And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

One thing I’ve learned over these years of writing the Moments (and I’ve said this before) is that you have to let go of the idea that moments of happiness will just somehow appear. You have to look for them. They’re often spontaneous, but you have to look, or they’ll zip right by and be gone before you pay them any mind.

And sometimes, the Moments are something you reach out and grab and shape with your own hands.

That kind of Moment happened this last week.

It’s no secret that I love clocks. Antique clocks, to be certain. They have to be wound, with keys or with weights. Battery power does nothing for me. I look at these old clocks and I think about all they’ve seen, all they’ve ticked through. When I wrote my first novel, The Home For Wayward Clocks, it came to be on a day that I’d just visited my favorite clock store, that featured an entire floor of antique clocks. Wouldn’t it be fun, I thought as I drove away, to live in a clock store? By the time I arrived home, I had the original opening line (“They call me the clock-keeper; I’m the keeper of the clocks.”), and I had my character, James, who ran a clock museum in the middle of nowhere, Iowa. The town, on the edge of desperation with poor economic times, followed James’ lead and did up the whole town in clock themes, became a tourist attraction in the middle of one of the most boring drives ever – I-80 through Iowa. The book came out of my head like magic, and the novel I’d been working on fell to the side, lost in a later hard drive crash that took its first 100 pages. To this day, I can’t remember what that book was called or what it was about.

But this book…clocks.

I can trace my love of clocks back to my maternal grandmother. When she moved in with us when I was a child, she brought with her a very old, very scratched-up camel-back mantel clock. That clock and I spent hours playing together. I ran Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars over its hill, I sat Barbie dolls on its ends and perched at the peak. I made up stories around it and with it. When my grandmother passed away, the clock was something I chose to keep. It sits here still, right across from me, on a shelf in my office. I see it every time I look over the top of my computer screen.

From there, I began to go to flea markets. I will be the first to admit that the clocks I adopted were not pristine, were not polished to a high shine, most often were not even working. They were sad orphans and I wanted to give them a home. I cleaned them, fixed them when I could, and if I couldn’t, kept them anyway, even if they were silent. I own a grandfather clock that was built by hand (not from a kit) by a pastor, who, when he moved to a much larger congregation, decided he needed a grander clock and traded the clock he sweated over for the new one. That clock, borne of a man’s hands and rejected by the same, came home with me. There is a Felix The Cat clock, the black and white cat with the left and right swinging eyes and pendulum tail. When I had a cleaning lady, she knocked this clock off the wall twice. Its tail is gone, the eyes are off track and wonky. But it still hangs on my wall. It’s a wounded warrior. I no longer have a cleaning lady.

All the clocks have stories.

I just wandered through my home, counting the clocks. I did not go down to the classroom, where I know there are more. I have 80 clocks on the 2nd and 3rd floors of my condo. I know there are two more on the stairwell to the classroom, and I believe there are at least five more in the classroom, so that means there are approximately 87 clocks in my home.


Which, of course, led to Big Ben. I have wanted to see (I nearly typed “meet”; that’s what I really mean!) Big Ben for years and years. In The Home For Wayward Clocks, my desire to meet Big Ben, and to see the largest antique clock collection in the world, scattered throughout Buckingham Palace, is expressed through James. He never got to England. He died without meeting Big Ben.

In 2017, Big Ben fell silent while he went through a five-year renovation. He’s been surrounded by scaffolding. He’s had no voice. In March of 2023, all of that will fall away and he will chime again.

I am now 62 years old. I’ve held the same dream as my character James. For a very long time.

Which is why, after several weeks of discussions and ruminations and worries and anxiety, I reached out with both hands and molded my Moment of Happiness.

In August, I’m going to London. And I’m also going to Paris. Which is lovely, but my entire being is caught up with one thought:

I’m going to meet Big Ben.

I’m going to see him. I’m going to hear him. And I’m also going to see him from the inside out. I have no idea if I’ll be able to climb all 334 steps to the top…but I’m at least going to be fully surrounded by Big Ben.

I was very lucky to have a super nice guy with the tour group I’ve signed on with. He was absolutely no pressure. I talked to him for three weeks, three weeks of back and forths and maybes and I don’t knows, before I finally emailed him and said, “Call me. Let’s do this thing.”

And of course, as soon as I signed on the dotted line, I immediately slammed both hands over my mouth and shrieked, “What did I just do?”

And then I felt awash in joy and thought, You’ve just put a dream in motion.

Ohmygosh. I’m going to London. (And Paris.) I’m going to meet Big Ben.

I may have to resurrect James from the dead and take him through it, in a new story. Maybe he’ll be a ghost. We’ll see.

But I’m going to see Big Ben. I’m going to hear him. I’m going to reach out, pat him, and say, “James says hello.”


And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

(And by the way – when I go, from August 15 – 25, I will switch the blog back to Today’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News, and post every day. )

Looking over the top of my computer…see the camel-back mantel clock across the room? I look at it every day.
There it is!
When students travel to England, they often bring me back something related to Big Ben. Here is a little pencil sharpener in his image. And I always keep a notebook right next to my computer, to jot down ideas as they come. My latest notebook: Clocks.
The cover of The Home For Wayward Clocks, my first novel.


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