Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Viewing life from a camel's back

     A camel plods along taking forever to get anywhere by 21st century standards. Life should be played out in the slow lane once in a while, too, for your own good.
     Actually, a dromedary normally averages about 2 to 3 miles an hour when simply walking, 9 or 10 mph when trotting and 16 mph during a gentle jog. Camels have been known to go as fast as 40 mph for a short burst. I’ll take the word of the camel driver on that, and let him manage the speed for this inexperienced rider.

    When I slowed down and took a camel ride in the Sahara Desert, I viewed the massive vistas from a different, higher perspective. Parts of the time I looked down at the camel’s feet – I named him, “Buddy” ‒ and how his hoofs dug into the sand to go down a slope, or how they stretched out and caught their footing for climbing uphill. When the thick, leathery pads of his foot hit the ground, they spread wide, preventing the camel from sinking into the sand. When he walked, the camel moved both legs on one side and then both legs on the other, rocking side-to-side. The driver would yell, “lean back” and that turned out to be the best technique for staying comfortable and eliminating potential back misery.
     Other than that, once I got into the beat of a slower pace, my mind let go and I permitted my senses to take over. I dropped thoughts of what I would be doing next – a visit to a working Roman well – and raised my head high scanning the horizon. Earlier I had let my Berber tour guide take my multicolored scarf and wrap it around my head. It made me feel part of the total scene, and in all practicality, it was shading and cool draping down over my neck. Like everyone else, I took selfies of my new desert chic style, and I even wore my turban around camp for the rest of the day.

     The camel driver was in charge and I had nothing to worry about. Well, I was a little nervous about how awkward I would look getting on and off, but it turned out to be a piece of cake. Once I mounted and I readjusted to the camel’s lurch to rise on his four legs, I shifted to get comfortable on the mounds of blankets and held on to the metal halter with my hands. Soon I was loosening my grip and relaxing into the movement. My legs dangled freely and I held my posture upright. I assumed that I would be sore and stiff the next morning. (Didn’t happen.)
     Camels are domesticated; they provide milk, meat, hair for textiles or goods such as felted pouches, and are working animals with tasks ranging from human transport to bearing loads. While in a medina (market) in the city of Fez, I saw cut up portions of camel meat for sale by vendors, and I quickly walked away from one place with the camel’s head swinging from an iron rod. That was way too graphic.
      It was only 9 o’clock in the morning and already the sun was beating down, and the dryness in the air was making my skin feel like a sandpaper. Some fellow camel riders suffered from dry eyes and bloody noses, but I was lucky in that respect. Eventually, I would purchase some of that famous Moroccan black soap and exfoliate my skin for hours under a hot shower.

     The sun’s shadows played tricks on my eyes while going up and down over the natural wonders of the dunes examining the shapes and designs. Distances were out of proportion and I could see how you would get totally lost in no time flat. Still, the beauty of the desert in all its glory was evident from miles of tan fine sand. There was a slight breeze, which kept the bugs away fortunately, and periodically we would stop to take a breather…well, mostly for more photo ops. And we literally drank bottles of mineral water supplied by our caravan leader. The desert can fool you into an euphoric high and not take dehydration into account.
     The more I moved along and Buddy followed the leader, the more I appreciated where I was in this great wide world. It was relatively quiet, too, for minutes and that made everything peaceful.  Well, we did come across a group of French tourists out with rented dirt bikes and all of us wished them to go away almost like noisy jet skis interrupting our relaxation on a lake.
     Buddy moved a little out of line and snuggled by the side of the camel ahead, and I told him that he was in training to be the lead camel. I felt his anticipation in his quicker step before I even realized our ride was almost over. He knew that he would have rest time and food.
     When the ride was over, I slipped off the camel and stood stiffly for a minute and my legs became rubbery until I walked the kinks out of them. I turned to take a close up photo of Buddy, and he ignored me. I patted him on the head, “good job.” and slipped away from a priceless moment in my journey on this earth.  
     The Sahara Desert doesn’t offer an explosion of colors, but certainly it provides subtleties of hues. Ordinary life can be like that, too.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Over the river and through the woods

...'to grandmother's house we go' is a little bit of nostalgia I'm humming this Thanksgiving week 2016 re-living years gone past and simple childhood memories of assorted "relatives" - at least as a child I thought we were all tied together by geneology - piled around the dining table feasting on a well-cooked meal. There were those conversations, too, and politics always raised voices and hands waved in animation either for or against. I listened a lot and asked questions later when I got home for my family was never shy in that respect, and oh, the diversity of opinion. Beloved Giants' football games on television kept the older folks contented - many a snooze, too - and outside play in the nippy air with cousins infrequently seen made the afternoon go by quickly and before you knew it
...'the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh' home safely.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Lingering grains of thought from the Sahara Desert

     The desert changed me. I knew that instantly when I rode away in the 4x4 up and over the dunes to the main road over 45 miles away.
     A Sahara Desert (Northern Africa) tent camping experience in October made me a different person and I am barely able to put it into words. The mere notion that a writer is stumped is remarkable. I felt something powerful stirring deeply within my soul. I also assumed that thoughts would come to me, and I had to let things go. In fact, I needed to be far, far away from the desert to figure it all out.

      Wise men have gone to the desert in the past – some have wandered there for a long time - and filled their wells. Throughout my years I have had life changing experiences, and as a result, I discovered a new path. I was willing to trust and believed all would be well.
     I asked the fifteen other travelers if they had had a similar experience, and although the desert adventure was the highlight of everyone’s trip to exotic Morocco, no one felt it as intensely as me, or at least was willing to speak of it. Perhaps, we were all in a processing phase.
     Let me fill in the blanks for you about this adventure.  The travel company owes space about 25 miles from the Algerian border and manages a private camp with local staff. Each one of us had an individual tent with a toilet, shower and sink – thank you, solar power. Luxurious I would say, and not like my youthful tent camping days.

     Thinking about the movie, Lawrence of Arabia, and reading biographies of such desert aficionados as Gertrude Bell, all whom had a convoy of servants, survival on the desert must be taken seriously.
     When I showed up at camp – all my clothes had been previously bug-proofed - I looked out into a sandy expanse of flats and dunes with only a single lowly bush in sight. The beating sun overhead made sunglasses a necessity in high 80s temperatures – autumn in the desert – and I took another drink of water. I headed for a traditional tajine lunch – a stew cooked in a dome clay pot - with hot mint tea in the dining tent.
      Before our group arrived at camp, our caravan stopped in the last dusty little town at a grocery store that had a counter with an expanse of supplies behind it. We gave the owner our list – each of us contributed a couple dollars ‒ and he put the pile by the door. We bought essentials ‒ cooking oil, grains – in hopes of finding a nomad family somewhere near our camp to share our gifts.

     Later that afternoon we went out in our 4x4’s searching and we came upon an encampment. Our tour guide hopped out and spoke with a woman of about 45 or so, and she invited all 16 of us to sit under an open tent for mint tea and conversation (through our guide as interpreter) while she carded wool. Her teenage daughter was nearby herding in the goats, and was too shy to speak. The husband was off is a distant town working construction and came home infrequently. I had to pinch myself to remember what time period I was actually in.
      The woman and her daughter, like more than 80,000 estimated Berber people with a traditionally nomadic and pastoral lifestyle, are illiterate but desert savvy. Women hold down the home fort pretty much in Berber society.
     Who is to say that nomads should strive for more – education and health care ‒ for making a better future for their children? They don’t know any differently. That became a lively topic of discussion around the dinner table in the evening.
      After a tour of her humble shelter with its simple furnishings, we brought out our gifts. She was grateful, hung her head and averted her eyes, which is the custom. She said soon they would move on when the water supply got too low.

     Before bedtime the stars dotted the southern sky as far as I could stretch my neck and I played guessing games figuring out some of the constellations. The temperatures cooled to the mid 50s and I slept like a baby.
     The next morning I woke up way before the sun rose when all I could see was a faint outline of the other tents. I was too excited to stay in bed any longer and I climbed a nearby dune to the top. I proceeded to worship God in a natural sanctuary, and it was a special moment of thanksgiving. I saw the outline of a fellow traveler on a distant dune doing yoga, and another taking photos.
     Two highlights for me in the Sahara were the camel ride taking in the broad vista in slow motion, and a sunset walk out on the dunes far away from any civilization.
     Now looking back on those incredible days, I understand that the desert brought me to focusing on being in the present like nothing else has done before in my life.
     The desert’s solitude offered a message that quietness of mind and body is necessary for my existence.
     The daytime desert sky in its cerulean blue is always amazing because the light is just different and gives clarity to the visual.  But the night sky ... well, there is the stumbling for words. The stars. The stars.
     Natural beauty was imprinted on my soul.

If you want to see pictures and more from my Moroccan adventure go to my blog:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Meet me at the library today

Book signing with author Kay Thomas 

Wayland Free Library

TODAY, Wednesday, November 16, 3-5 pm. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Life is full of banana peels and circus peanuts

I picked up a round plastic container of Circus Peanuts at the grocery store two weeks in a row. Both times I placed it right back on the display shelf. My husband questioned what I was doing and when I told him that I was “writing” in my mind, he let it go. He knows it is best to ask no further. 
In case your head has been buried in the sand, let me describe a Circus Peanut. It is a peanut-shaped marshmallow candy that dates to the 19th century, when it was one of a large variety of unwrapped “penny candy” sold in such retail outlets as five-and-dime stores.

Funny thing. There was a memory along with Circus Peanuts and I was trying desperately to pull it to the surface. Snippets of a hazy remembrance slowly came about. An employee at my uncle’s machine shop fascinated me – he was a giant of a man and extremely handsome in the eyes of this gawky girl – and better still, he was a former grunt for the Ringling Brothers Circus. He was not very talkative about his former life, and I was too shy to ask questions about the circus. I was in awe, though. 
“You lost your chance,” my mother would tell me in the car. I bungled my opportunity and should have known better.
That wasn’t the memory, though. 
I tried putting out a post on Facebook and found all sorts of friends that love those fondants to the point that they got so excited even writing about them that I would bet they went to the store to buy a container shortly afterward. (FYI: Wegmans had a sale near the bulk food section going on). I am glad I asked. One person wrote, “That inexplicable texture that was more fondant than marshmallow. The excruciatingly sweet, cloyingly artificial flavor. The slightly gritty texture as it disintegrates in your mouth. I think I have some stuck in my teeth from 1968.” Another person said that she would share with me, and several people “liked” that idea. 
When the traveling circus would come to town on the train, my friends and I would walk down a couple blocks to the train station to watch the workers unloading. The one or two elephants would be paraded up to the fairgrounds about a mile away. The performers never showed their faces and probably were still sleeping. It was just another day in another town to them. Overnight the tent would rise and by morning the flags would be waving. One time when I was high school and the circus came by truck, I did get up in the wee hours to observe the coordination falling into place. Every worker had his job and it was a feat to witness. That afternoon the bareback horsemanship, the salty peanuts and the overly made-up trapeze artists mesmerized me under the big top. There was a “circus smell” — stale air and old wooden bleacher boards — that was like no other in my daily humdrum life. The glamour of it all was intriguing.
One year I dreamt of running off with the circus, and honestly, the only thing holding me back was missing my mother’s home cooking. Maybe there were other reasons that I don’t recall. It was one of those changeable years when I was growing up too fast for my own good. The grass was always greener somewhere else and to live with the circus performers would be a vast improvement, I thought, to my own small bedroom on a street in the village. 
That wasn’t the memory either I realized. Certainly, it brought back fond thoughts of those innocent days where dreaming big didn’t cost a cent.
“Oh boy.... Hide them from me!!! My true weakness.... Hahahahah Love them & yes, a lot of it is because of the memories that come flooding back. We all need to take a trip back every now and then,” replied another Facebook reader to my post. 
It wasn’t until someone posted on Facebook in capital letters…”and they are BANANA flavored, too,” that what I had been searching for came spilling out of me. Yup. That was it. Bananas. And a letter ‘B’ word, too. Banana cream pie was the dessert I made for the boyfriend who would never become my husband in my new apartment using my mother’s award-winning recipe, and it was a whopping failure. Soupy. Mushy. Very embarrassing. 
On so many, many occasions I had enjoyed my mom’s. Over her lifetime, she had won every pie contest in the county, although I do think that she fretted over the filling’s consistency every time. There is no explanation as to why I chose to make such a tricky pie. Probably, my ego got the best of me and figured I was infallible. 
I couldn’t eat a banana for a long time after that — they have always been a top favorite of mine — as the smell of them reminded me of that cooking failure. Now I have had cooking mishaps since then. However, there’s nothing like the one trying to impress the boyfriend who wouldn’t become my husband. I don’t think that the relationship broke up over the pie fiasco. It was heading down a slippery slope before that. 
It is time to tell you the truth. I don’t like Circus Peanuts. Never have. Not going to change my mind. I do like finding a topic that you, gentle readers, have enormous affection and write from there. 
Kay Thomas lives in the Genesee Valley. After a successful teaching career, she is pursuing her lifelong love of writing. Check out her blog on remarkable people and places in the Finger Lakes at

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Book signing and celebration

Join author, Kay Thomas at the Wayland Free Library, November 16, 3-5 pm for a celebration of her new travel book, Shimmering Japanese Sunlight.
Copies will be on sale for $10.00.
Also, SALE on I'll Be Honest With You, a collection of short essays,  for $5.00.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Columnist pens travel book on Japan

    Shimmering Japanese Sunlight, my latest book about a woman’s musing on her experiences in Japan, came about quite unexpectedly.
     When I returned home, I did the usual unpacking, checking the mail and re-acclimating into ordinary life.
     There was something not quite right, though. I wasn’t settling in to my normal routine and there was a noticeable edge to me.
     Out of nowhere I heard all these loud voices twisting in my head. I had to get out of the way and let my muse write.
     And write I did. For hours my fingers worked the keyboard. For days I sat in a room only with a skylight reminding myself there was an outdoors somewhere in the universe. There was no let up whatsoever. Some days if I didn’t have to go out, I sat in my new Japanese kimono sipping green tea and writing.
     Before I knew it, I had a manuscript for a book completed.  Frankly, I was exhausted from the trip and now, from using my brain to re-live my journey.

Here are excerpts from a chapter about my stay in Hiroshima.

      On the closing days of my vacation, I spend the remainder in the modern city of Hiroshima with its wide boulevards, bustling stores and sleek buildings.
     Everything is rebuilt with functionality in mind — earthquake proof, too, for there are at least three a day — and the majority of the people walking the streets are two or three generations removed from the destruction.
     It has been over 70 years since 80% of the city was destroyed. On August 6, 1945, during World War II (1939-45), an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
     After leaving my bag off at the hotel, I go to the actual place where the A-bomb hit. I anticipate that it will be a long afternoon, and I need plenty of time to process everything. That’s the way my writing mind works in order to capture the spirit of somewhere.
     As I stand in the park shaded by large trees looking at the one remaining building left as a symbol of the city's wipe-out and to the actual target — the bridge 200 feet away — tears well.
     Here I am halfway around the world to the faraway place that was the main topic so often in conversations during my childhood. Part of the panic about the Cold War period in the fifties was how horrible a nuclear war would be if the Russians used their weapon of destruction. The events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were too close of a reminder.
     Growing up, my history books are filled with how World War II ends abruptly and why bombing Japan is deemed necessary. It saves American soldiers lives and spares the Japanese people from more suffering. I don't debate the reason. 

     Still, it is hard to fathom that at one moment in time there are human beings screaming in agony and racing to get away from the terrific heat — many jump into the river — and all the multitude of fires from collapsing buildings.
     Since it is so still around me — people are relatively into their own thoughts — a rush of energy circles me. It really is hard to describe, except I felt the identical energy at Gettysburg, Nuremberg and looking into the pit of earth at the 9/11 destruction before the museum was built.  There’s nothing like living the history of the world.
     There are many Japanese middle school children here with their teachers studying the facts of the event, and I wonder what they are being told. Maybe it is me — a couple other Americans say they felt the same—but there is restlessness in the air when I come face-to-face with those children. In fact, a couple young girls somehow get mixed into our group, and when they look at us I hear one whisper to the other, “Oh, Americans.” There is no negativity in her voice, except that they are studying about the country that dropped the A-bomb, and here we are in real time.  From every other discussion I have in Japan, peace for the future is the most desired lesson to be taken away from a bad period. 
     An hour is spent with a survivor — a woman age six at the time — and she talks through a translator about what she remembers and hears from her family.     
     I am not positive how much she actually witnessed herself and the clarity of her memory.  She has given that same speech so many times that all her feelings are squeezed out of it, or perhaps, I am misinterpreting her intentions. It could be the way Japanese survivors relate to their past.
     In a soft, monotone voice she describes looking up at the bright cloud that rains ash down from the sky wondering what to make of it while she is on her school playground. She stays at the school building, partially damaged itself until evening, when the steam train is running again and she returns home.
     We tend to focus on the epic moments in history, and not the actual people who suffer sickness, death and hunger as a result. This lady is fortunate that she never has any lingering after affects from radiation like so many others.
     Looking into this survivor’s face, I see a life well lived for a 76 year old woman, one who has come to a thoughtful conclusion about her childhood.

                                                ** BUY NOW **

Kay Thomas’s new book, Shimmering Japanese Sunlight can be found on Amazon in paperback and e-version.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Careless words can harm

     In preparing for boarding a plane, the desk attendant at the gate literally shouted over the loud speaker, “Put your passports away. You’re in America after all.”
      I felt uncomfortable – perhaps embarrassed is a better choice for a word – while standing in a close by boarding line at the San Francisco International Airport.
     Chills went down my spine and instinctively I glanced around at the crowd lining up near me.
      All ages. Travelers. Business people. There was a perfect example of diversity with a whole lot of international visitors in the mix.
     Careless remarks often said without thinking can hurt, and deeply, too. You and I have accidently let words come out of our mouth and we could kick ourselves instantly.
     It was a quiet Sunday afternoon and no one appeared in a rush. Ah, that relaxed California lifestyle was seeping into our bones and working its magic from the week’s visit.
     What? Did I hear that remark right?
     There was a sudden heightened tension in the air as if a bolt of lightning had struck, and I began listening for comments from those around me that would help me tell the story.

     Apparently the desk attendant had instructed the passengers several times before via a PA announcement that ID for security would not be necessary. In the meantime, the embarking was moving at a snail’s pace. She was annoyed and her filters were off.
     You know how people are in a crowd, and seldom do they listen anyhow to those rote announcements repeated over and over.
      Besides, every time you fly, there is a new rule or procedure overtaking the previous one. I am guilty of not paying attention any better than the next person.
     I was assuming that this would cause quite a commotion. People are prone to being judgmental and we have gotten worse this campaign season. If you profess too much patriotic loyalty, you are placed in this camp. If you are of a social justice bent, you are put in the other.
    About half the people in line voiced in agreement. The others?  I heard one mumbling male voice near me remark, “Maybe not after January.” Well, he didn’t have to say anymore.
     Then utter silence. You could hear the roaring planes outside on the runway taking off away from such a thoughtless comment.
     I wanted to shout out, “How rude.” Why I didn’t express myself, I don’t know.
     Well, I do know. It wouldn’t have helped matters for the moment. Often it is wiser to save your efforts and choose your battle.
    You and I are just about at the breaking point with this political campaign. Speak your mind, and hold your head up for your beliefs. Keep quiet, and stay out of the debate. You’ve gone about daily life these past months either treading lightly, or carrying a big stick.
      If the desk attendant was frustrated and let out her personal feelings without giving it any though, she was representing an airline, a city and a country after all. It doesn’t speak well for the rest of us.
     I doubt that the remark was meant maliciously, although a bias did come through.
     Naturally, I couldn’t wait to take my seat on the plane and start writing, and that’s how this week’s column was born.
     One of the things that I have prided myself in writing AND ONE MORE THING… is that I have kept away from political issues and only if necessary, leaned into social commentary on a situation I felt strongly.
     First of all, I just happened to be flying on September 11, 2016 and I had been cognizant earlier in the morning while driving south to the airport that I would #never forget.
     In fact, I had reflected on where I was on that fateful day and how I had barely made sense of the terrible tragedy in my own small part of the world. Perhaps, that desk attendant had lost a colleague on one of the hijacked airplanes, or was grieving a passing of some other kind and was emotionally edgy.
     My husband and I were staying in Torrey, Utah fifteen years ago doing a giant loop of the great national parks. If there ever was a place that showcased some of our nation’s best natural wonders and rugged scenery, it was surely in the Southwest.

      I know I hiked more vigorously the following week while waiting until air transportation got back up and running. I sensed my freedoms had been tampered with and things would never be the same – like having to contend with TSA rules.
     Here I was traveling once again, and by chance, it was another September 11th.
     Secondly, San Francisco is a huge international gateway airport and I had been noticing people clutching passports from other countries, speaking a different tongue and in cases, they were looking completely confused over how to find their gate or their luggage at baggage claim.
     It might have been their first entry into the United States, and it is appalling that they heard such an ignorant statement.
      I can only speak for myself when I am in another country, and how much I appreciate a welcome — often a helpful hand comes graciously — when I am so far from the familiarity of my home turf.
     Our words can be used to hurt or to heal. “Careless words stab like a sword, but the words of wise people bring healing.” -Proverbs 12:18.
     Briefly, a damper was put on a sunny day. Through the impulsive remark of a single person, it reminded me the importance of an open heart to all people in the world.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Kay Thomas pens new travel book

Shimmering Japanese Sunlight, a new travel book on a woman's musing over her trip to Japan, is available in paperback and for kindle on Amazon.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Leaving things unfinished

     There are things that are best left unfinished. That is the most appropriate advice I have to offer at the start of a new school year. Follow it and you’ll be one grade a head in your life’s assessment plan.
      Seriously, unfinished business goes against the grain of what you and I have been taught our entire lives. Clean your plate. Stick with the musical instrument. Be loyal to your company. Complete the embroidery project.
     In other words, complete what you’ve started, or you are a procrastinator, ineffectual and undependable person.
     Here’s my point.
      It doesn’t equate that not finishing slows down the progress of creativity and problem solving. It might have the opposite effect and challenge your mental capabilities. 
     Nothing learned is ever put to waste. One idea piles on top of another.
     Impulsivity can get you into trouble and often it is wisest to walk away form things not clearly thought through. You save time, money and a whole lot of grief.
     I can’t imagine that a scientist follows through on every experiment when signs are leading nowhere. Maybe the bunny trail heads off somewhere else, and that road will prove more productive.
     Usually an artist makes many rough sketches before starting the actual piece.  I would dare say that those unfinished sketches are “thinking in progress” and hold great value in the final result.
     I am not implying that all things should go unfinished. That would be insane.
     It occurred to me the other day when I was going through folders on my computer desktop, that I have a mammoth number of incomplete stories, poems and scribbles.
     I doubt a single one of these bits and pieces will get finished ever. I call them “starters.” There are waiting, though, like cough medicine and allergy pills on my shelf, just in case. I never know when I might look back and read an intelligent thought in the middle of a lousy piece of fiction I was trying to pawn off as decent. I’ll surprise myself and lift the thought for another purpose.
      I often write until my mind goes dry and I realize that I have said next to nothing worth its salt for human consumption. By three or four hundred words into the page, I fold up shop. Fortunately, I have that luxury.
     In fact, a writer once told me under no circumstances to toss out even a snippet of my written work. He’s been writing for years, and I can’t imagine what his computer desktop and journals hold. Treasures are hidden away from the world’s eyes, although he wouldn’t admit to it.
     I believe in taking chances, and risk taking is a valuable learning tool as hard as it makes life. Somehow one risk may lead me in another direction and I am merrily on my way to a different thought and outcome.
     You know people who have ten different projects going on at the same time and they bounce back and forth happily between them. Some get completed. Others not. It’s the stimulation they receive I believe from being actively engaged that keeps their minds in full gear.
     They are the most interesting people to have a conversation with around the table for they can talk in so many different directions and usually are great at sharing information. Wines. Travel. Hobbies. Home improvement projects. You name it.
     Our minds don’t all work the same. Thank goodness.
     There are folks who methodically complete every single task on their goal sheet, and that is fine by me. Unfinished business is unheard of in their books. Three cheers.
     I think of all the people who tell me that they are writers, and when I ask them what they are writing, I get ten thousand excuses why they aren’t doing it right then.
     They have made hundreds of “attempts” but nothing completed to show for all their work. Probably they are among some of the most brilliant people I know, too. There minds are going in a whirl at full speed and likewise, it is nearly impossible for them to physically sit down disciplined to write. 
     They might take a lesson from making an honest attempt at writing as much as possible – I don’t say every day – and practice, practice.  At least they’ve made a start. And starts are good signs of motion in a forward direction.
     So nowadays I have no qualm in not cleaning my plate. I work a little harder at gauging my portions to begin with, or take a doggie bag home from a restaurant. There are alternatives to not finishing a meal for a positive and healthy reason.
     I started playing the piano and took lessons until my mother gave up on me. My heart wasn’t into it, and I caused more stress than need be at home.  However, when I picked up the flute a couple years later, I already knew a lot about reading music, and I was beyond the basics.
     In teaching I was not afforded the opportunity to move from one location to another. However, I didn’t end up teaching the same grade level that I started, and that kept me fresh. When I left teaching I took those observational skills and questioning techniques off in a different career path.
     As for the embroidery project, it’s still on the top closet shelf. I doubt it will ever get finished.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The letter 'A' is for...

     In an extreme fit of writer sleep deprivation one morning, I began listing all the words that came to mind that began with the letter A.
     Apple, atlas, apartment, AC, accountant, accompanist, accordion, acupuncture, acorn, appendix, apricot, aspirin, afternoon, auto, August, activist, allowance, advocate, advanced.
     The list was substantial, but I won’t bore you to tears with my failed experiment supposedly meant to stimulate my brain.
      Nothing. A preschooler could have done better making the connections and writing something…anything.
     I put the list away and moved on to other projects. Certain assignments are time-sensitive, and a deadline is a deadline all fooling around aside.
     Still, I kept returning to the first letter in the alphabet, and I must admit that it became a minor obsession. One of those words should trigger a thought, wouldn’t you think?
     I became “curiouser and curiouser” like Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” fame where Lewis Carroll has her speaking with astonishment at her plight.
      Alleluia. There is my word: Alice.

     Since I was the one making up the challenging game, why couldn’t I use proper nouns? You know that annoying, competitive person who changes the rules midstream? That’s never been me up until now.
     Alice and I were fast storybook companions when I was growing up, and unfortunately she isn’t quite as popular today. Alas, Dora, the Explorer and The Little Mermaid have made Alice swim upstream to catch children’s attention.
      It’s a shame the story is off the radar screen as it is a classic tale of a child going into an imaginary world meeting all sorts of mad – extremely “foolish” as the Brits would say - nonsensical characters.
      There were books for children before 1865 when Alice was published, but they were almost all written to make a moral point. Good children behave like this; bad children behave like that. They are punished for it, and it serves them right. In Alice, for the first time, you find a realistic child taking part in a story whose intention was entirely fun.

     I had the great fortune to see the stage production of Alice in Wonderland at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the Lake, and I traipsed down the rabbit hole willingly for an afternoon of whimsical memories, lush costumes and fantastic modern technology tricks from the production crew.
     There were a lot of children at the performance. I overheard one grandma in the ladies room tell her granddaughter a couple rules of theatre etiquette, and the little girl assured her grandma that her mother had told her all that stuff that morning. I got a kick out of what the grandma replied. “ I’m glad she remembered herself.”
      I asked the teenage boy sitting next to me about his love of Alice, and he said that he didn’t know anything about it, or the back-story of how the book got written. He was enthusiastic, though, and went right to his program notes only to discover that Charles Dodgson told stories on afternoon boat rides to Alice Liddell and her two sisters, which Alice insisted he write down.
     I have a couple favorite parts including The Mad Hatter’s Tea party, which has one quip after the other, and the Queen of Hearts is as wicked as wicked can be at the croquet tournament.

     “Take some more tea," the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
     "I've had nothing yet," Alice replied in an offended tone, "so I can't take more."
       "You mean you can't take less," said the Hatter: "it's very easy to take more than nothing."
   "Nobody asked your opinion," said Alice.”
     In fact, out of all the quotes during the play, the one that made me giggle the most was this one: “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cheshire cat. “We’re all mad here.”
     “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
     “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
     “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
     “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
     “The best people are mad.”

      I found a t-shirt stating, “We are all mad here,” in bold lettering in the gift store and I had to have it.
     We Americans think of someone crazy as a synonym for mad and take the darker road with the meaning of the word. I’ll stick with the Brits on that one.
     Well, it got one reaction right away when I went to check out and a young man in his twenties working the counter said, “Oh, my mother says each of us needs one of these in our household. We’re all mad.” He smiled and checked me out. “You’ve bought the perfect shirt.”
      If you think about it, you know families that are a hoot to be around. They make a laughing matter out of family gatherings, birthday shenanigans and just about every social event in-between. There’s never a dull moment, nor a gap in the entertainment like a vaudeville troupe gone mad with glee.
     One family’s style of humor is never the same as the neighbor’s across the lawn. It grows as the combination of family members increases through marriage and birth with their idiosyncrasies and flaws. Every generation raises the bar a tiny bit, but still, grandpa usually wins hands down every time as the master of the art of wit.
    Those families recognize that no one is perfect and life is nonsensical to a degree anyway. What’s the point of taking it all too seriously?
     How about the rest of us?  About face and rethink silliness like Alice and friends.