My Grandmothers Shakespeare

Vignettes: The Pale Fawn Fluff Plan & The Serenity Prayer for the not-so-Serene!

Part of the reason that I work on the vignettes and a “Day in the Life” series has to do with Connections. On the 6 Degrees website, I talk of the need for connections with those who love to read and who are perhaps like-minded in their thinking. They could be those who love movies as I do. Or those who love animals, and especially dogs, as much as me. But part of the connections has to do with the isolation that we all have devised for our lives. And part of it is about ways to connect the dots of the two.  We hear often of the fact that you need to be an expert and an “Influencer” to get ahead in this online world. It’s funny about the word “Influencers.”  And how someone can influence when they don’t seem to be able to connect the dots and influence even their own choices? It is a mystery wrapped in a quandary surrounded by a riddle within a foggy maze. That is the only path leading to some of the dusty and neglected areas of fawn fluff that passes for my brain these days. The Pale Fawn Fluff Plan Hence, My Plan Emerges from the ash heap of fog in a brain. The Pale Fawn Fluff plan is hereby concocted to read: First, you get a million dollars. Then, you hire someone to put together a plan. The phrase “Pale Fawn Fluff” was a great one my former boss would use to describe our brain matter when forgetfulness ruled the day. It’s from Winnie the Pooh, I believe. And it’s just a part of our life of trivial pursuit that comes back to haunt us at times. We Lonely Humans No matter how many connections we make, we can still be considered a very isolated race of people in the computer age we live in. That is part of the reasoning behind “My Grandmother’s Shakespeare. ’ It was a short book I wrote with different vignettes, much like the ones I’ve highlighted on the vignettes blog. One of the last sections is about channeling Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. She is one of my writing mentors.  It’s called “We Lonely Humans. ” Here’s an excerpt: “We lonely humans need very little of devotion for contentment”-Marjorie K Rawlings “We Lonely Humans” says it all. We are a lonely race of people. Dogs and cats thrive as social animals, but we all seem so lonely for so many parts of our lives. We start by leaving our homes and raising families, and then by divorcing or moving far away from friends and kin and the life that we once knew. No wonder we feel so all alone. We enforce these little life bubbles around us at all times, and no one can penetrate them. It’s a sad state of affairs and a lonely race of people that we raise”…. How would you like to swing on a star?   Remember that old song: “How would you like to swing on a star?”…It was telling the story of what it would be like if wishes were concrete agenda items and somehow we could make all of our dreams come true. Then there is the caveat: Be careful what you wish for! The Midas Touch showed us that turning all things to gold might be life-threatening…But that is really the American Dream Mantra.  It trips us up every time. To wish upon a star means we can explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no man has gone before….and then we move on. And if our dreams really do come true, they may not be what you really want or need. I’m suddenly thinking of Elon Musk. And Icarus, the young man who wished to harness the energy to fly into the sun! And we saw that he came crashing down. I am also reminded of the old Gilded Age regulars like Henry Ford and Rockefeller. And the modern-day versions of Bill Gates and Elon Musk. They are unusual stories of remarkable men. But it still pays to be careful before you are burnt to death when you try to touch the sun…Best be wishing upon a star.  Then perhaps staying in your own lane is safer? But those who did try to touch the sun left a legacy behind that endured. Let us hope we find men of vision who are not simply swallowed in the lure and legacy of a dream.  And let’s fervently hope they won’t end up burning and consuming themselves or simply turning into inanimate and isolated statues made of gilt instead of gold. The Serenity Prayer for the not so Serene…  I am bad at throwing things away because in the future, I’ve always had need of things that I did regret throwing away. It’s the Serenity Prayer for mechanical earth: Lord. grant me the wisdom to keep those things which I need, throw away only those things that are no longer necessary, and above all-have a CLUE of what the difference is!!!  Not just fear of failure but… That is the only way we can make it through the darkest days. With a lifted boat full of the most hopeful of ideas that could possibly support the need to keep afloat without sinking in a morass of despair and false hope. The idea I had some time ago was to re-do the Serenity Prayer. Yes, of course we need the courage to be able to act and the wisdom to know the difference. We need to be able to act, and to have hope and courage as well as a well-defined knowledge of the dangers that instill a fear of failure in us. “Failure is not an option” is not the bottom line. Failure is not the end. Failing to act for fear of failure is the worst thing we can do.   Writers who want to invade your Serenity Prayer!   It’s true that writers do

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Finding Tess

The great Dr Seuss book: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”  comes to mind when I think about my journey in tracing my  ancestors. The stories that I have found have been fascinating glimpses into the past, like looking through a kaleidoscope of shapes that you cannot quite make out. For years, I had wondered about relatives on my Grandmother’s side who made up the Madden clan.  And when we finally found a clue, it was exciting to know there were actually people attached to the names. But there is no doubt that the best part of discovering relatives long lost has been finding Tess. The advent of Cousin Tess into our lives has been the most rewarding part of the journey. She is  in equal parts both sweet, funny, wise and strong and comes with fascinating stories of her own to tell…. My Grandmother’s Back Story The journey in discovering more about my own Grandmother began with the parts we did know. We knew that Grandmother Johnson had been a nurse in World War I, where she met my Grandfather. Thomas was a soldier who had been recovering from the Spanish Flu in a New York hospital when he met my grandmother Mae Madden. She had graduated recently from a prestigious Chicago nursing school, one of the first classes to graduate nurses to serve in the war. The school was notable as one of the doctors on staff was the father of Ernest Hemingway. And Mae did get to meet a young Ernest, who she said later was ‘spoiled.’ The (Delightful) Skeleton in the Closet We had searched for our Madden ancestors. But it was only after the DNA tests came back that we found a clue that none of us had guessed. There was not only a skeleton in the closet, but the skeleton had a baby attached! The baby had been born in New York City in 1911. He was George Madden, the father of Cousin Tess. George Madden, born and raised in an orphanage, went on to serve with distinction in World War II, as did my own father and uncle. After the war, George married and raised three children. He was known to be a good family man and an avid reader. He passed away in the late sixties, and never knew anything about his mother other than the fact that she lived in New York and her last name was Madden.  We have all come to the conclusion that the mother of George was in fact, my Grandmother Johnson. My Grandmother’s Shakespeare I had written of my Grandmother years ago, as a short essay in a book I published called “My Grandmother’s Shakespeare.”   I wrote about the fact that I never really knew her, other than through some short hand-written notes she scribbled on the margins of her old Shakespeare books. She had been an expert parliamentarian and knew the Robert’s Rules of Order through and through. She was in the Shakespeare Club here in Tampa for many years. So I knew she loved classics and learning and books. We shared that in common. And in the end, I just speculated that she may have wanted to live through a love of the arts, through Shakespeare and poetry and opera, to escape to a world where she could reach a higher level. She was my muse and inspired me, and for me, that had been her gift to me. And now, the heroine’s journey was complete as I delved deeper and found there was more she could give. She also sent us Tess. And the journey we took, my cousins and I, in finding Tess, and finding more about my own ancestry, was a journey worth taking.

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