Ten years ago, the famous author Tom Wolfe spoke at Ithaca College about writing. He was older and still wearing his famous, white suit. As if to answer a question that no one spoke, he said, as I remember, the problem with writing is you have to find stories. Every single one of you out there has a story to tell.
And like most authors, you can write that one story: fiction or non-fiction. But then, what are you going to do? Wait for something to come to you, inspire you.
The room was packed and everyone listened trying to find the writing secrets from this well-known author, the author of Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff. He continued, the problem is that after you write that one story, you have to go out and find other stories. One has to search them out, they don’t just appear. He then described how you do that: talk to people, study people in different places and in worlds different from your own.
I think stories walk into our lives every day but we have to pay careful attention. And sometimes wake up to the drama.
Here is a very short story.
There are years of questions and years of answers.
When I was a little girl sitting on my Grandmother’s stoop as summer dusk settled in, the old folks started talking over their coffee and Stella Dora cookies about Cora. Cora was my grandmother’s half-sister. “Yep, she went to California,” they remarked. And so I piped up, “Tell me the story.” They looked at each other, my grandparents, aunts, and father and said nothing.
So here it is, 2018…fifty years past that moment. A site called newspapers.com has many editions of the local newspaper from my hometown.
I decided to see what I could find out about my great aunt, Cora Tress. I found her as she was the subject of this article, pictured below: Daughter Incorrigible Father Causes Arrest. (Her father was my grandmother’s father who died in 1925!)
Cora was arrested by the police at her father’s request. He had no control over her and she had run away from home.
Subsequent articles report that Cora went before a judge who released her. She said her behavior was in response to her brother beating her up.. Later, Cora married and moved to California.
Bingo…the reason for the silence in the room. Because of course, back in the day, conflict, feelings were conversation non grata. I surmise that since I did meet the Uncle in question, that Cora must have been the odd (wo)man out and that is probably why I never met her or heard of her death.
I hope she had a good life…I am glad she escaped. I wonder if she is in one of the many pictures I have of nameless kin folk. That will require more study and observation…something for another day.
TALES OF OLD TRUMANSBURG to be CELEBRATED OCTOBER 9th
From high school reunions to factory life, Joseph Baldwin’s book, Tales of Old Trumansburg, captures the heart and soul of late nineteenth through mid-twentieth century Trumansburg. To celebrate its publication, The Ulysses Historical Society is selling the book at its Quarterly Event on Tuesday evening, October 9, 2018, from 7 pm to 9 pm. The event is free, open to the public, and will feature the jug band, Jo Moe and Johnny Cake. The band will play a program of historic American music from the 1920s and 30s.
Local historian Joesph Baldwin originally wrote Tales of Old Trumansburg as individual newsletters for the society beginning in 2003. In 2017, he compiled the historically sourced stories into a book that brings to life the people, businesses and events that helped to shape Trumansburg. “I think this is a book that you pick up and in one evening, read a story that takes you back in time to the world of old Trumansburg,” commented Mr. Baldwin while editing his book.
“Joe Baldwin answered questions you didn’t even know you had,” says Joan Garner, secretary, and member of the Ulysses Historical Society. Ms. Garner assisted Mr. Baldwin with editing some of the original newsletters. The book’s well-told tales are enhanced by over one-hundred and twenty photographs. The cover art, a painting of the old Central Hotel by Mr. Baldwin’s sister, invites you into the book’s thirty-one stories. The stories take you to the streets of T-Burg and events such as the Reverend Crabill revival, a tragic flood, and the first reunion in 1897 which brought people back to the hometown they loved and never forgot.
Joseph Baldwin was a lifelong resident of Trumansburg and active community member, he passed in October of 2017 but not before self-publishing his book. Tales of Old Trumansburg retails for $21.00 and for an additional fee of $4.00, will be shipped to friends and family members. All proceeds go to the Ulysses Historical Society.
Purchase your copy at the Quarterly Event on October 9, 2018, or contact the Ulysses Historical Society at (607) 387-6666 or by email, UHS@ottcmail.com. The Ulysses Historical Society is located at 39 South Street, Trumansburg, NY 14886. The Society accepts checks, cash, and money orders for Tales of Old Trumansburg. Society hours of operation are Fridays and Saturdays: 2 pm to 4 pm and Mondays: 9 am to 11 am through December 1. The book is available for purchase throughout the year.
We are watching the second season of Anne with an E based on Anne of Green Gables. Never, on such humid summer days, has winter looked so inviting. The frosted grass in clouds and sun and snow tipped leaves.
The great thing about the Netflix series is that it shows the inevitable hurtles of life and how people help each other through them. It also shows the resilience of a soul. Anne had been badly abused in an orphanage but she finds her way to people who love her and she hopes…she hopes to see the absolute wonders of life and celebrate them daily.
If you read my blog, you will note that this year has been one of incredible sadness. My dear dear friend Joe passed on October 26 2017 and my mother died on July 13. My Mother’s death a striking blow as it is truly the end of an era for my husband and I. We enjoyed our visits with her, her stories of growing up, and her constant comment tea. We also enjoyed the occasions when we would meet up with my siblings at her place.
But channelling Anne with an E,”isn’t it just wonderful to be alive today and safe and look out at this big tree from my balcony.”
And isn’t it cool that this Quaking Aspen was nurtured over 40 years into it’s current height by my husband. I am going out to pick tomatoes now…John McCain said be grateful for each hour. That is my intention today!
Today I walked into Sage Chapel at Cornell to pray. I thought it might be nice. As I arrived, a brief walk from my office, I soaked in the quiet of this beautiful building with no one around.
I remember the first time I walked into this chapel in the winter of December 1984. At the time, there was a road in front of it and parking. I was with my parents and we were attending a wedding. I don’t think I ever saw the bride again and the couples we sat with, maybe once or twice.
1984 was 34 years ago. It struck me as peacefully odd that I ended up here all these years later. I prayed for my parents and everyone I know. Then I thought how many beautiful pictures and angles one could take of this chapel.
It is like life…angles…one snapshot here, another there, people coming and going.
I asked my husband how I would ever get over my Mother’s death. You do and you will…you will remember her but she will seem so far away he said, not verbatim but in essence.
My Mother feels so far far away and she is only 39 days into the either. She told me once I would miss her someday and she was right. It seems at this moment like she was never here, as if it was a dream.
My Mother’s funeral was 30 days ago…I don’t feel good…I look at the world and it seems to be bland, out of air. It was the saddest death and the saddest goodbye…the funeral music was so lovely but I could hardly hear it. We have gone on, I guess.
I play with my doggies, I pick vegetables, I have parties. Parties to make me forget like Mrs. Dolloway. Somehow when the flowers come out and the table is set, and the meat is in the oven and the wine is in the frig, all seems right with the world even though it isn’t.
I try not to talk about it because if I do, I start talking and I can’t shut up. My mother told me that this is what happened when I turned one and if to validate it seven years later, my report card said, “Claire continues to talk incessantly.” People don’t like it when I talk. A boss told me once not to ask questions which hurt my naieve child within. My father called me mouth one year on my birthday, in the newspaper, in public, this too hurt me. Someone wrote a nasty comment on my blog shortly after my Mom died…it made me so sad because other people told me how lovely that particular blog was. But that really wasn’t what made me sad, what made me sad is that the person didn’t sign their name and so I was left wondering: am I hurting someone? So I have been quiet.
I go to work. I walk the trails, I keep planning parties. And I play with my dogs. My dogs…always ready to sink their teeth and their mouths wide open into anything I give them…bones, beach balls…whatever. My dogs, always happy to hear my voice and jump on me with love, and lick me until I pet them again and again.
It is a sad day when your Mother dies and it is an even sadder day when you wake up thirty plus days later and know that the only place you will ever see her again is in your dreams. But it is a good day when you realize that your dogs have a message in their play…what truths their mouths convey, what nature giveth let no one taketh away.
In a few days, this green plant, front and to the left in this post, will become a mound of snowballs, and that is where its name comes from, we call it the snowball bush. In reality, it is a viburnum. Several years ago, a bug tried to kill it off. The bug affected and threatened viburnums across our area. Our snowball bush disappeared.
As time passed, the viburnum would reappear a little bit more each year: at first a branch with 5 snowballs on it and now this moment when I realize it needs containment or shaping or something. While not in its full glory, the snowball bush is almost back.
I think its a metaphor. As long as a little strand of something remains, as long as it is still rooted in the ground somewhere, it stands a chance of rebirth, regrowth. Kind of like love that is almost killed by neglect, but with a little nurturing it flourishes again, or tyranny which seems in one epoch to be wiped out and reemerges in another until it starts to hang heavy over everything.
On St. Patrick’s Day, I reached up to grab some field greens encased in a plastic container and as I pulled them from the shelve, its neighbor, a whole plastic carton of greens, went flying over the baby carriage to my left and landed splat in the aisle.
I looked at the mother and her baby carriage. “I’m so sorry,” I imagined baby Susie or Johnnie covered in arugula and kale and traumatized for life. They’d never wear green on St. Patrick’s Day and PTSD at the Farmer’s Market might be intolerable. But luckily, the baby had been spared. I, however, almost died from the look the mother and father gave me.
As I walked in front of the mother and father to investigate the greens, I felt like I had just committed road kill… that plastic carton of greens was almost empty. Arugula, leafy green and red lettuces, sat limp and I looked around me and said to no one and everyone: HELP. I did not scream, just implored. That was pointless, there wasn’t a customer service rep around and the customers near me had put their grocery carts into full throttle.
As I turned my head to the right from my ground position, thinking about what to do with my mess, the baby’s father and mother continued to shake their heads and push forward. I tried to make eye contact, to tell them, I really didn’t mean to almost hit the little tike with the greens, but they weren’t having it.
So, what’s an aging woman to do when her greens fall on the floor? I really was kinda stuck for an answer. So, I put some of the greens in the container and carried the vast majority between my hands. I looked for a cashier: they were all busy.
I made a quick decision to leave the greens and the container on the empty checkout runway and go ahead with my shopping. I did manage to get what I needed and only had to dodge the disgruntled family once. Upon checking out, I heard the all call, Clean Up in the front…I grabbed my groceries and left for my St. Patrick’s Day party vowing, never, ever to grab the container with one hand again.
The following information and resources have been discovered by me in the process of self-publishing. It is general and the result of my self-published e-book, My Rural Broadband Journey, and my work with a friend recently on his self-published print book.
A note: content created over time can make a good book. My 2014 e-book was based on my blog about rural broadband and my friend made a book out of his newsletters written for a local historical organization. My book is online and my friend’s hard copy book will be out soon!
1.Content~ Is it ready?
The Manuscript: The content should be ready …that means, all proofing done. There is nothing more annoying than having to go back through your manuscript once it is in a template and correct errors. I recommend having an editor, everyone needs one, or two and if you can not find someone to edit, or do not want to pay, or want an editor and more back up, you can use a nifty computer program called Grammarly. Grammarly is a comprehensive computer software program which goes far beyond Microsoft Word to check your punctuation and style. A nice feature of Grammarly, you can set it to a variety of styles: Academic and Creative Nonfiction for example. Also, I can recommend a copy editor: Autumn at The Grumpy Grammarian. She has a newsletter that is excellent so you can check out her stellar skill.
2.If you are not a designer and do not want to learn as you go, I suggest you either hire a designer or purchase a design template. One very good template source is Book Designer Templates. They sell templates with instructions and organize the templates into categories: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc. In addition, they sell both InDesign and Word templates so you can select the software you feel most comfortable using. If you are interested in hiring a designer, I recently used this service and liked both the design and quick turn around time: West Hill Graphics.
3. Photographs: if you are scanning in photos, remember that in print, your photos need to be scanned in at a DPI of 300 in order for the resolution to be strong. Also, remember that once scanned, you need to set the tones so that if, for example, you are doing all black and white photographs, you can see the details of an object which in very dark tones can get muddled. See the examples below.
Who to publish with: of course, you can use Amazon and many other online vendors. But, I found when doing my Amazon online book, it was frustrating trying to figure things out without chatting with a real person. I used their Q and A and instructions, which at the time, 2014, took some energy figuring out. If you have no idea what your market will be for your book or you are not sure how much marketing you want to do, print on demand sources, like Amazon, are a good option.
Here is a caveat: I think it is better to prepare your book for print because it seems a lot easier to translate it over to an e-book later. Also,
personally, I think that there are benefits to having a print shop do the work. First, you can go to the actual shop and discuss with the staff the ins and outs of manuscript preparation, see 3 above. Also, you can print one run and then return for a second and third run if your book is a big hit. Overall, I have used both and I think going through a printer produces a finer looking product. (Locally, I thought Joe Sepe did a gret job on my friend’s book, he is the owner and operator of Pioneer Printing in Lodi, NY.
This has been my bible for questions about self-publishing. I note it is copyrighted in 2010 so there are several paperbacks available. In terms of social media marketing, however, it may be a bit dated. However, you if you are going to do social media marketing, you can refer to the updated, excellent book by M. Scoot Meerman, The New Rules of Marketing and PR.
6. Marketing: the least you need to know.
*Write and submit a 4 paragraph press release for any audiences that may be interested in your publication. The press release can also go out to listserves. If you do not have a press list, you can make one yourself by consulting the websites of key organizations and/or media outlets who may want to know about your book.
*Hard copy ads leads to your online world…always have information about your publication on your website…make it easy for people to purchase your product…more than 4 clicks and you will probably lose the buyer’s interest.
A hard copy advertisement, strategically placed in anything that your readers might see, is a good idea…keep it simple: one image, one or two benefits of purchase, where and how to purchase the product. Make sure a replica of this ad is among the things on your website and Facebook page.
*Facebook page~ people use Facebook to locate things quickly, have the information lead to your website but also duplicate the information on both your website and Facebook. Also, Facebook pages seem to span the generations. Note: A Facebook page is for everyone to look at, a group is for people who are only members of the group. People are more likely to visit a page than a group, especially at first. If however, you already have a group, be sure to link your Page to the group.
7. Library of Congress Number: I think it is a good idea to get a Library of Congress number to place in the front matter of the book. For the most recent book, a member of the historical society was able to get a number online within days. The Library of Congress website is here:
8. Front matter…the following are some general guidelines, in the world of self-publishing, nothing is set and people adapt to fit the circumstances.
Please note, on Amazon, you can see the front matter of individual books very easily: Bird By Bird
After the Cover Page
1.Title, Author, Publisher
2 Also By with a listing of Other books by the author
Book Title, Author Name, Publisher on a plain page
3 Publisher Info~ Publisher Name, Publisher Address, Book Edition, Copyright, Library of Congress Catalog Number, Disclaimer, Jacket Designer
4.Table of Contents
9. Back Matter is what you end the book with and again, self-publishing and circumstances will determine these pages. In both books I worked on Acknowledgments were listed. In the second book, I put in an Afterword because of difficult circumstances under which the book was completed and because I wanted to say a few things about my friend’s book. But this area is also where one can find indexes, glossaries, etc..Again, google the term Back Matter and you will find a great deal of information as I did on this site: What is Back Matter/Scribendi
10. Finally~Self publishing is a lot of work…it is step by step. If you are going to do it, I suggest being very committed to your project and to finding answers when the technology confounds you. I also suggest that you try to figure out what you need to do to get a book project completed and that you set realistic goals. Mid-way through my friend’s book project, I realized that the design work was beyond me…I could have saved both of us a headache if I had really sat down to consider the project carefully when I first received it. Luckily though, when I realized the Design work was beyond me, my friend and I found assistance. The lesson here is, if you do go beyond yourself, take a step back, reassess and make adjustments.
play-ball “it is the bottom of the ninth the bases are loaded and …”
The music would play, the action would begin, in the 1960s on the black and white TV. I am reading the book Underworldby Don DeLillo and the first section took me to a 1950s baseball game. They were there, the adults of my 60s childhood: Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover, and Jackie Gleason, at that one game.
The crowd moves with the action of the game as does the city, the nation, recorded in real-time, live on the radio, live in those pages. There is no Internet, there is no buzz, there is no one in the seats watching on the big screen overhead or on their iPhone, and there is no one twittering about the beer that Jackie’s guzzling.
Real time, one pitch, one ball at a time. And the movement, the movement of the players as they work for the goal mirrored by the movement of a young man through the streets of NY gliding through the concrete, dodging people to save his baseball, the winning baseball, the baseball that landed in his section of the stadium. The baseball of possibility and hope.
It’s warm and cold now, this week in 2012, a normal September feeling. Driving past Cornell Wednesday, I decided to get out by the polo ring and take a walk. You can still park in that area and not get a ticket. I needed to stretch my legs and open my mind… FOUR hours on the computer, too much. Walking past the polo building, then past the tennis building, I thought I saw it, a baseball field. So I took a walk down…sure enough there is a baseball field with a big no trespassing sign. No one around, and maybe one place left without a video camera, besides, what were they going to do, shoot me? I walked the bases, not once, but twice.
My Dad loved the Yankees and he loved complaining about their leaders, especially Joe Torre. I have no idea why. No idea, he never told me and died soon after baseball season was over 8 years ago. He took my brothers to Yankee games -I guess because that was the guy thing to do. My friend Bev’s parents took three of us in 1973 to see the Mets in Shea Stadium. I don’t remember anything about the game except that I fell in love with New York City and that my friend Bev loved Tom Seaver.
The only time I played baseball it wasn’t really baseball, it was softball, and I played fifth and final substitute in 6th grade. One day feeling all confident in my shortest person in the Class of 1973 status body, I said something cocky as I played outfield behind the second basegirl. As if to show the team by showing me, Coach Russ shot the ball right at me. I tried to catch it but it hit my nose first, ouch! And then he said! “See who is laughing now.”
So that is pretty much my history with baseball. I enjoyed my walk around those bases yesterday. I felt the sanded grit under my feet and the possibility of a slide into 2nd or 3rd or the ball throw from 1st to 2nd and the runner out.
“Its Perez on 3rd base, batter up.”
“And Perez gets it to the 2nd baseman, just in time, ladies and gentlemen, he is out.”
I ended my walk, went to the Cornell Orchard, came home and took my dog Moby for a walk, a good walk. The commentator could be heard
“And it’s Perez, trying to pull the dog off the deer scent.”
“It’s Perez holding her own as the dog pulls her toward his destination and she pulls him back.”
At midnight, I opened my book, Underworld. I am way past the baseball game, the quiet of life without electronics: I have written a blog; corrected a student paper on line; placed a cell phone call; land line call; and posted to twitter twice.
Yep, way past the world where the ball has left the street kid’s hands…
Behind my office at Cornell University, or rather to the side and behind the imposing statue of Ezra Cornell, sits this memorial to a professor .
I have created the narrative of slow thoughtful research for this professor. I see him with drawings and diagrams all hand drawn as he passes knowledge from one generation to another.
In my mind’s eye, this professor is hiking around our towns, stopping to point his finger at a phenomenon in the natural world. His students stand still, quiet, holding his words, filing them carefully for another time to be accessed on their own hikes.
I hear a quiet peaceful noise when I stop by this monument to this teacher. I think it is nice and kind that he remains here to remind us all of what can be learned in silent, steady, peaceful observation.
I note well that this monument, this glacial rock, has stood still during my 2 plus years at this job. Still and motionless as my life progresses on faster than I ever imagined in the springtime of adulthood.
Happy Father’s Day to a lovely husband
who when Two roads diverge in a wood, takes the one less traveled by
and it is the highest one
he feeds, walks, and medicates our dogs which I insisted
he loves his children
he loves his sisters and their children
he loves my family
he gardens and reads Amazon Kindle books at night
Cicero, he says, had it right: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
he is not an apologist
he is loved by most people
about his former spouse, he only reports that she is a gentle soul
and that her belief in him made all the difference
(girls…this is the kind of man you want to marry)
he holds hurtful people with grace and tenderness “we are all broken,” he says
he demands little of life and people
and is so delighted at each of their offerings “that was so sweet that they brought the fruit”
he lets me fight my own battles
but holds bad words about me to account
and asks that I too be gentle with the universe “don’t paint things and people with broad stokes”
There is so much more…Happy Father’s Day Ram!
**for the love of a husband is a phrase associated with my blog on analytics. but I never wrote that phrase until now
the other day. I was so sure that I started looking online to see if she had moved back to the area. I haven’t talked to her since soon after 9 11, when she called me to see how things were over here in upstate NY. She had moved out to Phoenix to become a Montessori teacher after we worked together in a doctor’s office.
Since our last call, I think maybe we touched base once on Facebook. I started thinking about how much I hoped she was back in town, how much fun it would be to go to Friendlys again with her and have a really gritty conversation about life over turkey and mashed potatoes. I thought about how real and how color blind she was and most importantly, how hopeful.
I recalled helping Regina on a few of her projects. She decided one year to create and host a party for children at the Ithaca Southside Community Center. Many people came and it was a success.
I thought about how she had lost her parents when she was just a child and how sad that made her feel, how different perhaps her life might have been. Regina was not bitter, she easily could have been.
Not only was she not bitter, I thought she had a wisdom in seeing things most people miss. She told me once how sad it is that the black folk and white folk have so much damaging conflict. She thought it ironic since they have so much in common: economic disenfranchisement among many things.
Regina wanted to be a teacher. She loved children and loved taking them under her wing. She was good at it, often babysitting a relative’s four little ones who had lost their mother. So Regina decided to go back to school in mid-life to become a Montessori teacher.
I remember her packing up…going through her things…what to take, what to dump. I looked on amazed that she had old Tiger Beats! She hated to throw them out and for some reason, I think she insisted on taking them with her. I like to think it was because they represented a happy time for her.
My husband and I gave Regina’s relative a computer we weren’t using. Soon after we gave it to her cousin, it died. I apologized to her later…she said, “Oh no, that is ok, because that was the beginning of more and better computers for my cousin.”
We had so many laughs and heart to hearts at the office where we worked, that one year, on my birthday, I was surprised that of all the people who forgot, she did. But then, toward the end of my day, Regina showed up, gift in hand. It was the coffee mug pictured here. I was delighted. I get it out often when I want to put a smile on my face.
It never occurred to me I would not see Regina again. So when I thought I saw her three weeks ago, I had to call her. I’m way too late, she passed on in 2012!. She was only in her late 50s, a sure sign that only the good die young.
You wake up and you are retired. That is how life is. And you are thinking pizza, the kind you would make if you had the recipe for the perfect crust.
Only a few people on the planet have that recipe, the one for the perfect crust. You had it once in New York City but you can’t remember where or in what decade.
You know though that the pizza shop you discovered on the way to your wife’s job has the crust recipe. You also think, on this particular day, that you really want pizza. Not too much cheese (the cholesterol, the gallbladder), a little sausage, a little pepperoni, some veggies … you can see the perfect pie and so you leave early for your destination to order it.
A bright young man takes your order…he pays attention, he gets it, as they say. You have an uplifting talk and proceed to pick your wife up. The pizza tantalizes you with its smell, you only glimpsed it as it slid from the wood tray to the box, but you saw its crispy edges.
You reach for your cell phone, call your wife (Still in her office), and share the good news: “Hurry up, I’ve got the pizza.”
Home, you open the box…what a picture…a mandala Mona Lisa. Grateful, you think of the young man, the art, and how great it is to get that one perfect pizza pie.
In the Adirondacks, on Lake Placid, a boat tour guide will tell you as you as he slows the engine and pauses in front of the house that was Kate Smith’s, that she would sing from the balcony.
In the stillness last summer, I heard her famous voice belting out God Bless America.As if reverberating through the decades to wrap me, and US, in soothing protection.
In the quiet with no cell phones buzzing, in my mind’s eye, I saw Kate Smith on her balcony.My mother’s mother, I am told, loved Smith’s famous “God Bless America,” she had three sons in World War II.Perhaps that fact about my Grandmother made Kate Smith’s voice and spirit boom even louder for me that day.
They say your offspring will care about what you care about, and this, my grandmother’s love for Kate Smith and God Bless America is about the only thing I know about what rested in my grandmother’s soul.
Today feels heavy, but I pray we keep Hope and our values alive…just as Kate Smith did during World War II.
President Obama believes in us…he proved his campaign slogan and he is not dying.Obama hasled us, WE THE PEOPLE, to an inevitable tipping point.That veiled line between justice and injustice, … It is up to us now to keep dusting ourselves off and hear his voice to participate, help each other out, and believe that YES WE CAN!
A Walk with two dogs on a snowy winter day. Our dog Macadew is like a gazelle leaping through the woods. On this snowy day, I brought my iPhone and because I know him so well, was able to capture him at some precise moments when his spirit was soaring throughout his universe.
Moby is happy to come along and he meanders much more slowly…I may have mentioned my husband’s theme song for him. It is all most like Moby walks to the tune: Zippity, Do Dah; Zippity Day…I’m so happy, things are going my way.
Me and Moby, our American pit bull mix, have been friends now for 5 years. Everyone loves Moby…he is adorable and he loves to be loved. We nicknamed him Mobile and sometimes sing to him: “I’m a wanderer, I’m a wanderer and I love to roam around” or “Going Mobile” because when my husband and I are working around the house, he just follows us from room to room and then stops where we stop and sits patiently waiting and watching us. When making dinner or doing the dishes, he is the best little companion ever.
Moby has a brother, Macadew, who has a different agenda in life and also dominates over Moby. Macadew, too, is a love if you are on his good side but, one does not want to be on the wrong side of his canines. He is a hunter… he leaps and bounds through the yard and woods, always on a hunt. When inside, each picture window provides him with hours of mesmerization as he studies the surroundings for a movement…the hunt for the barn cat or the rabbit is his life’s directive. After his job is done, Macadew simply rests with us and cuddles.
Back to Moby. So all is good at the homestead until…my husband leaves the vicinity. Moby, perhaps wandering or sleeping in front of the woodstove, hears the door creak. His head rises, he stares blankly waiting, ears listening…I hear him thinking…is he leaving? Rad says, See you later and shuts the door. Moby lifts his head up and his body comes right over to me. First, he wants me to pet him. Easy enough, but then when I stop, he puts his right foot on me to engage me.
After that, I have to get my weapon, a squirt bottle, because if I don’t, all 86 pounds of him tries to get up into my lap and will not take no for an answer. I rarely have to use my weapon, because Moby doesn’t like to get wet, and so he backs off. But that is when round two starts, Moby starts his own pacing and hunting.
Back and forth through the house looking for cruched up paper towels to grab… he places his front paws on the kitchen island or table examining the surface for the scrunched paper towel and if not finding one, a magazine or piece of paper. He proceeds then, to strategize how to get the object and as he stealthly calculates…I get up to beat him to it.
I then try to return to my book or whatever I am working on, but he aint having it. Pacing continues back and forth until he finds something and scampers into Macaedew’s cage to rip it apart, or I apprehend him before he gets there. I then unlock the jaws and retrieve the item. Or Moby makes it in to the crate and I have to follow to retrieve the item before, it is devoured.
Abby, what can be done, how can we end this dance. Me and Mobs are both getting grey…I know he loves this game but it is wearing on me. Please advise…I need an intervention:-)
My mother, Katherine Arachangela, is often heard saying…”I had five brothers growing up.” This meant, myself and my siblings and our 20 first cousins! had five uncles. They have all passed sadly and their names were Harry, Ed, Tommy, Bobby, and Billy. They each taught me something about life and this piece is a reflection on Uncle Bob. I am posting it now because he died almost three years ago around this time. His being brought light into the darkness for many…Uncle Bob you are missed!
January 2014~When I went to my Uncle Bob’s calling hours, I felt a sadness that echoed throughout my limbs and surfaced in a rain of tears. My Mother had, in her own, very succint, practical way pointed out to me, days before his death, that I was a niece he hardly new. (Not sure if this was not perhaps her dementia settling in or just her opinion.) This of course, this did not make the event any less sad.
I cried so hard because I saw my cousins in pain, because I saw all the times that I felt down and my Uncle was there to cheer me up. But most especially, I saw one Christmas night. Our family day done, my Mom wanted to visit her brothers that lived in town and she wanted all of us to go. A few of us went. I think she would have preferred we all go. She was so sad, my Mom, on that drive over to see my Uncles.
But when we arrived at Uncle Bob’s house and she started chatting, she cheered up. My cousins and I sat around their big beautiful tree talking. It was lovely.
Uncle Bob often brought the family together. He was the one who orchestrated my Uncle Harry’s memorial service at his home at 407 Milton when Uncle Harry, miles away, had done what rebellious Catholics due: had himself cremated in California (at least that is what I remember). Uncle Bob was also the person who showed up at my wedding with his camera and keen eye, our wedding photographer. I always suspected my Mother told him we didn’t have one and he just stepped up.
When I walked into his funeral the next day, I was not prepared to feel the spirit I felt…the singing from the local Hibernians and a man name Jack, a church packed with people touched by my Uncle Bob, and the soft light of Christmas’s closure.
Listening to the readings…a time to love, a time to die…. and the stories and the stories, the story that struck me, the one I could not bare to repeat without crying, was this:
At the end of his life my Uncle had Alzheimers, but his ability to sing and his remembrance of lyrics stayed present. My Uncle had been in a barbershop quartet for many years and had a great voice. One day, at a store, my cousin Tim said Uncle Bob started singing to the store clerk at the register. He sang I love you truly. And as he serenaded her, the woman started crying. “I have had the worst week,” she said to him.
I looked over at the Christmas tree on the alter several times during the celebration of Uncle Bob’s life. I thought perhaps the lights could represent all the lives he touched and if all of those lives somehow, in their own quiet way, could light up someone’s day, the planet might sparkle with goodness.
So from the niece who felt she knew ya Uncle Bob, you left the world a better place. An example for all of us to reach out to those less fortunate and the lonely or maybe just, as my cousin Drew said, stop for just one person today. One person who needs you or needs the bits of goodness that you can give.
My husband and I were talking late at night about what we saw during a lovely summer day.
Oh, he said, “I was walking near the lower pond and I saw the most beautiful fox running toward the Western field.” He went on to describe its golden-red color and the way it ran through the Western trail, long beautiful grasses on either side of it.
I then thought about my trip home and the beautiful animal I saw lying dead at the edge of the neighbor’s driveway. “I think I saw that fox.” “Where?” asked my husband. I told him.
“I wish you hadn’t told me that,” he said.
Perhaps one day, when we see these beautiful animals as road kill, we will cover them up, one by one, with a sheet. A day of reverence…this was actually my husband’s idea. I think it is a good one.A day of passage, a writ of honor.
Step right up
And hop on the Merry-Go-Round
Pick a horse, any horse
Round and round ~ the carousel’s bright lights
And magical ponies
Stationary, never changing, round and round it goes
From above the joker laughs at us all
The great engineer: knowing all, caring none
Step down; proceed to the house of mirrors
Look in and laugh
You are fat, you are thin, you are fat and thin
Created to mock you
Take away your soul with illusion
Shoot the basket, five dollars for three tries, win a prize?
Rigged, contrived, set up
Beyond your control, in the dark of night
With trickery passed down
One generation to the next
Fooling you in silence
You can never win
Sideshow…the alligator man
The fattest woman ever
All the world’s a stage
Their role transparent
Yours hidden under subconscious guise
Puppet on a string
The next circus comes to town
The horses are all purple
You pay admission, buy your ticket: the same Merry-Go-Round.
I realize that is a long title but it sums up what I saw yesterday. At the end of a long, hot week and a long hot month where the random fluctuations in my little universe have challenged me to rise up and cope, I was dismayed at the following scene.
Enroute to the pharmacy after my husband’s second arm casting of the week, we sat on the exit ramp. In front of us I read the bumper sticker, “Let Go and Let God.” I think ” what exactly does it mean for people?” For me, it means that God will intervene so I don’t have to do anything. For that reason, I don’t particularly like this bumper sticker.
One thing I believe, if God is listening, he sure as hell, does not mean for me to abdicate my throne for hers. Rather, I think, he wants me to get in there and do my part for the universe, as best I can. Yep, go ahead and forgive those mud slingers, Ann Coutler included. But don’t wait for him to save me from her.
So back to this little scene on the ramp where I’m hot and bothered and at the end of my patience rope. As I read the bumper sticker, I saw before me the driver open the car window, smash his soda can and drop it to the ground. I started yelling at him, so tired, I didn’t want to beep, just yell out my window. By the time my finger engaged the controller, the traffic was moving.
This man/woman drove off leaving the rest of us with his/her mess. I imagine three scenarios for this piece of trash discarded into our universe:
a. the can will be driven over, smushed probably, and it may affect someone’s tires.
b. a cautious driver may dodge it careening off to the right and into the guardrail.
c.the can will be picked up by the air or a person or a sweep of heavy rain and it will end up in recycling or the lake.
So, this is the bumper sticker I think God and I could agree on:
God Protect Me From Your Followers.
The followers who think that you created this beautiful planet and all of us for our own purposes, that we are not here to hold sacred each human, each piece of land, each day because somehow with your magical intervention, you are going to take care of it and make it all better, no matter what crap we put into the universe.
Into my third year as a high school teacher, I was having a heart-to-heart with my college bound senior class on the concept of respect. They were only about ten years younger than myself but I was clearly the adult in the situation. In the course of our conversation, one of the students said, “Why should I respect Emma?”
Emma worked at our school as a teacher’s aide and lunch room monitor. She was kind to me and we ate lunch every day together. Emma went through the school of hard knocks and graduated. I have heard she said some pretty crude things when her back was pushed up against a wall, but I honestly never heard her say anything inappropriate.
I was dismayed by my students response: how arrogant, how condescending, how had we morphed into this world? I felt I wanted to do something and so I did. I assigned them a respect paper. I asked them to write about the person they respected most and break it down into why, with three or four concrete examples. I hoped that through an anlysis of what constituted respect, they would grow to see the problem in their thinking about my friend Emma. Then they challenged me to do the same, I did. What follows is the result, My Respect Paper.
I give everyone I come into contact with respect for two reasons. The first reason is because we are all human beings, flawed and subject to the same vulnerabilities, the biggest being death which humbles and unites us all.The second reason I give all human beings respect is because if I fail to do this, I may miss something important that they have to show me. For example, if I did not respect my students despite their young age and inexperience, I would miss all the fresh ideas and hope they have to offer me. The respect I give all human beings may heighten and intensify with time as I become more involved with them, but for this to occur I have to start with respect for mankind in general.
I have chosen to write my paper on Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams), a prep school teacher in the film Dead Poets Society and a personification of what I respect in a human being and a teacher.
Mr. Keating has many admirable qualities and they are exhibited in his teaching style. As a teacher, his goals were not content oriented but rather, student oriented. Mr. Keating’s most impressive strength was his ability to make his students look beyond poetry and into their souls. This was evident on the first day of class when he led his students to the pictures of previous Welton graduates (Welton was the name of the school where he was teaching). He instructed his students to look into the eyes of the alums and see the vigor, energy, and hope within those eyes.
“Lean in,” said Mr. Keating, and “peruse some of the faces from the past…invincible, just like you feel, the world is their oyster…their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable of? Because you see Gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. Lean in and hear them whisper their legacy to you: “Carpei, Carpei Diem.” “Seize the Day.” “Make your lives extraordinary.'”
The best thing about this strategy was that it worked and his students began to seize the day as they ventured into their school year.
Secondly, I respected Mr. Keating’s dedication to nonconformity in his teaching. Mr. Keating wanted students to think for themselves and this was clearly evidenced when he instructed them to tear out the first chapter on poetry analysis in their textbook. “Excrement!” he stated as he told them to “Rip.” He then went on to explain that poetry can not be measured by others who write about it, and that in his class, these young men would learn to think for themselves. Although this method would not be possible for most teachers, a belief in independent thinking was illustrated well in this exercise.
Finally, Mr. Keating’s commitment to the individual student and helping him unearth what lies deep within his soul was tempered by his ability to guide, but not force. He gave his students’ ideas in such a way that they wanted to explore life and poetry for themselves. This was evidenced when he tempted them with knowledge about the Dead Poets Society, a secret organization where he and his peers found safety to “suck the marrow out of life” as they read and thought about poetry. Mr. Keating was successful in stimulating his students to go beyond themselves as they too went to the caves around Welton and formed a Dead Poets Society.
In conclusion, Mr. Keating’s great ability as a teacher is admirable. He took all of his life experiences and provided his students with the ability to experience life for themselves. If you have not seen the movie, make some popcorn some night this summer and plug-in the VCR , it is well worth it.
I will truly miss you all next year, thanks for a great year, you have been an extraordinary class. “Carpei Diem.”
At the center of the talk was what the presenter called a pancake moment. I don’t know how to define it except to say that it is a moment associated with a memory of pancakes in a historical/personal context that teaches you something, marks something, or leads to some type of transformation, even if just in your thinking. (Click on Ms. Younger’s site, pancakemoments TM to find out more information.)
Here is my pancake moment.
In October 1995, my now husband invited me over for breakfast with his twin boys. He routinely made the round trip to Syracuse every other weekend and bring them to their home here, the home that he wanted to be their forever home.
I had tasted some of my husband’s cooking but was not prepared for his specialty, blueberry pancakes. While the boys slept, he brought out the ingredients, mixed them finishing with a big handful of blueberries thrown into the batter. The pancakes on the griddle fluffed up to the best cakes I have ever tasted…not too high and airy, but high enough so that the pancake does not drop into your stomach like a round of lead.
Calling the fifteen year olds to breakfast, he prepared their plates and let them pour as much syrup as they wanted onto their pancakes.My husband then made sure they had a juice or something to drink, fussing over them as he does with people he holds dear…like a mother hen.
The boys gobbled up their pancakes as if it was the most routine thing in the world.
At that moment I could feel the love. The contented feeling of soul food like delicious blueberry pancakes set in a scene laced with its own brand of heart ache, transformed into that routine place that never leaves you…that place you carry in your heart forever, that place where you are unconditionally loved.
And I saw the soul of my husband, Radames: when life gives you cracked eggs put them in a rich mix and then throw in a lot of color and sweetness to make it whole and beautiful for yourself, and for those who must continue.
In October 2017, my dear and one of my best friends in life died, Joe. In July 2018, my mother died. And now, my dog is dying. I am so at a loss and so unprepared to now say farewell to our beautiful Macadew.
In the interim, other people I have bonded with in my dear home of Ithaca have passed. Katie, the art teacher passed. We went to grad school together. Jeanne died, she was the person with me on the first day I met my husband in 1995. Mark died, he was a lovely long time friend who sent me the most heartfelt cards when my Mom died and in 2000 when my mother in law passed. And finally Linda passed. I had taught Linda a program in health so that she could, corporate speak, increase her chances of longevity. She loved the program, got others to love it. Linda has died at 71, not fulfilling the corporate mission.
I am 57, other deaths have hit me in this time. A classmate, Billy, died. Billy helped me move out of my apartment in 1992. He has lost his life to cancer. Loda died. Loda wrote me a note when I was in the newspaper at 27. I was insecure finishing my first year of teaching but exhurberant with hope. “I can say I knew you when. ” I told her this when I saw her in the nursing home and she had lost any recollection of me. “I was a good person wasn’t I”
“Yes, you were Loda.” I replied.
I am so tired of the heart ache, the severed bond. I can’t face my dog dying. I am calling all the experts trying to think my way out of this but Everytime, the expert fails. I rage against the dying of the light and I feel like the wicked witch as I drown into a pool of tears.
My friend Marianne knew I would have problems with death. She told me in our 20s, Claire at some point someone you know is going to die and you are going to have to cope. Marianne never minces words…love her for that.
I cope, I work, I cry, I walk the treadmill, scrape off the car, pick up chicken parmesan, but all the while I ache. My mind doesn’t reason properly because the pain just knifes right into my neo- cortex.
Everyone gets on my last nerve I am so strung out on cortisol and adrenaline. I sip wine but that only warms my soul for a few moments, there are the other 23 hours.
Not you too Macadew! Not you too!
Oh how brief the visit here..
My husband, Radames, the dog lover, the stalwart of calm and love, looks at me at times and quotes the hunchback of Notre Dame: “why wasn’t I made of stone like these statues?”
And now I must stay the course
Here, my heart beating on this page
For all to see, the love and rage
The sharing, I hope, of raw humanity!
Macadew…may our last days be in love and thanksgiving!
I am reading a book about the Trojan War and I am looking at the remains of that war…the stone walls. That is what remains.
I went to visit my aunt on Saturday after many months. It is her 95th birthday on Tuesday so I brought cupcakes and my husband, aunt and I went down to the cafeteria for coffee and birthday wishes.
I could barely sing her happy birthday without bursting into tears. Usually, my Mom was with us at this yearly celebration and her loss was palpable.
I reminded my Aunt that Mom had died and it looked like she too would burst out crying. She said, ” I just don’t remember you telling me this.”
My husband the stalwart of calm made jokes and smiled. I told my Aunt I worried about one of my brothers, she said emphatically, “You don’t need to worry about him, he can take care of himself.” She would know, he visits her every Saturday. And then I realized anew how orphaned I felt now that my parents are both gone.
In my house, we have a room and in the corner of that room, I have pictures and artifacts from my family. The artifacts go back to the 1800s when they arrived here. It isn’t much but it is what remains of the day. Some happy times and some downright soul-crushing times, at least for me.
My aunt asked me if my great-aunt and uncle were still alive, they died in the 60s because she hadn’t heard from them in a while. She asked my husband if he knew Aunt Melia who sang opera…she died in 1971, I was 10. It is as if everyone she loved is with her but she can’t reach them. Our Minister says, we live between the living and the dead, and in the aged, you can really hear this articulated.
At the end, if the visit I asked my Aunt where she wanted me to drop her off, “the dayroom,” she said. We walked into the room which is usually empty, and she said, ” Hey, where is everybody?” I said, “Did you mean the dining room?” “No,” she replied. “just wheel me over there.”
The spot looks out the window toward home, my home, her home in the backdrop are the rolling hills of burnished Autumn leaves radiating in the sunlight. I kiss my aunt goodbye, tell her I love her, as the pit in my stomach sinks down to my feet.
This is what remains of our life together and no one is left in the room but us…and in time, like the Trojan wall, the hills will be all that can speak for us.
Mark riding into the. UU Pit Stop on Sept 8…AIDS RIDE FOR LIFE.
10 AM Sat Sept 22
Mark was the best…in one hour, our First Unitarian Church will say goodbye to him. I wrote this poem for him because in my sadness, I realized every encounter I had with him over 22 years represented deliberate sweet kindness.
The Sacred Hour
This is our scared hour
The one right now
Which sits before us
Without all of the yesterdays or nebulous tomorrows:
And what shall we do with this sacred hour?
In the best possible world,
We can work with each other to be kind and pause before our utterances:
To support connection and joy not destruction and hurt?
We can take the skills the great spirit sent us
And Make the world a better place, one interaction, one moment, one hour at a time.