On Friendship

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Love this quote:

‘Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’

‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.’

—  E.B. White (Author of Charlotte’s Web)
(Photo via chakradio.com)
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Neighborly Love

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Just yesterday, our property was brutally ransacked by thieves.  A lot of valuables, sentimental and personal items were taken.  There was considerable damage.

We are beyond shocked, distressed, and disgusted.

But, this travesty has one silver lining.  Our neighbors.  People we’ve never actually met.  One-by-one, they have been calling us long-distance, telling us  what had transpired, calming us, and kindly informing us that they will help to secure the property and help us ensure that the perpetrators will never set foot in our neck of the woods ever again.

This gives fresh meaning to the concept of “Love thy neighbor.”

To these wonderful men and women, my husband and I send you our heartfelt thanks.

My first reaction, in the wake of this tragedy, was to cancel our family Easter celebration. But, if I did that, the bad guys will have won. 

Instead, I will focus on the blessings of this season ― my wonderful husband, my pets, friends and family, and ― my neighbors, who are simply awesome.

― Heather

Photo via unitedwaycfc.org.

Is There an Elephant in the Room?

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“When there’s an elephant in the room, introduce him.”

Randy Pausch

The study of human nature is interesting, isn’t  it?  Take, for example, the way people often react to uncomfortable situations.  Silence, avoidance or complete retreat are common responses that we, as humans, have – when faced with an embarrassing or awkward moment.  In an effort to avoid unpleasant confrontation or negative reaction, we often choose the path of least resistance  – by acting “pc” (politically correct) or “civilized” … which translates to “we don’t say what we mean or mean what we say.”  We either say nothing or give a very watered-down version of what we really want to say.  This, in my opinion, does everyone a disservice.  Kind, constructive criticism or commentary may be quite helpful to the person for whom it is intended –  that is, if that person chooses to hear, digest and heed it.  The choice (of hearing, digesting the information and heeding it) is always his/her prerogative, after all. 

Now, I most definitely do NOT advocate mean-spirited criticism or commentary.  That does no one any good.

Nor, by contrast, do I agree with ego stroking or pretense. 

What I DO support is that people cut the BS and simply say what they mean and mean what they say.  As the late Professor Pausch once said, “introduce him”…. the elephant, that is.  Deal with the elephant in the room, gently and elegantly – but deal with him.  

It is far better to clear the air, than to leave things unsaid …  because when things are left unsaid, they often fester.

This, I know for sure.

Photo via vet.cornell.edu.

Spread the Word!

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A heartfelt “Thank You” to those of you who have ordered a copy of my new book, Casualties of the Recession Depression. Book orders are coming in. I am thrilled and also extremely humbled.

Recently, a very old friend of mine ordered a copy and then, not two minutes later, ordered a second copy for her parents (who were very excited for me because they remembered me as a little tyke with glasses, always with my nose in a book).  Their enthusiasm and support brought me to tears.  Isn’t it funny how it’s often the people who “knew you when” that come out, years later, to cheer you on?

I’m sure they didn’t realize it at the time, but they made my day.

To those of you who are reading this post, please spread the word!  And, consider getting yourself a copy.  It’s a timely and feisty book that champions the resilience and strength of the middle class, in the face of adversity – namely, this interminable economic downturn. 

I welcome your feedback.

Have a wonderful weekend!  

Stay tuned for Monday’s blog post: “Is There an Elephant in the Room?”

Cheers,

– heatherfromthegrove

                       

Casualties of the Recession Depression can be purchased at: http://www.heatherjoanmarinos.com or through Amazon.com  (it is also available through Amazon UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain). 

Photo via evomag.co.

Seeing through a writer’s lens

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Since writing my book,  Casualties of the Recession Depression (A collection of vignettes), I’ve been asked – by people unfamiliar with the genre – to explain the difference between a short story and a vignette, and why I chose to employ the latter, rather than the former. Here are the definitions, followed by my explanation.

♦ ♦ ♦

Short Story

Syllabification: (short sto·ry)

Definition (per the Oxford Dictionary):

noun 

— a story with a fully developed theme but significantly shorter and less elaborate than a novel.

Vignette

Syllabification: (vi·gnette)

Pronunciation: /vinˈyet/

Definition (per the Oxford Dictionary):

noun (in the context of writing)

1.  a brief evocative description, account, or episode.

verb (in the contect of writing)

1.  portray (someone) in the style of a vignette.

Wikipedia’s Definition (this is exactly what a vignette is):

“In theatrical script writing, sketch stories, and poetry, a vignette is a short impressionistic scene that focuses on one moment or gives a trenchant impression about a character, idea, setting, or object.”

♦ ♦ ♦

Essentially, a vignette is like a snapshot in words.  Through a writer’s lens, a moment/feeling/episode in time is captured and portrayed in such a way that the reader can feel the character’s pain (or joy), understand the character’s mindset, be part of the character’s experience – albeit vicariously.

In the context of my book, I wanted to record real (and sometimes raw) moments experienced by people who have been adversely affected by this long economic downturn.  By capturing these brief episodes and providing a written backdrop for each year (in the form of an economic and political commentary), the reader can see the transformation and progression of this Recession Depression from its conception to its continued existence in the present day.

I hope that I have accomplished this to the degree that I had envisioned.  For those of you who have read the book, I welcome your feedback (whether positive or negative).  We are all a work in progress  and so,  I live to learn.

Below is one (of 23) vignettes from Casualties of the Recession Depression:

Vignette #13 (2009) ―  Young and Hungry

He sat in the coffee shop, his fingers restlessly turning the pages of his textbook.  He had been there for three and a half hours, nursing a cup of coffee.  “Thank God for free refills!” – he thought to himself.  He was trying hard to focus on the words in front of him, willing the gurgling in his empty stomach to go away.  His hands were slightly shaky.  He could smell the toasted ham and cheese sandwich that someone was eating at a nearby table.  Freshly baked bread had just come out of the oven and the lady behind the counter was stacking the loaves on the shelf.  His mouth started to water and he felt dizzy.  He willed himself to block it all out. Two more hours passed by.

It was closing time.  The coffee shop lady was rushing to close up. She grabbed all the leftover loaves of bread (two were left), bagels (all seven of them), and two donuts – and threw them roughly into a big garbage can, which she wheeled into the back room. He swallowed, throat dry.  A tear escaped from the corner of his eye.  He was too proud to ask. And the coffee shop lady didn’t see, nor would she probably have given him a second thought if she had.  He clenched his jaw and grimly packed his book into his bag.  

He glanced once at the lady behind the counter. Her face was blank when she looked back at him. Oblivious.  She tapped her fingers on the glass, impatient to close the lights.

He left quietly, not looking back.  He wondered whether things would get better after he graduated from college. He wasn’t so sure.

                       

(PS: This coffee shop actually went out of business and closed its doors for good, just one month later. And the fate of the lady behind the counter?  She joined the ranks of the unemployed.)

                       

Casualties of the Recession Depression can be purchased at http://www.heatherjoanmarinos.com or through Amazon.com  (it is also available through Amazon UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain). 

Photo and Written Content Copyright © 2013 by Heather Joan Marinos. All rights reserved.

Things that make you go hmmm…

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Back in the day, late night comedian Arsenio Hall had a segment in his comedy act (The Arsenio Hall Show), called “Things that make you go hmmm… “

Now, we’ve all had those moments when we’ve heard or seen things that simply defy logic. Afterwards, we’d walk away, shaking our heads in amazement or disbelief and muttering to ourselves:  “Did he really just say that? Am I missing something?” or “If I didn’t see that with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it!”

To start out the week with a chuckle, I thought I’d share some of my recent “Hmmm” experiences with you.

1.  Measure twice, cut once.  Translation:  “No worries, man, so what if we’re off by a few inches? Who’ll notice it?”

So, several homes in my neighborhood are in various stages of restoration.  Most are being rebuilt or refurbished by licensed contractors and overseen by certified architects.  Their work is being performed in strict accordance with the county’s building code standards.  Then there are the homeowners who, for reasons of budget or simply bureaucratic defiance, choose to hire unsupervised day laborers.  One particular home has been the source of many “hmmms” among the neighbors.  The homeowner, residing in another country, hired these men (sight unseen) to do a quickie, makeshift reno on a house that is a dilapidated eyesore (one step away from being condemned).  Every weekend, the men bring their tools and their generator (the county pulled the house’s power meters out when it was discovered that the day laborers had installed the meters improperly and without a permit) and they work steadily, hammering and sawing. To their credit, they do work hard and with very few breaks. However, when they installed new ingress and egress doors, they didn’t seem to worry about the two-inch high opening across the top of the doors.  Perhaps they thought the house needed some open air ventilation. 

Months later, the gaps remain. And flying palmetto bugs (South Florida’s version of cockroaches) happily fly into the house on a regular basis.  At least it’s no longer unoccupied.

2. Beautiful tropical flora be gone, I say, be gone!

One day, I decided to take a leisurely stroll through The Grove (Coconut Grove, that is).   I stopped suddenly when I saw a man waving a big machete, frantically hacking away all the lovely trees, vines and bushes surrounding a little cottage.  When he stopped to wipe his face with a cloth (it was a hot and humid mid-afternoon), I asked him why he was destroying all the beautiful foliage.  He said that the homeowner preferred a stark, easy-to-maintain yard. I suggested that if he really wanted to remove the foliage, he would need to pull them out by the roots or else they would grow right back.  He said that that’s what he was trying to do.  (Note: the only tool in sight was a machete).  I looked at him, just to make sure that he was copis mentis (of sound mind).   Then, I shook my head and walked away. When I saw the yard a day later, I was horrified to see a barren yard with roots and stumps sticking out from everywhere. 

By the summertime, the cherry bushes and jasmine vines had grown and blossomed.  The garden was restored (almost) to its rustic glory.  It’s like a tropical rainforest over here in South Florida.  Everything grows at warp speed.

Share some of your “Things that make you go hmmm .. “ stories.   I’d love to hear from you! 

Photo of Arsenio Hall via Comicbooksdaily.com.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish, I wanted to share some sage words from Irish Playwright/critic/political activist, George Bernard Shaw (b. 1856 in Dublin, Ireland; d. 1950 in Ayot St. Lawrence, England).

Incidentally, George Bernard Shaw was a co-founder of the London School of Economics and a charter member of the Fabian Society.  Founded in 1884, the Fabian Society is a middle-class organization in England, whose mission is to promote socialism through peaceful, non-revolutionary means.

In 1925, Mr. Shaw was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Although he accepted the award, he rejected the monetary prize and requested that it instead be allocated towards the translation of the works (from Swedish to English) of fellow playwright August Strindberg.

If you want to have an online read of some of George Bernard Shaw’s works (novels, short stories or plays), visit:  Readbooksonline.net.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

It’s a New Day in Vatican City

PopeFrancis

It’s a new day in Vatican City.

He doesn’t wear elaborate attire or red leather loafers, but prefers the simplicity of a black cassock.

He forgoes the luxury and safety of the bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz for the normalcy of the public transit system.

He favors frugality and simplicity over lavishness and ostentation.

He is inclusive, not exclusive.

He is warm and embracing, not reserved or standoff-ish.

 

Already, he has changed history.

He is the first Jesuit to become Pope.

He is the first Pope to hail from the Southern Hemisphere (Buenos Aires, Argentina).

He is the first Pope to choose the name “Francis.”

 

Yes, he is conservative.   However, unlike some of his conservative predecessors, he is humble and approachable.

If anyone can bring the Papacy back to the people (where it really needs to be), Pope Francis I  will be the one to do it.

As a Roman Catholic myself, I am proud to call him my Pope.

 

 

 

Distribution Channels for Book, Casualties of the (Recession) Depression

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Update on Book Distribution Channels:

Dear fellow book lovers,

I’ve still been getting a lot of queries about where to get a copy of my book, Casualties of the (Recession) Depression.  At the moment, the book can be purchased through:

–  http://www.heatherjoanmarinos.com

–  Amazon.com

–  Amazon.co.uk (it is also available in Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.it, and Amazon.es)

It is not yet available in Amazon.ca.

Happy Reading!

Habemus Papam: Pope Francis I

May the newly elected Pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, reign in the spirit of the Saint whose name he has chosen.

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Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen