Monthly Archives: December 2017

December 20 – Thank God for L’Oreal, Light Ash Blonde, 9A

by Teri Liptak

The beauty of thinking of ourselves as evolving instead of aging is the acknowledgement that we still have unrealized potential. Getting older doesn’t have to mean loss or letting go of what “used to be.” It can be evolving into a more fulfilled version of our younger selves. Although I do miss the eyesight of my younger self. Plus, it’s just not fun that certain areas of my body have taken an alarming shift to the south.

In the past few years after my son’s graduation from school, there’s been an increase in solitude. There has been more time for myself and my own pursuits. On the surface, that sounds like a dream. (One that I remember having many times when dealing with the “terrible twos” as a new mom.) Yet, as someone who had been a full-time mother for the past two decades, that initial quiet and stillness felt uncomfortable. At first, I no longer felt needed or that I had a defined purpose. A racehorse retired to pasture with no more races to run. I had no idea what my own pursuits might be. Did I want to pursue anything? Did I have the energy? What if I was too old for something new? The what-ifs were showing up as fast as the wrinkles.

It’s so easy to look in the mirror and feel old and tired with each new wrinkle. One day, I just got sick of giving the mirror so much power over my mood and who I thought I was. Surely there could be more to me than how smooth my skin was (or wasn’t) or how many gray hairs were lurking on my head (Thanks, L’Oreal, Light Ash Blonde 9A hair dye.)

I suppose this was my mid-life crisis. I went to bed perfectly happy the night before and woke up a sobbing, depressed mess. Never saw it coming. Who flipped the switch? I assumed it was just a bad day, and things would get better. I devoured a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and went back to bed. That bad day has lasted, off and on, for four years. (That’s a lot of Ben & Jerry’s.)

During that time, I met several women online that became friends and were going through similar emotions. With their support and friendship, I found my way to a dream that I did want to pursue. Writing.

Writing has led me out of feeling useless and into a new way of seeing my world. It has given me the desire and courage to push out of my comfort zone and put myself out into the world. Life is too precious not to participate because of an imaginary expiration date in my head. I don’t need anyone’s permission to keep growing and learning every day. I’m not getting old, I’m evolving into the person I was meant to be. Day by day, wrinkle by wrinkle.

However, I’m still grateful for L’Oreal, Light Ash Blonde 9A hair dye. I’m not that evolved.

Teri Liptak lives in Texas with her husband, son, two neurotic cats, and one loudmouthed dachshund. She loves: animals, laughing until she snorts, and the sea. Teri’s a member of the East Texas Writers Guild. Her poetry is featured in Art of Peace, Building Bridges 2017 Anthology and at She blogs at

This post was first published on Teri’s blog, Rattling the Cage (


December 18 – Emergency Room Encounters

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

“Hi! My name is Pat and I am a volunteer here in the Emergency Room.”

This is my opening line as I enter the room of the most recent patient to arrive at the Carroll County Hospital’s ER. Thursday mornings will find me there to bring some small comfort to the patient’s and family members while waiting for the necessary medical procedure to occur.

My offerings consist of a warm blanket which is stored in the largest oven I have ever given witness to. I liken the warmth of the blanket to that of being encased safely in the womb before birth. For the procedure that many of the patient’s await, will in many cases, result in being given a new lease on life.

Family members are offered orange juice, apple juice or ginger ale to quench thirst for many of them have arrived in great haste. Their thirst is quenched, but also their need to have an attentive presence as they tell me the reasons why it became necessary for their loved one to be brought to the ER. Many of those stories are heart-rending.

One that I recall with clarity was that of a man who needed what I call a “listen to.” As he awaited his diagnosis he shared with me the horrors of a childhood that was fraught with abuse and neglect.

“See this scar on my neck?” he asked as he shared it had occurred during a tragic accident in earlier years. “I have had two kidney transplants and two liver transplants.”

The medical procedures were daunting to say the least. However, instead of the expected anger about this childhood of abuse and drug addiction his having a religious transformation brought him relief and comfort. That in his later years he found some reasons to be grateful that he was alive. I doubted seriously that I could have been so grateful.

As he was wheeled away for yet another medical procedure he implored me to return when the procedure was completed. He so very much needed someone to listen to his story which is what I do best as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor.

Upon his return the M.D soon showed up and reluctantly shared with him that the diagnosis was that of cancer. I sat with him in silence until he dressed and returned home. No, I will never know the outcome of that encounter, but I have the assurance that my being present and listening to him brought much-needed comfort.

Patricia Roop Hollinger is a retired Pastoral Counselor/Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor after having served for twenty-three years in a mental health setting. She and her husband, who dated in their youth, married in 2010. They reside in a retirement community with their cat, Spunky. Pat enjoys reading and writing.

December 12 – The Last Hanukkah With My Mother

by Ariela Zucker

Some months, more than others, bring up old memories. Some of them appear as vibrant as on the day they happened. The other day I looked at the calendar and saw that Hanukkah is only twelve days away. Suddenly it hit me, the memory of my last Hanukkah with my mother emerged from a faraway memory land.

It was Hanukkah of 1999 when, for the last time, I spent time with my mother.

We always went to Jerusalem to celebrate this holiday; my husband our four girls and I together with my parents would light the candles. The girls, each had their own Hanukkiah. They got to choose the colors of the candles, listen patiently to my father’s instructions which candle to lit first. Then we placed the lit Hanukkiahs in front of the big window in the living room, and the dancing flames framed our images in the dark glass.

My mother insisted on going through the ritual of blessings and traditional songs, which we did rather hurriedly to make it to the best part of the night–food and games.

Her homemade jelly donuts covered with fine powdered sugar never looked like the store-bought ones but tasted so much better. The dreidel games made for hours of fun.

That last Hanukkah did not feel the same. For the past two years, my mother wasn’t herself–she was irritated, forgetful, and disoriented at times. Even without an official diagnosis we could tell. We went to Jerusalem like we did every year but spent the night in an old monastery in a small village on the outskirts of town. We thought that the sense of adventure would distract the girls from the fact that they couldn’t stay at my parent’s house. But the rooms with their soaring ceilings and the thick walls of Jerusalem stone were bone freezing.

The lightning of the candles was a somber event that evening. Did we know, in the way one sometimes sense things before they happen?

Less than two weeks later my mother passed away. The windows of her hospital ward looked over the small village and the monastery where we spent our last visit.

The day she was buried, the tenth day in the Jewish month of Tevet, is also a day of mourning and fasting commemorating the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem in the 6th century BC, resulting in the destruction of the first temple and later it became Memorial Day for Holocaust victims whose date of death is unknown.

Completely irrelevant, perhaps.

Ariela Zucker was born in Israel. She and her husband  left sixteen years ago and now reside Ellsworth Maine where they run a Mom and Pop motel. She blogs at

This piece was originally published on Ariela’s blog, Paper Dragon at

December 6 – Writing Companion

by Ariela Zucker

Early in the morning, when the first rays of light struggle to rise above the trees in the backyard, I remember our exchanges in front of the computer and a big wave of sadness washes over me.

A habit of many years, I send my hand, to pat her soft white fur, then I remember that she is no longer here and my hand freezes in mid-air.

She was my writing companion; I can’t imagine writing without her by my side.
I smile when I remember our morning routine. Me, serious and driven, pouring my ‘oh, so important thoughts’ onto the computer. She, just as motivated, walking back and forth stepping gently on the keyboard and sending herds of letters scrambling on the screen mingling with my orderly sentences.

I used to get mad.

Then I tried to work around her, realizing as I was doing it how pathetic it might look to any bystander. Attempting to get to the keys by sending my hand under her belly, or looking at the screen above her ears. Just as I found a somewhat workable position, and typed few lines, she would move and graciously send a paw or a tail and brush it all away. In the end I would give up. I’d laugh and pet her on the head “you are right, I am taking myself way too seriously.”

I would sweep the clamps of hair from my shirt, phoo away some more fine hair stuck to my face, and lean back. She would stretch slowly, yawn, get up and walk away to curl in the sunny spot on the couch.

Distracted and restless, I stand up. Outside the backyard is covered with dry brown leaves. I can see the small heap of stones marking her grave under the old oak tree.  I know they are not meant to be with us forever, but this does not take away from her absence by my side.

Ariela Zucker was born in Israel. She and her husband  left sixteen years ago and now reside Ellsworth Maine where they run a Mom and Pop motel. She blogs at

This piece was originally published on Ariela’s blog, Paper Dragon at