Friday, November 14, 2014

It's November

It’s November. It’s getting chilly. The frost is definitely about to be on the pumpkin. I just turned the space heater on in my office so I have warm air blowing on me. Ahhh, heat, wonderful heat.

It’s November. A time when we celebrate our servicemen and women. A big shout out to all of you who took the time to defend our country and way of life. Thank you for your service!

It’s November. The month we celebrate Thanksgiving. We’re having family over this year, the first time in decades we’ve been close enough to family to be able to have them at our Thanksgiving table. There will be ten of us, ranging from the oldest, me, to the youngest, my great grandson Aiden, who is seven. In our San Diego years, Fred and I would cook a small stuffed chicken, with a few of the accompaniments. If I was lucky, I could get him to eat at the table instead of in front of the TV. Rather than make a whole pie, or two because he likes apple and I like pumpkin, I’d buy one slice of each at the grocery store. This year, it will be turkey, ham, and all of the accompaniments, complete with apple pie, pumpkin pie, and maybe even a chocolate cream pie. What a difference having family around makes. For that I am very thankful.

It’s November. The month I turn a year older. Next week at this time I’ll be seventy-four and I find myself driven to complete the current book I'm writing, Leaving Mark. At this age, anything could happen at any time and I want to make sure my book gets finished before I do. And, who knows, I might just have a few more stories in me that need to be written.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Quote of the Day: Come, ye thankful people, come; raise the song of harvest home. Henry Alford

Friday, October 17, 2014

Regrets Anyone?

Do you remember Frank Sinatra? You do? Boy, you’re old. A line in his song, My Way written by Paul Anka, (another oldie but goodie) says: Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.

A year ago, we sold half of our belongings, packed up the rest, and headed east to parts unknown. We knew that Fred could play golf anywhere, I could write and we could do our LegalShield business anywhere, so we weren‘t tied to San Diego by anything other than our great friends. Do we have regrets? Not really. Do we miss the white sand beaches and palm trees, great attractions, and nearly perfect weather year ’round? A little. Did we ever avail ourselves of the white sand beaches, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, or Balboa Park? Nope. Not often, anyway.  We pretty much stayed in El Cajon. That’s about thirty miles inland for you non-San Diegans. Do we miss our friends, definitely. Am I glad we’re on the East Coast within driving distance of family? You betcha.

Fred filled his truck today at a station where gas was $2.94 a gallon. Do we wish we were still in California? Not one bit.

Do I yearn to look out my home office window onto a busy street instead of now looking at deer wandering on our front lawn? No way, Jose.

We made a big change moving to an area where even the weather changes from day to day. It’s now fall and the Creator has dipped his paintbrush in alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow, and burnt umber to color our new world. The paths we walk in White Deer Park are strewn with crunchy leaves, like rose petals before a bride.

Last winter was a BIG change, having to drive in, walk in, and shovel snow. We hope that everyone who told us, “Oh this is most unusual” meant it and this winter will be a bit milder.

Happy Halloween everyone! May the ghosts of your past offer you no regrets.

Quote of the Day: Nothing endures but change. Heraclitus

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I'm Not Chinese

I have a special treat for you today.  I'm sitting with author Ray Wong who's here to tell us about his new book, I'm Not Chinese:The Journey From Resentment to Reverence.

 
 
Welcome, Ray.  Let's start with the basics; please tell us where you live and if you're married and have children.
 
Sure.  I live in San Diego, CA.  I am grateful to have been married to my wife, Quyen, for 16 years. We have two children, Kevin--13, and Kristie--10. We feel blessed that both children are avid readers.
 
How long have you been writing?
 
I took my first creative writing class in the early 1990s at Grossmont Community College and have been at it since.
 
What type of writing do you normally do?

I'm interested in people and why they do the things they do. This is probably why I studied counseling for my graduate degree. I also earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University LA last year. Writing allows me to combine my fascination about people with the creativity to uncover truths about life. I specialize in creative nonfiction.
 
Give us a brief synopsis of I'm Not Chinese: The Journey from Resentment to Reverence.
 
I'll give you the first two lines from my prologue: "The first thing you need to know is I'm not Chinese. My name is Raymond Wong, and I stopped being Chinese at the age of five."

What prompted you to write this book?
 
I had been running from my culture and family all of my life. A trip to Hong Kong and mainland China in 1996 forced me to stop running. I had to write about it. There was no other choice.

How long did it take you to write the book?
I started it in 1996 and finished my first draft in 1997. I worked on revising it right up to the fall of this year.
Do you have a favorite line from the book?
I think every line in the book has to connect and have a purpose. The first two lines from the prologue launched me on this journey of self-discovery so if I had to pick a favorite, I owe it to those two lines for giving me a start.

Is this book published and, if so, when and by whom?
It will be launched on October 1st, 2014 by my publisher, Apprentice House, in Baltimore.
How can my readers get a copy?
It will be available on my website:  www.raymondmwong.com. It will also be available on Amazon and through the publisher's site.
What do you do besides write, Ray?
Is there time to do anything else? I haven't really even had time to write lately with the book about to be launched. Setting up speaking engagements and practicing my presentation have taken up all my writing time these past couple of months.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully a Pulitzer!  :-) I have started a project, which I haven't been working on lately, so I might get back to that once the marketing end of things quiets some. I actually have a few ideas for books so we will see which one grabs hold of me and won't let loose.
Ray, what is your advice to would be writers?
Live and write your truth. Even in fiction, find the truth of the story and what the characters want to teach you.
One final question, Ray.  What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?
How truly crazy you have to be to become a writer! You have to write because the madness sinks its claws into you and won't let go.
Thank you, Ray.  It's been a pure pleasure having you here today.
 
Folks, I've spent some one-on-one time with Ray in the past and I urge you to get his book as soon as it comes out in October.
 
Quote of the Day:   What thou lovest well is thy true heritage.  Ezra Pound
 
Answers to questions posed in my last post:  1 (a); 2 (b); 3. (c); 4. (a).






Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It's All Techno Greek to Me!

A good part of writing is the research that goes into a story or article. I am glad to be writing in this day and age when information is at the tip of my fingers. I can stop writing, go to Google and ask a question, and get right back to writing, all in a matter of minutes. No more going to get an encyclopedia or making a trip to the library.

As part of Willard Manor, I had to look up a variety of items and dates. For instance,

1. When was the telephone first in general use in this country?
A. 1880s
B. 1860s
C. 1900s

2. How many slaves escaped via the Underground Railroad?
A. 10,000
  B. 100,000
  C. 300,000

3. Prohibition lasted from?

A. 1900 - 1941
B. 1915 - 1936
C. 1919 - 1933

4. The Amendment giving women the right to vote is which one?

A. 19th
B. 20th
C. 16th

I also had to look up the years of WWI, the battles of the Civil War, the Great Depression, the Woodstock festival, how to grow marijuana, septic tanks, indoor plumbing, electricity, and how to demolish plaster walls, among a host of other things.

What amazes me, is that ALL of that information is available on line. Someone, somewhere, inputted all this information. I don’t care what question you type in Google, or any other search engine, someone has already asked that same question and the answer is there. I keep thinking I’m going to come up with a question no one has yet thought to ask, but I don’t.

Thirty years ago, I bought my son a Commodore 64 computer. It was amazing. He learned programming by writing three pages of instructions to make a ball bounce. I saw how much work went into that small task and I think of it every time I see a video on the computer or find an answer to any question I may now or any time in the future ever ask. Someone, somewhere, had to input that information. It blows my mind. But then, the idea of a radio and voices coming over a wire, or heaven forbid, a wireless radio, can equally blow my mind.


I have learned to accept that even though I don’t understand how all this works, I am very glad someone does and I can benefit from it. Take a techno geek to lunch today to thank him or her.

Quote of the Day: The computer is no better than its program. Elting Elmore Morison.

 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Living on the Wild Side of Life

We moved to N.C. to be closer to family. I had no idea that would include moving closer to Mother Nature.

Yesterday morning I sat at the computer and looked up to see a doe and her fawn wandering around our front lawn. I watched them for a few minutes, then they crossed the street over to another lawn. 


 

Later that day I cut up an apple and threw little apple chunks into the backyard.
Within an hour or two, Fred called me to come look out the kitchen window. There was a doe enjoying the apple bites. Then a spotted fawn came out of the woods and joined his mother. Fred went on the back porch and threw out bread for them and, miraculously, they didn’t run away but stayed right there eating. As I watched, I saw a second fawn, a little bigger than the first one, come into the backyard to join the other two. I was ecstatic!




I haven’t seen Carl, our male cardinal, in over a month, but I do see his wife, Carlina. We also have a bunny rabbit that has enjoyed our backyard a couple of times. Our bluebirds have gone to parts unknown. After the last of their babies flew off, mama and papa have not been seen at all. Dragonflies seem to prefer our frontyard.




Fred and I are now going to nearby White Deer Park to walk the hiking trails every day. We use walking sticks to help us old folks handle the one mile loop through the woods. On our walk I’ve seen a goldfinch, flowers, and this brown bird, whatever he is. 



I’ve found that the walk is a wonderful way to start the day and get my metabolism going.  I come back refreshed and energized with new ideas for the novel I’m working on called Leaving Mark.


Thought for the Day:  Life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth. Martin H. Fischer

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Feeling Awe-ful


I had an awe-ful moment this week. Not a bad moment--a moment full of awe.

We came back from a hasty two week trip to Connecticut and threw stale bread and hot dog buns on the ground by the bird feeder, knowing they wouldn’t go to waste. Shortly thereafter, Fred whispered to me to come look out the kitchen window. Eating the bread was a doe and, a few feet away, her week-old spotted fawn scampered about on the grass. I looked to see if Thumper and the rest of Bambi’s friends were nearby. The fawn was adorable! I wanted to get my camera and record this aaw! moment, but I didn’t want to make any movement that might scare them away. I also didn’t want to leave them, even for a few seconds, and miss the scene being played out before me. All too soon, they walked back into the woods and out of sight.  I'm sorry you don’t get to see a picture of our beautiful fawn and his mom in this post.


And I had an awful moment.

While packing to go to Connecticut, I transferred my newest book-in-progress to a flash drive so I could work on it up north. A few days later, I plugged it into my sister’s computer and lo and behold, nothing. In my haste to take it with me, I forgot that I work in Microsoft Works, an easy to use word processing program that it seems nobody else uses. Since my sister has Microsoft Word, not Works, the flash drive couldn’t, or wouldn’t (since I think anything computer related has a mind of its own), open. I called my techno savvy son and he suggested I go to Word and tell it that the file I want to open is on the flash drive. I did that and voila I had my file. Except that the formatting was all wrong. I spent a good part of the rest of my stay retyping the story. The up side to that is I had a chance to edit and rewrite as I went along. Now that I’m back home, I’ve transferred the file back to my computer so I can work on it, after more formatting, cutting and pasting. Whoever said writing is easy.

As I write this, I am especially thankful for two things: that my sister is alive and well after a heart attack, and that I had the chance to watch a precious little fawn play in our backyard.

Quote of the Day:  Be not afraid of life.  Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.  William James

Monday, June 30, 2014

Funny Papers, Where Art Imitates Life, or Vice Versa

Funny papers, comics. graphics--whatever you want to call them, they’ve been around since the time of cave paintings. I didn’t get to read those early comics, but my memory of the funny papers does go back to the mid-forties. I was probably eight or nine when my sister and I took piano lessons for a year. Mrs. Duke gave lessons in her house, so after my lesson and while my sister was having hers, I curled up in a big stuffed chair and read the comics in the newspaper that was sitting on the coffee table. I didn’t know then, reading Katzenjammer Kids, Li’l Abner, Joe Palooka, Pogo, and others that it was the start of a life-long interaction with the funnies.

Walt Kelley’s Pogo was an opossum who lived in the Okefenokee Swamp with his swamp friends-- Albert the alligator, Churchy LaFemme--a turtle, Howland Owl, and others. Walt Kelley lived in Bridgeport, CT and in 1953 my family and I moved to Bridgeport, the home of P. T. Barnum. The name of Pogo’s boat is often called the P. T. Bridgeport. Pogo was philosophical; two of his great lines were, 1) We have met the enemy and he is us, and 2) A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a horse of a different feather. You can’t beat lines like that.

Al Capp’s Li’l Abner lived in Dogpatch with his parents, Mammy and Pappy Yokum. Pipe smoking Mammy Yokum could often be found saying, “If it makes you happy to be happy, then be happy.” Profound wisdom that my mother used to love to quote. In addition to Li’l Abner’s long-time girlfriend, Daisy Mae, Sadie Hawkins also lived in Dogpatch. Sadie was the homeliest girl in town so every year, her father organized the Sadie Hawkins Day Race where all the eligible men in town were given a head start, then the eligible women would take off after them, hoping to catch a man. By my sophomore year of high school, we had moved from Bridgeport to its suburb, Fairfield, CT. Our sophomore dance was the Sadie Hawkins Dance where the girls asked the boys to the event. Because I didn’t have to wait for someone to ask me, I asked a boy and got to go to the dance. Thank you, Sadie Hawkins.

Chic Young’s Blondie was also a favorite. My sister and I had a lot of paper dolls when we were young and among them were Blondie, Dagwood, their kids Cookie and Alexander, and even Daisy the dog, and her pups.

I still like to start the day with a smile and a few chuckles. Now I find that my favorites are Pickles and Zits. Jeremy, in Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman’s Zits, reminds me of my son when he was a teenager. One day he was five foot four and the next day he was six foot four and the apartment was no longer big enough for him and his long legs.

Brian Crane’s Pickles used to make me laugh because Earl and Opal Pickles were so much like my parents. I don’t know how or when it happened, but suddenly Fred and I are Earl and Opal, forgetting where we left our glasses, not being able to hear each other and accusing the other person of mumbling.

If old age is our enemy, then, we have met the enemy and it is us! Now that’s something to smile about.

Quote of the Day:  Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent."  Walt Kelly via Pogo.