Tag Archives: womenwriters

The Thrill of a Second Chance

Martha Carr, author
Martha Carr, author

My fifties started with a bang.  I jumped out of a plane, following behind the person I was interviewing for a book.  As soon as I was clear of the plane I felt myself relax and one clear thought came to me, “You’ve done it now, you might as well relax.”  If I was going to hit the ground, I might as well enjoy this last minute.

I landed successfully and stood up with another clear thought: Stop doing anything that isn’t working.  There was a long list.  My entire way of thinking up to that point was to try and make sure everyone else liked me, no matter what the consequences.

By the time I turned fifty, I was more of a chameleon than a human being and I had no idea what I liked to do.

As a writer, I was all over the map.  Fortunately, it turned out I had some talent that over time became stronger.  But as soon as I was headed down one path, someone would point out how I could be getting ahead faster if only I changed direction.  Doubt would set in, and I’d let go of the plan that I had and set out again.  Frustration and resentment built as I blamed others for why I wasn’t getting ahead in my life.

However, just a few months after that skydiving trip I was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given one year to live.  One month later, an unrelated cancer was found that took a good part of the skin on the lower part of my face.  Suddenly, all of the outward need to please others fell away and I was able to give myself permission to say what I was really thinking, and stick with it.

The cancer didn’t spread any further, something the doctors only have ideas about but were never able to explain.  No matter, the entire episode, which included having to learn how to walk again, transformed my way of thinking and then my life.

I started out in life being told that I was part of American royalty. I am the great-great-great-great-niece of Thomas Jefferson, named for his sister, Martha Randolph Carr and with that came a certain responsibility.

I interpreted that as a responsibility to look a certain way but had no idea what would be the most acceptable or virtuous front.  Over the years it became whoever I admired or at least saw as successful and I’d change to match their vision of me, as I saw it.  I wasn’t running my own race as much as playing a part in a lot of other people’s lives whether they even knew it or not.

2ndchanceGetting a second chance at being alive changed that and as usual, it’s reflected in my writing.  I finally started writing a thriller series, The Wallis Jones Series that focuses on a woman a lot like myself who’s doing a pretty good job of building a life until she finds out that she’s part of a legacy she can’t just leave behind.

In The Keeper, the second in the series, Wallis finds out just how deep those family ties go and realizes running away won’t work anymore.  There are a lot of people who have an idea of the right thing to do but Wallis has to find out for herself her own definitions.  It’s going to take faith in herself and those around her like her husband, Norman and her tween son, Ned to find peace again in the middle of a dangerous situation.The Keeper front cover

The legacy of finding out that our roots are legendary is not to try and appear as if everything is alright.  It turns out that my fifties gave me the gift of learning how to live up to the past by creating my own future, even if it doesn’t look a thing like anyone expected, including me.

Martin Luther King Day, My Memories

Annice, 1967
Annice, 1967

As I sat down to my computer this morning, I was going to write about a disturbing film I saw the other night but then, I realized it was MLK Day, and the film idea seemed trivial.  So, instead, I sat back and tried to remember where I was on that Thursday, April 4th, 1968 when I heard the news Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  So, when it happened, I saw it all, sitting in my living room with my family watching it on the evening news, in black and white, as reported by Walter Cronkite on CBS.  LBJ was our President and he came on TV to tell us how sad it all was for America.  My parents agreed, and so did I.

Even though I was only 15 years old, I remember a lot about what happened that day, and even that decade.  After all, I was ten years old when my President, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963, and I would never forget that.  And who could ever forget MLK when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of hundreds of MLKdreamthousands of people in 1963 at the March on Washington?  And, there was music, amazing performances that day with Josephine Baker, Mahalia Jackson, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.  My father was a huge fan of Mahalia Jackson.

Needless to say, growing up in Cleveland, I was aware of all the turmoil and violence of the 60’s.  In between the March on Washington, and the assassination of MLK, we had race riots in the inner city during the summer of 1966, and once again, I remember watching it all on the evening news.  And it was violent. The Governor called out the National Guard, and it looked like the city was burning down and people were getting killed and many more injured.  The violence seemed so close, yet so wrong according to everything I heard MLK preach.

And then, more violence, and I’m not even talking about all the disturbing images I saw on TV of people getting killed in Viet Nam.  I’m talking about what happened three months after MLK was gunned down, another assassin shot and killed Bobby Kennedy, (we all called him, Bobby) and once again, we sat around in our living room witnessing that murder.

As the 60s ended, and I began thinking about college, I informed my parents I wanted to go where all the action was – UCLA or Berkeley. “Are you crazy?” They absolutely refused to contribute a dime to either of those schools.  We have fine schools in Ohio, and Kent State is so close.  Seriously, I thought? It’s practically in my backyard.  I rejected it.  And then, on a warm spring day in May, I remember my friend, Terry, who was at Kent State, came running into our school telling everyone they were shooting students on campus.  He was agitated.  Our teacher yelled at him and told him to leave but he wouldn’t.  He couldn’t be telling the truth.  After all, why would anyone want to kill students?  Terry’s account of what happened was confirmed that night on the evening news.  Four Dead in Ohio.  The National Guard fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others.  And so began a new decade.

Today, when I think about MLK and all he stood for, I am grateful for his legacy of non-violence.  Progress has been made in civil rights and in human rights, but we are not finished yet.

Folklore: A Literary Influence

Annice and Elsie

To all our reader fans I’d like to say I finished Elsie Augustave’s novel, The Roving Tree, and feel you should all go out and buy it. But, hey, don’t listen to me, see what Essence Magazine told their readers last month.  So, while I decided not to write a review, I decided to ask the author (who was at our favorite Asheville bookstore, Malaprop’s) about the use of Folklore in literature.  And, being the writer that she is, Elsie wrote a piece for our blog readers entitled, Folklore: A Literary Influence.  I’m happy to present this article to you as a supplement to her novel and all other novels that use folklore as a literary influence.   

Elsie at Malaprop’s

My first literary experience as a young child in Haiti was my exposure to folktales that people told in the evenings when I spent summer vacations in rural Haiti. I would often daydream about the adventures of Bouki and Malice and other characters from the Haitian folktale repertoire, as I waited for people to engage again in the art of story-telling.

What most people perceive as supernatural and magical represent a Haitian perception of life, while it explains a correlation between a collective system of beliefs and cultural attitudes.  As I began to spend time among Africans, it became clear to me that folklore also plays a major role in understanding moral values and also reflects their perception of life, spirituality, and mysticism. 

Amidst these ethnographic explorations of Haitian identity and folk life, globalization and modernization, I seized the opportunity, within the pages of The Roving Tree, to bring a humane expression of Haitian, American, and African lives.

 

Elsie Augustave, author of The Roving Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* All photos and content are copyrighted material of Oops50

 

Will Good Customer Service Ever Come Back?

   
ANNICE

The past ten days have been a nightmare – at least electronically and mechanically.  It wasn’t bad enough I switched from AT&T to Verizon, but Mercury had to be in retrograde.  If I had known where Mercury was roaming, I never would have attempted such a switch.  Before entering Verizon Hell (I mean store) I prepared a checklist of concerns to discuss with the sales person so my switch would be seamless.  Those issues were:

Can I keep my email address?
Will I lose my contact list?
Will it be cheaper?
Will your miraculous jet pack (hot spot device) work throughout the entire house?
Does it work just like the AT&T modem and router?
What about my Apple id account?

At first, when the sales guy didn’t know the answer, he called his boss over who confirmed everything the sales guy said.  So, after about two hours and two new iPhones, (I was still using the original one) we took the bait and switched.  Now, I won’t bore you with details but every one of my concerns came to pass – in the negative.  By the way, this is on their website:  My Verizon At Your Service.

First thing to come to pass was losing my E-mail address and there was no way to get it back from AT&T since my sales guy disconnected my account before migrating the address to Verizon.  However, if I were a child molester with a record, some geek in the company would know how to get it back as would any entry level geek at the FBI.  And, the jet pack only works on computers within a 30 ft. radius so we had to purchase a “fusion tower” and a wifi device for my husband’s pc downstairs.  Every time we complained about a problem,  “Ka Ching”, we needed another device to fix it – for only $69, and so forth.  Of course, we only found all this out after talking to Tech Support at home and running back and forth to the Verizon store four times resulting in my having to take time off from work.

The real issue here is that all the people in the store are sales people and believe me, they’ve got that down well.

It's all about the Sale

Verizon, like AT&T and other corporations, just don’t train their staff enough.  The technology is pretty sophisticated and as a consumer, I’m totally at their mercy.  The focus is all about the sale and not the customer’s needs.  Since I was already in Verizon Hell, I decided to raise some of my own, and got a huge credit.

But, like I said to the manager – Why would anyone switch if there was no benefit?  And why would a customer choose to go to hell and back?  I said that very loudly in front of other customers and felt very good about it.

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Where is Heaven?

Jeanie

Growing up, my family attended the First Presbyterian Church in New Bern, N.C.  On Sunday I would be dressed in a hand-me-down from one of my sisters who may have received it from one of our cousins, which meant by the time it made to me it would be faded and worn.  But I couldn’t have cared less about the dress because what excited me was that this was the one day of the week that I could wear my patent leather, flip-strap Mary Jane shoes.  I was born with feet issues and every day of the week I had to wear heavy oxfords with arch supports.  My brother said that I looked like I was wearing Frankenstein shoes.  I begged my mother to let me wear the Mary Jane’s with the straps flipped to the back so that my shoes would look like fancy, grown-up slip-on’s, but she always said no because they would “eat up my socks”.

After everyone was dressed and hair was combed, we piled into the Rambler and headed downtown to church.  On the first day of my Kindergarten Sunday School class, my mother escorted me to a classroom in the basement.  The room had tiny chairs placed into a half-circle and the teacher, Mrs. Huggins, welcomed me to her class.  As I watched the last bit of my mother’s hem round the corner, my mild anxiety dissolved at the site of animal cracker boxes and juice.  Other children’s little hands were passed from their mothers to Mrs. Huggins and we settled into our seats for our Bible story and lesson.

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I don’t remember the details of the lesson but I do remember the picture that Mrs. Huggins showed us.  She held up a print of a child in a field looking up.  Peeking down out of the clouds was a man with long white hair and a white beard and a kindly smile.  I got excited thinking that our lesson was going to be about Santa Claus!  Mrs. Huggins said this was God who was our father in heaven.  She said that he loved all his children very much and if we were good then when we died we would live with him forever in heaven.

I remember being confused about God being my father as my father worked at Eddie Webb’s Shoe Store on Middle Street and he didn’t look anything like the man in the clouds.  And besides that, I didn’t plan on dying any time soon.  After the lesson we pulled our chairs up to little tables, took crayons out of a cigar box and colored pictures of angels who also lived in heaven with God our Father.

After we got home we ate Sunday brunch prepared by my father, the one that worked at the shoe store.  He didn’t go to church.  My mother said that his Sunday morning church was reading the newspaper without all of us bothering him.  My mother and I then went out to work in our garden.  We had a big vegetable garden and my mother knew all about growing food.  She showed me which plants were the weeds and how to pull them out so that the roots didn’t break off.

Still thinking about heaven, I looked up into the sky and asked my mother where exactly heaven was.  She stopped for a moment in the middle of the squash vines, looked around the garden and said, “Right here.”

Jeanie and Waterfall

I liked the idea of heaven being in our garden where we weren’t dead and everything smelled so good.  And since I believed that my mother knew everything about everything, gardens became my idea of heaven and they still are.

After all the preaching and teachings I have heard in my life in regards to the 3 story Universe of heaven, Earth and hell, I wonder how things might have been different if we all had been taught that heaven was right in our backyards?  How would we have cared for Earth if we knew that God lived in the squash patch and the only white-haired man in the sky was Santa Claus?