New writing and old

I've started to write about something new. I haven't a clue yet where it's going so I don't want to reveal the topic yet. I just want to let you and the world know. That's a way to keep me accountable. I can't go ahead and disband this new writing project because I've now put it out there. You all know and I know you'll keep me going. I'm also going through some poems I've written over the years. I'm looking for material to submit. I wrote the one below back in 2011 at my favorite poetry workshop at Esalen Institute in Big Sur California. Unfortunately my favorite three poets/instructors, Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, and Joseph Millar, aren't doing this workshop anymore, though I went to a workshop at Esalen with Joseph about a year ago. That was wonderful as well. So the theme for this poem was "changeability." We were asked to make changes from line to line, using word series, thoughts, length of line, and language. Other aspects of this theme are: anaphora - repetition of th … [Read more...]

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Regina Brett’s life lessons

My friend Linda Appleman Shapiro, author of  She's Not Herself (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Dream of Things), sent these 45 lessons to me and asked me to share them with my friends. What better way than to post them here on Choices? I hope you'll read them through to the end and marvel with me at the wisdom of this beautiful and stylish 90-year-old woman, Regina Brett. Regina Brett, 90 years old, of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, said, "To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more: Life isn't fair, but it's still good. When in doubt, just take the next small step. Life is too short, enjoy it. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will. Pay off your credit cards every month. You don't have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself. Cry with someone. It's mo … [Read more...]

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Writing small stones teaches focus and brevity

I joined the Awake August 2016 challenge to write small stones every day in August. I did the same challenge a few years ago (in January 2011 and 2012) and found the results the same. Writing brief poems, essays, descriptions, thoughts, and ideas are a worthwhile challenge. It has taught me to focus on a single thing and write briefly about it. Like the challenge creators, Kaspalita and Satya Robyn, say, it is a mindfulness writing booster. For more information about them and their work, visit their website, Writing Our Way Home: Engage with the world through mindful writing. So whether my first five days of small stones are what Kaspalita and Satya had in mind, here they are. What do you think? My August Small Stones A young girl with white-pale skin and wine-red hair visited for a week. We kissed goodbye this morning. The strains of “Unchained Melody” bring back memories of 1955 and two besotted teenagers swaying in time on a hot August night. A long walk … [Read more...]

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Not a lot of writing going on now

  For the last couple of weeks I’ve been really caught up in the election. I couldn’t take my eyes and ears off of the conventions, nor can I stop reading about it in the newspapers and online. I'm also glued to the news shows every evening. Therefore not a lot of writing is going on in my life right now. In the last election I refused to post anything – either here or any of my other social media networks – about politics or my views about politics. I didn't want to offend any of my memoir customers who had different political views than mine. This election is too crucial for me to keep silent. And already I'm sure you can tell I’m with Hillary. There is no way I would vote for a person like Donald Trump. But this is not to say I feel she is the lesser of two evils. I’ve felt all along that she has the most experience for the job of president of the United States, and she has respectful relationships worldwide that she can call upon when needed in our dealings with … [Read more...]

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A week in New York City

We walk amidst the crowds, some barreling into us on our side of the sidewalk as we tally 43 miles for the week. We push into the subway cars, careful not to get stuck in the sliding doors as we crush into others standing in the aisles. Sweat pours down our faces and soaks our backs. We wait in long lines for museum tickets to see the first masterpiece Rembrandt ever painted at age twenty-three, Manus X Machina fashions, Diane Arbus photography, Degas charcoal and pastel drawings, Pergamon Greek and Roman artifacts, Turner’s whaling landscapes, and the constructionist Bauhaus artist and writer, Maholy-Nagy. Culture abounds even at night. How can a New York experience not include theater? One play is terrific: A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. The other, The Humans, not so much. And we eat and eat and eat – one place better than the other: Chazz Palminteri’s Ristorante Italiano, Locanda Verde on Greenwich Street, Lusardi’s with dear friends, MOMA’s T … [Read more...]

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What do you wish you knew before you turned 40?

A few days ago, Naturally Savvy, for which I am the Savvy Over 60 contributor, posted my article: “Ten Things I Wish I Knew before I Turned 40.” I put a lot of thought into that article, and even though I came up with ten things as my editor suggested, I know it is still incomplete. I didn’t address religion, or money, or women’s equality – a subject so much in the forefront today. I also didn’t discuss marriage, or children, or what to do during retirement, or politics. The list is a work in progress. The list will never be complete. Perhaps to entice you to go over to Naturally Savvy to read my article and other articles I’ve contributed, I’ll give you a few examples from my list. But really I’d love for you to share your list either here or at the Naturally Savvy link. Only spend time with people you care about. Life is too short to feel obligated to be with people we don’t care about. Learn to excuse yourself gracefully. Gently fade away. And believe me they won’t mis … [Read more...]

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Reading about Corita Kent at {pages}: a bookstore

This past Thursday evening I attended a book reading at my local independent bookstore, {pages}. April Dammann, author of Corita Kent. Art and Soul. The Biography. (Angel City Press), spoke to us about the wonderful artist and teacher of the 1960s formerly known as Sister Mary Corita. I was most interested in attending this event because I have four of Corita’s serigraphs hanging on my family room wall. I fell in love with them in the 1960s when I first heard of this rebellious nun, modern artist, and activist for social justice who combined bright colors, whimsical shapes, and political and/or literary messages in her artwork. And I still enjoy having her work in my house. Her work is relevant. Her messages are universal.   For example, she wrote two messages in the Life piece (upper right): “Life is a complicated business fraught with mystery and some sunshine.” P. Roth “Let the morning time drop all its petals on me. Life I love you. All is groovy.” Simon & … [Read more...]

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Journaling – one of the greatest investments of my life

Dawn Herring, creator of the #JournalChat Live Facebook Group, and my journaling mentor, has started off 2016 with a #JournalChat Live open house. She has asked us to share if journaling has been one of the greatest investments in our lives. Dawn says, “We keep journals to express ourselves, to create positive change, and become more personally empowered, right? So, we may see journaling as one of the Greatest Investments of our lives AND/OR, we may have experienced clarity and clear direction as a RESULT of our journaling practice that has led us to something that truly changed our lives for the better.” Her statement is indeed true for me. Here is why. My Journaling – My Greatest Investment By Madeline Sharples During lunch with a new friend last week, she asked me about my writing projects. I shared that I am writing a lot of poetry these days and that I’m also revising my novel – for about the 15th time. Then I told her I journal every day. That made her back straighten and … [Read more...]

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The power of the movie Spotlight 

I loved the movie Spotlight, about a group of Boston Globe reporters who uncovered and reported on the alleged abuse and rape performed by Catholic priests and its ensuing cover-up. The movie’s ensemble cast, including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Live Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy, and Stanley Tucci, has been nominated for six Oscars and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture, among others. The movie is so well-written, acted, directed. Really what more can I say? Well there is more. Spotlight was highlighted in the LA Times today because it was screened at a Vatican commission on clerical sex abuse. Here’s what LA Times correspondent, Tom Kington, wrote: “A Vatican commission on clerical sex abuse gathered Thursday for a private screening of “Spotlight,” the Oscar-nominated film about abuse by Boston priests, even as Pope Francis came under fire for failing to act on the crisis. “The extraordin … [Read more...]

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Equal pay for women is a must

I’m encouraged with the news that women in the movie industry are questioning why they are paid less that their male counterparts. Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay about it in October when it was revealed she made considerably less than her male counterparts in the film “American Hustle.” Now Cate Blanchett is praising Lawrence. Blanchett says: ''I applaud her for saying that because, forget the film industry for a second, it encourages women in other industries to say, 'You know what, I'm not receiving equal pay for equal work here.'” In 2005 I received a Women of Achievement (WOA) award from the aerospace company I worked for. The following year I was asked to speak at the WOA awards luncheon about the changing roles of women over the last few decades – I guess the committee knew I was old enough to have witnessed these changes personally. The speech focused on inequality in my workplace. Since I retired in 2010, I can’t speak for the situation now. I only hope that the youn … [Read more...]

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A progress report

In John Lennon’s song, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” he sings: “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_j-tpmdPlI My mother always said something similar: “Man plans, and God laughs.” Well, life was sure happening to me last week. I worked diligently on my book, as I said I would do in my previous blog post, for the first three days, and I actually made some great progress. Then boom! It all fell apart. My husband, Bob, woke up early last Thursday morning with shortness of breath. I took him to urgent care and he got an EKG. With those results the doctor there said take him to emergency at our local hospital. And we were off and running. Two and a half days later and tests to rule out a heart attack, pneumonia, blood clots in his lungs, and congestive heart failure, he was feeling better. So they sent him home. Less than 24 hours later, he was short of breath again – even worse. This time we called his own doctor (who ha … [Read more...]

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Happy New Year

I'll wait until 2016 to write about what's next for me and my writing life. This is the time to ring in the new year. Happy New Year everyone! Thanks for being here with me since November 2007.       … [Read more...]

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End of year movie binge

When I was a little girl my parents took me downtown Chicago to see movies that had a stage show as an opening act. I remember seeing Nat King Cole and Frankie Laine (not my favorite), but I found the movies the most exciting. Sometimes I’d go with my older brother, and I never minded that I had to watch his cowboy and war movie choices. As I got older I went with my friends and got to pick what I wanted to see – recommendations right out of the stacks of movie magazines I read from cover to cover. So I was a well-trained movie freak – and that hasn’t changed at all. In fact, movies became one of my biggest diversions after my son died in 1999 - something I wrote a lot about in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. I could sit in the theater and forget about all the pain in my heart. I always love to go at this time of the year – when the new movies come out to compete for all the up and coming awards: Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild, Academy Awards – you name … [Read more...]

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After a two-year hiatus, I’m returning to Esalen

I'm kicking off the holiday season by going back to Esalen in Big Sur California tomorrow to take a five-day poetry workshop with Joseph Millar. But I've made up my mind already. Just being back at Esalen after a two-plus-year break is all that matters. Of course I love being there to write. But what I really I love is just being there - period. I've worked with Joseph many times before, usually when he leads poetry workshops with Ellen Bass and his wife Dorianne Laux - a fantastic trio of poetry brilliance. He also helped edit a lot of the poems that appear in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. He has a wonderful gift for honing in on the good and what can be improved about the poems he hears and reads. Here's a little information about Joseph that I lifted from his website: Joseph Millar's first collection, Overtime, was a finalist for the 2001 Oregon Book Award. His second collection, Fortune, appeared in 2007, followed by a third, Blue Rust, in 2012. Millar grew up in Pen … [Read more...]

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What happened in November

Since returning from our three-week trip to Central America, Raleigh NC, and New York City on November 6, I’ve been intent on getting back into my daily writing routine. Here’s what I did in November to start moving in that direction. Please note that I didn’t spend this month just writing. I think reading and seeing movies, opera, and plays are all grist for the mill and great learning devices. In November I: Wrote a poem every day to fulfill Robert Lee Brewer’s November 2015 PAD challenge – wrote the last one today Wrote a journal entry every day to fulfill my personal writing challenge Wrote a piece for Naturally Savvy – I have a blog there called Savvy Over 60 Wrote a piece about how I got my book published for an Authors Publish anthology - not accepted yet Read: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Marilyn by Gloria Steinem, Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, and Room (the second time) by Emma Donoghue Started to read: The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, … [Read more...]

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One more bucket list item ready to be checked off

When I started this blog way back in November 2007, it was all about checking off things on my bucket list. And in the years since, I've kept at it pretty well - except for the elusive hike down the Grand Canyon, which was the very first thing on my list at that time. That is until today. We finally got reservations at Phantom Ranch - the place at the bottom of the canyon where we'll stay the night in between the hike down and the next day's hike back up. There is no way we could do the hike down and up in the same day. Unfortunately it's not until next November - November 16 - coincidentally one day plus nine years since I wrote that blog post. Well, I'm just as excited as if I were going to go on that hike tomorrow. Just think - I have a year to train. And yes, okay. I'll be realistic. Anything can happen in a year. But having the reservation - not an easy thing to come by - makes it seem very real even now. … [Read more...]

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Body image problems? Read Destiny Allison’s memoir

I'm excited. I'm one of the chosen few to participate in a pre-launch blog tour to introduce my readers to Destiny Allison. Her memoir, The Romance Diet: Body Image and the Wars We Wage On Ourselves, is her fourth book and due for release in January 2016. This is my chance to publicize this memoir right at the beginning because I know Allison is gearing up for some big publicity, which will include virtual tours and exposure in some of the leading print magazines. You have a chance to get in right at the beginning! You can say, you read all about it on Choices first. Also, Allison has written a post especially for us, which she tied into an earlier post here about Margaret Atwood's brilliant novel, The Handmaid's Tale. Questioning the Behaviors We Deem Acceptable By Destiny Allison Thanks for having me on your blog today, Madeline. I enjoyed your post about The Handmaid’s Tale. It is one of my all time favorite books and first introduced me to the plight of women past and p … [Read more...]

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Photos from our October and November travels

My husband Bob and I just returned from a three-week vacation. We started out in Miami, then embarked on the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship that took us on an eleven-day excursion to: Cartagena, Columbia: We took a walking tour of the old beautiful city Panama Canal/Gatun Lake, Panama: We took a ferry through the five locks. It was a long scenic ride. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica: We rode an aerial tramway through and over the rainforest - breathtaking, walking through a butterfly preserve first. Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras: Roatan is beautiful, but our excursion was a bit disappointing. We supposedly were to ride in a glass-bottomed boat; however the glass was on the sides. Also it was hot and stuffy down there. Note how murky the water is. Belize City, Belize: A noisy airboat in Belize took us through the Crocodile Trail. The water is covered with blooming water lilies and mangrove forests. We didn't see any crocodiles or manat … [Read more...]

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A September 11 story – redux

September is always a sad month for me - the anniversary of our son's death on September 23 and the anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy on September 11. Today a visitor's center was opened at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, PA. It tells the story of the heroic passengers and crew members who tried to take control of the flight rather than let the hijackers fly it into the U.S. Capital.   Flight 93 came into focus in our California community shortly after the crash when my friend and jeweler was asked to repair and clean jewelry recovered from the crash site. Here is the story I wrote several years ago about that recovery work. Flight 93: The Jeweler’s Story In El Segundo, CA, known as one of the last lazy 50s style home towns in the country, 3,000 miles from the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, Brenda Newman completed the delicate, intricate and sad work of restoring and repairing the bits and pieces of jewe … [Read more...]

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My July was busy; how was yours?

July has been an interesting and busy month. Here’s a recap of my month of July, which has been jam packed with craziness and a multitude of events. For example: A forced break from my consulting job. We had expected the final request for proposal due from the Air Force during the first week in July. Instead we got notice that it would appear no later than July 31. That meant we had to stop work until the RFP really did arrive. As a result I got three weeks of very welcomed freedom from proposal work. However, the RFP arrived on June 28 telling us that the proposal is due on September 11. That means I’m back to work until we deliver – with my first assignment to cull twenty pages from the draft. I will also be responsible for getting the revised and shortened document ready for two more reviews and subsequent delivery. I’ve done it before and I’m confident I can do it again. I’ll let you know how it all turns out. A physical therapy adventure. As a result of a fall in late May tha … [Read more...]

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