Table 1

Back when restaurants were still fully operational, many of us felt the joy of getting the perfect table, one with comfy seats and a view and attentive servers delivering delectable meals. But, during our lockdown, outings at restaurants have mostly been curtailed, so we can only wistfully recall those lovely times at the prefect table.

For me and my sweetie pie those thoughts are of Table 1.

download-1

The first Table 1 appeared on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

The inaugural Table 1 occurred in St. Lucia, when Ryan and I were on a scuba diving adventure on that lovely, mountainous island. As we often do on our dive trips, we’d rented a room with a small kitchen. Ryan is an excellent cook and we enjoy hitting local markets so we can eat what’s fresh and indigenous to the area.

Ryan had prepared a meal of spicy seafood gumbo, green salad, and crusty buttered bread. With the sun sinking on the Caribbean, we wanted to eat outside. Our room was situated near an open-air pavilion that sported stacks of tables and chairs and, on closer look, a bar and  large, well-stocked wine refrigerator. Though a sign pointed out that the restaurant was closed for the summer, we walked through the building and found a beautiful bayside perch, where seawater lapped gently on the rocks.

Ry and I looked at one another, then we pulled a table up to the edge of the deck. We arranged two chairs, and I went to the owner of the small hotel and was rewarded with a linen tablecloth, napkins, and a candle. Ryan gathered our plates and utensils, while I carried the wine.

We ate our dinner washed by gentle sea breezes and watched the lights glimmer on in the houses across the bay.

st-lucia-106119_960_720

Our inaugural Table 1 was situated on the edge of this St. Lucia bay. (At least, I think that’s the one.)

“Best table ever!” Ryan stared out over the water.

“Table 1.” I agreed.

Then, we were distracted from our revelry by the appearance of a middle-aged man. Ry and I flinched, wondering if we’d overstepped some private-property boundary line, but he approached us smiling and introduced himself as the restaurant owner. After a brief moment of awkwardness, I offered him a glass of wine, but he shook his head, saying he had to get back to his other restaurant which remained open in the summer. He didn’t seem the least bit concerned that we had appropriated his establishment and invited us to visit his other restaurant, if we had the time. We assured him that we would and on the next evening we had a lovely meal, this time cooked by him.

The thing about Table 1 is that it has become a permanent part of our travels. Everywhere we go, we seek beautiful vistas at which we can gaze while eating. We even have a small metal folding table – dubbed Table 1 – that we take on our road-trip travels. That little table has been positioned in many lovely places, mainly situated in Arizona which is one of the most glorious and diverse geographic locales on the planet.

Desert Blooming 3

Table 1 has been set all over Arizona’s glorious terrain.

We have faced a desert vibrant with wildflowers, a vast expanse of mighty saguaros, and skies filled with a dozen shades of gray as monstrous storms swirled in the distance. We’ve positioned ourselves in the tall pines in Arizona’s Rim country and on the edge of a flowing river backed by red mountains where wild horses roam free.

Perhaps, the answer to surviving our current state of lockdown is the recollection of the lovely times we’ve had before, memories that can sustain us, until we are once again free.

Maybe now you’ll understand why I reminisce about Table 1 and so look forward to my next opportunity to set that particular table.

 

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

WILD HORSES ON THE SALT

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

 

 

 

 

Crocodiles, thunderstorms, and grenade launchers, oh my!

One of the worst things about being in lockdown this time of year is that during the summer many of us travel. We look forward to leaving our homes to visit friends and family, searching for adventure when vacationing in new locales, and participating in pastimes that are not always available where we live.

My sweetie pie and I generally find an ocean to leap into, since we’re avid scuba divers and can think of nothing better than a good swim with the fishes. But, alas, we’re now stuck at home with no trips on the horizon. And that makes us reminisce about travels we’ve taken in the past. Most of the time these excursions were glorious, but as travelers know sometimes vacation treks can be anything but easy.

Me wreck diving

My sweetie pie and I enjoy scuba diving, but the Covid-19 virus has us marooned in the desert.

I recall the time we boarded a tiny plane in Costa Rica that would take us to Drake Bay, a wee dot on the map with an airport to match. Actually, airport would give it much more credit than it deserved. Upon landing on the jungle airstrip, we were greeted by a single wooden bench.

download-1

We crossed through deep water on a Costa Rican beach not realizing salt water crocs swam in at high tide.

An SUV appeared out of the woods and our gear was tossed on board. We bounced through a thick rainforest on a rutted road and approached a river, which had me scanning the area for a bridge. Turns out we didn’t need one. We sloshed through the water, wound through the jungle, and were deposited on a beach, where high tide surged up into the trees. Our driver pointed to the other side of the clearing, where a rustic building — our hotel — perched on a wooded rise. He showed us how to hoist our bags over our heads and disappeared.

Ryan and I stared at one another, then we lifted our gear and waded through the surf. Later, cold beer in hand, we sat with a few other folks staring at that flooded beach, which we were told would be clear by morning.

“Then, the crocodiles will go back out to sea,” one local explained.

“Crocodiles?” I squinted at the man who shrugged as if saying, “No big deal.”

On the trip back to the Costa Rican capital of San Juan, our small plane bounced in a set of thunderstorms, which precipitated a wide, looping flight pattern around the airport. The pilot announced it was too rough to land. Immediately thoughts of How much fuel do we have? and What happens if we’re struck by lightning? danced in our heads. Then, Ry pointed at the cabin door. Rain was pouring inside the plane. We held hands wondering if this might be the end. Of course, it was not. Our brilliant pilot landed us safely, albeit a bit damp.

11781788_1671357953097450_6853772478678195334_n

Ry and I enjoyed our trip to China, until we faced a serious problem at the airport.

Our scariest travel moment was on a trip to China. We stood in a group in Wuhan’s massive airport, amid our two-week excursion to the ancient country. A soldier appeared with a rifle slung over his back. He pointed at a suitcase which like all the others had gone through an x-ray machine. Our guide said, “Who owns this bag?” Immediately Ryan stepped forward. When I pointed out that the suitcase was mine, he shook his head, intimating that I should remain silent, which is something I rarely do. Still, I acquiesced and watched as he was led away.

Our group waited; some folks concerned that we might miss our flight. Our guide paced and fidgeted with our passports. We had no idea where Ryan was taken.

After forty-minutes passed, I learned what occurred.

“They took me to a small room. Three soldiers with assault rifles were pointing at the bag and speaking in Chinese, but I didn’t understand what they wanted me to do.” Ryan spread both hands. “One of them grabbed a cellphone and swiped through some photographs. Then he showed me the phone and pointed at the screen. There was a picture of a grenade launcher.”

download-2

Somehow, Chinese soldiers mistook a cardboard tube and a hair dryer for a grenade launcher.

Ryan was told to open the bag and search through the contents while the soldiers watched. What did he find? A cardboard tube holding a watercolor painting of birds that I’d purchased. Turns out, my hairdryer was positioned right next to the cylinder. Humm?

I felt a surge of relief when we finally boarded our flight. There’s no telling where Ry might have ended up.

“I would have stayed, if they didn’t bring you back,” I assured him.

“No, you would get on the plane and go home.”

That didn’t seem quite right, but my sweetie pie was adamant, so for the second time in less than an hour I demurred. And I agreed that next time we’re accused of harboring a grenade launcher in our dirty laundry, I will do as instructed.

Despite our travel travails the road still beckons. We long to go somewhere soon.

Here’s hoping.

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

Wild Horses on the Salt

A woman flees an abusive husband

and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Domestic violence: Leave or become a statistic

Dometic Violence deaths

Domestic violence has increased during our pandemic lockdown.

The headline was stark and disturbing: “Domestic Violence deaths up 140% in 2020 so far.”

The news that the city of Phoenix, where I have resided almost 30 years, has seen 24 deaths due to domestic violence – compared with ten this time last year – is frightening, but sadly not the least bit surprising. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many people to stay at home. Imagine now that the person you are confined with is one intent on inflicting bodily harm.

Our current state of lockdown remains a struggle where people are exasperated by the sameness of every day. Add to that the anxiety over lost jobs, rent and mortgage payments, school closures, and a future that remains uncertain. Abusers need someone on whom to take out their frustrations, perhaps in an effort to regain control. In the best of times, these people harm those they are purported to love. These are not the best of times.

Scared Face

With people stuck at home, abuse victims are going unnoticed by mandatory reporters.

Before the pandemic, processes were in place to identify people – primarily women and children – who might be suffering at the hands of a “loved one,” though I use that term loosely. As a teacher of 20 years, one of my responsibilities was to keep watch for children who might be suffering abuse at home. In fact, as an educator, like medical professionals, law enforcement officers, and social workers among others, my failure to report suspected abuse could land me a six-month stay in jail or a fine of $1,000 or both.

With children stuck at home and many people afraid to venture into doctors’ offices, mandated reporters are mostly out of the loop. That is until a 911 call when it’s often too late.

So, what can we do? If you’re being abused, know there is help. My new book, Wild Horses on the Salt, details the recovery of a woman fleeing domestic violence. While researching the protagonist, I learned the proper procedures required to escape. The National Domestic Violence Hotline says you should make a plan before leaving.

  • Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures of injuries.
  • Keep a journal of all violent incidences, noting dates, events and threats made, if possible. Keep your journal in a safe place.
  • Know where you can go to get help. Tell someone what is happening to you.
  • If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.
  • Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them, like a room with a lock or a friend’s house where they can go for help. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.
  • Contact your local shelter and find out about laws and other resources available to you before you have to use them during a crisis. WomensLaw.org has state by state legal information.
  • Acquire job skills or take courses at a community college.
  • Try to set money aside or ask friends or family members to hold money for you.
  • Before you leave, also make sure to have important legal papers, like medical records, driver’s license and car registration, insurance cards, emergency phone numbers, and financial information.
OIP-1

Make a plan and leave your abuser while you still can.

In addition, it’s important to understand that just leaving an abuser doesn’t end the problem. Abuse leaves damage inside and out. Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, guilt, and shame are just some of the conditions survivors face, so seeking mental-health therapy is often a necessary part of healing.

The bottom line is no one has to stay with abuser. If you don’t take a stand now, later you might not be able to walk away. And remember, if your children are watching the abuse, chances are they’ll grow up and repeat the cycle. So, do it for them. Make a plan and then make a call.

Your life may depend on it.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

 

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

Wild Horses on the Salt

A woman flees an abusive husband

and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

 

Today’s lesson is about sharing

images

Today’s lesson is about the things we share on the Internet.

Though I have retired from the classroom, I’m going to put on my teacher’s cap so we can have a quick chat about the things we share on social media.

Dodododododeedo………There, it’s on.  Today’s lesson entails what we should do before we hit the share button. It’s not complicated stuff. In fact, it’s rather simple.

First, if you get what you think is a clever piece of writing from a friend and you have the sudden urge to spread it hither and yon on the Internet, pause for a moment. Then look to see who wrote the story. If there’s no writer/reporter identified, that’s a huge red flag. As a writer myself, I can tell you that I want my name on all my work. IN BIG FAT LETTERS! Writers live for that byline. So, if your post identifies no one who wants to claim it as their own, it’s fake.

Then, check the news source from which it came. No source. Hit delete and give it no further thought. If there’s a media outlet listed, google it. Check the About Us or FAQs links to see where they lie on the bias chart. Then use a fact-check site like https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/search/. This will tell you how reliable the source is and might explain why the outlet is sharing the story as written. No media source should be biased, though some clearly are. It’s your job, dear reader, to sort out whether an outlet is trying to make you believe something is true because it serves their agenda.

Next, locate the date the story occurred. Don’t be the one who shares a story from a decade ago as if it’s current news, unless there’s a good reason to do so. Ask yourself, “What is my motive for sharing this information today?”

download-1

Are those interviewed in your story real experts?

A very sneaky way media outlets try to fool you is by utilizing questionable sources, meaning those “experts” they use to convince you they’re telling the truth. I read a story recently that quoted a doctor who seriously downplayed the corona virus. When I looked up the physician in question, I discovered he was an eye doctor. Now, I’m not saying an opthalmologist might not be competent in this regard — Yes, I know late Chinese eye doctor Ai Fen was one of the first to raise the alarm about the severity of Covid-19 which subsequerntly killed him — still, if I were writing the story, I’d seek out a virologist or an Emergency Room medical worker to interview.

Another thing to look at on your post is graphics. Does the presentation look professional or does it resemble your eight-year-old’s homework? Note the spelling and grammar and punctuation, as well. Poorly composed stories are most likely fake.

So, there you have it. Not too complicated. Now we need everyone to get on board.  If we don’t take the time to check what we share, someday, perhaps soon, we’ll lose the ability to discern what’s real and what’s not. How scary is that?

download-1

Do your homework before hitting the share button.

And, one more thing, though this one’s tough. Please vary the media sources you consume. Don’t just stick with outlets with whom you agree. As a news consumer, it’s your job to ferret out the truth. The only way to do that is to open your mind and pay attention to all the competing voices.

Then, and only then, should you hit that share button.

 

 

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

Wild Horses on the Salt

A woman flees an abusive husband

and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

 

Can journalism be saved?

Montgomery Channel 10 2

When I was a reporter I took my role as a journalist seriously.

I was raised in the late 60s and early 70s in Northern New Jersey, where our news came out of New York City. Back then, the news set was peopled by jacket-and-tie wearing men, journalists who almost never smiled and who delivered the news with solemnity and purpose. My parents read the now defunct Newark News over their morning coffee and the New York Times with their evening cocktails, a time during which my siblings and I were expected to be quiet and respectful.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that I wanted to be a reporter, a position I would hold for fifteen years, working in both television and print.

I grew up watching Roger Grimsby and Bill Beutel anchoring the evening news. Two men who clearly understood that journalism was a revered vocation and that there were hard rules involved in getting a story right.

For example, one never ran a piece without getting three sources to confirm the veracity of a story. Truth mattered. As did balance. A reporter was expected, in fact required, to give equal time or space to both sides of the story. The reporter’s opinion – either overt or covert – was never part of the story. Ever! Reporters also had to utilize irreproachable sources.

Today, however, the journalistic world has been turned on its ink-stained head at some media outlets. Note here I said some. These venues – which shall remain nameless – have picked sides. An idea that certainly has Grimsby and Beutel spinning in their graves.

36588153031_75d47625da_b

I hate to even utter the words “fake news,” but in today’s world, mistrust of the media is rampant, because of those who put opinions in their stories instead of facts.

As often happens when a few bad apples take hold in our collective consciousness, all others are tainted right along with them. So now, everywhere you turn, people are dismissing journalists as liars and purveyors of — I hate to even say the words — “fake news”.

I cannot tell you how much this idea hurts. Once we trusted the media and looked to journalists as voices of reason, especially in difficult times. Their balanced reporting spoke to us and, more importantly, asked that we make our own decisions regarding the day’s events.

I have tried to recall the time when respect for journalists changed so dramatically. Note that the following is only an opinion based on my own experience, and here I will take on local TV news. When I worked for a station in Phoenix, Arizona, my news director called me into his office one day.

“You need to talk to the other people on the set,” he said.

“Why?”

“If you don’t, viewers will think you don’t like your co-anchors.”

“I would rather use the time to get in an extra story,” I countered. “Why would anyone care if I like my peers?”

Sadly, it apparently did matter. Anyone who has watched two minutes of local news over the last ten years will concede that viewers are now subjected to what the anchors had for breakfast, what their kids are doing, how they feel about the weather, or any number of cute conversations orchestrated to make the viewer believe they’re just one big happy family. (For those of you who are industrious, perhaps you’d like to pick the station of your choice and time the extent of these conversations that do nothing but eat up airtime that might be better used to, you know, give us the news.)

In my opinion, all this jovial banter has resulted in viewers taking the news less seriously. And it’s painful to watch anchors constantly flipping their switches as they bounce between the deadly crash on the freeway and the proverbial water-skiing squirrel, or even worse what’s trending on Twitter. This folksiness has dumbed down local news.

download

Freedom of the Press is enshrined in our Bill of Rights. But what good is it if no one trusts the media?

That said, local news is still where the real journalism occurs. While the networks and some large and once highly-respected urban newspapers have abdicated their former high standards – and should be mortally embarrassed by the tainted tales they spew – true journalists are still working hard in local markets all over the country. Reporters with integrity who understand the importance of the press as identified in our Bill of Rights.

What can we do? First, we need to separate news from entertainment. Perhaps Reuters/Now has it right. No anchors. And you never see a reporter or even hear their names. The news is delivered without fanfare. Just the facts. Put the anchors on the entertainment side of the newsroom where they can run all the cute cat videos they want. Also, commentaries and editorials are just fine, as long as they’re labeled as such. No sneaking in opinions where they don’t belong. And let’s pick real experts to interview, people with actual credentials in the field they’re discussing.

It is my fervent hope that the American public will someday soon find a way to trust journalists again. Because without that conviction our world will become a very scary place. Despots and dictators understand that one way of corralling freedom is to destroy faith in the press. Every year journalists worldwide are killed for reporting the truth where the facts are uncomfortable for those in power. That’s the reason freedom of the press is enshrined in our laws. As I told my students when I taught journalism, the job of reporters is to shine light in dark places.

Without that what hope do we have?

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2

Wild Horses on the Salt

A woman flees an abusive husband

and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?