Saturday, December 12, 2015

Little Daily Miracles

author (in striped blouse) Grant School, 6th grade
Little Daily Miracles (a response by a.c.fonte to a prompt in The Creative Writer’s Notebook)

“Write a short piece using the following lines from [Virginia] Woolf’s To The Lighthouse for inspiration:  “Little daily miracles”--

My little daily miracles:  waking up in a warm bed, listening to rare rain on the roof, feeling Gray, our cat, press his back against my ankles.  Later, the miracle of a hot tea bag infusing my cup with the sweet scent of bergamot, stimulating my senses and brain.  I read the newspaper—skimming the bad parts of terrorism, disease and dipping stock market—to savor movie reviews and comics.

A toaster is a miracle of engineering. It takes a piece of plain bread, warms it, browns the lightly sugared flour into an inviting picture of texture and taste.  I sprinkle a mixture of three grated cheeses over one thinly buttered side of the toast and bite into it. 

Now I am back in Elgin, Illinois where whiffs of early morning black coffee beckon me to the breakfast table.  My mom is pouring her last cup from the McGraw Hill plug-in coffee pot and watches me eat my toast.  It’s Saturday, and my dad is outside shoveling the overnite layer of snow from our slick driveway so my mom can go to work.  He will get groceries from Gromer’s and take two bags of requested items to my Grandparents.  They live on a small farm about fifteen minutes away and their driveway will need to be shoveled, too.  While my mom manages a busy day of pre-Christmas Saturday shopping at Ben Franklin’s Store, my sister and I will go with my dad on errands and be greeted at the farm by our Grandmother who has just finished baking sugar cookies.

All this is rediscovered in today’s toast, eaten at a small table with my husband in Tucson, Arizona.  Marcel Proust was right:  taste is a miracle of memory.


(325 words 12/12/15)


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Excerpt from "Family Members"

I wrote three descriptions (this is one of them) in response to a prompt from The Creative Writer's Notebook, complied by John Gillard.  In the style of James Joyce, the prompt was to write descriptions with a word count that matched the person's age in years and offeres a variety in sentence length.

Mark (age/word count 64):  As my husband ages, years of riding a motorcycle collapse his upper body into a permanent curve.  I worry about his heart.  Is it getting stuffed into the pillow of his stomach?  His feet itch from a fungus that also crusted his fingers.  But it's not all bad. The fingers have healed. And now he is more open to what lies beyond the desert road.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween memories

As the weather has finally shifted in the desert to cooler nights, we accept autumn with gratitude.  That wasn't the case when I was growing up in Elgin, Illinois.  More often than not, our Halloween costumes had to be partially covered by coats and, the accompanying parent (until we were in junior high) was holding an umbrella to shield us from the chilling rain. 

But we'd bundle up with the certainty that on McCleane Avenue, the "rich folks" offered full sized candy bars on silver trays and even the blue collar homes such as ours on McClure Avenue, might surprise a trick or treater with a paper bag of a junior-sized Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, packet of candy corn and a red apple.  My dad would take great pride in assembling (and he was a factory working) fifty bags like that in our basement and my sister and I would be part of the team to put the bags together before he'd tightly twist them closed and stack them in a Gromer's Grocery bag to sit by the door on Halloween night.  Soon after sunset, the doorbell would start ringing and go on long past the last bag was given out.  Latecomers got apples and whatever candy we had in the refrigerator.

I carried his tradition with me for awhile to Tucson, but once our little guy came along, Halloween night was busy with costume prep for school and for Mark taking him out to hit the neighborhood houses.  Exhausted from the drama of getting things ready, I would rely on prepackaged handouts and, sometimes, add a fresh pumpkin cookie for the more familiar neighbors.

These days, we don't seem to get very many children at our door, though the middle and high schoolers seem to prowl past 8 p.m. I know times are changing and this holiday is as much about adult fright nights as it is for children.   Nevertheless, I like to imagine grandeur vision of the portal opening between us, the living, and the emerging dead souls, welcoming what for us in Tucson, has become a multi-day and night celebration of All Souls Procession and the traditional Mexican Day of the Dead. 

So booo to you out there...

and as Little Orphan Annie said (a poem by James Whitcomb Riley my grandmother and mom would recite during this season):  "the goblins will get you if you don't watch out!!

(cookies are by Janice Ward as featured in Edible Baja Arizona magazine).

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Blogging a Book Project

I believe I started this idea awhile back but I am committing myself to do a draft of a blogged book summarizing my years of community development knowledge and practices.  Why am I doing this?  1. To show I can; 2. To have a product I can offer in exchange for emails--something I learned from one of the recent 10West sessions; 3.  Because I am thinking about "closing" that chapter of my life in order to move forward into more uncharted territory.

The question I am posing is what audience do I hope to reach with this kind of book?   Maybe young urban planning professionals, maybe nonprofits who do community development, maybe teachers/faculty who want to offer another resource to students besides the tome of required textbooks.

So--to my few followers out there.  What do you think?  Would you be interested in reading a short and free ebook like this?  And: do you have suggestions for a title??
Photo is by acfonte, taken 10/24/15 at Startup Tucson's first Tucson #10West Art Walk.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I wrote this in response to a prompt, picking out a photo from the recent obits...Gaye Jordan Dixon, "was freed from the burden of Alzeimer's on October 3, 2015...."

Gaye Jordan Dixon, fictional rememberance by anita c. fonte 10/15


Gaye gazed at her face before pinning the cream-colored hat on her auburn hair.  Her nose, she considered for the millionth time, was a bit too round for her to be called pretty.  But its length fitted her face and gently balanced the curve of her definitive brows.  She liked her smile and dotted both lips with her newly purchased Helene Curtis cinnamon-red lipstick.  The silver earrings—something borrowed from her Aunt Meg—poked out beneath her curls and the new hat.  Here it is, the final touch, making me the bride of Hershaw, Virginia. Gaye gaily (yes, she thought, the word today fits me like the hat) swirled around the room.

She was no traditional bride.  The war had broken many traditions.  So her navy jacket informed strangers at City Hall that here was a woman who walked to her own bugles.



Bill was already in the lobby, waiting for her entrance and the click, click, of her leather pumps against the marble floor.  He didn’t often wear his full Navy uniform, but today was an exception.  They were finally formalizing their “matched pair” status.  And about time, too, he thought.  Trying to keep their shared nights a secret from family was getting tricky.  Particularly, Aunt Meg had a sixth sense about Gaye, and the Navy Pharmacy supervisor didn’t approve of any fooling around of his staff.  But, once they were married, they would let go of pretenses and he’d move into Gaye’s two room apartment.

Bill pictured the years ahead of them, once the war was over.  Maybe a couple of kids. Raise them in the mountains out west, open a lumber mill like his dad had done in Virginia.  Sure there would be challenges but they’d face them together.  After the war, no challenge could beat the two of them.

Even, he thought, in our later years, kids grown, he figured they’d find ways to be unretired and stay busy, happy. 

Bill had faith that with his strong constitution, matched by Gaye’s, they would slip into the sunset with smiles on their faces and arms entwined.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Yesterday I saved a grasshopper

Yesterday I saved a grasshopper in the pool. It could not push its legs against the water to fly, so I scooped it out with my hat and placed it on the rough concrete.  While I did my laps, I watched it drying out, moving its wings and flicking its antennae.  It took more than a half hour and I was toweling myself when it moved, one leg at a time across the cement and then pushed.  Like me sometimes, struggling to exercise my stiff joints, there was little grace in its movement.  But move it did and then sprang to a shady bush.  I would like to be that grasshopper, saved by grace and given another chance to live in the summer sun.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

When I was growing up...

When I was Growing Up, a mini-memoir by anita c. fonte 8/2/15

When I was growing up, the first four words I learned to speak were: tv, bird, cookie, dada. 

TV-- because I watched Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bill.  When I came down with measles, my mom said I looked like Howdy and I cried.  He was a freckled puppet who jerked when he danced, not at all graceful like the dancer who, at five, I wanted to be.

Bird—because their chirps, trills, and colored feathers as they fluttered at the feeder outside my grandmother’s window suggested adventure, beauty, magic.

Cookie—because I loved sweets at all meals.  Breakfast was Rice Krispies and milk, sprinkled with sugar.  Lunch, white bread and butter with brown sugar smeared on both sides of the bread.  Dinner ended with dessert, often my mom or grandmother’s baked sugar cookies dotted with raisins or chocolate chips.  The only kitchen time I enjoyed (and still enjoy) is baking.

Dada—because my dad was a looming figure from toddler-hood through my sixty-five years.  His arms had hands that could lift me above his head or slap me hard.  He had the will to shovel snow off roofs, push lawn rollers over bumps and gopher holes.  His determination was hardened by his childhood poverty and his service in the Army burial corps arriving in Normandy on D-Day plus 2.


Sunday, July 12, 2015


Remains (From a prompt in Writers’ Digest July/August 2015)

I ate it—but not all of it.  It was terrible.  That’s what happens when I am hungry and tired.  My standard for edible food collapses like a wall of sand. 

The cheese crisp was not crisp.  It was cold and tasteless.  I think the cook threw two handfuls of grated cheese on a floppy tortilla and sent it out to the server.  I sat there at the restaurant table smoldering from stuffed frustration and envy.  The kid’s plate across from me looked divine and she was devouring it with gusto: a juicy hamburger on a toasted bun with pickles, lettuce and a side of fries.

The next day, I salvaged the remains of my meal.  I sliced a fresh red pepper and patterned the slender pieces on top of the crisp, sprinkling it with parsley and drizzling garlic-seasoned olive oil on the tortilla.  I placed the tortilla on foil and baked it at 325 degrees in the oven for seven minutes. 

It came out with edges lightly browned and bubbling cheese and toppings.  The peppers were sweet with a touch of garlic and juicy.

Sometimes the remains of a disappointing entrĂ©e can be resurrected into a tasty treat.  On its second do-over, I ate it all.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mommy, I don't like this

1.      Cookie Rescue

Mommy, I don’t like this (prompt from WritersDigest May/June 2015)

“Mommy, I don’t like this.”  Riley squirmed in her back car seat and threw the blueberry popsicle to the floor.  Diane, harried with rush hour traffic, glanced through the rear view mirror at her frowning daughter.

“Okay, honey.  We’ll be home soon and I’ll fix mac n’ cheese for you. Okay?”

No, it was not okay.  Riley let out a frustrated howl.  Diane, her tense stomach tightening, turned around. As she did, her car slammed into a cab stopped at the light. 

Minutes later, Riley was screaming and Diane was tapping 911 into her phone.  The cab driver came out of his dented cab, carrying an open bag of Oreo cookies.  Approaching Diane’s rolled down window he waved the cookies toward her crying toddler.  “Betcha, she’d like a cookie, huh?”

Diane said a quick prayer of thanks and nodded with a tired smile at her new best friend, Shelley, the cab driver.

“Here, honey.” She cooed as she moved from her seat to undo Riley’s seat belt and pick her up with a hug.  “Look at this yummy treat.”

Riley sucked in her last sob and held out her sticky hands for the cookie.

“Oh, Mommy, I like this.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Keeping the Red Nose Day message alive

Although the official Red Nose Day has come and gone (5/21), I was so touched by many of the stories shared on the telethon that I see merit in keeping its message alive.  Whether it was the family in Chicago going to the local food pantry, or the orphan on the streets (interviewed by actor/comedian Jack Black) in Africa, the sight of children hungry, sick, lost and alone breaks my heart.

Maybe it is my Grandmother Dice's voice in my head reminding me to think about others who have less than I have; or my Grandad Dice's admonition when we left their farmhouse home after our frequent visits: "if you can't be great, be good."

I think I gave up trying to be great after college.  In the early 1970s, my focus was on just trying to find a place (somewhere warmer than northern Illinois) where I could plant my own roots and thrive.  Unexpectedly, Tucson became that place.  And, in addition to establishing my life (home, family, career) here, it's the center of the community work I continue to be "called" to do. 

But I live in a broader world, too.  So while I contribute as a volunteer and donor to local causes, I also am open to those that touch my heart. does that for me right now.  And maybe you will open your heart to their message, also.  We need to take better care of our children, however we can.  Even a hug today to a child in your life will make a difference.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tracyville: International Day of Happiness Recap

One of the examples of how Tucson connects and makes us "parts" bigger and greater as a "whole."

Tracyville: International Day of Happiness Recap: Above are a few of my sweet reminders of Tucson's International Day of Happiness last Friday. It was a lovely day chock full of gre...