Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"Turn Around"

The title of this post refers to a '60's song lyric that seems appropriate to my state of mind these days.  Yes, it's been over two months since I last wrote in here, but I can justify that absence in the next few paragraphs, I believe.  And some of the words of that touching song I keep hearing say it much better than I: "Turn around and you're tiny, turn around and you're grown...."

My focus, my energies, and my good excuse for not writing seem to center around my children and theirs. First, there was the trip, with our two teen-age grandsons, to Walt Disney World in Florida (anticipated in a June post).  A glorious ten days that created lifelong memories for all four of us, as we were re-introduced to a place my husband and I called home for almost two decades.  Second, we have watched our son perform in two stage productions that never fail to have us saying, "I can't believe that talented man is our son!"  Third, I spent ten days in Wisconsin, again with our older grandsons, that allowed their mother and her significant other to vacation, and allowed me a unique way of enjoying teen-age perspectives, as well as seeing our daughter renewed by her respite.  Lastly, I am now getting one day a week with our youngest grandson - an "old soul" at five-and-a-half - who gives me a few hours of energizing escapism.

True; I've not written anything new recently.  I have been working on the editing of my first novel, which is  nearing completion, and hope to see it published in the next few months.  And, in re-reading some of my last posts here, I'm confident that my attitude about writing hasn't changed.  In my May 21st post, I reflected that nothing worth doing is easy.  On May 30th, I resolved that I would never stop pursuing new things.  Both thoughts remain true.  I've just detoured to gain a new way of seeing.  And that "new way" has evolved because of what I've gained from my children and grandchildren.

I won't bore you with all the mental paths I took during this period.  I'll just say that the happy consequence of my recent experiences, and the time luxury I had to reflect, is the jist of all this.  I am now beginning to enjoy a much more relaxed approach to all avenues of my life.  Author John Milton's quote resonates with me now: "Reflection is wisdom's best nurse."  I don't feel I've lost anything; just the opposite.  I'm taking much more notice of the so-called simple pleasures, and it affects how I'm living each day.  It may mean less writing output per week but what does get onto the page will be the better for it. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Perfection Praised

I know it isn't unusual for a parent to brag about their kid.  Frankly, I find it odd when they don't, and I worry about the parent/child relationship there.  But this post isn't being written for that reason although I, and my husband, are constantly proud of both of our adult children and their accomplishments.

Last Friday night, we were in the audience of an excellent production of the Stephen Sondheim musical play, "Assassins".  In the role of John Wilkes Booth, a major part in this work, was our son, Sean.  From his first entrance (I later realized), I divorced myself completely from the mother/son connection and witnessed a performance I later complimented as "brilliant" - that wasn't maternal flattery; he was brilliant.

To his credit, he has been performing since the ripe old age of 7, and has seriously studied and honed his acting craft continually.  He began by searching out the greats onscreen, both past and present.  More recently, he had the tutelage of an exceptional acting coach. He prepares for each role with a passion and energy that never fails to impress me.  And he's always dead on and fun to watch on the boards.

But this portrayal struck me like no other.  His singing voice, his command of his body to create the legendary figure, the timing and modulation of his words - everything he did on that stage - took me out of myself and drew me into the drama.  It wasn't until his curtain call that I found myself thinking, "I gave birth to that man!"  It was a moment of ego I revelled in.

Anyone who acts (as our whole family has done for decades) knows it isn't often that one watches another actor and encounters memorable excellence.  Yes, there are many fine actors who never fail to entertain and impress with their skill, but it is exceedingly rare when they can make you totally forget who they are and envelop you in the character they're portraying. Perfection is its name, and, when you see your own flesh and blood achieve that, it definitely needs to be lauded.

Bravo, my son!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thoughts About Nora Ephron

I will never presume to be even half the writer she was.  She was one of the best ever, and to say I admired her is a gross understatement.  She was a heroine to me.  Hearing the news this morning that she has left this earth much too early produced sincere tears.

Her words inspired me to work harder at my craft.  I watched her movies over and over - especially Sleepless In Seattle, You've Got Mail and her last, Julie And Julia, finding new reasons every time to laugh, and learn.  There are lines of hers I quote often in my everyday life: "It's a sign!" (from Sleepless),and "I cannot help myself (from You've Got Mail), just to name two (you have to know the movies to understand the quotes).  She created characters that never leave your brain; heatwarming, complicated and always humorous.

Her essays made me laugh, too, but also gave me thoughts to ponder, and, sometimes, she did both at once.  For example, this particular quote on aging:  "Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth.  You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn't have to if it had a neck."

How could anyone who puts pen to paper (or fingertips to a keyboard) not be motivated by that kind of writing?  And a lovely addition to her legacy as a writer are all the positive comments I've heard today from those who knew her personally; she was a good person, a true friend and someone who lived life in a way just as original as the characters she gave us.

My hope was that I would be enjoying new books and screenplays of hers for decades to come.  Whenever I saw her name in a credit, I knew I was in for a writing lesson and entertainment that would not disappoint. I always hate it when special people leave us too soon.  That couldn't be truer today. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Remembering Daddy

Today's the day we celebrate the men who have assumed the monumental task of raising offspring; a good thing to do.  I served my deserving husband breakfast in bed this morning, and will call my son, father of one, and relay my best wishes to him.  But, as I think about what this special day means to me, my thoughts are of the man I always called "Daddy".

I remember first his smile and laugh.  He loved to tease, tell silly jokes, and revelled in happy times with family and friends.  A grateful smile would grace his face whenever he spoke of his love for my mother.

It wasn't until his senior years, though, when he endured heart surgery to lengthen his days, that he was comfortable expressing his love with words or a hug.  I reasoned that, when he faced the possibility of death, he wanted to be sure he took every opportunity he had left to let those he loved know it. 

He'd not been raised in a household where such demonstrations ever happened.  I can still hear him saying, with emotion in his throat, how he never knew what love was until he married my mother and experienced her caring as well as her family's.

I inherited his quick temper and stubborn attitude (which my husband has softened over the years), but I learned many wonderful lessons from him about how to be a good parent.  He was strict, which I sometimes resented, but later respected.  He was generous while teaching me when to be frugal, and made me appreciate what true generosity means. Those lessons were only a small part of the gifts he gave me as a father.

I wasn't ready for him to exit this life, but I knew he was lonely for my mother who left us before him, so I tried to rationalize that it was for the best.  But, to this day, over fourteen years later, the sound of his voice, his love of music, food,  wine and good times are still a part of my daily memories - and I miss him so much.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy.  You taught me so much - and believe it or not, you still are.  That's a terrific legacy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Merriam-Webster defines the word "anticipation" in a number of ways, but two of them ring strong with me today.  The first is "pleasurable expectation" and the second is "visualization of a future event". At this moment, I am experiencing both - and grinning from ear to ear.

It's taken several years, during which time we have struggled as so many others have, to simply afford the necessities of life and keep a positive outlook while doing that.  But we are beginning to see a small shaft of light at the end of this recession tunnel, and it's enabling us to fulfill a promise we made to our two oldest grandsons.  One month from today, the four of us will be "on the road" to Florida and Walt Disney World for a much-awaited vacation!

Granted, we will not be living the perfect advertisement dream of staying on Disney property and enjoying all the extras that such a resort experience provides.  We will be staying with an old - and generous - friend who is also helping us gain entrance to the theme parks for a lot less money.  But none of us care.  We are all simply giddy about the prospect of "getting away" and taking in the magic of a place we called home for many years.

I haven't written much about my Disney days on this blog, and I've had friends and acquaintances tell me I should write a book about those times, which I've declined.  But my husband and I both spent way too many happy years (and some difficult ones too, I admit) in the Magic Kingdom, and all over the Disney property, that make us nostalgic to return.

The plus to this trip is that Alex and Christopher haven't been to Walt Disney World in ten years.  They really don't have much memory of it because they were so young.  And I think I'm more excited about sharing this trip with them, and creating memories for them that I know, from experience, will last a lifetime.  That's the best kind of anticipation, and it's going to keep growing, I know, over the next thirty days.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Age Should Be Ageless

The often quoted line, "Age is only important if you're a cheese" is one that has always applied to me.  I have difficulty remembering my current age.  When someone asks, I have to pause and subtract my birth year from the current one before answering.

I may have broached this subject in my blog before but, if so, it bears repeating.  Too many mature people allow themselves to be defined by their birthdate.  Their habits, what they wear, read, watch and talk about all combine to present a human picture lacking in life.

Life: that's the keyword here.  I'm drinking my tea from a mug this morning that bears the saying, "Enjoy Life....this is not a dress rehearsal."  And it's true. I try to face each day with the attitude of someone who will never stop pursuing new things, engaging new people and making sure I keep myself healthy and active to permit me to go after whatever I can dream about.

My friends help in that regard because they are of all ages and level of pursuits.  Just a simple conversation with one of them can spur new ideas and adventures.  And I never think about the difference in age between me and them, whether they are twenty-something or eighty-something.  I just know I can learn, love and grow from all of them - and I do.

Admittedly, I don't have much patience with those of my own chronological time who refuse to engage in the current world and surround themselves with like-minded contemporaries.  To my mind, they just "exist" - and I have to ask: why would you want to do that?

I plan to keep at this for quite a few more decades, and I'm working to be sure my body and brain are up to the challenges.  And to anyone, of any age, I recommend you do the same.  It's a great ride.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Roses For Motivation

Roses.  I love them.  When we moved into this house last year, I inherited five mature rose bushes and have been delighted with their abundance.  I can view red climber blooms just outside my study window.  Yellow roses, my favorites, are in profusion just across the yard.  I have one other climber that needs a bit of coaxing, a dark red near my front door that wants to be a climber but really isn't, and next to it, the palest of pink blossoms on my smallest plant.

I suffer thorn pricks, the hot sun, and never-ending battles with insects and disease to cultivate these gems of the garden.  I fully understand why a lot of people don't grow roses because of the constant care they require, but I rationalize that the rewards are worth the work.  Filling our home with vases of fragrant flowers makes every hour of gardening worth the time.

My mother taught me a lot about raising roses, and even as a small child, I remember helping my grandmother cut blooms for bouquets from her large rose garden.  In every home I've owned, rose bushes have always graced my yard, and I have plans in the works to expand my current beds.

Besides the beauty, myriad of color and fragrance produced by it, the very essence of how a rose plant can prosper for years and years in spite of all that can threaten it inspires me somehow.  And, when I'm pruning, feeding, harvesting and protecting all my bushes, that process inspires my writing discipline.  Because whether I'm puzzling over why my one bush, in the same soil next to a prospering cousin, just grows leaves and not many blooms, or delighting in the best reward of my efforts as I walk room to room and view the many bouquets, I equate what focus is required to get to the worthwhile satisfaction.

It was wisely said that nothing worth doing is easy.  Having those roses in constant sight, as I toil at my computer, never fails to prompt me to keep at it.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Our Enchanted Cottage

Last night, my husband and I toasted the fact that one year ago, we moved into our Enchanted Cottage in the Chicago suburbs.  We find it hard to believe it's been twelve months, but we agree that this has felt like home since our first day in residence.

In October of 2008, I wrote a post titled, "What Makes A House A Home?"  At that time, we had just moved into what we hoped would be our final "home".  I reread that post this morning and recalled how certain we were then that we would never move again.  But, alas, three years later, we were searching for a new place to live because of circumstances beyond our control (the house needed major repairs which the landlords were not willing to do).

When we found our present domicile, we had been looking in vain for weeks, determined to not only find something that "worked" for us physically, but would have owners who understood we wanted to remain there long-term.  "Enchanted Cottage" (which we named after one of our favorite classic movies from the forties - and it fit because the house is cottage sized) is just that perfect place.

Shortly after we moved in, both our children told us that they felt like this was our long-time home in Florida, where they had both grown up (talked about in that 2008 post).  My husband and I agreed whole-heartedly.  We are so comfortable here and feel blessed that we really do feel like owners, not renters.

Having a place to call your own, where your memories reside on shelves and in photo frames, where you can create new memories with family and friends, and, most importantly, where you are grounded and content, is a blessing we never take for granted.

I look forward to many years here in our just right cottage, discovering those avenues of new memories.

Addendum to Letter Writing Post

Last week, I wrote about my commitment to writing more letters and encouraged you to do the same.  I've just finished reading an article in "Good Housekeeping" magazine that I wanted to share regarding that subject.

It states that new research has found, in a study of soldiers recently returned from combat, that those who had received tangible letter from loving family members tended to have fewer symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder than those who had communicated by instant message and video chat.  They also noted that letters can be reread, which helps a person feel connected when they need support or are lonely.

So, just another reason to "say it with ink" as the article is titled.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Reflections On Mother's Day

My first thoughts yesterday morning focused on my mother; gone almost 17 years now (is that possible?) and yet still missed each and every day.  I found myself longing to hear her laugh, her positive voice and to look upon her face and wish her the best.  Instead, I had to be content with looking toward heaven and whispering, "Happy Mother's Day, Mom."

Enjoying the breakfast in bed my husband created for me, I wondered if our daughter and daughter-in-law were getting pampered in a similar fashion.  I doubted that our daughter was because she had to work a double shift (not fair was my reaction to that news).  She is working through some "teen-age issues" with her boys right now, so I sent positive vibes in her direction, knowing she would, as she always does, persevere until she had a solution for everyone concerned.  It's one of the hardest times to be a parent/grandparent; it's so difficult not to want to "make everything better" by intervening.  Instead, I just left a message on her phone letting her know what a great mom we think she is, and that we're here for her if she needs us. 

In the afternoon I received a visit from our son and daughter-in-law and our youngest grandson, who came with flowers and a handmade card from our grandson that delighted me with its original crayon and sticker message.  We gave our daughter-in-law a plant to add to her ever-growing garden, and a handwritten note that expressed our joy at having her for a second daughter.

The rest of my day was free from chores or  responibility.  I read, napped, watched movies, deemed myself lucky to receive several "Happy Day" calls and messages from good friends, and relaxed with my favorite guy as we indulged in food and wine.

I know I'm a lucky woman to have such caring and love, and to have had so many wonderful years nurturing and revelling in my children and grandchildren.  Of course, those times have not been without some heartache, anxiety, and pressures I never could have foreseen, but it's the rewards which have always followed that I dwell on.  I have that outlook because of  what I learned from my mother, and I hope I can leave a similar legacy to both my daughter and my daughter-in-law.     

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Letter Writing Lives Here

I have an old friend who calls me "the Hallmark lady" because I always remember to send cards, with personal notes inside, for the special occasions of friends and family.  It's an important habit for me, and another one is the subject of today's post: letter writing.

I will admit I don't write as many letters as I used to, but I've made a recent commitment to change that because I think it's a necessary part of living that needs to be preserved.  Plus, I get great satisfaction out of penning personal thoughts and stories of recent happenings in my life, and sending them off in a stamped envelope to people I care about.

I'm not alone in this venture, I've learned.  There are many others who agree with me that keeping the art of letter writing alive is worth the time.  Just do an online search of "letter writing" and read about all those who consider it a rewarding activity.  My favorite is a website called the Letter Writers Alliance.  It was started about five years ago by two women in Chicago; Kathy Zodrozny and Donovan Beeson.  Check out this site - their dedication to this effort, coupled with interesting history, anecdotes, photos, and blogs all combine to inspire.

This is an international movement as well.  As an example, the BBC did a story on "the importance of paper correspondence".  Now, I'm not - nor is the Letter Writers Alliance - anti-technology.  E-mail has its purpose and the LWA refers to its website as its "clubhouse".  But consider what a recipient receives when they open their mailbox and discover something besides junk mail and bills.  That's reason enough, even before considering the caring message such effort sends to that person.  Plus, it's just as rewarding to the writer of a letter; trust me on this.

One of my favorite examples of how sending a letter can impact a life focuses on Honor Flight Chicago, an organization that takes WWII vets to Washington DC by plane, gives them a tour of the WWII Memorial and other historic sights of our Capital and then, on the flight back, they receive "mail call"; handwritten letters from friends, family, and even strangers that the veterans say touch them the most about this experience.  Just imagine their reaction to words of thanks from so many; that's an image worth motivating you to take the time to sit down with pen and paper.

The book I'm working on now will take the reader from the present to the time of WWII.   One of my aims in the storytelling is to focus on the differences of the two societies and how our present can always learn from the past.  In that past were many elements of humanity that can be embraced still, and make us the better for pursuing them.  I think the time taken to write a letter is one of those.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Getting Back To It

I was shocked when I viewed my blog this morning to discover that my last post was three months ago!  And it didn't say much - other than I was sick.  That sickness did linger on into March, off and on, and did cause my creative world to come to a halt.  But still.  I should have been keeping up with the blog regardless of my personal circumstances.  Right?

Well, not really.  I was concentrating on getting my physical being back in order so that I could function on all cylinders and get back to pursuing my creative side again.  But being out of it for so many months meant that I had a lot of other things to focus on before I could give my attention to writing.   Family issues, commitments, helping my husband rekindle his art business; the list goes on.  And I knew I was putting my writing on a back burner but it was necessary.

But now I'm physically strong, mentally organized and ready to get back at it.  I'm not bemoaning the time flown by as time lost, though.  I really think the best is yet to come in 2012.  Hang in there with me and see if I'm right!  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Update on me

For those of you regular readers, I just wanted to let you know I am alive and mostly well.  The holidays were relaxing and filled with family fun, then I got sick on New Year's Day - yuck!  It's a sinus thing that continues to plague me so I haven't accomplished much in the way of work; a sinus headache can take all the energy out of doing anything!

Anyway, I am better and slowly getting my desk cleared and organized again, and my focus back on writing.  I have good feelings about positive accomplishment in 2012, and I promise to share any and all good news here!