With my tendency to contemplate, it is no wonder that this month, my mind travels to retirement. No, I’m not old. I promise you that I’m as young as the spry teenager who climbed trees to write. I’m still the girl who stared at an ant hill for hours watching male ant-workers carry pieces of food to an ever-rising hole.
I don’t know when it happened that I knew I was ready to let go of my restaurant. Fourteen years is just a drop in the bucket of careers. Few knew me when I was the weekend manager of a CVS pharmacy in Brookline, Massachusetts. I had my pink duster ready to go as I stocked the shelves. Robbed at gunpoint, I testified in court. The man saw my face and I looked him in the eye, never realizing he’d get off because in another robbery someone died, and the prosecutor chose to forfeit my case in order to pursue the higher penalty. Somehow, the robber got out on bail.
All experiences lead you somewhere. I volunteered in the Boston prison system in college, until I decided that my heart hurt too much to be effective. Prisoners on leave calling me when they were out, kept me up at night. It doesn’t mean that I feared, but it did mean that to be effective I needed to revisit my skill set. I knew I couldn’t close off my heart.
I count on my fingers, other careers where my skills did make a difference. I learned bookkeeping at a coffee roasting factory, torrefaccion. Along with this skill, I became a coffee snob, tasting each roast every nineteen minutes. Setting out on my own, I bought a bookstore and hobby shop in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, where I lead preschool story/reading groups, dismantled the porn corner of the store to elevate the literature, and found myself supplying radio-control planes and parts to the local clubs. Two languages, a love of books, a challenge and an ability to understand another culture—these skills I cherish.
Back in the states, it was my bookstore experience that landed me the position of the first employee of the local bookstore, Village Books. From there I launched into accounting, and eventually became a CEO of a manufacturing firm. Oh, there are more stories to tell within these years but eventually I opened my healthy-eats restaurant.
I’m not old. I’m a writer—not just a writer, but an author. There is a difference. Words come, but an author pulls them together, finesses, and draws a story out of thin air. Early on, I declared I wanted to be a comedian. I am that too, not the stand-up comedian (still a wish), but one who can laugh at themselves and draw in an audience so they too, can be free.
I don’t remember when my three-mile jog turned into a three-mile walk or when my bike rides went from hilly to flat. A gradual, practical change, like my shuttle rides to Seattle, rather than driving the busy, chaotic, freeways. Truth be, I never liked freeways, and a shuttle allows me to observe and write.
I’m not getting old even though my granddaughter asks, “Bubbie, why do you have an old neck?” It’s better than her asking me about the dark circles and bags under my eyes. These dark circles have been there since I was a teenager, sneaking to watch Johnny Carson on the Late-Night Show. But those bags area problematic in photos, and at my children’s future weddings. I wonder if they carry the stories not yet told.
Let’s hope so, as I’m embarking on yet another career. My voice won’t be silenced in retirement as I’m not declining new challenges. The paths are well worn, and adventure is around the corner. I’ll put retreads on the tires—keep myself in service. Age is a number and doesn’t make you old, just as words alone don’t’ make an author. Pulling together all my experiences, I can say my new profession is to become wiser. Threading the needing of my expertise, my falls, my successes, my bag of stories, can enlighten the next generation.
Radio Interview on KSVR – 71.9
Recently Ann Nash honored me with an interview at Skagit Valley Colleges’ non-profit radio station, KSVR—71.9. Before the interview, the engineer, Joseph McGuire, showed me the process of voice editing. Wowed, I wonder about learning radio, of finding a place in journalism. Who knows where my thoughts will take me? Here is the link to listen to the interview.
The Magic of Words
Thanks to wordsmith.org and A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg, I have received for the last twelve years in my in-box a “word” with pronunciation, meaning, etymology, and usage. I must confess that the words eek into my brain and sometimes into my stories. Here are two words that struck me as noteworthy:
MEANING: noun: Folding and faulting of the earth’s crust resulting in mountain formation.
ETYMOLOGY: From Greek oro- (mountain) + -geny (formation). Earliest documented use: 1890.
MEANING: noun: A secret cooperation for fraud, treason, etc.
ETYMOLOGY: From Latin collidere (to play together, to conspire), from col- (with) + ludere (to play), from ludus (play). Ultimately from Indo-European root leid- (to play), which also gave us allude, delude, elude, illusion, ludicrous, Ludo, ludic, and prelude. Earliest documented use: 1397.
NOTES: From the literal meaning “to play together” to the current meaning “to conspire”, this word has gone to the wrong side of town. But it’s not the only one. The word conspire means, literally, “to breathe together” meaning to be in harmony.
The hush in the other room, for just a moment released the mounting pressure in the mother’s head. Then the cries of its mine, its mine, and the headache exploded into an orogeny, worse than a volcanic eruption. Was this innocence or collusion, the children’s need for attention, or a planned conspiracy for a parent’s last-ditch effort for calm? The offer of ice cream to quell the tears gave some relief.
Go Gentle into the day,
Wake with softness
Ears attuned to the birds, the train that chugs along
Your day is your own.
Breathe the crisp air of winter, close the window.
Warm your body by the fire.
Linger with coffee, let your thoughts wander
Just in case this is your last,
Go gentle into the day.
Over the years, I’ve distilled my giving down to two main causes: Health and education. Without either a person doesn’t thrive.
I recently discovered two non-profit radio stations—Sister stations located at Skagit Valley College–KSVR/KSVU (FM radio stations) are committed to providing local voices and content, with entertainment, news, and information, for the Skagit Valley College Educational District #4, in both English and Spanish. KSVR provides opportunities for students and community volunteers to produce radio programming to reach local populations. It offers about 50% of its programs in Spanish. KSVU provides services to the Hamilton area. Licensed by the Board of Trustees for Skagit Valley College, KSVR has been on the air since 1973. www.ksvr.org.
It’s not too late to sign up for my class at Whatcom Community College on February 23rd from 9:00 AM till 12:00 PM $45. The Evolution of a Book: Idea to Fruition. You can find the registration form at: www.whatcomcommunityed.com.
March 28th from 6:30 PM- 8:30PM at the Burlington Library, I’ll lead a discussion for the Skagit Valley Writer’s League on how to bring a book to market. This is a shortened version of my lecture, which will highlight standards and best practices. If you’re not a member of SVWL, you are still welcome to come.
I’m creating my last chapter, or so I believe, of Founding Stones. My characters talk to me all at once, vying for their position to close the story. I listen and place them all in the last chapter, scenes stacked onto other scenes. I’m going backwards, from the end to meet the place where the story is almost calm. I admit that I don’t have one ending. I can’t tidy up the threads, but do have characters with voices, and I’ll let them talk and work out their own exits. Patience is my friend and I’m careful not to rush the process.
Spoiler Alert—there will be another novel in the Generations of Secrets series. I’m leaving tracks for when I’m ready to start the long journey of another novel. Old characters, new characters—all heading back to Puerto Rico.
Inspiring thoughts from others, that move me to action.
The tragedy in the lives of most of us is that we go through life walking down a high-walled lane with people of our own kind, the same economic situation, the same national background and education and religious outlook. And beyond those walls, all humanity lies, unknown and unseen, and untouched by our restricted and impoverished lives.
~ Florence Luscomb, architect and suffragist (6 Feb 1887-1985)
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