Tuesday, December 27, 2011

For all that has been hard and good, easy and overwhelming

What We Need is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them in their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for a new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
--Wendell Berry

This amazing little poem, bit of wisdom was left on my pillow at the Cenacle, a retreat center here in Chicago on Fullerton Ave. right next to the zoo. The retreat was anything but zooey. It was the first weekend of 2011 and I used it to get started on a novel that I'm currently finishing up revising. I also wrote a short story that I've revised a couple of times this year and finally submitted--hopefully to win a prize.

If in the area why not sign up for the SCBWI New Year's Retreat--and get your 2012 off write, right?

Contact me if you need further info.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day 1942

Merry Christmas!

Here is a Christmas Day excerpt from Beyond Paradise my book ready now for a download. Louise and her mother and several members of the mission are in an internment camp in the Philippines.

Christmas Day arrived—my second in the Philippines, my first in captivity. It came without store-bought presents, without Papa, Julie, or mother. Mother mostly lay in bed except for when I took her by the hand and led her to the shower, the toilet, or to meals. She had hardly spoken a word since her outburst about the wedding album. As I looked into her vacant face, I often wondered what she thought about. Was she thinking of Papa? Without Papa she was missing her other half, the part of her that said she fixed good meals, thanked her for being a good wife, held her hand, and smoothed her hair at the dinner table. It was hard watching her crumble a little bit more each day.
I thought long and hard about what to give Mother. She didn’t need a new cup or bowl. I knew what she wanted, and I couldn’t get it for her.
Daisy came into the room shouting, “Santa Claus has been here after all.” She waved an old mended sock in the air. Inside her stocking was the tin cup I had made for her and a gift from Mrs. Urs—cardboard stars decorated with green wrapping paper with the words Merry Christmas in cursive gold lettering. Frank had carved the girls darling little rings from caraboa bones.
“Merry Christmas, Louise.” Ann came up behind me to give me a hug.
A lump stuck in my throat. “There is nothing for me. What I want can’t fit into a stocking. It isn’t here.” I broke down crying.
“You’re a very brave girl. You’re doing the best you can taking care of your mama. Louise, I know our heavenly Father will provide for you. He will bring you out of here. There will be an answer, and deliverance will come.”
“Oh, how can you be so sure?” I pulled away and went outside to sit down on the verandah.
Ann followed me outdoors and sat on the steps beside me. “Let me tell you a little story. A Christmas story.
“My people were poor; I didn’t expect much at Christmas. My father was a preacher. He liked to tell people about the year of Jubilee. You know what that is, Louise?”
“I think so. Isn’t that in the Old Testament? When slaves were freed and their debts forgiven?”
“That’s right. A time when the poor would have plenty. My daddy rarely ever got paid in money. Always with a sack of something. A sack of pecans, a bushel of apples. People brought these things when they could. It’d make me so mad. I always wished they’d bring us something really good.”
I understood her there.
Ann was lost, telling her story. When talking about home, her Southern accent came out with every word.
“I remember one night. Seems I was your age and always starving. You can only get so far on bread, pecans, apples, and other people’s handouts. One night a man came with a lantern, telling Daddy to come down to the Gulf. We didn’t live too far from the Gulf, where the warm waters come up from Mexico. Daddy took me with him, since I was the oldest. By the time we got to the shore, we couldn’t see the water, there were so many people. Dead of night and a hundred people standing at the water’s edge holding lanterns, like fireflies up and down the coast. I came closer and saw folks were scooping up fish. Something about the moon and warm waters had messed up the fishes’ sense of direction. A freak of nature. They were actually swimming into our nets! You could put your hand down and they’d come up just like a stray dog to be petted.
“My pa called it a Jubilee. Folks around us were almost spent—no jobs, no work, no food. Nothing to hope for. Then this harvest came in. All night long folks were cooking the fish over open fires or salting them and laying them out on logs to dry. Some took them home and pickled them. It was one night and then no more. We lived off those fish for six months, and I suppose other families did the same. It sustained us through the hard times.
“I always remember how God gave to us at just the right time. In the year of Jubilee he will provide. Keep this in mind. Be strong for your mama. She isn’t like you. She can’t remember a time of harvest right now.”
I thanked Ann for her story. I wasn’t sure about the Jubilee, but one thing I knew: If by some miracle or luck the tide actually ever came in, I’d have the misfortune to be drowned.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

How to Start a Revolution

Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, was laid to rest yesterday.

Often we don't find these words used in tandem: president and playwright.

Throughout time artists have been rebels, the outliers, stunning the populace with their "weird" ideas that, eventually, get integrated into the mainstream--as even more "weird" ideas are getting introduced. This is the cycle of which the artist is essential. As a rebel and a dissident, Vaclav Havel changed his country, changed the world--by the jangling of keys, with thousands of BIC lighters held high in the square. By promoting art and peace, lightness and brightness through performance, he took his plays to a wider stage.

Can you and I start a revolution today? The wall of commerce/commercialism/the general appetite for MORE OF THE SAME is a wall, a fence that can either keep us in or we can decide to break through.

I grew up in a home that didn't especially value books or story--when all I ever wanted was to read and invent. I had to step outside that environment and find a new tribe, a home of my own making where if left to ourselves my husband and daughter and I would read and write all day. Okay we also like movies and sitting around talking, and we do own a TV. But the number of books far exceeds the inches of the TV.

How to start a revolution--start by keeping literacy alive, staying open to new ideas, listening.

Thank you Mr. Havel.

People light candles and lay flowers at Vaclavski square to pay respect to former Czech president Vaclav Havel. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images) from the Wash. Post

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

From your loving old granny

When I was going through my dad's stuff found an old birthday card to him from his "Granny"
she was a wise woman from the hills of Kentucky; she possessed a simple and profound faith and thought I would share it.

A happy birthday wish for you from Granny Feeback

Dear Grandson
I have been trying to write you for some time but found out I do not have your address, but got it in time for your birthday. I hope. It seems a long time since I seen you, but it has only been a year. Still a year seems a long time to not see the ones you want to see so bad. But I hope you are all well. I am very well. Of course I don’t feel like I did when I was young, but I am the same old Granny. I miss Granddaddy as much as ever and I guess I always will. I have a very good place to live now and a good Christian woman to live with I like fine here and I hope won’t be moving anyways soon. I like Mrs. Stephenson very much, and she seems to like me. We attend church together and both belong to the same church.

I was so uneasy about you when you was on your trip. I prayed for you all the time that God would keep you safe from accidents, harm or danger in any way and send you back home to your family, for they need you so much. And now I have so much to thank God for now that you are back. How is Ann and the boys? You do have such a interesting family. I hope you go to church and to Sunday school all the time, and I hope you are united with the church, and are living right. We owe it to our children. I know you are just as good as you can be in your own strength, but there are some things we to look to God for.

Give my love to Ann and the boys and come to see me when you can. Hope you have more and more happy birthdays.
From your loving old
Granny Feeback

Friday, December 16, 2011

Harold Caywood Feeback 1925 - 2011

This is my mom and dad--when they were just dating, way back in college. Dad died last Sunday. He was 86.

Harold Caywood Feeback was born in Kentucky in Horse Country. For vacations we used to go back there and visit. I remember going to the Man O' War monument. If you don't know who Man O' War was--well look it up--the greatest horse that ever lived. Dad's kin were old time folks. Go-down-to-the-river Methodists. He called his granny Granny. Dad used to laugh and say he never knew that a Depression was going on because everyone he knew was poor anyway.

Before his senior year in high school his dad got a job with Coca-Cola bottlers in Cincinnati. Harold graduated from Withrow High School in 1943 and immediately joined the Navy and served on the USS Porter. He did his training at Great Lakes Naval Base just north of Chicago.

Harold attended Ohio State University on the GI Bill getting a degree in Business with a specialization in International Finance. He was big on education and made sure all four of us kids went to college.I love the picture above because it shows him at a desk writing.

In college Mom and Dad did the typical student thing. Note: the bottles, Also note: Mom's great legs.

this isn't Mom, but whoever it is Dad sure is swinging her
My dad was quite the dancer. He and Mom married September 17, 1949.

After he graduated from college Dad was called up again to serve during the Korean War. In a box of old maps I found a log book he kept. Mostly it was a few one liners such as shoved off from this port or under way on this sea--and tucked in there was an entry from April, 1951--son born. He would get a 2-week leave to come home and see his son, before rejoining the war and being gone for a year. 

Dad and Mom move to Dayton in 1953 where Dad first worked for NCR (National Cash Register) and then Monarch Marking Systems where Dad was on the development team for a product that would revolutionalize the supermarket industry.

Have you seen one of these? Before the label price gun there was the ink stamp, which didn't quite work on frozen foods (the ink smeared). With the price gun a stockperson could cut open a box and zip zip zip price a case of canned peas. Of course soon after the invention of the price gun came bar coding.
Here's Dad at the zenith of his powers.

It's hard to think of him gone. It was a slow transition. After retiring in 1987 he and Mom built a house in Fairfield Glade a sort of Stepford golfing community. All the houses were too big and too nice--but again it fit their lifestyle. Everything was going great.
Until Dad suffered a stroke about 6 years into retirement. It seemed an awful irony--finally the time and opportunity to play golf and he's paralyzed. He would remain debilitated by the stroke for 16 more years. So it wasn't the stroke that took him, but his heart. Slowly he was wearing out.

Harold (because we all called you that, even the grandkids) you lived a long and good life. Those who knew you will remember you as the guy in these pictures: dancing, golfing, enjoying life. You leave us--your wife Ann and the four kids--to mourn and miss you.

The Hallelujah Chorus

Flash Mob from Uptown Christian School
(pretty cute)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I was gonna

start a diet after the holidays until I had to spoon-feed my father a mashed banana. And then, after he died, I decided all I wanted was to eat candy and enjoy the season (as best I can).

Harold Caywood Feeback

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Report: Homelessness Among Children Up 38 Percent Since 2007

 This is from NPR

More than 1.6 million American children were homeless at some point in 2010, the nonprofit National Center on Family Homelessness reports today, adding that the number is about a 38 percent increase from 2007.
The figure, which includes children under the age of 18 who are living with one or more parents or caregivers on the streets, in shared housing because of "economic hardship" and in "emergency or transitional shelters," underscores how the recession that began in late 2007 "has been a man-made disaster for vulnerable children," Ellen L. Bassuk, founder of the national center, says in a statement.
She adds that:
"There are more homeless children today than after the natural disasters of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which caused historic levels of homelessness in 2006. The recession's economic devastation has left one in 45 children homeless in a year."
Bassuk tells NPR's Pam Fessler that the children are a "very traumatized group of kids" who face challenges such as hunger, poor health and lower educational achievement. About one-quarter of the children attend three or more schools in a year.
USA Today writes that today's report:
"Paints a bleaker picture than one by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which nonetheless reported a 28 percent increase in homeless families, from 131,000 in 2007 to 168,000 in 2010. Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor of social policy, says HUD's numbers are much smaller because they count only families living on the street or in emergency shelters."

My picture book Home is Where We Live  (see BOOKS)

is a look at homelessness from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl I observed and interviewed at the shelter. Her story is a composite, a small glimpse and actually has a happy ending--the family is helped through the shelter, eventually finding an apartment. As Christmas approaches please think about the nation's homeless children and give a donation to your local shelter or food pantry.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas is in the Air--along with the bullets

Tonight my husband and I attended a Christmas Gala at CCO (Cornerstone Community Outreach Shelter). Getting there was the hard part. Both ends of the street are sealed off because of police activity--nothing to do with our shelter. It was an out-of-town fugitive dropping in and holding someone hostage above Gigio Pizza. Helicopters and SWAT team called in.

Let it snow, let is snow, let it snow. 'Cause the fluffy stuff is better than shell casings.


Happy Almost Holidays

What's the use of having a blog if you can't share these types of things.
Check out this link to my "Elf" video.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Beyond Paradise

A YA historical novel written to ask ourselves: What makes you happy? Is it place, family, or something deeper, inside of you. Beyond the externals--despite time limitations, the lack of money, privacy, the ability to travel or do whatever you want.

I know this is a hectic time of year, but please check out Beyond Paradise. Here is a small clip that appeared on the back cover of the hardback edition.

“I used to listen to this shell before going to bed at night in the internment camps. It reminded me that out there, beyond the fences, the guards, the machine guns, was freedom. I couldn’t get enough of hearing the waves wash the beach. I loved the sound of unbroken movement.”

And, if you could, please. Go to: the Amazon Kindle page

and "agree" with the tags. What I mean is:
scroll to the bottom to Tags Customers Associate with This Product
agree with these tags

Heard this type of action HELPS my book. Of course this is all voodoo.


ALSO if you know anyone interested in military history--specifically the Pacific theater, Beyond Paradise might be a nice gift idea. Hint, hint.