When my family lived in Bad Vilbel, Germany we lived in a neighborhood “off the economy” which meant we lived off a traditional Army base. The common bond in our neighborhood was that we children were all Army brats. We played together, went to school together, had birthday parties, and traipsed around the common forest area surrounding where we lived. One day we found an injured rabbit and took it to my siblings and my house to take care of it. The rabbit’s leg had been broken if I can recall, and we made a bed for it in our mom’s garden in the front of the house. We could not keep the rabbit in our house because our dog Sammy was a hunting dog, and our mom was afraid Sammy might kill the rabbit. The neighborhood kids and my siblings and I would race home each day to check on the rabbit. Three days after we found it the rabbit passed away. Our mom said the rabbit had lived longer because we had taken care of it, but now was in a better place. All of us buried the rabbit in my mom’s garden so as my mom told us nature could take over its care.
The song that reminds me of this childhood memory is “Toy Soldiers” which singer/songwriter Martika dedicated to Boy George in 1988 when he was struggling heavily with heroin addiction. I remember Martika being asked if the song was about someone she knew because the lyrics were so raw and honest. She said it broke her heart to see Boy George struggling so much over the addiction.
I find compassion is everywhere. With the Notre Dame Cathedral fire earlier this week so many people around the world reacted with kindness and compassion. It didn’t matter if one was religious or not or even if they had even visited the Cathedral. The beauty and majesty of the Cathedral as a historical, artistic, and architectural wonder and symbol resonated around the world. The people pleaser in me wishes more compassion and less hate. When I e-mailed my friends on Monday about the fire, we all felt the same way. We all reacted with shock and disbelief but hoped that most of its structure and contents could be saved.
“Toy Soldiers” to me is about the shock and disbelief of falling into addiction. Addiction of any kind is hard to overcome. It is admittedly for me a sticky subject to blog about. I have hesitated to even broach the subject for a good bit of time. But the outpouring of compassion and kindness by people to such a horrible event like the Notre Dame Cathedral fire really gives me hope. I was married to a drug addict. His drug of choice was vicodin. I would refer to his struggle as a “black hole”. Once you get sucked in physically and emotionally, it is very hard to climb back out. Addictions to me are the Smaug that you cannot destroy alone. And of course loving oneself and embracing positivity can be hard when negativity and negative people try to bring you down.
People can say it is unrealistic to feel positive and cheerlead 95% of the time. But my response is positivity doesn’t eat away at your soul. Negativity toward yourself and others is a cancer of sorts. It burrows into your mind and like a parasite chews and spits your self-worth and how you view yourself to others. People in high government offices are quite adept at using negativity toward others as tools to make themselves feel better. The rest of us imperfect souls are just struggling to keep our heads above water.
Step by step.. left right left we all fall down.. and then we get up and march on…
What are ways you combat negativity in your life?
I recently read an article that listed the top 50 countries in the world on a happiness scale based on the following factors:
income, freedom, trust, health/life expectancy and levels of government corruption.
For the second year in a row Finland came out on top. The rest of the top 10 were: Denmark, Norway, Iceland, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Austria. The United States came in #19 down from #18 in 2018. Happy synonyms include content, cheerful, untroubled, satisfied, blessed, joyous, smiling and gratified. Perhaps the citizens who live in Finland are happy because they live in an environment that stimulates happiness: one of the best healthcare systems in the world and an uniform education system that promotes egalitarian way of living.
One of the issues with the United States is that we citizens do not trust each other nor our government to provide for our well being. If one feels relieved and non stressed to worry about if they get sick and how they will afford if they get sick or have a long term sickness, then their overall health may be better. Someone like me worries all the time if I get sick or stay sick and cannot work full time, then I am in big trouble financially. Recently I’ve discovered that negative energy/toxic waste has caused me to feel miserable, anxious, depressed, crying all the time. Those are just my concerns about our government and the next general election in 18 months. My trust factor among people is at an all time low as well. Yes I have amazing friends and loving siblings and two incredible parents, and I feel truly lucky to have all of them in my life. But there are also negative vibes out there that disturb me and I struggle with resolving hence the trust factor issue. I realize though so many more people are truly unhappy based on those factors above.
South Sudan is the least happiest country followed by Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Rwanda, Yemen, Malawi (that surprised me), Syria, Botswana and Haiti at #10. Most of these countries are in civil wars and dealing with famine, deplorable living conditions, and military and government dictatorships. We in the happiest countries should feel grateful, content, smiling, satisfied, and blessed, right?
What do you measure happiness by?
The following fanfic is my second attempt. This time I focused on John Proctor from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Proctor admittedly has become my favorite character in both physicality and emotional depth. I wish to thank several dear friends who read my draft ahead. Their insights, comments, grammar clean up, critiques and support have been vital to me.
I can remember the first time I saw him. He was lurking in the shadows of the forest where my sisters and I were singing and dancing. At first I thought he was an apparition. I thought maybe he was sent by some generous spirit to heal my wounded heart. I frankly didn’t believe in much let alone a higher being. I didn’t believe in love until I met John Proctor or JP as I grew to call him. He was a farmer by trade. His wife Elizabeth had died of a long drawn out illness. He lived alone as his three grown children moved away. He had been quite young when they were born. Yet he and I were the same age, roughly 40 and some years. He worked day and night tilling his land to put food on his table. He found the forest a refuge as my sisters and I did. I used to see him walk through the forest gathering kindling, lilacs, and daisies. I always sensed he liked his solitude… peaceful existence.
My sisters and I loved to frolic and twirl around feeling the grass and dirt and rocks beneath our feet. We embraced the beauty of nature. I was fiercely protective of my sisters. Our mother kept us together so if one sister didn’t like something, then the other two wouldn’t continue either. Our mother believed in unity and loyalty. Now she was very sick at a stage where she didn’t want to continue living. I was lucky. I had my sisters as pillars of support. There had been nobody else for we were considered gypsies, nomads, nobodys..lost souls. I was the oldest perhaps a spinster because I had never married with no children. I had not had relations with a man in a long time. For our time it was forbidden to have a child out of wedlock. My sisters and I would be condemned.
One day I ran into JP by accident. I was with my sisters collecting wild flowers and lilacs to make a cheer up bouquet for our mother when I collided with him. Those sturdy soil tilled hands and stubby fingers caught my waist as I tumbled into his chest. JP, as he liked to be called, was wearing a ragged black shirt that exposed his left nipple, black pants, and black boots with laces that badly needed to be tied or replaced. He loped about with those piercing blue eyes and dark brown wavy hair and full beard that made his lips sensual. My impulse was to run my fingers along his lip line and lick his beard. Well, I thought, only in my dreams for up until our collision, I was far too shy to make eye contact with him. Even though we were the same age, I knew from around town that he had not been with a woman for a long time. Elizabeth was a tough act for any woman to follow. When she died I think a part of JP died. I could feel his pain. Love was a stranger to me. To give your heart unabashedly to another was something I found incredibly laborious. My younger sisters were more carefree. For me child bearing became a huge concern. It was a sin to have a child out of wedlock far worse than a scarlet “A”. It was…taboo. I never gave it a thought until I felt JP’s arms holding me that fateful day.
“Oi love! There you go. Best steady you.” He mumbled staring straight into my wide green eyes.
“Yes…thank you sir. I’m sorry to have not seen you… ah there.” I stammered back trembling as I could feel his fingers still around my waist moving softly side to side in an absentminded fashion.
“No no love, no harm done. Best get your sisters on their way not to worry your mum.” JP cooed at me.
I smiled and not daring to look into those deep dark eyes I untangled my hands from his arms, straightened my garment, and tried to think of something clever to say;
“Yes.. where are R and K now?”
JP pointed 50 yards ahead as they were staring back at him and me and grinning. As I turned JP tapped me on the shoulder;
“Miss M would you like to have dinner with me soon?”
I hesitated. My mind began to swirl around like a tornado thinking he wants to have dinner with me!
“Ah Mr. Proctor is that allowed… I mean I would be honored but I am a single woman!”
JP smiled and his hands took my trembling fingertips and began massaging them;
“Well Miss M, I think a dinner would not be improper. We are neighbors and if you would like to invite your mother and sisters that would be lovely. There’s plenty food to go round. And call me John or JP whichever you prefer.”
“Ok JP, please I am M, no miss, old as I am but my mother is too frail to travel and my sisters wouldn’t leave her, but I will come at your invitation. When would you suggest?”
“Well tonight would be grand. I shall look forward to it Emme.”
He spoke my name!! He said M, no wait he said Emme. My heart was beating so fast. I squirmed out of his hands trying to disguise my excitement for nonchalance and bowed and ran to catch up with my sisters. JP smiled and strode back towards his farm house.
At dinner that night I had brought apple pie.. Apfelkuchen, as my mother called it, that my sisters and I hastily baked. My mother always taught me to bring a gift to another’s home as a thank you. JP took my pie and placed it in the center of the table. The place settings for two were meek: a cup, a bowl, and a spoon. I looked puzzled as he placed the beef stew in front of me. I do not eat meat. I find the killing of animals to be cruel but what was I going to do? I couldn’t tell him that after he prepared it. Improvise M improvise!
“Uh JP, could I trouble you for some salt?”
“Emme, salt? Why do you need salt? I have seasoned the stew already.”
“Oh I see. Could I have some salt anyway?”
JP got up looking a bit perturbed and took a pinch from the salt jar and took my right hand and gently let the salt fall into my hand and some onto the table. He stared at me with those troubled blue eyes and I gazed right back, mesmerized by his aura. My heart was beating so fast and the butterflies in my stomach were doing multiple pirouettes. I dumped the salt into the stew and stirred it round. He kept gazing at me until I finally told him:
“JP this is lovely.. you have gone to so much trouble but I. I. do not eat meat. I cannot eat the stew. I am sorry. Shall I leave now?”
JP had a chunk full of meat in his mouth, swallowed it hard, wiped his mouth with his shirt sleeve, and crouched down next to me as I felt tears streaming down my face.
“Emme no no I don’t want you to leave. I have bread and fruit and we have pie. I did not know. Stay please… for.. me.” His arm wrapped itself around my neck, my shoulder length honey brown hair providing a blanket for his hand as I instinctively placed both my arms around his waist and squeezed. I could hear him moan and whisper something in my ear.
“I want you. I want you so much.” Maybe this was it or “I want your company.” I responded by kissing his ear and neck.
“JP I do not want to get you into trouble. You narrowly escaped last time as the story goes.”
I collapsed into his chest sobbing. He encircled my chest and his lips kissed my hair, my neck, my ears, and finally he pulled my face to meet his face. I moaned, breathing heavy as tenderly his lips melted into mine. He moaned I think, those arms holding me securely as we kissed some more. I could feel his arms and legs becoming warmer. My under arms were sweating from the electricity of his kisses. I had to stop. It was sinful what we were doing. What I wanted him to do with me was even more sin worthy. I pushed his arms back;
“JP I need to go. This is wr.. I need to check on my mother and sisters. Please forgive me.”
JP stood up and took my arm to steady me;
“Yes Emme yes.. ok, when will I see you again?”
I stammered: “I .. I can come tomorrow night. I will bring dinner. Ok?”
JP smiled and whispered: “Yes lovely and I will have dessert.”
The next evening I had put on my best gown, washed, braided, then unbraided my hair to get a wavy look and gathered lilacs and daisies for his table. I made vegetable soup and sourdough bread and walked the 20 yards to his farmhouse. He had cleaned up I noticed, and wore a fresh mushroom colored shirt opened again to expose a hairy chest which had sprinkles of silver hair. I smiled and handed him my wares. He swooped in and kissed me fully on the mouth.
“I have been waiting for you all day. I didn’t see you and your sisters dancing in the forest today.”
“No, JP, our..our mother is not well and we have been attending to her.”
JP wrinkled his forehead in a frown ” And you came tonight.. to.. see.. me.”
I gazed steadfastly into those ocean blue eyes with a touch of grey “Yes.. I couldn’t stay away.” I whispered. He responded by lifting me up into his arms and sliding me down his chest and waist until my feet landed on the ground. His pulse was beating fast, and my heart was racing as he took me to his bed.
I felt awkward and whispered: “JP I have not been like this for a long time.”
JP kissed my forehead and my cheeks. The he ran his hands along my jawline as I ran my hands along his lips. I felt the hairs of his beard sting my fingertips as I move my tongue in to lick the ingrown hairs of that dark mass around his swollen lips. He softly moaned into my ear as my tongue darted back and forth along the ridge line of his mouth. His tongue patiently waited for mine.
The next few hours we made love, then he held me and I dozed a bit. I knew what we had done was magical, beautiful and genuine. But would it last? Was I an itch to him? Was I a temporary diversion? We had connected so deeply and I longed for more from him.
“Emme, you have given me life again. You have woken up my heart. When I saw you dancing and singing in the forest, I felt free. Free to love again…”
“JP I want to make you happy. I want your life to be full of mirth and joy. You have given me the gift of passion, desire, and happiness. I can never repay you for this.”
“Emme, no no love, it is YOU who have given me the desire to love again. My name was almost taken away from me and all I have is my name Emme. I want to give you my name now.”
Stunned and not quite sure what I was hearing I straddled him in our bed and clicked my forehead to his forehead and whispered;
“JP, are you … asking me?”
A devilish grin appeared on JP’s face as he whispered in my right ear:
“Yes! Be my wife Emmeeeeee.”
Overcome with tears of joy I simply nodded yes up and down and crashed into his broad naked chest.
We were married a few weeks after he proposed. One night after supper in our bedroom I lifted my dressing gown and showed him the great gift he gave me. His hands circled my stomach, and he bent down to kiss me long, tenderly, and eagerly.
A week ago last Saturday my twin nieces A and E received stupendous gifts for their birthday: diaries. These diaries were like the door at the side of the mountain on Erebor in Desolation of Smaug: only privy by a lock and key and a password needed to enter. I remember when my sister and I got our first diaries around the same age as A and E. We hid our diaries in our sock drawers. I wrote in mine every day. I wrote mainly about Han Solo my pre teen crush and Shaun Cassidy from The Hardy Boys and my thoughts and confusion over Judy Blume’s “Are you there God? It’s me Margaret” and “Blubber”. Later I would write about “Wifey” and ask my self questions that I didn’t dare ask my mom. The diary was for me a sanctuary.. a place I could wrestle my ambivalent feelings about not fitting in, wearing braces, not having boys notice me, not getting my period, not having breasts, wanting to be the smartest kid in the class, wanting to prove myself to my parents, and feeling very unhappy with my body.
So lately I have started to journal again. This time it is more random thoughts, ideas for future posts, notes on MCOTM with a friend of mine, poetry, fan fic ideas and the following:
So today Sunday April 7 sitting in the theatre having had a glass of Prosecco with my chicken Panini lunch I drifted off. The NYC Ballet Company was doing George Balanchine’s Kammermusik (Chamber music) and Symphony in C (classical ballet piece set to Bizet) and I was daydreaming. I sat front row which is ideal for me because there is no obstructed view and one sees EVERYTHING. I drifted off into my crush world. A place I tend to escape now where Harry comes to comfort me with his LeCarre book, and Daniel becomes my running partner. Proctor holds me in his arms when I am weeping. Gary lovingly spoons me at night when I am quivering because the pups and I are scared of thunder and lightening, John massages my fingers as we are watching Endeavor and Raymond serenades me in French with love poems.
I’m chuffed that the twins are able to share for me one of the greatest gifts that my sister and I treasured growing up. The diary became my touchstone. It allowed me to be honest with myself in ways that I still can’t master today. I see a lot of my sister and me in my nieces. I see innocence, defiance, and compassion in them. I see the love they have for each other and how they comfort each other when one is upset. My hope is that the diary will allow each to find that inner voice and to love themselves for who they really are.
If you could tell your younger self one thing what would it be?
I am a believer in second chances, third chances. That rule applies to books, tv shows, food (although not broccoli), theatre, board games (even Operation), and most especially movies. My dad just did a re watch twice over on a movie that he viewed as so so first go round. So I re watched for a third time what I think is a little 89 minute gem called Into The Storm (2014) (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt21). Yes the main “stars” are a CGI fire tornado and a series of F4 and F5 sister tornadoes but the movie has a lot of heart. It isn’t campy and it isn’t Shakespeare but it has elements in it that Shakespeare would love. There isn’t a real hero in the movie. There are a few characters that redeem themselves and there’s a dad trying to save his sons from getting killed by flying debris. To me the movie has relatable messages about family unity, atonement, redemption, environmental destruction and don’t mess with Mother Nature!
The start of the movie shows a maybe F3 tornado wipe out a car filled with 4 teenagers that can’t out run it. Then the scene shifts to a calm day in Silverton, Oklahoma .. graduation day.. a day of new beginnings and tearful endings. My family lived in Kansas smack dab in the heart of Tornado Alley. It is extremely frightening and very real. The original title of the movie Black Sky is quite appropriate. The dad Gary (Richard Armitage) is raising two teenage sons Donnie (Max Deacon) and Trey (Nathan Kress) as the boys’ mom has died. Trey takes over filming duties from his brother Donnie as a school project to document a time capsule of where students and towns people will see themselves in 25 years. We always see better it seems than what perhaps will actually happen and to me this is one of the themes of the movie.
Meanwhile Pete (Matt Walsh), a “desperate” documentarian, needs to find the storm of the century in order to keep his job and funding. He uses Dr. Allison Stone (Sarah Wayne Callies) a professional storm chaser who wants to gather data to learn the science and beauty of a storm so better technology will be develop to give more advanced warning when such mammoth tornadoes will strike. I liked that the movie delved into the aftermath of these storms hitting small towns that are virtually unprepared for this type of calamity. As Allison notes these super storms are now showing up “in places that usually never see it even London.” In that respect the movie pays tribute to the 1996 film Twister(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117998/) which delved into this idea of creating early warning systems so people are more prepared to seek shelter and to survive. I think it is a chilling commentary on climate change as well. In both Twister and Into The Storm the female scientists are the leaders. They are the source for advisement and direction and that resonantly strongly with me.
The movie also delves into the issues of atonement and redemption as both Pete for the group to survive and Jacob (Jeremy Sumpter), his assistant for the filmed footage he had collected of the F5 tornadoes sacrifice themselves. There is no happy ending per se. Gary in his soddy brown suit and the boys’ family dynamic changes from the start of the movie as aloof and distant and misunderstood to appreciative and compassionate and convivial at the end scene. The movie reflects real life in many ways.
Into The Storm may be categorized as a disaster based film but for me it reached into its pockets and pulled out universal themes such as the family and professional ties that bind, don’t mess with Mother Nature, and love thy neighbor. The movie came out August 8, 2014 and had heavy competition at the box office with Guardians of the Galaxy at #1 and Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles at number #2. So to premiere at number 3 and earn a total of $161.70 million on a $50 million dollar movie budget is not bad for a small disaster flick. I admit the dialogue was cheesy. There was no love story. But the characters were every day people living in middle America and the black sky is very real and very frightening. The clear message I took from Into The Storm was what Donnie told his dad after Gary rescued him from the water shaft “Live every day like it is your last.”
Is there a movie or tv series that you would recommend as a re-watch?
Recently I listened to an audio version of Georgette Heyer’s novel The Convenient Marriage. The sender to me of the 4 CD box knew this novel and of course the narrator were right up my alley. I give her a thousand thank yous because I adored the audio and the plot. The novel is set in 1776 and centers around Earl Rule a 35ish year old aristocrat who needs a wife. He intended to marry one Winwood sister who comes from an impoverished family but ends up with Horatia(Horry) the younger Winwood sister, all of 17, who proposes marriage to Rule for two reasons: 1. To save her sister from an arranged marriage so her sister can marry her true love and 2. So Rule can help Horatia’s brother Pelham out of some financial difficulties. Rule agrees to marry Horatia getting more than he bargained for in return. Through a series of comedy of errors Rule begins to court Horatia his wife. Horatia is not beautiful and stammers when she speaks but she is honest and compassionate and begins to tear Rule’s emotional walls down as the novel progresses.
The Convenient Marriage is charming and progressive and timely in so many ways. A woman proposes to a man, a woman is a gambler (Horry has a penchant for cards), the marriage is a business arrangement at first for both, Horry is defiant, goes against what her husband wants her to do. She acts before she thinks, and it is quite old fashion where there seems to be no sex as part of the arrangement. All of these facets and the “convenience” of the marriage actually drawing Rule and Horry closer together just radiated with me on so many levels. I loved Horry as a strong woman with faults and feelings of jealousy and empathy and honesty. I loved that in 1776 the idea of an open marriage even today considered somewhat risqué existed because Rule continued to have a mistress until he realized what was standing right before him was what he wanted all along. I loved that Heyer spotlighted the double standard that a man can have mistresses during marriage publically but a wife caught in another man’s chambers was a scandal that could shatter her marriage. Perhaps most of all I loved that there was a happy ending. That Rule and Horry found that the convenient marriage was in fact true love for each other.
Are there any modern women/men movie or literary relationships that inspire you about love and happiness?