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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pitchfork instead of pen

      I have been seriously distracted from writing this week. Teenagers seem to sap more time and energy than younger children. I think that is because worry is exhausting. I have also been hard at work in the yard. Spent most of today for example in the garden. And I found this lovely quote to share;
     "If you have a garden and a library you have everything you need." ~ Cicero
     I found it at this site,, which is rather odd, but I found it quite enjoyable. Maybe you will too.
     Okay, all excuses for being a slacker aside, I did get out five submissions this week, and am rather pleased about that, though they were all poems. It's more than usual. I got my column submitted on time. Yesterday I also worked out some more details with the publisher for the chapbook that looks like it really will be going to press soon, and I am very excited about that! I have been working on it for sooo long. Unfortunately, I am not quite done, and still have a little more research and writing to do. I got some research done this week, but not as much as I should have, and I have to do better next week. I also got my will rewritten this week. Can I get any credit for that?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Successful Aging

     Just heard that Art Linkletter died today. He had a good long run. We should all be so lucky. But his death does give anyone in my generation pause for reflection. He was a part of my childhood. A fixture of it. He made my parents smile. A lot. Now he is another measure of what once was. 
      I decided to post this previously published article I wrote about him a few years ago. Everyone is familiar with his television work but he was also a prolific author.

Art Linkletter on Successful Aging

by Tammi J Truax
Wow! is pretty much all I could think after hearing Art Linkletter speak when he came to town recently to entertain a large crowd of smiling people, as he has been doing for the last sixty years.

Called the poster child for aging the 95 year old gentleman of radio and television history was brought to Portsmouth by The Boulders at Riverwoods, and packed the grand ballroom at The Sheraton Hotel twice in one day.

Still working very hard, and doing very well, it seems more than fair that he should give us all some tips on successful aging, which he did throughout his off-the-cuff talk. Because he doesn’t prepare a speech he does ramble a bit, jumping from such varied topics as his own childhood to cell division to the current state of Medicare, but it keeps his talk spontaneous and very humorous.

Just some of Mr. Linkletter’s accomplishments are having two of the longest running TV shows in history (House Party and People are Funny), publishing 28 books (three of which are autobiographies), running several businesses and foundations, traveling 100,000 miles a year to lecture and do charity work, receiving 28 honorary doctorates, and a successful marriage of 73 years which has produced 18 great-grandchildren so far.

At first three autobiographies seemed excessive to me, but after hearing him speak I can see how it would take three volumes to get the job done. Mr. Linkletter has had a fascinating life. Abandoned by his birth parents he was adopted by an older Baptist preacher and his wife, in a part of Saskatchewan called Moose Jaw. Maturing just in time for the crash and the great depression he became a bonafide railroad hobo for a couple of years before settling in California to go to college to become a high school English teacher. While still in school serendipity got him into entertainment radio at KGB, where he started the “man on the street” interview concept. Broadcasting soon lead to television, a brand new medium that Mr. Linkletter helped to shape. He admits that it was in talking to kids that he discovered the gold mine in his career, and estimates that he has interviewed 27,000 children over the years.

He speaks with sadness and serious conviction about how his life changed forever in 1970 when his 20 year old daughter took her own life, probably unintentionally, while under the influence of LSD. Soon after her death he began several decades of work in drug abuse prevention, and is now concerned and educating others about seniors misusing drugs.

Most recently he has taken on serious senior advocacy including promoting Alzheimer’s research. He is founding member and chairman of the board of The Center on Aging at UCLA. Two of his books are specifically aimed at seniors, and based on my experience hearing Mr. Linkletter speak, are certainly worth checking out. They are titled; Old Age is not for Sissies, and the just released, How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life. He should know.
A Few of Art’s Tips for Successful Aging

Try new things.

Laugh a lot.

Adapt to change.

Plan for your future.

Volunteer for a charity.

Make new friends.

Have faith in something.

Do your very best.

“You have an intellectual and spiritual obligation to ask ‘Am I happy, if not, why not?’”

~ Art Linkletter

For more information about Art Linkletter’s work on aging visit

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Scarier than Stephen King

     Last night I finished reading Still Alice, a novel by Lisa Genova. It was something I read for the graduate class I just finished called Narrating Illness, which was a writing course taught by a medical doctor at Harvard Extension School. In the course we read and discussed a variety of illness narratives written by well established authors, and each of us work-shopped two of our own over the semester. While Still Alice was not on the required reading list, I chose to read it because of it's subject matter, early onset Alzheimer's disease, and the fact that it was set in Cambridge, sometimes in Harvard Yard.
     At first, I was not particularly impressed. It takes a little while for the story's teeth to sink in. But I am left with a big bite mark, an overwhelming feeling of awe for this book. It is a remarkable achievement for a writer. Truly remarkable. That someone could describe, both accurately and eloquently, the unstoppable and terrifying descent into dementia that is Alzheimer's, who has not of course, experienced it, is an example of the consummate skill that every writer aspires to. Lisa Genova nails it. And the progression from beginning of illness to end is brilliantly played out, with a fascinating sub-plot about suicide that was a heart-wrenching stroke of genius. The book is quite obviously a product of intense research but most of the time doesn't come off heavy handed with information, it is well balanced.
     Here is a randomly chosen paragraph from the middle of the book, a conversation between Alice, who had been a Harvard professor, and her doctor;

"Okay Alice, can you spell the word water backwards for me?" he asked.
She would have found this question trivial and even insulting six months ago, but today, it was a serious question to be tackled with serious effort. She felt only marginally worried and humiliated by this, not nearly as worried and humiliated as she would've felt six months ago. More and more, she was experiencing a growing distance from her self-awareness. Her sense of Alice- what she knew and understood, what she liked and disliked, how she felt and perceived- was also like a soap bubble, ever higher in the sky and more difficult to identify, with nothing but the thinnest lipid membrane protecting it from popping into thin air."
     I read lots of books, and most fall into the dark abyss that is my own memory black hole. Unless there was something there that made the book unforgettable to me. I will remember this book.
     Just discovered that the author has a blog where she speaks directly to writers about a variety of subjects, so you might want to check that out;