The “S” Word

Thought I’d stay in the personal post mode for a wee bit and continue to share this strange [frightening] journey.

I’ve learned dementia comes in waves but, oddly, with my mother, it seems to have mushroomed in the last week.  Or maybe I’d turned a deaf ear to it, “convincing” myself it’s just short-term memory loss (a phrase which I feel safer, more comfortable with).  But, definitely, her grasp of time and events is declining. 

The word for today is . . .

s-u-p-p-o-r-t

I’ve put it out there, my concern, anxiety and anguish . . . my tears . . . my heart and soul.  Starting this week, we will have someone come twice a week for one hour.  As my mother refuses to allow anyone but yours truly to do anything, the hour will likely consist of my mother chatting with said someone.  It’s a start.  It will accustom my mother to different people; she’ll learn [hopefully] to accept help from others.

We’ve got her with a home doctor now, too, as the one she had was way to far away.  Another step.  Medications will be reviewed.  Maybe new ones administered.  There’s a physiotherapist to help with exercises once a week.  If you looked in the dictionary for couch potato, my mother would be there.  I say this with a smile and a wink; she’s never been one for exercise.  There’ll be an occupational therapist at some point, as my mother’s taken to falling during the night. 

For all the years we toil and struggle, the families we rear, the relationships we maintain, the undertakings we, well, undertake, we should be able to grow old with dignity.  It seems so terribly tragic, and heart-rending, that life in those “golden years” is more like tarnish.  It’s said that life isn’t fair, but that sounds so despondent, and yet, appears to be true; often, it simply isn’t.

But I refuse to be discouraged, or pessimistic.  I have to [continue to] keep that faith, no matter how many challenges are thrown my way.  It’s not easy.  And, yes, there are days when I want to give up, crawl under the covers and never come out again. 

It’s human to become dismayed and disappointed . . . but it’s also human to become encouraged and inspired.  This comes through . . . you got it . . . support.

If you need it, seek it.  If you have it to give, offer it.

Believe in miracles.  They do come true, you know.  When least expected.

tenor

The “D” Word

As a writer/editor/blogger, words mean everything to yours truly.  Sometimes I can spend a short lifetime finding just the right one to represent just the right mood, emotion, sentiment trait, characteristic, and/or detail.

This post revolves around one word—no more need be provided.  It’s the “d” word, which I will get to shortly.

Every now and again I like to get “personal” . . . share a little about my life as opposed to focusing on the world of writing/editing and blogging . . . to be transparent.

As you know, my writing/editing/blogging is rather limited due to two full-time jobs: the 9-5 work world (which is more like 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. nowadays) and mom-care.  Both can prove challenging, but the latter has become increasingly more demanding.

Folks keep saying, take each day as it comes, don’t think of the future, or you’ll burn out.  News flash: this caregiver is burned out.  Majorly.  With no support in place, I’m on overload 24/7.  Now, it’s not just administering many meds, making meals, helping with chronic pains and aches, tucking Mom in at night, and seeing all is good/comfortable . . . it’s dealing with that frightful, fearsome “d” word . . . 

d-e-m-e-n-t-i-a

My mother has officially embraced it.  And I’m more sad/depressed/weary than ever.  She has had short-term memory issues for some time but, other than having to repeat things 3-5 times (which can be annoying but is certainly manageable), the confusion factor has entered the equation.  Big time.  In the span of a blink. 

Dementia has always terrified me.  Maybe it’s an irrational fear, but it’s also a very real one.  In terms of my mom, long-term care is the eventual option . . . eventual because the virus has made it impossible for LTC establishments to take in any new residents.  Given what is transpiring with the vaccine, it may be some time before they open their doors again and, when they do, it will be to those many people already on the long, long lists.

I’ve done all I can . . . given 15+ years of my own life to support a woman who has pretty much always been centered on herself. But that’s okay; she is who she is, as I am who I am. And it doesn’t change what is transpiring . . . and what must, in due course, come about.

There’s something cathartic about sharing this openly, to purge; unlike complaining, it’s constructive.  For those of you in similar situations, hang in.  Find organizations that can assist or provide guidance.  Locate support groups.  Vent to a friend, in the mirror, in a notebook or on the laptop when it’s proving too much.  Release the anguish, resentment, woe.  For the interim, yes, it may seem [very] overwhelming, but things do—in time—change.  And for the better.  Keep the faith, always.

There’ll always be another challenge, another test.  Believe in yourself and know that you are capable of enduring anything and everything that comes your way.  Share (unburden) when you feel the need, and [always] stand tall.

The last two paragraphs were for you as much as me . . . I was reminding myself, and advising you, of “to-dos” and “remembers”. 

So here’s one more “d” word . . . d-r-e-a-m.

Dream of all the good things that are to come.  They’re there, in the distance, bright as the light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.

Take care, stay well, and God bless.

A Film is a Petrified Fountain of Thought

So is a book, I believe (thank you to Jean Cocteau for that quote).  Post #5, the last in the “series” of favorite books/authors who have influenced me in one form or another, goes to Russian-American author, Ayn Rand.  I’ve enjoyed all her books, but I think The Fountainhead takes the number one spot (I still see Roark’s architectural creativity in certain dwellings).

A quick what’s what: this 1943 novel revolves around Howard Roark, a young architect with an innovative flair.  A designer of modernist buildings, he won’t part from his concepts to act on other’s wishes; it’s his way, or no way.  He symbolizes what Rand viewed as the “ideal man”.

A fairly intense read set in the 20s, Roark is ousted from Stanton because he won’t stick to historical architectural convention.  He heads to New York and lands a job with a once celebrated architect, Henry Cameron, who has lost favor and only receives the odd contract.  They create some notable work, but don’t do well financially.

Roark’s destined to be crushed by self-centered individuals.  Ellsworth Toohey, a malevolent soul, is a collectivist critic of architecture who wants to ruin Roark’s career.  A man who embraced wealth after being born into poverty, publisher Gail Wynand pursues power over others; he proves disloyal to our young architect when he can no longer contain popular opinion.  And let’s not forget the intriguing heroine, Dominique Francon, a columnist for The New York Banner.  She fluctuates between aiding and undercutting Roark (a love-hate relationship if ever there was one).

In some ways, it has the elements of a well-crafted soap opera, with characters possessing envy, greed, and pride, among other things, and how those feelings influence, alter, or destroy relationships/marriages.  We also have good versus evil, which makes for solid tension and friction.

Rand received several rejections for The Fountainhead.  Fortunately, she had an agent, who diligently submitted the manuscript to various publishers.  Knopf contracted the book in 1938, but when she was only half done come late 1940, the contract was annulled.  More rejections ensured.  Finally, Rand began submitting herself . . . with success.

I always liked the concept of individualism, which Rand is known for, and is the primary theme of The Fountainhead—“not in politics but within a man’s soul”.  And that soul belongs to Roark, a resilient, independent man who won’t give up principles and vision for money or fame.  Nor will he befriend someone to move up the corporate ladder.  Strong and resolute, he’s true to himself.  Roark embodies the traits/qualities I always wished I possessed.  (No wonder I particularly enjoyed that book so much.)

And, yes, there was a movie . . .  a petrified fountain of thought . . . 

Nothing Will Come of Nothing

One of many notable Shakespearean quotes (King Lear).  I like to take it further than King Lear telling Cordelia, his daughter, that she won’t get anything from him if she doesn’t praise him—if you don’t make an effort, ain’t nothing going to happen.  Period.

Post # 4 re writers/books that have influenced/impressed me over the years is dedicated to The Bard, who I never tire of.  I love The Sonnets in particular but could read Hamlet or Macbeth for the umpteenth time.  True escapism.  Traveling to another time and place.  Yes, a definite favorite.

This great English playwright, dramatist, poet and actor prompted me to immerse myself in English history.  A fascinating period, yet I can’t say I’d like to have lived in those turbulent times with gruesome sports—bear baiting to this animal lover goes beyond despicable.  I do, however, rather enjoy the “romanticism” that bleeds from the pages of certain plays, the immorality that trickles from many, and the cleverness that courses from others.

1shakespeareblDOTukI think one of my favorites is Sonnet 43—there are 150 as an FYI—When Most I Wink, Then Do Mine Eyes See Best

When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form from happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

This sonnet, it’s said, comes after three that are known as the “betrayal sonnets”.  It’s believed that betrayal is staining the emotions the narrator is expressing.  In the first lines, the speaker refers to the differences between his days and nights. At night, he can see because the youth illuminates his dreams; during the day, however, things are darker.  I’m fine without clarification or elucidation; I simply enjoy reading Shakespeare for the sheer beauty of the lilting communication, and the vivid imagery he inspires.

It seems appropriate to end with this quote (from Hamlet):

Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.

As a writer, I’m always searching for just the right word—he smiled disarmingly, the gut-churning smell of rotting debris, the soothing scent of plumeria.  The Bard always presents the perfect ones for the given episodes.

Cheerio!

Something Chillingly Entertaining this Way Comes

And that would be Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked this Way Comes . . . another terrific book that I’ve read a few times . . . simply because it’s that good.  I’m not a fan of the sci-fi, horror or fantasy genres per se (I prefer the “reality” of fiction, he-he), but Bradbury’s my exception.  Never got into King but did read some Koontz back when.  A gal-pal was a horror fan and suggested—badgered—I read a few of her favorites (hers, I emphasize, far from mine).

Bradbury was on my junior high school English-class reading list—The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451, and Dandelion Wine specifically.  I so enjoyed those, I went out and bought The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked this Way Comes.

Something Wicked was written in the early 60s and is described as “dark fantasy”.  It revolves around two teenaged best friends, Jim Nightshade (great name) and Will Halloway, who are about to turn fourteen.  The story opens with a lightning-rod salesman, Tom Fury (love it) telling them a storm is headed their way.  Fury, by the by, isn’t necessarily what he seems, but you’ll have to read the book to learn more.  That night Will and Jim meet up with townspeople who sense something [ominous?] in the air.  Oooh, what could that be (in addition to foreshadowing)?

Boys being boys, the two head out at three in the morning to watch the arrival of a traveling carnival . . . one that turns out to be pretty freaky and creepy.  Even more eerie?  The carnival is overseen by—got to love this name too—the mega-tattooed Mr. Dark.

Dark has magical powers of the, pardon the pun, dark side; he can make wishes come alive.  He’s also pretty good at sucking the life out of folks.  Fear is a predominant theme in the book—like that which Will’s father harbors of growing old.  Jim, on the other hand, can’t wait to grow up.  Age/aging is also a theme.  Perhaps that’s why I could relate to this book so much; when I was younger I had an obsession with growing old (I absolutely feared it).

Like a carnival merry-go-round, Something Wicked spins a fascinating if not frightening tale of the proverbial good versus bad—or the upright versus the wicked.  And something I hadn’t known (or perhaps it had been forgotten over the years), the title is based on a line from the weird witches in Macbeth: “by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes”.  Ni-ice.

1Something_Wicked_This_Way_Comes_(1983_movie_poster)Yes, there was a movie of the same name, and the 1983 flick was a decent adaptation of the book (saw it three times).  It featured Jason Robards as the unhappy father, Jonathan Pryce as the devious Mr. Dark, Vidal Peterson as Will (and Arthur Hill as the adult Will narrating), and Shawn Carson as Jim.

An America screenwriter as well as an author, it’s said Bradbury started writing during the Great Depression at the age of eleven.  Impressive indeed.  A fascinating man, he received countless awards, was a strong supporter of public library systems, and served as consultant for the Los Angeles Student Film Institute, among many other things; I won’t reiterate/list what you could easily Google if you’re interested.  But this talented man certainly entertained—and prompted a few frissons—over the years. 

Hmmmmm . . . think I’ll head down to the storage room and pull out a Bradbury book or two.

Unraveling the Memory Web

Welcome to Post #2 re books that have influenced or affected yours truly.  This time, I’m going to go way, way back . . . to a lovely children’s book, one of the best-selling of all time, by E.B. White . . . Charlotte’s Web.

Written in 1952, the story revolves around a lovable little pig, the runt of the litter, named Wilbur and his companionship with an amicable barn spider called Charlotte.  It’s a bittersweet tale, one that had me sobbing—hysterically—into towels in the bathroom (in my parents’ house, showing emotion was taboo).  I can’t say that any other book has affected me the same and I’ve never forgotten that tale over the decades (yes, it’s been that long).

There’s a kid named Fern Arable who pleads for Wilbur’s life.  Naturally, her father, being the kind caring soul daddies can be, gives him to her.  Initially, he’s a pet but when he begins to grow, he’s sold to Uncle Homer.  Exit Fern, who kind of blends into the background.

In Homer’s barnyard, the other animals ignore our sweet swine.  That’s so sad (especially to someone who had difficulty making friends as a child).  Craving friendship, Wilbur is befriended by Charlotte.  When it’s learned the little porker is on the chopping block, it is sweet Charlotte (no pun intended) who comes to his rescue.  She thwarts his demise by weaving praising words into her webs.  People notice and believe this is nothing short of a miracle and, lo and behold, the farm becomes a tourist attraction.

Our four-legged friend is entered in the county fair and, while he doesn’t win the coveted blue ribbon, he does receive a special prize.  Having been accompanied there by Charlotte and Templeton, a barn rat, Wilbur returns home with Templeton.  Charlotte <sniffle> is dying of natural causes and decides to remain on the fair grounds; she does, however, allow Wilbur to take her egg sac home, where her children will one day hatch.

They do, but <snuffle, snuffle> most leave.  Only three remain and take up residence in Charlotte’s old doorway.  Happy to have new friends, Wilbur names one of them Nellie.  The other two name themselves: Joy and Aranea.

I never saw the movie (don’t think I could sit through it without a three-tissue-box cry, but I’ll include the trailer below), but the book is a truly a bittersweet tale with a beautiful ending . . . one that would appeal to big kids, too.  You can take it as a simple children’s story or go up and beyond, and read dissertations on the repeated death theme, story pattern or language style (it’s a little more complex than a ten-year-old might imagine).

American author E.B. White wrote several children’s book in addition to Charlotte’s Web, including Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan.  He was also a writer and contributing editor to The New Yorker magazine, among other things.  A gifted man, to say the least.

More memory unraveling to come . . . .

Flying over Memory Lane

I’ve always been loath to state my age, or even hint at it.  Vanity?  Maybe.  But you’ll have an idea, anyway, when I post this review . . . a flight down memory lane.  <LOL>  So be it.

The aim of this post, and a few to come, is to review books that I enjoyed over the years, that may have influenced me (this is how to write) or stayed with me (lesson learned).

In this one-off case, it’s actually the movie (later the book) that captured this kid’s interest—and awe.  Her parents, on a rare outing, took her to a mammoth cinema with draping curtains, plush seats, and fancy chandeliers (at least, that’s how this wide-eyed kid remembers it).

As soon as the lavish curtains lifted and the lights dimmed, excitement coursed through me (and it wasn’t courtesy of the sugar surge from a mega-sized chocolate bar).  Then, the music started.  Intense, feverish, hypnotic.  On the colossal screen: a raging blizzard, hurtling snowplows, active airport.  I was riveted!

American composer, arranger and conductor of film music, Alfred Newman created the fantastic music to Airport.  It still brings on chills of excitement every time I watch it—which is often.  That it dates back to 1970 is irrelevant.  It’s still entertaining and exciting, the “comfort food” of films. 

1AmazonCOMQuick background: based on Arthur Hailey’s bestselling novel of the same name, it was written and directed by George Seaton, screenwriter/playwright/producer, and starred Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin.  Other central characters were tragedy-to-come Jean Seberg, destined-star Jacqueline Bisset, and ever-lovely Helen Hayes. 

Years later, I picked up the book and enjoyed all 440 pages immensely.  The intertwining lives of the various characters makes for a first-rate soap opera.  (The next time I watched the movie, I understood the underlying relationships and reactions.  Not that you need to read Airport to watch it, but it’s a nice little bonus.)

The storyline?  Well, the film—the first of the 70s disaster flicks—takes place in a Chicago airport during a blizzard.  One plane has managed to bury itself in the deep snow, blocking a vital, much-used runway.  The King of Cool (Dean Martin for those not familiar with the nickname) is the pilot of a Rome-bound flight, one that needs urgently to turn around from its intended destination and land on that blocked runway.  The reason?  Ooooh, that would give away the plot.  Can’t do that.  But, I promise, it’s gripping.

A simple summary, but a fun watch.  And an enjoyable read.

1haileyArthur Hailey, by the by, is a British-Canadian author who also penned Hotel (on which the TV series was based), The Moneychangers (which became a mini-series), and The Evening News, among others.  Interestingly enough, some critics found him a “plodding writer” while others believed he was a talented storyteller.  I strongly agree with the latter.

I fly down memory lane (also known as Airport Lane) a lot film-wise.  But I’ve decided I’d like to re-visit the book.  I’m looking forward to a[nother] most pleasant flight.

Review: THE BLACK FLEET – The Crimson Deathbringer Book Three (Sean Robins)

The third book in the series, The Black Fleet, continues to satisfy.  It’s not quite as complex perhaps as the previous two (The Crimson Deathbringer and The Golden Viper), but it still delivers—with brisk action, campy humor, and the crazy cast we’ve grown so fond of.  They abound with zealousness (or is that insanity?).  The threat this time deals with the fate of the future.  Scary!

There’s protagonist Major Jim Harrison—with new wife, Ella, a career military woman—and his nemesis/alter-ego, Venom.  Jim’s still an ace fighter pilot but is also the author of well-selling autobiographies; not only have they granted him a certain level of fame but have bolstered an ego that was rather big to begin with.  Comrade Kurt returns, as does prankster Tarq, but the “insect” seems a little less dynamic than previously.  General Maada takes a pivotal role and gives Jim a run for his money, er, space fighter, er . . . .

Sean’s characters are well crafted and alternative planets and lifeforms—like the Akakies, Volts, and Talgonians—are thoroughly detailed.  It’s easy to visualize the action in all its explosive fervor.  Energy and danger overflow as heroes/heroines and enemies engage in thrilling skirmishes.

I looked at Earth, visible from the front window, and admired its magnificent beauty for the thousandth time. No matter how often I saw Earth from orbit, this view always made my breath catch and my spirit lift. My planet, where all my loved ones lived, including my unborn child. In this wide universe, this was the only place I called home, which incidentally I’d helped save a couple of times, along with the rest of the galaxy.

If pride really were a deadly sin, then I was going straight to hell.

And now new baddies were coming for her. Well, guess who was standing in their way. But first, there was a minor issue I had to deal with.

“You know what, Tarq?” I said conversationally. “It’s just occurred to me you never answered for the seven hundred million humans you got killed.

Another thrilling ride to be sure, one that leaves you longing for another.  Lucky us—there’s a fourth one to come.

A definite 4 out of 5!

savesavesavesave

What about Sean Robins?  As may be evident from the Crimson Deathbringer books, he’s a huge fan of Marvel, Game of Thrones, Star Wars and Star Trek.  He’s a university/college-level English teacher and has lived and worked in six different countries, including Canada.  Sean has met people from all around the world, which is “probably why my characters look like the bridge crew from Star Trek”.

His favorite author is Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files), which is why he ended up writing in first-person POV with the same light-hearted, funny tone.  The fact that his MC’s name is Jim is purely coincidental, and has nothing to do with Captain James Kirk either.

Please check Sean out on Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter (@seanrobins300) and/or Facebook (facebook.com/seanrobins300).

2 for 2021

The last 2 weeks of 2020 were nightmarish, for reasons best not shared.  But here’s to dropping negativity and aiming for—and embracing—positivity.

Day 2 of 2021, a brand spanking new year, has  started calmly . . . with resolutions made . . . and now to be kept.

The private eyes at the Triple Threat Investigation Agency shared theirs not long ago, as have I.  We’ll endeavor to see they don’t fall to the wayside.

And while we’re on the topic of a new year, here’s to:

blogging and writing regularly    meeting fellow bloggers and writers and making new friends    augmenting our crafts    keeping promises    moving onwards and upwards    helping / teaching others, and    believing anything is possible.

Life sends many challenges our way (and some seem beyond taxing) but, ultimately, we do overcome them.  Know that any trials and tests you encounter can be surmounted, no matter how overwhelming they may seem at the time.  You can and will conquer them; they will not conquer you!

Let’s keep the faith.  Always.