Friday, February 26, 2010

Killer Whale

I don't normally get political. But, I can't help it about this story. Why do people pen up wild animals outside their natural habitats and expect them to act all nicey-nicey and thank their captors for giving them a roof over their heads and good wholesome food? Then those people are surprised when the poor animal turns on them. Actually, the killer whale incident that happened in Florida on February 25 was this particular whale's third murder.

I would think its captors have two choices - kill the killer animal or set it free. But, it will do neither. They say it couldn't survive in the wild. But, really they want to keep it performing on their Florida show. It will probably bring in more of an audience and more money now -- an audience willing to feed its hunger for the chance to see  more blood and gore. Here's my poem:

Killer Whale Tale
He took her long pony tail into his mouth
and pulled her into the water
and thrashed her around until she was dead.
That happened February 25, 2010
at Sea World in Florida
while lots of visitors looked on.
Supposedly she was an experienced
whale trainer.
Supposedly she knew this whale guy well.
In fact she sometimes laid on him
stroking him and cooing and singing
into his killer whale ear just for the fun of it.
But it goes to show
how little we really know
about creatures from the wild
that are penned up all day and night
outside of their natural habitats.
They can turn on us anytime.
Their agitation and anger
can override everything they’ve learned
in captivity.
These guys aren’t called killer whales
for nothing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kudos to Jane Fonda

The Huffington Post had an article yesterday about Jane Fonda's facelift complete with before and after photos, and a few weeks ago it reported that she was going to release an exercise DVD for the boomer generation next year.

Well, Jane and I go way back. When we returned from Kwajalein, a Marshall Island, in the late 1970s I was used to exercising regularly – I had played tennis every day and had begun a running program, but I hadn’t yet started doing aerobics. I started that with the advent of the Jane Fonda tapes. I played tennis and I did aerobics with Jane. And that became a habit. Then once we joined the Manhattan Country Club – in the early 1980s I began taking aerobics classes there and working out in the weight room and of course the rest is history. I work out every day now. I don’t even want to think about which days I work out and which days I don’t. I just work out every day. Of course I don’t take aerobics anymore – not even step aerobics – but like today, I did 35 minutes of cardio and 25 minutes of Yoga stretches, and tomorrow I’ll do some cardio before my Pilates class. For someone almost 70 that’s quite enough.

And, I give Jane the credit. She was my exercise muse, role model, and guru. And, she hasn’t quit either. I love that she’s going to put out an exercise DVD for us old folks. That was one of my dreams a while ago – to become a trainer specializing in old folks like me. But I decided I had much too much on my plate for that. I’ll just have to be content with using the products Jane produces.

By the way I had a facelift too – but not as recently as Jane. I was 50. She just had one at age 72. And, why not? She wants to marry husband number 4, so she needs to look her best – not that she looked so bad before.

By the way, Jane, I got a short haircut right after my facelift too – to take people’s attention to my hair rather than my new face. Did you get that idea from me?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What I do instead of write

I’m not doing so well with my novel project. I’ve begun to develop my characters and do a little research about where they come from and where they end up living. But, so far no writing. And of course I have no excuse. I’ve sat myself down at my computer this afternoon with the full intent to rectify that and what do I do, I futz around with emails, submission guidelines for poetry contests, and searching for ways to get my friends to vote for my More magazine reinvention story. Nothing has really been done to move along my novel writing since I completed the UCLA workshop two weeks ago.

But, I have gone to a few movies lately and thought about beginnings, middles, and endings – the stuff of novels I was taught – so it’s not that I haven’t been thinking about it. For example, “Valentine’s Day” had a great beginning that introduced all the many characters in the film, it had lots of funny and even poignant middle scenes, and an ending that pulled all the threads together. Some pulling took a lot of effort, some was done with ease and the end result was a surprisingly delightful movie.

I also saw “Avatar.” I really had no interest in seeing it for the story – I was mainly interested in it for the special effects, so I was surprised to see that parts of the story deeply touched me and that its ending pulled all the threads through. Of course it was your typical good vs. evil theme, but the parts that got me was the relationship the blue people had with one another, how they cared about their world, and how they stayed together in times of crisis. It was easy to tell how the real humans in the story could not ever belong in their world. Good stuff with an ending that totally made sense if one can make any sense at all about turning a human into one of the blue people forever.

In contrast, at our son’s request we also saw “From Paris with Love.” What a waste of time. The main character played by a bloated and bald John Travolta was a caricature of an action hero – had he been 25 years younger it might have worked. And his constant use of a deadly weapon became laughable. In the old days I used to cover my eyes at the slightest hint of violence. This film was all violence! One dead body after another! Bang you’re dead! It happened so often and so quickly I couldn’t help laughing. In fact, I could care less about any of the characters in the film. And, the ending had no threads pulled through. It was just an end – the action hero left by plane. He was through so, bye-bye now buddy, you’re on your own. And just get over the girl – she was no good anyway. The director also directed “Taken,” also with an old action hero main character. I didn’t like that film much either.

Now I’m ready to see some more of the films up for this year’s Academy Awards, e.g., “The Last Station,” “The White Ribbon,” “Caroline,” “The Serious Man.” Time is running out. I may have to see more than one film a day if I want to finish before the awards show.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Four Birthdays

I just spent this past weekend in Santa Barbara with side trips to Los Olivos and Ojai with my sister, sister-in-law, and my sister-in-law's cousin celebrating each of our milestone birthdays. The weather was gorgeous, the accommodations right on the Santa Barbara coast were comfortable and luxurious, and of course the food and wine very plentiful. And, as with most of my activities, here's my commemorative poem.

Four Birthdays

Four aging women
gather together
to celebrate their special birthdays.
One is 60 (the baby), one 65,
and two reach 70
within this calendar year.
Welcomed for the weekend
at Susie’s beach house
along Shoreline Drive
in Santa Barbara,
they eat Argentinean empanadas,
Greek tzatziki and feta, and
southwestern chili and
taste wine in the hills
above Los Olivos,
along the famed Sideways route.
As Chris with the gray beard
and long blonde hair
who poured in the film
pours for them
they critique pinots,
sauvignon blancs, chardonnays,
merlots and syras
as smooth and fruity,
strong, tobacco-y, and spicy or
not worth even a sip.
After all that food and wine
these old girls
can’t help dozing through
the ceremony opening
the winter Olympic games
in Vancouver, Canada, 2010.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Back on the positive side

Well, even though writing a novel does takes such a long time, I might as well get started. I’ll kick myself if I live to be a lucid 100-year old and not have done it. (My mother lived to 94 so I have a good chance.)

Plus, I’m already thinking about the research I’ll need. I was in the downtown shoe repair shop this morning before work, and it is just about how I remember my grandfather’s - small, old equipment, dirty, bags of repaired shoes on a shelf behind the counter, and shoe-related stuff for sale on the opposite wall - all with that strong waxy boot black smell. At some point in the book I’ll have to describe the shoe repair shop of one of the main characters, and there, right in the downtown of my home town, I have a model.
I bet the owner would love an acknowledgement in my book.

Monday, February 8, 2010

So should I tackle writing a novel or not?

The 4-day Writing the First Novel workshop was great. Jessica Barksdale Inclan, the instructor and a romance novelist, has an uncanny way of giving notes on our writing without taking many notes herself. She got to know all of the nine women in the workshop, and our writing styles, our writing needs, and the stories we are telling in record time. I think that is a real talent. Plus, she has real enthusiasm for the craft that comes out full force as she speaks in her wonderful dramatic style. I’m going to have her as a guest blogger here very soon, so watch out for reminders about that.

But, right now I’m in a quandary about whether to actually sit down and do the work of writing a novel after all. I’m way older than the rest of the people in the class. Those folks, all very talented, have the time. I don’t know if I do. It’s great to be this ambitious, and I might kick myself if I don’t do it – especially if I still have a lucid mind for the next 10 years or so, but should I use what precious time I have left on such a huge project. Marlene says my continually taking on these projects is what keeps me young, and certainly she has a point there. It’s good to keep challenging myself mentally – especially if I do retire at some point. I don’t want to sit around and veg all day. I'll need to have a writing outlet of some kind.

Besides, the novel subject that I’ve picked is going to take a lot of research. Bob’s done some already for the family history he’s writing, but I need to especially get information about the locales and what was going on during the time in history I’m writing about. And, then developing – that is making up – the characters is no small task. I am not convinced that this is a project for an almost 70-year old woman.

I’ve already made the choice not to take the online Novel 1 class that Jessica is teaching starting in April. We’ll be traveling most of May and June, so I don’t want an added encumbrance. Sure, I can write while we’re away. Jessica says she only writes one hour a day (300 words a day times 300 days makes a 300 page novel). That doesn’t sound too bad. It’s just all the filling in with facts, and character traits, and checking back and forth for consistency that will take a lot of time afterward.

Choices. That’s what it’s all about – as usual.

I'll keep you posted on what I decide - yet again!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"More" magazine reinvention story contest

I entered the "More" magazine reinvention story contest a few days ago. And, I've asked my friends to go to the "More" website and vote for it. And, now I'm asking my blog followers and network to do the same. Plus, you'll find the website a great resource - especially if you're over 40 like me. The link is Here's my story.

Writing to Save My Life
I was 59 years old when my son, afflicted with bipolar disease, took his own life. Following an aftermath filled with guilt and grief, I made the decision to come out of that experience alive, whole, and productive. No, I didn’t get a divorce, I didn’t have a breakdown, I didn’t have an affair with a beautiful younger man, and I didn’t go into years of therapy. Instead I picked myself up and relearned how to live my life again.

First, I stopped working from home in my sweats or PJs as a grant writer and capital campaign manager for nonprofits. Instead, I went back to the job I had retired from several years earlier – as a proposal manager for a large aerospace company. This job provided the routine and socialization I needed -- getting up at the same time every morning, dragging myself to the gym first thing, dressing in business attire, putting on make-up and doing my hair, and interacting with groups of people on the job every day.

The next thing I did was hone my creative writing skills. I went to classes and workshops, got into the journaling habit, organized my notes and created a memoir about surviving this experience, and I began writing poetry to keep my son’s memory alive. Through this process I found that writing became my therapy and a way of healing – plus I got a boost with every publishing success.

Now, 11 years later I’m still working full time with ever increasing leadership and mentoring roles. However, I’m now leaning toward another retirement. My husband and I want to travel, and I want more time to write. If I don’t write every day I get itchy. I’ve integrated it into my life. In fact, writing saved my life.