Tag Archive | DP challenge

What I Would Tell High School Grads

The Daily Post  Blog gives writers a challenge everyday. Today’s resonated with me. The challenge was: You’ve been asked to speak at your high school Alma mater — about the path of life. (Whoa.) Draft the speech. So here goes.

graduationTo the class of J. I. Case High School — Congratulations on your graduation! This is a great day!

I’m here to talk to you about what goes on after you leave these safe walls and go out into the world to build your future.

(In a hushed voice) Listen carefully, this is sage advice. You don’t want to miss it. What I have to say today will change your world.

Are you ready?  Here it is:  Live Your OWN Life to the Fullest

I see those looks. You’re thinking “I have to sit still for this moron? What is she– a commercial for the military service? Let’s grab our diplomas and get to the party!”

I assure you, I am not a moron. I’m just a person who wishes someone had told this important advice when I was your age. You see, I didn’t start living MY LIFE until I was in well into my mid-thirties. Up until that time, I let other people make my decisions and mold me into what they thought I should be instead of fighting for my own life. Isn’t that sad?

I never gave myself a chance to think about what I wanted. I did have a private dream, though. I wanted to sing on Broadway, but I told myself I didn’t have the training to make it. What I did was create an excuse. I had the talent. I just needed the guts. I also needed somebody in my corner whispering, “You can do it!” I talked myself out of my dream. I’m here to tell you not to follow in my footsteps. Take the chance to make your dreams come true while you’re young. THINK about what you want. Visualize you are there already. Eat, sleep, and live your dream before it comes true.

Thank God, I realized another dream before it was too late. I can finally say with confidence, I’M A WRITER. I’m a storyteller. I have had five novels published, and I LOVE my work.

And you can do the same. What you THINK your life will be, it will be. You have the power to create your world. Think negatively, and you will end up in a pool of stuff  you never wanted.  On the flip side, think positively and you will make your dream happen.

You don’t believe me? I’ll bet you’ve done this already. Wasn’t there a time when imagined winning a contest, or getting the lead of the play or starting on the basketball team, and it happened? Or how about the time you wanted to get out of going to school, and you actually got a cold with a fever that would keep you home? You needed a day off, and you knew being truly sick with a temperature was Mom-proof to keep you home, so you willed it to happen, right?

Powerful thoughts bring powerful results.

To achieve success, first you have to “see” yourself being successful. Then, you have to dismiss all the people who tell you that you can’t achieve your dreams. Don’t listen to them. They are wrong. This can be hard because many times these people will be people who are closest to you. Keep your eye on the prize. That is the secret to real success.

If you want to be a professional football player, get a college scholarship. If one doesn’t come your way, walk onto a college campus and ask for a tryout. If you get turned down, ask yourself if you really want this dream. If you do, put the work in. Go to the gym earlier than everyone else. Practice more than anyone else. Next season, ask for another tryout. See yourself in the NFL, the Super Bowl. See yourself wearing that ring.

If you are a singer, picture yourself accepting a Grammy. Picture yourself on tour in front  of thousands of fans or performing on a Broadway stage.  Take lessons. Take a waitress or waiter job in the meantime, but live, sleep, and dream about singing. Become the best singer on the planet. Spend nights in clubs watching other singers. Learn what works. Learn what doesn’t work. Write your own songs. Collaborate with other musicians. Sing at small venues. Do whatever it takes to be heard.

If you are a writer, you must write. Everyday without fail. Write what you want to write; don’t fall into the trap of the latest fad because someone else has already been there and done that. Write from the heart. Write the truth as you know it. Read other writers. Blog. Write short stories, articles and novels just for fun! Create a following. And remember, getting published is an area you must also learn.

If you want to be the next great computer geek, live it. Don’t try to fit in—you never will. I know you’re smart enough to know that already. Bask in your difference, don’t shun it. Your ideas are usually something no one else understands anyway. Find an area of electronic communication, games, or new inventions that fascinate you. Like the athletes, writers, singers and other professionals, shoot for the stars. After all, it will be the next frontier.

As you sit in your cap and gown today, know this is just the beginning of YOUR life. Up until now, your parents have made your decisions. They won’t like it, but it’s time for you to toddle along on your own two feet.  It won’t be comfortable for them to let go or for you to pull away. But the safety net is gone, folks. You must walk the wire of your OWN life from here on out. Take responsibility to live YOUR life – not the life someone else has chosen for you.

If you choose the easy journey of allowing others to choose your path, you will never be happy. You will never discover your talents. You will never know who you truly are.

Some people say the world as we know it is coming to an end. I certainly hope so. The world is constantly changing and YOU have the ability to enrich it or let it pass you by.

You choose!

The First Thought of the Day

I subscribe to a blog called The Daily Post because it’s a wonderful resource for writers. Everyday the creators of this blog propose a writing topic. Something to get the juices flowing. I don’t do every exercise they propose, but yesterday’s directive resonated with me. The suggestion was to keep a notebook on your bed table and write down the first thing you thought of before you crawled out of the blankets.

As I’ve been keeping a notebook beside my bed since I was in college, I thought — hmmm — half done already. All I have to do is pick up a pen and write down what I had on my mind when I woke. So, I went to sleep, woke refreshed, ready to write down my first thought of the day–only to find out I didn’t have a pen! Damn! Why didn’t they say, “put a notebook and PEN” on your night table?

So, I rushed through my morning routine, letting the dog out, feeding the cat, helping Ken with his breakfast, and all the while keeping that one thought in my mind, so I could do the writing exercise. After everybody’s morning stuff was completed, I poured my coffee and sat down in front of my laptop. And here I am to tell you about my first thought of the day.

It was about LEMONS. That’s right. Lemons.

lemon tree

Actually, it was about the first time I picked LEMONS–and GREEN LEMONS on top of it! And to have a friend growing them in her backyard was crazy fun.  I went nuts, picking about two or three dozen of the unusual large, green lemons, and then I smuggled them home in my suitcase. (That was before 9/11 when you didn’t have to have a strip search before you stepped on an American plane.)

As soon as I got home, I unpacked my prize lemons,  squeezed them, and froze the juice in ice cube trays. Now every time I wanted fresh lemon juice, all I had to do was thaw a cube and enjoy.

Most of my joy came from remembering me giggling as I picked the  fruit and my friend Marie standing by laughing at me being so joyous over a bunch of dumb lemons.

Maybe I thought about lemons this morning because I miss Marie. It’s been several years since we’ve seen each other, and this is the time of year I always looked forward to traveling south to get out of the snow and ice. (Did I tell you we had 15 inches of snow over the last 24 hours.) February or March was this time of year Ken and I would enjoy our condo timeshare in Orlando, and plan fun things to do as we enjoyed our Floridian once-a-year residence . One of our regular excursions was to take a couple of days to drive down to visit my dear friend in Flagler Beach.

So, when you read this Marie — and I know that you will — I hope you’re not put off that I thought of lemons and you in the same thought. You’ve never had a sour day in your life.

DP Challenge – Uncle Abe, a Real Character

The Dichotomy of Uncle Abe

Copyright 2013 Barbara Celeste McCloskey

I sat silently in the ornate church as the ancient Armenian chant wafted to the rafters. The heavy smell of sweet incense and the flickering candles added to the familiar funeral mood. Although I had no hint of the meaning of the strange words, the tone of the chant evoked reverence and peace. A perfect climate for reflecting.

I stared at the large pewter casket, which sat in the middle aisle and was covered with an ornate drape. It was humorous that Abe was here. Religion was extremely important to both sides of his family, but Abe never walked through a church door. His wife’s family was Italian Catholic, and they insisted St. Sebastian’s was the best church for his funeral. Abe’s brothers and sisters argued because Abe was Armenian, he should be buried from St. George’s. This controversy over his burial would have tickled him. I pictured him standing in the clouds with arms folded laughing, “Who the hell cares? Just bury me, already!”

Abe was boisterous and loved to make an entrance. His deep, bellowing voice would fill the largest hall, and he’d say, “So, how the hell are you?” and then he’d slap you on the back. He was a mountain of a man in personality and stature. His belt was hidden by his abundant paunch and when he walked, he rolled. He always wore a broad smile under a well-groomed mustache, and never left the house without a dapper hat. And today, we all cried heartfelt tears his gregarious lifestyle took him away from us when he collapsed on the kitchen floor from a fatal heart attack. But somehow it seemed fitting his big, generous heart just pooped out from so much giving.

Abe was a politician, and we all were benefactors of his service. He had been elected Village President several consecutive terms, and I saw him as the Harry Truman of our little village because the buck always stopped with him. When I stayed for dinner at his house, the phone never stopped ringing.

“Abe, my cat is in the tree. Who do I call?”

“Abe, our sewer is backed up. Send someone over.”

“Abe, I need somebody to haul away the garbage that was missed on pick-up day. Can you take care of it?”

Instead of being perturbed his dinner had been interrupted with these dumb phone calls, Abe would patiently take care of the problem with a big smile, gaining another vote.

The luckiest citizens of the village were the children. Abe loved kids; unfortunately, he never got to be a father. His only son Michael was stillborn and it nearly broke his heart. But instead of feeling sorry for himself, Abe found a solution. He filled the void by adopting all the kids in Sturtevant. Through hard-nose politics and annexation tactics, he saw to it that parks were built both ends of the village. He instituted a supervised summer recreation program, so every kid could go to the park, play safely and have fun the entire summer. In the winter, he was the first man on the fire hose nozzle to flood ice skating rinks where we played baseball in the summer. At Halloween, all the kids knew that Abe always had the biggest candy bars at Halloween and hundreds of kids put his house on their trick-or-treat route.

Abe also served his community as a volunteer fireman. But as the chairman of the party committee, he made sure there were plenty of games and prizes for the kids at the annual picnics every year. He also demanded that there was plenty of ice cream bars, cake, and candy, too. He arranged for Santa Claus to come to the annual Christmas party and we all left with a very nice present we wanted. Every kid in Sturtevant loved Abe, and today, they filled the church to say goodbye to a good friend.

Not only was he President of the village, he was also the leader of the AFL/CIO labor union where he worked. With his cigar stogy clenched between his teeth, he went from one smoke-filled meeting to another. He was cunning, intelligent, and diligent to get things done. One one intimidated him, and when he thought he was right, he  fought like a bulldog biting his teeth into any matter concerning worker welfare and safety.

Because he was so quick to offer aid to most anyone, Abe put himself in debt more than once. He never felt remorse for his actions and this repeated behavior ran up debts so serious, his sickly wife Josie had to go to work in a drug store in a run-down part of town to meet the payments the bank required.

One of my fondest memories of my favorite uncle was Christmas Eve. Uncle Abe and Aunt Jo hosted a traditional Italian family dinner before everyone else went to midnight Mass. When we opened the door, strains  of “Ave Maria” and “O Holy Night” were background for this once-a-year exotic feast. The house was filled with the heavenly aromas tomato sauce and garlic. When we arrived, Abe played the ultimate host, while Aunt Jo remained hidden in a hot kitchen in a soiled apron.

Tables were heaped with calamari, lobster, jumbo shrimp, imported cheeses, four or five pasta dishes, salads, and breads. My aunt worked for weeks preparing the excessive delicacies. She even had whole banquet table filled with platters of desserts and cookies. There was so much food that the entire village could have come for dinner, and there would still be leftovers. Abe’s contribution to the preparations was to kiss his wife on the cheek and slap her on the fanny as he told her what a wonderful cook she was. The rest of us were expected to “Mangia” until we would “roll” home.,

Abe and his Josie were married over forty years, and together they saw a lot of hardship. Josie suffered chronic illness for most of her life. She always joked that her wardrobe was packed for the hospital. But, Abe never strayed. He was by her side through everything, and he provided for her as best as he could. After her debilitating stroke a few years ago, he desperately fought to care for her at home. But after nearly collapsing from exhaustion, he had to face he longer keep “Josie” with him. When he had to put her in a nursing home, he lost the bounce in his step. Any stranger wouldn’t know the difference, though, because his usual blowhard charm would cover the whole in his heart. He’d enter the nursing home and ask the ladies, “Who wants me, baby?”

As the Armenian priest ended his chant and took a seat in the front of the altar, there was a moment of silence. I wondered if everyone was thinking about all the things Abe did in his life. When the priest referred to my uncle as “Abraham,” I thought it was sad this priest didn’t know the real man in the casket. But when he eulogized my uncle as a man of his word with a heart of gold, he got it part right.

The post is in response to The Daily Post weekly challenge — Tell us about a character in your life.

A New Start in the Twilight Zone

I subscribe to the blog called, The Daily Post. Everyday the author(s) post a writing challenge to keep our writing juices flowing. This week’s DP Challenge is to write something about Starting Over. Here’s my entry in the contest.

A New Start in the Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone

 

About twelve years ago, my husband was abducted by aliens. I’m sure of it because he’s never been the same since. And since that fateful day, we’ve been walking through The Twilight Zone.

It all started with a phone call.  “Hello, sweetheart. I need you.” Ken was crying. He never cried.

Fear rose up from my stomach. Something was terribly wrong.  “Where are you?”

“I’m at the Mall.”

“Where at the Mall?”

“I don’t know. I don’t even know how I got here.”

“Look around you and tell me what you see.”

“I’m in the hallway outside one of the entrances, using one of the pay phones.”

“I can’t find you if you can’t tell me where you are!” I was on the verge of panic.

“There’s a fingernail place across from me. And one of those “You are Here” layouts in the middle of the hallway.”

“That’s good. That helps. I’ll be right there. Don’t move.”

I threw on a coat, jumped in my car, and drove over the speed limit to get to the Mall. My imagination was going mad. Different scary scenarios manifested. Was he hurt? Had someone mugged him? Why couldn’t he tell me what happened? Why didn’t he know where he was?

Five minutes later, I parked the car at the Southeast Entrance and ran into the building. From his description of his surroundings, I surmised he had to be somewhere close. I opened the set of glass doors and looked around. There he was sitting on a bench in the mall courtyard. His head was down, looking like a lost five year old.

“Ken!”

“Sweetheart!” He rushed toward me and grabbed me in a strong embrace. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

I looked at his face and there was a look of sheer terror in his eyes. “It’s okay now. I’m here.” He didn’t let go.

When he relaxed a bit, I walked him back to the bench to try to piece together what had happened. “Can you tell me anything?”

“I don’t even know how I got in here. I don’t remember driving to the mall or where I parked the car.” He said in a weak voice while tears filled his eyes.

“What were you doing before you got to the mall?”

“Patrick and I met for coffee at Wilson’s.”

“Do you remember driving to the mall?”

He took a deep breath. “Yes.”

“Do you remember the road you took to get here?”

“Yes. I drove down Green Bay Road.”

As he pieced the puzzle together, I felt him relax a little more. “So you turned into the mall from the west side by Applebee’s?”

“No. I turned in by Olive Garden.”

“That’s good. Where did you park?”

He began to cry again. “I don’t know!”

I put my arm around him and tried to soothe him. “It’s okay. We’ll find the car together. Are you sure you feel well enough?  Are you hurt? Perhaps I should call the ambulance and have you checked out at the hospital.”

“No! No doctors. No hospital. I’m fine now.” He added, “Now that you’re here.”

We walked to my car, hand in hand. “I’ll just drive around and maybe you’ll remember something.” He agreed that was a good idea.

As I circled the mall, I continued to question him to ascertain where his car might be. “If you came in at the other end of the mall, do you remember why you came here?”

“Yes. I wanted to buy some blades for my electric shaver.”

“That’s good. Do you remember what store you were going to try to buy them?”

“That little store by Penny’s.”

“But that’s on the other end of the mall from where you called me.”

He began to cry again. “I know. I can’t tell you how I got on the other end of the complex. It’s like I lost a chunk of time. Why is this happening?”

“I don’t know, honey. But it’s really okay. We’ll piece this thing that’s happened to you—together.” I tried to hide my concern with the sound of confidence in my voice to keep him calm. But in my mind, I kept asking myself what could have caused such a traumatic event for the man I love?

Ken brushed away a tear that had rolled down his cheek. “Oh, sweetheart, I don’t know what I’d do without you. I feel like I’m losing my mind.”

I didn’t want to say it, but I was truly afraid that something very serious had happened to him. But what? What would cause him to not remember these simple things?

We drove around the mall for about twenty minutes before we found the car. “There it is! There’s the car.” Ken’s voice sounded almost joyous.

“Do you remember anything more now that you see the car?”

“No.”

“I don’t know if you should drive, Ken.”

“I’m fine now. I can get the car home.”

“Perhaps we should call someone to drive it home for us.”

“No. Don’t treat me like a child! I can drive the car!” He jumped out of my car with his keys in his hand, unlocked the door and waved to me.

I followed him back to our condo and got him safely inside our home. When I saw him in the kitchen, he looked very weary. “I made some soup for supper. Would you like a sandwich with it?”

“No. I really don’t feel like eating. I think I’ll go to bed.”

“Are you sure? When was the last time you had something to eat?”

“I ate my lunch at break time, like always.”

“That was over seven hours ago. Why don’t you go wash up and I’ll put supper on the table?”

“Maybe you’re right.” He hung up his jacket in the living room closet and went into the bathroom.

After he ate a small bowl of soup, he went to bed. I picked up the phone and called the doctor. This unexplained event troubled me to no end. As an engineer, Ken was naturally meticulous with a keen attention to details. He needed to be checked out. But not tonight. He was in no danger, but I would keep vigil. Nothing or no one would harm him again.

 

We never did know for sure what happened that night. But a year later, Ken suffered a seizure in the middle of the night. A year later he developed testicle cancer and five years after that he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I still think the whole ordeal was initiated by an alien abduction. I think they infused my husband with some strange chemical that triggered his medical problems. They stole him away from me that night, and now I’m left to walking through the Twilight Zone with him.

The DP Challenge–A Picture of a 1000 words

I’ve often mentioned that I enjoy Dianne Gray’s blog. Well today, she put out a challenge that resonated with me. She presented writers with a photo, and in 1,000 words or so, we were to write an account about the picture below. Here’s my entry. Enjoy. Or better yet, give it a try yourself. http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/weekly-writing-challenge-a-picture-is-worth-1000-words/

I remember this day so clearly. This photo was taken by my mother. It was Easter morning. My father, brother and I are dressed up in our new Spring finery. We’re are standing outside the doors of  St. Rita’s Catholic Church. I guess my mother thought we were looking pretty spiffy. She took this photo right before we darkened the door before Easter’s celebration Mass.

I think you can tell from the expression on my face that I’m not looking forward to what would happen next.

You see, going to church on Sunday was required in my family. There was no excuse that was good enough to miss. Even a fever and a cold that would keep me out of school wasn’t good enough to skip church. The problem was, my mother “converted” to Catholicism when she married my father, and she took her conversion seriously. Like all devoted Catholics, she believed if we missed Mass on Sunday or a Holy Day, and she died before confessing her wrongdoing to the priest, she would surely go to hell. From what I understood at the time of this picture, HELL was the worst place in the world!

Clearly, I wasn’t happy on this particular day. I hated this pink girly coat and matching hat. I even had to endure the stinky process of my mother putting a “Toni” home permanent to make my straight locks become curly just for Easter. To make matters even worse, my mother insisted I carry an empty little purse that matched my shiny shoes. It didn’t matter there was nothing in the purse, but heaven forbid if I would lose the stupid thing. Then I would go to HELL.

In addition to having to wear “girly” Sunday clothes, I hated church because I had to sit still and stay quiet for a VERY LONG time. Sitting still was not one of my best virtues. I was an active child who liked to run, jump, and climb trees. I played with boys on my street and I got dirty enough to be one of them. I was more comfortable in corduroy pants and PF fliers than I was in this outfit.

To make matters even worse, I also a curious child. I wanted to learn about what was happening around me. So watching a pageant of men dressed in long, bright colored robes, carrying candles and reading words I didn’t understand from a big book,  brought a lot of questions into my little head. Unfortunately those questions would never be answered because I couldn’t ask them.

The best thing I could do to survive this time of penance was to pretend I was playing “Statues” like we did on the playground, knowing that only when my mother touched me, I would be released from my pose and could go home to find my Easter basket that the bunny left me. It was my best defense because I knew if I wiggled or spoke up,  I would get scolded at best, slapped for worst. God, I hated church.

As you can see from the photo, my brother was the complete opposite of me. He was the exceptional child. He looked forward to the blessed event every Sunday. He relished getting dressed up in a white shirt and red bow tie. Damn, he was a serious boy! You can see by his expression that he knew he was “the chosen one.” He knew he was considered a perfect child from the day he was born. You see, my parents saw him as a miracle because my brother almost died when he was a baby. See that sweet, innocent face? See that perfect posture? He even looks like a cherub. I never did understand him.

From my father’s expression, you can tell he wasn’t nuts about having to go to church, either. He worked all week in a factory, and Sunday was the one day of the week he had to dress in a white shirt, tie and suit. I know he didn’t like wearing “Sunday” clothes as much as I did. They just weren’t comfortable or even natural. I once heard my father complain to my mother that wearing a tie around his neck felt like a noose. He especially hated having to shine his shoes every Saturday night because my mother would yell at him for getting that black stuff all over the cupboard.

The only one who is not in the picture is my mother because she’s behind the camera. I can tell you that she always looked forward to Sundays and she especially got excited over days like Easter and Christmas because she said the church was so beautiful on those special occasions. And she was right about that part. The people who decorated the church did a really nice job. On Easter they always had angels with long trumpets flying above the altar. And even though I didn’t understand the words, the music was always prettier on the special days, too. On Easter the choir sang with not only the organ, but they had people playing trumpets, too. I guess Jesus  liked good music a couple of times per year.

So here we are—my father and I dreading having to sit through Mass in uncomfortable clothes; my brother chomping at the bit to started. My mother documented us for life. Everyone will know that we did our sacred Sunday duty. My mother wouldn’t have to confess a mortal sin. And Father O’Malley, who kept tabs on people who attended Mass and those who didn’t, would know that at the very least, my family wasn’t going to HELL any time soon.