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As with many Americans, because my family came here as immigrants—as did everyone else in the world to their respective countries however long ago that was—I have an interest in my roots. Over time, roots get buried so deep that digging one up disrupts everything you thought you knew about yourself and who you thought you were.

For a few generations, we may hold dear notions that help us identify certain character traits which seem out of whack with others in our community. Possibly, we have an affinity for a certain language or culinary dish. We may particularly like a certain attitude to life and the culture that attitude spawns. Someone in the family may make an assumption about a recent ancestor based on where that ancestor grew up. Someone else may embrace a particular story about a distant relation based on where that person was born.

The “I am this, therefore I am that” mindset.

Without doubt, we prefer to cherry pick according to our particular and peculiar preferences and needs. When our assumptions are vanquished by facts, our reaction is sometimes denial, a flat refusal to believe the truth, or, best case, a sense of relief that at last we know something about our past that is neither wishful thinking nor fanciful fabrication.

Occasionally, our negative reaction to these facts causes us to have adverse reactions to the truth-teller. After all, we were happy and comfortable in our personal mythology and the world-view upon which it was based. Although, in our heart of hearts, we know we can never again be sure of that world-view once we have been confronted with the truth, we will hold to what we thought we knew and shun those who have shattered our much-loved legends.

In essence, our personal mythology had become our belief-system and we are shaken from a place in which we felt we belonged when, all that time, we did not. And sometimes, that place was not the best place for us. Sometimes, the baggage of falsehoods prevents us from becoming all we were meant to be. snowdrops

Loosed from the security of long held, but erroneous information, we are at liberty to embrace a new, factual tale of our lives. Like snowdrops rising from the debris of winter, in the long run, the truth does indeed set us free.

Truth also opens many new and exciting possibilities, especially for those of us who are writers, painters, dancers, musicians, choreographers, photographers, quilters and all of the rest of the creative endeavors we undertake when we are inspired.

 

Tricolor180 November 13, 2015

Vive la France et les Français.

Freedom Tower, NYC 2015

The 1776 foot high Freedom Tower, July 2015, an appropriate response to Radical Islamic terrorism.

 

 

 

Freedom Square, NYC July 2015 - From the Ashes the Phoenix rises stronger than ever.

Freedom Square, NYC July 2015 – From the Ashes, the Phoenix rises stronger than ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon Solidarité

Amazon.com’s Tribute to France, 11/13/2015

 

Today, November 15, 2015 – the French Air Force has made their appropriate response to Radical Islamic terrorism.

This is mine.

9/11 photos of those who died

The people whose lives were lost on 9/11 will never be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

Maasai People's Gift

From just a few of our friends.

 

 

 

Remembrance Pool

One of the Remembrance Pools in the footprint of the Twin Towers, Freedom Square, Ground Zero, NYC July 2015

 

 

 

 

The final words of those who were killed by jihadi cowards were of love for their friends and families. I honor them and the memory of their heroism by remembering, and calling out those who know what was done and who among them are committing these crimes but do nothing.

 

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

 

We know the counterpart to the title of this blog, starting with sugar but enough is said about the Spice and Nice. About twenty years ago, I learned the counterpoint regarding boys from a book titled, Bringing Up Boys. I have three.

ytrinaVariously known as “the mother of those three” and “so you’re the one responsible for those three,” I had a requirement for some backup to my theory that boys are different and the school system, though designed by men was made for girls.

“They always have to be first” was the constant cry from beleaguered schoolmarms. “They get into everything.” “They cannot sit quietly.” “They have to win.” My response to all of which was then and still is “Your point being?”

Lately, I have met an increasing number of women who are in the same position I was twenty years ago. I tell them to enjoy every wild moment. Boys are wonderful. Teenage boys are nut-cases but still wonderful. Young men are fragile and wonderful. Grown men, raised from the start as uniquely boys, are the best there can ever be of the male. They make good husbands and fathers, prepared to take on the hard work of raising their own sons and daughters.

Besides my own good husband and the good father who showed me everything I ever needed to know about men, I had help from a colleague, Liz Brady – a child psychologist with whom I worked while serving on the Community Health Council for Carmarthenshire. Herself a mother of two sons and a daughter, her special interest was in the development and mental health of adolescents. One aspect of her field of study was the extreme suicide rate of boys and men between the ages of 14 and 35.

I took notice.

Brady’s research revealed that young men engage in dangerous behavior and activities that result in death far more frequently than do any other sex or age group. They are four times as likely to commit suicide—intentional or unintentional. During my eldest son’s teenage years, he attended the funerals of four of his schoolmates, all of whom were under the age of twenty.

One hung himself in the garage of his parents’ home, driven to desperation by his drug addiction. One slammed his head into a cast iron drain pipe while speeding on his motorcycle—without a helmet—through the shopping district early one morning. The third was hurled through the roof of a car because he did not wear a seatbelt—the driver fell asleep and ran up the tail end of a cattle truck. And the fourth jumped in front of a train in a neighboring town, overcome by depression.

All were young men with aspirations and talent, families that loved them.

Keeping my sons alive became my raison d’etre.

BringingUpBoysHow do you do that in a society that vilifies masculinity, and yet, will not allow men to embrace their fragility either? When social media hacks rant about a tacky shirt to the detriment of a great scientific achievement?

Yes, little boys are naughty and rough, they torment little girls and test the fire extinguishers in the swank hotels. Give them any encouragement, they demand even more. They try our patience and go out of their way to annoy and challenge any restriction.

They also explore fearlessly. Boys are the reason our species crawled from the mud and went to the moon—most probably because a girl said she wanted a chunk of rock. Boys are hard-wired to achieve, largely at the behest of sugar & spice dishes they want to impress. Why? Instinct. Survival of the species.

The smartest girls choose the male most likely to provide a safe environment for offspring and that means he already owns a house or has “prospects” or “status” likely to enable him to achieve some or all of these.

Except when they want or have to impress, men don’t care how they dress—one pair of shoes is enough for some. Rightly, they figure their achievements count for a lot more than a Hawaiian shirt. We can understand their thinking when creepy 70 year old men are snapping up the prettiest girls in the twenty-something age group.

My father & my eldest brother c1940

My sons are not out of the dark days yet. What gives me hope for their survival is their choice of wives and girl friends. Or more likely, the women who have liked what they’ve seen when these three young men are on their best behavior (and occasionally, their worst).

After all, has your heart ever not melted when you see a big guy holding a child for whom he has accepted responsibility?

To all the parents who are raising boys, I strongly recommend Dobson’s work in Bringing Up Boys. You’ll enjoy your male children more, accept they are a challenge and understand the important service you are providing to the women of the future. And, by all means, teach them to iron shirts and soft-boil eggs.

In honor of all those who were murdered on this day, September 11, 2001, may they and their loved ones find peace. My most heartrending memory of this terrible event were the phone and email messages of love sent by the victims to their families and friends.

There are still unanswered questions about this event:

  • Why was there no mention in the Main Stream Media, then or at any time since, of the total destruction of Building 7, which collapsed in its own footprint, as did the Twin Towers?
  • Why, despite reliable eyewitness accounts to the contrary, the authorities still claim that the perfectly round hole in the Pentagon was caused by a plane when there was no evidence whatsoever of plane wreckage?

There are many other questions and serious accusations abound. My concern is that Media silence on these and many issues will cost American lives, now and in the future.

On the Night Before Labor Day, a preview of my latest novel: Opening chapter of first story.

Nights Before: The NovelNew Year’s Eve is a time for reflection and change. Jocelyn has more changes coming at her from all directions beginning on a Portland, Maine winter day than she’s faced since her mother’s death. None of it bodes well for the junior editor’s fledgling career when her fiancé abandons her. If not for three unwise princes, a Viking warrior and a sinkhole…

So starts the last day of an Old Year in Jocelyn Tavers’s life. Over the next 12 months, she faces her 26th birthday, falling on Mother’s Day, at the same time as she wonders what happened to a certain officious lawman and a certain deserter father remembers her birthday after only fifteen years of neglect.

An ex-boyfriend and the appearance of a complete stranger are not the only obstacles to disrupt her author’s book launch, especially when that stranger is her next editing assignment.

But this New Year isn’t all downhill. Nights Before national holidays bring more than big sale weekends for Joey-Jo, including all she ever wanted for Christmas.

I am known as “the mother of those three” – energetic, intelligent, competitive, independent boys. The number of complaints I and their father fielded on a daily basis while they were in primary and secondary school grew exponentially as each followed his brother into the hallways of government-run (public) schools.

The main complaint? “They always have to be first.”

GetStartedHmmm. Isn’t that the point of education — to encourage children to do their best to succeed? Isn’t that what spelling-bees and team sports encourage — to build intellect and physical ability to achieve?

Why then complain about that spirit that drives a child, a team, a business, a nation to be the best?

Instead, our children are discouraged from excelling, doing their best to win, developing the skills and values they will need to survive as adults. Too many schools coddle their students from the realities of living in a social environment. This accomplishes nothing for the children and encourages the suppression of the natural inclination to compete and achieve.

Who among us is happy to be mediocre? DontTryDontGet

Yet, in an environment of “no losers” there are no winners. No one gets the prize because everyone gets one. There is no reason to excel or strive or improve when we cannot win. We respond to rewards but in a mistaken effort to prevent ‘hurt feelings’, we allow educators to dampen-down the enthusiasm all children have for winning.

Truly, there are no losers when every child is encouraged to reach the pinnacle of their ability — whatever that pinnacle is. Not every child will be a multi-million dollar sports / music / science / entertainment / arts icon.

But every child has the right to make the effort to be great.


(c) photographs, memes and content 2015 Leigh Verrill-Rhys

 

RWA's RITA

RWA’s RITA

Tonight, one of the most prestigious contests for writers of romantic fiction, The RITA, has just come to its conclusion; the winners have been announced and the prizes have been awarded.

With the coming year end too fast approaching (as always), for some of us the time is right to begin planning for 2016 and our next career moves. Besides writing and publishing, hunting for agents, publicists, contract lawyers, publishers etc., some of us will be checking through the lists of contests to enter and deciding whether this is a worthwhile effort for us.

As Betty White once said, “I enter for the thrill of winning.” Winning a contest is fun. But what happens if we don’t? Let’s face it. As much as we want to win and as much as we don’t want to lose, in both cases, someone has to. And, much more often than not, it’s the latter. Does that mean we crawl into a hole and never come out? Hardly. Didn’t we have a great time anticipating the joy of winning? All those weeks or months of the positive thoughts count for something.

My First Prize for Writing

My First Prize for Writing

Every day is a win-lose proposition. We can be the kind of person who is overjoyed to wake up to try again. And when we do win, we can hold fast to that great sensation for a long time. But more important, we can let those losses fade while we plan the next effort.

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