?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Novel Life


I sent my novel to an interested agent last week. The epic novel, 642 pages, took years to complete on paper and many more to materialize into intent. I had finally lived enough to see the patterns in my life and to put them down on paper. Of course, the work is fiction, but I’m sure there are traces of me in every character—traces that had not manifested when I was a young whipper-snapper that walked away with my university’s fiction award.  My novel reflects my life—my time in Europe, my time in Africa, my maternal side, my loves, my hates, my evolving personality.

I expected to feel jubilant, for some reason. Instead I felt the same sort of jubilation I did on the day I bore my son and held my daughter for the first time—excited, yes, but with a practical inner knowing that much work was now expected of me. I’ve always smiled at all the people who do not write who think of it as an easy and cushy career. If they had been a fly on the wall in chez Ramsperger for the last few years, they may have recalculated their opinions.

Every work of non-fiction begins with a map, an outline. However, this particular novel defied any real mapping or charting. It changed with the characters. For example, I had no intention of putting the protagonist’s or antagonist’s back stories into the novel; I wrote them to find out who my characters were. However, my valued critique group—both my writers’ group (We Seven!) and my dear editorial friends—were fascinated with  the back story. The more I wrote, the more I was sure the characters were who they were because of their back stories. So I included them, and in the end, the back stories show that the intricate patterns of quite disparate childhoods made these two characters more similar than different.

No, it wasn’t easy, charting a course without a compass. Yet I can now say I finished, not one draft, but several, of an entire novel. I always tell the elementary school classes I present to that it doesn’t matter if you’re published or not, and I totally believe that publication is the icing on the cake. Of course, it’s nice if people “hear” you and connect with you, if you gain an audience and maybe even some compensation. Yet whether that happens or not, I feel I’ve arrived at a destination I’d always wanted to visit. At 50, I’ve come full circle.

I’ll keep you informed as my publishing efforts progress.

Tags:

Outsourcing: The Human Touch


Welcome to my blog, Ground One.

Ground Zero :  Function:  noun; Date:  1946 ~ 1: the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs; 2: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change; 3: the very beginning .

Ground One:  Function: verb; Date: 2008 ~ 1: to create a new beginning from an ending, starting from the ground up; 2: to use one’s  life beliefs and values to break new ground; 3: to ground oneself; i.e., to become one with the earth or universal whole; 4: to journey within to find new solutions to ancient problems;  5:  to use one’s unique individual gifts to improve the whole; 6: to find common ground among a diversity of cultures, philosophies, and ideas.

Outsourcing is here to stay.  I see outsourcing as having pros and cons. For example, one of the pros is that it puts the world community in touch. One of the cons is that someone in Eastern Europe or India may not understand our infrastructure or society, nor we theirs. Much business these days lacks the human touch.  The motto of this decade has seemed to be: Forget customer service; focus on the bottom line. The economic times we’re in may change this doomed-to-failure strategy, but I’m fairly certain the outsourcing that comes with a global economy is here to stay. So here’s my suggestion:

Next time you’re on the phone with someone and can’t understand his or her directions, decipher his or her accent, or make him or her comprehend your dilemma. . . when it seems they are simply reading a script . . . picture that person in your mind’s eye. Where are they sitting? What are they wearing?  What do they look like? Concentrate on that mind photo for 30 seconds or so, and then ask them how their day is going, ask about their family, ask about their health. Just because that person isn’t standing before us doesn’t mean that we have to abandon all our social graces.  Then proceed with your request. See what happens.

Try this a few times, and let me know how it works. It’s worked for me. I usually get whatever I ask for in situations like this one. I believe it will work 90 percent of the time for you, too. Because we’re not computers. We’re all human. Try it. You’ll like it.

Hello? Where are the non-profits?


Welcome to my blog, Ground One.

Ground Zero :  Function:  noun; Date:  1946 ~ 1: the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs; 2: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change; 3: the very beginning .

Ground One:  Function: verb; Date: 2008 ~ 1: to create a new beginning from an ending, starting from the ground up; 2: to use one’s  life beliefs and values to break new ground; 3: to ground oneself; i.e., to become one with the earth or universal whole; 4: to journey within to find new solutions to ancient problems;  5:  to use one’s unique individual gifts to improve the whole; 6: to find common ground among a diversity of cultures, philosophies, and ideas.

                I wanted to be a journalist. Ann Compton was my role model. I saw her anchor on WDBJ-TV,  Roanoke, Va., in the late 1970s, the only woman on an all-male set, and announced to my family, “That’s what I want to do.”

                My father sniffed. “You’ll never make any money doing that. Be a lawyer.”

                As much as Ann Compton would surely beg to differ with my father , I’m beginning to see his side of the argument.  I followed my heart not my wallet, and I ended up a journalist, then a corporate writer and marketer for international non-profits. My father (may he rest in peace) would likely shake his head knowingly if he saw all the paltry checks I receive for the strategic direction I offer non-profits. I know he would send me straight off to law school if he knew I still receive some checks that equal no more than a rate of $25/hour--after almost 30 years in the field.

                I gained further enlightenment of the plight of communicators working for non-profits when flipping through the current issue of Working Mother magazine. Its October issue traditionally lists the 100 best companies for working mothers.

                What do Allstate, Bank of America, Booz Allen Hamilton, Hallmark, Kraft, Microsoft, and Wyeth have in common? They all made the magazine’s best practices list. In fact, of the 100 companies listed:

·         57 firms increased budgets for work/life programs this year;

·         90 percent sponsor back-up child care;

·         88 percent offer phase back programs for moms;

·         80 percent offer paid time off for employees to volunteer;

·         54 companies tie managers pay to women’s advancement rates;

·         93 percent offer adoption assistance, with 82 percent offering fertility treatment reimbursements; and

·         a full 100 percent offer telecommuting and flex time.

 

I noticed only two communications companies on this list, one publishing house, and absolutely no non-profits. What’s wrong with this picture, when supposedly “humanitarian” organizations can’t be as humane as the for-profits when it comes to human resources?

                I compare this list with the non-profit I resigned from because I couldn’t make ends meet as a working mother there.  In this international non-profit, no career track exists for employees who leave the domestic office to go work in the international office. Most return with no job guarantee, and usually end up accepting a job with a lower salary on contract, losing all benefits (including paid sick leave) and retirement tenure.  This organization, eight years ago, agreed to let a colleague and I “share” a job, then ended up giving us job descriptions that no two employees could complete alone.  

                Times have changed, you say? I beg to differ. I recently had coffee with an employee who had been advised by another colleague not to disclose to the organization that she was going into the hospital for surgery. She feared for her position. I know of yet another woman, a working mother, who is still making virtually the same salary she was when I worked alongside her eight years ago. She’s just happy to have a job.

                You can imagine how working mothers returning from maternity leave are treated.  Irony of ironies, this non-profit was started by a woman, albeit an unmarried one without children.

                I wish that I could say that my former employer was different from other non-profits, but I don’t believe this to be the case. My other non-profit clients are similar in the way they treat vendors, so I assume this shines a light on their treatment of employees as well. Working Mother’s List of 100 Best backs me up statistically. I only wish the stats were different, that the places that give so much to others could give back a bit to their own.  Maybe if they spent a little more on making employees successful, that would transfer to the customer. And a happy customer leads to a bigger budget. Good business practice. Basic common sense. You’d think they would have caught on by now.

                As for me, I’m starting from Ground One, turning over a new leaf. I’m beginning to listen a bit to my father’s advice. I’m looking for new clients in that Working Mother list.

Contact



Welcome to my blog, Ground One.

Ground Zero :  Function:  noun; Date:  1946 ~ 1: the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs; 2: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change; 3: the very beginning .

Ground One:  Function: verb; Date: 2008 ~ 1: to create a new beginning from an ending, starting from the ground up; 2: to use one’s  life beliefs and values to break new ground; 3: to ground oneself; i.e., to become one with the earth or universal whole; 4: to journey within to find new solutions to ancient problems;  5:  to use one’s unique individual gifts to improve the whole; 6: to find common ground among a diversity of cultures, philosophies, and ideas.

I belong to four social media networks. It’s a great way to reunite with people from the past and to make new connections.  I received this message in one of my networks, and it spoke to me, so I’m passing it along. Additionally, it made me want to meet the person who sent it, when in fact, I don’t know her real name. I only know her psyeudonym, Avalonmare:

In today's fast-paced, workaday world, many of us have a tendency to charge ahead, not always thinking about how we affect our fellow travelers. Our economic and social systems aren't currently geared for helpfulness to blossom. Whether we scramble blindly to make our monthly obligations, or simply cut another off in traffic in a rush to get to our next place quicker, we lose a special opportunity to have a positive effect on those around us - and on ourselves. Just think for a moment how you reacted the last time someone else slowed at an intersection and waved for you to go ahead of them. It felt good, didn't it? You wanted to return the favor, didn't you?

That's the way we'll all feel once we glean the wisdom in allowing others to go first.

 

The passage spoke to me on two levels. First, I feel too much of our relationship tending takes place without the human touch these days. We sit IMing on our PCs, and texting on our phones. Some days, I go through an entire day without speaking to anyone because I’m a writer and I work for myself. It takes too much time to have lunch or coffee. I’m always on deadline.  I’ve been trying for months to meet with a friend to discuss business, and we can’t find a time that works for both of us. The nice part about technology is that we are able to keep in touch with so many, no matter how far flung our friendship circle. However, the opposite side of this coin is that no matter how wide our circle, we don’t have the time to keep up. Technology giveth time, and time it taketh away.

The second reason this passage spoke to me has to do with a chance meeting at a neighborhood intersection yesterday. I’ve been distracted lately, balancing too many balls in the air, trying to keep up with emails, meet deadlines, meet with school officials. Cook. Clean.Carpool. You know the list.  That’s where my mind was yesterday morning—on the list. I’ve lived in this neighborhood 25 years, give or take the time we spent in Europe. They changed a neighborhood traffic pattern a few months ago in the name of progress. I forgot about the new pattern for a split second because I was thinking about the list. I slowed as always but forgot I had to yield when making a left. (My right of way had changed.) I was going slowly enough that I corrected myself  in plenty of time to avoid an accident with the oncoming speeding car. The man behind the wheel was yelling and gesticulating, and he pressed on his accelerator when he passed me. I put my hand up in apology, feeling like a big loser, “a woman driver,” or worse, “an elderly Sunday driver,”  wondering if my mind was failing. I knew I was in the wrong. Yet I also wondered if this man, whom I recognized, even knew it was me he was yelling and cursing at. His neighbor. Who had made a mistake. Who had corrected herself before it was “too late.”

The meeting at the neighborhood intersection would probably have been different 25 years ago, and not just because my mind was less distracted, more spry. A neighbor 25 years ago would have waved me on, would have let me go first. A neighbor 25 years ago would not have been speeding. A neighbor 25 years ago would not have cursed me out.

And I would have been grateful that they had forgiven my error. I could have crossed guilt, at least in this instance, off my list.

And next time, I would have let this neighbor go first.

In Between-ness


Welcome to my blog, Ground One.

Ground Zero :  Function:  noun; Date:  1946 ~ 1: the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs; 2: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change; 3: the very beginning .

Ground One:  Function: verb; Date: 2008 ~ 1: to create a new beginning from an ending, starting from the ground up; 2: to use one’s  life beliefs and values to break new ground; 3: to ground oneself; i.e., to become one with the earth or universal whole; 4: to journey within to find new solutions to ancient problems;  5:  to use one’s unique individual gifts to improve the whole; 6: to find common ground among a diversity of cultures, philosophies, and ideas.

While performing some final research for my novel Incongruent, I made a final flip through the pages of Transit Beirut, a collection of writing and images, which I picked up in the  Virgin book store at the edge of al Hamra District in Beirut. From what I hear the store’s closed now, the result of street demonstrations surrounding it. The store is closed, and most of the young people who were back in Beirut after spending their childhoods abroad, are now based in Qatar. I visited Beirut in May 2006, six weeks before the Israelis retaliated with war because of the Hezbollah seizure of Israeli soldiers, who had allegedly crossed over the Israeli/Lebanese border into southern Lebanon. You get the picture. The war goes on, in ever-expanding circles.

                In this final ride through Transit Beirut, I found a quote from one of my favorite writers, Anais Nin: “I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me . . . . I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live . . . . I had to create a world of my own . . . in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living.” Writer Rosanne Saad Khalaf uses the quote at the beginning of  “Living Between Two Worlds,” her study of students who left Beirut in the 1980s and returned in their late teens or twenties.

                One student describes herself as standing on the perimeter of a circle while everyone else mixes within it, “rarely joining the inner circle, just watching.”  Another  expresses resentment at being repeatedly asked where he was during the war, as though his opinion doesn’t count.  The writer describes these returned exiles as living in a state of “extended betweeness,”  “of juggling multiple identities,” of constantly losing and reinventing themselves.

                I began my novel  first as a non-fiction study of war and global multicultural communication. I thought no other war of our era portrayed the plight of the disenfranchised as much as the Lebanese Civil War, and so I placed my focus there. In time, I realized Lebanon’s story could be much better told in fictional form, because it might resonate more with the heart than the mind.  . . that if I told one person’s story, it might speak more to the macrocosm. That more people might understand.

                I may have gotten it right, I think, as I read Khalaf’s study. I may have gotten it right, because even though the only American-based  war I’ve experienced has been one that never escalated, never came to fruition, I feel I am the product of times that are full of war or the threat of war: The Cold War, the Civil Rights conflicts, Vietnam, Bosnia, Somalia, and of course, 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq. Sadly, this is only to name the embattled highlights that have defined our times. I’m a product of America’s own civil war. My grandmother sat weeping at Stonewall Jackson’s grave as late as 1968. Beyond this, I feel my own personal imbalance, my world is one that is more like Nin’s or Khalaf’s than it is perhaps of my suburban neighbors. Or perhaps we all have a bit of a personalized war raging within that we never  fully expose.  At times, I feel as  though I live on my own private island, not one of my own choosing.

                Although the war was supposed to have been long over when I arrived in Beirut, the city still felt surreal to me.  While I was there, a  friend called me to tell me there were Israeli bombing incursions just a few kilometers south of Beirut . Ghosts of kidnapped Americans followed me around the AUB campus. People without limbs still begged on street corners, and I wondered if they were part of the 350,000 civil war-wounded. Banks were suspicious of exchanging travelers’ checks with a blonde foreigner on her own.  As I disembarked  on Beirut’s airport tarmac, I thought about the photographs in which it had been just a bombed shell.  And talk about incongruities:  A McDonald’s with valet parking overlooked the famous Corniche that looked down upon the Mediterranean.  Bullet pock marks still masked what were once beautiful buildings along the city’s Green Line, in spite of every street also hoisting a crane above an emerging new , ever-taller skyscraper.  Checkpoints lined the streets that led to some of the world’s most famous archaeological digs. Most hotels had their own personal body guard, and anyone who was anyone hesitated a split second before they disengaged their car alarms to get behind the steering wheel.    And that preceded Lebanon’s last two wars.

                Hard to tell how the people living there feel now.  Maybe that will be a future book, but I hope not.

                I hope that my portrayal of one man’s war, and his resulting “extended betweeness”-- of alienation, perfectionism, and search for love amid a war within--reflect these times, my times, and in the end, my own world, in which I can “breathe, reign, and recreate myself” when life and its conflicts become too much for my one soul to carry.  It has been my honor to know each and every Lebanese person my path has crossed, and it is my prayer that their wars will cease, within and without.

On Oneness


Welcome to my blog, Ground One.

Ground Zero :  Function:  noun; Date:  1946 ~ 1: the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs; 2: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change; 3: the very beginning .

Ground One:  Function: verb; Date: 2008 ~ 1: to create a new beginning from an ending, starting from the ground up; 2: to use one’s  life beliefs and values to break new ground; 3: to ground oneself; i.e., to become one with the earth or universal whole; 4: to journey within to find new solutions to ancient problems;  5:  to use one’s unique individual gifts to improve the whole; 6: to find common ground among a diversity of cultures, philosophies, and ideas.

 

I’ve been having some trouble deciding what to write about this week. Call it blog block. This morning I awoke and realized that the block was there because I have some fear about uncloaking myself spiritually. So deep breath, drum roll.tadatadatada…here goes!

            As most of you know, I am a Christian, albeit an unusual one. I’ve begun to call myself an esoteric Christian.  I learned long ago, perhaps even as a child, that I take what makes sense and leave the rest, until I can sort it out. I’ve joked at times that I’m not sure I can say I am a “pure” Christian because I so totally see the validity of other religions. I don’t talk about religion much because I don’t want to impose my beliefs on others, because I have very wide-ranging beliefs, and because I don’t want people to see me as a stereotypical anything. I want them to see me as me, in all my many facets and colors.

            I believe in God, One God, whatever that Source or Higher Power or Spirit or Energy may be. I’m beginning to believe that whatever “It” is, “It” is “Everything.” All that is or was or will be. And that I am part of “It.”

            That said, the sermon was interesting yesterday. My witty, well-liked pastor was talking about a specific verse in Matthew that he had always seen as “unfair.” My ears perked up. As he said in his sermon, we Americans believe in justice for all.

            The New Testament book of Matthew tells a parable about a man who hires workers at the beginning of the day, the middle of the day, and the end of the day, but he pays each of them exactly the same wage at the end of the day. The parable likens this scenario to the kingdom of God: “The last will be first, and the first will be last.”  My pastor went on to explain why he’d always felt it was unfair to the workers who began toiling in the fields at the beginning of the day, and I agreed with him.

            Fair or unfair, I’d always thought this verse meant that we can never know how things will turn out, only God knows. I’d thought this was unfair, being a bit of a doubting Thomasina and a control freak. Another way I’d looked at the verse was as it might be synonymous with “The meek will inherit the earth.” I think all three interpretations,  my  pastor’s and my own, ring of truth, but perhaps not total truth.

            As I’ve aged, I’ve let go of some of the controlling aspects of my character, and let God take the wheel. I figured He/She/It knew better than lil ole me. I’ve let go of my some of my anger at injustice and some of my pouting about injustices done to me. It’s worked to some degree. There have been blessings and miracles beyond measure, as well as synchronistic events that are absolutely inexplicable. However, as long as I’ve thought about my fate as separate from others’ fates, I’ve held onto my notions of fairness versus unfairness, at least to some degree.  

            Yet, as the verse was read to me again, I saw something I’d never seen before. Perhaps the verse wasn’t just talking about someone getting ahead of someone else in line, or in the wages s/he earned, or the power s/he wielded. The verse was telling me that God sees the first as the last, God sees the last as the first, God sees the middle as the first and the last. Get it? God sees us all as ONE. God sees us all as EVERYTHING. And so we are: ONE. That which is done to me is done to you, that which is done to you is also done to me. As in “love your neighbor as yourself,” because they ARE you.

            That made my day, partly because of the inspiration it gave me, and partly because it means I’m on the right track, that my blog is on the right track, that my life is on the right track. As I search, with whomever shares my musings, for Ground One.

Re: Why I haven't answered your emails....


Welcome to my blog, Ground One.

 

Ground Zero : Function: noun; Date: 1946 ~ 1: the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs; 2: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change; 3: the very beginning .

Ground One: Function: verb; Date: 2008 ~ 1: to create a new beginning from an ending, starting from the ground up; 2: to use one’s life beliefs and values to break new ground; 3: to ground oneself; i.e., to become one with the earth or universal whole; 4: to journey within to find new solutions to ancient problems; 5: to use one’s unique individual gifts to improve the whole; 6: to find common ground among a diversity of cultures, philosophies, and ideas.

 

 

I’m putting the finishing touches on my novel. Despite the fact I wrote “THE END” some time ago, I’m no stranger to revision. The story came fluidly, if not quite effortlessly. I told what I knew, with some twists and turns. The revision has been a longer road. Every time I think I’m finished with a section, I find another pile of comments—from a member of my treasured writing group, my beloved friends, or even occasionally, a teacher, facilitator, or editor.

 

This weekend, I decided I would work as long as I could sit in front of the computer to finish the thing, once and for all. Yet much as a little girl’s eyes are bigger than her stomach, I always think I can get more done in an hour than is realistic, or even possible. Ten hours a day are all these aging bones can take at a desk. So, here I sit at the beginning of a work week, the beginning of another autumn, after four hurricanes have whipped through the southern United States waiting for me to write about them, ready to begin my “real, paid” work, all the while glancing at the piles surrounding me, not in a line but --if you’ve been reading this blog, you know it has to be--a circle.

 

I’ve already disposed of most of the papers full of comments into the recycling bin, but is it safe to dispose of electronic files? Plus, what if someone, someday, wants to see how this author’s mind worked from beginning to end? What if Hemingway’s drafts had been tossed in the garbage?

           

Not that I’m in any way comparing myself with Papa Hemingway. Just hoping that someday, someone, will remember that I had a little something to say. Should I throw proof of all these years of work into the garbage?

 

Tillie Olsen, who recently passed away in her 90s, had a lot to say. She published her first collection  of short stories at age 50, an age I resonate with now. A more than half-way point in life. At least as soon as you’re one day past your 50th birthday. I’ve always been in a hurry, and now I find, in my mind at least, I’m on warp speed. Olsen also published a book that I read in my 20s but am identifying with more as each day passes. The non-fiction book, called Silences, “speaks of obstacles and frustrations faced when women and other disenfranchised people are driven to write,” as one reviewer put it. It took Olsen 15 years to write Silences. In it, she speaks of the reasons why authors, mostly women, become silent, pointing out that the silence is largely circumstantial. Considered a classic, it now seems to be out of print. One person resorted to pretending she’d lost it from the library and paying for it. Hang onto this book if you can find a copy of it; I wish I had.

 

Two things I remember from Olsen’s work: The first, factual, is that women writers before the 20th century had no children. Many had no spouses. Almost all published under a male nom de plume. The second, emotional, is the story of a female author who shut the door on her toddler son as he sobbed outside her makeshift office. Gradually, his sobs turned to whimpers, but he never stopped knocking on the door. Despite his pleas, she wrote. Despite her writing, she felt immense guilt. As time passed, this mother, this writer, felt she’d damaged her son.

 

Olsen knew what she was talking about. One of her stories is entitled, “I Stand Here Ironing.”

 

I’m not finished with my novel yet, but you’ll be the first to know when I have. Actually, all I have left is pagination and printing and a few tweaks to three chapters. I can see a finish line, of sorts. It’s any day now that I’ll come full circle. Then I’ll begin all over again. Because, as you can suspect, I have a big pile of clothes waiting to be ironed.

Politics and the Pack


Welcome to my blog, Ground One.
Ground Zero : Function: noun; Date: 1946 ~ 1: the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs; 2: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change; 3: the very beginning .
Ground One: Function: verb; Date: 2008 ~ 1: to create a new beginning from an ending, starting from the ground up; 2: to use one’s life beliefs and values to break new ground; 3: to ground oneself; i.e., to become one with the earth or universal whole; 4: to journey within to find new solutions to ancient problems; 5to use one’s unique individual gifts to improve the whole; 6: to find common ground among a diversity of cultures, philosophies, and ideas.
Isn’t it strange how one minute life is going along like any other day, and then the page turns and someone virtually unknown becomes instantly famous, the object of massive public attention and ovation? The pack phenomenon always amazes yet escapes me. I always sat at concerts wondering what everyone was screaming about. Even rioting about. We recently went to a ball game, and “the wave” caught on. We kept it going from one side of the stadium to the other. It was fun, but I still didn’t get it. The pack mentality scares me, especially these days, because every pack has to have a leader.
            In politics, I don’t vote for cute babies, or beautiful children, or powerhouse spouses, even if they’re on the political road themselves, especially if they’re riding their partner’s coattails. I vote on the basis of a candidate’s performance—his or her voting record.
            Why were all those people at the Republican convention, chanting, “Drill, Baby, Drill!”? Was it because they believed what they were shouting, or were they shouting it because everyone else was? Do they know the long-term implications of what they were saying so forcefully? I know I don’t. Even though I’m against offshore drilling, I’d never shout out my opinion like it was the only way, the only solution. Although I might be standing alone, silent, waiting for everyone else to sit down and stop waving their fists.
            When the Republican vice presidential candidate made her rousing speech, I saw one woman mouth to another: “I like her.” I have a friend who thinks she’ll win the election for McCain because most women were looking for a replacement for Hillary Clinton. I must say I admire anyone who is as eloquent and at ease as Palin, but like her? I have no idea who she is, woman or not. I wouldn’t be shouting for her either.
            Nor would I have been shouting and shedding tears of joy over the Obama family. I don’t think I know who Obama is either. He’s a good orator, too. Charismatic. Graceful. Intelligent. It seems like he used the convention to help us to get us to know his family better. I appreciate that opportunity, but a few hours in the spotlight on an electronic satellite feed do not a relationship make. Besides, who he is doesn’t matter to me, as long as he’s basically moral. I don’t vote for a person. I vote for the issues. Some would argue judgment counts, yet doesn’t someone’s judgment show in his record of work?
            Now, John McCain is another story. I feel as though I already knew him. I read his book years ago. I empathized with his melanoma experience, because I’ve had my own. I look at him and think: what I see is what I get. However, I disagree with his votes on the floor lately. Plus, his vice presidential candidate, a heartbeat from the presidency, supports issues that are totally opposed to my ideology, whether I like her or not.
            My house is always at a suppressed political boiling point. We try to keep the peace by not discussing politics and religion. Yet my significant other recently quipped he was going to vote for the McCain/ Palin ticket because Palin named her baby “Trig,” which was his dad’s nickname. I realize he was joking, but come on! My mother was named “Sarah,” but that does not move me and will not sway my vote.
            All this to say, that even I, as the day approaches, find it’s becoming more difficult to separate the person from their platform. I want to select the right candidate, but I find it harder and harder to separate from the pack. I watched both conventions, more enraptured by the drama than by the words people spoke.
            So I’ve decided to wipe the slate clean and try again for clarity. This may be the first time in my life I vote straight from the heart. I don’t think I’ll know what hole I’ll punch, or button I’ll push, until I walk in the booth. So, I’ll breathe and say a little prayer. No, I’m not one of those people who always thinks God is always on my side, because I don’t really believe in sides. I just know I can’t go wrong if I look within. Because even in voting, as in living, it’s always only about grounding oneself and looking deep enough to know who you  are. And that, my friends, is the gift that America has given all of us—to follow our own inner guidance.

 

 

Labor Day Musings

Welcome to my blog, Ground One.


Ground Zero :
  Function:  noun; Date:  1946 ~ 1: the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs; 2: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change; 3: the very beginning .

Ground One:  Function: verb; Date: 2008 ~ 1: to create a new beginning from an ending, starting from the ground up; 2: to use one’s  life beliefs and values to break new ground; 3: to ground oneself; i.e., to become one with the earth or universal whole; 4: to journey within to find new solutions to ancient problems;  5:  to use one’s unique individual gifts to improve the whole; 6: to find common ground among a diversity of cultures, philosophies, and ideas.



My Secret for a Happy Life

By Lowell Thomas

Author, News Commentator and World Traveler

“The secret of happiness,” declared the English novelist Norman Douglas, “Is curiosity.” He lived to be 84 doubtless helped along by his endless curiosity.

As a mere youngster at 78, I haven’t had nearly enough time to satisfy my own inquisitive senses. I expect to be at it for many more years. How? Travel. As Lord Chesterfield put it, “The world is a country which nobody ever yet knew by description; one must travel through it to be acquainted with it.”

Quoted in the November 1970 Reader’s Digest, when subscriptions were $3.97 per year, and I was 12.

                People like Lowell Thomas, then Ann Compton, who was then the first female anchor at WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va., and still later, Helen Thomas, whom I interviewed when I was 19, influenced my career path.  These were the big, larger than life, journalists and correspondents who gave my life direction. However, today, Labor Day, I’m thinking of all those people who got me to this point, who are not so famous.

                My fifth grade teacher Mrs. Covey convinced me not only that I could write, but that I could be anything I wanted to be, and still have children. My World Literature teacher Mr. Robinson gave me hope that I could succeed at anything I put my mind to. My college boyfriend, an artist, who left me, also left me with the resounding conviction that I could be more than a student and a teacher, and that I could do it anywhere on earth, even Washington, D.C., even internationally.  My college professors gave me my own voice—to be myself.   My friends, especially Stacey and Ellen, were always there when I doubted myself, because they never doubted me.  My next love shared my zest for life, other cultures, and travel. He also whittled away at me, teaching me to lead in a relationship in a manner much like how an oyster forms a pearl, through irritation. When he left, he left me with his prayer that all my dreams would come true. By that time, I was on a humanitarian career track similar to his. I was melding my passion for helping the world, my writing ability, and my desire to travel, and of course my continuous curiosity to form what I would be doing for the next decade. 

              During this time, my colleagues taught me how to negotiate, to compromise, to manage, to endure.  They taught me what boundaries were and what they weren’t.  When I married, my husband Brian gave me his all—his masculine side and his feminine side, and he compromised in ways that most spouses wouldn’t, so I could continue on my road to self.  My writing group gave me praise and confidence in my ability to write fiction as well as non-fiction, and they pushed me and pulled me in sisterhood until a novel sprang forth.  Of course, my parents and brother were there this whole time, listening to me say,  “I’m not sure I can,” and reminding me that I was the little engine that could. Finally, and most recently, my children see me for the person I am and not just their mother.

                Last week, my son and I were walking off his anxieties about starting two high school-level courses. This will be the first year that exams make his grades. He was nervous. I was telling him about my similar anxieties, how the teachers who told me I could were proven right, and the teachers who instilled fear were proven wrong, not just with me, but with countless others. I was giving a pep talk my father would have been proud of when the talk turned to dating. I told my son about my first crush, my first date, my first infatuation. He asked me why girls wouldn’t talk to him. I told him boys were supposed to be the leaders in my day, all the while smiling at how they really had been as petrified as I was of the whole dating scene, all the while wondering if girls were really all that more assertive in terms of asking boys out on dates these days than in the 1970s.

                “You see,” I said, not entirely sure if I was correct, “girls expect boys to take the lead, to talk to them first, to call them first.”

                “But mommmmmm,” he complained. “It’s too scarey!”

                “Yes, it is,” I said.

                “I don’t know how anyone ever gets married, then,” he said.

                I laughed and said neither did I, but that he needed to start developing his elevator speech anyhow. He needed to start developing his leadership qualities, not just for dating, but for Scouting, for spirituality, for school.

                He was quiet for a split second more, and then he got a twinkle in his eye. I knew where he was going before he said it.

                “So mom,” he said, with a certain amount of pre-teen swagger. “Having men lead…how did that work for you?”

                On this sunny, happy Labor Day, I am thankful to him, and to everyone who taught and continues to teach me, and remind me, of who I am, and why I do what I do.

                My heart also goes out to everyone on the Gulf Coast, who is experiencing this day as one of disaster instead of celebration. More on that next week.

 

Continuing the Spirit of the Olympics

What did everyone think of the Olympics? It was an anthropological experience in my family. It was wonderful to see China again, to know every viewer was tasting its beauty and bounty, at least visually. It brought memories flooding back. It was also spectacular to hear such fond words spoken by announcers seeing the country and its people for the first time. We met spontaneous warmth and hospitallity when we visited China, matched only by the Chinese people's talent, drive, and attention to every detail.  On top of that, we viewed part of the games in Canada, and it was interesting to compare the Canadian's take on the events with the American's take on them.

It was difficult to know who to cheer for. My daughter always cheered for China, and toward the end of the games, especially in the gymnastics competitions, I found myself torn if not downright grumpy. I wanted her to be proud of her heritage; however, I wanted her to realize her American roots went as deep into the earth as her Chinese ones. Beyond that, I was gritting my teeth when the gold for the unevens went to a beautiful Chinese girl who looked a year or so older than my daughter, who is 9 years old--even though she had tied with an American (who ironically also has roots in another culture). It just didn't seem fair.

Yet there my daughter sat, cheering, and after a few minutes, I began cheering, too. The Chinese winner was obviously so elated, and also so congratulatory to her competitors, that it was impossible for me not to be happy for her.

Isn't that what the Olympics is all about? Different cultures competing against each other, stretching themselves their very limit, to reach their own, and often the world's, pinnacle, in a peaceful, joyful way? Each time they compete, they are reaching toward a goal that no one has ever achieved before. Each time, athletes strive to be the best in the world, just as nations do. 

The athletes' shining faces made all the bickering behind the scenes that the media seemed fixated with seem, well--petty. Olympians are taught not to argue--among one another or with the judges. Of course they want to win. Of course they have opinions. Yet it seems that this code of conduct results in unselfishness, even when things don't work out quite right. What would happen if we all shed our grievances and showed some goodwill to each other like these Olympic athletes--when we yield at a four-way stop sign or hold the door open for the person behind us, when an elderly disabled person is walking in front of us, when we're asked to sacrifice or give of ourselves, be it a donation to a cause or land in the name of peace? A little less arrogance? A lot more self-control? Think how much more peaceful our days could be. Think how many conflicts could be averted? Think about how many more people might still be alive.

Just some food for thought straight from Mount Olympus.