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.

 

June 13 – Rising High

by Doris Jean Shaw

I sat here on the balcony sipping coffee when a round blob popped
over the tree top. As I watched it rose higher and higher dragging
a basket up into the sky. The balloon lifted slowly as if it took a breath and rose up in the sky. One blob after another joined the first to welcome the sun.
Some of the balloons were brightly colored and stood out against
the blue sky. Others may have been brilliant up close but from a distance the colors blurred together. Bad weather had delayed the launch waiting until the wind was still and the sky almost a white backdrop.

It has been my desire to go up in a hot air balloon. My husband prefers to keep both his feet permanently planted on the ground. I wonder what it would be like
to rise slowly to embrace the dawn and feel my feet become as light as the air.

One after another they rise and drift to the east becoming hidden by the trees.
My camera could not capture the moment. I guess for a while this will be one of those things that is so immense that you write it in memory until you can get a view up close.

Doris 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.

June 10 – Gleaning is Writing

by Linda M. Hasselstrom

Excerpted from September 22-23, Autumnal Equinox: Shop with Your Senses from The Wheel of the Year: A Writer’s Workbook.

The pink tongue of sunrise slurps across the thin black treetops as I lift my cup. Duggan’s tags jingle softly as he thumps downstairs to get in my lap.

Then I spill coffee, reminding myself my little Westie has been dead nearly a month. With my journal on my knee, I make a note about Duggan’s grin. I get more coffee mostly to stop patting the spot where he always lay against my thigh.

Living means gleaning, gathering, collecting: paying attention to whatever is around me at any moment. Watering a house plant I found discarded in the alley, I notice the butterfly-shaped shell I picked up on an Oregon beach on September 12, 2001. We knew what had happened to the Twin Towers, but with no television we walked the beach, especially glad to be alive beneath a blue sky empty of planes. We talked about a world suddenly simplified, but more frightening.

Another plant is mulched with glassies my father collected shooting marbles with his friends in grade school ninety years ago. The school yard is covered by a parking lot, so only my memory can glean those marbles now.

This collecting habit of mine continues throughout the seasons but seems especially appropriate in autumn, when we harvest summer fruits. Our ancestors expressed gratitude by sharing breads, nuts, apples and vegetables, pledging to share the bounty during the winter.

So my house pulses with my memories of my travels and my joy at coming home, with souvenirs of this life. My writing, too, blooms with the echoes of ideas gleaned from every step I take, liking my life with those that preceded and will follow mine.

“From fire to water to earth and to wind” runs a chant of commemoration, “The circle of life, the dance without end.” Writing is a dance.

What have you gleaned this year, literally and figuratively? What writing have you rescued from the discard pile?

Write a poem or piece of prose created entirely from proverbs. Start by collecting proverbs that you recall your parents or other elders telling you when you were a child, then see how you can recombine the lines to create something new. Here are a few familiar proverbs to start your thinking process:

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

“The early bird catches the worm.”

“There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Choose a poem that you admire that makes a statement of the speaker’s beliefs. Write a poem in imitation of it, using details from your own life as the poet does to state your own beliefs.

List the things you do not regret in your life. Is there a poem or essay in your list? Or more than one!

Linda Hasselstrom is the author of The Wheel of the Year: A Writer’s Workbook; Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet, with Twyla M. Hansen; No Place Like Home: Notes from a Western Life, Between Grass and Sky, Feels Like Far, Bitter Creek Junction, Land Circle, Dakota Bones, Going Over East, Windbreak, Bison: Monarch of the Plains, When a Poet Dies, The Roadside History of South Dakota, Roadkill, Caught By One Wing.

She is editor of Leaning into the Wind, Woven on the Wind, Crazy Woman Creek with Gaydell Collier and Nancy Curtis; also editor of Journal of a Mountain Man, by James Clyman.

 

June 9 – Introduction to “The Other Side of the Story”

by Daphne Priscilla Brown-Jack

After an hour and a half, the jury returned with the verdict. My
heart began to pump cold blood through my veins as anxiety
overwhelmed me. I wanted to go into the courtroom and hear
the verdict, but fear grasped me and weakened my innermost
being, the part that kept me sane. My body began to weaken
like a flower deprived of water. Given the sick feeling in my gut,
it was to my advantage that the investigator had me go sit in the
waiting room. It was almost as if my pulse racing–as if
she could read my mind.

While my son, daughters, I waited for the verdict, we
prayed. As we sat in dead silence, I noticed the uneasiness of my
youngest daughter. could not quite read her true feelings, but I
knew something was wrong. As I observed her, she stood and then
bolted out of the room. Concerned, I asked the investigator to go
find her and check on her. When the investigator came back, she
informed me that she was fine. The investigator then went to sit
in the courtroom to hear the verdict. I sat at the edge of my seat
while my eldest daughter cried, “I know it is not guilty! I know
it is not guilty.” A few minutes later, I noticed the doorknob
turning, and my heart began to beat like never before.

The investigator opened the door.

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Daphne Priscilla Brown-Jack is author and has been an inspirational/motivational speaker for over twenty years.  She speak on topics like “Keeping Life Simple” and “Face Your Fears, Accept your Fears, and Move Around”. The Other Side of the Story is her first book.

May 1 – Beach Days

by Doris Jean Shaw

I stand against the rail staring out at the waves as they rush to shore, grab sand, then glide back into the water all with a crashing sound that draws your attention. The sand looks like ice cream with lots of vanilla beans scattered throughout. Small sandpipers peck at the things the waves unearth; they hurry to the edge and run back as though to keep their feet dry. Over and over the Pipers make a mad dash to get the goodies and back out of the waves reach. Large birds fly in formation then swoop down to catch the unexpected appetizer that the waves have brought to the surface. The grayness of the day and the biting wind has kept all but the hardy inside. As the wind creeps up my pants legs and chills me to the core, I retreat inside pulling the sliding glass door shut with a thud.

From my position stretched out on the couch, I can still see the waves dashing in and receding in no hurry to be anywhere. I sip my tea and let out a sigh as the sun drives the grayness away. Sitting up I discover that a few souls now walk the sugar sand beach pausing to watch boats make their way out to sea. I venture to the door only to have a blast of wind send me scampering back inside. For a while longer I sit and watch as the sun turns all to whiteness. Unable to resist any longer, I pull on my heavy pants over my leggings, don cap, scarf and gloves to face the wind head on.

Canadians come here to get away from the cold and this bit of interruption does not keep them from coming outside. With sunglasses on, I turn and face the wind. How far can I get before the cold manages to find me and the wind whipping in my face makes a walk on the beach not the best idea of the day, I have yet to discover. When I can take it no longer, I head back to my couch to indulge in a bowl of clam chowder and watch the waves as they still clamor to the beach and back to the ocean in a never-ending race to nowhere.

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.