Monthly Archives: February 2012

To Include or Not to Include? That is the Question…

In trying to wrap up these final chapters of my novel “Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story)” I find that I keep bouncing back and forth on just what stories to include and what information is not truly necessary.  After all, I am telling a life story that spanned 78 years.  If I’m not careful, this book will have to be written in volumes!

Maybe it was her Irish heritage, but my mom was a cornucopia of funny, interesting and sometimes tragic tales that she told with a vigor, enthusiasm and humor that would capture your interest and more often than not, leave you thirsty for more!  I was her biggest fan, begging her to repeat certain stories over and over again as I drank in every word, reliving those moments with her as if I had been there.

The stories I have tried to cover have been the ones that I have felt best explain what shaped my mother into the person that she was.  A good book should take you on a journey into the main character’s very soul and leave you feeling emotionally bonded to them.  While covering her early life, I knew just what to tell but in the two or three decades before her death, there is just so much to cover.  It is very important that in reading my words, my mother’s life takes shape in the readers mind, pulling them into her life by understanding completely what made her into the woman she was.

Like everyone, her life was filled with big events that helped to build her character.  Some were wonderful blessings such as marriage, childbirth, new homes etc. while others like death, illness, cancer, hard financial times were far more challenging but undeniably just as life shaping.

Then there are the smaller events.  Things that simply “happen” along the way in our day-to-day living, that carry life altering impact, albeit on more of an emotional level. Life lessons; if you will!  You know what I mean… the little things that happen to one that affect the inner-child in us.  These things could happen on an almost daily basis, which brings me back to my quandary; how much do I include and when am I doing a disservice to her bio?

Should I acknowledge the incident in which my sister Theresa; while a baby, accidently knocked out my mother’s front top tooth?  Theresa was being potty trained at the time.  Although potty-seats of today are made of light-weight plastics, back in the day, they were constructed of wood with a stainless steel bowl that slid in under the chair.  As part of my mom’s technique to train her babies, the seat was brought into any room the child was in at the time.  It would be there as a visual reminder for the child to use it as soon as they felt the need. 

This particular day, mom was playing on the floor with Theresa and at one point she rolled onto her back, lifting the baby over her.  She would playfully say “come and kiss your mommy,” lowering the baby to her face, she would kiss her cheek.  As children do at that age, Theresa would giggle loudly each time.   At about the fifth lift, the potty chair caught Theresa’s eye.  She reached out for it and grabbed onto one of the seat’s arms, lifting it from the floor.  Mom instinctively turned to see what the baby was grabbing, just as the seat swung with pendulum-like motion towards her unprotected face.  The leg of the chair hit her square in the mouth with so much impact; it knocked her tooth right out of place and onto her tongue!

In today’s world, one could simply go to the dentist and have a single tooth implanted into place, leaving you with the same smile you started with.  However this techknowledgy was not available in the mid-1960’s.  The only thing the dentist could offer mom was either a bridge; in which they pulled three additional teeth and made a bride that was held into place with silver wire that hugged around her eyeteeth or, have what they called a “partial” made.  It would actually be a partial denture of the four teeth that would also slip into place.  Either of these two options would leave her revealing the mechanics of their structure each time she smiled.  Mom was not a vain woman.  In fact she never realized her own beauty, but having people see that her front teeth were quite categorically artificial, was simply not an option to her.  The only way out was to have all of her top teeth removed and have an upper denture plate made to replace them.

It took five dentists before she found one who was willing do the procedure.  The others were against pulling a mouthful of perfectly healthy teeth solely for cosmetic reasons.

The first step was to have a mold casted of mom’s own teeth so that the dentures would actually be a replica of her true smile.  Once the dentures were made and arrived in the dentist’s office, mom headed down to bravely have all of her teeth pulled and the denture slipped right into place.  Although she was only 42-years old at the time, and I know it affected her psyche, she never regretted her decision and no one ever knew her secret.

This is just one example of stories I am unsure about.  There are dozens more with equal bearing but again… when does it become too much information?

Of course the tale would be told in a story format that takes the reader into the situation not quite as bullet pointed as it was laid out before you here.

In the end, the decision can only be my own.  I suppose professional editing will also delete anything deemed unnecessary anyway.

I guess the reason I am unloading this on you my readers, is to better explain to those who are after me to just “finish the darn thing and get it over with,” that it’s not quite as easy as it seems.  That said, seeing my dilemma in print does help to clear it up in my mind.  Perhaps it is better to over write and edit, than it is to under write and risk leaving out something the readers may find interesting, funny or critical to the development of Trudy’s character.

Hmmm… this turned out to be quite helpful to me!  Thanks for your ear…

Until next time,

Don

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Unbinding the Heart Will Open Your Eyes to the True Beauty You Hold Within:

I never stop being amazed at how, if we remain opened to the world around us, we will be guided to the things that we as human beings need to learn, grow and flourish.

A couple of months ago, James & I were asked to help design a party around the launch of a new book.  The book is “Unbinding the Heart” by Agapi Stassinopoulos. 

Due to health issues I was going through, James had to attend the preplanning meetings in New York without me.  Each time he returned home, he would be filled with stories about Agapi and what an incredible woman she is.  He would come home in awe of the unique way she had of making people around her feel special and centered.

When the day arrived to set up the event, I was finally able to meet Agapi and it was instantly obvious why James had been so taken with her.  Her very name; Agapi, means “Unconditional love” and when you meet her, you know that she could not have had any other name.  She exudes love; not only for her fellow man but also for life, the world around her and all that it inspires.

Unbinding the Heart is a remarkable book filled with 32 intimate stories from Agapi’s life peppered with the priceless wisdom and down-to-earth teachings of her beloved mother Elli.  It takes the reader on a beautiful journey, challenging us to unbind our own hearts in the process.  I recommend this book as a MUST READ for all of you and am certain that once you read it, you too will become as enlightened as I was.

As followers of my Blog, you are all well aware that I am currently writing my mother’s life story which I have entitled “Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story).  I have just a few chapters to go before completing the book and yet these few chapters have me at a bit of a stand still.  There is way more to it than simple writers block.  You see in its own way, writing this book has been keeping me connected to my mother and I must admit that finishing the task fills me with the fear of losing her yet again.  As long as this book is incomplete, I know that I will be thinking about my mom and her stories everyday trying to figure out the best way to convey them to my readers.

Now to get back to the almost magical way that life has of working itself out if you’re opened to the signs…  Agapi Stassinopoulos says of her own book, “One of the reasons I wrote this book is to inspire others to tell their stories.  Everyone, every single person, has a story that holds the truth of their heart, and those stories need to be heard.  We need to tell our stories, as much as we need to listen to others.”  By meeting this woman and reading “Unbinding the Heart” she has shown me that finishing my book will not put my mother behind me.  That could never happen.  My mother is in my heart and that will be forever.  Like Agapi, I am all the knowledge, wisdom, laughter and love that was my mother.  Finishing this book will not be an ending.  Quite the contrary, it will be a whole new beginning!

Sometimes the answers are right in front of us, yet we can’t see the forest for the trees.  So I thank my new friend Agapi not only for sharing her story with the world but for inspiring me to do the same.

http://www.amazon.com/Unbinding-Heart-Wisdom-Generosity-Unconditional/dp/1401930735

Until next time,

Don

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News Verses Nonsense:

So I was sipping my morning coffee while watching Good Morning America when a report came on regarding “The Royal Dog.”  It seems Prince William and Kate have adopted a black cocker spaniel and the reporter actually said these words… “We have been desperately trying to find out the name.”  Apparently the “Palace” wanted to keep the pup’s name a secret, citing “the couple’s privacy” for the reason. 

Honestly people, reporters have been “desperately” trying to find out the name?  Desperately?  According to the dictionary, the very word by definition means: “Undertaken out of extreme urgency, nearly hopeless; critical, suffering or driven by great need or distress.” 

Have we as a people become so obsessed with nothing – that we find ourselves desperate to know the pooch’s name?  Well thank goodness the case has been broken and word is out.  We can all rest easily again knowing that the hound’s name is Lupo.  I for one will sleep much better tonight armed with this bit of information.

I might add that GMA regarded this story to be so urgent, that it was reported within the first 20 minutes of the show.  This was not “filler” designed to take up space as the show drew to a close but rather; breaking news, using up the time reserved for the most important world news issues of the day!

Maybe it was a slow news day you say?  Well you be the judge.  Aside from the obvious GOP nomination trials and tribulations, the economy and gas prices, there was the Gabe Watson/Scuba Diving murder trial taking place plus… the U.S. embassy in Kubul went into lockdown after five people were killed during Quarn burning protests, two journalists were killed in Syria during government forces shelling of Homs and 550 people were injured when a train crashed into a platform in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I’m not saying that there is no place for cute little puppy-dog stories not to mention the endless details of the British Royal Family’s day-to-day life but how about a little perspective people?  With only a half an hour to devote to the news in the morning before work; I personally would much rather have been informed about actual news rather than gossip.

If on the other hand you’re one of those who are obsessed with William and Kate, you may be on edge waiting for photos of their canine companion to surface.  Take heart, I am certain the news media around the world have their best investigative reporters on the job.  I am willing to bet that somewhere in England there’s at least one fellow perched high in a tree with camera in hand.  I’m just sayin’.

Until next time,
Don

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Maybe It’s Not About What We Give Up, But What We Add:

Well today is Fat Tuesday [Mardi Gras] and it will be marked all around the world by celebration with great excess before faithfully resolving to give up some of our favorite things as a small sacrifice during the [approx.] 40 days and nights of Lent.

The purpose behind Lent is really more of a time of reflection as we prepare for the celebration of Easter.  Starting tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, through prayer, penance and self-denial, Catholics hope to show God that although we could never truly be worthy, we are truly thankful for the sacrifice that he made for our sake and salvation.  There is no greater love than the love of our Heavenly Father who gave us his only begotten son so that we may be freed from our sins and gain entrance into the kingdom of Heaven.

So the conversations begin… “What are you giving up for Lent this year?”  We ponder what we will deny ourselves in a grand gesture of selfless martyrdom.  Surely a month without chocolate will help clear my slate with Jesus for his passion and crucifixion?  I mean after all, we’re talking no chocolate of any kind… cake, candy, ice cream or pudding… PLUS no meat on Fridays!

Yes in that text it does all sound pretty silly but again, the idea behind Lent is to cause one to reflect and hopefully inspire you to become a better person.  To be more generous, kinder, thoughtful and caring of our fellowman.

And so I put it to you my readers, are you up to the challenge?  Instead of worrying about something to “give up” could you instead look for something to add?  Do you think you can find it in your heart to be a little more tolerant of others?  Maybe less reactive?  Spend more quality time with your children?  How about taking time to bring sandwiches down to your local homeless shelter?  You can do that WITH your children and instill in them the importance of giving back.  Do you have an elderly neighbor that could use a hand?  I am sure they would be so grateful if you stopped by on your way to the grocery store to see if they needed anything.  Does a frazzled friend need a little “me” time?  You can offer to babysit and allow her to catch a small breather.

If you look around you, I am sure your world will offer you endless possibilities to take a moment to help someone.  It doesn’t have to be a stranger.  It could be a friend, your spouse your kids, your parents a teacher virtually anyone that you can see is in need of help or relief.  Even if all they may need is a smile.  I promise you, you will benefit twice as much as they do and grow tenfold as a human being.

So in spite of the fact that Lent is a serious time of reflection, I say to you… Happy Lenten season!  May your heart overflow with love and inspire you to make your little part of the world a better place.

Until next time,

Don

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A Story Worth Telling is Worth Telling Well:

Today while driving along in the car, we were listening to the radio when an old song came on.  It was Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.”  James had not known that the song was written [words by Norman Gimbel and the music by Charles Fox] for Lori Leiberman.  The song recounted the remarkable experience Leiberman had in seeing Don McLean perform for the first time.  Poor Lori was the first to record the song in 1971 but it went nowhere until Roberta Flack did her melodic version in 1973.  I wonder how many people know that the song was written about Don McLean and mistakenly think it was actually Roberta Flack that was so moved by him? 

Then I started wondering, how many times people have had an experience so moving that they just had to get it down in either song, poem or written word to share with the world?  I remembered that Neil Diamond was inspired to write the song “Heartlight” after seeing the film E.T. in 1982.  Carly Simon wrote “You’re So Vein” about her experience (albeit bad) with some unknown former boyfriend that she to this day will not reveal [although the world seems pretty certain it was Warren Beatty who most likely “thinks this song is about him!”] 

Then I realized; am I not doing that now myself?  Isn’t my novel “Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story)” being penned because I too was moved to do so by my remarkable mother?  Had I not been so moved by her strength, courage, endurance and unconditional love, that I feel it necessary to share her story with the world?   My goal is to join the ranks of the great story tellers of our time and hopefully capture the hearts of all who read my moving and inspirational story of triumph. 

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of my [hopefully] soon to be published book:

Unforgettable

(Trudy’s Story) 

Copyright 2011 by Donald Philip Massetti 

All rights reserved.  No part of this book or blog may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. 

This is a novel based on the true-life events of Gertrude Abate. 

Aside from immediate family, names have been changed to protect the privacy and the rights of all other individuals.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Trudy’s family was on edge as they helplessly waited for the Hospice nurse to finish checking on her.  They were anxiously pacing the floor and comforting one another when the middle-aged woman finally emerged through the master bedroom door.

“I think she’s a little more comfortable now,” said the nurse.

Trudy’s husband explained to her, that his wife had closed her eyes to sleep earlier that morning and had not opened them, nor has she responded to anyone since.  That was over eleven hours ago.

“When will she wake up?” he inquired almost too frightened to hear the answer.

“I’m afraid,” said the woman “That what I have to tell you isn’t very good news. Your wife most likely is not going to wake up anymore.  From what you have all told me regarding the way she was thrashing about earlier, it leads me to believe that she’s reached the point where she’ll be leaving you soon.  You see, that thrashing is not conscience movement.  I believe that at this point, they are caught between here and the afterlife causing them to become anxious.  Some people even try to get out of bed and stand up.  It’s as if they know they have to go and think it’s something they actually have to do physically.” 

“Oh my God!  What exactly do you mean by soon?  How soon are we talking about?” asked the shocked man.

“Well I have seen so much of this before – and I regret to tell you that it usually means within twenty-four hours.  I truly am so very sorry sir.”

The family of grown children looked at each other in disbelief.  They had been expecting this, just not at this time.  Not so soon.  Earlier that week Trudy was wide-awake and the doctor had given her six to nine months.

“Her health will fail at times,” explained the specialist, “but she’ll recover and feel better.  This will probably happen several times before the disease actually does take her.”

That was only last Monday.  Today was Sunday, a mere six days later!

Through the master bedroom door, on a hospital bed that was brought in by Hospice, laid Trudy.  Her hair, which she had always kept so meticulously styled, had been brushed straight back to keep it off of her face.  Over her mouth was the clear plastic mask that fed her oxygen as her frail body gasped for the uneven breathes it took.  She had turned seventy-eight years old just a month ago and at that time there was so much to celebrate.  She had overcome an incredible life hurdle in a way that could only be described as a miracle.  However overcoming life hurdles was what Trudy did best.  Never before has the old phrase “life is unfair” been so true.  Yet Trudy had a way of facing each new challenge head-on, with conviction, determination, humor and love.  Always love.

* * * * * * * * * * * 

Thursday, June 11, 1925 

It was mid afternoon and the ladies were just getting up from the table.  “It was a wonderful tea Lily” said one of the women, “are you sure we can’t stay and give you a hand?”

 “Oh no that’s fine” Lily answered, nervously touching her hand to her raven head.  “I’ll have this cleared in no time at all and supper on the stove before my kiddies get home from school.”

“Are you sure?”  You don’t want to do too much dear; you know what I mean, in your condition and all.”

Lily looked down at her big round belly, “Oh nonsense, stop treating my like I’m going to break.”

“Well,” chimed in a buxom woman with a touch of gray in her hair and a touch of mischief in her voice, “by the looks of you, you just might at that! And if I may say so – at any minute now!”

“Sarah! Enough of that talk.  Now be off with the lot of you or my family’s dinner will be late!” laughed Lily as she waved her hands to playfully shoo the ladies out the door.

The women giggled as they exited through the kitchen door.  Lily gave a quick look in on her three year old, Eunice.  She was still sleeping quite contently.  “Yes” Lily thought to herself, “I can have supper up before the baby wakes from her afternoon nap.”  As she hummed along to Lee Morse’s latest hit, “Yes Sir That’s My Baby,” a tune she felt most appropriate at this moment in her very pregnant life, Lily started the business of clearing off the table.

* * * * * * * * * * * 

Bobby and Buddy were taking a lazy walk home from school toting their books over their shoulder in leather straps.  Although they were brothers only two years apart, appearance wise, they were truly a study in contrast.    Bobby, the elder of the boys, sported a mop of wiry dark auburn hair, warm brown eyes and a sprinkle of freckles across his nose and cheeks.  Buddy on the other hand, had soft curly blonde hair, a rosy complexion and sparkling blue eyes.  Bobby was teasing Buddy in that way which older brothers are so well versed.  “Buddy and Ellie sittin’ in a tree”

“Stop!” Buddy exclaimed, but Bobby just continued to antagonize his sibling adding, “K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”

“I said quit it!” Buddy shouted giving his older brother a shove as the boy pulled open the back door to their home.  The pair tumbled through the door and into the kitchen.  As they did, the two became motionless with shock as they found their mother lying helpless on the floor.

As she heard the boys come in, Lily called out, “Hurry go and get the doctor!  Tell him your mother’s time is here!”

The boys just stood there, still frozen with fear.

“Run!… Now!… For Goodness sake go!” Lily yelled and with the speed of an Olympic sprinter Bobby was out the door.  As Buddy turned to join him, Lily cried out, “Not you Buddy.  You stay here and get the large pot out from under the sink.  Fill it with water and get it boiling on the stove…  Now!”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Robert Wilson was a very dapper man.  His platinum blond hair, which had earned him the nickname of “Whitey,” was neatly combed and his tie was still perfectly knotted under his starched collar even though the business day had ended and it was a long and warm train ride home to Belleville from New York City’s financial district.  As he stepped off the train he took a deep breath.  It was good to be home.  His cornflower blue eyes scanned the platform for his two sons who were always there to greet him at the station.  They loved to take the walk home with their dad talking about the events of the day, however this day; they were nowhere to be found.  Feeling that something was awry, Robert began to dash home at a swift pace.  As he threw open the front door, Robert could hear the cries of a baby.  Instinctively, he ran into the bedroom only to find it empty.  He followed the cries heading for the kitchen calling out, “Lily… Lily dear!”

As he entered through the kitchen door he saw the doctor turn his way.  “Congratulations Mister Wilson, you have a beautiful new baby girl.”

The doctor handed the baby to him.  As she entered the tender care of her father’s loving arms, she immediately stopped crying and seemed to become both peaceful and contented.

“Well” said Robert with a bright smile, “it looks as though we have quite an impatient little one on our hands.”  Then he squat down to kiss his wife, who was still on the floor, she looked up at him and smiled.

“Gertrude… I thought we might name her Gertrude,” the tired women whispered.  “I know your mother was hoping, if it were a girl, we would name the baby Helen, after her, but I got the name from the society page in the newspaper.  I thought being named after society ladies might bring her luck. Helen can be her middle name.” 

Robert kissed his new daughter gently still beaming with surprise and delight. 

“Gertrude it is then.  Hello little Gertie dear,” he cooed, “So tell me my little one, is your dramatic entrance into this world any indication of things to come?”

* * * * * * * * * * *

I hope that you’re enjoying the journey into my novel and taking a small glimps into my mother’s life.  I don’t think it would be giving anything away to say that you are sure to find Roberts Wilson’s words about his daughter, Trudy’s dramatic birth almost eerily prophetic, as you read through the pages of “Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story).”

Trudy

Until next time,

Don

 

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Character Illustrations and Overall Styling… Selected!

Well at last the style for illustrating my little children’s book has been selected!  I had a meeting with the illustrator Tuesday afternoon.  Our original meeting was for the day before, but without speaking with me he went ahead and “created” characters for my story.  He had done it to be nice, so that I would have a “starting off” point with a visual to help guide me.  The only problem was that the characters he created [who, if you remember, are my actual real life family] can best be described as “square-headed Norwegians with big blonde afros!” Obviously, I had to say nay-nay to that!   Hahaha.

That said, the fellow who is doing my illustrations is very talented and truly aims to please.

Anyway after speaking one-on-one, I have decided on a look that is sort of… “The Jetson’s” meets “Ratatouille.” I like the look a lot. It is colorful and whimsical yet modern and in keeping with what kids these days are used to watching on TV.

Brandon, my illustrator, is very talented and attentive.  He listened to what I was hoping to accomplish and exceeded my expectations.

I wanted the characters to be similar to my family; after all, the story is about us.  My hope was to create modern images that were “based” on our appearance i.e.; coloring, height and age correct.  Brandon sent me a couple of previews yesterday and I couldn’t be happier with what he has done.

I feel that I am in good hands and I trust that Brandon wants my book to be successful as much as I do.  He will be spending  this month working diligently to create the rest of the illustrations that will bring my words to life.

I know I have blogged on and off about the status of my children’s book but I have to admit, there is something about seeing actual illustrations that makes it all very real.  I am truly beginning to realize that in a couple of short months… I will have authored a children’s story book that will be on the shelves of book store and available on line.  Can my novel, “Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story)” be next?

I have posted a preview of the character images so you can take a sneek-peek.  Get ready… “Donald and the New Baby” will be here before you know it!

Thank you all for your support and good wishes.  I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life.

See you at the book signing!

From left to right: John, Trudy, Theresa, Donald, Janice & Maureen

Until next time,

Don

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The Illustration Stage at Last!

Well after two rounds of editing, my children’s book [which in the final edits went back to its original title “Donald and the New Baby”] has entered the illustration phase.

I have several styles to choose from, none being my original concept, which was to fashion it after the old “Fun With Dick and Jane” readers but that was when I thought it was going to be a big picture book with only a sentence or two per page [much like those readers were].

The styles I was sent for consideration range from the geometric, angular faced characters with very big eyes, now made famous by those imported Asian cartoons [ala Pokemon] to characters that look almost inspired by Archie comic books.  I have narrowed it down to three that I feel work with my story.  The first looks very much like a character that I have been drawing myself for decades, the second is almost 70’s retro cartoon and the third; the most detailed and closest to my original concept.

I have posted them below and would LOVE for you to take the time to “vote” for your prefrence.  Although I can’t guarantee that I will go with the poll results [as the publisher has the power to veto] I would still be very interested in what you all have to say about it… and who knows?  Maybe the poll will carry clout!  They are numbered Concepts 1-3 for easy voting.

#1

 
 

#2

 

#3

I have a meeting tomorrow afternoon to talk about it all and decide exactly what my ten illustrations will depict to best convey my story.  Final decisions have to be made by Wednesday to keep my release on time. 

That said, I would rather be very satisfied with the final result and wait longer for release than be hasty and worse yet… regretful.

Just for inspiration I have also added an actual picture of Sharon taken June 1970, making her 18 months old in the photo…

The Real Sharon Rose

Well all, I am looking forward to your input.  Thanks for your help. I’ll keep you posted on the final decision.   

 

Until next time, 

 

Don

 

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