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Friday, September 25, 2015

My Most Memorable Childhood Book


Earlier this month I reported on the book that changed my life, Wayne Dyer’s first book, Your Erroneous Zones. Today I will tell of the book that made me enjoy a bit of history when I attended grammar school. I wish I could say that I continued to enjoy history after reading that memorable book, but few teachers taught it the way Robert Lawson did in the 1951 edition of Ben and Me: A New and Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin as written by his Good Mouse Amos.

When I was in the fourth grade back in the 1950s, the building predated me by some thirty or more years. The wood in the steps, paneling, and floors emitted a specific scent. When I smell old lumber today, I’m transported back to my first years in school. I can almost hear and smell the hiss of the old radiators under the large windows that sported wavy glass.

Let me digress and discuss wavy glass, sometimes called cylinder glass, a typical glass manufactured and used in buildings in the late 1800s and early 1900s. To make cylinder glass, a glassworker blew a large tube of glass. After cracking the glass off the blowpipe, the glassworker cut off the ends and slit the tube down one side. From there the sheets of glass were put into an oven, where they wilted and unfolded into a flat sheet. The result was glass with imperfections and bubbles, and if you looked through the glass and shook your head a little, objects in the distance jiggled and bobbed.

As a child I did not like school. History lessons struck me as the worst of the bunch. During lectures I distanced myself, gazed through the wavy-glass windows, nodded my head, and made trees in the distance dance and quiver.

I might not have learned a thing, if not for the school library.

Once a week the teacher released us from the classroom and gave us an hour to spend in the old library downstairs, where the aroma of wood mingled with the bouquet of paper and glue emitted from hundreds of hardback books. My sister Sandi, two years older than I was, had read and recommended Ben and Me, so I searched for it in the musty library, found it, and checked it out.

That book changed my perspective. First, I loved animals, so a book written from the point of view of a mouse appealed to me. Next, it opened history to me in a way I had never before experienced it. For the rest of my educational experience, though, I hoped to find something that would make history come alive as much as that book did. Only as an adult, when I travel to places I studied in school, do I feel history finally come alive again the way it came alive to me when I read Ben and Me.

When I talk to people born after me, Baby Boomers and others, I hear their favorite childhood books were fantasy or horror stories that entertained them but did nothing to teach them anything. What a shame! When I read Ben and Me, instead of going into some fantasyland that could never happen in real life, I learned about an important man in history and an era in America that actually took place.

I looked on Amazon today and was not surprised to see that Ben and Me has been re-released many more times since 1951 and is still in print. Way to go, Robert Lawson, Benjamin Franklin, and Amos!


Friday, September 18, 2015

A Truly Happy Birthday

Today is my birthday (September 18). My father used to say, “When you’re past fifty and nothing new hurts when you wake up, it’s a good day.” Nothing new hurt this morning, which means it will be a good day. Heck, every day is a good day in one way or another, although sometimes I have to search to find it. I usually need only a few seconds. You see, I am a happy person; it’s my nature to be positive. Yes, things hurt, and almost every day it’s something new. My philosophy, though, is that everything is temporary, and pain is too; at least it has been for me, thank goodness. I do know people who live with chronic pain, and I have sympathy for them, but I am determined that all my pains will be temporary.
Another philosophy of mine that gets me through many a difficult situation is that “If money can fix it, it isn’t a problem.” Yes, my air conditioner, furnace, stove, fridge, computer, or you name it always dies at the worst possible moment and sometimes puts me in a financial bind, but money can fix the problem, so soon it is not a problem at all. In contrast, the loss of one’s health or one’s loved one is a loss nothing can fix. I’ve lost many a loved one, but here I am, surviving every loss and setback

I know it sounds odd, but an acquaintance of mine once broke off our friendship because of my positive attitude. Her last comment to me was that I was not being honest or authentic, because I was always happy. She was a therapist who listened to problems all day long, and she often vented her own problems to me over lunch or dinner. Her “problems” involved disliking the color of the paint on her walls, resenting that her daughter’s mother-in-law got to see their grandchild more often than she did, faults she saw in the men she was dating or not dating, issues with her body image, and more. I watched her buy house after house, moving from place to place, trying to find her happiness, but of course nothing worked. Instead she complained. Eventually she complained about me. She said that if I were authentic, I would tell her what was wrong with my life.
Wrong with my life? I could find nothing wrong. I have followed a career path that I love. I have loving siblings and relatives and a few dear close friends. I live alone and love my privacy, yet I have experienced true love. Neither of my marriages worked for long, but good things came from both, including a handsome, intelligent son who practices veterinary medicine near D.C. and is married to a woman I love as if she were my own daughter.

I have accomplished almost all my goals. When I was in high school, for example, I knew that I wanted to write for a living, and eventually I wanted to write a book that would live on after me. In the 1960s I did not know the subject of the book or how I would get it published, but I have now written several books, sold one to a traditional publisher, and self-published others. The ones about creative writing go a long way toward helping fellow writers, and helping others makes me feel even better about achieving that goal.
When I was in my twenties and a young mother, I longed to travel. I used to say that I wanted to see Venice before it sank and the Grand Canyon before it filled back in. Now I have been to both places—Venice twice and the Grand Canyon three times.

Today I have traveled the world, but I have not yet seen it all. In fact my sister and I have planned two big trips for 2016 together. In the spring we are going to take a ten-day river cruise and see the Netherlands and Belgium during tulip time. In the summer we will tour through the Canadian Rockies together for another ten days.

I look back over my accomplishments and realize I would be impressed by someone who has achieved all that I have. I have been self-supporting for most of my life. I started my own business, Zebra Communications, and it has supported me since 1992. I bought a house all by myself without knowing what my income was going to be from my then-new business, yet I paid off the mortgage in sixteen years. I found someone to customize my brand-new Honda and turn it into a zebra car, and I drove that sweet automobile that I called Zebadiah for twenty-four wonderful years.
I find my work fascinating, as if I solve an interesting puzzle every time I tackle a manuscript, and best of all, my work helps fellow writers. I get to speak at conferences and meetings for writers, again helping them on their path.

Recalling when our family used to bowl together when we kids were young, I talked my brother and sister into bowling together, once we all landed back in the same area for the first time as adults. For some fifteen years or more, now, we have bowled together at least once a week and sometimes twice a week, enjoying love, laughter, and lunch, too.
I feel fulfilled. I smile often, even when I’m alone.

Oh, and about nine years ago I rescued a parakeet that landed on my deck starving and shivering. Today a plump and healthy Bruce Bird sings delightful tunes in my home every day. Shortly after rescuing Bruce Bird, I took in a dog that had been in the wrong home, and today he is a loving companion who adores being cuddled.

Most recently I've been writing my relationship memoirs, because my encounters with the opposite sex have been funny, odd, unusual, sometimes sexy, but always plentiful. Although my book proposal has met with a few rejections, I learn something with each one. The latest said there may not be a market for my book. Hm. How do you find out if there is a market for a book? You start a blog and see if people want to read what you have to say. A couple of weeks ago I started a blog with the working title of my book, Neurotica. See, and I hope you will sign up to follow that blog to see more stories when I post them.
Many people have read my new Neurotica blog entries and said they love my stories, and I have dozens more to write. The encounters in the blog may not appear in the book, because the book covers relationships with more depth, but if people like my stories, they will buy the book. Yes, there is a market, and I will prove it. If no publisher wants to invest in my newest book, I will self-publish it. I am a writer, and I will not be daunted or thwarted.

I have food, shelter, warmth, love, something interesting to do, and something to look forward to. Yes, happy birthday to me.
Happy every day to me!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Book That Changed My Life: A Tribute to Wayne Dyer

Wayne Dyer, the world needed you. I needed you. I am sorry you left this earth this week, but you left a legacy that will never die.
I was in my late thirties when I read your first book, Your Erroneous Zones. While I can’t recall the details, it opened my eyes to the things that were wrong in my life, the reason I could not find the inner peace and happiness I wished I could feel. Your wisdom taught me that I was the only barrier to my success and happiness. No longer did I have to wait for something else to come along that made me happy; I had all the ingredients at my fingertips and in my heart. 

Once I began applying the principles I learned in your book, my relationships began to shift. Some transformed for the better; some changed for the worse. My husband complained that while he had not changed during our fourteen-year marriage, I had, and in ways he did not appreciate. Of course he did not appreciate that I no longer acceded to all his demands. No longer did I let my husband dictate every decision made in the household. Thanks to you, Wayne Dyer, I accepted that I had the right to make decisions that affected my life. I deserved to be happy. Of course my husband, who had previously been in complete control of everything in the household, did not like to see my transformation. When I look back on that era, I should have laughed, instead of suppressing anger, when my husband turned my copy of Your Erroneous Zones into a used-book store for a few dollars' worth of credit. “You already read it,” he said. My husband bypassed passive and went straight for the aggressive. Oh, yes, he knew where my new strength and courage came from. It came from your wisdom, Wayne Dyer.  

Divorce eventually became inevitable, and it turned out to be one of the best things that could happen. At last I was free to pursue my own interests, make my own friends, and even find my own spirituality.  

How interesting that at the same time I began exploring and discovering my own spirituality and beliefs, you, Wayne Dyer, did the same, and again you wrote books that spoke to me and gave me even greater insights. Your meditations became my meditations.  

I felt greatly honored to have seen you speak. I walked up to you afterward and introduced myself. I was just another person among your minions, but I was so excited to meet you that I forgot to take a picture of you, even though I’d been careful to bring a camera. 

Wayne Dyer, you are over the rainbow now, on to your next adventure, and wherever you are, I know you will have a blast. Back here on earth your legacy—your many books and recordings—will continue to enlighten, empower, and free millions of people.  

Way to go, Wayne!