Thoughts on a Daughter’s Diagnosis

I originally wrote this in January of 2018, on the twentieth anniversary of my daughter’s diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes.


A week before diagnosis – to remind you how young a 20 month old is.

Twenty years ago today [now twenty-five years ago], everything changed. Not so much for me as for my first born.

In December of 1998, during my winter break from teaching, my 19-month old daughter Emily and I got the flu. It was clearly a particularly bad flu season because I can count the number of times I’ve gotten the flu on one hand, and this was one of them. The two of us snuggled together on the couch for a week as our bodies fought to make us well. Soon enough, I was up and about, feeling much better. But Emily continued to just lay on the couch. For another week. She wouldn’t eat, but she was willing to take formula from a bottle, so I was relieved that at least she was getting some nutrients.

After a week of this and concerned that she wasn’t improving, I took her to urgent care, which was filled with parents and children suffering from that year’s flu bug. 

“She has the flu ma’am. Just take her home and let her sleep,” I was told by an irritated doctor.

So I did.

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Thoughts on Protesting War in Today’s World

My birthday always lands around Presidents’ Day weekend, and for many years I have elected to plan out-of-town trips to celebrate it. But this year, as my birthday approached, I grew concerned as I had not made any plans. Then one day while scrolling through Twitter, I saw that the Libertarian Party was planning an anti-war rally in Washington DC on my actual birthday.

I have recently become interested in attending protests with my cameras in tow. When I attended the first protest as a photographer, I was incredibly nervous and self-conscious. I have always been uncomfortable taking photos of people and usually avoid doing so, or I try to sneak in shots when people aren’t looking (which rarely results in a memorable photo). 

But I quickly realized that people at protests are pretty much begging to have their photos taken. That still did not make me feel any more comfortable, and it took a couple of protests to get into my groove. 

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Book Review: The Horrific Costs and Willful Ignorance of Net Zero

What I have learned from the book Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives by Siddharth Kara about the situation regarding the mining of cobalt and other minerals in the Congo has haunted me. 

I am typing this on my rechargeable laptop, and the only solace I can find is that it is considered ancient in today’s world; I bought it in 2015. At least I can say that I don’t frequently upgrade my electronics and, as a result, am rarely in the market for the rechargeable batteries that demand cobalt.

Kara wrote Cobalt Red to bring attention to the plight of the Congolese as well as to disprove the claims made by companies like Apple and Tesla that the minerals they use in their products are all “clean,” meaning not the product of artisanal miners. In fact, one of Kara’s hopes is that the executives at these companies take trips to the Congo to see for themselves just where exactly their minerals are coming from.

I am certainly not naive. I am 60 years old and have repeatedly seen the corruption and the lying that takes place both in powerful corporations and at all levels of government. I am aware that people are ruthlessly exploited and that the United States is more than willing to kill innocent civilians around the world for resources, ideology, and abject power.

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“Not My Responsibility!”

Closed elevators in my apartment building-love the art deco doors! Keep reading to find out why this photo…

There is a whole industry that preys upon school districts, both public and private, by offering speakers to come give “important” talks to local school children and/or faculty and staff for a nice fee.

Once such group got money from the private Catholic middle school where I taught for a few years. Our administration hired someone to come talk to the faculty of the dangers of texting and walking. I am not kidding. They actually paid money for this. 

During a campuswide faculty/staff meeting, an hour was set aside for this guest speaker. Back when smart phones first entered the scene, occasional videos would go viral of people so engrossed in their phones that they walked into fountains or dropped into holes in the ground. They were funny. We all laughed at them. But did we seriously need “an expert” to explain to us that this practice of staring at your phone while walking is dangerous?? 

And to make matters worse, the person who actually did the presentation, complete with powerpoint slides (to me, an immediate sign of an amateur) and said viral videos, was a terrible public speaker. What a waste.

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Lessons Learned Walking to the Gym

Alone and invisible while surrounded by hundreds of people

I had a whole plan for today, all mapped out on my calendar. But my walk to the gym put a huge wrench in those plans. And I feel the need to write about it. So here we are…

At around 11:15 AM, I left my apartment, and about a half block ahead of me, I saw an elderly woman with a cane fall in the street near the end of the crosswalk. I quickened my step as I watched her struggle to get up. People walked up and down the sidewalks without even a glance at her. So I yelled out that I was coming, to just stay put and that I would help her. 

She was a bit overweight – I wasn’t going to be able to get her up by myself, so I called over to a woman walking across the street. The two of us were able to get her to her feet. But she was very shaky. I then wondered if she was injured and that we shouldn’t even have tried to get her up. But she insisted she wasn’t injured. Just shaken up.

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Writing Process (Part 6)

Today’s post is the last installment of my series on the writing process of taking Cassandra’s Daughter from idea to print, a process that took years in the making!

If you haven’t read the series from the beginning, you can start HERE. In the previous post, I got my draft pretty darn close to being finalized. The main step that was left at this point was preparing the manuscript.

This was the stage where my experience with Clara’s Journal proved the most valuable. I should probably also point out that what a lot of people may not realize is just how much the traditional publishing world has changed. I had pretty much decided that I would go the self-publishing route. The cons for going with a traditional publisher simply had too many cons on the ledger. 

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Writing Process (Part 5)

First cover attempt

What follows is Part 5 of my discussion of the writing process I went through to get Cassandra’s Daughter to print. In this installment, I am coming close to feeling like I might actually have a final draft. And I should point out that when I say a final draft, by no means did that mean I thought it was nearly finished. I had just gotten it close to a point where I might be willing to let someone (other than my children) read it.

At this stage, the story was not quite told in chronological order. I was still trying to mix things up – for dramatic effect. Each chapter was devoted to the third-person perspective of a single character, and I had chapters devoted to many more characters than just Cora, Leah, and Cassandra. There were chapters for Bessie, Kevin, Dr. Pendergast, etc. 

But I wanted Cassandra’s story to be told differently. I wanted Cassandra to be rendered voiceless and unable to create as a result of the generational secrets kept from her. But as she discovered the truth, she would be able to gain her voice, to create, to tell her own story. This would mean that I wanted her to tell her own story in first person by the end of the book. But how to make that transition?

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Writing Process (Part 4)

Some people have been asking about how I ended up writing Cassandra’s Daughter, and so I started this set of posts. If you are just finding this, you can go back to Part One to start from the beginning. In the previous installment, I discussed some of the “big picture” decisions I was making during the early drafts of the book while living in the Outer Banks.

At this point, I was mostly spending my time imagining, finding connections, solving puzzles, doing research, and telling stories.

As I would read through each latest draft, I would constantly find myself asking questions:

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Writing Process (Part 3)

I made sure to squeeze in a safari when in Africa.

I ended the previous installment of this journey of how the idea of a novel turned into the physical manifestation of the novel in my (and in many other people’s!) bookcase with the decision to move to the Outer Banks where I could begin to do the actual writing. (You can go back to the beginning of the story and start with Part One if you haven’t read that yet.)

As I mentioned in the Part Two, I spent two weeks in Africa at a writers’ workshop. While there, I focused my time on developing the premise of the book as well as pinpointing the emotions that I wanted to elicit from readers both throughout the book and then at the end.

I was curious about what I had come up with while in Africa, so I pulled out all of my notes from that trip to see what I might have jotted down.

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Writing Process (Part 2)

The view from my back porch in the Outer Banks

In my previous post, I explained a bit about my writing process for a screenplay that I wrote before I started working on Cassandra’s Daughter. And the process involved a tight outline and index cards taped to my bedroom wall. That was definitely not the process with this book. 

The spark for this book came not with a desire to write a book. It began as a self-imposed writing exercise. My mother passed away in 2013, so this exercise must have taken place quite a few years prior to that, probably in the early 2000s. At that time, I challenged myself to regularly write, whether I had a project I was working on or not. So I would go to the dentist for a root canal and then try to describe my experience using all my senses: the aesthetics of the office, the TV loudly playing as a failing means of distraction, the pushing and pulling on my teeth, the taste of chemicals, the horrific sounds of the drill and the saliva sucking tube, and finally, the smell (of burning flesh? Tooth? What IS that smell??). Or other times I would people-watch and single out someone to ascribe a personality to. And then I would do a character sketch of that person. One of those writing exercises ignited the spark for what became Cassandra’s Daughter.

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