Big Wheels in a Bountiful Era

big wheel from the 1970s love

Growing up in the 1970s was a fun time.  Aside from my daily attempts in creating various flying apparatuses, I had this amazing machine that took me everywhere with the pumping of its pedals.  It only had an emergency brake, but it was employed when it was absolutely necessary, which was never.  Its colors were a daring yellow, patriotic blue, and powerful red.  The machine had an adjustable seat, and for decoration, streamers sprouted from its handles.

This powerful, glorious machine was called a Big Wheel because the front and back wheels were…well…BIG.  They ran over anything in their path, flattening these things as thin as tracing paper.

Many mornings if I wasn’t scraping my metal-wheeled roller skates (I got the rubber wheels later) across the asphalt at six a.m. (you know the neighbors loved that), I’d hop on my power vehicle and pedal down the side walk (or pavement, depending on where we were living at the time), ready to ride the day away.

If anyone tried to harass me by chasing after me via foot or bike, I’d take off on my trusty Big Wheel, squealing out of the vicinity, sparks snapping off my back monster wheels, a dusty cloud floating in my wake.  Blind from the dust and stunned by the super sonic speed of my Big Wheel, my bullies were left to wallow in defeat.

Years later when I no longer could fully fit in the seat of my beloved machine, I’d clasp its worn handles, place one sneaker on its seat, and push with the other, transforming it into a type of stylish and speedy scooter.  Alas, eventually, my trusty transport had to retire and live with its buddies in the hallowed halls of Big Wheel Memories…memories that stay with me forever.

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Breaking from Writing and the Consequences

writing exhaustion pic

What if I stop writing for a while?  What if taking this hiatus is not because I have no choice but precisely because I do?

About a month ago, I’d reached writing and creativity exhaustion, so much so that even when I’d forced myself to write at least a few sentences or a paragraph, nothing but stale, dry, lifeless words settled on the page.

You see, at this time, I’d finished my current revisions and my editor had done her thing in supplying me with superb proofreading, editing, and suggestions for my characters and plot for my novel, Passage of Promise.

But at the same time, I’d entered my subsequent university course in fascinating American Art.  It was one of the required general education exploration courses available for me to choose. My courses are eight weeks long.  By mid term, the college load was like swimming in an ever deepening pool, and the massive reading assignments and associated linked reading material were pulling me under.

drowning underwater pool

Overwhelmed by keeping up with my novel’s plot additions, blog posts, essays, and colossal pages to peruse and jot down notes, it was time for me to slide one of these on the shelf.

Permanently? you ask.  I sure hope not.

When you struggle with general anxiety and menopausal symptoms that trigger it (along with blood sugar issues), your brain can only take in so many mental activities at a time.  I’d reached my limit.

When this happened, I closed up my manuscript on Word, and dread hit me as I remembered the eighteen-year hiatus from writing that was broken in September 2014…not so long ago.  Was I going to end up disconnected from my writing another eighteen years?

This concern prompted me to look up information on authors/writers taking breaks.  I found a couple of articles that gave me a great sense of relief.

What I learned is breaks are not only acceptable, but necessary to regenerate your creative juices and thought processes.  And we writers make the choice on how long that break will be.  It could be a day, a week, a month, or months.

I know this is alarming and sounds close to anathema considering how often we hear and read in the writing world the mantra stressing writing at least something daily.

But please keep reading.

Via a Writer’s Edit article, it says, “If you are at the point where you are forcing a story, take this as a sign to take a break from it.”  This gave me a chance to exhale.

cartoon girl sitting in hammock

(credit:  GetDrawings.com)

The author of that article also stressed not losing the joy of writing.  Well, I’d forgotten the joy of writing.  It had become the equivalent of cramming for final exams since it was juxtaposed with my college course load.

However, another reassuring perspective came from The Writing Cooperative’s author, Ryan J. Pelton’s article on this subject, stating, “You are not weak, uncommitted, and not a true writer if you take breaks.  You will not forget how to write.”  I could sit back calmly with this tidbit.

These breaks can be used for relaxing and cleaning out your brain, for continued reading for pleasure, and an upcoming chance for new, fresh characters and storylines to surface that can be noted for later.

My plan at this time is to pick up on my novel and other writing projects after I graduate from my university at the end of October.  Then I will be free to pursue my writing without college assignment pressures.  This is my tentative schedule, and each of us makes our own.

So, if you’re feeling burnt out, or you have nothing left, take a much needed break that is as long as you choose, and look forward to sparkling, vivid tales in the very near future.

 

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Works Cited
Writer’s Edit.  “Why Taking Writing Breaks Is Important.” writersedit.com.  https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/taking-writing-breaks-important/
Pelton, Ryan J.  “Put Down the Pen and Step Away (rest for writers).”  The Writing Cooperative.  https://writingcooperative.com/put-down-the-pen-and-step-away-rest-for-writers-44a98971db4b

 

A Slave & Poet

phillis wheatley pic

Have you ever heard of the remarkable woman, Phillis Wheatley?  I hadn’t until I read a little blurb in my university course’s textbook on American Art.  I finished this course last week.  There had been a lot of heavy reading and writing, but chock full of rich and beautiful artwork and information.

Phillis was born about 1753 in Senegal/Gambia, West Africa.  She was kidnapped around age eight and transported on a slave ship to the United States.  The captain of the ship discovered little Phillis was a fragile girl not suited for hard labor when they’d stopped at the first two ports of call, the West Indian and Southern colonies while crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  The captain believed her to be terminally ill.  Landing in Boston, Massachusetts, the captain wanted at least some financial compensation before Phillis’ death.  He got his wish.  A prominent Boston tailor purchased Phillis for her to be his wife’s domestic servant (Poetry Foundation).

Although frail, Phillis’ health did improve a bit, disproving the sea captain’s belief that she was terminally ill.

The Wheatleys found Phillis to be precocious, so they taught her how to read and write.  Soon, the young, intelligent girl was engrossed in various subjects, such as astronomy, history, the Bible, and classic British, Greek, and Latin literature.  But Phillis desired to learn more and stated so in her poem called “To the University of Cambridge in New England,” that was most likely her first poem written but wasn’t published until 1773 (Poetry Foundation).

Phillis wrote a poetic elegy for the Reverend George Whitefield that brought her international recognition.  It was published as a pamphlet in 1771 with Ebenezer Pemberton’s funeral sermons for Whitefield in London that was distributed in Boston, Philadelphia, and Newport (Poetry Foundation).

In February 1772 at age 18, Phillis had collected twenty-eight of her poems and with the help of Mrs. Wheatley, ran ads in Boston periodicals for sponsors.  But the colonists refused to support her because she was an African.  Frustrated by this, Phillis and the Wheatleys looked to London.  Phillis sent the Whitefield poem to Countess of Huntingdon, Selina Hastings, who was a parishioner of Reverend Whitefield.  A backer of abolitionist and evangelical causes, the countess connected bookseller Archibald Bell with Wheatley to prepare for a book of her poems (Poetry Foundation).

Suffering from asthma, Phillis traveled to London with the Wheatley’s son, Nathaniel, and was welcomed by several English dignitaries and also Benjamin Franklin.  Her collection of poems, Poems of Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was published in 1773 (Poetry Foundation).

Phillis Wheatley’s work was the first book of poetry by an African American published in that period (Poetry Foundation)!

phillis wheatley sculpture

Phillis did write a few poems against slavery.  Below is an excerpt from a poetic eulogy to General David Wooster in which she spoke strongly about the wrongs of slavery (Poetry Foundation).

But how, presumptuous shall we hope to find
Divine acceptance with th’ Almighty mind—
While yet (O deed Ungenerous!) they disgrace
And hold in bondage Afric’s blameless race?
Let Virtue reign—And thou accord our prayers
Be victory our’s, and generous freedom theirs.

On Phillis’ trip back to America, Mrs. Wheatley had fallen very ill.  Phillis was made a free woman approximately three months before Mrs. Wheatley’s death on March 3, 1774.  She married and spent the rest of her life in financial hardship but still managed to continue writing her poems until she fell ill and died in 1784.

Thankfully, Phillis Wheatley’s memory and poems live on.

Here’s one of her most famous poems (a short one) titled Being Brought From Africa to America:

‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negro’s, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

I enjoyed learning about this famous, amazing African American female slave who rose in respect and accolades because of her beautiful writing and being the first African American in modern times to have her work published, that was admired by such prominent Americans as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and John Hancock (Poetry Foundation).

 

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Works Cited
Poetry Foundation.  “Phillis Wheatley:  1753-1784.”  https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/phillis-wheatley

 

When Art & Math Unite

colored fractal

In 2015 through my online college, I took a required general education math course on math concepts for which I chose thinking I could maybe get through that seeing how horribly I did in math in my high school years.  That most math above the basics was something to avoid and something appearing too foreign like a lost prehistoric language with strange and cryptic symbols.

Ahem…All you math geniuses out there, please humor me and follow me through this post.

How naive I was to think math concepts would be easier.  So many of these concepts I’d never heard of before, but by week two, I was to choose one for my final 10-page paper on this concept.

This discovery caused me great anxiety, and I wrung my hands and shed tears of fear and panic allowing these scary unfamiliar math theories and formulas to balloon up to a major overwhelming hurdle over which I didn’t believe I could jump.

I beseeched my advisor that perhaps it had been a mistake to take this class, and really, I needed to go back to square one and take a basic algebra class first before my brain could wrap itself around any of these heady applications.

But alas, I’d missed the window to withdrawal from the course and with a gulp and shaky body, I braced myself for the onslaught of cryptic, confusing, symbolic hell.

By week two, I was introduced to the Fibonacci sequence, and immediately, my mind was blown.  The same numbers (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …) found on pinecones were found on other objects in nature, such as flower petals and the nautilus. Yes, I’m sure you all already knew this, but for me, this was all new and fascinating!

Cool video by Khan Academy on the Fibonacci Sequence:

(credit to Khan Academy)

There was a dark, cobwebbed, spongy crevice in my brain that opened up like the detachable hood off of a convertible, and God’s universe glistened bright and infinitely vast before me.  The mathematical number sequence and how it joined with nature screamed the hands of God, for nothing perfect in this world can be accidental or just be.  Something perfect has to be created by Someone Perfect–God.

Suddenly, math had taken on a totally different view for me, and I liked it.

Reading over and looking up the meaning of the list of math concepts in which we students were to choose from, I finally chose the knot theory because it sounded less scary and perhaps even something my simple, elementary math brain could comprehend.

So, for the next few weeks, in between weekly assignments, I read the history of knot theory, its formulas, how it’s used in life, and watched videos of professors teaching the knot theory by scribbling many different knots on the chalk board and explaining the negative and positive integers used in them.  Frankly, I enjoyed watching those lectures!

While researching how the knot theory is used in life, such as in our DNA and mountain climbing, I was pleasantly surprised to find it in art, and not just any art, art by sculptor, John Robinson.

immortality sculpture

The first one shown above titled Immortality, sculpted in 1982, resembles a trefoil knot.  The meaning behind this great work of art is profound and beautiful.  He created this trefoil to represent the three generations of his family, he being the oldest of the three.  It shows the continuous movement and connection through time, becoming infinite.  Robinson said, “I believe that Immortality is made up of one’s memories of the past, as well as those one leaves behind.  I see this Symbolic Sculpture not only as a continuous journey, but also the scroll of which all life’s experiences (DNA) is recorded.”

rhythm of life pic

In the second picture, his sculpture, Rhythm of Life,  was also done in 1982. When creating this piece, he had wrapped a ribbon around an inner tire tube.  The last wrap was the fourth time around, and it returned to its original starting point.  Ronnie Brown, an English mathematician, had explained that this happens in Torus knots in math.  Robinson said, “I created the sculpture about the time that the miracle of DNA had just been discovered, and for me, this delightful flowing ribbon summed up the continuity of Genes.  I found I could balance the 18-inch maquette on a single point.”

Through this math course that was called The Heart of Math, I truly learned there was a lot of heart to it, and a lot of soul and beauty.  It may have taken decades for me to have found an appreciation for math via this class, but I’m just grateful I did discover it.

 

Works Cited
Symbolic Sculpture:  The Collected Works of John Robinson.  (n.d.).  Rhythm of Life.  Symbolic Sculpture:  The Collected Works of John Robinson.  Retrieved from
http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/jr/rhythm_of_life.php

 

Steadying Your Creative Flame

candle flame

 

What’s all this effort for?

When you look at what you wrote and it’s a bore.

You’ve lost the creative spark

That drew you out of the dark.

You’d created so many tales

That you believed kept you on the scrawling rails.

But that was three years ago,

When your passion was again aglow.

Now the embers of your exhausted endeavor,

Are giving off the last flick of light ever.

Confusion, fear, and sadness cloud your head,

At the thought that your life passion is dead.

What was it all for?

To come to a place you abhor?

No.

Rather, you realize the time has come,

To take a needed respite

For your mind to be relit

In the days and weeks ahead,

Because you refuse to believe your craft is dead.

 

Culture of Death

gun violence in movies

If we Americans are completely honest with ourselves, we’d know and admit without relish or doubt that our culture is a culture of death.

Why do I call American culture a culture of death?  Well, it’s what I’ve observed in many venues:  news media, movies, video games, mass shootings, school shootings, disregard of the unborn and elderly, lack of healthcare for everyone, our foreign policy, and profits before people.  This is a huge issue, but I’d like to touch on a few of these as best as I can.

But first, I want to share the bumper sticker on a car my husband and I saw on the way to the grocery store.  It read:  Fight Crime.  Shoot Back.  <– This is a perfect example to show it is the epitome of the mindset, generally viewed by those able to look outside the “American lens,” and see objectively, I believe, the American culture.

School Shootings/Mass Shootings

We all know school shootings have increased over the past fifty years. I, like all my fellow American citizens, struggle to understand why this is happening so much, and what can be done about it.  Something has changed to cause these mass killings to have multiplied greatly in the past several decades.  A few elements people have discussed and that I think contribute to this and make up our culture of death follow.

Mental Illness

Some people have said it’s mental illness of shooters that are the root cause of the mass shootings in our society.  Of course, it’s logical to come to the conclusion that if a person decides to spray hundreds of bullets through the halls and classrooms of schools or other public buildings that there are probably psychological problems going on with the child/person.  But were there no people with mental health problems one hundred years ago?  A couple of centuries ago?  Did mental health disorders pop up one century and grow from there?  I don’t think so.  There have always been humans that have suffered debilitating mental illnesses.

In the past decade or two, our younger generation has been suffering specifically from anxiety and depression, and rises in autism and other related illnesses are a tragic fact.  Why are these mental illnesses growing?

There are some factors such as heavy involvement in social media and family issues with regards to anxiety and depression in our young adults.  But how are these illnesses linked to violent behavior and actions of school/mass shooters?

I think what’s important to point out is that in the article, “The Myth That Mental Illness Causes Mass Shootings,” it says “research over the last 30 years has consistently shown that diagnosable mental illnesses does not underlie most gun violence,” and “only one percent of the population is psychopathic.” Of course, what about those not diagnosed?  I don’t know, but according to this article, mental health problems are a very small contributing factor in mass shootings.  So, what else is going on here?

Gun Problems

Is it access to guns?  The parents of the teen/child who shoots up a school were lax in locking their gun cabinet?  Failed to teach their children gun safety?  Perhaps it’s the issue of the types of guns being used…those that shoot out hundreds of ammunition in a few seconds time.  Yes, I agree that’s a problem.  The subject of bump stocks that can be attached to a gun and turn it into an alternate automatic weapon has been brought up by the public as a real concern.  Certainly, I agree with banning these types of accessories to guns and assault weapons.  They don’t belong in civilian homes and are absolutely inhumane for hunting purposes.  But aside from these types of semi-automatic, or the ones that nearly become or do become automatic weapons with some tweaking and adding to these guns, guns have been around since the pilgrims stepped onto American soil several centuries ago.  Sure, they were single-shot rifles/muskets and such, but I don’t recall reading in our early history of people randomly shooting up a theater, school, or any other public building in nearly epidemic proportions in the first few centuries of our American existence.

Capital Punishment

How about the message of terminating a person’s life if he/she committed a murder or murders?  I’ve touched on this in a previous blog post, but it is relevant to this subject.  This, too, shows the element of death as a way to punish people who have committed horrible crimes.  The death penalty has existed since America’s inception.  For all the proud claims made by some Americans about this country being founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs and values, an eye for an eye ideology is not a Christian tenet.

My dad was an Air Force lawyer and judge for thirty years.  When I was a teen, out of curiosity without any real solid opinion on this issue, I asked my dad if the death penalty deters people from wanting to commit a murder.  I will tell you that my always supported the death penalty, and still in his honest response (he’s always been an honest man with great integrity) was “No, it doesn’t.”  I’ve never forgotten that.

Where’s the Mercy?

There’s an element of mercy missing in many corners of our society, whether it be the death penalty, abortion, caring for the elderly, healthcare, poverty, treating people with mental illness, or helping those with drug addictions.  Mercy is absent, generally speaking in the culture as a collective whole.  Of course, you can find mercy and goodness in individual Americans, but that information seems to not be the one that permeates the air waves or reaches globally, or is shown in the graphically-violent movies in the United States.  There are many reasons why I don’t agree with capital punishment–the wrong person is put to death; killing someone who’s murdered someone doesn’t bring back the person who was murdered, and it cuts the criminal’s chance for repentance. Incarceration is sufficient (although, we need to abolish private prisons for profit).

Entertainment Industry

So, now we segue into the entertainment industry’s production of graphic, violent movies and video games.  Are these to blame for the increase in school shootings (and mass shootings?)  There has been mixed data on how violent video games and films affect kids and teens, but a majority of the studies thus far in this infant research do show that graphic violence in video games affect children and some teens that may cause them to act aggressive to others, and they become desensitized to the pain of others.  A University of Alabama study on the effects of violent video games and film said that the violent behavior of the persons after watching these violent films/video games stayed with them for some time, and didn’t just disappear after seeing the movie/video game.  The comments from this study conclude with cautioning parents “that immature and/or aggressive children should not have access to violent films.” That statement is one that all psychologists agree with (according to my son who did his research paper on this subject matter last semester).

Continuing on this subject matter, the American Psychological Association’s earlier studies (2003) match the above findings, in the increased aggressive behavior from playing violent video games. It stated, “Myth: There are no studies linking violent video game play to serious aggression. Facts: High levels of violent video game exposure have been linked to delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods, and violent criminal behavior (e.g., self-reported assault, robbery).”

Of course, people will report that there are other scientific studies that don’t show concrete facts on the overall effects of violent film and video games on people, but it is incontrovertible that children and teens are affected by these.

From a personal point of view, I do not see the purpose of these violent, gory video games (or movies).  They contribute nothing positive or healthy to our society.  Of course, I know I’ll get pushback on that, and I expect it.  But it’s just how I see this.  I did not allow my sons to play or watch violent games or movies throughout their childhood and early teens.  Even in their teens, they don’t play “M” games or watch R-rated movies, unless the movie isn’t centered on gratuitous violence, but there is a valid, non-gory reason for it, and there is mercy and redemption involved in the storyline. To speak frankly, our movies and video games are both a promoter and reflection of our death-centered culture.

From a Christian spiritual point of view, what our eyes take in affects our souls.  If we take in good things, it brings joy and light to our souls.  If we take in violent things (since this is the subject matter of this blog post), it darkens our souls.  If we continue to pile on the viewing of such matter, along with other dark things, the darkness can overcome us, where the Light is not able to flicker, and then we are in bondage to the darkness, and it’s not a good place to be.

Foreign Policy

A little bit more on the gun issue because it ties into our foreign policy.  There are many Americans on one side of the gun debate that would like a ban on assault rifles/weapons and stricter gun laws, and then there is a small group of citizens who want all guns banned.  As I said, this is a very small number.  You would think it was a large number or majority the way people’s views are twisted all across social media.  In any case, I’ve thought about this issue. I fall in between.  I agree with banning bump stocks and having stricter gun laws but believe people should be able to have guns to protect themselves in case of home break ins and such.

So, I imagined the scenario of all guns being banned from the public.  Now, of course, I know that criminals will always get them through the black market, etc., but not even going down that path, let’s just say, the guns are removed, and they aren’t present in the society.  Wouldn’t it be extremely HYPOCRITICAL of the United States?

I mean, think about it.  Here’s a country’s entertainment industry laden with shoot ’em up movies, and in many cases in today’s movies, the lines of who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy are blurred. There’s no shortage of bloody video games. Our government’s leaders and intelligence community with the help of our military topple other countries’ elected leaders and replace them with horrid dictators, turning the countries into chaotic, desolate death pools, with millions of people killed and injured and their towns leveled. And then the most glaring component–America’s top, number one position in guns manufacturing and selling to other countries so we can help them obliterate vast amounts of people (have you been following the heartbreaking devastation in Yemen?).  That is the epitome of hypocrisy in my book.

Does that mean I don’t think something should be done about the guns?  Of course not.  But what can we do that would make sense and not be hypocritical?

The Solution?

Well, it seems the answer is that we’d have to have a total overhaul of our culture’s death mindset and transform it to a life one. I do find it quite ironic that our culture of death that is seen throughout the electronic venues at the same time is afraid of death and does everything it can to avoid it through changes in how we bury our loved ones and finding ways to constantly increase our life expectancy so we don’t meet death too soon, but that’s a subject for another post.

Therefore, in order to change our mindset from death/darkness to life/light, it would entail:

In the foreign policy area:  putting an immediate end to committing regime change in other countries (which I’d think would be illegal acts) and stopping the selling of arms to other countries, especially ones that aren’t friendly.  We need to stop the wars for profit, the prisons for profit.  Basically stop worshiping money and the never-ending desire for perpetual profits above the welfare of our own people.

On the entertainment front:  scaling back graphic violence in video games and movies. The classic movies were able to show war scenes (The Great Escape is an excellent example) and Hitchcock did well in his thrillers without explicit gore and mayhem.

Guns:  ban bump stocks and remove loop holes in gun laws (among other things).

Incorporating mercy and respect for life:  possess true and honest and respectful discourse and reconciliation tools in conflicts.

More access and treatment for people with mental health problems.  Mental health facilities for convicts diagnosed with a mental illness instead of prison.  Drug treatment programs for addicts that have been arrested for possessing drugs, instead of prison.

And since these are all my personal opinions, God is much better to worship than money, greed, lust, envy, pride, anger, etc. In order for us to be healthy all around, it requires an attentiveness to not only our mental and physical state, but also our spiritual state.  All must be worked on to find harmony, growth, and peace.

Looking Ahead

At this point, I’m not feeling too optimistic in seeing our culture changing. But the younger generation does show some spark of interest in wanting to uproot a portion of this sick culture of death.  Will they succeed?  I hope and pray so for our children and the generations after.

 

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