Solange Ritchie

Author of Firestorm, A New Psychological Thriller Available Now

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.

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)

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