Once again, For real this time

I’m now a part-time emigrant to Ireland, writing about refugees to Miami in 1980. Even though my escape is not due to political pressure, I wonder if some of my difficulties in acclimating to a changed environment mirror those of the Marielitos. And if I make light of my own challenges, it doesn’t mean I belittle the challenges faced by those earlier Cubans, escaping a dystopia created by one man, Fidel Castro, who somehow is still in power all these years later. If anything, I appreciate more deeply their sacrifices.

I’m an outsider in Gort, despite visiting regularly during the past 30 years. It means I don’t know the deeper threads that bind the people I’ve come to love, even though I’m accepted by them. I can’t know the family histories that direct one to a certain restaurant and cause another to avoid it. I have yet to learn to hold my opinion of any performance until I get home, lest someone hear and repeat it out of context. In Miami, I know what and when to speak openly to a group: I can read the socially acceptable. Here, I find myself simply listening, taking it all in without venturing an opinion.

Well, that just won’t last too long, will it?




Going Positive!

Yeah, I’m morbid in my blog. I’m morbid in my life. It’s just how I see things. Glass half empty, and about to explode from rising temps due to climate cha-cha-cha. Although I had an opportunity to be positive last night.
Eamonn and Cindy took the dogs to spend the night at his new house, but came home around eleven because there were so many fumes in it. New paint, bleached bathrooms with ammonia, and bug spray. No problem for me: I just fixed them something to eat and went to bed.
About 2:05a.m., I heard something that woke me up. The dog began to howl at the same time, so I bolted from the bedroom to see what was wrong. I let Charlie out the back and almost followed him, but hesitated because I knew if I saw a person-sized shape, I’d shit a brick. And these floors are hard to clean. Eamonn was in the kitchen shouting, Charlie in the yard–but then I saw his head go down, butt in the air, and he backed up several paces. Oh, no, a big possum? 
Both dogs fanned across the back yard but ended up at the trampoline by the  fence. We all calmed down, called them in and went back to bed. About ten minutes later, Gus came home from work and asked me what Eamonn did with the tv. It was gone.
I never noticed it earlier! But someone, probably two someones, had entered the house to steal the tv from the living room. We went outside and found it in the side yard. We couldn’t find the remote or the power cable, so they got that. Police came, dusted it and told us other robberies had been happening, but this was one of the first at night, in an occupied house. So, I’m positive about this, because it could have been so much worse. A lot of bad things did not happen, although I had trouble getting Eamonn to calm down. He trembled like a racehorse after a hard run, he was so upset. He’s worried he has to protect us, but he has to think about his own house now.
It was a wake-up call. I can see now that without the dogs, we’ll have to start locking all the doors at night.

Did you wonder where I’ve been?

After all my worry, I finally was booted from The Miami Herald in 2009. Thirty-six years to the day I was hired. I like the symmetry of that now, just couldn’t appreciate it then. Seems to have taken me two years to get past the personal humiliation of a rejection I know was purely economic, but despite my earlier rantings, still hurt.

I didn’t anticipate the loss of part of my identity: that woman who could whip an edition into shape and make deadline. The one who closed shop at a major newspaper each night for years. I invested a lot of myself there, and never recognized the cost. Took a while for that to sink in. And not bringing in a paycheck? How can I spend anything on books if I’m not contributing to the family fund? Mr. N2LC began LOTS of overtime, too much, and nearly drained his own health.

But the wolf is not at the door, and we have to be thankful for that.

I still haven’t gone back to the Herald building to see my old friends, just can’t do it.

This chapter, the penultimate one, is gaining ground. Almost finished with The Book, and looking forward to testing its readability by publishing as an almost free ebook. Still teetering between two homes: Miami and Gort. Although the winters in Ireland have been so bad, the hedgings have died. I really hope that’s not an allegory for my retirement plans. See how I turn everything, even climate change, into a personal issue? It’s gotta change. I really do have to get out more!!!!

I’ll get back on track here, and hope to make future posts less egocentric. Anyway, just wanted to say hi guys. Yeah, I’m back on my feet.

Yes, it’s getting worse

The gnashing of teeth here at the Miami Herald is only just beginning. For starters, my department boss has decided to scramble everyone into another job. You do A section? Go to Local B instead. You do B section? Now you are sports. Oh, and if you thought you were doing the Business section…now you do Sports pages at the same time.

What do we do with these pages, you ask. Well, we find out how long the stories are, what size headline to ask the copy desk to write, what boxes, graphics, and pictures we weren’t told about absolutely HAVE TO RUN on the page. We have to know what art has already been in the paper this week, where to find mugs of people featured in roundups. We have to wrap this melange around a group of ads, and remember to check the ad content so we don’t feature a plane crash story on a page of airline ads. In short, we do a million little things to bring the reader a physical paper to hold in his/her hands each day. This is all set to a deadline: God forbid you miss that.

And now, with the implementation of a new schedule, this newspaper does more: my boss has found a way to warp space and time! Yes! A miracle of willpower, with maybe a little physics thrown in.

 We now have seven nine hour shifts, but we can’t get paid for overtime. In this manner, he has suavely blended in enough “free” hours to make up one of the full-timers we were forced to lose. Of course, (nod, wink) we nine hour-ers are “supposed” to take an hour lunch break. Who cares about the poor saps still on eight hour days? They can eat after work.

Well, neither I nor anyone I know has had time for a lunch break in the 9 (NINE) years I’ve been up here. Not if we’re going to make pages in time for deadline.

I don’t give a damn, you say.  I don’t want to pay for a paper that’s outdated when I can get my news online, you whinge. Yes, I said whinge. Of course you don’t ninny. Not now, when you have a choice. But what happens when there isn’t a choice?

Are you going to slog through a web page that has 80 inches of words in it? Each day for a week, like our series on housing corruption, or the juvenile justice system? Will you care about the story that lies behind the description of what occurrred?

 Acually, you will never care about issues you don’t get exposed to. How could you? It takes time and money to follow these stories to completion. How will online news, with its short, double-spaced graphs and sound/video bites get your attention for that long on one story?

The Miami Herald, like all good newspapers, takes the time to dig deeper. We present it to you with bells and whistles to make sure you not only read the articles, you find it impossible not to understand them. But it costs too much, you whine. And I because I’m supposed to recycle, I can’t throw it away when I’ve read it.

Say amen and bow your head. The Second Coming can’t be far away.

More changes….

  Well hell. It’s been too long since I posted anything. For a while, I wondered what this blog was all about, but I guess it’s just discovering how to acclimate myself to change. Big changes.

This image of the Everglades hits home. A horizon that promises needed rain, but threatens with deadly lightning. Like the plans we’ve made to guarantee our future: on the edge of blowing up.

At work, the newspaper industry is in such a slump, we are losing 17% of our employees. Nope, this gal isn’t about to embark on her last chapter (retirement) after all….not just yet. I managed to hang on, but at the cost of my home routine. New shift work, new days off, and new duties. No more seniority in picking schedules. We’ll be assigned wherever. “And be damn grateful for it” is the undertone. So, sure, I am. Oh yeah. Hell, I can toe a party line as well as anyone.

Youngest Son has decided to go back to college, so we are hanging in for a while to be able to afford it for him. No college fund? Uh, well, not exactly: a rental house was supposed to be his college fund. Who knew we’d never be able to sell it in this market? In the meantime, he hasn’t signed on for any classes. What’s up with that?

At any rate, I just got back from Alabama. checking on my mom. She hasn’t been well.  Last night I was there, she falls in the bathroom while my stepfather is on the front porch, aiming a pistol at imaginary trespassers. But they don’t need help, nossir, they are doing damn fine, thank you and get out.

So that’s the current chapter, and by God, I’m ready to finish this one.

But on second thought, why am I complaining? I still have a job, Mom is still kicking (figuratively), YS is a good kid. My book is coming along. Mr. N2LC still loves me.

I have to stop now, before I break out and begin singing The Sound of Music in the newsroom. The Miami Herald isn’t ready for that: I’d really be fried then!

Slow radicalization

A Potent Spell, by Janna Malamud Smith should be required reading for all girls ready to leave school. Or have babies. Or get married. Or grow old, wondering where the time went.

The premise is that women’s love of their children generates a horrific fear of the loss of same children that enables them to be easily manipulated.


Well, any of us can tell you that’s right. What I didn’t know was that maybe, just maybe,  things could be different. But Smith also asserts that men don’t want women to be any other way, as it makes them easier to control.

Double huh.

My hackles start to rise as I realize how neatly I fit into the framework Smith describes. And funny enough, tonight’s sitcoms DON’T look funny any more. The jokes could be material she examines for its hostility to working mothers. The gags focus on mothers that can’t do enough, be enough, give enough, to avoid ridicule.

Smith talks about shame as a motivation for compliance. The greatest shame is that of being measured against other women and found lacking in the skills needed to be a good mother.

 I am amazed at how one book has resonanted within me. I wonder if I had been this aware years ago what might have changed? I never thought of myself as a radical women’s rights person.

Triple huh and damn.

February First

Great news!

We live with a certain subculture dominating the night at our house. Sad to say, ever since that damn hurricane Wilma (2006 if you are counting), my roof was fucked, and what comes into your house when you live in the tropics, and have a fucked roof?

Fucking rats, that’s what. Last year, it was the big Norway buggers that are the size of kittens, trailing down the hallway like they paid the mortgage and I was the maid.  I complained to the roofers (when they showed up, which wasn’t often enough to prevent mildew blooms from decorating all our drywall).

They told me the rats are just curious.

No, I didn’t believe it either. Anyway, it took a few months, but we cleared the bastards out.

Now? Their smaller relatives are trying to stake a claim to return.

Bread bag? Filled with holes, empty of bread. Scurrying noises at night that AREN’T the refrigerator. So we went on the attack. After all, the roof is fixed, even if we have a few holes along the eaves. Poison was discreetly placed, both to attract the resident rodents and protect the family dogs.

So what’s the great news, you wonder?

Last Friday night, the family princess, our boxer Najiah, bravely faced down a sick rat. She caught it, and YS, in a panic, yelled for his father to quit sleeping fer fuck’s sake. Come and kill the rat.

Mr. N2LC stumbled out of bed, and went into to do his manly duty. He got the broom, the scoop, swept up the (I’m assured it was a SMALLl rodent) and headed outside, crossed the street and deposited said rodent with a thump on its head to eternity.

All in his Fruit of the Looms.  Or, as YS put it: “his tiny whites”.

So the dog is a heroine. the father is a hero.

Peace reigns again.

Added later:

Uh, well, almost. I know what you’re thinking: where there is smoke there is fire, where there is one rat…

there are more.

Yeah. Another one bit the dust last night. We’re back on DefCON 3 status.

New year

It’s been too long since I posted…. having trouble getting sorted for this year. I’ve been reading about becoming more efficient, but the truth is, the more time I spend reading about organization, etc., the farther behind I am falling.

photo2.jpg    YS just got back from spending a weekend with his grandma. He had a good time, and she was lucid, thank God. I was worried he might find her needing to go to the hospital again, but she’s been looking after herself. I think having his visit gave her something to look forward to. I wasn’t crazy that he rented a Mustang to drive to her house…

 There has been some bad news in our family regarding separations and it’s got me thinking about security. How you have it, how you don’t. When news of a divorce came through, all of us were shaken, as though the spectre of change had raised a bony finger to point at us and say “You’re next!”

Even John felt it: when Mr. N2LC began his usual banter about trading Mom for another model, John actually piped up with “I don’t like that talk.” Well. ‘Nuff said about that.

But secure, security, secureness, safeness, safety. All words with connotations today far beyond their meaning on Sept 10, 2001. What is secure?

401K retirement plans? In today’s market? Pardon my snort.  Jobs? Spouses? Even getting up out of bed. Or, considering my own personal genetic heritage, the ability to think past age 70 that looks like a pipe dream. (My boys have an edge on that: they aren’t bound by genetics to my lousy family history.)

So. Maybe I need to hold off posting any more until I have something positive to say!

Christmas weekend

Okay, all apologies for sentimentalism are withdrawn. I had a lovely birthday, thank you very much: a card from my husband, dinner out, and a request from YS that I set aside time to spend with him this weekend.

He’s just 20, and wants to spend time with me? I am thrilled. I plan to corral him into baking cookies and/or a pound cake. We have most of our presents bought, not many wrapped, and lots of Christmas music to listen to.

Imagine this:

 When I get home from work, about 2 a.m. most nights, the tree is the only light on. The tinsel moves like an indrawn breath every time the ceiling fan rotates and thousands of tiny glitters reflect from each twist in the silver strands. (I’ve been reading Haney’s translation of Beowulf- some of the alliteration is seeping through). The star is pierced through, so the ceiling is covered in more tiny lights. The colored twinklers turn the room into a softly glowing cocoon.

The dogs, Najia and Sam, climb with me  into a big torn-at-the-corners easy chair and listen to the Irish Tenors sing Christmas carols.

I love that time of night. All good things seem possible, all plans realized and hopes fulfilled. And if a single worry manages to intrude, Najia licks my face (yeah, she needs a toothbrush!), and brings me back.

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate Christmas, and Happy Holidays to everyone else. More than anything, may you find a bit of peace that can spread into your life beyond the next few days.