sprinkler in the backyard is pure joy especially if Mom and/or Dad join in the play.  For older ones, capture the flag with mini squirt guns --so everyone can play and no one cries, is necessary. Yeah, we use water balloons too.  We've never quite grown up.

7) Food, glorious food!  Buy from the roadside stands, pick berries, make ice tray pops like they used to show you on Saturday morning and show the kids this little goofy thing from your childhood that makes them glad they are young now.  


6) Frustrate yourself.   Yep.  Teach yourself something new.  Summer is time for mistakes, lots of them, without the irritation of a grade.  So paint, sew, play the guitar.  DIY.  Garden. Read a hard book, begin to learn a language or take up exercise. Be prepared to learn through hard knocks.  You'll model to your children the reality they know in school but think somehow stops after adulthood hits, that learning is  process, it's hard, it's work, and it takes time, but ultimately, it reveals character, it deepens one's empathy for others, respect for those who do whatever it is, professionally, and is fun besides. 

5) Don't build a Japanese Destroyer. 

Japanese destroyers, starting with the Fubuki, began the state of the art destroyer design for World War II. With enclosed, double turrets and heavy gun and torpedo armament, the Fubukis and their successors, the "special type," set the standard for all later design -- although the Japanese desire to pack as much as possible onto the ships tended to make them top heavy.

What do you mean?  I mean don't try to take on redecorating the house while mastering French, growing prize tomatoes and learning jazz guitar.  Pick one or pick small parts of all, but do not pick all, or your summer will become top heavy, slow to maneuver and difficult to manage.   I am in constant peril of building Fubukis.

4) Cut away the screens.  I set hours.  I've tried limits but it means I get to nag everyone to get off the machine which hurts my relationship with everyone.  Hence, the hours.  9-5, no screens.  Hint: Movies out, do not count, everything, ds, phone, laptop, desktop, tv, vcr,  I'm even  answered the "What about your blog?" (Write by hand).  and "What about email?"  (I check before 9 and after 5).  and "What about your book (Read, write by hand, write after 5 or before 9) and what about other projects?  --I've printed up the list, writing by hand.  It will be better for it.   Which then allows me to eliminate the you're doing it argument.   Sometimes you have to surrender to win.  

3) Invite others.  Every toy, game and costume becomes instantly alarmingly interesting when other kids are present and it's new to them.   Even the pool we always go to, becomes a great place to the jaded olders if they can bring friends. 

2) Have a few aces up your sleeve.  I've got poppers, chalk, squirt guns and bubbles for outside days, and three card games, one board game and two crazy cake mixes for rainy, plus a collection of home and classic movies I will break out for when they can't get away. 

1)  Do nothing. Kids and adults need the rejuvenation that comes from discovering the pleasure of doing something silent and alone.  Summer gives everyone the opportunity.  So every once in a while, the answer to "What are we going to do today?" is "Get a book, get a blanket, get an apple." and the long lovely quiet of being alone and finding yourself good company. 

Happy Summer!  It's almost 9, so it's time to turn off my machine. 


Sunday, June 15, 2014


My dad took me every year from the time I was about 7 to go fishing on my birthday. We'd get up around 5:30, I'd throw on a swimsuit, jeans, sneakers and a baseball hat. My mom would insist I wear a long sleeved shirt. We'd spray bug spray and lather with sunscreen but get burnt and bit anyway. Dad would pack cokes and water and grapefruit juice that came in small tin cans and tasted to me like they might be simply liquid can, he'd also freeze a snickers bar each, an...d have grapes and sandwiches ready to go.

He'd drive us to get the live bait while I filled the fish cooler with saltwater and chunks of ice. We'd then go back to right in front of the house and set up shop with our chairs, four poles and the tackle box. He and I'd spent the evening rigging them, two with lures, one top, one bottom, and two with corks, one deep, one shallow. We'd start with live bait, and move to the lures if the water looked muddy or we ran out of bait because of catfish and crabs.

Now I'm supposed to use only the lure, because my hands swell for days after I handle live shrimp. I'd promise myself, I'd make myself remember the four days of holding ice and sucking down Benadryl, but eventually, the prospect of catching fish would overwhelm all common sense and I'd be grabbing those shrimp and searching for the fattest one so I could catch the biggest fish.

We'd fish through all the bait. We'd catch a few, talk about making gumbo, about when we caught 5 speckled trout, about the big red over 40 pounds I pulled in one summer, and the times we got skunked. We'd curse backlashes and faulty casts and compliment when we threw a beauty. Somewhere around 11, we'd break out the food, ravenously hungry, but the surf would call again, though my dad would mess around with the big fishing rods, casting and then walking back to shore. We'd stay until I got tired, which he knew was some time around 1:30-2. Then we'd load up and drive back, he'd make me gut anything I caught before going in because he knew I'd shower, eat and crash. You catch, you clean. That's the rule.
After a three hour nap, Mom would wake me for Birthday dinner. It was always the same, always perfect and always what I wanted; sandy hot dogs cooked over a fire on the beach with frito pie as a side and Texas Sheet Cake with vanilla ice cream for dessert, all washed down with a coke, or when I got older, a pina colada. It never mattered (well it did but it didn't), if we caught anything or not, I always loved those days. A bad day fishing beats a good day doing almost anything else I thought. I'd give anything for one more bad day fishing with my dad.

But it's been years since I've been able to really fish, owing to small children, living half the country away, and now, we are separated by death. I have a rod he commissioned for me for my birthday nine years ago. Life has allowed it to remain rarely touched. It's in the garage but I've resolved, this year, I'm going to go and get a line in the water.
Miss you Dad.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!