We Are All Refugees…

Image result for image refugees

My book group is reading The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Its narrator, a half-French, half-Vietnamese operative, tells a story of divided loyalties. It begins in 1975 with the withdrawal of American forces from South Vietnam.

I lived through this time; I remember pictures of South Vietnamese clinging to American helicopters as they left the area. At the time I thought, how sad, and then went back to my life and my problems and worries,so much more important than what was happening so far away. Sorry that “those people” had to endure even more than they had, but, really, wasn’t there always sadness?

Earlier this year, I watched the PBS Documentary, “Last Days in Vietnam.” Rory Kennedy (yes, that Kennedy) did a superb job of re-telling this story that many of us thought we knew. I thought I knew. I didn’t. So much that I didn’t realize, that I glossed over. I’m sure the press covered it, though not in a way that I paid attention to, so wrapped up in my own life was I.

And so I became a bit less blind. And less blind. And less blind.

And now I find myself looking with disbelief with what our president has done, with the flourish of a pen, proud of his executive order. Calling it “extreme vetting.” Others, those with little hope of escape, of freedom, might chose to call it something else. And those of us who watch, in horror, feel both outrage and helplessness.

We post our indignation on Facebook; we write blogs like this one; we live in our bubble where everyone agrees with us. Certainly, we remember that we ALL come from refugees.

And meanwhile…


Thank You, Mary Richards….


Thank you, Mary Richards….

What a week it has been. Coming down from the high of Saturday’s March, full of hope, then seeing, but not quite believing, the actions of our dictator-in-chief – a wall, approvals for his Cabinets choices, agencies silenced, web pages disappearing, his chief propagandists lying in the face of facts….

And now – a champion to those of us who came of age in the 70s gone.

A few words on what Mary Tyler Moore, through her character Mary Richards, meant to me – I was young, on my own, with a two-year old who was so beautiful and loving that it would melt anyone’s heart. I had no job. My car burned so much oil that I bought it by the caseload and kept it in my trunk. I had a job where I shared an office, and a salary that didn’t stretch quite far enough for rent, daycare fees and food. I had three outfits, all lovely, but only three. Which turned out to be fine because the closet in my apartment was just large enough for five hangers.

I was also heartbroken, and sure that, except for my daughter, my life was over.

And then came Mary. We didn’t have a television, but I had a friend who did. And Saturday evenings, we would watch Mary Richards navigate this world that was both seductive and frightening. The world of the “new” single woman. My pal and I drank wine, smoked, and watched. And Mary’s world percolated down – from our eyes, to our brains, to our hearts.

Yes. She did it. She was alone, and she was pretty damn happy. Successful too, but it was the happiness that touched us.

And so, I channeled Mary. When I felt like crying, I channeled Mary. When I couldn’t pay all my bills, I channeled Mary. When I went in to ask for a raise, I channeled Mary. And my boss, who also thought I had spunk, loved me like a daughter.

I had her clothes; I had her hat. And, like her, I made it on my own.

Thank you, Mary Richards. I don’t think I could have done it quite so well without you.


So Proud to be a Woman!!

I drafted this post on Friday evening, after a day of tears. I was fighting hard not to feel hopeless. And then today — the march.  To watch such a overwhelming outpouring of emotion, and love, and understanding — all over the world — what a shot in the arm….thanks to those who marched, thanks to those who, while their bodies might not have been there, shared their hearts and souls. Hope….what a feeling…..


For me, and for most us who are sickened by this spectre of the presidency, this is not about politics, not about a Republican defeating a Democrat. Had the Republican nominee been sane, more prepared, more qualified than the current president, there would have been disappointment, for sure, but not this visceral repugnance and fright that has gripped so many.

This is not about politics; this is about the man whom our electoral college has chosen to be the leader of the free world. And yes, I understand that he is our president. But I will work each day to use this energy roiling inside me to bring about change that will make us feel proud of our country and its citizens.

We say goodbye to a man of integrity, of intelligence, of grace, a man whose gravitas befitted the role of our leader. The baton has been passed to a narcissistic vulgarian who doesn’t read, who surrounds himself with toadies, whose grasp of the world begins and ends with his own ego.

And how interesting, and  how comforting, that this has brought many of us closer together. At my annual mammogram on Friday afternoon, the registrar asked me how I was doing. Our eyes met and we both started to cry, and took solace in each other, without using words. Such is the heart and soul connection among so many women now. Now to channel this energy into action.

So, a heartfelt thank you to friends, Facebook allies, and those who understand.

We will not get over it.

We will not accept this as the new normal.

We will not give up hope.

We will not give up.





On My Facebook Anniversary


On My Facebook Anniversary –

Earlier this week I was notified by Facebook, who obviously keeps track of such things, that I had been a member for eight years, and that, indeed, it was time to celebrate an anniversary.

I’ll bite, I thought, and remembered the time when I, ever so reluctantly, signed up. I did it to please a friend, who posted daily, or hourly so it seemed, pictures of her grandchild. Not, mind you, that I was against seeing the progress of this incredible infant as she smiled, cried, slept for the camera.

And then, over time, I connected with friends, honest-to-goodness friends and that was lovely – keeping in touch, painlessly, as well as being able to see pictures of their restaurant meals. I learned a lot, because, of course, I had never seen a picture of rare steak before.

Gradually I found acquaintances – friends of friends, artists, other writers, and it was interesting to see what was going on in their lives, their experiences, travails. It made me feel connected. It felt good.

Then the interest groups – hurrah! Historic Baltimore groups, history groups, writing groups, Zentangle groups, and, these last months, political action groups. What a difference this has made, to me, to my work. The idea for my latest historical novel, Echoes from the Alum Chine, was born when someone posted an article from the Baltimore Sun about ship being loaded with dynamite that blew up in the harbor. I had not heard of it before, and it stayed in my mind. I knew I would one day write about it, and more than two years after I first saw the article, I put pen to paper. Now it is finished. All because of a Facebook post.

When I follow poets and novelists, including poet- and novelist-wannabes, I receive affirmation and encouragement to continue, even through those dark days and nights.

And in recent times, I have taken solace in postings from like-minded, wounded, troubled, wondering souls like myself who still can’t quite believe the outcome of the November election. Pantsuit Nation, Wall-of-Us – just two of the groups that helped keep me sane, told me that I was not alone in my feelings, my disbelief, my grief. And so it was strangers, as well as friends, who helped my through, although I don’t believe that we are through by any means.

So, Facebook, I am celebrating this anniversary. Joyeux anniversaire, Facebook. I know you can be a blessing and a course, but, for this time, at least, you’ve been a blessing.

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

Memento Mori


Memento Mori

According to my Grandiloquent Wall Calendar, Memento Mori Day was January 3rd. A good time, I think – the New Year’s hangover eased, a few days into January for those resolutions to have weakened, and life almost back to normal.

Memento Mori – “Remember, you must die.”

Well, yes, I do, most of the time, though I don’t think it’s wise to keep it top of mind.  Is it a serious thought? Yes. Is it depressing? It can be. BUT, it can serve as a wakeup call to live, to appreciate each day that we have, especially for those of us who have more yesterdays than tomorrows.

This week I made a New Year’s Resolution call to an old friend, a dear friend. She and I have known each other for many decades, experienced highs and lows together that will most likely, at least I hope, not return. We knew each other as few, if any did. And I use the past tense purposely. For, yes, it is that we knew each other. Oh, I still know her. And she remembers me, sort of. She knows my name, my voice, most likely not my face. But her memories of our times together, our experiences, have gone into that nether world of dementia. And so, a part of my past has vanished as well.

She is happily demented, I would say, a layperson’s assessment of her life. She laughs, and tells me that she has many friends. I hope she is right. Only once, several years ago now, when she was first diagnosed, when her lucid moments outpaced her clouded ones, did she talk about what it meant to say goodbye. Goodbye to me, to her memories, to her past. “I can’t remember shit, Cyn,” she said, laughing and crying at the same time. And I was silent. She knew me then. No longer does she remember that she can’t remember.

And so, dear reader, as we begin this new year, let us “remember, you must die,” and pay attention, appreciate every hour that we have. Let’s seize the day, as the posters say. Let’s figure out exactly what that means, for each of us. Use the good silver, the china that was our great-great grandmother’s. Wear that velvet cape that lays in the attic wrapped in tissue paper. Figure out what’s important and hold on to it. Call the friend who knew you when. Make peace with some of your demons. But keep others around to remind you that you’re real.

Memento mori – I’ll drink to that – the good bourbon this time.

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com