Thursday, September 18, 2014

For The Writers

"The Best Advice My Editor Gave Me"

 by the Branford Boase award winning shortlisted authors

A book isn't made by the author alone. Here the seven shortlisted authors for the Branford Boase award share top tips from their editors, from clarity is key to curb the cussing.

Fletcher Moss, author of The Poison Boy, edited by Imogen Cooper and Barry Cunningham (Chicken House):
My editor is hyper-intelligent, exacting, demanding, but really lovely with it. Her devastating assessments of my school-boy errors usually come in the form of a politely phrased question. (Recent case in point - Her: Just wondering. Why have you got two separate antagonists? Me: Oh damn! I have, haven't I?) Her advice has been clear, concise and utterly invaluable. Looking back over my notes from those late night phone calls, there are gems aplenty. There's "Raise the stakes! The cause needs to be bigger, more immediate." Or there's "There are foreground characters and background characters, and a few in the middle. Put your cast into one of these three lists. Justify their inclusion." Or "Always think about motivation. Why do they do the things they do, in the order they do them?" Or with plotting denouments "Think big picture. What lessons are learnt? How is the world changed, not just the people in it?" All were close to impossible to answer. "Think it over," she'd say breezily. "I'll call you in a week."

Holly Smale, author of Geek Girl, edited by Lizzie Clifford (HarperCollins):

1. Decide what story it is you want to tell, and then have as much fun telling it as possible.
2. More kissing, please.

Seven authors have been shortlisted for the 2014 Branford Boase award, which is given annually to the author of the best debut novel for children. Uniquely, the Branford Boase award also honours the editor of the winning title and highlights the importance of the editor in nurturing new talent.

We asked the authors for the best piece of advice their editor had given them, and here are their responses...

Natasha Carthew, author of Winter Damage, edited by Rebecca McNally (Bloomsbury):

The first word of advice from my editor was to remember to use plot, momentum and pace to carry the story forward; as a poet I'm happy to get lost in the detail of description and she reminded me to not forget the bigger picture in order to keep the sense of motion, tension and engagement. Three books later I still adhere to this good advice.

Top tip? Curb the cussing!

CJ Flood, author of Infinite Sky, edited by Venetia Gosling (Simon and Schuster):

The best writing tip I ever got was during my time at UEA, and it was that the specific becomes poetic. It taught me not to reach for poetry, but to find it more authentically in the details of the setting and characters.
My editor for Infinite Sky, Venetia, pushed me to know my characters, and how they feel. Iris's feelings about her absent mother are central to the novel, and complex, and for a long time I didn't understand these myself. Venetia wouldn't stand for this vagueness.

Rob Lloyd Jones, author of Wild Boy, edited by Mara Bergman (Walker):

Editors see the little and the large. One huge thing Mara taught me was to keep it simple. Often I over-complicate things with detail, clutter, lose focus on the purpose of the scene. Action, description, detail – that's all just stuff. What matters are the characters in the middle of it, what they are trying to do.
As for the little… Too many sentences begin with a character's name, or the ridiculous number of descriptions of light. Notes like that embarrass me, which is great. With a good editor, you're always embarrassed. You blush. You start typing again. You get better.

Julie Mayhew author of Red Ink, edited by Emily Thomas (Hot Key):

The best two pieces of advice my editor Emily Thomas gave me are…

1) To not censor myself. The emotional and social landscape of Red Ink might have made other editors nervous – should Melon say that? Should Melon do that? But Emily never once said "we must tone this down" or "better get rid of that". She has an incredible respect for teen readers. If they have questions about the darker aspects of life, they should be allowed to ask them and explore them through the safety of fiction. Similarly as a writer, fiction is a safe place for me to express the things it's hard to express in real life. So who wants an editor who says, "oh no, you mustn't write that"?

2) To read The Country Girls. How did it take me this long to discover that book?! It's what the teenage me was desperate for.

Ross Montgomery, author of Alex the Dog and the Unopenable Door, edited by Rebecca Lee and Susila Baybars (Faber):

When I first handed Alex in, it was a bit of a sprawling mess. Both Susila and Rebecca helped me understand that if you want detail in your writing, you have to know when to use it – at all other times, clarity is key.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Head Wind, Tail Wind

The river canyon trail had such a head wind, I almost felt like I was pedaling a stationary bike. I could have turned back several times, but I kept pushing because I was dreaming of the tail wind.

I'd done this head wind/ tail wind many times before and though I hoped I would exchange one for the other, I still wasn't 100% for sure it would happen. Mother nature has tricked me before. The most memorable was at the end of a kayak day trip on the Napali coast. We were on the tenth hour of paddling and could see the shore of our arrival. A beautiful tail wind kicked in and the boat almost moved without us. I took a 4ft by 4ft scarf, tied it to my paddle and the sides of the kayak, held it up and we sailed at an unprecedented speed toward destination's end.

But suddenly as a drop in the stock market, the wind reversed. What should have been a short 20 minute slide into the sand, became a two hour fight to reach the coastline.  There was no break--any resting and the wind pushed us back. When we finally climbed out of the kayak, we were exhausted and grateful. I'd never paddled so hard and for so long in my life.

When I finally reached the top of the bike trail, I turned around, anxious for the tail wind--the reward for my hard work. The glorious tail wind was behind me now and I had time to think of all the metaphorical head winds I'd encountered in my life. While  working on my agent request and re-write, I felt like I was heading straight into a sixteen knot wind: rethinking language, plot changes and additions, and the hardest headwind of all--depending on precious friends and family for their critical edits.

If the agent accepts the manuscript, I'll enjoy a moment of tailwind; if the books sells I'll enjoy another moment of tail wind before I have another round of edits or another colossal head wind.

For the most part, life will consist of head winds and tail winds. Though I may despise the head wind, it's actually the critical part in all aspects of development and getting to the reward or the fun--it's the climbing the mountain in order to sled down the mountain.

If life was just a tail wind, we'd be headed in only one direction--it might be fun at first but pretty soon I'd find myself far away from where I wanted to be.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Life and Trust on the Back of a Bike


Tony and I are on the tandem bike waiting for Annika's soccer practice to finish so we can ride home with her. 

A lady pulls up in a SUV and asks, "Do you like your bike?"

The tandem bike is such a staple in our lives that I no longer, or if ever, think about whether I like it or not. 

"Yes, we like it." She seems doubtful so I add, "There are some trust issues. I've gotten after him a few times."

Tony adds the standard joke, "She does all the pedaling."

The lady, still looking dubious adds, "I've always wanted to try one."

"You should. You'd probably like it."

And then she says what she's been thinking the whole time. "My friends call it the divorce mobile. They had to get rid of theirs."


We actually got the tandem to help our marriage. Tony had taken up biking and I wanted to spend some time with him in a pursuit that he enjoyed. I couldn't keep up with him on a regular bike so for us, it was a marriage builder. 

It's evident from the short video clip that it takes trust to ride on the back of a tandem, but then again, it takes trust to go on a marriage ride


Monday, September 15, 2014


In a morning meditation I learn that power comes from compassion, commitment, trust, vision, strength and love.

A remarkable New York Times video illustrates this better than anything I've ever seen:

Wright's Law: A Teacher's Unique Lesson:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My daughter and I leave Whole Foods Market in an upscale suburb of Chicago. Waiting for us just outside the door are three self-acknowledged gang members collecting money for their friend's funeral who was gunned down a few days earlier in Chicago. Chicago has become the murder capital of the United States. One of the young men hands me a flyer and tells me that the manager gave him permission to solicit people for money. The funeral cost is $900. I tell the young man I will help with his friend's funeral but first we have to solve a greater problem. So I ask from my privileged white lady point of view, "What is the problem?"

"He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," he responds.

I press him for the greater problem.

"I guess the problem is no parenting," he says in a resigned, unemotional voice. I'm not sure if he's telling me what he thinks I want to hear, or if he really knows the problem.  I want this boy to have a better life, I want him to help change what has become a bleak situation.

My daughter is a psychologist and when we get in our car, she tells me the young man was void of emotion. "His face didn't express happiness or sadness when we gave him money or when he talked of his friend. To show emotion makes one vulnerable. If you open yourself up and let others see your emotion, you show a vulnerability and open yourself up to hurt.  If you're not validated, you shut yourself down to emotion. A defense mechanism. If your friends are dying on the street and you shut yourself down to the pain, you will survive."

And yet, we were in the exact situation--me coming out of the store, gently accosted by a boy who wants my money. My wall goes up with a contempt, a protection preservation because it is what I have trained myself to do. If I show emotion, I'll get taken advantage of.

As I sit here, later, I think of him and want to embrace him, want to give him more than a few dollars and a lecture that comes from my blessed life of peace and comfort. I want to be open and full of emotion, I want to be alive.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Most Powerful Human in the World

The most powerful human is the baby who won't sleep.

Friday, September 12, 2014


There is a genuine void in my life if I do not have the next book waiting to read. It's akin to not knowing the next time I will see the sea.

For the most part, I choose books carefully: friend recommendations, ratings, reviews and goodreads. I prefer to buy the books I read, so I'm selective and careful about purchases. Every once in a while, if there's a book I don't want to buy, I remember the library.

When my dad used to take us girls on shopping trips, he would give us a budget. There was an unspoken but well understood budget of time too, because we knew his patience could be less than the money in his pocket.

He enjoyed doing this for his girls, but he always described us in less than flattering terms: They're like dogs in a meat factory.

This is what I felt like yesterday at the library. I hadn't been in awhile and my last library visit had been in Avignon. The library was housed in a beautiful 18th century building, with tons of patronage and relatively few books--compared to our libraries.

When I walked in to our library, I was amazed by the amount of books. I first chose the two books I had come to check out, but I was tempted by all the titles and authors I recognized and wanted to read. Hold off, I told myself. There will be time to read these later. Then I went to the recommendations for teens. SO Many GOOD BOOKS. Still discerning. I picked up less than ten.

The library now has display tables set up with new books, staff picks and old time favorites. As I was headed for check out, I went past several of these tables and delighted at my finds. I even found a beekeeping book. I was starting to feel like that dog in the meat factory.

All day long, when there was a shift in my thinking or when I had completed a task, I remembered the stack of books. I climbed up the stairs, pulled a book out and started reading. The books brought as much excitement as new clothes to a teenager or as a sausage to a dog.

Did I read all the above books? No. A few of them I only gave a few pages to gage interest, but a few of them I loved. That's what's so great about the library--one can take risks.

With the stack of library books, the void is always at bay. It's akin to having a travel itinerary waiting in my email.

Three weeks later, I return to the library and have the same experience!  Books I couldn't have known about, books I couldn't have bought, but available to me with a library card. 

As with anything, when there are so many choices, one must choose wisely. I'm stuck on a two hour flight with the wrong hardback books. The first is a political memoir that weighs 2.5 pounds. I know it weighs 2.5 pounds because I was 2 pounds over the 50 pound maximum for checked luggage and had to weigh items and repack.  Ironic that the political book is so heavy.

The second book is a young adult book written in at least 10 different voices and all the voices, though written differently, sound the same. I want to towel whip the author.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sister Quote of the Day #2

My sister calls and shares her epiphany born from a trial and the working through of that trial.  The epiphany is a question, "Why do I need to forgive anyone?"

I'm quiet because forgiveness is critical if one is to survive the human experience. 

She continues, "But you don't need the forgiveness if you refuse to be offended or hurt in the first place."

Ok, yes, this makes sense and how I wish I was at that point in my life. We both know we aren't this resilient yet, but we can work on getting there.

The epiphany was prompted from an experience with a group of friends who sometimes act like "mean girls." This old group of old friends continually leaves someone out and when they do get together, it is often to criticize or gossip about her, him or them.  This time, my sister is left out of a lunch invitation. At first she is thinking the forgiveness route, but as she continues her thinking, she realizes they did her a favor--no need to forgive because she realizes they didn't hurt her at all: they helped her realize she needs to distance herself from anything MEAN!

As we continue the conversation, her compassion grows and we even change mean girls to weak girls. People are mean only because they are weak, insecure and suffering themselves.

And I remember how easy it is to be a weak girl.  A close, close friend and I invite a new friend to attend a social function with us. While there, I lapse into the comfort of our old friendship. My daughter has to remind me, "Be inclusive."

In my daughter's reprimand, I had to make a decision. I had to overcome being weak. It was easiest or weak, not explaining something  my old friend and I laughed at. It was easiest or weak to make allusions to people or places the new friend didn't know.  I was going to have to concentrate to skip a mutual topic and create an inclusive topic. I had to be a better person. I had to be strong in order to overcome the easy weakness. That night I sent a text to my daughter. "I was inclusive. Thanks for the reminder."

My sister's epiphany or quote # 2 will take strength to incorporate and I'm sure I will have reason to forgive and be forgiven on many future occasions, but how I look forward to the strength I will gain each time I don't have to forgive.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Discovering Myself After Forgetting Myself

An old reminiscence (Paloma is now 21):

Outwardly, I tried to appear happy when my 14 year old daughter told me she was going to take up tennis with the intent of making the high school junior varsity team.

She had been a good soccer player but was consistently injured while playing the game. The day came when we had to consider the long-term effect of these injuries. I loved watching her play and I enjoyed being with her and her peers while driving them to soccer games. I was as disappointed as her when she quit the team.

I was rooting for volleyball to be her new sport. The opponents were safely on the other side of the net. I could sit in the consistent climatic comfort of a gym. No more huddling in a down blanket in October.

I wasn't happy about tennis because I knew what it would mean for me: playing tennis again.

The day before she made her tennis announcement I had decided that I hated tennis and would never play again. I had spent my youth playing tennis; tournaments, invitationals, a ranking in my home state, tennis teams, teaching tennis, a tennis life.. So why was I hating tennis? I was used to a certain level of tennis playing. Over the years I played less and less and got worse and worse. Tennis was no longer fun, and my husband was starting to beat me. daughter means more to me than my own life. I kept my anti-tennis resolution to myself and agreed to work hard with her in her tennis pursuits.

We spent hours on the court, sometimes twice a day; but it wasn't playing tennis, it was helping my daughter.
I analyzed and critiqued; I picked up balls while she practiced her serve or hit on the ball machine. I modeled footwork and strokes. As I transferred my knowledge to her, as her game improved, without intention or realization I was improving my own game.

In the week before tryouts, she started to play with friends who were anxious to make the tennis team too. Four days passed after playing twice a day matches, when she didn't have anyone to play with. "Mom, can we go play tennis?"

My opponent stood across the net. She hit her first ball. It came at me fast; I sent it back. I got my racket back sooner, stood on my toes ready for the return. It came, it went back. With a four day hiatus I came back to the court with fresh eyes. My daughter had dramatically improved, but so had I. We had become worthy opponents and we were having fun. It crossed my mind that maybe I liked tennis again.

Paloma's story:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Gift From My Neighbors

I've never held a pear this large.

After six months of lost queens, moth and ant attacks, after having all the stored honey robbed from the hive, I heard the sweetest words ever from my neighbors and I remembered why I wanted to keep bees.

My neighbors have a beautiful garden with vegetables, berries, and fruits. They both tell me this year's bounty is over the top. The grape vines are full, the pears are huge and a once barren plum tree is filled with plums. "And," they tell me, "we think it's because of your bees."

When I hear this, it reminds me of the real reason to keep bees: pollination. The majority of our food depends on bee pollination.

Yet, there are other reasons for beekeeping. Foremost, honey. Since it looks like I won't see any honey this year, I'm focusing on the Saving the planet reason for beekeeping. (Nature's Dying Migrant Worker My bees are helping  neighborhood food production. Flowers are still in full bloom. Fruit and vegetable production is up. My own raspberries were more abundant than any other year previous. In early summer I'd wake up mornings to find the raspberry patch literally looking alive.

Bees have helped me become more observant and conscious of nature. I watch the flora and fauna as it changes, feel sadness when neighbors spray poison,  love when I pass a bee yard. Love when I pass a neighbor's flower bush and see it humming with life. I don't yank out a dandelion or clover, because it's bee food.

I can sit still and watch them, absolutely fascinated by their industry and energy. All the cliches about bees are true: they are busy! The female worker bee, which makes up 85% of the hive, has a life expectancy of only 30 days. These ladies truly do "work themselves to death."

It is a rare day when I don't walk to the lower yard, open the hive window and watch. A bench sits in front of the hive for watching bees exit and enter the hive. The packs of pollen on their legs come in all different colors from off-white to blue-grey to bright orange.

The bees are the reason I have let the basil run amok and go to flower. They love the purple flowers. Their presence brings the basil patch to life.

Enjoy bees! Know they are here and helping to grow our food right along with the farmers. Take a minute and observe the bees that may or may not be in your yard. Choose to use pesticide more discriminately or not at all. The threat to the world's bee population is a slap to human consciousness. Wake up and enjoy bees. And your food.

After encounter and thought: Nikki and I walk home from yoga and run into a neighbor who invites us to share in her bounty of plums.

"Did you have any plums last year?" I ask.

"No, In fact I thought one of the trees was dead."

"Nikki! Our bees!"

My husband keeps teasing me about having to buy honey to feed our bees all winter--he finds this rather ironic, as do I--why I have to focus on pollination!

Monday, September 8, 2014


The dress shop in the Del has a new name. Kate's. Curious about the change, I asked the friendly saleslady who answered in a heavy Russian accent which just added to the intrigue.

Kate it turns out, is the ghost that congenially haunts the Hotel Del Coronado.

In 1892, 24 year old Kate Morgan checked into the Hotel Del without any luggage. Five days later, she was found with a gun in her hand, shot in the head, lying on the beach. Not wanting a scandal, the death was deemed a suicide and put to rest. Later investigation pointed to murder.

Kate had a shady past for someone so young. She and her husband were known as a train robbing duo who befriended people only to rob them.

During Kate's short stay, she continually inquired at the front desk to see if anyone had come to see her; supposedly she was expecting her husband.

The Russian saleslady even had her own encounter with Kate. One day while conversing with fellow employees, she felt a hand brush her lower back. She quickly turned to see who it was, but no one was in sight. She told the other women and they nonchalantly said, "Kate has welcomed you."

I want to believe the saleswoman even though I know the hotel is capitalizing on the mysterious Kate. There is a book, some Kate paraphernalia, and even Kate's old room can be reserved. Stories of in-room encounters with Kate are bountiful.

I wonder why the spirit of a murdered woman would hang around the hotel and why would she have certain powers to upset the laws of life and death? Why, a hundred years later, would she still care?

I want to believe because I've had my own encounters with people who have passed, most of them too tender and too recent to broadcast. But there is one shareable moment that confirms my belief in a life after death. When the children were young, we took them to Disneyworld. The week of our departure, Tony's aunt was critically ill and was expected to die.  Tony has a soft spot for all his older relatives and we had visited this aunt often. We boarded the plane knowing we might come back to a world without Great Aunt Lil.

While standing in line for the ride It's a small World, I grabbed Tony and asked him, "What time is it?" He told me and then I insisted he remember that time. What I didn't want to tell him, was that while standing in line, I felt the fleeting presence of Lil who had come to manifest her love, appreciation and to say goodbye to my little family.

After we'd gotten off the plane, gathered luggage and children, we headed straight to Great Aunt Lil's house. As we neared, we noticed a car with an out of state license plate in the driveway. Sure enough, she had passed on. "What time did she die?" I asked her daughter.  She had died within the hour of when I had felt her presence.

I hold very dear certain scriptures:  "11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

 12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow." Alma 40: 11-12, The Book of Mormon

These beautiful words bring great comfort to me.  But they also bring up a few questions:

Where is God's home? Where is paradise? Is the earth more than three dimensions? Is it like the light spectrum of which we can see only a miniscule part? Is paradise just a part of the light spectrum the human eye can't perceive?
This past weekend I returned home from the memorial service of a dear, dear lady. The memorial was small, intimate and each of the ten people attending shared their experiences with Mary. One woman had a vision of Mary smiling and skipping and learned of her death early the next morning. There were several of these experiences. A beloved nephew of Mary spoke, "I don't know about life after death but  whenever I was having a hard time in my life, I would dream of my uncle Frank (who'd passed on many years before), who left me uplifted and cared for."

It all seems pretty straight forward: people die, return to heaven,--yet there is a connection between heaven and earth--a connection I cannot yet grasp or completely understand.

As for the the ghost of Kate? 

I don't know. But to discount what people have seen and felt in the Hotel Del would discount my own experiences too.

Only one thing is for sure--eventually we will all know.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Yin and Yang of Marriage or "Yes! Go Ahead and Remodel"

About ten years ago,  I walked up the hill to borrow something from my neighbors. While there, she showed me the finishing touches of a twelve month remodel that left her home in chaos. But this day she is putting it back together and it looks lovely. “Yes, she comments, I’m even ready to forgive my husband.” 

Less than a year previous to her remodel, we finished with our nine month kitchen remodel that should have taken two months. When it was all done and absolutely beautiful, my husband said, “Thank-you, I’m really glad we did this, it’s beautiful.” I should have said, “You're welcome," but inside I seethed with resentment. From the beginning concept until the day we finished, he was the Thomas, the black cloud to creativity and vision. But he probably is the reason we finally finished; and the reason we are not tearing the wall out of the laundry room and redoing the master bath. My neighbor points out that she is like my husband and Iam like hers; or he is the yin and I am the yang: the balance that brings some kind of normalcy to a house remodeling job, or a marriage.

Our conversation continues on the importance of this balance. “Because, “I point out, “you know the couple who don’t have the yin and yang and their house is in perpetual disarray.There is always a project, an improvement and there isn’t a partner who screams “stop.”
“And,” she adds, “you know the couple who never makes any changes, you can walk into their home and say, “1970’s.”

I walk back down the hill that day aware of the yin and yang in marriage, and the need for balance, or the right balance. After all, balance is what makes a teeter-totter ride so fun and a tug of war something that always ends with someone lying on the ground.

Before: The brown and dark kitchen

After: The white and bright kitchen.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Worthy Writing and Reading Quotes

"I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn't be daunting, they should be funny, exciting, and wonderful and learning to be a reader gives us a terrific advantage." Roald Dahl

"The time to begin writing is when you have  finished... by that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say." Mark Twain.

"Words are in my not so humble opinion our most inexhaustible source of magic." Albus Dumbledore

"The indispensable character of a good writer is a style marked by lucidity." Hemingway

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture, just get people to stop reading them." Ray Bradbury

"There is no frigate like a book, there is nothing like a griggin bood book." Mr. Beeso

"The poet is representative. He stands among partial men for the complete man." Emerson

"In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people. Of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It's an agressive, even hostile act."  Joan Didion

"People become the stories they hear and the stories they tell." Elie Wiesel

"Most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk, I'd say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments while you're walking or playing a game. or even talking to someone you're not vitally interested in.You're working, your mind is working on this problem in the back of your head."Henry Miller

"Writing a first draft is very much like watching a polaroid develop. You can't and you're not supposed to know exactly what the picture  is going to look like until it has finished developing." Ann Lamott

"Writing is as simple as talking on paper." Samantha Abeel

"Don't die with the music still inside you." Possibly Wayne Dyer wrote this.

"Never think of revising as fixing something that is wrong. That starts you off in a negative frame of mind. Rather think of it as an opportunity to improve something you already love." Marion Dan Bauer

Friday, September 5, 2014

Learn It Forward

While at the beach, Paloma hears that a childhood friend wants to meet. They used to spend a few weeks in summer together, but since growing up, there's only been a few sporadic, short meetings.  Paloma turns shy and passes the opportunity.

The next morning, she hears from the friend's grandmother about the grand adventure they so wanted to include her in. The night started with a beach fire, filming for a documentary and a memorable encounter with a city official. We also learn that the old friend will be attending school in Edinburgh Scotland and has become quite the sophisticated, intelligent young man. I turn to Paloma and see the regret she has for  not accepting the invitation. I say to her, "You missed out."

There is only one thing to do: learn it forward.

Pay it forward is the concept of spreading kindness because of one's good fortune. I first learned of the concept from the movie (2000) Pay it Forward. The story is about a young boy who is assigned to figure out how to change the world. His pay it forward theory sets off a good deed domino effect. When someone does something nice, the recipient, in turn does something nice for another person and most often a stranger.

Since some of my best lessons and growth have come from my own mistakes, I thought of the idea learn it forward.  I can reflect on my own weaknesses applying them in a heartfelt way, so when the same opportunity arises again, I am less likely to make the same mistake.

For example, I never leave my purse in a locked car because a thief once smashed my car window to get that purse.

 Mistakes can be devastating, but if we learn it forward, we can grow in wisdom and even come to appreciate our mistakes. Even if the only consolation is saying, "I'll never do that again."

I'm sure Paloma will carefully consider future invitations because of missing out with an old friend.  I saw the regret in her eyes diminish when I encouraged her to learn it forward.

Postscript: A most unselfish woman failed to be a good example, so she chose to be a very good bad example. She tells her story so other people can "learn it forward" without suffering as she has.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

This Is War!!!

I always thought of beekeeping as a gentle, zen kind of experience. And it has been, until my hive became the target of robbers, ants and moths. And now? THIS IS WAR!!!!

The war began when I opened the hive and found wax moth larvae. Immediate action to destroy the enemy. AaAAck. This takes diligence. Daily visits to the hive to squish and squash. Hours taking apart the hive and cleaning all the nooks and crannies.

 I reduce the hive to just enough comb so the bees have less territory to defend from the moths. With less comb, the bees spread themselves across the walls and floor and are busily, meticulously cleaning up. The wax moth no longer stands a chance against this little army/air force. The empty combs are wrapped and put in the freezer where they are safe from enemy invasion.

The next day I'm ready to do battle again. Open the hive and the ants have invaded. I refill the moats underneath the four legs and go on an ant squezing frenzy. A closer look behind the follower board and I find three moths! I squish one, and a second one, but it is only injured. As if we are working together, a bee swoops down on the moth and attacks it.* The third moth gets away.

During this thorough inspection I realize there isn't any honey. Not a stitch that I can see. At one time,  combs were heavy with honey.  I'm perplexed--where did it go?  A little more research.  My hive has been robbed! I watch a few videos of hive robbing both inside and outside, then head out to the hive to observe if we are being robbed.

Unbelievable! There is a battle going on at the front of the hive. An invader bee makes a kamikaze dive, a guardian bee crashes into her. A group of bees humming just above the entry sound like a group of Hell's Angels revving their Harleys. This is Mad Max down under. Hovering, waiting to attack. I hurry to reduce the size of the opening. I fortify the slight cracks at the sides of the hive. Make sure there aren't any gaps in the top bars.

Inside,  another battle wages in the back corner. Fighting for territory and capture. I close up all possible entries for enemy entry. My bees now only have to guard one small hole. Hopefully they can handle it. I watch them carry out, wrestling, enemy bees.

When darkness falls and all the foreign troops have retreated back to their home hive, I'm at the war table strategizing how to keep my bees alive this winter without honey stores. It's one a.m.. After a few hours of internet research, I finally go to bed only to wake up with bees on my mind, battle weary after a restless night. But it won't take long for me to put on a sweat shirt, the purple rubber boots, to grab the flashlight and head down to the hive, because, after all, THIS IS WAR!

*There is no illusion here: from a bee's point of view I am the enemy.  It is why I have my own suit of armor for battle.