Friday, February 12, 2016

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I Love Thee?

February 14th sometimes signifies the first day of Lent, depending upon the date of Easter, and is also Admission Day in Arizona. Most people however, celebrate the day by sending comic or heartfelt Valentines to family, friends and lovers. People seem to delight in St. Valentine’s Day, as florists, candy stores, boutiques and card shops do a rallying business providing heart-shaped novelties of all variety. Chocolate, long known for having properties that produce a euphoric feeling similar to the bittersweet emotion of love, seems an appropriate gift for St. Valentine’s Day.

The origin of the holiday is uncertain, but St. Valentine actually honors two Saints of the same name. One was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of the Emperor Claudius, the other, a martyred Bishop of Interramna. They were both buried in the Flaminian Way, which was later named the Gate of St. Valentine. Today the gate is known as Porta Del Popolo — the Gate of the People. The accounts of these men's lives are legendary, based on sparse historical fact. It is possible, researchers agree, that the legends denote different versions of the martyrdom of only one person. St. Valentine’s Day, as it is known today, is a lovers Festival, bearing no relation to these legends.

One theory as to how the name Valentine came to be applied to the day is founded on the belief in England that birds begin dating on February 14. Chaucer, in his “Parliament of Foules," says it like this: “for this was Seynt Valentyne’s day. When every  foul cometh to choose his mate." Those disagreeing with this claimed that the connection between lovers and St. Valentine stems from a similarity between the Norman word “galantin," meaning a lover of woman, and the name of the saint. Still another theory contends that the lover’s custom dates back to the pagan Roman feast of Lupercalia occurring in mid-February when  young Roman men and women placed their names in a love urn from which their names were drawn at random. During the upcoming year, the young men would be the escorts of the women whose names were matched to their own.

The Christian clergy objected to this pagan custom and substituted the names of saints. Each person, the clergy hoped, would strive to emulate the saint's name drawn for them. The drawings were held on February 14, the feast of St. Valentine. Yet the drawing of names by young people on St. Valentine's Day continued long after the Christianization of pagan rites had been abandoned. The boy and girl paired by the drawing adopted the practice of giving presents to each other. Later the boy only gave to the girl; so started the custom of sending Valentines to loved ones. St. Valentine's Day was widely celebrated in William Shakespeare's time, as this quote from Hamlet illustrates:

“Good morrow, ‘tis St. Valentine's Day,
        All in the morning betime,
   And I am made at your window,
        To be your Valentine." 

Paper Valentines with inscribed sentiments date from the 16th century. The first printed Valentine, issued in 1669, was probably inspired by “A Valentine Writer,” a book of verses offering help to those not articulate enough to pen their own rhymes. In England, the introduction of Penny postage and envelopes in 1840 popularized the exchange of Valentines and ornamental lace paper Valentines were in great demand. In the U. S., crude woodcut Valentines were fashioned by Robert H. Elton and Thomas W. Strong of New York, but most people preferred the lace paper cards imported from England.

With the establishment of the Post Office, the mail became swamped with Valentines each February. Comic Valentines, as well as coarse vulgar ones, cost only one cent. In the early 1900's, the Chicago post office rejected 25,000 cards on the grounds that they were improper for mail delivery. By the 1930s Valentine cards were primarily an activity for small children, who were taught to make the cards and decorations in kindergarten.

On one particularly gruesome Valentine's Day, the streets ran red with blood and the message given was not one of love. This notorious incident was “The St. Valentines Massacre," in Chicago on February 14, 1929. Al Capone’s gang, disguised as policemen, forced seven members of the rival “Bugs Moran” gang to stand against the garage wall with their arms raised. Capone’s mobsters methodically gunned the rival gang down.

In recent years, St. Valentine's Day continues to gain popularity, as lovers and children eagerly await its arrival; perhaps because it breaks the monotony of the long winter. However, not all people recognize the holiday. One husband whose name I will not mention, chooses to totally ignore St. Valentine's Day, even when it falls three days after his wedding anniversary — but that's another story.     



Friday, January 8, 2016

Announcing a New Publication

To all my loyal friends, family and fans 

I've got great news to share with you today. 

I may have previously mentioned that my contest entry to yet another award-winning anthology, WomensMemoirs.com was selected as an award winner. Now my story and the marvelous stories by my sister co-winners have been published in a two-volume anthology series entitled TALES OF OUR LIVES (Fork in the Road and Reflection Pond.) My story is "The Gift of Compassion," and is in Tales of Our Lives: A Fork in the Road.

Beginning today, January 8 at 8 am (PST), each volume will be just $.99 for the first 53 hours. (That's a 76% discount.) The prices will go up by $1 each 53 hours until they reach the retail price of $3.99. (Amazon only allows these discounts in the US and the UK unfortunately.
I'd love for you to read the 81 stories in the two volumes—mine and those of the other authors as well and want you to know about the great initial pricing. Below are links to the books. I've listed the US links first (amazon.com), the UK links second (amazon.co.uk), and the Canadian links third (amazon.ca). 


US

Tales of Our Lives: Fork in the Road

Tales of Our Lives: Reflection Pond

UK
Tales of Our Lives: Fork in the Road (UK)
Tales of Our Lives: Reflection Pond (UK)

CA
Tales of Our Lives: Fork in the Road (Canada)
Tales of Our Lives: Reflection Pond (Canada)


There are two unique aspects of these anthologies. In addition to the providing you with an important narrative of women's life stories, the editor includs the introduction to her new writing methodology (Writing Alchemy). If you're thinking of writing about your life or the lives of others in your family, then you'll want to read that chapter. Second, the editor begins each section with a series of prompts that will help you to think about your own life stories -- stories you may want to share with your family. I use prompts a lot in writing short stroies. These two writing tools help make these volumes even more than a good read. You get 81 powerful stories and 98 prompts. I've spent most of my writing career penning memoir stories and many of you have read my book memoir,. . . And the Whippoorwill Sang. Memoirs can be written by anyone and are a lovely legacy to hand down to future generations as well as remembering the present one.  

And after you've read the stories, I hope you'll feel inspired to write a review on Amazon. I would all appreciate it.

Thanks so much,


Micki Peluso

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Congratulations to Micki Peluso for her Four Tales2Inspire Winning Stories

MICKI PELUSO


Congratulations to Micki Peluso
for her four Tales2Inspire winning stories:


Tomatoes and Teenagers

Yes, an analogy does exist between the raising of tomatoes and teenagers, as this true slice of life story will attest. Six children, each a year or two apart, can be as delicate or as frustrating as raising tomatoes in a garden. The ending  of this true story shows how eventually justice prevails, and what goes around comes around. Both parents and their children survive, heading toward their just rewards.

 86 the Coleslaw

When a restaurant manager asks his wife to just ‘babysit’ their fast food restaurant while he’s away on  a business trip, she grudgingly agrees. In this story, everything that can go wrong does, causing calamity and shock among their customers and staff. Yet the wife is proud she survived with the restaurant almost intact, until her husband, hearing about the chaos. phones her and sternly tells her,”Don’t go near the Chicken Cop!”

 The Mean Machines

It seemed a simple fact of life that all the mechanical lemons of the world ended up in Micki’s home. She has reason to believe that there actually is a collective intelligence among electrical appliances that prey on unobtrusive women like her. She first became suspicious of deliberate sabotage after moving into her first home, with all its modern conveniences. The vacuum cleaner, for instance, only ran in reverse. She never complained, until the day it vacuumed her right out the front door.  .  .  . And that was just the beginning.

                                                                            Relatives and Fish

When Micki’s oldest daughter called early one morning to ask if she could come home for a few weeks, ‘to get her head together’, Micki agreed without hesitation. She looked forward to having her home again, along with those two perfect male specimens, her grandsons. Do you remember that old saying about visitors and fish? In this hysterical tale, Micki shows us how the same holds true for relatives – children and grandchildren no exception.


All four of these stories are now published in Tales2Inspire ~ The Crystal Collection
Micki bookmark
- See more at: http://tales2inspire.com/?p=2178#sthash.NfigoExD.ZMnvNLd8.dpuf

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Memories of a lost time in the life of a girl who really loved Christmas, taken, in part, from . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang---a tribute to Noelle Marie Peluso


The Girl Who Loved Christmas 

I had always wanted a Christmas baby; a special gift at a special time. When my fifth child was due to be born on December 25th, I was ecstatic, but nervous about the likely prospect of spending the holidays in the hospital. I just had to be home for Christmas. Somehow I conveyed that message to my overly ripe body and delivered the baby 10 days before Christmas Eve. Noelle Marie, French for ‘Merry Christmas,’ entered the world with a caul over her face, a white ‘Angel’s veil,’ reputed through legend to be a sign of a lucky or gifted child. I pondered that phenomenon in my heart, briefly, but was more impressed by the fact that the two of us had conspired to be home for Christmas — home with her father and four excited siblings.

I distinctly remember that Christmas Eve. It was snowing, a soft and silent snow that blanketed our tiny home in white velvet. We laid the baby in a cradle in front of the scraggly ‘Charlie Brown’ pine tree, decorated with homemade ornaments and tediously strung popcorn. Next to her sat the wooden manger housing the Holy Family, which her father had made, topped with a beaming ceramic guardian angel, that had fallen off the nail at the top of the pointed roof so many times that her smile was chipped and crooked. Noelle, dressed in a red and white Santa Claus jumpsuit, resembled a tiny elf as she gazed up at the colored lights on the tree with unfocused eyes, wrinkled and funny-faced, unaware of her status. 

Today, when remembering Christmases past, that day waxes sharp in my memory, followed by other Christmases, some joyous, some harried with six children throwing up. One year, unbeknownst to her father and me, Noelle and her sisters sampled the eggnog. We found 11-year-old Noelle trying to fly like an airplane around the large dining room table until she collapsed into a fit of giggles. Needless to say, they were all severely reprimanded, putting a slight damper on that Christmas. 

Noelle insisted that we watch every Christmas television special as a family, sobbed each year over ‘It's a Wonderful Life,’ and generally drove us to distraction with her frantic preparations for the holiday. One Christmas we baked flour dough ornaments, and one of Noelle’s gingerbread boys looked exactly like ‘Mr. Bill,’ on Saturday Night Live, which forever gave him a special place on the tree; second in importance only to the bedraggled Angel that dangled off the treetop. Noelle refused to part with or replace any of our original decorations, which were all beginning to show their age. She was contagious with her love for Christmas, and bonded with the holiday almost as if her Christmas name gave her an aura or presence that ordinary-named portals could not grasp. 

She loved baking the cookies, decorating the tree, attending midnight Mass, and sharing in the giving of gifts, no matter how great or small. The season was hers. She reveled in it. Her zest for the holidays, however, did not extend to cleaning the house or washing the mountains of dishes following sumptuous holiday feasts. She talked about helping, and insisted she did more than her share, but somehow had a unique ability to disappear from the face of the earth whenever chores needed to be done. And even in a household of five outraged siblings, she usually got away with it. 
This Christmas, 23 years after her birth, I still marvel at the magic of the season, coveting the memories of a newborn babe lying beneath the Christmas tree, personifying the birth of Christ; and the magic of a young girl who cherished the celebration of the birth of the King, and knew how to give homage. That magic will never die. 

Noelle’s last Christmas fell right after her 13th birthday. She was nearly a young woman then, with the gangliness of puberty rushing headlong into the promise of beautiful womanhood. But on ‘her holiday’ she retained the naivety of a child, bursting with love and eagerness. The pond behind our house froze solid that year, and the logs in the old Ben Franklin stove blazed warmth and comfort to six nearly frozen ice skaters. Noelle, as on every year, caught us all up in her joy and excitement. She could barely contain herself. 

The Christmas which shortly followed her death, caused by a drunk driver, was not somber. We were obligated by unknown forces to celebrate Christmas in her honor as she would have; and in doing so eased our grief. Other subsequent Christmases, not shielded by shock, were not so easy, and for several years Christmas without Noelle seemed a contradiction in terms.

As passing years made our sorrow bearable, the ambiance Noelle evoked at Christmas slowly drifted back into our lives. Maybe it was the birth of her first nephew, born two years later on the day of Noelle’s death; her way of not allowing us to mourn that day? Maybe it was just the lapsing of time and life renewing itself. Maybe she taught us, albeit we fought the knowledge, that love lives on though life is fragile. I don't know. I only know that the true spirit of Christmas was shown to me through the eyes of a lovely young girl named Noelle Marie. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas: Past and Present

This is a reflection of the Christmases of today as compared with the past.
                                   Christmas; Past and Present

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Mall, last minute
shoppers scurried from store to store; short on patience and with little
evidence of the holiday spirit of love. The only ones smiling were the store owners and the costumed Santa, who gets paid to be jolly.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of talking dolls, video games, bicycles and other expensive toys, danced in their heads. Mama in her kerchief and I in my cap had just settled down to tackle the mountain of Christmas bills, which was larger than the national debt.

The moon on the crest of the new fallen snow, reflected the concern of
families awaiting the arrival of loved ones traveling on icy roads.
Years ago, Christmas seemed easier, less commercial and more enjoyable. Many families lived near each other, and most of the decorations, foodstuffs and presents were homemade. While there was stress and haste to accomplish the needed tasks by Christmas Eve, the stress was different than what is experienced today. Generations past did not seem to lose sight of the reason for Christmas; a birthday celebration of sharing and love.

The nostalgia of horse-drawn sleigh rides through wooded country roads is sorely missed. Bells jingling accompaniment to carols sung off key by bundled-up children in the back of the sleigh, is a thing of the past. Yet Christmas retains an aura of magic, nonetheless.

Originally, the Christian church did not acknowledge Christmas at all, as such observance was considered a heathen rite. The earliest records of any Christmas celebration dates back to the early part of the third century. Gift giving, as a custom, may have originated with the Romans, relating to their worship of Dionysus at Delphi.

The Christmas tree comes from the Germans, although its origin has been traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The tree replaces a former customary pyramid of candles, part of the pagan festivals. There is a legend that Martin Luther brought an evergreen home to his children and decorated it for Christmas. German immigrants carried this custom with them to the New World, but it did not gain popularity until 1860, when John C. Bushmann, a German, decorated a tree in Massachusetts and invited people to see it. Evergreens, a symbol of survival, date to the 18th century when St. Boniface, honoring the Christianizing of
Germany, dedicated a fir tree to the Holy Child to replace the sacred oak of Odin. The "Nation's Christmas Tree," was the General Grant tree in General

Grant National Park in California, dedicated May 1, 1926,by the town mayor. The tree was 267 feet high and 3500-4000 years old. Mistletoe, burned on the alter of the Druid gods, was regarded as a symbol
of love and peace. The Celtic custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from the practice of enemies meeting under the plant, dropping their weapons and embracing in peace. Some parts of England decorated with mistletoe and holly, but other parts banned its use due to association with Druid rites. Mistletoe was considered a cure for sterility, a remedy for poisons, and kissing under it would surely lead to marriage.

The 4th century German St. Nicholas, shortened through the years to Santa Claus, has become the epitome of today's Christmas spirit. St. Nicholas, taking pity upon three young maidens with no dowry and no hope, tossed a bag of gold through each of their windows, and granted them a future. Other anonymous gifts being credited to him were emulated and the tradition grew. The Norsemen enhanced the legend of Santa Claus coming down the chimney with their goddess, Hertha, known to appear in fireplaces, bringing happiness and good luck.

Sir Henry Cole, impressed by a lithograph drawing, made by J.C. Horsley, instigated the idea of Christmas cards. It took eighteen years for the custom to gain popularity, and then it was adopted mainly by gentry.

Christmas was banned in England in 1644, during the Puritan ascendency. A law was passed ordering December 25th a market day and shops were forced to open. Even the making of plum pudding and mincemeat pies was forbidden. This law was repealed after the Restoration, but the Dissenters still referred to Yuletide as "Fooltide."

The General Court of Massachusets passed a law in 1657 making the
celebration of Christmas a penal offense. This law, too, was repealed, but many years would pass before New England celebrated Christmas.
When Washington crossed the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War, it was the observance of Christmas that made his conquest of the British a success. The enemy was sleeping off the affects of the celebration.

Befana, or Epiphany, is the Italian female counterpart of Santa Claus. On Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, she is said to fill children's stockings with presents. According to legend, Befana was too busy to see the Wise Men during their visit to the Christ Child, saying that she would see them on their way back to the East. The Magi, however, chose a different route home, and now Befana must search for them throughout eternity. The sacred song traditionally sung on her yearly visit is the Befanata.

The number of Magi visiting the stable on that first Christmas Eve could be anywhere from two to twenty. The number three was chosen because of the three gifts; gold, frankencense and myrrh. Western tradition calls the Magi, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, but they have different names and numbers in different parts of the world.

Though distinctly Christian, the social aspect of Christmas is observed and enjoyed by many religious and ethnic groups. Rabbi Eichler, during a sermon in Boston in 1910 explains why: "...Christmas has a double aspect, a social and theological side. The Jew can and does heartily join in the social Christmas. Gladly, does he contribute to the spirit of good will and peace, characteristic of the season. It was from the light of Israel's sanctuary that Christianity lit its torch. The Hanukka lights, therefore, justly typify civilization and universal religion."

Dr. Clement Clarke Moore, a professor at the General Theological Seminary in New York, penned the famous poem, "Twas the Night before Christmas." Dr. Moore never intended for the poem to be published. Miss Harriet Butler, daughter of the rector of St. Paul's Church in Troy, New York, accompanied her father on a visit to Dr. Moore. She asked for a copy of the poem and sent it anonymously to the editor of The Troy Sentinel. A copy of the newspaper
carrying his poem was sent to Dr. Moore, who was greatly annoyed that something
he composed for the amusement of his children should be printed. It was not until eight years later, that Dr. Moore publicly admitted that he wrote the poem.

Christmas is the favorite Holiday of children, who unquestionably accept the myth of Santa Claus. In 1897, one little girl began to have doubts as to the reality of Santa Claus, and wrote to the New York Sun, asking for confirmation. Her letter read: Dear editor, I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says,"If you see it in The Sun, it's so. Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?" Virginia D'Hanlon.

Francis P. Church's editorial answer to the little girl became almost as
famous as Dr. Moore's poem. In part, this is what he wrote: "Virginia, your little friends are so wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe, except they see... Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists....Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as if there were no Virginias...No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

It is sentiments like this that warm the heart of child and adult alike,
as Christmas nears. It is not the gifts, soon forgotten, that make Christmas a time of wonder and magic. It is the love within all people for God, for children, for each other. During this hectic holiday season, take a moment or two to savor the true meaning of Christmas.

"And I heard him exclaim
As he drove out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all,
And to all a Goodnight!"
Dr. Clement Clarke Moore
 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Vote for . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang today!!

Great news!!! I'm nominated for book of the year award on Rave reviews Book club. Please drop by and vote. You have from now until December 12th. Thanks so much!
2015#RRBC RAVE AWARDS! Please Vote for Book of the year. . .And the Whippoorwill Sang by Micki Peluso http://wp.me/P49Fi9-1xH over Dec 12th
OFFICIAL 2014 "RAVE AWARDS" TRAILER ***** Hello, you awesome members! Here are the categories which you are able to vote upon for our 2015 "RAVE AWARDS!": *BOOK OF THE YEAR - This would be the m...
RAVEREVIEWSBYNONNIEJULES.WORDPRESS.COM

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

An Extraordinary Review of . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2015
I normally read thrillers but this book was recommended to me. I opened it somewhat uneasily, not knowing what to expect. It is a memoir of a woman’s married life, the arrival of children, the struggles of her life and ultimately the tragic death of one her children at the age of fifteen. Hardly an earth-shaking plot, and yet…there is the magic of Micki Peluso’s pen.

Micki sets the tone early with a quick visit to the kernel of the story and then a drift into the past. Her look at life is wry, sometimes humorous, but never despairing, even in times of tragedy. The pictures she paints are real and clear, but without undue passion or histrionics. She writes with observation and understanding. She writes with…awareness, an astute awareness, an indulgent awareness, an awareness that says, ‘This was my life. This was how it unfolded. No point in getting upset. A story of two teenagers who get married and the life they lived. Pretty ordinary story, huh?’
But this is writing at its very best, in some ways reminiscent of Harper Lee. It captured my interest right from the start and never let go.

The writing seems homespun yet it is beyond skillful. Here we have writing with soul, writing that will tug at the hardest heart. The author’s descriptions of the sea and the land vary from the musically lyrical at one moment, to the harshness of reality at the next. In the early part of the book there are gorgeous little vignettes of the fifties and the sixties, tossed in so casually, but mesmerizing in their impact, especially on this reader who lived through those years.

‘And the Whippoorwill Sang’ is a story told in flashes back to the past from the hospital bed of the dying girl. It is a story of family, of love, of sacrifice, of happy times, of pain, and of the heartache when there comes the news that is no longer any hope for their child. It’s a story that will bring a smile to your face, that will bring tears to your eyes, that will never leave you unaffected. For those who have a family they love, for those who love stories of raw emotion, for those who love quiet but beautifully fluent writing, ‘And the Whippoorwill Sang’ is a book you cannot pass up.