THE MEANING OF MEMORIES

I started thinking about my childhood recently, in a more focused and intentional way than I have previously. I wondered if my memories have had an impact on me or if they’re just a collection of miscellaneous impressions? Have they shaped what I’ve become?

After extensive study of about five minutes, I’ve decided what I’ve retained is a handful of rapid situations. They don’t seem to connect to one another or to my life’s evolution. Since my degree is in psychology, I’ve dipped my toe in the indefinable pool of dreams, the unconscious, the subconscious, and the way these intangibles may put their mark on us.

As a writer, my memories can become fodder for my creations. An incident playing cowboys gets inserted in a story. A friend’s way of tossing her head can identify a character. Perhaps if I pursue memories in an organized fashion, my work will benefit. Others assure me that once I begin plumbing my recollections, I’ll  remember more and more. But I mostly want to do it because it’s fun.

Take the thought of an immense wooden packing case. Appliances and large items like furniture used to be delivered in sturdy boxes of timber, not flimsy cardboard or Styrofoam. They also were secured with bendable wire. When one of these items showed up in my yard, it jump-started ideas. It probably was about four by four by four feet in dimension. At the time, maybe fifth grade, I was in love with horses. Not that my family had any, but after submerging myself in every horse book I could lay my hands on (think Black Beauty, the Black Stallion series, Misty of Chincoteague), I would have traded my soul for one. Since we lived in a middle-class suburb with too many little brothers and sisters, my chance of getting a horse to ride was zero.

Luckily my imagination was unfettered. The box became a stage coach; my siblings, passengers; and I was the driver. It seems now as if I spent the entire spring taking imaginary journeys, complete with hold-ups, runaway horses, and broken wheels. My mind galloped to other ideas. Once I threw a ragged discarded bedspread over it, the crate began to double as a cabin,. . .a school with my siblings as reluctant scholars when I lined them up in rows

To this day, if I see a box of similar dimensions, my heart speeds up and I immediately begin plotting what it could be used for. A temporary hiding place from thieves, a corral for pets or small children. This memory makes me happy, even if I don’t use it for anything productive. Research has shown that reminiscing has the capacity to reduce loneliness, boredom, stress and depression. It can also help considerably in dealing with traumatic experiences, 

If you wonder about the value of wasting time remembering, just ask someone with a friend or loved one who’s lost his reminisces through Alzheimer’s or dementia. Only a hollow shell of HIM remains. He’s able to eat, mumble, sleep; but his essence has vanished. So I’ll keep pulling out these miscellaneous snippets of memory to help me make sense of my past, present, future. They’re the building blocks of my spirit.

Beating my head against a wall: Why I continue to write

           

 

 

 

            We’re all familiar with romantic passion. The spine-tingling kiss. The intense desire. The longing to be with a special person. We’re fortunate if we find lasting and positive romantic passion. We’re even luckier if we find passion in our lives FOR our lives. I’ve finally come to realize my driving passion is writing.  

            Recently I was sitting around feeling sorry for myself, which happens to me when I don’t have pending deadlines or if I think about various problems. To pass the time instead of doing productive work, I turned to Facebook. Lo and behold there was a new entry by Nancy, my former boss. Rather than bemoaning the state of the world or herself, Nancy’s too busy traveling, running several businesses (travel, consulting), and volunteering. She doesn’t wait for someone or something to entertain her. She throws herself into every minute. I decided next time I was depressed, frustrated or hopeless, I’ll just visit Nancy’s Facebook page and sample her adventures. She has passion and it’s contagious. An excellent example for me.

            After decades pursuing my dream, I’m still not ready to throw in the towel. Somewhere inside any person who chases a dream, there’s a little voice saying, “Keep going; don’t give up yet.” That voice might be an angel’s or a demon’s, but it has a definite impact on life.

            I’ve come to believe this trait is also present in people who believe in a cause, philosophy, or mission. Politics, religion, art, music. Gardening, quilting, recycling. Call it a passion or an obsession, it can give your existence meaning, link you with others, and provide a structure many people find helpful. 

            My saga started at age ten, when I submitted a poem to the Saturday Evening Post (it was immediately rejected). I got experience on the job, doing public and community relations and marketing for non-profit organizations. I’ve been a freelance writer for news and features. Several years ago I decided to focus on fiction writing. Now I have published a number of books through small publishers. Another example of passionate person is young Greta Thunberg, the political activist on climate change, who’s inspired millions. Another is an eight-year-old friend of mine who’s passionate about Egyptology and Irish step-dancing.

            Having a passion allows me to rise above, go beyond where I am, in order to be conscious of my existence and place in the universe. Some call this transcendence. I’m able to raise and answer questions about myself and life. As author Flannery O’Connor said, “I write to discover what I know.”

            But surely a writer needs more than a passion in order to produce? What? There’s no magic process. Novelist W. Somerset Maugham said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

            As a writer, I’ve learned to navigate a shaky path between my desire to write, inherent laziness, and advice from everyone and anyone. The outside world always has opinions. I’ve learned to thicken my hide, take advice with a bit of salt, then apply as I feel best. For example, one inspirational line editor wanted me to make clear that the heroine wasn’t in a sexual relationship with a male friend.

            When you read my books, you can anticipate women’s fiction, ordinary people living their extraordinary lives. My characters aren’t flamboyant, rich, aggressive, shrieking foul language, or even simply annoying, to be interesting. That’s because everyday life challenges people to do and be their best, and their voyage to learning this is fascinating.

Guest blog: Author LM Spangler

Guest Blog: Author LM Spangler

(Spangler is an author with my new publisher Totally Entwined)

From a young age, I remember burying my nose in a book,  a love that my mother and father passed onto my brother and myself. From my passion for reading sprang my love of writing. My mind is so often full of story ideas from the wildly paranormal to contemporary. I have notebooks lying about with story outlines and character descriptions. A song or TV show can spark an idea which circles my mind until I put the idea on paper.

When I’m not writing, I enjoy spending time with my family, burying my nose in a book, and watching a vast variety of television shows from crime dramas to 1970’s game shows. I even dabble in crafting. My favorite craft would be jewelry making. Nothing like creating wearable art.I’m also a graphic artist. You can see my works of art at www.designsbl.wordpress.com.

I live close to the Maryland border in South Central Pennsylvania. My husband is wonderfully supportive of me in all aspects of my life. I have a son who is currently serving our country in the U.S. Navy. My daughter is still in school. I’m blessed to have the three of them in my life.

Buy Links:

Totally Bound: https://www.totallybound.com/book/follow-your-heart

Books 2 Read Universal Buy link: https://books2read.com/u/m2ryJO

Blurb:

She left love behind, but he followed his heart…and her.

Paige Havalland left her career as an attorney in her father’s law firm and the older man she loved for small lake-town living. She thinks love is something she can never have because of her new career. Then Ben shows up at her bed and breakfast, throwing all her preconceived notions about love and life topsy-turvy.

Benjamin Beckett has a plan for a future in the small town of Riverbend, Pennsylvania. The possibility of a new law office and being with the woman he loves calls him from the hustle and bustle of big city living. He’s sure he can reignite the fiery passion he and Paige shared two years before but convincing her that they can overcome her notions about their relationship will be a different story.

This is Paige’s one shot at true happiness. Will she push Ben away or follow her heart to have the life of her dreams?

Excerpt:

“You can’t leave,” he objected.

I sighed. “Why does it matter so much?”

“You know you mean a lot to me, Paige.” Benjamin ‘Ben’ Beckett ran his hand through his silver-toned hair.

“My body is important to you, nothing more than that. My father left me their old house in Riverbend. I’m going to turn it into a bed and breakfast. This law shit has never been for me, I’m not lawyer material.” I faced the window.

The sun had begun to hide behind the horizon, painting the sky in shades of pink, purple, orange and blue. The end-of-the-workday whiskey I sipped burned a path down my throat into my empty stomach.

Ben grabbed me, spun me around and deposited my ass onto my desk.

“What the ……?” I sputtered.

He pulled my skirt up my thighs and stepped between my legs.

I opened my mouth to object to the rough handling but stopped when our gazes collided. Heat smoldered deep in the depths of his blue eyes. “Look,” I said finally. “We had a lot of fun with each other, a lot of great sex. But you knew that was all it could ever be…just sex.”

Who was I kidding? I’d been head over heels in love with the man for three years, but we could never be more than what we were. I wasn’t lawyer material. I never would be. Staying on with the company after my father had passed wasn’t in the cards and I’d known for the last two and a half years that I wouldn’t stay here.

The blue of his eyes deepened in color, something I couldn’t read reflecting back at me.

“Yes. Come to my place tonight,” I murmured between kisses.

Stepping back, he allowed me to slide off the desk and readjust my skirt.

“See you later,” I said over my shoulder.

Author LM Spangler

 

 

If You Have a Crutch, Use It! Language crutches and discourse markers

On a recent phone call, the person I was talking to ended nearly every inquiry with “Perfect,” even if it had no application to our topic of discussion. I eventually realized she was using this as a filler word, also called discourse marker, to fill in the silence that accompanies speech between humans. People used to commonly use “awesome.” Others over the years have included the British “brilliant,” the old-fashioned “groovy,” the hipster “right on,” and a slew of others, including “um,” “ah,” and “like.”

Discourse markers fascinate me. Although they do nothing to add to the content of speech, simply slowing the discussion down and, if extreme, distracting listeners who start counting the number sprinkled here and there. They can give hints about the speaker’s age and, I believe, a bit about his background, educational level, gender, lack of social ease, and social class.

Women tend to use them more than men, as if fearful that silence equates to boredom. Men tend to overdo the F-word. I’ve eavesdropped on men talking to one another during which a variation of “f—-ng” served as noun, verb, object for nearly the entire conversation.

My grandson picked up a filler word relatively young. At the age of six, he started prefacing his discourses with “literally,” which he probably heard his big brother using. It does serve to facilitate his language because (1) it sounds somewhat adult, (2) it grants him a few seconds to organize his thoughts before spewing. His big brother seems to avoid many of the common discourse markers. For some unknown reason, he doesn’t feel obligated to fill in every second with speech. On the other hand, my granddaughter could serve as the poster child for filler words. Like a traditional Valley Girl (which she is not), she uses the word “like” in every sentence.

I figured out why. Her brain is speeding so quickly, she has to allow her mouth to catch up. There are some valid reasons to use discourse markers. Some others are to slow down your news, particularly if it’s bad; to show you’re thinking; to stall for time. In my example, my phone partner indicated she was listening to me and working to resolve our problem.

This verbal shorthand seems to operate well only when talking out loud. Still many experts say using them too much makes the speaker appear unprofessional and scrambling or pompous and wordy. Best to try to avoid their overuse.

Can you imagine how boring a written passage would be if laden with filler words? Hmmm. Maybe not. Might make the story ultra-realistic and relatable. As a writer, I find the idea intriguing and challenging. Perhaps it’s exactly what I need. You know?

WRITING A POEM IS DISCOVERING [Robert Frost]

 

 

 

 

I find myself turning more to poetry the older I get. Maybe because I’m uncertain about the process of aging. I thought I’d have more answers, but I get more uncertain with each passing day. It seems I can come to grips with that uncertainty, and, by the way, with insomnia, by indulging myself.

Here is a line 

Here is a line,

A place, a space,

Where she is and she is not.

Containing finite territory and infinite ether.

Side by side. Both parts are her. Seen and unseen.

How can this be? Yet it is.

 

“Metastatic breast cancer.”

She speaks with practiced ease from saying the words a thousand times,

Thinking them a million times.

Where she is now will become the reverse,

an absence.

Where she is now will transmute into a void.

How will I know her shape when she is gone?

Both halves exist now. Her and not-her.

Both halves will continue afterwards. Her and not her.

She walks, a shape, a shade, at the same time,

Her presence, gradually losing substance until she becomes her own counterpart.

 

I wait day by day.

Grasp the wisps of her

Flowing through my fingers like fog.

Hardly satisfactory, now or then,

Until she is missing.

Only a hollow,

Nothing to be done

Except fill the outlines of both sides of her with my pain

(©) 2019.