Monthly Archives: May 2013

Starting Over~Breast Cancer & Me

AND NOW COME THE CRITICS–Br Ca Blog icon 1

We’re talking about actress Angelina Jolie again.With her stunning  announcement about the bi-lateral mastectomy she chose to endure because of the BRCA gene mutation in her family, she opened herself up to criticism. Unfortunately, she didn’t have to wait long before it came. Would it have been better had she remained silent?  I say no. A resounding NO.

Unless we’re living on the Starship Enterprise, surgical procedures leave behind their reminders. Ever have an appendectomy? The scar stays with you for life. Ever give birth by Ceasarian section or have a traditional hysterectomy? The scars remain across your abdomen forever; leaving you without sensation there.. And if you’ve had something more dramatic…say, an amputation of some kind…then yes, the more extensive collateral damage will stick around, too. It’s to be expected. Surgery is not for sissies. angelina jolie

In a very informative and well written article by Roni Rabin in the New York Times last Tuesday, (5/20/13), mention was made of breast surgeons’ concerns for the public. They feared that people might misinterpret Angelina Jolie’s surgical experience as their own.That it was a quick and easy procedure. Specifically, they were concerned about the nine weeks Ms. Jolie said it took her to complete her reconstructive surgeries. For most patients, for the average patient, it takes longer than that–upwards of a year–to say the procedures are over. And there are often complications which Ms. Jolie didn’t speak about. Hmm…if she didn’t have any, why would she bring it up?

I am an average breast cancer patient. I am not what is called a previvor as Ms. Jolie is. My last surgery is a year-and-a-half behind me. I still feel the effects, and they are common, of a bi-lateral mastectomy. The tightness across my chest, the random shooting pains, the aches from stretching, and the unhappiness with that hard circle of scar tissue around the failed implant. Yes, a failed implant. Been there, done that, too. I am not Angelina Jolie. But I don’t fault her for telling her personal story in the way it happened for her. I applaud her for sharing her experience with us.

Some might point a finger and say she had access to doctors extraordinaire. Well, I did, too–in the Houston Medical Center which is second to none in this country. Some might mention her access to research. I was blessed with many doctor friends who provided me with the best intel around.

The truth is that sometimes stuff happens. Unintended consequences. Collateral damage. Unforeseen circumstances. Call it what you will. Physicians try to be prepared for anything, But often, a patient’s body reacts in a way that even the very best of doctors don’t and can’t foresee.

I respect the surgeons’ concern for their patients as discussed in the article by Roni Rubin. I know their intentions are good. They wanted to warn the public that this procedure is not as easy as it might have appeared when Ms. Jolie revealed her story. I’d like to remind the good doctors, however, that they don’t have to worry. They are the ones in charge of their patients’ care. Educating patients is their job. Analyzing the risks and benefits for each person is their job. Explaining that these surgeries aren’t a “breeze” is their job.Discussing each viable option is their job. Helping patients make decisions is not the job of a celebrity.

In my humble–or not so humble–opinion, Angelina Jolie has saved lives. We won’t ever know how many. But you can’t argue with the number of women who are now asking questions about the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 gene mutations. The phone lines at FORCE, an organization specializing in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, were ringing non-stop after Ms. Jolie’s announcement. Women were taking note about their own family’s pattern of cancer. About their own chances of finding a cancerous tumor in their breasts or on their ovaries. And they wanted more information.

Education about a painful subject is a slow process. Who wants to think about cancer? Who wants to admit they could be at risk? It’s a scary proposition. So the word goes out and is sometimes not heard. Not at first. But it will. The more people who speak up like Angelina Jolie did, the sooner knowledge will resonate. And then.,..just watch the hereditary cancer death rate drop.

Isn’t that the goal?

Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered or FORCE, is the only foundation in the country that focuses only on hereditary breast and ovarian FORCE Logocancer. They provide support for women at risk and for members of families in which the risk is present.  I’m proud to support its mission.

For more information, go to:  www.facingourrisk.org

I welcome all opinions! So if you’d like to continue this conversation, please leave a comment below.

BOOK NEWS!  I’m so excited!! Family Interrupted is now available IN PRINT as a trade paperback. Check it out at Amazon.   Here I am, holding the actual book in my hot little hands: 

The PRINT edition is here!

The PRINT edition is here!

 

DON’T FORGET – you’ll be entered into this month’s drawing for a fabulous book package: LOVE ME SOME COWBOY — five novels by five different authors — AND a copy of my own book, Family Interrupted. All you have to do is: Leave A Comment! 

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book package 

 

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

 

 

 

 

Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp

021A SLICE OF LIFE–AMERICAN STYLE

We hit the pause button yesterday in our day camp for adults. My golfer guy didn’t golf. The mah-jong players didn’t mix their tiles. The pool players hung up their sticks. But at nine o’clock in the morning, we all stood at attention–together–in a Memorial Day tribute to the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. We also thought about the men and women serving in our military right now. They were not drafted, but are part of a volunteer force. They and their families have sacrificed a “normal” life to serve their country. Our country.

You and I are the beneficiaries of their sacrifices. We’ve been given the opportunity to raise our voices without fear “and let freedom ring.” To stand in silence in unthinkable when the cost of freedom is so high.Whether our heroes lay in Flanders Field, Normandy or in Arlington National Cemetery, we honor our fallen. We grieve. We remember. And we celebrate them as well.

Color Guard

Color Guard

I find there’s an extra benefit in taking time to pause and remember. It centers us. Reminds us who we are and what we are about. We remember that the umbrella under which we all live is a broad one. It’s a strong one. And there’s room beneath it for those who “yearn to breathe free.” For those whose hearts pump love when glimpsing Lady Liberty in New York’s harbor.

The community I live in is only a few years old, but I can see that traditions are being born in that short time. Our Memorial Day started with a dedication of a Circle of Honor (see above) to our fallen heroes. In that circle are engraved bricks with individual names on them, including that of my own dad, who served in the U.S. Army during WWII. The Color Guard presented the flag. Speech makers inspired us. And then the games began.

The ping of bat hitting ball enticed everyone to stick around and watch our co-ed home grown softball teams. Yes, indeed. Whether baseball or softball – it draws a big crowd. Then came bocce ball, pickleball, horseshoes, shuffleboard.  (A day camp needs lots of activities).  Hot dogs, hamburgers and plenty of soft drinks. And wait…there’s more. The doggie park had a grand opening 🙂 

A crowd pleaser
A crowd pleaser

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In my humble opinion, life in the day camp doesn’t get any better than what we all shared yesterday.

Now, about today…the pause button’s been released and life is back to the norm. I’ve got my fingers on the keyboard, social media visits to make, and well…I think there’s a hot mah-jongg game coming up this evening. I’ll be there.  

How did you spend Memorial Day? With family? Friends? Or quietly at home?

Post a comment and your name will be added to this month’s drawing. LOVE ME SOME COWBOY was just released yesterday! This is a fabulous package of five books from five terrific authors: Jean Brashear, Ginger Chambers, Day Leclaire, Barbara McMahon and Lisa Mondello.  And I’m giving it away along with my own novel, Family Interrupted, as this month’s prize.

BTW – Family Interrupted is now available in print from Amazon as well as for your Kindle, Nook, Kobo or iPad.  I am so-o happy about this. Many readers have asked for a “real” book to hold in their hands. So, here it is!

The PRINT edition is here!

The PRINT edition is here!

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you again for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

 

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book package

Starting Over – Fingers on the Keyboard

hands on keyboardHARD COVERS and SOFT COVERS and E-BOOKS, OH MY!

Gutenberg  invented the printing press in approximately 1439 and changed the world forever. Gone was the dependency on hand written manuscripts as the mass production of printed books became a reality. His movable press became more efficient over time due to improved materials and tweaks, but nothing much changed for hundreds of years.

Enter the electronic revolution.

In today’s world, not only are books accessible to us, but readers have choices. What type of book do you prefer to hold in your hands? A compact well designed eReader such as a Kindle or Nook?  Or a “real” book made of paper pages sporting a rich cover? Most book lovers I speak with enjoy a combination of both, depending on the type of book. But let’s not kid ourselves, Electronic books are here to stay. The entire publishing industry has changed because of them. And authors have led the way.

Authors?. That’s right. I said authors.  But they write the books. They don’t publish the books. That’s what companies like Random House or Simon & Schuster do. Well, my friends, while that may still be true, those businesses now have new competition.

Enter the “indie” author.

The independent author has emerged as a powerful player in today’s book scene. An independent author contracts with a freelance editor, a copy editor, and a cover designer to help her produce–or continue to produce–stories that readers love. The independent author has become her own publisher.

I am one of them. After writing a dozen or so novels for a traditional publisher, I’ve decided to go out on my own.

You might have a few questions….?  Ah-h…I see a some hands up in the back of the room. Yes, Mary?

Q.  Why did you change to indie publishing?                      LINDA BARRETT (2)

A.  Several reasons. First, I could write more books than my publisher could schedule for release because they had other contracted authors to satisfy. Second, they sometimes turned down projects that I liked a lot and thought my readers would like too. Now I have a chance to make those stories available. And third, It was time for me to grow as a writer with bigger projects. Ergo, Family Interrupted.

Q. But don’t you have to pay those editors to help you?

A. Yes, I do. But it’s worth every cent. I would never release a book that hasn’t been thoroughly edited by professionals. It’s very difficult for me–or any author– to do a good job editing her own work because after re-reading the story a million times, you just don’t see the mistakes.

Any other questions?  I see another hand. Susie?

Q. So let’s talk about money. Doesn’t a big publisher pay you lots of money to write your books?

A.  Only the biggest names — authors who make the lists such as The New York Times or USA Today — earn “big” money.  Authors who publish regularly but have a smaller following earn far less. For most of my writing life, I’ve also worked a day job in order to pay the bills. I taught GED prep classes to homeless adults. Another challenging profession! Frankly, I loved that career, too.

Q. So, is it easier being an indie author?

A. There is no difference in the creativity and effort that goes into writing the story. It is neither easier nor harder to produce the best book possible. The extra effort for the indie author involves promoting the book. The responsibility is all mine, and I so appreciate any help I can get. If readers don’t know me or if they can’t find my books, then all my work will have been in vain. Without a reader, the art is unfinished. The circle is not closed. If I were a painter, I could hang my pictures on the walls of my house. I can’t hang a manuscript. Books are to share between writer and reader and among friends.

Q. How does a reader know if an author is indie or traditional?

A.  When you pick up a book, the publisher’s name will be in it. In my book, Family Interrupted, only my name is in it as both the copyright holder and the “permission giver” for reproducing any part of the work. Some indie authors might have incorporated themselves, and that corporate name would be on the copyright page.

Q. Are printed books available from an indie author?

A.  The author decides whether to publish her book in print. Because of the number of electronic readers out there, they often choose not to. Family Interrupted, however, is available as a trade paperback. There is no difference in the physical quality of the printed book offered by an indie author vs. a large publishing company.  When I hold a copy of Family Interrupted in my hands, the cover is strong, the colors are true, and the pages are formatted correctly. The book has weight and substance. It’s a real book! And it makes me smile.

Q.. This promo thing….if I really like an indie author, how can I help promote her?

A.  Same as you’ve always done. Tell your friends! Use Facebook, Twitter or your telephone. Post a review on the etail sites like Amazon. Your recommendation is still the very best way to spread the word. Thanks so much for asking 🙂

Any other questions out there? Just ask and I’ll answer right here in the comments section.

LEAVE A COMMENT and your name will be entered for this month’s drawing for a fabulous package of books. Five authors from OnFireFiction have put together five stories in LOVE ME SOME COWBOY. Each is a full novel from Jean Brashear, Ginger Chambers, Day Leclaire, Barbara McMahon, and Lisa Mondello.

I’m a proud member of OnFireFiction and happy to provide this prize as well as an electronic copy of FAMILY INTERRUPTED, my recently released novel of women’s fiction.  NOW AVAILABLE IN PRINT FROM CreateSpace!!!

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting  Over.

Linda

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book package

 

 

Starting Over ~ The Pink Ribbon Sisterhood

FACING OUR RISKS–Br Ca Blog icon 1

She is stunningly beautiful. Amazingly talented. And emotionally brave. Last week, Angelina Jolie shared her personal decision to stave off breast cancer by revealing she had undergone a bi-lateral mastectomy of her healthy breasts. Privacy is paramount to this actress, and she could have kept silent. No one forced her to say anything to the public, and she had no obligation to do so. But she did.

angelina jolie

Breast cancer shakes the soul. Shakes the sleep from our eyes, When the probability of forming a cancerous tumor is a shocking 87 percent, everything else takes second place. Suddenly, what could have been kept a secret became a secret to be shared. And that’s the point. Spreading the word about the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations will encourage at-risk women to be tested for them. We know that knowledge is power – the more, the better. With the information we have today, women at risk have choices.

No one said they are easy choices. In fact, they are tough choices. Discussions abound. Criticisms abound. Even among caring physicians. Sure, the probability of cancer is high if you carry the gene mutation, but it’s not a guarantee. So why not wait?  Why not get screened often? Maybe every six months. Or every three months. Or maybe monthly? MRI’s. Mammos. Alternate them. Screening makes sense medically. Absolutely. And if you also remove  the ovaries…? Maybe that would be enough.

A hundred people will have a hundred opinions. That’s why in the end, each woman must decide for herself. She must weigh the risks and benefits. In my own experience and in my conversation with others, the decision is usually psychologically based. If you multiply a healthy woman’s anxiety while waiting for the results of her yearly mammogram by the factor of a thousand, you’ll understand why some at-risk women say they can’t live with the stress of monthly or quarterly screenings. The worry shadows them, affecting their emotional health. Will they find something this time? Next time? The time after that? Every high risk woman struggles to figure out the route she needs to take in order to live as “normal” a life as possible.

I developed a tumor before I knew I was a BRCA1 carrier. So my psychological decision was between a lumpectomy and mastectomy. The risks of recurrence were the same regardless of the surgery.  In the end, I chose the lumpectomy in the hopes of continuing to look like my natural everyday self. Hear that? My natural self. So I understand the enormity of choosing preventive mastectomies. Of how upsetting and unnatural that would be. But reducing the risk of cancer from 87% to less than 5% is enormous, too. In fact, from where I sit after two bouts of breast cancer, I think that’s a good deal. I vote for a natural life span 🙂

So, thank you, Ms. Jolie for spreading the word about hereditary cancer. Thank you for raising the awareness of choices.

A celebrity’s voice, especially a celebrity of Angelina Jolie’s stature, carries far, wide and deep. When Michael J. Fox revealed his Parkinsons disease, he raised national awareness of this condition. He established a foundation, raised funds for research, testified at congressional hearings, and kept on working, too.

Celebrities are a wonderful resource in grabbing the public’s attention. But we can’t sit around waiting for a famous person to get sick! Behind the scenes, day by day, and year by year, are professionals and volunteers who maintain the public’s awareness of medical progress.  I’m very proud of one such organization which was mentioned in the press last week because of Ms. Jolie’s revelations. That organization is called Facing Our Risks of Cancer Empowered, aka, FORCE.  

FORCE Logo

According to their website  (www.facingourrisk.org):  FORCE was founded on the principle that no one should have to face hereditary breast and ovarian cancer alone. We are the only national non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. 

FORCE is laser-focused on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. The founder of this organization is Sue Friedman, DVM. She and two others wrote a book called, Confronting Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer, published by Johns Hopkins Press. I own a copy and find it an excellent resource when I want clarification about these issues.

As always, I encourage conversation here. If you have a story to share about today’s topic or have questions, please post them and we’ll talk!

LEAVE A COMMENT and your name will be added to this month’s drawing for a fabulous package of books. Five authors from OnFireFiction are offering five stories in LOVE ME SOME COWBOY. Each is a full novel from Jean Brashear, Ginger Chambers, Day Leclaire, Barbara McMahon and Lisa Mondello.  I’m a proud member of OFF and happy to provide this prize in addition to a copy of FAMILY INTERRUPTED, my recently released novel of women’s fiction.  (Now also in paperback!)

YES, YES…FAMILY INTERRUPTED IS AVAILABLE NOW IN PAPERBACK AT CREATESPACE. WHEE…I’M VERY HAPPY ABOUT THAT!!

Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book packagebook cover

Starting Over – In the Day Camp

HIT OR MISS–            Golf Clubs 2

It’s been hit or miss around here lately. Talking about a bat and a ball.as in softball. My golfer guy has now rediscovered his inner Sandy Koufax, his baseball playing younger self that he left in Brooklyn more years ago than he can remember. Not that he ever stopped following the Dodgers despite Walter O’Malley moving the team to L.A. and Ebbetts Field becoming a memory. My practical, business oriented golfer guy sighed in resignation and loyally followed Dodger games on television. He still does. When we lived in Houston, Mike made a good friend, originally from L.A., and the two of them enjoyed reminiscing about Dodger history. They even attended a few Houston-L.A. games together.

Growing up in Brooklyn, Mike’s favorite pastime was baseball and later, softball. He was an excellent baseball pitcher and outfielder with a strong arm and a few no-hitters to his credit. He even once pitched against Joe Torre.  Mr. Torre went on to fame and fortune, and my husband went on to our day camp for adults. Along the way, a broken elbow, a torn labrum (somewhere in the shoulder) and the responsibilities of growing up required a different path. 

In time, Mike moved onto softball only and played for many years until finally, he ran out of people his age to play with. For the next 25 years, he engaged in other sports. But our day camp has a softball team. This was a chance for my golfer guy to get in touch with his inner child. He couldn’t wait to step out onto the ball field again.

DV-00168117-001

 

Sometimes, however, it’s better to live in the past. Softballs that used to be easily caught, now dropped in front of him or went over his head. The instincts for playing the outfield had eroded, and as bad as that was, his batting was even worse. Flailing at the ball or hitting weak grounders was a big departure from past success. And because I’d seen him play many times during long ago summers, I can testify to the fact that he once was highly talented.

Needless to say, a former pleasure was now tinged with disappointment and frustration.  Although he’d expected a drop off in skills, limited competency was unanticipated.

Despite his frustrations, Mike kept showing up for practice and games, and kept hoping his skills would improve. Being second oldest on the team didn’t help either. But, he never stopped trying. When other more skillful people were absent, Mike was given a chance to play. 

Somewhere along the line, his teammates suggested that a pair of distance glasses might make a difference. Off he went to the eye doctor, hoping for a quick fix. Not to be.The quick fix turned out to be a cataract operation. It seems that catching fly balls requires depth perception, and with only one eye working…well, you get the picture. Around here, cataract operations are as common as age spots. If you haven’t had one, it’s only a matter of time until you do.

The surgery was successful. His eyesight improved, and so did his ability to play the outfield. Unfortunately, hitting a ball is a little more precise than catching one, and that’s still a work in progress. Occasionally, there are flashes of what used to be. But, in fact, we are not fifteen years old anymore. 

Recently, my man-child began playing in a league where many of the people are older than he is. Isn’t it amazing how being one of the team’s younger players makes you one of the better players without any improvement in skills? 

And now a man who also enjoys chasing little white balls across swaths of green grass also chases larger yellow ones in his field of dreams.

In the day camp, we can enjoy the pleasures of our youth as long as we temper expectations with the wisdom of experience. We’re still learning, still growing. Still playing the greatest game of all–the game called Life.

Have you returned to something that once gave you pleasure but dropped it because you’re not as good as you used to be? Or have you continued to find pleasure in your activities despite some disappointment? Let’s keep the conversation going. Post a comment below.

LEAVE A COMMENT and your name will be part of a drawing for a fabulous package of books. Five authors from OnFireFiction, of which I’m a part, have written five novels under the umbrella name of Love Me Some Cowboy. Each story is a full novel from Jean Brashear, Ginger Chambers, Day Leclaire, Barbara McMahon and Lisa Mondello. I’m happy to provide this terrific prize in addition to my own novel, Family Interrupted – also terrific, by the way 🙂

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you again for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book packageLINDA BARRETT (2)

Starting Over – Fingers on the Keyboard

hands on keyboardIT’S ALL ABOUT PASSION —

Sorry, I’m not speaking about that kind of passion, but about other passions that fuel our souls and make us happy. I’m talking about passion in our work or hobby or avocation. Even passion about the hunt!

The ‘hunt’ was explained to me by my friend, Phyllis, a tireless fashionista. “Forget shop til you drop,” she said. “That’s too general. The hunt is about finding exactly the item you had in mind, in the exact color, by the date you need it, and at the right price.” Let’s just say that Phyllis is not only tenacious but has an eye for color, quality and value. She’s taught me a few things along the way–for which I’m grateful because…I have no taste. I have no patience in stores. I get hives after five minutes. I like wearing all kinds of colors, but recently discovered that gray looks horrible on me. What took me so long? For some women, passion lies in working with color, style and texture. Satisfaction can be gained by a trip to a mall or two.

I think passion is revealed in the way we choose to spend our time. I’ve read many true stories about men and women just like you and me who change careers mid-stream because they’d reached their now or never moment. Years pass quickly and they are finite. So, we hit now or never. Do we nurture the yearning that’s lurked inside us but never had a chance to bloom? Or do we continue on our “well trodden ways” putting responsibilities to and for others first and never reaching for our star?  Those with irresistible dreams will figure out how to satisfy their yearning.

I read about a woman who finally learned to play the bagpipes. Another woman started a landscape gardening business, and a third walked the Appalachian trail–finally. My friend, Margo, who has an artistic bent. learned to paint in oils and has sold several pieces. My neighbor does all her own landscaping, not as a business, but because she loves it. She’s always outside, fiddling with her plants, winning awards in the community.

As for me? When my now or never moment came, my writing career was born. I’d always produced bits and pieces along the way – a poem, a short story, a family story. But I could never envision a professional writing career without feeling guilty–and worried. How could I count on writing to pay the bills? Publishing is definitely not an exact science. My solution was to become a weekend writer for the first few years. I wrote and submitted proposals to my editor again and again. Until I could prove myself.  

I’m still proving myself. I’m starting over as a writer one more time. Changes in the publishing industry have provided new opportunities for writers, wonderful opportunities. But as usual, there are no guarantees. The road is still a rocky one. Between learning new technology and “getting your name out” as you must, authors worry about having less time to write. I used to worry about that, too. But not anymore. I’ve learned that although my daily schedule and “to-do list” may have changed since I’ve become my own independent publisher, my fingers are still on the keyboard. The words still come. Passion isn’t fleeting when it fuels the soul.

What are you passionate about? What is the one “want” you’d love to fulfill if you could? Dancing? Piano? What’s stopping you from trying?  Leave a comment below, and let’s start the conversation!

CONTEST NEWS!  This month’s drawing is for a fabulous package of books. Five authors from OnFireFiction are offering a five story romance package called Love Me Some Cowboy.  Each story is a full novel from Jean Brashear, Ginger Chambers, Day Leclaire, Barbara McMahon, and Lisa Mondello. I’m a proud member of OnFireFiction and am happy to provide this terrific prize in addition to a copy of Family Interrupted, my recently released novel of women’s fiction. LEAVE A COMMENT and your name will be added to the drawing.

As always, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

 

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book package

book cover

 

 

Starting Over ~ A Sisterhood No One Wanted to Join

May the FORCE be with you…and me…           FORCE Logo

A breast cancer diagnosis slams into you with the subtlety of a freight train. You can’t breathe. You can’t think. And you can’t believe it’s happening to you. But it is. It happened to me. 

 

As women, we’ve been trained to get our yearly mammograms and do monthly self-examinations. If we’re conscientious, we follow those rules. As our fingers touch and examine , searching our breasts for the unusual, we pray they find nothing. In the radiology lab, we pray our mammos are clean. For one in seven, our prayers are not answered, and suddenly we are members of a sisterhood we didn’t ask to join.

Br Ca Blog icon 1

                                                                 I often wear this.

Although I’ve been part of that sisterhood for twelve years, I know relatively few “sisters” personally. That situation is changing. When I was first diagnosed in 2001, I was working a full-time day job which was integral to maintaining my sanity. Sticking to my familiar routines kept me rooted. When the ordeal ended, I continued to work, write, and pay attention to family and friends.  In 2011, the diagnosis arrived in the midst of our moving to the Tampa area, a thousand miles from our home in Houston. The side effects of chemo knocked me on my keister, and I just wanted to get through each day. Keeping the house spic-and-span ready for potential buyers was all that I could manage–and I even needed help with that.

Now that I am once more healthy and strong, I’ve connected with a national non-profit group that coincidentally is headquartered in Tampa called FORCE which stands for Facing Our Risk of      Cancer Empowered. This group is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Hereditary is the key word that makes this group different from other research foundations devoted to breast cancer. FORCE concentrates only on hereditary cancer. Have you heard of the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes?  We all have them. For some ethnic groups, however, these genes have mutated and now cause big trouble–trouble such as breast and ovarian cancer. After being hit with a second tumor, I was tested for these mutations and learned that I carry the BRCA 1 gene mutation.

In two weeks, I’ll be attending a local get-together with other members of this sisterhood. I’m bringing Mike, my knight-in-shining tinfoil, with me. He’s been through it all. I hope I’m at the point where I can contribute to the strengthening of this force.

To learn more about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer: visit FORCE on Facebook or at their website:  www.facingourrisk.org. .

CONTEST NEWS!! I’m thrilled to add a fabulous prize to this month’s drawing. Five authors from OnFireFiction are offering a five story romance package called: Love Me Some Cowboy. each story is a full novel from Lisa Mondello, Jean Brashear, Day Leclaire, Barbara McMahon and Ginger Chambers. I’m a proud member of OnFireFiction and am happy to provide this terrific prize in addition to a copy of Family Interrupted

Post a comment and have your name added to this drawing. The contest runs through May 31st. 

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book package

 

book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp

Golf Clubs 2DIRTY DANCING? Hmm…not exactly…

Work before play. Work before play. That’s the philosophy my DH and I have followed since we married a million years ago. We’ve tried to live our lives responsibly. I’m sure you’ve done the same. We’ve worked hard while raising a family, contributing to the community and making friends. In what seems like the blink of an eye, however, my golfer guy is now chasing a little white ball over a sea of green grass  every day and loving it. I wonder what happened to our old routine.. What happened to “going to work?”

“I am working,” says Mike. “I’m working on my golf game.”

Ah, yes. the golf game. Absolutely. And the fishing club. And the softball league, pickle ball game and the Dine-Around group. Let’s not forget the poker game at the clubhouse. And while we’re at the clubhouse, don’t forget about the swimming pool…and the pool table. Others who live here are still working real jobs.  Ahem…that would be me. But with our move to the Sunshine state, the truth is that we live in a day camp for adults.

This is not my first experience with day camps. No indeed. Remember the movie Dirty Dancing? A sleeper that became a huge hit with Jennifer Gray and the late Patrick Swayze who played a dance instructor at a resort hotel for wealthy vacationers.. The movie was set in 1963, in the Catskill Mountains of New York about a hundred miles north of the city.

I spent many childhood summers in the Catskills. However, I was not wealthy and did not stay at a resort hotel. My family rented a little cottage at one of the many “bungalow colonies” for which the area was famous. A few hundred dollars bought us an escape from the concrete heat of the city during July and August. More important, the Catskills provided a possible escape from the polio virus, infamous for summer attacks in urban areas. And so my family schlepped “to the country” each summer, the car loaded with pots, pans, bedding, dishes – everything we’d need to sustain us through the season.

Every bungalow colony had a day camp for children. After all, mothers needed a break, too. Whether it was arts & crafts, nature walks, swimming, knock-hockey, punchball, softball, blueberry picking, or campfires with ghost stories, the kids were kept busy from morning til night.  Every bungalow colony also had a casino–not the gambling kind–but a big social hall for adult parties and shows on Saturday night. These were the  places where the comedians and entertainers of the time honed their skills and sharpened their acts. Buddy Hackett, Milton Berle, Eddie Fisher…they all found their way to these summer audiences. But the parents agreed that the best talent show of all was the one put on by their kids in the day camp.

Last month I attended a talent show by the “kids” in my day camp for adults. A home grown entertainment that was second to none this year. As though the spirit of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland hovered over the place and cast, the “Let’s put on a show” theme had imbued this day camp. On the big night, the turnout in both talent and audience was exceptional.

So now that this day camper and her golfer guy live in a 55 and better community, what has changed about day camp from our earlier years?

Not a darn thing! The fun activities and making new friends are still part of the schedule. And if the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate is a little shorter, or more time is spent fishing instead of running bases…well, some accommodation is to be expected as gray begins to dominate our natural hair color. (Not that it dominates for very long around here!)  We might not be up for some “dirty dancing,” but the dance floor is definitely crowded on New Year’s Eve.

From those bungalow  colonies in the Catskills to this day camp for active retirees, my life echoes the past. I’m holding onto the happy times and the loving memories of family long gone. I’ve  become an older iteration of who I once was, proving once again that the “child is father of the man.” Or, as a famous sailor enjoyed repeating, “I yam who I yam.”

What have you held onto from your childhood? Can you recognize yourself in the mirror of time? Has your life come full circle?

CONTEST NEWS!!  I’m thrilled to add a fabulous prize to this month’s drawing.  Five authors from OnFireFiction are offering a five story romance package called: LOVE ME SOME COWBOY. Each story is a full novel from Lisa Mondello, Jean Brashear, Barbara McMahon, Day Leclaire and Ginger Chambers. I’m a member of OnFireFiction and am happy to provide this terrific prize in addition to a copy of FAMILY INTERRUPTED.

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book package

Post a comment and have your name added to this  drawing!! Contest runs through May 31st.

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As always, thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

Starting Over ~ Fingers on the Keyboard

A BEAUTIFUL REMINDER…

My new bookmarks arrived yesterday.  One one side is the hands on keyboardpink banner that you see above. On the other side is the cover of Family Interrupted with some information about it. Ordering bookmarks is not new for me. I designed and had them printed for almost every book I’ve written. Their arrival at the house was always exciting. But it’s been three years since my last book was released, and the FedEx package that came yesterday contained more than my latest bookmark.

It contained proof. Proof that I’m still a working writer. Proof that I’m back in the game. Sure, it’s now a digital world, and I wonder how to distribute bookmarks to readers buying on their Kindle or Nook. But that question didn’t matter as I opened the carton. My hands shook a little as I stroked the top layer of polished pink 2 x 7 cardboards with reverence. And then I smiled. Widely. Yes. Writing is what I do.

There are easier ways to earn a living.  I know that. I’ve gone through periods of doubt many times, especially in the beginning, and learned that a writing career is not for sissies. It’s not for the faint of heart. I don’t say that lightly. I don’t say that to show off or to scare those pursuing a writing career. The truth is that to succeed in this profession, not only must you produce a good story, but you must be a special kind of stubborn. Not the stubbornness of those “who will not see,”  but rather the kind requiring belief in yourself and your stories.

Most important, that belief must reside in the very core of who you are. If creating stories is part of the air you breathe, if you talk to characters in your sleep, then you have the soul of a writer. The road to publication and beyond, however, is filled with potholes. Along the way, you will trip. And you’ll have to pick yourself up and begin again. And again.Stubbornness comes in handy.

There are easier way to earn a living. Teaching high school subjects to homeless adults for seven years was easier. I loved it. I gave 110% of myself to that position. But at day’s end, I jumped into my personal life, into my second career.  Writing. When I worked a day job from Monday to Friday, I put in fourteen hour weekend days at the computer as well as a couple of hours at night during the week.

A thick skin comes in handy. Remember those potholes? Whether you submit your work to agents, traditional publishers or to an editor you’ve hired independently, be prepared for rejection. Be prepared for the brush off:  “Thank you for submitted your work.  Good luck elsewhere.”

Or be prepared for a ten page, single spaced critique that might turn your story inside out, upside down and backward. The timeline is wrong, backstory too heavy, and the pacing’s too slow. The main character is unsympathetic. Her motivation’s not clear, and no one will care about her. You’ll think that the editor knows nothing! Until you reread your manuscript through the editor’s eyes and realize she’s got a point or two. Or three.

There are easier ways to earn a living. But my bookmarks are here, and I am one stubborn gal.

How about you? What struggles have you had on your writing journey? Let’s talk among ourselves.

WE HAVE A WINNER:  Louise B has won the April contest. Congratulations, Louise!

NEW DRAWING!!  Leave a comment and you’ll be entered into the May drawing for a free copy of Family Interrupted or your choice of book from my printed backlist. Bookmarks included with either one!

Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you next time for another edition of Starting Over.

Linda