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WritingAfterDark

Blogs of Writer, Artist, Photographer, & Caregiver Joanne D. Kiggins

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Joanne has published more than 2,500 articles and was award recipient of the 1990 Woman of the Year for Beaver County, Pennsylvania, for her accomplishments and excellence in journalism and to the community. Her co-authored book, “Unforgettable Journey,” won fifth place in the Grand Beginnings romance contest. An excerpt from her WIP, “Unearthed,” placed her fifth in the Absolute Write Idol contest. Most recently, her essay, “Perseverance,” is published in the Stories of Strength anthology in which 100% of the profits are donated to disaster relief charities. Her most recent articles were published in ByLine Magazine, Writer's Digest, AbsoluteWrite.com, and Moondance.org. She has a monthly freelance writing column at Absolutewrite.com. Currently, she is the sole caregiver for her 85-year-old mother.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Ray's Meme

Ray decided to make his own meme. So being the good sport that I am, I decided to give it a try.

Here’s what Ray said:
“I said I didn't do memes, but I was conversing with a good friend of mine, Unique, and I came up with these questions, and I thought, maybe I'll just put out a meme. You can either answer these questions in comments, or post them in your own blog and link it back here.”

1. If someone is going to make a movie about you, which movie star/actress should play you?
Sally Field or Susan Sarandon

2. What are your favorite movies and/or books?
Horror movies and books. I love them all. Can’t pick just one.

3. Coffee or chocolate?
Both!

4. Hot tub or beaches?
Beaches I love to walk on beaches and feel the sun on my face.

5. Do you like to take naps? Or do you sleep only a few hours a day?
I never take naps. And I seldom sleep at night either. :)

6. Do you sleep in the nude?
Ha ha. Well…um…no comment.

7. What do you consider is your best achievement so far?
Besides being alive, probably being awarded the 1990 Woman of the Year Award in the county where I live.

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Another Monday Meme-Babelfish

told us to take our meme from Diane’s Diversions. Here's Dawno's post at Absolute Write explaining it.

Here's how to play:
Take your favorite song lyrics and go to Babelfish.
Translate them to German. Then translate that to French. Then translate the French back to English.

Post the results on your blog and see who can guess the song.

There' S has hero If you look inside your heart You don' T cuts to Be afraid Of what you are There' S year answer If you reach into your soul And the sorrow that you know Will melt away And then has hero comes along With the strength to curry one And you cast your fears aside And you know you edge survives So when you feel like hope is gone Look inside you and Be strong And you' ll finally see the truth That has hero dregs in you It' S has long road When you face the world alone No one reaches out has hand For you to hold You edge find coils If you search within yourself felt Will disappear And then has hero comes along With the strength to curry one And you cast your fears aside And you know you edge survives So when you feel like hope is gone Look inside you and Be strong And you' ll finally see the truth That has hero dregs in you Lord knows Dreams are hardware to follow But don' T let anyone Tear them away Hold one There will Be tomorrow In time You' ll find the way And then has hero comes along With the strength to curry one And you cast your fears aside And you know you edge survives So when you feel like hope is gone Look inside you and Be strong And see the truth That has hero dregs in you

I'm sure you can guess my song.

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Four-Leaf Clover and Peacock Eye Feather

I’ve been on sort of a nostalgia kick lately. Thinking about my grandma and the little things we used to do to keep busy during the day, made me dig into my wallet and pull out a few pieces of memorabilia.

When Grandma and I were tired of peeling apples, we used to get down on our hands and knees and search the yard for four-leaf clovers. There used to be clover everywhere in the front yard, but it seems to have died out over the years. We did find four-leaf clovers, though. And big ones.

Here’s one that I wrapped in wax paper and slipped into a plastic photo sleeve. I’ve been carrying this in my wallet for more than 30 years. Can’t say that it has brought me much luck though.

Here’s another little piece of time I laminated and kept in my wallet. I was three years old when we took a trip to New York. We went to the New York zoo. Yes, I actually remember the trip! I saved this peacock eye feather I found outside the peacock fence. It’s 50 years old, and I’ve been carrying it in my wallet next to the four-leaf clover.
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Grandma Shakespeare Kiggins and the Apple Peel Contest

Grandma Shakespeare Kiggins (my dad’s mom) and I used to have apple-peeling contests. No it wasn’t a contest to see who could peel the most apples in the shortest amount of time. It was a contest to see who could peel an apple keeping the peel all in one piece.

It’s been a long time since I tried this; Grandma’s been gone more than 30 years. In her honor, I thought I’d give it a try for old time sake. I’m sure she’s smiling her “that’s my girl” smile as she watched me attempt the feat. After 30+ years, I can still peel an apple in one long piece.

Just one of the many crazy little things I’m still capable of doing. I guess this pretty much shows everyone that I am a country girl and my life as a child was pretty boring. Still is, in fact.

How many of you can peel an apple without breaking the peel?

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Poetry, Browning, Jonson and Kira

Kira always makes me reach into the deep recesses of my mind and gets the wheels turning. She decided to memorize a poem a week and asked, “What's your favorite poem? What speaks to you? What did it kill you to memorize in school? What poems make you laugh (no, "there once was a man from Nantuckets, please)?.”

She reminded me of the Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sonnet 43 we were forced to memorize, stand in front of class, and recite.

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My sould can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I still have the purple mimeographed copy that was passed out in the classroom. The sonnet is etched in my brain. I didn't need the copy to print it here.

I’m still not sure what makes a poem speak to me or which is my favorite. There is this one poem I read years ago and I even remembered what book I’d read it from. It’s from the book Adventures in English Literature and it’s in The Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance section.

This poem below was written by Ben Jonson. (1572-1637)
He was a bricklayer and ended up being one of the most dramatic writers in theater. Most of his works have a keen sense of human nature with a satirical rather than sympathetic voice. His bricklaying experience came in handy when writing: he laid out words, one at a time.

The Noble Nature
IT is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sear:
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night,--
It was the plant and flower of Light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures life may perfect be.
~Ben Jonson

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Plugging A Few of My Friends

I’ve taken the morning and most of the day to visit my friend’s blogs and found some very interesting sites and realisms about my blogger friends. The more I read everyone’s posts, the more in touch with the person writing them I become.

Take for instance, Mac. I’ve learned that she not only has a wonderful sense of humor, but also an investigative type personality. She’s always digging deep into her own mind and searching the net to explain her thoughts.

There’s Jill, who does a wonderful job at tracking down all the politicians in Ohio. She’s got the mind to step up to the plate, too.

We can’t forget Ray. He’s a great guy and is doing very well promoting his recently released novel The Pacific Between.

And there’s Natalie Bennett’s blog Philobiblon where I just found she’d mentioned my blog about animals and her recent post where she’s boycotting anti-feminists.

Emeraldcite has an interesting blog as well. And of course, I had to take the color quiz. Yes, I got suckered into this quiz, too. And as I told Emerald, I was hoping it would paint a picture of great things. Instead, it colored me to a T. Half-baked, too trusting, and a danger to no one but myself. ROFL

Jason always has great stories and pictures on his blog. I love the peacefulness of his posts. No pun intended. Honest.

One of the things I like best about Mark is that he gets straight to the point. He doesn’t mess around when it comes to writing what he thinks. Love your blog, Mark.

I was quite shocked to see Jeff writing romance. He’s quite good at it, too.

Just wanted you all to know I think you’re great!

I’ll plug a few more friends after my break. Right now, I really need to get back to my writing.

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CoComment, Top Users, Top Tags and Dawno

Dawno is one of my favorite people. She’s always finding neat little gadgets to add to blogs. One of the gadgets she found was CoComment and it’s taken me a month to figure out how to get it to work. At least I think it’s working. My comments are showing up, but I don’t see anyone else’s comments yet. That could be because no one has commented recently, or the few that have, have forgotten to use the CoComment feature, or they aren't signed up. For now, I have a list of comments I’ve made, so I know where I’ve been and who I visited last. I need that being that I’d forget my head if it wasn’t sewed neatly to my shoulders.

In the CoComment features there are a few other little sidebar additions. I’ve added the Top users and Top tags. Of course, I’m the only one showing up in those features as well. For the time being.

So…for those who haven’t added the CoComment feature to keep track of your own comments on other’s blogs, why not add it now. That way, all of us can see who’s commenting and who isn’t with just one little click.

Oh yes, I also love Dawno for her sense of humor and her posts about her grandkittles, roombas, and the wonderful family pictures.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Chronicles of Narnia: Great Old Find on My Dusty Bookshelf

Recently, while dusting my bookshelves, I actually paid attention to the books I’d placed there so many years ago. In all fairness, one bookcase contains many books I haven’t even read yet. I bought them because the cover, title, or author of the book caught my eye, or because at the time, they seemed like a great find. How many of you have purchased books, placed them on your bookshelf, unread, and forgotten about them?

The reason I asked, is…while scanning this one particular “great find” bookcase, I found the Scholastic version of Book 1 in the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I have no idea when I purchased it or why, but I can tell you that it’s been at least 15 years since I’ve placed a book in this bookcase.

The pages are yellowed and have the smell of a very old library book. The cover artwork is enchanting.

With the recent hype about the movie Narnia, which I haven’t seen, I was quite shocked and excited that I have the September 1987 First Scholastic printing. I might even add it to my “to read” pile. But then, again, maybe I should just go out and buy the new version.
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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Back to Nature

Yeah, I know. I’ve already posted pictures of the deer and turkey in my yard. I can’t help it! I’m a nature lover. These deer and turkey are so used to seeing me and hearing my camera spin out of control, they now seem to be posing for me. Most of the time, the deer glance at me and continue to munch on the grass. Last week I had one deer come up to within about five feet of me, then, I think she decided it wasn’t such a good idea. She stomped her foot, turned slowly, and walked back into the group.

Here are five of the eight deer that hang around to see if I’m still watching. Really! There are five. Look close. You'll see it. Or at least parts of it. The ears of a young deer are showing on the back of a larger one in the top left of the picture.

Here’s part of the flock of nearly 100 turkeys that roam our yard. They're getting comfortable with me, too. They look at me, fluff up their feathers, and go back to scratching and pecking at the ground.

Here are the deer and turkey holding a meeting.

To me, there’s nothing like watching wildlife. They’re so innocent and can be very comical at time.

Oh yes, remember the picture of the squirrel I promised. She finally sat still long enough for me to snap this shot. Yes, she’s sitting on our sidewalk in front of the porch.

Come back again. I’ll have a few more pictures here soon. Really great pictures of unusual things. You’ll love them. Honest!

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Frangipani—Book Review



Frangipani
By Célestine Hitiura Vaite
Published by Back Bay Books
February 7 2006
320 pp.
Fiction
Price: $12.95 trade paperback
ISBN 0-316-11466-9
Amazon.com price: $9.97

Frangipani, set in Tahiti, is billed as a novel that portrays a mother-daughter relationship, but it’s more than that, much more. The story begins with Materena Mahi’s husband, Pito, leaving her and their infant son, Tamatoa, over an argument because she picked up Pito’s paycheck.

Materena doesn’t tell Pito she’s pregnant before he leaves. Instead she makes plans to move furniture, fix the house the way she wants it, and gets a job as a professional cleaner so she doesn’t need to worry about how she’ll provide for her children.

Vaite doesn’t waste words with showing us Tahitian landscape, details of the town Faa’a, or descriptions of characters. Once you get drawn into Vaite’s humorous style of writing, you’ll find yourself conjuring your own images to go with the many characters (relatives) in the book. The characters speak breathlessly, literally, and the narrative voice is filled with morsels of Tahitian life.

For almost the length of the pregnancy, Vaite has Materena speaking to the newly conceived daughter in her womb.

And as she continues the baby’s guided tour, Materena sees her place with new eyes herself. Faa’a PK 5 – behind a petrol station, not far from the Chinese store, the church, the cemetery, and the international airport. It is mismatched painted fibro shacks, church bells calling out the faithful on Sunday morning, the endless narrow paths leading to relatives, quilts adorning walls, diaper cloths drying on clotheslines, and someone in the neighborhood raking brown leaves.

Here is also women talking stories by the side of the road, barefoot children chasing chickens or flying kites, babies falling asleep at their mother’s breast, men gathered outside the Chinese store counting the few cars driving past. (12)


It isn’t until chapter six, we’re introduced to Leilani through the “rules about giving birth.”

Materena takes a deep breath, trying to distract herself by remembering all the traditional Tahitian rules about giving birth.

First rule: no shouting as you push the baby into the world, because when you shout the baby inside gets frightened, and it’s not wise to be born frightened. It’s enough that one second the baby is in his mama’s belly and it’s dark and comfortable and warm, and next minute he’s in this strange place he doesn’t know. And the light is hurting his eyes, he can’t breathe, and it’s cold.

Second rule: no crying out loud as you push the baby into the word, because when you cry out loud, the baby about to be born gets all sad, and it’s not wise to be born sad. The baby is going to be a crying-for-no-reason person. And when you’re a crying-for-no-reason person and you’re a woman, life is just going to be one misery after the next. One little pain, and that’s it, you’ll cry your eyes out. It’s much better for you to be a woman who cries only for big pains.

Third rule: no cursing and screaming words of insult as you push your baby into the world, because when you curse and scream words of insult, the baby inside gets all cranky, and it’s not wise to be cranky. That baby is going to be a cranky-for-no-reason person. (44-45)


Then we meet the daughter.

The everyday day life Tahitian-style begins with the Welcome into the World rituals. So here is Materena, accompanied by her mother, introducing bébé Leilani to her relatives, and everyone has something gentil to say about Loana’s granddaughter, who came into the world upside down. . . . Then it’s off to the cemetery to introduce the little one to the dead. (49-50)


Baby Leilani jumps from the labor room at the hospital to age 12 where she is reading encyclopedias and we find out in this 12-year jump, Materena has had another child, a boy, Moana, Leilani’s younger brother. Materena, best listener in Tahiti, digs deep into her pocketbook to pay for the encyclopedias, that will hopefully answer Leilani’s complicated questions that Materena can’t keep up with and is tired of listening to.

Leilani used to say how clever her mother was, but these days Leilani doesn’t say this anymore. So, why doesn’t it snow in Tahiti? How would Materena know this? “Girl,” she sighs, “I don’t know why it doesn’t snow in Tahiti.”
“Ah . . . I knew you wouldn’t.”
“Why did you ask me, then, if you knew I didn’t know?” asks Materena, a bit cranky.
“I just hoped you knew.”
“Well, stop hoping. Ask me about the ancestors, the old days, cleaning tricks, budgeting, who’s who in the family album and at the cemetery, plants, words of wisdom Tahitian-style, traditions. Don’t ask me why it doesn’t snow in Tahiti. Ask your teacher.” (53)


Fragipani is truly about the everyday lifestyle, traditions, and tales of Tahiti, with a bit of mother-daughter flavor added.

Vaite deluges the reader with humorous blends of all of these into a quaint tale, which gently pokes fun at Tahitian life, the breathless chatter between women, and the crankiness of the people.

In the “Secrets for the Grave” chapter Materena says:

There are secrets which can never be told. They are called secrets of the grave. And there are secrets that can be told one day, it’s just a question of waiting for the right moment. They are called secrets, pure and simple. (94)

. . . But first Materena would like her daughter to promise that she won’t get cranky, because it’s quite a big secret. Leilani puts a hand up and promises that she won’t get cranky. So Materena tells her daughter about that pink bicycle Mama Roti had given her for her seventh birthday. (96)

After a recapitulation about how Materena told Leilani that somebody had stolen her bicycle, Leilani doesn’t get cranky because she’d known for years that her bicycle hadn’t been stolen. Just as she’d known that many of the Tahitian tales and traditions weren’t true.

Materena wants the best for Leilani but finds that she can’t say anything to her daughter without Leilani making her feel stupid.
When Materena complains of her hands being so used up because of all the cleaning they do, and dares tell Her Highness that she wouldn’t mind another job because cleaning is so lonely sometimes, Her Highness says, “Get another job. Don’t just complain about it. Make a change. Take control of your life!”

. . . Ah, what misery when your daughter thinks she knows better than you do. You’re always on the defensive, on edge, and you can’t relax. The problem with Leilani, so Materena analyzes, is that she’s too much like her father. She’s not diplomatic at all. (133)

Yes, the mother-daughter ups and downs, and even some of the family life, can lead the reader to chuckle. But the number of stories within the story could have been individual novels.

Materena has rules as well for her son, Tamatoa, before he leaves Tahiti for the military in France. There are “rules that must be followed when you are on foreign soil and your family is on the other side of the planet.”
First rule: no fighting with the locals, you don’t want to upset the wrong family. What if it’s the Mafia? And plus, it’s not nice to fight.
Second rule: no rendezvous in a girl’s bedroom, even if she tells you that her parents are fine with her having boys in their house. It’s more likely that the girl’s parents don’t know anything about it, and all you’re going to get is a gun pointed at your head, a thick piece of wood smashed across your back, or something equally horrible.
Third rule: never arrive with empty hands at a dinner even if your friend told you that his mother hates it when guests arrive with something. The reality is that hosts love surprises, and it doesn’t have to be something to eat. Flowers are great. Perfumed soaps too. Show your gratitude for the invitation. The only people hosts never expect anything from, over and over again, are the relatives.
Fourth rule (still about being a guest at dinner): leave a bit of food on your plate to show the host you’re too full to have another serving. If there’s nothing left on your plate and the host can’t serve you more food because there’s no more food in the cooking pot, she’s going t be very embarrassed. She’s going to assume you’re still hungry. Eat the food even if you don’t like the taste of it, you don’t know what it is, you’ve never eaten such a dish in your whole life and it looks bizarre.
“Don’t you make anyone think I’ve been a bad mother to you,” Materena says, “that I didn’t raise you proper.” (172-173)

This last sentence is what Frangipani is truly about—Materena’s married life and her sacrifices to fulfill her quest to raise her children to the best of her ability. When Materena turns 40 she decides to quit her professional cleaning job and begin a talk-back radio show aimed at women. Who better to host the show than the best listener in Tahiti? Yet, Materena thinks her daughter hasn’t listened to her.

It isn’t until she hears Leilani’s announcement for her own life’s plans that Materena realizes her daughter has listened to everything she’s told her.
”Mamie, I don’t want to be forty like you and realize I should have done what I wanted a long time ago.” Leilani continues about how she’s never seen her mother so happy since she got that job at the radio. “Look at you, you’re radiant, you’re beautiful, you’re so happy.”
“I was happy before.”
“You’re the one who’s always pushed me to know what I want and to make it happen.” Materena nods in agreement. But seven years... (291)

Leilani has grown up to be exactly as her mother wanted—intelligent, strong-willed, and independent—just like her mother. She’s simply beginning her difficult journey at an earlier age.

Everything that happens in the small town of Faa’a where Materena lives is passed on through the “coconut radio.” There’s a reason for the novel being titled Frangipani. These details and Leilani’s announcement to Materena I’ll leave for the reader to explore.

This reviewer is tempted to visit Tahiti simply to see if Tahitians are cranky and really do speak without taking a breath as Vaite jokes. If you can overlook the repetitive wording and the crankiness of the people of Tahiti, Frangipani can be a delightful read. Though not a bad read, if Vaite concentrated on Leilani throughout the novel, rather than blend her into the underlying stories, Frangipani would be consider a mother-daughter tale, at least for this reader.

Frangipani was nominated for the 2006 Orange Prize, an award for the best novel of the year written by a woman published in the UK.

Frangipani is the sequel to Vaite’s first novel, Breadfruit, which was published in Australia. Frangipani is Vaite’s first novel published in the US. The third part of the trilogy, Tiare, will come out next year.

CLICK HERE TO BUY FRANGIPANI.

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