Sunday, November 20, 2016

Words and Phrases of my Life for 2016

(partial response to the poetry prompt from Poets & Writers, 11/17/16)—a. fonte

Sports:  Cubs win, Olympics in Rio are a bust.

Politics:  Bernie’s tufts of white hair, Hillary’s white pantsuits, Trump’s “Make America White Again”.

Home:  New carpet is a mottled cloud, Gray (the cat) helps us play quiet, neighbors come and go, wave their hands, avoid making eye contact while dead palm tree fronds clutter the pool.

Work:  Stuck in second gear.  Like a kid struggling to ride a bicycle, I fall off TENWEST, pick myself up with TEDx, bump into BuildUP^, and coast through do happy today.

Writing:  Stuck in second gear.  Poetry is my harbor; fiction is my reading compass; non-fiction is my bread and butter.  Blogs are bittersweet.

Travel:  Too brief a time in Maui where the water is warm, the sand pillows around my toes and wind blows flower petals across my eyes. I learn hula and let go of my hips, eat homemade granola for breakfast, and am delightfully dampened by mist at a luau.  My husband and son learn to play together again.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Remembering Aunt Mollie

Today is the funeral for my Aunt Mollie, formally named Mollie P. Ianno. Her maiden name was Fonte and she was my dad's eldest sister. Actually, her name was Mary Pauline Fonte, but her mother was also named Mary so, she became "Mollie." Mollie took care of my dad and her other seven siblings as well as she could in a large and poor Italian home. She spoke often about how my dad was a "good boy" and had a tough tone to her description of three other siblings.

She was tiny.  Like a hobbit.  In 1967, I remember visiting her when I was eighteen and she danced the tarentellla for me in her Arcadia, California kitchen. Sunlight streamed through the windows and bounced off the white porcelain sink as she twirled with a sharp tomato-cutting knife in her hands. Her husband, Frank, made fresh pasta.  He loved to drive his car on the wide streets.  His belly rubbed behind the steering wheel as he chauffered me to see Blue Boy at the Huntington Library and Museum.  My cousins, Chuckie and Frankie, took me to my first trip to Disneyland.  I don't remember any details from that drive or visit, except the speed of the freeway with convertibles flying past us like noisy blue jays. Jeannie was married and out of the house then with her own growing family of three, but we have bonded since she became Aunt Mollie's companion and caregiver.

Many visits to California to see my auntie since then. First in Hemet where Aunt Mollie had Christmas cactus on each windowsill in their sun room. For twenty years the one she gave me flourished in my bathroom, but this Spring, as her 102 year old body finally began failing, the cactus also began to shrink.  Still struggling to survive, it's on my shaded patio, returning full circle to its place in the sun.  Later, my husband and I visited her in Fountain Valley where she was the little queen in Jeannie's home, celebrating her 100th birthday under the magnolia tree with friends and family.

After my dad died in 2014, Aunt Mollie was my last link to him and to the childhood stories about Dad that gave me insight into his adult behaviors. Her stories, no doubt embellished with the love of a big sister and adjusted memory of an old woman, helped me forgive him for his many faults and helped me appreciate the deprivation that drove his demons.  My dad always saw the cup as "half empty" or nearly so.  Aunt Mollie always saw the cup as "half full" or full to overflowing.

She's gone now, too.  Buried today in Calfornia...where the dreamin' for some, still goes on.

photo of Aunt Mollie at the Ted DeGrazia Chapel altar
My tiny tribute poem reads:
Becoming Mollie
she lived for ten+ decades with
an orange tree's deep roots.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

My favorite TV Dad (response to Poets & Writers non-fiction Time is Now: Week 25)

I had a challenging relationship with my dad while I was growing up and even into my early adulthood.  Two strong personalities, Italian-heritage, and I understand now, he struggled with PTSD from World War II and growing up in an alcoholic Italian home.

So television in our household became a refuge from reality and, as I respond to this prompt, Danny Thomas from the Danny Thomas show popped into my mind as my favorite TV dad.  As I remember Danny he was funny and urban (they lived in an upscale yet still modest apartment) in NYC.  He had funny friends such as Hans Conrad and a wife who wore dresses with a white ruffled slip.  She always wore high heels, too.  Was she called Margorie or Margaret?  That I don't remember.

But I clearly remember Rusty and Linda and the fondness Danny would show for them even amidst their escapades and mild misbehaviors.  I couldn't imagine Danny taking a wooden painting stick and spank Linda or shake Rusty's shoulders until Rusty's head hurt.  No, Danny wouldn't do that.

My least favorite--although the prompt doesn't ask me to name one--was Ozzie Nelson.  I thought he was boring and stupid.  He wasn't funny and I couldn't understand how he could have two cool sons, especially Ricky. And tho David was less cute he was smart--smarter than his dad.  Maybe that was the point: two boys, and often the mom, Harriet, could always outsmart Ozzie.

Interesting times to grow up in and reflect upon as Father's Day approaches.

And I will not end on a sour note about my dad. He did the best he could under the circumstances of the 1950s.  He worked hard all his life, often in two jobs, with an education six weeks short of high school thanks to his dad who yanked him into the landscaping business rather than let him graduate. If he had that high school diploma, even after the war, I can imagine him using the GI Bill to better his life and the life of his family.

But even without that diploma, dad (and mom who also worked--a rarity for her generation) left his life with more than a wheelbarrow (the sole legacy of his father).  After a near death experience two months before his actual death in August 2014, his first questions to Mark and me were:  Did the mail come? Did I get my Social Security check?

I can't imagine Danny Thomas or Ozzie Nelson asking that question. Sometimes reality outplays fiction.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


image by Life is Good

(response to prompt from Poets & Writers Week 21)

It's been almost a year since I have added to this blog.  Of course, such a time lapse is a "no-no" in the blog world.  But most of my writings have gone to .

However, today's write is about looking for markers, signposts, markers that guide me on my own spiritual path.  And I feel I am at another crossroads where the signpost (above) is significant.

For almost three years, I have been diligently working to become more optimistic.  I read today that optimism is moral courage.  And, also today, by David Brooks in the NY Times, the concept of "big love."  I have big love for my community of Tucson and affection for S. Arizona from my work years ago with the Arizona Community Foundation and UA Cooperative Extension.  My work since 2012 (leaving the paid community work because I felt it wasn't authentic and didn't inspire my loyalty nor affection) has been on generating positivity through Do Happy Today.  All good.

But, on a deeper level, I am searching for something more.  A month ago, I made a small emotional and financial commitment to join a two year spiritual group in the fall.  But my initial interview, a couple of weeks ago, stirred up anxiety about that commitment.  I felt trapped in a space and, literally, found it hard to breath in the living room where the interview took place.

Was it the room itself (too warm and stuffed with clothes hanging on movable closet racks, books, scattered on chairs, tables)?  Or were the questions and suggestions becoming barriers, not dooways, to my spiritual growth?

I still don't know.  I am waiting for a few more markers to show me the way.  But, for today, I will consider this marker: the yellow tape stretched across our neighborhood roads as they are being surfaced. The yellow tape won't be stopping our traffic forever.  It will be gone in two days with smoother roads to take us in and out.

So, perhaps there is yellow tape on my spiritual road right now.  I do have faith that, when the time is right, I will find my way.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The way I remember the 4th of July in the midwest.

Always on the 4th of July there was a picnic, even if the clouds were building for a summer rain, and sometimes we did two picnics over the weekend. 

The Fontes met at Wing Park in Elgin, Illinois or Trout Park and the men gathered to drink beer and poker while we played on the hills or at the playground.  If we were at Wing Park, my dad and uncles would throw horseshoes before and after a meal of fried chicken (my mom's fried in bacon grease), lasagna and other pastas (my aunts'), cookies and cakes and a tossed in olive oil and red vinegar salad of tomatoes, iceberg lettuce and cucumbers. 

The Dice family would gather at my grandparents' farm.  Grandmother made potato salad, spiced with mustard and fresh rolls for sandwiches (usually ham that she also baked).  There might be pies (cherry or rhubarb my mom would provide), deviled eggs (from relatives driving over from Indiana), and the piece de resistance would be hand cranked ice cream, guided by the strong arms of my granddad.

At the farm, we could have sparklers as the sun set and would write our names in the dark and catch fireflies in a jar--usually released as we would drive out of the gravel road from their house and head to Wing Park for the fireworks.

There, we would sit on worn cotton sheets and try to catch the burning pieces of fireworks' papers as they drifted down from the sky.  Tired on the way home (we often walked to avoid the parking) and cranky from the end of the day thrills and maybe fussy from mosquito bites, Mom would sponge bath me and my sister before we put on our seersucker pajamas and slipped into bed with a book.

As I got older, my 4th of July days started with marching in the summer band parade down the streets of Elgin and/or playing at the band concert that night at the Wing Park Bandshell.  By that time, spending fireworks with my boyfriend Steve became the thing to do at night and now I wonder how my parents felt as I pushed away from their rituals.  I never skipped the family picnic, though, and that's the part I tried to continue as I married and Mark and I became parents.

So here I am today, definitely an empty nester with my only baby bird working each holiday as a chef, cooking for others so that they can enjoy bbq without the hassle and hurry of doing it themselves.  It's not the same, but we have to adjust as we age and let go of the details of the holiday, holding on to the memories and to the essence of the meaning of "pursuit of happiness."  Which is not about hot dogs, beer, even music and patriotic words. Rather it is about the original/Greek (how ironic with Greece in such an economic turmoil today) meaning of "happiness"--not individualistic pursuit of pleasure, but of the shared experience of community.

On that note, we (my hubby and I) are off to a community lunch at our occasional Methodist Church (a holdover and tribute to my maternal Methodist upbringing), followed by "big Methodist music" of the popular, patriotic type.  I will make time to see our son and give him a heartfelt hug as he wraps up his long day in the kitchen and be grateful for the memories of his youth...and mine.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

After the rain today

It's been a long time since I posted on this site and I guess it's because I didn't feel my life was "slow."  Just this summer I realize how much of the last year I was spending time with my dad and supporting my husband in care of his dad.

With both dads passing (August, 2014, my dad; November, 2014, Mark's dad) and finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with financial details for both, Mark and I are just now beginning to feel the pace shift down a bit.

This last Monday we resumed our "mountain Monday" practice we tried to maintain since his early retirement and the day trip to Mt. Lemmon was lovely.  In the next few weeks, longer local trips are planned.  So yes, life is slowing down a bit.

After today's rain, it cooled enough for us to eat on the patio and then I picked off dead leaves from my spider plants.  Pretty sunset tonight and even comfortable enough for a walk on Mountain Ave.  Life is good at this moment.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

hot day

Tried to post this quickie about a hot day that ended on a warm porch.