Morning Coffee: Banishing History

feetThere’s been a growing movement to cleanse our history by banishing everything that does not fit with our contemporary beliefs of inclusiveness and understanding. This is a very sad and dangerous thing. If we don’t teach our history, if we banish it to some hidden place where no one dares speak its name, how are we to learn? For it is only through knowledge of the sins of our past do we improve our future.

A couple weeks ago the ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children’s Board) changed the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literacy Legacy Award. Their reasoning was that Laura’s “stereotypical attitudes [are] inconsistent with ALSC’s core values”. In other words, Laura Ingalls Wilder was a racist. Laura’s writing does express prejudicial views of indigenous peoples and peoples of color, but it also teaches understanding of cultures that are different. For example, when Pa takes Laura to visit an Indian camp. Yes, Ma feared what some of the native people were capable of doing based on the experiences of others at the time. Some tribes were known to rape and murder white settlers. Some routinely kidnapped children to adopt as their own or act as slaves for their women. This would have been a very frightening prospect to a mother often left alone with her children while her husband was away hunting or gone into town for supplies (a trip that could take him away for days, if not weeks).

There’s a campaign going on right now to silence any recognition of our own Civil War. First you pull down statues of Confederate officers. Next thing you know everything about the Civil War is deemed offensive and removed from text books and history curriculums. If you do that, then you can’t teach about the good things that came from that time period. Things like the Underground Railroad and the eventual emancipation of the slaves. How do you teach about slavery and then the civil rights movement of the 1960s if you can’t teach about the Civil War and President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation?

And how long will it be before we start banning books again? If Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name is no longer acceptable on a children’s book award, when do we start pulling her books from library shelves, Amazon, Barnes and Noble? And after her, do we continue on to Mark Twain and Harper Lee? It’s called censorship, and the list is endless.

But these things offend us, you argue. They make us uncomfortable. Yes, they do! Sometimes history makes us uncomfortable, and it should. That’s how our children learn what’s right, by learning what’s wrong. There were definitely bad policies made because of hatred, fear, and ultimately, greed, during our quest for western expansion and the acceptance of slavery.

Why deprive our children knowledge of our rich history, all the good that’s come before, because we don’t like to hear the bad? It reminds me of the three monkeys: Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil. Except it’s not true; if we don’t hear or see evil, how can we help but speak evil. We won’t know any different.

I grew up with history. My father is a retired history teacher. I have a history degree. I read and write history. Please, don’t let anyone take this away from our children. Fight to preserve our past so that we might learn and grow in our future.

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Morning Coffee: Being A Mother

SummerMother’s Day was weeks ago but the job of being a mother never ends. It’s not a one-day-a-year job. It’s a 24/7 job that starts the day she knows she’s pregnant until the day she passes away. Doesn’t matter how old her children are, they will always be her children and she will always worry about them.

I worried about our son when, after college, he took a job in south Florida. He had to drive his then new-to-him pick-up truck all the way there while pulling a trailer. He’d never pulled a load like that before. I worried about him when Hurricane Irma barreled down on them last year.

I worried about our daughter when she decided to make a much needed change and took a job in another state, in a city she’d never visited before. I worried about her when she did a couple contracts as a men’s maximum security prison nurse.

I worried about them when love relationships fell apart and they called because they thought their entire world was falling apart and only their mother could help. I worried about their jobs and what would happen if (you fill in the blank). I worried about them when they were sick or injured and too far away for me to do anything except listen and pray.

At the same time, I feel tremendous pride in their confidence, their sense of adventure. I could never have packed all my things and moved all by myself to somewhere I’d never been before. I was married when we moved half way across country. Our daughter is coming to visit next week and she’s making the very long drive alone. She’s done this before and all went well, but that doesn’t mean I won’t worry about her the entire day she’s traveling here, and then again the entire day she’s traveling back home.

Being a mother is not for the faint of heart. It’s not an easy job. It’s not a job to take lightly. But it is a job that pays in happiness much greater than the sorrows and I wouldn’t do it differently for anything in the world.

Morning Coffee: Writers Write

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Writers write, and that’s something I haven’t been doing a lot of lately. My calendar has been pretty full for the last couple months; plus, I admit, I fell into a bit of a discouraged phase where I found it difficult to force myself back into the habit. So I turned to my wonderful writer friends for example and encouragement.

My WisRWA friends are the best! They’re always right there when someone needs a suggestion or just a little pick-me-up.

Writing is a tough business. You can pen a brilliant novel and have trouble selling it. Publishers are, of course, all about making money and your great American novel might not be what’s selling at the moment. Or, maybe they just bought a similar work from a name they know will sell on recognition alone. Again, you may have offered them the best book they’ve read in the last decade but if no one knows your name they might have trouble selling enough copies to clear their bottom line. It’s all in the timing, who you know, and who knows you. That’s where conferences come into play. You get to schmooze with editors and agents, pitch your novel, get your name and face out there.

But before a writer can get to the point of even worrying about such things…a writer has to write. I’m in between these two stages of my career. I have one completed novel I think is really good and another where I’m struggling to write that elusive first draft. It can be hard to work on the latter when the attempts to sell the former leave you questioning why you’re doing this to yourself in the first place.

I’m also finding my creative juices drained by my weekly search for a blog topic. With that in mind, I’m going to change from posting every week to every other week. I hope no one is too disappointed, but I figure it’s a win/win situation. You get better, more interesting, blog content and I get a steady flow of new chapters for my work-in-progress.

Morning Coffee: The Wedding

SummerNot a wedding. The Wedding. You know which one I mean, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the handsome ginger-haired British prince and the divorced bi-racial American actress. The new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Until now, a storyline you’d only find in a romance novel.

Millions of people from around the world watched in awe, many getting up very early or staying up all night, so as to not miss a moment of the magic. There were the celebrities alongside the royals. There was the bride’s African American mother wiping tears of joy from her face while the groom’s family sat stoically and stone-faced in their seats; no doubt happy for the prince but just not accustomed to showing their emotions. And then there was the black American Episcopalian Rev Michael Curry who gave a beautiful and rousing sermon on love; again, much to the surprise of the royal family.

A lot was said about what everyone was wearing: the style, the designer, the color, and, of course, the hats. Leading up to the big day much was heard from the bride’s half-sister and half-brother about why they thought she was evil and hateful. Speculations were made over whether or not her father would be there to give her away…and ultimately, why not. I think there was probably more jealousy and tabloid money greed than heartfelt warnings behind their tales of woe.

What struck me the most, other than the beautiful clothes and flowers and people, was the love. The prince said, “You look amazing!” when his beautiful bride was handed to him at the altar. He could be seen wiping tears from his eyes on more than one occasion. The bride looked at him with a smile that could have lit all of St George’s Chapel brighter than any candles, electric lights, and the sun combined. They held hands during the ceremony. The Reverend was right when he spoke of “the redemptive power of love.” Love is everything. Love is all that matters. Before the ceremony I was uncertain whether or not I believed this marriage would last because the bride comes from such a different world than the groom. But when they looked at each other and said their vows I knew it was real. This is a love that can overcome everything thrown in its path. Perhaps because Prince Harry will never be king that pressure is off. He’s currently sixth in line to the throne. Or perhaps it’s because of Love. Love with a capital L.

*  Next week I’ll be on vacation. I’m going fishing in Canada and will be off the grid for a full week. I’ll be back on June 9th, when I’ll hopefully have a fish picture to rival my big catch of two years ago.

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June 2016

Morning Coffee: The Perfect Staycation

SummerCost aside, even in good times getting away on a vacation can be impossible. Parents’ work schedules. Kids’ school and sports schedules. What to do with the pets while you’re gone. All these things and more can get in the way of getting away; thus, the “staycation”. It’s a vacation without leaving the privacy of your own home. No crowds, no traffic, no impossibly long TSA screening lines at the airport.

A staycation can be as short or as long as you want. Maybe all you can manage is a quiet Sunday afternoon. That’s alright. Pop yourself a beer or pour a glass of wine, lemonade, if you prefer, and pick up the book of your choice. Within minutes you can be anywhere in the world or in another time period. If you prefer SciFi or Fantasy you can transport yourself onto an entirely different planet or a fantastical world of the author’s imagination. It doesn’t even have to be a work of fiction. A good biography can make you feel like you’ve just met the person you most admire. Perhaps you always wondered what it was like to fight for the Union army, or wished you were a fly on the wall during the coronation (or overthrow) of a great ruler. All these things and more can be found in a book.

Lately my life has become very busy. There have been the events already on my calendar and all those that came up last minute. This has prevented me from writing much more than this blog for almost two months; but I have still managed to do a lot of reading. There’s the benefit of studying how a favorite author, old or new, pieces together their story, as well as the chance to turn off all the to-do lists that keep scrolling through my brain. Even an hour or two before I turn off my light at night makes all the difference.

Right now I’m reading a non-fiction account of a then famous murder in 1889 Paris and the world-wide search for the guilty pair. The criminal forensics were new for the time. The woman involved claimed she was not guilty because she was under the hypnotic power of her lover and partner-in-crime. Naturally, he denied this. This led to a great debate over whether or not someone could be hypnotized to commit a crime they would never otherwise commit. All this was documented in detail in the newspapers, as well as the diaries of the detectives. Fascinating! I highly recommend Little Demon in the City of Light: a True Story of Murder in Belle Époque Paris by Steven Levingston.

With less than 100 pages to go I’m already planning my next read. The Drums of Autumn, part of the Highlander series by Diana Gabaldon. There’s nothing like a good book about men in skirts and time travel to take me away from the demands of the present.

What are you reading to get away?

Morning Coffee: Strong Women

SummerI love reading books about strong women. I’m currently reading “Last Woman Standing” by Thelma Adams. It’s about Josephine Earp, wife of the legendary Wyatt Earp, a Jewish girl from San Francisco who goes to Tombstone chasing the love of one man only to find it in the arms of another. Before that I read “The Last Tudor” by Philippa Gregory about the three Grey sisters: Jane, Katherine, and Mary. Lady Jane Grey was queen for nine days before being imprisoned and executed by her cousin, Queen Mary. Katherine was imprisoned and ignored by their cousin Queen Elizabeth until Katherine’s death. The youngest of them all and a little person, Mary Grey, was the only one strong enough to survive being imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth until her release.

A strong woman is not a bitch. A strong woman does not hurt others by climbing her way to the top over their backs. She does not have to be crude or rude or even ruthless. A strong woman believes in herself and can stand up for her beliefs. She doesn’t have to put down others in order to build herself up. Nor does she have to sleep her way to the top. She recognizes that sometimes doing the right thing means stopping to support another. She also knows when accepting the help of another is what’s right for her at that moment.

So many people have the wrong idea, the old antiquated idea, about romance novels. It’s been years since the main character was a weak woman who needed a man to save her from the bad guy; a woman who, when she says no really means yes; a woman who learns in the end that she really does love the bad boy who took charge and showed her the ways of love.

I write about strong women. In “Mary Bishop”, Mary learns just how strong she is when her husband’s strength fails him and she must rely on herself to hold their world together. And she learns her strength does not fail her when his death leaves her alone to fight those who would harm her, too. In “The Healing Heart”, Alice has to find her own strength when the influenza that almost takes her life does take the lives of her parents. When Alice’s fiancé returns from the war in France, a man damaged both physically and emotionally, she must decide if her strength is enough to bring him back to the man she fell in love with, or if it’s time to accept the love offered by another.

Strong women. Not mean women, or self-centered women. Strong women who recognize what they want in this world, but can also accept when what they want is not meant to be theirs. Strong women who don’t step on others, but also don’t allow others to step on them. Strong women grow tall in the knowledge of who they are, and who they can become.

Celebrate the strong women in your life. Be a strong woman.