March 22 – The Snow Angel

by Shelley Johnson Carey

The recent snowfall brought to mind another snowy day that I’ll always remember.

As another barrage of sleet and snow began, I blasted my car’s heater to clear the windshield. It was around 10 pm on New Year’s Eve and I had stayed later than I should have at my friend Pam’s house. My children were exhausted from an evening of good food and an impromptu dance party. We were having such a good time that we continued our celebration even though snow had begun to fall faster and earlier than predicted. Now we were paying the price–the slippery three-mile trip between Pam’s home and mine seemed to be taking an eternity.

The weather had not deterred many from going out to holiday parties so the street we traveled was far from empty. About halfway home, my daughter Lauren told me that a man in the car next to us was trying to get my attention.

I glanced over and didn’t recognize the car or the driver. My first instinct was to ignore him, thinking he’d indulged in too many holiday spirits. The road conditions were so treacherous that I was more interested in keeping my family safe than chatting with a stranger. However, when he continued to frantically wave and drive alongside us, I rolled down the window to see what he wanted to say.

“Yes?” I said hesitantly.

“Your back tire is almost completely flat,” he called out. “You should drive home very, very slowly.”

I nodded and thanked him for his concern and advice and the man drove ahead while I turned on my blinkers and slowed my car down to a crawl. What had started off as a slow trip home now seemed as if it would never end because I kept my speed at under ten miles per hour.

We were about five blocks from home when, to my horror, a pileup of cars began at the traffic light. In what seemed like slow motion, each car in my lane skidded and smashed into the car before it. Since I was traveling so slowly, I was able to glide to a stop without an impact. And since I wasn’t driving fast, the car behind me also had plenty of time to stop. I said a quiet prayer of thanks and felt grateful to the kind stranger.

A few minutes later, we arrived home. The kids were in a rush to get into the house but I still needed to check my tire. When I went around to the passenger side of the car, I was astounded. The tire, which I expected to be nearly shredded, was perfectly normal.

I’ll never know who that man was and why he was so insistent, but I feel that he must have been a guardian angel, sent to allow us to greet the new year safely and soundly. From that day on, I’ve kept my heart and mind open to strangers…you never know who is trying to deliver a message that you need to hear.

Inspired by her own long-term relationships, Shelley Johnson Carey enjoys exploring themes of friendship in her writing. She is the author of the book, Thin Mint Memories: Scouting for Empowerment through the Girl Scout Cookie Program. Shelley lives in Maryland, with her husband and two dogs, Daisy and Buddy, and less than three miles from her now grown children. Find her online at http://www.shelleyjohnsoncarey.com.

February 16 – A Doctor’s Prescription to Write

 

© Anatoly Tiplyashin | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Anatoly Tiplyashin | Dreamstime Stock Photos

by Mary Jo Doig

A member of our Circle of Memories Writing Group in Crozet, VA shared a story recently that delighted my heart and I thought you might like it, too.

Carolyn started her story by reading to us that her 24-year medical condition required a doctor’s visit every six months. As she and her doctor talked during her recent scheduled visit, the doctor asked what activities she participated in on a regular basis.

Carolyn told her about her three weekly exercise sessions, as well as her membership in two women’s life writing circles, one that she leads that is comprised of women of varied ages. The other is an Older Women’s Legacy writing group for women over sixty who seek to record the histories (actually herstories) of their lives and leave them as a legacy for those who follow. The Story Circle Network’s OWL Memoir Project tells us that the richest source for an accurate history of our world is its ordinary citizens, and the least documented lives have been the lives of women in our society.

“I told her that for each gathering I prepared a personal narrative, a story from my life, based either on a thematic prompt for the group, or another life story I wanted to write about,” Carolyn continued.

“Writing was not new to me; I’d been a newsletter editor in my past life. Yet now I was learning to be more candid by writing about my own life since I was also into genealogy and wanted to write to pass my stories on to my family,” Carolyn said.

“Then my doctor asked if there was any reason why I couldn’t write every day. I told her sometimes there are other things more pressing that I needed to get done before I became tired or pain took over.”

“She replied by asking, ‘Would half-an-hour be a reasonable goal?'”

Carolyn told her she thought she could manage 30 minutes a day and that, actually, it would be a good New Year’s Resolution. “We finished up our conversation and planned to review everything again in six months. As I left, she handed the Visit Summary Sheet to me and when I got it home I saw that under Doctor’s Orders she had prescribed that I write for half-an-hour every day.”

Carolyn looked up from reading the story on her laptop and said, “The doctor had asked me, ‘Percentage-wise, how close do you think you can come to meeting your goal?'”

Her eyes twinkled. “I told her one-hundred per cent.”

We all cheered our writing partner.

***

For more information on the physical and mental health benefits of writing, this link gives a good overview: http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/jul00/why-writing-is-good-for-your-health-7007

And for some unexpected health benefits of writing, here’s a Huffington Post article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/12/writing-health-benefits-journal_n_4242456.html

Mary Jo Doig, a Story Circle Network member for fifteen years, is an avid reader, writer, quilter, knitter, gardener, cook, editor, and blogger. She lives in a small, eclectic town in Albemarle County, Virginia where she has an exquisite mountain view from her writing room window.

January 25 – The Day We Left Our Life in the South Pacific

by Madeline Sharples

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From January 1977 to September 1978 I lived with my family on an island in the South Pacific – Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. The island is a military base, and my husband Bob managed a military-funded program there. We had a slow and easy life on the island, filled with all kinds of beach and water activities. When we arrived our sons Paul was five and Ben was two and a half. When we left Paul was seven and Ben four. Ben was glad to leave; Paul could have stayed forever.

However, when we first stepped off the plane (a military carrier with no windows) I wanted to be any place but there. I had had to take a leave of absence from my job at the same company where my husband worked, so on Kwajalein I was a stay-at-home mom for the first time.

It took me six months to learn to love and accept my life of leisure. Still I had plenty of things to keep me busy: playing tennis every weekday morning after taking the boys to Kindergarten and preschool, running, going to the beach or the pool with the boys in the afternoons, snorkeling, taking Yoga classes, painting and doing needlework, volunteering at the preschool, going to the boys’ t-ball games, managing the Micronesian handicraft shop, taking a course in Cobol programming, teaching a children’s art class, vacationing in Micronesia and Hawaii, and entertaining several dozen people at small dinners and large parties in our home.

Only 3000 people lived on this small island – only three-quarters of a mile wide and a mile and a half long, and we became quite close with the people Bob worked with and many of the other families from other companies. We are still connected with many of them to this day.

Being on the island also was the beginning of my writing days. I got up early with Bob, and after he left by bicycle for the flight that would take him to another island for his work, I wrote in my journal until the boys woke up. That writing resulted in my first published piece – an article about our life on the island for my company magazine.

Eventually the day came to leave. With shell and flower leis draped around our necks we drove off to the airport – one of the few times we traveled in a van on Kwajalein rather than by bicycle. Across the street many, many friends – Bob’s work colleagues, our social friends on the island, my tennis buddies, and our Marshallese house keepers – were waiting under a tree we called “Yum Yum,” for a familiar ritual to bid us goodbye with champagne in hand. They had come to say “Yukwe Yuk,” sort of like saying “Shalom” in Marshallese.

I was happy and sad as we boarded the same military airplane for the states. Leaving Kwajalein is such a final thing. I never got used to that finality.

MadelineMadeline Sharples is the author of Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide – in poetry and prose (Dream of Things) and co-author of Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press). She co-edited The Great American Poetry Show Volumes 1, 2, and 3 and wrote the poetry for The Emerging Goddess photography book (Paul Blieden, photographer). Her articles appear at Naturally Savvy and Aging Bodies and on her blog, Choices [madelinesharples.com]. She is currently working on a novel.  

January 24 – My One Day at the Women’s March

by Gretchen Staebler

gretchen-march

I am not an activist. Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, I narrowly missed most of the great protest movements of my time, and I have stayed in my bubble of white privilege in the years since. But I have become uncomfortable.

I was one of 10,000 at the Women’s March on Olympia, my state capitol. It was the day I became an activist.

Marchers came out in the rain for many reasons, as indicated by the signs they carried. Their passion was palpable, but peaceful; they came in both outrage and love. Some, of course, were protesting the election. It gave me pause to reflect on my reason for being there. The election wasn’t what I hoped for, but it’s over and we must move on.

I marched because I sense a threat to the rights and privileges guaranteed by our Constitution: freedom of the press, equal rights, freedom of religion.

I marched because I fear the hard-won strides women have made toward equality will be erased.

I marched because of hatred I hear in the rhetoric toward immigrants in America and those who will seek refuge here in the future.

I marched for my daughter and her wife, to protect their marriage. I marched for my bullied transgender sisters and brothers.

I marched for all who were not born into white privilege.

I marched because I want to send a message that we live in a global society. As the greatest nation on earth, it is our responsibility to assist, to the full extent of our abilities, those countries whose people are struggling.

I marched because I sense a threat to the strides that have been made to correct the damage we have been inflicting on Mother Earth for decades. The lives of my grandchildren and their grandchildren depend on what the generations of adults living now do about it.

I marched for my 100-year-old mother whose generation suffered for the freedoms I enjoy. I marched for my four young grandsons who deserve the freedoms my generation fought for.

I marched because I feel the moral core of our nation is under attack.

I marched to join my voice with millions of women, men, and children around the world who marched in their own cities and towns. I marched to send a message to Congress that I am watching, that I am expecting them to do their job to represent their constituents and uphold the Constitution, even if it means opposing the administration.

Saturday I stepped out of my comfort zone, and I’m not going back. My one day at the march, was only my first day. I have already acted beyond the march, writing to my legislator and giving money to organizations doing the work I want to see in the world.

I am a citizen of the world. That which affects my sisters and brothers, affects me. I marched to show them and the world I care. And caring will change the world.

gretchen-march-2

Gretchen Staebler blogs at www.WritingDownthe Story.com and https://daughteronduty.wordpress.com/

January 23 – Joyful Misery

by Debra Dolan

spain-4After six years of dating we tested our emotional and physical strength when we embarked on an adventure in Northern Spain, walking from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela. We covered all 800 kilometres by foot, including hiking five mountain passes, carrying backpacks which held necessary items. Over 36 days the excursion would take us between six to nine hours daily dependent on the terrain, weather, the previous night’s sleep, and allowing time to explore quaint villages with magnificent churches along the way. After finding a bed for the night in one of the multitude of alberques (dormitories), and washing our clothes, we would nurse our tired and aching bodies by enjoying the fabulous Menu Del Dias. Any pilgrim on this roman road will tell you that those all-inclusive meals (bottle of wine, soup or salad, main course, desert) sustained you from one day to the next. The late afternoons and early evenings found you in the quiet solitude of your thoughts or journal writing, communicating by letter to friends back home, or in conversation with others from throughout the world. What we all shared during the siesta was utter exhaustion and sheer pain of middle-aged bodies undertaking such a journey. Lights out at 8 pm with anywhere from six to 140 people sleeping closely, dependent on the facility, where the symphony of coughing, snoring, farting, and stumbling about in the dark to find the toilets would commence.

spain-6Anyone who says the Camino is easy is either deceiving themselves or delusional. It is one tough pilgrimage and best described as “joyful misery”; each-and-every day there was something glorious (interacting with fellow travellers, the remarkable landscape, warm and gracious people, architectural splendors, tracing the steps of history) and each-and-every day there was something miserable that provided reason to give up (bed bugs, cold showers, missing route signs, blisters, heat exhaustion, inflamed tendons). Luckily Mike and I were never experiencing the challenging difficult times at the same moment so that we could support one another. We also learned very quickly to forgive one another for what was said in pain and kiss goodnight.

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.

January 12 – 30th Wedding Anniversary Secrets

by Kali Rourke

kali

We celebrated thirty years of marriage in October 2016 and many acquaintances and friends have asked, “What’s your secret?”

There are probably many that we never even think about, from being aware of each other’s Myers-Briggs personality profile at the beginning through recent decisions to live “an extraordinary life” together.

But I will share with you one piece of wisdom that my wonderful father-in-law shared with me on my wedding day.

He and Mom had been married for many decades even then, and when he passed away, they had been married more than fifty years. They never lost the romance, fun, and regard for each other, and so as I danced with Dad on my wedding day dance floor, I asked him, “What is your secret to so many years of success in your relationship?”

He got very serious (which was unusual for this outgoing, incredibly charming, impish man) and said, “Don’t ever call each other names. You can’t ever take them back.”

That sounds simple, doesn’t it? One straightforward action you can take to increase your odds of a long-lasting, wonderful marriage. Who wouldn’t take that advice?

I took it in and thought about it, and decided to build on it.

If you wouldn’t call your spouse names…that was a good start…but what if you decided that you would go further? What if you got in the habit of actively saying good things about your spouse, both internally and externally? What positive ripples could occur over time in your relationship?

No guarantees, mind you, but three decades later I am still discovering and talking about the wonderful facets of my husband. I am still appreciating and cherishing his love, romance, intellect, humor, sense of fun, and willingness to keep our life together exciting. And I know he talks about me the same way. We are each other’s greatest treasure.

I think that is something worth striving for, don’t you?

No matter whether you are contemplating marriage, are newly married, or you are decades into your wedded relationship, please remember you have this amazing power.

The power to look for and at the positive; the power to choose to speak about the positive; and most importantly the power to choose to build instead of tearing down that person you love.

Your choice. Your power.

Will this fix a relationship that is broken, lop-sided or abusive?

No, and that is something for a counselor to help you with. But if you are in a healthy, happy relationship already, this choice has the potential to pole vault you into a wonderful place where you cherish and are cherished. It isn’t a quick transformation, but it happens and when it happens, it becomes a part of your future and your happiness.

Hey, worth a try, right?

As for us, my friends, we are going for the GOLD!

Kali’ Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer/songwriter, avid volunteer, philanthropist, and a proud Seedling Foundation Mentor. She blogs at Kali’s OQM Musings and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

January 6 – The Joy of Caregiving

by Gwynn Rogers

© Andy Nowack | Dreamstime Stock Photos

New Year’s Eve’s early morning started off with a BANG, CRASH, and THUD!  I jumped out of bed and ran around the corner of our short hall directly into the living room of our tiny apartment.

There sprawled on the floor was my husband.  He had passed out again. We must have looked like an episode of Oliver and Hardy, where Oliver misses a step on the ladder crashing to the ground while Hardy–me–runs around in frantic circles.  As my husband lurched toward the floor he hit our oak corner table shoving it into the wall of our tiny apartment.  There was a slight indentation in the wall. You can say we have made our impact on the apartment.

My mornings frequently start out this way since Christmas Eve 2015–one year ago.

My friends and I believed that after raising children our senior years would become easier . . . Golden Years. Then on Christmas Eve night in 2015, while my husband and I were lounging in bed watching TV, he turned to me and uttered: “Call 911!  I can’t take the pain any longer.”

I thought: But this is Christmas Eve. We have plans to enjoy Christmas day with our son.

So, turning to John I muttered “How about if I drive you to the hospital?” thinking that we would get to the hospital, the doctor would give John some medicine to settle his tummy, and then we could come home.

My husband evidently didn’t see the confusion in my eyes.  I was scared and concerned for my husband, but I wanted to enjoy Christmas with my family.

John emphatically muttered, “No!  Call 911.  My acid reflux is killing me.”

As it turned out, the acid reflux was killing him but it wasn’t acid reflux.  John had a serious hiatal hernia that was extraordinarily large, twisted around his stomach, pushing into his lung, and turning gangrenous.  To add to the fun, my husband has such extraordinarily low blood pressure that he would stand up and pass out.  I was hoping the doctor and hospital aides would wrap him in bubble wrap.

Now after several surgeries and a barrage of tests the doctors still don’t know why John passes out.  Consequently, at night when he gets up and attempts to use the bathroom he may walk a couple of feet along the edge of the bed, start to wobble and bounce like a small child on the bed.  Sometimes he misses the bed and hits the floor.  Sometimes he staggers to the end of the bed and bounces on my legs.  Night after night, and during the early mornings we go through the same routine.

Over the year, John has crashed through a couple of bathroom walls, knocked wooden closet doors off their tract, and banged up his head, back, leg, and shoulder.

My morning consists of getting up before John to get his water, pills, coffee, and oatmeal ready.  I watch as he marches laps up and down our short hall as he works to get the blood circulating to his brain.  Now, after seven months of this morning routine, he is finally able to walk out to the mailbox to get our mail and walk down our few steps to dump our garbage and recycling.

We don’t go out for meals, to visit our grandkids, or to run errands. “We” is now “me.”

I’m still wondering: When do the Golden Years start?

After 20smaller-pic years of sales and marketing experience in the fields of real estate, high-tech, and corporate travel, Gwynn moved on to the career of “Grandma.” When not spending time with her grandchildren she volunteers at Poulsbo’s Historic Maritime Museum and can often be found walking laps and enjoying the wildlife of the Poulsbo’s waterfront.