Category Archives: marriage

W is for Wedding


by Lillian Csernica on April 27, 2022

When I was fourteen years old, my father got married for the third time. My mother had been wife number two. My parents divorced when I was eleven, so I guess you could say Daddy had observed an appropriate period of mourning for that failed marriage before he decided to take the plunge once again.

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One of the many strange things about my father’s third marriage was the fact that I and my soon-to-be stepsister already knew each other. We were on the same volleyball team in high school. My stepsister had the unlikely name of America. People mostly called her Amy. She had long dark hair, big blue eyes, full lips, and a perfect figure. Amy reminded me of how Snow White might have turned out if she’d ended up on the beach in Santa Monica. She was gorgeous and she knew it. The third member of the package deal was my stepbrother Joseph, twenty-one and the black sheep of his family. Daddy put up with Joseph until the day he discovered Joseph had been growing marijuana in a garden shed out back. In 1979 people were a lot less tolerant of marijuana than they are now. Daddy kicked Joseph out. I was fine with that.

Preparations for the wedding included fittings for bridesmaid dresses made of yellow polyester. Sleeveless yellow polyester. In the heat of summer. Over the upper half of these sunny creations draped chiffon circles with a pattern of daisies and greenery. We also had to wear yellow garden hats with bands of similar chiffon. Somebody tall and willowy might have made that outfit look good. All I know is, I wasn’t tall enough and nowhere near willowy. These were the colors my stepmother-elect had chosen, so I did my best. Amy made the outfit look great.

Being a teenager who’d grown up in one dysfunctional family and knew she was about to join another, I had mixed feelings about this whole process. For one thing, my stepmother’s name was Amber. I had a thing for geology at the time. All I could think of was tree sap with bugs caught in it. Ancient bugs at that. Not the most maternal image. Also, Amber was short. That in itself wouldn’t have been a problem, but next to my father, she looked more like his daughter than his wife. Amber and I got along well enough, but then, I only saw her when I stayed at my father’s house on visitation weekends. I recall one day close to the wedding when I was sulking at my father’s house, having a serious internal hissy about refusing to call Amber “Mom.” I don’t know what I was so upset about. It’s not like anybody ever expected me to do that. I suppose we can chalk that one up to adolescence.

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The wedding day itself was memorable for moments that have stayed with me like snapshots on my mental coffee table. All of us bridesmaids suiting up and trying to get those chiffon drape things to hang right. All the other women offering to do my makeup. They were all nice people, but in honor of the occasion they went a bit overboard. Makeup and I have never had a close relationship. I’ve worn it for the Prom, for my own wedding, and for a few other important occasions. Watching Amy go at it with enough palettes and brushes to fill a museum made me decline all offers. At that point in my life my father had never seen me wear makeup. Having overheard a few of Daddy’s comments about how trashy Amy looked when she went out on dates, I figured it would be a good idea to cause him one less shock on his wedding day.

The wedding took place in the Methodist chapel on a nearby military base. The guests were mostly people from my father’s workplace, where he’d met Amber. No family was present other than us kids due to Daddy’s people all being in Ohio. (As for Amber’s people, God only knows. I never have heard the definitive truth about her origins.) My father looked quite distinguished in his gray three-piece suit, yellow shirt, and yellow-striped tie. Amber wore a white wedding gown. I was still young enough to find that funny, but I was smart enough to keep my amusement to myself. I don’t know how they managed to find a wedding gown short enough for her. She had almost no waist. High heels and a long skirt that included a train can be a precarious combination. She did make it to the altar without tripping or falling. Amber’s bouquet was impressive, all red roses with babies’-breath and ferns. It made a rather dramatic contrast against her white gown. I had to wonder what possessed her to make us bridesmaids wear yellow and green. We looked like we’d wandered in from somebody else’s wedding.

I don’t remember a whole lot about the service itself, but I do recall wondering if my father was going to keel over. I’d never seen him look so nervous or emotional. At one point I thought Daddy might be in tears. This was really weird. My father had a temper, but he also had a sense of humor. To see this side of him came close to freaking me out. If this was the effect Amber had on him, was this marriage such a good idea after all? We all got through the service more or less intact. There were one or two people among the attendees who couldn’t help crying at weddings.

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The reception gave me a perfect opportunity to observe all these people I’d never met before and would probably never see again. My father had been in AA for a good three years by then, but there was a no-host bar for the guests. The punch was that frequent concoction of ice cubes, tonic water and rainbow sherbet. Who came up with that? Why do people think it’s a good idea? It makes you burp and you end up with a frothy mustache. Not exactly the most chic way to party at an event as formal as a wedding.

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After the speeches and cutting the cake, people settled down to socializing. I didn’t know what else to do with myself, so I kept busy getting people more coffee or cake and tidying up here and there. I noticed my newly official stepsister Amy didn’t care for the rainbow punch either. She was only eighteen, so she got my new stepbrother Joseph to buy her drinks. It soon became obvious Amy couldn’t hold her liquor. That she was holding any came as an unpleasant surprise to my father. Joseph had enough sense to stop buying her drinks, but by then she’d already been laughing too loudly and sitting slumped against him like some tart from a Victorian gin joint.

What really put the icing on this particular cake was the fact that other people in the wedding party started to notice Amy’s behavior. One of the older bridesmaids, a co-worker of Amber’s, called me over to where she sat at the head table. This lady announced in ringing tones that I was a real lady, behaving myself and helping out like a good hostess should. I suppose I ought to have been embarrassed, but I understood perfectly that she meant to point out Amy’s behavior by complimenting mine. Amy must have caught hell later for getting smashed at the wedding. One would think she’d have had a little more class given that her new stepfather was a recovering alcoholic.

At the end of the day, Daddy seemed to be happy, so that was what really mattered to me. That, and knowing that never again would I be forced to wear yellow polyester.

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Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, Family, Food, Humor, love, marriage, memoirs, mother, parenting, romance

N is for Nitpicking


“When you nitpick, you focus on small, specific mistakes.” — Vocabulary.com

Writing about history gives me an opportunity to get the big picture on how different countries have tried to make different strategies work. Economic strategies, military strategies, and the more cultural and artistic strategies that come under the heading of fashion. There is one particular occupational hazard to becoming an historical writer. One can develop an obsession with historical accuracy that appears to people outside one’s own head as relentless nitpicking.

A good example is Scotland. Not the wealthiest of countries, Scotland has a long history of internal clan conflicts and the border wars with England. The weather in Scotland tends toward clouds and rain. Sheep do well on the landscape of Scotland, so you see a lot of wool in their clothing styles, especially the kilt. I know a lot of people who have spent a great deal of time looking up their family tartans. When in the company of such people, I’ve learned to keep my knowledge of history to myself. The truth is, clan tartans are an invention of the Victorian period. This is one of those nasty facts that bursts the romantic bubble of many an amateur historian.

I’ve written often about my fondness for Japan. Feudal Japan was an era of strict social classes, laws about fashion, and precise rules about social etiquette. While the tyranny of the Tokugawa Shogunate was eventually its own undoing, I must confess I find a certain comfort in having so many matters of culture spelled out for me. Modern Japanese also enjoy the two-edged sword of knowing exactly who they are and where they stand in whatever social context they find themselves. In the time of the Tokugawa, clothing, hairstyles, personal ornamentation, and weaponry were the indicators of social position. I find it one of history’s most humorous moments to see all that grandeur reduced to the business card. That has become the crucial indicator of status and context for the Japanese. Westerners are advised to bring plenty of their own. Otherwise there are business available to produce cards very quickly with one side in English and the other in Japanese. Context is everything, and Japan is a high-context society.

I write romance novels, so I get to take a close look at the techniques of wooing in various times and places. Medieval Europe had the concept of the Court of Chivalry. Eleanor of Aquitaine was largely responsible for this idea. Knights were measured against the Code of Chivalry to see if they met the beau ideal of those times. The real purpose of the Courts of Chilvary was to keep the women occupied while the men were off on Crusade or fighting battles closer to home. Bored noblewomen can be dangerous noblewomen, as Eleanor of Aquitaine herself proved more than once.

Novels from the Regency and Victorian periods entertain me because they’re all about clothes and money. Social position is the bottom line, and so many of the characters are looking to trade up. Finding someone you can love for the rest of your life is nowhere near as important as finding someone with a respectable income of so many hundreds or thousands of pounds per year. Love might be a nice side effect of marriage. Nobody expected it to be the whole point.

Oddly enough, ancient history holds little appeal for me. The mysteries of ancient Egypt focus so much on the afterlife. I know more than I ever wanted to about the process of mummification. I find it interesting that the Egyptian gods have animal heads, also found in the Hindu pantheon. What does this similarity mean? What exchange of culture might have gone on that modern archaeologists have yet to discover? As with so many cultures, the most noteworthy people are the upper classes, especially the royalty. The lower classes, especially the slaves, had a hard life. Not a lot of romance there for me. I’m not fond of desert climates.

One of the most fascinating aspects of history is food. For the first romance novel I ever wrote, I had to go looking for Basque cookbooks because that novel is set in Navarre. I finally discovered what my heroine would have for breakfast: chestnuts boiled in milk and sprinkled with nutmeg. In Egypt the custom of having many festal days where the upper classes distributed beer and bread to the lower classes was based as much on pragmatism as piety. If not for that custom, many members of the lower classes in Egypt would have starved to death. The key difference in culinary art between the Middles Ages and the Renaissance came down to the use of spices. The Middle Ages saw lots of spices thrown in for rich flavors. Renaissance cooking became more selective, creating unique dishes centered around particular flavor combinations. My research in this area taught me the delights of chicken prepared with cinnamon.

Then there’s jewelry. I could go on and on about dressing up my heroes and heroines in the bijouterie of their particular time periods. From the hair ornaments of the geisha to the mourning rings of the Victorian period, from the carnelian combs of early Russia to the prayer ropes of the Middles Ages called paternosters made from ivory beads or garnets or even pearls, the treasure chests of history are overflowing with splendor and detail. I once had the pleasure of visiting the Smithsonian Institution and seeing the earrings of Marie Antoinette. I had to wonder how she avoided ending up with earlobes stretched like King Tut’s.

History is full of little questions like this, alongside the larger mysteries. And so with every novel I go exploring!

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Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, Fiction, Food, historical fiction, history, Humor, Japan, love, marriage, publication, research, romance, travel, Writing

L is for Love


by Lillian Csernica on April 14, 2022

LOOKING FOR LOVE

The older I get, the more I realize how much I don’t know. Take love, for example. I don’t know much more about what love really is than I did when I was in elementary school. For me, love started out being this big exalted dream of perfect happiness, perfect harmony, and total devotion to each other. I think I got that from reading fairy tales. (Disney movies also have a lot to answer for.) Then I listened to what older girls said about their boyfriends. I got the impression that having a boyfriend was one of those Rules for Living that showed everybody else you knew what you were doing.

One night when I was nineteen years old, it was so bitterly cold my body heat wasn’t enough to warm up the sheets and blankets. I lay there alone, shivering and miserable, thinking if only I had boyfriend. If only I could find a boyfriend to keep me warm, inside and out. The intense desire to avoid another night like that one prompted me to do some pretty stupid things. As I look back at that cold night from the perspective of fifty-plus years, I can see that I could have saved myself all kinds of trouble if I’d just bought an electric blanket.

Ever since I met my first crush when I was in the grade, I thought the right guy was the solution to all my needs and problems. I don’t know how I got this idea. It must have been all those fairy tales, because I certainly didn’t learn it from my family. My grandparents got divorced twice and married three times. (It’s true. I have photos of two of the weddings.) My parents divorced when I was eleven. My older sister never has married. My brother had to divorce his first wife. Why on earth did I think attaching myself to some boy who probably had even less of a clue than I did would somehow result in that magical state called “true love”?

When I was on the debate team in college, the first rule was “Define your terms.” That way both the Affirmative and the Negative teams knew exactly what the Affirmative team meant by the resolution being debated. When it comes to the search for love, I think the same rule should apply. After all, the statement “I love you” can have several different meanings and those meanings often depend on context. Matchmakers, dating services, and our best friends all ask the same question, “What are you looking for in a partner?” This is where it starts to get really complicated. Does the resulting list of characteristics represent the idealized image of the person whom you want to fall in love with? Or does it represent the person whom you want to fall in love with you? Are you really looking for a healthy relationship based on mutual give and take, or are you looking for a human transitional object that will soothe your insecurities and pay for your evening entertainment?

At this point in my life, I can see that wanting this perfect person to fall in love with me meant more than just having a boyfriend so I could go out on dates. It meant proving to the world that I had achieved the ultimate validation, the concrete emotional evidence that I wasn’t a loser, I wasn’t the last person chosen during schoolyard games. I wasn’t cold, alone, and miserable anymore. That’s what I hoped. Life hasn’t worked out that way.

Right now there’s all that Easter candy out there on the shelves. Most of it is chocolate. As adults, we know which brands are better than others. We know how to compare them and get the most value for our money. This skill comes from time, maturity, and a lot of taste-testing. Kids are different. When it comes to chocolate, kids don’t care. In the Dollar Tree you can find the phrase “chocolate-flavored” on many of the Easter items. There’s no actual cacao, just a lot of artificial colors and flavors. Unfortunately, the same can be said of some people. In the quest for love, some of us who crave True Love, the Real Thing, can become so desperate they will settle for the off-brands that are cheap, flashy, and artificial. It’s so hard to resist the temptation for a quick fix that will silence those nagging cravings and insecurities. It took me a while to learn the importance of patience, of saving up for the quality chocolate and the quality people.

My mother had her opinions about my boyfriends. When I was in middle school and awash in all kinds of hormonal angst over whether or not I’d ever get a boyfriend, Mom said I was “boy crazy.” Accurate, if not all that flattering or sympathetic. Years later, after I’d graduated high school and had spent some adventurous years working the Renaissance Faires, Mom managed to sum up both the quality and the quantity of my efforts to find love: “Well, at least you won’t wonder what you might have missed out on.” Once again, neither flattering nor all that sympathetic. Thanks, Mom.

So now that I’m a woman of a certain age, do I really know any more about love than when I first started dating boys? I’ve been married for thirty-four years come July, but that’s less of a testament to romantic love than to maintaining a stable home life for my sons. In a world of uncertainties, I know three things for sure: I love my sons, I love my cats, and I love really good dark chocolate.

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Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, cats, chocolate, Depression, dreams, fairy tales, Family, Fiction, frustration, Goals, love, marriage, memoirs, mother, perspective, romance, school, therapy, worry

G is for Grandma


FAMILY GARDENS, FAMILY TREES

“To be one woman, truly, wholly, is to be all women. Tend one garden and you will birth worlds.”

–Kate Braverman

Springtime with its new growth of plants and flowers always makes me think of my maternal grandmother’s flower garden. They say inherited traits skip a generation. That means we’re more like our grandparents than our parents. This is certainly true of me and both of my grandmothers.

My maternal grandmother lived large in a time when that just wasn’t done. Her role model was her own mother, my great-grandmother. Back in the ’30s Nana had gotten a divorce then opened her own modeling agency, two actions way beyond the social norm for women of her time. Nana raised my grandmother in that environment of independence and determination. Grandma became a fashion model. The natural companion for a model is a photographer, right? My grandfather was a professional photographer who later earned a Masters in Cinematography from USC and worked for Universal Studios. I have many of the photos he took of Grandma which show her devilish smile and the wicked sparkle in her eye.

Grandma wrote a society column, full of parties and social events and the kind of good-natured gossip that makes for lively reading. Grandma’s column appeared regularly in the paper, but one day she got her photo in a Mexican newspaper as well. On a trip to Enseñada Grandma donned the traditional traje de luces of the bullfighter, complete with hat and cloak, and fought a bull right there in the bullring. And she won! I now have that “suit of lights” as a treasured reminder of the Grandma who went through the world with high spirits and a fearless heart.

When I think of Grandma’s house, I think of the garden out in the backyard. It might have been the Hall of Flowers at the county fair or the sales floor of an upscale nursery. When I was three years old, we lived with Grandma for a short time. At that age I got into everything, and that included the garden. The roses looked good enough to eat, in sugary pinks, deep golden yellows, and reds even darker than Grandma’s lipstick. Their scents mingled with the delicate fragrance of the night-blooming jasmine and the down-home sweetness of the honeysuckle vines. On hot summer days I liked to sit out there and just breathe.

A lot more grew in Grandma’s garden than just flowers. The towering tree with drooping branches blossomed with thousands of pale lavender petals. This was a “jacaranda.” I loved that word. New and strange, it made me think of spicy food in faraway lands. The raspberry bramble was a dangerous place for little hands and little tummies. The best berries were always deep in the bramble where the birds couldn’t eat them. I had to stick my hand way in there past all the thorns and spiderwebs and bugs. One day my cousin Kevin ate a bunch of berries before they were ripe. His stomach ache taught me the importance of patience, and of letting him go first!

The garden remains a symbol for all of Grandma’s quirks and strengths. What my childhood self remembers the woman I am now can interpret and understand. Grandma was beautiful and exotic and livened up her surroundings. Some days Grandma could be thorny. Some places in her house and in her life little kids just didn’t go. Boundaries are reassuring to a child, even when they provoke unbearable curiosity.

My father’s mother had a much different style. She married my grandfather and set up house as a farm wife, giving him three sons and three daughters. She lived through the Depression and both World Wars. She made a great mulligan stew, played Yahtzee like a pro, and never once commented on the length of my husband’s hair (a ponytail halfway down his back). At eighty-four this Grandma was still going strong and objected strongly to the law taking away her driver’s license.

Grandma lived at the same address throughout my entire life, a trailer park in Ohio. When I think of her garden, I think of the little field beside her trailer, a shaggy patch of weeds and blackberry vines, dandelions and wildflowers, lizards and birds and bumblebees as big as my little kid thumb. It’s a great big happy organic mess. Mother Nature is left to her own devices there. If anybody understands the importance of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” that was my Grandma.

As you can see, my grandmothers are two very different types of women. From my mother’s mother come my sense of adventure, my fondness for costumes, and my love of travel. From my father’s mother come my cooking skills, my love of board games, and my contentment with less than perfect housekeeping.

From both my grandmothers I’ve inherited the need to locate and preserve photos of every generation of the family back as far as I can find. I want my two sons to at least see the relatives they won’t have the opportunity to meet. These photos have become a garden of memories, one that will show my boys and their children the rootstock that we come from, the sturdy vines and delicate blossoms, the everyday ferns and the hothouse roses. I hope that all the babies yet to come will one day know they are the latest buds to blossom in a garden tended with love.

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Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, creativity, Family, family tradition, Food, history, love, marriage, memoirs, mother, nature, parenting, publication, Small business, travel, Writing

D is for Disappointment


by Lillian Csernica on April 4, 2022

These are examples of free writing or word sprints using the prompt #disappointment.

1. Control Group

You never know when the pictures in your head will end up biting you on the ass. There you are, dreaming dreams, conjuring marvelous plans for the future, and before you know it you’ve invested too much energy. Now the dreams are set in mental stone. Now you’ve enshrined them, so you have to worship them daily. Worse, you have to do something about them. Here come the teeth. Expectations. Unspoken needs. Hidden agendas. Other people don’t have access to the art gallery in your head so they can’t paint-by-number according to your design.

2. Sun and Moon

Yow. Sunshine is good for the soul. Kill that disappointment with light. Drown the darkness with illumination. Not easy to keep the light burning. Gotta have fuel to keep it lit. Fuel is hard to come by on the cold dark days when the firebox or coal hod of the mind is empty , full of splinters and soot. Those lingering traces of old sorrows that begrime the pictures in our heads and tarnish our dreams.

It sucks to be stuck in the dark. Power failures are a literal disappointment. They kill the energy that makes all the really entertaining devices in the house work. So we are thrown back on our inner resources. How’s the firebox? Did the coal arrive? If not, we’re screwed. It’s so hard to generate our own light, to be the flame we light instead of cursing the darkness.

Disappointment can put out that flame, stain those pictures, suck up all our fuel and spit it out as nothing but heat that fails to warm us. Disappointment breeds anger, distrust, dislike, discord. Dis dis dis. Not. None. No more. Poverty. Emptiness. Lack of what’s necessary. Disappointment means we didn’t get what we wanted, what we hoped for, what we were expecting. It means the puppet show called daily life didn’t play out according to our chosen script. Cut strings. Empty eyes. Broken joints. No more plays today.

3. Three-legged Race

Connection and attachment lead to disappointment. To remain free of disappointment is to attempt to escape all risk. Why? The minute something or someone becomes important to you, whether for positive or negative reasons, there is the possibility of loss. Physical loss. Emotional loss. Financial loss. Spiritual loss. Loss of self, loss of identity, loss of freedom. On and on and on. Can one exist without connections? No. Not in our modern electronic pseudo-utopia. Can one exist without attachments? That means giving up everything. All of it. Total dispassion. Is that possible? Yes. Likely? How many saints have there been compared to the total population on the planet at their time? Odds aren’t too good, are they?

4. Stomp and yell

Physical exertion combats the toxins of disappointment. Sweat, dammit! Purge those juices that circulate like ink dropped in clear water. Purge those fractals. Sing the blood through your veins. Combat spiritual lethargy with craziness. Let GO. Let go of all those dusty old masterpieces chaining you to a life fixed on canvas and no longer vital. Burn them! Fire cleanses. Fire in the belly, in the blood, in the soul. Make new ashes. Ashes + lye = soap. Soap cleanses. Soap heals. Soap is fun because it makes bubbles. Bubbles are a sure cure for the downer of disappointment. Blow big, blow small, pop ’em, watch ’em float. Let it go. Let those bubbles carry those old ashes away. Cleanse your mind with pretty shiny soap bubbles and start finger-painting in the real world. Goofy little kid art. House. Tree. Dog. Baseball. River. Goldfish.

God is in the details. If we can learn to treasure the details, we will never be disappointed.

5. Blind Walk

Trust is difficult. Trust means loss of control. Loss of control can lead to disappointment because things don’t turn out the way they would have if we’d been in charge. That’s the illusion. Control freaks dwell in this fantasy land where everything will work out just fine as long as people just do things their way. All hail the Control Freaks, Kings and Queens of Disappointments. Control freaks are just asking for it. Control freaks don’t trust anybody, not even themselves. They’ve been disappointed big time in the past and they aren’t about to let that happen again.

I know about this. My wedding was a perfect example of misplaced trust and ruined expectations. All the key people were fine, it was the support people who screwed up. The photographer, dressmaker, and baker, all masters of their particular domains, and every one of them left me furious and disappointed. Yes, I’m a control freak. No, I’m not a Bridezilla.

Broken hearts. Broken dreams. All you can do is gather up the pretty fragments and try to create a stained glass window or a mosaic or some work of art that will remind you not to let whatever it was happen again. Memory is tricky. We want what we want. We need what we need. Attachments can become addictions. We’re so disappointed in ourselves when we realize we have so little control over our impulses and actions. We think we’re masters of our destinies and captains of our souls, but we’re still just apprentices sweeping up those splinters and all that soot.

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A to Z Challenge: A is for Ailurophilia


by Lillian Csernica on April 1, 2022

THE FINE ART OF AILUROPHILIA

Most people think a Crazy Cat Lady is someone who gets fixated on cats, loses all sense of smell thanks to all the litter boxes, and sits around all day in their bathrobe and jammies. The truth is, Crazy Cat Lady Disorder (CCLD) is a spectrum disorder. The popular image of the Crazy Cat Lady is an example of someone at the extreme end of the spectrum. CCLD can manifest in milder forms, such as a compulsive need to collect Hello Kitty items or the tendency to wear cat ears and a tail when attending certain social events. Some of us are born with CCLD, some of us achieve CCLD, and some of us have CCLD thrust upon us. I fall into the third category. I was born a cat magnet.

The night I met Spice: I came home late from work. That meant I had to park on the street and cross the lawn to my front door. Out of nowhere this little marmalade tabby cat came zooming up to me and wrapped himself around my leg. I was still living with my mother at that time. Spice would sleep inside my car at night, then I’d let him out in the morning. After I got married, I took Spice with me when I moved to Northern California. He lived with friends of ours for two years until we moved into an apartment where we could have a cat. Spice lived to be eighteen years old.

The feral tabby: I’d been at a writer’s group meeting hosted by Jerry, a member of the group. Outside I saw this calico cat who looked rather thin and skittish. After a few minutes of coaxing, the cat came over to me and let me pet her. The poor creature hadn’t been eating well. Some fur was missing due to mange. Jerry and my husband stood at a distance down the sidewalk. Jerry looked perplexed while my husband stood there grinning. Jerry said he’d been trying to get the cat to accept food from him, but all he could do was put the dish down and go away. My husband explained my “cat magnet” powersmuch to Jerry’s chagrin. Jerry considered himself good with animals. When it comes to feral cats, the relationship is entirely on their terms.

The calico at the Cloisters: On our honeymoon, my husband and I went to the East Coast so I could meet all the in-laws who couldn’t make it to California for the wedding. We spent some time in New York seeing the museums and a Broadway show. At the Cloisters, it was a quiet day and the parking lot wasn’t very full. We parked around back by the kitchen door of the museum’s restaurant. I noticed a little calico cat hanging out by the kitchen door, clearly hoping for some food. As soon as I got out of the car, the cat spotted me and came running across the parking lot, meowing up a storm. The cat ran right up to me and just kept meowing away. Whatever the message was, it was urgent. (I now make a habit of carrying cat treats. At that time, I had no such thing so it’s not like the cat could smell food on me.) I felt so bad that I couldn’t understand what the cat was trying to tell me! All I could do was thank the cat for the message and tell her I’d be sure to pass it along. The cat meowed once more then ran back to the bushes near the kitchen door. During the rest of our honeymoon, my husband kept telling his family about this incident. That cat definitely wanted to talk to me!

The gorgeous cat in Japan: On my first trip to Japan I visited Yokohama for Nippon 2007, I the first World Science Fiction Convention in Asia. I took a side trip to Kamakura to see the temple of the Daibutsu, the fifty foot bronze Buddha. On my way back to the bus stop, I met a most unusual cat. Its outer coat was the color of mahogany, its undercoat creamy white, and its eyes were the green of Midori liqueur. The cat lounged in the sunshine of a residential driveway.

“Konnichiwa, Neko-san,” I said. “Daijobu desu ka?”

(“Hello, Mr. Cat. How are you?”)

The cat meowed in reply. I regret to say I couldn’t understand his comment. Being a proper Japanese cat, he wouldn’t allow me to pet him in public. He retreated to a branch in a nearby tree.

Crazy Cat Ladies are known for owning really impressive numbers of cats. My all-time high is fourteen. At that time I lived on an acre of land in a rural area. I had two cats of my own. The lady next door moved out, taking her mama cat with her and leaving the four kittens behind. Three of them adopted me. Two of those three were female and went into heat before I could catch them and have them spayed. And so I ended up with a total of fourteen cats. I did not cherish the vet bills, but I did have lot of fun watching the two mama cats with their eight kittens playing in the grass while the uncle cat looked on.

I have entered the demographic where owning several cats and wearing a bathrobe and slippers all day makes me one of two things: a Crazy Cat Lady or a writer. In my case, I’m both. Whenever gift-giving occasions arise, I often receive something that involves cats. One year my family threw me a surprise birthday party. The theme? Crazy Cat Lady. On a cake done in pink and lavender icing sat the Crazy Cat Lady action figure available from Archie McPhee. The figure has blonde hair. Somebody had colored it to become brunette like me. The cake also feature fancy candles that said “Birthday Girl,” along with various plastic toy cats and even a cardboard cat tree scratching post! On the table sat clusters of plastic toy cats in a variety of breeds and colors, enough to add up to my exact age. Somebody even went to the trouble of wrapping up a birthday present inside the box for a case of Friskies wet food.

My presents included a bathrobe, pajamas, and slippers that match the action figure. Granted, the figure already existed, but I can now say that as a Crazy Cat Lady, I have my own action figure. A purple zebra-striped birthday crown and a brand new pooper scooper scepter completed my royal birthday regalia. Having Crazy Cat Lady Disorder is a mixed blessing, but if it means people throwing me parties like this, I’m all for it.

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Filed under #atozchallenge, birthday, Blog challenges, cats, Family, Humor, Japan, marriage

A Thousand Thanks


by Lillian Csernica on April 8, 2020

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April is Autism Awareness Month. As you can see, I’ve “gone blue” in support of ASD children and adults everywhere. As the T shirt says:

It takes a special mom to know what a child cannot say.

Both of my sons have difficulties with their verbal skills. John has speech delay. Michael doesn’t not speak at all, aside from some vigorous vocalizing. I am fortunate in that words seem to be what I’m good at in this life. Public speaking, sales, writing fiction and nonfiction. I had no idea my ability with words would stand me in such good stead given how hard it is for both of my boys to communicate.

What really keeps me going right now is the generosity and support of my community. By that I mean all of you folks reading this. All the folks who have donated to the GoFundMe, Safeguarding My Special Needs Sons. As of today, the total amount donated is over $3,000. In these strange, stressful, and scary times, the weight of enduring the divorce process is crushing me. I have to stay strong for my boys, to help them make the most of each day.

Thank you. Thank you so much. If I could do it, I would hug every single one of you.

Please keep sharing the link to the GoFundMe. Being able to pay a good lawyer to protect my interests and my boys’ future will do so much to keep all three of us strong until we get to that brighter future we all are hoping for.

 

J reading to M

 

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Filed under autism, charity, Depression, Family, family tradition, frustration, Goals, Lillian Csernica, marriage, mother, neurodiversity, parenting, special education, Special needs, therapy, worry, Writing

Please Help My Family


by Lillian Csernica on March 25, 2020

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As you may recall, last year my sister moved out of my house and soon after that my mother passed away. The time has come to reveal the third event that made 2019 even more stressful.

I filed for divorce.

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I am one of those women who let the man take care of all the finances. This was a serious mistake. I can’t discuss the legal fine points here. Let me just say my husband has made a number of questionable decisions and went to some lengths to conceal them. As a writer I don’t make a lot of money. The royalties I do have coming in don’t amount to a lot, a fact painfully clear when I put together all my income tax information. Last year was hard on me emotionally and financially.

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Lawyers cost money, especially divorce lawyers. With that in mind, I have organized a GoFundMe. I’ve found a lawyer who will protect my interests and those of my sons. We need someone who will keep us safe against spite, vengeance, and legal maneuvering.

Please. Any donation will help me protect my boys and build a better life.

Links:

GoFundMe

Paypal: lillian@lillian-csernica.com

Venmo: Lillian Csernica

And please, share this post.

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But Wait! There’s More!


by Lillian Csernica on May 3, 2019

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Hi there. I had to take a small break from blogging to keep up with some other writing commitments. An article for SEARCH Magazine, the latest critiques for my writers group, and a vigorous session at the coffeehouse with my personal journal. If I don’t write in the personal journal with reasonable frequency, internal pressures build up and I get way too stressed out.

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Those of you who are in my general age range will recall those commercials that came on late at night during the really bad horror movies that showed on Channel 13 (I grew up in Southern California). The fast-talking salesman doing the voice-over would tell you all about the wonders of the chef’s knives for one low, low price.

But wait! There’s more!

The voice-over would throw in some amazing device that could peel carrots, slice spuds into French fries, and turn those radishes into roses. All for another rock bottom price!

But wait! There’s more!

Now and then you’d get the third tier offer which usually had to do with jewelry, sterling silver or 18k gold. You just dipped the item into the secret polish and out it came gleaming like the prize treasure from a dragon’s hoard.

I have completed the April 2019 A to Z Blog Challenge. So here I am looking for a May Blog Challenge. Any suggestions?

I could go with an official challenge, or I could devote this month to a subject that you wonderful people would like to see me discuss. I can cover anything in the subject areas I’m known for, or you can send me off on a new adventure.

What new & improved thrills would you like to see me provide here?

You are some mighty clever people. Can’t wait to see what you throw at me!

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innovateuk.blog.gov.uk

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#atozchallenge Y is for Yearning


by Lillian Csernica on April 29, 2019
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Writers spend a lot of their time thinking about their characters’ deepest yearnings.

Sure, the protagonist wants to solve the problem that sets the story in motion. What else is going on down in the deeper layers of the protagonist’s psyche? What unmet need drives that character onward?

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There’s a school of thought in psychodynamics that says we marry a person who represents our parent of the opposite gender. Men marry their mothers, women marry their fathers. As we know, the gender spectrum is not binary, so this thinking is clearly behind the times. Still, take a good look at the spouse and children of a close friend, somebody you know well enough to know about their nuclear family and its dynamics.

See any patterns there? Any repetition of childhood scripts?

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At this point in my life I read a lot less romance and a lot more murder mystery. What does that say about the kind of escapism I’m yearning for? I’ve lived too long to get caught up in the romance paradigm. These days I’m a lot more interested in knowing that by the end of the book, the mystery will be solved and the killer will meet some kind of justice.

I yearn for solutions. I yearn for the power to stop arrogant maladjusted people from getting away with murder. I yearn for an orderly, well-mannered, peaceful world.

"Yes, it's sort of a yearning disability."

 

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Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, Family, Fiction, frustration, historical fiction, love, marriage, romance, therapy, Writing