The Sounds of Heartspeak

It is the first day of Easter Week, late afternoon, when a drift of smoke comes out from under the north roof of the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in beautiful Paris, France. Immediately the wail of sirens gives notice that first responders, security, police are alertly on duty ushering out any people inside; and evacuating nearby residences as part of their master crisis plan. Everyone is safe; only a first responder is injured.

Quickly the north roof streams a line of flames its full length, indicating the burn is taking place in the empty space above the vault, inside the exterior stone walls of the wing, and forecasting that the roof may be an impending collapse.

A hundred or so strollers pause to attend their curiosity about the smoke, which by now is curling upwards in a blend of white, orange, gray and black billows. Quickly the watching numbers grow, as word spreads that Notre Dame is on fire. How can it be that this ‘mother’ cathedral, renowned the world over for her artistic elegance, and her having withstood the hazards of two World Wars – how can it be that she can be in threat of destruction from fire?

All streets are empty of traffic. Bystanders collect in great numbers on a rise a safe distance away, transfixed by the sight of the unimaginable. A camera fixed in place on their backs, notes bodies unmoving, heads lined up with the now huge orange smudge of fire that brings the twin towers into dark silhouette. Could this all be just a painting…tranquilized bodies viewing a frightening scene off in the distance. No, it’s real. But onlookers appear hypnotized.

Shoulders touch, strangers join in silence. Are thoughts wrestling with the  anguishing fear of fire, or simply how much will be spared? The Bell towers? The Spire? The Crown of Thorns reputedly worn by Christ as He hung on the cross? The many colored glass picture windows? The Rose Window? Paintings on the walls?

That horrifying solid orange blanket of fire now shoots a colored flame up the Spire and a red glow sets in relief the skeleton framework used by artisans as they have been repairing it. A low concerned murmur can be heard.

Then the collective silence is broken with a mournful wail from onlookers as the Spire leans, leans, then topples to its death. Within a few short moments the gentle strains of the Ave Maria ripples through the gathering, sung in perfect tones, tempo of a funeral dirge. Strangers are leaning; hearts are joined; souls are blended into heartspeak  by this moment of music. Hymns follow in low, melodious union, as if led by some phantom director. Folksongs are sung as if there’s balm in song.

Hours have passed. The dusk is settling, making more brilliant the fewer final flames that are now diminishing into embers. The smaller gathering now disburses, each individual with his or her memories, some unspoken, others shared in low tones as if in respect for what has been lost.

The Crown was saved. As was the Main Bell, as were the twin towers; and the Rose Window may respond to repair. Artisans and craftsmen will once again spin their talents across her damaged parts in loving nurture, making Notre Dame Cathedral come back to life in all her timeless elegance.


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Distraction Desperation

Can I have a couple of minutes of your empty time? This is about the word can. And this is about me, as I work on finding a big enough distraction that I won’t think about the forecast for a second government shutdown this coming Friday.

Join me if you need distraction too. See, the word can, harmless little three-letter job, is head of the Overworked Word list that I just made up, but I know has little importance in grammatical circles. In those circles, the word ‘may’ is taught to be used preferably because can denotes ability; may infers permission. Ooops. So when I just said, “Can I have…”, I’m saying I have the ability to – when really I should be saying “May” for your permission. Well heck, who ever asks permission anymore. They just take. Permission is old fashioned, hard to find, and doesn’t set well when refused.

That said, come follow me down this rabbit trail. The word can is most commonly thought of as a round metal container filled with food, that we find on grocery store shelves. Way back in time, a can was made of tin, which during WWII kids would go door to door collecting for the metal that could be reduced and renewed into items necessary to the War Effort. More recently, those little food holders have undergone some design changes, like shrinkage, while the price remained the same; and with canned fish, they have gone flatter with more fluid, plus a price hike.

Moving right along, think of this political metaphor: Kicking the can down the road…not really, just a phrase used by politicians who need to fill time and space with more ambiguous noises. Kick the can does have another history, though, as a childhood game played on the neighborhood street; it involved running and kicking thus was considered gender-free, in contrast to Hide and Seek which was considered rather girly.

And then there’s the matter of “getting canned”. Who doesn’t know what’s involved with that phrase! Sometimes canned  may be spoken with a shrug, as a casual synonym for getting fired. But quite often those two words can chill, and be whispered behind a cupped hand. Either way, the phrase may be life changing to some degree.

On the side of universal happy, let’s look (yeah, everybody!) at the risqué Cancan  dance that originated either in France or Algeria, was executed brilliantly by 5’9” tall, high kicking Australian women to 2/4 time, or galup music, mainly in the 1840s. Risqué meant that high kicks and kited skirts exposed full coverage pantalets, this combination of female dress and activity considered quite naughty at that time.

All this leaves us with two untouched considerations: first, my daughter’s home canned peaches, potatoes, and green beans. And second, empathy for all those dedicated teachers of ESL who struggle with double meanings, let alone the layered word can.


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Buzzy and The Dream

(One special night in a therapy facility)

Just woke up from a dream. It’s Buzzy, a close relative of the cartoon figure Maxine, in a bikini, flip flops, kerchief tied around her head with a call light clipped to the knot, my car keys laced in her bra, and big screws sticking out of the side of her right hip and knee. She’s doing the white knuckle job on a 2-wheel walker with rear skids, air horn, sign reading OUT OF MY WAY UNLESS YOU WANNA GET CREAMED.

But wait. That’s not Buzzy, that’s ME. I remember Dr. A saying, “Your bikini days are over, sorry,” as I emerged from a post op haze. Two screws sticking out? Hope Buzzy had a different doctor. Whew! Mine aren’t sticking out. Boy, do I remember that call button up there on her kerchief. It translates as life line, help, rescue, bathroom, chaplain, hurry, OMG too late. Buzzy, you’ve got it right – up there like a coal miner’s headlamp. Man, I’ll bet the Pope even ranks the night time control button on a level with the smoke puffs from the Vatican.

But listen, here’s where it gets real. When I checked into my room at the therapy facility, a CNA snatched the call button from the wall, saying ‘this one doesn’t work.’ Deftly she stabs in the cord for call button #2. As it turned out, #2 with a broken clip must have cycled out of recycle, because for 5 days, 15 shifts, and gobs of free-flowing blue language, it was rarely where it could be found! Flung across the table; crammed toward the foot of the bed; flat on the floor caught in the table leg; stuck out of reach under the pillow “where it’s easy to find”. So how about we talk: if the paper work for the two bucks Corporate needs to buy a new clip should stall along the line, why not have maintenance set up a quick “group fund”, gather the donations and book it to Walmart.  Good grief, how tough is that fix for such a panicky issue?

A day later and in response to my insistent pleas, replacement #3 arrives with another CNA’s triumphant, “This one’s testing fine”, as she plugs and leaves. At 11:45 p.m. the button is pushed on ‘need’, and Chapter 1 of Demons, Sirens and Gargoyles starts to play out….15, 30, 45, 60+ minutes – no answer. At around 1:20 a.m., 75 overage minutes later and more leaks than the White House, I grab the telephone landline  direct to the crosstown daughter. She has a knack for stirring the Corporate kettle, daylight or dark, and right now it’s near daylight for Wall St. stockholders of the care home industry. Just then two CNA’s stroll in to our dark room: “Are you ladies needing anything?”  MY LIGHT HAS  BEEN ON FOR 2 HOURS AND 5 MINUTES, AND I COULD SINGLE HANDEDLY FILL  A WATER BED,” I yell.   “Really? There’s been no light ….”

Mind to Body: better go back to the dream where it’s safer right now for everyone involved! As the image of the Buzzy of the Dream fizzles and fades, blotting out the call light debacle, I give the right hip another gentle sweep. Good.  No porcupine screws. Ahhhhh, there goes the bikini, car keys, ugly control button, fading, fading…gonnnne…

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The Touch: To Homeless and Back

It took just one second – well, maybe two seconds – for my disease-free, chemical-clean, well balanced body to move through space from the booth’s platform to the Diner restaurant’s floor. With some instant clarity on the way down, I remember saying to the space I was moving through, “no, No, NO.” Then BAMM. The length of my right side connected with the floor, my shawl sweater and new Liz top settling over my pencil form like a shroud.

Not in any normal moment of any normal day could I have reproduced the primal childbirth shrieks that I let go on the 911 gurney. But there they were, unfettered, full volume, shattering appetites right and left as we left the restaurant on wheels.

That step into space with its full stop on the floor, was the Moment, the hallmark two seconds when I bridged from health to helpless, from serene to surreal, from known-home to no-home. Weird, I know.

Fast forward to day 2 after surgery: the fuzz of post op is gone. Surgical success is evident. Now the ball is in my court to get it all back together again with the recovery game. I get that. But buried deep down inside and among my scattered thoughts is a renegade that says that somewhere there’s a loose screw that has disconnected, left me afloat in the Universe. Over these couple of days, my thoughts have plunged to a strange place I’ve not been to before. Never ever have I felt so not belonging, not able to visualize a place that is mine in the big scheme; a place where me fits. Never before have I felt so unattached, so unseated, so weirdly dock-less. I’m thinking that I don’t belong  in this hospital room; I won’t fit in skilled care where I’m headed; I’m not good  for home. Therefore I’m homeless, right?

Without warning I melt into silent tears. No seeming cause like self pity or fear, just an unstoppable surge from a widening crack in an inner dam. They flow. In a moment in between tissues, I sense someone in the doorway of my room. I blot, look up and it’s Jamie, my beautiful, compassionate day nurse standing motionless, framed in the light of the corridor, watching me. When our eyes meet, she moves into the room, kneels down beside me and places her hand on my shoulder. With that touch her warmth moves through me like an infusion; with that touch I am given an anchor. I’m drawn out of limbo back into peace.

I begin a spill-over babble of sorts. She listens, then at the right time Jamie tells me about how at age 17 she had been in a crash that in a heartbeat (like mine) had destroyed both her current world and her career dream. She was devastated, depressed, on the bottom rung. As she talks I’m visualizing. I get her message.

The deep, dark place I had gone into, is at this moment offering me back to where I belong…where I fit. I’m sensing that I’ll morph back to my centered self before long. That this event was a customized crisis intended to remind me that I am still a work in progress, that I still have places to go and things to do for a Higher Cause.

Best of all, that a broken 96-year-old femur in the early Twenty-First Century, isn’t an automatic two-step through pneumonia to death as in generations past. Au contraire.

Furthermore, this event is to be forever classified as a SPACE WALK, not a FALL!

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A Brief History of Texting

In the beginning was the cave wall with a stick figure without pants, and a stick figure with a skirt. The one without pants was a man, a Mr. – mister, a noun, and the other was a Mrs. – noun, missus; the start of two problems, bad spelling, and her later on wearing the pants in the family. This was when noun text messaging began – people reading the pics on the cave walls and going forth with the gossip.

Then when writing was invented, along came spelling problems that made learning to read hard for anyone who was American. Daniel Webster tried to show us the definition of every word, its abbreviation, its source, its gender, on and on, but that made writing in school too slow and drove the teachers crazy correcting papers with their red pens.

So students went directly to spell check on their keyboards, and skipped learning vocabulary, let alone spelling.

Teen people got used to doing their own thing with the noun text.  For instance, they simply shortened the word textbook by dropping the book part because everyone knew those were getting too big and heavy for backpacks.  And a lot of books were ending up in the college book store, unused, for which the students got only a pittance back.

Oh yes, and the noun text  has historically been taken over by preachers who are inclined to announce in dead tones, “The text for this morning is found in Romans …..”, and who then drone on at a length comparable to the full textbook  mentioned above.

But listen. This is when the noun turns into a verb, an action word, texting. It probably came about pretty much during Sunday church service when the captive audience sat with heads bowed, looking prayerful, but more like checking the screens of their Iphones which were mostly turned off…except for a hallmark occasion in which one would accidentally go off during the morning prayer, or communion. Then all heads would go up — to see who did it.

Well, whatever the truth may be, as any reader can tell, I don’t know thing 1 about texting. The above is all speculation on my part. I just know that yesterday, when I got a ‘forward’ called Texting For Seniors, I read all the letter codes with their definitions, and knew right away that according to that mockery, I am a confused, plastic, incontinent, lazy, unfriendly oldster of classic description.

Okay. Well that does it! Just let me text right back:  DYDETATMKA – don’t you dare even think about taking my keys away!

Did I do it right?

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The Trump’s Tsunami, Day 500-something

The Tsunami (metaphorically The Donald himself), is near to reaching its peak, having flooded ‘the swamp’ that was declared would be cleaned. Not surprisingly the swamp is now in overflow with a wash of hastily named and unqualified crocodiles, numbers of them having quickly sunk or smartly debarked to higher ground. The great majority of us Americans have followed suit on the latter, seeking oxygen and altitude to stay above the rabble-ish mess.

However, what we see from higher ground is heartbreaking. The tsunami has rolled in, smashing and smothering all in its path. The government landscape has been scraped clean of motions, ordinances, decrees, statutes put in place purposefully to keep all humans and animals safe from dangerous drinking water; polluted air; toxic sprays; GMOs, ad infinitum. Plus the disaster is threatening to clog financial arteries to the arts and humanities, meaningful for the joy of life. Joy? Where has that word gone – along with spontaneous laughter, and the comfort of living with no fear of tomorrow.

Before ebbing with its giant sucking sound, the now stagnant tsunami is seemingly focused on eradicating the written word, aka ‘the Press’. Think for a moment all that is implied in the word ‘eradicating.’ Reporters withstand insults and harassment while persisting in their endeavor to keep us informed thereby prevent that word from getting a life. Journalists range the world to connect us with other countries, cultures and conditions, all the time concerned that the facts they send back might get edited, altered, shrunk to fit ‘policies’, aka politics. In a Democracy, the Press is an artery to be left alone.

In our culture, libraries house written words which are stimulants, provide opinion, offer knowledge, history, wisdom. Libraries are to be funded and left alone, along with Public Radio and TV. Words, whether written or spoken, form us into who we are from infant to adult. They propel us from thought to action. The printed word is to be left alone.

Donald, be advised that your tsunami runneth the swamp over. Why don’t you just say, “It was a great ride, the greatest in the whole world, there was no collusion, I didn’t do anything wrong, the bad stuff was all done by Obama before I got in office, I won the electoral college by a big margin, and all I did was roll everything back.”  Then step down. That will save both your face and your bucket. And when you do, take all your emoluments, along with Stormy, Mary and twenty-plus other identified accusers, your money-making, lawsuit-prone family, and all your unread daily advisories. We want back our White House, government, reputation, allies, status as Leader of the Free World. And clean air. And our National Parks. And progress on climate control. And funding for medical research. And most of all, cohesiveness.

You can have Putin.

See related post: The Trump’s Tsunami


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Announcing Peggy’s New Book – 3 years in the making …

NEW — Between Sun Set and Sun Rise

Contact Peggy to Order Your Copy

As family caregivers are released from duty by the passing of their loved one, they can find themselves in the dilemma of combining mourning with conducting closures; again, uncharted territory.

Between Sun Set and Sun Rise The Family Caregiver’s Shift From Service to Self, covers the struggle of healing. Twenty-eight personal quotes and/or stories are told, a few in depth, all with commentary. Sixteen pages of glowing sunsets, inky dark clouds, fragile sunrises portray the movements of the caregiver’s progress toward renewal.

Included is a document entitled “The To Do List After The Passing”, a step by step advisory to keep business closures well sequenced. Between Sun Set and Sun Rise can be called a hand rail for those “graduate” family caregivers finding their way to their new self.

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The Story Of The Sixteen Stories

“It’s Hard To Salute Standing In A Wall Locker”

If you have a few minutes and really are interested in hearing how I got these WWII stories from 16 ladies, in all four branches of the military, in eleven states from NJ to Fl to CA, all within six weeks from contact to publication, then come with me as I tour the United States by telephone. Remember, this is 2005, before ‘instant’ anything in the communication world.

My phone interview about Never Salute With A Broken Garter (my own WWII bio) on KBUL, Billings, MT brought a phone call from local Kay Sewell who said she was in the Cadet Nurse Corps during WWII. She shared some interesting nurse training stories. Something clicked in my head…I asked if she knew of any other lady who had served — and away it went! She gave me the phone number of Army nurse Rukavina, MN, who led me to Army nurse Bach, OR, who sent me to Olterzewski, NJ, who gave me Singer in FL, who named the three Weatherman Sisters in NC and GA. After those, I hit a wall. Then my memory kicked in.

I contacted our snowbird friends in TN for the name of her sister Edna Scott in OH, who not only offered her reality check as an Army recruit, but also suggested the title, It’s Hard To Salute Standing In A Wall Locker. Then I hit the wall again till a lead from a lady American Legion member pointed me to the first female bugler in the US Army, ‘never retired’ Donna-Mae Smith.

I was back on a roll: talked to our gas station lady in Prineville, OR who connected me with her mother-in-law, Wachsnicht, OR, a Marine who told me about a friend, SPAR Feyling, in CA. Vera Hampton, OR, was the easiest as she and I attended a Navy Women veterans’ group together. Interestingly, there were others including a few not qualified (not WWII) who so much wanted their stories told, too. Can’t remember how I found the last three. Without a doubt, telephone networking was at its finest in 2005.

By this time in August, three weeks had gone by. I was sensing that 16 was a good number because staying in touch with all, seeking their stories and securing their wartime portrait, plus needing all this to be in my hands within the next two weeks was pushing me. Betty Stringer of Palmetto, Florida, took a lot of chasing because she got halted in the middle of her writing by Hurricane Charley, and had to run to her life to Orlando from where she sent me her finished story. Then she dropped out of sight and I’ve never been able to find her since.

Within six weeks, it all came together, my head whirling in disbelief at what I had just done. But now, what to do for a cover? After brainstorming with the printer, I was connected with a multi-medium artist whose studio is out in a field at the end of a dirt road, halfway between Prineville and Redmond. He was a fantastic find, and laughed over his assignment as he was sketching. We got the book from the printer by the first of October.  Edna Scott (Title and first story) who was quite ill, maintained she was going to stay alive until she had seen her story in print. I sent her the first copy. She died in December. Since the November 11th Veterans Day celebrations immediately followed  the book coming out, I suggested to all writers that they go to their local newspaper with their stories and the book in hand. Six of them got front page color coverage (including Edna Scott) complete with their pictures and the rare stories of their lives as pioneers in the military! Those six sent me their tear pages; others sent their clippings.  All were so excited, amazed to be honored after the many years in between. As of 2017, all sixteen ladies have now passed, or are no longer in contact. I never met a single one of them face to face, but we had wonderful phone conversations that created a lasting bond, secured by their precious memories that I was honored to publish.

Contact Peggy to Order Your Copy

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Never Salute With a Broken Garter is Back in Stock! Get your copy today ….

Never Salute With A Broken Garter

Copies Are Now Available!

Contact Peggy to Order Your Copy

Book Price: $15 plus S&H

A collection of Peggy Lutz’s memories between the years of 1944 and 1946, primarily recounting life of a young woman doing her part – for the War effort as a US Navy WAVE. Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES, was a fully pledged and uniformed auxiliary attached to the US Navy only during WWII. They performed most of the same stateside assignments as their male counterparts.

Because very little has been written about these women in uniform Lutz explains that her hope is that NEVER SALUTE WITH A BROKEN GARTER will shed some light on all the little threads that made up the fabric of military life for a woman between 1944 and 1946.

Never Salute with a Broken Garter offers a tell-all tale of firsthand WWII experiences, some of them depicting the Oregon coast civilian Homefront, but most of them about her time in the military service.

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I have to tell you about the other afternoon and its hilarity. I was sitting in our living room updating business with  Corey from Macy’s, the local funeral home. Daughter Janet was back and forth from office to kitchen overseeing 11-year-old Bella who was baking cookies, and 4-year-old Giuliana who was water coloring at the counter. I see the contractor coming down the front walk, so excuse myself and go to the door to let him in. He hits the Big Ben chiming doorbell button just as I open the door. Partway in he stops and turns back because, OOOPS, the chimes choke and stutter a few notes then DING DING DONG (pause) DING DONG DONG DONG…DING DONG DING DING (no semblance of a chime factor)…at which point the contractor backs out, hits the button again hoping to correct the hiccupping bell. That restarts the tuneless dinging and donging, only this time without the pauses. Janet yells from the kitchen, “Shoot it!” I ask for a gun.

Corey is taking all this in with dropped jaw, no doubt wondering what kind of cracker box family he’s gotten into. Contractor and I look at each other in unison saying, “Is this gonna go on forever?” Actually all of us are afraid by this time that the crazy wireless chiming will have to be sold along with the home, and that not a minute too soon. Then mercifully, after a couple more dings and pauses, the bell goes on hold….really? for sure? I return to the seat by Corey, leaving the contractor standing in the entry waiting for permission to go into the guest bathroom to replace the broken toilet handle. (Is there some poetic sonic here too…the background sound of rushing water?) I nod to him.

I didn’t even notice when the contractor slid silently back out the front door. But when Corey left, he got severely monitored to make sure not even a thread of his black suit touched or even came close to that dingy  button.

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