Saturday, March 27, 2010

Making a Joyful Noise! Part One

"Oh, dear! What can the matter be? Dear, dear, what can the matter be? Oh dear, what can the matter be? Johnny's so long at the fair."

I must have been three or four -- no more than five-and-a-half because that's when my long, wavy brown hair was chopped into a pixie cut -- when my dad sang that to me as my mom brushed my hair into submission. My first memory of someone singing. 

"He promised to buy me a trinket to please me; and then for a kiss oh, he vowed he would tease me. He promised to buy me a bunch of blue ribbons to tie up my bonny brown hair!"

My dad didn't sing much, even though he had a passable baritone voice. He could carry a tune and his voice, while not big and booming, was smooth. His choice of songs, however, didn't much meet with my mother's approval.

"My name is Yon Yonson. I come from Visconsin. I verk in de lumber yard dere. And I go down de street and de people I meet, dey say "Hey, dere! Vot's your name?" And I tell dem my name is Yon Yonson. I come from Visconsin. I verk . . . "

I don't remember my mother singing much at all. Although she had a cultured and expressive speaking and reading voice, her untrained soprano singing voice sounded forced -- maybe because her piano teachers through childhood and college directed her toward strictly classical music studies. Perhaps she would have been a great torch singer -- we'll never know because, to her, the epitome of a great singer was someone like Maria Callas .

I remember her wistful delight when my second cousin's mother took up voice lessons in her 30s? 40s? and joined a local opera group. My mother was thrilled when I took voice lessons for a couple of years during high school, first from our choir director and later from a prominent area vocal teacher.

But my first memory of my mother and singing was when I was six and sang in our church choir. Not a children's choir. A mixed ages choir because the tiny Episcopal church (see photo above) we attended in Mountain Home, Idaho, didn't have enough people to warrant both an adult and a children's choir. You wanted to sing, you sang -- regardless of how old you were.

Me? I got to sing because my mom was the choir director. I think she also played the organ? piano? for the services . . . but that part I don't remember.

What I do remember is holding the hymnal and rehearsing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!" . . . and having the audacity to ask my mom if I could hear a particular passage again because I hadn't quite gotten it. I must have heard one of the grownups make a similar request and copied it, because I remember my mother being a bit annoyed with me and one of the other women kind of chuckling and saying, "It's OK. We have time."

My next memory is a little later. I was maybe seven or eight and sitting by her at the piano while she played (an octave higher than written) and sang this very delicate little ditty: "I had a little nut tree, nothing would it bear but a silver nutmeg and a golden pear. The king of Spain's daughter came to visit me, and all for the sake of my little nut tree. Her dress was made of crimson; coal black was her hair. She asked me for my nut tree and my golden pear. I said so fair a princess never did I see. I'll give to you the fruit of my little nut tree."

My dad on the other hand taught me this one:

"I went to the animal fair. The birds and the beasts were there. The old baboon by the light of moon was combing his silvery hair. The monkey, he got drunk. And sat on the elephant's trunk. The elephant sneezed and fell on his knees and that was the end of the monk, the monk, the monk."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Feth Fiada . . . The Lorica of St. Patrick

An Seamróg, is é seamair Éireannach. (The Shamrock, a typical Irish clover. Photo & caption courtesy of Wikipedia). 

 Many people become Irish for a day each March 17. Green beer miraculously flows from taps, pipes skirl, and people greet each other with "Erin go Bragh!" -- a bit of bastardized Irish loosely translated as "Ireland Forever." The day is named after St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, who is also the patron saint of Nigeria and of engineers, according to

No beer here, and not much in the way of pipes or patriotic platitudes.

Just a bit to share from The Wisdom of St. Patrick: Inspirations from the Patron Saint of Ireland by Greg Tobin. According to Tobin, legend has it that Patrick and his followers were hid from enemy soldiers by seeming to be only a herd of wild deer. One of Patrick's disciples, Benin, appeared as a young fawn and bleated out the prayer that became the Lorica (Latin for "breastplate") of St. Patrick. Feth Fiada means "Deer's Cry."

It seems appropriate to share the Lorica in these last few minutes of St. Patrick's Day, 2010:


I arise today:
  vast in might, invocation of the Tirnity;
  belief in a Threeness;
  confession of a Oneness;
  meeting in the Creator.


I arise today:
  in the might of Christ's Birth and His Baptism;
  in the might of His Crucifixion and Burial;
  in the might of His Resurrection and Ascension;
  in the might of His Descent to the Judgment of Doom.


I arise today:
  in the might of the Cherubim;
  in obedience of the Angels;
  in ministration of Archangels;
  in hope of resurrection through merit;
  in prayers of Patriarchs;
  in predictions of Prophets;
  in preaching of Apostles;
  in faiths of Confessors;
  in innocence of Holy Virgins;
  in deeds of good men.


I arise today:
  in the might of Heaven;
  Splendor of the Sun;
  whiteness of Snow;
  irresistibleness of Fire;
  the swiftness of Lightning;
  the speed of Wind;
  Absoluteness of the Deep'
  Earth's stability;
  Rock's durability.


I arise today:
  in the might of God for my piloting;
  in the power of God for my stability;
  in the wisdom of God for my guidance;
  in the eye of God for my foresight;
  in the ear of God for my hearing;
  in the word of God for my speaking;
  in the hand of God for my guard;
  in the path of God for my prevention;
  in the shield of God for my protection;
  in the host of God for my salvation;
     against every demon's snare;
     against all vices' lure;
     against concupiscence;
     against ill-wishes far and near.


I invoke all these forces:
  between me and every savage force that may come upon me,
     body and my soul;
  against incantations of false prophets;
  against black laws of paganism;
  against false laws of heresy;
  against idolatry;
  against spells of women and smiths and druids;
  against all knowledge that should not be known.


Christ for my guard today:
  against poison, against burning,
  against drowning, against wounding,
  that there may come to me merit;


Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ under me, Christ over me,
Christ to the right of me, Christ to the left of me,
Christ in lying down, Christ in sitting, Christ in rising up.


Christ in all who may think of me!
Christ in the mouth of all who may speak to me!
Christ in the eye that may look on me!
Christ in the ear that may hear me!


I arise today:
  in vast might, of the Trinity prayed to:
  believing on a Threeness;
  confessing a Oneness;
  meeting in the Creator.
  Salvation is the Lord's, salvation is the Lord's
  Salvation is Christ's
  May Thy salvation, O Lord, be always with us.


Insiders' Guide to the Greater Tampa Bay Area

Yesterday was the official release date for my new book (how good it feels to say that!), Insiders' Guide to the Greater Tampa Bay Area: Including Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater.

Check out my new blog by the same name to keep tabs on IGTB and on the Tampa Bay area. There's also a Facebook page -- if you become a fan, you'll get an update most days as to what's happening around Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties.

Here, I'll put the answers to a few questions people have asked about the writing itself.

How long did it take you to write the book? From initial contact to release date was just over a year. From contract date to the finish of the text was a tad over ninety days. That's three pages-plus a day, seven days a week, of research, writing, and revising. After that, I also had to proofread/revise the entire text twice, plus help create the maps.

Is this a self-published book? No, the book is published by Globe Pequot Press, a subsidiary of Morris Communications, LLC. 

How did you get this job? Short answer: It was a fluke. A writing friend passed along an email she had received that included info about GPP looking for a writer from the Tampa Bay area to write an IG. I sent in my resume and clips, and they contacted me. Long answer: There are no flukes. Seven years before, I had quit my job as a business manager and devoted myself to writing -- childrens' stories, I thought -- full time. Six years before, I started freelancing for Tampa Bay Newspapers. Four years before, I went back to school and earned by B.F.A. in Creative Writing from Eckerd College, where I did more writing in 18 months than I think I had done in my whole life up to that time. Six months before, I had graduated from the University of Alabama with an M.A. in Community Journalism, where I doubled the amount of writing I did at Eckerd. As part of the program I spent a year in the newsroom of the Anniston Star and explored just about every facet of community life through a journalist's eyes. Having lived in this area for more than 30 years, I had the background. Having taken the writing journey I did over the last seven years, I was in shape to get the job done. Even longer answer: In the beginning, God . . . 

Have questions about the writing process? Ask! In the meantime, help me celebrate! Ready?? 1-2-3 . . . WAHOOOOOOO!!!

Now available in bookstores and at,, etc. 326 pages. Softcover. ISBN: 978-0-7627-5347-5

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Remember . . . When Eco-Awareness Meant Not Littering

Above: Trash left by festival goers the day after a March 2007 event in Clearwater. The entire park area behind the chain link fence was covered with cups, bottles, plates, napkins, and other garbage.

My first official speaking engagement came when, as a high school junior, I was invited to speak about environmental awareness at a Southern California civic club meeting.

My biology teacher had formed an Ecology Club -- a somewhat radical idea during that 1969-1970 academic year that straddled two decades and bridged the uneasy era between all-out support for American involvement in Vietnam and the country's eventual about face.

As president of the new club, and as a member of our school’s forensics (debate) team, I was a natural choice for this teacher to suggest for a speaker at a local Rotary? Lions? meeting.

Air, water, and land pollution were somewhat new rallying cries for us back then. Smog in the L.A. basin often spilled into Orange County, obscuring Saddleback Mountain with a greasy haze. Various water quality acts and other legislation had just been passed -- with the goal of eliminating industrial pollution by 1985.

Anti-littering campaigns were in full swing.

A few weeks ago, I attended a private screening of a newly released motion picture at a local theater. As an alumna of the same college as the author of the book on which the movie was based, I received an invitation exclusive to those affiliated with the college.

We went and we watched, including all of the credits -- a quirk of ours. Then we stood up to leave, and we surveyed the half-eaten bags of popcorn, drink cups, napkins, candy wrappers, and other trash left on the floor at more than half the seats of this college-affiliated crowd, many of whom profess concern about the problems of carbon emissions and global warming.

I was ashamed.