A MEANINGFUL CHANGE

Dear Readers,

I’m grateful to all of you who have been responding to my blogs for ten years, and I welcome my newer readers. Your enthusiasm has meant a great deal to me.

This isn’t a preface to parting, just a change in purpose. As you know, my posts have been labelled “A Writer’s Blog ” and “Surviving Loss.” I’m now deleting the first category in the belief there’s a surfeit of advice about writing. On the other hand, I have an abundance of personal experience to offer to those coping with the inevitable losses we all face. I’ve lost my husband to cancer, my partner to Alzheimer’s, and – more recently – my sister to a variety of lung diseases. I have also written three books about caregiving and the need to make a new life afterward. So I’m well tutored in the exercise of picking up the pieces.

From now on my blogs will be designed solely to help others contending with loss. They will include candid advice from my own experience, as well as interviews with other survivors, recommendations about useful books and podcasts, medical news and whatever seems additionally useful.

However, loss is a large umbrella. It doesn’t solely pertain to death. Loss can also mean divorce, the breakup of an affair or friendship, estrangement from your child or other family member. It can also mean the loss of your job, your home, or anything else that gives you some security in this uncertain world . One reader told me she mourns the loss of youth!

The blogs will continue to be titled anne-otations.me. (I’m addicted to puns.) To continue receiving them (no fee) send your name and Email or text address to me – ahosansky@gmail.com. Let me know what you would find helpful. I promise to reply to every communication.

I look forward to hearing from you and to continuing a meaningful relationship.

Best wishes,
Anne

SALVAGING

SALVAGING

RecentlyI  flew across the country to celebrate my birthday with my children. But everything almost fell apart the first day: my grandson tested positive for Covid. Although he lives in a college dorm, not at home, my daughter-in-law had been with him the previous day and now had to quarantine as a precaution. My son said I was welcome to stay if I wanted to, but most of the events planned would have to be cancelled.

My usual reaction to a problem is to sink into a pit of depression or become hysterical. But this time something within me shifted. I said, “Let me think about this.”

I thought for maybe two minutes. Then I used a word I’d never even thought of before: “Let’s see what we can salvage.

So I stayed and what remained was surprising. Since meetings with friends were out, my son and I spent more time alone together than we had in years. We shared many things, including our mutual love of books, in a closeness not easily gained with an adult child. My daughter-in-law – who fortunately tested negative the entire week, but prudently kept masked –spent more sharing time with me than possible when she’s busy with her job. Though I was unable to see my grandson, I had the relief of knowing he was recovering.

I came home with many thoughts about the whole experience. So many times I’ve done post-mortems after dates with friends as though a disappointing evening or movie or party had been a total zero, rather than reaping any moments that had been rewarding. As a culinary example, for years whenever I’ve hosted a dinner I invariably forget to serve something, usually the salad. Then for days afterward I berate myself for my “failure” as a host, despite the compliments about the rest of the dinner.T

This all-or-nothing attitude has also been true with my writing. If one section of the novel or short story isn’t going well, my next stop is: “I can’t write.” But suppose I were to salvage (that word again ) the few pages or phrases that work well and use them in something else? Not a zero then.

The dictionary says salvage means “rescue from loss.” I think that can be extended to mean rescuing ourselves from negativity. It’s all too easy to lose faith in a better future these Pandemic days. But we can learn to see ourselves in a more hopeful way, not as helpless victims of a capricious fate, but – in Elizabeth Bennett’s brave words – capable of “adjusting our sails when the winds change.” And to believe that sometimes those winds may bring unexpected treasure.

Website: annehosansky.com
Latest book: “COME AND GO”- available through bookbaby.com

NEXT??

  As attacks go, one more stabbing would have seemed routine for America. But this one got headlines and horrified reactions across the world,  for the victim was renowned author Salman Rushdie.  The  prognosis is that he will survive, but remain severely injured.

There’s irony in the timing. For years Rushdie had lived in hiding under British  protection because of the famous execution decree (fatwa) placed on him. His book  “The Satanic Verses,” was considered blasphemous to Prophet Muhammad. But Rushdie, who moved to the United States six years ago, no longer hides. He lives openly in New York where he also teaches. His life seemed “almost normal,” he declared.

But what’s “normal” these days?  Newspapers and TV have no shortage of stories about violence.  Rushdie is one more statistic.  Of course he’s more than that. He’s a writer who insists on saying what he believes. He was  in the Chautauqua Institute that fatal night to speak on behalf of exiled writers. Today writers are shocked and grieving as it’s  one of our”family” who was brutally knifed.

The fact that the attack happened in an auditorium where an audience peacefully gathered has shaken all of us. But the setting could be – and often is – a neighborhood grocery store (Buffalo), a nightclub (Florida), a school or house of worship (too many to list).The  reality is that there’s no hiding place.

As poet George Northrup wrote, the next casualty might be  “the person sitting next to you…. the friend you waved to…even yourself.” No wonder so many of us are fearful and anxiety-ridden. President  Biden spoke of Rushdie’s “courage and resilience.”  In this perilous world, those qualities may enable  us to  do our work and continue to live as hopefully as possible. For fear could  destroy us as surely as any perpetrator.

Hosansky’s latest book is “COME ÅAND GO.”

 

TRYING TIMES

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”  Thomas Paine’s famous – if chauvinistic – words.  He was contending with a war, while we, of course, are struggling with a pandemic.

Actually we also have a war.  It might be called the Battle of the Masks. Increasingly I find we’re divided into two very hostile groups: those who believe  their best way of surviving is to follow CDC guidelines and mask up, versus those who refuse to mask because they claim it takes away their “freedom .”

The latter is what I had to listen to the other day when I was confined to a chair for a haircut. Since the hairdresser was wielding the scissors, I refrained from answering when he flung his “freedom” line at me, along with the assertion that “wearing a mask is worse than having Covid.” I hope he’s never put to the test.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say, yes, I am a masker. I put on a KN95 whenever I’m going to be among other people indoors. I also confess to  being vaccinated and boosted twice. Though I’ve been accused of  being a coward,  I unwaveringly stand by these decisions.

But  (why is there inevitably a “but” in every decision?)  I realize  that I have become too isolated. I don’t eat indoors (except in my own home). I have limited any travel to the point of near zero. But I wonder if I am paying too high a price for protecting what’s left of my fragmented life.

I discussed this with a candid Long Island woman, Analee Sternberg. She admits to paralyzing fear the first year of the pandemic.It kept  this sociable, travel-loving woman home most of the time. But this year Analee made a  pivotal decision. “I wanted my quality of life back,” she says. “I weighed  the gains against the risks  and arrived at what I feel is the best equation.”  Her “equation” included vaccinations and booster shots. She then went on a trip to Las Vegas,  “with trepidation” she admits. She remained healthy and currently dines  out and goes to concerts and shows – carefully masked. “My husband and I are often  the only ones wearing masks, but we have to do what’s right for us.” Still, Analee stops short of  going on a cruise, her favorite form of vacation in B.C. times (Before Covid). “A cruise doesn’t fit my risk-ratio,” she says.

I am preparing to fly to Colorado to visit my family.  Like Analee  I will pack a lot of trepidation baggage, along with prayers. I will also travel masked, not only for my own sake but for the health of those around me.  I believe we each must decide  our own level of risk-taking, while accepting the sane guidelines we have been given. And to do this with respect for those who make other choices.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com

BOOKS: COME AND  GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY- available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

thers’ choices.

“IF AT FIRST…(OR 40TH)….”

Many years ago I joined a writers’ group and wrote my first short story. Since it was based on events around my father’s death, it was important to me to have it published. Encouraged by the group, I submitted my story to a magazine. (“Submit” is the unfortunate term for sending your work to an editor or publisher.) This initial submission was returned with humiliating haste. It’s only one editor’s opinion, I reassured myself. But one became two…three…ten, etc. All with the same standard phrase: doesn’t meet our current needs. Your response doesn’t meet my needs, I felt like answering.

I wanted to give up, but the group encouraged me to keep trying. The problem was that the steady run of rejections not only made me doubt the merit of the story, but lose belief that I had any ability to write. As many of us do, I translated these futile attempts into a full-blown: I ‘m a failure . After 28 rejections, I threw the pages into the back of a drawer.I did try writing other stories but my ragged confidence made it hard to do anything.

One evening a writer from England visited our writing group. After the meeting we walked to the bus stop together, and I confided my experience with the demoralizing rejections. ”I’ve given up,” I announced and waited for sympathy.
“But 28 is nothing,” he said in his precise British accent. ” I’ve been published after 40 rejections You simply keep at it.”
Chastened but doubtful I sent the story out again. It was accepted and became my first publication.

Since then I’ve written and published many stories that were initially rejected. So I set up an index file. Each card has the title of the work, the date of submission,, and – taking up most of the cards – the dates of the responses, often so many they fill up several cards.
Is this wear and tear on the nerves worthwhile? This week my 33rd story was published.  Interesting to see what some editors disdain, another may enthusiastically accept –– proving that editors are almost as human as writers!

This grit-your-teeth-and-keep-going attitude isn’t just for writers, of course. How many of us have faced the challenge of staying with a frustrating job – or difficult relationship –though multiple storms? We have the choice of giving up or holding on, hopefully to a hard-fought victory.

Whenever I give a book talk I’m invariably asked what I consider the most important ingredient for success. When I proclaim, ”Persistence!” some doubters always protest ,“More than talent?” Well, talent doesn’t take us to the finish line if we give up too soon. So I applaud the words of former US Senator and basketball legend Bill Bradley: “Ambition is the path to success but perseverance is the vehicle you arrive in.”

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME AND GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com; TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY– available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

NOT A DAY FOR EVERYONE

Amid the hugs and hoopla of Mother’s Day, let’s take time to think of the many women for whom this uneven holiday means enduring, not celebrating. Women who have never been able to conceive. Women who have lost a child, either through death or estrangement. And women in their so-called “mature” years who still yearn for the missing parent.

Even without these specific losses many of us are depressed by the constant threat of Covid, or are fearful because a job has ended,  or are mourning a marriage that’s crumbling. Women who live alone in the shadows of age, with only memories for company.

I’d like to suggest that each of us reach out to someone we know who could use a sympathetic voice this Sunday, and visit or call.  We don’t need to send flowers or bring candy,  just the sweeter gifts of empathy and genuine listening.

I, for one, plan to call a friend who has been trying to get pregnant for years, but recently was informed by doctors that she will never be able to have a child .I can’t make up for her heartbreak, but perhaps my caring will help a little.

As I repeatedly discover, in giving to others we give to ourselves, too.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME AND GO – available through BookBaby.com; WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY- available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

THE POWER OF WORDS

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

That childhood retort is false, as those of us who carry the wounds of verbal taunts within us can verify. Words can be as violent an attack as a physical blow.

This brings me to the highly publicized event at the Oscars when Will Smith struck Chris Rock for insulting his (Smith’s) wife. I yield to no one in my abhorrence of violence and Smith has been rightly condemned for his out-of-control behavior.  But his blow wasn’t the  only attack that night. What about Rock’s crude “G I Jane” joke? His victim had to sit there humiliated as her medical condition was ridiculed in front of millions of viewers..

Women are used to being the butt of jokes.  Anecdotes about nagging mothers-in-law and parodies  of the “Jewish mother” have long been staples of comedians. But the mockery doesn’t end with comedy routines; it doesn’t even begin with them. I have a haunting memory of a woman I knew as Miss Maher. She was my 8th grade English teacher  and inspired a lifelong love of poetry in me. I still see her standing in front of the class, trying to read Keats or Shelley against an undercurrent of snickers from the adolescent boys, because of her deformed posture. One shoulder was higher than the other. The boys called her “the hunchback” and chalked that word on school walls and in the playground. With impressive dignity Miss Maher ignored the taunts. But who knows  how much “hunchback”  echoed in her mind during her lonely nights?

How do you get over hurts like that?  You don’t. I know women who are attractive and slim, yet see themselves as obese because they (and I ) hear within ourselves the “fatso” taunt of childhood. Even Princess Diana is known to have resorted to bulimia, unable to see the reality of her slender adult self.

These are all slight stories compared to the countless tragedies of teenagers driven to suicide by verbal and written bullying. As an author I revere the power of language. I also believe that anyone with the ability to write books or compose songs  or make movies  – even perform stand-up -comedy- has a responsibility to avoid gratuitously shaming another human being.

The indisputable truth is that words are frequently wounding and too often lethal. We all need to use those weapons carefully.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com

BOOKS: COME AND  GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY- available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

 

 

PERSONAL HEROINES

March is Women’s History Month. ( Don’t we deserve a year at least?) I’ve been thinking about some women in my life who don’t get their quota of publicity, will never be on a postage stamp, but whose strength has inspired me.

My mother  was a woman before her time. Although extremely hard of hearing she wouldn’t wear hearing aids, thinking they would make her look old. (In those days the aids were attached to a long cord.) Yet when my father’s business failed, she refused to excuse herself as disabled and got a job as a secretary, successfully hiding her struggle to hear dictation clearly. Preferring to be her own boss, for years she had a one-woman business as a public stenographer. She finally got hearing aids when my daughter was born. “I want to hear the baby when she cries,” my mother said. One of her steadiest clients was a lawyer. Her familiarity with legal jargon proved helpful when she and my father “retired” to Florida, for she found work as a legal secretary in a large law firm. She remained there as a valuable employee until mandated out at the tender age of 85. Widowed by then and living in a residential hotel filled with other lonely widows, she instigated a series of Sunday afternoon concerts, inviting the women to her room to hear her beloved Pavorotti records, accompanied by generous servings of cookies, tea – and whiskey!

Norma was the Human Resources Director at my mother’s first job, but her past was more glamorous. She had been on Broadway in musical comedies. So when I was a stage-struck teenager my mother asked Norma to accompany her to a college production I was in. The goal was to have Norma review my amateurish acting and discourage me from pursuing a career in theatre. This backfired because Norma thought I had talent and told me I’d go far in theatre. ( How far I did and didn’t go is another story.) For years Norma encouraged me when I was rejected and applauded my rare successes. She confided that she had given up her career for marriage. When her husband died she had been reluctant to start over again. If she had regrets, they were kept shrouded. In her eighties she had to move into a nursing home, where she continued to wear bright print dresses, sparkling jewelry, and one of her colorful wigs to hide the spare gray strands. When asked to perform at the annual Christmas party, she sang the requested songs, and graciously led an animal chorus of “Old McDonald.“ Not once did this former musical comedy star betray how much the setting dismayed her, nor how lonely she was.

Ruth was my husband’s cousin. I was intimidated the first time I met her– not because of her appearance ,she was petite and frail – but by her assertiveness. .I later heard that when her husband left her, she was so devastated she felt she had to get away . So she moved all the way to Italy, where she unexpectedly found a new career. American directors were filming in Rome by then and since she could speak fluent Italian, she was hired to coach some of the stars. The people she worked with – Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, among others – became friends. But my greater memory is her supportiveness after my husband died. In a series of letters across the ocean, she encouraged me to believe that my life wasn’t over, that just as she had gone on to make a new life for herself, I could, too. She invited me to visit her in Rome, a feat I couldn’t imagine. Get on a plane by myself? But after three years I did go, inspired by her courage to be a woman succeeding on her own.

Three women who have not only inspired me ,but still insist on walking into my pages, for they have all shown up in in my stories and books. It heartens me to keep them alive that way.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME AND GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY– available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

OLYMPIC LESSON

There was a surprising upset at the Beijing Olympics, when the young Russian touted as “the greatest skater in the world” dramatically toppled from her perch. I hadn’t seen Kamila Valiera skate in her initial triumphant performance. That was before the news erupted about her having taken a performance-enhancing drug. I’m fascinated by drama, so I stayed up late the final night to watch her skate onto the rink, her expression already distraught. I could imagine what she’d been through the past week, with athletes around the world resenting her being allowed to compete once the news about the drug became known. It would have been too heavy a burden for anyone, much less a 15-year-old on a global stage.

I know too well how stress affects your ability to think clearly or – in this case – to stay in control of the skill that skating demands. So I was saddened but not surprised when Kamila fell during her performance – not once, but twice. With the eyes of the world on her, she tearfully managed to continue after her humiliating falls. Within minutes it was over, any podium appearance shockingly beyond reach now.

Why, I ask myself, did this scene affect me so much? I guess it was the close-up of that tearful face – a child’s face. She was clutching her stuffed rabbit afterward, while being harshly berated by a coach who should have been comforting her. I leave it to the authorities to determine whether Kamila took the drug deliberately or, as most believe, she was the victim of adults who were supposedly looking out for her.

I have no idea what Kamila’s future will be, or whether she will have the will to skate again. Her adolescent view may equate her Olympic failure to total failure in life. It takes a certain amount of maturity– and courage – to understand that one failure, even an internationally publicized one, need not be the end of the story. Former two-time gold medal skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who was unable to even finish some of her runs this time, summed it up best: “You can fail but not be a failure.” It’s a lesson that I and many of my writer friends struggle with, when we receive rejection after rejection from publishers. Yet it’s legendary how many books that became famous had been repeatedly rejected, eventually succeeding because their authors had enough belief in themselves to continue.

Of course, it isn’t only athletes and authors who need this perseverance. A friend whose marriage has just broken up confided that she’ll “never get over it,” certain she’ll never be able to love or be loved again. I’m betting she will, for she has the quality I most envy: resilience. Life is so full of twists and turns, it’s foolhardy to surrender to the feeling that one or a dozen turns in the wrong direction mean you’ve reached the end of the road.

That road to success is rarely a straight line, as Nathan Chen can verify. As a young child he began reaping medals from all the top skating competitions. But his awesome leaps cost a price. In 2016 he injured his left hip so severely it required surgery. End of his career? After months of rehabilitation, he put on his skates again. Then during the 2018 Olympics, he gave a shaky performance and his rating fell to 17th place before the free skate. End of the road or rink? He says, “That experience helps me retain some resiliency.” Enough to enable him to go all the way to Olympic gold.

Too often we waste time and energy berating ourselves for a “stupid” mistake or saying we can’t succeed because we’re “not who we used to be.” Maybe we’re not, but what we can become is more worth setting our sights on. As Chen found and Valeira may realize, giving up on yourself should never be an option.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY– available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

ANOTHER PARTING

I added to my growing list of losses this week. A longtime friend died.

We didn’t begin as friends, but as supervisor (Warren) and insecure editor (me). I had gotten a job as editor for Weight Watchers by vastly exaggerating my experience. Warren was given the task of overseeing the newsletter. When I put my first issue together, I anxiously asked the printer if I could still make changes. He told me to make as many as I wanted. Being an addictive reviser,I practically rewrote half the issue. But no one had explained to me that there’s a difference between correcting PE’s (printer’s errors) at no charge , and the AA’s (author’s alterations)  which the company has to pay for! The huge bill exposed my inexperience and would have gotten me fired if Warren hadn’t assured the powers-that-be I was going to do a “fine job.” (He gave me his own warning in private.)

I continued as editor for the next 18 years, sustained by his faith in my ability. Corporations can be cutthroat settings, but I never knew him to undercut anyone. He was that rare being, a gentleman. But his orderliness intimidated me. I’ll never forget the day we were having a brief conference and I borrowed one of the pencils lined upright in the leather cup on his desk like soldiers awaiting their marching orders. When I put the pencil back, he told me to replace it point down because it had been used. I’m glad he managed not to comment when he saw my cluttered desk!

I finally left the job in order to freelance and we fell out of touch except for routine holiday cards. When he retired, he and his wife, Helene, moved to Florida and I lost contact with him for several years. Then one day I had a moving phone call: Helene had died and Warren was in desperate need of help. He knew I’d written a memoir about my husband’s death and how I’d made a new life for myself. I gave Warren as much encouragement as I could from my hard-earned knowledge. He, in turn, encouraged me when I began writing blogs. He insisted on reading every one and  gave me enthusiastic reviews, sometimes combined with his savvy PR knowledge. I told him he was my Number One Fan .

We finally met again after many years when he and his companion, Gloria, came to New York for a visit. My partner and I met them for dinner. I was afraid I might not even recognize Warren, but the moment they walked in the years evaporated. The four of us became a lively quartet, meeting on each of their visits for the next four years.

Then the visits stopped because, tragically, Gloria died, too. Warren and I continued our long-distance friendship, and in what I didn’t realize would be our last conversation he volunteered that I was an “important person” in his life. I can’t think of a better memory to be left with, except for one: his book.

You see, he wanted to write a memoir. Since he didn’t consider himself much of a writer he found a clever method. His father had saved every letter Warren wrote when he was in the army during World War 11. He found the cache in his parent’s attic and brought the letters with him to Florida. He selected the most interesting ones and pasted them on separate pages, along with some memorabilia. Then he wrote descriptions of the memories each letter evoked; like standing on Omaha Beach two months after D-Day and seeing it covered with the “detritus of war.” And being greeted by white flags of surrender when his battalion marched into a German town – “flags” that were actually towels, sheets, tablecloths, even petticoats – whatever the inhabitants could find.

He titled the 300 pages “Looking Back” and brought them to a local copy store to be inexpensively bound. I received one of the first copies and others went to family and friends – including his sole remaining “buddy” from those long -ago Army days.

Warren died a day before his 96th birthday. Yesterday a neighbor asked me why I was grieving. When I explained she said, “It’s not as bad as when your sister died.” I was unable to even answer. On what scale do we measure loss? In what way should we judge how much grief Is allowed ? And how can we ever measure the depth of a friendship?

As I write these words Warren’s book is on the desk beside me, and I hear again his proud voice when it was published. It helps to have sunlit memories on dark days.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY– available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.