Most of this content appeared in a post from February, 2014 on an old website. Although she passed away in 1993, today marks my mother’s birthday, so I decided to repeat it here in her honor.
My mother always seemed to have an eye for fashion, and also a bargain! She appreciated well-made clothing, and when she found a coat or a skirt or a dress she liked, she would keep visiting it in the store until the price was right before she bought it. She didn’t get upset if the item sold, she just said another bargain would come along eventually.
My mother loved hats! She always had a hat to go with any special outfit, or maybe it was the hat that made any outfit special. I remember one outfit in particular – an olive green skirt and top with matching shoes that she accented with a leopard stole. Of course she also had a pillbox-style olive hat that completed the outfit. It was the special touch that she added last before going out.
In addition to hats, she always wore gloves – white cotton gloves, black suede gloves, red leather gloves of all different lengths. Some stopped at the wrist, while others reached father up the arm or sometimes to the elbow. I remember watching her one Christmas Eve as she painstakingly sewed colorful star-shaped sequins onto a pair of long black cotton gloves before going to church for midnight Mass.
Both of my parents were part-time professional musicians who played violin in the city’s symphony orchestra. One of my fondest memories is watching my mother get dressed on concert nights. She had beautiful silver hair that she always had styled on the afternoon of the night of the concert. It contrasted sharply with, but at the same time complemented, her long black dress. I would sit on the edge of the bed and watch as she applied her make-up and jewelry, and by the time we had to leave for the concert she was truly a vision.
My mother, the fashionista. Fond memories, indeed. I’ll be wearing a hat this week in her honor.
I’m participating in Susanna Leonard Hill’s Valentiny contest. Entries must be related to Valentine’s Day, include a character who is hopeful, and be 214 words or less. Here’s my entry:
Sela and Cecil (214 words)
by Rose Cappelli
Sela lived with an ordinary family in an ordinary house in an ordinary town. But Sela was far from ordinary. She dressed in superhero outfits, ate avocado and cream cheese sandwiches, and collected cardboard cutouts of cats. But despite being a bit quirky, Sela had a heart full of love that she hoped to share with a special friend, especially since it was almost Valentine’s Day. Perhaps a pet, her parents suggested.
At the pet store, Sela had high hopes for the hedgehog, but he was too hard to hold. The capybara looked promising, but she wanted to bring her whole clan. The tarantula was tempting, but a bit too terrifying, even for Sela.
Sela was about to give up hope when she spotted a sign in the shop window across the street:
Valentine’s Day Special
Magically Magical Cecil
Needs Lots of Love
Sela raced over. She could hardly believe her eyes. There sat a sea serpent lawn decoration with an enormous head, eight arms for hugging, and an adventurous grin. He might be made of metal, but to Sela he was perfect, and hopefully magical. Sela wrapped her pink and red scarf around his neck and whispered, “I love you!” And with that, Sela and Cecil flew off to find extraordinary adventures together.
I sat on the end of the couch watching my new grandson, Alex, snuggle on the shoulder of his proud Pappy. A perfect tiny fist curled around Allan’s shirt, as if to say this is something special to hold onto. Occasionally, Alex’s lower lip would move in that special rhythm of sucking. Later…now was cuddle time for dreaming. Soft sounds of contentment mingled with the surrounding conversation. I found it hard to look away from this wonder of love and hope and grace.
Just beyond the couch my son was deep in lunchtime preparations. He chopped, diced, sliced and sautéed. I wondered when he managed to learn what those words even meant, let alone how to perform them. He brought us up to date on his job, his friends, and future plans. In no time at all we were treated to freshly prepared pasta primavera and homemade meatballs.
My daughter and daughter-in-law checked out the nursery and shared ideas about books and new Netflix series.
I joined the conversations and savored my turn with the cuddle-bug. But mostly I sat and watched and listened, taking in the pure joy that comes from spending an afternoon with those you love.
It was the perfect visit.
I think it a bit ironic that my OLW for 2018 is momentum. “Momentum” is defined as speed of movement, and since my knee replacement surgery two weeks ago, my physical speed of movement has been seriously lacking. I am grateful for in-home physical therapy, friends who visit and bring dinners, and my attentive full-time husband-nurse. But I am anxious to get moving again. People have reminded me that healing takes time, and that I need to be kind to myself. While I am improving every day, I think I expected quicker results.
As I was preparing for surgery, I was concentrating on momentum in a different context – my writing. It is the start of a new year, and I want to keep the momentum of gathering ideas for writing going strong. I took my journal to the hospital and even managed to jot down some free verse poems and things I noticed and wondered about. But still, I am impatient, and at times frustrated.
This morning as I was reflecting on what to write in today’s post, I realized that lessons learned from my physical healing apply to my writing life as well. Healing and writing both take time, and it is important in both contexts to be kind to yourself. But you have to keep the momentum going. My doctor reminded me that I am a big part of my recovery. It is easy to skip the important exercises for any number of reasons, but recovery takes effort and I am responsible for that. So too with writing. It is hard work, but the effort will eventually pay off if we keep the momentum going.
Let’s get moving!
One of the best things about a Chinese dinner is the fortune cookie. Allan and I traditionally get Chinese take-out on New Year’s Eve, and this year I had to smile when I read my fortune: Choosing what you want to do, and when to do it, is an act of creation. I smiled because “create” was my OLW for 2017, and it was the last night of 2017. As I reflected on my year, I realized that I accomplished some of the things I had planned to do based on that word. I wanted to make sure that “create” found its way into many areas of my life. I continued to try to create a passion for writing with teachers, and I took many new steps that will help lead me to creating stories for children. I created new friendships, new understandings, and tried a few new creative projects at home. It was probably one of the most successful OLWs I’ve chosen over the past few years. Things got done, but I also said no to things I didn’t really want to do, giving me more time to create space for the things I really wanted to do. Which brings me to 2018 and my OLW (drum roll, please):
Keep going. Keep moving. Keep creating energy. There is still so much for me to learn in the world of picture book writing, but I’ve jumped in, so I need to keep forging ahead. It is easy to let self-doubt and fear hold me back, but I’m determined to keep the momentum going. Momentum is defined as “the strength or force that allows something to continue or to grow stronger or faster as time passes.” In 2018 I hope that my writing, my relationships with friends and family, and my understanding of the world continue to grow stronger. Hello 2018.
When I was about ten, I entered a writing contest in a children’s magazine. The task was to write a story ending. All I remember was that the story was about some kids who went to school one day and found that it was closed. I was sure I had the “right” answer. What else could it be but that they forgot it was Saturday?
When the issue with the winning entries arrived I raced to the door as soon as I heard the mailman, then practically ripped the pages of the magazine getting to the right section. I quickly scanned the names…then checked again…and again. Mine was not there, and a feeling of deep disappointment fell over me. I was sure I was “right.” Then I started to read. Some of the entries were realistic, but some were pure fantasy. I remember one in particular that explained the reason for school being closed was that it was National Worm Day (explained to the kids by a worm, of course). I clearly remember not understanding why that was considered a better story ending than mine. Creativity was obviously something I had not yet learned to appreciate.
I think I’ve come a long way as a writer since then, but rejection is still hard to take. Because I’m trying to stretch myself as a writer, I decided to enter a holiday story contest a few weeks ago – a story of 250 words or less that had to include a holiday surprise. I struggled a bit, then finally got an idea, wrote what I thought was a fairly good story, then mustered up the courage to send it The feedback I got on it was enough to make me hopeful, although I tried to convince myself that being named one of ten finalists in a field of about a hundred entries was a long shot.
So, last week, I was that little girl of ten again, except that this time my email brought the news. I knew it was coming and kept checking all day, then finally just before I was about to go to bed there it was. I quickly scanned through the finalists…then again…and again. Mine was not there. Oh, well, I thought. It was a good reminder that writing is full of ups and downs, failures and successes. We just have to keep going.
Then this morning I learned that my story received an Honorable Mention for Great Kid Appeal! Yea! I truly am humbled and ecstatic, because that’s what I want to do – write stories with great kid appeal. And that little girl of ten? I think she finally gets it.
I’m participating in Susanna Leonard Hill’s Holiday Story Contest. The task – tell a holiday story in 250 words or less that contains a surprise. Here goes!
Christmas Chaos (243 words)
by Rose Cappelli
‘Twas the week before Christmas and jolly old St. Nick had a doozy of a cold. His head felt as stuffed as a Thanksgiving turkey. But, the kids were waiting to whisper their wishes, so off he went to lend his ear.
Johnny wanted…a pair of snakes? Suzy requested…some jelly? Nellie clasped her hands together and wished for….a boring cook? Finally there was Timmy who simply asked St. Nick to choose something from his vest. Really?
By Christmas Eve St. Nick was feeling better, so down the chimney he bounded with his pack…and two snakes, a bowl full of jelly (that shook when he laughed like his own big belly), and the chef from the TV show “What’s Cooking?” (now that’s boring!). He filled all the stockings, and when he got to Timmy’s he reached in his vest and pulled out…reindeer treats…a lump of coal…ah… some magic dust.
By morning the house was in chaos! The snakes had slithered into the jelly and were sliding across the floor where the cook was trying to catch forty winks and everyone was suddenly awake and Timmy was trying to get to the bottom of his stocking where luckily he found… the magic dust.
“OK everyone! No whispering! Shout your wishes as loud as you can when I throw the dust! Now!”
In a flash things were almost back to normal. There were skates instead of snakes, a jelly-belly dolly, and a story book complete with…recipes?