The Dancing Master

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By Catherine Browning

 

When I attended high school, everyone learned the basic dance steps in PE class. This included the waltz, two-step, polka, and some square dancing. All right! I admit it was somewhere back in the dark ages. But when you were asked to go to the prom, you knew the steps. More important, your partner knew the steps, too. At the more informal dances, we all learned the twist, mashed potato . . . well, you get the idea. 

My grandson is a senior in high school. I asked him if he intended going to the prom. 

“Probably.”

“Do you know how to dance?”

“No.”

“Does whomever you will ask to be your date know how to dance?”

“No.”

Now I ask you, what are they teaching students at school these days? I’m allowed to ask this question because I’m a teacher. As of a few years ago, I just do substitute teaching, but I still qualify. 

So I asked my grandson if anyone actually danced at the dances. 

“No.”

So I offered to teach my grandson and his choice of dates how to dance. Place your bets now as to whether or not that will happen!

My daughter informed me I was too old-fashioned and that she didn’t even know the present day dances. Perhaps my granddaughter-in-law could teach him to swing dance?

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Happy Birthday, America!

eppersonBW  By Deborah Epperson

I have a large American flag mounted on the southern deck of my house.  I enjoy watching it wave in the wind, but sometimes the wind whips the flag up and it gets wrapped around the pole.
twisted flag

COURTESY BREDT BREDTHAUER

In the past, I’d run outside, take down the flag, and unknot it so it could once more fly free in the wind. An hour later, the scene would repeat itself. Some days, I’d make five or six trips outside to untangle the flag.

A few years ago, I was in a car accident and ended up with a broken ankle. The first month I was home, I was in a wheelchair, and that’s when I noticed a funny thing about Old Glory. The flag got tangled up as usual, but because of my broken ankle, I couldn’t go untangle it. Later that day, I noticed the flag flying free again. I watched the flag closely over the next month. Some days, it would get so wrapped around the pole that I thought it would never get untangled by itself, but it did. Sometimes, the flag would stay tangled up for days at a time, but eventually, it would work its way free and fly high and proud once more.

The actions of the flag serve as a perfect metaphor for what historically goes on in a democratic republic like ours. At times, everything seems tangled up. Fear whips us into such a frenzied state that we’re willing to trade constitutional rights for an elusive promise of safety. We’re told that we are a country split in half. Blue against Red. Democrat verses Republican. Pro Choice verses Pro Life. Conservatives against the liberals. Hawks against Doves. The list goes on and on. Sometimes we wonder if such a snarled web can ever be untangled.

In the 50’s, we got twisted up in McCarthyism and the Cold War. In the 60’s, Americans were divided over segregation and civil rights. In the 70’s, we struggled with Vietnam, Watergate, and the resignation of a President. As a country, we were as tousled as that flag, and at the time there seemed no way to get beyond the forces that divided us.

Eventually, we have always discovered a way to untangle ourselves, to make peace with our neighbor, and to fly proud and free again just like Old Glory. Throughout our history, Americans have always pushed through the fear to come back to our roots and to the basic principles of individual freedoms and justice for all. After watching that flag and reviewing our nation’s history, I’m sure in time we’ll do it again. 

flag on deck with credit



Have a wonderful 4th of July and remember that while the day can be a festive holiday for us, it can be a frightening time for our pets. Please take precautions to keep your pets happy and safe.
Thanks for stopping by,

Deborah

The Year I Turned Pro

By Kathy Dunnehoff

2018 is the year that I turned pro.

For those of you who know me, that might sound strange. I’ve been a writer and a writing teacher for more than 25 years, and I’ve got four novels published and lots more written. Hadn’t I already “turned pro?”

No, I had not.

Let me explain by telling you about a small book I read in 2017. “Turning Pro” by Stephen Pressfield (the author of several books on writing and the novel/film “The Legend of Bagger Vance”) is about the professional habits of a writer. He says it’s not what you’ve done or not done. It’s not whether or not you’re published or making any money or any other measurement you may use. Being professional is approaching your work with solid habits and a commitment to yourself to produce.

I think I’m a pretty fast writer, so I’ve been able to produce despite being a bit sporadic about it, but in 2018 I wanted to put my head down and treat my writing with the same level of professionalism I approach my teaching.

I started by setting a work schedule. I would write Monday through Friday every morning until I hit my word count for new writing or page count for revising. And I would not put other things ahead of it (with the exception of a fairly short meditation and a stout cup of tea). There would be no, “I need to grade these essays first, and I can easily write this afternoon.” Also forbidden before the work is done? Laundry, the internet, errands, a shower, or other writing related things like outlining etc…

What happened? LOTS MORE WRITING! And even more importantly, the emergence of a professional habit I feel good about every day.

2018 was the year I really turned pro.

 

Burial and Other Literary Plots

By Karen Wills

Respecting the last wishes of the dying, our cultural norms surrounding the preparation and disposal of the dead, the circumstances that determine what is possible…all of these may become part of our literary endeavors. They show much of how we want to depict our characters and their feelings and attitudes.

This can be done in poetry, too. Robinson Jeffers wrote the following after the death of his beloved wife, Una.

poem of death

But what about working the handling of the dead into mythology or fiction? In Homer’s Iliad, civilization itself takes a step forward. Achilles, grieving for his friend who’s been killed by the Trojan warrior Hector, slays Hector. He then drags Hector on the beach before the great Priam, the dead man’s grieving father. But in the end, compassion and respect overtake Achilles vengeful madness. He returns Hector’s remains to  Priam as a gesture of pity and honor in a time of incivility.

Let’s journey from the realms of Troy to the American West and the love of mortal men, close as brothers: Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call, the former Texas Rangers of Larry McMurtry’s classic Lonesome Dove. lonesome doveWhen Augustus lies dying of a gangrenous wound in a town in Montana, he makes an outlandish request of his friend. He wants Call to take his body back to Texas and bury him in a pecan grove where he’d once courted Clara, the love of his life.

Gus tells his friend that he is assigning him this task, a Herculean one in violent frontier days of primitive travel, in order to bestow the gift of one last great adventure. It is a sign of the unbending, proud, Call’s loyalty to Gus that he does fulfill the last wish of his longtime friend.

Set in more modern times we have Unsheltered, UnshelteredBarbara Kingsolver’s novel of lives of ordinary people in economically and socially precarious times. The protagonist, Willa, is beset by family and financial insecurity. She struggles to take care of everyone in her family, including her husband’s Greek immigrant father, Nick, a man of rigid, racist views. With her daughter, Tig’s, help she cares for him as he is dying. Then there is the matter of his ashes. He wanted to be buried in the Greek section of a lovely local cemetery. The problem is the cost of a plot there. They do what others have done before them in real life. (I know of at least one instance.) They bury him in secret where he wished to be laid to rest.

As authors, we should remember that death and dying are inevitable in real life, so can be great sources of drama in fiction. Everyone dies. Sympathetic characters are those who behave as readers would have their loved ones do. They behave with compassion and respect. The best try to follow the last wishes of their loved ones.

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