Can journalism be saved?

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

Life lessons learned at summer camp

Camp Eagle Island

In 1970, my two best friends and I went to camp where we learned life lessons we’ve never forgotten. Jill is second from the right in the bottom row, Shelly is first on the left in the second, and I’m leaning on my elbow, top right.

The news is universally depressing, as anyone who’s been keeping up can attest. But one particular story today made me sad. It was parents trying to recreate the summer camp experience at home, since many programs have been cancelled in the wake of Covid-19.

Some of the suggestions were to play camp games with your kids, make low-stress outdoor meals, and create camp crafts. I suppose the sentiment is nice, but fashioning the wonderful world of sleep-away camp at home is simply not possible.

As any avid camper will tell you, camping is about being away from home. For many of us that first experience on our own – mine came at the tender age of eight – can be magical. Mommy and Daddy aren’t around. There are new adults and new kids, all who need to find ways to connect. Yes, it can be scary, but we learn so much in the process.

My dear friend Jill, who I practically dragged to camp fifty years ago, remembers that experience today.

“I learned to come together with girls from all over – different towns, races, religions – and finally felt and understood the camaraderie that everyone always talked about when they talked about camp,” she said.

Our mutual friend Shelly also joined us, and though like Jill she was uncertain that first year, she quickly fell in love with camping.

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The lodge at Eagle Island peeks out over Saranac Lake in Upstate New York.

“The camp was on an island in a huge lake in the Adirondacks. Maybe the place was just too beautiful,” Shelly said. “But honestly, I think the reason I enjoyed it so much and came to understand how much I loved being outdoors…is because it was a Girl Scout Camp. The place was built on traditions, stories, special kid rituals, and camping lore.”

In my case, camping, especially those first few years, gave me a new perspective on who I was. I was overweight until I was 14 and was sometimes bullied. I am a low-level dyslexic which back then got me called stupid and lazy. The cool kids didn’t invite me to their parties. So, imagine my surprise when I became a cool kid at camp. The fact that I was an excellent swimmer was a big deal. That skill allowed me unfettered access to every water activity available at Eagle Island: canoeing, sailing, water skiing, scuba diving. Then there was music. We sang all the time and since I played the guitar, I felt admiration whenever I toted the instrument to the campfire. Yep, I was popular at camp, which made returning home to that other life difficult. Tears were usually involved.

“There was unlimited opportunity to learn about myself,” Shelly said of camp. “What I valued in a friend, in a group, in a leader, in myself. I went back two more years. In each subsequent year, I could feel myself emulating the counselors more and more. Like them, I wanted our group to learn new things and have fun and take care of each other, and the more I knew what I was doing, the better time I had.”

All these years later, my friends and I recall the one time none of us can forget.

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Our canoe trip took us through Blue Mountain Lake and led to a string of other lakes in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

“The highlight of camp was the canoe trip through the Blue Mountain chain – the mist rolling off the flat, silvery lake, the quiet slip, slip, slip of the paddles, dipping in as we shoved off the pine-needled shores of the campsite,” Jill said. “I learned how to recover when falling out of the canoe and how to carry a canoe on my head. I learned to help pitch a tent, how to cook spam over a campfire. And how to lay on a flat rock amongst wild blueberry bushes in the pitch black and look for shooting stars “

“(The) canoe trip of my life, where we almost gave up, but didn’t and completed the whole lake chain,” Shelly recalled. “Because all of that gave me incredible memories of shared joy and improved self-confidence and deep appreciation of time spent adventuring.”

On that canoe trip — eight days of never being indoors or sheltered from the elements — I learned not to give up the moment I most wanted to. We’d spent the night on the rocky ground in a rainstorm. No tents. No blow-up mattresses. My flannel sleeping bag soaked and heavy. No one slept, so we were tired and cranky the next morning as dark clouds massed over the water. Our food was running low. We took a vote in that drippy, pine forest on the edge of a lake. Should we call the trip or continue on? I’m embarrassed to admit here that I voted to end our adventure and head back to camp, but I was overruled. For the rest of my life, whenever I faced a decision to quit something that felt too difficult to finish, I have remembered that moment and the joy I experienced when I guided my canoe to that final beach.

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The time my friends and I shared in the Adirondack  Mountains changed us forever.

“Camping taught me that if someone gave me a job, then other people needed me to do it, or hey, maybe we wouldn’t eat,” Shelly said. “If I didn’t paddle, the canoe didn’t get to the campground. If I didn’t hold on, I couldn’t water ski. If I didn’t get wood, we wouldn’t have a campfire. If I wanted to be good at something, I had to do the work.”

My friends and I have carried the life skills we learned at camp with us through half a century, and I sense we will never give them up, nor will we forget where we learned them. In fact, we have decided to return to our island camp. Three women now in their sixties, back in a canoe with the bow pointed toward Eagle Island. I do believe when we step on that beautiful rock again, there will be tears marking our return to the place we learned so much about life.

Does anyone still believe you can recreate summer camp at home?

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sports in the age of Covid-19

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What will become of sports in the age of the Covid-19?

It’s been a while since I’ve had my sports hat on, still considering I spent about 15 years as a sports reporter and another 40 as an amateur official I thought I’d add my two cents to the sports conundrum we face in the wake of the Covid-19.

Today, sports are imperiled as never before. Professional leagues are grappling with their deep desire to return to some sense of normalcy – see dollar signs here – and with keeping the feeder lines that supply them with athletes open and healthy. But how can this be accomplished in the age of Covid-19?

Does anyone really believe, as Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association have suggested, that they can test and secure their players, keeping them locked down between contests? I’ve seen the groupies massed outside of professional locker rooms, and while I’m sure their presence could be curtailed at the arenas, does anyone really believe those healthy young men who play the games will keep their hotel rooms firmly shut when those pretty girls come calling.

Note that I’m not being critical of the adult parties involved. I’m just pointing out the obvious. Curfews will be broken. Infection will spread. What then? If one player has the virus, will games be cancelled? Will whole teams be quarantined for weeks at a time? What happens to the season then?

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More resources are needed to provide and process reliable Covid-19 tests. Should we be utilizing hundreds of thousands of tests to keep athletes healthy just so they can play games?

Additionally, hundreds of thousands of tests will be needed to make sure athletes are healthy enough to compete. When you consider that average people have to jump through a multitude of hoops to get tested, is this really a good use of our healthcare resources?

Then there’s college sports. Fall athletes are now in the process of signing release forms, documents saying schools are not culpable should players contract Covid-19. This is a bad look for colleges that pretend to care about student-athletes. Athletic programs hold a great deal of sway over their young charges, so athletes will be coerced to “do it for the team” and will fall in line because that’s what they’re trained to do. Dissenters who struggle with playing during a pandemic will be labeled outcasts by their teammates and coaches and subsequently shunned. I doubt many will follow that route even if suiting up terrifies them.

Last Game Touchdown

I’ve been a football official for 40 years and I can’t see a way to make athletes on the gridiron safe from Covid-19.

And what of high school sports?  Currently, it’s football that gives me the most concern. I officiated on the gridiron for four decades, and from my vantage point as a referee I could see spit flying on almost every play, especially from the lineman who go head-to-head on every snap. No way to social distance there. And those big guys up front are often overweight, making them more susceptible to complications from Covid-19. Yet, many people, even the parents of these young men, are screaming for football to begin. One wonders what the reaction will be when the first kid dies.

Youth sport parents are probably a bit more reticent about letting their little ones play. I sense the number of participants at the youth level will continue to decline, a trend that has been happening over the last decade as children have become more entranced with video games than actual ones.

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The sports officiating population is aging at a rapid pace. I think many of them will not return until a vaccine for Covid-19 is available.

The kicker here is one most athletes, parents and coaches often don’t consider. If they set up a season’s worth of contests will there be enough officials to go around? After 40 years of wearing stripes, I can confidently say no one cares about us unless we’re not there at game time. Note that even prior to the pandemic games were being cancelled or played without the full complement of officials because there just aren’t enough arbiters. The officiating population is aging and young people are not stepping up in large enough numbers to fill the gap. On top of that, many of those that do are quitting after just a few years on the job citing the decay of sportsmanship as the main the reason. Statistics show the average age of an American sports official is 52, with many working well into their 60s. When you add the dangers of  Covid-19 into the mix, it’s likely many who blow whistles and call balls and strikes simply won’t return to the field.

What happens to your plans for a sports season then?

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Horses on the Salt is a “fantastic page-turner.”

My thanks to book blogger Anu Menon for her kind words about my new novel Wild Horses on the Salt.

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“Fast-paced, adventurous, and thoughtful story of the survival of Becca’s wounded soul. Her struggles, experiences, passions, fears, healing, and the truth of her chilly silence are wonderfully portrayed.” — Anu Menon

https://anoomk.wordpress.com/2020/06/25/book-review-wild-horses-on-the-salt-by-anne-montgomery/.

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?

Happy Fathers’ day to those special dads

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My dad, who died a year ago, had lots of interests, including fly fishing. He taught me to love the outdoors and to cast into a garbage can lid in our driveway. I was lucky to have such a great dad.

I decided to ignore Father’s Day this year.

My dad died a week shy of his 96th birthday last June following a long and interesting life. He was a World War II Navy veteran, an industrial engineer, a fly fisherman, an ice dancer who in his later years turned to ballroom, and a lover of animals, wild places, baseball, and musical theater.

I miss him every day.

With Dad gone, I felt Father’s Day had no further meaning for me, but of course I was wrong. I can’t believe I didn’t see what was right in front of me.

I have written about my three sons before. All former students who spent time in the foster care system before calling me Mom. Young men today, all in their twenties, out in the world, discovering what they want to do and where they belong.

But let’s backtrack a little. My mom journey began with a phone call when I was 55. A former student contacted me, frightened and hungry, shortly after he’d wound up in foster care. I loudly complained to a fellow teacher. She stared me down. “If you’re so upset perhaps you should have him live with you,” she said.

Me and the boys at the book signing

I’m sure the boys will say I can be tough on them. The good news is they have Ryan too.

I told her the idea was ridiculous, since I’d never had any children and didn’t know the first thing about being a mom. And still I made the call to Child Protective Services.

But here’s the thing. I neglected to explain my soon-to-be mom status to my partner, a man I’d been dating for almost two decades.

“Don’t you think you should have mentioned that you were bringing a child home?” Ryan asked, obviously troubled by the upcoming change in our lives.

In retrospect, the fact that I didn’t discuss the situation with him before I made the call seems absurd. My defense was that we lived in different houses, separated by a two-minute walk. I rationalized that the boy would be living in my home and I shouldn’t have to ask for permission.

Clearly, I’d missed the point. I failed to see that my opting into motherhood placed him squarely in the fatherhood department. I will admit here that while I waited for the 15-year-old to be ushered to my door, Ryan and I were at odds. I don’t think he could see himself as a dad, since like me he’d never had any biological children. As parents we were both complete rookies.

Troy, Brandon and Ry Dad's funeral

Ryan with two of our boys at my father’s funeral celebration: Troy on the left, Brandon on the right.

Under the circumstances, it’s funny that Ryan took to parenting more easily than I did. Even today, he sometimes has to remind me to say please when I ask one of the boys to do something or to back off a little when he thinks I’m too hard on them.  I defend myself saying that I want them to be happy, healthy, and successful, and since none of them came to me before becoming teenagers, I have to make up for lost time, so occasionally I must be stern.

Then he smiles and says, “Let it go. It’ll be fine.”

I should not be surprised that when the boys get themselves into some kind of pickle it’s Ryan they want to talk to. While it used to bother me, I have now accepted my role as bad cop and am grateful Ryan is here to talk me down whenever a boy-induced cliff presents itself.

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Happy Father’s Day to all the foster dads.

While all good dads deserve a hearty Happy Father’s Day, I can’t help but feel that accidental fathers like Ryan – those who’ve chosen to raise other people’s children – deserve a few extra accolades.

So…here’s to you Ry and to all the foster dads out there. Happy Father’s Day!

 

 

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?

 

 

“I recommend Wild Horses on the Salt to readers of great fiction!”

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My thanks to reviewer and author Anita Dawes for her kind words about my new novel Wild Horses on the Salt.

“The author’s brilliant world building soon had me relaxing and enjoying the desert, the wilderness with so many horses. This was the kind of story I knew I wouldn’t want to end.” Anita Dawes

Our Review for Wild Horses on the Salt by Anne Montgomery #Women’s Action & Adventure Fiction @amontgomery8

 

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?

My magic wand inspired book launch

Anne Montgomery HeadShot 3 copy

This is my serious-looking author pose.

It’s a strange time to hold a book launch, quarantined as we are, stuck with the feeling that there is no safe place to go. How long will this isolation last? There’s simply no way to tell. We long for a signal, like the one Punxsutawney Phil delivers each year when the furry rodent surfaces from his den to tell us when winter will morph into spring.

Alas, there is no miraculous creature to mark the end of our confinement. Which brings me back to the book launch for my new novel, Wild Horses on the Salt. Normally, I would host a book signing and a Q&A session at some lovely bookstore – Don’t you love bookstores? – but, of course, that wouldn’t work considering our current situation.

With that in mind, I popped on my thinking cap, and decided we could have a book signing of sorts right here. So, let me get my magic wand.  I’ll be right back.

Dodeedodododeedo…

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Yay! I found my magic wand!

Whew! Found it. It was tucked in the back of a closet and it’s a bit dusty. But I think it’ll work. Let’s see.

Swoosh………………..

Oooo! Sparkles everywhere!

And now…here we are! Look at all those pretty books. You want to touch them, I know. And this bookstore – lucky us – also has a bar. What a brilliant idea. So, everyone get a beverage and then sit in those rows of chairs.

Oh my! We need more chairs. So many people! (A girl can dream.)

I take my place at the podium and lift the mic. Unlike a lot of authors – many of whom tend to be introverted types – I’ve never met a microphone I didn’t like. Could be my massive ego, but I digress.

“Thank you all for coming. I am overwhelmed.” I smile. “And now, I’d be happy to take your questions.

Hands shoot up all around the room and I blush. (Really.) “In the corner. Yes, you, sir.” A dapper-looking man with a gray beard smiles.

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I write books about subjects that interest me.

“What kind of books do you write?”

“Good question. I write fiction, though not in any specific genre. My stories are based on subjects that interest me. In the past, I’ve written about a former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress, child abuse, polygamy, domestic terrorism, cults, archeological looting, the black-market sale of antiquities, and a serial rapist. In Wild Horses on the Salt, themes include the problems associated with the over population of wild horses in the West and the struggles involved in escaping from domestic violence. However, all my books have one thing in common: the amazing landscape of Arizona, from the Sonoran Desert to the Verde Valley to the high country of the Arizona strip.”

I spy a few younger members of the audience and am delighted, as a just-retired teacher, to see some of my former students. “Makayla.”

“Ms. Montgomery, what inspired you to write about the wild horses of Arizona’s Salt River?”

“You can call me Anne.”

Makayla and the rest of the kids look like I’ve asked them to serve detention for a week. I sigh and realize I will be Ms. Montgomery for the rest of my life.

Salt River Horses I didn't take this one. copy

The horses that roam along Arizona’s Salt River are beautiful but problematic.

“The horses that roam free along the Salt River have been the subject of much controversy in Arizona, primarily because their numbers have grown too large to be sustainable and they too frequently encounter vehicles, events that result in accidents that have killed the animals and injured humans. Though millions of wild horses once roamed free in the United States, today approximately 82,000 remain. Because their ancestors were brought here by European explorers, there are some who believe these animals are an invasive species, a creature that should be culled to safeguard native fauna, fragile grasslands, and riparian habitats. Others believe the wild horse should be defended, protected, and allowed to roam free. The debate is ongoing, with those on both sides of the issue often unwilling to compromise.”

I scan the room and focus on a young woman dressed in a turquoise T-shirt, jeans, and strappy sandals. I nod.

“The protagonist in Wild Horses on the Salt is running away from domestic violence. What made you write about the topic?”

“Thank you for asking. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, nearly 1 in 4 adult women and approximately 1 in 7 men in the U.S. report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

The often-silent scourge of domestic violence invades all walks of life and, though the poor are disproportionately affected, no one is immune. I felt it was important to point out that domestic violence does not discriminate. People of all kinds, young, old, rich, poor, white, black and brown are subjected to its wrath.

The life of Rebecca Quinn, the protagonist in Wild Horses on the Salt, seems idyllic from the outside. She’s a smart attorney with a handsome, successful spouse. She comes from wealth and privilege. And yet, Becca is repeatedly brutalized by her husband.

I created Becca from personal experience – I’ve been subjected to domestic violence myself – and from statistics. The point is no one should have to deal with this abuse and there is always a way out, though that does not mean leaving is easy. One needs support, both emotional and financial, to get away, as well as a plan to survive the split. It’s my hope that those reading about Becca’s journey will be inspired to make changes in their own lives.

I take more questions. Everyone is so interested in my book, I’m giddy with delight. Eventually, however, the manager of the book store taps her watch.

“Thank you so much for coming everyone. I will be signing books at that table in the corner.”

Me and Andy signin books

OK. You got me. This is me signing books at a previous book launch. There’s only so much my magic wand can do.

A long line of book buyers forms as I take my seat. When the last book is signed – of course, it’s a sellout – I have cramps in my hand, but it’s pain I will savor.

After everyone leaves, my sweetie pie appears with a glass of wine. “Thought you might need this,” he says, and I remember why I love him.

That said, the first person in the contiguous United States who contacts me will get a signed copy of Wild Horses on the Salt.

And, again, thank you for coming.

 

“Ms. Montgomery weaves an intricate parallel tale, portraying the struggles of one woman, and that of a lost wild stallion—both fighting to rise above the cruelty of an unkind world. Her unique writing style, incredible knowledge of her subject matter, combined with her ability to create vivid scenes of the East Valley, and particularly the Tonto National Forest and Salt River area in Arizona, takes the reader on a fascinating (and educational) journey.” —Author Margaret Millmore

51TMG11M-rL

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?