Ain’t There No Decency Left?

Today’s issue of The On-The-Other-Hand News comes to you via David Brooks’ article in The New York Times from Friday, August 2, 2019. Its title is: “Marianne Williamson Knows How to Beat Trump”

It is, perhaps, disingenuous to use a lyric from Mama Morton’s song “Class” in the musical Chicago when addressing the insidious narcissism of our time, but perhaps it is not. Class is one of those ‘isms’ we’ve learned to sniff out as a less-than-optimal perception, and indeed, it is.

Decency, however, is a different story.

It took me three definitions deep in the OED to get to this one:

“In accordance with or satisfying the general standard of propriety or good taste, in conduct, speech, or action; esp. conformable to or satisfying the recognized standard of modesty or delicacy; free from obscenity.”

This, of course, presumes that someone, anyone, knows what a ‘general standard of propriety or good taste’ is. I submit to you that, actually, we all know what that is. It cuts across cultural and racial divides, socio-economic strata, and religious variance.

This is not the first time a morally-corrupt leader has attempted a coup over a polyglot nation like ours, nor will it be the last, but instead of the helpless, hopeless, heartless posture many of us are taking in the face of the corruption, we can, instead, do something to change it.

Ain’t there no decency left?

I think there is. At the moment, it isn’t on the national stage, but it could be, if we all started to do the right thing. By that I mean, the thing—whatever it is—dictated by conscience and common sense. When I treat others in the way I’d like to be treated, the whole world is a better place.

If it weren’t just me, waging my one-woman campaign for decency, and instead, there were individuals across this fair nation doing the same things right where they are, it wouldn’t take long for a tidal wave of decency to mow down the moral corruption.

The devastating issue here is not the moral corruption, Beloved. Oh no, although that’s tough enough. Instead, the issue that is breaking hearts all over this country is the disregard for one another that is fueling the hatred that, in turn, fuels the corruption.

Hatred has within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Haters may be gonna hate, but we, despite our disengagement and apathy and political burn-out, must take a stand for the right thing.

The sentence of David Brooks’ article that brought me to a complete standstill was: “We are all subtly corrupted while this guy is our leader.” Given the metaphysical basis of my personal life philosophy, I have known this, but it was utterly chilling to read such classical metaphysics in the pages of The New York Times. The Times is not avant garde, ergo if you read it in The Times, you know it’s been around for a while.

How do we recognize, isolate, and name this corruption for what it is?

We make the decent choice. Over and over and over and over again, till decency becomes the norm again in our culture. We go the extra mile. We pick up another piece of litter. We pray for those we love to hate. We recognize that we are, like it or not, touched by the people who are our leaders, and we work to change their influence if we don’t like it.

I agree with Mr. Brooks. Marianne Williamson does know how to defeat the Toddler-in-Chief. What I want to know is who is going to be smart enough to take a page out of her thoroughly unorthodox book and rewrite the fundamental story of our nation?

Until a political leader comes forward with that as her/his agenda, we must do it ourselves, one interaction at a time.

Let me remind you of the decency values against which we can measure our every thought, word and deed. Mr. Brooks lists them as Unity, Honesty, Pluralism, Sympathy, and Opportunity.

He finishes with, “Trump has put himself on the wrong side of all these values. So Democrats, [I’d add Republicans, Independents, Greens, et al] go ahead and promote your plans. But also lead an uprising of decency. There must be one Democrat who, in word and deed, can do that.”

What we must look for now is a leader who is, first, thinking these thoughts. Thoughts will lead to the words and deeds so critically needed to right our morally wrong-headed course.


Marianne Williamson Knows How to Beat Trump

We need an uprising of decency.

By David Brooks

Opinion Columnist

Aug. 1, 2019

If only …

If only Donald Trump were not president, we could have an interesting debate over whether private health insurance should be illegal. If only Trump were not president, we could have an interesting debate over who was softest on crime in the 1990s. If only Trump were not president, we could have a nice argument about the pros and cons of NAFTA.

But Trump is president, and this election is not about those things. This election is about who we are as a people, our national character. This election is about the moral atmosphere in which we raise our children.

Trump is a cultural revolutionary, not a policy revolutionary. He operates and is subtly changing America at a much deeper level. He’s operating at the level of dominance and submission, at the level of the person where fear stalks and contempt emerges.

He’s redefining what you can say and how a leader can act. He’s reasserting an old version of what sort of masculinity deserves to be followed and obeyed. In Freudian terms, he’s operating on the level of the id. In Thomistic terms, he is instigating a degradation of America’s soul.

We are all subtly corrupted while this guy is our leader. And throughout this campaign he will make himself and his values the center of conversation. Every day he will stage a little drama that is meant to redefine who we are, what values we lift up and who we hate.

The Democrats have not risen to the largeness of this moment. They don’t know how to speak on this level. They don’t even have the language to articulate what Trump represents and what needs to be done.

Part of the problem is that the two leading Democratic idea generators are both materialistic wonks. Elizabeth Warren is a social scientist from Harvard Law School who has a plan for everything — except the central subject of this election, which is cultural and moral. Bernie Sanders has been a dialectical materialist all his life and is incapable of adjusting his economics-dominated mind-set.

They are what Michael Dukakis would be if he emerged in an era when the party had swung left. This model has always had appeal to a certain sort of well-educated Democrat.

The bigger problem is simply the culture of the Democratic Party. The modern version of the party emerged during the Great Depression to solve one problem: material want. It is a secular party, trapped in a Lockean prison: Politics should be separate from faith. Politics should be separate from soulcraft. Democrats believe they can win votes by offering members of different groups economic benefits and are perpetually shocked when they lose those voters.

It is no accident that the Democratic candidate with the best grasp of this election is the one running a spiritual crusade, not an economic redistribution effort. Many of her ideas are wackadoodle, but Marianne Williamson is right about this: “This is part of the dark underbelly of American society: the racism, the bigotry and the entire conversation that we’re having here tonight. If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.”

And she is right about this: “We’ve never dealt with a figure like this in American history before. This man, our president, is not just a politician; he’s a phenomenon. And an insider political game will not be able to defeat it. … The only thing that will defeat him is if we have a phenomenon of equal force, and that phenomenon is a moral uprising of the American people.”

They are unready for it, but it falls on the Democrats to rebuild the moral infrastructure of our country. That does not mean standing up and saying, “Donald Trump is a racist!” 500 times a day. It means reminding Americans of the values we still share, and the damage done when people are not held accountable for trampling on them. The values are pretty basic and can be simply expressed:

Unity: We’re one people. Our leader represents all the people. He doesn’t go around attacking whole cities and regions.

Honesty: We can’t have deliberative democracy without respect for the truth. None of us want congenital liars in our homes or our workplaces.

Pluralism: Human difference makes life richer and more interesting. We treasure members of all races and faiths for what they bring to the mosaic.

Sympathy: We want to be around people with good hearts, who feel for those who are suffering, who are faithful friends, whose daily lives are marked by kindness.

Opportunity: We want all children to have an open field and a fair chance in the great race of life.

Trump has put himself on the wrong side of all these values. So Democrats, go ahead and promote your plans. But also lead an uprising of decency. There must be one Democrat who, in word and deed, can do that.

Haters May Be Gonna ... You Know the Rest, But What Can the Rest of Us Do to Heal it?

Today’s issue of The On-The-Other-Hand News comes to you via author Frank Bruni’s Opinion piece  in The New York Times Sunday Review from August 11, 2019 and the follow-up Letters to the Editor in The New York Times from August 14, 2019. The title of the article is: “Hate is So Much Bigger Than Trump.”


Frank Bruni, I love you. It takes a man of immeasurable courage to write a piece like this one; it takes even more courage not to retaliate against those who have arrayed themselves against you, and you didn’t. I’m so glad your mama was proud of you, but she’s not alone—there are plenty of us who stand with you. On the days when you’re feeling all alone, or scared about your eye, remember the myriad, varied hearts you have touched with your words and your courage. Rest assured, sir, that we remember you. 

That said—because it had to be—Frank Bruni’s Opinion piece on hate is quite literally terrifying. Haters, no matter what you or I do, are gonna hate. They are, and it’s no use putting our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich. Hate ... is. 

And whether it’s Mr. Bruni who’s a type, or RuPaul who’s a type, or my high femme self with the trans husband who’s a type, or any other type you can name, typing anyone strips that sacred being into a singularity out of the divinely created complexity that is a human being. How dare someone do this?! How dare they? How would they feel if someone did it to them? 

Well, one of the reasons they dare is because hate is getting louder and louder in our civilization. Because it has explicit permission. 

Hate is also getting easier and easier in our civilization. Because of our wretched, technology-fueled disconnection. 

Hate is also, as Mr. Bruni, so beautifully wrote paraphrasing the elegant Emily Dickinson, “Well, hate is the thing with tentacles. It holds people tight and refuses to let go.”  

What about the rest of us? The readers who wrote to Mr. Bruni supporting him and claiming him as a teacher? Those of us who do what we can not to hate? What can we do to heal it? Anything? 

I had a boyfriend years ago who was determined to wean himself and everyone else from using the word hate. Every time someone said, “Dontcha just hate that?” which was common parlance for the time, he said, “Ouch.” No matter who was talking. Public. Private. Strangers. Friends. Sermons. Speeches. Celebrities. It was a one-man anti-hate campaign. 

That’s one thing we can do. Tell the truth about hate. 

Hate, as a concept, let alone in speech ought to make us feel ouch. It’s not so much farther a step to say it aloud. What we’re saying is Ouch. Hate hurts all of us. And for as long as we are bearing witness to hate, and not challenging it for all we’re worth, we’re implicitly condoning it. 

We need to switch implicit to explicit—to match the permission that’s already been granted from the White House on downward. 

The next time you hear someone speak of hate, stop them, and tell them it’s hurting them—and you. Ouch. 

There’s more. 

For those whose hate masquerades as any of a dozen  -isms, speak up. Shall I name them? Racism, Classicism, Sexism, Genderism, Agism, Ableism, Religionism, Nationalism, Patriotism, Economic Disparity-ism. Discriminations all. Remember after 9/11? If you see something, say something?  

Well, if you witness hate masquerading in  -ism clothing, you don’t have to start a war, but you can ask quietly, “Am I understanding you? Are you speaking hate into our world? Ouch.” 

Don’t get into it. Plant a seed. Pray for that person. Pray for all haters. They need it, and so do we. The reason is so that we can remain as strong, as brave, as solid as Frank Bruni. When we don’t address the hate around us, we turn ourselves into haters. 

And, explicitly or implicitly, we certainly don’t want that, now do we?



Hate Is So Much Bigger Than Trump

Just look at history. Or at my inbox.

By Frank Bruni

Opinion Columnist                                                                                                                                   Aug. 10, 2019

Some of the country’s most knowledgeable physicians can’t tell me with any certitude why I ended up losing sight in my right eye and am in danger of going blind, but one of my column’s readers figured it out. It’s because I’m gay.

“You have openly discussed your homosexuality,” he emailed me two weeks ago, and, perhaps to his credit, he attached his name, which enabled me to determine that he’s not a fundamentalist preacher from a deep-red state but an engineer living in the New York City suburbs. “That is why God could not help you. You were living in flagrant violation of his Law.”

That email was especially mean but otherwise routine. Just a week earlier, a woman who teaches at a college in Manhattan wrote: “Is it really true that you are a homosexual? I hope not. Columns written by homosexuals inevitably have their own homosexual agenda and viewpoints and cannot be read with the belief that they are impartial. I do hope that the rumors about you are not true.”

Rumors? They’re facts, though she has obviously encountered them in corners of the internet where being gay is regarded as a prompt for secrecy and a source of shame. There are many such corners, and they have plenty of denizens.

In movies, songs and greeting cards, I’m always hearing or seeing that love is forever and that it conquers all. Well, hate may be even more durable, and it has the muscle to fight love to a draw.

My inbox is proof of that; the evidence stretches back decades. And I’m talking in this case not about irate and sometimes foul-mouthed readers who dislike my opinions. All columnists encounter that, and given the privilege of our megaphones, we should. I’m talking about readers who detest the very fact of me, who I am, independent of any person or issue I lift up or tear down.

They’re strangers. They’ve never met me, never taken the measure of my generosity, kindness, loyalty or lack thereof. For them I exist in a category, as a type. That type is all they see, and that type is contemptible.

This is the kind of hate that President Trump counts and draws on, the kind of hate that motivated the gunmen in El Paso, Pittsburgh and too many other places. But we’re having a discussion too limited — and indulging a mind-set woefully naïve — when we make those massacres principally about him. He’s a gardener tilling soil that’s all too fertile.

It was there before him. It will be there after. And while gentler words from the White House and a better president may affect how much grows in it and how tall, the ugliness will always take root and always flower.

If you live in a certain category — black, brown, Jew, Muslim, gay, trans — you know this, and you experience events like those of the past week not just as chilling reflections of the political moment but as sad testaments to human nature. You register some of our gauziest bromides as well-intentioned delusions:

If only every white American knew and interacted with more black Americans. If only every straight person was aware and took stock of his or her gay relatives and friends. If only there were more mingling of Christians and Jews, of Jews and Muslims. If only the right leaders and the right thinking could reach and teach more people. If only, if only, if only.

Well, some people are beyond reaching and teaching. Some are hardened, not softened, by exposure to diversity. As best I can tell, a few of these gunmen were plenty exposed. It didn’t dim their righteousness or dissuade them of their rightness.

It’s easy to lose sight of this, to focus instead on the hearts and minds that have been changed, on the progress that can be made. I’ve been surprised and moved by the arc of L.G.B.T. Americans over my lifetime: I’m inexpressibly grateful for it. According to a recent poll, 63 percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage.

But that leaves 37 percent who don’t. And while most of them are above the age of 50, some are below 30 and — for whatever tangle of religious, cultural and psychological reasons — cannot bear the likes of me. They will be around for decades to come. So will their hate.

I note this to ward off complacency, which kicked in to some degree under our previous president. Barack Obama’s election told a narrative different from Trump’s. He symbolized the possibility of hatred’s ebb. But it was biding its time, waiting its turn. It always does.

That’s not to say that we should give in or get used to it. No, precisely because of its awesome stubbornness, we must do all we can to prevent its unleashing and weaponization. We must change overly permissive gun laws, take on a largely unregulated internet, push back at a public dialogue that abets the most destructive tribalism. We must punish acts of hate fiercely, not just to declare our values but also to make the haters think twice and to keep them in my inbox, armed with only words, and not in your child’s high school, armed with an assault rifle.

Meantime those of us who are hated will figure out how to muddle through, with what measures of wariness versus openness, bitterness versus grace. I wrote an email back to the professor, saying that if she had a problem with my homosexuality, she could and should stop reading me. Of course that didn’t shut her up.

“I will pray for you and may God forgive you,” she responded. “A life of perversion can be no fun, and the hereafter is sure to be disastrous. I will also pray for your mother. It must be awful to have a homosexual son.”

My mother died almost 23 years ago, after a long and hard-fought battle with cancer. She knew I was gay and took no less comfort from me because of it. She loved me no less. I didn’t tell the professor that. Instead I informed her that I was activating my spam filter and would never again see an email from her.

A colleague suggested that I report her to her school’s administration, because she must have L.G.B.T. students. I won’t. If her bigotry was a force in the classroom, her students would most likely pick up on that and rightly complain. Otherwise, I’m not the thought police. She didn’t do anything to me. And I don’t know her personal story: what demons she harbors, and why. If I did, I might feel more sympathy than anything else for her. The same goes for the God-fearing engineer, whose name, like hers, I’ll keep to myself.

The two of them are a reminder that hate has no particular profession, no education level, no ZIP code. Its sprawl is as demoralizing as its staying power. Emily Dickinson wrote, gorgeously, that “hope is the thing with feathers.” Well, hate is the thing with tentacles. It holds people tight and refuses to let go.




Words of Gratitude and Comfort for Frank Bruni

Readers offer support to the Times columnist after reading about his eye disease and the hate letters he has received. Also: Endangered species; the Democrats’ progressive “squad.”

Aug. 13, 2019

To the Editor:

Re “Hate Is So Much Bigger Than Trump” (Aug. 11):

Reading Frank Bruni’s column was painful. The engineer who presumes to diagnose Mr. Bruni’s eye disease as being the result of his sexual orientation or the college teacher who contends that because of Mr. Bruni’s homosexuality his columns “cannot be read with the belief that they are impartial” are clouding hate in the verbiage of religiosity and holy concern.

I am a straight 65-year-old man who will continue to read and learn from Mr. Bruni’s columns. They are informative and enlightening, and I look forward to seeing them in The Times.

I consider Mr. Bruni to be one of my teachers, and I am grateful to have him in my life.

Ben Miles
Huntington Beach, Calif.

To the Editor:

I was so saddened to read about Frank Bruni’s worsening eye condition, and the response by a reader who can so smugly, so callously pass judgment on him. I appreciate his making public this hatefulness directed toward him as I think it accurately reflects the ongoing fight for dignity for the L.G.B.T.+ community and, more generally, all minorities.

Mr. Bruni, my prayers are with you as you face the challenges ahead.

Jim Langford
Arlington, Tex.

To the Editor:

Regarding Frank Bruni’s excellent column, I am reminded of the words of Tom Lehrer, the brilliant musical satirist, introducing a song for National Brotherhood Week in the 1960s. He made a paradoxical pronouncement that I think many of us share in the Age of Trump: “I know there are people in the world who do not love their fellow human beings, and I hate people like that.”

Bruce Sheiman
New York

The Spire in the Fire: Why did Notre-Dame burn?

When my husband told me Notre-Dame was burning, I was sitting in meditation at my usual jigsaw puzzle, my back to the room. I began to pray. The essay below is a new analysis of the news.

Why did the fire happen at Notre-Dame?

Fire insurance investigators will come up with their own explanation of what happened at Notre-Dame. What nags at me is: what is the spiritual symbolism of the fire?

Fire itself is a symbol of the Holy Spirit in Christian parlance, the Shekinah in Jewish thought, Spirit in neo-religious movements. The purpose of fire is always transformation. Usually, big transformation, fast transformation.

Notre-Dame, as its name proclaims, is a monument to Our Lady. Its looming presence in Paris signifies to millions of people the blessing of The Blessed Virgin Mary on the cathedral and its church, on the city and its people.

The attic and the spire burned. As they are restored, they will be transformed. The spire is an architectural representation of humanity reaching up to a Transcendent God, the deity that is always bigger than our troubles.

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame is a high-profile, worldwide symbol of the Catholic Church. It doesn’t take a feminist to realize the phallic nature of the spire. What better image for the patriarchal hierarchy of Catholicism?

Decades-long sexual scandals have plagued the male priesthood of Catholicism. They continue to this day. What Our Lady did was burn away, or, if you like, transform that symbol of church power.

She left her cathedral smoking, but intact, after she blew the roof off the secrecy, the obfuscation, and the dissembling of disingenuous bishops, cardinals, and pontiffs many of whom, to date, have proved far more interested in preserving their institutional powerbase than in cleaning house.

Our Lady, tired of the game, cleaned house.

Paris reacted like it was wartime, and all political posturing ceased. President Macron, whatever his motives, attempted to call out the best in us in the same way then-New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani did after 9/11. In a national television address, he said, “I believe very deeply that it is up to us to transform this catastrophe into a moment to become better than what we are. ... It is up to us now to rediscover ... what made us, what unites us.”

Harking back to 9/11/01, when I lived less than a mile away from the Towers, I remember a softer, kinder, more united New York than I’d experienced in many a year. We helped one another unstintingly. We were transformed out of our cynicism into our humanity—all in it together.

This is what Paris will do. This is what the world will do to rebuild the glory of Notre-Dame. We will unite. We will unite because that is what humanity does when there is gaping need. It’s the right thing to do.

There remains an aching question: Will the Church heed Our Lady’s—and their Lady’s—message, and allow itself to be transformed? It’s the right thing to do.

Let us pray that they will.


For more essays like this one, I am pleased to say that you will be invited to a new platform in the coming weeks. SFC

Christmas at Cupcake Manor 2018

Our Christmas is slightly altered this year due to the presence of a new, and thrilling, being. Her name is Smooch, and she turned one on November 25th, the day I finished the Mex Mysteries’   ninth novel, Rent Rx. Essentially, this means we are eschewing my antique ornaments to preserve their lives, and have switched to petroleum-based gewgaws, whilst our wee beastie learns what’s hers and what isn’t. I can hear you thinking, You know this is a cat, right?

She calls this: What Cat on the Newel Post?

She calls this: What Cat on the Newel Post?

Welcome to Christmas at Cupcake Manor!


The Arts & Crafts Fixture in the Foyer ...

Yes, the baubles go all the way around …

Yes, the baubles go all the way around …

Let’s go upstairs to the Retreat Apartment ...

two bedrooms for two, a common area, a loo ...

Poinsettias on the writing table in the common area ...

Poinsettias on the writing table in the common area ...

Antique lights in each bedroom ...


Holly garlands in each bedroom ...


Loo garni ...

Kitten in a tube in the foyer …

Kitten in a tube in the foyer …

Cat Real Estate a.k.a. The Kitty Condo


There are more since we took this picture ...


No such thing as Christmas without mistletoe ...


We elevated as much as we could this year for You-Know-Who ...



We decided we at least had to have the smell of a real tree ...


Stockings ... we had a little giftie in the smallest one for Smooch,

but it must have been treated with catnip ...

the moment we put it up, she was ON IT


This is the [medium] pink glitter tree that lives in my office year-round ...


This is the tiny one from the bedroom ...


And this is a picture of a cat in the snow ...

under the BIG pink Christmas Tree


The little white paper heart is handmade by our friends Kim & Jess

and here is the tree fully decorated ...


This is the plain chandelier from my writing studio ...


This is the Advent Calendar hanging on the fridge ...


There’s a cat on the Christmas puzzle.

Smooch calls this: What cat? What Christmas puzzle?

Smooch calls this: What cat? What Christmas puzzle?

The garland in the kitchen chandelier ...


Smooch decided to help me wrap presents ....

“Dontcha just love Christmas, Mommy?”  I do, Smooch, I really do.

“Dontcha just love Christmas, Mommy?”

I do, Smooch, I really do.

The happiest, the merriest, the brightest


for you and yours,


We Three at Cupcake Manor


P. S. If you haven’t yet planned your retreat for 2019,

may we encourage you to choose your dates?

Christmas at Cupcake Manor

It’s Christmas at Cupcake Manor—is it ever! The elves have seen to it that there’s Christmas in every room of the house. Here are some photos to enjoy with us in this Season of Light.

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Let’s start in the kitchen where we hung the ornament our friends Aren and Mary Ann gave us. The coolest thing was that other friends had one and were we envious only to receive one of very our without even “asking!” Here’s the close-up:

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Let’s stay in the kitchen ...

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There are always flowers by the sink in the kitchen—usually carnations in various colors because they last so long, but we found this baby poinsettia at Lowe’s and couldn’t resist. It’s right under the print I bought of mother and daughter cows right after my mom died. I didn’t realize how the reds would welcome each other till after we got the plant home.

Christmas isn’t Christmas without Christmas cookies, and Tony is an excellent baker. Look at these Chocolate Lace Cookies!

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The coolest thing is that Tony encouraged me to find my mother’s Christmas cookie recipes, and this is one of them. My brother Frank and sister-in-law Shawn kindly scanned and sent the ones they had. The cookies are exactly as I remembered, and Tony says they’re not complicated at all. What a magical way to include my long-gone Mama in this holiday. I never would have even attempted these myself.

Now we’re leaving the kitchen for my office [formerly known as the dining room] ...

I always have a Mary Engelbreit calendar on a door in my office. Her illustrations make me smile whenever I see them. We all need whimsy in our world. This year’s even gives some good advice.

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Indeed, no matter what is going on in your world or the world, Be Merry! Be Bright! Be Happy! One of the greatest travesties of our time is that so few of us know we can actually choose to be happy. That it’s as simple as a choice. Happiness is an inside job, darlings.

Now let’s go to the chandelier ... and if you want an explanation of how I came to have this ab fab specimen of tacky chandelier, read on till the very sweet end of this post.

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So yes, this is really as ab fab a chandelier as you think it is, and we decided it needed a little dressing up for the holy-days so here’s a Cornucopia Ornament. Our cup truly runneth over this Christmas ...

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We are, of course, having a Very High Femme Christmas, so there is an ornament celebrating all things femme ... on the chandelier ... where else? Over the top? What top?

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And here is our nod to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow .... To quote an anonymous someone, “I am so over the rainbow,” but I, delightfully so, am not. I love rainbows ... there is some representation of a rainbow in every space of Cupcake Manor. And the pot of gold is just a side effect!

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Here is the Valentine Lovers ornament for the power of new love and romance in our lives and in the world ... also in residence on the chandelier ... and finally ...

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The Peace Dove Ornament reminding us that this is the true desire of every heart here on the planet whether that heart knows it consciously or not. And no, we don’t mean peace as a static bubble wherein nothing happens; we mean the living, breathing, dynamic, ever-evolving peace that touches and heals everyone. No exceptions.

My desk isn’t quite under the chandelier, but blessedly close, and so in the place where I normally have a single stem of flowers, I’ve put a heart-warming gift from my friend Nikki that she gave me because it’s from my all-time favorite movie;

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Every year when I unpack this snow globe, I bless Nikki and her family for understanding so well what this meant to me when she gifted me with it the year Christmas seemed so far, far away..

In the corner of my office at Cupcake Manor is a “fireplace,” and no, those are not air quotes, they’re real quotes. I wanted a fireplace installed in the house so I went up Route 28 to get a price and about passed out when they told me what it could cost.

Fast forward to Lowe’s a week or so later ... well, believe it or not, Lowe’s had a space heater that looked exactly like a fireplace down to the glowing embers and leaping flames, and truth? I just asked a sound wizard friend if he’d get me an mp3 of the Yule Log—audio only—so I can burn it to a CD and play it behind my “fireplace,” and have the sound of crackling as well as the visual! Besides, I had a store credit at Lowe’s so it cost me exactly zero dollars. Merry Christmas to me last year.

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Anyway, we always had Christmas stockings when I was a kid, and I wanted stockings for us so when I had some extra Amex Points, I ordered these ...

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They’re soft, they’re fuzzy, and some enterprising Christmas retailer had sent me stocking holders for a mantle, so here they hang ...

Now we enter the Extraordinarily Pink Living Room, but first there’s a pause which should need little explanation under the arch of the soaring round Arts & Crafts columns.

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We learned this week that mistletoe is a parasite [slightly disheartening] but we prefer its Christmas mythology. Smooch away, darlings, we won’t peek ... unless you're kissing Santa Claus.

It used to be that I’d get lots of Christmas cards but they seem to be going the way of the endangered species these days. However ...

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This is the first Christmas card we received addressed to both of us, just as you see it in the picture, and it tickled us no end. Not to mention the powerful message our friends chose: Be the Joy you wish to see in the World. We hung it on one of the columns into the living room, envelope and all.

Of course, where cut flowers usually go, more poinsettias showed up.

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As if poinsettias aren’t over the top enough ... juxtaposed with this Hollywood Regency [read: Liberace] lamp, they’re perfectly poised.

Oh, I almost forgot ... what’s Christmas without carols?

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You should know that our SONOS has most excellent sound quality, and surround sound all over the house at the touch of an app. We spent some of yesterday immersed in Dona Nobis Pacem, a Latin chant for Grant Us Peace to decide which version we liked best for a novel I’m writing that includes a Christmas Concert.

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Moving deosil into the living room, we used my favorite glass bowl of my grandmother’s and filled it with small ornaments—it’s so happy, even just to look at it, isn’t it?! And they’re plastic so they won’t break. The red trunk on which it sits is the last antique my mother and I ever bought together—it usually holds all my precious glass Christmas ornaments.

We have an odd crèche this year. We couldn’t figure out how to hang the ornaments on the tree together so we used the window hangers, left to right: Camel, 3 Wise Guys; Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and The Star; and assorted Shepherds avec sheep.

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Most of you who know me know that I use jigsaw puzzles as my preferred form of meditation. This year my favorite puzzle company, White Mountain Puzzles, had some GORGEOUS ones.

I started with the Wreath Puzzle (550 pieces) and am amidst this Christmas Nostalgia one. They’re beautiful, and beautifully made as well.

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And now for the pièce de resistance, Ta-DA!

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Our Tree

The neatest thing about this tree, for me, is that we broke my family’s childhood rule which was that we put up the tree Christmas Eve, and we took it down New Year’s Day. Instead, we got ours the week after Thanksgiving, and it will stay up till Epiphany! Excitement doesn’t begin to cover it for me. Also, we took our time decorating it: four days, to be exact. One day to get it and settle it in the stand, one day for lights, one day for ornaments, and one day for tinsel. Every single bit of decorating it was sheer joy. No pressure, lots of fun, no one got drunk, no one argued. Perfect. And she smells divine!

And if you look carefully at the photo, you’ll see a sneak peek at where we’re going: The Foyer. Let’s start with the front door.

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Those of you who were here for summer retreat or QueerMoNaNoWriMo will recognize the signature colors of Cupcake Manor—pink, yellow, green (sans purple this time)—and the glittery wreath makes them stand out even more. For inquiring minds who want to know, no, the roof isn’t done—and won’t be till spring—yes, it’s pink. Yes, that pink.

Yesterday very kindly delivered snow all day, so the bushes out front were a Winter Wonderland this morning. Look ... they look like [spiky] frosted cupcakes to me!

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Truly, better than they look without snow! And yes, we know the porch furniture needs to winter inside, we just haven’t gotten to it yet.

Back inside ...

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Here’s a wee giftie for the lovely, attentive crew at Lux, the Aveda Salon where I get my hair done in Saugerties. They are an amazingly talented crew, and sweet as can be. Julia’s in the team photo sitting on the left; if you need a hair pick-me-up, I can personally recommend her, and the rest of the team, by observation, is stellar as well.

I’ll skip the stairs up to the guest rooms for now, and show you this phenomenal Arboricola that was given to me by my students Christy and Len as a housewarming gift. This plant has bloomed since I got it. The secret is to keep it outside in temperate weather.

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Displaying her Christmas finery ...

And now, up the stairs we go, guided by two more poinsettias ...

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These old stairs turn after three steps up to a landing, and then ascend another ten. For some reason, lots of old staircases have thirteen steps. Who knew? Anyway, these are battle-scarred and creaky as all get out but they lead to private guest quarters in Cupcake Manor, where we host Air BnB guests, and house all our retreatants. And friends!

The front bedroom has a simple garland over the two windows ...

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As does the back ...

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The common area displays our special snowflakes hanging on the amber grapes carnival glass pitcher ...

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And a little stocking in the loo ...

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Now come back down the stairs with me, and let’s sashay through the living room, my office, and back into the kitchen. Most of the windows in Cupcake Manor are original but the two in the kitchen are not. I expressed a wish, somewhat wistfully, this morning that the screens would disappear from these two windows so we could see this group of trees clearly. The amazing man in my life vanished the screens. Look at what we saw out the kitchen window:

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Gorgeous, no? Some year I want to start in the spring and take a photo of this tree group every day till it ends up like this again. It’s so beautiful, and it’s such a powerful metaphor for human life. Yes, we can go out in a blaze of glory but if we’ll wait, and be still, and be silent, the magic that is life will return us to vibrant well-being. No mistakes.

So at the back of the house are a loo ...

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Another stocking, as promised ...

The mistress’ bedroom ... here’s the college photographer in her self portrait.

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With the Christmas lights that were meant to go on what appears below, but didn’t work there so I flung them over the two sconces ...

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As if there weren’t enough pink—is there such a thing?—we saw this at Target, and walked away from it, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it or talking about it so we went back and thank God we did because they were almost gone! Papa focused the nightlight on it so she glows in the dark for me.

The last room is Padre’s office. The Three Wise Guys by Mary Engelbreit live on his door year-round. I think of him as the Fourth.

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Aren’t they dear? Whenever I forget that I’m guided in my own life, I touch this ornament like a mezuzah, a talisman, a reminder, that I too can talk directly to Her.

The Padre suggested I end this photo essay with this image. I put it there just in case he forgets I’m here [which I pretty much completely doubt could ever happen.]

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Ornamental grass with one small, pink bauble on a blue mirror table in his office. We are very grateful for one another this Christmas, and we are even more grateful for you, our families, friends, clients, customers.

If you need to make retreat this year, on your own, or with select others, or you need spiritual mentoring please think of Cupcake Manor as a place for you—where you are seen, recognized, honored, fed, renewed, and restored.

Happy! Merry! Bright!

From Cupcake Manor to you ...

P S. The explanation of why Christmas has exploded all over the house ...

This is my third Christmas at Cupcake Manor. The first one was two weeks after I closed on and moved into the house that I bought sight unseen from three thousand miles away. I ordered a few new glass ornaments from the Amazonians and had a Christmas chandelier instead of a tree. That less-than-appealing cast iron chandelier is stored somewhere in the basement because I found a new Boho one on that very Christmas Day—so tacky it’s fabulous [kinda like Christmas]—and had it installed early that next year.

The second Christmas was fun but I didn’t know anyone who could/would help me get a tree off my car and into my house and onto the stand so I had no tree again. My favorite ex-husband, Antony, came on Christmas Day to finish off his Honey Do List for me. I don’t even think we had turkey sandwiches although I did buy a fabulous wreath at that fancy French store, Target, and some garlands went up on the soaring round columns that ring my living room.

So this is the third Christmas I will have in this home and my sweet fiancé declared it a Baby Girl Christmas—we all know who the Baby Girl is in this scenario, right?  

P.P.S. I almost forgot! What do you get the one who has everything or being deeply spiritual wants no things for the holiday? Well, if you'll go to  Smashwords you will find beaucoup books by none other than moiself, to quote the illustrious Miss Piggy. The first five Mex Mysteries are alive and well as ebooks as are two prayer books on peace: Circles of Peace, and Each Day a New Day for #Innerpeace. There will be more to come in 2018.