The Centre Will Not Hold…

Riot Capitol Building Congress Holds Joint Session To Ratify 2020 Presidential Election

I read today of the words and actions of Republican legislators. I read today that Congressional Republicans stood and applauded as Marjorie Taylor Greene entered chambers, embraced, not rebuked. I read today that North Carolina’s Lt. Gov. has stated that his anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, homophobic statements no longer count because he is now a public servant.

The world watches. We watch. And what comes to mind are the words of William Butler Yeats:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,…

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, 

 Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

Mary Richards, Phyllis, and Rhoda – Why Do I Feel So Sad?

Author reveals 'Mary Tyler Moore Show' was a sister act

I wore my hair like Mary’s. Sometimes I managed to copy Phyllis’s updo. I had a hat like Mary’s, although I didn’t have the oomph to toss it in the air. I loved Phyllis’s clothes. And Rhoda, of course – I could never be so bohemian, though I longed to be. I was with them, though not one of them. They, like I, suffered through dates with men that could never be explained or re-lived; they, like I, had people in their lives whom they loved, relied on, and never fully understood or agreed with. They were real, though I knew they were not. They were living life, and I used their experiences to get through mine.

And so… when I learned of Cloris Leachman’s death, a full life lived for 94 years… well, to me she is frozen in time, in Minneapolis, in that house with her two tenants on the second and third floors. To me, she will always be Phyllis; Valerie Harper will always be Rhoda, and Mary, of course, will always be Mary Richards. And a part of me will always be that unfledged young woman just stepping out to experience life.

Thanks for carrying me along.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

Oprah, Dolly, Ma Rainey, and Me…

Oprah, Dolly, Ma Rainey, and Me…                                                                                                     k

One of these is not like the other. That would be me. For many reasons, of course. But today I’ll focus on one:

Oprah Winfrey Says George Floyd Won't "Just Be a Hashtag" | Hollywood  Reporter



These three women had the courage of their convictions; these three women believed in themselves; these three women took a risk – that their ideas, their beliefs, were superior to advice, advice proffered by the successful, the establishment, the monied. These three women stood their ground – and won. Risk-takers all.

Now I know that there are many risk-takers around. I’ve been one of them, though without the inner courage that these three showed. It may have looked like courage to others, but I knew the truth. Whatever risks I took, I always had a back-up plan. I was never “sure” that I had it right, never convinced that I was smart enough, talented enough to make it happen. I was able to stand tall and hold my head up, but inside…. that was a different matter.

Dolly Parton's Childhood Christmas Gifts Were Simple and Meaningful

So I took note when I heard Oprah talk about saying no to those who wanted to buy the rights to her show; applauded when I heard Dolly’s story of her decision to keep her songs; and Ma Rainey – well, according to August Wilson, she knew how to sing the blues, and stuck to it, even if it meant selling fewer record. Huzzah…huzzah…huzzah. I salute all of you.

Ma Rainey - Songs, Movie & Facts - Biography

And for those of looking back, wondering about risks taken, not taken, risks that didn’t work out according to plan, ah, those life lessons.

I end with yet another – sit quietly, listen to the silence, and believe in the wisdom of your heart. Even if that plan does not succeed, you’ll know better who you are. And then, it just might.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

1914 – A Christmas Truce…

File:Illustrated London News - Christmas Truce 1914.jpg

1914 – A Christmas Truce

We have learned nothing. Nothing. Wars fought by young men to benefit the powerful. Wars fought by young men, and now young women, who have more in common than with those they fight for. It is always about power. And the powerful always benefit by making sure that there is eternally the “other,” less than we, for the reason-of-the-day, whether it be the color of our skin, our sexual orientation, what side of the mountain we live on, or our political viewpoint. The powerful always benefit when we gleefully hate one another.

I’m looking at my own thoughts and feelings – about the other, who I know is wrong-headed – and working to take my own words to heart. And as this year ends, and this most corrupt administration slinks away (for that is one of my “others”), I am working to concentrate on what connects us.

Hoping for a peace-filled 2021.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

Advice to My (Older) Self

Woman_with_Underwood_typewriter

Five years later — and it is definitely my OLDER self — I thought it would be interesting to review (and annotate) this blog from 2015, and include any and all wisdom acquired in the interim. Alas, I find scant additional…though I have managed to survive, to date, our horrendous political situation…

Advice to My (Older) Self

Since last week’s post was Advice to My Younger Self, I thought that it might be wise to consider some counsel for my (older) self. My initial thoughts were much like articles from an AARP or Prevention blog. They all had to do with exercise, healthy eating and staying connected. Sound, to be sure, but, I thought, there must be deeper, more profound guidance for this aging thing.  What should I do now, to increase the possibility that I’ll have the kind of dotage that continues to bring me joy, or at least contentment and thanksgiving?

So, here goes. These are my ideas. I’d like to hear your views, and what you think of mine.

  1. Deal with your demons now. Sit with them, make friends with them, as the Buddhists say, invite them in for a cup of tea. They don’t define who you are, but how you deal with the scars they leave does. If they’re still around at this stage of the game, chances are they’re yours for the long haul. And let’s hope that those remaining are of the more-friendly sort. And so I find that for each demon befriended, at least one newly-discovered one arrives — all this tea making…exhausting…
  2. Keep in touch with your friends, old and new. Get over your phone-phobia – call, actually talk, don’t rely on Facebook and email. Visit them, though only for a few days, and invite them to see you. The effort of travel and being out of your nest is worth it. They are the font of treasured memories. Oh, yes – I still have phone-phobia, but am able, on occasion, to surmount those trepidations and actually call, or answer the phone. It still is not as good as a visit, and in this COVID-restricted year, I have learned, if not to love Zoom, to at least appreciate the connection it provides – a sense of being with those I love…
  3. Be disciplined about your days; keep doing those things that need to be done, even if you don’t feel like doing them. And decide just which of those pesky things really need to be done. Discipline is good, that i know – and all things in moderation, including moderation — and I know that structuring my days, even if I don’t achieve all that is on my lists, keeps me grounded – and a bit content. There is always more to do. I find that a comfort.
  4. Keep writing, and if you decide to stop, if you decide that that phase of your life is over, have another passion waiting in the wings. I have kept writing, and writing, and am so glad that I did. Three novels, a memoir, some poetry, a family history – now that I put it down, it is a lot. Yes, happy about that. And now, another passion brought out from the wings — collage. I’m not good at it, but I enjoy it, and I think I’m getting better…
  5. Keep your nails manicured and put on make-up – just a little bit – every day. Yes, even with COVID – because it makes me feel better…
  6. Don’t complain, about anything, especially to yourself. Now I don’t count what I write in my daily journal as complaining, rather a statement of facts and/or feelings. And then it’s over — and I mostly feel incredibly lucky and grateful.
  7. Don’t worry. By this time you know that the bad times never last. Neither do the good times. Such is life. I don’t worry for me; for others, for those who are affected by this year we’ve experienced, I do worry…and send strong thoughts – and some donations..
  8. Be grateful for all those undeserved blessings that have cascaded into your life – write them down for when those grey clouds hover near your heart. Those grey clouds still come, often unbiden, and what I am mainly grateful for is that they do not stay too very long. Gratitude, absolutely, fills my days and my heart…
  9. Keep your sense of humor; that should be the very last thing to go. Yes, and yes.
  10. Family — love them, be there for them, but have a life apart from them. Don’t be a burden. So far, so good – at least I think so, hope so. And mainly grateful…
  11. And know when it’s time to say goodbye. Prepare your route, so that you leave those whose lives you‘ve touched sad, not relieved, to see you go. I’ve had “the talk;” though…
    The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
    But I have promises to keep,   
    And miles to go before I sleep,   
    And miles to go before I sleep.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

A Love Letter

The Baltimore Architectural Foundation asked for love letters – for Baltimore buildings. Here’s mine, along with a plug for A Life, APart...


Love Letters: Saint Paul Court Apartments

Does it matter that I’ve never actually been inside? Does it matter that it started as the fantasy of a ten-year-old little girl? Does it matter that I had the main character of my novel live there?

If you think it does, then I’ll tell you about my love: The St. Paul Court Apartments, 3120 St. Paul Street.

I discovered this beauty in the 1950s, when I was sent to the drug store, the grocery store, the Blue Jay Restaurant to pick up items for my great aunt who lived in the unforgettable house at 2900 St. Paul. I flew down those few blocks on my red scooter, such were the days then. And I always stopped to look. Always. The way it was set back from the street, the fountain, what child who read grown-up novels, stories of career women living in New York, wouldn’t translate those fantasies into something at hand. That’s what I did. That building represented my dreams, though I wouldn’t have been able to tell anyone that. Just that I loved that building; just that I stood in front of it every chance I got; just that I knew that, one day, somehow, I would live there.

Well, I didn’t, though now I realize I could have. Actually, I forgot about that dream until a few years ago. It came back to me as I sat wondering how I would transition the main character in my book from a naïve girl to a woman. Fittingly, she moved into the St. Paul Court Apartments. And the rest is history.

-Cynthia

Cynthia Strauff is the author of three historical novels set in Baltimore. Information about her and her work can be found on her website: cynthiastrauff.com

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

Iceland, COVID, and A Life, APart…

Iceland, COVID, and A Life, APart…

Jolabokaflod: Iceland's Bookish Christmas | The Uncorked Librarian
Every Christmas Eve, the Icelandic people practice something called jolabokaflod, which translates to “Christmas book flood.” Jolabokaflod involves giving books as presents on Christmas Eve so that friends and family can spend the cozy night in curled up with a good story. I’m all for that, especially since my last two Christmas eves have included church services highlighted by rich, entitled matrons spreading their fur coats across entire pews to save seats for their late- or never-arriving guests. Perhaps they missed the “no room in the inn” part. Needless to say, for me this year it will be books over privilege.
Trump calls Dr. Fauci a 'disaster' — Fauci tells Americans: 'Stay away from  the politics' - MarketWatch

And then there’s COVID, and the accompanying masks and social distance. Another shout out for staying at home. Reading…and being thankful that we had at least one adult in the room during this last administration…

And then….and then….there is my new book: A Life, APart. I’ve been gratified, and thankful, for those who have purchased a copy – and even more delighted by their positive comments, which I hope are deserved. But “in this unprecedented time,” it is said that we have to step way out of our comfort zones to get the word to those who might appreciate them. And so, here I am, out of my comfort zone, telling you about my newest novel, A Life, APart. It tells the story of one woman, perhaps ordinary, perhaps not, and I hope that readers will understand and love her, though perhaps not agree with her choices.

Here’s the official publisher’s blurb:

Claire Mueller is of the generation of Abzug, Friedan, and Steinem. She will tell you, if you ask, that her career presented itself without plan, strategy. Chance, she will say. It was chance, and taking advantage of opportunities that presented themselves, a solid work ethic, and a vocabulary that leads people to think that she is smarter than she really is. That is what she believes.

A Life, APart tells Claire’s story, her journey from naïve daughter to world-damaged adult. It chronicles her career, her friendship with Naomi, an unconventional, drug-dealing free-spirit who provides support and inspiration, and her unconventional love affair with Viktor, the soul-damaged, East European war refugee, who accompanies her on her final journey.

Grounded in historical fact, Claire’s story is that of one woman working in the man’s world of the 1950s and 1960s, before feminism became a byword. It is a character study, of Claire, and those flawed, authentic individuals who helped shape her life.

A bit of a commercial now: It is available on Amazon in print and e-versions. If you’d like an inscribed print copy, you can order it from my website. The price there includes tax, shipping and handling, so it might be a bit of a bargain for you:  cynthiastrauff.com

I hope that you will give it a read; I hope that it will resonate with you. And I hope that our country, our world will see a time of peace, love, and hope. And that each of you has a Christmas Eve of books and love.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

Bubbles, Serenity, Searching for …

Soap Bubbles, Colorful, Flying

Bubbles, Serenity, Searching for …

I voted early; I have been on a news-diet – no tv news now for weeks. I’ve even given up watching my beloved Lester Holt. It has helped, I think. Also not being bombarded with tv political ads, though I can’t say the same for my mail.  As an independent voter (in North Carolina that reads “unaffiliated”) I somehow have ended up on the receiving end of virulent Republican ads. All I can say about that is, “Really, Mr. Tillis, really? You think that I am so stupid that I will be won over by vitriol rather than facts?” And so it goes, all the way up the line. I do read newspapers, so I am not totally cut off, would that I were…

And I walk – and am heartened by all the “We Believe” signs in our neighborhood, as well as the red-white-and-blue signs for my candidate. I have noticed that the signs for both parties use the same colors, so it calls for me to get closer before I can identify which houses to avoid after the election. I especially like the Veterans for Biden signs, and this morning I saw one, Gold Star Families for Biden, and gave a little thumbs up to that family as I passed.

So a week until Election Day, and then what? I am deep into reading and meditating on Stoicism – there really is nothing new under the sun – so we will endure, no matter what. Though I do hold on to a glimmer of hope as to what the what will be.

Which brings me, finally, to bubbles. Did I see them? Did I dream about them? Either way, they made and make me happy. And who can’t use a bit of happiness these days, even if it is from bubbles. They too, as this world, will pass. Let us enjoy then while we may.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

A Life, APart is born…

A Life, APart is born…

A writer friend of mine, now no longer with us, introduced me to the term “book-pregnant,” that time when all the work is done and you’re waiting…waiting…waiting for it to present itself in solid form. A book.

So I have been book-pregnant for a few months now, trying to get things right, trying not to obsess over what adjective, dare-I-say adverb to include, replace, all the while spelling it correctly. (I will never get over my having used the wrong form of “discreet” pointed out in an Amazon review.)

And now, I have been delivered. The book is here, and on Amazon, which is the ultimate test, right?

A Life, APart. And no, that is not a typo – it is supposed to be APart. Once you read it, I do hope that it will become clear.

I think it is my best, my deepest work, and I think Claire’s story is one that needs to be told, that many, if not most, readers will appreciate and love her, will understand, though perhaps disagree with, her choices.

Here’s the official publisher’s blurb:

Claire Mueller is of the generation of Abzug, Friedan, and Steinem. She will tell you, if you ask, that her career presented itself without plan, strategy. Chance, she will say. It was chance, and taking advantage of opportunities that presented themselves, a solid work ethic, and a vocabulary that leads people to think that she is smarter than she really is. That is what she believes.

A Life, APart tells Claire’s story, her journey from naïve daughter to world-damaged adult. It chronicles her career, her friendship with Naomi, an unconventional, drug-dealing free-spirit who provides support and inspiration, and her unconventional love affair with Viktor, the soul-damaged, East European war refugee, who accompanies her on her final journey.

Grounded in historical fact, Claire’s story is that of one woman working in the man’s world of the 1950s and 1960s, before feminism became a byword. It is a character study, of Claire, and those flawed, authentic individuals who helped shape her life.

A bit of a commercial now: A Life, APart is available on Amazon in print version; the e-version is in the pipeline. If you’d like an inscribed copy, you can order it from my website. The price there includes tax, shipping and handling, so it might be a bit of a bargain for you:  cynthiastrauff.com

I hope that you will give it a read; I hope that it will resonate with you. And I hope that our country, our world will see a time of peace, love, and hope.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

Goodbye, Diana, and Thank You…

Image result for image diana rigg
Image result for image diana rigg

Diana Rigg died last week. That event was covered by the press; condolences and remembrances flooded Facebook, Twitter and other media. Her career spanned decades; her talent acknowledged.

And for those of us of a certain age, it was an icon, yet another icon, gone. I’m neither a Bond or Game of Thrones fan, so my memories of her will always be as Mrs. Emma Peel, that feminist icon of the 1960s whose influence transcended the character she played. Cat-suited, sexy, smart, assured – well, who of us didn’t want to be that? And she knew judo, could bring a villain to his knees without breaking a fingernail. Could there be more?

Well, yes, as those of us who emulated her soon found. The “more” was life, and life was definitely more complicated, more nuanced than The Avengers. More’s the pity. So we moved on; the cat suit became a bit-too-snug in the hips, we developed a deeper definition of sexy, we found that being smart wasn’t always appreciated by those who should have known better, and the assured part….well, it really is an act, was an act, wasn’t it.

So when I saw pictures of the mature Diana Rigg, I was surprised. Our icon had aged. And then I was proud. How sexy, smart, and assured she was to grow old unashamedly. Wrinkles, a bit of sagging, changes in facial structure – well, that is what life does. It changes us, inside and out. We become the sum of our genes, our thoughts, our agonies, our joys.

I read that she spent her last days with her daughter, happily reminiscing about her life. I hope that this is true; and I hope, and believe, that it was her memories away from the spotlight that brought her true happiness and peace.

Farewell, Diana. What a North Star you were.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com