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Friday Friends – Joyce Norman, Writer, Teacher, Friend

I am fortunate to share “friendships” with people I have never met. Through the power of technology and the internet, I have shared many wonderful moments with Joyce Norman, although we have never met. Introduced through a mutual friend on Facebook, Joyce and I have shared a love of writing, books, literature and life. I learn something new every time we speak on Skype or message through email or Facebook. My writing has been inspired through the magic of her editing and reading her stories inspires my own recollections. Her editing is renowned in our circles, a former journalist and teacher, Joyce spends hours reading and working through the manuscripts sent to her. I gladly call her friend.

Joyce has been advisor, teacher and mentor to the many students who attend her classes, join her workshops and follow her Monday Morning Writing Chain. With a brief prompt on a Monday morning, Joyce sets our imaginations free to complete a story with other writers. No other impetus is provided but a few sentences to set a scene or a picture to prompt our story. The co-creation is sometimes filled with great writing, dialogue that flows from characters created by a distant author. Sometimes we hear Joyce attempting to reel us in, as she reminds us of the details of writing, maintaining scene, character’s names and the dialogue written previously.

Joyce’s editing skills have allowed many beginning writers to be published in an anthology, It Was A Dark and Stormy Night. Encouraging her students and colleagues to produce short essays, stories and including a few Morning Chain entries, Joyce compiled the anthology and edited our entries for readers to enjoy. No entries were denied.

Joyce’s own work, Coming Together, published in 2009 with Joy Collins, is a novel filled with foreign intrigue, the love story of a mother in search of her son and a fascinating story of a film maker. Set in Brazil, a place Joyce visited repeatedly, the story uses many of Joyce’s own experiences to engage the reader in the action. Currently, Joyce is writing a fascinating story of her travels throughout the world. Looking back at her past without becoming mired in reminiscing Joyce leads us to tropical islands, a look at other cultures and how experience can be the best teacher.

I am honored and grateful as a writer to know Joyce and to benefit from her skills as a writer, teacher and journalist. Her positive attitude and encouragement has assisted many writers through the dark waters of their first publishing efforts. Her classes and workshops are always filled at the local university and online. I hope you will seek out this talented woman, a woman who seeks to lead by example, skill and experience. You will be encouraged to continue on your path.

 

 

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Tuesday Temptations – A Piece of My Heart

Spring is in the air although the temperature belies the season. Central heat stills warms the house rather than the warm sun. Near the beach, the wind is still cool, the air crisp with promise that make kites dance and sun worshippers shiver. Walks along the water’s edge still chills bare feet and shell seekers find sand dollars among the whelks and clam shells soon to be discovered by vacationers. A few intrepid souls try surfing, wet suits zipped tightly to the neck.

Safe at Home

Safe at Home

I love the beach in any season, the endless rolling waves, the cries of gulls and serene flight of a squadron of pelicans make each visit a reminder of the constancy of the ocean and its shore. Anne Morrow Lindbergh recovered at the shore, walking miles along the sand, listening to similar sounds. She wrote in Gift from the Sea, “Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves.”  A walk along the beach provides the solitude to reflect and pursue the dreams coursing within. I seek the peace the shoreline offers, the bright hope of the constant sand and the creative direction as well.

These past winter months have opened new doors to friendships and jobs, new opportunities to develop.  The months of spring hold hope for change. I am changed each year in Spring, renewed faith that growth is possible and probable. The shoreline changes and yet is the same. The sand dunes rise and are swept to sea, the water washes out a sand bar, replacing it further along the coast. The birds continue to seek their dinner along the edge of the waves and nest far inland away from salt spray. A constancy of change is remembered each time I walk along the shore.

Wrightsville Beach Kite Festival

Wrightsville Beach Kite Festival

Kites fly above the dune, secured to railings and beach chairs. Vivid colors of the rainbow splash the clouds above. The few that fall nose dive to earth and rise again to sail across the horizon. Who can resist the temptation of a kite? The urge to run and tug the line sending the colors up to dance in any breeze. The solitude continues but beckons all who wish to try.

I seek the beach, I seek the restorative solitude and the crowds, the calls of the gulls and the sight of kites high above the dune, dancing.

 

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Penniless Penalties

A recent disconnect of my electric service brought home the penalties of the impoverished. One mislaid bill set off a chain of events that will ultimately cost well over $500, strained relationships and a heap of self-doubt. How do people without means continue to exist in a society that penalizes the penniless?

Third Person Past Perfect

There is a charge for falling below a certain bank balance, there is a charge for withdrawing money from a “foreign” ATM, there is a charge for paying with each credit card, there is a charge for paying with cash, and there is the charge of your time to run here, there and everywhere to pay the exorbitant amount required to restore service. I live in an all-electric house with septic and well. When there is no power, there is no water, toilet, light, stove or refrigerator. Electricity is all important. So I scrambled, I texted, I borrowed internet and cash and ultimately walked 5 miles to get the bill paid and the electricity restored. And then, there was the reconnect fee. Missing the deadline by fifteen minutes meant an additional $47 to have the person return. Another fee, another penalty added to the others already charged. And there is a 10 day grace period before an additional deposit fee is due because the bill was mislaid. Unfortunately, the five-year good payment history is void now. We are starting over.

With an additional $100, there is no charge from the bank. With an additional $350, there is no charge from the power company. With an additional $150 there is no ATM fee, or charge for credit card use. Without the extra funds, how do others cope with emergencies and financial deadlines?

Yesterday, a woman and her children were found sleeping in their car in the parking lot where I work. Their belongings surrounded them, created pillows for the young children asleep in the rear seat. I was grateful a customer notified us of their presence and grateful to know the phone number of the agency most likely to help them. I was saddened to know the panic the mother must have felt to live in her car to hold her family together.

Emergencies occur every day, people suffer loss of job, home, and belongings. That should be penalty enough without  the outrageous fees added. I am grateful to friends and family. We are grateful to have enough, grateful to live in our home and work out arrangements. We are also committed to helping those who have no other resources, live in their car and are penalized for falling behind.

I wish there were others willing to eliminate the penalties for being penniless.

 

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Even Young Girls Get The Blues

Shells 6

The familiar sights and sounds of my neighborhood were far away, 3637 miles to be more exact. The games of SPUD and Kick the Can played after dark in the deadend circle of my street were only memories. My new apartment building fronted a busy roadway and there was no neighborhood gang to whistle up for a game of Flashlight Tag. I began to feel the pangs of homesickness, the ailment of the ex-pat tired of being alone.

Relocation is commonplace in 21st century America. Companies transfer employees from East to West, retirees leave hometowns for warmer climes and college students settle in their chosen cities after graduation. Americans love to move.  The agents find houses, locate schools and transportation and with minimal disruption, children enter a new school, parents commute via new routes and the families settle in. Now there is the internet for Skype conversations, cell phones send pictures and messages and email zips a letter across the ocean in less time than it takes to tie a shoe.

I moved before all that. I moved from New Jersey to Paris in 1966, when a letter written on onion skin paper was sent via Airmail and still took a week to get to my friends. I was a new teenager, alone with my family 3637 miles from my friends, school, church and community. I learned about homesickness. I learned about loneliness and I learned about making a fresh start. I later learned the relocation process can be habit-forming but that’s in retrospect.

We left New Jersey after a whirlwind month of dance recitals, house renovations and bon voyage parties. Although  we were dizzy from the anticipation and excitement of leaving a small suburban town for the ancient city of Paris, France, our new life was a blank slate, a grand adventure and a flat-out mystery. “Keep a journal” one friend advised. “Write a letter home every week and tell us all about it” said another. We were determined to stay connected and never thought of the effect time and distance would have on our friendships.

There were daily letters to and from several friends during those first two months. Exciting descriptions of our new city, life in an apartment and the daily challenge of learning a new language filled page after page as I tried to describe my new life. I eagerly awaited my father’s arrival each day with the bundle of mail he brought home from the NATO base where he worked. At first, there were long detailed letters filled with details about parties and boys, summer romances and vacation plans.  I saved them all for that lifeline to my home and friends, my antidote to loneliness. My education about homesickness, loneliness and living abroad had begun.

Homesickness

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A Young American in Paris

St. Germain En Laye

I was awake at dawn, ready to explore my new territory. I dressed in cut-off Bermuda shorts, a sweatshirt and my moccasins, the all American outfit of a thirteen year old. Through the hall, down in the elevator and out through the wrought iron gate to the wide sidewalk. To avoid getting lost, I decided to go around the block. Setting out, I noticed the high fences and walls surrounding the properties along Blvd. Victor Hugo. The streets were cobblestone and the sidewalks wide expanses of slate. Each building was right to the edge of the sidewalk with shutters closed against the morning light. My footsteps echoed as a sauntered past.

I arrived at the top of the hill and saw a small alley with a street sign indicating it was a real street. Narrow, with room for one car, the alley had a red sign with a big white dash in the middle. I had found the first of many international traffic signs. I later learned the red sign meant “one way, do not enter” but at the time it was merely a fascinating change from my former small suburban town. I walked around the block, past walled homes, peeking in the gates at century old buildings with cobblestone courtyards, past wrought iron gates painted black with gold leaf. I saw terra-cotta roofs, sagging forest green shutters and not one person. As I rounded the corner to return home, I met a woman carrying string bags filled with produce and long loaves of bread sticking out the top. Suddenly the sidewalk came alive with people, women sweeping their stone steps, men riding mopeds up the hill and a few girls watching from upstairs windows. Nobody smiled, nodded or acknowledged me in any way as I walked past but there were rapid exchanges in French after I moved along. My ears heard “American” and “fille”, “the American girl,” thanks to my 7th grade French teacher for that little bit of understanding.

I learned from my short walk around the block. The Bermuda shorts and sweatshirts were once again packed away, only to be worn in the comfort of our apartment. Never again would I venture forth without careful attention to my wardrobe. Shorts were not worn by anybody at any time. Sweatshirts were for sports players and not acceptable for young girls, American or not. During the following months, I walked along those same sidewalks on my way to the bus bound for Paris. I met many of those same people I had seen that first morning and after giving a long look at my outfit, I would receive a nod or a smile of greeting. I had been initiated into the world of French appropriateness and had learned a valuable lesson. Clothes were important and first impressions were lasting.

The French dress impeccably when going out and about. Tailored suits, caps and jewelry are seen on young and old, regardless of employment. It is later, when entering a shop and the same woman who was dressed in tailored cashmere now assists from behind the counter, covered by a royal blue smock, the attire of every working Frenchman. I learned that day to be aware of different cultures and traditions. I was no longer a small town American girl, I was now a young American in Paris and I wanted to blend with the nationals. It was an eye-opening experience.

The hanging gardens of St. Germain en Laye

 

 

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DP Challenge – Steps Along the Past

My mother told me the news at lunch on a cold February day during our mid-winter break. Our family was moving to Paris. Yes, Paris France, the city of Les Mis, the Bastille, Marie Antoinette and an eager American teenager. The plan was for my father to go ahead, establish his place in the workforce, find a home for the family and then send for us to come after our school was finished in June. The plan left the majority of the work to my mother, to prepare our small suburban home for rental, gather our school records, sort through belongings to store or sell, schedule immunizations and maintain our life in New Jersey. There seemed to be so much time between the announcement and the departure. I was on the brink of adolescence and cranky teenaged angst. The February announcement would forever change my life and by June 1966 I would begin to walk a different path than that of the ordinary suburban schoolgirl I had been.

My father left first, in March. I remember taking him to the airport on a cold March afternoon, driving through the dark slushy streets in a car loaded with his entire wardrobe of suits, ties, casual clothes and at least one hat. It was 1966 and dapper men wore hats and overcoats, suits and ties and shiny shoes. My mother was remembering all the details of their last separation during World War II. I hoped this would be shorter. “Do you have your passport, your traveller’s checks and the ticket?” my mother asked over and over. “Yes, dear,” he repeated to her every question. I had never thought he would be gone, not present every night at the dinner table, presiding over the family supper with jokes and job stories. Yet, here he was, leaving on a jet plane with hugs and kisses, tears welling in his eyes as he looked one last time at my mother. In a moment, he was gone with his heavy suitcases and his leather briefcase. We watched as long as we could.

Predictably, my mother accomplished miracles in the next three months. She organized repairs on the house, scheduled my brothers and my immunizations, prepared the paperwork for our passports and turned over her Women’s Club presidency. I remember walking into the house from school to hear an attic floor being hammered into place, the noise reverberating throughout the neighborhood. My brother and uncle were preparing a storage area for our furniture and personal treasures. While they hammered sheets of plywood into place, my mother was supervising the workmen setting new steps and a walkway at the front door. Weeks of endless workdays, hectic schedules and farewell parties almost overwhelmed her but at last, the house was empty, the back steps had fresh paint, the dog had a new home and the four of us were loaded into cars en route to JFK airport for a Pan Am flight to Orly airport in Paris.  The family was moving to a two bedroom apartment in Ste. Germain-en-Laye, France. The transformation was underway.

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Pay It Forward 2013

2013 Creative Pay-It-Forward:

The first five people to comment on this post will receive from me, sometime in the next calendar year, a gift.

Perhaps a book, or handmade item, or a candle, music – a surprise! There will likely be no warning and it will happen whenever the mood strikes me.

The catch? Those five people must make the same offer in their FB status, their blog or to their email friends.

Be sure to let me know your address or contact info.

Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward

Thank you to my lovely friend, Rachel Dickenson for suggesting this inspiring idea.

 

 

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