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Archive for the ‘My Story’ Category

Three Acts of Kindness OR A Day in the Life of a Volunteer in Ukraine

Wednesday was a typical or maybe slightly atypical adventure. I decided to visit the fairly large city of Chernivtsi (population about 270,000) because a volunteer who lives there raves about it on facebook. The family I live with said they’d like to go also to visit the huge bazaar located there. And Wednesday was predicted to be the only day this week without rain (and hot, over 80 degrees).

Well, the family backed out, but I decided it was time to try my wings a little farther away from Kolomyia. I bought my bus ticket—no problem—and sat back to enjoy the (bumpy) two hour ride.  At the end of the line I was not in the middle of the city, instead I was at the bazaar. So taking advantage of the situation, I shopped for an hour or so. As I looked at a red skirt, the vendor proved to be a master saleswoman. The skirt was too large but she kept showing me other articles made of  “natural” material. I found a long summer dress and a print blouse (purple print, of course) that seemed to be made of cotton and well made. The price, 470 hryvnia (about $19 for both). When I gave her 600 and expected change, she gave me back 200. My first major act of kindness for the day!

Then I decided it was time to make my way to the town center, my original destination. When I asked which bus to take—in my very poor Ukrainian—I was pointed to “over there.” After walking several minutes in midday sun, I grew frustrated and asked again, this time of a man who seemed to be working on some major construction contiguous to the bazaar. This man must have realized my lack of understanding. He closed the gates to his work site and walked with me up some stairs to a street with bus stops. No wonder I hadn’t found my way! And his action was my second but not final major kindness of the day!

As I sat on the bus wondering where to get off, I got a phone call from the volunteer who lives in that city. She tried to give me directions but it was very noisy and I wasn’t at all sure I understood where to go. Right after I ended that call, a woman seated nearby  told me—in English—she would tell me where to get off the bus. She also volunteered to show me around the city if I wouldn’t think she and her granddaughter were an imposition. Imposition-ha! The offer was a “godsend.” And it was the third very major act of kindness in this amazing day!!

The woman, Irina, had moved to Chernivtsi from Eastern Ukraine two years before due to the fighting. She is about my age; we also seem to have a number of other things in common. So it was not only wonderful to have a tour guide but to also make a new friend! Irina and Sasha.jpg

When it was time to get a bus back to Kolomyia, we realized it was too late; all buses to Kolomyia were through for the day. Irina then offered to let me spend the night at the apartment she shares with her daughter and granddaughter. I almost took her up on the offer but decided against it primarily because of Peace Corps rules about overnight stays without prior permission. As I got into a taxi (which I found with her help), I was given a gift of a bag of coffee and hugs from both Irina and her granddaughter, Sasha.

Just another day in the life of a Peace Corps volunteer…

Don’t We All Love Recognition!

On January 16, I’m in the Author Spotlight here!

If you click on the underlined statement, read the “spotlight”

written by Morgen Bailey and give me feedback,

I will grant you one request (one that isn’t illegal or immoral and one I can fill…)

AND ask you to consider giving recognition to someone who needs to hear it.


Musings on the last day of 2012

Best Christmas gift

A common theme for this day is to consider what went really well during this past year and where we would prefer to hit the reset button. I will use the strategy of making lists (stealing from the typical process for New Year’s resolutions or making lists of what we want for Christmas). Here are what I consider the best and the worst of my experiences during 2012:

The Best:

1.  Celebrated Christmas with all my grandchildren (the first time they’ve been together on Christmas Eve in five years!)

2. Completed the eighth draft of my first novel, Pieces of You, and self-published it in August using CreateSpace.

3.  Enjoyed Thanksgiving with both my children–Linnay came from Florida for a ten day visit

4.  Learned along with some unusually nice and committed students in classes I taught online and on-campus for Davenport U

5. Met new friends from other countries through social media resources, primarily LinkedIn; some I now consider “community,” even though we’ve never met face-to-face

6.  Became eligible for Medicare, allowing me to have regular (preventative) health care for the first time in over four years.

The Worst (or at least most frustrating):

1.  Trying to market my novel to a public unaware and/or uninterested in the story it took me five years and a personal crisis to write.

2.  Worrying while my grandson went through 13 weeks of Marine Boot Camp–and the worrying has only begun!

3.  Losing some of my files and photos because I failed to back-up everything on my laptop and when my hard drive failed, nothing could be recovered.

4. Searching for Mr. Right among a vast throng of others… (Hmmm….kind of like #1; targeting the market and then reaching out to those who would be appreciative IF they were aware).

Making these lists is a useless activity unless I analyze what they say about me and apply this awareness to my decisions for the future. [I’m only sharing them with you because we may be more alike than different 🙂
Here’s what I see:

1. Most of my best experiences relate to relationships, especially being with people who’ve become integral to my sense of well-being. (Keyword: people)

2. Most of my worst experiences relate to trying to do things I didn’t need to do and would not make a difference (e.g. worrying); not doing things the right way (e.g., backing up computer files regularly); or doing things alone that would likely be more successful with help (e.g., marketing). (Keyword: doing)

3.  My best experiences far exceed my worst; therefore, gratitude is my response to 2012. (Keyword: meaning)

How are you responding to 2012: really glad or sorry it’ll be over in a few hours? I’d love to know how you rate 2012 AND WHY!

Mature Long-distance Love Wins

Route from Geneva Switzerland to Detroit, MI

From Pieces of You:

“Dad, if you won’t share our home will you, at least, let us help you find someone to share yours?”

“Well, I have ample space but I don’t think I’d be a very good landlord.”

”Come on, Dad,” Claire said, “You know what we’re getting at. We wish you’d find a good woman. Would you let us help?”

“Now that’s a new dilemma. My children don’t think I can attract members of the opposite sex any more. It’s true I haven’t had a date in a few years but….”

“Because of your constant traveling, we think your best bet is an online dating service. Several of our friends swear by it.” As she said this, Claire gave her father-in-law a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Succumbing to her persuasive tactic, Mark agreed to look into it.

By the time Mark left for home the next day, a subscription to “SeniorFriendFinder” and a detailed profile already awaited his approval.

Just as I was about to give up on Internet matchmaker services, a message came from ‘Bluewatersailor: Good catch for a good woman.’

The basic information profiled a man two years older than me who had a multitude of interests. The only reason his profile was not a 100% match was the miles—actually an ocean—between us. I looked up the distance between his primary home in Geneva and mine in Detroit: 4,200 miles. But his first note added he had recently purchased a temporary home on the west side of Michigan. I wrote back.

The next evening he called. The voice on the other end projected an appealing calmness and confidence. We talked again within the week. In between, I got friendly little text messages. After the third phone conversation, we agreed to meet.

The first couple of hours together were fairly typical for a first date: sharing our best stories over dinner and drinks. An occasional slip of his mask made me wonder what I, too, might be revealing. His expressions assured me I was doing okay. The farewell kiss punctuated the end of our first date like an exclamation point ending a sentence that deserves special emphasis.

Nearly four months later an e-mail from Mark contained the captivating words: “Just wanted to remind you that I am in love with you.”

The Saturday before Thanksgiving his flight to Detroit was booked and he promised to call just before his plane lifted off.

That call never came.

Mark lay in a Swiss hospital thinking, “What’s happened to me and where am I?”

Zachri responded, “This will be hard for you to comprehend but it’s the truth: you are in a coma. I was summoned by Janine’s pleading.”

Author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/jelferdink

Breaking the Genre Habit

I’m a SciFi reader! I love the creativity, the way a good writer is subtly teaching me something while I’m thoroughly engaged in the story (like C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy). I admit it’s a habit. Not really a bad habit but it keeps me from trying other genres.

This week I was forced to read outside my favored genre or miss a meeting of my beloved book discussion group. I was shocked when I realized this month’s book is a nonfiction, and to make it even more outlandish, it’s about medical practitioners.  Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science is definitely not a book I would have chosen to read, but Complications proved to be a wonderful learning experience.

Atul Gawande tComplications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Scienceells stories of his and other doctors’ experiences, stories that filled me with awe, fear, understanding and respect for those who’ve chosen this profession. I had to rethink my own critique of doctors. Instead of expecting perfection (when I have fought and lost that battle), I can now hold doctors to a lesser standard. Gawande proved that all doctors make terrible mistakes but that medical malpractice suits will never remedy this; there are too many unknowns in the diagnosis and treatment of human ills. One of the better solutions is for doctors to talk about what went wrong,yet consumers make this very difficult when lawsuits are a constant threat.

When  I finished the book, I felt compelled to write a review  for Goodreads and Amazon,  giving it five stars because it gave me something of value: a clearer perception of how doctors affect healing. And it was an interesting read, full of stories that could almost be in the SciFi genre. I may even consider broadening my reading list.

Recently, a potential reviewer for my new novel, Pieces of You, said he was having trouble getting into it because it seemed to be a romance, and he never reads romance novels.  Since I don’t read that genre, either, I was shocked to have my book labeled as such. (I think it’s a bit too complex a story to be included in that genre, at least based on those I’ve read in the past). I can’t blame this reviewer for his perception of what constitutes a “good read” since I’ve done the same. But I do hope he will break the genre habit…at least this once.

If you’ve ever been surprised by something you’ve read outside of your normal reading habits, would you please share your story?

Is Writing about Finding Answers or Living the Questions?

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

I started to write my first novel, Pieces of You, to find answers but now that it’s finished, I lean toward the writing process as a way to live the questions. What do other authors believe? What have you learned from writing?

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