Focus on the Positive


“Find every opening to reinforce the value of returning to right and reason in your own life.”

~ Deepak Chopra

I thought I’d post this one line instead of Chopra’s entire article (which you can read here if you’re so inclined). I didn’t want to turn it into a political post – haven’t we all had enough of this exhaustive ugliness anyway? It’s Sunday and I’m feeling a little bit lazy, so here are some pictures to brighten your day. Focus on the positive when you can – all this negativity does you no good.

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All photoS by M. Reynolds
Gandria, Switzerland
Gandria, Switzerland
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Wilcox Park, Westerly, RI
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Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence, RI

 

 

Looking Back (Way Back)


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As I’ve been working on recreating this journal written by my maternal grandfather (which will be a book by December), it’s inevitably led to some family tree research.

Over twenty years ago, I picked up on my mother’s love of genealogy and created a binder of information for her. Lots of pages, many, many branches of a tree that went all the way back to King Alfred the Great. (‘Mom, if we’re descended from royalty, why do I have to work?’ ‘Someone married for love, that’s why.’) Of course, the argument can be made that we’re all connected, and the more I do this research, the more I believe it.

My husband’s mother was born in Salzburg, and we have documents, official certificates of births and marriages and deaths. I have Zeinzingers back to the late 1700s, and Strauss, Altmann, Eder. Everything in German!

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This has helped! So has my online friend Eva Merryman – her translations have been valuable in figuring out the who, the what, and the where.

So, how about you? Do you look back? Have you discovered something wonderful in your family history?

Oversharing


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I know three or four loyal readers of this blog who don’t have a social media presence (I love them!), but many of us do, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blahblahblahblahblah. We do it for varying reasons: I first joined Facebook at the invitation of a high school friend, and found I could enjoy a virtual reunion without worrying about what to wear. College friends, former co-workers, an old crush, neighbors, even my best friend from second grade. We’re all connected online.

Some have more of a presence than others, for different reasons. As an author, I’ve learned that it’s important to stay connected with readers. I try not to shill my books (they’re all right there on the page, isn’t that enough?!), and love to promote others. I enjoy seeing photos of my friends’  kids grandkids, pets, and even the same sunset from another viewpoint.

This past week I was struck with the concept of oversharing. And its opposite. A former co-worker completed her rounds of chemotherapy (breast cancer) without a single post to the world. Her family and close friends were aware, I’m sure, but someone like me, an acquaintance at best, had no need, and she didn’t find it necessary to share her struggle. Only when the chemo was completed did her husband post joyfully (with her okay). And I think we all felt the same joy for her, even if we hadn’t known what she’d endured these past months.

That isn’t to say that those who feel the need to share every last tidbit are bad people. According to the Daily Mail (UK), scientists have revealed that people who feel compelled to share intimate details of their lives on social media sites have heightened activity in the region of the brain relating to self-cognition. Some folks just like to share information about themselves. It’s their diary (for everyone to read!). And for us, we have the option to simply hide, delete, scroll through.

 

 

Two Weeks, Three Rivers


photo by Martha Reynolds
photo by Martha Reynolds

I’ve been working on a new novel, Villa del Sol, for months now. Sometimes the writing comes easily (I have the story in my head, but getting it out isn’t always easy). Life can be a distraction, an inspiration, a temporary derailment. And as much as I had wanted it to be finished in time for the 2016 Expo, that’s looking more and more unlikely. So what’s a writer to do?

Well, last week I was featured locally here, and perhaps it was talking about my grandfather that pushed me back to a project I’d backburnered. In 1924, Earl Handy (my mother’s father) and John B. Hudson (a local treasure and one of Rhode Island’s foremost naturalists), took a canoe trip. Two weeks and three rivers. Earl kept a journal of the adventure. There are photographs. I’d wanted to publish this account, and now I’m determined to do it.

photo by Martha Reynolds
photo by Martha Reynolds

In delving back into this project, I’ve reawakened an interest in family history. I’ve spent days at the library, scanning microfilmed pages of old newspapers, finding articles of note, reading about long-forgotten villages in Rhode Island and Connecticut. It’s fun! And, I hope, will provide for an interesting piece of history. So, stay tuned – my novel will be published sometime in 2017, but Two Weeks, Three Rivers will be ready by December (fingers and toes crossed).

Hi, My Name is….Introvert


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Some of you will read this title and think, ‘Not Martha!’  I know. I play a good game of it.

Last week I attended an event with my pal Lynne. I didn’t think I’d know anyone there. I ended up seeing a couple of former co-workers (people who were actually nice), and I was introduced to a few of Lynne’s colleagues. Smiles and handshakes all around. Nodding at conversation.

And yesterday I attended my 40th high school reunion. It was a very successful day, and, as I’d had a hand in the planning of the event, I received plenty of compliments and positive feedback about the day.

After a few hours, I couldn’t wait to leave.

Now hold on – it wasn’t that I didn’t want to see old friends. I did! And they’re really great people. Yes, we’ve all grown up (way up), and after forty years, much of my teenage angst is pushed back. Maybe not forgotten but certainly diluted by life’s joys and accomplishments. I had a chance to speak with just about everyone, and even led a goofy trivia contest.

Well, that doesn’t sound like an introvert, does it?

But here’s the thing, and I thank Lynne for the conversation last week as we were driving back home from the beach event: an extrovert derives energy from being around people – an introvert’s energy is sucked out by being around others. An introvert may work hard at being sociable, but it’s draining.

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Introverts don’t like small talk – not because they dislike people, but because it serves as a kind of barrier. Introverts sometimes feel alone, even in the midst of familiar faces. Introverts can be excellent public speakers (yes!), but find it more difficult and stressful to mingle with others afterwards. Introverts start to shut down after they’ve been active for too long. And I did, at both events. So, my apologies to my high school friends for leaving the party without saying my goodbyes. I was so grateful to be in your company! And for the ones from my high school class who couldn’t attend the reunion, meeting one-on-one or in a small group would be absolutely perfect. But you knew that.

Hot Songs – 1976


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Next week is my 40th high school reunion (ack!). So I’m reflecting, of course, and listening to music from 1976 – forty years ago. The 70’s gave us some great songs, ranging from the folky music of the early part of the decade to the raging disco music at the end.

Here are some of my favorites from the summer of ’76:

“Love is Alive” by Gary Wright. Peaked at #2.

“Silly Love Songs” by Wings. McCartney answered his critics with this one.

“Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band. Hit #1 in July 1976.

“Get Closer” by Seals and Crofts. Sorry about the poor quality (it’s 1976!). S&C’s last Top 10 hit.

“Moonlight Feels Right” by Starbuck. Their debut single and biggest hit.

“You’re my Best Friend” by Queen. Reached #16 on the Billboard charts.

Happy Book-iversary (to me)!


99centsMy first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was published on August 12, 2012 – nearly four years ago! (It was republished with a new cover in April 2013.) In those four years, I’ve written and published six novels, all of which have given me tremendous pride and a sense of accomplishment. I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing, and that is sufficient. Well, pretty much.

New novels can trigger a sales flurry, but sales drop off after a time, even for beloved best-sellers.

So….for the coming week, every one of my six novels will be discounted to 99 cents for the e-book (Kindle version). I have no control over the print price, but if you come to the RI Authors Book Expo on December 3, 2016 http://www.riauthors.org/riexpo/ , I’ll have print copies available for a great price.

You can grab a three-book series, described by one reader as “writing (that) draws wonderful pictures of the characters and allows you to really ‘fall into’ the book ~ which is one of my favorite things about reading.” Or read about a group of classmates readying for their 25-year high school reunion and visiting old grievances. A novel about a young woman pursuing her dream of becoming a best-selling author, only to face a harsh reality check. And finally, a lighter story involving two friends who gamble on a dream of turning a rundown farm into a premier wedding venue. If you’ve already read these books, here’s a chance to give some gifts. In any event, I’m grateful – so very grateful – for all the positive feedback and encouragement I’ve received, from friends and strangers new friends, over the past four years.

God Awaits You at the Door


That’s a quote from Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez. It seemed appropriate today, as I learn of yet another colleague gone too soon.

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I’m nearly 58 years old, and it’s not unusual for my friends’ parents to pass away. Just this past week, the father of a high school friend died. I’ve attended plenty of wakes and funerals for men and women in their 80s and 90s. I try to prepare for the day that my father-in-law, now 84 and tethered to an oxygen tank, passes.

But when it’s a contemporary…well, it’s sobering. Difficult. Sometimes tragic. Steve never smoked a cigarette and died of lung cancer. Lucy’s husband killed her and then hanged himself. Danny had but three months from his cancer diagnosis to his death. Sue, Tom, Steve, Jack, Tim, Elaine, Kathy, Susan, Ellen, Sally, Lili. And now Jeff.

Working for Hope Hospice, I’m not immune to death. In the two years I’ve been there, I can’t tell you how many familiar names I’ve seen on paperwork. Death is inevitable, of course. We hope that it comes when we’re ready, but does it? Nothing is promised to you in this life…except that, one day, it will end. Rest in eternal peace, Jeff.

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Post-Brexit Uncertainty


 

Roger Cohen of the New York Times termed it a “leap in the dark.”  Donald Trump hailed the vote, crowing that Brits are “taking back their country.” And Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, declared the vote “a victory against big business and big politics.”

So, what does this vote mean to you? Well, for starters, as I write this post at 9:55am on Friday, the US stock market is down 500 points. You might see your 401K drop 10, 20, or even 30%. That’s your retirement money, the extra you set aside for your later years. The Federal Reserve is watching. There is already a lot of volatility in the world – and we are all connected, you know – Asian markets fall, the British pound sterling plummets.

Spain is calling for joint control of Gibraltar. Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU, began a new move today to hold a new referendum on independence from the UK. And perhaps most importantly, Brexit spreads across Europe, with Italy, France, the Netherlands, and Denmark all calling for referendums. Is immigration the reason? Possibly it is the major reason. “Between 1993 and 2014, the foreign-born population in the UK more than doubled, from 3.8 million to around 8.3 million, said Oxford researchers Cinzia Rienzo and Carlos Vargas-Silva. “During the same period, the number of foreign citizens increased from nearly 2 million to more than 5 million.”

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In my opinion, the Brexit vote wasn’t about the economy. It was about xenophobia. And if America doesn’t pay close attention, we could follow down the same dark path.

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On Pentecost and Hitchhiking


In 1979, Pentecost fell on the first Sunday of June (June 3). That’s because Easter wasn’t until mid-April that year, and Pentecost is fifty days after Easter (the word is derived from ‘the fiftieth [day]’ in Greek). Since June 13 is the latest possible date for Pentecost to occur, we were well along that year.

And in Switzerland, the Pentecostal holiday lasted for five days, beginning on Thursday, or on May 31 in 1979. For those of us who were students at the Université de Fribourg that year, it was a sweet holiday toward the end of what was a truly memorable year abroad. Five days off! Of course, few of us had enough money for train travel, but hitchhiking was accepted, especially if done in pairs. Most girls knew enough not to hitch alone. Two girls had a greater chance of being picked up. Sometimes it seems absurd that we’d done this, but times were different. Really, they were.

Peter hitchhiking

My pal Peter and I decided, like most students in our group, to head south, to the French Riviera, where our journey had begun the previous September in Nice. The general idea was to take a train from Fribourg to Geneva, head out to where the autoroute began, and hope for a long ride by a kind driver. One of our friends advised taking a different route, however. It’s better and more scenic to travel on the secondary roads, he said. And we believed him.

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It took two days and nearly twenty rides to get to Saint-Raphaël, along the Côte d’Azur in southern France. But once there, we were richly rewarded, with pristine beaches, hot sun, sweet oranges, and a nightly fish soup that was recommended to us by a very dear friend. 

And fortunately, on the way back home, we were picked up by a young couple in Citroën 2CV who brought us all the way back to Fribourg (via the autoroute).