Solange Ritchie

Author of Firestorm, A New Psychological Thriller Available Now

Angels in a Cave in Thailand: The Miracle of the Human Spirit

After watching the rescue of the soccer team and their coach from a cave in Thailand this week, I feel compelled to write about it.

I call this post “Angels in a Cave in Thailand.” Why? Because that is what those brave divers and everyone else who participated in the rescue were—angels.

In a world filled with hatred, bigotry, racism, and bad news, we saw before our very eyes the power of goodness. We saw the miracle of the human spirit. We saw men and women brought together for one great cause—to save twelve young boys and their coach trapped in a flooded cave in the middle of nowhere.

I believe that God sends us miracles like this sometimes so that we remember life is not all about hatred, politics, bigotry, racism, or any of that. God shines his light, the light of angels, on us so that we remember that goodness exists in this world.

There is goodness in the heart of humankind.

There is goodness in the human spirit.

The rescuers had no time to waste getting the boys and their coach out of that cave—no time to waste at all. They had to act. They had no more time to ponder or plan. Listening to the experience of the cave divers afterward, listening to them say that this was the most difficult dive they have ever done, gave me chills. These men, and the boys that they rescued, were so brave. Many of the boys could not swim, yet they trusted the divers to bring them out alive. One diver said that the water in the cave was cold and that they could not see more than their hands in front of their faces while they were submerged. The rocks were jagged, and the tunnel was cramped. Yet the divers went in and came out with twelve young boys and one coach. They risked it all.

Why? Because they were angels in a cave in Thailand.

Angels are all around us each day. They are people who bring out the goodness in the human spirit. Watch for them.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of the United States Department of Defense. The appearance of US Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Dogs—Man’s (and Woman’s) Best Friends

Anyone who follows me on social media knows that I am a dog person. Always have been, always will be.

During my childhood in Jamaica, my family raised bull mastiffs. When we left Jamaica when I was eleven, our bull mastiff, Laura, stayed behind to live with my uncle. She was old and blind in one eye. We did not think she would survive the trip to America. I cried so much when we left her. I will never forget her.

When my family moved to Key West, my father bought two stores. One was a Hallmark Gold Crown store in uptown called Conn’s Cameras and Cards, and my dad managed the other store, Photo Sonics, on Duval Street. My dad went all the way to Georgia to buy another bull mastiff—a beautiful, fawn-colored puppy. We named her Konica because both of my dad’s stores sold that brand of camera. Konica lived to be about twelve. She brought us so much joy and many great memories.

I went without a dog from my university days until I married my first husband. I guess when you are just starting out in your professional life, you concentrate on other things—like whether you can pay the rent this month and how long it will take to pay off your student loans.

All that changed after John and I got married. When we visited my Uncle Robbie and Auntie Judy in Jamaica, we fell in love with one of their chocolate Labradors. I believe the Clintons also had a chocolate Lab at the time. So, for our wedding anniversary one year, John took me to a home in San Juan Capistrano, California, where I was introduced to Snickers, a very pregnant female chocolate Lab with American Kennel Club papers. About two months later, we went back and chose a pup from her small litter. We called him Max, but his proper name was Maxwell Augustus of Kodiak, according to his papers. He instantly became our baby. We had a large backyard we loved to play fetch in. Or we would take Max to Trabuco Creek, and he would jump in the ice-cold mountain waters. He lived to be fifteen years old. I loved that dog so much. His companionship kept me alive after John died suddenly.

For a few months after Max passed, I did not have a dog. My house felt empty and lonely without a dog, so I contacted a Lab rescue in Southern California. After I filled out the adoption forms, the rescue agency inspected my house. After they were satisfied that all was in order, I travelled north to Ventura to meet a rescued Lab.

According to the little documentation he had, his name was once Pablo but had since been changed to Carver. I could tell this sweet dog had been abused because he was skittish and afraid of the dark. I took him home with me that day. We instantly bonded. He was always close to me, even when I went to the bathroom!

He was the only dog I ever knew who purred when you rubbed his chest. He was great with my ex’s kids and grandkids. He gave me so much love. He lived to be almost sixteen. The day I put him down was one of the toughest days of my life. Both he and Maxwell are cremated, and I have their ashes here at my southern Florida home. I kiss the boxes that hold their ashes often.

I also had standard black poodles at one point, but that is a story for another day.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of m01229 (CC BY 2.0)

 

Summer Vacation Plans—Cockle Soup, Anyone?

If you have been reading my blog for any period of time, you know that I often speak about my fond memories of growing up on the tropical island of Jamaica in the West Indies. The Jamaica I grew up in was far different than it is today. I cannot any crime remember there. I led an idyllic childhood for the most part.

During the summer months in Jamaica, people who lived in the cities would often “go country.” By this, I mean you would rent or own a villa by the ocean, pack up the car, and head from the bustle of the city into the green, lush Jamaican countryside. Many of my relatives were fortunate enough to own their own country villas, which included pools, ocean views, and house staff who would cater to our needs. In the 1960s and early 1970s, I think Jamaica had two local black-and-white TV stations—neither offered anything particularly interesting except for a few American shows in the evening now and then.

So family time in the country was really family time. My family spent most days splashing in the pool or the ocean. I remember one day at the beach, my mum, my brothers, and I found a group of cockles in the sand. These are small mollusks in pink shells that have the ability to quickly burrow down into wet sand. They make a wonderful soup. We grabbed our sand pails and dug into the wet sand as fast as we could. The cockles, sensing they were under attack, burrowed deeper as we fought through the ebb and tide of shoreline waves. We scooped up handfuls of cockles and dropped them into the buckets as fast as we could. Some got away, but many could not escape our small hands and our determination. We laughed at our little adventure. When my mum felt that we had enough, we three children marched up to the house and presented the cooks with our catch of the day, feeling proud of what we had accomplished.

That night, we had the most delicious cockle soup. I cannot explain what it tasted like. It tasted something like lobster bisque but not as thick and without the taste of sherry.

So this summer, what memories will you make? Will they be sweet memories at the beach? Will you hike in the wilderness? Will you make s’mores around a campfire? Will you fly off to a foreign land? Or will you perhaps head to a Disney park? Wherever your travels take you, remember to cherish the memories you make not with a cell phone but with your mind. Your mind is the best recorder of all.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of ken wilson lee (CC BY 2.0)

A New, Terrifying World of School Shootings

I know you’re not supposed to get political in blog posts.

This is not a political blog post but an observation.

What happened to the world my generation grew up in?

I remember that I felt safe riding my bike to school in Kendall, Florida, when my family first came to the United States. The toughest issues at my all-girls Catholic school back in Jamaica were making sure my uniform looked right, getting good grades, and not incurring the wrath of the Catholic nuns, like Sister Martinella or Sister Maureen Claire!

I never once worried about being shot by a gunman at school. The thought simply never crossed my mind.

Now parents are homeschooling their children because they do not trust our school systems to keep their kids safe. We have elementary school–age children and teenagers who are traumatized from seeing their classmates being shot and killed around them. These students will never forget those images. They will suffer from those memories for the rest of their lives.

I can tell you this because the images of the day my first husband, John, died at the age of thirty-seven still resonate with me. I still remember getting the phone call from his father that night after I went home to feed the dogs. I still remember driving way too fast to the hospital, fearing the worst. I still remember sprinting flat-out down the hallway toward John’s room while screaming his name. I still remember entering his room to find his mom slumped with her back against the wall, crying. I still remember holding his dead body while weeping uncontrollably and calling his name as if that would bring him back. And I still remember his father slowly taking photos and cards off the corkboard near John’s hospital bed with huge tears in his eyes.

These are images you never forget.

The brutal deaths of innocent students are images their families and the survivors will never forget.

In honor of the dead and wounded, let’s do something about it, America. It is time.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of Marion Paul Baylado (CC BY 2.0)

What—a World with No Wine and Cheese?

Anyone who knows me knows I love food and red wine.

With a Jamaican father and a French mother, how could I not be a foodie? Because I draw on the spices native to Jamaican culture and the cream and butter that are so much a part of French cuisine, I am proud to say that I am a pretty good cook.

When I lived in California with my ex-husband, who was running for Congress, I hosted parties for governors and dignitaries. I often served a hundred guests buffet-style. Many Americans asked if the food was catered, and I proudly told them, “No, it’s all homemade.” I served such dishes as Jamaican mini–jerk sliders, whole lemon-roasted chickens, my famous mac and cheese, and pineapple upside-down cake (my dad’s favorite), and no one left my parties hungry. Most folks left with a plate of food in their hand.

I grew up in Jamaica, where certain things are not as abundant as in the United States, and I often think about the times in the mid-1970s when you would walk into a Jamaican supermarket and the shelves would be empty. Even if you had money, not much was available to buy, and anything you did find was very expensive. Thank God my parents were in the retail business—they knew when shipments were coming into stores and could make do.

I often wonder if Americans understand how lucky they are to live in a world where supermarkets are always stocked with food and water. When you live without these things, they gain greater value to you. You develop a sense of deep gratitude for God’s many blessings. You learn to live with less. You realize that designer products and fancy cars do not bring happiness. You learn that the simple things—like a nice glass of red wine and a slice of good cheese—bring true happiness.

So I say no way to a world without red wine and cheese.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of JoshDMcK (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Finding Peace in the Social Media Age

I was truly fascinated when I recently watched a toddler swiping on his mother’s iPhone screen. I thought, “Where is technology taking our society that a child so young has any idea what an iPhone is, much less knows that he has to touch the screen and swipe to see a new picture?”

While having a social media presence is necessary for an author, I watch practically no TV to increase the time I can devote to writing. I no longer watch the news, as I find it depressing. When I write, I listen to either instrumental music or none at all. I recently went to see the Gipsy Kings in concert, and I liked their instrumental stuff. Sometimes classical works for me too, but other times it puts me to sleep. The bottom line is that I choose when and if I allow social and traditional media into my life, not vice versa.

I recently went on vacation overseas. While flying home, I noticed that people got out their cell phones and checked their messages as soon as the flight entered US airspace. Now, I understand that staying connected is part of the job for some people, but come on—they just came back from a beautiful, relaxing trip where they could take a break from social media, and as soon as they could, they plugged back in again.

I’m sorry, that life is not for me.

I wonder about people who are constantly plugged into their phone or social media. Is this behavior something that our culture teaches? Does it make people feel more important? Or does it reflect something deeper?

We all laughed at the idea in The Terminator that robots and megacomputers could take over the world. But that is what’s happening today. Social media is slowly taking over our brains.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of Seika (CC BY 2.0)

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Sweet Lemonade—Part 2

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Last week, I told you about one occasion when I put this adage into practice. This week, I have a second to share.

I belong to a travel group with about 175 members. We go on day trips, overnight trips, and sometimes longer trips, usually by bus. The group consists mostly of older members, but some are young whippersnappers like me. The purpose of our group is to spend time together and see new places without worrying about driving ourselves there and back.

For the last few months, we had planned a Memorial Day trip to Naples, a city on the west coast of Florida, that would include a walk around town, a show, dinner, and cocktails. The trip was sold out and had a waiting list. We thought everything would go as planned like it usually does thanks to our fearless leader, Rosalie.

Hurricane season was not scheduled to start for another week, although we had been having a lot of rain in southern Florida the week before Memorial Day. Then on Friday, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for southern Florida because of the rain.

And then Tropical Storm Alberto decided to form on Friday morning over the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico and head our way. Needless to say, I drove home on Friday evening in such a heavy torrent of rain that drivers on the highway slowed down to thirty miles an hour and had flashers on. I was almost totally blinded by the rain and could barely see the car in front of me.

That same day, I found out the Memorial Day trip was cancelled because of the weather. Initially, I was upset because I had been looking forward to getting away for a little bit and seeing some new scenery. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was a smart decision. Some members of the travel group are elderly, and the slippery, rain-slicked streets would not have been safe for them. Someone could have fallen and gotten injured, and none of us wanted that.

So, what was supposed to be an overnight Memorial Day trip to Naples turned into a three-day writing binge for me. As I listened to the rain drops on the windowsill in my home office, I thought of each one of those drops as sweet lemonade.

Until next time, make lemonade.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of Rob Bertholf (CC BY 2.0)

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Sweet Lemonade: Part 1

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

We have all heard this saying, and we know what it means: look on the bright side of things. Well this week, I had two opportunities to turn lemons into lemonade. In this post, I will share the first one with you.

My friend, Azie, hosted a wonderful royal wedding–watching party. It started at eleven o’clock in the morning, and my mom and I were the first to arrive with pastries and cakes in hand. Little by little, other guests arrived (all women) with mountains of food, including sandwiches, pastries, and sweet treats. Our hostess made mimosas and tea—both hot and iced—and we all sat down to watch the pomp and circumstance of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding.

It was raining outside, but not heavily. In fact, my hostess’s little girl and some of her friends were out by the pool having a pizza party and watching the wedding on a big outdoor screen.

As with most royal weddings, the build-up to the ceremony lasted about two hours. At one point, the lights in Azie’s house flickered but immediately came back on. We thought nothing of it. We watched Oprah, the Beckhams, and a host of other VIPs arrived at St. George’s Chapel for the wedding. We watched Meghan wave and smile from the vintage Rolls-Royce that took her and her mother to the cathedral.

As we drank mimosas and noshed on treats, we watched Harry and the future king of England, William, walk into the church, looking dashing (and in Harry’s case, a bit nervous) in their dark uniforms.

We watched Meghan emerge from the car, looking tasteful, elegant and understated. She beamed with joy and happiness. A look of true love shone in her eyes.

And then the power went out. I mean out. It wasn’t coming back. We all groaned.

Luckily, our hostess, Azie, took this setback in stride. She thought of games for us to play, including one called What’s in Your Purse? By the time we finished that one, we were laughing. (I mean, who carries toenail clippers in her purse?).

We soon realized we weren’t there for the royal wedding. We were there to spend time together, to have fun dressing to the nines and wearing crazy hats, to drink tea with our pinkies sticking out, to laugh, and to make new friends. That was what the day was about.

And in those moments before the lights went out, we witnessed true and abiding love on the faces of Harry and Meghan. I wish them all the happiness in the world. And I know that Princess Diana was looking down on her son from heaven and smiling at the strong and faithful man he has become and at the beautiful and intelligent woman he has chosen as his wife.

Until next time, make lemonade.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of Nick Harris (CC BY-ND 2.0)

New novel Firestorm is on the way!

My second book is on the way. Firestorm promises the return of someone from Dr. Cat Powers’ past, as well as her tracking a new killer who is a fire fighter by day and a twisted arsonist by night. McGregor returns to chase down a mad man hell bent on watching Southern California’s scenic neighborhoods burn. Cat is caught in a hellish firestorm she cannot control.  Will she survive or succumb to the heat?

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