Life As a Journey of Discovery

 

What periods of discovery have you had?

We Begin With “How It Is”

First for us in life comes family. From there our world expands. There were my parents and my brother and then my mother’s two sisters. They lived together and would have been called maiden aunts. There was so much more.

Families can be secretive for reasons that are never clear. It was decades later that I found who one of my aunts was. My maternal grandfather was a milkman in the silk stocking district of Manhattan. That was in the early 1900s. The family lived in Hell’s Kitchen. It was said to be the home of the Irish Mob but census records show a highly diverse population. But in all regards it was a tumultuous immigrant community. 

Our Families Unfold

As my grandfather made his rounds both in Hell’s Kitchen and in the upper East Side of Manhattan he watched for abandoned children. He saw to it that they were taken somewhere safe. I had always wondered why my aunt Agnes loved to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It turned out that Agnes had found refuge in my grandparents’ home and she was not a blood relative. She was joyous and Irish through and through.

Agnes and her sister Ruth saw to it that my brother and myself saw New York. Often you can live in a city and never see it. But my brother and I were their children as well and we toured New York. The most special day was New Years Eve. My first such fest was when I was five. It became a tradition to go to Radio City Music hall for the movie and the show. Then we went out to Times Square. That was long ago and far away and we loved it. And after the ball fell we went to arcades and played games until the wee hours. Yes, I was a night person and delighted in the festivities.

The World Opened

And then when I was ten my father took us to Europe. It was just five years after the end of World War II. London was a pile of rubble still. Some interesting things were left standing but the sight of war and its consequences came home to me. Then we crossed the channel and met the French. To this day I do not understand why the British and French continue to have reservations about each other. Yes, they competed in the past but I found both peoples different but lovely in their own right. At the time the French seemed a little crusty. But as I visited them over the coming decades I saw them relax. Later I understood.

How Curious Is Memory

Something unexpected happened. Recently I read a novel about the experiences of three women during the time of the Nazi occupation of France. And then I remembered the face of a woman in a shop outside of Paris when I was ten. It haunted me. She seemed to be in a bad mood and suddenly stopped and stared off into space with a look of terror on her face. I was only ten and the Nazi occupation had ended just five years before. As a ten year old I could not understand. Now I could believe she was being hit by terrible recollections. Depth in my life was unfolding.

From France we went by train to Switzerland. To Americans there were odd shortages. We ate in the dining car on the train and as a ten year old I would have been drinking soda or water except the train had neither. So I had the choice of wine or beer. I tried the beer. It was an interesting trip to Switzerland for me.

Building a View of Life 

What’s the point? Our country appears to be on the cusp of major changes. In those changes we will see and discover much about our country and ourselves. In it we will see that our lives are journey’s of discovery. It doesn’t matter how far ranging the discovery is, it is there if we will attend to it. And it may be in the books we read, the friends we make or world events. It is precious and not to be missed. And we each attend to our personal reality.

What have been your turning points?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Demands Beyond writing – Promotion and Its Complexity

It’s More than Creative Writing

Did you know writing would be this complicated?

In olden days a writer found an agent and the agent found a publisher. Sure that’s a little simplistic, but it was broad stroke for how it was before self publication. When my wife and I wrote our workbook to help stepchildren adjust to their new family a good friend took it into Doubleday and they published it. They sent us on a national tour including an appearance on the Phil Donahue Show. Those days are gone.

How It Is Now

It seems publishers only talk to agents and agents don’t talk to—I don’t know who. In short there is no easy way forward to get a book published, publicized and marketed. It seems it is mostly up to the author. Of course there are predators out there who engage authors and charge incredible fees for doing things which are of little use. I won’t go into that mess. But we experienced it.

And Then There is the Promotion and Author Help Industry

There are books to help us write books, there are books to help us edit books and on and on. Advice pours forth from multiple sources and it is up to us to sort it and make sense of it. I’ve spent some years now reading sorting and in the end came down to trying it out. Some of the advice turns out to be dated, some spot on. 

The Best Advice

One of the best pieces of advice I read was to be patient. I’ve become quite clear that nothing works right away. It is said that there are 3500 books “published” each day. That comes down to a huge crowd and a lot of noise. It takes time to be noticed. The other things I got clear about was that things have to be tried and then we have to adapt.

Having a Thick Skin

Some things we have to listen to are writing related and some general publicity and advertising issues. But there is also reality. When the first of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy was published, the very first review on Amazon gave it one star. It was not to the reader’s taste, she thought the vocabulary was “too big” and she couldn’t write an effective sentence. Got that. And there it sat on the Amazon page all alone as I worked to attract other reviews. Who is going to buy a book with one star? It took some time, then the five star ratings showed up and the total climbed. Phew! The world is not an even, supportive place.

Being Fair With Each Other

One of the things I concluded immediately is that we need to be fair with each other. When I pick up a book and don’t resonate I have to be honest that the issue may be me and not the book. We don’t all like the same things. I’m not much of a fan of word heavy literature or that’s what I would term it. I want that book in my hand to be stirring and along with it my imagination and that essential thing in my life “possibilities” must call out to me. I’ll rate books but won’t rate books that are not to my taste. It wouldn’t be fair or reasonable.

Endurance

I guess in the end what I would say is that we have to endure and stay with our projects. Let’s face it, we like the creative writing process and some people accept it as a hobby and don’t expect to sell much and may not even try to promote it. It seems best if we weigh our goals and accept the complex noisy world in which we live. We learn to improve our writing skills and we have to learn what to expect and to accept endurance is essential.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

We The People

 

Have you thought deeply about the basis of recent tragedies?

Thought Needed

In the wake of recent atrocities no doubt the finger pointing and attempts to use the events for partisan political gain will continue. But we continue to need wise illumination and guidance.

An assessment of the basis for these events can fill books but there are a few basic pieces of history to which we need to attend. The words “We the People” are being used as the headline for this post because we need to understand that it is fundamentally the public at large which must face the basis of the problems and what we are to do about them. As of now truly enlightened historical commentary has been limited.

The Human Social Animal

There needs to be two broad areas of concern. One relates to how human beings are at base and how it affects our society. Humans are social animals which is both a strength and a weakness. Being social, we cleave together in groups of “our” people and work together for that common good. There is strength in numbers and it forges not just relationships but the development of productive effort.

Yet, our young staff working in the inner city of Baltimore in the 1960s learned to attend to a fundamental truth. In a very real sense, because we are socially centered beings, there is a dark side of racism and rejection of “the other”. What we learned was that each of us had to own that dark side and discovery and attention could help us contain and overcome the effects. As a society we still have not adequately recognized these realities nor how we can most productively work together.

Misguided Public Policy

At another level there was the matter of public policy. In Baltimore, as I stated in another post, we saw the beginning of a gulf between the police and the public when the police were forced to “arrest” innocent, homeless people. The police did not want that duty but were forced into these arrests which created terrible scenes in the communities. And then came another level when we began the “war on drugs/war on crime”. It was a bipartisan error forged by both major political parties.

And with this new war the police were forced into “stop and frisk”, stopping people on the roads where their cars were searched often resulting in the discovery of small quantities of illegal drugs. Convictions led to long prison sentences which robbed many men (especially minority men) of their future. Their home communities declined and the effect was to not decrease but increase crime. It also led to the scandal of our swollen prison populations. The ramifications are extensive.

The Public and Police as Victims

The people in these communities along with the police all became victims. Divisions and hostility was increased. And recently we have seen terrible tragedies especially within the black communities. Not every police officer is consummately effective in a difficult crisis situation. Errors will be made. Racism may contribute but it may also simply be an error. We cannot blame the police as a whole. And the effects of errant policies may lead the depressed or dysfunctional person to strike out. Depression is a janus and may lead to suicide or murder.

Looking to the Future

Are we to face ourselves and face the fact that it is we the people who have brought us to these tragedies? And we the people deserves emphasis. We must face our own racism. And if the public responds to prejudice and racial manipulation on the part of self serving politicians, then we become responsible for the tragedies as is currently the case. And if we fail to educate ourselves in the election process, then we abdicate our responsibility as citizens. I have often heard people say it does no good to vote. To not vote does harm, to fail to face reality and assess the often self serving political rhetoric does harm. We each have only one vote but we need to exercise it in the interest of our country and our fellow citizens. 

We the people helped create the problems we are facing and we the people can help solve them. That is the hope and the nature of a democracy. We face a swelling set of changes in this country and we had best attend to the process and our mutual interest.

And now, after recent school shootings, our young are rising up. And we are also seeing women rise as they throw off subjugation. These two processes are landmarks we must applaud and support.

What can be your contribution to solving these problems?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Feminism and the Roles of Characters

Changes For Female Characters

How do you feel about recent changes for women?

It has gotten more challenging to write female characters, especially now that the traditional role of women is being questioned. “The woman’s place is in the home” has receded into history and the permissible roles are changing. Yes, I chose the word “permissible” deliberately. There are still pressures regarding what a woman should and should not do and how she should act. This is an evolutionary process. And it affects how we develop fictional characters.

Greater Challenge

And so the author has to decide upon what a female character should be like or at least should attend to how they may be affected by contemporary views. Of course, if we are writing fiction a woman can do anything the author wants her to do. And then we will see how the reading public reacts. This raises the possibility for the author of challenging views and change. Of course, there is the matter of wanting people to buy your books.

Off Into a Changing world

And so I set off into the world of fiction and fantasy. The setting was contemporary which conditioned certain choices. And that can be challenging. There is a context for the present but if we are writing into the future there are many more contexts that become available.In the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy these were women chosen for roles to lead us into the future and related to whether that future will be fulfilling or disastrous.

In history and in the present women certainly have had a variety of roles whether we approved of them or not. In this instance I began with a role where the Andromeda women were the consorts of rich, powerful and greedy men. I wanted them to be people readers could relate to and not simply courageous women who sought wealth and ease. They had to have values even if they were hidden. And implicit is that just because they are consorts they are in no way despoiled. They are their own person and have their mission. In fact they deserve recognition and praise.

What Will Women Think!

It would have been complicated to weave the history of the warrior women of ancient near Asia into the story for context purposes. It was inspiring to come to understand this part of history and the Andromeda women had to stand on their own. Of course they were not uniform and had their personal stories. I came to appreciate them more and more as I got deeper into the books. I’m pleased to say that so far I’m finding that women appreciate them. I think we all fundamentally understand that challenge in life is highly variable as is adaptability depending on need.

Coming to Comfort

The theme of an end to subjugation of women and their empowerment is woven deep into the story. I admired these “gutsy” women. They are smart and tenacious. Certainly they are not passive and retiring. They are who they are and they have joined a cause and that relates to what is happening for women and all of us now. Women have a growing opportunity to fulfill their talent and potential. And that in turn leads to value for all of us. It is truly a pleasure to see recent revelations about what women have suffered under predatory men and that those men are now suffering consequences. It is not all over, but increasingly we will now see women stepping foreword and they will receive broad support. It is more than about time for #MeToo.` 

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Building an Unplanned Business

 

Do you have a life plan?

It Just Seemed Like a Good Idea

The house was finished and we had it furnished. But we weren’t going to move in full time. We had our clinical practice near Baltimore. This was a vacation home and we thought it would be a retirement home someday. We had okayed first to build a cottage but our builder, Wayne, had sold us on the idea that we might want to rent it so we went larger.

How Did That Happen?

We hadn’t actually thought a great deal about the rental process and so we didn’t think about it until the house was set up and furnished. At that point, when we inquired, we learned we were too late for wholesalers to handle it that season. With no other options we decided to simply advertise it for short term rentals in the Baltimore Sun. The winter was filled what felt like almost over night. That was easy!

What’s Next?

In fact we had more people who wanted a vacation in St. Lucia than we could accommodate. In effect people were standing there wanting to know where we could put them. Ooops! So, in desperation we called the real estate company that was managing the house for us when we were away. We found out it was not a problem.

Taking Another Tour

So we went on a tour of other houses that did short term rentals and booked in the people who were interested. The commission was respectable. So we looked around and found other places to advertise rentals. It proved not to be a problem. We had houses of all shapes, sizes, and costs we could offer.

Americans Like to Explore

We learned something else. Americans often don’t want to go to the same place year after year. The Europeans tended to go to the same island year after year and spent a month to six weeks. But Americans were asking “Where else can you send us?” So we crossed the strait and took a look at Martinique. We absolutely loved it. The French were very friendly and the island just as beautiful as St. Lucia. It even had its own active volcano and we stayed at the most romantic resort we had ever seen on the edge of the rain forest. But many Americans didn’t want a place where English wasn’t the first language. On to other islands.

One After The Other

It was so interesting. Each island we went to was different. Our advertising budget was expanding with our clientele. So, we added St. Martin/St.Maarten (French and Dutch), Barbados, and the Cayman Islands. We looked at Puerto Rico and the Turks & Caicos Islands but by then had enough inventory.

A Major Change

We were running the short term rental business on the side along with our clinical practice helping stepfamilies. But along came the insurance companies of managed care. They had found that they could effectively block mental health related practices and save money. Our model for stepfamilies was specific and they basically would not accept it. The mental health field was being torn apart by the insurance industry. So, regretfully we closed our practice and devoted full time to building our villa rental business. 

So Much For That Life Plan

It was an interesting experience. We assumed we would retire from our practice. But we fell in love with a Caribbean island, stumbled into building a house, rented it and, finally had a full time villa rental business. Both of us had always thought you built a life plan but in this instance good fortune, life insurance company depredations and an attractive opportunity sent us in another direction entirely.

Do you see a major redirection in your future? Would you like one?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Nathaniel Sent Us This

From my Christmas Letter — 2017; your piece
today (The Fog We Are Living In of 4/2/18)reminded me of this:

À propos of nothing at all, one of the ways in which we cope with reality is to adopt the role of a victim and project blame on others.  A good example is the recent massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  President Donald Trump blamed mental health issues with some justification: Devin Kelley, the shooter, did spend some time in a psychiatric hospital.  (Mr. Trump seemed to have forgotten that the first significant legislation he signed into law reversed the Obama-era policy of prohibiting mentally ill persons from buying guns.)

Others blamed the shortage of available guns, the theory being that if only more people had guns, those who were praying at First Baptist on that Sunday could have fired back, killing Devin Kelley, and then presumably resumed their prayers.  As long as we have someone or something “out there” to blame, we absolve ourselves of any responsibility.

In 476 C.E. Romulus, the last of the Roman emperors in the West, was overthrown by the Germanic leader Odoacer, who became the first Barbarian to rule in Rome. The societal order that Rome had brought to western Europe for 1000 years was no more.  Much has been written about why this happened; I am convinced that it was a gradual process which spanned centuries, each decade contributing a little something towards making this future disaster happen.

I wonder if we are now in the midst of just such a slow moving deterioration.  I find myself thinking now and again, “So, this is what is like to be in the middle of an empire which is slowly collapsing.”  I alone cannot change that process, and I do my best not to blame others.  I recommit myself to the small things I can do, such as recycle as much as possible, support charitable endeavors, minister to those who are hurting, write letters to the Editor, and say my prayers on Sunday mornings (these days at nearby St. Paul’s, Trappe) with no gun under my vestments.

****************

Nathaniel Pierce

Dreams Versus Reality

 

Let’s branch out a little from this world of fraught political realities.

The Caribbean is a land of dreams. Beautiful islands, lush waters, jungles and happy, welcoming people. That is what we see. Reality is always different. Not that it isn’t lovely but the experience of life is complex. We had been seduced and were building a home on a beautiful island with which we had fallen in love.

Complex History

As a tourist what you see is a bewitching landscape and the lush experience of the moment. In fact the Caribbean is complex with a fascinating history. The islands had tribes that came from South America followed by colonizers from a variety of countries including Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands. They fought each other and made islands their colonies. Which often meant slavery.

St. Lucia went back and forth between Britain and France fourteen times. The locals speak a French based patois along with English. When we came to St. Lucia the patois did not have a written form but, by the time we left, it was written and, if you spoke some French, you could read it. The accent was the problem. Many of the island people had been enslaved and slaves were imported.

What We Expected

We expected we would make friends with the locals and we did to a limited extent. But mostly expats or arriving foreigners related to each other. The indigenous people had strong family connections.

We also expected that life would be easy and it was not, as we learned our way around a country with far more problems than we had assumed. Electricity worked well enough except when the utility by mistake sent 440 volts into our 220 volt house. A large dam had been built to supply water and when they turned it on they blew the mains in the capital. We had a terrible struggle getting a reliable supply. But finally an Irish friend of ours gave me the map of the island water system and I was able to secretly go out and open and close valves so we got water most of the time. At least we did after I had to threaten suit in an island where people never sue. At first we had no water. We got mains installed after I threatened suit but as our Chinese attorney said, “You may have mains water but there will be no water in the mains.”

We lived in an open environment which was lovely except for the bugs, rats, crabs (200 feet above sea level!) among other critters. But we also had darling birds who ate lunch with us.

Other Realities

The island was a democracy with a small legislative body and a prime minister. In fact it was ruled by a few very wealthy families. Each of them owned a significant slice of the island. Electricity was produced by a utility which burned oil from Venezuela. In the distance from our house we could see the peaks of mountain where there was an endless supply of wind from the Atlantic Ocean. They could have generated electricity by wind power but the ruling family did not want that.

In short, it was much more complex than we had expected and the learning curve was steep. It was essential that we learn the ins and out and be tenacious. We had thought to retire on the island some day but learned some harsh lessons. The health care system was not good and if there was a serous health emergency the solution was to hire a plane and be flown to Miami or Martinique. When we left fifteen years later, after having had a wonderful adventure, we had survived. Our Chinese attorney said, “You lasted longer than most.”

What he meant was that people who did what we did, coming to the island and buying or building a home, found the island challenging at many levels. Most fled within a year or two.

In Conclusion

These are some of the highlights and realities. I’m glad we did it, and we proved ourselves to be adaptive survivors. These are just a few of the many issues we faced but there were also numerous rewards. These islands are beautiful and each of them are different. I’ll go into descriptions of other islands in a later post. The climate is beautiful and the summers can be cooler than the continental United States. Winters can be ever so cozy and with adaptability the social scene can be rewarding. In all though, it is essential to be flexible and ready to face numerous challenges. We are glad we had the adventure.

Would such an adventure interest you?

If you want greater detailing of the experience there are numerous posts on my https://caribbeandreamblog.com .

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt