Tag Archives: vacation

Three Reasons Why June is A Great Month for Writing


by Lillian Csernica on June 8, 2018

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All good stories begin with a change in the status quo, the problem situation, that plunges the main character into turmoil. Change is the writer’s best friend, and June is a month full of changes. In many cultures, the biggest changes in a person’s life are marked by rites of passage. June is a great month for two very important rites:

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Graduation

The transition from one level of education to another is always significant. Kindergarten to elementary school, from there to middle school, and then the big move to high school as the launch pad for college. Mainstream students deserve to celebrate their achievements, those who struggle and those who shine. Today’s world places so many demands on children while at the same time burdening them with so many distractions. It’s a wonder so many students can focus long enough to do so well.

Yesterday my family attended the graduation ceremony for my older son Michael. At 22 he has now aged out of the school district’s post-graduate program for seniors in the county special education class. This means leaving the learning environment and the network of teachers, aides, therapists, bus drivers, and the registered nurse who have all been part of Michael’s life since he was 3 years old.

With the help of his classroom aide and one of his adaptive communication devices, Michael made a speech that included a little bit about himself, two of his favorite jokes, and a warm thank you to all the people who have helped him come so far. When you live in the world of special needs families, you celebrate every sign of progress no matter how small. Michael and the 6 other students also graduating today demonstrated the passion, dedication, patience, and love present in the parents, teachers, and administrators gathered there. So many stories worthy of being told.

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Weddings

June is a favorite month for weddings. Clear skies, lots of sunshine, and plenty of flowers make for ideal conditions, indoor or outdoor. Summer weather also means a wider selection of honeymoon destinations. The happy couple is about to embark on a whole new phase of their lives together.  There are all those people, the family and friends, who wish the pair getting married all the best. Then there are those people who…don’t.

I’m of an age now where I’ve been to several weddings. As a writer I know that any large event that brings together intense emotion, lots of money, family dynamics, and alcohol is going to bring out the best and the worst in people. Given that most weddings also drag God and the Law into the situation, there’s so much pressure to meet so many expectations. Put all this together and what do you get? Conflict! The key element of any strong story.

Here’s a quick list of my favorite wedding movies:

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Muriel’s Wedding

Four Weddings and a Funeral

Shrek

Pride and Prejudice (Yes, the one with Colin Firth.)

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The Summer Solstice

Summer is the season of freedom. Long days, short nights, no school, family vacations. We can all call to mind a family vacation where at least one thing didn’t go as planned, leading to the kind of drama that makes a story worth telling.

The Solstice itself is celebrated all over the world. No matter how far we get in terms of advanced technology, everybody wants to make sure the sun keeps rising and setting. The summer solstice marks the waning of the sun. No wonder summer is full of so much partying! Midsummer Eve is known for being one of those occasions when the veil between the worlds grows thin, much like Halloween. Gateways, boundaries, borders, and other points of transition are all natural settings for big changes and great stories.

For more on the folklore attached to the summer solstice, click here.

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Filed under classics, creativity, fairy tales, Family, family tradition, Fiction, Halloween, Lillian Csernica, marriage, mother, parenting, romance, special education, Special needs, travel, Writing

#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #25


by Lillian Csernica on May 25, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

Laughter shall fuel the spirit’s engine.

LET THERE BE LIGHT

Kyoto. Nice hotel room. More like an apartment.

Could not figure out how to work the overhead light. Little reading lights by each bed.

Found what looked like an upright card reader where a light switch would be.

Stuck my room key in, light came on, pulled my key out. A minute later the light went out. Rinse, repeat, about three times.

Called front desk. Explained problem. They were puzzled. Sent a guy to check.

He put my key card in the slot. Light came on. He didn’t see any problem. Why?

HE LEFT THE KEY CARD IN THE KEY READER.

That was the secret! Once I removed the key, as I would if I was leaving the room, then the lights would automatically turn off about a minute after I’d left the room.

I have rarely felt like such a total bonehead.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Blog challenges, frustration, Goals, Humor, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, travel, Writing

Universal Fun!


by Lillian Csernica on June 24, 2017

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Tomorrow John and I will fly down to Los Angeles and spend a few days enjoying the wonders of Universal Studios Hollywood.

John has been talking about seeing Universal Studios ever since he first heard about it many years ago. Chris and I decided that a trip to this previously unexplored land of movie magic makes the perfect graduation gift for our boy.

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John and I have studied the map. We’ve discussed what we each want to see the most. Today we’ve been packing our bags. Tomorrow we take our first plane trip together. I’m pretty sure what John is looking forward to the most is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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Me, I’m looking forward to the air conditioning on the plane, at the hotel, and on many of the rides. I’m not a big fan of heat, preferring autumn and winter to summer. I suppose this is an indicator of my advancing years. Insane roller coasters are great, but they lost their appeal for me after I reached my late twenties.

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Even so, I can’t wait to watch the Special Effects Show with John, to get silly in the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem area, and probably scream at least once on the Jurassic Park ride. Best of all, I finally get to drink butter beer and hang out at Ollivander’s where Harry Potter’s wand chose him!

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My grandfather worked in the movies. My mother has appeared as an extra in several. I did some writing for the movies, once upon a time. And now my son loves movies just as much as the previous generations in our family have.

Watch for my trip report once we’re home again!

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thevalley.net

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A Lesson in Priorities


by Lillian Csernica on June 6, 2016

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Ever had one of those days when no matter how hard you try, life just keeps getting between you and what you’re trying to accomplish?

Today fought me from the minute I dragged myself out of bed.  Phone calls, interruptions, distractions, failures to communicate.  This resulted in me being late picking up John at school, something I try my very best to avoid.

When I was a little kid, my mother had occasion to leave me with babysitters or at day care centers.  Either Mom wasn’t good at time management, or life got in her way too, because she was often quite late picking me up.  When you’re six, this causes the kind of anxiety that scorches your little tiny soul for life.  I don’t EVER want John to feel that.

Once I picked up John, he alerted me to the sudden need for two dozen cupcakes.  P.E. class will be having a BBQ to celebrate the end of school.  The cupcakes are John’s contribution to the feast.  OK.  Since I had to drive to the store with the best bakery, I did a few other errands in that part of town.  One resulted in upsetting news.  The other took three times longer than I’d anticipated.

Tomorrow is the Spousal Unit’s birthday.  I also have a group luncheon to attend.  I have to duck out of that early because we’re interviewing new R.N.s for Michael.  Summer school is bearing down on us and we really need more help.

So I’m a little stressed out, right?

I get home with John to discover my sister has rescued a baby robin from the clutches of our male cat, Hunter.  (That’s his name, job description, species niche, and favorite occupation.  Not bad for a single word. )  We suspect the baby fell out of its nest, because it’s too young to fly.  My sister set it on a branch in the camellia bushes out of the cats’ reach and we shut all three feline predators inside the house.

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I fed the baby robin some water with a small syringe.  We watched and waited, hoping its mother would appear.  Even if she did, how would she return her baby to the nest?  This was not a happy situation, especially with John looking on hoping everything would be OK.

Night was closing in.  I took the baby robin to the local native animal rescue.  Finding the place involved a wild ride that is exactly what kept me from getting my own car for so many years.  God and the police must have both been feeling kindly toward me.  I finally found the rescue center, which was part of a private residence.

Now came the hard part.  I had to leave the baby robin there and walk away.  I sat in my car and cried for a while.  I can call in a day or two and see how things are going.  I dread doing so, for all the obvious reasons.

What’s important here is no matter how horrible today was, once that baby bird turned up, everything fell into a very simple perspective.

Save the baby bird.

A while back I wrote a blog post about lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness.  All the stress I’m mired in right now fell away before that one clear priority.

Save the baby bird.

I’ll let you know what happens.

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My Favorite Moments (Kyoto Roundup)


by Lillian Csernica on December 9, 2015

There were a few moments during the trip that stand out as particularly memorable.

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Turning on the lights in our hotel room.  There was no main switch just inside the door.  We did find the switch for the bathroom (located on the wall outside the bathroom, which is just asking for pranks and accidents).  There were small reading lights at the head of each bed, along with a table lamp and a floor lamp.  How did we turn them on?  There was a slot on the wall in the entryway similar to a credit card reader, only this was vertical.  I put my room key in the slot, then pulled it out again.  Voila!  Light!

Two minutes later the lights went out.

We went through this twice more, trying to figure this out with brains that had long since turned to cottage cheese.  I called down to the desk for help and told them the lights wouldn’t stay on.  They sent a man from Maintenance, who had me show him what I’d been doing.  I had the process half-right.  To keep the lights on, one leaves the key in the slot.  So every time Pat and I left the room on an outing, we’d check to see who had a key in hand and who had put hers in the light “switch.”  This resulted in dialogue that would have done Abbot and Costello proud!

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Norimono, 19th C.

The taxi drivers.  I love Japanese taxis.  The lace antimacassars on the seats, the white gloves, the automatic passenger door….  Sometimes the drivers were quite formal, and that’s fine.  Other times we’d get a driver who was happy to have a chance to practice his English, or maybe he just thought Pat and I were entertaining.  (Can’t imagine why anybody would think that!

One driver said, “English is just three words.  I love you.  I miss you.”  My cynical sense of humor kicked in and I told him, “You’re missing one. ‘I want money.'”  Fortunately, we were at a stoplight right then.  The driver burst out laughing.  He mimed writing something down, saying, “I must take notes.”  That made us all start laughing again.

On our way back to the hotel from Kiyomizu-dera, we had a driver who wanted to be friendly, but as is often the case, he was nervous about speaking English.  He had the radio on, playing classic rock.  That was a welcome glimpse of home.  Once I said, “American rock ‘n’ roll!” that broke the ice.  By then Pat was speaking enough Japanese to get into the conversation as well.  The driver revealed his secret stash of chocolates and gave each of us one.  Music and chocolate are the perfect ways to go from strangers to friends.

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At the smaller gift shop inside the grounds of the Imperial Palace, Pat and I got into conversation with Yuki, the lady behind the counter.  She was surprised by how much polite Japanese we could both manage.  When we explained our purpose in Kyoto as doing research for our writing, she thought that was quite exciting.  Before we left, she brought out two little packets of those sugar star candies like the ones Chihiro feeds to the dust sprites in Spirited Away.  She insisted on giving them to us.  That was a lovely surprise!

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The weather was so mild at the start of our stay I didn’t need my jacket day or night.  As the end of October closed in, the nights got colder.  In Kyoto Station one night, everybody else had begun to bundle up and there I was.  As I came up to the escalator going down, I made way for the older lady ahead of me with a polite, “Dozo.”  It was a long escalator.  The lady turned around and said, “Are you cold?”  Her tone of voice was like my mother’s just before she’d tell me to put on a sweater.  This came out of the blue, so I was glad to be able to answer in English.  “Outside, yes.  Inside, no.”  The lady nodded and faced front again.  As we neared the bottom, she turned and wished me a good trip.  The whole thing was rather endearing.

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The ladies at the front desk.  Thanks to my endless questions, Miss Nakanishi and Miss Kinjo knew our daily itinerary almost as well as we did.  When Pat and I came back from that day’s adventures, they’d greet us and ask specific questions about that day’s activities.  I think my boundless enthusiasm for all things Japanese plus my grasp of Japanese history and culture resulted in answers different from the ones a more typical American tourist might give.  Over and over again, Japanese people would ask me, “How do you know about that?”

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Miss Kinjo is from Okinawa.  That gave me a perfect opportunity to ask her about the kijimuna, the “little people” of Okinawa.  They’re on the large side for little people, being about as tall as a seven year old child.  Flaming red hair makes them unique among Japanese folkloric creatures.  All they wear is a garment like a fundoshi made out of leaves.  Kijimuna are tricksters.  They can be helpful when they want to be, and you’d better not offend them.  Miss Kinjo said her grandmother had told her stories about what the kijimuna had done when her grandmother was a little girl.

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With Halloween right around the corner, I was curious to see how Japan handled that holiday.  I saw decorations and party goods and some costume supplies.  The Japanese kids don’t go trick-or-treating the way we do in America.  The idea of dressing up as monsters to go door to door demanding candy under threat of “tricks” might strike the Shinto mind as the basis for a Takashi Miike movie!

This is what Halloween looks like in Kyoto:

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How Do You Make A Dream Come True?


by Lillian Csernica on October 20, 2015

Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to accomplish the Number One item on my Bucket List.

Tomorrow morning I depart for a solid week in Kyoto, Japan.

My husband is a kind and generous man.  I complain about him, I tease him by referring to him as The Spousal Unit, but I have to say he gives me the best gifts.  Chris says that because I was willing to spend two months living in the hospital with Michael, because I cancelled my plans to attend Sasquan, the World Science Fiction Convention, and because I made life easier on everybody here at home who kept up our normal routine, I deserved something special.

So he decided to make my dream come true.  What’s more, I get to take my best friend Pat with me.

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Kyoto is the location for the third book in my Flower Maiden Saga.  I’ve already done a lot of research, but nothing could be better than being right there in one of the greatest cities on earth, a city that has stood for over a thousand years.  And it’s time for the maple leaves to turn color!  The temple gardens will be absolutely gorgeous!

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Kyoto is also the city where in the Heian Period a lady known as Murasaki Shikibu wrote the world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji.  That makes this trip something of an artistic pilgrimage to the place where the world’s first novel was written by a woman, a lady of the court whose name continues to be known and respected more than ten centuries later.

My steampunk stories featuring Dr. Harrington and his family center around Kiyomizudera, the Pure Water Temple.  The climax of my historical espionage story “Tea & Trickery” (in AlternaTEAs, forthcoming from Sky Warrior Books) takes place aboard a steam train that departs from Kyoto.  I can’t wait to walk the streets my characters walk, and to stand in the places where their stories unfold.

I probably won’t be online much.  There’s a whole lot to see in Kyoto!  Pat and I will be out there walking through the city, riding the trains, and sharing what may well be our greatest adventure yet!

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