March 30 – Fitbit Farts and Other Funny Follies

by Letty Watt

During the week of making funeral arrangements and preparing for family visits, I couldn’t sleep much. One night, however, the noises of the house stole the hours of sleep from me.

Tossing from one side to the next, my body tired and wrinkled from near exhaustion and heartache, I could hear a nearly pulsating sound, like a fart! I questioned my mind and body. Was I so tired that my own body was giving out on me?? One more worry to add to the ever-present aging process.

Now, if my father had ‘tooted’ he would have blamed the dog, immediately pointing to Ticky or Tootles. As a child I laughed at Dad’s tricks, and then watched the poor dog hang his head in humiliation. Of course, my father, being a trickster, owned a hand-held rubber tube that fit in his pocket. On ladies day or for golf tournaments, Dad would put the fart ball, as we called it, in his pocket and casually walk by golfers and squeeze his toy in the middle of some one’s back swing. No matter what type of fart he made, the long slow “toot toot buzzz……” or the pronounced “Toot” without odor, the victim tucked his or her body in embarrassment, then followed that move by outrage or laughter when the group figured out what had happened.

Shifting in sleep mode I once again heard the squeezing sound of a fart. With one eye opened I rolled to the side of the bed and sniffed. The air was clean. The dog could not be blamed.

Now I rolled closer to Jack, so as to rub his shoulder the next time he farted! Not Jack!

The early morning hours arrived and I heard the fuzzy vibration. In sledge-hammer mode I arose and walked around the bedroom searching for some unknown fart machine or dying animal. At last when sunlight flooded the house, and my awareness returned I heard and saw the noise. There on my dresser lay my Fitbit with notifications ON! With each notification or reminder.
to get up and move the Fitbit quietly buzzed, but the fart noise came when it actually vibrated on the dresser top. My emotions ranged from laughter to anger at my loss of sleep, but the mystery was solved, and my dad would have laughed.


For those who wear Fitbits to help motivate or count steps, I must say I’ve learned a new trick. After complaining week after week that I must surely walk more than it counts, I discovered that it truly counts steps when I attach it to my tennis shoe laces and walk. Then my steps each count, when walking through stores with a basket being pushed or on the treadmill when I’m resting my arms at the sides instead of swinging them.

Writing soothes Letty Watt’s soul and clears her mind. She began writing a weekly blog over five years ago, with the purpose of building a repertoire of stories for telling aloud, but things changed. Now she writes because stories hidden in the recesses of her mind are begging to get out into the world. Check out her blog, Literally Letty, at

This piece was originally published at Literally Letty. (

March 28 – Simplicity

by Martha Slavin

Simplicity. Just the word itself sends me on a mental quest. What a wonderful idea, something that most of us crave in our lives. Do you have a favorite way to make your life simpler?

I have a friend who is a wiz at decluttering her house. She has removed objects that no longer matter to her. Walking into her house feels like taking a breath of fresh air. Her art adorns the walls, and the furniture is arranged so that you want to sit, relax and have a long chat. The best part is opening the door to the back yard into a lovely garden with a 180-degree view of bay waters, hills, and Mt. Diablo in the distance.

I haven’t learned the art of decluttering. I tried the trendy method of holding an object to see if I have still had any connection to it. No luck for me. Not only do I have a response to almost everything, but the object becomes a new distraction as I sit down and look through its pages or rub the sides of the teapot to bring back fond memories or wander through the stacks of art materials in my workroom. I can always find something interesting that keeps me attached to that object.

I’ve realized that being organized matters to me. When everything gets stacked up and my space to work becomes too limited, I can’t produce as well as I can if the room is more open. I spend a day organizing, and I come away with a sense of accomplishment. I know I have more mental space to pursue my creative projects.

I spent a week one summer at Scripps Camp, a retreat for alumnae from Scripps College. We stayed in the simply furnished dorm rooms with just a bed, desk and chair. To my surprise, I accomplished a lot, even forfeiting opportunities to take workshops and to attend get togethers with other alums because the room opened my senses to the quietness and stillness of the world around me. I wasn’t thinking of a million different things like I do at home. I had time to listen to the silence.

I still struggle with how to carve out that kind of space in my daily life. Going to our local coffee-house, sitting outside at a table, and sketching the people at other tables gives me a little of that freedom. Walking on the Iron Horse Trail opens my eyes to the natural beauty around me. Occasionally working somewhere else in the house instead of my workroom offers me a new perspective.

What do you do to live a more simple, more fruitful life?

Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. Her blog, Postcards in the Air, can be found each Friday at 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.

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

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:

And for some unexpected health benefits of writing, here’s a Huffington Post article:

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


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 []. She is currently working on a novel.  

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

by Gretchen Staebler


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 Staebler blogs at www.WritingDownthe and

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.