Sunday, December 30, 2012

My 2012

2012 has been a year of ups and downs, from the highest to the lowest, but one more day and it will be history. 

Most joyful moment:  Hearing my granddaughter, Gabriella, chant her Torah portion at her Bat Mitzvah

Hardest moment:  My son's stroke in June

Proudest moments:  Seeing my son's courage and determination to overcome aphasia

Goal achieved:  Contract for publication of my memoir, Stumbling Through the Dark, which will be released in 2013.

Biggest decision:  To move to a high rise for indepedent living to be completed in 2015.

Another goal achieved:  Publication of On Our Own:  Widowhood for Smarties in October

Most delightful surprise:  My sisters-in-law sent me my husband's baby book last week.

Best restaurant meal:  At the Lahaina Grill in Maui on a trip with my daughter

Best museum visit:  The Art Institute in Chicago with my son and daughter-in-law

Best book I read this year:  The Lost Wife

Best cultural event:  Orbit by the Houston Symphony

Favorite sports moment:  Roger Federer wins Wimbledton and returns to #1.

Most disappointing sports moments:  The meltdown of the Houston Texans

Scariest moment:  Coming home to discover a break-in at my home

Feeling sad about:  Needing a new phone system and losing my husband's message on the answering machine

Nostalgic weekend:  High school reunion and, on the way home, lunch at the Brenham, Texas airport

Favorite movie:  Skyfall

I could go on and on.  Instead, I'll just wish everyone a Happy New Year
and hope that '13 is a lucky number for all of us.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Site Review: Widowed Village

How was your Christmas?
For widows, the answer often is, "Lonely."
Holidays are rough, and that's not to say that many other days aren't, too.  Here's a site just for widows:  Widowed Village.  Chats, groups, blogs--here's a way to talk it over with others who understand.  It's a place to share your sorrows and successes.  Check it out.  Once you do, I think you'll want to be a part of it.
And Soaring Spirits, the sponsors of this website, also puts on Camp Widow yearly.  Here's your chance to meet in person, learn ways of coping, become part of a community.

Best wishes for the coming year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Story:

I post this true story every year.  Enjoy.

A guy named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty

apartment window into the chilly December night. His 4-year-old

daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bobs wife, Evelyn,

was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy

could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dads eyes and asked,

"Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?" Bob's jaw

tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of

grief but also of anger.

 It was the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob. Being

small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too

little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he'd rather

not remember.

From childhood Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. Bob did

complete college and married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job

as a copywriterat Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he

was blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with

cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter

were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn

died just days before Christmas in 1938.

Bob struggled to give hope to his child for whom he couldn't even afford to

buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to

make one--a storybook.

Bob had created the animal character in his own mind and told the animal's

story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob

told the story, embellishing it more with each telling. Who was the

character? What was the story about?

The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The

character he created was an outcast like he was. The name of the character?

A little reindeer named Rudolph with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas


But the story doesn't end there. The general manager of Montgomery Ward

caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to

purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print the book and

distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards

had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph the Red

Nosed Reindeer. That same year a major publisher wanted to purchase the

rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book. In an

unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all

rights back to Bob May.

The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing deals followed and

Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from

the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.

But the story doesn't end there. Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a

song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such

popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by Gene

Autrey. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was released in 1949 and

became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other

Christmas song with the exception of "White Christmas." The gift of

love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning to

bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his

dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad. In fact, being different

can be a blessing.

Happy Holidays to all!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Interview with Aline Soules, Contributor to On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties

Aline Soules contributed three beautiful poems to On Our Own:  Widowhood for Smarties.  Here's my interview with her:

TZ I was especially touched by your poem Apart, about donating your husband's organs.  

AS.  My husband experienced a brain aneurysm at the age of 54.  He was, in all other ways, healthy when he collapsed and his body continued for some hours after his collapse.  This enabled me to donate organs and tissues.  Everything was usable except his liver (he had been a chemist)--heart, lungs, kidneys, corneas, bone, skin.

TZ What’s been the hardest thing about being a widow?

AS I have a son, but no other living family.  This makes me alone a great deal of the time.  I miss our partnership, our love, our conversation, our intimacies of every kind.  I have no ballast.  I have no companion.  No one understands me in the way he did.  After 13 years, it's still a challenge.

TZ If you had to describe widowhood in a 6-word sentence, what would you say?

AS This is my final gift to my beloved--to endure for both of us
(sorry, more than 6 words!)

TZ Any advice for widows?

AS We are not unique.  Every year in this country, according to the U.S. Census, 13 million people are widowed every year, 2 million men, 11 million women. Each of us must cope; all of us must support each other. 

TZ Tell us about your writing background.  Have  you always written poetry?
AS I started writing as soon as I could hold a writing implement.  I write poetry, essays, short fiction, and have tried a novel or two over the years.  I earned my MFA in Creative Writing at Antioch University Los Angeles and one of the many benefits was the opportunity to write in two genres, not just one.  I chose poetry and fiction and had a wonderful experience exploring the interface between the two.

TZ Advice for writers?

AS Every day--write every day.  If it's good, that's wonderful.  If it's not so good, write anyway and get up tomorrow and do it again.

TZ Are you working on something now?

AS I have completed a chapbook called Evening Sun: a Widow's Journey.  The three poems in this anthology are part of it.  I've sought a publisher for some years and am now considering self-publishing it.  I've come close to winning contests, finishing 3rd or 5th or getting an honorable mention, but never quite won the prize.  It's time to send it out into the world.

TZ Your work deserves to be out in the world.  It's beautiful. 
Here's where readers can see more of it:   Meditation on Women



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Quote for the Week

What other subject is on everyone's mind today but the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown?  Dwight D. Eisenhower said it better than I could when he said the following:

There's no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Like all of you, my heart goes out to the people of Newtown, especially those whose children will never come home from the place their parents believed was safe.  At this darkest time of the year when people of all faiths celebrate the light, know that we are thinking of you and sending our love.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Problem Only You Can Solve

This is me
Yes, I am sad.  Why, you ask.  Well, I have a problem that only you can solve.  I get loads of visitors on this blog (I check daily, sometimes multiple times a day) and my numbers are in the hundreds.  But here's the problem:  almost no one leaves a comment.  I feel slighted somehow, passed by with just a glance.  Could you help me out and make my Christmas merry?  Leave me a comment, even if it's only a word or two, so I'll know my readers are real, not just mistakes on a chart.  Thanks, and Happy Holidays to all.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The End is Near (According to the Maya)

According to interpretations--or misinterpretations--of the Mayan calendar the world will end on December 21...and darn it all, I was supposed to go on a museum tour that day.

Being a list maker, I decided I'd better make a list of things to do and not to do before The End. 

To Do List
Spend time with my family and make sure to tell them I love them.
Write notes to friends to let them know how much I've appreciated their friendship.
Cuddle with my cats.
Re-read favorite poems.
Look one more time at photos from childhood to now.
Eat as much ice cream as I want.
Finish my ethical will.
To Do If I Had More Time

Take a springtime bluebonnet trip.
Go to another annual lunch with colleagues who received the Tina E. Bangs Service Award from the Houston Association for Communication Disorders.
Go on vacation with my sister.

Not To Do List
Clean the attic
Pay bills.
Begin working on my 2012 taxes
Eat oatmeal, broccoli and other healthy foods I don't like, including anything with mustard or ketchup.
Pull weeds.
Repair anything.
What's on your lists?


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Story That Will Warm Your Heart

If you're a widow--or if you're not--this story will touch your heart.  To watch the video, follow the link below:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Senior Travel: Guest Blogger Michelle Rebecca

Going somewhere for the holidays? Today guest  blogger, Michelle Rebecca brings some tips on senior travel.
Oops, we don't want to look like this.  Let's try a different image:
Much better.  And here's Michelle:

Explore the World Safely as a Single Senior

Have you always wanted to travel the world and see the sights, taste the foods and experience adventures? If you’re a single senior, don’t let the thought of traveling alone turn you off from pursuing your dream. Discover ways you can travel safely and enjoy seeing the world as a single senior.

Consider Your Physical Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists worldwide health risks on its website. Check it before scheduling your trip and make sure your immunizations are up to date.

Before any vacation, clear your travel plans with your doctor. Make sure you choose a vacation destination that’s not too strenuous for your physical health. Likewise, refill your medications and pack copies of your prescriptions and health insurance information in your suitcase. These precautions help you stay healthy while traveling domestically and abroad.

Pack your Suitcase

Heavy luggage hinders your ability to navigate crowded public transportation and it increases your vulnerability to thieves. Pack as lightly as possible. You won’t need heavy or valuable items so leave your oversized novels, contractor accounting software and diamond watch at home.

In your sturdy suitcase on wheels, pack only essential clothing that’s climate and culturally appropriate. Remember to take comfortable shoes, toiletries, a cell phone and charger, medication and copies of your passport, ID card and prescriptions. Pack a small carry-on bag that holds your camera and money close to your body when you travel.

Arrive Safely

Your travel experience will be more enjoyable when you arrive safely at your destination. On the train, airplane or bus, sit near other people instead of by yourself. Keep your eye on your surroundings and look for suspicious activity. As you travel from the airport to your hotel, use your judgment before sharing a cab or entering dark alleys.

Explore the Sights

After arriving at your destination, you will want to explore local sights. Tell your tour guide or hotel receptionist where you’re going and when you’ll return. Keep your cell phone charged and carry it with you at all times. Additionally, carry a map and your hotel address with you in case you become disoriented as you navigate an unfamiliar town.

Give your loved ones peace of mind and leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member. Be sure to follow it and check in regularly. This precaution gives you freedom to explore the world alone and ensures someone knows where you are at all times.

Traveling the world can be a great experience, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of travel opportunities. Whether you go solo or join a group, follow precautions that keep you safe while you explore the world as a single senior.

Byline: Michelle is an aspiring writer and blogger with a passion for the Internet, specifically social media and blogging. She loves how social media connects people across the globe, and appreciates that blogging gives her the opportunity to voice her thoughts and share advice with an unlimited audience.
More about Michelle:
Blog:  SocialweLove
Here are some of her previous posts:
Why Should I Use an Internet Marketing Company?
Should You Blog About Your Kids?
The Meeting-Your-Online-Date Guide
4 Creative Ways to Display Your Prized Possessions

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Video: On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties

On Our Own:  Widowhood for Smarties is available from as well as on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Quote for the Week

A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down. ~Arnold Glasow

As the year winds down and I reflect on 2012 and the difficulties it's brought, I can't help but feel how blessed I am to have friends who've supported me along the rocky path my family and I have walked and how much I appreciate them.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Books of November

As usual, my books are very different, but who wants to read the same thing over and over?
Afterwards by Rosamond Lupton uses a strange plot device.  After a mother and daughter a seriously burned in a school fire, they leave their bodies (yes, that's the plot device) and try to figure out who set the fire   I give it a B.

One of my book club selections.  Beautifully written, a classic, but 670 pages long and after around 300 I began to feel I'd had enough.  I'm glad I read it--now I can say I read what is considered one of the great books of the 20th century--but I confess I didn't understand it  and by the end I was annoyed with the author and myself.  But if you want to read it, have at it, and if you already have, please please leave a comment and explain it to me.

Interesting, engaging book about how important the subconscious is in our lives.  I enjoyed it but I don't think I learned anything new.  A-

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Next Big Thing (Blog Hop Post)

What is the working title of your book or project?

Stumbling Through the Dark, a memoir of my final year with my husband as we faced his death from leukemia


Where did the idea come from?  When he was first diagnosed, I thought of writing a cheerful book called Leukemia Wife on how to help your husband cope with cancer.  As he got sicker and sicker, my focus changed to documenting our final days together.


What genre does it fall under?  Memoir


Who would you choose to play your characters in a movie?  Oh, George Clooney for the husband, of course.


What is a one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript?  Stumbling Through the Dark is the story of an interfaith couple facing the greatest spiritual challenge and of a woman who lost her husband but eventually found herself.


Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  I have just signed a contract with a publisher whom I contacted directly.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript.  I wrote it in about 3 months and unfortunately didn’t back it up.  I had about half in hard copy when my computer crashed, taking the manuscript with it.  I figured if I could rewrite one sentence, I could rewrite the whole thing, so I did.  All in all, with revisions and more revisions, it probably took close to a year.

What other books or stories would you compare this story to within the genre?  Probably Joyce Carol Oates story on her widowhood. 


Who or what inspired you to write the book?  I’d been writing romance for quite some time and my husband’s illness changed my focus.  My last romance came out the year after he died.  Since his death, I’ve worked mainly on creative non-fiction.  Recently I co-edited On Our Own:  Widowhood for Smarties, which came out in October.


What else about the book might pique readers’ interest?

Basically I believe this is a love story, a story of hope.  And one very important character is a possum…but that’s near the end.
Thanks to Nancy Hinchliff  for inviting me to join this blog hop.  Find out about Nancy's Next Big Thing at

Rossandra White will be posting at at about her next big thing. 

Please check out both of their posts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Quote for the Week: Autumn

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. —Albert Camus                                                             

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Interview with Nina Albee, Contributor to On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties

Today I'm interviewing Nine Abnee, one of the talented contributors to On Our Own:  Widowhood for Smarties, published by Silver Boomer Books.  Nina's piece is titled "What I Learned When My Husband Died."

TZ:  Your piece is about what to do when your spouse dies.  How have you coped since?

NA: I live in the present as much as I can.  I sold my house this year and moved from a 4000 square foot house to a 1500 square foot apartment.  It took me 3 years to get the house ready to sell, a year to sell it and 6 months to settle into my new place.  It was really, really hard work and difficult to downsize, but it has also been therapeutic and freeing.  So I guess I've coped by moving on.  I also have a very demanding job and wonderful daughters so I have a full life.

TZ:  What's been the hardest thing about widowhood?

NA:  The little things are harder than the big ones.  My oldest daughter just got married  and it was hard not to have him there, and everyone thinks of the holidays as hard.  But I think daily life is harder.  First, I have to do absolutely everything on my own.  Of course, I have help from friends and family, but cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaners, plumbers, Christmas decorations, travel arrangements and so on--it is exhausting.  And the daily chores are not as much fun when you don't have someone to share them with or complain about them.  And it sounds silly, but watching TV alone is often a bit lonely.  Whether it is news or football or a TV show, I always want to call someone and talk about it.  I have friends over but then that requires some level of entertaining.  Even if we weren't talking, it was nice to have someone in the house, a silent companion.  It is easier to handle the big things.  We have taken a family trip every Christmas since he died and we've really enjoyed them.  You make a plan for the big stuff but the little stuff requires coping.

TZ:  I could have written that answer above myself. 
        What are you most proud of that you've accomplished as a widow?

NA:  There are several things that I am proud of but I think the most important one is that I have learned to be okay with being alone.  In fact, I have come to like the peacefulness of being all alone in my home with myself.  People ask me if I want to date, and I don't.  I think they think there is something wrong with me but I don't feel the need to start up a relationship with someone else and it feels too hard to let someone new into my life.  I am too busy and I have a demanding job and am the single parent of two daughters and two dogs.  Okay, the daughters are adults, but I'm still their only parent.

TZ:  Tell us about your writing background.  What are you currently working on?

NA:  I have learned a lot about marriage and relationships with my new perspective as a widow.  The essay in this book was my first attempt to put this learning in writing.  I would like to write a book that offers learning through storytelling.  My goal is to have a good draft by July 25, 2013.  My husband died on July 25, 2003, so it will have been 5 years.  My writing goal for now is to give advice to women who are still married about what I have learned about marriage.

TZ:  Thanks so much!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Quote for the Week: Thanksgiving

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Fable of the Donkey in the Well

Last week I went to Chicago for the family sessions at the end of my son's aphasia program at Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.  What a wonderful program!  What great speech pathologists!  I'm amazed at my son's progress but even more impressed by his attitude and determination to improve and keep improving his language skills. 

Few people are aware of the effects of stroke on all aspects of language:  listening, speaking, reading and writing.  Few people have ever heard of aphasia.  It's a devastating problem, but with good therapy, people can get better...and better.

During one of the family sessions, someone read us the story of the donkey in the well.  Here it is:

Once upon a time there was a donkey.  It was a stupid, stubborn old donkey, and even the farmer who owned it didn't like it. 

One day the farmer heard the donkey braying loudly.  After looking all over, he found the donkey at the bottom of an old, abandoned well.  Exasperated, the farmer called his friends and asked them to come over and bring shovels.  He had decided to bury the stupid donkey in the well. 

As the men began shoveling dirt into the well, the donkey brayed in protest but after a while, he stopped.  The farmers kept shoveling.
Finally one of them decided to look into the well.  What he saw astonished him.  As each shovelful of dirt hit his back, the donkey would shake it off and take a step up.  The farmers continued to shovel the dirt, the donkey continued to shake it off and soon he reached the top of the well, climbed out and trotted away.
So of course, the moral of the story is that no matter what life shovels at you, shake it off and take a step up.  That's what my son is doing.  No matter if life hands you aphasia or widowhood or loneliness, remember the donkey and shake it off and take a step up. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Interview with Sheryl Nelms, Contributor to On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties

This is an interview with Sheryl Nelms, contributor to On Our Own:  Widowhood for Smarties.  I was surprised to learn that Sheryl is not a widow herself.  Her two poems are about women around her who have been widowed.  Her poems are "Hell, I Forgot Red" (my personal favorite) and "Grandpa's Shoes."

SN:  In "Hell, I Forgot Red" the lady speaking was a good friend of my aunt.  Her husband had died and had been cremated.  "Grandpa's Shoes" happened after Grandpa died and we were disposing of his belongings.

TZ:  If you had to give a 6-word description of widowhood, what would it be?

SN:  Widowhood is sad, stressful and lonesome.

TZ:  Have you always written poetry?  Tell about your writing background.

SN:  No, only since 1977 when I was 33 and took a creative writing class at South Dakoa State University.  I had a wonderful teacher, David Alen Evans, who is now the Poet Laureate of South Dakota who gave me an address to send that first poem to (He said that they might want to publish my poem).  I sent Hyperion my poem and they did publish it.  I was hooked.  Since then I have had over 5,000 poems, articles and stories published, along with 14 individual collections of my poetry.  I've been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice and have won over 120 different prizes for my writing.  My work has been in magazines, newspapers, anthologies, textbooks, on state studnet assessment tests and on an outhouse display in Yosemite National Park.

TZ:  Impressive.  And was that a typo or did it really say your work was on an outhouse display?  Are you working on something now?

SN:  I am currently working on my memoir, children's stories and poetry.

TZ:  Any advice for writers/  For widows?

SN:  Hang in there and don't give up.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Interview with Stella Rimmer, Contributor to On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties

Stella Rimmer is one of the talented authors featured in Silver Boomer Books' new release, On Our Own:  Widowhood for Smarties.

TZ:  Would you summarize your piece for readers?

SR:  "Blind Dates" is one of the more lighthearted pieces in the book, but being widowed at age 73, I was able to approach it with a sense of humor rather than with the agonizing emotions evoked during the actual time of the events described.  The piece is really a cameo of my dating experiences over the last 31 years of widowhood.  I doubt that the story is unique to me, so perhaps other people in similar situations will be able to relate to it and know that they are not alone.

TZ:  What has been the hardest thing to cope with during your years as a widow?

SR:  The hardest thing has been--and still is--not having someone to share both the good and bad things.

TZ:  What are you most proud of?

SR:  As a cosseted young married woman for some 20 years, I am most proud of subsequently having been able to conquer my fear of making important decisions on my own, handling financial problems and, not least, being able to guide and support my two daughters during their earlier years.

TZ:  Any advice to widows?

SR:  We all react so differently to the state of widowhood with all its attendant emotions.  I don't think I would deign to offer any advice.  All I will say is that the sadness it bring is the price we pay for having loved someone so deeply and perhaps we should feel grateful for having been blessed with the opportunity to do so.

TZ:  What is your writing background?  Your writing process?

Although up to now I have not attempted to have anything published, I've always enjoyed writing and found it therapeutic to express myself on paper. My notebook is always nearby so that I can jot thoughts down as they occur to me, and when I want to write about something specific, I dfraw on those notes for elaboration.

TZ:  What are you presently working on?  Any specific writing goals?

SR:  Presently I am writing the story about my husband's two heart transplants in 1981, which is something he began himself just weeks before he died.  It has always been my goal to fulfill his dream of doing this, if only vicariously though me.

TZ:  Any advice for writers?

SR:  Speaking from personal experience, I would urge other would-be writers to join a writing class.  Apart from the enjoyment of spending a couple of hours every week with other like-minded people, I have learned so much about the actual craft.  I pay tribute to my teacher, who has encouraged me to express myself with more emotion and vulnerability.  Her classes have been inspirational and a great motivation to write on a regular basis.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Quotes for Election Day

If the World Series runs until election day, the networks will run the first one-half inning and project the winner. ~Lindsey Nelson
Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote. ~George Jean Nathan

How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America? ~Author Unknown

There are always too many Democratic congressmen, too many Republican congressmen, and never enough U.S. congressmen. ~Author Unknown

People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing. ~Walter H. Judd

If God wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates. ~Jay Leno

The most important political office is that of the private citizen. ~Louis Brandeis

Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong. ~Richard Armour

Mankind will never see an end of trouble until... lovers of wisdom come to hold political power, or the holders of power... become lovers of wisdom. ~Plato, The Republic


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Books of Ocober

This month I read three books:

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens is a clear-eyed, no-holds-barred look at the author's impending death, with an afterword by his wife.  No sugar-coating on this one.  Death is what it is.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn has been high on the best seller list for months.  It's a thriller about a woman who goes missing on her fifth anniversary, with enough twists and turns to keep you reading despite the fact that it's pretty long.  Unfortunately, the ending is a disappointment.  Oh, well.  I enjoyed it anyway.

Sister by Rosamund Lupton is another thriller.  When a woman learns her sister has disappeared (OMG, do all women disappear in thrillers?) she returns home to London to find out what's happened.  Another rather unsatisfying ending, but a fairly good read along the way.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Interview with June Dowis, Contributor to Widowhood for Smarties

June's beautiful poems, one a haiku and the other "Lingering at the Cemetery," touched me.  I was surprised to learn she is not a widow!

TZ:  What prompted youto write these two pocms?

JD:  I don't know why, but I've always been blessed with the ability to imagine what life would be without my loved ones.  I'm sure that sounds crazy, but it has served me well.  My mother was widowed when I was fourteen, but she, like most of my family, kept her emotions to herself.  However, I will say that this November, I will be divorced four years after twenty-four years of a wonderful marriage.  Ironically, I have been dating my ex-husband for a year now and I think that is due in a large part to my still being able to appreciate the good person he is even when we were going through something tragic.  Before I went through a divorce myself, I never realized the grief that it brings with it.  And I will say that most of my dying-related poems were written during this time.

TZ:  Tell about your writing background.  Always poetry?

JD:  I have written a little of everything, personal essays, articles for a local news magazine, church newsletters.  I have written one young adult novel that is done but needs going over and, of course, publishing.  I have one mystery novel that is 2/3 done and I am planning onf resurrecting it this year.  But my true love is poetry--contemporary, free verse and haiku.  It seems to come naturally to me throughout the day, so I am always writing my thoughts.

TZ:  Any other writing goals?

JD: My goals are to publish a chapbook, finish and publish my novel and continue entering my writing in whatever venues pass my way that seem like a good fit.  Also in June this year, I made a goal to have 50 poems out at once.  It took me a while to get that many sent out, but I've done a pretty good job of keeping up

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Interview with Susanne Braham, Contributor to On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties

Susanne Braham is the author of two poems included in On Our Own--"Widowed" and "Garden, Remembered."

TZ:  Your poem, "Widowed," evokes the widowhood experience so beautifully.  How long were you widowed when you wrote it?

SB:  About a year and a half.  My husband Robert died in November 2002.

TZ:  What's been the hardest thing to cope with as a widow?

SB:  There have been many.  Robert died suddenly and we had been extremely close.  He was in near perfect health and had gone to work that day, but he had WPW syndrome, an irregular heart beat.  Around 1:00 a.m. I woke, and he was standing at the foot of the bed.  He told me to call EMS, that he thought his heart had stopped beating.  I asked him what I could do for him. He collapsed on the bed, unable to speak, but indicating I should beat on his chest, which I attempted to do.  But before the EMS crew arrived, he turned purple as I tried to give him mouth to mouth rescusitation.

I was unprepared to take over all that he did.  He was a physician and oversaw all our family health needs, so when I got sick with Giardia a couple of years later and my daughter had gone off to college, I was home by myself.  It was devastating.  I felt totally abandoned and frightened.

I guess the second hardest thing has been learning how to survive without a sex partner, as we had had a very active sex life and my strong drives didn't die when he did.  I have written a bit about this and the trouble is has gotten me into, but those poems are not for publication...yet!

TZ What has been your proudest accomplishment as a widow?

SB:  Survival itself.  There were many times I wished I had died, not he.  When I began to write, it helped.  I've also been losing my hearing since I was in my early forties.  Music and dancing had been my greatest sources of pleasure besides sex, and having to deal with oncoming deafness has been a real challenge.  But I've turned to visual arts, especially photography.  I go off on my own with nature, taking photos of things I love and then I share them via the Internet with people who are special to me.  My mom, age 92, lives right at the ocean but she is no longer strong enough to go to the beach, so I bring the sea to her in pictures and she relives with me those wonderful moments I would have shared with Robert.  I'm becoming very good at capturing wildlife with my camera.  For most of the time since I've been alone, I've dreaded retiring, but I now see myself both writing and taking pictures and maybe sharing them with the rest of the world.  I'm also becoming somewhat of a spokesperson for the hard of hearing in terms of bringing open-captioned and hearing assisted performances to New York City audiences.  That, too, will be a new direction for me.

TZ:  Any advice for widows?

SB:  Figure out what you most enjoy and go for it.  Indulge yourself in the hobbies you loved but didn't have time for before.  This won't happen overnight; joy doesn't come back right away.  Grief needs to express itself.  Get help if you need it.  And remember, pretty much half of all married people will be widowed, so you are not alone.  I guess the lucky ones will be able to unite again with another kindred soul.  I always keep my eyes open for that possibility but I've learned not to be discouraged.

TZ:  Tell about your writing background and your writing process.

SB:  Justr today the New York Times published a blurb I wrote about my first poem appearing in Child Life Magazine when I was 6 or 7.[] It put into my head that someday I would write.  It took a while, but some of us are late bloomers (if not Boomers).  I needed something to write about; becoming widowed unleashed the forces.  I now write because I have to, to survive.

TZ:  What are you working on now?  Any writing goals?

SB:  I'm in the middle of a short story, a sort of medical mystery, in a way related to my Giarda experience.  I go back and forth between writing funny, satirical pieces and my tragic poetry.

TZ:  Thank you so much for your poetry and your insight.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

In Memoriam: Ralph Zirkelbach, October 16, 2005

On October 16, 2005, Ralph took his last breath.  He'd fought a courageous battle with acute myelogenous leukemia for a year, endured medical mishaps that sapped his strength but never diminished his will, spent seven months in the hospital and managed to make it a home for both of us, and uttered his last words to me the night before he died:  "I love you."

This is one of my favorite pictures of us, even though it doesn't show our faces.  We look so comfortable together, still in love with each other after many years, much laughter, arguments that he usually won, and all the bumps on the road of life.

I remember him with love and dedicate Tuesday to his memory.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Quotes for the Week: Football from Two Perspectives

I am a football nut.  Why?  I grew up in Austin, Texas where football is life. See my picture at the bottom? 
Why post this now?  Because the Houston Texans are one of two undefeated teams in the NFL and because the Texas Longhorns are comin' back.

Football is like life, it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority."
                   Vince Lombardi

"Football combines two of the worst things in American life. It is violence punctuated by committee meetings."
                 George Will

Sunday, October 7, 2012

New Release: On Ouir Own: Widowhood for Smarties

I'm excited to announce the release of On Our Own:  Widowhood for Smarties, an anthology compiled by Silver Boomer Books,   I've published pieces in several of their anthologies and when I came up with the idea of one on widowhood, I contacted them.  Working as co-editor has been a delight for me.

The book contains poetry and prose about all aspects of the widowhood experience--loss, grief, dealing with every day life alone, venturing back into the world, memories and eventually joy and laughter again.  The many talented authors who contributed to the book are a joy to read.  I plan to interview some of them--I wish I could interview all--over the coming weeks.  I hope you'll enjoy what they have to say.

On Our Own is available at the link above or from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Quote for the Week

I found this quote last week and love it.  It makes me think....a lot.

"We walk into an unknown, beckoning future
With our past beside us."
    Harold Schulweis

Sunday, September 30, 2012

September Books

Posting the books I've read in the past month is one of my favorite things to do, so here goes:
I Will Not Die and Unlived Life by Dawna Markova is a beautiful book, well worth reading.  In fact, I'll be posting more about it as time goes on.

David Gilham's novel, City of Women is a different take on World War II.  Sigrid is an ordinary German woman, doing her best to make it while her husband is serving on the Eastern front when she befriends a young neighbor and is drawn into a web of intrigue and deception.  A good read, though you have to suspend your disbelief about some the the coincidental events.

Isn't this the most gruesome cover ever?  It made me feel like I was dead already. If you've read past postings, you may know that I belong to a group that discusses end-of-life issues.  It's called Death, Dying and Dessert and that's what prompted me to read this practical book about the importance of end-of-life planning.
Okay, why on earth am I reading The Prince and the Pauper?  Because someone in my book club nominated it and I felt obligated.  Did I like it?  Not especially.  I'd much rather have spent time with Huck Finn.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Quote fpr tje Weel: Remembering

I posted this poem from the memorial service during the Jewish Day of Atonement last year.  The Day of Atonement begins at sunset tonight, so here is the poem again.

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
   We remember them.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
   We remenber them.

In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
   We remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of the summer,
   We remember them.

In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
   We remember them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
   We remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength,
   We remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart,
   We remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share,
   We remember them.

So long as we live, they, too, shall live,
   For they are now a part of us,
   As we remember them.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Life Themes

Last week I visited my sister in Atlanta and while I was there, I watched a video she and my brother-in-law made for their children.  I saw their journeys through life, from toddlers through today.  I'm thinking of having a similar video done for my children, and I've wondered, what is the overall theme of my life?

 If I could come up with one word, it would be survival.  All of us are survivors in one way or another, but I think the key moments in my life are tragedies from which I've come back stronger.

The first happened when I was nineteen, an age when I never expected to face death.  It happened on a spring day.  The weather was perfect, but at the end of the afternoon a norther blew it and we lit the gas stove in our room at the sorority house.  We didn't think of shutting the window.  As I stood in front of the heater, my dress blew in, the flames caught it and billowed around my legs and, although I knew I shouldn't, I ran.  I was burned over 35 percent of my body and was hospitalized for three months.  Overcoming pain, joint stiffness and the slow process of healing made me realize that I was a pretty strong young woman--a surprise for me because I'd never thought of myself that way.

The second event that tore my life apart was my divorce from my first husband.  The worst part came beforehand--making the decision to become a single mom in a day when divorce was not anywhere near as common as it is today.  But the first day after my husband moved out, I experienced a feeling of freedom.  Again, a surprise.

The third event was, of course, watching my second husband, the love of my life, die from leukemia.  From a robust man he deteriorated to a person who looked like a concentration camp victim.  His courage during the long months of his dying taught me to be stronger than I ever thought I could be.  October will mark seven years of widowhood for me.  I've faced down a possum that invaded my bathroom, traveled alone, made decisions.  Widowhood teaches survival skills, whether you like it or not.

What's the theme of your life?  Please feel free to leave a comment--I'd really like to know.

Friday, September 14, 2012

New release

Adreneline is pumping, excitement is bubbling up.  Those boxes contain copies of On Our Own:  Widowhood for Smarties, an anthology published by Silver Boomer Books that I've co-edited.  It was my first experience editing and it was fascinating to read the more than 200 submissions and help choose the ones for the anthology.  We have a nicely balanced selection of poetry and prose, mostly from widows but from a few widowers, too.  They cover every aspect of the widowhood experience, from the first jolt of grief to handling every day tasks to venturing into the dating world to cherishing memories.  Some are sad, some are funny, all are written from the heart.

Silver Boomers is a publisher based in Abilene, Texas.  I've been fortunate to be included in some of their previous anthologies, and it was a privilege to work on this one from beginning to end.

More to come...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Quote for the Week

I was looking for a quote about fall, aka autumn, when I found this instead.  I love it.  Hope you will, too.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Website Review: Phronistery

Are you a lover of words?  Here's a site for you:
Obscure words, archaic words, essays about language, even a list of 2 and 3-letter Scrabble words. 
And just for fun, do you know what a lipogram is?  See if you can figure out what it is.  Hint:  It's a sentence or paragraph that never uses one specific letter.  Here's an example:  It's hard to find a lipogram in a book on writing.
Figured it out?  Check the Comments section for the answer.  And check out phronistery.  You'll enjoy it.

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