513x+lC04HL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution, and Revenge (Revised and Expanded Edition)

By Paul Preston
W. W. Norton and Company, 2007

Reviewed by Randall Radic

In The Decline of the West, Oswald Spengler wrote:  “With this enters the age of gigantic conflicts, in which we find ourselves today.  It is the transition from Napoleonism to Caesarism….  The Chinese call it Shan-Kwo, the period of the contending states.”  Spengler was not writing about the Spanish Civil War, of course.  His perspective was purely historical and not specific to one event.  Nevertheless, his statement provides an explanation for the Spanish Civil War.

Jesus took the long view, too, when he said, “There will be wars and rumors of wars until I come again.”  Indirectly, his words provide another explanation for the Spanish Civil War.  Something along the lines of “that’s just the way people are.”

Paul Preston, the author of The Spanish Civil War, wanted a more specific answer, so he wrote a book in which he examined the causes and effects of the Spanish Civil War (SCW).  A war, according to Preston, that set the stage for World War II.  In the first chapter of his book, Preston implies that – generally speaking – the SCW was the result of growing pains – “the struggles of a society in the throes of modernization.”  The SCW was “the culmination of a series of uneven struggles between the forces of reform and reaction which had dominated Spanish history since 1808.”

In other words, there were two groups of people in Spain.  Those that wanted to change things and those that wanted things to stay the same.  The reformers wanted to modernize Spain, pushing it out of the past into the 20th century.  Like most people who are afraid of change, the reactionaries liked things the way they were.  And they liked it even more if they got to be in power.  That way they could make sure the status quo was preserved.

In chapter two, Preston begins breaking his general explanation for the SCW down into specific factors.  The reformers, called the Second Republic, were liberals with wonderful ideas that they couldn’t implement effectively.  Their failure caused them to revert to “revolutionary solutions.”  And that’s when everything went to hell in a hand cart.  Preston details the conflict and its aftermath in the succeeding chapters.

Before reading Preston’s book, the reviewer’s knowledge of the SCW was scanty to almost non-existent.  After finishing the book, the reviewer would like to know more, especially about General Franco, who led the Nationalist forces to victory – if one wants to call it that – and set himself up as dictator for life.  The reviewer would also like to read more about the 3000 Americans who took up arms and fought against Franco.  What motivated men whom, for the most part, had no military experience, to take part in the civil war of a foreign country?  Preston merely writes, “the volunteers went to Spain to fight Hitlerism.”  The reviewer suspects there’s more to it.  He also admits that the subject probably commands a separate book, dedicated to the topic.

Preston does a remarkable job in relating the story of the SCW.  His presentation and knowledge of General Franco is stunning.  To the reviewer, it appeared that without Franco the outcome of the civil war might have been different.  For Franco did whatever needed to be done to win.  He was ruthless, driven by an inner energy, which the Republicans could not muster.  Franco’s mantra seemed to be “kill, kill, kill.”  And although a little simplistic, his willingness to kill provided the crucial advantage to the Nationalists.

Previous reviewers have accused Preston of “leftist bias.”  In the book’s preface, Preston himself acknowledges that he has no sympathy for the Nationalists.  He writes, “it is not a book which sets out to find a perfect balance between both sides.”  He then explains that he lived in Spain during Franco’s domination.  In other words, Preston is not writing history from his penthouse suite at the Ivory Tower Hotel.  To this reviewer, that means he knows what he’s talking about, because he actually experienced it.  And that means his book tells what really happened.  Which is called “the truth.”

Truth is a bias only to those who want to believe a lie.

All in all, The Spanish Civil War is essential reading for a better understanding of the dynamics of history as it occurred in Spain just prior to World War II.


A New Normal

by RS on January 18, 2016

After Greg’s death, many friends offered to help me, telling me if I needed anything not to hesitate and ask. As I mentioned in the Conquering the Windmill of Personal Debt, a GoFundMe account was launched and what has been contributed helped me get through December.

A friend from high school added me to a community on Facebook to help me go through the grieving process. It’s there for support, to rant, to ask questions and to also make new friends.

Although it’s a lovely group of men and women, I somehow don’t feel as if I fit in. To be honest, my grieving doesn’t seem to be as intense as the other participants in the group.

I probably come across as heartless, but I believe I need to move on and not focus on the loss. Greg is gone. I can’t bring him back. It’s winter in the Adirondacks, and my primary concern is to keep the dogs and me warm, fed, and with a roof over our heads. I can’t afford to waste time weeping, making myself sick, and not getting enough rest so that I can’t work and or upkeep and maintain this house and the vehicles.

That said, there were two instances when panic set in—the kind when your heart is racing, and you’re close to calling 911 because you’re convinced that you’re on the cusp of a heart attack.

Since December, I’ve had two anxiety attacks. During the second one, I went to the Facebook grieving group and asked if this was part of the process in dealing with the death of a partner. A few of the folks who commented wrote about having several panic attacks throughout the day and needing medication. Others told me they have meditation and yoga practices. Others go to therapists. I was told this was the “new normal.”

I don’t accept it. I believe that if I were living in Southern California with 70-degree weather and not having to carry heavy wood splits into the house or shovel snow that I’d be fine. My two attacks were strictly related to the weather and the fear of having a coronary.

Before it began to snow, the thought of dying of a heart attack was far from my mind. But you hear too many stories of shoveling snow and dropping dead. Right after I shoveled a path from the front door to the driveway (a short distance), although I had no symptoms of potential heart failure, the head games began.

How do I eliminate a potential panic attack? I don’t shovel snow. I make several trips and carry small loads of wood back into the house, and I figure out what is causing the anxiety. If my head refuses to let go, I force it to quit by meditating or participating in activities that turn my focus away from the anxiety.

I know stress will never go away; there will be times I’ll feel anxious about money, work, my health, but that’s life. We all experience these aggravations that are dealt on a daily basis, and we shoulder on without needing medication or running to the ER.

What I refuse to accept, though, is having numerous panic attacks as the new normal. I had two too many. I lost two days I could have been writing, reading, relaxing or working. It won’t happen again. Cross my strong heart, and will not die.


Conquering the Windmill of Personal Debt

by RS on January 16, 2016


After Greg died, I was left to deal with a financial mess. About eight months ago, he decided he would take over the bill paying because I was sick and tired of always having to make the calls to negotiate payment plans. The scene would go like this: I would make the call. Greg would be talking to me while I made arrangements with whomever we owed money. I would tell Greg the agreement I made, and he would get angry because the company didn’t accept what he wanted. All this would occur while I was on the phone: one customer rep on one end of the line and Greg standing in front of me, both talking at the same time.

I finally got fed up and told him YOU TAKE CARE OF IT. YOU TALK TO THEM. I’M DONE. And he did, but he didn’t do a good job of it because as I found out, he was doing some creative accounting with paying the bills.

The big issue was that we weren’t sticking to a budget. Greg’s one big expense was going out daily to buy candy, soda, cookies and chips and a sandwich. He had replaced his bottles of wine with junk, and that amounted to $10 a day. I wasn’t so innocent either because I paid for Hulu, Netflix, Audible, Spotify, Graboid and whatever Kindle book that sparked my interest. Between the both of us, we were paying for items and services we didn’t need.

About ten days before he died, he asked me to hand over my entire paycheck to pay the bills. I wasn’t comfortable giving everything I had and have nothing in my bank account.

In the back of my mind, there was a red warning light flashing that it wasn’t prudent to give him all the money. After duking it out, I finally gave in because I was too tired to argue. I wrote him a check for the entire amount I’d been paid; he deposited it on Wednesday the day before Thanksgiving with the intention to pay everything the following Monday.

He died on Sunday.

I was left penniless.

I’m lucky this is a tiny community because word traveled quickly of his passing. A day after his creation, I went to the bank and explained to the branch manager my situation, and she was able to retrieve the money so I could pay the rent.

My luck pressed on when family and friends pitched in to help me through the holidays. A writer friend generously set up a GoFundMe account so I could manage to get by for a few months. Between what I earn, a couple of new projects that are coming up and just plugging away to get more work, I’ll be okay.

The key, though, is to find more work that pays well. And what I mean by well is that any writing I do moving forward has to fall in the $1 per word category. No more taking low-paying assignments to diversify my portfolio. No more writing for quarterly publications that pay late. It’s time to get over my insecurities as a writer and pitch the big boys.

For someone who is so free with her words, this is scary stuff because I question my skills, my craft, my talent. If I want to conquer that spinning windmill of debt that taunts me, I not only have to earn more money, not live beyond my means, but also get over the insecurity that blocks me from achieving my financial goals.

First on the agenda: I made some decisions to minimize my debt. Once this cold spell is over and the snow melts, I’m selling the Jeep. It’s a monthly payment that is causing me agita. Second, I called a credit counseling service to negotiate credit card payments at zero percent interest rate. Third, I eat vegetables, fruit, whole grains and have eliminated all meat including fish from my diet. At some point, I will have to move, and I need to figure out where, what’s affordable, and dog-friendly. Lastly, I am turning myself into a money-earning machine. As I mentioned above, that doesn’t mean accepting every measly assignment that comes my way.

In fact, I turned down the opportunity to write a feature story for a new publication based in Lake Placid. The pay: $50. The publishing cycle: bi-annual. When would I see that money? Most likely sometime in the summer—if it paid promptly. No thanks. Not worth my time.

I recently took a webinar taught by Melanie Lockert, the personal finance guru of Dear Debt, on how to manage debt. We were asked what would be the ideal freelance earnings for 2016? Ideally, I’d like to bring in a minimum of $6,000 per month, but that might be a tough reach this year. And how will I do that as a writer when so many publications pay under a dollar a word? Well, there’s the side-hustle. For me, it’s teaching Scrivener classes for writing organizations, privately, and selling the workbooks I’m close to finishing. And, stepping out of my comfort zone—learning how to network more effectively both on social media and in the real world that will lead to more work, more money and reach my goal: eliminate debt.

And now a word or two about this blog. You’ve noticed I’ve gone back to the more minimal look. As much as I liked the new look, it didn’t seem quite like me. I am about the words, the stories, and the observations. I decided that as nice as the lovely pictures were to look at I wasn’t presenting this blog or me in a genuine manner. However, I’ve made some changes: Hover over the navigation bar and you’ll see I have menus and sub-menus. I also decided this blog is not only about my adventures in writing Julius, but about writing in general and the topics that interest me such as health, fitness, wellness, personal finance, animals, the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, cooking and so forth. Which I hope will also be informational for readers.

Will I continue the Breakout Novel series? Yes, because that’s my personal take of what I’ve discovered in revamping, revising and rewriting Julius that I’m happy to share with readers.

I am discontinuing the site Alvah’s Books and moving the reviews here and will also be adding reviews under the Alvah’s Books menu.

What can you expect? A varied reading experience. Lessons I’ve learned and happy to share. Maybe a rant or two. Hopefully, all presented in my inimitable voice.