Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Giving Up

            A beautiful, and somewhat mournful song plays on the radio often these days. It was written by Chad Vaccarino, Ian Axel, and Mike Campbell and is entitled “Say Something” (Say Something I’m Giving Up On You). When I read the lyrics, I think of unattainable love, of knowing, sadly, that it is time to let go, to give up, to be the courageous one, and to stop trying once and for all. In regards to love, I venture to say we’ve all been there, maybe more than once. Need that be sad though? Or negative? Could such a decision be wise and thus positive?
            Here’s the dilemma. Many of us were taught early on that quitting is an undesirable action. Who admires a quitter after all? We learn to keep on trying until we get it right, whatever “it” may be. For many not giving up is a way of life. We work on that math problem until it is correct. We struggle to end that pesky essay, all one thousand words of it. We stay in school. Finish the class. Cross the finish line. Earn the degree. Work hard. Make every effort to succeed. We make the most of our talents. Follow our passions . . . and on and on. Whatever happens, “Don’t quit,” we are told.
            Well, wait . . . perhaps not so fast. Can’t quitting be an absolute positive as well? A young acquaintance of mine entered rehab recently for alcohol dependency. He finally made the decision to quit and though I realize his journey may not be easy, I’m proud of him. He is strong for wanting to quit. If he stays sober, he deserves a t-shirt that boasts “Quitter and proud of it!” When I was young I thought cigarette smoking was cool for about six months until I realized it wasn’t. I vividly can remember buying a pack of cigarettes, throwing the whole pack into a flaming fire in the fireplace, and watching it burn. It felt good. I was a triumphant quitter. Every day people who have been alcohol or drug dependent make brave decisions and become quitters, and no one can fault them for that.
            So, I’m a bit confused. The dictionary describes a quitter as someone who gives up. The thesaurus equates quitter to one of the following: deserter, coward, defeatist, loser, pessimist, and fatalist. An antonym is “go-getter”. Is that correct?
Let’s just wait up for a second. Quitting, as a concept, I suppose, is in the “holding” of it.  Quitting obviously necessitates thinking or problem solving in some cases; quitting often requires effort. When it comes right down to it, the actual process of quitting, quite paradoxically, may call for not quitting.
And yet, one can quit on a whim. So which is it . . . good or bad? Will someone figure this out for me?

Friday, March 27, 2015

My mom & dad - Newlyweds

            I suppose some folks might find it sappy or sentimental for someone to write a blog about “Mother”, but I am doing it today because it is March 27th, my mother’s birthday. If she were alive today, she would be 101. I loved my mother dearly, and although I moved across the country away from her when I was twenty-one, and saw her only briefly once a year after that, she never quite left my side. Even today I remember her smell, her perfume, her pride, her country cooking, her hands, her unfaltering belief in God, and her endearing Southern accent and vernacular. (I reckon; I’ll be there directly; He makes me so mad I could spit; Good grief; Oh my; That’d be fine; Not worth two hoots; I’m going to give ya’ what Patty gave the drum; If it were a snake it would have bit ya’; Ya’ll are welcome.) I could fill a page! My mother’s sayings were an integral part of who she was and when I think of her now, I can picture her so very clearly that I have to smile.

            Below is a passage from my memoir Tumor Me – The Story of My Firefighter that perhaps expresses my love for her the best:

To add insult to injury, on January 19, 2010, my 95-year-old mother passed away. Alex and Trevor lost their beloved grandmother, Honey. It was a crushing blow to all of us. My mother, Nola Jean Baird DeChesere, was two months short of turning 96 and had withered to eighty-two pounds when she died. In the last two years of her life she had become demented and confused, but she was so incredibly loved by our family, that her amazing spirit remains alive in our hearts today. My father, my brother, his children, grandchildren, and mine all know that she was an absolute Earth angel.
Alex and I flew together to North Carolina for the funeral. Trevor followed separately two days later. Our family buried my mother on a cold, January morning in a grave of dirt and sand in a quaint cemetery behind her church in Wilmington, North Carolina, not too far from the Atlantic Ocean. The loss I felt then is still with me; I realize that at some point every day, the memory of her slips into my mind, and that’s a good thing, really, because she was my ally, my confidant, and my teacher. From my mother I learned the power and the consolation of unconditional love. Her greatest attribute was her amazing ability to listen, to abstain from judging, and to accept gratefully what life had granted her, both the good and the bad. I have never met another person with such goodness.

            So another year has passed. Happy Birthday, Mother. I will hold you in my heart forever.

            And a note: My dad, a smart, sentimental, and challenging Italian man passed away in February 2014 four days short of turning 103. I loved him too.

The family in England 1953ish
Mother & Dad - Hot Date 1953ish

Honey, Justin & Lupus 2000

Honey & Alex 2004

My mother and Me - 2007


Friday, March 20, 2015


            I was thinking recently about the ways our language changes over time. What ever happened to the word “whatever”? The dictionary tells us whatever is usually a pronoun, or it could be used as an adjective. I’m beginning to think it has morphed into an interjection with more than a little emotion attached to it sometimes. Young people (and some adults, too) say “whatever” often. Below are a couple of examples:

“You need to do your homework,” the parent says.
“It’s done,” Johnny replies.
“I know you haven’t finished that essay for English,” the parent nags.
“I have,” Johnny lies.
“No you haven’t and you’re going to flunk,” the parent challenges.
(Johnny clearly wants out of this conversation.)
“You’re being so rude and inconsiderate to me,” Sally cried.
“Whatever!” Jack retorted.
(They probably won’t make it.)

Overuse of the word whatever in a tone that is dismissive can be annoying, I suppose, but at times it works perfectly. Yes, I’ve used it too. “Whatever” easily can finalize a conversation unless, of course, the listener resists and escalates the issue into an argument. So beware, speaker. The word whatever could be a trap! Use it carefully.

Here’s a little play with "whatever" and a few related words:

What ever happened to the girl next door?
I have no idea whatsoever!
Why not?
Not remotely interested.
I heard she had issues and whatnot.
I haven’t heard anything.
Nothing at all.
Nothing of any kind?
No matter what her fate is only conjecture anyway.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Counting to Ten

How often does a person actually count to ten? And why? When I was a young girl my mother always told me to count to ten before anger took hold and turned me into a wild child. It was good advice, actually, although it didn’t always work. Aside from throwing a deck of cards at my bother in a contentious Canasta game, though, I kept most of the anger I felt private. It was safer that way. I had watched my father’s temper boil over time and again. It wasn’t pretty. So, I counted to ten.
I can recall when I was teaching that patience (that counting thing) was imperative. Though I found most students to be a joy, a few were incorrigible . . . and those were the ones who would stay with me at day’s end. There simply weren’t enough numbers. Those days are behind me now, but I remember.
Recently I’ve found myself counting to ten for a different reason. It’s not about anger as much as it is about frustration, that kind of annoyance that bubbles up when someone utters or posts an insensitive comment to me or someone else on the street or Online. Why didn’t that person count first? A thoughtless or hurtful statement, a ridiculous remark by a politician, or an observation by a commentator assuming to have the answer, has me wondering what, indeed, is up. What has happened to thinking before speaking or posting or texting?
Fortunately, I’m at a place in life where I can choose, in a whole new way, when and why to count to ten or maybe even twenty: when I walk up the steep hill to my house after walking three miles with my pups . . . step by step by step; when brushing the coat of my beautiful German shepherd, stroke by stroke; when counting out vitamins or planting seeds, one by one; when watching the koi circling the pond, one tailing the other; when tallying the words in my novel at chapter’s end; when listening for the sound of his car and knowing he’s home safe; when watching the sun slip beyond the horizon in a blaze of color; or when simply watching the clock tick its seconds taking time away forever.
Counting to ten is a perception issue I suppose. It is about pausing though, and taking stock, resting a bit, or finding that filter. It need not take long but it is important, I believe, in considering what really counts . . . and why.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Blogging Break

Yeah. I admit it. I took a blogging break . . . for two weeks! It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I have. I have written over 63,000 words into my current novel. It’s a new venture, actually – different from other things I’ve done and I’m enjoying it. At some point, I hope readers will as well.
However, I’ve been considering the art of blogging. Is it an art? It’s probably not. What it is, at least for me, is an opportunity to share a poem, or a thought about life, or a character sketch, created on a whim. I like doing that. It keeps my skills honed, but I’m not sure who buys in or who understands the need for someone like me to fulfill her passion.
I spend a great deal of time sitting in front of my computer composing. I do not want my blog to become a diary of sorts though. Pontificating about how I view the world is just that – blowing steam! I would rather pour a glass of wine and have a good conversation with someone. Writing, however, in the absence of a person who wishes to share that glass of wine and converse, is an outlet. So I write.
Today I have been lonely although I haven’t been alone. And I have felt sadness . . . just missing that guy.
I’m trying to get back into the blogging game. Maybe tomorrow it will be easier.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Something About A Dream

How important is a little dream? I suppose some folks would say dreams are nonsense; others would disagree. “You dream about what’s important in life.” “Dreams help you sort out what’s troubling you.” “All dreams have a meaning.”

I dream often, vividly, and in color! Some dreams are so interesting that I hate having to part with them. Those are the times I hope I can hop back into them the next night. Unfortunately, that doesn’t usually happen, although recurrent dreams and variations of dreams have occurred for me quite often . . . and I do think that’s significant . . . but that’s another story.

This morning, early, I had a dream that filled me with warmth and happiness. I was standing in my house somewhere, probably in the kitchen, and he appeared before me. It was my son, Alex. He was an adult, healthy, smiling, and looking intently down at me. He reached out, put both hands on my shoulders, and said with absolute clarity, “I’m okay, Mom.” My heart surely skipped a beat. He threw his arms around me then and held me tight.

And I woke up. Oh, how I would love to slip back into that dream once more. Rest in peace my precious firefighter.