Friday, January 5, 2018

Reflections Of An Aging Parent

I've taken a break from blogging recently to focus on the third book in my Legacy Trilogy. This work represents the final chapter in the saga of the Kingsley family. In this book, I am focusing on the change in the relationship between Tessa and her two sons as they mature and become independent adults. The book has, at times, been difficult to write because much of it has caused me to reflect on my own relationship with our adult children.

I was watching one of those animal shows on TV the other day and I was struck by the similarities we all face as parents: the push-pull relationship between a mother's instinct to protect and nurture her young and the desire to teach them to be independent. It's a dilemma all parents, whether animal or human, must face at one time or another.

When our children are young, they depend on us for everything. For the most part, we freely give up a large portion of our own independence to meet that need for them. The dilemma arises as the child becomes more independent and reaches adulthood. We lose our role as the dominant authority in the relationship and become, instead, equals. If the parent has always relished their role as the primary decision-maker, this can be a difficult, if not impossible transition. Some parents may feel compelled to force the adult offspring to remain as the child in the relationship. This usually fosters resentment and can ultimately destroy the relationship altogether. 

On the other hand, if we have raised independent children, they often go off and make a life for themselves on their own. They make their own decisions and no longer rely on us for advice or guidance. After devoting a good portion of their lives to raising the children, parents can feel abandoned and purposeless. Some will relish the return of their independence and pursue interests that were deferred during the child rearing years. Others will try to insert themselves back into the lives of their children and maintain their previous role. This can impede the growth of the adult child toward independence.

Tessa Kingsley wrestles with this dilemma in The Edgewater Legacy. One of the most difficult things we do as parents is stand on the shore and watch our children as they learn to swim. We pray that the skills we have taught them will keep them from drowning in life's troubles. We try to keep them close to the shore where we can rescue them, but they venture further and further away from us. Ultimately, we must accept the fact that their survival is in their own hands.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Why Must Women Smile More Than Men?

I was blessed by nature with a wrinkle in my brow between my eyebrows. The wrinkle is intensified when I am concentrating or listening intently. Add to this, the fact that my lips do not naturally turn up at the ends. Both of these facial features have been intensified by age and gravity. The result is that my "resting face" often looks as if I am scowling in displeasure, when nothing could be further from the truth.

I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me I needed to smile more often. Some of my previous employers have even written this into performance evaluations! I wonder how many men have been criticized for this. Clint Eastwood as made a fortune from his scowl and is still (even at his age) considered something of a sex symbol.

Beautiful women who walk the red carpet during awards season, are asked "Who are you wearing?" Men are seldom greeted with this question. More often, they are asked about how they prepared for a film role or how the role impacted their lives or better yet, how they hope the film will impact the audience. A famous actress recently took a talk show reporter to task for asking about her cosmetic surgery instead of the picture she was promoting. The male costar sitting next to her was not asked a similar question.

In the workplace, assertive women are considered pushy and abrasive. Assertive men are considered strong leaders. Men think nothing of interrupting others to contradict or make a point. Woman are taught not to do this. We wait for a lull to add our voices and oftentimes miss the opportunity altogether, leaving our silence to connote passive agreement when the exact may be the case.

But this is not intended to be a treatise against men. It is simply a plea for equality. Women are intelligent human beings with skills and aptitudes that can be applied to many situations. They should never be dismissed as simply bubble-headed airheads that care only about fashion and appearances. But women must take some responsibility for this misconception. If we are silent in the face of this double standard, we have become part of the problem rather than the solution.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Wisdom from the Aged

My husband is fond of saying "Age brings wisdom whether we want it or not!" How true! How many of us in our elder years wish we had known then what we know now? Here is a case in point.

Recently we were reminiscing on the good years we had experienced in our respective careers. In each case we acknowledged that there had been both good years and bad years. In almost every instance the good years outnumbered the bad years. During the good years, we had supervisors who respected our expertise and supported our efforts. They shared a positive vision for the future. They created strong teams who worked together for the greater good. They cared about the people under their leadership. We felt good about the work we did and the people we worked with.We looked forward to going to work each day.

The bad years were often due to personnel conflicts either with subordinates or supervisors. We struggled with situations, often beyond our control, that caused us to reflect on our integrity and moral conscious. The choice was difficult: face the conflict head on and the consequences that went along with it, or acquiesce knowing that we had surrendered a part of us we could never get back. The situation created stress that we carried over into the workplace and into our homelife. Trust was eroded and collegial friendships suffered. The game became one of survival and "empire building". The spirit of teamwork and collaboration was lost. Workers began to insulate themselves against territory encroachment in an effort to protect themselves. Only the "toadies" thrived in this environment.

So what is the lesson learned from this?  We are not only stronger together, we are happier together. No one builds support through division and  isolation. No one grows taller by tearing down someone else. No one leaves a legacy of positive memories by creating more stress. 

I urge anyone in a leadership position to take this advice to heart. Take stock of the atmosphere you are creating in the workplace. Long after you are gone, you will be remembered not for the accomplishments you can list on your resume, but for the people and lives you touched along the way.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Life in Limbo

Ever feel like you just don't fit in anywhere? I grew up without running water or inside plumbing. We had no phone most of the time and when we did, it was a party line that was tied up with gossipy old crones most of the time. By today's standards, it would be considered a life below the poverty line. When you add a homelife filled with alcohol and abuse, it creates memories of a less than idyllic childhood. Unfortunately, the people we associated with at the time were of a similar status in life.

But I overcame these obstacles to earn advanced educational degrees and move comfortably into the middle class (or what's left of it.) Most of the people I associate with now have never known poverty or abuse. Their memories of childhood are filled with friends, family and pleasant memories. They can sympathize with the less fortunate, but they cannot empathize. They cannot relate to my past anymore than I can relate to theirs.

And yet, when I return to my roots, I am caught in a similar dilemma. I have moved beyond the norms of my childhood. I am no longer a victim of my circumstances, blaming others for my status in life. Education has expanded my worldview along with my moral consciousness. I cannot understand those who cling to their narrow viewpoints anymore than they can understand mine. It's an argument neither side can win. When either side is incapable of rational thought, there is no way to achieve common ground.

But this state of limbo is not unique to my single example. It's a growing trend throughout society. The tragedy in Charlottesville, VA is a prime example.When rational thought is replaced by the emotions of fear and hatred, chaos prevails. Freedom of speech is a constitutional right, but forcing one's views on the opposition and threatening or inflicting harm on those who disagree is not. It's a crime and should be treated as such.

When did education become the enemy?  Why is the nation at war with what is being called "the educated elite"? We are a nation founded on the belief that a free and public education is a constitutional right. And yet there are forces at work in our government that would destroy that right. An uneducated populace is easily ruled by emotional propaganda. They are no longer able to discern fact from opinion. They become puppets to those in power and accomplices to their emotional appeals. Diplomacy is replaced by outward shows of force and violence is inevitable.

Now is the time for a call to action to those who have too long been been silent in the face of injustice and tolerant of radical and irrational thought. But do not mistake a call to action to be a call to arms; rather, it's a call speak out and let your voice be heard.

We are a nation founded on diversity. The words and actions of White Supremacy groups are abhorrent, and those responsible should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Battling the Blues

I have the blues.  I feel sad, unloved, and unworthy. I look in the mirror and I don’t like what I see. I look tired, overweight, and frumpy. Maybe I just need a new hairdo, or a new outfit. But I know that won’t change the way I feel about myself. I give myself a peptalk. “What have you got to feel sad about?” I ask myself. “You are a highly educated woman. You have a nice home, a family that loves you, and plenty to eat. Why isn’t that enough?” I have no answer.

I know I’m not alone.  Right now, about 20 million Americans are in the midst of an episode of depression. Some have it much worse than I do. They may have the incapacitating symptoms of what doctors call “major depression.”  These symptoms usually require professional attention because they are very severe and demoralizing. But that knowledge doesn’t stop me from feeling lousy about myself and my life at this moment. I just want to sit on my “pity pot” and feel sorry for myself, but I know that will only make me feel worse. So what to do?

The research indicates that there are several steps I can take to prevent and overcome minor depression.

1. Put some spring in your step.
Regular exercise may be the most powerful natural antidepressant available. It is advisable that you take a brisk walk. Exercise helps generate the release of brain chemicals called endorphins. When endorphin levels are low, depression can seep in. Exercise also oxygenates the brain, keeping it healthy.
How much should you exercise? Thirty minutes, five days a week, at moderate intensity, is a nice level to aim for to help prevent the brain imbalances that can make you vulnerable to depression.
2. Nourish your brain.
Virtually any nutrient deficiency can result in impaired mental function, including depression. To help prevent depression, health experts recommend that people should take high-potency multivitamins or mineral supplements. This will supply the brain with enough nutrients in order to keep it properly functioning and, thus, avoid some mental disorders such as depression.
3. Get enough sleep.
Getting less than eight hours of sleep, night after night, may lower levels of the brain chemical known as “serotonin,” which can make you more prone to depression. To sleep well, health practitioners recommend going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends.
Relax before bedtime, perhaps with a hot bath. And for the soundest sleep, keep your bedroom quiet and dark.
4. Consider some alternate explanations.
Your emotions, positive or negative, are created not by situations themselves, but by the way you interpret those situations.  A very common situation can turn into a reason for hand wringing unless you take mental steps to prevent it.

All good suggestions, but none of them will work without some serious efforts on my part. Indeed, depression can be very destructive if neglected. Time to get off my “pity pot” and take the first step toward feeling better. After all, I am responsible for my own happiness in life. It’s the one responsibility that I cannot assign to others.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Reuniting the Family of Man

In some families, reunions are a regular--perhaps even annual--event. The majority of family reunions are organized as a means for members to keep in touch with one another. This is especially important if your family, like ours, is spread across the country. Our family gatherings have often been rather sporadically centered around the passing of a beloved family member. Though we try to keep in touch through email or by phone, nothing beats a personal gathering. So, this year, I decided to organize a reunion that would celebrate the birth and growth of our extended family.

It is not uncommon for family members to lose touch with one another, especially if they are not immediately related. The reunion helped us reconnect with long-lost cousins, aunts, and uncles whom we had not kept in touch with over the years. Family bonds were strengthened and relationships were rekindled, reminding us to take a step back out of our busy schedules and remember what is important in life.

We used the occasion to provide a means for younger family members to learn about their heritage by constructing a family tree.  We shared family albums and stories about the past. By including extended family members, we saw how the family tree had grown branches that connected us to others from different religions, different parts of the country and different political ideologies. It helped us to recognize the universality of the human experience.

At a time when our nation is more divided and fractured than any time in recent history, perhaps we all need to reconnect with our pasts and realize that we do not exist in isolation from one another. We are all part of the “family of man”.

Wanda DeHaven Pyle will be reading from her family saga, Windborne, on July 9 at 1:00 at Pipe and Thimble Bookstore, 24830 Narbonne Ave in Lomita California.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Youth on the Edge

After several weeks off, I am back to work on Book III of the Legacy Trilogy. The Edgewater Legacy follows elder son Christopher to Los Angeles in the 1980s where he pursues his passion for music by landing a job in the music industry as a chart researcher for Silver Bullet Records. He is on the edge of adulthood and struggling to find his moral compass in life. It is a story of greed, graft, and gullibility.

When a na├»ve young singer overdoses on drugs during a corporate party, Chris and his beautiful co-worker embark on a dangerous journey to expose a blockbuster mentality that deflates artists' careers and gouges consumers with artificially inflated prices. In the process, old enemies resurface and old scars are reopened.

In this new book, I am experimenting with a slight adjustment to the point of view from my earlier work. The point of view in fiction determines whose eyes the reader experiences the story through. In Windborne, I used the third person omniscient or "god" point of view. This assumes that the narrator is all-knowing. The thoughts, feelings, and actions from all the characters may be related to the reader (or they may be withheld). I believe this was a successful approach for Windborne given the scope of the work and the shifting focus of each woman's story.

I continued this approach in The Stone House Legacy and The Steel Canyon Legacy, but I don't believe it was as effective.  Therefore, I have decided to limit the point of view in The Edgewater Legacy. This limits the narrator to seeing into the heart and mind of only one character - in this case, Christopher. This point of view is actually the "default" in fiction. It is the most common because it can be used the most effectively in the majority of situations.

Narrative voice and tone will also be impacted by this point of view. The narrator may take on the manner of speaking, word choice, or dialect of the main character. The tone may reflect the narrator's attitudes and events through the actions and speech of the character, thus affecting the reader's perceptions of the work.

This change in point of view is relatively minor and will probably go unnoticed by most readers. However, it should eliminate some of the confusion around shifting points of view that plagued the first two books in the series.

The Edgewater Legacy is the culminating look at a family impacted by the changing attitudes and mores of the world they live in. Watch for its release in 2018.

Wanda DeHaven Pyle is the author of Windborne and the Legacy Trilogy available now on Amazon and Kindle.