The thrill of buying tires?

Shopping for tires is not the kind of trip that’s high on my list of fun things to do. I mean, buying tires? Whaa-whaa. Thud. However, as I walked around my Jeep one day to see if anyone had opened a car door into its side or hit it ever so gently in a parking lot, I was surprised to see something on one of the rear tires. Or rather the lack of something on one of the rear tires. No tread. Or barely little. What? When did this happen?

I hurriedly looked at the other three tires and came to the same conclusion. Unless smooth surfaced tires were in vogue, it was time for new ones. But I wanted to double check myself. While my car was being serviced at the dealership, I casually asked about the tires. Yes, I was told, you need new ones.

Wanting a second opinion, I went to a tire retailer and they measured the tread. I was told there was still life in the old boys, a bit of time left. Okay, so I chewed on these two pieces of conflicting information. But I had a gnawing feeling. I sure didn’t want to be caught somewhere in the summer heat with a flat tire. At least not one caused by my own negligence.

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Which brand? Best warranty? Best deal? (Courtesy of Upcycled Wonders)

I lined myself up with another tire retailer. But then the question loomed, what brand? Michelin? Bridgestone? Goodyear? Firestone? Yokohama? Oh, boy. No idea. Then came the discussion about what’s on sale, which brand has the best warranty, what do the consumer reports and reviews say? My head spun.

I decided on Bridgestone tires. I had my Jeep at the facility bright and early the next day and the tires were put on, the wheels balanced. Whirr, whirr, whirr, whirr. Then came the information pack with the mail-in warranty card, papers to read, stuff to keep and file.

“What about tire rotation in the future?” I asked. “Every six thousand miles,” came the answer. Oh, boy, something else to remember. To help, a sticker was put on the windshield with the current mileage to remind me. It’s right next to the sticker that reminds me when the next oil change is due. Also on the windshield is a transponder. The place is getting crowded.

“Great,” I said, about to leave. “You have to come back in 25 miles,” the installer told me, “to be retorqued.” Say what? Will it hurt? But I did. They simply rechecked the bolts. Zip, zip and I was done.

The new tires are performing like champs. I’m glad to have them. But you know my line. “I’d rather be shopping at Chico’s.”

The old adage tells us things occur in threes. This summer, along with its delightful weather, has served up several other delights. Number one – a new HVAC system. Number two – new tires. Number three … I’m holding my breath.

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We can always go sit in the shade … (Courtesy of Pinterest)

 

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Thoughts while reading a rejection …

Acceptance and rejection letters come to writers in all forms. Of course, the acceptances are the most fun. You savor them, place them in a special file, even frame them. The rejections are often form notes, maybe with a small handwritten line of encouragement. These you drop in a file. Perhaps you’ll try the publication again.

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Oh, no.

Periodically, but not all that often, an editor(s) at a publication will take the time to offer something specific about your work.

A while back, I received this rejection letter about a story called “Ferrelli’s Fall.” I’d made multiple submissions, but with no luck.

Dear Carol Mann,
I am writing with mixed news. While the editorial staff has decided that “Ferrelli’s Fall” does not meet our needs, we liked your work and would welcome future submissions.

So I’m thinking – they liked it. Great. Then what’s the problem? What does “it does not meet our needs” mean? The note continued:

When reviewing your manuscript, our editors praised the interesting characters, especially Captain Jack, but they wished that the ending was more surprising. In the end, your submission did not fully complement our editorial preferences.

Ah, there it is. A specific reason. In their view, a predictable ending. Okay. I can work with that. The note continued again:

We thank you for your interest, wish you success in placing this manuscript elsewhere, and hope to see more of your work in the future.

Now that’s encouraging! That’s nice. So what did I do? I reread the story, thought about the editor’s remarks, and tore apart the story’s ending. But, of course, when you do that, you end up changing other parts of the story to arrive at the new ending.

But I liked the positive feedback and felt it constructive. I’ll be sending the story out again.

A different literary journal sent this about another story called “Behind the Triple K.”

This came close as we are looking for some strong, authentic Vietnam and post-Vietnam stories full of the human spirit, compassion, and healing. Maybe the next one.

All right. Spirit, compassion and healing. I took that comment to mean “more hopeful.” My ending was dark, but I played with the idea. Again I worked with a story ending and changing story parts. I’ll also be resubmitting this story.

It’s a fact of life a writer must keep submitting, writing, and growing. Editors at different magazines have different ideas. Consider this rejection.

The editors want to give you some feedback on your piece, “Creek Songs.”

Oh-oh.

We all agree it is well-written. Many of the vignettes could be scenes from a movie. What we think doesn’t work is using the creek to tie the vignettes together. It seems forced, as if it were a prop. There seems to be something missing. We don’t sense that the creek has any kind of emotional importance.

Did I miss the mark? I loved that creek. Important parts of my life played out beside it.

We hope you will take this as a helpful critique rather than a criticism because we feel the piece has potential.

Okay, thanks. I think.

One editor’s opinion. Something to look at. Before I could do any rewriting, I received another letter from another literary journal about the very same piece, “Creek Songs.” Only this was an acceptance letter.

It pays to make multiple submissions.

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You never know! (Courtesy of BehlerBlog.com)

There’s no explanation for different tastes. But I do appreciate editors and publications who take a moment to give feedback, whether I agree or not. However, I appreciate even more those editors and publications who send acceptances.

And so, my friends, keep writing. I know I am.

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Summer in the Desert

We’ve always been told man has three basic needs: food, clothing, and shelter. Well, if you live in the desert, let’s make that four basic needs: food, clothing, shelter, and air conditioning, nice healthy air-conditioning that runs during 113 degree heat or higher.

My husband and I recently had the proverbial desert disaster. The air conditioner in our home failed during this worst of summers. The system was a builder-grade, 14 year-old installation that had been plugging along like a good scout and kept continuing to amaze us. We had our fingers crossed that it could keep hanging on. But the other day the dear thing gasped its last. Now what?

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Our house felt like this, hot and abandoned, somewhere out in the Mojave Desert. (Courtesy of Pinterest)

It’s a good idea to have an air conditioning service in your contacts so you don’t have to find one under pressure and at the last minute. Fortunately, we did and called them. A two man crew came out, assessed the cadaver, shook their heads, and gave it last rights. We talked about the options and they all resulted in healthy dollar signs.

We chose our poison and the process was under way. The next morning three men arrived and like skilled surgeons went to work, for the next nine hours. Cloths were spread on the traffic route, care was taken to cover surfaces, care was taken not to damage walls. The team was up in the attic, outside at the air-conditioning unit, and out at their truck. Of course there was no air conditioning in the house. We were replacing everything. A whole new system. Did we wander off into the desert, addled by the heat?

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Desert Near Palm Springs by Carl Eytel (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

No, like rats leaving a sinking ship, we holed up in our casita which has its own separate A/C unit, leaving periodically to check on the progress. The old equipment and the new equipment were unbelievably heavy and cumbersome. Out the old went and in came the new. The 113 degree heat didn’t care that this was back breaking work. The men drank Gatorade throughout the day. They had their pace and worked it. Periodically, we’d get a progress report.

After almost a nine hour marathon, the magic happened. The thermostat was installed, the screen “buttons” punched, and on came the air. Hallelujah. It proved a real piece of wizardry. It can be operated from the wall, from the computer, from the cell phone. It seems to do everything but talk and wish you good morning. Quite a change from the old thermostat that gave us the temp and the option for heat or cool.

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Eureka!

Here’s the readout on the new thermostat. Check the snowflakes in the bottom left corner. They let you know the system is cooling. The temp has since been set to 78 degrees. So kudos to technology, but mostly kudos to those three guys who worked in the unforgiving heat, kept their cool, and got us back into the house and into the air conditioning.

We were saved from having to leave our marks to prove we had walked the earth, like petroglyph writers of days gone by. That we hadn’t melted into the sunset, that we hadn’t succumbed to a devastating malady – Failed Air Conditioning.

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Joshua Tree Petroglyph (Courtesy of placesthatwere.com)

 

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Have you had your hug today?

I recently went to an event with friends where, when it was over, everyone was hugging, like people do after an evening when feelings of closeness and well-being surround everyone. As I leaned in to hug one person, she said, “Oh, no, heart to heart.”

I looked at her questioningly, quickly cataloging my hug knowledge. Regular hug, polite hug, bear hug, lover’s hug, one-sided hug, smothering hug – like the one from a relative you wanted to escape when you were a kid.

She saw I was in hug turmoil.

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Heart to heart – courtesy of Flickr – Donnie Ray Jones

Following that, we danced a ballet of arms and heads. The trick to hugging heart to heart is to lead with the left arm rising, lean to your right, left cheek to left cheek. We finally  hugged heart to heart.

Why did I feel so awkward?

I step into a hug with my right arm rising. The heart to heart hug felt strange because nothing seemed in the right place. I’ve been a right side hugger all my life.

Did the heart to heart feel more close?

I know the words “heart to heart” have an intimacy to them. We have heart to heart talks, why not heart to heart hugs? The idea of heart to heart also feels good. Maybe it’s a mental thing that prepares you for the heart to heart. Did I feel more warmth? More closeness? Did our hearts synchronize? If so, these are positive benefits, especially after one article I read stated that in a traditional hug we hug “liver to liver.”

But to answer my question, Did it feel more close? I’m not sure. I haven’t done enough heart to heart hugs, without self-consciousness or deliberateness. I’ll have to do more research. (Somebody has to do it.) But it felt good.

There are any number of articles and much research on hugging in general. According to a Huffpost feature called “Healthy Living,” here are some definite hug benefits:

  1. Hugs make us feel good and energize us.
  2. More hugs = lower blood pressure.
  3. Hugs may alleviate our fears.
  4. Hugging can be good for our hearts.
  5. Adults can benefit from hugging the most.
  6. Hugs are a natural stress reliever.
  7. Well-hugged babies are less stressed as adults.

You’ll want to decide for yourself if a heart to heart hug is for you, if hearts synchronize. If it’s more close, more intimate. However, whether you hug to the right or to the left, I think the most important thing when you do hug is this: your heart is in the hug.

Something to remember – from Bill Keane, American cartoonist: A hug is like a boomerang – you get it back right away.

And one last thought – remember to give yourself a hug. You deserve it. And add a little positive self-talk.

Have a Fabulous Fourth!

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A Walk With Her Father

Did you ever, as a little girl, dance with your father? You know. He held your hands, you placed your feet on each of his, and he waltzed you around the room. Remember? As you grew, he steadied you on your new two wheeler and then, after a few years, helped you learn to drive the family car. When you married, you thought how handsome he looked as he walked you down the aisle. But life happened. And one day he was no longer young.

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A Time to Remember


A Walk with Her Father

She puts her small hands
in his, unsure. She wobbles,
her steps atop his.
Gently, he steadies and guides.
They glide across the room,
her first dance.

She slips her arm in his.
From behind a white veil
she smiles at him.
They walk together
down a carpeted aisle,
step by step.

“Who gives this woman?”
“I do,” he answers.
He squeezes her hand,
not wanting to let go,
but steps away.

She joins her husband-to-be.

And now … 

She takes her father’s hand.
They walk beneath the maples,
their fingers entwined.
His cane taps the sidewalk,
leaves crunch underfoot.
She steadies him with each step.

                                                                                                                                    by Carol Mann 2016
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“A Walk with her Father,” Watercolor by Lynn Centeno

Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for all you do!

Posted in Inspiration, memoir, poetry, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

A Time to Remember

Memorial Day. A day to remember those who have sacrificed. It’s impossible to see an honored last resting place or a national monument without feelings of loss, of love, of deep appreciation. Without thoughts about lives denied.

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Memorial Day Weekend courtesy of Time.com

On this day we pay tribute to our military of days gone by, to those who are in harm’s way today, and to those of today who have paid the highest price. I can’t begin to know the anguish of parents and spouses and children, those who wait at home. I cannot begin to know the courage, the determination, the fear, the sacrifice of those on military assignment around the world.

But I can respect and honor them.

Recently, I was part of a program called “Reflections.” In it, artists submitted work and writers chose one of the pieces of art to write about. When I saw the painting below, I had no idea of the artist’s concept. I was drawn to several things. To the young man’s eyes. To what perhaps is the yearning or remembering in them, to the loss or hurt. To what seems to be a military uniform. To wondering about what he had done, what he had seen. To the birds. A good sign, a bad omen?

We each bring our own experiences and ideas to a painting. We each see and are touched by something different. That is the beauty and enduring gift of art. What do you see? What would you write? Below is what I saw and wrote.

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Portrait – oil on canvas by artist Barbara McEwen

The Soldier

Morning skies illuminate
a wistful face, reveal eyes
haunted by memories
destined not to fade.

Gone is the laughter,
gone is the innocence.
Faces of men
wander his mind,
faces of those he lost.

Harbingers of hope
mourn the emptiness within,
seek to calm his world forever changed,
to bring him peace.

                                                                                                            by Carol Mann 2017

As I participate in Memorial Day celebrations and activities, I’ll hold dear the sacrifices of our military and their families.

***

Memorial Day in my family is also a day to remember family and friends who have passed. Mothers, fathers, husbands, wives. Family. My husband and I always went to the graves of his parents sometime during the Memorial Day period until we moved out of the area and could no longer do so. He tended the sites. Pulled away grass and weeds, brushed the detritus from the marble markers, placed fresh flowers in the sunken urns. He’d talk to them a bit. I did, too. Simply a quiet moment of remembrance.

***

Whatever your tradition, I wish you an inspired Memorial Day as you honor the sacrifice of the men and women who serve.

Remembrance

***

A footnote – the commissioned portrait in the blog is of Frederick Sleight, who became an anthropologist and later Executive Director of the Palm Springs Art Museum. He oversaw the transition of the Desert Museum, founded in 1938, to that of the PS Art Museum.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a special day, whether your mother is nearby, across the country, or across the ocean. It’s a time to reach out to her, hear her voice, hold her hand. It’s a time to renew that special bond. Even though my mother is gone many years, memories of her are not. And, strangely, those mother/daughter bones of contention that arose over the years are no longer important.

What is important are the special activities that will fill the hours: having a family gathering, taking your mom to brunch, placing a cross-country or Skype call, visiting a gravesite with her favorite flowers in hand.

In the book All Ways A Woman, a collaboration I did as a writer with artist Lynn Centeno, are several poems that ring true for Mother’s Day. I’d like to share them with you. The first is called “My Mother’s Hat.” An aside: Billy Collins was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. He suggests using an object as a key to unlocking a door to a larger, deeper idea. This was indeed the case with my mother’s hat.

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A simple hat woven of straw …

My Mother’s Hat

My mother’s hat is woven of straw,
a worn and weathered circle
of complicated love.

Its presence
recalls her special gifts to me.
Choices, rainbowed with dreams.

My mother’s hat shields from summer’s sun,
a wide-brimmed haven
of sacrifice and constancy.

Wearing it
brings her memory close.
I hear her words, feel her near me.

by Carol Mann

***

Motherhood offers life’s greatest joys, challenges, and rewards. As a mother, you form a special bond with each child. The following words are for you.

Mother and daughter share a special moment …

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In My Arms – Watercolor by Lynn Centeno

In My Arms

My precious little girl,
your every breath
takes mine away.

Forever I remember the first time
I held you, the moment we became
mother and daughter.

Know always I’m here,
your soft cloud, your safe
haven in life.

I savor your sweet
innocence, the beating
of your heart against mine.

“Mommy,” I hear as you snuggle close.

by Carol Mann

***

A young boy’s first experiences with art …

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White Paper – Watercolor by Lynn Centeno

White Paper

blue paint dollops and green
spread
slick
on paper
pristine

fingers slide across the sleekness
swish backward
wiggle forward
whirl in circles
twist and twirl

ocean waves curl
become rugged peaks
meld to a monster’s face
blossom into
a giant rayed sun

a smile lights my little boy’s face
smudges
of finger paint
decorate
his cheek, his nose

by Carol Mann

Wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day! 

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Hope your day is fabulous!

Posted in Creativity, Finding Ideas: The Creative Process, Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, poetry, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments