The New Hungry

despair

“I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for the minds and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are being told that here, in the United States, we are “in an economic recovery.”

Really?

That’s not what the folks working at the soup kitchens, food banks, and shelters are saying.  The number of people coping with food insecurity is not decreasing.  Quite the opposite.  College-educated, middle-class men and women are now very much a part of the “hungry” demographic in our society. I know them.  Hell, I’ve written about them. They are real people, not fictional characters.  Their stories are not embellished.  These are true accounts of their descent into a state of existence that is not only a new and unsettling experience for them, but also one that doesn’t have a frame of reference. Imagine, for a moment, what this must feel like.  When you’ve never been poor or hungry…  and suddenly you are. How do you wrap your mind around it?  What are your coping mechanisms?  More importantly, how do you get yourself out of this rut?  Before making a snap judgment, understand that there is no Dr. Phil quick-fix, one-size-fits-all solution.

We are being told that the economic crisis in Europe is over.

Really?

Let’s look at Greece, for example.  In an article from The Guardian, journalist Helena Smith writes “Against a backdrop of record unemployment, and with the country ensnared in its worst crisis in modern times, hardship is surfacing in ways that few would ever have foreseen. Hunger and undernourishment are part of that spectre.”   Xenia Papastavrou, director of Boroume (the leading food bank organization in Greece), was quoted as saying  “In traditional middle-class neighborhoods like Zographou,  the number of those requiring support has gone up from 50 to 500 since 2011.”

It would appear that the “new faces of hungry” is a global issue.

It would appear that the there will be no “Hallelujahs” in our immediate economic future.

I wish I could tell a different story.  Believe me, I do.  But, I can’t.  This is the reality.  You can choose to put your fingers in your ears and chant “lalalalalalala”…  but that won’t change the reality, I’m afraid.

The question then becomes “what can we do?” 

I can’t answer that for you. But I can tell you what I’m doing.  Damage control.  People can’t think or function properly when they’re hungry.  So, my immediate reaction is to help people who are experiencing hunger, probably for the first time in their lives.

Kindness. Pass it on. 

Snapshots in words through a writer’s lens

Since writing my book,  Casualties of the Recession Depression (A collection of vignettes), I’ve been asked – by people unfamiliar with the genre – to explain the difference between a short story and a vignette, and why I chose to employ the latter, rather than the former. Here are the definitions, followed by my explanation.

Short Story

Syllabification: (short sto·ry)

Definition (per the Oxford Dictionary):

noun 

— a story with a fully developed theme but significantly shorter and less elaborate than a novel.

Vignette

Syllabification: (vi·gnette)

Pronunciation: /vinˈyet/

Definition (per the Oxford Dictionary):

noun (in the context of writing)

  1. a brief evocative description, account, or episode.

verb (in the contect of writing)

  1. portray (someone) in the style of a vignette.

Wikipedia’s Definition (this is exactly what a vignette is):

“In theatrical script writing, sketch stories, and poetry, a vignette is a short impressionistic scene that focuses on one moment or gives a trenchant impression about a character, idea, setting, or object.”

♦ ♦ ♦

Essentially, a vignette is like a snapshot in words.  Through a writer’s lens, a moment/feeling/episode in time is captured and portrayed in such a way that the reader can feel the character’s pain (or joy), understand the character’s mindset, be part of the character’s experience – albeit vicariously.

In the context of my book, I wanted to record real (and sometimes raw) moments experienced by people who have been adversely affected by this long economic downturn.  By capturing these brief episodes and providing a written backdrop for each year (in the form of an economic and political commentary), the reader can see the transformation and progression of this Recession Depression from its conception to its continued existence in the present day. The middle class is disappearing below the poverty line. As long as these people continue to be hungry, homeless and jobless, this “recession” is not over.

Below is one (of 39) vignettes from the Second Edition of Casualties of the Recession Depression:

Vignette #13 (2009) ― Young and Hungry

He sat in the coffee shop, his fingers restlessly turning the pages of his textbook.  He had been there for three and a half hours, nursing a cup of coffee.  “Thank God for free refills!” – he thought to himself.  He was trying hard to focus on the words in front of him, willing the gurgling in his empty stomach to go away.  His hands were slightly shaky.  He could smell the toasted ham and cheese sandwich that someone was eating at a nearby table.  Freshly baked bread had just come out of the oven and the lady behind the counter was stacking the loaves on the shelf.  His mouth started to water and he felt dizzy.  He willed himself to block it all out. Two more hours passed by.

It was closing time.  The coffee shop lady was rushing to close up. She grabbed all the leftover loaves of bread (two were left), bagels (all seven of them), and two donuts – and threw them roughly into a big garbage can, which she wheeled into the back room. He swallowed, throat dry.  A tear escaped from the corner of his eye.  He was too proud to ask. And the coffee shop lady didn’t see, nor would she probably have given him a second thought if she had.  He clenched his jaw and grimly packed his book into his bag.  

He glanced once at the lady behind the counter. Her face was blank when she looked back at him. Oblivious.  She tapped her fingers on the glass, impatient to close the lights.

He left quietly, not looking back.  He wondered whether things would get better after he graduated from college. He wasn’t so sure.

(PS: This coffee shop actually went out of business and closed its doors for good, just one month later. And the fate of the lady behind the counter?  She joined the ranks of the unemployed.)

The Second Edition of Casualties of the Recession Depression will be coming out soon!

All images, photos and text are the property of Heather Joan Marinos and may not be used, reproduced, or distributed.
 Copyright © 2013-2018 Heather Joan Marinos – All Rights Reserved.

 

Layers of Grief

Whoever tells you that grief lessens with time is feeding you a load of nonsense. I loathe platitudes.
Grief never dies. The waves of shock, anger, sorrow and numbness ebb and flow like the tide.

“I was tired of well-meaning folks, telling me it was time I got over being heartbroke.
When somebody tells you that, a little bell ought to ding in your mind.
Some people don’t know grief from garlic grits. There’s somethings a body ain’t meant to get over.
No I’m not suggesting you wallow in sorrow, or let it drag on; no I am just saying it never really goes away.
(A death in the family) is like having a pile of rocks dumped in your front yard.
Every day you walk out and see them rocks. They’re sharp and ugly and heavy.
You just learn to live around them the best way you can.
Some people plant moss or ivy; some leave it be. Some folks take the rocks one by one, and build a wall.”
Michael Lee West, American Pie

 

Image via Pixabay.com.

Why should writers write?

k-bigpic

Why do writers write?

More importantly, why should writers write?

American author Charles Bukowski  (b. 1920 – d. 1994) tells it like it is:

So You Want to Be a Writer
by Charles Bukowski

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 7 of 7: The Divine and the Sublime

(Image via Pixabay.com)

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals.
Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.
We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man.
In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.
They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”
– Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod

I began the first of my 2018 New Year’s “revelations” with The solace of animals” and I will conclude this last (the seventh revelation) with “The Divine and the Sublime.”

For me, as I’m sure for many of you as well, animals are beautiful, divine creatures. I cannot imagine a world without them. I certainly cannot fathom my life without them. In truth, there have been many instances where I have preferred the company of animals to that of humans.

“Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is, surrender to the Now.
Let it teach you Being.
Let it teach you integrity — which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real.
Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living and dying into a problem.”
– Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

In ancient cultures (and still today), animals were worshiped as gods. Their mysticism is steeped in history and religion. In Native American culture, there is an intense respect for and kinship to nature – animals, plants and the environment. Animals are treated with equal respect to humans. Life is revered. One life form is not inferior or superior to the other.  But animals…. well, they can teach us quite a few things.

So I will end my 7 New Year’s Revelations on this note (with further comments below):

“God gave unto the Animals
A wisdom past our power to see:
Each knows innately how to live,
Which we must learn laboriously.”
Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood
(Image via Maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com)

I’ve been writing these New Year’s Revelations for 7 years now and this one will be my last.

May 2018 bring each and every one of you much joy, good health and a renewed appreciation for the beauty of animals, nature and of those you hold dear.

Cheers,

– Heather

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 6 of 7: The rise of the smartphone zombies

(Image via Flickr.com)
“Casting a curious gaze down on planet Earth, extra-terrestrial beings could well be forgiven for assuming that we humans are programmed in every move we make, by a palm-sized, oblong, slab of glass.
More perplexing than that, who on earth could convince them otherwise?”
– Alex Morritt, Impromptu Scribe

This picture says it all, really.

We’ve become addicted to our phones and tablets. We walk around, with our eyes glued to our smartphones, rather than enjoying our surroundings. At restaurants, our eyes involuntarily stray to our phones – multiple times – while in the company of friends and loved ones.  Even more alarming, some of us do this while driving.

It’s dangerous.

It’s anti-social.

And, in my opinion, it’s ridiculous. We look like smartphone zombies.

So, what’s the solution? Granted, we do need our phones to communicate. But just like most good parents should limit the amount of TV and video games that their children should engage in, so should we adults minimize our unhealthy obsession with our smartphones.

I know this may sound old-fashioned, but how about leaving our phones in our pockets or purses while enjoying dinner. Communicate – face-to-face – with those around you. Studies have shown that excessive use of these mobile devices may cause psychological damage as it relates to the development of interpersonal relationships. Humans are, by nature, social animals. This type of behavior is counter-intuitive.

If we keep it up, it will not end well for us. The negatives outweigh the positives (including the convenience).

A 2017 study from Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) found that in 52%  of all car accidents, drivers had been on their phones – 29% were driving over 56 miles per hour. According to the study, the most common driving distractions are texting, browsing social media and email – each averaging approximately 135 seconds in duration. These are real statistics. It’s NOT fake news!

Will it have to take some type of epic catastrophe or tragedy to make us stop? I hope not.

I entreat all smartphone zombies: please, please limit your cell phone use! You’ll have a better quality of life. More importantly, you’ll live long enough to enjoy it.

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

 

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation #5 of 7: Do it yourself

(Image via Freestockphotos.biz)
“Having someone do certain things for you is like getting someone to chew your food for you.
It might be easier to swallow but it loses all its flavor…
And you want the flavor!”
Ze Frank, American online performance artist, composer, humorist and public speaker

The concept of outsourcing has, in my opinion, reached new and ridiculous levels.

Portable car washing services. Portable dog bathing and grooming services. Gardeners. Housekeepers. Pool services. Handymen. Personal shoppers. And on and on.

Are we no longer capable of doing things ourselves? We seem to be a disposable society – very quick to throw away money on unnecessary expenses. Imagine how much money we would bank, if we took a few hours to take matters into our own hands.

Tell me something: whatever happened to washing our own car on a sunny Saturday morning or afternoon, with our favorite music blaring in the background?
And does it truly take that long to rake our leaves or mow our lawn? Really?

Do we really need the dog cleaning mobile to drive up to our home to bathe and groom our pup? It will take us half an hour – tops –to do it ourselves. And we’ll share some bonding time with our pooch.

Are we really that busy that we can’t take care of our own homes and basic chores?
Have we become too self-important for our own good?

Granted, I’m old school. Very old school. As a child, I was brought up to clean my own room and help with the house chores.
Today, I still do everything myself. Along with my husband. Whatever we can do ourselves, we do. Whatever we can fix ourselves, we fix. Neighbors often shake their heads when they see me doing yard work, painting my house or pressure washing my driveway. They look up in shock when they see my husband straddling the rooftop with his chainsaw – trimming overgrown tree branches.

I’m very busy. My husband is very busy. We both value our time. Yet, we still do everything ourselves. It’s invigorating. It’s gratifying.
A little manual work is good for the soul.

Maybe we, as a society, should stop spending so much time on our smartphones, exercising our texting thumbs and, instead, start doing some of our own work around the home. It’s good for us. And, it’s actually a lot of fun.

Just sayin’….


(Image via Flickr.com)
“If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 3 of 7: Remove “hate” from the vocabulary

(Image via Pixabay.com)
“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”
Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

I’ll keep this one brief. Not too long ago, I was speaking with a neighbor. We were discussing a number of things and I realized I used the word “hate” and “loathe” at least three or four times in the conversation. Phrases such as “I hate crowds” or “I loathe commercialism during the Christmas season”… these words flow from my tongue easily. Yet when I play back these conversations in my mind, I am distressed at how negative they sound. By nature, I am not a negative person. Yet my vocabulary says otherwise. I intend to remove the word “hate” (and any of its synonyms) from my day-to-day vocabulary (and mindset).

“Hate” is an awfully strong emotion. And, in the world of social media networking, haters are coming out of the virtual woodwork. It’s disturbing. It’s sad. There are many angry people out there. They need to chill out. We all do.

(Image via Pixabay.com)

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 2 of 7: Just the two of us

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)
“Marriage, ultimately, is the practice of becoming passionate friends.”
– Harville Hendrix

I have one best friend. He’s the person who has journeyed with me – through heaven, purgatory and hell (figuratively speaking, of course) for almost 4 decades. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our ups and downs. Neither one of us is easy to live with… but we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s just the two of us – and our cats. And we’re happy that way. We enjoy each other’s company – the most.  When we sit down for dinner – whether at home or at a restaurant – we have long conversations. There’s always something to discuss, dreams to share, plans to be made.

But over the years, we’ve noticed that other people – with children and extended family – seem to feel sorry that it’s “just the two of us.”  Some well-meaning friends and family members (all of whom live miles and oceans away) can’t seem to grasp that we spend holidays (like Christmas and Thanksgiving) with “just the two of us” and that it’s actually our choice to do so. Others perceive it to be a lonely existence. But that is their perception – which is entirely subjective. It’s not the reality. Well, it may be theirs, but not ours.

We choose to live the way we do. It works for us. We are a family of two. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful poem by Spiritwind Wood.

Let’s Grow Old Together – a Poem by Spiritwind Wood

Let’s sit underneath the open sky
and watch the night just pass us by
let’s me and you dream of the now
and don’t worry about tomorrow
you know we will make it somehow

Let us talk about our plan
two lover’s hand in hand
and let’s grow old together

Let’s let go of all the past
all the tears and all the sorrow
let’s dream through a desert so wide and vast
slow down and not take life so fast

Let’s let the sun shine down on you and me
where we will always be forever
and let’s grow old together

Let’s stop and feel the wind blow
through the canyon’s of it’s echo
ride with me through life and it’s beauty
two soul’s bound to be free

Let’s forget about days of yesterday
start anew another day
never to look back into the never
and let’s grow old together

(Spiritwind ©2014)

(Image via Pixabay.com)

 

Farewell 2017 and Hello 2018!

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
Ellen Goodman, American Journalist

Like any other year, 2017 had its share of peaks and valleys. Personally, I will not be sorry to see 2017 go. And I am approaching the next twelve months with cautious optimism. I am very curious to see how it all pans out. 

“Each day hands me a clean sheet of paper upon which to write. Therefore, I would be wise to write without ever having the need to erase.”
Craig D. Lounsbrough

Many blessings for 2018 and may tonight’s New Year’s Eve celebration be filled with laughter, good food, plenty of bubbly libation, and the company of those you hold dear!

And, as always, a very special shout-out to my family and friends across the globe.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the first of my annual seven New Year’s Revelations (not to be confused with resolutions.. I stopped making resolutions decades ago!). 

And a new chapter begins ….

Cheers!

heatherfromthegrove