Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Great Solar Eclipse: A Humble Writer's Musings


So. The Great American Solar Eclipse is history. For one brief shining moment―or two minutes―people came together in the glare, or rather, the darkness of a celestial phenomenon, at least, if you were lucky enough to obtain special glasses and be in the path of totality.

If I never hear the “path of totality” again it will be too soon. Leave it to some to turn a splendid show of science and the universe into a field day for people gouging others. Trying to get a pair of solar eclipse glasses became like the quest for the Holy Grail ... unless you wanted to pay $299 on Amazon.

Instead, with two pieces of white paper, a pinhole prick and a scrap of tinfoil, this humble little view of the eclipse emerged for me ... and it was pretty cool. My son reported seeing it with the naked eye through the tinted glass of the bank where he works and texted his photo to me.

As the great event began and journeyed to its conclusion, it struck me that while a few interviewed on CNN talked about “a spiritual journey,” no one mentioned that three-letter word. I guess God doesn’t figure into this.

Which got me thinking about transformational journeys.
If we have the guts and the fortitude to write our stories, we’ve left our own little indelible mark on the universe, haven't we? Who knows? If our story touches a chord, and most well-written stories do, it might even change a life or two or three for the better.
This past week I met someone who told me how her friend became hysterical at a funeral. Without going into details, suffice to say that when the person discovered that the loved one was dying of cancer, her anger obscured her grief and she took it out on him. At his funeral, her guilt washed over her with a tidal wave of recrimination and tears. “Here, share this with your friend. I think it might help her realize she’s not alone,” I said handing the person a copy of Again in a Heartbeat.

As the eclipse demonstrates, we’re all pretty insignificant in the greater scheme of things. We need to―and I’m including myself here―stop taking ourselves so seriously. In two hundred years or so when the moon again shadows the sun on its endless and eternal orbit here in America, we’ll be long gone and no one will care what so and so thought of us.


Isn’t that the writer’s purpose? To take the longer view? To step back from the personal and focus on the universal? To shed light in the darkness and move beyond any fear that someone or other might be offended by our story? 

If fear of offending those in your orbit is the overriding factor, write a novel or a feel-good script for the Hallmark Channel, which is apparently enjoying boffo ratings in the era of Trump. That way, at least, you can have fun with the story, change the names, the places, gear conversations the way you want without worrying ... and hop on the sofa with your dog or cat and disappear into the fantasy ether.


Here’s some thoughts:
Write your story now.

Don’t let fear stop you.

No more hesitation; no more equivocation that “what I write isn’t good enough.”

Enjoy the moment of knowing that you’ve had the guts and fortitude to step onto the blank page and share it with the cosmos.

Be happy with your own humble little journey.

Keep comfort in the knowledge that others have come before you and others will come after you with their stories, which may be remarkably similar to yours because we all travel the same human journey.

Remember the Divine and give praise.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lessons In Writing Short Story and Flash Fiction

We live in a world where attention span is like an endangered species. Bombarded by a 24/7 chaotic news cycle, many of us, assuming we find a moment to read, are ill-equipped to concentrate for any length of time and so we give up. When we do read, it’s often on laptops and tablets.

It’s easy to conclude why shorter works are popular … better suited as they are to reading off a screen. My own memoirs―by design―never exceeded 34,000 words.

As we learned in our Women’s Writing Circle Flash Fiction/Short Story workshop this past weekend, the lack of time and attention to longer works, plus more reading on laptops and tablets, provide insight into the growing popularity of genres where brevity is the operative word.

Led by author and storyteller Jim Breslin, our workshop focused on finding "sparks" that jumpstart a story; how to craft a basic story structure or narrative arc (set up, inciting incident, rising action, main event and conclusion) and developing a piece that packs a punch in 800 words or less. Flash fiction is so concise, it might even be considered prose poetry, Jim said.

So how to get started, put pen to paper and meet the blank page with that “spark” of story? It might happen through a conversation overheard in the coffee shop or waiting in the grocery store line; mediating; a walk in the woods … our dreams.


Flash fiction is a snapshot, a glimpse of a life that stays with you. “The idea is to dig deep,” Jim said. Whatever inspires or jumpstarts your story, when finished, it should leave the reader in “an elevated place.”

Favorite short stories mentioned at the workshop: O’Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi”,  Hemingway’s “Cat in the Rain" … or my own favorite, short story writer, Alice Munro. and this story “Free Radicals" which can be read here.

Writing prompts, I’ve discovered, also lead to vignettes, whether fiction or creative nonfiction. In my memoir, Morning at Wellington Square, several chapters hovered around 1,000 words … including one titled “Friday Nights”  ... two women going to a bar and commiserating about men and the single life

When writing a short story or flash fiction piece, consider a first draft a starting place … let the pen lead you, get something down on paper. Then, take a break, a walk in the woods, or as Jim offered, “hop on the mountain bike, clear your head … empty the dishwasher.”

For me, some of the best writing breaks involve walking Lily.

Writing contests abound, as do literary journals looking for submissions. Anthologies are also an excellent way to see your short story published. The Women's Writing Circle has collaborated on two anthologies comprised of both creative nonfiction and fiction short stories: Slants of Light: Stories and Poems from the Women's Writing Circle and The Life Unexpected: An Anthology of Stories and Poems.

As Jim noted, a fertile marketplace exists for writers to publish flash fiction and short story (an Internet search can lead to websites where work can be submitted). He tends to agree with the philosophy that you shouldn’t have to pay to submit; also, ask yourself: do you care if you’re paid or not? And don’t let rejections pile up and sit in your inbox for more than 24 hours. Keep the work out there.

As always, our Women’s Writing Circle workshops are like the genres we study … elevating, inspiring and a lot of fun. Many thanks to Jim and to our talented writers for a terrific August workshop of sharing and learning.

How about you? Have you written or read flash fiction or flash creative nonfiction? How about a short story? What do you enjoy about the genre?

Monday, August 7, 2017

The House in Germantown and Memories Of a Writing Life



Summertime is ending and with it comes the desire to experience every last sunny and warm glorious day. One way to do that as a writer is to travel into the city for a story swap where you stand up and tell a story, without notes, for six or seven minutes. I did this on Saturday in Mt. Airy where a group called Patchwork Storytelling met at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore on Carpenter Lane.

Mt. Airy, a Philadelphia neighborhood, is near Germantown where my parents grew up, and so offers memories for this writer … the stone mansions; the big three-story twins like my grandparents’ house on Maplewood Ave. I miss my parents and those days when we drove from our home on the prosperous Main Line to Germantown to pick up my mother’s sister, Edna Gutsche, a woman who never married and in her early twenties would be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Behind Mother is my Grandmother Weidener's house
Grandmother Weidener’s house across the street from the Gutsche house had long been demolished to make way for a JC Penney, but my aunt lived alone in the house after the death of Grandpop Gutsche; then she had to be moved to a state mental hospital.

I especially loved the small brick pathway along the side of the Gutsche's house leading to a backyard garden. Every summer the garden bloomed with fist-sized purple and blue hydrangeas and flutelike pink hollyhocks. It was here a little girl's imagination of romance about someday becoming a writer took flight. It was here in this garden that my parents, Andrew and Gertrude Weidener, married in 1940.


So, as we told our stories at the bookstore,
I found my mind wandering to those days gone by, although the story I told from memory had appeared in Slants of Light, an anthology the Women’s Writing Circle had published four years before. My short story is about a woman who meets a man for an Internet date and he informs her that he is the Prophet Elijah. I can only imagine how my staid German grandparents might have viewed this as told by their sixty-something widowed granddaughter ... meeting a total stranger for brunch; one who turned out to be a kook … and then retelling it in public.

But that’s the writer’s life, isn’t it? We share stories in a rapidly changing world that our ancestors might hardly recognize. After the story “swap” ended, I spoke briefly to a woman named Barbara and mentioned my grandparents. She knew Maplewood Ave. well.

My grandmother and Aunt Edna at the Germantown house
She remembered the JC Penney ... and the old Rowell’s Department Store at the corner of Germantown and Chelten Aves., now, apparently, a charter school. My mother had often shopped at Rowell's as a young woman; it was within walking distance from her house. Faded velvet pink roses she bought at Rowell's and pinned to a summer coat lie tucked in tissue paper in an old box in my upstairs closet. 

My mother sold her parents’ house in 1979 for $17,500. I remember because Mother wailed how it felt like giving it away "for a song" ... her childhood home with hardwood floors and solid cherry windowsills, a house constructed out of gray Pennsylvania stone that glimmered as glints from the mica sparkled in sunlight. But the neighborhood had declined and Mother felt she had little choice.

“Oh, that house would now be worth between $200,000 and 300,000,” Barbara said.

As I pondered that, I felt a sense of happiness, almost relief, that a family appreciated and enjoyed the house my grandfather, a civil engineer with the Pennsylvania railroad, built with great love and attention to detail and quality workmanship. The house lives on long after everyone is gone.

My friend Connie and I walked to a nearby café in Mt. Airy for coffee. I felt the vibrancy of a dynamic neighborhood where shop windows displayed signs that read: Hate is not welcome here.

There is a sense of renewal and revitalization and new beginnings in these old Philadelphia neighborhoods. Different, new, changing with changing times.

Like so many things in life, when we least expect it, we stumble upon the unexpected and from the unexpected arises new thoughts. And from our thoughts and our memories, fresh writing, new stories to share emerge on a beautiful August day.

Top Photo: My mother, her sister Edna and my grandparents, Freda and Emil Gutsche


Monday, July 31, 2017

The Writing Life: A Wickedly Inspiring Day




Yesterday I went into Philadelphia to see Wicked. I had wanted to see it for a long time not just because I love witches and dressed up almost every Halloween as one complete with green face, but because I knew it was a feminist treatise of sorts.

Two sisters have a problematic relationship and two adolescent girls … one basking in golden curls and popularity and the other struggling in a world unable to see her oddly compelling beauty ... learn how to change the other for the better.

By the time the final curtain call had everyone at the Academy of Music on their feet cheering and applauding, I felt tears. A story about women where women care for one another even after hurtful life events! How inspiring and unexpected, especially now as we struggle through the aftermath of a devastating election loss and all that has come since then ... the tide again turning against women. Not to mention, Republicans threatening to investigate the “wicked witch” as I saw in this morning’s headlines.

When I got home from the theater, the lawn had been freshly mowed, Lily greeted me, bouncing upstairs to my bedroom, hopping on the bed and rolling over demanding a tummy rub as if I had been gone six days, not six hours.

As I changed into shorts and a T-shirt, I felt the joy of living alone: going to the Academy of Music, the "Grand Old Lady of Locust Street" with its opulent crystal chandeliers and stunning statuary; making dinner when I want, making what I want, curling up later with two good books; a beautifully written memoir by a woman named Janice Gary who taught memoir at the IWWG conference and a lovely little novel by another woman, MaryAnn Myers, who I also met at IWWG. Like sunlight on a late July day, these books written by women I’ve met and whose company I’ve enjoyed, warm me with the creative journeys inside their pages.

Last week I had sent out an email to Women’s Writing Circle about teaching a memoir workshop in my home. The theme: digging deep into those tricky situations in life which the memoirist knows she needs to write, yet crafted both with distance and a heart receptive to whatever discoveries arise along the way.

I received a wonderful and encouraging response. Already five women signed up for this late September workshop and I look forward to our day together; unearthing the unexpected and allowing writing to work its magic and move us forward psychologically and spiritually.

The journey, as Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist, writes, is “like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands. With wholehearted practice comes inspiration, but sooner or later we will also encounter fear. For all we know, when we get to the horizon, we are going to drop off the edge of the world. Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s waiting out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it.”



That’s one of the things I most enjoyed about Wicked. Its unexpected twists and turns keep the audience engaged; a plot that leads women to support and validate each other despite their differences and fear of what might come with a change of heart and mind.

The play offers a lesson to the writer. An uplifting and universal message of hope, courage and bravery where women can and do persevere against all odds resonates year after year with audiences everywhere. A wonderfully wicked way to end July, a high note on a summer’s day in the writing life.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Arizona Firefighter Finds Voice and Story In Memoir


I met Linda M. Strader online and she wrote me: "I stumbled upon the Women’s Writing Circle when another writer’s group member shared the post “Memories of My Best Friend With Gratitude to Facebook.” Always interested in anything to do with memoirs, I read the article and immediately felt connected, not only to that post, but to the others I found on this page. From this connection, I wanted to contribute and be a part of this group."

In 1976, Linda became one of the first women on a Forest Service fire crew in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, Arizona. She is celebrating the completion of her memoir Summers of Fire due out next spring. In this guest post she talks about the challenges—and the rewards—of writing her story. Please welcome Linda to the Women's Writing Circle.

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When I was only twenty years old, I became a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service. While that is still a relatively unusual job for a woman, in 1976 it was almost unheard of. And it wasn’t just unheard of because women weren’t particularly interested—it was unheard of because the Forest Service did not allow women on fire crews until 1975. What possessed me to take on such hard work? For sure, not because I wanted to prove anything. As the outdoorsy type, the job just seemed to fit. And now that I reflect back, I recognize that maybe I was destined to do something out of the ordinary all along.

For two summers I worked for the Forest Service as a clerk on Mount Lemmon near Tucson, Arizona. After my second summer in the office, I decided I wanted to go for an outdoor job with the agency. When the Nogales Ranger District on the Coronado National Forest called offering me a firefighting position, I said “Yes!” and then wandered around the house in amazement, thinking, I’m going to be a firefighter…

I never forgot my first day of work. My new supervisor inspected my hands for calluses and my biceps for muscles—evidence that I could handle the tough job. That he wondered didn’t bother me. But did I know I could do this kind of work? Heck no! But that didn’t worry me—much. I’d do my best, and that’s all I could do.

Everything went good for most of the summer. A couple guys on the crew gave me a hard time, throwing the “women belong barefoot and pregnant” garbage at me, and making sexual innuendos—but I held my own. It wasn’t until the end of the summer that I discovered most of the guys resented, for one reason or another, my presence on the fire crew.

“You make more work for the rest of us.” And “You couldn’t carry me out of danger if I got injured.” One simply worried I’d get hurt. However, not only did I have to contend with the guys resenting me, but that their wives did, too! They didn’t like the idea of their husbands working alone with me. That stung, but did it stop me from reapplying the next year? No—it made me even more determined to return.

By my third fire season, though, I faced invisible enemies, higher up in the ranks—untouchable men who’d held their positions of authority long before women showed up, “ruining everything.” Denied positions for which I was fully qualified almost made me give up. Almost. I continued to work in this field until I no longer could.

Fast forward three decades: My life fell apart. After I divorced my husband of 23 years, I lost my high-paying job, my mom—and my will to live—a dark time.

The journey to writing my book started out when my new neighbor asked about a collage on my wall.

Pleased, I said, “Oh, those photos are of when I was a firefighter.” He grinned. “You should write a book!”

Emotionally struggling at the time, I wondered if writing about those exciting years of my life would help. I began to write, and ended up with 90 pages of my seven years of experience on fire crews. I shared it with friends, and they encouraged me to add more. Four hundred pages later, needing a solid critique, I found an editor (and eventually my friend), a mentor, and a writers group—all willing to help.

After much hard work editing sentences, rewriting chapters, trying to find the best way to tell the story including where to begin the story, and even more editing, I decided it was time to research publishing. Rejections rolled in. Although form letters, they stung none-the-less. The more personal rejections were painful, but in the end helpful: “Your voice is not strong enough.” And: “A memoir should be written like a novel.”

A novel? I didn’t know how to write a novel. Plus, how do I fix my voice?

Finally, I had a revelation. Stop trying to fix what wasn’t working. I started over. I changed from writing about what had happened, and wrote about what I thought and felt when those events happened.

Revision completed, my search for publication resulted in a signed contract with Bedazzled Ink Publishing. Summers of Fire will be released May 1, 2018.

Excerpt from Summers of Fire: Uh-oh,” Joe said, staring behind us. “There go our packs.”

My Pulaski froze mid-swing; I lowered it to my side, momentarily forgetting the wildfire in front of me. Smoke swirled between us. I leaned around Joe and saw nothing but pine trees on fire, which, all things considered, made sense. Where did our packs go? Was an animal dragging them away? Then it hit me. Our packs were up in flames. The forest fire had jumped our line. The narrow defensive belt of raw earth we’d feverishly clawed through the woods had been breached. All of our gear. Gone. Including our canteens of life-sustaining water.

Linda M. Strader: Originally from Syracuse, New York, Ms. Strader moved to Prescott, Arizona with her family in 1972 during her senior year of high school. In 1976, she became one of the first women on a Forest Service fire crew in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.

Summers of Fire is a memoir based on her experiences not only working on fire crews, but how she had to find inner strength and courage to reinvent her life not just once, but several times. Her publishing history includes many web articles on her expertise of landscaping with desert plants. A local newspaper, the Green Valley News, printed an article about her firefighting adventures, which led the magazine, Wildfire Today, to publish an excerpt. The article generated interest in her speaking on this topic to several clubs, including the American Association of University Women. Summers of Fire is her first book, scheduled for publication on May 1st, 2018. She is currently working on a prequel.

In addition to writing, Ms. Strader is a landscape architect, certified arborist, and watercolor artist. She lives in the same area where her Forest Service career began.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Writing Workshop, New Writing and Women's Voices


July 11 ~ Today is my birthday. I celebrate with women writers at the IWWG Conference at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. In the morning I attend a workshop intriguingly entitled “What Kinds of Fools (or Shamans) Are We?”

Led by Lisa Freedman, who teaches creative nonfiction at the New School in New York, the workshop involves meditation, a book by a woman named Vicki Noble, feminist and shamanic healer, and free writes.

Breathe in, breathe out, Lisa instructs in the shade of an ancient oak as heavy July breezes stir. The four of us seated at a small metal table are exploring the I Ching and Tibetan Shamanism―the shaman and the fool’s journey, the yin and the yang, the broken and unbroken lines.

Humble, innocent and a bit foolish are balanced with seizing power (the experienced shaman/goddess within) to explore the task ahead: a fresh approach and new writing. As I begin this workshop, I know I’m in the groove; a compelling way to start a new year under summer skies. A vision quest.

***
A memoir I’ve tentatively titled A Woman Alone strikes a chord with women at the conference when I share my idea later that day over lunch. I seek a little input. What would they like to hear in a memoir like that? How about what it’s like to sleep alone joked one woman who has lived with a snoring husband for four decades.

A line from a Jane Hirschfield poem comes to mind. “We work with what we are given.”

I think of myself and I write: She lives the life no one wants to live, but which she finds many women envious―or so they tell her. Oh, not the death of a beloved husband, but this precious time to think, to write, to search for serenity without distraction and demands.
With Lisa Freedman
I think of my best friend, Paula, a woman alone, and I write about her in another workshop, "Diving Into the Wreck: Writing About Pain, Loss and Other Difficult Subjects" led by memoir author Janice Gary. (I will write about this in another blog post.)

***

“Listen to the sounds … the birds, the din of a not-too-distant lawnmower” … Lisa says during the opening five-minute meditation next morning. I bow to heart center and open my eyes; ponder the silver bracelet one woman wears with the word “fearless” engraved.

I’ve been drawn to this circle since his death … this community of women's voices … this voyage of discovery. (It's why I joined IWWG again this year.)

From the Motherpeace Tarot, I draw a meditating yogini … a sword represents the realm of ideas, points toward a goal. In beams of clairvoyance, the light radiates … or, at least, that’s the interpretation.

She lives alone by choice. She travels both the fool’s journey―turning handsprings―and the shaman’s, whose life experience has served her well.


She writes these words, starting with a prompt: “I want…”

I want a morning of radiant purple and pink hydrangeas and petunias that remind me of my mother. I want to feel Lily’s blond velvet muzzle, take in her smell of vanilla and wood. I want my son’s smile, the sound of his voice … his father who walks within him in spirit, intellect and grace.

And this from paper cutouts with random words and phrases Lisa has placed in a small gold bag. I reach into the bag. I ponder one phrase on the cutout I’ve drawn …” empty spaces.”

I dream of him and he climbs into the empty spaces … 

The workshop ends, the conference concludes three days after my birthday. Another year, more  ideas, a way to come back to our Women's Writing Circle with new offerings, free writes, reflections of the collective journey that is storytelling and writing. The days ahead beckon, exploration the task, wherever it might lead. Breathe in, breathe out.




Friday, July 7, 2017

Memories Of My Best Friend With Gratitude to Facebook


So many of us who write memoirs say we do so to confront our own “truths.” What are they? Are we in touch with the truth or are we in denial as one person suggested I was when I said I felt my best friend’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was wrong―all wrong.

I believe life is a lot like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey's novel set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital. Who is crazy? Who is sane? And who decides?

I spoke to my best friend Paula on the telephone this week … did she remember the name of the school where our fathers met and worked? No. Did she remember details of the day she introduced me to John at that same school? Yes. “You weren’t interested and that made him more interested … I watched his eyes light up when you were standing in front of him,” she said. We laughed with delight as only friends whose memories span over five decades can.

When we spoke last month, she told me her boyfriend “had met someone new.” She cried. Now she lives with the illusion that he visits her and that she never said he met someone new. "He loves me," she said.

Life is like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Who is crazy and who is sane? And who decides?

Perhaps, this is the definition of Alzheimer’s, with which she has been diagnosed (but I do not believe she has, nor does she) ―out of touch with reality because reality is crazy, it’s insane, it’s too much for the pure of heart to bear any longer. Now that she has been placed in a nursing home where she can rest, my friend is slowly trying to adjust to years of confusion, anxiety, emotional abuse, going off her meds, and poor diet.


And the memory returns … sitting next to Paula under a red, yellow and blue striped beach umbrella. Our books and notebooks lie on the beach towel; the blue and green Atlantic seascape beckons. I jump up. “Come on,” I say, but Paula prefers to sit quietly on the towel, jot down a few notes for the novel she works on. “You go ahead, I’ll watch,” she smiles and off I run into the icy salty water. As I bob up and down, I look back toward the shore … I see a small figure under the umbrella wearing a big-brimmed straw hat. I wave. She waves back.

She offered me shelter from the storm … every summer around July 4th ―my birthday is July 11th ―I traveled to Long Beach Island. The years passed. First with the boys, then alone …. We ate hoagies on crisp Italian rolls until she became a vegetarian … drank ice cold Cosmos until she gave up drinking, except for an occasional wine spritzer. How to describe being with a friend who loves you unconditionally? Nothing you say results in a judgment, a frown … just love and acceptance of me, of "Susie," as she has called me since we were little girls.

Summers melted one into another and she never forgot my birthday … a bouquet of pink roses the same hue as those at my wedding where she had been my matron of honor arrived on my doorstep …. A special Life magazine edition commemorating the 75thth anniversary of Gone with the Wind, my favorite movie and novel growing up ….

On July 4th I wrote this on Facebook: Many of the past July 4th holidays I spent with my best friend, Paula, at her home at the New Jersey Shore. Like many older women who have lost their way and have little to no family, she has been treated callously by a social services system; one that lacks compassion and discernment. This year she was thrown into an Alzheimer's unit against her will with what I am certain is an improper diagnosis. In the process, they have taken away her home, her car, her life. It's hard to celebrate when there is so much suffering right here in our own country.

I received a wonderful outpouring of thoughts, reflections and sympathy for Paula, and for me.

“How horrible and sad. This is my own personal fear as I age being that I have no children. What a frightening situation for this woman,” a friend posted.

Yet another Facebook friend privately messaged me with an article how many conditions can be confused with Alzheimer’s, including depression, emotional trauma and dehydration … all of which Paula suffered.

Thanks to a Facebook friend who had read my July 4th post, I was put in touch with a psychologist who knows New Jersey social services and elder abuse laws. She was crystal clear! A clarion voice of reason, of action and how best to analyze and help me examine the situation. I don’t think I will ever put social media down again as I met this woman through Facebook and after speaking to her … and then to Paula … my heart feels so much lighter and a course of how to proceed clear.

Paula is in a place where they take care of her basic needs. “There is no drama,” Paula said when I phoned her after hanging up with the woman from New Jersey. Paula doesn’t believe she has Alzheimer’s, but she is, at least for now, prepared to stay in the nursing home and get better. I wonder … last month when we spoke, she wept, was angry, pleaded with me to help her get out of there. What has changed?

I feel so sad … is this what it has come to? Living behind a curtain of denial to survive. I know other people like this, although certainly not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. And who is in denial? Paula? Me?

As I spoke to Paula on the phone, she asked how I was, and how the boys were. She said she loved me and I told her I loved her. “I am so grateful to have a friend like you, so lucky to have you,” she said.

“I’m worried about you,” I said, trying to hold back the tears.

“I’m worried about you, too,” she said, “that all of this has been overwhelming for you.”

“So much worry!” she said and then we laughed.

When, I wondered, was the last time anyone was concerned that things had become too overwhelming for me?

If she wants to go someplace else, someplace near me, I will do all I can to make that happen, I told her. So, for now, I will let it go. She knows I am here to help.

“It’s nice to have choices,” she said.

"So you'll ponder it?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.