Saturday, May 10, 2014

We Decide


We can go by car, motorcycle, plane, bus, train, hitchhiking.
Take  I-80, I-70, I 40, route 66. 


 We can change our minds and go sailing instead.

We can  leave friends behind and make new friends.  

We can let go of our old life.

We get to decide whether we will travel with someone or by ourselves - most of the time it happens one step at a time.

But we gotta decide how much effort we want to put into it.  And then do it. 

No matter what, or how you do it... I hope you
Enjoy the journey and the company 

Gayle McCain

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Have We Become Numb?

I am a simple woman.  With a good heart.  I am much like a Hobbit, with smaller feet.  Peaceful with a ready smile and a good word.  Stronger than you know, stronger than I know too. 

I love a good story, full of mystery, puzzles, vivid images.  Stories that roll around getting my heart racing and have me leaning forward hanging on every word.  

I read the Hobbit when I was in high school.  I skipped through the violent parts because I could.  I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy at seventeen.  I didn’t skip the violence, because I had come to believe that if I picked up a book it was my duty… to… read… every… word…

And I fell from innocence.  I dated guys who thought that Taxi Driver with its blood and gore was a good movie to take a girl out to.  We didn’t go out again.  But with each movie I fell a little further.  Losing more of my softness, my humanity.

We (human beings) killed each other in one war ( … excuse me) “Police Action” after another.  Emotionally damaging handsome young men, raping soft young women, maiming the elderly, and teaching innocent children that this was the way of life.  Lest you think I only point fingers at my own country… think again.  We are all to blame. 

Today I went to a movie that I have been waiting ten months to see.  I remembered The Hobbit with such fondness.  And the viral Youtube hit  'Unexpected Briefing' for Air New Zealand helped me remember the delightful fantasy of Tolkien's book. 

Yes, I remembered that there were icky parts in the book, but in my mind they were minimized by the strenuousness of the journey, and the rich vivid language of Middle Earth.  

I think I am going to stop going to the movies.  

Hollywood has outdone itself.  One trailer after another showed apocalypse.  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.  Even the ‘children’s movie.’  I need a dose of Sesame Street to wash the stench of what the big studios think will make them rich without caring what it does to our souls to watch that crap.

What followed was a visually beautiful movie.  In case you hadn't guessed - The Hobbit.  There was so much wisdom contained within the dialogue.  Words that I did not remember from my youth, but that touched the wise woman in me today.  The actors were superb, the score struck chord after chord in my soul.   I am a different woman than the one who watched Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy - released in 2001-2003.  But today the brutality is horrific.   

Is this what we are destined to become as we fall into a downward spiral of violence?  Will some of us become the goblins and orcs of Tolkien’s nightmares?  Because we have come to believe it is the way of the world?  Do we have much further to fall?  Are we truly different than orcs as we leave behind bodies rotting in the fires of Auschwitz, the Twin Towers, alleys of America, villages in Africa, the jungles of wherever else the violence is erupting this week?  Truly?  Are those of us who perpetuate this that different than orcs?

There is magic in the world, though perhaps it doesn’t come out of a wand. But we will not find it if we continue to be lost in the stories of brutality, rape, pillage and destruction.  The sacredness of life is lost as we become numb to it all by what we are exposed to, whether we use electronic devices, a two-handed broad sword, or an AK-47.

We must stop accepting that this is the way of the world.  One person at a time we must begin looking for beauty.  Kindness.  Truth.  Faith.  

We must look for and find the magic in the world around us.  We must let go of our very basic tendency to react out of fear, controlling it through courage, and find the sacred magic within our own hearts. 

Magic Dust
It comes from the beauty of a butterfly and from the laughter of children.  There is magic in the first cry of a baby or her first coo.  There is power in the strength of a smile and a kind word.  Wild magic is loosed upon the land when true loves come together.  But the best comes when we come together to build something for all of us.

I pray that someday we will look at these old stories of violence and brutality and be baffled:  how could anyone ever do that to another being?

And that my dear friends is magic of the highest order.

Gayle McCain, Author

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

It's Good, but not that Good

Store bought Cheesecake
I make a good cheesecake.  I do.  Rarely as 'pretty' as the one on the left, but they taste better because they are homemade.

I have friends who love my cheesecake, so much that I have taken to packing one in my suitcase when I visit.  Alas with my busy school schedule, I have not done any traveling recently.  When we're on the phone, there is an element of wistfulness when we speak of the delectable dessert.

Christmas came and went, and instead of traveling, I worked on a manuscript.  In spite of being on a semester break, I didn't have time to make these creamy sweets.  I am ashamed to say:  I pouted too.  I love Cheesecake.  Finally, I finished the manuscript and bought the ingredients and made...

Chocolate Cappuccino Cheesecake

Every ingredient measured
I try to carefully follow dessert recipes, especially when it's a new one, because I don't bake often enough to know how to 'wing it.'

I doubled the recipe, but forgot to double the dark chocolate.  In went more cocoa and sugar to compensate, which threw off my timing and I added the cream too soon.  The recipe was adjusted and readjusted, with each addition of more coffee, or more sugar.  Tweeking it with a little bit of this and a little bit of that until finally I ran out of vanilla.

I surrendered, poured the batter in the pans, and then I licked my fingers.

Big Mistake.  It's been a long time since I baked anything more complicated than a batch of brownies.  But this was as perfect as a chocolate cheesecake could be.  It's possible that it was simply chocolate deprivation, or maybe it really was that good, but I had to wrestle my inner glutton to the ground before I managed to get the two pans in the oven.

My house smelled of something extraordinary.  Then I had to let them cool in the fridge.  Every time I opened the door, the fragrance tempted me to sneak just a smidge.  I was strong.  (Actually I left the house. It was easier.)

It fell and cracked.
Not pretty but mmmmmmmmm
When I got home, I made a place for these pans of goodness in my freezer.  Frozen, they travel well, whether it's in a suitcase or snuggled into a box for overnight shipping.  The first time I did that my friend had to use a hack saw to cut into his hand delivered 'birthday cake.'  After that I started cutting each cake into serving size pieces, with wax paper between each piece, before freezing.  Frozen they keep well and don't seem to lose their flavor (much).  I admit they lose all of the elegance that a whole cheesecake brings to a table with all that wax paper sticking up all over the place.

This year's new recipe, Chocolate Cappuccino Cheesecake, called for a dollop of cappuccino whipped cream on top of each piece.  Smooth, rich, creamy , just sweet enough, dark chocolaty, lightly coffee...


Frozen I packed one for overnight shipping.  Safely packed into a box with a nice little Christmas card tucked in with it, I took it to my favorite shipper.  The clerk took care to type everything properly into his computer.  "Personal Gift of Baked Goods.  Christmas Card.  Total Value $10.00.  No Insurance Needed."

And then he handed me the receipt, asking how I was going to pay for it.  The bill was $116.17.

"What?  You're kidding right?"

No.  Apparently not.
  • I spent less than that to send 100 pounds of books to Canada - overnight.
  • I could pay my car insurance, my water bill, and a trash bill put together with that.
  • I can take my children out for a birthday celebration -with dessert - for that.
  • I can have a massage.
  • I could by a one-way airplane ticket to someplace nifty.
  • I could buy 1/2 a text book for that.  (You can't buy 1/2 a textbook, but you get the idea.)

$116.17 ??

I don't think so.  I love this guy.  He's my best friend.  But - no.  I'm not going to do that...

Sighing heavily, I took the box away from the guy behind the counter.  I left the store and broke the bad news.

Gayle McCain, Author
Forest of Mists,
Kivi & the Lizard People
My friend was nice about it.  I suspect he wanted to whine and tell me to go back into the shipping shop.  He didn't.  But I could tell he had been really looking forward to a delectable Chocolate Cappuccino Cheesecake.

So now... hiding deeply in my freezer, is a cheesecake.  Waiting for either a party where I need a dessert in a hurry, or time to travel.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Why don't they come with Instructions?

They don't come with an instruction manual, neatly packaged in a plastic bag when you bring them home from the hospital. Why is that?

Raising children is rather like being handed a box of stuff - pieces and parts - and we have to try to put it together to make something awesome.

(OK - work with me here... Really ~ we know our kids are awesome individuals... and it's US that we're teaching... for for the sake of this post we're going to pretend that it's the parents that are teaching the kids.)

When my daughter came along, it was a shock. I didn't have a clue of how to socialize her, making her conform to MY idea of a well behaved child. So I set about establishing a set of rules for her behavior, and my expectations. Don't cross the street alone. Always hold my hand when we're in a parking lot. Don't talk with your mouth full. Etc. Etc. Etc.

And then my son came along.

Really HE should have come home with The Manual for Parenthood. The one that I wish I'd had to teach me how to control my frustration at his youthful exuberance and not take it out by being overly critical or rule bound. His enthusiasm made me feel old and stuffy. And the harder I tried to control him, the more he acted out. Cycling down until both of us were angry.

I had to find another way to deal with my own frustration. Because he was merely a reflection of my own stuff.

And that, in a nutshell, is where Kivi and the Lizard People came from.

I learned. It took a while. I had to let go of behaviors that my parents had gotten from their parents. And in the process of writing this story, and living my life, I have built a strong relationship with my son.

Is it perfect? No.

But it works for both of us. For now. Tomorrow it will be different. As we both will be.

The journey through parenthood has been worth it, even though it hasn't always been easy. Mostly because I thought the problem was him. It wasn't. It was about ME. And it took writing a children's book for me to really get that.

I hope you allow yourself to enjoy time with your children. Give yourself breathing room and space to learn new things, and unlearn old ones.

Bless you,

Gayle McCain

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Love - Is About Doing.

Love. It's such a little word. And it is so misused, misunderstood, and both over and underused that western society is just confused.

I hate it when I hear a person say "Oh but he loves you" to anyone who has been abused, abandoned, or even just ignored. Aaargh. That teaches that person that love means allowing abuse, love means being abandoned, and love means that you're going to be ignored. This isn't love.

Love is an action. Sometimes it's powerful action. And sometimes it's strength is in standing still.

It is standing by someone, trying to help them through a rough time. Love is listening when someone needs to talk out whatever issue they're wrestling with. And sometimes it means that you ask them the questions they should be asking themselves (but are afraid to - or don't know they should).

Love is actively listening to someone in your life that you want to connect to... so that you can maintain a relationship, because you're drifting apart.

Love is doing dishes for someone who is sick, or giving a massage, or doing their yard work. Love is holding the hand and heart of a man who just buried his beloved wife, giving up weekends so he can manage to get through one more day. Love is painting his house so he could sell it because he just got transferred.

Love is talking matter-of-factly about ... well ... damn near everything.

Love is bending over to pick up a pen that a friend can't pick up off the floor because her arthritis makes it almost impossible. And buying a special glass - because her hands simply can't manage the heavy glass tumblers. It's about making sure that her front porch isn't slippery in bad weather... and rearranging my home for her to have a place to stay as she reevaluated her marriage.

Sometimes love is letting someone sit in jail, because that's the only way you can figure out how to keep her from proceeding down a very dark path.

Love is giving your mother permission to let go of a life that had become unsupportable and painful. Or giving her permission to hang on, even though it means tremendous effort must be put forth just to try to help her get comfortable. The effort is a demonstration of love.

Love is about making time for my children, and the children of others, because their own parent's wouldn't. It's about making sure they understand how babies are made, and why they should respect themselves enough to wait. But love is not about pretending that abstinence talk works - so it was about making sure they knew some of the emotional rollercoasters that each stage of intimacy might bring.

Love is about holding hands and learning to dance because you know someone will appreciate it. It is about taking the time to do things that please the loved one.

And when your friend falls in love with someone, it's about cheering him on and hoping that it works out for him. Because you hope to experience falling in love yourself one day and so you celebrate love wherever you find it.

Love is not about how much you spend, or whether you get good presents on your birthday. It is about whether you cared enough to give your time, your efforts, and your love.

It isn't about how much love 'I' receive. I'm not gonna lie, I appreciate and am grateful when the people around me do something loving, like making me a special birthday present, or baking sugar cookies, just for me. I like it a lot. But that's about THEIR love. Part of my love with them is to allow them to give.

I'm not talking about me 'needing' you to love me... but it may be about my allowing you to love me...

I can hear my friend rolling his eyes - thinking I'm talking exclusively about romantic love. These things are true for that... but they are also true for the caring of a classmate who will spend hours each week tutoring me without compensation so I can pass a class. It's about allowing friends to comfort us when we stumble, or struggle. It's about accepting the loving help we are offered.

It's about giving love. In ways that meet both your needs and the needs of those you care about. There must be balance... If someone you love is always taking, and never giving. There's an imbalance which will eventually destabilize how you deal with each other.

There are of course exceptions. Parenting - you love your children, investing tremendous energy into them, in a 'pay it forward' kind of way.

Maybe all love is like that... Pay it Forward. Doing things that demonstrate your love because you can - watching that love move out into the Universe like ripples on the water. Ever widening circles.



*** Hugs***

Sunday, June 24, 2012

If you are looking for the sum total of the wisdom of the universe in one concise phrase - here goes:

It's all about Love. Move from love, come from love, do everything from a space of loving and you'll never, EVER go wrong.

Oh and Listen to your heart. It's never wrong either.

Ta Da.

In Love,
in Joy

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Remember to Play

What do you do when you are caught by yourself and don't have a clue what to do? When everyone you know is off playing and you have to be by yourself... When you don't know what to do? AND you are so tired of working you could just

... cry, scream, have a temper tantrum. (If you were 3.)

You sit back, and try to figure out what's wrong. When did being alone become hard? Was I four or fourteen? Or did it happen somewhere past forty? I don't remember. But somewhen I forgot how to play.

Oh I was really good at making sure that my children's play was sacred. We made mud pies, brownies, rollerskated. We blew bubbles and made sand castles. We rolled down the hill, rode trikes and bikes. We made up games like 'Pink" and "Pounce" (think rainbows from the crystals in the window and cat like behavior.)

We read stories, I told stories. We made villages in the basement from appliance boxes, and our driveway was always full of children.

And it was -20F with a half inch of ice on everything when we polished our downhill driveway with our butts so the point where you couldn't walk on it at all. (or get the car out... LOL

And then they grew up. And I forgot how to play. Everything I did had a purpose. Write a story. Paint a picture to match the furniture, and the walls. Create wreaths for the season - which ever season it was. Create, create, create... always for a purpose.

My kids know how to play. Because they somehow learned that play was sacred. And they remember.

But I forgot.
I have spent the last three years learning how to be idle again. And honestly I never knew it would be hard.

Make a home for myself, and my almost grown son. Work. Study. Keep busy so I don't have to be alone with the idea that I am afraid to play by myself.

A couple of weeks ago I got out the chalk and started drawing. And writing what amounts to pithy sayings on my local sidewalk. And I have learned to play again... Oh I've had my share of detractors that write nasty things with the chalk that I leave for others to use... The really nice thing about chalk - the nastiness can be erased with a little water and a cheap paint brush.

But there are people who have responded to my "Please draw... she asks quietly." There have been hearts, short love notes. Stars and moons. And a Rocket to the Moon...

This is a small corner of this big world... And here we will be kind to each other. We will speak softly, for Words Have Power, and they carry further than we can imagine.

For me - right now - the most loving thing I can do for myself - is learn how to play with the innocence of a child, eyes twinkling, dancing on tiptoe. It doesn't matter that I'm an author of a children's book (and two unpublished novels, an itty bitty self help book, and tons of short stories), or in graduate school... those are things I do during the day. It matters that I'm as good a mom as I can be, a caring friend, and a kind stranger. What I am is love. And my blog(s), my Twitter account, and my often neglected Facebook page reflect that.

The theme of all of these is... it has always been...

Live vividly, learn earnestly, laugh whole heartedly, and love with everything you've got.

We work hard, and this is good, but Remember to Play ~ it's good for your soul.