Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Paper Dolls--Redux

I know I have mentioned my hobby of making paper dolls several times, the latest in my January 12 post, Memoir Essay--Coloring.  I have been doing a lot of sorting of mismatched and jumbled souvenir type stuff and came across a few samples which I just scanned in this evening. Since I am lazy about writing, I will just pop a few in here with short notes so you know I was not pulling anyone's leg!

This first picture is my take on the "Kewpie Doll" style that Mrs Goodding (the wife of the renowned botanist and desert flora expert, the late Leslie N Goodding who I probably mentioned in notes on my trip to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum last October.)  She was one of the very few people who ever 'baby sat' me as my parents were admittedly overprotective when I was little.

The next two are clothes I made for them and one of the gift wrap dresses she made for me.  The broomstick skirts were for a wedding party and I can't recall why the cowgirl outfits!

The final shot is two of the couples I made later on--these were actually done for  my granddaughters in about 2003 but were based on those I did as a teenager. I had a huge batch of clothes and about four couples which I sold to a collector on eBay for a sum that astounded me. I had no idea that paper dolls were now a major hobby with conventions and shows and a fandom! A few people do make them, too, but most just collect old ones from the 1920s through their peak in about the sixties. I've about given it up.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Checking In

Yes, I know it has been quiet here for a few days. Those of you who may also visit Deirdre Dares (Gwynn and Deirdre's shared site about their books) know that Amber Quill is closing their doors the end of March and so Deirdre has been working down through her long back list to try to drum up a few more sales before all those titles are out of print. Hmm, when an e-book is gone is it still out of print? Anyway, no longer available! Gwynn had four books there also.

Then I've been wrapped up as teh winter seld dog racing season gets revved up. January is a month of shorter races, mostly 2-300 miles and most are qualifiers for the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, the two big ones. There is a lot of excitement as most of these races now have web sites, Facebook pages and trackers to let fans follow the action.

There have also been two less joyful things effecting mushers. Last weekend one of the two sons of renowned musher Martin Buser was nearly killed in a terrible auto accident in Seattle. He is still in critical ICU condition and undergoing many surgeries to put him back together. It was nearly a Humpty Dumpty situation. Of course Martin, his wife Kathy and the other son, Rohn, who is also a musher, flew to Seattle and are camping at the hospital while this crisis goes on. Since I met them all in August 2014, I am honestly concerned and feeling their pain at least a little bit. I doubt Martin will be racing any more this year.

Then my special heroine and friend, Deedee Jonrowe, is struggling to get the finances together to actually run the Iditarod this year. As you know she lost everything except her truck and dogs in the terrible wildfire last June. Then she lost her primary sponsor when Shell Oil, due to environmental protests and collapsing oil prices, pulled out of Alaska completely. Trying to reassemble all the gear required and pay for the food and supplies, transportation for the dogs and so forth is a very costly matter--especially while you are trying to rebuild your home and replace all your possessions and household goods. She has a go fund me site--Deedeetonome and I have pitched in all I could.

Martin and Deedee are such icons and fixtures--both with over thirty Iditarod completions, Deedee with several second place finishes and Martin with four wins. It would just not be the same if neither of them are there! I know everyone is shocked and concerned, at least all the sled dog racing fans, of which I am a very avid one!

Those two issues have pretty well occupied my time, energy and attention for several days. Meanwhile the weather here is bouncing like a kid on a Pogo stick and we hardly know what we will see and feel when we get up each day. That tends to sap one's vitality and keep the minor ailments like allergies and arthritis feeling worse than usual. On the warm days it is spring fever time--I just want to sit and soak up the sun. And on the others, I would like to pull the covers over my head and make like a bear.

So cut me a bit of slack and I will be back with my usual chatter very soon.  In the process of cleaning out a big batch of my files, I found the hard copies of some essays I wrote a long time ago. They are not in a computer or even on a disk (yeah, they are that old or older!) that I know of so I will have to retype them before I can share--but I will, and soon. A couple are worth it, I think.

Meanwhile maybe spare a prayer for Nikolai Buser and a few dollars for Deedee's 33rd big race if you can.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Another Memoir--Chores

I've been busy following two different sled dogs races over the weekend. As most of you know, that is one of my later-in-life passions. Had fate been different, my dad might have chosen to relocate to Alaska instead of Arizona at the end of World War II as did Joe Redington, the Father of the Iditarod and many other folks, Dad too was unemployed and looking to follow some new adventures. But it was Arizona where we landed. Otherwise I might have gotten into mushing instead of mules. Oh well, that was not to be and the latter had many good points too. Maybe next incarnation I can be a sled dog driver!

Anyway here is another of my essays, going into some events and experiences that shaped the person I grew to be. Looking back, it surprises me to trace down some of these threads and see how much of the distant past is still woven into the adult I became and now the older person I have come to be!

            My parents obviously believed in kids doing chores. From the time I was barely more than a toddler, I had small tasks to do. One of the earliest I recall was picking up off the floor the paper dots left by a hole punch. I cannot remember what they came from, only that there were all these little circular bits. They were about a quarter of an inch in diameter as I picture them now. It was easier for me to squat on a small person’s short legs than for an adult, and I often hunkered down in that posture when playing. Dad tried to make a game of it and called the exercise, “chicken picking up corn.” I must have been pretty young and very naïve to consider this a game but maybe I did. I am sure there were some other little jobs I learned to accomplish but they do not come to mind.
            By the time I had started school, I began to do some real tasks. When we went out to the rural community of Camp Wood where my father taught in the one room school, we lived in a tiny mobile with not electricity or running water. To keep from having to go out to the outhouse at night, the family used a chamber pot. My job was to empty it first thing each morning. I carried the bucket to the outhouse and dumped it faithfully, always trying to do it long before the other kids arrived for school. I would have been mortified to have the boys see me although I doubt they would have thought much of it or said anything at all!
            As a digression, when I moved much later to the upper Sacramento Valley in California, I was stopped in my tracks at the way the locals pronounced the name of the common nut widely grown in the area. I was like, “What the blazes is this pee-can you are talking about?” How  chamber pots could grow in an orchard boggled me. I soon learned to understand the accent of the locals, mostly dustbowl refugees who had fled the drought stricken Midwest in the 1930s and the word no longer grated but at first it was a shock!
            Also while at Camp Wood, I began to wash dishes. My dad terrorized me with horrible stories about the sickness caused by leaving soap on the dishes. I know this was a genuine problem in military mess halls until some years later but I am pretty sure we were using detergent by then which did not have the drastic emetic effects. Still, I did my best to ensure the dishes were all rinsed very well.
            About the same time, I graduated to other complicated and serious tasks. In the early nineteen fifties, the main mining operations in Jerome, Arizona were shut down. Phelps Dodge, the mining company, started selling off all kinds of old and surplus items, too worn or not economical to move to use elsewhere. Dad began to collect a lot of “stuff” with the idea of using the materials to build facilities on a patch of land he had acquired down near the Verde River. Among the things we acquired were a couple of sheet metal sheds used as garages in one section of the “company” town. As we dismantled them, the job I learned was how to pull nails out of the boards that had been the structure’s frames. I often straightened the nails, too. I got quite adapt at those tasks and learned how to slip a small block of wood under the hammer or crow bar to get more leverage when the nail was reluctant to pull free. I still do that sometimes!
            I had learned early to pick up my playthings before bedtime each night. Anything left out was likely to disappear and probably be lost for a long time if not forever. Moving on from that,  around age ten or so I began the habit that stays with me to this day. At least a time or two a year, I get into a kind of cleaning and sorting frenzy. I try to get rid of as much of the “overburden” we tend to accumulate as possible and to make sure the rest is structured into tidy collections, neat piles, boxed, tagged or otherwise organized. I hate to see windblown trash in my yard—a real fight at times both in my old Arizona homes and here when we get the spring winds. I still pick up that kind of mess regularly. No one ever told me to do it or made me; I just took that on myself.
            For most of the years from age ten until I left home at twenty three, we burned wood for heat. Another chore! We cut and brought home many pickup loads of pine, juniper, oak or whatever else we could get. Although dad cut the larger stuff with a chain saw, at least to truck length, my brother and I did a lot of hand sawing with an old camp style buck saw to get the wood to stove size.  Sometimes we also had big circles from larger trees which had to be split. We used old axe heads as wedges and pounded them down with a single jack or smaller one-handed sledge hammer until chunks broke free.  And there were also ashes to carry out and dump in a safe place. We were truly warmed more than once in those processes.           
            At times I had household chores too. I usually helped mom with the laundry every week to ten days. We ran several loads of clothes, towels and bedding through the old Maytag washer, pushing them through the rollers of the wringer to get the excess water out and then hanging them on the clotheslines to dry. I never got my hand or even a finger caught in the wringer but I know some kids did and it was a frightful hazard. After the wash dried and was brought back inside, there was also ironing to do. It was a somewhat tedious task but one I did not mind if I could listen to the radio or later my little record player and sing along while I worked. I also composed poems and stories in my mind while I ironed.
            By my mid teens I had learned some cooking. I enjoyed making cookies and was always coming up with a new recipe or blending contents from two or three recipes to make my own variations. Cookies are really easy to make, since exacting measurements and the precise demands of cakes or pies were not required. I also made biscuits. Although I could and did roll the dough out at times and use a cutter to make neat rounds, I really preferred to do drop biscuits which I called “porcupine biscuits” since they had pointy bumps on them. I learned to make several hamburger based dishes and of course things like beans and wieners or macaroni and cheese. We ate a simple and economical diet most of the time but always had veggies too and some salads.
            With all these experiences behind me, I had no problem with work as I became an adult out on my own. I’d been working since I was about ten, doing variously a cowboy and ranch hand, handy man or jill-of-all-trades job from mid teens on. Now I had to learned to do desk jobs, starting with my university studies and moving on to civil service positions, but I never forgot how to get dirty and use my hands and muscles to accomplish things. It does not bother me to wear old clothes and engage in the “trudgery*” of packing and loading boxes to move, preparing and maintaining a garden, taking care of animals, or doing the heavier cleaning that sometimes is necessary to keep one’s home space livable. I might have resented some of my chores at times, but the legacy I got from them has served me well and will for all my days.

     *Trudgery is a word coined by my late brother Alex when we were busy 
     cleaning out the mobile our mom and dad had lived in after mom passed 
     away. He had the quirky Celtic humor too and skill in words which he mostly 
     applied to legal writing after he finished his schooling and workjed as an attorney.
     We made many slow trips carrying things back and forth for yard sales, trips 
     to the dump or moving—drudgery at a trudge—which became known as trudgery.

 A friend and I sitting on the sawbuck used
to cut firewood described above!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Another memoir essay--an odd experience

I keep thinking I have posted this one but I cannot find it so here goes. Do I "believe in ghosts?" I have never actually seen one and cannot point to any other mysterious encounters, but there is this:

Challenged By A Ghost

     In June 1971 I had been keeping company with my future husband for a few weeks.  We had met because I rented a place next door to his a few months earlier. As I moved in, his six year old daughter had come to meet me and my roommate, wearing her cat. Jennifer frequently carried that feline draped across her shoulders like a fur stole. For some reason, the cat didn’t seem to mind.
A few weeks after that initial meeting, her mother died suddenly and tragically, leaving her then-husband with three kids from six to seventeen. That was a major reason why our courtship proceeded faster than the local gossips and mavens approved. I didn’t care and he didn’t really either; we did what we felt was right for us.
     Anyway, that Sunday afternoon we were sitting in my living room listening to music, having found we both had eclectic tastes and shared some favorites. It was peaceful and lazy for the kids were off somewhere as was my roommate. We could enjoy some rare quiet time. He worked mostly nights as a sergeant on the small town police department and I was employed by the Army as a trainee in Human Resources, called Personnel Management at that time. It was a treat to have some free alone time to share.
     Suddenly the room turned very cold. It was a warm day but the air felt almost frigid. Jim was lying on the couch with his head in my lap. He jolted out of a near-doze, as startled as I was by the sudden drop in temperature.  Very shortly I felt an almost tangible sense that he was being tugged and dragged although there was no physical motion. He did go somewhat stiff and seemed to fall into a near-trance. It took me only a short while to sense what was going on.
     This seemed like a classic “ghost” or restless spirit situation. A woman who had been dead for less than six months was very upset that a new and younger person was stepping into her life with her children and spouse. She was going to take him back if she possibly could and probably the children later.
     I am not sure why something moved me to start singing along with the operetta and musical comedy tunes playing on the stereo. I almost literally sang my heart out—mostly familiar old songs of love and happiness. At the same time, I sent silent waves of thought and energy to the strong but invisible entity.
     The gist of those thoughts ran a bit like this. You have to go now. There is no way you can come back. Life is for the living and those you left cannot go to you or with you at this time. I promise I will take the best care I can of them and love them to the greatest of my ability. Your children and your life-long love are hurting, grieving and missing you. They always will but they have to keep living. I cannot and will not actually take your place. I do not even want to. I promise they will not forget you or cease to love you but you have gone beyond and you must allow your spirit to leave now. Please go because there is nothing else that any of us can do.
     I continued to sing for an hour or more. Gradually the strange chill eased until the day’s normal warmth again filled the room. The final record in a stack of several played and the machine shut off.
Finally Jim stirred as if awaking. “I had such a strange dream,” he murmured. “It seemed very real but it’s fading now…  I can hardly remember but it seemed like Rosemary was here… Wanting or asking me to get up and go with her.”
     Later I learned the day was her birthday. Perhaps that was why she chose it to come back and try to connect again with those she had left behind. I will never know and there is no way I can prove it, but to this day I believe I convinced a ghost to go on to the spirit world where she now belonged and leave her former husband and two youngest children in my care. Jim and I were married early in September that year and remained together until his death by a massive heart attack on November 10, 2003.
     I never told the three kids about this but as time passed they all seemed to come to accept me as at least a substitute mother. We became and remain friends. I am closest to Jennifer, the youngest, who was fifty one this past Monday, a mother herself now, and still a cat lover. Jim has of course rejoined his first love on the other side but has come back to give me a subtle sign a time or two since his passing.

     A friend once told me there are no husbands and wives in heaven. I am not sure if I believe that or not but I think kindred spirits do recognize and connect with each other in many places, times and ways. Perhaps when my day comes to cross over, one spirit will be moved to thank me for caring for her loved ones and for convincing her to go on and leave life to the living as was necessary.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

An Evening of Silence

A friend passed away this morning and in her honor I will post a moment of silence here.

Her death was caused by ovarian cancer, a terrible disease that also took my mother. If you have lost a friend or relative to it, perhaps you might make a small donation to the American Cancer Society in memory of Daneal Cantor and your loved one as I shall be doing. Go in peace and harmony, my friend. You are missed.

This dark sunset from a few nights ago is in my friend's memory and honor.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Melting Pot--Or Not?

Western mining towns were very diverse and those of us who grew up in them during the first half of the twentieth century had a lot of opportunities to learn about other cultures and ethnic groups. I will not say there was no prejudice or discrimination but for the most part we did learn a lot of tolerance and acceptance of people who might speak a different language, observe different customs or follow a different religion. Here is a glimpse into my memory of this augmented by that of my husband, who lived in Bisbee from his adoption as an infant in 1930 until he moved away to join the military and follow his career and education although he did return many times

Melting Pot—Or Not?

I came to awareness of an outside world between ages three and four, in the latter part of 1946. At that time my small family, which was my parents and myself, lived in Jerome, Arizona. Jerome was a mining town, a company town of Phelps Dodge, then king of copper in the still-young state of Arizona
We lived in a region called Sunshine Hill, which sat to the north and east of the main town of Jerome, that perched on the side of a red mountain called Cleopatra Hill. Between that area and our home on a prominent ridge, a large area of overburden, oreless stone removed to reach the mineral deposits, had created a wide terrace where some of the shops for the small open pit mine and a baseball field stood. The road to our area wound along just safely in from the outer edge.
Sunshine Hill held a bunch of identical little cottages owned by the company along with a few individually built houses sitting on leased land. I called them ‘the private houses’ as opposed to the company houses such as the one my parents rented. By then the mines were starting to slow down from the wartime rush and miners were leaving for other “PD” mines or even other firms so non-employees could rent and live there. It was an ethnically mixed neighborhood with people from a number of European countries in residence, reflecting of the diversity of the miners. However as far as I know there was not one African American family in town and the Hispanic/Latino/Mexican people mainly lived in the hollow below the main part of town and our home. That region was called “Mexican Town.” Remember, this was the 1940s and political correctness had not yet even been dreamed of. Probably not too many used the “N” word but other terms now called slurs were common.
Many of the miners came from southern Europe, formerly small nations that had been overrun by the Nazis and then smashed together haphazardly by the treaties ending the war. There were folks from Bosnia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Herzegovina etc. but they were generally lumped into the category of “Bohunks” (probably from Bohemian) in the vernacular of the time. These people were hard workers, good citizens and very determined to incorporate into their new homeland. To me, their differences only meant a few odd accents and some wonderful foods from each of their areas.
 I spent the first twenty some years of my life in Jerome and later Clarkdale, the ‘other’ Phelps Dodge (PD) town at the foot of the hills. I knew Mexican and Indian children in school and we didn’t think anything of that at all. My brother and I both had friends among them and in Clarkdale, neighbors of Mexican ancestry as well. Until probably about the mid 1950s, few to no Mexicans worked underground but that changed quickly. It was hard, dangerous work and the flow of miners from Europe had fallen off greatly after the war as well as those from the Wales and Cornwall areas of Great Britain which also had many mines.  That soon had Mexicans welcomed to work in all capacities in the hard rock mining industry.
I do not think I ever actually knew an African American person until I was in late middle school or high school. At that time a single mother and her son came to Clarkdale. Oddly, her surname was the same as ours, Morgan, and her son was between me and my brother in age. As far as I know she was accepted and more was made of the fact she was single than her race. She had a responsible job and was clearly educated but people in conservative small towns still tended to look askance on divorced women to say nothing of one who might have had a child out of wedlock!
My parents were not prejudiced for their time but if I had ever brought home a boyfriend of another race I would have probably gotten chewed out. They did not hold with mistreating anyone for their differences but felt everyone should stick to their own kind. From their point of view and the fact they both had Southern upbringing I expect that was understandable.
At any rate, after the Iron Curtain went down and many of the small ethnic groups in southern Europe began to squabble and want to set up their own countries, those of us who had grown up in western mining camps knew and understood their need and desire to be independent and not to have an ethnic group divided by an arbitrary border that some kings and politicians had created when they were “dividing the spoils” after the war. We might have called them all “Bohunks” and meant no disrespect or disparagement with the term but we were aware that they spoke different though often related languages, might have different religious beliefs and definitely differed in national dishes, costumes and traditions.
 So, in a way, my home region was a melting pot—in mining towns like Jerome, Bisbee and Ajo, where kids all went to school together, it was not long before a girl of Croation ancestry began to date a Czech boy and the parents had to accept it since the fathers might be partners in the mine. Then pretty soon there was dating between ‘gringo’ and Mexican teens or white and Native Americans and as African Americans began to join the populations, they were accepted and assimilated too.
 It often takes a few generations for this to work out but usually if there are no KKK fanatics or rabble rousing outside members of a minority group to “stir the pot” it does mix and melt very nicely out here in the rural and  small town west. Here people were much more often judged for their work ethic, honesty and similar real values than the color of their skin or what church—or none—that they attended. Underground, all men were equal and out in the cowboy camps, and similar dangerous environments the same held true. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to grow up in and witness true diversity and the American Way in action.  


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Memoir Meets Philosophy?

Now and then I do wax philosophical. Maybe this essay is at least somewhat in that direction. As usual I share it for what its worth. Readers can decide for themselves! BTW this is post number 294 on this blog. I will try to plan something special for the three hundredth since that feels like quite a milestone! And we will get there in just a few more days.

Growing Up on a Bridge

Those of us who came into this life in the middle of the twentieth century were blessed—or condemned—to live on a bridge between “the old days” and today. In 1940 something or the early 1950s, we thought ourselves very modern and fortunate to live in the wonderful twentieth century.
As small kids we might not yet have had television in our homes, but we had a radio that brought us the magic of words, news, wonderful and varied music and drama from the vast world. We had electric lights and refrigerators and automobiles that were getting faster and more luxurious every year. And there was even air travel as well as trains and busses. What a life!
Then as we began to grow up, the days of TV sitcoms with the perfect family, parents who slept in twin beds, the picket fence, two-point-five kids and a spotty dog morphed into the turbulent 1960s. It was the time of hippies, protests, Vietnam, Woodstock, the Black Panthers, women’s lib and acid rock. By now TV was everywhere, in color even, and our cars got faster and higher powered each year. Zero to sixty five in… And our music became louder, more strident and very much tied to electronics. We had crossed the first bridge in our coming of age.
Then more decades came and went, bringing more changes. We put satellites into orbit, a man on the moon, more and faster communications. The Berlin wall came down and Cosmopolitan magazine had nude male centerfolds! Cuss words became a feature in movies and song lyrics. We watched our kids begin to grow up, much more wild and rebellious than we ever were, of course. No one chanted, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Susie with the baby carriage,” any more. That order was often transposed. Some were shocked and others said, “high time.”
Finally we burst through into a new century, surviving Y2K only to be jolted hard by 9-11. There seems an odd irony in the fact those same three digits are also the near-universal code to seek help in an emergency. Just dial 9-1-1. That day it would not have helped much.
In a couple of decades we went from “computers” which filled a warehouse sized space to an equivalent amount of power and capability in the palm of our hands. We came through talking on cell phones and doing email to texting, tweeting and twerking—no, wait; that is some kind of a dance but I guess communicating in a way, too.
So here we are, aging “baby boomers” who have lived our lives on a bridge between “ancient history” and the future. Changes came in increasing numbers, sometimes in almost the blink of an eye. Change and progress—yes, progress requires change but I assert that all change is not progress—sweep past at a geometrically accelerating pace. Where do we go from here?
Do you sometimes feel you’ve been left behind in this mad dash? Maybe I am the only one but I suspect there are more of us. My maternal grandfather, who was born in the late 1800s and passed away in the late 1900s at 100 years and 10 months of age, had gone from horse and buggy to space ships, telegraph along the railroads to wireless phones. He coped as every generation must, but it seems each new group of us has to witness more change and faster change.
Perhaps I am almost ready to step off the bridge and let the rush go on without me. I am not sure how much more and new I can comprehend and adapt to. In my case, growing up in a rural part of the southwest US, I saw the tail end of the ‘old west’ in then elderly men who had been cowboys, gunfighters, mountain men, cavalry who fought Indians or like my late father–in-law commanded a troop of Buffalo Soldiers along the Mexican border during World War I. I only experienced their lives vicariously but it still seemed real and vital, not remote bookish history.
The only way to keep their stories was to write them down or use a big, cumbersome tape recorder so my recollections are not perfect. Even my own early days seem so distant now, veiled in shadowy almost-dream-like vagueness, back at the start of this bridge.
The years pass very quickly as we become mired in the daily trivia of living so that we lose so much, even while we are still here and semi-sane. It feels as if the cord of our rosary has broken and beads have slipped off and fallen away without our notice. You can’t go home again, they say. Anymore not even in memory. That tends to make me sad.
The next bridge or span will be perhaps the scariest or most marvelous yet. I am more curious than fearful and in many ways I am eager to talk again to those who have crossed ahead of me. Maybe their recollections will now be crystalline and perfect. Maybe mine will be too, once I join them. But then perhaps from that new viewpoint we will no longer feel the need or desire to look back.
Someone once said that heaven and hell might be no more than watching a ‘video’ of your life play out on a sort of screen where you must watch it, over and over…. There might be a kind of poetic justice in seeing your highs and lows, your good deeds and the harm you caused and perhaps the most cruel, having to realize how mediocre most of us really are. Already I am wishing I might have another chance to relive my three score and some, fix some of my worst boo-boos and undo some damage. But life has no rewind button, no go back arrow or delete key. It is what it is. Time only moves in one direction and we have no choice but to go along on a strange rolling walkway until it is time to step off this bridge…

Mom holding me in Boston
by the family car.

Me at the Inn of the
Mountain Gods, near
Ruidoso, NM 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Memoir Essay--An Allergy to Drama

This one is a little more personal and much less upbeat than most of the glimpses into the past that I choose to share. I used to be embarrassed and somewhat ashamed of what I perceived as a rare and cringe-worthy form of a "disfuntional family" before I had even heard that term. I know now after three score and some that some kind of "disfunctionality" is almost more the rule than the exception. Every family has their closet skeleton or sore spot.

So many people in my age bracket and younger have suffered in some way. Richard Bach of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and other powerful books collected and published a group of mini-essays which he titled "Thank You, Wicked Parents." I found it very powerful and moving as it set forth how many who had suffered terrible abuse and mistreatment used that to build strength and become a better person than the environment they had known.

I did not have to cope with alcoholism, drug abuse, martial infidelity or severe physical or sexual abuse; I was actually lucky. Still, I hate and shun what I call "drama" and the emotional blackmail that goes with it. Thus this essay. I hope some may find a sense that they are not alone when they read it.  Please feel free to write me at azwriter427@yahoo.com if you want to share or comment privately. I may attempt something different but parallel to Bach's effort in time. GMW

An Allergy to Drama

I suppose most families have their drama ruler, king or queen. It’s the person who manages to keep everyone stirred up, hog center stage, and manipulate events and situations constantly and continually. In my family it was my dad, absolutely and unequivocally. Once I was long away from that environment of my youth and had gained mature understanding I realized he had serious mental and emotional problems. An excuse? That I cannot say.
But he exhibited everything from bipolar disorder to paranoia, delusions—both of grandeur or importance and persecution, and other ills. He had a total inability to accept any blame for his numerous failures and mistakes. They always had to be someone else’s fault and the result of either malfeasance on their part or some wicked conspiracy “out to get” him. All of these traits worsened as he got older and more of his dreams, plans and schemes failed to pan out.
My mother was very quiet, almost mousy. To my knowledge she only told him no, I mean really no, like hell no and stomp a foot for emphasis, a very few times. When she did so, I believe he really listened but this was a most rare occurrence. Until I finally left home, I never dared to do so although I perfected silent and subtle disobedience and a kind of quiet contempt to a fine art over the years. Yet I always wanted approval and even conned myself into believing some of those schemes; he was very convincing at times.
At any rate, our family dynamic revolved totally and solely around him and whatever his latest passion, scheme or pet peeve might be. He thrived on crises and if none conveniently emerged, he was not above creating them. In fact, he did so regularly. One of his favorite rants was, “We cannot go on with business as usual!” (This is an emergency/catastrophe/life-or-death event etc. ad nauseum.) In fact, ‘business as usual” (read that as calm, orderly, quiet attending to the normal chores and tasks of daily life) was anathema to him.
He was probably addicted to the adrenaline rush of panic, crisis and code-red situations as well as at least subconsciously realizing that put him in the driver’s seat, center stage, large and in charge. It was the license to issue orders, make demands and crack at least a verbal whip over the rest of the family. He was a master at all of that.
In time I came to hate the whole lifestyle. How many holidays were ruined by one of his tantrums about some imagined emergency and inevitable need to ignore the Christmas, Easter, birthday or other very small celebration? (Small because we were always on the edge of poverty if not deep into it). To this day I really do not enjoy holidays or family get-togethers because of the long shadow this cast over them.
The trend toward drama seemed to extend to all his siblings and I suspect came from their mother who I never really knew. There were five of them. The eldest sister never married and basically retreated from life at about forty five or so and never worked again and seldom even went anywhere. The second sister was a ditsy fashionista and ‘artsy’ and had one short-lived unhappy marriage. Dad managed a forty six year marriage but only because Mom would not ever leave. The younger sister had one short though apparently happy marriage but lost her husband to a leukemia type disease very early and remained single until her two sons were grown and the elder was ill with the results of long term Type 1 diabetes. The “baby” brother had one stormy marriage that ended in serious acrimony and a string of lady friends, before, during and after that relationship. In retrospect none of them ever seemed very happy.
Once I finally got out on my own, I began a gradual but very deliberate and determined effort to avoid all forms of drama. Even when I was quite angry, fearful, upset or frustrated, I worked hard to maintain an outward appearance of calm and control. I deplored tantrums and still do although I do have a naturally violent and explosive temper. I bottle it up fiercely until I can let go in some private and undangerous way. I also absolutely despise what I call “emotional blackmail” which I consider the most cruel, vicious and destructive kind of verbal abuse.
I admit that the last few years I find myself growing more irritable and much less patient but I still strive to keep a calm and controlled demeanor and not to take my moods out on others, especially any innocent soul who has no idea what has upset me and is probably totally blameless. Mostly I manage to do so. And when I do not, I am upset with myself and strive even harder to do better. I will not be my dad or anything remotely similar!
Still, as I look around me, I am appalled at how many people either thrive on or may be addicted to “drama.” Some seem to draw it like a magnet, even while they frequently and sometimes loudly bewail their tormented and tempestuous lives and act very put upon by all the “others” who visit these calamities on them.

Observing this, I often ask, at least to myself, do they really hate it or do they stir the pot—maybe even without realizing it—because they, too, cannot abide “business as usual?” Maybe a state of tumult is business as usual for them but it gives me mental and spiritual hives! It makes my brain and soul itch like mad—and there is no way to scratch it. Like with any allergen, I try to simply avoid it and get away from that environment. If I must endure, it is a suffering I hate to experience and I escape it as soon as I can.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Memoir essay--coloring

Have I ticked everyone off yet? Politically correct is definitely not my middle name. I call them as I see them and if you are offended, you do not have to read any more or even ever visit again. I do believe in free speech, in the virtues of choice, and that no one has a right never to be offended! Mostly I try to "write nice" but there are times when I feel I need to make a statement or say something about which I feel strongly. Don't say you were not warned. I mention that every now and then.

Today though I will be nice again. Here is another little essay about the past and how I was shaped into who and what I am by decades of life and influences that began when I was very young.

Coloring—Lines Optional?

Along with the magic of the written word, the idea of coloring pictures and patterns has been a big part of my life since very early childhood. The ritual of reading me a bedtime story—or very often some bedtime verses-- goes back to my earliest memories. I had a couple of favorite books. One was A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. I loved those poems! Actually I still do.  The other, perhaps even more favored for a reason I will explain in a moment, was a big book of Mother Goose Rhymes.
            The neat thing about it was that almost every page had a line drawing to illustrate one of the verses.  They featured women in the “Gibson Girl” styles and children in turn of the century garb (19th, not 20th) and cartoonish creatures that were really not at all ridiculous. Part of the ritual was watching mom or dad color one of those drawings. My dad always had a good set of colored pencils. Though not an engineer, he did do a lot of schematics and laid out plans for many of his projects. For a long time I could not do the actual coloring but it was fun to watch a drawing somehow come to life with colors.
            Before long I had crayons and coloring books of my own. At first I did not do a very neat job but my coordination quickly improved and I learned to stay inside the lines, at least most of the time.  Before I reached my teens I was doing a lot of drawing myself and also making paper dolls, a hobby that I kept for many years. I had been started on this activity by one of my few baby sitters. I later grew dissatisfied with the “Kewpie doll” figures she had made and learned to draw girls and guys in proper eight heads high proportions and designed clothes for them, colored of course!
            At one time I wanted to be a dress designer, especially of the flashy “western” styles popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This later fell by the wayside as I made other career choices but I did learn to sew and could combine pattern pieces to change styles. I always drew and colored a planned garment before I made it.
            Even as an adult I would occasionally color a picture in one of the kids’ or grandkids’ color books and began to wish there were some mare sophisticated line drawing books for grown ups. Lo and behold, I finally found some. Most of them were made by a firm called Dover Books that did a lot of reprints of ancient books and classics. I am not sure where or why they began to do color books but they did. There were flowers, animals, ethnic and native costumes and geometric patterns. After I got some of them, I  decided colored pencils were often too pale and began to use felt tip markers which came in increasing ranges of colors.
            After my husband passed away, I spent many hours coloring some books I found that had Mandela patterns. There was something comforting about both the designs and choosing the right colors—at last what seemed right to me—to fill them in. There were still not a lot of grown up level coloring books around, though, and it seemed that even those for children were falling out of the vogue, replaced by stickers and other paper crafts and then all the electronic things.
            The last few years this has changed! I now see coloring books everywhere. Not a gadget and gizmo catalog comes to my mailbox that does not have color books in it, many with a set of colored pencils. I look askance at them still, but perhaps they are better than the kiddy quality I tried and discarded. Good artist quality pencils are far from cheap so I still mostly stick with the ‘magic marker’ style felt tipped pens. The worst thing about them is they tend to bleed through but fortunately the books I use are normally only patterned on one side of the pages.
            Now I have to laugh when I go on Facebook and Pinterest and find that a cousin and many friends and acquaintances are now coloring. They all seem to feel they have discovered something marvelous and new. I do not laugh at them but at myself for being either ahead of or behind the times which seems to be a family trait. All of us seem to start too soon or too late and miss the perfect timing that brings success and recognition.
            I have also used the ‘Paint” program on Windows (computer graphics) and created designs there. I stumbled almost by serendipity onto some basic patterns like zigzags, Greek key, stepped pyramids and such which can be combined to make designs that look very much like Navajo and other native rug patterns. I have a whole bunch of these now and have even used them on my website and some of my promotional material since my sig line for awhile was “romancing the southwest in tales of love and adventure,”  with a gecko for my totem creature. Two of those designs appear above.
            Although I will never be an artist, I do enjoy playing with colors and patterns and sometimes taking liberties with where the hues go, in or out of the assigned lines…  After all, I can often be found shoving smoke or herding cats, figuratively speaking that is. What is the fun of only doing easy, current faddish kinds of  things? Be a leader even if no one follows!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Strong Women

Strong Women—An Editorial

It must have been at least twenty years ago that I first saw a bumper sticker with the phrase “Uppity Women…” At the time it was cute. Now it is as dated as tie-dyed shirts, granny dresses and other ‘hippie’ paraphernalia. I also came across the phrase ‘Pushy Woman’ as part of a logo recently. That really got me to thinking.

I admire strong women. I think I am basically one myself. The thing is, those who really fit that paradigm have no need to advertise or claim the title! I just can’t imagine Aliy Zirkle, Deedee Jonrowe or Jessie Royer with an “Uppity Women” sticker on their dog truck! What they do speaks for itself. They are real kick-ass women.

Let’s look at some other examples. Most of us have now heard of Holly Holm, the “preacher’s daughter” from Albuquerque who won a big fight against the gal who was supposed to be the toughest woman on two feet. Do you think Holly has anything about uppity or pushy women on her car, luggage or boxing gloves? I don’t think so but who is going to dispute the fact she is one very tough young lady? I don’t think Rhonda Rousey will!

Take a look at Serena and Venus Williams. True, they compete with other women but if it came down to that I would bet on them to give Roger Federer or the Joke guy a real run for their money! And I would bet half that big lottery jackpot there is not one thing about uppity or pushy women in their gear!

Betcha Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir and now Angela Merkle didn’t ever have the words uppity or pushy on their business cards or stationery. When you are head of a powerful nation, that pretty well covers the situation. The thing is, you can be a woman, a lady and speak very softly while carrying whatever big shtick you may wield in the course of your career, avocation or life! Being a bitch is not being strong, it is just being a bitch!

Tough heroines are very popular now in science fiction and fantasy stories, some of which are also romances in which these gals have no need to be rescued and may even bail their guy out of a tight spot now and then. Agent Carter doesn’t have to claim she is uppity or pushy! Even Kate Beckett on Castle would not dream of putting such words on anything around her but those who have followed that show know she is one tough lady and now a Captain on the NYPD.

My point is, these tired and outworn tag lines may have served a purpose thirty or forty years ago when the so-called Women’s Revolution was just getting underway. Actually though I think even then the really strong and tough ladies did not need to hide behind phrases and sassy, hollow words. Belle Starr, Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley just let their guns and guts do the talking. So did some of the early women who competed in rodeo such as the Greenough sisters and others now enthroned in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. They were not cowgirls, really, but cowboy girls. One of these days I will lay out the difference but this is not the time.

Anyway, I don’t call myself uppity or pushy. I don’t need to. I have handled bad mules and horses, struggled to load the carcass of a deer I had shot onto my saddle animal to bring home meat the family needed to survive on, carried a gun which basically ensured I did not have to use it or ever fight off a would-be rapist. I’ve told a few colonels what I thought of them in very ladylike terms and earlier or later the same day changed a tire on my SUV. I know who I am and what I am.

I’m a notch below my heroines, some of whom I have mentioned here but I am way beyond the pretenders and the wanna-bes who have to crouch behind a bumper sticker, a slogan or an in-your-face façade that really does not conceal the fact they don’t have the gear! Get real, ladies; if you’ve got it you don’t need to flaunt it. And you really don’t need to be nasty to be strong. Nasty is a lot more about bratty kids than people with courage and power. Think about it and what you really want to convey…

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Suggestions for other visits

I promised no sales pitches here and I am not going to break that. I will only say that Amber Quill, which has been my main publisher for twelve years, is closing their doors forever on March 31 this year. That means all the titles of Deirdre O'Dare in their erotic romance lines will be out of print from that day on. I have no idea right now when or even if some or all of them will be republished in time in other venues. I'm pretty sure about half of them will not be for I do not currently intend to remarket them, You can start reading the blurbs for all sixty three titles, two every day or two,  at another blog: https://deirdredares.blogspot.com with links to where they are available. It's an age restricted blog, by the way, so teenagers are not invited. Nuff said!

Now this is not a sales pitch but I am quite disappointed that not many are
First family statue
in Fairbanks City Center
following my gwynnmorganalaska blog and learning about the wonderful sport of sled dog racing and some of the events, the people and the amazing dogs that are a part of this extreme sport! I know I have mentioned before my intent to write a book about the women who race their dog teams in the thousand mile endurance races, the Iditarod and the less known but equally taxing Yukon Quest. The racing season is just starting and I will follow all the major races closely and also report often on the doing at SP Kennels which I visited in 2014 and my favoritest mushers, Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore. They have two litters of precious puppies born this fall and a litter of yearlings that I met as very young pupsters in August 2014. At any rate, please just go visit:  https://gwynnmorganalaska.blogspot.com.
You might be surprised at what you can read and learn! This one is open to everyone and kids may enjoy! I know a lot of school children will be following the Iditarod since the ITC (Iditarod Trail Committee) is huge on education and offer a wide range of fun activities and learning tools to all grade levels and annually sponsor a teacher who rides along in an "iron dog" (snowmobile to us lower 48ers) for the entire race!

As for this page, we will keep on keeping on with memoir tales, editorial comments on occasion and now and then a verse and some old pictures. I just hope a few of my regular readers here will check those other two out and see if anything speaks to you there!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

RIP Amber Quill Press

I have been a proud and happy Amber Quill author for nearly twelve years.  My heart breaks to learn they are forced to close by the economic crunch of these times, mainly under the steamroller tactics of the heartless giant, Amazon. This is so wrong and I may address the politics of the current economic climate at a later time but right now I just need to write a heartfelt obituary for an outstanding small publisher. I penned these words originally about 24 hours ago with tears streaming. Like many needless deaths, it makes me very sad.

RIP Amber Quill
By now almost everyone in the small and independent publishing world has heard the news that Amber Quill is closing its doors. While it comes as a shock to everyone, not the least to the authors who have published there, it is primarily a sign of the times.

How many mom and pop stores have closed when a Big Box superstore came to town? WalMart has killed hundreds of small local stores all over America. Good or bad, it is a fact of this era. Amazon is the nine hundred pound gorilla in every area of publishing outside of the New York hub and probably gaining ground there as well. Big dogs do not like competition and they do not subscribe to the traditional ethics of us small folk in determining how they get rid of any ‘lesser’ beings who dare to intrude on their profits.  It is not my intent to rant on the political aspects of the modern economy but I do want to point out that a firm finding itself unable to continue in this climate deserves no shame or scorn.

I am sure there will be rumors and snarkisms flying at this point. I’m here to warn you, watch out what you say. I have been with Amber Quill for twelve years and have a total of sixty two story and novella length works with them, five novels and eleven collections or anthologies in print. I did not stay there and submit to them the bulk of my work for this span of time because I had no other choices. I stayed there because I felt it was my best choice among the many e-publishers, a lot of whom have come and gone during the time I have been a published writer, since 2001. Many left a bad taste in the mouths of all who had associated with them. I am sure I do not need to name names! We all know who they were and who some still are.

At any rate, back in 2002 several authors who had been stung in just such situations banded together to form a company, vowing to do it right. In my opinion they did an admirable job. Amber Quill has billed itself “The gold standard in publishing” and I do not feel that was an exaggeration. In twelve years I have never had a late royalty check or a suspicious accounting statement of the period’s sales. I have not had to front any cost of creating my books and found the editing, formatting, cover art and all other services to be truly outstanding. From this and personal contact with them, I know how the owners have worked, the heart and soul they all put into it. I also feel their personal anguish at this time when they realized it was no longer economically feasible to continue with the enterprise they had birthed and nourished. As much as I grieve for myself and my fellow AQ authors in this loss, I hurt more for them. Yet I hope they can take pride and consolation in knowing they have done a truly outstanding job for the duration.

That being said, I do not want to hear any innuendos, no snarky, sly remarks and no scathing put downs period. Anything said in that vein would be completely false and ill-deserved as far as I am concerned. The owners and staff of Amber Quill has fought a good fight and created a memorable enterprise, one which will continue to be a gold standard which others will have to strive hard to emulate. Even in the difficult business of closing, they are acting with the highest ethics and sensitivity for all involved. I call that a true class act. RIP Amber Quill; you will be remembered by many with deep love and respect. To all those who must now walk away, go in well deserved peace and harmony. Hold your heads high and be proud; you have done more than many ever will.