Watch Yourself

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

While the following is not technically a Zen story, it is said to have been told by the Buddha himself. Its message of self-care is one that will resonate, especially with women.

There was once a pair of acrobats. The teacher was a poor widower and the student was a young girl by the name of Meda. These acrobats performed each day on the streets in order to earn enough to eat.

Their act consisted of the teacher balancing a tall bamboo pole on his head while the little girl climbed slowly to the top. Once to the top, she remained there while the teacher walked along the ground.

Both performers had to maintain complete focus and balance in order to prevent any injury from occurring and to complete the performance. One day, the teacher said to the pupil:

‘Listen Meda, I will watch you and you watch me, so that we can help each other maintain concentration and balance and prevent an accident. Then we’ll surely earn enough to eat.’

But the little girl was wise. She answered, ‘Dear Master, I think it would be better for each of us to watch ourself. To look after oneself means to look after both of us. That way I am sure we will avoid any accidents and earn enough to eat.’


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Movie Review: The Grizzlies

Set in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, an isolated town with the highest suicide rate in Canada, this sports drama is based on actual events circa 2004.

High school English teacher Russ Sheppard (Ben Schnetzer) is unprepared for the challenges that await him in the classroom. A naïve, well-intended southerner—referred to as qallunaat by the locals—Russ plans to stay for only one year while he waits for a teaching contract at a private school in Halifax.

After learning (the hard way) that the authoritarian approach doesn’t work with these neglected students, Russ tries to inspire them through sports. At first wary, the students eventually do come around and join the lacrosse team. Slowly—and not without obstacles—Russ succeeds in creating a spirit of camaraderie among the players.

Opposition to this fledgling group can be found almost everywhere in Kugluktuk.

The school principal, Janace (Tantoo Cardinal), tries to discourage Russ from starting this venture. When Russ decides to take the team to Toronto for the high school nationals, Janace advises him not to add to the long list of promises that have been made to the Inuit and never kept.

Several sets of parents and grandparents believe their young charges should be hunting and not spending so much time with the qallunaat.

Alcoholism and abuse exist in many of the homes. From the opening scene where crates of liquor outnumber the passengers in a small plane to a colleague’s advice on surviving life in the North— “I do the same thing everyone else does, I drink” to the depressing night culture…Russ faces many obstacles during that first year.

The specter of suicide can be felt throughout the film. Each time, I was unprepared for the events and ensuing consequences. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to live in a community where everyone has lost a family member or friend to suicide.

While the cast is predominantly male, two young female actresses deliver outstanding performances. I enjoyed watching Miranda (Emerald MacDonald) gain confidence and acquire leadership skills as the team’s manager. Spring (Anna Lambe) experiences the tragic loss of her boyfriend but manages to bounce back and become part of the lacrosse team.

First-time director Miranda de Pencier has crafted a powerful film that humanizes the grim statistics about youth suicide in Canada’s North.

A must-see film!


Spotlight on The Hitman’s Mistake

I’m happy to welcome back Soul Mate author Sally Brandle. Today, Sally shares her debut novel, The Hitman’s Mistake. It’s free on Amazon Kindle!

Blurb

After Miranda Whitley stops crooked cops from assassinating a prominent Seattle judge, she’s next on the hit list, and her survival depends on the buff FBI Agent she’s had one awkward encounter with. But can she find him in time?

The last person Grant Morley expects to discover on his annual supply run to a Montana mountain hermit is alluring Miranda Whitley, nearly dead from a bullet wound in her side. An accidental witness or the cold-blooded accomplice to would-be assassins?

Miranda must convince Grant of her innocence, evade the killers intent on preventing her testimony, and fight her unwanted attraction for the agent…an attraction which seems to be mutual. Fortunately, love thrives in Emma Springs. If you love sizzling chemistry, Montana’s mountain landscape, and fast-paced action, then you’ll love Sally Brandle’s galloping thriller, The Hitman’s Mistake.

Excerpt

Setting: Our heroine’s pruning indoor plants in the lobby of Seattle’s Justice Building after hours.

***

Squeaks from her mom’s old pruning shears echoed in the large, vacant room. She pulled another uneven limb of the Chinese Elm closer to her face and squinted. While she clipped, a peppery fragrance released from the wood.

A twig grazed her cheek, making her flinch. She brushed the neckline of her purple T-shirt with the back of her hand.

The place threw off the vibes of an abandoned morgue. Chill. She released the limb, let out a long breath, and grabbed a lop-sided branch from overhead. Tonight, even a rude prosecutor’s voice rupturing the tranquility would be welcome.

Not happening this late, but Ike would be descending in the elevator any minute. Hopefully in a better mood than when she’d watered the jade plant in his judge’s chambers earlier. He’d been tense, without the fatherly banter he doled out when she visited him and his wife, Shirley.

Soft taps came from a few feet behind her. She tilted her head.

Footsteps? From the stairwell? Miranda released her grip, and the tree limb sprang free. She swung her head and watched the branch skim the fly of the trousers on the man now towering over her right shoulder.

Not Ike. She froze.

“What in the hell? Oh, didn’t see you there—” he sidestepped, and her cup scrunched in protest under his big boot. The lid popped off and the double shot of Kona glugged into a mocha-scented pool.

He jumped to avoid the puddle. “Damn energy conservation put you in the shadows. Sorry, I nailed your coffee.” His swinging backpack missed her nose by inches.

She twisted her body and scooted her butt until her shoulder jammed against a carved pot.

“I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“It’s okay,” she mumbled, keeping her head lowered to avoid further contact with the bag-wielding klutz wearing black trousers. Must’ve been him she’d glimpsed a few minutes ago, while the elevator doors had closed on the floor below Ike’s.

“I’ve never been attacked by a branch. Must say, you deployed it well,” the deep voice announced. He stopped directly in front of her.

His hiking boots made her size-nine high-tops appear dainty.

Not the shoes of a snobby lawyer or a lost, post-trial pimp trying to find his way out of the building. Still, the flailing branch served him right for sneaking up on her. “I didn’t hear you.”

“And I shouldn’t text and walk,” he said in a lighter, almost sexy tone. “I’m Grant.” He dropped his pack and stuck out his hand.

An FBI tag printed ‘GRANT MORLEY’ hung from the bag.

She peered from under her cap’s brim and gulped.

Him.

Agent of Interest. Her heart took off at a gallop.

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Bio

Multi-award winning author Sally Brandle weaves slow-burning romance into edgy suspense stories. Sally left a career as an industrial baking instructor to bring to life stories of women who learn to trust their inner gifts. Her rescue Aussie is her companion during long spells of writing, bouts of tormenting weeds in her garden, or afternoons spent riding on the wind with her twenty-eight year old Quarter Horse. Sign up for her newsletter at http://www.sallybrandle.com for a free segment of her latest book, The Hitman’s Mistake.

Where to find Sally…

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This Other Way

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In the following reflection from The Path Made Clear, Cheryl Strayed shares the following perspective on rewriting our stories:

How long do we hold on to this old idea? I was going to do this job or I was going to go to this school or I was going to be married to this person. And it doesn’t serve us anymore.

I once wrote a letter to my younger self and told the younger me, It’s okay to rewrite my story from time to time. And not only okay, but necessary. Sometimes you have to see things through, even though they don’t cause you joy. But sometimes you need to say, You know what? I’m not going to surrender my joy. I’m not going to be this thing anymore. That story is no longer true. I’m going to be this other thing. This other way.

Source: The Path Made Clear, p. 128


Movie Review: Poms

While this film has received less-than-glowing reviews, it does deliver a positive message about aging: It’s never too late to follow your dreams.

From the start, we know that Martha (Diane Keaton) is preparing for her demise. She holds an estate sale to dispose of 40+ years of possessions, packs what remains in a suitcase and a box, cancels her chemotherapy appointments, and drives to a retirement community in sunny Georgia.

Upon arrival, Martha realizes that the Sun Springs Retirement Community may not be the best fit for her introverted nature. Everything from flamboyant seniors riding in golf carts to annoying Southern Belles to the welcome sign—The time of your life for the rest of your life—annoys Martha.

Hoping to maintain a low profile, Martha is jolted out of self-imposed isolation by her nosy and noisy neighbor Sheryl (Jackie Weaver). With Sheryl’s help, Martha starts a cheerleading club and enlists six other women (Pam Grier, Rhea Perlman, Phyllis Somerville, Patricia French, Carol Sutton, and Ginny McColl). Their goal: Perform in the Community Variety Show.

Martha’s first challenge is a daunting one: Tailor the choreography to meet the myriad aches and pains of all the participants.

Second, deal with the antics of Miss Vicky (Celia Weston), the resident mean girl who is determined to curtail the rehearsal time of the club.

At this point, the film takes a bizarre twist. Sheryl arranges to use the gym at a local high school where she works as a substitute teacher. Unknown to the women, they will be rehearsing during a pep rally attended by all the students.

When their routine flops, it is recorded and goes viral on the Internet. Shamed and shut out of the Community Variety Show, Sheryl persuades the women to enter a real cheerleading contest in the “18-Plus” age category. With the help of Chloe (Alisha Boe), a “real” cheerleader, the eight women are transformed into a cohesive team.

A short, breezy film (91 minutes), Poms delivers many laughs as it celebrates the camaraderie of the women. I would have liked more details about their backstories. We are given only the skimpiest of information about Martha—retired teacher, no children, sick mother—revealed on photographs. Flashbacks with a younger Martha would have been more effective.

Definitely light fare.


Spotlight on Cakewalk to Murder

I’m happy to welcome husband and wife team M K Scott. Today, they share their latest release, Cakewalk to Murder.

Blurb

Bake-off fever is in full-swing and Donna can’t help but have visions of becoming the next great baking star, but the competition is stiff, and someone is willing to kill to win.

When one of the contestants is found dead, a twist of fate puts Donna at the center of the competition. That’s the perfect position to unravel the mystery, but only if she doesn’t get caught in the crosshairs.

Excerpt

The judges strolled to the next baker standing proudly by a five-layer cake dusted with cocoa and decorated with live violets.

“This is the one,” Donna declared and scooted up in her wing chair to be even closer to the television.

Her college-age helper, Tennyson, stroked his scruffy beard in a fair imitation of her husband, Mark, when he was in his contemplation mode. Ten dropped his hand and shook his head. “I don’t know. What about Alastair? He used all those egg whites to make his cake lighter.”

“Please.” She lengthened the word, then gave a derisive snort. “That’s so old fashioned. My great grandmother did that. Judges wanted something new, cutting edge, while still bringing indescribable joy to their taste buds.”

“You think putting flowers on a cake will do it?”

A door sounded in the distant before Donna could reply. Currently, there were no guests in the inn, and she had locked all the doors guaranteeing she could have peace while watching The British Bake-Off Show. Unfortunately, she couldn’t lock out Tennyson who had taken an interest in the program.

Jasper, her aging puggle, gave a welcome bark. It meant Mark was back from his Chamber of Commerce meeting, which he agreed to attend so Donna could watch the show in real time. If she had recorded it, Janice would ruin it by calling her up, telling who the winner was, and would make all manner of comments as if she had actually seen the show. No, thank you.

The judges talked amongst themselves as the tension built. Often, she imagined herself on the show and what she would make to tempt the finicky judges. The contestants must be nervous. Strangely enough, Donna was, too. A throw pillow found its way into her hands, and she squeezed the pillow as the judges mentioned the third and second place finishers. They might have called them winners, but almost everyone conceded there was only one winner.

“And the winner is…” The lead judge paused for a moment. “Alastair! With his lighter than air angel food cake. It reminded me of my dear old Granny and her ability to make every moment special.”

buynow

Author Bio and Links

M. K. Scott is the husband and wife writing team behind The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries and The Talking Dog Detective Agency. Morgan K Wyatt is the general wordsmith, while her husband, Scott, is the grammar hammer and physics specialist. He uses his engineering skills to explain how fast a body falls when pushed over a cliff and various other felonious activities. The Internet and experts in the field provide forensic information, while the recipes and B and B details require a more hands-on approach. Morgan’s daughter, who manages a hotel, provides guest horror stories to fuel the plot lines. The couple’s dog, Chance, is the inspiration behind Jasper, Donna’s dog. Overall, both are fun series to create and read.

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Giveaway

MK Scott will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow them on the rest of their tour here.