OLMC Book Club – a stimulating way to connect…

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel windowsYou know, my move to Florida was intense.  It took some chutzpah to pick up and move over 1,000 miles with my dog, Jake, in tow so soon after my loving husband Gene passed away from cancer. But here I am.  I survived the move and so did Jake.  The biggest challenge of course is not fixing up the house or finding my way around, but rather forging new relationships and friendships.  That’s the stuff that keeps me going.  The human connections keep me sane.  The alternative is to exist as if in a space walk, where I float freely with nothing to hang on to.

One of the ways I found to connect is through the local Catholic Church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Osprey. I’ve always loved palm trees and when I walked into this church, I was surprised by the stained glass windows adorned with stately palms.  At OLMC, I found my way back to my religion and my God and I was welcomed into a community that embraced me.  Through a Grief Support Group facilitated by Darwin Reeck, OLMC Pastoral Minister, I met others who are going through the grieving process, and I found a safe place to cry with the support of those who know exactly how I feel. I also joined the OLMC Book Club, and that is where I went today.

When I was married, we socialized mostly with friends, usually other couples, and I didn’t spend a lot of time in the company of women.  This Book Club is attended by some of the most intelligent, inspiring, and compassionate women I have ever met and I honestly feel blessed to be welcomed and to participate in the lively discussions.

The group is facilitated by Doris Brodeur, Ph.D. Adult Faith Development, whose depth of experience, love for reading and knowledge of culture enriches me as I listen to her stories and anecdotes when she elaborates about the setting of the book or the author. Along with other volunteers, Doris organizes the group, helps us select the books and provides handouts and refreshments.  Doris and other volunteers generally make each meeting a true joy for all who attend. Each woman in the group has a unique background and experience, and from what I can tell, all of the members are honest and straightforward in expressing their views and impressions.  The books on the reading list have been engaging and offer many topics of discussion.

Today we discussed the book by Joan Chittister, The Gift of Years.  Frankly, I didn’t really enjoy or appreciate this book. Each chapter delves deeply into the issues of aging, like loneliness, solitude, memories, regrets, success, tale-telling, and many others.  You’d think such a book would be “right up my alley,” but while reading it, I felt only pressure.  The pressure that comes with expectations.  Let me explain.

When I turned 65, I felt I was officially a “senior citizen,” even though I had been receiving AARP magazines for years prior. Of all the privileges that come with age, traditionally many looked forward to the retirement years when we are free from the constraints of the working world and where all we are expected to do is play golf, relax in the shade, read, knit, take bike rides at dusk, and maybe bake a few cookies.  My mom and dad had that kind of retirement.  They enjoyed Florida and all its gifts. They swam in the Gulf; my dad played golf and bought a boat so he could fish.  They cared for their home and took trips around the world and with their grandchildren, they enjoyed Disney, Busch Gardens and all the Florida attractions.  No one expected them to find any special meaning in their older years or to contribute much to the world. They did their part and now they deserved to relax.

Today’s retirement is undefined.  When life spans have lengthened for many to 90 or 100 years, we have the responsibility to continue.  How we continue can be perceived as an opportunity or a chore, depending on what we are going through and how we feel emotionally and physically. Right now, I’m stressed by the role of “grieving widow.”  Continuing for another 30 years or more is not a pleasant prospect to me now.  I pray that changes.  I have some skills, lots of interests and passions, and I want to continue to express myself through whatever number of “retirement” years are granted me.

But not today.  Today I need to relax.  Thank you ladies, for welcoming me and for your caring thoughts and insights.

How about you? What are your retirement plans?

–Julianne, your Lifetime Writer

 

Living in the Dots…

star of dotsDay after day, by some miracle, I go on.  Living without Gene is something I don’t know how to do, but I know I have to learn.  Because I’m moving, I have lots to do and the days are filled with tasks, neatly arranged into checklists, that I dutifully monitor and adjust, as I remember a new one or complete something that was pending.

Living this way is what I call, “living in the dots.” When you view a newspaper print photo from a distance, you see the entire thing.  It makes sense to you.  But hold a magnifying glass to the page, and all you will see are the halftone “dots” created by the old dot matrix printers and now we call them pixels. That’s just what this life has become.  I’ve lost perspective.  I no longer see the big picture.  All I see are the details.  There is no meaning, and I don’t recognize a pattern.

With the grace of God, this will change and I will find a purpose once again. With determination, I will write another chapter in my lifetime book.  For those experiencing a similar loss, I wish you the same.

Happy Birthday Gene

My husband Gene passed away on February 5th, 2016.  I take notes every day as I experience his presence in my life in so many ways. He visits me in the wind, through birds that fly in and out of our bird feeder, and in the hugs and kisses made by cloud formations in the sky.  Am I going crazy?  No, I just love him deeply with …”a love that lasts forever.”

Gene’s birthday is May 18th and we were born in the same year, 1951.  I wanted to grow old with Gene but God gave him only 64 years.  My years with Gene were the best years of my life.  Thank you, my love, for the memories, and Happy Birthday.

Our pup, Jake, will be 12 years old on May 11.  He is my comfort and my baby.  Happy Birthday, Jake.

 

Self-Publishing Program for Teen Authors, Chester Library

Writers Workshop: Self-Publishing for Teen Authors
Wednesday, July 23rd  6:30 pm
For Tweens & Teens
Got a story to tell? Learn how to publish your stories for free in this special workshop.  You will learn the 3 major steps of self-publishing online in an E-book, a Flipbook, or a printed book.  Julianne Weinmann, self-published author and consultant, will demonstrate how easy it is using the self-publishing program on the LULU.com website. Bring some of your work and get started at the workshop. 
This summer, read and share your story online or in print:  “Your Story” by YOU, the author! Please register online at chesterlib.org or call 908 879-7612.

Older Then, Younger Now….PUBLISHED!

Well Ladies and Germs, I FINALLY finished my very own LifeTime Book entitled Older Then, Younger Now.

Older Then, Younger Now.After fixing errors that I found in the proof copy, I revised my work and finally published it for the general public.  The issue of cover design was especially perplexing because I am not a graphic artist and although I have learned to use Photoshop pretty well, creating an image size that would fit within the boundaries of the printed cover was a significant challenge for me, who is untrained in digital graphic arts.

On www.LULU.com, you can download a copy of my book or purchase the hard cover printed version. I haven’t created an e-book version, and probably won’t, but LULU.com provides a preview for those who just want to read a few pages.

I don’t consider this my last revision.  There are many more life chapters to go.  But I feel great that I have a start on the story of my life.  Reading it over now, it looks like I’ve skipped over so many personal adventures and details, so I anticipate writing many more chapters for later editions to fill in the past and to document new life events as they occur.

If you would like to create a Lifetime Book of your own, contact me to get started today! It would be a wonderful gift for Mom, Dad or grandparents.

Remembering Lakewood

Lakewood NJLakewood New Jersey.  Nestled in the pine forests of south Jersey, Lakewood was a short distance from Lakehurst, “Airship Capital of the World.” Here, in the early 1950’s my parents bought a former “army barracks,” complete with two entrances, a large kitchen, and several bedrooms off both sides radiating from a long hallway.  In July of 1969, my family huddled around our RCA Victor TV to watch Neil and Buzz land on the moon.

I returned to Lakewood with Gene…..oh maybe 5 or 10 years ago and I was thrilled to show him where I grew up in summers, swimming in Lake Carasaljo, watching the July 4th fireworks on the lake, picking blueberries in the woods and flirting with lifeguards.Those summers flew by way too fast.  Returning to these places where childhood was carefree and every day was filled with adventure brought forth a flood of conflicted feelings.

The feeling of the sand between my toes, the sweet scent of bright white water lillies, the gutterel sounds of horny bullfrogs, and the rough feel and wintergreen aroma of the bark of pine trees bring me back to very specific days and times. Closing my eyes, I can recall conversations with friends, the cold tingle in my feet while I wade in the water on a chilly June day, and the feeling of the soft mud I would dig as a child, way deep below the sand.  Mud that felt so smooth and pliable that I could make mud pies that appeared good enough to eat.

The memories bring tears to my eyes….and I wonder why it makes me sad.  I think because of the loss of innocence, the days I can never recapture, but more likely the thought that the best times of my life are behind me.  I don’t know for sure, but I do feel lucky to have had “Lakewood,” in which to live two months out of the year in my childhood and adolescent years.

Proof Copy Cringes

I was so excited that I finally FINISHED my Lifetime Book.  I thought for sure that my next blog entry would be an announcement. But wait…..then I ordered the proof copy.

Now don’t get me wrong, it looks really good. All the pages were in the right places and the photos looked fine….maybe some were a bit small…but then there are the typos, undetected grammar errors, and in my case, the cover art was corrupted by the cover wrap.

But this is all a learning experience.  Even though I’ve self-published many times, there is always room for improvement in every project.

coverHere’s how the cover art looks, which shows the correct margins.  The title words, “Then” and “Now” are both cut off.  So I’m going back to Photoshop to move the text left and to change the “L” in Lifetime to an upper case “L.”

Work and learn.

Photos can be deceiving

CCMSome photos can be so deceiving and can even change your memory of any given day.  This photo of me and my dad was taken on graduation day in 1971 in front of CCM (County College of Morris), where I earned an Associates Degree. We look very close and happy to be together to celebrate this momentous occasion, don’t we?  In reality, my dad and I were in conflict about so many things on that day, including my continuing education plans.

I wanted to continue college in Boston, as my brother had before me.  Armed with my acceptance to Boston University, I broke the news to dad and he was not supportive, emotionally or financially.  Dad said so matter-of-factly that a degree was not important for “girls.” I was also about to make the biggest mistake of my life by marrying someone who was very wrong for me, and frankly, my dad tried to talk some sense into me about that, but I was too rebellious, too stubborn, too alienated to listen. But most of all, I was determined to prove him wrong about what a “girl” could accomplish in this world.

Because I loved my parents so much, I made a very bad decision that year so that they wouldn’t disown me.  I wish I could get a “do-over” on that. But I will never regret the decision to attend Boston U to earn my Bachelor’s Degree.  I paid for my BU education with scholarship funds, loans and by working a part-time job every day after classes, and I managed to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Science, magna cum laude.  I lived off-campus in the Back Bay, and I supported myself best I could. On weekends, I drove to New Jersey  to visit mom and dad because mom always made sure I had enough to eat. She surreptitiously packed the trunk of my car with steaks and chicken and sundries, just so I wouldn’t starve.

I love this picture and I love my dad, but seriously, on that day, while we posed for that photo, I could have flipped him the bird for minimizing the importance of my education!

Career Choices

Writing about a career that spans over forty years is challenging at best.  My “career” or better put in the plural, “careers,” started after college in 1973 when I began what I thought would be a lifelong stretch teaching high school English.  Turns out that vocation was derailed by a divorce and the rude awakening that came with being on my own at 25 and having to support myself.  After we sold our house as part of the divorce settlement, I began life as an apartment dweller and I hated it. So I vowed to save enough money to afford a home of my own.  My dad worked for Bell Laboratories in Whippany at the time, and he was worried about me and thought I would be more financially secure if I had a job in the Bell System.  “Ma Bell” took care of her people.  My teaching job at the time paid $12,000 a year.   Dad told me about an opening in the Anti-Trust Department.  The Labs’ corporate legal team was involved in the Litton Anti-Trust litigation and they were hiring those with degrees in English who could summarize depositions and assist with witness interviews.  So in 1978, I left teaching to begin my career in the Bell System and this entry level job paid an annual salary of $17,000; so I thought at least I was moving up, financially, that is.  I still mourned the loss of my primary career, but it looked like there would be many “teaching” opportunities within AT&T, at many levels.

After spending a year or two at Bell Labs, I transferred to AT&T’s training department and in a Bell System career that lasted about 15 years, I worked my way over to sales and marketing and eventually became a product manager. Today, sifting through the photos that I will feature in my LifeTime Book, I came across this AT&T Sales Graduationgraduation photo taken at the beginning of a new position as an enterprise phone system sales executive for AT&T Business Communications Systems, sometime in the 1980’s.  I can still remember my first sale to a bank in Fairfield, NJ—a “state-of-the-art” voice and data PBX system.  The bank president was thrilled and the commission was generous! The Training “Academy” in Denver, Colorado was affectionately referred to as “Darth Vader University.” Funny I don’t remember the names of even one of the guys in this photo, but maybe some of them will read my post and send me an email.

I have collected quite a few photos now, and I’m beginning the process of selecting the dozen or so that will punctuate the text in my book.