A wonderful surprise

I got a huge and wonderful surprise yesterday from my author and poet friend Jessica Bell, of Vine Leaves Press. She tagged me in a Facebook post to tell me that my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On was on a list compiled by Erin Burba of BookRiot of the 100 Must-Read Biographies and Memoirs of Remarkable Women. As I looked at the list I couldn’t believe my memoir was among those written by the likes of Mary Karr, Joan Didion, Cheryl Strayed, Sonia Sotomayor, Madeleine Albright, Maya Angelou, Anais Nin, Malala Yousafzai, Patti Smith, Katharine Graham, and Nora Ephron, memoirists and authors I’ve admired for almost forever. But it is indeed true. Leaving the Hall Light On is number 80 on the list. Here are the first twenty and the last twenty of the books listed. Please click on the BookRiot link to see the rest and to read the description of each book. The first twenty: Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock. The Liars’ Club … [Read more...]

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February’s small stones

I'm still writing small stones every day. This month we're calling them Mad March. In February they were February Favorites. Since I was working a day job over at Northrop Grumman during February, I wasn't sure I'd have the energy to keep them up. But I did and here they are: A new month, with hope for a world less chaotic. If only we didn’t have a leader who incites all the turmoil rather than calm. The groundhog saw his shadow today, which means six more weeks of winter. I think that’s a good thing. How about you? So busy, so distracted from my writing work, and so tired. Having a day job takes its toll. I saw the sun coming through thick fog this morning, leaving the tree leaves sparkling with green iridescence. Lady Gaga can do it all – sing, dance, play the keyboards, fly through the air, and move incessantly during the 15-minute Super Bowl half time show, that is, until she dropped the mike. After a long day I’m enjoying being home with my husband. We have … [Read more...]

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Jennifer McGregor writes about PTSD and its risks

Please welcome back Jennifer McGregor. Today she writes about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its effects on those who have it. The good news is: if treated correctly, PTSD doesn't have to mean a life of depression and addiction or a death sentence. PTSD: What are the Associated Risks? by Jennifer McGregor Image via Pixabay by googles People who suffer from PTSD will experience symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, paranoia, and depression. These are to be expected after a PTSD diagnosis. What is less commonly known are the coinciding effects PTSD can have on someone. Too often, one mental illness can trigger other illnesses, risks, or symptoms that may not be directly associated with PTSD. Here are a few of the associated risks to be on the lookout for if someone you love has been diagnosed with PTSD. Social Isolation is Very Common When a person is suffering from PTSD, they tend to withdraw into their homes, afraid of experiencing a trigger. The home is … [Read more...]

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Leaving an island paradise

Blog Editor, Linda Hoye, recently asked Story Circle Network's One Woman’s Day contributors to consider a place they hold dear and to write about a special day they spent there or, perhaps the day they left. I accepted the challenge and wrote about the bittersweet leaving of our family’s home in the South Pacific. Here's my story, recently published in the Story Circle Network's March Journal: Leaving An Island Paradise 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 … [Read more...]

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It’s time to start rewriting again

I apologize for taking so much time off from Choices. My temporary day job has been exhausting and as such has given me little time or energy to write here. However, I’ll be free of it early next week and look forward to getting back to my writing work. That said I attended a rewrite seminar last weekend to hopefully help me get revved up to work on my novel after a long hiatus working a proposal management consulting job. Some of the contents of the seminar were familiar – I learned a lot about rewrite and revision while working proposals in the aerospace business – and some things discussed gave me some new nuggets to incorporate in my work. Here I’ll try to give you ways to tackle your own drafts. The two-step process for writing a book are: Step 1 – write the draft Just get it out Don’t hang up with editing Don’t go to the Thesaurus to find a word. Lay all your cards on the table as fast as you can. And avoid tendency to write in chronological order … [Read more...]

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We don’t have to slow down in our old age

My dear friend Pat sent these photos to me, and I had to share. I feel fit for my age, but these folks are incredible - and such wonderful inspirations. … [Read more...]

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Shirley Melis writes about dancing through grief

I feel so grateful that I got the chance to interview Shirley Melis as she participates in her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. As I'm no stranger to grief I was interested in how she deals with it and writes about it. Ultimately for both of us, we've learned to survive. Thank you, Shirley, for being here at Choices today. About Banged-Up Heart:  is an intimate and clear-eyed account of finding love late and losing it early—and of the strength it takes to fall deeply in love a second time, be forced to relinquish that love too soon, and yet choose to love again. When her husband of thirty years dies suddenly, Shirley Melis is convinced she will never find another man like Joe. Then she meets John, a younger man who tells her during their first conversation that he has lived for many years with a rare but manageable cancer. She is swept off her feet in a whirlwind courtship, and within months, made brave by the early death of a friend’s husband, she asks him to marry her! What foll … [Read more...]

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Man’s best friend trained to save lives

Jennifer McGregor has written for Choices two other times, presenting  compelling information about  addiction and suicide . Today she writes about man's best friend and how service dogs can be a great asset to veterans in need. Thank you, Jennifer, for your wise words as always. Welcome back! Earning the Title of “Man’s Best Friend”: Service Dogs for Veterans by Jennifer McGregor Photo via Pixabay by skeeze For years, dogs have been designated as “Man’s Best Friend,” but have you ever paused to consider the reason? Besides the outward affection and the inner, fuzzy feeling you get when you own one of these four-legged creatures, there are tons of benefits, like positive changes in your mental and physical health, ability to socialize and interact in the community, and regulated emotional levels. If you’re a veteran, owning a service dog might be the remedy to many of your post-war issues and symptoms. Here’s why: Dogs Are The Cheese To Your Macaroni Service dogs are trai … [Read more...]

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January small stones

I've been faithfully writing my small stones every day - even though my time has been limited the past few weeks. I took on a consulting job three weeks ago back working at my old day job - helping engineers write and produce a proposal to the U.S. Government. It's always interesting and fulfilling and very busy, but doesn't come close to the pleasure I feel when I'm doing my creative work. I'm happy to say the job will be over on February 21. That said, here are my January Gems - my daily attempt at writing a short piece every day of the month. They aren't meant to be masterpieces. Just a way to jump-start my writing for the day. January Gems Happy New Year everyone. I love that we’re still keeping up with our small stones. Let’s make 2017 a great writing year. The floats in the Rose Parade are spectacular. They’re getting more elaborate and tech-y every year. After our recent heavy rains, it’s gotten unseasonably cold here in southern California. But not so cold t … [Read more...]

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Author Rebecca Fitton finds writing is healing

I'm pleased to introduce Rebecca Fitton and her new book of poetry, Wave Rider, as she embarks on her WOW! Women on Writing book tour.   Wave Rider is a poetic reflection of author Rebecca Fitton’s long journey to heal from sexual abuse, abandonment, and neglect, building a new world based on wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. Her journey has taken a lifetime. To use the metaphor of waves, sometimes the undertow nearly drowned her—but she survived. Now her beautiful and profound book offers inspiration to others who have also suffered greatly from abuse. Here's my Review Rebecca Fitton’s Wave Rider, a book of poetry, shares her beginnings as an abused child and her rebirth later in her adulthood. She divides her book of poems into three sections: Darkness: her poems of her life with a mother who doesn’t want her and an uncle who abuses her. She lived in this frozen, silent darkness until she was forty years old. In a poem early in the book, she writes, “I learn … [Read more...]

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Photos from the Women’s March, January 21, Los Angeles

The march was wonderful. What a loving and  inspiring crowd of people. They estimate 750,000 people walked in Los Angeles, causing huge waits to get anywhere. We stood huddled together for long periods of time, and still we smiled, cheered, chanted, sang, and danced. Here are some photos of some of my favorite signs that people carried with them throughout the day. We walked with our local SB Cares group - 140 of us went on buses from the South Bay. (The first two photos and of my friend and day-long march buddy, Debra and myself.) I'm wearing the Spirited Women's Namaste scarf. Will I ever do another march? The answer if a resounding "yes!" Everyone I hear from feels the same way. We loved it! And in the meantime, SB Cares is still working. We've developed several task forces to do what we can to keep moving forward, not backwards to where our new president wants us to be. I'm a co-chair of the Women's Rights task force and a member of the one on mental health. Come join us. Fin … [Read more...]

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How not to ask for a review

I thought this piece in today's New York Times magazine, in The Ethicist section by Kwame Anthony Appiah, is something all of us authors should think about. My husband pointed it out to me, and I totally agree. The Question More and more of my friends are self-publishing books; some I purchase just to support their writers. In this new situation, a dear old friend wants me to give him a five-star review on Amazon and post it on Facebook. I’ve seen a few pages of his book, and it’s a piece of self-indulgent drivel. I don’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings, but I don’t want to sell out either. What do you suggest? Name Withheld Appiah's Answer If you are such good friends, wouldn’t it be better to give him, gently, your opinion of some of the book’s weaknesses? Possibly without actually using the words “self-indulgent drivel”? Self-published books have taken a long dive since the days of Jane Austen, and the new ease of making them, in the digital era, has turned a river of putrefact … [Read more...]

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Women’s March precautions and vigil

I'm so glad I noticed the Women's March precautions posted on Facebook by my friend, Keren Taylor, CEO of one of my favorite non-profits, WriteGirl.   WriteGirl promotes creativity and self- expression to empower girls within a community of women writers. Here's what Keren had to say: If you're going to DC, Boston Los Angeles, SF, etc. to take part in a peaceful gathering, here are some good tips from a wise friend: Keep your cool. Do not offer personal information to unsolicited requests. Stay to the edges of the crowd. Have a meet-up-if-you-get-separated plan. Do not count on your cell phones. Write important information on your forearm in Sharpie. It will wash off eventually. Stay hydrated and never pass up an opportunity to use a toilet. Wear the right shoes Don't carry anything you can't lose. And most important in my mind: LISTEN to the energy and calmly leave if you have any doubts about anything. Please everyone, if you're march … [Read more...]

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Poems from the latest Poem A Day challenge

I have to confess right from the start that I didn't finish the November 2016 Poem A Day (PAD) challenge. I was so caught up in my husband's recovery from his Grand Canyon accident that writing poetry during that time was the last thing on my mind. However, I wrote a poem a day for the first fifteen days. Here's a couple, including the prompts I wrote to. Write a wire poem. A wire poem could be about something that needs wires–like maybe a robot, TV, or automobile. But birds huddle on telephone wires, people wire money to each other, and kids can get wired off of too much candy and/or caffeine. In fact, I’m surprised I haven’t written more wired poems over the years. Birds on the Wire It fascinates me To see those birds Up there on the electrical wires. Don’t their little bird claws Perched around those strands Of metal get hot? They don’t seem to mind their perch. It’s where they come to meet their friends, Learn the latest gossip, And take a short break From their … [Read more...]

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The Women’s March on January 21

On January 21, 2017, I will participate in the Women's March in Los Angeles along with an estimate of more than 1 million women in over 100 cities worldwide. It is anticipated that more than 30,000 will march with me in Los Angeles in support of women’s rights and equality. If you would like to see if there is a march in your city, go here. I'd love for you to join me. How important is this? It is TIME FOR OUR VOICE. One day after the presidential inauguration. TO BE HEARD. The Spirited Woman Prayer Scarf - A Symbol for the Women’s March Worldwide I urge you to stand together with your spiritually conscious sisters and brothers in solidarity by wearing the Spirited Woman Prayer Scarf, whether you attend the march or deeply support it in spirit. I came across the prayer scarf, about a year ago. I was introduced to Nancy Mills, the founder of Spirited Woman  and the Sisterhood of the Sacred Scarves through my friend, author Eleanor Vincent, who will also walk on January 21 in Oakl … [Read more...]

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Thoughts of gratitude in the new year

The holiday season has come and gone once again. As always, I view it as bittersweet. The holidays bring up too many reminders of my son Paul who died just three months shy of his 28th New Year’s Eve birthday. We visited his gravesite on his 45th birthday – as we do on his death day and birthday every year. I also view the holiday season with gratitude. Besides my continued good health, the love and support of so many family members and friends, and my ability to live a productive life, that I can even think in terms of being grateful is a miracle. However, as bad as life was after Paul died, and as much as I continue to miss him, I have found out that with such a tragedy come unexpected gifts. Paul’s death has made me a stronger person, physically and emotionally. It was as if I accomplished getting stronger through brute force. I met and interacted with people who had been through similar experiences; I took writing classes and workshops; I went back to work outside my home with … [Read more...]

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A beautiful clear day in paradise

For the first time since my walk down and up the Grand Canyon (November 16 and 17) I took a walk from my house to the Manhattan Beach Strand. It was beautifully clear and bright out after a much needed heavy rainstorm followed by a day of gusty winds. We can't always see Catalina Island from our shore, but yesterday Catalina was out loud and clear. And although the weather was untypically cool - December is usually as warm as summer -  I loved every minute of exercising outside again. Besides I had no choice. My gym was closed on Christmas day. … [Read more...]

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More small stones

As the year winds down, I'm still in the throes of my husband's reduced physicality as a result of his Grand Canyon accident a little more than one month ago. He's been suffering pain in his back for about ten days, though today he has said for the first time he's feeling much better. After writing small stones every day since last August I stopped writing them on November 16 - the day of his accident, and I didn't resume until exactly one month later - December 16. Here are my November small stones - that our group named November Pearls. November Pearls My stress level is at its peak, this being the last week before the election. I need massage, meditation, Yoga, Pilates, and a sauna. Did I leave anything out? A power outage today inspires me to take some time away from the internet. I celebrate the Cubbies winning the 2016 baseball World Series. They last won in 1908, the year my mother was born. Another hot, still, sunny day in southern California. Will … [Read more...]

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Getting back into the writing groove

Our Grand Canyon adventure and my husband’s healing process have taken me far afield from my writing life. Everything just seemed to stop on November 16. Interesting that I had carefully packed some paper and a pen so I could write a journal entry after my walk down the Grand Canyon that day. Unfortunately I never used them after hearing the news of my husband’s injuries and the challenge I faced in getting back to the rim and to the Flagstaff Medical Center to be with him. However, in this past week I’ve sat myself down at my writing desk and managed to write a couple of poems in response to Robert Lee Brewer’s poem a day challenge – that ended on November 30. And it felt good to “poem” (as Brewer likes to say) again. I am also putting together a new chapbook that I’ll submit for the Frost Place contest that’s due on January 1. Though I’m not back to my writing in full force yet – as you can see from how long it’s been since I wrote my last post here, I’m getting back slowly. … [Read more...]

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Erasing an item from your Bucket List is OK!

I started my Choices blog in November 2007, and one of my very first posts was entitled The Bucket List. And first on the list was climbing down into the Grand Canyon. For the life of me I can't tell you why that was such a prominent item. I do know after finally completing the climb down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, spending the night at Phantom Ranch, and then climbing back up this November 16 and 17 2016, it would have been much better to erase that item from my list and move on to less rigorous and dangerous endeavors. One of my friends completed the climb a few years ago. She warned me not to take the steeper though shorter trail, Kaibab, but to go on the so-called "less steep" Bright Angel trail, which we did. She mentioned the steepness but not the trail's narrowness and the very rocky and slippery terrain (perhaps when she was at the Grand Canyon the trail was less rocky). It goes without saying how close the trail is to massive cliffs on one side. Though none of … [Read more...]

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