A recent AARP magazine post spotlighting Michael J. Fox, star of Family Ties, Back 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.
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.
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?!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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 – released April 2021 – 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.
Boy oh boy, does life get lifey. As you are well-aware, who we are now was most likely shaped by who we were as a child, a teenager, a young adult, and so on.
I confess, I have blamed some of my not-so-stellar behavior on anything and everything that wasn’t me. Each time I did that, however, I was wrong. My life experiences definitely molded and shaped me, but they didn’t have to define me.
That was the case for Gretchen Marks, a prominent character in my novel, A Jagged Journey. From the very first time you meet her, you’ll find it quite easy to judge her for the behavior she exhibits, and when you read this novel, you’re more than welcome to do so. Quite frankly, it would be extraordinarily unusual for you not to.
Gretchen had a history that shaped her character, and she had the choice to fall back on that history or adjust her perspective as an independent adult. What did she do? Did Gretchen take responsibility for the way she responded to her distant past, or did she choose the easy – yet infinitely more difficult – route of assigning blame to her demons, rendering her blameless?
Gretchen may prove to be the fictional character you love to hate, especially compared to the extraordinary characters found within the pages of this novel. And I figure you’ll hate her either because her mere existence is an insult to your general sense of compassion for human kind, or your Gretchen-hatred will feel far too close for comfort.
Either way, I feel assured you will find hope and redemption with my latest fictional release. A Jagged Journey tells a story about you and me. I hope you conclude it does so in a fair and truthful manner.
It’s so tempting to turn the other way when we witness something that offends us, or to cringe when we ourselves think or say something of which we are ashamed and wished we had done better. Well, at least one character in my second novel, A Jagged Journey, has a few opportunities to cringe and correct when confronted with their own abashed behavior.
In particular, those of you who have already ventured into the pages of my second novel have met Dr. Gretchen Marks and know of what I speak. From the outsider’s perspective, it looks like Gretchen leads a life of leisure in her 20th floor Seattle penthouse apartment when she’s not treating high-end clients at her luxurious counseling practice. In a book review, one of my readers characterized Gretchen as someone to be throttled posthaste and let me tell you, I relate to that character assessment with a “Hear! Hear” and a “I couldn’t agree with you more!”
But there’s a reason why I created a somewhat despicable element in my story and it’s because I really, really, want to believe that everyone can undergo an about-face in their way of thinking and come out the other side treating others with the respect they deserve. Readers will get a peek into perhaps why Gretchen is the way she is, while also asking themselves if what has transpired in her life gives her license to push against what most would consider common decency toward one’s fellow man. I’m not going to provide a spoiler by revealing what transpires in the end, because quite frankly, I think readers will walk away with differing conclusions because their own life experience might very well paint a different picture from someone else’s.
I’m anxious to hear your thoughts on the matter once you’ve read A Jagged Journey and can leave an honest review on Amazon or elsewhere. It took me several years to finalize this book because I wanted to get it right while offering characters everyone will fall in love with – and there are many – alongside those we just might love to hate. As one of my book promotions has so accurately stated:
Life is imperfect, because it is lived by imperfect people, just like you and me.
At close to sixty-eight years of age, it took me quite some time to realize that perfection isn’t reachable – at least not by me – and thankfully it is not a goal to which I strive. My second novel features delightful, and not so delightful, characters who are far from perfect but who reflect you, me, your coworker, and the person in line in front of you at the grocery store. Characters who face the truth of their circumstances and wobble between making something better of those circumstances or who get gobbled up by them and end up no better off.
A salient nugget of truth I’ve learned as an adult is that regardless of my past, my failures, or even my successes and regardless of the influences that have had the most impact on me, I can learn from those experiences, or I can stay stuck right where I am. We all have a choice to move forward and adopt what benefited us and discard that which did not.
A Jagged Journey speaks of similarly challenged people who make decisions that will change their lives forever, with some happily-ever-afters, and some? Not so much.
I hope you will lend an ear to what these people have to say. I did, and I am changed as a result.
We’ve all read about the effectiveness of vaccines, most recently the vaccines to prevent Covid-19 virus infection. My post today is a brief one in which I am not offering my opinion, but I am offering data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, Yale Medicine, and WebMD.
I’ve heard people state – whether directly to me or through social media – that getting the Covid vaccine doesn’t guarantee we won’t acquire Covid-19 so why bother getting it? The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are not 100% effective toward warding off the virus, but they are in the mid-90s percentile of effectiveness. Click this Yale Medicine link to see how successful they can be at warding off the virus and therefore preventing its spread.
The flu vaccine is nowhere near as effective as Covid vaccines but it is a vaccine many acquire each and every year as new flu vaccines are developed to fight the upcoming flu season – the vaccine changes each year to keep up with flu virus variants. This CDC link outlines the 2019-2020 flu vaccine efficacy to be between 25% and 55% depending on a person’s age.
Another bit of data I find extraordinarily helpful is this WEB MD link that spotlights how effective our Covid preventative measures have been toward making the current flu season almost non-existent, compared to previous years’ infection rates. Let’s face it, wearing masks, being diligent about hand washing, and limiting exposure to others seems to illustrate how the same measures we’re employing to prevent Covid transmission have had an amazing side effect: very limited flu virus transmission. That’s not my opinion, thus far 2020-2021 flu is a non-issue.
“But Covid is still an issue and people are still dying from it.” True. Covid is a virus, but it is not the flu. Covid has proven to be far more transmissible and deadly than the flu with which we’re familiar. Because of that fact, in the United States, bothering to get the Covid vaccine is an inconvenience 81 million fully vaccinated people have chosen to experience, with 202 million doses given nationwide as of April 15, 2021. There have been some rare cases of breakthrough Covid infection post vaccination, but viral loads are low, and the transmission rate to others is greatly reduced. Given the data provided, we all should be able to decide whether risking infection is something with which we are comfortable, and whether vaccination to reduce infection is an option to consider.
I am so very excited about my latest novel – now available in paperback and eBook! Just as REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO was a work directly from my heart, A JAGGED JOURNEY has come from my heart as well – but in a very different way. I hope you will read my new novel’s synopsis and grab a copy for yourself. eBook just $3.99; Paperback just $11.99.
This final novel excerpt before A Jagged Journey is released on April 15th, introduces you to a key character, psychologist Gretchen Marks, and her unlikely friend, Amit Singh, an Uber driver who comes to her aid when no one else is available. Gretchen’s life has taken a cruel detour, in part because of her way of being, in part because life is oftentimes no respecter of persons.
“Are we going to the same place today, Doctor, where you have previously visited?”
“Yes, please.” Gretchen glanced at Amit and then out the side window. “Unfortunately, it will be a place I visit every day for a few weeks. If I had my choice, I’d rather have a root canal, but it appears God has chosen to punish me so I get to have these treatments instead.”
“I do not know what this root canal is of which you speak. Is that something to do with the hair on the top of one’s head?”
A smile broke out on Gretchen’s face at the innocence projected by her driver. “That’s a good one, Amit. Thank you for making my day.”
“A good one you say?”
“A root canal involves the teeth, not the scalp. It’s when a really bad tooth needs a lot of work, and it’s not enjoyable at all. But given how my treatments make me feel, I think the dental work would seem like child’s play…it would seem like something far easier than what I’m doing.”
“I see, yes, my splendid wife, Faria, had something similar to that soon after we arrived in this country – there was a cavity in one of her teeth. And you indicated that these treatments you are enduring are a punishment from God?”
Gretchen thought it was just like a foreigner to take idioms literally, but she had to admit his way of thinking was somewhat refreshing. “It’s just an expression people sometimes use when things aren’t going well for them. And a contrary statement might apply if, when we arrive at our destination, there’s a parking space available at the front where you can pull in and let me out. If that were to happen, I might say, “Well, I must have done something right in my life and now God is rewarding me.”
“Thank you, Dr. Gretchen Marks, for your very thorough explanation about expressions Americans use in their speaking.”
Amit and Gretchen arrived at their destination, Amit pulled into an open space right in front of the building. “I see, Dr. Marks, that you must have done something right because God has graced us with this parking space.”
He parked the car and stepped out to assist Gretchen. He guided her out of her seat by her elbow and helped her step over the curb. “There you are, Dr. Marks.”
“You know, you can call me Gretchen.”
“Oh no, Doctor, you have attained a very important status in life that accords great respect. Unless it offends you, I will continue to address you as Doctor.”
“That’s fine, Amit, and regarding this parking space?”
“Yes, Dr. Marks?”
“It was because of your good works that God arranged for this space to be available. I’m quite certain my past works didn’t warrant such a benefit.”
“Either way, it is good that we are able to claim it, yes?”
Gretchen fumbled with her purse for a tip. “Yes, it is very good. I’ll see you after my appointment later today and I will call you a half hour before I am done.”
Gretchen’s appointment did not go well as she received some devastating news – said news put Gretchen on the defense when her Uber driver picked her up later that day.
Amit picked up Gretchen at the appointed time and although he tried to engage the doctor in conversation, he wasn’t entirely successful. At one point, Gretchen lashed out at him.
“Amit, are you a United States citizen?”
He looked at her in the rear-view mirror. “Not currently, but that is my goal, Dr. Marks.”
“How long have you lived in this country?”
“Four years, Doctor.”
“What’s taking you so long to become a citizen?”
Amit drove a couple blocks then asked Gretchen a question. “How many amendments does the Constitution have?”
“What? What has that to do with anything?”
“Amendments. Name one of the writers of the Federalist Papers that were written in support of the Constitution of the United States.”
“I have no idea. I’m not sure I’m even familiar with those papers.”
“I am. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were two of the writers.”
“Good for you, you’ve memorized the answers on the civics exam for citizenship, that doesn’t make you a US citizen.”
“In this country it does.” Amit pulled up in front of Gretchen’s condo. Looking straight ahead, he had one more question for her. “Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?”
Gretchen looked at her lap, then out her side window. “You win, Amit, and I’m sorry for being such a horrible person today. My doctor gave me some bad news and it’s made me angry at the world.”
Amit got out of the vehicle, opened Gretchen’s door, and helped her out. “This bad news, is it something you want to talk about with Amit?”
She patted the hand that rested gently on her forearm. “Maybe tomorrow, Amit. Will I see you at eleven?”
“It would be my extreme pleasure, Dr. Marks, thank you.”
There are many characters that are a part of the lives of those with whom you have already met: Charlie Brooks, the high school teacher and his fellow teacher Jamila Sanders. Single mother, Hannah Palmer and her engaging son, Sammy. And now, Dr. Gretchen Marks, and her Uber pal, Amit Singh. The cast of characters you will meet in A Jagged Journey are varied in age, life experience, and intent. I hope to see you soon, within Journey’s pages.
This brief excerpt takes place on a Monday in a classroom at the Seattle high school where Charlie Brooks, an Environmental Science teacher, and Jamila Sanders, school Spanish teacher, discuss Charlie’s current relationship after a Friday date that didn’t go at all as Charlie had planned.
Charlie crossed his arms in front of him. “I didn’t do any school work this weekend, I didn’t trust myself to grade the papers fairly. My students didn’t deserve for me to take out my anger and hurt on their assignments.”
“That was very thoughtful of you.”
“It was, wasn’t it? Anyway, I spent most of the weekend at a gym I hadn’t been to in weeks, and boy was I focused, so focused, in fact, that on Saturday one of the attendants had to remind me not to monopolize the equipment. I guess one of the other customers complained that I wasn’t following proper gym etiquette.”
“Gym etiquette? You see, that’s why I’ve never joined a gym. Working out is hard enough without having to worry about being polite. Jeez, I don’t know how you do it.”
“Well, like I said, I hadn’t gone in weeks because there was too much macho pressure feeling like I had to perform better than the guy next to me. My membership period expires this month. I cancelled the auto renewal when I left the gym on Saturday.”
“Good for you, no one deserves that kind of stress.”
Charlie stood up and paced in front of the classroom. “And guess what I did Sunday that was a sure sign I had fallen into the deep end?”
Jamila tapped the side of her head, looked up, and conjectured, “You drank yourself into oblivion?”
“Um, you did some baking, and if you did do some baking, why didn’t you bring me any?”
Jamila slapped her hands on both sides of her face. “No way, you went to a ‘gentleman’s club.'”
Charlie couldn’t decide whether to crack up or be offended. “How long have you known me? You think I’d frequent that kind of a place, a place that if one of my student’s parents saw me might mean the end of my job?”
“Okay, yeah, you’re right, but what did you do on Sunday that was so utterly unbelievable?”
Charlie placed his hands on the back of his chair. “I went to Mass.”
Now it was time for Jamila to laugh. “You went to church? In all the years I’ve known you, I think I can count on one hand the number of times you told me you had gone to church. And wait a minute … you went to a Catholic church? Since when did that become the religion of choice for you?”
“It isn’t, okay? I just wanted to go someplace that might offer some amount of solace in my time of need and that church was a convenient one.” Charlie started to laugh at himself. “In answer to your next question, no, it didn’t help. And get this, I actually walked up and took communion. I was just mimicking the people in front of me, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. By the time I turned around to walk back to my seat, I felt like a heathen of magnanimous proportions and walked right past my seat and out of there as fast as I could.”
“Didn’t you even get a receipt?”
Charlie did a double-take. “What are you talking about?”
“A receipt, the weekly church bulletin. I used to give my parents a hard time when they went to Mass. They complained the whole way there, and then at the end of the service when we walked out, we were handed a bulletin and my parents would say, ‘Well, at least we got our receipt.’ Happened every week.”
“No receipt for me. God, I’m such a loser.”
Jamila picked up her backpack. “You are not a loser. I don’t have friends who are losers.”
A Jagged Journey will introduce you to characters similar to those with whom we come in contact at work, play, and everywhere in between. If you’ve given up hope trying to find goodness and kindness in the immediate world around you, be assured you just might find what you’re looking for within the pages of this novel. I write because I figure just about everyone needs someone in their corner to help them along life’s troubled way. Although A Jagged Journey portrays the ups and downs inherent with life as we know it, I believe it just might serve as the catalyst to fill up your hope tank – a tank that may be hovering around empty right about now. This book will be released on April 15, 2021, and is now available for preorder.
Our lives never follow a straight path. We make turns, we leap or crawl over speed bumps and roadblocks, and when needed, we take breaks along the way while battling the insistent urge to just give up. More often than not, however, we keep going – we move forward, one step at a time, hoping for the best.
A Jagged Journey, now available for pre-order, is a novel that follows the pothole-filled lives of disparate characters between the ages of seven and seventy-seven who are far from perfect and for the most part, are not hesitant to admit it. Set in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, the diversity inherent within that region is front and center and will have readers laughing and crying in equal measure.
Laughing because the youngest character, Sammy, is a kick-in-the-butt delight when his honesty comes through loud and clear, challenging every adult with whom he comes in contact to sit up and pay attention.
And crying, because readers will see themselves in the imperfect childhoods that can find adults sinking or swimming in their grown-up years.
Ms. Olson’s new novel was written for anyone eighteen years and older as there are a few – and very far between – language elements within its’ covers. Readers won’t find any gratuitous sex or violence, however; just loving friendships and relationships that will challenge even the hardest of hearts to open up to the many joys that life has to offer.
Although her second novel does not have the same focus as Requiem for the Status Quo with its’ storyline filled with the caregiver and loved one’s journey with Alzheimer’s and other dementia, you will always find that element in every novel she writes, including this latest, A Jagged Journey.
A year after the Covid spread became a verifiable pandemic, I received my 1st dose of the vaccine that will open up the possibility of arriving at herd immunity…depending on the percentage of people who agree to voluntarily submit themselves to the needle.
The global community has been immersed and drowning in a disaster that will become future school students’ history lessons on what can happen when a not-detectable-by-eye virus travels the world on the backs of unsuspecting travelers.
I’ve lived sixty-seven years and therefore have already lived through news events and disasters that are currently a part of history books everywhere. Trust me when I say, I would rather have a boring life experience than be able to recount the tragedies that have befallen my country and our world over the past six decades. The current pandemic is just one of many, but it’s currently front and center in my life, and in the lives of many.
On Thursday, February 25, 2021, after weeks and weeks of concerted effort, I submitted myself to the vaccine needle. I didn’t make finding a vaccine appointment a full-time job, but my dedication to doing so was sincere and robust. The day before I received my shot, my husband and I were preparing to go outside to enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest weather. “I’ll join you in a few minutes…I just want to check the vaccine websites one more time before I go out and play.”
And lo’ and behold, when I checked the 4th of as many appointment sites, a 1 pm appointment the very next day just a few blocks from my house showed as being available and I signed up for it as fast as I could, not wanting it to slip out of my hands.
THE VACCINE EXPERIENCE – GLORIOUS!!!!!
Three other similarly aged people stood behind me in line as I checked in – early! – for the privilege of moving forward in a vaccinated world. For me, the price of admission into that world is a sore arm, and that is all. But even if more uncomfortable side effects were guaranteed as a result of acquiring the vaccine, my husband and I were committed to getting vaccinated because a couple days of discomfort beat any day of having Covid. (My husband will acquire the vaccine when his age makes him eligible.)
Before I left the neighborhood pharmacy where I acquired my 1st dose, the pharmacy tech scheduled me for my 2nd dose, which will occur a few weeks later. I walked out of that pharmacy floating on air – and not because I was experiencing delirious or detrimental vaccine side effects. Nope! I was merely feeling what it’s like to be moving toward the other side of Covid, and closer and closer to once again being able to spend time gathering with loved ones with a greatly reduced chance of acquiring or spreading the virus that could make us severely ill, or even usher us into the great beyond.
Many express their desire to get back to normal, but I don’t think normal will ever return, nor should it. Just as after 9/11 we all adjusted our normals to accommodate our present experience, so too will we adjust our normal as a result of this virus experience that as of today’s date has killed 508,000 US people, and 2.5 million people world-wide.
BUSINESS AS USUAL WON’T AGAIN BE OUR NORMAL, BUT OUR RESILIENT ABILITY TO RESPONSIBLY MOVE FORWARD WILL SERVE US WELL.
For many of us, our 2020 outlook was dingy at times and full of sharp edges at other times. It’s now a new year, and boy did it arrive in an explosive way. Last year, and its current new year counterpart, have kind of felt like we’ve experienced an entire lifetime of uncertainty tempered by acute feelings of fear and anxiety with no relief!
Who of us want that to be our 2021 way of being?
Not me. Same-o, same-o just doesn’t work for me. We cannot change what has transpired and have marginal ability to shape what is to come, but I relish the opportunity to control what is within my personal ability to control:
I choose to enter this new year by altering the way I respond to it. When I change my outlook, I have the chance of changing my response. When I change my response, I might be able to paint the way others choose to respond. If that sounds too good to be true, please know it is not. Everything we say and do influences those around us – whether someone living in our own household or the strangers we encounter in the community. We can choose to come from a place of possibilities rather than defeat; from a place of nourishment rather than a viral place of bitterness.
We are all harboring sad and bitter emotions – many of them resultant from the events of 2020. We can’t change the past, but we can create a better present that might turn into a more hopeful future. And let me tell you a secret…sometimes you just have to fake it until you make it. Who knows, you might be so convincing, you’ll be able to drop your efforts at fakery and actually flourish in your new found well-being.
I want that for me, and I want that for you.
Won’t you give it a try with me?
Definition of a barnacle: A marine crustacean with an external shell that attaches itself to a variety of surfaces. One of those surfaces that non-marine barnacles attach to is aging human skin. There, I’ve said it, aging human skin! Mine to be exact! So said my dermatologist at my most recent annual skin cancer screening appointment. But wait, lest you think the only aging attribute one can look forward to is crusty, discolored skin, let me introduce you to one of the sweetest parts of aging in which one can luxuriate: the candy bowl.
My husband and I have put out an easily accessible candy bowl filled with mini chocolates of numerous varieties for the past seven years – there is no mini-sized chocolate we have not tasted. When purchasing provisions at the grocery store the other day, I told the store clerk and bagger, “We’re just trying to keep alive the stigma of old people eating candy. Doing our part to support one of the oldest clichés of our generation.”
I will say, however, that if my husband and I didn’t have the gift of willpower regarding sweets, we would have never started this 365 days of the year tradition. If each of us ate 3 mini-treats a day, I would be surprised. When it comes to candy, we really don’t have a problem stopping at one or two. (Probably can’t say the same for glasses of wine, however.)
Am I thrilled that my skin is old enough to have barnacles? No, but I am thrilled and grateful that I am a woman of a certain age who can boast about barnacles and eating candy in one, celebratory post.
And may I conclude by saying:
I hope to live long enough to keep spotlighting – and celebrating – aging matters for many years to come.
May I live such that my integrity will remain intact the length of my days.