Saturday, August 18, 2018

Have a Good Day!

I recently returned to the church - not just to the religion, but to the actual brick and mortar church of my childhood. It's something I had been thinking about doing for more than a year.

I left the church many years ago, and although I had occasionally tried to return to it, too many things had changed and I felt like a stranger there. The Mass was different. The Latin was gone, taking with it all the beautiful words I'd loved as a child, words like "Kyria," "Benedictus," and "In Nomine Patris," words that had flowed down from the altar and made me feel intimately connected to the ritual.

And although I returned to the church of my childhood (which my daughter calls my Catholic-Baptist Church because there are a lot of “Amens” during the service), and although it does not have the Latin I loved, what it does have is an extraordinary amount of music and a choir that can raise the roof to the heavens.
                                                
But because that particular church is almost an hour away from my home, I can’t always attend it. Lately, I have been attending a variety of Catholic churches as well as one Baptist church for a memorial service. Once I even took my ten-year old-granddaughter, Chloe, and my five-year-old great-granddaughter, Aubrey, (both of whom behaved beautifully) to church. For a moment as I watched them braid the hymnal ribbons, I found myself wondering, why am I here? and answering myself immediately, knowing I was there because I felt loved and comforted there. 

But if there is another reason that I go to church, it is because, at the end of every Mass, the priest lifts his hand, gives the congregation his blessing, and tells us all to go in peace. Which makes me wonder why no one else ever so easily gives us their blessing. But then again perhaps when we say: Have a good day, we are giving to one another, if not an actual blessing, a wish for each of us to go in peace.

My book, Dear Elvis, is available at amzn.to/2uPSFtE

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Once Upon a Dream

I don't know how many of you frequent the Goodreads website, but I do and I decided that this year I would take their reading challenge and commit myself to reading fifty books, and I am happy to report that I am two books ahead of schedule, which amazes me because I am not a fast reader. I am also still re-reading my journals and although I am almost finished I still have the four or five I wrote this past year to complete. While reading, I found this rather strange entry under the date November 2, 2017 (which just happens to be All Souls Day).  

"I woke up this morning and, with my eyes still closed, my first thought was of God and my second was about Don (a friend of mine who died three years earlier). 

"When I think of Don I think of him as being in God's protective care. Not that I'm not, the difference being that I believe that he can feel God's presence and that even though I want to feel it, there seems to be something between us - something that resembles a  thick, heavy fog. 

"Last night I dreamt that Cindi (my daughter) and I were going someplace. I was driving but I took a wrong turn and we wound up on an unfamiliar freeway. The dream changed and I was driving through the city I grew up in, Philadelphia. I thought I recognized where I was, but I wasn't sure. The place was crowded. 

"Then the dream changed again. This time I was on a bus so crowded I decided to get off. Again I thought I knew where I was but then I wasn't sure because this place, too, was crowded with pedestrians the way New York City is. I started walking until I finally stopped to ask someone which section of the city we were in.  

"She said she didn't know. Then, pointing ahead of her, she said, 'All I know is that North is this way.' I was happy then because I lived north of the city and I thought that if I just kept walking I would get home. 


"And that's when I woke up and thought about God, and then about Don, and about another dream I once had, a dream I never forgot because that night I dreamt that I died and went to heaven. When I got there I looked around and said, 'So this is where heaven is. I've passed this place a million times and never even noticed it.'

"So maybe that's where heaven is. Someplace near. Someplace just north of here."

And as a postscript:

I started writing this post yesterday and finished working on it this morning. I remember looking at the time when I finished. It was 8:23 a.m. An hour later I learned that my mother-in-law, who taught me tenacity - even if I did learn it late - died this morning at 8:23.


I would like to honor her here with this picture my daughter Cindi drew of her on Wednesday and finished on Thursday:


     
                                                
                    Willee  Hill   
             Born February 8, 1926
                Died July 28, 2018
                   Rest well, Mom 
                We will meet again. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A Poem for Zelda

A while back, I signed up for a poetry class. Because the class was being taught at a local library, the instructor decided to call it “The Perfect Place to Do Research.” One of the assignments for that class was to write “a found poem,” which is a poem that is created by taking words, phrases, or even whole passages from other sources and turning them into poetry.  

Because I happened to be re-reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby just before taking that class, I decided to use that book and another of his books, Tender is the Night, as my source material. Like so many others, I have always been intrigued by Fitzgerald’s lyricism. In Tender, I found two phrases which crept into my mind and would not leave. They were “she did understand” and “she understood well.” They made me think of Zelda, Fitzgerald’s beautiful and mentally fragile wife. They made me wonder if Zelda knew how precarious her mental health was. They made me want to get into her head and write about Zelda. (Talk about doing research!  Inside Zelda’s head was not the perfect place. But once the idea came to me, it would not go away.)  

I wrote about all of this once before on my blog but I never included the poem, which I recently “found” (Honest!) tucked into a tiny corner of my computer. I’d like to share it with you now.

For Zelda

She did understand
She understood well the
Visions from the unquiet darkness
Inside her mind.- 
She knew the ins and outs,
The ups and downs,
The extremes on either side of her mind.
She knew the dark blue mornings,
Steel gray afternoons and deep black nights
When the rigmarole inside her mind
Was snatched
And turned
From distress
To nonsense,
And then to horror.
Oh, the horror inside her mind!
Yes, she did understand.
She understood well
The extremes on either side of her mind,
The ups and downs,
The ins and outs -
Of her mind...her mind



Saturday, July 7, 2018

Whitney

Usually, when I go to a movie I am one of the first ones up and out of my seat as the movie ends. But after the last movie I saw, Kevin Macdonald's Whitney, I just sat there as though glued to my seat, stunned and unable to move and intent on listening to every note of the song that was playing as the credits rolled -  her 1992 hit I Have Nothing. 
During the two-hour documentary, which reminds us (as if we needed reminding) of her mind-blowing voice, her incredible range and her silk-like tones, we see Whitney in every possible way - sweet, sensual, angry, wasted, weird, witty, wild and wonderful; and as we sit there we can't help wondering: Whitney what happened? until, about three-quarters into the movie, when Macdonald drops a bombshell that goes a long way into explaining why Whitney was the way she was. 

If you loved Whitney Houston's voice, I encourage you to go see this new film which not only sheds light on what drove her to excess but gives us yet another chance to listen to that incredible and unforgettable voice and to remind us of why we will always love her.

My memoir, Dear Elvis, a story about grief and loss, is available at amzn.to/2uPSFtE

Monday, June 25, 2018

Et Tu Augustus

“The fool doth think he is wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool,” are the words of William Shakespeare and as I read them I wonder which condition more accurately describes my own words in the post I called "Am I Crazy?"

In that post, I was worried about how after parking my school bus on the last day of the school year, I would fill all my "idle" time this summer. Now, however, I am wondering what it was I was so worried about for I have found plenty to do, like right now, which is sitting on the back deck reading and intermittently closing my eyes and feeling as though I am in heaven - in absolute heaven where even the names of the days of the week have become meaningless. I have fallen in love with this schedule, which is no schedule at all, and with not knowing the time, and even avoiding the news – avoiding the news most of all. 

A moment ago I returned to the book I am reading, John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, and read the next paragraph, which has just become my favorite paragraph in the ten chapters I have read so far, a paragraph spoken by seventeen-year-old Augustus to sixteen-year-old Hazel, who has terminal cancer:

I am in love with you, and I'm not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I'm in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout in the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have, and I am in love with you.

And although I don’t believe any modern-day teenager talks that way, nor do I believe that love is just a shout in the void, and that in his The Theory of Everything, Stephen Hawkins wrote that the sun will not swallow the earth for at least another 5000 million years (more or less), I do find Augustus' words to be touching and tender (and kind of Shakespearean) because I know that falling in love, even falling in love with “idle” time, is some kind of ecstasy from which not time, nor place, nor even the news of the day can deter us. 

My memoir, Dear Elvis, is available at amzn.to/2uPSFtE


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

This Side of Paradise

Last week as I backed my school bus into its parking spot, I promised myself a trip to the Jersey shore for making it safely through the school year, especially during those arduous days in March when we had three - or was it four - Nor'easters.
A view from the rear of the hotel
So here I am sitting in a beach chair with the entire Atlantic Ocean at my feet!

It is hot today, hotter than it was yesterday or the day before, but oh so incredibly beautiful, I think as I relax and listen to the cry of a child as he plunges into an icy cold wave.

I sit back and close my eyes and listen too, to the roar of the ocean as it lulls me into a state of deep relaxation, a state from which my mind will inevitably drift to some memory from the past or to some hope for the future until the call of a seagull or the voice of a child brings me back again to this moment of bliss.


Yesterday, after spending almost nine hours on the beach, I "walked the boards" intent on getting those decadent fried Oreo cookies that are dipped in batter, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and served with a side of chocolate sauce. (It was the first time I got to eat all five of them by myself!)

It really is hot today, I think again as I move my chair closer to the water's edge and watch the remnants of a wave inching its way toward my toes, making me squeal with delight.

Later as I fold up my chair and walk back across the sand to my car, I slowly become aware of the "imaginary" song playing in my head, a song with lyrics that wish every winter day could be just like Christmas, and every summer day just one more day at the beach.


My memoir, Dear Elvis, is available at amzn.to/2uPSFtE

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Thank You!


Back in June 2013, I went to my first Philadelphia Writer’s Conference (where I won a prize for a selection from my memoir Rude Awakening) and ran into my writing teacher, Richard D. Bank.  

“Have you signed up to pitch to an agent?” he asked when he saw me standing alone in a crowded room.

“Yes,” I said even though I wasn't sure what pitching an agent meant.

“For what time?”

“Two-fifteen.” 

 “It’s two-thirty,” he said, looking at his watch. “Look! Over there. No one’s sitting there,” he said as he took my hand and pulled me toward a table where a very good looking man was sitting. 

“What do I do?” I asked my teacher over my shoulder as I sat down across from the agent.

“Talk about your book, ” he whispered.

I swallowed hard and started talking to the agent who was looking totally bored until I told him the title of my memoir was Rude Awakening, and about the turbulence at the heart of the story. After I blundered through for several more minutes, he spoke. "What you need to do," he said, "is start a blog and get a following. Get other people interested in your work.".

Having no idea what “start a blog” meant, I nodded and thanked him. Then, I quickly signed up for a seminar on blogging, where I was told to “go as broad as possible. Write about as many experiences as you can.”

Later, in my journal, I began my plan of attack, deciding I wanted to write about my day to day life as both a school bus driver and as a writer, and about how I happened to write a memoir. I wanted, too, to write about ordinary things like: 

Driving to the shore to see the ocean for the first time in a year
Taking a risk and playing it safe 
Turning off the TV and listening to the silence
Exercising and walking,
Meditating and mindfulness practice 
Taking myself out to dinner and a movie
Joining a reading group
Joining a writing group
Being in a church
Walking alone
And about falling in love - with a book, a man, a child - and with everything.

And while I have written extensively on some of these things, on others I have barely begun. So here's to creativity, for you, for me, and for all of us. 

But, most of all, to my readers, who at one point during the past five years helped this blog to garner more than 1500 hits per week, I want to say thank you. If you have liked, shared, commented or simply read my posts know that your support is deeply appreciated.  



My second memoir, Dear Elvis, is available at amzn.to/2uPSFtE