Category Archives: #Memories

Staying True To My Roots

No, I don’t mean the color of my hair. It’s silver-white by nature. What I mean is I can’t and won’t walk away from the roots of what make me me.

I discovered the world when I went away to college. Even with the Vietnam war lucking in the darkness of my senior year of high school, it didn’t make a huge impact until graduation day. That was when I realized that almost fifty percent of the boys in my class who weren’t going to college–and that was the majority at my high school–were being drafted within weeks of graduation. Fifty percent. Boys I’d danced with, cheered for on the football field, studied with. They were going into the draft. And I was off to college. It didn’t seem fair. Just because I was female, I was somehow safe.

I had already had two run-ins with the reality of the wider world. I had everything I needed to go the college of my choice. I contacted my congressman and asked for a recommendation to the Naval Academy. His response: a form rejection letter. A form letter! I was ineligible. My principal took me aside and explained a painful fact of life. Not in so many words, but he told me I wasn’t eligible for the Academy because I didn’t have a penis. The Academy was still male only. It wouldn’t be until 1980 when the first co-eds entered the Academy.

The second smack of reality was when my high school counselor refused to sign my college applications. She didn’t approve of the colleges I’d chosen. She said I should go to the local junior college (old term, but I’m old) and study to be a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary. That’s all she knew; that’s what she counseled all girls. So, my principal stepped in and sound my applications. When I was admitted to UCLA, I walked into her office, wished her a wonderful life, and left a copy of my acceptance letter on her desk.

Once I got to campus in Westwood, I absorbed the zeitgeist. The war in Vietnam. Poisoning the earth. People’s rights. Women’s rights. I marched against the war, sat in at a Federal building and was arrested so many times I knew the sergeant at the booking desk by name. No charges were filed. We spent the night in the drunk tank before being released. The police were so overworked with bigger problems that a few dozen students peacefully protesting the war and doing their homework on the floor of the Federal building didn’t warrant a fuss.

I found a home marching against injustice and give voice to those who couldn’t. I marched for all sorts of reasons, but the one that mattered the most was the Delano to Sacramento march for field workers rights. I didn’t do the entire march, all 340 miles, but I was out there several times. I still have buckshot in my ass from a sheriff firing off his shotgun to chase us off the highway. Forget that we had a legal right to be there. Forget that we had permits to march if we didn’t block traffic. Forget we were right. The sheriffs had shotguns. I recently told a friend about the march. She immediately dubbed me, “Buckshot Betsy.” Never thought about a nickname, but it fits.

In 1967 groups of students stood in silence to protest Dow Chemical, the maker of napalm, recruiting on campus. This went on for weeks. UCLA didn’t experience the violence that University of Wisconsin did, but we did get public attention. I protested the treatment of women and burned my bra for Women’s Rights.

With that as my background is it any wonder that I include injustice in my novels? I had Mad Max confront an crazy doctor who killed women, racial injustice, pastoral malfeasance, a scientist who released pathogens into a hospital. Follow that with a serial killer with her own warped code of “ethics,” and a group of militia that attacked military institutions.

Look for more hints of my activism. Meet me on the street and you’ll see me wearing my “Black Lives Matter” mask over my N95. Scratch my surface and you’ll find the long-time activist alive and well. Instead of marching or standing in the rain holding signs, however, you’ll find me raising my voice here and in my other writings. Join me.

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#StayHomeAndRead

Like most of us, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and writing lately. My most recent book was Heath Hardage Lee’s A League of Women about the wives who refused to stay silent while their husbands were captive in Vietnam.

These women. who were raised in the white-gloves-and-hats era, shed their inhibitions and went public about the plight of their men held in Hanoi Hilton. They faced off with presidents and negotiators, used anti-war groups to get messages to their husbands, and refused to take “no” for an answer. Lee focused on the wives of POWs and MIAs. She could not write about a host of other women who were not recognized by the government.

I was one of those women. I was engaged to an Army doctor who was supposed to work out of a hospital, not in the field. An orthopedist by training, he was in demand to repair major injuries. He went missing one day. No word to his mother. No word to me. I know for a fact that I was listed as his next of kin, even though we weren’t yet married. I know his mother was also listed. We received no word, no visit from a uniformed officer with bad news. As far as the Army was concerned, we didn’t exist.

Lee’s book stirred memories. Anger. Grief. Anger. I was mostly angry while we waited for news. Grief came after 19 months when I finally pestered the Army into giving me information on his whereabouts. His status went from MIA to KIA, from missing to killed. I found myself thinking about what great work he would have done, how he would have lived his life, with or without me. I was angry anew that we women were treated like pesky flies to be flicked away with hollow platitudes.

Lee’s book is more than worth a read by those who didn’t know much about what the women experienced. I knew most of the stories, but having them packaged in a most readable book made them real all over again.

What are you reading?
Peace, out.

#AmWriting

For a writer who loves her writer’s cave, I’ve been filling this stay-at-home period with an increased level of creativity. I’m currently working on a short story, The Return of the Blanched COVIDians, an allegory, or a satire, or just a plain mess. Haven’t decided which.

Another short story, Revenge on the Rocks, will be published in a new anthology, Murder by the Glass. Same folks who brought you 50 Shades of Cabernet.

I’m making fantastic headway on Betrayal, a suspense story with lots of explosions. 

#NewReadersWanted

If you are looking for something a little different, these four books are all $0.99 each. Perhaps you’ll take a chance and see if you like what I write. And here’s the link to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX
Uncharted Territory http://amzn.to/1T71q6D
Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap
Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Thanks, and read on, right now.

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#ICYMI Convergence of Dates

This past week has been a convergence of important dates for nearly 40 years.

First, there was my mother’s birthday on May 9. She would have been 97. Every year I would buy two gifts, one for birthday, one for Mother’s Day. I’d buy two cards, different wrapping paper, and different favorite foods. I made sure to celebrate each special day with the importance it deserved. Even when Mom’s birthday fell on Mother’s Day, she had separate cards and gifts, although I sneaked through with only one meal out. She didn’t mind.

Then, thirty-nine years ago on May 11, my best friend, Terry Naylor, became my husband. I couldn’t have been happier when we started our lives together. I can’t be happier that the ride continues, although now without the motorcycle. We hung it up last year. We exchange cards and go out for a special dinner, usually a week after our anniversary to avoid the Mother’s Day crush.

A similar convergence happens again at Christmas. Terry’s birthday is December 19. I make sure his birthday presents are wrapped in birthday paper and NOT placed under the tree. They sit aside in their own place of honor. Christmas presents go under the tree, decorated in red, green, and gold papers, ribbons (if the cat doesn’t play with them first), and a card tucked into the branches of the tree.

Why go to such trouble? It’s a sign of love. It’s a sign of respect.

Why do we tell friends of different faiths good wishes on their holy days? My Jewish friends deserve recognition for their High Holy Days, for Passover. I’ve enjoyed many a Seder dinner with them. My Muslim friends deserve recognition for Ramadan and for Eid, when Ramadan ends and with it the daily fasts. I fast for one day each year to understand what Ramadan means. It’s difficult, but it’s helped me understand Islam better. I’ve celebrated the equinoxes and solstices with my older religion friends.

Why? May I repeat, it’s a sign of love. It’s a show of respect. Care to join me?

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Meditations On a Boot

Sometimes, life encourages you to rest a bit, slow down a bit, and put your booted foot up on the sofa. That’s me right now. Resting a bit. Slowing down a bit. And putting the boot up a bit.

No, the ankle isn’t broken, just rather spectacularly sprained. I slipped going down to my basement and bent the right ankle backwards. I pretty sure I hadn’t broken it as soon as I was able to assess any damage. Did it hurt? Of course. Did I cry? Nope. Did I try to stand? Of course, again.

So, why am I meditating on a boot? Having to keep a foot elevated is a perfect time to meditate on anything. For me, I chose to assess why I’m so clumsy. I am. No doubt about it. But why? I mean, I hold onto railings when I go up and down stairs. I watch where I put my feet when I’m out taking my daily two-mile walk. I watch for stones, twigs, and anything else that could jump up and grab me. I even avoid wads of gum on sidewalks. You never know when one of those gooey wads will reach up and grab an ankle. So embarrassing to fall because a giant Double-Bubble wad tripped me.

I’m also glad my father wasn’t around when I was born. He and Mom argued about what to name me. He wanted me named after his mother. Mom wanted to name me after her favorite sister. Thanks, Mom. Grace would have opened too many doors for name-calling.

Not being able to rush about gives me time to ponder what is really important. For me, it’s my husband, my best friend, who runs up and down stairs with hot coffee. It’s my kitty, Smokin’ Mocha Java, who enjoys tummy naps when I’m reading or running dialogue in my head. And it’s my writing, my only creative outlet.

I have a new novel due out later this year. I was going to push to get it out in June. Not now. Instead, I’m working on making the story the best I can. I have a series of beta readers lined up to read the advanced reader copy. I have an almost-final cover. Two more tweaks and I’ll share it. It took a long time to get the image right, but I think we have it now.

Oh, yes. You all weighed in on the “desert” book. You offered so many terrific alternatives to Toad the Dreamer and Out of the Desert. When I tallied all the votes, Out of the Desert won. The more I work with it, the better I like it. After all, it’s clear in the series of stories that you can take the main characters out of the desert…

I’m also working on another book, which I planned to have out in the fall. Not gonna happen. I knew it before I sprained my ankle. I could push to get the book out, but I’d rather it be ready and right than ready and right now. You know what I mean. We’ve all read books rushed into print. It’s not that much fun for the reader. So, I’ll put a bit more work into the manuscript. I’ll be asking for suggestions on book titles…

Until I’m more mobile, I may send additional posts. I refuse to be bored. I will try to share what I think you’d like to read. I hope you agree.

And now, the ankle is throbbing and needs to be elevated. Bye for now.

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Broken Hearted

No, I haven’t experienced a personal loss, disaster, or break up. I’m broken hearted about the number of people who have been killed while at worship.

This isn’t meant to be a political screed, but a personal reflection on what is happening.

Are you old enough to remember places of worship being unlocked throughout the week, all night? No matter what time, you could always find a place of worship open somewhere in a city. Sometimes a priest or minister staffed them. Sometimes they were empty except for the worshippers who tucked in for a bit of quiet contemplation of something greater than themselves.


I’m old enough to remember. In three of the largest cities in the world, I always felt I could find church or temple open to welcome me.

No longer. Too many churches can’t trust people to enter without desecrating the sanctuary. Churches have been robbed. Their treasures have been stolen. Their sanctuaries trashed, furniture broken, hate-speech spray-painted on walls.

And now, the worst descrecration of all: the slaughter of people practicing their faith. Whether it’s a gunman entering a Jewish synagogue, an African-American church, mosques in multiple countries, the end result is a descrecation of ourselves, of our collective souls. Maybe it’s bombs falling into a mosque in a conflict zone, killing helpless women and children. Maybe it was a bomb detonated at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963 and killing four young girls. It doesn’t matter. It’s all hatred.

While we can’t turn back the clock and erase the damage done to our souls, we can look deep inside and see the good in so many of us. We can look beyond the color of someone’s skin and see the dreams and desires within. We can learn from people of different religions. We can accept differences and similarities. We can see people for who they are.

My heart breaks at every death. Some murderers think what they do is righteous. They publish manifestos bragging about why they’ll do something. They want us to remember their names, laud their dedication, understand they are fighting a righteous fight against the government, society, people of different faiths. You get the idea.

I refuse to remember their names. I will remember the horror they inflicted on so many families, so many friends. And my heart will break just a little more the next time it happens.

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Evoking Memories

What evokes the most memories for you? Is it the sound of a bird, a person’s voice? Is it the taste of a favorite food, or a not-favorite food? Is it the sight of someone’s hair, a color you wore on a special day? The feel of a favorite book, worn from overreading, that just feels right in your hand?

For me, it’s smell, that most powerful of senses. At Roanoke Regional Writers Conference 2019 at the end of July, three writers offered new ways of looking at the six senses, including the one we keep inside, our sixth sense. I drove home thinking about all the smells of my youth which define special moments.

Marcel Proust may have set the bar for a stream-of-consciousness memory invoked by dipping a small cake into a cup of tea. The resulting reverie is one of the more famous moments in literature. My memories are closer to home.

Home defined two great memories, one of my grandmother, the other of my mother. My grandmother smelled of Evening in Paris cologne. It was her favorite and she wore a drop for special occasions. She also smelled on Ivory soap and bleach, because she was responsible for doing the wash and hanging it out on the line to dry.

Mother smelled of Chanel No. 5, chocolate chip cookies hot from the oven, and, my favorite, chocolate-covered cherries. My mother was hooked on chocolate-covered cherries, the kind you bought in a box at the pharmacy, the kind with milk chocolate outer shells and mareschino cherries and a vanilla filling. God, they were awful. God, we loved them. Mom bought a box at Valentine’s Day every year. Confession: I have a box ready to open next week…

The other smell combines both scent, sight, and texture. It’s my memory. It’s one I’m writing about in my latest novel, Toad the Dreamer. It is sand. All sands are not alike. My two favorites are those of my main character, Todd, aka Toad. One is the scent of desert sands. Dry. Clean. Sun-baked. Filled with tiny pebbles, bits of lava, thorns. Shades of brown. tan, flat green.

Todd’s, and my, other favorite sand is beach sand. Todd has a house near the ocean. Here, the scent is of damp, early morning fog. The scent of red tide and dead fish. White, clean stretches with bits of shell. Sun-baked, salty. Smooth between the toes. A place to lie and nap in the sun.

Both of these memories shape the adult Todd, as the desert shaped the child Toad. It’s fun to write about places and events I lived. I hope I do honor to my memories.

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