Thursday, February 23, 2012

A MOMENT OF GRATITUDE FOR DREAMS COMING TRUE

I find myself on the cusp of the release of my fourth book…my fourth book. Without sounding juvenile or na├»ve or simply unsophisticated, I have to say what is in my heart…O M G!

Perhaps only other writers can understand my ridiculous glee, but to have had my first book published at the moment when the publishing world imploded and began its metamorphosis into something completely different than what it had been for centuries, was a mind blowing event. To continue to be published, to win awards, to gain readers in this chaotic environment, is nothing more than astounding. My road to becoming an author was long, winding, and extraordinarily bumpy and it still presents me with challenges and obstacles each and every day. And yet, if I were to write a six word memoir, it would read, “I must raise my children, and write.” There is no other option for me.

As the challenges of my life have pushed the boundaries of my strength, I have studied many facets of spiritualism, and there is one practice—one emotion—that I have found to be very powerful…gratitude. And that is the only purpose of this post.

I am grateful for the upcoming release of my next book and for all the people who have helped me and supported me to get this place. I am grateful for the success and accolades it has already received. I am very grateful for the source that has blessed me with my creative aptitude. And I am most grateful that the dreams of a young girl have come true.

In a gesture of appreciation, I offer my first bestseller (according to Mrs. Alfonso’s sixth grade class).


Thursday, February 16, 2012

SURPRISE: PRESIDENTS’ DAY IS NOT ABOUT CAR SALES

On the heels of the throat gagging Valentine’s Day commercials, we now find ourselves in the throes of obnoxious car sales ads in honor of Presidents’ Day. Call me a Patriot (go ahead, I dare you), but I think we should actually celebrate the men for whom the day is meant to honor. Instead of a typical recital of what everyone SHOULD know about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, I’d thought I’d offer some little facts as culled from a multitude of books on my “For Presidents Only” shelf.

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. He became the first President of the United States and served from 1789 until 1797. He died on December 14, 1799. (As a personal piece of trivia, this particular portrait was rendered by Gilbert Stuart, a Rhode Islander such as myself, whose family's home is but a couple of miles from my own.)

George Washington is a joy of trivia and, as I read, revealed himself as someone who provides strong evidence that destiny exists. George came close to death no less than SEVEN times, all before the age of 30; the threats came from a myriad of sources…diseases, battle, and downright bizarre accidents. And yet, he survived, as if greater purposes awaited him.

When the Capitol was moved from New York to Philadelphia, Washington brought his slave, named Hercules, with him to serve as cook. He was, however, the only founding father to free his slaves.

Washington was the only president not to have served from Washington.

Under the heading of ridiculous, fun facts…at the moment of his inauguration, George possessed only one of his own teeth; he often wore dentures made of both human and animal choppers.

George Washington is the only president to be elected unanimously…electorally speaking.

And perhaps my favorite piece of trivia…as a farmer, Washington grew marijuana on his lands (for industrial purposes only, as hemp and soil stabilization…or so they say).

My favorite of George Washington quotes: “It’s wonderful what we can do if we’re always doing.”


Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 and murdered by gunshot at the hands of John Wilkes Boothe on April 15, 1865. A ‘prairie lawyer’ who came to serve over one of the country’s most turbulent times, he proved himself to be a man of enormous conviction and a fanatical proponent of these United States. He is also considered one of the most popular presidents in the history of the nation, so there is a great deal known of him. Hopefully, a few of the following may take you by surprise.

Though Lincoln fathered four sons, there are no living descendants.

Standing behind the President on the day of his inauguration is none other than his assassin, John Wilkes Boothe (this one gives me the creeps).

Keeping in the realm of the creepy, Lincoln’s son Robert, who was in Washington when his father was killed, was at the scene when President Garfield was shot in 1881 and at the assassination of President McKinley in 1901.

A notoriously messy person, Lincoln kept an envelope on his desk at all times. On it, he had written, “When you can’t find it anywhere else, look into this.”

Lincoln was the first major leader to be a proponent of women’s suffrage, and as a State Legislator presented an Illinois paper in its support.

Abraham’s penchant for stovepipe top hats was more than aesthetic; he used it as a ‘purse’ of sorts, carrying in it such things as letters and money.

A very famous quote by Abraham Lincoln, one that should be taken up by every modern day politician, reads, “The time comes for every public man when it is best for him to keep his lips closed.”

For me, these are two men epitomize what a leader should be; there was very little personal gain in obtaining the Presidency in their times, except for the concept of egoic power, a smidgen of which I believe Washington possessed more than Lincoln. Instead, these men took up the reign for the true and sincere desire to serve their country, to devote their lives to a nation they loved. Indeed, worthy of a day of reflection and celebration.

Friday, February 10, 2012

VALENTINE'S DAY: AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

It is quite easy in these modern times to believe that Valentine’s Day is merely another overly commercialized, overly materialistic day for retailers to persuade us to part with money we don’t have in order to prove to another how much we may love them. (There’s some heavy cynicism for you if ever I heard any.) But as an author of historical fiction, I thought it prudent to take a look back to what began all this hoopla, that such a review might be beneficial in dispelling such skepticism. What I found was a plethora of theories, saints and martyrs, and as we’re dealing with an occurrence that began in ancient times, there is, of course, versions of both the Pagan and the Christian variety. And yet most of the stories speak of sacrifice and commitment of the heart till it stopped beating, possessing the ability to make even this disparaging heart utter a pathetic, ‘awwww.’

In ancient Rome, February 14th was a day set aside to honor Juno, known most frequently as the Queen of Gods and Goddesses, but also as the Goddesses of women and marriage. This theoretical genesis is also associated with the festival of Lupercalia, a series of holidays devoted to fertility and love. But to me there is nothing more to this theory than a figurehead for the loveless to prostrate themselves upon.

Then there are the martyrs. The Catholic Church formally recognizes three different saints by the nomenclature of Valentine. The most prevalent (and my personal favorite) is of a priest who lived during the third century, when Rome was ruled by the cruel Emperor Claudius II, a ruler who believed single men made better soldiers than those who were married (perhaps this is when the whole 'sex makes your legs weak' notion began) and therefore outlawed such couplings for those in his military. This particular Valentine refused to accept such a heartless contention and married love-struck soldiers in secret. In reward for his kindness, Father Valentine was apprehended on February 14, beaten to death with clubs and beheaded.

There are other stories of the same ilk, but they don’t seem to inspire quite the appropriate nuance of the holiday. To do so, I offer this theory.

There was a man by the name of Valentine, a man of kind heart and religious impartiality, who was incarcerated by the Pagans for helping Christians escape the harsh Roman prisons. While an outlandish hypothesis postulates that he performed a miracle and gave site to the warden’s daughter, the more easily believed theory was that he fell in love with her, spending much of his time in conversation with the girl as well as sending her many love letters, all of which he signed, “Your Valentine.”

The first reference to Valentine’s Day as we know it today, as a day to honor romantic love, comes from one of my idols, Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote, “For this was on seynt Volantynys day, Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.” ("For this was Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.") And so was born a subject far too appealing for purveyors of the pen to ignore and was quickly the topic of many a prolific author, including Shakespeare and one duc d’Orleans.

In summation, the most certain conclusion I come away with on the genesis of Valentine’s Day is that it is as muddled as the concept of the emotion that it celebrates. But this I do know, yet I will not take credit for expressing it, but will use the words of my ‘first love’ (I was eight), I will use the words of John Lennon. Whether it be between a man and a woman, a man and a man, a woman and a woman, a parent and a child, a friend and a friend…"all you need is love."