A Short Story

Early in the old movie, The Third Man, Joseph Cotton’s character, Marsden, says, “I’m a writer.”
Easy. Quick. Confident. “I’m a writer.”
Marsden comes to Paris because of an offer–a job as a writer.

Our book, Four Ordinary Women, is a published work.   I wrote about 1/4 of that book, put my thoughts on the pages, but am I a writer?

My sons have asked me to autograph a copies of Four Ordinary Women to be used as gifts. One son requested a book for a former student who is a writer. That was outside— far outside— my comfort. Jessieh is a writer. My words are part of a book.

I love to write. I love to find words that fit, that lock in my thoughts, that are refreshing rain on the wonderful passage of a life. But does that qualify? Am I a writer?

Over the last months, it became increasing difficult to leave the house as if staying home could protect what wasn’t there anymore.  In those months, the manic side of grief pushed hard.  Staying home did not feel like being a coward.  Rather it was taking care of long neglected business.

Dusting is a dull business.  Sorting is sad and wandering room to room has no destination.  Time to lock the door behind me and engage, find an activity that required my focus.

Enrolling in a creative writing class at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas felt wobbly.  I attended that school in 1956-1958 and am now older than the current professors.  In the ’50’s, the number of black and Hispanic students was a one-hand count.  Today the number of old white women is a count of one.

Donnelly  is in a converted hospital building, a building where I worked my high school years and where, much later, my youngest son was born.  A friend and I volunteered hours at this Donnelly so the building has the feel I need, safety, comfort and a challenge.

Nine people enrolled though six is the average attendance.  No back row in which to hide.  Silence is not an option, and I am grateful for that. It is good to be forced to speak, to participate, to express and to disagree.

The young students are amazing, articulate and able to reach far into the material, giving perspectives, forcing me to stay awake at night rehashing parts of the discussions.

My problem is the syllabus, the expectation that each of us produce  two short stories, works of fiction meshing with the structure presented in lecture.   The good news is that the problem is also the solution, the force that is pushing me along, getting back to a measure of belief in myself.  Who knows?  After this class, I just might mimic Joseph Cotton, hold up my stories and say, “I am a writer”.

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In The NOW? This NOW? Not Now!

That living in the moment isn’t always the sane choice.  To being with, our system has that fatal flaw.  We are born to good-byes.  That fact pretty well covers every moment.  Being the resilient creatures that we are, we learn to handle the short-term moments and the enduring moments with the same flourish–escape.

We escape.  We project.  We time travel to the land of If, Maybe and Soon.

No other way keeps us steady and sane.  A child falters and we wait for the moment,  that moment when we can handle whatever is sending  the wave or the tsunami through our parenting skills.  Sometimes an adult child is standing too far from the measure.  Disappointment, yes, but hope clings to situation with the same force as our overused ‘soon and if’‘.

A financial mistake simply is.  No way around it.  Our process had holes. We take the consequences.  We hope for soon, for resurrection.

Then there are the awful moments, the ones when we realize that love isn’t there anymore.  It died of apathy.  It died because we took too long waiting for the right NOW.

Living in the moment is absolutely doable.  We have to do it.  No choices except withdrawal from a person or from a reality.  However, when it is possible, when it is the sanity saving thing to do,   take a pass.    Deny that it is a forever kind of moment.  Project into a future and better NOW.  Trust that it is coming and be safe in the waiting.

“…Of Cabbages and Kings”

The disclaimer is first, Gentle Reader.  A ramble is gearing up.  So many clichés, so little time.

It has been a couple of days since I visited with you and those days have not been vacation days of ease.  Rather, there are a few too many personal challenges of the moment.

I am not a lemonade woman.  When life hands me lemons, I don’t seek out, don’t want the sugar.  I might sound like Pollyanna, but that is a cover.  Just deal.  Deal with the lemons.

Stuff happens–that pony poop sort of stuff.  There are times when it feels too deep, too overwhelming.  Giving up is not an option.  Those times that I did give up were unrepairable mistakes.

Yesterday I enjoyed some hours with three friends from high school.  Bright, articulate, involved and caring people.  We spoke about the amazing group with whom we shared our four years at Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas.   Some of our 1956 classmates are still working, many to most volunteer in various ways.  We learned that depth of commitment in our homes, our church,  and in our schools.

I remember learning a prayer with a repeated tag line, “I am responsible”.  What I  failed to learn is discretion and discernment.  I failed to learn the sorting process.

During yesterday’s conversation of ‘cabbages and kings’, we touched on church, family, education and societal issues.  Three of us are educators and one of us had over 30 years experience in a law office.  Three of us are parents and grandparents and one of us is an ordained priest teaching in a major university.

I listened.  I learned.  I appreciated the wisdom of my friends, but I came away with no better understanding of  “I am responsible”.  My church is struggling.  The list of societal issues is long and compelling.   My time, talent and treasure are not able to keep up with “I am responsible”.

I need help with discernment and balance.

The Gritty Fitty Revisited

A year ago.

A year ago I wrote about the July 4 Gritty Fitty.  That blog( in italics below) follows today’s remembrance of that event.  Mother’s are like that.  Our memory cache holds more feelings than facts.

Today the river has the look of fat jello mud, pushing into the bank-line  and supporting fast running uprooted trees.   Lawrence start point is questionable due to persistent rain and destructive flooding.  Kaw Point, the usual take-out,  closed so an alternate will be found.

Kayak racing is a demanding and often brutal sport.  Paddlers, individuals or teams, are pushing against the river, the clock, one another and their own muscle and bone.

Mark is another year older and still motivated to the challenge.  Wherever that new take-out point is, we will be there.  Pride, relief, excitement–another Gritty Fitty challenge met.

July 4, 2009

Alarm set for 5:00 but sleep stopped at 4:00 AM. Holding pattern.
Thunder storms throughout the night, swelling the river.
Kayak loaded atop the van.

My oldest son, Mark, will soon celebrate his 50th birthday. As part of his celebration he is running this July 4 kayak/canoe race from Lawrence to Kansas City.
This ‘Gritty Fitty’ is also preparation for the August run from Kansas City to St. Charles, Missouri.

We drove to the Lawrence start point, not in silence but quieter than usual. Private thoughts.

Start time was 8:00 AM.  The  lot crowded at 6:35. No nonsense.  Each participant went through a personal check list, loading water and energy food into the small storage compartments.

At one point, I walked the ramp listening to the water sounds and watching for floating debris.

Mark was meticulous in his preparations. His equipment is sound. His judgment, honed through mountain climbing, ice climbing, cycling and long practice in the kayak, did not come into question. He was anxious to start, but not apprehensive about his ability. My trust in him is complete.

All that being said, my ‘mom’ instincts are on high alert and I am counting minutes until we drive to Kaw Point and watch the racers cross the line. Pride, relief, excitement at meeting this new challenge…The Gritty Fitty.

Celibate In Name; Abuse of Minors (ccr)

Well, Gentle Reader, I begin this ramble with only a vague idea of the end.  ‘Heartsick’ is not enough to describe where my reading has taken me.

Growing up with total belief in my church I was sad when my grandfather scoffed by telling stories of priests with girl friends.  Why bother with a church that vows celibacy and keeps women.  (Isn’t that an ugly expression–keeps women.)

About 30 years ago I knew a young man contemplating the priesthood.  We talked often as he sorted priorities.  During one particularly intense conversation, he was crying with pain I did not yet understand.  “I will be safe there”, he said.  “I will be safe with who I am and I will find a partner.”

As a senior in her 60’s, a woman revealed her story of  childhood abuse by a trusted family friend, a Catholic priest.  Her first confidant was her sister, trusted, loved and a life-sharing friend.    These sisters held hands and hearts through every chapter of their lives, except this one ugly secret.    Today, they rarely see one another and speak only on the most general topics, avoiding any degree of trust.  The abused sister betrayed the church by speaking out.

Five years ago, one of my grandson’s received the sacrament of Baptism in another country.  After the sacrament, the priest and his female companion returned to the home they were renovating together.

Small incidents?  Perhaps.  Personal and significant only to a few?  Maybe.

But they reveal a pattern of naiveté that partially explains my deep and compounding sadness  as I continue this horrible search.  My church, managed by a nominal celibate clergy, claiming  omnipotence in matters of faith and morals, has systematically hidden sexual abuse of minors.

Richard Sipe writes for The National Catholic Reporter.  On April 28, 2010, his article, Secret sex in the celibate system, gives an overview of the history of sexual violations from the year 315 through  a 2001 document and up to the depth of the current scandal.  Sipe reports wide-spread abuse of the mandated vow of celibacy and makes perfect sense as he leads the reader to understand why secrecy prevailed.   His writing is available at http://ncronline.org

Know what, Gentle Reader?  It is unbelievably tiring, this disassembling of a lifetime core.  Yet, rebuilding requires the destruction of the damaged, the unafraid ripping of that infested core, the gouging away of oozing sores.  Nothing less can forgive the sins.

Evolution Of Self: Friends Of Shared Intent

There a moments.  Flash-stops when we see clearly, but only for a moment.  We see who we are and who we thought we were.  We see our ordinary, day-to-day self measured against that ideal  our life quest had hoped to produce.  We realize that our evolution won’t reach the end-point until we do–reach our end.

The physical world, the natural world, of evolution gave the hummingbird and the giraffe characteristics that allowed them to eat what other animals could not reach.  Somehow the visionaries of the human group evolved to characteristics allowing them to understand in a way that others could not reach.

Evolution of an individual is finding a voice of self-direction, becoming what each person sees as  ideal.  This requires matching behavior with values.  Too often, we see that we are becoming the wrong person.  Too often, we see that our reactions are governed by what hinders us rather than what pushes our evolution.

Our lives take us to places we had not imagined, with people we did not choose and in ways we could not predict.     The easiest path would be to submit to becoming a person created wholly by circumstances.  But this is not self-direction.

We read.    We communicate. We observe.  We process.  We match and discard as we find self-direction. Many peoples take comfort in a religious structure, tradition and belief.  Many take as much comfort from a logical, rational approach to becoming.

One of the most powerful and effective ways of personal evolution is through the support and strength of a group, a circle of trusted friends.

We, the authors of Four Ordinary Women, are enriched by communication with a wonderful variety of people who have read our book and have shared their thoughts.    Each invitation  to share the evolution of our book,  makes us better for the experience.

A theme that runs through many of our signing events is beautifully simple.  Find A Group. Find a group of friends to listen, support, help redirect when needed.   Find a group that supports your personal quest for evolution into the person of your ideals.

Under The White

A muffled whoosh of wings,

Deer tracks mapping the browse,

Steady scrape of mental on concrete,

The whiff of diesel as tractors fire-up,

Sand crunch underfoot,

Cold forming crystals with each breath,                                                                                                                                                                      Beautiful white, drifts and berms covering the land.                                                                                                                                                                 Only the trees stand tall enough to outreach the snow.

And under the white, blue is working.   Blue collar.  Men and women who so often do the under-belly work are out there.   Trash pick up happens.   Major traffic ways get sanded and plowed.  Groceries are on the shelves and blue checks, stocks and even gets us to the car.  Waste water services continue.  Buildings are maintained.   Gas and electric workers handle outages despite conditions.  Shelters function.  Truckers move.  Buses roll.  Railroad whistles blow the crossings.   Mail is delivered.

Blue moves over, under, beyond and despite the white.    Thank you.