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Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Sunday in England

We left Cornwall yesterday and drove to Cheltenham where we spent the night in a hotel that was once a grand old home. Clarence Court was on a street with some of the biggest trees I've ever seen. The biggest problem with the hotels in the cities is parking.
There was a small area for diagonal parking but no way out except the way you came in when you leave, so it means backing out a long, long way and trying to avoid the cars lined up diagonally and the ones on your other side that are parked helter-skelter here and there. Any space a car fits--in it goes!
The hotel manager greeted us warmly and inquired where we all hailed from. As the conversation went on, he slapped the desk and said to me, 'I just love your Kansas accent!'  I am an oddity here in England, I guess.
We had a drink in the bar/lounge on the lower level, which is half below ground and half above the street level--the typical English basement. Dinner was next in the hotel restaurant called Joules'  I had monkfish that was superb, done with an onion, veggie, pernod sauce that added just the right touch. For dessert, I opted for a cappuccino and one bite of Ken's apple tart.
Our rooms were small but nice. Very old building with high ceilings and very tall windows, but the bed linens and draperies and furniture were all very up to date and appealing. As was the small but totally modern bathroom. A very nice walk-in shower with royal blue tiles on the floor and around the mirror. A half wall of glass block on the shower. It's fun staying in these old buildings that have been made contemporary.
I stepped outside the hotel door this mornng to be greeted by the loveliest toned church bells which rang for some time. A perfect way to begin this day.
This morning we headed back to our friends' home in Hibaldstow. It's sunny and pleasant--66 degrees. Nice after the high 50's we experienced this past week by the sea.
Tonight, we are going to our friends' daughter's home for a South African braii. That is the term given to a cookout. Traditionally, it means you will have sausages, chicken and lamb chops--some of each--that have been grilled. I'm looking forward to it.
We've enjoyed time spent in England this trip and a couple of others previously. It's a beautiful country with a history to be proud of. Every now and then, we see a chain restaurant from America and somehow, I wish they weren't here. I'd like to keep England all England. But the Brits love their McDonald's and KFC and Starbucks.
We have two more days to enjoy here before we fly home on Wednesday. Time does fly when you're having fun!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Five Days in Cornwall

We have spent our fifth day in Cornwall, each of which has been outstanding! This southwestern peninsula of England is the supreme area, I think. It's a vactioner's paradise, even has palm trees! The temps are not like that of Florida, however. When it hits 60, we cheer. Most days have been in the mid to upper 50's but if the sun is shining, it's fine.

We've visited many interesting spots in this Cornish land, many of which I will write about when we get home later next week.

Our hotel has been top notch, only 18 rooms but wonderful and friendly service. The breakfast and dinner are included in the room price and the food is gourmet all the way.

We leave here tomorrow morning after one more sumptuous breakfast. We'll spend one night at a hotel on our way back to our friends' home in Hibaldstow, in the East Midlands area of England. 

There is something magical about being by the sea. I can sit and watch the water forever and never tire of it. It's a place to reflect on so many things, get story ideas and more.

Will post more later. I am writing this at the hotel desk. Now how many hotels can you do that? 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sightseeing in Lincoln, UK and Ready for Cornwall Next

This is our third day in England and we're feeling less jet lag today. Yesterday, our friends took us to the town of Lincoln, about 20 miles from their home in Hibaldstow. So many people spend all their time here in London and the surrounding area. It's a super place to sightsee but there is so much more in England in other sections, such as the Lincolnshire area where we are now.
The Lincoln Cathedral is what the town is known for, so of course, we had to take a look inside. Prior to that, we toured a local museum which  had many rooms set up to show life as it was in the Victorian era in this community. The exhibits were so well done and offered lots of questions and answers for kids. We were there at the same time as a class of children and it was fun watching them react to the questions. Part of the museum was dedicated to the army regiments that had been from this area of England.
Before heading to the cathedral, we stopped in a pub called The |Magna Carta for lunch. I love English pubs, all are homey and yet each one different in style. Lots of dark wood in this one and three levels where you could sit. We chose the bottom level which still allowed us to see out on the street. All 4 of us had a half-pint of bitter beer--a flat, dark beer--and a bowl of vegetable soup served with a hunk, and I do mean a hunk, of dark bread. All very tasty.
Then it was on to the cathedral which seemed to go on and on forever. Like all cathedrals, it had many beautiful parts. This one was part of the Anglican church, which is the same, I believe, as the Episcopal church in America. The extremely high ceilings and breadth of the seating area gives such a feeling of power as you walk down the aisles. Lots of wood carvings and a great deal of stone. We saw several side chapels, 3 of them being dedicated to the military services--army, navy and air force.
This morning, we went to one of the most unusual garden shops I've ever seen. It was huge for one thing. Besides the flowers, shrubs and all the paraphenalia you'd expect in a garden shop, they had huge displays of clothing, kitchenware, outdoor furniture, grills and fire pits, giftware to equal the finest shop anywhere, books, greeting cards, toys, baked goods, other gourmet food items and more. The place was almost overwhelming! But I enjoyed strolling through and looking. Most of the things I wanted to buy were far too big to fit in my suitcase so didn't cost us a penny there.
We also picked up the rental car which we will take to Cornwall for the next week. The car our friends have would not hold our luggage for the 4 of us, so a rental was necessary. We head down to Cornwall, which is on the far southwest side of England, on the sea. We have reservations there at a lovely looking hotel, which is right on the coast.
It will take us a day and a half to get there, so we have reservations at a hotel for tomorrow evening. It's a delight to drive through the English countryside which is so green. The flowers are all much larger than ours due to the long hours of daylight and the abundant rains.
Hope to write more about Cornwall next time I am able to post. I am very much looking forward to visiting that area as I have read about it so many times and read so many books that take place there.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Off to England


I'm going to be on vacation the next couple of weeks and will have computer access occasionally but not regularly, so the usual 5 days a week here will not be happening. I hope to be able to post once every few days so do check back.

The map above shows you where we will be for half of the time. The red area on the map is known as the East Midlands. Very close friends who are from South Africa spend the South African winters (which is now) in this part of England where one of their daughters lives. They have purchased a small house and have asked us to come over for a visit. The four of us will spend another week traveling to the Cornwall area, which is the peninsula on the far southwest corner of England. Our friends found what looks like a wonderful hotel right on the coast almost as far south as you can go. It's near Penzance which you may remember in the Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta The Pirates of Penzance.

Cornwall has been the setting for so many novels that I've read over the years. I've always wanted to go there and now I will have the opportunity to do so. Daphne DuMaurier set most of her books in that area. Stories of pirates and smugglers often took place in Cornwall. The seacoast and cliffs make the perfect background for mysteries in particular. A bestseller of many years ago that Rosamunde Pilcher wrote, titled The Shell Seekers, was set in Cornwall. One of my all-time favorite books. If you've never read it, do look at the link and read the reviews. You'll surely want to put it on your list of "To Read" books.

Robert Louis Stevenson placed Treasure Island in Cornwall. If you google the title and his name, you'll find several sites that will allow you to download the book for free.

We take three flights tomorrow going from Kansas City to Atlanta, then on to Amsterdam, and finally a commuter flight from there to Humberside, UK. Our friends will be there to pick us up and a grand reunion it will be. We met 25 years ago at a week-long bankers convention in Washington, D.C.  They have come to visit us several times, we have been to their home in South Africa a couple of times and we have met and traveled together in other countries. Between trips we are in close touch via email.

The day we arrive is also our 49th wedding anniversary and I can't think of a nicer way to celebrate the occasion.

Until the next time I'm able to post from England--ta ta!

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Book About The Writing Life

Product Details

A writer friend whom I greatly admire gifted me with a book about---you guessed it--the writing world. I didn't start reading it immediately due to an increasingly busy schedule, but I finally got started and kept going in bits and pieces. Yesterday, I was determined to finish reading this motivational book for writers. Goal accomplished. 

One of the keyword phrases I use on this blog is 'encouragement for writers' because I believe that everyone needs a boost now and then. We need to affirm the path we've chosen. Julia Cameron does much the same thing in her book The Right To Write. The subtitle is An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life.

The book is a series of essays about the writing life. The author is an accomplished author having written 17 books, both fiction and nonfiction. She is a novelist, playwright, songwriter and poet plus has extensive credits in theater, film and tv. 

I enjoyed reading about writing from the perspective of a reader rather than a writer. Ms. Cameron most definitely is a motivating force and is very convincing as to why writers must write. Sounds silly to say that, but she urges writing in ways some have never considered. 

If you are a writer, whether novice or professional, the book is worth your time. I plan to go back and read it more slowly, a chapter at a time and try some of the exercises at the end of each chapter.  You can read more about the book at it's Amazon page.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fly Your Flag Today

My husband put our flag out this morning as he does every June 14th to celebrate Flag Day. Our neighbor across the street had already put his stars and stripes out and the retired military family next door to us didn't have to do so, as they fly the flag every day in front of their home. 

As you drive around on your daily activities--grocery store, bank, work, ballgames--take note of the number of flags you see flying today. It seems there are fewer and fewer each year, and that makes me sad. I wonder if parents are teaching children about the history of our flag, the etiquette of using the flag. Are teachers doing so in the classroom? I hope so. 

I found a poem written by Johnny Cash who normally writes song lyrics, but this one is definitely a poem. It has been used at patritotic events numberous times. When I read it, somehow I heard Johnny's distinctive voice reading it. I'm going to share it with you today. Maybe you'll share it with others. 


I walked through a county courthouse square,
On a park bench an old man was sitting there.
I said, "Your old courthouse is kinda run down."
He said, "Naw, it'll do for our little town."
I said, "Your flagpole has leaned a little bit,
And that's a Ragged Old Flag you got hanging on it.
He said, "Have a seat", and I sat down.
"Is this the first time you've been to our little town?"
I said, "I think it is." He said, "I don't like to brag,
But we're kinda proud of that Ragged Old Flag."
"You see, we got a little hole in that flag there
When Washington took it across the Delaware.
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing _Oh Say Can You See_.
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams."
"And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the Texas flag, but she waved on through.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on that Ragged Old Flag."
"On Flanders Field in World War I
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun.
She turned blood red in World War II
She hung limp and low by the time it was through.
She was in Korea and Vietnam.
She went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam."
"She waved from our ships upon the briny foam,
And now they've about quit waving her back here at home.
In her own good land she's been abused --
She's been burned, dishonored, denied and refused."
"And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land.
And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin,
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in.
'Cause she's been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more."
"So we raise her up every morning,
Take her down every night.
We don't let her touch the ground
And we fold her up right.
On second thought I DO like to brag,
'Cause I'm mighty proud of that Ragged Old Flag."
Written by Johnny Cash
Submitted by Beverly Hutchings, McMinnville, Tennessee.
Beverly adds this P.S. This is to my knowledge the only poem ever written by Johnny Cash that was not intended to be sung. He has performed this a number of times at the "Pops Goes the Fourth" concerts in Boston on the 4th of July. His book *Man In Black* reveals the inspiration behind it. Hope everyone else enjoys this as much as I do.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Anniversary Memories Times Three

June is Wedding Anniversary month in our family. Today, our son and his wife celebrate 21 years of marriage. On the 20th, Ken and will be marking our 49th anniversary, and our daughter and her husband hit year number 11 on the 29th of June. I've liked having all these anniversaries fall in the same month.

Our three weddings were all very different, however. Ken and I had a very small church wedding with only 20 guests, most of whom were close family. We created a bit of a rift in my family when all the aunts and uncles weren't invited, but life went on. I wore a waltz length wedding dress with a bell skirt. Ever so fashionable in 1964.  Same with my Jackie Kennedy pillbox hat with veil. Whatever Jackie wore, the rest of the country wanted, too. At least, that's what the designers told us. To this day, Ken says ours was one of the nicest weddings he ever went to because we spent time with everyone who was there. We had a lovely wedding cake that my mother ordered at our local bakery. The people who owned the bakery happened to also be our next door neighbors who refused to take any payment. "It's our wedding gift," they told us. I expected that my mother would save part of the cake in the freezer for us to have on our first anniversary. What a dreamer I was. My three younger brothers polished it off after we'd left!

Kirk and Amy were married in her aunt and uncle's home in New Orleans. It beat us in number attending. They had around 60 people for a well-planned, went without a hitch, lovely wedding. A few years ago, I wrote a story about it and posted at Our Echo. You can read about the wedding with its New Orleans traditions here.Their daughters, pictured in the story, are each four years older now. This morning on facebook, Kirk posted a lovely message to his wife of 21 years which is what started me thinking about this triple anniversary month.

The third wedding happened 11 years ago when Karen married Steve on a tremendously hot day in Prairie Village, Kansas. Over 200 guests attended. These weddings seem to have grown with each successive one. It was another very special day for us, watching our youngest marry. Seeing her come down the aisle holding her dad's arm brought a flood of memories to me. The pastor forgot the sermon during the ceremony, but I doubt it bothered anyone. The wedding vows and the "I do" words were the necessary ones. We finished the day with a dinner and dance for wedding party and all the family and friends who had filled the church. As the evening came to a close, Karen and Steve thanked us for this special day. Little did they know that it was just as special for us as for them.

I wonder if I can talk to my Texas granddaughters and suggest that they carry on the tradition of a June wedding when their turn comes.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

One Reason To Write

Anais Nin was a prolific writer who is quoted frequently in literary circles. She is known for the many journals she published, other nonfiction and also fiction. The quote above made me think in particular of those who write memoir pieces, or even you who are keeping a Family Memory Book.

We lived our lifetime experiences and in writing memoir we can revisit those same times once again. The question is why do we want to do that? Isn't water over the dam gone? Can we bring it back? Should we?

Some writers might want to return to those happy times in their growing-up years. It's nostalgic and it's interesting to view whatever happened in those years from a different perspective--you the adult. Who doesn't like to bring back those happy times? That's easy.

But what about the difficult times in our lives, maybe even the tragedies some of us have experienced in earlier years? Do you really want to relive those times? Psychologists and psychiatrists will tell you that you need to go back and look at those episodes in your life if you want healing to take place. I have a book written by a psychotherapist that deals with writing a memoir to heal. It's a very interesting book, helpful to those who want to write this type of memoir story and even gives some good writing advice for anyone else. The name of the book is The Power of Memoir by Linda Joy Meyers, Ph.D. Click on the link to read the editorial reviews and reader reviews of this instructional book. Besides healing, or maybe as a part of healing, I think writing about a difficult time in our lives is a wonderful release of long pent-up feelings.

What about family disagreements or even feuds? Do you want to bring all that back in a memoir piece? Maybe doing so will let you see it in a new light, allow you to now begin to understand why this person or that one acted the way they did. Perhaps why you behaved in a certain manner. You may end up with a new respect for either the others or yourself and maybe some insight.

It's easier to view what happened in the past if we step back and view as an outsider might, although we still have the knowledge of what actually happened.

Give the quote above some thought today. Even novelists and short story writers often include things in their work that is based on an actual experience. So, they too, are tasting life twice through their made-up story.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Please Don't Mess With My Memories

File:Marshall Field Clock.jpg
"I'll meet you under the clock."

Some friends went to Chicago last week and they sent me a picture of them eating in the Walnut Room at Macy's. I cringed a bit at the name because that big store on State St. in Chicago will never be Macy's to me.  Several years ago, Macy's bought the old and well-loved Marshall Field's store, and when I heard about it, I had to write something. The personal essay below was the result. It was published in 2005 in The Oak Leaves, a Chicago suburban newspaper. For today's post, I would like to share the essay with you. Perhaps it will trigger memories of your own.

Please Don’t Mess With My Memories

By Nancy Julien Kopp

Even though I’m a gray-haired grandmother three times over, I’m computer literate, have a cell phone, get cash from ATM machines and can program a DVD player. I’ve moved on with current technology, in spite of a little teeth-gnashing and grumbling. I even use up-to-date slang with my grandchildren so they’ll think I’m “cool.”

Despite all that, I don’t like anyone messing with my memories. And somebody has tarnished one very special memory. The news anchor on our Kansas City TV station matter-of-factly announced that the famed Marshall Field Department Store in Chicago would soon be known as Macy’s. I nearly choked on my glass of chardonnay, and I slammed a pretzel back in the dish with such force it bounced.

How could they? Marshall Field’s was a huge part of my childhood and teen years. The rest of the newscast was lost as I roller-coastered backwards to the 1940’s and ‘50’s. During the War years, gas was rationed, but my mother and I rode the elevated train from suburban Oak Park to the Loop. Cooing pigeons and the blaring traffic noise of the city surrounded us the moment we arrived. I barely had time to see those soft gray birds strutting on the train platform before my mother whisked me through the double doors that led directly into Marshall Fields.

The entrance led directly to the china department, a wonderland of elegance. I think I developed my great love of fine china as we wended our way through the beauty around us. Linen cloths, crystal, silver and china graced the tops of dozens of show tables. I admired all of it, but the china plates and cups held the greatest fascination for me. It disappointed me that Mother seldom made a purchase in this wonderful section.

Instead, she hurried past the gleaming tables, my little-girl legs moving at top speed to keep up. Sometimes, we visited the entire fourth floor, which displayed toys of every imaginable kind. It was the Disneyworld of that decade, a place where a child could dream and make Christmas lists. Round and round we went looking at dolls and doll houses, tricycles and scooters. Clerks were always available to help but never “pushed” for a sale.

The seventh floor offered several dining spots, but the Walnut Room surpassed the others. When I was four or five, my grandmother introduced me to Tea Time in the well-loved restaurant. The hostess led us through the large, wood-paneled room. Potted palms decorated empty spots, and soft piano music surrounded us. Grandma ordered, and I watched anxiously as other tables were served with small tea pots, plates of tiny sandwiches and petite cakes. Finally, our turn came.

What a treat it must have been for my grandmother to be served, since she supported herself by operating a small bakery and catering service. Grandma poured our tea, putting sugar and a large measure of milk in mine. The aroma of the tea rose between us. Even now, the sound of cups gently placed on saucers and silverware striking plates sometimes brings back that special day. But the best was yet to come. We were treated to a fashion show. Tall, slender models in glorious hats glided between the tables wearing dresses of the latest style.

As a teen, I shopped at Marshall Fields with girlfriends. We started the day with a morning movie at the Chicago Theater which offered stage shows as well as films. Off we’d go to Marshall Field’s, noting the time on the big clock that jutted out from its wall, taking in the numerous window displays as we marched to the main entry. We shopped and tried to look like ladies of the world, but our giggles squelched that plan. We moved from floor to floor making the small purchases our cash supply allowed--no credit cards then, and young girls carried no checkbooks either. Lunchtime brought us to the seventh floor where we had a difficult time selecting one of the several dining rooms, unless it was December. In that month we always lunched at the Walnut Room where a giant, decorated Christmas tree towered above us. Whenever I could talk the other girls into it, I walked through the china department, still taken with the beautiful items on display.

In these earlier years, Christmas decorations and animated window displays were unveiled the day after Thanksgiving. Ignoring the biting cold and sometimes snow, crowds moved from one magical window to another. Those were the days of Uncle Mistletoe and Aunt Holly, and the special Marshall Field frango mints, which melted on our tongues and messed up our fingers if we held onto them too long. They were the days of free delivery service and clerks who went out of their way to serve customers with warmth and respect. The famous dark green shopping bags and boxes were recognizable at a glance. It was a family-owned and operated emporium whose keywords were quality and service.

A few years ago, I visited Marshall Field’s and noted so many changes. The giant retailer could no longer be considered unique. It resembled big department stores in other cities. My heart nearly crumbled when I reached the fourth floor. No longer able to compete with big discount stores, the huge toy department had dwindled to a small corner. I didn’t eat in the Walnut Room, too afraid to see what had transpired there

And soon some young girls will be saying “I’ll meet you under the clock at Macy’s.” Macy’s is a New York store and probably a fine one, but Chicago and Marshall Fields go together like bread and butter or salt and pepper. Each complements the other.

Change is good I’m told, and in some cases, I’d agree. We’ve gone from typewriters to computers and from a cumbersome phone stuck on a wall to a tiny little cell phone carried in a pocket. But my memory of the Marshall Field’s of yesterday is a treasure I’d like to hold onto. Wasn’t I lucky to have the finest training ground imaginable for learning the fine art of shopping?

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Kansas Author Talks About Her Book

The author reading a section of her book
Product Details

Sunday afternoon, Tracy Million Simmons came to our Kansas Authors District meeting to talk about the recently published Tiger Hunting, her debut novel.

Being an audience of writers, the questions addressed were of a somewhat different nature than those of an audience of purely readers.

She told us that the original idea for the story came from a dream she'd had. One of those kind that leave you wondering about where it came from, the how and why of it. She wrote the basic facts of the dream in a journal and then left it for some time.

Then a friend challenged her to join her in writing a novel in a month for the NaNoWriMo program. She agreed and managed to write the required 50,000 words in the 30 days of November using the bits she'd written in her journal about the crazy dream revolving around circus animals roaming free on a country road.

She edited it, had a few other readers edit it again and made the decision to publish both a digital version and a print on demand. She felt her way using both Smashwords and then createspace at Amazon. Tracy feels that both have definite benefits. I would urge anyone interested to study what each offers carefully.

I asked her about the design of the book cover. She said that she'd used a photo one of her daughters had taken and then implemented some graphic art tools to add the tiger to the picture. It's always possible to pay a graphic artist to design a bookcover, but when you know the ins and outs, you can do it yourself.

Indie Publishing is the new trendy term for those who self-publish, be it in print or ebook. I ran across an interesting article that shows why some traditionally published authors are switching to Indie Publishing. Take a few minutes to read it here to see the benefits and keys to publishing this way. More and more writers are taking the plunge and becoming an independent publisher. Each of us must decide if it is for us or not.

Most of those in attendance at today's meeting purchased a signed copy of Tracy's book. Including me. I'm looking forward to reading it after hearing the many favorable comments from those who had already read it.  You can learn more about Tracy Million Simmons and her book along with reviews at this Amazon page.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Memories of June--Roses, Graduations, Weddings and More

We're well into the month of June. An entire week has gone by already. Today, I'm going to help you trigger a few memories about the month of June in your growing-up years, maybe your early adult life and beyond. Why? Of course you know why. It's to motivate you to add to your Family Memory Book. 

Only yesterday, a dear writer friend whose health is keeping her housebound now, wrote to me and sent me a few of the memory pieces she's writing so that her children and grandchildren will have a record of some of the decisions she's made and why she made them, some of the stories about her early life, her reactions to current events of the day and those behind. It's a veritable treasure chest she's leaving for her family. 

But back to June. What kind of things do you remember about June where you lived?

1.  What was the weather like?
2.  What flowers bloomed in June? Did you have roses in your yard?
3.  Were you still in school in June? What kind of end of the school year activities did you have?
4.  Did you play in any organized sports that began in June?
5.  What kinds of foods did your mom make to begin the summer?
6.  Were there June weddings in your family?
7.  Did you recognize and commemorate D-Day on the 6th of June?
8.  What activities did you and your siblings/friends like to do in June?
9.  Graduation often fell in June in years past--what graduation memories do you have?

As for me--school was never out until the end of the first week of June or even into the second week. I remember the teachers putting us all to work cleaning our classroom, going through cupboards and our desks, sorting things out for her and for ourselves. By the final day, our classroom looked neat and clean, ready for the next class to come in September. I think of June as good-bye time, as we said good-bye to our teachers and some of our classmates whom we would not see over the summer. My 8th grade graduation is so clear to me. I went to the same school from kindergarten through 8th grade with basically all the same kids. We had two classes of every grade, about 42 students combined. We girls made our graduation dresses in our 8th grade Home Economics class. Mine was pale pink with a Peter Pan collar, turned-up cap sleeves and a full circle skirt. It was 1953 when those full skirts and cinched in waists were in vogue. I remember hand hemming that full skirt, thinking I'd never reach the end. My mother agreed to let me buy a pair of white leather pumps to wear with the dress--my first high heels! What a thrill that was. My fifth and sixth grade teacher came to our graduation. Mr. Biddinger was our first male teacher in our school and dearly loved, and we were his first class. After the ceremony, he congratulated me and said, "Nancy, you walked better in your heels than any of the other girls." His comment meant so much to me then and it still does today. I have many more June memories which are going into my Memory Book. 

I posted a story about my wedding memories at Our Echo 3 years ago. You can read it here if you are curious. Then get started on your own memories.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Remembering D-Day--June 6, 1944

The five beaches where the landing took place on June 6, 1944

The sixth of June, 1944--a day we commemorate these 69 years later. People my age recognize the date but I fear many in younger generations do not. The Allied Forces invaded German occupied France on that day using thousands of men, thousands of aircraft and naval vessels including landing craft to bring the men ashore to face the monstrous guns the Germans had set up along the shoreline.

Thousands of lives were sacrificed but the battle turned the tide of WWII, initiated the freeing of France and its people and started driving the Germans back to their own country. The map above shows the area where the landing took place, divided into five sections of beaches. Two were taken by Bristish forces, one by the Canadians and two by Americans. 

Ken and I spent a full day at the Normandy beaches and American Military Cemetery this past March. I wrote about it on an earlier post. You can read it here.

Younger generations may wave it off, saying it all happened so long ago. They're right in that point, but it also changed the direction the world was headed, it freed the people of France, and it preserved freedom for us. That is what makes it important to remember today, that and to honor the thousands whose lives were lost that day and the ensuing days of battle. 

The French still honor and respect the 6th of June, 1944 and commemorate it every year. Next year will be the 70th anniversary, and I suspect there will be a lot of media attention then. I hope so. The history of yesterday determines today. 

Our flag is flying in front of our house today as it does every sixth of June, but this year it means even more to us after having visited Normandy only a few months ago. Take a few moments to honor those who fought and those who lost their lives. 

Ken in Normandy on a cold, wet day in March 2013

The American Military Cemetery in Normandy

The American Military Cemetery in Normandy

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Motivation For Writers

The poster above made me laugh out loud. Sarcasm in its best form but wise words, too. 

Nothing writes itself. No poem, no book, no short story, no article. Nothing! Each requires the services of a writer. That's me and you. We don't have the benefit of sitting at a desk in an office with a stack of work set before us. No, we must be the creators of the work. We start from scratch. Nothing already processed like a WeightWatchers frozen dinner. 

We don't have the benefit of plucking an already written piece that we can send to an editor with our name listed as the author. Do that and you're in for a nice legal battle. You must write every word all by yourself.

If we're lucky enough to have a maid to motivate us to get out of bed in the morning and get to work, fine. But most likely, very few of us have such luxury. Instead, we have to motivate outselves to get up each morning and plan to spend part of the day creating something that someone else may want to read. We pull from our memories and our intricately working brains to fashion one story after another. Key thing here is that it is WE who must do it. Not our maid, not our butler, not our spouse, not our kids. Just US! 

So how about it buttercup? Are you going to get moving today on a new writing project or perhaps work on a half-finished one like we talked about yesterday? It's you and you alone who have the power to do so.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Finishing Your Projects

woman using a computer 1

I was looking through a stack of papers in my office yesteday, feverishly searching for one particular piece. I went through quite a few piles before I found what I had been looking for. But along the way in my seeking, I found something else. There were a whole lot of writing projects that had been started and never--you guessed it--finished.

Back in the years when I sewed and quilted a lot, I often worked nonstop to finish a project, but I admit there are plenty that didn't see an end result. I'm thinking right now of two beautiful quilt tops that rest day after day in the bottom of the cedar chest in one of our guest bedrooms. That's the trouble. They are only the tops, they need a backing and middle and quilting. I truly want to have them complete one day so that each of my children can have one. One was done by their paternal grandmother and the other by my mother and I. She started it, I finished the cross stitch embroidery on the top. I'm making it a goal for 2013 to find someone to finish the two quilts for me since my hands don't work so well on sewing projects anymore. 

Back to the writing projects. I found a story for kids that had a good beginning and then nothing more. There was a short story that has possibilities with some revisions but I never got back to it. I found a memoir piece I didn't finish because the subject was rather painful. The one thing I felt in fiinding those half-done stories was guilt. Plus a little anger at myself for having let them sit so long. 

I know I'm not alone in having this kind of problem. Lots of writers deal with the same thing. Last night, out of curiosity, I went through My Documents file on my computer to see what, if any, unfinished stories were lurking there. Not as many as I'd feared but enough to make me realize I should work on them one by one until I have the lot done. 

The big question today is WHY do we start a story, article or poem and then abandon it? I can think of several.

1.  We don't like what we've written so far.
2.  We don't have a clue as to how the problem in the story should be solved
3.  We don't like the characters we've started with
4.  We'd rather work on something new
5.  We have no passion for what we're writing at that time
6.  We have no motivation--aren't writing for a particular market
7.  We don't think it has reader appeal
8.  We find a new project that is more appealing

Can you think of any other reasons why we stop in the middle of a writing project? Share them with us via the comments section.

What about solutions? I think I need to take those bits and pieces one by one and attempt to construct a finished piece. I need to make a pile of 'unfinished work' and whittle it down week by week, same with those in the Documents file. 

How about you? Do you have lots of unfinished stories? Maybe even an unfinished novel. What are you going to do about it? Something to ponder on today. Before I begin on one of those unfinished stories, I'm going to delve down to the bottom of my cedar chest and unearth those two quilt tops and leave them where I see them every day. That may spur me into action in looking for a quilter to help me make two special quilts.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Big Three

Sounds easy, doesn't it? Let's look at each of the items this quote tells us we must have to achieve our dream of writing well enough to be published. I call them The Big Three.

1. Patience  When they handed out patience, a whole lot of folks got bypassed. I think I was one of them. All my life, I've been an impatient person. I don't like to wait. When I make up my mind to do something or I want something, I prefer to have it happen right away. But that's not the way life works most of the time. I have jokingly said more than once that God made me a writer to teach me to have patience. For in the writing world, patience is a must-have trait. Write, submit to an editor and then you wait. And wait. And wait.  Patience can be learned but it doesn't happen in a hurry. Patience begets patience!

2.  Strength  We need to be strong in our convictions and show strength in our passion for writing. When you run into a brick wall, ie rejection of your work, you can't deflate like a pin-pricked balloon. You need that  I'll show them attitude. Every time you fall down, get up and start writing again. Like patience, I think strength begets strength.

3.  Passion  Writing is hard work. We need a passion for writing in order to keep going. Desire to be published will feed your passion. Did you ever want a toy as a child so badly that you'd have gone to any length to acquire  it? There was a certain doll I wanted but my mother said no. I begged, I reasoned, I argued. I didn't give up my desire for that doll that looked like and was the size of a real baby. Just when it looked like an impossibility, I received the doll on Christmas morning. If I'd asked only once, I probably would never have gotten it. Keep your desire to be published foremost in your mind every time you sit down to write. Be persistent in your passion for writing.

If you have patience, strength and passion, I think you've already accomplished the trying part. The key is to never stop trying. Keep the Big Three working all the time.