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Friday, August 15, 2014

Summer's End: Opening Up to Change

Judi Stepek

This morning it hit me: summer is ending and a familiar melancholy sets in. At 5:30 am, the sun failed to greet me the way she did a few days ago, announcing the start of another endless summer day to savor. Since childhood I have associated the change in the climate and the landscape with loss.

The first time I had a visceral reaction to the end of summer occurred while riding from the beach in the back seat of our family car, a Pontiac Bonneville packed with beach chairs and a cooler, my twin brother sitting next to me in the back seat. I remember the tightness of my skin that had likely seen too little sunscreen that day.

My seat offered the best view for looking over the causeway bridge. The grey bay waves looked choppy, and the ocean smell wafted through the car’s open window. I could taste the salt heavy in the air and imagined that the screeching seagulls were laughing at my departure.

I experienced a sixth sense that day.  A drop in my stomach accompanied by the bittersweet feeling of having found love yet knowing it is over. It’s so much more than a change in location; it alters your being if passion runs deep.

Summer does that to me.

Summer complements my interests and my energy in a way that almost personifies her. 

She is the warmth of a sunrise run past the Flying W airport.

She is the glow in a sunset bike ride past old Prickett’s Farm.

She is the open invitation for family and friends to drop by for a quick swim in the pool.

For a few blissful months each year I bask in her glory, knowing a deeper connection to the physical world.

Others may feel it on a winter night lit by a full moon and hushed by the fall of snow. Is there a way to smoothly transition from the guy you married back to the high-school boyfriend you were never so keen on dating anyway?

I won’t hold my breath but I will try to evolve as a person.

I will be optimistic and seek an autumnal miracle.  My plan includes a Hudson Valley escape to see the fall foliage.  I can get behind runs that aren’t so hot I might melt. But I would really like to find a new activity that seals the transition deal for me.

I hope that random people, readers, and those who love the fall share their ideas on how to live for the season.

Our guest blogger, Judi Stepek, is a creative writer, mom and wife who enjoys biking and running, theater and music, and listening to people tell their stories.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Once Upon a Time in the Land of Chemo

by Carol Fragale Brill
Admittedly facing cancer and chemo is less fairy tale than scary tale. 

And yet. 

A few hours into my first chemo treatment when the nurse asked how I was feeling, I said sleepy and dopey--and instantly thought of Snow White. I pulled out my cell phone and whipped off something like the following email to my family. 

Once upon a time DOC gave me anti-nausea drugs that make me SLEEPY, borderline HAPPY, and just DOPEY enough to not be BASHFUL. The miracle drugs are working and I am so grateful not to be nauseous because that would make me GRUMPY. And, I’m not having an allergic reaction like I did with anesthesia after surgery so Chemo didn’t make me SNEEZY. 

Oh, and did I mention I’m sitting here with my prince? 

While my ditty lacks literary merit, my writer-self coming out to play during my first chemo treatment felt absolutely huge. 

If it were up to me, I’d add a couple more dwarfs to the mix. The first time the nurse put the needle into my access port, I filled up with tears. Not because she hurt me, I barely felt it, but that needle under my skin, made chemo feel more real. So I’d add a dwarf named Weepy. And for balance I’d add Hopeful, because that is how I want to face each day.   

The day before my chemo, I had a networking breakfast with one of my writing mentors, and a writer we’d never met before who wanted to pick our brains. 

The new writer told me he believes the prayer of strangers is very powerful and that he would pray for my recovery. My mentor said, “I’m praying for you too. I’m praying you keep writing. 

I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about a three sentence scary tale. And, yet, I’m guessing when he reads this, it will make him smile.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Embracing the "F" Word

Word on the internet is that certain female celebrities –Shailene Woodley, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry, to name a few – are shying away from the “F” word.  I missed the TIME articles which dealt with the issue directly – and Shailene Woodley specifically – but I have been following the chatter in various blog posts.  Even AOL deigned to give the subject a tile or two.
So, I’ve been thinking:  how often do I use the “F” word?   When did I start? How do I feel about all the controversy?
I have never heard my mother use the “F” word.  I don’t think I ever heard my Aunt Renee use it, either, but I know she encouraged her daughters to use it.  I think the rest of my family is pretty evenly divided on the subject.
I believe I began using the “F” word in high school.  A few of my teachers at Girls’ High encouraged it.  I know I never would have been admitted to LaSalle College without the “F” word.  I owe my career, my credit score, and even my mortgage to the “F” word.

I am pretty sure Hillary Clinton embraces the “F” word, although I can’t recall if I have ever heard her use it in public.   

And, while Sarah Palin would rather be caught dead than caught using the “F” word, she could never have been a Vice Presidential candidate without it.

My gynecologist, my veterinarian, my family doctor – whether they realize it or not, they most likely owe their choice of professions to the “F” word.

 So I find myself feeling fairly distressed when young women with power blanch at the “F” word – the very wellspring from which their power emanates – as if it really were the “F” word.  Because it means that those of us who have embraced the “F” word may not have gotten the word out well enough.

Yes, it is disheartening: Shailene Woodley,Taylor Swift and Katy Perry are frightened of the “F” word. 

But there is good news, too: 
I understand Beyonce’, Natalie Portman, and Amy Poehler have no problem with it at all.

By  now, I hope you have guessed that I am not writing about the “F” word here. If you have been following the fallout from the TIME articles, you know the “F” word I mean:


By one definition:  the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.

Not a bad word at all.