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.

April 27 – Mindless Retreat

by Debra Dolan

Sitting at the back of the bus reading The World Has Changed: Conversations with Alice Walker, little did I know that my mine was about to in significant ways.  I saw nothing and it all happened so quickly. Passengers informed after impact that my head hit hard against the exit barrier as the driver stopped suddenly to avert collision with a truck.

It is so difficult to explain “foggy brain” and the feeling of “not being right”. It all started so slowly; the erosion piece-by-piece of a simple and uncomplicated life filled with interesting activities and people, Saturday morning breakfasts on “the drive” with friends, volunteering as Strata Council President, walking 185 stairs from the street entrance to the office doors upon arrival, noon hour jaunts in a vibrant downtown core, participating with my writing group and book club, attending weekly Weight Watchers meetings, date nights with my darling, and a dedicated 90 minute morning practice of reading and sharing thoughts in a trusted journal.

One by one, each week, something left my life until I realized that all my personal time was spent recovering from one day in the office till the next. Evenings and weekends were spent in seclusion due to the challenges of noise, irritability, crowds and light. I struggled to hide my diminished abilities and raw emotions. Once I could no longer work I had to surrender fully to acknowledging the situation. Acceptance took much longer. Today is the day I transition from sick leave to long-term disability benefits.

As I continue to recover from post-concussion syndrome and whiplash injuries, I find myself remaining on a retreat in my own home and neighbourhood. Unlike the many I have participated in where you search for mindfulness, and think of the present in appreciation, this one finds me journeying into mindlessness where it is best to remain empty-headed so not to provoke yet another headache.

Resting the brain in order for it to restore and heal is an extremely task. I am encouraged to be in nature, meditate, take long hot baths, sit quiet in soft light while doing home-rehab program, all with the intention to gradually return cognitive, physical and social activities into routine. There is little joy as pain dominates. Concussions and their consequences are nasty business.

It is very difficult to have so much time and not the energy, focus or ability to engage in life’s many offerings. I am learning once again that life is full of messy circumstances which encourage patience and understanding from us and others. In my personal haven I complete a ritual of silence, stillness and rehabilitation aimed at reconnecting to wellness. One of the most frustrating elements of concussion recovery is how fast the days pass when you do nothing and have nothing to show for them. As the days drift you can’t help but feel adrift. I feel worn out by living with an intense tension of not knowing when my beloved life will come back.

Debra Dolan lives on the west coast of Canada, a long time (45+ years) private journal writer, and an avid reader of women’s memoir. A member of SCN since 2009.

April 22 – Until We Meet Again

by Gretchen Staebler

Sunday hadn’t been a good day. Dan the Handyman had cancelled. Dan is the light in my mother’s life, and he helps her with her tape recorder, on which she’s telling her epic life story. Mama needs Dan to check the tape before she starts, to make sure she got what she thought she recorded. She doesn’t trust anyone else. It was a day-changer for both of us.

Sunday morning she was sure she had taped more the day before than I could find, but that there was a long silence between words. She couldn’t explain why she thought that, and she didn’t appreciate my exploratory questions.

“It’s on there!” she insisted. She didn’t understand that the end would be at the point where the tape was stopped, since it hadn’t been rewound. I hop-skipped through the tape to be sure.

“Perhaps you were speaking, but the pause button was on,” I suggested, expressing my sympathy for this recurring problem.

“No!” she said, “I could hear it running.”

“You can always hear it running,” I explained for the umpteenth time, “even when it’s paused.”

That evening I stood, unobserved, watching her in her chair. She looked so old, so weary, so alone sitting there. She looked so much like her mother at the end of her life my eyes welled up. My chest tightened, until I could hardly breathe. No matter how many people are around, the end of life is traveled alone. I wanted to pull her onto my lap, fold my arms around her tiny self and hold her to my bosom; like she once held me. I wanted to tell her I was so sorry. Sorry she had to still be alive, and not really living. Tell her she could stop working so hard to stay tethered here. Tell her to go find her true love.

I’m reading the letters my father wrote over their long separation during World War Two. Sunday morning I read one from the summer of 1945. The war was over, but for the atomic bomb, but it would be seven more months before he shipped home.

July 1945, Ansbach, Germany: “I know one girl I wish I could see tonight, tomorrow night and every night. Last night too. That’s you, my darling. I hate so to think of this summer slipping by without being with my wife. And I hate even more to think of spending another winter over here. I’m surely hoping hope on hope that we’ll be together next spring. Don’t be sad or unhappy, my dear. Time goes faster if we forget ourselves and make the best of a bad situation. And after that first kiss, we can forget that we were ever apart, and probably will.”

She continues to make the best of a bad situation, and increasingly the best falls far short of satisfactory. She told me some time ago she no longer believes in heaven, or reuniting with loved ones. I choose to imagine them together again, forgetting they were ever apart.

mama-and-meGretchen Staebler blogs at www.daughteronduty.wordpress.com about the education and frustration–and occasional humor–of living for the past nearly four years with her almost 100-year-old mother, and the déją vu of living again in her childhood home. Hopefully without losing her mind. Read this post in its entirety at Daughter on Duty.

April 20 – Freedom!

by Lily Iona MacKenzie

Freedom means many things to different people. For some, it conveys release from constraints. For others, it gives permission to not follow a particular religion or political ideology. Many are trying to free themselves from failed states. Still more want to be self-determining individuals that aren’t under anyone’s sway.

For me these days, freedom has more to do with technology overload and its tyranny. From the time I wake up until I go to sleep at night, different devices surround me. I go to my computer immediately to write my dreams in my journal. Then I check out email, visit the Times’ front page to catch up with whatever important news I missed while sleeping, look at my Facebook book page and scroll through messages, view my Google calendar to see what’s on my list for the day, get sidelined by hyperlinks that demand immediate attention, and so much more.

Throughout the day and evening, I’m frequently on my computer working on marketing tactics for my novels and poetry collection or writing. When I’m in my car commuting or at the gym, I listen on my smart phone to audio books and frequently check my email and phone messages. In the kitchen, while I prepare dinner, I watch my favorite programs (tennis, baseball, the Antiques Roadshow, and the PBS Newshour, programs that I’ve pre-recorded).

The one thing I don’t do yet is walk around with ear buds plugged into my ears, so I have some freedom! But I also have freedom when I write from the wonderful free application of the same name that I’ve downloaded onto my computer. I start it when I begin my writing time, and it keeps me from being distracted by all of the things I’ve mentioned above, allowing me to focus on my work. I’m also considering turning it on when I’m NOT writing so I can wean myself from this hi-tech world and the behavior it encourages.

Before I could finish this piece, I got sidetracked by the latest offering from Goldstar, and am still browsing through its current offerings. There’s no question that technology offers us much, but with as with anything in this world, there also is a downside. I’m aiming for more freedom. I hope you’ll join me!

fling
Lily Iona MacKenzie has published poetry, short fiction, and essays in over 150 Canadian and American publications. Her poetry collection ALL THIS was published in October 2011. Her novel FLING! was published in 2015. BONE SONGS, another novel, will be published in November 2016. She taught writing for over 30 years. She blogs at http://lilyionamackenzie.wordpress.com/.

April 18 – Star

by Juliana Lightle

The phone rings.

“Star’s dead. There’s blood everywhere.

He’s hanging from the gate by one hoof.

Blood is all over Rosie’s face.

It’s dreadful.”

A tear choked voice.

“You can’t bring D’mitri home.”

D’mitri’s nine.  Star belongs to him.

Shock, tears, disbelief.

Last night Star ran, bucked, reared,

chased around, playing.

How?

The pen’s all pipe, no sharp edges,

nothing harmful, consistently inspected.

lightle

D’mitri goes home with me.  He says,

“Nana, I have to see him;

I have to know what happened.”

Slowly, in dread, we walk behind the barn.

Star’s hanging by one hoof in the three inch

space between the gate and fence,

ankle broken.

The blood covered fence, gate, and ground

stare at me.

It’s hot, his body’s stiff.

He must be moved.

Coyotes will come in the night,

drawn by the smell of blood, of death.

The neighbor brings his big red tractor;

a wench pulls Star’s young body free,

gently lays him on the cold, grey,

cement barn floor.

His shining copper coat no longer shines.

D’mitri and I remember bottle feeding him

after Miracle died, teaching him to lead.

We stare at Star’s body in disbelief.

Kindly, the neighbor says,

“He died quick, femoral artery cut by bone,

bled out.”

For hours, Rosie and Cool stand at the spot

where Star died.

They do not even leave to eat alfalfa.

It takes me hours to wash away the blood.

It takes D’mitri ten months to go back to the barn,

to ride Rosie again.

LIGHTLE2

Juliana Lightle writes, raises horses, teaches high school, and wanders the wild on the edge of a canyon in the Panhandle of Texas.  She is also a Board Member of the Story Circle Network.  This poem is from her poetry memoir, ON THE RIM OF WONDER, available on her website or from Amazon.

April 13 – Learn from Foolish

by Doris Jean Shaw

I’m sitting here thinking about all the foolish mistakes I have made and sort of feeling sorry for myself. There’s nothing like having something come up to remind me.

I ask myself, “How could I have been so stupid.”

OK, it does no good to cry over what has happened so why do these things keep popping up. I thought I had let them go. I guess not. If things come around too often and clutter my mind I need to get rid of them. That’s easier said than done.

In the past I suffered from a bout of foolishness dragging me down. I came up with a plan to get rid of things that clutter the mind. I shared this with the people  writer’s group who had some of the same problems.

“How do you get rid of things that clutter the mind and drag one down?”

I had asked myself that before. Now it had become a workshop. I worked on ways to accomplish this and thought I had completed the task. Much to my surprise, here I am again regretting some of the foolish choices I made. One of the group suggested that just because you get things in order doesn’t mean that you keep it that way. It seems that once you let things go you need to take some time and re-evaluate your life. I guess I can’t keep from making foolish mistakes but I can take control and not let them take over my life.

It’s a small reminder to take time once a year and re-evaluate life and see what you need to go and what things you need to add. Nice to know that even though I make foolish mistakes I can learn from them and build something positive. Guess I need to schedule another workshop.

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.

April 12 – Nothing Like Normal: Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia

by Martha Graham-Waldon

My memoir, Nothing Like Normal, is about my early years growing up in a “normal” Southern California home. After an idyllic childhood, the strains of adolescence sent my older sister spiraling down into a mental breakdown, leaving our family to cope with the aftermath. In the ensuing years, I learned to face my fears and find my truth while navigating the ups and downs of my own volatile teen years. The following is an excerpt from the beginning of the book.

Prologue

When your sibling becomes mentally ill, you feel powerless. The adults are making the decisions; there is not much you can do. It’s like being a passenger on a train pummeling towards a certain wreck, witnessing your family plunge into disaster and not being able to step off or change course…

As I stepped over the threshold, the heavy metal door to the psych unit swung shut with a resounding and decisive slam that made me jump. My eyes swept over the drafty expanse of the ward as I searched for her. The faded checkered floor was lit by afternoon shadows. Light spilled into the room like shards of crystals piercing through the tight wires imbedded in the thick shatterproof glass. I looked at my sister Kathy as she walked down the corridor toward me, thinking back on all that had happened to us both. My once fit, athletic sister was now obese. Her dark hair hung stringy down around her face, usually uncombed and dirty. Her teeth and nails were stained brown with nicotine. Suddenly I was caught up short in astonishment. Who was this metamorphosed girl in front of me? Why was she here? Why not me? And I reflected on the past and all that has brought us here…

Kathy Cat and Martha Mouse lived together in a great big house.

It was always the two of us. The “little girls” we were called.
As close as we were, we were far apart, too, different in so many ways. She was brave and outgoing; I was quiet and introverted. She had long, dark hair that she wore down almost always, tucked behind her ears and flung behind her shoulders. She wore hang-ten T-shirts like a uniform, a different one each day. She was dark and beautiful, like an American Indian. Somehow that tiny bit of our Cherokee ancestry was born out in her. In junior high once, a boy signed her yearbook, “To the best Indian girl I know”, and we wondered about that. She was all right till the bump of adolescence sent her careening over the edge. I lost her to a cruel illness that invaded; slowly taking her over her bright mind.

today
Martha Graham-Waldon is a writer, spiritual entrepreneur and armchair activist who resides in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California with her family and a menagerie of pets. Her articles have been published locally, internationally and online. Her memoir, published by Black Opal Books, is available on Amazon. Look for her at the Story Circle Network conference in Austin this month.