"I never see it fail, I never see it fail,
...is doomed to weep and wail.
...there's nothing so bad for a woman,
...as a man who thinks he's good."* -Oscar Hammerstein
*There's also nothing so bad for a boy.
My daughter Claire, below,
...returned this past Sunday from a week in North Carolina on a medical mission with the International Medical Corps,
Her team traveled in mobile medical units around the flood-ravaged areas of Moorehead City, Pender County and Wilmington,
...meeting up with other medical groups,
...and setting up clinics, one time outside a filled-beyond-capacity hospital emergency room, another time outside a medical center, and another time inside a high school auditorium-turned-shelter next door to shelter set up for the hurricane victims' pets.
Claire's team usually spent the night in Raleigh, setting out at 5 or 6 am and working 14- to16-hour days, often with half of those hours spent trying to make their way around flood waters that washed out the roads to and from their daily destinations.
The water levels seemed to rise and fall randomly; a road that was reported as passable might be washed out by the time the team encountered it, or a road that had been impassable earlier in the day might be dry later in the day. The team spent much time on the road searching out alternate routes.
Though Claire has worked at disaster scenes, in health emergency situations and among the most vulnerable populations around the world, she always comments on how, no matter how impoverished people might be, still people always try to help each other. In the wake of Hurricane Florence the people of coastal North Carolina were no exception.
Claire spoke of how people who looked as though they had little to spare themselves would show up at the high school shelter in Wilmington in beat-up-looking cars and trucks bringing parcels of water, blankets, clothing, and other necessities for the people staying in the shelter, some of whom had lost everything.
And then there was the Waffle House Jump Team.
The Waffle House restaurant franchise has a policy – well, it’s more of a mission – of never closing, of staying open all the time, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, even under the direst weather conditions, so that people will always have a place to eat.
So dependable is Waffle House in this mission that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in determining the severity of a natural disaster, refers among other data measurements to one known as the Waffle House Index: when there is a natural disaster FEMA runs a continuing check on which Waffle Houses in the stricken area are still open to determine the severity of the storm. If a Waffle House is closed then this indicates a dire situation indeed.
And so dedicated is Waffle House in its mission that when disaster does strike in an area in which one or more of its restaurants are located the company sends in its Waffle House Jump Team.
The Waffle House Jump Team is made up of restaurant employees who have enlisted to be deployed on short notice to areas where they are needed to help keep a Waffle House open.
Claire had the opportunity – she would call it the honor – of seeing a Waffle House Jump Team in action last Saturday, her last day in North Carolina, when her medical team moved to Wilmington. Her team, in searching out a place to eat,
As this was the only restaurant open in the area, the place was jammed-to-over-capacity with people. But among the busy cooks and servers were members of the Waffle House Jump Team making sure that food was quickly prepared and served up to the hungry patrons.
Claire talked to one of the Jump Team Members, a cheerful Waffle House waitress from South Carolina, though other members of this group had traveled from as far away as Colorado. Claire was impressed and heartened by how friendly and happy to be there all the Jump Team members were, and how kind and helpful the were to the hurricane-weary customers.
The Lord's work comes in many varieties.
The "Crazy Rich Asians" franchise, in which author Kevin Kwan chronicles the hilarious fictional saga of the travails of the Singaporeans who shoulder the burden of belonging to the Richest-People-On-The-Planet Club,
There's no arguing that the "Crazy Rich Asian" books are the best of reads, and if you haven't already read them, do.
But there's another fiction series also set in South East Asia that you absolutely should read: R. Bruce Logan's superb "Finding Lien" (See post from 5/11/2018) and his equally superb just-released sequel "As the Lotus Blooms."
One could say that both authors' books deal with the problems of a particular economic class; however R. Bruce Logan's novels are about wealth, poverty, and depravity intersecting in the most horrendous way in the child-sex trade that is rampant in South East Asia, where among the other commodities that wealth can buy is the body of a child.
Still, despite the harrowing subject matter, both of Logan's books are engaging, fast-paced thrillers full of twists, turns, heart-gripping and heart-stopping moments of daring rescues of young girls who have been enticed or entrapped then sold to brothels, pimps or as child brides.
In the first novel, "Finding Lien," a sudden shocking revelation compels a retired U.S. Army officer to return to Vietnam to deal with the consequences of a brief, long-forgotten liaison with a young Vietnamese woman back when he was a young soldier during the war over forty years earlier. This compelling, quick-moving story takes the reader down into the dark world of the Southeast Asian child sex-trafficking trade and is populated with realistic characters in realistic settings. It is an authentic story that juxtaposes human evil, depravity and corruption with human goodness, courage and love.
Though "Finding Lien," can stand by itself, “As the Lotus Blooms” picks up where the first book left off.
In “As the Lotus Blooms” - and don't be fooled by the tranquil title, this book is dynamite - a sex trafficking ring led by an elusive leader known only as The Pied Piper has been luring and kidnapping girls from Vietnam to sell to the brothels and pimps of Singapore or to men seeking young brides in rural China. An organization of courageous anti-trafficking workers whose mission it is to rescue these young victims must take on the dangers, hairpin logistics and super-sleuthing of organizing rescues where minutes make the critical difference between saving the lives of these children or losing them forever. This book, like the first, is an edge-of-your-seat page-turner that also pulls your heart along for the ride.
Bruce is donating all profits from his books to Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, (https//www.bluedragon.org), a Vietnamese organization working to end child trafficking and slavery, and represented in "As the Lotus Blooms" as as a group called Green Gecko, a thinly veiled pseudonym for Blue Dragon.
Though worlds apart in subject matter from the "Crazy Rich Asians" books, I promise that once you pick up "Finding Lien” and "As the Lotus Blooms" you won’t be able to put them down, and once you’ve finished reading them you won’t be able to stop thinking about them.
And good news: There's a third novel in the "Finding Lien" series in the works.
I've been shepherding piano students through recitals for over 20 years, for most of those years three recitals a year, only in the past few years cutting back to two a year, only because for the advanced students it was getting too difficult to conquer three big, polished, memorized pieces a year.
Over the years I've had recitals in my home, students' homes, a school auditorium,
...but can roam through room after room of the piano store to which the recital hall is attached,
I've done piano recitals with as many as 26 students,
For all the years I've been doing piano recitals, I should be able to pull one off in my sleep.
Or rather, I shouldn't be trying to mentally pull one off wide awake when I should be sleeping, which was the situation in the wee hours of the morning before yesterday's recital, when instead of being asleep I was up at 4:30 am thinking about - what else? My students' upcoming piano recital.
Now, I generally have a case of nerves on the day of a piano recital, but it's usually only a small - to - medium case. Yesterday it was a biiiig case.
And after I'd moved in the middle of the night from my bed to the arm chair in my family room - the better to ruminate in - I spent equal amounts of time stressing and trying to figure out why I was stressing. After all, my student group having become progressively smaller over the past several years, I was down to five students - the same number I'd started out with - and so a recital of only five students, all of whom were prepared and had more or less breezed though their pieces at their last lessons, should not have been keeping me up.
But it wasn't my students that I was worrying over. And when I dug a little deeper into my psyche I realized that I was worrying about me. Worrying that I'd mess up my piece,
I also realized that I was worrying about this eventuality more than usual because usually I just figure that if I mess up my piece, well, at least the rest of my students will sound good enough that I'll be able to hold my head high; but this time I'd only have five student performances to justify any potential mess-ups of my own piece. Would five good performances be sufficient to distract the audience from my terrible one, should my own performance play out as terribly on the stage as it was playing out in my mind?
That's how your mind works at 4:30 am.
Also, since I was down to five students, I'd invited a couple of guest performers to the recital, an Irish fiddler and her guitar duet partner, and the daughter of one of my friends who is an accomplished pianist. None of the guest performers had heard me play before. What if I blew my piece out of the water in front of them?
Of course, none of the guest performers would have cared. They were friends. And, being themselves musicians, they all knew from hitting a wrong note. But again, that's not what your mind tells you at 4:30 am.
Finally, after I'd spent fourteen hours worrying it to death, how did the recital go?
My students played well.
At the end, everyone felt good, all of us riding the wave of post-recital relief and gemütlichkeit.
After the recital Tom, myself, my fiddler friend and another friend who'd shown up at the recital for support headed over to our new traditional post-recital go-to,
...where it was well with my soul.
Not the least benefit of having my first novel published by Black Rose Writing,
...anyway, what I started to say above is that not least among the benefits of being a BRW author,
...by which BRW authors communicate with each other, learn about each others' books, share questions, advice, upcoming book events, marketing opportunities, our successes, our not-so-successful outcomes, congratulate each other, console each other, encourage each other and sometimes just talk about whatever we feel like talking about - or venting about - germane to the writing life.
Now and then someone will bring up a topic that sets off a substantial back-and-forth discussion, as happened yesterday.
...posted the following on the authors' Facebook page:
At the risk of sounding like an old schoolmarm I just want to point out something that is obvious to anyone who holds dear the English language or communication in general. I think grammarians have lost the great battle of lay and lie. And if you're a stickler for correct grammar as I am, the loss will make you cringe.
I hear not only everyday folks but professional writers, too, say "lay" when they mean "lie." When a word is used incorrectly for so long and by so many it eventually becomes accepted, no matter how wrong the usage might be. But it's a grammatical tragedy. We've become so indifferent to our language in this country that most people will just go along with whatever the popular opinion is without any analysis, deep or otherwise.
You lie down when you're tired but lay down bricks, which may explain why you're so tired. I heard a joke some time back that might help clear up the lie/lay situation. Ma an Pa are sitting on their rocking chairs on the front porch. Ma says to Pa, "It breaks my heart to think about our two daughters laying out there in the cemetery." To which Pa says, "Yeah, Ma, sometimes it makes me wish they was dead."
One lays bricks but lies in bed. Of course, one can also lay in bed but that has a totally different meaning. See the joke above.
Gil's point, then, was that "lay" must take an object but that "lie" is intransitive, but that the grammatical distinction is dying because nobody bothers to learn the correct word from the incorrect word, so that finally there's no wrong or right word, just whatever word one feels like using.
I guess the bigger question, though, is whether it really matters or not.
Another fessed up that he was sure he screwed up the two words constantly.
I chimed in that though I had, in fact, thoroughly researched the "lie-lay" thing for my novel as I used the words a lot,
...still I was kind of relieved to know that if in my sequel I inadvertently made somebody lay when they should just lie - I mean grammatically - I would at least be in good company.
There was among our group some who lamented the linguistic changes they foresaw coming, such as one writer who posted, "I think in another few generations, we won't (wont) have apostrophes at all, and old grouches like me will no longer be here to foam at the mouth at the sight of 'her's' or 'who's dog that is,' etc."
I suggested that we shouldn't feel too badly about incorrect grammar morphing into correct grammar, as language is a fluid thing and so is grammar, spelling and all the other linguistic accoutrements, always changing over time with use, misuse and new use.
To which Gil replied, "Well, I suppose there's not much I can do about any of this other than to hold on to the standards I already have for as long as I can. But as I noted, I think the battle is already lost."
Mayhaps. As for me, though I try to learn and keep the accepted rules of grammar as best I can, I will admit that when I'm trying to tell a story I do get a weence annoyed over having to sweat the punctuation or worry whether somebody is lying down or laying down - I mean the image conveyed is the same, right?
...I'm not one to care about a bit of rogue grammar.
But not all readers are so grammatically forbearing.
For example, a few days ago I received an Amazon review in which the reviewer raked me over the coals because in my novel whenever one character interrupted another character in conversation,
...I consistently neglected to end the interrupted phrases with a dash before the end quotes but just ended the phrases with nothing but end quotes, as
in this fight scene between two ex-spouses:
“What? Are you saying”
“I’m not saying any”
“I know what you’re say”
“I’m only trying to say”
“Because if you’re trying to say”
“Aw, Sally, don’t start, please don’t start”
“I’m not starting anything, I’m just trying to figure out what you”
"All right! All right!"
My critic perceived this punctuational omission as unprofessional, unforgivable, and indicative of a lack of basic writing skill.
Which stung, to the point that I was considering asking my publisher to correct every interrupted phrase in the book in the next printing.
But then yesterday, towards the end of the "lie-lay" discussion, one author referred to a remark Stephen King once made regarding grammar: King said that he was writing it and he would write it the way he wanted to.
Subsequently I've decided that I will leave my interrupted phrases as they are, dashless, as they will also be in my sequel (in which the characters continue to interrupt each other).
And since what's good enough for Stephen King is good enough for me, I say to that dash-obsessive critic: It's my novel and I'll punctuate if - and how - I want to.
EITHER: Serena Williams was a bad sport whose behavior on the tennis court was out of line and deserving of the penalties imposed on her by umpire Carlos Ramos, who observed the rules strictly but by the book;
OR: Serena Williams was the fed-up victim of sexism on the tennis court who rightly spoke up for herself when she was penalized for violations that would have been overlooked if committed by a male player;
OR: Serena Williams was treated inequitably on the court but she still shouldn't have disputed the umpire's rulings in the way that she did or disrupted the game with her outbursts, keeping the attention on herself,
The above are the three sides of the argument that has continued to percolate since last week when Serena Williams lost her cool and the U.S. Open Grand Slam Tennis Championship in a match that, for better or worse, is going down not as young Naomi Osaka's moment of sweet triumph over one of the greatest women's tennis stars in history, but as Serena William's moment of either behaving terribly or throwing down the gauntlet before discrimination against women in sports. Or both.
But in truth I don't believe that Serena's behavior during the Grand Slam had anything to do with speaking out against sexism in sports. Nor do I think it was just a manifestation of bad sportsmanship over being docked first a point then a game. I think that sexism in sports and bad sportsmanship in sports are bigger themes that Williams' behavior morphed into, talking points that could be grasped and discussed by the media and the rest of us.
In truth I don't believe that what transpired during the Grand Slam was the result of unfair treatment or a lack of sportsmanship. I believe that Serena Williams behaved the way she did, not because she believed she'd been cheated; but because she believed she'd been herself called a cheat.
And this accusation she could not take. It totally unnerved and distracted her. It was driving her crazy and may well be what caused her to lose the Grand Slam championship.
The chain of events began when Umpire Ramos issued a violation against Williams after her coach,
...gave her a "thumbs up" from the sidelines that she may or may not have seen but that Ramos interpreted as coaching, which is not allowed during tennis matches and can be - but apparently seldom is - held against the player, as Ramos, in this case, opted to against Serena Williams.
But it was obvious that inside Serena Williams was burning and churning. She returned to Ramos again and, her voice still emotional and supplicating, insisted that she didn't cheat, she wasn't a cheat, she wanted him to know that, and when he acknowledged that he knew this, she thanked him.
Still Serena's inner turmoil over this accusation against her was neither calmed nor assuaged, and after a backhand error she threw her tennis racket to the ground in anger and was given a violation for racket abuse then docked a point, this being her second violation.
She again approached the umpire's chair, this time with fire in her eyes. She wasn't there to dispute the second violation or even the loss of the point, but to insist that she hadn't received coaching, that she hadn't cheated, that she never cheated. She insisted then insisted again that Ramos make and announcement that she hadn't been coached, that she hadn't cheated. She insisted, then insisted again, that he apologize to her, publicly. She began shouting,almost sobbing, that she had a daughter and would stand for what was right for her daughter's sake.
And I believe that was the really at the heart of what was driving Serena Williams to distraction: not that she'd been the unfairly penalized or even that she might lose the game, but that she'd been accused of cheating and how could she be a good mother to her daughter with such a blight on her character?
Though everyone else may not really have cared about the coaching violation or held it against Serena William's character, Serena Williams did. In her mind this violation was amplified as a big black mark against her good name, which she could not abide if she were to be a good mother to her baby daughter. And this worry must have been eating at her throughout the remainder of the match, as seven times she approached the chair to protest or cried out against being accused of cheating, one time calling Ramos a thief of the point she lost, for which the umpire docked her the whole game.
But the Grand Slam was lost for Serena Williams the moment she was accused of receiving coaching, which she interpreted as an accusation of cheating. It was that accusation, and not discriminatory treatment or bad sportmanship, that caused Serena to lose control of her emotions on the tennis court. She just never recovered from that accusation, crying out even as she exited the court after her loss of the championship that she was owed an apology. Not for sexism, but for what she saw as the diminishment of her reputation.
After the game Serena's Coach Patrick Mouratoglou nonchalantly admitted in an interview that he had been attempting to coach her, though she didn't see him, and that one hundred percent of coaches coach at one hundred percent of matches though no one ever gets called for it, nor had he ever been. He found it strange that something everyone does all the time was suddenly called by this umpire.
Ultimately, though, maybe what happened on the court of the Grand Slam actually was at its root a problem of sexism.
After all, in the end it came down to a woman having to suffer the consequences of actions and decisions made by men.
The thing is, I do love the Nike Colin Kapernick campaign. Probably because for me "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice" is one of the few credenda from my deeply religious upbringing that actually stuck - so shoot me - and Nike, through Colin Kapernick, has taken up the cause of those who are hungering and thirsting for justice, even if this move has caused a 31% jump in sales for Nike, a 1% rise in stock price, and an upgraded Canaccord Genuity price from $78 to $95 (whatever that means, but it sounds like a sweet payoff for Nike).
But I don't really care that Nike is profiting nicely form their good deed, and that's not what I'm conflicted about.
I'm conflicted because Nike's products have been made in overseas factories teeming with human rights violations: sweatshop conditions, the use of child labor, paying workers less than a living wage, forcing workers to live in cramped, squalid factory housing.
...who has for years made it a point to boycott Nike products. Thus I've also made it a point to boycott Nike products. All right, I probably wouldn't have bought any Nike products, anyway. I'm an Asics gal. But I've always thought of Nike as a bastion of inhumane corporate greed, more so than most bastions of inhumane corporate greed.
On the other hand, it appears that Nike has, in recent years, been taking steps to improve conditions in its factories and making an effort to get itself off the top of the list of industrial human rights offenders. But the company seems to be always taking two steps forward and one step back and, according to organizations such as the Ethical Fashion Report that grade companies on their treatment of workers, Nike isn't doing enough to address the exploitation of the workers in its factories around the world.
And so, though I wanted to cheer Nike's support for social justice in our country through the Colin Kapernick campaign, I couldn't help feeling a weence cynical, that this campaign might be just a public relations ploy, snow covering the dunghill, so to speak.
I called Claire to find out which direction her moral compass pointed.
Turned out she wasn't conflicted in the least, her perspective reflecting her usual common-sense optimism.
"I think the Colin Kapernick Nike thing is great," she said, "and maybe this is a start for Nike to make up for past wrongs. Maybe this will be a jumping off point for Nike to improve conditions for their workers and even do other good things. Let's wait and see."
Sounds like a good way of looking at it.
So: Nike, your sins are forgiven. Maybe. So long as you go and sin no more.
This is a re-print of my post from 9/11/2016.
On September 11, 2001 shortly before 9 am I was sitting on the edge of my bed in my bathrobe looking at the half-packed suitcase on the floor in front of me.
My husband Tom would be home from work within the hour to drive me to the airport for my flight to San Francisco where I was to meet up with my sister, my mother and my aunt for a "girls' week" in San Francisco.
I really needed to get up, get dressed, and get packing, but my heart wasn't in it. I'd been looking forward to this vacation when it was weeks away - though my mother was 81 at the time she was still the life of the party and my 76-year-old Aunt Mary could also still hold her own and regale us with her Aunt Maryisms (see posts from 5/30/2014, 6/2/2014, and 6/3/2014) - but when the trip was days away I started feeling differently: a week suddenly seemed too long to be away from my family.
For all my traveling nowadays, I never did any traveling back then. In fact in September of 2001, after 22 years of parenting, I'd never been away from home for longer than two or three get-away weekends (in town) with Tom during which we spent most of our time shopping for gifts to bring back for the kids, and a long weekend in Boston the previous summer with daughter Theresa to visit daughter Maria, who'd had a summer internship at the Harvard Arboretum.
So it wasn't that I was desperately needed at home - two of my children were away at college, one was in high school and one in 8th grade. It was that I was homesick before I even had my bag packed. The longer I sat on the bed in my bathrobe the less I felt like flying to San Francisco and the more I was wishing I didn't have to.
I was still sitting on the bed when the phone on my bedside table rang. It was Tom, he was frantic.
I didn't finish packing my bag, after all.
Rest In Peace.
But I'm pretty sure I know why they wrote it.
Along with most of the rest of the country (I hope most of the rest of the country) I read the op-ed piece,
I've also been following the analyses, commentaries and opinions in an effort to come up with one of my own.
And now I have.
Still, it did take me a couple of days to figure out what I thought about the op-ed piece and its anonymous author, other than the fact that this whole episode scares me.
I find it exceedingly creepy that there's this secret society creeping around the President - the President of the United States, for goodness sake! - all right, two years later I still can't believe this is our President, I just can't, and yet he is, and now here are all these members of his staff - people that he hand-picked himself - who know that he's incompetent, impetuous, ill-informed, adversarial, petty, ineffective, amoral, reckless, anti-democratic ― these are just some of the adjectives this senior administration official uses to describe Donald Trump ― but are too afraid to say anything, so they've formed this secret resistance that goes sneaking around snatching official papers from Donald Trump's desk to keep him out of the loop and from carrying out some disastrous whim.
But creepier yet is Trump's demand in the above tweet that the New York Times must turn the op-ed writer over the government at once.
Turn them over to the government? For writing an opinion piece in the newspaper? This sounds like the language of a dictator.
Donald Trump is obsessed with finding out the identity of the writer - well, we all kind of are - and wants his hapless Attorney General, Jeff Sessions,
...to launch an investigation to uncover the identity of the author of the piece.
An undisclosed White House sourced shared that aides to Donald Trump are closing in on the identity of the rogue writer and that the search has narrowed down to a few individuals.
And when the writer is caught, what will happen to him or her? Will they be fired? Or arrested and charged with treason against Donald Trump, as Trump has intimated? Will they be tossed into prison, forced under interrogation to reveal the names of the others in the secret Stop-Trump society who prowl about the Oval Office?
Again, the workings of a dictatorship, not a democracy.
But back to why the secret senior Trump administration anti-Trump rebel who wrote this piece did so: I believe I know the answer to that, and I don't think it's because he or she believes, as they stated in the op-ed piece, that they hope for the Trump Presidency to succeed. I'm not even sure, as some commentators have accused, it's because the writer is too afraid or self-serving to reveal him or herself. However the writer's assertion that he or she wants to stay on board at the White House to keep Trump reined in is probably true.
But here is, I believe, the real reason that the mysterious op-ed author wrote that piece anonymously: I believe his or her true purpose in the writing was to drive Donald Trump crazy. That is to say crazier. That is to say, to make him so unhinged with anger and obsession that he does something that there's no ignoring. Something impeachment-worthy.
Or if not that, at least to drive him a little closer to the edge.
I believe that was the writer's plan.
Check out my 9/4/2018 interview on The Writers Corner Live Show in which I share advice and insights on becoming a published writer, literary agents, book marketing, and the writing life.
Like most young children,
During my recent visit with them my grand daughters put on a show every night.
"Time for the show!" They'd say every night after dinner, and,
...they'd provide the evening's entertainment.
However, it turns out that the serious talent in the family is my little male grand dog,
I mean, this is a dog who instinctively knows how to turn it on for the camera.
...on a daily basis,
...that makes me think this dog has got showbiz potential.
It's that this canine can perform, as we learned one day when he horned in on his sisters' song and dance,
...and totally stole the show.
"Oh my goodness," I exclaimed to my daughter, "This dog is incredible! Look at how he hops around on his hind legs!"
"Look how high he can jump!"
I said, "You live right down the street from Hollywood! You could get Pinky into show business! He'd be a natural! He could be the next 'Benji!'"
"Nah," my daughter replied.
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Kindle:
or in print:
The Book Loft
of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library
I am a traveler just visiting this planet and reporting various and sundry observations,
hopefully of interest to my fellow travelers.