Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Year, New Beginnings by Diane Bator

I am one of those busy people who manages 3 teenagers (one at University), 2 part-time jobs, a fledgling writing career and a new editing business as well as a husband. Yes, I am my own special kind of crazy and can cause myself all sorts of stress. I also make sure to create all kinds of joy in my life to keep some semblance of balance.
During a really busy, extremely stressful, time in my life recently, I took the time to make a list of the things that relaxed me and gave me joy. This list is in no particular order, but simply as they popped into my head.
1.       Baking Cookies
~ I don't do this enough because of the inevitable side effect - I eat them!
2.       Laughing
~ the light-hearted, silly moments are the ones that inspire me the most and open the creative portal.
3.       Snuggling with my cat
~ our furry baby was a rescue animal 9 years ago as a newborn kitten. He's funny, chatty, and always seems to know when anyone needs a hug.
4.       My kids
~ good, bad, or ugly, the kids are always entertaining to some degree and a constant source of laughter, hugs and inspiration in my life.
5.       My friends
~ coffee dates and lunches aren't as common as they used to be so I savor every one. My friends all know I write (as to many of them!), they all know I use the best lines they toss out at me, and they all know I treasure every one of them!
6.       Yoga
~ I love yoga to restore my body and spirit - my mind I'm still working on. Mind tends to be a wild horse that does NOT want to be reined in and constantly needs the gentle reminder to be still. I seek the calming effect, which helps me focus on my writing later.
7.       Christmas Movies
~ Okay, I admit it. I'm a Christmas movie junkie, especially those made-for-TV movies. Have you ever noticed about 95% of them feature writers?
8.       Walking
~ A great moving meditation, I love as how my feet move, my brain sweeps out the bad thoughts and lets my creativity flow - just when I have no pen or paper within reach!
9.       Martial Arts
~ my hubby and kids did karate for 6 years before I started nearly 3 years ago. Another form of moving meditation, students are trained to empty their minds, yet be aware of everything around them.
10.   Writing
~ My Happy Place! When the rest of the world is getting me down, or life gets out of control, I find escaping to write is one of the best ways to regain my joy, calm my spirit, and find my focus.

As the New Year begins and the glitter and busy-ness of the Holiday Season fades, we all need to find take a deep breath and return to being the creative souls we are. This year, make Joy your constant companion. Find the awe and wonder in the little things and make your own list of the things that make you happy for those days you'd rather tear the world - imaginary or otherwise - apart.
My wish for all of you in 2015 is to learn how to stop once and a while and just breathe.
Happy New Year!

Diane Bator
Author of the Wild Blue Mysteries Series
~ The Bookstore Lady
~ The Mystery Lady
~ The Bakery Lady
....more coming soon!


Friday, January 2, 2015

WOMEN DRIVERS - SAINTS OR SINNERS - MARGARET TANNER


ROAD RAGE VICTIM

Recently, I witnessed a car accident.  A truck ran up the back of a woman’s car outside a local shopping mall. The man jumped out of his truck and abused the woman. Luckily no-one was hurt, but this incident brought to the surface something that happened to me more than twenty years ago.

I was involved in a serious accident when a fully laden semi trailer ran into the back of my car, virtually demolishing it. How I survived was a miracle, how I was able to walk away with just a few bruises was even more miraculous. Even the emergency workers who arrived on the scene couldn’t believe it. My car was crushed, the semi-trailer jack-knifed and ended upside down, and the driver had to climb out the window, but all I could blubber about was losing my shoes.  They weren’t even designer ones, just the low-heeled type I always wore to work. “Stupid woman,” I heard a by-stander remark. “Worrying about her bloody shoes.”

***

Everyone knows me – the lady who sits on or just below the speed limit. The one who gets tail-gated and abused by impatient road users who ignore speed signs.
 
I always leave a reasonable distance between my car and the one in front of me, only to be out-maneuvered by someone else squeezing into the gap. When the skies open up and the rain buckets down, giving the road surface the texture of an ice-skating rink, I reduce speed, while others roar past leaving fountains of water in their wake.
 
There are those who abuse me for stopping a few feet from a railway crossing when in a long line of traffic, instead of waiting in the middle of the tracks.  Everyone knows the cars in front will move before the train comes. Perish the thought that when the lights do change, someone might stall and hold up the flow, so I’m left like a sitting duck at the mercy of the boom gates crashing on to my roof, or the 5.08 express train, running me into the ground. Selfish woman driver that I am – don’t I realize everyone else is in a hurry.
           
Why do I get upset when some maniac passes me on the wrong side of the road? After all I can easily slam on my brakes, and let them in front of me when the third lane they have created peters out.  Tough luck if the truck almost sitting an inch away from my bumper bar can’t stop, but a few precious seconds gained, a few extra vehicles passed, means a lot when a driver is in a hurry. Don’t I realize how busy everyone is?
 
The lights are green in the distance; they change to amber when I am meters away.  How can a woman be so stupid? All I have to do is accelerate, as long as my front wheels are at the intersection when the lights turn red, it’ll be o.k.  The tooting driver behind me is obviously running late, and there are no police cars around.
           
One might be moved to ask what all the fuss is about. Everyone knows you have to take risks on the road, show the machine you’re driving who the boss is, intimidate other road users so they know how tough you are.  After all, you’ll never have an accident because you’re such an expert driver.
           
A metamorphosis seems to come over many people when they climb behind the wheel. Their well-mannered, easygoing ways evaporate.  They become ruthless predators, waiting to pounce on some unsuspecting victim, whose only crime is that they try to obey all the road laws.
 
***
Margaret Tanner is a multi-published Australian author

Thursday, January 1, 2015

"Let's Go to the Movies!" "No, I'd Rather Stay Home." by Shirley Martin



 Recently I saw a wonderful musical from the early fifties, "Showboat."  Whenever I mention this movie to a friend, I invariably get the reply that they don't make movies like that anymore. Doubtless there are many who may not care for musicals, but I feel that there are many more who miss the films of yesterday.
    Oh, for those great dramas from the '40s, black and while films such as "Laura" or the very suspenseful "Woman in the Window." Those films of yesteryear, with their great plots and intriguing story lines, are sorely missed. Actors employed good diction then, an attribute sadly absent from today's movies, when we're forced to turn the volume up on the remote, just so we can understand what the actor is saying. 
    The early '40s covered World War II, so war movies proliferated during this period. Movies such as "A Walk in the Sun" or "Purple Heart" told a great story, well done. Unfortunately, many war movies were poorly made, with American actors posing as German soldiers and speaking English with a German accent.
    As a kid growing up in the forties, going to the movies was the high point of my week. My older brothers and I walked several miles to the nearest theater. For a dime, we saw the feature film, plus various extras, such as Movietone News, "The Phantom" (an adventure series), The Three Stooges and/or "The Passing Parade", a special interest extra. Often, the theater showed a sing-a-long, with words to the song on the screen, so that the entire audience could sing. (Yes, I know. Corny.)
    The early fifties heralded musical extravaganzas like the aforementioned "Showboat," "Carousel," "Kiss Me, Kate" and many more, all in technicolor. This period also brought us biblical epics, such as "The Robe" and "The Ten Commandments." 
    An innovation of the fifties were drive-in theaters, soon dubbed "passion pits."  (I wonder why!)
    My mother was born in 1906, so she came of age when silent movies were still in vogue. One memory must have stood out in her mind. The film showed a train hurtling down the track. Everyone in the audience jumped from their seat and ran out. They thought the train was coming after them!
    We've come a long way since then. These days, more sophisticated audiences are treated to realistic battle scenes, with all of its attendant blood and gore. On the other hand, special effects can create a truly enjoyable movie, such as the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, with its terrifyingly realistic monsters and walking, talking trees. Great battle scenes here, without the gore. 
    As we ventured into the '70s, former restraints and restrictions fell away. Sex, violence, nudity and foul language became common movie fare. These changes prompted a codification of movies, from G for general audiences, to PG (parental guidance), and on to PG-13 and R rated. It remains a mystery--at least to me--why Hollywood produces so many R-rated films, since by their very content viewership is reduced.
    Another change came with the seventies, this one quite undesirable. For reasons I can't  understand, theatergoers--not all of them, but many--became unbearably rude. Lots of people, with apparently nothing else to do on a Saturday night, headed for the movie theater and loaded up at the concession stand with a large bag of popcorn, munching throughout the movie. But it didn't end there. These same people threw the box on the floor when they were finished, then headed to the concession stand again to get a soft drink, all this while most moviegoers just wanted to watch the film.
    Just in time, video cassettes came on the scene. Now you could watch a movie in the comfort of your living room, and not worry about noisy theatergoers. Now, too, DVDs have replaced video cassettes. You can find a wide range of movies at your local library or rent them through Netflix. And you can buy them from Amazon. With streaming, you can watch movies on the Internet. Actually, there are many movies you can access with just a click of the cursor.
    Watching movies is fun again.

    And if, besides watching movies, you like to read, do I have a great selection for you. Click on this link:
http://amzn.to/1zN7YAq  and you'll find my historical, paranormal, and fantasy romances. Two of them--"Night Secrets" and "Dream Weaver" are also in print. Check at your local bookstore. 

Shirley Martin






   

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Numbers by Eleanor Stem


2014 is an even-numbered year. Only a few more hours, a tick of a clock, and we’ll be in 2015, an odd-numbered year.

Which do you prefer, the odd or even numbers? Which years bring you more happiness, or more pain? Do you emerge from those painful years like a phoenix flying from its ashes? 

I like even-numbered years. They seem more rounded, less pointy. Four is more rounded than fourteen, i.e., ’t’ in teen is spiky, the 'ee' brash. Five is less desirous than four, harder to say, to read. Fifteen is definitely on the corrupt side.

2020 is a good round number. Only the 't’s' are a bit spiky. The rest just rolls off your tongue like sweet juice. Tomorrow, 2020 will be closer than we've ever seen it. We're half way through the teens, going into the twenties. My, how time flies.

That doesn't mean odd-numbered years are bad. 2013 that had lots of spikes, and is far too brash, was a pretty good year. My husband and I built a house in 2013, which could be a nightmare, but it wasn't. Our builder was really professional. He gave us no hassles, and now he and his wife are good friends.

Despite odd or even-numbered years, life’s road leads us through the landscape of different experiences.

My husband wouldn’t say he liked even-numbered years. For years, the Universe kept telling him to move out of his status quo existence, but he wouldn’t listen. In 2008, he lost several friends through illness and accidents. In September, Hurricane Ike pushed his house off the foundations, and the world called it a total loss. Two months later, we were married. A true up and down year. By 2009, his whole life had changed, and he was much happier for it.

I believe throughout our lives, we go through issues that make us better, help us to gain a higher spiritual level. Sometimes, we are supposed to make changes in our lives, but we are afraid, or we stall, thinking we’ll be fine if we don’t upset the applecart.

An odd year, 2005, which as I said I’m not too fond of, did that for me. No discreet knocking on my door worked to make changes. Apparently, everything I knew had to be broken before I saw the light.

Almost out of the gate into the new year, I noticed trickles of water running down the wall of my carport. I called a roofer, where not only did the roof leak, but the electrical gizmo that sends electricity into the house was pulling away from the structure. I needed an electrician and a roofer. The kitchen sink kept stopping up and the plumber said the sewer hadn’t been installed properly when the house was built. The entire sewer line under the house had to be replaced. At the same time, the car started leaking transmission fluid. I needed a new car. Then, I went to the doctor for a routine checkup and she said a lump in my breast was 99% cancer. January 2005 had been an eventful month.

My oncologist said, ‘Give me a full year, and then I’ll set you free, healthy and whole.’ With those words, I relinquished my care into her capable hands. This opened up a whole new world for me, gave me freedom to find out who I was. I took off work during the process, sat outside with a cup of tea and listened to the birds in the trees. I focused on the beauty that was all around me. I appreciated the differences in the human psyche, their own trek through life, how they responded to bumps in the road, and I bought a puppy.  

They say it’s not what you go through but how you come out of the experience that makes the difference. If you are a better person for it, then your journey was good. The odd numbered year of 2005 was a good one for me, one of the best years of my life.

Let’s drink to 2015. May this year bring you happiness and good cheer. May your experiences, good or bad, bring you joy.  












Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Food, Family, and Traditions, by Kathy Fischer-Brown



Food is a topic that, for me, needs little excuse. Not simply preparing and consuming food, but the occasions that have food at their center. And there is no better time to discuss the sharing of good food with family and friends than at holiday time.




While attempting to organize my computer this past week, I happened on a slew of videos. Actually they are converted home movies from my late father’s collection of 8 mm film from the late 1930s when my parents started dating to the 1980s when video supplanted celluloid for recording memories. It was a trip down Memory Lane in many ways, filled with a few tears and laughs, and also a time to appreciate where my love of cooking and baking came from.


There were my grandparents looking young, slim and hardly gray-haired. I quickly did the math and realized I was watching images that were 70 years old or more, which meant that my grandparents were a good 25 years younger than I am today. Back in those days my parents, a few lifelong friends, along with cousins, aunts and uncles all converged on my grandparents’ large Bronx apartment. Invariably, there were scenes of overflowing tables, smiling faces, the special cake…and the women all in full aprons.


My gram was renowned as a good cook. Her brisket was legendary. It was always a treat to arrive at their place greeted by the warm aroma of chicken soup and even warmer feelings of having the family assemble for an event of sorts. My mom and aunt would always lend a hand and we kids would amuse ourselves until time came to dig in at the table.



Over the years, after my family moved from The Bronx to Long Island, our house or the cousins’ alternated at being the epicenter of our culinary gatherings. My mom was a great cook, often replicating in her own kitchen what she’d learned from her mother. She didn’t “experiment” much back then, but after we moved to Connecticut, her talent for throwing sumptuous dinner parties took hold. My sisters and I would help out in the spacious kitchen, mostly chopping this or peeling that, but as we were then in our teens and tweens, food preparation was not at the top of our priority list.


By the time my parents retired to Florida, my mother’s skills had blossomed into the awesome category. Long before that, when I was a new bride and my husband and I moved away for a while to teach at a college in Indiana, I often asked my mom how she made certain dishes. She sent me recipes, some in her impeccable script, others typed on office memo sheets, which I still have tucked away into my first and still favorite cookbook. 


Over the years, as distance separated me from sisters and cousins, and the older generation passed on, cooking became a passion, a way to maintain a hold on the past and a link between those of us who remain. We no longer spend our holidays, birthdays, and other celebratory occasions in those large joyful gatherings of my childhood. We have scattered over distances that make such get-togethers impossible. My two kids are grown, and there’s a grandson, and my sisters have their own families. But when we do get together for whatever reason, the highlight of the visit invariably involves the preparation of an incredible meal, riffing on an old favorite or discovering something new.

The only things missing are those cool aprons.

~*~

Kathy Fischer-Brown writes historical novels for Books We Love, Ltd. To find out more about Kathy and her books, please visit at: www.kfischer-brown.com

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