Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

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Mother’s Day?

2010/05/08

Getting back to the blog after a long absence, and the first new entry is inspired by the Mothers.

Mother’s Day is a time to thank that special woman who brought you into the world, the woman who raised you, the woman who wiped away your tears and celebrated your milestones. But to me, the name of this day is just not enough.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Value of Friendship

2009/12/23

It’s funny how people come and go through our lives sometimes. If you are really lucky, you get to spend a lifetime in the company of someone you can call your friend, but most of the time they are passing ships in the night. They come into your life on a breeze of whimsy, and one day you realize just how long it’s been since you last saw them. It’s just the nature of our transient lives, I guess. Jobs, relationships, the vagaries of fate, they all ebb and flow around us, bringing people in and taking them away with the same twist.

Long ago I learned to accept this part of life. I make sure to treasure the time I have been given with someone, and I am always sure to let them know what they mean to me. Their time in my life is often short, but I never want anyone to walk away from their time with me without letting them know how I feel. I never want them to question their value in or to my life. And while I am sad when our ways have to part, I am glad for the time they gave to me.

Friendship is a tricky thing. To create a level of trust between strangers, sometimes greater than that of our own family, is a dangerous minefield. But the rewards can be so incredible that we are willing to risk it all for that one opportunity. Two people thrown together by chance, developing a bond of friendship that can withstand the pressures of the world around them is a beautiful and often overlooked thing. And one that can last for years on end is more precious and valuable than the most perfect gem.

I learned the value of friendship from my mother. I always wondered at the way she could welcome others into her heart without a moment’s hesitation, always be glad for their company, even when years and miles separated her from them. And I spent a significant portion of my life witnessing one of those rare and precious friendships that spanned a lifetime. My mother and her best friend shared their lives and their hearts and their families with one another. So much so that the lines became blurred, and it was hard to tell the difference for those around them.

I was a teenager before I discovered, completely by accident, that my godmother was not my mother’s sister. While doing a project in my Spanish class, I innocently asked, “So, where do I put Aunt Lu and Uncle Tommy on our family tree?” My mother’s family was unique, and I had always assumed that Aunt Lu was just another sibling in Mom’s bizarre chain of family relations. After all, we spent holidays together, we took vacations together, they visited my great grandmother, they took care of my brother and me when our baby brother was born…how could they not be family? And Mom told me that sometimes, if you are very lucky, you will have a friend who is so special that they can become your family. My Mom, and in turn, our family, was blessed with this kind of luck.

That blessing was also extended to me. I have shared much of my lifetime with a very good friend. And though the miles and our hectic lives have often come between us, when we get that all too brief time together, it’s almost as though no time has passed, and we’ve been there all the while. The comfort and support that can be found in a friendship such as ours truly is a gift, and I count myself fortunate for every moment.

My reflective side was triggered this morning thanks to the birthday of another treasured friend. He is one of those bright shining lights in this world, bringing sunshine and comfort wherever he goes. From the moment he came bounding in my life, I have felt blessed. He’s been struggling through a series of difficult transitions lately, but he never seems to fail in finding the light in everything, and his smile warms the hearts of everyone around him.

I wish for him, on this anniversary of his blessed birth, a lifetime of sharing that marvelous heart with the world, so that his joy for life can go out and come back to him in the form of the love of the many friends he has delighted through his time with us on this earth. And to all my friends, both near and far, both present and past, and all those friendships yet to be had, may the love you give in the name of friendship be returned to you tenfold through the friends you make.

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The Ghosts of Christmas

2009/12/20

As a child, this time of year was always filled with anticipation. Waiting for school to get out, wishing for that one special gift, looking for a white Christmas and trying desperately to get just one more cookie before Mom cut me off. I loved every wondrous and anxious moment of it. Playing in the snow until Mom forced me inside, listening to older family members tell stories of Christmas when they were children and all the sweet treats I had been dreaming about were everywhere. It was all about what was to come. The wonder and majesty of the season revolved around getting to the next step.

As a teenager, I discovered the joy of “Winter Break.” It was that magical time when there was no school, a ton of movies to see and a herd of friends to enjoy that freedom with. There were countless adventures to be had and we did them all together. It was also time to get reacquainted with the family. During the regular school year there was always so much going on, that it was easy to forget there were other people in the house when you left at dawn and got home just before curfew everyday. Getting up on a weekday morning to share a bowl of Apple Jacks with my baby sister and listen to my brothers work out their strategy for optimum lift and speed for sledding on Holly Hill that day was a precious chance to be in their lives again. Being a teenager during the holidays was about slowing down long enough appreciate what I had as I worked on what was to come.

In my twenties, the holidays became a series of rushes. A rush to get more hours, to get more done, to get ahead. At that point, life was rushing by and it took my complete attention to make it all work. You live completely in the moment then, just trying to make it to the end of the day. The only way I knew it was Christmas was when old friends showed up for their annual visit home, and that one precious day off to share with my family the fruits of my labors. The other kids were finally growing up, leaving only my baby sister as a teenager, but we all made the time to share Christmas Day together, because it was important. It was one day where we could stop and reflect on the previous year, and on our shared past. One day, in a busy life, where we were still our parents’ children and we could remember why that made us feel so good.

When my thirties rolled around, the holidays changed again. Now there were children running everywhere, and the wonder and majesty of the season could be seen reflecting through their eyes. The excitement was back, and I found myself anticipating the big day again. Seeing them dance and sing with each snow storm, hearing them rattle off their wish lists and dirtying up the house together making cookies or presents or decorations brought all the magic back. It also gave me a chance to share my memories of childhood with them. Telling them the story of how their Dad spent so long in the snow building a fort he almost had frostbite on his butt, or how their Mom would spent hours trying to catch snowflakes on her tongue, or the times they were so excited for Christmas they didn’t trust each other not to sneak downstairs first, so they camped out in one bedroom with sleeping bags, giggling all night long as they waited for the sun to rise. And just like that, the holidays became about anticipation and living in the moment and remembering the past, all at once.

I’ll spend some time today wrapping presents for the kids and thinking about their reactions. I’ll take a little time to work out the feast prep game plan with my mother. I’ve been spending time with friends, both old and new, sharing the moment together and enjoying their company. And later, much like I am now, I will reflect on the holidays past, and take joy from the memories shared over a lifetime.

May the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future always haunt your life, so you will never forget the real meanings of the season.

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Life Gets in the Way

2009/12/07

I’ve been trying really hard to keep a once a week schedule with this blog, but that was interrupted last week. The reason for that is simple…life gets in the way.

This is an insanely busy time for most people, and I am no different. Where I diverge from the pack is that my “holiday season” begins in October. Every year for the last six, I help organize the annual Halloween Party at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a fair amount of work pulling it together every year. Usually I get a short break after that, but this year I helped with the museum’s annual gala as well. The reason for this was the guest of honor; Harrison Ford. After much wrangling and a lot of wishful thinking, we were able to get him to also sign the X-Wing before he left for the night. It was a serious high-point in my work with the museum, and we raised a considerable sum of money to keep the doors open and the programs running.

Then we are headlong into November, and that means Thanksgiving, and for me, it also means birthdays. It would appear that the people in my family are BIG fans of Spring, because there are ten birthdays in my immediate family starting from the middle of November and going well into January. Throw in Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah and New Years (all holidays people in my life celebrate), plus the birthdays of a few godchildren and cousins, and you’ve got one seriously insane ride for about three months every year.

Now, you also have to add in holiday parties (both the company kind and the friends kind), and shopping, and friends coming in from out of town, and end of year stuff at work, and charity projects, and side work, and…. I think you get the idea, right? Basically, busy doesn’t even begin to cover it around this time of year.

It takes some serious effort to just sit down and write about the things going on in my head, or really, any kind of writing other than that stuff I get paid for. So, when I get a few minutes to try and collect those thoughts, I have to remind myself to be grateful for being so insanely busy this time of year.

Why should I be grateful for such a hectic way of life? That’s easy!

  • I am grateful I have a mother who volunteers me for any number of tasks, because it means she is here and alive and contributing to my life.
  • I am grateful that I have all these siblings who demand my attention with their troubles and woes, because it means they are including me in their lives and blessing me with the joy of their children.
  • I am grateful that my work is demanding so much of my focus, even when the drama hits a high, or my projects hit a snag, because it means I have a job that pays my bills and affords me the luxury of health insurance and a roof over my head when so many others have none of that.
  • I am grateful that my time is stretched to the absolute limits with the demands of so many projects, because it means that I am alive and well and able to contribute to my community in ways both great and small.
  • And I am grateful for those few precious moments when I can sit down and put all of those thoughts into words and share them with others.

Thank you for giving me something else to be grateful for, and may each of you find yourselves at a loss for time when life gets in your way. Happy Holidays to All!

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A Day of *grumble* Thanks

2009/11/26

There is nothing harder in this life than trying to put together a list of things you are grateful for when you find yourself in a sensationally foul mood. When work is trying, when your health is nagging at you, when the world feels like it’s coming down around your shoulders, and all you want to do is find a nice dark space to curl up and grumble in, how can you be thankful for anything?

Then I realized, that even with my foul mood there were people who still wanted me around. Friends who listen to me grouse and grumble about every little thing and wait out the storm. Siblings who never let my mood get in the way of giving me grief to take me out of the funk. Nieces and nephews who don’t even notice my scowl when they wrap their arms around me and say, “Happy Thanksgiving, Aunt Jenn!” And then there’s my parents.

My parents are subtle in the ways they change the big things. Little stuff is big and loud, but the important stuff they handle with oddly silent and, on the surface, unnoticeable grace. My father will inevitably put the kids up to something to draw me out; either begging to make some special craft or just a game of cards (I have never been able to resist the cards), and then go on like nothing’s wrong. But my mother, probably my greatest source of strength, is the one with all the answers. She just hands me the cutting board and a knife and expects me to get busy. And I know, it’s not always about how you feel, it’s about putting yourself into something else and knowing that it’s what you can do for someone else that makes it better.

So, for my parents, for my family, for my friends, and for all the people in my life, I am eternally grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Forgotten Amendment That Defines a People

2009/11/16

The Gay Rights movement is Wrong. Now, before someone decides to take aim at me with whatever device they wish, I should explain. Not only is the Gay Rights movement wrong, but so is the Gay Marriage Ban and the ERA movements. They are all moot points thanks to a fantastic thing called Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

It’s right there, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States” pretty much covers the bases, I think. It does not say all persons who are also members of a religious order, or all persons practicing heterosexuality, or all persons who possess a Y chromosome. It says that all persons born and naturalized in this country and subject to the jurisdiction of this country are citizens of the United States. It also states that as a citizen of the United States no State can make or enforce any law that denies the basic rights and privileges of its citizens.

That means Kentucky cannot enact a law which would prohibit Jane Q. Public from holding a job for which she is eminently qualified simply because she is a woman. That means the Maine State Police cannot remove John Q. Public and Jack Doe from their home to enforce an ordinance which allows their landlord to nullify their lease on the grounds of their open homosexual relationship. It also means that the federal government and/or the state of Nevada cannot imprison native born Americans of Japanese descent simply because the government of Japan has declared war as proven by the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment is a beautiful piece of law, even if the rest of the amendment is just a case of kicking someone when they’re down.  The only problem I can see with the Fourteenth Amendment is the application and enforcement of it.  For instance, we enacted the Fifteenth Amendment to guarantee that a citizen’s race not be used to bar them from voting. And then again with the Nineteenth Amendment to guarantee that a citizen’s gender not be used to bar them from voting. Had we simply upheld the Fourteenth Amendment, neither of those pieces of legislation would have been necessary.

Now, the Fourteen Amendment was one of three amendments enacted after the Civil War as part of the Reconstruction Amendments. This amendment gave us a broad definition of citizenship, and overruled Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) which barred slaves, as well as their descendants, from being granted any Constitutional rights.

However, perhaps its most far reaching affect comes from the application of its Due Process Clause, as it has been used to assert the Bill of Rights to the states. This clause recognizes not only substantive due process rights (parental and marriage rights), but also the rights of procedural due process, which require that specific steps, such as a hearing, must be taken before a person’s “life, liberty, or property” are taken away.

And the part that should stick out in everyone’s mind is the amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. This clause requires the states to provide equal protection under the law for all people within their jurisdictions. Equal protection under the law for all people. It should be said twice. It should be said every single day, by every single person in this country. Thanks to our constitution, our living document, we are all granted equal protection under the law. It doesn’t matter if you a card carrying communist, a decorated war veteran, an English teacher, a Taiwanese immigrant, a gay man, a black woman, or a child suffering at the hands of an authority figure, we are all granted equal protection under the law. The communist shouldn’t be mugged on the street, the vet has the right to speak her mind on the street corner, the teacher should expect his marriage license from Hawaii to be valid in Idaho, the immigrant knows that by following the law they can one day become a citizen, the gay man has the right to exist unharmed in any town he chooses to live, the black woman can work in any field she trains for without regard for her race, and the child should know the feeling of justice and mercy in the eyes of the law. And the reason all of these things are true is the Fourteenth Amendment.

So, why is it that we have forgotten about this wonderful piece of law? Ask anyone why they have their freedoms, and at best, they might be able to say the Bill of Rights. But no one remembers the Fourteenth Amendment, no one can say with conviction, they are a citizen of these United States and their rights have been defined by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Instead of asking for a new amendment, instead of demanding special legislation affording you specific rights and privileges, why not demand that your government uphold equal protection under the law for all “persons born or naturalized in the United States.” Stop trying to fight the church to get recognition for gay marriage, because a belief cannot be legislated. Instead, require the court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, because it is in direct opposition to the Fourteenth Amendment, and seek out legal recognition for all unions, equally. As a citizen of the United States of America it is your privilege, your right to equal protection under the law, and it is your duty as a citizen to protect the those same rights of other citizens.

Equal protection under the law is too important a concept in this country for anyone to forget. The Fourteenth Amendment gives this amazing thing as our right, guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of American. And united, we should all demand that it be upheld.

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Soundtracking Life

2009/11/10

Music has always played a huge role in my life, but so have words. Some of my earliest memories involve books and music.

I started reading at a fairly young age, somewhere around three years old. My parents aren’t entirely sure exactly when I started reading, because it was such an organic process for me, and not something I was really ever taught. My folks believed heavily in reading to all of us kids, even when we were little. I’m fairly certain we had the entire Little Golden Books catalog, and I know my brothers had every single Richard Scarry book published at that time. But the books I really remembered as a small child were the Read-A-Long books I used with my handy dandy Walt Disney Mickey Mouse  Record Player.

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See, I was a HUGE Disney fan when I was little. Heck, I’m still a fan of classic Disney (the new stuff just doesn’t seem to have the heart anymore). So, my folks could count on at least an hour of not having to figure out what to do with me by setting up the record player and taking down a couple of these little gems. And by having my own record player, I would never again climb inside their console stereo system to “get the music out.”

Perhaps it was my early introduction to stories with a soundtrack that made the connection between words and music for me, but I will almost never read in the silence. There must be music, and the music must fit with the words on the page. This has since transferred over into my writing. When I write there is always music, and it is always tailored to what I am writing.

I was reminded of the importance music has on my writing when one of my favorite authors was discussing how she put together the playlists she includes in her series of books. There was also a discussion with some other writers that brought this topic to mind. It was about how to get oneself ready to write, especially when dealing with a difficult scene/chapter . That was when I realized, it’s not even just what you’re writing, it’s who you’re writing. Just like in the movies, every character has their own theme music.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go through life with our very own theme music? People would always know it was you, and what kind of mood you were in, just by the tone and pacing of your own private theme. Some people even go so far as to make up themes for the characters in their lives, and just play it inside their heads when they are around. Not that I know anyone who does this (insert angelic expression here).

Important moments in my life also revolve around music. I can vividly recall my grandfather introducing me to the world of Big Band music via Tommy Dorsey, or as I called it, songs without singers. My mother playing us her old 45’s to teach my brother and I how to dance for a  sock hop. My great grandmother humming the Old Rugged Cross and Nearer My God to Thee as she cooked in the kitchen, or made the beds. Learning how to play unusual songs on the bells (it’s a walking xylophone) in drum corps. The great sense of accomplishment I had the first time I was able to finger the banjo fret board without any buzz playing Skip to My Lou. How heavy synthesizer music reminds me of all the colors I was able to make my hair with the aid of Jello in the 80’s. And a thousand other moments, each with their own soundtrack playing in my head.

So, it stands to reason that if so many of the moments of my own life have musical cues, then so too would the characters in my writing. I find that the music has to be changed, depending the point of view I am trying to convey. In that respect, I am soundtracking their lives, making their memories come to life with a song.

Next time you get stuck writing a difficult scene, try to imagine the theme music for your character(s), or something to match the mood you are attempting to express with words. It really is amazing how effortlessly the words can flow when they have the right rhythm leading them home.

Good luck and happy writing!

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