Monday, April 28, 2008

A review of My Name is Esther Clara

My books are seldom reviewed, mostly because ONE, I don't ask people to buy my books, and TWO, I don't solicit reviews. Yes, I know that's a very poor technique for a writer to use. A tiny handful of fans read everything I write and post reviews in various places, the operative words here being "tiny handful." I'm always thrilled and amazed when anyone outside my fan base buys my books and makes the effort to write a review.

Recently, Eileen R. Tabios bought My Name is Esther Clara and wrote a review on her blogspot, Galatea Resurrects. Tabios is a writer and poet I admire. She sends me poetry books to review for every edition of GR, lest you might be wondering about our connection. That she bought my book, read it, and featured a review on GR was a pleasant surprise to me.

Follow the link below to read the review. And while you're there, check out her site for other surprises. Each edition is chock full of book reviews. You'll find the best of known and unknown writers and poets featured quarterly. (This is a blog I read regularly. I'd add Galatea Resurrects to my blogroll, if I could figure out how to do it.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mom and Grandma Part Two

I had so many good comments on the last post that I'm entertaining myself by adding Part Two.

One lady emailed with the opinion that what worked for Mom and Grandma in the 1930s and 1940s probably would not work today. In many respects, she's right. Most of us don't buy 50# bags of anything packed in cloth feed sacks we then make into clothing. How many women OR men or children would wear clothes made out of feed sacks now? Not many, unless designer labels were sewn into the backs of them.

Most of us who live within the city limits of any size town can't raise our own chicken, ducks, or geese for eggs and food. Raising any sort of livestock is forbidden by most municipalities. What we CAN do is buy free range chickens or eggs laid by said chickens, but they cost a lot more so no saving money there.

What about cable TV, Satellite TV, internet access, and cell phones? Such modern technology was not available in "the old days" so Mom and Grandma didn't have to budget for such luxuries. Their TV access, when they finally decided to splurge, was through an antenna, either purchased or home made. It won't be long before frugal folks still gaining TV access through an antenna will be forced to change. The cable and satellite providers have seen to that with the aid of our politicians. Then they'll have a few more hold-outs to raise prices on every few months.

Gasoline was between five cents and a quarter a gallon in those olden golden days. Grandma and Grandpa thought that price was outrageous so limited their driving as much as possible. If they had to travel any distance to a funeral or other family function, they eliminated some non-necessity from their budget to help pay for the gas.

During the war years -- World War One and World War Two -- everyone had to do without certain things, such as sugar, butter, gasoline, rubber. And citizens were encouraged to grow their own vegetables in Victory gardens. I'm as guilty as anyone now when it comes to forced rationing. My generation and the ones younger than me want what we want when we want it because that's how it's been for us for decades. Still, we do have our forced rationing now. It's just handled differently than it was in Mom and Grandma's day. Prices today force us to limit what we buy. And our politicians can't pretend that we're all "in this together" like they did in the first half of the 20th century. The only ones in our current stew pot are middle and low income citizens, while politicians cruise along in the rarefied air they've created for themselves.

But, as another emailer pointed out, we do have options. No one so far is forcing us to have cable and satellite TV, internet access, or cell phones. It's not a requirement to buy designer clothes and shoes or shop til we drop in search of luxuries. We COULD grow our own veggies if we put our minds to it. Think about that for a second. If you grow your own veggies, you'll know where they came from and what additives might be on them. You can't say the same about vegetables you buy from supermarkets now.

I think that addresses the comments. One final thought: If the economy continues as it has been, we might have no choice but to do without, cut back, and return to living like Mom and Grandma did in less complicated times.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We need Mom and Grandma's advice.....

Lately I've been thinking about Mom and Grandma. My grandparents raised four children through the Depression and Dust Bowl years. Grandpa helped, of course, but worked 12 and 16 hour days to support his family so most of the feeding and caretaking fell to Grandma. She learned to be a creative cook, to fix nourishing meals that would stretch and stretch to feed a hungry husband and children. The Depression was a struggle, but I wonder if it wasn't easier to survive then compared to now. They lived in town but raised a few chickens for meat and eggs. There were no laws then forbidding citizens from raising chickens inside the city limits, and the neighbors didn't complain because they were busy raising their own chickens or geese or ducks.
Grandma bought her flour and cornmeal from the local mill, a few pennies a pound. Since flour was cheap, she made her own bread and sliced it thick.

Beef steak, hot dogs, hamburgers, pork chops, veal and other luxuries were not on their menu. Digestible protein came in the form of navy beans and corn bread or chicken and home made noodles, or eggs fixed in ways most of us today have never eaten. Grandma and Grandpa dug dandelion greens for salad, sliced onion over that, then poured a tasty mixture of sugar, vinegar, and hot bacon grease over it.

Mom raised four kids mostly on her own after divorcing our dad in the early fifties. Even for several years before that she had to rob a few coins from his pocket at night to feed their children. She followed in her mother's frugal footsteps. Have you ever had creamed eggs on toast made from scratch?? Food for the gods. Her home made egg noodles or dumplings were the best I've ever eaten. Like her mother before her, she could stretch one fat hen and the broth forever, or so it seemed back then. Our protein was derived from the cheapest sources back then -- chickens raised in our own yard, eggs, navy beans, corn bread -- and our greens were from dandelions, onion tops, stinging nettles and leaf lettuce grown in the garden in season.

So I was thinking we should do that now, and we would, if eggs were not nearly three dollars a dozen and milk four dollars a gallon and corn meal and flour double what they cost a year ago. Thank God we don't have young children to feed. We can tighten and tighten and tighten our belts without harming anyone. Our cutting back on spending at the grocery store won't cause bankruptcy for the grocers and distributors who control the ever rising prices. But multiply us by a million, ten million, and grocers and distributors will begin to share the pinch started by gasoline prices.

Mom and her parents didn't whine. They just did what they could to keep their children fed. They sacrificed, back in the day when few people were rich, including politicians. We need their wise advice on cutting corners. If they were still alive, maybe President Bush or whoever follows him could appoint them to advise the struggling low income families who can't afford groceries at today's prices. They could teach people how to plant a garden, how to raise healthy chickens, how to harvest dandelion greens.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

$40 million? $55 million? $20 million?

I like warm fuzzies and having my heart warmed. Yeah, I'm a sucker for "Extreme Home Makeover" and "Oprah's Big Give." I enjoy seeing people and businesses put their money where their heart is, where their mouth is. "Pay it Forward" is one of my favorite movies because it follows a philosophy I learned as a child from a mother and grandparents who had generous hearts.

I'm struggling with the money collected and spent on political campaigns. I know Obama and Hillary Clinton did not invent the process. And yes, I know that money talks and everything costs big bucks nowadays. And I've been told that millions of dollars is merely chump change today. $115 million is chump change??

Look around you. What could that "chump change" do for people in your world? I see a woman struggling to survive cancer, living in a run down rent house poorly maintained by her landlord, with no insulation and no lock on her front door and no extra money to spare. I see a homeless man who lives in a city park winter and summer, with an occasional stay in a local motel thanks to the generosity of strangers, or thanks to a temporary job that doesn't bring in enough money for a rental. I see an elderly couple who take turns doing without their medicine so they can splurge once in awhile and have meat for supper. Multiply those people by a thousand and you'll get an idea of what paying forward $115 million would do. It would accomplish much more than an occasional twenty or fifty bucks from concerned citizens.

Oh I know. I'm ignorant to even think about campaign money. But I do. I wonder why the endless coverage politicians get on TV isn't enough to get their message out. I wonder why politicians of privilege receive such largesse and continue living their star-crossed lives while some of the people I see around me can't seem to get their heads above water. Archie Bunker would have called me a bleeding heart liberal, and maybe I am. Mea Culpa.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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