October 5 – The Wonders of Technology

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

“It’s time to get my prescription filled,” I said.

The refill would run out in a month and I would be near the pharmacy today so I dutifully followed the protocol of entering the script number, pushing number one to indicate that was my only refill, and being told electronically that I could pick this up at 1:00 p.m. Isn’t technology wonderful, I thought.

The other errand was accomplished by noon: I needed some grocery items in light of the predicted hurricane Joaquin heading for Maryland. Rain was already pelting down at a steady pace. I approached the pharmacy to inquire if, just possibly, my script had been filled.

“What’s your name?” the pharmacist inquired.

“Hollinger,” I said.

“Your birthday is 1/18?”

“No, my birthday is 2/28/39,” I replied.

“We have no record that you called Mrs. Hollinger.”

By now I am becoming a tad annoyed. “I did because I recall distinctly pushing number one and being told the script would be ready by 1:00 p.m.” I pause while they look.

“Oh yes, we found it, however your insurance is rejecting coverage.”

“I don’t understand, it always has paid in the past.”

I was shown a printout from my insurance company which indicated that the prescribing M.D. did not have the proper credentials to prescribe this drug.

“That’s bullshit,” I said. “The doctor is the medical director of a psychiatric hospital. He writes scripts for these drugs daily.”

“Well, you know, some doctors forget to renew their license to dispense these drugs,” she replied very authoritatively.

“This doctor would not maintain his status as medical director if he did not renew,” I stated in my own authoritarian voice.

The drug in question was Valium, which I take infrequently, but by now I was ready to swallow the whole script as my anxiety mounted.

“Do you want me to call your insurance company?” she asked.

“Would you please?” I responded firmly.

Minutes later her co-worker came to tell me that the error was one made by their computer. I paid $3.80 instead of the $11.00 quoted when told my insurance company would not pay.

I paddled home in my Honda FIT feeling triumphant and no, I didn’t even need to take the anti-anxiety medication from the prescription that had just been filled.

Patricia Roop Hollinger

Patricia Roop Hollinger is exploring her writing skills after retiring as a Pastoral Counselor, Chaplain and LCPC from same hospital where the prescribing doctor is medical director. She is an avid reader, musician, and lover of her cat Spunky.

September 25 – Mind Games

by Nancy Rankie Shelton

Thoughts jump into my brain
running around and around
bad ones trampling
good ones
good ones, hopeful ones,
try to grab unwanted invaders
in tight double-fisted clutches
to shove them back out of bounds.

The frantic race, the struggle
becomes so disturbing
the only way
to calm the panic
is to force
other, stronger thoughts
into the overcrowded boxing ring
my mind has become.

So I listen to audio books
blare my music
binge on Netflix TV shows
season after season in one sitting.
I plaster cracks
in the walls and
slather paint
over the repairs.

And I run.
First two miles, then four, then six, now ten.
I swim, thirty minutes at a time,
totally exhausting myself
so that when I come home
my mind will let me
read a book while
I soak in my hot bathtub.

It’s the end of September,
the end of summer,
more than three years after
Jack died.
I’m adding another hobby
designed to
overpower my brain.
I’m cycling.

My first outing with John
was twenty miles.
My second with Nick
was ten.
My next will be
with just me
to see how far I need to go
to completely exhaust myself.

All this running and swimming and cycling
has changed the way I look
to my friends.
I’m told I look great
better than I’ve looked in years.
My mirror
utters no such

My mirror reveals
increased and deepened lines
that disfigure my neck
and frame my eyes.
Skin sagging from my biceps
mark me old and tired.
Age spots tell more truth
than my friends.

And the thoughts,
good ones and bad,
keep jumping into my mind.
The battle rages
as I try to hold
onto an old self
an old life that slips away,
piece by piece.

Piece by piece I’m losing
Jack, my memory,
his belongings,
things shared
are fading and disappearing.
In tight, double-fisted clutches
I try to protect them, keeping them
in bounds, in my mind.


Nancy Rankie Shelton is a Literacy Professor at UMBC. She’s an avid reader and writer. Most of her publications are in literacy education and politics, but her first non-academic publication will be released this fall. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

September 23 – How Do I Pace Myself?

by Doris Jean Shaw

How do you pace yourself for the emotional roller coaster that illness brings?
The doctor and nurse came to the house to see how my husband Bud is doing. They had just left, after assuring me I was doing all the right things; it meant he could stay at home where he wanted to be for a while longer. Why didn’t I feel better?

Everything revolves around taking Bud’s blood pressure, giving him his meds and seeing that my husband stays hydrated. I operate on auto pilot. Thinking can put you in a mood where thoughts like “I should have” and “what if” crowd in and take over. I avoid that rut if at all possible.

Things take longer and I struggle not to get frustrated or overwhelmed. Our morning routine of breakfast, meds, and shower takes over two hours at least and must be completed in time for my husband to watch his favorite TV show. The day is half gone and I have not had time to sit down and drink my coffee. How do I pace myself for the long haul? I just take it one task at a time and not worry about what comes next.

Next, is lunch. My husband has become a picky eater, only wanting things he can hold without using a utensil. A nap and a beer round out the afternoon. Where has the day gone? When I start getting him ready for bed it takes between 40 minutes and an hour. Occasionally, I let myself get down but I just have to remind myself of the alternative to get back on track.

If you are a care giver and need some support try “Help Caring for the Caregiver” on Facebook.
Doris Jean ShawDoris Jean Shaw is a life coach, educator, author, and member  of The Ink Blots. She presents workshops that help anyone find direction; and writes about her travels, children’s stories, devotionals and romances. When not traveling Doris continues her life-changing transformation journey to self-discovery. She blogs at http://www.doris-shaw.blogspot.ca/.

September 11 – Balloons Rising

by Doris Jean Shaw

Enjoying breakfast, my eyes drift to the window. “Is that water tower moving?” I get up and go to the balcony to get a better look. The round part of the top seems to be ascending toward the heavens. Standing there, I spot more spheres popping up. The sun above the horizon bounces off the spheres and I see a dozen hot air balloons at various heights from the earth. Each balloon decked out in an array of colors from bright orange and yellow to purple and blue, rises toward the sun.

I take my coffee to the patio and watch as the balloons rise from the earth, and drift off to dot the sky with colorful blobs. “I’m not sure I would want to be that high and be at the mercy of any prevailing wind.” It tickles my fancy but the sensible person inside defies me to do it. I once saw a balloon that would go up but a rope anchored it to the ground so you could not float off. Curious about the floating since I love to float in the water but I know I can only go so far. Does that mean that I want excitement within limits?

So much for the all that psychological stuff. I sip my coffee and enjoy the daring of others as a breeze comes up and disperses the balloons like throwing dice on a table, the balloons scatter. I tackle clearing the table with a smile. What a glorious way to start the day! Wonder what will cross my path tomorrow?

Doris Jean Shaw

Doris Jean Shaw is a retired educator, Life Coach, author and member of Beauregard Parish Writers Guild “The Ink Blots.” She loves to travel and writes romances, children’s stories and devotionals. She presents a workshop, entitled “Reclaiming Me” that helps others find direction for their futures.

August 22 – The Tiny Life

by Sally Nielsen

What does a turtle do or think about while inside its shell? Is it only concerned about when it’s safe to stick its head out of its shell or does it contemplate its life while inside it? Today I feel I might be a turtle.

This year two of my close friends and several of my acquaintances have started new life journeys. They are consumed with house details. One moved from a split level into a smaller house on her new husband’s large wooded lot. Another friend is building a new house with a forest preserve behind it; it has tiny closets and a tiny yard. Another is moving into a cabin in the woods. One has locked up her delightful condo and moved into the home of a poor Peruvian Andes family for ten months of Peace Corps work.

I’m not going anywhere and my life in a busy neighborhood in a large sprawling North Florida city seems routine and small-minded. I felt I should strike out on my own, show some moxie and become a fiercely independent lioness of older womanhood. Should I buy a tiny house and live off the grid in some out-of-the-way woods? Never mind that I have a ton of friends and children who care about where I live.

I have spent a great deal of time looking at YouTube videos of tiny houses–in particular those tiny house dwellings built by people who prefer to live off-grid. In one an interviewer exclaimed “It’s amazing!” constantly. Using the sun to heat your house in the north woods was amazing and bucketing water into the house was a sign of ultimate independence.

I began to realize tiny house life demands constant personal focus on its details. When tiny house dwellers video their spaces they use monotone voices. They speak of their challenges with patience and forbearance. And sighs. Although they will share a friendly selfie their videos view life from the eyes of a turtle inside its shell.

Doctors have discovered I have what appears to be a tiny lump in my left breast–a cancerous one. As I begin to make my way through the bewildering levels of cancer detection and treatment, tininess obsesses me. Let this one lump be microscopically tiny. Let it be solitary and let it have no grid, I pray. I fight against the impulse to retreat into my hard shell but the fact is I have dozens of people outside my shell–connections who have been through this and experts who are willing and able to help me.

As I caress my breast, promising it that I will try all I can to keep it there, I realize I already live in a tiny house that requires attention. I need my doctors, my nurses, my family and every one of my friends. I am grateful for my grid.

Sally Nielsen is a life writer who lives in North Florida.

August 12 – Quiet in the Storm of Life

by Martha Slavin

park-1319135773TYsHave you had a chance to step outside today and take a deep breath of air? What about a walk in a park where you can be among the trees and grasses?

Today at Osage Park, I walk by a white-haired man reading to his son. His son is not young either, but he sits in a wheelchair with a baseball cap on, with his head slumped against his chest. I wonder about the man. How had he found the reserve in himself to sit quietly with his son and read to him long after his son’s childhood?

We expect our children to grow, leave our homes, and make their way in the world. As with a few of my friend’s children, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Instead, intense parenting, including bathing, dressing, and feeding, continues for a lifetime with help during the school years, but after that, little respite. I watch my friends as they struggle with daily life and find joy in small things. They find resources outside their homes to help their grown children and to give themselves the needed breathing room from the strains of daily parenting care.

A lifelong caregiver could easily be filled with resentment and discontent. Yet I have seen my friends open a space within themselves that gives them the chance to have an accepting and grateful life. Not that they don’t rail against the sky or ask themselves time and time again, “Why me?”

As I walk by the man and his son, I think that the quiet moments allow them to embrace the life they have in a way they never envisioned for themselves. Seeing them together I can see the beauty and grace in the life they have absorbed. Those quiet times carry with them a sense of peace that I was able to share for just a few seconds on my walk around the park.

Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. Her blog, Postcards in the Air, can be found each Friday at www.marthaslavin.blogspot.com She also writes poetry, memoir pieces, and essays. She creates handmade books, works in mixed media, watercolor, and does letterpress. She lives with her husband and two cats in California.

August 10 – All Those Old Photos

by Fran Simone

My husband, Terry, an only child, died eighteen years ago. His mother, Zona, died last year. Her nephew settled her estate. She didn’t have much except for a truckload of old photos taken from the time of Terry’s birth until our last visit to her home in Dallas few months before he died. At Zona’s graveside service,  Bobby asked, “Do you want anything from her apartment?” I asked for some photos.

Many months later four huge boxes arrived. Three contained hundreds of black and white photos. Terry in his Daniel Boone outfit, his Boy Scout uniform, his high chair, his swim shorts. Opening presents on Christmas morning and wearing a tux at his high school prom. You get the picture. Hundreds of pictures. .

After culling through three boxes I sent photos to Terry’s cousins and stuffed the remainder in a cabinet that already houses hundreds, or maybe thousands, of family photos taken over a period of forty years (most jammed into shoe boxes).
I wish I could emulate my friend, Bonnie, who has made it her mission to cull through and organize old photos and give them to family members and friends. While visiting her a few weeks ago she “returned” several taken during our annual vacation at Holden Beach in North Carolina. Lovely memories.

The fourth box contained a large oil which I suspect was painted when my husband was in high school. He appears neat and conservative, with a soft smile and no glasses (he always wore glasses). Definitely painted before his hippie phase. It had been prominently displayed in the living room of Zona’s tiny bungalow and later moved to her assisted living apartment in Texarkana, Texas, home of Ross Perot and perhaps the ugliest city in the United State. But I digress.

Although many pictures of my husband are displayed throughout my home, I did not hang Terry’s portrait. In fact, it sits in its original packing box in the garage along with tools, flower pots, old paint cans and other paraphernalia. It feels irreverent to part with it, yet I know that I will never hang it in my home. Therein lies my dilemma. What the hell do I do with it, or for that matter, the thousands of old photos sitting in shoe boxes? Do I bite the bullet and sort through them like my friend Bonnie? Or do I bequeath that task to my kids after I’m gone? I know one thing. If I decide to downsize to smaller digs, I’m in trouble.

Fran Simone’s memoir, Dark Wine Waters: A Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows was published in 2014. She blogs on family and addiction for Psychology Today. This essay on old photos developed from a writing prompt from ecircle 9.