On Writing and Finding Homes

I love words, their meanings and the concepts and emotions they can elicit. Yes, I know it’s weird,; but sometimes I enjoy reading the dictionary. I knew a “panzer” was an armored tank, but did you know it’s first definition simply means armored and is used as an adjective? So, you might have a panzered car? Wow! Who knew that? Okay, I see the eye-roll, “Who even wants to know that?” Me!

I realize, writing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For some people it’s pure torture and there is no understanding as to why I would want to write when I don’t have to. I can’t explain it. It’s just who I am. 🙂 I love spending bright spring mornings sitting in front of my computer, looking out at the beautiful Utah mountains–and thinking about what I want to say and how I want to say it.

And speaking of weird writers, I recently read Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. This is a grammar book and an absolute “hoot” to read. I was working at the library when it was first published and made it onto the best seller list. But when I heard it was a book on grammar I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. Really? A fascinating book on grammar. Yes, absolutely!

When you combine grammar with a large dose of witty British humor, you have a winner! I was fuzzy on the use of the semicolon and checked out the book for a quick reminder on the rules, but ended up reading and enjoying the entire book. For the rest of my life, I will see a comma as a busy sheepdog. 🙂

When we writers do produce something worthwhile, we begin to worry about finding a proper home for our poem, essay or short story. Will it resonate with someone besides our mother? Will someone be willing to publish it? Will it find a home?

I was very happy when the League of Utah Writers chose my short story, “Healthy Heart” and my rap poem “Hush,” for inclusion in their 2016 anthology, titled Volatile when Mixed. Imagine, me, writing a rap poem. Yes, it produces a smile. But I did write one and got it printed. Huh!

Then this last spring, the editors of Sand & Sky: Poems from Utah, chose “White Gloves, Deseret” and “Spring in Southern Utah” for their anthology. I am always happy when my poems, short stories and essays find homes. It makes a writer happy.

I am including “White Gloves” in the poetry section of this website. Hope you enjoy it.

 

For Those Who Devote Time and Energy

Some words elicit warm fuzzy feelings. Consider “mother, mentor and nurse.” Other words conjure up very different feelings, i.e. “dictator, lawyer and critique.” Of course, it is possible to have negative feelings about a mother or a nurse and positive feelings about a lawyer or a critique, but it is unusual.

For writers of prose or poetry, one of the most valuable people to have on your team comes from combining two disparate words — mentor and critique. I believe a mentor/critique is more valuable than a person having either attribute alone. Writing is a lonely vocation. Most of our time is spent in a room with only a desk and a computer as companions.

We try hard each day to put our thoughts on paper and once we are finished for the day or the session, we question everything we have done. Is it good? Is it terrible? What should I have done or said differently? And, in the solitude of our room, the answer isn’t quickly forthcoming.

Of course, most of us can call our mother, read it to her, and wait for her to tell us how wonderful it is, but that’s only reliable if “mother” happens to be an editor. How often does that happen? And we don’t have to search far for someone who is more than willing to tell us how horrible our writing is. But we’re usually quick to add, what do they know?

So, writers need a mentor/critique or a critique/mentor whichever works best for them. This person should have experience and some expertise in the type of things the author writes. If the author writes poetry, a critique of fantasy romances might not be much help. But a good mentor /critique, experienced in the correct genre, will read the work objectively, tell the author where she can improve and compliment her on what she did right. Since a great deal of writing is actually spent editing, and then reediting, a great critique/mentor is vital.

So, to all the people who have critiqued my poetry, short stories, essays and my novel—thank you for taking time and energy out of your busy lives to invest in me and make me a better writer.

Lorraine

P.S. I have added the poem “Osprey” to the list of published poems on this site. Hope you enjoy it. 😊

 

Why the Care Center?

Years ago, when I first started writing, a teacher told me, “Write what you know.” To me, that advice seemed obvious. Why would you write about something you didn’t know?

Well, after writing for fifty some years, I can answer that question. I am curious about many things and it is interesting to research and find the answers. And, sometimes it is interesting to write about what you have recently learned.

However, when I wrote “Death is Always a Resident” and set the story in a care center, I did write what I knew–at least in a limited sense. My grandmother owned a “nursing home” and worked long hours taking care of the patients and making sure it was clean, well-maintained, the food was nutritious etc.

Later, my uncles got involved in the administration and the day-to-day tasks that were involved in the nursing home and I heard many stories as a child. When I was a teenager, I worked in the nursing home kitchen and then in the laundry to earn money for college. I knew some of the “residents” and talked to the care givers and nurses.

However, years later, when I decided to set my story in a “care center” in Ohio, I made appointments with administrators from several centers. I asked questions and observed how the industry had changed. I asked about current medical procedures and medication. I wanted to make sure what I wrote was accurate for the time period of the novel.

I have had several people ask why I chose a care center as a setting–and that’s why. I did write what I knew. 🙂

Children or Tomatoes?

My husband and I just spent a week taking care of four of our grandchildren while their parents went on a much needed couples vacation. Remember, we raised ten children. How hard could four cute little kids be?

Yeah, you got it. It took both of us, with no time devoted to earning a living, to keep up with them and we are were very happy to welcome their parents back home. It was a reality check of our diminishing energy level. 🙂

Two month ago we returned from an eighteen month mission for our church.  We were busy on the mission (supporting the younger missionaries) but it didn’t tax our energy level as much as tending grandchildren did. 🙂

While on the mission, we lived in an apartment in the Atlanta, Georgia area and had most of our evenings and weekends to ourselves. We would have enjoyed seeing our grandchildren during that time too, but they lived too far away.

On the mission, the weekends and evenings worked fine for me because I could work on my writing and catch up on some reading. But my husband had a harder time. He loved to garden and was good at household repairs. When we had a problem with the apartment, he was supposed to call the management and there was no place to grow anything. Gardening was how he relaxed and I could see he really missed it. The minute he got home, he was outside repairing planter boxes and pruning fruit trees.

About a year ago, I wrote a short article titled Children or Tomatoes that talks about gardening and raising children. So I’m tying these two topics together. 🙂 The article was published in Utah’s Senior Review last fall. To read it, go to published essays on this website.

 

 

It Matters!

As you have probably surmised if you have been reading this webpage, I am currently living in Georgia. I grew up in Western Oregon but spent most of my life living in Utah, interspersed with a year in New Mexico, a few years in Texas and a few years in Ohio.

I have enjoyed each community, sometimes for different reasons, but whenever we bought a house or rented one, I stood at the windows and looked out. What I can see from the windows of my house has always mattered to me. Yes, I love road trips and driving around looking at the sites, but I want to see something pretty or interesting from the windows of my home.  For some reason that matters to me, and always has.

When we lived in Texas, the kitchen and dining room overlooked a pool and a pretty backyard. In Ohio we had a tree out front that towered over the whole house and provided shade in the summer. And although our hundred-year-old home was next to a road, it was below us and the traffic was slow. In Utah our home (which we still own) faces those beautiful snow capped mountains.

Although we have enjoyed each place we have called home–Georgia is, without doubt, the most beautiful place we have lived. It even surpasses the lush Willamette Valley in Oregon where I grew up. This place is just plain gorgeous in the spring with the flowering pears, dogwood, flowering cherries, wild wisteria, huge azaleas and all those other plants that flower.

However, when we moved here we rented an apartment that faced another apartment building. Yes, we could step outside and look see huge trees above the apartment buildings and near the parking lot but the view from our window wasn’t great.

My husband and I are in Georgia serving an eighteen-month-mission for our church so the view from the apartment wasn’t high on the list of priorities. It isn’t important, I reasoned. It really isn’t. And that seemed to be the case because by the time I got back to the apartment from the mission office, I was busy getting things ready for the next day.

Then a month ago we moved across the parking lot into the building we had been facing. But we moved to the back of the building on the lowest level and outside our windows are huge pine trees, tangles of unkempt bushes, rocks, dead leaves, pine cones birds, squirrels and oh, I am smiling. Maybe is shouldn’t make a difference but it does. I bought a bird feeder and I am watching the tufted titmouse, the elegant cardinal and scores of American finches in their yellow bibs eating at our bird feeder against a backdrop of lovely trees. Yes, to me, what’s outside the window matters.

I’m adding a poem to my list of poems on this site. It is about the beauties I discovered in a trip to Tennessee. Enjoy the poem and look out your window. 🙂

 

 

When Georgia Howled

“The older I get the more I enjoy history.” I’ve heard that statement from several of my friends and I think it has to do with the realization that many of us have lived through some of the history our grandchildren are studying. But besides that, as you have more life experiences you recognize the common thread of humanity that runs through all of our history. Another thing that makes history more interesting is our ability to visit historical sites and to actually be in the places where great events took place.

I remember sitting in a stuffy classroom in Oregon and wishing I was outside, while the teacher droned on about the Civil War, General Sherman’s campaign to defeat the South and his march to the sea. But that was in another galaxy—far away and long ago.

I recently watched a documentary titled “When Georgia Howled,” and everything about Sherman’s campaign came alive in vivid color. I was mesmerized! Kennesaw Mountain–I’ve been there and I’ve been to Rome, Dallas, Marietta and Jonesboro Georgia. I knew the area where the battles took place. I’ve seen the Chattahoochee and Etowah rivers and recognized the names of the roads in Atlanta. I knew where the railroad came through Dalton, etc. Visiting the places and knowing the terrain made all the difference in my interest. Suddenly it was real. I could imagine the people in the campaigns—on both sides and history came alive.

General Sherman promised that he would capture Atlanta, which was a manufacturing center and the Confederacy’s main supply line. He promised to “Make Georgia howl.” And he certainly did that. And because his own supply line from the Kentucky/Tennessee area had been cut by the Confederacy, rather than retreat, he decided to “march to the sea” living off the land.

And which direction did Sherman go to march to the sea? Well, from the north to the south of course. He marched all the way to the Gulf of Mexico—or so I thought. I don’t know where I got that idea but it has been firmly planted in my mind for 50+ years. I don’t remember any teacher telling me or reading it in any textbook. It just made sense to me, so I guess I assumed that because Sherman came from the north he would be marching south.

Nope! I was wrong. And we all know how seldom that happens. 🙂  Sherman turned east from Atlanta and marched across Georgia to the Atlantic Ocean. He marched into Savannah. Huh! There goes a fifty-year-old wrong assumption.

And after burning much of Atlanta, his army cut a huge swath across Georgia, burning and pillaging. If the army found more livestock than they needed to eat, they killed them and left them to rot. There has always been that part of history where you wonder about man’s inhumanity to man. You hear stories about small mercies even in times of war but they are few and far between and you wonder about that.

But this documentary, which relied heavily on commentaries from Civil War historians, stated that Sherman did not believe there could ever be a good war. He was one of those who said, “War is hell,” and because of that belief, his philosophy was to hit hard, give no leniency and finish the war as quickly as possible. And then the historians commented that Sherman’s philosophy has been adopted by many American military leaders in the years following the Civil War. I thought immediately of the bombing of Japan in World War II. That seems to have been the philosophy there.

I don’t know if I am a proponent of that thinking, but it does make sense and it helps me understand some of the military decisions that have been made throughout history. If war really is hell, let’s get it over as quickly as possible. A hard theory for a Christian to contemplate, but I am thinking about it anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

Only Newbys Notice the Names

Coming from the culture of the Western United States, one of the first things I noticed when I moved to Atlanta, Georgia was the close ties to everything English. I expected “Southern” of course, but I didn’t expect ties to the hedgerows across the pond. But then I realized that Georgia is not only a southern state, it is also an “Eastern” state. It borders the Atlantic Ocean and you can’t get much farther east than that.

The mission provides housing for the young missionaries in and around Atlanta so I hear the names of many apartment buildings when my husband pays the monthly rents. Here are some of the names I hear. Gables, Fairfield, Prestwich, St. Andrews, Lexington, Windsor, Regency, Princeton, Pegasus, Canterbury, Griffin, Cambridge, Preston, Brighton, and Balmoral. Sound like we’re in the English countryside? And the street names in the subdivisions and apartment complexes often reflect the same themes.

So, yes there is the English influence in the Atlanta area. But there are also apartment complexes and streets which reflect the botany of the area such as Dogwood Trail, Sweetgum, Peachtree, Live Oak. Then there are many streets named after individuals such as Joel Cowan Parkway, Mary Strickland Drive and Floyd Farr Way. Did they contribute to the right commissioner?  There are also a few streets which show the influence of local Native American tribes (Senoia – the name of a chief’s mother.)

My personal favorites however, reflect the redneck feel of the south with street names like Five Bucks Drive, Hip Pocket Road, Buckhead Lane and Shake Rag Road. They make me smile. And last Sunday when we were driving on country roads i saw my all-time personal favorite. “Hog Liver Road.” Who wants to live on Hog Liver Road? Me, me, me!

 

 

 

 

 

Who knows?

I have just started reading a book titled The Making of Home by Judith Flanders. The preface states that it traces the evolution of the house from the sixteenth century to the homes of today. In the introduction it discusses the Dutch homes we are all familiar with in the paintings of the 1600s.

However, Flanders states that the homes in Holland at that time didn’t look like the paintings. The Dutch artists wanted to show off their ability to paint beautiful pictures with balance, lighting etc. To do that, everything had to look clean, uncluttered and expensive so the artists painted floors of black and white tile that were found only in the foyers of the public buildings, they painted oriental carpets on floors that usually had no carpets at all, and uncluttered rooms where the viewer could focus on the main subjects in the scene. In actuality, five people living in one room with no sanitation, which was lighted and warmed only by firelight must have created a very different picture.

I can imagine the artist saying, “Well, I wasn’t painting this picture for a historian anyway. i just liked the picture.” Point taken. And with photo shopping and camera angles, are we sure our pictures portray our times any more accurately than theirs?  Probably not.

Do the pictures we publish in books or magazines show homes that look like the ones we live in or idealized homes with beautiful, expensive decor and nothing out of place? And we only seem to want to see the homes of the rich and the famous. Will people four hundred years from now know what our homes really looked like? Who Knows?

I’m Still Recommending This One

I recently read a book from the best seller list titled All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, who lives in Boise Idaho. I thought it was a great book and I enjoyed every page of it. It is one of those books I can’t imagine anyone not liking. The writing is lyrical and inspiring and the story line is original, realistic and touching. So of course, I recommended it to everyone I knew when the subject of books surfaced in our conversation. I assured them that they would “love it.” But, of course, not everyone did. None of my friends or family hated it, but for various reasons it was not everyone’s favorite.

As a librarian, I know this is not surprising. Still, there are those things that I continue to shake my head over. Who is not touched by the soaring voice of Sarah Brightman? And yet she’s not everyone’s cup of tea. And doesn’t everyone love Beethoven’s music? Nope. Some people actually like Stravinsky better. How can that be?

And then I think of all the things my friends and family are passionate about. How could I not love kittens? Well, I remember the old adage, “The trouble with a kitten is that, eventually it becomes a cat.” Enough said. I will quit before I get hate letters. I actually had a cat for several years, but now I just enjoy having neighbors with cats. It’s nice that they are responsible to love them, feed them and pay the vet bill. 🙂

And how could I not be excited about the new stack heels with the gold glitter? Really? Why would I want to put my feet in those and try to walk? And wouldn’t it be fun to go on a vacation and lie in the sun all day. No, I don’t think so. My English pale, freckled, speckled skin does not like the sun. I’ll pass. And I’ll pass on spending three hours a week watching basketball. On the other hand, football may rate an hour or so.

So, I guess I am as strange in my own way, as some other people seem to me. There are as many different tastes as there are people but I’m still recommending All the Light We Cannot See. And if you don’t like it–don’t tell me. 🙂

I am adding one of my more recent poems to the Published Poems on the left of this page. I am writing about and actual picture I have hanging in my kitchen in Orem, Utah. And as I’ve said before, wordpress formats them all to the left instead of the way they were written. Sigh!