Dear Uncle

Dear Uncle Kjell,

I must preface this letter with an important request:  please do not share this letter with anyone other than Tante Siri.  I respect that in a marital partnership, secrets are devastating so I do not wish for you to have to carry a burden of secrecy between yourself and your wife.  However, I do hope you can keep this letter confidential otherwise.   My mother knows I am writing a letter, but she does not know the contents of this letter.  She only knows that I am writing to you to urge you to reach out to your brother in love.  The rest of this letter is private, with details I have kept hidden for decades.  Thank you, Uncle.

I have been struggling with the idea of this letter ever since I heard the news that you and Per are no longer talking.  My struggle comes from a conflict between minding my own business (after all what do I know about it all- probably very little … if nothing), and the pull inside my soul that urges me to speak up (I believe this is the spirit of God urging me to say something to you to help you).  Saying nothing to you would mean keeping things safe.  Saying nothing carries little risk for me.    Saying nothing carries a tremendous burden, because saying nothing is the coward’s way out.  Saying nothing results in my ability to carry on as if nothing is happening.    I have lived with the burden of saying nothing about certain things that happened in my own life, surrounding my brother, for about 37 years.  Saying nothing got him killed.  And now, all these years later, I have no brother alive; I am an only child living out my days supporting my parents (and they support me).  But I have lived with regret most of my life.

Speaking up, voicing concern, vocalizing the perspective that lies within- that is scary.  My mind reels as I consider all of the possible reactions and the fallout from this letter.   Some possibilities include: your anger, your disdain for my meddling, and your wrath on my mother (this the worst of all fears).  I have witnessed parts of your harbored anger or resentment towards people in your life (recalling various conversations over the years).  I recall your disdain for my father at your perception that he, in his old age, was careless of others (the ice cream incident in your village), and it is a bit scary to me.   My Dad has really had no money of his own for many years (Mom manages everything).   With his illnesses and vulnerabilities, Mom gives him a small allowance, that’s it.  So he has become used to not having money in his pockets- so his ice cream purchase that day which was just for him- was likely because he only had money to cover his own ice cream.  While their stay with you should have resulted in him “springing” for everyone’s ice cream, to harbor ill will towards him and label him stingy for this action, is misguided.  You wouldn’t have known that, but your judgment of him which you voiced to me- haunts me to this day.  In his old age, certain behaviors have changed- they are more childlike; something I have become accustomed to witnessing and also accustomed to overlooking.  For some years now, he has changed- and in some ways, I see a regression.   And, it’s not something I disrespect but rather, something that I have compassion for- it shifts something in me to see him in this way, so different from the strong and marvelous personality of his youth.   I don’t want you to be mad at me for mentioning these things, I only bring them up to tell you that over the years, your words have hurt others.  Your insensitivity has hurt others.  You have a strong generous side, and you also have a strong opinion and judgment side.  We all want to be loved, accepted, encouraged, cared for and we certainly don’t want to be discarded.

Over the years, I have found that people have a tendency to judge others.  I am not immune, I do not suggest that I am free of this tendency.  In fact, because of my own judgments, I recognize when folks around me exact judgment on others. And, this judgment can result in a strict penalty for behavior unbecoming.   We are not generally a merciful society.  We do not love one another.  We look out only for our own interests.  This is the godless society, the one that has not a care for the other soul but more interest in self-preservation.  What’s in it for me?

 

My heart broke when I heard about your reaction to your brother’s behavior.  I am not certain of the details of the incident, and I know that likely, this one incident was not the only sin he may have committed in your world.   I do know that you are a very wealthy man now.  That money is king in your life.   And, that something occurred which was based in a money transaction.  And this transaction has led you to mistrust him and feel betrayed by him.  This decision you have made to eliminate him from your life is a decision likely made because of buildup.  Perceptions and irritations over the years have indicated to you that his behavior and perhaps personality is in conflict with yours.  Being around him is unpleasant.  It brings you stress and strain.  It is uncomfortable.

 

I know a little bit about this discomfort.   I have had to forgive myself and my brother for several years of discomfort that I experienced with him which I held secret until one day, I cursed him, I told him to bugger off and leave me alone.   And he did just that.   He took my mother’s car keys and with his cousin, they headed out for a joy ride.   And, Joseph died.  What was so bothersome about his behavior that led me to scream such obscenities at him?  What could have possibly been so horrible that I used such strong language to tell him to go?   For a couple of years, there was sexual abuse going on.  It started innocently enough as one of those games certain children play which Joseph started:  you show me yours, I’ll show you mine.   This was generally done with cousins around so it was a group thing.   Later, Joseph threatened – show me yours because now you are a whore.  You have to show me yours.  He had paid me a dollar, so he said that now… I was a prostitute.  I had taken money for sex.  I was 11 years old.  Literally, this went on for about two years.   In my room, in the car (parents in front seat) he would taunt me.  Open his fly and look at me.  He would come in to my room at night, sometimes drunk and want to explore.  He was always getting into trouble, I was the good girl.  So I let him.  And I hated him.  And I hated me.  On May 13, 1979, we had family over at our house for Mother’s Day weekend, and once again, Joseph started the game in the basement with the cousins.  He was trying to get me paired up with my cousin Calvin.  He laughed that he was my pimp.  He mocked me.  And, I had enough.   My biggest mistake was that I had never told my parents.   And, I screamed at him.  And I cried.  And he left.  And, he died.

I have forgiven Joseph long ago- he was only a child himself.   I have forgiven me- I was only a child.   It took me a long time to get to a place of forgiveness.  When I was 16, I tried to kill myself with pills because I couldn’t handle that I turned 16 and Joseph didn’t.  I was rushed to the hospital, I went to counseling for a while, and they never heard my story, because I wouldn’t tell it to the counselor.  I was too ashamed of what had happened.  I felt I had killed my brother because I had kept silent.  Then, since counseling was not really working, and it was expensive, my parents asked me:  are you getting anything out of this?   I said no.  So, it was back to normal life – as normal as it could be.  And, my life since then has been deeply affected by this tragedy.  I have not had a normal life in the sense that 1978-1979 has affected my perspective on intimacy and on trust.  And, now perhaps I have shared too much, and even more important, this letter is not about me.  I bring it up only because it is about siblings.  It is about forgiveness and bearing with the sins of our blood relatives.  It’s about providing grace and mercy and not shutting each other out.

What sin has Per done that is so grave that you can’t reach out to your own brother and forgive him?   What has he done that is so horrible, that you can’t hold out an olive branch and say to him:  “it’s ok, let’s reconnect?” – that you can’t wrap your arms around him and say, “never mind- let’s get past this?”  Can you not live with the idea that: while you don’t maybe like him very much, you must love him?    You have a brother.  He is a man who is flawed (as are we all).  You are flawed.  He is flawed. I am flawed.   We all need forgiveness, we all need love and we need each other.    We need forgiveness and mercy – not isolation.

Imagine if on this planet, people would forgive each other.  That they would reach out in love and mercy to one another and live peacefully together.   No war.  No murder.  No hell on earth.

I think about God in all of this.  I know that you don’t necessarily believe in Jesus and God literally.  Nor that you might speak with him regularly in prayer (how odd would that be? To actually talk to a God that is not physically present?).   But I do think about God.  Because he provided these amazing stories in his book- the bible.   Stories of deception and reconciliation.  Stories of hate and love.  Stories of loss and gain.  Examples on how we are to live our lives if we are to live them victoriously and pleasing in his eyes.   I think of the story of Joseph and his brothers.  How they sold him into slavery and abandoned him.  How in his slavery and in the many struggles, he maintained his love for his brothers even though they had betrayed him.   And, how he showed that love to them later in mercy … when he became a powerful man – he forgave them, and he loved them.  This story is found in Genesis 37.

 

 

God gave his son Jesus – who suffered and died on the cross, so that all sinners (me and everyone in this world) could be saved.    His death on the cross saves me because it prevents me from being separated from God for all eternity.   His love for me in sending his only son is so merciful and his forgiveness so undeserved by me, but he did this for all humanity.  If God can forgive me in this way, through the suffering and sacrifice of his son for me, and Jesus- suffering as he did (God incarnate) … how then can I not forgive others for their minor sins against me?    I must show mercy, I must give my love freely to others.  I am obligated to show grace (grace = undeserved favor).

 

I hope you receive this letter well. That you are not angry with me.  That you can see that I am concerned about you and Per out of a deep love.  I hope you can find a way to restore your connection with Per.  You don’t have to be best friends.   It shouldn’t be fake.  But that you can love him as your brother.    To honor him as your parents would want you to honor him.  To take care for him even when it seems he is unworthy of that care.  To put aside your own needs in favor of him.  He lost his daughter recently- she rejected him.  Now he loses his brother.   His sister is in America.   It’s tragic.  It is not right.  And, it’s not too late to right this wrong.

 

With love and care for you and our family.

 

Your niece,

Solveig

Sugar is my enemy

Today is the first day of my new program.  Yes, you heard it. Another program!  While I had been attempting to resist the New Year’s Resolution Promises this year, the truth is that the bothersome symptoms of the past few years and the ever present list of groans I render on many journal pages suggests that absolutely- something must change.    Recently, on a Facebook newsfeed scroll when I was attempting to catch up on all those vitally important posts I had missed, I came across this advert for a solution to the fatigue, aches and pains, congestion and weight gain dilemma.  They are rampant on Facebook, these ads that lure you to click as they hope that you will succumb to buying their prescribed methods of health salvation.   This time, I did click.  There was something about this particular ad that had me interested.  In hindsight, I am not sure exactly what that point of draw was, but nevertheless, there I was watching the video.   After about twenty seconds, I was waiting to receive that sudden stop in the feed of information which sometimes occurs, you know, the time that they stop the production to let you know that for only $29.99 you too can get this information in the form of a book, or subscription or some other formulaic fashion.  But this time, that did not happen.  The doctor providing the information kept on presenting his news and he was doing this with this artist’s hand, a sharpie and a blank page which he kept filling with cartoon renderings of the sum situation most face with their bodies these days, overweight, overtired, overwhelmed and guilt ridden.    This doctor was suggesting it was not my fault, and that there were four things I should avoid and only one thing I should do to regain my gut health.     I was intrigued.  And, I kept watching and listening to his presentation.  The long and short of it is that I need to avoid sugar in all its forms, white flour (it turns into sugar), alcohol (it turns into sugar), and coffee (only because of the sugar most add); and then, I must add a good probiotic.   This has to do with good bacteria and bad bacteria in my gut.   Bad bacteria multiply exponentially when exposed to sugar.  My gut health needs to be 80% Good Bacteria and only 20% Bad Bacteria.   Generally speaking, people with illnesses related to the gut have that percentage flipped upside down.

For the probiotic, it cannot be just any probiotic, the doc suggests I buy their probiotic.  Fortunately, the doc shared a couple of important criteria on the probiotics that work vs. the ones that do little good.   First, my probiotic must have at least 15 billion CFU (colony forming unit) and that also has a minimum of 5-7 strains of good bacteria.  It has to do with restoring gut health.  This information is well received; I had purchased a great probiotic about a month ago, still in the refrigerator because it is a RAW probiotic from the health food store and it contains 85 billion CFU and 39 strains.   At the conclusion of the video, the doctor suggests that he and a partner have created the best probiotic on the market and for a low introductory offer, purchase within 24 hours, click here and you can have this amazing probiotic for only $39.99 – normally it costs $69.99 for a one month supply.  Yea, no.  Not for me, I have my probiotic and I am just fine with it, and it costs $36.99 a month and that is about the topper of my budget on probiotics.   Having spent thousands of dollars on weight loss and health over the years, I am weary of anyone suggesting they want my money so that I can be thin and healthy.   I am grateful he gave me the information without charging me for it and surmise that enough people will click and buy.  So, I sign off.

 

And, I begin my planning.   No white flour.  Only 100% whole grains.   100% free of white flour. Time to do some google searching, and I find a plethora of sites that address the white flour elimination strategy, and how to replace with a diet that consists of 100% whole grains.   I need a better idea of what that means, what exactly is a whole grain?   I know that white flour is wheat that has not been stripped of its nutrition.  A few sites point me in new directions.    Ezekiel products are good.  I can enjoy the Wasa Crispbreads that I normally enjoy except make sure they are sourdough rye versions.   Bring whole grains into my life- in the form of whole wheat (make sure it is 100% whole wheat), brown rice, barley, amaranth, buckwheat, rye, quinoa, oats, wild rice, teff and millet.  Ok.  That sounds easy enough.  It’s not like they are not giving me some choices.  And, while the white flour is more delicious to my tongue these days, perhaps my taste buds will in time rejoice at a spoonful of buckwheat.    These days, there are tons of resources and on-line recipes to get me started.   The part of me that is very serious about this is the part of me that has been suffering for years with sinus infections, yeast infections, fatigue and weight gain.  And, not just the weight gain but a body that feels bloated and cramping and uncomfortable most days.   So, this is not just about working towards being a bikini babe, which by the way is not my goal.  But, working towards a life of health and energy that will take me through the next fifty years in a more vibrant and vital way.   I want to feel good.  Bottom line.   And, I want to understand why I have been uncomfortable and dissatisfied with life.   So, here I go.

 

This morning, I prepared some foods for work- celery, apple, Greek Yogurt; for lunch, I pack some Ham and Muenster Cheese.  To this, I decide that I will stop at the co-op near my workplace to pick up some items – just a few to get me started.   I take my probiotic before I head out the door.   At Lakewinds, I find and purchase a box of Ezekiel 4:9 Almond Sprouted Grain Crunchy Cereal to sprinkle over my Greek yogurt for breakfast.  I also pick up a loaf of Dave’s Killer Bread which is organic and contains 21 Who Grains and Seeds- yum?  Not sure yet, but willing to try it.   And, I also buy one box (or perhaps best described as a sleeve) of Wasa Sourdough Rye Crispbread.    This will go nice with my ham and cheese.  I will bring these home tonight to have on hand.    I will be packing lunches this week.   I am committed to packing my lunch each day – this will help me control my ingredients and help my wallet.   Bonus.

 

So, it’s not New Year’s yet- so this feels good, it’s not a decision I am making just to have something to declare at midnight at the end of this year.  Instead, I look forward to my Constant Comment spice tea later on- avoid the coffee because I know the doc was right, I am not a black coffee drinker, mine generally must have the cream and the sugar.   So, avoiding things that trigger a need for supplemental sweet, is best.  I will take this new health plan one step at a time and hope that by my 50th birthday in April, I will be on a track towards health.  No huge goals set for now.  I am not dangling a number that I must lose on the scale.   My goal is health, energy and avoiding those bothersome infections.    Wish me luck!

 

 

Podcasts – voices and stories

For a few years now, I have subscribed to various podcasts. It’s interesting to me how few people in my daily life understand what I am referring to when I share with them that I listen to podcasts. For me, it’s a regular part of most days, particularly a regular feature of my daily commute. My current list of podcasts is about a half a dozen long and includes spiritual matters with Pray As You Go (a Jesuit daily prayer exercise that I find soothing, thoughtful and helps me enter the day with a renewed gratitude and peace). There are three podcasts that are all about knitting, in various forms. The first two are more traditional in that they feature knitting tips, what’s on the podcasters needles, a fiber artist guest speaker and in one case, there can be some added Piper highlights as the podcaster is a bagpiper: Knitting Pipeline. I really enjoy this one- her cast of characters tends to be the same so one gets to know her regular co-podcaster voices. Then there is Curious Handmades, an Australian gal shares her knitting universe with the rest of us and again features special projects she is working on and key guests from the knitting community. These two are likely a big puzzle for non-knitters, after all how can it be interesting to listen to someone talk about knitting. If you are at least more than an ultra beginner, the sessions offer insights into knitting challenges, provides inspiration with new projects and can also offer tips on which yarns (wool, alpaca, cashmere or should I use silk?) are best for certain projects. Another knitting podcast I enjoy is called Teaching Your Brain To Knit; this one is focused on the mental aspects and benefits of knitting. This could be meditation, memory, well being and more.   This last podcast is hosted by two gals in the Northwest- they also talk about their geographic location and highlight their own projects as well. So one gets to know these personalities and at times, instead of local radio, I reach for the podcast to accompany me on my drives between home and work.

Depending on the season, that ride can take anywhere from a half hour to an hour an a half! In the last six months, I have added two podcasts that have been a great balance to the knitting and spiritual. These are basically radio journalism. Stories- true stories. The first one is called The Lapse, and the host offers these 20-30 minute episodes that are stories brought from real lives. He invites people to write in about their stories and then he creates the broadcast with their voices, throws in sound effects and brings interesting perspectives about the human condition to the air waves. These have been thought provoking as well as humorous in some cases; definitely mind opening.

I leave the best for last. A new discovery called Serial. This podcast is a weekly series delving into one important story. They are only on their second story- which drills down into the facts and situations surrounding Bowe Bergdahl. This is their second “season” or perhaps best called “series” .  The producers of the show have uploaded two episodes so far covering Bowe Bergdahl and the story; they are featured weekly on Fridays.  The episodes go into depth as the host Sarah Koenig, from NPR’s This American Life, explores questions of:  what happened, how, why… how did it affect his fellow platoon mates, his family and the controversy it drew with his release and swap for the 5 Taliban detainees.  Before the Bowe story, I listened to 12 episodes of the story behind Adnan Syed, a seventeen year old Baltimore high school student who has served 15 years so far of his sentence for being convicted of murdering an ex-girlfriend. Those episodes went through a process of interviewing a large volume of people surrounding the case, his sister who believe in his complete innocence, class mates, teachers, expert law sources and Adnan himself. Sarah Koenig, the host of the show, has this soothing intellectual voice, as one might hear in France “Sympatique”; meaning, she sounds like a friend – a smart friend, that is helping to open up the conversation again about this young man behind bars, is he guilty? Was it Muslim racial profiling? Does he have it him? Is he a pathological person? Is he too kind and too good to have done anything so heinous? The podcast, literally, casts new light on the situation and Adnan is up for a retrial in February 2016.
Podcasts, an extension of talk radio with the benefit of it being on demand, allowing one to connect with stories and voices. Opening a window for thought provoking analysis. Or, focus on a simple prayer for the day, a meditation with the odd cast on and knit two together, a yarn over discussion.  It’s a whole different world.

Another debate… any closer? 

Politically correct? Political differences of opinion? Ignorance is bliss?
Saying much about nothing. That’s the reaction I have when I hear the sound bites that came out of the Republican Debate last night. Mostly, listening to a CNN news reporter trying to capture the essence of how Trump feels things went, one hears things like: “it was an elegant debate, the other candidates were elegant, I had a fun time.” No real substance take away there. Ok, I am glad he had fun? I must read the transcript of the debate before I can truly weigh in on this event.   One thing I come away with is both sides of the aisle are not quite sure what to make of Trump.  And, in my circle of friends, I have those that say they will move to another country if he’s elected, while the other says she’s voting for him.  Both women offer opinions I value and indeed, cherish.
What strikes me is that what we’re talking about here and considering here is the future president of the United States of America. Did you hear that?   The leader of the United States of America.  We’re considering who will be standing there in charge if and when we have a next 9/11. The pundits and the round tables don’t offer much more insight for me. On the left side, we have the continual repeat dialogue that Republicans are fear mongering.  Really? The Republicans are fear mongering? Have the Democrats not been paing attention to the plethora of violent acts in the name of Islam for which I must insert are coming from those bad guy  Muslims… not the good guy Muslims? Do they have such a dim view of facts that they don’t get that ISIS has been recruiting in an intelligent way – attracting disenchanted and disenfranchised Muslim youths to battle and die on their behalf and that these recruits are coming from our own back yards? What would it take for their heads to come out of the sand? Perhaps they don’t have a recollection of how things were back during the first two World Wars because they have decided to sweep those events under the carpet; screw learning from history. Who needs that crap. It’s old news. Let’s just talk smart until it goes away.
Nevertheless, I see a story that unfolded in the late 1930s that screams: open your eyes, do something now or you’ll regret an invasion that will last for years and cost the lives of millions. In that instance, there was a specific enemy that was geographically identifiable. Now, the enemy is scattered across the globe, found on most continents and is growing exponentially.

That same story includes people that I hold dear mostly on the side of being victim to Hitler’s horror; but I also know other victims, those that had family members conscripted into the Nazi army- young men who didn’t have a choice.   I think of my own brother at the age of 16- what would he have done at that young age if he was forced to fight for Hitler?  Would he have been able to stand up and say no – and face death for speaking out?

In these present times, we need to have a leader who knows how to talk nice. We need a leader who can make people feel warm and fuzzy. We need a leader who makes other countries like us better. We need a leader that will make us  diplomatically viable.  Oh, wait, we had one of those for two terms…  look where it got us!   Yay, we are popular (but are we?). Yay, we have a leader who has the speech prowess of one of the best. We can all smile at each other after one of his speeches and hug ourselves because, wow that was comforting, he is so good.
Is that what we need? Or do we need someone who can kick some royal “a double snakes”?
I am looking for a leader that will make me feel safe, or at least safer. Someone skilled in this department- not just a talker.  I don’t need lies on what you are going to do only to figure out once in office you don’t have the power to act.  Someone unafraid of being unpopular but determined to be effective. I wonder who that will be? Jury is still out.

Bliss or Pipe Dream?

Back to the grind stone.
On my way home from Mexico aboard Delta Airlines, I watched an episode of On Creativity, a serial that offers insights into the creative world hosted by Paula Wallace of the Savannah College of Art & Design. In this episode, one of her guests was Steve Lassater, co-creator of Pixar. During the interview, they showed his commencement speech at the college and he brought out of a bag a very well loved Woody doll from The Toy Story that had been sent to him by a young boy who no longer needed to love this Woody doll.  This boy included a letter that asked Mr. Lassater to bring Woody to a place where he could be with other dolls forever more. This was a tearful reading by Mr. Lassater as he held the Woody doll up to his audience for viewing, one could see that one foot was missing, the clothing on the doll was faded and stained and the limbs were limp and well worn. During the interview in general, the idea was conveyed by Mr. Lassater of the importance of carefully selecting a vocation for which one would not ever feel that they had worked a day in one’s life. Am I doing this with my life? Do I live to work? Or, do I work to live? I do enjoy the travel gig, in general. However, there are so many instances during the course of my work that I find my efforts less than appreciated or even respected.
While on my trip, I received word that one client had called the office ranting and raving about her rental car not having been fully prepaid and that she hoped the rest of the trip I had planned for her would not be an equal disaster. Never mind that during the booking process, I told her over the telephone that it would not be possible to set up her pre-cruise car rental on a prepaid basis as there was not a rental company that offered that possibility.  Instead, her rental rate would be guaranteed using her credit card but that her cost would be paid locally at time of rental pick up at the Houston Airport. And, with her final document package, I included a cover letter that went over all of the details including her car rental and it stated the same as noted above. These details were conveyed orally and in writing. She wasn’t listening, and she didn’t read. And, she then reads my administrator the riot act and uses explitives in the process. Nice. Another client was informed by telephone voicemail and email that I would be out of the office until December 8th, and that I would contact her on my return to set up an in person appointment to go over their final documents for their Europe trip happening over the holidays. While I am gone, she just shows up at the office asking to see me. Another client requests a 28 day honeymoon to Southeast Asia to start January 2nd, 2016; his inquiry came in October 26th. I work on this with two revisions, sending him complex independent custom itinerary proposals with everything they wanted to experience, including cooking classes, temple tours in Angkor Wat, couples massages, all private services, interior Asia flights, and five star hotels. And he sits on it for almost two months. Now, he is ready and I am scheduled to talk with him this morning. With his commitment, we now have to rush to book everything and hope things are still available because he just couldn’t get around to it.  And, take care of the Visas on a rush expedite basis.

I wish I could say that these stressors do not affect my gut. But the truth is, I just got done with an endoscopy yesterday and the damage is fairly severe… meds and modified lifestyle are required to heal. So, does this work give me joy? Am I in my element? Or, am I just another dog in the musher’s sled, always feeling the crack of the whip at my back and pushed to move move move… to someone else’s demands.
What would I do if I could do what I wanted to do? Well, I would learn to write well. I would busy myself in learning the craft, every aspect of it and making a life of writing for myself. I wouldn’t just spend an hour or two before work and some left over time after work and on weekends. I would throw myself into it with all my might. And, would this put me into my true bliss? Or, is this a grass is greener thing? Seeing all fo those resorts for the purpose of serving a bride somewhere wishing to wed on a beach, is that my calling? Serving clients traveling all over Europe and Asia, is that really it? Or, is it writing? How do I know the answer to that?  Is my writing dream a foolish pipe dream?
For now at least, one step in from of the other. I have over 50,000 words to work on to create a first novel. And, I must continue this daily writing practice, sign up for courses, workshops, get to know other writers perhaps. Come out of the vacuum.   Possibly work towards a retirement of writing bliss?  At least that’s a goal.

A Riviera Maya Paradise

A funny thing happened on my shuttle ride from the Cancun Airport to my resort for the last two nights: Secrets Maroma on the Riviera Maya. I was bit by the Mexico Bug! I have been in the travel business for my entire career which spans about 24 years. In all that time, I have traveled to places that include China, Hong Kong (while it was still under British rule), Macau and throughout Europe & Scandinavia including British Isles (all of them – including most in the Caribbean), France, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Greenland & Iceland. I admit I have avoided Mexico. Well, I shouldn’t say I have never been to Mexico.. since I did walk over from San Diego to Tijuana when I was in college. But mostly I have picked other places over Mexico. Why, you ask? Just not my thing; not a big sun and beach fan. But maybe this tide of mine is turning.

The resorts I have seen these last two days during my Destination Wedding Training rival and beat the Jamaican ones- by a very long shot. The drive on my day of arrival in Cancun as we headed for Maroma was truly pleasant. On that ride two days ago, I didn’t pass multiple burnt out cars, homes that were a blight on the landscape, ematiated dogs scrounging for scraps, trash strewn winding roads. There was none of those remnants of memory from my trip to Jamaica this past September. Mind you there were some buildings along the way here that had evidence of disrepair, but they weren’t complete hovels. My heart of compassion went out to the Jamaican citizens, living in those conditions can’t be easy. But I think of relatives and even my mother at that, who although raised in poverty during the war, always had a sense of pride for her personal space. And, here in Mexico, at least so far, I see more evidence of that dignity than I did in Jamaica. But then, as they say, some love Jamaica and some hate Jamaica. There are generally very few people in between. For a vacation spot, defintely Mayan Riviera wins over Jamaica for me. And, as a selling agent, this will be my recommendation to clients seeking to escape the winter doldrums. A little piece of Mexico memory in the midst of the 30 to 40 below freezing temperatures which can be part of our season in Minnesota, will go far for many. Time to head out now- hitting five properties today. Wedding training and culinary samplings.. not a bad gig.

NaNoWriMo 2015 – Cross Over!

On this day, I write from my balcony at Secrets Maroma on the Riviera Maya of Mexico. It’s a work trip that includes visits to 16 resorts and destination training at three select resorts. In my down time, I catch golden moments when I can sit down with a coffee made in my room (nespresso, anyone?) and write!

 I finished NaNoWriMo 2015 with 51650 words. And in that run to the finish, the result is: I have finished a first draft, and it is truly a draft, of my first novel… my first official novel. Just writing that fills me with a wave of inspiration. Allowing my fingers to venture out into the world of my true calling means that what I just did is more than just write a first draft. I crossed the line from dreamer to doer. And this cross-over into novel writing brings me to a place of peace. A peace that I have been questing after for years, which in big part I find within my faith in God. But now, I find that has now moved me into my passion. And in many ways, I feel this is my calling. What God intended all along. He is bringing me into my passion. Others may balk at this expression and throw jabs in an effort to squelch any gratitude that I feel is owed to the Great Almighty. But I know better. Because it is peace I have prayed for and he has nudged me, ever so gently, into the path that otherwise would not be there- or better still, for which my eyes may have been blinded. He has offered some doors and windows for me to seriously consider. He has placed opportunities in my path and He has urged me to take hold of a future He has for me. And now, having barely pushed that window open, for the first time, I can actually see the view unobstructed. No more serious barriers, no more blockage. Thank you God… for never leaving me, nor forsaking me. And thank you for the caws and the whistles I am hearing above my head coming from the gracklings and the crows that have decided that this paradise place I occupy at this moment, is their paradise as well.
My novel started one way then it took an interesting turn. It started as romance and then ended up being more in line with historical fiction. The premise is a love story set in Norway during World War II… it starts with the lead up to the Nazi occupation and lasts through and beyond it. The time line spans 1938 to around 1948. The characters all come from my imagination, you know- any resemblance to real persons is merely a coincidence. The love story is dosed in reality rather than lathered in romance. Doubts, disappointment and events of real life alter my heroin’s trajectory from home and family life to an arena of murder, espionage, and involvement in efforts of a group focused primarily on sabotage of the Reich’s efforts. This leads to deception within families, and a journey for Nina from farm girl to an underground courier for a movement that would help thwart Quisling’s reach.
It’s amazing to me how developed the piece already is… even as I look at this early draft. There is so much to edit and rewrite but this NaNoWriMo 2015 contest helped me to get words on a page, to have a starting point. I have great source in the country of Norway who was old enough to witness it all first hand. Ration cards, having to wear mandatory dog tags for identity, curfews, air raids and receiving donation boxes from Sweden while Sweden was sourcing the Nazi’s iron ore from Kiruna. So many details that the average person is unaware of – there has been so little focus on the Scandinvian countries realities during the war, both the neutral countries like Sweden, and the occupied ones like Norway and Denmark. My mother’s best friend is married to a man in Norway whose mother hid people, and had the forbidden radio that now sits in a museum in Oslo.  He offers lectures and material for cultural museums in Norway who are seeking to fill out their exhibits in preparation for the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Norway as a result of the victory over the Third Reich. All of this provides fodder for a marvelous passion. Thank you God for helping me tell their stories and it is my hope that I honor the experiences of the many who lived through occupation. While Norway faired so much better than many countries which had harsh and barbaric circumstances; still, Norway suffered in their own way. So I now pray for God’s help in allowing me to write this different layer of the war experience.