Solange Ritchie

Author of Firestorm, A New Psychological Thriller Available Now

The Changing of the Leaves

It’s that time of year—the time when the leaves on the trees change from green to orange to fiery red. The air turns a little crisper and you find yourself wandering the house and wondering where you put your fuzzy slippers. The days shorten. The smell of suntan lotion no longer lingers at the beach.

It’s the time of the changing of the leaves.

I remember that when I attended law school in Chicago, I enjoyed the scenery while driving in September and October. The trees turned from green to brilliant orange, bright yellow, and deep red. Some even turned a shade of purple as fall’s cold temperatures took root. I remember marveling at all the colors. In South Florida, we don’t get such a dramatic change, but you can still see it if you look.

My oak tree that I spoke of in my last blog post loses some of its green color. Some of the leaves turn golden as if to remind me, “Summer is over, my dear. Time to slow down. Time to linger over fall things—cinnamon, sage, roasted turkey, fresh baked cookies, and hot chocolate. Time to curl up with a good book under a blanket.”

I used to hate it when summer turned to fall. Now I enjoy the changing of the leaves. I enjoy each season for its special and unique qualities.

I hope you do the same.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of D. Brandsma (CC BY 2.0)

My Life-Sustaining Oak Tree

When I was looking for a house in Florida, I knew instantly when I walked through the front door which house was the one for me. I wanted a house with three qualities: (1) lots of natural light, (2) a layout that allowed me to stand at the front door and see out the back, and (3) natural beauty. Well, in the house where I write this blog, I got all three.

The third quality comes primarily from a beautiful old oak tree that can be seen from my living room and master bedroom. The tree is the largest on the lake where I live. It hosts and provides shade for a veritable menagerie of creatures, including squirrels, bluebirds, pea doves, blackbirds, white swans, ducks, iguanas, and possums, just to name a few.

I look out the sliding doors in my bedroom at that tree sometimes and wonder how old it is. I am not an arborist, but I would guess the tree is over a hundred years old.

During Hurricane Irma, which barreled through Florida on September 10, 2017, I watched the oak’s branches sway in the strong, gusting winds. I looked at that tree and wondered, “How many hurricanes have you been through, my beautiful tree?” My tree gave no answers, but I know it has been through many storms and hurricanes.

My oak tree is much like life. We can survive and weather any storm if our lives are firmly rooted in love, hope, family, and respect. We can live to be a hundred years old if we live with love in our hearts and provide shelter to others. We can nurture those we live with if we provide a strong trunk of support and guidance.

Be strong, be brave, be free, and always live and love with respect.

Then you will be like my beautiful oak tree.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of Beatrice Murch (CC BY 2.0)

 

To Be, or Not to Be—That Is the Question

“To be, or not to be: that is the question” is a famous quote from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Many of us studied Hamlet in high school, and I would guess that this quote still rings true for us today.

To be, or not to be. To me, this means how self-actualized are you? Do you know what makes you happy? Really happy? I know I do.

For me, happiness does not come from possessions but from inner peace. It comes from doing what I am doing right now—writing. It comes from helping clients in my chosen profession—law. It comes from seeing the beauty of a flower that I have nurtured. It comes from feeling the gentle sunshine on my face in the morning. It comes from watching the simple beauty and infinite grace of a monarch butterfly fluttering gracefully through my backyard. It comes from family time, especially time spent with my brother Andre, who has Down’s Syndrome. Music makes me happy. Singing makes me happy. Animals make me happy (especially dogs).

These are simple things that cannot be bought with money, simple things for which there is no monetary value or equivalent.

I did not feel this way when I was younger. I guess you could say my wants and needs have mellowed over the years. I no longer need nor want designer items. They don’t matter to me.

How about you? I want to encourage you to do an exercise. Sit down in the morning with your cup of coffee, and write down ten things that make you truly happy deep down in your soul. When you are done writing, think about how you can integrate as many of these things into your week as possible. For instance, when you get home from work, don’t turn on the TV right away. Instead, pop in a favorite CD or open the music library on your device and listen to your favorite song. Dance if you feel like it. No one is looking. You are allowed. Instead of taking a quick, hot shower this weekend, take a long, luxurious bath. Really reflect on your life, your loves, your happiness, and your salvations.

Only then will you know what it is to be.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of Chris Waits (CC BY 2.0)

What—a World with No Video Games?

I recently wrote a blog post called “What—a World with No Wine and Cheese?” reflecting on my love of food. This blog post takes a more serious look at the issue of video games.

These days, children and teenagers are always looking down at their phones. I guarantee that they are either texting friends or playing video games. In my opinion, neither activity is very sociable toward the people those children are with.

I know that video games can be addictive. They give the mind something to do, something to think about. And when you win, you feel like you have actually accomplished something. But what have you really accomplished when you win a video game? Not much at all.

Trust me, I know of what I speak. Back when video games first came out, my brothers and I were addicted to Pong for a while. (If you remember Pong, you are dating yourself.)

Then came Pac-Man. I used to play that stupid game for an hour each day. Some of my friends called me Miss Pac-Man in junior college. I never thought of it as a waste of time—I just played to kill some time between classes and have a little fun. I never thought I should be studying instead of playing that silly game.

Now, instead of standing in front of bulky video arcade machines, kids and teenagers have video games loaded on their phones—instant access to Pac-Man or Candy Crush or whatever other game they want to play.

But is Candy Crush really crushing family time and legitimate interaction with your children?

Is Candy Crush distracting them from looking up and actually seeing the world that is around them?

If so, it’s time to consider a world without video games. Put the Pac-Man and Candy Crush away for a while. You will be happy you did.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of Ryan Quick (CC BY 2.0)

Remembering Times Gone By

While I drove to work on August 6, 2018, my favorite radio station mentioned that it was National Root Beer Float Day. This got me remembering times gone by.

In Jamaica, my parents owned the famous Manor Park Pharmacy in Kingston, the capital city. Now, I know what you are thinking—what is the connection between a pharmacy and root beer floats? The answer is simple: Manor Park Pharmacy was not just a pharmacy. We had a large and well-respected old-time soda fountain and grill in there.

My two older brothers and I often headed to the pharmacy’s comics section and then to the soda fountain after school. I remember seeing folks enjoying the food and the hamburgers that the pharmacy was known for. The place was alive with chatter, good times, and the smell of good food.

Each week, my brothers and I were allowed to choose one comic book to take home and to order something from the soda fountain. I always ordered the BLT, my favorite. I think I loved the saltiness and crunch of the bacon, hot off the grill. My special-needs brother, Andre, always ordered a hamburger. (Burgers are still one of his favorite meals, although he has downsized now to sliders.) I do not remember what my brother Steven usually ordered, but whatever it was, I bet it tasted delicious.

Those were cherished times and memories. Times of innocence. Times to remember.

Do you have a favorite soda fountain or hole-in-the-wall restaurant that is a past or present favorite? If so, please share those places that were special in your childhood and remain special in your heart.

Families all over this country come together each night over food. Remember, family and those memories that you make together every night are the most important of all.

So here’s to National Root Beer Float Day for evoking old memories.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of RobertG NL (CC BY 2.0)

What’s Up with the Wacky Weather?

I know what you are thinking—a blog post about the weather?

Yes, a blog post about the weather.

Think about it, or just watch the news when you get home from work.

California is suffering some of the worst record-breaking fires we have ever seen. And they are happening in July and August—earlier than in years past. Thank God for all the brave firefighters who risk life and limb to protect people’s homes and lives. Your sacrifice and hard work will not be forgotten.

The rest of the country is dealing with record-setting heat or torrential rain. Tornados have appeared in places that normally don’t see tornados—like the Fort Lauderdale airport in Florida!

Europe is under the spell of a heatwave that is melting glaciers. In Portugal and Spain, temperatures have risen to over 110 degrees. A recent news story featured people who wanted to sit on the famous Spanish Steps in Rome, but the steps were too hot to sit on or even touch with bare skin.

So what’s up with the wacky weather? Is it God’s way of telling us that our planet is not a healthy as we think? Is it Mother Nature’s revenge on mankind? Is it Father Time’s way of telling us to slow down and pay more careful attention to this spinning ball of land and sea that we call Earth? I think the answer to these questions is a resounding yes. We need to be more mindful of the pollution affecting our world. We need to recognize global warming not as something that might be happening but as something that is very, very real.

So as you enjoy the summer weather, think about how you can leave a smaller footprint on Mother Earth. Think about how you can benefit her, not harm her, because a healthy Mother Earth benefits us all.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of ya.zan (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Is Your Glass Half-Empty or Half-Full?

Is your glass half-empty or half-full? I ask this because your answer reflects what kind of person you are and how you view the world.

My glass is half-full. I am always trying to achieve more in life and dreaming of what is next. I never take my eye off the ball. Maybe that comes from growing up with two older brothers but no sisters and being the baby of the family. I was always competitive. I always needed to do more and be more.

I’ve been around folks whose glasses are half-empty. They drive me absolutely crazy. They constantly complain. Nothing is ever quite right. They look for the littlest thing to find fault with instead of looking at the big picture. Do you know people like this? I bet you do. How do you handle being around them? Do you limit your time around them?

I ask these questions because life is about the choices we make. Do you wake up in the morning and think about how your day might go? Do you think about it in a positive or negative way? Is your job just drudgery? Or do you view it as an opportunity to accomplish something every day?

This week, think about making the choice to be happy. Think about bringing happiness and a positive attitude to those around you. Choose to be someone whose glass is half-full.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of Kalyan Chakravarthy (CC BY 2.0)

Ghosts—Things That Go Bump in The Night

Who loves a good ghost story? I’m not talking about slasher flicks—I mean well-written stories that make you wonder if something exists on the other side.

I can tell you that I believe in ghosts. I do not believe that ghosts are inherently mean. They can be, but not all are.

When I was thirty-seven years old, my first husband, John Ritchie, passed away unexpectedly due to gross medical negligence by doctors at UCLA Medical Center. Although eight doctors were in the surgical suite, a resident was allowed to place a line in John’s neck. This line punctured the major artery in his neck not once but twice. His blood pressure plummeted. They packed him in ice. But it was too late. He went into a coma and never came back to me. He was just forty when he died. I share this with you not for sympathy but to tell you that for years after, I felt John’s presence with me. Little things that only I would recognize let me know he was watching over me and making sure I was okay. I don’t feel his spirit with me anymore. But I do still cry for the love that I lost. I am sure if he was still alive, we would still be married. He was the love of my life.

I come from the small Caribbean island of Jamaica. I bet you didn’t know that Jamaica has more churches and chapels per capita than any other country in the world. Why? Jamaicans are deeply religious and God-fearing people. And yes, many of them believe in ghosts. Think about it—the Jamaican countryside can be quite dark at night because Jamaica does not have the infrastructure that the United States does. In Jamaica, the country folks have developed their own kinds of country medicines—mint tea to cure a belly ache and so on. So, the people live very close to the land and are very superstitious.

In Jamaica, people don’t call spirits ghosts. They are called duppies, and the worst thing you can do to a person is draw down a duppy upon them.

One of the most haunted buildings in the world is Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica. This Georgian mansion is noted for the legend of the White Witch of Rose Hall, who was called Annee Palmer in life and allegedly murdered three husbands and many slaves. Her ghost is said to haunt the property. Some believe the story, and some declare it pure fiction. My cousin stayed at the property when it functioned as a hotel, and she believes Rose Hall is really haunted.

One of the next books I am working on is a Southern Gothic novel called “Fiona’s Box.” The story is about a jewel-inlaid silver box that is given to young girl, Fiona, by a relative. The box is evil and cursed. Soon, Fiona is overtaken by its power and does things she never thought she would do. Years later, the box lands in the hands of Casey, a young girl living with her mother and some runaways in a big old house in St. Augustine, Florida. At an estate sale, Casey is drawn to the box immediately. She purchases it. Soon, strange visions and nightmares fill Casey’s dreams, and Fiona’s box slowly takes over her mind.

So, to those who believe things go bump in the night, sweet dreams.

And to those who do not believe in such things, sweet nightmares.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of avmaier (CC BY 2.0)

Weeding, Writing, and Aromatics

We all remember the three r’s from elementary school:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Arithmetic

Well, let me suggest a little change to that grade school mantra:

  • Weeding
  • Writing
  • Aromatics

I know—you’re saying, What is this woman talking about?

When I say weeding, I mean physically, mentally, and emotionally. We have had so much rain in South Florida this month, I find myself weeding constantly. When I Miracle-Gro my backyard garden beds, I wonder how many weeds I am really growing. They seem to pop up everywhere.

Just as I am physically weeding my yard, I am also weeding my life. In the grand scheme of things, what makes me happy—really happy? Wealth and money? No. Owning objects? No. Being blessed with a wonderful family and a few close friends who support me in my work life and my writing? Yes.

I am weeding emotionally too—figuring out what is important as far as relationships and the like. Having gone through a really difficult divorce, I know that I have lots more emotional weeding to do. Many of us do. It comes with the territory.

As for writing, after seeing the great reviews and acclaim for Firestorm, I want to write every day. But when you’re working full time, doing writers’ workshops, and hosting book signings, that is a tough schedule to keep. I’m not complaining. It took courage to start this writing journey of mine. I am fully committed to it. I love giving life to stories and taking my fans with me on a wild ride.

With that said, book three in the Dr. Catherine Powers series is complete and being edited. The book is a legal thriller called “Slayer” and involves a dirty international law firm based in South Florida. When female employees turn up dead in the canals off of Alligator Alley in the Everglades, Cat is called in. I hope to release “Slayer” later this year. Book four in the Dr. Catherine Powers series, a political thriller called “Blast,” is also being edited. In it, Cat becomes the eyes and ears of the president of the United States as a team of Syrian-born bombers wreak havoc on soft targets in the United States. A love interest finally enters Cat’s life—a handsome Navy SEAL and bomb expert named Sam. So the Dr. Catherine Powers series has lots more to come.

As for aromatics, as I get older, I find that my allergies have gotten worse. This includes nasal allergies. Some mornings, I wake up and feel like I can’t breathe. So on days when I do wake up feeling good, I go out into my yard and smell the roses. My roses here are not like the beautiful, white Iceberg roses I had in California, but their aroma reminds me that life and nature are precious and should be enjoyed.

So now I’m going to smell the roses. Remember to do the same.

Until next time.

Solange

 

Image courtesy of kota (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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.

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