She said…

Thomas L. FriedmanSo, you think life is moving too fast?

Guess what? It is. I just started reading Thomas L. Friedman’s 2016 book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration. I’m hardly prepared to comment on the entirety of the book, because I’m just in the second chapter, but Friedman grabbed my attention early on, with this statement:

“It’s no surprise so many people feel fearful or unmoored these days. … I will argue that we are living through one of the greatest inflection points in history—perhaps unequaled since Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, a German blacksmith and printer, launched the printing revolution in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation. The three largest forces on the planet—technology, globalization, and climate change—are all accelerating at once. As a result, so many aspects of our societies, workplaces, and geopolitics are being reshaped and need to be reimagined.”

Does that make the world and its chaos a little more understandable, if not manageable?

Think about the life you are living today with instant access to just about everything, thanks to technology. What about globalization and its impact on national and international policy, the economy and social interaction? Climate change incites heated debate, less about how to deal with it, but whether it exists at all. And it’s all happening at the same time at an ever-increasing pace.

Is political chaos, violence, terrorist threats – domestic and global – economic uncertainty, fear, and general unrest attributable to these rapidly accelerating factors? I haven’t done the research, but just by observation, I would respond with a resounding, yes!

The most influential of these three factors (for good or ill) is perhaps technology and our easy access to information. We have hardly absorbed one change when we are bombarded with information about not one but multiples of change in areas over which we have little or no influence. We are barely able to take in reports of one horror or disaster, before we see on our phones yet another. We can’t catch our breath between one new bit of flashy tech and the next. Do we even know the lasting impact of globalization? Climate change isn’t just a political debate; it is an earth-changing behemoth.

This is not seeming to me to be a book that leads to optimism, yet I get it that we must not ignore what is going on around us. We need to learn more and understand more if we are to survive, much less thrive, as a species.

Change, it would seem, no longer comes as a process; it’s more of a bulldozer. If you can’t adapt, you get run over. The reality check for most of us is that we are looking the other way, trying to pretend we can go back to “a simpler time.” We can’t go backward, but I believe we can go forward with deliberation and intention.

The acceleration of technology, globalization, and climate change is already reshaping society – the world, if you will. At one time, big change happened in a bit of a vacuum, rippling into mainstream society over time. Years, even decades could pass before the general population knew about a major innovation, like the aforementioned printing press. Can humankind reimagine and thrive amid supersonic changes? I have about 400 more pages to learn what Friedman thinks, but this is what I think: We can’t control the world; we can control how we live in the world. I guess that makes me an optimist.

–Sharon Vander Meer

For more about Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration, by Thomas L. Friedman, go to www.thomaslfriedman.com.


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I have shingles. Ugh!

 What I have learned:

  • Sharon VSince I found out two days ago, nearly every third person I’ve mentioned it to has had shingles, hence the staggering national average that says 40 percent of Americans will experience the itchy painful illness at some point in their lives.
  • Shingles is not the first thing that pops into a medical provider’s head when you go in complaining of an ear ache or other pain, especially when you are otherwise in excellent health. I saw three providers before I happened across an article my husband was reading about shingles shots. In reading it, I found that I had five of the eight symptoms listed. When I went to the ER here, I mentioned the possibility and guess what? By golly, Mrs. Vander Meer, you do have shingles!” I’m on meds and they are working, but I suffered about seven days of outrageous pain before treatment began.
  • Shingles does not always reveal as a cluster of pulpy sores as seen in medical site photos. It is on my scalp and hidden by my hair, which may be why nobody spotted it, despite my saying “My head is on FIRE!” But I digress. I’m much better now.
  • Stress IS a contributing factor. We all have stress and it doesn’t always lead to shingles, but let this be a reminder that every day counts, every moment can make or break you, don’t let tension rule your life.

I want to thank my friend Em Krall. When I was feeling my worst, she worked her magic and helped me get rid of a lot of tension.

I want to thank by friend Kathy Allen, who called last night out of the blue and made me laugh and feel her long-distance hug.

I want to thank my friend Mary Schipper, whose encouragement and positive outlook let me see the bigger picture. It’s more than “this too will pass,” it’s more about appreciating what you have right here, right now.

I want to thank my nephew and great nephew, Seth and Carter, for bringing us food and mail and newspapers.

Shingles is by no means life-threatening and most of us get through it without too much angst, but it does get your attention. The pain is indeed, painful. The blisters can be unsightly. The healing may end but neurological reactions may continue. There’s no guarantee you won’t get it again. (This is supposed to be the upside!) It does make you stop and think about being joy-filled and a joy to be around. I confess when this all started I was a bit of a grumpy puss, which is not like me at all. So, to anyone I snapped at, forgive me.

My poor husband has suffered from this as much as I have, maybe more. The poor guy has been house bound because I didn’t feel much like getting out, and I’m the official driver! Can anyone say CABIN FEVER! I’m mostly kidding. His greatest concern is for me, so I thank him most of all for being patient and doing everything he could to take care of me. I am truly blessed.

– Sharon on the mend


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My New Mexico

Sun on Snow - Fall 2019

Autumn warm, the kind inside your heart
when you sit comfortably by the hearth.
A brisk and stormy day
when snow crystals come out to play.
The gentle swell of joy comes along
giving all of life a happy song.

Autumn warm, a stirring of leaves,
winter has surprises up its sleeves!
Take in those splashes of color bright,
iridescent in Autumn’s light.
The aroma of chile roasting and pumpkin pie
gives us all an Autumn high!


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Tears are not enough

Sad situation

I’m working on an article for the Las Vegas Optic about animals – mostly dogs – in the most recent incident of a woman accused of animal hoarding. All I can say is, it’s heartbreaking. We do not have an animal in our home. The last dog we shared our house with was killed when he wandered out of our yard – despite our best efforts to keep him confined – and got run over. It was horrible. That was more than two decades ago. Our youngest son was in high school. It broke his heart, and ours. I vowed to never have a pet again. It was like losing part of the family.

The photo above is an aerial shot of the compound where 60 animals were sheltered, if that’s what you want to call it.

It is sad that anyone would knowingly create a situation in which animals were underfed (starved), medically neglected and caged in poor excuses for shelter. More troubling is the snail-pace judicial system that has resulted in a lengthy road to justice. The first incident occurred in January of this year. A second incident just a week ago, involved the same person. More than 60 animals were added to the 32 already under the care of the local animal shelter, a community resource that is stretched past its limits. Look for the Optic article, which will appear in the next week or so, which will talk about how you can help. In the mean time, if you are a Facebook user, you can find out more here. Looke for the DONATE button and conveniently give online.

Please help. Donate money or food. This is a serious situation. I commend the Animal Welfare Coalition and all it does to protect the animals who share this planet with us, but they can’t do it alone. They need our help.

Note: Photo of Rowe property from AWC Facebook page.


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A musing on aging gratefully

Yesterday I turned 75. Turned 75. That’s like referring to oneself as if you’re a tuna casserole that’s gone off.

I don’t feel a day over 75 – oh, right, I am a day over 75. I don’t think of myself as being old-ish. Okay, okay! Old! Even in middle age – 45 or so – I thought anything over 50 was ancient. The older I get, of course, the older young becomes.

Once, when told she didn’t look 40, Gloria Steinem reportedly said, “This is what 40 looks like.” This is what 75 looks like, wrinkled, a touch pudgy, and grey-haired.

I prefer to think of my hair as snowy, shot through with silver, but what do I know? I’ve never been one to gloss over reality, but I did go through the coloring my hair phase to take a few years off my appearance. Why? God knows. It was a pain in the butt and dried out my already-thin hair unmercifully. Plus – get real – my skin still looked papery and wrinkled.

I like being a grey goddess, a woman of a certain age who isn’t taken with the idea of forever young. I know, I can hear you laughing. A goddess I have never been. Wrinkles and grey hair don’t bother me. Not having something worthwhile to do bothers me. I want to be productive. I want to interact with others, not just my generation, but every generation. I still have lots to learn, and I even have a few things to teach.

Life is about the things you can do; it is not about the things you can’t. I will never be the great American novelist. I have neither the discipline for the talent. That doesn’t keep me from writing. It doesn’t keep me from sending in freelance articles for publication in hopes of being paid. It doesn’t stop the flow of words that demand to be put into a story.

Age does not stop us from wanting approval and feeling sad and rejected when we don’t get it. It must never stop us from loving what we do enough to get it out there and do it. Einstein didn’t stop because he got old; he stopped because he died.

Studies show that people who stay active doing the things they enjoy, live longer and are healthier than those who sit on the sidelines waiting for the next thing to happen, and expecting whatever it is, to be bad.

Life does get harder for many of us as we age, no doubt. Overcoming that isn’t easy, but making the effort is the difference between a life well-lived and one of despondency and loneliness. You don’t have to be the life of the party, just show up and participate. You have something to contribute. We all do. Getting old is not a card any of us should play to get out of living our best life now. Stephen Hawking didn’t and neither should we.

I am grateful for every day I’ve lived, even the ones that brought me to my knees, where I learned to lean on the Great Comforter and on my friends. I count every day a blessing, a gift, something to be opened with joy and anticipation. Seventy-five and counting! Thank you, Lord.


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5 Reasons you are important

Volunteers Wanted

When I go to meetings, I often see the same faces. These are dedicated folks who believe in making a difference, and who believe there is a difference to be made. They Will Rogerssometimes suffer criticism instead of praise for their efforts, but this does not deter them. They show up, give their opinions, lend their support, stand up for the promise of a better tomorrow, and forge ahead. They volunteer for business groups, animal welfare activities, social justice causes, civic improvement organizations, and anything else you can think of that will make your life and mine a little better. They don’t get paid, and most go unrecognized. These engines for change are the lifeblood of a vibrant community. If you aren’t currently working for the betterment of the community as a volunteer, here are a five reasons you might want to come to the next meeting of interest to you, and sit down at the table.

Ideas

Ideas are the seeds of change. Without ideas, there would be no iPad, iPhone, or iMac. There would be no interactive notebook that responds to a touch. There would be no music, no art, no books, no invention of any kind. It all begins with an idea. If you think your ideas aren’t important, think again. You can and will make a difference, but only if you are at the table.

Perspective

I’ve been at the table many times, perhaps too many times, some might say. My perspective comes from my frame of reference. I still believe my perspective has value, but so does yours. When decisions are being made your thoughts count. If you aren’t present, those thoughts won’t be heard, not because your perspective is being ignored, but because you aren’t there to present it.

Kick the lid off the box

It is an unfortunate fact of organizations that sometimes leaders become mired in procedure and process and forget their primary purpose, whatever that may be. The board and membership ages. Individual members become complacent or overburdened. In either case the lid must be kicked off the box so new energy, new leaders, new members can come pouring in. Leadership development is as critical as new ideas. Your presence and participation as a new volunteer can make that happen. You can learn from and be mentored by seasoned volunteers.

Your Experience

Nobody brings to the table what you bring. Your experience at every level will help inform and define the organization you become involved in. You will get out of it exactly what you put into it. Your experience will make the organization better and stronger for your participation.

Self-development

Getting acquainted with people you don’t ordinarily encounter is an excellent way to expand your horizons. Their energy, their ideas, their dedication will energize you, inspire you, and broaden your creativity. Studies have shown that people who are more involved and engaged in life are happier. Volunteering is good for you. So, come to the table. Be a part of making your community great. Just as seeds need water and sun to grow, organizations need your fresh ideas, perspective, and experience. They need you to kick the lid off the box and pour in your creativity and energy. And isn’t it encouraging to know you will benefit from the experience?


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My newest baby!

Thunder Prime, Hunter's LightYea! It is this close to publication! Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light, is the sequel to The Ballad of Bawdy McClure (now under the title Thunder Prime, Fog Island),published more years ago than I care to admit. Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light, has been a long time in the birthing.

Some readers will receive a print copy in the next week or so. Thank you to those who signed up to receive the episodes one-by-one over time as they posted on my website, www.vandermeerbooks.com. I hope you will all read the final version as some things have changed.

I can’t express how happy I am to get this into print. It’s a good read with strong characters and a story that could be told in any era, this just happens to occur in the distant future. I read somewhere that space novels are really nothing more than westerns with rockets in the cowboys’ pockets.

I don’t know about that, but in most westerns the good guy wins and rides off into the sunset with the girl. In this case, the cowboy is a girl and you’ll have to read the book to find out if she wins the day, and the guy.

Expected publication date: March 29, 2019. If you would like a review copy, please email sharon@vandermeerbooks.com. I will appreciate you posting your review in all the obvious places, and providing me with a link to the review.

The book will be available in paperback and ebook formats.


For more information or to pre-order Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light, email sharon@vandermeerbooks.com.

A creation story

Blanket Flower

 

God created people in his own image.
What an amazing thought.
The Spirit that permeates every molecule of creation
is in us as much as it is in
the nurturing soil that brings forth food,
the flowing streams that give life to all,
the neighbor who looks different
but who is of and from God, too.
We and they, are part of a woven blanket,
each thread laid in a pattern we cannot know or see,
which touches us as we touch the other threads.
Our actions
become part of the blanket,
the Spirit that covers us all.

Inspired by Genesis 1:27

Review

The Death of Bernadette Lefthand

The Death of Bernadette LefthandA good story is made up of a collection of elements, the most powerful is that magical thing called voice. Who is speaking and what is the storyteller saying from the heart to engage the reader? In The Death of Bernadette Lefthand, author Ron Querry nailed it with Gracie. As the primary source of insight into Bernadette’s life and tragic death, Gracie can’t know everything, so we get to hear from a few other perspectives. But at the core, this is as much Gracie’s story as it is Bernadette’s.

Through Gracie’s eyes we get to see her sister’s world falling apart, attributable to human foible as much as anything, but assigned to fable and witchcraft Native American style, with Singers/medicine men making chilling appearances that portend no good thing.

Gracie reveals the meanness of living on a reservation with little to rely on other than family and tradition. She is not described, but you get the sense of a young woman whose appeal lies in the heart, not in outward appearance. Without guile or jealousy, she concedes to her lovely sister all the attributes she does not have. Her admiration of Bernadette’s spirit, her beauty, her charm, her talent dancing to the music of the drums, all serve to create the love story between sisters. Gracie seems content in Bernadette’s shadow, as though it is the perfectly logical place for her to be. In this shadowland, perhaps she sees what’s coming before anyone else can as Bernadette’s handsome Navajo husband’s life takes a nosedive into the bottle.

The bittersweet truth of the novel is the unanswered question of whether the bad buy gets his comeuppance. It’s left to the reader to decide, but I like to believe that in this good-vs-evil story, evil met his doom in fitting Native American fashion.

The Death of Bernadette Lefthand was first published in 1993 and won the Border Regional Library Association Southwest Book Award and the 1994 Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association Book Award. It has since received critical acclaim for the author’s ability to depict the intersection between white and native worlds.

Regarding this 25th anniversary edition of The Death of Bernadette Lefthand, Kirkus Reviews wrote: This…beautiful story deserves to be back on the bookshelves of American readers with its innovative, organic use of Indigenous prose form and strong, lovely personalities.

The Death of Bernadette Lefthand is published by Cinco Puntos Press and is available online and in bookstores.

Querry lives in Northern New Mexico in a century-old Queen Anne Victorian house, with his wife, fine art photographer Elaine Querry, and their three cow dogs.


Cover image from Cinco Puntos Press

 

Book Review

Haunted Santa Fe

Haunted Santa FeIt’s that time of year when ghosties, goblins and ghouls come out of the woodwork. Literally according to Haunted Santa Fe, a historical overview of legends and lore born of real people living real lives, and then in the afterlife returning with spectral visitations that make things go bump in the night.

What I like about Ray John de Aragón’s wonderful book is how he ties history to these legendary figures. His richly told accounts stir the mind to a time long before statehood, when many cultures were streaming into New Mexico to join the native peoples already here, not always with favorable outcomes. The tales recounted in Haunted Santa Fe reveal that cultural montage with Martyr Mysteries, Koko Man, Julia Staab, the Forlorn Spirit, La Llorona, and Billy Bonney’s Ghost, among others.

He is an educator who uses stories to bring life to northern New Mexico’s deep and wide history, whether he is delving into fiction, writing nonfiction, or creating a melding of the two. The most interesting tales come from a grain of truth. Aragon broadens the horizon of his prose in Haunted Santa Fe to engage the reader and perhaps elicit a shiver or two.

A native Las Vegan, he brings authenticity to his work by drawing on his roots and remembered stories told to him by elders in his family over the years. Haunted Santa Fe is one of fifteen books he has authored. He has written for or been featured in more than one hundred publications.

As a traveling storyteller, Aragón has thrilled audiences with his frightening and enthralling tales of ghosts and the supernatural. Holding advanced degrees in Spanish colonial history, arts, legends and myths of New Mexico, he has presented on these topics for the New Mexico History Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the University of New Mexico, the College of Santa Fe and many more. His books are available at online retailers or in bookstores.