July

Celebrating Peace

07/24/2021 – Eleri Grace

Monday, July 26, 2021

FULL CIRCLE

 by Courtney Pierce

Ah . .. the 60s.  When I was ten, back in 1969, everyone seemed to be protesting about something: Vietnam, women's rights, the environment, bloated government, corruption, and the right to free love. Nothing escaped the bobbing signs and chants. The nightly newscasters made us believe everything they said about the unrest was the truth.

Most people bought into the propaganda, but I had questions. Like most kids, I had a knack for stating the obvious when I blurted out a challenge to the narrative. And I assumed my parents had all the answers. 

"So . . . why would anyone want to burn the flag?" I asked my mother.

She drew in a breath, a film reel of information and possible responses clattering behind her eyes. The edge of my seat became thin as I, too, inhaled. All Mom could muster was, "It's complicated."

A completely unsatisfying answer. I was on my own to pull it apart.

I recently poked through some of our faded Polaroid family photos. I dug out one that showed an image of me, a young Dutch-looking girl, holding up two fingers. Peace and feeling groovy.

I had no idea what peace meant. I only hung on the words of the Herman’s Hermits, The Beatles, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Oh . . . and The Cowsills.

Back then, some things were sacred, especially the summer and winter Olympics. The Games represented those who were proud of their countries and heritage. Anything else would have been unthinkable. Every American was supposed to enjoy a place on the team. I wanted to spin and spin like Dorothy Hamill, to be the best and captivate the world, just like she did. How dare an athlete shake a fist in the air from the medals podium! The thought of not being inspired by patriotism in a global competition seemed like treason to me.

As a family, we erected our American flag on the front of the house for Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and the Fourth of July. I don’t remember what we pledged out loud, but we paid homage to our country. We respected the flag by not ever letting it touch the ground and taking it down at sunset. A proper ceremony on those three holidays required us to fold the flag properly, edges of the stars all nicely tucked to make a perfect triangle.

We of the United States were the good guys. We had to be, because according to the news, all those other countries were the bad guys. The Vietnam War made no sense to me. Nixon made no sense to me. Watergate made no sense to me, either.

As it will all eventually come out, Nixon was a good guy in the wrong place in political time. He couldn’t fight what was really going on at levels we didn’t understand, and still don’t to this day. At the time, all I cared about was what the United States stood for: freedom, liberty, personal rights, and my ability to be a unique individual. 

I rode my bike to imagine what I could do with the life ahead of me. All I needed was to dream big and work hard to make anything happen.

I rode my bike everywhere. My father travelled for work during the week and my mother kept up the house as she never learned to drive. Thank God we lived in the small fishing village of Cohasset, Massachusetts. I could go anywhere I wanted, on foot or on two wheels, the only limit being the endurance of my legs. Mom never worried as long as I got home for dinner.

Oh, what a different world we lived in back then. War and strife around the world were contained in a television, black and white, with rabbit ears and tin foil.

It wasn’t until I entered college at San Jose State University in the late seventies that I realized there were government leaders that didn’t want peace. Free societies were purposely upended to create chaos. The Middle East became a hotbed of hate and division. I turned my back on all the campus protesting and shouts of "Down with the Shah!". I had my dreams to attend to. Plus, I had just gotten married. Betrothed students were a different kind of college attendee. . . outsiders.

I used to laugh when I watched the Miss America Pageant. Most contestants stated they wanted “world peace” as their top goal. What did that mean? We’ve never had it, so how could they know about something they’ve never experienced? The response came off as a throw-away line to the judges who were inspecting the curves of their swimsuits.

It wasn’t until I was steeped in a corporate career that I realized a stealthy war was taking place under my nose. It wasn’t “out there” but all around me: corruption and greed. I watched it in real time over 25 years of takeovers, mergers and acquisitions. Tow the line and make the new owners look good. The only things that changed was the stationary and the percentage of my salary to be contributed to a Political Action Committee, whether I agreed with the principals or not. Play or be forced to the back of the bus.

The whole scenario didn't define me, so I plotted my escape. It took 28 years to achieve that goal, but I did it. I chose to follow my heart. It wasn’t without pain, though. Everything I had dreamed about from those days of riding my bike came true, but the reality of the achievement wasn’t what I thought it would be. I lost a 37-year marriage in the process, gained a soul mate and stepdaughter for life, and now live in the paradise Montana.

It’s ironic, but now that I’m approaching retirement, I’ve come full circle. I’m going back to my original definition of peace: an inner connection to what I personally want to be. I still have the ability to work hard to make goals happen, but the quest has expanded. What I we do that will result in a better world? It's not about me and my personal goals anymore. I guess I've entered the life-stage of what we boomers refer to as wisdom.

A new bike is in the garage. I'd better get riding to plot out the new chapters of humanity. 

Co
urtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Kalispell, Montana with her husband and stepdaughter. She writes for the baby boomer audience. She spent 28 years as an executive in the entertainment industry and used her time in a theater seat to create stories that are filled with heart, humor, and mystery. She studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. Active in the writing community, Courtney is a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and on the Advisory Council of the Independent Publishing Resource Center. She is a member of Willamette Writers, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and Authors of the Flathead. The Executrix received the Library Journal Self-E recommendation seal.

Print and E-books are available through most major online retailers, including Amazon.com.
Check out all of Courtney's books: 


New York Times best-selling author Karen Karbo says, "Courtney Pierce spins a madcap tale of family grudges, sisterly love, unexpected romance, mysterious mobsters and dog love. Reading Indigo Lake is like drinking champagne with a chaser of Mountain Dew. Pure Delight."

Coming in 2022!


When Aubrey Cenderon moves to Montana after the death of her father, the peace and quiet of Big Sky Country becomes complicated with a knock on the door from the sheriff. An injured grizzly bear is on the loose and it must be eliminated before it kills again. The sheriff's insistence that she buy a gun for protection will present Aubrey with some serious soul-searching, because the grizzly-on-the-run is hunting her too . . . for a different reason.




Friday, July 23, 2021

LOVE AND LAUGHTER . . . AND PEACE EVER AFTER by Eleri Grace

 

Slit Trench, Northern Burma, 1944
The heroines of my novels, the Red Cross Girls, always held out hope for an end to the war and the elusive dream from the Vera Lynn song -- "there'll be love and laughter . . .  and peace ever after." Through their overseas service, they had seen so much death and pain and loss that they fervently wanted the war to end. The Red Cross Girls were often stationed as close to the front lines as the combat nurses, and even the "safe" posts were often on air bases where the women witnessed casualties virtually every day. It was not uncommon for a woman to dance with a pilot or crewman one night and learn the next day that he had been killed on a mission or in an accident the following morning. Death -- and the harsh realities of war --- hovered over every aspect of their service. It was emotionally draining and stressful work, thus prompting the Red Cross to transfer the women frequently (with the often futile hope that short duration assignments would minimize their emotional attachments). 

Emily Harper Rea, ARC, April 1945
The women worried about their own loved ones (husbands, sweethearts, and brothers), and they cared deeply for the men they served through the Red Cross recreation clubs and Clubmobiles -- the "boys" to use their parlance of the time. But they too were not immune from the dangers and vagaries of war -- some 53 ARC personnel (mostly women) lost their lives in WW2 service. These deaths most often occurred as a result of plane crashes (these independent and spirited women often flouted the ARC's prohibition against the common practice of "hitching a ride" with a friendly pilot), but at least one woman died as a direct result of enemy action. 


France, Memorial Day 1945
All dreamed of peace and an end to the war -- long-awaited reunions with a husband or sweetheart or marriage to a wartime suitor or just a return home to American food, family, and traditions. But at the same time, the Red Cross Girls recognized that they too were as changed by their wartime service as the soldiers. An unnamed Red Cross Girl correspondent wrote back home: "None of us [will ever be quite the same again] -- GI or Red Cross." She noted in the same letter that she and her friends were "terribly calloused and never calloused enough," that they "were disciplined and worn down smooth, so that you smile when you're dying." They worried about how they would readjust to civilian life and how they would cope with the trauma they had seen and experienced during the war years. The concept of PTSD was decades away, and while folks back home might be reasonably sympathetic to a man returning home with a bit of "combat fatigue," they likely couldn't grasp the emotional scars and residual stress the Red Cross Girls brought home.

Camouflaging Clubmobile, Normandy 1944
These intrepid and daring women were also uncertain if a slower-paced existence in peace time America would suit them -- they had spent years being "on" all the time time, and most importantly, having far more freedom and discretion than they could expect when they returned home. Indeed, the women wondered how they would cope with returning home to an America where they were expected to now settle down into domesticity. The unnamed correspondent had noted in her letter that while most of the soldiers thought them brave, others believed that the Red Cross Girls belonged "back home where a woman's place used to be . . . about 200 years ago." I find that quote so very intriguing -- this woman, writing in 1944, believed that the idealized American version of housewife and stay-at-home mom was already outdated. Though it would be difficult to prove, I have a strong sense that the daughters of the Red Cross Girls, nurses and WACs, as well as all the women who undertook crucial wartime work at home, led the charge for the equality movement and second wave of feminism in the 1960s. 

Lunch break, field duty, Normandy 1944

Their post-war lives varied, but all the Red Cross Girls who left memoirs, gave oral history interviews, or otherwise reflected on their service during the war sounded a similar note: the war years were the most significant time in their entire lives. One man recounted in a recent blog that his mother made it a tradition throughout his childhood that they would put up a small tabletop Christmas tree decorated with simple handmade decorations. He recalled too that she nestled photographs from the war amidst the branches of this small tree. At the time, he didn't understand why she bothered with this simple tree when they had a larger and more lavishly decorated tree in the living room. It was many years later before his father explained that this was his mother's tribute to her "boys," the men she had known through her years as a Red Cross Girl. The little tabletop tree with simple decorations was exactly like the one she and her fellow Clubmobile crew mates put up in a small makeshift recreation club in Belgium during the cold winter of 1944 at the height of the Battle of the Bulge. I feel certain there were probably other little tabletop trees and other ways the women honored the memory of their meaningful service. 

White banner is a German surrender flag - Patton's Third Army had cleared this town days earlier and the attached Clubmobile crews moved into this hotel

Time and again, just as male WW2 veterans so often do, the women who served overseas identified those years as the ones that left the deepest mark and changed them the most profoundly. The women endured stress, anxiety, trauma, and grief -- but they also experienced adventure, independence, freedom, friendship, camaraderie, and yes, romance and love. Peace allowed them to return home, but I suspect finding true "peace ever after" was a challenge for many of these women. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Peace of mind...

 I must admit that this month's topic -- Peace --was a difficult one for me to wrap my brain around and write about. Usually, my blogs are already written and scheduled weeks before they need to be posted. Not this month.

After much consideration and thought, I finally figured I'd write about something near and dear to me: peace of mind.

Let me 'esplain.

I've been dealing with several family issues of late at opposite ends of the life spectrum. 

Many of you may know my mother recently broke her second hip in three years due to a fall at home. My parents, Mom is 85, and stepdad is 83, live in a mobile home 25 miles from me in another state. They have been self-sufficient and independent forever and they are a bit isolationist, in that they have no family ( except me) or friends. They were housebound for 16 months during the height of the pandemic and I have been relegated to managing their lives for them. I cook for them, pay their bills, shop for them and clean their house once a week. While my mother spent 2 months in the rehab center learning how to walk again, I would travel twice weekly to see her and take my stepdad to visit her. He was lost without her. They have been married almost 60 years and have done, and do, everything together as a unit. My parents never learned how to drive a car so I am their sole means of transport anywhere.

I don't tell you all this for any other reason but this: my mother was sent home last month from the rehab and since then I have been visiting them twice a week, and still doing all the above for them, but my peace of mind comes from knowing they are together again and able to continue to live in their own home. Yes, I run it for them and basically manage their lives, but they are together. My parents are that quintessential couple where if one partner dies, the other will die soon after of a broken heart.

To know I can keep them in their own home, together, until that happens makes my heart and mind calm.

The other end of the spectrum is that my daughter is having her first child in a few months. And as any potential grandmother would, I was very worried in the beginning that she would have a good pregnancy. She really didn't because she was tired and nauseous for almost 6 months - just like I was with her. Apples and trees, people; apples and trees. Plus, she got pregnant during the pandemic, so my anxiety went through the roof.

But, she has crossed over into her seventh month and all is well. She has a wonderful, supportive, and loving husband and excellent access to health care. She is healthy, happy and finally feeling like her old self. Well, as much as she can with a baby on board, so my peace of mind has returned. Yes, I'm still worried about the delivery and the first three months of the baby's life, but I am secure in the hope that all will be well.

Peace of mind is an elusive thing nowadays. Worry about Covid, the economy, my mortality and that of those around me, the horrible state of the world right now, have all taken a toll on me the last year.  To be granted some peace of mind, body and spirit is a life-sustaining aspect of my daily existence.

So, I'll end with a quote that I have always  loved:










At Peace with the World - by Alice Rosewell

 

A week ago I started reading a book called “The Biology of Desire” by Marc Lewis. It’s taking me an age to get through, not because it’s dull, far from it, but because I have to stop every few sentences and think about what he’s saying and make notes.


The book is about addiction, and he makes the point that addiction rarely has anything to do with pleasure, rather it happens when a natural desire for peace of mind has been hijacked by a habit which has gained an unbreakable hold on its victim before they are even conscious of it.

It confirmed a vague feeling I had that “”to be at peace with the world” was my highest desire.

I have long been a believer in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs as a model for building happiness and fulfilment, and I’ve now constructed my own “hierarchy of desires” as an aide-memoire of the things that are most important to me. 

At the top is “To feel at peace with the world”, supported by other emotional desires: to feel cheerful, carefree, and at ease.

Beneath these are the desires for intellectual feelings: clarity of thought, feeling satisfied with my own daily efforts.

Then physical desires: to feel pain-free and energetic

Below these, the desires to “Do”: all those things which will promote the feelings.

And finally, the desire to “Achieve”: short and long-term goals which will sustain everything above. 

As a model it’s still pretty clunky, and I’ve deliberately not included my desires for the happiness of others which can be overwhelming, but as part of the constant striving to live better, I find it a useful image to keep in mind. 

Love and Peace - Alice

 

 


My name is Alice Rosewell and I live in Bristol in the South West of England (UK), the city where I was born.  I write in British English, so I hope that American readers will not be put off by British spelling of some words.

The first story I remember writing was at primary school, about the age of 7. This was followed by a dry spell which latest about 50 years during which I got through University, brought up a couple of kids, and had a successful career  in IT.

I had the outline of a story which I’d dreamed up one evening in the pub, but that sat in a folder for more than a decade until I got made redundant for the 2nd time in one year! This event coincided with the Kindle becoming mainstream, and Indie publishing an option. I dusted off my few pages of ideas and got to work. For the last few years I have been writing contemporary women’s fiction, publishing three novels: Irrelevant Women, The Kite Makers, and my latest, An End to Dreaming.  A good friend described my writing as intriguing, uplifting, and will not give you nightmares!  I think that about sums it up.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Feel The Serenity

If you're an Aussie, the phrase 'feel the serenity' will probably be familiar. It's from an Aussie movie called 'The Castle'. The main character says it (constantly) when they're at their holiday house on the lake and away from all the hustle and hassle of city life. 

I'm so lucky that I 'feel the serenity' pretty much all the time. Not because I live by a lake (I don't but I wish...) but because somehow, over the recent years, I've just developed a way of thinking and 'being' that is calm and peaceful.

I'm also so grateful for this discovery as it certainly makes life easier and better when worries and stresses don't plague my mind. I leave that to the characters in my books!

So, how do I achieve this peaceful state?

I do think I was blessed with a pretty laid-back personality to start with (thanks mum and dad), but mental health is talked about so much more in recent years and people I knew were being more open about their issues and I began to take more notice and more interest and the philosophies of mindfulness and gratefulness resonated.

There is much written about the benefits of 'living in the moment' and this has gone a long way to my currnet way of thinking/living.

I don't think about what 'might' happen in the future - either tomorrow, or next week or next year or when I'm old. If it's something that's out of my control, what is the point of 'what if'? If something needs worrying about, I'll do it at that time and not expend my emotional energy before then. This applies to little things like 'what if the conference is cancelled' to biggies like 'what if I get Alzheimers when I'm older'. 

I don't dwell on the past. The past is done and gone. Nothing can be changed or gained by wishing it could have been or that it could be revisited. 

The present gets all my attention and I make sure to appreciate as much as I can about it - make a conscious effort to 'smell the flowers'. Literally and figuratively. For example, when heading outside to the letterbox autumn leaeves had fallen onto our veranda and I stopped to take a photo of them an how they matched the coloring of my leggings and how the sun was shining on them (and I love autumn leaves). On the walk down the drive I was grateful for the beautiful view out to the hills. When I'm in bed, bingeing a fabulous show on Netflix, I'm thankful that I can indulge myself in such comfort.

But I'm not just thankful for the good times. I make an effort to see good even in bad situations. This doesn't negate the importance or impact of something bad/sad happening.  This doesn't mean I still don't feel the sadness, pain or distress. It just means I don't let them overtake me completely. 

An easy example of this is if something happens that's bad enough to make me cry (and I'm not talking about just watching a sad movie or seeing something sad on FB), I take a moment to feel the heat of the tears running down my face and acknowledge that this only means that I'm human and I have human feelings. That it's better to feel this pain/sadness than to feel nothing. 

This might sound bizarre, but it works for me. Not only does it give me another perspective on things in my life but I am at peace 99.9% of the time - and I'm so grateful for that.

Life's too short to not find your peace.


 


 


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Peace and Love Out of Conflict – the Heart of a Romance Novel ...... by Delsora Lowe

In the United States, July is a symbol of freedom and peace, as it is when we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. But that freedom came at a cost, as does most everything we do in life. 

Life isn’t filled with parades and marching bands and fireworks and speeches / proclamations about peace and freedom. It is filled with toil and dedication to a cause and brokering consensus and treating all fairly / equally…and conflict. It is all those things mentioned above that make this country stronger, and each individual in this country stronger.

Peace after conflict is vital. As is partnering or negotiating with those who might not agree with you, or be in the same space as you, an important step toward unity and peace.

As in our own lives, and in our hopes and dreams for a peaceful and functioning nation, as romance writers we also want our characters to find peace and joy and that all important and sometimes elusive happily-ever-after or happily-for-now.

But no person or character can find a satisfying end without some heavy-duty work toward achieving happiness along with the angst that is a natural part of any journey.

For me personally, the months of May and June have been filled with work and angst and conflict.

No, it’s not what you think 😊

In the last 6 weeks, I have taken three writing workshops on Conflict, each with a different approach. And each giving me more writer tools to effectively “torture” my characters before they finally conclude they cannot do without the partner I have aligned them with in my story. I put torture in parentheses because I write mainstream contemporary sweet and saucy romance. So, my torture of characters is only enough to make them work for the reward of finding that special person meant just for them.

How do we build enough conflict for our characters to learn, grow, and fall in love? In each workshop I learned many ways of making my stories more exciting for a reader.

In a month-long workshop, where the presenter “tortured” the writers with tons of wonderful information and assignments, I had many AHA moments on things I already knew I must do - things I had been doing - but with a makes-sense, step-by-step way of rooting out the core emotional wounds that make our characters who they are. Whether that internal wound comes from something that happened as a child or as an adult, it guides our character’s way of thinking and therefore reacting. They are the issues that both cause conflict for our characters and force them to overcome deep-seated stressors to find happiness. And in a good romance, the hero or heroine are our primary characters who will be paired up with the ones who will help the other overcome those burdens and move forward to embrace that happily-ever-after.

Internal wounds of a character fighting to resolve themselves and move on.

In another workshop, the presenter talks about the outside forces and / or the internal wounds each character brings to the story. Those are the pieces that generate conflict between the characters, as each individual may react differently to the same root cause. Facing and resolving those triggers individually and then together as the characters grow in the story, helps the characters overcome and open themselves to the happily-ever-after that is a prerequisite for the romance genre. Resolving the genesis of that internal conflict leads to peace and joy for the characters.

In the third workshop, we learned how to make peace with ourselves as a romance writer, while we “torture” our characters by throwing conflict in their paths, when all we really want to do is get to that wonderful, happy ending. The more conflict we throw at our characters, the more chances they have to work hard to overcome challenges. And having to struggle and fight all odds to find love makes it all the sweeter when our characters find love and peace in their lives.

So, celebrate peace while knowing that finding peace may, at times, include a lot of conflict and take a ton of work to overcome struggles. 

Happy July and Peace and Love Be With You!

Book Two of The Cowboys of Mineral Springs

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~ cottages to cabins ~ keep the home fires burning ~

Delsora Lowe writes small town sweet and spicy romances and contemporary westerns from the mountains of Colorado to the shores of Maine.

Author of the Starlight Grille series, Serenity Harbor Maine novellas, and the Cowboys of Mineral Springs series, Lowe has also authored short romances for Woman’s World magazine. Her new novella, The Love Left Behind, released in October, 2020. 

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16045986.Delsora_Lowe 
Instagram: #delsoralowe / https://www.instagram.com/delsoralowe/