Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Waving the White Flag

May 23, 2012 30 comments
Age like a fine wine

Age like a fine wine (Photo credit: derekGavey)

Strike at the heart of the beast! Show no mercy!

Why do people feel compelled to do battle with all things related to aging? Hair gets colored, as if having gray hair is shameful. Young, nubile women begin getting Botox before the age of 30; begin using anti-wrinkle creams in their 20’s.

Have we come to despise these signs of having lived past our teen years?

My hair gleams with gray sprinkled throughout from years lived and loved.  Hard work went into the making of those signature hairs. Why should shame be associated with them?

Small lines have taken up residence around my mouth. Are they caused by laughing too much? If so, my favorite past-time will continue to occupy me. Laugh lines are far better in my estimation than facial stress fractures.

The reasoning behind this abhorrence of aging escapes me. My entire experience here on Planet Earth was lived at the same moment—the one in which I am aware. Age has rarely meant anything to me.

At age twelve, people treated me as 19-20. When nineteen came along, people assumed I was in my mid-20’s. By the time my 30’s arrived, most of my friends were in their early 20’s. Even now, I have few real friends my own age. I know plenty of people in their 50’s and 60’s, but those whom I call true friends are of all ages, from the very young to those in their late seventies and older.

It’s always been my contention that age is only a marker for statistical purpose. The body may have tell-tale signs of wear and tear. But the me operating this body has no age, except the one I inside my head.

The question which needs to be posed to a person is: If you’re so unhappy to reach your current age that you need to reconstruct your body to hide your experience, is reconstruction likely to erase your unhappiness?

Does one’s happiness depend on the physical representation of the person inside? After all, our bodies are only the vessels, which carry us around on this planet. Is our preoccupation with conforming to culture’s definition of beauty the only path to self-satisfaction and acceptance? Must we all be life-sized, unrealistic Barbie’s and Ken’s in order to be accepted as vital, beautiful, and worthwhile? If so, aren’t we all waving a white flag; surrendering our individuality and uniqueness in favor of a cultural impossibility?

Writers deal with this issue each time they develop a character, put together narrative description, or poetry. We devote much time and page space to beauty in one form or another. Have you ever wondered just how deeply our brains’ hard-wiring goes, if all cultures, races, and ages consider this one aspect of life as this important?

What do you think about our demand for physical perfection and beauty? I’m looking for opinions on this topic. Are we the total of our body parts, or do we have an innate value and beauty than has nothing to do with our outer shells?

You tell me. Leave a comment. Take a stand.

A bientot,



Interview with Krysten Lindsay Hager

October 1, 2010 7 comments

Good morning, everyone. I’ve invited Krysten Lindsay Hager here today to share some of her life and experiences with us. Please welcome her with your usual warmth.

Claudsy: Good morning, Krysten. It’s so good to have you here. I’d like to begin with a very simple question, if you don’t mind. How long have you been writing and what do you write?

Krysten: I started writing early on and won my first writing contest in the first grade. It was a school wide contest (1st-8th grade) so I thought I had died and gone to heaven. My reward? A certificate and a clown doll. Luckily it was a cute clown doll, not the nightmare inducing kind. Over the years I’ve written middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction, essays, news/journalism, and magazine articles. I really enjoy humor essays.

Claudsy: You didn’t waste any time, did you? Good for you. Would you tell us where you  live now and why are you there?

Krysten: I currently live on Terceira Island in the Azores, which are a group of Portuguese islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve been here nearly three years but will be returning to the U.S. in the winter. We moved here because my husband’s job brought us here.

Claudsy: I’ve always been fascinated by the Azores and wanted to go there. But, how do you function living there? What amenities do you not get there that you would here and what do you really miss?

Krysten:  Everything is flown in or brought in by boat pretty much, which means magazines and newspapers can be held up at customs, so sometimes we’re a month or more behind. I miss current magazines and American newspapers.

The volcano in Iceland kept planes from flying in (bad weather does as well), so sometimes it’s a struggle to get food. Fresh fruits and veggies aren’t easy to get either. You can buy a few things locally from one of the farms, but most of the farms here are for raising cattle more than produce.

Claudsy: That’s a far cry from here, it’s true. Krysten, has anything changed for you since living in the islands, regarding how you look at writing?

Krysten: I found myself focused on more internet based projects and wrote for a few websites and web magazines since sending things through the mail was a big dodgy. However, when I first got here the library was closed and there was no English bookstore, so I went to a small chapel library to see what I could find to read and met this woman there.

The first thing she started telling me was about how newcomers always come in with a list of projects and goals they want to complete while they’re there, but they miss out on the fact the island is a great place to stop, listen, and reflect. She said for most people it’s the first time they can have time to just read and spend time in silence, listening instead of talking.

I admit I was super jet-lagged while having that conversation (I was dealing with a six-hour time difference), but later I thought about that and started to notice how often we aren’t alone with our thoughts or take time to reflect. So now, I try to be more observant of what’s going on around me and I find I take in much more, which can only help my writing

Claudsy: The entire change in environment must have had a major impact on you. What’s your next project going to be?

Krysten: There’s a new book blog that’s just started, where I’m going to be doing author interviews and reviews on there soon, called “Authors and Appetizers.” I’m very excited about that. I also have an essay on family traditions and a recipe coming out this fall in: Country Comfort: Holidays Cookbook: Over 100 Recipes to Warm the Heart & Soul.

Claudsy: I’m glad you could continue to write there. What have you learned about yourself since taking up residence there? Does that affect how you feel about writing?

Krysten:  Being in Portugal has made me more aware of the different backgrounds people have, and I hope that helps me to expand as a writer, taking into consideration that not everyone has the same upbringing or grows up having the same experiences. I’ve met people from Egypt, Turkey, Puerto Rico, Spain, etc. It makes you realize there is more than one way to see a situation and seeing all these culturally diverse viewpoints makes me realize how sheltered I was in the U.S.

Just seeing the difference in a British news magazine as opposed to an American one can tell you a lot. I notice the different types of humor used and what they focus on as opposed to what you see in an American magazine. For one, European magazines don’t focus primarily on just young people and teens. Also, there is more of a focus on royalty which shows they care more about tradition than the flash in the pan entertainers.  

Claudsy: We do tend to exclude much of the rest of the world here, even with CNN. Are you going to continue to concentrate on children’s literature now? Or, are you, perhaps, going to branch out even more?

Krysten: I’ve been very interested in humor essays the last few years and although I wouldn’t write a memoir (I never get how people under 80 can even consider they’ve lived a full enough life for anything like that!), but I’d like to write about my experiences here. I also have a project I’m working on from the viewpoint of a middle school girl.

Claudsy: I’d think all sorts of people would be interested in your Azores experiences. It’s not everyone that lives in the middle of an ocean with all the diverse problems that entails–at least not those who write about it. Would you be willing to live in another country again for the adventure value as well as the writing opportunities?

Krysten: It depends on the country—ha ha! I would be interested to live in the U.K. There’s so much amazing literary talent that’s come out of England, Scotland, and Ireland that I bet you could become prolific just by drinking the water! I have found, when traveling in the U.S. that often different states have their own unique culture and it can be just as diverse traveling from Michigan to South Dakota as it is coming from the U.S. and going to Portugal.

Claudsy: I know what you mean about that observation. Could you tell everyone what your new perspective on writing is?

Krysten: I think I have a much bigger respect for the truth now. Honesty in writing is very important and thanks to Facebook statuses and personal blogs, we find people often try to showcase their lives in the best possible light, which takes away from the full human experience.

Sure it’s nice to have a positive attitude, but all the statuses where you pat yourself on the back or talk about your amazing life, aren’t a hundred percent accurate, and you don’t really learn anything about the person from that. Writers who are honest, raw, and gritty really get to the core of the human experience and that includes suffering.

No kid wants to read a book about a teen or young person with a charmed life. How could they relate? So, honesty in writing is something that I have a huge respect for—even more now than before.

Claudsy: So, tell me, if you could do anything now in your writing career, what would it be and why?

Krysten: I am going to write about my experiences overseas, but I also am looking forward to writing about my experiences with culture shock when I get back. I have not set foot in the United States for almost 3 years, and I can only imagine my reaction when I get back.

Claudsy: I think you may be even more shocked than you think. Good luck and let us know what you’re doing from time to time once you’re back. I, for one, would be terribly interested.

I want to thank you so much for joining us today, Krysten. It’s been such a pleasure talking with you and discovering what your new plans are. Is there anything else that you’d like to say to those out there in the dark?

Krysten: Yes, if you want to write, then you must read, read, read. Many times I meet writers and they talk about their projects and how they want to get published, but when you ask what authors they enjoy or what they’re reading now, they stare at you blankly. It’s repeated at every single writing conference, but if you want to write, you must read what genre you want to write.

Claudsy: There you have it, folks. If you want to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Krysten again for talking with us.

Short Personal Biography

Krsyten Lindsay Hager resides for now in the Azores with her husband. This full-time writer received her undergraduate and MLS from University of Michigan-Flint.

Her writing credits include: Women of Passions: Ordinary Women Serving an Extraordinary God  anthology, Patchwork Path: Grandma’s Choice anthology, Patchwork Path: Friendship Star anthology,  Country Comfort: Holidays Cookbook, WOW! Women on Writing magazine, Girlfriend 2 Girlfriend magazine, The Academy magazine, The Qua Literary magazine, Working Writer, Absolute Write!, Mike’s Writing Newsletter, SCBWI newsletters in Michigan, Minnesota, and the Dakotas, Natural Awakenings. Former staff writer and columnist for the Michigan Times newspaper. Former contributing writer for: The Grand Blanc View newspaper, Davison Index newspaper, Lapeer View newspaper, 

Writing Awards: Deadwood Art’s Council “People’s Choice Award” for best short story

Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition Honorary Mention

Be sure and visit her blog/website at:

I’ll have another something on Thursday before I trundle off to the Pacific for a scenic photo shoot and research gathering two weeks. I’ll pop in once in a while to leave tidbits for any who come to see what’s happening around here.

Enjoy yourselves while I’m gallivanting down rain forest trails and along mountain slopes. A bientot.



Following Blogs and How It Hurts

August 15, 2010 Leave a comment

This morning I was reading a post by a very witty gal who’d moved from Alaska to South Carolina. That, in itself, verges on the insane.

I’m not saying Carol is insane. I’m saying that dropping oneself into an entirely new cultural region without preparation is insane. And I ought to know. I do it every few years.

But Carol does her cultural reporting with flair and style. It’s not that she goes out of her way to perform for the reader. Her thoughts are well-considered and relevant.

Relevant? Well, yeah. She talks about things that we all experience and how going from one extreme regional culture to another has its stimulating differences while at the same time showing all of the cultural similarities we  enjoy or not.

That’s a tall order in some ways and Carol does it beautifully.

And how does it hurt? Well, when a writer like me finds someone who does such a wonderful job expressing herself, well, heartburn does hurt as any sufferer can tell you.

What hurts worse is that I can truly admire her and know that I’ve created that heartburn for myself. I must laugh at her writings for they are funny. I didn’t like finding envy lurking in the back corners of my persona. There you have it. My confession for the day.

 So for those who like a well-written debate by one who’s living inside it, drive that CPU on over to her site and have a great time exploring the back country. You can find her at:

See you soon. And don’t forget to drop by my previous post to see how being from the middle of the North/South controversy shapes a person.

A bientot,


Navigating The South-Personal History Counts

August 15, 2010 4 comments

The cultural differences between far North frontier country and Southern deep roots would throw anybody into shock.

The precipitator of this condition of shock may lie in the fact that many in the North tend to categorize the South. Some dismiss those of the South as the eccentric cousins who aren’t discussed in polite society all that often. After all, they say, Southerners are the ones who brought about that wicked Civil War and all, don’t you know.

Believe it or not, there are those that still think that way. Aside from that, according to others, Southerners are known to be just a hair short on the mental acuity scale. Otherwise they would be out in the world far more and be recognized for their entrepreneurial acumen and social hipness.

Sarcastic? Me? Never!

Reality Check

I can tell you two things for certain sure. I grew up with half my family from the South where I spent as much time as possible, and I lived in the western part of the South for more years than I care to count.

‘Course, living there cured me of one thing–smoking. Couldn’t do it anymore. Didn’t need to be doing it in the first place. Found a way to get rid of the habit for good, and I’ve never been more glad about anything in my life.

Childhood Memories

Because of  my age I remember how the older South used to function. I remember the time before the Civil Rights Movement. I remember watching an older black gentleman step off the sidewalk so that my mother, grandmother, and I could walk past him as he tipped his hat to us. I also remember crying because I thought I’d done something wrong that made him not want to be on the same street as me.

My mother, of course, explained the situation to me right there on the sidewalk. I got indignant (I was very good then at doing indignant) and demanded my grandmother explain why her people would ever do such a thing. All of which upset her no end, as you can imagine. I was very young at the time, challenging an elder about social etiquette. And I did apologize later.

Things settled down a bit during the rest of the visit, but I’ve always been able to close my eyes and see that episode behind the lids anytime I wanted. It was a great social leveler for me.

Farm Living

What else do I remember? I remember catching Grandaddy and my little brother one afternoon, down feeding the hogs (my grandparents were farmers–what were known as sharecroppers, actually.) Indignation swarmed up my backside that afternoon, too.

They were sitting in the back of the big cargo wagon that was heaped with little bitty watermelons about the size of half a soccer ball. Grandaddy would cut a melon in half, hand one half to my brother while keeping one for himself. Each of them would scoop out the heart of the melon, eat it, and then throw the rest to the hogs across the fence before moving on to the next melon.

Now, I knew how those little melons tasted. They were like watermelon flavored honey in a bowl, and I wanted my fair share. Well, wouldn’t you know that the good-old-boys party was just wrapping up when I arrived. I only got the one little melon. –Not that I could have stuffed more than one down my gullet anyway.–

Ever Ride A Cow?

There was a neighbor boy named Hunter who lived down the lane. He used a big Black Angus bull for a horse and rode that animal everywhere. My brother wanted to be just like Hunter, running through the woods barefoot, shooting his .22 and generally running wild.

To that end little bro decided one day, while we were helping my aunt milk the cows, that he wanted to ride one of them. Now, my aunt was raised on a farm and knew how a farm and its animals operated. And she had a really good suspicion what would happen if bro rode milk cow.

She couldn’t talk him out of it, though, so when all the milk was secured and the cows were ready to go back out into the pasture, she asked him which cow he fancied. Being the adventurer that he was, he chose the big Guernsey. Well, my aunt got the cow out into the barn’s center, made sure of  the halter rope, and told him to hop right up there on the cow.

I have to admit, he did pretty good. He managed to last almost the entire 8 seconds before hitting the ground with a whoosh. He was a bit stunned. After all, Hunter made it look so easy. But then, Hunter wasn’t trying to ride a milk cow that had never held a rider before. Hurt? Nah, bro wasn’t hurt, except for his pride.

I confess. I laughed my tail off. My good aunt didn’t, bless her heart. That was the last I ever saw of that cow, though.

High Times

I remember an ice storm at Thanksgiving one year, which forced us to drive home in it on less-than-new tires and seeing my dad white-knuckled at the wheel, knowing he was silently praying that we made it home one state away before we got killed. I do believe Mom was praying just as hard as Dad.

Personally, I was enjoying the fairy castle quality the ice gave all the trees and undergrowth. I’d never seen the effects of an ice storms before. All these years later, I’ve seen too many years of destruction from Nature’s Ice Queen.

There were so many times back then when fun was had by simply playing Red Rover in my grandparents front yard. Or standing in the stripping shed during our autumn visits, stripping tobacco to put in the drying barns. That time was filled with country music blaring from the radio, listening to my grandmother and aunts relate family history and community news in soft twang that amuses so many not of the South, and just spending time together.

The one thing that the south will never be short of is family solidarity. A family member might bring the wrath of the family down on his/her head by shaming the family name, but before that any member will fight to the death for any other member of that family.

The South is hot, sticky, contrary sometimes, and solidly itself. It doesn’t claim to be anything else and never will. If you want proof of that, go down to South America and into Brazil’s interior and visit the city that our South built from the ashes of the Civil War. They still Fly the Confederate flag as their own.,9171,965976,00.html

Betcha didn’t know that, huh?

‘Til next time, have a great day, y’all. Catch the last of those lightning bugs and enjoy the homemade ice cream. I’ll have the peach, please.

A bientot,