Monthly Archives: October 2015

Paces!

I recently wrote a short novella called A Continuum:  Tyre and Phoenix.  It is a brief look into this couple’s first year of marriage.  Time scoots by as they further connect and get to know each other’s ways and habits.  Its speed reflects the pace in which people move in 2015.

Trains, buses, cars and planes.  Texts, Smartphones, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to name a few social media forms that people use to communicate with others.  Everything is quick and it represents the sign of these times.  Our lives move in rapid motion as we touch bases with our loved ones in a variety of ways.

Encounters and conversations may be deep and meaningful but we rarely have the opportunity to savor what has transpired or have long periods of reflection.  We live on the fly, so to speak, and we modern-day writers often create in that same hurried fashion.

I thought of this as I read Jane Austen’s novel Emma. Her characters in Highbury ease through life in unhurried paces.  They walk, take promenades and spend inordinate amounts of time in each other’s company.  They have a chance to really study each other and delve into the other’s makeup, disposition and see those character flaws.

Consequently, writers of that era lived in a slow environment and they could sit down and recall small details about what they had either seen or imagined.  Their days were long and uneventful.  They had the time to develop the people in their stories and tell about their clothing, customs and lifestyles.

I have been reading and reading Emma and I thought it would continue as a long exposition about these townspeople.  But about 200 pages in, something happened.  The slow movement picked up for me and it finally became a page-turner.  I had to see how this tale would end, but by the time I got to this point, I felt as if I knew all of the players quite well.  My interest was piqued when people started making unlikely choices as they selected partners.

But for those of us who write in 2015, we have to work as fast-paced scribblers.  We must become like the messenger in Macbeth, who brought him news in the heat of the battle.  Macbeth said, “Thou com’st to use thy tongue: thy story quickly! (V, iii).  Nowadays, we must get the story out quickly as we juggle the other pieces of our lives in this high-tech age!

Lynn M.

October 30, 2015

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Conscientiously So!

“People who feel good about themselves produce good results.” When I saw this line from the book The One-Minute Manager (Blanchard & Johnson), so many thoughts flashed across the screen of my mind.  I thought of the word conscientious, which I had not heard in some time.

But that statement from this small yet powerful book rings true on so many levels.  People who have healthy self-esteems normally want their surrounding world to mirror their perceived images.  They care about how they look and take the time to adorn themselves to a level that brings personal comfort. They align their attire to match their polished manners, gracious etiquette and tranquil poise.

These wise people know when they don’t know something and will unhesitatingly refer to a reliable source for valid information.  They ask the hard questions and delve deep enough to understand what they need to do to further advance their knowledge on any given subject.

And very importantly, they care about the work that they produce.  They often have high standards and will continually check data, correct, edit or modify until they have reached a sense of personal satisfaction.

Many types of artists operate under these domains.  To others, they may seem to be temperamental, high-strung, picky or overly meticulous. Some may label them as hard to please, but they have a picture of the finished product in their minds and know how it should look in its final stages.

Slipshod, rushed or messy work will never be acceptable to them.  Those people have a strong sense of self and they would never settle for less than their best efforts.  The dictionary defines conscientious as (a person) wishing to do what is right, especially to do one’s work or duty well and thoroughly.

Many supervisors wish that they had more persons of excellence on board.  When they have these winners on their team, good results are guaranteed!

One Minute Manager

Lynn M.

October 27, 2015

Fulfilling Work!

Do you have a passion for what you do to make a living? Now that is a coined phrase that you don’t hear that much any more. Make a living. Or put in other ways you could say, make ends meet or bring home the bacon.

Here is the bottom line. Do you like what you have found yourself doing to bring home that paycheck? Is there a passion for the work? Another phrase says, “Do what you love and the Mercedes will follow.”

When you are fired up about your work, you will become deeply engaged and before you know it, you are reaping several rewards and benefits. You won’t realize how much time and energy you’ve spent  because you were enjoying yourself along the way.

Though you may be knee-deep into the work, before you can say Jack Spratt, hours, days, weeks or months have passed.  By the time you take a look in your rear view mirror, there is a long trail with miles and miles of accomplishment.

During a pause or rest period, you look and say, Wow! Yes, dollars have been made but reels of satisfaction have been rolled around too. The fruits of your labor have built up like piles of precious leaves.  They stand as little golden nuggets or chips waiting to be cashed in for items such as a promotion, a vacation, or an acknowledgement from meaningful observers.

Appreciation may come in the form of a nod of approval, a smile,a  pay raise, a higher position. Or,there may be a welcoming hello from someone who is genuinely happy that you are there to share your talent.

The next time someone asks you what you do, hopefully, you are fired up and start talking excitedly. If not, maybe you have missed your calling. If your response is dry and you have little to say, perhaps you have not found your niche. Maybe, you don’t understand why you have no enthusiasm for your work.  As Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Making money is essential, but do you like what you do? If not, keep searching for that fulfilling work!  It can bring satisfaction to your soul and quench that thirst in your Spirit. How about it?

Lynn M.
October 24, 2015

In Unison!

The other day I thought of people who operate in large groups.  I imagine that it can be advantageous because they work collectively to achieve one goal.  And then, on the second thought, I thought of them as tree swallows.

When I lived closer to the lake, I watched them land on the trees and move swiftly like a swarm of bees in a quick, rapid motion.  The movement could be compared to a dance as they took on odd shapes and carved out geometric designs as they went about their business.

The more I thought about them, I knew that it was time to Google the tree swallows and see what they were really all about.  They did not appear on the trees outside my window often, but when they did, anyone would stop and take notice of this unusual phenomenon.

After reading, I understood.  Ecologically, they thrive near bodies of water.  That checked out because I lived very close to the lake when I saw them in action.  They feed on insects.  That also checked out because they were making their swirly movements as they moved from one tree to the next.

So, they were feasting.  Who knew?  They were eating up the insects and bugs on the trees which were plentiful that season.  They must have received an SOS saying, “Dinner over here!”

I don’t know how they communicate amongst themselves. Maybe, there is some hidden leader of the flock, but their fast change in moving patterns led me to think that one of them was calling the shots. The others followed that lead.

I finally found an article by Michael Burke called “Swallows chaotic maneuvers part of precise feeding flight.”  His explanations published in The Bay Journal helped answer many questions about something that I had witnessed with curiosity.

The tree swallows were simply doing what all living creatures do. They were eating to stay alive.  Burke wrote, “With dazzling precision, these tree swallows demonstrate that it is possible to navigate in a world of seeming chaos. They do more than simply survive. They thrive and do so with grace.”

All of us don’t travel in large groups nor move with the dance of the tree swallows but,our missions are all the same.  Survival. Whether meandering through life accompanied by a large pact or flying solo, “The best tomorrow comes from those who are working independently toward a goal in unison.” (James Cash Penney)

Lynn M.

October 21, 2015

An Old Friend!

I assisted a school librarian with re-shelving books the other day.  It is never a fun task and can be quite tedious work.  We chatted to lighten the burden and we talked about how seeing certain books can be compared to seeing an old friend.  Some books have traveled miles with us on our journey. For some reason, we have met that fork in the road and parted ways.

If we are reconnected with that book, it is a great.  Even if it is a copy of the original, the content is the same and the text still reads with the same flow.  If it has pictures, they are just as captivating.  Those are all of the characteristics of a dear friend.

The librarian and I had just finished that conversation and poof – it happened! Just like that!  I exclaimed, “I love this book!  I picked up a copy of The Napping House by Audrey Wood.  I had not seen a copy in some time and I hugged it like I would a  friend that I had not seen in many moons.

And oh!  The pleasant memories flourished.  I thought of the countless times I entertained the little ones as I read this book.  I remembered the movie that went along with it and the audio tapes that I had purchased as well.  I thought of the worksheets which taught shapes such as triangles, squares and circles that accompanied this book. I also remembered that I had heard Don Wood, the illustrator of the book, speak at a conference.

The colors make the book as well as the story.  As the title suggests, everyone in the house is sleeping and the blue cover truly makes one think of a rainy, lazy morning.  In the book, the granny is sleeping and the pets in the house are all sleeping around her, until a wakeful flea starts to wake each of them.  As they wake up, the colors change from blues to yellows to loud oranges. All are happily awake in the end as the sun shines through the windows.

After a little fact-checking, I saw that the author Audrey Wood, is the spouse of illustrator Don Wood.  They made a hit together on this one.  Most libraries have several copies in various formats. Just seeing this book again brought back so many fond memories.

Books are like those special people in our lives that have crossed our paths.  If we are fortunate enough to see them again, we embrace them and realize what an impact they have made on our lives. They may not be in daily view, but the good vibrations linger just like with The Napping House.

I made a vow to purchase this book for my personal collection.  It is simply too precious to let it get away from me again.  Check out this gem of a book if you have little ones in your world!

Napping House

Lynn M.                                                                              October 18, 2015

Midpoint: A Poem

Halfway through this October,
Feels like a four-leafed clover.

Mildly warm, sunny, so far,
No wet snow nor boots to mar,

The Indian summer days,
Gives us more time in the maze.

A tad more heat still lingers,
Before holiday singers.

Prompt us to start that spending,
Watch it! No more lending.

Lynn M.
October 16, 2015

Jacqueline Woodson

To be able to write an entire story in poetic form is a rare, yet beautiful gift.  Few writers have been able to do this, but two current authors come to mind who have successfully pulled it off.

Thanhha Lai has written a tale of her Vietnamese family and their journey from Saigon to the States in Inside Out and Back Again.  They end up in Alabama, which is a huge culture shock for her. She weathers the storm as she deals with the bullies and learns to fit into the American fabric. The entire story is told through poems and this book has won the National Book Award, the Newbery Honor Book Award and has stayed on the New York Times Bestsellers List.

However, this post was inspired because the famed YA author, Jacqueline Woodson has again stirred the hearts of her fans in her recent book Brown Girl Dreaming.  It is autobiographical and she tells her story through poems.  I read parts of it and I did not want to put it down, but it was not my copy.  I will be getting it soon.

Jacqueline Woodson is a writer who takes risks and writes about a variety of topics that most would never touch.  She forces the reader to look at some of life’s hard issues, but the beauty and sensitivity that she brings with her pen make us peek inside and gain further insight.

I had the honor of sitting next to her at a luncheon where she was the keynote speaker.  I could not believe my lucky stars when I realized who she was that Saturday morning.  We actually had a brief chat before she went to the podium to read from some of her works.

I first heard of her when a woman read her picture book, The Other Side, to a large group of adults.  It shows how one black girl and one white girl regularly meet at a fence to exchange daily stories, though they lived in a segregated town.

She has written so many books, but here a few that I have read.  Hush is about a family that has to go into the Witness Protection Program after the father testifies about a murder. The family has to change locations and names.

Then, there is Miracle’s Boys which was made into a movie.  It deals with three boys who are trying to survive the mean streets of the inner city and certainly after the oldest one has had a brush with the law.  His younger brothers see that he is never the same after returning home from a detention center.

There is a series of three books that deal with the friendship of two young girls that live in Brooklyn.  One goes off to a boarding school, but they stay in touch and remain close in Last Summer with Maizon; Maizon at Blue Hill and Between Madison and Palmetto.

In Coming on Home Soon, a young girl is waiting for her mother to return home from the North.  She has gone to clean rail cars while the men are off fighting the war.  This was a rare look into some of the work that African-American women did during the Second World War.

In Feathers, the narrator knows how to communicate with a troubled classmate because she knows how to  sign.  Her older brother is deaf and they use sign language. This is an unusual look into the world of the deaf and how it affects the other family members.

Last, there is the book called Locomotion.  It was a book that I could not keep on the shelf as a librarian.  Eventually, it did not come back at all. This happens when students fall in love with a library book.  It does not come back to its original home!

Locomotion is about 11-year old Lonnie.  He writes poetry to release his bottled up feelings and he cherishes Langston Hughes.  This entire story is also told through short, powerful poems. His parents died in a fire and he and his younger sister have been separated.  Ms. Marcus, his teacher, encourages him to write and express his pain.

The foster family that adopted his sister, do not want a boy, but Locomotion (Lonnie) is taken in by Miss Edna, whom he loves.  He was nicknamed Locomotion by his mother and father after Little Eva’s song from the 60’s.  They used to dance to it around the kitchen before the unfortunate accident.  These poems are his saving grace and his prayer is to build his own family someday. He and his sister are reunited for a visit at the end of the story and he now has the gift of writing poems in his journal to keep him filled with optimism.

I could go on and on about the writings of Jacqueline Woodson, but I will end by saying, “When the fountain is flowing, hurry up and get a pail so that no thoughts are wasted!”

Jackie Woodson

Lynn M.

October 13, 2015

Jobs!

When one door closes, another opens!  Do we really believe this to be true?  I have seen it and witnessed this time and time again.  I know it to be a truth.

I think mostly about jobs when I think of doors opening and closing.  I have seen them come and I have seen them go.  Some of us are fortunate enough to have one or two jobs during our lifetimes.  But each of us is different, with different paths and I can safely say that this has not been true for me.

As the Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s lines go, ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.‘  So comparably, I write, ‘Jobs? How have you changed me?  Let me count the ways.’  Those many jobs have turned me into quite a chameleon. I can change like its colors and wear the hat for the occasion.

The beautiful part of the whole deal is that I have acquired multiple skills along the way.  When jobs have been scarce, I have worked as a temporary in various cities.  I can file, stuff envelopes, answer phones and do small, yet essential tasks with a level of ease.  And my professional skills, for which I trained, can be added to the mix.

The adage goes, Jack of all trades, master of none.  I would say that I am Jackie of many trades and the master of a few!  Sometimes, we have to fall in line with the title of Oliver Goldsmith’s play called, She Stoops to Conquer.  When our backs are up against the wall, we may have to put some of our ego in a suitcase and close it gently; roll up our sleeves; dive in and get busy.

It doesn’t matter who we used to be; it is about who we are becoming.  Surely, someone will see our merit as we gracefully, graciously and gratefully go along with the changes in our lives.  Then, we will transform from a complaining, crawling caterpillar into a beautifully-winged butterfly that is ready to take flight!

Lynn M.

October 11, 2015

Are You Sure?

I am finally reading my first Jane Austen novel.  I know. I know.  Shame. Shame.  I have thoroughly enjoyed her stories when I saw the movies Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.  I also liked the PBS Special that featured her works such as Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.  She has a real knack for telling stories that deeply touch the heartstrings.

So, at last, some 200 years after it was written, I have just started reading Emma.  If I had to make a prediction, as younger students are taught to do, I would venture to say that Emma’s know-it-all character is likely to cause trouble for her associates and maybe for her, as well.

It is keeping my attention because I am amazed at busybodies who get very caught up in the daily operations of other people’s lives.  They are often entertained by spewing information that they think is factual and when they truly take a look, their own affairs have slipped into shambles.  Important dates and deadlines have scooted by while their heads were turned in the wrong direction.

Years ago, the term meddling was more readily used when referring to those who expend large amounts of time and energy dipping into the affairs of others.  My mother laughed and referred to these escapades as those who run interference as in the game of football.

Sometimes I read Emma on Kindle and at other times, I  switch over to the actual book from the library.  Regardless of the medium that I use, I am savoring every word as I learn the plot and study Jane Austen’s writing style.  Already, young Harriet has fallen into Emma’s clutches and is listening to her opinions about Harriet’s love interests.

The plot reminds me of a beloved children’s book called Petunia by Roger Duvoisin. Petunia is a goose that lives on a farm.  She has found a book and starts walking around looking studious with the book tucked under her wing.  Her new strut makes others think that she has some new knowledge and has become wise.

They begin to ask her for advice and she gives it freely.  It causes all types of mishaps for the farm animals and eventually, even for Petunia, herself.  She has an accident and when she drops the book, she is surprised to see that it has words in it.  She later learns that wisdom actually comes from  reading the words of the book. Cute lesson!

Petunia book cover

Whether one is called a busybody or a meddler, their actions usually do not turn out well.  I suspect Emma will cause trouble for those who see her as a sage and it will probably backfire in some way.  There are many sayings that warn us when we deal with these types or take them seriously.

We hear things like, ‘Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing’ or ‘Be careful who you trust’ or ‘Don’t meddle in others’ affairs.’ The lyrics of one song say it best. It says, “Sweep around your own front door, before you sweep around mine.”

Lynn M.

October 9, 2015

Time Wisely Spent!

Why do some people advance and go full steam ahead while others are left lagging behind?  Usually those who have sprinted ahead have spent their time more wisely.  They have taken advantage of every moment and often fill the spaces with new and innovative projects.

I once took a mini Time-Management course and it gave me several helpful tips on using the hours and minutes of the day.  Those hours and minutes make up the length of our lives and if we really want pleasant results, we must spend our time meeting our personal goals.

If we are preparing to give a presentation, we could make note cards.  They are normally written on index or small cards because they are portable and can be easily interchanged to reorganize our plan.  We can rehearse during those times that have to wait for something or someone.

Some people can sit and stare blankly into space for long periods of time.  That is fine, but they should not feel intimidated by those who go on to achieve greater things.  Those whose necks are out front in the race of life have been working diligently or as ‘busy as a beaver’ during their free time.

The other day, I was waiting for a student to finish some work.  I did not want to hover or rush the student, so I decided to fill up the space by picking up a few new Spanish words.  There was a libro espanol  (Spanish book) on the table.  I had la hoja de papel (paper) and el boligrafo (pen).   I asked myself, “Why not get ready for my next class with the young Spanish-speaking students?  Perhaps the next time around, I can say more than Hola, estudiantes!  I can add more words to my script.  So,  I used my wait time getting prepared for my next venture.

People often wonder how others can get so much done.  It is simple. They don’t procrastinate and they make the most of their time.  Time is ours for the taking and if we are serious about moving up a notch, we should work like the beavers and build.  Benjamin Franklin reminded us that “Lost time is never found again!”

Lynn M.

October 7, 2015