Sunday, January 14, 2018

Defining Moment?

This was the message on C's phone!

I was in center city early yesterday afternoon, in line at Starbucks, when I checked my phone. Two missed calls from my sister C in Honolulu. A little unusual, as we try to always time our calls to one another in advance, but not unheard of. Then I got the text: We just got alert of inbound missile. It says not a test. I immediately started shaking, and stepped out of line. Sheer panic set in; as I tried to call her, I blanked out on the last four digits of her phone number. By the time I reached her, she had good news: it had all been a mistake. But she described the horrific previous few minutes, trying to call all of us, possibly to say goodbye; apparently everyone in Hawaii had the same idea, because the calls weren’t going through. As for me, during the few moments before I talked to her, everything else on my mind diminished in importance to nothingness. Who cared about meetings, or deadlines, or annoyances at work or home? Nothing mattered as much as my sister’s survival. This dread was coupled with another: if we were indeed on the brink of nuclear war, how would any of us survive?

As we all know now, the terrifying message had been sent out in error; there was no missile heading to Oahu yesterday. But even as relief washed over me, I recognized that the message was all too credible. We are not only capable of the world’s destruction, but powerful people with access to nuclear weapons seem to be taunting each other into action. I am aware that existence has always been fragile, but that doesn’t minimize the risks and threats facing humanity right now.

Riding home on the train, I thought: how would I occupy myself if we suddenly had only a few minutes left to live? Would I fall to my knees, praying nonstop until the end? Make farewell phone calls: my children living away from me, my sister, my dearest friends? After that, would I gather my beloved Oreland family and just hold on to them? Yes! I often say that my faith, the loss of my sister Mo, and being with Mom as she passed away, have made me largely unafraid of death. But yesterday reminded me that I am still fearful. I am also saddened that life on earth may possibly not continue through Aiden and Peter’s old age.

It may go out with a bang, or a whimper, or something in between, but at some point life WILL end, for everyone. That point may be millions of years from now, or fifteen minutes. So may I try to live in love, the love that casts out fear. May I try to spread peace and understanding, in the hope that all of us doing so may prolong our time here.

I will never forget the sinking feeling I had in the coffee shop yesterday, but may it not define me.

My favorite picture of C and me

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


If you look at the varied websites I bookmark on my computer, they provide a pretty accurate snapshot of my scattershot brain. There are oodles of craft project sites, which I mine for ideas for our church playgroup, Sunday School, etc. Mind you, this does not mean I master ANY of these creations. Our Halloween playgroup activity was making origami bats. Even after studying the online directions, I folded and unfolded and refolded, producing nothing remotely resembling a bat—or anything else. Writers’ sites also abound, (such as “Who Pays Writers?” and honestly, gang, it is a shame how little lots of outlets pay) and I can disappear down the internet rabbit hole for hours just comparing submission guidelines for various publications.

MacDowell Cottage in Winter--how cozy is that?

But of all the writer resources, the most daydreamed about are retreat centers, beautiful spots to escape with your manuscript and work away in blissful quiet: Santa Fe, Aspen, the Berkshires, picturesque places in Europe, etc. Artists of all kinds (painters, musicians) spend time in these fabulous (and inspirational) locales and I wish I could too. A very talented composer of my acquaintance travels quite regularly to different lovely retreat centers around the world, and always returns with significant work completed. She posts pictures of the grand pianos in the cozy studios nestled in the mountains, or by the sea, and it all looks idyllic.

But I wonder—even if I COULD go to Yaddo or the MacDowell Colony, just how productive would I really be? I fear I would be paralyzed by the clock ticking the hours away, ever closer to the time I’d have to vacate the premises. Plus, as I don’t exactly enjoy my own company, why do I think spending days all alone would be a delight for me? So there I’d be, heading home with only blank pages and boredom to show for my time away.

I seem to be most creative and successful with plenty of noisy humans close by. At the house, there’s always plenty of hubbub provided by the resident one and three year olds. This afternoon, Rose and I are typing away on our laptops in Starbucks, surrounded by several loud conversations and endless recorded Christmas music. I am getting quite a bit done. Rose too seems to be producing work across the table from me, “Santa Baby” blaring from the speakers notwithstanding.

I will continue to fantasize about writing my blockbuster novel in a coastal Maine solo hideaway, but deep down I know that I will probably never “retreat” more than a few miles from civilization. Clearly, I do better NOT far from the madding crowd. And I bet I’m not the only one.

Hmmm, now that I think about it, our fam could bring in some extra income by opening our abode to retreatants! I invite you to bring your unfinished projects over, and get to work. I’ll clear off the dining room table for you! Scads of company and distractions at the Seyfried Retreat Center, guaranteed!

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Epicenter Dover Delaware (about 1 1/2 hours away)

This afternoon at 4:48 I was just putting the finishing touches on my second to last skit (of this batch) for the company I’ve been working with (providing funny, grace-filled skits for progressive churches). I was due for a break (my back was bothering me), and I was planning to transition to Blog Post #3, when all heck broke loose. The house definitely shook. My scented candle skedoodled across the desk, and I could feel the intense rumble from attic to basement. For an instant I doubted the stability of our house, and pictured it in rubble. But then, in a flash, it was over—no harm done chez Seyfried. 

I was once again reminded of our geographical good fortune. Earthquakes (or “earthshakes” as my little ones used to say) are quite rare in the Philadelphia area, as are tornadoes and  hurricanes. We don’t even get that much snow! How did we get so lucky? Some might say that our status as the long-ignored sibling of behemoths NYC and DC has been punishment enough. But in reality, it’s just been random good fortune, and I don’t expect it to continue forever.

Among the (many) questions I have for the Almighty someday are those related to natural disasters, and their disturbing frequency in countries that can least afford to recover. I mean seriously, how much more can Bangladesh take? And, in this hemisphere, there is our ever-struggling sister Haiti. In the last few years, Haiti has been hit by hurricanes and floods and a significant earthquake. That on top of being the poorest nation in this part of the world. Even when all is meteorologically calm, summer temps soar past 100 degrees, with humidity to match. People live there still, and work, and raise their families, but under a never-lifting cloud of strife. When Haiti was colonized, their beautiful mahogany trees were cut down all along their mountain ranges, and sold. As a result, now, when the torrential rains come, there is nothing in place to stop the mudslides.

Why was I born in the US instead of in Haiti? Talk about your accidents! But here I am, and I have a responsibility, a sacred duty. I cannot turn a blind eye to my relatives (and we are all relatives) in peril. There are incredible organizations (Food for the Poor among them) that are dedicated to improving life there, but there is such a long way to go. I need to do my part.
Meanwhile, I sit in my intact, sturdily built house, rocked by a mere tremor. I picture a house in the developing world, crumbling to dust, the inhabitants trapped within. And I pray for a fair deal, for everyone. May we ALL survive our “earthshakes”, together, united when disaster strikes. The world, often a pretty scary place, is much less scary when we aren’t alone. Pray for Haiti, and Bangladesh, and everywhere Mother Nature shows her cruel streak. And then, let’s see what we can do to help.