Wednesday, August 31, 2011

An end of August poem

Van Gogh's Starry Night

Star Fishing

Today I want to tell you about variable stars.
They intrigue me because they change.
They change in brightness.
Some repeat cycles with almost clocklike precision
others change irregularly.
Some require only hours or days
to return to their starting brightness.
Others require years to change.
Yet, whether they change imperceptibly or violently
all variable stars change.

The most spectacular variable is the Nova.
It can get up to 200,000 times brighter than the Sun.
But, alas, it is temporary.
It periodically blows off a tiny percent of the Sun’s mass
at speeds up to 600 miles a second
until it loses too much mass to continue.
Whereas Supernovas brighten up to 10 billion times
the Sun’s brightness for a few days
and then fade away forever.

One more thing.
Variable stars change their brightness by pulsating
ever expanding and contracting
like a balloon,
They repeat their brightness cycles
from one day to hundreds of days
and are hundreds of times more luminous
than the Sun.

Well, that’s it.
Now go out into your yard
lean back in your recliner
gaze up into that black starry sky
and see if you can find your own variable star
amidst the 8000 stars visible to the naked eye.
See if you can catch its luminosity.
Surely you can.
Surely you can.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Please join me on September 25 in the race for life

Every 15 minutes, someone loses their life by suicide in the United States. In addition, for every suicide, it is estimated there are 25 suicide attempts.  Many individuals -- maybe even your loved one, friend, neighbor, or colleague -- suffer from severe emotional pain in silence. In that moment when a person in crisis needs someone to listen and respond, Didi Hirsch's Suicide Prevention Center is here to help. In fact, more than 40,000 women, men and young people turned to its 24-hour Crisis Line last year.

Our son Paul's photo will be on the banner this year

You can help save lives by supporting Didi Hirsch's 13th annual Alive & Running 5K Walk/Run for Suicide Prevention. The event will be held on Sunday, September 25, 2011 at La Tijera Parkway in Los Angeles.

More than 1,100 runners, walkers, strollers and friends and volunteers from all over Southern California will join together at Alive & Running to raise awareness and funding for suicide prevention services. Children under 14 have their very own Kiddie 1K.  Proceeds from Alive & Running directly benefit the Suicide Prevention Center, a program of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services. Founded in 1958, the Suicide Prevention Center was the first program in the U.S. to establish a 24-hour suicide prevention Crisis Line. Now in its 52nd year of saving lives, the Suicide Prevention Center provides support for those who have lost a loved one to suicide; outreach and training to the community; and a Suicide Response Team that works with the Los Angeles Mayor?s Crisis Response team, the coroner?s office and local police and fire departments to provide immediate support at the scene of a suicide.

Your support may make all the difference to a person contemplating taking their life.  

I understand how busy everyone is, and realize that it may not be possible for you to attend.  If this is the case, please consider making a donation. 
Click here to visit my personal page. -- to sign up or donate. (If you sign up be sure to join Team Lelewer.) 

I hope to see you on September 25th!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Birthday celebrations as we age

One of my dear friends recently said, "I don't even want to go anywhere to celebrate ... there is not a whole lot to celebrate about getting old." This reminded me of a quote I've been repeating for a lot of years: "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?" attributed to Satchel Paige. I turned 71 at my last birthday. But I feel as vital as I did in my 50s and 60s.
Why then, as some of us get older, do we want to stop celebrating our birthdays? Is it because we don't want to recognize the fact that we're actually getting older, we don't feel that we're worth the celebration now that we're old, or we feel remorse about the way we've lived our lives? It's probably a bit of all three.
Read the rest on AOL/Huffington Post Healthy Living.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My writer’s life – lots of action these days

Here’s a little run-down of what’s been happening in my life as a writer in the last few weeks.

My second piece for Naturally Savvy went live this week,,
an interview about a woman I’ve known for lots of years, Becky Neumann. I wanted to profile her because as an over sixty personal trainer and fitness instructor, she’s so fit and so inspiring to people over sixty and way beyond.

Becky - Sixty-three and Counting

I was asked and so I wrote another column for Huffington Post’s subvertical, Aging Gracefully, but I haven’t heard back yet from my contact there. My last piece for Huffington Post was for the That’s Fit subvertical – that turned out to be quite well received. So even though I’m a little nervous about not hearing I’ll be positive based on the response I got about the That’s Fit piece I did for them. I’d very much like to keep up my relationship with Huff Post.

And as a result of my WOW – Women on Writing blog tour I connected with Chynna T. Laird, another writer and advocate for erasing the stigma of mental illness. My review of her book about her abusive and bipolar mother went live on 100 Memoirs a couple of weeks ago.

I also am in the middle of piece about writing through grief that will go live on the National Association of Women’s Memoirs blog on September 7, the day before my friend Eleanor and I participate in a NAMW roundtable on the same subject. Eleanor got the NAMW gig for me, and I very much look forward to it.

Another event coming up is a suicide survivors meeting in Queensland Australia in October. I’ve been asked to speak there. I very much want to do it, but the cost of going may be prohibitive. Plus it’s a many, many hour plane trip. I still have to make a final decision on that.

I’ve been much more active on Twitter and LinkedIn in the last several months as well, plus I joined the Book Buzz service – and organization that helps authors in getting the word out. But, doing my daily updates on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn could become a full-time job and I’d never have time to write.

And I can’t leave out a little report about what I know about book sales. While I was at Esalen I sold eight books in the Esalen bookstore and Amazon sales seems to be going very well – at least this week. The rank there seems to continually fluctuate, but over this week and last it’s going better quite consistently. And I think I have Jessica Bell to thank for that. She posted a five-star review of my book at Amazon, Goodreads, and on her blog, The Alliterative Allomorph, and sales seems to have improved ever since.
Thank you Jessica.

Besides Jessica’s review I now have twelve wonderful reviews up on Amazon about my book. I’m just so stoked.

Another thing is in the offing besides my once a month piece for Naturally Savvy. I’m already on the calendar to be a book club guest in February. I’ve been told book clubs are the best way to get the word out.

So the writing life seems to be working out. Not any big bucks from book sales yet, but that’s definitely not the point. I’m getting the word out about mental illness and suicide, and I’m making a ton of virtual friends along the way. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bro

Today would have been my brother’s 74th birthday.  I’ve told so many people lately about how close siblings are and that a loss of a sibling – the people we grow up with – is one of the hardest of all. I won’t say it was as hard as Paul’s death on me, but it certainly came close. 
I still get so angry thinking that he paid good money to make himself sick from cigarettes. Even though he was cured of lung cancer, his last years as he slowly faded away from radiation damage - the treatment 
that cured him - were like a nightmare for all of us.
Ken in 2006. He died in 2008

Here's a poem I wrote about him that was read at his memorial service.

Brotherly Love

He made me walk across the street
away from him and his friends
to avoid me, his little sister,
on our way to school.
He’d rub my arm until it burned
whenever he could take hold,
and flicked me with a dish towel
when it was his turn
to dry the dishes.
He called me fatso,
He called me Madeldini
He shut the door
of his room in my face.
Growing up, my mother’s mantra,
“He teases her and she screams,”
echoed throughout our house.

I only retaliated once.
I threw a pair of scissors at him
that landed just under his eye.
It hurt me more than it hurt him.
Instead I wanted to copy him
to get the same grades, to see the same movies,
to read the same books, to go to all the Cubs games.
I was happy tagging along even if it meant
being two steps behind.

Now he’s so thin his shirts fall off his shoulders.
The lines around his mouth are deep and black
like the strokes of a charcoal stick.
His white hair combed flat
barely covers his skull.
His voice is raspy and weak
like my father’s in his last days,
and he has to suck regularly
from his oxygen supply.

The only walk he takes these days
is around the block.
Not trying to hurry his dog as she sniffs along the way
he takes short steps and short breaths
until he’s back inside.
In his chair in the sun room,
he reads, he snoozes,
he watches his grandchildren play
breathing more easily with a hit or two
from his oxygen tank,
his new-best friend.
He looks out to the yard
while the birds flit from one feeder
to the other
and sing their songs.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Khloe and Jackson

My youngest great niece Khloe just turned one year old, and she has a young man hitting on her already.

They Look Like They Like It

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I've gotten involved

I joined the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services Alive and Running 5K committee several months ago. It was in fulfillment of a promise I made to myself - to start volunteering again once my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, was published and on the market. I even wrote about my need to get involved in a charity again in my book.

This committe is a great place to start. It gets me more acquainted with all the services Didi Hirsch provides to prevent suicide and erase the stigma of mental illness, and it's a finite assignment. The event takes place on September 25, and then the need to meet stops. Plus, I've participated in this event for the last several years since my son Paul died.

I've attended several meetings so far - although I feel like I'm not making a significant difference yet. But there's still time. I've begun to ask others to enroll in the event via emails. and I'll ask several local businesses related to fitness and 5 and 10K walk/run events to display information cards at their shops.  I'll bombard my social networks with information as well.

Here's the link to information about the event and how to enroll.

If you decide to signup, please join Team Lelewer. Stan is my dear friend from my hometown of Glencoe, IL. He also lost a son to suicide. 

By the way, there's an opportunity to display a photo at the event of any of your family or friends who are suicide victims. My son Paul's photo will be on the banner again this year. So please sign up and join me. I'll be there.

Get Ready for a Great Event That Supports an Excellent Cause - 
Suicide Prevention

Monday, August 8, 2011

Catching up

On Saturday we took our great niece to the Hollywood Museum housed in the old Max Factor building on Highland and Hollywood boulevards. This was the first stop on our last day of touring with her that also included the Hardrock Cafe, seeing "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes" at the Sunset Boulevard Cinerama Dome theater, and dinner at Musso and Frank's Grill - the oldest Hollywood restaurant. (The menu is very much in keeping with the age of the restaurant.) She was indeed ready to go home yesterday and rest up.

My favorite exhibits at the museum were of Lucille Ball's 100th birthday and Jean Harlow. We were there on August 6 - the day Lucy was born and the day Jean died. But,those displays were a very small portion of the museum's many thousands of items. It would take days to see everything there. 

Beautiful Art Deco Lobby of the Hollywood Museum,  located in the historic Max Factor Building, originally built as the Hollywood Fire and Safe building in 1913. Today, the building is 
a recognized historic landmark.

And now it's time for me to catch up. My assignment for this week is to write an article for Naturally Savvy - I'm the "over sixty" expert for that website, write an article for the Huffington Post/AOL column called Aging Gracefully, and write a review of Chynna Laird's book White Elephants. I've started all three pieces, but I'm far from completing any one of them. But, it was well worth going off schedule for a few days while showing my darling niece around the Los Angeles area.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sightseeing in my home town

Our niece from Denver has been visiting and we've been doing a bit of sightseeing. We're not nearly finished but today is a day of work and rest and maybe a long walk on the beach later this afternoon. Since she arrived we went to the Los Angeles Zoo on Monday - it was only 100 degrees there - and we especially loved the giant tortoises. I didn't know they can weigh up to 550 pounds and live as long as 150 years. 

Giant Tortoise Walking Very Slowly in the Heat

On Tuesday we took the VIP tour at Warner Brothers Studios. In all the years I've lived in the Los Angeles area, this was my first time there, and I loved the tour. We joined a group of twelve on an open tram, but stopped at many studio locations such as: the jungle where lots of battles have been fought, the Ellen DeGeneres set, the old Friends set in the Property building (we ran into an old friend who has worked there for years), The Mentalist set, a museum of costumes and artifacts from old films and lots of Harry Potter memorabilia, and a museum of automobiles. Our tour guide's admonition was don't touch any walls because they are not really walls. 

The Warner Brothers Famous Logo

Yesterday we spent ten hours at Magic Mountain out in Valencia. Our niece loved the rides and thankfully our daughter-in-law willingly and happily joined her on every one -- the higher and scarier the better. I sat the rides out enjoying lots of conversation with my son Ben - who is just as chicken about high fast rides as I am. I even got a little flirting from the cute masked man on stilts. Ben and I enjoyed a five-minute aqua massage while we were waiting. Magic Mountain definitely has something for everyone.

The Masked Stilt-man Sure Loves to Flirt (those are feathers on his head)