Stress relief with the print word: Part 2


During this time in our history and this season [COVID, vitriolic disunity in our country, sadness & anxiety] I find that I am able to read literature during the day time. The evening is reserved from pure adventure as far from real life as possible ( See, Part 1).

The craft of writing beautiful memoir, fiction, and narrative non-fiction is one to which I aspire. My pithy blog scribbling pales in comparison to what I share here. The titles with an asterisks * are the only ones I have read thus far; I am looking forward to reading the rest during July and August. I hope you find at least one of interest during this season of hard living, my friend.


NOTE: I did leave these on the porch for two days and then wipe down each one with disinfectant before reading


With this source I tried ever so hard to stay away from mystery as they offer an abundance. Sometimes, I need to stretch beyond the whodunit genre; I have with these:

The following titles I chose for the husband, as he prefers non-fiction. Know this, however. I chose titles I would like too!


Dark Water is especially one I look forward to as a few entries on my Zia Clara in Italy blog speak of this horrific flood while my zia and sister were living in Italy in 1966-1967 : The devastation  and No water.

I Hate To Leave This Beautiful Place

A Memoir by Howard Norman

This book was given to me two years ago from a student. It has sat unobtrusively on my shelf because of the cover. A cover which conveys melancholy. Melancholy by nature, I was hesitant, even fearful, in taking on a new author’s experiences similar in nature. Time was needed for a slow acquaintanceship with Mr. Norman.

However, steeped in sadness about the state of the world in this month and this year it seemed appropriate. I wonder if this only makes sense to me, dear reader?

Set in the mid-1960s with a beginning that is both familiar and almost endearing – a bookmobile, the apothecary (see, drug store) with soda fountain, I was lulled immediately into a sense of kinship with the author. His subsequent memories through the years in the narrative dispelled this feeling. All too soon I became the outsider looking in. The outsider wondering how on earth this young man, this married man, this father and husband, managed to get through his life with so much of himself intact.

His is a life that meanders; conscious direction seems to be an afterthought. From Grand Rapids to the Arctic to Halifax to Washington, D.C. he careens, geographically; so too do the events that affect his trajectory from the humorous to the mundane to the tragic. The overlapping of these parallel paths is the story. His story.

A whole world of detours, unbridled perplexities, degrading sorrows, and exacting joys can befall a person in a single season, not to mention a lifetime.


It was only at the end where I almost – almost – closed the book. Some tragedies are too heart wrenching. Living life is not for the timid. And while no pretensions, no hubris comes through with Norman, he is not timid. I am grateful for his courage.

A sincere thank you to my student at St. Alban’s School for expanding my universe with this author’s writing. You know who you are!

Norman, Howard. I Hate to Leave this Beautiful Place. Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2013. Print.

Writing my small truth

“What is the truest thing you know?”

I panicked when this question was put to a group of us during a writing workshop,* months ago.

“What is the truest thing you know?”

I know that “I know little of life”, but this answer, standing alone, seemed too trite, too thought-less.

“Ahh,” I thought to myself, “There are too many truths to know the “est” of them.” When stumped, I begin to make a list – it is the librarian in me.

The truest thing I know is that I know little of life, except the small one I am living: Italian and Slovak families with pasta and pierogis served at church dinners, and with bear hugs & ciaos and loud voices in foreign tongues from dozens of relatives; I know my stalwart spouse with rugby football and engines in cars, and his tender heart; my sons who make me smile and sigh as I reminisce about scraped knees and the endless rounds of sports seasons, and now, with open arms towards the women in their lives; I know my two sisters who share DNA and prosecco, and our cheap rings from a museum gift shop, and with a treasured history that eternally binds us.

The core of it all – the truest thing I know is this:

” I feel deeply about this small and wonderful world of mine.”

*Juncture Workshops with Beth Kephart

The narcissistic father in memoir: a commentary

Implosion: A Memoir of An Architect’s Daughter

Having read through this disturbing account of Elizabeth Garber’s upbringing, many threads of thought come to the surface. Bear with me.

A brief account (for a detailed summary and critique, please read the Kirkus starred review) follows the Garber family during the late 1950s through the 1960s in Ohio, an upscale, white family. Through the eyes of his “beloved” daughter, readers are witness to the impact of this highly talented architect-father; it is the crux of this memoir. His undiagnosed mental illness combined with his own repressive Victorian upbringing and his impotence at fulfilling his personal artistic vision, permeates every facet of their lives.

It is his wife who I find most remarkable. Her story is significant in that it encapsulates the burgeoning  Second Rise of the Woman’s Movement through her elevation of consciousness and the enormous struggle to save herself and her three children from relentless abuse behind closed doors. “Jo” slowly evolves into this proper noun by the author (her daughter) rather than the generic “mommy”or “mother” thus symbolizing her role in their lives.

In 1982 Linda Schierse Leonard published The Wounded Woman: Healing the Father Daughter Relationship. As Jungian therapist, she recounts the stories of those living with abusive fathers who they loved.  Garber’s memoir fits into these stages of a daughter’s growth and pain as she tries to reconcile herself to the abuse and control by a narcissistic father to the same father she loves unconditionally.  Every step of the way, it is harrowing.

I am put in mind of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, after having read the fictional account, Loving Frank: a Novel. Based closely upon historical research, Wright, too, presents as a narcissist whose behavior is granted permission due to his genius. History is ripe with such similar stories of musicians, artists, dancers, and architects and remains ever present.

The question that arises for me: How does this continue to happen?

And, as we know, it not limited to the “arts.” Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne from the University of Massachusetts and co-author of a hefty psychology textbook, offers thoughts for the lay person in her Psychology Today article. Some are valuable; others, I would take excpetion. For instance, my feeling is that the narcissitic personality will be the last one to recognize this disorder in himself or herself and/or seek psychotherapy. 

As we go forward, will our culture continue to acquiese to those individuals who act abusively and destructuvely, rather than recognize, confront, and require health care? Is this the price we think we must pay for “genius”?

Garber, Elizabeth W. Implosion: A Memoir of An Architect’s Daughter. She Writes Press, 2018. Print.
Horan, Nancy. Loving Frank: a Novel. Ballentine Press, 2007. Print.
Leonard, Linda Schierse. The Wounded Woman: Healing the Father-Daughter Relationship. SHAMBHALA PRESS,1983. Print.

From the Back Porch

Morning Glories

morning glories


The enclosed space, perhaps an afterthought at the back of our house, is small. Its size somehow reminds me of our inexpensive rug. One that the working class can afford – bordering on gaudy – to show that, they too, have dreams of more.

Here, windows are everywhere. They gaze back with tired faces encased in layers of hardened enamel paint. Pure white, because it is cheap, yet chipped from years of opening and closing, despite the paint’s viscous thickness.

The early morning summer sun blinds the eyes. Brittle paper shades carefully rolled onto wooden rods are tinged brown from scorching sun and bitter cold. Weathered, they remain serviceable still, for this family of the sewing mills and steel yards in Pennsylvania. Good enough.

My mother pulls on silky braided cords dangling at the shades’ edges. Faded from sun and use, they too, remain serviceable closing out the blistering heat – heat that runs through this long, narrow house made of bricks, as fans whirl.

She shuts out the plethora of morning glories that rise to greet us in the garden.. Silently, I watch her, but do not enter. Waiting, as only a good Catholic girl can, waiting for her to relinquish this room.


This back porch. My world.

To a small, seven-year old girl, it is an immense space with infinite possibilities. Closing the kitchen door softly – the shared kitchen door of my mother’s world – brown & white, saddle-shoe feet enter. They are eager, but silent. Walking on toes.

Alone. Breathing in the heat, the tepid air.

The wonder of it all.

To balance my life this first year in retirement, I continue with an online writing through the offerings of author, Beth Kephart and the JUNCTURE publications.

Garden of clay

Red Clay

Red clay. Its dust lays everywhere around me. A magic circle. In the center I squat with the sun beating relentlessly against my back, as the sweat trickles sweetly between my breasts. These small streams cause a frisson where I am at once shivering, and another, damp. Heat hangs heavy in the summer sun.

The red clay of these bricks spreads before me, unearthed long ago when this house first became ours. Someone else built this house of wood and brick. Someone who raised their chickens in the yard that is now my garden, laid down these bricks. Here. In a soil rich with leaves decaying for decades, perhaps a century, I lay down the bricks once again.

This time they stand upright. One against another. One atop the other. So closely do I place these and with thoughtful care, that my fierceness of purpose may be obscure to the casual eye. Yet, the birds know. Scraping one against another with such intent, the songbirds stop their singing. I hear their silence.

And the dust of this red clay surrounds me. It envelops me. I, this builder of short, stout walls, revel in the earthen dust.

Sitting back on my haunches, I pause. Shaded by the wide, straw brim, my eyes adjust to the distance. I breathe softly, and the birds resume their tattle. I ponder this wall in my mind’s eye. This peculiar wall; the one under the pine. There are many walls throughout this garden. Brick by brick. Side by side. Hidden under canopies of variegated hostas, the oppositional red demands that you notice this structure. While questioning its very presence. Or, perhaps you glimpse the long, slender wall winding its way through the daylilies ruthlessly pushing and shoving at its interlocking links and wonder. Their silky, apricot petals clashing with the russet red lend an air of dissonance. Yet, it is this wall under the pine where sunlight filters through the supple branches of forest green, holding my attention. Holding my heart. Eyes ahead, yet heart rooted here, I look for purpose. Each wall serves a purpose. Each a tribute to the aliveness of spirit or to the necessity of being alive. They are porous, these walls. So, when the summer storms flood the small inclines or the careless foot nicks the soft brick, they give. They hold And give. And hold, again.

I am a builder of small, stout walls. Walls rooted in a farmhouse history. Walls rooted in the now through my love of form and color.

Hudak, Tina, “Red Clay.” ©2018; portion from this essay included in the book, The Walls Between Us (Juncture Workshops, 2018). Read more by clicking here.

The weight of words

Words matter, always

I love words. Their structure, when forming a descriptive sentence or emotional state, makes my heart flutter. Yes, I am in love with this relationship Yet, I struggle, too; it is both my angst and my reward. On most days angst abounds; joy, infrequent.

Yet, joy does come, and I share a “nod” to my writing, my words, in a new publication. I share this, and much more.

book of essaysThe Walls Between Us: Essays In Search of Truth by Beth Kephart and William Sulit offers essays where sixteen authors engage in this very relationship – word to word to word.

Each essay a small masterpiece in the pantheon of language; a marriage between the linguist and etymologist.


For my inclusion, and perhaps those of the twenty-three other writers included in a section entitled “Your Wall, My Wall,” the knowledge that I have accomplished a sentence or two of substance is the important thing. It is core to the work of personal growth in this time and this place. You are welcome to read my essay, Red Clay,  in its entirety.

It is the small, green shoot growing between the concrete blocks.

Kephart, Beth and William Sulit, Illus.  The Walls Between Us. Juncture Workshops, 2018. Print.