21st Century Living

Sticky Stuff

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You know how it is: something sticky gets on the kitchen floor and no matter what you do (spot cleaning the floor, wiping the bottom of your slippers) NOTHING gets rid of the sticky stuff that appears on your walking surface unless you do a thorough scrubbing & cleaning. (I know of what I speak as I had to do that just this morning.)

Life is like that as well: daily matters constantly go awry, what used to be the norm blows up into something unrecognizable, and what seemed to work before just doesn’t cut it any more.

Is it me who is at issue? Is it everyone else?

Let’s pretend it’s everyone else. Even if that is the case, there’s still nothing I can do to change everyone else so it’s up to me to adjust how I handle that very unlikely source of stickiness.

If it’s me, the onus is on me to figure out what is needed to attain a status quo with which I can once again be happy. If I don’t do something to change things up, I’ll continue to walk around with stickiness on my shoes, reminding me with every step that unless I get to the source of the sticky and eradicate it, I’m…well…stuck with it.

In a couple months, I will be 69 years of age. I have had many opportunities to examine what’s what when it comes to emotional and physical quality of life. Each and every time such an examination takes place, I have the option of pretending nothing is wrong, of pointing the finger at someone else, or being honest with myself – and therefore with others  – by making adjustments that will get rid of the gunk that insists on hanging around.

More often than not, I’ve settled on the third option and more often than not, such a plan has worked well to unstick my life. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always the right thing to do.

Assigning blame to others or other circumstances rarely provides an actionable benefit.

At least that has been my experience. What about you?

 

 

 

Impermanence

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Days. Weeks. Months. Years.

NOTHING LASTS FOREVER.

Impermanence could be interpreted as being 100% negative, but I don’t see it that way. Keep in mind, just as the good times don’t last forever, the same can be said for the bad times.

Caveat: I know that is not always the case as I have lost close loved ones to Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other terminal diseases. Terminal conditions exist and are the epitome of impermanence. And speaking to the world’s current situation, wars are not easily “won” and they ALWAYS cause irreparable damage.

In this post I am primarily referring to the impermanence of everyday life with its minor sicknesses, aches and pains, emotionally rife periods of time, or any situation from which we want to escape. In most circumstances, the maxim “this too shall pass” becomes a truism, albeit rarely to perfection and not always on our timeline.

Where does the concept of hope come in? Or does it?

When the world experiences a multi-year dire global health situation and one country’s horrific and inhumane assault on another, the concept of hope does not seem remotely possible. But quite often, undesirable circumstances do change and that is the impermanence on which I am relying. Pandemics and wars will “end” but the lives that were lost and the damage that was inflicted are not positive outcomes. But this year I am endeavoring to nourish my hope quotient so whatever I can do to have success in that venture is what I am going to do. One region’s tragedy is every region’s tragedy so every region can be involved in doing its part to support those devastated by the current world condition.

That is why whether we are people who practice traditional prayer, or those who dedicate their energy in different ways towards healing, reconciliation, and recovery…

NOW IS THE TIME TO COMMIT TO SUCH A PRACTICE.

Will a change happen overnight? Probably not, but not trying won’t get us there any sooner.

 

 

Hate is not the opposite of love…

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APATHY IS.

The existential philosopher Rollo May maintained a different perspective of opposites, as stated above. I like his take on the love/hate continuum.

We aren’t necessarily meant to love everyone – love having a different degree of emotion depending on the situation – but not caring about a person’s plight, not giving them the time of day or a second or first thought seems cruel.

Merriam Webster defines apathy as follows:

  • impassiveness or indifference

The Oxford dictionary provides this definition:

  • lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern

And finally, Dictionary.com offers this take:

  • lack of interest in or concern for things others find moving; freedom from emotion of any kind

Ugh, all those definitions leave me feeling emotionally bereft, and being on the receiving end of someone’s apathy would be devastating, wouldn’t it? The following example is extreme, but relevant nonetheless:

A man falls down on a crowded sidewalk and each person who encounters him walks over or around him without offering assistance.

Okay, like me you’re thinking, “No way would I do that, I would offer whatever help I could so I am not guilty of such behavior.” But what about the time I tried to avoid a particular neighbor because said neighbor always waylaid me in conversation for what I considered an interminable amount of time? Yep, I did that several weeks ago when an elderly neighbor turned the corner onto my street when I was at the curb to pick up my mail. With my head down I retrieved the mail and quickly walked back into my house.

Lordy I felt guilty, as I should have. I had nowhere else to go and nothing else to do, yet I didn’t allow this person an opportunity to engage in conversation with me – perhaps a much needed bit of socialization for her day. Five minutes out of my non-busy day to connect with someone…was that too much to ask? No, it was not. I have reformed since that time, seeking out opportunities to provide socially engaging respite for this woman and her canine companion. I didn’t like the Irene that previously ignored this neighbor; I don’t want to spend time with that Irene, ever again.

The cost of apathy is a far too high price to pay. I certainly cannot afford it.

Can you?

 

 

Making an Impression

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It’s true, that we only get one chance to make a first impression, but can we improve upon those incidents when we perhaps fell short of rendering a positive one?

I certainly hope so.

At my age, I have known for quite some time the importance of getting it right the first time but that doesn’t guarantee perfection in presentation. Even as a published author with countless editors working on perfecting my two novels, edits still needed to be implemented before publication so that you, the reader, could have a smooth reading experience.

Even more important than making sure my novels convey what I intend for them to say, is the way I present myself to you so that I respect you and your time – whether a 325 page novel, a 3 minute conversation, or a 3 minute blog post.

On a personal note, I know I have left horrible, lasting, first impressions of which at the time I was fully aware. I also know that there were – and are – other times when I obliviously missed the mark and stuck my foot in it.

Other than my earlier-in-life missteps that got in the way of me leaving a positive first impression, there are times when distraction or inattention were the culprits for me leaving a sour note in the minds and hearts of those I encountered.

That personal realization helps me to better understand the actions of others with whom I come in contact. Everyone is going through something, and some of those somethings are more serious than others so it’s no wonder words, actions, and attitudes are affected.

As observers, it’s all about leaving judgment behind and letting compassion and loving kindness come to the forefront as needed…

AND IT’S ALWAYS NEEDED.

 

Words Matter

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Words hold so much power: power to harm and power to heal. This post is about words that have the power to heal.

I am a writer with two published novels and close to 1200 blog posts and I still have to carefully choose my words in any given situation. I don’t always get it right, but the healing goal is always the same.

The other day I found myself at a local Urgent Care clinic; the non-urgent reason for being there is immaterial to what transpired there. My appointment completed, I walked from the treatment area of the clinic through the front office area where three delightful women held court to greet – and say goodbye – to each person who found themselves in need of medical treatment when primary care offices had no available appointments.

One of the women said, “Before you go, can I just tell you something? When you walked in here, I couldn’t help but notice how much you look like the actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Wait, let me find a photo of her for you.” The photo she found on her cell phone was this one:

She also held up the photo to her fellow front desk peeps and they all agreed and said, “You really do look like her! Wow!”

Now I know the resemblance, if there is one, is quite a stretch, but it didn’t matter. In that moment, I felt far better than my body was allowing me to feel at that moment.

Later that evening I relayed my experience to one of my sisters-in-law and she said, “I’ve always thought there was a resemblance but I didn’t know if you’d be flattered or not!”

Double whammy of healing statements, all in one day!

Our words have the power to heal and the power to harm; the other day I was on the receiving end of healing words. It’s sobering to realize that all words are just a different combination of the same 26 letters of the alphabet. I am now even more committed to putting those 26 letters together to form words that uplift, encourage, and yes, heal. I guess the bottom line is:

We can all be healers.

Bad Things Happen to Good People

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I don’t like when that happens.

I am not advocating badness for those I don’t consider good, but I absolutely DO advocate that lovely people should have it somewhat easier. Don’t get me wrong, I know that life isn’t always fair and that we have to take the bad with the good, but gosh darn, it’s difficult to witness.

Family members getting sick recently, and friends and acquaintances facing health and economic struggles are just a few of the recent situations that have come to light in my little corner of the world. At this writing, I am reeling from what happened to our family members a couple weeks ago, and recently, to the wonderful pest control worker who takes care of our home’s needs. Just the other day, John told me that he missed work for several weeks because he suffered a stroke while under one of his client’s homes. He was lying on the ground under a house when it happened!!!!

This gentle soul was rescued, obviously, and while I am gobsmacked by what happened to him, I celebrate that he has recovered, that the stroke didn’t occur while he was driving and therefore putting others at risk, and that he had the distinct privilege of being able to talk to me the other day about what happened to him.

He lived to tell the story!

And now I have told you the story and I will leave you with John’s words of encouragement about life in general:

Recovering from devastating health issues sure do make a person appreciate the life he’s been given. I’m grateful for so many things now.

May you appreciate even the smallest of victories that come your way. Through the good and the bad times in my life, I know I certainly have.

 

 

I Hope You Are Well

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Writing is oftentimes about myself, but always with the intention of making a difference in the lives of those who take the time to read what I put out for public consumption.

This, my 1,173rd blog post, is the briefest post of all time for me; a post that is intended to make you feel noticed, let you know that I care how you’re doing, and to assure you that I sincerely hope you are well. I reside in the United States, in a semi-decent sized town in Washington State, and I’m glad you are following this blog that I started more than ten years ago. It takes time out of your day to read my ramblings, whether those ramblings are about the two novels I’ve written, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO and A JAGGED JOURNEY, or just my take on life.

THANK YOU FOR READING WHAT I HAVE TO SAY.

BE WELL. STAY WELL.

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK.

The Flight of Time

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In the far too distant past, we can all remember how long it took for a special occasion to arrive, whether it was Christmas, a Birthday, or the beginning of summer vacation. It seemed as though time C-R-A-W-L-E-D when we were lots younger than we currently are.

But now? My husband and I will be discussing a past event, trying to decide on when (what week or month the event took place) so we consult our calendars to discover that the event in question occurred more than a year ago.

How did that happen? Why can’t us 60-something-year-olds discern the passing of time better than that? This post from Scientific American sheds a light on this phenomenon. I’ll let you read that post and this one from Harvard University to acquire a better understanding. But here’s a quote from the Scientific American post that seems to summarize what happens as we age:

From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills. As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments. As a result, our early years tend to be relatively overrepresented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer.

The truth of the matter is that we’ve lived longer, we’ve had a heck of a lot of experiences as a result, so we look at the passage of time from an entirely different perspective. The Harvard post puts a more neurological spin on the matter:

People are often amazed at how much they remember from days that seemed to last forever in their youth. It’s not that their experiences were much deeper or more meaningful, it’s just that they were being processed in rapid fire.

I guess that means that the older we get, our brains aren’t firing as rapidly as they used to. Well, duh! When I’m trying to remember the title of a book, an excellent book that I deem the best book I’ve ever read in my entire life, I may not remember the title of it because I have read 1000s of books in my sixty-eight years.

The bottom line, dear friends, is that our brains are older than they used to be and due to the wealth of experiences we have lived through, there is far more data to weed through to land on the most accurate in-the-moment response. Assuming there is no disease process going on in our brains, is that a problem about which we should lament or be concerned?

No. Why? Because aging is a privilege. Just the fact that we have lived long enough to be struck with the phenomenon of inaccurate time passing is something to celebrate: I’m here, but people I love who passed before their time are not. Those dear people would probably give anything to have the opportunity to complain about this confusing, mixed up passing of time.

On their behalf, I will try to do my level best not to complain about my age, or anything having to do with aging, ever again. I will most certainly fail, but that doesn’t mean I won’t die trying.

Older and Wiser?

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NOT NECESSARILY.

A person most definitely acquires knowledge and wisdom throughout the span of her or his lifetime, but that doesn’t mean that someone far younger can’t contribute appropriate wisdom in any given circumstance.

The less experienced, less rehearsed attitudes of children may very well prove more accurate than the somewhat tainted knowledge my sixty-eight-year-old self may have racked up.

  • AN INQUISITIVE MIND. Our 4.5 year old grandson asks my husband and I questions that surprise us again and again. “Why are the leaves on the ground?” My husband adequately explained the reasoning as the fall season was newly upon us. “Look, Grammo (that’s me) there’s a tree that fell.” I explained that the massive amounts of rain we had experienced caused the roots to give up because the dirt was so wet. “The tree roots gave up, Grammo?” “Yes”, I responded, “and the strong wind we had a few days ago really helped to cause that tree’s roots to let go; to give up.”
  • HEALTHY IMAGINATION. The other day, my husband and I were playing outside with that same grandson, and his 1 year old sister. Because of the aforementioned rain, we had various-shaped water puddles on our driveway. “Look Grammo, that puddle looks like an umbrella!” And it did, which was far more of an imaginative description than what I came up with: a mushroom.

  • HONESTY. Granted, a child’s honesty can cause embarrassment to the adults within the scope of her or his straightforward statements, but for the most part, I’d rather be on the receiving end of clarity and transparency, than deceit disguised as courtesy. A few months ago, I had minor skin cancer surgery on my nose. When our grandchildren arrived for their weekly grandparenting care, I sported a bandaid on the tip of my nose. My grandson said, “Why do you have a bandaid on your nose, Grammo?” I told him that I had a cut on my nose, not unlike what happens when he falls down and skins his knee. “Oh, does it hurt?” My response, “No, it hurt a few days ago but not now. The next time I see you I won’t have a bandaid on my nose.” To which he said, “That’s okay, I don’t mind if you do.”
  • COMPASSION. A couple years ago, I was having a difficult time putting together pieces of a puzzle with my grandson. “Lucas, I don’t think I can figure this one out.” His response, “Yes you can, Grammo, you can do it.” And I did. Additionally, my husband and I were playing outside with our grandson a little over a year ago. That morning, my back had decided to give me a tough time so I wasn’t as active as I would normally be. Our grandson wanted me to step up onto the deck with him, to which his Grampa said, “Grammo’s back is hurting so she isn’t able to do that today.” Our grandson didn’t miss a beat as he reached out his hand to me and said, “Here, Grammo, take my hand, I’ll help you.”

I don’t have any additional statements of worth that will top that latest anecdote, so I’ll close by saying:

Length of years is no guarantee of a well-developed life; it’s the development of character that provides a richness of worth. May curiosity, imagination, honesty, and compassion be your and my selected traits now, and going forward.

 

Brain Gratitude

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The brain is an organ we need to nurture, support, and appreciate. But sometimes the brain steers us in the wrong direction and if you’re like me, when that happens your well-being can get out of wack.

That’s when I end up having a love-hate relationship with my brain. Bear with me while I explain.

Let’s face it, that most sophisticated computer that rests within the skull that rests on top of the shoulders, doesn’t always get it right, like when the following scenarios occur:

  • Insomnia because your brain wants you to figure out absolutely everything needed in order to cure the ills of the world – or at the very least, the ills of the small portion of the world in which you reside. Such future-focused attention doesn’t provide much present comfort, does it?
  • Anxiety that doubles in intensity because anxiety is always fueled by fear – a fear that the brain expertly releases because of its innate fight or flight behavior that is simply trying to keep you safe but really overdoes it a bit…or a lot, if you’re me.
  • Distraction gets in the way of full-functioning because too much input floods the brain so its ability to compartmentalize, eliminate surplus, and operate properly, stumbles a bit out of the starting blocks.

That’s just a few of the computer malfunctions that can take place within this wonderful mass of gray matter that no living being can do without.

But speaking personally, when I examine each of the bullet points above, I can willingly acknowledge that I might have more control over those anomalies than not.

  • INSOMNIA: Instead of obsessing about the future – over which I have no control whatsoever while lying on my bed prepped for sleep – I can do my level best to be in the present where the future has no bearing whatsoever. Breathe. Read a book to sideline the brain’s worrisome thoughts about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. One thing I know for sure, just lying there being frustrated about my sleepless state won’t do me any good so at the very least it’s a good idea to get out of bed and do something soothing to sidetrack the future-focused craziness going on inside my head.
  • ANXIETY: If I address the current state of my being and realistically assess what is and what is not happening – shifting my focus from hyper-alertness broad spectrum attention to in-the-moment reality – my fear of the “what if” has no place in my day. I’ve learned that what I pay attention to magnifies in intensity. If I’m just focusing on that lower back pain twinge, that’s all that exists. You and I both know that isn’t the case but if you’re me, that little twinge may as well be a life threatening stabbing knife.
  • DISTRACTION: Understanding that multi-tasking is not productive and is a myth that has been perpetuated over the centuries, challenges me to do one thing at a time so my brain does its level best on one task and then moves onto the next one. The more multi-tasking that occurs, the more chances to make mistakes – some of which can be dangerous; multi-tasking while driving, or taking care of a child come to mind.

Of this I am certain, however: I am grateful for my brain that most of the time serves me very well. You see, my father died from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 89 so I’m well aware of what can go awry in the brain’s circuitry, and there are so many other anomalies and abnormalities that can affect the brain, but I’ll try not to lose sleep over them!!! Although my brain isn’t perfectly normal, I will celebrate that it’s not all that abnormal so I will do my level best to not sweat the small stuff.

And although I don’t believe that it’s ALL small stuff, I can admit that a heck of a lot of it is.

 

 

 

Are You Whole?

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Being whole and experiencing wholeness is something I need to figure out for myself so I consulted the Oxford dictionary that defines wholeness as follows:

  • the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole;
  • the state of being unbroken or undamaged;
  • good physical or mental health.

Okay, so I’m not whole, but I absolutely know I want to be.

Being whole, for me, is a healthy balance of mind, body, and spirit.

This brings to mind another definition – cooperation:

  • the process of working together to the same end.

That works for me because if mind, body, and spirit – however that may be defined – work together toward a goal of wholeness, that is what appears to be needed in order to attain that state. Let me tell you, at this point in my existence I am VERY willing to cooperate.

And I think it’s important to understand that those three elements – mind, body, spirit – are not separate. They all work in tandem to bring about the best outcome for our well-being.

When we work on one, we’re working on all three elements:

  • Exercising to work on the body, and maintaining a healthier diet, affect the mind and spirit.
  • Choosing to have some sort of meditative time – however that may look for each of us – nourishes the body and mind.
  • Learning something new and being exposed to new experiences no doubt will benefit spirit and body.

There is no separation because all three are attached, right? Yeah, you can’t touch one without affecting the others. And that’s a good thing because we only have so much time in each day to improve on matters so it’s a good thing that even one effort addresses all three aspects of our being.

May you figure out what works for you to attain WHOLENESS in 2022.

I’m looking forward to hearing all about it!

Your Social Impact

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This 2nd post of the new year provides you with my quarterly column in the online publication, Grandparents Day Magazine, based out of Adelaide, Australia. My byline, In Your Corner, addressed the topic of how every effort we make can benefit others. I hope you enjoy: Big Things Come in Small Packages. And believe it or not, the topic is not babies. Check it out.

My 2022 Word

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Several years ago a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of setting a New Year word – not a resolution. My 2021 word was:

EQUANIMITY: mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

For what may seem obvious to many is the fact that that single word – or way of being – really resonated with me leading into 2021. But did I always succeed at upholding that word? Absolutely not, but having that as my daily, or hourly, goal certainly benefited me more than not.

My word for 2022 is more or less from the same word family but some may argue it is the antithesis of equanimity:

HOPE: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

It’s far easier to abandon all hope – yet more difficult – than it is to cling to it. I decided to raise a banner of hope for me, my loved ones, and the world at large, regardless of what that action entails. Doing something with an eye to a redeeming new year is that to which I am committed. As I said in my post Hope + Action = Winning Combination, just wishing something to be true doesn’t quite take care of the hope function; we have to do something while hoisting hope onto our backs.

What you do to activate and maintain hope and what I do are individual efforts and may not look at all similar to each other, but that’s the beauty of the hope commitment: what I do supplements you and what you do augments me.

BE WELL AND STAY WELL IN 2022 MY FRIENDS.

CELEBRATE EVERY GOOD THING THAT COMES YOUR WAY, REGARDLESS OF HOW SMALL, BECAUSE EVERY LITTLE BIT COUNTS – DON’T YOU THINK?

 

Gratitude + Optimism

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A recent AARP magazine post spotlighting Michael J. Fox, star of Family TiesBack to the Future, and of other popular, noteworthy fame, answered a reporter’s question about how he had managed to pull himself out of a dark place where he landed after recovering from a 2018 spinal surgery to remove a benign tumor wrapped around his spine; having to learn how to walk all over again as a result of that surgery; and falling at home four months later, shattering his arm in the process. Keep in mind, for over thirty years Mr. Fox has suffered from what is currently an incurable disease. He knows there will be no cure for Parkinson’s in his lifetime, but remarkably, he was able to admirably respond to the AARP reporter’s question.

I started to notice things I was grateful for and the way other people would respond to difficulty with gratitude. I concluded that gratitude makes optimism sustainable.

And if you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, keep looking. Because you don’t just receive optimism.

You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You’ve got to behave in a way that promotes that.

For this, my last blog post of the year – also my 1,166th post – I will simply say that I am inspired by the above words; I am humbled by them; and I accept the challenge these words have presented.

That’s all, but it’s enough. See you in 2022.

Hope + Action = Winning Combination

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Are you tired? Yeah, me too. Tired tired – due to lack of sleep. Emotionally tired – due to the day to day personal challenges we all face. And sick and tired of the status quo in a world that just doesn’t seem to want to get better. My intent with this post is not to single out any causes for the mess we’re in – that would not be a popular post and quite frankly, I just don’t have the energy to address that mess.

Rather, I simply want to state that all of us need to do better at the art of living and how that living affects others. One way in which to do better is to shift from a hopeless base to a hopeful one. Doing so may not be what it takes for you to have a positive mind shift, but it has worked for me in the past so it’s a tool that I am drawing on now.

Please accept the following sentiments as nourishment for your own journey of hope. These are quotes from the book, The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams:

Hope does not deny all the difficulty and all the danger that exists, but it is not stopped by them. There is a lot of darkness, but our actions create the light. Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.

Hope is what enables us to keep going in the face of adversity. It is what we desire to happen, but we must be prepared to work hard to make it so.

Hope without action dies on the vine; it needs nourishment in the form of constant feeding and forward motion. None of us need to be scientists, psychologists, or world changers in order to be effective, but all of us need to do something positive within the limited real estate of our little corner of the world. Is it easier to just give up and let others take the lead? Yes…and no. Giving up means you have no control and if you’re like me, you don’t want to surrender the reins to just anyone!

I need to pick up this tool – this hope tool – every day and treat it as though it just might be the answer to my well-being and yours. If you and I employ it starting with our own household and then to that which exists within our control, we’ll all be better off as a result. A little bit goes a long way, especially if more people than not opt to disembark from the train of desperation and climb on board the far more promising hope train.

ALL ABOARD! LET’S GO.

 

DISCOUNTED NOVELS!!!!!

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Are you struggling to find a gift for a friend or loved one? Look no further, I am offering both of my novels at a highly discounted price but the sale ends Christmas Evening.

A Jagged Journey and Requiem for the Status Quo are so very affordable right now: Paperback only $7.99 and the eBook is a mere 99 cents! Ebooks are so very easy to gift to someone else; you go to the book’s page on Amazon, choose the Buy for Others option – it looks like this, and you simply enter the person’s email address and you can even set a date as to when you want the eBook gift announcement to arrive in their Inbox! Don’t wait any longer, order the paperback or the eBook now as these prices won’t last, but the book supplies will! And if you’ve yet to purchase either of these novels for yourself, what are you waiting for?!!!

Sense of Community

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A previous post addressed the good we can do in our little corner of the world. Today’s post talks about that little corner in which we find ourselves.

We find community in various settings, including our home, our extended family, our employment, and our day-to-day contacts near and far. I would offer that even when we take our doggies to the off-leash dog park and let them run around with the other dogs, we can find ourselves in community.

But what if when at the dog park, we keep to ourselves and choose not to converse with any of the other humans; are we still in community? Yes, we are, because we are like-minded individuals giving our doggies a romp in the park with other doggies because we know it will inordinately please our four-legged friends. Our common goal in making the effort to go to the dog park is more or less the same: doggie community enjoyment.

What this very brief post is saying today is that community does not have to be a structured and organized grouping of people. It can consist of the lone walker in the neighborhood, coming upon another lone walker and sharing a smile and a greeting, even in passing. For myself, during the height of isolation due to the pandemic, I relished every person-sighting – whether on my neighborhood strolls or six feet away from another customer at the grocery checkout. Other people! There are other people in this world, not just my lonesome, homebound self!!!!

In the past year, my eyes have been opened to discover community in places and in circumstances not recognized before. I hope you find similarly healthy connections as you go about your own daily routines. 

 

 

Why Bother?

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Have you ever wondered whether the good you do is of any benefit to others?

If you’re at all like me, you’ve been complacent from time to time in the helping-out department. We justify not doing something to improve the grand order of things by erroneously thinking that what we have to offer can’t possibly make a difference when so much is needed to improve what’s wrong in the world.

THAT “WHY BOTHER?” ATTITUDE WILL GET YOU NOWHERE, AND IT SURE AS HECK WON’T CHANGE WHAT’S SERIOUSLY MESSED UP WITH OUR WORLD.

I’m of the opinion that not doing something to meet a need when we see one, is just as harmful as kicking a person when they’re down. Neither behavior is kind, and both behaviors cause harm. If you’ve been out of practice for some time, start slowly by extending a kind word to someone. Doesn’t your day improve inordinately when you’re gifted with a compliment? Oh my goodness, yes! If you’re at work and one of your coworkers shows up in a new outfit and you think to yourself, “Wow, Gloria really looks great in that color” but you don’t tell Gloria that she looks great in that color, she hasn’t benefited from your kind observation. Tell her! You won’t be reported to the Personnel department just because you complimented one of your overworked coworkers! Or congratulate someone on a job well done, whether a coworker, a neighbor, or even a loved one residing in the same house as you. BOTTOM LINE: don’t hold back kind words. Words matter – they always have, and they always will.

Is there a charity that you’d really like to contribute to but you’re embarrassed to do so because you can’t afford to donate mega bucks? Do you figure your measly $1 won’t amount to a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things? Imagine if a million people felt the same way as you do – having a dollar to donate but withholding it because it’s just a dollar. Drum roll please . . . one million people donating $1 each amounts to $1,000,000 the last time I checked. Don’t hold back. Drop in that dollar and let the rest take care of itself.

Don’t give up on efforts to help out because in your eyes, you think those efforts are inconsequential. No kindness is wasted, even if you don’t get the opportunity to witness how that kindness benefits others. You’re not responsible for seeing the end results, but you are responsible for contributing to them.

So today, make the decision to make a difference. I promise you, it’ll get easier the more you exercise that giving-muscle. You do your part, and I’ll do mine.

THAT’S ALL THAT’S NEEDED.

 

 

Countdowns

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Our need for countdowns is something we most likely don’t think about 24/7, but while we’re in the midst of one we are front and center and ready to move forward. 

Take the Holidays, for example. As soon as I turn over the calendar page to November, I’ve hit the ground running and once the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday has arrived, it’s just a matter of days before Christmas is upon us and then, voila! The end of the year and the start of a new one!

Whether counting down the days until the start of a planned vacation or our much anticipated retirement from work, we love crossing out the days that bring us closer to our goal. It’s sobering to realize, however, that the passage of time not only brings us to notable calendar events but it also ushers us into the inevitable aging that many of us have the privilege of experiencing.

And it is a privilege, isn’t it? We are all intimately acquainted with the fact that not everyone has spent as much time aging as we have: adult siblings and other loved ones die far too young, friends are victim of a disease or an accident that robs them of their lives, and most cruelly, children fall victim to similar diseases and accidents that rip them from the face of the earth, robbing them of the opportunity to grow up and move forward into productive and event-filled lives.

Most of us will not know in advance how long our lives will be, but as we age, we tend to feel the passage of time.

But it’s not all equal-knowing, is it? There are glorious days when I am shocked by the realization that I am sixty-eight years of age, followed by days when I can hardly believe I’m not far older than my years. But all in all, I celebrate that I am still here – even with the aches and pains and frustrations oftentimes inherent with aging. I am not counting down the days until I am no longer here – that’s a fruitless and unrealistic practice in which to be engaged – but I am celebrating that thus far I can most certainly count 25,016 days as my portion. 

 

 

Choosing to Celebrate

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My column, In Your Corner, is in an online Australian publication for which I have written going on ten years now. The most recent issue has as its theme Celebration.

I wrote Choosing to Celebrate to point out how rewarding it is to celebrate even the most mundane positive occurrences in our lives. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

The Futility of Worry

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Maybe I’m the only person among us who has perfected the art of worrying. Although I don’t do anything perfectly, I do a really grand job of worrying – thereby inviting the existence of fear – quite well.

Many profound statements have been made about the futility of this practice – scripture, poetry, self-help books and the like – but we still seem to settle quite comfortably into this practice, don’t we? And we usually kick ourselves after a particular stressful situation has passed as we acknowledge that the level of worry and fear regarding said stress did nothing to lessen our mental load.

Each and every time I have lost sleep over something, I experienced the futility of doing so.

I’ve also come to understand that when I worry, I have left the present and jumped into the deep end of yesterday and tomorrow – locations I had no right to be in.

  • When I fret over what transpired yesterday, losing sleep over words said or not said, actions taken or not taken, I abandon the only place I need to be – the present.
  • When I worry about tomorrow (or even when I worry about something occurring a brief hour from now) I am wrenched away from the present – a wasted practice because when I leave the present, I’ve missed out on what was right in front of me. What a shame!

It’s a frustrating cycle of behavior I’ve practiced time and again in my many decades of adult life. You would think I’d have learned by now that worrying adds nothing to my life so I should abandon any such behavior posthaste, but last time I checked, I’m still human so perfection will continue to elude me time and again.

But I’m still learning. I’m still sussing out the fine art of living day to day.

As long as I keep recognizing the times when such worry rears its ugly head, I guess I can celebrate that at the very least, I’m aware of how I might do better the next time.

And I’m okay with that.

My Best Foot Forward

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I came to the realization the other day, how many places my sixty-eight year old feet have taken me.

AND JUST THINK ABOUT WHERE YOUR FEET HAVE TAKEN YOU!

I’ve lived in the following US states: California, Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington. I’ve traveled to the following countries: Canada, Mexico, France, Scotland, and the British Isles. (I know, that’s not a lot of places but just the same, my feet took me there and back!)

Sometimes our feet take us to geographical places; other times they take us to and through life experiences – not all of which are easy or pleasing. But those gnarled toes and fallen arches managed to carry us where we needed to be and will continue to do so until they can’t.

About two years ago, I came to a place of acceptance of my current body resulting in gratitude for everything it has endured and managed to survive. That may not seem like a monumental achievement to some, but for me, it most definitely has been. My body’s challenges and your body’s challenges may not be identical but there isn’t a person around that doesn’t have them – bodies or challenges – and we’re still here!

I HAVE SURVIVED THE LESS THAN ENJOYABLE BODY FOIBLES 100% OF THE TIME AND HAVE LIVED TO WRITE ABOUT IT!

Wow! And because I have evidence that such successes have occurred, when I’m in the midst of seemingly insurmountable medical, physical, or emotional challenges, I can look forward to getting to the other side of them to add yet another success to my growing evidentiary list.

And my feet will take me there.

 

Strong People Ask For Help

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This post ties in with my previous post about vulnerability. Why?

Because vulnerability is a strength.

In that previous post, I said that life isn’t a competition, and I stand by that statement. When I ask for help, I am admitting that I can’t do something on my own and when someone answers my call for help, she/he is supplementing what I have, providing what I do not have. That sends a signal to the helper that when she needs help some day, she should feel at ease to ask for it. What a healthy cycle that creates!

In the workplace, an employee may feel that if he admits a need, he may be considered less than and therefore not as valuable as the fellow employee providing assistance. Nothing could be further from the truth, and an employer who faults that need for collaboration isn’t worthy of a person’s service.

And what about friends? True friends won’t harshly judge when a call for help goes out. True friends understand that a person can’t be 100%, 365, 24/7, so they affirmatively respond and both are better off as a result. One person has what the other person needs – it’s as simple as that.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say.

Vulnerability

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In the past several years I have come to understand that being vulnerable is a strength, not a weakness.

Synonyms for the word vulnerable, found in the Merriam Webster dictionary are: endangered, exposed, liable, open, sensitive, susceptible.

l believe that vulnerability is a worthwhile and honorable trait in which to indulge, especially as my life experience involves the last three synonyms: open, sensitive, susceptible. Recently, however, I felt vulnerable and I didn’t like the feeling at all as it gave me a feeling of being endangered and exposed.

Several days ago I had skin cancer surgery on my nose, and although vanity is not a prominent characteristic in my modus operandi, the fact that my visage was going to be messed with sent me into a tailspin of unease, bordering on depression. It’s not the surgery itself that was of a concern to me; I had hip replacement surgery four years ago that was far more invasive and brutal and I don’t recall feeling as emotionally affected as I did for my nose surgery.

Perhaps what was at issue was the fact that the affected body part is face forward – so to speak – and therefore more noticeable than a joint replacement could ever be. The very good news is that the surgery was minimally invasive, not even needing stitches, so the same face I’ve had for sixty-eight years remains intact. 

I’ve had this same face – more or less – for sixty-eight years! Fortunately the alteration leaves it just slightly different from how it used to be.

I know, my sixty-eight year old body isn’t the same as it used to be either, because aging is a privilege and with that privilege comes pain, body sags, and wrinkles rivaling an intricate interstate highway. But the face? It’s somehow a different entity all together. Fortunately, my concerns turned out to be much ado about nothing.

Let me clarify, however, that the unease/depression I felt wasn’t a function of how I’ll look once everything is healed. No. It’s related to the vulnerability I felt leading up to the surgery, and the time during the surgery when I was fully awake, that really messed with my mind and my emotions. A surgeon who knows absolutely nothing about who I am, whom I only met once prior to the procedure, was in charge of ridding my nose of cancer. Once patient number 1234 was out the door, the surgeon would move onto patient number 5678, and so on and so forth, committed to her surgical training but not necessarily committed to Irene Frances Olson, born in Southern California, the youngest of three siblings, who couldn’t have asked for better parents, who eventually wrote two novels to first document her family’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and then to document society’s struggles with tolerance, acceptance, and human kindness

Was it my outward appearance or my inward identity that was at issue?

The latter, to be sure, and since beauty is only skin deep, I will fall back on the inner beauty that I’ve worked on throughout my life. With age comes wisdom, and for me at least, without the aging, wisdom would still be on the sidelines waiting to make an appearance. So maybe this whole surgical experience has taught me something new that without the unease and depression I experienced, this new nugget of wisdom would not have been birthed:

My inner beauty will always outlast my outer trappings, and those who truly know me see that first and love me for it.

WHAT A BLESSED WOMAN I AM!!!

 

 

Wanting the Best for Others

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Life isn’t a competition. It’s healthy to want only the best for others with whom we come in contact.

Most of the contact I have with the “outside world” is on my neighborhood walks and outings to the grocery store and the like. Yes, I’m retired from active employment but most definitely not retired from life.

With very few exceptions, I get along with everyone and manage to maintain ongoing casual relationships that benefit myself, and hopefully each person with whom I come in contact. I am on a first name basis with Tracy who scans my groceries every week, and with Patrick and Wende who bag said groceries. I am also thrilled to have met the acquaintance of Ginny, an extraordinary optical employee at my local big box store. 

Ginny is a delight to know and thoroughly skilled at her job in the optical dispensary. The other morning, needing an eyeglasses adjustment, I arrived at the store just after it opened. It seems when pulling off my mask the other day, the ear loops grabbed my glasses in such a way as to mess up the alignment on my nose. Ouch! My nose was in dire straits and in need of some pain relief. Of course Ginny took care of the adjustment so that myself, and my nose, were once again in balance.

Ginny seemed a bit down so I asked how she was doing. Turns out, she found out just a few minutes before I arrived that the transfer she put in for to the store location just minutes from her home was turned down because in order to transfer, the replacement at her current location needed to be set in place. With the shortage of skilled workers so prevalent, none could be found. Ginny’s transfer to her store of choice could not proceed so her 1.25 hour work commute would need to continue, a commute she has endured for the better part of four years. My heart goes out to Ginny. I can’t change the way the big box store’s management policies are carried out, but I can be in Ginny’s corner so she doesn’t endure her disappointment alone. What I know about her is minimal from a quantitative position, but from a qualitative one, what I know is grandiose.

We don’t have to be related to a person, or see them every day, to have a connection with them – do we?

Not in the least. Given the current circumstances in which we find ourselves, we are most likely involved more peripherally than intimately with others but our impact on their lives can be still be worthwhile and vital. Think, if you will, how you felt when someone crossed your path and their actions or words  robbed you of your joy. Then remember how a kind word, an extended courtesy, or a genuine smile turned your day upside down – in a good way!

It doesn’t take much to make a positive impact on each and every person we encounter.

We can make the very most of our casual contacts. A one minute encounter can go one of two ways: leave a nasty impression, or one that will greatly improve a person’s day. I want to be responsible for the latter effect; that’s what I did during the brief five minutes spent with Ginny the other day, and the very next day, I hand-delivered some heartfelt consolation in the form of an encouraging greeting card left for her at the optical department where she works so diligently. You see, I always keep an inventory of cards in my home office and God knows I have plenty of time to make a special delivery to someone in need of a virtual hug of sorts.

May you endeavor to look for opportunities to make an enriching difference in someone’s life.

OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND IF YOUR AWARENESS IS KEEN!

 

Making New Habits

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Instead of wallowing in habits we’d prefer to discard, we can create new ones – breaking old ones – that benefit us greatly!

That’s Breaking Good News, isn’t it?

I’m not going to get into the proven science about how long it takes to break one habit and adopt another – you know how to Google that information and find it out for yourself. Rather, I just want to mention how exhilarating it is to switch things up a bit in ones’ life. And I’m not going to address vices that double as habits. Nope! Just the routine behaviors that so many of us fall into.

You and I have adopted habits that are so ingrained in our day-to-day existence, we don’t even recognize them because they just are. Lately for me, I’ve benefited from changing up my routines, finding that doing so puts a fresh coating of delight on the mundane.

  • Maybe your favorite mug isn’t all that any more and another mug would serve to better float your boat; or
  • Exercising a little later – or earlier – in the day feels better than what you’ve been doing; or
  • Meditating at a different time of day than you’ve done for years on end actually provides more Zen moments when you switch it up now and then; or
  • Tacos are just as gratifying on Thursday as they are on Tuesday. Can you say, Taco Thursdays anyone?

You get the idea: just because you’re accustomed to and comfortable with your daily routine doesn’t mean that getting out of your comfort zone wouldn’t be better. For me, it was a matter of being so entrenched in the same-o same-o that I became brain-lazy. Life became so droll and ho-hum that I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning. Oh crap, another day just like yesterday? Ugh!

There are countless ways to add novelty to a day. I don’t know about you, but I have a few daily outfits I wear over and over again while my closet is close to bursting with colorful t-shirts, pants I forgot I even owned, and let’s not forget to mention the sock drawer that rivals that of a sock-owning addict…oops! Time to clean all those clothing storage areas of the house and donate a good portion to charities whose clients could really use what I didn’t even realize I had.

Wow…not only do I get to switch up my wardrobe but others benefit from the slight clothing hoarding I failed to acknowledge!

ANYWAY, I think you can come up with your own changes that will perhaps provide freshness to your day and increase your joie de vivre! Whatever you decide to do, do it soon. Take it from someone who knows of which she speaks – breaking habits and adding new ones does not have to be difficult, but it really and truly needs to happen if you’re looking to change things up a bit.

I’m looking forward to hearing about the changes you’ve decided to implement in your own life. They don’t have to be HUGE, just worthwhile and meaningful to you!

Aging is a Privilege

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Last time I checked, the only way to live a long life is to be on board with aging.

Are there downsides to getting older? Sure there are. Here are just a few that might be applicable at any given time:

  • the body and/or the mind might not function quite as efficiently as before;
  • our peers move on, whether by relocating because of downsizing or illness or relocating to the beyond (you know, heaven or elsewhere);
  • our loved ones (spouses, partners) experience advanced illness or pass on; and
  • society dismisses us as no longer relevant.

But what about the upsides of aging? Surely positive elements exist that can be celebrated and accentuated the longer we reside on this earth, such as:

  • enjoyment of our adult children and growing-up grandchildren, if such a family dynamic exists;
  • recognition of what’s truly important in life so that worrying about the small things is a practice not worthy of our time;
  • the decision to respectfully let our feelings and beliefs be known, without holding back, and not caring as much about whether someone agrees or disagrees with those feelings; and
  • finally having time to do this, that, and the other, because there is no longer such a thing as a weekend, and every day can be filled with whatever activity pleases us.

Regarding that last point, some may argue that because our bodies don’t function as efficiently as before, it doesn’t matter if we have all the time in the world if we can’t do what matters most to us! 

That’s a valid point if the only thing that matters to a person is maintaining an Olympic-quality fitness level. Look, my husband and I used to do amazingly difficult hikes as recently as three years ago and although I miss the forests wherein those hikes took place, I don’t miss the actual exercise part of those ventures because I still exercise: yoga, aerobics, weights, (using free online videos for all three options) and taking energetic walks in the neighborhood. I’m not competing with anyone but myself when I perform that smorgasbord of exercises. Regardless of what exercise I do and how I do it, I’m still lapping everyone else on the couch.

And come on, being physically active isn’t the only qualification for contributing to the world around us. I’m not talking about the global stage, but what about the little corner of the world wherein we reside? We have time and we have a lifetime of skill and wisdom that our corner of the universe needs. Whether we find those opportunities through a community organization, senior center, local school system or elsewhere, there is more need than these organizations have solutions!

You are relevant and that relevancy needs to be recognized first by you, and then society will get on board.

The only way to live a long life is to live the life you’ve been given. And as the saying goes, this ain’t no dress rehearsal. And remember, it’s never too late to try something new. If that means letting go of something else in order to start something new, then so be it. Get after it!

Identification: Who are you?

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When referring to identification in this post, I am talking about human characteristics – specifically, emotional and mental states.

For example, I tend to be anxious – allowing anxiety to rob me of my peace, and oftentimes, rob me of my sleep. But being anxious is not my identity. I get anxious but that is not who I am.

Being labeled (pigeonholed) by others is one thing, and it’s harmful, but even more so, labeling ourselves does each of us a huge disservice.

I may have anxiety, but I am not anxiety. Someone else may have ADHD, but that person is not ADHD, they have ADHD tendencies. If someone suffers from depression, their identity is not depressed person, rather, she/he is a person who gets depressed. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to put someone in a pigeonhole is to, unfairly think of or describe someone or something as belonging to a particular group, only having a particular skill, etc. For example, actors don’t want to be pigeonholed as only having comedic skills; a talented actor wants to be thought of as having more range than that. Similarly, a lawyer is also a parent, a spouse, a friend – not just a mediator or adjudicator. My gastroenterologist’s whole identity isn’t wrapped up in her specific field of medical expertise – thank the good Lord – she is also a hiker, a mommy, and an accomplished baker.

If I place myself inside the box of anxiety, I may have the tendency to remain there longer than is healthy. If I live outside of that box and only end up there from time to time, I have more range as a human being and can branch out and experience calm and peace as a natural state. I am not anxious person Irene, I am Irene the mother, spouse, grandmother, sister, friend, and as luck would have it, published author.

ANOTHER WAY IN WHICH WE LABEL PEOPLE IS BY THEIR DISEASE.

When my father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, he wasn’t his disease, he was everything he was before the disease and even everything he became after diagnosis. He had limitations, don’t get me wrong, but those limitations didn’t define who he was: an extraordinary human being. When my sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer, that was one horrible aspect of her life but that didn’t define who she was before she died. She was a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend; she was a caring person with a keen sense of humor; she was the goddess of her wonderful household who kept it running like a fine-tuned engine.

Labeling limits our perception of who someone is in their essence

There are so many directions this post could have gone – physical characteristics, gender identity, race, ethnicity – instead, I decreased the scope because emotional, mental, and medical matters have been weighing upon me as of late, so that’s where I went with this 500 word post. That was enough for me, I hope it was enough for you.

Be well, y’all.

 

 

Falling Into A New Season

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Photo by Lainey P.

I love Autumn. I know it signals the end of summertime fun and weather, but there are years when such characteristics are best left behind.

I always welcome the possibilities inherent with a new season, a new calendar year, or simply a new year of life. Having survived my 68th birthday earlier this year, I came to the realization that aging truly is a privilege, and the longer we live, the more opportunities abound for the taking.

Whether you are 28, 48, 68, or 88-and-counting, you rarely don’t have the choice of whether to try something new – or leave something behind. Sometimes our chosen career path or passion loses its shine. Other times, relationships that in the past were nurturing to both individuals lose their nourishment and become like a slow-acting poison that nonetheless harms or kills the spirt.

Walking away from what we’re accustomed to is difficult, but oftentimes extremely necessary.

You don’t live long on this earth before said walking away becomes a reality, and it’s those first steps that are the most difficult. I’ve embarked on that path in my professional life and in my personal life, knowing I was doing the right thing but nevertheless grieving the separation.

If new endings and beginnings beckon you as you approach the new season’s landing, my wish for you is that doing so strengthens your reserve to celebrate the one life you’ve been granted. And please always remember, even the smallest of victories warrant a celebration. 

SO PARTY ON!

Adulting Is Hard

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Life is not an easy venture, regardless of who we are or how we were raised. But we get up every morning, stumble through our wake-up routines, and plod through the day because that’s what the human condition requires.

We all know that some days are easier than others – just as some years are worse than previous years – but when the not-so-good times start piling up day after day, we tend to wonder if we’ll ever get to the other side of the bad.

Life is most definitely a contact sport. Scrapes and bruises are bound to hit many of us in debilitating ways.

The fictional characters in this new novel are acquainted with yours and my experiences. They’ve had it tough, and they’ve had it easy, and how their lives panned out reflects outcomes not unlike those we’ve all endured.

Misery loves company isn’t what the author had in mind with the writing of A Jagged Journey but she knew that those going through a tough time could benefit from how Charlie, Hannah, Gretchen, and the book’s many other true-to-life characters, handle the challenges that come their way.

The outcomes aren’t all touchy-feely and rainbow-laden, but that’s not how real life pans out for you and I anyway.

May this well-crafted story keep you company during the highs – and the lows – in which you find yourself, and may you experience the joy and hope that so many previous readers of Journey have enjoyed.