True stories with a twist!


Hi, readers,

I am pleased to announce that Barbara Younger,  fellow wordpress blogger of “Friend for the Ride”, has written her week’s blog about my book, En Garde, My Battle With Breast Cancer. She has included a chapter of the book on the blog; the one that describes the strong technique of Visualization that I used and found so helpful.

Barbara is also running a contest with the winner getting a free copy of the book.

Please check out her blog.

By early evening I am ready to relax. I don’t want to talk on the phone, answer emails or return messages of any kind. It’s been a long day, world; please let me shake it off in the short time of   evening I have to myself.

When the phone rang I knew I was the designated answerer and reluctantly picked up the receiver. I was ready to give a snappy, “I’m in a hurry now, ‘can’t talk,’” when a sweet, very young voice said, “Hi, Grandma. It’s Xander.”



My joy overcame tiredness. Suddenly there was no better time for a telephone conversation. “May I interview you? It’s for a school assignment.”

He could have interviewed me if it was for the delegation sending aid to the super-rich.

“My third grade class is studying immigration and I have some questions for you about someone in your family who came to America as an immigrant.’

The person who came to mind was my grandmother, who arrived about the time of Word War 1.

Xander asked questions like, “How did she earn money when she first got here,” “Did she know anybody in this country when she came?” “How did she find a place to live?” He wanted to know about the journey here; “did she travel in steerage on the ship that brought her here?” “Did she meet anyone on the ship who became her friend?” “Did she go through Ellis Island?”

Although he was the person asking the questions, I was the one questioning myself.

“Why didn’t I ask my Grandmother more questions about herself? Why wasn’t I interested in knowing what life was like in Russia before World War 1? What did she think of America when she got here? Was it what she expected or was she disappointed?”

The wasted opportunities. The stories and  experiences once available to me for the asking, now gone forever.

I haven’t many regrets in my life, but I do regret not collecting valuable information about my family; both those I knew and those I never met. Now it’s too late. There is nobody left to tell me.

I don’t even know enough to answer a third grade child’s questions.

Is this a chain letter gone wrong? Could it be a scam? Or do you think it’s possible that some of us love writing and want to spread the joy and successes around?

I received an irresistible invitation from a fellow writer named Amy Reade. Get it? Amy Reade? Telling me about a way to get more readers and sales for my book? Yes, please  Read, or Reade my writings, friends. The invitation was to join her “Blog Hop.”

Yes, I would love to.

First I must answer some questions: social security number, drivers’ license and major credit card numbers.  Unknown

No, that is not true. I was asked to answer normal, conversational questions like “What were your grades on the SATs,”  “Were you a virgin when you got married?” “Was your husband?”

Not true; I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

The real first question is: What are you working on now?

Answer: I’m working on preparing for the holidays. Baking and freezing, cooking and freezing, taking a walk through the garden and freezing.

Oh: you meant, 1)what writing am I working on now?

Thinking of subjects to add to my list of blogs, writing them and hoping they will be worth posting. And I am working on  marketing my new book, “EN GARDE, MY BATTLE WITH BREAST CANCER.” I am engaged in speaking engagements and newspaper interviews and am reaching out beyond my immediate world to let others know about my book. I think it is an important book that can help people learn to manage the fear and stress of living with a frightening disease.

2) How is my writing different from those in the same genre? My style leans toward the humorous, even when the subject is not funny. I can’t stay serious for too long a time; something strikes me funny and I have to laugh, smile, or get silly.

3) Why do you write what you do? I write all truthful stories: not fiction. If something happens, or I observe an interesting scene, hear a provoking conversation, think a challenging thought, I write about it and look forward to responses from my readers.

4) How does your writing prices work? I listen, read, and think of subjects that would make readable stories. Most of my stories are under 1,000 words. My book is the longest piece of writing I have worked on. It was written a chapter at a time with each one almost a separate entity.

When I was writing En Garde I asked myself if I could discuss the frightening subject of cancer and still use humor. Myself answered ,”Sure; if it’s tastefully done.” and I did use humor where it fit into the story.

Bargain Prices

imagesAm I watching a corny, exaggerated  sit-com or is this really happening in real time?

Fox’s is an off label store. If you’re lucky you can find expensive well known brands there at less than half price.

Today was the first day of the introduction of their spring line. Customers received invitations to the big event, which included refreshments along with the clothes.

Why any store would invite people to smear bagels with messy cream cheese, hold hot cups of coffee and tea, and browse through racks of brand new clothes does not seem to be a great idea, but that’s what they did.

This is a store where the comment, ”Buyer beware” is very good advice. One shirt I tried on featuring epaulets on each shoulder felt strange once it was buttoned up. Looking in the mirror I saw why. Each epaulet stitched on the shirt was about three inches below each shoulder. Buttons didn’t necessarily line up with the buttonholes, either. And, watching for merchandise with any signs of cream cheese or coffee spots added to the concentration of choosing something to try on.

But the prices are amazing.

Although I was pushed and shoved a bit during the first few minutes the doors opened, the real excitement came when a large delivery truck pulled up at the door-front. The driver pulled the door open and a long rack of new clothing he was delivering was visible from the store’s front window. The rush to the front door was as dramatic as a swarm of mosquitos zooming to sugar cubes.

The unfortunate delivery man was encircled, almost paralyzed by the frenzied group of attacking women. They grabbed at hangers, pulled at clothes, and lunged at whatever they could reach.

This is what cartoons are made of; real people don’t behave this way, do they? Gathering a batch of new outfits was the first challenge; the second was finding a place to try on discounted treasures. Fitting rooms were so tight and closely guarded that women were stripping out of their clothes right in the aisles, flinging dresses and blouses over their heads, pouring legs into pants and skirts.

Chatter was a big part of the scene, with strangers giving advice to fellow strangers: “too tight in the back,” or “it’s pulling apart at the buttons in front.” “The Color is drab for you,” and, “That’s a bit short, don’t you think?” After trying on piles of clothing I decided on a simple pair of white pants and  blue knit top that could have been worn years ago and still been stylish. “This style,” the saleswoman said,” is classic. Picture Jackie Kennedy wearing it.”

Exactly. No matter how I try to modernize or change my look, the same classic style works every time.



I was taught, “Always be well-groomed and neat.” I can manage the neat part of the equation, and used to be able to manage the well- groomed part as well.

That was until my eyebrows awakened, grew into middle age and became power-hungry. Their texture changed, becoming wiry, uncooperative and a different color! After all those years of my preparing to look organized they forced me into a jostled, tussled demeanor. This eyebrow revolt overpowered my resolve and life long training.            images-5

When I want to go in one direction, an eyebrow hair or two decide on a detour. If I run errands around town the eyebrows decide its time to wander somewhere else. I take one road, they take another. Fearless and feisty, those eyebrows! We just can’t seem to agree.

One evening a program on television featured a story about a man with a reputation for his amazing skill at taming wild animals. If he could teach a jungle leopard to behave and obey, why can’t I tame my eyebrows? Could he keep them from curling upward and outward? Dashing sideways? Veering downward? I’ve tried everything: gels, sprays, even mustache wax! Nothing works. Nothing holds them in place. Nothing makes them behave. To paraphrase an old saying, ”You can’t keep a good eyebrow down!”

I am left to ponder the state of the world and its more serious misfortunes. Revolutions, accidents, murders make my problem seem less drastic and tend to put things into perspective. But these are passing tragedies, while my eyebrows are here for life.

It talks back to me: “sorry, the user name or password is wrong.”   images-1       The computerized message then offers me the option of changing the password, leaving me to have yet another password to remember in place of the one I just forgot. What genius figured out that if I can’t remember the password I already have I’ll surely remember its replacement? I tremble and quake at the thought of being asked for my password for anything. What if I can’t remember? What if I say the wrong one? What if I’m not who I think I am?

Does the government have a secret list of Password Irresponsible People known in the trade as “PIPs?” If they do I am surely on it. At the head of the list, in fact.

Unknown   The computer insists on requiring passwords for everything signed into. And the pundits warn not to use the same password for everything requiring a password. That means one password for the computer, one for my account on the computer. Another password for the iphone and yet another for the phone company. That is, one for the phone company if you call with a question, and another if you have an on line question. What do they do when they receive snail mail?

From the the day I bought my computer my password list grew longer than the number of people in my phone book. Even longer than the space allotted for names starting with “s.” I’m not happy with the realization that I now have more passwords than friends. Even more passwords than relatives. As for friendly relatives the numbers are even more frightening.

Will the experts please hurry with eye ball recognition technology and eliminate the use of passwords completely? What a joy it will be on that happy day, when my password book and overworked memory will have a rest.

And finally I will be able to focus my attention on the task of remembering people’s names!       Unknown-2

imagesThe name of the restaurant: “The Prime.”  The only one of three choices on the ship requiring diners to make hard-to-get reservations. The Prime had a more stringent dress code than the other two, being more formal than the other restaurants on board. This small restaurant with its strict policies somehow translated to cruising guests into feelings of exclusivity.

We were fortunate enough to gain access to this chosen, selective spot, having planned ahead. As we entered we saw a room filled with well dressed, sophisticated, bejeweled fellow epicures.

We were clearly in elite, exclusive company. Or so it seemed at first impressions.

However when our eyes grew accustomed to the darkened room we saw that small world in a different light.

The elegant couple seated across the room was drinking heavily, and with each sip seemed to find more cruel and more devastating insults to fling at each other. This was not a simple misunderstanding or lovers’ quarrel, but a summation of years of fury and anger.

My husband looked at me and said,

“This feels like a rerun of a performance of Edward Albee’s play, “George and Martha.”

“Yes, I said: I can still picture Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the leading roles of the movie version.”

At the table next to them sat a family of three, a mature couple with their adult Down Syndrome son: the young man hopefully not understanding what the shouting was about at his neighbors’ table.

Near us was an old couple, handicapped and needing one walker and one wheelchair to be mobile. What a tribute to them to still seek the pleasure of a foreign vacation even though their lives were difficult to maneuver.

“I really admire them,” I said. “They are making a noble effort to make the most of their lives; they’re not just sitting around feeling sorry for themselves.”

At a large table in the center of the room was a group of gregarious people making their presence known and conversation impossible not to hear. Their discussion seemed to center around the newly-published book of the author at their table. The writer constantly tried to focus the conversation to her book when the subject changed. After polite initial interest, her table mates kept trying to shift from the topic of her book to a battle about politics. The battle raged throughout their entire meal.

At the entrance to the restaurant an abrasive woman, clearly used to giving orders and getting her way, began a shouting match with the Maitre’d when he denied her a table without her having a reservation. He stood his ground, politely saying,

“I’m so sorry, ma’am, but most guests made reservations on line before even boarding the ship. There is nothing I can do for you. We simply have no table to offer you.”

A small discrete room, a rich microcosm of illusion was, in reality, a telling microcosm of pain, disappointment and troubled lives.

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