Sunday, May 21, 2017

Being more mindful of others



      Everybody has something going on. Each of you has a different reality you are struggling with daily.
     You rush around doing life “things” totally engrossed in your own big problem. That’s where your energy is pulling you. Zapping you often, too.
     It’s completely natural.
     Occasionally, like now, you are reminded that every single one of us is owner to a different big problem inside our heads. 
     No. Not one of us is exempt.
     I am writing this column on purpose, not just for you, but for myself, too. You and I walk around with blinders on too much of the day. Now let’s give ourselves a mental check.
     Be more sensitive to others.
     Go ahead, and repeat it several times. Post a note by your computer or on the refrigerator.



      Most people you encounter will never share the big problem that is consuming their body, mind and soul.
      Performance on the job must be executed at the highest level. You expect it of yourself and others. The big problem must be pushed aside temporarily.
     However, you notice that the parking lot attendant, waitress or receptionist is a little “off’ and not on his game plan. Give each a little slack. It might be the best encouragement they get all day on the job when their heart is heavily weighed down with a big problem.
     Once I was in the process of buying a new phone and I noticed the salesperson was rather quiet. He answered my questions and went through the paces. Further into the discussion he mentioned that he would be leaving shortly and would be handing me over to another salesperson. He paused for a moment, and told me that he was going to his grandfather’s funeral. Unfortunately, he couldn’t take much time off and I could see he was suffering greatly. I backed off. I waited for the next salesperson.
     When you have a physical ailment you stretch the mind and soul to think positively for a faster and better outcome. Financial burdens certainly affect all aspects of a person’s being as well. Any worry or fear without an anchor in our soul can easily get the best of one. Death of a loved one takes its toll.
    None of our big problems are unimportant.
    Not everyone wants to talk about his or her big problem either, or be defined by it.



     Each of us is a person first – perhaps married with children and a job - which happens to have a big problem. Doctors and mental health providers treat the whole patient, and the rest of us should do likewise. No one wants a pity party. Well, at least no one does for any length of time if they know it isn’t a smart idea.
     When the big problem has diminished into the background, we forget, don’t we? It’s as if the mind can only deal with a weighty issue for so long.
     More than likely, s person with a big problem will have the widest smile on his face and appear more at peace than you could ever imagine. He has his way of coping, support network and belief system in place. You admire him for walking tall through life with grace and dignity out of his usual comfort zone.
     You wonder if you would be able to be like any one of these folks when your time comes to step up to your big problem.      Somehow or other it happens to all of us, and we manage at the moment.
      Interestingly enough, these are the very folks out doing more good for those less fortunate than themselves. You and I could mention on two hands those gentle souls with big problems that turn around and bless others with their love in deeds right in our own town.
     I am thinking of wonderful human beings that have such a spirit about them. I’m not sure that any one of them needs our affirmation in print. They do decent things simply because it is the way they have lived their entire lives.
     Sit in the waiting room of say, the Wilmot Cancer Institute in Rochester, or the new Ann and Carl Meyers Center in Dansville, for any period of time, and it is humbling to be associated with patients, caregivers and staff with the right winning attitude. There are heavy stakes tossed out there in the pitch of darkness. Uncertainties prevail. The comfort comes in the assurance that a team is collaborating on plans for the big problem. 
     At Wilmot I was minding my own business reading a magazine, and a couple leaned over into my space waiting to be noticed. They could tell that I wasn’t a “regular.” I looked up. The gentleman told me they were there for his ten- year cancer free check-up. They were both ecstatic.  How could I not celebrate for a brief moment with a high five? It was a big deal.
     I notice on Facebook the child of a friend with cancer fiercely making her way between school, treatments and life in general. I cheer right where I am for this precious young one. Yes.
     The world is so guarded and fearful today you have difficulty making your way through. For self-preservation, circles tighten and therefore, love can’t escape.
     Frankly, looking out beyond your personal horizon is refreshing and healthy. Remember to pay attention.
    






Thursday, May 18, 2017

Best new restaurant in the country- definitely


by Kay Thomas


I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down to a meal at the FLX Table in Geneva. Check your Yelp or Trip Advisor reviews and you'll get an idea of what I  mean about this lovely little spot on lovely little Linden Street that everyone is raving about in national travel magazines.

VOTED BEST NEW RESTAURANT by USA Today poll. 

FLX Table  website for more specific information.

It was a evening of suburb food, thoughtful wait staff and splendid conversation around the table with a group of folks that blended well together for the two-hour meal. 

Growing up I remember distinctly large family gatherings focused on togetherness sharing the bounty of the earth.  I got that similar feeling at FLX Table and it soothed my soul. Simple and elegant all at the same time. 

It was not only a special milestone birthday for one couple and a graduation from college party for another large family. For every single one of us, it was a celebration of local seasonal food, and with the passion of the chefs preparing each dish, we honored  the environment and its farmers. 

Note: I don't have pictures of the Starter course: A farmer's board of cheese, veggies, spreads and dips;  or the smoked polenta, 64-degree egg, truffle puree and foie gras
You get the idea, though, that each course was special. We were positioned to watch the meal being prepared in the kitchen area adding to the feeling of intimacy and belonging there.

Reservations required. Plan ahead.  



Waiting in anticipation always makes the heart beat faster. My reservation was made the moment a new set was made available online. 

Mushrooms, pickled oysters, lion mane, mistake, shiitake, black garlic and ramps
 I chose wine with my dinner and the pairings for each course were perfect in my opinion.



Buckwheat carrot cake, lemon curd, cream cheese, mint, olive and cashew
Lamb sausage, pee wee potato, black olive puree, seaweed

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Conversations on Costa Rican time



     If you lean in to conversations with local people and keep in mind their unique attitudes and lifestyles, you will be rewarded tenfold while traveling. 



     After a cool-off swim in the pool accompanied by a few persistent Great Kiskadees – small yellow and brown colored birds - perching overhead in the swaying palms and an inconspicuous lime green iguana quietly nibbling leaves, my husband and I headed into Tamarindo for dinner a short mile away. The sunset didn’t disappoint over the Pacific coastline where its colors fanned out framing the volcanic mountains to the west.
     A youngish waiter seated us at a table on the patio and made his usual generic conversation starter. “How was the surf today?”
     Tamarindo is celebrated as a mecca for surfers, and for those sharpening their skills, they are at home in a paradise abounding with friendliness. Costa Rica has no military and crime is low, even in tourist areas with normal precautions.
       “Do we look like surfers, dude?” my husband replied tongue in cheek.
     The waiter didn’t miss a beat and used his next best line for visitors. “I hope you are enjoying your stay in Costa Rica.”
    He patiently listened while I expounded on my joy with our condo pool and explained that where I come from people are shivering in the winter cold. I don’t suppose he could relate to the North American climate, yet he tried valiantly by sharing his story. He remembered looking forward to pool time when he was a kid traveling with his grandma.
      That was about as much dialogue that we had with him the rest of the meal, other than his checking on our dinner choices and drink order. As the temperatures cooled into the high 70s we had survived a typical March day – dry, 97 and sunny.


     A conversation that I had with an American family with two teenage boys while we were at a coffee plantation was in stark contrast leaving me shaking my head at the presumption so ingrained in behavior.
     The teenagers didn’t want to be there, and every step of the way they informed their parents of such, along with reminding them that they didn’t drink coffee. The tour guide was admirable in trying to engage the boys, but to no avail. He couldn’t beat the competition – cell phones.  
     Shouldn’t I have given them a reality check at this point? Something held me back from telling the boys to go with the flow and don’t ruin the experience for others. They stayed on their phones and never once spoke to their parents or acknowledged us. Well, they did ask when they were leaving twenty thousand times.
     On the way back up the hill from observing the coffee processing and grinding, the father informed me in an authoritarian tone all in a matter of a couple minutes – everyone else had moved on faster ‒ that he is a corporate executive for one of the leading health insurers in the U.S., and owns two homes in exclusive sections of Scottsdale and New York City. He mistakenly assumed that I would be impressed by his importance.  I assessed the man had some deep-seated insecurities and we couldn’t have a casual dialogue.
     We had a more down-to-earth moment with the owner of our local cafĂ© bar.  She shared that her husband was originally from Buffalo. Go figure. She pointed us in the direction of the weekly farmers’ market on the beach, and we wandered down to spend a few CR colones on local melons and cheeses.


     The next day my husband and I rented an electric golf cart to get around. We probably wouldn’t adjust to the excessive heat in two weeks time as hard as we tried keeping hydrated. The alternative ATV mode of transportation is rough on your back as you get older and the bumpy roads don’t help matters here. There are potholes dotting the roads, and of course, at the most inopportune time.   
     By the way, drivers of all types of vehicles have excellent road manners, and for example, an SUV overtaking a golf cart waits its turn to pass. No honking horns. No rage. No hurry.
     The other impressive thing is whether walking or riding, locals make eye contact, wave and say, “Hola.” You certainly feel the pride they have in their country. 


     Saying that, you are supposed to charge your cart overnight, right?  When we merrily got in ours the next morning headed out to walk the beach, we ran out of juice en route.
     I won’t deny there were some utterances back and forth, and one or two, “I told you so’s.” Frustration goes along with hot temperatures and new environments.
     Fortunately, I walked the beach – it was hot and windy at 8 am - and my husband got his exercise walking back to the nearby rental place. A wonderful guy got him straightened out without excessive embarrassment. You like to think that at our age we have life figured out, but those little surprises keep us on our toes.
     “Crazy tourists. You must be tired of us,” I said when he shook my hand.
     “No. No. Crazy machines. Don’t feel bad. It happens all the time, and to the locals, too. The dials don’t indicate how much charge you have left.”  He kindly followed us back to our condo gate like a special escort.  
     We waved good bye to him, sheepishly drove in to recharge for a few hours and sip some rich iced Costa Rican coffee before planning our next adventure. Live and learn.
    
    
    
          
    



Friday, April 21, 2017

Our older generations often the forgotten ones



     No matter how you want to gloss it over, or ignore it for that matter, the fact is there is a huge portion of our population that is elderly. Their collective voice gets lost in a society obsessed with remaining youthful and egocentric.
     You can’t look the other way at this American dilemma and have a clear conscious. It’s a plight that is not going away on its own.


      A senior population needs appropriate affordable housing, transportation, care giving and proximity to medical services. I could go on and on about the limited availability, or perhaps lack of, such services in our rural part of the state. It does take solid advocacy with persistence to speak out on these issues, and to get our legislators to listen and take action. There is something wrong if it takes 10 years of politicking to get proposed bus transportation around Keuka Lake, for example.   

    
     Older folks are not advocating for themselves as a group. Why? There are a couple reasons.
     Often they have lost their ability to speak up,  too physically and emotionally worn down by life’s complexities to help themselves. The world moves so fast around them, and they no longer feel able to participate. Once part of the productive segment of society, now these are the same people who have been put out to pasture. They may question their usefulness, and rest on their previous laurels quietly in the background underappreciated by a youthful society.
     Many seniors feel that no one is listening either, and why bother. Voting is down among this group as a result.


     There might be a solution. When younger folks learn to appreciate their elders, they will see their needs much clearer and be willing to advocate for them. 
     Kindness is a trait learned from practice, and it is especially important for holding up intergenerational connections. It is not someone else’s responsibility to check on your elderly neighbor, or give a helping hand without being asked. Consider it yours. 
     If you take a moment or two to simply listen to someone much older than yourself, you will walk away amazed at the wisdom and history you have gleaned.  Stopping in for a game of cards would go a long way in developing appreciation and compassion for fellow human beings. That’s a lesson that can’t be taught from a textbook.


     How many young children experience the thrill of hopping on great-grandpa’s knee for a ride, or playing with his walker? And for the older member of the family, a little bit of loneliness has been put to rest for a short spell. I just keep thinking that, if we could find strategic ways for all ages to serve and interact with our seniors, we could in turn realize positive outcomes for our younger population too.
     As a society we tend to push aside the truths of growing older, and fail to recognize that our seniors have fewer social opportunities and loss of freedoms, such as driving to go where they want to when they want. For example, most of their friends are no longer alive, and it is on rare occasions that they do get together with one or two that are remaining, They usually have never been “phone people” so if they are lonely, they are not going to call someone.


     A friend told me that she asked her elderly 96 year-old father what he did when he felt lonesome, and he said he prays. He doesn't feel that he's been forgotten because he knows people care, but he also doesn't want people to think they are obligated to visit him either.
     In other societies, the senior is revered and honored. Not so much in ours unfortunately. A lot of this rests on the simple fact that society has changed, and no longer do family units live close by.

     There is a beautiful story in my neighborhood about the passing of one family’s patriarch this winter. His huge family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren live in close proximity. They gathered for a memorial celebration along with assorted lifelong friends. His time on earth was up, but his life was not in vain as evidenced in all the lessons they shared from grandpa in their eulogies. His family is a disappearing type, though.
     On the other hand, dealing with an aging parent while working in a distant city requires a juggling role. In the meantime, pity that elderly person depending on local resources – scarce as they may be – and gracious neighbors or friends to get by, and often barely.   

     A major problem is a lack of activities in rural areas that are geared toward the older population many of whom have recently retired and lost their circle of work friendships.

     There is a newly-formed wilderness awareness club, Wayland Wilderness Warriors, and the founder, a younger person, hopes to get everyone - children and seniors included - involved in gardening, hiking and field trips to places like Pollywog Holler, Letchworth, Healing Spirits Herbal Farm and Education Center, art fests and walkathons.  Check its Facebook page.


      Consider it a Catch 22. For some seniors the golden years bring new opportunities, and for others an endless stream of betrayals, humiliation and loneliness. Not everyone experiences older age the same, and depending on their resources, it can be a dream or a nightmare.
     I have only skimmed the surface, and with your additional thoughts and stories, I will continue the conversation in another column. You tell me.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

From the lens of a photographer

From the lens of a photographer

     My photographer friends have the gift of seeing the unique in the ordinariness of life.  Their lenses point in altogether different angles than anyone else.
     Once upon a time a photographer gave me a bit of advice. Observe the scene you are thinking about shooting and walk to a contrastive spot. Now judge what’s in your viewfinder. Life goes like that, too.
     Photographers develop a good eye with practice, along with owning up to a tremendous bit of patience waiting for the perfect shot.  There is a bit of luck invested in a picture, too. Being in the right place and at the exact time of day is all part of the game plan.
     Any visual or literary artist will remind you that his best work is still to come out. It’s that never failing hope, which is ever so vital that keeps the creative juices flowing and not ebbing away.


     In the winter Dansville ArtWorks, 178 Main Street, displayed a juried exhibition of regional photography judged by longtime Rochester Institute of Technology Professor and Chair of Fine Art Photography Willie Osterman, and the results were works of very high quality in my opinion. Watch for an announcement of the third annual photography contest next winter.      
     Hollie Hill from Wayland won third place for a delightful, whimsical piece of a family having fun together. It lifted all our somber moods leftover from the post election season. One needs to smile, and Hollie surely did when her prize was announced.  Incidentally, she was a high school art student of my husband, and he stood by beaming, too.


     Another veteran Livingston County photographer, Larry Tetamore, entered a photo of a waterfall scene. He does beautiful work featuring Letchworth Park, and frequently, he shoots off into the sunsets from his new property in Avon. He told me that he took a risk and entered this particular show because of the reputation of Osterman, an expert in his field. He didn’t think he stood a chance.
      There’s a lesson in that statement from Larry to emerging photographers. Take the chance. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I am sure Larry would agree with me. You plod along, and eventually, you might get it right.


     I watch for Bob Oswald’s daily nature updates on Facebook from Upstate, Florida, or somewhere on his route coming and going. His eye for the finest detail in wildlife is incredible. You wonder how he ever gets to his end destination.  Or does his wandering spirit ever make him late for dinner? Thank goodness he takes the time to observe nature with the upmost passion. He has a big audience.


     John Adamski, a fellow columnist here at the Livingston County News, also tells stories in his photography. Recently, his eagle nesting series in our area fascinates me. He shares his knowledge readily, too, and since high school biology was a long, long time ago, it is helpful to be updated by an expert. There is more to learn.


     Personally, I don’t know Dick Thomas –we’re not related – however, his scenes make living in our region something to shout about to the rest of the world. More often than not, I will recognize a barn or so, and it makes the photo more memorable. Simple, unadorned photography is often best.


     I could go on and on naming photographers, and lest I leave someone out, I should stop now.
     There is one other story that I have to relate here about a photographer making special out of every day life.
      Last summer I had the good fortune of hiring Beth Doty, Beth Doty Designs, to do a photo shoot to update my professional work. It was time. Actually, I had been watching her work for quite awhile, and I love how she plays with children’s poses. Each seems natural, and I wanted my images to say something about who I am to the world as far as my personality. There’s more than just a face. 
     Beth and I agreed to meet at the village park in Geneseo where there is a stately stone veterans’ monument, an excellent backdrop as the sun is setting over the valley. She had something in mind for me, and I let her call the shots.
     We started talking and she asked me questions about what writing projects I had in the works. I found it curious that she never knew that I had spent my career as an elementary teacher. Since I have been out of the classroom for so long now, apparently I have become redefined as a writer without realizing it. We talked of my family and hers, and how her son would be entering his senior year with its bittersweet moments.
     “I’ve got it. I’ll send you the proofs in the morning.” Just like that, it was over. My assumption that it would be painstaking and time consuming fell by the wayside.
      All the while she had been shooting away, and ignorant me thought she was testing for the right exposures. She had put me at ease without me having a clue. The entire session took fifteen minutes.
     The result is a new photo for my column, AND ONE MORE THING… Thanks, Beth.
    
         
    
    











    

     

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Surf's up. School is open


School's in session, and look at that location - Tamarindo, Costa Rica - for eager minds to soak up their lessons. Well, it is spring break for lots of North American kids, and what better than to try their skill at surf boarding. 

Might I add that this was 6:15 am when I walked past, and yes, kids will hop out of bed if they are motivated.





Thursday, March 23, 2017

A little observation from a recent trip

Ten years ago in Costa Rica, you couldn't find a plastic bag anywhere in this eco-friendly country. I must say I am disappointed at the neighborhood grocery store to find bags plentifully and at no charge either like in other countries such as Ireland. The one positive that can be said is that littering is at a minimum on the side of the road, and people do pick up trash. I saw this with my own eyes.


 For more pictures - ones a lot more inspiring, too- check out the blog:



Monday, March 13, 2017

Memories from my mother's recipe book



     Last week I came across a black notebook with grease-splattered pages about the size of a large paperback book. On each page is a recipe written in my mother's warm, yet tidy, handwriting.



     My mother died over twenty-five years ago, so opening this notebook is a bit like finding hidden treasure, but with a huge helping of poignancy.
     The notebook contains all of my mother's go-to recipes —Spaghetti Loaf Casserole, Tuna Rollups, Pigs in the Blanket, Forgotten Cookies (I should skip the rest of the column and just give you the recipe for this one — perhaps another time).
     This was definitely cooking from a different era. Recipes include a lot of canned Campbell mushroom soup, mayonnaise, crisco, and butter by the stick. Jell-O is represented in specialty molds and tiny marshmallows, as well.
     Remember this was after World War II and American housewives were supplied with all sorts of shortcuts in the kitchen to make life simpler, and they loved all those conveniences. There was a plentiful supply of food, too, and no longer was rationing an issue, although like my mother, these women remained frugal for the rest of their lives.
     Since my mother cooked from her head and not strictly from the actual recipe, I remember how difficult it was for her to write each one down for me when I went off on my own to my first apartment. She had been a Home Economics major in college, and for her, cooking was a breeze.
     “A little bit of this, or that,” or “about” for a time limit on baking, was not so easy to follow as a novice cook trying to get the old and familiar dish like mom made. I struggled through the recipes often with a spoon in one hand and the phone in the other consulting her wisdom. Patiently, mom would “talk” me through the process, and I would muddle along with my entire kitchen counter in disarray from repeated attempts at assembling a casserole.
     When the results were in, I never could make any recipe the way mom’s dishes tasted. Perhaps, it was more than just her cooking skills. There was much to say about coming home to her table and having her loving hands prepare a meal. I appreciated her expertise so much more as an adult.
     In fact, during a long eight-hour drive from Upstate to Long Island, I already would smell the traditional ham and sweet potato casserole that we would have that evening as my welcome home meal. It got me through old Route 17’s windy roads in a rural woodsy setting, and the heavier traffic closer to the city where my driving skills were raised up a notch.
     I pulled the notebook off the shelf and dusted it off. I hadn’t looked at it in a long time. Just reading the recipes was enough to unlock memories.
     Like how I would come home from school to the smell of a fresh apple pie baking and a little light conversation with her.  Mom was an excellent listener, and often I would pour out my troubles while she was finishing up. Looking back, my issues were petty, but at the time they seemed immense as a young girl growing up.
     Like how effortlessly it seemed she put together a holiday meal and somehow she managed to feed a ton of relatives. I never paid enough attention to the planning and the shopping days ahead in order for everything to run smoothly. She would be up at dawn of the feast day getting the turkey in the oven, before I would make my first sleepy-eyed appearance to peel the potatoes.
     Like how everyone waited for her cranberry orange relish mold that had just the right tang to it from the orange juice and ginger ale, or some other unnamed spirit, that was her little secret to be set down in front of them at the picnic table. It was one of those dependable dishes like deviled eggs that made for a perfect outing.
     Like how she would whip up a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies, skin the chicken breasts and mash potatoes in a quick ten minutes. The entire clan from far and wide considered Aunt Eleanor as the best multitasker in the family hands down. No one came close to her in second place. And, she would appear at the meal in her best outfit, hair curled and lipstick on as if she had been prepping herself instead of the meal for the last hour and a half.
     Like how she would save up her energy when she was older to teach her granddaughter how to make her special Christmas cut-out cookies never minding the flour spilled all over the floor.  She was passing on her skills to another generation. My daughter tells me that she would ask her grandmother questions about me and what I was like as a kid.
     But today, I longed for something more. So this afternoon I made my mother's Chicken and Potato Chip casserole. Normally, I would cut down the amount of sour cream used and go easy on the chips, but this time I wanted to make it just as my mother had.
    When my husband and I sat down to eat, the casserole was almost as I remembered it. I nearly got it right.  The aromas and tastes were transporting and the stories flowed. It was as if my mother were there with us.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Unspeakable topics of discussion



     The murkiest thoughts often come closest to home. Debating whether to share them with the public is another thing.  It ‘s all in the timing, too.
     In my case, I was sitting down to my laptop considering what I could develop into a column, when lo and behold, right next to me was a book, “Unspeakable - And Other Subjects of Discussion” by Meghan Daum (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, copyright 2014).


     Daum’s book has been marked up and dog-eared from numerous readings. It’s a treasure trove of impressions from a talented writer — those ones that are painful to verbalize and yet, linger in the back of your mind.
     If you ever shared such sensitive private topics as Daum writes about with a best friend or family member – even a stranger in a doctor’s waiting room – what in the world would they think of you? Should you keep them to yourself? Perhaps, certain topics are best opened-up after-the fact when outcomes have been achieved and a valuable point can be made.
     Daum comments in her introduction, “Over twenty years now I have been making something of a specialty of writing about myself.”
     Daum sounds like an older sister of mine with more mileage in the press.
     “Serving as my own main subject has been a great convenience,” she goes on to say.
      I agree again.
     Sometimes I think that I am lazy when I write too much about myself.  It could be an easy way out. Then again, it might not.
     Like Daum, my very best writing makes me a peripheral character, the narrator, rather than the star of the show. The pieces I look back on that are most worthy come from the outside world. Granted, it is the way I see things, but the focus is off me. I know when I have hit the target when I receive a lot of reader response. And it is not always of the thumbs-up variety either. Negative replies mean that I have hit a nerve, and that is positive engagement on the reader’s part.        
      Daum’s book considers if some of life’s most burning issues are inappropriate for public discussion, and for confiding with family and friends as well.
    “It’s about the unspeakable thoughts many of us harbor.”
     Should such thoughts be left dormant and private, or with the skill of a writer like Daum, be brought out in the open without useless ranting, raving and complaining of the unfairness of life? 
     Personally, that’s when I take those thoughts and turn them into fiction where I can stretch the truth and bend it without making myself uncomfortable and in the spotlight. That’s my approach to writing a novel.  Or, I put in just enough detail to break it away from my life.  I don’t know what else to do without exposing myself to massive scrutiny.
     Stories and real life often mirror each other, but in a distorted way. It is hard to show my vulnerability, although if the truth is told, others feel the same way and are relieved that I am speaking for them when I write.
     “You put in words what I couldn’t say,” is a comment I often hear from readers.
     I have wondered how author Joyce Carol Oates writes such gruesome murder gothic novels. To look at her petite self in person so prim and proper, you wouldn’t guess that she has had difficult periods, too, that are unspeakable, yet work well in fiction.


     Daum breaks out and writes wonderful memoir pieces about living life in an imperfect world. She recognizes in her mother’s passing that she isn’t part of an average family at all – who is?  She has spent much of her life faking it for fear others would catch-on to their abnormal behavior.   
      It may seem unspeakable, but Daum was reading a piece on Hillary Clinton in Vogue magazine and her only brother was checking his Facebook account while watching intermittently their mother’s last couple hours on earth in the hospital.
     And the week before, the two of them had already cleaned out their mother’s home before she’d even died.
     That’s the truth, and Daum comes clean with her feelings. She’s not heartless when you know her dysfunctional family history. She’s honest.
     Then during Daum’s single period in life she dated guys not for being part of a couple and combating loneliness, but she was doing field research – looking for characters, for experiences to write about.
     As a dog lover, often her emotions are stronger for an animal than they are for humans, which she says explains why she frequently puts on a show and is a phony with others. She rails at herself for being so pathetic. Don’t we all?
     You can’t help but love a person who tells it like it is about her weaknesses and flaws. Her honorable ways are nothing to be ashamed about for the rest of us has similar thoughts, and we conveniently hide them most of the time. They surface, though, over and over, and not always in acceptable ways.
     I haven’t learned how to be a writer like Megan Daum yet, and certainly, I don’t want to copy her style. I have my own voice and stuff I want to say.
     In the meantime, I will go back to mining my own life for material, and it never fails, there is more to my own story.