July 2021 WATWB–Making Others Happy Makes You Happy

We Are the World Blogfest

I’ve been a member of the SGI-USA lay Buddhist organization for 44 years. The August discussion topic in the group is “Practicing for oneself and for others.” It’s an  integral part of being a Bodhisattva—the stepping stone to Buddhahood. As it happens, an example taken from the Greater Good Magazine works well for the July WATWB topic.

“Making others happy is more meaningful for people than just socializing with them or doing something to improve our own happiness.

“When we aim to make others happier, we feel connected to them … which is important for us.”

– Milla Titova, lead researcher of the study “Happiness Comes From Trying to Make Others Feel Good, Rather Than Oneself.” (greatergood.berkeley.edu)

In the study, college students reported on their happiness and on their sense of autonomy, competence, and connection to others—all what researchers consider “basic psychological needs” for well-being. Then they were randomly tasked to do something to either make themselves happier, make another person happier, or socialize. (Assigning one group to socialize helped determine if seeking happiness for another had an effect above and beyond simply being in someone’s presence.)

Later that day, after doing their tasks, participants reported what they did, and then filled out their happiness and needs questionnaires again. Those who’d done something to make another person feel better were much happier themselves than participants in the other groups, and their greater happiness was tied to a stronger feeling of connection to that person.

Seems like the Greater Good site might be a good source for the WATWB!

Another Mashup, Jill Meets Sam–Sort of

Where have I been? Another story, another time. Back now–on a more regular basis.

Let’s get colorful. We will do more mashups as often as we can. This time it’s Waiting for Westmoreland (WFW) and The Vacation of My Life.

The tenth anniversary edition of WFW, a memoir of a 20th century Candide, came out in 2017. Vacation is a work in progress. It’s a sci-fi psychological mystery/thriller—or something else we will define further when it comes out. 

Waiting for Westmoreland–excerpted, condensed and revised snippets

Hey pope, pass the dope,” a common refrain I heard in Nam. I started smoking marijuana there. Amazing stuff. But I stopped when back in the US. One year at Ft Knox to go before leaving the Army.

Strait-laced Gloria was unchanged in 1968. Drinking was evil, she said. Grass would never do, even after leaving the military. But I had grown. Illusions about America were shattered. I had thoughts, not carried out, of killing a psychotic drunk, MSgt Seagram—the bane of my existence in Nam.

 Five days out from the army, came my first march, the Vietnam Mortarium Day, October 15, 1969.

. . . .

March 1970 I finally started college. . .. Week one, Jill, a pixie- faced natural blond started hitting on me. She said, during between-class coffee-fueled dialogues, “Dave and I have an understanding, he doesn’t mind if I go out with other men.”

I was trying to reclaim my ideals, not corrupt them further. She was as married as me. But she casually showed me a model portfolio, including an array of classic nudes. 

On April 30th the court entered my divorce decree from Gloria. That same day, with Jill in tow, I tossed my wedding ring into the Mississippi River from the bridge joining the East and West Bank campuses of the University of Minnesota. The ring a Vietnamese woman had pointed to, while giving me a lesson in morality, two years before.  

 Jill and I went to a Neil Diamond concert two weeks later. I picked her up at her home. [S]he waved goodbye to her husband, leaning down at the doorway to get a look at behind the wheel. It would be 2:30 a.m. before I brought her home. While the agreement with Dave did not extend to sleepovers, apparently it didn’t preclude wild sex.

Life was good. It had never been so good. Five years later, when I first heard the Brian Ferry song, “Love is the drug,” Jill immediately came to mind. She was an addiction. It left me in a state of withdrawal when I didn’t get my fix.  I surrendered control of my heart and my life to Jill, playing by her rules.

 

At summer’s end, October, Jill gave me the news, over coffee at Coffman Union. “It’s over,” she said.“What do you mean, over?”

“I’m leaving Dave.”

“So,” I began, optimistically “Does that mean you’ll be spending more time with me?”

“No. It means I need space to consider what I really want, what I really need.”

“OK. So where does that leave us?”

“There is no us. There is you and there is me. If I continued seeing you now, it would remind me of Dave. It just wouldn’t work.”

“So, you’re leaving him and me.”

“Yes. We’ve had some great times together, which I will always treasure, but all good things must end. This is the end.”

“But—”

“Don’t worry, John, there will be other women after me,” she said as she stood up to walk away.

I sat in shock at the table. I had put too much of myself into our relationship. Jill had left me bleeding raw, ripping away the tendrils of heart and soul I had foolishly attached to her. Jim Morrison’s voice ran through my head, singing the Doors slow dirge, “The End.”

 

The Vacation of My Life—opening pages

Sam left the building in a daze. How could I have done that? How could I forget all that? I’ve got to call Melanie, maybe she knows something. Plopping down on a transit bench, he speed-dialed her. If anybody knew him, she did.

 

Melanie picked up on the third ring, “Sam, why are you calling me again? I told you it’s over—now stop calling me!” she said, hissing into the phone as she clicked off.No, no—not Melanie too! Sam immediately redialed.

Surprisingly, she answered again, “Call me again and I will get a restraining order!” Melanie screamed.

“Wait, don’t hang up—please. Whatever I did, I’m sorry. But I don’t know what I did. I just went to my office and found out I got fired. They said I did some crazy stuff; stuff that didn’t make sense. I don’t remember any of it.”

“What—are you kidding? Are you trying to say you have amnesia, or is this some kind of line?”

“No, it’s not some kind of line. I woke up late this morning; my alarm didn’t go off. I couldn’t find my building pass. When I got to work and asked for a temporary ID, the guard at the desk couldn’t find me in the employee directory. He put me through to Bob Jackson. He said they fired me on the spot at a staff meeting after I called the CEO an idiot and urinated all over the agenda. It’s crazy! Why would I do something like that? I remember summarizing the Gibson contract at the last meeting. It comes up for renewal in July.”

“Sam, this is August.”

“What! No, it can’t be. I— I don’t understand,” Sam sucked in air.

“What you did at the staff meeting isn’t any crazier than your Fourth of July stunt. I suppose you don’t remember that either?”

“No; wait—I’m still trying to get a grip on what day it is.”

“It’s Tuesday, August 4, 2015, Sam. A month after you offered the woman next to us at the fireworks $50 to help me launch your ‘trouser rocket.’ You said it would shoot off higher and brighter than any of the ones at the show,” Melanie said.

“No—no, I didn’t!” Sam gasped.

“Yes, yes you did. After she slapped you, I dragged you out of there and back to your car. I insisted you take me home immediately. When we got to my door, you actually had the nerve to want to come up. You said you would have to settle for just one booster to blast off!” Melanie snarled.

“I’m feeling sick.”

“Good. I hope you puke. I called you the next day, expecting an apology. Instead, you just laughed. Look, I’m at work—I don’t have time for this. Like I said, it’s over. You want a synopsis, look for the letter I sent you three weeks ago. Don’t call me again,” she said, hanging up.

May WATWB–Hero Rat Retires

We Are the World Blogfest

Late again, but here’s an interesting good news story with a twist–not a person but a rat doing good things, with the aid of human handlers. As most of you know, with all the conflicts around the world over the last century, a dangerous thing left behind is land mines. In this case, it’s Cambodia from the war in Vietnam and/or conflicts within the country itself during other years some decades ago.

From NPR (and many other news outlets that have picked up the story) comes this report:

A heroic rat named Magawa has been working for five years in Cambodia, sniffing out dozens of land mines. He is believed to have saved lives.

Now, the animal is about to embark on a well-deserved retirement.

“Although still in good health, he has reached a retirement age and is clearly starting to slow down,” the nonprofit APOPO said Thursday. “It is time.”

A rat on a line, clearing a mine field
Magawa is shown here working to detect land mines, a job the animal has done for five years.
APOPO

According to the report, “Even among his skilled cohorts working in Cambodia, Magawa is a standout sniffer: In four years he has helped to clear more than 2.4 million square feet of land. In the process, he has found 71 land mines and 38 items of unexploded ordnance.” For that success, he won and award. Now he can retire and enjoy a life of food and play.

Because of their light weight, the rats don’t trigger the mines–which works out well for parties concerned.

WATWB for April

We Are the World Blogfest

Three days past Friday, April 30th, but better late than never. The last Friday of the month is when these good and nonpolitical news posts are supposed to appear on the blogs of those who participate in the We Are the World Blogfest.

A different sort of good news—about one aspect of living in small town America. Not only the sense of community but a surprising range of essential services, assuming you pick the right location.

We knew that medical care would be something we needed as we aged. Silver City, New Mexico has more and better care now than when we moved here ten years ago. A week ago Saturday, my heartbeat was erratic for two hours that morning. That was the third episode in two years. This time, however, I had a thumb drive-sized device implanted under the skin over my heart. It records data and uploads it to the servicer and then the doctor’s office.

Surprising that I could get this newer technology here in a town of less than 10,000 people. More surprising, Gila Cardiology has a care coordinator who forwards her calls to home on the weekend!  Do you get that in big cities? She walked me through options; in the end, I waited it out rather than heading for the ER. Like before, the palpitations stopped on their own. On Monday a week ago, she called me at 8 AM, confirming that I have occasional AFib. The office sent in a prescription for one of the newer drugs that prevent clots.

As they say on the infomercials: But wait, there’s more! A few years ago, our eye doctor called in a prescription on a Saturday based on a smart phone image she sent him.  Our small town also has a celebrity surgeon who’s a pioneer GERD specialist, an excellent podiatrist in his early 40s, a skilled orthopedist, a choice of physical/occupational therapists and more. My wife and I have seen or been treated by all these doctors.

Note that this is considered a medically underserved area. Our wonderful primary care doctor is continually striving to recruit young residents to intern here, hoping they’ll stay beyond the time the federal government program requires for a deal that pays off medical school loans. There’s a solid regional hospital. Alternative medical care—including acupuncture or acupressure, herbalists and more can be found in Silver. Beyond that, yoga and other Eastern disciplines. Not to mention a variety of spiritual groups for healing mind or body.

Maybe this sounds like a promo for Silver City. Sort of, but I’ll do that in a post on another blog, Views from Eagle Peak, soon. In the meantime, if you’re fully vaccinated and looking for somewhere to travel, you can find out more about Silver City here.

Whatever Happened to That Coming Book?

Huh! What coming book?

Here’s the promo from Eagle Peak Annual. A multi-genre collection of fiction from flash through micro and short. Verse. Non-fiction observations and more. Just the thing for a quick read–or a longer one when you have time.

Alas, it’s STILL a work in progress. Everyone knows stuff happens. It keeps happening, too. So, let’s forget projections. It will be out when it’s done–how’s that?

The good news: it keeps growing. The longer it takes to complete, the bigger it gets. More flash and micro fiction. AND one story that had been planned as a standard-length short piece has grown into a novelette. Hey, more for the money! At least 50,000 words–from stories less than 100 words all the way to 15,000.

Meanwhile, here’s a few fresh snippets. Words newly strung together just for this post. Eventually, the paragraphs below may be part of a time travel book coming later this decade. 

You’ve seen posts featuring Derek here before. He’s back, from an actual dream the author had some time in the past. See, time travel!

It started with a dream, a very detailed one in full color. A place Derek had never been but clearly must go, given the content. A task he must do. He wore black khaki slacks, a maroon cotton turtleneck and an off-white sport coat with tufts of grayish/black fabric running through the material. He saw a multilevel building of large grayish stone blocks before finding himself in an upper level. It looked to be at least 3,000 square feet with large metal fire doors, painted fire engine red, hung on overhead tracks.  Relics were stored there, in bags or sacks. He overheard discussions about selling them on the black market. Objects like those in his backpack. Things he might give away in time—the right time, but never sell. Phoenician amulets, classical Greek coins like an Attic drachma or Celtic bracelets. He might have a Martian flight insignia too—not a present-day memento, of course. Risky to carry them everywhere in eternity. Still, they came in handy as anchors. Timeline adjustments didn’t always take.

Wide awake, Derek replayed the nighttime experience, moving in time and space to the site. He exited to an aging fire escape, its open ribbed steps covered in multiple coats of black paint. He trod the metal stairway down and around the outer walls. One floor down, he passed a small alcove with a window. He saw a wooden object on a table next to the glass. A peg an inch and ½ square and eight inches long, wrapped tightly with bare wire. The windings were spaced perhaps a quarter inch apart, covering a third or less of the wood. Not an effective armature—possibly a primitive cultural token or something manufactured to sell as one. The weathered wood had the look of artifice.

One more turn took him from the employee parking lot to the public spaces. Through a ho hum double glass door, Derek entered a much more inviting area—a small museum/retail site with artifacts are displayed under and atop a glass counter. Legal sales were made there, it appeared. Items with legitimate provenance given the descriptions. Not until then did he notice the red coveralls that he carried on a hanger. I must work here. It’s my uniform. Must have forgotten that. Derek thought. He hated those dreams with missing details—especially when needed for a time trip.

A woman greeted him with a grin. “Hey Derek, how’s it going? Love that jacket—you trying to impress the ladies?” Must be a coworker—Tina, yes, that’s her name.

“Hah! Just one of my style preferences, Tina.” He shrugged and did a quick spin for her.

“Good enough, guy. No need to be stuck in the past; that’s what we sell here,” she laughed.

“You got it, Tina. By the way, do you know what happened with those skeletal remains and a spear I turned in?”

“No worries, Derek; the processing crew are handling it. Maybe you’ll see the stuff on display next week,” Tina’s eyes darted left and right before answering with a smile. Perhaps she wasn’t sure, just placating him.

 

Continue reading

Reblog: March Book Reviews from Myths of the Mirror

Some wonderful, solid reviews from a great writer.

March Book Reviews

Happy April! Time for some reading!

I’m planning to take some time away from the blog to finish up my WIP and spring clean my house. Yeesh. I need a band of house spirits to help with that second task. One of the challenges with a log house, is wiping down each and every dusty log.

Wish me luck.

March book reviews include my 4 and 5 star reads of fantasy, a medical thriller, two poetry collections, a short story, and a Vietnam War memoir.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

I loved The Enchantment of Ravens and looked forward to reading another of Rogerson’s books. Just imagine a fantasy set in a Great Library where books ruffle their pages or grumble or sniff or snap at your clothing as you pass. Some of them are talkative, others love to sing opera, and a few are so wicked they have to be chained and locked in a vault. Imagine a world where demons can be bound as servants and where love tests the limits of evil. Where a haunted sorcerer and librarian’s apprentice join forces to save the world. Oooooh. This book is so magical.

The story is told from the POV of the apprentice. Elizabeth is quite daring, full of energy, genuinely emotional, and mostly fearless. Secondary characters are equally rich with distinct personalities. There’s a lot of humor in the relationships as well as tenderness and a touch of clever banter. The book isn’t a skinny little thing, but the plot moves well, and the story kept me turning pages.

And if that isn’t enough, the writing is beautiful, visual, and evocative. I love the imagery: “As the afternoon shadows deepened, the coach clattered into the Blackwald, the great forest that slashed through the kingdom like the stroke of a knife. Everything grew dark and damp. Here and there among the undergrowth stood shocking white stands of birch trees, like specters floating among the black gowns of a funeral party.”

Highly recommended to fans of fantasy, beautiful writing, and giant libraries full of magical books.

*****

Acts of Convenience by Alex Craigie

The opening of this book got me all riled up! It starts with some political maneuvering that might strike a little close to home depending on where you live. The lives of people are reduced to statistics, and their value is measured based on a cost-benefit analysis. In the case of healthcare, old people are deemed a burden on the system, and the government devises ways to help them into an early grave.

Cassie is a nurse in said healthcare system and doesn’t at first acknowledge that a broader conspiracy is at play. She notices poor care and unfair decisions, but there always seems to be a justification and excuse. Time moves forward, and the situation only gets worse. After 40 years in nursing, she has no choice but to acknowledge that something nefarious is occurring at her hospital.

Get the rest of the post from Diana Peach here.

 

Another Heroic Rescue Dog for WATWB

We Are the World Blogfest

The last Friday of each month, a bunch of bloggers post good news happening somewhere in the world. It’s called the We Are the World Blogfest. This time it’s about a dog who ran in front of a delivery truck (and successfully stopped it) when her person suffered a seizure. There’s not much more to say about that. The video explains it much better, with visual and audio. Unfortunately, we can’t just copy and share that.

Here’s what the caption says beside the video:

Dog stops traffic to save owner having a seizure

A dog named Clover stepped in front of an oncoming truck after its owner began having a seizure while they were on a walk in an Ottawa, Canada, neighborhood. It’s from CTV via CNN.

Just click on the link to watch this relatively short video.

 

A Poesy Post

Yes, “poesy” is an archaic term for poetry. Apropos of a writing prompt. A challenge to use some words from an “endangered” list of our own choosing. Not all the ones I came up with are necessarily that uncommon. But most are ones you won’t run across frequently. Here they are followed by the poetry.

  • Albeit
  • Virgule
  • Sophistry
  • Gelid
  • Fecundity
  • Peripatetic

Virgil Virgule had a slashing wit, albeit tendered gently to his friend Jane.

Weekend morns restore Jane’s body and soul.

Saturday at sunrise, a lakeside cedar sauna empties pores;

Promptly plunging into gelid waters slams them shut.

Finland fecundity on his mind, she’s not so sure.

He sees peripatetic pines seeking sweet solace,

Among aspen placid in wintry white year round.

Fulminating on the sophistry of Rehnquist opinions so long ago

Flights of fancy—future fun; satire is dead in a world of alternative facts.

 

NOTE 1: Virgule is the real name of a forward slash. Trees aren’t known to walk far, if at all. But this is poetry.

NOTE 2: There STILL is a book coming this spring. It IS late. We hope you will see it in time for summer reading. What? As if you might be going to the beach or some other destination! Where you might read it—enroute. Stay tuned; advance notice will be posted when it is forthcoming. You could still read it at home, couldn’t you?

A New Review of Waiting for Westmoreland

It’s always nice to get a good review! This is one from December, 2020. I knew to look for it after Amazon sent me notification of forthcoming revenue. Here’s what D.W. Peach had to say in her four-star review.

Book cover, Waiting for Westmorelan

John Maberry’s memoir tracks his life from his childhood in a struggling family through his disillusionment with the Vietnam War, and how that experience compelled him to make a positive difference in the world. That difference came first as an anti-war activist, second through getting a law degree, and finally, through embracing Buddhism and the recognition that change comes from within.

I most appreciated the account of his childhood and his years in the service. I was a child during the Vietnam War and “protected” from much of the grim news by my parents. John provides a personal glimpse into the war, and his account of his experiences, particularly the devaluation of human life, is heart-wrenching. The callousness and corruption of US political and military leadership, is infuriating.

I found the account of the subsequent years of activism and academic pursuits detailed and not quite as engaging, though they are part of his search for belonging and a way to facilitate change. How that search led to an understanding of Buddhism and the role of karma in his choices brings the memoir to a conclusion. I recommend this story to readers who enjoy memoirs and anyone interested in a soldier’s experience of the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement, and the search for wholeness that followed.

 

#WATWB January 2021

We Are the World Blogfest

It’s the last Friday of the month. “In Darkness, Be Light.”

A different sort of good news—for America and derivatively the world. The US narrowly avoided the loss of its 240-year-old democracy at the instigation of an aspiring autocrat.

On January sixth, thousands of insurrectionists attacked the nation’s capitol. Their purpose was to deny the will of more than 80 million people to put Joe Biden in office as President, replacing Donald Trump. Trump lost by more than seven million votes in a free and fair election–contrary to his claims and those who accepted his big lie. More than 140 members of the Capitol Police were killed or injured severely. Ironically, 140 Republican members of the US House of Representatives objected to the certification of Biden electors—after their lives (possibly) and those of Democratic members of the House or Senate were threatened by the violent extremists answering Trump’s call to restore him to office.

We can assume that any members of the GOP (America’s Republican Party) who didn’t swear allegiance to Trump in his effort to void the election could have been killed by the insurgents if asked. They failed to get face to face with elected officials—including the now former Vice-President, Mike Pence. Because Pence had already informed Trump and the public that he wouldn’t deny certification of the election, the insurrectionists put up a gallows outside the building and loudly proclaimed the intention to hang Pence.

Biden was safely inaugurated on January 20th, despite the events of January sixth. Since then, he has issued more than forty Executive Orders—many of them rescinding racist, sexist, Islamophobic, environmentally harmful actions. Others would provide various benefits to suffering people. Still more were intended to aid in the battle to overcome the pandemic and give economic relief to those who need it.

The US has disproportionately led the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita far in excess of its population versus the rest of the world—due primarily to Trump administration’s incompetence, negligence and intentions to disregard the threat of the disease. That will change with the addition of people of skill, expertise and experience in positions of responsibility–rather than loyalty to a leader being their only reason for hire.

There is a new, brighter day in America with leadership of integrity, competence and compassion for all its people. Biden is already reaching not only across the country’s diverse population but to the world, bringing hope of reversing climate change and the many forms of hatred.

Yes, this reads a lot like politics. It is, in part. But it’s also human decency. Political leaders cannot solve all the world’s problems. That takes all of us. But they can make things much worse—especially if there are those among us who are OK with that. Many of them are still in office. Many of them and those American citizens who bought the lies he spun, enabled the former president to nearly destroy America as it now exists. They have not given up. They were always here; they just found encouragement and acceptance from Trump. The hope is that the delusions and hatred of those who aren’t too far gone can be overcome by those who have a more humanistic nature—and be awakened to responsibility for their own happiness and success and not blame others for the lack of those goals.