Saturday, May 09, 2015

Here & There

It's been so long since I've posted. Life is changing.  Before the Fall, I'll be leaving the farms of Western Massachusetts, and this little house. I'll be leaving the best yard with the most sun I've ever had. And friends--I'll be leaving friends. 

I'm heading to the ocean. Provincetown on Cape Cod, to be exact. Population up to 20,000 in the summer and as low as 700 in the winter. JB and I are moving into our little cape house and we're determined not to clutter it. That means decisions about what to keep and what to leave. The place has an ocean simplicity to it: it's white and airy and relaxing and easy. But first, we have a house to sell. Wait, did I say one? Because it's TWO--my parent's house is going on the market at the same time. It is two hours away from me and in need of a cosmetic we won't do to my satisfaction. I hope some one, a family, walks into it and calls it home. It's been home to me for many years. My father and grandfather, and my uncle Sammy, built it themselves. That house too needs packing and cleaning and sprucing up.

It's all a bit overwhelming. I have a to-do list with at least 30 calls or arrangements to make a day. Masons and carpenters and emptying closets and file cabinets and Home Depot screw-ups and my work and the story of Christine Macabee and her family. And of course my own precious family including four littles, ages 8, 6, 3, and 1. And traveling to and from. 


This is the house where I'm heading. We'll be one block from the public beach and feeling the late afternoon sun on the back deck. I'll be writing and working and gardening here. I'll socialize. We'll adopt a shelter dog and I'll search for a publisher. If I'm smart, I'll also get myself in way better shape and not fail to regularly count my blessings. 

I'm also involved in the larger world. I've been following the events in Ferguson Missouri and now Baltimore closely- the black communities and poverty and the police. I think I know a lot about all this. I worked in a very poor inner city for five years as a therapist and I saw my clients in their homes and with their families. Plus I'm a counselor and I understand some things. 

The opportunities that used to exist don't. You can't make a real living on minimum wage. Not even on $ 12.00/hour. And even if you might come close, there are no jobs in the poorest communities. And no transportation. You get hired in a neighboring town and take three buses to get there and you get fired because you're too often late or you quit because three buses and four hours of traveling and eight hours working for $ 8/hour is  too much. Honestly, I don't think most of us would or could sustain that. But it's not just that. The effort puts you behind, not ahead.  

This is a reason why dealing drugs is high in poor communities. It's a way to make money. And a good deal of police activity is controlling drugs. It's a victimless crime but with great risk if you're a black male and you happen to encounter the police over it. That is just the way it is. Sad to say the facts bear this out. 

Petty drug dealing and use is a root of poverty, not to omit that there are also plenty of families in very poor communities that have nothing to do what-so-ever to do with drugs or crime but are also part of the cycle of poverty. It might look like a lack of motivation among those folks who could but don't work, but it's just the tip of it. I assure you that 2/3rd of my clients on welfare would work or agree to work if it wasn't so difficult and there wasn't so much to lose:  Public housing. Day Care. Food Stamps. Fuel Assistance. Health Insurance. Add those benefits up and you'd best be making $ 20 an hour or you won't even come close.

What's needed? Real Jobs. Unskilled and skilled both. And transitional or permanent supplements for paychecks that hover at the poverty level.

I wish I had the time and energy to contribute to solutions. But I don't and won't. Not to say that I don't look for ways to do my share, because I do. The thing is, I'm not as optimistic as I used to be, but I see more good than bad in most people and in the world. For me, that's my ace in the whole.

Best wishes and love,

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Another Snippet

I can't say exactly why I'm chuckling writing a lot of this book, but here's an example that cracks me up between my main character Christine Macabee and her sister Louise  


The scream was so loud both cats dived under the bed. From his bedroom John made it to the kitchen to see my mother holding the phone above her head and shouting into it. The call was so animated he could hear Aunt Louise on the other end.

“He’s dead!” my mother shrieked. “He died!”

“Who? Who?” Aunt Louise shouted back.

“John! He died today.”

“John? Oh my god. Oh my god.” John knew that tone. Aunt Louise is about to faint.
My mother will have none of it. “Louise, don’t toy with me. I know you’ve never liked him.”

“Never liked him? John? Christine, are you crazy?”

The light bulb goes off. There is recognition on my mother’s face.

“John DENVER, Louise.”

“John Denver? Not John?”

“Yes John, but John Denver, not our John. Do you think I’d be blubbering if it was my John? I’d be comatose.”

“Son of a holy bitch, Christine. You scared the holy hell out of me.” Then, as an afterthought, Aunt Louise added, “In this case I have no sympathy.” Then, curiosity like cream rose to the surface., “So what happened?”

I acknowledge in advance that it's possible that this may not be as funny to you as it is to me this moment. :^) but either way, it's a good ride so far :^)


Friday, April 10, 2015

Metaphorical Backpacks

Places I like
Things to do

Yup. That about does it. (okay, of course add Sex too)

If a fourth grade class can pack a metaphorical backpack with simple pleasures, surely you and I can too.


Places I like: Paris, New York City, Provincetown, Swimming pools on hot days

Things to do: Writing Books, Restaurants, Ocean walks, the Morning Paper

Books: Currently, my Own. About Family & Devotion

Songs: The Best Day of My Life, You Raise Me Up, Down at the Twist & Shout

Movies: Paddington Bear (I was with little kids but I loved it on my own)

Food: Artichokes, Mexican anything, Milk Chocolate anything, & Pizza

Family: No Price Too High for their Safety & Joy

Subjects: Relationships & Gardens

Favorites: Quiet Time & Wild Time

Sex: Wasn't That A Time

Things are hopping here. I'm back in Provincetown this time for a month, and I'm just starting to settle into a new all around rhythm. I still work, I still write, I still count money, I still love and gallivant with JB, I still relish time with Jess and Mike and the kids, I still scratch my head and I still give thanks.

It is almost Spring here. Almost.

And what's in your metaphorical backpack?


Friday, March 27, 2015

An Rambling Update on the Turtle

This is a little boy, Mr. Ryan, age 8, who put words and pictures to his life and is excited about all of it. His family, Cape Cod, sports, tacos. Travel. Video games. 

My list is half different than his. In fact, in the past few months I've become well acquainted with lists. There's been compelling reasons to be overwhelmed.


I haven't. 

Just so you have some context, my Mother's died, we had Christmas, I'm back to consulting work (happily so far), we renovated and rented our disaster of a condo in Rhode Island (another story), I finished 100 hours of professional online courses (had to), and we are beginning the beginning of readying to sell our house here in Western Massachusetts and move to Provincetown (big move). It hasn't stopped snowing. And I'm deep into writing my book (I love.)

I'd say that is a busy life. But funny thing is what's going on for me is inward and not centered on chores. I'm looking back and looking ahead, able to acknowledge how much right my parents did in raising me, and beginning to imagine how I want things to be for me ( and JB) (and Jess and the kids) in the months and years to come. 

I am nostalgic and wistful and grateful and hopeful. Most of the time I'm present and most of the time I don't stress or worry like I used to. I've discovered that my best style is truly turtle-like, not just a metaphor. I don't mean I'm slow, because I'm not. I mean that I don't do well when I have piles of things to do and I do do well when I look at that pile and just do what will work for me at the time, hoping that little by little that will be enough. And so far it's worked. I've gotten a lot done without being buried.

I actively follow the horrible events in the Mid-East and Israel and Ferguson MO and in the lives of elephants and dolphins and lab dogs and chimps. I know that Provincetown has a huge problem with affordable housing. 

And I have a garden to build. Travels to take. I have grandchildren who will go to the movies with me.  

So much is pretty close to perfection, huh? Yes. 


Life doesn't work that way. Just knowing that fact has prepared me to expect the best and the worse, depending, to be ready for either. If it's joy, may I put my hand out and grab it while it's flying by; and if it's despair may I know I have accumulated enough strength. 

That's how I seem to be living these days. Just saying…..


Friday, March 20, 2015

A snippet from the new novel….

Christine Macabee, mother of four and lover of all poems good and bad, is a bona fide John Denver. groupie.  I'll let her tell you something about that herself.
John Denver died in a holy mess of splat when the plane he was flying crashed to smithereens into Monteray Bay. He had just bought the two-seated fiberglass plane that the orignal owner built from a kit and it was his for just one day.  It was a Sunday afternoon and he wanted to take it on a test spin down the coast. I read all about it: he had practiced three touch and go landings -he’d head up, swoop down to the runway and then pull back up. I’ve never been to California but I imagine at 5:28 in the afternoon the sun must have still been a ball of yellow gold and he must have loved seeing the white glitter balls bouncing off the ocean and onto the windows of the houses that dotted the Bay. In the days that followed I read everything I could get my hands on: he was about a hundred and fifty feet from shore, and five hundred feet above the ocean--that’s not very high, five hundred feet.  Witnesses said his plane just plunged straight down into the water and broke apart on impact. He was so badly mutilated that all they could tell was that he was a male. His brain, teeth, eyes, one arm, and seventy-five percent of his head was missing, You can imagine how I reccoiled reading that--my wholesome sunshine man picked up like rubbish.
I don’t know if his wicked second wife Cansandra arranged to cremate what was left of him, but thank God a representative of Parker Funeral Home took his ashes personally to Colorado. The funeral service was held on Friday, October 17th, 1997 at the Faith Presbyterian Church in Aspen, Colorado. Over two thousand people attended and of course, I was there too, sitting in my kitchen, holding my rosary beads.  I read that John’s horse Tonto was brought the church and six airplanes flew overhead, rocking their wings in a salute. I tried to send prayers and energy to Aspen but it didn’t seem like enough: I was obliged to arrange my own tribute. So a week later, on a rainy Sunday at 5:30 pm, just before our take out pizza arrived, I replaced the red and white checkered kitchen vinyl tablecloth with my grandmother’s white linen runner, I placed two tapered white candles on each end of the dining room table and put John Denver’s eight by ten inch gold framed photo in between them, and In front of his photo, in my best cursive handwriting, I placed the  ten dollar mass card I ordered from the Sacred Heart Church. I set the table and on each dinner plate I left a typed copy of “Perhaps Love,” my favorite John Denver song. 
There would be ten of us that evening: the kids, Louise, Jimmy’s brother Milton, and Jack and Ruby Nelson, our neighbor’s to the left. 
There is not much else that equals the fun I'm having getting to know Christine Macabee...
love kj

Friday, March 13, 2015

Catch Up

I have barely come up for air in two weeks. I am necessarily obsessed with finishing a research project on Physicians that I began a year ago. It's overdue, it's a hundred plus pages long, and I'm sick of it. I will hopefully have it on its way in two days and I will be thrilled when the payment for my work arrives a week or so later. 

This has been an excuse to continue to veg inside and avoid the mountains of snow outside. I have never been so sedentary and I know that's not good. But the snow! This masterful sculpture of a photo  by Theresa Hitchcock of the Provincetown Photography Page was taken early in the winter of our collective discontent, before the snow kept coming and kept coming. But it shows the beauty of the place I love and where JB will move to, one of these months. 

And speaking of love: I now have four grandchildren, Ryan 8, Drew almost 6, Logan 3, and Reese 1. The photo below is Logan in his yard; Logan who asks so many questions and every one is purposeful. He calls me Gram and so do his brothers. Reese calls me BB, because she thinks that all three of her grandmothers are BB. Looking back, I wish I had called myself Bam instead of Gram, because JB and I could be BB and Bam. 

I am in love with these kids. They exhaust me more than I like to face but watching them be themselves is like nothing else.

We all recently saw the movie Paddington. Whether you go with children or not, it is SO worth seeing. I could go again. 

It is my hope that I will be back in Provincetown next week and I will be back to writing my charming-to-me novel. Things have been challenging and sad too this winter: I say that because I am well aware of the proclivity we humans have to cover up difficulty and present a brighter picture. There are reasons for my challenges and they are wrapped in transition. To my surprise, somewhere along the line, I seem to have finally learned how to take things as they come and keep my balance. I am not honoring my lazy body but I am at peace with my wriggly mind. 

I'm always happy when I post here because your comments are Hersey's Kisses for my grateful heart. Happy almost Spring in this part of the world. I read today it's expected that my snow won't melt until mid-April. I don't know what the crocuses will do about that.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Two Parts

Part 1: Reflection

 Do you think this statement is true? I do. For various reasons I've been thinking about my life past and future. Probably because my Mother has died, probably because of the reality and likelihood that JB and I will soon move, probably because the world and politics and climate change and human affairs seem more discouraging by the day: I find myself leaning into the values I was taught in childhood. Honesty. Responsibility. Love. Compassion. Generosity. Simplicity.

My parents brought me up in this six room Cape, built by my Father and Grandfather. We lived modestly but never without food and clothes and Christmas presents. My Father was as simple as a man could be: he was a proud bricklayer, came home every night covered with dust, made jokes at the supper table, fell asleep watching television. Except for one incident when my Mother insulted his Father and he lashed out at her, I don't recall him ever worrying. Not ever. He accepted things as they were and he lived without questions. During the four months that cancer slowly killed him, even then he was at peace, trusting my Mother to decide what was best and never once questioning why or what was happening. 

My Mother died the same way. Both my parents had difficult childhoods. Neither made it past sixth grade. Both were poor. My Father's stepmother disliked him and my Mother was the youngest of sixteen. No pun intended, it seems to me that they built their lives and their family brick by brick.

They someone managed to give my brother and I grit. Confidence even. And values that even now push through.

Some who know me think I've had an easy peasy life. But really, is that true of anyone? Sooner or later we face loss, disappointment, worry, ambivalence. "But who in their right mind wouldn't want to live?" my Mother would ask off-handedly and she meant it every time. She was glad to be alive and that was plenty for her.

Why am I thinking and writing about this today? The weather's at fault. It's been an inside winter of thinking, remembering, reflecting. What now? If you're lucky or unlucky, depending, every so often life gives you a blank canvas. New decisions. New directions. But no guarantees, and that's a potential for sure problem because our minds crave guarantees and do their best to make us nervous when we don't deliver. Blank canvasses happen when people lose their jobs, lose their health, lose their bearings. And sometimes they happen just because the universe informs that it's time. For me, it's time: a new chapter's ahead. It's exciting, unknown, uncertain.  I have hopes and plans. I'm open to the unpredictable. I don't welcome change, but I know better than to resist. 

There is melancholy as I write this and I know it's obvious. All I can say is yup. That and hope too. 

How about you? What are you up to these days? How do you feel? Where are you headed? Surely I'm not alone.

Part 2: Weather Report  

 Here's a glimpse: Boston and Massachusetts in the midst of snow and more snow. Those are cars buried in those mounds. It's been kind of unbelievable. Not as horrible as the national news makes it sound, but the weather has definitely made havoc of transportation and plans and work and worries about ice dams and weak roofs and frozen pipes. 

I speak for most of the East Coast. We're done. Can't wait to see a crocus.

Meanwhile, I pick up my colors and words and begin again…..