Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Retirement in Perspective: The Fourth Anniversary

How could it be?

It's the fourth anniversary of my retirement. How could it be so long since I walked away from my desk at UCLA -- when the memories are still so vivid?

How could we be looking at our fifth blazing summer here in rural Arizona?

How could time be flying by so fast?

And yet....the time has brought a changing perspective of life in retirement.

It no longer feels like an open-ended vacation, but regular life.

Arizona no longer feels like an exotic vacation destination, but home.

I have fewer illusions, whether they be of recapturing lost youth or creating a circle of close friends here.

My weight is not going to melt off without more effort, more vegetables, more exercise, less wishing.

And knowing your neighbors -- as I longed to do in the anonymity of our former suburban Los Angeles neighborhood -- does not always make them friends.

And one can be as happy or as unhappy in a lovely new home as it was in the old one.

Life, with all its ups and downs, discoveries, disappointments, joys and sorrows, goes on at an alarmingly rapid pace.

And yet, my prevailing sentiment on this fourth anniversary is gratitude.

I'm grateful that, despite the impact of the financial crash on our savings and those of so many others, we had the resources to retire anyway.

I'm grateful that, four years after retiring, both Bob and I are still healthy and active, still intellectually curious, still delighting in the time to pursue our passions for learning, for his music, for my writing.

I'm grateful for the good friends I have made here and, especially, for the old friends whose love has endured through the physical distance between us.

I'm grateful to be doing work that I love, to have another book coming out from a major publisher next fall, to have another chance to pursue a career that has meant so much to me for five decades.

We have no guarantees. I have friends who have not yet been able to retire or whose health has failed just as they were poised to pursue long-deferred dreams of travel and volunteering. Sometimes life changed in a minute. And in a day or a minute, life could change irrevocably for any of us.

But today life is grand. And I'm so grateful for every minute!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Saying...

The voice on the other end of the phone was familiar and cheerful.

It was Stan, my husband's best friend from high school. Although we have never met in person, I had heard about Stan for years: how Stan, a star athlete and leading member of the school's popular crowd, befriended Bob when he came to the school as a shy and uncertain new junior; how Stan helped him to get a memorable summer job at a camp for blind children where they both worked during college; how Stan offered him shelter and support when Bob's father threw him out of the house because he was working at the camp instead of at a higher paying summer job.

Wellington Stanislaus (Stan), star athlete

In the busy times of young adulthood after college, they lost touch with each other for many years, happily reuniting via Facebook when both were over 65. Now they call each other several times a week -- Stan from his home in Central California or Bob from our home in Arizona.

Bob has offered support during Stan's recent orthopedic surgeries and Stan has offered his unfailing optimism to Bob who battles cyclical depressions.

"Just a minute!" I told Stan. "Bob is right here."

"Wait!" Stan cried. "I was calling you. I heard a saying the other day that really meant a lot to me and I think you'd like it, too."

"Oh," I said, a little surprised. "What is it?"

"Those who expect happiness only from sunshine have never danced in the rain."

I smiled at the saying. Stan was right. I was intrigued.

It seemed to me to be about the possibility of finding joy in all seasons -- all seasons of the year, all the seasons of one's life.

It seemed to be about the joy and the pain that are part of all our lives and how our bittersweet experiences give us greater hope in the dark times and greater appreciation for the sunshine in our lives.

It seemed to be about finding joy amidst sorrow, those moments of levity that make us stronger for the next wave of pain.

It seemed to be about re-discovering hope and happiness after a painful life transition.

It seemed to be about experiencing life fully and joyfully every day of our lives.

I thought about the ebb and flow of happiness in my own life -- of times when happiness was an elusive major expectation and of times when it caught me by surprise.

I thought about what I knew of Stan's life experiences -- the career challenges, the devastating losses, the disappointments, the dreams that didn't come true -- and I suddenly understood much better this spirit suffused with joy, even when days are dark and the forecast is unrelentingly stormy.

This is a man who knows all about dancing in the rain.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Many Shades of Beautiful

It's a memory that has stayed with me: my Hawaiian friend Jeanne Nishida, whose parents' ancestries were Chinese and Japanese, was sitting up late with me in our college dorm talking about her self-image growing up. One of a small minority of Asian students at Northwestern at that time, Jeanne was used to feeling different, even when growing up in Hilo, Hawaii. There were no beauty role models who looked like her in mainstream American culture.  As a child, she used to amuse both family and tourists by saying that she wanted to be Betty Grable when she grew up.

We laughed when she told the story, but inside I felt a twinge of sadness that my dear friend had grown up wishing to be fair and blonde. "Either that or that I would wake up and be a lovely Chinese Hawaiian," she said recently. "But by the time I was eight, I realized that wasn't going to happen."

In college, where I met her, life wasn't always easy for Jeanne because she didn't fit the old stereotype that many had at that time of a tiny, sweet, shy, submissive Asian woman. She was -- and is -- smart and strong and not afraid to voice her opinions. She loves sports -- and ended up with a marriage made in heaven, to Jimmy Yagi, the (now retired) basketball coach of the University of Hawaii, Hilo Vulcans. She is a "what you see is what you get" sort of person, without pretense. She is loyal and funny and loving, the very best kind of friend to have.

I always thought she was beautiful, both inside and out. It took some time for Jeanne to realize her very special beauty.

I saw this scenario often when I was a psychotherapist for several psychiatric clinics dedicated to those with life-changing or life-threatening illnesses or injuries. I had patients of all colors and ethnicities  and was often surprised and saddened by the stories of discrimination, even within families, against those who were more dark-skinned than others. One client, Diana, was from Guyana and her lighter-skinned family was ashamed of her darker skin and hadn't included her in many family activities when she was growing up. The pain lingered in her heart, even as she won college scholarships, work accolades and traveled the world. She was one of the most fascinating, warm and beautiful women I have ever met, but what she wanted most in life was to be embraced and accepted and loved and to have a sense of fitting in. She longed to belong and struggled to see the beauty -- both inside and out -- that was so evident to those who knew and loved her.

And I've seen this in my own family when my sister-in-law Jinjuta remembers the pain of growing up feeling distinctly unbeautiful because of her darker skin, typical of her Northern Thailand origins. It's painful to think of this lovely, smart, and wonderfully kind woman having a moment's doubt about her singular beauty and intrinsic worth.

Jeanne sent me a video the other day of the lovely and talented Lupita Nyong'o,  giving a speech several days before her Academy Award triumph, and talking about growing up in Kenya as a dark-skinned woman. It took her some years to realize what real beauty is and to feel this within.

What an amazing story to hear from a young woman who has become not only a celebrated actress but also a beauty icon in the past few months. And how her message that real beauty is goodness and compassion and love resonates.

It's a message that so many young girls need to hear -- both girls of color and girls who are simply plagued by adolescent self-criticism or by the pain of not fitting neatly into society's standards of beautiful.

It's a message that we also need to hear and remember as we age and as traditional, youthful beauty fades into memory. We need to remember that there are many shades and many seasons of beauty and that the greatest measure of beauty is not light skin or youth or a lithe, slim body, but a loving heart and generous, compassionate spirit.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rethinking Retirement

When I called my friend Chuck, a busy and successful physician, to wish him a happy 69th birthday earlier this month, his voice was filled with stress and exhaustion.

"I'm so glad that this will be my last working birthday," he said. "I'm getting too old for this -- seeing a patient every 15 minutes and working every other weekend. I just don't have the energy anymore."

He told me that while he might hang onto his medical license, he had no intention of doing any work -- ever -- after his retirement this coming July.

I recognized the exhaustion, the longing for leisure. But, from the vantage point of four years into retirement, living the total immersion experience in an active adult -- mostly retired -- community, I choked back a cautionary response.

Retirement may be a shock for this hard-working -- and much feted -- professional.

He may struggle with identity once the accolades cease and the role he has played for more than 40 years is in the past.

Or maybe not.

Maybe his love of travel -- and his means to do all the traveling he could imagine -- will be sustaining. Maybe the luxury of just being, just living quietly, in his lovely home with his partner of 35 years will be a dream come true.

It's so hard to predict how retirement will play out for an individual once the initial euphoria over not having to get up at a certain hour, not having to commute or to deal with office politics or overwhelming work loads has passed.

We each build our own retirement lifestyle. For some it is, indeed a dream come true. For others, it is a miasma of boredom, conflict and loss.

What can make the difference?

A realistic pre-retirement wish list. Take a close and hard look at your financial situation and what is possible before you retire. If extensive travel is beyond your means, can you be happy with day trips closer to home? Or relocating to a spot that feels like you're on vacation? If you want to maintain a lifestyle that may be difficult with retirement income, would it be worth it to you to work some years longer to build your retirement savings?

In addition to dollars and cents, consider genetics, your health and the march of time in this mix. How is your health now? How have your family elders fared in their later years? Will postponing your retirement and travels preclude certain adventures that time and aging may make impossible? Some travels may need to be vacations now, not later. Weigh the possibilities. What can you live without -- and what is critical to your retirement happiness?

And what interests and hobbies are on your list to pursue once retired? If that list is non-existent or very short, think again. In my own observations of many retired people here, the ones who tend to struggle the most post-retirement are those who did not have a plan once work stopped. Far too many spend endless hours staring at a television screen and wondering what to do with themselves.

Another consideration for retirement choices: the growing and changing of your family. I've seen so many people choose to age in place to be near grandchildren or to move to be close to family -- only to find that grandchildren with busy schedules don't have as much time as the grandparents had hoped to hang out with them. Or kids get job transfers that take them away. Or they want to spend more time with their kids without extended kin -- which means you -- and you may see much less of all of them than you had hoped. Certainly, family and dear friends are a consideration in your decision to move or stay, but they can't be the major reason for a decision one way or another -- because so much can change.

A compromise in lifestyle choices. It's certainly not uncommon for a lot of post-retirement restlessness and disappointment to come as a result of spouses disagreeing on lifestyle.

One partner may want to move to a warmer location while the other prefers to stay put near family and friends. Looking at your own situation, what might work for both of you? Perhaps you'll choose to stay put for now with regular vacations to the sunbelt. Or move to the sunbelt with regular trips back to see friends and relatives. About half of our community here in Arizona are "snowbirds" who have primary homes elsewhere but who spend winters here in the sun. That's a great compromise for those who can afford to buy a second home -- or to rent for the winter months.

For those who have to make a hard choice about the location of their one home, it's important for partners to listen and to try to understand each other's reasons behind preferences for home location and lifestyle.

One neighbor couple made the decision to relocate here after a serious discussion of priorities. They had been married for more than forty years and he had married her when she was a young, divorced single mother with a toddler son.  After they added another son to the mix, their life was devoted to raising the kids and, with time, with helping to raise the grandkids. The man not only longed for life in a sunnier climate, but also wanted -- at long last -- more quality time with his wife without extended family around on a daily basis. She had vigorously opposed a move away from kin, but as they talked about why he wanted to move, she began to see his point of view. They made an agreement: they would move. But they would also return to visit family for the holidays each year and every summer, they would take a vacation with the whole family.  So far, nearly five years into this arrangement, all is well.

Another frequent area of conflict is in daily tasks: one partner, citing retirement, sits and simply watches or, worse, directs the action -- as the other spouse tackles all the household tasks. You may find peace in compromising on housework so that both partners can have more leisure. For some couples, this means sharing tasks more equally -- recognizing that homemakers deserve some respite as well in retirement. For others, it can mean paying for professional yard services or house cleaning. For still others, it has meant taking a chore and turning it into a hobby: a number of couples here are enthusiastic members of the community cooking club -- trying and testing new recipes as the couples cook together, progressing way beyond the mindset of "Hey, honey! What's for dinner?"

Giving yourself permission to change your mind.  Your choice of a retirement lifestyle doesn't have to be set in stone. One couple I know imagined spending their retirement on the road as carefree RVers, but found that they missed a sense of community. So they amended their retirement plans a bit: now they spend half the year on the road in their RV and the other six months as active members of this community.

But it's important to realize that some decisions are harder than others to undo -- e.g. giving up a career and letting time pass and then trying to get back into the job market. It can make sense to hang onto a professional license or to keep your hand in your work part-time if cold turkey full-time retirement feels too intimidating and final. While a number of aging Boomers plan to work part-time during at least the early years of retirement, it's often easiest to realize that dream of working part-time by continuing to work fewer hours for the same employer or in the same profession, perhaps on a consulting basis, or by reinventing yourself in your own business. Getting a new job in your sixties and beyond isn't impossible, but it can be a challenge.

Sometimes -- overwhelmed with exhaustion, burnout or aggravation -- we idealize the freedom of retirement and minimize how much work means to us.

Make no mistake: I still have moments of euphoria on a weekday when I can sleep until 8 a.m. if I choose instead of getting up at 4:30 a.m. and sprinting for the commuter bus. I still feel delight on a Sunday when I can linger over coffee and newspapers instead of working a stressful 9 hour shift seeing mostly court-ordered patients -- as I did during a two-year clinical internship 20 years ago -- which I loathed so much (mostly due to the management's mistreatment of interns) that I still marvel to find my Sundays free.

That said, I didn't realize how much I had missed certain aspects of my previous work life until I sold a book -- my first in six years -- to a major publisher recently and found myself working feverishly with a tight deadline.

Of course, I moaned and complained as I always have about deadlines. But I also felt energized and joyous most days as I worked on the book. It had been far too long since I had found myself totally immersed in a writing project. And this book was a departure from my usual themes: "Purr Therapy" is a memoir about two cats who worked with me periodically in my private psychotherapy practice to help soothe and calm anxious patients. So, in part, the book is also a memoir about my career as a psychotherapist, a career I chose to give up when I retired (though I've retained my professional license in California).

Writing the book reminded me how much I had loved my career as a therapist and what joy writing brought to my life. I always imagined my work as a writer figuring prominently into my retirement years. But I didn't realize how important writing was to my sense of well-being until I was hard at work again. I now envision a bit more work and a little less leisure in my future.

Making the decision to retire in stages. An increasing number of our generation are choosing to retire in stages instead of stopping all work suddenly. A number of people I know are still working part-time or are active volunteers. Letting go of work in stages can be an ideal solution if your work means a great deal to you or if financial considerations preclude retirement as early as you would like.

Bob's most fervent desire was to retire at 62. But we ran the numbers and found that, with my work situation, with some years to go before I could qualify for a pension from my workplace, and with realities like a mortgage, full retirement at that early age for him just wasn't a reasonable choice, long-term, for us. However, Bob found a good compromise: he opted for a new, reduced work schedule -- taking a cut in pay for a four day work week. Fridays became precious to him, a preview of freedom to come, over the four years he waited for full retirement.

Keeping your mind open to new possibilities.  Times and feelings and people change. When endless days of golf began to get boring, some neighbors got into volunteer work at the local elementary school or the Food Bank or the county animal shelter. Some found themselves pursuing political or social activism. "I couldn't have imagined that I'd be doing this!" one friend said, smiling in sudden amazement, as we stood on a picket line protesting a proposed copper mine near our community.

As we were ending our birthday phone conversation, Chuck sighed as his nurse reminded him that yet another patient was waiting. "Well, who knows?" he said. "I think I will keep my license just in case. I don't want to work for money ever again, but, now that I think of it, it might be good to use my medical skills to volunteer. I think I might really enjoy volunteer work...."

I smiled and we agreed -- retirement brings so many possibilities for contentment, for fun and growth and for joy in doing work we love and giving to others.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Rescued Animals, Enduring Love

One of the most uplifting stories coming out of Sochi has been the rescue by Olympic athletes and others attending the Games of the many stray dogs hanging around Olympic venues hungry both for food and human attention. And a Russian billionaire has contributed money to make a local animal shelter possible where animals may be rescued rather than exterminated, as they were just prior to the Games.

One frequent online observation, of course, is that it's fine to rescue dogs from Russia, but that there are many wonderful animals -- dogs, cats, rabbits and others -- waiting in American shelters for people to love and cherish them and, all too often, they die waiting.

But sometimes there is a miracle, a perfect match, a chance meeting that gives a sweet animal a whole new life. And each story is an inspiration.

I thought about such miracles as I was writing my upcoming book "Purr Therapy" about the two cats -  Timmy and Marina -- that I used occasionally in psychotherapy to comfort or calm anxious patients. I found Timmy and his brother Gus (who is still a sweet and loving presence in our home) and Marina, all rescue animals, when I wasn't looking for a cat and with these very special cats came incredible joy.

The latest inspiring story, however, comes from  my friend Pat Hill, whom I have known and loved since we were in kindergarten and who still lives in our California home town of La Canada Flintridge, near Pasadena. Pat is a wonderfully active woman who will celebrate her 69th birthday on St. Patrick's Day. She frequently takes brisk walks around the Rose Bowl -- with throngs of other local residents -- and it was during one of these walks a few months ago that she had a life-changing encounter: a matted, limping Calico cat streaked out of the bushes, through the crowd of walkers and straight to Pat as if she had been waiting impatiently for her to appear.

Pat knelt down and petted her. The cat rubbed against her and purred. She was thin. She had leaves and brambles in her fur. And she looked at Pat with eyes both loving and pleading.

Pat sat back on her heels, still stroking the cat, and thought for a minute about what to do. She wasn't looking for a cat. She already had two cats -- male and female siblings from a feral litter found in a friend's carport storage area not quite six years ago years ago. But this one.... She sighed. How could she leave this one behind? She felt the ribs poking out from the matted fur. She scooped her up and headed for her car. The cat leaned against her, purring.

She quickly began to change the cat's prospects: a bath, a flea treatment, a trip to the vet's where she found that the cat was in her early teens with a non-communicable health problem. She had been a pet until, most likely, she was thrown away by an owner who couldn't afford to treat her health concerns. Or perhaps she had survived a beloved human companion and was simply left behind after her former home was emptied and sold. The sad circumstances behind a loving cat going from cherished pet to homeless will always be a mystery. But, at some point, she had ceased to matter to someone.

She began to matter immensely to Pat as medical treatment, good nutrition, the company of other well-loved (and increasingly less wary) cats and, most of all, Pat's loving care gave her hope and a whole new life.

Part of that new life is a name: Amelia Rose, the latter, of course, in honor of their meeting place at the Rose Bowl. And lovely Amelia Rose -- or AR for short -- has quickly established herself as a cherished member of the family. She is the sweetest, most affectionate cat Pat has ever known. And she is dearly loved and treasured -- for however long she may live.

It's a reminder that we sometimes meet the greatest loves of our lives -- both human and animal -- when we least expect. And taking a chance and saying "Yes" to an animal in need of a loving home isn't just good for the stray cat or dog, but may be a true blessing of love to the person who reaches out and embraces a very special little life.

My dear friend Pat Hill and Amelia Rose

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Quiet Celebration of Love

On Valentine's day, we often think of love stories  -- our own and those of others who inspire us with their loving resilience.

Today, my thoughts are with two recently married couples a generation -- and a world -- apart in their experiences.

I got news of both marriages by email and Facebook -- a 21st century way to spread joyous news and wedding photos.

The most recently married is the couple with the longest relationship: Chuck Wibbelsman and David Hyman have shared their lives for 35 years.  They have had joyous times, fun times traveling and darker times when illness intervened or when home remodeling challenged their patience and sanity. They've been loving and supportive of each other through the years as Chuck's career as a doctor thrived and as David made a successful career shift from marketing to real estate.

In the early years, their relationship was private, almost secret, due to families slow to accept their sexual orientation and to public sentiments at the time. Chuck, especially, kept his private life quiet as he built his career as a nationally known adolescent medicine specialist/pediatrician.

Chuck had grown up in a strongly religious Catholic family in Cincinnati and went to Catholic schools through college. He worried quietly about his attraction to men, but quickly dismissed such feelings with the rationalization that he just hadn't met the right woman yet. He married right after his graduation from medical school but the marriage, arranged in haste and coinciding with Chuck's long hours as a medical intern, ended after less than a year.

Chuck and I met several years later -- forty years ago -- and shared love, many good times and a dream to build a future together, professionally and personally. The professional part of the dream came true with a classic, best-selling book (The Teenage Body Book) and several other books on which we collaborated over the years. But our romantic relationship ended when Chuck realized, at age thirty, that he was, indeed, gay. I was shocked and heartbroken when he moved to San Francisco with a man he had met while we were still a couple. But we continued our work together and when I married Bob, Chuck was there at our wedding, wishing us the best.

And we wished him the best when he met David two years later. David, too, had come from conservative roots. He was the only child of Jewish parents in upstate New York, growing up burdened with many expectations. He had a loving relationship with his mother, who died of cancer when he was 18, and a somewhat more difficult relationship with his father who loved him dearly, yet struggled to understand and accept who David was. A quiet man with exquisite manners and taste, David proved the perfect partner for the ebullient, outgoing Chuck.

David Hyman (l) and Chuck Wibbelsman (r)
And yet, as the years went by, marriage never seemed a possibility. They were faithful to each other and loyal  -- as any loving couple would be. And, until recently, they seemed resigned to having a relationship that would be mutually cherished, but never recognized legally.

When I was talking with Chuck two years ago, telling him about the wonderful wedding my friend Tim's son, actor Stephen Schellhardt and his spouse, actor Devin DeSantis, had just celebrated in New York, he looked wistful. The wedding, with just close friends and family, was both intimate and elegant. Their dear friend Jessie Mueller, now starring with great acclaim in Broadway's "Beautiful", sang at their ceremony. And Stephen's dad Tim wept with joy as he gave a toast.

Stephen (l) with Devin as Tim toasts them with love and tears

It made me remember the time when Stephen officially came out to his family when he was 14 and his family embraced him with love and acceptance. At the time, Tim told me that two thoughts had occurred simultaneously when he heard Stephen's news. His first thought was "Oh, please don't anyone hurt him!" quickly followed by "I hope he finds someone wonderful to love." And now that Stephen and Devin had found each other, their families celebrated with love and joyful tears.

Chuck had tears in his eyes as he listened. "What a different time this is," he said quietly. "What a whole different experience those two have had -- coming out and being accepted by their families right away and having this wonderful wedding with their parents there, celebrating with them. I'm so happy for them...."

It is, indeed, a different kind of love story for these two younger men. Stephen and Devin came out at a much younger age. They had the support of friends and family members as their relationship grew in the years before their marriage. Their lives and successes are much more public as their acting and singing careers flourish.

They recently serenaded Broadway legend Audra McDonald at a theatre community tribute to her.

Stephen Schellhart (l), Audra McDonald, Devin DeSantis
And currently, they're both enjoying star turns in musical revivals at major theaters in Chicago: Stephen starring as The Master of Ceremonies/Emcee of "Cabaret" at the Marriott Theatre and Devin starring as Dr. Frankenstein in "Young Frankenstein" at the Drury Lane Theater.

Stephen as the Emcee in "Cabaret" at the Marriott Theater
Devin (r) as Dr. Frankenstein in "Young Frankenstein" at the Drury Lane Theater

Recently, as both have garnered fantastic reviews in their respective shows, The Chicago Tribune spotlighted their loving and solid relationship in an article about them being each other's leading men.


This would have been unthinkable back in the day when secrecy, double lives and fear of exposure prevailed.

But times have been changing for quite some time, even for couples whose relationships were shrouded in secrecy during their younger years.

When Chuck recently was lauded for his work as a physician at Kaiser Permanente, the organization recognized David as his life partner and included him in the tribute. It was, at once, a small gesture of respect -- and a huge step forward.

And yet older couples, people whose lives have been lived well, but largely out of the public spotlight, quite often still feel most comfortable with quiet, private celebrations.

When gay marriage was once again legal in California, Chuck and David thought "Why not?" At this point in their lives, they wanted their wedding to be a quiet thing, a private commitment, in tune with the quiet, but profound love that has blessed their lives for over three decades. So one Tuesday last month, they met at City Hall in San Francisco and, in a ceremony witnessed only by one of Chuck's co-workers,  a favorite fellow physician, they were married -- announcing the event afterwards to friends and family.

Chuck, witness Alison Niederer and David on their wedding day
It was quiet. It was huge. It was a long-time coming. After 35 years together, it was an incredibly sweet moment -- and victory -- for a loving, devoted couple.

Happy Valentine's Day to all couples whose mutual devotion has kept love alive for all the days and years of their relationships.

And special good wishes to Chuck and David, Stephen and Devin for showing us that it isn't the gender of the person one loves that matters as much as the fact that one is willing and able to share a lifetime of love with another.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Beginning

Happy 2014 -- and may this be your best year ever!

I'm anticipating some new beginnings as well as life as usual: hoping to share many more stories, feelings and experiences with my fellow bloggers. I so appreciate your postings, your comments  and your amazing life perspectives.

If you have noticed I have been blogging -- and commenting on your blog posts --  a little less lately, it is because of new developments in my writing career that are, temporarily, taking most of my time.

The big news is that my proposal for Timmy and Marina: The Therapy Cats has sold to HCI, the publisher of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series among many other inspirational and psychological self-help titles.


This book -- one I've wanted to write for a long time --  is a memoir about the two cats who worked with me from time to time in my private psychotherapy practice in Los Angeles. Timmy and Marina were unusual cats -- as friendly with strangers as with family, quick to comfort and to soothe. They were both rescue cats that I adopted by chance when I wasn't looking for a cat. Both worked with me at different times in my practice with patients who requested animal-assisted therapy to deal with depression, anxiety or relationship conflicts. Both were also beloved companion animals and members of our family. And both Timmy and Marina died young, like angels lent for a limited time: Timmy of melamine poisoning in 2007, Marina from leukemia in 2010.

                                         Timmy the Therapy Cat - 1998-2007

                                          Marina the Therapy Cat - 2006-2010

The publisher wants the completed book  -- I wrote only the preface and two chapters for the proposal --  submitted by the end of this month for publication in October 2014. So my holidays have been quiet this year, but lived in gratitude!

The second bit of news is that I have two books related to my blog now available in both e-book and print form from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. They are also available in e-book form from iBooks.

The first is Aging and Other Surprises.  The second is Making Peace With Your Adult Children. Both are collections of blogposts from the past three years along with some new material. Both are available online from the above retailers OR you can go to my new website for instant connection to retail sources.


The third bit of news is my new website:

There are several sections to this website -- descriptions of my books, a bio, a page where readers can ask questions and a video page featuring a couple of sample videos, including one with snippets from some national t.v. shows I've done over the years, including OPRAH and THE TODAY SHOW. Friends who have seen this 9 minute time travel through 17 years of shows have been teasing me about my many different looks -- vastly varying weights, hair styles and hair colors. One friend said "I would never have guessed that any of them were you, except for the voice." Maybe it's a bit of a demonstration of how we all change over time, though I suspect that my weight fluctuations are more dramatic than most!)

So good things are happening. My writing career appears to be reviving after a long hiatus and I'm delighted. 

But I'm also delighted and grateful for life as usual: continuing good health, the love of family and dear friends, including blogging friends, the joy of writing this blog and reading yours! Although I may not be posting or commenting as often in the next few weeks, as I work long hours to finish PURR THERAPY on time, I'll be back.

And in the meantime, I wish you all the best of everything in the New Year!