Tag Archives: Friends

May 10 – A Newfound Friend

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

“Who is this Lois Halley from Westminster?” I asked my husband as her name kept appearing in the Story Circle Journal with yet another writing. Since he was a former Westminster, Maryland resident I thought he might know. Her name did not appear in the local listings so, I virtually gave up on ever finding her.

“Oh, but I just might run into her at the check out line at Safeway if I am brave enough to ask the females in line with me what their names are.” No luck though with this strategy.

During the weekly Chair Yoga event at Carroll Lutheran Village, the Retirement Community where I now reside, the instructor called out our names. “Patricia Hollinger, so I have that right?” She asked. “That’s me,” I responded. When all our names were called, our bodies age 70 and over began to twist their bodies in positions that were just not familiar, but downright foreign.

Ah! the hour was finally over and I must say so myself, my body and that of the woman adjacent to me performed better than most. She approached me, saying, “I am Lois Halley and are you the Patricia Roop Hollinger that writes for Story Circle?”

“Why yes, I am she,” I exclaimed with surprise!

Lois then shared with me the recent death of her husband and that she was also now a resident at Carroll Lutheran Village Retirement Community. Since that serendipitous meeting, we have shared gatherings in the local Pub and just a week ago a meal at the local Gypsy Tea Room. Since we are both lovers of words, we attend local library events that feature current writers. The most recent one being with Judith Viorst, whose most recent book is “NEARING 90 AND OTHER COMEDIES OF LATE LIFE.” Her book has given us both a more lighthearted approach to our advancing years that also include more writings to Story Circle Journal.

“Pat” was raised on a farm, and thus developed an imagination pondering the nature of the universe. Words held the magic of stories. Other cultures intrigued her. She is a retired Chaplain/Pastoral Counselor/Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who lives in a retirement community with her husband and their cat “Spunky.” 

August 1 – Why I Love Story Circle Network

by Len Leatherwood

Story Circle Network Founder and President Susan Wittig Albert leads an award ceremony

I have just returned from the “Stories from the Heart IX” writing conference in Austin, where I had the honor of spending time in the company of the most open, honest, loving and wise women I’ve had the occasion to meet in a very long time. I don’t even know quite how to put these feelings I have into words because they are so visceral.  Let me see if I can share a few glimpses of my time there, just to give you a sense of what I mean.

I arrived at a dinner for the Story Circle Network board the night before the first day of the conference and there I was seeing these women I only “talk” to mainly on the Internet. I felt shy for just an instant, then spotted my beloved Pat Bean, who has been in my e-circle writing group since I joined SCN ten years ago.  (The e-circles are small groups where we share our writing online.) Pat was wearing her usual tie-dye tee-shirt and the minute she saw me, she stood up and held her arms wide open.

The Author and her friends at dinner.

The next day, I presented my pre-conference workshop on Flash Fiction/Flash Memoir and found myself surrounded with women who were all there for the exact same reason I was there: to figure out how to be a better writer. In my presentation, I read them one of my student’s nationally award-winning essays, and as I read, I watched as every woman in that room was moved, some to tears. I was so pleased to see that my student’s writing had touched them; I was just sorry she wasn’t there to witness that reaction for herself.

Luncheon Keynote Speaker Bird Mejia shares the power of wild women!

Linda Joy Myers, our opening keynote speaker spoke about the power of women breaking their silence and telling their personal truths. She was humble, self-disclosing, real. Bird Mejia, our Sunday lunch keynote speaker, emphasized the importance of embracing who we are and sharing that pride with women of all ages. She brushed out her beautiful curled hair to show us the power of the “wild” woman when her locks extended full and wide into a glorious fan that framed her entire head. Jeanne Guy, the incoming SCN president, made us all laugh with her ever-present sense of humor and perfectly timed quips. The Sarton winners and finalists awed us with their beautiful words when they did a noon-time reading of excerpts of their books in historical, contemporary, and young adult fiction; memoir as well as biography.

Incoming President Jeanne Guy is supported with a friend on each side!

The workshop presenters offered insight and advice on a whole host of topics, ranging from writing about your mother without guilt to using the Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment for character development to creating space for writing to publishing through CreateSpace to developing and facilitating a writing-from-life workshop and more and more and more. On Saturday night, there was an open mic where conference attendees could read their work. In between, there were countless conversations about writing, life and each other. The entire weekend could be summed up with these words: love, kindness, generosity, openness, connection, sisterhood, learning, and hugs.

Dear women friends, please join Story Circle Network!  This is an organization that can use YOU and your unique gifts, whatever they are. I believe you will find this group exemplifies women helping women at its best. You will not be sorry. You might even find – as I have – your life changed forever through this experience.

Len Leatherwood: Program Coordinator for SCN’s Online Classes, has been teaching writing privately to students in Beverly Hills for the past 17 years. She has received numerous state and national teaching awards from the Scholastic Artists and Writers Contest. She is a published writer of ‘flash’ fiction/memoir. A longer version of this post appears on Len’s daily blog: 20 Minutes a Day.

June 24 – Overheard at the Disaster Auction

by Patricia Roop Hollinger


Attending the Brethren Disaster Auction has become a venue that my husband and I attend the first Saturday in May annually. The monies raised from said auction are dispersed to communities recovering from the myriad disasters that we all are reading and hearing about via the news media.

“So glad you drove down from Lancaster today,” I said to Donna and Paul, former pastors of the church I attended.

“She drove,” Paul responded. “I’m not able to drive anymore. The vision in my right eye is blurry.”

Emmert, a member of the same congregation joined us in the pleasure of eating hot dogs and conversation. “I have had 13 operations related to a cancer the size of a football. It is a miracle that I lived to tell about it.”

We continued to chat about more pleasant aspects of our lives: grandchildren, life in a retirement community and the most recent funeral we all attended.
While listening to the remarkable verbal skills of the auctioneer, who happens to be a relative of mine, another quilt was on the auction block.

Mac, a friend of years gone by, came over to say hello. The “hello” was followed by: “I just learned that I only have 20/70 vision in my right eye.”

I wasn’t sure how I was expected to reply to this information, but clearly it was important that I be informed.

Next stop was the baked goods table. I rejected my need or desire to add more calories even though the smell of freshly baked breads was wafting in the air and up my nostrils. Bill was standing nearby as his wife was tempting all who came within hearing range to purchase something.

Bill asked, “So, how do you like Carroll Lutheran?”

“Fine,” I replied, “however, it is an adjustment after living independently so many years.”

“So, who do I contact about living there?” he asked.

He repeated the question several times and it became clear that Bill had some memory issues.

“Hey, there is Dave,” my husband said.

He attended church with Dave many years ago. Dave was hobbling around with a cane but it was soon evident that his sense of humor was still intact.

As we descended the hill to get in our van we both exclaimed “Wow! We are really in good health at ages 79 and 75 compared to that of our contemporaries. Let’s take a look at the bucket list again and get on with it.”

So we are “getting on with it” as we attend T-ball games of a great-grandson, plant and dig in an abandoned garden in the woods nearby, sit on the porch of a friend for a chat or just spend an afternoon reading a book.

Patricia is a retired Chaplain/Pastoral Counselor/LCPC, gardener, writer, cat lover, musician, exploring her writing skills and married to a high school heart-throb in 2010.

March 18 – Judi and the Poem

by Lily Myers Kaplan

This past weekend I read a poem at the funeral of my friend, Judi’s, sister. Though I did not know Barbara Ann, Judi and I have recently developed a sweet intimacy, though it was not always that way. Years ago we were colleagues who, in her words, “bumped heads, forcing us to each grow…and bonding us forever.” In our final year of working together, when first my mother, Margie, then my sister, Lois, and finally, my brother-in-law, Dave died, with blow after blow to my heart, her compassionate and kind presence stands out.

It was a no-brainer, then, to offer my support when she responded to a Spirit of Resh Foundation update, telling me she was in the hospital sitting at the bedside of her husband, Michael–who she met and decided to marry in the fourth grade – after a cancer operation in which more than one organ had been removed. I’d quoted Dave’s words about cancer being the “blessing in disguise” that awakened him and Lois to “love greater that we’ve ever known.” Judi said that as she looked at her soul-mate, hooked up to tubes and monitors, with fears swirling, these words gave her courage–just when she needed it most.

After more trips to and from the hospital, Michael begins chemotherapy and the long journey toward healing, which looks an awful lot like illness as pounds fall off his body. Then, adding insult to injury, Judi’s sister dies in her bed, suddenly and unexpectedly. Blow after blow. Judi, the Rock of Gibraltar in her family of five (now four) sisters, plans the service and asks me if I know of some poetry that she might use. I share a few poems, then feel honored when she asks if I would read the one that she particularly likes at her sister’s funeral. It’s the one that Dave’s college friend (Page) read at his memorial (see below.)

Cancer, death, life-threatening illness. They are the great equalizers. They take us right smack dab into our humanity. Into our vulnerability. And into our relatedness as human beings – spirits encased in bodies which, one way or another, will ultimately fail us in this physical reality. In the face of loss and its attendant swirl of emotion–ranging from grief to remorse to anger to sorrow … and more … the emergent question of what matters most and what brings meaning to life arises from the center of our beings. This question inevitably connects us, one way or another, to our hearts.

As I stood to read the poem in the chapel, love, deeply felt among friends and strangers is what I felt among the assembled mourners. Sharing that moment in a room of people I mostly did not know, I felt a deep commonality and communion between us. Love and loss is universal. And to share it with others, well, that’s intimacy.

Lily Myers Kaplan, director of Spirit of Resh Foundation holds an MA in Culture and Spirituality, and BA’s in Transpersonal Psychology and Divinatory Studies. Her most valued credential, however, is her soul-path grounded in the everyday world, guiding people through love, loss, challenges and growth into an ever-evolving sense of self and place in the world.

August 9 – Holding Space

by Khadijah

I sit on the rooftop as the sun slowly sinks to the horizon, steel hot blue of summer sky melting to the sweeter, softer indigo night. Six days of Ramadan have slipped by, six days of prayer, fasting, soul searching and sacrifice. Six days of waking up at 3:00 am with my eldest daughter to make breakfast for everyone in the deep hush of breath held night. Six days of everyone working together to make something special out of whatever we have on hand, knowing that food prices in the markets have doubled and tripled since the beginning of the month. Six days of reading and playing and laughing with little ones.

Ramadan is always a time of renewal- the body remembers hunger and thirst while the soul remembers the feast of faith. This year, however, because of the protests here in Yemen, a month that should be spent in joyful contemplation and willing sacrifice turned for a few brief days into one tainted by destruction and death.

Three nights ago my son went down to the market to buy juice cups for the children. He encountered crowds of angry young men, burnt husks of motorcycles, carts tipped over and set ablaze, and a field of broken glass and stones. Later that night gunfire could be heard in the not too distant distance, as we sat together and listened to the night prayers recited over the loudspeakers of a dozen masjids. As I gave comfort to my children, I found myself feeling outraged and frustrated at this foolish show of violence in a town with no government presence at all, a town of southerners in the heart of the south- what purpose could they have in harming their own people, of protesting to empty skies and absent authority? This revolution of the rich here in Yemen, where the protesters tend to own ipads and laptop computers and spend hours online while their fellow countrymen lose their jobs and have to struggle to feed their families in a broken, spiraling economy, has gone on for months. Months of snappy slogans, empty promises, and needless violence that have plunged millions into a reality harsher than that which they already lived in. Feeling anxious and unsettled, I booted up my computer and connected with my sisters across the world at Storycircle.

I told them of the riots and the absence of fresh vegetables. I told them about the fires and the skyrocketing food prices. I told them about my frustration at this attempted hijacking of this blessed month. And they listened, and responded with questions, ideas, encouragement. They listened, and I felt myself relax, just a little, and remember that no matter what a few hot-headed, misguided people were doing, I still had my family, I still had my home shaded by its beautiful tree, I still had my sisters back home holding space for me, thinking of me, and supporting me. I still had my faith and my determination to spend Ramadan in worship and contemplation, and my drive to use the blessed presence of this month to improve myself for the rest of the year.

They didn’t say any specific thing, they didn’t come up with some magical solution, but they listened, and their hands and hearts joined around me, helping to hold me up until I could step back and join my hands with theirs, and take my place in this circle of sisterhood that is Storycircle.

Khadijah grew up in the Kickapoo Valley in Wisconsin and now lives in Yemin with her husband and eight children where she teaches Arabic and Islaamic studies to women and helps them recognize their importance and the need for their stories to be heard. Khadijah was the winner of the 2010 Story Circle Network Lifewriting Competition.

January 23–The Third Sign’s the Charm

by Judy Whelley

After my dermatology appointment, I was to meet the friend who gave me the advice about being open to signs. I was pretty rattled, phoned her and blurted, “I have breast cancer!” We began a Keystone Cops routine, trying to find first a bar and then one another, ending up in the parking lots of bars on opposite sides of the street. She drove over, picked me up and took me to the bar across the street. Why we didn’t just go into the bar where I was I didn’t know. After a good cry, where she just looked into my eyes and listened with complete acceptance, we went in. It was after five on a Friday, too late to get other medical advice.

The bar was full of people celebrating the workweek’s end. I had a beer and a bowl of soup and tried to get some perspective. I faced the door and could see folks as they entered. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I realized that the person who had just walked in was my gynecologist. I walked over to her to be sure it really was her, and it WAS. I shared my diagnosis; she said while she had never treated a case of Paget’s Disease, she knew that the prognosis was good. I think this definitely qualified as a sign. For her to show up at that bar, at that moment, was a gift. Now I knew why we did not go into the bar across the street, I needed to be here.

On the drive home, I panicked. I called another friend and spilled the news. She pulled up Paget’s Disease on the Internet and began to read to me, confirming what my dermatologist said: it is rare, treatment is surgery, it can be DCIS (ductal cancer in situ) or invasive cancer, it is usually confined to one breast, one surgery involves removing the nipple and aureola, another is a modified radical mastectomy, sentinel nodes are removed to check the lymph nodes, sometimes follow up radiation, no mention of chemotherapy. The information from WebMD and the Mayo Clinic was almost identical.

When I told her I would have to go to the state capital, to the medical center there, she immediately volunteered to accompany me. I accepted, with gratitude; I was in the midst of an ugly divorce so I had no spouse to hold my hand and I had just lost my mother to cancer so the very word struck fear in my heart. It was such a relief to know I would not have to go alone. This was the final sign, letting me know that all was unfolding as it should. When I need to just cry and be heard, that will happen. When I need a doctor, the right one will appear. When I need someone to help me with travel and doctors a friend will be available. The signs are all there.

Judy Whelley is a writer living in Dayton, Ohio. You can blog with her at www.sensuouslysixty.blogspot.com.