Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Special Chica Peep





CHICA PEEPS: groups of women who anchor, guide and nurture each other, often through humor; sisterhoods of strength and support.

Velya Jancz-Urban maintains a website filled with stories and women and friendship, and is calling for more stories about why we value our female companions: http://www.chicapeeps.com/. 

This Christmas as I open my cards from women friends I once again reflect on how these female friendships have grown more valuable to to me in my December years. In my youth I had girlfriends I couldn't wait to share all my news with. In junior high, for instance, I had baton-twirling friends from Carpenterettes, and fellow referees and umpires from Girls' Athletic Club. By high school, there were sorority sisters from Scians, fellow dancers in Pavlovettes, and reporters from the Manual Arts Daily.

Then, by college, things shifted. Books and boys took over, and I married at the close of my freshman year. So in my early adulthood, my husband became my closest confidante. Later my days became so stuffed with childraising, housework, college classes and then demanding jobs...there weren't many moments left to even think about making any women friends, let alone spend any time with them.

In my early 40s I divorced, and once again I had time to form bonds with other women. Some of those friendships, begun 30 or more years ago, remain the closest to my heart today. Over the subsequent decades I've found new friends, as well...women I've worked with, women in my book groups, and recently, women I've met at the University of Cambridge International Summer School and women I've worked with in civic activities, such as Colville Branch AAUW.

More recently I've joined a new family of women, all connected with the family of the Not Your Mother's Book publishing project. Plus I have other individual female writers that I check in with frequently.

When I think, though, of my women friends, Annie these days first pops into mind. She's the one I connect with every day...the one who hears it all, just as if I were in high school all over again. Sometimes it seems to me as if nothing really happens until I've shared it with Annie. Even as I write this blog I'm munching on the Christmas cookies she sent me from Pennsylvania.

Velya wants women's stories about their same-sex friendships for her Chica Peeps book. Please browse around her colorful website and send her the word of why you're sentimental about your women friends! Here's the Chica Peeps website again: http://www.chicapeeps.com/.

My story about Annie first appeared in Thin Threads:  Stories of Women and Friendship. 

Totally Not Strangers

By Terri Elders
 
“Friendship is born at that moment when a person says to another, ‘What! You, too? I thought I was the only one.” –C. S. Lewis

Though Grandma was born in 1890, the era of gaslight, privies and washboards, if she’d entered the world half a century later, I’m certain today she’d be busy with e-mail and Facebook, and maybe even Twitter.

Not Mama, though. She much preferred face-to-face coffee klatches with friends in the neighborhood. She might scribble a hurried note on the bottom of a birthday card, but that was the limit to her personal correspondence.

 “Your grandmother writes to women she sat next to on a bus or bumped into at the Piggly Wiggly cash register. She makes pen pals out of total strangers,” Mama scoffed one morning back in l947, pointing to Grandma who had just cleared the kitchen table of its breakfast dishes before settling down with her address book, lined writing tablet and fountain pen.

Grandma laughed and shook her silver-curled head. “I don’t write to strangers. I write to friends. So what if I met Betty at the bus stop? We have a lot in common. And that woman at the grocery store turned out to be Olive who happened to live right down my street. We’d never met before, but became quite neighborly before she finally moved back east.”

“I still write to my best friend, Ann, in Pennsylvania and will until one of us dies,” Grandma said. “We started school together, and right after we both turned ten near the turn of the century, her family moved. We began to drop each other a line not long after that. It cost a penny to send a postcard then, and two cents for a letter. I earned my pennies for stamps by collecting eggs from our hens, and helping with the laundry on Mondays. I always was in charge of hanging the sheets on the clotheslines because I was the tallest in the family.”

I understood. Just ten years old myself, I’d found a pen pal of my own, through the children’s page of the Portland Oregonian. I ran errands to the general store and the post office to earn my weekly allowance of a dime. At nearly mid-century the cost to mail a letter had increased by just a penny. One week I’d buy stamps, the next a comic book, paper dolls or ribbons for my pigtails.


“I’m writing to Ann this morning,” Grandma continued. “It’s her birthday next week. I haven’t seen her nearly fifty years, but I still remember the delicious deviled eggs she made for my 10th birthday. We had a picnic in the park.”

“What will you tell her today?” I asked. So far as I could see, Grandma’s days were pretty uneventful.

“Oh, there’s always news! I write about you, your sister, your brother, and what your Grandpa Louie is growing in the garden. I might mention how I’m planning to make a blackberry cobbler for tonight’s supper, or brag about winning at Canasta at my card club last Monday. There’s always something.”

“Oh, Mother,” Mama chimed in. “Who cares?” I know if she still lived today, Mama would never Tweet.

My pen pal and I lost touch after a while, and I cannot recollect why. Unlike Grandma and her Ann, I think we simply ran out of things to say, or couldn’t couch our everyday activities in words that captured each other’s interest.

During my own years of finishing an education, starting a family, pursuing a career, I, like Mama, had little use for letter writing. Like her, I penned brief notes on birthday cards, and personal updates at Christmas. I lacked any regular pen pals, depending instead on the telephone to keep in touch. Letters were as antiquated as bustles, I’d decided, relics of the past, as dead and gone as Grandma, her friend, Ann, and even Mama.

But now, retired and far away from friends I’d made all over the world through my work with Peace Corps, I, like Grandma, keep in frequent touch. I don’t even have to save my pennies for postage, since I usually e-mail, unless it’s to send a thank you note or special card. Instead I reserve my free time to write personal stories for magazines and anthologies.

About three years ago I received an e-mail from another writer, Annie. Each of us had written stories about our mothers that appeared in a popular anthology series. My tale was about a Halloween that Mama had made special when I was too ill to go out to trick or treat. Annie’s was about a summer dress her mom had fashioned from some unfashionable fabric. Both stories detailed a loving mother’s concern for her child.

“My own mother always wanted (and never had) a sister,” Annie wrote to me. “Our mothers seem so similar, I think perhaps they now are sisters in heaven.”

I immediately responded. Soon Annie, who lives in Pennsylvania, and I began to send rough drafts of our stories to each other. We swapped tips about which publishers were seeking submissions, and offered suggestions when one of us got stuck for a catchy title.
Though our lifestyles seem very different, since I’m a globetrotter and she claims to be a reclusive homebody, we share compatible values, opinions and worldviews. Though we take pride in our generally optimistic and positive attitudes, there’s a little pepper in each of our sugar bowls. We’ve both been known to snip and snark.

Since we write about our families, our childhoods, and our reactions to the events of our daily lives, through reading each other’s stories, we may know one another more intimately than most women who sit in adjacent classroom desks or workplace cubicles.

When my late husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Annie was the first person I told, other than immediate family. We comfort each other through lesser travails, as well, through rejection slips and sick pets. We celebrate together when either of us has a story accepted for publication, when either reaches, or alas, more frequently fails, to reach a weight loss goal, or even when one of us boasts of managing to set aside some hours to mop and vacuum our homes.

Are our daily exchanges of literary merit? Not unless anybody would be interested in the menu for Annie’s family holiday dinner or my take on a video I watched. Mama would say, “Who cares?” Well, I know I do, and I’m pretty sure Annie does.

Though I’ve never met her in person, nor am likely to, if more than a day or two elapses without a message from Annie, I began to suffer withdrawal symptoms. I’ll check my inbox, worry and fret. I’m so relieved when I finally read that she’d just had a minor family crisis that called her away from her laptop for a day or two. When I’m out of state or out of the country, I’ll receive plaintive pleas to write as soon as I can.

I call her my writing partner…but Annie’s more than that. A total stranger? Not at all.

Mama wouldn’t understand. But Grandma would. After all, her best friend was a woman in Pennsylvania named Ann.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Divine Intervention

All December I've been remembering Grandma Gertie's Christmas candies. She'd start right after Thanksgiving, squirreling away tins of her fudge, sugared walnuts, penuche and my favorite, divinity. Back in the late '50s I'd taken a lesson or two from her, and for years made boxes of homemade candy for Christmas gifts. After I married Ken in 2000 I avoided anything requiring much sugar, since he had been diagnosed with Type II diabetes.

This year I determined I'd make divinity. But even though I've had good intentions, I haven't managed to propel myself into the kitchen long enough to whip up a batch of anything much. I've been too busy writing and editing.

Last week when I toted a suitcase full of packages to the post office, the man behind me in line looked at the small Priority boxes and remarked, "Ohhh...somebody's in for a treat. Looks like homemade candy."

I actually blushed. Remembering that I'm fortunate enough to have a writing partner who does her Martha thing every holiday season, and usually sends me a box of goodies, I smiled sweetly. "There's treats in these boxes, but they're full of books, not candy. Nowadays the candy comes to me, not from me."

"Books?" He scrunched up his face as if he smelled something unsavory indeed. "What kind of a present is that?" I continued to smile as I piled the books in front of the postal clerk. I didn't mention that the books, all from the new Not Your Mother's Book series, had been copy edited by me, and contained stories written by me...certainly a treat enough for my friends and family.

Yesterday I dashed into our local big box store to pick up some insulin for Natty, my late husband's mutt, also afflicted with diabetes, plus a few rawhide chews for both of the dogs. As I wheeled my cart through produce, grabbing a head of lettuce and some cherry tomatoes on the way, I noticed a stack of plastic boxes filled with divinity. Since I had a party to go to last night, I tossed one in my cart.

My hostess, another Martha type, accepted the gift. "We'll just transfer these to a pretty dish and put them on the buffet table."

A little later I overheard her telling another guest, "No...I didn't make the divinity. Terri made it." A woman who had accompanied me to the party, and who knew the truth, gasped, "Umhhh!"

I helped myself to a piece. Ahhhh....it was divine indeed, just like Grandma Gertie's.

When I lived in Belize I'd learned a proverb that I recall frequently. "If it's not so, it's nearly so."


I had made the trip to the store. I had made the decision to buy the candy. Now I made myself keep quiet so as to not embarrass my hostess by pointing out she'd told a little white lie about those little white candies.


The way I see it, I nearly made the divinity.

Here's a recipe that I've made in the past...and that's just like Grandma's:
 
http://southernfood.about.com/od/candyrecipes/r/blbb67.htm

It's divine.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Be There Now Giveaway

--

I'm so pleased to have the lead story in the new Dream of Things anthology, Be There Now. My contribution to this collection describes an electrifying moment. I'll never forget witnessing a total eclipse of the sun, lounging on my sundeck in Antigua, Guatemala, with Kelly Presley. It indeed was something that could happen "Only Once in a Lifetime," as I've titled my recollection.

This second anthology by Dream of Things is available now on Amazon...here's more:

Be There Now is a collection of true travel stories featuring twenty-two contributors who share adventures and escapades from around the world.

The stories include the tale of an amateurish kidnapping in Nicaragua that could have been told by Woody Allen, and a David Sedaris-esque tale of two ships passing in a Paris art supply store. Existential stories from a man lost on the flooded Amazon River at night, and from a woman who encounters a grizzly--in the same area where her father and stepmother were killed by a bear. Insightful stories about a woman's spiritual journey in Peru (complete with hallucinogens!), and about a female journalist's friendship with an Iraqi translator in Syria. And stories about endangered species in exotic locales, including helping a sea turtle lay its eggs on a Costa Rican beach, and taking a blind man to visit the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

Be There Now is travel writing at its most authentic--real people sharing real stories of awe and insight, fear and laughter, humility and humanity as they explore the world around us and seek footholds on their own inner journeys. In a world that often demands that we "be here now," it is nice to take a break, daydream, and "be there now" with thoughtful people who take us with them on journeys that lead to inspiration, insight, humor, and deeper meaning.

Be There Now is part of a series of anthologies of creative nonfiction on various topics from Dream of Things, which strives to publish anthologies that fill the gap between popular collections that can be regarded as "short and sweet," and the Best American Essays series, which tend to be longer-form. The goal for Dream of Things anthologies is to be not short and sweet, but short and deep.


Register today at GoodReads for a chance to get a free copy!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Winter Morning in the Country

Aside from a brief pre-Thanksgiving flurry, we'd not yet seen snow in my little slice of Arden in the Colville valley. But this morning as I took Tsunami for her walk at daybreak a flake or two clouded up my spectacles, and ten minutes after we came inside, the fat fluffy snowflakes had transformed my dismal dead-branched yards and pastures into a true Currier and Ives winter wonderland.

Yep...now I feel full of the Christmas spirit. So today I begin to send out my Christmas letters, and I'll make one final foray before noon to finish off my Christmas shopping. I've an AAUW Christmas party and silent auction, our FUNdraiser for girls' scholarships, set for Sunday afternoon...and at last I feel in full season.

This will be a relatively quiet December for me, however. I no longer want to fly during this season. In former years I visited friends and family in other states sometime around Thanksgiving. The past two years I arrived home shortly after Turkey Day and found I was unable to get my car up my driveway into the garage, because of the snow. Though it came in late this year, I no longer want to deal with snowdrift uncertainty during the holidays. I don't want to mar my merriness obsessing about whether I'll be unable to creep up slippery Slide Creek Road to fetch my dogs from their End of the Trail kennel when the temperature's plunged down to the oughts. I don't want to worry about skimming over a patch of black ice and slidinig off the side of Highway 395. Nope. Just want to hunker down, read, watch videos, pet my pets, and watch pre-taped Dickens films.

I'm easing into my hibernal mode, even though the calendar shows there's still a couple of weeks of autumn left. I can feel my system slowing down...time for afternoon naps, ambles--not sprints--through the library stacks, thawing out some of the soups I froze last spring, even welcoming the ghosts of Christmas past.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in a beautiful 1890s Spokane house that reminded me of the rambling old Scotts Mills home I lived in briefly in the 1940s. I spent the evening remembering those childhood holidays, and delighted in recalling the trees my grandfather used to chop down each Christmas. Now I live in the Colville National Forest, surrounded by those firs. Just like a print from Currier and Ives...like the one here, Winter Morning in the Country.

What do you suppose the men in the sleigh have in those tanks?  Is it cider? Ale for holiday wassail bowls? Milk? Are there any jingle bells on those horses?

Yep...it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hibernating Through the Holidays

I've always claimed I couldn't understand the concept of a "staycation." Whenever my late husband would suggest I just kick back and watch reruns of "Gunsmoke" all day with him, I'd laugh and scurry off to clean out a kitchen drawer or to open the laptop to check call outs for submissions or I'd bound upstairs to change the bedding.

Vegging out at home has never been a possibility with me. There's a residual inner voice--is that you, Grandma?...scolding away. But last month I caught a cold...and it seemed as if it were going to stay with me for the rest of my life. After three weeks the sniffling finally ceased. I'd never had a cold last so long. Then I realized that my resistance probably was next to nil. I'd rushed through this year, editing, writing, paying homage to Charles Dickens in his bicentennial year, promoting this, that and the other with community service, and feeling guilty because I'd let the gardens go to weed.

Then I came across this passage by John Steinbeck, in The Log from the Sea of Cortez: 

John Steinbeck
“It was a good thing, we told ourselves; the eyes grow weary with looking at new things; sleeping late, we said, has its genuine therapeutic value; we would be better for it, would be able to work more effectively. We have little doubt that all this was true, but we wish we could build as good a rationalization every time we are lazy. For in some beastly way this fine laziness has got itself a bad name. It is easy to see how it might have come into disrepute, if the result of laziness were hunger. But it rarely is. Hunger makes laziness impossible. It has even become sinful to be lazy. We wonder why. One could argue, particularly if one had a gift for laziness, that it is relaxation pregnant of activity, a sense of rest from which directed effort may arise, whereas most busy-ness is merely a kind of nervous tic.
...
How can such a process have become a shame and a sin? Only in laziness can one achieve a state of contemplation which is a balancing of values, a weighing of oneself against the world and the world against itself. A busy man cannot find time for such balancing. We do not think a lazy man can commit murders, nor great thefts, nor lead a mob. He would be more likely to think about it and laugh. And a nation of lazy contemplative men would be incapable of fighting a war unless their very laziness were attacked. Wars are the activities of busy-ness.”

I decided Steinbeck was right on the money. I didn't need to commit a murder nor lead a mob. I needed to rest, to commune with myself. I needed time alone...not to write, but to replenish my empty coffers. Here it was nearly Thanksgiving, and I'd run out of energy, out of enthusiasm, and out of eggs. I could remedy the latter with a quick trip to the supermarket, and while there, I could stock up on necessities and just hunker down. I didn't need to fly to relatives this Thanksgiving. Instead, I could send warmest wishes, and spend my holiday week...yes, a full seven-day week!...reading, watching videos, going to movies, playing with the dogs, napping, eating and reading some more.

So for this entire past week I didn't open the laptop, where I do the writing and editing and work for the organizations I volunteer with. I checked email and Facebook and my daily news feeds on the computer in the living room, even taking time to play a few rounds of Spider. If it were noon and I felt drowsy, I napped on the sofa. If it were midnight and I awoke, I'd read until 3:30 without worrying about getting up and to work at the laptop by 8 a.m.

What a wonderful way to refuel. What a treat...and it cost me nothing, really, compared with what a trip someplace would have cost. Yes, I did miss visits with my granddaughter in Arizona or my family and friends in California. But we'll meet again. They all know I love them.

In the meantime I've learned to assign some value to indolence. And here's the payoff: my old energy and enthusiasm have returned...plus there's still over a dozen eggs left in the bottom of the fridge. And plenty of time to make a mid-morning omelet before I open that laptop in a few minutes and get back to work.

This Thanksgiving I've been grateful for so much...including the everlasting wisdom of John Steinbeck!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hot and Heavy at Thanksgiving


Though more than a week remains before Thanksgiving, I'm already planning how I'll celebrate that day. This year I'm staying home. No sense in roasting an entire turkey for just me...but a turkey breast might fill the bill. I plan sweet potatoes, creamed onions, stuffed celery and olives, and certainly pumpkin pie. And I don't plan to count calories, not even when I sneak downstairs to make that midnight turkey sandwich, layered thickly with cranberry sauce.

In my preteen days, Thanksgiving provided a chance for me to bond with Mama and Grandma. Several years ago I wrote about how I helped prepare the feast in a story, "Spellbound by Swanky Swigs," which was published in Thanksgiving Tales: True Stories of the Holiday in America. When I wrote that story I remembered how much I always looked forward to this particular holiday.

http://www.amazon.com/Thanksgiving-Tales-Stories-Holiday-America/dp/0982729006/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350923171&sr=8-1&keywords=thanksgiving+tales

Unfortunately, by the time I hit high school, I no longer enjoyed Thanksgiving. Of course, I wanted to see my aunts, uncles and cousins...it wasn't that. I just didn't want to see the food. I'd sit at the table, watching my rotund uncles shovel down mashed potatoes, and worry that if I tasted as much as a morsel of Grandma's apple/raisin stuffing, I'd add two inches to my hips. By that time I'd been sold the idea that a good girl, a pretty girl, a decent girl was...a thin girl. Less is more was the mantra of the '50s. Though I didn't know anybody who ran to the restroom to throw up after every meal, that revolting activity was just around the corner. My friends and I thumbed little calorie counters available at every drugstore checkout station. We were already engrossed in obsessing over every mouthful of food that we no longer quite enjoyed.

In  Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashion, released last month by Seal Press, Virgie Tovar has assembled the stories of 31 women who have spent their lives dealing with the weighty issue of weight, and have finally adopted a different philosophy...love what you've got, and quit waiting for life to begin once you've become thin. I'm one of these women. My story, "Elephants Never Forget," harks back to the time that I became aware that I didn't measure up...or, rather, measured up far too much. Here's an excerpt:

This incident marked a turning point in my life. Sixty years later, I still remember that at dinner that night I'd turned down seconds on mashed potatoes and I'd even skiped the cake Mama served for dessert. Obviously, I'd have to cut back on eating. Food made me fat, and made me lazy and unlovable in my mother's eyes.

I'm proud that my story is included. The cover copy announces: "Writers, activists, performers, and poets write about everything from fat burlesque and queer dating to plus-size modeling and building the ultimate fat wardrobe. Long overdue, Hot & Heavy is a fierce, sassy and joyous send up to living large--and loving it."

To celebrate the publication of this book, that celebrates hate loss, not weight loss, I intend to take back Thanksgiving. I'm going into this holiday season carefree and calorie-counting-free.


http://www.amazon.com/Hot-Heavy-Fierce-Girls-Fashion/dp/1580054382/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1350923312&sr=1-2&keywords=hot+and+heavy


Thursday, November 1, 2012

On Borrowed Time

The evening of November 1, 1987, El Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead in Mexico and much of Central America, I had just taken my vows as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize City, Belize. I'd left Long Beach, California, just six weeks earlier, full of hope that I'd find a new direction in my life. As it turns out, I did.

After the swearing-in ceremony that moonlit night, a male friend volunteered to walk me home to my host family, and we were winding our way up Baymen Avenue in the Caribbean Shores section of town, not far from the place I was staying in King's Park.

Two young men appeared out of nowhere, one wielding a fence post he'd uprooted from somewhere nearby. While one thumped his makeshift weapon against my friend's forehead, the other grabbed my shoulder bag and yanked. The strap twisted around my forearm, and I fell to the ground. He dragged me a few feet along the gravel, growling at me to let loose of the purse. I wasn't holding on. It just wouldn't unwind from my arm. He batted at me several times, the purse finally unwound, and the two of them ran off.

I crawled back to my friend and leaned over him. I saw he was unconscious, but could see his chest rising and falling, so knew he was still alive. His white shirt was spattered with blood, and it took a moment for me to realize that it was spurting on him from my upper left arm.

That's when I realized that I'd been stabbed, and an artery had been severed. I started to run toward the Peace Corps training director's house...we'd passed it a few minutes earlier...shouting for help. People streamed out of their houses. One phoned the police. Another helped me fashion a tourniquet from my slip. Soon we were on our way to the Belize City Hospital, and eventually airlifted to Miami Beach, where we both had surgery.

We recovered, and eventually returned to Belize to carry out our Peace Corps assignments. I was 50 at the time, and my friend a few years older. Nobody had expected us to come back...but we did.

Now, on the 25th anniversary of that harrowing night, I'm thankful for the opportunities those additional years provided for me. I had the chance to travel to the far reaches of the world, to live and work in other countries, to gain a wider perspective during my decade overseas at how fortunate I am to have been born in the United States and to own an American passport.

I had the chance to live in other states upon my return home...Arkansas, Maryland, Washington. I married again, and gained stepchildren and grandchildren and even a great-grandchild. And four-footed friends, dogs and cats. I've also been able to write about my life...my stories have been or will be published in around 75 books.

Each November 1 I eat a pumpkin treat to commemorate that I'm very much alive on the Day of the Dead. When I lived in Antigua, Guatemala, my friend and I would join the throngs at the local cemetery and leave pumpkin cookies on the graves.

I won't be getting to a cemetery today, but I will stop by my local Safeway and pick up a pumpkin pie. They're on sale right now. Maybe I'll buy two and freeze one for Thanksgiving...I've got a lot of celebrating to do and a lot of thanks to give.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Surprise...at Colville Safeway!

One of the joys of my annual pilgrimages to my Southern California birthplace involves wandering around some of the few remaining brick-and-mortar bookstores with old friends. I'm not-so-secretly pleased when I can tug a book off a shelf and flip to one of my stories.

"Look," I'll say, feigning modesty. "This book has one of my stories!"

 My friends fake astonishment. "How impressive!"

There's not a lot of financial gain in writing true stories about one's life for these books. So why not accept the emotional payoff one gets from preening when one has the chance? Even if one has to stage the scene.

Where I live now, in Stevens County, 70 miles from Spokane, I've never had the opportunity to spy a book with one of my stories in any store. Wal-Mart did carry Chicken Soup for the Soul's Messages from Heaven several months ago...a friend spotted it. By the time I dropped by the store a day later, there were no copies left. I'm hoping a few local readers got to learn how my husband planned to stage a comeback from the afterlife in my story, "The Unforgotten."

But last night, on the way to a jewelry party at a friend's house, I dropped by Safeway to pick up some lettuce and some dog chews. I wandered down the book and magazine aisle and idly cast a glance at the shelves. Lo and behold...Safeway had stocked not one, but TWO, of the new Chicken Soup for the Soul books on health, edited by doctors from Harvard Medical School: Say Goodbye to Back Pain, with my story "Twist and Shout," and Say Hello to a Better Body, with my story "Running Like Sixty."

I scurried over to the checker and asked if I could borrow her assistant who was bagging groceries. The pretty young woman who snapped this photo looked suitably impressed. I basked in my momentary glory, relieved that I was wearing my dressy Marks and Spencer black coat rather my scruffy snow-scene fleece.

Someday I'll get my 15 minutes of fame. Last night I got 15 seconds, but it was sufficient. I'm back at the keyboard today, ego deflated to its normal size, working on editing stories for the upcoming Publishing Syndicate's Not Your Mother's Book...On Travel. This one, due out in late January, will have my name on the cover! One can hardly wait. One plans to splurge with shameless self-promotion.




Monday, October 22, 2012

Seasonal Vertigo

Yesterday Natty woofed  me awake at 4:30, desperate to go outdoors. My diabetic mutt might be having trouble with his blood sugar again. I notice he's drinking more water and wanting to urinate more frequently. His system might be as out-of-whack as the seasons. But I can take Natty in for a checkup. I can't do anything to halt the wackiness of the weather.

I'm savvy enough about the environment not to confuse weather with global warming or climate change. But I know that it's not normal, even in this far corner of Northeast Washington, to see snow a full week before Halloween. Yet I'm expecting some tonight. Yesterday, driving home from a variety show at the Kettle Falls Woodland Theater, my friend and I noticed sleet among the raindrops peppering my windshield. And when Natty bounded outdoors yesterday morning, I checked the thermometer. It read 23 degrees! That's normal for Thanksgiving. But a week and a half before Halloween?

Last night my nightgown simply would not suffice to keep me snug. Instead I donned makeshift pajamas: an old shaker-knit pullover and a pair of loose cord slacks. My October Avista bill is going to look more like the ones I usually get in January and February. My thermostat is set for 62, and my arthritis tells me I can't turn it down much lower. And it's barely a month into autumn, let alone winter.

Tending Your Inner Garden recently sent me my contributor's copies of its latest volume, Spring: Inspiration for the Season of Hope and New Beginnings.  I'd read a few of the entries, the poems and stories celebrating renewal. But I've put it aside, and begun to revisit Winter: Women's Stories, Poems and Inspiration for the Season of Rest and Renewal.

Winter contains my story, "Tombstone Territory," and Spring, "Maybe Tuesday Will Be My Good News Day."  I'm hoping my contributions may be selected for the Summer and Autumn volumes to be released next year.

In the meantime, I'm trying to reconcile myself to the idea that the World Series may very well drift into November. The National League has yet to determine a contender...one game left to go! I guess it's time for me to forget the notion of one holiday at a time or one seasonal event in perfect order. Maybe it's time to start planning an Easter outfit or a summer holiday. Seems as if seasonal sequence is a thing of the past, a relic of my youth.

Or maybe I should just give up and move to Reno. My late husband, Ken Wilson, claimed it could snow there every  month of the year except August!


http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Tending%20Your%20Inner%20Garden:%20Winter

http://tendingyourinnergarden.com/uncategorized/savor-the-spring-in-your-life/

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Stupid Is as Stupid Does


When I learned that Publishing Syndicate planned a book for its new anthology series, Not Your Mother's Book, called On Being a Stupid Kid, I struggled to hit on something that I could contribute. I'd been a sensible kid in many respects...didn't play hookey until high school, and then, only once. Didn't smoke until high school. Didn't stay out past curfew until high school. My really dumb and rebellious misdemeanors I'd committed in my late teens, as I edged from adolescence into young adulthood...too old and too big to be considered a kid.

And I'd already published several stories about my earlier years...being adopted, seeing my birth mom for the last time, saving the family home from burning down...so what was there left to write about? The stories had to be true...no fudging on that. I thought of a lot of stupid acts I'd witnessed, but I couldn't claim them as my own when they really were committed by my sister, my brother or my cousins.

Then I remembered junior high! Oh, yes. I'd innocently accompanied a master shoplifter on a tour of department stores, and had been fingered, if only momentarily, as a perpetrator. I'd lined up at a party with a passel of other eighth-grade girls for a chance to kiss Billy Jeffers. We'd wearied of Spin the Bottle, so just asked Billy to sit on a stool in the closet and let us take turns. None of us wanted to kiss any of the other boys.

I'd thought about my babysitting adventures, and how I'd read my employer's racy books...Forever Amber was the first bodice-ripping historical romance I'd ever zipped through...and the last. Not quite enough material there for an entire story.

Then, instead of honing in on incidents, I started to recall certain friendships, and how much making friends meant to me. I remember some of the other kids who were struggling along with me to make sense of our newly pubescent selves. And the story ideas started to flow.

Two of my stories, "Why Did Cynthia Slap Me?" and "Fevers" have been accepted for this book. I've changed some names to protect the guilty, as well as the innocent. Both stories involve teachers, as well as my fellow students. I can't really put faces on these two particular teachers. I only remember that both had certain classroom rules. And both my stories involve how I violated those rules.

These days I claim to be a law-abiding citizen. Well, I did file my automobile registration three days late this past month. But aside from that infraction, I can't recall any recent outlaw behavior. But in junior high? I erred at least twice, and that's not counting chewing gum and throwing spitballs. Blush.

Fortunately, I've read all the other stories in this book, as I proofread it for Publishing Syndicate. It's comforting to learn I wasn't the only youthful law-flouter. Grab this book when it comes out on November 6, and you'll see just what a bunch of desperadoes so many of us were, back when we were stupid kids!

The book will be available for pre-order soon on Amazon. You're not going to want to miss this one!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Let's Fall in Love

Though it's not yet up on Amazon or its own website, OakTara has listed the contributors and posted the cover of one of its two new collections of real-life love stories. OakTara claims the stories in Falling in Love With You are "The best real-life falling-in-love stories, guaranteed to make you smile and say, “Ahh…”

I'm delighted that my tale, "Good Bettor, Best," is included in this collection, even though my late husband, Ken Wilson, would grin at a cover photo of a couple leaping into the air. Ken claimed not to leap, with the exception of to an occasional conclusion. He prided himself, however, on his stylish saunter! Here's the list of contributors to Falling in Love With You: http://oaktara.com/anthologies

Not only do I love autumn for its crisp cool air and the long-awaited ripening of the apples on my trees, I also appreciate the book publishers who issue new tomes in this season, all ready for holiday sales. So I'm thrilled that I've got several stories coming out within this autumn in a dozen new anthologies:

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive, with "Eighty-Five Percent."
Not Your Mother's Book: On Being a Woman, with "Up Front" and "Egged On."
Whispering Angel's The Littlest Blessing, with "Light of My Life."
Seal Press, Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion, with "Elephants Never Forget."
Silver Boomer, On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties, with "All of His Heroes."
Silver Boomer, A Quilt of Holidays, with "Easter Bloomers."
Jonna Ivin, Loving for Crumbs, with "Needs."
Tending Your Inner Garden, Summer, with "Maybe Tuesday Will Be My Good News Day." Hidden Thoughts Press, It's Weighing on Your Mind, with "Wheels and Deals."
God Makes Lemonade II, with Santo Domingo Sunrise
Dream of Things, Travel, with "Once in a Lifetime."
Hidden Brook Press, Chocolate Fixes Anything: A Loving Tribute to Mothers and Grandmothers, with "Special Yarn Blossoms.

 For Ken, a man who figured the odds and kept count...right now there's 58 anthologies between the "A" and "Z" bookends where I keep my contributor's copies. With this additional dozen, by the end of the 2012 there should be at least 70!  What's the odds on that, I'd have asked Ken. I can picture him shaking his head in amazement from The Great Beyond, and giving me his standard response..."At least one in three."

Baby...you're still remembered. Odds are that people everywhere will continue reading about you:  "Eighty-Five Percent," "All of His Heroes," "Wheels and Deals," as well as "Good Bettor, Best!" are all about you.



 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Do The Write Thing...My First Time



In 2000, just a few days before I married my late husband, Ken Wilson, I'd picked up a copy of Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul at an international conference on self-esteem in San Francisco. I'd presented on my work with adolescents in Arkansas, Belize, and Seychelles. Maybe twenty people dropped by, mostly to ask whether I  knew of any cheap hotels for backpack travelers in the tropical paradises where I'd worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer. A few wanted to know what the folks in Arkansas really thought of Bill Clinton, who seemed to be fending off endless scandals related to his way with women.

Thousands crowded into the room next door to hear Jack Canfield, one of the founders of the popular Chicken Soup anthology series. My soon-to-be spouse kept tilting his head towards the partition dividing our group from the revelers next door. After I concluded my remarks, Ken and I joined the throngs waiting for Canfield to sign one of his books. I selected the pet book because Ken loved Akitas.

Ken read the book, and commented on how heartwarming the stories were. I'd never read any of these books. They'd become popular during '90s, the decade I'd lived overseas.

Not long after we retired to Northeast Washington, one winter afternoon I decided not to risk the icy roads to drive to the Colville library to pick up something to cheer me up. I'd been sneezing and sniffling, and sought a little sunshine. My eye fell on the Chicken Soup book.

Coincidentally, I'd made homemade chicken soup that afternoon, and while Ken and I spooned some up at supper I observed that I'd been reading this book.

"You know what? I think I can write something for that series," I announced, full of bluster.

"Go for it," my amiable hubby responded. "I double dog dare you."

Ken Wilson was no bluffer. He meant business. So I located the Chicken Soup for the Soul website, and saw a call for stories about brothers and sisters. That week I wrote "Easter Bloomers," about my little brother when we were kids over half a century earlier. Months later I got a letter from the editors that my story had survived the selection process, accompanied by a contract. The book came out in September, 2007, Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating Brothers and Sisters: Funnies and Favorites About Growing Up and Being Grown Up. Dahlynn and Ken McKowen were the co-editors of this particular title.

Later I learned about the WOW Principles newsletter that their company, Publishing Syndicate, issued monthly for free, and I subscribed. It was always full of tips about how to write for anthologies. It's archived on the Publishing Syndicate website, dozens of copies of back issues.

Subsequently I became an in-house editor for Ken and Dahlynn, and now a co-creator for some of the titles in their new series, Not Your Mother's Book. A couple of years ago I became their first featured guest editor. Yesterday I drafted my fourth contribution to WOW Principles, "So What About Once Upon a Time," which will be published in the September issue.

It's been only five years since that first story of mine appeared in an anthology. I now have 57 anthologies between and A and Z bookends atop my entertainment center. There's another dozen or more to be published in the next several months, and an additional eight or ten pending "maybes."

When people ask me where I get my ideas or how I find time to write, I think of Henry Miller who had 11 commandments for writing. I just have one. Mine is "Don't wait for the muse. Sit down at the keyboard and start poking keys. The muse has been wondering where you were."

Don't wait. Start writing your true story now for Not Your Mother's Book: My First Time.

http://publishingsyndicate.com/publishing_syndicate/submissions/title_descriptions/my_first_time.html



And if you're in need of more prompting, here's Mr. Miller on  how he structures his writing day:
http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/02/22/henry-miller-on-writing/

Monday, August 13, 2012

"Obsession, Instability and Malignant Coincidence"


Once again I've been living in the past, this time the English midlands in the early 19th century. I've skipped half a century, from Dickens to D. H., and am revisiting the world of the young Lawrence of Eastwood and Nottingham, as he struggled to make sense of the world around him. I've been reading John Worthen's D. H. Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider. Identifying with Lawrence, I've asked myself how different my life might have turned out to be if I'd never succumbed to the lure of literature, if my family hadn't left rural Oregon to return to Los Angeles, if I'd never continued with my education beyond high school.

I've just emerged from a lost weekend, too debilitated with pain from degenerative discs in my neck to clean house, weed the yard, attend to editing obligations. All I've managed is to sleep, eat and read. Consequently I've allowed myself to carry this book from room to room as I've fed the dogs, let the cats in and out, prepared shrimp creole and washed up after. My plans went awry, in a way I rarely allow them to do. I'd good intentions, but no. Instead I read, dozed on the sofa in the family room, read some more, dozed again, ate, read, dozed, read...and the weekend disappeared.

Today I'm anticipating a call soon from a local physical therapy department. I hope to learn some exercises to chase some of this pain away. In the meantime, I'm inspired by Lawrence's perseverance in tending to his writing and revising. Never mind that he spent a good deal of his life incapacitated by assorted ailments attributed to what, in those days, was called "a weak chest." Never mind that his truces with the women in his life never were long-lasting. Never mind that he teetered always on the brink of poverty. Lawrence took care of priorities: he wrote.

So today I'll revisit that neglected "to do" list, achy neck or no. Then tonight I'll finish the Lawrence biography.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I do...I've preordered for my Kindle Ruth Rendell's new psychological mystery, The St. Zita Society, to be released tomorrow. The cover contains a blurb from Stephen King, "Nobody surpasses Ruth Rendell when it comes to stories of obsession, instability and malignant coincidence."

I've been reading Rendell's novels since 1975. When I recommend her to other mystery fans, I've frequently received negative feedback.

"Nobody behaves like her characters," many claim. "Her plots and characters simply are unbelievable."

No? Having just reread Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, not-so-loosely based on the author's early romantic attachments, I'm not so convinced. That novel reflects those very qualities that King attributes to Rendell. Look at the life of its protagonist, Paul Morel. Obsession? Instability? Malignant coincidence? Think of his mother, his indecision when it comes to the relationship with Miriam, and lastly...meeting Clara, all, of course, mirroring actual events of Lawrence's life.

Perhaps some themes indeed are universal...and timeless.


Friday, August 3, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes!



Late last summer I wrote a story, "Arrested Development,"  for a proposed Pinchback Press book, Caught: True CrimeTales of Scamming, Scheming and Sliding By.. Earlier this week I received an email from the publishers that the press was closing down. "This is a difficult letter to send," they wrote. "Independent publishing is a costly endeavor and one we can no longer afford to continue in these tough economic times."


I'd been saddened...first, because I'd so much enjoyed Pinchback's earlier effort, Tarnished: True Tales of Innocence Lost, and that it had included my story, "A Pair to Draw To." I'd looked forward to more books in this series. And second, because I didn't believe I'd get this particular effort published anywhere else. I dashed off an email to my writing partner and confidante, lamenting the loss of this venue...and griping that mine was a such a hard-to-place story, and regretting I'd spent so much time on fashioning it. She suggested I could revamp it, give it a happier spin, but I declined. I'd wrestled with this story, tried to tell it honestly, and didn't think I wanted to tamper with it. I'd resigned myself that it would languish forever in what I call my orphanage, the tales I can't find homes for.

Then, this week I received an email from a Canadian publisher, Inkblotter, that a story of mine, "Elephants Never Forget," would appear in its upcoming anthology collection. Though this story already had been accepted for Seal Press's upcoming Hot and Heavy: Fat Girls Dish on Life, Love and Fashion, I'd sent it to this particular publisher that I suspected might have a different readership. The callout had suggested:

Think “Chicken Soup” with an edge. No gentle epiphanies while strolling on the beach or contemplating cloud formations. We’re looking for in-your-face, kick-in-the-teeth lessons learned—the kinds of stories you’d share with your friends over coffee.

I wrote in my last entry that sometimes it's tough to write about the hard stuff. Sometimes it's even tougher to find an anthology that's looking for material that isn't necessarily cheerful or upbeat. So when I read at the close of the email from Inkblotter that it still had room for a few more tales, I remembered "Arrested Development." I decided it just might fit the bill, and immediately mailed it off. Late yesterday afternoon I learned that this story, too, will be published in the new book, A Cup of Joe for Woe.

I've urged writing novice friends before not to despair if a story fails to make it to print right away. Last year I recounted on this blog, in my September 17, 2011 entry, Rejection, Dejection, Perfection! how "The Marvelous Mexican Parsley of West 59th Place" finally got published 21 years after I originally wrote it. I see I have to remind myself to pay heed to my own advice, and to remember that life, and anthology opportunities, are full of second chances.

Remember that old song....who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Friday, July 20, 2012

You Know It Don't Come Easy: Writing the Hard Stuff

For several years I've enjoyed writing about the lighter side of my life...the funny or inspirational incidents, usually involving family members, pets, and friends. But when I started to near the three quarters of a century mark, my own personal diamond jubilee, I reflected on telling those other stories. Go deeper, my inner voice urged.

I started a few years back with "Dreaming as the Summers Die," about the last time I saw my birth mom. "Not suited for our audience," said most of the traditional anthology publishers. When I read the rejections I nearly could feel the distaste, the pulling back, and I envisioned how I'd spoiled some editor's morning. Even a friend or two who read my story suggested I should concentrate on more cheerful topics, and that perhaps I'd better get over something that happened all those decades ago.

But I persevered and resubmitted. I wanted to see this story in print. It finally found a home in Dream of Things' debut anthology collection, Saying Goodbye. An online magazine, The Fertile Source, also printed it, and Five Minutes More picked it up here: http://www.fivemoreminuteswith.com/2011/03/dreaming-as-the-summers-die/ Additionally the story will appear this fall in Joy, Interrupted, from Fat Daddy's Farm. How encouraging to find that not every publisher shies away from more meditative pieces.

I continued with "A Ruffled Mind," about what it was like to be six years old and scared witless by crossing the street or going to the playground. This story appeared this past spring in Anxiety Disorders: True Stories of Survival by Hidden Thoughts Press.

Soon I found that I'd wake up at 2 a.m., wondering how I'd gather the courage to put other intrusive thoughts and feelings on paper. Did I really want anybody to know why I held on to a hopeless love for years and years? Did I really want anybody to know how diminished I felt when my tiny little adoptive mom called me an elephant? What about those feelings of resentment during my late husband's last weeks? Shouldn't I be ashamed? Filled with guilt?

Maybe there's others who've shared those experiences, I decided. So I bit the bullet, and wrote those stories, too. And now they're seeing publication.

"Needs" will appear soon in Jonna Ivin's book, Loving for Crumbs, "Elephants Never Forget" in Virgie Tovar's Seal Press publication, Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion, and "Wheels and Deals" in Hidden Thoughts Press, It's Weighing on Your Mind.

I don't dwell on the dark side a hundred percent of the time, though. Today I plan to write a story intended to elicit squeals of delight...but, hey,  it don't come easy. 






Sunday, July 1, 2012

All Those Years Ago...June 28 and July 1


The kilted laddie above is Pat the Piper, who bills himself as the "Official Piper for the London 2012 Olympics." I left a pound in his bagpipe case in Trafalgar Square a couple of weeks ago...and ever since have been wondering what the old bromide, "He who pays the piper calls the tune," really means. Would Pat have changed his tune from whatever highland ballad he was playing had I suggested he switch to "Rolling in the Deep" instead? Somehow I doubt it. But he gave me a wink and a wave.

Pipes have been on mind today...but not necessarily bagpipes. I've been remembering marrying Ken Wilson a dozen years ago today, where we played a tune from my organist grandfather Jesse Crawford's cassette at the wedding, "Mendelssohn Wedding March." Grandpa during the '20s and '30s recorded for Decca, and played The Mighty Wurlitzer at Radio City Music Hall, the Rainbow Room and even at Wanamaker's in Philadelphia.

Here's a photo of Grandpa Jesse in his heydey...dapper, hey? There's lots more about Grandpa Jesse here, too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Crawford


I've always thought my son, Steve, definitely inherited the brooding Crawford good looks. What do you think? Here's Steve with the Stanley Cup when it made the rounds to the Los Angeles Times last week where Steve is chief copy editor for the Sunday Calendar.

But back to calling tunes and paying pipers. My son mails me cassettes that he records from his huge collection of CDs for my birthdays and for Christmas. This past week, as I turned 75 on June 28, I received several more tapes.

Steve wrote, "Here is the latest batch of birthday tapes: 1965, 1966, 1983, 1984 and 1985. I had thought this would be the end of the series, but it turns out I have most of the records from your 1986 and 1987 birthdays. So I will plug the holes of the half-dozen or so that I lack, and you'll get those next year. That will take you through to when you left for Belize in l987."

The birthday tapes go back to 1955, shortly after Steve's dad and I got married, include my 21st birthday in 1958, when Steve was still a babe in arms, and continue throughout the next several decades. The Christmas tapes highlight certain periods of my life...the years I taught at Jordan, when I first started to work for DPSS, and other memorable experiences.

Fortunately, my son makes these tapes for me out of love...I never could have paid anybody to do it, even if I'd wanted to call the tunes. As it is, Steve consults the Los Angeles radio show charts to pick the songs he then records...and there's always lots of surprises.

Here's a story I wrote a few days before an earlier birthday when I was thinking about Steve and the tapes. This tale originally appeared in Patchwork Path: Treasure Box. 

All Those Years Ago
                                                                            
“I’m talking all about how to give.” --George Harrison

As my birthday neared this year, I wondered what my son would choose this time. What events would he recreate…which of my life’s milestones would he bring into sharp focus through the medium of music? Heaven knows, and Steve, too, how much I need some cheering.

In l964, when I Wanna Hold Your Hand hit American pop charts, Steve was only six, but he listened raptly when I chattered about my high school journalism students dancing the Frug and the Watusi on the Lloyd Thaxton Show, airing from nearby Los Angeles.

Because his dad worked nights, Steve and I had evenings to ourselves. While I corrected homework papers, we listened on the radio to legendary sportscaster Vin Scully call the play-by-play for our beloved Dodgers. Or we strolled to the library to stock up on his favorite Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak storybooks.

Now we began to follow rock and roll. We tuned in the dance shows of the day, Shindig, Hullabaloo, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Steve spent his allowance joining Beatles fan clubs. I heard empathy in his voice as he read to me from the newsletters about children in Kenya and the Philippines that the clubs sponsored for tuition and books.

Sometimes we brought our BLTs and lemonade into the living room, dining while we caught up on the latest scoop. “Listen to what George Harrison’s sister says!” Steve would exclaim, excited at having a personal connection with one of the Fab Four.

In the meantime my students too transitioned from the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean to the British Invasion. “Which side would you take?” I asked Steve, discussing debates on the merits of The Dave Clark Five versus Herman’s Hermits. Steve remained loyal to the mop top Beatles, his “fave raves.”  We lamented not securing tickets to the Hollywood Bowl appearances, and in l966 envied our neighbor who took her sons to the concert at Dodger Stadium.

By 1968, Steve hunkered down at the kitchen counter every Wednesday night as KHJ’s Sam Riddle counted down the Boss 30. He meticulously recorded the hits one by one in his blue notebook. He already had been collecting singles for well over a year. In the meantime, I had changed jobs, so now raced down the 405 towards the Cudahy Department of Public Social Services office, also tuned to KHJ, grooving on the Beatles, the Box Tops, Linda Ronstadt, and even all 7 minutes and 11 seconds of Richard Harris’ MacArthur Park.

“I hear music in my head,” Steve once confided. I asked if he wanted to take piano or guitar lessons. “No,” he confessed, “I just love to listen.”  Over the years his collection stockpiled. He turned from singles to LPs, and then to 8-tracks, cassettes, and finally to CDs. In recent decades he has shared some obscure cuts with Southland Golden Oldies radio stations.

When I joined the Peace Corps in l987, Steve provided me with the first of his special gifts. He transferred to cassette all of the Beatles numbers from his albums. On balmy Saturday mornings in Belize City, I hand-laundered my towels and sheets, listening to Your Mother Should Know and Magical Mystery Tour.

Three years ago on my birthday, the first time capsule arrived. Steve went through his collection and made me a tape of the top songs from fall l967 to spring l968, my first year with DPSS. Now retired in the country, I played the tapes every time I made the seventy mile drive to Spokane. As I listened to The Cowsills, Lulu, and other chart toppers of that era, I felt the years rolling back. Once again I become 30 years old, driving around Los Angeles, waiting for my future to unfold with each song, each mile, each day.

At Christmas, another tape arrived. This time Steve chose my 21st birthday, just months after he had been born. Until I played my gift tape, I had forgotten carrying infant Steve around the house, boogying to Bobby Darin’s Splish Splash, and two-stepping to Laurie London’s He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.

Shortly thereafter, my son’s dad died. When Steve visited me here, I dragged out a duffle bag of old photos to show him pictures of his father and me in l955, the year we got engaged and married. “You looked so happy,” he said. We had been.

 When I opened my package on my 70th birthday, memories of 1955 flooded back. Steve had labeled the tape, “Terri’s 18th Birthday—Plus,” and had recorded “a nice mix of the old music fighting for time with the new rock ‘n roll,” with highlights from that summer and fall.

And sure enough, there it all was, the songs that his dad and I courted to, Roger Williams’ romantic ballad, Autumn Leaves, following Chuck Berry’s Maybelline.  As if it were only yesterday, I remember getting seasick on the Catalina ferry as we sailed back from our Avalon honeymoon, decorating our first apartment with the wedding gifts, snagging my first full-time job at Pacific Tel and Tel.

My second husband died this past spring. Steve’s collection does not extend up to the late ‘90’s when Ken and I first met. Nonetheless, my son has promised some treats. “I’m going to take you through four decades this time, Mom,” he e-mailed. And when my birthday came, just weeks after my husband’s death, I found solace in listening to the tunes of happier days. Here were the June 28s of 1957, 1961, l971, l975, and l981, plus a note that promises more happy moments to come.

I play l981 first, what I should remember as a sad birthday, the first after Steve’s dad and I divorced. At first I sigh as I hear All Those Years Ago, George Harrison’s tribute to John Lennon, killed just six months earlier, but soon my heart lifts as the Oak Ridge Boys rock Elvira. I suddenly recall how songs that year eased me through a difficult transition. I believe that they will do it again through this year, as well.

The recollections of Marcel Proust’s hero in Remembrance of Things Past were triggered by the taste of a madeline cookie. Other people claim to remember best through scents. For me, though, nothing tugs the elusive shadows of my past into the shimmering sunlight of this current moment like the songs on my time capsules. Steve’s tapes are candid snapshots of my life, framed in melody.



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Even Foolish Hearts Can Learn



Way back in the '50s one of my favorite songs was by Joni James..."How Important Can It Be?" If you're too young to recall it the first time it came around, or don't remember it from the movie LA, Confidential, here it is...song sublimely in the shuffle beat style by Joni:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEnGUG_Nhbk

Just a couple of weeks ago I sat trying to look as important as I possibly could at the Geffrye Museum of the Home in London. If you aren't in the mood to dash off to London this summer...perhaps you fear the crush of the Olympic crowds...or you haven't yet fallen in love with one of the world's greatest cities...then take a virtual tour here:

http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/period-rooms-and-gardens/virtualtour/

Today I've been sitting on another chair that sometimes makes me feel important...that's the one at my writing desk. I feel pleasantly important when I finish a story, but that isn't always the case. Today I only got half way through and then stalled. I've toyed with this stubborn story for three hours, but it's taking a turn I'd not intended. I'd foolishly set my heart on finishing it today...but it won't cooperate. So I'm putting it to bed for now, and will revisit it another day soon.

Sometimes stories can get unruly. They have to be disciplined by their owners, and shown who really is the important one. Oh, I know. It's them, of course. But shhhhhh....don't let on. If you give your self-important stories half a chance, they'll be sprawling over every chair, sofa, loveseat, bench and ottoman you have in your house. You know them...they move right in and take right over. Except when they don't, like my naughty story today. Perhaps in a day or two it will be more cooperative. Then I can send it out to find a home...and that's what's important.

Even foolish hearts can learn!