Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Getting our of ruts

With two of the book events finished, I look back on the evenings to see what I've learned. People generally want to know how many books I sold. While that's important and the main reason for the presentation,there's another important issue. For me it's all about the people I've met and what they taught me with their questions.

At the last event, one woman asked me if I'd read Nelson Mandela's autobiography. I had not. Her question made me wonder why not. I hadn't been avoiding it, but neither had I pursued buying it. Her other questions, especially the most persistent remarks made me reflect carefully on what she was saying. My mental review occurred days later and made me buy Mandela's books.

Not long after this exchange, a good friend made a comment about my reaction to a church situation. It too made me stop and think. The outcome of my mental meanderings, from both conversations, showed me how I'd backed myself into some restrictive corners and that outlook was reflected in my behavior. Locked in this mindset for a few years, I would have never figured out what I'd done to myself had it not been for these two people.

I used to get very annoyed with my mother for the way she labeled people. Her expectations of any interaction with them was governed by her preconceived notions. I often wondered what would happen if the person she was talking to suddenly changed. Would my mother accept the 'new' person? How like my mother I'd become.

There's a story of women in the New Testament whose lives are changed by the encounter with Jesus - the woman who bled, the Samaritan woman, the bent over woman, and more. We know what happened when they met Jesus, but I've always wondered how their family, their neighbors and the community received them the next day. Could everyone change the way they treated these women?

We have many similar situations today of the drug addict to starts over, people released from prison who try to make it on their own, recovering alcoholics and others. Can we relate to these people in new ways? I wonder how much our limited attitudes are a factor in recidivism?

So what am I doing about my mental corners? I'm trying to break out. I'm reading Nelson Mandela's autobiography. I'm also engaging with a church group in a different way.

Stay tuned and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Mozambique Trilogy

I haven't talked about my writing in previous blogs, but the time has come to let the cat out of the bag. While my writing wasn't intended to be a secret, I wasn't ready to post it on the blog. Now I'm exploring new ways of doing things. Besides the books named below, I am working on other writing projects with the hope of having them published. Below is the schedule of my appearances in Santa Fe during the holiday season.

For the first event on December 2, there will be a handout which includes a list of six questions.The answers to these questions will be posted after the event. I hope those of you living in the area will be able to attend.

Jonna-Lynn Mandelbaum Discusses Her Mozambique Trilogy in Three Special Appearances

Part I Tribe’s Coffeehouse & Co-Op GalleryThursday, Dec. 2, 6:00 – 8:00 pm3470-A Zafarano Dr. (San Isidro Plaza I, behind the Regal Stadium 14 Cinema)

In this first of three informal discussions by author Jonna-Lynn Mandelbaum, you will learn about the history that formed the basis for her first book in the trilogy, Malarial Fevers. The author will speak on such controversial issues as the missionary as cultural interpreter; death by mosquitoes; African American missionaries in Africa; and the yearning for independence. This historical novel gives a moving account of the early missionary activities in southeast Africa together with the impact of Portuguese colonization that tear the social fabric of African ways.

Part II Jambo CafĂ©Thursday, Dec. 9, 3:00 – 5:00 pm2010 Cerrillos Road (near Hobby Lobby)

Unspoken Farewell depicts the U.S. on the wrong side of Mozambique’s war for independence and the author’s experiences living in a police state. Her relationships run the gamut from informers to reformers, including the “Mother of Mozambique,” Graca Mandela.Jonna-Lynn Mandelbaum's professional career in international health led her to Mozambique, where she lived during the critical years leading to that country’s independence. Events are open to the public; there is no cover charge. Food and beverages may be purchased during the first two events; please arrive early to place your order.The Mozambique Trilogy will be available for purchase and autographed by the author.

Part III Unpredictable CrossingPlace & time to be arranged

The third novel in this trilogy explores the unknown horrors of the only survivor of a genocide, a young girl who finds herself trapped on a transatlantic ship with the man who gave the order to massacre her village. For more information, please callMary NeighbourBlessingway Authors’ Services505-474-6309.Come listen and join the discussions; they willbe lively!

Monday, October 11, 2010


I add this photo because sometimes the rainbow gives unexpected rewards. While I don't remember what the weather was like when I got the news, I received an unexpected reward this autumn.
I generally don't get my hopes up when I enter contests, because I'm seldom the winner, but that changed when I started writing. Since my books have been released, I've entered them in various writing contests. Until this September, the best I had gotten was a certificate of participation. Believe me, opening that envelope in the mail to find that certificate was annoying. Other friends and colleagues who are writers were entering contests and getting some acknowledgement of their work. The idea of submitting my books to more contests discouraged me, but I persisted. A seminar leader attributed his writing success to having won a contest so I heeded his advice with dwindling enthusiasm.
This autumn, things changed. My most recent book is a finalist in two categories for the 2010 New Mexico Book Awards. While I won't know the results until mid-November, I already feel as if I've won. Just being named as a finalist has brought me deep satisfaction and encouragment to keep on writing.
Now I begin to understand some of the fist-pumping, hugging, slapping-on-the- back, whistling and all other behaviors that go with winning. Seeing grown men jumping up and down and generally acting like children after winning a bowl game, the Stanley Cup or World Series amused me. Now, I have to take back my condescending attitude regarding their reactions because I could have pumped my fist, danced or cheered when I received the email about my entry. (I think I might has done some fist-pumping as I read the message.)
Affirmation is a very rare thing these days. I wonder about all of people who provide services whose actions we take for granted. Think of the server in a restaurant, we expect prompt service, quality food---all with a good attitude. While we leave a tips, do we really tell him or her that we genuinely appreciated their efforts on our behalf? We're in contact with people who render us needed services on a daily basis, but do we recognize them and affirm their work?
I met an acquaintance for dinner at a restaurant several days ago. She was very dismissive of the serving staff. Her condescending comportment was more like that of a person of royal lineage. The more rude she was to the server, the more I tried to recognize him and express appreciation for his help. By th end of the meal, she had softened a bit.
If receiving a trophy can bring such boisterous delight to the winners, imagine what simple recognition and appreciation for service can offer that might help people get through the day.
A new goal for myself is to affirm others who help me in some way, whether they are servers in restaurants, trash collectors, or---anyone. This won't stop global warming or win the war in Afghanistan, but maybe it can make our world a better place.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Home of the Fearful and Land of the Befuddled

We are no longer "the home of the free and the land of the brave." Each day as I read or listen to the news, a new attitude is displayed which diminishes the original concept of freedom. People lash out at each other for reasons that make no sense and certainly show no respect. We are defined by our fears and our smallness.

Religions have always been the basis for war. We engage in preliminary battle formations by objecting to people who do not worship the way the dominant group in the community does. In conservative Christian communities, if your beliefs are differennt, you experience a modern version of shunning. It appals me that fearful conservatives act as if they need to defend their God. Is their God so small? They define themselves by the barriers they have set up to judge and condemn others. Ultimately, these social walls restrict their own freedom.

What happened to inclusiveness and outreach? How do we show our love for another today? Listening to the news, it's clear that there is no respect for the other's ideas we just talk louder as we talk over them. Scathing labels, implied threats and inaccurate banners all serve to confront, intimidate and demonize the outcast group.

Religion is not the only social issue that forces us to redefine who we are as a nation. We are fearful of people who speak with accents and those whose skin color is different. Suspicion is the first response toward those not like us. We turn to the law to delineate who is allowed to reside here and, if we don't like how that works, we consider changing the constitution. We are no longer a brave and generous people.

International organizations laud the generosity of Americans as we donate money to help those experiencing disasters in abroad. This is so easy to do. How is this generosity displayed in home towns with homeless and tired who yearn to breathe free of the burdens of unemployment, mental illness, or poverty?

Who am I to say these things? My ancestors on my father's side taught me important lessons about living in this country.

The Philips family came from Wales at a time of religious turmoil in their homeland. They were labelled dissenters because they followed the early Methodist and Baptist preachers, not the mainstream Church of Englannd. As a consequence, their names are not recorded in the local town records in Wales.

In Europe during the 1700s, birth position was very important. Unless you were the first born male who inherited everything, a younger brother needed to enter the priesthood or a profession. If these did not appeal to you, life looked rather grim. Johann Christopher Knauer left Germany for the New World and Penn's Woods (Pennsylvania). He bought land from William Penn a day-and-a-half-horse-back-ride from Philadelphia. His reason for coming to the British colonies was to find a better future for himself, which is like so many others that continue to come to the states centuries later.

I cannot condemn those whose beliefs don't match mine because my ancestors paid the price so that I can have religious freedom now.

I cannot condemn those who come to the U.S. for the possibility of a brighter future because that's what my great-great---grandfather did.

The situations that we've gotten ourselves into will not be resolved overnight because it's taken years for us to get to this point. But, this destructive behavior must stop now. Find what we hold in common and move forward together. So many federal systems are broken from years of neglect. Before we change them, let's see if they work the way they were meant to when properly implemented. Invest our efforts in building up rather than tearing down our country.

Pass me some bricks...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Going Public

There have been times when it seemed right to tell you about my limitations. Maybe this is it.

In 2000, I was diagnosed with idiopathic progressive peripheral neuropathy. These big words mean that no one has any idea what started the process so there's no treatment or cure, but I'm gradually losing the use of the nerves in my arms and legs. This loss has become more apparent to me this summer as rather simple chores around the house have become taxing. Friends say, "But surely you can hire someone to help you." While that's true my dilemma is that if I start giving up trying to take care of the garden and pond, I may also lose the use of those muscles more rapidly. So I'm constantly pushing the envelope, trying to do the most I can without putting myself in a crisis that would require stronger drugs. The situation makes life interesting. Oh, I need two crutches to walk now.

This is brings me to an observation I made during the past year. When anyone sees me coming, he or she knows that I have limitations, but what about all of those who are consumed by problems that are not visible? While attending a retreat last fall, there were several women who mentioned complex family situations or mental health problems they had to address daily. It truly made my illness seem minimal. When I go out, people may hold a door for me or try to assist in another way, but how to we treat others whose needs are not visible?

It distresses me that as a people, we've become more judgemental of others, especially anyone who may be 'different.' In fact, we don't know what factors brought them to their point of need. Rather than understand, we 'judge' them as unworthy of inclusion or meriting help. With all the divisiveness in our country, it seems that we are undermining basic care and concern for each other. Seldom to we push the envelope to extend a helping hand or friendship first.

When I was a missionary nurse in Africa, I worked in two countries that were waging wars for independence. Hospital staff never asked whose side the injured person was on, we took care of them. In health care, you don't ask endless questions in an emergency, but provide care, stabilize the person and maybe you get a chance to talk later. The phrase wasn't common at the time, but we were pushing the envelope because we knew that government forces could challenge us.
I wonder how I can push the envelope today.

Monday, June 14, 2010


I wrote this blog a couple weeks ago and promptly lost it so I'm trying again. Maybe this lapse is good since I've had more time to think through what I wanted to write. Over the past year, I've had several experiences that linger in my mind that resurface periodically for pondering. Here are my thoughts to date.

Have you ever considered the nature of friendships across species? I got to thinking about this a year ago when we had to put one of our miniature dachshunds to sleep. This little black dog, Pivo (the name's another story) was more my companion than his brown littermate. He loved to sit on my lap while I read or watched TV and snuggled next to me at night. he didn't have to be in the same room where I was, but needed to know which room I was in. When he was ten years old, he developed heart disease. Last spring he developed heart failure and we decided that it was cruel to keep him with us. The experience of putting a dog to sleep was very hard.

The next day I was working at the computer and a black dog walked in the room, looked at me as left. I thought one of the other two had to go outside so I saved my work and went to the living room where both dogs were asleep. Perhaps,Pivo -the ghost dog was checking up on me.

The experience makes me wonder about those special relationships that develop across species lines and whether they go on somehow after death.

In December of last year a close friend, who lives in another state, died unexpectedly. At the time I was away from home at a three-day seminar. During the last night, a voice woke me up from a sound sleep. There were no words, but, "Oooo, oh. Ah." I opened my eyes to see who was waking me up and no one was there. I made use of the wakeful moment to go to the bathroom. I got home late in the afternoon of the same day and my husband told me about our friend's death. When her husband phoned that night, I realized that the time of her death was close to the time of my experience with the voice. I have to wonder if she came to say good-bye.

What happens with these human friendships? There are all kinds of theories and speculations in books, but might these ties might continue beyond this physical life?

Another shift. My father died with some kind of non-Alzheimer's dementia. I used to think about where the essentail person he was had gone. Scientific articles tell you what happens in the brain and what might cause it as well as what might prevent or cure it, but no one can say where the essential person has gone.

A good friend is beginning to have signs of dementia. I don't know 'where' she is going, but I do know that I will still be her friend, even when she no longer knows who I am. I have to believe that these ties go on when mental function changes and life ceases.

So many questions and no answers. There are so many books and speculations about existence after death. Perhaps the only way to understand fully is after making that transition ourselves. It is not an event I will hasten, but it's the only conclusion I can reach now.

By the way, have you checked my website? You can find out more about me as well as three books I've written. If you want to buy them, order them through your favorite bookstore and I'll be glad to send you signed bookplates - my contact information is on the website.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Connection after 42 years!

There's been one classmate from nursing school who's stayed in touch with me over the past several years. We've exchanged Christmas letters and later an occasional email. This year she said that she and her husband would be coming to Taos with their camper. The last time I saw Carol and Mel was when I sang at their wedding and I looked forward to their visit. When we picked them up at their 5th Wheel camper, Carol and I hugged and laughed. No words were necessary. Although we're much older, our appearance hadn't changed so much - white hair for me, but the same hairstyle and for her some gray threaded through her waves. The connection was immediate and as if we seen each other yesterday. Conversation flowed easily with all four of us and I was sorry to have them leave.

So what it is about these human connections? Sometimes you meet people and it's as if there's a chemical reaction that hisses and pushes you away from each other. It's possible to overide the instantaeous reaction, but the time together is hard work and drains you of energy. Then there's my classmate with whom I have almost nothing in common, but it's so easy to be with her regardless of the conversational topic.

Scientists talk about pheromones that cause attraction between men and women. Now I wonder if there's something more going on between individuals that makes some relationships easy and energizing while others take all of the zest out of you. When I taught nursing, I had classes of students that had this effect on me. Some classes were a joy to be with and I left the lesson eager to move on to my next task. Another class of nursing students are fixed in my memory because, despite their lack of knowledge, they refuted everything I said and vigorously challenged the rules for each assignment. I've known similar situations with speaking engagements when the audience seemed to drain the oxygen out of the room and I've left the event exhausted. On other occasions, I could have stayed with the group until morning.

Is there something else going on? If so, what is it and can we change it? Both parties have to participate in the desire to change and then maintain the new relationship. I wonder if this is part of what's going on at the global level? Few have the chance to work at the global level so I wonder if, at the local level, our attitudes have an impact in the world? Some would say that we must pray, but I think we need to consider our deeper attitudes that may resurface after the prayer is said in comments that we make. Perhaps real change begins and ends with us.

In the meantime, I'm so glad that I reconnected with Carol after all these years. Our time together gave me a terrific boost. Thanks, Carol.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Australia and New Zealand in January

1.I didn't realize how ugly kangaroos were.
2.Milford Sound was used in Lord of the Rings.

It's taken me a long time to get back to this blog; somehow other things kept me away from the computer or at the computer doing other things. Below is the synopsis I sent to family and friends. It truly was a wonderful experience, especially New Zealand ---if only it were closer. Getting older has meant that it takes longer to recover from this kind of trip. I wanted to do everything and we did a lot. I had a ball on an 8-wheel drive vehicle to see the seals and penguins in New Zealand and wish I had one of those 8-wheel carts for here in Taos now with all the snow, slush and mud.
We had a wonderful time.
New Zealand Air is great, but the trip is still very long.
We arrived in Sydney early with 3 days to explore then we boarded our ship, Oceania's Nautica which is identical to the Regatta which we've sailed on a couple times preveiously. We met some crew and staff that we've known from other tracels with Oceania so it felt like we were returning to something familiar and comfortable.
Sydney harbor is charming and huge. We took a Middle Harbour Coffee Cruise harbor tour and heard about all of the inlets, smaller harbors and islands. Then we took a harbor ferry to a Wildlife World with all of hte unique creatures from bugs to cassowary birds, koalas and kangaroos. It had the world's largest crocodile and a great walk-in butterfly exhibit where they would land on you. The colors and shapes of the butterflies were completely different from any that John and I have seen. Of course we walked around the opera house and ate at a sidewalk cafe there. No operas while we were there for which John was very grateful.
We walked around The Rocks, the site of the first European settlement in Australia, and shopped, of course we bought hats. Our suppers we ate at the Circular Quay in some of the sidewalk restaurants.
As Julia, our niece says, Melbourne is just a city. We went to the Sunday arts and crafts show and the HUGE Queen Victoria Market. The second day we were there, the temperature was 111 F so we never left the ship.
Our next stop was Hobart, Tasmania. We walked around the town and stopped in some stores including a bookstore. It's a pleasant, charming port. (In some ways, it reminded me of the new little shops being developed in the Fells point area of Baltimore.)
The shock of Australia was the price of things, where the US dolloar equals the Australian dollar. Our niece said that the minimum wage is $20/ hour, so people weren't worried about tips (there's no tipping) and they don't have to work 2 or 3 jobs to get and adequate income. Everyone treated us very well. we were impressed with Australia.
Our first exposure to New Zealand was the Milford Sound. As a fjord it was not impressive and there were not many waterfalls the day we sailed in and out, but I enjoyed it because a portion of The Lord of the Rings was filmed there.
Our first stop in New Zealand was Dunedin which has a very Scotish flare - in people's accents and other things - bag pipes- and more. Here we took a shore excursion called 'Wet 'n' Wild', a hilarious ride in an 8 wheeldrive open vehicle through deep mud and narrow trails to see New Zealand fur seals and their cubs and yellow-eyed penguins. It was a fun time.
In Lyttelton, we took another all-day excursion to a sheep farm where Ross Miller showed us how a sheepdog could round up a herd of sheep - amazing. An indication of the tremendous hospitality that we experienced everywhere in New Zealand was that Mary Miller got up at dawn to make fresh shortbread, a kind of fruit teacake and tea for all of us in four buses - over 120 people. she served us in her house and gardens. It was just the two of them on the farm Ross and Mary for all of us. He answered questions and also demonstrated how to shear sheep while Mary served refreshments inside. The tour included several other things, but this gives you a sample.
In Wellington, we went to the Te Papa museum on our own. What a fantastic museum with free admission for locals unless they were going to a special exhibit. We'd heard from our friends, Beth and Alice that this was a not-to-be-missed experience and they were right. It has a very modern design, open from the first floor through the top 3rd floor. Most of it was devoted to a wonderful presentation of Maori culture and arts with videos of how 'green stone' (New Zealand jade) is carved and other things. We saw people working in the city would meet colleagues to discuss business in the comfortable Te Papa cafe on the 3rd floor.
Napier was fun being an Art Deco style town and easily walkable. The art deco differs from other places in that designs are derived from Maori art. Our main stop here, thanks ot Beth and Alice, was the Opossum Museum shop. Here they sell marvelous scarves, sweaters, etc. made of a blend of merino wool and possum fur. The items are quite warm, but very light weight.
In Rotorua we woke to a light drizzle. We had another all day tour here to go to the Waiotapu Thermal Reserve. At the reserve, the rain became more serious. by the time we entered the 3/4 mile trail it was a major downpour that came up to fast that I couldn't get my hooded rainjacket on in time. The colours of the thermal pools were brillant despite the rain. Fortunately there was a gift shop at the end of the trail and I bought 2 T-shirts changing into one immediately in the fitting room. We did other things here, but the rain really got our attention.
In Auckland, we disembarked the ship and transferred to a hotel for a couple days. We went to the Auckland Museum which is a former war memorial building in a huge park. It had another more extensive display of Maori couture as well as items from the European history of New Zealand. The most fascinating thing to me was the section desinged for children of all ages with places for little children to crawl through, hands-on activities for them and large drawers of mounted insects, etc under glass for them to pull out. While not as spacious as the TePapa museum, it fulfilled the recommendation from our friends Jan and Charles.
We did much more, but this gives you some highlights of our trip. The summer was cooler than we expected, but very pleasant except for the one rainy day. We can't say enough about the graciousness and hospitality of the New Zealand people - known as Kiwis and the sheer beauty of the two islands. If it were closer, we'd go back in a heartbeat.
I haven't said anything about the ship or the sea days. We enjoy the Oceania line very much and will sail on them again.
I hope you enjoy this brief synopsis of our trip.
I'll try not to be absent so long for my next post.