Tag Archive | the truth in the written word

Am I Waiting for Godot?

waiting rooms (1)I feel a little like the characters in the famous play, Waiting for God, by Samuel Becket. Lately, like Estragon and Vladimir, I am not even sure what day it is half of the time. Like Vladimir, I feel like I’m basically living the same day over and over. My past life of travel and new explorations are over, and   I find myself waiting all of the time these days.

Because Ken moves so slowly, whenever we are going someplace together, I need to wait for him because his walking has become so labored. When I take our friend  Patrick out for coffee, I have to wait for the two of them, only running ahead to open the door. Now, I’m waiting for the “next shoe to fall” with my father’s ailing health. The waiting goes on and on. I wait for the UPS guy to deliver my latest novel to my front door. I wait for inspiration to come for a new post everyday for my blog. I’m also waiting for my editor to get back to me about “Stephania in America.”  And so it goes.

Am I really living a life like the play where  nothing really happens, but yet audiences stay glued to their seats?

As in the play, years pass. Time has no meaning, but yet it changes both characters. Even with the sameness of everyday, time seems to go faster for me. Here it is Saturday and I really don’t know where the week has gone. The only exciting thing I did was teach a writing class and cut the grass.

But everyday brought a surprise. On Monday, a dear friend had us over for lunch. We talked about her daughter’s wedding that would happen on May 31 in Cancun, Mexico. On Tuesday, we enjoyed a lunch outside. On Wednesday, I had one of my older students open up to me about her struggle for a better life. Our life stories have been very similar, so I could encourage her with what has happened in my life. I asked her if she ever had a house plant that no matter what you did, it failed to flourish until you moved it to another location, and then it flourished. I told her that she just hadn’t found her place yet and she needed to keep exploring. On Thursday, Ken and I enjoyed a date at a nice restaurant because he finally felt strong enough to get out of the house. On Friday, I got the best gift of all. My father had rebounded from wanting his angel wings to routing for another Chicago Cubs victory against the Southside White Sox team. And here it is Saturday already. How did that happen?

Unlike the bleakness of the play, which has gotten audiences to guess at it’s true meaning for years, my life seems to be a quest for peace and joy. I don’t see my surroundings as dull, even though they are very mundane. So what does it all mean?

Perhaps the true joy of life is in the waiting to see what the day has in store. I figure it’s my  job to make the wait worthwhile. Forget Godot. Go on without him. I’ve found my path in caregiving for people I love and my joy in  writing. Who could ask for more?

Teaching More Than English

teacher at blackboardA month of my writing class has gone by. This class is a great bunch of adult students (18+) who are, for the most part, cooperative.  Most come to class regularly. Most take notes. Most pay attention. I’m happy teaching people who want to learn. I especially enjoy teaching adults who have a purpose for being in school.

Right from the beginning, I can pick out the ones who will succeed. These people are engaged because they have their eyes on the prize. They can see through the long tunnel of classes to the end where their diploma lies. They are serious about learning to make a better life for themselves and the people around them. I admire them. I will stand on my head to help them achieve their goal of getting through my class because they want to learn.

My hardest task is dealing with people who are just taking up space.

Today I had a student tell me,  “She don’t write like that.”

I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t imagine talking to my teacher like that–in any grade.

I looked her directly in the eye and told her she was in my class to learn how to write properly, so she could communicate with others of authority, get through college required courses without appearing stupid. Needless to say, this smart little chickie in the front row had little to say for the rest of the class.

Sometimes I have to restrain myself from shaking some of these young people and shout, “WAKE UP!”  In one smart-ass comment, this girl announced she wasn’t interested in learning. Perhaps she thinks because this is a  basic class, it will be easy. Sorry, honey. Once you get through the basic classes in college, you realize they are the hardest ones in the curriculum. If her attitude gets in her way, she won’t pass my class because she will continue to “don’t write like that.” Then she will have to repeat the class with someone else after she grows up and realizes she doesn’t know everything.

One of the first assignments I gave this class was to write a paragraph about their BIG dream. Basically, I want to see how they see themselves. More often than not, I see mundane dreams. For instance, “I need an education so I can get a better job.” Or, “My father always said I’d be a good cop.” Or, “I like to be outside so I thought I’d try being a civil engineer.” Really? Has the pressures of life made them limit themselves to the point where they can’t even dream?

I’m paid to teach all the nuts and bolts of our language–in a word, grammar. But what I really try to do everyday in the classroom is get them excited about learning. I try to raise their level of curiosity, so they will go and seek answers to their questions. I want to inspire them to reach for something bigger than just an entry level job that requires a two-year degree. I want them to want more.

And if I get one out of a class of twenty students, to buy into being excited about asking questions, then I’ve achieved 1/20th of my goal. But I can be happy with that because I know that one person will go on and inspire one more person.

All anyone needs to hear is, “It’s okay to dream. Dream big. If you have dream, you can make a plan to get there. Life is short. Make your dream come true.”

Let Your Life Be

letting go

Real life doesn’t know shortcuts. –Willem Meiners

I read this quote this morning and it resonated with me. It’s true. We cannot not (yes, I intended the double negative)  live the life we were given. Or can we?

If you’re old enough, you have experienced having situations come up that you can’t control. Something big has happened to you, and you find yourself not able to do anything about it. You have to go through all the steps. No day provides a shortcut. You have to feel the pain. You have to suffer through the day-to-day stuff. You can’t avoid it. If you’re smart, you soon realize the situation will play out the way it’s supposed to, and you will be forced to stand on the sidelines to watch the world go by. If you’ve raised a teenager, you know what I’m talking about.

Letting go is so hard for some people. It’s a common theme in so many media–it’s a real biggie on the soap operas. There’s always a character with money and power who can’t help himself/herself to control what happens to other people. And guess what? It never works.

I was lucky. I learned this lesson very young. When I broke my leg in a tobogganing accident at age 14 and lost the lead of the school Spring Musical. I was heartbroken because my dream was to sing on Broadway, and this was my first chance to feel the dream. But I learned I was only miserable when I fought against what was happening to me.

Since then, I’ve tried to live my everyday life by being open to what is around me. I can choose to like it, or hate it ,or let it go. And I found out, letting things be what they want to be is a fascinating journey. It has brought me new experiences and opportunities I never dreamed I could do or could experience.

For instance, about 20 years ago, quite by chance I met a woman from the Boston area on a cruise ship. I was on the cruise ship because I took an opportunity that was handed to me. I was doing marketing for a small cruise-only travel agency and a FAM trip was offered to the business by Costa Cruise Lines. Airfare was included, too, which was highly unusual, but the owners of the business could not go–so it was offered to me.

Traveling was something I always wanted to do, but never had a chance to explore. And here was my chance, so I took it. Not only did I have a wonderful time on the trip, I saw myself in different surroundings. I was amazed that people gravitated to me when I wasn’t with my grumpy husband. I even met a woman would be a good friend for the rest of my life. Robin would introduce me to Jane from Maine, and over the next two years, the three of us became traveling partners. I was going through a miserable divorce at the time, had no job except freelance writing, and here was my chance to soothe my soul with travel and new friends. And travel we did — about every two months I was off exploring a new island. Jamaica, Bermuda, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Antigua, Aruba, Martinique, and more. I danced till dawn. I sang Karaoke. I met people from around the country and the world. I was having the time of my life. And I kept a journal.

As our friendship developed, I got a chance to visit both of my friends at their homes in the Boston area and the beautiful state of Maine. I met their families and children. And we got to know each other on a deeper level. And when Jane turned 50–we had a reunion with our new spouse, you guessed it–on a cruise ship.

My point is, if I would have been practical and  not have taken this chance, I would have missed out on so many wonderful  things that have enriched my life. I wouldn’t have met Robin and Jane. I wouldn’t have seen beautiful tropical islands. I wouldn’t have gotten to know other people from around the country and the world. By taking these trips at a time when I really didn’t have the money to travel, I opened my world. I didn’t put limits on myself. I started to write my own story.

And now, I’m realizing another dream by simply letting things go again. The last three years of Ken’s illness and my unemployment has put me in financial hardship, but I have a chance to finally write seven novels and numerous short stories. My daily blogging is a personal challenge to try to come up with something fresh someone else might like to read. This medium has linked me to other wonderful writers around the globe.

Am I an overnight success? No. Have you seen me on CBS Sunday Morning? Not yet.  But people are reading my stories and tell me they have enjoyed the experience. I’ve even had a gushing fan blush and tell me she loves all of my stories. That was a little uncomfortable at first, but I could get used to it. Someday, the big publishing contract will come because the more I write, the more my world grows and the more my writing improves. See how this works?

My point? The next time you’re tempted to control your life and all that is around you, let go. You might be pleasantly surprised what happens.

Gardening and Writing

asparagus_field-1Some friends who are out in Montana right now to see their son Jon receive his master’s degree in fine arts, told me I could pick their asparagus while they were gone. I love asparagus, so the invite was truly welcomed. Yesterday, I pointed my SUV north and did the picking.

As I was bending down to pick the fresh, thick spears which had poked their heads out of the crusty ground, I was taken back to when I did this chore at my Grandma’s house. You see, both my grandfather and grandmother had grown up on farms and having a huge garden was one way they kept the simple life in their lives. Unfortunately, I never got the vegetable gardening gene.

Just because gardening is basically simple — you plant, you water, you weed and you harvest–doesn’t make it easy. In fact, gardening in pots is fun for me, but I’ve never been good at having a garden of any size because I love the planting and the harvesting, but I have no interest in the hard work in between. So, my veggies die of neglect and I vow again and again, I will never try to grow anything that doesn’t flower!

garden (1)

In a lot of ways writing is like a garden. You have to purchase the seed/plants (your idea for the story). You have to water and wait for them to sprout (the plot). You have to continuously tend to the plants–hoeing, spraying for pests, pulling weeds (through rewriting and editing), and finally, you have to harvest fruit/vegetables from healthy plants, then you and others can enjoy your labor (your finished book, story, article).

Thank goodness I don’t see writing the same way I see gardening or I would be an utter failure. Because writing, like gardening, comes alive in the WORK stages.

For some reason, I enjoy hoeing the weeds out of my prose after I’ve laid the words down. I enjoy watering areas that are dry, and cutting and pruning other areas. I’ll get a better story by doing so. I love feedback on my progress. (Remember I’m the student who loved the red ink of the teacher because I saw her comments a lot like fertilizer–Now don’t go there! )  I didn’t say manure, I said fertilizer–the stuff that helps plants grow and flourish down the road. And best of all, I love touching the fresh, healthy final product in my hands.

So the next time you’re whiny about having to weed your  garden of prose, take heart. You’ll be picking a crop of fresh of yummy new ideas that are all yours. And just like me. you’ll be anxious to see your words in print. NOTE: “Finding Gessler” is fully ripe and going through the production state. I can’t wait until I hold it in my hands!

What have you planted lately?

A Best Moment is Worth Sharing

Yesterday I got a nice surprise as I zoomed through my email. I was nominated for the “Best Moment Award” by one of my favorite bloggers. Check out her site. I find it so fun to read because almost everyday she makes me laugh. Her blog is named: Grandma Says . . . You really should check her out when you need a good laugh from an older perspective.


Awarding the people who live in the moment

The noble who write and capture the best in life

The bold who reminded us what really mattered

Savoring the experience of quality time

As with all of these awards, there are a couple of requirements that go along with it.

  1. Create an acceptance speech either by video or a written speech post
  2. Pass the award on to 15 other bloggers

The first requirement will have to be satisfied by an acceptance speech. The reason? First, I do not own a video camera, and second, they say being on television adds 10 pounds to your appearance and as I have been on a perpetual diet for most of my life, I’ll pass. So a speech it is.

It humbles me every time I receive one of these blogging awards. To receive an award for just living my life and then sharing the simple things that happen to me, well a person could get a “big head” by such recognition. You see, my parents always did a good job of not inflating my ego, so I have learned to be gracious, say thank you, and then toss the award in the closet.

But not so with this one. There will be no tossing in the closet with this award. As you can see, I’ve proudly displayed it on my site for all to see. Please don’t be dismayed by my hubris. I need it–every now and then.

If someone thinks my observations, perspectives and experiences are worth reading, and  I’ve touched them in some way, that REALLY MATTERS!

I first came to WordPress last summer when my friend Miranda told me that I could gain more exposure for my novels, short stories and just plain writing through blogging. I had no idea where to start.

I thought first I could give advice for writing because that’s what I do and occasionally, that’s what I teach. But I soon found out that I used the site for a warm up for my own writing. That’s why what you see is what you get! When I sit down to the keyboard every morning, I have no idea what will transpire. The creating is fun (most days). Other days, I read and read to get inspired, and poof. Nothing. In fact, one of my most visited blogs was about having nothing.

So thanks to all of you who have decided to subscribe to my words and come to read what I have to say. Many thanks to the few of you who “LIKE” what I say. And the most thanks to those of you who leave a thought or a comment. I especially like some of the commentors who don’t agree with me; after all, then I have an idea for the next day!

So, thank you all. I appreciate your time and attention. I’m glad you find my writing worth reading. So, I’ll leave you with a promise to keep giving you a tidbit to think about just by living in my moment.


Now for my nominees:

1. http://successify.net/ – Always interesting. Kris is especially good at analogies to which we all can relate.

2. http://wynwords.wordpress.com/ – A mother who is sorting it all out.

3. http://candycoatedreality.com/ – Beautiful site filled with wise words and great graphics.

4. http://eyedancers.wordpress.com/ Mike is a young man who is an accomplished writer. (He’s received this award, but I’m nominating him again because I always enjoy his posts.)

5. http://bottledworder.com – Interesting perspective from a woman who grew up in Calcutta, India and now lives in New York City.

6. http://insearchofitall.wordpress.com – Another “Golden Girl” who is searching for answers.

7. http://peterdmallett.wordpress.com – A “Golden Boy” who gives great writing advice.

8. http://cristianmihai.net/ – Cristian is a Romanian Writer who works hard at his craft and by doing so inspires me.

9. http://bradstanton.com/ – Another “Golden Boy” who has found the secret to being happy and shares them with you in short clips that don’t take more than five minutes to read.

10. http://clarawaibel.wordpress.com – A young woman named Clara who gives great advice about writing and its world.

11. http://diannegray.wordpress.com/ – Dianne Gray is an Australian author who is multi-talented, fun and entertaining. I love her and her writing.

12. http://lielung1980.wordpress.com/ – Liel gives good advice on how to be more successful with your blogging efforts.

Whew! That’s only a dozen but I’m sure everyone of these hardworking bloggers, authors and writers will give you insight and advice you can use. You see, I’m not a “blogging junkie.” I only read what entertains and helps me along the way. All of these folks do both!

But I must leave you all now. I have to inform my nominees that I’ve submitted their names for your perusal! Have a Best Moment TODAY!

When Darkness Falls, Let the Light In


This morning, as all other mornings, I read the posts of some of my favorite bloggers. Candy Coated Reality by Renae is one of my most favorites. It’s a beautiful site filled with art along with articulate posts. She’s extraordinary. But today, she talked about suffering from depression. About the darkness. About wanting to sleep away the feeling of dread. Unfortunately, I knew what she was talking about.

It’s hard to admit you have depression because most people don’t understand it. They see it as sadness, but it’s so much more than that. It’s darkness that invades your life and sometimes your little flashlight of medication doesn’t shine through it. It just is.

My depression manifests itself in withdrawing. I don’t speak. I sit in like a lump in my chair and play Facebook games. I don’t even want to write when this happens to me. Lately, the money issue in my life has put me in such a place. Part of it is the chemicals in my brain, but the bigger part of it is feeling like such a failure.

I tell myself that my life is what I’ve made it. I do want to stay home and be here for Ken. He struggles so much everyday, you’d think he would have to fight depression—because he has it too. But in his case, he sees the world in a whole different way. He never complains because he says doing so would only make me feel bad. He never puts anyone down because he allows people to be just as they are. He somehow keeps himself in a world that is filled with light.

Yesterday some light came into my darkness. After the phone call about getting a lift chair for Ken, we both were invited out to lunch by my dear friend Joyce. We first had coffee at her beautiful little home, and then I drove us all to Nafi’s where we had a sandwich. When Ken went to the bathroom, she opened her purse, pulled out a wad of bills and said, “How much do you need?”

I knew she was going to help us, but her generosity overwhelmed me. I never guessed she would hand me one hundred dollars.

Again, God has provided. He does his special work through others, and Ken and I are testimony to His good works. Remember the ramp his aunts and uncles gave us? Remember Scott putting more work into it than he originally planned and then didn’t charge me? Remember Jackie and Kay giving me money so I could buy my books for a book signing? Remember Steve and Tara helping us with the overwhelming drug expense?  Remember Dad paying off my car when it was reposed by the finance company? Remember others who stand beside us and will drop what they are doing to be here for us –Dave and Terry, Heidi and Ray, Patrick and Linda, Jim and Cathy — the list goes on.

I do not practice organized religion, but I do believe a higher power intercedes when we’ve done all that we can do on our own. Time and time again, our friends and family have helped us out of jams Ken and I couldn’t fix ourselves.

I feel so humbled when all I can do for them is say, “Thank You.”

It’s More Than a Lift Chair

handsI’ve talked about being a caretaker for my husband Ken who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. In fact, I’ve talked about it so much, I’ve actually learned how to spell Sclerosis and had to create a category for our experiences. And maybe someday, this will be a springboard for a book. I’ve talked about how this horrible disease comes like a thief in the night to take away the man I love.

Because of this disease, our relationship has changed. And I hate it, but my changed role is necessary. I’m a writer by profession and religion, but I’m a caretaker now 24/7. As such, I’ve turned to the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) in our area for some necessary help.

Through that organization, I met a wonderful woman named Marilyn. She calls once a week just to check in on ME. I guess caretakers get lost in the shuffle, and it is her quest to connect with me and help connect me with resources that will benefit both Ken and me.

Yesterday, Marilyn called and said there was a lift chair available, and all I had to do was pick  it up. I was thrilled it was offered to us because Ken does have problems getting up and down out of a chair. So, this chair would aid him in his everyday challenges.

lift chair

When I excitedly told him about the chair, he said, “Where are we going to put it?” You see, he doesn’t want to part with the platform rocker he sits in now, and I think he saw this lift chair as another reminder he needs assistance.

I know he will probably love this chair, so I said, “Maybe Ernie will sit by you more often if you have a different chair.” (Our pug Ernie doesn’t like the rocker because he loses his balance when he attempts to sit on Ken’s lap.) Ken thought about it for a second and said, “Okay.”

So, now the next challenge was to get the chair from its present location to our home. Enter friends. I phoned one of my male friends who has a truck, asked whether he could help me and with no hesitation, Dave said, “Sure, I can help you, Barb. When do you want to do it?” So bright and early on Saturday we will go together to get the chair.

The moral to this story? Let people around you help. I’m not big on support groups, but connecting with people who can actually help is so important. Friends and family see the struggles and most of the time they feel helpless to ease your load. So, when an opportunity comes along when one of them can help, ask them. Life truly does take a village.

Precious Words

festival_of_books1This morning on CBS Sunday Morning, there was a poignant story about a WWII veteran, one of the few living soldiers who participated in the D-Day landing. He had a box full of military medals, but that wasn’t what this story was about. Instead, this piece was about another battle that he fought all of his life.

Throughout his life, he was cut out of a very important world–the world of reading. Others “covered” for him with work reports and other important documents he needed to understand. And he was ashamed that he let them do that for him. He thought being illiterate was more shameful than anything in his life. Oh, he tried to learn to read at different periods, but either he quit or his teacher gave up.

That is, until he recently met a young woman at Northeastern University, who gave him the patience and had the skills to open up the world of reading for him at age 90. His story should be an inspiration for all of us.

First, all of us who can read don’t realize what a precious gift our teachers gave us a long time ago. We can experience different worlds, professions, viewpoints, through millions articles, newspapers and books. We can enjoy novels that touch our hearts. Words are all around us. It’s how we learn. It’s how we expand our worlds from one single town to the universe.

Second, as writers, we are even more blessed because we can contribute our ideas and thoughts to the libraries. We have a chance to touch others in memorable ways. Our true or fiction stories have the power to change people’s lives. With that being true, we must also remember it is our responsibility to tell the truth as we know it.   

I know from now on when I want to whine about how hard it is to write on a particular day, I will remember that veteran,  shut up, and get to work. His quest to learn to read taught me something today. He appreciates books and what they contain. If I never becoming a best selling author, it will be my fault because he reminded me that if I want something, I have to go after it. I have to dig deep, work hard and keep my eye on the prize.

In his memorable words, “If you want to do something, get in there and learn now because you ain’t going to learn in that pine box.”

I Got Nothing

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know that I use this writing experience as a warm-up for the rest of my writing day. I have come to really enjoy the thoughts that pop into my head when I sit down at my keyboard, and the best part is I can share them with you. But for some reason, this morning  I’ve got nothing. I’ve exhausted all the usual things that spur me on–I’ve read the blogs I follow; I’ve answered emails; and I’ve even made it through several levels of my game obsession on Facebook. But still nothing. I couldn’t even find a picture about nothing.

But maybe that’s okay. If Jerry Seinfeld could create a television sit-com about “nothing,” then I guess I can write about nothing, right? Hmmm–do you follow that logic?

Here’s what I mean. I could tell you that yesterday Ken and I were treated to lunch by some dear friends. We hadn’t seen this couple in almost a year, and we truly love them. Jim suffers from a debilitating blood disorder the doctors really haven’t figured out, and Cathy works as a home healthcare nurse. Plus, they like to spend a great deal of their free time with their grandchildren who live in Minneapolis. So, they are very busy. But yesterday, they carved out enough time so we could enjoy each other. Cathy is one of  my rare friends who I’ve known since kindergarten and I’ve known Jim since high school, so our friendship has deep roots. Such a time elapse is no problem for us.

I could also tell you that the birds are singing this morning. I could tell you that within a week of rain and cold weather, the sun is shining today. I could tell you that my dog is sleeping beside me as I write this post. I could even tell you that I need a shower.

What’s so amazing is, I could actually make a story out of all these “nothing” things, couldn’t I?  Maybe instead of not having anything to write today, I’m just being lazy. Perhaps I should clear my head by taking that shower, and go outside for a stroll afterward. I’m far too lazy today for a walk. Perhaps I’ll see something on my excursion that will prompt a post for tomorrow. One can hope.

Better days are coming, folks. Just stay with me!


A REAL Thing

girls and cokeI usually don’t pay attention to television commercials. In my mind, they are just a necessary evil so folks can watch free TV. To fight back, I have my computer resting on my lap, while the unending 30-second sales pitches past before my eyes. But this morning it was different.

A Coke commercial came on, and it immediately took me back to my teen years. I don’t know why I paid attention to this one; I’ve seen hundreds of Coke commercials, but this one featured a GLASS BOTTLE of Coke. The sixteen ounce variety. The kind I drank down at Debbie’s house from the time I was thirteen.

It was a time in my life when my father had fallen into illness, and my mother did her best to keep things quiet for him. The mantra at our house was, “SHHHHH, get out of here. Your father doesn’t feel good.” So, off to Debbie’s I would go, by foot or by Schwinn.

Debbie’s Mom always bought Coke because Debbie’s Dad drank nothing else. At the time, the beverage only came in 16 oz. glass, refundable bottles. The carton of eight bottles weighed about 50 pounds, I swear. But Debbie and I never minded lugging the sweet beverage into the house on grocery day because we knew afterward we would be treated for our assistance. The Coke carton sat in the back hall; it never made it to the refrigerator because the clunky bottles took so much space. So, every time I would visit the Johnson’s, I’d have to walk past the carton that always made my mouth water. You see, my mother never bought Coke. I think she thought it was an evil concoction. She said they cleaned car carburetors with the stuff.

I remember sitting in Debbie’s bed, legs crossed with a tall Tupperware tumbler filled to the brim with ice cubes, opening the tall bottle with a “church key” (that’s a bottle opener for you youngsters), and then pouring the dark, sweet, soda of the gods over the  ice. We’d sit silently while the Coke spilled over the ice, producing a crackling and a fizzing sound that we listened to like a sermon on Sunday. Then came the first sip, when we’d put our lips to the plastic glass and savor the cold sweetness of the special summer soda. In the privacy of her bedroom, Debbie and I would sit for hours, talking about girl stuff while we tried to make our sixteen ounces of Coke last as long as it could.

The biggest change since then–besides growing older–(Did I tell you Debbie’s a grandma?) has been the glass bottles have been replaced by cans and plastic containers. The Coca Cola Company has also developed different varieties to appease the dieters and thrill seekers (Lime Coke, come on!). But the REAL THING is still the the only soda on the planet as far as I’m concerned. I’m just glad we don’t have to carry those heavy glass bottles any more.