Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome, add a great deal to a blog, but must be in English, with no profanity, hate-filled insults, or links (unless pre-approved).

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hero Worship

One of the things that I must admit that I little understand is hero worship, but before I go farther, I better define what I mean by hero. Using, I am thinking of 1 & 2-- although someone could worship a fictional character.
1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. 
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal:He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child. 
3. the principal male character in a story, play, film, etc. 
When the recent uproar occurred over the Patriots and what the media named Deflategate, Limbaugh discussed it on his show and made a point that this illustrates how important football is to Americans. This non-story pushed from the headlines the overthrow of Yemen's government, the death of a Saudi king, Obama's trip to India, the shooting death of a prosecutor in Argentina, police overreach, climate change, oil prices falling, and just about any other story as paper after paper led with it-- including the nightly news. They did this because apparently Americans are obsessed with sports heroes.

Some claimed it was important because it was about cheating, and we all know cheating is bad. Except, that was before there was any proof of cheating. Just proof of under inflated balls, all of them belonging to the Patriots. Do other teams ever have under-inflated balls? Who knows? How much benefit does a team receive from one? That could be debated, but why would it be when there is something far more exciting to take apart piece by piece. [Experiments indicate there could be explanations other than cheating] but who cares about that-- sounds too much like science!

From the time of that game and the sports article, people weighed in on what must have happened whether they had any idea of it or not. That included a lot of aging football players. I even saw a video where a news team in Indianapolis handed two balls to random citizens and asked them if they could tell which was under-inflated by two pounds. After weighing them carefully, squeezing them, the people, even a homeless guy, guessed right-- at least they had been when I quit watching the video. So two balls that look identical, can be determined that one weighs more than the other if you handle them both, maybe at the same time, and you already know one is lighter than the other. What did that prove exactly? Well, it proved that guy could get his story on the air.

I don't think it matters so much because of what happened or did not. Time might tell what that was. It's hard to believe an equipment handler or ball boy could somehow get around and deflate all those balls without it being captured on film by someone. Some say that has happened, but the NFL is not discussing what was discovered-- probably until after the Super Bowl.

Isn't it surprising to anyone that the refs, who handle those balls between each play, never said they noticed. It turned out that the sportscaster from Indianapolis, who claimed an anonymous source, who was supposed to be a Colt, who took the ball off the field because he noticed something strange. But then he spoke out and said he had not. He just wanted a souvenir. That story didn't get much coverage though. I read someone saying that [if the team had been anyone but the Patriots, who were often hated already, this would have been a non-story]

Why it is a story, I think, is not so much because years ago Patriots took videos of hand signals during a game where 80,000 people saw the same signals. Some say that is why this is a big deal-- they are proven cheaters. I personally doubt that. I think it more likely goes back to Tom Brady, the man who seems to have everything, talent, physical beauty, strength, and a gorgeous supermodel wife. This looks to me like a favorite American pastime-- build up heroes and tear them down. It's not so far from the mentality of the Romans with the gladiators-- with a thumbs up or thumbs down and no basis on any actual event as to which the mob goes for.

For those who don't follow football or even know who Tom Brady is, here's an article I saw recently on him, his approaching old age (he's 37), his philosophy, why he believes his body can keep going, and the impact of this latest event on him-- interestingly enough written by a NYTimes writer who usually follows politics. (I have to say a lot of what I have seen happening with this deflategate seems a lot like politics.)

Americans, probably all humans, love to create heroes. Supposedly this starts when we are children, and these heroes provide us examples we can then follow and use to grow up and become... or try to become. So this is why it's so horrifying to adults who worry about the impact on children when they find out their hero had clay feet (something we don't yet know about Tom Brady).

To consider this concept of hero worship, I went back to my childhood to try and remember if I had such a hero. I had those I admired. Annette Funicello quickly comes to mind. Mickey Mouse Club, the first one, was popular when I was a girl, and she was the one who stood out. She was cute, bouncy, and the boys went for her. Spin and Marty in particular was a little series I loved and both those boys wanted Annette. I wanted Spin, of course, which might have impacted why I admired her. I was nothing like her for looks but wow, Annette.


But I didn't hero worship her. I didn't want to be her. When she later had her nose done, it didn't cause me to lose faith in her (or get mine done). When she went on to make silly beach movies (probably why she had to have the nose job), I didn't feel she had disappointed me. I just didn't watch them. So she wasn't a hero to me-- other than that she got Spin (who I already did understand was a character in a show not a real person).

As I searched my memory, there was nobody who I hero worshiped (although I did hope to grow up and marry Clint Walker, who played a character called Cheyenne-- but I gave that up when I found out he was married). But to consider someone a hero to me, to want to be them, there were none, not movie stars, singers, athletes, spiritual leaders, or politicians. So if they were caught doing some despicable act, it'd have not hurt my life or my own goals. My life and goals weren't based on someone else-- someone I really didn't know.

Was my life damaged by having no such heroes? I don't know. I've often thought I'd have liked to have a mentor and not just for writing but for art, for life. I never had that either. I have had this or that one I've learned from, but a mentor or hero is more than that.

Political leaders can easily become heroes to people. In my case, I might like what they do politically but that's where it ends-- no political heroes ever. When I found out Anthony Weiner, who I used to like for how feisty he was in standing up for progressive values, was a bit of a pervert, my life wasn't turned on end. I'd long since figured people aren't perfect. I'd probably have voted for him again even though it appears he hasn't given up his peccadillo for sexual misadventures. He's not my husband; and if he's doing his job, I don't really care what he is doing online-- his wife maybe should. I might think it's stupid, but it doesn't break my heart, cause me to lose my own goals. When it's not hero worship, it's pretty much-- so what. No, Obama wasn't a hero to me. I have liked what he said he would do. I hoped he'd be a good leader.

Actually, I haven't had a political hero since... hmmm, never had one. Which is probably lucky because they almost all end up with clay feet. 

Should children be encouraged to have heroes, where they try to mimic what they do? Where they build their life goals around them? How about fictional ones-- or even historical? Personally I'd say no-- especially if they aren't someone in their real life like a relative or older friend. Even then it's risky. Humans are not perfect and mostly will always let down others or themselves one way or another. Having anyone, as a hero on a pedestal, is leading to disappointment. It's unrealistic.

By 71, I am unlikely to have a hero, even as fascinated as I am by human nature. Maybe I am too cynical. Where I have created a lot of them for books, I have never seen any of them as perfect and sure never wanted to know them in real life. They were fictional and intended for the equally fictional heroine.

So tomorrow is the Super Bowl, which is the ultimate time for those who have heroes. Some will be cheering for the Seahawks. Others the Patriots, although less since so many have decided that they cheated even if they aren't sure how they did it. Me, I will probably go somewhere. It's a great day to shop or go to the beach. Love Super Bowl days for how it empties out the roads, restaurants, and shops. :)

And finally, I came across this Friday. Because we all deserve to laugh and not take ourselves too seriously-- yes, I mean that-- check this out:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Nature at its finest

When it's winter here in the Willamette Valley, one of the things we like to do is head for William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge south of Corvallis. When going, you never know what you will see, but that's part of its appeal. Of historic interest at the refuge is the Fiechter House, completed in 1857-- thought to be one of the oldest homes in Benton County. 

The refuge was named for William L. Finley, an early conservationist who persuaded President Theodore Roosevelt to set aside the first national wildlife refuge west of the Mississippi River. It is because of farsighted people, where the government purchased the land, that such places for migrating and wintering wildlife exist in a time of dwindling habitats. 

There is an interesting history attached to the place, be sure and read the link under Fiechter House. It involves a killing which might have been accidental, of course... or was it? It was assumed to be at the time but would definitely arouse my suspicions as a fiction writer ;).

Many of the trails are blocked during the winter to offer the birds a protected space. They did, however, build a boardwalk that goes out to offer views of the larger of the two ponds. It was from that gazebo where we got photos of the swans which were across the pond. 

The big thing we hope for is the remote chance we will get to see and hear thousands of geese take off. It's a sound you don't forget. It is not just the beauty of these birds but the energy that makes this a wonderful place to sit and for a time just watch them as they fly off and back. This time, because we saw so many at the other end of the second pond, we had hopes we'd get lucky. We were also then ready for when it happened with our cameras. 

What makes them suddenly arise as one? Often, we have seen one or two lift off but the other birds don't go. Then suddenly it happens. Is there one leader who determines it?

When they take off in a flock, often one or two realize they don't know where their mate is, and they will turn back. I guess they get as pulled in by the excitement of that liftoff as we do in watching them. After awhile small flocks will come back and settle into a different spot on the shallow lake. These birds are not ready to migrate, not yet but one day, this practice will benefit them, I guess :).

This time, besides taking a lot of photos, we were able to make a video with our phone. It was mostly to capture the sound of their wings beating the water and air as they rise. I hope you can access it. In me, it arouses emotions of gratitude every time I am there to, for a tiny moment, share the world with these beautiful birds.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

this and that

In a Pacific Northwest winter, we know we have to take our great days when we see them roll in as often the weather forecast had no clue what was coming. We've had a lot of foggy, gray days but sprinkled in there have been some with beautiful blue skies. If we had more rain and less fog, I'd be more pleased. This is a region that needs quite a lot to make for a good summer. The mountains have been low on snow levels. They say that early winter snow is the best for summer river flow as it takes longer to melt; so even getting snow up there now won't be as good.

Our creek is not fed with snow melt, as we are in the Oregon Coast Range, which gets very little snow. What makes it keep its flow is rain that recharges the springs which feed it. These hills are full of springs-- when all is going well. I won't worry yet, but I am also aware it could be another dry summer which is a bigger deal for us toward the end when we want to irrigate as well as to be sure enough rain falls to recharge our well.

Most of my work right now is going into writing and editing the books-- hopefully. I finished the rough draft for a novella and its first edit. I learned something interesting, for those of you who might want to write. I love every story I write, think they are wonderful-- until I begin the edits. That's when what-the-heck-was-I-thinking comes into play. It's when I think-- nobody will want to read this book because there isn't enough drama, sex, angst, etc. You name it.

Where I liked this romance of an older woman and man, as well as the family they had created from their friends, this isn't the kind of romance that romance readers likely most want. Novellas can be slice of life stories and that's how I see this one. It doesn't begin where many romances do, and there is no huge violent moment in it. It's a simple, plain story of love in old age. 

It was an enjoyable writing experience, as having a book that doesn't have to do something, and where I can let it unfold with grace, lets me get into the experience with no expectations for where it's going. I liked these people and how romance in one's 60s can be (a good word for it is surprising)

Will readers be attracted to it? I won't know for awhile; but considering my other novella, A Montana Christmas, also a slice of life story, didn't set reader's hearts on fire, I won't have expectations regarding this one. Sometimes you write a story because it came to you or in the case of this one, belongs in the bigger story of a family. This was one such. 

Ranch Boss created this cover from the elements I wanted as a way to give a feel for the book. I really like what he did. It's nice to have novellas look a little different than full length novels.
Monday I saw my orthodontist, the one who did the root canal in the summer. I really like him, had worried about this visit, but was relieved when after a thorough exam, which included a CT scan, that there was no infection. The bone has been regenerating below the tooth as it should have. The probable reason for the tooth discomfort is the nerve right below it and how close the tooth is to it-- Plus my habit of grinding my teeth. I have no idea why some people do this but during the summer I came to realize how often I grit my teeth. Not good for teeth or pain in the long run. 

He has recommended Botox to retrain my muscles. He injects it into the muscles along the jaw and in the hairline that control the grinding and at a low enough dose that I am not aware of it at all as far as feeling any different for facial expression.  Anyway if it works, I will definitely write about it here. Due to tooth grinding, I cracked one tooth and have worn down others. During the day I can remind myself to stop that (and fully understand how often i do it), but at night, that's where the Botox comes in. We shall see.

My dreams have been particularly intense lately. I woke from one Wednesday morning and remembered the story, which was about a school that was misusing students. There was a man who was trying to fix the situation. Twice in the dream he said-- Seeking power was for children. Winning is what matters. I awoke unsure of his exact wording, but that is the gist of its meaning. I used this thought in my [Rant] this week because although at first it might seem the two sentences are contradictory, they are not when you think about it.

The problem with our world is totally blowing it with understanding what power can really gain. So often those who seek it don't really win anything. They see the power as a goal but at the best, power is a tool. The goal is to win.

Win what, you might ask. That is the challenge of life. What makes a win for you? Using someone else's criteria won't cut it. Misunderstanding what makes for winning is, I think, at the heart of a lot of human problems. People seek power for power's sake and where does that leave them? I think there should be more teaching of philosophy in school to get students to think of a bigger picture of what life can be. Of course, that's not happening in our current situation with partisan politics controlling or trying to control everything.

Anyway, for me, my world is one of writing, reading research material, editing, letting cats in and out as they aren't fond of cold gray days, and enjoying the stream of dreams as I try to remember and use them in one way or another. 

After another editing job for the first in the Oregon historical series, I will be starting what I used to call the fourth Arizona historical... except what does that make the novella? 3½?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

What's 'round the bend?

 from the farm 1/7/15

Nobody knows how long they will live. I've had those I loved who didn't make it to 30, but in general there are average ages and I am heading toward the zone where more and more do die. It seems strange to even think about it or to think about all the years I have already lived. Me? That was me? 

Donna Douglas, the actress just died at 81... That's not that far off. Mario Cuomo was 82... Average life span is now about 80. Wow, so when I turn 72 in October it will put me less than 10 years from the end... potentially. For some reason, when a new year starts, I always think of myself as already being the age I will be when the birthday rolls around. So in my head, I am thinking 72 now.

Surprisingly being closer to the end is not a depressing thought so much as an awakener. When we are younger, we can put off this or that but the older we get, the more we want to make sure our days are involved with something we care about doing. There are things we have to do, don't choose, but are part of responsible living. Most of our hours though are filled with choices, which might by habit travel the same paths that they did the year before. Habits can make us think we have no choice. They can though be broken.

My thinking right now are about the kinds of things I might do that would make a difference not just for my life but for those I don't even know. Sometimes that is a political donation. Sometimes it's words I put down on paper. Maybe it is when I touch someone else's life, who then impacts someone else-- and I didn't even know how far the touch reached-- negatively or positively. 

Right now this is the January doldrums in a sense as the world waits for spring, for new life while it has to get through a season of darkness and cold (for those in the northern hemisphere). Some try to escape this season by going where it's warmer. That is a good thing for our vacation rental, but I myself would rather experience the dark season as a way to more appreciate the growing light. 

This is the time to think about the garden that will be planted in a few months. It's a time for writing. This year, for me it's a time to get routine medical stuff taken care of and hopefully figure out what is going on with my teeth (more dental visits ahead-- one involving a cracked tooth and another root canal). It has been a time to make reservations to stay in Old Faithful Inn in October-- our favorite season to be in Yellowstone. I only hope the government doesn't do another shutdown to block us this time. We will be taking the trailer and hope for time in the Lamar Valley as it's where I most want to be due to the proximity to the wolf packs.

A new opportunity was offered to me this month and I accepted it. I will be posting once a month at a blog called, Smart Girls Read Romances. I had seen the blog, read it a few times, but haven't had a lot of time to read any blogs given my writing schedule. I like the idea of this one as I believe romance books are not respected as much as they should be. Sure there are flowery and pointless boy meet girl stories out there. There are also pointless books in the 'great literature' category. There are a lot of romance authors who tell a great story along with that of a growing relationship. It is why the genre is so popular. This blog that informs more readers about the writers of romances seems a good idea. I'll be posting there every month on the 22nd.

The first post I needed to write was introducing myself. For me, it was the hardest possible. I am not sure I still have it right. Defining yourself in around 500 words is tricky and even more so if it is intended to explain what you write. Anyway I am giving it a shot. When it's up, I'll be sure and link to it here and other places.

  two possible covers for 'Round the Bend 
(wonder if Round the Bend needs an asterisk...)

And then there is another risk (I think of it that way) in probably late February or early March. After putting it off for several years, I plan to bring out the Oregon historical romances. The first one involves the trip west and introduces the Stevens family. If readers like the first, they may stick around to read the next three. The books take one family, with four different romances, from 1852 to 1868. I had put this off because the books are very dear to me. If they are not well received, it will be emotionally tough, but risk is part of living life fully. So I am doing it and hopefully letting the results not impact my emotions too much.

My current writing project, a short story, has evolved into novelette or maybe even novella. It is not finished but it's making good progress. I am letting this story, which carries on the Arizona family, go where it goes. It's been fun to write a heroine and hero, who might seem unlikely choices as they are in their late 50s and early 60s. Being a shorter book, it'll be 99¢ when it comes out, but I think readers of the first three historicals will like to see this aspect of the family. It also serves as a bit of an intro to the fourth Arizona historical. It will stand alone-- as do they all. 

Otherwise I have been reading, as I am sure others have, about the attack in Paris on freedom of speech. We saw it with the film The Interview where it ended up only being threatening words, but don't such attacks and threats, whether they lead to deaths, have an impact on writers who then fear to tell the truth as they know it?  I was glad to see some of the Islamic leaders come out willing to say such attacks were harmful to Islam itself-- without a justifying disclaimer for using such violence.

Can any of us turn our heads away and think-- well my life is fine? Or excuse wrong where we see it done. Yes, our own lives might be fine; but if we lose the ability to hear satire and insights that go against this group or that, will it stay that way? Writers are told never talk about their politics as they will lose readers (a small price given what the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists paid). The thing is, aren't we all citizens first? 

How many times can we turn our heads and pretend we just don't see? Bob Dylan asked that question many years ago, and it seems just as apropos today.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

2015 and some simple changes

Wahoo! We made it over the hump, that's the longest night of the year. We made it into a new year. And that all is kind of exciting. We have winter to get through but spring is on its way. A new year is a fresh slate-- kind of. It's a time many people decide on goals for what they want to have happen in the coming 365 days.

It would be nice to come up with something profound and deeply meaningful for my first post in 2015... I'd have to find it from someone else's writings as it is not how my head is working. I am in a very practical mode of plodding along without any deep thoughts beyond things I want done in the house, how the livestock are faring, what happens next in the current short story, my obligations for January, or hope the kids are having a good time wherever they are. 

For a few years I would spend time, during this season, writing down goals for the coming year. For awhile, I even had it broken down into different areas-- spiritual, emotional and physical. I don't do that anymore. It isn't that I don't know what I'd like to be doing but more that I feel the same urges months ahead of a year end. I am constantly thinking of goals in a loose sort of way. What do I want in my life? Who do I want? Am I doing the things that will get me where I want to be? Did I make a mistake in something that I should be fixing? It's an ongoing thing and no different now than it would be in July.

Last year I had my calendars ordered months ahead of time. This year because of time in Tucson getting that house where it needed to be (it looked great when we left), I only ordered my calendar for my desk a week ago which means the new one will be here  the second week of January-- if I am lucky. I liked the quote for December 2014 on the calendar that I am leaving behind.

"There is in every person an inner altar that has a guardian angel standing over it. This is the center of your concern, your connecting to the eternal."     Howard Thurman

The idea of a muse is a big part of my life and has been since childhood. I remember always the feeling something or someone was there. When I was small, my parents were concerned by my imaginary playmate. I had named him and although I don't remember what he looked like he did seem like a boy to me. 

But then I guess I quit seeing him-- social pressures dontchaknow; however, I didn't quit hearing him or feeling he was there. There have been times in my life where I thought I knew who he was. I gave him names more acceptable to my culture. Now I don't try to name him but I do listen and pay attention to the inner voice and to dreams. If I had one goal for every year, it'd be to always listen and be aware of serendipity. It has played a big part in my life-- all of my life.

So in a practical sense, what we did the last week of December was multifaceted and all very practically minded. When we were at our daughter's house for Christmas I saw several things I wanted for our house. Ranch Boss saw one he wanted. As soon as we got back up here, we bought them and began the process of setting them up.

The weather station is very practical and ideal for a ranch. We now know what the wind is before we go outside, how the animals will be impacted by more severe conditions like wind chill, and can react accordingly with feed. Besides which it's kind of fun. Although I follow an online site that gives weather fairly close to our actual location, it's nice to have it be more exact as rainfall in the area where we live can be very different from valley to valley. The inside gauge is set up in Ranch Boss's office to make it easy for him to keep track of what he will find outside. Knowing actual rainfall will help with irrigation choices.

What I most wanted is something I've wanted for quite some time but had put off. It's one of those hangers that lets your TV be flat against the wall or angle out depending on where you are sitting. We added another purchase to it-- a sound bar that we saw at the kids' home. We don't watch very much television as such but pretty much every night Ranch Boss and I decide on a film we would like to see and watch one. Currently it's usually our own DVDs, but we are thinking of trying out Netflix streaming. When I used to rent DVDs from Netflix, by the time they got here, I often had limited interest in them. Streaming will be better-- if we can figure that out. Given the other changes we recently made, that won't be happening right away.

As it is with many things in life, changing the TV changed the bookcase that held our DVDs, it changed chairs, a small buffet was moved to a bedroom and replaced with a small table. When it was finished, the room was more functional and looked very different, more open and spacious. 

When we bought this house, it had a sliding glass door outside and a big window that looked east, another good sized one that looked south. We began adding windows, closed in a porch to make a solarium, traded the glass door for a french door and pretty much gave up wall space for windows. I love windows. 

Our home is made up of things we have found through the years. Like the Tucson house, it's full of art, Navajo rugs, pottery and very eclectic. A small example is the table that now is under the television. Years ago in Kanab, Utah, in a secondhand store with an upstairs full of old furniture, we came across a very cool mission style table, made on a nearby reservation (currently it's in our Tucson home). We also bought a small table with a drawer. $20 and we had to shove this all into the back of our van and give up sleeping there until we got back to the ranch. The table with the drawer had no real place to go, but I used it by the phone in the hall (even though it was too large for there). Now it has a place. The drawer is a space for needed instruction sheets and the small table doesn't visually take up room. 

After the furniture was rearranged, the art had to be adjusted. Besides a lot of paintings and several Navajo rugs, we have three Deacon Sharp bronze masks (four actually but one is in Arizona). Although I don't always do it, I think art ought to be moved every so often as it can be overlooked if it stays in the same place. I know I am more aware of these masks in their new locations.

I don't know how many photos I have shared of our Oregon home but the following are all from the living and dining area. More may be changing here (I have a few ideas), but that's no rush. Step by step :)

Deacon Sharp's ram's head is alongside a poster by a painter again where I could never have afforded this painter's original work nor have ever had space for them as he paints huge-- and when I say huge, I mean huge. I'd have to give up furniture or a window to hang one, David Devary. I got this poster in Tubac some many years back. These are both on the wall above our wood stove and facing the kitchen... no photos of the kitchen. It's still recuperating from travel and not everything has been put away-- that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!
One thing I like about both our homes is they are simple structures. They aren't fancy houses. What we have put into them is what has made them have the energy they do. I can tell you the story of everything in this house and knowing where we got each thing adds to the joy and gives me memories of the first time I saw them. That's about the only way I favor looking backward.