Monday, September 29, 2014

Walking the Path

            I began to write this morning with two names in mind: John and Sally. The paragraphs below are the result:

John met Sally at the garden gate just as he had for months. At the horizon, the sun blazoned, a gigantic ball of yellow light lifting upward into a lightening sky. The scene had been the same on more mornings than John could count that summer; yet each day had been different too, shaped by nuances that only a shrewd observer would distinguish. It wasn’t always sunny, however. In early spring some days had been dark, with clouds swirling ominously in angry circles; others brought light drizzle that moistened the pair’s faces and flattened their hair. John liked the rain, but not when it peppered him and his girl with heavy drops that stung and forced them into flimsy shelter at the wide base of one of the maple trees that lined the path ahead. Why, in winter, he recalled, the two had even trampled over crusted soil, frozen inches deep beneath their feet. Flurries of snow had swirled haphazardly around them at times on days that were so cold that their cheeks chapped red and their fingers tingled even inside thick, woolen mittens.
This day, though, was one hundred and eighty degrees from that frigid memory. Already the cool night air had given way to warmth that most certainly would intensify. John knew this walk would leave them sticky with perspiration and ready for a tumbler of iced tea when they reached the cabin where Sally lived with her aging mother.
Sally’s fingers slipped comfortably into John’s as they always did when they began their trek. They walked side-by-side, arms brushing, with her stride just short of his. They were together, in sync in every physical way for a time, until their hands separated and they moved apart. It was not unusual for John to forge ahead while Sally lingered alone, stopping to pick budding flowers or simply to gaze into the deep woods that teemed with wildlife.

That’s it! What will happen to John and Sally? It’s a question for another day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Snippet From Big House Dreams

I saw a quotation the other day that reminded me of the importance of appreciating each day and of valuing the people whom we love. It’s so easy to take things for granted. All right! I know that is a trite statement, but I understand it to be true. Here is a short passage from my first novel, Big House Dreams that, I believe, relates somewhat to the words in the quotation.

Melanie’s life had been rough from the beginning and Sheila truly wished better for her friend. Of all the girls, Melanie was the one who had held on to her principles and likely would until the day she died. Sheila could picture her even at this moment trudging home from work to a house that was unkempt and stale, smelling of camphor and alcohol as her mother sought a bogus remedy for her illness. The welfare doctors had diagnosed her with liver cancer too late for treatment. She had only months to live. Melanie chose not to burden anyone else with the news, so alone she cared for her mother and watched as her father’s anger at the life he considered a rotten mess selfishly turn a deceptive direction. He would be gone for days, leaving the two women alone. Melanie did what she could to preserve her mother’s dignity in her final days. She bathed her gently with warm, soapy sponges and combed her thinning hair, knotting it into a bun at the back of her neck. She patted her emaciated hand, fluffed her pillow and said, “It’s goin’ t’ be okay, now. Just rest a bit. Think ‘bout a good time when ya’ had the world by the tail! Remember your happiest day.” She would close the bedroom door then, wander into the kitchen, and numbly prepare soups or stews that lasted for days and provided sustenance for her mom when she was at work. She watched her mother’s skin dry into a paper-thin, yellow-grey hide that stretched over a skinny frame. Her face became a skeleton mask with eyes sunken deep into eye sockets that were flamed with deep purple and red. It was no wonder Melanie didn’t smile. She was the sole observer of her mother’s decline and her heart cracked a bit more with every passing day. It would be several months before the end came.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


I had no idea what I would write today. I simply sat down at my computer, selected a name, Anna, and began. The following is the result.

Anna woke up early, much earlier than usual, and stumbled toward the kitchen in search of salvation. Armed with a steaming cup of freshly brewed tea, she sat quietly at the wooden, kitchen table and stared through a filmy window at the barren lawn that lay brown and neglected in the winter cold. At the far edge of the expanse were trees, naked, dark, and appearing like a line of still and silent sentinels barring anyone’s entrance to the place. It was a tranquil setting even in its coldness for it bore the face of familiarity, and to that end, calmed Anna’s anxiety.
Today was the day. She would tell Liam the truth and she would do it the only way she knew how, by writing. She reached for the pen and paper she had garnered from the library just last evening and began. Her intention had been real even the night before, but words had failed her then. She could not let that occur again, for if she did, she would be trapped and launched into a world she feared she could not abide.
She remembered Liam’s words, sincere, serious, and spoken weeks earlier. “I want you to marry me, Anna. Please say you will. I’ll take you away from this place. We’ll live in the city where you’ll have all you could ever wish to have. I have the means. I’ll make you happy.”
Liam’s eyes had bored into her. They were dark and shining with emotion. Anna had been swept up in the moment by his candid plea. In some ways he must have been as vulnerable as she, for his lip quivered and his fingers were clutched together awkwardly.
“He is handsome indeed,” Anna had thought, “unnervingly so.”
“All right,” she had whispered. “I will. I will.” It was a lie.
Anna had watched uneasily that day as Liam left her house, the one her father had bequeathed to her five years before.
“I’ll be back in two weeks,” he told her, planting a tender kiss on her cheek.
She was to be ready. She was not.
So it was then, in the morning stillness, Anna’s pen touched the piece of parchment to put into words what she could articulate no other way. She began to write: “Dear Liam, It is with admiration and regret . . . “

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

People Who Serve

This morning I’ve been thinking about the people who serve us. Both Facebook and the local media have been inundated with stories about recent fires in California. The state is so dry and parched it seems to be a tinder box ready to blow up with a single spark. It’s scary. People are losing their homes, wild animals are being killed or displaced, and the land is being ravished, left charred and blackened. It is so sad to see. We are lucky in California to have many brave individuals who work, work, work until they are ready to drop. They risk their lives to protect people, pets, and property. Firefighters truly are heroes and deserve every bit of respect from the public that they are given.

Others who serve are not always as admired. Police officers are often maligned or criticized and in my view do not deserve such disrespect. (I’m still a bit incensed about receiving a ticket a few years ago for that “California stop” though!) Unfortunately a few incidents are blown to such proportion that investigations are hampered and facts are pushed aside, buried by emotional outbursts. I definitely am not saying all officers are perfect; mistakes and misjudgments are made. However, the public does not walk in their shoes. We do not see what they do every day. The police have to deal with myriad seedy, corrupt, dishonest individuals daily. When we need them, when disaster or tragedy strikes, who comes to the rescue? Police officers (and firefighters) do. They make the world a safer place; they too put their lives on the line every day. Where’s all the hoopla when one of them is “taken out” by some misguided killer? Maybe we need to be more appreciative.

Finally, I want to mention teachers who work very hard and receive inadequate pay that is incommensurate to their education and dedication. I know this one! I taught for twenty-nine years. While it may not jump out to the average person as true, a teacher can be a hero too. One need only remember Columbine and New Town (and other such tragedies) when teachers gave their lives to save their students. Sometimes just a kind word, a smile, a pat on the back, or a call home will do the same, sending a student off in the right direction. I have the utmost respect for teachers (and, again, not all are perfect), but they, as with firefighters and police officers have a calling. Despite many frustrations, most find joy in their career. As many of us have voiced, “Teaching is not a profession; it’s a lifestyle.” It IS all consuming.

My intention is not to leave out anyone. Nurses (amazing), doctors, and so many other people provide service to us. Being a hero of sorts in any occupation takes perseverance, a real sense of responsibility, and commitment. People who possess these attributes make our world a better place.

I’m not sure why this came to mind today, but it did, and I simply wanted to put it on paper.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Here’s a little poem . . .

Inside of Me

I want to go
And stay.

Is tough

Is easier.

Not one
Is allowed
Just me.

So have at it
Go on about
What you do.
Love. Hate.

Is safe.
Good thoughts
Sweet memories
Have a home here.
No harm done
In the sanctuary
That lies
Within me.                                                    
Judith DeChesere-Boyle, September 2014

Saturday, September 6, 2014

It’s My Birthday

It is my birthday today and generally I don’t make a big deal out of my “days”. This year is no different although I have a blog to write and thought I’d write about all the years that have gone by in a succinct, little paragraph! Ha! Just kidding!

The number that delineates my birthday this year is a bit scary to me. How did I get here? I still feel good, fit, and raring to go. The last couple of years have been tough, but I’ve learned I can keep plowing on even though a chunk of my heart has been ripped away. I have much for which to be thankful and a whole lot I still want to do in this life! It’s a joy to have purpose. Sometimes I think of days gone by -- at times with regret. I wish I had been “street” smarter when I was younger, but I’ve learned not to live in the past, nor to fret about the future. I truly do enjoy each day even with the subtle nuances they offer.

My birthday today has been a quiet affair with no real fanfare other than many lovely posts on Facebook from friends and former students. I appreciate the messages so much. Today I wrote a new chapter in my novel (in-progress), I walked my dogs three miles, I cuddled my sweet cat, I did two loads of laundry, and tonight I am going to dinner with my husband, Rick. (He had patients to see today at work.) So, my birth year has been marked yet again. I am most thankful to have a really good life and look forward to adding on a new number to my age next September 6th.

Here I am in the Sierra - Summer 2014

Friday, September 5, 2014

What Is Your Purpose In Life?

A friend of mine from long ago, high school days posted the following quote on Facebook recently and it struck me as so true.

"I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the
purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, 
to have made some difference that you lived at all."
Leo Rostent, Writer/Teacher, 1908-1997
Certainly we all want to be happy, but I have to believe that happiness does not come from self-indulgence. As we all know, the world is full of hedonistic individuals who seek to enjoy every pleasure, every luxury, every thrill, but is such decadence the answer to happiness? I doubt it. I have to agree with the quote above. It seems to me that one is most satisfied when he or she is doing a job well, volunteering, or simply helping out on a whim. Happiness comes as a result of doing something constructive in life, something that will help others or set someone’s life in a positive direction. It is easy for anyone to say, “I’m so responsible and terribly compassionate,” but if that doesn’t translate into actions, if the phrase is offered from a hollow distance, then the words are empty.

The world is full of folks who stand for something: teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and doctors are examples of people who have a positive impact on the world every day, and they feel it. I know they do. One need not have a specific profession, however to count for something. People in many jobs and business make it a point to make a difference. Parents, too, working or otherwise, give, give, give, up close and personal; they have purpose, and with that comes joy.

Our world seems extremely cold and angry most days. We constantly are battered by bad news: violence, terror, racism, sexism, homophobia, crooked politics, and more. Yet every once in a while, a story of love and compassion sneaks into a newscast and makes us smile, if just for a moment. Those stories usually tell us about someone, some ordinary individual, being responsible, or compassionate; they tell us about people who have a purpose, who stand for something, and who truly want and do make a difference. Such “feel good” stories lead me to believe the author above is correct. One may not “buy” it of course, but it’s something to ponder.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

My memoir, Tumor Me – The Story of My Firefighter chronicles my son’s nine-year struggle with brain cancer. Although Alex was thirty, not a youngster, when he was diagnosed, he was my child and young! He was my precious son until the end and I loved him dearly. That love is as strong as ever for I have sweet memories that help me manage the loss.

My point here is to draw attention to the fact that many individuals much younger than my son was, are forced to face trials and fears that not one of them, or their families, could possibly have bargained for when told, “It’s cancer.” When Alex was initially sent to UC Davis Medical Center for care, I was with him, right by his side even though he was a grown man. UC Davis Medical Center swarmed with ill people, but the ones who struck both Alex and me the most were the children. Especially in neurology, the children caught our attention. Many bore deep, surgical scars in their heads where incisions had been made: horseshoes, crescents, squiggly, sideways question marks, and upside down U’s. The children’s eyes were often wide, hollow, or bewildered and the faces were serious, confused, searching. Oh, a few wan smiles did surface speaking to the spirit that kept these little beings going despite challenges they could not possibly have understood. Seeing them there never became easier for me, for I knew they faced a daunting, uncertain future. Flanked by parents and armored with love, however, they did what they had to do.

Cancer for any person is formidable, but for a child whose innocence is snatched away incrementally with the first diagnosis, each new treatment, each new step forward or backward, and each new day, fate’s folly seems most cruel. Children are amazing though. They fight hard, warm hearts, turn tears into laughter, and win battles. So, this blog is for the children. I hope anyone who reads it will take a moment to make a difference in a child’s life by donating. UC Davis and UCSF, in particular have notable venues for addressing childhood cancer victims. Go online. Check them out. See how you can help.