Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores
Photographer Patricia Gulick

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

5-24-13 RMB Liz Benjamins

5-24-13 RMB Liz Benjamins 
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
The uneasiness that morphed into a gasp is still there. I know there is change afoot. So here is my chance to change fate to free will, right?
That I don’t like change us an understatement. Yet, I can not affect fate in such a way that life will stay the same. Its essence is an evolution of life, of lives. I don’t know what this change will be. Can I affect fate enough to direct my own life towards my preferred course?  Perhaps. I feel these letters are steps along that path.
I will know soon what this shift that haunts me is and I will accept the change that will undoubtedly tear at my heart. Change always does, no matter how brave I try to be. Wuss.

One friend is busy discovering the law of attraction. I am encouraging her. A childhood friend she has tried to reach for years called her out of the blue the other day. Soon afterwards a coworker from years past that she was trying to reach, happened to be eating at the same restaurant one evening.
So, buoyed by her stories, I will toss this out there: I would like to reconnect with Liz, Elizabeth Benjamins to be precise. She was my older sister’s Mount Miguel High School chum.
My “adult” sister is a few years older than I and, being the smart lassie that she was, she had skipped a grade. I think Liz was in a grade above her. To my eleven year old self, Liz was an adult with the heart of a kid.
When Liz visited my sister, she often peeked into my room to harass me. She would steal an object from my room or I would start it by throwing something at her and play catch until one of us would run. We would end up chasing each other through the house for some precious treasure, a stuffed animal or something of equal value. We laughed and giggled.
She was taller, more agile and faster. I took it as a challenge just to see how long I could make her chase me or, if I was the chaser, how close could I come to catching her. My goal was never to overpower her, simply to hold my own and see how hard I could make her work to “win” the prize
Later, when my sister’s attention was taken elsewhere, mainly by her future husband, Liz would visit me. I felt as though she knew my struggles. Did she have the same ones? I don’t know. I didn’t pry. Our conversations only skimmed the surface. I already knew I was different in the mystical way, was already feeling too much pressure. At the time we probably chalked it up to maturing, but we no longer chased each other. Looking back now I see I was receding into my troubles, getting more solemn with each passing year. 
After reading these letters, someone thought Liz might have been my first girlfriend. I may have had a crush on her, but if I did, I didn’t know it at the time. However, when I met my first girlfriend, I recall thinking ‘she reminds me of Liz’. Funny how life makes more sense in retrospect. Of course, for all I know, this line of thought may offend Liz. I recall she was religious and took me to her church for Easter service once. I remember we chatted about boyfriends, never about girlfriends. Perhaps I should delete this paragraph before this is posted…hmm.

In my early teens she would pick me up in her car and drive a half hour or so to the La Jolla Shores Beach, a long way from home to a fourteen year old. I was never comfortable in a bathing suit, even when I had the body for one. I wore cutoffs and t-shirts, walked along the beach and picked up seashells. Liz would either go swimming or walk with me.
On one of her visits, she brought me a big picture of the beach framed in wood with glass over the photo. It looked like La Jolla Shores. I treasured it. Then she moved to northern California. We lost touch.
In 1992 somehow I reached her. I think I called her family still in town and they gave me her phone number. She was living in Northern California, San Jose maybe. There was a large earthquake and I wanted to check on her.
She was okay. Her home was fine, but she was assisting others affected, taking them food and other necessities while they were displaced from their homes. That sounded like something she would do. We promised to stay in touch. We didn’t.
I’ve tried finding her via the internet, so far no luck. But then I’ve never had a blog before. Very few people have given life to the laughter inside of me as she did. For that, for caring, for reaching out to another when it was sorely needed, she is among my heroes.
When I sunk to my depths at seventeen, I was glad she was not around to see it. Even in that state, I knew my life was my own cross to bear. There was nothing another person could have done. I needed to find the way out myself.
Decades have passed, but I can still see her face and hear her voice. When I do, I recall the person she brought out in me, the one that could laugh and play at the drop of a hat, or rather a stuffed bear.
I will try finding her with my mystical musings. That ought to make for a fun exercise. Stay tuned to find out if we reconnect and how.
As always, thanks for listening,

Monday, July 29, 2013

5-23-13 RMB Fate and Free Will

5-23-13 RMB Fate and Free Will 
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
Words from High Hearts struck a chord “In highly intuitive beings, fate and free will are the same thing.”
For years, I have been adding quotes to the ends of my emails to clients, friends and associates. There are websites and books that I draw from. I notice the many attributed to Rita Mae Brown. When I began reading your books I realized that the quotes were often taken from those books, not necessarily something you ever said, but something you relayed in telling a story or through a character.
I prefer knowing if a quote is coming from a certain work, a book, movie, etc., than to think in error that the words were said by an individual in the living of their own life. I wonder how or if it has affected you, that the world has taken your words and shared them without any credit to their origin noted.
True, they are your words, but knowing what I know now, seeing them in print, sheds a different light on their meaning. A writer is the creator of their characters, but the characters are not replicas of the writer.
I believe you are highly intuitive. Do you feel that fate and free will are the same thing?
It seems like a plausible theory, but in my experience, when put into practice, the two mix like oil and water. Maybe I am intuitive, but not quite “highly intuitive”.
In the last relationship I knew something was amiss before the final train wreck that ended us. Many days and nights I sat and stared out at the sky, the landscape and the stars. I did not see how I could fix our issues, couldn’t even define the issues, just felt them simmering.
Harder still was the time I felt a death was coming. I had no clue who it was nor what on earth I could do about it. I could define the person, a woman, older than I, a relative of someone I knew, but not a relative of my own. It was not someone close to me, but I would know when it happened. I carried it for about a week. Then I got a call from one of my clients, someone I spoke with often.
There was something different in her voice. She was not her assertive self. We had a friendly working relationship. I asked her “Are you okay? Do you need to talk? It can be off the record you know.”
She paused and sighed, “My mother just died. She was ill and this last week has been hard.”
I set down my pen, leaned back in my chair and listened until she was all talked out. She thanked me; didn’t have anyone else to unload on like that. I wished I could put down the phone, drive to her and hold her, but she lived at the other end of the state and besides, we were not friends. I was just the tool used to lend another human being relief when someone upstairs knew she would need it most.
There are too many instances to note where I knew something, but not enough to change fate. It’s a game of catch where you see the ball coming and all you can do is to be there to catch it, I can’t change its course, velocity, nor its very existence. I do my best to be ready…with an open mitt.
Yours truly,

Saturday, July 27, 2013

5-22-13 RMB Driven

5-22-13 RMB Driven
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
I pick up various books now and then to read a page or a chapter. It somehow calms my scattered mind to have several caves to retreat to. Places where the words are about another’s life, fictional or factual; better still is that those lives are distant, not in my backyard, not within my circle. Sometimes the retreat is in the meaning of a tarot card or a specific exercise to tighten abs or stretch calves.
Right now life buzzes inside of me. Although it is a good thing, it is hard to hold. It squirms like a newborn, tugs like a two year old and, if ignored, it whines, sometimes wails. So I retreat into the words of others…and I walk, trot or jog, trying in equal measure to escape it and to find it.
“When I asked him about this, he simply says that he has always believed that when you encourage someone to truly be themselves, you end up getting more than if you try to make them be what you want them to be.” Those are words from a husband named Jo who helped his wife discover herself, at the risk of losing her. I like Jo. Their story is in the book Dear John, I love Jane; real stories, real lives.
I don’t know how their story ends yet. That’s a discovery for another day. Meanwhile his words seep into me.  My life struggles include seeing everything as a puzzle, defining the shape of my own life and how or where it fits in, understanding people, our universe, why we are how we are and to what end.
Images of the Lord of the Rings pop up. The drive, the mission, to protect, to carry the ring, something of its kin lay buried within me. The similarity is comical, until I feel the gravity of it. Sometimes it appears too clearly to ignore, I take action, some good comes of it. People thank me for whatever I have done, for helping them in some way, for showing them something they needed to see, for sharing something about life, their life or life in general.
After release, rather than rest peacefully, the drive builds and it is harder to still it than before. And as I open my mouth to speak, I find I have more questions than answers…and who am I to speak that does not have answers? Another question.
“…when you encourage someone to truly be themselves, you end up getting more than if you try to make them be what you want them to be.”
I have been looking at the world, trying to make myself be what I wanted to be based on upbringing, others expectations, social order, cultural influence…and now I write Rita Mae Brown letters, which fits no mold. I am allowing myself to be myself. Such a simple lesson that took far too long to learn.
Immediately apprehension grips me, this drive is strong. I don’t know where it will take me; Time to find out.
Thanks for listening Rita Mae Brown…
and for breaking society’s hold on the mold that defines a person,

Thursday, July 25, 2013

5-21-13 RMB Utmost Importance

5-21-13 RMB Utmost Importance
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
I signed on to your Facebook page today and saw a message recently posted that included:
“I also wanted to share with you how your books have changed my life and kept me sane!!!!”
Our hearts, are they full or breaking, content or tortured? Whenever we help one another, by words written or deeds done…we save ourselves and each other. We keep each other sane. I trust the administrator of the site will get the full message to you. I like that someone created this Facebook page, where people share photos of you, interview links and how RMB has touched their lives.
I am not a Facebook fan, have not really figured out how it all works, nor do I have a drive to do so. I will be spending some time with my niece this summer, my buddy. She will bring me up to speed, explain this “friending” business to me. I like the concept, but it seems like a lot of work, especially for someone not inclined to “friend” much in life in general. (Hey it is 6am, where is this rambling coming from??? That’s supposed to be a night time thing.)
For the last couple of days I have felt an uneasiness, a shifting, like something is about to happen. Yesterday I was literally shaking, easily shook by what should not shake me at all. As I sat at my desk, getting a proverbial grip on myself, I felt a slight shift in the earth, a minor earthquake. At first there was some relief as I thought “Was that it?” It felt too mild, but the natural disaster element struck a chord.
Last night I talked to Maria (of the Maria’s Meandering Mind blog). I asked her if she felt it, the uneasiness, if she knew what it might be. She looked up news on the internet, told me about the Oklahoma tornado. Prayers go out to those affected, 24 dead, 9 of them children.
There is a change in the uneasiness, either that was it or the extent of this tragedy overshadows whatever it was. It has not gone away, but has evolved from an uneasiness to a gasp, a drawing in of breath while one waits for the full impact to occur. A headache lurks, edging near when I seek answers.
While walking last night, I called on others whose lives already lived might shed some light on mine. This is minor to them, they have seen more, been through so much, know so much more now that whatever I am facing is comparable to child’s skinned knee. It seems enormous, of utmost importance to the child, but in reality it is a minor blip. They were kind and soothing, they bandaged my wound, but it will be up to me to heal it.
Until I know what it is, the healing will be difficult, for now coping is the most I can do. I must get over myself and send prayers to those that need it most, those grieving, those facing rebuilding their lives and burying their loved ones.
The person that wrote you the note mentioned above…you contented her heart, bandaged her wounds. In a world where lives can be swept away with the wind, where tomorrow is never guaranteed, that truly is of utmost importance. Many thanks to you, in lieu of notes unwritten, for the many lives you’ve effected by your contribution to how we are who we are, moving us to be better than we have been.
Take care,

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

5-19-13 RMB True Colors

5-19-13 RMB True Colors
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
Time takes flight. Days pass without a letter written, without any addition to other writings. I am still walking…daily, still losing weight…almost daily. But the writing suffers between the walking, the work and other obligations. I seek your level of discipline. I work towards that end, trying to make better choices for my moments. Even that can get frustrating.
My attitude has suffered as well. Perhaps it is a lack of carbohydrates. I miss my M&M high. As the stresses of a workday weighed heavy, I asked a coworker “What if we could elevate our own mood to a level that nothing could bring us down, nothing could stress us out?”
Just the thought alone lifted me. I believe in “what ifs”. Sometimes I think you have found that elevated place.
I think of Viktor Frankl. I’ve read about his life but haven’t found the courage to read his Man’s Search for Meaning. It patiently awaits its turn on the bookshelf. I fear it contains more of what I’ve seen mentioned in other writings, the torture, what he endured. I’m a wimp, I know. I struggle with just reading about what another lived through. Images haunt me.
My gifts transport me and I absorb a pain long past, one that another overcame, but I don’t have the tools or the ability or the wherewithal to overcome the various pains of so many other people’s lives. Yet I still feel them; I hear the cries.
When a person reads a sad book, tears may come to their eyes, their emotions may connect with the words on the page. When a person watches a scary movie, they may scream and their awareness is heightened by fear. A friend once told me that is why she likes scary movies, because they make her feel something intense, a stretching of the self.
I cocoon myself because if I see pain, I carry it indefinitely. Watching a thriller, I imagine the images that haunted the author, then they haunt me. I see paths. Even if a work is fictional, be it a movie or a book or art, it has roots in life. Dramas on TV tout “ripped from the headlines”; fictional stories of actual acts. I see the path that led to the act and the path that led to the drive to tell the story and the path that led to the making of the art…to tell us something, to say this is who we are, how we are.
The layers of pain weigh me down and they are so tied to all that is good, one can not exist without the other. So I shy from the good as well. My admiration for you includes your willingness to face life head on, to march forward into whatever the day may bring. Some do so blindly. Often the fool can be mistaken for a leader due to blind enthusiasm, but true colors eventually shine through. You have insight honed by experience, matured by nature. Where others may only have acted if they were blind to the outcome you were farsighted. You saw through others as they fell by the wayside. You carried on.
There are costs in honesty, costs in championing the greater good. You paid them, paid more than most. I see a path of moments that built a life. Those moments, some were wonderful, but some were awful, all of them combined to show your true colors. I admire the art that is your life.
All my best,

Sunday, July 21, 2013

5-16-13 RMB Believe in Possibilities

5-16-13 RMB Believe in Possibilities posted 7-21-13
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
In the Forward of High Hearts, about researching the Civil War, you say “I have always had the strangest sensation that I was not really learning anything but rather I was being reminded of something I already knew.”
The Civil War has come up a lot in my mystical musings, especially lately with my RMB project. Several years ago I was driving across the country with a friend. We both felt we had known each other before. She strongly felt as though she was in the Civil War.
We spent some time in the area of a Civil War battlefield visualizing what it was like, where we were, what we were doing. We pieced together a memory, each contributing our own perspective.
When I walk in the park, some of the past souls visiting are soldiers of various wars, including the Civil War. To those that say I am just a space cadet, I willingly admit “Maybe so.” There is so much that can not be proven, yet so much that is verified and even more that is of relevance, worthy of thought.
Even those that tease me and some that hold their religion so tight to the vest it threatens to cut off their circulation will sometimes listen. And when they do, they understand. They see what it is I am reaching for even if neither of us can put it directly into words. Even if it does not align with anything they have been taught.
I believe in “what ifs”. I believe in possibilities. I believe we all know more than we give ourselves credit for knowing. I believe that whenever we are ready to accept responsibility for all that we can be, we will be more than we have ever so many ways.
With great hope for us,

Friday, July 19, 2013

5-15-13 RMB Courageous

5-15-13 RMB Courageous 

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

I started reading High Hearts. Once again I looked forward to the words preceding page one. These words were more somber than in previous books, beginning with sincere gratitude to individuals and institutions alike, moving into the sad news of your beloved cat, Baby Jesus, and your mother’s passing. You have my condolences - - all these years later, although I am of a mind that believes they are still with you and always will be.

The Forward was educational and thought provoking, so much so that I read it to the boys. I have spent many a conversation with them showing them their connection to the universe, to each other and to nature. This was the first in depth conversation that I have had with them about their connection to our government, local, city, state and national. Your voice echoes. Your words travel from generation to generation.

About Civil War monuments you note “Yet nowhere in my hometown is there mention of the sacrifice of women and blacks. Some paid with their lives, all paid with their worldly goods, many paid with their health, and no one, no one was ever the same again. Until such time as we correct this oversight, let this book stand as their monument.” Words worth repeating.

Regarding your research of certain lives lived in the Civil War period you state, “The courage of these individuals is breathtaking. Sometimes, in my darker moments, I wonder if we have it today.”

Reverend Millie once posed a question to our class, “If Jesus were alive today facing the persecution he faced then, how many of us would stand with him? How many would face death with him?”

Extend this notion to any individual, any cause. I venture to say, it is more than a lack of courage, it is a lack of certainty, certainty of what is right, what is worthy, certainty of our own judgment and our own potential. At what point does suspicion or curiosity become absolute involvement?

How many Germans watched their Jewish friends persecuted? How many settlers assaulted the Native American’s land and people? How many women accepted being second class citizens? How many hide their love so as not to offend the masses? There are too many examples to site of times when it took too long for someone to say “Enough.”

I learned that if I watch for opportunities to lend a hand, they appear, gifts from the universe, or God, or simply my own will fulfilled. They appear.

Can we learn to watch for opportunities to be courageous, to find certainty in the greater good of any moment, to be vocal before our voice is lost in the chaos…before the bloodshed?



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

5-14-13 RMB Young and Fragile

5-14-13 RMB Young and Fragile

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

Sneaky Pie’s Cookbook for Mystery Lovers was a quick and enjoyable read. It sneaked in out of order because I couldn’t resist it anymore. I am not a cook, but I will try some of these recipes for the fun of it. 

The animal tips were an unexpected plus, the anecdotes fun and the fact that these beloved animals were rescues from the SPCA was heartwarming. I loved the story of the goat eating the interior of your brand new truck. Sneaky Pie should do another book, a tell all book about Rita Mae Brown, ah the things that cat..and his predecessors…must know.

I like the recipe: Goat’s Milk for Orphaned Kittens and Puppies. I can picture you bottle feeding a kitten and later two litters of motherless hound pups. Cute image (accompanied by minor swooning on my part).

The exceptional dog Lady once rescued a litter of kittens. I was cleaning up an empty house. Lady began to bark, insisting on attention. She ran in and out of the house. I petted her and she continued to wear a path from where I was to the back door. Finally, with a big mental “Duh”, I said “Oh, you have something to show me outside?” She took off like a shot. She spoke English better than I spoke canine.

Outside the back door was what I thought to be a squealing rat on its back, sopping wet. Lady pranced happily at my discovery of her treasure. I shooed her away and looked closer. It was not a rat, it was a white recently born kitten covered in slobber and dirt. I don’t know why Lady didn’t bring it all the way into the house. Maybe she knew how fragile it was. It looked like she had pushed it though the dirt to get it to the door, but couldn’t push it up the step.

I looked around for a mom cat or some sign it had a home nearby. No sign. Not a cat person, I was clueless about what to do, but knew my friend’s mom would know. She was raised on a Kentucky farm. I wrapped up the critter in a wash cloth. It fit in one hand with room to spare. 

When I tried to get Lady on her leash, she would not come. She went to a trash can and barked at me. I thought she was goofing off, happy to have found something I obviously valued since I praised her and picked it up. I started to scold her for not coming, but she jumped up, put her front paws on the trash can, looked inside, then looked at me and barked some more. I wonder if some of those barks included “Helloooo, can’t you see I’m still trying to tell you something!” 

I walked over to the trash can and wiggling inside, amid weeds and debris, were three more kittens. They were dry and as tiny or smaller than the dirty white one. There was no nest, no indication they were gently placed there. Someone dumped them there to die. I gathered them up and then asked Lady “Is there more???” She went and sat by the door, ready to go, no more barking. 

In the weeks that followed, the kittens were given vitamins and a formula prescribed by the vet. All but the runt, aptly named Wimpy, survived. As the other three grew, Wimpy fell behind, only half the size of his siblings. Yet with his big heart he left as much of an impression, after only weeks of life, as the others that lived between 16 and 18 years. 
Several of us pitched in to care for these tykes. The friend I followed, her Kentucky mom, my mom and I all took turns so the kittens would always be with someone and fed around the clock. 

Once the three remaining kittens could climb, Rowdy, Tamale and Ashes were impatient for each meal. They would leap up on our pant legs, not strong enough to climb up, but strong enough to hold on as we heated the formula.

This took some finesse, walking with three whining accoutrements swinging like mini Tarzans from pant legs, while heating formula and preparing the bottles. During feedings we were always outnumbered. There were more kittens than hands to hold them, even if two of us happened to be there. 

Finally, they were weaned. We had kept them hidden from landladies as none of us were supposed to have pets. My friend, with great reluctance, took them to the shelter. She gave them to the attendant and explained that they were abandoned and none of us caring for them could keep them. With teary eyes she readied herself to leave. 

The attendant assured her “Don’t worry, they won’t feel a thing. 

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well they are too young to keep. They require too much care so they will have to be put down.”
And that is how Rowdy, Tamale and Ashes became a part of the family…permanently.

The group effort it took to keep the kittens alive reminds me of your father and aunt traveling across country in foul weather to fetch you from the orphanage, depending on strangers for warm milk on a freezing cold night to keep a tiny five pound baby Rita Mae alive.  

Bless those that pitch in to rescue, feed and care for the babies left behind. What a wonderful gift Lady gave to our make shift family. What a wonderful gift those strangers along the road, in the early days of your then fragile life, gave to us all. 

Sleep well,


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

5-13-13 RMB Our Love Outlives Our Lives

5-13-13 RMB Our Love Outlives Our Lives 

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

I finished Sudden Death. So far, every Rita Mae Brown book I’ve read has had its own flavor. They are set in various times, a multitude of places, with a variety of characters.  I wholeheartedly agree with this reviewer on Sudden Death:

“Romantic fiction with a vengeance.” –The Denver Post

I suppose when I get to the mystery series’ there will be less variety, with repeating characters, locales and all. Yet, I know there will be interesting and surprising elements. I’ve learned it is simply your way.

Your words flow well, although certain ones stand out. I can’t name them all or this letter would go on indefinitely. This from Sudden Death struck me as profound “Harriet fought off a throbbing headache and wondered what happens when a little lie becomes a reality or when reality becomes a lie.”

Another paragraph in Sudden Death that resonates is the conversation Harriet has with Ricky, about love outliving our lives, bringing us together in an afterlife and God strengthening it. Harriet asks if this is a foolish dream, if there is ever a time that we are bound by more than scar tissue. She wants to believe that such a love can come to pass, if not here on earth, then in heaven.

I believe it must, both in heaven and in future lives, in whatever forms future lives may takes. This is what all love is based on, an everlasting essence. Once a connection is made, once a love is realized, it exists, forever.

The logistics are near impossible to work out in the here and now. We humans are the epitome of imperfection. We are here too short a time, young to much of our existence and ultimately still lacking wisdom when all is said and done. We curse one another, sabotage ourselves and hurt those nearest the most. Yet we continually work to do better, be better, love better.

We are evolutionary creatures and if this is as far as we can go, would we still be trying so hard?

I believe that we all reach for something more, because someplace deep within ourselves, we know there is something more. There is something beyond the here and now, something we are tied to, something we contribute to daily, with each embrace, every action, every thought. What lay beyond this is an extension of us and we are an extension of all that came before, of the selves we were before we became who we are, of those we have known, those we have loved…and those that we will love, those whose path we will cross.

We are one, constantly in search of proof confirming the connection, struggling to see the pattern and our place in the weave, guiding our lives through time as best we can. Yes…our love outlives our lives.

Yours truly,


Monday, July 15, 2013

5-12-13 RMB Behaving

5-12-13 RMB Behaving  

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

Today my car reported the outside temperature to be 102 degrees. I chatted with the boys’ mom on the phone as I walked. She was concerned about me walking in the heat. I was concerned too, but more so about losing weight than the heat. 

I have lost 50 pounds, only 56 more to go. I should be thrilled, but the knowledge that I had that extra 50 to lose and still carry an additional 56 is mind boggling. I am walking during lunch and every night, as well as exercising daily, when I get a chance (light weights, aerobics, pushups, squats and sit ups - why is pushups one word but sit ups two?...Something to ponder for another day). I cut way back on carbs and am avoiding sweets. Peanut M&M’s are my vice. There should be AA type meetings for M&M’s, I find them that addictive. M&MA? Looks like a way to curse one’s mom. 

The reason for the call, before she knew to be concerned that I was walking, was because our middle boy was being contrary. I am the disciplinarian in the family. Instead of “wait till your father gets home” the boys hear “I’m going to call your Aunt”, or sometimes, when they are scolded, they attempt pre-emptive negotiations “okay, I’ll (insert: behave, pick up my room, etc.) just don’t call Auntie”. 

My method of discipline is to get into their heads and see what might have the most lasting effect. Facing me is harder work than behaving in the first place and they know that. Once when they were all going through an immature stage, the “punishment” was to hold my hand wherever we went. The eldest particularly did not like this, as that meant the younger brothers got to do things that he would normally do, but couldn’t do while he was tethered to me. 

“If you want to act two,” I told him “I will treat you like a two year old.” He matured quickly. Although secretly I felt we both enjoyed the closeness, playing the role of a different age and the mental adjustment. He came in to the family at three and has had demons of his own to contend with since that traumatic time in his life. Holding hands, paying extra attention to him, since he was attached to me, eased the pain of something missing from his two year old self within. 

I sought books on child rearing when I saw what a handful these boys were. I also babysat them as their moms went to those how-to-parent-your-adopted-child classes that were a part of the adoption process. When they came home, I reviewed their class material and tried to learn as much as I would have if I attended the course. 

Children often behave better for someone outside of the household than those they see at home constantly. That gives me a slight advantage and I will gladly take any advantage I can. What bothers them most about facing me, is that a part of the penance they must do is to look inside themselves, seek answers for the wrong doing, seek reasons and ways to be a better individual. 

I feel that is similar to the effect you have on others, where you encourage awareness and the potential to be better, to be clearer about who we are and what we stand for. If one wants to behave like an ass, eh-hm excuse me, like a two year old, it is best that they at least know they are doing so. 


Loraine on a slightly cantankerous night

Saturday, July 13, 2013

5-11-13 RMB Do Unto Others

5-11-13 RMB Do Unto Others

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

I see news often about this state or that state passing marriage equality laws. I like that you champion equality, period. I like that you ask tougher questions than who can marry who, or is that whom? I really must work on my grammar. 

It is important, all of it, equality, fairness, justice…Who holds power? Why is it theirs to wield? If there is an imbalance of injustice, how can it be brought to an even keel? What can we do as individuals and as a nation to reach a better tomorrow?

In Sudden Death I read about how a tennis player, here on a visa, could be deported because she would be breaking the law in some states if it were discovered that she was in a relationship with another woman as she played around the country on her tennis circuit. I know this was written some years ago. I would like to think Americans have progressed beyond this, however I am not an expert on the laws of each state and my skeptical side doubts that we have. 

A doctor I know was a “green card” carrier in his youth. Meaning he was here legally, but still a citizen of Mexico. He came here as a teen, spoke decent English, but had a thick accent. He had to work his tail off to make decent grades, learning subjects as he continued to learn the language. He did well enough to earn scholarships. His dream to be a doctor was realized several years later. 

Once, shortly after graduating from medical school, he was on staff at a Long Beach hospital. They lived in southern Los Angeles, not the best of neighborhoods, not the worst either. Riot activity brought on by racial tension caused an influx of the injured at the hospital. With a young wife and baby boy at home, he did his job that day, as in any other day, he worked to heal people. We all fight for the greater good in our own way. And sometimes our effort, our “fight” for the greater good, shows itself through healing, rather than violence.  

Several years later, well into a respected career as a physician, this doctor applied for and was granted American citizenship. It was not an easy choice for him, to make the commitment to be American, but he had made his life here and that act completed the process. We are fortunate to have him. 

This is just one person, one path walked. Many, for a variety of reasons, take another path. Some crossing illegally to work here. I am not saying it is right or wrong. It is dangerous in many ways. It is heartbreaking that our fences both keep them out and keep them in once here, cut off from loved ones. 

In 2007 fire raged through San Diego’s backcountry. The fire extinguished eleven lives, seven of them were undocumented workers. There is a documentary about this on YouTube titled “The Devils Breath” by Laura Castaneda. If you decide to watch it, have the tissues handy.

Jennifer Silva Redmond and Russel Redmond have written the fictionalized film “El Camino Real” based on a woman caught in those fire. A short film version will be out in 2013, with the hope that it will garner enough support to produce a full length feature. The short film was produced by David McClendon and stars Dahlia Waingort as the young woman. Here is a link to the El Camino Real trailer

The young woman was crossing the border to see her father in the last days of his life and help her mother bury him. She was caught in the fire on her return trip.  

I asked Jennifer to sum up the purpose of the film. "The U.S. is, arguably, the most powerful country on earth, and this is what our undocumented workers who live in our country and contribute have to go through, just to come home to their this as good as we can be?"

My brother stated, on a whole ‘nother subject, “People are people”…the theory applies here as well. 

What is right for one person, may not be right for another. Who to love, where to live, these are questions each individual must answer for themselves. Why is it so difficult for us to support the choices of others? 

How can you look at one man and say his contribution is good because a piece of paper was filed at a certain agency and look at another man with shame because he does not have the coveted proper paper? Does a piece of paper make a person good?

There are many angles, laws and issues involved. Worst of all is that there are no right or wrong answers. When my boys quarrel, I listen and can hear each boy has a point. There is no clear right or wrong answer, no right or wrong boy. Yet when I ask each child if they are acting with goodness in their heart, if their words are kind, if they would like to be treated or spoken to in the same manner that they are treating one another, inevitably all concerned see how they could have reacted better, could have chose better words, better actions.

I know there are financial considerations, tax considerations, language barriers, etc. I firmly believe that if we act with goodness in our hearts, if our words are kind, if we treat others as we would want to be treated, inevitably we will find a better way. 

I like that guy who said “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This quote may not be exact, as he lived a very long time ago and he was a foreigner who spoke a different language. 

Peace be with you,


Friday, July 12, 2013

5-10-13 RMB El Camino Real

5-10-13 RMB El Camino Real 

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

My enlightened, editor friend emailed me corrections. Guess it’s time to give her a name, since she’s already linked your letters to her blog she must be okay with revealing she is friends with this letter writer. I will call her JR, because that is so much easier than Jennifer Silva Redmond and so much shorter than “my enlightened, editor friend”, but I digress.

JR found a “where” that should have been a “wear”, a “right” that should have been a “write” (gasp) and multiple semi-colons, apostrophes, hyphens, dashes and commas running amuck like a gaggle of toddlers let loose to play, sorely needing to be herded for lunch, or in this case…posting on the blog.

I am grateful that such blunders were caught. However, many have already been mailed to you. Please accept my apologies for such negligence. I am positive that, in your life, complete with running a farm, the Oak Ridge Fox Hunt Club, writing books, promoting them and caring for the multitude of animal life surrounding you, among everything else that occupies your time, that each stray comma in these RMB letters carries a significant impact upon you…thus my sincere apologies.

Well, in all seriousness, if you were shaking your head as you noticed such things, believe me I was shaking my head as I went through and corrected them. Worst of all, I know there are more. I know the silliest of errors hide with expert finesse and only appear at the least favorable moment during a written work’s history.

By the way, JR is the one making a movie. She and her screenwriter husband Russell Redmond were moved to write about a woman that lived in San Diego. I’ve asked her to share the details with me so I can relay them in the RMB letters. The woman’s story relates to what I discuss here, what is fair, what is right, how we -- both individually and as a nation -- seek to find a better way, and the often times tragic outcome of doing what we think best. More later on her story. The El Camino Real trailer can be seen at

Good night Rita Mae Brown,


Thursday, July 11, 2013

5-9-13 RMB Right Here

5-9-13 RMB Right Here 

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

Last night we had a Writer’s Circle meeting. One of us is moving to Texas, one of us is walking surprisingly far for someone still recovering from a stroke last year, one of us is making a movie, one of us is writing Rita Mae Brown letters, one is having her roof fixed before it rains again and one of us is wondering where on earth she is going to find time to write between boys, class, homework and her job.

The six of us have been gathering monthly-ish for several years. We will miss our Texas defector. We chatted about having her skype or use some other method that is a live chat system so she can be in on future meeting, or at least her image will be there, on a computer screen.

Long before we formed our Writer’s Circle group I wanted to write. I know I write better now because of it. The instant feedback, the encouragement, the pointers, the practice exercises and focus without pressure, all breathe life into our creative nature.
We catch up with one another over dinner, then read whatever anyone has brought to share, swap books and conclude with ten minute exercises read immediately afterwards. What comes out of those minutes is amazing. Often we will ask one another to type them up and share them.
We decide on a topic for our writings, but I always add the ending “or anything else” as I tend to wander if I can’t find words to match the topic. In one of our Ten Minutes last night I wandered, sketched three sets of words…

Fine, Fine lines, Fine mist, Fine idea
A fine thread winding through time
Tying the past to the future
You to me
Sorrow to joy
Lives to eternity

A thought, a word, a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph, a story…read, spoken, shared, lived
Drawn to warmth, don’t get too close, lest you be burned.
Don’t feel too deep, lest you drowned.
Don’t stray too far, lest you disappear.

Another answer to the “whys” for your letters appears.
“Don’t stray too far, lest you disappear.”
I won’t. I am right here.



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

5-8-13 RMB Swooning

5-8-13 RMB Swooning 

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

I finished Southern Discomfort. Lines in your books open up thought, expand awareness. Often it is about more than the words. It is an effect ignited by where you place them and who is saying them, thinking them or what they describe. It’s a mark of fine writing. 

This is one such line from Southern Discomfort: “But sometimes you learn more from silence than by asking questions.” With the child’s one word reply, “Maybe”, I felt her absorb a degree of the knowledge she sought by the silence she’d already observed.

After starting Sudden Death I fear I will now come to look forward to the words prior to page one more so than those that follow. In the Acknowledgements you made me laugh over and over as I trotted up and down stairs then round and round parking spaces on my lunchtime regimen. 

This is dangerous…you try laughing and reading while going up and down stairs. Your books should contain a cautionary label: “Warning, fits of laughter may occur in the course of reading this book. DO NOT operate heavy machinery, nor travel in stairwells while under the influence of the words contained herein.”

Page x contains: “I expect you to frame the photo on the back of this book and swoon at regular intervals. Go on, a little worship is good for the soul – mine.” I refuse to ruin a book. However, at the risk of being carted away, I confess to often glancing at the photo of you which initially sparked my interest, among others. I suppose I swoon some. 

I suspect a little worship may do your soul good now and then. However, my reasons are more selfish than that. I glance at your photo for me, because somewhere mid-swoon, you bring a smile to my face. I hope this confession has brought one to you. Just so you know, if anyone asks, I will deny this vehemently.

This letter will now self destruct,


Monday, July 8, 2013

5-7-13 RMB Books Worthy of Mention

5-7-13 RMB Books Worthy of Mention posted 7-8-13

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

I am enjoying your books, but want to mention this one that I found a worthwhile read: Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer by Chely Wright. I loaned a copy to someone. After reading it, she texted me “All I can say is wow! Amazing story.” It is…well written too, more than well written, the words dance on the page. Even the difficult passages are beautifully written, graceful.

I also recommend her CD Lifted Off the Ground, which includes the song Like Me, my favorite on the disc. The chorus ends with “Will anyone…ever….know you like me?”

Me by Ricky Martin is moving. If you are interested in how far our society has come and how much further we still have to go, read this book. His story is unique, but one can relate to his struggles.

Another memoir to read is Carol Burnett’s This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection. Whether you are a fan of Carol Burnett’s or not, she is an amazing woman, a credit to humanity and an excellent story teller. She has written several others and I am sure they are equally good. Some sit on my bookshelf now, waiting patiently for their turn. Books are too patient, sometimes they wait too long. In the meanwhile, I recommend this one that I listened to on CD, narrated by Carol herself, a treat!

For aspiring writers, Stephen King’s On Writing is interesting and informative.
Fiction recently read include books by Claire McNab (I enjoy the Kylie Kendall Mysteries), Lori Lake (Gun Shy and it’s sequels, the fourth will be released this year, a bit drawn out-but I liked that in these books), Ronica Black (so far her’s have included explicit love scenes through most of the text, very adult themed. My dormant wild side enjoyed them), Karin Kallmaker (my favorite so far is Just Like That). 

An anthology that I just started, in all my spare time, is Dear John, I Love Jane edited by Candace Walsh and Laura Andre. I am on page 64 and it made the list because thus far it is insightful, without being whiny. 

Yes, there is a trend here, but I have also recently read, or am in the process of reading, Twain short stories (which needs no elaboration), two tarot card books (one on history and the other on the card’s meanings), An Illustrated History of the World (which is helping me with one of my stories that spans some time), two workout books (one for women and one by Sly Stallone about staying in shape in general) and two books I read to the boys Anne Frank’s Diary and Chicken Soup for a Kid’s Soul.

Books bumped aside for Rita Mae Brown novels include two on how the brain works, two on women of note (one about Remarkable Women and the other about Smart Women – I am eager to learn how they differ), a novel that my editor friend read and loaned me because of the mystical storyline, one another friend just gave me about fortune telling in all forms and The Colorado Kid by Stephen King (sister says it is not too scary for me). 

There are others too, those are just the ones scratching the surface. 

Okay, maybe there was more than “one” book I felt like mentioning. 

Time to turn the page to another day – good night,

Sunday, July 7, 2013

5-6-13 RMB Human Nature

5-6-13 RMB Human Nature
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
Today another friend mentioned your letters in her blog. She is the enlightened one. Again, I wanted to ask “Really??? Are you kidding me?” No kidding, she really did at She refers to you as “amazing” and “a literary genius”. She has good taste.
I also heard from the sister. She couldn’t chat right then, but told me where she was in the letters and that she was working her way through them. I have a feeling I am in for a talking to, a sibling version of “wait until your father gets home”. I know her heart is always in the right place, always concerned about me, concerned for me. Ha, I’m concerned too :) but I’m having too much fun to stop.
If I can have two cardboard boxes as window coverings, why can’t I write letters to Rita Mae Brown? Who says we have to be conventional, that’s too boring.
Which reminds me, I was discussing Southern Discomfort with a friend today and noted that everything goes in your novels, the good, the bad, the strange, the fun and even the awful. If there are any taboos, they certainly aren’t the traditional ones. You state things, things not regularly stated in the mainstream novels I’ve read, with such matter-of-factness that the lives, inside and out, of your characters is revealed in depth.
An individual’s flaws sometimes reveal more about them than their actions or words. You allow your characters to be flawed, to be human. My own perspective, the don’t rock the boat individual inside of me, tends to be dismayed in certain paragraphs only to see the picture form, to realize there is something more there, something worth understanding…human nature.
‘Grow, I dare you’
I am.
Keep the ink flowing,

Friday, July 5, 2013

5-5-13 RMB Interesting Universe

5-5-13 RMB Interesting Universe posted 7-5-13
Dear Rita Mae Brown, Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Well I went and did it, emailed the whole mega file of letters to the “adult” sister and her daughter, my niece, my buddy, my partner in crime. Her older brother inherited my sister’s adultness, while this niece has inherited a wild spirit, I have no idea where that came from, maybe from my mother, ever the party girl. She doesn’t party, but has a fierce devotion to certain things, acting, honesty, fairness, family, etc.
Both she and her brother are quite amazing. They accomplish great things, which would keep me writing indefinitely if I tried to recount them all, plus I am sure I would get all the facts wrong. She is a stickler for facts. Both siblings have an incredible memory.
One example of her drive…she wanted to get into USC’s acting curriculum, however the drama department in her high school had been trimmed to extinction. She rang up some big shot. I think it was someone from the Orange County community theatre that would refer her to USC in lieu of a drama teacher’s recommendation.
She sat down at a coffee shop across from Mr. Big Shot, eh-hm, I mean the gentleman, and asked if she could do a dialogue from Shakespeare as an impromptu audition to show her ability. The gentleman asked what she was prepared to recite. Her response was for him to pick what he would like her to do. She has every well known play of Shakespeare’s memorized word for word, inflection by inflection.
That alone impressed him, but when they did settle on something, something she could have recited completely, he was beyond impressed. Getting into USC is no cake walk. When she sets her sights on something, few things hinder her. She is taking finals this week, completing her second year at USC.
Personally, I was impressed when she memorized the entire Finding Nemo movie and recited it word for word, including pregnant pauses, on a long car drive for me. She wouldn’t even let me “fast forward” through any of it to get to my favorite parts. (“A boat? I saw a boat, follow me!” what a great movie!)  
Soooo, I anxiously awaited hearing back from sister and niece. One night, exhausted, I laid down to rest around eight, only to awaken -- wide awake -- at eleven. I read some of Southern Discomfort and then sat to write.  A new idea floated in and I ran with it. The main character, a bit wild, reminded me of my niece. I wrote several pages. At four in the morning, I laid my head down to sleep. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been awake during those early morning hours.
At seven in the morning I was greeted with an email from my niece that read “So it is currently 4am and I have just finished the last page of your letters…I started at about 11pm…”
This is such an interesting universe. Sometimes I like it a lot.
She thanked me for sending the letters. She said many wonderful things. With every compliment I get, I want to ask “Really??? Are you kidding me?” Since starting this, I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. I guess today is not the day, being odd is still okay.
Good night,

Thursday, July 4, 2013

5-3-13 RMB To Honor You and More

5-3-13 RMB To Honor You and More
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
I had a talk with the adult sister today. In opening up to her about the blog and your letters, I put together words for some of the whys for this project.
Why honor you, your name, your work? That was answered in the first couple of letters. However, an explanation of the whys would be lacking if this were not addressed here as well. The answer: because someone should. Since those first couple of letters I have read more of your books. Your work continues to impress me and to impress upon me.
I won’t go so far as to say I agree with everything you write, perhaps even you do not agree with everything you’ve written. People change in four decades, evolve, grow. I do like that your words are challenging, daring one to expand their concepts.
Another reason, is that it is a sort of passive activism. I am not one to go out looking for a soapbox. Yet I have opinions, strong ones, many contrary to common notions of who we are, of how we are, whether from a stance of who we love or what we stand for or how we can advance to a better tomorrow.
By writing to one person, one person that I believe is understanding and perceptive, I can expound upon these opinions. I can shed light on where they come from and why I believe them. This project forces me to fit thoughts into words, feelings into statements. It is helping me define who I am, what I stand for.
By making it public in the blog, I am inviting the curious, the interested, the uninformed and those as determined as I am to find a better way to engage in the conversation, in thoughts or written words.
I would like to sit each person in the world down and ask them “What do you think and why?” I would like to overhear them chat with one another, watch their consciousness raise as they converse. Would we find that we are really so different from one another? Could we value our differences? Our window of the universe is restricted to our experience, to the knowledge we absorb, to the types of people we interact with, to the life we live, still we feel justified in telling another how to live, how to pray, who to love.
During one of my walks, I noticed in my peripheral vision a couple of women walking my way. At first I thought they were nuns, in the old type of habits a la Sally Field’s Flying Nun, black robes with white around the face. As they came closer, I realized they were wearing the east Indian traditional robes. Personally feeling that women should not need to cover themselves in such an oppressive way, I felt the esteem I previously had for them drop when they changed from nuns to the oppressed.
As I walked I pondered this. What if these women felt as attached to their attire as a nun would? I have seen articles where both men and women describe the tradition as a sign of respect for women, disputing the inclination of some to see it as disrespectful of women.
Why would anyone want to wear such a garment on a hot California day? Who knows, but it is not my place to determine their preference, as it is not theirs to determine mine. I learned that day to be more respectful. They deserved equal respect from me regardless of their attire, their mission in life. I look at everyone a bit differently now because of that day. Maybe someone reading these letters will look at life a bit differently for having read these words.
There are more answers to the whys, some still unrealized. Stay with me, we will discover them together.

Monday, July 1, 2013

5-2-13 RMB Southern Discomfort Characters

5-2-13 RMB Southern Discomfort Characters
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
I am half way through Southern Discomfort. What a wonderful mix of characters you have assembled in this book. I notice that you regularly bring in side stories on your books. There are several important characters along with their own storylines. In Southern Discomfort, there are multiple families and generations, from a variety of classes and ethnicities.
As a fiction reader, novice that I am to the sport of it, I get frustrated when it appears that multiple characters are cut from the same stock. Sometimes they seem simply varying shades of the author or of the author’s companions.
In your books, I am constantly amused, intrigued and curious as to any new characters being introduced. There is always a promise of something special there. Even after formal introductions, the characters take unexpected turns and twists.