What December 13th Means to Us

War Memorial Grotto - Providence College
War Memorial Grotto – Providence College

For the past few years, I’ve posted here and again last year about a fire. A dormitory fire at Providence College on December 13, 1977 that claimed the lives of ten young women. If, like me, you were a student at PC, or the parent of a student, a sibling, close friend, or alumnus, this event most likely has stayed with you, even 37 years later.

We remember December 13 every year, with memories as fresh and painful as they were decades earlier. December 13 is the date. Not December 12. We don’t commemorate the terrorist attacks on September 10, or remember Pearl Harbor Day on December 6.

Robin Craig Piebes (PC ’80) recalls: “When I talk to people about Providence College and what sets it apart, it’s that community. It was being taken in by girls I didn’t know that night. It was being given their clothes to wear, watching boys move cars and carry girls who had no shoes. It was the comfort a college president gave by living in the dorm with us afterwards and sending flowers every holiday. All of these things are what I have always thought of Providence to be.”

When we were students, there were so many daily Masses, you could attend a quick service between classes at this Catholic college. Today, there are Masses on Sunday and on weekdays, but no scheduled Mass on Saturday. The college chose not to hold a special service on December 13 (Saturday) this year, and that’s too bad. Because December 13 is the day we remember.


The comfort of having a friend may be taken away, but not that of having had one.

Note: The college decided to hold a memorial Mass on December 13 at 8:00am, after pleas from alumni.

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge


Are you in? Are you interested? If you blog, join me as I start my third year of Blogging from A to Z this April. Here’s a link to headquarters. You can sign up here, check out promo videos, ask questions. And if you don’t blog, then you can enjoy reading this one all through April!

In 2012, I did my first A to Z Challenge, and, while a theme isn’t necessary, I wanted one. So two years ago, I blogged about authors, poets, essayists, lyricists. What a blast – but I was exhausted, because I hadn’t planned ahead. And I had already written my début novel ( it was with my editor).

Last year, I chose travel as my theme, naming my blog “Oh! The Places I’ve Been” and I did plan. Smart girl. I’d just released my second novel, so the timing worked.

So what’s the theme this year? Well, I love travel. I love books and music. And I love food. So this year will have a culinary theme, but I don’t want to give away any more just yet. It’ll be fun, trust me! I am planning ahead, choosing my topics for each day in April (except Sundays) and even writing the blog posts ahead of time. Oh, and yes, I am working on my fifth novel, too. All in a day’s work.

No Resolutions – Five Promises for 2014

According to USA.gov, the most popular New Year’s resolutions are:

  • Drink less alcohol
  • Eat healthy food
  • Get a better education
  • Get a better job
  • Get fit
  • Lose weight
  • Manage debt
  • Manage stress
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle
  • Save money
  • Take a trip
  • Volunteer to help others

All very noteworthy. But for the most part, you’re either making these things part of your day-to-day living or you’re not. To resolve to live a healthier life or get out of debt – fine (and eliminate that debt before you take that trip!). I’m not making any specific New Year’s resolutions. I will, however, make these promises, and not just for 2014:

  • I promise never to post a picture of my hands or feet online. I don’t understand why women feel the need to show their pedicures. And since I don’t want to look at your feet, ever, you’ll never have to look at mine.
  • I promise not to post any of those “share if you agree – only 3% of you will do it” posts. You know the ones: ‘No one likes cancer, so share this post if you hate cancer. 97% of you won’t share, only those who truly hate cancer will like and share.’  Stop with the extortion! Friends don’t practice extortion. 🙂


  • I promise not to retweet anything that includes Miley Cyrus or Duck Dynasty in it. I also promise not to blog about it (except in this one instance).
  • I promise to check out a news story for its veracity before sharing it on social media. Sometimes it’s just so easy to hit that button. I read it online, so it must be true! Not.
  • And I promise to use social media for its original purpose – to connect with old friends and establish new relationships, to foster those connections, and to provide quality, positive content. Feel free to hold me to that one.

Wishing you all the warm comfort of family, friends, heat, and food. Through the bleak midwinter, we march toward longer days. HOPE is a powerful word.

Now, what about you? Resolving? Not? New beginnings for 2014?

10 Books That Have Stayed With Me


Yesterday I was asked, by a friend on Facebook, to list 10 books that really moved me. My first thought was, ‘Only 10?’ But the idea was not to overthink it, just to come up with a list of books that really made an impact. Don’t think too long about it. So I did. Here is my list:

  • The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Jody and Flag – do you remember? It was the first book that made me sob uncontrollably.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I’ve read it at least a dozen times. Each time it’s better. Harper Lee only wrote this one book, but wow. Just wow.
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I saw the movie before I read the book. The movie, starring Whoopi Goldberg, was mesmerizing. The book, inspirational.
  • The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. Published in 2009, this is the most recent book of the ten. I read it just last year, and was moved beyond words. Lamb taught me, as a writer, about the delicate balance between hope and despair.
  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. Published in 1977, I read this book in 1978, while a student abroad in Switzerland. It’s possible that every one of my classmates read the book as well, since none of us had much money, so books were passed around and shared.
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. A young writer in Paris? Well, of course it resounded with me! Paris in the 20s, beauty and innocence, and Hemingway’s style.
  • Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell. If I needed a dose of reality after the previous book, Orwell provided it. I read this one while in Europe, too, and even though I was there decades later, in totally different circumstances, Orwell’s novel of poverty and society stayed with me.
  • A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. Another instance where I saw the movie before reading the book. The movie remains one of my favorites, and the book, in Forster’s gentle writing, is lovely. I wanted to be Lucy Honeychurch!
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Required reading in high school and again in college. Decadence, excess, hypocrisy, all wrapped together in Fitzgerald’s beautiful writing.
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I don’t think I read this book until I was in my 20s. A gripping narrative about a quadruple murder in Kansas in 1959 still sends shivers down my spine.

What about you? What book or books have really stayed with you? Inspired you? Given you nightmares? 😉


New Word Wednesday


It’s the final New Word Wednesday and I’ve chosen to spotlight the word LITTORAL. No, not “literal,” although I like the way it sounds.

The “littoral zone” is the part of a body of water (sea, lake, river) that is close to the shore. The word “littoral” is used both as a noun and an adjective. It’s derived from the Latin noun litus, meaning “shore.” Synonyms include onshore, alongshore, coastal, and shoreside.

Rhode Island is known as The Ocean State, smallest in area and second most densely populated (New Jersey is first). It’s okay, though, there’s room for you to visit!

Rhode Island’s beaches line the 384 miles of tidal shoreline across the Narragansett Bay. We are, indeed, quite littoral.

New Word Wednesday – pangram


It’s new word Wednesday! We’ve had macarism and enallage, both excellent new words (new for me, anyway).

Today the word is pangram. At first glance, I thought I’d seen that word on the menu at my favorite Asian restaurant. But no.

The word “pangram” is derived, once again, from the Greeks (παν γράμμα), and means “every letter.” A pangram uses every letter of a given alphabet at least once.

We had an old IBM Selectric typewriter at home when my sisters and I were teenagers. My dad had brought it home from the office one day, and it was there for us to use when writing term papers and book reports. I can recall sitting in front of that typewriter, typing with my two index fingers (I’m not much better now), and my mom taught me that the sentence “THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPS OVER THE LAZY DOG” uses all 26 letters of the alphabet. She didn’t call it a pangram, although it wouldn’t have surprised me if she knew the term (my mom was very smart). So, here are some more pangrams. Use them to dazzle your colleagues and friends at cocktail parties.

Fox nymphs grab quick-jived waltz.

Quick zephyrs blow, vexing daft Jim.

Two driven jocks help fax my big quiz.

And for our French and Spanish-speaking friends:

Portez ce vieux whisky au juge blond qui fume

El veloz murciélago hindú comía feliz cardillo y kiwi. La cigüeña tocaba el saxofón detrás del palenque de paja.

Your Day of Rest


How do you de-stress? Do you de-stress? Or is your life so full, so busy, so frantic, that you never seem to have the time to stop and rest?

Some people view leisure as weakness – the person who deigns to take a day off is flawed, and has no chance of ever getting ahead in life. But with so many of us plugged in 24/7, taking time off is more important than ever. Former Washington Post writer William Powers and his family chose to unplug from devices each weekend to create a kind of Digital Sabbath.

He called what they were experiencing the “screen state of mind,” with a short attention span and a goal-directed, “search and destroy” way of living. Living link to link. They grew accustomed to the instant quality of living that way. And while having this technology may be more efficient, and miraculous, there is an element that is different from being in the real world. You don’t experience the depth you have with human interaction! There is no sense of community. Powers said that flitting from screen to screen can be drug like and addictive. Sometimes, marriages and families suffer because one member can’t pull themselves away from the screen. So Powers and his family started having a Digital Sabbath.

Do you need instant access to knowledge? Instant communication? We pay a high price. Just take a look around next time you’re in a restaurant – I’ve witnessed two parents and two children sitting at a table, all of them staring down at their phones. A couple out on a date, then his phone rings, and she sits there for minutes while he carries on a conversation that most likely wasn’t all that necessary. I mean, we’re not all that important. No really, we’re not!

Whatever your Sabbath is, one day of rest, out of seven, isn’t asking too much. The same way your body craves sleep, taking a day to rest – to meditate, pray, contemplate – is rejuvenating, restorative. I know, try telling that to your teenager. But they need it even more!

Could you unplug for the weekend? For a day? Could you try it just for dinner?

God created humankind to be connected with each other. While you’re focused on your handheld device, you might miss the love shining in your child’s eyes, the warmth reflected in your partner’s smile, the wistful longing as your parent remembers, or the pure joy of being in the company of friends.