Tag Archive | mistakes



It isn’t always a mother who does the mothering in a family. Sometimes it’s a father; often it’s an older sister who fills in for an absent or lacking parent. In this scene from PERSEPHONE IN HELL, Penny wakes from a terrible nightmare. She’s dreamed her little sister Kit is dead. She hears noises in the dark, and follows them into Kit’s room. Young Kit is crying, perched on the edge of her bed in her favorite green nightgown, herself having just awakened from an awful dream.

“In seeing Kit, it was as though a great weight lifted off Penny’s shoulders. She had never, ever been so happy to see her tiny sister. She held out her arms to Kit, who was miraculously unhurt and alive and safe. She gave her the hug of a lifetime.

Rubbing her eyes, still waking from her dream, Kit cried, “Penny, I’m all alone. No one cares about me. I could be dead and no one would even notice.”

Penny didn’t know why Kit felt this way or why she said the things she said. They were Kit’s feelings, and couldn’t be denied. But she knew that Kit was wrong. There was at least one person who cared that she was alive. She was not alone.

Penny stroked her small sister’s teary cheeks. She rocked her back and forth and softly hummed a favorite tune. “Greensleeves was my heart of gold, and who but my lady Greensleeves?” She sang the words over and over, calmly and sweetly, until Kit returned to the bliss of a young girl’s deep sleep.

Then Queen Penny the Good closed her eyes, and slept like a child until the morn.”

To mothers everywhere, real and imagined, young and old, perfect and not. I wish your families the wisdom to understand that you are trying your best, you are working so hard, you need their love even if you are flawed. Mothering is not easy. I want the world to understand.

Happy Mothers Day


Slapping the Dough


Apparently I’m obsessed with food. Completely obsessed. I hadn’t a clue how true that statement is until I wrote my book, PERSEPHONE IN HELL. The subject of food permeates my every chapter. Good times, ugly moments, difficult relationships, innocent encounters – food is everywhere in my story.

In Chapter Nannie and Sadie, Glory visits her grandmother and aunt in Boston for school vacation week. She looks forward to this annual trip which helps her escape, if only temporarily, from her cow town out in the country. But this time, Nannie and Sadie aren’t speaking to each other. Glory hasn’t any idea why.

“I should have stayed home. Why did I even come this year? Glory wondered as she sat watching Nannie knead the dough for the challah. Nannie was a good baker. Not as good as Ma, whose cinnamon bread, served warm with melting butter, filled the house with the scent of heaven.

Maybe it was in the forcefulness of Ma’s kneading that the spirit of bread in its full Platonic sense was revealed. Ma always said that slapping and pushing the dough around the breadboard was therapeutic. The idea is to get the dough as smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom, she’d say. Nannie’s hands were old and weak compared with Ma’s. But to give Nannie credit, her bread was good too.

Today, Nannie was silent as she lifted and pushed the dough with the palm of her hand, turned it, lifted and pushed again. Her eyes were angry but she wouldn’t say a word.

…Meanwhile, the silence was deafening. Glory couldn’t hold out much more, waiting for the new world she longed to see. I am bored, so very bored. And savages, all around and deep inside were stirring, moving to reclaim their lost land.”

Glory is a troubled girl. That’s evident right from the beginning of the story. Perhaps if she had learned to slap the dough instead of holding all her anger in, she might not have cut herself. It’s unfortunate that while Ma has learned a way to release some of her stress and anger, she hasn’t taught that trick to her daughter Glory. Slap the dough ‘smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom’ – now there’s a message not so subtle! There is no handing down of sympathies in this family. Each wrapped in her own distress, no one takes notice of another’s. Glory is on her own, truly.


Finding Fury


What is hell but the fury in me? The hatred that can explode without warning. That self-immolation, that despicable, vile loathing that imprints an image into my cerebral cortex. I am not good enough, insists the graven image, that revolting torture carved on my flesh. I will always be less than I desire. Never happy. Unworthy. I turn to golden calves for wanton relief. But the truth is there for the remembering. It can cut me down at the knees. Its relentless driven message – directed, precise. It permits no escapes. I am useless. I am a waste of a human being, a waste of a living being. Let me descend into my own rot, make my appalling mistakes. Let the faults speak as loudly as my tattooed skin shrieks foul to a sick universe. This hell, this fury, this determined rip, this unyielding tear. This afflicted place.

The Mistake
Soak your pride in acid rain
Clip past the quick
Silence sentiment
Scrape the evidence from your fingertips
Drown uniqueness in categorical denial
Burn the prints
Gut a jealous turn
Cut and let fall your naiveté
Down, down
Till the budding branches
And all hell is happy

Pandora’s Box


Those of you who have been following my postings know that Facebook and I have been together only a short time. I resisted Facebook because I was worried it would sap my time (it has), keep me focused on the trivial (ditto), and turn me from reality to virtual reality. Lighten up, I’ve been told quite sternly! But with so little time on this earth, why would I want to use it up staring at my laptop or my smart phone?

In this excerpt from PERSEPHONE IN HELL, set in 1968, Ancient Glory narrates the story from 40 years in the future. She’s understanding. She gets that there are exciting and sometimes compelling distractions all around. Paying attention to the important things, to what’s in your heart and mind, the content of your character, the quality of your soul, can be tough with so much competition.

“Maybe that was why a year or more had passed, and no one had noticed Gloria’s scars. No one had seen the ugly lines on her thighs or the jagged breaks against her breasts.

Not one of them had looked, really looked at Gloria. Not even Penny, who shared a bedroom and might have seen at least one of her sister’s fifteen cries for help. Not Sammy, who ignored Glory as much as possible, hoping to tune out the crass remarks he heard around the locker room. Not Dad, always annoyed and uncomfortable around his pretty daughter. And least of all Ma, the mother who might have paid attention but didn’t.

Honestly, there were so many things to think about, so much to occupy one’s mind. There was the mortgage…food for eight…sneakers and coats and shoes and pants for ever growing children…college loans and Vietnam and protests in the streets…heart surgery and a sister-in-law’s last days…taxes, paychecks, money, electricity. One couldn’t see it all.

A daughter’s cutting pain could go unnoticed with other children to tend. A sister’s torn miseries might easily remain unseen when you weren’t even talking to her. An almost grown child’s razor blade lament could be overlooked or forgotten when, after all, it was old news. And how could you pay attention to the ordinariness of life when history was in the making?”

Pandora’s box, Facebook is. Open it. All the fun and troubles and temptations in the world come flying out at you, cluttering space, leaving you staring into an empty abyss and wondering where it ends, where will it end.


Take 2 on my virtual world


I mentioned before that Facebook is like Pandora’s box. Open it and all the troubles of the world fly out at you and hit you in the face, ricocheting off into the room and filling your head and your heart with dread. You’re left staring at an enormous pit of empty space inside that famous box. You wonder where the emptiness ends. Where it begins.

Today I want to talk about email. Email is a slyly deceptive vehicle for conveying information. It’s easy, you think. You just type in a message and send it to the person you want to receive it. Easy. That person emails back, or not. Equally easy.

It seems good – so quick, so efficient, wonderfully communicative. Or is it?

Example: I email my friend Susie. “Hey Susie! I need to mow the lawn. When was the last time you helped me out?” Susie writes back, “Friend, when was the last time you helped me with anything?”

So now we have a miscommunication.

Scenario 1: I could have added a smiley face at the end of my teasing question. That would have told Susie that I was joking. That I had to mow the lawn and boy, would I like to get someone else to do it! I didn’t add that smiley face. I figured she knew I’d be joking, since I joke a lot. But she’s having a bad day, and she took my tease the wrong way.

Scenario 2: Susie could have added a smiley face to the end of her response. She didn’t. So her remark sounded snippy to me. I’m confused, because I was just joking. I’m unsure what Susie means. Is she mad at me? Is she resentful about something? I don’t know.

There are many other possible scenarios with this one simple communication. How easy it is to misinterpret what the other is saying. Without body language, without any of the senses except for sight that we use to judge and determine intent, we can easily be lost in miscommunication. Email allows no sound, no taste, no smell, no touch, no body language. No hugs, no kisses, no smiles, no frowns, no angry stares. It’s easy to pile miscommunication upon miscommunication.

Now, I might have added to my email, “Pizza after we’re done!” Then Susie might have realized my friendly intent. Susie might have added a frown face after her response. Then I would have known I teased her too much. There are ways to make email work.

But, it isn’t easy. I have to be quite intentional and measured with emotions. I cannot express what’s really in my heart because it can’t be legitimized without that body language that is part of our human experience. I have to be perfect with words and clear in intent. Once words are written, they can never be taken back. They are immortalized for eternity, written in Pandora’s box. Click ‘Send’ and you’ve committed to the consequences. Whether your ideas are well crafted and the intentions understandable or not, it’s too late once you hit ‘Send’.

My friendly advice is, don’t hit ‘Send’ unless you’re sure your message is exactly the message you intend to deliver.