Archive for October, 2017

Got a Witchy Woman??

Posted: October 31, 2017 in World On The Edge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Halloween evokes many memories of my children growing up. I probably shouldn’t admit this particular memory, but when ONE of my girls was a tyrannical toddler, I gave the little thing a nickname–“Witchy Woman.” Believe me, at the time it suited her well. All she needed was a miniature broom.

Of course today, she’s anything but witchy–I mean I’m certain her husband and children would never call her such!!

But hey, aren’t we all a little ‘witchy’ at times. Look at some of the characteristics of these tiny, toddling people:

They discover they can walk on two legs and so are “into everything.”
They are stubborn about ME, MINE, and MY.
They are in love with the word NO.
They become easily frustrated.
They like to build, knock down, put in, and take out.
They have very short attention spans.
They imitate almost everything they see.

And then there are:

The big smiles when they wake up from a nap or in the morning (Despite the load in their diapers)
The sloppy kisses.
The arms around your neck.
The squeals of laughter.
The “help Mommy make dinner” pans on the floor.
The colorful scribbles.
The heads of hair full of paste, or spaghetti, or you name it.
The fall, the get-up, the tears and the “I want Mommy!”

Today, my little ‘witchy woman’ is one of whom I’m very proud. Her witchy-ness propelled her, and may even have been the key to her great success as a woman. I am amazed at how high she flies!

My new novel, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN HIGH AND LOW, is almost ready for publication. It is a book that I began ten years ago and worked on sporadically, searching for the right publisher. In the interim, it was chosen as a Finalist for The Tuscany Prize, and also a Finalist in the William Faulkner/William Wisdom Writing Competition. In addition, one of the stories in my short story collection, “Birds of a Feather,” published by WiseBlood Books, came out of this novel, as well as a story published in Dappled Things Magazine. So…I think it is time for the whole book to be finally unveiled. That unveiling should happen sometime before Thanksgiving.

The novel is southern gothic, about twins who must do without their father, and about those who pick up the slack.

Here are the important characters, along with a few of their thoughts.

 

LIZZIE:

LIZZIIE model-2405020_640

“My brother Peck and I were twins. In the darkest of watery wombs, we waited for the voice of our father, and heard silence. So, we placed our arms around each other and felt the beating of hearts, tiny sweet pulsations thumping against our skin. Wound together, my brother belonged to me, and I to him, for our breath was the same breath. Our loss was the same loss. I loved him then. I love him now. No matter what happened, no matter the distance between us, I will always love him.”

PECK:

peck

“I can’t tell Lizzie what I know– that our Mama is hooked on some drug and maybe on Hobart, too, that our house is not ours, but his, and that I never really wanted the osprey, only our father who doesn’t want us. I love Lizzie too much to hurt her like that. And I can’t let her into my room because no one, except Izear, has ever seen me cry.”

           PEARL:

Pearl

The Grandmother, always with Super Glue in her pocket to restore broken things, like fine china, radios, and even people. Pearl’s favorite adage is a warning picked up from her second cousin, the only Judge in Highlow, Alabama:

“If  you don’t want to go to Cincinnati, then don’t get on the bus.”

IZEAR:

                       (Because in my mind, he looks like George Washington Carver)

Izear george-washington-carver-393757_640

“Did you know your father?” Peck asks Izear.

“Knowed he was a full-blooded Cherokee, ugly as sin, and the meanest man I ever met. People saw him walking down the street, they crossed to the other side ‘cause he always carried a plank of wood in case somebody made him mad.”

“At least you knew him.” Peck rolls his napkin into a snake shape.

“Most fathers ain’t all they’re cracked up to be,” Izear says. “Eat your toast. I made that blackberry jelly myself.”

“But you did know him.”

Izear turned from the stove where he was frying bacon, “Lookahere, you got all you need. No reason at all for another man to be in this house, so quit whining.”

“I want just want to meet him.”

“Maybe I wanna meet the King of Egypt, too, but it ain’t gonna happen. You take what you get and thank the sweet Lord Jesus for it.”

LILA: THE DRUG-ADDICTED, ARTIST MOTHER WHO PAINTS FACES ON FINE CHINA

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“Mama tries, again, to kill Hobart with the just-in-case gun. She shoots through her opened window as he walks toward his new car, still bandaged from the first time. I am sorry to say that all she hits is the rear-view mirror.”

 

HOBART: THE OUTSIDER WHO CRAVES TO BELONG ON HIGHLOW’S MAIN STREET

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“You ever shot a gun?”

“I saw how to do it on TV.”

“Well, TV ain’t real. They use ketchup for blood.”

“I’ve seen real blood. I saw Peck’s blood and it was real.”

“I told you to shut the hell up about that!”

“Okay, Hobart.”

“Look, hold the gun like this and look through that sight. When you see the damn hawk, pull the trigger and kill it.”

“Okay. . .but what if we get hungry out here?”

“When you hunt, you got to be patient. And quit that damn sniffing. Here’s a handkerchief, wipe your nose.”

“What’s that fell out of your pocket, Hobart?”

“Somethin’ D.C. gave me. Dixie sugar. It’s for Leona. I don’t use anymore; I’m trying to fix myself up for Miss Pearl.”

“My daddy loves sugar. He loves all that sugar in Izear’s pound cake. Mama says it’s why he’s got a spare tire around his waist. Peck loved sugar, too.”

“Listen Little Benedict, maybe we oughta go on back if you’re hungry.”

“But we haven’t even seen the Osprey. If Peck was here, he’d wait for it.”

“I told you not to talk about–. Little Benedict, get back in the truck, we’re leaving!”

“I don’t want to go.”

“Hell, I’ll give you a rain check, okay?”

“Okay Hobart, but–“

“But what!”

“I loved Peck, too, ya’ know.”

“Yeah. I know, Little Benedict.”

 

LITTLE BENEDICT: DEVOTED  NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR TO LIZZIE AND PECK

Peck 2

“Remember Little Benedict, “Miss Pearl says, looking down at me and pointing her tiny finger. “You and I are Highlow blood and in this together. Plus, The Judge will write down whatever you say.”

Naturally, I keep my mouth shut.

LITTLE SISTER: DESERTED BY HER PARENTS

Little SIster child-2745167__340

Little Sister doesn’t take rudeness personal;
she’s always looking for Jesus. She tip toes
toward the fruits and vegetables and comes
up just behind the Foodliner manager who’s
absorbed in checking for bruised tomatoes.
She taps his shoulder. He turns around to
see Little Sister smiling at him, and then she
gives him her best kiss, right on the mouth.
The Foodliner manager is stunned. “Jesus!”
he shouts, wiping his lips. “Jesus!”
Little Sister tilts up her chin in triumph.
“Uh huh!” she says. “I knew He was
in there somewhere.”

 

ANTHONY: THE DOCTOR WHO LOVES LIZZIE

Anthony man-1209947_640

Anthony tightens his grip over my hand. “You can do it, Lizzie. Just don’t sail directly into the wind. Zigzag a little, a forty-five degree angle. It’s called tacking. See? The wind crosses over the bow, not into it.”

The boat straightens, and stays that way as long as Anthony keeps his hand on mine. We have a smooth sail and make it back to shore, while the other two passengers barely notice.

THE BLIND ARTIST: IS HE THEIR FATHER???

blind artist nikita-shalenny-84372_640

     “Which one beat you?”
“I’m almost certain it was the kid, but I couldn’t see. By then, I was blind.”
“Well, it was the black man who went to jail for it,” I say, but he isn’t listening.
“Lila was screaming,” he went on. “She said if they’d leave me alone, she’d go back with them. The beating stopped then.   And that’s all I can tell you, except after I knew they were gone, I called the police. Of course, they couldn’t give me back my eyes.”

 

THE JUDGE WHO WRITES EVERYTHING DOWN:

The Judge thinking-272677_640 

From The Official 1950’s Archives of Pearl’s Cousin, The Judge.

Written on a single, stained page, recently discovered under a tea napkin by Little Sister, and left just where she found it.

“Lila’s twins were born today. She named the boy, Peck, and the girl, Lizzie. Their father is just another Highlow secret, best left untold. Pearl says she and Izear will see to it that Lizzie and Peck don’t feel the lack of him, but I say those twins will search the distance between high and low for their father’s love. It’s only natural.”

 

Cannot say enough about the importance of FATHERS.

Translating a World on the Edge

father-as-leaderOver the years there have been many published studies on the importance of fathers.

From a father a child learns the basics: how to act, talk, react in certain situations. How can a father teach these things if he’s not present?

Without a father a child is much more likely to engage in activities that are abusive or harmful. In an article entitled The Plight of Fatherless Children from Gazette.net the following discoveries were noted for children without fathers:

  • Sixty-three percent of young people who commit suicide are from fatherless homes.
  • Eighty-five percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders are from fatherless homes.
  • Eighty percent of rapists are from fatherless homes.
  • Seventy-one percent of high school dropouts are from fatherless homes.
  • Seventy-five percent of all adolescent patients in chemical-abuse centers are from fatherless homes.
  • Seventy percent of juveniles in state operated institutions come from fatherless homes.
  • Eighty-five percent of youth…

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In a Place of Acceptance???

Posted: October 19, 2017 in World On The Edge

 The Distance Between High and Low is my new upcoming southern gothic novel, now in the final stages of proofing.  The novel is about young people–specifically a set of twins, a boy and a girl–who must do without a father, and about those who pick up the slack. One of the twins is the girl in the picture, completely devoted to her brother. More to come about her later.

But there’s another important character in the novel, an adversary called, Hobart McSwain. Hobart, born in Detroit, was adopted as a child by an Alabama family. Expressing his need for acceptance in the fictional town of Highlow, he says:

“I never asked for Alabama; I never asked to be her son. I had no choice over my deliverance. A child has no muscle, at all; just a displaced leaf riding on a stale wind, blowing this way and that. But when the wind stops, the leaf descends. I descended into the high side of Highlow and was raked aside, and it hurt that I wasn’t good enough to be noticed.”

Not good enough to be noticed. A frightening and continuous worry that most of us have throughout our lives.

Four years ago, I had my first book-signing at Barnes and Noble, here in my hometown. I worried a lot–like a child: Will anyone come? Will I sign any books? As a new author, will I be accepted?

Since then, I’ve spoken at many events and venues, but always wondering the same. Am I good enough?

Acceptance is one of the themes in The Distance Between High and Low. And it’s what we all want, isn’t it? From the time we are born until the time we die, we strive for the acceptance of those we admire. Am I good enough?

In high school, in college, on the job—am I good enough?

In marriage, in parenthood, as a friend —am I good enough?

Living on the edge of a materialistic world that places wealth, power, and beauty on the altar of success—am I good enough?

Do I hide as if I’m inferior, and only now and then, peek out? If so, I need to remember that I don’t have to please another’s version of ‘good enough.’ I only have to satisfy that place in my own soul that pricks me to follow my highest inclinations, not my lowest ones.

Because in that place, I can relax in comfort and ask the Lord to lead me, then hear His voice as a Father to His child: “I love you no matter what you do, or who you are. I accept you. You are mine.”

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We all have our “little kingdoms” to protect–those tangible and transient things in our lives that we covet. Some covet position, holding to their bank account, or personal appearance. Some hold tightly to their addictions, bad habits, or sins. Others concentrate on influencing and swaying people–maybe, or maybe not, in a loving way.

And we work hard to keep up these things we hold on to. We pay great attention to them because they fill some perceived lack within us. If we have, or if we do, this or that, we will be completely satisfied, and happy. Or so we think. But often, even if our little kingdoms are attained, we still feel unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

This is because, as human beings created by God in His own image, we are made for more than seeking satisfaction in the kingdom of Self. That kind of satisfaction is shallow and stagnant. We are made to thrive in a much bigger kingdom right here on earth. And I don’t mean kingdom as a symbol. I mean a genuine kingdom for each of us in light of our great value. In other words–Who We Are.

And who is it that we are? Children of Almighty God. All of us. Every one of us. No matter our status in life. “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” –2 Corinthians 6:18

It is odd that we put so much more stock into our own personal little kingdoms which may bring us passing happiness, but often cause discord and unhappiness, and yet ignore the bigger kingdom of everlasting happiness that is our birthright.

What are we waiting for? Why are we holding back? We strive for, obsess over, and give all our attention to our passing kingdoms. Why won’t we give everything for the only kingdom that lasts?

r

beauty-2388342_640

It’s a fact.

Women spend lots of money to “stay young.” So do some men.  The biggest thing to many of us is appearance.

And its expensive, especially for women, who reportedly spend over 426 billion dollars on beauty products with dreams of having the taut faces and bodies of our younger years.

All these beauty products may, or may not, keep us looking good on the outside, but as human beings, we possess so much more than our bodies. We possess a soul.

Our soul, our interior self, projects to the world our genuineness, or our falseness, as human beings. The Catholic Catechism tells us that the human person, created in the image of God, is corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that “then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God. In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person. But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is made in God’s image: “Soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.

How much attention do we pay to that?

Do we ever ask ourselves how does my soul look, instead of how does my body look?

We are called to pay attention to our soul, called to recognize that it possesses a divinity created by, and shared with God, making us His.

I ask you this: will your body live forever? No answer is needed. We all know it won’t.

But our soul will live forever.  So, doesn’t it seem smart to take better care of it than we do?

black-and-white-1283234_640What’s a hidey hole??

According to the dictionary: a place for hiding something, or oneself, especially as a retreat from other people.

A hidey hole has positives and negatives, and there are times when we need one–times when we need aloneness. One of those times is for prayer. Of course, we can pray anywhere, even in the middle of a noisy crowd, but solitude is a requirement for most of us when making prayerful decisions about our life in a conversation with God, who loves us and will lead us, if we let Him.

But sometimes our very private hidey holes are breeched by other people who want to destroy our convictions and closely held beliefs. These people crowd around us, increasing their loud cacophony to distract us from our deeper self. The sound of their voices keeps some of us from hearing our own inner voice, while the breath from their mouths attempts to blow out the personal candles of our once-enlightened soul.

We are lured by a false connection to these people we don’t even personally know–and who surely don’t care a thing about us. These people are haughty and proud, big-screen personalities out for themselves. Yet, we let them tell us who, or what, we ought to be.

At first they come at us to question our appearance:

We ought to be thinner.
We ought to dress like them.

Then they come at us touting their own actions:

We ought to sing their way, or dance their way, or go on their Survival trips.

Finally, they come for our thoughts:

We ought to tolerate whatever they say we should tolerate, no matter if it goes against the grain of what we know is right. We ought to silence our own thoughts and take up theirs. And on and on, until we’re not thinking for ourselves, at all.

Except inside us, in our tiny hidey hole, lies our conscience–a still, small voice that will speak to us if we let it. A voice that comes from the wonderful gift of free will–the opportunity to think and act for ourselves.

Do we realize how much we lose by not listening to the voice within us?

Do we realize how much we miss by not trusting in ourselves?

Don’t miss the opportunity to become who YOU are, not who THEY are.

Never give up your own, valuable hidey hole–that quiet place within you that nourishes and strengthens your spiritual convictions.