Waiting for a wireless world: the curse of cords

download
I wish my desk looked like this, but it doesn’t.

Once upon a time, we were told computers would make our lives simpler. Seemed rational, though we were also told they would lead to a paperless society, which is clearly not the case and is a story for another time.

I’m not arguing that computers don’t give us options never before seen in the history of mankind, it’s just that they make certain things so damn hard.

I’m speaking specifically of cords. Lately, I’m afraid to look behind my desktop where a nest of cables snakes in a pile from my power strip. I have tried reordering the mess on multiple occasions but it always manages to morph back in a tangled heap.

The problem intensified recently when, following my retirement from teaching, I needed to purchase some new computers, as well as a cellphone, an item I was acquiring for the first time ever. (Stop snickering.)

images-1
This isn’t really what the cables look like behind my desktop, it just feels that way.

All my new gadgets needed various types of cords, items unimaginatively name DVI cables, HDMI cables, PS/2 Cables, Ethernet cables, USB cables, etc. Though some of these cords came with my purchases, I had to buy others. I considered the cost of these additional wires and wondered why they weren’t included with my new devices. Made me wonder what my dad would have done in olden times had he toted that big square TV home and discovered there was no plug.

After utilizing power tools to pry my cords from their human-proof packaging, I plugged them in. There were so many, I had a brief panic attack. I need order to function, so I tried a bunch of twist ties, but the pile looked even worse.

Then I had to deal with the chargers. In addition to my desktop, I have a laptop, a Kindle, and a phone. But it gets better. I currently have two college-student kids pandemically stuck at home, each of whom also has multiple devices, as well as my sweetie pie who owns a tablet. Chargers sneak from sockets everywhere, though no one seems bothered by this but me. Nor do they struggle, as I do, with the question of which cord goes to which device.

The question arose: Why can’t the cords and their corresponding ports all be the same? I checked that out, figuring mankind had survived with just a few regional variations of the wall plug since the advent of electricity. I discovered there are three types of connectors: “twisted-pair connectors, coaxial cable connectors and fiber-optic connectors. Generally, cable connectors have a male component and a female component, except in the case of hermaphroditic connectors such as the IBM data connector.”

images
Why so many different types of ports? I’m guessing the answer is simple: Money.

I won’t pretend to understand that. I’m a simple sort. So, when I looked up the different types of ports, I was similarly confused. “Many USB ports look the same, but there are different generations with different capabilities. Some are USB 2.0 and some are 3.0 – the 3.0 ones are blue while the 2.0 ones do not have a special color. 3.0 is much faster than 2.0, but the device you are connecting must support 3.0 to use the extra speed.”

As to the why there are so many variations, even I can figure that out: Money. The various tech companies want us to keep shelling out funds for all those cords. And each company insists on it’s own special varieties, so no mixing and matching allowed. You know they could make this easier on us, but money rules. And we have no choice, if we wish to participate in the technological world.

Now, if I could only figure out which plug goes where. Sadly, that sometimes involves me sheepishly asking one of the kids for help and hoping there will be no eye rolling, after which I sometimes expect a pat on the head and a smile that says, “Isn’t Mom cute!”

In the meantime, I await a truly wireless world, where my desk is neat and clean and orderly. Is that really too much to ask?

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?

The real reason for sports

I don’t know when sports will return to normal. But I’m hoping they do and my rational might surprise you.

Life-long sports fans often look at the showy reasons we are willing to spend hours watching and reading about our favorite teams. As those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s can attest, perhaps “the thrill of victory…the agony of defeat,” – the opening to ABCs Wide World of Sports – says it all.

But maybe there are better motives for having sports in our world. And I’m not talking about the various professional leagues, nor am I referring to big-time college sports. I’m talking about youth and school sports where the benefit of participating on the field or court is one of the most important activities for preparing young people for the business world.

download-1

Ninety-six percent of big-time female executives played sports.

Don’t believe me? Well, consider this. According to Ernst & Young, a multi-national professional services network, 96% of women in C-suite positions played sports. (Note here that C-suite refers to the highest-ranking senior executives in an organization. The C stands for chief.)

I spent 20 years teaching journalism and communication skills in a Title I high school in Phoenix. I was fortunate enough to get to know my students well, as sometimes I had them four consecutive years. I mention this because I was able to see how much my charges grew from freshman year through graduation. The ones who seemed to mature the most were often those who participated in sports. The question is why.

images-2

Young athletes learn the importance of perseverance, mental toughness, and teamwork.

Young people are often insecure. (Think back. Be honest.) They fear failure and ridicule and often keep to the shadows, worried about being laughed at. But an athlete can’t do that. When you step on a playing surface you are required to be resilient. After all, on occasion everyone drops a pass or strikes out or angers the coach. There’s no hiding then. Athletes must hone their mental toughness in the public sphere. They must learn to persevere even when the scoreboard says they’re losing 66-0.

It’s not easy to get up and go out for another pass. But young people who do are mastering some of the most important skills in the workplace. Athletes must deal with defeat and failure and not give up. They must be able to overcome frustration, be confident, and work with others toward a common goal. If you’ve ever spent one day in an office, you can see how important these life skills are.

Last Game Touchdown

I taught high school for 20 years and officiated amateur sports for four decades, so I’ve seen first hand how sports help young people grow.

I officiated amateur sports for 40 years, and I wish parents and fans understood the lessons their children are being offered when they decide to participate in sports. Sadly, some parents are often more interested in convincing their kids that they are sure to become Olympic or professional athletes someday, money and fame being their only enticement. I wish they’d remember that almost all high school athletes will never play again once they graduate and just 2% of NCAA athletes will ever turn pro.

But these statistics should not negate the importance of sports participation. The get back up and try again ethos is engrained in sports and those who can’t handle failure, those who quit and walk away, will perhaps continue that trend throughout their lives. While those who take a breath and give it another go will grow to be confident, secure, and resilient.

I’d hire them. Wouldn’t you?

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?

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?

 

Joining the herd

images

Count me in. I’ve joined the herd.

I walked through the open door feeling uncomfortable. It was the AT&T store. My freewheeling days of being a non-cellphone user were finally up. I slipped inside wondering if anyone would spot my discomfiture. Was the fact that I’d never owned a cellphone obvious?

At that moment, my sweetie pie Ryan called out, “Here’s a virgin cellphone user!” So, whatever anonymity I had was instantly gone.

A dark-haired woman who was perusing cellphone cases grinned and gazed at me. “Really!” It felt like she was staring at an animal long thought extinct.

Geez! I wanted to scream, “I am not a technophobe! I have both laptop and desktop computers. I can layout a magazine in InDesign and am comfortable with Photoshop. I read on a Kindle. I have five social media sites, three e-mail accounts, a website, and a blog.”

But…I have never owned a cellphone.

download

Twenty years of begging my students to “put down the phone” was exhausting.

I have written about this before. As a teacher of 20 years, my disdain for cellphones runs deep. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time asking … cajoling … begging … OK, threatening students to, “PLEASE STEP AWAY FROM THE PHONE! Please, stop cradling those electronic devices like they’re defenseless newborns. And, geez, are those tears? I promise I’ll give the phone back at the end of class.”

“But Ms. Montgomery,” students always say when they learn of my phone-less condition. “What if someone needs you in an emergency?”

“They should call 911.”

Then they shake their heads, unable to comprehend how I can exist without a phone.

A tiny bleached-blond woman, who didn’t look much older than my high school kids, approached me at the cellphone store and asked how she could help.

“I have to get a phone.”

She smiled. “Which one?”

“I have no idea!” I explained that I needed the phone for two reasons. One is that, as an author, I need to be on Instagram, and while I have an account, who knew you couldn’t post from a computer. The other reason is that we’re planning to buy a home in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands where there are no landlines. AT&T is the only large carrier that operates there.

I pointed at a random phone on a display rack. “I’ll take that one.”

She requested my ID and checked my credit score. “What am a buying, a car?” I mumbled under my breath.

“What color would you like? We have black, red, white, and purple.”

“Purple, I said, not realizing she meant the color of the phone. I thought she was describing the case, which would cover my new device, protecting the wee thing from harm. When she appeared with a purple phone, I still said fine, then I wandered off to the cellphone-cover wall. Who knew there were so many decorative options? For me the choice was quick and easy. I grabbed the case that was zebra striped – an homage to my 40 years as a football official.

I don’t think anyone will mistake this phone for theirs,” I said to Ryan. “Purple with zebra stripes.”

“I see that.”

th-5

With my new phone, I’m afraid I’ll end up like these folks, ignoring those around me.

I’d like to tell you that I’m delighted to have my new phone, but I can’t help feeling a bit off. I have railed against the devices for so long, I feel like a traitor. I fear becoming the woman who was so engrossed in her phone she fell face first into a mall water fountain. Or the people who slip into the Grand Canyon every year trying to take that perfect selfie. Or the couples who go out to dinner and ignore one another while they text other friends.

I’m trying to cozy up to my new phone, but our relationship remains a bit rocky. Still, I know I’ll eventually adjust.

A least, I hope I will.

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?

 

Lockdown lessons learned from my cats

Like everyone else, I have been marooned at home for months. I realize I have no reason to complain, since that would make me sound like a spoiled brat.

images

With a fridge filled with chocolate and wine you’d think I’d be a happy girl.

I have a lovely house, fabulous food cooked by my sweetie pie, a well-stocked wine rack and some spirits socked away just in case the Zombie Apocalypse rears its messy head. Then there’s the chocolate drawer in the fridge, where regular people probably keep fruits and vegetables. But, after recovering from an overweight childhood where I was yelled at every time that ancient refrigerator door latch gave me away, I keep all that sweet stuff available just because I can. My house! My fridge! My rules!

I also have my trusty Kindle on which to read, daily newspapers delivered to my front door, and Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO Now. Add to that my dog and a few kitties who are always happy to sit in my lap, and well, gosh, I’m quarantining in luxury.

And yet…I’m struggling.

“What’s on tap for tomorrow?” my sweetie pie says at the end of every day.

At which point we smile sadly, since there is generally nothing on tap. For excitement we go to the grocery store, once we’ve rigged up our masks. The other day, we had to pick up something at the dry cleaner. That, depressingly, was our singular outing that day.

I can’t help but think of Billy Murray in Groundhog Day, where as Phil Collins – a cranky weatherman hemmed in by a snowstorm – he’s trapped in a never-ending loop, repeating the same day over and over.

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same,” Phil opines in the film. “And nothing that you did mattered?”

Exactly!

download

In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character seems doomed to spend the same day over and over. I can relate.

As anyone who’s seen the film can attest, Phil is pretty much a complete jerk. At least, he was at the start, but as the same day continually repeats itself, Phil becomes a better person.

Humm?

“Have I gotten nicer during quarantine?” I asked my sweetie pie.

He looked over the top of his reading glasses. “Are you looking for me to say yes?”

Feeling no need to have him elaborate, I left it at that. Clearly Phil was responding better than I to the sameness of the days.

I wondered why this lockdown was not working for me. Pre-Corona I had too much to do, a situation that had me longing for retirement. Now that I’m retired from teaching and football officiating, shouldn’t I be happy?

According to the article “The Mental Health Survival Guide to the Pandemic,” in Psychology Today, “As people practice their social distancing and hole up in their homes, two prominent feelings are likely to emerge, boredom and restlessness. Many are already experiencing these feelings.”

Yep!

“When our routines are disrupted, accomplishing the priorities in our lives can be severely compromised. Many people begin to feel lost. They aren’t quite sure what they are supposed to be doing with their time. They begin to have too much free time on their hands. They come up with some tasks to do, but at the end of the day, they may feel that they didn’t accomplish as much as they normally do. This leaves them feeling distressed, bored, or restless.”

Yep and yep and yep!

Morgan and Westin copy

Kitties, brilliant creatures that they are, spend most of their time napping. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that.

What can we do with all this free time? I was considering my options when I caught a glimpse of my two cats, calmly reclining, spooning with one another. Since spending my days at home, I’ve noticed, for the first time, just how much those kitties sleep. After their breakfast, they settle in and rarely move until dinner time, which apparently does not leave them feeling “distressed, bored, and restless.”

Perhaps there’s a lesson in that somewhere. Maybe one need not accomplish a lot each day to be content.

“Where are you going?” my sweetie pie asked.

“To take a nap.”

“Good for you.”

He didn’t have to say, “Maybe that will make you nicer.”

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?

 

 

 

 

Breasts: a conundrum

download-3

Ancient sculptures celebrated breasts.

It might surprise you to know that displaying female breasts in public was once the height of fashion. Prehistoric statues, by and large, almost always depicted breasts in their entirety. After all, early humans understood these appendages were pretty useful and rather magical, since, geez, they produced food.

During the 16th century, women of all classes happily displayed their breasts and no one seemed too upset about it. It wasn’t until the late 19th century when John Singer Sargent painted the Portrait of Madame X in her sleek black dress that people started raising their eyebrows in regard to exposed mammary glands.

By today’s standards Madame X – actually Paris socialite Virginie Amelie Avegno Gautre – is ridiculously tame. So, attitudes were clearly changing. By the early 20th century, there was nary a breast to be seen, as women were now covered from head to toe, and that ideal, except for the odd formal occasion, was the norm.

Until it wasn’t.

 

In the sixties and seventies, breasts were once again released from bondage, as the Burn the Bra movement took over. I will admit right here that, at the tender age of 16, I took one look at that uncomfortable contraption and without a second thought chucked it. For the next 30 years, I mostly avoided bras.

Then I became a teacher. A colleague took one look at my chest and shook her head. “You can’t go around like that in school.”

I frowned. “Like what?”

She pointed at my chest.

“Don’t be silly,” I said. “I’m old enough to be their grandmother.”

Still, that very day, I realized she was right, when I caught a student eyeing my breasts. So, off to the lingerie store I went, trying to find a system I could stand to wear. It wasn’t easy.

download-4

On the island of Marstrand on the west coast of Sweden, I discovered a different attitude toward breasts.

Around the same time, I took a trip to Sweden. I’d lived with a lovely family when I was a student in Luxembourg. They were Swedes who had a summer home on the west coast near a beautiful island called Marstrand. One day, I took a ferry to the island, where I found no cars, lovely little bistros, and a grand 300-year-old castle called Carlsten’s Fortress. Sailboats dotted the sea. The sun was out, apparently a bit of a rarity up there in the North Sea, and the locals were so joyful they…um…took off their clothes.

As I walked the seaside trail, I noticed many people reclining on the gray rocks, mostly naked. I considered this as I sat in a grassy spot to read a book. But I couldn’t concentrate. I wondered how all those people could be so comfortable in the buff, out in the open. So, in a When-in-Rome moment, I whipped off my shirt and bra, tugged my cap down low, and waited. I pretended to read my book, but really I was thinking about sitting there naked from the waist up.

A short time later — and to my everlasting horror — a family of four approached on the trail. Two boys, maybe 10 and 12, followed their parents.  I was frozen in place. What happened next was not at all what I expected.

download-5

Showing all the cleavage you can is popular right now.

Later that evening, over a bottle of wine, I explained the event to my Luxembourg parents, Kurt and Margareta. I shook my head. “They never even looked!” I said, clearly flustered. At which point they laughed so hard they almost spit out their wine.

Today, breasts are, once again, everywhere on display. Many women feel no qualms about exposing every inch of cleavage they can muster. I have no problem with this in general. Though I do feel there’s a time and a place for such displays. I’m still pretty old school about educational and office environments. As I have often told my students, dress any way you want for a party on Saturday night, but give your wardrobe a bit more consideration on that job interview.

I’m guessing, since we know history tends to repeat itself, the fashion world will eventually force breasts  back into hiding.

As for me, since I recently retired from teaching, the girls can once again go free.

Ah . . .

 

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?