Billie's Attic ~  Welcome
Poet and Romance Author
Fiction and Fact
People often ask me where I get my inspiration for my novels. The answer is they come from everywhere – something I read or see, lyrics from songs, conversations with friends and family, a news item, a forgotten memory that suddenly re-emerges, a dream, an advertisement, a sunset -- the list is endless.

Even though inspiration is sparked by that fleeting moment of insight, that is only the beginning of creating a long work of fiction. Completing a novel requires persistence, diligence, and most of all hard work. We all have fleeting ideas, unusual revelations, and ingenious fancies. The willingness to labor with persistence and forbearance to fill the gaps in our inspirations is the first step toward writing fiction.

A moment of inspiration can happen in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye. A sustained creative endeavor requires time and skill. One moment of insight or revelation will exact days of study, research, and contemplation, and months -- maybe years of writing and revising to bring it to fruition. This ongoing and complicated activity makes rigorous demands on the writer’s thoughts and emotions.

The best advice I ever received for taking that moment of inspiration and beginning the process of turning it into a long work of fiction came from a teacher whose name I can't recall. She was the instructor of an adult education class I took long ago. She began her class by saying be honest with yourself so you can be honest with your readers.

I thought that was a strange statement for a class titled How to Write Fiction. Wasn't fiction an invented story, an imagined tale? She went on to explain that she was not speaking of literal truths. She was talking about personal truths.

Throughout much of my writing career, I have tried to stay true to that premise. I have come to believe that writing fiction begins with that fleeting moment of inspirational insight. It, in turn, kindles the first small flame of some remembered personal, but profound truth. It then becomes the author's to task to find a unique way to weave that personal truth into a story. Memorable, moving fiction is not written from a sense of anything but the author's deepest and most honest convictions.

Does this mean that writing fiction is nothing more than making new combinations from old and sometimes contradictory concepts and then integrating them with personal and original thoughts and ideas? Yes. That is what writing fiction is, that is what it does. When a writer begins to fuse conflicting concepts where they touch agreement, to observe familiar phenomena from a different perspective and to discover connections among those unrelated ideas and concepts the writing of fiction has begun, but it is far from complete. It still takes research, skill, work, patience, and a great deal of dedication and knowledge to create a literary work worth reading.

That, my friends, is how simple and how complex writing fiction really is.

Blessings,
Billie
October Memories
When I was a child, in October, my brother, Leon, and I looked forward to trick or treat. On Halloween evening we went around the neighborhood in our costumes collecting candy and other goodies.

We could never afford to buy costumes. Fortunately for us, our mother was innovative and a good seamstress. She made our costumes. On year she made Leon a pirate’s costume by cutting a jagged hem mid calf on a pair his discarded too-short pants, using a rope for his belt, and altering and sewing bright patches on one of my dad’s discarded shirts. She made an eye patch from a scrap of black material. My costume was an old sheet that she cleverly fashioned into a ghost costume.

Many of the treats we collected on that night were homemade. We got such things as homemade cookies, and popcorn balls, along with a huge portion of 'store-bought' candy.

October was also the month the carnival came to town. It arrived in mid October, set up on the fair grounds just outside the city limits, and stayed until Halloween had come and gone, before folding its many tents and silently stealing away, not to be seen again until another October arrived.

Mother never approved of the carnival. Daddy was much more broadminded. Once each year, he took my brother and me to see the sights and ride the rides. Leon was a daredevil. He rode everything from the loop-o-plane to the tilt-a-whirl. I liked the bumper cars and the hobby horses. Daddy rode the Ferris wheel with me. I was afraid to ride it alone.

The sideshows boasted a collection of freaks and oddities that were both frightening and intriguing. The rubber skinned man could stretch the skin on his arms and chest like it was elastic. The bearded lady really did have a beard. I looked closely to see and it wasn't fake, as I had first suspected. The three-legged man had a little leg and foot growing out of his stomach. The fat woman was huge. When she walked her stomach shook like jelly. The three-foot-tall man strutted around like he owned the place. I never decided if he was brave, or a little bit stupid. The sword swallower scared me. I was sure was going to cut his own throat. The fire-eater really did eat fire, and then let go with a blow torch blaze from his mouth. We saw so many amazing sights. We talked about them for months afterward.

And then, there was the cotton candy. We watched it spin around and become a sticky mess on a cardboard cone before paying our nickel and eating every sweet bite.

I don’t think there are anymore traveling carnivals with scary rides, freaky side shows, and cotton candy. Carnival time remains in my mind, after all these years, a vivid October memory.

I still love the month of October. I look forward to the cold wind blowing from the north and clouds hanging low on the horizon. These days rush by so swiftly as time seems to speed up. I wear a sweater when I go outside and sit a little nearer the fire in the evening. Then one day the sun remembers to shine and the wind forgets to blow. I revel in the magic of October’s bright blue weather. How few are those mellow October days, and how swiftly they hurry by.

RECIPES I NEVER TRIED

Along with the recipes that through the years, I have saved, revised, and treasure - or tried, tasted, and tossed away, I have others I have never tried - yet. Occasionally, I look at them and think soon, someday, or maybe.

One of my prized I-haven't-tried-yet recipes I bought at an auction. I don't usually dare move once an auction begins. I am afraid I will buy something I didn't know I bought. One night in 1974 I did buy a little cedar chest filled with recipes. This recipe for cheese was in it. I don't suppose I'll ever have an occasion to make cheese, but it's nice to know that if I ever do, I can. I pass the bit of information along to you exactly as it was written in long hand on two sheets of tablet paper

QUICK PROCESS CHEESE

Place 1&1/2 gallons of thick clabber milk on stove where it will get hot. Stir often to separate curds from whey, and cook and stir for 1/2 hour or until curd is very tough. Drain off whey and press curds under a heavy weight until the whey is all pressed out and the curd is very dry. Failure of this means a poor finished product.

Next place the dry curd in a bowl with 4 tablespoons fresh butter. Old butter will spoil the cheese. Add 3/4 teaspoon soda. Chop until well mixed and curd is quite fine. Press down in a bowl and let stand in a warm place for 2&1/2 hours. Then put the cheese in a double boiler with 2/3 cup of very thick and rich sour cream. (Do not use sweet cream.) 1&1/4 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon butter coloring.

As mixture begins to heat, stir until all the ingredients melt into a mass which looks like melted cheese, which is exactly what it is. Then pour into a well-buttered bowl or mold and set it away to cool. It is ready to eat as soon as it is cool. To cure, paraffin with a heavy coat and store in a cool place. This amount makes 1&1/2 pounds of cheese.

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This recipe caught my eye because I had never heard of buttermilk in an icing. There may be a reason for that. One of these days I plan to find out.

BUTTERMILK ICING
1/4 cup butter 1/2 teaspoon soda
1 cup sugar 1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon white corn syrup teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients. Boil until soft ball forms in water. Pour over a loaf cake that is still warm. The cake absorbs much of the icing. (So this recipe says. I have no empirical knowledge to back up that statement.)

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When I cut this recipe from the newspaper it sounded so different. I thought I had to try it. I haven't yet, but given enough time, I will.

PATIENCE CANDY
1 cup milk 3 cups sugar
1 cup melted sugar Teaspoon butter
2 teaspoons vanilla 1/2 cup nuts

Bring milk and three cups of sugar to a boil and slowly add a cup of sugar that has been melted in an iron skillet over low heat. Cook to firm ball stage, stirring occasionally. Remove from fire. Add butter, vanilla, and nuts. Beat until creamy. Drop by teaspoon fulls onto wax paper or a greased plate.

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The ruby slipper cake -wow! That conjures up visions of munchkins, wicked witches, and a winding yellow brick road. It sounded so exotic and different when I cut it from a Sunday supplement in 1956. Sometime in this new millennium I am sure I will find the time to make one.

RUBY SLIPPER CAKE

1 pkg. yellow cake mix (Use a mix that includes pudding in the mix)
1 cup sour cream 1/4 cup water
2 eggs 1 pkg. raspberry Jello

Combine cake mix, sour cream, water and eggs in a large bowl. Blend then beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Spoon 1/3 of the batter into a 10" greased and floured tube pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the Jello. Spoon remainder of batter over Jello. Sprinkle remaining Jello over top layer of batter. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes. Remove from pan and cool. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and serve.

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I am persuaded that Texas women will make pies from almost anything. The assumption seems to be, if it is sweet and in a pastry shell, it's gotta be good. I somewhat reluctantly admit that I ascribe to that theory, but a navy bean pie? I have the recipe, but I have never tried it.

NAVY BEAN PIE

2 cups navy beans drained and pureed 3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt 1 unbaked 9" pastry shell

Combine beans, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a mixing bowl. Beat well. Pour into an uncooked pastry shell. Bake for 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. The pie is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

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I cut this recipe for Indian pudding from a newspaper column that extolled the versatility of corn meal. It seems every time I decide to test this recipe, I find I am lacking one of the ingredients – but some day, sure as fate…

INDIAN PUDDING

1/2 cup yellow corn meal 2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups milk 2 tablespoons margarine
1 well-beaten egg 1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon ginger

Combine cornmeal, sugar, salt, and soda. Add 1&1/2 cups milk and the margarine. Cook over low heat until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat. Combine eggs, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, and remaining milk. Stir into cornmeal mixture. Pour into a greased casserole dish and cook in a 300 degree oven for about an hour. Serve with cream or vanilla ice cream.

You make any or all of these recipes at your own risk. I can neither guarantee nor make promises…
Blessings,
Billie

Ambivalent October
Ambivalent October has returned bringing with it the uncertainty of a changing season. The days grow shorter and unpredictable. One morning summer hangs on with single minded tenacity as the day dawns bright and clear. Not a breeze stirs. The sun is a big yellow orb streaking the eastern sky with purple, pink, and gold. As the morning wears away, calm and brightness claim the day. That evening I sit on my back porch and watch the stars punch through a black velvet dome. Indian summer and all its beauty drives my thoughts to the marvels of God's wondrous display; a Texas sky on an October evening. Here, in this quiet place, I catch the latch-string of heaven and converse with my Heavenly Father.

The next morning boiling clouds mushroom on the horizon. A chilly wind complains through the oak trees and howls around the eaves of the house. I think autumn has arrived to stay and decide to store my summer clothes away. A driving rain begins around noon. It hammers the ground like ten penny nails. I take my sweaters from my cedar chest and put them in a drawer. A late lunch menu changes from salad and iced tea to hot cocoa and soup. This is a day for reading God's word, and pondering over the marvels of His grace. I turn up my thermostat and curl up on the couch with a blanket. I open my Bible to the Gospel of John… 

As another day dawns, a foggy haze hangs over the landscape obscuring and distorting my view. I think that October days are like Forest Gump's box of chocolates. We never know what we are going to get. The rain stops. The wind shifts to the north. Night comes and I put on a jacket to go out and view a crescent moon hanging low in the sky like a tipped canoe. Peace fills my heart as I recite,

                    Then sings my soul, my savior-God to Thee, how great Thou art –
                    How great Thou Art.

The next morning I need an umbrella to walk the half-block to my mailbox as in the north lightening forks across a lowering sky. Evening brings night clouds that obscure my crescent moon. Darkness hugs the earth like a blanket.

The passing days grow cooler and uncertain. Will it rain? Will the sun shine? Will the wind blow?

The weather isn't the only thing that can't decide its course. Leaves on some of the trees change color. Even in this act there is no uniformity. Some leaves turn a rustic shade of red. Some choose to convert to a tawny yellow. Still others transform to burnt umber. The artistry of God's paintbrush decorates the landscape.

Then slowly, and still with no sense of consistency, one by one the leaves loosen their grip and fall from the trees. Wind blows some into piles against buildings. It randomly scatters more along the sidewalks and in the gutters. All around is change and transformation. Amidst all these alterations the cedars and live oaks refuse to shed leaves. They will stand defiantly tall and green through a long winter.

October winds can be as soft as a baby's breath, carry the force of a spring storm, or the chill of a winter norther. So goes October with all its indecision and uncertainty. By the time it has made up its mind, November is here.

I marvel at October's indecisive ways. Who but an almighty God could send such uncertainty in the space of thirty-one short days? Why do you think an omniscient, Eternal Father would show such diversity in so short a time? I don't know, but I can hazard a guess. If He took us from a spring-like September day and tossed us into a howling November cold front, the sudden change would be like jumping from a warm bath into an icy shower. It gives me comfort to know I have a Heavenly Father who not only sends me big blessings, but He is also the God of little things. Things that so often I don't see or don't understand. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Blessings,
Billie.
Keeping a Christian Journal

A life worth living is a life worth recording – Jim Rohn

    Journal-keeping and writing has a long history. Diaries were kept by ladies of the Royal Court in Japan during the tenth century. It has been a significant feature, for many centuries in search for religious and spiritual enlightenment.
    You can keep a journal on your computer. Personally I prefer a spiral notebook or a hard backed book.
    A journal is a day book, a tool for self-discovery, an aid to concentration, a mirror for the soul, and a place to generate and capture ideas. It can also serve as a safety valve for pent-up emotions, a good friend and confidant, and a way to fellowship with God.
    A journal records experiences and events over a period of time. It has both objective and subjective dimensions. It serves purposes beyond recording events and pouring out thoughts and feelings. It is a place for making sense of confused thoughts and beliefs.
    Journal writing involves reflection, deep understanding, and most of all, dedication. It requires writing over an extended period. Putting pen to paper engages your brains. To write you have to think. A daily journal helps you reflect and question decisions and actions.The act of writing daily can crystallize a particular problem or enable you to see a specific happening in a different light.
    Journal writing encourages reassurance and sensitivity. It lets you look at yourself, your feelings, and your actions in a different way. The words are now outside of you. You can ask, 'did I really think that?’, or ‘how does this fit with that?’
    If you allow yourself freedom to write as you wish, the words you form can take you in new directions. Without restrictions or censorship, you can make fresh connections by allowing yourself to see what is familiar from another outlook. Writing things down in a journal allows you to clear your mind.
    By making journal writing part of your daily routine, you take time out to reflect on what is happening in your life, and more importantly, in your daily walk with Jesus. Writing and keeping a journal holds the possibility of deepening your Christian commitment and bringing you nearer to your Savior. It can also help you make added sense of your life and what you believe. It encourages you to entertain, contain and channel troubling emotions, gain perspective, and develop a greater awareness of your daily walk.
    On a practical level, writing and keeping a journal can help you with administrative tasks (like reporting what happened, when and why) and with setting goals and managing your time.
    Don't be too precise about journal writing – just do it. Go through the motions, and you will get the emotions. Be honest when writing. Record how you feel, and not how you think you should feel. Express what you think, not what you believe you ought to think.
    A benefit of your journal is its continued use over a period of time. Make your journal writing part of your everyday schedule. Journal writing brings new avenues of thought and understanding.
    Take a few minutes to meditate and relax before you begin to write. Date every entry you make. Try to write every day. Make your journal writing a part of your devotional reading and prayer life. Don’t edit your thoughts or feelings and don’t correct your grammar. Don’t censor your thoughts. Just relax and write. Ten or fifteen minutes is long enough unless you feel the need to write longer.
    If you like, you can divide your journal into sections. Some suggestions are: Record your special blessings. Keep a section for your victories and accomplishments. Keep a section of a playlist of your favorite hymns. Keep a section of favorite scriptures and Each Monday morning write down a favorite scripture verse. As you go through the week, read, study and memorize that verse. The next week, choose another verse. You will be surprised how much of God's Word you will memorize as time passes. Good luck.
    Blessings,
    Billie
  
THE SWEET SORROW

Parting is such sweet sorrow.  .  .William Shakespeare
Farewell, Good-bye, adios, sayonara, adieu, shalom, ciao, uvidimsja, hwyl, whatever the language, the meaning is the same – two people are parting. When those two people are lovers, separation carries with it an added sense of loss and heightened feelings of melancholy. Poets through the ages have explored and exploited the sentiments and sensations surrounding lovers’ partings. Perhaps Shakespeare said it best when he called parting a sweet sorrow.
Emily Dickinson is equally incongruous and paradoxical in her poem with no title.
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My life closed twice before its close –
It yet remains to see
If immortality unveil
A third event to me.

So huge so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell
Parting is all we know of heaven
And all we need of hell.

The mood of this poem is one of resigned sadness mingled with hesitant expectation. The poet speaks, not of endings, but of closings. ”My life closed twice before its close.” Is she speaking of sad goodbyes she’s said to departed loved ones? That seems a logical assumption but one can never be sure, and that is a part of the poem’s appeal. “It yet remains to see” could well be the theme of the work.
The poet then addresses the possibility that could confront her one short sleep past, when immortality prevails and there can be no more endings. Does yet another closing await her beyond this veil of tears? Will it too, be bittersweet? That possibility is “Huge and hopeless to conceive.” So much yet remains to be seen. Of one thing she is sure.
"Parting is all we know of heaven
And all we need of hell.”
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My Love’s Like a Red, Red Rose
Robert Burns
O my love’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June
O my love’s like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune!

As fair art thou my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I;
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run,

And fare thee well, my only love,
And fare thee well a while!
And I will come again, my love
Though it were ten thousand mile.

Robert Burn’s parting from his “bonnie lass” is not his choice. The bitterness of parting is tempered by recalling his lover’s fragile beauty and by the sureness of his undying love for her. He will take with him the knowledge that his love will endure until the seas are dry, the rocks melt and the sands of life run no more. His sorrow is in the going. His comfort is in the knowing that he will return.
What circumstance sends him far away? He doesn’t say, but the going seems inevitable. As he departs, he declares his eternal love and makes his lover a tender and tragically sweet promise. “And I will come again, my love though it were ten thousand mile.”
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After Parting
Sara Teasdale
Oh, I have sown my love so wide
That he will find it everywhere;
It will awake him in the night,
It will enfold him in the air.

I set my shadow in his sight
And I have winged it with desire,
That it may be a cloud by day,
And in the night a shaft of fire.

The love Sara Teasdale speaks of in “After Parting” seems strewn across a wide sky and scattered over a vast ocean.  “I have sown my love so wide that he will find it everywhere.”
The poet may be out of sight from her lover, but she will never be out of his mind. Her sad shadow, winged with sweet desire, will ever be hovering near, overshadowing him by day and lighting his way by night.

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Song 
John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

Absent from thee, I languish still;
Then ask me not, when I return?
The straying fool ‘twill plainly kill
To wish all day, all night to mourn.

Dear! From thine arms then let me fly,
That my fantastic mind may prove
The torments it deserves to try
That tears my fixed heart from my love.

When wearied with a world of woe,
To thy safe bosom I retire
Where love and peace and truth does flow,
May I contented there expire,

Lest once more wandering from that heaven,
I fall on some base heart unblessed,
Faithless to thee, false, unforgiven,
And lose my everlasting rest.

The wickedly witty John Wilmot views the sad sweetness of parting from a somewhat different angle. But then, when did the irrepressible Earl of Rochester not hold a slanted and slightly skewed view? He is the ‘straying fool” who deserves the torments and the tears that parting brings.
He then, with tongue-in-cheek, suggests that upon his return he should "contented there expire lest once again he wander from ‘that heaven’ and by so doing, lose his everlasting rest.

Even though each of these poems contains wisdom and insight, it is the form, the clever and ambiguous use of words that makes each one both enduring and endearing. It is not so much what was created as it is the skill and artistry involved in the creation that allows each poet to express an emotion that the logical mind never quite seems to fathom - the contradictory, uncertain, paradoxical, inconsistent emotions that are stirred by the simple act of saying goodbye.
Myths

  
Therefore every lover of myth is in a sense a philosopher, for myth is composed of wonder.
Aristotle

Myth is a term of complex history and ambiguous meaning.  If I were to ask a dozen people, "What is a myth?" chances are I would come away from my inquiry with twelve answers. Some might argue that a myth is fiction that imparts a psychological truth.  Others could contend that a myth is truth wearing the guise of psychological fiction. Still others could justifiably dispute the validity of either definition and espouse yet another and equally persuasive interpretation. Because myths are so universal in origin and so personal in application, they resist well defined concepts.

Even if there is little agreement for the definition for a myth, there is consensus concerning its fundamental characteristics. A myth is the story of the acts of superhuman beings. It has no specific author but is assembled from the primitive, collective beliefs of an entire culture.

Is a myth the same as a legend? No. Myths differ from legends because legends have a recognizable historical background myths do not. Are myths the same as fables? The answer again is no. Fables end with some acknowledged moral imperative. Myths have no such clear and concise summations. Perhaps myths are all the more effective and profound because they are so vague in origin and illusive in meaning.

Myths are not based on the facts of life as they have been truly experienced. They mix together, without distinction, dreams and waking experiences to shape ideas and symbols into stories that are larger than life. For all their mystery and magnitude, myths reflect the wickedness and weakness, as well as the worth and excellence of human nature. Through the ages they have been, to borrow from Max Muller, those dark shadows"cast by language on thought. The varied and often paradoxical concepts which they embody are the result of feelings generated by the manners and mores of an entire society. Their ambivalence and ambiguities only add to their romantic charm and make them all the more endearing and enduring.

Myths are deeply symbolic and although they seem, on the surface, to be little more than foolish flights of fancy, scrutiny argues for their limited veracity. They are true in the sense that they provide explanations for events and episodes that happen in day-to-day life. Their immediate mission is to impose order over chaos and by so doing, reconcile human events and natural occurrences with the purposes and destinies of life.  For all their enigmatic qualities, myths offer profound interpretations of life. Each myth, in its own unique and often contradictory fashion, sets about to explain some puzzle of nature—either human or cosmic.

Since the dawn of civilization, myths have reached across the ages, searching, groping, and probing the deep and unsolvable mysteries of the universe. A myth can offer an instinctive explanation when the human mind is faced with an unintelligible situation or an irreconcilable happening. As such it becomes a functioning hypothesis, a way to explain the mysterious and the unexplainable. In so doing myths become a succoring link between unexplained outside phenomena and the tumultuous, questioning inner world each individual inhabits. A myth's dominion is this inner cosmos.  Its command is over psychic and unresolved reality.

By the time Greece had moved into its classical age, mythos signified any story or plot, whether true or false. With the passing of time these stories that were handed down from primitive ancestors, evolved into a system of hereditary tales that sought to explain why the world was as it was and why things happened as they did. They eventually solidified into a body of traditional beliefs, a mythology that had no historical verification.

Today, social psychology defines a myth as a tale generally accepted as historically true, but which has no factual basis and meets the subjective needs of its adherents. Not all symbolism and mythical elements have vanished from today's modern myths.  There can be a bewildering variety of modern applications to these seemingly out-of-date beliefs.  Ageless plots and ancient themes are ever asserting themselves in new and contemporary ways by taking a limited number of images, pictures, metaphors, stories, and symbols and endlessly rearranging, reconstructing, and reordering them. In so doing, they offer us a way to hold onto the past as we anticipate, even dare to reconstruct the future.

Whatever else a myth may be, it is a story, a possibility; hence a myth is an orthodox or traditional narrative that is not fully adapted to feasibility or realism. It is a standard means of expression shaped by social reality. A myth is a schematized design or template, a pattern which provides a useful perspective for understanding certain phenomena.

In a world that demands proof for every fact, testing for every hypothesis, verity for every actuality, a myth is the rabbit's foot in our pocket that we rub for luck—the amulet around our neck that we touch for good fortune. It has a distinct purpose and a clear objective. It keeps us from becoming lost in the doubt of our own speculations.
Expressive Writing
Writing is not only concerned with how a writer writes. It also includes what a writer writes. The fiction writer's aim is to communicate, not only thoughts and ideas, but also feelings and emotions. The expressing of emotions is highly valued but not easily attained. It takes imagination and creative reasoning to communicate honest convictions and to express sincere emotions.

Learning to communicate expressively is not achieved the way you assimilate facts about geography or learn by rote the meanings of symbols. It is, rather a process of practice, discovery, and creation. Writing is an art, but like any art form it has an attending craft. There are skills and abilities that can be recognized and then practiced to help hone that craft.

Expressive writing is not accomplished speedily or through half-hearted efforts. To write expressively a writer must be focused. Focus induces a state of concentration that is intense and absolute.

An expressive writer is perceptive. Perception allows you to create something where nothing existed before, thus filling a void.

Empathy for the feelings and emotions of others is important in expressive writing.

An expressive writer's work has unity. When you write about imagined occurrences, the objective is not just to relate what happened. You want to recount your vision in a way that recreates the mood, and develops the dramatic significance of the event.

An expressive writer is aware. Awareness is an integral part of expressive writing. It begins by combining sensory messages with past knowledge and personal expectations to examine more closely the blur of daily experiences. Imaginative thinking allows you to move past literal applications and discover implied analogies and relationships. This kind of writing requires time and effort, because those relationships are not always obvious.

An expressive writer is a passionate lover who persuades and convinces with words. Wooing with words involves being able to perceive, feel, and think subtly and precisely. It also demands a good vocabulary. The more acquainted you are with a variety of words and their meanings, the more able you are to express thoughts and sentiments.

An expressive writer relates to readers with honesty and candor by using mind, feelings, and imagination to create an organized and logical work. This is always a challenge and often a trial. It is never easy to disclose personal truths and to discover and express intimate realities. Honesty, as a writer perceives it, is a deceptive concept that continuously slips away on the wings of sentiment and sensation. To be honest with readers requires that a writer be honest with herself. Honesty with one's self can be disturbing and painful; however, it is perhaps, the first prerequisite to writing expressively.
Exploring Poetry Translations
  
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot

Poetry in any tongue means inspiration and ideas. It speaks to us in expressions, that if not universal, are more nearly so than any other of humankind’s creations. English speaking scholars have long translated into their native tongue poems written originally in Greek, Latin, German and French, and many other languages. In the nineteenth century, in the wake of Admiral Perry’s trip to Japan, the western world began to notice and translate into English, the poetry of the orient.

A translation always differs in some respects from what the original creation conveys. Constrictions of languages and temperament of translators assure this. Some critics complain that translations are mere approximations and often distort the original work. Even though it is impossible to carry over from one language to another all the special qualities of a poem, sensitive interpreters translate not only words, but also capture the essence of the work, thus preserving insights and experiences and giving us glimpses across the borders of culture, time and language.

Examination of translations reveal the wonders of a wider view from the vantage point of other times and other places. The end of all our exploring is to arrive where we started, and know that place for the first time.

This is a fragment from an ancient poem that was written 680 years before the birth of Christ by the Greek poet Sappho, whom Algernon Charles Swinburne declared to be, “beyond all question and comparison the greatest poet that ever lived.” William Ellery Leonard did this translation.

Love

Love, like a mountain wind upon an oak,
Falling upon me, shakes me leaf and bough.

In two short and simple lines, this long-departed Greek woman lets us feel emotions as universal as existence and as changeless as time.

Twenty-five years after the birth of Christ, the Roman poet Horace wrote this poem. The translator is Austin Dobbins

Before thy door too long of late,
O Lyce, I bewail my fate;
Not Don’s barbarian maids, I trow,
Would treat their luckless lovers so;
Thou – thou alone are obstinate.

Hast thou not eyes nor ears, Ingrate!
Hark! How the north winds shake thy gate!
Look! How the laurels bend with snow
Before thy doors.

Lay by thy pride – nor hesitate,
Lest love and I grow desperate;
If prayers, if gifts for naught must go,
If naught my frozen pallor show, --
Beware! . . . I shall not always wait
Before thy door!

Words such as Lyce, trow, hast and hark fall strangely upon our modern ears. Who among us cannot understand and sympathize with a broken hearted, desperate lover?

Chinese poet Yuan penned this poem titled The Rejected Wife in 535 A. D. Author Waley translated it.

Entering the hall, she meets the new wife:
Leaving the gate she runs into her former husband.
Words stick: she does not manage to say anything:
She presses her hands together and hesitates.
Agitates moon-like fan – sheds pearl-like tears –
Realizes she loves him just as much as ever:
That her present pain will never come to an end.

This poem is an account of events that could have happened yesterday, as a rejected wife entered the mall or left the parking lot. To see this Chinese woman’s plight, to taste her suffering, to feel her rejection, is to rediscover our own time and territory.

In the 9th century A.D, Ono No Yoshika wrote this poem.  It is titled My Love. Author Waley is the translator.

Is like the grasses
Hidden in the deep mountain:
Though its abundance increases.
There is none that knows.

Hidden love, unrequited love, be it secluded in the grasses of an ancient mountain or coded into the grinding roar of a teeming metropolis; grows and flourishes, unheeded and unvoiced.

Written in 13th century by Hyaku-Nin-Isshu and translated by Curtis Page, this poem tells of a lady who is obviously having second thoughts and a bad hair day.

Lady Horikawa

How can one e’er be sure
If true love will endure?
My thoughts this morning are
As tangled as my hair.

It is comforting to know that tangled hair and tentative thoughts have long been a part of that ‘morning- after’ syndrome when love, who in the dark of the night, embraced certainty, has suddenly become a stranger to belief.

These are lines from a poem called Fading Beauty. They are from the pen of Italian poet Giambattista Marini who lived from1569 to 1625.  Samuel Daniel did the translation.

Enjoy thy April now,
Whilst it doth freely shine:
This lightening flash and show,
With that clear spirit of thine,
Will suddenly decline:
And those fair murdering eyes
Shall be love’s tomb where now his cradle lies.

There is a bit of Carpe Diem in this poem and touch of malice.
I hope this will not be your last expedition into the wonderful realm of translated poetry. The territory within this mystical realm may be visited again and again to discover, through the spectrum of ageless interludes, the many facets of human existence. By so doing we discover anew what we know so well.

Blessings,
Billie
A Word Fitly Spoken

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Psalms 25:11

Anyone who writes starts by discovering a unique way of seeing a personal truth. Then begins the challenging task of finding a way to convey to others this highly personal view of a private world. The distance between concept and completion is long and laborious. It requires the combining of facts and impressions, the blending of images and imagination, the reconciling of contradictions and the unveiling of concealed logic. During this process a tone emerges from all the shadings of manner and meaning which gather through the interplay of word choices, sentence structures, and shifting scenes. That tone reflects personal vision. As fiction writers set about to change what passes into what endures, they inadvertently put their indelible imprint on everything they create
.
Of all the elements that contribute to the development of the tone of a work, word choice is the most crucial and fundamental. Each of us lives in a world of words. The kind of personal world writers reveal to their readers is dependent, to a surprising degree, on the words they choose to introduce and sustain that world.

An economy of words is important. Not one word should occupy space without contributing positively to the overall composition. Economy of writing is realized not only by using fewer words, but also by using words that work, both literally and figuratively. A careful choice of words, masterful arrangement of diversified sentence forms, and the utilization of fast-paced scenes, enables writers, in the words of Louis Untermeyer, to "Define the undefinable in terms of the unforgettable."

The reader is lured into accepting this blend of image and imagination. What the mind cannot understand, it allows, what it cannot see, it infers, because the writer has, with an amazing manipulation of words, blended the personal and practical to introduce a complex yet unpretentious story. He has used an economy of common words. They are also impact words that have the power to both suggest and persuade.
      

A writer uses other devices to convey his story. A dash often gives the necessary pause before a scene begins to whirl like a kaleidoscope. He uses an ellipse to create a feeling of discontent and expectancy. There are times that speech is not as potent as these empty spaces between. Silence has many voices. It can usher in expectancy, sadness, loss of hope; the list is long and debatable. Strategic placements of these devices add to the even flow and the fast-paced movements of the story.          

The most amazing aspect of any work of fiction is its arresting and sometimes shocking honesty.Without resorting to euphemism or defense, the sensitive writer reveals his thoughts with unapologetic diligence. He speaks from his heart to dress his personal and uncommon vision in the garb of common words with restrained force and compelling intensity.


Much genius lies in the ability to choose words that display rather than describe emotions. The clever writer does not openly pursue words. He ambushes them, captures them, and abducts them. Then through the balance of pausers, sentence arrangement, and repetition of changing scenes, releases them to reveal an intimate and impassioned truth. This process coupled with uncompromising honesty creates a remarkably unique personal vision. Fitly spoken words shine like apples of glistening gold. Expertise in manipulating and controlling them, frames a work in pictures of antique silver.

Blessings,
Billie
Characters We Love To Hate
I once thought villains were skinny men with bowed legs, wearing cowboy boots and black ten-gallon hats. They smirked and twirled their handle-bar mustaches as they devised plans to defeat my cowboy movie heroes. Time and experience broadened my perspective. Villains come in all shapes and sizes, and are found among both sexes. This article takes a quick look at some daring and dastardly female villains.

Euripides' play Medea hops immediately to my mind. Media marries Jason of The Golden Fleece fame. Later he puts her aside and marries Glauke, daughter of King Creon. Medea has her bloody revenge. She murders Glauke and Creon, kills the children that belong to her and Jason, and makes a hasty retreat in a chariot pulled by dragons, taking her dead children with her.

Lady Macbeth is a malevolent presence in Shakespeare's play Macbeth. She is ambitious, single-minded, and ruthless in her pursuit of power. After the death of Duncan, she loses her sanity and ultimately, her life. Her treachery and underhanded scheming trigger one of Shakespeare's more famous soliloquies that begins, she should have died hereafter.

Witches make fascinating villains. The Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, has one eye and one driving purpose, to take from Dorothy the magical silver slippers. I know, in the movie the slippers are ruby. In Baum's book, published in 1900, the slippers are silver. Dorothy finally melts the witch by dousing her with a bucket of water.

Jadis, the White Witch who appears in C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, has no conscience. She is egotistical and narcissistic. Despite her white skin and great height, she has a small spirit and a heart as black as sin. Her subjects finally rebel and banish her forever.

Queens can be the vilest of villains. The queen in Grimm's fairy tale titled Snow white and the Seven Dwarfs is also the quintessential wicked stepmother. When her magic mirror tells her that she is no longer 'the fairest in the land' because that title now belongs to Snow White, she orders a hunter to take Snow White into the deep forest and kill her. The hunter returns leaving Snow White alone in the forest. The seven dwarfs find and rescue her. The queen locates Snow White. Disguised as a peddler, she gives Snow White a poisoned apple that puts her in a state of suspended animation. Later Prince Charming's first kiss awakens her. At the wedding of Snow White to her prince, the queen is forced to step into a pair of blazing hot iron shoes and dance until she drops dead.

The Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland is a delightful villain and quite a card –pun intended. She is quick to decree death sentences to her subjects for the slightest offence by shouting, Off with their heads. Her relatively restrained husband rescinds the sentences as fast as the queen declares them. This queen is no real threat since she never gets around to executing anyone.

Caroline Bingley is a character in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. She is an attractive and rich young woman who is also a total snob. Her family gained its riches through trade. Caroline desires to become a member of the aristocracy. She sets her sights on Mr. Darcy. Like all villains, she pursues her agenda with persistence and resolve. Her atrocious treatment of Jane and Elizabeth qualifies her as a first-class female villain.

Phillis Nirdlinger is the female villain in James M. Cain's Double Indemnity. She is a complex and mesmerizing woman. She is not beautiful. She is on the back side of thirty. She has a 'washed-out' look. Despite all this, she intrigues Walter Neff, insurance salesman. He recognizes almost immediately that she wants to kill her husband. She soon has him involved in a plot to literally throw her husband from the train. The scheme succeeds but leaves Walter a wounded and wanted murderer.

Mrs. Danvers is the housekeeper female villain in Daphne du Maurier's novel Rebecca. From the moment she comes on the scene, the reader recognizes her as vicious and mysterious. The heroine of the story is the recent bride and second wife of rich and handsome Maxim de Winter. Rebecca, now deceased, was his first wife. Maxim takes his new wife to live at Manderley, his Cornish family home by the sea. It is also, where less than a year ago, Rebecca mysteriously disappeared. The second Mrs.de Winter finally conquers her fear of the conniving Mrs. Danvers, but no before the housekeeper has robbed her of much of her self-assurance and almost persuaded her to commit suicide.
Eight-year-old Rhoda Penmark is a charming, well-behaved, polite child. She is also a serial killer. In his novel The Bad Seed William March creates perhaps the most terrifying of villains, a child who is seemingly sweet and innocent. After a series of deaths of people Rhoda dislikes, her mother Christine, becomes suspicious. Christine then discovers that she is adopted and her birth mother is a sociopathic murderer. She is devastated and guilt-ridden. All this is her fault. She has passed along a bad seed to her child. She gives Rhoda an overdose of sleeping pills and then puts a bullet through her own brain. A neighbor hears the shot and rushes over in time to rescue Rhoda. Thank God we saved the child.
Do you have a favorite female villain?
  
Who Steals My Purse

Billie Age 11

When I was growing up, I loved to tag along when my mother went shopping. This consisted mostly of looking. I grew up during the '30's. We had money for necessities and little more. Usually my friend Ruthie went with me.

Our first stop was always the ten-cent store. Ruthie and I examined most of the merchandise in the store before each of us spent our nickel on a five cent bag of penny candy.

Mother did her serious shopping at Goldberg's Department Store. This particular day she was shopping for 'yard goods' to make a dress for me and a shirt for Leon, my brother. Ruthie and I looked at most everything in the store before we got to the shoe department. We were admiring the ladies shoes with high heels and fancy decorations when I saw it, a shiny pink purse with a red rose on one side.

About the time I picked it up to have a closer look, Mother appeared. "It's time to go girls."

"Look at this." I hung the purse on my arm and held it out for her to see. "Isn't it beautiful?"

Mother was not impressed. "It's gaudy. Put it down, and let's go." She headed for the front door with me following behind and Ruthie close on my heels.  "I could put it on lay-away. It's only $2.98."

Without looking back, Mother replied, "The answer is no."

Her tone of voice carried a warning I didn't heed. I was still following behind and arguing with her after we were out of the store, and half a block down the street.

Mother came to a screeching halt, and turned.  "I'm warning you, young lady--"

Her voice snapped in mid-sentence, as she stared at my arm with the purse still dangling there.
I had walked out of the store with the pink purse hanging on my arm. "I seem to have a pink purse," I announced with a lot more bravado than I felt.

Mother headed back to the store. "That purse doesn't belong to you."
"I'm not going to take it back. Why should I?" I wanted that purse, and now that I had it. I was not about to give it up without a struggle. "No one will ever know."

 Mother didn't slow her pace. "I know. God knows, but most of all, you know. You are going to take it back and you are going to apologize to Mr. Goldberg."

I hung back and protested all the way down the sidewalk, into the store, and upstairs to Mr. Goldberg's office.
Ruthie lagged behind. She was as quiet as the proverbial church mouse.

Mother knocked on Mr. Goldberg's door, greeted him and said, "My daughter has something to say to you."
It was one of the most mortifying moments of my young life. In two stumbling, stuttering sentences, I apologized, "I-I-I accidentally c-c- carried this purse out of your store without paying." I-I- 'm sorry."

Mr. Goldberg took the purse, and smiled. "Thank you, Miss Yeary."

I thought then mother was being mean, and embarrassing me needlessly in front of Ruthie. I would never hear the last of this. I realize now Mother taught me a lesson about honesty I would remember long after the humiliation of returning my purloined pink purse was no more than a laughable recollection.
All That Heaven Allows
John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester was an English poet. He was born in 1647. He lived a short, wicked and wanton life. He also wrote some of the finest lyric poetry in English literature. His poetic works varied widely in form, genre, and content. Few of his poems were published during his lifetime, for as melodic and lyrical as they were; many of them were anywhere from racy to obscene.
   
His poem Love and Life is one of my all time favorites. In it he captures with erratic brilliance the paradoxical proposition that eternity is embedded in each present and fleeting 'livelong moment.' How does he arrive at such a diabolical and dichotomous conclusion? He begins by reviewing, and dismissing as no more than 'transitory dreams,' all the 'flying hours' of his past life. They become images relegated to the archives of his memory.
  
All my past life is mine no more;
The flying hours are gone,
Like transitory dreams given o'er
Whose images are kept in store
By memory alone.

Then he looks to the future with the realization that what is not in this instant attainable, cannot be considered a possession. This present and passing moment is all he may lay claim to as being wholly his own, and that moment is no sooner his than he gives it, freely, completely, and without reservations, to his lover.
  
Whatever is to come is not:
How can it then be mine?
The present moment's all my lot
And that as fast as it is got,
Phyllis, is wholly thine.

Then comes the revelation that the miracle of love is captured only and always in the magic of the present. Time has no defense against the one possession love can claim as its own, which is the instant that is now. Eternity is not some magical tomorrow, it is each present and pervasive heartbeat that assures truth and sustains vows. This imitation of eternity is all that in this life, heaven, in its wisdom, will assure or allow.
  
Then talk not of inconsistency,
False hearts and broken vows;
If I, by miracle can be
This livelong minute true to thee,
'Tis all that heaven allows.
  
Time is always passing. Its measures are days, years, and seasons. Love is ever present. It 'no season knows, or clime.'* It measures eternity in the heartbeat of each constant now, so 'Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.**.    
John Wilmot died in 1680 of venereal diseases. He was only thirty-three years old.
 
*From The Sun Rising, poem by John Donne 1572-1631
**From To the Virgins to Make Much of Time, poem by Robert Herrick 1591-1674
​  
Love and Life
 
All my past life is mine no more;
The flying hours are gone,
Like transitory dreams given o'er
Whose images are kept in store
By memory alone.
 
Whatever is to come is not:
How can it then be mine?
The present moment's all my lot
And that as fast as it is got,
Phyllis, is wholly thine.
 
Then talk not of inconsistency,
False hearts and broken vows;
If I, by miracle can be
This livelong minute true to thee,
'Tis all that heaven allows.
John Wilmot
Using Setting to Tell Your Story
In a fictional story setting is defined as the time -- both the approximate year and the hour of the day -- and the location where a story takes place. However setting assumes a larger role than just time and place. It is more than decoration or background. It is less tangible than plot and characters, but no less discernable. It is less observable than theme or symbolism, but just as meaningful. For all its subtlety, it is perhaps the most enlightening of all elements of fiction. In a well-told narrative setting is so naturally intertwined with plot and characters that it would be impossible for the reader to imagine the story taking place in any environment other than the one where the author has placed it.

A fictional setting is a kind of frame or enclosure. All details related to time, place, and action fit within this frame. These details are multipurpose in that they have many functions that operate simultaneously. A setting can include descriptions of customs, clothing, scenery, weather, geography, buildings, rooms and means of transportation. It also encompasses the approximate year, hour, and day during which the story takes place. Some writers contend, and understandably so, that the psychological state of mind of characters is an aspect of setting. Properly understood and applied a setting becomes the undergirding for a fictional narrative.

On a most primary level setting serves as a means to create realism in fiction. Although the importance of setting may differ from one story to another, its fundamental purpose is always the same, to lend a sense of validity and authenticity to the story.

Setting can also reveal character. Traits that make a character uniquely himself or herself are dependent on environment as well as circumstance. Settings can aid in the understanding of characters and provide insight into their personalities.

Setting can stir action and shape conflict. Adverse natural forces are often the source of a character's strife and struggle. The tension between a character and the environment can play an important part in shaping action and tracing controversy. It can be a dramatic backdrop for the struggles and confrontations between a character and an adversary.

A major function of setting is to lend realism to the story's action. The more detailed the description of the setting, the more believable the events of the story become. Without a basis in detailed settings, stories lose much of their credibility. An appropriate and well-drawn setting helps make a story convincing. Resist the temptation to set a story in the Kremlin, or Africa, in Buckingham Palace or on a tobacco farm in the deep South, unless you have more than a passing acquaintance with these locations.

Blessings,
Billie
Learning to Spit

When I am an old woman I shall… go out in my slippers in the rain, and pick flowers in other people's gardens, and learn to spit.  Jenny Joseph from the poem Warning

Negative views about the elderly are prevalent in our society today. Many hold the belief that 'older people' are set in their ways, living in the past, and can't be taught new tricks. Anyone over sixty is sliding into illness, impotence and immobility. Confront those beliefs and disregard those assumptions. Better yet, set about to debunk them, because they simply are not so. The older we get, the less our undertakings and activities can be predicted by our age. I would, with a great deal of confidence, lay odds, that any randomly selected three-year-old in America today is becoming proficient at walking and talking. The average eight-year-old is in the third grade, the average eighteen-year-old is probably a high school senior. I would not dare to predict the activities and accomplishments of any randomly selected individual between the ages of sixty and one hundred.

Today older people are not just living longer lives, they are living healthier lives and they are living them differently. Grandma and Grandpa are no longer residing in the homes of their children, safe, secure, and respected in their extended families. Too often it's the other way around. Grandma and Grandpa have inherited grandchildren from offspring who, for various reasons, won't, or can't, shoulder the responsibility of being parents. It's also often true that Grandma and Grandpa are charged with the care of even older ailing or disabled parents.
If you hope to practice the art of aging ungracefully, you have to know right up front that old age is not for sissies. That's what I said, ungracefully. Aging gracefully equates to accepting what's expected of you at your age. I'm here to say disregard what's expected of you. You don't have to go along with the crowd. You may find you like yourself better if you choose that less-trodden path.

Capture and hold onto a positive point of view. Being an active, productive seventy-five-year-old is more cheerful and more hopeful than being a disgruntled forty-five-year-old.

Don't use your idiocrasies or your quirky preferences as an excuse for laziness or apathy. You cannot dream yourself into what you want to be. That doesn't mean you shouldn't dream. It does mean you can't let dreams become your master.

Change your perspectives. Toss out old habits, like negative thinking. Recapture the love, awe and wonder you felt for living when you were a child. It's wonderful to be childlike. Be careful not to become childish.

Rid yourself of old prejudices. The world changes, so do ideas and concepts. I'm not suggesting you give up your beliefs and convictions. I am suggesting you re-examine some of your petty opinions and paltry preferences.
Let go of old regrets. You can't change the past. You can come to terms with it. Now might also be a good time to settle old differences and patch up fractured relationships.

Shift your priorities. Acquire new thoughts. How? By pursuing new experiences.

Attempt new undertakings and please, don't let someone sell you the old idea that you're too old.  Mary Baker Eddy was 87 years old when she founded The Christian Science Monitor. Pablo Picasso was engraving and drawing at 90. When she was 100 years old, Grandma Moses was still painting. Dream new dreams, perhaps less grandiose, more practical dreams, but don't ever stop dreaming and hoping.

Keep a sound philosophy. Don't let age be an excuse for learning new ways to be stupid. In your pursuit for new things, don't forget the old. Recognize and cherish those constants in your life. Make time for your family. Make new friends, but keep the old. Guard your health and take care of yourself physically.

Build a new image. Reinvent yourself. Dare to be different. Dare to be you. Does that sound like a contradiction in terms? It isn't. You can change and still be yourself; moreover, you can change and still be true to yourself. Read the biographies of some successful people and you will discover that often the key to that success was their ability to change, go through metamorphoses, re-invent themselves over and over again. Cary Grant once said something to the effect that his greatest role was playing Cary Grant.

Expect some rainy days. Learn to accept adversity. Sometimes a kick in the rear will send you further up the ladder of success than a pat on the back will. Learn to deal with rejection. Confront the culture that wants to stick you in a niche or discard you like an old shoe.

Last and most important, learn to spit.

Blessings,
Billie

Clichés

As trite as it sounds, some of our most hackneyed phrase fell first from the lips, or leaked from the pens, of famous men. Some of these expressions have hung around so long that they have lost their shine, if not their meaning.

Aesop learned circa 500 BC that, "Familiarity breeds contempt."

"Conspicuous by his absence?" Chalk that one up to Tacitus, a Roman historian born in 54 AD

Publilious Syrus, a Roman slave, and Tacitus's contemporary, gave us such sterling and enduring maxims as "The end justifies the means, "A rolling stone gathers no moss," and "Strike while the iron is hot."

Miguel de Cervantes, who lived from 1547 to 1616, left us proverbs that still ring true as well as familiar. "As ill luck would have it." "Every dog has his day,"  "Wild goose chase," and "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

To Geoffrey Chaucer, along with some atrocious spelling, we can attribute,
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," and "Stew in his own juices."

Marcus Cicero observed in the first century BC, "There is no place like home."

It was John Heywood, born in 1497, who first uttered these little jewels: "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth," "Little pitchers have big ears," and "Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth."

Our own Ben Franklin purported to believe that, "Little strokes fell great oaks," and "God helps those who help themselves."

Ralph W. Emerson first suggested, "Hitch your wagon to a star."

William Shakespeare gave us, "A pair of star-crossed lovers," "In my mind's eye." and "The lady doth protest too much."

Even our own Holy Bible contributes to this bevy of trite utterances. "Wars and rumors of wars." Nothing new under the sun," and, "Labor of love."

Who is responsible for aphorisms that enjoy such longevity? Is it the fault of 
The brilliant minds who conceived them, or does guilt lie with the many lesser writers who borrow to express what they can't find words of their own to clarify?

My source for the facts, and the quotes found in this article come from, The Shorter Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, and A Treasury Of Wisdom And Inspiration, edited by David St. Leger.

Who was that famous man who first said, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be?"
   
Remembering Dad
My dad was a remarkable man. He was born November 22, 1904 and died April 30, 2003. Had he lived a few more months he would have celebrated his ninety-ninth birthday. In that almost a century of existence he did an awful lot of living.

He was an extremely intelligent man with an insatiable curiosity. One of the many things he taught me was to never stop studying and learning. All through my growing-up years I watched him study everything from double-entry bookkeeping to Spanish. He mastered both subjects, along with a wealth of electrical knowledge and the Morse code. He got his first ham radio operators license in February of 1933. He was still an active 'ham' when he died.
Another thing he taught me, not by preaching, but by example, was that smoking and drinking were detrimental to ones health. He loved baseball and played until he was almost sixty. He often remarked that had he been a smoker or a drinker, he would haven been out of the game by the time he was forty.

His dad died during the 1918 flu pandemic, leaving his mother with four children at home. My dad was the oldest. He was fifteen.

Grandma bought a small bit of acreage in far West Texas and moved there with her children. Dad became the breadwinner for the family. He worked as a cowboy on ranches.

He married my mother in August of 1926. I was born in November of 1927. Shortly after that, the depression came along and Jobs became scarce. He and mother decided to move to San Angelo where there were rumored to be jobs.
The rumor was just that, a rumor. Dad found work with a transfer company as a swamper on the back of a truck. When he left that job in 1943 to join the navy, he was head of the entire operation.

I think the saying as the twig is bent, so the tree will grow, is true. My Dad has a tremendous influence, even now, on my life. He taught me to read before I started to school. He introduced me to the public library and gave me a lifelong passion for reading. He was a loving father and husband.

I'm sure he had faults, but I never saw them. He was my childhood hero. I loved him. I still do. Happy Father's Day, Daddy

Blessings,
Billie
A GLITCH IN TIME
It exists now only in a quiet and secluded corner of my memory, that fixed but vanished spot that once was my summer garden. A place both sacred and profane, it beckons me backward in time and bids me close my eyes to see. Down a lane and far away I wander, past regret, beyond betrayal, back to a plot unsmudged by the clumsy fingers of life. For such a tender moment in time, I recapture a sense of awe. Catching my breath, I open the gate and step across the invisible barrier of time.

My Eden is in full bloom, flaunting with careless abandon species splendid and spectacular. Nothing has changed I tell myself. By some miracle of the mind everything has stayed just as it was then. My garden still possesses a breathtaking beauty coupled with a quiet and tranquil serenity. Why then does the breeze complain through the leaves of swaying trees? Why do the birds sing off-key songs of melancholy?

Dew sparkles like tear drops on the each flawless flower. I stoop for closer inspection. In keen and quickening ratio to my hindsight, I discern small and subtle flaws. Sullen carnations shrink from my touch. Dallying daisies drop petals to the ground. Ambivalent asters sway from side to side, restless, unsure. Heart-heavy hyacinths droop in the morning sun. Petulant poppies pout provocatively, making promises they have no intention of keeping.

Why couldn't I see then what is so clear to me now? Grief, deep and numbing overwhelms me. How absurd is the logic of the heart!
If only I could annihilate space and time, go back, regress to that happy age, return to that hallowed place, and take with me limited experience and an untried heart. "Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, and summer's lease has all too short a date." Those sobering words reverberate through my mind as with a brutal yank, I pull my self back to the present.

Opening my eyes, I stare into space, looking but not seeing. How sad, how dear are those days that are no more. How inaccessible is that lovely landscape of lost youth. In some secluded corner of my memory there shimmers in the sunlight of seasons past, my summer garden, mystical, mythical, it ever beckons me backward in time and bids me close my eyes to see.
The critics have defined poetry in many ways. To Milton it combined the elements of simplicity, sensuousness, and passion. Wordsworth declared it to be the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. Ben Johnson said it was the art of bringing imagination to help the truth. Matthew Arnold called it the most delightful and perfect form of utterances human words can reach. None of these lofty words and scholarly utterances quite explains or even encompasses the lowly, laughable, ludicrous limerick.

The limerick is the only fixed verse form indigenous to the English language. It's first published appearance was in 1719, in a little volume titled, Songs for the Nursery, or Mother Goose's Melodies for Children, by Elizabeth Goose. It was popularized by Edward Lear in 1846 in his book titled, Book of Nonsense. The earliest limericks are found in nursery rhymes as far back as the fourteenth century. The O.E.D. says that the name limerick was derived from the custom at parties, Each person singing a nonsense verse followed by the chorus, Will you go up to Limerick? Limericks are composed and recited strictly for fun and entertainment. They are the illegitimate offspring of serious poetry.

Maybe that's because limericks tend to be insipid, frustrated nonsense or vehicles for bawdy, unrepressed off-color humor and gruesome, sadistic drollery.  For all its crude humor and base witticism, this misbegotten child of proper verse is not widely read, nor commonly collected by the general public, although it has all the elements that should appeal to a wide and varied audience. The subject matter is satirical, topical and indecent; the language is pithy and terse. It is set to a versatile, rhythmic, recite able verse form. Limerick reading doesn't tax the brain or tire the mind.

The limerick's besetting sin is its propensity to seek society's lowest level. Morris Bishop summed it up best when he wrote:

The limerick is furtive and mean;
You must keep her in close quarantine,
Or she sneaks to the slums
And promptly becomes
Disorderly, drunk, and obscene.

One of my favorite (socially acceptable ) limerick was written by Odgen Nash. I appreciate the combination of wit and nonsense words which underscore a socially distasteful subject, and compresses that off-beat theme into five frightfully funny lines.

There was an old man from Calcutta,
Who coated his tonsils with butta,
Thus converting his snore
From a thunderous roar
To a soft, oleaginous mutta.

At the tender age of ten, I learned this little gem. It has hung around on the periphery of my memory ever since.

Cried a youth, my life is a wreck,
My love has a cross-eyed defect,
And the love light that lies
So deep in her eyes,
Gives an indirect lighting effect.

Despite the lack of recognition and respect accorded limericks, lovers of this set verse form, continue to write and read them. Maybe one reason is they seem to be a constant in a changing, shifting kaleidoscope of poetical hodge-podge. In an era when poetry is being redefined almost daily, present day limericks remain hopelessly similar to their bold and bawdy predecessors.

Now, timidly, tentatively, in closing, I offer my daughter's contribution to the limerick legacy.

I once met a clown from Hoboken.
Fell in love before one word was spoken.
Life was so simple then,
For a girl not quite ten,
With a heart too green to be broken.

Blessings,
Billie
  
Semi Daring
When I was growing up my Aunt Opal was my idol. She was my mother's younger sister, but they were nothing alike. Mother was not especially interested in fashion. The only time she wore makeup was when she went out somewhere. Aunt Opal got up each morning and dressed as if she were going out somewhere. I loved to watch her sit in front of her mirror, and apply her make up. I was intrigued by the way she knew all about the latest fashions, not only in clothing, but also in hair styles and cosmetics.

It was my delight to listen to my aunt and my mother talk. They didn't always appreciate my company. I learned, after a while, that if I kept my mouth shut and found a quiet corner, they sometimes forgot I was there. Keeping my mouth shut was not something I did well, even then. Sooner or later, I asked a question, or blurted out an opinion, and was told to go outside and play.

I sat, a few months back, listening to music, and turning through the pages of my memory. I recalled a time when I got chased out during a discussion of a dress some woman had worn to church. "It was just too daring," Mother declared emphatically.

"For church, yes," Aunt Opal agreed, and she then went on to express an opinion she often espoused "Every woman should be a little daring now and then. They should wear something that is a little zany, a little madcap, and totally out of character.

I went through the door thinking that when I grew up, I was going to be daring. I never was. My lot in life dictated that I be anything but. Even if I had been something besides a Baptist preacher's wife, I doubt I would have dared to be daring. I was definitely not the daring type.

Remembering my dear Aunt's words set me to thinking. If I was ever going to be daring, now was the time. I was ninety years old. I could be daring if I wanted to be. I could even be a little eccentric if I so chose.

I decided to go shopping. I considered asking my daughter to go along, and then thought better of that idea. I love my daughter dearly, but she is one opinionated woman, and not bashful about expressing her thoughts. I don't know where she gets that attitude.

I decided to drag my grandson along. When we get through the store's front door he usually says, "I’ll meet you at the front of the store in an hour," and takes off. He was running true to form. The minute he was out of sight, I headed for the women's department.

I started looking for the dresses in my size. Don't even ask what that size is, because I'm not going to tell. I soon discovered that dresses are not sized the way they used to be. Everything is marked small, medium, or large. After that, large is followed by X, XX, or XXX. Whatever happened to 12, 14, 16, and 18?

I decided on a size I thought would fit, and started looking. I didn't buy the spaghetti strap, short skirt, clinging material, fire engine red creation. I didn't even try it on. I might get into it. If I did, I'd look like Raggedy Ann. There was a better than average chance that I’d never get out of it.

I didn't even look twice at that lipstick red backless number with a slit up one side of the skirt. It was past daring. It was downright indecent.

After looking for a long time, I settled for a bright-pink dress, cut along conventional lines with elbow length sleeves and a jacket with an artificial flower pinned to the lapel.

I have to confess what I suspected all along. I am not the daring type. I have decided that semi daring is the best I can manage. So, if you chance to see a slightly frumpy, over-the-hill, little old lady wearing an almost red dress with an artificial flower on the jacket, sitting on the back pew of the church, or having lunch at a local restaurant, or pushing a shopping cart down the grocery aisle of the neighborhood supermarket, know that's me daring to be semi-daring.
Authenticating Fiction by Fictionalizing History
To paraphrase T. S. Eliot, The immature writer borrows from the past, the mature writer steals from the past. When I decided to set each of my Christian romances in a decade of the twentieth century, I began to realize how true that statement is.

When writing historical stories, originality does not always mean making something from nothing. It can also mean making interesting adaptations in what has gone before. I look at the material already in existence. I can then set my story in a world that previously existed and by innovation and imagination, try to make it interesting and exciting. In so many ways, writing historical stories is rewriting, it comes from the writer’s reading and then synthesizing new ideas with old experiences.

The first thing I learned about incorporating fiction with history was that I must be sure of dates. Having a few real characters woven in with fictional characters is one way to give the story an air of authenticity. I must make sure that my real characters fit into this time frame. If my novel is set in 1980, I can't have Bing Crosby appear somewhere along the way. He died in 1977. I must not have someone fastening her car seat belt in 1953. Sear belts were not mandatory in the U. S. until 1968.

Realism and background must blend with characterization and plot. Even though I am writing a love story, a mention of some political event, or important discovery or invention can add credibility. I have learned to work the mention into dialogue and not just throw it out at my readers and leave it dangling. It is important to strike a balance. Too many facts make a story read like a history lesson. Too few facts and the story loses much of its realism and legitimacy.

A good way to begin a novel set the past is to get an overall view of that particular time. I zero in on trends and happenings. The larger events and discoveries of a given time will jump out at me as I study that period in history. More often it is the little things that trip me up. For example, it is not advisable to have two friends having cappuccino before the nineteen fifties since the first use of cappuccino in American English was recorded in 1948.

I like writing 20th century historical novels because I have lived long enough to have memories of the 30's through the 90's. I have some understanding of those decades' culture and and mindset. That doesn't mean I don't have to do my research. It does mean researching often stirs old, long-forgotten memories. It helps me obtain a more intimate feeling for that particular time. The better I understand how social changes, fashions, politics, and important events fit together, the better I can comprehend the mood and attitude of that decade.

I like to find an actual episode or a chain of events, and build my plot around that. I draw many of my characters from the people who populated my world in earlier days. Scores of them were colorful, most of them were interesting, and a few were downright disreputable.

I have learned not to be afraid to evaluate and interpret. Writing is always rewriting, it comes from past events combined with the writer’s experiences and imagination. I always bear in mind that, as with any other romance, the story focuses on the growing relationship between the heroine and the hero.

Blessings,
Billie

Remembering Mama

Today is Mother's Day. It's a time to honor all mothers everywhere. My mother is in heaven. All I have of her now are memories and pictures. How I treasure both. When I think of her, I see her as she was when I was a child. In the kitchen cooking, sweeping the front porch, or dusting the living room. Maybe she would be outside watering her flowers, or working in her garden, but always busy, and always singing. She had a beautiful voice, and a repertoire of old song that I loved to hear. I don't know if she had a favorite. I do know the one she sang the most. It was Brighten the Corner Where You Are. She said she learned many of the songs she sang from her father. She called him Papa.

The Papa she adored died in 1918 during the great flu pandemic. He left grandma with five children. Mother was the oldest. She was eleven. The youngest of those children died from the flu shortly after my grandfather passed away.

Mother married my dad in August of 1926. I was born in November of 1927. I'm glad God saw fit to give them to me for parents. Now, as I look back, I realize what a blessing that was.

Although ill health, separation, and hard times, plagued her much of her life, Mother never complained. When confronted with what to do next, her answer was always, "We do the next thing." When I asked what the next thing was, she would say. "I can't say yet. We will know when it gets here," and she always did.

My sweet mother passed away in May of 1996 after a long bout with heart problems and dementia. After twenty-two years I still miss her. She was a strange mixture of hardheaded wisdom and childlike naiveté. I loved her and I know she loved me. Someday I will see her again. I suspect if there is one dusty corner in heaven, she will be there with her dust cloth tidying up, and singing.
  

Poems Inspired by My Mama

  
SATIN SHEET

We laid her to rest on a quilted bed
With a silken pillow under her head.
Earthly remains in their last retreat,
A casket spread with a satin sheet.

Like a lighted candle in the dark
That flickers, then dims on a dying spark
So all that was being, faded in retreat.  
What stayed we displayed on a satin sheet.

In life she was gentle, constant and kind,
With a tender heart and a practical mind.
She would have thought it sheer conceit
To sleep on a bed with a satin sheet.

Last tribute to departing light.
Last goodbye before the long good night.
Forgive us, Mama, our final deceit,
And rest in peace on your satin sheet.
Billie Houston

BACK HOME

She talked of simple childish things,
Winters cold and early springs,
A hand-me-down dress, a jeweled comb.
Memories she had of being back home.

My Papa was a musical man,
She's say, with a wave of her work-worn hand.
In the fall of '18 he died with the flu.
A part of me died that day too.

Mama was left, she's sigh and explain,
With four little kids and not a dime to her name.
For all of its trouble and all of its woe,
Back home was the place she wanted to go.

Back home is where I met your dad.
She's smile in that special way she had.
My people said it's not wise to choose
To marry a man with sand in his shoes.

Then she's sigh again, and shake her head,
I didn't listen to what my people said.
And someday, someday – How her heart would yearn
For that last going back, that final return.

Back home, for me, became a place
That time and distance can't erase,
A site to cherish, a point to bind.
A location memory can always find.

The passing years took their heavy toll,
I grew up and she grew old.
When we talked, and we did now and then,
In her mind she was going home again.

Back to that fixed but vanished abode,
Back down that never-ending road
She wandered in a murky maze
Looking for better, happier days.

We laid her to rest in a little plot
On a windswept hill, the perfect spot.
Safe evermore, never more to roam
We took her to be forever, back home.
Billie Houston

 INTEREST

It was a bartered moment.
I knew that I would pay
In prearranged installments,
Because I know the way
That dealers in the instant
Exact such usury,
And often for a little time,
Demand eternity.
Billie Houston

Blessings,
Billie

  ​Lines of Communication

I was never one to complain about the modern convinces of our day. I enjoy the larger world that television brings into my living room, and places at my finger tips. I'm grateful for the extra time the use of an automatic washer and dryer give me. I think the dishwasher is the greatest invention since the safety pin. The cell phones and beepers that my children and grandchildren carry around with them, properly impress me. Despite all that, sometimes I miss all the old comforts these new fangled inventions have taken from me.

Some people today think that listening to the radio is a poor substitute for watching television. Maybe in this modern age, that's true, but it wasn't always. Radio was once much more than loud talk and raspy music. Once, over those magical airwaves there poured forth a cavalcade of adventure, romance, and comedy. True, then as now, there was only sound, which meant to 'see' one must activate imagination. That's something there doesn't seem to be much demand for anymore. Gone are the days when strange sounding names conjured up mind pictures of far away places, or a breathless sigh unfolded in an active brain, passionate, romantic scenes to rival Romeo and Juliet.

I can turn on my TV any day in the week and find a slew of movies. Of course, I have to pay extra, but I can see anything from animated comedies to, (pun intended,) pure phonography. The problem is, I am so overwhelmed by the vast array of mediocre movies and cheap cinematic tripe that I invariably turn to some old thirties drama that I've seen before and know I will enjoy seeing again. Gone forever are the days when going to the movies was a treat to look forward to all week long, to be savored and enjoyed for two and a half magical hours, and then to be rehearsed and reviewed for days after the actual event.

As wonderful as they are, washers and dryers have taken away the greatest line of communication ever invented, the clothes line. There was a time when a glance at the wash hanging on a back yard clothes line, or laundry draped over the back fence, told more about the family living in that house than any words could ever reveal.

Did Mrs. Jones wear step-ins or bloomers? The answer to that question spoke volumes about Mrs. Jones and her general outlook on life. Miss Maples, I knew to be a very prim and proper old maid. She hung her bloomers inside her pillowcases and out of sight. That flighty little Mrs. Temple had a new pair of step-ins hanging on the line almost every week.

Tom Markum must be out of work again. He didn't have any work clothes on the line this week.

Had Roscoe Tate left Mrs. Tate for the unptheenth time, or did she send him packing this time? It had to be one or the other because he didn't have any clothes at all on the line this time around.

Was Tessie Bettis pregnant again? She was washing her old maternity clothes and hanging them out to dry.

Even absence of wash told a story. Some family had either moved away or they were temporarily out of town for some reason.


I could never bemoan the advantages a simple little invention like a dishwasher gives me. I firmly believe that washing dirty dishes is second in line to Chinese water torture in terms of things to be avoided. But, still, some of the fondest memories I have of times spent with my mother are when we 'did dishes' together. Clearing a table, washing, rinsing, and drying dishes, was a lengthy task. Since anyone who appeared in the kitchen at that point, was apt to be pressed into service, the kitchen after meals was a deserted place. That meant Mom and I had time for long, intimate discussions about almost anything under the sun.

I can remember when the telephone was a fixed entity, stationary and fastened in one place. It was also an instrument to be enjoyed. If, in the process of calling a friend or a relative, you discovered that someone else was on your party line, it was perfectly acceptable to break into the conversation. "Mattie? Is that you?"

"Oh, Irene. Hi. I'm visiting with Anabelle. "Then Anabelle would join in the discussion for a lengthy round robin.

The thought of hanging a telephone on your belt, so someone could ring in and break in at any given moment of your private and personal life, would have been not only alien, but abhorrent in those good old by-gone days. The idea of carrying a noisy beeper snapped to your handbag or fastened to your pocket, if conceivable, would have been considered too intrusive to be thought of as useful or even practical.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to go back to those bad old days of poverty and hard work. I like the present just fine, But I do sometimes find myself waxing nostalgic for some of the better things we lost in our evolution toward an improved tomorrow; things like the homespun magic of imagination, the savoring of items that are too few in number, the leisure of long, sometimes pointless conversations, and the freedom that only solitude and contemplation can give us.

Blessings,
Billie
  
To Each His Own

Coin
Into my heart’s treasury
I slipped a coin
That time cannot take
Nor a thief purloin,
Oh better than the minting
Of a gold-crowned king
Is the safe-kept memory
Of a lovely thing.


 

By Sarah Teasdale


One of the advantages of growing older is you have collected a treasure chest of memories. Some of them are bad and some are good. A few of them are precious. Now and then an event occurs that causes me recall one of those precious memories.

Yesterday was such a day. It was warm and spring-like. Rain fell in the morning. In the afternoon it cleared away and the sun came peeping through gray clouds. It called to my recollection a day long ago that was much the same as this one.

Herb, my husband, our daughter, and I had driven a hundred or so miles to attend a Houston family reunion. After the noon meal, my sister-in-law, Jeanne, and I decided to slip away and go to a movie. We left our daughters in the care of their Grandmother Houston, and sneaked out the back door.

We drove around the little one-horse town and found two movie houses. We could see a shoot-em-up western, or watch a romantic flick. We didn't even have to think twice about which one we would see. Jeanne parked her car down the street from the theater, and we ran half a block in the rain. We bought our tickets, got a big box of popcorn, went in and sat in the second row.

The movie was titled, To Each His Own and starred Olivia De Havilland and John Lund. It was a romance, for sure. It was also a tear jerker to end all tear-jerkers. Olivia has an illegitimate child, a son. The father, the man she loves, in killed in battle during World War1. She gives her son to her best friend, and lives the next several years being sorry that she did. She goes on to be a successful but still an unhappy woman.

We agonized along with our heroine, through each heartbreaking disappointment she endured. Never would her son know she was his mother. She persevered, dreamed, wished, and suffered more heartbreak…

Fast forward to England during World War 11. Sad mother once more encounters unsuspecting son. Now he is a grown man serving in the armed forces. Even though she can never tell him she is his mother, she watches him with an aching heart and a deep sense of regret.

For sheer melodrama and cry-aloud boo-hoo quality, the last scene of this movie rivals the death scene from Camille, but with a happier ending. In the closing scene, by the time John Lund, who played both the lover and the son in this movie, says to Olivia De Havilland, "May I have this dance, Mother?" I doubt there was a dry eye in the house.

We should have spent our popcorn money for tissues. Soggy popcorn is not all that tasty. Likewise, it's not prudent to wipe tears and nose drippings on the tail of your dress.

When we came out of the theater all signs of the rain had disappeared and the sun was shining through drifting gray clouds. We went back to the reunion, hoping that too many people had asked where we went. Our mother-in-law told us no one had missed us. That was a big boost to our egos. Many times later we would remember, and laugh about it.

Jeanne was not only my sister-in-law, she was also my friend. She taught me so many things, like how to make good gravy, the proper way to ice a cake, and how to reuse a tea bag for a second cup of hot tea. She tried to teach me how to sew, but I had neither the patience nor the aptitude to learn. I loved her dearly. I don't remember ever telling her that, or saying how blessed I was to have her in my life. I wish I had.

If there is any moral to an old woman's ramblings, it's this. If you have people in your life whom you love. If you have friends or family that matter to you, tell them now. Even tomorrow may be too late.

Blessings,
Billie

ANOTHER WORLD  

I can't remember a time that I didn't love reading and reciting poetry. I began writing verses when I was in the second grade. Since then poetry has been my solitary pleasure and my ruling passion,

People often ask me if poetry is all that different from prose. The answer is yes. Prose is conceptual and informative. Poetry is imaginative and contemplative. Poetry is more formal than prose and more carefully shaped and organized on the page. Poetry has a regularity of rhythm and a measured beat that is absent in prose. While most prose appeals to reason, poetry often appeals to things beyond reason.

For me, poetry is like visiting another world. In my other world each poem is a complete and magical kingdom, all its own. The territory within its mystical boundaries can be crossed many times. With each new journey I begin down a familiar route that diverges into new and different directions. Such is the magic of poetry's other world.

Each step of the journey through a poem gives me insight and understanding, I can say with John Donne, "My new found land, my kingdom...my empire, how blest am I in discovering thee."

Why, I often wonder, when some people are confronted by a poem they become confused, uncomfortable, and bored? The most apparent reason to me is there are so many poor substitutes for poetry. We have access to movies, comic strips, video games, radio, and computers, to name a few. All of these are easily accessible. Not one of them requires the listener to exercise his mind or his imagination. It is easier to be an arm chair traveler than an active participant in a journey.

An underlying and more subtle reason is the challenge poetry presents. A poem uses ordinary words and events in extraordinary ways to create paradoxical and puzzling events and happenings. Couched in obscurity, riddled with metaphors, supporting similes, and harboring hyperboles, poetry forces the reader to think, remember, and imagine. The senses are continually tilted and skewed. The poetic trek is an inward journey, forcing the traveler to pause and rethink ideas, revamp beliefs, reflect over the past, project into the future. In the process, the reader confronts, somewhere along the way, that lonely, lost, too-often alienated stranger - the emotional, enigmatic, inner self.

The challenge presented by reading poetry is much the same as the challenge Thoreau faced when he took up residence on Walden Pond, It is a dare to "Live deep, and suck out the marrow of life." Only then can the seeker gather up and examine scattered thoughts and unconscious memories, to hold them like jewels in the shallow container of recollection. This union of deep thought and profound concentration triggers the imagination, an active force that Albert Einstein once declared to be "More important than knowledge."

Somewhere along the way, the explorer comes to a place where two roads diverge, and discovers, along with Robert Frost, that he must choose a direction. The wayfaring wanderer should count this as a blessing and feel free to pursue any one of the routes offered, even if it is the "road less traveled." For unlike Frost's Yellow Wood, a word-traveler may return to this fork in the road again and again, to venture anew into that vast and disputed wasteland of human awareness.

Poems are not constructed by a set formula or blueprint. The word-traveler must seek and find, reflect and assume, by using intellect and interest rather than map and compass. This may be confusing and challenging at times, but in the exploration of poetry, it is the only way to travel. Ambiguity and symbolism are absorbed by all the senses. They are the very heart and soul of poetry.

Human beings are earth-bound, time-bound creatures. Traveling through the realm of poetry breaks that invisible barrier and allows the imagination to soar into regions that before this mastering moment were unexplored and unknown. This time-space transport exacts a price. It is mind boggling to imagine and experience a panorama of novel thoughts and unsettling emotions, to view through the spectrum of ageless interludes, the many facets of human existence. Vision is never complete until imagination lifts it above the rooftops of self and the lowering clouds of the instant, to reveal the wonder of a wider view from the vantage point of another place and another perspective.

It is an insight that is richly rewarding, but dearly purchased for there is ugliness to see as well as beauty. Along with the loveliness life has to sell, it gives gratis, a picture of the darker side of human existence. Poetry calls into view not only what is bright and beautiful, but also all that is dark and dangerous in the human experience. It embraces a wide and bewildering view of human consciousness.

Imagination is as grim as it is benevolent. Along with new revelations and quiet composure, it whispers of what cannot be possessed, mummers about what dares not be. It is a two-edged sword, a blessing and a curse, the remedy that wounds as it heals, the oracle that destroys as it delivers.

Wallace Stevens once called imagination "The bread and wine of the mind.  .  .  . The only true genius." In poetry, this genius never detaches itself from reality, but always stands in some essential relationship to truth and legitimacy. It is this constant that makes imagination our passport to time-travel, our ticket to an incredible journey. This exercise in freedom embodies its own paradox: In poetry the most basic truths are never completely understood. In this wonderful realm the traveler is ever the questor, the seeker, the wandering minstrel who is free to journey from one kingdom to the other in this other world without end, amen. Bon Voyage!
Blessings,
Billie
  
  Down A Hot Caliche Road  

My Brother, Leon,  Age  Eight

Some of my fondest memories of growing up are not big events, but the everyday things that were regular happenings. Things like playing sand lot baseball, flying kites with Leon, my brother, walking to school, summer swims in the river, and going for a haircut.

The downtown barber shops charged fifty cents for a haircut. That's only a pittance now. During the thirties it was a hefty sum. The neighborhood barber only charged twenty five cents. His name was Doc Mason. He was also the neighborhood drunk. Today he would be called an alcoholic. Each weekend he went on a bender. Folks who got Saturday haircuts did so at their own risk. Mother always sent Leon and me on Wednesdays. She tied a quarter in the opposite corners of one of her hand hemstitched handkerchiefs and gave it to Leon. He put it his front overhauls pocket and we were on our way.

I remember one particular Wednesday in June when we began our journey. The caliche road we walked down was white and hot. It would take it to our destination."Hold hands," Mother called from the front porch. We gave our standard response. "Yes ma'am."

We turned left and walked half a block before we got to Reginald Crownover's house. There was no longer a house standing, only a concrete slab and the burned out remains of what must have once been a large home. Everybody said Reginald was a bootlegger. He had a shoot out with the Feds way back in the twenties. Once I asked Daddy if that was true. He said Everybody was the biggest liar in the world, and anybody named Reginald Crownover couldn't be all bad. Then he laughed.

After going another block, we turned right and were met by the Simson boys. They were the neighborhood's teenage bullies. Sammie Simson punched my shoulder with his forefinger. "Where you goin', cotton top." Before I could answer, Leon stepped in front of me. "You leave my sister alone."

He punched Leon in the chest with that same finger. "Who's gonna make me, pee-wee?" Leon didn't back down an inch. "My daddy, that's who. If you bother us he will come after you."

"We ain't afraid of him," Sig Simson said, but they moved on.

The person they should have feared was our five foot, two inch, one hundred twenty pound mother. If they did anything to us she would come after them with a brick bat.

A little farther down the road, the Mackey girls were playing jump rope in their front yard. They waved to us, and we waved back, and moved on down the road.

We passed Jim Watson's house. His mother was sitting in the rocking chair in the front porch. She waved her cane in our direction. "Where do you youngens thank you're goin'?" We stopped, and Leon said, "To get our hair cut." Under his breath, he added, "You old witch."

"Does yore mammy know yore out runnin' the streets?" In unison, we replied, "Yes. Ma'am."

"Well, then, don't jist stand there with yore faces hangin' out, git on down the road." We were more than happy to move on.

When we were far enough away that I was sure the old woman wouldn't hear, I asked, "Do you really think old lady Watson is a witch?"
Leon shook his head. "Not really. Witches have warts on their chins with long hairs growing out of them. Old lady Watson don't even have much of a chin to start with."

"I guess you're right," I said, "But she sure acts like one sometime."

At the next intersection, we turned left. The Williamsons lived in the corner house. J. C. Williamson was in the back yard chopping weeds. "Hey, kids, where are you off to?" He leaned on his hoe handle and smiled. Leon told him we were on our way to the barber shop."So, you're gonna get your ears lowered?" He started hoeing again. "Don't take any wooden nickels."

We laughed as we went on down the road. I said I liked J. C. Leon said he did too. J. C. was a teenager, just like the Simson boys, but he was nice. He was smart too. Everybody said he would go far in this world. This time Everybody was right. During the Second World War J. C. went all the way to France, but he never came home.

When we passed Sister Perdue's house, she was sitting on her back porch, reading her Bible. Sister Taught the adult Bible class at church. She had a Bible class in her living room every Thursday afternoon. Mother went to those Thursday classes. She said Sister knew more about the bible than lots of preachers.

When she saw us, Sister called, "Where are you going, children?"

We said, "To the barber shop."

"Would you like to have something cold to drink?" She stood. "I just happen to have some nice cold sweet tea here."
Would we ever? We came to stand beside her fence. She brought us a quart mason jar filled with iced tea.

Leon took it, and handed it to me. "Age before beauty."

"Sez who?" I drank half the tea, and gave the jar to him.

"Sez me." He drank the rest of the tea, and gave the jar back to Sister Perdue. "Thank you, ma'am."

As we neared the barber shop. I told him to quit saying age before beauty, because I wasn't old, and he for sure wasn't a beauty.

He grinned and asked, "Don't you think I'm a little bit cute?"

I couldn't help it, I smiled. "Maybe, but just a little bit."

We were at the barber shop. Leon held the door open for me. "Age before beauty."

"Sez who?" I went inside.

"Sez me." My brother followed me.

Leon passed away a few years back. I miss him. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him. I know I will see him again someday. When I get to heaven, we will hold hands again, and he can show me all the wonderful sights there. This time we won't be walking down a hot caliche road, but down streets paved with pure gold.

Blessings, Billie

*The names in this blog are fictitious. They were changed to protect the guilty.

The Vanishing Woman


http://www.desertbreezepublishing.com/the-potters-wheel-epub​

The year is nineteen-seventeen. America has just gone to war. Ruth Garland has earned her nursing certificate and looks forward to fulfilling her dream of becoming a medical missionary.

She returns home to visit her sister, Rachel, and learns Rachel has only a few weeks to live.

Rachel begs Ruth to promise to take care of her three children. "Bring them up in the church. Show them how to live a Christian life."

Ruth promises, and then her sister asks her to keep one more promise...

"My dear husband has agreed. When I am gone, will you marry my Henry?"
  
The Vanishing Woman

When I consider the alternative, getting old is not so bad. It can be thought of as a luxury. Some people never have that opportunity.

There are some pluses to getting older. By now most of my mischief is in my head. Although I'm still young enough to think about giving in to some of life's more ignoble temptations or doing something wild, impractical or unconventional, I'm old enough to know I won't yield to my flights of fancy. Those foolish imaginations will have to be experienced vicariously by incorporating them into a sensational romantic novel.

My conscience is not nearly so demanding. I no longer entertain ideas of reaching perfection. Even though I strive for improvement, I realize I'm not going to, in this life, attain some perfect state. I can deal with an occasional fall from grace. I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.

There are some minuses to getting older. I'm a little slower getting up in the morning. While my body is a little slower to react, my mind is still agile, even though I'm subject to occasional “senior moments." I've been known to go into room and forget why I'm there, or to stow something away and later be unable to recall where I put it.

My greatest fear is the feeling that I’m vanishing by slow degrees. The more birthdays I celebrate, the more I seem to slip into the background and blend in with the scenery. The nurse in my doctor’s office looks my way and, turns to ask my daughter “Is your mother allergic to any medication?” Did she not see me? It’s hard to miss a 5'4" 133 pound woman when she’s not three feet from you. Maybe I am starting to fade.

I am admiring pots of flowers outside a nursery. The saleslady cruises by me, hooks onto the young woman nearby, and begins her sales spiel. Did she mistake me for a potted plant, or am I slowly, but surely disappearing?

My grandson and I are having lunch in a sandwich shop. We are set to go through the line, choosing what we want on our sandwiches. As we start through, the girl behind the counter asks my grandson, "What does your grandmother want on her sandwich?" Maybe I'm gradually but assuredly being erased.

At the behest of my daughter I go to have my hearing tested. The doctor doing the testing talks to me as if I were standing on a precipice, looking down into the chasm of senility. Finally, my daughter, who was in the room with me, told him, not too kindly, that he was talking to a woman who published three romantic novels last year. After that, he seemed to see me somewhat more clearly. Maybe a bright light turned on in his brain, enabling him to see what he didn't know was there before.

I have been an adult for well over seventy-five years. Life after I reached a certain age didn’t change or delete all that transpired before I attained that bench mark. I can still accept new and different ideas. I may not always agree with them. I don't think like most other people do, but then, I never did. I still have a zest for living and for learning. Sometimes I look into the dreary, humorless faces of younger people around me, and think, if they have no passion for life now, what will they be like at sixty - seventy - eighty?

So, I’m a little out of step. So, I have developed an attitude. In the process, I have found my voice. I know who I am. I will take each day as it comes. I will keep learning, dreaming, and keep writing -- until, like mist kissed by sunlight, I evaporate and float away

Blessings, Billie
  

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys  

By Billie Houston

  
Long before Willie Nelson sang "My heroes have always been cowboys," my heroes were cowboys. I grew up during the thirties. Times were hard, and money was scarce. The price of a child's movie ticket was eleven cents. That seems a mere pittance now, but back when eleven cents could buy a quart of milk or a gallon of gasoline, it was a sizeable sum.

My parents were, even by thirties standards, poor. Twenty-two cents took a nip from my father's weekly paycheck. Looking back now, I am sure Mother did without something she wanted, or needed to provide that sum to my brother, Leon, and me each week, but provide it she did. Going to the movies on Saturday afternoon was a treat we looked forward to all week long.

We never had money to buy candy or popcorn, but Mother always saw to it that we had something to munch on during the movie. Earlier that day she made two neat packages of tea cakes, the name she gave the melt-in-your-mouth cookies she baked each Wednesday. Leon put the tea cakes in the front pockets of his overall, and we were on our way.

I have been to many exciting and interesting places since I became an adult, but I have never quite experienced the thrill I felt when, as a child, I walked into a dimly-lit movie theater. A tingle of excitement ran down my spine. The palms of my hands perspired. I stood on the threshold of unexplored territory. It was the doorway to a far frontier. Illusion was the only reality. For the space of two hours, I forgot my everyday existence and dwelt in fantasy's fantastic domain. It was a kingdom governed by the limits of imagination; a realm that beckoned the dreamer, welcomed the pretender, and received the star gazer with open arms.

We sat on the front row, unwrapped our cookies, and waited, anticipating, as only children can, the unraveling of yet another wonderful western adventure.

On cue, the house lights dimmed, and the big moment came. With the sound of pounding hooves and the blare of loud music, the movie began. The plot was trite. Good and evil did battle, and in the nick of time, good triumphed. The characters were stereotypes. The hero was intellectually and physically gifted, and in control of every situation. The villain was deceitful and underhanded, but never quite as handsome or as able as the hero. The heroine was sweet and trusting, and in need of a strong man to rescue her from danger. The dialogue was hackneyed and predictable. "Reach for the sky, Saddle up boys," and "Howdy, stranger," were phrases we heard over and over again. We loved every minute of it.

All too soon the movie ended. The house lights came up, the screen faded to black, and the magic disappeared. We were thrust back into our own mundane little world. The memory lived on, green and fresh, in our minds. A movie was not just a Saturday afternoon happening; It was the sustaining event that entertained us through the coming days.

During the remainder of the week, coming home from school, or doing chores around the house, we remembered and relived snatches and bits from Saturday's movie. We talked about our dreams. Mine was to own a horse, and ride across the prairie, feeling the wind lift my hair and blow across my face. Leon was a more practical dreamer. He wanted to own a ranch, and be a rich cattle baron. By the time Friday rolled around again, we were ready to file the current movie away in our memories. We scanned the paper to see what was going to be on at the show tomorrow.

So much water has flowed under the bridge of time since those lost days of childhood. As the years slipped by and I became an adult, I found many things to excite my mind and challenge my intellect, but my heart is still true to my first love. My heroes have always been cowboys, and they still are, it seems.

  ​Death Be Not Proud  

Though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.*

  
The resurrection of Jesus is arguably the most disputed event in all human history. It is the cause for ongoing harangues, untold lectures, and endless debates. Maybe that is because the word death carries such a ring of inescapable demise. It is the inevitable fate of all living things. Human beings, animals, plants -- all living organisms --live out a little span of time, and pass away. Death is our greatest enemy, our one unconquerable foe.

For Christians, the death, burial and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus, is the blessed assurance that He did what no one else could do. He conquered death. In so doing He assures all who believe on His name that death holds no more power over us. I know there are people who argue we still all die. That's true, but 'one short sleep past'* that departure, 'we wake eternally.'*

Easter weekend is a time for remembering Our Lord's death on the cross. This God-man, who knew no sin, was the sacrifice for our sins. How can these things be? I honestly don't know. I'm not a theologian. I'm not a scholar. I don't claim to be an intellectual. I am a believer. As one who has placed my faith in Christ Jesus, I step out on the ledge of faith, and choose to believe His word is true. He will keep his promises.

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. The Gospel of John 14:1-3

Easter Sunday is the time we joyously celebrate Jesus' resurrection. That miraculous resurrection gives all believers the assurance that Jesus of Nazareth is the son of God. He defeated the power of sin and death. My hope for eternal life is built on nothing less than the belief that God sent an angel to roll the stone away from His Son's grave. This was not to free Jesus from his tomb. It was to let the world see inside. What those first seekers beheld was an empty tomb. One day He will raise me. I will step from this world into the bright light of glory to live eternally in His magnificent presence.

Blessings,
Billie


Angels Roll the Rock Away

Angels, roll the rock away;
Death, yield up thy mighty prey!
See, He rises from the tomb,
Glowing in immortal bloom,
Glowing in immortal bloom.

'Tis the Savior! Angels, raise
Fame's eternal trump of praise;
Let the world's remotest bound
Hear the joy-inspiring sound,
Hear the joy-inspiring sound.

Heav'n displays its portals wide;
Glorious Hero, thro' them ride!
King of glory, mount Thy throne,
Thy great Father's and Thine own!
Thy great Father's and Thine own!

Host of heav'n, seraphic fires!
Raptured sweep your sounding lyres;
Sons of men, in humbler strain,
Sing your mighty Savior's reign!
Sing your mighty Savior's reign!

Ev'ry note with wonder swell;
Sin o'erthrown, and captive hell!
Where, O death, is now thy sting?
Where thy terrors, vanquished king?
Where thy terrors, vanquished King?


*Quotes from the poem Death Be Not Proud by John Donne, English poet, 1592-1631

**Angels, Roll the Rock Away, hymn. By Thomas Scott. Published circa 1772
  
Strolling with Sorrow
  

  
I walked a mile with Sorrow, And ne’er a word said she; but, oh! the things I learned from her,when sorrow walked with me.
-Robert Browning Hamilton
  

Sometimes what seems at the time, more than we can bear, is Gods way of teaching us important lessons. My husband, Herb, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2005. The next ten years of my life were a nightmare. I watched him, day after day, month after month, year after year, slowly lose touch with reality and deteroiate physically.
Alzheimer's not only destroys the brain, it also devastates the body.

At first I lived in denial. He would get better. There would never be a time that he wouldn't know me. We had been together too long. We had been through so much. … The biggest lies are those we tell ourselves.

My first turning point toward accepting what was happening, facing it, leaning on My Savior, and not my own understanding, came one Thursday afternoon in 2013 Shortly after lunch I got a telephone call from the memory care home where Herb lived. He had fallen and needed to go to a hospital. Which hospital? They asked. I told them, and said my daughter and I would meet him there.

The first sight of him sent my fears soaring. He had a rug burn on his forehead, abrasions on his nose, the beginnings of a black eye, and a cut on his finger. Then I looked into his eyes and saw that vacant stare. He had no idea who I was. A fist of sorrow wrapped around my heart and squeezed, hard.

Technicians, nurses, and doctors moved in and out, taking him for cat scans, X-rays, and other tests. They were very nice and very professional. I wanted to tell them, be careful with him. This is the man I love. He was the heartbeat of my existence before you were born.

Slowly the reports came back: no bleeding in the brain, no concussion, no broken bones, no cracked ribs. After what seemed a very long time, a young doctor appeared. “Your husband was not seriously injured. He will be sore for a few days, but in time he will heal completely." I could believe he would heal from his fall. I also knew that in that small space of time, Alzheimer's would wipe away more memories and scramble the few that remained.

It came to me like an epiphany. I remembered words the apostle Paul spoke so long ago.I decided then and there that from this day forward, in whatever situation I found myself, I would try to be — not happy, not satisfied, not even mollified — but content.

I remembered! What a blessing – I remembered! I had not only recollections of bad times, I could also call to memory of all the good years Herb and I had together. I should be thankful to God for letting me have him as long as He did.

I sat there with tears in my eyes and thought of the many times I lamented over ‘bad memories’. I shouldn’t have. Those recollections were the ones that taught me, among other things, patience, compassion, the folly of rushing to judgment, and the stupidity of holding grudges and harboring hate.

They also taught me that Instead of asking, “Dear God, why me?” I should say, “Heavenly Father, what do you want me to learn from this?”

I once grieved over bad memories. I know now that memories, good or bad, are blessings we should be thankful to have.

Blessings,
Billie
  

Texas Speak

  
The Oxford dictionary defines a colloquialism as a word or phrase that is not formal or literary, typically one used in ordinary or familiar conversation. Merriman says it's a local or regional dialect expression. I like American Heritage's definition best. It describes a colloquialism as a word or phrase appropriate to conversation and other informal situations.

It makes me a little sad that I no longer hear so many of the colloquialisms I accepted as Standard English when I was a kid. One of my favorites is, "He didn't just fall off a turnip truck." It is acknowledging the 'he' is not being fooled by lies he's being told. One of my mother's favorites was, "I'm mad as an old wet hen." Judging from my mother's ability to become extremely angry, old wet hens can get dang mad. My dad's way of expressing stupidity was to say, "If you put that boy's brain in a bumble bee, it would fly backward."

Was someone intelligent? You might say, "Man, she's smart as a whip". Did your visitor leave in a hurry? "He sure lit a shuck outa here." For a long time this expression bothered me. I couldn't understand the connection between lighting a shuck and leaving in a hurry. I finally tracked down the connection. If callers came and stayed until after dark, the polite thing to do was walk them home, especially if they were female callers. If they lived near, there was no need to fill a lantern with fuel, and light it. You could light a shuck. I would burn long enough for you to see them home. I suppose you lit another shuck to get back to your house.

If my mother-in-law found the appearance of some person or object to be a long way from lovely, she expressed her opinion by saying that she, he. Or it looked like, "The north end of a south bound cow." When someone asked for her help and she had a busy day ahead of her, she'd reply. "Sorry, but I already have more to do today than I can say grace over."

Back then everybody, at least everybody I knew, had a privy out back. Saying you were going to Chick Sales was a way of announcing you were headed in that direction. This brings to mind the expression, "There's a wasp in the out house." That signaled there was big trouble ahead.

For my father-in-law a doozie was the superlative of anything. He would say, "I made a doozie of a deal, Or that car is a real doozie. More than once he told his granddaughter she was, "A doozie of a kid. Living in tall cotton, translated for him into living well or doing well financially.

My husband's grandfather and grandmother were married in the Central Oklahoma Territory in the late eighteen hundreds. They salted their speech with colloquialisms and wisdom. One Of Grandad's observations was, "If that don't take the rag right offen the bush." It was his way of saying, "That's a tale, maybe a tall tale. I don't think I can top it."

Grandma sometime invited us to dinner, to us it was supper, by saying, "Y'all come on over. We will put the big pot in the little one." That was an invitation we never refused. It meant she would cook a sumptuous meal.

Most of these colloquialisms are unfashionable now. Some of them are no longer considered politically correct. They gave to speech a savor and a meaning that is missing in so much of the superficial conversations I participate in today. I love hearing old fashioned Texas speak. It take me back to a nostalgic time and place.

Blessings,
Billie


A Word To The Wise...

March 3, 2018

I agree with Bette Davis, who once said, "Old age ain't for sissies." I can speak with some authority.

On the twenty-fourth day of last November, I turned ninety. That puts me five years past the cut-off line for the oldest and fastest growing demographic in America," the oldest old." I am privileged to have watched the panoramic view of history's passing parade for nine decades. After all these years, the only constants I can vouch for, are God and change.

It's been a long journey, and at the risk of sounding insufferably smug, I wouldn't change a thing. I am more at peace with myself, and with my maker now than I was at sixty, seventy, or even eighty. I wake up each morning glad to be alive, and looking forward to the day ahead. I have health problems, but none of them are disabling. They make me more aware of the importance of taking care of myself.

There are a few things I have learned in my long journey that are worth passing along.

1. Life is daily and negotiable. I can start over every morning, and I do, with a time of Bible reading and prayer.

The older I get, the less I look back on the past, or plan for the future. I have learned the importance of living in the present. Each day I appreciate the little things in my life. Occasions such as holidays, birthdays, special days at my church, and time spent with friends and family, have a deeper meaning to me now.
I no longer have clothes I wear only on special occasions. Every day is special. I wear what I want to wear when I want to wear it. Dishes and glassware that were once saved for special events, now see daily use. I gave my beautiful old set of Oneida silverware to my grandson and his wife. Gifts given to me that I once would have hoarded for some special time, I put to good use every day.

2. So long as I learn, my mind stays young. I read and study, and try each day to broaden my horizons I have ventured into reading fiction genres that a few years ago, I wouldn't have touched, because I was narrow-minded enough to believe I didn't like that particular genre. Not long ago I read Dracula, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

3. So long as I love, my heart stays young. It is difficult, as I grow older, to remain realistic, and not become cynical. Life throws us so many curves.  One day we are on top of the world. The next day, without warning, and for no reason we can see, tragedy strikes. In the past, I often asked, "Why me, Lord?" I have come to realize that there are some things in this life we are not supposed to know. If we knew all the answers, there would be no need for faith. We will understand it better by and by.

4. It is better for me to fail while striving for the magnificent, than to succeed in achieving the mundane. I always give and do my best. I continuously strive to improve. Over the past twenty years, I have learned a lot about the craft of writing fiction. I haven't scratched the surface of what there is to know.

5. In the past, often kicks in the pants sent me farther up the ladder of success than pats on the back did. The episodes that confronted me, the setbacks that I once saw as failures, I now realize were challenges that taught me some hard lessons, and made me stronger.

6. Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. For so many years I held onto resentment and let old wounds fester. My husband's death made me see everything in a different light. Life is too short, and too precious, to waste on bitterness and regret. When I was finally able to let go of all that old animosity and guilt, I realized a truth that I wish all could see. Forgiveness is not earned, it is freely and willingly given. Forgiveness has a boomerang effect. In giving, we receive blessings a hundred fold.

My advice is to live each day as if it was the last day of your vacation, or the first day of your honeymoon. Don't worry about tomorrow. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

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