Melodies from Heaven

I'm feeling highly retrospective lately, and I'm saying a lot of prayers.

My work as a medical transcriptionist gives me insight into the personal situations of strangers, and the large number of people in trouble can be overwhelming. It's not unusual for MTs to say little prayers for these people we don't know as we transcribe their personal histories along with their health issues.

Like the elderly woman who was caring for her ailing husband and is now ill herself but is desperate to remain living independently at home rather than face nursing home placement for herself and her spouse. Like the young Iraq War veteran who suffered injuries in combat that threaten one of his limbs. Like the people who have lost jobs and health insurance and who end up hospitalized because they've cut back on their medications in an attempt to stretch them.

I have friends who are coping with job losses, dwindling (or exhausted) savings, or working at much lower salaries than what they are accustomed to, and the depression that can stem from the resultant stress.

Music has always been a great soothing mechanism for me, making any situation seem less desperate. The radio stations have been playing some great songs by Michael Jackson, a man whose problems are now over and who left a treasure trove of music behind for people to enjoy forever. Listening to these songs helps me forget about all the sad things I hear about every day about people I don't know, well-known or not. Today I heard a disturbing story about someone claiming to have proof that former politician John Edwards promised to marry his mistress as soon as his terminally ill wife, Elizabeth, passes away. Now, how is this supposed to make Elizabeth Edwards feel? The rumor mill is also working overtime relating to Michael Jackson's death, which in itself is probably surprising to no one, but the stories sound just plain vicious to me.

It's been reported that court papers filed by Michael's mother asking for permanent custody of his children, plus control of the money for their care, plus control of his estate. What judge in their right mind would even consider granting a 79-year-old woman permanent custody of two adolescent children plus a 7-year-old? And where exactly do Mrs. Jackson's priorities lie? What about burying her son? (I heard a news report that the family is waiting for "results" of the second autopsy, but since this can often take weeks, I'm presuming that was merely a poor choice of words).

So, I turn to the great music Michael left behind. I have two favorite Michael Jackson recordings, one from his years recording with his brothers, and one from his very first solo album in 1971, he was still young enough to hit those high notes . . . and both from the days when he had the good looks he was born with. Enjoy, and feel free to share your own favorite Michael Jackson tunes with us.

And please say a prayer for someone going through challenging times. There are so many . . . .

Never Can Say Goodbye, the Jackson Five

I Wanna Be Where You Are, Michael Jackson

The Week in Review

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually starting to feel sorry for the Republican Party. One more of the so-called Golden Boys has fallen by the wayside. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford stood before the cameras earlier this week and confessed to having an affair with a woman in the Southern Hemisphere. Apparently the guv was quite surprised to learn that there was so much interest in the fact that he'd slipped away (for 5 days, yet). And this man's name was being tossed around as a possible Republican Presidential candidate in 2012?

One refreshing thing about this was the absence of Mrs. Sanford at the press conference. I don't think I could have stomached yet another political wife standing by her man and looking like she'd rather be undergoing a breast biopsy. I haven't seen such defiance since Gary Hart's wife Lee claimed that an ear infection prevented her from joining her husband at a campaign event just days after news of his cavorting with a much-younger woman on a boat became public way back in 1988 (the Harts are still married, if anybody's interested). What a nice change from Mrs. Spitzer, the former Mrs. McGreevey), and Mrs. Craig (her husband of the famous toe-tapping restroom shenanigans).

Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald passed away this week, with remarkably little press. As the lone physician at the South Pole station in 1998, she found a lump in her breast during the half of the year when the bottom of the world is inaccessible. She had to perform her own biopsy, and when it proved to be malignant she had to train some of her non-medical colleagues to assist her in administering chemotherapy treatments that had to be dropped from a plane because it was too frigid to land. Ms. Nielsen made the most of her remaining time after her 1-year South Pole contract ended, writing a book about her experience, traveling extensively, and remarrying. Her cancer returned in 2005, attacking her bones and brain, yet she remained active until her last 90 days. This brave woman was just 57 years old.

Another brave woman was Farrah Fawcett. I admit to never being a fan of hers, but I'm glad she insisted upon playing more substantial roles than the fluff that was Charlie's Angels. But where she really impressed me was with her warts-and-all chronicling of her illness and the sharing of her private thoughts. It's rather sad that her only child's life is on its way to becoming the same train wreck as his father's other children (have any of Ryan O'Neal's children not had substance abuse problems?), but the one I really feel for is her elderly father. Like Luther Vandross' mother, he is the last survivor of the family he created with his spouse. It's got to be hell to have to bury your children as well as your spouse, especially when you're past 90.

The cynic in me wonders how Ryan O'Neal feels about Farrah being kicked to Page Two by the unexpected death of a superstar. His widely circulated account about how he asked Farrah to marry him and her acceptance of his proposal, but dying before they could carry it out just seemed a little too publicity-driven for me (who the hell marries on their deathbed . . . not to mention it suggests Farrah was in denial about her terminal condition (she reportedly promised to marry him when she "felt stronger.")

It was when a co-worker about to leave for the day on Thursday was surfing the net and remarked that Farrah Fawcett had died that I checked the New York Times website for more information. The headline was not of Farrah's passing, but that an unconscious Michael Jackson had been rushed to the hospital. Not five minutes later, when I turned on the TV in the break room to watch the NBC Nightly News, that I saw a picture of Michael with the dates "1958-2009" underneath. My jaw dropped, but I managed to recover quickly enough to run to the door and shout out the news to my co-worker, who had just gone off duty and was getting into her car.

Now, maybe I shouldn't admit this, but after the initial shock wore off I realized it wasn't all that surprising to me. Michael Jackson struck me as being a very unhappy person for many years now, and that usually isn't conducive to a long life. He also had the look of someone who swallowed a lot of pills. This aside, my condolences go to his family, and I fervently hope his children don't inherit his eccentric ways. Incidentally, there will be some very large royalty payments issued to somebody, likely the person or persons who ultimately end up with custody of the kids. Is a custody battle to follow the money on the horizon? Let's hope Michael left a will and not just a lot of bills, which happens all too often in the black community.

The media has gone completely goofy in their coverage of the passing of these two icons. I personally thought Farrah Fawcett unusual in that her looks were both wholesome and sexy, but hearing her described as "extraordinarily beautiful" made me gag (very reminiscent of the ridiculous praise of the "beauty" of the ordinary-looking Jackie Onassis). And spare me from any more reminisces about Michael like the one by Quincy Jones, in which he stated that Michael told him he's had people standing outside his house hoping for a glimpse of him from the time he was 5 years old (I'm sorry, but in 1963-64, when Michael was 5, I don't think anyone in Gary, Indiana, even knew who he was other than a cute kid in a house with many cute kids).

I don't know about you, but I'm hoping next week is quieter!

Enjoy your weekend.

At last

It looks like I'm finally done with my independent project . . . nearly a month later than my projection. My personal editor is doing a final run-through. I must really love this story; it's been a real pain to get it finished. I've revised and revised the revisions. I've proofed until my vision blurred. And I'm delighted with the result. But I don't know if I'll ever want to do it again.

I'm thrilled that the writing is finished, but this hardly means an end to those 6-hour nights (regarding sleeping). Now I'm starting the crush to get my manuscript in to Dafina by the due date. That's going to be a job-and-a-half.

More about my project in the coming weeks, including why I've been knocking myself out these past few months to get it done. I will tell you that it's a contemporary romance, and the subject matter is the same as Sandra Bullock's new movie, which finished in first place at the box office.

In the meantime, for any of you who happen to be aspiring writers, my agent, Elaine English, has a new blog, mostly written by her assistant, Naomi, who handles much of the day-to-day workings and who offers valuable advice. So click here to see what Elaine, Naomi, and the office interns have to say about submitting and publishing in general.

I've been working with Elaine for about six years, and I met her for the very first time a couple of weeks ago, when she had a layover in Milwaukee on her way home from an RWA Chapter conference in the Green Bay area. We had a very long lunch at a restaurant near the airport, and it was wonderful to meet her. She's a peach.

I'm a very lucky writer.

Juneteenth, one day late

It had been my intention to post an acknowledgment of Juneteenth on the blog yesterday. The observation of this historic occurrence has spread from its original location of Texas to all over the U.S. (an annual festival is held up in Milwaukee, for example).

Unfortunately, some wild weather hit Southeastern Wisconsin last night. A tornado touched down at the local airport, less than a mile from our house. Heavy rains and lightning and swift-moving, large black clouds that looked like they came out of a movie made for a scary experience. And while my job (where I was until 9:30PM) had power, myhome did not.

Our lights are back on, but today is now June 20th. While you enjoy your weekend, take a moment to say a prayer for the souls of those who suffered as slaves, and for those who are still struggling in poverty 140 some-odd years later.

I can't let today (not yesterday) go by without acknowledging the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the most handsome men who ever graced the silver screen, Errol Flynn. Later this year will mark the 50th anniversay of this charismatic actor's premature death at age 50, by then ravaged by years of excess alcohol and an addiction to morphine, his good looks a thing of the past. But in his prime, he was a one good-looking dude.

Looking for Mellow (plus, pick your favorite version of this week's classic song)

Less than two weeks after a doctor who performed late-term abortions was killed at church, there was a shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. In one of the most ironic details I've heard in a long time, the security guard who was killed, rest his soul, opened the front door for the 88-year-old white supremacist gunman, who repaid his kind act by fatally shooting him. Talk about bad things happening to good people.

Today is the big changeover for television. Are you ready? All of our sets, the LCDs we purchased when we bought the house last year as well as the older models (including one that was purchased way back in 1987 by my parents and given to us years later), so we shouldn't have a problem, but I've got this creepy feeling that all we'll see is snow on our screens at noon this afternoon. We'll see . . . .

My husband, bless his heart, flew to Washington on Tuesday and didn't think it was worth mentioning to me that his flight's departure from Milwaukee was delayed by hours due to storms in the Washington area (men . . . .) When I started wondering why the heck I hadn't heard from him two hours after he should have landed I tried calling his cell, only to find out that his phone was still turned off. After calling his hotel and learning he hadn't checked in (by now it was nearkly 9PM Eastern Time), and then calling the car rental place and learning he hadn't picked up his vehicle, I had a terrible feeling that something bad had happened. Fortunately, someone at the car rental place informed me that Reagan Airport had been closed for a few hours due to storms and was nice enough to look up his flight for me and give me the revised arrival time. Needless to say, Bernard called as soon as the plane arrived at the gate because he knew I'd be worried. Instead of landing at 6:30PM local time, he landed at 9:05.

In a coincidence, my agent took that same flight home just two days earlier (she had a 4-hour layover, and I picked her up and we had a leisurely lunch). Fortunately, her trip home went without incident. What a difference 48 hours makes!

The singer-songwriter Kenny Rankin passed away earlier this week of lung cancer. Funny thing about Kenny. People either loved his music (I know that easy listening has a reputation for blandness, but Kenny wasn't bland) or they hated it, similar to people's feelings about the sound of jazz singer Michael Franks. He had a wonderful mellow sound that was always welcome to my ears. I all but wore out his Kenny Rankin Album in LP form, then years later purchased it on CD.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any clips on You Tube of any of my favorites Rankin performances, but because some mellow music would hit the spot after a frantic week, so I'm doing something I haven't done in a while, giving you two versions of the same song and asking whick is your favorite. This is a gem of a song written by two of the Burke brothers who made up the group The Five Stairsteps and recorded by them around 1977, a time when the four brothers were performing without their sister and used the name The Stairsteps. The song did not get the recognition I felt it deserved, but did achieve a wider audience shortly after when it was recorded by the group Pockets. In my opinion, I think they're both excellent, but I give the edge to the Stairsteps, because I really like the flute, and I've always loved their voices.

So my question to you as I wish you a good weekend is, which one do you think is the best?

The Stairsteps (original)

Pockets (cover)

Another Manic Monday

I hope everybody had a great weekend!

There's still quite a bit going on with me - my mom is visiting, my husband is getting ready for a business trip, and I'm finishing up my independent project - but I wanted to share something with y'all. I was tickled to learn that the home of my nephew Thomas in Jacksonville, Florida, was used as the setting of a new book trailer. I haven't been there in over two years, and he's done a marvelous job of restoriation (it's in the historic district called Springfield). You can view the video by clicking here.

Go, 'T'!

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

I was never a fan of Nancy Reagan - her adoration of her husband to the point where her own children seemed insignificant to her gave me the creeps, and she was too regal for me (I know her stepfather was a prominent neurosurgeon, but that was far from an exact science in the first part of the 20th century, with many procedures being unsuccessful at best and killing the patient at worst - but hey, maybe malpractice suits hadn't been initiated yet). But one thing I give her credit for, and that is she has always been impeccably dressed. I don't think I've ever seen her wearing an ensemble that didn't work.

Strangely, she was never really given credit for her taste in clothes, unlike the 30ish Jacqueline Kennedy and the 40ish Michelle Obama. The likely reason: She was in her 60s. But that's no reason to lump her in with, say, Mamie Eisenhower.

As far as the so-called controversy over President Obama (God, I love saying that!) not inviting her to the White House for the stem cell announcement, for heaven's sake, the woman is pushing 90 and can hardly walk. You can bet that the same people pointing fingers at him for "disrespect" would have criticized him for getting an obviously frail woman to travel across the country just so he could trot her out to get publicity for his new legislation. Instead, he invited her to the White House when she happened to be in town for an unveiling of a statue of her late husband. Personally, I think that was the right thing to do.

Gone Blogging

Over the weekend I blogged about readers behaving badly at book signings over at Blogging in Black. I hope you'll drop in over there and see what I have to say.