August 22 – Beginnings

by Debra Dolan

Twenty nine years ago today I married. It was the beginning of a dream I thought I wanted; such a man was interested in me. For all accounts and first impressions–handsome, successful, fun, charming . . . I was swept off my feet. Never knowing what that was or meant until he smiled at me in that beer line-up–the fundraiser for Meares Island. I remember looking behind me as I could not believe it had been intended to land on my insecure lonely soul. What was that expression made famous years later?–“He had me at hello.” Well, Glen always had me with that smile.

Twenty nine years ago today I married in a beautiful garden that my young love had nurtured for many years. We had our ceremony and reception in his mothers’ back yard filled with plant material that my landscaper fiance had rescued since his youth from abandoned properties or turn-of-the-century homes about to be abolished. Apples fell from the trees, birds sang freely & naturally and bees buzzed in harmony to the harpist as we shared our vows. It was our legal formal beginning. Never had I felt more beautiful or energized. It was glorious and etched in my mind forever as clearly as if it took place this week; remaining a favorite day of my life.

Twenty nine years ago today I married. It was the beginning of disappointment, betrayal, financial ruin and emotional pain that took me years to recover from.  The heart broke wide open when the public declaration of 1987 soon became a public humiliation by 1992. As I did not rush for premature closure on reflection that time was also the catalyst for real change in my life and for that I am enormously thankful. I had lost the desire of knowing what I really wanted in this world and in my life. I discovered that a vast treasure chest was offered to me in unexpected ways that did not include being Mrs. Minaker. I continue to discover myself independent of the approval or permission of a masculine influence.

Debra Dolan lives on the west coast of Canada, is a long time (45+ years) private journal writer, and an avid reader of women’s memoir. She has been a member of Story Circle Network since 2009.

August 15 – A Fateful Phone Call

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

My husband’s health was in rapid decline. Death was imminent. His son and two grandchildren were in their third year of living with us when I had been told it was only to be a weekend.

One day, upon opening the daily paper I read the obituary of the wife of a high school flame. This was his second wife he had married after his first wife had died. As fate would have it they had moved within walking distance of where I was now living with my second husband and I had met her on one of my daily walks. One day I noted they no longer lived there and just wondered where they had moved.

“Dare I call him?” I wondered. The wondering became a phone call and I proposed that in the future we might have lunch together.

With that he said, “How about breakfast next Saturday.”

This was sooner than I had planned but could I pass it up? No, I simply could not pass this offer up. I told my husband that I would be having breakfast with this gentleman. That we had dated many years ago and this was just a friendly gesture in light of the recent death of his wife.

We had breakfast at the same restaurant where we had met years prior when I had been a carhop in the 1950s. We had a few dates but another high school flame of his became his first wife. A job offer took them to San Antonio, Texas where they lived until her death. He met his second wife, who had just died, when he had returned back to visit family in the area.

We quickly established that we still had an interest in each other however I clearly was committed to caring for my husband until his imminent death. My husband was soon under the care of hospice in our home.

An epic snowstorm was predicted. We lived on an 18 acre wood lot off the beaten path. I proposed that he be taken to Dove House for if death came during the snowstorm there would be no way to transport his body to the funeral home. Placing him in the home freezer was not an option I could even consider. Death came at Dove House and it took the funeral home 2 hours to pick up his body was just a mile away.

My high school flame and I continued to have more lunches and breakfasts after my husband’s death. We were married on October 30, 2010 at a pavilion that had been one of our dating sites so many years ago.
Patricia Roop HollingerPatricia 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.

August 12 – A Three Hummingbird Morning

by Pat Bean

Last night, at around 9 o’clock, I sat on my bedroom’s third-floor balcony and watched lightning flash across the sky like fireworks. Sometimes a deep rumbling followed, but mostly it was a silent event, until I moved to the living room balcony where the rumbling was more consistent. The air smelled musty with the rain that never fell, and I was awed by the deep magenta hue of the sky, wondering how that was possible.

The show was long, and so I fixed myself a Jack and Coke and settled into a patio chair to watch in leisure, afterwards falling into a relaxed sleep that held me until a sliver of light seeped through my bedroom shutters.

The morning was muggy, but still cool enough here in Tucson for me to sit again on my balcony and sky watch, this time with my morning ritual of cream-laced coffee and my journal. As I watched, through my usually handy binoculars, a broad-billed hummingbird landed on a nearby tree then zoomed straight to my nectar feeder that sat above my head. Seeing me, it zoomed away, but soon returned, and after deciding I was harmless, fed.

Then there were two hummingbirds flitting about in competition for the feeder. The second one was a black-chinned hummingbird, the species I see most often. After they had left, a third hummingbird appeared and drank. It was an Anna’s, although because it was a female, it took me a while to identify. The males, with their spectacular pinkish-purplish heads are an identification no-brainer.

Seeing these three hummingbird species took me back to the morning I awoke to find three hummingbirds flitting in my ten. It happened in 1991, during a rafting trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon–before I became addicted to bird watching. I had no idea what species of hummingbirds they were at that time. I’m not sure I even knew then that hummingbirds came in different races.

While seeing those three hummingbirds flitting above my head in the tent 25 years ago thrilled me, seeing the trio this morning, and being able to identify each of them, was just as thrilling.

Life is good. And I am blessed.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist and late-blooming birder who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Pepper, and writes an blogs at http://patbean.wordpress.com.

August 10 – Painting, No Judgement

by Martha Slavin

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A good friend and I sit in the shade of her backyard, which blooms with flowers, fruit, and her mosaics on the fences. Color is everywhere: the clay fish in the simple bubbling fountain, the shards of glass pushed between the stepping-stones of the paths that wander through her yard, the bright red apples and deep purple plums hanging in the trees, and the ceramic frogs and lizards near her hammock. My friend, a painter, is most at home in Monet’s garden in Giverny in France, and she brought the flood of color of that garden to her backyard.

Her two dogs push toys at us, waiting for a foot to kick the toy far enough for them to scamper after. When we don’t respond, they explore the garden. Piper, a Jack Russell terrier, brings back a green apple with teeth marks on it. She hopes this offering will interest us.

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We set out watercolors and paper on the table and pursue “Painting, No Judgment,” as my friend calls it. We relax into our efforts. She quickly splashes reds and magentas on her page while I lightly wash my paper with the soft colors of succulents.

When we’ve had enough, we get up, stretch, and walk around the table. I say, “I started to put too much dark….”

She calls, “Shush, no judgment,” and whispers, “Oh” and “Ahh,” as she walks around the table (though that is a judgment too).

painting

“Shall we start writing now?” I ask, feeling free of any negative thoughts and open to what follows “Painting, No Judgment.”

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.

July 22 – Why Me?

by Linda Cardillo

I’m not feeling good about myself today. For the first time, I feel like an old person preparing to be put out to pasture. I’m not old. I’m 67. A youthful (so I’m told), vibrant, fun-loving 67. So why am I feeling like old news?

Recently one of my coworkers quit. (I’ll call her “Jane.”) Since our administrative staff had been cut in half over the past several years, she and I have been carrying double loads, and she was burned out. It would have been a disaster if she left, so our new director got her a promotion, a decent raise, a new title and new responsibilities. She now does a lot of communications work – Twitter, Facebook, Mail Chimp, Eventbrite, that sort of thing. Things that are, in today’s world, essential to a company’s infrastructure. (BTW…my Bachelor’s degree is in Communications and I haven’t gotten a raise in nearly 7 years. Just sayin’.)

During a recent meeting about our individual “goals,” I was told, “No offense to you and what you do, but what “Jane” does is key.” That statement came after being told we could have future staff cuts or our office could be closed all together. Put those statements together and it equals, “If we have administrative staff cuts, you’re out.” (Some background facts: I’ve been with the company 17-½ years. “Jane” has been here for 10. I am a widow with one income, no family to help in a pinch, a mortgage and property taxes. Jane has an employed husband and no mortgage.)  Life isn’t fair.

That’s it in a nutshell. The unfairness of it.

I do not begrudge “Jane” in any way.  She’s excellent at her job and we’re great friends in and out of the office. As coworkers, we complement each other and we have both won the highest award given to administrative staff for outstanding performance. So, why me?

First of all, she quit so she got the new job, the promotion and the raise. Second, the manager hasn’t been here long so he doesn’t know my strengths or credentials, which I probably didn’t convey very well during our too-soon get to know you one-on-one lunch meeting. Maybe he just didn’t ask the right questions. I blame him for what he doesn’t know about me. It’s easier than thinking I didn’t read the signs and should have sold myself better. I didn’t know I was supposed to. That’s on me.

After years of being told, “this place couldn’t run without you,” I am now non-essential personnel. I arrive every day to a colossal volume of work, but because I’m not Tweeting or revising last month’s E-newsletter, at the end of the day, what I do doesn’t matter.

I’m not feeling good about myself today.

Linda Cardillo is a full-time working widow who loves to create mixed media art and cuddle with her perfect, precious yellow lab.

July 9 – June Blog

by Ann McCauley.

This being Father’s Day makes me think of my dad who has now been gone for two years and six days. My five siblings and I, ages 49 through 67 at the time, have been orphans since then. We were lucky to have had our parents as long as we did. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be alone in his world, without parents as a child or even as a young adult. Our mother passed four years before Dad, both ravaged by cancer. I believe family is important, and parents set the tone for family interactions. So, even if you are approaching retirement and still wondering what you want to do when you grow up, remember to those of the younger generations, we are the adults and it is our responsibility to set an example for what our family time will be. Hint- hint: Family time is always better without minds and tongues being lubricated with alcohol!

I have had less time for reading this month due to gardening and outdoor work. I have read only three books, but they were all memorable.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. The first line grabbed me by the collar, “Lydia is dead. But hey don’t know it yet.” It is the story of a Chinese American family living in 1970s small town Ohio. a beautifully crafted study of dysfunction and grief, that resonates with anyone who has had a family drama. That should be just about everyone, right?

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (My book club’s choice for the month.) It is low-key suspense with many twists and turns. It’s been compared to Gone Girl, but I think the plot, characters and structure are so much better. A wealthy girl is abducted by a man who had been stalking her. She is rescued and returned many weeks later, a different person than the girl who was taken. Her socialite mother’s character is also transformed.

The Black Count by Tom Reiss (Winner of 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.) My husband recently finished this book, and raved about it so much during the reading that I am currently reading it. It’s a fascinating story, carefully researched and brilliantly written.

My review of The Gilded Cage is on Story Circle at: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/gildedcage.shtml

We went to a wonderful movie last week. Jo Jo Moyes’, Me Before You, was beautifully done. She also wrote the screenplay, so the movie stayed quite true to the book.

Enjoy these lazy hazy days of summer…and keep reading my friends.

ann mccauleyAnn McCauley is the author of Runaway Grandma, (2007) and Mother Love, (2012). She’s a contributor to, Women Writing on Family, (2012), and Women Writing After Retirement, (2014). Ann reviews books for regional NPR radio and StoryCircle.org. She’s an RN, with degrees in Nursing, Psychology and Creative Writing. For more info, visit her @ www.annmccauley.com.

June 14 – Writing My Way Through Depression

by Judy Alter

Usually I’m flattered when someone asks, “So what are you writing?” These days I hate to be asked, because the answer is “Nothing right now.” I don’t need to add that I’ve been too depressed to come up with a new idea that I’m enthusiastic about. I think the Lord has been sending me a message that says, “Slow down. Not now.” Seems to be the mantra of my life. My brother was just here, and as I struggled to undo all the Velcro and take off the cumbersome boot so he could look at my foot, he’d say, “Slow down. You’re retired now.”

I know the classic signs of depression and recognize them in myself—I want to sleep all the time, and I have no interest in food. What has been a life raft to hold on to (besides my loving daughter and supportive family) is that I’m a writer. I am always happy at my desk and computer, and I will always have something to draw me out of myself so that I don’t focus on how miserable I feel.

If you think I’m going to write about how cathartic writing is, letting me release pent-up emotions, that’s not where I’m going. My career as a writer help me in a different way. It gave me things to do—writing my almost-daily blog, writing guest blogs, marketing for my new book, The Gilded Cage.

I belong to professional writing groups—Sisters in Crime, their subgroup the Guppies, Story Circle network—and have computer duties in two of them that I must keep up with. In addition, those groups have given me a whole circle of contacts—keeping up with email probably takes me a minimum of an hour a day—but I love the exchanges of information, news, and, yes, gossip. I read blogs that interest me, and follow two mystery lists—Dorothy L. and Murder Must Advertise.

And then there’s Facebook. I am not, as is so fashionable, one who dismisses Facebook at worthless. I enjoy it and get both amusement and education from it. No, I don’t read every word of every post that it shows me, nor do I seek out the timelines of individual friends. But I spend a lot of time on Facebook. Depression brings with it a certain inertia, and I found it increasingly hard to pull myself from Facebook—or my computer.

And finally there is reading. Susan Wittig Albert, good friend and well know author, insists that reading is part of our work. I think a lot of people, including writers, tend to feel a bit guilty when they read. I do—but I have a built-in guilt factor. In fact, I’ve kept so busy with all the details of my career—and all that sleeping—that I haven’t done much reading. I have two books to read for a competition and one 30-page manuscript to critique.

I’m still rolling around the house on my walker and sleeping in that clumsy boot, but I’m working hard to pull myself out of depression—and writing helps. If I had retired without anything to do, I think this might have pushed me over the edge. Many retirees I know have some passion—one weaves, a couple garden, another cooks. Writing is my passion, and I’m fortunate.

A native of CAboutJudyhicago, Judy Alter lives in Texas but never lost her love for the Windy City and its lake, and that love led her to write The Gilded Cage, a historical novel set in Chicago’s Gilded Age, the late nineteenth century.

Alter is the author of over 70 books, fiction and nonfiction, adult and young-adult, including fictional biographies Libbie (Elizabeth Bacon Custer); Jessie (Jessie Benton Frémont); Cherokee Rose (Lucille Mulhall, first rodeo girl roper); and Sundance, Butch and Me (Etta Place). Today she writes contemporary cozy mysteries in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries and the Blue Plate Café Mysteries; she is also the author the stand-alone, The Perfect Coed. Judy’s books are available through Amazon.

Retired as director of TCU Press, she is the single parent of four children and the grandmother of seven. She lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her Bordoodle Sophie.