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photo taken in happier times

His body shook. His long, thin legs thrashed in the sheets, casting them off to the side. I pressed the call button with one hand and held his hand with the other. I didn’t know how to stop his shaking. He squeezed my hand so tightly I didn’t know if my dad was dying or if this was a reaction to the drugs that dripped in his veins.

The wait for help was so long. Or so it seemed that way as my father pleaded, “Help! Push me back! Grab the rope. Grab the rope. Grab the rope!” I didn’t…


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Photo by Rhaúl V. Alva on UnsplashPhoto

I used to love preparing for holiday parties. But with COVID numbers on the rise, there’s no party to plan. Unless, of course, it’s on Zoom.

So to make the most of the Zoom experience, I’ve compiled a few ideas. Priya Parker, in her book The Art of Gathering, shares how to make our gatherings more meaningful. One of the ways is to give the event a theme and a name. Instead of just telling my extended family we should Zoom on Christmas, I can invite them to “Presents, Pets, and Pajamas.” Invite everyone to stay in pajamas, hold up…


If you’ve felt anxious, I might have something that’ll help.

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Twin Lakes, California (Photo by Author)

In 2 months, we’ll be able to look back and say, “Hey, I got through 2020!”
If you’ve felt anxious this week, well, yeah, me too. Read on, I might have something that’ll help.

Last week, I visited my dad. As we ate at Polly’s Pies (his choice) I struggled to make conversation. He’s 81, a retired Presbyterian minister, and he suffers from dementia. I have no idea what to talk to him about.

So while I picked at my salad and he ate chicken pot pie, I asked him,
“Did you ever run out of sermon ideas? Have no idea what to write?”
“All the time,” he said.
“So what’d you do?”
“Oh, I’d just steal ideas from other people,” he replied.

(Not the answer I expected.)

“So, since I can’t think of anything to write this week, can I steal from you?” …


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The minister’s wife’s first bar mitzvah

I didn’t know why my brother text me Ronald Bell’s obituary. But as soon as I clicked on the link, I understood. Bell was one of the co-founders of Kool and the Gang and the songwriter of “Celebration.” Instantly, my brother and I thought of our mom, who died of cancer last year. “Celebration” was our mom’s all time favorite party song. And she was a woman who loved to dance.

As a minister’s wife, our mom’s only opportunities to dance were at weddings. As my dad’s congregation aged, there were fewer weddings, fewer times to dance. …


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In 2 weeks it’ll be 2020. In 1 week, Christmas.

One of the most memorable Christmas pageants my family has seen was the one where a sheep walked off the stage in the middle of the show. I learned a valuable lesson from him that I keep in mind as this decade winds down.

The sheep was a toddler wearing a turtleneck and sweats and a vest made of tagboard covered in cotton balls. He was part of a flock of toddlers that waddled up the steps of a community church and sang “Away in a Manger.” …


How an old toy bin reminded me to keep growing

While searching for sunscreen under the bathroom sink, I discovered that baby oil had leaked all over the Sun Bum sunscreen and boxes of Band-Aids. But the next thing I discovered intrigued me more.

When I pulled out the plastic bin to wash it, I noticed a label stuck to it.

It said:

BIONICLES

I don’t even remember what Bionicles are — a type of Lego or Transformer, maybe? This must’ve been my son’s old toy bin.

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As I peeled off the label, I got to thinking.

We have a lot of labels as people. …


I’ve got a regret from 1991 that haunted me today.

1991 was the year my house burned to the ground in the Oakland/Berkeley hills. Mine was one of more than 3,000 homes that were destroyed. I lost everything except my Toyota Corolla, which I’d been driving that day.

I don’t regret the fire or the subsequent homelessness. The loss actually propelled me to move to New York City. (Not immediately, but after the trauma subsided.)

What I regret is that I didn’t say YES when an editor asked me to write about my fire story for her book: Fire in…


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My first born left for college last summer. Actually, I went with him. We flew out for freshman orientation and I was thrilled to have a weekend with just my son. My boy was growing up. I was excited and proud.

So I thought I was happy as I watched him walk into an enormous room in the Student Center. He knew where to go. He found the tables labeled with all the majors to choose. He could do this on his own, I thought. I watched him walk away, as I stood alone in the hallway. He looked so…


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Who leaves the beach and goes to Hollywood Boulevard in the middle of summer? Us. A couple who’ve been married 21 years. We needed to celebrate. Get away, but somewhere close. Booked a couple nights at the W, dinner with friends on Friday, and 2 tickets to the Hollywood Bowl for Saturday night. Mid-summer get away in the city. Seeking something different.

Saturday morning, we head to the hills. There were already a lot of cars parked along the street. “What if we rent out our place and move somewhere for awhile?” My husband asked. …


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I cried as I wrapped my daughter’s presents for her 16th birthday. My mom would’ve given my daughter all the presents she wanted. She would’ve asked my daughter for a wish list with links to the store’s websites. My mom would’ve wrapped the gifts in crisp, colorful paper, with satin ribbon and silk flowers on the packages. Elise, my daughter’s name, would be written in impeccable script on the gift tag. My mom would’ve done all of this if cancer hadn’t spread through her brain.

There will be no more birthdays with my mom, and no more gifts from my…

Carol Adler

Teacher. Coach. Founder of Your Next Chapter, helping women take small steps toward big dreams. www.your-next-chapter.com

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