Saturday, July 30, 2011

July Reading

Day After Night by Anita Diamant. The author of the bestselling The Red Tent tells the story of four young girls in an internment camp in Palestine (before the establishment of the State of Israel). Survivors of World War II, these young women wait behind barbed wire to be repatriated to Palestine by the British. Based the true story of the escape from such a camp, the book tells about their lives and memories. I'd give it a B.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Seybold. I'd always intended to read this bestseller and I finally got around to it. I'm glad I did. The intriguing story of a teenage girl who was raped and killed and her "afterlife" in heaven as she views her family, friends and killer. It's was one of those books that keep you reading long after bedtime. Grade: A.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. I read this one for my book club. The story of a teenage hacker who is mistakenly imprisoned after a terrorist attack on San Francisco and his attempt after his release to use his computer skills to bring down the Depaertment of Homeland Security. I liked it but probably would have liked it better if I were geekier. Grade: B.

The Truth About Grief: The Myth of its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss by Ruth Davis Konigsberg. I read all the books I find on grief and widowhood. This one was different and provocative. Refuting the commonly accepted Five Stages of Grief, Konigsberg rightly points out that Kubler-Ross originally intended these to be the stages of coming to terms with one's own death. Eventually extended to the stages of dealing with the loss of a loved one, Kubler-Ross's theory spawned a huge grief "industry." While contemporary experts believe the "stages" theory doesn't apply to everyone, or in fact to very many people, Konigsberg spends more of the book on a vitriolic attack against Kubler-Ross and the experts who followed her than she does explaining the newer theories. She does, however, suggest that most people manage grief more easily and quickly than Kubler-Ross and her followers would say, that few people profit from grief groups or grief counseling, and that many become needlessly guilt-ridden if they don't feel they move the five stages "correctly." I'd give this book an A because it certainly stimulates needed discussion about the management of grief.

Only one more month left for summer reading. What books do you suggest?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thursday Review: Worst First Lines

The results of the annual Edward Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (aka Worst First Lines Contest) are in. Cast a vote for your favorite with a Comment.

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
2011 Results
Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.

Sue Fondrie

Oshkosh, WI

The winner of the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is Sue Fondrie, an associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh who works groan-inducing wordplay into her teaching and administrative duties whenever possible. Out of school, she introduces two members of the next generation to the mysteries of Star Trek, Star Wars, and--of course--the art of the bad pun.

Prof. Fondrie is the 29th grand prize winner of the contest that that began at San Jose State University in 1982. The contest challenges entrants to compose bad opening sentences to imaginary novels takes its name from the Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who began his “Paul Clifford” with “It was a dark and stormy night.”

At 26 words, Prof. Fondrie’s submission is the shortest grand prize winner in Contest history, proving that bad writing need not be prolix, or even very wordy.


As I stood among the ransacked ruin that had been my home, surveying the aftermath of the senseless horrors and atrocities that had been perpetrated on my family and everything I hold dear, I swore to myself that no matter where I had to go, no matter what I had to do or endure, I would find the man who did this . . . and when I did, when I did, oh, there would be words.

Rodney Reed
Ooltewah, TN

Winner: Adventure

From the limbs of ancient live oaks moccasins hung like fat black sausages -- which are sometimes called boudin noir, black pudding or blood pudding, though why anyone would refer to a sausage as pudding is hard to understand and it is even more difficult to divine why a person would knowingly eat something made from dried blood in the first place -- but be that as it may, our tale is of voodoo and foul murder, not disgusting food.

Jack Barry

Shelby, NC


Sensing somehow a scudding lay in the offing, Skipper Bob tallied his tasks: reef the mains'l, mizzen, and jib, strike and brail the fores'l, mizzen stays'l and baggywrinkles, bowse the halyards, mainsheets, jacklines and vangs, turtle and belay fast the small cock, flemish the taffrail warps, batten the booby hatch, lay by his sou'wester, and find the bailing bucket.

Mike Mayfield

Austin, TX

Winner: Crime

Wearily approaching the murder scene of Jeannie and Quentin Rose and needing to determine if this was the handiwork of the Scented Strangler--who had a twisted affinity for spraying his victims with his signature raspberry cologne--or that of a copycat, burnt-out insomniac detective Sonny Kirkland was sure of one thing: he’d have to stop and smell the Roses.

Mark Wisnewski
Flanders, NJ


Five minutes before his scheduled execution, Kip found his thoughts turning to his childhood-- all those years ago before he had become a contract killer whose secret weakness was a severe peanut allergy, even back before he lost half of a toe in a gardening accident while doing community service-- but especially to Corinne, the pretty girl down the street whom he might have ended up marrying one day if she had only shown him a little more damn respect.

Andrew Baker
Highland Park, NJ

Dishonorable Mention:

The victim was a short man, with a face full of contradictions: amalgam, composite, dental porcelain, with both precious and non-precious metals all competing for space in a mouth that was open, bloody, terrifying, gaping, exposing a clean set of asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth, but clearly the object of some very comprehensive dental care, thought Dirk Graply, world-famous womanizer, tough guy, detective, and former dentist.

Basil McDonnell

Vancouver, B.C.

Winner: Fantasy

Within the smoking ruins of Keister Castle, Princess Gwendolyn stared in horror at the limp form of the loyal Centaur who died defending her very honor; “You may force me to wed,” she cried at the leering and victorious Goblin King, “but you’ll never be half the man he was.”

Terri Daniel

Seattle, WA


Veronica, two months pregnant and attempting to get her boyfriend to notice, and Ricky, who wanted to end things with his expansive girlfriend, sat at a table-for-two around lunchtime at the Olive Garden in Columbus, Ohio, eying the bottle of house rosé which, unbeknownst to them, doubled as the portal key to Khrysandelt: The land where everything glitters slightly more than normal.

Andrew Allingham

Fairfax, VA

Winner: Historical Fiction

Napoleon’s ship tossed and turned as the emperor, listening while his generals squabbled as they always did, splashed the tepid waters in his bathtub.

John Doble

New York City


The executioner sneered as the young queen ascended the stairs to the guillotine; in the old days, he thought, at least there was some buildup, a little time on the rack or some disemboweling, but nowadays everyone wants instant gratification.

Andrea Rossi

Wilmington, NC

Winner: Purple Prose

As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue.

Mike Pedersen

North Berwick, ME


The Los Angeles morning was heavy with smog, the word being a portmanteau of smoke and fog, though in LA the pollutants are typically vehicular emissions as opposed to actual smoke and fog, unlike 19th-century London where the smoke from countless small coal fires often combined with fog off the Thames to produce true smog, though back then they were not clever enough to call it that.

Jack Barry

Shelby, NC

Dishonorable Mentions:

LaTrina—knowing he must live—let her hot, wet tongue slide slowly over Gladiator’s injured ear, the taste reminding her of the late June flavor of a snow chain that had been removed from a tire and left to rust on the garage floor without being rinsed off.

Betsy Replogle

Nichols Hills, OK

Like a bird gliding over the surface of a Wyoming river rippled by a gentle Spring breeze, his hand passed over her stretch marks.

Patty Liverance

Grand Rapids, MI

Deep into that particular wet Saturday night ugly blues screamed out from the old man's horn like a hooker being hauled down a flight of stairs, regular thick loud thumps punctuated by nasty and erratic sharp barks.

John Benson
Carthage, MO 64836

She held my hand as if she were having a swollen barrel of fun which was off considering that my teeth were sitting on my bathroom cabinet (eight miles away, no less) and my elbow was peeling like a soggy coconut, the fine hairs of which were standing on edge in fear, as if the coconut had been reading “Dracula.”

James Hearn

Canterbury, Kent, U.K.

Winner: Romance

As the dark and mysterious stranger approached, Angela bit her lip anxiously, hoping with every nerve, cell, and fiber of her being that this would be the one man who would understand—who would take her away from all this—and who would not just squeeze her boob and make a loud honking noise, as all the others had.

Ali Kawashima

Greensboro, NC


Deanna waited for him in a deliberate pose on the sailor-striped chaise lounge of the newly-remodeled Ramada, her bustier revealing the tops of her white breasts like eggs--eggs of the slightly undercooked, hard-boiled variety, showing a nascent jiggle with her apprehensive breath, eggs that were then peeled ever-so-carefully so as not to pierce the jellied, opaque albumen and unleash the longing, viscous yolk within--yes, she lay there, oblong and waiting to be deviled.

Meredith K. Gray

Ithaca, NY

Dishonorable Mentions:

They called her The Cat, because she made love the way she fought, rolling rapidly across the floor in a big, blurry ball of shrieking hair, fury, and dander, which usually solicited a “Shut up!” and flung shoe from one of the neighbors, and left her exhilarated lover with serious patchy bald spots and the occasional nicked ear.

Lisa Kluber

San Francisco, CA

She gazed smolderingly at the mysterious rider, his body cloaked in enough shining black leather to outfit an Italian furniture store, wrapped so tightly each muscle stood out like a flamboyant Mexican hairdresser at an Alabamian monster truck rally; and he met her gaze with an intensity that couldn't have been matched by even a starving junkyard dog in the meat aisle of a suburban supermarket.

Chris Kemp

Annapolis, MD

Winner: Sci Fi

Morgan ‘Bamboo’ Barnes, Star Pilot of the Galaxia (flagship of the Solar Brigade), accepted an hors d’oeuvre from the triangular-shaped platter offered to him from the Princess Qwillia—lavender-skinned she was and busty, with two of her four eyes what Barnes called ‘bedroom eyes’—and marveled at how on her planet, Chlamydia-5, these snacks were called ‘Hi-Dee-Hoes’ but on Earth they were simply called Ritz Crackers with Velveeta.

Greg Homer

Placerville, CA


Sterben counted calcium bars in the storage chamber, wondering why women back on Earth paid him little attention, but up here they seem to adore him, in fact, six fraichemaidens had already shown him their blinka.

Elizabeth Muenster

Columbia, PA

Winner: Vile Puns

Detective Kodiak plucked a single hair from the bearskin rug and at once understood the grisly nature of the crime: it had been a ferocious act, a real honey, the sort of thing that could polarize a community, so he padded quietly out the back to avoid a cub reporter waiting in the den.

Joe Wyatt

Amarillo, TX


Monroe Mills' innovative new fabric-dyeing technique was a huge improvement over stone-washing: denim apparel was soaked in color and cured in an 800-degree oven, and the company's valued young dye department supervisor was as skilled as they came; yes, no one could say Marilyn was a normal jean baker.

Marvin Veto

Greensboro, NC

Dishonorable Mentions:

Convinced that the fabled Lost Treasure of Eggsbury was concealed within the statue of the beloved Sister Mary Francis in the village square, Professor Smithee would steal away in the darkest hour of each night to try to silently chip away at her impervious granite vestments – a vain and fruitless nightly exercise, he well knew, but it was a hard habit to break.

Rodney Reed
Ooltewah, TN

Milton’s quest for the love of Ms. Bradley was a risk but no sorry trivial pursuit, yet he hadn’t a clue why she had a monopoly on his heart’s desires -- in fact, it boggled his mind and caused him great aggravation because, in his checkered and troubled careers, he had always scrabbled hard and it drove him bonkers that she considered life just a game

Linda Boatright

Omaha, NE

Winner: Western

The laser-blue eyes of the lone horseman tracked the slowly lengthening lariat of a Laredo dawn as it snaked its way through Dead Man’s Pass into the valley below and snared the still sleeping town’s tiny church steeple in a noose of light with the oh-so-familiar glow of a Dodge City virgin’s last maiden blush.

Graham Thomas

St. Albans, Hertfordshire, U.K.


Sunburned and lost, Jake tightened the noose around Randy’s diaper-white neck and growled, “Any last words, varmint?” to which Randy replied, “Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb, Jake--that’s where all the fruit is!” which marked the first and last time Jake and the boys hired a life coach to lead one of their cattle drives.

Lisa Kluber

San Francisco, CA

Miscellaneous Dishonorable Mentions

Rosy lips aquiver, Lauren drizzled with tears the wave-tousled sands of Wampauset Municipal Area Public Access Beach, hearing in every shriek of shrike and plaint of plover the ancient wail--kreeAHH, kreeAHH!--of good women widowed by the sea, as well as tonal nuances indicating the shorebirds' relative levels of copulative receptiveness, for our umber-eyed heroine is both lover and ornithologist.

Anna Springfield

Raleigh, NC

Business was kinda slow at the 'If You Build It' sperm bank.

Simon Petrie


Day broke upon the Baroness von Hestach with the pitiable insistence of all that she despised--a gray and unattractive intrusion into her sumptuous bedchamber, much like the Baron.

Holly Kohler

Concord, MA

No one walked down Bleak Street at night—not where hobgoblins hobnobbed, skeletons skulked, vampires vamped, and the dumpster behind the Chinese buffet smelled like zombies.

Bill Hartmann

Dallas, TX

Dawn crept up like the panther on the gazelle, except it was light, not dark like a panther, and a panther, though quiet, could never be as silent as the light of dawn, so really the analogy doesn’t hold up well, as cool as it sounds, but it still is a great way to begin a story; just not necessarily this particular one.

Warren Blair

Ashburn, VA

As the young officer studied the oak door, he was reminded of his girlfriend -- for she was also slightly unhinged, occasionally sticky, and responded well to being stripped and given a light oiling.

Ian Fishlock

Harrow, London


The beast lumbered toward the maiden, its fetid breath announcing its presence to her (since she couldn’t see him due to the blindfold her captors had tied around her head), its jaws gaping open like a sub sandwich with too much meat, so that no matter how hard you try, you can’t possibly keep the lettuce or the tomatoes from squeezing out onto the table or, worse, your lap.

Donna P. Titus

Freeland, PA

All the signs, both actual and imagined, made it immensely clear there was trouble ahead for Marlene and, yet, her childlike sense of hope that maybe he was “the one” kept her foot on the accelerator pedal of life even when she came to the “bridge out” warning hand written in Magic Marker on Myron’s Polident cup.

Karen Arutunoff

Tulsa, OK

The grisly scene before him was like nothing Detective Smith had ever seen before, but there were millions and millions of things he had never seen before, and he couldn't help but wonder which of them it was.

Sean Griffin

Tacoma, WA

Maggie said they were birthmarks and they very well could be, but the three very small black moles in a horizontal line just above her right eyebrow looked like an ellipsis to some, but to others who did not know what an ellipsis was, they looked like three very small black moles in a horizontal line just above Maggie's right eyebrow.

Betty Jean Murray

Richland, TX

As she downed the last Dixie cup of Listerine and let every drop of its 21.6 percent alcohol content hit her like an icy mint anti-cavity brickbat, Karen squinted at the breasts dangling like two electrocuted ospreys from the powerline of her heart and, with a despondency born of a thousand nights spent gaining a decent skill level at internet mahjong, wondered how she and they had all three sunk so low.

Anna Springfield

Raleigh, NC

Her flaming red hair whipped in the wind like a campfire, stroking the embers of passion hidden within the hearth of my heart and I began to burn with a desire that seared me to my very core – oh the things that I would do if only I weren’t incarcerated for arson!

Aubrey Johnson
Edmonton, AB, Canada

Carmela's knees buckled and she (a responsible consumer) collapsed down onto the sidewalk, as her environmentally green grocery bag bounced -- spewing forth organic mixed lettuces, crispy eco-friendly cucumbers, juicy natural cherry tomatoes, home-grown herbs -- while in perfect synchronization, a recyclable plastic bottle burst open, spraying droplets of Lite-Italian dressing upon the freshly tossed salad.

Margie Parker

Weeki Wachee, FL

After five years as freelance writer, Greg finally managed to double his income, letting him add a processed cheese product slice to the baloney sandwiches he had for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Lawrence Person

Austin, TX

The mostly, but not quite, extinguished fire’s dying embers writhed upon the floor like tiny little wasps which someone has just stuck in the abdomen with a needle, and they are frantically contracting around the metal protrusion in their gut in a desperate effort to remove it which, let’s face it, is hopeless so they are just slowly dying and good riddance to them too, because unlike bees--which actually have some purpose in the world--wasps are just mean, ornery wastes of space, and who can blame someone for spearing them?

Darian McGee

Petal, MS

“Bleeeck!” nine-year-old prince Crawthula, lord of Undaria and heir to the vampire throne, cried as the lollypop, expertly wielded by his irksome sister, left a bright red gooey smear across his pale cheek, shattering the image of tranquility he was ineffectually trying to maintain in front of his undead ministers and beginning the tirade that resulted in them both being sent to coffin before the first human had been brought out to feast on.

Eric A. Vanderburg

Cleveland, OH

They kissed with the fury and suction of a dart that was shot onto the back of the bus driver’s fat bald head by the red-headed kid that was too big for his age (the rumor was he was “held back”) and everyone knew was going to end up in prison, or perhaps a prop comic if he straightened out in time.

D. Drake Daggett

Omro, WI

Awakened by a howling wind snapping branches against her new but poorly installed storm windows, Stella heard another sound she found puzzling so, grabbing her trusty Colt Python, she snuck stealthily downstairs to find an oddly-dressed gnome-like man methodically dropping breath mints onto her freshly-waxed kitchen floor.

Ann Hammack


"You're not in Kansas anymore, people!" the gruff Marine Captain bellowed as I wheeled myself along the tarmac of Planet Cliché, the only place in the Galaxy where you could mine Unobtainium, undergo the powerful Eywa ritual with a blue eight-foot-tall alien Princess, and discover a hunter-gatherer people who despite decades of human contact still hadn't developed the wheel, the composite bow, or toilet paper.

Adrian McKinty

Urgh the howler monkey was sort of the leader of his troop, though not old enough to be a silverback and not having fathered more than a couple of sons, but he did know where the good berries were and how to avoid the leopards, anacondas, and especially the hairless apes, the ones who crashed through the forest only to stand behind a tree and breathe noisily, and watch them and sometimes leave bunches of those disgusting bananas.

David S. Nelson

Falls Church, VA

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Quote for the Week

The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one. ~Erma Bombeck

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Widowhood Memories: Blurred and Sharp

The other evening I came home and opened the door to an empty house. Had it always been this way, I wondered. Silent, still, except for the cats rubbing against my legs. Had I imagined those years when I came home to the sound of computer keys clicking, the aroma of one of Ralph's cooking sprees? Had I fallen asleep every night with a warm body next to mine--not a furry one as I do now--but a hunan one? All the laughter, arguments, hugs and hand-holding--had they really happened or were they only dreams? Sometimes the memories seem blurred. I turn on the answering machine to hear Ralph's voice again. I look through photographs to see younger versions of Ralph and me, surrounded by our children, or arms around each other on vacation when another tourist offered to snap our picture. There we are in our parkas on our voyage to Antarctica, there in Paris with the Seine flowing behind us, or here at home, hugging each other on our thirtieth anniversary. I fear that these memories will blur and fade. I promise myself I won't let them go.

Sometimes the memories are clear and sharp. The evening I socked him in front of his mother (yes, I admit it)for losing a key. The night we woke up at 2:00, couldn't go back to sleep and drove to IHOP for a pancake treat. Thanksgiving Day, 1998, hurrying to the hospital to witness the birth of our treasured granddaughter. A walk on the beach in Cozumel, watching the Brady Bunch with our kids and comparing the Brady family to our own blended family, giggling over an oxymoron or a pun. We disagreed vehemently and continuously over politics. Ralph's "did you remember to vote?" really meant "did you vote the way I did?" Usually not, but that didn't stop him from asking.

Although we'd married in our thirties-- both of us divorced from our first spouses--we were certain we'd celebrate our 40th anniversary, maybe even our 50th. It was not to be. Still, I hold fast to memories...and the tears.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In Memoriam: Borders Books and Music

Borders was born in 1971 as an 800 square foot used bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It merged with Waldenbooks in 1992 and went public in 1995. Final chapter, 2011.

Bookstores are magic places, and Borders was a frequent and well-loved destination for me. It wasn't as classy as Barnes and Noble, as cozy as Blue Willow, an independent bookstore where I often did book signings, or as convenient as, which is just a click away. Still, it was my neighborhood store, minutes from my house. I knew my way around, could find Romance or Travel or Cookbooks with my eyes shut. I've browsed there and bought volumes that caught my eye and turned out to be some of my favorites. I've taken my granddaughter to Borders, bought gifts there, even had a date at their coffee shop. My Great Books group has held monthly meetings on the second floor for years. Lately we'd begun to notice that the air conditioning seemed to be running on half-power, a sure sign that the end was near.

I intend to take advantage of the liquidation sale, which should start in a few days. Then the hunt for another bookstore begins. But I'm sad. I feel like I'm losing a friend.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Quotes for the Week

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. ~Henri Nouwen

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If you're alone, I'll be your shadow. If you want to cry, I'll be your shoulder. If you want a hug, I'll be your pillow. If you need to be happy, I'll be your smile. But anytime you need a friend, I'll just be me. ~Author Unknown

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Interview with Janet Boyanton

Janet Boyanton is the author of Alone and Alive: A Practical Guide for Dealing with the Death of Your Husband, available on Amazon. If you read the reviews on Amazon's site, you'll see it isn't just for widows. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to interview her.

Your book has such a great title. Alone and Alive. It describes widowhood so well. Was this the first title you came up with or did you think of others?

It was the first title I came up with, however the sub-title was much more difficult. I wanted a statement that explained that the book was more then my story or a book about grief, but a book with practical help for the new widow. Alone and Alive clearly described my feeling of widowhood.

You’ve been a widow now for nine years. Is this a book you’d been planning for a long time or a fairly new project?

I conceived the idea of writing the book about 5 years ago and actually began work on it three years ago. The process of writing and refining the book took longer than I expected, but I wanted to make the book as clear and easy to understand as I could. I remember how confusing things were immediately after my husband’s death, so I tried to make this book easy to use.

As a probate attorney, what is the most common problem widows face in the early days of widowhood?

I think one of the most common problems I see in the early days following the death is widows being overwhelmed by the number of critical decisions they have to make. At a time when you are least able to think clearly the new widow must make decision about pension distributions, life insurance payments, probate, living arrangements, and many other issues. For some the amount of paperwork that must be done is daunting, and the paperwork is often very complicated to complete. The probate process is also very confusing. The new widow is given lots of advice by well-meaning friends, a much of it is incorrect, with regard to probate.

Do you see differences in the way women manage widowhood related to the way their husbands died—suddenly, after a long illness, etc.

Yes, to some extent. Where the husband has been ill for some time they may have had the opportunity to get their legal and financial affairs ready for death. That provides the new widow with some idea of what needs to be done after death. After an expected death the widow is often left without any knowledge of the family finances and without necessary estate planning paperwork. While all widows struggle with the same issues, those who lose a husband after a long illness are slightly better prepared.

What about widowers? In your experience, how are their needs and problems similar to women’s?

Widowers face many of the same problems as widows. Loneliness is a pronounced problem for the newly widowed man. Typically they have difficulty with meals and housework. They have the same concerns as widows, but not always the same difficulties. Though I find that widowers are just as confused as widows are about the processes they must go through with regard to the legal issues.
I enjoyed reading the insights of your son. What is he doing now?

Thomas is almost 20 and will be a sophomore at Austin College this fall. He has grown up to be a fine responsible young man. I am unreasonable proud of him for the way he has handled things. (Can you tell I am a Mother?)

I also appreciated the very practical suggestions you make for just getting through daily life. What was the hardest practical matter you faced as a young widow?

I think one of the hardest things was finding saying no to some of the well meaning suggestions of other people. As a new widow I was very vulnerable and it was hard to ell relatives and friends no. But I realized fairly quickly that I needed to do what was best for us and not what others thought was best.

The other practical matter I faced was finding competent repair men to fix the things. I had to try several services for repairs before I found people I could trust.

Any other advice?

Be patient with yourself. Healing takes time, but you will eventually feel whole again.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thursday Review: It's National Ice Cream Month

July is National Ice Cream Month. Isn't this the perfect time? What could be better than ice cream to beat the summer heat?

An average of 48 pints of ice cream per person per year is eaten in the U.S., which has the highest consumption of ice cream of any country.

It takes approximately 50 licks to finish a scoop of ice cream.

More ice cream is sold on Sunday than any other day of the week.

To learn everything you ever wanted to know about ice cream, including its history, the history of the cone, the most popular flavors in America and A Month of Sundaes--suggestions for an ice cream treat every day in July, visit

Monday, July 11, 2011

Quotes for the Week

“Live as you would have wished to live when you are dying”
Christian Furchtegott Gellert

"Have the courage to live. Anyone can die.”
Robert Cody

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Discussion Group: Death and Dying

It's a taboo subject. We don't like to talk about it or think about it. Yes, it happens to everyone but until we're touched by it or facing it ourselves. we avoid it. So you may be surprised to hear that I belong to a group that discusses death on a monthly basis.

We are a subgroup of the Houston chapter of The Transition Network, an organization for women dealing with transition and focusing on what's next. You wouldn't think a special interest group on dying would have many takers, but as soon as our group filled up, a second one was formed and was eventually merged with the first.

Why do we choose to spend an evening each month talking about dying? Some of us have been touched by death; we've lost parents, friends, spouses. Some see death looming in the ever-decreasing distance and want to be ready to face the end and make it easier for our families to deal with.

We sometimes have speakers. We've had a hospital chaplain, an estate attorney, a physician. Sometimes we choose a topic to discuss. We've talked about our "pictures" of death, about creating ethical wills, about how and where we want to die. I think my own fears of death have lessened as we talk about the unknowable. I've come to appreciate the finite time I have left and to resolve to spend it wisely.

When I've mentioned this group to my internist and when we contacted the chaplain, their responses were, "What a wonderful idea for a discussion group. There should be more of them."

Oh yes, you may be wondering about the picture of sweets above. Answer: we meet in the evenings, so the name of our group has changed from Death and Dying to Death, Dying and Dessert.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tuesday Quote for the Week

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability. ~Sam Keen

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Confession: I am Addicted to THE TRIAL

I have never been a fan of soap operas. I don't watch reality TV. I didn't follow the O.J. case. But I confess: I am addicted to the Casey Anthony trial. Every day and on into the evening, I am absolutely riveted. Doesn't matter how many times Vinnie or Jane or Nancy play a segment over, I still can't take my eyes off the TV.


You have to admit, the cast of characters is fascinating. I couldn't have invented a better bunch myself for one of my novels: Judge Perry, who runs his courtroom with a velvet glove and whom I love despite his substitution of v for th (This is the speech pathologist in me talking--I can't help it); Jeff Ashton, the prosecutor and my new hero; Jose Biaz, the sleazy defense lawyer; Roy Kronk, the meter reader who, one of the commentators said is responsible for a new vocabulary word--to be "kronked" is to be raked over the coals for trying to do the right thing; George and Cyndi Anthony, the distraught parents of Casey (Did they lie on the stand?); and Casey herself, a stone-faced enigma, pathological liar.

Above all, there are the heart-wrenching videos of Caylee. Today the prosecutor said one reason for Casey's getting rid of her child was that she was becoming too verbal, something I've thought for a long time.

What's the deeper reason for America's...and my...addiction? We can't wrap our minds around the idea of doing away with our own adorable child. Yes, it happens. Statistics indicate that over 200 children are killed in this country each year by their moms. And yet...

The Anthony family could be our next door neighbors. Doesn't that send shivers up our spines? If we can't trust these attractive middle-class people, who can we trust? I keep waiting for someone to show me this crime didn't happen, that this young woman would never have done such a monstrous act. But it did happen. And I want to see justice done.

I read an article online by a psychiatrist the other day. Here's what he had to say about our fascination with this situation: Ms. Anthony, whether a killer or a mother who inexplicably did not report her daughter missing for over a month, is a conduit for buried, forgotten terrors still inside all of us.

During childhood, we were all so vulnerable physically and emotionally, so entirely dependent on the good will of our guardians, that we suppressed the thought that we could be with a mother or father who disliked us, wished we did not exist, or might even be able to act on it. Such fears are, in childhood, unthinkable, and, in adulthood, still locked deep inside us.

Casey Anthony, the pretty, smiling, mother who may well have murdered her daughter is, in fact, every adult's worst, long-denied childhood nightmare.

The chance to see such a woman in captivity, and to ponder what she is accused of, is like going to the zoo to see the rarest, deadliest monster you can imagine, the one resurrected from the deepest recesses of your mind in its most fragile moments. And, what's more, even if she is that monster, she may or may not be freed.

I think he sums it up very well.

What about you? What's your opinion of Casey? What's your prediction about the verdict?

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