What’s Wrong With Men?

While browsing on the internet I came across the following old advertisement. I say old because it was posted on the occasion of Canada Day (beginning of the month) but it still caught my eye. It was directed towards Canadian writers, specifically Romance writers. It read: 

SYTYCW (So You Think You Can Write)
Romance Writers! Give us your Great Canadian Heroes and Skip the Slush Pile!
Calling all writers! Have you ever dreamed about writing The Great Canadian Romance? Harlequin editors are on a nationwide mission to show the world what our Canadian romantic heroes are made of.

Ask yourself…
Is he Strong & Rugged?:   He could play hockey or baseball in Montreal!
Is he Refined & Sophisticated?:   He’s a Toronto billionaire with a yacht to boot.
Is he Dark & Mysterious?:   He’s a Vancouver PI with his own agenda…
Is he Charming & Sexy?:   He’s a Red Deer cowboy secretly yearning for a family.
The questions continue and the list goes on.

Ads

I know that this is Harlequin Romance we’re talking about, where the hero is this extraordinary person with all the characteristics of a superhero. My question is this:
 
What’s wrong with ordinary men? Just any man. Why does he have to be a billionaire or play hockey or own a yacht or a private jet? Why can’t he be just an ordinary hardworking person? A teacher, a tailor, a blue collar worker, or just any decent man as long as he has a decent job, he is honest and puts the needs of others before his?

Life is full of such men. In fact the rich and the famous represent only a minor percentage of the population. The  rest are people like us who are doing the best they can to live a normal and dignified life. They are working hard to provide for their families and loved ones, trying to make this world a better place. 

Both my parents were hardworking people. They themselves were deprived of their childhood and of a proper education since they were refugees at a very young age. My mom was not even eight years old and my dad was ten when they were displaced from their homeland Mousa Dagh in Turkey and taken to an uninhabited corner east of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. 

They lived in tents in a refugee camp, until much later when the families were moved to houses. Each house consisted of one bare room, with no proper door or window, and one small bathroom built outside. That was all they had to start a new life.

My dad had to work at the age of thirteen to support his family while my mom knitted and did needlework to support hers. With no proper education, with limited means, both worked hard to give us a childhood and an education they never had the chance to have. They taught us to live with dignity and integrity and loyalty. Loyalty to our families and loved ones, loyalty to our community.

My brothers and I didn’t have daily chores as kids. According to my mom, this was because we had to enjoy our childhood and since we would have plenty of time to work later on in life. She did all the work inside the house and sometimes even helped my father with his work. She spent hours cleaning, cooking, doing needlework, doing whatever she had to do, to create a clean and happy home for us.

Going home from school each day was a treat. Walking through the door and being surrounded by the smell of her cooking, or going to bed smelling the freshness of the bed sheets. It was like she gave her life to us and every day was spent making our lives comfortable. (Something I try to do for my kids too as much as I can though she set the bar too high.)

My dad on the other hand was up early every morning and by 6:00 a.m. he was already in his workshop, way before we went to school. And late in the evening when we had already finished with our homework and all, we would wait for him to end his work for the day so that we could have dinner together. His work was manual and he would be at it from 6:00 in the morning till 6:00 in the evening with a half hour lunch break.

I grew up watching them, idolizing them, and I in turn have tried to pass on these values to my kids. My parents are my heroes and so is my late husband, who worked his whole life for us, some years without taking any vacation time.

The biggest commitment any man can make is to his family, in my opinion. Those are the heroes I would like to write about in my novels. It all starts in the family.  As William Saroyan once wrote:

“Go out to some single person and dwell with him, within him, lovingly and utter the truth of his existence and reveal the splendor of the mere fact of his being alive, and say it in great prose, simply, show that he is of the time, of the machines and the fire and smoke, the newspapers and the noise. Do not deceive. Do not make up lies for the sake of pleasing anyone. No one need be killed in your story. Simply relate what is the great event of all history, of all time, the humble, artless truth of mere being. There is no greater theme: no one need be violent to help you with your art. There is violence. Mention of course when it is time to mention it. Mention the war. Mention all ugliness, all waste. Do even this lovingly. But emphasize the glorious truth of mere being. It is the major theme. You do not have to create a triumphant climax. The man you write of need not perform some heroic or monstrous deed in order to make your prose great. Let him do what he has always done, day in and day out, continuing to live. Let him walk and talk and think and sleep and dream and awaken and walk again and talk again and move and be alive. It is enough. There is nothing else to write about. Speak of this man, recognize his existence. Speak of man.”

ChK

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It’s Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day. And for me and my kids it’s not a day like any other. It is one of those days that we just have to get through. Today is a day just for keeping on.

In his answer to a grieving person, some old man wrote the following:

“As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage, and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph, or the smell of coffee. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while. All you can do is float. Stay alive. Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall, or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somewhere you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.”

We have come out. We have survived the wreckage, but the pain and heartbreak are there just like the day it happened. And with all that’s been going on in my life this past year I find myself one more time standing on a slope.

Wanting to move ahead but sometimes being held back by unexpected u-turns, I become attached to my past. I miss my old days with him, and I miss him terribly. And on days like today I have to stay faithful. 

Both my late father and my late husband were believers in their own way. Both believed in me more than I did. Faced with their faith I used to find mine. I lost them both within one year of each other. 

Now I must look for the silver lining. And at night when for some reason sleep won’t come I must consciously count my blessings. 

Tom Hanks once said:

“As long as you as an individual… can convince yourself that in order to move forward as best as you can, you have to be optimistic, you can be described as ‘one of the faithful,’ one of those people who can say, ‘Well, look, something is going to happen! Let’s just keep trying. Let’s not give up.’”

I like to believe you are both in heaven watching over us. Happy Father’s Day to you both and to all fathers who are in this world and those who have departed.

fathers

ChK

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“Get Up And Walk”

I’ve been absent from my page for some time now. Perhaps the longest time since I started my blog five years ago. That drives me crazy. This is the place that helped me get up and stand on my feet when I was at my lowest.

For almost a year now I am facing yet another challenge. Next month in June it will be exactly one year that I am trying to find my balance and I am hoping and praying that things will settle down somehow.

We human beings are so resilient. We fall, we get up, we rise, we fall again. We expect the worse, and yet when we face it, when it happens, we are shaken. But nothing prepares us for the moment of death, for that moment in time when we lose a loved one. No matter how prepared we are, the reality shakes us to the core. That feeling of loss is like nothing we have experienced before.  

When I lost my husband, I felt this emptiness inside. It is still there. I carry this mountain of sadness in my chest that I try to put aside. I will never get over his loss and the emptiness and sadness will always be there. It will not go away. Nor will it change its intensity. But I choose to put it aside whenever I can help it. 

This page, my page helps me do that. It helps me heal. It is the place where I can be myself. I don’t have to pretend. It helps me travel down the memory lane. I remember all the people I have loved and who have loved me. I remember those I’ve lost over the years. But I also remember the people who have hurt me and the ones I have hurt and I feel sorry for doing it. 

Absenting myself from my page makes me bitter, angry and resentful. And yet I hate to admit it but I have developed a certain attachment to my own comfortable misery. As if I am expecting or waiting for some kind of instant gratification to be moved and motivated to continue.

block

Didn’t Jesus say to the sick and the fallen, “Get up and walk,” instead of saying, “Let me help carry you,” or something. Didn’t he mean it in the way that you alone can help cure yourself? Take the first step, stand up and try. Have faith and you will rise and walk. It’s that first step that is the hardest to take.

When I first started my blog I didn’t know where I was going with it, where it would lead me, or if I would be able to continue. When I expressed my concerns to my late husband at the time, he said, “You just start, don’t think about anything else. You just take that first step and start, then all will follow.“ 

Now that he is gone, my page has helped me heal my past somehow and ease the pain. It has helped me come home to myself when I was lost and didn’t know where I was going. Thanks to my fellow writers and bloggers and readers it has given meaning to my life again when I was certain I had lost my purpose. 

John W. Gardner wrote:
“Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.” 

ChK

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1.5 Million Reasons Why

Today is the 24th of April. It’s the day when all Armenians all over the world gather and march in memory of 1.5 million who died in the hands of the Turks one hundred and one years ago. 

Robert Fisk calls the mass murders committed against us, the Armenians, the first genocide of the century. He goes on to say that later on, the Germans not only learned from the Turks but mastered their methods to kill the Jews. Yet the Armenian genocide, until today, is not recognized by many countries around the world. 

President Obama didn’t use the term genocide in his speech.

George Clooney said that it’s been a long struggle to have things called by their names. He said it’s hard because we live in a complex world, but added, “One cannot deny what has happened. When someone is trying to annihilate a whole human race, culture, people, that’s genocide, there can be no other version of it.” 

While Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, said in his speech: 

“On this day, we mark the 101st commemoration of the tragic loss of life of the Armenian population during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Both the Senate of Canada and the House of Commons have adopted resolutions referring to these events as genocide. We preserve the memory of those who lost their lives, and those who suffered during this genocide and pay our deepest respects to their descendants, including those who now call Canada home.” 

My parents and grandparents come from Musa Dagh, where they put up a resistance and fought against the Turks. “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh” by Franz Werfell is their story, our story. He wrote:

“It had dawned, the fortieth day on Musa Dagh, the eighth of September, the third of famine. Today the women had not troubled to go in search of unnutritious herbs from which to concoct a bitter tea. Spring water was just as filling. All still able to stand clustered round the various well-springs – old men, mothers, girls, children. It was a queer sight. Again and again, one after another, these exhausted faces bent down to the water-jets to drink without thirst, out of hollow hands, as though to drink were an urgent duty. Many lay down flat, breathing heavily, feeling that their bodies were like some porous clay that stiffened slowly in the air. Others dreamed happily. They felt certain that now they were growing wings, that as soon as ever they liked they could spread them for a short blissful flight. Over them all lay a veil of gentle slowness. The small children were all fast asleep; the bigger ones had ceased to be noisy. That morning three old people died, and two sucklings. The mothers kept their wretched creatures pressed against empty breasts until they stiffened and became cold.”

My grandparents and great grandparents were on the mountain on that day. On this day and every day we owe our lives to all those who lost theirs.

In an interview with Elie Wiesel discussing his book “Night” based on his memories of the time he spent in a Nazi concentration camp, when all his family was killed, the interviewer asked how he was able to laugh again, to go on with his life, after seeing what he saw. Wiesel replied:

“Let me turn it around. After seeing what I saw and living in the shadow of death each day, I have six million reasons to laugh, and be happy and go forward.”

Rose

We have 1.5 million reasons to live, laugh and go forward and demand justice from the world.

ChK 

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All This Madness!

My heart is sad today. So many innocent people dead this week in Brussels. What is happening to us, to the world? And why? All those killings, all those innocent lives lost, all those crimes committed against humanity by humans. It’s so bad, it’s like “feeling sick in the stomach” bad.

Why all this madness? Why now? I often ask myself these questions, although I don’t know the answers. I don’t think anyone knows.
 
We human beings are defined by our past. Our identity as humans and as nations lies in our past. I ask myself, is it because over the centuries the mass murders and the genocides that were committed against people and against nations went unpunished? Is that why we are in this mess today? Is it because the oppressors got away with their crimes that these atrocities are still continuing against innocent civilians?

Eckhart Tolle writes:

“How is it possible that humans killed in excess of one hundred million fellow humans in the twentieth century alone? Humans inflicting pain of such magnitude on one another is beyond anything you can imagine. And that’s not taking into account the mental, emotional and physical violence, the torture, the pain, and cruelty they continue to inflict on each other as well as on other sentient beings on a daily basis.

Do they act in this way because they are in touch with their natural state, the joy of life within? Of course not. Only people who are in a deeply negative state, who feel very bad indeed, would create such a reality as a reflection of how they feel. Now they are engaged in destroying nature and the planet that sustains them. Unbelievable but true. Humans are a dangerously insane and very sick species. That’s not a judgment. It’s a fact.” 

I remember decades ago when cars often exploded in busy and crowded residential areas of Beirut. I used to walk in the middle of the street, avoiding the parked cars on the sides. They represented a big threat to me, as I thought that any of them could be loaded with bombs that would detonate at any minute. I used to be so scared sometimes.

When I think back I realize how foolish I was to think that I could be safer walking in the middle of the road, avoiding the pavements. How could I think I could be safer from such explosions? But man is hopeful. We always live and dream of a future that will make us happier or richer or safer. When truths are twisted to suit the needs and demands of certain people or nations, annihilations take on a different meaning and the world becomes an uglier place. 

Elie Wiesel writes:

“What did he want to learn here? That human beings are frail? That their truths change? That there is one truth for the judges, another for the judged? That doubt is as necessary to faith as air is to fire? That there is only a fine line between innocence and guilt? Madness frightens me, but not as much as those who push them into madness.” 

What’s going on in different parts of the world right now is pure madness. I pray for all those innocent lives lost in Brussels and elsewhere in the world. I join my voice to Elie Wiesel’s and say, we fear madness but not as much as those who push them into it.

Rose

ChK

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When Did You Last Hear?

When did you last hear someone say to you, “I believe in you”?

It’s a cold morning in Montreal. Sitting at my desk, I look at the snow outside. Soon I should start writing, but I don’t. Instead I keep thinking and wondering. I am at a very low point in my career now, my self esteem is at an all time low. And I keep questioning, how did I get to this point? Why didn’t I get back to teaching while it wasn’t too late? Why did I let myself into this? 

I look back and I see his picture in its white frame on my desk. I look at his face. I long to hear his voice. I long to hear him say, “You can do this, I believe you will do this, I believe in you.”

“I believe in you.” 

It’s been a long time since I last heard those words from him. Three years, three months and thirteen days, to be exact, since the day he left us and this world. 

Rebecca Maddox writes:

“To succeed beyond our widest imagination, I am convinced that each one of us must find someone who will be our “I believe in you” person. This is a must. I don’t care if you’re a business owner, an executive, an employee, a mom, a student, or a person in transition from one role to another: if you do nothing else in preparing for whatever change lies ahead, find this person, no matter what it takes or how long it takes. It’s that important.”

I realize now how important it was for me to hear him say “I believe in you.” He was always there to listen to me blabber about my dreams, about everything and everyone, to help me out in dealing with my problems. I trusted him unreservedly and completely. When he spoke it was always from his heart and his head. He was my number one critic and my number one fan when it came to my writing.

He was my “I believe in you” person, or as Julia Cameron later referred to it, my “Believing Mirror.” To use her words: 

“A believing mirror is a carefully chosen individual who helps a project’s growth by believing in it in embryonic stages. Another way to think of a believing mirror is the old expression “secret sharer.” Most of us need to talk to someone, sometime, about our creative aspirations. The right person to talk to is a believing mirror.” 

I not only trusted him with my dreams but also with my life. I miss my talks with him. I miss hearing his voice. I miss him terribly. Without him in my life I am lost sometimes. And at those times I feel utterly lonely. 

When did you last hear someone say to you, “I believe in you”?

BELIEVE

ChK

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Ten Steps To Becoming A Writer

I’ve noticed lately that most of the articles or blogs being published online or in print are in the form of lists. Like ‘Five Things to Do to Lose Weight’ or ‘Eight Steps to Success’ and so on.

I remember for me it was the late Stephen Covey who first started this trend, with his ‘7 Habits of Highly Successful People’.

Here’s my first list edited from my July 2012 post.

Step 1: Start with an Idea.

Step 2: Draw out a Plan- theme, characters, plot.

Step 3: Read and Research (if necessary).

Step 4: Start Writing (actual writing process).

Step 5: Keep on Writing until you Finish the first draft.

Step 6: Put it Aside for a While and do Something Else.

Step 7: Get Back to your Draft and Start Cutting and Editing.

Step 8: Query Agents and Publishers.

Step 9: Don’t wait, Start a New Project.

Step 10: Read! Read! Read!

books&books

And remember to have fun!

ChK

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