The Reason Behind Ring Around Reality

There’s a story behind my latest book Ring Around Reality.Although published in May of 2017, I originally wrote this book in 1980 and put it on a shelf in my closet. Frankly, I was intimidated by the manuscript. You see, even though I made Ring Around Reality a work of fiction, the book is based on my own struggle with alcoholism. My fiction is close to the actual truth, and I knew my family would figure out who was who and would be impacted by some of the revelations.

Then in 2014, within six weeks, I lost my older sister, my younger sister, and the man I loved. My grief was overwhelming and kept me from writing. In the spring of 2015, realizing that I was the last survivor of my original family, I took the original manuscript off the shelf and started an extensive rewrite.

I changed the title (the original was Ring Around the Rocking Chair which referred to the age of the protagonist’s parents) and concentrated on Diana Lossen’s story, illuminating other characters and their actions which, in turn, shaped Diana’s life. I changed names and occupations of some of the characters and I carefully crafted the story to keep the reader turning pages.

What I hope is that the story will, at the very least, cause non-alcoholics to question assumptions about alcoholics. Before I was affected, I used to think that true alcoholics were people who slept in the gutter, clutching a paper bag that contained a half-pint of whiskey. How they got to that point and where they were going didn’t much interest me. People I knew were social drinkers, myself included, or so I thought.

This is a story about how a person, believing she is a social drinker, gets into trouble, but doesn’t recognize drinking as the cause. Alcohol increasingly becomes a power over Diana’s life and denial becomes a way of life.

I won’t tell you what happens to Diana and spoil your reading of the book, but I will tell you I have been sober for forty-four years, so my story ends well, so far.

We live in a culture where drinking alcohol is an accepted and valued norm in life. I am happy for those who can drink sensibly and enjoy sharing a cup with friends; I can happily drink my water or soda and celebrate with them.

Losing Weight–Chapter Two

Yes, I have been successful! So far, I have lost 24 pounds! It has been easy to stick to my food program, which has surprised me. I’ve done dieting in the past and have been plagued with cravings and have given in to temptations presented me. You know the kind—“just take a taste of this—a little bit won’t hurt you.” This time, however, I seem to find the way to say a gracious “no” to my unwitting tempters. What’s my secret for all this success? A quiet confidence.

What I did at the outset was, first of all, say a prayer, and then decide I would not diet. I would eat three meals a day. I would not snack, and I would eat a vegetable with each meal, even breakfast. Try eating broccoli with Raisin Bran! Actually, I find broccoli or green beans taste good with cereal. What the vegetables seem to have done for me is to provide a buffer against cravings. Without thinking about it, I have not reached for bread. Perhaps, without bread, cravings do not get a foothold in my psyche. I don’t really know and don’t care. I like the results.

I do not deprive myself. Almost every night I have ice cream. Most nights the treat is a Healthy Choice fudge bar at 100 calories, but sometimes it is a bowl of my favorite Butter Pecan at who knows what calories. I don’t look. If I want sour cream with my vegetables, I have sour cream. I don’t measure, but I also don’t overdo anything, unless, of course, it’s vegetable. Vegetables have priority in my food plan.

I’ve established no goals, though I do think, in the back of my mind, that I’d like to see a 30-pound loss before my birthday in August. Yet, I am not anxious about this possibility. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’ll simply go on eating the way I’m eating and be grateful for what I’ve been given in life so far.

When eating out— and I do eat out frequently, I look for choices on the menu that provide vegetables. For instance, a vegetarian omelet for breakfast fills the bill. Instead of the fried potatoes, I ask if fruit can be substituted. Even if substitution costs extra, I gladly pay. Well, not so gladly. I prefer the restaurants that work with me and let me substitute freely. I am tempted sometimes to get a cheeseburger with bacon and all the trimmings, but I think of the consequences. Such a meal would disturb my digestive processes at this point, and who wants that? If I do want something like a hamburger or a lamb burger, I ask for one without the bun, and, of course, a salad or an extra helping of vegetables. Often I order a specialty salad—one with those luscious caramelized pecans, for instance, topped with a helping of chicken or a salmon steak.

Will my plan work for others? Do I recommend it? I have no idea whether other people can benefit from doing what I am doing. Intuitively, I think that eating as I do will produce weight loss for others, but, on the other hand, I know that losing weight is a very complex process. What works for one person may not work for another. The only true advice I can give for those of you who want to lose weight is to find a way that works for you.

See John’s Book Excerpt on ePicaro

You may have read about my late spouse John Palmer in my book Living With the Stranger in Me: An Exploration of Aging. John was 23 years older than I, and was grieving the loss of Edna, his wife of 46 years, when he came to me, her cousin.

Although John and I weren’t related by blood, it took time for us both to be comfortable with the idea that we could actually be together–so close were the familial bonds. Eventually, John came to live with me, and we became domestic partners, registered with the state of California.

John did not consider himself a writer until I encouraged him to write stories to help process his grief. Once started, however, he wrote story after story until, one day, he asked me if I thought he could write a book about hitchhiking across the country during the Great Depression. He was 89 at the time. I was privileged to be his guide on this journey, critiquing his work, typing his manuscript, and helping him look for a publisher. A Walk to Somewhere: On the Road During the Great Depression was published in 1993. His second book: Life After Edna, Surviving Loss, Reclaiming Life came out in 2004.

You can read an excerpt from A Walk to Somewhere on the website ePicaro, a Journal of Travels (

Vision Books International is no longer in business, but I have a supply of John’s books in my garage. If you want a new book, you can contact me by leaving a post under “Speak Your Mind,” Send me your email in that post. I will not publish your email, but will reply and we can correspond and make arrangements for you to purchase John’s book.

Losing Weight

                    Lose weight.  How many times have I heard that ominous directive, not only from my doctor’s lips, but from my own guilt-manufacturing neurosis? 

             I have peacefully reached the stage in life where I am comfortable with the fact that I am overweight—I can’t say the word “obese”— it’s such a nasty word.  In my lifetime, I have lost 50 pounds. Three times!  It took commitment, money, and time.  Each time I’ve lost the weight, I’ve kept it off for three years, and, then, voila, not only the pounds I lost came roaring back, but extra pounds appeared as well! Obviously, this happening is a warning never, ever again, to consciously lose weight.

             Up to now, I’ve been able to accept my overweight self as I am, but fate has intervened. I’ve been struggling to walk with pain in both ankles.  My doctor diagnosed the condition as tendonitis and gently suggested, once more, that I lose weight to relieve pressure on my joints. I heard the doctor this time and decided, yes, I would lose weight.  Not try to lose weight, but actually lose weight.

              As most persons who have dieted know, the programs designed for losing weight do work if diligently worked.  It has been true for me that if I pay for something, I follow instructions, so I have had success with these programs.  However, there is that three-year bugaboo lurking in my head.  I need some plan to have hope of keeping my weight reasonable for the rest of my life, a plan that I can commit to without penalties or extra motivation, a plan that is based on easing the pain in my joints.

            As is my custom, I start with prayer.  Lead me not into temptation is a good one.  Also, guide me as I once again begin a new adventure.

            I decide that I will eat only at meal times.  I’ll eat what I want and stop when the plate is empty.  Before I sit down, I’ll gather everything except coffee and dessert, but I will decide on what dessert I will eat.  If I feel satisfied without dessert, I will skip it.

            I notice that my younger son has taken up the habit of eating large quantities of vegetables.  Hmm.  Vegetables.  Plants are a source of medicine, I reason.  Dr. Oz talks of the benefits to the body of certain vegetables.  Hmm.  I like vegetables.

            I buy pounds of vegetables at my local warehouse store.  I began with a huge helping of broccoli at supper, a generous dollop of sour cream, plus three baby cucumbers, a couple of thin slices of fresh yellow peppers, and a baby portabella mushroom with my entrée of leftover pot roast. A glass of water and a cup of coffee—without cream, another decision—and a chocolate-covered ice cream bar complete the meal.  I am satisfied.

            For breakfast, I begin eating the pickled herring in sour cream I bought for good luck at New Year’s and I add more broccoli, a few saltines, a banana, coffee and water.

            Lunch becomes a fresh salad of Romaine lettuce with celery, cucumber, green onion, mushroom, and cherry tomatoes, the water to drink, and an apple. Plain yogurt and fresh blueberries is my dessert.

            Those are my basic meals with variation in vegetables, fruits and meats.  I also have a potato with the main meal or bread when the mood strikes me, especially if I have an egg in the morning.

            I’ve added a short walk in the morning during which I look for something on which to focus my gratitude.  The first morning two flocks of Canada geese honked noisily as they flew over my head. On another morning, I noticed how starkly beautiful a tree was, silhouetted against a blue sky.  Still, on another walk, the cool breeze caressed my face and rattled the spikey leaves of a rosemary bush. I’ve decided the purpose of the walk is not to exercise, but to fill myself with the joy of creation each day.  I know how fortunate I am to be alive and reasonably healthy.

            So far, I am doing well.  I’ve dropped a couple of pounds, which doesn’t seem as important as the way I feel.  I notice that my digestive system is quieter as is my mind.  I am not obsessing on eating something salty or sweet.  I reserve the right to do that at mealtimes; I haven’t yet wanted those foods. I feel more focused and less harried by everyday tasks.  My ankles, aided by some treatment and lots of stretching are less painful.  And, look!  I’ve found time for my passion, writing.  By losing weight, I just may be gaining a renewed self.