Saying Goodbye

Nicky. Cropped

I am certain I have mentioned somewhere along the way, how much of a private person I am. But, I have this need to pay homage, publicly, to a god-daughter that is seriously gone to soon. Although, we cannot question why God moves His hand, or why He chooses to do the things He does, life becomes extremely puzzling when a young person is laid to rest before their parents. With that said, we lost our beloved god-daughter, Nicole Courtney, in the wee hours of last Friday morning. In fact, my sister-in-law called my husband on his cell phone while we were driving in the car. And, can I add, thirty is way to young. In my mind, I just assisted her with a letter to the Dean at Rutgers School of Law in Newark, New Jersey as to why she wanted to transfer from Hofstra in Long Island. It is devastating to lose a loved one at any time, but for a mother to lose a child on Mother’s Day weekend, puts that mother to a test of strength that can only come from One source.

I recall this bundle coming along right at a time when I, myself, dealt with an experience that would stay with me the remainder of my life. Therefore, this little girl brought us much joy. Many days and nights were spent enjoying her company as we watched her grow into the young woman she had become. As a little one, and since her parents lived only a few miles away, we were fortunate enough to have her with us maybe as often as her parents. In my mind’s eye, I’m watching a three-year old reaching and saying, “I want more,” when we introduced her to clams on the half-shell. Then, by the time she started school we didn’t spend as much time with her. After that, the teenage years hit, and you know what happens with that. But, when she turned sixteen, we all vacationed together. In fact, right here in the town we now live. On one of those days, we walked in to a seafood restaurant, and her mother asked her what she would have. Her response, “I think I’ll just have a bucket of clams.” My husband and I snapped our heads around to stare at each other, because we had, not a clue that habit had taken hold.

It’s been a rough go for both my husband, and myself since we relocated to this state. We came here in August of ’04, and from January ’06 until now, we’ve lost ten people – both friends, and family. Then, just as you think things have calmed down, a call comes that my last aunt is having challenges. If you’ve been reading along, you already know that. Now, five months later, and we get this phone call, which raises the number to eleven. I heard a renowned minister say not long ago, he and his wife’s family went through just this type thing at one time; all very close together. He admitted that he prayed, and repented for everything he could think of, knowing those things must have brought about such misery. But then, he had a revelation – it had nothing to do with any wrong doing on he or any family member’s behalf. This is life – this is how it happens at times, and there is nothing anyone can do to make it stop.

Because of all of the above, and by Sunday, even though I knew we had to make the trip home, I decided, I just couldn’t. Honestly, both my husband and myself are still dealing with much of what has transpired since we’ve been here. But, on Wednesday the family said their farewells to yet another who is gone to soon, leaving all of us with a large hole that she once filled.  And, there is nothing else for anyone to say but, sleep on angel’s wings baby girl. You will be missed by so many.

Feelings of Nostalgia

11826803_sThe past few weeks has, for me, definitely thrown me in to a nostalgic mode.  Not that I want to make this public knowledge, but I’ve been absent for the past two, or three weeks.  Not present on Twitter, Facebook and even from this blog/website as I’ve been attending to a family crisis in south-central Virginia.  It’s been exhausting traveling two hours one way, every other day, but it’s something that I must do.  I know it’s not always family issues that bring about nostalgia: it could be a tune on the radio, hearing from an old friend – someone you haven’t seen or talked to for years, or running across an old photograph.

It is more acceptable, maybe, for women to suffer on occasion from what’s called “the blues,” and actually most times it creeps upon a person before they even know what hit them.  I don’t have that, but being in touch with childhood people, places, and things has without doubt sent my brain to wistful overload.  Let me begin by saying I have always been a deep person, even as a teenager.  At the tender age of eighteen I had a dear friend with whom I would spend hours, simply talking.  Not to be offensive, but if you’re that age and reading this – I know you think you know many things, but believe me – you don’t.  I said that to say, unbeknownst to me, my dear friend held a reputation for being addicted to some hardcore substances.  When did I become aware of this?  When the news of him being found face down in a neighbors bathroom with a needle in his arm and a tie-off around that same arm, traveled around the corner to my house.  I remember the understanding hitting me like a kick in the gut – that explained why he had always been capable and willing to debate things with me.

Over these weeks, I’ve done much reflecting – not only of my beloved departed friend, but also of family members who have gone on: missing them and wishing they were here to assist, and even help with decision-making.  I’d like you to think back to when you were a little person.  If you had a problem arise, you only had to run to your mother or father, even an aunt or uncle knowing they could set it right.  But, as we get older, and I’ve said this before, roles change.  Suddenly, you become the person to whom a younger one will run to for protection or help.  Being the adult that I am, I’ve found myself wishing lately for someone to rush off to, and have them instantly make it all right.  But, regardless, I have to continue forward.

I find myself listening to The Temptations, David Ruffin, Jimmy Ruffin, and The Delfonics as I recall a younger time on Riverdale Avenue, Shepherd Avenue, New Lots Avenue, or the sparkling white concrete of Halsey Street in Brooklyn, USA when the world made sense.  When I had protectors, who were simply a room away, and they could fix anything.  All of my family – father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles, and cousins were all around, all young, or younger, vibrant, full of life, and filled with spirit.  Yet, I find myself asking, when did I become the older, responsible one?  When did I become the keeper of secrets, the keeper of the ancestral torch?  I perceive myself as Moses, because the other misfortune is, and I do hope I’m mistaken, but there may be no one under me who is as interested in any familial history as I.  But, if you haven’t already, do yourself a favor, begin writing family information down.  I mean, how else would anyone know of the trials of the Israelites if Moses had not kept a record of this stuff.  Your family will appreciate it.  In the meantime, I trudge forward.  But, in the least, please light a candle, and/or say a prayer because this family dilemma has already revealed a long, hard road ahead. With gratitude – that’s all for now.

Image courtesy of 123rf.com

Developing Characters

Be Attentive

Be Attentive

 A writing buddy of mine, once mentioned going to Panera Bread with her laptop to write. Panera Bread is right up the street from my house, but this is something that has been so far from my thoughts it would have to be written in large bold letters, and waved in front of my face (that being a tweet). I don’t know why. Anyway, the instant I read the message, the switch flipped – I threw a hand to my forehead, and thought, man, am I a ditz or what? I haven’t made it there yet, but it is definitely about to become a part of my routine, since I love being out and about, writing and people watching. I want them so sick of me that in order to keep me away, they’ll have to stamp my card. I recall reading how Ernest Hemingway frequented the local bars and restaurants in Florida to do nothing more than observe folk. He also had a compulsion to incorporate things he noticed into his own made up characters. I always try to remember this whenever I’m out anywhere, since this has always been one of my favorite pass times.

Probably since I lived in New Jersey for so long two other writers come to mind; Albert Einstein and Orson Welles. Why do I bring up New Jersey when I mention these two greats? Because in case you didn’t know, Einstein used to frequent the Nassau Inn, which sits right on Nassau Street in Princeton, since he taught at the college. Secondly, Orson Welles lit a fire to his career with the infamous War Of The Worlds broadcast of a Martian invasion in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, which is a stones throw from Princeton. As I worked in this college town three years for a Manhattan based firm, I had the chance to get up close with these two locales. Having lunch one day at the Nassau Inn, I sat across from the wooden booth bearing Einstein’s name (it is said he carved it there). Although his works were philosophical, and not at all in the same genre as Welles or Hemingway, I still envisioned him taking in human behavior and writing on his note pad before he inscribed his name in the wood. I don’t know how Welles picked Grover’s Mill as the scene for his ruse, but he did. As a lover of the art of television, radio and the screen, he also had to have an inclination toward building personalities. Let’s think about some methods of constructing a character:

  • Watching while out having dinner or at the local watering hole;
  • Eating lunch in the park – there are others there enjoying their meal as well;
  • An oddball you remember from your past may make a controversial bad guy;
  • Friends who have lost touch;
  • Family members/Friend’s family members;
  • Boyfriends/girlfriends from the past; and
  • Growing LARGE ears and eavesdropping on nearby conversations as mannerisms are carried over into speech.

Those of us who have been around for some time know this, but are you newbies on your toes? One day my husband and I were having breakfast at the Seville Diner on Route 18 in East Brunswick when a large family across the way caught my eye. The father had three tea bags in his cup of water. Now, that’s not something you notice everyday. Of course, you know one of my people had to have that little oddity. As writers, we are attentive creatures; sometimes though, it’s not inbreed, some of us have to learn the trait. But, either way it is a critical part of creating riveting individuals in our work. Tell me how you go about devising/developing a personality?

Listen

Listen

Photos courtesy of iStockPhoto

Information provided by Nassau Inn & Wikipedia

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The Holidays Approacheth

Is Thanksgiving next week?  My head is spinning, because I just got up on April 30th, and hit the “public” button on my website.  At least, I thought I did.  Now, Memorial Day, 4th of July, the summer, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Halloween, and finally Veteran’s Day have all passed.  Is it age?  I remember the old folk saying to me as a young woman, just wait until you’re older, then the time really does fly.  I think when one is younger, they are so busy living and enjoying, they aren’t cognizant of time’s passage.  Of course, that’s an entirely different topic; one for another day.  As a high-ranking member of the Procrastinator’s Club, I have to say – each year I plan to do my gift shopping during the summer months and every time, there I am running around all of December trying to get it done.  Why don’t I ever learn?  But, for this upcoming holiday, I will take my two days to do some much-needed resting and allow someone else to do the cooking.

Moving on, has anyone reading this ever watched the show Love/Lust?  No, it’s not about that – it’s broadcast on The Sundance Channel, and each week they feature one other thing after which we on this planet love or lust.  The other day they discussed comfort foods.  The episode began with Mac & Cheese, then moved on to Pizza, Soul Food, Hamburgers, and finally the infamous Jewish Deli.  I said that to say, the holidays are a time when we all look for that familiar spread – each ethnicity to their own, and although some years I have stepped away from the traditional; I do find it kind of mandatory to enjoy my ethnic comforts at least once a year.  Even as I write this, I have to smile – I get giddy when I think of the Thanksgiving and Christmas eats, and depending on your nationality it could instead include Chanukah, Kwanzaa or whatever other day that’s celebrated in this time frame.  But these really are times when it’s almost obligatory to present the classic pacifiers.

However, food or not, “Tis the season” for getting together with family and friends –  making your way through some crowded airport or stuck in traffic on one or more of the many highways and byways; all to spend time with your folks.  Not to get off topic, but I just need to add a complaint.  I think every year industrialization pushes us one day – two days – one week further away from the beginning of the festivities by shoving their time clock in our faces.  I don’t know about where you live, but the local Rite-Aid by me, had December 25th items in the store the week of Halloween.  Someone left a joke on Facebook of a turkey screaming at Santa – “Okay, Fat Boy, get back in your sleigh and wait your turn,” (something to that effect).  Although, somewhat crude, I found it right on time, and a turkey after my own heart.  Over the years, statistics have proven that this approaching celebration is the busiest of all, since at Christmas most people are home with their children.  So, right now take a deep breath, slow down, enjoy the scenery, and let’s operate on our own time clocks.  Now, although it’s a whole week away – have a happy.

Don’t forget – mosey on up to my Facebook Fan Page and click “like” if you’re here.  Thanks.

Photos courtesy of iStockPhoto

Developing Characters

Be Attentive

One week or so ago, a writing buddy mentioned going to Panera Bread with her laptop to write.  Panera Bread is right up the street from my house, but this is something that has been so far from my thoughts it would have to be written in large bold letters, and waved in front of my face (that being a tweet).  I don’t know why.  Anyway, the instant I read the message, the switch flipped – I threw a hand to my forehead, and thought, man, am I a ditz or what?  I haven’t made it there yet, but it is definitely about to become a part of my routine, since I love being out and about, writing and people watching.  I want them so sick of me that in order to keep me away, they’ll have to stamp my card.  I recall reading how Ernest Hemingway frequented the local bars and restaurants in Florida to do nothing more than observe folk.  He also had a compulsion to incorporate things he noticed into his own made up characters.  I always try to remember this whenever I’m out anywhere, since this has always been one of my favorite pass times.

Probably since I lived in New Jersey for so long two other writers come to mind; Albert Einstein and Orson Welles.  Why do I bring up New Jersey when I mention these two greats?  Because in case you didn’t know, Einstein used to frequent the Nassau Inn, which sits right on Nassau Street in Princeton, since he taught at the college.  Secondly, Orson Welles lit a fire to his career with the infamous War Of The Worlds broadcast of a Martian invasion in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, which is a stones throw from Princeton.  As I worked in this college town three years for a Manhattan based firm, I had the chance to get up close with these two locales.  Having lunch one day at the Nassau Inn,  I sat across from the wooden booth bearing Einstein’s name (it is said he carved it there).  Although his works were philosophical, and not at all in the same genre as Welles or Hemingway, I still envisioned him taking in human behavior and writing on his note pad before he inscribed his name in the wood.  I don’t know how Welles picked Grover’s Mill as the scene for his ruse, but he did.  As a lover of the art of television, radio and the screen, he also had to have an inclination toward building personalities.  Let’s think about some methods of constructing a character:

  • Watching while out having dinner or at the local watering hole;
  • Eating lunch in the park – there are others there enjoying their meal as well;
  • An oddball you remember from your past may make a controversial bad guy;
  • Friends who have lost touch;
  • Family members/Friend’s family members;
  • Boyfriends/girlfriends from the past;
  • Growing LARGE ears and eavesdropping on nearby conversations as mannerisms are carried over into speech.

Those of us who have been around for some time know this, but are you newbies on your toes?  One day my husband and I were having breakfast at the Seville Diner on Route 18 in East Brunswick when a large family across the way caught my eye.  The father had three tea bags in his cup of water.  Now, that’s not something you notice everyday.  Of course, you know one of my people had to have that little oddity.  As writers, we are attentive creatures; sometimes though, it’s not inbreed, some of us have to learn the trait.  But, either way it is a critical part of creating riveting individuals in our work.  Tell me how you go about devising/developing a personality?

Listen

Don’t forget to click “LIKE” on my Facebook Fan Page at the top right of this page, and thank you.

Photos courtesy of iStockPhoto

Information provided by Nassau Inn & Wikipedia

Our Household Pets

My husband took a break from engineering in his later years to open a pet sitting service, and assist people with their animals.  He always had one growing up, while I had my first as an older teenager; a thoroughly silver/black, Silverwolf German Shepherd named, Sunday, who already had some years on her.  This meant that after four with us, we were in the market for a new dog.  It happened to be a brown and black sooner that I named Belvidere.  Through our marriage we have had two cats, three dogs and a parakeet that lived eighteen years; we haven’t been married all those years combined, some of the darlings overlapped.

We bring these creatures into our lives and they then, become a literal member of the family.  So you’d think that with all of this we’d have a little one at this point in our lives, but we don’t.  I am, however, keeping an eagle eye out for my next much-loved fur ball.  And, be assured, there will be another something that needs me; something that can’t get along without me.  I’m leaning toward what my husband refers to as a “yap yap,” but yes – maybe a Yorkie.  Would that explain why I love the show, “It’s Me or the Dog,” because it’s helping me set my sights on the next cutie I can anthropomorphize and spoil?  Even though, if you’ve watched the show you know treating your cat, dog or what have you like its human is something Victoria Stillwell, the host, loathes.  I mean have you seen the animals?  Have you seen some of the people with them.  Have you ever noticed how the spoiled appear as though they know they are pampered?  I know indulging them is a girly thing – it’s just something we do.  My husband complains because he does not want to be seen ( six feet both ways) walking a Yorkie.  But, you know what?  I know him, he would love it, and even though I want the puppy, it would probably only want to be with him (that’s happened before).  Because, again that’s the magic he emits to children and beasts (see Under the Influence).

My husband’s business partner had two Chihuahua’s when we met her in 2005, then a couple of years passed and our little Summer, the short-haired gold-colored sweetie became ill and passed away.  I think to pacify her loss she then went out, and purchased another pup.  Here we are in 2011, and she has acquired three more babies (five in total).  When is enough, enough?  I personally don’t believe you can replace a special family member with another.  My parakeet, for instance, yes-lived eighteen years, and no one believed that. Ah, I loved him, and cried for two weeks when he died.  Sometimes, while on the telephone, my husband would chastise him, and the caller would ask if we had a dog.  This happened many times, but the stupid bird responded to his demands that way.

I don’t know how all of this came about, but we still laugh about it today, and he’s been gone thirteen years.  He loved me, and would sit on my shoulder as I did dishes or as I walked around.  He never wanted my husband to touch him.  If he got out of hand; took flight wherever he wanted – my husband would stand at the cage, and tap his finger at the opening.  While doing that, he would call his name and say “come on.”  He seemed to know that if he didn’t do what he had been ordered, my husband would literally catch him.  So, under duress he would make his way back to his cage, protesting all the way with his weird vocal disapproval.  How could I ever expect to replace such a personality.  Okay, enough about my beloved bird.

Each of our live-ins had its own personality like a person, as I am sure yours does. Since my husband started in this business, the stories I could tell involving how special they are to their owners would keep you entertained for days.  Their personalities would also keep you in stitches.  But for those of us who love, and have household pets, how could we get along without the darlings.  Please, take a minute, make a suggestion on what I should get next, and tell me a little about your special member of the family.

Peacemaker

I recently came across the word “Peacemaker” while reading, and developed an overwhelming desire to discuss it here in my blog.  I’d like to begin by saying, I’m fairly secure that alleach and every family has one troublemaker, am I right?  Maybe even two depending on their size.  I also believe that in the same group of relatives a mediator has been planted; one that has the ability to calm turbulent situations.  Now, although that go-between can themselves be squeezed to the point of fracture at times, for the most part they will usually have the capability to diffuse whatever is taking place.

But who appoints this person? Are they born with a label on their bottom, “Negotiator.”  No, who has ever heard of such a thing.  I do believe, however, they can be picked out of a crowd at a young age.  They usually are the ones standing between two brothers – both struggling for the same toy or the teenager turning her gaze from one friend to the other as she tries to wrangle, at the least, a compromise.

Let’s think of some of the great peacemakers through our time – Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Robert F. Kennedy, and the still very much alive Desmond Tutu.  I wonder if their grandmothers, grandfathers or an aging aunt somewhere said of them, “That one is going to make a difference.”  I would be willing to bet that in their youth, before they knew their calling, someone witnessed them promoting order among their friends, and in their family.  We know we cannot all have attributes as these, but at least, for the remainder of us we can hope to make history, if only in our own families.  Now, taking this a step further, if we all had that nature we wouldn’t have the need for harmony-makers – there would be no darkness, there would only be light, but….uh….isn’t that called heaven?

Now, for the agitators, I maintain even they require peace and quiet.  It’s just, they can’t recognize the necessity, since their dysfunction keeps getting in the way; something about the attention they never received, yet so desperately crave, I imagine.  But, when pressed, I don’t think they would actually say, “No…no I like it when there’s confusion and turmoil.”  Would not that make the statement that that person bore the scars of mental unbalance?  As individuals, we cannot fix people, and we certainly can’t change them if they are unwilling.

So, do we go on accepting and allowing the instigators to upset calm?  Do we throw them away?  Do we avoid them, hoping never to cross their path again – ever?  No, we can’t do that, because that would then place us in the unbalanced section.  Although, unhinged or not, that would probably be my first choice; this guarantees tranquility.  However, I have learned through life to face it directly.  I believe in expressing my opinion, picking myself up, and hitting the door.

But, all in all, this has been studied from so many angles, and has anyone come up with a satisfying answer to the dilemma of family discord?  My mother used to say, put two different species of animal together in the same cage, they will come up with a way to get along.  Us humans – whole different tree.  I have always been a woman of peace; in my family, my home, and at my job.  What say ye?

Photo courtesy of iStock Photo