Bamboo in Full Bloom

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“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”

~ Bruce Lee (November 27, 1940 – July 20, 1973)

The sound of rustling bamboo leaves can be heard throughout my house when the windows are open.  By day, I love to do my writing while  sitting in my side garden, surrounded by a grove of these beautiful, mystical trees.  And, at night, I can see shadows of the wondrously resilient  bamboo stalks as they dance with the wind, while weaving in and out of the moonlight. They fill me with a sense of quiet joy and complete serenity.

Back in October, I wrote a couple of posts about the bamboo stalk that was sprouting in my garden and how it was shooting up towards the sky ― higher and higher, as the days passed.  Within the space of just a few weeks, it  was well over twenty feet above my roof line.  Now, it looks like a majestic feather, swaying in the wind.  Below, you can see  my photos of  this amazing tree, as it has evolved.

In my October 7th (2012) post , The Spirit of Bamboo, I mentioned that this fast-growing stalk has inspired my husband and I to “keep raising our eyes in the same direction of our wonderful bamboo …. upwards, always upwards.”

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On October 28th (2012), I wrote Bamboo Rising, where I listed The 7 Life Lessons from Bamboo (by Sompong Yusoontorn).

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And here it is today (see photo, below). A symbolism of simplicity and humility, flexibility and strength. In the Asian culture, it is believed that the younger branches on the top of the bamboo stalk will never overshadow the older, larger branches below. This is so the sunlight will reach the elder branches. Conversely, the baby shoots are protected from the shade of the older branches, so that they may have a chance to grow. The dual symbolism is that the bamboo represents the young respecting the old and the old protecting the young.

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Awesome, isn’t it?

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from William Edgar Geil‘s “Ode to Bamboo” (written over a century ago). An American Baptist missionary and adventurer who was fascinated by China, Dr. Geil made history as the first person to traverse the Great Wall of China in an 82-day excursion. In his Ode, he describes his observations on the usefulness and wonders of Bamboo:

“A man can sit in a bamboo house under a bamboo roof, on a bamboo chair at a bamboo table, with a bamboo hat on his head and bamboo sandals on his feet. He can at the same time hold in one hand a bamboo bowl, in the other hand bamboo chopsticks and eat bamboo sprouts. When through with his meal, which has been cooked over a bamboo fire, the table may be washed with a bamboo cloth, and he can fan himself with a bamboo fan, take a siesta on a bamboo bed, lying on a bamboo mat with his head resting on a bamboo pillow. His child might be lying in a bamboo cradle, playing with a bamboo toy. On rising he would smoke a bamboo pipe and taking a bamboo pen, write on bamboo paper, or carry his articles in bamboo baskets suspended from a bamboo pole, with a bamboo umbrella over his head. He might then take a walk over a bamboo suspension bridge, drink water from a bamboo ladle, and scrape himself with a bamboo scraper.”

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President Obama 2013 Inaugural Address

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Today, on Dr. Martin Luther King Day, President Barack Obama was inaugurated for a second four-year term. He has many challenges ahead of him, not the least of which is an economy that is struggling to recover. As Dr. King once said: “There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”

This is the complete transcript of President Obama’s 2013 Inaugural Address:

“Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.”

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

(January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)

Today, our nation honors the memory of a man who inspired generations of men and women ― young and old, black and white, and across every creed.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  ― clergyman, activist and leader in the American civil rights movement  ― received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, at the age of 35 (the youngest man to ever have received a Nobel Peace Prize).  When notified that he was selected for this honor, he stated that he would donate the prize money ($54,123) to further the cause of the civil rights movement.

He was assassinated by a sniper’s  bullet on April 4, 1968, in Memphis (Tennessee), as he addressed crowds of people from  his hotel balcony.

He was not only a man of  wise and thought-provoking words, but a man of action.  He acted on his beliefs and the words he spoke came from his soul. His name is on my own personal roster of people who have truly inspired me. Aside from his famous I Have A Dream speech (quoted in its entirety, at the end of this post), I wanted to share some of his thoughts on what, in my view, are four of the most powerful words to live by: Compassion. Forgiveness. Freedom. Hope.  

On Compassion:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?”

On Forgiveness:

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

On Freedom:

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

“Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963

On Hope:

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.š

 

“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.

I Have A Dream:

(August 28, 1963)

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”

 

My Books, My Friends

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“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face.  It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.”

~ Edward P. Morgan

When I was a young girl, my mother would often call out to me and say “Your friends are at the front door.  They want to know when you’ll be going out to play.”   From my bedroom,  where I was curled up in my armchair like a content puppy — nose deep in a gripping novel, I would shout back (adjusting my glasses, as I did so): “Tell them I’ll be out as soon as I finish this chapter!”  Ten chapters later, my mother would peek around the door and say “Go out and get some fresh air. Your friends will begin to think that you don’t like them anymore.”  Reluctantly, I would put a bookmark in my book and then, very lovingly, place it down on the side table.  I’d walk past my mother, who smiled and shook her head (did she actually roll her eyes at me … really?).  

Many decades later, nothing much has changed.  With a few exceptions.  My mother died over seven years ago and I miss her so much that it hurts.  My childhood friends still live in Canada (while I now live in South Florida).  But, we still keep in touch.  Thank goodness for Facebook!

As fate would have it, my husband likes to spend some time in the company of his own mind, as I do.   So, when I get lost inside my head, reading a thought-provoking piece of fiction or non-fiction, I am rarely interrupted. 

Virtually every room in our house has bookshelves filled with books.  Every possible discipline — from literature, biographies, history, law and philosophy to engineering, architecture, music and art.  And everything in between.  

They are not there for show.  I say this because a few people (not readers themselves) have actually asked whether we truly read them!  We read them.  Some, we’ve read over and over again.

“The scholar only knows how dear these silent, yet eloquent, companions of pure thoughts and innocent hours become in the season of adversity.  When all that is worldly turns to dross around us, these only retain their steady value.”

Washington Irving

When I walk into a room full of books, I am filled with a sense of comfort and well-being.  I know every single book that is in the house and each is alphabetized and organized by discipline/category. 

Libraries are sacred sanctuaries filled with knowledge — private libraries, public libraries, university libraries …. all of them!  That wonderfully musty smell of old leather and paper, the silence (you can hear a pin drop), the rows and rows of books … it’s heaven.

“A good book is the purest essence of a human soul.”

Thomas Carlyle  (excerpt from his speech in support of the London Library, 1840)

Reading is not only good for the soul, it exercises the mind and helps reduces stress. 

Yes, my books are my friends. They are the gifts I treasure most. And, as a writer, they never cease to encourage, challenge and humble me.

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Slicing and Dicing (or what writers grudgingly call “Book Editing”)

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While contemplating and writing about my 7 New Year Revelations,  I’ve been trying not to think about the redlining, scratchy margin comments, strikethroughs and all the nasty little markings that a few no-nonsense editors are doing to my manuscript. 

As any writer will attest, it’s important to give your completed manuscript a thorough and objective (that’s the hard part) edit yourself first, but then you must hand it over to an editor who will have no qualms about ripping it to shreds,  if need be.   As a person who uses the numbers 3 and 7 all the time (it’s a spiritual thing, perhaps even a bit O.C.D.),  I always like to choose 3 editors (a professional editor, a person who has personal  experience with the subject, and a scholar/professional who is a specialist on the subject).  This gives me a nice cross-section of expertise from people whose commentary I respect and will take to heart, when producing the final copy for publication.  

I give them a timeframe and my own set of  guidelines (for them to keep in mind, while editing)  …  with the expectation that, on the end date, I will receive all their edits and comments. Some prefer to edit on a hard copy manuscript, others edit on my PDF  text. I usually give them three weeks , although it may extend further – depending upon the length of the manuscript.

My manuscript-specific  “guidelines”  vary from book to book. These include a list of questions or points that relate to specific characters or story lines that I want to receive objective feedback on.

However,  the general guidelines simply follow the standard editing process which, in turn, involves multiple read-throughs or “passes.”

1. First Pass:       A READ-THROUGH  (no editing)

It’s important for the editor to get a feel for the book first, before grabbing that red pencil!

2. Second Pass —  SUBSTANTIVE  EDITING

This is the heavy, line editing phase. Sentence structure, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all addressed here.  At this stage, the editor will also look at whether the book  reads  well and whether  or not a story, character, or setting may need readjustment.

3. Third Pass —  CONTENT  EDITING

This may include substantive editing (above) but focuses on the quality of the writing, the use of words, and the strength/continuity of the author’s voice.  The content editing process points its high beam on clarity and conciseness.  This is where a lot of the dreaded snippity-snip-snip comes into play. Conciseness …  the bane of my existence.

4. Fourth Pass —  COPY  EDITING

Once more, punctuation and grammar are reviewed, as well as whether or not the use of words and tense is consistent throughout the manuscript. The copy editing process serves to catch any minor or major mistakes and whether or not the perceived errors were intentional (i.e. stylistic) or not.

5. Fifth Pass —  PROOFREADING*

A final review of  grammar, punctuation and spelling. This is the polishing stage.

*CAVEAT:  Once the writer incorporates all the edits into the final manuscript, the writer must (himself/herself) do another round of proofreading — it is very important to do this carefully. Hasty proofreading will result in unwanted errors.  In the world of home renovation, the do-it-yourself folks are told, time and time again, “measure twice, cut once.”  Well, the same applies in the writing world.  Proofread, proofread, and proofread again!

Furthermore, if the writer is self-publishing, it is important to do yet another round of proofreading upon receiving the printer’s proofs (always request  to have a sign-off on the printer’s proof, prior to printing).  This is not only important for catching any errors within the text, but also to ensure that the formatting and graphics are perfect. Similarly, if using a company like CreateSpace or lulu.com to publish the book, follow the same proofing/sign-off procedure as with the printer. 

By the 21st, I should be receiving all of my edits back, for my manuscript (Casualties of the Recession Depression) — redlines, scratchy margin comments, strikethroughs and nasty little markings.

I can hardly wait.

 

Image from howtoshuckanoyster.com.

heatherfromthegrove: A Wrap-up of My 7 New Year Revelations

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As I said before (on this very same day, last year):  

“For those of you who have been following, reading and enjoying each of my seven New Year revelations …. Thank You.

I would like to point out that they are not New Year Resolutions. I don’t make New Year Resolutions anymore. They are my own personal revelations. Epiphanies. Discoveries. In the past decade, I’ve faced some daunting challenges and heart-wrenching events. I’d like to think that I’ve handled them with dignity, compassion, grace, and humor. Always humor. It helps take the edge off.

So, the lessons that these “life tests” have taught me are my “revelations.” As I move forward with my life, I will use them as my guide. Wisdom has to be earned. For me, it’s a work in progress. I hope that they have inspired and even amused you. I hope that they have made you think long and hard.”

Here’s a synopsis (the numbers have a hyperlink back to each revelation post):

Revelation No. 1: LOVE — WITHOUT RESERVATIONS, CONDITIONS OR EXPECTATIONS

Revelation No. 2: KINDNESS IS CONTAGIOUS

Revelation No. 3: RESIST THE MAÑANA SYNDROME

Revelation No. 4: PRACTICE A LITTLE PATIENCE

Revelation No. 5: NEVER, NEVER ASSUME!

Revelation No. 6: UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “EMBRACE” AND “TOLERATE”

Revelation No. 7: TAKE A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

And the journey continues.  I believe that 2013 will be a renaissance of sorts. I know that I’m looking forward to tying up some loose ends in my life,  having my book launched at the end of February,  and taking time out to read, sharing precious moments with the creatures (two-legged and four-legged!) I love most, and … of course … dancing in the rain!

I wish you all a blessed, healthy and happy  2013 and may your own personal journey bring you deep fulfillment and wisdom. Remember, we are all — each of us — a work in progress!

 

Image via eclectic-eccentric.com.

New Year’s Revelation No. 7 of 7: Take a Walk on the Wild Side

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

~ Mark Twain

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time.  I have it posted up on the wall of my study. 

180355160047677058_tbY43tyo_cWe only have one life.  We never know how much time we have left, so we’ve really got to make the most of it.  Make the time to be with the people you love. Splash around in the rain!  Throw a few snowballs. Step out of your comfort zone and try out something new.  Eat something different and more exotic. Take a walk on the wild side …  and savour every damn minute of it!

Life flies by so fast.  We’ve got to grab on tight to its wings, so that we can enjoy every adventure along the way.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics and video of a song that encapsulates what I really mean.  It’s a song by Lee Ann Womack, called “I Hope You Dance.”  Now, I’m not an avid country music fan, but I absolutely love this song.

All of her words reflect exactly what I wish for you, dearest readers. 

Thanks for stopping by.

Lyrics (partial) for I Hope You Dance (by Lee Ann Womack)

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance!
I hope you dance!

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’
Don’t let some hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance!
I hope you dance!

Images via congchurchexeter.org (binoculars) and thefifowife.com.au (dancer).

New Year’s Revelation No. 6 of 7: Understand the Difference between “Embrace” and “Tolerate”

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“Our task must be to free ourselves…by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”

 ~ Albert Einstein

I’m going to keep this very short and sweet.  In my view, there is only one (1) race.  It is the human race.  And the beautiful thing about the human race is that we come in so many different shapes, sizes, ages, colors, creeds, cultures, languages, and personalities.

Wouldn’t it be so infinitely boring if we all looked and acted alike?  Oh, I know,  we take comfort in the people, things, and places that are most like us, most familiar to us.  But, the “fear of the unknown and unfamiliar” should not bar us from meeting new people, enjoying fresh experiences, and basking in the realization that, although we are different, we share one common thing …… humanity.

“Our greatest strength as a human race is our ability to acknowledge our differences, our greatest weakness is our failure to embrace them.”

~ Judith Henderson

To tolerate someone means that we can bear to be around them (put up with them).  In my view, the word “tolerate” denotes arrogance (i.e. “I tolerate you but, in reality, I don’t want to be around you”).

To embrace means to open your arms to someone — regardless of who they are or where they’re from. Now, this is what I’m talking about!

The choice is yours.

“We have become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”
~ Jimmy Carter

Image via gerberbabycontest.net.

New Year’s Revelation No. 5 of 7: Never, Never Assume!

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“We have a tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we BELIEVE they are the truth.   

We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking, we take it personally, and then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word.   

We only see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. We don’t perceive things the way they are; we literally dream things up in our imagination. Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions that we believe are right, then we defend our assumptions and try to make others wrong.

The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don’t understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are as clear as you can be. Once you hear the answer, you will not have to make assumptions because you will know the truth.”

~  an excerpt from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

 

Sure, we are all guilty of making assumptions every so often and when we do, nine out of ten times we’re completely off the mark.  Sadly, people often make assumptions —not  because they are afraid to ask for clarification, as Don Miguel Ruiz suggests — but because they choose to sit in judgment.  They are convinced that they are right, despite possible evidence to the contrary or without bothering to delve a little deeper.  They are influenced by their own personal biases. Still worse, they then spread their poisonous thoughts, sometimes publicly, not caring about the damage they have wrought.  That is how reputations get ruined.  In some cases, the damage results in financial ruin and, in more extreme cases, suicide.

We see this all the time.  Public figures, like celebrities and politicians, are crucified in the media.  Private citizens are not immune from this type of unwanted attention and undeserving judgment.  Just turn on the news channel or pick up the local paper and you’ll see someone’s unfortunate personal mistake or trauma plastered all over the news.  Sadly, many people believe what they read or see on television.  Personally, I always feel very sorry for someone whose personal life challenges are made public, regardless of whether they’ve done something wrong.  I feel for them and their families and imagine what they must be going through.

Whatever happened to simple, human compassion?  We shouldn’t be so quick to bring down the gavel.

James 4:12: There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.  But who are you that you judge your neighbor? 

Assumptions are often made based on how we look or dress. Here are a few examples of erroneous and ignorant assumptions:   If you always dress completely in black, you must be sinister;  If you wear t-shirts and jeans all the time, you probably don’t have much money;  Being fat equates to being lazy; If you wear glasses, you must be intelligent; If you have tattoos and body piercings, you’re bad news; Redheads have hot tempers;  Blonde women are airheads; and on, and on … .    

“While you judge me by my outward appearance, I am silently doing the same to you, even though there’s a ninety-percent chance that in both cases our assumptions are wrong.” 

~  Richelle E. Goodrich

Back in 1981, I attended one of my husband’s electrical engineering classes at the University.  Although I was a political science major, I wanted to “take a walk on the wild side” and learn a little about the world of engineering so that I could better understand his chosen field of study.  For the life of me, I can’t recall what the subject of the lecture was, but I do remember (to this day) something that the professor said. He turned to the class and shook his finger, saying (very emphatically, I might add): “Never, never assume!”

We have made this our mantra ever since.

Image via heartspiritmind.com.

New Year’s Revelation No. 4 of 7: Practice a Little Patience

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“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The duck and her ducklings were not too fussed about bringing heavy road traffic to a halt.  They’re just trying to go from point A to point B safely and at their own pace, regardless of any red-faced, honking drivers who are raising their blood pressure in outrage at being inconvenienced for five minutes or so … by ducks!  The wiser attitude would be to smile, enjoy the scene and take that five-minute opportunity to sit back and relax.  No car can move on until the ducks make their way across the street, anyways.  So, isn’t it a pointless waste of energy to be angry and impatient?

When we are impatient, we act irrationally.   Then, we appear ridiculous (to others … and even to ourselves, if we’re really being honest).

Take, for example, the number of times we engage in a war of words (via email),  where we receive an email that makes us angry and we immediately write a response and press “send.”   This has happened to me a few times and I always, always regret having responded so quickly.  The end result is never what we want it to be.  It would have been smarter to chew on it for a bit and then respond sometime later, when rational thinking and proper perspective has kicked in.

When we are impatient, we make mistakes that we can’t take back.  Then, we’re forced to do damage control.  Patience is the antidote to anger and aggression.  Seethe and then breathe.  You can sit in the energy of your anger, feel the anger and then slowly let it go.

Did you ever stand in the check-out line at the supermarket and, fifth in line, you’re waiting and waiting …. and then you see the cashier having a nice chat with a customer?  Oh, they’re laughing and talking, impervious to the long line of now highly annoyed people.  Does it really hurt to share a few pleasantries?  Are we so important (in our own mind) that we need to be served immediately, chop-chop?

When we are impatient, we forget to breathe.  Just inhale slowly and, then exhale slowly … and repeat.

Patience is all about self-mastery and control.  We cannot control what people say or do to us, but we can control how we conduct ourselves and how we respond. 

In Buddhist thinking, the perfection of patience (ksanti) has three essential dimensions: 

  • The ability to endure personal hardship.
  • Patience with others.
  • Acceptance of the truth.

1. Enduring personal hardship:  Personal hardship encompasses a wide spectrum of issues, such as illness, financial problems, the death of a loved one, devastation from a natural disaster … and so on.   Patience, in these instances, comes with the acceptance that there are times in our lives when we are faced with trials and tribulations, that they are most often temporary, and that we must not let ourselves be defeated by despair.  To face difficulties constructively, rather than destructively, is to endure personal hardship with patience.  Think of the expression “This, too, shall pass.”

2. Patience with others:  Anger is a very destructive energy.  It can explode or (if we allow it to) it can fester.  The way to nip anger and impatience in the bud is by cultivating a sense of equanimity (calm and balance).  And to treat others with kindness, even if our knee-jerk reaction is to throttle them.  Think of the expression “kill him with kindness.”

3. Acceptance of the truth:  In Saint Augustine’s words, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.”   It peels away the layers of arrogance, ingratitude and judgmental thinking.  It allows us to accept the things we cannot change and to accept our experiences as they are — suffering and all — rather than how we want them to be.  This translates to people, as well as experiences.  We must be patient with people and accept them for who they are, not who we want them to be.

The lessons that we learn from Patience will have an irrevocable, positive effect on our lives.  It will lift our spirit, cultivate good character, and we will receive that end-of-the-rainbow treasure that we all seek:  not a pot of gold, but something much more precious …. Happiness.

I’ll leave you with this really sweet commercial video, called “Patience …pass it on.”

Image (ducks) via bookerpetcare.co.uk