Thursday, August 17, 2017

Jungle creatures

      Tomorrow morning, I will get up, and despite personal failures, diabetes, family tragedies and illness, rotten health, global warming, riots in the streets, the sun burning out in five million or so years, I'll still be right here.
      Praying, hoping, believing against all intelligent thoughts otherwise, striving, writing, dreaming unreasonable unlikely things, losing, winning, loving for all the wrong reasons...
      Living.
      Still here.
      I'll still be here.
     You be here, too.
Eleanor: We're jungle creatures, Henry, and the dark is all around us. See them ... in the corners? You can see their eyes.
Henry: And they can see ours. I'm a match for anything. Aren't you?

(From The Lion In Winter by James Goldman)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Turn the page

Closing The Book
By Stephen B. Bagley

It surprised me when I swept off
all the books on the shelf. I thought
I had long since spent my passion
in purchasing your faithless heart.

You feel uncertain of our life,
you tell me. What you mean is your
better love than me may still be
out there. Why settle for less here?

So go. Leaving is how you show
how little you care, how little
you understand the rarity
of love in this non-fiction world.

If this were a story, you would
come back broken, and I would let
you love me or even better
introduce you to my new love.

Since this is not, I will pick up
the scattered books and set them back
on the shelf, being careful to set
yours to one side to box later.
.

Excerpt from Undying by Stephen B. Bagley & Gail Henderson. 
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. 


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Places I'd Rather Be"

Places I'd Rather Be 
By Stephen B. Bagley

On a beach --

No, on a beach with white sand --

Wait, on a beach with white sand and the only sound the ocean --

Hey, on a beach with white sand and the only sound the ocean and a tall cold fruity umbrellaed drink in my hand --

Yes, on a beach with white sand and the only sound the ocean and a tall cold fruity umbrellaed drink in my hand as I lounge in the shade beneath palm trees and you walk toward me, smiling, the sun glistening on your wet skin as you rise out of the waves ...

In your arms.

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From the forthcoming book "Eternal." Thank you for reading.)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Weary

Do you ever feel inexpressibly weary of this world's stupidity? Or really just the stupidity of man? No, I'm not throwing in the towel on us yet, but I remain astonished and dismayed by the utter and complete disregard for true science and true faith that is rampant these days. We have set ourselves up as little gods, and the reckoning will be terrible. God really doesn't have to do anything for us to destroy us in an apocalypse; we'll do it all on our own.

We'll blame Him, of course. We always do when bad things happen, even though many of these disasters are the result of our bad planning and bad decisions, but we won't take the blame for not installing tornado shelters, for not moving populations away from earthquake and tsunami zones, for not following safety standards in food and buildings, by not addressing inequities in food and wealth so that children don't starve to death, for letting hate-filled demagogues win our political offices, for not stewarding our environmental resources so that we can be sure our children's children's children will still have farmland and forests.... You can easily add to this list of disasters. They're all our decisions. It's easier, cheaper, faster to make bad decisions now. After all, we can always blame God later on.

I think the biggest tribute to God's love and mercy is that He hasn't swept us off this earth already. If I were God, I know...as I watch the news about North Korea, Charlottesville, Burkina Faso, Wisconsin...I know I would be sorely tempted.

And this is why I rarely watch the news, Alice. Now you know.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A religious ramble

A good friend of mine has said that she has reached the age where she doesn't have to associate with people she doesn't like or simply doesn't enjoy. I understand this. I think time and self-respect do the same for most of us. However, it does mean when I don't hear from her in a while, I wonder if I'm in that group now. :)

The danger in this may be if you're basing your choices on skin color or race or other superficial qualities. There's much to be said for going outside what you usually enjoy. We grow in that way. She isn't basing her choices on that so don't think I'm taking a potshot at her. In fact, in many ways, I've done that, too, in my life, but I try to ensure I'm including a diversity of friends in who I'm keeping.

One subset that I've been dropping is people who blame the world and circumstances for their problems instead of realizing their decisions have consequences. I want to point out a common error in so-called Christian thinking--the Bible never says God will rescue you from the troubles caused by what you did on this earth; He promises to be with you throughout and will welcome you into His care after your life is over, but He's not a genie granting your every little wish.

I call such thinking "The Gumball God." We put in a prayer, and we expect a blessing as easy and simple as that. Just like putting a quarter into a gumball machine, out pops our blessing. We're busy in attempting to make God into something we can control or at least understand. We keep trying to put Infinite into the Finite and are frustrated when God just doesn't fit.

One of my ways of looking at God is He is the ultimate artist. He made this beautiful world filled with mountains, oceans, forests, humans, animals, and so much more. Like any artist, He doesn't like it when people destroy His art. A good way to make decisions might be to ask yourself if what you're doing is making His art more beautiful or if it is marring His work. It's how I try to live my life. I fail often, but it's what I aim for.

Yes, I've wandered all over the place in this. Hope you enjoyed the ramble.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I'm a tree

My diabetes nurse has this chart where she logs your weight and then figures out how tall you should be. Apparently, I should be a Redwood.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Unsent Letter

Dear Diet,
Our relationship is in terrible trouble. You're bland and boring, and I can't stop cheating on you with Little Debbie.
Worried,
Me

Thursday, August 10, 2017

My inner voice

My diabetes education nurse says we all have an "inner fatty" who talks to us. Mine talks all the time, and I must say he has many tasty ideas.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Seriously

Autocorrect is a terrible nuisance. The other day I tried to order "salad" and autocorrect changed it to "four tacos and an order of nachos." They really need to get that drive-in microphone fixed.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Doctor's orders

Well, my doctor told me that I cannot host dinners for six people. Unless, of course, the other five people are actually there eating their share of the food. Spoilsport.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Problem

So sad. I saw my coffee cup by my desk and I thought maybe there was coffee left in it because I usually take it to the sink when I finish the cup so I raised it up and it was empty.... Sigh. It's actually too late to be drinking coffee if I want to sleep--and I do despite what you may have heard--but I thought a swallow or two wouldn't hurt. But it was empty. Then I thought I would share this because the world is facing real problems and so am I. I should probably do a Facebook post, too....

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Good Advice

It's hard to find a friend who is intelligent, handsome, funny, charming, humble, and kind...so y'all shouldn't misplace me. Who knows when you'd be lucky enough to find someone like me again?

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Wish someone would try

Listen, you can't buy my love, really you can't...but you sure can buy a whole lot of liking from me

Friday, August 04, 2017

Wednesday Night Writers Discuss Aging Characters

"What I want to know is why every older person in a book either has to be filled with wisdom or is decrepit," Faraway said. "What's wrong with having a mature person who is just like the other characters in the book -- messed up and passionate."

Divine looked startled. "Passionate?"

Faraway frowned at her. "Don't tell me that you believe old people don't have sex."

"I believe they do, but I try not to think about it," Aromance muttered. She shuddered.

"America is aging," Faraway said, glaring at Aromance. "The Baby Boomers are going to be in their sixties and seventies soon. They won't be content to wither away quietly. Books should reflect that, and they don't. Instead, books feature young people. TV shows feature young people. Movies feature young people. Listen, kiddies, I don't worship in the cult of youth. I never met a teenager yet that could carry on a decent conversation about anything important."

"The blueberry muffins I brought have fiber added," Cookbookins said. "And we each get two. TWO. No more, no less." She held up two fingers.

"Did you say two?" Realer asked, with a smirk. He waggled three fingers at her.

"I think fiction will change to accommodate an older audience," Begenre said. "I've recently read several mysteries that feature sleuths in their sixties and seventies. I think fiction overall will reflect an active maturity as we see more vital people in real life who are in their sixties and seventies. Remember, it's only been in the past few decades that medicine has allowed people to live longer and healthier lives."

"TV is to blame," Eongo said.

The others sighed.

"Even I can see that TV isn't the greatest evil on earth," Divine said. "And I write letters protesting that degenerate MTV all the time."

"No, listen to me," Eongo said. "Advertisers want to buy advertising on programs that target young people because young people spend more on disposable items."

"Like bling," Faraway said.

"Exactly," Eongo said. "So networks and television studies make shows that feature young people because those are the ones that make the most advertising revenue. Remember what happened to Murder She Wrote when it was placed opposite of Friends?"

"I saw those shows on NetFlix, I think," Teenwriter said, uncertainly. "Don't any of you watch Game of Thrones?"

"That was more of an audience decision," Begenre said. "More people wanted to watch Friends than Murder She Wrote. You can't blame the networks for that. They're only giving the public what they want."

"I can blame them and do," Eongo said. "They create the demand for the shows. They only show us programs with young people so people are influenced by those shows to want more shows with young people. They create the demand for youth-oriented shows and so they produce youth-oriented shows and that creates more demand for other youth-oriented shows. It's a vicious circle."

"If the choice is between older people and hot young people like Matthew Perry, the hot young people are always going to be the audience's choice," Aromance said.

"Angela Lansbury was just as hot as Courtney Cox," Eongo declared.

Realer spewed muffin across the room as he coughed. Begenre thumped him on the back.

"Seriously, do any of you watch Netflix?" Teenwriter asked. 'And who is Matthew Perry?"

"Just because you wasted a good muffin doesn't mean you get another one," Cookbookins said.

"That's my point," Eongo said, pointing at Realer. "We've been conditioned to think youth people are desirable. What's wrong with showing older people who are desirable?"

"I'm not sure that has anything to do with fiction," Begenre said. "I think it has to do with babies."

"Babies?" Eongo asked.

"Throughout history, men have wanted younger wives because they could produce more babies," Begenre said. "If you believe in evolution, then we have a biological need to reproduce, and so we orient toward young people because they can have more babies than an older person can."

Divine frowned at the mention of evolution.

"Then you saying fiction will continue to feature young people," Faraway said. "That's unacceptable."

"I agree," Divine said. "We are more than biology." She looked at Begenre. "Much more. Fiction doesn't just reflect reality; it can also shape reality. As writers, we have a responsibility to write books that uplift the readers and change their values in a positive way. To claim that you're only giving the public what it wants is to cater to the lowest common denominator. It's using your writing gift simply to profit yourself and not others. Great fiction challenges the reader. It helps them grow."

"It's like chocolate-dipped pineapple chunks," Cookbookins said, shaking the crumbs of a muffin off her dress.

The others looked at her.

"See, I was dipping strawberries in chocolate for my niece's wedding reception," Cookbookins said. "But I didn't have enough strawberries because the store was out. So I looked around my kitchen and saw several cans of pineapple chunks. I drained the chunks and then dipped them in chocolate." She smiled at the group.

A pause.

"I don't quite follow you," Begenre said slowly. "How does that relate?"

Cookbookins sighed. "Isn't it obvious? I wrote in my newspaper column about using pineapple for dipping, and several of my readers wrote in to tell me that they had tried it and liked it, too. I wrote about it yesterday. Doesn't anyone read my column?"

"I haven't had a chance," Faraway said. "But I will as soon as I go home."

"I don't take the paper," Begenre muttered.

"My point is that by writing what I did, I influenced my readers to do the same," Cookbookins said. "So I -- how did you put it? -- shaped reality."

"Ah," Begenre said. "I get it."

"That actually made sense," Realer said with wonder.

"And it related to what we were talking about," Aromance said.

"Of course, it did," Cookbookins said. "I always make sense. You just don't understand me."

"We'll try to do better," Realer said. He exchanged bemused glances with the others.

"Since we can shape reality, we need to careful to portray mature characters in an active and interesting fashion," Faraway said. "Old age is not the same as useless and uninteresting."

And on that note, we were out of time.

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Whispers

Whispers
By Stephen B. Bagley

He whispered as he held her:
This could get messy --
this thing between us.
We could lose everything
for a stolen moment.

Stolen from this empty world
that breaks everything
eventually. We will break
too, you know.

A cross word, a sideways glance,
a silence at the wrong instant.
I'll be cold, you'll be hot,
timing is everything and all 
clocks wind down.

We shouldn't. It's not wise.
It's beyond stupid. We're 
risking battered hearts.
We might not survive.

So we walk away now.
We forget. We go back.
We do the smart thing.
The smartest thing.

She whispered:
I'm sure you're right
but if it's so,
why then am I
still in your arms?

He didn't reply
and held her close
as the moon sailed toward
the shores of morning.

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From the forthcoming Many Rivers Harbor book Eternal.)

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Bit of an update

I've been looking for authors who might be a good fit for a professional writing group that I lead. I thought I had found one, but fortunately before I asked her, I discovered that she didn't support other authors. She said she needed readers, not authors, and she wouldn't read other authors' posts nor buy their books because she was focusing on her own career.

I have no patience with that. Like I said, I hadn't yet mentioned the writing group to her, so no harm, no foul.

The minimum an author can do is cheer on fellow authors. People who do not...I do not respect them and will not waste my time helping them when they do not help other people.

That professional writing group is meant for authors helping other authors, authors supporting other authors, authors contributing to other authors, and authors sharing knowledge with other authors. She did not belong, and it is no loss to us...but it might be one for her.
***
I've not been pursuing my creative goals the way I would like to. Lately, I've been focusing on my health. I'm determined to regain my strength and endurance if that's possible, and I believe it is. Right now, simply walking a fair distance leaves me exhausted. It's slowly getting better, but oh so slowly. I have to keep reminding myself that it took years of neglect--and bad genetics--to get me in this shape. Fixing the problems isn't going to happen overnight. As for the genetics, there's research that shows exercise, proper diet, and healthy lifestyle can cause bad genes to stop expressing themselves and trigger good genes. So...it's possible. Just going to take some time. A friend likes to say, "You're not in a dash; you're in a marathon." True.

But with my energies focused on my health, I find my imagination mostly focuses on sleep. I've always struggled with getting enough sleep--my brain is a busy monster--so I imagine what it would feel like to get eight hours uninterrupted sleep and wake refreshed and ready to go. Like when I was 20 and didn't think about bouncing out of bed.

I've been wondering I need a new bed. I see a lot of commercials talking about various beds, so many so that I can't figure out what would best. It's something I'm going to research over the next few months. Input would be appreciated.

Anyway, this is me signing off. Hope you have a great night.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Modern Life

It's good advice to dance like no one is watching you. Because they're not. They looking at their iPhones. Unless you dance like fire ants have invaded your undies and then they're pointing their phones at you so that they can post the video online. #IHateModernLife #DoNotAskHowIKnow

Monday, July 31, 2017

"A Lazy Day" by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Recently, Poem-A-Day featured this lovely poem by one of my favorite poets.

"A Lazy Day"
By Paul Laurence Dunbar

The trees bend down along the stream,
Where anchored swings my tiny boat.
The day is one to drowse and dream
And list the thrush’s throttling note.
When music from his bosom bleeds
Among the river’s rustling reeds.

No ripple stirs the placid pool,
When my adventurous line is cast,
A truce to sport, while clear and cool,
The mirrored clouds slide softly past.
The sky gives back a blue divine,
And all the world’s wide wealth is mine.

A pickerel leaps, a bow of light,
The minnows shine from side to side.
The first faint breeze comes up the tide—
I pause with half uplifted oar,
While night drifts down to claim the shore.

(Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in 1872, in Dayton, Ohio. His collections of poetry include Lyrics of Love and Laughter (Dodd, Mead & Company, 1903) and Poems of Cabin and Field (Dodd, Mead & Co., 1899). “A Lazy Day” was published in Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow (Dodd, Mead & Company, 1905). He died in 1906. You can subscribe to poem-a-day at Poem-A-Day.)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Observation

So a friend of mine was carrying a little bag at lunch, and I made a joking remark about how lovely his alligator purse was.

"It's not a purse," he said. "It's a tactical bag."

"Oh," I said, admiring the marketing geniuses who had come up with a way to sell traditionally feminine things to men. "It must be a handy way to carry your tactical lipstick and tactical perfume."

Which is why I finished the meal alone.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Unsent Letter

Dear Fitness Coach,
Yes, I know exercise is good for us. In fact, there are few things I enjoy more than a good, brisk nap.
Me

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Inuit poem

I love this poem. It's quoted at the end of the movie Never Cry Wolf.

I think over again my small adventures,
My fears,
Those small ones that seemed so big,
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach;
And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing,
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.

- Anonymous (Inuit, 19th century)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Observation

Wedding ceremonies are always so happy. It's the years afterward where people seem to run into trouble. At least at the ceremony, you get cake.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Observation

So many of my friends have beards now, and I don't think it looks good on the women at all.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Observation

Saw a t-shirt the other day that read: "Been there, done that."
Mine would say: "Been there, done that, didn't learn, did it again, still didn't learn, repeated it a few more times because I have all the vast intelligence of gravel, Lord help me."
Not as pithy, though.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Unsent Letter

Dear Friend,
Whenever I'm burdened with sorrow, you're beside me.
Whenever I struggle with life, you're beside me.
Whenever I'm hurting, you're beside me.
I think it's time we faced the truth: you're a troublemaker.
Cut it out.
Regards,
Me

Friday, July 21, 2017

I Want a New Drug

What I really want is the meds that the hosts on the shopping channels must be using. I just saw a woman shout with joy over a new mop. No kidding.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Observation

At night, when I'm in bed and the house is quiet and I close my eyes...I can't hear anything and I can't see anything. What? You were expecting wisdom at 1:12 a.m.?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

First Pomodoro

And we're off! I'm using a Pomodoro timer to time this writing. And what is Pomodoro? It's a time management technique where you work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and then resume. Because it's so late, I will only go 25 minutes.

I've read a lot about Pomodoro. It sounds simple, but apparently a lot of creative people have found that it keeps their "muse" from becoming fatigued. I hate to use "muse" like that, but it's a shorthand expression that's too convenient. Thus does expediency encourage sloppy whimsy.

A few of my author friends work by schedules. I've always admired that. I find my mind wanders a lot. I suspect I have ADHD, but I've lived with it this long. I prefer to think it's simply my brain being busy. I hate that it decides to be busy at night so consistently. I would like more sleep. I have been taking naps sometimes, but I can never seem to time them correctly. Either I sleep too long and wake up feeling terrible or not enough and receive no benefit. Naps require skill.

Even as a kid, I wasn't a napper. I wanted to be up and looking around. A lot of things needed my attention. Sleep? Who needs sleep?

Well, I do. And most of America does. According to the experts, despite our time-saving machines and routines, we're getting less sleep than any prior generation. I wonder if it has to with all the screens we look at: TV, computers, tablets, iPads, phones, etc. I wonder this even as I look at a screen as I type this.

Supposedly, the blue light of our screens disrupts our sleep patterns. According to Scientific American: "The light from our devices is “short-wavelength-enriched,” meaning it has a higher concentration of blue light than natural light—and blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength." You can adjust your screen to emit more red light at night. They say it helps.

Anyway, I was determined to try out writing in 25 minutes intervals today. Time got away from me, as it often does, but I decided I would put in at least one 25 minute writing period before heading off to toss and turn.

Now, I'm thinking about all the power strip and clock and TV lights in my room. I might start covering them up. They seem bright when I wake up in the middle of the night. I wonder if anyone has ever studied the effect they have on sleep. I know they use more electrical power than we think. Many studies have shown that standby devices consume significant amounts of electricity. Same studies say we should have everything on power strips so we can turn them off at night. I would, but they have clocks on them. I might have to figure out a way to power the clocks separately from the other devices. Funny thing though, my power strips also have bright lights on them.

We live in a world of light these days. So much so that many people have never seen the Milky Way. Or rarely do. Even in my small town, there's enough light to obscure many of the stars. One of my friends is an amateur astronomer, and he drives out into the country and uses special filters on his telescope to attempt to compensate for the artificial light flooding the sky. I know professional astronomers have attempted to get cities to use special lights and shields so that the light is aimed at the ground instead of the sky. They have only had limited success. It would be great if every town and city did so, but that takes money and municipalities have plenty of other issues that need money and attention.

Well, my time is up. I will be using Pomodoro more, if only to give it a proper evaluation. For tonight, I'm ending this here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Magic

My hairstylist has decided that she now wants to be known as my magician. And I must say that she dyes my scalp better than anyone else.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Unsent Letter

Dear Fitness Coach,
With complete sincerity in  your voice, you just told me that someday I would enjoy these punishing workouts. Listen, a man who can lie like that should go into politics. You're a natural for Congress!
Me