Learning to love vintage

While vintage clothing may have been low on my priority list, the idea of period costumes, and period culture always intrigued me. Years ago I participated in a letter-writing exchange where those that loved letter-writing could select by subject, other letter-writers who also enjoyed the same interests. The Letter Exchange.

The peculiar charm of letters — perhaps also, their greatest value — is brought home to us when they are familiar, unstudied expressions of thought and feeling; when they betray no sense of a larger audience than the friends for whom alone they were written. — Edward T. Mason

The letters were fascinating always. One artsy pen friend, a costume designer, shared with me how the discovery of a curved seam changed the history of the long-worn roman togas into how fashion looks today. Now that I have my own personal historical fashion overview of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s it’s easier to identify the different shapes and characteristics of each time period and appreciate the changes.

I became intrigued with those that lived in those years and fashions. I wondered how someone without a personal history might identify clues to their beginnings through fashion. As I explored these ideas the beginnings of Loving Vintage, my work-in-progress, took hold. Heroine Annie Savone was adopted. She’s not certain of her authentic beginnings long-clouded by the adoption, but a vintage photo that has remained with her after all these years provides clues.

As always, synchronicity played into the story development. On a visit to Wilmington, North Carolina, we discovered a vintage clothing/artisan/antique neighborhood on Castle Street, just blocks from downtown Wilmington. One particular shop, Every Good Thing Artisan Gallery, was a joy to visit. In fact, proprietor Kathy Huber wanted to know more about my stories and asked if she could place my books in her shop. If you find yourself in Wilmington, I recommend visiting Castle Street and Kathy’s shop.

I’m happy to report I’m Loving Vintage right now and the wide world of remembrance and seeking our authentic selves!

Writing about death

So, from Wednesday my family has been taking up the challenge to love and assist my dear 95 year old mother-in-law, who is still working, crocheting baby hats and blankets for volunteer groups, savvy, funny, alert and beloved, to pass over to join her deceased family. In our crazy world, there doesn’t seem to be time or provision for a meaningful death … a death with dignity. Her diagnosis is Aortic Dissection wherein her Aorta is shredding apart. (You may remember John Ritter , Three’s Company, died from this.) At 95 any type of surgery, anesthesia is out of the question.

It got me thinking about how many of you ever include death in your stories? Or perhaps find it uncomfortable to read a story that somehow addresses this important part of life?

In my story, A Path Through the Garden, I talk about this transition and how the main characters must face this challenge with love and compassion. As a Holistic Nurse, I included information within the story about this profound transition, end of life care and introduced the concept of Golden Rooms. And here might be an example of a strictly romance genre story vs Women’s Fiction. In a romance there MUST be a Happy Ever After ending. Women’s Fiction on the other hand can have a Happy Ever After, but also address other less than happy events women face with strength and compassion in their lives. Sometimes this is a Happy For Now ending where the story conflict involves life and death and how it affects the characters.

Also, in this story, I created the character “Henrietta” who is my mother-in-law. Here is where as writers it would be fabulous to be able to rewrite life as easily as writing words on a page.

Our challenge continues though we’ve been advised we only have days left with her. Ahhh, the writing life provides another level with which we experience our everyday lives, heartbreaks, and life challenges.

Characters who heal

Today more than ever, thoughtful consideration of methods to increase well-being abound. This most likely reflects our growing awareness and appreciation for the mind-body connection … how a calm, positive and confident mindset can help ease discomfort and pain. My understanding of this is when freed from discomfort, the immune system has an enhanced ability to work toward returning the body to wellness. And this is, certainly, a low range understanding of the dynamic.

I’m interested in different modalities available for both healing and end of life transitioning and so it follows that within my stories, my characters practice some of these methods. It’s amazing at the variety of therapies now available.

In Nardi Point and A Path through the Garden, readers were introduced to holistic nurse practitioners, Reiki bio-energy practitioners, flower essence therapies, folkway health treatments and a very new concept for end of life transitioning, Golden Rooms.

Yellow Pansies in a Blue Cobalt Jar released October 10, 2014. Heroine Rhose Guerin is a bibliotherapist who uses poetry, books and movies in her private practice. Clients in bibliotherapy may find it easier to work out their issues identifying with characters from literature first, before growing self-understanding.

Most recently, I’ve become aware of musicians who serve the ill and dying with live music to facilitate and promote healing or assist in the life/death transition. These musicians offer music therapy in hospice/hospital/home settings. The Mozart Effect, playing music to an unborn child, has been recognized as possibly increasing certain cognitive/spatial skills in a child. For the ill or transitioning, there may be a corresponding affect of the music to increase energy should the patient seem lethargic, or be calming if the patient is restless.

These are fascinating alternative options to explore and they represent many non-invasive, inexpensive, and therapeutic treatments my characters love to investigate!

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-july-2015

New release October 10, 2014

I’m excited to reveal my third novel, Yellow Pansies in a Blue Cobalt Jar releases October 10, 2014!

Bibliotherapist, silver-haired Rhose Guerin uses books, movies, plays, and poetry in her private practice. An advanced professional credentialing program removes her from friends and family in Yellow Pansies Cover!North Carolina to study in Westport, Connecticut where she reconsiders her fading marriage; a daughter in a relationship crisis; a parent challenged by health issues; and the reappearance of an old love.

Long held family secrets and relationships are revealed that beg intervention as Rhose second-guesses decisions made in her past. Was the path she turned from, the better one to have taken? Can she satisfy her need to grow both professionally and personally in order to find acceptance and romance in a life of her own?

There are no novels to show her how. She must be the heroine of her own story as she appraises and makes peace with life decisions boomer generation women face.

Traveling for plots and refreshment

I’ve just returned from an amazing first visit to the Baltic where I finally got to meet dear Swedish relatives! How wonderful to share greetings and family spirit with about a dozen or so DNA-like individuals! We gathered at Hossna Church cemetery not far from Ulricehamn to visit great grandfather and other family member’s gravesites on a sparkling Swedish summer day, surrounded by forests of deep green spruce, purple lupines, white and yellow wildflowers.

DSCN1480On the return flight, new Scandinavian characters revealed themselves out of the blue and I’m adding them to my current work in progress. Here’s a secret, Brun’s name (Brun is Rhose Guerin’s husband in Yellow Pansies) is derived from the 300-year-old-plus family farm, Brunsered. Other Scandinavian named characters are sure to follow.

And of course once more I was surprised by the appearance of yellow pansies, appearing along the way in Tallinn, Estonia, and Ulricehamn, Sweden … yet more acknowledgement for Yellow Pansies in a Blue Cobalt Jar. DSCN1557Yellow Pansies

Museum archaeology … and lunch! Oh my!

Resize_0228141152-01_01I recently joined about thirty other enthusiastic wanna-be archaeologists at the North Carolina Museum of Art to participate in their first hands-on archaeology lab. Staff archaeologist Dr. Caroline Rocheleau led us through a brief artifact-handling orientation, a hands-on study session of classical ceramics, and a short overview lecture. Resize_0228141152-03_01

My volunteer experience at the North Carolina State Archaeology Office dealt with Pre-historic Paleo-Indian artifacts, some ten thousand years old, and 18th Century North Carolina ceramics. Dr. Rocheleau however, is an Egyptologist, a Nubiologist (a geographic region located in the south of Egypt and North of Sudan) and the museum curator of ancient art. The focus of this event were artifacts from Cyprus and Turkey and I got a real appreciation for the depth of study and experience archaeologists must develop for different time periods and cultures. The differences I found from the Paleo-Indian pottery were quite interesting contrasted with the three thousand-year-old Cypriot artifacts.

Resize_0228141152-00_01 Each small group of participants had four artifacts to   examine in order to identify it, describe it, and determine what its use may have been. One of the four artifacts provided to each group was so old, only a special representative could handle it as we visually examined it. Then, like archaeologists out on a dig, we sketched the item, noted its color, construction, finish, decorations, and the presence of any traces of wear. We referenced a glossary to help describe the objects with such formal-sounding descriptors as burnished, applique, lip, neck, shoulder, slip, spout, wheel-made, and ellipsoid, ovaloid, hyperboloid, and cone.

Our  artifact assortment included two objects that possibly held a valued liquid such as precious oil and added to a burial site. So much to examine, so much to imagine from thousands of years ago. Before we knew it, our time was up and we were escorted to a lovely luncheon where we got to speak more with Dr. Rocheleau. Resize_0228141152-02_01

How exciting to ponder peoples from so long ago and why I love to add a dollop of archaeology to my stories for my characters to learn about and enjoy!

 

Reflective Garden Walking … a therapy

A Path Through the Garden touches on the value and benefit of reflective walking while exploring a garden, meadow, or naturally forested area.  Many of us can remember a special day we enjoyed out in the fresh air when our minds developed an idea from nowhere, an idea that grew in resonance and supported a strong feeling for a plan of action. The idea was positive and meaningful and may have contributed to a whole new life path.

In Japan, this notion of walking through a garden or forest for inspiration is not new. Called shinrin-yoku, it literally translates to forest bathing or an immersion into nature and is recognized as being similar to natural aromatherapy.  Think about how the fragrance of spring, fall, Christmas, vanilla and cloves sends your thoughts dramatically to all kinds of events simply from the sense of smell.  Walking through a garden or forest brings the benefits of essential oils released from tree bark, plants, and flowers that enhance immune function and lessen stress and lower blood pressure.

Those undertaking forest bathing visit a forested area for relaxation. The science part is when visitors breathe in wood essential oils called phytoncides as they walk the forest. Phytoncides are antimicrobial volatile compounds from trees and other plants.

Leyla Jo in A Path Through the Garden walked her magical meadow and sought solutions to life-absorbing challenges. If you need solutions to problems served up by life, why not consider forest bathing?

Check out Reflective Garden Walking presented by Ruth McCaffrey ND, ARNP at the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida. The program incorporates the Morikami Stroll as part of a Well-being program, and how to begin a meditative practice by creating a program of garden walking using reflective readings and journaling opportunities.

Leyla Jo would love it!