Daddy’s Girl, a Tribute

Filed Under All Posts, Cathy Fischer, Family, Parenting, Relationships | 6 Comments

Ralph and Cathy, Fair Street (?), Paterson, NJ, 1959 (?)

This is an updated version of a post written for Father’s Day in 2008. Ralphael Benjamin Fischer passed peacefully on April 9, 2014, at age 91, surrounded by his loving family.

I don’t’ really see myself as a “daddy’s girl” but I sure do love my dad, and yes, he spoils me.

In some ways he’s typical of his generation, distant but close. Born in Poland in 1922, he lived through the horrors of WWII, lost his entire family, and amazingly rebuilt a life in France then the U.S. Both he and my mother worked in garment factories in New Jersey, then their own lumber and hardware store in South Central, L.A.; immigrants dedicated to giving their children everything they didn’t have.

In many ways my father Ralphie, as we liked to call him, was special — an unedited, unfiltered, tell-it-like-it is person, with a wicked sense of humor. He spoke his truth and people appreciated it. To say that he was a “character” is an understatement. Read more

WANTED! Truthtellers. Apply Within.

Filed Under All Posts, Melissa Howden, Relationships | 19 Comments

When Melissa’s trust is broken, she examines past and present with hope for the future

Here a lie, there a lie everywhere a liar, liar pants on fire.

When someone loved and trusted lies, its hurtful and makes me feel as though I am not worthy of the truth. Trust is so precious, and yet we take so much of the universe on trust. Having my trust violated leaves me feeling lonely and kind of empty. Ironically, it’s also kind of lonely to try and stand strong and sure in my own truth and experience.

In the third grade, my teacher Mrs. Randolph gave the whole class a word problem. Something along the lines of, “If ten monkeys hiked to the peak in search of one banana, but two of them took the bus half way, and had to wait for the bus for 30 minutes, and the bus travelled at 20 miles an hour and the rest of the monkeys high tailed it, who got to the banana first?” Mrs. Randolph instructed us to remain at our desks until we had the answer to the problem. When we thought we knew the answer we were to come up to her desk and whisper it to her. I came up with the answer right away and in front of the whole class Mrs. Randolph called me a cheater — except there was no way I could’ve cheated. In effect Mrs. Randolph was lying but calling me the liar. At eight years old, it was challenging to hold on to what I knew was true even as my teacher was abusing her power. I knew in my heart that I came up with the answer and that was an early lesson in trusting myself. A year later I read in the newspaper that Mrs. Randolph had been arrested for shoplifting, which somehow proved my case. Read more

Pondering the Nature of Duo

Filed Under All Posts, Melissa Howden, Relationships | 20 Comments


Positive Negative, painting by Jesse Rinyu

In an effort to understand her mother, Melissa peels back layers of her own heart

In the summer of 1963, my mother left my father. I was just six and my brother turned three a few short weeks later. Thirty-six years, several boyfriends and one more divorce later, my mother admitted to me that the love of her life had been my father.

My mother’s admission about the love of her life was stunning and surprising. I asked her why; given that my father was the love of her life she left him? She replied, “He was young and stupid and always had something to prove.” I wondered what 20-something (man or woman) is not young and stupid with things to prove?

A year after this conversation my mother died. I discovered then the only things in her safe deposit box were the letters my father had written to her asking, and then pleading with her to come back. I cried then for my mother, not for her death but for the fact of her pride — the pride, which kept her from the love of her life for most of her life, which by all measures was not a particularly happy one. Read more

The Heart of It

Filed Under All Posts, Melissa Howden, Relationships | 14 Comments


Corazon by Mark Carter

Melissa reflects on the legacy of separation and the ways in which we cope

Some week’s back, the cover of The New York Times had a picture of two young boys tearfully clinging to their father who was returning to one war zone or another after a leave. The look of panic and pain on the younger boy’s face haunts me.

I have a similar photograph from 70 years ago on the day my grandfather left to go to war. In the photograph my eight-year-old father appears more stoic than the boys in the NY Times but I know from letters and first hand reports that the one photograph of that day does not tell the whole story.

I will always wonder if the father in The New York Times photograph comes home. I know my grandfather didn’t and that legacy of separation has been passed down in my family. This is the story of countless families throughout history, changed by the legacy of loss at the hand of war, economics, borders, political posturing and empire building. Read more

Retreat and Advance

Filed Under All Posts, Christie Healey, Courage, Relationships | 9 Comments

As Christie checks in, her mind checks out — a new year, a new approach

New Year’s Eve celebrations have seemed less than satisfying in the past few years. Most parties are filled with couples and at the stroke of midnight I am the one standing off to the side gamely smiling. So I decided I would try something different, a personal 24 hour retreat to contemplate the year past and the year about to arrive.

On Friday afternoon I took myself off to an expensive local hotel and checked in. When I handed the completed form to the desk clerk, she read it through and stared at me. “You live in St. Paul?” I nodded. She gave me a piercing look and handed over my room key. As I walked to the elevators I could feel her eyes on me, and the little bag I carried. It was not until I reached my room that it dawned on me, Crikey; I’ve been put on suicide watch in a luxury hotel! I wondered if I should go back down to the desk and assure them I was sound in mind and spirit. Then decided that I may not be that convincing.

I was here to think, and not think. To let thoughts come and go and travel where they may. To examine some of my irrational fears, search for prejudices and pre-conceptions, try and discover what I wanted in my life and what steps I needed to take to make it happen. All this I would have to do while ordering room service every hour so that no-one would break the door down to see if I was “okay.” Read more

Belonging & Heartache

Filed Under All Posts, Melissa Howden, Relationships | 20 Comments

Melissa’s love story continues…

A few week’s ago, my dear friend Lu sent me the card above. She is one of the few people in my life who still sends actual mail and I love her for that. This particular card has been sitting on my desk as a daily reminder.

I suppose the card’s message is always an important one, but for me it is particularly timely and this is also an especially difficult blog post to write. For those of you who have been following us here, you may remember the essence of my post CHANGE: From the Files of “Be Careful What You Wish For” and “Never Say Never”— essentially a love letter to one with whom I had fallen in love. The same one I changed my life for, my “last great love”.

New love is so alluring, folded as it is into hope, delight and discovery. As a then 51-year-old, it also caught me completely by surprise. I am not an impetuous person, but in this case, in middle age, it seemed dangerous to waste time, and so we didn’t. But as with many great loves, the ending is not always happy, and I am sad to report here that we are no longer. I have not wanted to write this not only because it is sad, but also because I feel embarrassed that I put this love out in public and have seemingly failed so miserably. Also it’s hard to put something, anything, out there when I feel as I do that my guts are being ripped out. Read more

The Lovely Mrs. Stetson Rides Again

Filed Under All Posts, Politics, Relationships | 10 Comments

Follow the adventures of Connie Stetson, candidate’s wife, as she heads out on the campaign trail, once again…

Hi there. The lovely Mrs. Stetson here, and just returned from an event in one of our more charming off-the-beaten-path communities, El Portal. It was the annual Spring Fling in EP. A day of music, BBQ, beer, crafts, flea market, activists of all stripes, (GO No-Way Subway!!!), and the usual round-up of old friends, neighbors, conservationists, kids and dogs, and of course, the opportunity for a little campaigning, glad-handing, and baby kissing. Yes, dear readers, Lee is running for office again and I just can’t wait to dust off my pillbox hat and pearl button gloves.

A couple of weeks ago we had the dubious honor of attending the Republican Central Committee’s “Meet the Candidate Night” where we were regaled with each conservative candidate’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Why bother to call yourselves Republicans anymore? How about re-branding you as Christi-cans, or Republica-mentalists? It was fascinating, in a “can’t take your eyes off a train wreck” sort of way, to watch as each candidate for the Republican nomination for the 19th congressional seat vied for the title of the most conservative conservative, or the original conservative, or the most racist conservative, or the biggest sexual deviant freak conservative. Read more

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