Monday, December 28, 2020

What I remembered

At the start of each year, I make a list of goals, both personal ones and goals related to my writing. This morning, I opened my '2020 goals' document and could have cried. So many of the goals involved face-to-face connection, travel, and new experiences. Of course, after early March, none of that happened.

Instead of lamenting what might have been, I am taking time today to reflect on what I gained during the 'pandemic pause.' Without the trappings of the external world:

~ I remembered that fresh air and sunshine are essential for my mental health. Time spent outdoors, listening to birdsong or children playing, soaking in nature’s palette and the silhouette of branches against the sky, the texture and scent of garden dirt --- ah, peace.

~ I remembered that I am okay with the status quo for a little while, but even during a shutdown, I need to shake things up. I tried new recipes, updated our kitchen, connected with new writing partners, adopted a cat, and learned to play the harmonica (badly.)

~ I remembered that I can keep some level of physical fitness without going to the gym. Hand weights, calisthenics, and Pilates can keep up my strength. Long yoga-style stretches can maintain my mobility, and brisk walks on hills can keep me in decent aerobic shape. Bonus points when those walks were with a friend who made me smile!

~I remembered the importance of connection, even when phone, text, and virtual connections had to suffice. This pandemic would have been far more devastating without technology.

~ I remembered the joy of simple things-- a scented candle, a picture drawn by one of my grandkids, the glorious colors of hydrangeas, watching TV with my husband beside a cozy fire. Oh, and I can't forget the joy of finding Clorox wipes and toilet paper! 😁

Many of the goals on my 2020 list will carry over to 2021. Best wishes to all as we close (slam?) the door on 2020 and embrace a hopefully healthy and happy new year.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

There's only Us

If I learned anything from researching and writing two novels set in Nazi Germany, it's this: dividing people into Us and Them leads to disaster for everyone. Everyone.  

From our perspective 80+ years after the Nazi regime, it's easy for us to see how labeling people, grouping folks into categories based on a set of criteria, set up the horror that was the Nazi era. The question is, do we see similar attitudes in the world today? 

Do we see it in our country?

In our cities and towns?

In our own backyard?

And the ultimate question: Do we see similar attitudes in our own hearts?

I confess. I am tired of the rhetoric. I am tired of American-born vs immigrant, Democrat vs Republican, black vs white, the privileged vs the poor. I am tired of the labels and categories that divide us. I am tired of the human tendency to paint people with a broad brush based on some criteria or other. 

I have seen historical proof of where labels can take us. I don't want to go there. 

I will do the only thing I can do. I will control ME. Today. Right here, right now. 

I will attend to the attitudes in my own heart. 

I will address my own tendency to categorize people and their actions as good or bad based on some predetermined criteria. 

I will speak out against injustice regardless of which 'side' causes that injustice. 

And when I fail, because I will, I will try to do better. 

How about you? 

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Remembering D-Day, 76 years later

Given the current painful state of affairs in America, it would be easy to overlook a historical anniversary, even an important one that helped shape the world as we know it. And yet the anniversary of D-Day is a great time to examine what we as Americans stand for. 

Before we start, let's not forget what the Nazis believed: their superior race should dominate while all others should be subservient. Their crazed leadership pushed that agenda through systematic brainwashing, using force, brutality, and sheer terror to ride herd over the sanctity of life. A nation's sovereignty and its citizens individual liberties were irrelevant to them. 

By 1944, the Nazi regime's borders had expanded through most of Europe, and France had fallen. Britain stood alone as the last European holdout against Nazi occupation. Only the English Channel and a strong RAF stood between England and Hitler's forces. 

General Eisenhower and the other Allied commanders knew they couldn't let England fall to the Nazis. So on June 6, 1944 over 160K Allied troops landed along a stretch of coastline in the Normandy region of France. Their purpose: to push against the heavily-fortified German forces and regain France. 

Over 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft were involved in delivering and supporting the soldiers as they began the push inland along 50 miles of coastline. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded, many in that first wave. 

As we know now, the end result of this incredible effort was the ultimate defeat of Hitler and his regime. Of course, the soldiers involved couldn't know that at the time. 

All they knew was that they were fighting against an evil that held one type of person as dominant over another. They were fighting to ensure that the people of Europe would have what we Americans purport to believe: that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator certain unalienable rights. 

Yep, this is a good time to remind us of what the writers of the Declaration of Independence said are 'self-evident.' We are indeed all created equal. 


Saturday, May 23, 2020

I'm back! Let's get creative!

Here’s a fun activity to get your creative juices flowing.

Fold a sheet of paper into three columns. Label the first column ‘Character,’ the second column ‘Setting,’ and the last ‘Thing.’ 

Then, as I did in the example, brainstorm! 

Make a list of characters, where they’d typically be found, and an object that might be near them. In my example, I placed an executive in her office with a paperclip nearby, and a fairy in the woodlands with a magic wand. Sounds ordinary, right?

Now for the fun. Cut the three columns apart. Slide the columns up or down to make new character/setting/thing arrangements, as I did in my examples. 

Some arrangements will make sense and others will be absurd. That’s okay! It’s an exercise in creativity. Choose one combination of character/setting/thing and write a scene that contains all three.

I’ll leave you now so I can go think—what would place an executive at a garbage dumpster with a pitchfork? Sounds like a murder mystery to me! 

Why would a fairy carry a sword in ancient Egypt? Hmm…

Have fun! 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Episode 8, Kristallnacht and the Kindertransport

Last of my series called 'Why I wrote novels set in Nazi Germany.' 

This episode highlights Nazi aggression toward people of Jewish heritage and the resulting international effort to rescue vulnerable children.