Hunting Waterfalls, and other stuff

It’s August and the summer is flying by!
My backyard is beckoning.

It’s time for a technology break
as my hubby and I hunt Oregon waterfalls.

We need to get some yard work done too,
and honestly, these guys aren’t much help.

Time to join neighbors for the picnics and festivals
that we cram into our itty-bitty summer.

Wishing you many lovely days ahead.
I’ll “read” you in two weeks!

Separating Immigrant Children from Parents

This child was not removed from her mother at the border, but her cries demonstrate the stress these children are under even without being separated from their parents. Time Magazine cover.

This isn’t a political blog. And yet there are times when it’s vital to speak out and use whatever platforms we have available. This is such a time.

The US is in the midst of a moral crisis as the Trump Administration continues a border policy that results in the systematic abuse of immigrant children. Many Americans, of both parties and of all faiths and walks of life, are horrified, and we are doing what we can to support these children and their families by sharing our outrage, time, talent, and treasure.

There are some people who insist that these children are just fine. And physically, that may be true. But that comment conveys a lack of understanding about the emotional development of a child and the impact of extreme stress on these young lives. That’s what I hope to address in this post.

I used to work as a mental health counselor for children ages 0-5. Many of my cute little clients were from unstable environments where they were exposed to periods of prolonged stress. My goal as a counselor was to work with parents to reduce stress levels for the child by enhancing stability and predictability in the home, by fostering a sense of safety and trust in caregivers, and by strengthening the parent-child bond. This was the work of creating healthy, happy, socially successful children.

A bit of biology:

Under stress, the human brain is flooded with a hormone called cortisol, which puts the brain on high-alert for a fight, flight, or withdrawal response. In well-adjusted adults, once a stressful event passes, the cortisol levels go down and the brain resumes normal functioning.

Unlike adults, children don’t have the life experience to manage high levels of stress successfully. They require the support of a nurturing caregiver to process stress and regulate emotions (to manage that cortisol). This is often accomplished through cuddles, soft assurances, and tender minding. Over time, this repetitive loving support teaches children how to manage stress on their own.

Why is this important?

Because children’s brains are still developing. Young children who are exposed to prolonged stress can experience a PERMANENT elevation in the baseline cortisol level in their brains. This can cause difficulty with emotional regulation, difficulty calming down, hyperactivity, withdrawal, and difficulty with concentration and learning. These challenges can persist into adulthood and make life much harder to manage successfully. The good news is that prevention is as simple as a loving parent.

(For more on baby-brains, here’s an old post called Why Love Matters).

Many of the immigrant children entering the US come from some of the most dangerous countries in the world. After a frightening journey, they arrive in an unfamiliar land where they don’t speak the language and don’t know where they will end up. They are severely stressed to begin with, and the only thing that they have to hold onto, the only thing that gives them any sense of safety and dependability is mom or dad’s hand. When that is ripped away, trauma is piled on top of trauma.

The US immigration policy of separating children from their parents is damaging to these children and shameful on the part of the US government. It subjects mothers, fathers, teenagers, children, and babies to unnecessary trauma and debilitating stress.

Please be aware, too, that many of these people are seeking asylum, which is LEGAL in the US. Under the current policy, they are considered guilty until proven innocent.

And this crisis is not over by any means:

1) Though children are no longer being removed from their parents at the border (for now), there are thousands of children who have been separated from their parents, and there are no concrete plans in place for reunification.

2) The Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policy is incarcerating parents regardless of their family circumstances, and by law, children cannot be jailed for more than 20 days. What happens when the 20 days are up?

3) Keep an eye out for efforts to terminate parental rights and put young children up for adoption. Parental rights can be terminated if a parent doesn’t keep in contact with their child. Deported parents who don’t know where their children are or parents who are unable to maintain a relationship due to incarceration are at high risk of permanently losing their children.

A tough immigration policy does not need to be cruel.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” – Hebrews 13:2

My Bossy Muse

My muse. Image purchased from shutterstock

I’m polishing up the last bits of Soul Swallower and Legacy of Souls when I hear the clomp of my muse’s heavy boots on my writing-room stairs. I haven’t seen her since September 2016 when she gave me an ultimatum about finishing up The Rose Shield series. It was that or she was going to quit.

Well, I finished it in the spring of 2017 and took the summer off to rest. Instead of popping the cork on a bottle of champagne, she hired a mercenary muse, and abruptly my break was over. The guy was a hulking brute with a bad attitude and worse breath. And not only did he expect me to get writing, but he forced me to exercise.

Amazing artwork by Peter Pham

I can’t imagine what this visit is going to bring, and I brace myself. The door opens and the muse walks in as if she owns the place. She’s decked out in her clunky boots, and she’s carrying that magical staff that I still don’t know how to use since she never shares.

“You haven’t written sci-fi in years,” she remarks, having read my mind. I hate it when muses do that.

“I’ll bet you stopped by to congratulate me on the new books,” I say with a smug smile and flash the yummy covers. “They’re just about ready to go.”

“I’m not here to pamper you, Peach. That’s your husband’s job.” She settles onto a metal quasi-throne with rusted pipes that suddenly materializes against the wall.

I grimace at the contraption. “You know, I hope that’s not permanent. I just cleaned the place up after the bats!”

She ignores me and leans forward, elbows on her knees. “I’m here to talk about the next books.”

“What next books?” Oh, oops. Yeeesh. I wince. “Oh, yeah. Um…”

“Exactly.” Her eyes are blue today and they shoot icicles into my skin. “You’re a few weeks away from finishing the latest series, and you haven’t even thought about the next one.”

“I’ve been really busy!” I cross my arms and huff. “And it’s not like there are any real deadlines.”

“Except mine.” She raises an eyebrow. “You know I have other authors to manage. And there are plenty more in line looking for some guidance.”

“Looking for a taskmaster more like it,” I mutter under my breath and give her a fake smile. I know she heard it or heard me think it. “I can’t believe you have other authors. I thought you were all mine.”

She rolls her eyes. I scratch my head and blow out a breath. “Sorry. You’re right. I haven’t even thought about the next one, and I’ve got nothin’, zippo, squat. I don’t even have a starting place. I need your help.”

“That’s more like it.” Her shoulders relax now that I’ve been thoroughly cowed. “I want you to start thinking about shapeshifters. They’ve been on your mind.”

It’s true. “I can think about them.”

She narrows her eyes at me, but gives the wise-guy comment a pass. “And goblins.”

“Shapeshifters and goblins?” I twist my face. “That’s ridiculous. They don’t go together. I need a new muse.” I laugh but she doesn’t. “You can’t be serious. Are you serious?”

“You can make it work. I want betrayals, lies, manipulation. I want you to make things miserable for your characters and then make them worse. I want twists, flaws, nobility, and redemption.”

I don’t know what to say. My muse has totally lost it. What comes out of my mouth is, “Okay.”

“Good. Three books, two years. It’s a gift.”

I calculate the time frame in my head. It’s not bad. But shapeshifters and goblins?

She gets to her feet, tall and powerful. “Congrats on the latest books, by the way.” The metal throne thing disappears, and suddenly she’s changing, her form taking a new shape. A shapeshifter? She winks a feline eye and pads out the door.

The wheels in my head start turning…

pixabay image compilation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best-laid plans of mice and men…

Tornado Boy and Big Foot

…often go awry.

Well, I’m back to blogging after 19 days away, and a little Steinbeck seemed appropriate.

My best-laid plans for a memory-making family reunion fell apart as my parents canceled at the last minute due to health concerns.  That kicked off a bit of rushing around and a series of phone calls, new arrangements, and a beach rental we couldn’t back out of. Revised travel plans followed and, in August we’ll all head to my parents’ hometown in Colorado for another attempt. Airfare, hotels, rental cars, and long drives will end in a whirlwind visit since many of us used our vacation time for the reunion that didn’t happen.

But all was not lost…

When best-laid plans invariably
go awry
we cancel what we can
and with nothing pressing to do

we pack up and drive west
anyway
where too late to cancel
the beach house beckons

across the dunes of marram grass and wild roses
warm sand sifts like finely ground pepper
and the waves curl in hungry white ringlets
chase and soak us in our rush to shore
springtide cold despite the sun and kite-flying winds


we build drip castles with moats and bridges
a path for goblin scooters and pit for trapping zombies
guarded by trolls magicked into stone sentries
we collect crab claws and broken shells,
brittle sand dollars and mysterious arm bones


we build a Zen garden with scavenged rocks
balanced in crooked towers on striated sand
and the wind carves gullies while overnight strangers
add to our stones and our garden grows

tea with cranberry honey and birthday cake ice cream
carousels, waffle cones, and oysters on the boardwalk
bonfires, chocolate and marshmallow s’mores
board games and card games, stories
where mermaids sing of magic potions and wings
before the tide fills our holes
sand on the floor, in our beds, between our toes

and nothing pressing to do but
eat well, laugh well, and sleep well
all because
of best-laid plans
gone awry

 

 

A Blogging Break & The right way to write?

The Peach Clan Reunion is fast approaching, and a break from blogging is in order. My parents are coming for 2+ weeks. They’re in their upper 80’s, and their health has declined over the past couple years. My brother and I have planned a 4-generation gathering.

Needless to say, it’s going to be a busy time – beach, Iris Festival, bonfires, crab-bakes, and lots of loud talking since my mom is vision-impaired and my dad is hearing-impaired. I’ll be focusing on them and making sure that we all have a wonderful time making memories.

Since I won’t be around for almost 3 weeks (Wowza), I leave you with a beautiful post by blogger Sue Vincent. I hope you hop over to read.

I’ve closed comments here since I’m off to the airport to pick the folks up. I’ll see you soon. ❤

The right way to write?

by Sue Vincent

There was a bit of a conversation going on yesterday over at Serendipity about finding your voice as a writer. It is something with which many writers are preoccupied and with reason. Your voice is your signature. The tone, the flow, even the choice or repetition of words will, if you are lucky, make your work appeal to a reader.

For a writer, the best thing in the world is to know you have been read and that what you have written has been enjoyed or has struck a chord with a reader. Most of the time, we just don’t know… a book goes out into the world and we hear very little unless we are fortunate enough to get a review. Sales don’t matter in that respect… they only show that a book has been bought…you still don’t know whether they were even read. The odd review or a comment always feel like a gift. And sometimes, they make you glow.

When someone mentioned that his Mum likes my work, it felt as good as winning a major literary prize.  I have also been paid what must be one of the ultimate compliments as a writer… I have been quoted. Am I bragging? Not exactly… though the memory always makes me glow and I struggle to find words to express the odd mix of pride, gratitude and honour such moments make you feel. You never know, when you put pen to paper, how your words will fare out there in the world or whether they will reach the readers… perhaps that one particular and unknown reader… for whom they were written. So moments like these are priceless…

Continue Reading: The right way to write?

Bats in the Writer’s Belfry

pixabay

I have a three-season writing room. Four-season, if I light the wood stove and heat the place up. Finishing the roughed-in room over my husband’s workshop was one of the first projects I undertook when moving to the wilderness of Oregon.

Wilderness naturally entails a plentitude of wildlife, and my writing room has endured its share of feathered, winged, and furry visitors.

I love it when the hummingbirds fly in the window and hover over my head before zipping out again.

I didn’t even mind when the walls filled with wasps. The room vibrated with a soft hum while I sat peacefully among them and wrote. After two years of friendly buzzing around my head, they mysteriously moved out all on their own.

Then the bats moved in.

We are a bat-friendly household even though Nature Boy (aka the husband) has watched a few too many Dracula movies. He swears that “Batty” swoops at him as he runs the gauntlet from the door to the car every morning.

For two years, the bats and their buddies have been partying in my writing room, and it didn’t look like they intended to take a hint from the wasps and relocate any time soon. In fact, they were inviting their friends to take up residence. It was getting a little crowded, and though bat poop isn’t horrifyingly gross, it’s still gross.

So, a week ago, it was time for Batty and his buds to git.

The first task was to plug up their access to the room, which meant closing the gaps around the windows and doors, hauling the nail gun and compressor up there and securing the wooden slats on the ceiling. I knew where they were getting in because I could see the grubby mess left by their little hands and feet. Eeek.

Then I needed to find them. In US politics, you follow the money; when seeking bats, you follow the poop.

Photo by John Pearce via Flickr

I found two tiny fellows, no bigger than my thumb, hanging behind my picture frames.  I opened the door and windows, and fitted with gloves, nudged the little guys from their roosts. That probably wasn’t the best idea, because I found myself in a small room ducking and weaving as two bats flitted, swooped, and dove around my head.

The dummies had no idea where the windows and door were, and all three of us were in a bit of a panic. I considered running out of the room screaming, but I feared they’d simply find a new place to hide. And honestly, I’ve never been particularly scared of wild animals, so I stayed and encouraged them with a kind voice to scram!

Finally, Batty and his cousin flitted out the window and I slammed the thing shut quick!  After that, it was a matter of a deep clean, and my writing room is ready for the summer. It’s been a week and no new visitors… yet.

Bat Friendly Facts from the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and me:

  • Oregon’s bats do not turn into vampires.
  • They eat only insects. An adult bat eats about 1,000 insects every hour!
  • Bats hang upside down because it gives them an ideal position for take-off.
  • Bats can fly 20 to 30 miles an hour and travel more than 100 miles a night.
  • A baby bat is called a pup because it’s so cute and furry.
  • Bats are not birds.
  • They’re the only flying mammal.

 

March For Our Lives

David Hogg, (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Most of my followers have heard me mention a time or two that my youngest brother was a victim of gun violence. Fifteen years ago this summer, he was shot in the head inside his home. There was no national coverage, no thoughts and prayers from politicians. He was just another gun death among the thousands that occur in the US every year, most so routine that we never hear about them.

These days, there are too many to report.
Mass shootings 2018 to date: 69
School shootings 2018 to date: 12

Approximately 33,000 Americans die from guns every year, that’s the equivalent of a 9/11 every month. On average that’s 96 gun-deaths each and every day. The statistics are plentiful and horrifying.

“March for Our Lives” rally March 24, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

When I was a grief counselor for children and families, I witnessed the long-term effects of grief as a result of violence. In addition to the common physical, emotional, and spiritual responses to a death, violence piles on an extra layer of cruelty. Because someone did it on purpose. Someone made the choice to pull a trigger and steal a future, not only from the person who died but from everyone within his or her circle of friends and family.

For the survivors that loss doesn’t occur just once, but over and over again through the years in a long series of absences and missing and longing for what might have been and will never be. Because someone had access to a gun and didn’t care.

In this country, no one is safe from gun violence, including thousands of children. After 20 tiny kids and 6 teachers were murdered in Sandy Hook, I thought my nation might say enough is enough.

It didn’t.

Gun laws were relaxed. The shootings continued unabated. Our lawmakers offered platitudes and stuck to their guns, both literally and figuratively. What does an inability to even attempt to protect our children say about us as a country?

Then yesterday, teenagers took over. Eloquent, angry, committed, organized, passionate, they challenged our leaders to change or kiss their privileged careers goodbye. And these kids won’t take no for an answer. For me, they triggered tears of old loss and new hope. I was so proud of them. These children restored my faith in my country. Finally, finally, I feel the momentum. Change is coming.

Finally, my brother’s death counts. Finally his one hatch-mark in the sea of statistics matters.

Enough is enough.

The last photo of my brothers and me together, 2002