29 January 2012

Awards and Rewards

My writing friend, Rosemary Gemmell, gave me a blogging award last week. This is a fun way to introduce people to other bloggers of interest. This one, The Liebster Award, is recommended for blogs with fewer than 200 followers. Well, that's mine, all right!
So, I'd like to pass this award on to five wonderful bloggers, not necessarily devoted solely to writing, but they share information in a fun manner:

Mystery Author Rhys Bowen, College Student Parker Bunch, Lette's Chat, Sci-fi author TK Toppin, and Americymu's Blog Collection.

Now for the Rewards part of today's post: it's the beauty of a day like today for those of us who live in Tucson year-round. Sunny, 75 degrees--on January 29th.  I mean, just look at this sky:

This is looking over the backyard wall. Not retouched in any way.
 Yes, the sky is that blue at 4PM in January.
Here's looking toward the front yard:
Facing west in the late afternoon
Sorry if you're in a snowy, slimy, cold place right now. Trust me, we pay for this in July, August, and September, and Mother Nature's fees are steep. It will be so hot come the end of June, the blue of the sky seems bleached white. So yes, this time of year is our reward to sweating it out all summer. It's been a fantabulous week of weather this delightful, and the forecast is for much of the same in the days ahead. I spent the weekend potting plants and playing in the dirt. It was glorious. Reveling in the sunlight without frying to a crisp in ten minutes is marvelous. I'm going to treasure every moment of a winter such as this. 

23 January 2012

Of Days Gone By

Okay, this may be a rambling sort of post today... I was intrigued by an article in today's New York Times about old advertisements found on the side of buildings when another was demolished in Highland Park, Michigan. The NYT got their information from a blog, Sweet Juniper, whose author did most of the research on the company whose advertisements for boys' clothing has been uncovered.

It got me thinking about how what is currently "hot" will become obsolete and unknown. Such things seem to happen more quickly now in our face-paced, gobble up and spit out culture. But stop and think for a moment: what stalwart company from your childhood is gone? Does the discovery of an old advertisement bring nostalgia or depression--or a mixture of both?
From the NYT article "Ghost Signs"...

For me, I remember the Borax and Comet commercials on television. Something about a "twenty-mule train" plodding across Death Valley is associated with Borax. I know the stuff still exists--when my son was small, we made crystal ornaments from a solution of Borax. And Comet...there was a theme song someone had bastardized into Comet/makes your whole house clean/Comet/makes your teeth so green/Comet/makes you vomit/So get some Comet and vomit today!

Amazing what the weird little recesses of your brain hang on to, isn't it?

But back to these nearly century-old advertisements found on the buildings. They date to somewhere between 1915 and 1922. At the start of that time, the world was still in a genteel place of boys in knickers and ladies who carried parasols. Etiquette and gracious manners ruled. Think "Somewhere in Time" with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

Of course, the real ugly side to that society was "Just the Way of Nature": oppression of any people of color, repression of women, sweat shop and prison labor abuses, etc.  But generally, life was slower and more shielded. Then Ford came up with the motorized assembly line, the Wright brothers came up with a machine that actually could stay in the air, and suddenly the pace increased, hurtling society forward at greater and greater speeds. The Great War started and the world shuddered in a cataclysm of violence. Nothing was ever the same, no nation could ever remain totally isolated from the wars of another again. And many mourned the demise of the status quo while others clawed their way up from where they'd been held down.

I highly recommend you read both the original blog post and the NYT article. I feel a short story coming on...

15 January 2012

Learning Curve

When I was a child, I had the silly notion that once I finished school I would have all the knowledge I would need to live a comfortable life. Now that you're done laughing hysterically, wiping your eyes, and picking yourself up from the floor, remember I did say I was a child. These days, I know living a full life means the learning never stops. It simply shifts to different directions.

My son always reminds me I'm a "noob"--what used to be called a novice--when it comes to technology. I'm not arguing that fact. But I'm rather amazed at what I have learned to do so far on a computer since I got my first PC in 1996. All of it was born of my desire to write.

Writing is the easy part, as many authors will tell you. But looking at the basic mechanics of how to get that story to publication, I have to admit I was indeed, a total noob. I had no idea of how to set margins, or what "formatting" was. I didn't even know I could change the font when I started!

There are other people out there who know just as little. I think we forget that sometimes, those of us who have forced ourselves to forge on through setting up websites, blogs, and social media pages. We forget to explain how templates work, the difference between a PDF and Word, how to cut and paste, and other things we all had to learn at some point. So many times we assume that younger people know all of this as a matter of course, but they don't always.

Technology is so fluid, rapidly changing and moving forward like water rushing to the sea. I had never video chatted with anyone until last night when I Skyped with my Wombat friend from Australia. She had a camera, I do not, so it was quite a comedy of errors on my end at first. I could hear her, then I couldn't, then I could again. Trying to read lips on video was hilarious! I haven't laughed that much in a long time.

So my mission in the coming week is to get a webcam--well, maybe. I rather like not having to look nice while I type away, but perhaps I can come up with an ingenious way to look presentable without actually being so. After all, Jane Jetson did.

04 January 2012

Commemorations

Nearly 365 days. How does a mother stand it? How many of those days has she wept, standing in the shower, hearing a snippet of favorite song? How does a father not break into pieces at the sight of an empty ball field?

On Sunday, January 8th, one year will have passed since the horrors of senseless violence rocked Tucson to its knees. Nineteen people shot. Six dead. Oh yes, I know terrible tragedy happens every day: University of Texas, Virginia Tech, Columbine, San Ysidro. And as someone told me right after it happened, why shouldn't  it happen in Tucson? What's so special about your town that it should be spared such depravity? I couldn't--can't-- answer that other than to wish we could find a sensible way to control the ease with which people slaughter one another everywhere. What we can aspire to and what we will achieve are vastly separated by avarice, fear, and stubbornness.

The makeshift memorial outside University Medical Center, January 10, 2010
But that's not what I want to address today. How do parents go on breathing as the world goes on turning? There is nothing so incomprehensible than the death of a young child. The mind can't explain, can't grasp any sort of reason that creates a sense of acceptance. The Green family, who lost Christina Taylor-Green on that sunny Saturday morning, decided to share the goodness and hope their daughter exuded in her nine years. They started a foundation in her name, and will mark her passing with an Each One Take One Fun Walk on Saturday along the pathway bearing her name, for everyone to celebrate the joy of being outside in the fabulous desert air.

The parents of Gabe Zimmerman, the thirty-year-old aide to Representative Gabrielle Giffords who was killed 361 days ago, are preserving his memory by having a trail head named in his honor. Davidson Canyon, a starkly gorgeous place southeast of Tucson, connects to The Arizona Trail running from Mexico to Utah. By all accounts, Gabe loved nature and outdoor events and was an avid hiker. What could be a more appropriate way to preserve his joyful fervor than to name a hiking trail for him?

Still, it must be incredibly bittersweet for his parents to walk that trail, remembering how their son loved such activities and the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. As difficult as it must be for every parent who has lost an adult son or daughter in the military, or to random violence of being at the wrong place at a terrible time.

The families of Judge John Roll, Dorthy Murray, Phyllis Schneck, and Dorwan Stoddard mourn the loss of their spouse, parents, grandparents, and siblings. And they, too, were each someone's child.

Tragedy affects us all at some time in our lives. The choice of how to respond is our own. Tucson has made strides to be positive and come together as a community in the near-year since January 8th. My hope is that we continue to search for practical solutions and help for those suffering from mental illness to reduce the probability of it happening again any time soon.