Making Change

Making Change

Pumpkins on the porch.

Change resides within us. We are protoplasm in constant change. And yet simply meditating on the word we often have mixed feelings–a child growing taller, a baby learning to walk, a college student finally passing that worrisome class, a new job, a new house, marriage–change, a moving forward. But the other side of the change-coin can be connected to loss. Change doesn’t always have to be about death, but it is about the need for adjustment, for possibly “seeing” our lives in a light not as bright and exciting as youth, but possibly a softer, calmer light. But we are all constantly, though at different rates, making change.

As a young reader, in my tweens, my mother suggested that I read a book by Jan Struther, an English author. The book, MRS MINIVER, began as a series of columns published in THE TIMES London, which were later collected into a book. Many of you will recognize its title because of a film of the same name released in 1942 in the middle of World War II and the Battle of Britain. I liked the film, found it moving as it portrays how an English family faces change during the war, including their experience of Dunkirk.

But I loved the book. And many autumns I went to the shelf in the Walker Branch Library in Chicago, where I knew I would find it–it’s tangerine cover always waiting for me, as if no one else ever checked out this book.

The following quote gives you a taste of what I was drawn to:

“Mrs. Miniver suddenly understood why she was enjoying the forties so much better than she had enjoyed the thirties: it was the difference between August and October, between the heaviness of late summer and the sparkle of early autumn, between the ending of an old phase and the beginning of a fresh one.”

That section went on to praise autumn as the beginning of the year. Many of you might feel as Mrs. Miniver and I do–that autumn IS the beginning. As a teacher and as a student, the ability to wear sweaters, have a pile of freshly purchased notebooks in my arms and to walk through leaves that crunched under my feet into halls of learning–was the beginning. Not January 1st.

I know it was unusual for my young self to be so interested in the thoughts of the main character who really was Jan Struther, an English woman living and writing about a life so totally different from my own. Here is another quote from her book:

“It’s as important to marry the right life as it is the right person.”

Certainly, that idea lodged in my unconscious too, as I was determined that my high school sweetheart, who I have been happily married to for 45 years, and I would see before us a shared life. And as as we dated we talked about what that life would look like, we planned.

In rereading sections of Mrs. Miniver after so many years, I find some of my own mid-life thoughts. Maybe that’s because I have arrived at an experience of life similar to the place she inhabited when she wrote the book. Life is change. Mid-life worries reside in my character Emily in my short story, MAKING CHANGE. Emily relates:

The Medical Center was hyper with people, some in wheelchairs, some on crutches, others being rolled back and forth on gurneys by attendants in bright green scrubs. I watched them going in and out of an elevator that I knew could suck me up into the center of the building and hide me away in some surgical suite. I thought about how warm the dishwater would feel if I were home cleaning up. I imagined the invigorating whip of wet wind that would surround me as I raked leaves in the rain. But I sat.

For a while I tried to trick my mind, pretend I was younger and pregnant, waiting for a checkup. But the game was just that. Going to the doctor’s had meant reading maternity magazines in the waiting area and then getting the news in a pink or blue examining room that my weight was good and the baby was developing nicely. Now the magazines I picked up advised about sunscreen to prevent skin cancers, diets and exercise to ward off weight gain and its companion, diabetes…”

But after a meeting with an old friend who is struggling in ways that Emily never foresaw, Emily makes a promise to herself, to embrace her life.  After a phone call with her husband, she reflects. “We talked. We shared words of love for one another—easily and openly. When we hung up, I found my mind singing Why me Why me—an invigorating question, not a complaining one. Why me to be so lucky to have all that I did have? Why me to now be eager for the future, no matter what it brought?”

Jan Struther wrote that though she enjoyed holidays, she was always relieved when they were over. She writes that the feeling was perhaps:  “…the measure of Mrs. Miniver’s  peculiar happiness—…Her normal life pleased her so well that she was half afraid to step out of its frame in case one day she should find herself unable to get back.”

I love that–the belief in the framework of one’s life. It does go back to accepting and balancing the concept of change. When autumn comes and the leaves fall and the pumpkins go on the porch or firewood is ordered–there is change, but familiar change, the very steady tick and tock of life, comforting and reassuring.

We must embrace it and honor it. And we must do what we can to help others who experience massive change that tears at the heart and soul of their normal living–helping with and accepting the illness of a loved one; being there for a friend who is recently divorced or has lost their home. However life proceeds, change will be part of it. Being able to go with the flow, to find a “measure of peculiar happiness” to be “eager for the future no matter what it brought” will see us through today and into tomorrow. Happy Autumn.

To read all of MAKING CHANGE, check out my collection of stories: A Mother’s Time Capsule. Available here. 

Making Change

Emily wanted to rake leaves in the rain.

Photos, thanks to: Ciao Newport Beach


Behind Our Eyes, The Creative Home Thrives

Behind Our Eyes, The Creative Home Thrives

I’ve written before about James Taylor’s song It’s Enough To Be On Your Way, my personal anthem. Because sometimes we need one to fuel our plans, execute the promises we make to ourselves, and along the way enjoy the ride. The anthem doesn’t have to spring like mine from someone else’s words. It can spring from your own. What matters is the vision of a road up ahead–the future. Life can be lived more fully if each hour of the day burns and glows with usage, and yet allows reflection and a glance at the possibilities in the next one.

For three days I attended what the leaders of Women’s Fiction Writers Association called a writer’s retreat. It included time to be at the keyboard or to have a pen in hand, yet it also encouraged time to talk to others who are all on a similar journey. There were discussions on the nuts and bolts of the writing process–creation, editing, publishing. But the strength of the very concept of gathering sixty writers together who write women’s fiction, was to aid in the process of “building behind your eyes.”

Yes, writers, painters, artists in a medium, and truly anyone who creates by raising or helping, caring for or working with other people knows that ideas often need fertile ground. Behind their eyes, researchers need time to process what they have culled, so that the ideas that prove a thesis begin to form an argument. “Behind the eyes” burn the concepts and ideas that we hope to work with during the creative process–and as James Taylor writes: it’s where thoughts thrive, it’s their home.

Singing oh, it’s enough to be on your way,
it’s enough just to cover ground, it’s enough to be moving on.
Home, build it behind your eyes, carry it in your heart, safe among your own.

When I think of building behind my eyes the world that lives in my fiction, this concept extrapolates from Taylor’s song, but here is the solid story of what fueled it. Taylor’s older brother Alex died of alcoholism on Taylor’s birthday. Though the song refers to an aging hippie chick named Alice, it’s a lament for his brother. Taylor says: “In Paris, a year later I changed his character…and the location to Santa Fe; but my soulful older brother is still all over this song like a cheap suit.”

The home where my fiction lives, where it grows and feeds my characters behind my eyes, could echo what Taylor is lamenting with his brother’s death, the loss of part of home as Taylor thinks of it. He says: “Consensus, just the sense of connection with other people, feels so great, and it motivates an awful lot of what we do. The more successful or thwarted you are as an isolated individual, the more you need reconnection.” YES!

Creativity in your life work, in your life relationships–in the simplest things you do to bring an idea or image to life–thrives in your brain, in your thoughts. That’s where it lives; that is its home. And on days when the clouds seem to cover the sun and life is duller or harder to embrace for whatever reason–it’s great to move into your imagination. To cover some ground (write a letter to a lonely person, prepare a special meal for your family, perform the chore someone has been begging you to do) — or escape into your own creative project or someone else’s by reading, looking at art, listening to music, strolling through an amazing garden.

What you build behind your eyes can even help you deal with the sorrows in life–as it helped Taylor when he mentioned his brother at the very beginning of the song:

So the sun shines on his funeral just the same as on a birth,
the way it shines on everything that happens here on Earth.
It rolls across the western sky and back into the sea
and spends the day’s last rays upon this fucked-up family, so long old pal.

Though our days are full of repetitive motions that keep life going, the ability to find at least one hour each day to build something behind the eyes, to utilize the human power of creativity–can mean the difference between a life devoid of color and one that responds with excitement, one that sparkles, keeps us moving on our way and provides that home in the heart.

Oh, it’s enough to be on your way,
it’s enough to cover ground, it’s enough to be moving on.
Home, build it behind your eyes, carry it in your heart, safe among your own.

Thanks over and over, James Taylor.

Thanks to: Nichole LaPorte Katz • colored pencils nl2013- inspired by “The Host”, by Stephanie Myers

Preserving the Privacy of Parenting

Preserving the Privacy of Parenting

What’s the latest skinny on parenting? Do today’s mothers and fathers read books to determine how they will parent? I did a search and found that many parental guides now have a specific focus: discipline without shouting; how to nurture a child’s brain; how to parent with love and logic and how to parent using the power of less. That is very different from my generation when you purchased one book that commented on all aspects of parenting: Dr. Spock, Penelope Leach, William Sears, and the team of Murkoff and Mazel. And as these books appeared, parents talked about them and how different viewpoints made us question an initial decision so that when the second or third child arrived we were doing things differently.


But my interest for this post is privacy. We live in the Facebook age, the digital age and slowly, without realizing it, the society out there can take over home rule, change the major rules of parenting. Society can subvert some of our initial decisions so that we are becoming lax in one area and maybe over-zealous in another. That just adds to feelings of confusion that all parents have had at one time or another. We question what we should do when the going gets tough. We struggle. But now the struggles about breast feeding versus bottle feeding, what diapers to use, what foods to introduce and when, if the child should sleep with parents, what toys the child should have, when to introduce him to television, when to let her outside in the yard alone, how to handle daycare, what type of preschool to select and on and on–now initial decisions made by the two parents can be pushed aside because others are doing something else. It can become the “copy” generation instead of the “let’s evaluate and discuss” generation.


What’s the solution? Privacy. And I’m not referring to parents who are purposefully harming their children–doing things to them that are worthy of imprisonment–and thus trying to hide it. I’m just talking about a man and a woman who love each other and who sit together and discuss, plan, and decide how they will parent–or sometimes ask their own parents for advice. And know that you will alter and change as your parenting journey unfolds.

The major character in the novel I am completing gives an emotional speech at one point–about the interference that a horrible act perpetrated on her daughter and what it can do to her ability to just breath, to go on living. She doesn’t want to hear about another case, another parent who is suffering as she is. When we bring a child into the world, we deserve the privacy of loving that child and raising that child the best way that we can.

“I don’t want to hear about anyone else. Don’t tell me about anyone else. I’m sick of hurt and sorrow. It’s a private thing, raising a child. So private. I loved Sarah and protected her from the world…”  from ON STRANGE GROUND 


I have written before about the now common thread in our society to SHARE! The word share is a kind word, a loving word, but it can have very deleterious effects on people. We have to draw lines and preserve privacy. It’s just not smart to SHARE so much of our lives on the Internet. Or if we are asking for help or seeking advice, there are ways to then move to a more private way of getting that information. Caution should go along with sharing.


And a final thought for those reading this who are aging parents–don’t deny what you have accomplished. Don’t let the changes in parenting make you question the decisions that you made. I wrote about this previously in a post, RAISING KANE: HOW PARENTHOOD CHANGES. And it does, generation to generation. But there was little my mother did with me that I objected to and now I will uphold all the decisions I made in my own parenting. Why? Because If I made mistakes, they were not intentional–everything I did for my children I did with love.

Yes, society changes, it gets tweaked, but the basic concept of loving and caring for a child doesn’t change. My grandmother was home all day with her children, but she also raised chickens for food, sewed clothing for her four children and maintained a clean house. She didn’t have time to play games with them, but she read to them every night. My mother went to work when I was in the seventh grade, so often I started dinner, folded laundry and always assisted in cleaning the house. When my mother came home–we were hers. When I was raising 3 children, I took care of my house and made all the meals, helped with homework and drove my children to extracurricular experiences–but they had chores and responsibility. I think that’s good and I admire women who today work full-time and set up the chore list. It helps build character and responsibility.

So moms-with-kids reading this–don’t change what you think is right because someone on FB is doing it differently. Don’t SHARE all your parenting skills. If you have special ones, then write a book instead. Let someone read and decide if they need to change what they are doing. Hold close to your heart much of your parenting journey and teach your children that some things are okay to SHARE, but others belong in what my mother would call “the bosom of the family.” Keep elements of your family history close to the heart where private matters should stay.

Thanks to: and

Preserving the Privacy of Parenting

Beyond the Tooth-Brushing Routine

Beyond the Tooth-Brushing Routine

You wouldn’t even guess that this garden doesn’t need that much water.

What immediately comes to your mind when you hear the word water?

  • a cold drink

  • a hot shower

  • a dip in a pool

  • that you are thirsty and need to hydrate

  • that your body is around 75% water

  • your vegetable garden

  • that your area needs rain

Or maybe you think storms, flooding, hurricanes. No mater what the word water triggers in your brain, it is an absolutely essential and invaluable resource, one that with global warming and climate change we must honor and use wisely. And in our daily lives right now, it is no longer just about not running the water while brushing your teeth.

I now live in California and thus my care-free days of watching storm after storm plow through the plains of Iowa are over. And when growing up in Chicago, we would look at Lake Michigan and never fear that it would dry up and we wouldn’t have water. California and other states out west are a different story. In California, it hardly ever rains, though we are hoping for an El Nino that could bring lots of rain via the ocean. FINGERS CROSSED. In the meantime, it won’t hurt anyone living in the U.S. to consider conserving water.

Truly the ability to turn on the tap and get clean fresh water is something we have all taken for granted. Now conserving or reusing water is becoming as important as recycling.

A friend from Chicago was recently visiting and stepped up to wash the dishes. A wonderful gesture, but habits die hard and the water was flowing. I had to kindly stop the process, as conserving water is now part of how I do things. Yes, there is always room for improvement, but I am getting there.

  1. Preparing and Cooking Food. It’s amazing how much water we use during this process. When cleaning vegetables, set a strainer over another container to catch the water–and don’t have the tap running full-blast, use a brush to scrub instead of the pressure of the water to do the cleaning. The saved water can be used in your garden or to water your house plants.
  2. Make sure you have a low-flow faucet (1.5 gallons per minute) so that you aren’t running water and money down the drain.
  3. Don’t use water to defrost foods, but think ahead and defrost in your refrigerator.
  4. When boiling pasta, potatoes, veggies, just cover the food with water. You will save water and the fuel necessary to heat an amount that is not necessary. Plus more nutrients will stay in your vegetables and not be thrown away with the water. After your meal, when this water has cooled, use it again in your garden.
  5. The Cleanup. Energy-efficient dishwashers are the best way to wash dishes. However, not everything can go in the machine–so first, load it up. Then turn on the faucet is get hot water flowing (dish washers work faster if they start with hot water) but save that hot water in a tub or large cooking pan and after adding soap wash up those items that can’t go in the dishwasher. Don’t just let the water run. Turn on only when you need to rinse. You’ll get used to this process and find yourself turning off the tap after each rinse. IT DOES BECOME A HABIT.
  6. Other Kitchen Tips. Compost food scraps or have a medium-size garbage basket with a liner for your after-meal cleanup. Garbage disposals might be going away, as they require lots of water to flush and prevent clogging.
  7. Buy a container and keep water in your fridge so you don’t have to run the tap to cool water down. And don’t buy bottled water, which requires water in the manufacturing process not to mention filling up landfills.
  8. If you spill ice cubes on your floor, you can always put them in your plants or collect and toss in your garden.
  9. Showers, Sinks, Toilets, Hoses: To heat up shower water, collect the cool and again save for other purposes. Use low-flow shower heads and limit your time in the shower as each minute of showering is 5-7 gallons of water.
  10. When washing your car, use a hose that allows you to turn the water on and off–don’t let it just run into the street.
  11. When possible, purchase high-efficiency toilets. They use 1.28 or less gallons of water per flush. Using these could cut indoor water use by as much as 20%. Older toilets use 3.5 to 7 gallons per flush. And don’t use a toilet for a wastebasket. Have one right there in the bathroom, instead!
  12. If your water bill is high, have a plumber check for water leaks.
  13. Install faucet aerators. Older faucets use between 3 and 7 gallons per minute. Low-flow faucet aerators use no more than 1.5 gallons of water per minute. The aerators can be attached to most existing faucets.
  14. Install drip irrigation instead of using sprinklers that waste water because of evaporation. And depending on the zone you live in, replace water sucking plants with drought-tolerant.
  15. Create a new mantra; CAPTURE THE WATER! and discover how many ways you can do this.

I am sure there are many more ways to save water. We learn as we go. When in July we Californians were treated to two days of wonderful rain, I went out and bought a new plastic garbage can to place under a gutter and also to store pots and buckets of water saved from showering, washing veggies etc. Rain barrels are a great investment if your house can accommodate one.

I do remember the years of brushing my teeth and just watching that water go down the drain. Those days are long gone. You don’t need to live in the western states to realize that saving water is part of our future. So get in the habit and share ways that you save.

Photo: Thanks to


When Novels Speak to Your Decorating

My friend Joan knows me all too well. After visiting my home in California, she sent me a gift, a coffee table book by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti entitled, NOVEL INTERIORS. It’s a gorgeous book with captions from well-loved novels and photos of interiors and exteriors that illustrate the feeling, the mood of the literature–for decorating is art, writing is art and they combine. Excited about this book, I took some of the literary excerpts from it and illustrated them for this post.

The photos are part of a collection that I have created over the years, tearing from my favorite magazines the rooms and gardens that I absolutely love. So I hope you enjoy the combination of words and pictures. Maybe they will inspire you as they do me.

“Don’t let us make it tidy,” said Mary anxiously. “It wouldn’t be a secret garden if it was tidy.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, THE SECRET GARDEN

When Novels Speak to Your Decorating

A lovely secret garden.













“The people whom she had hitherto known just put what they had or could get into their homes, old things, and new things, side by side with each other.” Flora Thompson, LARK RISE TO CANDELFORD

When Novels Speak to Your Decorating

Color, shapes, comfort, sunshine all side by side.














“She has the idea that one night in your house would give her pleasure and do her good…Being one of those imaginative girls, the presence of all our books and furniture soothes her.” E.M. Forster, HOWARDS END

When Novels Speak to Your Decorating

I could sink into that chair and never leave, book in hand.

“Jo hurried to this quiet place, and curling herself up in the easy chair, devoured poetry, romance, history, travels, and pictures like a regular bookworm.” Louisa May Alcott, LITTLE WOMEN

When Novels Speak to Your Decorating

A cozy corner, sunshine and books!!













“If people do but know how to set about it, every comfort may be as well enjoyed in a cottage as in the most spacious dwelling.” Jane Austen. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

When Novels Speak to Your Decorating

Simplicity but with warmth and color.














“Nothing matched anything else. Everything was of an exotic brilliance that took away the breath. ‘Not the room of a lady,’ thought Miss Pettigrew.” Winifred Watson, MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY

Nothing matched anything else. Everything was of an exotic brilliance that took away the breath. 'Not the room of a lady,' thought Miss Pettigrew." Winifred Watson, MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY

Bold, bright and wonderful.












“It struck me that the seasons sometimes gain by being brought into the house, just as they gain by being brought into painting, and into poetry.” Willa Cather, THE PROFESSOR’S HOUSE

When Novels Speak To Your Decorating

Nature in art and from the garden.














“Picking up the cushions…that Mary had desposed so carefully, she threw them back on to the chairs and the couches. That made all the difference; the room came alive at once.” Katherine Mansfield, “BLISS”

When Novels Speak To Your Decorating

A gorgeous collection of pillows and cushions.











“I’m glad you appreciate my sofa,”replied Mme. Verdurin, “and I warn you that if you expect ever to see another like it you may as well abandon the idea at once.” Marcel Proust, SWANN’S WAY

When Novels Speak To Your Decorating

I would think the Mademoiselle would love this sofa.












Photos from Better Homes and Gardens, Meredith Books, Mary Engelbreit Home Companion and Anthropologie. HAPPY DECORATING, HAPPY READING.

The Pain of an Anniversary, June 5, 1968

The Pain of an Anniversary, June 5, 1968

Juan Romero working to cradle RFK’S head.

Do we think about time passing when we are engulfed in it? Not always, that’s why sometimes we look at today’s date and say Wow, time flies.

But time can drag too, especially when we are in pain or lonely or awaiting some legal or medical decision that will profoundly affect our lives. If your experience of time is whizzing by, it might be a sign that things are going smoothly for you.

Why Anniversary and PTSD 

But time can drag if a person is in pain, if a person dreads the anniversary of an event. The very word anniversary comes from the Latin anniversārius meaning: recurring yearly. For Juan Romero in the photo above, the calendar’s movement toward the month of June hung over his head every year, a dark and debilitating cloud. A memory associated with June had affected the flow of time for Romero, reopening a wound in his psyche that often hindered his day to day living. Here’s the story.

Where Were You June 5, 1968?

Most of you reading Boomer Highway will remember what you were doing on November 22, 1963. And for the same reason, many of you will remember what was happening in your life on June 5, 1968. I was a junior at Mundelein College, studying for final exams. I probably heard the news on the radio early on the 6th, after staying up all night to study. Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated, like his brother John, as he walked through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He had just given a rousing speech after winning the California presidential primary.

For Juan Romero, a seventeen-year-old who worked in the kitchen of the hotel carrying trays for room service, that June day has for years been a day of pain, regret and guilt. The above iconic photo, taken by Boris Yaro of the Los Angeles Times and Bill Eppridge of Life Magazine, captures the horror of the moment. Kennedy was walking through the kitchen to get to his car, only to be felled by an assassin’s bullet. And that is Juan Romero, kneeling at RFK’s head in the photo.

“I wanted to protect his head from the cold concrete,” Romero told Steve Lopez for the affecting article that appeared in the LA TIMES. (Lopez has been in touch with Romero over the years.) Romero also told the reporter that he went to school the next day with Kennedy’s blood under his fingernails, refusing to wash it away.

Anxiety, Guilt and A Handshake from RFK

After that day, whenever June would come around, so would the memory of RFK’s death, a memory that stunted some of Romero’s choices, because his ability to move into the future had been damaged, a cloud of guilt pushing its way into his life. Why?

Romero relates that earlier that week, he had delivered a tray to RFK’s door: “He made me feel like a human being. He didn’t look at my color, he didn’t look at my position…and like I tell everybody, he shook my hand, I didn’t ask him.”

But the handshake is the reason that guilt plagued Romero for many years, because that June 5th night when RFK walked through the hotel kitchen, he paused to shake Romero’s hand again. And that gesture of Kennedy’s has keep Romero awake many nights, wondering if that brief pause had not occurred if Kennedy would have been spared the assassin’s bullet.

Claudia Zwiener Helps Romero

Though many like Lopez have tried to help Romero, it was Claudia Zwiener, a special-needs child therapist, who finally helped him accept and deal with his guilt. She made him see by looking at the photos of that awful night, that Romero hadn’t fled the scene but had remained, extended his humanity to the dying man. He was finally able to get this by studying the photos: “I saw a person in need and another person trying to help him.”

Romero has taken a life-lesson from this terrible loss, “that no matter how much hope you have, it can be taken away in a second.”

A Rosary and RFK’s Words

Now 65, Romero is at peace with the events of that night, though it took him 47 years to get to that place. Yes, he will always remember Kennedy, but it is easier now for him to relate all the details of that personal connection. That night he had rosary beads in his pocket and he pushed them into Kennedy’s hands as the man lay mortally wounded. He also insists that Kennedy spoke.

Romero told Lopez: “First he (Kennedy) asked, ‘Is everybody OK?’ and I told him, ‘Yes, everybody’s OK.’ And then he turned away from me and said, ‘Everything’s going to be OK.’ ”

Romero also relates that during that brief interchange, one of Kennedy’s eyes blinked and his leg twitched. Photos of that event show Romero next to RFK, but everyone else was at some distance. Zwiener helped Romero see value in himself once again. She knew that when the anniversary of that day came every year, so would the sorrow associated with it return, like experiencing the trauma all over again. When simple objects such as a photograph, or events such as a birthday party, bring traumatic memories to mind, people often try to bar the unwanted experience from their minds so as to proceed with life, with varying degrees of success. We now call this post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

Seeking Peace

Personal connections like these are the experience of many of us. And it doesn’t have to occur with a prominent person—reaching out to help someone in a trauma, a crisis, a stop in the free-flow of our lives and time—they stay with us. Peace only comes with reconciling why we were there and what role we played. Guilt doesn’t change the pain, but if you are harboring some unrest that plagues you like it did Romero, you need to speak to someone, to find a way to forgive yourself or at the very least inject some logic into what happened. When a dreaded anniversary comes around, being able to accept it with peace and a feeling of calm will help you and those you love. Life can be difficult enough without the searing and debilitating pain of memories.

For more on this story go here. To learn more about PTSD go here.

Photos from the LA TIMES

 The Pain of an Anniversary, June 5, 1968Robert F. Kennedy, campaigning.









Boomer Highway’s Very Late Summer Non-fiction Picks

Boomer Highway's Very Late Summer Non-fiction Picks

I love fiction, but non-fiction is good for you–and just like balancing your diet, now and again non-fiction should be your reading choice. Here are a few that will whet the appetite. And because we now often have hot weather in September, I’m still calling these Summer Non-Fiction Picks!

Boomer Highway's Very Late Summer Non-fiction Picks

1. During a time when I attended the University of Iowa Summer Writing Workshop, I had the privilege of working with writer David Payne, author of many novels including Gravesend Light and Back to Wando Passo. Payne was a sensitive and helpful teacher, a sharer of ideas and emotions. His newly published memoir, Barefoot to Avalon reflects such a persona. It recounts the time he was moving to North Carolina and on the road, through his rearview mirror, he watched his brother George A. who was driving another vehicle to help him, lose control, flip the truck over and die. Payne relates that the death of George A., a manic depressive, had such a powerful impact on him that his career as a writer stopped, his marriage disintegrated and his drinking increased. George’s death brought to the forefront a family history of suicide, mental illness and alcoholism and he realized the only way to dispel these ghosts was to write. Jay McInerney relates that this book is “one of the most powerful and penetrating memoirs I’ve ever read; it is fiercely honest, deeply engaging, and utterly heartbreaking.” Through this work, Payne is able to reveal the legacy of sibling rivalries and to break open family silences–the only way to free himself from haunting and debilitating memories.

Boomer Highway's Very Late Summer Non-fiction Picks

2. Next up: On Immunity: An Inoculation, by Eula Bliss. One critic writes: “On Immunity casts a spell. . . . There’s a drama in watching this smart writer feel her way through this material. She’s a poet, an essayist, and a class spy. She digs honestly into her own psyche and into those of ‘people like me,’ and she reveals herself as believer and apostate, moth and flame.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times    Why did Bliss dig and spy–because as a new mother she realized she had fears–fears about her child’s future and health, about immunizations, the government, the medical establishment and what’s in her baby’s mattress, food and air. But she came to the conclusion that you cannot immunize your child from the world and as she investigated the very concept of immunity and then the uproar over vaccination, she finds that she: “…sanely takes on the anti-vaccine mob.”—Vanity Fair    An award-winning book, Bliss relates how she read and became convinced that we are all interconnected–our bodies and our fates.

Boomer Highway's Very Late Summer Non-fiction Picks

3. In his comprehensive and helpful book, Being Mortal, Dr. Atul Gawande, author of Complications, Better, The Checklist Manifesto, once again forges new territory as he educates physicians, other medical personnel and us about the importance of choice when one is severely ill or close to death. Thus this is a book every Boomer or person who is a caregiver must read, because though doctors are trained to heal and to save, more and more patients and their caregivers realize that how we will be living, the quality of life we will have should be a major consideration when making difficult decisions about surgery, chemotherapy, and clinical trials.

Gawande recounts the story of a daughter whose father was hospitalized with cancer–a tumor growing and filling his spinal column. While driving across the Golden Gate Bridge to her home, she was thinking about her father’s surgery that was scheduled for the following morning and all that the doctor had said. Close to midnight, she suddenly realized that she didn’t really know what her father wanted, though the doctor had talked about possible outcomes–but nothing had been settled. She drove back to the hospital, waking her father and asking him: If the surgery results in you gradually becoming a quadriplegic is that really acceptable? When he finally answered, he said yes, as long as he could eat chocolate ice cream and read he would accept the gradual loss of movement that might occur. The daughter and her father had the necessary conversation, so that depending on the results of the surgery — if he woke up or if for some unknown reason he didn’t wake up — she knew — no intubation, no Intensive Care Unit for months and months because that would mean no chocolate ice cream, no reading.

That’s what Gawande emphasizes in this book: choice. And he takes us on his own personal journey of watching Hospice nurses do their work when his father is dying. Amazed at how they approach a dying client and how they are able to help this person choose what they need as the last journey begins–Gawande becomes an advocate for hospice. He writes: When it is hard to know what will happen, it is hard to know what to do. But the challenge, I’ve come to see, is more fundamental than that. One has to decide whether one’s fears or one’s hopes are what should matter most. (taken from my article in the Huffington Post.)

Boomer Highway's Very Late Summer Non-fiction Picks

4. Meanwhile There Are Letters The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald. Edited by Suzanne Marrs and Tom NolanIf you like reading mainstream novels and short stories (Eudora Welty) or if you prefer detective novels with murder and mayhem (Ross Macdonald) or if you are fascinated by two people having a relationship through letters that covers not only writing but current history and then slips into profoundly romantic missives, then you will enjoy this book. One reviewer calls it: a prose portrait of two remarkable artists and one unforgettable relationship. Though they only met six times or so at writing conferences, their feelings for each other were deep and passionate. In the Washington Post Review, Michael Dirda recounts that in 1973 Macdonald interrupted Reynolds Price who was speaking about Welty saying: “No, you don’t understand. You love Eudora as a friend. I love her as a woman.” And when Macdonald was beginning to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease, Welty was still writing to him about her feelings: “Dear Ken, I have all your letter to keep me company. Every day of my life I think of you with love. Yours always, Eudora.”

Boomer Highway's Very Late Summer Non-fiction Picks

5. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics  by Daniel James Brown. You will learn a great deal about rowing, about the making of the shell that is a rowers boat and the sport itself–the position of each rower, the talent and endurance each needs so they can obtain the perfect unison that moves the shell forward to victory. Featuring the lives of the nine men who were not born to wealth and position like some of the rowers they competed with–but who were the sons of loggers, shipyard workers and farmers from the state of Washington–this book recounts how they bonded as a team and rowed to gold as Adolf Hitler stood fuming. Even given the worst position on the competition lake, these tough Americans were still able to row to victory.

Wishing you HAPPY SUMMER READING and if you’ve recently read a work of nonfiction that will remain on your bookshelf as a favorite, please share.

P.S. A Mother’s Time Capsule, my collection of stories about motherhood, available on Amazon at But it’s fiction!

Boomer Highway's Very Late Summer Non-fiction Picks

Daily, Nature Pours Out Poetry. Watch for It.

Daily, Nature Pours Out Poetry. Watch for It.

Morning Poem    by Mary Oliver

Every morning the world is created.

Under the orange sticks of the sun the heaped ashes of the night turn into leaves again and fasten themselves to the high branches–and the ponds appear like black cloth on  which are painted islands of summer lilies.

If it is your nature to be happy you will swim away along the soft trails for hours, your imagination alighting everywhere.

And if your spirit carries within it the thorn that is heavier than lead–if it’s all you can do to keep on trudging–there is still somewhere deep within you a beast shouting that the earth is exactly what it wanted–

each pond with its blazing lilies is a prayer heard and answered lavishly, every morning, whether or not you have ever dared to be happy, whether or not you have ever dared to pray.

from Dream Work (1986) by Mary Oliver © Mary Oliver

Daily, Nature Pours Out Poetry. Watch for It.


Daily, Nature Pours Out Poetry. Watch for It.












Why I Wake Early    by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face. Hello, you who make the morning and spread it over the fields and into the faces of the tulips and the nodding morning glories, and into the windows of, even, the miserable and the crotchety–

best preacher that ever was, dear star, that just happens to be where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness, to ease us with warm touching, to hold us in the great hands of light–

good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now , how I start my day in happiness, in kindness.

Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems Volume II

Mary Oliver: A private person by nature, Mary Oliver has given very few interviews over the years. Instead, she prefers to let her work speak for itself. And speak it has, for the past five decades, to countless readers. The New York Times recently acknowledged Mary Oliver as “far and away, this country’s best-selling poet.” Born in a small town in Ohio, Oliver published her first book of poetry in 1963 at the age of 28; No Voyage and Other Poems, originally printed in the UK by Dent Press, was reissued in the United States in 1965 by Houghton Mifflin. Oliver has since published many works of poetry and prose.

I want to thank my good friend and fellow writer Diana for sharing her gorgeous photos of spring in Newfoundland where she lives. How amazing to awaken to spring and visions like these right outside your door. On those days when I am fortunate to be able to take a walk, I always find something delightful for my eyes and my spirit. So watch for the poetry that nature so generously gives.

Daily, Nature Pours Out Poetry. Watch for It.


Dear Women, Are You Depressed?

Dear Women, Are You Depressed?

Dr. Margaret Rutherford, a clinical psychologist, understands the difficulty that occurs when you might think you are depressed, but you really don’t want to seek medical help. Previously, she did a survey which I shared on Boomer Highway, Dear Men: Are You Depressed? Take a Survey. It was very successful and you can go to her blog to read some of her findings.

Now she is focussing on women and she again asked me to share a survey with my readers. She created this so that you can ask yourself some questions, possibly getting a better handle on whether you might be depressed.

To take the survey go here. You will be asked to take the survey using a Google Form which requires checking a circle.

If you are curious before going to her site, here are the questions:

10 Question Survey: Female Depression and Openness To Therapy

Depression symptoms include being sad or discontented most of the time, having a negative outlook on things, being fatigued, having no or little desire for sex, finding little pleasure in what you do (even if you used to love doing it). Perhaps having anger outbursts that come out of nowhere. Not sleeping or wanting to sleep all the time. Having trouble concentrating or making decisions. Maybe feeling nothing at all. Just numb. It may be you try to fix it, by overspending, drinking, overworking. Throwing yourself into something. Focusing on others. It can come on gradually or can be triggered by an event or a loss. In severe cases, it includes having thoughts of hurting yourself.
Given this, could you answer a few questions?

Do you think you have ever been depressed?
Whether or not you answered yes or no, please answer the next few questions.

What might keep you from telling someone if you were depressed?
Others would think I was weak or think less of me.
They might not keep it confidential.
Depression is not something I would admit easily.
I never talk about how I really feel.
Belief I will get over it.

Would you be more likely to tell a female or a male?

Would you talk to your family physician and seek medication?

Would you talk to him/her but not seek medication.
Would you consider going into therapy if you felt depressed?

If you would consider going or have ever gone into therapy, please check the major reasons.
Believe getting problems out in the open is good.
Talked to a friend who had gone into therapy that had been helpful.
At my wits end and tired of feeling this way.
Fear of hurting myself.
Realization that my symptoms were having a negative impact on others.
Can afford or if a struggle financially, it’s worth it.
Getting negative feedback at work or concern from friends.
Husband/partner asked me to do it.
History of abuse I have never shared that I am ready to talk about.
Don’t mind asking for help. Think it’s okay to rely on others.
Don’t want to take medication or if on, want to try to stop.

Please check major reasons if you would not consider going into therapy.
Someone would find out.
Am uncomfortable talking.
Feel that it is weak.
Have never asked for help. Am independent.
Don’t believe that others need to know your problems.
Mental health professionals are weird people.
I don’t believe in depression.
Can’t afford financially.
It wouldn’t be worth it, even if I could afford it. Have other financial burdens.
Don’t have time.
Don’t think I would ever commit suicide.
Suicide is a right and an option.
Think it will go away.
Drink or smoke pot regularly to take care of it.
Would rather take medication.

Would you prefer a male or a female therapist?

Some quick questions about you.

Living together

Do you define yourself as heterosexual?

We might have missed something. Please tell us in your own words why you might or might not seek therapy , especially if you were depressed or suicidal

Dr. Rutherford stresses that this is anonymous. Going to her website and doing the survey takes 5 to 10 minutes. She needs all ages. And please know that the results will be used in her upcoming book “Perfectly Hidden Depression” which she will be posting on her  website

So click on the following link and take the survey. It can be found in this blog post: 

I’m going to head over there now and take the survey to help her out! Thanks for reading.

Thanks to Huffington Post and for photos

Dear Women, Are You Depressed?

Boomer Highway’s Summer Fiction Picks

Boomer Highway's Summer Fiction Picks

Pick out a shady place and a comfortable cushion. Pick out an apple or a peach and finally pick up a good summer read. Here are a few choices from Boomer Highway.

Ann Beattie: The State We’re In: Maine Stories

Boomer Highway's Summer Fiction Picks


Anne Beattie’s latest work seems to be echoing the oeuvre of Elizabeth Strout whose Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge was a series of stories, most focusing on Olive and her life, others tangential to the town of Crosby, Main—Olive’s town “at the edge of the continent.” Beattie does something similar in her new collection of stories entitled The State We’re In, setting many of the stories in Maine and focusing on the character of Jocelyn, a teen who is attending summer school while living with her aunt and uncle. But Jocelyn has been chosen not to speak particularly about geography, but about the state we’re in, our modern life, the condition of things now. Margaret Atwood writes that Beattie’s work is: “like a fresh bulletin from the front: we snatch it up, eager to know what’s happening out there on the edge of that shifting and dubious no-man’s-land known as interpersonal relations.”

Marilynne Robinson: Lila

Boomer Highway's Summer Fiction Picks 

Marilynne Robinson has to be one of the greatest craftsman writing today. Her novels starting with Gilead in 2004, Home in 2008 and now Lila, tell the story of two preachers and their families in the small town of Gilead, Iowa—a place so real and fresh that you want to go there, though it exists only in Robinson’s mind. In fact, after dedicating her older books to family and friends, the dedication in Lila reads simply To IOWA. Having lived in the state for sixteen years and having attended the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Workshops, the state and Robinson (who is currently teaching at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop) mean a great deal to me. Lila tells the story of a woman whose early hardscrabble existence she finds difficult to put aside when she wanders into Gilead, later to become the second wife of the preacher, John Ames. When they first speak she tells him: “I don’t trust nobody,” and he replies, “No wonder you’re tired.” Robinson reveals the strength and power of a life that will go on—as Lila finds her way in a world often unkind to her, but one she has taken to her heart, discovering its healing power. “She liked to do her wash. Sometimes fish rose for the bubbles. The smell of the soap was a little sharp, like the smell of the river. In that water you could rinse things clean. It might be a little brown after a good rain, soil from the fields, but the silt washed away or settled out.”  For more about Lila go here.

Anne Tyler: A Spool of Blue Thread

Boomer Highway's Summer Fiction Picks





Always one of my favorite authors, Anne Tyler muses that A Spool of Blue Thread might be her last book. I hope not. I remember reading an early interview of Tyler’s, that fascinated me as a beginning writer–because she related that she sat on a couch in a room at the top of her house in Baltimore, writing her novels on sheets of paper with a cheap black ink pen. And she did this Monday through Thursday, saying that Fridays were for grocery shopping and having such things done as tire rotation. Tyler is the closest to an ordinary woman and an extraordinary writer than anyone could be. And thus her latest novel is again about a complicated family whose major goal is the  American dream–that if you work hard and don’t break the rules, you’ll find some gold in the corners of your life. But instead the Whitshanks find difficult marriages, early death and the inability to accept a son who likes to wander. So it’s not gold they find but a spool of blue thread, necessary for a repair to a piece of clothing, but symbolic of the ability to repair and move on, which is often the legacy of family.

Kathryn Craft: The Far End of Happy 

Boomer Highway's Summer Fiction Picks





I met Kathryn Craft through Women’s Fiction Writers Association and she has become a friend and mentor. Her first published novel The Art Of Falling, pulled from her life as a dancer and one familiar with Philadelphia’s dance world. But this, her second novel, is writing that cuts to the bone of life, her own personal life. Here is a book blurb from her blog: Ronnie’s husband is supposed to move out today. But when Jeff pulls into the driveway drunk, with a shotgun in the front seat, she realizes nothing about the day will go as planned. The next few hours spiral down in a flash, unlike the slow disintegration of their marriage—and whatever part of that painful unraveling is Ronnie’s fault, not much else matters now but these moments. Her family’s lives depend on the choices she will make—but is what’s best for her best for everyone? Based on a real event from the author’s life, The Far End of Happy is a chilling story of one troubled man, the family that loves him, and the suicide standoff that will change all of them forever.

In its review, the Library Journal emphasizes Craft’s personal strength and amazing skill. “Craft’s second novel is based on the author’s experience with a standoff involving her husband, which adds real, raw, emotion to the plot. Framing the novel within a 12-hour period keeps the pages turning.”

Anthony Doerr: All The Light We Cannot See

Boomer Highway's Summer Fiction Picks

Many of you have heard of this New York Times best selling book and might have read it. Author Doerr’s website reads: Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks. When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris in June of 1940, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives. But the trajectory of this story takes off when Marie-Laure crosses the path of Werner, a German orphan boy whose specialty during the war is tracking members of the Resistance.

So enjoy the rest of summer and find some time to pick a book that will seal all of summer’s delights. Reading something intriguing, something you love??  Please share.

And if you haven’t read it, I offer my book of stories, A Mother’s Time Capsule–stories about all aspects of motherhood.  


Boomer Highway's Summer Fiction Picks