Friday, May 29, 2015


I am finished with the first editing of my new novel. At this point it is 91,229 words. That may change, of course, because I have to read it another four or five times before I call it ready to publish. However, I have to say, finishing, even to this point, feels good.
I remember being a student and rejoicing when finals were complete. Ah, the relief! When I was a teacher, I sighed happily when the last bell of the year rang, when the last essay was evaluated, and when the last grade was bubbled in on the computer. Handing my classroom keys to the school secretary at the close of the spring semester and heading for my car and home offered a sense of freedom . . . if only for a few weeks. (No, teachers do NOT get three months OFF!)
So, finishing isn’t half bad – the dishes are done and the kitchen cleaned; the laundry folded and put away; the pets fed; the garden planted; the weeds pulled. It feels nice to have those tasks behind, even though, of course, routine dictates that many mundane responsibilities will be repeated time and again. For that split second, though . . . they are over. Complete.
Certainly some endings are more negative, divorce and death, standing out in my mind. Yet, those occurrences are part of life. We learn to accept in time and carry on, hopefully a bit wiser and stronger for the wear.
The ended relationship surely gives way to new ones and a death may gift us with an avalanche of sweet memories and a greater appreciation for life around us. And the completed novel . . . well, it spurs the mind to wonder, “What’s next?”
In the end I have to say I appreciate people who live in a “get ‘er done” kind of world. I attribute positive qualities to them: focus, perseverance, drive, diligence, resolve. Grit and tenacity on the parts of many folks -- individuals who did not give up on a project, a job, a discovery, or a dream -- have made our lives quite comfortable these days. Think about it.

  (As for progress with the novel, I’ll keep you posted.)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Remembering Our Mother

My brother, Jay, and I were blessed with the most amazing mother. She was loving, kind, compassionate, thoughtful, and passionate about two things: her family and her religion. I can remember hearing, ”Be ye kind,” more times than I can count. It’s a great sentiment actually -- perhaps one to which more folks today should adhere. Mother also said over and over, “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord.” (I guess in her mind everyone else was shit out of luck.) Her faith was unwavering though. That’s just the way it was.
Mother could be a spitfire now and then too. Her temper didn’t surface often, but if my brother or I did not “tow the line” she let us know. “I’m going to give you what Patty gave the drum,” she would threaten, though never follow through. We were to be good people, study hard, and make something of ourselves. I like to think we did not disappoint.
Our family was not wealthy. Instead of some fancy d├ęcor on the wall, beside our kitchen table, was a map of the world that could be turned over to reveal a close-up of the United States. Every day, as we munched our Cheerios or Rice Krispies, simply by looking at that map, Jay and I learned. Our mother also taught us to love nature. She adored ladybugs and pansies. “Just look at that little face,” she would say in admiration of a blossom. We almost always had a pet – a dog, cat, parakeet, or a snake my brother captured and kept in a box by the back door. (It was something to admire.) We had pollywogs too, squirming around on their way to become frogs. All our lives, with Mother as our teacher, we learned to appreciate the beauty of nature and to understand the importance of caring and nurturing.
So, it’s true. Early on, my brother and I learned to observe the world closely, which most likely has led us to our passions: writing for me, art for him. I believe we can thank our mother for that gift.
Not one day has gone by since our mother’s passing in 2010, that I have not thought of her. When times have been difficult, her voice has come to me. “Judith Lee, you can do this. Be strong.” And when I have succeeded, I can almost hear her lilting southern accent, “I knew you could do it. I’m so proud of you, honey.” So, though she is gone, she is so ever present and I will hold her in my heart forever. I’m willing to bet Jay does too.

            Below is a passage from my memoir, Tumor Me, The Story of My Firefighter that tells of the impact of my mother, Honey’s passing:

To add insult to injury, on January 19, 2010, my 95-year-old mother passed away. Alex and Trevor lost their beloved grandmother, Honey. It was a crushing blow to all of us. My mother, Nola Jean Baird DeChesere, was two months short of turning 96 and had withered to eighty-two pounds when she died. In the last two years of her life she had become demented and confused, but she was so incredibly loved by our family, that her amazing spirit remains alive in our hearts today. My father, my brother, his children, grandchildren, and mine all know that she was an absolute Earth angel.
Alex and I flew together to North Carolina for the funeral. Trevor followed separately two days later. Our family buried my mother on a cold, January morning in a grave of dirt and sand in a quaint cemetery behind her church in Wilmington, North Carolina, not too far from the Atlantic Ocean. The loss I felt then is still with me; I realize that at some point every day, the memory of her slips into my mind, and that’s a good thing, really, because she was my ally, my confidant, and my teacher. From my mother I learned the power and the consolation of unconditional love. Her greatest attribute was her amazing ability to listen, to abstain from judging, and to accept gratefully what life had granted her, both the good and the bad. I have never met another person with such goodness.

Dad, Mother, Justin (Trevor), Judi, Alex 2003

Me with my mom 2007

Mother and Dad 2007

Monday, May 4, 2015

Giving Up Hope

I’ve never been too hot on hope. That is not to say I haven’t hoped for things. I have. However, I believe hope is not what it’s cracked up to be. It can lead one down a path to disappointment. How many times have we hoped for something, material or otherwise, only to find ourselves left empty handed at a dead end? The way I see it, hope is passive. All one has to do is sit back and hold it like a hot rock . . . and that can become an uncomfortable, heavy load.  

Rather than hoping, then, I prefer taking action to reach a goal at the end of the road. Being active makes more sense to me. This past few months and particularly this past Saturday (5/2/15), quite a few folks participated actively by donating money and/or walking with our team, Alex’s Fighters, in the National Brain Tumor Society’s Annual 3K Walk in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park . . . and I thank them. I have been touched deeply by the generosity of so many . . . too many to name here. Certainly we all hope desperately for a cure for brain cancer, but we must do more. In order to raise awareness and fund brain cancer research, future action is imperative. It is with that is mind that we must, with determination, carry on. I for one will continue to act and I am certain (no hoping here) that others will join me.  

Here's our team. It is important to say a special thanks to Alicia Amaro Streblow
 and Tim Streblow who joined with me to make this happen. Love!

The story of Alex is recorded in my memoir, Tumor Me, The Story of My Firefighter. It is available on