Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zenith

Yes, I have done it! Huffing and puffing, I have made it to the zenith, the summit of the A to Z Mountain. And I have visited all 1282 A to Z blogs. What a challenge, what fun.

In honor of my fellow Challenge Bloggers, here are 26 of the blogs I especially enjoyed. It was hard to choose, but I had to draw the line somewhere, and 26 seemed the appropriate number. Editor, author, mom, dog whisperer Blogs about writing and science Former physician, current wannabe writer Life of a grandpa on a farm near Malaysian mountain range Here’s a blog I follow regularly. Blog called Her World, with great pictures Great writing tips and prompts Love her uncensored mutterings Really great posts. She also has recipes at
All the news fit to bark about I love the title of this blog—Mulled Whine. Yes, it’s possible to laugh at Alzheimers. Her banner says she’s a senior citizen, tightly clutching her sense of humor for dear life. You gotta love that, especially if you’re also a senior citizen, like me. They do cards and prints. I love their beautiful photos. Call me crazy, but I love grammar. This blogger loves history and writing. Amazing photos Nice posts, good photos and great banner Aspiring author who loves to read Retired knitter (I didn’t know knitters retired) with interesting posts and pictures Seems to know everything about food. Blogged about one food each day for the A to Z Challenge. Full title is Recipes that Please. Can you tell I like to eat? Anne is a member of the SheWrites community. She and I have picked the same images for letters at least twice during the Challenge. Weird. Neat exercises for writers/bloggers. Blogger, cover designer, member of SheWrites community
Children’s writer from the Virgin Islands

Thanks to all the wonderful bloggers I've met this month. We did it!!!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Yummy

I like to cook and I don't mind cooking for myself. That's not to say I wouldn't rather have my husband back and be cooking for two. But I often cook enough for two and have leftovers the following evening.

Here are two solo-cooking recipes I like:

Sensational Fish (This one takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and about 15 minutes to cook.)

1/2 lb tilapia (I usually get two quarter pound fillets. You can use other mild fish such as roughy)
2 scallions, diced (I don't use these--it's just as good without them)
1 medium tomato, sliced
2 T. plain bread crumbs
2 t. grated parmesan cheese
2 t. oleo or butter
1 t. grated lemon peel
1. t. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350.
Place fish in nostick baking pan. Divid remaining ingredients equally on top of each fillet.

Bake until flaky, about 15 minutes.

Here's a summer recipe I love. It's so easy I almost can't call it a recipe.

Canteloupe Soup
Use half canteloupe. Cut into small pieces. Puree in blender. Add a splash of lemon juice and it's ready.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

X is for Xi and Other Useful Scrabble Words

My sister and I have an ongoing Scrabble tournament. Whenever we travel, we play for $2 a game. According to my records, I'm ahead $26 (Fortunately, she doesn't read this blog, so she's not going to be embarrassed.)

My two favorite words are XI and QI--very useful if you're near the end of the game and don't have many spaces available. Or earlier in the game you can use them for a triple word score.

Here are some other useful words: za, zu, zo, ox, ax. If you can think of some more, leave them as a comment.

I am going through the Scrabble dictionary and making a list of two-letter words. And yes, I play fair; I will share them with my sister.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

W is for Widowhood Research and How I Feel About it

Recent research on widowhood has gotten a lot of press. If you're a widow, you could hardly have missed it. Results of a recent study suggest that widows who don't remarry have a higher risk of developing dementia than widows who do.

That study, as you might expect, really upset me. After five plus years as a widow, I have no remarriage on the horizon. Is there a deadline? If you remarry ten years after widowhood, can you still avoid dementia or is it too late?

On the other hand, I wonder if the study is flawed. What was the age of the widows who participated? Younger widows are more likely to remarry; there is a larger pool of available men. Widows in their 80s are, I would imagine, unlikely to remarry. Many widows find male companions and that's fine. They don't feel a need to remarry.

Still, the idea of dementia haunts me. Is it worse to deteriorate from a physical disease or to lose your mind?

My mother had severe dementia caused by small strokes. At first she repeated, then she became illogically cranky, then paranoid, then she gradually forgot everything. What was it like to wake up day after day, not knowing where she was or later, who she was? What did she think about? Did she think at all?

One day we were in the car and she turned to look at me. She patted the passenger seat and said, "Twenty-five years and you'll be sitting here." It's been twenty-two years since I heard that, and it still gives me chills.

Should I work harder at finding a husband...or just take my chances and figure that life is what it is.

Monday, April 25, 2011

V is for Volunteering

I've never done volunteer work. I've been active in many organizations but I've never committed time to "working" somewhere as a regularly scheduled volunteer. I haven't had the time, nor have I found a place that was right for me. But that has changed. A few months ago I discovered the Phoenix Society, which works with burn survivors, and I knew I had found my niche. One of their programs is called SOAR, Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery, and I've begun the process to become one of their volunteers.

I was 19 when I caught fire from a gas stove in my room at my college sorority house. I knew not to run, but I ran. Had it not been for a quick-thinking girl who threw me to the floor and called the housemother, I wouldn't be here today. I still remember the feel of the fire around my legs, the pain, the smell, and the three months I spent in the hospital. I was fortunate that, at a medical conference the week I was burned, our family doctor ran into a burn specialist at UTMB in Galveston and he became my plastic surgeon. "We have to make you sick to make you well," he told me, and "sick" was a pretty bland word for the treatment of third degree burns. But, again I was lucky. Most of my burn scars don't show. Getting through the treatment, fighting the pain, learning to walk again made me stronger. "You'll never be completely glad this happened," my doctor told me, "but you'll never be completely sad either." He was right. So now I have a chance to give back, to encourage other burn patients and their families.

To be part of the SOAR program, you first have to take the regular volunteer training. I finished that today, ending with a "scavenger hunt" so you can familiarize yourself with the hospital. You have to visit all 7 buildings in the hospital complex and answer all sorts of questions, such as "What color is the hair of the receptionist in the liver center? How many beds are in the procedure area? What floor in the Children's Unit has a waiting room where you can eat? How many vending machines are in the ER? What is the soup of the day in the Cafe Bon Pain? It was a lot of walking, but it was fun. Now I start my burn unit training. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

U is for Update on April Reading

In addition to blogging daily, I've kept up with reading. As you can see below, I've read a variety of books this month:

Careers for Your Cat by Ann Dziemianowicz. If your cat has been lazing around all day, it's time to get him/her a job. Let the cat contribute to the family income. You'll have to start by giving your pet the Meowers/Briggs. I did that and found Toby to be an IE (Intellectual Extravert) and he would be a fine TV news anchor, probably the next Matt Meower (or is that Cat Lauer?) on NBC, Purrs Morgan,

interview show host on CNN, or since he's into humour, the next Jon Mewart on The Daily Show. Tiki, however, will not be CBS's next Kitty Couric. She is a CE (Creative Extravert) and could be a choral director.
P.S. The illustrations by Ann Boyajian are worth buying the book.

Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique by Michael Gazzaniga. Fascinating book, reader-friendly and interspersed with humor. Example: "I am a fryborg and so are you. Fryborgs are biological organisms functionally supplemented with technological extensions. For instance, shoes. Wearing shoes has not been a problem for most people. In fact, it has solved many problems, such as walking on

gravelly surfaces, avoiding thorns in the foot, walking at high noon across an asphalt parking lot on a hot June day in Phoenix or a January day in Duluth, and shoes have prevented over one million stubbed toes in the last month." Chapter headings include "Would a Chimp Be a Good Date?" "What's Up with the Arts?" and "Who Needs Flesh?" Both educational and enjoyable.

A Widow's Story by Joyce Carole Oates. I reviewed this in my J post. Although over-long, Oates's account of her early months of widowhood resonated with me. Her guilt over having taken her husband to the small hospital in Princeton instead of a larger one, her loneliness, her frustration with the myriad widow-duties we all have to

face, her shock at some of the thoughtless remarks spoken to her--every widow can relate. But I was shocked at her serious consideration of suicide and equally surprised that she remarried so quickly. I recommend this book.

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. I don't usually read science fiction, but this one was for my book club. Considered a science fiction classic, it's the story of a

murderer versus a policeman but also much more. At times I became so absorbed I couldn't put it down; at other times, not so much. But I'm glad I read it. If you like science fiction, you might enjoy this one.

What books do you recommend?

Friday, April 22, 2011

T is for Thelma: Twenty-Five Facts About Me

1.I don’t look like a romance writer but I am one.
2.I started driving at age 12 and had to sit on a pillow to see over the steering wheel.
3.I have had only one kind of job, being a speech pathologist, and I still love it after nearly 40 years.
4.I am afraid of birds and bugs.
5.My favorite comfort food is coffee ice cream.
6.When I was 19, I caught fire from a gas heater and nearly burned to death.
7.My favorite poem is “Ithaca” by Cavafy.

8.My favorite person is my granddaughter Gabriella.
9.I wake up without an alarm clock no matter what time I have to be up.
10.I have visited the two places I most wanted to see: Antarctica and Troy.
11.I get up in the middle of the night to watch the Australian Open Tennis Tournament on TV.
12.I hate ketchup.
13.My best friend and I once signed an oath in blood to be friends forever.
14.I have seen a total eclipse of the sun.
15.My father was my personal hero.
16.My pen name, Lorna Michaels, is a combination of my children’s names—Lori and Michael.
17.I once had a dog we named General because he was a “general” kind of dog.
18.I love cats now but I was afraid of them when I was younger.
19.When my children were small, we had the following pets at various times:
Dog, cat, horse, rat, mouse, gerbil, guinea pig, rabbit, iguana, turtle, newt, ants in an ant farm, Venus fly-trap.
20.I broke my nose at the Charles DeGaulle airport in Paris
21.I pay myself to exercise but I haven’t made much money from it.
22.I once passed out when I was giving a speech, got up and finished the speech.
23.In 2008 I was Ms. May in a calendar put out by Humana Active Outlook.
24.I met my late husband at a Mensa party.
25.My favorite movie is "The Shawshank Redeption."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

S is for "Seventeen Magazine Made Me What I am Today"

Back in the Dark Ages when I was a teenager, I read Seventeen Magazine religiously, hoping I could become one of those attractive girls in its pages. That didn't happen, but the magazine did have a huge impact on my life.

My freshman year in college, I read an article in Seventeen about the field of speech therapy, about young women who were helping children and adults with speech disorders. My sophomore year I had to declare a major. I didn't want to be either of the two choices for girls in those days--classroom teacher or nurse. Remembering the article I'd read, I impulsively chose speech therapy. Of course, I didn't expect to BE a speech therapist; I would just study it. I'd BE a wife and mom. But I did intend to get a degree and I had a vague feeling that it was always a good idea to have a fallback, just in case.

After college I worked in the public schools for a while, got married, and worked again for a while during my first pregnancy. I enjoyed the work, liked the children I worked with, but I was happy to leave it behind. I was on my way to being June Cleaver. Seventeen Magazine had given way to Ladies Home Journal.

Then, splat! My marriage broke up. Clearly I could no longer lead a Leave it to Beaver life; I would have to go back to work. What had been a hazy "just in case" idea was reality. With the help of my parents, I got my Master's degree in speech pathology and then went to work. I've never stopped.

Even though I married again and could have gone back to being a homemaker, I loved my work too much to quit, so together my husband and I shared the responsibility of three kids and a busy home life. I moved from the Speech and Hearing Institute in the Texas Medical center to private practice, where I've been ever since.

And now that my magazine of choice is AARP, I'm still at it. I work half time now and I still love working with children (Scroll back to read my K is for Kids post). Yesterday the secretary at the one of the private schools I visit remarked that she had heard me and the two-year-old I was working with laughing during our session. As long as I can laugh while I work, I'll keep going. My husband used to say I would be the only 100-year-old speech pathologist still in practice. I don't know that I'll make it that far, but I'm working on it.

Thanks, Seventeen Magazine, for introducing me to the best career I could have chosen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

R is for Random Facts, Better Known as Trivia

Yes, this should be under the letter T, but I already have something planned for that. Whatever it's called, I find trivia fascinating.

Cats sleep longer than any other mammal, an average of about 16 hours a day. My cats, however, often seem to be awake when I'm sleeping. Tiki likes to get behind me on my pillow and lick my hair--very annoying.

On March 19, 1856, Victoria, Austrailia introduced the secret ballot.

The human brain has, on the average, one hundred billion neurons, each of which connects to about one thousand other neurons.

On March 12, 1912, 18 girls met in Savannah, GA for the first Girl Scout meeting.

The average American eats 126 pounds of potatoes each year. Nearly 48 pounds are french fries and various frozen potato products.

The most common disease in the world is tooth decay.

Have a random fact you'd like to share? Leave it in the Comments section.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Q is for Quotes about Questions

Questions are the creative acts of intelligence.

There are no foolish questions, only foolish silence.

Any man who knows all the answers most likely miunderstood the questions.

The key to wisdom is knowing the right questions.

Dreams are today's answers to tomorrow's questions.

Judge a person by his questions rather than by his answers.

And here's my favorite, an African proverb for the men in your life: The one who asks questions doesn't lose his way.

Monday, April 18, 2011

P is for Psychic

From Beyond

The other day my sister called
With news about a psychic
Who brings messages from beyond.
She has a three-year waiting list
For a phone call.

What would you say to me?
“You were my soul mate, my dearest heart;”
“You were an average wife,
Not bad but not that great.”
I think I won’t risk knowing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

O is for On My Own

On my own
I have had
A leaky roof,
A flooded bathroom,
A water heater leaking gas,
A crashed hard drive,
Thousands of dollars in medical bills
A lawsuit over business assets,
Debts to you your friend refused to pay,
Squirrels in the attic,
A possum in the bathroom,
A broken nose,
A hysterectomy,
Carpal tunnel surgery,
Cataract surgery
And a hornet sting.

I’ve also had
A new car
The garage restored
The house repainted
A garden planted
Articles in anthologies,
A new book published
A trip to France
Visits to the Alhambra,
Troy and Galipoli
My picture on a calendar,
A blog with over fifty followers,
A date,
My hair grown longer,
My hair cut shorter,
And my seventy-fifth birthday.

There have been
Spring meadows sprinkled with bluebonnets,
Summer afternoons dazzled by heat
Autumn doorbells rung by trick-or-treaters,
Winter twilights, hazy and dim—
And all without you.
Yet I still go on
And on.

Friday, April 15, 2011

N is for Nana

This is my favorite picture of me, drawn by my granddaughter when she was about 7. I keep it on the piano with all my family pictures. Think it's a good likeness? Check out my photo in About Me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

M: M&M's = Gratitude

On my dresser is a jar of M&M's. It's been there for several years. Every Saturday I reach into the jar, take out one M&M and eat it. You're probably wondering why.

A couple of years ago I read a post about a man who figured his life expectancy was about 75 years. He calculated how many weeks that would be, then went out and bought a large glass jar. He filled it with marbles, one for each week he thought he had left to live. Once a week he removed one marble from the jar to remind himself how brief life is and how important it is to be thankful for every minute.

What a great idea. I decided to figure out how much time I have left I did this by consulting the Death Clock. I know this sounds macabre--it's a website on which you enter your birthdate and then learn approximately when you will pass away. Anyway, I figured how many weeks that would be and filled my jar, not with marbles but with M&M's. Chocolate gives me migraine so I eat very little of it, but one mouthful a week--that's not a headache, that's a treat. So on Saturdays I eat my candy and think about the good things that have happened over the last seven days--maybe the spring azaleas in gardens all over town, maybe an evening with my granddaughter, a phone call from a friend I haven't seen, a funny incident at work, a nice comment on my blog. And I'm grateful to have made it through another week and, hopefully, to have made the most of it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

L is for Leukemia


Leukemia--from the Greek leuko, meaning white, and emia, meaning blood.

Leukemia is a blood cancer characterized by the proliferation of blasts, immature blood cells that originate in the bone marrow and eventually destroy normal blood cells. You can see the large blasts in the picture.

I was drawn to write about leukemia. I don't know why. I sent a proposal for the book which would become "A Candle for Nick" to my editor. In this story the heroine's son has leukemia. I didn't know that a few weeks later leukemia would dominate my life.

My husband went to the doctor, complaining of a sore throat and fever he couldn't shake. A blood test showed he was severely anemic. He saw a hemotologist and was eventually referred to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. I remember the very moment he got his diagnosis. I remember the doctor's cool, clinical voice: "You have acute myelogenous leukemia." I remember the thoughts that flashed through my mind: first, that our lives would never be the same, and second, the irrational thought that I had somehow caused the disease by my choice of plots.

The doctor continued. "You said you were interested in a clinical trial. The research nurse will explain it to you." That was it? No, "Do you have questions?"
No waiting for his words to sink in.

He started for the door and was half way there when my daughter said, "And if he decides to have standard treatment, then what do we do?"

The doctor stopped and whipped around to glare at us. "Go home," he nearly snarled. "Standard treatment is not what this hospital is about." He shook his head. "Where would medicine be if we just gave standard treatment? Fifty years behind where we are now." I have never hated anyone so much in my life.

Ralph did have the clinical trial and later a stem cell transplant. And there were mishaps and complications and through it all, I finished my book. Romance--happy ending. But Ralph's ending wasn't happy. Leukemia is a potent adversary. A doctor told me once that blood cancers are among the hardest to cure because they're systemic, not confined to a particular organ. Leukemia is a monster; it crawls through your body, killing as it goes, changing a healthy man into a ghost. He died almost a year to the day after his diagnosis. I donate some of my royalties from the book I wrote to the leukemia society.

I'm not sure why I chose to unleash these memories for the letter L. Perhaps because leukemia haunts me still and will forever.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

K is for Kids Say the Darndest Things

Many years ago, more than I like to remember, Art Linkletter had a daily show that featured a segment called Kids Say the Darndest Things. Having worked with kids, also for more years than I like to remember, I can attest that that is true.

Here are some of my experiences with kids:

I was testing a little girl, around 4 years old. The expressive language portion of the test had a series of questions: What runs? What flies? What cuts? etc. After about five of these, the child put her hands on her hips and glared at me. "Don't you know anything?" she asked.

Just yesterday I was in the midst of a session with one of my favorite four-year-olds when he announced, "Some people call my mother Jody, but that's not her real name." "What is her name?" I asked, expecting something like Joanne. Instead he said, "Her real name is Mommy"

When my first romance novel came out, a boy I was seeing for stuttering therapy and working to slow his rate of speech said, "Miss Thelma, I heard you wrote a love story, and I know how it goes. He says, 'I love you,' and she says, 'Say it slowly.'"

Then there was the kid I ran into a couple of years after I finished working with him. "Hi, Miss Thelma," he said. "I haven't seen you in a long time. How old are you now, about a hundred?"

I once tested a first grader who was suspected of having a learning disability. I asked him what was the hardest thing for him in school and he said, "Math." "Why is math hard?" I asked. "Well," he said sadly, "I ran out of fingers."

And finally there was a child who only said a few words when I began working with him but who was progressing nicely. One day the school director stopped me and said, "Well, J. has certainly come a long way." I was sort of preening when she added, "I was in his class the other day and I asked him if I could see the picture he was drawing. He looked over his shoulder and said, 'F... off.' I'm absolutely sure I never taught him that.

Monday, April 11, 2011

J is for Joan Didion and Joyce Carol Oates on Widowhood

Joan Didion and Joyce Carol Oates, both acclaimed writers who chose to chronicle their first year of widowhood, have written books which couldn't be more different.

Didion struck me as detached, almost clinical; Oates is awash with emotion; in fact, she's almost melodramatic.

Didion's book is short, concise; Oates' is overlong, almost 400 pages, and repetitious.

Didion holds her emotions in; Oates pulls the reader into hers.

I read Didion's book shortly after my husband died and took an instant dislike to the author although I'd often read and liked her work. She took pains to tell us about the call from the Times asking for an obituary, the private plane a friend offered to her when her daughter (who died soon after the book was finished) became ill in California, the house she and her husband leased from a famous movie director years ago. Snob, I thought. I didn't like her much more when she gave a reading in Houston and marched on stage lugging an enormous purse. Again, she seemed cold. But that's just me. Many reviewers have heaped praise on her book and it was adapted to the Broadway stage. So don't take my word; read it yourself.

Oates is not an author I'd been fond of; yet I found myself underlining paragraphs and thinking, "Yes, I felt that, too." No, I didn't consider suicide as a fallback after my husband died as Oates did. No, I didn't fear taking medication or worry that I might become addicted. But I did go back to work soon after my husband died and I'm sure on the outside, I looked fine as Oates did, but inside I was a mess; so was she. But she shows us her journey--how difficult it was to get the car title changed, how she avoided the checker at the grocery store who had been so friendly to her and her husband, how she reconstructed her husband's garden.

What Oates doesn't tell us is that within six months of her husband's death, she met someone new and remarried after she'd been widowed thirteen months. I found myself wondering if she was really "over" her grief, was the new man a "replacement," another fallback, or did she truly fall in love again.

Many reviewers faulted Oates for her frequent use of the third person, referring to "the widow" does this and "the widow" does that as if she were referring to widows in general. I didn't take it this way at all. I felt she was stepping outside to view herself objectively and often with humor.

What I learned from these two books is that like these two authors, all widows are different. We face our lives "after" in very different ways. Famous or ordinary, we're all individuals.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Answers to Famous First Lines Quiz

If you got an answer right without using the list, give yourself 1 point. If you got one right by using the list, score 1/2 point.

Interpretation of Scores:

16: Congratulations, you are a literary scholar. Post-doctoral fellow.

13-15: Finishing your doctoral dissertation. You are a bibliophile.

10-12: Masters level. You're on your way.

7-9: Undergraduate: Keep at it.

4-6 Suggestion: Get a library card.

0-3 Congratulations, you were honest and didn't google the answers.

It was a pleasure to burn. Fahrenheit 451

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.” Little Women

Life changes fast.
Life changes in an instant. The Year of Magical Thinking.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. Pride and Prejudice

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. Rebecca

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.Anna Karenina

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.To Kill a Mockingbird

It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen. 1984

They’re out there. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

It was a dark and stormy night.Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer Lyton (No, Snoopy didn't write it)

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. A Tale of Two Cities

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it if you want to know the truth. The Catcher in the Rye

You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

All this happened, more or less. Slaughterhouse Five

You better not never tell nobody but God. The Color Purple

And the most famous of all hooks: Call me Ishmael Moby Dick

I is for Ithaka, My Favorite Poem

Ithaka by C.V.Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka,
hope your road will be a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them.
You’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when
with what pleasure, what joy
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time.
May you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
You’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Friday, April 8, 2011

H is for Hook. Test Yourself: Do You Recognize These Famous First Lines?


Okay, here's the deal. As writers, we know how important first lines are in luring the reader into the story. Below are some of the most famous first lines in literary history. Do you recognize the book each one comes from? Try these on your own, but if you need help, the books appear in the next message in random order. Since the A to Z Challengers take Sundays off, I will post the answers on Monday. Don't peek at the list until you've tried to think of the books on your own.

And if you have any other great first lines to post, add them in the comments section. Here we go:

It was a pleasure to burn.

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.”

Life changes fast.
Life changes in an instant.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.

They’re out there.

It was a dark and stormy night.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it if you want to know the truth.

You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter.

All this happened, more or less.

You better not never tell nobody but God.

And the most famous of all hooks: Call me Ishmael.

Match the Hook with the Book

To Kill a Mockingbird

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest


Pride and Prejudice

Fahrenheit 451

Moby Dick

The Year of Magical Thinking

Little Women

The Catcher in the Rye

The Color Purple

A Tale of Two Cities

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Anna Karenina

Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lyton


Slaughterhouse Five

Thursday, April 7, 2011

G is for Glue

G is for glue, not the kind shown in the picture on the right, but the kind that holds your life together.

The glue of family. How fortunate I am to have my children and granddaughter here only a few minutes drive away. They supported us both through Ralph's illness and me through my widowhood. They're available when I need them and even put up with what I'm sure are annoying questions for my son about the computer and my daughter about the garden. And there's my sister, not nearby, but a telephone call away. We travel together and on our last trip set a record by not getting lost once. We share childhood memories. My father used to tell us, "When your mother and I are gone, you'll have each other." And we do.

The glue of friendship. I still keep up with friends from elementary school, junior high and high school, with college roomates, sorority sisters, writer friends, organization friends I've made through the years. Even if it's a once yearly lunch, I still appreciate them.

The glue of work. I love being a speech pathologist. Many of my friends are colleagues I've worked with through the years--other speech paths, teachers, psychologists, social workers. And the families who have given me the privilege of sharing in their children's lives and language. I love hearing from people whose kids I worked with years ago and knowing I've contributed to their lives.

The glue of place. Recently I wrote about being happy in my space. Sometimes, when there's a leaky roof or an A/C that suddenly goes off in mid-July, I think of selling my house, but I won't. Here's where my memories live; here's where my children grew up.

The glue of memory. Arguments (yes, I once socked Ralph in front of his mother), jokes (the pink plastic flamingos that appeared in our yard after, with my glasses off, I mistook some girls in pink dance costumes on TV for flamingos), cuddles, warmth and joy. I wouldn't trade them for anything.

What holds you together?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

F is for Final Day...First Day

End and Beginning

October sun streamed across your face
As you took your last breath.
Trapped in a hospital bed, surrounded by rails, unable to walk—
You were free at last.
And I was left behind.

When I shuffled toward the exit, the nurses barely glanced at me.
The room where you fought your battle needed cleaning,
The ground prepared for another
Fight for life.
Patients are interchangeable.

I trudged into the sunlight,
Into the dark,
Along the rocky path of widowhood,
Ringed by ghosts,
Pierced by memories.

Five years now I’ve walked alone
Maneuvered twists and turns.
Learned to stand upright.
Sturdier now, muscles forged in fire
And in ice.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

E is for Eulogy

This is the eulogy my son gave at his stepfather Ralph's funeral. I may have posted it before but it is something I read over and over. So here it is again.

A few months before Ralph passed away, he said that he really wanted to see the grandkids (which he hadn’t for some time since they were too young to come into his room). So the hosipital arranged for a visit where they brought his bed downstairs. It was a lot of effort to make it happen but they made it work. It was very emotional for Ralph to see Gabriella and Marco and in his own way, to say “goodbye” to them. It was really hard for me as well. And something really struck me that Ralph had said. He was worried that Gabriella would “forget him.” So after that, I put this letter together for him, because I knew I would never be able to say these things without getting too upset.

So…here it is….

Dear Ralph,

It is hard to express myself right now with spoken words as I tend to get very emotional when I come to visit. So, I thought I would write you this letter.

Although I have called you by your first name all of my life, I have always seen you as my father. You were there for us from almost the beginning and stayed with us through all our birthdays, special holidays, graduations, and every milestone in our lives. This has continued with Gabriella and Marco. You have taken the role of their one and only grandfather. They will never forget you for that. And neither will Monica and me.

I just wanted to thank you for helping me grow into the man, husband and father I am today. And for being a fine husband to my mom, father to me, Lori and Bryan, and grandfather to Gabriella and Marco. You have had a major impact on all our lives and we will always love you and appreciate everything you have done for us.

You asked if Gabriella would remember you. I don’t see how she could ever forget you. None of us will.

Thanks for everything Dad/Grandpa.



Monday, April 4, 2011

D is for Dictionary

For you wordophiles (not sure this is actually a word) The Oxford English Dictionary
has released its 2011 version, with some surprising additions. The creme de la creme of dictionaries has bestowed the honor of "word" to some of the following:

This is a word? OMG, I can't believe it!

Of course these two are Best Friends Forever.

This cat can't spell. LOL*
*Now it's Laughing Out Loud, but back in the day, LOL referred to Little Old Lady.

I don't heart Justin Bieber, and I can't believe the heart symbol is now a dictionary entry, can you?

Wags: This was new to me. It stands for Wives and Girlfriends of Athletes.

Dot.bomb: A company that went bust.

Couch surfing: sleeping on someone's couch when you don't have a place of your own

Ick factor: Speaks for itself

Yuck factor: Synonym of ick factor

Rubber ducky: A cutsey rubber duck

Other candidates, anyone?

Template by: Bright Sunshine Designs by Mary - Affordable Custom Blog Design © 2011