Ruminations on the United States as an exceptional country #neveragain

Exceptional in its penchant for violence, for a first-world country, the United States is a country I no longer recognize. It’s not the country I grew up in, where people rose up demanding equal education, equal rights for women and minorities, celebrating diversity and the wonderful complexity that is life. There’s some irony here because a lot of other people also pine for those “good old days” and their remembrance is much different from mine. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, feeling frustrated even as a young teenager with the restrictions placed on me simply because I was female. But I also felt empowered and hopeful because of all the adult women fighting for my future, by marching and by voting. I grew up in “ethnic” diversity where people made distinctions based on whether your family’s origins were from Poland, Germany, Italy, Ireland, or Puerto Rico. Only three black kids went to my high school and they were related to each other. Yet, we wanted to be friends, to be inclusive because at heart we were all kids. Our parents cared about the color of skin, but we didn’t. So I grew up frustrated and yet hopeful.

The country I live in now is unrecognizable to me. We don’t just make distinctions based on nationality; we deport people, even if the only crime they are guilty of is staying here too long. We want to roll back the clock on women’s rights and make them all handmaidens. Our path here has been insidious, only obvious when we look back and see the long road we’ve traveled.

We’ve come to embrace violence as just the way we exert our freedoms. The right to own an AR-15, a weapon designed for the sole purpose of killing a lot of people in a short period of time, is far more important than the lives of the people killed with an AR-15. The NRA has infiltrated our political system the way a cancer metastasizes. It kills, like cancer kills. Indiscriminately. No one is safe. In my eyes, the NRA is a terrorist organization, no better than ISIS.

Today I am going to my state capitol to stand with hundreds, perhaps thousands of people to demand that the Florida legislature enact serious gun control, to demand that these legislators stop being whores to the NRA and start serving the people they claim to represent. We must vote them out, vote out the NRA in November 2018. I can only hope that there are no more mass shootings before then.

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Good reads for those who love to read #amreading

Pedro is right: follow The Disappointed Housewife and “all of your wildest dreams will come true.” via Catch some new fiction @ TDH

Posted in Reading, The Disappointed Housewife | 1 Comment

Tiddlywinks ~ an essay by Krista McCarthy

I’m reblogging this essay from The Disappointed Housewife not only because I want to promote The Disappointed Housewife, but also because this essay by Krista McCarthy is spot-on when it comes to social media. I am not quitting social media, but McCarthy’s essay captures the tension I have with social media … especially Facebook. Sorry, Zuckerberg, but connecting with people through Facebook has not always been a happy, positive, three-dimensional experience. Even with family, sometimes it’s painfully one-dimensional. I’m not quitting Facebook. I’m in too deep. But I’m going to Google Krista McCarthy.

The Disappointed Housewife

So I’m off social media. I did it. I went in too deep, and now I’m just out. Because it flattened me.

It started with Facebook. It’s like only Zuckerberg really understood what was going to be happening, and had to happen, and that is that people would start connecting. But he might not have thought through the dynamics of that kind of connecting, which allows the subject – the “person” depicted on the Facebook page – to show herself to the world in any way she likes.

I didn’t need to connect to “friends and family” because I was already close enough to them and we all talked. On the phone. Instead I wanted to connect with other people. People I didn’t know yet and who didn’t know me. I was going to be (I thought) a monologist, though I think monology was already getting a little bit…

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Rapunzel, A Different Kind of Fairy Tale ~ fiction by Marie A Bailey

Not to toot my own horn, but here I am tooting! I am honored to be included in this new online literary journal, The Disappointed Housewife. Many thanks to Kevin Brennan for kick-starting my own literary career by publishing my different kind of fairy tale. I hope you enjoy it!

The Disappointed Housewife

Once upon a time, a child was born with long, silky blond hair. In fact, she came out of the womb, not head first, but hair first. The doctors and nurses and her parents were both fascinated and repulsed by the sight of the bloody blond hair that lay pooled on the hospital bed. A nurse came toward the infant with scissors but the mother stopped her. “No,” she said. “Let the hair stay. I will wash it myself.” She looked up at her husband whose face was a pale shade of gray. “We will call her Rapunzel,” she said and her husband dutifully nodded.

They had all expected Rapunzel’s hair to fall out and then regrow slowly, normally. But the hair stayed and it continued to grow until, by the time Rapunzel was walking, her hair followed behind her like a princess’s wedding train. And by then the whole…

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Ruminations #MondayBlogs #acceptance #forgiveness

Some of you know that I practice yoga at a studio. A few weeks ago, a student I didn’t know started attending the two classes I take each week. I found her presence to be a little unsettling. She was … to put it delicately … expressive with almost every pose she made. Her rather energetic sighs and enthusiastic exclamations distracted me from my own effort to relax into a pose. I wondered why she was so loud and talkative. I thought maybe she was new to yoga and didn’t yet understand that most students prefer silence. Well, at least I prefer silence. All I want to hear is the instructor as she guides me through a vinyasa.

Then one morning I was checking Facebook and a message from the yoga studio owner pops up. As I read it, my face flushed with embarrassment … and shame.

Turns out the expressive student who I will call Grace (not her real name) is recovering from a long illness, an illness that could have killed her and that has left her with brain damage. The message from the studio owner was prompted by complaints from other students. She felt obligated to help all of us understand Grace’s situation, in part because Grace so loved practicing yoga and in part because she and Grace were very close friends.

Grace was once a yoga instructor herself, at the very studio I attend, and she is well-loved by many there. I thought long and hard about how to respond to this news. Finally, I wrote back to the studio owner:

“Thank you for your post on Grace. I’m too embarrassed to admit publicly that I was initially unsettled by her comments and expressiveness during the few classes we’ve shared so far. I didn’t know who she was and thought she was just a very vocal person at first. But then I observed how the instructors responded to her … no, not really responded, but reached out to her. Every instructor, from the one teaching the class to the ones practicing, responded to Grace with a tender, loving kindness that made me realize there was something very special about her. I guess it’s that joy that people feel when they get back someone they thought they had lost. And I observed Grace … her warmth, her genuine friendliness to everyone around her, her joy when her body fell into place with the pose. When she smiled, her whole face would light up and you’d think, “this person loves life.” But I could also see the confusion sometimes, the withdrawal and quiet. It breaks my heart to know that the confusion is from her illness. What I learned from your post and my observations of the wonderful instructors at the studio and especially Grace, is that the studio is a safe place for everyone. I’ve always thought of it as such; the one place I can go and be my clumsy, flaky self without anyone criticizing me. But it’s not all about me and it’s not just for me. If the studio is a safe place for me, it has to be for everybody. Before I read your post, I struggled with that tension of wanting my safe, quiet place and sharing it with Grace and her enthusiasm. After reading your post, I realized what a hypocrite I am. One of the many things I LOVE about the studio is the sense of humor everyone shares, the willingness to laugh at ourselves, to let go of the pressures of the day and just Be. I read your post a few hours before my Yin/Yang class. Grace was there and I rejoiced in every word and sound she uttered. As so many have said, Grace expresses what we all feel: she gives voice to our joy when a pose feels right, our bafflement when we forget which is right and which is left, and that sweet peace as we yield to savasana. I truly look forward to practicing with her. And thank you for making the studio what it is: a place of healing and joy and laughter.”

I wanted to share this because I still haven’t completely forgiven myself. Yes, the next time Grace turned up in one of my classes, I made a point of saying hello to her. Nothing more. Not yet. She was quiet that night and I could only hope it was because she was feeling peace within herself, not confusion.

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The Disappointed Housewife is LIVE!

Check it out!

https://kevinbrennanbooks.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/the-disappointed-housewife-is-live/

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Coming soon!

New online literary mag is open for submissions … and getting ready to launch on January 15th! Read on for more details …

WHAT THE HELL

The Disappointed Housewife is approaching!

I’ve received a number of fun pieces the last few weeks, and though I’m still keeping the pre-launch submission window open, the big day will be January 15. Mark your calendars.

I hope all my readers here at What The Hell will quickly follow the new lit mag and start spreading the word. But I’m also eager to see new submissions coming in so I can build up a nice catalog of material for readers. I’ll be posting open submission calls at a variety of places, hoping to find a lot of writers willing to try new things. Of course, I’ll always give readers of this blog a fair shot at publication because loyalty deserves reward. If you have something you think would fit in at TDH, send it on over. Or read the pieces that I’ve already assembled to get a feel for…

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Rambling Thoughts #MondayBlogs #lifehappens

A couple of friends recently emailed me, asking if I was okay. Not only have I not been blogging over the last several weeks, I haven’t even been visiting my friends’ blogs.

Life happens.

Shortly after our return from our best-road-trip-ever, I was told that one of my cousins was in jail. C and I were born the same year so he’s not a young’un who was caught behaving badly. (Out of respect for him, I won’t use his name (C=cousin) and the details of his arrest are nobody’s business.) This is the very first blot on his record … very first … ever. So, this isn’t a case of people shaking their heads and saying they saw it coming. Nobody, at least nobody I know, saw it coming.

I don’t know C very well. We grew up in different towns, went to different schools. Our moms were ten years apart with a few siblings in-between. I say were because C’s mom died last year. While it’s not surprising for people to die in their 80s, my aunt’s cancer diagnosis and her death two months later shocked all of us. And devastated C. I tried to reach out to him when his mom/my aunt was ill, but we played the usual phone tag and then when we finally connected, we couldn’t talk because we were crying.

And over the past year or so, we had both thought to call again. But life happens. You go to work. You think, I’ll try tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow. Now this.

My sister told me, thinking I already knew from my mom. Hell, no. This is how my family rolls: if you can’t do anything about it, why tell about it. I’m in Florida. What the hell can I do for my cousin in New York. I could … and I did … get his phone number and started playing phone tag. Sometimes his phone was off and that totally creeped me out. He was out on bail and awaiting sentencing and I was so worried that he might … he just might … decide he couldn’t face jail time. Yeah, I was actually worried he might take the permanent way out because in so many ways I imagined he felt like his life was over.

Then he called me back. It was such a good call. Damn, I was so glad to talk to him. We laughed. We got choked up. He said my mom was a “freak of nature” because at 94, she’s still sharp and strong. I almost peed my pants laughing.

This guy I hardly know. This guy that I have no other reason to talk to except for a few interactions over the years. This guy that I have always thought of as a nice guy, a really nice guy. And he is still that nice guy. That hasn’t changed. He fucked up, to put it simply. No lives were lost. No serious injuries. But still. Jail time because he did fuck up.

So we talked and I asked him if he wanted me to write and he said of course that would be great. He had served in the military and still remembered how important mail was back then.

So I have been writing, but I’ve been writing to C and it’s really weird. It’s like I’m writing my autobiography because we didn’t grow up together and I left home when I was 21 and there’s so much we don’t know about each other. It’s awkward because my letters are all about me when I want them to be all about C. When he writes, he asks questions. He wants to know about the accident I had in 1981 and the cancer I managed to sidestep. He wants to know what I think about faith. And because I’m writing, I tell him everything. Sometimes it’s really hard because I’m awakening memories and feelings that I prefer to keep buried. But they are stories that help him get to know me better and, perhaps more importantly, distract him from his immediate circumstances.

And as I read his letters, I think gee, he really is such a nice guy. I want him to find within himself the strength I know he has (hello, he was in the military). I want him to stop beating himself up. He’s remorseful. He regrets what happened. Now let’s move on and look forward and see this as an opportunity to put his life back together in a way that will be so much better than it was. I want to make it all better. And I can’t.

His letters are full of his concern for how all this impacts the people he loves. If only if only if only. You want to turn back time, just one day, even just one hour. When I think back on the accident I had in 1981, it still gives me chills to remember that I almost didn’t go to work that day, and that if I had just gone home instead, I wouldn’t have gotten hurt. But we can’t live life that way, can we.

So. I am surfacing to share this much. There are other things going on in my life that would have derailed my blogging anyway, but this is the most important, most immediate thing. If I had to choose between spending two hours writing a blog post and spending two hours writing a letter to my cousin, well, the choice is obvious.

But. The need to write for my blog and read my friends’ blogs is still there so I’m surfacing. To be continued … 🙂

 

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Living in the Moment: Georgia O’Keefe and Clouds #MondayBlogs #GeorgiaOKeefe

If you’re new to my blog and want to know how this road trip began, click here for the first post. For our time in Casper, Wyoming, click here. For our experience with the Total Solar Eclipse, click here. For our drive through Colorado (aka the drive from Hell) and the oasis also known as Trinidad, click here. This will be my last post on our great adventure to see the Total Solar Eclipse among other things.

Our stay in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was a welcome respite from the fairly hectic traveling and anxiety-ridden anticipation of the Total Solar Eclipse that took place the first half of our road trip. Once we were in Santa Fe, we chilled. We relaxed. We drank coffee every morning on the quiet patio.

The patio where we had our morning coffee.

We walked to Whole Foods, replenishing our snack stock and buying ingredients for at least one nice meal at “home.” We walked to restaurants that were nestled in and among private residences. We walked to the plaza and the Georgia O’Keefe Museum.

I’ve been a fan of O’Keefe for a long time, admiring the woman as well as her art. She always impressed me as being stoic and unconcerned with the opinion of others. She would do her art regardless. In reflecting on her transition to the artist she became, she wrote:

This was one of the best times in my life. There was no one around to look at what I was doing — no one interested — no one to say anything about it one way or another. I was alone and singularly free, working into my own, unknown — no one to satisfy but myself (emphasis mine).

As a writer I struggle with the tension between satisfying readers and satisfying myself. It’s not always the same thing.

Another aspect of O’Keefe that I’m drawn is to her humility. I’m not saying she was a humble person. I don’t think it’s possible to be both humble and world famous. The ego won’t allow it. But she had humility in that she knew her celebrity was the product of chance. She once said, and I have to paraphrase because I haven’t been able to find the quote, that she just happened to be in the right place at the right time. If she had been born at another time, perhaps her art would not be celebrated. It was all timing. Well, talent and vision, too, but without timing …

The Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe is a wonderful place, small, but full of O’Keefe’s life work and then some.

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On our second full day in Sante Fe, my husband wanted to do a time lapse … of something, anything! As you might remember from a previous post, his efforts to do a time lapse of the Milky Way over Hell’s Half Acre failed. In order to do a proper nighttime time lapse, you need clear skies; even out in the western states, clear nights can be hard to come by. You’re at the mercy of Nature so you learn to take what you can get. We set out for the mountains, specifically Hyde Memorial State Park. The first part of the drive took us through a strange landscape of Flintstone-like mansions. Ah, we thought, here’s where the wealthy live, in their adobe bubbles. I am so bored with the uber-rich these days I can’t be bothered wasting my iPhone’s battery life on pictures of their overly expensive, tacky compounds so … nothing to see here.

Finally, we entered the park and found a decent turnout with enough of a gap between the trees for Greg to get a clear view of the sky. While he fiddled with his photography, I took my own pictures and played with stones.

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I think it was at this point when I remarked to Greg that I had probably spent more time outdoors on this trip than I had the previous half year in Florida. I exaggerate but the sentiment is true. Regardless of the time of day or night, on this trip I was never beset with bloodsucking mosquitoes, skin-burrowing chiggers, or biting ants. I would live in the moment without having to swat away flying insects or scratch myself raw. Saying goodbye to the west was not going to be easy.

On our last night, just to make it harder on myself, I looked up at the sky as we walked back from dinner  …

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Saying goodbye had to happen. As it turned out, that was a good thing since Hurricane Harvey was on the path to wreaking havoc and destruction. We had planned to go home via Dallas, Texas. Instead it was the Texas Panhandle, then Oklahoma, Missouri ever so briefly and, finally, the long slog through Alabama.

It was a good trip overall and even though I don’t like to drive, I will definitely be more than willing to drive back to Santa Fe or even Trinidad the first chance we get. Santa Fe is my new dream city (sorry, San Francisco) and Trinidad is my new dream affordable city.

Thanks for riding along with me on this great adventure. Regular sporadic programming will now resume.

 

 

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Circumstances of Childhood. A new novel by John W. Howell!

Click for Amazon Kindle

Shipping on October 1st. Priced at $0.99 for the introduction.

This is a different story for John. It is in the Family Life genre and tells the story of brotherly love, riches to rags, and redemption with a little paranormal thrown in. Normally John writes thrillers but this time he has stepped into a different place. This book was written with love for the story and the hope it will be an enjoyable read.

The blurb:

When a former pro football star and broadcaster, now a Wall Street maven, is accused of insider trading, will he be able to prove his innocence and expose those who are guilty?

Greg and his boyhood pal dreamed of big success in professional football and then later in business. Greg was the only one to live the dream. Now the founder of an investment fund Greg is faced with a routine audit finding by the SEC. The audit points to irregularities and all the tracks lead to Greg. The justice department hits him with an indictment of 23 counts of fraud, money laundering, and insider trading. His firm goes bust, and Greg is on his own.

His best friend knows he is innocent but has been ordered under penalty of eternal damnation not to help.

If you enjoy stories of inspiration, riches to rags, redemption, brotherly love, and a little of the paranormal, Circumstance of Childhood will keep you riveted.

An excerpt:

I look down at my drink and wonder what will happen tomorrow. My daughter Constance wants to come and visit. She lives in New York, and before all hell broke loose, we didn’t see each other often. I missed her so much, and it seemed as if I had to beg her even to talk on the phone. Now, it’s like she wants to be here every weekend. It’s only an hour’s flight by the shuttle or three by train, so she can come when she wants. I just can’t figure out why she got so clingy. I have my troubles, but it doesn’t have anything to do with her. No use in asking her husband either. Though a nice enough guy, I always wonder if he has someplace important to go when I visit. He never sits still and stays busy on the phone or at the computer. He makes a good living, but it seems a person could take an hour to sit and talk. I’d looked forward to some kind of relationship when he and Constance got married. It’ll never happen with him.

When I take another pull at my drink, I notice the burn feels less. It happens every time. First sip initiation, I call it. It’s like the first puff of a cigarette, hits hard then, after, nothing. I decide to let Constance pretty much have the agenda tomorrow. She and I have not had a chance to talk about anything deep for a while. It could just be that she blames me for her mother running off with that guy with the house on the Hudson. He has a title, and the old gal couldn’t resist, but I think the daughter always felt I should have done something. Her mother’s sleeping with another guy and what the hell can I do about that?

I’ll just go with the flow. If she wants to go out, we will. If she wants to stay in, we can do that too. I better think about getting some food in the house. Of course, we can always order take out. I need to move on to my drink and let this go. Tomorrow will be what it is. I remember the day she was born. I looked down at her in my arms and promised I would do anything for her. I love her more than life itself, and I hope we can somehow get to the root of whatever’s wrong. She sounded strange on the phone this morning, and I feel helpless to do anything about it. I hope she opens up when she gets here.

For some reason, I feel tired. Perhaps I’ll go ahead and finish my drink. Maybe I’ll just go home and forget the burger. First, though, I’ll just shut my eyes for a minute. My hands feel good when I put my head down.

“Hey, Greg,” Jerry says. I barely hear him. “What’s the matter? You taking a nap? Greg?” I can feel him shake me, but I have no interest in waking up. His voice gets further away, and I think he says, “Oh, my God, Sophie, call 911, quick.” Now the room goes silent.

Author Bio:

John's Bio

John began his writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive business career. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. His first book, My GRL, introduces the exciting adventures of the book’s central character, John J. Cannon. The second Cannon novel, His Revenge, continues the adventure, while the final book in the trilogy, Our Justice, launched in September 2016. The latest, Circumstances of Childhood, a family life story, is available as of October 1st, 2017. All books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

John lives in Port Aransas, Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

John’s other books:

My Girl front His Revenge Our Justice

Available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/author/johnwhowell

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