Wednesday, July 31, 2013

MTH and those monthly book reports

MTH and those monthly book reports

By Alice Dinizo 

    Mary Tynan Henning was the English teacher at Arlington Memorial High School

Back in those long ago years of the 1950’s and 1960’s when we oldsters were still students. She was a tough teacher, insisting that we knew nouns from pronouns, adjectives from adverbs, but we all loved her and called her MTH mostly behind her back. She was kind and loving to those of us who needed a little extra attention but she insisted that we all get those monthly book reports in on her desk on the last Friday of every month. No ifs, ands, buts or excuses, those book reports were due then or we’d hear about it by the lady herself. And Mary Henning read them, marked them and shared her praise with each class.

   “Kathy, you’ve done a first rate job on your report as always. Now I trust you really enjoyed that Victoria Holt book as much as you said you did?”
   “Reggie, your report on Jackie Robinson‘s biography was really good and I see you took your time spelling each word correctly. Good for you.”

 But it was Phil Bailey’s book reports that really stumped our beloved English teacher for weeks on end. Phil was no student, make no mistake, but on the last Friday of each month for almost an entire semester, Phil handed in the most interesting book reports that MTH had ever read. First there was “Good Friday Blues’ by Joe Castleman. Next Phil reported on “What Every Teenager Should Know” by Arlo Mummings. In November, his book report was called “Thanksgiving Memories” and the author was Grandma Thompson.

 MTH was truly impressed or at least she pretended to be and great lady that she was, she even took Phil’s reports home to read to her girls. Mary Margaret, MTH’s oldest, was one sharp pre-teen. She listened to her mother read Phil’s reports and said nothing. But the next day she went down to the public library to check with Mrs. Congdon, the librarian.
Maybe she could borrow one or two of these wonderful books. Mrs. Congdon hadn’t heard of any of Phil’s books and called her cousin up at UVM who’d never heard of them  either. Mary Margaret said nothing to her mother about her search. She knew MTH wasn’t “born yesterday”.
   Well, December’s book reports were due just before Christmas vacation, and Phil handed in “Christmas Secrets” by Ivy Morris. MTH smiled as Phil walked back to his seat. Then she spoke, “Phil, could I see you for a minute after class?”
  Phil was all smiles as he waited to Mary Henning to see the last student leave her classroom. Then Mary Henning turned to Phil, “You know, I have been so impressed with your originality in those book reports you’ve handed in to me. But, Phil, over Christmas vacation, I want you to read a real book, just for me.” And she handed him a copy of All’s Quiet on the Western Front.

   Mary Henning passed away several years ago to everyone’s great sorrow, but Kathy

told me that she met Phil Bailey in the supermarket not long ago. He smiled, asked after her family, and then admitted that he still owned and cherished that book that Mary Henning gave him all those many years ago. Phil had taken the time to read All Quiet on the Western Front over our Christmas break and loved every word that was written. It had taken him days of reading to complete the book but that vacation was a special time in Phil’s life. He carefully read a book a month for the remainder of the school year and wrote a thoughtful report on each for MTH. He never went on for additional schooling but continues to this day to read library books as he waits in between customers in his successful vacuum cleaner sales and repair shop.  Amazing how some hobbies begin!

Alice DiNizo was raised in Vermont in those golden years just after World War II ended. She grew up in Arlington, Vermont where Norman Rockwell lived at that time with his family. She swam with her friends in the Battenkill River which flowed under the covered bridge that faced his home. Moving to New Jersey over forty years ago was an interesting experience for Alice, who writes under her cat’s name, J.B. But tough old girl that she is, she’s learned to love her adopted state and enjoys writing stories about it. She also reaches into her memory and writes stories about her family and childhood experiences. She lives at the New Jersey shore with her husband, dog and cats and contributes on a regular basis to

Monday, July 29, 2013

When your little girls have gone

I was on the road that day, somewhere in Iowa, on my way to a five day intensive writing workshop with Margie Lawson, having a "deluxe continental breakfast." Not really sure what continent it might be from, but the coffee is fabulous.
But the topic of conversation on the TODAY show overhead was whether mothers and daughters can be best friends. They interview a set who are, at the same time the experts are horrified and gasping "no! No!"
This is a subject I've been thinking about for awhile. Not about being best friends with my daughters, but my relationship with them. As I've said before, most of my girls packed up and bailed for parts unknown. M picked the Navy, traveled the world, met The One, has a lovely family now living in Florida and soon to take off for foreign parts, if she has her way. B lives 2500 miles away in Nevada. K moved to North Carolina. (D is still in town, but she's so busy we hardly see each other!) It's hard to stay close from that distance.  They have their own lives. Mother isn't part of it.
I asked M recently if she'd done it on purpose, moved away to exclude me. She laughed and called me a "silly mom" and assured me it wasn't like that.
So many people I know in our small town live here forever. As do their parents. Children. Brothers. Sisters. Cousins. Even the ones once removed. Big family parties, cookouts, so on.  I see B doing this with her new family, and I'm glad she has the support.
So am I wishing they were too frightened of the "big world outside" to leave to stay home near me? Of course not. Maybe I've just done my job and sent them out, free and secure, to fly on their own, like any good mother bird.
At the same time, I resent only seeing them once every year or two. I wish they were close so we could do things together, so I wouldn't worry when they had hard times, so I could pop over with a pot roast when I knew they needed it.
Mary Quigley quotes Jonas Salk like this:
Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught them. — Jonas Salk
She makes some good points in her piece on adult children. It's certainly not my intention to become a helicopter parent. I hate flying, for one. But I have grandchildren I hardly know, and all three of these girls are just slipping away in the passage of time. None of us knows how much time might be allotted to us. We might say, "Oh, someday we'll..." but we don't know whether we'll ever get that chance.
Meantime, I suppose, I should be grateful they're flying so successfully. If they don't need me then I've done my job, right? It makes sense. But sometimes it just doesn't satisfy my heart.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why Attend Your High School Reunion?

Can you guess our school colors?

Why would a person go to his reunion? After all he hasn’t seen most of his classmates since they graduated forty years ago. He’s forgotten many of their names. And the names he’d recognize wouldn’t fit the faces he’d see.
          So why drive over a thousand miles to spend one weekend with a bunch of old people who would only remind him that he’s old too?
          Well, for one reason, I was curious. How have I held up compared to the rest of my classmates? Where would I rank as far as looking and feeling our age?
          Curious too about what my peers had done in the intervening forty years since we tossed our mortarboards in the air.
          I’m less than a week removed from discovering the answers.
          And here they are.

          The years have been kind to many and hard on a few. For the most part though, I had a hard time telling the difference between my fellow ’73 grads and our former teachers whom we’d invited as our guests. My goodness, I hope I don’t look that old.
          There’s also something both weird and intriguing to be in a room where, if a person said, “How old do you think I am?” I could guess his or her age within a year. That is … as long as I remembered how old I was. If I have trouble remembering my age, my oh-so-much-younger-than-me wife is more than willing to remind me.
          One classmate had become a teacher and a basketball coach. Wes smiled as he related that he’d given up coaching after he learned a tough lesson. If the head football coach gets fired, all the coaches have to start looking for another job. After he learned that lesson, he settled into simply teaching history so he and his family wouldn’t be uprooted every few years.
          Another classmate continues to work as an undercover police officer. I asked Gary how he could stay undercover in our hometown of 60,000, and he said, “I make sure my new connections have no connection with my previous busts.”
          By the end of our reunion weekend, I had heard many interesting stories and discovered plenty of reasons to clear my schedule for our 45th reunion. Thanks to the myriad conversations around drinks and dinner tables, I’d revived pleasant memories, remembered forgotten names, and restored lost relationships.

T. Neal Tarver, a native Texan living in Wisconsin, has served churches in Texas and Wisconsin. He, his wife Ellen, and son Daniel lived and worked for three years as missionaries in the Russian Far East. Tom speaks enough Russian to both converse and confuse.

In 2011, Tom was selected as a semi-finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Genesis contest. He’s also been a two-time winner of MBT’s “Make Every Word Count Flash Fiction” contest. His debut novel, Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes, is available through WestBow Press, Amazon, BARNES & NOBLE, and other retail outlets.

He currently writes from his home in Richland Center, Wisconsin, and serves as the pastor of three rural Wisconsin churches. He posts articles at his website,  A Curious Band of Others, and is a regular contributor to Geezer Guys and Gals.

Tom has spoken in churches across America, and in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Becoming Grandma

In one month, I will become a GRANDMA! We are so excited to see this baby's arrival.

I have two sons and four nephews. My husband is one of three sons. His father, one of 2 sons. The Tatums have only had sons since the Civil War (my husband's cousin Susan was a rare exception). However, in the current generation one of my nephews has three GIRLS. AMAZING! So when my youngest and his wife announced their pregnancy, we all wondered if the girls would continue.

When each of my sons was born, my mother-in-law would say, "What else?" I loved my sons, don't get me wrong, but I so wanted a girl to sew for. I did sew for my sons, but it's not quite as thrilling. Part of me also wanted to prove that having a girl in this family was possible. So when my first great niece was born, I was thrilled. When the second great niece was born, I knitted them each a purple sweater. When the third was born, I was simply delighted with such a beautiful family of girls.

What does this "Becoming Grandma" mean to me? Both my sons and daughters-in-law have been trying to conceive. Our youngest and his wife miscarried in October before this pregnancy came to be. My oldest son and daughter-in-law are walking the path of infertility. So some of "becoming a grandma" has involved grief for the child lost and for the child so greatly desired. There's also grief for the strain in relationship between my sons as "having a baby" has overshadowed both their lives. As only a bystander in this process of conception, becoming grandma is joy at what is to come and the hope for a child yet unrealized.

When it came time to peek into the womb, we were anxious to know the sex of the child. The sonogram answered our questions: It's a boy! Of course, we would have been thrilled with either a boy or a girl, but I found a strange excitement mixed with calm about having another little boy.

Yes, I have knitted a baby blanket in a color combination called grape jam. That purply color seems all too appropriate for a toddler dragging it behind him.

Many friends extol the joys of grandparenthood with wallets of pictures, with pins & tee shirts proclaiming grandparent status, and with a myriad of stories of the cutest things their grandchildren have done. I happily await that day when this boychild is gathered into my arms. I know I will feel the thankfulness, pride, and joy of his parents, but I also anticipate the warmth of this baby and the inexplicable deja vu of holding my own sons. The memories from the past will flood back to being a mom, dedicating them to God, watching them learn so many things including the stories of Jesus, and helping them navigate education, marriage, and adulthood.

I'll also have the privilege of looking into his face and seeing the future.

Monday, July 22, 2013


Courtney Pierce

My husband and I moved around the country for over twenty-five years as we grabbed the swinging ring of a promotion, either his or mine. We didn't have children so it was fairly easy to uproot and go, although many times we had only a weekend to buy a house in an unfamiliar city. After everything was packed up by corporate movers, off we went. 

But we never dealt with our stuff. It went with us—all of it—right down to the boxes of my college music scores in the attic (I was a voice major back in the late 70s). We even moved the Beta Hi-Fi machine that didn't work, along with all the tapes of 80s music videos and first-run episodes of Dallas that couldn't be played.


This last move, though, was just for us. We were leaving the corporate life behind, so we took the time to sort through everything:  two families' worth of heirlooms, useless purchases stuck in the back of cabinets, outdated costume jewelry, and clothes that didn't fit (think thin side of the closet and no-so-thin side of the closet). Our banter sessions were hilarious—and uncomfortable. The living, breathing piles of stuff were an appendage. They had shaped who we were as individuals, and as a couple, over the years. 

When I opened the boxes of music in the attic—the scores of my early life—I was heartbroken. Some rodent had fouled them with droppings and chewed the brittle pages beyond recognition. A tiny mouse had already made this gargantuan decision for me. It was time to throw them out. Ordering my guilt to stand back, I set the boxes outside at the curb for the scavengers. 

No dice. Even the scavengers wouldn't touch them. 

Photo by Angelo Tsirekas

On recycle day, the rumble of the truck made my heart pound. I ran to the window to watch the magic of my college years grind away in the hungry teeth of the truck’s whirling cruncher. My stomach squeezed as the recycle man hurled the boxes into the air. When the last box missed its mark and hit the truck's rim, a cacophony of musical notes rained down onto the street like a dreadful symphony—Mozart mixing with Stravinsky; Bach melting into Brahms. 


Bolting outside in a desperate attempt to quiet the noise in my head, I scooped up the pages and handed them back to the recycle man. 

“Thanks, ma’am. I shoulda aimed higher!” he shouted over the noise of the truck.

I turned away, dejected, and loped back toward the house. Behind me, the truck grumbled on to its next victim. And that's when I spotted one soiled page calling out to me from the gutter. It was my voice I heard...with the accompaniment of soft strings. I picked up the opening page of “Laudate Dominum” from Mozart’s Solemn Vespers, my debut solo back in 1979. It was also the year that I met and married my soul mate of thirty-four years. We grew up together—grew young together. I brushed the dirt from that one special page, folded it into fourths, and stepped back into the house. 

I had aimed higher. 

As if magnetized, I floated up the stairs to the top drawer of my bureau and tucked that folded square of paper beneath my lingerie. It was just a piece of paper, and I would probably never pull it out again, but the events of that day added yet another memory to its significance. The music finally got the respect it deserved. And I was just fine.

About the Author

Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer and lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband of thirty-four years and bossy cat. Her debut novel, Stitches, was published in February, 2013. Stitches is the first book of a series that follows the trail of magic a Baby Boomer couple leave in their wake as they sleuth their way toward retirement—with a little immortal help.  

Stitches emerged from Courtney’s own magical history, which encompassed a twenty-five-year career as an executive in the Broadway entertainment industry. The second book in the series, Brushes, is due out in August, 2013. In addition to writing, her other passions are music, art, ancient history, and sewing incredible fabric.

Stitches is available in soft cover and on Kindle at, or at Barnes and Noble as a downloadable Nook book.

For more information about Stitches, visit Courtney’s blog site at

Friday, July 19, 2013

They Leave, They Come Back, They Leave Again …

By Alan Zendell

There comes a time when they leave for good.  Really.
After raising my two sons in Seattle, I brought them kicking and screaming to Maryland during their high school years.  They were furious. 
At a ballgame in the old Kingdome, they complained to Orioles’ pitcher Jim Palmer that they were being kidnapped and dragged off to a terrible place.  I guess they forgot that Baltimore was in Maryland.  Later, Palmer spoke directly to them during a post-game radio broadcast promising that they’d love Maryland.  They accused me of bribing him to say it.
The moment they graduated from college in 1991 and 1993 they announced that they were “going home,” got in their respective cars, and drove west…to San Diego.  Go figure.  At least they got the time zone right.
Over the next few years they couldn’t decide where they wanted to be.  The younger one returned to Maryland and left again three times.  He moved so often, he had to file tax returns in five states one year (well, four plus the District of Columbia).  Then it was off to Australia, where he met his wife, and finally to San Diego again.  They were married there in 2005, and he says they’ll never leave.  I believe him this time.
His brother came back to Maryland for a year in 1999 − he swore it wouldn’t be a day longer – and stayed for eleven.  To be fair he’d met a girl here.  He married her in 2006.  They moved to Philadelphia in 2010 so she could completely her residency in dermatology.  They’re here now, living in my house while she studies for her boards.  I have a whole month with my seven-month old grandson and their golden retriever before I have to say goodbye again.  In August, they’re leaving for good, to Orlando.
This is getting old.  I’m getting old.
It’s for real this time.  They’ll be off making their own lives.  Who knows, they may not even ask to borrow money any more.  There’ll be visits, and we might even move to be closer to our grandchild(ren?).  But I have to face it.  This is a new phase of life.  I’ve been officially retired for five years (which means I work twice as hard as I did before) and my wife says she’ll retire in January.  It’s our time to travel and enjoy life with no responsibilities.
She wants to see more of the world.  So do I, but honestly, I’m content tutoring kids in math and writing and watching baseball.  We love our home.  We paid off our mortgage years ago.  We’re financially prepared for retirement.  This is a happy time…isn’t it?  Isn’t it?
Then why am I so sad?  I’ve said goodbye so many times, why is this time so much harder?  We’re already planning where to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.  Is that what my life is going to be?
No.  This really is our time.  We start next month, celebrating our forty-eighth anniversary.  Without the kids, but so what?  We have each other and we’re healthy, and not everyone can say that.  We’re going to take a cruise on the Danube for our forty-ninth.
What am I complaining about?

Alan spent more than thirty years as a scientist, aerospace engineer, software consultant, database developer, and government analyst, writing really boring stuff like proposals, technical papers, reports, business letters, and policy memoranda.  But trapped inside him all that time were stories that needed telling and ideas that needed expression, so with encouragement and cajoling from a loving baby sister he plunged into fiction.
Since then, he has written mostly science and extrapolative fiction, the genre he loved since he was nine.  But his stories are about more than aliens and technical marvels.  He creates strong, three-dimensional characters a reader can care about, because it’s people and the way they live and love that are important.  It’s the things they believe in and how much they’re willing to invest to preserve them that make a story worth telling.  It’s convincing interactions and well-researched credible plots that make a story worth reading.
And, of course, like any writer, Alan loves having an audience.  Find Alan's books:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Creating a Life

By Lisa Hess

Or maybe a writer.

I found this quote earlier this month when a friend of mine shared a Writers Write blog written in honor of Bill Watterson’s 55th birthday. Like many other readers, I loved “Calvin and Hobbes,” and was sad to see it go when Watterson retired the strip in 1995. “Calvin and Hobbes” is one of only two comic strips I ever purchased in book form -- the other is Cathy Guisewhite’s “Cathy” -- both are strips laced with as much truth as comedy.

I always identified with Cathy, but as it turns out, Watterson and I have something in common, too. Both of us felt the need to, in his words, “leave the party early,” retiring at ages considered suspicious by most standards. After 10 years of drawing “Calvin and Hobbes,” Watterson put down his pen. While his decision disappointed many readers, it allowed him to remain true to the standards he set for himself. 

Similarly, after 27 years in education, I felt the need to make my way to the door. Worn down by the growing role of politics in education and the negative impact it was having on everyone involved, I took advantage of an opportunity to leave the profession. At 51, I became a retiree.

While Watterson has been reclusive in his retirement, I have taken another path -- one that has allowed me to create exactly the life the Watterson described. I became a stay-at-home mom to my teenage daughter, walking the “family first” walk after years of staggering between work and home. I sought opportunities to teach new audiences in new places, offering classes for kids at a local theatre, for adults through community education programs and for retirees through an institute at a local college. 

And I wrote. A lot.  

The things I value, and those that feed my soul were never a mystery, and as long as my job made the list, it was a keeper. But when it became something that no longer did those things, it was time to find those soul satisfiers and go after them, grabbing at them with both hands if necessary. Not ripping them away from others, mind you -- just not being shy about going after the things that feed me and energize me and help to make me whole.

Retirement doesn’t have to be an end point. For those who are able, it can -- and should -- simply be opening a door into new rooms in our lives, rooms that fill us with joy and nourish our spirit.

 These doors don’t have to open into mansions or cruises or bank-breaking spending sprees. The best ones, in fact, lead us into places that cost little money, but fill our time in ways that make us wish we had more than the allotted 24 hours in each day.

And those like Watterson and I -- those lucky enough to retire before we’re geezer guys and gals? We need to carry the torch to light the way.

And if we can dance with joy while we’re doing it, so much the better.

Lisa Lawmaster Hess is a transplanted Jersey girl who spent 27 years as an elementary school counselor, and is now trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. Her current roles as wife, mother, author and instructor/speaker keep her both busy and happy.
Lisa is the author of Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce, both inspired by her interactions with her students. Her first novel, Casting the First Stone, has been accepted for publication by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and is due out in 2014.
An organizational work-in-progress, Lisa enjoys teaching and speaking on unique ways to get organized, and is at work on a book on that topic. She continues to write articles and novels as well.  Lisa’s website is

Monday, July 15, 2013


Claude Nougat 

Everyone dreams of a happy retirement. You imagine doing everything you've always wanted to do and never had the time for. That's the way it was for me. Then I experienced a bad reality check. I'd like to share it with you so that the same doesn't happen to you... 
There are several things people will tell you that you should do when you retire, chief among them:

 1. Decompress, relax, go on a trip.

Yes, I did that.  
Total disaster. We drove around Spain, went to Barcelona, expecting the best. Sorry, folks, Barcelona is not my cup of tea, no doubt a matter of taste. I was happy to be back home, that says it all. 

Barcelona seen from Parc G├╝ell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I immediately embarked on the second step everyone recommended:

2. Do something with your life. Pursue your dream whether it is art, a college degree or charity work, it doesn't matter as long as it fills your life.

I thought I had the answer to that one. I was going to be an artist. My mother, a professional portraitist, had taught me all I needed to know. Over time, I had developed a true love for painting - a love that had been thwarted by all the years I had had to work for a living.

Surprise, surprise. Nothing turned out as planned. Yet I tried my best: I spent hours in front of my canvas painting like mad and produced over 5 years some 300 paintings. I participated in 15 collective shows and even organized two personals.

Then I looked around and realized that my paintings were competing with this kind of art, for example Jean-Michel Basquiat's trumpet:

Look at what I paint:

Get the idea? How can I compete? No way. Having spent a lifetime out of the contemporary art scene, I had obviously lost touch.

You've guessed it, I stopped painting. That's when I wrote my boomer novel A Hook in the Sky - not just as a kind of therapy for myself. It was that too but I felt I had something important to say to my fellow baby boomers who were facing retirement. 

The lesson I learned the hard way is this: you can have a particular talent but it may not be enough. You have to put in the balance your whole life: what sustained you in the career you chose, what causes inspired you? The main character in A Hook was involved in humanitarian aid as a young man and had really loved his work until successive promotions kicked him upstairs in a managerial position. 
For him, the solution was to move back to the kind of work that had fulfilled him when he had started out: humanitarian aid.

What is your experience of retirement? What do you expect to do once you retire? Please share, I'd love to hear what you think works for you!

Born in Brussels, brought up on three continents (Europe, Africa, America), Claude Nougat graduated from Columbia University with a Master's in economics.  In her busy working life, she followed in Jack Londons footsteps and dabbled at a wide variety jobs from banking to publishing, journalism, marketing and college teaching until she joined the United Nations (FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome), staying there 25 years working first as a project expert and ending her career as Director for Europe and Central Asia.
While working, she found time to write. Three of her books were traditionally published, two in Italian, one in English. Since she retired, Claude has published 6 books available on Amazon as ebooks and paperbacks: 4 novels ( A Hook in the Sky and 3 books in a New Adult series, The Phoenix Heritage) and two collections of short stories (the most recent: Twisted, Four Tales of Love and Hate). Also a selection of her poems are included in Freeze Frame, a poetry anthology edited by British poet Oscar Sparrow (publisher Gallo Romano, 2012 - available on Amazon). 
Claude is the moderator of a fast growing Group on Goodreads discussing a new genre aimed at boomers: Boomer lit. She set up the Group's Facebook page at and Twitter account (@BoomerLit). Her latest novel, A Hook in the Sky, is a prime example of Boomer lit.
Claude's painting career has so far consisted in 14 group shows and two one-man shows in Paris and Rome; she is a member of the Artistes Ind├ępendants in Paris.
Claude maintains an opinion blog (20,000 pageviews/month) and is also active in social media, including Twitter Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
She is married to a Sicilian and lives in Rome.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Time Passages

                                                                           Jim Carey

A lot of what I was told was truth when I was younger did not end up standing up the test of time. Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and my belief that life would – or should - be fair all failed me. One concept that did prove to be true, however, was when I was told that as I got older time would simply fly by faster and faster.
There was no way as a child or as a young adult could I ever imagine just how fast the days, weeks, months, years and even decades would pass by. As a kid, it seemed to be an eternity between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now that I’m older, it seems like all that it takes is a couple of deep breaths and it is Christmas – again!
I’ve also learned that if I don’t care for the current weather, all I have to do is seemingly blink my eyes a few times and soon we are in a different season. That is the one advantage that I’ve found to the speeding up of time. The unpleasant times go by just as quickly as the good times.
Nothing makes me feel older than when I’m listening to the radio and I hear a song that I used to enjoy. I think to myself, “Wow, I haven’t heard that one in a while”. My first thought is that it’s only been about three or four years, so of course I’m astonished when I realize it has been more like over thirty.
I guess what I’m searching for in my weaker moments is an answer to where all this time went. So far I’ve drawn a complete blank. If any of you have an answer, I’d sure like to hear about it. As I’m getting older, I’ve reached the point where I wouldn’t mind reclaiming a day or two every now and then.
I don’t know why we experience this phenomenon. Perhaps the answer will be found in some complex physics equation that I’m pretty sure I would never be able to understand anyway. However, I have also decided to try to keep things in my life as simple as possible, so there is surely no time to learn physics now.
My current hypothesis is that the fault lies with my child. As best as I can remember, I first began noticing time speeding up when my son was born. Watching him grow up quickly became a blur of passing years. Placing the blame on him only seems fair as he seems to blame me for everything that goes wrong with his life. I have no idea what excuse people have if they do not have children to use as their scapegoats.

Anyway, I feel I’ve spent enough of my ever-dwindling moments on this essay. I am going to stop now, since those who are older than I am tell me that the speeding up of time unfortunately even gets even more pronounced as the years go by. My only advice, then, is to hang onto your hat and enjoy the ride as best you can.
Jim Carey lives with his wife Janet and their two beloved golden retrievers, Nemo and Molly, in Sheboygan,Wisconsin. A social worker, then a chiropractor by training, writing has been a passion for Jim for the past twenty years. Echoes from Home is the author’s first entry into the world of publishing, and perhaps someday more of the many notebooks hidden away in his basement may make their way to the printed word as well. Jim’s next project will be a collection of short stories based on the Civil War.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

It Has Been a Strange Summer


 It has been a strange summer.

          I’ve said that often. It was strange when I was a kid and all my friends could drive and I couldn’t (August birthday) and when my boyfriend broke up the last week of school and I spent summer’s lazy, crazy days with a broken heart.
          It was weird when I was 19 and could still wear a two-piece swimsuit nicely and still loved going to the lake—we’re inlanders; no beach—but I was a mom, too, and I would never be just myself again.
          And, oh, the summer my first kid got his driver’s license and had his first serious girlfriend—that was a wild one! There was the year I sewed for my daughter’s wedding. I think I cried and—yes, I’m sorry, cursed—from March to August, which as how long it took me to complete her dress, the four bridesmaids’, and the two flower girls’ dresses. The end-of-summer when I helped my youngest pack for college and suddenly realized the nest was empty and I wasn’t ready. Not ready at all.

          So, this summer, a new book came out. A Soft Place to Fall is my first inspirational. It’s a book of my heart—okay, they all are—and I love that Early, its heroine, is 46 or so. She’s 15 pounds overweight. She’s a pleaser. She doesn’t have a college education. She subscribes to an anthem of the 1960s—“I am woman, hear me roar”—but she roars to her own tune, thank you very much.
          But you know what? I’m almost 63. I have carpal tunnel syndrome. Just trying to schedule surgery requires a cardiac workup because things are…strange in the health department. I am, even though I feel good, more tired than I like to admit. Maybe it’s time to quick writing. Books, anyway. Maybe… It has been, you know, a strange summer.
          But the other day I sold a book. A women’s fiction one about four 51-year-old women that came straight from my menopausal heart. Some of them have iffy knees, they’re hormonally challenged, and cancer has woven its insidious thread through their ranks. They don’t remember their natural hair colors or what they started to say just minutes ago or what they went into the next room to get. In (working title) The Girls of Tonsil Lake, the women deal with death, heartbreak, anger, betrayal—you name it. They react every which way.
          One thing they don’t do, though, these “Girls” who kept at me until the five of us made their story into a book, is quit. So I won’t, either. I don’t care how strange the seasons get.
Like Early in A Soft Place to Fall, Liz Flaherty has spent the past few years reinventing herself. The career postal worker who wrote on weekends and sewed whenever someone lost a button now writes whenever she feels like it and sews the rest of the time. She’s not necessarily more productive these days, but she certainly does have a lot of fun.
          She lives with her husband, Duane, in the farmhouse they bought in 1977 and intended to stay in until the kids grew up, at which time they planned to move to a small house that cleaned itself and cooked their meals while he played golf and she…didn’t. This has not happened. Even though they occasionally discuss downsizing, neither of them is willing to go through a 36-year accumulation of stuff.

          A Soft Place to Fall is Liz’s seventh book and her first inspirational.