Sunday, December 09, 2007

Days that Will Live in Infamy

My friend, Raymond and I have each been studying the Thirty Years War, but in different ways. I met Eric Flint at a science fiction convention and spent an evening with him, and decided to read his books. They are a treasure trove of historical information about a subject to which I had never paid much attention—the wars between the Protestants and Catholics that swept Europe after the Reformation and, for that matter, the intrigues among the various sects of Protestantism. Raymond, who is an eclectic scholar and has been listening to a series of lectures about this era, pointed out the similarities between these European Christian wars and the differences between the Sunni’s and Shiites in the Arab world. He made the comment that the Christians haven’t participated quite so viciously in religious wars since thenuntil now. We are doing so, however, by our presence in Iraq and have done so through our support of Israel in many of the battles that have ravaged the Middle East in the past thirty or more years. My—what an interesting number. Thirty Years.

Our conversation continued and we talked about more recent wars and I couldn’t help but wonder whether the American people would have been quite so incensed about the attack on Pearl Harbor if the Japanese ambassador had managed to deliver their declaration of war to the White House before the attack. Apparently, hostility had been growing between our two nations and we had initiated embargos on Japan and were refusing to sell them raw materials and aviation fuel after they invaded China. They offered to leave China within ten years if we would lift the embargo and normalize relations with them. They guessed correctly that we would turn down their offer and while these negotiations were proceeding, they launched a fleet of ships on November 26, 1941, which took a circuitous route across the Pacific, evading detection and arriving at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. From the Japanese point of view, this was a pre-emptive strike. They expected us to attack them so they attacked us first. According to Japanese doctrine, they had every right to attack Pearl Harbor.

This is the same doctrine that the Bush Administration has demonstrated toward Iraq and may possibly demonstrate toward Iran. People have compared Bush to Hitler in the past few years, but perhaps we should also compare him to the Japanese Prime Minister. The difference, however, is that Iraq posed no threat to us when we attacked that country.

The comparison doesn’t end there, however. We have imprisoned people simply because they are Arabs and they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. There were civilian American and British people, including women and children caught in the Philippines who, were imprisoned just for being Caucasian. People were tortured, both for information and out of simple hatred. We haven’t marched any Arabians from one prison to another like the Bataan Death March, but we’ve had similar disgraces in such places as Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay.

There are World War II veterans who still have not forgiven Japan for the atrocities they committed back then. I wonder how much of the world will be able to forgive the U.S. for the atrocities we are committing right now? What a shame that we have sunk to such a low level, that perhaps we should replace Old Glory with the sunburst of Japan with the Nazi swastika imposed on the sun. Or better yet, the Jolly Roger.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Every Child Left Behind

In December of 1997 Alexzander Christopher Jones was eighteen months old when he started having diarrhea. He was living with his father at the time, and at first his dad was not concerned. He took Alex to daycare, told the manager that Alex was sick and went to work. Later that evening, the diarrhea had not abated, and now there was blood in it. That’s when Chris took Alex to the hospital, and called Alex’s mom, Christine. The diagnosis was that somewhere along the way, Alex had contracted e-coli. The prevailing theory is that someone at the daycare center did not wash their hands after handling a dirty diaper and then they touched something that Alex put in his mouth.

Alex stayed at Sara Bush Lincoln Hospital in Mattoon, Illinois for about two days. Then, his kidneys failed and the staff at Sara Bush realized that he needed more expert care than they could give him. They transferred Alex to the Barnes Jacobs Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. Alex was suffering from full-blown hemolytic uremic syndrome. Alex’s kidneys failed because his red blood cells were breaking down. They put him on peritoneal dialysis, and gave him transfusions of packed blood cells. However, peritoneal dialysis is not as efficient as hemo-dialysis, so toxins built up in Alex’s blood, and attacked his brain. He spent a day in a vegetative state, which culminated when he had a seizure along with respiratory and cardiac arrest three days before Christmas.

They kept Alex sedated for the better part of a week, taking him off of the respirator on Christmas Eve. Still, his parents and I took turns sitting vigil at his bedside while the doctors fought to save him. They replaced all of the plasma in his blood twice. By New Years, Alex was awake. Three weeks later, we were chasing him down the hallway with an IV stand while he was temporarily disconnected from his dialysis machine. Alex ended up spending a total of four months in the hospital. His parents, who worked in food service, both lost their jobs, as did I when I told my temporary agency that my grandson had taken a turn for the worse and I didn’t know when I’d return to Chicago.

Barnes Jacobs Children’s Hospital saved my grandson’s life and Medicaid paid the bills. Alex is eleven now (the photo is a couple years old). He’s in junior high, reading at the high school level and his last IQ test measured 127, which is pretty close to the genius level. He looks and acts like a normal kid and is no longer on dialysis. Alex is not completely healthy, however, and he never will be. His kidneys are functioning at around forty percent. The doctors predict that he will outgrow them sometime during puberty. At that time, he’ll need a transplant and the donor who is most likely to be compatible is his kid sister, Beth. Alex is not insurable and he still relies on Medicaid to provide the blood pressure medication and growth hormone shots that he takes every day. And he and Beth will have to rely upon Medicaid to pay for their transplant surgeries, as well as the immuno-suppressive drugs that Alex will need to prevent rejection of his new kidney.

Lately, there have been several cases of e-coli cropping up. Several hundred pounds of hamburger patties have been recalled. What will become of Alex and other children like him if funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program disappears or decreases? My Congressman, Timothy Johnson, rubber-stamps every measure that the current so-called Administration sponsors, and he voted to sustain the so-called President’s veto of the bill that Congress passed which would have expanded funding for children’s health care. The man who said there would be “No Child Left Behind” has taken measures to leave every child behind. I would have supported this bill even if I did not have a grandchild who was directly affected by it.

Congressman Johnson’s excuse for upholding the veto was that this program would provide health care for children whose parents’ income was upward of $80,000 a year. He inferred that this legislation would help children whose parents were wealthy. I frankly wouldn’t mind that. My youngest daughter and her fiancé have a combined income of about $60,000 a year, yet they live on a somewhat frayed shoestring. Between the two of them, they have four children, Alex being the oldest. They each pay child support in addition to the food and clothing they buy for the children on weekends when the kids visit or in the summer when the children live with them. Since Alex is not insurable, the cost of his transplant surgery would wipe them out. They would be bankrupt and possibly homeless. My oldest daughter is married to a landscape designer. Their net worth is somewhere in the six-figure range. But most of that money is tied up in the equipment Derreck needs to run his landscaping business. If my granddaughter, Colleen became seriously ill, they too could end up bankrupt and on the street.

Congressman Johnson obviously doesn’t know or possibly doesn’t care how many people are just one paycheck away from homelessness, or what the catastrophic illness or injury of a child could do to a family. He and his Republican cronies need to pull their heads out of the Middle East oil fields and pay attention to the needs of their most vulnerable constituents. Children should not have to die so that the wealthiest country in the world can afford to invade other countries and take their oil.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

I Have An Agent!

Well, Friends: Rock Bound is not finished after all. It seems that sixty-thousand words is the preferred length for a young-adults’ book, but not a full-length, grown-up novel. It needs to be at least ninety-thousand words. So I’m back at it, again, trying to add another thirty-thousand words. I’m working on a subplot that involves people Earthside—Freezeland and his cronies, as well as those working to overthrow the dictatorship and reinstate the Constitution. And I have to do so somewhat quickly, as I have some news—


Yes—a real agent. The kind who charges ten percent of your earnings, but requires no fees up front. They did suggest that I have the book critiqued by a professional editor. However, they did not supply the editor. There were people on their list to whom they could refer me, but they gave me the option of finding my own editor. So I’ve sent the book to a friend who is a professional editor, and I’m waiting to hear from her, while I try to expand my manuscript yet again.

So—that’s where we stand with Rock Bound. I’m still editing here and there, and of course, I spent the summer with my grandkids. I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow on that. Needless to say, it was not easy keeping up with three kids and a menagerie that at one point included five dogs, a cat and a fish. By the end of the summer, we were down to three dogs, the cat and fish. We had been puppy-sitting one dog, and the largest found a home in the country where he would have space to run off his energy. I’m home, now—and it’s nice to have my two cats and some peace and quiet.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Rock Bound is Finished!

Rock Bound is finally finished! Phew! It topped out at 63,935 words, or 256 pages. I’m really excited about it, and prejudiced though I may be, I believe it’s a really good book and that it will do well when it comes out.

I’m sure some of you have been wondering what happened to it, and whether I had dropped off the face of the Earth. Well, the most important aspect of writing is re-writing, and that’s what I’ve been doing. Rock Bound started out as a twelve-part serial, less than thirty thousand words, total. So, I’ve been tweaking here, adding there—tightening up the story, addressing some issues my first editor brought up, and turning the book into a full-sized, full-fledged page turner.

Now comes the hardest part of all—selling the book. Anyone know a good agent? Or a publisher who is willing to help out first-time authors? If so, please let me know.

Feel free to join my Yahoo group for further updates—such as contract signing, galley-proofing, and the release date! Stay in touch and I’ll keep you posted. And, finally, thanks for your support.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Greyhound Woes

As a person who cares about the Earth, I decided to take public transportation when I went out of town over the Memorial Day weekend. I am disabled and I live on a fixed income, which is well below the federal poverty level. Flying was not an option. I would have taken the train, but Amtrak doesn’t go everywhere. That left the bus. I remembered that I didn’t much like the bus back when I lived and Chicago and did not own a car. If I came downstate to visit my kids, I took Amtrak. But now, I live downstate and the only ways to get to Dayton were driving or Greyhound. Well, this was the last time I will use Greyhound. I’m sorry. I know that driving alone to Dayton, Ohio from east central Illinois guzzles gas and adds emissions to the atmosphere. But Greyhound is not an option.

First—I asked about baggage handling when I picked up my ticket. Despite the fact that I walk with a cane, I was told that I would have to transfer my own baggage when I changed busses in Indianapolis. I expected the driver to board disabled persons, seniors and people traveling with children first—as they do on both Amtrak and the airlines. No such announcement was made. I had to lug my suitcase (which was heavy as I use a CPAP machine for sleep apnea) and my carry-on bag to the bus myself, and stand in line, leaning on my cane. There was a woman on my bus who was on crutches. The driver asked her if she had “Special Handling” for her bags. This was the first I learned of this service. Of course, by then it was too late for that portion of the trip.

When I arrived in Indianapolis, they called a bus for Columbus. I was fortunate to get into line fairly close to the front, only to discover that the bus was an express and my bus to Dayton wouldn’t leave for four more hours. This was my fault, as I hadn’t read my ticket very carefully. So, I was stuck at the doorway when the woman on crutches hobbled over from the smoking area. The driver told her that she had to go inside and get in line. I couldn’t believe my ears. She was on CRUTCHES! I asked him if he could give her a break and he said no, it was company policy. I got his name and made my way inside through another door to the ticket counter. I asked to see a supervisor and complained about the way the woman was being treated. She asked me whether I was traveling with the woman and I said no. She then said, “What business is it of yours?”

I was outraged. It is everyone’s business when a person is being mistreated. Meanwhile, the line was moving behind me. By the time the woman got to the door, the bus was full. I heard her telling the driver that her luggage was already on the bus and he told her she’d have to wait for the next one. By this time I was incensed. I made enough of a fuss that the ticket agent finally agreed to talk to the driver. He apparently let the woman on the bus, but I suspect he would not have done so if I had not intervened with the supervisor on her behalf. I sat for the next three and a half hours waiting for my bus with my blood boiling.

The Indianapolis Greyhound station has a designated smoking area outside. People do go outside to smoke but very few use the designated area. All night, people—both passengers and employees—were smoking right outside the doors in the loading area, and second-hand smoke was blowing into the terminal. By the time my bus arrived, I was beginning to have shortness of breath and chest pains.

When my bus pulled in, I got in line. It was twenty minutes before the bus was due to leave, but the terminal was suddenly crowded and I didn’t want to chance missing the bus. So, I hobbled over to the line that was forming and stood there. A man came in from outside. He walked with a cane and seemed to be in even more pain than I was. He had gotten off the bus to smoke and was told that he couldn’t get back on board. He was sent inside to stand in line with the rest of us. I let him in line, then the driver announced that the bus was full and those of us who had not come in on that bus would have to wait for another one to be called up from the garage. The little old man was allowed into the other line by a kind passenger. But if that hadn’t happened, the bus could have taken off with his belongings on it. I really don't think that all of the peole in that line had come in on that bus. Many had come in on the bus in the next parking spacer and were transfering in Indianapolis, as was I. Meanwhile, the second bus did not arrive until forty-five minutes after our scheduled departure time. By the time I boarded, I was barely able to walk. And no one who worked for Greyhound offered to help me with my luggage at all.

It is an unconscionable travesty that any of this happened. Since disabled people and seniors often cannot afford other forms of transportation, one would expect Greyhound to have policies in place to help them. I suppose they feel that since their passengers don’t have other choices, they can treat them any way they please. Please let your friends know that Greyhound is unfair to the disabled. Not only is it the least comfortable way to travel, the employees are rude and uncaring. Despite my desire to do my part to stop global warming, from now on if Amtrak doesn’t go to my destination, I will drive. I urge anyone who reads this to do the same if they have the choice.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Reflections on Religious Guilt vs. Spirituality

My best friend was a CHRISTIAN most of her life. She was raised by a woman who felt that the church they attended was not Christian enough. She never wore slacks, and took "till death do us part" so seriously that she finally ended up in a Christian (of course) mental hospital because she wanted to end her marriage so badly that she thought suicide was the only way to do it. But of course, suicide is as much of a sin as divorce. Her journey from there was long and arduous, but she now worships the Goddess Aphrodite and is the one of the most loving and guilt-free people I know. One of her declarations of independence is dyeing her bangs green. Even if she has to scrimp for food, she still manages to keep her bangs a bright, lime "Kardia" green. She changed her name from Karen to Kardia—yes, as in heart. One of the things that helped her come to terms with her guilt was a series of books called "Conversations With God" by Neale Donald Walsh. This is not a Christian guilt book, although it does purport to be based on conversations a man has had with God who presents Him/Her Self as easy going with a sense of humor who basically tells people that as long as we don't hurt each other, we can pretty much do as we please. Hmmmmmm...... "An it harm none, do as ye will."

I personally believe that there is a power greater than myself, that that power has both masculine and feminine aspects, and that it presents itself to people in a way that matches their culture. I don't believe it matters what name you use—Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, Ra, Odin, Brigid, Aphrodite, Athena, Freya or Rhiannon—it's the same energy. I've noticed that pretty much every religion in the world has three basic tenets: 1) there is a power greater than ourselves; 2) there is life after death; and 3) we should be kind and loving toward each other. (Yes, even the Koran says that somewhere.)

I also believe that Jesus' teachings were heavily edited by the Counsel of Nicene in order to consolidate the political and economic power of the clergy and that the Bible as it has come down to us since the fourth century presents teachings vastly different from what Christ was actually saying. If he was the "only son of God" why does the prayer he taught us start out "Our Father?" Eighteen years of his life are missing from the Bible and many scholars now believe that he traveled to India and the Orient with Joseph of Arimethea and was teaching Eastern beliefs, such as individual responsibility and reincarnation. Protestants will try to tell you "but that's the Catholic Bible that was edited" but what King James translated was the Catholic Bible. It was edited a good eleven centuries before Martin Luther read it and realized that the Popes had created their own rules and were sitting on coffers of gold that they had collected by selling tickets to Heaven and that, according to the Bible (even the Nicene Council's version), there was no such thing. At that time, only the clergy could read Latin, and therefore only the clergy could read the Bible. The rest of the populace learned what they knew of the church from their priests, not the book itself. King James translated the Bible into the language of the day and made it available to everyone, thus cementing the Protestant movement begun by Martin Luther—who wanted to bring the Church back to the Bible, not create a new religion.

My own journey began in the Lutheran church, in one of the easier-going synods where I was taught that "God is Love." My own guilt came from my mother and has more to do with my level of housekeeping than original sin. I married a Catholic and my parents had stressed that families should go to church together. Putting me on a bus to church would have been unthinkable. Our church was the basis of our social life. We were the potluck/"cookies and coffee in the basement" kind of church and my parents jumped in with both feet, as did I. Until I joined the Navy, I never received Communion wine that wasn't poured into tiny little cups the day before by my father, or without helping my mother wash all those tiny little cups afterward, while Daddy helped count the offering. Daddy also followed Pastor around picking up the tiny little cups during Communion. After my dad died, I couldn't hear his favorite hymn, or surrender my little cup to someone else without bursting into tears. In fact, the first time I took Communion at home without Daddy, I was on leave for the Fourth of July, at church in uniform, and I started crying at the altar, then turned around and the whole congregation was crying. I asked Mrs. Lalowski why everyone was crying and she said "we're crying with you, Dear." I asked how they knew I was crying and she said "the tail on your hat was bobbing." It was too painful to remain Lutheran and it hurt to watch my husband and baby going off to Mass while I went to the local Lutheran church, so I decided to turn Catholic.

At the same time, I was taking an Eastern history/philosophy course at a junior college in Pearl City, Hawaii. I was learning about reincarnation and what purgatory was really about both at the same time, and they seemed pretty similar. As I was reciting the Nicene Creed at Mass, I had already reached the conclusion that reincarnation and purgatory were the same idea, just expressed differently—you have to work off a few demerits before you can enter Heaven/Nirvana. And of course, now I realize how many of the Christian church's customs and holidays were adapted from the Pagan church—especially Celtic traditions in the British Isles. How Easter comes from Oestara which is all about fertility and the coming of spring. What do bunnies, eggs, and spring bonnets have to do with crucifixion and resurrection? Why is the holiday called Easter (from Oestara) rather than Resurrection? Because instead of fighting the Pagan traditions, the early church joined them.

Since then, I've participated in 12-Step groups, read many books, including Shirley MacLaine's books, the Seth books, and Kardia's precious "Conversations" books, and progressed from Lutheran to Catholic to New Age and Pagan. The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, is another good book. It's a novel, but it talks about the struggles between the pagan beliefs in the British Isles and the efforts of the Catholic Church to convert the populace. And how they finally accepted that the Goddess needed to be represented and did so by deifying Christ's mother, Mary. But of course, in a church tradition that was so solidly patriarchal, there was no way she could have the same rank or power as the masculine God, and instead of correctly representing the holy trinity as Mother, Father and Son, they represented it as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I admit I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Lutheran church. I still love the music and who can resist a good potluck with casseroles and jello molds, or "cookies and coffee in the basement"? I guess the Lutheran church is as much a part of my Norwegian heritage as Odin and Freya. I suppose I haven't strayed that far from my roots. The Pagan rituals I've attended have mostly been followed by potluck meals and Pagan Night Out takes place in a coffee shop. I do, however, miss some of those homemade cookies we used to have at our church. I think that when I die, I want people to have a potluck dinner at my memorial. With casseroles, jello molds and homemade cookies.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

My Journey to Progressive Liberalism

I just read an article in The Huffington Post by Mike Lux, of American Family Voices. In it, he explained how and why he became a Progressive. There was, of course, a link for feedback, which led me to think about how and why I am a Progressive, and what I do about it.

I grew up in a family that was conservative and bigoted, though polite to people’s faces. I was about three the first time I saw a black man. I asked: "Mommy, is that a nigger?" My mother chastised me and said it was rude to call a person that and that the man was a Negro. But at home, black people were referred to the other way.

We did have one black neighbor. I was instructed to call all of the adults in my neighborhood Mr. or Mrs. Jones, but our black neighbor was Mr. Jim. To my parents’ credit, when his leg was amputated, we visited him in the hospital. Ironically, after Mr. Jim died, we discovered that he owned the lot next-door to his, on which a small plastics factory had built their annex. He had been smart enough to lease the land to them, rather than sell it outright, and he was the wealthiest man in the neighborhood!

I'm a child of the sixties. I argued with my parents about civil rights, and the right to protest the Viet Nam war. When I grew up, I worked for a social and political activist who designed and helped implement programs that addressed issues such as cultural diversity, single parenting, youth violence, and nutrition for the poor. I want to make the world a better place and I put principles before paychecks. I stayed with my activist boss longer than she could afford to pay me, until I was in danger of becoming homeless, and I turned down high-paying administrative jobs with both a law firm and a marketing company who had tobacco companies as clients.

Most of my life I’ve done volunteer work—candy-striping at a hospital as a teen, volunteering at the Chicago USO during the Viet Nam era, serving on the Boards of Trustees of more than one local 12-Step group, volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House, and singing at my local VA hospital. I also sign internet petitions and testify before city and county councils on issues such as non-smokers’ rights, and the closing of one of Chicago’s VA hospitals. If I could afford to travel more, I would lobby these issues at the state and national level, as well.

I recycle and try to conserve energy, although I have to admit that until I find fluorescent lights that produce a golden glow, I will probably continue to use incandescent light-bulbs. That bluish light makes everything look cold and stark. And as my arthritis progresses, I find it more and more difficult to tolerate the cold, so I don’t turn my furnace down as far as I used to. But I do keep it as low as I can manage. I should probably move to a warmer climate, but I don’t want to be that far from my grandkids. I can’t afford a hybrid car, but I have two neighbors who don’t own cars, so we try to combine our errands and car-pool. One neighbor is blind and I even drop him at his mother’s home in Chicago when I visit my daughter in Fox Lake.

I don’t know what the solutions are to all of our world problems, but I do work to better my corner of it. So, that’s my journey from a conservative WASP family to a bleeding liberal, social and political activist.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hurricanes and Blizzards

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail, the contents of which have stuck with me. It was one of those things that circulates. I perceived it as being a racist comment, though the words “black” and “white” were never used. It was supposedly written by someone in Colorado after the record-breaking blizzard that hit earlier this year. It told how the gallant citizens of Colorado (inferring that they are mostly white) pulled on their boots, got out there and dug themselves and their neighbors out of the snow, not asking for help from the government or anyone else. I don’t have the exact figures but weren’t parts of Colorado declared disaster areas and wasn’t federal funding available for those who sustained damages such as trees falling on their homes or cars?

It criticized the citizens of New Orleans (inferring that they are mostly black) for accepting “handouts” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

This is wrong on so many levels, I barely know where to start. I’ve already addressed the issue of money. Well, at least partly. Maybe citizens in Colorado did not receive as much financial help from the government, but they surely did receive money from Uncle Sam. I know that we in Illinois have received millions from the ice storms we experienced as part of that same weather system. Were we asking for handouts we did not earn? Maybe, but many of our businesses would be gone and many people would be homeless had they not received such help. Those who did sustain such damage have already started to rebuild and life is pretty much back to normal both here and in Colorado.

On the other hand, two years after Hurricane Katrina, many people in New Orleans remain homeless. In fact, just yesterday, I read a story about people who moved back into their homes and are being sued by HUD because that land was earmarked for “improvement” and that housing was designated as part of the “public domain” to be “developed” by a politically powerful builder. Yes, I guess the people of New Orleans are receiving government handouts. But they aren’t going to the poor homeless (infer black) people; that money is going into the hands of political cronies with bulldozers, and poor people who had homes before the storm and who survived the storm are still homeless two years later.

And let’s compare storms. When was the last time you “dug out” your flooded home or your neighbor’s flooded driveway? How can anyone compare a few feet of snow falling in an area where everyone owns a snow-blower with homes that are submerged under dirty water teeming with poisonous snakes, alligators, and the second-most deadly of nature’s predators—bacteria? (That guy with the bulldozer being the deadliest predator.) Many people who survived the water, the swamp critters washed into the middle of town, and were rescued from the roofs of their homes, died later of diseases like e-coli. A victim of the blizzard or ice storm who was interviewed on TV said “we just put our food outside when the power went out and the refrigerator went off.” No doubt they had a fireplace in which to cook that food when they brought it back in and thawed it out at supper time. Try fishing your food out of water teeming with raw sewage, and cooking it over a lighter flame on top of your roof while waiting for a boat or a helicopter to rescue you, wondering which of the logs floating around you is debris and which is a hungry gator.

I have no problem with the thought of my tax dollars going to help the survivors of Katrina. In fact, I wish I could afford to contribute to the legal fees of those people fighting HUD to keep their homes in that low-cost housing unit that some politician wants to turn into a strip mall or whatever. And if anyone in Aspen wants to buy me a snow shovel, I’ll take it. I really should have one in case I ever get caught in my car in a blizzard—so I can pull on my boots and dig myself out like the good little white girl that I am. And could you throw in a pail in case I get caught in a flood?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Catching Up

Rochelle Weber--Author, Editor, Professional Grandmother

I realize I’ve been neglecting my blogs terribly. It’s been an eventful few months personally, but not professionally. I have started editing for a company in Champaign called Publication Services. I’m editing books published by I-Universe, Barnes & Noble’s vanity press. The writing so far has been pretty bad. These books were not selected from a slush pile or screened by an agent. It’s more a case of “If you have the money, we have the ink.” And, these “authors” do, indeed, have the money or their books wouldn’t reach my desk. I haven’t made a whole lot of money with them yet, but they like my work and projects do come in.

The holidays are an extended time for me. They basically started in October with Halloween. I drove up to Chicago and attended the Mensa HalloweeM gathering the last weekend of October. I had a blast. It’s been three years since I attended ’WeeM, but I’ve been on the Hell’s Ms list most of that time connecting with other Mensans who love to party and many of them were at ’WeeM, so we were able to put faces to names. I finally played “Double Deck War Killer Hearts” and found out why the word “kumquats” is used on the list to warn people that there may be sexual content in the e-mail they’re about to open in case they’re at work or the kids are around. It seems one of our members (who was sitting next to me at the card game as it happens) blushes when any word is used that has a sexual connotation. One day, during a discussion of her physical reaction, someone said “Well, does the word kumquats make you blush?” Not quite. It made her laugh so hard she squeaked. And it still does.

From the hotel in Arlington Heights, I drove up to my daughter’s in McHenry. There was a family wedding on my ex’s side in Arkansas the following week and the kids were leaving on Wednesday and returning Monday, so I babysat my granddaughter. It was nice having that weekend with her. I see her much less frequently than her cousins and it was good to have some bonding time together. For one kid, she about ran me ragged! We went out to dinner and shopping on Friday, shopping and to Borders to browse on Saturday, and to dinner and a movie on Sunday. With trips to the library so I could check my e-mail in between. The kids are in temporary quarters. Their house is being built and their rental of the last two years was sold before their house was ready so they had to scramble for a temporary rental. They didn’t bother setting up their computer or hooking up to the internet.

The second weekend in November, I attended a sci-fi convention in Chicago. I had planned to come home after that, but the kids hosted Thanksgiving/Christmas over the Thanksgiving weekend, so I stayed in McHenry for two more weeks. On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the kids drove down to Will County and met my son-in-law’s sister and nieces at a truck stop so my daughter could drive them through the Chicago traffic. My other daughter, her fiancé and all four of their kids arrived around 5 a.m. on Thursday. It was a fun weekend with eight adults and nine kids in the house. We had turkey on Thursday, then on Friday we had ham. We each opened one gift Friday night—pj’s all around—and then on Saturday morning we opened the rest of our gifts. I didn’t have gifts for the kids, as I hadn’t planned on doing my shopping that early. We had brunch and then we all left for our respective homes to give the kids a day to rest and clean house before they had to go back to work. I had been gone a full month and my cats were not happy. They didn’t speak to me all day.

Oh, and while I was up there, I managed to visit my sister. We went out to lunch and had a nice chat. She is in her seventies and had a stroke two years ago. Still, she and my brother-in-law live in a senior community in Grayslake and are active in their community center. She plays “Mexican Train Dominoes” and for awhile was playing Mah Jong [sp?], but she found the rules frustrating.

My youngest planned to have Christmas the weekend before the holiday, as her exes had the kids on the holiday, but I was sick that weekend and the kids weren’t finished shopping. They held Christmas the weekend of New Years, but I stayed home as my neighbor, his girlfriend and I hosted a karaoke party New Years Eve. Most of the guests had small children and left before midnight, but there were about eight of us still around to drink Asti Spumante and toast the New Year. A friend came down from Chicago and crashed at my place, then took me out for brunch and left for home. I came home and had a nice, quiet day with no football. I watched movies and the Twilight Zone marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel and wrote a bit and read a bit.

The following weekend I went to Terre Haute to celebrate Christmas and my birthday. I gave my grandkids board games and karaoke discs to go with the karaoke machine the kids bought. So we sang and played games all weekend. I played Chutes & Ladders with the “babies” Presley is now four and Abby is three and soon they won’t appreciate being called “the babies.” I played “The Game of Life” with Beth and Alex, and the kids played “Twister.” We had steak dinner and birthday cake and the kids gave me a set of real cultured pearls. They’re beautiful and when I chided them on spending so much, my daughter reminded me they aren’t married yet. Those pearls will make a wonderful “something borrowed!”

So, for me, “the holidays” spanned Halloween to my birthday and were full of family and friends and fun. My New Year’s resolution was to try to write everyday and to read everyday. Well, I’ve kept up with the writing, but not so much with the reading. I’m up to Chapter 14 in my re-write of Rock Bound. I attended a writers’ workshop at ConClave in Detroit in October and the critique caused me to go back to the first chapter and change some things so I went through the book making more changes. I’ve dropped my self-imposed deadlines and will finish it when I finish it. I don’t know whether I have any more books in me. I read newsletters from writer friends who each have four or five projects going at once and it makes me think maybe I’m a better editor than writer. I don’t meet many writers who go over a chapter and cut something every time they read it. Usually they guard every word as though it was gold. I’ve probably cut enough out of this book to fill two or three novels and yet all I have that’s worth publishing is a novella. But words flow out of my fingertips if I know what I’m writing about. Maybe I should make my living as a ghost writer.

Finally, I was able to go out singing on my birthday, was able to close the bar without losing my voice or popping nitro, and came home not reeking of cigarette smoke! Urbana is smoke-free, Champaign will be in less than two weeks, and we’re now working on the State of Illinois!

I have a good rant in me but will save it for next week. For now—I hope you will have a warm, loving, and prosperous 2007.