Dear Jan, Thank You.

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A quote from Braveheart has been running through my head since my step-MIL passed away yesterday: “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”

Jan had been fighting HPV-related throat cancer for about six years, and when I say “fighting,” I mean throwing that sucker to the mat and keeping her foot on its chest. She and my father-in-law threw everything they had at the cancer, seeking out new drugs and clinical trials and research. They never gave up. She never gave up.

And through it all, she kept on living. Continue reading

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The Magical Shotgun Seat

Shotgun seatDid you ever wonder about the origin of the term “shotgun” to refer to the front passenger seat of a vehicle (at least here in the U.S.)? It harkens back to the Wild West, when somebody with a shotgun would sit next to the stagecoach “driver” to act as a guard.

In our house, “shotgun” gets called quite a bit, as our two teens jockey for what they consider the best seat they can get at the moment, second only to the driver’s seat. (This, too, will change soon—too soon—as our son gets his permit in less than a month.) Nevermind that just yesterday they were both infants in rear-facing seats, and we needed a network of mirrors just to see their faces while we drove.  Continue reading

Lest You Forget, This Is Still America

this is americaTake a look at this photograph. What do you see?

This is a group of volunteers I joined last week in Florida.

This photo makes my heart and spirit soar every time I look at it. People in this photo are black and white and shades in between. They’re gay and straight, old and young, Republican and Democrat and Independent. Some are vegans or vegetarians, while others are diehard meat eaters. Some of us were Jewish, some Christian, some atheist. There are corrections officers, a prosecutor, a teacher, a writer, chefs and restauranteurs, a cantor and a pastor. We are immigrants, and descendants of immigrants.

We came from all over the U.S., on our own time and our own dime, to help victims of Hurricane Irma in Florida. And the people we helped were equally diverse. Because this is America, folks. This is who we are. Continue reading

This Year I Said ‘No’ to NaNoWriMo

Nanowrimo blogYesterday was the start of this year’s NaNoWriMo. For those of you who aren’t part of the frenetic and burgeoning underground of published or aspiring writers, this stands for “National Novel Writing Month,” when thousands (millions?) of people sign up and commit to writing 50K words before midnight on November 30th.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo last year and the year before, but didn’t bother this year. While people talk about NaNoWriMo “winners,” I’ve twice viewed the month, and the “contest,” as more of an impetus for me to conquer my procrastination and simply start writing (dammit!). Admittedly, I’m a repeat NaNoWriMo “loser,” simply because I never came close to the 50,000-word mark.

I did write 30K words that first year—a feat I was incredibly happy with and proud of—but looking back I hate everything I wrote. Seriously. Hate it. All 30,000 words. Continue reading

We Are Not Powerless

helping handHere in the U.S., we are overwhelmed. Once again, a madman with guns — more guns than anybody can defend. Once again, innocents sent running for their lives. Once again, two sides of the political spectrum disagree on the solution. Once again, once again, once again.

We are stupefied, frozen in fear and disgust and dismay and horror. Powerless, many strike out verbally, fed up with history stuck on an infinite loop. Powerless, many hide under their covers, stare too long at their screens, freeze into inactivity.

But you are not without power. Continue reading

To My Daughter, With Love

Becky Blog Photo2You have always given me a run for my money. From the time you could walk, or even crawl, I had to watch you like a hawk. You were the child who, if I put down in one place and turned my back for even one split second, would be gone or at least on your way when I turned back. You are an explorer, always testing life to see how far you can push, and how far you can go. Continue reading

The 10 Things I Learned From My First Writer’s Retreat

writers retreat blog photo2I’ve been a part of a small group of writers on Facebook for more than two years now. This “writing tribe” consists of women in four states and three countries/continents, and includes both published and unpublished authors. We write in different genres and different forms, but we’re linked by our love for the written word and our desire to tell a story, whether of ourselves or a character or idea that has grabbed us and won’t let go.

Because we’re such a small group, we’ve shared more than just writing over the years. I respect and admire each and every one of them, for the lives they’ve had, the lives they live, and the lives they aspire to in the future. More than half of us recently met in real life for a long weekend of words, interspersed with wine, food, chocolate and laughter. Oh, and vodka. Continue reading

Talking About Suicide

SuicideIf you’re the parent of a teen- or tween-age kid, there’s a good chance that you’ve watched, or at least heard about, the Netflix original series, “13 Reasons Why.” Our local school system recently sent us a notification concerning the show, offering up resources like this one to help have a discussion about suicide with our children, and I’m glad that they did this.

My husband, a teacher, first heard about “13 Reasons Why” from his high school students and he’s watched a few episodes so far. I haven’t watched it yet, and I’m not sure that I will. Mainly, my time is limited and 13 hours is a big investment in a television show. But I’m also not sure that I want to see the subject matter played out in front of me. Continue reading