Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Girl from Minnesota

  This author was born in Minnesota in 1962. If you don’t understand anything else about Minnesota you must know that this State is known as the “Land of 10,000 lakes.” Around those lakes are mountains, plush forests’, and lots of snow in the winter. It can get down to 20 degrees below zero which makes Minnesotans’ rugged environmental loving people. To get through those long cold winters families had to share common interests to pass away many long hours by blazing fires together. Our author’s parents did not own a television but they did own at least 5000 books. Our author and her three younger siblings, Bridget, Noah, and Micha would read such classics as Beowulf, Shakespeare, and Greek plays. Even at a young age our author was interested in romance. Her long time favorite was Romeo and Juliet. To entertain her younger brothers and sister she would put on a puppet show, with lights and great flair. It just turned out that all of her shows were romance stories. She finally convinced her father to allow her to read one romance novel for every two classic books. The romance novels were that of Georgette Heyer and to this day our author says those books changed her life. The girl from Minnesota is Eloisa James. Her fictional backdrop for her novels are set in England's Regency period (1811–1820), and James often has references to Shakespeare or includes pieces of 16th-century poetry or other tidbits she has researched all of her life and put into her romance novels. Her first works were the Pleasure Trilogy. Book # 1 Enchanting Pleasures was published by Dell. Yet, before the Ink had dried on book # 2 and # 3 of her trilogy Random House picked them up and Eloisa never looked back.

     Very Recently Eloisa was interviewed in London by the BBC radio. She however was not introduced as Eloisa James (that is her pen name for her fiction) instead they were interviewing Dr. Mary Bly PhD. a Shakespeare scholar with degrees from Oxford and Yale, and she is a associate professor and head of the Creative Writing program at Fordham University in New York City.  
    Mary’s Father is Robert Bly the 1960’s poet and co-founder of the 1966 American Writers against the Vietnam War. Robert Bly led much of the opposition among writers to that war. When he won the National Book Award for his book The Light Around the Body, Bly contributed his prize money to the Resistance. His books for the “coming of age for men,” have been translated into several languages and remain popular today.  Mary’s Mother is the Late Carol Bly. She was a teacher and an award-winning American author. Mary’s Mother wrote short stories, essays, and nonfiction works on “The Art of writing.” Carol Bly was an activist as well but for Women. She featured Minnesota women who made changes with empathy to moral crisis’s women were facing in her day. Carol Bly’s body of work showed that changes could be made by women in their community or in themselves.
      If this were not enough literary force in Mary Bly’s life, her godfather is the Pulitzer- Prize –winning poet James Wright.
     One of the most fascination features of Dr. Mary Bly’s life she discussed in her recent interview on the BBC radio in London. For several years Bly kept her fiction writing and her identity as Eloisa James a secret from her fellow professors at Fordham University.  It was only after her first best selling New York Times romance novel was published in 2005 that Bly decided to introduce her alter ego to her colleagues during a faculty meeting at Fordham University. They were shocked and pleased at the same time. Bly brought copies of her novel to the faculty meeting for each of her fellow professors.  This was quite a twist to the demanding world of academia and the many books Mary Bly has written that has gained the respect of her fellow professors. One such book is The Geography of Puns: London’s Bawdy Whores, addresses “the geographical and linguistic economies of early modern London.”
   All of those long winter nights in Minnesota by the fire with her family helped shape the amazing genius, creativity and Witt of Dr. Mary Bly and her alter ego Eloisa James.
                                             “A stale mind is the devil's breadbox.”

“Dogs come when they're called; cats take a message and get back to you.”
                                                   Mary Bly
Jan Atchley Bevan,
Presidential Panache, NLAPW Jacksonville branch








Sunday, October 28, 2012

Being Odd

I sent a birthday card to my granddaughter.  The envelope said that extra postage was required in the U.S.  Since it was not an odd shape or large, I couldn't understand why extra postage would be needed.  I put on one first class stamp.  It came back to me saying more postage was needed.  So, I asked the postman why.  He didn't know why, but thought that the fact that the envelope had told me from the beginning that extra postage was needed was explanation enough.  I re-sent it in another envelope that was larger, but not too large.  However, the "why" of it kept bothering me.  What I finally decided was that the envelope required more money because it was neither too large, nor too odd-shaped, but was smaller than standard.

Life, in general, emphasizes that what is standard rules.  Go outside of standard at your own risk.  And yet that is what I have done many times in my own life.  What is not standard became more or less my standard.  At a time when it was odd, I got married in my senior year of college instead of after graduation.  I was moved by the logic of Zero Population Growth and my experience as a social worker with foster children to choose adoption over creating a baby.  In the short-lived experiment in the 1970s of allowing white parents to adopt black foster children, we became a mixed-racial family.  A decade later, Meryl Streep as Mrs. Cramer in the groundbreaking movie, "Cramer vs. Cramer," and I were among the very small minority of  American women who divorced and left their children with their fathers.

I certainly didn't match the average world traveler that wandered the planet for almost two decades.  I was solidly middle-aged and rather poor with a pack on my back when I made my own challenges and learned how to face them within a variety of cultures, especially in Asia.  I wasn't an explorer who discovered places for the first time (although I was the first foreigner that some Chinese villagers had ever seen), but neither was I  following well-trodden paths.  I learned that I could avoid crowds by not following the crowd.  In my own style, I thrived even in cultures where following the standard way was considered the only, the most important, the best way to live.

Now I live in a retirement community.  I buck the tide by not making medical care my major concern.  I don't take the standard medications and standard tests that the majority of seniors take.  And I get my 8 hours of sleep at a very non-standard time.

Yes, there are risks.  And there are losses that accompany not adhering to the standard.  I don't have enough money to be considered eccentric.  And I'm not quite strange enough to be considered crazy.  I am, well, odd.

I feel a certain kinship to people like Izhar Gafni of Israel who has invented a 95% cardboard and 100% recyclable bicycle.  People told him it couldn't be done.  It is cheap.  It is light.  It is practical.  It is odd.  But it works well.
Suellen Zima
Visit http://www.zimatravels.com and Follow the Senior Hummingbird as she wanders, wonders, and writes.


Comments?? E-mail Suellen at ZimaTravels.com

Friday, October 26, 2012

Maybe it's Me

I wonder sometimes if there is a “perfect” writer.  You know the one.  The person who devotes a specific number of hours a day to their craft and yet still manages to have a life outside of writing.  The one who cranks out 2-3 best selling books a year and who has stories to spare.  The one who’s witty, charming; the one everyone wants to listen to and never grows tired of.
All I know is that isn’t me.  I’ll go weeks, sometimes, months without writing.  Then a creative wave will hit me, sweep me off my feet, and I’ll plunge under it, to emerge a month or two later with a the skeleton of a story that lacks only fleshing out to make it complete. I will find myself asking by what right do I call myself an author.
It seems to me that I’m a feast or famine author.  Either I have a story racing through my head that clamors, no NEEDS, to be written so that I can’t rest until the story is out on paper or it drives me insane and interrupts my sleep.
I’ll sit and stare at my computer screen for hours on end, wondering why the story I WANT to write, can’t get beyond the first few pages before it is mired in drudge so deep that i forget where the story night have gone.
As an author, I find it frustrating and yes, I tend to feel somewhat guilty, that I am not even in the same category as what I THINK a true writer is; that perfect writer I carry around an image of in my mind.  I’d love to be her someday.
Twitter: @ltbentley

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Where did all the Hearses go? - A Halloween Story

Funny the things you notice as a newcomer to a country. Halloween and its spooky front lawn decorations were a novelty for me. Some macabre displays in our neighborhood triggered off the investigation on a topic that has been puzzling me for a while.
Having lived in Northeast FL a couple of years, I had never seen a hearse or a vehicle that could pass for one. People still do die, even in a country that worships beauty and youth and often delegates old age and death are to nursing homes and critical care facilities.
In Orlando, I understand, Disney sees to roads being squeaky clean and free of trash. Never saw a hearse there either. So how are bodies transported to and from funeral parlours in Florida?
Where I come from, funeral processions often paralyse the traffic. A hearse in Ireland drives at walking pace. The mourners are lined up behind it walking to the cemetery. Overtaking is frowned upon.
The University of Wikipedia defines a hearse as a funeral vehicle, a conveyance for the coffin and shows the preferred car models in North America, Europe or Japan: Cadillac, Ford, Mercedes Benz costing around $50,000 with a life expectancy of about 30 years due to their light duty and short and sedate drives.
Originally horse-drawn, they became motorized in the 1920’s and for a while, doubled as ambulances. I can see why that went out of fashion.
Japan offers two types of commercial vehicles for this purpose, “Foreign” or “Japanese” style where the vehicle is modified to resemble a small, ornate Buddhist temple which requires modifications to the chassis.
Japan also offers a rather strange looking contraption called a motorcycle hearse.
In the seventies, hearses, due to their morbid nature and luxurious accommodation for the driver, were popular among some driving enthusiasts, mostly hippies.
A website called Grim Rides features a community of hearse friends in CA −where else?−I get side-tracked, as usual, clicking on links like the one to Hearses in Movies, e.g. the scene in Harold and Maude: “This thing handles well... Ever drive a hearse, Harold?"
Next I stumble into a chat room for current and aspiring hearse drivers (Hearsedrivers.com). So they must exist.  
I press on and Google: “Why are there no hearses in US streets anymore?”
Up pops the visitors guide to St.Augustine: “Enjoy a ride in a real hearse and live to tell about it!” Furthermore, an article answering the question: Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the car-pool lane? Check it out yourself, I’m not telling…
And finally the New York Times with an article dated 19 June, 1904 about the Slocum Disaster in “Little Germany”. Its headline says “Mournful Pomp of Death on Eastside” – A fascinating story about rapacious undertakers unfolds where a flower peddler’s wagon became a hearse complete with potted plants, and splendid police arrangements. A dozen links later, I’m none the wiser; all very interesting but hardly an explanation to my question.
Neither my American husband nor friends are of any help. Maybe the funeral homes use white vans with no windows, more like a handyman service or lawn care vehicle, someone suggests.
Have hearses been banned from the streets or are they only going out under cover of dark not to be seen or intimidate mortals? Maybe you’re never driving near their flight paths from home to church to final destination, says another one. None of my friends is prepared for a nocturnal stake-out of a local funeral home to find out. I don’t have the courage to call one and outright ask the undertaker.
Then yesterday, I had a few moments while sitting in the bowels of St.Augustine’s monumental steam-ship replica car wash watching the suds fly, my mind drifted back to vehicular endangered species. Maybe St.Augustine’s Fountain of Youth has found the magical potion to make hearses redundant.
Then exiting from the bow of the ship I see one. A police car with flashing lights drives in front at a sedate pace, followed by a real hearse like I know it and black limousines tagging behind. In contrast to Ireland where overtaking them is frowned upon, here cars in the dual laneway quickly pass the hearse. (But then Ireland has hardly any four- lane roads outside Dublin anyway.)
Waiting for the procession to go by, I get a real good look. Give me Trick-or-Treat any time, but no display of skulls, ghosts or tombstones on my yard! I hear the bell tolling…
Siggy Buckley

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Letter to the Editor


The core of Amendment 8 is this question:  Should taxpayer money (from the Florida State treasury)  be given to religious institutions without restrictions? Answering no to that question means you should vote no on Amendment 8.

A good link to the complete wording of the amendment:

Another good link to ALL the amendments that will be on our Florida ballot in November: http://thefloridavoter.org

My position is that we should vote NO on amendment 8.
Removing the line (that amendment 8 wants to remove from the Florida Constitution) would eliminate the following restrictions:
1. Taxpayer money cannot be used to proselytize a particular religion
2. Taxpayer money must be used for services offered to the entire community — not for services offered exclusively to those of a particular faith

I strongly believe that those restrictions are necessary. There is a lot of available research demonstrating that a pluralistic society is good. Allowing various religious and non-religious views to be discussed in the open without fear of retaliation is good. Any legislation that attempts to reduce that plurality should be feared.  From the reading that I have done, I strongly believe that the wall separating the government from any particular religion is what the framers of the Constitution of our grand country had in mind when drafting the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Churches, mosques, and synagogues should be funded by donations from the parishioners. I see no reason (especially no fiscally sound reason) to fund religions of the politicians with tax dollars from our state treasury.

For those two reasons (restrictions are needed and parishioners should fund their own religion) my position is that we should all vote NO on Amendment 8.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Glimpse of Heaven

Dr. Glen Hepker is an author (A Glimpse of Heaven: The Philosophy of True Health), and has doctorate degrees in psychology and traditional Chinese health arts. He is a part-time individual and marital counselor, a wellness coach, and a master instructor of tai chi chuan, chi kung, kung fu, refined meditation/guided imagery, and associated health/wellness arts (which are intrinsically inclusive of the quite broad and ages-old benevolent, altruistic, and empathetic health/wellness philosophy set forth in his book - along with acupuncture/pressure, nutritional arts, herbal arts, tui na, stretching arts), at Mason City Wellness Center LLC/Mason City Tai Chi~Chi Kung~Kung Fu LLC, Mason City, IA USA

Article #1:

Discussions/Questions (from readers of my book or in general): Dr. Glen, I'd like you to address the concept which was recently in the media: “Hunting for Health, Wellbeing, and Quality of Life.” Health, well-being, quality of life, and lifestyle are central concepts within health science, although generally accepted definitions are still lacking. Lifestyle can either be seen as an independent variable and the cause of unhealthy behavior or as a dependent variable, which is affected by conditions in the society. In the first case, the attention is directed on each individual case: maintaining or improving health requires changes in lifestyle and living habits. In this perspective, diet and physical activity are important features for health promotion. In the second case the attention is rather directed on structural conditions in society, for example the food industry, the lunches for children at school, and the “fast food” industry should be influenced to protect human health. The structural perspective has, so far, received restricted impact when it concerns prevention and promotion of health. Processes of individualization in the society have to an increasing extent viewed health as an affair for the individual. The benefits of physical activity, healthy food and beverage, social support, and joy are documented scientifically. In general, the trend towards increasing responsibility for one's lifestyle and health is positive, but might reinforce the inequality in health. With an even harder climate in society there might be a risk that individual health projects undermine the solidarity and the will to accept costs for medical treatment and care for people who risk their health through an unhealthy and risk-taking lifestyle. However, we argue that peoples’ well-being and quality of life presupposes a society that stands up for all people.

Response: Great commentary J., thanks so much for sharing. Humbly and respectfully, the modern Diathesis Stress Model sets forth tenets which associate to our health, i.e., genetic effects, environmental effects, and what each one of us does or doesn't do with regard to our health and well-being (how we eat, do or don't exercise, and do or don't deal with stress). 

In contrast, though not in disagreement, the ages-old health/wellness philosophy that I teach, coach, and endeavor to follow, sets for its outlook on True Health through True Responsibility (i.e., the Bright Beautiful School of Thought/Ming Chia - as set forth in my new book…A Glimpse of Heaven: The Philosophy of True Health): NOT taking responsibility for one's own health/well-being is the real/true disease in most cases, i.e.: the TRUE disease is in not embracing an adequate/truly healthful aerobic exercise/mobility WAY OF LIFE; the TRUE disease is in not realizing a truly healthful dietary WAY OF LIFE; the TRUE disease in in not enjoying a truly healthful stress/anxiety-controlling WAY OF LIFE (which is inclusive or refined meditation and all-of-the-time diaphragmatic breathing). Most of the time, what we conventionally perceive to be chronic disease, is the RESULT/symptom(s) of the REAL disease...mentioned as set forth above. This is not to say that health problems/lightning bolts cannot still strike…albeit, MUCH less so. – 
Dr. Glen Hepker