Sunday, June 9, 2019

So Fragile and So Fearless

Hello All,
I’ve been away from blogging and posting for over three months. I spent March marketing my new feline gift book—The Gift of Nine Lives. Then I spent April and early May completing the historical novel on which I’d worked, off and on, for twenty-two years. The Reluctant Spy is now being formatting for publication sometime this summer.

Since then I’ve dwelt often in the deep center of myself where my love for friends resides. There, I’ve grieved. In mid-May one of my dearest and oldest friends died suddenly and unexpectedly. Pat and I met when we were in our early forties, so we’d known one another for more than forty years.

I’m finding this death hard; in the past weeks I’ve spoken with her husband several times, cried with him, and continued to grieve a friend who so often helped me when my thoughts became muddled. With her incisive questions and wisdom, Pat brought clarity to my confusion.

Living far from her home, I hadn’t seen her for six years. But we spoke on the phone regularly. So it’s not her actual tangible presence that tells me she is gone. In my mind—which is having a hard time accepting the new reality—she is still just a phone call away.

As I watched the season’s final episode of “Call the Midwife,” I found myself thinking, “I wonder what Pat will say about this when we talk.”

As I read the latest Jacqueline Winspear novel The American Agent, I found myself wondering if Pat, too, was thinking this might be the author’s last book in the series.

Always, while watching the PBS television programs we most enjoyed or reading the novels by authors that one or the other of us had discovered and shared, I find myself thinking of Pat. Where does she think the series—television or book—is going next? What other program did we see this English actor in?

Over the forty years of our friendship, Pat and I shared many interests. Here are just a few:
·      a great love of animals and a concern over their treatment;
·      a delight in reading well-written mystery novels;
·      a love of correct grammar and good writing;
·      a commitment to social justice, inclusion, equality, voting rights, and women’s rights;
·      a vow to resist bullies and those who fail to embrace the differences that might enrich our culture;
·      a resolve to try to find, embrace, and live the consequences of the ties that bind us as global citizens;
·      and a sense of humor—oh, I miss her laughter and her chuckle.

After living in Stillwater, Minnesota, for thirty-seven years, I moved here to Missouri ten years ago. In the intervening years, nine of my friends have died. Pat is just the latest, but our friendship had grown so deep that my grief has been a little overwhelming.

What always helps me is being grateful that she chose me as a friend all those years ago. I feel deep, enriching gratitude for her friendship. For her faithfulness. For her love.

And I realize again and yes again as I learn of the death of friends in Minnesota that growing older is a matter of letting go again and yes again. Letting go.

I am reminded of the last words from a poem I memorized when I was twenty-one. It is from a book of poetry by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Blow through me, Life, pared down at last to bone.
So fragile and so fearless have I grown.

Pat had become fragile as she aged. She was always fearless. And she was always a friend.

Photographs from Wikipedia

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Recipe for a Career

Last week, several of you left comments indicating that my new “recipe” for writing sounded like a renamed, still ambitious, version of the old. Today I’m writing the first of three posts to explain the differences between the old Dee—worker bee—and the new—nonchalant feline.

Today, I’ll detail the years to retirement; next week, retirement to now; third week, new recipe. Please bear with me; I hope you don’t get too bored.

Let’s begin.

Throughout grade and high school, college and convent, I responded promptly to a clanging bell announcing a change of class or task. That bell set the rhythm of my day. After I left the convent, I taught for several years, once again responding to bells. The routine eked into my bones. Very Pavlov and his dog.

Then, in 1973, I began to work for a well-known Roman Catholic publishing house in Minneapolis. As a senior, trade-department editor, my work day went from 8:30 to 5:30. No bells; no classroom assignments to grade; no manuscripts to assess at home. I managed to meet my deadlines within the set hours of the work day.

In 1980, I became director of the curriculum department. My staff consisted of five creative editors as well as an insightful administrative assistant. The staff went home at 5:30, work left behind. As director, I spent the day in numerous meetings and phone conversation with authors, leaving little time for managing the numerous projects. I began to take work home with me.

Arriving home around 6 PM, I’d fix supper and then work for four more hours to keep abreast of the editors’ work and that of designers and marketers. Each evening, I considered religious trends and writings and planned for future projects. By doing this, I produced—for the publisher—numerous five-year plans for the curriculum department.

In July 1984, I wearily resigned and became a freelancer. For the next seventeen years—until I retired at age 65 in 2001—I did curriculum projects for Roman Catholic publishers in California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Texas, and Minnesota. This sometimes required attending meetings at the publishing houses.

During this time also, I taught at least one evening class a quarter or semester at the University of Minnesota or the College of St. Catherine’s. So I had to drive back into the metro area and also plan lessons and grade papers.

Often, I’d be working on curriculum projects that entailed several components, each with its own deadlines. Publishers contacted me because of my work ethic, my creativity, and the fact that I met every deadline during those seventeen years.

To do all that I had to develop a rigid work schedule because I wanted—and needed—to include walking 3 to 4 miles a day in the nearby cemetery, praying, meditating, doing daily T’ai Chi Chih, and writing my own manuscripts.

Also, I wanted to enjoy meals with friends, an occasional television program, movies, grocery shopping, and browsing the library. Thus, I had to work seven days a week to include these “wants” along with the “needs” of my publishing deadlines.

To do all this, I’d make a schedule each night for the next day. It might go something like this:

6:30AM:Rise/Pray/Dress/T’ai Chi Chih/Feed Cats; 7:30Work on My Ongoing Manuscript; 8:30Breakfast; 9:00-1:00Latest Project; 1-2:30Lunch/Feed Cats/Meditate/Nap; 2:30-5:30Latest Project; 5:30-7:00National news/PBS Newshour/Supper/Feed Cats; 7-11:00Latest Project; 11-11:30Read mystery novel; 11:30-2:30AM:Latest Project. 2:30Bed.

Clearly, I didn’t get enough sleep. The result: ill health from 2001 to the present.

Next week: the first 17 years of retirement.