About Me

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Born Linda Marie Cassells, my named changed over the years. I was called Miki in high school by close friends. My name was changed to Charity while a member of the Children of God in the 70's and then changed to Caridad, while living in Costa Rica. I began writing this Memoir In June 2010. I invite you to join me in the writing, editing, publishing and marketing journey.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

It Was

“It was”

It was a dark and stormy night. . .
It was mid-October and the autumn leaves were falling. . .
It was hard. . .
It was tough being a fat teenager. . .

How many times have you communicated a feeling, thought or event with “It was?”
I didn’t think much about those two little words until Sue Clark, my “Book Doctor,” started editing my manuscript -- Dear Mom and Dad, Please Send Money.
            “'Was’ is a form of the 'to be' verb, the weakest verb in the English language," she informed me.  "Verbs are action words.  As readers, we can see someone ‘jump.’  We can't see 'is' or 'was'.  I want you to find every 'It was' statement in your manuscript and change the sentence to convey the same meaning using an action verb.  By the way, you can't see an 'it,' either." 
           Thank God for the computer.  I clicked on the “Edit” option in MS Word and then clicked on “Find.”  In the “find what” screen I entered “It was,” and let the computer show me if I had one or two of those little It was’s.
            My trusty computer found over 500!   
            For the last few weeks I have, with painstaking care, searched for and changed hundreds of “It Was” words.  
            “It was October, 1973” became, “In October, 1973…”
            “It was an era of mixed-relationships. . .” became, “Mixed-relationships were common in the 1960, hippy era. . .”
            I haven’t changed them all, but I’m working on it.
Now, let’s fast forward to earlier this week. I sat, content, in my bedroom rocking chair reading the Bible, The New Living Translation. I turned to the Book of John, Chapter 10, enjoying the story of The Good Shepherd and His Sheep. “It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem,” Verse 22 said.
“It was?” Wow, somebody writes like me, I thought.
A few minutes later, the same two little words jumped out again, this time in Chapter 11, Verse 55: “It was now almost time for the Jewish Passover celebration. . .”
So, I asked myself, should I continue the It Was Search, Find, and Replace Exercise for my manuscript -- or should I sit back and say, “If it was is good enough for the Bible, it’s good enough for me?”
            What do you think? 

I am honored to be working with Sue Clark in the manuscript analysis process. Check her out at:  http://www.suejclark.com/index2.aspx

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Where Is God?

      Those of you who know me, know I am a Christian. I'm proud to be a Christian.  I wasn't always a believer. In fact, for many years I walked a road that was as far away from God and Christianity as I could get.  But one day, my life crashed and I wanted to die to escape my pain and the shame of my actions.  
      The following is a short excerpt from Dear Mom and Dad, Please Send Money, followed by a God-centered opinion expressed by CBS presenter, Ben Stein, that I feel is worth reading.   
From Dear Mom and Dad, Please Send Money:  
     "I watched a young man walk into the waves to cool off and my thoughts turned to death.                     
     Wouldn’t it be easier just to walk out into the ocean and keep walking and then swim and swim until I finally drowned? Wouldn’t it feel better to just die and silence the accusing voices in my head? And the desperation in my heart?
     At that moment, I cried out inside, God if you’re real...show me.        
     As my heart cried out to God, begging Him, daring Him to show me His existence, I heard guitar music and young people singing. A group of eight hippie-looking kids walked down the beach in our direction. A dark haired man and a smiling young woman wearing a long skirt and a colorful peasant blouse, sat down on the sand next to me. The young man smiled and said, “Let me tell you about Jesus.  I resisted...I didn't like Jesus People.”              

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:

"I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it
. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God ? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Hurricane Katrina).. Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'

In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said okay.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says..."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jim Jones and The People's Temple

In my upcoming memoir, Dear Mom and Dad, Please Send Money, I mention Jim Jones, a man I knew in my youth.  The name "Jim Jones" registers immediately with most people over the age of 30.  Many of the younger set, however, need more explanation.  With a couple of hints they connect Jim Jones with the People's Temple and then with Guyana -- and the light bulb comes on.  The impact of long ago history depends on its relevance to our lives.
Jim Jones was relevant in many people’s lives, including mine.  Back in 1971, my parents, hoping to convince me to leave the controversial Children of God religious commune, encouraged me to meet with Pastor Jones and join The People's Temple.  
Did I?  The answer is revealed in the memoir. 

Below is a quick history lesson, parts of which are excerpts from Dear Mom and Dad, Please Send Money.  
"Redwood Valley is not marked on most maps and yet has a compelling, contemporary history.  Redwood Valley was home to the notorious Jim Jones and The People’s Temple.  I knew Jim Jones as “Mr. Jones,” my substitute English teacher at Ukiah High School.  I remember his charismatic, captivating personality, which inspired students and adults. 
He was the founder and leader of The People's Temple that he built on East Road in our valley.  Jim Jones believed a nuclear holocaust would occur on July 15, 1967, and his research revealed Redwood Valley would be one of the few places in the world likely to survive it.  He predicted the surviving elect would create a new socialist Eden on earth. He intended to be the leader of that select group. 
The holocaust did not happen.  Even so, Jim Jones’ congregation remained faithful and the church membership increased.  He expanded, opening new churches in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
His sphere of influence continued to grow, and he and his congregation were applauded for helping the poorest of the poor –- drug addicts, the homeless, and racial minorities throughout California.
During the 1970s, The People’s Temple purchased and managed at least nine residential care businesses, including my family’s board and care home.  At first, my parents respected his work with the poorest of society; however, in mid 1975, he tried to cheat them out of a portion of their vineyard land and their opinion changed.
Nobody, however, was prepared for what happened after he moved his followers to a remote jungle in British Guyana, called “Jonestown.”  There, on November 18, 1978, Jim Jones, my former teacher, a man who lived in my hometown, ordered the mass suicide of over 900 followers.  Men, women, and children died agonizing deaths.  Some were shot, and others were forced to drink poisoned “Kool aid.”  Most were said to have willingly participated in what was called "revolutionary suicide." 
I heard the news on my car radio.  I pulled the car to the side of the highway and sat there listening in complete shock.  The pictures of death were soon broadcast to the world.  The dead, lying on top of each other, mothers lying face down holding onto their young children, and men holding their wives. 
I lost several of my neighbors that day.  They were good caring people who followed Jim Jones and moved to Guyana to find peace and purpose.  He had promised them life in a Utopia – he delivered death.  It was a sad day for the world, and for all of us from Redwood Valley."   

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Red Light Zone/La Zona Roja

Excerpt from Dear Mom and Dad, Please Send Money.
"An older man approached the two young girls in the doorway up ahead of us.  They exchanged a few words. I watched in dismay as he put his arms around them and walked inside. The girls couldn't have been  more than 14 years old.  I turned my attention back to Padre Solano.  “Youth workers from Christian organizations come into the Zona Roja at night and pay to spend time with the girls,” Padre Solano explained.  “Instead of sexual services, they use the time to find out about them, their lives, and the reason they are prostituting.” 
“Do they talk the girls into leaving?”  I asked.
“They encourage them to leave prostitution but there’s no safe place for the girls to go.  That is why we’re interested in what you came to our country to do, Linda Caridad.  Padre Cordero speaks highly of you.”
I turned and smiled at Beto.  He was always championing my cause.
“We would like you to meet with our Board, and interview for the directorship of “La Casa de la PrevenciĆ³n, The House of Prevention.”
As we drove away from the Red Light Zone, I looked up again at the shaded windows, red lights glowing in the background.  I watched young girls leaning over the balconies, laughing and talking to men walking by on the street.  I watched young girls in doorways, waiting.
My mind was racing.  I didn’t come to Costa Rica to run a prostitution prevention program, but rather an unwed mothers’ home. “But Lord Jesus,” I said silently, “look at all of these young, vulnerable girls. So many sad eyes behind those made-up faces. The devil has these young girls caught in bondage. What is your plan for me?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Are You Done Yet?

I innocently thought I'd sit down, write my memories, go on the Oprah Show and  instantly be famous.  I expected a  book deal and movie deal to follow shortly thereafter. I imagined Reba McEntire playing me in the Dear Mom and Dad, Please Send Money movie.  Then I woke up.

I started writing in June, 2010. I surrounded myself with five years of letters I had written to my parents between 1971 and 1976.  Each of those letters start with "Dear Mom and Dad." Thus, the title.  I also found two journals I had kept off and on, over that time period and they helped fill in memory gaps.  

When I ran out of inspiration, I pulled out old picture albums of my life during those years and later found two cassette tapes I had made while in Costa Rica and had sent home to my parents.  I'm really grateful my mom kept those letters and cassette tapes.  What a blessing. I could not have written this manuscript without them.

On July 1, 2011, at 5:00 p.m., I typed in the final "." and screamed, "I'm done!"  Hank made margaritas to celebrate.  Believing "I'm done," was just as naive as believing Oprah Winfrey was going to invite me to jump on her couch.

I have heard it said, and now believe, that you will spend 20% of your time writing your manuscript and the other 80% of your time editing it. Yep, that's what happens.  With help from my editing groups, I had edited every word in the manuscript by July 1st, and found it pleasing. My editing group found more errors. I rewrote.  I found the rewrite pleasing.  Then, my writing buddy Leo, found huge gaps in logic and style and I had to agree with him.  I rewrote. I found the rewrite pleasing.  Then, I went to meet with a manuscript analyst - Sue Clark.  I call her my "Book Doctor."  Guess what? You got it . . . I'm re-writing.  

"Are you done yet?" my friends want to know.   Almost.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Why Did I Write a Memoir?

I led a very interesting life. Not a normal life by most people's standard but it's mine.  Throughout the years, when asked about my life, I would share bits and pieces. The response was always, "Wow, you should write a book."  Yes, I thought, some day I'll write about my drug use and bad choices. I'll write about being beat up by a pimp, wanting to end my life, joining a religious commune and eventually establishing Costa Rica's first Christian half-way house for street girls. 

Working full-time and raising four incredible children, who are now incredible young adults, did not leave me time to write.  But then -- I found retirement and a great writers group here at Lincoln Hills.  I didn't think I had 50 pages in me to write. The writers group, and later the small editing group I joined, encouraged me to keep writing.  I now have close to 400 pages.

Writing a memoir probes the recesses of the mind, including all the hidden places that scream out, "I don't want to remember this!"  But it's also therapeutic and exhilarating.  This 18 month writing journey has allowed me to explore, remember and feel.  And put on paper those memories and feelings.  The experience opened doors for me to reunite with girls from the half-way house in Costa Rica and heal past hurts.

I have written for my children, grandchildren and friends.  I look forward to sharing my story with you.  I'll keep everyone in the loop about the publishing process through this blog.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What's It All About Alfie?

     I was an adventurous child, and a rebellious teenager, always "pushing the envelope."  I made life choices that got me into lots of trouble.  My parents were very busy with their lives and my older siblings had moved out on their own.  My mostly unsupervised life made it easy for me to slip and slide and sneak out and experiment.  I'm sure I wasn't the only teenager who did this...I'm just brave enough to admit it and write about it.
     My shuckin' and jivin' got me into into several disastrous situations, but none as dangerous as my relationship with Raymond, a man I met on a street corner in San Francisco.  What started out as "love and lust" ended up a nightmare. I hit bottom (literally!)  That terrible experience forced me, at the age of 20, to realize I was really, really lost and unhappy.  The following is an excerpt from the manuscript, "Dear Mom and Dad, Please Send Money."

"I crawled out of the bedroom and curled up in a corner of the living room. I felt my eyes and lips begin to swell as I lay on the cold, wooden floor. What am I doing with this man?  How could I stoop so low? 
     I’m unsure how long I lay there whimpering. But, when I heard his deep snoring, I crawled the couple of feet to the end table next to the couch. I reached for the phone and called my sister Veda who lived on the other side of town."