i wrote a novel called what matters most, and once again i've been putting a question mark at the end of the title, asking myself the question.    i guess you'd say i'm an emotional sort, and i really want to understand what i feel. writing helps me with this.  the most wonderful things, the most painful things, all of life touches my heart, and i bring it to my desk. characters come to me, and through them i tell the stories that tear me apart and put me back together.  when i was younger i was motivated by need and desire--full-out, pedal to the metal, have to have it kind of thing.  believe me, i still have my moments, but now the feelings are tempered by, i hope, some degree of self-awareness.  that comes from writing.

my early novels told what i knew as a young woman.  as time goes on, and life hands me more experience, they reflect what i have learned--not just factually, but emotionally.  shades of marian the librarian in "the music man", sadder-but-wiser-girl that she was.  am i saying too much here?  i'm in the mood to tell you everything.

last night i took a ride along the coast with a friend.  there was moonlight on the sea.  lots of new houses had been built in the once-open space.  nature is so staggeringly beautiful, and we were saying how sometimes we don't appreciate what we've got till it's gone.  at which point i began to sing joni mitchell's big yellow taxi -- i couldn't help myself.  "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot..."  (poor friend, having to hear me sing.)

you know me well enough to know that seeing habitat destroyed and creatures killed makes me cry.  (it really does...i actually hug trees.)  but life has many metaphorical parking lots.  you can pave over relationships, too.  i know, because in the past i've done it.  such a human tendency to want resolution--i'm right, you're wrong, i'm bad, you're good.  or, maybe you're bad, i'm good.  no in between, no grey area, no room for the maybes that come with taking a more compassionate, realistic, look at life.  (see above: sadder but wiser.)

i may be falling in love--with the world as it is, not as i would have it.  to put it another way, i'm finding it easier to look at what is true than to pretend something else.  yesterday someone told me that things happen if they're supposed to--no amount of forcing or denying or hiding will change what is.   so why not practice radical acceptance, and lovingkindness for where we are right here, right now?

so what matters to me is love, family, friends, honesty, this broken paradise, moonlight on the sea and knowing it won't last forever but will come back again, gratitude for what i've been given, and the awareness that comes through living life one day at a time.



St. Joseph College, West Hartford CT I know for sure that Miss Laurette Laramie (my high school history teacher, mentor, and great friend,) had a LOT to do with my  receiving this amazing honor.  Laurette graduated from St. Joe's, as did my mother, Lucille Arrigan Rice.  My mother always said she could never have received a better education anywhere, and that St. Joe's gave her strength and belief in herself, and the knowledge that she could make of her life anything she wished.  She chose art, literature, motherhood, and teaching.

Laurette taught me history, but even more, she taught compassion--for ourselves and for everyone on the planet.  She encouraged awareness and consciousness, and a sense of our own abilities to make a difference.  In her class at St. Thomas Aquinas we read the daily New York Times, opening our world view; during the holidays we paid special attention to the Neediest Cases stories, entering the lives of families affected by hunger, poverty, illness, and in reading about them, care about them and find a way to help.

I know how Laurette feels about St. Joseph College--she loves it.  She is a vibrant scholar and activist--in this case her activism included so kindly and lovingly weaving, unknown to me, the scenario that makes possible this wonderful gift--an honorary degree from the college that shaped her life.

I'm grateful to St. Joseph College, President Pamela Trotman Reid, PhD. and Sister Patricia Rooney, as well as to Laurette Laramie, the late Kathleen Stingle, and my mother, wonderful St. Joe's grads who've influenced me so much.

I do have my own, private St. Joe's moment.  When I was little, my mother would take us on frequent visits to the campus, to visit her former professors, Sisters of Mercy.  I must have been about 5.  We were in the Grotto, an ivy-covered secret garden, and I found a blue button.  Remind me to tell you the story sometime.  It involves a vision of the Virgin Mary.