Saturday, May 25, 2013

Remembering Decoration Day - May 31

Memorial Day became an official Federal holiday in 1971. As a child Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and was celebrated on May 31 no matter what day of the week.  It was holiday to remember not only those who died in the military, but also those who died in your family. It was a family holiday.  My grandmother closed her business ( a rare occasion).  My dad had the day off.   My family would squeeze into my grandmother's 1952 Plymouth four-door sedan and head up to the North side of Chicago.  It seemed like a long journey in the days before expressways. We would meet my aunt and her clan at the family burial plot.

As we walked up the incline to the site, we were warned not to step on any one's grave. We needed to be respectful. In those days, a grave was very distinct. The black mounds were graves. The grassy area was a free zone for  foot traffic.

This venture in the Spring was a time to commune with my ancestors. We always started the work with a prayer. There was a short history lesson on who was buried in the family plot. The plot consisted of ten sites. There also  was a reconnoitering about who will be buried there.

There was a job  for everyone. My dad trimmed the lower branches of the two tall pines so the large family marker was in clear view.  The older children helped clear the leaves and winter debris from the graves. While my mom would rake the grass around the plot. My aunt and my grandmother would discuss the planting of the flowers on the graves.  

This was a happy event. The younger children played quietly. The family still was small. It was before life got hectic. We would have a picnic after the work was done. The adults would sit and admire the completed project. This was a celebration of those who left us and those of us who still had much living to do.

Today, this same cemetery does not allow flowers planted on the graves. The family plot is covered with grass. There aren't any black mounds. It would be difficult to find the family plot if it weren't for the two pines that my dad groomed every year. They are tall lodge pole pines that guard the plot like two giants.

The elders of my generation are passing. My generation is scattered. The family plot like many of my childhood memories is kept by a very few.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Submission Angst

 Here I sit at my computer. I am gathering up courage to begin preparations for submission to a agents and publishers. It is a scary process for me. I have been writing for a long time for others, corporations, non-profits, individuals, and just for "the heck of it." Submitting the creation of your imagination is different. You own the idea. You see the vision. You know what you want the story to say to the reader.  You want individuals to pick your book and want to know more about your characters.

My first writers' conference I met an individual who was very frustrated. He had submitted was rejected more than 100 times. No one wanted his book. He was crushed. He had the story proofed for grammatical and writing errors. He has several "beta readers" who actually test read for story viability.  They gave him good reviews. He tried to get his story out to the public. My heart went out to him. Timing, taste, demographics, and sometimes just luck can make the difference whether someone likes what you write. I find writing to be a thankless gift. The writer unconditionally loves his or her craft.

       I am sure if you ask a writer how do you write?  Each one has a different answer. Each writer develops there own plan and pace for each story or book.  Some writers love the joy of discovering a character, a setting, or a dialogue that fits perfectly with the emotions that the characters are feeling. Other writers revel in the planning of the story, the outlining, the overall picture that gets their creative juices flowing. There are writers who just sit down and write until they drop.

       Asking a writer about the work of submitting for publication may summon all the fears of turning in a term paper, thesis, article, dissertation. A manuscript submission is no different than turning in your assignment, in fact, it may be worse. Each publisher, agent,  or e-book company has specific guidelines or rubrics. Any mistakes is an indication of failure to pay attention to details. This is even before they read the actual manuscript.  So in the words of a character from a popular TV series: "I just have to put my big girl panties on and do this" submission stuff.    

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mother's Day-Make Mom Memories

Mom and Me
Researching the history of Mother's Day proved fascinating.  The earliest attempts to honor mothers began with the ancient pagan holidays for the goddess Astra (fertility). Through the ages various attempts by both religious leaders and women tried unsuccessfully to elevate the role of mothers in society. Leading to a natio very commercial national holiday complete with advertising blitzed weeks prior to the second Sunday in May.

How and why we celebrate Mother's Day is not important. It is important that we remember mom. Not just because we have a day to remind us, but because as a child, mom is our touch stone. She was our go-to gal. My mom has left this dimension many years ago, but every weekend I still feel like I need to make my Sunday call to her.

When I left my parental family thirty plus years ago.  I moved five states west and more than 1600 miles away. It was the equivalent to moving on the moon to my mother. She wasn't able to "drop by." She couldn't understand what the western United States had that the Midwest couldn't offer my husband and I.

The distance was diminished as long as my mother knew I would make my weekly Sunday call.  She still wanted to  know she was my touch stone and one of my counselors. The call always was anticipated. No matter how hard I would try to mask my mood or feelings, she could tell if I was having a bad week or a bumpy day. The calls were long and sometimes very intimate. She understood.

So in this day of Skype, texting, email, tweeting, Facebook, and unlimited long distance helps make Mother's Day happen more than once a year. Keep in touch.  Once a year is nice, but a regular "just keeping in touch," goes on beyond all dimensions.

(Reprise from 5/7/2013)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May: Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Older Americans Month

One out of every eight Americans is 60+ years of age. This group is unleashing their talents and experiences across the nation. During the month of May take time to spot a vibrant American elder. You will be surprise where you will find them.

Look around your gym, dance, or yoga class. They may be a classmate in a language or a art class. You can find members of this group hiking, biking, boating, skiing, sailing, walking, or helping a group of school children across the street.

How about that new coffee shop owner or book store manager? Take a look at who is registering new voters and serving coffee and donuts at church on Sunday. A citizen of 60+ years can fool you not only by what they are doing, but also by their vitality. The senior citizens of the 21st Century are maximizing their "Third Age."

The elderly have been stereotyped as helpless, out of touch with the world, needy, and dependent. While a small part of the senior population needs assistance.   Never should agile, hearty, and healthy seniors be marginalized. We are one of the few societies that dismiss our elders. We don't seek out their experience or knowledge. Sociologist can explain why and economists have supporting data, but the truth is that today's senior is a contributor to society. If you just take the hours of volunteer time to churches, schools, political organizations, and non-profits, you will find seniors are the gift that keep on giving.

So, during the month of May, stop and chat with an American Elder. Find out about them and what they have contributed and what they are contributing today. It will surprise you.