"My Story Lives is a cornucopia of hope and optimism in the midst of challenging and sometimes dark circumstances. You're doing great work!" Dr. Mel Waldman, Psychologist'

"In my opinion, this is one of the BEST LITERARY sites ever created!!" Camincha, San Francisco Bay Area poet and writer

Monday, April 30, 2012

Ten-year Anniversary Sale: Buy Dreaming Maples at a Bargain

It's been ten years exactly since I published Dreaming Maples. The novel has sold very well, but I still have plenty of copies. As this is the ten-year anniversary of the novel's publication, I have decided to offer signed copies of the book for $5 (plus a couple of dollars for media rate shipping.) The book, which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize before its publication in 2002, earned high praise from hundreds of readers. The novel is a mother-daughter tale, with the daughter, Candace, reading her mother Eileen's journal, the journal Eileen kept when she was pregnant with Candace. For more about the book, and how it came to me in a series of day dreams, I invite you to visit the blog, Dreaming Maples.

Here is the Prologue:

"In the dream, it is early evening. Fall. All the shadows have melted into the ground and the sky is a sweet milky blue. Candace is lying in the grass, too tired to move, staring into the giant maple in Audrey’s front yard. A single star appears. The star is a dazzling pearl, a distant pinprick of fire in the clear night. And then the marvel happens. The star comes cascading out of the zenith, hurling itself toward earth with the speed that only light can have. It touches a leaf on the tree and the leaf catches fire and burns brilliant yellow. Miraculously, though, like Moses’ burning bush, the mother maple is not consumed in flame. Soon another star shows itself in the sky and it too is a grain. And again, it flies down from the heavens and a second leaf explodes into red flame. The same thing happens, over and over again, stars falling like fireworks from the heavens, stars bursting into leaf, the light coming to life in orange, crimson and a host of glowing fall colors. Every star is a match to a leaf. As the tree billows up, Candace stands, because the scene is a miracle and it takes her breath away, the mother maple, incandescent in the yard, filling the night sky. Later, when she is older, and the dream comes true, she wonders. Do dreams set fire to our worst fears? Or do they lead us like searing biblical visions into lands that we can only bear to see first with our eyes closed?"


To purchase copies of Dreaming Maples, email me at claudiajricci@gmail.com.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Daffodil Day

It happens this way with every flower I see, especially in the spring. I am confronted by the dazzling color of the blossoms, the exotic shape and delicate arrangement of petals and a feeling comes over me, the same kind of incomprehensible awe I used to feel watching my growing children. The flower is just...there. The fact of it is beyond me. How exactly did this blissfully beautiful creature come to be? Out of what? Out of a papery autumn bulb tucked into the dirt months ago? Really? At those moments I am sure of one thing: I cannot possibly absorb the essence of growing living things. I cannot compute the power and beauty of this spectacle that is nature.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Frida Kahlo in Bed"





By Nancy J. Dunlop


At her most sick, her greatest hour, she
lies on her back in her bed, painting
everything she can reach, the length
of her paintbrush proclaiming
her mighty circumference: the canvas
rigged above her pelvis, the bed canopy's
underside billowing with color, her
fingernails, her eyes, her hair dotted with flowers, small
birds, her neck strewn with beads, flashes
of light and gleam, even
her body cast, molded to her spine: this too
she paints and brings to stirring life.
Viva la vida! Long live life! Visaged through
a haze of morphine, striving for
kisses, for more pure sex, glistening
sticky touch. Not going down
without a fight. A beautiful
fitful fight. "I am disintegration" she says.
And we say back "You are the strokes
of the brush that make
the world the world."


Poet and essayist Nancy J. Dunlop lives in the Albany, N.Y. area.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dante Rotondo and Divine Intervention During WWII


Note to Readers: A great man, a devoted father and husband, a wonderful brother and brother-in-law, a veteran of World War Two, a top-notch garage mechanic who knew cars inside and out, a man with a sharp wit and great sense of humor and a ton of good friends who adored him. This was my Uncle Dante Rotondo, my mother's brother, and a native of Canton, Connecticut, who died a week ago, on Tuesday, April 17, 2012, at the age of 89. Uncle Dan was buried with military honors on Saturday, April 21, 2012 in a tiny cemetery in Tariffville, Connecticut where my grandparents and other aunts and uncles also rest. "Taps" played, rifles saluted him, and the tears flowed freely. The following appears on a website of veterans' voices supplied by the Canton, Connecticut school district.

Dear Uncle Dan, you will be so deeply missed!

Dante Rotondo entered the United States Army at the age of twenty and became a member of the 86th Infantry.  He was in the Field Artillery Division Service Battery where he would primarily haul ammunition, food, and supplies in his military truck.  He had initially been deferred from the army for three months, so he did not enter until February 1, 1943, and his service ended in April 1946.  As a sergeant, his Military Occupational Specialty was in the motor pool; he remained in the motor pool for only a short while and was eventually transferred to driving.  Traveling between Massachusetts, California, Texas, France, Belgium, Germany, and Austria, and eventually even the Philippines, Dante Rotondo had his fair share of interesting experiences.  Prior to entering the war he had worked as a mechanic in a local garage, which enabled him to have the skill and ability to serve the army well.  Upon returning from the war, he married and raised children in the town of Canton, Connecticut, where he owned and ran his own garage.


BREAKING DOWN


            While most 20-year-olds have no concept of the meaning of divine intervention, Dante Rotondo had a firsthand understanding of the principle.  Surprisingly enough, it was not some religious figure or a family member who pointed this out to him; instead it was his very own truck.  Dante was a stubborn young man; (and, in fact, Dante is a stubborn old man, according to the testimony of his wife).  This quality may have been the very one that saved his life over a half century ago. 

            Dante’s truck was an old one that had a frequent habit of breaking down.  The problems began with what Dante described as “knocking,” eventually increasing to the point where he was forced to pull over and let the old hunk of junk cool down.  Dante found himself doing more cursing, kicking, and complaining than driving.

            By the time he and the other men of the 86th Infantry got to the Battle of the Bulge, the fighting was nearly over.  Dante reported the poorly running truck to the Motor Sergeant who at first showed no signs of sympathy.  “Drive it until it blows,” was the only command he gave.  Stubborn Dante was not satisfied, nor would he be until either he got a new truck (which during the war years was next to impossible, as nothing came new) or he had the old one repaired.  With the Motor Sergeant standing beside him, he shut the truck down and restarted it, demonstrating to his superior that the truck was in dire need of repair.

            His point proven, it took three long days for the army mechanics to replace the engine.  During that time, Dante sat and watched.  The most unbelievable part of the whole experience was not how well the mechanics worked on his vehicle, but how well they ate.  Dante and his men ate C-rations while these guys ate chicken, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.  Dante wondered if he was even in the same army. Nevertheless, he knew that it was imperative to return to his infantry with a functioning vehicle; and he was willing to wait for as long as it took the mechanics to get the job done.

            In the meantime, during the Battle of the Bulge the 86th infantry was pinned down by German aircraft.  Men died one by one, their individuality a matter of indifference to the German “88’s”.  American soldiers dug foxholes left and right, and scavenged for their lives.

            Every division moved so quickly that Dante had to guess where his own might be in order to meet up with them.  Dante knew where the 86th had been, and where they were headed, but didn’t know exactly where they were now.  So he traveled away from where he knew they had come from and toward where he knew they hadn’t yet been, and he found his men.  All trucks were numbered, and he just happened to run into a number he recognized.  “Where have you been?” the men of the 86th Infantry questioned.  Well, of course, he had been getting his engine replaced.  Astonishment struck Dante’s face as he came to the realization that his infantry had seen action, the only action they would see for the entire war, and Dante had missed it.

            Some men may have felt shortchanged, but not Dante.  All the time he had spent complaining about his truck breaking down and having it repaired had put him out of harm’s way.  That broken down heap of metal was the best thing that could have happened to a guy like Dante.  “Divine intervention,” he agrees.  “Somebody up there must like me.”




Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Voice of the Unborn

Note to Readers:  This is the third in a series of posts by "Alexis P," a pseudonym for a writer in upstate New York. In the first version, which ran in MyStoryLives on Tuesday, April 17, 2012she wrote the story from her own point of view. In version two, which ran on Thursday, April 19, 2012, she wrote from her boyfriend Z's point of view. Today, Alexis has "flipped" the story a third time, and is telling it from the point of view of her unborn child.


By Alexis P

Dear Mom,
I don’t know where the right place to start is, there probably isn’t a right place, so I’ll just start.  Its nice here Mom, it's calm, it's peaceful. There are other people here, well not corpus people like where you are, but they exist like I do.  
There is no time, no age or anything like that here.
I know you think about time a lot, you will be driving down the street, or taking a shower, or having dinner and you think, “My baby would have been four years old, I would have been filling a sippy cup up.” Don’t think that way Mom, I don’t age, I am just the way I am, how I always have been and how I always will be. It’s ok to let go of those painful markers of time.
I don’t hate you mom, I don’t feel like you robbed me of a life. 
Everyone follows the same path in their existence, life then death. My path just moved a little faster. Had I lived, I would have died, and I would be right back to where I am now.  Let go of that guilt.
I am so proud of you and Dad. You both are making something of your lives, you have jobs you love, you are in school, you have friends, you and Dad are happy. You were so young, you had so much life ahead of you, and I understand that if you had given birth to me much of your life would have been hindered. You think you are selfish, but I know you struggled with the decision, I know you loved me; I know you still love me.  You think about everything I could have been if you had kept me, how maybe I could have changed the world. Think about how you and Dad can change the world, you let one person go, and now two people have a better chance to succeed. I’m not mad mom.
I’m not asking you to forget about me Mom, I love you and Dad and I want you to love me too, but be mindful of your feelings.  You get caught up in, “My baby would have been,” or “My baby could have been.”  Don’t think that way. Let go of the “could have,” “would have,” “should have,” and focus on what is. I am already gone, don’t drain yourself over it. 
Just know this: I love you Mom and Dad.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Now See the Story From Z's Point of View

By Alexis P

Note to Readers:  "Alexis P," a pseudonym for a writer in upstate New York, wrote the first version of this story from her own point of view; it appeared in MyStoryLives on Tuesday, April 17, 2012. Today, Alexis has "flipped" the story, and is telling it from her boyfriend Z's point of view. Stay tuned, there is still a third point of view coming.




  “Get up.” 

 She throws a pillow at me, and I roll over. The room spins a bit. 

 “My head is killing me…” I think aloud. 

 “Maybe you shouldn’t have gone out drinking last night then,” she snaps. 

 It’s raining hard, the struts are going on Alexis’s car, the ride is bumpy. My alcohol-filled stomach isn’t happy with this car ride. What was I thinking going out last night? I knew what today would bring. I knew what this meant to Alexis. Oh, right, I went out to calm my nerves. I’ve never done this before; I don’t know what to do. 

She had made her up mind how to handle the problem before I even got home from work. I didn’t even know she was pregnant until I unlocked the front door and heard her screaming. She ran up to me and slapped me across the face. 

 “What did you do to me?” she screamed. 

 I was speechless, I still am. 

 “I’m scared,” she says now, as the rain splatters the windshield.

 “Everything will be alright,” I say. I don’t look at her; if I do she will know that I don’t know if that’s actually true. 

She flicks on the radio; it’s her favorite band playing. 

I flick it off; I don’t want her to associate today with her favorite music. 

I tell her my head hurts. 

 We pull into the parking lot, everything is so dreary, there are no leaves on the trees, the sky is grey, the grass is grey, my thoughts are grey. 


“There’s a spot right in front.” I direct her to it because she always misses the good spots. 

 “I was told to park out back, the doctor didn’t say why.

I suddenly realize why we have to park in the back. I see the protesters out front. They are standing there in the rain with their smug looks, with their smug signs, wearing their crosses like smug badges of honor.

“DON’T KILL GOD'S CHILDREN!” the sign says. 

 “YOU WERE A PERSON EVEN BEFORE CONCEPTION!” the sign says. 

 “ABORTION IS MURDER!” the sign says. 

 “MURDER IS A SIN. SINNERS GO TO HELL!” the sign says. 

 Alexis doesn’t see them, and I’m glad, I want to protect her. 

The nurse tells me I can’t go in with her; I can’t believe I have to leave her alone. Why can’t I be there? It’s my baby too. 

 “I’m scared,” she whispers,” Pray for me.” 

 I don’t know if there is a God, I don’t believe in prayer. But I think of the protesters, I think of their signs. 


>
 “Everything will be OK, this is the right thing to do.” I hug her and kiss her, and start to talk to the sky.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

See it? See it Three Ways!

Note to Readers: As originally conceived, the Flip Your Script exercise asked participants to write a story about a personal relationship with a difficult person. The writer was then encouraged to rewrite the story, taking the point of view of that difficult person. The point of Flip Your Script is to help writers cultivate empathy or even forgiveness toward another person; often writers say they find that flipping the script helps give them closure with a troubling event.

Lately, however, Flip Your Script has been evolving. Some participants, like Ryan Small in his piece last week, claim that they find enormous comfort simply writing the first story and don't need to do any more writing. In this version, "Alexis P" tried something new. After writing her first version, which appears here, she presents two alternative revisions, in effect flipping the story twice.



By Alexis P




“Get up.”


I throw a pillow at Z and continue to brush my hair. Z grumbles and rolls over.


“I feel like crap, I need to sleep a little longer.”

“We don’t have time, Z, we have to get going, we have to be there in 30 minutes.”

“My head is killing me, Alexis. Holy crap, I need some water.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have gone out drinking last night, Z, you knew we had to be up early today.”

My hands are sweating as I drive down the thruway. Z is sitting in the passenger seat, his head leaning against the window. I’m sweating because of nerves; he’s sweating out last night’s Jack Daniels.

“I’m nervous,” I say.

“Everything will be ok,” he says without looking at me. He doesn’t say anything else.

I start to feel myself choke up with tears, the lack of comforting words leave me empty. We drive in silence, the rain hitting the windows and the swish of the wipers seem to be the only sounds conversing with me. I flick on the radio to try to fill my empty thoughts.

Z flicks it off. “My head is killing me, I don’t want music.”

I pull into the parking lot and start to drive to the back parking lot.

“There’s a spot right in front, just park there, Alexis.”

“The doctor told me I had to park in the back, she didn’t say why.”

The nurse is warm, friendly, she smiles at the appropriate times, she is using all her bedside manner skills she learned in med school. “Ok Alexis, We just have to fill out some paperwork and then we will start prepping you for the procedure.”

I shift uncomfortably in my seat. I’m starting to feel bedside manner is only applicable to an actual bedside; I feel no comfort in her warmth.

“I see you’ve completed your pre-opt checkup, and complete the week of therapy. You’ll be using your insurance, and you have someone to drive you home afterwards correct?”
She doesn’t wait for me to answer.

“Do you want to schedule a follow-up of grief counseling?”

I shake my head; I don’t ever want to come back here.

“Ok Alexis, you can go back to the waiting room, we will call for you shortly.”

Z is flipping nonchalantly through a magazine, men’s health something; he’s reading an article on the importance of fruit or something.

“You know, the past couple months I haven’t been able to eat a single healthy thing, everything has been making me sick.”

“Hmm,” is all he says; he doesn’t even look at me.

I sit in the waiting room chair, Oprah is on the television, the phones are ringing, the nurses are buzzing people in and out of the front door. I’m shaking, sweating, my head is light. I realized I’ve been holding my breath this whole time. I get a rush of anger, I can’t believe Z went out and got smashed last night, the night before the one day that I really needed him and he left me alone. He is here, but just barely. I look at him.

“I’m so scared.”

He finally looks at me, his eyes are still glassy from last night’s drinking, but I can see softness in them, a gentle concern. He takes my hand, and kisses me on the cheek.

“Everything will be OK, this is the right thing.”

A nurse comes through the swinging doors.

“Ms. P?”

I stand up and Z follows me, hand in hand.

“Oh I’m sorry, Ms, But he isn’t allowed to come in with you, he has to wait out here.”

Tears fill my eyes, I can’t help it.

“Please? He needs to be here for this.”

“I’m sorry Ms. We cannot have that many people in the operating room.”

Z hugs me. “Pray for me,” I whisper.

The room is white, and huge. I’m shivering, hospital gowns are very thin. The doctor asked me if she minded if some med students watched the procedure. Sure, why not. What the hell do I care anymore? I’m lying on the table, and I realize that I don’t care anymore, I don’t fight it anymore, I give up. I start to cry, I’m shaking, I start praying, I don’t try to hide it anymore from the doctors.

The table is cold; the metal is hard on my spine. The white room burns my eyes. There is a picture on the ceiling, of flowers and the ocean. For a split second I forget why I am here, I stop shivering. Why is there a picture on the ceiling?

“Alexis, you need to calm down, we are going to give you a shot so you won’t feel anything, but you have to stop moving.”

I hold my breath so that I stop shaking for a moment.

“What is that? What are you……”

Suddenly everything is different. I’m calm, I’m happy. I’m comfy. I smile. The nurse is so pretty, she is older but you can tell she cares, she loves her job. I look around the room; it almost feels like heaven, everything is so bright! I can feel the doctor moving my legs and I can hear the doctors' instruments turn on, but I don’t feel fear. I start to giggle but stop short.

Morphine. They gave me morphine.

I look up and realize that it wasn’t a picture on the ceiling, it was a TV. The waves are moving now, and the flowers are dancing in the wind. Wait, it’s not a TV, is a picture. The picture is moving. No wait, that’s not right either. It’s the morphine. This is why there is a picture on the ceiling.

“Clever,” I say out loud, “very smart.”

“What is dear?” the nurse inquires.

“Picture on the ceiling, distracts patients from what’s going on…wait oh ya, how are things going?”
The doctor doesn’t look up at me, but asks how I am feeling and if I’m in pain.

“No, I’m quite comfy. Thanks. Hmmm, I never thought I would be here. I was three months along you know. I think it would have been a boy, but Z wanted a girl. I’m just so young, I’m barely an adult. A child raising a child, can you imagine?"

I pause because I realize I’m rambling. “She would have had his eyes, that's what I would like to think anyway.”

The nurse just looks at me and smiles, but it’s a sad smile. It’s the kind of smile you give to a little kid when they ask when their puppy is coming back from heaven.

I hear a suction noise. The doctor tells me I’m going to feel a slight pull below my stomach.

“She would have been so pretty,” I tell the nurse.

Alexis P is a pseudonym for a woman living in upstate New York. This is Part One in a series of three stories composed for the Flip Your Script exercise. Part Two follows on Thursday, April 19, 2012.

Friday, April 13, 2012

How It Feels: Writing to Heal

By Ryan Small
Writing my "Flip your Script" story, "Finally, Meeting Mother," was one of the hardest things I have ever done. A lot of times growing up we face problems. When we get older we think that avoiding these problems “helps” the healing process. It doesn't work that way.
For years now, I have avoided talking about my mother and thinking about all of the memories contained in my story. Finally, though, writing it down on paper seemed to bring all of my emotions out. When I was writing this story, I felt all kinds of emotions: I was happy, I was sad and I even shed a few tears. I won't try to pretend it was easy because it wasn’t. While writing this story, it almost felt like I was reliving the pain that I had to endure so long ago.

Originally, when the Flip Your Script exercise was introduced, and I was asked to consider "flipping" my first piece of writing, I toyed with the idea. But then I realized it was impossible. How on earth could I flip this piece? How could I step into the shoes of a mother I never knew? That's when I realized I just couldn't. I felt it would be best if I wrote the story, and left it at that, just as it was. In a sense, by me thanking my mother, and embracing her, I did in fact "flip" the situation. I did find compassion for her, if not forgiveness.

Writing this story took a huge burden off my shoulders. It helped me no longer fear the idea of confronting a painful memory. It gave me the courage to go back to a time I thought I could never find the strength to go back to. Now that it is written, I can say that I feel free. I no longer feel like I'm holding onto the heartache that molded me into the nonchalant person that I have molded myself to be.

I honestly have not cried in many years. Why? Because I felt that by not crying, I was avoiding pain and that was helping me to heal. But it wasn't. When you avoid an issue that has caused you pain, the emotion just builds up and sits on your heart like an unwanted visitor. Then when you come face to face with the pain, you can finally send the visitor on its way and it no longer weighs your heart down. I never thought I would be relieved of this weight, but now that I am, it is the best feeling in the world.

Ryan Small is a freshman at the University at Albany, SUNY.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How It Feels to Try to Heal

By Ryan Small

Writing my "Flip your Script" story, "Finally, Meeting Mother," was one of the hardest things I have ever done. A lot of times growing up we face problems. When we get older we think that avoiding these problems “helps” the healing process. It doesn't work that way.

For years now, I have avoided talking about my mother and thinking about all of the memories contained in my story. Finally, though, writing it down on paper seemed to bring all of my emotions out. When I was writing this story, I felt all kinds of emotions: I was happy, I was sad and I even shed a few tears. I won't try to pretend it was easy because it wasn’t. While writing this story, it almost felt like I was reliving the pain that I had to endure so long ago.

Originally, when the Flip Your Script exercise was introduced, and I was asked to consider "flipping" my first piece of writing, I toyed with the idea. But then I realized it was impossible. How on earth could I flip this piece? How could I step into the shoes of a mother I never knew? That's when I realized I just couldn't. I felt it would be best if I wrote the story, and left it at that, just as it was. In a sense, by me thanking my mother, and embracing her, I did in fact "flip" the situation. I did find compassion for her, if not forgiveness.

Writing this story took a huge burden off my shoulders. It helped me no longer fear the idea of confronting a painful memory. It gave me the courage to go back to a time I thought I could never find the strength to go back to. Now that it is written, I can say that I feel free. I no longer feel like I'm holding onto the heartache that molded me into the nonchalant person that I have molded myself to be.

I honestly have not cried in many years. Why? Because I felt that by not crying, I was avoiding pain and that was helping me to heal. But it wasn't. When you avoid an issue that has caused you pain, the emotion just builds up and sits on your heart like an unwanted visitor. Then when you come face to face with the pain, you can finally send the visitor on its way and it no longer weighs your heart down. I never thought I would be relieved of this weight, but now that I am, it is the best feeling in the world.

Ryan Small is a freshman at the University at Albany, SUNY.

Finally, Meeting Mother

By Ryan Small

It was the day I had been waiting for my whole life. It was my high school graduation ceremony. There I was sitting in front of a class of 250 students and I was blessed enough to graduate with honors. I had never been so happy in my entire life. I walked outside at the end of the ceremony to see my family. Oddly enough, there was a strange woman with them.

Before the woman could speak my father gave me the biggest hug and said “I am so proud of you son.”

I smiled reluctantly as I stared at the strange woman. She had a vaguely familiar look to her.

Slowly she began to approach me. “Congratulations Ryan," she said, "I knew the day you were born that you were destined for greatness.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t remember you.”

“I am your mother, Ryan.”

At that point I was at a loss for words. My mother had run out on my sister and me when I was five. She had a drug addiction that she chose over her family. Every night until I was nine years old I slept with a picture of her under my pillow wishing she would come back. After a while I stopped praying and gave up hope. I always thought that the day I saw her would be the best day of my life but it wasn’t. I let out all of my built up frustration I had towards her.

“You bitch,” I said with tears building up in my eyes. My father had never heard me curse before.

“I’m sorry for walking out on you and your sister, I just was not ready to take on the role of a mother.”

“Are you serious? It took two kids for you to realize that? Do you know how many nights I stayed up crying because of you? Or how many Mother’s Days I had to endure without a mother? I can’t believe the best you could say to me is you’re sorry!”

“I know I made my mistakes in the past but I am clean now and I want to make it up to you.”

“You must think I am that five-year old you walked out on. I am 18 and I am on my way to college so save your shit for someone who cares. I made it this far without you so you can go back to the crack house you came from, because my mother died 13 years ago.”

My father placed his right hand on my shoulder and said “remember when your sister broke your favorite toy so you scratched her favorite CD?”

I nodded my head yes trying to figure out how on earth this was relevant to the situation.

“I told you that two wrongs in a situation don’t make a right. I told you that forgiveness was the answer in the first place.”

“How on earth do you expect me to forgive this woman for what she did?”

“Because you’re old enough to understand that she made a huge mistake and forgive her.”

At that moment I looked at her. I stared in her eyes. I couldn’t forgive her for leaving me but looking into her eyes I knew that as much as I hated her, I still loved her. Somewhere inside me was that little boy who wanted his mommy to come home.

I said to her “I would be lying to you if I was to sit here and tell you I forgive you. Maybe one day in my heart I will find it to do so but I just can’t now, it hurts too much.”

I embraced her and hugged her tightly and for no reason at all I said “thank you.”

I started to walk home and I didn’t turn around. I lived an hour away but that walk was much needed. Of all the things to say to her I could not understand why I had said thank you. Maybe it was because seeing her again had made me feel free and had allowed me to see how much I had grown up.

That was the last time I saw my biological mother before she died two months later. I did not go to the funeral because the way I saw her on graduation day is the way I wanted to remember her for the rest of my life

Ryan Small is a freshman at the University at Albany, SUNY. He wrote this piece as part of a Flip Your Script exercise, which offers participants a means of finding forgiveness through storytelling. In a separate post, which will run on Friday, April 13th, Ryan writes very powerfully about how difficult it was to write this piece, but how incredibly healing it was to finally confront the feelings he expressed here. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I write, Again

By Claudia Ricci

I sit here on an old gold and white and orange striped sofa in a coffee shop called Dottie’s, writing.

It's been almost three months since I have touched the novel. The on-line tome otherwise known as Sister Mysteries. I've hardly even thought about it.

How is that possible, considering how much time I've devoted to it over the years?

In my last post I was over the moon, as in fireworks happy that at last I knew the ending.

I should have known better than to celebrate. I should have waited.

I should have realized that the best (or worst) way to make the universe laugh is to tell the universe your plans.

What's happened to keep me from writing can be a long story or a short one, or something in between.

I will sum it up in a couple of sentences: I was dealing with this nasty ear ringing problem that was really starting to drive me insane. It totally sapped my energy and turned me into a nervous wreck.

I'm not sure why the heck my ear started ringing but now that I am feeling better, I realize that part of my recovery involves writing, so it's time I get to work. I absolutely have to write the ending of this book, because I promised myself (and whatever readers I have) that I would.

So today, a beautiful spring day, with daffodils blooming in my yard, and a pair of ducks nesting in my pond, I've come to one of my very favorite spots to write.

I'm not sure why, but the vibes at Dottie's just make me feel like I can be a real writer and write and write and write and write. It might be because of the funky furniture and rugs and the tin ceiling painted white and the buffed brick walls and all the characters who sit here reading or writing or texting or talking or just staring at their phones. The conversations and the music drone on overhead and I sit here and sink into it. And despite the noise, I can think.

Dottie's, by the way, is on the corner of North and Maplewood in Pittsfield, MA. If you are ever in this neck of the woods, give it a try.

OK, so where was I in this endless tome I call Sister Mysteries?

Sister Renata had escaped, and she was on the run. The nun was out of food and short on water, and dizzy with fatigue and hunger.

Stay tuned, the chapter is almost done...

Friday, April 06, 2012

Happy Spring Holidays!!

Ah spring!


A pair of ducks visited the pond this week, and the daffodils are up. Whatever spring holidays you celebrate, may they be peaceful and sunny!










AMAZING LIBRARIES? How about the traveling donkey library


By Claudia Ricci

One thing I love about MyStoryLives is how contributors from different parts of the courntry, or the world, read something they like in the blog, and then connect with each other.

Take the case of the tiny free library in Spencertown, yesterday's post by David Seth Michaels. His brilliant idea, to turn a tiny unused wooden bus stop kiosk into a lending library touched several readers, including frequent-MyStory contributor Camincha, a Peruvian-born woman who now makes her life in California. Camincha wrote in:

"Sending books within few days. Years ago read a story about kids in Lima,PerĂº doing something like this, a traveling library, now I can actually contribute. Most grateful to all. Pls let David know. Commas & periods 2 U, Camincha"

Naturally I sent that to David, who responded with more information about the traveling Peruvian library:

"I think the traveling library from Peru was a guy with a donkey. It was called Biblioburro and yes there's a youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuTswmx9TQU

Wonderful video. Wonderful connections. Let's hear it for libraries. And for all the people who read and write and share their stories.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Come Visit the World's Tiniest Library in Spencertown, New York


By David Seth Michaels

Well, T.S. Eliot sure knew what he was talking about when he wrote in "The Hollow Men:"

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow.

The first time the idea of the Spencertown Little Free Library arose for me, I knew it could be in the old school bus shelter on Beale Road, but the idea disappeared before I could take the first step toward creating anything. The second time the idea arose, some two or three weeks later, I knew had to act immediately, lest the same thing occur in the form of even more distraction, discursive thinking, shiny objects, forgetfulness, sloth. I didn't want that to happen.

So first, I committed myself to making the Spencertown Little Free Library happen by writing about it. And because that did not seem weighty enough, or committal enough, I registered the Spencertown Little Free Library at Little Free Library so it would be on the map (h/t to Dave Spitzer). And I paid for a sign. And because that still didn't seem to be enough, in fact, it still seemed too elusive and too metaphorical, I had to do something physical. And I did.

I ran out in the rain to the school bus shelter with a broom, and some temporary signage, and a dozen great books, and I got after it. I banged enough of it together so that it actually existed. So it was actually started. So it was actually something, something more than just an idea. More than just thinking. More than just a name. The idea was quickly to erase the Shadow, the one that falls between the idea and the reality, before it again sucked the idea of the Spencertown Little Free Library into a void. Or again concealed or obscured it. The idea was to overcome the inertia, even the habit of just thinking about things, and make something.

And now, today, I have invited the world to donate books, and some shelves, and maybe some paint between now and Good Friday, tomorrow April 6, 2012, so that the Library will grow and thrive. So that it will have the fingerprints of many people and the plans of many people and the thoughts and donations and ideas of many people in it.

Cash donations aren't sought. No. The idea is to ask you, dear reader, to stop off at the corner of Beale Road and Route 203 in Spencertown and improve what's already there. To help it grow. To build on top of the foundation.

Whatever you bring to this process is appreciated. If you drop off a single, frayed paperback book, you've advanced the library. If you borrow a single book, take it home and read it, you've advanced the library. If you drive a nail, or put up a shelf, or spread some paint, or hang a picture, you've advanced the library. It's a little library, yes, and it's free, yes, and what I most hope for now is that many people will be inspired to stop and to add or take something.

I live just down Route 203 from the Spencertown Little Library. You can see my yellow house from there. And if you would like my help with your donations, all you have to do is call me or drop by.

Mostly, I want to ask you for your donations and invite you to come out and grow this unusual, wonderful, community project.

Writer David Seth Michaels is an attorney in Columbia County, New York. This post appeared first on his blog,The Dream Antilles. He is the author of two novels, "Dream Antilles" and "Tulum."

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

When a Rose Bends -- Part Three


By Dr. Mel Waldman

Michelle and I need another miracle. I am struggling to make sense of what has been happening to her and to me. But like a Kafkaesque metamorphosis, her illness seems treacherous, uncontrollable and bizarre.

For a few weeks, Michelle seemed on her way to a full recovery. Since she had returned to the nursing home the evening of March 1st, Michelle showed me how mentally tough she is. I glowed with pride as she worked hard every day, a real champion, participating in physical therapy for two or more hours at a time.

On March 19th, the staff informed her that she might be ready to be discharged in three weeks. When she expressed concerns about being ready by this deadline, I reassured her. “Remain focused on doing your daily physical therapy. I believe you can meet this deadline.”

“But what if they discharge me before I’m ready?”

“Then I will climb stairs with you and walk with you as you trudge along with your walker. Until you can walk by yourself, I will be your constant companion.”

“Thank you, honey,” she said affectionately.

I felt optimistic and looked forward to our reunion, commencing on Michelle’s discharge date. Unfortunately, we faced more twists and turns on the labyrinthine road to recovery.

“Wake me up when the nightmare is over,” I keep muttering to myself.

On Friday, March 23rd, Michelle complained of stomach cramps. Still, I wheeled her twice around the block in the late afternoon, and she enjoyed the fresh air. When I took her back to her room, she seemed to relapse. Her stomach pains had intensified. She became forgetful and confused.

In the evening when I held her hand, it seemed very hot. And so did her forehead. I alerted the nursing staff. A nurse took her temperature. Michelle had a fever, and the nurse gave my wife two Tylenol. Or so I thought. Two hours passed. Michelle was burning up. I thought, perhaps, that the nurse was waiting for approval from the attending doctor and thus, she had not given my wife the pills.

But when I spoke to her, she confessed that she had forgotten to give Michelle the medicine.

Friday night, she had a fever of 99.8. Saturday morning, she had a fever of 103 plus. The staff gave her icepacks, cold compresses, and Tylenol. When I left her Saturday night, her fever was 101.8. She was incoherent and disoriented.
I spoke with the head nurse and recommended hospitalization. However, the nurse informed me that the attending doctor had authorized a series of tests, including blood work, a chest X-ray, and a stool sample. A P.A. also authorized an abdominal X-ray.

“Your wife cannot be hospitalized until the test results come back. The doctor will make a decision based on the results.”

On Sunday, she had no temperature. She walked with a walker. She was rational, coherent, and in good spirits. Unfortunately, her miraculous recovery did not last.

This week her temperature fluctuated during the day and between days. On the other hand, we got the results of her blood work. Thankfully, she does not have sepsis! Her stool sample indicated she has an infection. She has been prescribed an antibiotic.

I continue to watch over Michelle. And I sing love songs to her. Her face glows. Sometimes she sings alone or with me. She loves to sing. She is happy when she sings. And she loves the song, "Someone to Watch over Me."

This medical nightmare all began on December 19th when Michelle had what for so many people is a straightforward surgery: a total hip replacement. But in Michelle's case, there were serious complications.

She appears to have the same infections she had months ago. I fear that these infections may develop into sepsis again.

Is my wife safe? Is she getting the correct dose of the antibiotic she needs? How can the medical staff prevent her from developing sepsis again? What can I do?

I pray for guidance and strength. And I pray that my wife Michelle will continue to fight these insidious infections. I look forward to her coming home. In my mind’s eye, I visualize a healthy wife returning to her husband. I hold and caress that image.

Writer Mel Waldman is a psychologist, poet, writer, and artist. His stories have appeared in dozens of magazines including HARDBOILED DETECTIVE, ESPIONAGE, THE SAINT, and AUDIENCE. He is a past winner of the literary GRADIVA AWARD in Psychoanalysis and was nominated for a PUSHCART PRIZE in literature. He is the author of 11 books. This is the third in a series of articles; the first ran in MyStory on February 28th.