ANOTHER SUNDAY Has Arrived!

anothersundaycover

ANOTHER SUNDAY Has Arrived!

I’m delighted to let you know that my book, ANOTHER SUNDAY, is here. It’s an historical novel set in Baltimore in the early part of the 20th Century, and chronicles the life of Celeste Wells, who was born expecting that life would deliver her dreams – love, and a house on Mt. Vernon Place. However, as life most often does, fate selects other paths for her, as she learns to live in a time and society radically different from what she envisioned.

Set when life seemed a bit simpler, at least to the modern eye, ANOTHER SUNDAY gives us a glimpse into Baltimore, and the world, as it was, complete with streetcars and train trips and a young woman coming to grips with a changing world and the costs of her own independence.

ANOTHER SUNDAY is currently available in both print and electronic versions. You can purchase it by going to my website: cynthiastrauff.com, or by going directly to Lulu.com. (Please note that I have written this under the name Cynthia Strauff, so this is the name that will be on all sites and search engines.

Please excuse this bit of “shameless self-promotion.” I do hope that you’ll consider purchasing the book. And, in even more self-promotion, if you know of anyone who enjoys historical fiction, family sagas, or women’s fiction, it would be great if you would share this blog post with them.

And as we end this holiday weekend, I thank you and hope that your Thanksgiving was filled with joy, contentment, and, of course, gratitude.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, Those Prickly Sorority Sisters

winter palace

Oh, Those Prickly Sorority Sisters…..

This week I experienced the disdain of offended sorority sisters – for, I learned, once a sorority sister, always a sorority sister – and a criticism of an anonymous sorority house (and I do mean the actual house) was taken as defamation of members, one and all.

While putting off working on my book, I, naturally, went to Facebook. There I was confronted with a post from Southern Living detailing the interiors of some southern sorority houses. I admit, I did not read the article, so put off was I by the graphic, which featured one interior that would put St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace (above) to shame. Truly, all it needed was Carol Burnette descending the stairs wearing the velvet curtain (and rod) from her wondrous spoof of Gone with the Wind. And I also admit that I could not resist writing a rather snarky comment, containing, perhaps, the word superficiality.

I blithely went on avoiding the work of the day, and a few hours later, when, of course, I returned to Facebook, there were responses to my response. Go figure! There was an accumulation of “likes.” Who doesn’t appreciate that?  But many of the comments were blistering. I was called out as bitter, stupid, ignorant, liberal, and a Communist. One responder was sure that I lived in a pigsty and encouraged me to eat <expletive deleted>. None of these comments made me feel more affectionate toward sororities, though, yes, I do know about the “extensive” charity work they do. And, truly, my snark was not about the women who choose to belong to these groups (indeed, “some of my best friends,” including one to whom I gave birth, were in sororities) but about the lavishness of the houses they choose to live in.

Needless to say, these responses seemed more than a bit defensive to me, while, unquestionably, I found those judgements supporting my view to be logical, well-reasoned, wise, and in the best of taste.

And so I went to thinking about Facebook, about how we can inflame and be inflamed by comments of strangers that run the gamut from off-the-cuff, to snarky, to mean-spirited and vitriolic. And how one person’s snark can be another’s body blow, since we all bring our filters and our demons to the page.

Well, yet another lesson learned. But I still think I’m right about that lavish staircase.

On Cooking

Picture 002

On Cooking —

There was quite a Facebook firestorm a few weeks ago when an adult daughter lamented that her mother no longer cooked. She interpreted this change as a sign of depression, and asked for advice on how to get mom out of restaurants and back into the kitchen.

She received a less than united response. Some readers agreed with her assessment; they pointed out how difficult, some said sad, it was to cook for one person, and recommended cookbooks, recipes, and new cookware  Others took her to task for not being more present, not visiting, not giving her mother someone to cook for.

However, a large contingent took another view. They maintained that, after who-knows-how-many years of cooking, she should give her mother a break, or, even better, a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant.

No easy answers here, and it caused me to consider my thoughts about cooking.

My mother didn’t cook. (At the time that didn’t seem odd to me, though I envied those friends whose mothers inhabited their kitchens.) But on a few Sundays each year, she would don an apron over her black silk lounging pajamas and cook a special breakfast for us. My father and I raved about it, and I was way too old before I realized that creamed chipped beef on toast was not the height of the culinary universe.

When I married, I saw cooking as a primary domestic function, and made sure that meals were, if not delicious, at least on a well-laid table most nights.  Filling the house with friends and the table with food for holidays became a focus of my year.

But then. And there’s always a “but then.”

It became harder and harder to think of what to cook. Red meat had become anathema, chicken tasteless, fish mercury-laden, and soy, well, there was only so much one could do with tofu. Too much salt, too much GMO, just too much.

I used to cook for company. Now I don’t even do that. We meet friends for dinner, or they come here for drinks and cheese and crackers. Sparkling china goes untouched; silver tarnishes in its chest. Crystal gathers dust.

We are down to the two of us now, and my husband is uncomplaining about meals. For a few years I had convinced him that a baked sweet potato was a main course. I still cook, but most of the time I don’t like it. It’s the daily-ness of the job. There is always tomorrow’s dinner to figure out.

Life has changed; we have changed. More’s the pity, because cooking, when one is in the mood, feeds the soul even more than the body.

And thinking of the daughter at the top of this post, I do think that I would be happier if I still liked to cook. Every once in a while I rally, find a new cookbook, try a few new recipes. But all in all, the thrill is gone.

So, to her, I give this advice: Ask your mom why she’s eating out. If she gives you a pitiful reply, see how you can help. If she just says, “I’m done with that,” understand. You may be there yourself before long.

And now I must go; I have a pot roast on the stove….

Advice to My (Older) Self

Woman_with_Underwood_typewriter

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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  5. Keep your nails manicured and put on make-up – just a little bit – every day.
  6. Don’t complain, about anything, especially to yourself.
  7. Don’t worry. By this time you know that the bad times never last. Neither do the good times. Such is life.
  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.
  9. Keep your sense of humor; that should be the very last thing to go.
  10. Family — love them, be there for them, but have a life apart from them. Don’t be a burden.
  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.

Advice to My Younger Self

cynthy 1950, gramma's rose garden

Advice to My Younger Self

I don’t know if I can improve on Helen Mirren’s guidance (which I double-checked to make sure these are truly her words). She said, “At 70 years old, if I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to use the words “fuck off” much more frequently.”  My thoughts certainly parallel hers, but she has said it so eloquently, I paused to consider whether to continue this post. But, at the risk of redundancy, I decided to carry on.

So, here are just a few more words, and thoughts, and memories.

  1. Don’t be afraid of being afraid. Then take a deep breath and do it anyway. Regrets about not taking chances will always trump regrets from holding back.
  2. You will face terrible times, times that you aren’t sure that you’ll get through. You will survive and laugh again.
  3. Never lose your sense of humor and your ability to laugh, first of all at yourself.
  4. Forgive those who’ve wounded you the most deeply. It is a gift to yourself. Then learn.
  5. Allowing yourself to be insulted is not “taking the high road.” Otftimes it is plain cowardice.
  6. Don’t stay in a job where you have to put on armor as part of your work uniform.
  7. It’s okay to take off from work to read really good books.
  8. You won’t die if you fail. Your spirit will die if you don’t try.
  9. Work isn’t everything; it isn’t even very much.
  10. Your friends will get you through life.

And about saying “fuck off” – use it sparingly, use it thoughtfully, but use it.