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To Max and Laney and All My Furry Friends

I once had a veterinarian who sent me a sympathy card with a sentiment that has stayed with me through the ups and downs of having animals: As painful as it is to us, pet owners can do something for our loved ones we can never do for our human companions. We can give them a dignified, pain-free departure.

This week I found out that my canine baby Laney has cancer and that my beautiful niece had to put down her beloved dog. Why does it always seem like these things happen in bunches? Is it to ensure we devote a chunk of time delving into the issues, crying out our eyes, coming to grips with how we really feel about dying or taking care of pets or making decisions that weigh resources against the reality of a few more months granted to us (usually not to them) to deal with what we know is coming?

I don’t need that chunk of time; I’ve been through this enough to know how I feel, and it’s this: every pet is unique; every situation different. And all of death sucks majorly. But it’s been worth it to me to suffer the pain of loss. If I could count up every time I’ve walked through a door to be greeted by an animal anxious to see me, every time a cat or dog has made me laugh because they’ve done something ridiculous that somehow makes sense; every expression I’ve tried to “interpret” and every picture I’ve taken and gone “aw” and shoved in someone else’s face to admire, I’d be a miracle worker; no one can (or should) keep track. Taking care of animals is about learning to live in the moment—both the moments when we are amazed and the moments when we are challenged.

It’s not easy cleaning up dog poo or kitty spray or vomit especially since pets just love to leave you little “gifts” most often first thing in the morning. It’s not hard creating running commentary for your pet when they crash into something, then try to act like they intended to be such a klutz. (“I was just testing that coffee table to see how tough it is, Mom. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.”)

It’s just plain bliss to be stroking a dog or cat, not even concentrating on what you’re doing, then suddenly feel a tongue on your skin.

That tongue and that expression and that bark at the door is the thank you that people who never have pets can’t understand. It’s a language I’ve enjoyed learning and one that has continued to evolve over the years. It will get me through the next few hard months with Laney, and I intend to make it part of the rest of my life.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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What I wish for you this holiday season

I asked myself this morning: if you could give your readers a Christmas present, what would it be?

If I was a better businesswoman, I would answer that question with: a new book all of you would pay gobs of money to get. But this is the season of giving, not taking. Since I’m not looking to get coal in my stocking, I’ll skip that idea. If I was a magician or genie, I might conjure up a wad of cash to hand over to everyone; who doesn’t need a wad of cash?  Sorry to disappoint you, dear readers—I have no special powers.

So I’m left with wishes, and those wishes have to be based on what I appreciate most in my own life right now.

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I’d start with time. My two best friends in this area are running particularly short on this commodity. One is caring for grandkids almost full time, a development she could not have for foreseen a decade ago when her biggest worry in life was her own adult child. The other is about to pick up roots and move across country, in the middle of an already hectic work schedule. And these are just my own friends: I see the shortage of time to do things on the faces of every person who hurries by my table at arts and crafts events or collides with other shoppers in the aisles of stores.

Meanwhile, I have more time on my hands than I could have envisioned just a year ago. With both my husband and I losing the responsibility of caregiving for elderly parents recently, we have more minutes and hours than we’ve had in many years. I’m savoring this holiday season simply because I have the time to do so. I wish the same for you.

Second would be that all of you have family close to you. It’s funny I would say that now since both my mom and my daughter moved and my father-in-law passed away. The size of the family around me shrank this year. But what this has done is make me appreciate the minutes I’ve had with all of them, draw closer to those who still live close by and look forward to the time when I’ll reside close to my sisters and nieces and their families, as well as Mom and my daughter and nephew.

The third is that this family also includes friends. Again, one of my friends is moving cross-country and the other is so busy we find it hard to get together. They are both in my heart this season and though we didn’t have much holiday time this year, it’s their friendship and the friendship of other good friends that is one of the blessings I’ve appreciated most all the years of my life.

So readers, I wish you family and friends and the time to savor it all. Merry Christmas.

Genilee Swope Parente

 

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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A Tribute to Teachers and Storytelling

A Tribute to Teachers and Storytelling

Robert Bausch and my daughter Christina

I’d like to thank a perfect stranger this morning: Robert Bausch.

I never met this man, but I regret that fact. My daughter Christina tried for years to get me to take one of his writing or literature classes. He is the only college teacher that made a huge impression on her: she took his classes multiple times just because she enjoyed them so much: he was a great storyteller that inspired her to want more from words. Granted, my daughter always loved school, but there was only one other teacher that affected her on that level: her fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Owens, who turned her from a problem child with mid-road grades to a kid with goals, the desire to learn and the ability to get the good grades she wanted.

What more important profession can there be than a teacher? Personally, I couldn’t do it: I haven’t the patience. But I admire those who have chosen to do so, and I’ve been deeply affected by several of my teachers. The right instructor can completely turn around how a student feels about a class subject or school in general, and can help a student find a new passion in life.

With Bob Bausch, it’s also personal. Robert Bausch is an acclaimed novelist with a host of books under his name and a twin brother, Richard, who is also a recognized novelist. Robert’s recent death elicited publicity that showed me how deeply respected he was. He received awards not only for his writing, but for his teaching. Robert was a professor at George Mason and several other Virginia universities, as well as Northern Virginia Community College, where my daughter went to school. Robert also helped to found writers’ retreats and workshops that made a difference in many other creative wordsmiths’ lives. Robert’s books and works are an eclectic collection of history, a lot of humor and a study of human nature and tragedy.

But what his students knew him best for was storytelling. His tales were legendary, leaving students always wondering if he was pulling their leg or telling the truth. Most concluded it was probably a little of both. What he taught my daughter is how to use words to create illusions and leave an impression on a reader. As an author myself, how could I not adore him for giving my daughter that wonderful gift; I would have loved to have been the one to inspire her that way. But I am not a teacher, and I’m not great at spinning a yarn verbally. I can appreciate the talent there is in having those abilities, and I have seen in my child how it’s taught her to appreciate the craft of writing.

Thank you, Bob Bausch, for giving my baby a passion I share. Your students and admirers will miss you.

Christina’s story, “Dream Date,” is dedicated to Robert Bausch. It’s included in our collection of short stories, “Relative Connections,” which is this year’s holiday book release. Look for it in early November.

 

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Filling up the hole

Ever felt like a giant fissure opened up in your chest and sucked out your heart?dreamstime_xs_36668714

Okay, maybe I’m being dramatic, but I’m allowed; I’m a writer.

And I will tell you that the events of this past summer have left a hole in the center of my being that I’m now faced with filling. It’s not a permanent hole—and it came about because of some positive as well as negative developments. But it hurts like surgery right now.

As I explained in my last blog, in just a few months, my mom and my daughter both made the decision to move 1,400 miles away, my father-in-law got sick and left this earth, and I suddenly went from caregiver and worried mom to having a lot of time to do things I haven’t done in years, including spending a lot more time writing what I want. As soon as I can stop crying about all the loss, I’ll likely enjoy myself. But the Kleenex is still tucked in my shirt sleeve because the move and his passing are only days and weeks old.

Underneath that top level of sorrow is the feeling that this was all somehow meant to be. I’ve never really believed that we are predestined to live a certain life. Yet the way this summer went just fell into place. My father-in-law buried three woman he came to love during his time on this earth. He’s been in emotional pain since he lost the last one, and his body just seemed to catch up with his head last spring. He went downhill very fast, and he wanted only one thing: to be done. We buried him with a beautiful military ceremony at Quantico, and we’re all pretty sure he’s up in heaven listening to three woman yammer at him and grinning ear to ear.

My mother went through a scary summer where 27 apartments in her building were evacuated and water started creeping down the hallway towards her apartment. Many of her friends moved away and she spent a couple of days in a hotel because her bathroom was not functioning. She is now safe in a home with a mother-in-law suite in Texas with two other daughters and their husbands, three grandchildren and a great grandson to keep her happy and vibrant.

My daughter made one of the hardest decisions of her young life: that she needed a complete lifestyle change to jumpstart the future she knows she can have. Since my husband and I had already made the decision to retire in that area of the country, I’m just delighted it’s there she’s gone.

So I’m left here wondering what to do next. My hubby and I already are making plans to relax and enjoy time as a couple after quite a few years of taking care of elderly parents. I’ve started a new mystery book with input from my Fate Series co-author mom, who intends to keep me on my toes writing, writing, writing. And I plan to spend much of the next year honing my word skills, keeping in better touch with my readers and learning everything I can about publishing and being published.

But first, I’ve got a shovel to get out so I can start the process of healing. — Genilee Swope Parentedreamstime_xs_85565144

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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A tornado of changes

When I was a young child, I used to dream about a white tornado. Most times, it was a scary dream: I grew up in the Midwest, which has seen its share of disaster caused by funnel clouds. However, being a child with an optimistic imagination that often turned fire-breathing dragons into puppy-like creatures, I sometimes saw the tornado of my dreams as a hero: sweeping into the basement and straightening up my toys so I wouldn’t get in trouble.

It takes a historian, not an analyst, to figure out where my dreams came from: Ajax had a commercial for its ammonia-based, liquid cleaner beginning in the early 1960s that featured people taking the top off a the bottle, which released a white tornado to carry through the Ajax theme of “stronger than dirt.”dreamstime_xs_73725675

I see the year 2018 as my modern white tornado tackling some grit. My family has experienced great upheaval starting with sickness and injury, then losing a friend to tragedy, seeing a beloved parent lose his ability to function, experiencing the fear of having another parent almost lose her home. The year swept in, destroyed much in its path and created chaos.

As a writer, the greatest change is that my co-author, my mom, is moving a thousand-plus miles away. As a mother, the hardest change is that my daughter is doing the same thing. I’m going from being part of the sandwich generation to dealing with a solitude I haven’t felt since I was in my thirties, single and living each day for myself without worrying much about the family who lived so far away.

My mind is reaching for the positives in this white tornado: my mom will be with my other sisters, well-cared for and in a better living situation. My daughter will get the life experience I think she really needs to grow into her own. I will get some quality time with my husband that we both want and more time to write my own stories.  But I’m not a child so it’s not as easy to let go of the dragon.  The path the tornado took has left much residue behind: I see it in the sadness on the faces of my husband and sister-in-law; in the stress I see in both my mom and my daughter’s eyes. I feel it my heart when I think about how I’ll live without the wisdom of my ma, the daily laughter of my baby girl, the good-hearted joking of my father-in-law.

I can only hope that when we put the lid back on the bottle of 2018 and tuck it away on the shelf, the world might look like a cleaner, fresher place.–Genilee Swope Parente

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Why it’s a thrill …

When mom and I discovered a week or so ago that our books had been produced in audio form by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Disadvantaged (BARD), we were elated. We posted on Facebook and received many positive comments. I realized, however, that not many people understood why were so excited.

Believe me reading fans, it isn’t because we’ll be making any money. We don’t make a cent and can’t reuse the audio form ourselves. We’re excited because this opens up an entire new world of minds to the adventures of Sam Osborne. The people who are BARD readers have either a visual or physical challenge that makes it hard for them to hold a book or see the words. BARD works through regional libraries to provide a service that allows them to listen to a narrator read the words.

One of the reasons Mom and I (and every reader I know) love books so much is that reading allows you to put your own spin on a story. You visualize the characters in your head as you go, make up the scenes in your mind as the words feed you more information, give your own spin on what the hero or heroine is like, filling in their motivations as you pick up more and more details from the plot. With movies or television, someone is telling you what to see. With books, you’re making it up and interpreting as you go.

Mom would not be able to read at all if not for BARD and other mobile reading programs. My smart brother bought her an iPad several years ago. We can download audible books from the library and other sources. Mom also has one the readers the Virginia Department of the Blind sends out that takes special BARD cassettes. Those two sources of books have become a vital part of her existence.

Our books were suggested for the BARD system by Merilee, a wonderful woman who works for the department of the blind and is trying to teach mom braille. Once someone applies to have a book or books put into the system, the material then goes through a qualification system. If accepted, the Library of Congress finds a narrator to read the books into the system.

Mom and I sat in Mom’s living room with her iPad this past Sunday, searching on the BARD system for “Swope” and “Fate” and up pops the first four books as one download. A few minutes later, we hear the voice of a talented reader start from the very beginning of Twist of Fate.

The reason this is significant is that mom has never read one of her own books. She has files on her iPad of each of the books that allows her to listen to a computer voice read word by word. But it’s just not the same as having someone put the right inflections into the language. We both had tears in our eyes by the time the narrator read through the acknowledgements. Mom is finally reading her own books.

So are thousands of other people who could not do so without help from talking books. Sam Osborne and the other characters in our Fate Series have come alive for a huge new audience. Who wouldn’t be thrilled? — Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Mother Nature knocks us upside the head

I think it’s glorious that Mother Nature blanketed us with snow on the second day of Spring. This winter hasn’t given the D.C. area a day like this, and I know that while all of us here are grumbling, groaning and complaining―deep down, we revel in it.

It’s proof that the alarm clock may not be almighty, that our everyday routines can be uprooted and thrown into chaos, that we really cannot accomplish that dreaded task we said absolutely had to get done today at the office. We can’t get out of our own homes. We’re weighed down by inaccessibility to the rest of the world and the danger of the roads.

Yet I know that mothers or father revel in the fact there is no need to get little Jimmy to the bus stop by 8:30. Jimmy and his brothers and sisters savor the feeling of bedcovers a little longer, then spring out of bed ready to celebrate the get-out-of-jail-card feeling of canceled school.

We need these kinds of days to wash our souls―to remind us we are not always in charge. There will always be surprises at hand!

Even if we are one of the hundreds of people who run to the store to stock up on enough eggs and diapers to last weeks past the one day the snow is expected to stay, part of the process of a winter storm is visualizing post apocalypse scenarios. What would we do if electricity, water, computers, cars were not a given? My God, what if pizza delivery and seven-11s didn’t exist ! ?

As our brains are busy grinding out the what ifs, our eyes are feasting: black tree bark painted with vanilla frosting; mounds of sugary powder everywhere; a veil of blinding whiteness falling from the sky; the blank slate of sidewalks and hills just before they are invaded by boots and sleighs.

And suddenly the pictures of doomsday and danger are replaced by one thought: it sure is beautiful.–Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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