Monday, November 21, 2011

Looking Back (Goals I Set For This Year)

At the end of last December, I posted the following goals for 2011:

1) I will read at least 75 new books by the end of the year. I will create another blog with all the books I read as the year progresses.
2) I will finish my writing course.
3) I will have at least one article published.
4) I will get my drivers license.
5) I will start a 3x a week exercise program.

And here's the rundown on them at this point:
1) I just finished #55 last night, so I'm pretty sure I'll fall short. However, it's still more than one per week, so I'm okay with that.
2) SUCCESS....I finished my final lesson a couple of weeks ago.
3) Not yet, but my heart really hasn't been in submitting anything lately. However, I did get a poem published in a magazine, and I self-published a book of my poetry. So I'm going to call SUCCESS on this one as well.
4) Major FAIL on that one.
5) Major FAIL there as well...no motivation for me.

This is why I usually try not to make resolutions or set goals....I'm not good with keeping up with them, and then I get upset with myself for that. So my one and only resolution for 2012 is NO RESOLUTIONS!!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Does November Have Against Me???

November has a history of events that have been sad and/or traumatic, and I tend to fall into a pretty rotten depression for most of the month. I hide from the world, and even from close friends and immediate family members. It's the most difficult four weeks of my year, and it opens every wound there is, every single year.

I knew, because of very traumatic event that happened at the beginning of last December, that this year my November was going to be even more difficult to get through with my sanity intact. But tonight I've yet another heavy load tossed on my shoulders, and it's about to break me. I know people usually say that God doesn't give us more than He knows we can handle...darn, I wish He didn't have so much confidence in my strength!!

I've been talking to my oldest daughter in South Carolina this evening, several different times, and I think she's finally reached her breaking point and is really, truly ready to come home. The problem is, at this point in time, she has no money and no options, and no one up here in Ohio can make the trip down there to get her. The last time I talked to her, she was so upset and so defeated, she was talking about wishing she were just dead, because then someone would HAVE to come down there, to get her nearly 2 yr old son.

Once again, I feel like I'm letting her down, just like I have SO many times before in her life. I'm her mother, dammit, I'm supposed to be able to be there for her, to help her. to take care of her!!! She and that little boy don't deserve the crap they've been through, and they need to be here with us, where they're loved, supported, encouraged, and protected. I just feel so totally USELESS to her at this point!!!

I can't take any more....November, I surrender......

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Penn State...And Why It Bothers Me So Deeply

As the mother of sexual abuse survivor, any story of children being molested turns my stomach and makes me feel just a "tiny bit" violent toward the perpetrators. The more I hear about the things that went on at Penn State, and the "cone of silence" that apparently dropped over the whole thing, the more I want to lash out at people.

Granted, the majority of those involved have NOW been punished, with legal charges as well as losing their jobs. However, one person still goes unpunished, untouched by anyone, and it irritates the soup out of me. Joe Paterno is a human being, just as fallible as the rest of us, not some superhero, pop icon, football god.

This is a man who, for decades, has preached to his players, and the world, that “You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That is the mark of a true professional.” Where was that philosophy when he chose to do only the MINIMUM required of him, and to only report the molestation of a ten year old boy to his immediate superior, and then let it go...for nearly TEN YEARS...without pushing for something more to be done.

How many children might have been spared the humiliation and trauma of molestation if this had been reported to the police in 2002, or sooner? Why was taking away Sandusky's keys to the locker room considered a reasonable penalty for having been discovered having anal sex with a child? What sort of world have they created at Penn State that makes this acceptable?

And now, Joe has announced that he'll retire at the end of this season, when his current contract runs out. Big deal! I have a feeling that he was already planning to retire then, anyhow. IMO, he should step down IMMEDIATELY, regardless of the position that might put the football team and their precious win/loss record in for the remainder of the season. Once in a while, there are, in fact, things more important than football, even in Pennsylvania!!

Jim Tressel was vilified for not reporting what he knew about TATTOOS...tattoos, for pete's sake!!!...and I was among those who believed it was important for him to step down, morally and ethically. How much more important is it now that Paterno not get a pass for his involvement in child molestation, because, let's not sugarcoat it, he was an accomplice to that crime by keeping silent and not taking his knowledge to the police.

So....those are my thoughts on the situation as it stands now. Feel free to discuss.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Traumatic Event? Oh my, yes!!!

Has anything traumatic ever happened to you?

This is an incident that I don't think I've ever written about before, and I have a feeling it might be tough to get through. It's not something I even TALK about that often, even with the people closest to me. So bear with me if this isn't the most coherent post I've ever written. (Added after completion: I had to do one paragraph at a time, then take a break, in order to get through it...and I still cried!!!)

It was Thanksgiving Day, 1991. I had just gotten home from a day with family, along with my husband and my two children. Our downstairs neighbor, who was also a friend of my husband's since their school days, had not been feeling well for several days, so I went to check in with him, his wife and their children.

RP was feeling very down, and I suggested that they all come upstairs and join us, as we were planning to watch ET that evening. He declined, but did eventually agree that he would come up and have a talk with my husband during the evening. As I left, I hugged him, and his wife, and said "See ya later!"

We were in the midst of watching ET a little later in the evening when the traumatic part of the evening began in earnest. RP's oldest stepdaughter came up to our apartment through the inner stairway (we lived in a converted home, so there was a stairway from their living room to ours, with locking doors on either side). The stepdaughter was pounding on the door, screaming that her mother wanted my husband to come down right away, as RP had locked himself in the bathroom with his pistol.

The next few minutes were a blur...lots of yelling, all of the other children from downstairs coming to our apartment, all of us huddled around the door to the interior stairs. The next clear memory I have is of my husband yelling up the stairs for me to call 9-1-1, adding "Tell them gunshot wound to the head!"

I punched in the numbers, and listened to it ring...and ring...and ring. Hung up, called again....and got put on HOLD! When I finally got to speak to someone I was screaming at them...gunshot wound to the head, self-inflicted...HURRY!!

Shortly thereafter there was a flurry of activity...police and EMTs arrived rather quickly. For some reason, the police felt it was necessary for them to come in first, guns drawn, to make sure it was safe for the EMTs to enter the house. After the ambulance rushed RP to the hospital, followed by his wife and oldest stepdaughter, there were still police around for quite a while, taking statements from me and my husband.

We had to get our two children, and four children from downstairs, including a small baby, calmed down and settled down for the night, but my husband and I didn't get much sleep at all. RP was taken to the local hospital, and then flown to another hospital more equipped to deal with his injuries. He was on life support for a little over 24 hours before being declared brain dead.

Before his wife and stepdaughter came home, another neighbor and I took on the horrific job of cleaning up the bathroom, which included ripping up all the carpet and padding, and then scrubbing the floor, the cabinets, etc. That was, for me, the most traumatic part of the entire week, and something that I will never forget.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Books I've Read In November 2011

1) On Writing, by Stephen King

Short and snappy as it is, Stephen King's
On Writing really contains two books: a fondly sardonic autobiography and a tough-love lesson for aspiring novelists. The memoir is terrific stuff, a vivid description of how a writer grew out of a misbehaving kid. You're right there with the young author as he's tormented by poison ivy, gas-passing babysitters, uptight schoolmarms, and a laundry job nastier than Jack London's. It's a ripping yarn that casts a sharp light on his fiction. This was a child who dug Yvette Vickers from Attack of the Giant Leeches, not Sandra Dee. "I wanted monsters that ate whole cities, radioactive corpses that came out of the ocean and ate surfers, and girls in black bras who looked like trailer trash." But massive reading on all literary levels was a craving just as crucial, and soon King was the published author of "I Was a Teen-Age Graverobber." As a young adult raising a family in a trailer, King started a story inspired by his stint as a janitor cleaning a high-school girls locker room. He crumpled it up, but his writer wife retrieved it from the trash, and using her advice about the girl milieu and his own memories of two reviled teenage classmates who died young, he came up with Carrie. King gives us lots of revelations about his life and work. The kidnapper character in Misery, the mind-possessing monsters in The Tommyknockers, and the haunting of the blocked writer in The Shining symbolized his cocaine and booze addiction (overcome thanks to his wife's intervention, which he describes). "There's one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing."

King also evokes his college days and his recovery from the van crash that nearly killed him, but the focus is always on what it all means to the craft. He gives you a whole writer's "tool kit": a reading list, writing assignments, a corrected story, and nuts-and-bolts advice on dollars and cents, plot and character, the basic building block of the paragraph, and literary models. He shows what you can learn from H.P. Lovecraft's arcane vocabulary, Hemingway's leanness, Grisham's authenticity, Richard Dooling's artful obscenity, Jonathan Kellerman's sentence fragments. He explains why Hart's War is a great story marred by a tin ear for dialogue, and how Elmore Leonard's Be Cool could be the antidote.

King isn't just a writer, he's a true teacher.


2) You Are Not Alone:Michael, Through A Brother's Eyes, by Jermaine Jackson

Jermaine Jackson—older than Michael by four years—offers a keenly observed memoir tracing his brother’s life starting from their shared childhood and extending through the Jackson 5 years, Michael’s phenomenal solo career, his loves, his suffering, and his tragic end. It is a sophisticated, no-holds-barred examination of the man, aimed at fostering a true and final understanding of who he was, why he was, and what shaped him.

Jermaine knows the real Michael as only a brother can. In this raw, honest, and poignant account, he reveals Michael the private person, not Michael “the King of Pop.”

Jermaine doesn’t flinch from tackling the tough issues: the torrid press, the scandals, the allegations, the court cases, the internal politics, the ill-fated This Is It tour, and disturbing developments in the days leading up to Michael’s death. But where previous works have presented only thin versions of a media construct, he provides a rare glimpse into the complex heart, mind, and soul of a brilliant but sometimes troubled entertainer. As a witness to history on the inside, Jermaine is the only person qualified to deliver the real Michael and reveal what made him tick, his private opinions, and unseen emotions through the most headline-making episodes of his life.

Filled with keen insight, rich in anecdotes and behind-the-scenes detail, You Are Not Alone is the book for any true Michael Jackson fan and for anyone trying to make sense of the artist whose death was so premature.

3) Water For Elephants, Sara Gruen

As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

4) Starting Over, by LaToya Jackson and Jeffre Phillips

La Toya Jackson was always closer to Michael than anyone knew. In this heartfelt memoir, she pays tribute to his tortured soul—revealing the intimate moments she shared with the deeply troubled pop legend. The first sibling to arrive at the hospital after Michael was rushed there, and the informant on his death certificate, La Toya noticed suspicious details and demanded a second autopsy. For the first time, she unveils shocking behind-the-scenes dealings that she believes led to her brother’s death, and she provides unprecedented insight into the destruction of one of the most dynamic artist/performers in history.

In an account sure to send shock waves around the globe, La Toya sheds new light on the dynamics of the Jackson family and the curtain of secrecy and intrigue that has surrounded her brother Michael, and the rest of the Jackson children, since they became stars in the ’60s and ’70s. She explains her estrangement from— and gradual reconciliation with—one of America’s most famous and close-knit families.

Like Michael, La Toya experienced an upbringing that made her vulnerable to exploitation, and her own journey led to hell and back at the hands of her former manager and husband, Jack Gordon. Sharing with honesty and an open heart some of the most painful episodes of her life story, La Toya reveals how anyone—regardless of fame, fortune, or status—can be trapped in a cycle of abuse, and how she was able to find the courage to rebuild her shattered sense of self, her career, and her relationship with her family, and to finally break free.

This tale will touch the hearts of the millions who are fans of the Jackson family’s music as well as those who have ever shared a special relationship with a sibling. Not just the story of the world’s most renowned family, this memoir will inspire anyone who feels as if their life has fallen apart and there’s nowhere to go, unless they too can learn to truly start over. . .

5) Love Times Three: Our True Story Of A Polygamous Marriage, by Joe, Alina, Vicki and Valerie Darger with Brooke Adams

e runs his own business and coaches Little League. She drives a minivan, and she’d be lost without her trusty BlackBerry. They go on date nights. Their kids attend public schools, play sports, and take music lessons. They live in a roomy house in the ’burbs. They’re about as mainstream as families come....They’re also polygamists.

For decades, polygamous families have been forced to hide their lifestyle. Men risk prosecution and economic blacklisting, and women face social isolation and faulty assumptions about what it means to live as a sister wife. But Love Times Three, the first-ever memoir of a polygamous family, is a riveting inside look at a world most of us can hardly imagine, revealing the extraordinary workings of the Dargers’ day-to-day life.

Independent Fundamentalist Mormons, the Dargers grew up in polygamous families, and by the time they were in high school, they knew they wanted to live the Principle themselves. But in a highly unusual situation, even for their culture, both Alina and Vicki expressed interest in Joe at the same time. They ultimately courted him together, and married him on the same day. Valerie, Vicki’s twin sister, joined the marriage ten years later.

The Dargers move the conversation away from child brides, Warren Jeffs, and the FLDS to more mainstream polygamists who willingly enter into plural relationships as adults. Rather than living in isolated communities, Independent Fundamentalist Mormons are similar to an average American family—except for their family structure.

In this intimate, inside story, the Dargers explain why they chose this path despite the pressures of keeping their relationships secret and the jealousy and personal challenges that naturally ensue, why they believe polygamy should be an accepted lifestyle, and, ultimately, why they hope that by revealing their way of life in public, laws that criminalize their lifestyle might change.

Written in the voices of the four parents, Love Times Three is the story of one man, his three wives, and their twenty-four children as they live out their faith in a world of prejudice, misconception, and fear, including a chapter on the sister wife dynamic, one from Joe on how he juggles his three distinct romantic relationships, and a chapter from three of their children, called “My Three Moms.” Despite the risk of legal action, the Dargers know that it’s time to counteract Hollywood’s sensational interpretation and correct the general public’s misunderstanding of polygamy with the truth.

6) Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith

Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother's bedside. She's been stricken with something the old-timers call "Milk Sickness."

"My baby boy..." she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother's fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, "henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose..." Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

7) Deer In The Headlights: My Life In Sarah Palin's Crosshairs, by Levi Johnston

Best known as Bristol Palin’s baby daddy and Sarah Palin’s favorite whipping boy, Levi Johnston sets out to clear his name and—with any luck—end his run as Alaska’s most hated man.

Promising hockey player and Governor Palin’s almost son-in-law, Levi Johnston was eighteen when Palin became the vice presidential nominee. His unique place as Bristol’s live-in boyfriend provided him a true insider’s view of what was going on behind closed doors. And how Sarah’s public views were often at odds with her home values. It makes it all the more curious that Sarah eventually turned her anger directly on Levi, after losing her ticket to the White House

After being bullied, lied about, and outspent in the courts when he attempted to bond with his new son, Tripp, Levi Johnston now is ready to set the record straight.

Deer in the Headlights is a poignant, at times very funny, and fascinating tale of a boy thrust into the media spotlight and now figuring out how to be an adult and a dad. Johnston, ever honest, had a unique window into Palintology at a critical time; he sat in the family’s living room and paid attention. Not bitter and never petty, Levi shares his story.

As Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC so aptly put it: “I love that kid. He's honest, he's straightforward, he's not embarrassed.”


8) The Wind Done Gone, by Alice Randall

In this daring and provocative literary parody which has captured the interest and imagination of a nation, Alice Randall explodes the world created in GONE WITH THE WIND, a work that more than any other has defined our image of the antebellum South. Taking sharp aim at the romanticized, whitewashed mythology perpetrated by this southern classic, Randall has ingeniously conceived a multilayered, emotionally complex tale of her own - that of Cynara, the mulatto half-sister, who, beautiful and brown and born into slavery, manages to break away from the damaging world of the Old South to emerge into full life as a daughter, a lover, a mother, a victor. THE WIND DONE GONE is a passionate love story, a wrenching portrait of a tangled mother-daughter relationship, and a book that "celebrates a people's emancipation not only from bondage but also from history and myth, custom and stereotype"

Total year to date: 57

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The REST Of The Story

This post is written from a prompt, provided here:

Mama’s

1.) Did you create a list of 22 things you've done in your life for last week's Writer's Workshop? This week, choose one item from your list and elaborate! We want the story.

I decided to tell the story about my appearance as a guest on the GERALDO show.

I was watching an episode of the show in October or November 1992, the topic of which was men who left their girlfriends/wives and wound up with the sister of that woman. Geraldo made the comment that brothers would never do that...so I immediately picked up the phone to call his comment line. You see, my first husband, Doug, and my second husband, George, who were both adopted, have evidence to suggest that they could be biological brothers (which actually creeped me out quite a bit when it first came to light!!!). I left a short message on the subject, hung up and pretty much forgot all about it.

Now fast forward to April 1993. The phone rings, and I hear someone saying they are a producer from the Geraldo show, and they want to talk about the comment I left regarding a previous show. At first I thought it was some sort of joke, naturally, but he eventually convinced me he was for real--and that they wanted us to come to New York City that week to film!! After several phone conversations with George, and with Doug's wife, Mary, we all agreed that we would do it, and just try to have some fun in the process.

George and I left Brian and Samantha with my grandmother for the day, and took five month old Amy with us. We took one of the first flights of the morning out of Huntington WV to JFK in New York City. At the airport, there was actually a driver waiting for us, with a sign that had our last name...it was surreal! And the car already had a car seat ready and waiting for Amy!!

After a drive through New York City that seemed to take forever--and left me fearing for my life more than once--we arrived at CBS Studios. There was some confusion initially at the main reception desk, as the receptionist first thought that we were bringing Amy to a taping for As The World Turns. When that was straightened out, we were soon met by a production assistant who took us upstairs to a dressing room.

I was visited in the dressing room by hair and makeup techs, which was one of the most fun parts of the day. I wish I still had some of the pics from that day...I felt totally glamorous by the time they were done! Dave, the producer of the episode came in to talk to us, which was a rather eye-opening conversation. He told us that, at the beginning of the show, Geraldo would say something, then I was to respond a certain way, etc. Since what they were expecting me to say was not the way things went down, I balked at being less than honest, particularly on national television. And when he mentioned wanting Mary and I to get into a fight, or at least an argument, on-stage, I put my foot down and absolutely refused to go along with that. I wasn't going to embarrass myself or any of my family members that way, period!

Once we got finished with that conversation, a production assistant took us downstairs to the commissary to hang out while they filmed another episode..and to keep us from running into Doug and Mary before our taping. While we sat at a table eating our lunch, we spotted several people we recognized. We saw Ed Bradley and Andy Rooney at a table next to us...Don Hughes, one of our favorite actors from As The World Turns, stopped by our table when he saw Amy--it was Take Your Daughter To Work Day, and he presumed one of us worked there and had brought her with us, as he had brought HIS daughter that day...we also spotted several other actors and actresses from that show during the course of the day.

The actual taping of the show was the longest hour of my life to that point. Geraldo's questions, as well as his "explanation" of the situation, made me look like some sort of "bad guy" ...and then his so-called "expert" went so far as to say that I wanted to have my cake and eat it too. When I was finally given my chance to respond to her, I had reached my boiling point. I told her that she didn't know me, that she was basing her opinion on a 20 minute segment of a television show, where facts were distorted, and that she had no right to make judgments on me or my life. Once I got all that out, I felt much better (and I was disappointed to learn, when the show aired, that my entire rant was during the closing credits!).

When taping was complete, all the guests, as well as the expert, spent some time in the "green room" with Geraldo, and there was a lot of picture taking. Geraldo, whose daughter Isabella is only about a week older than Amy, made a fuss over her and said something about having one of those at home. :) The "expert" attempted to apologize to me, but I was still too hurt and angry to have any part of it.

Then it was back in the limo and off to the airport, where we bought ridiculously overpriced Taco Bell food while waiting for our flight. As I have often told people, it was a fun day, with lots of excitement, marred by a one hour debacle (the taping). If I had it to do over again, I would definitely think twice about making that original phone call!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

One Last Meal

If you knew that whatever you ate next would be your last meal, what would you want it to be?<

I've thought about this topic at various times when I've seen it mentioned somewhere, but never thought about it seriously enough to make the choice. Today, since it's the NaBloPoMo prompt of the day, I'm finally going to try to narrow down my choices and present my last meal menu. Since it's a fantasy (and since I have so many favorite foods), I'm going for a seven course meal!!
First course: Shrimp cocktail

Second course: Cheddar broccoli soup in a sourdough bread bowl

Third course: Spinach salad with apples, craisins, walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette

Fourth course: Mango sorbet to cleanse the palate.

Fifth course: Lasagna and garlic bread

Sixth course: Lobster and shrimp (both the fifth and sixth courses would also include a complementing glass of wine, which I haven't yet chosen)

Seventh course: Creme brulee and Irish coffee

I'm making myself hungry just typing this out...good thing it's almost time for lunch!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What I Like About Writing

What is your favourite part about writing?

My favorite part about writing is that it lets me delve into the deepest part of ME. Whether I'm writing about memories, or current events, or even writing fiction or poetry, there's always a little piece of me in there. Sometimes it's something that I've been aware of for a long time, and other times it just sneaks up on me.

Writing has always been a form of cheap therapy for me. When I have something bothering me, or a decision to make, or just want to vent, I tend to turn to writing. In fact, my husband has said that when he sees me pick up my journal, he knows I have something important going on that I haven't shared with him yet.

I've made a commitment to take part in National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo, so I'll be posting something every day this month, most days using a writing prompt to get me started. I look forward to seeing what comes to light, and I hope you find it interesting reading as well.
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