Category Archives: Musing

WHAT JOY?

We have turned off the news at night in favor of a story. We’ve watched ALL of Midsomer Mysteries, all of Vera, Father Brown and then we started on Endeavour. We moved from there to Morse and now we are midway through Lewis. I will be sad to leave Oxford.

In each of these series I’ve found a catch phase that is like a through line in the show. In Endeavour it was Mind how you go…. that Inspector Thursday used as a send off. I liked that. Better than ‘cheers’ and sort of the Brit equivalent of ‘be safe out there’.

In Lewis the one that strikes me is ‘What Joy?’ when asking if there is good news. I like that too. Lewis’s joy relates information that will close the murder case.

Joy is, like happiness, something you can not seek, but it does find you, and when it does you hold on to it. When we were weeks out from dose#2 we decided it was time to leave the island, to land the skiff at the dock and go back to our home, going to grocery stores, getting to the hair salon, what might have been insipid or banal a year ago, suddenly felt like the most marvelous adventure. During our shopping trip we met the store manager who welcomed us back with flowers. A week later the flower still brighten our table. What joy!

Connect and Loss

In the late 1950’s my mom’s brother, Tom died. My sister and mom flew from LA to DC for the funeral. I stayed with the Burketts. I remember it clearly but at 11 I really had no experience with death or of someone I didn’t even remember. We had not seen that part of the family since we had migrated to southern California in 1948.

Almost fifty years later my mom’s brother, Bob died. We were all living on the east coast. My sister and mom drove to New Jersey from North Carolina. We drove down from Boston, the girls and me. We met with family we knew from a couple of visits and phone calls, but they were family!

Later, I could tell mom was having a tough time. I put my arms around her to comfort her but she would have none of it. According to mom, Bob had lived a good long life, seen his two kids, Bobby and Bettina grow up, have families. You see, by that time, both her sisters in law were gone, her brothers were gone, and although she had insisted for years on end, that she was the youngest, she was not.

What mom was upset about what that there was no one of her generation to tell the stories. The ones about she and her brothers growing up, about how they were when they were young, about what life was like in Blakely PA as the eldest daughter of a local grocer, about going to Marywood College. It was the potential lack of stories that upset mom.

It’s funny that I have taken so long to work at publishing; getting my stories out there. Storytelling has always been my refuge, my solace, my strength. Because if you can tell a story, if you can describe a setting, develop the central theme or conflict, and best if you can bring in humor, show a slice of life that is true but not terrible, then you have done a good job.

Mother Petronella would tell you it was my handwriting that held me back. Mother Bernadette would tell you it was my spelling. I think it was a weakness in the length of the story, thinking they had to be complete, involved, much like the books I devoured.

Today is my sister’s funeral. There are a lot of conflicting emotions. Connecting with the next generation who don’t have these memories, are not connected as I was to the history of the family, to the the stories of how my parents got together, why we moved to LA….all of that. These are not earth shattering stories but they are out.

We spent hours last night going through the pictures my sister had saved. We tossed and cleaned out, but as we were going through I would make my niece and nephew look and I will tell a brief story. They’d smile and nod, but not dwell.

But where we come from is important to me. I ask myself, who will tell the stories for the next in line who does want to hear? Who will connect our family, explain the loss and give us foundation. Heartbreakingly, if not me, who?

And so I will write!

Excited Like Christmas

It’s December. As of today we have been staying-in-place for nine months–on my calendar our last day out was March 13…so. We’ve missed celebrating holidays at Mass, celebrating birthdays and holiday with family. Yeah, yeah, we are all in the same boat. What a gawd awful prospect, because we’re not. but that is a rant for another time.

We have Zoomed, FaceTimed, GoogleMeet-ed and it’s not enough, truly. So we partied in our garage. We had a tree, lights, decorations, music. We distanced. We wore masks. There were no hugs.

I’ve been taking a break. Sending out submissions until the middle of November, getting one request for a full. Still, the holidays and all. I’ve been writing a short story for a SinC anthology for the Carolinas, the theme is music and that was helpful in kickstarting my brain. No the short story needs some tweaking, but being creative is a boost for me.

Our life is exhausting, at least for me. Yes, we have food, shelter, we are safe and secure in our little bubble. Taking care of someone who is well aware they are losing their ability to communicate, to move well requires more grace than I sometimes think is available—I feel like my guardian angel is working triple time just to keep our heads above water. It is only my faith and that guardian angel, poor dear, who has had my lifetime of hard work, that make this workable, gets me up every morning, helps me face a day that is more challenging than anything, anything I have ever done. So when a new idea comes to me, a new universe to explore, to write about that is a good thing.

The thing is, this is the second time, the first is out for submission, that I have taken a book written ten or twelve years ago and been able to reimagine, reinvent the characters, give the MC a new voice, because I now have a different voice.

Happy Christmas! We wish you all the blessings of the season, the grace and peace and joy that comes with faith. Write on!

Mind How You Go

Mind how you go.

It’s a phrase DI Thursday <ENDEAVOUR– INSPECTOR MORSE, the early years> uses regularly as a departure comment. We are now up to Series 5 but this week this statement has been like an ear worm. Mind how you go.

I have always been a political junky. I blame the Hughes’s, Lou and Gloria. Friends of my parents, they lived not far from Villa Cabrini in Burbank in the 60’s and they were part of the Young Republicans. In the election between Kennedy and Nixon, even though they were Catholic, they campaigned for Nixon. Had nothing to do with Kennedy’s religion, but they disliked his politics, I couldn’t tell you why, I was thirteen and a freshman in high school.

I am still that political junky and I’ve been reading political books for as long as I can remember, from the the Federalist Papers to the ‘Camelot’ series 🙂 through to Primary Colors and beyond, newspapers with bents both right and left, pundits both right and left and posts and tweets both right and left. I unfriend no one.

Mind how you go.

Recently a letter writer to the WSJ commented that the essence of morality is the willingness to forego pursuing one’s self interest if it may be detrimental to the interest of others.

So it is worth noting that over the past four years there has been a general call of resistance within the democrat party. Democrats proclaim their willingness to forgo their own self-interest and that they are the party of morality, proving it by being for system-altering issues that encompass women’s rights, human rights, black lives, love and peace. And they have pithy maxims that exclaim these positions on posters, streets in some cases, flags and memes plastered all over social media. In their moral exuberance they declare Mr. Trump, his family, his administration, his supporters, and anyone who votes for him to be immoral. There is very specific language used if you disagree. You can be any number of -phobics as well as any number of -ists. It’s not important to name them here.

Mind how you go.

For me it is difficult to give the high moral ground to those who push morality without actually having small moralities. The letter writer commented on the shopping cart theory. To return a shopping cart is an easy task. The “Shopping Cart Theory” posits that an individual’s moral character and capacity for self-governance faces its ultimate test in supermarket parking lots. Do you return your cart even in pouring rain? When you are running late? I have no idea if it truly is a valid test, but it always has felt to me if you pack up your purchases and leave the cart in the lane, or adjacent to the spot you are careless and ill-mannered. The question is if you are so careless and ill-mannered as to not give a care to those who come into the lot after you, when and where else are you careless and ill-mannered?

Mind how you go.

There is a video of a military higher-up who claims that success comes from making your bed each morning. I do that! Why? Because I learned that competence and growth come from a place of organization. Order encourages care, care encourages thought and thought encourages understanding and understanding seeks to be good and moral.

The WSJ letter writer states that we are no longer a moral people. I suppose because s/he sees the world as a series of etiquette blunders– not saying thank you when you are handed your change at the store, not opening doors for others, not keeping your space clean and neat in your neighborhood, not being aware of your responsibility to the common space by using trash cans.

Mind how you go.

There are many on social media who do not denigrate, declare other opinions wrong, swear, call names, or attempt to do harm to other by accusation or innuendo. Perhaps we have every right to think less of someone because of their politics, but if we are a moral and just people we have no right to act on that thought.

Mind how you go.

The letter writer concludes that we are no longer capable of self-governing. I think that is too pessimistic. I think many lost their way and been blinded, treating every detail as consequential, falling into a bubble that is comfortable and pleasurable. There are big issues that require resolution. I get that. Before you can solve the big moral issues, you must have small moralities. Before you can have social justice you need law and order. Please and thank you. Before you can establish any group rights you need individual rights. Respect for others beliefs and opinions.

Being politically moral is the not the right to rule, create obstacles or tell others what or how to think. To be politically moral is to take on the a commitment to serve, not just the greater good, but the rights of each person.

Mind how you go.

PANDEMIC LIFE

Terrifying unless you are surrounded by your own family, in your own house, eating all your favorite foods. We are fortunate, and so are our children and their children. And we are lucky to be able to ‘see’ our children and grands.

In a recent FaceTime conversation with E, a happy and securely loved five year old, told me about social distancing. I thought that was funny. Then I wondered if I should be sad. After all, these are the sort of experiences that impact and affect our growing up lives.

We hear regularly about the last couple of generations, sigh, I can’t keep track, Gen Z? Millennials? and how dramatic their lives have been…. 9/11, the Great Recession, the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now the Pandemic shutting down the economy and impacting jobs. And it’s ‘okay, boomer’. Like our lives were perfect and wonderful. LOL.

I clearly remember the kindergarten room at Villa Cabrini Academy. A large room off the upper quad, windows on two sides, black chalk boards on the other walls surrounded by bulletin boards, backed by color, overflowing with pictures that were thought, I suppose, to be beneficial to the eye of a kid. There were low square tables with two chairs to each side, brown, I distinctly remember brown and hard. I can’t remember if there were lots of us or a few. I do remember a short sleeved baby blue uniform, pleats across the front from shoulder to hem, a matching belt with a silver buckle, and white collars and cuffs. We wore white anklet socks and Buster Brown shoes. Mine were always a mess. It was 1951. I was four. I had thrown a temper tantrum, of apparently epic enough proportions, demanding to be part of the class. So there I was. The M.S.C. nuns were nothing if not accommodating. Besides, with my curly red locks and cubby cheeks, I was considered adorable, although I am sure Mother Amedia’s ah, brigantine! did not mean angelic! A tall thin nun, with an almost impenetrable Italian accent, perhaps she saw me the best of any of them.

I remember one of the things we learned was ‘duck and cover’. This was California during the cold war. Burbank, where Cabrini was located, was a major part of Eisenhower’s defined military-industrial complex, the major players, Lockheed, Raytheon, Grumman, to name a few, close by. The assumption was that we would be a target. I now think, HA!, like folding up like a turtle, knees tucked under, head down, hands around your head, would protect you from an atomic bomb!

My high school and college years were filled with assassinations, JFK in 1963 <my high school senior year> and MLK and RFK <at the Ambassador on Wilshire Blvd> assassinated in 1968, civil rights protests, Vietnam war protests, the Watts Riots of 1965, the violent political protests of ’68 Democrat Convention in Chicago, the bombings by the Weather Underground from 1960 into the 1970’s , and the Kent State shooting in 1970. In my college, CalState Northridge, Black Power was active and more than once attempted to block students from class. The administration building was set on fire, LAPD Swat Teams, in full swat regalia, visited campus more than once surrounding the Free Speech quad.

I am sure that my parents could list the impact on their generation. Born in 1911 and 1913, before the 1918 pandemic, I never heard them speak of the horror of it, but it must have been. From Scranton PA, my dad lived in town on Pittston Avenue, my mom in Blakley on the main street. We all have historic happenings that somehow shaped us, colored our thinking, enhancing our fears. My hope is that this experience will be one that makes E stronger, not now, but in the future. That it will not be the fear of the virus that holds her imagination, but the fact that she was loved, protected and cherished. And that it is her responsibility to continue to love, protect and cherish her family and friends. Sappy, I know. But it is my wish that the fear not be the overriding memory. That laughing about social distancing, playing with CH and Zooming with other pre-K classmates be the memory that keeps her in the future.

Got a comment? That’s fine. Be nice. No flaming.