"My Story Lives is a cornucopia of hope and optimism in the midst of challenging and sometimes dark circumstances. You're doing great work!" Dr. Mel Waldman, Psychologist'

"In my opinion, this is one of the BEST LITERARY sites ever created!!" Camincha, San Francisco Bay Area poet and writer

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Meet the Red Birds!

Finally I got the cardinals on film. I had no sooner sat down to meditate this morning when the bright red male started strutting his stuffon the window sill. He hung around so long that I decided to pick up my camera -- the focus already set -- and shoot. A few minutes later, the female, a greenish yellow belly with pale red head and orange beak, appeared and I photographed her as well.

The last post and the one before that discuss the weird appearance of these birds. A friend contends that cardinals appear when there is something to celebrate (or grieve over.) So here we are now with photos, proof that they actually have been visiting.

Perhaps you can understand how distracting these birds can be.  As much as I love seeing the cardinals, it's getting more and more difficult to meditate.

Another little cardinal story happened yesterday. I was looking to buy a tray for underneath our toaster, as there are always crumbs pouring out onto the counter. My husband suggested that I look in a nice gift shop in Chatham, N.Y., the closest shopping district to Spencertown.

"They won't have a tray like that," I said to him. But I told him I would look anyway.
A young woman showed me several ceramic trays that were both too small and too much money. I turned those all down.

"We have one more tray in the back room," she said, and she produced a plastic tray that was the perfect size.

Guess what was pictured on the tray?

Yes, you got it. A pair of cardinals against a winter scene.

This has been a wild bird week. And I am still trying to piece together what exactly is going on here. Clearly there is no simple answer.

Monday, December 15, 2014

WHY ALL THIS CRAZY STUFF HAPPENING?


The cardinal was back this morning, and this time it was the red male batting at the window. I was busy doing the elemental breathing that I learned about at an IAMHeart meditation retreat in Sedona, Arizona, last month. (More on meditation and specifically the heart rhythm meditation called the FOUR ELEMENTS another time…)

What is going on with these cardinals that keep trying to get my attention away from meditating? (They have been coming since I wrote the last post, last Wednesday.)  That day my head was swimming and I could hardly concentrate on writing.

Since then, I have talked to two writer friends about this situation. When I told my writer friend Peg --  who has read 1,000,000 pages of my writing, including the novel-by-blog Sister Mysteries -- she got confused. "You mean like cardinals in the church?" she asked. HA, I responded, it never occurred to me that someone was thinking I was talking about the
high priests of the Catholic church.

But then, Sister Mysteries -- which I finally finished the other day in Chapter 70 called "Finale" -- was all about the Catholic nun, Sister Renata, who back in 1883 was falsely accused of killing her cousin.
Renata, finally and officially, went free in that chapter, and so, reasonably enough -- I thought I was done writing Sister Mysteries. But oddly enough the book continues and maybe that is because the book that I am really writing is the story about me and how I discovered my faith in the divine. (More on that another time.)

Anyway, when Peg said that about Catholic cardinals, I had to explain to her I was talking about the birds and how a female cardinal came crashing into my window and batted her wings against the glass as I sat there with my mouth hanging open. And all the while I was trying to meditate. My therapist in New York City, who has been teaching meditation for 20 years, says that when you meditate you open yourself up to divine energies.)

My other writer friend -- a superb poet named NANCY DUNBAR -- says that cardinals appear "in times of grief and in times of celebration." In my case, I have been celebrating the OFFICIAL ENDING TO THE BLOG TOME I HAVE BEEN WRITING SINCE NOVEMBER 10, 2011. Actually, though, as Peg knows so well as she has read all the 1,000,000 pages I've written, this book has been brewing and steaming and overflowing for 20 years (I wrote the first chapter of the Renata story in Janury 1995). Understandably I have been more than frustrated with this novel. I have tried to write it so many times I can't count. And then I have tried NOT WRITING the novel just as many times and it refused to be put away!)

So the last few days I HAVE BEEN CELEBRATING! Like Renata, I am FINALLY FREE. I am no longer trapped in this novel and I am so happy I can hardly tell you.

I guess that is why the CARDINALS have been coming to my window. It makes me believe in miracles -- so maybe you want to visit my brand new blog called Mysteries and Miracles.  I hope you will read it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Miracle Morning!


Miracles are
happening to me
this morning
the first was just
moments ago the
most amazing bird story I have ever
seen
I saw it 
while in 
meditation.

I had been sitting for
about half an hour when
my husband brought the 
puppy downstairs so she could
go outside.

My husband came into
the living room and said a few things to me
I resumed meditation
and then
and then
the puppy came in and sat down
to the right of me  
I looked over my right shoulder

I SAW A COUPLE OF CARDINALS AT THE WINDOW ON THE BLACK BRANCHES
AGAINST THE WHITE SNOW IT WAS A CHRISTMAS CARD FRAMED BY MY
LIVING ROOM WINDOW I GASPED AND COULDN’T LOOK AWAY I WOULD SAY THEY WERE THERE FOR A HALF HOUR BUT ACTUALLY NOT  NEARLY THAT LONG
THE FEMALE DISAPPEARED BUT THE
MALE KEPT KEPT KEPT KEPT KEPT AT THE WINDOW BATTING 
HIS WINGS FLUTTERING MADLY TRYING DESPERATELY TO GET THROUGH THE GLASS AS I WATCHED MY MOUTH HANGING OPEN THE BUSH THE BIRD THE THOUGHT CAME TO ME THE BURNING BUSH AND MOSES SEEING IT AND

ME WATCHING A SMALL MIRACLE RIGHT
THERE
RIGHT HERE NOW NOW NOW AND 

HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY GO BACK TO MEDITATION WHEN
THE BIRDS HAVE TAKEN YOUR BREATH AWAY?

So I stopped 
to write this.
It's a mystery
I needed a camera but didn’t move.
Some miracles
you just can’t photograph
in words.

P.S.

OMG THE RED CARDINAL THE FEMALE JUST RETURNED
SHE IS SITTING OUTSIDE THE WINDOW IN THE ROSE OF SHARON 
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THESE BIRDS
I HAVE NEVER WITNESSED ANYTHING LIKE THIS NEVER
NOT EVER AT THE BIRD FEEDER I NEED TO GET MY CAMERA
I AM SITTING HERE I WILL TRY TO GET UP TO GET MY CAMERA
I AM CERTAIN SHE WILL FLY AWAY BUT WHAT THE HECK I MIGHT
AS WELL TRY...

AND I ONLY GOT THE WINDOW.



But now that we are on the subject of mysteries I might as well
tell you the candle story again
once again
today a candle won't stop
burning bush
won't stop
won't stop
the wax
the wick
I had a tricky candle once before in my Sister Mysteries blog


That time it wouldn't stop burning
It lasted and lasted and lasted
Way way past a candle should.
A long long long long
time after the wick
just kept burning
and burning and
burning bush.
I am now finished reporting on morning miracles.
(But the candle is still burning and I will time how long 
before it goes out.)

p.s.s. The candle burned for four and a half hours!





Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Dear Sylvia

By Nancy Dunlop

Dear Sylvia,
For years your poems
seeped through me
until I finally gave in and allowed myself to be yours
But now, after my own
life cracked down the middle
landing me in the hospital
I must part ways with you
I don't want your ringing anthems
about doll girls and nurses and coffin lids.
I mean, really!
you modelled your poems
to fit with your grisly prediction
yours was a poetics of quick death.


So, dear Sylvia, I divest myself of you
despite your tricky eloquence,
your beautiful horrors.
I am turning my compass,
hopping poem to poem
out of the darkness
to newly lit light.

Nancy Dunlop is a poet and a writer who lives in Delmar, N.Y. with her husband and two cats. It was published first in Miss Stein's Drawing Room.https://www.facebook.com/nancy.dunlop1?fref=nf

Monday, November 03, 2014

Write a Novel in Four Weeks? How about Four YEARS?

It's that time of year again: November, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. Why somebody somewhere decided that a work of fiction could or should be hammered out in 30 days originally mystified me.

The idea behind this month-long race is that you pour out your fictive soul in 30 days and 50,000 words. As the website notes:

"National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing... Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel."

Four years ago this month, I put aside all my skepticism. I have written three novels (published two) and I am well aware of how much work goes into writing a novel. Still,  I decided to respond to my writer friend Lori's challenge to try it out on my fourth book.

I was fast out of the starting gate and was thinking that it might just work -- since I had already played with the plot for this novel over and over again. I thought to myself, you have the pieces, and the plot, all you need to do is weave them together in a coherent way. Somehow, it really seemed doable

For the first few days, I was going great guns, turning out chapter after chapter (You can read the first installment of Sister Mysteries on line, because I decided to try writing the novel on-line in a blog.)

Still, it quickly became apparent to me that there was no way I could keep up. There was no way I could meet the NaNoWriNo deadline. My chapters kept expanding and morphing and getting more complicated. I'd finish one chapter and realize that I needed another chapter that I hadn't counted on in my original plan.

So when November 30th came along, I was only at Chapter ten.

Curiously, though, I didn't consider myself a failure for missing the 30-day deadline (and neither did my friend Lori.) Because after ten chapters, I was convinced I could write the book I wanted so much to write.

In the end, it has taken me four years to reach the last chapter of Sister Mysteries (which is coming soon!)

I make no apologies for taking four years rather than four weeks to turn out the tome. After all, it took me four (or five) years to write my first novel, Dreaming Maples. In that novel, like Sister Mysteries, I had to do more than just write 50,000 words.  Writing a novel forces you to create a whole world for your characters to inhabit. You learn about that world by endlessly writing and rewriting, seeing and re-seeing. Just to give you an idea, to produce my first novel of 425 pages, I wrote perhaps 2,000 or more PAGES that never appeared in the final product. To be a novelist you have to have many skills but perhaps the most important "skill" is patience!  (Just ask my friend Lori who, until recently, tried for many years to turn out her first novel.)

I often tell my fiction-writing students that when you write a short story, it's like holding a baby. You can keep the happy little creature bouncing in your lap or riding on your shoulder for the relatively short period it takes to produce a short piece of fiction.

But when you write a novel, be prepared to wrestle with a mammoth octopus -- one that will enfold you in its all powerful tentacles and squeeze you dry for a long long time. Writing a book is a little like getting married: you are through-the-roof ecstatic when you first jump in, but you may very well lose your enthusiasm after a couple (or more) years. Writing a novel takes over your mind and your life. You have to be willing to yield control to a higher writing power (some writers might go religious here, and I suppose that I am one of those.)

In any case, it isn't so bad that the NaNoWri/Mo folks have given "anyone" the chance to try their hand at hammering out a novel. After all, I seem to recall that it took William Faulkner only six weeks to churn out As I Lay Dying. 

Even though many people might very well fail to meet the November deadline, they're going to work up an enthusiasm that carries beyond the month.  After years of dreaming about writing a novel, a person may find a real momentum and commitment going forward. Indeed they may very well decide to push on and find a way to their own endings. And for that I say many, many thanks NaNoWri/Mo. I am deeply grateful that I am one of those writers!








Thursday, October 09, 2014

The next time you buy a book on Amazon, consider the way they treat their warehouse employees!


By Richard Kirsch
Amazon’s business model is based on quick easy buying and low prices. One way it does that is to force its warehouse workers to wait a long time to leave work, without getting paid. And that’s just fine with the Obama administration, which continues to have a blind spot when it comes to decent pay and working conditions at Amazon.
Yesterday the Supreme Court heard a case (Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk) in which workers are suing the temp firm that staff’s Amazon warehouses. The workers are in court because they don’t get paid for the time they are forced to stand on line for a security check when they leave work to be sure they haven’t stolen anything. 

The security screening itself reveals the poor working conditions and lack of respect that Amazon has for its workers. Workers who are well paid and have job security will not take the risk of stealing. The lack of pay adds costly insult to their injury.

The legal issues revolve around whether the security screenings, which can take 20 minutes or more, are “integral and indispensable” to the job, which would trigger pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Amazon certainly thinks so; the screenings aren’t optional. Still the firm, which pays warehouse workers around $11 or $12 an hour, cheaps out by denying the workers pay when they are waiting on line to leave.
As Jesse Busk, the lead plaintiff in the case, told The Huffington Post, "You're just standing there, and everyone wants to get home. It was not comfortable. There could be hundreds of people waiting at the end of the shift."
While President Obama has made numerous passionate speeches about giving Americans a raise, his administration is taking Amazon’s side at the Supreme Court, filing an amicus brief, alongside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbies.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about this from the administration. Last August, as I wrote at the time, “President Obama gave a great speech on why good jobs are the foundation for his middle-out economic strategy... from a huge Amazon warehouse where the workers do not have good jobs.”
The President told the Amazon warehouse workers who were in the audience, “we should be doing everything we can as a country to create more good jobs that pay good wages.”
Everything, it turns out, except being sure they get paid for all the time they are required to be at work.
The Obama administration may wonder why the President does not get more credit for the economic progress the nation has made coming out of the Great Recession or more recognition for his calls for raising the minimum wage. The core reason is that for too many Americans too low wages, too few hours at work, and job insecurity or no job at all remain their reality.
The President’s defense of Amazon reveals another reason. Americans see that he is unwilling to take on the powerful forces that are driving down the living standards and hopes of American workers. They see his embrace of Amazon and Wal-Mart, where he gave a speech on energy earlier this year. And too many come to the conclusion that it is only campaign contributors that matter, despairing of finding leaders who understand what really is going on in their lives – and who are willing to take their side against the powerful.
Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. This piece ran first in Roosevelt's blog, Next New Deal.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Stop and Breathe

At the top of the
list of
things
we
take
for
granted
is the number
of breaths going
in and out each day.

The authorities say
we breathe
between
17,000
and
24,000 breaths
per day (15 per minute).

As you sit there
reading this
little
post
right now
right there
in your
chair
stop
for a
minute
and
count
how
many
times the
air goes in
and
out.

Then close your eyes
for a minute or two
and slow down
your breathing and
feel
the way the cool air
passes through your
nostrils and fills your
whole chest cavity.

What a wonder it is
that we have
something
called
breathing
in order to live.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ah, the telephone, made today to throw away...



By Camincha

A telephone in their homes, Alba remembers, was not a necessity during her childhood in Miraflores. The city was then very small. Everything was close by -- school, church, stores, friends, transportation. A message could always be delivered on foot. Also in her neighborhood for twenty cents, una peseta, you could borrow a telephone from the pharmacist, or from grocers and butchers. Sometimes they didn't even want to take your money.

At the time, of course, they had no idea that their quiet beach resort city at the edge of the Pacific, 20 minutes south of the capital city, Lima, would grow to become a garden city. And in time, futuristic, avant-garde. Famous for its restaurants, specialized boutiques,  five-star hotels, international night clubs. Elegant. No,  no idea. Not at all. 

Meanwhile, many families did have telephones. Some, like Marita’s family, even had telephone jacks in several rooms. That way, the one black telephone they owned could be used wherever needed. And the numerous members of this extended family could have privacy and comfort when sustaining long conversations.

Alba remembers it wasn't like that in her home. A telephone wasn't  considered necessary. Still, her frugal parents acquired one just to keep up with the times. One day at breakfast her father simply announced: every business man must have one. Easier, faster than using the services of a messenger. Then he smiled, we'll try it. We’ll see.

Shortly after that conversation Alba came home from school one day and there it was, a Candlestick
phone. The receiver on the side in its own hook. A desk top model. Slender, elegant. It was installed in her father's office  which was the first room to the right of the entrance hallway opposite the enormous living-room. All communications were short and to the point. Alba doesn't remember one single instance when her father or mother sustained a long telephone conversation.

Often, Alba thinks, what fun it would have been to see their reaction to the many forms, shapes, colors of the telephones of the 21st century. 

ALBA HEARS BEEPING. She listens. Is it the TV? No. The cute little redhead on the screen is promoting cereal. Feeding it to her teddy bear. Alba listens intently. The beep is coming from her new phone. She didn’t recognize the sound because she had just bought it. She wasn't used to the idiosyncrasies of disposable phones.  Phones that are made not to last. Phones that when broken can’t be fixed. She has been replacing phones every four, five years. Buying them from GOOD GUYS or CIRCUIT CITY  or  RADIO SHACK. They don’t last forever. Rather they are forever breaking down.

Ah, the new phones bear no resemblance to the black phones. Black phones were made to last forever and could certainly be fixed when broken.  She remembers the first one she owned when first arrived in California, a heavy black wallphone. The next one, also heavy and black, was made to sit on a stand in the hallway. It lasted many, many years and was replaced by an identical one in a lovely off-white color. Alba went to the trouble of buying two 25-foot cords so she could drag the phone all over the house until one day, suddenly it became embarrassing, May I use your phone? the car mechanic asked—he made house calls.

Yeah. Yes. Yes. Ahhh…just follow the cords.

So now said off-white phone has a secure place on the kitchen table and is not used very much since Alba finally bought a cordless and learned to use that instead. Then that phone broke so following her usual way of doing things:

At GOOD GUYS:  I just bought this phone. Five years ago.

What? clerk.

I bought it—five years ago. I was told Panasonic is a good brand. 

The young clerk looks incredulous.  What is wrong with this woman? He keeps his eyes on her face. He is searching for a flicker of sanity in her. Finally the words fly out of his mouth. In a rush. He is afraid she is going to say something. Repeat the same nonsense: Panasonic…good brand…five years. Picking up speed, encouraged by her silence, he becomes assertive. In one breath, stringing the words: Telephones-today-are-not-made-to-last!

She wasn’t convinced. She wanted that one fixed. She insisted. It turned into one long grievance procedure because for starters she had to buy a phone—they wouldn’t loan her one while they fixed the one she brought in.  They would take it back and return her money when hers was fixed. The three weeks she was told it would take to fix it stretched to three months.  Finally she got it back only after she complained to the GOOD GUYS’ District Manager.

Later on she bought a cell for emergencies. It got complicated. A friend told her that it had to be activated before she used it. She didn’t know what to do. She never does. So she asked for help.

She took it back to Radio Shack where she bought it. The Sprint rep on the phone had a heavy Indian accent. Alba couldn’t understand him. He couldn’t understand her Peruvian accent. She asked for help from the clerk: Ed, please help! Mike, the manager, also helped. Amused at her, they wrote down numbers, answered the rep’s questions, address, name, social security, income. And when they were done laughing they put the cord and phone back in the box. Sorry, ma'am, your accent got in the way. She could hear them laughing when she walked out of the store.

So now she has three phones. A black cordless at home. The off-white on the kitchen table after long just sitting in a drawer. And the cell that is great help in emergencies: like when Alba was able to alert Amy and Jerry that her bus was arriving half an hour late, saving them the trouble and frustration of a guessing game: Did she get on the bus? Did she miss the bus? The cell is also a great help when she writes down the wrong address. Arrives at the right city. Right Street. But, she tells the receptionist, I can’t find 2100. 

There is no 2100. There is no 2100. It was torn down to make room for the new freeway. We are at 3500.

Thank you. 

She does a quick U and parks in 3500 parking lot. Loves it. A building with its own parking lot. That’s why she chose a doctor in Burlingame. In San Francisco this doesn’t happen anymore, parking at the door. Ever. 

Enters 3500. There is no third floor. Third floor is an enormous cafeteria. Calls receptionist. Again.

There is a pause. A pause as in: not again. Receptionist tells her the suite number is 110 not  310. 

The cell has been a big help. Already paid for itself. What would they say?  Her frugal parents? 

Three telephones?!

Camincha is the pen name of a writer living in California. Her writing appears frequently at MyStoryLives.

                                           





Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Unspeakable

In that vast terrain
that is her brain
she is
at a
loss
for
words.
until one day when
she opens her mouth to
try to speak out pour
some weird red marbles
jelly-like to the touch much
like the chewy brain inside her head.
Seeing the marbles and certain that
she is losing the mind inside her head
she goes racing determined to gather the red
the red the red the red the red the red the
red explodes
she has to catch to gather to run to paddle
the kayak is running in white water bow in
and stern out now out of nowhere she is certain that if
she opens her arms mouth legs wide enough the words will follow
the faster she runs the faster the words leakspillexplodesurgenow

One thing is certain: she will have a difficult time recreating the
unspeakable desert through which she has travelled. How can she
possibly tell others who have not visited the land of NOT that there is no way you can
possibly describedefinedeter the word that she cannot say.

When finally it lifts, the sand the heat the white barren landscape,
the heavens open, the rivers flow, the ocean throws up its
cool clear glorious waters in colors
too numerous
to name.

Here now
Hear now
she is catching
she has caught her
breath she is picking up
the paddle that is her pen
slowly she skiffs the boat
slowly slowly she banks the ocean
waves she picks her way through
the waters she is finally ready to
go ashore to tell others where she has been.

Alas,
the first
words
out
of
her
mouth
have
to
be

{silent}