2010s, culture, family, Film Spotlight, In My Opinion, inspiration, love, movies

IMO: Life’s Eventful Extremes

What a difference a day can make.

My mother visited for a week and escaped the 15 below zero temps in Illinois. Jim and I hosted her before my children and grandchildren arrived later in the week to see her. On the first night of her visit, with supper finished and the evening open for entertainment, my mother chose the movie, Richard Harris in A Man Called Horse (1971). On the second night, I picked Battle of the Sexes. On January second, it was Jim’s turn to pick a movie.

What a surprise that he picked Moonstruck. The consummate chick-flick? Maybe he was inspired by our own Bella Luna, the Super Moon going on outside? January has two full moons this year and it has started several conversations about the differences between a Wolf, a Blue and a Super Moon. He loves the silly Dean Martin song, “That’s Amore”. I suspected he was trying to be a good sport and pick a film that would make my Mom happy. I hadn’t seen Moonstruck in decades. Sure, why not? So the music played, and I swooned with the luscious music of La bohème. Nicholas Cage was young and a sexy scene-chewer. Cher was gorgeous and almost convincing while Olympia Dukakis deserved her Best Supporting Oscar win. When the credits rolled, we all stood up and smiled. The ending was touching with the punctuation mark celebrating the family and validating the vows of love.

Jim left the room and returned. With the music still in the background, he got down on one knee and opened up a box with a silver wedding band. “I bought this for myself, but it won’t mean anything if you don’t accept the other ring I bought.” He opened up another box and in it was an engagement ring. “Cindy, will you marry me?”

That he asked me in front of my mother meant the world. That he did it in front of this romantic movie was a masterstroke. I remember when we were in Santorini, I wondered why hadn’t he asked me to marry him in arguably the prettiest place in the world? Instead, he asked me in our living room with my mother in attendance. We were all moonstruck.

I have been divorced for 26 years. What a strange, lovely state-of-being to be now engaged.

12 hours later, at noon, I felt a twitch under my upper rib cage. The twitch turned into a poke which turned into a gasping stab that became a constant companion. By three in the afternoon, I was in the emergency room. Jim was by my side, my children arrived that morning and were entertaining my mother. To breathe jiggled the knife in my chest as we waited for doctors and blood tests and sonograms and EKG results to whittle down the possibilities.  They found a baseball cyst connected to my liver, and the cyst was bleeding. Until the blood was absorbed, I would be in pain. Two doses of Dilaudid (stronger than Morphine) laterthey sent me home. I did my best to be calm and quiet, but by 3 a.m., the pain was still strong as ever and poor Jim had to take me back to the ER.

A few days have passed, my Mom has returned to the tundra. The house is quiet. I am feeling better. I looked at Jim and realized I was still engaged, and he was my fiancé, and I hadn’t thought about his question to marry him for days. He just walked by my desk just now.
“Why the living room instead of on top of a Grecian Island?”

He replied, “Home is where the heart is.” Good answer.

I asked him, “We don’t believe in bad omens, right?”

“Of course not.”

“Okay, good. It must have been the Belle Luna.

The ironies of life fascinate me. How about you? How extreme has a day been for you? 

2010s, family, In My Opinion, inspiration, music

IMO: The Guitar

Dear Son,

I saw the movie Coco the other day, and a major theme of the movie was remembering your dead loved-ones so they wouldn’t be forgotten. While driving home alone, it was dark and the vivid stars flickered. I imagined the people I had loved and lost throughout my life were the brightest ones saying hello. I began with the first person I had lost, my best friend way back when I was seventeen, and I remembered the special days and the unremarkable ones. I recalled his goofiness, his serious expressions as his fingers tapped on the piano keys, and I thanked his star for introducing me to classical music. Then I recalled the next deceased person in my history and the next. I recalled their faces and told their stars what I had loved best about them until your Dad was next. Do I remember the bad or the good?

For years in my mind, it was too easy to recall the ugly times and feel righteous for my decision to divorce him. I see now, decades later, that it was an attempt to ease my guilt for the breakup of the family. In the beginning, when we loved each other, during our happiest times, it was so because of music. After a shift of work, we’d sit at the table playing a board game that simulated a baseball season while we listened to new artists.  He’d sing the lyrics he memorized with a clear pitch. We’d listen with speakers loud, and I remember dancing around the room to Genesis’s “Turn it on Again.” I always think of your Dad when that song comes on. We were stationed in Scotland at the time and visited the record store frequently. Every paycheck he’d pick out a new album to buy. We studied the groups he was obsessed with like The Beatles, Yes, and The Who. We both discovered new groups together and bought their albums as soon as they were released. Groups like: Tears for Fears, U2, the Police, Dire Straits, Depeche Mode, and a hundred others. His tastes were all over the place. I thought that was one of his best traits. That he shared his passion for music with me was the best gift of our marriage.

When you were a teenager and back from the military school, Lincoln’s Challenge, you sat up in your bedroom with your GED waiting for your friends to graduate high school. I’m so glad cell phones weren’t omnipresent then or the stimulation of social media that steals our time today. In the quiet, up in your room, you taught yourself how to play the guitar.  If there was a silver lining during the dark days of your teenage years, I’d say that was it. In college, you played your guitar and sang the songs you wrote and your album for your senior project reflected your ingenuity. How proud I was to listen to your songs. I still pull out the CD and listen to it from time to time. When you performed during your twenties and your guitar chords were precise and your voice conveyed feeling, and the audience clapped for you—did you feel that was the apex of your musical relationship with the guitar?

You are thirty-something now with responsibilities and different passions. A life to share with Laura. A new degree almost completed. Hopes and dreams for a better job. Children soon. I couldn’t be happier for you! I know making ends meet is difficult and the many moves and transitions precipitated your decision to part with your acoustic guitar a few years ago. This year, you did not want me to get you a birthday present because you have everything you need. However, I hope you will accept the guitar I sent you, even though I know it was a selfish move on my part. You see, when I think about your Dad’s love for music, I think of you, because you inherited that passion. As mother and son, we talk about music and share new groups and songs. I still have the many CDs you burned for me, and I listen to the bands you recommended. When you played the guitar at Thanksgiving because I insisted, it made me happier than I anticipated.

I am not suggesting you perform or record or do anything purposeful with the gift that is yours other than to play the guitar as a part of your life. It makes people happy. It is that unique, interesting side of your personality. Play to your family and friends and spread the love of music to the next generation, on behalf of your Dad, and on behalf of me, please, play. Happy Birthday.

culture, In My Opinion, inspiration, love

Good Works, works



I confess, unless I’m forced, I rarely volunteer. I’m selfish with my time, and find I resent the pit-stops and delays that interfere. I’m grumbling inside, rushing the conversation, rushing the event, rushing until I’m in charge of my time again. This stinginess is a foible I fight. What’s my solution? I force myself to commit. If I volunteer to read at Mass, I’ll go to church. If I sponsor a community service club, I will volunteer my time. It’s the theory of causality.


Creating habits of good works fosters more good works. Like compound interest, the rewards are tremendous. Here’s an example:

Because I’m reluctant to give up my precious time, I agreed to be the sponsor of an international/community service club at my high school. I oversee teenagers doing good works in the community. Right now we are preparing a visit to a nearby nursing home and give them gifts of clothing and treats. Listen to this “wish list” given to me by the Director of Activities:

Robert, Rm. 203-1  Robert struggles with just about everything due to his health. WWII veteran. He does go to the dining room for meals, but is in his room the rest of the time.  Perhaps a nice long sleeved winter shirt or sweats would be nice for him.

Armand , Rm. 204-1 is a very elderly gentleman with no family left, no visitors, he speaks French and gets around the facility quite adequately.  He is alone most of the time due to his deafness.  He enjoys sweets, cookies and candy,and wears nice sweaters.

Howard, rm. 205.  Howard is a recluse, rarely comes out of his room. Watches old movies on his T,V. all day.  He is quite alert and not too old.  I would recommend munchies, he loves cheese puffs, cookies, etc.  He is definitely a junk food junkie

Evelyn- Rm. 207-1  Evelyn has no family. Army nurse from Korean War. She is a lovely woman who is bedridden most of the time due to health.  She is an avid reader, reads her bible daily, likes mystery stories, enjoys putting together crossword puzzles.

Muriel,  Rm. 207-2 has no family.  She recently tried returning to her home but was unable to stay due to health concerns.  She also is an avid reader, loves mysteries, works crossword puzzles daily and enjoys candy!!

Virginia, Rm. 208-1 no family.  Very active in facility, Hard of Hearing, enjoys snacking, needs perhaps a new sweater, size large, new slip over long sleeved shirt, loves candy without nuts

Victoria, Rm. 208-2 no family.  Desperately needs sweats, size medium, likes blue, black or green, avid reader, mysteries.

Bessie, Rm. 210-1, Native American woman, family far away and do not visit her.  She used to enjoy beading, wears long dresses and sweaters, size medium

Francis, Rm. 217-1, no family.  Works crossword puzzles in her room, likes chocolate candy, no nuts, wears white sweaters, size medium

Sandra, Rm. 216-1, no family.  Wears sweats, usually pink or light purple, enjoys snack food, wears caps due to hair loss

Morgan, Rm. 218-2-no family, never married. Vietnam veteran and junk food junky.  Watches T.V. and reads.  Has a Nook Book.  Needs large print books, mysteries.  Stuffed animals (raccoons)

Katherine-family is far away.  Younger woman, loves to read Nora Roberts and Daniel Steele books

Helen, Rm. 109-2 has little family involvement.  She wears blue sweaters, size large. 

Brian, Rm. 118-1 homeless, young man, very kind and gentle.  Probably could use clothes, wears tee shirts, maybe needs sweatshirt or light jacket.  Wears blues, mild colors.  Also snacks is an option.  Loves movies too.  Only 52 years old.

Our student officers have organized the school fundraiser, our members will help shop, wrap the gifts, and deliver the items to the nursing home in a couple weeks. They will spend the morning talking with the residents. One could look at our club and see the practical reasons for doing this community gesture: it is a prerequisite of our school to complete 25 hours of community service in order to graduate. Some members are in National Honor Society, and they must complete 50 hours during a school year. I receive a small stipend. Students’ high school resumes look good as they compete for admission to college.

There’s more to it than the practical reasons. Look at that list! I see veterans, people without families, people alone at the end of their lives with candy as a companion. When we listen to them, it feels good. They cry and we cry when we say goodbye. What happens next? We come back to our meetings and think of other projects to do.  

The officers brainstorm and the group completes a year’s worth of international and community service projects. Sometimes we box meals to send to refugee camps or to those who have suffered from a Tsunami or hurricane. We work with Doctors without Borders  and raise money to buy chlorination kits for impoverished communities. The result is the same. Giving feels good.   

As an individual, giving my time is difficult, but within a group, the synergy makes giving easy.