What I Learned in 2019

As usual, each new year brings it’s usual ups and downs. By this time I’m well aware of the rollercoaster called life. I’d like to reflect on the good and the bad and take from it what I need to move forward. I hope my thoughts will help you do the same.

First I learned to walk again without pain. My second hip was replaced in April and I was off to the races in a matter of weeks. Modern medicine is a miracle. I can now walk and bike ride and get in an out of a chair like a teenager. If you are struggling with any kind of joint pain, find a good doctor and do what it takes to get it fixed. You will wonder why you waited so long.

Secondly my heart broke when we lost our puppy, Skipper at 1 year of age. After we lost Ginger to cancer the year before, he came home to file our hearts. And that he did. When he started having multiple seizures a day we had to let him go. Skipper needed us to help him in every way possible and we tried out best. My heart break was enormous having lost two precious dogs in a year’s time. I learned however, that our forever dog is out there, waiting and we will find him soon.

Thirdly I learned how important it is to reconnect with people that you loved in the past. We all know someone who simply fell off our radar for no reason anyone can remember. With all the search functions available today, no one is that hard to find. If a memory of an old friend has popped into your head, they need you. Go find them.

In 1977 I graduated from college and headed to Pittsburgh to work for Gimbels. I met a woman in the training program and we became fast friends. When I left for Florida in 1980, we slowly lost touch. But she’d been on my mind lately so I started Googling only to find she’d died of breast cancer a year ago at age 64. Sad that I’d been too late, I wrote a letter to her husband trying to offer him some comfort by telling him one of our funny escapades.

The biggest lesson of all is that time is precious. Make the most of it. Don’t put off going to the doctor. Fix what is ailing you and go on with a happier, healthier life. Volunteer at an animal shelter or nursing home because your smile can help heal someone else. If someone you know is on your mind, call them up, email them, let them know you’re thinking of them. It will mean the world to them and to you. Let’s all have a happier, healthier, kinder and more love filled new year in 2020.

When Your Husband Reads Your Memoir

First I want you to know that Richard is not a book reader. He devours short magazine articles but rarely a full length book. Our coffee table is loaded with magazines. Full length books however are not his style but once I got the printed version, he wanted to know what was inside.

A Bittersweet Goodnight focuses on my relationship with my stepmother of over 50 years, June. Although I’ve been married to Richard for 33 years, his role in the book is minor. He is my rock but I needed to emphasize the loneliness I felt while trying to care for June in her final years. I’m really not sure what his reaction to the family stories and ensuing drama would be.

Yesterday I was in the other room and I can hear Richard start to laugh. And laugh and laugh. He couldn’t wait to tell me what he found so funny. It was the toe. June had a hammer toe, one toe curled over top of another. We all knew about it and she refused to do anything for it. Without giving the story away, I did include several funny stories about the toe. It may have a bigger role as a character than some other living and breathing human beings that knew June.

So far Richard is really enjoying the book at 100 pages in. He has first hand knowledge of many things in the memoir and he still finds it interesting and as he tells me, well written. I am however, anxiously waiting for more laughter from him and maybe even a tear or two. My dream is to write a book that taps into all kinds of human emotion. That is the kind of book I love to read and even though Richard is biased toward the author, I hope you can gauge your enjoyment of A Bittersweet Goodnight by his reactions.

Why A Memoir????

With all the different genres out there to choose from, you may wonder how I started writing personal essays and eventually a memoir. I wonder that myself. Some may say I haven’t lived long enough to be worthy of publishing my memoir. I say a lot of life has been crammed into those 64 years!

Ten years ago a good friend suggested I check out Chicken Soup For the Soul. Learning to write a short, true story was a good practice to sharpen my writing skills. If my story got accepted, I’d be a published author. Sounded simple to me! Believe me writing a story good enough for a Chicken Soup anthology is everything but easy.

I’d written and submitted 15 stories, editing, rewriting, getting feedback from other writers I knew. Nothing. Until the day the email came telling my my first story, Treat, Pray, Love would appear in My Dog’s Life. My sweet dog, Ginger, who the story is about, got a few extra biscuits that day! It is still my favorite of all the stories that have appeared in Chicken Soup For The Soul titles, seven in all.

I came to realize at that moment that my life mattered. Every life matters and every person has a story to tell that others can relate to. None of us are alone in this world even though there are times we may feel alone. If telling my story can give strength to someone else, then writing it has been worth it.

My experience with my step mother June, left me feeling lost and alone most of the time as I tried to care for her. I know there are many people out there in similar situations who also feel very much alone. After she died, I knew deep in my heart that this was the story I needed to share with the world. June would want that too.

A Bittersweet Goodnight is my story. Tragedy precedes the entrance of a step mother. What happens next depends on the twists and turns of a lifetime. It is the Bronze Winner of the 2019 Royal Palm Literary Award.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The premise of this book, the degrading of women is repulsive to me. I never thought I’d read this novel but I too succumbed to the allure of Amazon Prime. I signed up to get a Fire Stick on the cheap for Black Friday and The Handmaid’s Tale Kindle version was now free. My convictions aren’t strong, I know.

The author has created a world where women are needed only for their ability to reproduce. Something apocalyptic has occurred and the reader is never told in any detail what that was only that this idea of women are worthless is the result of it.

What I have to say about this book is that it is superbly written. The author leads us around as if we were the handmaid, seeing the world just as she would, feeling her fear at every level of existence. I could not put this book down. Why? Because I could also feel the fire inside of these women knowing they were stronger, smarter, more sly than the men holding them captive. They were not going to remain down for long.

Here’s my advice. Don’t shy away from topics you’re afraid of. Dig into that bestselling book you’ve been shying away from. You might learn something new and find the strength inside to elevate yourself and those around you.