Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Letter to Oprah

Dear Oprah,

I have now participated in two of the 21-Day Meditation challenges that you and Deepak Chopra have put together. I loved them, felt at peace at the start of each day, and learned a lot about myself and my relationships with other people.  The mantra meditation is perfect for a person like me because inevitably, two or three minutes into the music, the mantra is in the background of my ever-churning little mind. Towards the end of this 21-day session, I managed a few times to keep the mantra in the foreground of my thoughts and the busyness in the background instead of vice-versa.

According to Deepak's webside, more than 600,000 people participated in March. Six hundred thousand people!  Wow!  And according to an organization that I helped found, One Percent, there's a theory that “…if one percent of a population of more than 10,000 people practiced meditation [or contemplative prayer] it would have an impact on the collective consciousness of a society."  

I would say with the kind of numbers you and Deepak have going on, something ought to be shifting during those twenty-one days. 

But I'm really bugged by something, Oprah.  At the end of the twenty-one days (give or take some days) the only way a person can access the meditation series is by paying for it. And it's pricey - $50 for the old ones and $40 for the recent one, "Miraculous Relationships."  And darnit, Oprah, I don't believe for one minute that you and Deepak need the money from these CDs  You can afford to give them out for free. 

If one-fourth of the 600,000+ people who participated buy those CDs, you and Deepak stand to gross $6,000,000.  Six million dollars!!

I looked all over the internet to see if the profits from those CDs are maybe being used for a good cause, but I couldn't find a single word to that effect.

So Oprah, here's my request:

If you're so all-fired up about changing the world through 21-day meditations, make them available to everyone for free forever OR give the profits to something that matters.  

I just don't think you need the money. Although your numbers may be down a bit.

Fearlessly speaking my truth with love,

Mamie Potter

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Attention Diverted

Front page news today: 

Lead article: "409 acres preserved for ages"
"Health insurance costs up modestly"
"Afghans take on Pakistan--in a peaceful soccer match"
"Animal rights group sues Raleigh over bus ad"

Second page news:

Aretha cancels yet another concert or two, Dr. Oz rushes to scene of taxi that jumps curb, Presidential pets

Third page news:

A nineteen year old man slips into an elementary school with an AK-47 Watch it here..  Headline: "Gunfire exchanged at Georgia Elementary School."

{yawn} It is getting to be stale news, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Press 53 Gathering of Writers

This weekend I went to a writing event put on by Press 53 out of Winston Salem.  This wonderful small press is putting out some great poetry and short story collections.

You might enjoy hearing some of the wisdom I got from the four sessions I participated in.

From Mary Akers on what is haunting:

Violence, vulnerability, horror, yearning, things that are shocking or unexpected, death, regret, shame, grief and other losses, disgust, missed connections.  Mary asked us to think of stories that haunted us.  Larry Brown's story, "A Roadside Resurrection" and Ron Rash's story, "Speckled Trout" from his collection Chemistry and Other Stories immediately came to mind.

We chose a prompt to write hauntingly for a few minutes.  Mine was, "Write about a time when you let everyone down."

From Steve Mitchell:

We wrote while listening to Philip Glass; to the prompt write about someone you have seen this morning and what you know about them; and to the prompt write about when you saw something you shouldn't have.  At the end we had a feeling, a person, and an event that could be woven into a unified story, he said.

A few things he said that spoke to my writing style:

1.  Embrace limitation.  By this he means don't try to make your story a novel when it wants to be a short story or flash fiction.
2.  It's okay to write in spurts.  For some people writing every day feels too much like work, and who needs another job? he asked.
3.  All writing is about saving the world so it doesn't disappear. Many of you know that I keenly feel the need to preserve family stories both in fiction and non-fiction.

From Michael Kardos:

What makes a good story:

1.  High stakes
2. Character desire: There is a motivational continuum for each character.  At the center are expectations. On one side of the expectations are hopes and dreams, the other side fears and dreads. A good predicament for a character is one in which his or her dreams and dreads are pitted against each other.
3.  Active protagonist
4.  Conflict, both internal and external
5.  Compression of time
6.  Suspense
7.  Atypical day
8.  Originality in voice, setting, method

Throughout the discussion he used Tim O'Brien's story "On the Rainy River," John Updike's "A&P," and several other stories to show how authors use these to good advantage.

From Darlin' Neal (yep, that's what her parents named her!):

We took five random things suggested by the group (boxes, carpet, thunder, fireplace, bed) added a color (orange) for good luck and wrote a piece about them.  Several of us read them out loud and we talked about how each piece raised questions in our minds that created anticipation for the rest of the story. I'm always blown away by the ability of people to write beautiful polished pieces in this kind of setting.

I was happy to be in the rooms full of people learning and sharing. It was nice also to meet some of the writing crowd from the Triad.  And it was nice to go back to the Marriott at the end of the day, and think about how I could apply what I had been taught to my own writing.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Family Celebration

This weekend eighteen of us got together to celebrate.  "Let's get the next generation started!" one of my nieces said when she received the invitation to the baby shower for my middle daughter. 

It's such an exciting time! May I apologize now to all my friends with grandchildren?  I had no idea how amazing it is! 

My oldest and youngest daughters planned the party, which was hosted by my sisters and sisters-in-law. The theme was Beanie Babies because we called the middle daughter Beanie when she was little.  Well, actually, we still call her Beanie on occasion. :)

I can't begin to tell you how special and detailed the decorations were. The scheming sisters made sure that everything was about the mother-to-be!  Questionnaires about her childhood brought hilarious answers and to tell you the truth I was a little dismayed to realize that I, her mother, couldn't remember some of the details. But I was busy then, you know?

We set up a "photo booth" in the alcove of our deck with a camera and a remote control. We took over 150 photos of us clowning around with Beanie Baby masks, a boa, and each other.  After everyone else had finished, my daughter and her boyfriend went out and took a few pictures of themselves. I could see their love for each other in the photos.  Then her boyfriend put the cat in one of the chairs. The end!

My favorite activity was writing  future birthday cards to the child.  The sisters had made a card for each year from one to twenty-one and those present chose one or two to write. I picked twelve and nineteen, realizing as I wrote my nineteen-year-old grandchild that I had picked the "last of childhood" and "last of teenage" years. Some of us put things in the cards (I won't mention what here because I'd like it to be a surprise for my daughter too). I cried to think that when the child is opening her nineteenth birthday card from me I will be eighty years old.

Sunday and Monday the house emptied, people getting into cars to drive east and north and to the airport. Today the roses that my youngest daughter arranged and put around the house still look beautiful. The house is back to its quiet, the cat wonders what happened to the rooms full of people, and I think about the wonderful weekend with family.