Friday, July 20, 2012

American Gypsies

I write Women’s Fiction, so it’s important for me to connect with other women in the blogosphere by writing on topics that are of interest to us, particularly in the realm of relationships. I wrote a blog post about friendships and the ultimate value of them, and I also mentioned my good friend, Shannon. I’ve written about husbands (all in a positive light, of course). Eventually, I’ll get to one of my favorite topics, which is about mothering and how not to murder your teenagers.

Today I really don’t want to write about relationships or even women’s issues. I love relationships in all of its forms. The nuances in the way humans interact is a fascinating psychological study, plus they’re fun. But lately, for the purpose of the novel I’m writing, my focus has been on researching Roma traditions and the unique ways they live their lives.

There’s a short-run show that just started called “American Gypsies”. Admittedly, I haven’t seen it yet because I’ve been travelling, but I look forward to catching some of the future episodes. From what I’ve read, the show follows one Roma family that lives in New York City. As I’ve said, I haven’t watched it, but my mother has, and this is what she reported:

“The senior male of the family has most of the control even in the lives of his adult children and their children. The children are home schooled and not allowed to mix with non-gypsies. Girls are expected to marry by age 16 and go to live with her husbands’ parents so she can be properly trained by her mother-in-law to be a good wife to her son. One of the sons wanted to allow his daughters to take acting lessons, and that caused friction but he did it anyway. If a woman works she is to become a fortune teller.

“The wife of the senior male has some control but of course everyone is subject to the senior male. One of the teenage sons (grandsons) is dating a non-gypsy which is completely taboo. One can only marry another gypsy. The laws governing the gypsies aren't just the local laws. They have their own laws and courts.”

The reason I mentioned my mom’s review of the show is to point out the fact that not all Roma and not all tribes are the same. While I understand the fascination with cultures that are not our own, it’s very easy for us as outsiders to only see one segmented view. For example, in Hungary, many (not all) Roma children attend school. Some schools are integrated with other Hungarian children while others are segregated. Also, many of the articles I’ve read pointed out that the segregated schools do not offer the same high standards of education Hungary seeks to achieve; however, the fact remains that not all Roma children are homeschooled.

When I visited Pécs, Hungary recently, I interviewed a tour guide who told me that the esteemed University of Pécs had Roma professors. The most vocal advocate for Roma equality, Ian Hancock, holds two PhDs and is a professor in my home state.

Education is only one, but an important one, of the differences among the tribes and localities of these fascinating people. While I plan to watch the show and encourage others to as well, please keep in mind that no culture or sub-culture can fit so narrowly into pre-conceived stereotypes.

They are a people with long-held traditions, and most do not wish to be assimilated, but a right understanding of who they are and what they believe is something us gadje (non-Roma) can give them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Roma Women and Rights

There has been a lot done in our nation to further women’s rights. Some of which has produced great benefits; others, not so much, and I’ll talk about the negatives in future posts. While not everything is perfect, I believe in embracing the positives and not throwing the baby out with the bath water, to use an old cliché. However, this post isn’t about the good of women’s rights in America. We have that already. I want to talk about women who don’t know they’re supposed to have rights and an organization that is benefitting them.

Roma, better known as Gypsies, are a minority group who primarily live in Central and Eastern Europe. In many countries, neither the men nor the women have much in the way of rights. Because their traditions and laws are so different from their host countries', they’ve been persecuted, enslaved, and ignored for centuries. Admittedly, some of it has been deserved while much of it hasn’t. Other than in America and England, one of the better countries for them to reside in is Hungary. Hungary recognizes them as citizens and has laws in place to educate and protect them. While their education system has some flaws, it’s a good start even though many Roma haven’t taken full advantage because of their traditions.

This is where the women come in. There is an organization in the beautiful city of Pécs called "Colorful Pearls" (Szines Gyöngyök). Its purpose is to empower Romani women, and they provide assistance with social, legal, and mental health issues. The president and founder, Anna Kelemen stated in this interview that the women tend to be more flexible than the men in bettering their standards of living and promoting cultural acceptance.

Naturally, there was some opposition, particularly at first, among the Roma men because they believed the hierarchy of their families would be in jeopardy. Anna had her work cut out for her in convincing the Roma community that her work in educating the women and empowering them to find jobs and to work for the betterment of themselves and their families was for the benefit of the women and not in opposition to the men. The family structure is not infringed upon; rather their statuses within the Hungarian community have improved.

What Anna Kelemen has done is not just for the improvement of Roma women, but she has also furthered the work in minority rights.

To find out more about "Colorful Pearls" or to contribute to this important cause, please visit their site (assuming you can read Hungarian).

Friday, June 29, 2012

Scary Writing Trip

Today I'm deviating from writing about relationships to say that I'll be going on a two week hiatus in order to take the trip of a lifetime. This is the scariest and most exciting thing I've ever done. I am going to Hungary alone to research the culture, people, and setting for the novel I'm currently writing.

I'm not a planner or an organizer, but I've been having to do both so that when I land, I don't go into full panic mode trying to figure out where I'm staying, where's the train station, and what in the heck does a repuloteri mean? (Hint: it means airport.) So, I've had to do the unthinkable. I planned my trip. After doing heavy research, I made online reservations to hostels. The one in Budapest is across the street from the train station I'll need to get to Pecs the next day. I arranged for a shuttle from the airport to the hostel. I've been making a list of all the places I want to go when I get to Pecs.

As unusual as all that is for me, I feel a lot more comfortable and confident about my upcoming trip.

It's usually a good thing for people to step out of their comfort zones and try something new. It will open up new worlds and possibilities that may not have seen possible. It will expose people to new ways of thinking and will show us what we are capable of and that we are stronger than we realize.

What sorts of things have you done that may have seen impossible at first? How did you accomplish it, and what did you learn? Experiences and stories like these are inspirational, and I'm eager to hear about yours.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mothers and Daughters

Yesterday I saw Pixar's "Brave" with my son. I took him instead of my daughter because she's a teen, and my son is just the right age. That was before I really knew what kind of a movie it was.

I knew it wasn't the typical Disney princess movie, and I had heard in a review that unlike in other princess movies, Merida did not ride off into the sunset with her prince charming. What I didn't know until I saw the movie yesterday is that it's a mother/daughter film. A traditional queen and her selfish, free-spirited daughter are at odds as to what Merida's destiny should be, and they both have wonderful character arcs as they change and learn together about what's important.

This reminded me of the occasional mother/daughter movies I used to see with my mom and sister, the last being the Susan Sarandon/Natalie Portman team in "Anywhere But Here".

Mother/daughter movies are important. They provide bonding to the vital relationship. Such films provide topics of discussion and how it relates on a practical level to the mother/daughter duos watching the film. Such discussions lead to learning how to work together to find solutions to issues similar to what the characters in the film faced. This is where art meets the needs of society and reflects who and where we are and benefits us as individuals. Relationships strengthen through the philosophies shared in whatever medium the artist chooses. This is not to say all art and all movies are equal or that all philosophies are equal because they’re not. However, art, including movies, can provoke thinking and discussion and can even change some small part of our lives.

Even though I didn’t see “Brave” with my daughter, it’s still a good parent/child movie no matter the gender, and it just may speak to the heart of what someone is facing right now. After all, isn’t that what good art does?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Women Rule

I came across an old NY Times article on the biases against women rulers and why they are more effective in monarchies than in democratic societies.

Many things went through my mind as I read the article. One of which was the biblical account of Deborah in the book of Judges. She ruled with wisdom and peace. The Bible hailed her as the greatest of the ruling judges of Israel. Another thought was on Queen Hatshepsut, which the writer of the article gave a nod to.

Hatshepsut was the daughter of Tuthmosis I (note the suffix 'mosis') and married to her half-brother, Tuthmosis II and ruled for twenty years after her husband died and before her son could take the throne. When she was a child, she 'mothered' the son of a peasant, Senenmut. According to the statues and drawings of the two of them together, they were very close. As an adult, he was Queen Hatshepsut's most powerful officer and closest advisor, but he abruptly disappeared when he was forty.

I realize it seems I have gotten off subject, and perhaps I have, but during Queen Hatshepsut's rein, Egypty experienced peace and prosperity, which is the point of my mention of her and her rule. Immediately after her death, God pronounced judgment on Egypt through the return of Senenmut, you know him as Moses.

Another thought that went through my mind as I read the article has to do with my own personal experience with women managers. In most cases, their dealings with male subordinates were just, fair, and very effective, but they changed tactics when dealing with female subordinates. Women bosses have been typically harsher, more erratic, and more condescending with other women than with men in the same position. The article mentioned that women are harsher with other women in authority than men are, and in my experience, the flip-side of petty jealousies and prejudices are equally true. If women are to lead, then we need to change the prejudices, and we aren't going to change the prejudices unless we learn to respect and support each other first.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Differences Between the Sexes

Why do women want to smell like pina colodas, cucumbers, or peaches but not bacon or beer?

I wish I thought of this topic, but since Kristen Lamb did an awesome job with it, I'll just share the link with you. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Here's a very cool contest I'm passing on to my readers. On the Fiction Femme Fatale site they're giving away two books by Libba Bray (I've read three of her books, and she's an excellent story teller) and three critiques. If you want to join in, the rules are you must blog, tweet, etc. about the contest and comment on the blog with a link back to your post. That's it. Good luck.

Monday, June 11, 2012

What's His Secret Mission?

Some women are stuck in a relationship that doesn’t seem to go anywhere. He says he loves her, but where’s the ring? It’s been five years, and while he’s content to coast, she’s watching her friends walk down the aisle with me who are crazy about their new brides. What’s the deal? Is he a commitment phobe? Possibly, but there’s another answer that is more likely. Men need to be wanted and loved. They have a need to love and to give, but they can also be quite content to have regular sex with multiple women or even just one woman without ever being inspired to give her the world… and that includes the ring. So what inspires men out of their comfort zone to really going after the woman of their dreams?

A secret mission.

Now everyone reading this thinks I’m crazy. But let’s go inside the psychology of a man for a minute. Every man feels like he’s been put on this earth for a reason. Some may not even know what his purpose is. It’s so secret, he doesn’t even know it. Yet, he still feels there is a mission, something that he must accomplish during his lifetime. When he meets a woman whom he believes can help him fulfill his mission in life, he will make winning her over his new mission in order to have the life partner he needs to accomplish his real goals.

It’s been said, “Knowing is half the battle”. But I’m sure many who are reading this are feeling even more confused. “How can I show a man that I can help him complete his mission when he doesn’t even know what it is?” You do this by listening. What are his passions? Does he have hobbies or goals outside of work? Maybe his particular career is his main goal in life, but most of the time it’s not. It’s something deeper.

When I was dating my husband, we had some good theological discussions. I was thrilled that I could speak to someone who shared the same passion as me, and he in turn was amazed that he could have such conversations with a woman (and an attractive one at that). After two months of dating, he told me that in his first career he was a pastor. I was blown away by that statement because my secret wish was to be a pastor’s wife, but I knew that a woman my age who was divorced with two children probably didn’t have a chance. For the same reason, he also knew it wasn’t possible for him to pastor again, but he had also given up the idea of doing anything ministerial. For the first time, each of us knew that although our exact goals couldn’t be met but that together there was a possibility that we could move forward together. It wasn’t long after that he started talking about marriage, and the way he doted on me almost seemed magical.

In that story, you can see that in showing him I was the right woman to help him with a secret mission but that our secret missions corresponded. There was no reason for me to change who I was to meet his needs, and this is as equally important. You can’t be fake about being his secret mission partner. You have to make sure he’s also your secret mission partner.

Hopefully, you’re wondering if I’ve actually helped my dear husband with his life’s purpose. I’ll revisit this subject in time. Right now, if you’re single or single in a dead end relationship, I want you to keep this blog in mind as you look for the right guy. If you’re married, figure out his mission in life and start finding ways to help him achieve it. You will see an amazing transformation in your marriage.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Friends: Why We Need Them

Currently, I'm writing a book set in Hungary. Yes, it's multi-cultural, and the book will explore cultural differences not just between the main character, Amanda (an American), and her Hungarian family but also with regards to a minority race. However, as with any women's fiction, the major themes will surround relationships. Family will play a major part in this but so will friendships. As any pantser will tell you, I always amaze myself when my characters do something quite unexpected. Amanda's love interest has a brother and two sisters. One of the sisters was going to be left in the background. She would add her own depth to the story as a minority struggling for an education that's been denied to her, but she was still going to be a minor character. Amanda had her own idea because she decided to make that woman a close friend. That's the trouble with book characters-- they have a mind of their own.

In honor of Amanda and Jolan's relationship, I've decided to write a blog post on the importance of friends. They comfort us when we're down and give a boot to the ass when we need it. True friends are valuable to our lives and how we live them. Aristotle has been quoted as saying, "In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a surge of refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds."

Research has shown that when people feel unloved and have no one to lean on, there is a higher propensity towards homelessness, obesity, divorce, and other social and personal ills. Tom Rath from Gallup Organization posted some enlightening statistics:

1. If your best friend eats healthily, you are five times more likely to eat healthy as well.
2. Married people say their friendship with each other is five times as important as physical intimacy.
3. People without friends in the work place have only a one in twelve chance of feeling engaged in their job.

But just because friendships have its benefits, it doesn't mean we seek out those who line up to certain ideals to give us these benefits. Just like with Amanda and Jolan, friendships can arise indirectly by just living life and following our passions.

I'll give you another example, a real one. I enjoy archery, but until late last year I hadn't shot in years. I discovered that a woman at church I liked but didn't know well had recently acquired a bow and has been excited about archery. We started talking, and since then, we've met almost every week for archery practice. While we shoot, we talk about our kids, our husbands, and our lives. We're connecting as we fling arrows at targets. Both of us were pursuing our interests which resulted in a friendship. The benefits we share are vital, but they're also incidental because it's not forced. It's natural.

When we embrace those close to us, we realize we're not alone. We have an advocate who helps us get through this life through counsel, good examples, and the best medicine of all-- laughter.

Friday, May 25, 2012

For the Husband

My third year anniversary is coming up, and I know my beloved husband would love to have some boudois photos of me. Nothing skanky; just something classy yet sexy. However, I'm in my early forties, and I don't feel sexy. I'm fluffy in areas I never used to be fluffy. My stomach's still flat, but the girth has significantly increased, and my butt is huge. So I do what anyone in this predicament would do-- I dieted and excersised. There was some improvement, but I realized that I'm no longer at an age when I can think, "I want to be skinny today", and poof! I'm skinny! Along the way, I heard about drinking massive amounts of water to curb appetite, and I also heard about a shaper made by Spanx. So, between the shaper, drinking so much water I didn't have enough room for food, and alternating between going to the gym and walking in the park, I lost six pounds and had trimmed down nicely.

Great, right?

Wearing the spanx all the time caused a certain area not to breathe. I come down with a major infection six days before my appointment with the photographer. Antibiotics was able to kick it out in a few days, but I felt too miserable to move for the first two days. Then I spent two days at a writer's conference. You think I'm going to be uncomfortable sweating in a binder, running to the bathroom every fifteen minutes and deprive myself of gooey, chocolate chip cookies during a conference I look forward to every year? I don't think so. So guess how much weight I gained back? Not quite all of it-- five pounds, and I'm fluffy again because I hadn't felt like working out. I put the binder back on, after I cut out the crotch, but how much good will it do to only wear it the day before the photo shoot?

It was time to use my forty-year old brain and stop wishing I had the body of a twenty-year old just to satisfy my older, desk-job-bodied husband who worships my body anyway. So I did the most sensible thing I could think of:

"Honey, what is the absolute sexiest thing you would like to see me in?"

Was that so hard? He knows what he likes, and he gave me the perfect answer-- one of his dress shirts because it exposes my best asset, my legs.


Not only that, the photographer at Malek Foto knew how to pose me for some very tasteful, yet sexy pictures that my wonderful husband will certainly enjoy, and I can still have chocolate chip cookies without drinking enough water to drown an elephant.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


The title says it all. I'm a writer, but does the blogosphere really need another writing blog? There are some great ones out there with sound advice, but I'm pretty sure the only ones who visit are other writers. That is part of the reason I haven't been very active. What's the point?

The point is to connect with readers. Who are my readers? Women. What a coincidence! I'm a woman. What I love about women is that we are all unique with different perspectives, lives, and family dramas, but there's still a thread that connects us all. We need to feel, create, and connect. We love our men and our children, but we need other women to share our experiences with and to laugh and cry with. There's just one rule: If you cry too much on my blog, you'll need to dry off the screen yourself.

So this is just a short intro to let people know there will be a definite shift in the theme of this blog. I'll be discussing relationships, my fat ass, and my up coming research trip to Hungary. Tomorrow I'll share my experience with a boudoir photo session that I did for my husband for our anniversary. Shhh... Our anniversary is next month, so don't tell him.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Query Letter

Allie Baxter is a survivor. True, she represses memories of her parents’ murder and she’s a recovering sex addict, but at least she’s functional and doesn’t require weekly counseling, unlike her therapy-addicted sister.

The pitted burn scars on Allie’s stomach serve as a daily reminder of the tragedy that took her parents’ lives. But all that matters now is to raise her adopted teenage daughter and to maintain her decent life as a single mother. Everything changes the day she learns her sister is housing a sexual predator— her sister’s childhood abuser. She seeks to numb her devastation with her former drug of choice after eight years of celibacy, but instead meets Steven, a thirty-something college student who talks about philosophy and literature. Allie feels safe with Steven and thinks she could love him, but he hides a secret of his own.

The nightmares of her childhood resurface when her daughter is injured and her sister insists on bringing up the past. Steven convinces her to visit the house where it started, but someone who doesn’t want her to remember attempts to destroy her sanity.

HOUSE OF THISTLES is women’s fiction, a 75,000-word story of a woman’s attempt to redeem herself from the sins visited upon her.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.