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Archive for October, 2010

Some things seem to never change. The sun rises and sets. Dogs chase cats; cats chase birds; birds eats insects and worms. Termites find wood in my house. Ants sneak in here and there, despite my exterminator. And I believe cockroaches will be on earth long after we humans have vacated the planet.

But changes do happen and one of the big areas where that seems to be true is in the relationships between man and woman inside marriage. In the early years, when one feels intense love, changes happen that can even be identified in the human brain. Studies have been done through brain scans that show marked differences in the brain configuration in persons that are in love.

It seems to me that the state of love also causes people to behave in ways that change in time. In the beginning,these couples not only think their partners are the most wonderful human beings on earth, but they admire and accept all their thoughts, their ways, and their behaviors totally.

The brain scan study took their experiment further and studied married couples later on in their relationships, say two or three years down the line. The changes in the brain had diminished if not disappeared altogether; the couples didn’t always think alike on all issues. One of them would like a neighbor; the other couldn’t tolerate that person. One of them would leave their socks on the floor; the other never turned a light off upon leaving a room. The list is long.

But we’re still in the early years, so no one says anything to the other. They just swallow the irritation and bring themselves back to the warm feeling that is still working in the early years.

Let’s look at what happens in the middle years in my next blog. My husband and I are going to have lunch now.

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Marriage Today

I was at a cocktail party recently where there were many people who I did not know. We grabbed our glasses of wine off a tray being passed by a uniformed server and looked around at whoever was standing next to us. The usual questions about where one is from and how we might know the hosts came first. They were followed by questions about perhaps having a mutual acquaintance from your home town.

In my case, I did know some people who my companion also knew. I’d even gone to a 50th anniversary party for that couple. By coincidence my companion was invited to that affair but was unable to attend. We remarked how youthful and athletic this couple was. And then I was asked … out of the blue …, “How long have you been married?”

I thought the question was a bit out of order, much like being asked. “How old are you?” Regaining my composure, I answered my companion’s question. After digesting the rather large number of years that my marriage has survived, she said, “To the same person?”

I laughed. My marriage’s survival did not seem so unusual or strange to me, but to my companion, a woman at least a couple of decades younger than I, marriages don’t have much of a chance to surviving many years. This change in our culture is quite remarkable.

For my generation, divorce was unusual. Not that all those long-standing marriages were happy. Not by a long shot. But couples stayed together for economic reasons, for religious reasons, or for fear of being ostracized by their friends.

Today, men and women are equally able to take care of themselves. Our society has become much more secular, and many different aberrations of behavior have become, if not accepted, at least tolerated. It is easy to explain that today one’s chance of being divoced is at fifty-five per cent.

I must remember to tell the next person who asks, in the same breath, that I have been married many years and … would you believe? … to the same man.

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for Becoming Alice

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I never had anything passed down to me from my grandparents. They didn’t have a chance to do that. Hitler took care of that as I described in Becoming Alice. Perhaps that is why I treasure so very much what has been passed down to me by my parents. For example, there is that old, not expensive, and not-particularly-stylish desk that Dad had in one of his unused bedrooms that I took and left in my garage for so many years because I had no place in my house for it. Until now. You see, I am in the middle of moving out of a house I’ve lived in for decades to move into another where there is a place for that old desk. It has been moved to my new house and I am thrilled to be using it. It is scrached and marred and needs to be refinished, but I’m leaving it as is. I can almost feel my Dad’s presence in the room as I sit at my computer and look down at the leather inset, that is so out of style now. It makes me feel good.

I don’t know if I’d call it an heirloom, or not. How many generations does an item need to be passed through to be considered an heirloom? It doesn’t matter to me.

What makes me most happy of all is that I am able to pass on a few items from my parents to my children. There is a pair of antique chairs that I bought many years ago which were upholstered by a torn and well worn fabric. My Mom replaced that upholstery with the most beautiful needlepoint work which she designed, making them truly museum quality. I was able to pass them on to my daughter who will treasure them from here on in. I think I can call those chairs heirlooms now. And it gives me the most heartwarming feeling, a feeling I did not anticipate I’d have.

I passed a painting from my husband’s family on to my son and daughter-in-law and they proudly display it in their home. Perhaps that will be an heirloom if and when they may pass it on to one of their children.

Another daughter has a Country French Chest and small leather trunk which she displays in her living room. I am thrilled to see these items in theri homes. It is almost as if I’ve left a little piece of myself with them for now when I can visit them, and for later when those pieces will remind them of me, of my parents, and of our family.

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A Writer’s Ying Yang

Being a writer, for me, is not like being anything else. Most people have jobs that keep them busy from nine to five, or some other equation of hours within the twenty-four hour day. That usually is the case for a range of our population from garbage collectors to CEO’s of large corporations. If any of them have a bent for writing they need to work that into the spare hours that are left. If they are anything like me, they will be pulled in two different direction: the ying of having to put bread on the table and the yang of needing to write, to put words down on paper.

I am lucky in the sense that I don’t have to work at a job to put bread on the table, but I do have a ying that I battle constantly. My ying involves running a household, shopping for food, clothes, plants, paper goods, hardware, gifts, etc. etc. I pay bills, do bookkeeping, accounting, tax returns. I have doctor and dentist appointments, among others. It all is sometimes mundane and boring, and sometimes satisfying when its done, and even relaxing when it doesn’t take any amount of thinking to accomplish. Most important, it is necessary.

But then there is that yang that pulls me away from doing those ying things. It is my desire … no, my need to write. I write in my head as I drive my car or water my plants, or wait in line at the supermarket. I struggle to find the time to write as much as anyone who has a nine to five job.

The ying-yang goes on withing me all the time. I am not sure, but I think most writers must feel this as well.

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I’ve just received my writing group’s Anthology entitled Windows. It was published by the Ventura County Writers Club and had many works by writers who I knew from various workshops I’ve attended over the years. Great writers. Great poets. Great artists. I was not among them.

My time this past year or two has been taken up with marketing my memoir, Becoming Alice , beginning a new work, and moving from one home into another. That in and of itself has turned out to be a monumental task.

However, one of my first writing endeavors was published in an anothology many years ago. And I remember so well my feelings at that time. I couldn’t have been more excited had I written a best seller, or had been awarded a Pulitzer price. It was the thrill of holding the book in my hands and reading my words on the printed page and seeing my name, my very own name, as the author of those words. I felt as if I’d achieved the impossible. Of course, time has muted my excitement in writing something I think is truly worthwhile and, even better, having it publishing.

I think it is like the excitement I felt from my maiden voyage to Europe. There was nothing quite like it in all the subsequent trips I took to the Continent, much as I enjoyed each and every one of them.

As to all the authors whose works are in Windows, my hat is off to you. I hope you are all excited, no matter how much or how little, about seeing your words in print.

Perhaps I’ll try to join you in another anthology one of these days.

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Writers have feelings about their characters whether they create them in a work of fiction, or if they choose to write about real people, a work of non-fiction. In either case, the writer is going to feel something for these characters, something on a sliding scasle from positive to negative. If the person they write about is a historical figure, perhaps the British Prince of Whales who abdicated his throne for the love of a woman, or Queen Elizabeth (Sisi) of Austria, both of whom are tragic figures, they can choose to draw them with understanding and empathy, or as flawed characters. It all depands on the writer’s own previous life experiences.

I’ll bet the choice will be based on some person the writer had known, or some incident he/she may have experienced earlier in life. I believe the the writer’s orientaion may be a conscious one, or he/she may be totally unaware of the deep seated orientation he/she may have.

My own orientation in writing my memoir, Becoming Alice forced me to dig deep and bring back the personality traits and behaviors I’d seen in my parents at a specific point in time. These, sometimes, were not particularly admirable. I’ve always felt that anyone undertaking a memoir has to be completely honest, even at the expense of some of the main characters in their book. If they are unable to do that and they depict their characters more positively than they actually were, then they are writing fiction, and not a memoir.

I have found that the writer’s feelings about their characters can change over time. In my case, thankfully, their depiction changed remarkably from somewhat negative to quite positive over the years following the end of my book. Perhaps I should write a sequal to set things straight.

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