Monthly Archives: January 2015

Painting: A Creative Outlet!

I find great comfort in painting. I am not a professional painter by any means, but I see the aesthetic beauty in artwork and I appreciate nice art pieces that appeal to me. Often those of us with a creative spirit can do a variety of things such as write, sketch, paint, create poems or play a musical instrument. We see colors whether in words, in melodies or on a piece of canvas.

Plutarch says, Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks.”

We paint pictures on a blank page through word play when we write a poem or create a story. We paint pictures when we play a musical instrument. When reading to the children, I sometimes added a little music to story time by playing on a wooden flute or harmonica at intervals. The children’s eyes would light up and widen when they heard the sounds which further painted the story in their minds.

But speaking of truly painting itself, I have painted some rather intricate paint-by number sets. I know. It is cheating, but some of them actually turn out quite nicely. I have put poems on canvas using calligraphy and added a design. And, I have sketched pictures on a piece of canvas and then painted them. They are my keepsakes and they represent stages of my life because I always date my work. Pablo Picasso writes, Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.”

I will look at a picture and try to replicate it, which works better for an amateur artist. And, once I have decided on an image to sketch, I do so. When I am ready to paint, , I pull out my paints and brushes and try to cover the area for protection of the furniture. I set everything up and I am ready to start.

The actual painting of the picture can be a comforting venture when there has been too much reading or writing.  Edward Hopper writes, “If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.” So when there has been enough interaction with the printed word, painting is a pastime that can be stretched out over time. It is calming and soothing as I change the colors that I need. Just dipping the paint brush into the water cup to rinse off colors is a slow thoughtful process which adds to the feeling of peace.

“Painting is the silence of thought and the music of sight,” according to Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red

A large variety of colors helps because it gives me more choices and there is the opportunity to mix colors for different effects. Also, having a large array of paint brushes of different sizes allows me to make more intricate designs. Painting is one of many ways of continually flowing forward. I believe, I believe every day is a good day when you paint,” says Bob Ross. It is a great creative outlet!

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Lynn                                                                                                     January 14, 2015

Introducing British Author Carol Hedges!

I would like to thank Carol Hedges for agreeing to do this interview about her book Jigsaw Pieces which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I had so many questions about this serious and thought-provoking work. Here is how she answered my ten questions.

Carol HedgesJigsaw Pieces

1.  What inspired the use of the poem ‘Trench Winter” by Noel Clark?

As I was writing Jigsaw Pieces, I was also teaching World War One poetry to a Year 11 class. The poems and the stories behind some of the soldier poets were so harrowing and so evocative of a time long gone by, that I decided to incorporate the story of an imaginary poet Noel Clark, into the narrative. He is a composite of all the poets and lives so tragically cut short. I wrote his poems together with a very clever Year 11 pupil…. and yes, there are many people who think he is real, but he isn’t.

2.  We know that the soldiers of WWI had to deal with the trenches. Hemingway gave me some insight into what they endured by using trenches. How would you describe the ‘trench experience’? What did your research reveal to you?

It is interesting how war throws up poets. Horrors that we cannot imagine seem to crystalise in men’s minds into poems .I decided, after reading all the well-documented accounts this is because it was their attempt to ‘control’ through words, the uncontrollable and terrible slaughter and randomness of life all around them. Poetry is a way of ordering disorder. There were lots of poets then, including hundreds of female poets, whose work is largely unknown. They never fought at the Front, but they shared in the suffering and the changed lives.

3.  Annie is teased and called Viking. Why do you think that young people are cruel to outsiders or people new to a group or situation?

It isn’t just young people who are cruel to ‘outsiders’ alas. I think it comes from fear of the unknown though the effects can be devastating on the victim. I have blogged elsewhere how I was subject to teasing, bullying and ridicule when I was a teenager, as I found myself the only Jewish pupil in a girls’ school of over 800 Gentiles. It was easy for me to put myself in Annie’s shoes, and recall those times; if you have ever been bullied, the memories never leave. Even at 64, I can still see the faces of my tormentors!

4.  Do you think that Annie’s assignment to the retirement home was a good strategy? What do you think that the headmaster hoped to teach her?

I think it was the best thing that happened to her at that time even though she didn’t see it of course! I’m not sure if it was ‘planned’ or just one of those random events that happen, but in hindsight, play such an important part in our lives. Maybe the Year Head wanted to break open her hard shell, and make her see that other people’s lives impacted, even if they were what society would consider ”over.” I certainly wanted the reader to consider what wisdoms and stories lie inside people at the end of their lives, and how important it is to hear them. Annie’s life was immeasurably enriched by her time at the old people’s home and I think it gave her a depth of compassion and understanding. Also, old people are far more accepting; ironically, it was where she felt most at home!

5.  Is Billy’s mute condition symbolic? Why or why not?

Billy was based on a real life man, whom I read about in The Times. His story replicates exactly that soldier (now dead). Elective mutism is a known medical condition, often seen in children as a reaction to events they do not want to face. In Billy’s case, clearly it was a reaction to the horrors he experienced in the trenches. So many men who returned had no vocabulary to describe what they had seen or undergone. The contrast between their former lives and the maelstrom the entered was too vast to encompass words. However, as the poets sought to encapsulate their thoughts and feelings in the concentrated form of verse. Many others were war artists, putting down visually what they could not put into words. In Billy’s case, it was that one particular event, and of course, Annie subsequently found his diary and realised what it was he had chosen not to talk about.

6.  What does Annie learn about life after delving into the cause of Grant’s death and putting her own life in danger?

I think Annie learns about herself. She finds depths of courage, and of resilience. She also realises that the world is not the safe place she thought it was, and that ‘adults’ are not the safe authority figures they set themselves up to be. Annie is very opinionated, and Grant’s death challenged the way she stereotyped people, or pre-judged them. I think she also learned that, like the WW1 soldiers, you cannot ‘control’ everything. She had to let events unravel and be part of the unravelling rather than the instigator.

7.  How can Grant’s suicide note help our youth avoid those types of traps?

The story was written at a time when technology wasn’t so advanced as now. The letter was, however, a montage of letters I read on a suicide website. I wish I knew how to stop teens from taking their own lives. If the letter can show them that others feel the same pain, and that a decision to end their lives leaves so many loved ones suffering and hurting and asking why? Then, maybe it will do some good. There are even more pressures on today’s teens. I extend to them a massive hug, and say: each of you is valued and loved and important. The world would be a poorer place without you in it.

8.  What does Annie learn from reading Billy Donne’s entry from his journal?

Annie learns from reading the journal that Billy was once like her: someone with hopes and dreams, and principles. She sees how courageous he was, how he tried through his writing to take a stand for what he considered right. She also saw how someone less resilient, Noel Clark, couldn’t cope under similar circumstances, and chose a different route. Annie has always scorned people who weren’t ”strong.” I think she learned that there are different kinds of strength, some of which may appear as ‘weakness.’ An outsider does not understand the internal torment of another person.

9.   What helps Annie move forward and advance to the next step in her life? How did you choose the title for your book? Did you know from onset that it would be called Jigsaw Pieces?

Annie can move forward in her life only when she understands about other people’s pain, and admits that she too is vulnerable. These are the qualities that make us fully human. Once she has acknowledged them, both in those around her and in herself, she is ready to go search for her father and find ‘the piece of the jigsaw with my face on it’. The book was originally published in paperback form as Jigsaw. I rechristened it as Jigsaw Pieces when I got my rights back from the original publisher and republished it as an e-book. It started out as ‘Soldier, Soldier’ – with the idea of the real WW1 soldiers, and Annie as a modern-day ‘soldier’ battling prejudice. I changed the title as it made better sense and would be better understood. Books frequently go through several changes of title with me. It’s rare that I come up with the final one at once.

10.   Have you written a discussion guide for this book?

I’ve never been asked to write a discussion guide; however I think if I did, most of the questions you’ve asked me here would form the basis of it. I’ve really enjoyed thinking about the issues raised, and delving into the thought processes that went into the writing of Jigsaw Pieces. Thank you for posing such searching questions!

Note:

Carol Hedges is a British author of books for children, young adults and adults. Her novel Jigsaw, about a teenager’s suicide, was shortlisted for the Angus Book Award and nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2001.  Her most recent works are the Spy Girl series for teenagers and the Diamonds & Dust series, published by Crooked Cat and featuring the Victorian detectives Leo Stride and Jack Cully  These books are written for adults.

She lives in Hertfordshire and is married with a grown-up daughter.

Links

Twitter: @carolJhedges

Blog: http://carolhedges.blogspot.co.uk

Amazon author page:  http://   ow.ly/oZcIh

Lynn                                                                                                                          January 12, 2015

Annie 2014: A Movie Review

images-Annie

I recently saw the movie Annie 2014 and it brought both laughter and tears.  The story is heart-warming and simply witnessing Quvenzhane’ Wallis’ performance was unbelievable.  I would truly label her as an old soul.  The elders would say that she has been here before.

The music and choreography were refreshing as the girls cleaned and suffered under the hand of the evil foster-mother, Hannigan, played by Cameron Diaz.  The girls sang “It’s a Hard Knock Life’ and as they mopped the floor, they used each other as human cartwheels.  So cute!

But Annie, the adorable orphan living in modern-day New York City won the hearts of many.  This young actress is simply gifted.  There is no other way to describe the depth of her feeling which she mostly expresses through her eyes.

She is in search of her birth parents and she goes to a particular restaurant every Friday hoping that they will show up.  Annie regularly reads a letter that they have left behind to the other girls in the home and she wears a locket that only has half of a heart.

Annie sees two boys taunting a dog and when she tries to stop them, she is almost hit by a truck.  Will Stacks, played by Jamie Foxx, saves her.  He is a cell phone mogul who is running for mayor of New York City. It is captured on camera and it goes viral.  This shows him in a more caring light. His assistants feel that this could boost his ratings in the polls and strengthen his campaign.

They go and find Annie for more photo opportunities and eventually they decide that she should live with Will Stacks temporarily to change his self-absorbed image.  His assistant, Grace, played by Rose Byrne is present as Annie checks out the NYC penthouse.  Annie and Grace do a neat dance as they sing, I Think I am Going to Like it Here.

And of course, the unexpected happens.  Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) begins to enjoy Annie‘s company because she fills a void in his life.  He is so convincing in this role and he looks at her with such love and amazement.

Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), the evil foster-mother and Stark’s assistant, Guy (Bobby Cannavale) plot to pay some people to pretend to be Annie’s birth parents to get her out of the picture. She has become too popular.   They do a provocative dance in a bar to Easy Street as they plot their wicked plan.

In this modernized version of Annie, social media plays a part.  After Annie is taken by the imposter parents, young girls snap  pictures of her as she mimes ‘Help’ from the car window. They send out tweets and the location of the getaway car is pinpointed.

All of the girls in the house are very talented and the movie is truly child-friendly.  I would definitely see this movie again. We hear the popular songs that we know such as Easy Street, Tomorrow, and Annie’s singing of Opportunity in the red satin dress is just adorable. But the one that stays with me most is Who Am I?  Will Stacks, Hannigan and Annie sing it in unison from different settings as they make decisions about their lives.  The song ends with ‘I want to start again.”

There are cameos by Rihanna, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. I highly recommend this feel-good movie with its diverse cast.  The music, the dance moves, the scenes of the Big Apple and the superb acting combine to make it a great experience.  Director Will Gluck, along with co-producers Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith did a fine job.

Lynn                                                                                                   January 10, 2015

Legacies!

hankies

We are a composite of our many experiences and observations. I think of certain relatives who left behind special gifts or legacies. We often think of heirlooms or keepsakes that were passed down, but each one left something more. Whenever I find myself doing some of the simple things that I watched them do, I am reminded of my time spent with them.

My sister, Tiny always had music playing in her home. We affectionately called her Tiny because she was so petite but a powerhouse otherwise. There was a soft but constant rhythm and beat playing in the background and it gave her visitors a lightness of spirit. Lately, I have been playing my radio in the kitchen at a low volume. It keeps the pace moving and I think of her.

Then there was Irene, one of my father’s cousins. Though she was bed-ridden, her mind was as clear as a bell. She could recall vivid details of events and would hold us spellbound with her conversations. Now, I am often consulted by family members when they are unsure of the details or facts about some former event. They know that I will remember the dates and all. I can safely say that it came from my father’s side and I think of Irene.

My grandfather Chester was a dapper dresser and he did not hesitate to pull out his clean, white and ironed handkerchief if the occasion arose. Recently I found a place that sold beautiful handkerchiefs for women with an embroidered design in the corner. They made me think of him and one Christmas, I gave handkerchiefs as gifts to a few coworkers. I wonder if the girls today even know what a handkerchief is! A tissue is functional but there is nothing like a real, cotton hankie!

And then, there was Uncle Robert. He was the historian who could spew out facts on some event with such ease. He stored information and when he needed it, he could pull it up at a moment’s notice. He did not share what he had read or knew with everybody but for those he deemed worthy, they were in for a treat. I am also quite selective when it comes to who I converse with at length. I try to make sure that I am speaking with those of like minds.

There are a host of relatives whose gifts have been incorporated in some aspect of my life. I think of Uncle Maurice’s beautiful letters, Aunt Myrtle’s jazzy fur coat, Uncle Johnnie’s road maps, Grandmother Corrie’s French books, Uncle Robert Cooper’s business acumen, Aunt Ruth’s delicious hors d’oeuvres, Aunt Vivian’s high fashion and Aunt Alma’s warm and loving heart. Oh and how could I forget Aunt Emma’s golden leaf frosted glasses which probably contributed to the title of my first book, A Golden Leaf in Time Revised?

I acknowledge each of them and recall what they added to my world. It truly ‘takes a village to raise a child.” We all have the opportunity to adopt what we like about those we observe. Some may leave material things behind, but those subtle legacies are embedded within us and help us become more rounded people.

Lynn                                                                                                                       January 8, 2015

Blogging in 2014!

These are the stats and highlights of my first year as a blogger @ Lynn M’s Blog!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 52 trips to carry that many people.

Before you click below, here are some stats that stick out:

  • Posts:  114 posts
  • Busiest day:  August 30th
  • Viewed from: 13 countries US, UK & Netherlands in front
  • Leading Commenters:  Kay (42); Val (17) and June(13)
  • Post with most comments: A Visit with June Kearns (December 2014)
  • Interviewed: Chris Hill; Selena Haskins; Val Poore; Omar Luqmaan-Harris; June Kearns & Jan Smolders, respectively.

Chris hll    SelenaVal487387_10151733406120475_806030474_24644067_1632852627_n_400x400June Kearnsjan smolders

Click here to see the complete report.

Thank you for traveling with me.   There is more to be seen in 2015!  Yeah!!!

Lynn                                                                                                                           January 6,  2015

Fresh Start in 2015!

snow-trees-wallpaper

I thought about fresh starts after we received our first snowfall today. A white blanket of snow, untouched by the human hand, signals a new beginning. How perfect on this January day in the New Year of 2015. Twenty fifteen! That has a nice ring to it! It is time to start planting seeds for greater outcomes.

Just looking at the new layer of snow, allows us to breathe easier and say, ‘Old Man Winter has arrived at last.’ We have a love-hate relationship with him and when he finally does show up, we are like a concerned spouse asking, “Where have you been? I knew you would be here sooner or later.” And once he is here and the snow has fallen, we go outside at some point and get busy. Snow will not be ignored.

We have to interact with it in some way. We may have to dig out so our front doors will open; or clean off our cars or shovel our driveways and sidewalks. Some type of activity will be required with that first fresh covering of snow. We can flex our muscles while engaged and that is a good thing in itself.

Children build snowmen or make snow angels and adults may decide to take a walk in the winter wonderland. For those of us who have seen many snowfalls, each one still brings its own unique beauty and sense of awe.

This morning, it was refreshing to be outdoors as the flakes blew around lightly. The feeling of newness prevailed as I cleaned off my car. I thought of its dual benefits. I was getting my daily workout and I received a free car wash. A lot of the old debris was washed away with this wet, heavy snow.

We rediscover what has been hidden as we clean off our cars or shovel our sidewalks and driveways. It is like some aspect of life when we uncover something that has been kept hidden from view. After the clearing, we can see what is underneath and get back on the path which propels us to move forward.

At the beginning of the year, many people make resolutions and vow what they will or will no longer do. Some people write them; some simply state them and some just make mental notes. But, everyone is looking for some improvement in their lives. Now is the time to put those new strategies for better results into action. The snow’s arrival lets us know that the earth is doing its job; so we must do ours. January is the perfect time to become as busy as a beaver!

I have lived or visited places that had no snow in the winter. At first, it seemed like an ideal setting as I wore spring or even summer wear in the winter. But for this Midwesterner, there was this gut-level feeling that something was missing. Where was that fourth season? It was comparable to that family member that is no longer at the dinner table. Things felt out of balance.

So, though we begrudge Old Man Winter, we welcome him when he comes. We know that things are indeed in balance. We can lean on a line from Desiderata (Max Erhmann) which says, “no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

We can step out into the clean, crisp January air and let the snowflakes hit our faces and inhale the freshness of the wintry season and the New Year!

Lynn                                                                                         January 4, 2015

My Senator and Me: A Book Review

My Senator and Me

The other day I was walking by my bookshelves and this wonderful book called the Senator and Me: A Dog’s Eye-View of Washington D.C. caught my attention.  Again!  It was so timely because I have been editing a website that helps children understand government procedures.

The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy wrote this really cute book which is narrated by Splash, his Portuguese Water dog.  The book’s introduction says that he was inspired to write this book after seeing so many children in the corridors of the Capitol over the years.  He wanted them to know what legislators actually do and what their lives are like on a daily basis.

Splash, his beloved dog, went to work with the Senator every day and he amuses readers with his many adventures in and around the Capitol Building.  Splash, affectionately called Splashie by the Senator, was also cuddled and loved by the other employees in the building.  They expected to see him when they saw the Senator.  He knew how to behave so he could stay in the meetings and watch all of the proceedings.

The book is beautifully illustrated by the Caldecott Award Winner, David Small.  His drawings help to show the joyous bond between Splash and the Senator.  Both are always seen smiling and this gives the book a jovial tone.

Splash tells how the Senator and his wife drove to a dog farm in Virginia in search of a good companion.  He wanted a Portuguese Water dog because they are strong, smart, excellent swimmers and very loyal to their masters.  The Senator noticed Splash’s leadership skills.

Splash says, “And one dog stood out from all the others.  He was a leader.  He walked with confidence and looked after the other dogs. His real name was Champion Amigo’s Seventh Wave, but because he loved the water, everyone called him, “Splash”.  And that dog was Me!”

When they first arrive in Washington D.C., Splash is looking out of the car window. He is excited as he views the White House; the Lincoln Memorial; the Kennedy Center; the Washington Monument and then the Capitol Building, itself.

Splash accompanies the Senator as he goes to work each day.  They play a little fetch on the lawn and they are in the office by 8:45 sharp every morning.  Splash has learned to be very quiet so he can stay close to the Senator.  He is allowed to go to most places with the Senator but not on the Senate floor.  He has to sit outside and wait until the voting is over.

On one occasion, the two chambers of Congress were in a heated debate over an education bill.  Splash listened and listened and when he could not take the bickering anymore, he barked twice as if to say, ‘enough.’  Everyone stopped and looked at him and laughed.  It interrupted the quibbling and the two chambers did come to a consensus.

Splash explains how the Senator was elected and his basic duties.  The colorful sketches of the Rotunda or the tram help children envision the inside of the Capitol Building.  It was clever of the Senator to use Splash as a narrator because children love dogs and will be more inclined to listen to what he has to say.

This is a charming book and I am quite certain that Splash and the Senator brought comfort to each other in real life. I am glad that I revisited it.  And now that it has fallen into my hands, again, I will refer it the others working on the government website.  Our children need this informative yet light take on life as a legislator at the Capitol Building.

Lynn                                                                                          January 2, 2015