Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day--Going, Going, Gone?

It's all been said before--and I've repeated it time and again in one blog or another. This year, though, in light of current events, I have a question:

Have we dishonored those who gave up all their tomorrows for our todays?

It seems that way to me.

We are a more divided nation than ever before. Politicians and the news media scream epithets and turn a blind eye to corruption, and a large percentage of citizens don't bother to vote or educate themselves about what's going on in America today. And, may I just add, the aforementioned elites collect salaries and benefits unrealized by most citizens and paid for by those who can ill-afford it.  For what? What do they do but dissemble, even outright lie, and keep their profiles in the limelight? Certainly they do little if anything for the people they are elected/hired to serve.

In light of the recent scandals, it seems to me our freedoms are dangerously close to being eroded forever--and not from an outside enemy but rather from one within.

 "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

So where are the good men (and women)? Where am I? Where is their drive to do something? Where is mine?

"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (NEB, John 8:32)

Even if you don't subscribe to the Bible, the premise is undeniable. Experience tells us that lies enslave us. The truth endures; lies are changed to fit the time and place.

"Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it." (Georges Santayana)

We have spawned and continue to coddle generations who can't remember the past because they know nothing about it. Ignorance isn't a defense--but it's a good offense. Keep the sheep in the dark, and they will follow whoever comes along with the promise of sunlight and green grass.

I have said this before, too:  America isn't perfect. Far from it. But it was built on hope for the best, and I'm old enough to have seen mistakes rectified and progress made in many areas. Now I see us sliding back into the shadows, and I'm not alone.

This blog is my vehicle for communicating my fears, but I am only one.

Are there two out there? Three? More? Where is the courage of the men and women who fought and died for the future of this country? Just because we aren't in uniform doesn't mean we can't stand up and be counted where we are. If we don't, evil will triumph, and in order to survive, we will have to become evil, too.

I won't live that long, but my grandchildren will. Yes, times change, but ideals don't. They don't change, but they die--are slaughtered and buried and replaced with mindless propaganda.

I've made the decision to speak out.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Lesson Plans and Marketing Strategies

During the last few years of my teaching career, new lesson plan guidelines came down from on high. Instead of spending my time creating materials, I spent my time writing down information as detailed as I'm sure went into the strategic planning of D-Day. It was just so much paperwork, of course, to cover backsides. unmentioned here. However, not to be beaten, I persevered and developed an easily-filled out form to cover all the bases and still allow myself time to be a real teacher rather than a drone.

But I digress.

Now I'm faced with mapping a major marketing campaign for my new Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series which should launch two books at a time beginning next month. I want to get the word out, want to find readers to read #1, which will be free for a time, because I feel confident #1 will make folks want to read #2 and so on. I have confidence in my 'product' just as I had confidence in my ability to organize and teach classes. But, like those annoyingly unnecessary lesson plan requirements, I want to dispense with unnecessary and redundant activities which might look good on paper but won't really get the job done.

To that end, I'm re-reading tons of ebook marketing information collected over the years as well as finding new ideas. One of the best books I've read lately is Dana Lynn Smith's Virtual Book Tour Magic: The Secrets to Planning a Successful Book Promotion Tour.  (Also check out her other books at Amazon--I'd recommend them all.)

So a book tour is first on my list of strategies to implement. (If you'd be interested in hosting me for a day or even more and/or reviewing the Penelope books, contact me judy at judynickles dot com.  I'm offering free pdfs of all six books and reciprocal exposure here at The Word Place.)

A book tour is only the tip of the iceberg though. That's where I'm teetering now, on the tip, with the prospect of sliding down its cold face and leaving my mark along the way before plunging into the watery abyss of ebook authorship.

Chapter 1 of The Bogus Biker has been a free read on my website. Now I'm offering Chapter 2.

Are you an ebook author? How did you approach marketing your puppies?

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Trouble with Writing

The trouble with writing is
you can never finish.
No matter how much you write,
there's always more to be written:
another scene,
another conversation,
another crisis
lurking in the wings
of the writer's mind.

The trouble with a story is
it never ends.
So if you think you've written the last chapter
of your Great American Novel,
solved the problems,
killed off the villains,
wedded the heroes,
and tied up the loose ends
of all the characters' lives,
you are mistaken.

After the book has gone to print,
you will lie awake and think of more.
You will dream of the unwritten scenes
and the unspoken words.
In your mind,
the story will go on forever.

It isn't over because
you aren't over,
and as long as you live,
your story will live, too.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Fragile Thing

This afternoon I picked up the small person (age 5, almost 6) from school. We were nearing the cut-off for home when she cried out, "I left my frog at school!" Making a long story short, it was a paper frog she'd made in school, and she'd left it on the sidewalk in the pick-up line. Despite my reassurances that it would be picked up (though I didn't add, "and probably trashed"), she wailed, "He'll blow away!"

I explained that we couldn't go back for him. In truth, we could, but it was a long way, and after-school traffic is horrendous. When I turned onto the cut-off, she subsided into quiet, hiccuping sobs. Clearly, her small heart was breaking..

So, of course, I found a place to turn around.

Everyone had gone when we reached the school, but she spied her paper plate frog, complete with green construction paper legs and a long red tongue, propped against the wall in the pick-up area. Her face brightened, and she hopped out to retrieve her fly-eating friend. Happiness reigned as she climbed back into the car.

I felt happy, too.

It was only a paper frog, but it was her frog. And I am her Mimi, someone she trusts to love her and do the best for her. When it comes to sweet treats and rules, I hold firm, so she doesn't beg treats or break rules. But when it comes to matters of the heart...a few extra miles and minutes don't really matter...and someday she'll remember that today I shared her pain and did what I could to assuage it.

Children's hearts are fragile. Perhaps they mend, but maybe it's best not to break them at all.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What defines us?

I was heartened to learn that (some) Democrats had joined with Republicans in calling for further testimony after the Benghazi hearings today. I had almost arrived at the conclusion that politicians (any party) could not be true patriots because of their basic drive for re-election to power and perks. Perhaps that is changing. Perhaps the moral fiber of some elected public servants (and I stress the word servants) survives.

Lies have no place in the public forum. They weaken us as a people and as a country. Lies preclude the possibility of public trust. As an individual, if I catch someone in a lie, I must ultimately forgive them and accord them that magical 'second chance'. But deep within my human heart, I will never completely trust that person again.

We must be able to trust those we elect to speak for us. If they are only in office for themselves, it's time for them to vacate. We elect them. They are there for us and for the greater good of this country and the freedoms paid for with the blood of patriots.

Our Founding Fathers pledged "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" in the creation of our country. In many cases they forfeited the first two but certainly not the last. 

In the end, we cannot be defined by our political affiliations but rather by our common humanity and the fact we are all Americans. If we lose that, we lose ourselves.

Monday, May 6, 2013

If the facts don't fit, just make them!

I have been "doing" genealogical research since long before the internet ever came into being. I tramped cemeteries, knocked on doors of total strangers, plowed through unfiled papers in courthouses, copied countless records, and looked at miles of microfilm. What I know, I know. What is on the internet--not so much.

My great-great-grandmother was a Leatherwood before she married my great-great-grandfather by the same name. In the picture I have of them, they look like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum--not unusual considering that cousins often married back in the "old days". I can trace back at least two generations of my great-great-grandfather's heritage with reasonable certainly that it's correct. Beyond that, it's probably correct, but I'd need more records to be absolutely sure.

Julia Ann, on the other hand, seems to have sprung from the cabbage patch somewhere between SC and AL. However, on many posted family trees, she is listed as the daughter of two people who lived, died, and are buried in SC. They did indeed have a daughter named Julia Ann, with the third name Frances, born the same year as MY Julia Ann. She is NOT my Julia Ann. She married a man named Elias Corder and produced offspring--that much is documented in marriage and census records.

But nobody cares. Her name was Julia Ann, the birthdate is right, so by golly, she's the one! Please. I would LOVE for her to be their daughter. I have been looking so long, oh Lord, so long! But she's not.

I posted, then took down my own family tree from this site because people who saw it wanted to offer me "suggestions" for including more information. Not. If I can't prove it--or at least be reasonably certain based on the facts--I won't put it down. I didn't have time to read their "suggestions" and reply to them, usually with some degree of snark: e.g. I know where my father died, thank you very much. (And it's not where you say!)

Genealogy is much like working a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes the piece appears to fit. Sometimes it actually does. Yet, on closer inspection, the picture is skewed, so it's back to the drawing board.

My subscription to this site expires in July, and I'm not renewing. I can access it through two local libraries, and that's sufficient for my research. In addition, I'm heading back out to Alabama and Mississippi in September and will visit local courthouses as well as research in the states' archives. And then, I'll keep my information to myself. Why not? Nobody cares so long as they can plug in names and dates on that blessed family tree!

The difference is--though I may have some blank spaces, what is there will be correct.

That's all!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Everyday Heroes

My friend Cyn is an Everyday Hero to me. A while back, she found a mother cat and three kittens set loose to fend for themselves and became surrogate mother to all. The mother produced another litter before Cyn could blink, so she took them in, too. She made sure there would be NO MORE litters--which is what all responsible pet owners should do!

Recently she wrote about her 'rescue' experience, and I asked permission to post this beautiful poem on my blog. She graciously gave permission. It will touch your heart as it did mine.

 A Magical Word… LOVED

I should have put a fence around my heart,
I should have bricked it up, so was there was no way,
For you to get in.

I should have wore earplugs
So I would not have heard your low murmurs,
I should have tuned you out and gone about
With my own business.

But I didn’t I took those few minutes, To listen to you,
To look into your eyes,
To see the fear the not being sure if you would
Be safe if you let me into your world.

Yes you murmured as you snuck through a crack,
I did not know was there.
A crack I thought was close tight.
No one could get through. No one should have gotten through.

But little by little every day you came back and watched and listened
You showed me things I had almost forgot,
The fun in playing in the leaves, or chasing a butterfly
Or laying in wait to scare someone.

How much fun it was to see you climbing trees
And just laying in the sun not letting the loud noises bother you.
As you slowly started  to feel safe maybe here you could be you
And no one would yell or hurt you.

Yes every day you stayed I got where I looked forward to seeing you
 getting to know you as only you could show me.
All those things that screamed LOOK at me,
Can you do this Naa Naa

Then one day I got close enough to touch you
To feel you in my arms, hear those murmurs
When you were not trying to be loud.
To just hold you and talk to you.

I looked into those eyes that now held a glint of hope
I saw  joy not fear, some trust, not worry.
I felt you loosen up and just be, not fighting to get away
To settle down and fall asleep in my arms.

You look like you could see through me, now I could see your soul
You could see mine and see you were safe I was not going to hurt you.

Now I watch you play and enjoy your freedom.
To show joy, to realize you can be you and no one will shut you out.
To have something to eat when you want it and not have to sneak around
Or fight to keep it. To know someone will talk to you at odd times during the day.

To be picked up and petted and make of, to have a place to sleep,
Even if it is snowing you are not in it, or trying to find a place to get out of it.
That the sounds of the night are not so scary or lonely 
'Cause in the daylight
There will be someone to talk to you and to make you feel safe
and that magical word LOVED.

~~~~Cynthia Ann Merrick

  "Mamma" Patches--fine and fat and baby-free forever!