Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dad's Delight: Another Father's Day, Another Tie

Fathers always seem to get second billing. Father's Day follows Mother's Day, and even Children's Day, although no one takes Children's Day seriously except the children. Mother's Day usually means breakfast in bed (a dubious honor), flowers cards and gifts.

Fathers, on their designated day, get ties; hideous dated ties that store owners save up all year and then offer on sale to unsuspecting children. Wives are apt to acknowledge their husbands fulfillment of fatherhood by buying them tools to fix things around the house, then letting them foot the bill. 21th century fathers would much prefer a variety of I-gadgets.

If it weren't for Mrs. John Bruce Dodd of Spokane, Washington fathers might still be a forgotten entity. Dodd suggested venerating fathers to Rev. Conrad Bluhm, president of the Spokane Ministerial Association as a suitable tribute to her own father, who, upon the death of his wife, successfully raised his children.

Her proposal was approved by the Association; the first celebration took place on June 19, 1910 in Spokane. Although the rose is recognized today as the official flower for Father's Day it was originally a lowly dandelion because “the more it is trampled on, the more it grows.” This tongue-in-cheek suggestion reflected the inequality of parenting. Motherhood was revered next to godhood; fatherhood, in this respect, was compared to a common weed.

In 1911, the observance of Father's Day in Chicago came as a novel idea. Jane Addams, the famous social worker, approved the concept, saying “Poor father has been left out in the cold . . . But regardless of his breadwinning proclivities it would be a good thing if he had a day that would mean recognition of him.” Pres. Calvin Coolidge, in 1924, expressed his approval of the idea as he wrote, “As I have indicated heretofore, the widespread observance of this occasion is calculated to establish more intimate relationships between fathers and their children, and also to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”

Fathers of the 21st century participate more in the daily care of their children. In some instances it is voluntary, in others it is necessitated by both parents working, causing the workload and pleasure of childrearing to be shared. Feminist pressure has helped to release the male from stereotyped thought and behavior, making nuclear families more a cooperative than a monarchy.

Before there was widespread observation of this holiday, different sectors of the country celebrated independently in different ways, even different years. The tradition eventually spread throughout most of the Americas and parts of Europe and Asia. A general agreement was settled upon on June 16, 1946, more than 30 years after Mrs. Dodds suggestion. Fathers finally got their day

Both Mother's Day and Father's Day have become “Hallmark Holidays’’ and while florists and confectioners flourish on the second Sunday in May, haberdasher's profit on the third Sunday in June. Commercialism aside, it seems right and fitting that on at least one day of the year fathers receive recognition and tribute from the children who bear their names, their legacies and their love. And what father can’t use another tie?

“Father! To God himself we could not give a holier name”— William Wordsworth

Sunday, May 25, 2014

New Blog Tour

I'd like to thank Marta Merajver-Kurlat, author of Just Toss the Ashes, asked me to participate in this blog tour. To read her post, click on http://www.martamerajver.com.ar/marta/index.php/blogroll
I've been asked to respond to the following questions about My Main Character in a  work in progress.
1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person.
My main character in this mostly non-fictional slice of life collection of short stories is myself, around the ages of 30 to 50, showing the humorous escapades in my life as well as the devastating ones.
2.When and where are the stories set?
The stories take place mainly in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and later in Staten Island, New York over a span of 25 years. This covers the pre-teen and teenage years of my six children, into the years of my 10 grandchildren.
3. What should we know about him/her?
After a turbulent childhood, and the divorce of my parents, I elope at the age of 17 with my high school sweetheart. We have many great years which I journal, until the great sadness in our lives. My accounts in these slice of life pieces reflect the strength and humor of my entire family during the times when most of my kids are teenagers, which gives me much material for my stories. As a young mother, I find endurance and patience in dealing with this, along with a few ghosts as house guests.
4.What is the main conflict? what messes up his/her life.
The main conflict is losing one of the children to a vehicular homicide DWI death. At that time in our lives the music died. My husband is away a lot, working long hours so it is left to me to help my family and myself travel through grief to the other side of sorrow. When my oldest daughter marries and bears a son on the very same date as her sister's death, this sets the catalyst for healing, bringing laughter and joy back into our lives. Nine more grandchildren over the next ten years from my children collectively, once again become fodder for my slice of life stories.
5. What is the personal goal of the character?
 These stories and my award winning memoir, . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang is the legacy I leave my family, friends and the one we loved and lost. Through the slice of life stories in my present work, myself, my husband, my children and grandchildren, relatives and friends will be able to look back in time to grand times, sad times and a future full of promise. This book also has some short multi-genre fiction, essays and poems, but the theme running through the entire book is love, laughter and survival.
6. Is there a working title for this collection, and can we read more about it?
The working title for this collection of stories is, "Heartbeats . . . Slices of Life." Some of these stories are published in award winning anthologies and on my blog. The following excerpt  is from one of the funnier pieces:
Tomatoes and Teenagers 
        Raising children is a lot like growing tomatoes.  Good food, fresh air and sunshine, enough liquids, and what do you get?  With tomatoes, a crop envied by neighbors, with children you get teenagers. Now a tomato is a tomato, but no one raising a baby ever expects a teenager.
      I had six children, five of them teenagers at the same time. During their pre-teen years my children were too embarrassed by puberty and braces to be much of a problem; except for the boys, but that’s another story. Erupting pimples, chronic clumsiness and oily, lifeless hair kept them in line. I was surprised they ever left the house.
            Most parents are in their late forties when their children become teenagers, putting them at a distinctive disadvantage. Teenagers are in their prime-- fit, tightly muscled, and sharp-minded, untainted by the debilitating shades of middle age.  And who gets to control these powerhouses of raging hormones?  Tired, worn-out parents whose once starry eyes have faded, or at least been fitted for glasses.   
        I often considered the pros and cons of moving away without leaving them a forwarding address. The day my children graduated from bicycles to automobiles I joined a meditation class.  One of them misjudged the garage door by two feet and bent the chassis on the car I had hopes of owning until retirement.  Grounding this child was a punishment I hardly deserved.  He sulked in his room, un bathed and sullen, blasting me into early deafness with his stereo. I heard enough Elvis to be an impersonator myself.
            My teenagers always sensed when they had pushed me to my limit.  The house would be mysteriously cleaned. Hand-picked wild flowers would be placed on the table and the dishes done without argument, which meant someone had done something very wrong or very expensive. They were lovable, beautiful, and exasperating, the definition of a teenager. They could be perfect angels or something out of the “Exorcist,” and make the change with lightning swiftness.
            High school graduation was my favorite event. Another teenager was on the road to maturity.  Of course a rose never comes without a thorn. The thorn in my side was the senior prom, every parent’s nightmare. I stared wide-eyed at my female child, standing before me in a fitted, low-cut gown that made me wince.  “I won't be too late, Mom,” she said and smiled a woman’s smile. I recognized that smile. I had used it successfully most of my life.  My sons’ proms were no less nerve-wracking.  I sat poised on the couch half the night, expecting momentarily to hear that they had been arrested. 
            It must be true that God never puts more on parents than they can bear.  Just about the time I was at the end of my rope, raising what appeared to be young  people, but I was never sure, one by one my teenagers approached adulthood. They were almost human now, almost responsible adults. The tomatoes mellowed into a sauce fit for kings. 
      My teenagers, reared with love, stamped with morality, were ready in the years ahead, to become the parents of children. Children who would one day (and this is how I know there is a God) become TEENAGERS!
 7. When can we expect the book collection to be published.
Since the stories have all been published in magazines and newspapers, I'm expecting a publication date within a few months. 

I've invited the two people below to my blog, along with the hopes that you will visit their blogs after reading their wonderful bios. Their links are below and they will be posting next Monday on their blogs.
Lori Foroozandeh
I wrote my book, "Lori's Song' due to personal tragedies that have pretty much followed me throughout life.  At 6months old I was adopted after being severely abused
by my birth parents, I had cigarette burns all over my body.  Then at 11 I was molested by my adoptive brother.  At 15 I emancipated myself from my family to get away from my brother...I got married.  That marriage lasted until my sister slept with my husband.  Then I joined the army, had a baby and married my recruiter, that marriage ended when once more my sister slept with my husband.  
Finally I met Mohammad who was my third husband and the love of my life or so I thought.  He turned out to be a terrorist and I didn't know it until we went to Iran.
Once in Iran you need your husbands written permission to leave the country.  That was when my life fell apart and became meaningful all at the same time.  Finally after four years in Iran, the day after 911 we tried to leave the country and was imprisoned by soldiers who kept us in a POW type camp for six weeks.  We were raped, beaten and starved due to either being American or having ties to America.  I finally escaped with a girl from Bahrain.  I don't want to spoil the story so you will have to read it to find out more.  I thank you for taking your time to read this.  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se-NTRWCJIU (DISCOVERY CHANNEL/ go to 28 minute mark)
Cherreye  S. Jasquez PHD

Author Cherrye S. Vasquez is a public school administrator and an adjunct professor. She is a Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum & Instruction; a Master of Education in Special Education; and a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Pathology/Audiology. Vasquez specializes in Multi-cultural education and holds certifications in Early Childhood Handicapped, Mid-Management and Educational Diagnostician.
Vasquez' platform topics center on diversity and bullying issues.  It is her desire for children to realize that they are very important and unique.  Vasquez believes that all children should learn about each other's similarities as well as differences.  She maintains that when children learn from one another they also learn that others are just as unique, beautiful, and important as they are. Children will become more diversified in their communities, and in our schools while learning and engaging in activities that can be useful in their own lives.


Friday, May 9, 2014

The Merry Month of May

The Merry Month of May
By Micki Peluso
May Day is usually, but not always, celebrated on the first of May, although in recent years enthusiasm for the holiday has waned considerably. Many Staten Islanders in New York can recall festivities in the past several decades which included springtime sports, and May Poles decorated with bright ribbons streaming from the top of the pole. Young children were traditionally garbbed the ribbons and danced around the pole, reveling in the warmth of spring. Older girls crowned a May Queen, and young girls often made baskets which they filled with flowers and hung on the doors of their friends. Many parts of the country still participate in these activities although my borough of Staten Island does not seem to be among them.
The month of May has always been a favorite month, with spring in full bloom and summer close behind. On the original Roman calendar, May was the third month of the year but the revised calendar moved it to the fifth month. The origin of the name, researchers say, most likely comes from Maia, a mother of Mercury. In Roman times and throughout history May has been considered an unlucky month for marriages, stemming back to the days when both the festival of the dead and the festival of the goddess of chastity were celebrated in May. This may explain the popularity of June weddings.
Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, has held May Day celebrations with field sports, dancing around the May Poll and crowning a May Queen with a headdress of fresh flowers. On some occasions college records in sports were broken on that day, possibly due to the enthusiasm for the holiday. The California State Norma School in San José originated May Day festivities in 1902, with games for their kindergarten students. By 1910, the popularity of this holiday had grown to such proportion that 6000 spectators gathered to watch the celebration.
These observances have little to do with the ritualistic and symbolic fetes of olden days. Historians of folk customs have traced the May Day ritual back to the Floralia of the Romans, the festival of Flora, goddess of flowers. This festival was instituted in 238 BC and was celebrated from April 23 until May 3rd.
During the four or five centuries that Rome occupied Britain, the May Day Festival was introduced and flourished. One theory states that the May Day was initially a phallic festival in India and Egypt, marking the renewal of the fertility of nature at springtime. Researchers claim that the Romans considered the May Poll to be a phallic symbol, and their merrymaking included quite a few licentious acts which were the focus of May Day celebrations in England for some time.
The Morris Dance was a pagan dance which consisted of male dancers in fantastic costumes dancing about the May Poll. The name Morris, a word of Moorish origin, is associated with mummers, who acted out the ritual of the pagan god who celebrated his revival after death. Another custom was the May Day procession of a Man-horse, in Cornwall, where the central figure, "Oss Oss”, was a witch doctor disguised as a horse and wearing a mask. Dancers acted as attendants, sang May Day songs and beat on drums.
These activities greatly offended the Puritans, who coerced the Parliament of 1644 to ban the erection of May Polls. The Restoration repealed the prohibition, and in 1661, to celebrate the revival of the old custom, a May Poll, 134 feet high was raised. Sir Isaac Newton purchased the pole in 1717 and used it as a support for his telescope in Essex.
The New England Puritans also voiced objections to May Day festivities, which incited Gov. Endicott of Massachusetts in 1660, to lead a group of men to Merrymont, where the dreaded May Poll had been erected. The men chopped the pole down and named the place Mount Dragon, after the Idol of the Philistines that fell before the Ark.
May Day was said to have magical rites, such as those of Halloween. Samuel Pepys, the English diarist, related how his wife went to the country each May Day to wash her face in dew, a magic ritual ensuring a good complexion. Poetess Ann May Lawler, put the custom to verse: “Ever on the first of May did magic walk — the legends say. Maiden rose at early dawn to find a dew-ensequinned lawn, and she who humbly bathed her face in dewdrops, in the magic place, she, they say, may never fear the curse of freckles for one year."
When Labor Day was established in this country, the workers of Europe decided to hold a similar celebration, which they observed on May 1st. Due to lively labor politics, the date became better known for riots, bombings and burned cities. Radicals in the U.S. followed the European example and held demonstrations on May 1st. Later many U.S. cities, particularly New York City, demonstrated on May Day with parades of radical, labor, and other organizations, followed by mass meetings.
The beginning of May, whether celebrated with May Polls and flower festivals, or labor demonstrations, or no celebrations at all, introduces a month with few surprises. While March “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb," and April teases with balmy weather one day and pseudo-winter the next, the month of May brings a stable promise of ever better days to come.


Friday, May 2, 2014



By Micki Peluso

This Sunday mother's throughout the country will be honored in many and various ways. Toddlers and preschool children will cheerfully drag their mothers to their favorite fast food places and older children will escort them, with great decorum, to restaurants with actual dinnerware. The majority of children will serve their mothers breakfast in bed, a calamitous tradition that refuses to die. Adult children with children of their own will have greater reverence for their mothers, graced with understanding and empathy. Mothers will righteously accept the presents, cards, flowers and candy, and promises of exemplary behavior in the future. She has always and will continue to deserve the esteem bestowed upon her by her family on this one honored day of each year.

Motherhood, while fulfilling in ways too numerous to mention, has never been easy. Today it is even more difficult due to the diverse roles played by the 21th century mother. Some mothers are the sole support of the family; others work to supplement insufficient incomes, while many choose to balance a career with caretaking — all monumental achievements. Some households with dual incomes have learned to share the ongoing chores of home maintenance and child care, but it usually falls to the mother to be the primary nurturer, manager, coordinator and ‘gopher’. In spite of reports on ‘burnout’ among working mothers, and ‘latchkey’ kids left alone too much, many American women are proving themselves capable of being both mother and working woman, placing the emphasis on quality versus quantity time with their children.

However, a small percentage of women have elected to forgo their careers, reasoning that careers can be resumed, but childrearing is a onetime occupation. Due to the trend toward women bearing children later in life, some women have worked and established careers for 10 or 15 years before having children. The skills they’ve attained are often utilized in creating home enterprises and small businesses, allowing them time with their children.

Unlike Father's Day, which was erratic in its installment, Mother’s Day was accepted with enthusiasm. In May of 1907, Anna M. Jarvis of Philadelphia was inspired by the idea that at least once a year children should pay tribute to their mothers. She organized a special Mothers church service and the concept quickly spread to other churches. By 1911, the observance was widespread, including every state in the union, plus Canada, Mexico, South America, Africa, China, Japan and several islands. Leaflets proposing certain exercises were printed In 10 different languages and distributed to various countries. What the leaflets said in part was: “A day that has shown that it has heart and living interest for all classes, races, creeds, native and foreign-born, high and low, rich and poor, scoffer and churchmen, man, women and child, is Mother’s Day, observed on the second Sunday of May. The common possession of the living world is a mother . . . .”

A Mother's Day International Association was incorporated in December of 1912 to promote a greater observance of the day. The following May, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution calling upon all government officials to wear a white carnation in celebration of Mother's Day. In 1914, Congress designated Mother's Day as an official holiday and asked Pres. Woodrow Wilson to display the national flag on all public buildings. On May 9, the president issued a proclamation asking the people to follow suit and display flags on their homes as ‘a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of the country’. The wearing of white carnations on Mother's Day was modified to distinguish living mothers from those deceased. White flowers were worn by the motherless and red flowers by children with living mothers. Gift-giving by children became popular, especially homemade gifts and cards. One gift in great demand for Mother's Day was the reproduction of Whistler’s portrait of his mother, the most famous mother portrait of the times.

Ever since Eve rocked the cradle that begat civilization, mothers held an almost mystical place in society. Research shows that even the caveman, while chauvinistic to the nth degree, cherished and protected his mate, knowing instinctively that without her the clan would become extinct. The cavewoman was healer, food gatherer, herbalist and fur-skinner, as well as mother. The custom of holding festivals to honor motherhood dates back to the ancient Greeks who worshiped Cybele, mother of the gods. Rome adopted the tradition around 250 BC and celebrated the festival of Hilaria on the Ides of March. The festivities lasted three days and included rites in woods and caves, significantly different from modern celebrations.

Today's mother has exhibited proficiency in job skills, self-reliance, and creativity while continuing to supply the cohesive element that binds the family unit. Possibly the only thing that a mother cannot be is a father. On this Mother's Day, as children and fathers lavishly pile gifts and admiration upon her, the mother is reminded of the importance of her role. When beset with trials and stress that would devastate the average person, the mother does her job and does it well; because it is a most rewarding occupation with no mandatory retirement. The benefits of loving and molding young minds far outweigh the tribulations of guiding children from infancy to adulthood. Abraham Lincoln said it best: “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my mother."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lifelong Friends

Those of you who have read my book will remember this remarkable woman.

A lifelong friend is a treasure. One who usually knows more about you than your family; including your mate and children. Experiences are shared that come from the depths of your souls, things that the oneness of such a friendship form into an eternal bond. Loss of a friendship like this gouges a hole in the gut of the remaining friend that nothing can repair. Recently, I lost my friend of over fifty years.

Ann Eunice called out to me from her home, on a blustery winter's night, as I was walking home from the  corner store. "Come on in and have a brandy to get warm." We were strangers, yet I didn't hesitate. I was not just cold, I was lonely, newly moved into a house down the block in a small beach town on Long Island.

We talked for hours as if we'd always known each other. She had three kids, I had four. Her husband was killed falling from a high-rise apartment in Manhattan where he worked as maintenance engineer. Mine was bartender for a local well-known restaurant and worked long hours. Ann Eunice, never shortened to just Ann, was twelve years older than me and filled with innate wisdom that I soon came to rely upon. On that bleak night she became my mentor, my sister, my friend.

We spoke and saw each other often, getting involved in each others lives for over twelve years. She and her second husband, Johnny, were godparents to my fifth child. The following year she bore a late in life son who thought he was a cousin to my own six kids. 

My family moved out west and then to Pennsylvania, trying to find a safe place to raise our children, and Ann Eunice moved out to Arizona for similar reasons. Long distant calls weren't free then, so we communicated by letters. How grateful I am to have saved all of hers. 

She called when my daughter, her godchild, was killed by a drunk driver--but we were unable to speak--our fierce love for Noelle rendered us both mute. Instead, she prayed. Eventually, we both moved back to New York, but hours apart by car. Yet we were always there for each other, visiting now and again, and still writing. We attended our children's weddings together and were together again when Johnny died.

Ann Eunice moved back to her beloved Arizona to live near her oldest son, while I stayed in New York. We could make free calls now and talk for hours, which we did; sharing the ups and downs, the large and small tragedies of our lives. I had heart attacks, she had a stroke. We were both survivors, but she was the one I went to for comfort, for love and advice.

Now she's gone--suddenly--from a hospital infection that went septic. She took a part of me with her when she left this world--a part that I'll never get back.  And I don't think I want it back, as all we shared is forever etched upon my heart. Fifty years of memories are stored within my mind and soul--to be taken out and relived, wept over and placed gently back until needed again. These memories ease my sorrow and comfort me when I reach for the phone to call her . . . then remember that she's no longer there. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

You Don't have to be Irish to love St. Patrick's Day

Friday, January 3, 2014

Not Your Odinary Detective Story


By James Secor

Amazon: Not Your Ordinary Detective Stories

Author James Secor’s unusual detective short stories are captivating, due in part, to seemingly mundane suicide and murder cases. His talent lies in his unique ability to show scenes in artful description with few words. Combined with action to move his tales, the reader is drawn quickly to his eclectic style.

Most of the stories take place in Liverpool, England, a perfect setting for his bizarre cases; most with no solutions, yet a testament to “ man’s inhumanity to man”, (Robbie Burns). Jim Secor writes “ out of the box”, a pleasant change from today’s typical formula detective stories with few surprises.

He outdoes the witticism and parody of Sherlock Holmes while maintaining a highly Poesque satiric thread woven throughout his work. Author Secor leaves a message in his stories reminiscent of Jonathan Swift, a satirical essayist, ( A Modest Proposal, 1729), addressing the societal ills during the potato famine in England.

Detective Lupee, (Loopy) and Sgt. Cassandra Dumqick ( Dum-chik ), pun intended, spend hours at a favorite pub, along with fellow detectives, discussing their odd cases, most with no conceivable answers. In these seven versatile, yet individualized stories the cases give thought to the premise that the true perpetrator is society--past and present--until humanity evolves into a higher plane of compassion and morality.

Reading the “ Afterlude “ before the stories will better enable lovers of mysteries, and all other readers, to observe the hidden agenda which flows throughout his work. This is no ordinary book, rather one that intellectuals and those who love a challenge, will cherish and be left wanting more.

Author James Secor succeeds in presenting a collection of short mysteries that are layered with suppositions and theories to boggle the most supple minds. His stories stretch the imagination in diverse directions . . . Leading readers to recognize the real solutions to his tales . . . or perhaps not.

Micki Peluso: Writer, Journalist and author of … And the Whippoorwill Sang