LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WILLS FAMILY THROUGH MARALYS' MEMOIRS: A CIRCUS WITHOUT ELEPHANTS AND A CLOWN IN THE TRUNK

Thursday, June 22, 2017

AN ADVENTURE LIKE NO OTHER




AN ADVENTURE LIKE NO OTHER
                                               
Imagine yourself standing at the edge of a thousand foot cliff, with a ferocious wind whipping your hair and sand blowing in your eyes and nothing below but threatening, rocky space. Your oldest son has just persuaded you to launch into that space, a tandem passenger on his hang glider.  The only problem is, you are a forty-four year old mother, a devout coward, with plans to stick around and raise your six kids.  What on earth are you doing here!

Thus began one of the most terrifying events in my life, an experience I Iook back on now with utter disbelief, wondering still how I ever strapped myself into such an elemental contrivance as a hang glider and flew off a cliff so awesome I couldn't stand near its edge . . . how I soared to two thousand feet--with small planes flying below us--and managed not to faint . . . and how, though I shamelessly begged my son to bring me down, I eventually came to love it! 

None of it makes sense now.  Why did I momentarily stop being the person who has steadfastly refused to ride on Space Mountain and who, in the movie theater, subconsciously feels around for a seat belt? 

In fact, why did I do any of the things I did back in the early days of hang gliding?          

I’ve tried to explain all this in my book, HIGHER THAN EAGLES, which is an account mothers everywhere will understand.  It is the story of how life creeps up on you: how one can have five sons and a daughter and never imagine that three of the boys will become flying-mad kids and persuade you they must fly; how rational parents are talked into starting a hang glider manufacturing company and then persuaded to help run it; how sons drag their parents to championships, claiming they can win . . . and then WIN; how boys imagine they can set world records . . . and then SET them. 

HIGHER THAN EAGLES is about being a parent who follows her kids' dreams--and because of them lives richly for a time, more richly than she ever imagined.  But it is also about loss and coming to grips with tragedy.  About trying to understand the why of losing a child, and realizing in the end you will not only never fully understand, you could not, looking back, do anything differently.  That it was the children themselves who led you to make decisions you would make again in a minute. 

I wrote HIGHER THAN EAGLES because I had to.  Though it took fourteen years to find a publisher (and I sold six other books meanwhile), I knew I'd never give up.  Once it became the lead title for Longstreet Press, I was free to go on to other books--and to continue teaching novel-writing, which I love as much as writing itself.  For who else but a budding novelist really wants to know how to make a scene come alive . . . or finds daily discoveries about the craft of writing as exciting as I do. 

If writing were as lucrative as it is compelling, there would be few other professions, for how else can we preserve forever the things we've experienced.  The images.  The ideas.  The feelings.  The logic.  The lack of logic.  The sheer craziness. 

And so I live both in the "real" world and the world of the imagination, and I cannot see myself doing anything else.


(When a writer’s club asked for an essay in advance of my appearance, this is what I sent.)  








Saturday, June 10, 2017

WHAT'S REALLY LIKELY TO KILL YOU?



WHAT’S REALLY LIKELY TO KILL YOU?



It’s not what you think.

Putting aside Disease, Accidents, and Natural Disasters . . . where does imminent danger really lie?

The truth has been clear to this household for decades: In guns.

Some years ago, the Los Angeles Times compared our country to mostly gun-free Great Britain: (Admittedly, a large population difference means this isn’t an oranges-to-oranges comparison.)  But still: The same year that guns killed 350 British citizens, Americans lost 30,000+ people to gunshots.  Not all were homicides. But all were caused by bullets.   

For the deadliest of reasons—ignorance, greed, and a quest for power—blame lies partly  with the National Rifle Association.  Medical statisticians, among others, agree that their propaganda is built on lies.

Among the statistics the NRA would never admit . . . dying by gunshot is far likelier among households that own guns.   

So why is America laser-focused on terrorism?  How likely are we to die at the hands of a foreign terrorist? 

Irvine resident, Victoria Reiser, offers statistics by Business Insider:

“The lifetime odds of being killed in an assault using a gun are 1 in 358;  in an attack by a foreign-born terrorist, 1 in 45,808; in an attack by a refugee terrorist, 1 in 46,192,893; and in an attack by an illegal immigrant terrorist, 1 in 138,324,873.”

Thanks to the inherent meanness in Trump, ICE daily terrorizes and exports people who haven’t yet, and never will harm us. At the same time, he “buddies-up” to the biggest source of incipient danger—the NRA.  And finally, he spews American vitriol among Islamic countries who once meant us no evil . . . as though he wants to stir up hatred and a new willingness to “get even.” 

Which brings me to a startling conclusion: Trump is our nation’s scariest threat. 



 


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

SMALL KIDS INFILTRATE A LUAU




SMALL KIDS INFILTRATE A LUAU


Meaning, you saw them everywhere, kind of like leaves carried in a gust of wind.

For Rob and me they made the luau. 

But it almost didn’t happen . . . 

Once more, our very large immediate family (4 generations—now grown to 39 members) were on vacation, thanks to our leader, who refers to himself as “Spongebob.”   Each year, wherever we’re headed, the members get themselves there, whereupon Spongebob takes over.  (Many a friend has asked, “Can I join your family? Nobody would ever notice.”  Which might be true.)  

This time 29 of us made it to Kiahuna, on the island of Kauai. 

There must have been a few unrelated guests at Kiahuna who wished they’d come at a different time.  With our family occupying  ten units, we had our joyous—make that noisy--moments.  Each night a different family cooked dinner for the mob, after which the athletes among us took over the vast resort lawn for spectacular demonstrations of whirling Frisbees.  With each throw, the orange disc whirled across the length of a football field, captured gracefully by some male between five-eleven and six-three . . . but occasionally landing in the hands of a child who hadn’t quite reached four feet. 

Like puppies, the kids kept leaping up to intercept those flying discs.  

On our last night, at a cost equal to the down payment on a car, we signed up for a luau. Having seen more than my share of such extravaganzas, I was ready to bypass this one. But thank heavens I didn’t.

First thing I knew, the MC was probing the crowd for birthdays.  Rob, days short of 90, didn’t volunteer.  Instead, the great grandkids—eight of them, ten and under—“volunteered” for him.  Like a swarm of insects, they gathered behind Rob’s head . . . giggling, pointing and shouting, “Here!  Him!” Of course the MC noticed and Rob was forced to trumpet out his age.

Only moments later, the man on stage asked for longest marriages, and this time Rob cooperated. “Sixty-nine years!” he shouted,  (my math genius was “off” by half a year), which brought us enthusiastic applause. 

As if this weren’t enough, soon seven of our eight youngsters were up on stage learning--or sort of learning--the Hula . . . even Annalise, who is only two.  Budding show-offs that they were, none were shy about wiggling their hips or spinning in circles. (Which excepts Annalise, who mostly stood and stared out at the crowd.)  

For the rest of the show, our young performers gathered on a berm of land at one end of the stage and perched there like birds on a wire. 

But the excitement didn’t end. After the show, numerous men came up to congratulate Rob on our extended marriage (as if it was all because of him), and even on the plane returning home, a passenger made a point of shaking Rob’s hand.

This may be the one occasion when neither of us minded that we’d already lived such a vast number of years.  



Thursday, May 4, 2017

"TRUMPCARE" . . . MEANS NO CARE



A SAD DAY FOR AMERICA

Make that another sad day for America.

The first came in November with our election of the least qualified man ever chosen as U.S. president. Today, even FBI leader, James Comey, says he is “slightly nauseous” that he may have influenced the outcome.  Whatever.  He certainly didn’t help.   

Early this week, just as I was celebrating the bipartisan House spending bill that incorporated compromises most of us can live with . . .  the issue of a major health care reversal loomed like a grizzly bear on the sidelines, ready to eviscerate its victim. 

Today—just minutes ago--it happened.  Our House of Representatives has taken the first step to make Obamacare disappear.  Claiming that in some states it has already vanished,  the “house,” by a narrow margin, voted down the rest. Instead of fixing what was already there, house members placated Freedom Caucus members (notoriously against spending money to help anyone), to get needed votes.

If the Senate agrees,  ailing Americans will suffer just as surely as though attacked by bears.  The hurried, careless way this bill has been thrown together—with zero input from health care professionals—means millions of sick Americans will find themselves with minimal care.  Or none.    

Oh, yes, the Republicans pretended that “The States”  would take over the “pre-existing conditions” issue, putting sick people into high-risk pools.  But California, the most liberal of states, has already proven such pools don’t work.  Today’s front page article in the Los Angeles Times (“A Case Study in State-run Health Failures”) describes what happens.  People are put on long waiting lists. And meanwhile they get sicker.

Richard Figueroa, a past enrollment director of such a pool, laments the outcome when desperately ill people are finally sent the all-important, life-saving letter. “They would say, “Thank you, but you can give our slot to someone else, because my brother or my wife or my daughter has died.”

A vital question:  who among you, reading this piece, does not already have a “pre-existing condition?”  If,  during your thirty, forty, or however-many years, you’ve been to the doctor for anything,  you can be presumed as having such a condition. My twenty-something grandson,  prone to strep-throats, has been seen by doctors several times . . . no doubt a disqualifying ailment for traditional insurance companies.

With today’s all-political, non-medical bill a victory for Trump and Ryan, ordinary citizens are about to reap what the voters sowed in November.  We hope it’s not a medical disaster.

But with health care now dictated in part by the Freedom Caucus . . . what else can it be?    

Thursday, April 6, 2017

TRUMP: HOW MANY LAWS WILL WE LET HIM BREAK?




TRUMP: HOW MANY LAWS WILL WE LET HIM BREAK?


I hardly need to blog about Trump any more; the Los Angeles Times is doing all the
work for me . . . and for everyone else who feels that our president is an unmitigated disaster.  The Times’ five editorials, so far, are so strongly-worded they tend to ring in your head.  For hours.   

Yet one question remains unanswered:  How about all those laws Trump is breaking—and when will the American public demand he be held accountable?

Among them: 

1.) The law against presidential despotism, enacted after Jack Kennedy made his brother, Robert, Attorney General.  So far, both daughter,  Ivanka, and son-in law Jared, are acting as semi-official Secretaries of State. They may not receive salaries, but both have been given top security clearances, and Ivanka, at least, has a White House office--plus other benefits of high office. If this isn’t nepotism, what is?    

 2.)  The Supreme Court provision about a president accepting “Foreign Emoluments." Heads of State from foreign countries seem prone to stay at various Trump Towers, thereby offering foreign monies to enrich our president.  

3.) Rules against Conflicts of Interest.  Since the president has never divested himself of his business interests (perhaps not required by law), his Trump Enterprises continues to grow during the president’s reign—with new “deals” constantly being arranged in various American and major foreign cities . . . a direct nod to the power of our highest office.  How can this continuing behavior not be seen as a Conflict of Interest?   

4.) Rules governing Charitable Foundations: It’s already been proven that the Trump Foundation gave $25,000 as a “gift” to a Florida Attorney General--which resulted in her dismissal of a Floridian suit against Trump University--plus the public has seen photos of the life-size portrait of himself, purchased by Trump with Foundation funds.  

These two acts suggest that here not one, but two rules have been broken--a rule against bribery, and another against self-enrichment with Foundation funds.

A few judges have declared, “Even the president is not above the law.”

Yet so far our various law enforcement agencies have noted these transgressions but taken no action.  Who is responsible, anyway, for getting him into court? When will the American public rise up and demand that even King Trump must follow the rules?

Once again, I can’t help pointing out: When we elected a man with no character to the country’s highest office, we can expect an administration with no morality . . . operating in flagrant disregard of accepted laws.    




Friday, March 31, 2017

SCAMMER DEFEATED--THANKS TO MY BLOG



THE NINE-THOUSAND DOLLAR BLOG


Over the phone I heard the excitement in my friend’s voice: “You saved someone’s life. I couldn’t wait to tell you.”

“Really?”  Now she had me excited, too. 

“Remember that blog you wrote about the scam you fell for?  Or nearly fell for? And how you barely escaped losing a ton of money?”

“Four thousand dollars,” I said. 

“Well, let me tell you about what happened to my daughter, Allison.  An older man came into her bank and wanted to withdraw nine-thousand dollars.  He seemed agitated and in a hurry. As bankers have been trained to do, Allison asked,  ‘May I ask what the money is for?’”

 Predictably, he said, “None of your business.’”

Suspecting he might be on the verge of trouble, Allison said, “Let me tell you a story. This happened to a friend of my mother’s.”  And she related the details from the blog I’d sent out--about the phone call from a grandson: “This is your favorite grandson,” how, with that phrase, I honestly thought it was him.

How from then on, I was hooked.  That I believed the young man’s tale about having done some light drinking (never mind that my grandson doesn’t drink), about his being in an auto accident with a car full of diplomats (meaning “diplomatic immunity”),  then, my talk with his “lawyer” about averting a DUI—if I came up with $4000 bail money. 

The rest involved gift cards at Target . . . and quickly thereafter, an appointment  with my hairdresser, who said immediately, “I know how this is going to end.” With that I leaped out of the chair, called my husband, (who called the grandson), then made another fast call to Target—just in time to cancel the cards.

Allison’s customer, a retired attorney, listened avidly, then at last swallowed his pride and related his own story: a grandson calling from the wrong state (“I’m here for a friend’s funeral,”)  a voice that didn’t sound quite deep enough, the talk with the grandson’s  “attorney”,  something about an accident in a Uber car, about marijuana in the car, and the need for an attorney to put up bail . . . which meant nine-thousand dollars—in cash. 

At that, Allison said, “Let’s call your grandson,” and so they did, right there in the bank. “May I speak to him?” Allison asked, and the customer nodded. Of course none of the details given to the gentleman were true.  With that, Allison turned the now-grateful customer over to her supervisor.

“Without your story,” my friend told me over the phone, “That man would have lost his nine-thousand dollars.”  As it was, the customer, still shocked, left the bank.

But the tale isn’t over:  An hour later, the gentleman returned—with three boxes of chocolates . . . for Allison, for the bank manager, and for another teller. 

For me, the lovely result is that I’m now getting all the credit. But hey, I’ll take it. Whatever time I spent on that blog, it has suddenly become a nine-thousand-dollar effort . . . clearly, more than worth it.



Friday, March 17, 2017

CLAW MARKS ON AMERICA




CLAW MARKS ON AMERICA



Trump is dismantling our country: look around, his small, ugly hands are leaving scratch marks everywhere.

His plans for America are right there, in his budget---huge, monetary cuts from everything most of us care about.  A)  Medical Research  (NIH)  B)  Clean Air and Clean Water (EPA),  C) Innovation in Research and Development (NOAA)  D) Good Public Schools  (Funds Diverted to Charters)  E) Safe Airline Travel  (wants to Privatize FAA & ATC)   F) Music and Public Broadcasting (NEA, CPB, NEH )   G) Assistance to the Old and the Poor (Meals on Wheels . . . Free School Lunches.)  H) Affordable Health Care (“access” to such care is like “access” to a Lamborghini . . .  you can have it if you can afford it.)   I) Women’s Reproductive Health Care. (Planned Parenthood.) 

Equally terrible is the budget’s other direction:  A) An extra 54 Billion for Defense (with a promise of more atomic bombs)  B) Huge increase in border patrol agents  (now with more immigrants leaving than coming)  C) 2.6 billion for The Wall  D) Tax Cuts for the Wealthiest Americans.

America’s CEOs are happy. Very happy.  Soon they will be the only Americans who are.

If Trump’s wish list is filled, Big Corporations won’t have to worry about:  a) Creating Pollution  b) Offering Less Than Minimum Wages  c) Merging until they Eliminate all Competition d) Big Taxes on Big CEO Salaries  e) Safety Rules that Protect the Public.

To no one’s surprise, Trump himself leads a regulation-free life: No divesting of business interests . . . no apologies for tweets and lies . . .  no revelation of personal tax returns . . . no reimbursement to Secret Service for extra Personal Security . . . no apologies to  innocent Immigrants for Lives Ripped Apart . . .  no apologies for putting trouble-maker Steve Bannon on the Security Council . . .  no explanations for costly rallies in advance of his next term.

For those few Americans who despise regulation, here’s a trial solution: In your city, for one month, eliminate all stop lights and stop signs.  See how it works.

Editorials now beg us to “Normalize” President Trump.  But this man isn’t, hasn’t been, and will never be “Normal.” 

The Donald is, in fact, so abnormal we can only hope his presidency won’t last for a full four years. By then our country will consist of a few exultant CEOs . . . and the rest of us coping with a new and distinctly abusive Dark Ages.