Tag Archives: Author: Micki Peluso

Christmas: Past and Present by Micki Peluso

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Mall, last minute shoppers scurried from store to store; short on patience and with little evidence of the holiday spirit of love. The only ones smiling were the store owners and the costumed Santa, who gets paid to be jolly. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of talking dolls, video games,
bicycles and other expensive toys, danced in their heads. Mama in her kerchief
and I in my cap had just settled down to tackle the mountain of Christmas bills,
which was larger than the national debt.

Years ago, Christmas seemed easier, less commercial and more enjoyable. Many families lived near each other, and most of the decorations, foodstuffs and presents were homemade. While there was stress and haste to accomplish the needed tasks by Christmas Eve, the stress was different than what is experienced today. Generations past did not seem to lose sight of the reason for Christmas; a birthday celebration of sharing and love. The nostalgia of horse-
drawn sleigh rides through wooded country roads is sorely missed. Bells jingling
accompaniment to carols sung off key by bundled-up children in the back of the
sleigh, is a thing of the past. Yet Christmas retains an aura of magic, nonetheless.

Originally, the Christian church did not acknowledge Christmas at all, as such observance was considered a heathen rite. The earliest records of anyChristmas celebration dates back to the early part of the third century. Gift giving, as a custom, may have originated with the Romans, relating to their worship of Dionysus at Delphi. The Christmas tree comes from the Germans, although its origin has been traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The tree replaces a former customary pyramid of candles, part of the pagan festivals. There is a legend that Martin Luther brought an evergreen home to his children and decorated it for Christmas. German immigrants carried this custom with them to the New World, but it did not gain popularity until 1860, when John C. Bushmann, a German, decorated a tree in Massachusets and invited people to see it. Evergreens, a symbol of survival, date to the 18th century when St. Boniface, honoring the
Christianization of Germany, dedicated a fir tree to the Holy Child to replace the  sacred oak of Odin. The “Nation’s Christmas Tree,” was the General Grant tree in General Grant National Park in California, dedicated May 1, 1926, by the town mayor. The tree was 267 feet high and 3500-4000 years old.

Mistletoe, burned on the altar of the Druid gods, was regarded as a symbol of love and peace. The Celtic custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from the practice of enemies meeting under the plant, dropping their weapons and embracing in peace. Some parts of England decorated with mistletoe and holly, but other parts banned its use due to association with Druid rites. Mistletoe was considered a cure for sterility, a remedy for poisons, and kissing under it would surely lead to marriage.

The 4th century German St. Nicholas, shortened through the years to Santa Claus, has become the epitome of today’s Christmas spirit. St. Nicholas, taking pity upon three young maidens with no dowry and no hope, tossed a bag of gold through each of their windows, and granted them a future. Other anonymous gifts being credited to him were emulated and the tradition grew. The Norsemen enhanced the legend of Santa Claus coming down the chimney with their
goddess, Hertha, known to appear in fireplaces, bringing happiness and good
luck.

Sir Henry Cole, impressed by a lithograph drawing, made by J.C. Horsley, instigated the idea of Christmas cards. It took eighteen years for the custom to gain popularity, and then it was adopted mainly by gentry. Christmas was banned in England in 1644, during the Puritan ascendency. A law was passed ordering December 25th a market day and shops were forced to open. Even the making of plum pudding and mincemeat pies was forbidden. Thislaw was repealed after the Restoration, but the Dissenters still referred to Yuletide as “Fooltide.” The General Court of Massachusetts passed a law in 1657 making the celebration of Christmas a penal offense. This law, too, was repealed, but many years would pass before New England celebrated Christmas. When Washington crossed the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War, it was the observance of Christmas that made his conquest of the British a success. The enemy was sleeping off the affects of the celebration.

Befana, or Epiphany, is the Italian female counterpart of Santa Claus. On Epiphany, or Twelth Night, she is said to fill children’s stockings with presents. According to legend, Befana was too busy to see the Wise Men during their visit to the Christ Child, saying that she would see them on their way back to the East. The Magi, however, chose a different route home, and now Befana must search for them throughout eternity. The sacred song traditionally sung on her yearly visit is the Befanata. The number of Magi visiting the stable on that first Christmas Eve could be anywhere from two to twenty. The number three was chosen because of the three gifts; gold, frankencense and myrrh. Western tradition calls the Magi, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, but they have different names and numbers in different parts of the world.

Though distinctly Christian, the social aspect of Christmas is observed and enjoyed by many religious and ethnic groups. Rabbi Eichler, during a sermon in Boston in 1910 explains why: “…Christmas has a double aspect, a social and theological side. The Jew can and does heartily join in the social Christmas. Gladly, does he contribute to the spirit of good will and peace, characteristic of the season. It was from the light of Israel’s sanctuary that Christianity lit its torch. The Hanukkah lights, therefore, justly typify civilization and universal religion.”

Dr. Clement Clarke Moore, a professor at the General Theological Seminary in New York, penned the famous poem, “Twas the Night before Christmas.” Dr.Moore never intended for the poem to be published. Miss Harriet Butler, daughter of the rector of St. Paul’s Church in Troy, New York, accompanied her father on a visit to Dr. Moore. She asked for a copy of the poem and sent it anonymously to the editor of The Troy Sentinel. A copy of the newspaper carrying his poem was sent to Dr. Moore, who was greatly annoyed that  something he composed for the amusement of his children should be printed. It was not until eight years later, that Dr. Moore publicly admitted that he wrote the poem.

Christmas is the favorite Holiday of children, who unquestionably accept the myth of Santa Claus. In 1897, one little girl began to have doubts as to the reality of Santa Claus, and wrote to the New York Sun, asking for confirmation. Her letter read: Dear editor, I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says,” If you see it in The Sun, it’s so. Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?” Virginia D’Hanlon. Francis P. Church’s editorial answer to the little girl became almost asfamous as Dr. Moore’s poem. In part, this is what he wrote: “Virginia, your little friends are so wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe, except they see… Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists….Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as if there were no Virginias…No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

It is sentiments like this that warm the heart of child and adult alike as Christmas nears. It is not the gifts, soon forgotten, that make Christmas a time of wonder and magic. It is the love within all people for God, for children, for each other. During this hectic holiday season, take a moment or two to savor the true meaning of Christmas.

“And I heard him exclaim
As he drove out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all,
And to all a Goodnight!”

by Dr. Clement Clarke Moore
Micki Peluso began writing after a personal tragedy, leading to a first time publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a career in Journalism. I’ve freelanced and been staff writer for one major newspaper, written for two more and published short fiction and non-fiction, as well as slice of life stories in colleges, magazines and e-zine editions. My first book, published in 2012; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called, . . . And THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG won the Nesta CBC Silver Award for writing that Builds Character, third place in the Predators and Editors Contest and first place for People’s Choice Monthly Award. I have stories in ‘Women’s Memoirs’, ‘Tales2inspire’, and ‘Creature Features.’ Two of my short horror stories were recently published in an International Award winning anthology called ‘The Speed of Dark.’ ‘The Cat Who Wanted a Dog’ is my first children’s book. My collection of short fiction, and slice of life stories in a book collection called, ‘Don’t Pluck the Duck’, is due to be released in January, 2017.

A few poetic laughs by Micki Peluso

abcd

I)
There was an old house in Kentucky
That neighbors considered unlucky
When it kept falling apart
Its owners soon lost heart
And moved to a tent in the park

2)
An Eagle Named Eddy

There was a young eagle named Eddy
Who loved to soar by the jetty
He made a dive a little too wide
Nearly got swept by a rip-tide
Yet his dynamics kept him steady
His endurance filled Eddy with pride
Childlike, he threw caution aside
Happiness faded quickly away
As a huge trash can got in his way
Poor Eddy had a really rough ride

bcde

3)
The Web of Lust

Tarantino the tarantula, so greedy
Felt pangs of arousal, so needy
Amorously peeked through the web
Of Tabitha, the tawny beauty
Emitting her sensual musk

“Might I enter?” He implored; bowed head
“Most certainly, my love, come test my bed.”
Tarantino’s hormones leaped for joy!
He followed Tabitha, so sweet, so coy
His eight legs(maybe nine:) trembled with lust

“So sorry, I can offer you no flies,
To please your palate, my handsome dear
But I offer other pleasures, never fear”
Tarantino thought he would surely die
Foolish male, his brain had turned to dust

Tabitha smiled a secret smile
Enticing him with all her wiles
She contemplated many eggs, his spawn
To be conceived well before dawn
Tarantino spent—fell asleep before dusk

She wrapped him tight within her silk
Proudly surveyed the tomb she’d built
By sunrise, Tarantino was quite dead
Tabitha sighed; her babies would be fed
Tarantino filled his needs at great cost

A word to male spiders everywhere
When crawling past a silken lair
Keep right on going or end up dead
One might hope his babes, well fed
Revered their father, at the very least

Sadly, this never crossed their tiny minds
In spider life, survival is all that binds
Tabitha played her part as host
Poor Tarantino lived, lusted and lost
Tabitha layed in wait for next time

4)
There was a lass named Purella
Who bedded a very odd fella
But when he refused to wed her
She locked him in his own cellar
He wished then he’d never met her

If you enjoy Micki Peluso’s humor, you can find her work on Amazon.

Parole

 By Micki Peluso

 

a (3)

Rita counted the days. Her mental competency hearing was a week away. Convince these morons I am sane and I am outta here, she thought. Of course she was sane, no doubt of it. Imprisoned by a biased Judge and a jury of rednecks. Just let me get out of this hellhole and they will see how sane I am. These thoughts kept her calm.

          She pretended to take her mind-altering prescription drugs from the prison matron, then spit them in the toilet of her small cubicle. One more week. She could wait. Years had passed, waiting. Soon a trip home to see her husband, ex actually, since the bastard chose to divorce her while she was incarcerated. Like he hadn’t helped her beat up the kid. Rita had told him she never wanted a brat anyway. But she was here and he was out free. It ate at her like a canker sore, but not for long-not for long. And their little girl, grown now after five years. What would she be now? Ten years old, about. Probably don’t remember her dear ole Mom, Rita thought. She will when I get out. Oh she will. and her father more so.

Rita faced the panel of parole officers, the Warden, social worker, shrink, etc., on the date of her hearing. Her once rosy complexion was pale from years of prison life-her drab green prison garb accentuated it. Still the glitter from her steely gray-blue eyes,held a madness she fought to conceal. Beneath a mop of ash-blonde hair, her face held a reminder of cruel beauty, not quite lost.

The panel was a somber group. Suited men, suited women, wearing a facade of importance and fake concern. God how Rita hated these hypocrites. She hid it well, sitting demurely before them, with as much innocence as she could portray and still be believable. This had to work. She must get out-there were debts to pay, and Rita was never one not to meet her responsibilities. Dick and Melissa first on her list, then her parents. Could she stop then? Rita had no idea but just the idea of killing gave her an orgasm of such intensity that she had to cross her legs to keep from crying out.

The snob panel did not seem to notice. They sorted and shifted paperwork, in preparation for her question and answer session that would decide her fate. Rita was ready. Let the inquisition begin.

“Rita,” asked the psycho therapist. “Have you learned from your years with us?”

“Yes Ma’am, so much that it would take a month of Sundays just to tell ya about it.”

“I see. And do you think you can live outside and be a credit to the community? When you answer, please give me details.”

” Ma’am, I know I can. I have learnt so much from you and everyone here. I have become a new woman. I’ve been thinkin’
 on how much my baby girl needs her Mama. I’ve lost so many years I intend to make up for them if I can, in the best way I know how.” Rita lowered her head at the appropriate moment.

“Rita, it will not be easy to establish a relationship with your daughter,” the social worker, interjected. “you will need a lot of support.”

“I realize that Ma’am, a big job, I reckon, and it will take time, but I got plenty of that.”

The Warden spoke next. “You do understand, Rita, that on parole, you will be required to report to your parole officer once a week, should we agree to return you to society?”

“Yes sir, I know that. I will comply with anything you want me to do.”

“You realize that we have petitions from your family asking us not to let you go.”

“No Sir, I didn’t know that. I will promise to stay away from them if that is your wish, much as I love them.”

“Rita,” the Warden added, rising from his seat. “We expect you to do just that. If you go anywhere near them, except for monitored visits with your daughter, you will be immediately brought back, in violation of parole. Is this perfectly clear ?”

” Yes Sir,” Rita nodded, with a face sincere and sad enough to convince them. She was edgy now. Her freedom was at stake.

“Leave us now, Rita,” the Warden advised her. “We will discuss your parole request and inform you of our decision by the latter part of the week.”

The news came to Rita as she was folding prison laundry. Her psychologist brought her the answer.

“Rita, the panel has decided in your favor. I am happy to bring this news and hope you will make a worthwhile life for yourself.”

“Thanks, Ma’am, this means so much to me. I won’t disappoint you.”

The therapist smiled, shook her hand and told her to call her if she had any problems. It was done. Rita was free. Her breast swelled with emotion. At long last, her revenge would begin. And after killing those who had rejected her, Rita would be happy. If not, there were always more to kill.

 

Micki Peluso began writing after a personal tragedy, which lead to  publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a 25 year career in Journalism. She’s been staff writer for one major newspaper and freelanced for two more. Twelve of her award winning short fiction and slice of life stories are published in anthologies, magazines and e-zines. Her debut book was published in 2012; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called, . . .AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG which won the Nesta CBC Silver Award for writing that builds character. She is presently working on a collection of short fiction, slice of life stories and essays, in a book called, DON’T PLUCK THE DUCK. Her debut children’s book, ‘The Cat Who Wanted a Dog’ will be released in May, 2016.

 

http://www.mallie1025.blogspot.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/And-Whippoorwill-Sang-Micki-Peluso-ebook/dp/B007OWPBGK/ref=cm_cr_pr_pdt_img_top?ie=UTF8

When Doing the Right Thing Turns out Wrong by Micki Peluso

a (2)

The day, like the week preceding it, started out dreary and overcast, but patches of blue soon poked through the dense clouds, offering a promise of bright sunshine. Then the doorbell rang and the weather was no longer a concern, as the safety of my small grandson became threatened and the lives of those who loved him, thrown into panic.

My 20-year-old daughter was in the downstairs den and answered the doorbell. She seemed to be speaking at great length and I assumed it was another magazine salesman spouting his pitch. Curiosity overcame me and I glanced out the front window in time to see a police car pulling out of my driveway. As I turned around, Nicole and 4-year-old Jesse, who had spent the night with us were coming up the stairs.

“What did the policeman want?” I asked.

“He wanted to see Jesse,” Nicole answered. “Someone reported him as a missing child.”

“What?!”

“Don’t get upset. I explained that Jesse’s been with us since he was born. But you should have seen the picture of the missing boy. He looks exactly like Jesse.”

“You should have called me.”

“Don’t worry, Mom, it’s all taken care of.”

But it wasn’t. Half an hour later, two police cars pulled up and six policemen, including a sergeant, were at my door. By the time I got downstairs, they were crowded inside the living room of my other daughter’s downstairs apartment. Jesse, who had been visiting his aunt, was backed up flat against the back of her recliner, his face masked with fear. I reached for him and as I picked him up, he whispered, “Grandma, get these guys outta here and lock the door. They think I’m some missing boy.”

“It’s all right, Jess,” I said out loud. “We’ll just tell them that they have the wrong little boy.”

“They won’t believe us, Grandma,” he whispered back.

“Of course they will. Don’t be frightened. You know that policemen help people.”

I put him down and he returned to his previous stance, backed as far into the recliner as his small body would allow; his expression guarded and apprehensive. I would not realize until later that Jesse’s instincts for self-preservation were far stronger than my own.

My two daughters and I spent nearly an hour speaking with the policemen, who were all pleasant and non-threatening. Apparently a young couple in our neighborhood had seen a poster of a missing child at the post office and then saw Jesse riding his tricycle up and down my block and reported him to the police.

The resemblance to the missing boy was uncanny. In the picture he was even wearing a cowboy hat similar to the Australian bush hat that Jesse wore and coveted. We gathered up pictures of Jesse and pointed out to the policemen that while Jesse resembled the missing boy, who was two-years-old in the picture, when Jesse was two he had looked entirely different. They seemed to agree.

I gave them a run-down on Jesse’s life; how he had come to Staten Island at six-weeks-old with his mother and older brother after his parent’s divorce; how I had babysat the boys while their mother worked and how, until recently, when she remarried, the three of them had lived in the downstairs apartment. I was confident that they believed me.

Then the sergeant looked at Jesse, who was no more relaxed than before and said, “Would you like to take a ride with me?”

“No!” Jesse answered, a stony look on his face.

“Jess,” I said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to ride in a police car?”

“No, it wouldn’t,” Jesse stated emphatically, pressing himself even further into the back of the chair.

“Listen,” I said to the sergeant. “Why don’t you drive over to our daughter’s home and she can show you his birth certificate and answer any other questions?”

They agreed and wrote down the directions. Jesse, clinging tightly to my leg, watched them leave, then insisted that I close and lock all the doors. I called his mother and told her what had happened.

“My God!” she said. “How can I prove he’s my child? Birth certificates can be forged. Mom, don’t let Jesse out of your sight!”

Eventually the matter was cleared up and the police were convinced that a mistake had been made. But the nightmare was far from over. Ironically, my daughter also resembled the description of the missing boy’s mother, who had taken her son and disappeared.

I remembered having asked one of the policemen if it was possible that a private detective was looking for the missing boy and if we would have to watch Jesse carefully for some time. The man had looked at me somberly and said, “If he was mine, I would.”

By the day’s end the entire family was a nervous wreck, as the ramifications of what had happened and still might occur, became increasingly clear. Only then did we realize that the police, upon returning with extra men and a superior officer could have and probably would have taken Jesse from us if they believed that he was the missing child. Had my child been missing, I would have expected them to do no less. And only then did we realize that the boy’s family and/or hired detective might still take him first and ask questions later.

What scared us the most was that the father of the missing boy had not seen his son since he was two-years-old. Jesse, at four, looked just like what the father would expect his son to look like. Jesse, was frightened, acutely aware of what had nearly happened. He feared realistically for his safety.

“Nicole,” he said to his aunt, ” If I get taken somewhere and I can’t get back home, I’ll always remember you.” He had nightmares for weeks, clinging to his mother and me, and often cried for no apparent reason.

Jesse’s mother called the Missing Children Hotline, and explained the situation, begging them to explain to the missing boy’s father that a mistake had been made, and that he was welcome to come to New York and see for himself that Jesse was not his son. The person she spoke to told her that he was aware of that particular case and that he would handle it. My daughter asked that he please get back to her. He never did. We also tried to contact the boy’s father ourselves, with no success. We felt as if we were fighting an invisible threat with no means to protect ourselves. Were we believed, or were we being watched?

From that day on, we guarded Jesse carefully, watched him every moment and never left him alone; always careful not to let him sense our fear. But as time passed and Jesse forgot the incident, we were never able to relax completely, never again able to feel secure.

The paradox to this story is that the couple reporting Jesse as a missing child did precisely the right thing for the right reasons. The police responding to the report took exactly the right action. Anyone spotting a possible missing child has a moral obligation to report it. I would not have hesitated notifying the authorities if I thought I had spotted a missing child. And if, God forbid, my own child was missing, I would demand and expect immediate police action, willing to go to any lengths to recover my child. Yet in doing all the right things, a family was given the scare of their lives, and a small boy was made to feel frightened and insecure. That day, which had shown so much promise turned, albeit through the best intentions, into an ominous nightmare from which we would be a long time awakening.

 

Micki Peluso began writing after a personal tragedy, which lead to publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a 25-year career in Journalism. She’s been staff writer for one major newspaper and freelanced for two more. Twelve of her award winning short fiction and slice of life stories are published in anthologies, magazines and e-zines. Her debut book was published in 2012; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called, . . .AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG which won the Nesta CBC Silver Award for writing that builds character. She is presently working on a collection of short fiction, slice of life stories and essays, in a book called, DON’T PLUCK THE DUCK. Her debut children’s book, ‘The Cat Who Wanted a Dog’ will be released in May, 2016.

http://www.mallie1025.blogspot.com/

About Music (Part 2) …

Music moves us. Whether it be to make us happy, sad, or (in some rare cases) violent, music affects our emotions. The authors of the Write Room have shared their thoughts and feelings about music and how it shapes our lives (Dellani Oakes)

is

The Music of Life By Micki Peluso

Music is ingrained in our lives from the melodic chirping of birdsong to lullabies crooned to sleepy toddlers. We celebrate with music, we mourn with music. Even some dogs like to sing; or maybe they just howl to get us to stop. My house was always filled with music, especially when five of my six kids were teenagers. It was the late 70s but we all loved to sing songs from the 60s as well; Elvis Presley was an icon in our home.

My oldest daughter Kim played guitar and wrote songs, and her sisters and I sang along, sometimes taping ourselves on cassettes with a little red recorder. We all cried while singing Teen Angel, but couldn’t stop singing it. That song would prove an omen of the day when we would have our own Teen Angel.

Dante could play any instrument and song by ear, even classical music like Beethoven and Bach — Where did he hear that? Kelly sang in the school choir and Noelle played the trumpet in the band. The rest of us were not musically talented but I did know if a note was flat. I taught myself to play the guitar years before but when I could go no further I taught Kim, who was six years old at the time. She quickly surpassed me.

I did love to sing, albeit off key, and sang Baptist spirituals and folk songs like I Gave My Love a Cherry, and my favorite country-western songs. I could do a fair Love Me Tender, or so I thought. Noelle burst in from school one day to show me her new trumpet by blasting me with a few earsplitting notes. “Can you play, Long, Long Ago, Far, Far Away?” I asked. When the joke finally the hit her, she just laughed. Thankfully we had an acre of land and no close neighbors – although I thought I heard the dairy cows from the nearby barn mooing backup up one day.

On a sunny late summer day, 14-year-old Noelle was singing and dancing down our country lane, on her way to a concert at the nearby park with her girl friend. I knew she was meeting her first puppy love, a cute, blue-eyed, shaggy haired boy named Chuck. Within moments, a drunk driver struck her and left her face down on the side of the road. That day the music died – except for the mournful dirge of the church organ on the day of her funeral.

It was a few months later when her younger sister, Nicole’s, 11th birthday was coming up. I had to convince her to have her party at the Roller Skating Rank where the girls had spent so many good times skating to the hit tunes and a few oldies. She felt guilty but agreed to go. As she and her friends ate pizza and drank soda, I turned to gaze at the skating rink. For a few brief moments I saw Noelle, dancing on skates smiling and full of life. I was mesmerized. I blinked, and the vision was gone, but I heard a line from the stereo playing the song, American Pie, by Don McLean . . . “The Day the Music Died.”
is (1)

Joy of the Blues by Bryan Murphy

I fell in love with blues music as a teenager. For a provincial Brit, it was irresistible; exotic, foreign but accessible, and hypnotic. It has proved to be an enduring love. Blues music would make an ideal soundtrack to my science fiction writing, because it is dark, like the futures I project. But my poem below is celebratory, more suited to a rare piece of joyful blues: Rock Me Mama by the ultimate blues pianist, Otis Spann.

 

Joy of the Blues

On holiday from a theatre of war,

wandering around the retirement town

where I’d tried to grow up,

I ran into well-groomed, greying men

last seen snarling

in playground brawls.

 

“You still got all them blues records?”

Sunshine, I bloodied your knuckles on my nose,

seduced your sweet sister, and you remember me

for my blues collection?

“You bet: Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker,

Otis Spann, Howlin’ Wolf, …”

 

that other Americana beyond the dream:

bitter with authenticity, on the periphery

of our consciousness, offering

the human experience in twelve bars,

 

on the rack, stretched to limits,

infinite variation on finite themes,

like language, soccer, life. Blues

transcended the conventions it endorsed,

 

seeded my malleable mind with a conviction

that cultural barriers are there to overcome,

so that the Sirens of this world’s uneasy zones

will always outbid the muzak of too-sweet home.

You can find Otis Spann on YouTube, and Bryan Murphy’s e-books here: viewAuthor.at/BryMu

caregie hall

Music: Releases Stress by Fran Lewis

Music has always been an integral part of my life from the age of seven. Loving the sound of the ivories on the piano and wanting to play on a real piano my mom allowed me to have lessons but I practiced on a paper keyboard. She wanted to make sure that I really wanted the lessons and that I had a true passion for the piano. Within six months the instructor told her she should definitely buy me a piano and my grandfather did. School, even at seven years old, was demanding since my mom required that I do my homework as soon as I came home, studied for tests and then, of course, had dinner. But in between, I would practice my scales and prepare my piano pieces for my lessons. Just sitting in front of the piano and playing relaxed me and all of the tension from the day vanished, and I was in another world filled with the sound of the music. Whether it was a Chopin Waltz, or a Beethoven Concerto or a Sonata, I immersed myself in the piece and could feel myself one and the same with the music.

Music was my major in college and learning to transpose pieces into different keys was a real challenge, yet it was one that I loved. Majoring in music also required that you learn another instrument–mine was the violin. So, along with the piano at age 10, I took on the violin, became concertmistress in the ninth grade and played first violin throughout high school. I even played in the borough orchestra.

Music has, and always will be, a great part of my life. To this day, when I feel overwhelmed, know that I have to visit the dentist one more time or must handle any other type of crisis, I sit down, put on the earphones and listen to the Three Tenors, a classical piece of music, or the first piece that I ever played in Carnegie Hall: The Waltz of the Flowers.

Educator, author, magazine publisher and book reviewer Fran Lewis has had a career that celebrates the written word, but she has also had a life filled with the pleasure of music. http://www.amazon.com/Fran-Lewis/e/B002F8Z87U

hand bells

Christmas Carols and Being Gay are Related. I Promise by Cody Wagner

I recently joined a singing group that performs around Phoenix during the holidays. We had orientation Tuesday and were given 50+ carols to memorize AND choreography to study AND handbells to… well, I don’t know what the frick to do with handbells yet.

With all that stuff to learn, we were told to begin practicing right away. Consequently, I walked around the house all day singing “Jingle Bell Rock”. And maybe around Safeway. And possibly Chipotle.

Please note it’s early September. We haven’t even reached Halloween season yet. Yet there I was humming “Dancin’ and prancin’ in Jingle Bell Square!” down the aisles at Wal Mart. Oh yeah, I practiced at Wal Mart, too.

Let me just say I received some judgmental looks. I fully expect to make that “People of Wal Mart” website with the caption “This guy is wearing a ‘Mom, Dad, I’m Gaelic’ t-shirt and singing ‘Fum! Fum! Fum!’ during Summer”.

When I received a particularly nasty look from a mother who covered her child’s eyes, I admit I got embarrassed. Believe it or not, that embarrassment was sparked by memories of growing up gay in a little redneck town. OK OK, Christmas carols in summer and being gay may seem like the most unrelated things ever, but wait for it.

I wasn’t the gay kid who hated himself. Somehow, I knew being gay wasn’t wrong, although everyone around me said homosexuals were evil. I had this little seed of self-confidence I’m eternally grateful for. With that said, I was still in the closet. Big time. While I was OK with myself, I knew people around me weren’t. They had this thing in their heads that straight people were the norm and anyone outside that circle was a weirdo.

I bet you a plate of delicious Pad Thai that the mom who shielded her kid’s eyes thought, People sing carols from Thanksgiving to New Years. Anyone outside that circle is a weirdo.

Look how I brought it all together. Cody – 1, Not Cody – 0.

That feeling of not being evil yet not fitting in has always been a part of my life. It’s also an integral part of my new book as well. I worked to infuse that element into the protagonist. I wanted him to fight, to remain secure, while being bombarded from outside forces. Especially when he gets sent to a pray-away-the-gay school (DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN!).

And my experience with public music brought those old conflicted feelings out in me, which made me feel even more connected with my character. Funny how that happens.

Part of me ultimately wants my protagonist to stand up for himself. But for him to rise up, I felt I had to do the same. So when that mother’s glare burned into me, I actually straightened, looked her in the eye, and sang, “Here I come a caroling, among the cans of peas!”

It was the lamest verse ever, but my protagonist will be better off for it.

Cody Wagner writes about things he questions, ranging from superpowers to sociopathic kids. His debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, will be out October 27th, 2015. Check out his writing updates and read more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or follow him on Twitter @cfjwagner.

A Day In The Life of a Writer 

 

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The rain beats furiously against the window, interrupting a restful, dream-filled sleep, in which I am floating in a sea of acceptance slips, signing book contracts, and arranging to fly to California for the Letterman show. The menacing buzz of the radio alarm clock goes off every ten minutes, the exact time it takes to drift back to sleep. At 7 A.M., there is no good reason to be awake. I don’t have to attend school; nor do I have to leave for work, a bone of contention among those in my family who fervently believe that I should make them a hot breakfast before sending them out into the real world.

Misery, the fifteen-year-old dog who has lived up to her name, lays her large, shaggy head on my pillow, and pants morning breath into my face. The bluish glare of her cataract-coated eyes warns me that she will not be held accountable for what may happen if I don’t let her outside immediately; a realistic deterrent to further lazing in bed.

By 8 a.m., the house is quiet once again. Even the pounding rain has tapered to a fine drizzle. My four-year-old grandson Ian, dropped off by my daughter, walks into the kitchen to announce that he is “here”, as his eleven-month-old brother, Jesse, babbles nonsense from the playpen. The baby’s voice has the penetration of a well-known grease-cutter.

It’s Monday morning and another non-work week is about to begin, during which time I will babysit two lovable, but precocious boys, run business inventories on two computers, manage a three story home, do freelance writing and count my blessings that I don’t have to go to work.

By the time I gulp two cups of coffee, and complete three fourths of The New York Times Crossword Puzzle, Jesse’s insistent soprano voice is reaching high C. I consider doing a warm, grandmotherly article on minding toddlers, but when Jesse leans over the playpen and spits up on the dog, my enthusiasm wanes.

The next hour consists of what my “new age” daughter calls creative playtime. That translates into letting the children do whatever they please. I am as modern as the next person, but after Ian poster paints the white Formica countertop in black stripes, insisting it’s his pet zebra, free expression ends. Jesse’s creativity is limited to the realization that his diaper is detachable, presenting endless possibilities. By noon, I’ve put the house back together, made lunch for the boys, driven Ian to nursery school, and tucked the pit baby (so nicknamed for his tenacious grip on breakables) into bed for his one treasured nap.

Two hours later, I’ve compiled inventory, mailed overdue bills, and sent manuscripts off to the literary meat market, while the Apple works its internal magic with the numbers I’ve posted into it. I’ve hung up three times on a telephone computer robot, who wants to know my vital statistics, and tried to convince another telemarketer that I did not want to win a cruise to Tahiti.

While the Apple is printing out evaluation reports, I type a short story into the Dell, inspired by the momentary peace and solitude. Engrossed in my work, I don’t realize that Ian has been dropped off from nursery school, until he plops a hideous (I never said that) green lump of clay sculpture on my keyboard. Seven pages of manuscript disappear, lost forever in that mysterious story-eating gray box–just when Mary was lusting after John.

The type of calmness that sometimes precedes insanity washes over me. I make Ian a healthy snack, and even manage to tell him how much I missed him.

“You didn’t miss me, Grandma,” he says. “You’re the one who took me there and left me.”

I’m tempted to say, “You’re right,” but I hug him instead. Ian settles in for some violent cartoons, and the siren-like wail of the pit baby marks the end of creative writing.

The teenager, made into an only child by the absence of five grown brothers and sisters, storms into the house. She throws her books on the table, raids the refrigerator, and gives me a twenty minute discourse on her first day of high school; heavy on boys, light on scholastics. She informs me  that much as she would love to watch her nephews for me, she must get to the Mall at once. Owning only four new outfits, she doesn’t want to repeat herself in a five-day school week. Everyone (related to the infamous “they”) will notice.

By now it’s 4 P.M., and my manuscripts are still in the mailbox, soggy from the misty rain. The mail carrier, over five hours late, neither knows, nor cares that I wait anxiously each day for acceptance/rejection slips. An hour later, I spot him running down the street, new on the job and obviously frightened. Misery, in a rare moment of bravado, must have given him a toothless, raspy snarl, for now the mail dropped in haste on the unprotected porch stoop is as wet as the outgoing mail. It’s mostly brown envelopes, signifying returned manuscripts, and I’m in no mood for rejection. I’ll open them later.

As Jesse methodically empties all the kitchen cabinets and drawers, I concoct a simple dinner of chili with beans and brown bread. Dining with small children will either cause compulsive eating or pseudo anorexia. Ian detests all healthy food, and Jesse concentrates on feeding his supper to Misery, whose sense of smell has deteriorated to the point where she indiscriminately devours scraps of bread and shredded napkins.

The last hour before my daughter comes to collect her sons is spent re-stocking the cabinets, brushing crumbs out of the dog’s eyes, picking up the fifty or more toys that Jesse has hurled from his playpen, and bathing the boys. Ian has an inborn aversion to having his hair washed, and Jesse likes to scuba-dive, giving me heart failure and more gray hair. By the time their bath is completed, the bathroom is under water and smells like wet dog. Misery, in her senility, refuses to relinquish her spot on the soft rug next to the bathtub.

Their mother arrives and asks the same daily question, “Were they good?” I give the same answer, “Perfect!”, and she carts them off to her car. I am alone; at least for another twenty minutes when the breadwinner comes home. My husband walks in the door with that “don’t even ask me about my day,” look on his face, and heads for his recliner. The pile of damp, warped mail catches his eye, and he rummages through it.

“Hey, I think you might have sold something,” he says. “Don’t you want to open it?”

I move in slow-motion, back pain radiating down my legs from constantly plucking Jesse off the staircase, and listlessly open the SASE. (self-addressed stamped envelope)

“Look at that,” my husband says, glancing over my shoulder. “You just sold another article, made $100.00, and you never had to leave the house.” He grabs his paper and settles into his chair with the martyred look of a man who has battled rain, fog, and bumper to bumper traffic to provide for a wife who sits home and nonchalantly collects honorariums and checks. I hate that look. After a full ten minutes of savoring my sale, I trudge back to the Dell, free to write for three more hours. But by now Mary is no longer lusting after John.

 

Bio: Micki Peluso writes humorous slice of life stories based mostly on her family and friends. No lawsuits yet but she has been removed from several wills. These stories, published in various newspapers and magazines led to her first non-fiction story, . . .And the Whippoorwill Sang, and will be published in 2015 in a collection called, “Don’t Pluck the Duck.”

https://pixabay.com/go/?t=list-shutterstock&id=111044285

The Search for Meaning

 

We all search for meaning in our lives. One way or another, we must find a story to tell ourselves. I asked the members of The Write Room Blog to share their understanding of that search. Their responses inform and challenge; they are well worth reading. (Kenneth Weene)

 

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LOVE GIVES LIFE PURPOSE by Salvatore Buttaci

We were blessed.

We didn’t have many luxuries. My father worked two jobs, but my mother was always there teaching us how to be God-loving and respectful to everyone. They taught us by example to pray, laugh, love, and accept life as a passageway to a better world. They trusted God completely and never questioned His Will.

Did we notice the lack of things in our lives? No way! Did temper tantrums follow the opening of presents on Christmas morning when, instead of toys, we were gifted with pajamas, a pair of rosary beads –– something inexpensive but heart-given? I don’t think so.

In 1949 when I was eight, I hinted to my father how much I wanted a Red Ryder BB rifle. If my memory serves me correctly, it was Saturday and we were in Woolworth’s Five and Dime Store in Brooklyn where Papa was buying some odds and ends. When we walked past the counter piled high with those rifles, I went back there and stared as if by magic I could claim one for my own.

“Could Santa bring me one for Christmas, Pa?”

His face took on that sad look of his when fate had his hands tied and what he wanted to do was what he could only dream of doing.

“Santa’s poor this year,” he said, then hustled me away.

Papa worked nights at a local Italian bakery. While we were in school, he slept, so we hardly saw him. Christmas morning finally came and there against the wall behind the little decorated tree was a tall box. My Red Ryder! I thought. Santa brought one after all. But when I tore open the wrappings, pulled free the contents, disappointment clouded my face. It was a hand-made rifle, whittled into shape, painted like the real thing. Mama told me later how Papa had patiently worked day after day whittling that piece of wood into a rifle, sacrificing much needed sleep to please me.

Oh, yes, God has blessed me more than words can express.

My parents’ final gift may seem meager to others, but to me it was a most welcomed grace: the last words, “I love you,” whispered to me from their hospital deathbeds, first, my father, and then years later, my mother.

I know I will be thinking of those gifts for as long as I live and will repeat the words to my Sharon and to all those who made and continue to make my life a wondrous thing.

When God the Father created the world and us in it, when He sent His Son who willingly died that excruciated death to atone for our sins, when He sends the Holy Spirit to sanctify us with grace, He shows His Love for us. My purpose in life? To emulate that love in whatever small measure I can by loving God and myself, then expanding that love to others, many of whom are burdened with loveless lives and the inability to believe in the reality of God. I feel strongly that I must show them the joy that comes from walking with God and accepting His gifts of Boundless Love.

Every road needs a reason to walk, every life a purposeful destination. Like my God-loving parents, I pray one day to dance in the circle of His Light forever.

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Salvatore Buttaci’s work has appeared widely in publications that include New York Times, U. S. A. Today, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Cats Magazine, The National Enquirer, Christian Science Monitor, A Word with You Press, and Cavalcade of Stars. 

His collection of flash fiction 200 Shorts is available at http://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-Salvatore-Buttaci-ebook/dp/B004YWKI8O/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399042844&sr=1-2&keywords=200+shorts

His book A Family of Sicilians is available at http://lulu.com/ButtaciPublishing2008

Sal lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life.

 

 

Discovering Your Purpose by J. F. Elferdink

“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born and how you become most truly alive.”— Oprah Winfrey

Some people seem to know their calling very young—those who have been given a special talent.  An example from my reading is Asher Lev in the book “I Am Asher Lev” by Chaim Potok.  Asher Lev was compelled to draw and paint from the time he was a child, even though the price he paid was excessive: his art depicted things forbidden by his Jewish community and he was ostracized. Yet he drew.

It hasn’t been that simple to recognize my own calling.  My grades pointed toward some form of communications and my writing assignments for school and work were typically praised. While a single mom and college student I also kept a journal. That form of writing, with no restrictions, stopped abruptly when I remarried. My new husband insisted I destroy the words that implicated a life before him.  When I wouldn’t, he did. It seemed a part of me was lost in those ashes.  But a strange thing happened during that experience—I had a sensation of a voice in my head telling me to let it go because I would write something much better.

A few years later I found a fresh reason to write. It would lead to authoring my first novel, written to resolve the death of a man I loved and to be a channel for a new passion: social justice. The book took five years to complete. My expectation for a bestseller turned out to be unfounded. Even so, I started on a sequel because there was more I wanted to say.  But it’s a struggle. Most days any number of tasks are elevated to greater importance than uncoiling a story from my mind to my computer’s monitor.  That faceless critic won’t let me go. He keeps up the tirade: What will people think if you write that? Do you want to open yourself to more rejection?

That internal voice leads to questioning my purpose and suspecting my “mystical moment.”  That leads to chaining my creative drive and ignoring the next chapter in my sequel. I’ve been trying that for more than a year while forcing myself to dismiss the nagging sensation that there’s something left undone.

Answers often come to me out of others’ writing. This week I finished another book by Potok, “The Gift of Asher Lev.” In this one, Asher has found success through his talent, but Paris critics suggest his paintings are no longer fresh, instead mired in technique. The criticism stops him; his canvases remain white. He does continue drawing although it’s not the embodiment of his talent.  Then one day while staring at those drawings, he begins to decipher “a matrix underlying his new work.” New possibilities! He cleans his brushes and takes out the jars of paints.

Application for my life (and maybe yours): Do I let my internal critic win or do I accept my destiny and become “most truly alive?”

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Joyce Elferdink has finally come close to achieving her goal implanted long ago after reading Gift from the Sea: to live a balanced life, where each day includes time for herself, for relationships, for nature, and for meaningful work. She has never forgotten what Ann Morrow Lindbergh wrote about individuals “often trying, like me, to evolve another rhythm with more creative pauses in it, more adjustment to their individual needs, and new and more alive relationships to themselves as well as others.”

Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/harmlessjoyce

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Pieces-You-Ms-J-Elferdink/dp/0615664490/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423689108&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=Pieces+of+You+and+JF+Elferdink

 

 

THE DANGER OF BEING POSITIVE by R.J. Ellory

The internet is full to the gunwales with ‘be positive’ aphorisms, usually posted by individuals who choose to employ pseudonyms such as ‘Amethyst Starfire’ and ‘Harmony Rainbow’.  I am British, and therefore innately cynical at the best of times, but when faced with such banal and useless messages as ‘Follow your heart to wherever it may take you’ and ‘The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday’ I am often driven to the limits of my own fragile sanity.  Be a better person than you were yesterday?  Right.  Good enough.  So I am a serial killer.  Yesterday I got two kills.  Today I’ll go for three, and then I’ll get take-out and a nice bottle of Chianti.  Follow my heart to wherever it takes me.  I have a friend.  Her ‘heart’ tells her to pursue psychotic obsessive-compulsive control freak men who wind up doing nothing but barely repairable damage to her ‘heart’ and the rest of her life.

There is a real danger in fatalism.  There is a real danger in believing in destiny.  There is a very real danger in ‘positive thinking’, if only from the viewpoint that thinking is not doing, and doing is the only thing that really results in something being done.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you shouldn’t be positive.  I am a very firm believer in the need to be positive, to acknowledge one’s own capability and competence, but only being positive is not going to make the grade.  One needs to actually do as well.  I am also a very firm believer in the reality of negative people, the very real effect of negative comments and statements designed to undermine and make less of one’s efforts.  Negative people are merely hoping to see you fail because it will help rationalize and justify their own failures.

Very recently my wife and I looked at all the people we worked with, spent time with and those we considered friends.  Very quickly it became quite clear that there were a few who took and took and took and gave nothing in return.  We loaned them money, we helped them solve their life problems, we bailed them out of trouble, we had them over for dinner, threw parties on their birthdays, and yet in return there was never a single invite, never a gift, never a ‘Hey, I can help you with that’.  So we decided to just let them go.  We didn’t say or do anything to them.  We certainly didn’t level any criticism or reprimand.  We didn’t try to fix things or correct anything.  We just stopped communicating.  Did they reach for us?  Did they make any effort to find out why we had stopped communicating to them?  Not at all.  Months have gone by now, and not a word.  So I understand negative people and the effect they can have.  I also understand that people can be sponges for your attention and help, and yet nothing ever comes back in return.

However, I digress.  This article is supposed to be about purpose and direction.  These words have come about as a result of a request for advice and direction to the website visitors regarding how to better identify and highlight what is important in their own lives.  During the past few months I have spent more time reviewing my life and my own purposes and priorities than perhaps at any other.  I am approaching fifty, and even though I may not live to a hundred it kind of feels like a half-way point.  Life – for me – is about action.  It is about being who you are, doing what you want and having what you desire.  It is also, just as importantly, about doing what you can to assist others in the realization of their own goals and purposes.  As has been said many times before in many different ways, a man who wishes to be happy and yet does not spend the vast majority of his time trying to make others happy is a fool.  But there has to be a balance.  If someone does not know who they really are (i.e. they do not really understand their own priorities and goals, nor their own strengths and weaknesses) then they cannot undertake the right actions to achieve what they want.  Life is a job, very simply.  If you do not understand what the purpose of your job is, and you have no real clue as to how to best use the tools you have been given, then there is not much hope of accomplishing the end result of that job.

One cannot sit on the sofa in front of the television and ‘think positive’ to a better life.  I don’t believe that can be done, and yet that seems a realistic and acceptable life-plan to the vast majority of people I speak to.

So, where am I going with this?  I am going to give you some aphorisms that have worked for me, and that continue to work for me on a daily basis.  Some of them I might have invented, some of them were written by others whose names I do not even know, and some of them have been credited to their respective author.  They all say the same thing in different ways, and they all push in the direction of identifying your own goals and pursuing them.  How, you might ask, do I identify my goals?  I think that’s the easiest part in all of this.  Where do your passions lie?  What motivates you?  What gets you enthusiastic?  Those are the areas where you need to look, despite others who might say how unrealistic, difficult or competitive those areas of interest might be.

So, here we go:

Some people dreamed of success…while others woke up and worked hard at it.

What you chose to focus your mind on is critical.

Persistence is the key, the backbone, the spirit of accomplishment and achievement.

A person who aims at nothing is sure to hit it.

Persistence is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.

A man can only do what he can do. But if he does that each day he can sleep at night and do it again the next day.

Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.  The world said “Give up.”  Hope whispered, “Try it again…just one more time.”

With ordinary talents and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.

The saints we revere and respect in all fields are the sinners who kept on going.

Do not spend a moment worrying about whether someone thinks you are the worst human being of all or the brightest star in the universe.  Your integrity to yourself is more important than anyone else’s viewpoint. You know if you are working as hard as you can to create a great future for yourself and the people you care for.

It doesn’t matter if you try and try and try again, and fail.  It does matter if you try and fail, and fail to try again.

History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They refused to become discouraged by their defeats.

Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.

Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.

Decide carefully, exactly what you want in life, then work like mad to make sure you get it!

Defeat never comes to anyone until they admit it.

Stay away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but great people…great people are the ones who make you feel that you too can be truly great.

No one can always be right.

Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life. When it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say, “You cannot defeat me.”

Forget all the reasons why something may not work. You only need to find one good reason why it will.

Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian teenage gymnast, winner of three Olympic Gold Medals by the age of fourteen, was asked how she made it look so effortless.

She hesitated for just a moment, and then she smiled, and said, “It’s the hard work that makes it easy.”

Pablo Picasso, more than eighty years old, was asked why he still worked fourteen and sixteen hours a day.  His reply, very simply: ‘When inspiration finds me, I want her to find me hard at work’.

Be proud to work.  Be proud to be exhausted with the things you have accomplished today.  Dream of what you want.  Work hard.  Persist.  Persevere.  Make it happen.  Do not end your life with the words ‘What if?’  Those are the words with which to begin your life.

Courage does not always roar the loudest or fight the hardest.  Courage is often nothing more than the quiet voice at the end of a long day that says, ‘Tomorrow…tomorrow I will try again’.

Commit yourself to success.  Somewhere.  Somehow.  In some field.  As Goethe, the great philosopher said, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.  Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.   Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.  Begin it now.”

As Benjamin Disraeli said, ‘Success is entirely dependent upon constancy of purpose’, and I believe in this without doubt or hesitation.  Whatever purpose you have now, keep it alive, keep working at it, keep directing your energies and attention towards it, and it will be realized.

As a result of what I have learned I have been able to travel the world and meet some truly extraordinary people.  The most important ones have often been the most humble and the most interested in others.  The most successful ones have been those who cared most about their fellow man.  The happiest ones have been those who were literate, hard-working, persistent and courageous in their endeavours.

So, in closing…turn off the television, stop reading the newspapers (because their entire purpose is to make you think that the world in which we live is rough and dangerous and crazy and out-of-control, and it isn’t much like that at all), stop doubting your own ability to achieve what you know you can achieve, and realize that achieving it is only going to happen if you do the work.  Stop complaining, stop finding reasons why it can’t be done, stop worrying about what others might think, and do the work.  Just shut up and do the work.

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Having surmounted many obstacles in his own life, R.J. Ellory has gone on to be both a successful writer of crime novels and a musician.

Check out R.J.’s books at http://www.amazon.com/R.J.-Ellory/e/B002IVGFJO

 

 

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The Doughnut and Not the Hole by John B. Rosenman

My father used to talk to me about what counted in life.  Sometimes he quoted a poem you may be familiar with:

“As you ramble through Life, Brother,

Whatever be your goal.

Keep your eye upon the doughnut,

And not upon the hole.”

Even when I was a kid, I understood the moral.   One should pursue real and meaningful goals in life and avoid empty attractions that can be a tragic waste of time.   One should pursue worthwhile values and avoid the gaudy, seductive, and worldly pleasures of Vanity Fair.

However, can we always tell what the doughnut is, and what the hole?  We might think it is easy, but Vanity Fair is just as real and dangerous now as it was when John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress.   Even more real and dangerous, in fact.   The media constantly bombard us with vain confections we come to crave.   Money, glamor, and sex, oh my.  Some of us pilgrims easily lose our way and find ourselves lost forever.

What exactly is the doughnut?   If I forget about the Kardashians and put down my scandal-racked tabloid, I would start my list by saying the doughnut consists of the following ingredients:

  1. Valuing your family and treasuring its members.
  2. Valuing your country and treasuring its traditions.
  3. Being kind and helpful to people whenever you can.

Number 3 sounds a lot like the Golden Rule to me.  Contributing to worthwhile charities comes in here.   I believe Truman Copote said there were only two moral rules.   Mind your own business and don’t hurt anybody.   I think a lot of the misery and confusion in our lives is caused by our failure to remember these two things.

I have to admit I’m not the best at following these principles.   For example, I have fought with my wife when I knew I was wrong.  But hey, I think I have a good idea of what goes into the doughnut.   Here’s another ingredient based on my personal experience:

  1. Forget about past grievances and don’t hold grudges because of the way people have treated you.   Let it go, let it go, let it go.   Set aside your injured pride.  For some of us, it’s harder to do than for others.   If you can’t forgive, see if you can forget a little by focusing on the present and all the possibilities it offers.

I can’t cover this subject as fully as I’d like here, so I’ll close by mentioning one more tasty, filling and fulfilling ingredient in the doughnut.   To some of you, it may be the most important one.

  1. Consider developing a relationship with God or a supreme being who is larger and more wonderful than everything else. Some folks may object to this. But please, don’t simply decide there is no ultimate  intelligence in the universe and never consider the matter again.  As for believers, I recommend that reexamining and questioning our beliefs now and then can be a very good thing.  Miguel de Unamuno said  “Faith which does not doubt is dead faith.”

Amen.

As for Socrates, he believed that “not life, but a good life, is to be chiefly valued.”   Money, possessions, popularity and praise don’t automatically equal the good life, and worldly success doesn’t mean one is a virtuous and deserving person.   It’s what one stands for and what one does with such wealth that matters.

Otherwise it’s the hole in that doughnut rather than the doughnut itself.

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John B. Rosenman, a retired English professor from Norfolk State University, has published over 300 stories and 20 books. His work includes science fiction and dark erotic fiction. “The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes won the 2011 annual readers’ poll from “Preditors and Editors.” In 2013, Musa Publishing awarded his time travel story “Killers” their Top Pick. He is the former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and the previous editor of Horror Magazine.

 

 

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Some Small Stranger by Micki Peluso

“Grandma,” a word sounding as old as Methuselah was about to become my title. My response to this new position escalated to the point of panic. Initially, I didn’t react well to the word, mother, either.

I remembered my own grandmother, with her soft white hair wound up in a bun; hair that when let down, easily reached her waist. I can still see her laboring over delicate paper-thin strudel dough in a warm kitchen filled with the aroma of chicken soup and fresh baked bread. I thought of my children’s grandmother, who had wiry salt and pepper hair, mostly salt, velvety skin, and eyes that seemed ageless. She was lovely, wore no make-up, and exuded a gentleness that gave the word, “Grandma,” a good name.

The title, “Grandma’” seemed to place me in a different age bracket–and I wasn’t ready. I could still squeeze into my designer jeans, if I lay flat on the bed to pull up the zipper. My hair, mostly my own, was still blonde, and I hadn’t yet given my bikini to the Salvation Army. I would probably have to soon– the neighbors were starting to complain. I did Jane Fonda religiously, which meant once a week, and wasn’t planning on taking Geritol for a few more years.

Soon after my daughter informed me of her pregnancy, placing the weighty mantle of “Grandma” around my neck, my life began to change. My shoulders drooped as I walked down the street, hinting that osteoporosis was right around the corner. Wrinkles, cropped up from nowhere, etching the itinerary of my life. Silver strands peeked out from among the gold, thinning gold at that. Fading eyesight precipitated the need for “Granny” glasses, and all my best parts appeared to have dropped six inches. My husband, suffering his own identity crisis, joked about trading me in for two twenty-year olds.

“Go ahead,” I told him. “I may as well be widowed as the way I am now.” My youth was gone, chased away by a menacing word that hovered like an albatross over my troubled psyche.

I sulked most of the nine months preceding the arrival of the one responsible for my fate. I was proud of my daughter, excited by the prospect of a new baby, her baby, joining the family, but I couldn’t adjust to my novel role. I laid claim to many titles in my lifetime, from Miss to Mrs. to Mommy, a brief encounter with Ms., plus a few titles that didn’t need capitalization. There was something about the word, Grandma, which stuck in my throat. My friends smirked and made the usual jokes, perilously endangering our friendship. They could afford to be cute. None of them were about to be grandparents. I would be the first.

It wasn’t fair. I had raised my children, gave my all in the name of motherhood, and faced the daily grind of bottles, diapers and finicky eaters. I lost sleep during middle of the night marathons with teething toddlers, and suffered through puberty and adolescence with only a hint of martyrdom. Now when the “best was yet to come,” some small stranger, still to be born, was transforming me into an old woman; a grandma.

My daughter’s delivery came, as most do, in the middle of the night. It was a long, hard labor, beset with life-threatening problems for both herself and the baby; problems which made my own insignificant. My pleas, that night, to a higher authority, did not concern my apprehension of grand motherhood. I begged for the safety of my child and her baby. Nothing else mattered.

After an agonizing wait in a room full of people mutely sharing similar concerns, the doctor burst through the delivery room doors. Ten agonizing hours had elapsed since we entered that room. It seemed a lifetime. The doctor spotted us and rushed over. My heart was in my throat as I rose to meet him.

“Your daughter’s fine” he said, smiling. “Congratulations, Grandma! It’s a boy!”

He had to say “Grandma”. My husband breathed a sigh of relief and began passing out cigars. I sat silent, relieved for my daughter, uncertain of the reality before me.

I finally walked over to the glass windows of the nursery, where “Grandpa,” beaming proudly, had preceded me. I looked down upon a tiny, screaming infant, who, with flailing arms and red, wrinkled face, was a miniature of my daughter. He stopped crying, and gazed up at me with unfocused eyes, appraising me as I did him, his mouth turning up in a crooked grin. I loved him at once. Suddenly the word “Grandma,” the most beautiful word in the world, seemed to fit like a pair of broken-in running shoes.

#

Micki Peluso is a Journalist, and humorist, writing for several newspapers, plus publishing short fiction and non-fiction in various magazines and e-zines, winning many contests and awards. Her short works appear in a half dozen book collections, including the Reader’s Favorite International Award for two short stories, in “The Speed of Dark” published by Clayton Bye. Her first book, . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang, a funny, bittersweet story of love, loss and survival won the Nesta Silver Award for writing that “Builds Character.” “Don’t Pluck the Duck” soon to be released is a collection of her published slice of life, short fiction and non-fiction. http://www.amazon.com/Micki-Peluso/e/B002BLZ7JK

 

 

a

Make a Conscious Choice by C. Clayton Bye

Many years ago, while on an evening stroll in Toronto, I came upon a young couple who were being harassed by three thugs. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the young man was in the kind of situation that tends to turn out badly. In fact, I figured one of two things was going to happen: he was going to receive a beating, or he was going to lose face with his girl.

Everything about the fellow’s demeanour indicated he’d reached a similar conclusion. Take your pick of emotions. There was fear, frustration, anger, even humiliation: each appeared and disappeared on this victim’s face like the shifting scenes in a suspense film.

One of the aggressors laughed, and I found myself thinking about what most people would do when encountering a situation such as this. The answer which appeared in my head was to mind my own business. No surprises there, right? However, I profess to be a Contrarian. According to my personal definition, this is a person who always considers doing the opposite of what most people do—as a way to identify opportunities to be extraordinary.

I walked up, inserted myself between the two lovers and quietly told the young man I was there to help. The response was wonderful to behold. He drew himself up to full height, his face relaxed and hope shone in his eyes. Then, obtaining a silent nod of agreement from me, and giving the girl’s hand a quick squeeze, he stepped forward to face the bullies.

Keeping my mouth shut, I let my new friend take control of the situation, allowed him the chance to look good in front of his lady. He handled himself well, and the thugs, visibly uncomfortable with the new odds, were soon gone.

A similar event was recently reported by local media. Unfortunately, the results were tragic. A young man attempted to help some people in trouble and was knifed to death. No one else was hurt, but a bright future was cancelled in an instant.

Individuals reading my column might ask, “Doesn’t the preceding story prove it pays to mind your own business?” My answer would be, “No!” I believe the young man who lost his life did the right thing. I’m sorry he died, but I’m also certain he acted as he did because he understood that the safe alternative, the choice of inaction, of tolerating a wrong or an evil, would have made him part of the problem.

The habit of taking responsibility for yourself, of consistently making the right choice, rather than the safe or easy choice, is the most difficult way of life I know. And we, as a society, need more of it! How many times has that tiny, seventy-something lady walked past your doorstep in frigid weather, bags full of groceries scraping the ground, without someone coming to her aid? What about the foul-mouthed teenagers at the mall? Why  is their behaviour tolerated? Closer to home, who monitors your own decision making? What checks and balances do you have in place for those times when your behavioural choices are less than perfect?

Doing nothing to change what’s wrong in and about your life is a choice. It’s a form of behaviour. And in spite of what you might have heard to the contrary, when you say and do hurtful things, you are a hurtful person. This modern notion that we aren’t defined by our actions is, in my opinion, complete nonsense. We’re nothing if we aren’t our behaviour.

You and I don’t have to be perfect. We just need to be consistent in what we choose to do. The best analogy I can offer comes from baseball. A player with a .300 batting average is a treasure, yet he gets on base just three in every ten trips to the plate. He understands that if you keep swinging the best way you know how, you’ll get through the outs and achieve some hits. We can do the same.

When you see a person bending under the weight of their load, make a conscious choice to help. The next time you’re tempted to say or do something in anger, bite your tongue. Better yet, find something nice to say and do. Make the responsible choice. Then make another. And another. And another.

Sure, you’ll take some strikes. But your batting average will improve over time. That’s what practice is all about. Actions create results; we are what we say and do.

 #

Clayton Bye is a writer, editor and publisher. The author of 9 books and a varied collection of short stories, poems, articles and hundreds of reviews, he has also published  3 award winning anthologies. Shope at his estore: http://www.amazon.com/Clayton-Bye/e/B002BWULO0

 

…AND WE THANK THEE

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth
by Jennie A. Brownscombe. (1914)
A mythologized painting showing
Plymouth settlers feasting with Plains Indians.
en.wikipedia.org

 

Spicy, aromatic whiffs of pumpkin pie, plum pudding, and candied sweet potatoes mingle with and enhance the hearty, mouth-watering smell of roasted, stuffed turkeys. Thanksgiving, a harvest festival thanking the Creator for a bountiful year, has remained virtually unchanged since the pilgrims in Massachusetts shared that first feast with Chief Massoit and some of his braves.

On Staten Island, New York, as in homes across the nation, people will gather in love and harmony to give thanks. Holiday fare on the Island will not differ greatly from traditional foods, except for the addition of ethnic dishes, such as home-made ravioli, succulent tomato sauce, crusty loaves of Italian bread, lasagne and delectable pastries indigenous to the New York area. In Italian homes, especially, a nine course meal is not unusual.

The turkey will dominate the day, whether served in homes, hospital rooms, soup kitchens for the needy, or meals on wheels for housebound senior citizens. Restaurants across the Island will also defer to the turkey, serving those who wish to celebrate, but hate to cook. Thanksgiving is a holiday that reminds people of the past, celebrates the present, and offers hope for the future; a day that gratifies body and soul.

Although Governor William Bradford, of the Plymouth Colony issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1621, the concept of giving thanks is as old as the need for worship, and dates back to the time when humanity realized its dependence upon a Higher Power.The colonists of Plymouth observed three days of feasting, games and contests following their plentiful harvest in the autumn of 1621. The journal of Governor Bradford describes the preparations for that first Thanksgiving: “They began now to gather in the swell harvest they had, and to fit their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty… Besides waterfowl, there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. . . . Which made many afterward write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned, but true reports.”

Staten Island, at that time, was a beautiful lush wilderness, sparsely inhabited by the Aqehonga Indians, who fished, hunted deer, raccoon, and fowl, and harvested corn, pumpkins, berries and fruit. Settlers arriving from England and Holland in 1630, added sausage, head cheese and pies to the abundant game and vegetation on the Island. Twenty years ago, it was common practice for butchers to hang plucked turkeys in store windows, while grocers displayed fresh produce and jugs of apple cider.

On October 31, 1777, the Continental Congress appointed Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, and Daniel Roberdau, to draft a resolution “to set aside a day of thanksgiving for the signal success lately obtained over the enemies of the United States.” Their solution was accepted on November 1,1777.

George Washington issued a presidential proclamation appointing November 26,1789, as a day of general thanksgiving for the adoption of the constitution. The first national Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1863, due to the unrelenting efforts of Mrs. Sarah J. Hale. While editor of The Ladies Magazine in Boston, she penned countless editorials urging the uniform observance throughout the United States, of one day dedicated to giving thanks for blessings received throughout the year. She mailed personal letters to the governors of all the states, and to President Lincoln, persuading many governors to set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving. Her editorial was titled,”Our National Thanksgiving”, and began with a biblical quote: “Then he said to them, go your way and eat the fat and drink the sweet wine and send persons unto them for whom nothing is prepared; For this day is holy unto the lord; neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the lord is your strength.” Nehemiah, VIII:10

President Lincoln, moved by Mrs. Hale’s editorial and letter, issued the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1863, which reads in part: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of almighty God.” Lincoln designated Thanksgiving as a day “to subdue the anger which has produced and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion.” The northern states, in response to the proclamation, held services in churches of all denominations, and gave appropriate sermons.

President Roosevelt, on December 26, 1941, approved the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving, to be observed in every state and the District of Columbia.

The first international Thanksgiving was held in Washington, D.C. in 1909. It was the brain-child of Rev. Dr. William T. Russell, rector of St. Patrick’s Church of Washington. Dr. Russell called it a Pan American celebration, and it was attended by representatives of all the Latin American countries. The Catholic Church was chosen for the services, since Catholicism is the religion of the Latin American countries.

St. Patrick’s Church published an account of the celebration, noting that “it was the first time in the history of the Western World that all the republics were assembled for a religious function…When asked what prompted Dr. Russell in planning a Pan American Thanksgiving celebration, Dr. Russell said, “My purpose was to bring into closer relations the Republics of the Western World. As Christianity had first taught the brotherhood of man, it was appropriate that the celebration should take the form of a solemn mass.” The Pan American celebration continued from year to year.

Some Eastern cities adopted the old world custom of dressing children in the over-sized clothes of their elders, masking their faces, and having them march through the streets blowing tin horns. The children often carried baskets, and solicited fruits and vegetables from house to house to help celebrate the day. This tradition was adapted from an old Scotch wassail custom.

The warm, loving atmosphere of this holiday has been immortalized in song, literature, and poetry, such as the well-known poem by Lydia Maria Child: “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go. . . .”

Thanksgiving signals the onset of the joyous holiday season which continues until New Year’s Day. The only sad note is the number of people killed on the highways each year, en route to their destinations. Thanksgiving also proclaims the arrival of Santa Claus, who assumes temporary residence at the Staten Island Mall, which will be ablaze with Christmas decorations. Those shoppers brave enough to venture out on “Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, can take advantage of Island sales.

Today, more than ever, Thanksgiving is intrinsic to our time. The need to give thanks is profoundly American. As a people, we have pursued idealism, struggled for individual freedoms, and enjoyed the fruits of capitalism. Like the starship “Enterprise” on Star Trek, Americans have “dared to go where no man has gone before.” The act of giving thanks acknowledges the greater force that inspires this nation, encouraging and demanding excellence. This Thanksgiving, when stomachs are bulging with savory, traditional food, and hearts are full with love for family and friends, it is fitting to give thanks.

Stand up on this Thanksgiving Day, stand
upon your feet. Believe in man. Soberly and
with clear eyes, believe in your own time and
place. There is not, and there never has
been a better time, or a better place to live.
 

Micki Peluso began writing after a personal tragedy, as a catharsis for her grief. This lead to several publications in Victimology: An International Magazine & a 25 year career in Journalism. Her first book was published in 2008; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called, . . .AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG which won the Nesta CBC Silver award for writing that builds character. She’s presently finishing a collection of short fiction, slice of life stories & essays, in a book called, DON’T PLUCK THE DUCK.

 

October 26, 2014: Mother-In-Law Day

 

Mothers-in-laws are a favorite butt of jokes for stand-up comedians.  Rumble seats in the old coupes and roadsters were called mother-in-law seats because those who rode in them were out of the passenger compartment, and presumably out of the driver’s hair.  If you google “mother-in-law jokes” you will have page after page of sites listed.  A few of the less offensive ones are listed below:

Adam the happiest man who ever lived because he didn’t have a mother‑in‑law.

My mother‑in‑law’s second car is a broom.

A man in a bar says to his friend, “My mother-in-law is an angel.”  His friend replies, “You’re lucky.  Mine’s still alive.”

Q: What’s the difference between an outlaw and my mother-in‑law?   A: An outlaw is wanted!

The definition of mixed emotions is seeing your mother‑in‑law drive over the cliff in your new Porsche.

So is Mother-In-Law Day a joke, too?  Absolutely not.  Started in 1934 by a newspaper editor in Amaraillo, Texas, it is now observed on the fourth Sunday in October.  Or not.  Over the last eighty years it has not exactly caught fire.   But do mothers-in-law deserve the almost universal vilification and lack of recognition they have received?  Maybe some do, for there are both good ones and bad ones.  Yet, if anyone suggested ignoring Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because some mothers and fathers have not deserved to be honored, they would be booed and driven from the stage in a shower of rotten tomatoes.  In that spirit, some of us who had or have a great mother-in-law have written about them to honor them on Mother-In-Law Day.

From the moment we first met, my mother-in-law and I hit it off.  She was attractive, lively and had an incredible wit.  If she were angry with someone, that wit could have a razor edge.  However, in the 36 years I knew her, she never turned her quick mind against me.  In fact, my wife (an only child) used to say that she knew we had to work any disagreements out because she could never “run home to Mama.”  She said that Mama would have sent her back to me, her buddy.  After college, I ended up working in my in-laws’ family business.  I ran one of two locations and had pretty much total control of its day-to-day operation.  They also almost always had a house close to my wife and me.  For 16 years, they even had one on the same property as ours.  We went on a number of cruises as a family over the years.  Normally, that would be a recipe for disaster: working, living and playing in such close proximity with family often causes friction.  Such was not the case with my mother-in-law.  While there were a few occasions when my father-in-law and I had problems, my mother-in-law stood as Horatio on the bridge against his angry outbursts (which he did have).  Her rapier wit provided a great defense.

My mother-in-law thought that the term “in-law” was demeaning to me and seldom used it.  At a dance at a country club to which my in-laws (sorry) belonged, we danced together.  A woman who was also a member asked her who I was.  “My son, Ron,” she replied without hesitation.  The lady smiled.  “Oh, I can see the resemblance.”  We both had a hard time refraining from laughter until we were out of the woman’s earshot.

To say we were simpatico would be an understatement.  We both enjoyed a similar sense of humor, oft considered warped by those who did not think in the same way we did.  We both were avid readers, devouring books.  We both enjoyed crossword puzzles.  We both took Latin in high school, the “dead language.”

Sadly, she was stricken with Alzheimer’s.  Even as this horrendous disease attacked her, she kept her sense of humor.  “There’s one advantage,” she once told me.  “I can read the same book over and over again.”  As the disease progressed, she forgot my name, but she would look at me and say, “You’re a good man.”  After her passing, I wrote her eulogy, which was sent to all who knew and loved her.  It was a woeful duty and a great honor.  As her son, it was also my right.  So I now honor her memory on Mother-In-Law Day, although Altera Matris Diem, translated from Latin as “Other Mother’s Day,” would be much more appropriate and I am sure one she would prefer.

For about eight years, Ron Cherry has written a column about classic cars and street rods in The Union newspaper. His short stories have been in several online magazines, including The Dan O’Brien Project, Devilfish Review, Writing Raw, and Ineffective Ink.  He has two book on Amazon, Christmas Cracker and Foul Shot, with another due before the end of the year.

www.rlcherry.com

Mil- Ron's true friendMy Altera Matris Diem and true friend.



Determined—Yep, That Would Be the Word
By Kenneth Weene

We hadn’t expected that call, in the middle of the night, like in the movies.  I answered.  “What?”  It took a moment to register.  “How?”  Then the news hit.  “Oh, I’m so sorry!”

My father-in-law was on the phone. His words gurgled through tears. Isabel, his wife, my mother-in-law, was dead.  She had gone into the hospital for a hip replacement and was coming out with toe tags.  “An opportunistic fungal infection,” we were told.

After a few more hours of sleep—fitful at best—we packed and headed for Washington, where Sid, my father-in-law, awaited us.

While we packed, we talked about what we would need.  Funerals and sitting shiva meant clothes we didn’t usually wear.  My immediate reaction was to pack not a suit or sports jacket but sweaters,. Why? Because Isabel had knitted all my sweaters, and I had many.  Actually, I still have plenty of them, even after all these years and having given some away to charity.

Isabel knitted with the same determination she brought to every task.

Some years earlier, my wife and I had joined Sid and Isabel for a trip up the Pacific Coast.  While Sid drove nonstop, swinging into parking lots and right out again unless my wife or I demanded he let us jump out to actually see the sights, Isabel didn’t even glance out the window.  She was knitting.  A sweater for me, one for Jay, their son, perhaps one for Sid, on occasion one for my wife.  The needles never stopped clicking, and the results were always gorgeous, but not as gorgeous as the giant redwoods or the coastal views she was too busy to appreciate.  But, she was always determined to finish that sweater and get on to the next.

My wife Roz insisted I had to wear a suit, at least for the funeral. She was, of course, right.  After all, Isabel was also a lady, a very proper lady.  She would have been scandalized by me wearing a sweater, even one she had knitted.  We compromised;  a sweater would do for the house, when people came to offer their condolences.

After the service, we sat around and told stories about Isabel—yes, me in a sweater.  We talked of the dinner parties she threw and the work that went into them; each dish carefully made, with the table groaning under properly garnished plates, always including the chopped liver that she made especially for me.  We talked about the time she refused to leave work early even though there was a major snowstorm coming.  That evening, her car got stuck and she had to walk the last mile home in high heels through deep snow.  It never occurred to her to call a cab.  She just trudged on.  We talked about her reaction when Sid’s business had failed.  Isabel had insisted on going to work and helping pay off every creditor, leaving no one holding the bag of their bankruptcy.  Sid might have folded, but not Isabel.  Isabel never  folded.  She was a strong woman, a lady, and, above all, determined.

Life itches and torments Kenneth Weene like pesky flies. Annoyed, he picks up a pile of paper to slap at the buzzing and often whacks himself on the head. Each whack is another story. At least having half-blinded himself, he has learned to not wave the pencil about. Ken will, however, write on until the last gray cell has retreated and there are no longer these strange ideas demanding his feeble efforts. So many poems, stories, novels; and more to come. http://www.kennethweene.com

mil-keninsweaterYes, this is one of the sweaters.


“Mom-in-law”— My True Mother
By
Micki Peluso

Our first meeting was, shall we say, rather rocky.  Six months before, I had eloped with her son and the two of us were about to tell her and my father-in-law that we married outside the Church.  Not only that, I was three months pregnant.  She wept. Her husband muttered things in Italian whose meaning needed no translation. I was almost 18 and she was in her late 40s.  At first, her tears flowed because marrying outside of the Church was a mortal sin.  However, she rose to the occasion with dignity, compassion and an iron will.

Butch, my new husband, and I lived in his parents’ home but were placed in separate bedrooms until we were married “legally, in God’s eyes.” This lovely, persistent woman walked the hall nightly, making certain we never got together in the Biblical sense. Yet she liked me and I liked her. She was a health-food fanatic and I constantly slipped contraband like cookies, milk and the dreaded white bread into her home to compensate.  She served us good steak, which she broiled into beef jerky, with boiled escarole.

….Graciously, “Mom” looked the other way on my junk-food smuggling.  After all, she’d achieved her goal by coercing me into being tutored to raise my children Catholic in order to marry her son.  That was difficult for a feisty Baptist, raised on “fire and brimstone.”  After instructing me, the young priest was sent to a home for distressed clerics.  I felt vindicated.  Mom and I had a draw on this one

After the marriage in the Church rectory (at which time Butch fainted), Mom threw a huge reception with dozens of relatives, all Italian, all looking alike, all loving me unconditionally. After our first child was born, we moved to three hours away, where jobs were better.  I remember Mom driving up to see our two room apartment over roach-infested dry-cleaners. She once more wept and begged us to come back to her home.  We didn’t.

Over the next 10 years we had five more children and Mom babysat them whenever we were away.  The kids worshipped her — I often thought more than me.  Whenever I needed her, she drove to wherever we lived to help.  My own mother was always “too busy.”  The only time in my life that my mother-in-law couldn’t be there for me was when my 14-year-old Noelle was killed by a DWI.  Her intense grief paralyzed her and, like my own family, she suffered alone for a long time.  She had spent each night for ten days praying outside the ICU, hoping for a miracle for her granddaughter.

As my other children grew, married and gave her great-grandchildren, holiday celebrations were held at her home where she prepared delectable feasts, a far cry from her earlier disasters.  She was the Matriarch, loving, patient, yet stern in her beliefs which she expounded upon whenever she felt that a family member had strayed off the path of righteousness.

After my father-in-law passed away at the age of 79, Mom devoted her life to the Church and helping others. She maintained her wonderful, 150-year-old house into her 90s and had the strength of ten women.  Now, at 98, her blood tests are that of a 20-year-old.  She’s often tired and doesn’t do much, but is still able to live in her beloved home.

I call her every day and together we reminisce the wonderful past days and years — the good and the bad.  She has outlived her entire immediate family, older friends and a few doctors.  I treasure our calls as I try to prod her memory which is failing; dreading the day when this woman, who’s been mother and friend for most of my life, passes on to another Realm — to meet her Creator whom she’s served devotedly all her life.  She will leave a void within my heart that cannot be filled.

Micki Peluso is a journalist, book reviewer, editor and author of . And the Whippoorwill Sang. Her short stories are in several anthologies and her next book, Don’t Pluck the Duck, a collection of published essays, slice of life and short fiction will be released by December of 2014.

 MIL- Pelosi clanMom-in-law with the Peluso family

 

VIRGIE AND HER OLD CHEVETTE
By Sal Buttaci

 My mother-in-law Virgie Bateman poked along the winding roads of War Mountain in West Virginia on her way to do some food shopping at Jones & Spry. Her 1980 Chevette, once upon a time vibrant candy-apple red, now an almost dull orange, chugged its mechanical best to keep itself from stalling. When her husband  died in August 1989, Virgie  started driving again. Except for Sunday church, shopping, and an occasional visit to friends in the next holler, Virgie’s eyesore sat resting on the gravel outside her house.

Sharon and I shared the dream of one day cruising to Hawaii or lacing up and down the boot of Italy or buying first editions of bestsellers by one or more of our favorite 19th Century authors. With pleasure we could take that plunge and hopefully dive into one of those dreams. But then what about Virgie?

How would we feel dancing the night away in a Roman nightclub or lounging on the beach of Waikiki or walking out victors in an auction deal that net us an original Dickens, if Sharon’s mom had to tackle War Mountain in that old Chevette, shaky on its last wheels? Where would the joy be in that?

The grandest dream of my life has always been to realize the grandest dream of someone else. No way could Virgie Bateman’s dream come true unless Sharon and I won the Big Lottery, that in itself a dream, but if it had come to pass we would have laid aside our own wishes, and attended to hers.

Often we’d delight ourselves imagining the look on Virgie’s face when her blue eyes alighted on her sparkling white Toyota Corolla CE automatic sedan sitting like a miracle on the gravel her old Chevette no longer occupied. Could there be three happier people in all of West Virginia or anywhere else in the world?

Well, it never happened. We did not win the lottery. Virgie drove her old Chevette until it puttered its last, then, instead of returning to its graveled spot in front of Virgie’s house, it bummed a ride with a tow truck on its way to the county junkyard.

On January 14, 2013, brain cancer took Sharon’s mother away from us. She was eighty-three and we could hardly believe within days Virgie would be gone. She digressed from her usual cheery self to a hospital deathbed in Morgantown. How surreal it seemed!

Sometimes we hear comics cast aspersions on mothers-in-law. They label them meddlesome, demanding, opinionated, possessive, and a list of other negative name-calling. Virgie Bateman was none of these. I loved her as I loved my own mother. She was kind, affectionate, God-fearing, just, and everything good about a woman who had lived her life according to God’s Word and who loved her daughters and the spouses they chose with all her heart.

My dream for us now is to one day win for our souls life’s greatest fortune –– Heaven, where Sharon and I will meet Virgie again and stand with her in God’s glorious Light.

#

Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available athttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci

His book A Family of Sicilians… which critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008
He lives in West Virginia with Sharon the love of his life.

www.salbuttaci.blogsport.com
www.twitter.com/sambpoet
www.facebook.com/salvatore.buttaci

Mil-Virgie Bateman,Sharon's mom in 2006Virgie Bateman, Sharon’s mom in 2006


Views from a Hospital Room by Micki Peluso

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Personality traits differ significantly among hospital patients, Physicians and caretakers, which can include: sympathy/aloofness, empathy/impatience, caring/apathy, patience and intolerance. Mistakes and miracles occur almost on an equal basis; patients, who should live, die and those who should have died live. Hospitals are buzzing hives of contradictions.

My bed is one of four in a well-lit room with large windows displaying the dull gray tones of a broad flat roof from the floor below. It’s a Cardiac Care Center (CCU), so all of us are hooked up to monitors, which I find comforting. This is not my first time here, yet I note changes since my last visit. Maybe my “rate our performance” opinion letters were actually read.

The nurses are exceptionally pleasant, insisting that we ring the buzzer if we need them — that is not usually the case. The Personal Care Attendants (PCA) are surprisingly young with as many men as women. They smile, ask about our lives, our comfort and show genuine warmth and caring.” Ryan,” a very young handsome man works tirelessly as a nurse’s assistant. His wide smile can’t help but make patients smile back — a beatific smile. He offers to help bathe us, but I pass. He’s about the age of my grandsons and I really can’t handle that, preferring the female PCAs who are no less enthusiastic in doing their jobs. Ryan will soon graduate as a nurse.

Another PCA, working years to support his family, decides it’s time to make a career move into nursing. He’s a no-nonsense guy in his late 30’s, and while he doesn’t radiate joy in his work, his caring is deeply sincere and conscientious. One young man, looking like a teenage football player, sits patiently feeding pureed food to a demented old woman for a solid hour, until her tray is empty. He never sighs with impatience or abruptness, but handles her as a mother would tend her young child. The woman, who can only live in the moment, won’t remember this selfless act but can, in the now, as it unfolds. I think to myself that this young man is a true angel.

Judith, once a high–income professional, upon retiring, grew bored and chose to give herself to others in the lowly occupation of hospital cleanliness maintenance. A beautiful woman, she literally races from room to room, scrubbing, mopping, and disinfecting, all the while singing cheerful songs. Her face beams with happiness while disbursing gems of wisdom and optimism to all of us. I give her a signed copy of my book and she treasures it like gold. I feel my own discomfort receding just being in her presence.

One of my roommates is discharged late at night and I am annoyed when a maintenance man comes in, turning on all the bright lights, to clean and prepare the bed for an incoming patient. Then as I watch him diligently scrub every section of the last patient’s area, humming while he works, I realized that he likes his job and we talk as he works.

Once while speaking to one of my nurses, she tells me how she lost her husband and then her home and possessions during Super Storm Sandy the year before. We were discussing my book, which I always keep on my nightstand. I ask her how she could be so happy and smiling all the time.” Life is full of losses,” she says.” I’ve learned to accept that and move forward with my life.” Her attitude inspires me to rethink my own attitudes toward loss, pain and suffering.

Hospitals are far from perfect. The downside for me is a botched simple pacemaker battery change, which leads to five more surgeries and six months in and out of the hospital. A boy scout with a manual could have done a better job. Statistics report that approximately 400,000 deaths occur each year in hospitals, due to Doctor/nurse error or negligence, and three of every 25 patients contact a potentially, deadly infections. I hold the dubious honor of contracting both a UTI (urinary tract infection) and a VRE (Vancomycin Resistant Enterititus) intestinal infection. It is a humiliating experience as the “Swab Team” burst into my room in Haz-med uniforms, whisking me off to isolation. I did not have the infection but colonized it, being contagious only to a small percentage of patients with a gene defect.

There are also times when I have to tell a new and experienced nurse that he needs more practice putting in IV needles. Another time, one has to be reminded to use gloves before touching me. One day after getting no sleep from the pain, I take a late morning nap. My new roommate is suddenly surrounded by doctors as her monitors bleep and flash in alarm. The nurses assumed she is sleeping when in fact she stopped breathing and nearly dies. Since her heart rate is monitored that should not have happened. Mere coincidence causes her doctor to be visiting at that exact moment. Her life is saved.

There is much more to tell but to sum it up, while hospitality has improved dramatically, there is still much to be done for the protection of patients from errors in hospital-contracted diseases. Don’t even ask about hospital food. Being on a cardiac, salt free diet, I have the kitchen manager bought to me to discuss the salt content of his meals, which is far above my allowance; and still have to have my meals made and brought in from home. One food server tells me that no matter what I mark on my menu, all patients get the same thing. I believe him. There’s a possibility I might not be allowed back to this institution. My last opinion poll on hospital overall performance might ensure that. And that’s okay with me.

 

Bio: 

Micki Peluso is the author of the widely acclaimed memoir …And The Whippoorwill Sang. She also writes humor and  occasional pieces about life. You can find her book at http://www.amazon.com/Whippoorwill-Sang-Micki-Peluso/dp/1466497076/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347680072&sr=1-1&keywords=Micki+Peluso and join her on Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/811377-micki-peluso?utm_medium=email&utm_source=follower