Tuesday, April 19, 2022

“Heal”


 Last night I was mesmerized as I watched American Idol’s Leah Marlene sing Tom Odell's “Heal.” Listening to lyrics like “take my mind and take my pain like an empty bottle takes the rain, with words like “tell me some things last” I thought back on the last two months when, after running from a situation, falling, and breaking two bones; after finding an old friend and losing him again; and finally after getting four days off only to awaken on the first morning full of cold and misery, I wanted to give up.

But then, late last night, while getting into bed, I stopped.  “Take a deep breath,” I commanded myself. “If you can’t do a whole meditation, take just one long, deep breath.”

I took that one breath, and as I exhaled, I began to heal.

 

 


Friday, April 15, 2022

When More is Better

While visiting my 13-year-old granddaughter yesterday, I picked up her copy of James Frey’s How to Write a Damn Good Novel and read the following:

“Fictional characters - homo fictus - are not identical to flesh-and-blood human beings – homo sapiens… (because) Readers demand that homo fictus be more handsome or ugly, ruthless or noble, vengeful or forgiving, brave or cowardly, and so on, than real people are…Homo fictus has more of everything.” ….”

This is certainly true of the last novel I read for my reading group, a book called Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen, which includes having more words in this nearly 600-page book.

All five of Franzen’s main characters are members of the Hildebrandt family - the most dysfunctional family I’ve ever read about, and each is with dealing his or her own personal demons, which include everything from drugs, to infidelity, war, and madness. Moreover, each is dealing with their demon without intervention, aid, or compassion from any other member of the family.

By the time I finished reading this book, on the morning of our group discussion, I was feeling dysfunctional and ready to scream, especially after learning that Franzen was writing two more novels involving these same characters. Will I read them? Probably! Because like Franzen's characters (and Frey’s frictus’ readers), I’m a glutton for more, more, more!   

 


Saturday, February 5, 2022

Such a Fun Time

 

It's a cold Saturday morning outside my home, just twenty-five miles north of Philadelphia, and I am about to sit in a chair in my room with a good book open in front of me.

The book, Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid, is a novel I began yesterday. It’s a story that starts with a late-night phone call made by a young mother to her babysitter, asking the woman to take her two-year-old child to a grocery store “to get her out of the house for a while” because “we had an incident with a broken window.” and doesn’t want the child to see the police" who are on their way.

Once at the grocery store, the sitter, a young black woman named Emira, is confronted by a security guard who accuses her of kidnapping the precocious child, a child who asks questions like “Where is that squirrel’s mama?” and "Why don't we know that lady?" and who, according to Emira, is “always at the edge of a tiny existential crisis.”  

In the second chapter, we learn that what the child’s mother didn’t tell Emira is that the window was broken because of something her husband, a news anchor in the city of Philadelphia (of all places), said on the air. It’s a remark that is “slightly racist.”  Is there such a thing as slightly racist,” I wonder as I get ready to settle in to a long afternoon of reading and, hopefully, some intermittent napping. 

Thursday, December 30, 2021

A Perfect Gift

 I received many wonderful and unforgettable gifts for Christmas this year, but one of the best was the review of my memoir, Dear Elvis, that follows.

McCloe presents a heartwarming memoir with fictionalized elements about dealing with the death of the man she loves by writing letters addressed to Elvis Presley. The author tells the story of how she, a middle-aged divorced woman, fell in love with Don, a widower. They met at work, where they both drove school buses for a living, and became close friends, lovers, and then just close friends again before Don’s death, due to heart failure. At the start of this work, Don has already died and McCloe is coping with her pain by writing missives in a diary, begging the spirit of Elvis in the afterlife to pass along messages to Don. This correspondence chronicles her feelings as she manages such emotions as denial, anger, heartbreak, hope, and finally, peace. She also begins a friendship with a priest named Father Chris (a fictional, composite character), who encourages her to find a way to move on. As the author reveals more about Don’s life and their connection, Father Chris affirms her suffering while also urging her to memorialize Don in her own way, and live her life in a manner that would make Don proud. Her letters then directly address Elvis, asking him about his life and telling how his music career positively affected her as she attempts to find catharsis. Over the course of this book, McCloe’s prose is relatable, likable, and highly sincere; she’ll make readers think about how one can easily take one’s relationships—and, indeed, one’s life—for granted. The changing format of the letters keeps the narrative engaging and propels the story forward in an offbeat way. This book will likely appeal most to those who are coming to terms with personal grief, as it accurately conveys the conflicting emotions that come with the grief journey, while also honing in on how one always has the ability to find joy again. A grounding and deeply human take on love and loss.                                                                                                                                                     Kirkus Reviews                             
                              
   Dear Elvis is available at amzn.to/2uPSFtE      


   
                                         
 


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Two Days Before Christmas


I'm feeling lazy today although I'm almost ready for Christmas. I put up the tree last week and mailed all the cards - the guys at work were sweet. One came into a crowded break room as usual, took his seat beside me, and whispered,“Thank  you for the card,” A young driver, who always treats me as though I were a princess, shyly called me from the room to thank me; and a third, who is always sweet, simply said “thank you.”

Anyway, all I have left to do is wrap the presents, of which there are few, because this year, we are doing a pollyanna in a family that seems to be growing exponentially, and because I am trying to save money so I can finally retire.

And so I am just sitting here staring at my tree, wishing the presents were wrapped, and thinking about a family that grew by just one more than two thousand years ago.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!


Friday, December 17, 2021

Great Expectations

A friend and I were talking about Christmas.  “So many people are unhappy,” he began then stopped.

“Maybe it’s because they have too many expectations” I interjected.

“Unrealistic ones,” he added. “They think things are supposed to be the way they are in all the movies they see on television,” he said, and I agreed.

That night I dreamt I was sitting in on a writing class.

“What’s your story about?” the instructor asked a student.
“It’s a story about a girl who falls in love with a guy who mistreats her. But I’m having trouble with the ending.”

“Oh, that one’s easy,” the instructor replied. “It’s the story of Beauty and the Beast. But in this one, the beast remains a beast, and the girl has to find a way to accept that.

“What’s your story about?” he asked a woman sitting by a window.

“It’s a story about a woman who falls in love but something happens and she never sees him again.”

“That one’s easy too,” said the instructor. “You’re writing the classic fairytale.”

“I suppose I am,” she muses. “The whole time she knew him she felt like Cinderella at the ball. But when she lost her shoe, no one came after her.”

“That’s so sad,” a student from the back of the class called out.”

“Not sad. Realistic,” said the teacher

“And sometimes,” I said, “it’s not the end that’s worth remembering, but the middle” 

And with that, I woke up.
 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

On Writing Again

After I wrote my last post (La, La, La) my daughter Cindi, who edits all my posts, said, “It’s all over the place.”

Is she right? I wondered until I read it back and saw she was.

“It’s also fun,” she added, so I published it anyway, all the while wondering, why can’t I write? What’s wrong with me? until doubt – otherwise known as writer’s block - turned to despair.

“Leave it alone and it will come back to you,” a friend told me once when I complained about being unable to write. So, I tried and failed, and tried and failed, until I finally left it alone – for a week, for a month, for months until one day when I picked up something I wrote long ago and thought, I am a writer! And I began, doggedly, to write again. And the block that had become a boulder began ever so slowly to dissipate and, finally, disappeared.