Symbols of Freedom

Lockets of Love on Bklyn Bridge

I sit here watching Star Trek, the “new” 2009 version with Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto, et al.  I think about the future the truly colorblind future where creature, human, Klingnon, and all other manner of living being work together to explore the universe and spread peace.

Then, I turn my TV and find reports of The Donald, shootings on our students, the Pope bring together multi-denominational leaders, road rage that leaves a 4-year-old no longer living.  I see pain, suffering and the dementia of humans on a course that is not similar.  Yet, we are all on the same planet that spins inexorably and will not stop unless we blow it up.

What is our symbol of freedom?  Freedom from domination of extreme emotionalism that clouds reason which leads too pain and sorrow?  Where is the moral line that we will not cross no matter the color, creed, or sexual orientation of the person before us?

My current WIP is all about how people treat others because of their own personal needs.  Well, what happens when the mass of personal needs all coalesce into a plan of action that are to the detriment of others — whole race of others?  Where is the symbol of emotional freedom then?

There are no answers.  There is no black, or white.  There is no one answer.  As a group, we must figure out our collective future.  However, if we don’t function as a unified group but instead as a mass of splinter groups out for each group’s personal goals where will this scatter-effect of decisions take the one planet?

The image above are some people’s way of expressing their love and ‘locking it in’ forever.  Wonderful symbolism but…

Questions, questions and more questions.  However, will we have the loving answer in time for our children?  The ones who will inherit the joys of our collective madness?

Ta-ta for now,

The NoteBook Blogairy

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Apple and Pumpkin Picking Make Apple-Nut Muffins! Sort of…

Columbus Day weekend is upon here in the US.  It’s a long weekend and you get to rest relax and try new recipes!  (Okay, so maybe that’s not a thing…)

I did the hunting for a new recipe online and originally wanted pumpkin muffins but quickly decided to switch to apples.  Why?  Because I went apple-picking a few weekends ago and didn’t make one single solitary thing with those fresh-off-the-tree apples!!  Doing my penance now and bought some lovely looking Gala apples for 99-cents a pound from the grocery store.  (Don’t you love apple season??!)

[Total aside: We went apple picking at Harvest Mood Orchard & Farm in North Salem, NY which is 60 miles outside of New York City.  (The apple tree in the picture was off-limits as those apples are not ready yet!)  Did I mention they have awesome pumpkins to pick from pumpkin mile?]

Apple Picking

 

Pumpkin Mile

 

Okay, back to the baking!  After about a quarter of an hour, I happened upon Emeril Lagasse’s apple muffin recipe with a streusel topping.  It seemed like it would be good so off to the grocery went I and the little toddler baby girl.  Yes, a toddler in a grocery store.  I really wanted apple muffins!

AppleNutMuffins_In Oven

I get in and begin putting it all together.  This is the classic dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in the other.  The topping is made in yet a third bowl.  The recipe calls for buttermilk but I used half-n-half (I react a bit better to this form).  As a result, my muffins were not as moist as they could be but still very delicious!  The first day — Sunday — I made them as the recipe called for.  And this was the result…

AppleNutMuffins_Day1

I so did not get to the muffins before my two teenage boys got to them.  So, the test run clearly went well.  But I didn’t like that the streusel topping sank into the muffins.  Tasty but not aesthetically pleasing.

Since there was still another holiday weekend breakfast to be had I did a redo of the muffins and added one additional tablespoon of flour to the topping recipe.  The result?

AppleNutMuffins_Day2

Voila!  A much better product.  The streusel topping could stand a bit more flour to it.  I have found that the crumblier the topping (and the drier) the better it stands up to the heat of the oven and will make a pleasing crumb topping for any baked product.

And today, I DID get to the muffins before the boys did.  It also helped that they were still asleep when the muffins came out of the oven. 🙂

Well, we’re going to The Met to see the new exhibit of Middle Kingdom Egypt which opens today.  I’m a bit geeked about it.  Hope you guys enjoy your day today!

Ta-ta for now,

NB

 

Book Review: Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

It took me two and a half weeks to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the book that Abraham Lincoln said started the American Civil War.  [Actual Lincoln quote: “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!” – November 1862 when Stowe was introduced to President Lincoln.

As I was reading this book, I stopped many times to reflect on this or that passage.  I stopped to read other reviews of this book across various sites on the internet.  I wanted to know what the present-day dialog is/has been about this important historical book.  What I found in my cursory research was disconcerting.  I read that this book was poorly written and that if it did not have historical significance it would not be spoken of, or even thought of today.  To me, this is the greatest oxymoron.

Turning away from these pernicious reviews, I continued to read with an open mind.  I cried.  My heart ached.  I had many a restless night complete with tossing and turning.  I resorted to my childhood practice of having a cup of hot calming tea before bed.  Why?  So that I could finish this book with the minimum amount of personal distress.

Stowe does have passages that are a tad clumsy yet these few lines do not detract from the overall precision, research and the sharing of the prevailing then-current perspectives of various factions of American society in the late 1800’s.  Stowe functioned very much like a journalist in compiling first-hand accounts that she herself witnessed, or someone close to her had witnessed and coalesced these factual real-life incidents into a fictionalized narrative directed towards forcing open the minds of an extremely insensate audience.

Stowe pours it on thickly in places.  The Christian faith is both maligned and praised in various sections of the book to make definite points to specific audiences.  Indifference was the bane and greatest sin in Stowe’s eyes which is embodied in the character of Augustine St. Clare.  His character shows us the effects of caring but doing nothing to change the status quo.

The character of Topsy, the little Negro child who was raised by slave traders without mother, father, or any family around her to raise her with the sole purpose of ‘bringing her to market’ is a study in the dehumanizing of a person so that they have not feeling, no hope, no spark of life or joy within themselves.  So much so that this character, felt she was wicked and could do no better than her wicked ways.  Stowe went out of her way to characterize all of the different point of view to ensure that no one in America at that time could weasel out of their beliefs or vindicate themselves in any way.

The thing that bugged me most about this book is the prevailing viewpoint about the book’s central character…Uncle Tom.  In the Black Community, when a person is tagged as an Uncle Tom that person is a shuckin’ and jivin’ person who is doing his/her best to ingratiate themselves in an obsequious manner to gain the favor of White people be it their bosses, authority figures, or to gain advantage in some way.  Being an Uncle Tom is a negative, self-hating insult to be hurled at a person of color.

Yet, when you read Stowe’s book, the character of Uncle is a hero.  In the end, he changes the people around him due to his unswerving faith in his religious beliefs.  He does not do the bidding of his cruel slave master (the final one towards the end of the book).  Tom does not acquiesce and beat other slaves as his owner wanted him to do.  Tom does not change his beliefs one iota even in the face of the direst threats from his owner (including being burned alive).  Tom was not disrespectful, forceful, nor obsequious to his vindictive mean-hearted owner in any way.  Tom had an inner light and courage that was borne of his faith in something greater than him.  It was this faith that saved and made Tom different and ultimately victorious over the bonds of slavery.  While he died a slave, his mind was free, his soul was free and this touched and changed those around him.

Yet, I understand why people of color chose to defile the heroic character of Uncle Tom in later years (especially during the 60’s and 70’s!).  Who wants to take a beating to the death with your faith being the only thing that saves you?  Who wants to hold dear to a faith that allows you to be downtrodden, abused and defiled when you could instead stand up like a man, and a woman should and fight.  This was what the Black Power movement was all about.  The Uncle Tom character is the very antithesis of what Blacks of the 60’s and 70’s were all about (remember, we were no longer Negroes…)

Okay, so this review of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is not as much of a review as it is a commentary and the invitation to open up a dialogue one that is long overdue:

How can we move forward and exorcise the vestiges of a 250-year reign of abuse, terror and hard labor on the slaves brought over during the Middle Passage?

Because this question, my friends, has yet to be truly answered.  However, the first step to answering this question – which needs to be done on an individual basis! – is to gain a context of where we were, so we can see where we are today.  Hence, the idea of Sankofa (from Ghana, West Africa) – the need to look back in order to move forward.

Sankofa Bird_10 9 2015

My WIP is Taking Me to Places I Never Thought I’d Venture…

No one told me that writing a novel could put you in a pensive mood.  I’ve written a number of novels and none have made me stop writing and ponder life as this one is doing.  Granted, the material I am covering in this section is a hoary one — American slavery in the South.  Yikes.  And, to make matters even more interesting, I am an African American.

No, I am not a militant.  No, I am not a bleeding heart.  No, I’ve never read and studied this time period in any great detail outside of what was required in public school.  In college, my English and History classes focused on other time periods.  So thankfully, I did not have to confront the skeletons in my own lineage.  However, now that I am neck-deep in it, I’m not sure thankful is the right adjective.  Pensive is most definitely more along the right track.

Forget about being a part of the lineage, when anyone reads about a 10 1/2 month old child that is surreptitiously taken from its mother when said mother is a scant 5 feet away peering into the crowds looking for her husband.  When she turns around, her child is missing and the slave trader in his place explaining that her trusted beloved former owner sold her and her child and lied about them meeting her husband a few towns over.  What is one to feel?  How is one to react?  How do you reconcile your brain to understanding that 170 years ago this was reality for one’s great-great-grandparents?  I dunno.  I guess I’m still trying to process.

My family is not from this country.  I could more accurately say that I am of Caribbean-American descent.  From what I’ve learned from my family on both sides, we cannot trace slavery to someone directly.  That means very little in the scheme of things.  Slavery was on the islands, too.

I am currently reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  I stop reading for a day or so then go back.  I stop reading on weekends.  The reading is physically painful and at times I cry — no matter where I am.  No human can read it without feeling some smidgen, some iota of something that moves the heart unless…

I will not pretend that we live in a perfect world where all that happened has been fixed.  I will try to forget the too recent May 11th, 2015 Time magazine cover.

It brings home ultimately the question of do we have control over our lives today.  Do we?  As people of color, can we say that we have full autonomy of our destinies?  Of course the answer must be yes as we get up, prepare for our day and are not shackled or have papers in someone’s vault stating that we are their property.  So, clearly we have control of our lives.

However, is that the right question?

This is the pensive mood that I find myself.  Posing questions I really don’t want the answers to.  Yet, all the same, I’m asking them.  Reading and researching to discover, or uncover, more challenging questions such as why should we bother going back and seeing what’s there?  Why can’t we just move forward and build anew?  Or, better, we know what’s back there.  The choices were made then so we can have, be and do what we’re doing today.  What more is there to be done that we aren’t doing?

Can you look yourself in the eye and tell yourself you’ve released all the morass from the past and function objectively with everyone you meet?  That you have no pre-judgements (read: prejudices) about anyone you newly meet?  And this last question is meant for us ALL.

Just as slavery was an institution that was kept going by those in power that needed the labor of the slaves.  It was kept an institution because there were many who did not feel their voices could do anything to make changes.  They did not feel their “tiny” singular actions could do any good.

Well, guess what?  That new-fangled notion of pay it forward does work and you don’t have to believe in something greater than yourself to be kind to someone who does not look like you.

If Pope Francis can do it…so can we.

So, how the heck did I end up here with this diatribe raging?  Oh, yeah.  It’s that darn book I’m writing.

The writing life can take you places you’d never dream you’d venture.

Writer Wednesday’s: Q & A with Author Crystal Marcos

I met Crystal on Twitter.  She is a fab Twitterzen and chats with like-minded peeps.  She also happens to be an author…like moi! 🙂

Crystal graciously sat down with me for a bit and told us more about herself and her current work, and her work-in-progress.

Crystal_Marcos_10 04 2015

Author Crystal Marcos!

NB: Tell us about yourself.

Award-winning author Crystal Marcos has been a storyteller her entire life. As the oldest of five children, she had to do a lot of entertaining. She lives on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State with her husband and daughter Kaylee, with another child on the way. Crystal is the author of BELLYACHE: A Delicious Tale and HEADACHE: The Hair-Raising Sequel to BELLYACHE.  Novus, her third book and first Young Adult novel, is Book One of The Cresecren Chronicles.

NB: Where can readers find you?

Website: http://www.crystalmarcos.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CrystalMarcos

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CrystalMarcos

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/crystalmarcos/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/crystal-marcos/2a/979/b9b

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/CrystalMarcos

IAN: http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/crystal-marcos.html

NB: Where can readers purchase your book?

Kindle edition: http://amzn.to/1IGbLDd

Amazon: Paperback: http://amzn.to/1NiIIbG

Barnes and Noble: Paperback and Nook: http://bit.ly/1KQXTqW

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/572717

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/novus-the-cresecren-chronicles-book-1

Oyster Books: https://www.oysterbooks.com/book/3Xm2dncioBHXWVmhyZ4KEZ/novus-the-cresecren-chronicles-book-1

Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/novus-cresecren-chronicles/id1035993242?mt=11

Signed Copies: http://crystalmarcos.com/novus/locations.html

NB: How, if at all, has your upbringing influenced your writing?

My mom is always encouraging. Growing up, I would tell her I wanted to be a writer and she would tell me that I WAS a writer. She would draw pictures for me and I would make stories about them. I also have four younger brothers and sisters. I was always creating stories for them. One of my favorite activities when telling bedtime stories was to include their ideas in the story. Now, I do this with my daughter. I ask her what she wants to hear a story about. I pause during telling her the story to let her fill in the blanks. For example, a character’s name, what color hat they are wearing, or what a noise sounded like. We create the story together. This makes bedtime special.

NB: How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was very young. My mom saved some of my work from my elementary school years. I wrote my first full-length picture book when I was 12, my first monologue when I was 15, poems and songs in my teenage years, and my first full-length children’s book as an adult. My first book, BELLYACHE: A Delicious Tale has won honors and a silver Readers’ Favorite award.

NB: What first attracted you to this genre?

Books I read in my childhood like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Best Worst Christmas Pageant Ever. After reading books like these, I was inspired.

NB: What is your greatest strength as a writer?

I believe my greatest strength as a writer is my ability to transport the reader right into the world I have created.

NB: Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Yes, during those times, I found making an outline of what I plan on writing next can help. I also found the best thing to do is to skip the area I am having trouble with and just GO ON. You can always go back and fill in the blanks later. If it is a simple name or item and I just can’t think of what I want, I will put XXXXXX in the spot and move on. It will come to me later and I don’t waste my writing time using the XXXXXX as an excuse not to move on.

NB: Tell us about your latest work. Can you share a little of it with us?

Ideal for Hunger Games and Divergent fans, Crystal Marcos delivers Novus, a riveting novel set in a dystopian future of action-adventure, suspense, and romance. Intriguing characters and a gripping storyline keep the reader turning page after page.

Novus Cover Kindle_Crystal Marcos

NOVUS Synopsis

Being a teenager is hard enough. And what if your life’s path is predetermined? On top of that, you aren’t even Human?  Cayden was given life as a Cresecren. He expected to live out his days with the dysfunctional Human family he was assigned to serve. One fateful night, however, landed him in Gavaron, the home of maimed, elderly, or defiant Cresecren.

Beyond its borders is the Den, an area much more dangerous than he ever imagined. Now seventeen, Cayden unwittingly becomes involved in a conspiracy and is one of a handful of survivors fleeing a deadly attack. They set off on a perilous journey in search of refuge and the truth. Along the way, Cayden begins to comprehend the difference between fully living and merely surviving, while trying to balance his emotions and a forbidden love.

NB: Can you tell us about your main character?

Cayden is a teenager who was created by Humans in their likeness and given life as a Cresecren. Most teenagers have choices. However, Cayden’s life’s path was predetermined for him. Through a series of catastrophic events, Cayden explores new experiences and feelings he never had the chance to before.

NB: How do you come up with new novel ideas?

Many of my ideas come the same way as I developed my newest book. The idea for Novus came to me over three years ago in a dream that jolted me awake. I wanted to go back to sleep, hoping to pick up where I left off. I didn’t, and kept thinking about it. I wanted to know more about the people in my dream, more about the setting, more about what was going on and where the story was leading. I finally have the answers, and am delighted to share them. Sometimes, I get ideas from daydreams too. I also get ideas from books I think would be fun to write and I would want to read.

NB: What projects can we expect from you in the future?

I want to continue writing in the Children’s and Young Adult genres. Since I love saving money, party planning, and making cakes, I may write a book about it someday. I have several ideas for books and would love to see them come to print. I am always creating and imagining. I also want to make a game (board or card) someday, perhaps one that would go with one of my books.

NB: What are your current writing projects now?

I am currently working on a children’s picture book and writing the second book in The Cresecren Chronicles.

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Let’s thank Crystal for this great interview by checking out Novus!