Thursday, December 30, 2010

Alex Is Famous!

Yesterday I posted photos on Facebook of my cat Alex standing on the roof, meowing at me that I should catch him if he jumped. I declined, but took some photos of him in the meantime.

(It's a favorite game of his, going on eight years now - he gets on the roof via the tree in the back, then stands there meowing about the injustice of it all, that he can't figure out how to get down and how he needs help and all - when he was a lot younger, I'd walk him back to the tree to remind him how he'd gotten there - now, I just tell him he'll have to get down on his own - I'm sure he understands every word! but he does get the gist of things, and sooner or later has solved his dilemma.) (and yes, that's fresh snow on that there roof!)

My friend Cindy - who is running the local newspaper's blog Huckleberries this week - decided to use the photo as her "parting shot." So there is Alex, on top of the roof! She calls the entry "Cat on a cold snowy roof." Funny. And though I do recall mentioning to her that he didn't actually jump, she writes in the entry that he "jumped into Beth's arms, which is better than on her head." Well, that last part is true...

Here's the link:

And here are the two photos - Cindy only used the first in the "parting shot" entry:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I've been organizing a packet of material on the baseball novel I wrote - "Until the End of the Ninth," based on the true story of the 1946 Spokane Indians minor league team that died in a bus crash midway through the season (nine of the 16 men on the bus died) - so I've been going back through old material that I got back when the book first came out, in 2006 - have been reading notes and letters that I received back then - handwritten notes, from wives whose husbands were on that bus, back in 1946 - from nephews whose uncles were...

And I'm remembering how sad this story can make me feel. They were such great men. I say it at book signings, over and over - I sign it into print, as one of my phrases when autographing books - I mean it, I do. But just now, re-reading these notes, I'm feeling it again too. It seems almost unfair and unreasonable, to feel agony for untimely deaths of men who today - almost 65 years later - most likely would not still be alive anyway. But I can, and I do. Today will be one of those days when my heart breaks for the rest of the day, thinking about what those men and their families went through back then... Maybe that's the agony part. Knowing what people felt back then. Knowing that the novel brought back those memories for loved ones. Reading about it in letters that they wrote in 2006, telling me that - thanking me for writing the novel, but explaining how it's filled their hearts with sadness, to remember those days from long ago.

Don't know what else to say. Don't know that there really is anything else. Just... it hit me hard today, remembering with the heart.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


"Even a poor tailor is entitled to some happiness."

-Motel to Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof," when Motel is asking Tevye for Tzeitel's hand in marriage and Tevye accuses him of being too poor...

And then Tevye says yes. And Motel sings, "Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles..." I love that song. "David slew Goliath, yeah - that was a miracle..." and manna in the wilderness - a miracle too. But the most miraculous miracle in Motel's eyes? "God has given you to me."

I could use some of my own miracles right now. Little ones, from God's perspective, but really big ones in my own life. Like in the song. Small, for God. But the most amazing of all, for me. Three of them, would be a perfect number. You know who you are (she said to the miracles-in-waiting - all intertwined, as they happen to be, so they know each other too).

There happened to be one - miracle, that is - in the Eagles/Giants game this past Sunday. (Eagles fan here.) They are calling it the "miracle in the new Meadowlands," so amazing it was - and a play on the original "miracle in the Meadowlands" back in 1978 (also a play that went the way of the Eagles). (The Giants just got a new football field this past summer, making it the "new" Meadowlands.)

I keep watching this past Sunday's miracle on youtube - the clock runs down to 0:00 as DeSean Jackson runs a punt back 65 yards for the winning touchdown. Un. Believable. (is what I wrote on Facebook, and how the announcer said it too, turns out). Actually, I kind of like this version best, because it shows how Jackson waves the ball to himself ahead of time - hands to the sky, waving it down to himself, even before the ball is punted. I remember watching the game, so relieved that the Eagles had tied it up, waiting for the clock to run out, for the overtime, seeing DeSean ask for the ball with his hands, and thinking - well, it's nice he has some bravado in him...

And then. Un. Believable.

A lot led up to that 65-yard miracle. The Eagles were down - twice - by 21 points, the second time with only eight minutes left in the entire game. They had to have faith - had to believe in redemption in the same 90-minute period to regain ground sufficiently enough to be able to have a punt return win the game with 0 seconds left on the clock. No need for overtime, that time...

So it was an explosive miracle at the end, yes. But we needed mini miracles along the way for the end moment to make a difference.

Last night was an full moon lunar eclipse as well as the solstice. It was a miracle of coincidences, I suppose. When I went to sleep, I asked for a dream to help me understand where things are going in my life - and how, and when. (Now, please.) And I dreamt - well, a lot of things, but what I remember most vividly ... I was at a church service, and the minister was doing the readings that led up to the sermon - a sermon that I was going to give. It was on miracles. I felt confident - I could speak with authority on this one (is how I felt in the dream). So the minister gave the readings, and I got up to the pulpit (looked more like a podium - the church was more like a rec room, actually) - the audience looked expectantly... And I said, "The thing about miracles is... they come unexpectedly. Think of the last time you had one. And now, remember the day before it happened. You didn't know it would happen, did you? One moment, it didn't exist. The next moment, it did. That is part of the magic of a miracle. Not just that it is one. But that there is the space before it occurs, when you don't know it will occur, when you wonder if it ever can occur, that makes the gift of the miraculous feel just that much more poignant..."

I woke up and thought - I better keep my eyes open for what happens next.

Even a poor tailor is entitled to some happiness.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I'm just back from another week of babysitting nephews - ages 3 and just-5 months. My sister and her husband were taking a just-vacation trip to Paris (lucky! their first actual no-work vacation together, just the two of them, since the 3-year-old was born), so I offered to come babysit again. This time my mom came to help too. It was a godsend, really, to have an extra pair of hands. I'm always so impressed with my bro-in-law - the primary caretaker - when I spend a week in charge of the household that he runs so smoothly. How does he do it?? My forte is not in keeping the house clean, or keeping up on the laundry - but my mom was great at keeping track of all that. At least one of us was good at that.

It's just two months since I babysat the two of them most recently. Last time, there was still some tension for the older one (I thought), in having a new addition to the family. This time though, the tension had dissipated - almost completely, it seemed. Across the country, there are three-year-olds adjusting to new family additions... these tiny miracles of adaptation are taking place in households all around us... it doesn't make it any easier, though, to know that it happens everywhere. So I marveled at the change that I was privileged to witness. These two boys truly have become brothers.

The three-year-old has always said how the baby is cute. "He's so cute!" The older one says periodically throughout the day. As the baby has gotten bigger (and he is big - a little Kahuna, my friend says), he has gotten more like a little person, and the two boys have been able to start interacting. In fact, there is nothing more fascinating to the baby than to watch his brother whirl around the room with his toy cars, or a ball, or whatever. If the baby was fussing, we'd ask the older one to play in front of him. It would calm him right down, so distracted he would be by his fascination with his older brother, reaching out towards him (just out of reach).

At one point, my mom suggested to my older nephew that he stand close to the baby and let the baby touch him. So he bowed his head towards the baby, who grabbed at it - and then grabbed at his ears, got his nose, his eye... not so much that it hurt (or so I imagine). We all laughed. It started a trend that lasted off and on all week. So much fun.

There was no sleep for the weary, as there are still middle-of-the-night feedings. At one point, as I got up at about 2 a.m. in response to the baby's cry, I looked into the bassinet where he was lying. He saw me and smiled, and cooed a little. "It's a good thing you're cute," I told him. (They must make them cute to make sure we'll take good care of them, my mom said at one point.)

One high point for me was watching football with the three-year-old. I explained to him that his hometown team is the Bears, but that he should feel free to root secretly for the Eagles at all times. He may have taken that to heart, because after the Eagles won Sunday night (they beat Dallas - always a nice achievement), he started carrying around a stuffed Eagle toy with him. Every so often he'd show me the toy, and I'd spell out the team name: "E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!" I'd say. He so loves to spell.

I got home late Wednesday night. I miss them already! But I'm glad to be home too, if only so I can sleep the whole night through.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Planning Ahead

I'm headed to Southern California in early January.

My publishing house asked if I would be one of their featured writers at the American Library Association semi-annual meeting in San Diego. (Actually, it's called their "mid-winter meeting.") It was hard to say no, especially since my dad and family live there. So I decided to go. It's the weekend of January 7. I'm hoping the trip also helps me organize some meetings in Los Angeles, both before and after the weekend.

I have a winding story behind the publishing of my baseball novel ("Until the End of the Ninth," which is based on the true story of the 1946 Spokane Indians team that died in a bus crash midway through the season). Initially I had no patience for the publishing world as I wanted the manuscript in print by the 60th anniversary of the bus crash. So I self-published with Authorhouse. They were great. They always have been great, actually.

Then the next year, the book got picked up by Rooftop Publishing - a new, private publishing company that had some connections to Authorhouse but operated independently. They too were great. Really great. Example: when I was doing a book tour in the summer of 2007, and was on my way to Wisconsin and Minnesota, the bridge in Minneapolis gave way. Overnight, I decided I wanted to donate all of my own proceeds during the WI/MN leg of the trip to the victims and victim families of the bridge collapse. It was the only thing that felt right. I told Kevin King, my publisher. He immediately said that Rooftop would donate the publishing cost as well. In the end, the teams where I had book signings (Eau Claire Express, Duluth Huskies - even the Minnesota Twins) all agreed that any of their proceeds also should be donated. I felt lucky to have teamed up (so to speak) with Rooftop.

Then the company went the way of 2008 and 2009. It no longer is in business. I am now back to Authorhouse.

I have thought about finding another publisher. But the book is already out there - it's really easy to get a copy off the Internet - and my next goal really is to adapt it to film, so I've just left it as is, with Authorhouse and the first edition.

So it is Authorhouse's booth where my book will be featured - in the sports/literature section (or so they tell me). I figure I will be there all day on the Saturday of the conference. I may try to be there on Sunday as well - but definitely I'll be there all day Saturday. It just feels right, to make the trip. We'll see how things go.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Terry Corrigan

I cannot believe that I am writing yet another entry about yet another special person who has passed away.

Terry Corrigan was 75 when he passed away, in a freak accident in his own driveway just a few short weeks ago. He and his wife Ann were two of the most precious people I have ever met. My heart breaks at the thought of them separated, especially under such tragic circumstances.

I almost didn't hear about his passing. I happened to read about it in the newspaper, as I was flying to my grandmother's funeral and running out of reading material... so I turned to the back of the newspaper I had brought, and started reading obituaries... and I saw Terry's face and thought no - oh no...

I wonder at how Terry's passing affects me so. Unlike other people close to me who have died this year, I did not know Terry well. Although - somehow, that doesn't feel exactly true. I did not see Terry often, is a better way of phrasing it. Because somehow, I feel like I did get a chance to know the essence of Terry, in spite of our relatively sporadic interactions over the years that I knew him.

I wish I could say I met Terry under joyful circumstances. Instead, I am honored to say that I met him under important ones - that I had the privilege of witnessing, first hand, Terry's quiet, determined integrity to do the right thing, always. He was that rare kind of person who steps forward when others stand back. He and Ann stood together that way.

I know this because I met Terry through the Catholic church - or, should I say, through the people who were trying to keep the Church accountable for all it had done, and hid, when protecting pedophile priests from prosecution and consequences these past many years. Back about six years ago now, I felt that I should actively support those abused by priests in Spokane. So I started attending meetings with SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests) and VOTF (Voice of the Faithful). At these meetings, I met Terry and Ann - heard from them about their son Tim, who committed suicide on August 29, 2002, the day an article was published about his abuser, then-priest Patrick O'Donnell. Over time, as I got to know them, I saw how they listened quietly to people's stories, felt the pain in their hearts, did what they could to lessen it. Sometimes - often - just their willingness to act as witness was what made the difference. They knew they couldn't bring their son back to life - they never even knew, before he died, that he'd been abused - but that didn't stop them from reaching out to others. I think now of how important it was, what they did back then... especially then, when emotions in this town ran dangerously high, when abuse victims stepped forward almost daily, saying, "He did that to me too..."

I know that Terry and Ann were public about their fight for justice - articles were written in the Spokesman Review and the Seattle Times - and I know that the steps they made to take on a church that they loved were some of most courageous steps that any person may ever take. "If you ever did an autopsy on us, you'd find Catholic in our bones," Terry told the Seattle Times back in 2004. My gosh, they chose to live right next door to their parish so their kids would have access to the church at all times. They kept a passel of cards in the basement, and sent two cards a year to every priest in the Diocese - one on his birthday and one on his ordination anniversary.

But there is a difference between right and wrong - and Terry and Ann knew it. They left the Church over it. "The crisis in the church is not the scandal," Terry told the Spokesman once. "It’s the hierarchy’s abuse of power. It’s the cover-up." And: "Some day I may be able to forgive O'Donnell [the abuser priest]. But I don't know if I can ever forgive those involved in the cover-up."

For all that bravery, what I remember best about Terry, and Ann right next to him, is watching them listen to people's personal stories in these meetings, and nod their heads - watching them act as true support for people who may not have had anyone else. I wonder how many victims the Corrigans comforted just by giving them support when their own parents didn't. It's like they were surrogate parents to all who came - quietly, but firmly, in their corners. For the Corrigans to be that way, when grieving the loss of their own son... what heroes they were.

I have flashes of other memories... like the time Terry came to my office and we drafted a letter together for the Voice of the Faithful to distribute to all the parishes and finance committees, about how the Diocese was hemorrhaging money because of all their attorney costs (one additional step to distract and delay getting to the root of everything). (We had little luck with that letter - from what we heard, the Diocese told the parishes to refuse to speak to us. And virtually all of them obeyed.)

I remember too, when we were at a vigil once, Ann talking about their grief in the aftermath of Tim's death. She told us that out of all the priests in the Diocese - all 150 or so, who got two cards a year from the Corrigans - only seven sent condolences. Seven. I can see her in my mind's eye, telling us this story, and then how she went down to the basement one day looking for Terry, and there he was, sitting at the desk, tears streaming down his face, trying to fill out the next batch of cards. Ann gently put her arms around him and said, "You know we can't do this anymore." And Terry said, "I know." A silver lining around that black cloud was that two Catholic friends came over within a half hour, took over responsibility for the cards, and took them from the house.

I remember one time, at one of our meetings, Terry sharing with the group how he went to Tim's grave - on the anniversary of his death - with purpose and ritual - how he told us of the mementos he brought, special to his relationship with Tim (they shared a love for the outdoors) - how he had finally reached a point where he was able to do that sort of personal ceremony. I was really happy for Terry that day, hearing him talk about what he had done, and what it had meant to him.

And I remember a few years ago, how the Corrigans so graciously bought a copy of my baseball novel - based on the true story of the 1946 Spokane Indians team that died in a bus crash midway through the season - and how they told me later how they read the book aloud to each other - how they had to hand it back and forth numerous times because one person couldn't read it very long before getting choked up. I cannot tell you adequately how touched I was by that story. I think now of how, in that book, I worked so hard to find a silver lining to that dark cloud, of those baseball men dying. And maybe I succeeded. But today, thinking of the unexpected, tragic loss of Terry to the lives of his family and friends, I don't know that I can be so optimistic. The best I can do is hope for the best.

Here is a story written in the local newspaper about Terry after he died (likely not accessible to non-subscription holders, sorry): The article's first line is: "Did Spokane just lose its greatest man?"

One thing that struck me, at his memorial service a couple weeks ago: Terry touched so many lives. I knew about the world in which I met him, how helpful he was. But from his business, and through friends and family, everyone remembered this quiet man of integrity. It was a way of life with him, to be like that. Our lives were richer because Terry was a part of them.

And then the other morning, it was the first true snowfall of the season. That first snowfall is beautiful, really - when the earth turns white. The world slows down. People smile and wave as they navigate the streets. There is a charity in the air that is less present on other mornings. The sweetness of that morning made me think of Terry, how much he would have enjoyed it all. I miss him.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Won!

Well, I think I won...

So Monday morning I was watching "Morning Joe" (awake too early again!!) and saw Kerry Kennedy on the show, talking about the RFK Center's fundraiser auction. The auction people had extended the bidding deadline, they're raising money for a good cause, etc. So I decided to check it out on line. And saw, lo and behold, an entry to bid on the chance of talking to a screenwriter about screenwriting - Jeff Van Wie, who wrote "Love Song" with Nicholas Sparks. It isn't a movie I've seen - but I do think of my work as having similar heart quality to Mr. Sparks' work...

So I thought well, I'll bid on that.

But then the day got away from me - yesterday did, too - and suddenly there I was, this a.m., in between phone calls (I'm currently doing my "shark" imitation when it comes to my writing career - you know, keep moving or die), and I thought - oops - I meant to bid on that screenwriter thing...

So I went to look it up on line. Ten minutes left. What?? Ten minutes? Left to bid? For all time?? Yikes! I'm not even registered! I'm typing like a maniac, trying to register and bid all at the same time, pulling out my credit card (now six minutes left)....

I submit a bid. Done! Success.

Wait. What does this mean?

So I go back and read the fine print. It appears that I haven't offered to sell my first born or anything. (Not that I have a first born. Well, there's my cat Annie. But you can't have her!) I refresh the page... four minutes left. I'm still the highest bidder. Oh my gosh! I might win!

I "refresh" the page again. I'm still the highest bidder. Refresh. Still the highest.

I start pacing around my living room. Am I going to win? (Never put a lawyer in direct competition with anything where the goal is simply to win.) I refresh again. One minute left. I pace. I refresh. How can there be zero minutes left, and no result???

And then - it's done. Closed! I've won! I've won, right? I check the listing. There's no winner listed. So, we go for ten minutes listing in detail all the bidders, all the bids, but once the bidding's closed, there's no indication of anything?

I think about posting an entry on the blog, saying I've won. But - well, have I?

Then I get an email - I've won! They say I won! "Unless there's a live auction at a later date..." Wait. Huh? What? Have I won or not?

I pace a little more. It's pretty funny, actually. Here I am, vested within moments in something that I've just done ten minutes earlier. I love the synchronicity of it - think that Jeff will enjoy the story once we sit down and talk... "had I waited ten more minutes..." That's assuming that I've won, of course, and that we end up talking.

Wait. I do get to talk to him, right? I go back to the auction entry. "Learn from Jeff Van Wie the ins and outs of screenwriting." What, is he going to write me a letter? (And shouldn't a lawyer read the fine print before committing money to an auction bid?) (But I had only ten minutes, I tell you! There was no time!!).

So I go back to the original entry. It says that he arranges a conference call with the winner. Okay. Whew. So we will talk. Because I have questions - lots of questions. I feel simpatico with him again - both of us coming at the profession as a second career (which is Jeff's story on IMDB, though he's younger than me and already established)...

But when do I find out if I've won? I am thinking and wondering when...

Voila! In my in-box arrives an email. "Winning Bid Invoice" reads the topic.

Wow. So I did win, after all. That was an exciting half hour or so. Can't wait for the phone call.