Monthly Archives: July 2013

Starting Over ~ Dive Right In

I’m one of those people who eat to live, not live to eat. So I wouldn’t call myself a foodie. Niko's counterBut there are definite exceptions to my take-it-or-leave-it  eating habits. Why is it that I find the very best meals, meals that I would become a foodie for, in the small, elbows-on-the-table kind of places. You know the ones I mean. No tablecloths. Order at the counter. Grab your own plastic utensils and drinks. And then wait for your order to appear on giant paper plates.

When I discover a dive that sets my taste buds singing, I’m in heaven. At that moment, it’s all about the food. These place don’t depend on ambiance because there isn’t any. But the food…? OMG!  Whether ethnic, American, breakfasts, lunches or dinners, I don’t care. When I find an eatery that makes we want to keep it on my list of “regulars,” I’m so happy.

I love Greek food. In Houston, I ate at Niko Niko’s, which i think I mentioned in an earlier post. I lunched there every week, never minding the wait to order. You can imagine that I sure wasn’t the only one in the place at lunchtime. The meal was worth the wait. Eventually, long after I discovered it and long after the owners enlarged it, the Food Network discovered it, too. It was featured on Drive-Ins, Diners, and Dives. But I get a kick out of know that I was there first!

Niko's

I never, ever thought I’d find another Niko’s in Florida. But…drum roll please — I did!

Leave it to my golfer guy to drag me to this little place where the restrooms are in the outside of the building. What the H…?  But clean inside. And the gyros…freshly sliced meat, and oh, oh, oh! The homemade tzatziiki sauce..(picture me kissing my finger tips). Delicious! The Greek salad, always one of my choices was delicious, too. So, now I’ll got to Peck’s for a real gyro and Greek salad. A new great dive. Maybe one day, it will be discovered by the Food Network. In the meantime, they’ve opened a second location – same family ownership – and everyone who goes there raves about it.

Just for the record, I’m picky about Italian food, too. There’s Italian and then there’s ITALIAN–when that first forkful of lasagna almost melts in your mouth, and you know you’re in Italy. This goes for pizza joints, too. I will try any pizza joint once. But it’s got to be way above average to land on my list of regulars.

Now, let’s switch gears and talk about pancakes. Why? Because I love them! I had a place in Houston called Frank’s. For $5.75, you ordered from a big breakfast menu…which was available throughout the day. Frank’s pancakes with a side of thick bacon slices got me through the weeks of chemo and visits to the plastic surgeon when my expanders were being filled in order to get me ready for implants. That experience was worse than the chemo, which in hindsight wasn’t too bad. I really looked forward to my pancakes at Frank’s as my reward for the fills. The portions of food were bigger than my stomach could hold. The pancakes, themselves, were the size of the dinner plate. But again, I was in heaven. Have I mentioned that I love pancakes?  French toast, too. And Belgian waffles.

Once more in Florida, my sweetie took me for a ride. First, of course, we have to accomplish something. We never just “go for a ride.”  In this case, we dropped off donations at Goodwill, which was a bit self-serving as we got to clean out the garage a bit. After unloading the car, my golfer guy says, “I know a place…for pancakes.”  Well, he didn’t have to ask me twice. Off we drove to Poppi’s.

Pancakes and sausage at Frank's.

Pancakes and sausage at Frank’s.

It might have been Franks. It looked so similar with the casual booths and tables–no cloths–and with the efficient and friendly waitstaff. Windows all around.  But the true test is always measured by the food. The pancakes matched the circumference of the plate. Oh, yeah. Three strips of bacon sat on the side dish. My heart started doing a tango. I drizzled the maple syrup just on the part I would cut. My fork slipped through the two layers, and I ladled it into my mouth.The outside of the pancake had a slight crispy coat–unusual and delicious. Rapture! Another OMG moment for me. I’d found home. In Florida.

I won’t embarrass myself in a high class French restaurant. But I’m basically a low maintenance gal who appreciates quality in the basics. I can usually take it or leave it in regard to food. Truly, I’m not a foodie. But if I visit some good dives on a regular basis, I just might become one.

How about you? Do you have a favorite inexpensive restaurant that sets your palette singing? A favorite food style that you MUST have from time to time?  Let me know in the comment section.

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

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LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books written by the award-winning writers of On Fire Fiction, plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these stories are hot, hot, hot, while others…not so much.  Your choice!

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Starting Over ~ Solving the Mystery

When cancer hit the first time, I chalked it up to randomness. I was that one in eight statistic we allBr Ca Blog icon 1 hear about: one in eight American women will get breast cancer at some time in their lives.  That’s 12.5%. Doesn’t that number seem large?  Random or not, after receiving the diagnosis, I drove myself crazy trying to figure out what I had done wrong. Somehow that random statistic became personal when it applied to me.

Was it the food I ate? The water I drank? The air I breathed? In every general way, I was healthy-not overweight, exercising several times a week at the gym, I ate mostly healthy foods. I had nursed my youngest child, and at the same time appreciated that  nursing was one of those factors that lowers the risk for breast cancer.

Accepting this new fact in my life took time. Several months into treatment (lumpectomy, chemo, radiation), I was still trying to make sense out of what can’t be explained. We, humans, like order in our world. We like to solve mysteries and puzzles. We’re uneasy with open endings and dangling threads–we’re itchy about unfinished books! We want to make rational those situations that have no reason, to understand what we don’t know. One plus one must equal two in our ordered world.

Acceptance of my situation did happen in time. Soon I was able to say, “I guess I was just that one-in-eight statistic.” I’d shrug, then chuckle. “Somebody has to be unlucky.”  I certainly wouldn’t wish this on anyone else.

Nine years later, when breast cancer hit the second time, no one in my orbit accepted that this was a random act of unkindness. How unlucky can one gal get? I certainly wanted to solve this mystery. Without any fanfare, my blood was drawn to be tested for the BRCA gene mutations.

BINGO! My mystery was solved. The culprit was the deleterious BRCA 1 gene. Shedding this light certainly brought closure, but also brought up a new set of issues. Facing a bi-lateral mastectomy would seem to top the list. But figuring out what, where and how to tell the children…ah-h, that  broke my heart. Genetic mutations are inherited, so my kids might be affected too.

No one in a family with this gene escapes the stress of waiting for the test results. No one escapes the fear or sadness, that terrible bellyache, that comes after being diagnosed as a gene carrier. I took comfort not in the diagnosis, but in the prognosis. A great prognosis…if I took action. If? If? Did I not want to live? With children, grandchildren and a wonderful, loving husband, the answer was easy. I had everything to live for!

So here I am, celebrating every day with Mike, my kids, and wonderful friends in a lovely place for “55 and better” I call the day camp. I will admit, however, that it’s great being on the other side of the diagnosis and treatment. I like living hopefully ever after.

If cancer seems to “run in your family” or if you have any questions about inherited breast or ovarian cancer, I highly recommend the only non-profit in American totally focused on inherited cancer:  FORCE – Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. Log onto their website for all kinds of information about this subject:

www.facingourrisk.org

FORCE LOGO

FORCE LOGO

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

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LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books, written by the award-winning authors of On Fire Fiction, plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these are hot, hot, hot, while others…not so much.  Your choice!

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Starting Over ~ Family Stories, Part II

WORDS AND PICTURES FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION – file0001743539956

As promised, today I’m giving you concrete examples to help you write stories about your family. Whether you have a large family or a small one, you’ve got stories to share. Funny stories. Poignant stories. Life-changing events. Family traditions. And characters. Oh, yes, we can’t forget the characters. And one of them is you! I think writing family stories is not only fun, but important. How else will your children and grandchildren know who they are?

Last time at Starting Over, I suggested a number of topics for you to consider writing about. Of course, a dozen of your own ideas might have sprung to mind, and that’s wonderful. For those of you needing suggestions, however, I offered the gamut from family recipes, to holidays, to life cycle events, to particular family members. Everything is fodder. Just reach in and grab an idea.

Today we’re going to figure out some specific ways to start your story. Even for professional writers, choosing the right opening is very challenging if not the hardest part of the work. I’m here to make life easy for you!  Here are three different ways to begin your tale–examples from my own stories are included:

SETTING — Using this option, you start by revealing such items as time, place  and weather. The goal here is for your children to see and feel what you saw and felt at the time the real event took place. Use the real dates and places. After all, these stories are not fiction. If this is a story about your parents or grandparents, gather the information now.

Example:  “Houston’s so flat,” I protested, “and the houses have no basements.” Too disappointed to hide my feelings, I looked at my husband with dismay and wondered if my friends up north were right. “Too hot and humid,” they’d warned. “Don’t go.” But I hadn’t cared, In fact, I’d looked forward to getting away from New England winters…until now.

Home of the Houston Astros! Beautiful park.

Minute Maid Park — Home of the Houston Astros!   I always think of it as a happy
place.

ACTION — Using this option, you start with an event, then go back in time to explain how and why this event happened.

Example:  I often tell people that Michael and I met by accident, but that’s not quite true. My uncle Sid introduced us. On our very first date, however, we did hit a telephone pole head on. The car was totally wrecked. Fortunately, we weren’t.   (I then explained where we were, why we were out so late and what my dad’s reaction was–oh, yes, that made for a story 🙂

CHARACTERS — these are your family members, Using this option, it’s fun to describe how the personality affected you and others. The person you choose to write about can be quiet or larger- than-life or somewhere in between. Everyone is unique and worthy.

Something wrong, sweetie? Find Aunt Ethel.

Something wrong, sweetie? Find Aunt Ethel.

Example:  Aunt Ethel had a reputation among the kids. She was the doctor. In deference to the medical profession, however, we called her “half-a-doctor.”  She could make “it” better, whatever “it” was, but her specialties were splinters and specs-in-the-eyes. The combination of her infinite patience and excellent eyesight earned her the reward of fixing us.

I hope you’ll make a stab at writing your family stories. If you have any questions, just ask them in the comment section. And if you want to share something you’ve written, you can do that in the comment section, too. I’ll post your efforts in a later blog as a “follow-up” if you’d like. You don’t have to be Mark Twain or Hemmingway or Dostoyevsky to write for yourself. You just have to pick up a pencil and get started.

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

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LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books below plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these are hot, hot hot, while Brashear, Texas RootsDire Distraction_lo resothers…not so book coverMA25EC~1Release-MeNewJpgmuch. Your choice!

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Starting Over – Fingers on the Keyboard

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’RE A WRITER?hands on keyboard

I personally know or have chatted at conferences with several hundred authors during the last twenty years, long before my first novel was ever published. Among those many writers, only a small percentage—a tiny percentage—spent their childhood dreaming of a career in writing. And yet, we writers of genre and literary fiction, while not as numerous as the stars in the heavens, check in at quite a hefty number. Some would say there are too many of us! So how did membership in this club grow when almost no one seemed to yearn for admittance?  When did the itch to become a professional writer reveal itself? Each personal story is unique to be sure, but I believe there are some common threads:

You know you’re a writer…if your town library was important to you from the get-go. As an eight or nine year old girl, I remember visiting the public library every single week.  I was gloriously happy strolling down the aisles, checking the shelf space of my favorite authors, excited to find either a file8411260069817brand new book or one new to me. I also remember feeling sorry for these authors, however, and glad not to be one of them. Why would I want to spend my time all alone in a room writing books? I’d have to give up playing with my friends, give up watching television. That life wasn’t for me! Poor writers. So lonely. It must have been a terrible life, but I was glad they’d chosen it because I loved to read.

Hear that? Writers love to read. We started out that way, maybe from birth. Every one of us with no exceptions. During my conversations with other authors, someone usually brought up her trips to the library as a kid. At that moment, every face would light up, every expression one of remembrance. When we were children, visiting the library or the bookmobile was the common denominator. In my case, the dentist’s waiting room was a hot spot for magazines. That’s where I discovered Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal. I was twelve by then, reading everything and anything.

You know you’re a writer…when your high school English teacher hangs your essays on the classroom bulletin board. No fuss about it though. She simply returns the essays of other students to them while you sit empty-handed. Until you realize your epic poem about Odysseus and his band of men/Who thought they’d never see home again or the comical piece, A Musical Instrument? which depicts your adventures playing the taller-than-you, low toned bassoon with the school orchestra, are decorating the walls of the room. Oh, there they are. She hung them up. But did I get an A?    150px-Bassoon2_(PSF)

You know you’re a writer…when in college, you’d rather handle a term paper than take an exam. You enjoy exploring plays and investigating a “comedy of manners.” You love reading the romantic poets—Keats, Byron, Wordsworth’s Lucy poems. On the other hand, you also remember dark powerful lines: That’s my last duchess painted on the wall/Looking as though she were alive…Robert Browning.  As soon as I read that, I got shivers. I still get shivers. Most of my friends moaned and groaned, but I liked this stuff.

You know you’re a writer…when as a young adult, you start making up poems for your own amusement.  About your kids. About life. About nature. Some funny. Some serious. And you send a few verses to Hallmark Cards, not realizing they employ their own staff of writers. You know nothing about the business of writing because to you, writing is fun! Just like I did, you reach for your thick pad and a pen every night after the kids are in bed. Creative writing is becoming a hobby we really file761243267126and truly like.

You know you’re a writer…when you try your hand at family stories. Three or four page personal essays. About what makes a “real” grandma. About meeting your husband. About your parents’ wedding. Whoa! Your parent’s wedding? You weren’t even there, but you asked a lot of questions and filled in the blanks. A story emerged called A Fine Romance. Everyone loved it. More important, however, you realize you loved writing it.

You  know you’re a writer…when you voluntarily enroll in creative writing courses. You even shell out some cash for them!  The writing bug is biting and won’t let you go. Your family stories evolve into short fiction pieces. You start learning about the craft—the structure and elements of fiction. You begin to realize how character, plot and setting are put together to create a whole work.  Little by little, you learn to braid these threads yourself, and the craft begins to make sense.

You know you’re a writer…when you grab every drop of courage you possess, put your best short story in an envelope and enter it into a national contest. Just to test the water. Just to see if you’ve “got it.” Or not. Or not yet.  

When the results come in, and you’ve placed in the top ten out of almost 2000 entries, you cry. Maybe, just maybe you start to believe…

You know you’re a writer… when you realize that The Wizard of Oz is a masterpiece. Baum had it right: Goal, Motivation and Conflict. It’s all there—the foundation of fiction which has endured to this day. Aristotle explained it as the hero’s journey. Lucas illustrated it in Star Wars. Want something more sophisticated? Think about The Shawshank Redemption. Journeys well traveled; endings well deserved.  Or sometimes not, but that’s not my way.

The original cover, circa 1900.

The original cover, circa 1900.

The promise of these well crafted elements is why the words, “Once upon a time…” brings everyone to the campfire. The request to “Tell me a story…” echoes through every generation of children. Our kids become the heroes; they live the adventure–within the safety of a book.

You know you’re a writer…when you look into those children’s faces and reply, “Of course, I’ll tell you a story. I’ve got lots of stories tucked away.” When the time comes, you sink into your chair, all alone in your office, and close the door. You noodle around with a few ideas. Your fingers start itching. They begin tapping the keyboard and a book emerges. Down the road, another one comes to fruition. You’re not a one-book wonder, and the relief is grand.

Whether your story is aimed at children or adults doesn’t matter. The genre doesn’t matter either. But good stories do. Good stories matter!  When you believe they matter as much as I do, then you’ll know you’re a writer.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope both authors and readers took away a little insight about one writer’s development which is not too unusual among others in the field. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books below, written by the award winning authors of On Fire Fiction plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these are hot, hot, hot while others…not so much.  Your choice!

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Starting Over ~ Family Stories

WORDS AND PICTURES — A TRUE TEAMfile0001743539956

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”  We’ve all heard that phrase so often, we take it as fact. But I say that without words, a picture can be lost forever in the mists of time. I’m talking here specifically about your family pictures.

I’m not the only one who’s recognized this truth. Legions of us have gazed at snapshots, either in an album or thrown into boxes and didn’t know who we were looking at. But it was an uncle. Or great-grandfather. Or your mom’s first cousin whom she remembers very well and with affection.. Sadly, you don’t know this lovely lady at all. And what about all those photos of the guys coming home from WWII? Now, WE will recognize our dads, but will our grandchildren know who these heroes are? And what they looked like?

I don’t know whether this idea of anonymous family members gathered in the ether as some ideas seem to, but suddenly a few years ago, creating scrapbooks become part of our popular culture. Everyone was doing it. The craft stores couldn’t keep enough stock on the shelves. And boy, were the choices pretty. Colorful, patterned, with space for pictures and WORDS.

Fast forward a few years to our digital world where, with the help of cell phones, everyone has become a photographer. They’ve discovered their inner shutter-bug. They’re so happy creating file000741571851 digital albums and preserving memories. I sincerely hope, however, they’re adding descriptions to each photo they take and save. Or one day, these current memories will also be forgotten in the mists of time.

In my world, the story comes first. Then I add a picture. Or a recipe. Or an item of remembrance. Before I became a published author, I wrote a series of stories about my family.Each one was a snapshot of family member, or an event, or a place. Most were combinations of the three. A couple of weeks ago, I shared the story of Real Grandmas with you. I’m hoping some of you will be inspired enough to try writing some family stories of your own. Don’t panic! I’m going to help. For right now though, and for illustration, here are some of the other titles and first lines from my binder, so you can understand what I mean by simple family stories:

Oh, You Kid!   My Uncle Sid was the Pied Piper in our family.

The Cop, The Commissioner and the Half-a-Doctor  (referring to my mom & her two sisters)

A Fine Romance – In a street length aquamarine dress and white netting in her hair, the bride file7371279077008nervously waited for the signal to walk down the hall to the large front room of the parlor floor where her wedding would be held. The year was 1945. (This is the story of my parents’ wedding. And, no, I wasn’t there!)

Visiting Murray – My cousin, Murray, viewed his profession as one-half art and one-half science flavored with a pinch of comedy. And that was why he was the best dentist in all of Brooklyn…

The stories continue for up to four pages at  most. They capture one idea, one event. You can do this!!  Members of my family who read these stories long after I’m gone will build a connection to their roots. They’ll have some answers to the age old question of “Where did I come from?”  Which I think really means, “Who am I? and Where do I fit in?”

No matter how many books I wrote, books that appeared on store shelves and in book clubs, my mom always insisted that my best book was the one of family stories. What do you think?

Next Tuesday, I’ll continue this thread of writing family stories and give you concrete ways to start out. And then we’ll decide whether to continue.  So, post comments!  Let me know if this idea appeals to you.

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

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LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two of the books below, written by the award-winning authors of On Fire Fiction plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these are hot, hot, Brashear, Texas RootsDire Distraction_lo resRelease-MeNewJpgbook coverhot, while others…not so much. Your choice!

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ARe DEBRA SALONEN BANG 2

 

Starting Over ~ Fingers on the Keyboard

file0001816862747FORGET THE FINGERS ON THE KEYBOARD, WE NEED FEET ON THE TREADMILL!

Oh my, oh my. Look what happened when we were looking somewhere else. When we were focusing on stories and blogs and books. When we sat at a desk in an office building or home office. As we earned our living, we didn’t notice the tiny insignificant half-pound that found a home with us. With us? Hell, it found a home ON us…every year for quite a while. When did Size 10 get to be Size 12?  Could our clothes have shrunk THAT much in the dryer?

Many of us, especially the ones who spent our working lives behind a desk, are not alone in this less than joyful discovery. I’m sorry to say that we might have an affliction called T.M.T. which stands for Too. Much. Tush..That’s right. We have too much tush and not enough svelte.

Yes, I know we “clean up” well. We look darn good right after the hair dresser gets finished with us. Not to mention the great mani-pedi with the endless choice of reds, pinks, blues and greens for our fingers and toes. I even saw yellow on the rack, but I noticed no one chose it. We can feel like a million bucks after all that. But my friends, that’s because we’re focusing on the positive and ignoring the negative when, in this case, we should be doing both. Too. Much. Tush. is not a good thing for either our self-image or our health.

My friend and award winning author, Barbara Keiler, loves to run. She runs miles every morning

Barbara Keiler, my friend who runs and writes.

Barbara Keiler, my friend who runs and writes.

. Every. Single. Day. She lives in New England with many months of lousy weather, but she simply dresses appropriately and sets out–often with camera in hand. I know Barbara for many years and she’s been running for as long as I know her. She is petite in every way but one: her mind is super-sized. She doesn’t worry about T.M.T.

 

Preventing T.M.T. is why Debra Salonen, another award winning writer friend, (also an On Fire Fiction author) hikes for miles in her California mountains. I never know exactly where she is, but she always posts pictures of herself and family on these jaunts. In addition, she practices Yoga. I don’t know what kind, but she’s loyal to it. She changed her food choices a couple of years ago and lost fifteen pounds. The weight’s remained off. She looks and feels terrific. More important, she is healthy.

Deb Salonen Yoga, anyone?

Deb Salonen
Yoga, anyone?

 

deb doing yoga

 

 

 

I suppose when you’re a full-time writer, you might notice the sedentary nature of your job more quickly than, say, a teacher who’s up from her desk and walking a lot during the day. Or a waitress, who’s always on the go.  Of course, with that reasoning, all teachers and all waitresses should be thin. Are they?

Before I became a full-time writer, I managed an adult education program and taught classes there as well. I was always on the go, interacting with students, teaching a half-dozen subjects including role playing job interviews, or I was running from one classroom to another, checking in with the staff. I loved that job. Loved the activity and quiet time mix, and loved the students’ successes. So being a writer and sitting behind the computer all day made me antsy. Even talking with all the characters in my head couldn’t change the reality of sitting in  the chair.

I joined a gym. An air-conditioned gym. Okay, confession time. I am a princess who likes to be active but doesn’t like to sweat. Yeah, I know. I’m weird and you can laugh. But sweating makes me itch. So the a/c is a must. For years, I took low-impact aerobics classes three times a week. When we moved to Houston, the classes were not convenient, but I began using the resistance machines. Mike and I also walked two miles every night until it became too hot, and my hands swelled. Houston=hot and humid, and I’m a princess. It was then I discovered the treadmill. Inside the air-conditioned gym.

I want to remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Living a sedentary life will prevent me from achieving that goal. I don’t claim to be a doctor, but I read. I listen. I watch. I’ve had health issues in the past, a practice run on how it feels to be incapacitated. To have no strength. To be dependent on others. I didn’t like it. I wanted my vitality back. I wanted my health back. I’d rather take care of myself.  Call me Princess Leia.  Princess Leia

 

There’s a gym in the day camp where I live now in Florida. It has several treadmills and I’m on one of them almost every day. Using a treadmill is boring. But there’s a television on the wall right in front of them with closed captions. I haven’t stopped running since I got here. No sweat.

 

Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp

The chorus presentation on July 4th, 2013

The chorus presentation on July 4th, 2013

WASTING TIME? OR BURNING THE CANDLE AT BOTH ENDS?

“Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My 70s were interesting and fairly serene, but my 80s are passionate. I grow more intense as I age.”

The above quote is from the best known work of Florida Scott-Maxwell, The Measure of My Days which she wrote in her 80s. She was a practicing psychologist and playwright who studied under Carl Jung. She lived to be 93 years old. Her book explores how to make meaning out of our later years.

Now, I’m still a long way from being 80, but I think I get it. I look around at my new friends in this community, and I see active, vibrant people who finally have the time to explore their creative sides. Perhaps, their passions.

On July 4th, I attended a celebration in honor of America’s birthday. On stage was the community chorus. It is composed of residents who not only like to sing, but can actually carry a tune! They and their director have given untold hours preparing the program, practicing the songs and arrangements and making sure to show up for every rehearsal. The audience, including moi, filled the large social hall with barely a seat remaining empty. Our applause brought such words of appreciation from the choir director as though WE were doing THEM the favor. And then I realized that a vocal performance was similar to writing a novel. They both need an audience to gain closure. The passion, however, resides in creating the art. It’s hard work, and no one volunteers unless driven to it. Is it worth the effort?  In my view, the satisfaction is immeasurable.

Another dream deferred...until now?

Another dream deferred…until now?

Along the walls of the clubhouse are glass cases displaying the creative side of other people. The Photography Club, for example, often shows pictures so well crafted,  I would pay for them. They’re of professional quality, and I know that learning the skills to produce those photographs had to have taken infinite amounts of time, attention, and practice. The names of the photographers are in small print, but I take note and compliment the creators when I see them.

In addition to photography, displays of the Woodworking, Quilters, and Ceramics Clubs make a passer-by pause to browse the offerings. Not every item is of professional quality, but I can see how some artists have improved over time. They’re taking their work seriously, haven’t gotten bored, haven’t given up. When I spoke to several in the art class, all I heard was the word love. They love what they’re doing, learning. They’ve always wanted to try. Never knew they could be as good as they are. Sure, some laughed…or snickered. But no one quit.

In the Life Long Learning program, speakers cover  topics from the stock market to the solar system. From early philosophers to logic theories. To my own offering of Writing Family Stories.

Exploring the swath of ideas and activities that we promised ourselves we’d do “one day” provides an opportunity to make meaning of these years  when our responsibilities are fewer and we finally have the time. I sincerely hope that I grow more passionate as I age. I don’t want to miss the sweet satisfaction of jumping in deep and trying something new or revisiting a long held dream.

How about you?

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

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LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books below, written by the award winning authors of On Fire Fiction plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these are hot, hot, hot while others…not so much. Your choice:)

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Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp

HAPPY 237th BIRTHDAY, AMERICA!

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In the beginning…thirteen states…

 

 

 

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And then there were fifty…

 

 

 

Dear Readers:

About 300 million folks will celebrate America’s birthday today. I will be among them. In my corner of the world, we’ll raise voices in concert, wave flags, down hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cream…we can’t forget the ice cream 🙂

How will you be spending the 4th?  Leave a comment and you’ll be entered into my July contest! Choose two books from the fab authors of On Fire Fiction which are shown below, PLUS a $25 gift certificate to either Amazon or BN. You might burn yourself here – some of these are hot, hot, hot. But others are not, not, not 🙂

As always, thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you on Tuesday, July 9th, for the next edition of Starting Over.

Best,

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Starting Over ~ The Pink Ribbon Sisterhood

Br Ca Blog icon 1THE BABY HAS A NAME!!   Oops– THE MEMOIR HAS A TITLE!!

It took longer to decide on a title than it did to birth this baby. And I’m not kidding. There were times I thought this work would forever be referred to as The Memoir. But I’m very happy to announce  that HOPEFULLY EVER AFTER: Breast Cancer, Life and Me will be released on October 1st, appropriately at the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month. I certainly hope the book will raise awareness not only of the disease but of what choices women now have to combat it.

So how did this book come about? Why did I write it? Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I’m a writer with fourteen novels behind me. My natural instinct is to take pen to paper or put my fingers on the keyboard and figure stuff out by writing. Two bouts of breast cancer is a lot to figure out.

IT’S ALL IN THE FAMILY–

If you shake a family tree hard enough, you might find Uncle Joe, the bootlegger during Prohibition. Or Aunt Hattie, the one who ran away with the traveling salesman. Or even cousin Elmore, who became a U.S. senator. Take a minute to think about your family. Is it not full of characters and stories? From the humorous to the tragic, people create their own stories simply by making choices and living with them.

In my family tree, you’ll find ten siblings who chose to immigrate from Poland to the United States at the turn of the last century. In their search for a better life, they brought with them their love of family, hopes for an opportunity to thrive, and a bunch of BRCA1 genes about which they knew nothing. The last item was certainly not a legacy they would have wanted to bequeath.

I'm in the sassy wig sitting with Jean Brashear at a Ninc conference. The straightest hair do I've ever had!

I’m in the sassy wig sitting with Jean Brashear at a Ninc conference. The straightest hair do I’ve ever had!

My grandmother was the oldest of the six young women and four young men who landed in Ellis Island a hundred years ago. They were a close knit family and started out living near each other in New York City. Soon, they formed a family society with monthly meetings which became annual events as time passed. But because of these annual gatherings, I got to know many second and third cousins who didn’t live near to me.

So when I found out that my cousin Pearl had cancer, I knew who she was even though she was part of my dad’s generation. And when I heard that my cousin Shirley from New Jersey had cancer, I knew who she was, too–a beautiful young woman, a kindergarten teacher who left two small children and a loving husband. And then her brother got cancer, too.  My cousin Blanche fought four different cancers. My family visited the cemetery too many times.

That ‘s when we acknowledged that “cancer ran in our family.”  But there was no pattern. Some of my stricken cousins had been born to the sisters, some were daughters of the brothers. If we had known then what we know now…  But “then” was the 1960’s and 70’s and 80’s. What seems odd to me even now is that all of the original ten lived out natural lifespans. My own grandmother also died of cancer in 1963 at the age of 76. But she had neither breast nor ovarian cancer.

In recent years, there have been other cousins and of course, my own two battles with the disease. So I wrote a book to satisfy my own curiosity. My need to know why cancer “ran in my family.” Frankly, it’s a damn good reason to write a book.

CONFRONTING HEREDITARY BREAST AND OVARIAN CANCER FORCE Logo is another book that’s important to me. This is a terrific reference book, clearly written and broken down into easily identifiable sections. It’s primary author is Sue Friedman, DVM who founded the non-profit organization Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered aka FORCE.  I’ve written about FORCE in the blog several times before because it’s the only non-profit organization in America that focuses exclusively on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. You can check them out at www.facingourrisk.org.

Because of my need to know, I researched my family and current achievements in medicine. Because of my need to share what I’ve learned in a fun way, I wrote HOPEFULLY EVER AFTER: Breast Cancer, Life and Me.  I hope you’ll look for it when it’s released.

FUN STUFF!!! Congratulations to the winner of the June contest: Laney aka Elaine.  Full disclosure – because Laney doesn’t own an eReader and lives in Canada, she chose to receive several of my Superroumance books (paperbacks) instead of the offered prize. As far as I’m concerned, the winner is the boss, and I’m happy to oblige. (The dollar value was the same).

NEW CONTEST!! For July, I’m giving away two books from a new group of choices by authors from On Fire Fiction. You might burn yourself–some of these are hot, hot, hot. But some are milder. Your choice of two plus a $25 gift card to Amazon or BN. 

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LINDA BARRETT (2)

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