Posted by: spuddreams | June 25, 2013

I have moved…

Please come follow me at http://www.lisatcresswell.blogspot.com I really like it there. I hope you will too!

Posted by: spuddreams | May 31, 2013

Moving Day has arrived!!

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I’m so excited!! The new web site and blog is ready.  Please come over and visit http://www.lisatcresswell.com

Even tho it’s a Blogger blog, I hope you’ll subscribe and stick with me over there.  See you soon!

Posted by: spuddreams | May 17, 2013

what makes you read?

ImageThings are progressing, slowly but surely, on the publishing front.  My manuscript, Hush Puppy, has reached the proofreading stage at the publisher and the cover is in development.  I feel like I should warn people it’s more of a novella than a novel, but the length feels right for the story to me, even if it is on the shorter end.  I don’t tend to write giant tomes.  I like to get straight to the point.

 There will be a new web site for all my books (self and traditionally published) soon too.  The blog will move there, but don’t worry. I’ll make sure you have the link.  It’s going to be gorgeous, I think.  Can’t wait for you to see it.
 
I’ve been trying to figure out how to market Hush Puppy.  The publisher doesn’t have a huge marketing wing, so a lot is up to me.  Many authors these days are doing blogs tours to promote their books, contests online, giving away iPads and gift cards, advertising on Twitter and Facebook.  It’s enough to make your head fly right off.  I still have a day job.  When am I going to do all that stuff too?? Its a lot of noise and flash, but I have to wonder, just how much of that stuff works? Because I can probably count on one hand the number of books I’ve opened up based on something I saw on Twitter.  That’s not much.  So I wanted to ask you, what is it that makes you pick up a book and read it?
 
Is the pretty cover? The reviews on Amazon? Or your friend saying, “Oh, you’ve got to read this! You’ll love it!”  What do you think?
Posted by: spuddreams | May 2, 2013

The Writer’s Voice

I did it again. I entered a rafflecopter drawing for a spot in Brenda Drake’s new event The Writer’s Voice.  I was randomly selected, of course, because my life isn’t crazy enough already, right? Omg.

 
So the deal is, I post my agent query and the first 250 words of my manuscript on my blog and for the next few weeks, I might get the help of a mentor (or several mentors) to polish it.  At the end of the month, a group of agents will view all the entries and request manuscripts for the ones they would like to read.
 
I would like to ask my blog readers to give me their comments and suggestions too.  Is this something that sounds appealing to you?  Would it make you want to read on?  Is it too vague? Too melodramatic?  Whatever you think, I want to you to spit out your thoughts here because I know you want to help me, right?  So, without further adieu, here it is~
 
Dear Fabulous Agent,
 
The sun exploded on April 18, 2112 – a Class X solar storm the likes of which humankind had never seen.

They had nineteen minutes.

Nineteen minutes until the geomagnetic wave washed over the Earth, frying every electrical device created by humans, blacking out entire continents, every satellite in their sky.

Nineteen minutes to say goodbye to the world they knew forever, to prepare for a new Earth, a new Sun.

In this new world, all knowledge of the remaining technology is kept hidden by a privileged few – the Reticents.  Alana, a disfigured slave girl, and Recks, a simple thief, find themselves in a struggle against this secret society to bring learning and books back to the human race.  VESSEL is a 57,000 word, young adult dystopian novel.

I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature. My publishing credits include a young adult contemporary novel due to be released in Summer 2013 by Featherweight Press.  I can be reached at lcresswe at juno dot com . Thank you for the opportunity to share my work with you.

Sincerely,

Lisa T. Cresswell

Excerpt:

Year 2165

Master Dine’s kick sent me sprawling into the wall.  There was a bloom of pain in my shoulder.  That was nothing new, but my billa slipped, dangerously close to falling off.  I grasped at the awkward headgear; a giant tent Master required me to wear over my head to hide my ugliness.

No one must see, was all I could think.

“It’s too hot, you stupid chit,” Master Dine yelled.

At seventeen, I was officially a woman and had been for awhile, but no one gave a slave girl that recognition.

“Now look what you’ve done,” he said.  The clay teapot I had been pouring water over Master’s feet with lay shattered on the floor. “Clean it up, chit.”

I silently seethed at him as I collected the pieces.  I wasn’t chit. I was Alana, name no one called me.  Name I’d given myself. I cursed him under my billa, something he would never see behind the dark, black drapes that shrouded me from everyone.  I prayed Mother Sun would do terrible things to him, something that didn’t make me feel any better.

“When you’re done with that, go help Master Tow.  He’s expecting you.”

“But your bath?”

“I’ll do it myself,” Master Dine spat at me, as if he didn’t trust me, as if I hadn’t been washing his feet every morning since I was two.

Master Dine was old, nearly forty, one of the oldest men in our village, too mean to just die of flew fever like most old men.

The Magical Properties of Troll Teeth

And so, dear reader, due to the magical properties of the aforementioned troll teeth, I found myself in the unfortunate service of Mortalus.  Brighter than most trolls, Mortalus had a nasty streak almost as terrible as his own breath.  The tooth I’d tried to steal from him dangled from a twisted silver chain around my neck to remind me of that awful fact as I nervously approached Princess Anna with his wedding gift.

“Come forward, imp,” flame-haired Anna beckoned.

I clutched the jewel-encrusted box even tighter, if that was possible, afraid of what lay inside.  I was bound to obey Mortalus, who had bid me deliver the golden box to Anna and her betrothed. I had tried to sneak a peek, only to ensure the Princess’s safety mind you, but my Master had sealed it with an enchantment only Anna’s touch could open.

“Be sure she knows it’s from me, slave,” Mortalus warned me before he left. Perhaps the mere mention of his name would alert her? It was all I could do.

“A gift from my Master, Mortalus.  Forgive me, mistress.”  I fell on one knee before the fairy princess and offered her the box above my bowed head.  Several in the crowd gasped. Someone cried out “Don’t take it, Princess!”, but Anna smiled graciously down on me.

“Do not be afraid for me,” she said, taking the gift from my shaking hands.  Her touch created a glow that spilled from the box as she opened it. I had prepared myself to run.  Should any harm befall the princess, it would certainly mean my sure, swift death.  Only now, I discovered I was rooted to the earth, unable to move, mesmerized by what happened next.  All the chattering voices in the chamber hushed. The pure song of a lark rang out clear and sweet in the silence, but what emerged was no lark.

A fully-formed dragon, long of fang and green as cut emeralds, sprang from the box into our midst. The beast hovered over our heads on blurry wings, like a giant hummingbird selecting its next flower. Setting its sights on the princess, the creature shrieked and dove for her with jaws wide. Before I knew what was happening, her Highness grabbed the unbreakable chain around my neck and held my talisman high with me still dangling from it. The dragon hit the troll tooth and fell back as if it had slammed into a stone wall no one could see. With an ear-splitting scream, the beast crashed through a window and flew away.

Princess Anna released my chain and I fell to my knees once more.

“My lady, how did you…?” I stammered.  Princess Anna pushed her wild hair back and smiled at me.

“Troll teeth have many magical properties, imp. Didn’t you know?”

My wish for you, Anna and Michael~

May you know peace, both near and far from each other~

May you grow together, not only when times are sweet, but when they are hard~

And may you always protect each other from the trolls of this world~

Posted by: spuddreams | January 18, 2013

Climbing the Fiction Mountain

Last fall, I went on a writing retreat to Victor, Idaho. I thought I would spend lots of time reworking and revising my book, which I did do, but I also went on a hike with an old college friend, Stephanie.  Stephanie lives in Victor, which is probably fortunate in the summer, but I don’t envy her too much in the winter. Brr!  The town lies on the Idaho side of the Grand Tetons, just west of the tourist craziness of Jackson Hole.  Anyway, I told Stephanie I would be in town and would like to take a hike somewhere.  What I imagined as a short nature hike turned into a four hour trip to Wind Cave.Image, Idaho, forrest

It was a coolish, misty day in October before the weather turned truly winterish, but the trees had already lost their fall colors.  Stephanie drove us to the trailhead in her Subaru, several miles into the forest.  We bundled up and started up the trail.  It twisted through a grove of pines, past giant boulders worthy of a Hobbit film.  As we passed the tree line and came out into an open, rocky cirque, it began to drizzle a bit.  We took shelter in a small overhang and Stephanie showed me the swirling fossils in the gray rocks, the remnants of an ancient sea.  We shared a granola bar and talked about our children while we waited for the shower to pass.

A little further along the trail, in a thicket of evergreens so big you couldn’t put your arms all the way around them, we came to a monument for a group of girl scouts and their leader who were struck by lightning on that very spot years ago.  The trail grew steeper.  In places, stairs had been made with tree roots and flat stones, and my thighs began to complain.  Soon, the cave came into view, a great maw of an opening in the Earth, like a yawning mouth still high above us.  A waterfall spilled out of it from some hidden spring deep inside, cascading down the steep rocky slope.Image, cave, Idaho

More primitive man-made steps, only a foot square, led up to the mouth of the cave.  My fear of heights kept me from looking back.  Going up the stairs wasn’t so hard for me, but I wondered how I might get down.  A misstep here might mean a fall that went on for a long way.  Crossing the stream, the boulders icy from the freezing temperatures the night before, frightened me too.  We clambered up into the cave on slick, wet rocks and turned around to see the view of the misty valley far below us.

In fiction and in life, it’s always amazing how far you’ve come when you stop to consider it, when you look back at the obstacles you’ve overcome.  Sometimes there are set backs on your path. Sometimes there is fear, danger even. But sometimes, there is beauty and awe. And it is all worth it.

Posted by: spuddreams | January 12, 2013

Resolutions, Both Old and New

Every year I resolve to get published.  This might actually be the year it happens, for real.  I say “might” because I have signed a contract with Featherweight Press to publish my contemporary young adult novel, Hush Puppy, but I have no idea how long the editing process will take.  I am hopeful that 2013 will be the year.  So, resolution number one…well in hand!

I made several new resolutions this year too.  I resolved to be healthy.  Last fall, I started watching my diet and exercising.  To date, I’ve lost 21 pounds and I’m working on becoming even more active.  Resolution two…lookin’ good!

I resolved to read more and write more.  If you haven’t been on Goodreads.com yet, get on over there and be my friend!    Let me know what I should be reading.  “Writing more” includes doing a better job on this blog and various other social medias, but mostly it means getting busy on my two works in progress – a paranormal romance and a dystopian.  If only I hadn’t become addicted to Pinterest recently.  (But seriously, go see my pins!   I love to play there and on twitter @peach83352)

I also signed up for a week long writers’ workshop on the Oregon Coast this summer.  All my best writer friends I’ve met at conferences and workshops and I’m sure this one will be no different.  Maybe you could come too?  If you can’t make it, I’ll try to blog about it and put up some pictures.  You can’t really take bad pictures on the Oregon Coast.

I resolved to be more flexible, mentally and physically.  The physical part is easy. I get up earlier and do yoga, just me and Rodney Yee (on video).  I make sure it’s dark and no one’s around to see me on purpose!  It’s pretty funny, but it sure feels good to stretch and breathe deep in the morning.  The mental flexibility is hard to describe, but I want to try to be kinder and less judgmental of others.  Not sure how I’ll do, but wish me luck.

Lastly, I resolved to rest when I need to, which might be the hardest thing of all, given all of the above.  It’s the easiest thing to forget too.

So, how about you?  What will you do for yourself this year?

Posted by: spuddreams | December 23, 2012

My Merry Christmas Gift to You~

Sorry I’ve been so quiet on the blog lately.  I have been working away on my writing though and I thought I’d share a bit of the first draft of a young adult dystopian novel that’s occupying most of my time these days.  The first draft is nearly done, which for me probably means a few more months of work.  Unfortunately, I’m not one to crank out the pages too quick, but I am persistent.  I hope you enjoy it and you’ll forgive any typos I may have missed.  Have a happy, peaceful holiday season.  I wish you only good things in the coming year! 

 

VESSEL

Prologue

The sun exploded on April 18, 2112 – a Class X solar storm the likes of which humankind had never seen. 

They had nineteen minutes.

Nineteen minutes until the geomagnetic wave washed over the Earth, frying every electrical device created by humans, blacking out entire continents, every satellite in their sky. 

Nineteen minutes to say goodbye to the world they knew forever, to prepare for a new Earth, a new Sun.

All digital data was lost, all the knowledge of the centuries past, gone in an instant.  Unable to feed themselves without technology, humans began to die of starvation and disease.  At first thousands, then millions, and finally, billions died.  The survivors fought amongst themselves for the scraps until there were almost none of them left.

But, as always, life finds a way…

Chapter 1

 

Year 2165

            Master Dine’s kick sent me sprawling into the wall.  There was a bloom of pain in my shoulder.  That was nothing new, but my hijab slipped, dangerously close to falling off.  I grasped at the awkward headgear, a giant tent Master required me to wear over my head to hide my ugliness.

            No one must see, was all I could think.

            “It’s too hot, you stupid chit,” Master Dine yelled.

            At seventeen, I was officially a woman and had been for awhile, but no one gave a slave girl that recognition.

            “Now look what you’ve done,” he said.  The clay teapot I had been pouring water over Master’s feet with lay shattered on the floor. “Clean it up, chit.”

            I silently seethed at him as I collected the pieces.  I wasn’t chit. I was Alana, name no one called me.  Name I’d given myself. I cursed him under my hibja, something he would never see behind the dark, black drapes that shrouded me from everyone.  I prayed Mother Sun would do terrible things to him, something that didn’t make me feel any better.

            “When you’re done with that, go help Master Tow.  He’s expecting you.”

            “But your bath?”

            “I’ll do it myself,” Master Dine spat at me, as if he didn’t trust me, as if I hadn’t been washing his feet every morning since I was two.

            Master Dine was old, nearly forty, one of the oldest men in our village, too mean to just die of flew fever like most old men.  He had caught it once or twice, but it only seemed to make him more determined to live.

            “Yes, Master,” I whispered and ducked out of the room with the remains of the teapot.  I threw them in the garbage pit behind the house as I left for Master Tow’s.  I would have to make a new one later.  I wondered when I would find the time to gather the clay from the riverbank that was a fair walk from here.  Where was here?  Master Dine’s village Roma.  It was not my home, even though it was all I’d ever known. 

            Master Dine reminded me constantly I was not of this place – my eyes too almond-shaped, my hair too black, my skin too yellow to be from Roma.  It didn’t seem to stop him from slinking into my room in the darkness to have his way with me because he could.  I was his, bought and paid for from by own parents in a far away place, he always said.  Even then he made me cover my face.  Even in the dark.  I closed my eyes anyway.  Maybe if I couldn’t see Master Dine, his lazy eye and his crooked teeth, maybe he would cease to exist.  Please Mother Sun, make it so.

 

I walked down the dirty footpath toward Roma’s center market square, past the mud and stone houses, scraped together with whatever the inhabitants could find.  It was early yet, fog still clung to the base of the mountains and dropped off the new leaves.  Winter was breaking at last.  Mother Sun had saved us again, but we always knew she could break us if she wanted to.

I didn’t mind wearing the hijab so much when the weather was cool or misty like this morning.  It trapped my own warm breath around me like a cocoon.  It was awkward for doing chores outside though.  Master Dine kept me primarily for house chores although I was allowed to shop on market day and he occasionally lent me to Master Tow, like today.  Tow had no wives and probably needed his house cleaned.

Master Tow was a young man, in his twenties, still undecided on a wife.  Suitable women were rare in Roma, so he was faced with the prospect of waiting until certain girls came of age or traveling to the next province for a wife.  The expense of a wife was more than Tow really wanted, so he borrowed me from time to time.  It was an arrangement he had with Dine, made mostly possible by Dine’s first wife, Mistress Shel.  Shel hated my position in her house as a sort of third wife, a standing I could never truly attain, even if I wanted to.  It was Shel who disfigured me years ago.  It hadn’t stopped Dine’s visits to me, just made him more discrete.

Master Tow chopped wood in the small yard next to his house, his clothes littered with fine shavings of fir, making him smell better than usual.  He was stripped to the waist, his pale chest glistening with sweat, even in the morning cold.  I stopped and waited.  I could never address anyone without first being addressed myself.  I learned very young.

Master Tow continued his work, perhaps enjoying the fact that I was his audience.  He often teased me, even though he had no way of knowing my expression under my protective tent.  I think he was quite proud of his own blond hair that fell to his shoulders.  Taunting all the unsuitable women in town seemed to please him tremendously.  And so I stood perfectly still, watching the breeze blow the fabric in front of my face until he finally spoke.

“Hello, chit,” he said, taking a break from his chopping.

“Master Dine said you were expecting me.”

“So I am.”  Tow breathed heavy, his ribs showing under his creamy skin with each exhale.  He dropped his hatchet in the dirt at his feet and held up two fingers that beaconed me to follow him behind his house.  I hesitated.  Wasn’t I doing housework?  What did Tow have in store for me?

“C’mon, chit!  Haven’t got until sundown,” he called, his tone good natured as always.

I couldn’t shake the feeling he was playing a trick on me, but I followed him down the hill behind his house, through a thicket of small aspen just beginning to break bud.  I soon saw it was a shortcut he used to reach the square, rather than taking the main path that switch backed down the mountain.  Easy for him, the trees snagged the fabric of my hijab, causing me to struggle through.

“Come on!” his voice urged.  I wasn’t sure, but I think I heard him muttering under his breath about my ridiculous garb.  None of the slaves wore what I wore.  I stood out wherever I went, a black ghost in a crowd of humans.  Everyone knew it was my punishment for tempting Dine.  That’s what Shel told them and most believed it.

I did my best to keep up with Tow.  Once out of the shrubs, it was easier to match his pace.  It was clear he was heading for the crumbling castle on the edge of Roma, perched on a precipice over a wide green valley.  Eons ago, before the Great Death that wiped out billions, some strange unknown race had built castles all across this region.  Most were rubble now.

No one lived there now, but the people of Roma sometimes stored things in some of the rooms, or held meetings there.  Windows long gone, the arches still stood in places, the stone thick with moss and lichens, silently feasting on the remains of  the beast.  It was a forgotten place, somewhere I rarely went because I was not involved in public affairs.  As Tow and I got close, I could hear the sound of someone singing a sad melody in a cool, clear voice.  Even the birds in the trees were drawn to it, flitting away only when we came near.

As I followed Tow into the ruins, down a stone stairway littered with last winter’s dead leaves, close to the voice, my fears melted away and curiosity overcame me.  Tow couldn’t walk fast enough for me now.  Who was it? And why were they here?  The singing suddenly stopped.

Deep inside the castle now where little sunshine could penetrate, Tow stopped at an old door with a small slit for a tiny window.  A boy’s face, not much older than mine, with dark hair and eyes like mine, peered out of the opening.

“You can’t keep us in here,” the boy said, his voice angry.

“Don’t worry.  It won’t be long before the authorities come for you.  A week at the most,” said Tow.  He turned to me.  “These two were caught last night stealing.  You need to feed them at least once a day, no more.  Just enough to keep them alive for their trial.”

“Trial?” I asked.

“The Reticents have been summoned.  They’ll send someone to pick them up.”

“But what do I feed them, Master Tow?” 

Everyone’s winter stores were running low and few spring crops had been harvested yet.  Master Dine would not allow me to use his food for such a purpose.

“Hog feed will do.”

“Hog feed?” shouted the prisoner.  “We’re not animals!”  I flinched and back away from him.

“Never you mind that, chit. Just do as you’re told.  Put the food in here,” Master Tow said point to a small slot near the floor with the toe of his boot.  “Don’t open the door, no matter what.”

“Yes, Master Tow.”

“Any questions?”

“Have they been fed today?”

“No.  Better get to work.”

Master Tow turned and bounded up the stairs.  I stood motionless for a moment, watching the black-eyed boy watching me.  I had never seen anyone like me before.  He looked hard at the hijab like he could see me underneath.

“Do you have any water?” he asked in an accent I didn’t recognize.  “He’s very weak.”

The prisoner backed away from the door so I could creep up and peer inside.  The oldest man I’d ever seen, maybe fifty years or more, lay on the floor.  He groaned as the boy knelt down and touched his arm.

“I’m here,” he said to the old man.  Before I knew it, I had loosened the water bag I kept tied to my hip under my garb and pushed it through the hole in the wall toward them.

“Take this.  I’ll be back,” I whispered before hurrying to find food.

 

Normally I fed the hogs caysha roots I dug in the forest.  A person could eat them and survive, but they weren’t kind to the stomach.  There were a last resort, eaten only when all else was gone.  I had eaten them myself when the winters were hard and Master Dine saved all his food for his family.  A slave wasn’t supposed to forage for their own food.  It was a sign a family wasn’t wealthy enough to support them, but Dine looked the other way quite often.  He allowed me to find other means of sustenance when times called for it, which was more often than not.  The less of his food I ate, the more wealthy he appeared.

I walked as quickly as I could without attracting attention to a meadow below the castle where the caysha was starting to bloom, blue lilies on tall stems.  I dug a few roots to satisfy Master Tow, but I had no intention of feeding them to the prisoners.  I dropped them in my basket and slung it over my shoulder, heading for the river.  Checking my traps, I found I had snared a rabbit and smiled for the first time that day.  Not that anyone knew or cared.  I spent my days alone in a tent made for one, seldom speaking to anyone.  It was all I had ever known, but something in this boy’s eyes reached out to me behind the curtain.  I wasn’t going to feed him hog feed.  It was a decision that risked a beating, but it wouldn’t mean my death.  I wouldn’t have feared death anyway.

 

     It was an hour by the time I returned to the ruined castle dungeon with food, water and fuel, nearly mid-day now.  The prisoners made no sound.  I realized I had been hoping to hear his song again, the way I longed for the lark song after winter.  Like a mouse cleaning up crumbs, I silently cleared away the leaves in a corner and built a cooking fire.  The smell of roasting meat brought the boy’s face to the hole in the door once more.

“You’re torturing me,” he complained, although his lips smiled.

“It won’t be much longer,” I said, crossing the room to the door between us. “I brought more water.  Give me the water bag and I’ll refill it.”  He scrambled to retrieve the bag and return it to me.

“How is he?” I asked, looking at the impossibly old man.

“Better.  Some real food will do him good.”  I handed the boy some jake nuts through the slot in the wall.

“Chew these.  They’ll help keep the food down.”  He shoved the handful into his mouth.

“Save one for him,” I said, pointing to the old man.  The boy chewed hard, but managed to spit out one nut for his friend.  He went over and knelt by the the man again, shook his arm.

“Kinder? Wake up.  It’s dinner time.”  The old man sat up with the boy’s help, leaning against the stone wall.

“Eat this,” he said, giving him the nut. 

I refilled the water and retrieved the rabbit from the spit on the fire.  It was just starting to burn, the grease glistening on the meat.  Too big to fit through the slot, I tore the rabbit into pieces and slipped them into the cell.  The boy snatched it from my fingers and rushed it to the old man, who suddenly came alive, devouring it.  The boy returned and snagged a second piece for himself, ignoring me as he inhaled his food.  I waited by the slot with the rest of the rabbit, holding it until they were ready for it, which wasn’t long.  The sounds of eating, chewing and licking made me hungry, but I didn’t eat any.  The rabbit would have been my lunch, but I would eat wild carrots instead today.

I gave them the remains of the rabbit and returned to the corner to put out my fire.  Master Tow must not know I had cooked, so I hid my hearth as best I could with damp leaves and rubble and turned to go.

“Wait,” called the boy.  “What’s your name?”

The words I’d never heard directed at me, the words I dreamt of every night had come form his lips.  Was he speaking to me?  Of course he was.  There was no one else there.

“Is it chit?”

“No.  I am Alana.”  I had never told anyone the name I chose for myself.  It felt good to say it out loud.

“Thank you, Alana.  I’m Recks and this is Kinder.  We’re grateful for your kindness.  May Mother Sun shine on you.”

I think I stopped breathing for a moment.  No one had ever blessed me before.  It just wasn’t done.  I waited as if the sky might fall down.  There was nothing but the sound of Kinder sucking the marrow from his rabbit bones.

“Is something wrong?” asked Recks.

“No,” I said. “I should go.” I got up to leave and remembered the bones.

“Hide the bones when you’re done.  Master Tow must not know.”

“Kinder will eat them all.”  Recks smiled at me and snickered at the thought.

“I’ll bring more tonight,” I told him.

“But Tow said once a day…”

“What Tow does not know will not trouble him.”  I hurried up the steps.

“Be careful,” warned Recks, as if he might actually have a concern for my safety.  Tears leaked from my eyes, eyes no one could see.

As I walked back to Master Dine’s house, I had an overwhelming urge to throw the hijab off and feel the sun on my shoulders.  Mother Sun could bless me too, even if she never had before.  But if I did, I knew I would never see Recks again.  Instead, I clasped my hands together under my billowy tent and squeezed my happiness between them, knowing it could escape and be gone in an instant, like mist in the sunlight, like a dream at daybreak.

Posted by: spuddreams | July 15, 2012

Compassion is a Verb and I saw it

Sorry I’ve been away.  Sometime life interrupts us, but it doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about you. 

I recently listened to a pod cast by a Buddhist about the subject of compassion.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many Buddhists personally.  However, they do have an interesting way of looking at the world that makes sense to me.  And being an anthropologist at heart, I am always interested in such things. So I listened to this pod cast called “Compassion is a Verb” and I thought, oh that’s nice, and went about my day.

Shortly after that, I spent several hours in several airports and on a couple of airplanes where I saw how compassion is a verb, how it is an action, and the message hit truly home.  The speaker on the pod cast quoted another Buddhist, who summarized Buddhism thus~

Everything is connected, everything is impermanent and you are not alone.

 

Everything is connected – It’s so interesting that just this last week, scientists in Europe, who spent billions of dollars to build a super collider and years playing around with it, essentially proved what many ancient people already knew – everything is connected.  I wonder what else we could have done with that money…I’m not saying research shouldn’t be done.  You just have to wonder if all research is necessary.

Everything is impermanent – I’ve written about this many times, in one form or another, mostly with respect to gardening in the desert.  I lost a tree this year in a freak wind storm.  After years of nurturing this little pine tree, of watching robin babies hatch in its branches and seeing it get taller than me, it blew over.  Just like that.  Done.

You are not alone – This gets at the heart of compassion, which is the ability to empathize with someone else’s suffering and act on it.  And this is what I saw on the plane that day.  There was no emergency, no reason for strangers to come together in a dramatic fashion, just our shared confinement in a small space for several hours.

It was late and I’m sure everyone on the plane was tired.  Face it, air travel is cramped and uncomfortable and boring for those of us who fly economy class.  Adults can usually cope, but it’s hard for children to be still for hours if they aren’t asleep.  As anyone who has children knows, a tired child is apt to cry and that’s just what one little girl on the plane did – she cried.  I never actually saw her because she was several rows behind me, but I could hear her and her agitated mother, yelling louder and louder for the little girl to shut up and stop crying.  (I’ve never understood why anyone thinks a person can just stop crying; if you’ve ever cried, you know it’s hard to stop on a dime.  And if someone is yelling at you, it doesn’t make it any easier.  And if that person is four times bigger than you, forget it, right?)

And this wasn’t just once.  This woman told her child repeatedly to shut up over the course of perhaps ten minutes because the child couldn’t stop.  As a parent of children myself, I felt like I was witness to abuse, like I was being abused myself.  I wanted to whack that woman soundly across the mouth, tell her to grow up.  How could someone be so cruel to a child in front of so many people?  If I could hear it, I’m sure everyone else could too.  The passenger next to me was cringing too.  Couldn’t a stewardess do something? 

I was stuck in a window seat, rows away, unsure of what, if anything I could do, and then it happened – a small woman dressed in army fatigues, got up from her aisle seat, and went back to where the mother was still berating her crying child.  Instead of saying something rude, like I imagined doing myself, the soldier asked “Is something wrong? Can I help?”  We were all tired and cramped, we all felt the same pain as that little girl, but that soldier acted and she let that little girl know she was not alone.  And that is the most amazing thing any of us could ever do.

So often we feel alone even when we’re surrounded by many.  It’s easy to forget we’re all connected.  It’s even easy to forget everything is impermanent, for a while.  But life always reminds you.

And here’s one last thing I saw on a plane that day, albeit a different flight…

I was sitting next to a very bulky biker.  He had the leather vest with all the biker pins, the big handlebar mustache.  It was easy to imagine him riding one of the thirteen Harley-Davidson motorcycles he said he owned.  Right across the aisle from him sat another man with chiseled features, tattoos up and down his toned arms and legs.  The man’s hair was cropped close to his scalp, making him seem even more angular.  The biker, who was very friendly, asked the man across the aisle what branch of the military he served in.  The man replied that he wasn’t in the military.  Not about to be deterred, the biker asked him if he was cop.  The man smiled and said “No, I’m a Methodist minister.”  I laughed out loud.

We think we know so much about people and we don’t.  We think others are so different from us and they’re not.  We think we’re separate, but we’re connected.  It reminded me of the saying “be kind, for everyone is fighting their own battle”.  It could just as well say, “be compassionate, we’re all in this together”.  Peace~

Posted by: spuddreams | May 13, 2012

Mother’s Day

I didn’t write this, but I’ve always liked it.  I thought I’d share it again today~

This is for all the mothers who have sat up all night

with sick toddlers in their arms, wiping up barf laced

with Oscar Mayer wieners and cherry Kool-Aid

saying, “It’s OK honey, Mommy’s here.” when they

keep crying and won’t stop.

This is for all the mothers who show up at work with

spit-up in their hair and milk stains on their blouses

and diapers in their purse.

For all the mothers who run carpools and make

cookies and sew Halloween costumes. And all the

mothers who DON’T.

This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they’ll

never see. And the mothers who took those babies

and gave them homes.

This is for all the mothers who froze their buns off on

metal bleachers at football or soccer games Friday

night instead of watching from cars, so that when their

kids asked, “Did you see me?” they could say, “Of

course, I wouldn’t have missed it for the World,” and

mean it.

This is for all the mothers who yell at their kids in the

grocery store and swat them in despair when they

stomp their feet like a tired 2-year old who wants ice

cream before dinner.

This is for all the mothers who sat down with their

children and explained all about making babies. And

for all the mothers who wanted to but just couldn’t. For

all the mothers who read “Goodnight, Moon” twice a

night for a year. And then read it again. “Just one more time.”

This is for all the mothers who taught their children to

tie their shoelaces before they started school. And for

all the mothers who opted for Velcro instead. This is

for all the mothers who teach their sons to cook and

their daughters to sink a jump shot.

This is for all mothers whose heads turn automatically

when a little voice calls “Mom ?” in a crowd, even

though they know their own off spring are at home.

This is for all the mothers who sent their kids to

school with stomach aches, assuring them they’d be

just FINE once they got there, only to get calls from

the school nurse an hour later asking them to please

pick them up right away.

This is for mothers whose children have gone astray,

who can’t find the words to reach them.

For all the mothers who bite their lips sometimes until

they bleed-when their 14 year olds dye their hair

green.

What makes a good Mother anyway? Is it patience?

Compassion? Broad hips? The ability to nurse a baby,

cook dinner, and sew a button on a shirt, all at the same time?

Or is it heart? Is it the ache you feel when you watch

your son or daughter disappear down the street,

walking to school alone for the very first time?

The jolt that takes you from sleep to dread, from bed

to crib 2 A.M.to put your hand on the back of a

sleeping baby?

The need to flee from wherever you are and hug your

child when you hear news of a fire, a car accident, a

child dying? For all the mothers of the victims of all

these school shootings, and the mothers of those who

did the shooting. For the mothers of the Survivors,

and the mothers who sat in front of their TVs in horror,

hugging their child who just came home from school, safely.

This is for mothers who put pinwheels and teddy bears on their children’s graves.

This is for young mothers stumbling through diaper

changes and sleep deprivation. And mature mothers

learning to let go.

For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers.

Single mothers and married Mothers. Mothers with

money, mothers without.

This is for you all. So hang in there.

“Home is what catches you when you fall-and we all fall.”

Love you Mom!

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