This is the first day of Advent and as well, the beginning of Hanukkah. Holiday songs and colorful lights abound independent of our religious beliefs. For all of us, it is a time of remembrance and celebration, a time we focus on family and friends. During these December days, we remember those we love and often through a gift we say, thank you for being you.
While children excitedly enjoy the magic, most of us wander through stores looking for gifts or delicacies for the family gatherings. Sometimes in the midst of our activity we forget that the season is really about thanksgiving. Why would we not?
When weather threatens us, fires surround us, and elected officials leave us gasping, why would any of us feel gratitude?
If we can step back from our troubled world, we can be overwhelmed by gratitude evoked by a kind word, a helpful hand, a warm embrace, or even unexpected laughter. The little things of life come alive, when we pause long enough to listen to our hearts. Aren’t these little things what is most important in life?
Sometimes life’s challenges help us value the little things. This year, I’ve been dealing with an ailment requiring a lot of bed rest. It’s been an adventure that I would not have chosen, but I can honestly say that I’m grateful for the experience. I’ve learned so much about love, about life, and about our collective and individual journeys. Most of that learning has come through seeing the little things of life that often go unnoticed.
Even with the health handicap, much was accomplished. Author John W. Howell and I published The Contract, and to our astonishment, we are ready to send its sequel to the editor. Amazing, right?
Through one challenge or another, life goes on. So it is that I share that I’ve a medical hurdle to tackle over the next couple of weeks. Because of that, I may be absent from social media for a bit. I look forward to wholeheartedly rejoining you in the New Year. Till then, thank you for accompanying me. You have become family and from you, I have learned so much.
I close with a brief but beautiful message from Br. David Steindl-Rast.
This week author John W. Howell and I learned that The Contract between heaven and earth was selected as a Finalist in three categories by the Independent Author Network’s 2018 IAN Book of the Year Awards.
The three categories were Thriller/Suspense, Paranormal/Supernatural, and Romance.
This is an honor of no small measure, because John and I attempted to co-author a story having not met each other or having partnered with anyone else on such a project. We literally epitomized the concept of the blind leading the blind. We stumbled, we got up, and somehow, we found our way. One reason we were able to do so is because of the helpful advice of beta readers and the patience of our spouses.
I’m ever so grateful for those who have read our book and especially grateful to those who have offered their thoughts, either in a review or in an email. You are the reason we writers write.
PLEASE JOIN ME ON MY NEW WEBSITE: WWW.GWENMPLANO.COM
by Gwen M Plano
Dear readers, I invite you to join me at my new site: www.gwenmplano.com as I will keep an active blog at that site. Thank you very much.
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This week author Ronovan Hester challenges writers to use LOVE and PEACE in a Haiku poem. I thought about our political climate and the barricades that reside in people’s hearts. As well, I considered the hope for healing.
If you’d like to try your hand at this art form, just click on Ronovan’s name, and you’ll be taken to his site, where there is helpful information on writing Haiku.
1946 was quite the year. Bill Clinton, Liza Minnelli, Tommy Lee Jones, Cher, Danny Glover, Diane Keaton, George W. Bush, Candice Bergen, Reggie Jackson, Connie Chung, Donald Trump and many unknowns such as me were born. We may not have had much in common, but we experienced the same social mores. Men had their roles, women had theirs.
Those roles became real to me when I went away to college in San Francisco. A friend asked if I’d join her and go on a blind date with an acquaintance, explaining that it would be a foursome. I agreed because it sounded like fun. That night I got into the back seat with a young man I had never met. All was fine until my friend’s boyfriend parked his car at Coit Tower and pulled a curtain across the middle of the car, separating the front and back seats. My date turned to me and suddenly became quite aggressive. His hands were all over my body as he tried to hold me down and remove my clothing. I finally pushed him away and climbed out of the car. I don’t know who he was or how I got back to the dormitory. I only know that I was scared. The year, 1965.
I suspect most women in my age group have similar stories they could share. Young men and women were not taught how to interact with one another, and they often learned about relationships and sex through James Bond and backroom gossip. This does not excuse inappropriate behavior, but it is the reason why seemingly good people behaved poorly.
Fast forward three decades, Bill Clinton was president when I was the Dean of Students at a prestigious university in the East. When he declared that “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” shock waves traveled across the campus. His words and actions blatantly violated the university’s Code of Conduct, a code which I was charged to enforce. Several times, I had to explain to students why they were held to a higher standard.
Now two decades later, we are confronted with the Kavanaugh vs. Ford case. It is not easy to handle a she said, he said situation, but it is nearly impossible to fairly adjudicate a case that is as old as this one. Details are elusive, memories are fragmented, and slander is a risk.
And yet, this dispute has become a platform for many and an outlet for others. It has resurrected hurts across the population and in so doing, it offers us a rare opportunity for healing.
I sincerely believe we are together creating common ground. This is not only extraordinary, it is also revolutionary. And, it is the reason we must proceed with care.
I share a meditation as a closing.
Please consider joining me on my new website: www.gwenmplano.com.
by Gwen M. Plano
I remember those anxious hours, waiting for word from my son, his office just a short walk to the Trade Center. Had he stopped there for coffee? Was he okay? My fear soon grew into panic.
When we think of 9/11, aren’t we all aghast by the senseless madness of evil? And don’t we all mourn the innocent victims, while we salute the heroes who ran into danger?
Shortly after the attack, I visited my son in New York City. He had not yet gone to the site, explaining only that he could not. So, I walked alone through the Lower East Side, silently praying.
The stench of the remains of life confronted me, while the air hung heavily with debris. As I walked I came across a mountain of flowers, in front of a FDNY Ladder Company. Most of its crew had lost their lives, risking everything in the hope that they could save even one. In that moment, I understood why my son could not walk these streets, for I, a stranger, could barely.
Going further, I went into the Grand Central Station. The walls of its long corridor were covered with hundreds upon hundreds of photographs of the missing, as well as letters from loved ones asking for help. Old faces, young faces, white faces, black and brown faces – the faces of innocent victims unrecovered.
9/11 is a day of remembrance, and who is not hushed by its solemnness? But it is not simply about remembering the victims; it is about remembering who we are.
Behind the man-made atrocities of life, from the war-torn streets of Aleppo to the terror in an Orlando nightclub and the horror of 9/11, there are those who craft a world of hate and clothe it in rhetoric. Why do we humans listen or follow?
If we could remember who we are, I think miracles would abound.
I leave you with this beautiful message of hope:
Dear readers, I invite you to visit my new website and follow. www.gwenmplano I'd love to meet you via its pages.
by Gwen M Plano
Today I extend my heartfelt congratulations to author Karen Ingalls, an award winning writer of non-fiction and fiction, and the newly selected Spotlight Author for the Rave Reviews Book Club.
Each of Karen’s books earned my 5-Stars on Amazon. If you do not know Karen, please take a moment to peruse her website and read the reviews of her books. You’ll learn of her commitment to help others and her love of good writing.
My full post is located on my new website, which I invite you to visit and follow. It is called Reflections.
by Gwen M. Plano
This week we lost a hero, Senator John McCain. He lived his truth by trying to make a difference in the world. Politics aside, few people could have accomplished what he did. He “fought the good fight” and in doing so, taught us a lot about life.
When I read author Ronovan Hester’s Haiku prompts for this week, I wondered if he had Senator McCain in mind. The two words he selected are diametrically opposed. They are hero and coward.
My Haiku attempts to address that which is at the heart of courageous action.
If you would like to know more about Haiku, please click on Ronovan's name and you'll be directed to his webpage
by Gwen M Plano
Every morning I am overwhelmed by gratitude. When I was young, I was often too busy to notice the gift of life. Now that I have reached the golden years, I am in awe of every breath. And, on this my birthday, I am especially filled with gratitude for you, friends, family, and strangers alike, all who accompany me through life.
It’s an amazing journey, isn’t it? The quote by Alia Joy captures my heart’s sentiments well: “We are a jigsaw of shapes and stories and misshapen parts and we make a beautiful picture together.”
Below you will find a brief video on gratitude by Brother David Steindl-Rast. He inspires me with his simple message. I hope you enjoy it as well. ♥
I invite you to migrate to my new website: www.gwenmplano.com ♥
by Gwen M Plano
If you are like me, you react with anger at hearing of the abuse of children, and if you are like me, you feel frustrated with self-serving political nonsense. Some mornings when I hear the news, I just feel profound sadness. Do you?
We all want an end to predatory behaviors. We want justice, we want peace. We want the good guys to win. But how? Is there anything you and I can do to help?
I believe there is much we can do collectively and individually, but whatever action we might choose, if we lose our humanity, by becoming hardened and divisive, we have lost everything. Why do I say this?
All the major religions, the field of psychology, and even medical research point to an important truth – hate destroys, and love heals.
It sounds too simple, doesn’t it? How can we possibly “heal” the ails of our time through love?
If we understand love as the vital force that animates us, that makes us human, then we have a sense of its magnitude. People like Malala Yousafzai and the Dalai Lama come to mind, extraordinary individuals who hold on to their humanness, no matter the circumstance.
Whatever our response might be during this challenging time, I believe it is important that we safeguard our hearts for this is a time in which our humanity is critically needed.
How do we keep our hearts open when each day is an assault on our sensibilities?
Think with me for a moment to a time when you were you at peace. Who were you with, what were you doing? Were you walking in nature or holding the hand of someone you love, or perhaps you were cuddling your pet? Once you identify a peaceful moment, then you know how to hold on to your humanity.
If each of us were to listen to our hearts, I suspect miracles would follow.
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DEAR READER, I AM MIGRATING OVER TO A NEW WEBSITE. I HOPE YOU WILL JOIN ME THERE: www.gwenmplano.com (The address is slightly different, in that it includes my middle initial.) Thank you very much.
by Gwen M. Plano
Every week author Ronovan Hester invites readers to participate in a Haiku challenge. This week he provided these two words as prompts: rebel and change. If you'd like to participate, just open the link above and you'll find "how to" information and guidance.
Since I grew up in the Sixties, I thought about the idealism of that time when I created my 5-7-5 syllable poem.
I wasn't exactly a "flower child" but my parents certainly saw me as a "hippie." They didn't know what to do and finally told me I could not write to the family about politics or religion. Even at the height of my rebelliousness, I recognized and respected the wisdom of their request.
Considerable time has passed, but my idealism remains. It has, however, become much more moderate. What I didn't know at eighteen was that we humans don't like change - unless we are the ones creating it.
What do you think? Have you discovered that to be true as well?
by Gwen M Plano
I have a fondness for the Noah's Ark cartoon below, which I stumbled upon years ago. If you live in a wooded area, you know how pesky a woodpecker can be. They have a way of destroying an otherwise serene day with their incessant pecking on the sides of your home. I’ve tried one gadget after another to keep them at bay, but nothing seems to work. So, the bird and I coexist.
Today I thought of the Ark cartoon when I read the following statement by Jennifer Egan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author: I’m happiest when apparently mutually exclusive states can somehow coexist.
I’m pretty sure she was referring to differing opinions and perspectives and not to irritating birds. But, truthfully, don’t we all have woodpeckers in our lives? They may not create holes in our houses, but they surely disrupt our day. And, horror of horrors, each of us may be someone else's woodpecker!
I’ve been thinking about my personal woodpeckers, the real ones outside in the trees and the figurative ones who might be neighbors or elected officials or Heads of State. The heightened divisions between people and countries give me pause, especially when I realize I might be contributing to it.
Like the Noah cartoon, we have to find a way to live peacefully on this beautiful crowded planet of ours. And so, I’ve created a silly mantra. It is, the woodpeckers and I are one. A few months from now, I'll let you know if it's helped me become more loving or if I found more woodpeckers instead. ☺ Have a fabulous day.
by Gwen M. Plano
Each week poet Ronovan Hester sponsors a Haiku prompt challenge, and folks (like me) try to follow his lead. This week the two words are time and movement. If you have interest in this poetic form, please click on his name, and you'll be guided to his website where you'll find detailed instructions.
When I read the prompt words, I thought of my neighbor who struggles with gait. I thought of a friend who lost his leg; and, I reflected on how we take our movement for granted.
by Gwen M. Plano
Four years ago, I published my first book, blissfully unaware that I needed to promote it. I hadn’t thought about such practical matters; my focus was simply the mechanics of telling my story.
At the suggestion of a local writer, I signed up on Twitter but did not know what I was supposed to do. I sent out a couple of tweets and otherwise stared at my screen, terrified by the volume of messages rolling past me.
I was drowning in a sea of hashtags and unknown followers until a writer in Greece (Nicholas C. Rossis) threw me a lifesaver. He invited me to join the Rave Reviews Book Club.
I did, and not only survived, I eventually found my way.
Today is my 4-year anniversary in the Club. So, what has changed?
The Club, under the direction of the CEO author Nonnie Jules, has given me sea legs, which is to say – confidence. I’m no longer lost, I am found.
I’ve discovered a community of authors and readers who value serious writing and who share freely of their talents. I met John Howell, the co-author of my second book, THE CONTRACT, through the Club. And, within the Club membership, I’ve met editors and promoters. Importantly, I’ve learned – about marketing, about good writing, about service, about life.
If you are a writer or a reader or someone associated with industries tied to writing, I invite you to join. I think you too will soon realize that you have friends and family scattered about our beautiful planet. You may even discover a miracle or two.
by Gwen M. Plano
Have you ever wondered about prayer? How it works or if it works?
Recently, I faced a medical challenge because of a CSF Leak. As part of the pre-treatment, I underwent 3.5 hours of radiological testing which required cage-like restraints. I could not move and because of this fact, I grew anxious. As I lay confined, I began to pray for help, as I didn’t know if I could manage the situation.
It was then that the first miracle occurred.
I saw in my mind's eye, a friend praying for me. I looked into my friend's eyes and focused on her kindness. I felt her genuine care, trusted it, and let go. Temporarily, I surrendered my fear.
With this release came the second miracle.
I became aware of an absorbing silence. And, I realized there were many, many others with me - my deceased mother and aunts, unnamed angelic figures, as well as friends and family. I was buoyed by love; I just hadn’t noticed it before, because my attention was on fear.
Finally, the third miracle.
I had longed to understand prayer. Through this experience, my questions were answered. I realized that prayer is simply love extended.
Some may pray loudly, passionately; while others might pray quietly, meditatively. Whatever our mode of prayer might be, the only thing that matters is the heart’s intention. Is love offered or restrained?
I believe the heart reaches what the mind cannot fathom. The truth is, we are loved beyond belief and when we participate in this powerful dynamic, miracles occur.
Thank you one and all for your caring thoughts during my medical adventure. I don’t know how to adequately express my deep gratitude. I can only hope that you know that your kind thoughts touched me deeply, giving me strength when I had little, hope when I lost my way. Know this, your goodness continues to reverberate profoundly throughout our universe. Prayer, heart felt, can indeed move mountains.
Thank you for helping me realize that love is our destiny.
by Gwen M Plano
On the dedication page of The Contract is a quote by Audie Murphy. It reads: “Bravery is just determination to do a job that you know has to be done.”
I love this definition of bravery, because it is expansive and includes both uncommon and common valor.
Several of my relatives are serving or have served in the military. When I think of courage, my thoughts quickly go to them and particularly to my cousin - Lieutenant Colonel John Smith.
John is the recipient of multiple military honors for bravery, having served in Afghanistan and other combat areas. Just as impressive, though, is the fact that he is also a person of great compassion and humor. His embrace of life protects and supports all that is good about life.
When I’m around John, I wonder if he is ever afraid. I suspect he might feel fear at times, but I also suspect the fear is overshadowed by a determination to do a job that must be done.
If bravery could be charted, my cousin would be on one end, and I’d be on the other. Yep, I’m timid about a lot of things. I will always do what needs to be done, so I guess that means I'm brave according to Audie Murphy, even if I'm cringing inside and fighting back tears.
I've thought about this a lot of recent, because I have a medical issue that must be addressed. If truth be known, I’d travel great distances to meet with a healer. But alas, after months of trying to manage the situation and the pain, it is time for surgeons to intervene.
So, I think of my cousin, and all who face life challenges, and I take a deep breath and move forward with reluctant courage.
My blog will remain silent for awhile and the comments closed. Your good wishes and prayers are most appreciated. And, when I return, I look forward to catching up with each of you. ♥
by Gwen M. Plano
Each week poet Ronovan Hester sponsors a Haiku prompt challenge, and folks (like me) try to follow his lead. This week the two words are woke and up. If you have interest in this poetic form, please click on his name, and you'll be guided to his website where you'll find detailed instructions.
When I read the prompt words, I was brought back to when my adult kids were teenagers. I thought of how grateful I was to be awakened by their laughter, no matter what time of the day or night it might be. I suspect all parents share this experience. ♥ We're happy when our kids are happy - and safe.
by Gwen M. Plano
The Rave Reviews Book Club announces its 3rd Annual Writers' Conference & Book Expo! Because it is an online experience, it fits anyone's busy schedule.
This year’s theme is “RISING TO STAND AMONG THE VERY BEST.” The workshops cover a wide range of topics; and in addition, there are both Author Booths and Vendor Booths for those who wish to showcase their work.
Just for fun, the event will also have giveaways and a RAFFLE.
Check out the conference through these links:
Registration & Pricing
Raffle Tickets Registration
By Gwen Plano
Each week poet, Ronovan Hester sponsors a Haiku prompt challenge, and folks (like me) try to follow his lead. This week the two words are days and old. If you have interest in this poetic form, please click on his name, and you'll be guided to his website where you'll find detailed instructions.
When I read the prompt words, I thought of how time passes much too quickly. We imagine we can begin living tomorrow only to discover that tomorrow came and went weeks maybe months even years ago. How did it happen that we were so unaware? ♥
by Gwen M. Plano
1968 is often referred to as the “most turbulent” year of the century. The Vietnam War was at its peak, evoking confrontations between student protesters and police. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and just a few months later, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was murdered. The young were disillusioned and angry, the old were lost in a world they did not understand. It was a very difficult time.
I was a student at San Diego State University in 1968, and fifty years ago today my first child was born. I had married the year before, and the birth of my son followed ten months later. When nothing made sense, when everything that could go wrong went wrong, I had a precious baby to hold. He was my miracle, a concrete sign of hope during a time that appeared hope-less.
Fast forward fifty years and what has changed? Turmoil persists. Adversity and mistrust are rampant. Perhaps the biggest change I see is the internet. Now we don’t need to talk with neighbors or listen to speeches or pick up a newspaper. We can check our smartphones and find out what people think about any topic.
Tempers flare easily when we’re upset with impersonal entities: such as the Republicans or the Democrats, the Christians or the Muslims, the Blacks or the Whites. But, if fifty years have taught me anything, it is that truth is elusive.
During this time of extraordinary change, hold on to what is precious, find reasons for laughter, and know that this, too, will pass. Happy Birthday, dear son. Could it really be fifty years?
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