Category Archives: Family Life

Starting Over ~ Act II

If not now, when?       OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 

I’ve let lapse my subscriptions to many of the glossy women’s magazines that I devoured as a young working mom. Their targeted customer is the me I used to be, not the me I am today. The current me has more years behind her, more experience with life’s challenges, and presides over an empty nest. Nope. I am not their targeted reader. There is a magazine I subscribe to, however, that seems to realize women of a certain age have a lot going for them, including the courage to change the habits of a lifetime.

Second Acts is a column in MORE magazine that I look forward to reading each month. It’s about women in mid-life, going after what they want–usually career related–at a moment when they realize two things: 1) time is limited and,  2) they’ve been unhappy, depressed, or just unsatisfied in how they earn a living which, of course, affects other aspects of daily life. If they want to grab the brass ring labeled “happy,” they’d better take action now!  Some have spouses, others do not. Some have financial substance, others do not. None have acted on a whim. Once they’d made their decision to go after what they really wanted, they planned for it. Step by step. They put their plan into motion and worked harder than they’d ever worked before. The search for job satisfaction is very tempting. And risky. It often requires a huge career change, financial uncertainty, and handling the incredulity of family and friends who usually believe their gal has lost her mind. In short, such a big change is not for the faint-of-heart.

file000422875241In the current issue of this magazine, for example, an economist becomes a restauranteur. In another issue, necessity was the mother of invention and a steam floor cleaner was born in Korea, eliminating the need for scrubbing floors on hands and knees. The inventor? A working woman who took out a 100K mortgage against her home to create a prototype. Others have gone from the medical field to photography, and from advertising executive to cheese maker. Dreams beckoned and lured. Dreams plus hard work plus passion equal a dream job. Maybe a dream life.

Not all second acts are related to careers. Some people’s passions are personal and satisfied by finally taking action on them. I clearly remember one story from years ago, about a woman who’d always wanted to play the bagpipes. She learned. And practiced at 4 a.m. in her basement when everyone else was sleeping. I don’t remember the aftermath, but I’d like to think she used her talents in her community perhaps at parades, weddings or funerals.

Act II is about making changes. Sometimes it’s related how we look –  hairstyle, body fitness or cosmetics. These personal changes might follow a significant life event, such as a divorce or a “big” birthday. Or it might happen because you look in the mirror one day and realize the woman staring back at you is not quite the one you used to see. The woman in the mirror needs some freshening up!

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I buy more make-up now than I ever did years ago. Not because I apply it heavily, but because I apply it, period!  A dash of lipstick will no longer do. I’ve discovered I like playing with color palettes- eye shadow, lipstick, nail polish. I like chatting with the gals behind the Clinique counter at Macy’s. I’ve learned to trust their opinion. I don’t buy a lot–and they don’t really push–I just think they like their job: make-up artists sharing their knowledge and tricks with everyday women. After we figured out the right shade of foundation and blush, I enjoyed experimenting with other stuff. I’ve become pretty good at it now. More important, I’m having fun. And I think that’s what Act II is all about.

Grab that brass ring, ladies! Have a little fun. If not now, when?

One more thing –  If you missed this on Facebook, here’s the link to an article about me that ran in a Tampa regional paper to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month for them. I was interviewed at home, and the reporter had to condense a lot of information. I think she did a pretty good job.

http://www.observernews.net/thisweek/front_page/4504-Romance_author_tells_the_story_of_her_battle_with_breast_cancer.html

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

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Newsletter Note: If you’ve signed up for my newsletter, you should have received it last Thursday, October 3rd. If you didn’t, please let me know. If you’d like to receive it, you can sign up here on the website. It’s an easy way to keep up with my writing news, and I promise not to clog your In-box. The newsletter comes out four or five times a year at most.

OCTOBER CONTEST:  We’ll have TWO winners this month! Post a comment and your name will be entered into a drawing for two of the books below plus a gift card to BN or Amazon. Your choice! All books from authors of On Fire Fiction!

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Starting Over ~ Wasting Time or Recharging?

LEAVE ME ALONE!     file951258260864

When my oldest son was about thirteen years old, I found him lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling, hands behind his head. His knees were bent and one leg crossed over the other. The afternoon light penetrated the room. I couldn’t stand it.

“What are you doing?”

“Mom! Can’t I just do nothing for awhile? I never get to do nothing.”

Well, that gave me pause. Fair enough.  As  working mom, I’d made sure my kids were programmed from morning til night, particularly after school. Between homework, bar-mitzvah classes, a newspaper route, and a basketball team, my son may have had a point. So I said, “Okay. Let me know when you’re ready to return to the world.”

That little incident has stayed with me, and I’ve sometimes repeated it when friends talk about kids and their activities. I’ve learned that my generation was not the first to program their kids. From what I can gather, my son was lucky. Kids today don’t have a minute to daydream.  Between soccer, dancing, music, gymnastics, scouts, Little League, clubs….there is a team or a class for every age, every stage and every wage. Classes cost. file0001683376869

Another dream deferred...until now?

Another dream deferred…until now?

We want to give our children everything. Or at least, as much as we possibly can afford. But I wonder if what they most need is time. A free commodity. Which will allow dreams to flourish, creativity to develop, and the mind and body to rest and rejuvenate. Even children need peace of mind. I’m glad some others think like I do:

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”   ….John Lubbock.

My dreamtime occurs in the early morning hours, before my eyes open, before my brain is fully engaged. In that delicious time between sleeping  and waking, my mind drifts to the stories I’m writing, and I usually solve a problem. It drifts to this blog, and a new topic that might interest me. I dream about my own mother and father and miss them to tears. During my dreamtime hours, my mind is free to wander. It conjures up images I didn’t know I had inside me. I love those moments because something good usually results from them. When I actually get out of bed, I’m not only refreshed, but I can’t wait to get to the computer.

Ladies First Choice

Ladies First Choice in Clearwater, FL

We need time to reconnoiter with ourselves. I found the quote from John Lubbock printed in a newsletter from Ladies First Choice, a “stylish ladies boutique” for women who’ve had mastectomies. Women who know that “rest is not a waste of time.” Rest is mandatory for healing and becoming whole again. That’s right. A whole woman–in mind, body and spirit. The breast is not the person. While fighting for our lives, our dreams are laced with nightmares. When we regain our health, our minds can rest.

An active life deserves time for thinking and daydreaming.  Just ask my busy son. Who still fights for a moment to do “nothing.”

What about you? Are there times of the day that are natural dream hours for you?  Do you close yourself away from the family for awhile each day? Refuse to answer the phone?

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over when I’ll announce the winner of the July contest.

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LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books from the selection below, written by the authors 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 ~ 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 ~ 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 ~ 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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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~WE’RE GRANDMAS NOW

GRANDMAS ARE MOMS WITH LOTS OF FROSTING. 009

I wish I’d thought of that. It’s one of those sayings attributed to “author unknown.” But I’ll confirm that the idea resonates in the day camp.  Many, if not most, of my friends here are grandmothers. Do we show off the latest pictures of the kids?  You bet.  Do we brag occasionally?  Oh, yeah. Are our grandbabies the cutest, brightest, funniest, sweetest inventions since chocolate? Absolutely.

But we’re also glad when the visits are over and all the kids–children and grandchildren–go home.

MY GRANDKIDS BELIEVE I’M THE OLDEST THING IN THE WORLD. AND AFTER TWO OR THREE HOURS WITH THEM, I BELIEVE IT TOO.  — Gene Perret

A funny thing, though.  As soon as we say goodbye at the airport, we yearn to see them again.

It’s become an all-or-nothing proposition in America over the last decade or two. Extended families no longer live near one another, so BIG VISITS compensate and leave us all exhausted. First, the scheduling. Then the waiting and crossing off the days.  Then right before, a frenzy of shopping, cooking and freezing. Most important, the planning of “what to do” with everyone after arrival. We must have fun activities!  And then, finally, the tykes arrive with their parents. And with every hug and kiss, we melt. And are reborn.

IF I HAD KNOWN HOW WONDERFUL IT WOULD BE TO HAVE GRANDCHILDREN, I’D HAVE HAD THEM FIRST. — Lois Wyse

My own grandmother lived a hundred miles away from me in upstate New York. Every so often I’d arrive home from school and there she’d be!  My parents didn’t do the countdown thing. I guess they believed in surprises. A wonderful surprise. This lady was the only grandparent I had, and she was everything a little girl could want in a grandmother. Some years ago, her memory inspired me to write a story about her, and about grandmothers then…and now.  My own boys were half-grown at the time. I’m sharing my memory with you today–a story of family–so this blog post will be longer than most.

~~~~~Real Grandmas–A Family Story~~~

A real grandma has big jiggly arms. My grandma did, and when I cuddled up to her on the couch, my head fit perfectly against her unique pillow. She’d read to me in her Yiddish accent, “Vee, Villie, Vinkie vent through the town…”  It sounded just fine.

A real grandma knows how to knit. My grandma did and when she started a sweater, she actually finished it. Long after I’d go to bed, she’d continue to knit and leave her work-in-progress where I could see it first thing in the morning. I was always amazed at how red or navy blue string could turn into a bulky garment, a thing of substance, just by moving two long needles against each other. It seemed like magic, but Grandma could do it.

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A real grandma also fills the house with scrumptious aromas, and needs the special assistance of a ten year old granddaughter. Those apple pies, those rugelahs–rolled out dough cut into triangles and re-rolled into crescents with sugar, cinnamon, raisins, nuts, jelly, anything delicious would do. And the strudel made from dough so thin, you could almost see through it. They are all in my mind’s eye as clearly today as when Gram and I shared my mother’s kitchen on one of Gram’s visits so long ago.

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“Lindala, you’ll scrape the orange and lemon like this,” she said as she gave me the “rebvison,” the four-sided metal scraper used for such work. I took it proudly. This was not a baby job! She crushed walnuts, set aside raisins and kneaded the dough. The finished products looked like miracles to me, but Grandma just nodded at her efforts and brushed the flour from her hands.file2391298506940

Those delicious fragrances filled my childhood home, but no recipe was written down. How could she write: a pinch of this, a little of that with enough of the other until it was right?  Grandma’s kitchen methods did not end with baking. She made chicken soup in exactly the same way. This artstic style continued until I was about twelve years old.

Whether I had a flash of insight or whether I slowly forced myself to acknowledge that Grandma was old, I don’t honestly recall. But I do remember thinking and worrying about her dying some day. After my initial grief at this realization, I took action.

“Grandma,” I said, while holding pen and paper in my hand, “exactly how do you make rugelahs?” And she told me. Slowly, we worked the amounts out together. A written recipe was finally born in our family, and it was perfect. Anyway, that’s what my boys tell me.

My boys have two grandmas. One does aerobics and one plays catch wtih them using a hard ball and a baseball glove. Their grandmas are in their seventies, in the same decade of life as my grandma was when I grew up.

My sons think that real grandmas are athletes, that real grandmas work full-time until forced to retire at 75, and that the only food grandmas know how to cook is chicken, the quintessential low cholesterol choice. They have never seen either grandma bake as much as a cookie or knit the ubiquitous scarf.  But if you’d ask them about their grandmothers, as I did, they’d tell you that those ladies were absolutely perfect and that they were very real grandmas. Just like mine was.

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THE BEST BABY-SITTERS, OF COURSE, ARE THE BABY’S GRANDPARENTS. YOU FEEL COMPLETELY COMFORTABLE ENTRUSTING YOUR BABY TO THEM FOR LONG PERIODS. WHICH IS WHY MOST GRANDPARENTS FLEE TO FLORIDA. — Dave Barry

Leave a comment to say whether you enjoyed this type of memory and if you’d like to try writing some family stories of your own. I’ve taught others how to do it, and I can get you started right here on my blog. It’s a lovely way to pass down memories without saying, “When I was your age…”  which no child likes to hear!

June contest ends today. If you leave a comment, you have a chance of winning a choice of two books shown below plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN.

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

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Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp

GET YOUR GAME ON!                  

Mah Jongg tiles. Like cards, they come in suits: bams, craks, dots, winds and dragons.

Mah Jongg tiles. Like cards, they come in suits: bams, craks, dots, winds and dragons.

When I moved to Florida almost two years ago, I didn’t know anyone in this “55 or better” community. In fact, the street I live on was only half built at the time with much land still vacant. I knew I’d have to figure out how to meet some people. Yes, I’m a writer, and I can lose myself for hours while writing a blog or a novel, but at heart, I’m not a hermit.  As much as I enjoy visiting with my fictional  characters, I’d prefer visiting with real  characters...uh..people 🙂 I like socializing. I would be miserable alone at the computer twenty-four/seven.

Mike and I have made many close friends from the time we began our lives together. Some of our friends are from our teenage years in New York. We became “family” with friends from our young parenting days in Massachusetts, and in Texas added several more friends in this category. These close friends were years in the making. These friends are the kind who anticipate what you need and what’s in your heart before your thoughts become words.

I had no expectations of making friends like these here in the day camp. A book discussion group would do. A card game would be great. As for Mah Jongg–or Mahj, as we call it–that would be even better. I’m talking about in-person Mahj, not via computer. All I wanted was to share some down time with some nice people.

I went to a book discussion and enjoyed it. At the end of the hour, I asked about Mah Jongg. By chance, two women needed another player for their game and invited me to sit in the next night. I met the other two players, and the evening turned out well. Now, we were five. I was a permanent member of this Wednesday night group. Then came a Monday afternoon group with some of the same women. Folks, I was in hog heaven. I loved this game. My life was in balance. My writing hours would be broken up with some real people face time – as well as with my visits to the gym. Just perfect.

A friendly game of Mahj.

A friendly game of Mahj. I’m in the green top.

Do you know what happens when you spend several hours a week with the same lovely women picking and discarding tiles, trying to  put the dots, cracks and bams in the right order to call Mah Jongg?  Know what happens when you spend time chatting with each other in between games? Sharing a piece of history here and there. About children. About husbands. About life in Atlanta or Boston or New York. About former careers. About childhood experiences. About parents long gone or still here. Of course you know what happens.

It took me almost a year to figure out that friendships can form at any time. A game of Mah Jongg evolves into a shopping trip or a dinner with husbands or a girls’ night out. Friendship is about heart and soul. Not age. It’s about being human.

Do you play in a regular game of Canasta, Bridge, Mah Jongg, chess or anything else  which became more than “just a game?”  Or do you participate in a weekly craft activity like a knitting or quilting circle?  Tell us about it.

A NEW CONTEST FOR JUNE!! Make a comment and you name will be entered into a new contest with great prizes. The winner will receive two of the six books shown below (your choice) all written by members of On Fire Fiction as well as a $25 gift certificate to either Amazon or BN (your choice).  All of the books are traditional romances in different styles: some are funny, others more serious and evocative.  Browse them at your favorite etailer where you can Look Inside the Book. You might be the winner!

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

LINDA BARRETT (2)

P.S. My friends in the day camp are insisting on reading and discussing FAMILY INTERRUPTED as part of the book club. I’ll let you know how it goes — scheduled for the fall.

Best always,

Linda

 

 

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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 – 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.

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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)