Winter in Vermont

It was a beautiful day in Vermont today.  Over night, we got 5-8 inches of new snow. Big flakes, fluffy, fluffy snow. When we got up this morning, it was a balmy 20 degrees.

Tomorrow and Friday are supposed to be bitterly cold, as the brutal weather continues its march across the country hits New England.

Such weather, both the beautiful snow and then the arriving cold, make me think about how lucky we are. We have a snug house, lots of dry firewood, a furnace that works well when we need to use it, safe vehicles with good tires, food and water. It reminds me that so many people don’t have that level of security, and have to struggle daily with their basic needs. This again reminds me that sometimes the little things that I find irritating, such as my snow boots dripping on the floor, are things that I instead should be grateful for — how lucky I am to have warm boots that fit me!

How can we all re-frame how we look at the irritations of life?

Introducing Dr. Marlene Ringler!

As I have said before, one of my favorite parts of my writing/publishing journey is that I have gotten to know amazing authors. Dr. Marlene Ringler is one of them, and I am so pleased to share information about her recent book, which as a former Special Educator, the topic of her book is near and dear to my heart!


Author Biography:

Dr. Marlene Ringler is a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature as well as a trained and certified teacher, CEO and founder of the international Ringler English Language Institute. Her company was recognized as a lead vendor for global training for multinationals including Toyota, Intel, IBM and Microsoft. She pioneered the concept of in-house training specifically in business settings.

When living in the United States, Marlene was the co-coordinator of the English for Specific Purposes and English as a Second Language adult training programs for refugees and immigrants in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland.  Her program was nominated for special recognition by the White House for its work in adult literacy. An advocate for persons with disabilities, Marlene encouraged people in school systems in the US and in Israel to develop programs for students who might not otherwise be able to function in a typical classroom. She counseled and guided teachers, administrators and parents to recognize the needs of the disabled population.

Today, Marlene works closely with service care providers to maximize the potential of the autistic population in a work setting. In addition, she counsels and advises parents about resources, opportunities, and the legal aspects of raising an autistic child to adulthood.

Marlene and her family currently reside in Israel and  sponsor, host, and organize conferences, social events, and gatherings in order to promote awareness about the needs of the autistic adult.

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About her Book:

I Am Me is a  courageous story offered as a gift of hope, inspiration and love to anyone whose life is affected by an autism spectrum diagnosis – a candid and moving personal narrative about raising a son with the devastating diagnosis. One out of 68 children today is diagnosed with autism. One of those happens to be Marlene Ringler’s son. Yesterday’s autistic child is today’s autistic adult. As mothers, women  worry about just  what will happen to their  child when they are  no longer around to provide guidance and support.

Who will look after him? Who will care? Who will love my son?

Marlene Ringler directly addresses those very human questions as she pays special attention to research findings and current investigations into the spectrum disorder. Her journey provides a firsthand look at the highs and lows of raising a son with this diagnosis, leading towards a greater understanding of how recognition of an autistic diagnosis can be viewed as part of our human condition.  I Am Me is a straightforward , honest, and touching story of how a family copes when one member is on the spectrum. It is a journey told through the prism of a mother who offers hope, belief, and conviction that the life of a child with autism can and should be fulfilling and rewarding.


Looking to buy a copy?

I Am Me is available worldwide in bookstores and through your favorite online bookstores. However, if you are like me, and tend to go right to Amazon, here is the link.

I Am Me — Amazon


Want to connect with Dr. Ringler?

Snow, snow, and more snow

Over the last week, we have had a lot of snow. And rain. And freezing rain. And sun, and rain and snow.

Vermonters joke about how you can often have all four seasons in a week. Heck, you can sometimes have all four in a couple days.

These last couple weeks have felt like we were going through the seasons at a breakneck speed. Bitter cold, then sun and warmth (too warm for the hot tub), then snow, then rain, and then do it all over again.

We had almost fifteen inches of snow not long ago. We had no more finished cleaning up from that storm, and we had rain that left the barns and coops completely flooded. Then the temperature dropped, leaving glare ice everywhere, now it is snowing again.

One of the things I love most about living in Vermont are the seasons. I love the changes of the seasons, and I love how each season is different. I do have to say, though, that I am not so keen on having them all in one week.

Thank you — it matters!

Over the last couple months, as people have read Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude, many have reached out to share their thoughts with me. Some knew Sam, and their words are always tinged with their own personal grief about his death. Some knew me, or Paul, or our children other than Sam, and their words are tinged with the emotion of seeing how we have all changed since his death. Lately, many of the comments have come from people who never knew Sam, or barely knew any of the rest of us in the family.

What readers think matter to me. I write with the hope that my words will impact others, and in the case of this book, so much of my heart and soul went into the project, so its impact really matters to me.

Some of my favorite comments lately?

  • “Poignantly honest and written with so much love, you owe it to yourself & those you love to spend just a few hours getting to know Sam, a very special young man who loved unconditionally & continues to teach us to love fiercely in his absence. ❤”
  • “The love truly flows through this book.”
  • “Everyone who can please order Of Grief Garlic and Gratitude beautifully written by a Great Mom.”
  • “Just finished of grief garlic and gratitude. My sister sue lent me this book to read and I could not put it down . One of the best books I have ever read.”
  • And from a recent newspaper article, “– an exceptionally good writer –.”

Two who give me hope…

In the last twenty-four hours, as we as a country again are struggling with the hate-filled behavior of some of our youth, I wanted to share two rays of light and hope.

Yesterday morning we went to Burlington to run some errands, and really, to see our youngest. We took him and a friend to Feldman’s Bagels (great bagels!!!!) for a late breakfast. We were all seated at our table with our food, and I decided to run back up to the front counter to get a bag of day-old bagels to bring home. While I was in line, I was suddenly bumped into hard, and a boot came down with full force on my foot.

The boot belonged to an older man, I won’t say gentleman, who was exceedingly well dressed in expensive winter clothes — enough expensive labels to make sure you knew that he wanted you to know he could afford to dress that way. He towered over me, and was a big guy. He landed on the top of my foot/ankle with full force, as well as bumping into me, and sending me bumping into the young man behind me.

The young man immediately steadied me, and asked if I was okay. No, I wasn’t okay. If I had been wearing my normal shoes, I think I might had a broken foot. Luckily, thick winter footwear meant that I only have a nasty bruise on my foot. Anyway, back to the story, the young man immediately asked if I was okay, while the older man turned around, gave me a look like I was pond scum, and said loftily, “My bad,” and walked away.

The young man? As the older guy walked away, he muttered under his breath about the guy not even asking if I was okay, and told me he was sorry I’d been treated that way.

That young man gave me hope.

Then this morning, as we were plowing, our truck got stuck. As Paul worked to get the truck out, an old somewhat battered truck went by, and minutes later, it came back and this young man jumped out and asked if we wanted him to pull us out. Within ten minutes, in the brutally cold weather and heavily falling snow, he pulled us out and made sure we were all set. When Paul asked him what we could give him for his trouble, his comment was that people needed to take care of each other and he smiled and drove away.

Two young men, two random encounters, both gave me hope for the human race. Neither one needed to do anything, and yet both showed kindness and helped another being.

Fentanyl and no-bake cookies…

Yesterday, I saw this headline on the local daily newspaper:

And for a moment, I couldn’t breathe. Really? Fentanyl is a major killer in Vermont? I didn’t know that! Yes, I am being really, really sarcastic.

Fentanyl killed Sam. Not illegally imported fentanyl from China. A legally prescribed pain patch killed Sam. Yes, he took it from the patient. And it killed him. And it wasn’t the first fentanyl death in Addison County, but the others had been kept out of the press because of the county’s desire to keep its pastoral, safe, healthy image.

I read the article in sadness, reading of how this evil drug is killing Vermonters (and others across the globe), and I was sad. So very sad. Sad for the loss of life, sad for those who mourn, sad that we can’t figure out how to fix the problem.

Yes, this was grief. But not the kind of grief that drives you to your knees, or makes snot run out of your nose. This was grief that was slow and constant and heavy, just pressing down on my shoulders, making every step hard.

Later that day, still feeling the weight of that sadness, and missing Sam so thoroughly, I realized that I needed to do something that would help me remember good memories, and I made no-bake chocolate cookies.

Huh? What’s the connection between grief and the cookies?

When Sam was in high school, he dated a young woman for a long time, and we spent a lot of time with her. And often, she would bring over a plate of no-bake cookies, one of Sam’s favorites. So last night I made a batch, thinking back to evenings filled with macaroni and cheese and cookies, love and laughter. I remembered laughing until my sides hurt, watching TV together, holidays together, and love. Just love.


And when I scraped the pan, and stood by the dark window eating the cooling batter, I gave thanks for love.

Loving when it is uncomfortable…

As I have said before, Sam loved unconditionally. Loudly. Consistently. Without questions, without judgement. He could see behind the grime. Behind the corrections anklets, beyond the stigma of serious mental illness, behind the convictions or prison time, behind poverty, behind cognitive limitations, behind varying political views.

Sam had very, very strong views on things. Views he worked hard to support. For example, he went to our State House to attend the hearings on marriage rights for all, because he so strongly felt anyone should have the right to marry. He volunteered at the local fair collecting signatures on petitions for this, even though he faced venom from many who walked by his booth. But even as he faced that wrath, he never reacted in rudeness or anger. He wanted to understand the views of others, and actually listened.

Sam could sit and chat with lawyers about his views on civil rights, or go fishing in the creek with friends. He could talk about literature like a champ, and laugh until his sides hurt watching movies like Chicken Run. He had the ability to not limit himself into the constraints society likes to thrust upon us.

It is easy to love, or treat well, people just like ourselves. It is much harder to love those who look, sound, worship, believe differently than ourselves. Sam was able to do that without thinking about it, without making it a lofty goal to achieve. It was just who he was, and it is part of the reason that his legacy lives on to this day.

I challenge all of us to try to love someone different than us — let me know how it goes.


How’d this happen?

Over the last few weeks, I have been approached by many people asking how I got published. Many of them are local, and read the recent article about Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude in the newspaper.

What have I been asked? Am I self-published or published through a publisher? Do I have an agent? Why did I go the route I did? What is the difference between self-publishing and going through a publisher? How much money am I making on my writing? How can other people get published?

Some of the questions I answer in general terms. How much money have I made on my writing? I’m not quitting my day job any time soon… Am I self-published or published through a publisher? Publishers. Do I have an agent? No, I don’t.

To be clear, I didn’t come to quick fame and glory in writng. I completed my first full version of The Phone Call (then titled Stepping In It) in 1995. Then I got books about agents, and I sent letters, old-fashioned letters mailed in envelopes with stamps on them, to agents. After about fifty letters later, one agent asked to read the full manuscript. I still have that letter framed. I got rejected so many times it was amazing. Then in around 2002, I did get an agent for that book. He represented me for a year, and nothing came of it.

Through all of this, I kept writing. And my family kept believing in me. They never questioned when I had piles of letters on the kitchen table ready to send them to agents. They never minded when I was in my own little writing world. And when I got rejected and said I was giving up? They picked me up, dusted me off, and told me it would happen. And Sam would tell me it would happen, that someday I would be a published author.

Then the internet really came into our lives, and I could do research on agents online. And I sent a least a million email queries for now my two completed novels, and I got rejected with amazing regularity.

Then Sam died. I put away my fiction writing and thought I would never look at it again. A couple years after his death, I started having the urge to write again, and I could hear his voice in my head telling me to keep trying. And I talked it over with the rest of the family, and decided to give it a try again.

This was when I got serious about writing. I had an incredible local editor, but to push myself further as a writer, I hired a professional fiction editor. Working with her was completely different than working with a friend. Once we were done the full editing and formatting process, I started a two-pronged approach to getting it published. First, I started sending queries to agents, looking for representation. Then I also started researching publishers who allow submissions without an agent. I did my homework. Hours and hours, days and days, months of research. I kept detailed records of who I contacted, how, when, and the response.

Then one morning in June 2017, I opened my inbox, and found an email from Solstice Publishing offering me a contract on The Phone Call. A month later, a contract for That One Small Omission also arrived from them. Five months later, a contract for More Than I Can Say.

During this time, I was also finishing Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude. I was sending the proposal to agents. As a family, we talked about self-publishing, but felt that it would be picked up by a publisher — they believed. So while I was still contacting agents, I also started sending proposals to publishers. And in May 2018, I was offered a contract.

What is the difference between self-publishing and a publisher? Truly the difference is that in self-publishing you have more complete control of your work. Both have their advantages. You need to know yourself and your work to know which option works best for you. For me, it was working with publishers, but for many other authors, it is going through a self-publshing process. If you go the self-publishing route, please, please, please get your work professionally proofread and formatted so it has the best chance possible in the marketplace.

How can others get published? Do your homework. Get organized and focused. Decide on your audience and then research what the best options are for that particular type of work. Get the best editors you can. Then try, try, try.



Being Thankful

I write and talk about gratitude a lot. One of the things I have noticed is that many people see gratitude as something you feel/express when it is something major, or dramatic in your life, such as being grateful for a vacation to Mexico.

As I say when I speak on the topic, I don’t see gratitude as just for big things. Yes, I am thankful for a wonderful gift, or a surprise visit from a friend. But I am also grateful for having a coffee maker that works well on auto setting each morning so there is coffee when I get up. I am thankful for firewood. I am thankful for sturdy, warm shoes when the weather is yucky. I am thankful for friends who send text messages saying “hugs.” I am thankful for friends who send me photos of rainbows. I am thankful for the chickens’ excitement when they get their cracked corn. I am thankful for the music on my phone. I am thankful for a family who loves to eat dinner together.

I think if we spend our time thinking that events/experiences/gifts need to be major or new to make our gratitude list, we are missing so many opportunities to be grateful.

Love, snow, and stew

Today was a snowy day in Vermont. My drive into work was a bit iffy, but once I was settled in, the view from my window was spectacular.

Coming home a bit early today, I spent time picking up, making a stew, making sourdough bread and some brownies before taking care of things outside.

What I realized as the day progressed was that I was seeing love in action. Love is shoveling and plowing. Love is clearing snow from decks. Love is bringing venison to your neighbor to thank them for letting you hunt on their land. Love is making a rich stew from that venison so all your family members who are cold and tired and hungry can have a great dinner. Love is fixing a garage door opener. Love is gathering dirty dishes and washing them. Love is finding the socks left on the floor and washing/drying them. Love is texting to let people know when you have arrived somewhere. Love is sending an email saying that you want to connect with someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. Love is ordering a surprise for someone who is struggling so they feel loved. Love is sending a message telling someone what you appreciate about them.

Where did you see love today?