Putting Together an Anthology Part 1 ~ by Darlene Kuncytes

     I was thinking about what I wanted to write this month, and  talking to another author that you all have been getting to know, Andi Lawrencovna. She came up with the fabulous suggestion that we double team you guys with a two-parter.
     The making of an Anthology!
     I have been lucky enough to have been included is some amazing anthologies in the past. I have also had the opportunity to work with Andi on putting together a few of our own.
     So, how does an anthology actually begin? And what makes for an enjoyable experience?
     There are several different types of anthologies. There are those that the authors apply to enter. There are those that the authors are invited to take part in. They can be for a charitable cause, or simply to give readers a taste of the plethora of different the authors’ works.
     It’s a great way to find new authors and enjoy the ones you already know.
     Andi and I were talking out loud one day - at Starbucks of course! Lol - about putting together an anthology of our own, with authors we know and love. Something light, and fun. Something to raise money for a cause that is near and dear to us, The American Cancer Society.
     A basic theme must be chosen, and we knew on our particular project we wanted light fantasy and romance. We wanted our readers to lose themselves in sweetness!
     We tossed around a bunch of ideas, and finally came up with Sweet Treats! I mean, what’s lighter than sugary confections? Right?

That being decided, we wanted to make sure that everyone involved in the process would be kept in the loop. That’s the second most important part of organizing an anthology. 

     The authors you include are sharing their words. Their work. Let them know what’s going on with their babies. Because, let’s face it, as authors, the words we put on the page ARE our babies. Then, let the creative minds create! 
     In part two of this mini-series, Andi will get into the legal and technical aspect of putting together an Anthology, because she is one of the most organized people I have ever met. And DON’T let her tell you any different!
     From past experience, I knew that for the next project I did, I wanted to gather together a group of authors I knew were diverse in their voices. I truly love nothing better than an anthology that is a smorgasbord of creativity. 
     Anthologies usually stick to a specific genre, but I would rather stick to a theme and pepper in all types of stories: dark, light, happily ever after’s and…not so happily ever afters.  
     I firmly believe in giving readers a bunch of different stories to fall into. Let them maybe try something they may have thought they wouldn’t really enjoy, only to find themselves swept in!
     Okay. So now, you’ve chosen your theme, it’s time to collect your talent! 
     The author world is a close-knit world, and as an author, you are lucky enough to get to know so many talented people. You can
pretty much tell who you will work well with, and who you might not. And, believe me, there may be mishaps, but it’s all a wonderful learning experience.
      So, get your group together, keep everyone up to date and let the creative juices flow!
      Anthologies are so much fun to do if you’ve got a great group. Not to mention that they are fabulous for the reader too! They can experience so much talent!
     As I said, part two will get into the nitty gritty of the formatting, publishing and legal stuff.
     Thanks for reading!

I shared Valentine's Day with my characters from Salvaging Truth ~by Joanne Jaytanie

Photo courtesy of Atlantis Submarines

Ralph and I were on The Big Island for Valentine's Day, and he gave me the most incredible Valentine’s
gift. It was an experience he knew I would treasure forever, a voyage under the sea on the Atlantis Submarine.

Not only was it an extraordinary endeavor, but it was also a serendipitous opportunity to immerse myself in Riley and Dagger's submarine mission they experience in Salvaging TruthGranted, I wasn’t being chased or shot at, but I did get to feel and see the ocean through their eyes. 

Now I’m passing a bit of my and their adventure on to you. 

And just like Riley and Dagger. We found a shipwreck...

Do you know where 70% of the white sand on the Big Island's beaches come from? 
Listen and the first mate will explain.

We descended to 101 feet. It felt both electrifying and serene as we glided along the ocean floor. 

Watch as the submarine ascends. Do you get the sensation of floating in the clouds?

I hope you enjoyed your journey under the sea. 
Did this spark your desire for more...more action, more thrills and mystery, more whodunit?  

Then swing by my page on your way back to shore, and download the first 4 chapters of Salvaging Truth, which includes Riley and Dagger’s submarine mission.

It's my gift to you. CLICK HERE and it will take you to the link. Why wait? You can fall into the pages of your new adventure now...

Until next time...

Niche Radio ~ by Brian Player

The success of our emerging artists today depends to a larger

extent on the amount of exposure their music gets both live and in the media. Live is very much a question of making contact with promoters and venues and being prepared to travel, often big distances to reach the widest possible audience.
     The media, of course, is to a certain extent a different story where contact can be made via social media or email in the hopes that the recipient will be impressed enough to play and pass positive comments to their audience.

 But live audiences are being spread ever thinner as more venues and promoters have come into being. There has also been an explosion in the number of media outlets, such as radio streaming services, all trying to attract the same audience.
     In the UK alone, the last 10 years has seen 355 local community radio stations licensed, each covering an FM broadcast range of around 15 miles plus an internet stream reaching world wide.
     Add to this the wide range of BBC and commercial radio services along with streaming from Deezer and Spotify or

Mixcloud and you can already see a potential for individual, in person concert audience numbers to be very low.
     If this wasn’t enough, it has never been easier to start your own radio station on the internet. Much of the software needed can be obtained free of charge and all you need is a home computer with a server big enough to handle the number of listeners you hope to attract.
     What does this mean for the struggling musician trying to make a name and reach as wider audience as possible? Well, I guess doing some homework is essential. Review each station and show carefully to estimate its ability to attract an audience, and in particular an audience that may like your music.
 It is worth moving a little outside the comfort zone. Whilst it may seem obvious to contact a station with the name of the genre you perform, it also follows that niche, single genre radio will attract the smallest of audiences, particularly if they are only available on the net.
     Like small specialist music clubs, individual radio shows have become niche, attracting a small number of followers and those who have a particular reason to listen in, will do so if maybe a relative or friend is being featured.
     Many shows have no listeners at all so it pays for the musician to be selective when choosing a show to send music to.
    Look for a high social media presence and pre-broadcast advertising and always be sure the station has the appropriate licences in place.

     Community radio is licensed but operates within certain restrictions. During the day (7am to 7pm) the music policy will be for wide appeal, hits from the last four or five decades and current pop.
     In the evening and at weekends it is all change and room is made for specialist and niche programming. As an emerging artist that is where you would be best to focus your attention.
     Most observers agree that radio is holding its own in the world of entertainment but, as with music itself, technology is changing the geography and we see a fragmented scene with many more radio shows than most listeners can cope with.

Brian Player is a UK radio personality with Wey Valley Radio and a regular contributor to Originality by Design. You  may contact Brian here

photos courtesy of pexels.com free photos and from the Acoustic Cafe Facebook page

What Makes a Good Family? ~ by Babou

Some of you may not know me. So, let me introduce myself. My name is Sweet Princess Babou...but my family calls me Goobie when they want my attention. I don't remember my fur mommy at all. I was left alone and somehow found myself stuck under a mobile home. Thankfully it was during August and not during winter. I was lonely, tired, and hungry. Some other animals didn't like me and they did whatever they could to let me know that. I had this terrible itching in my ears and my eyes hurt...lots!

One day the lady in this mobile home was outside talking with a friend, Ms. Lynette. Ms. Lynette heard me meowing, trying to get their attention. I heard her say that if the meowing was still there when the two ladies returned from lunch, they would see what was happening.

Sure enough, they heard me when they returned. My throat was sore and I barely had a voice, but I knew I had to make some noise. Soon the skirting of the mobile home was being moved and Ms. Lynette bent down and scooped me up in her warm hands. I purred loudly because I was so happy these ladies rescued me! The other lady went in the house for some water and some food. Boy, that cut up smoked turkey tasted wonderful!

Ms. Lynette had to leave so she placed me in the hands of the other lady. They were warm and loving and she was talking to me. No one had ever done that before. She took me into her house. There was a boy there, too. I loved snuggling up against his chin. It felt like fur.

They talked to someone named Kathy, who told them to put a towel into a laundry basket and put me in there and tape another basket on top so I wouldn't escape. I was just so glad that there was a soft place to be. I laid down and went to sleep.

The boy and the lady took me to this funny smelling building. There were lots of strange animals that were so much larger than me. I wasn't afraid, just curious, but I stayed quiet in my basket home until this older man lifted me out and started looking in my ears and eyes. I remember a pinch in the backside, too. 

The lady wasn't sure she wanted to keep me and told the older man and lady that. That lady in the funny smelling building laughed and said, "Yes, you will. She has claimed you for her own." I guess she was right. I had done just that.

We went home and I didn't have to stay in the laundry basket. In fact, my favorite place was under the boy's chin. The boy and the lady loved me and fed me and let me lay on their laps and snuggled me. For the first time in my life I knew what it meant to be loved.

As time passed, I grew. From the age of six weeks, I've had a fascination with computers. I still do. My human mom is a writer and editor and I help her do her job. She never pushes me away and sometimes she takes my suggestions, too. **paw to mouth snicker**

I live a very happy life. It is a beautiful home. I can do pretty much anything I want (except jump up by the television and claw it.) I have food, water, and much love from two people that are my life. I am so thankful for them. I watch over them and make sure they are all right. 

At times, I hear my boy and mom say they don't know what they'd do without me. Well, I honestly don't know what I would do without them. Had Ms. Lynette not scooped me up and placed me in Mom's hands...well, I won't go there.

There are lots of other fur babies who need loving homes like mine. I hope you will take into consideration adopting one or two. Your local shelters are filled with cats like me and dogs (ewwww) who need forever homes...need forever moms and dads and girls or boys who love them and take care of them.  If you can't adopt, then volunteer to give some time to show the shelter animals some love. Think of how you would feel if no one loved you...if no one hugged you...if no one told you how special you are to them.  

Yup...so, I live my life with my human mom and my boy. I love to sit by the patio door and watch the snow fall, watch the rabbits and squirrels in the spring and summer. But most of all...I love the love and security I have here with my family.

And, Mom...even though you turned another year older a few days ago...you are still my #1 and always will be. I love you so much! **many, many kitteh purrs and snuggles**


Early in December 2018, my wife and I took what was the longest and most anticipated vacation in 30 years. We had always wanted to go to Disney World (actually, she more than I). Finally, last year, we were able to begin planning for our trip in early December. It became a daily topic of conversation in anticipation of our departure date. The most discussed and anticipated attraction was the 3D Avatar exhibit was
the Fight of Passage-a computer simulation of a ride atop a Banshee “high over the world of Pandora.” Exhilarating for sure, but, the subject of this story begins as we were being prepped for the ride. 

Standing in the “prep” chamber listening to the scientist’s briefing over the loudspeaker, the voice began its story,

“For years humans abused the land, harming Pandora’s fragile ecosystem until a group called the Pandora Conservation Initiative began to track the world’s various keystone species-specific animals or plants that support the ecosystem as a whole. One of those is the Banshee, who lives in Pandora’s floating mountains. As a result, PCI has begun using an updated version of the avatar mind-linking technology to monitor their progress.” 
(From: Best of Orlando, June 8, 2017)

That one phrase-the single phrase that grabbed my brain. KEYSTONE SPECIES. I had never heard that particular phrase and it sent me an immediate message. I got it. Right there and then. Hilariously, we “road the Banshee“ three times back to back that night. I could not get that message-keystone species-out of my mind. I began to think about some of the species I knew in my own backyard that had declining populations and wondering if they would be considered keystone species. What was the visible decline in population telling me? What should it be telling me?  

Avatar and the Banshee? Sure, just fiction. But, are there really keystone species in our world that we need to be paying attention to? And are the population dynamics of particular species giving us information from which we should be making very important inferences?  

Scientists will, of course, say yes. The fact is, scientists commonly make inferences and draw conclusions about our world based primarily on the effects that a phenomenon or occurrence produces.  

Quoting the book, Science you Can’t See, “sometimes scientists ask questions about things that are not immediately observable. ……………… In these instances, scientists use inferential reasoning to figure out answers to their questions based on evidence gathered through observations and from information …………..”

The most well-known example would probably Sir Isaac Newton’s gravity apple experiment. Most people on this earth believe that God exists, but, have never seen him. They know in their hearts he is there based on their observation of the effects of his presence.

Now, admittedly, my thoughts on this subject became less frequent once we returned from Disney World
and time passed. Until we took another highly anticipated vacation to Hawaii. This was important to us, as Joanne had never seen the Arizona Memorial and other historical sites that marked the war activity. But, it was on the second leg of the trip that thoughts of keystone species began to come back into my consciousness. During one great week on the Big Island we visited the South Shore’s Black Sand Beach at Punalu’u and visited the green sea turtles basking in the sun and frolicking in the surf. 

Standing there, on the lava rock, watching the slow determination of the turtles crawling up onto the sand, and yet, juxtaposed by the 3 or 4 feeding and swimming just 50 feet or so from the shoreline, I began to think again about this potential keystone species. Green sea turtles are, in fact, an endangered species. This species has undergone a near 90 percent decline in the past 50 years or so. Largely due to habitat losses, diseases pollution near the shoreline and over-hunting. Fortunately, due to Federal protection and aggressive conservation efforts, the Green Sea Turtle population seems to be recovering.

Logic tells me to believe the evidence and make the inference that things are happening to our world and our environment. In the Pacific Northwest, especially, we watch closely the decline of the Orca population, which is partially tied to a decline in its food source-salmon. Does the decline of the salmon indicate that we humans are doing something to harm the salmon habitat?

Does the increasing scarcity of some of my backyard bird species indicate a loss of habitat? 

Is the Green Sea Turtle telling us that we can, indeed, fix this?

To those who are paying attention to those keystone indicators, the answers are obvious. But, we don’t really have to take anyone’s word for it. We can make these observations ourselves and draw our own conclusions. And do the right thing.

My Muddled Mind ~ by Jacquolyn McMurray

Most of us are doing our best to balance family, work, household responsibilities, and creative pursuits. Long ago, I learned productivity comes from the ability to multitask. Magazine articles gave me ideas on how to do many things simultaneously.  I could cook, read email, and balance on one foot at the same time.

In the last few years, some compelling research has been published about the dangers of multitasking. Articles with scary titles emerged:  Multitasking is Killing Your Brain, How Multitasking Affects Productivity, and Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Your Career. My brain and my career? 

I had to take action. I vowed to concentrate on one pursuit at a time. If I was writing, I'd set a timer and stay off social media. If I was in the kitchen, I'd pay attention to cooking or cleaning and stay off the phone. Sounded like a plan I could implement, but after a week I realized I couldn't complete all my tasks. 

Plan 2: Don't do more than two things at once. Okay. That shouldn't hurt my brain too much.  I'd pay the bills while I watched tv. That seemed to work, and my brain seemed fine. Surely I could add just one more thing. I'd keep a notebook beside me on the couch and jot down plot points for my upcoming romance novella. Three things. I could do three things without damaging my brain.

I carried my supplies to the couch: notebook, stacks of bills, pen, and my checkbook. I turned on the tv, took notes when inspired, and wrote checks.

Two weeks later, I received a letter from the Department of Water. I scanned the official looking letter claiming they had to send my check back because it was not filled out correctly. Darn, I thought, did I forget to sign it?

I looked at the signature line of the returned check. My name was there.  I glanced at the rest of the check—all the sections were filled in.  What was the problem?

Okay, fine. I’d need to actually read the letter to find out what the problem was. It couldn’t be lack of funds, could it?  It shouldn’t be.  I’d left a nice buffer in the account for incidental costs that might present themselves.

I poured another cup of coffee and read the letter thoroughly. The problem was in the "Pay to the order of" line.

Yup. Thinking about three things at once. I can only hope the office staff at the Department of Water got a good laugh out of my error and that my brain wasn't damaged too much. 

Generalists in a Specialist World ~ by Ruth Ross Saucier

     Generalists.  Are you a generalist? I am.
The world to me is full of fascinating ideas and opportunities.  I dabble informally in dozens and dozens of topics, reading widely, but never deeply.  I’m just as interested in an article about the discovery of new earthquake fault lines or the genetic aspects of pharmacology as I am articles about futurism and the predictions of science fiction or a first-person narrative of what it’s like to go caving (spelunking) in a low oxygen environment.  Or owls. Or house building. Or new technology.
     In a world that values specialists, that requires people to know a specific discipline thoroughly, I’m a misfit. Graduate schools are formed around the idea of extensive research in very particular topics. While some programs allow for cross-disciplinary study, none of them award degrees to those whose knowledge is miles wide and inches deep.
     But isn’t this just A.D.D.? Not really. I have read 700-page treatises on disease and the environment and read multiple books on any of the topics that interest me deeply.  I was a Russian literature major who read 10,000 pages in a ten-week quarter.  I can focus very well, thank you; I just can’t commit my life to the understanding of how Chekhov’s boyhood affected his portrayal of a particular character in one of his plays.  There are too many other topics in this world that fascinate me equally.
     How I discovered my generalist proclivities. A long time ago I was a graduate student in both Slavic language and the Library School. I also worked for the Slavic section of the Cataloging Division of my major university library.  There were nine full-time
employees in the section, all dealing with the selection, identification, and cataloging of Russian and eastern European books and other materials. As a part-time searcher, I was responsible for ascertaining whether new books were already owned or on order—books that were written in about fourteen different languages.
     There I got a good look one of the options available to me when I graduated Library School.  One of the librarians I worked with specialized in Bulgarian materials; another was responsible for Czech materials; and others handled Polish, Russian, and other materials from the region. The idea that I might spend my career cataloging Bulgarian periodicals made me a little nauseous.  
     But what can a generalist do? My internship at a community college library saved me.  Here, as a reference librarian, my job was to help students learn to do research.  Every day different students with different topics arrived at my door.  It was perfection! I got to help them discover and define their research and along the way I always learned something new. 
     If you think you might be a generalist, you can find articles on the internet that help you understand your strengths and options. Try googling “jobs for generalists” and you’ll find multiple leads.
[But a librarian can find much more information, something that is always true over googling! Do try your local library if you need more than google turns up.]  If you bore easily with your job, you might need to rethink your strengths – one of which may be generalism. 
Figuring out your preferences and what they mean for you is critical to finding the sort of job you’ll happily stick with for years – 37 years in my case! 
     Entry articles for Generalists: (Click links to read articles)
          Federal Jobs for Generalists
                    Are You a Generalist?
                          Generalists Rule

All photos courtesy of pexels-free photos

Seeing Double ~ by Lori Roberts

     You know what they say, “Everyone has a double somewhere!”  Well, I believe they are right.  I see people everywhere I go that looks like someone else.  My first memory of seeing a doppelganger was in my youth.  My dad was a doppelganger of his uncle, Knoful.  I remember seeing him at family reunions and thinking how much they resembled each other, but my dad wasn’t gray yet, so the resemblance wasn’t striking.
     Fast forward to my early twenties.  My father would stop on his way home from work at the local grocery store near my house.  His uncle also lived nearby.  As I made my way into the store, I saw who I thought to be my dad.  I even called out, “Dad!” to which Uncle Knoful turned.  Since he was the father of twelve children, he assumed I was one of his.  We both got a good laugh out of it, and I went on to tell Dad the next time I saw him.
     This happened one other time, but with my best friend. She saw Uncle Knoful dining with his wife at a local restaurant.  My best friend didn’t know him but told her husband that my dad was sitting across from them, only he wasn’t with my mom.  You can image! She called me later to tell me she saw my dad. I already knew before she finished. My parents were on a trip to Australia, so I knew who she’d seen.
     I’m sure you have similar stories or experiences. I have been doing research for a new novel I’m writing, set in the 1910-1912 Edwardian era. I was leafing through countless images and came across the story of a lady who’d survived not only the Titanic sinking, but two other disasters at sea as well. 
 Google Violet Jessup. She is quite the story. When I posted her picture on my history site, I started getting comments about there being a resemblance to me and some asked if this was a picture of me in character.  Of course, I didn’t see the resemblance, but out of the comments the post received, many saw something I didn’t. I share Violet’s photo aboard the Titanic, and myself as a historical character.

     I can think of several occasions throughout my life when someone approached me, thinking I was someone else. It happens to us all, I’m sure. I became interested in the idea of doppelgangers and did a bit of research after seeing an image of Nicholas Cage and his Civil War doppelganger. So, I will share a few of the ones I found. There are many! See if you agree, everyone has a twin.

Jennifer Lawrence and Zubaida Tharwat

Nicholae Grigorescu and Orlando Bloom

Ginger Rogers and Christina Aguilera

Jack Black and Paul Revere

Zora Neale Hurston and Queen Latifah

Conan O'Brien and Marshall Harvey Twitchell

unknown gentleman on the left

Maggie Gyllanhaal and Rose Wilder Lane

WWII General Douglas MacArthur and Bruce Willis

     After looking at my examples, do you agree? 

     I’ve enjoyed taking a side bar while researching. I think I’m easily distracted, which is probably why I get research for other books on my gallivanting around in history.
     I hope to have a future paranormal book (book 3 in my Lowcountry series) about something similar, only with our ancestors. I’ll keep you posted!

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions ~ by Lexa Fisher

     I recently had a frustrating week at work waiting on others to make decisions. Often decisions aren’t fun to make, and we are bombarded with them from the minute we wake up.

Five more minutes of sleep, or get up now?
This blouse? Those pants?
Stop for coffee or drink the office industrial swill?
Eat lunch or work through it?
Dinner--take-out or frozen?

     All day long it never ends. Readers are probably feeling quite anxious by now, so what is my point?

Photo by Carolina Heza on Unsplash

     Our brains need a rest. It took me many attempts over the years to finally embrace the rare moments to unplug. I can’t meditate for even half an hour, but for five to ten minutes I can still my mind. No decisions, no book plotting (a curse that keeps many writers up in the middle of the night), no chasing an elusive answer. Just be open and let a choice, idea, or solution come to me.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

     Attending a guided meditation course at my first Romance Writers of America conference provided a successful introduction to the practice of quieting one’s mind. Lori Wilde, the author who organized the course, told us how meditation has improved her writing with greater clarity and allowed her to write more quickly. I’m not the writer Lori is, but I now take a few moments to let go when a scene isn’t coming together. Instead of chasing an answer, I rest my mind. Creativity is important to me and is a chance to let my mind play.
    In my workout classes we’ve started a breathing practice at the end of class where each exhale is to let go of anything that doesn’t serve us. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system that puts us into a relaxed state. An increased intake of oxygen lets our brains function well, improving clarity and allowing us to feel grounded and productive. Angst vanishes and the possibilities open up. 

Photo by Fabian Møller on Unsplash

     We can’t let go of all the daily decisions we need to make but making time to breathe and let our minds rest for even a few minutes can allow the answers we relentlessly seek to magically appear in the stillness.

Photo by Stefan Steinbauer on Unsplash

Let's Talk About It: Death, Dying, and End of Life Planning ~ by Dr. Michael Williams

Let's Talk about Death and Dying

I was sitting in a pub a few years ago, minding my own business, when a friend popped in and asked me if I wanted to go to a “Deaf café”. I assumed this would be a meeting in a nearby café where I'd learn something about sign language and working with the deaf. “Sure,” I said, “that's something I've always wanted to know more about.”
I followed my friend out and he led me not to a café but to a nearby community centre where we found about fifteen people sitting around a table drinking cups of tea and eating cake. “Welcome to our 'Death Café'” a woman holding the teapot announced, “please, take a seat.” Not wanting to admit my mistake, I sat down.
     “What's a Death Café?” I thought, sniffing the tea for that tell-tale almond scent of cyanide. I scanned the others around the table. Everyone seemed 'normal' to me — a mixture of older men and women, a few thirty and forty-somethings, and a young couple in their mid-20s. Hardly a suicide or death cult.
     Sandra—the woman with the teapot—welcomed everyone and began by explaining what a 'Death Café' was — a safe place to talk openly about death and dying. Death Cafés, she explained, are part of a growing worldwide movement to open up the conversation about the end of life. They follow a simple format — invite people to come and talk about death over a cuppa. Any misgivings that this
was going to be some sort of religious or philosophical discussion were soon dispelled. Instead, this was simply an informal conversation or chat during which everyone was encouraged to listen and share their thoughts and feelings and experiences of death and dying. We weren't there to “fix” anyone, just listen and open our hearts and speak honestly about this difficult subject.
     There was an elderly woman who had recently lost her husband of fifty years. She wanted to share her grief and sadness. Another woman in her 50s, whose husband had died rather suddenly of cancer, shared her anxiety at sorting out the finances and legal issues. “We were so intent on fighting the cancer,” she said, “that we didn't really talk about what happens after death.” Others murmured their compassion and shared their anxieties: “I don't have a will,” confessed one; “neither do I,” admitted another. Other heads nodded around the table. Come to think of it, I didn't have one either. The talk soon turned to the legalities around death including wills, power of attorney, and advanced directives, which record your wishes for medical care in the event you can't make decisions for yourself.

Then the conversation turned to more personal experiences and the practicalities that a loved one's death entails. How would I access my father's bank account in the even he died suddenly? Where are the passwords? What happens to all his tools in the shed? Do we have to be resuscitated if we don't want to, especially if it means I'll be a 'vegetable'? Who decides? So many questions. Yet it wasn't the purpose of the Death Café to provide answers but rather to let people share with one another. I found myself thinking about the earliest death I can remember — at the age of nine, I recall coming home from school and being met at the door by my mother — “Your grandfather's dead,” she announced, “go downstairs with your brothers and keep quiet.” That was it. No further discussion.
     Suddenly, I felt the need to talk. “I wish I'd been able to meet my father's last wish,” I began, “He wanted to die at home but the doctors said he was best cared for in the hospital. I didn't know what to do. It still bothers me, especially since I now know that there were options. At the time, I just didn't know what they were.” Someone else had a similar experience. It felt good to be heard. I felt less alone. I'd never fully realized how many of us think about death and the end of life but don't really talk with anyone about it. And that's what a Death Café is about – pulling back the curtain on a subject we consider too morbid or upsetting or impolite to talk about with one another. And it's all done with a degree of civility that only tea and cake can bring to the table.

Taking Action: Good End-of-Life Planning
     A couple of weeks after attending the Death Café, I received an email from one of the Café attendees—Jane Rogers—who was offering two-weekend workshops on end-of-life planning. She was the woman whose husband had died of cancer. She was preparing a course aimed at helping people plan for the inevitable. There were about a dozen of us who showed up, mostly women but a few of us men. The focus was largely practical – putting your financial affairs in order, making important details like bank passwords and account numbers readily available to family members, updating wills (or creating them), assigning power of attorney, decluttering, and much more. Jane had prepared a “workbook” with a checklist of items to consider including your preferences of burial, cremation, or other form of disposal. Did you want a funeral or other form of ritual ceremony? Who did you want informed of your demise? Anyone you didn't want informed? Jane had obviously given this a lot of thought, certainly more than I had ever considered. (That was largely in part due to her experience around her husband Philip's untimely death, which she's discussed in detail in her book Gifted by Grief (2015, www.giftedbygrief.com)).
     What really surprised me in the days after the workshops was how less afraid I was of Death. I told Jane that it was like I'd stopped and turned around to face my fear. “I know the Grim Reaper is stalking me like he's stalking all of us,” I said, “but I feel that by acknowledging him rather than pretending that he's not there, I'm taking control of my fear. I felt empowered by making plans.”
     Since those workshops, Jane had developed her passion for end-of-life planning into a successful business – Before I Go Solutions®. She offers a range of online webinars, workshops, discussions, and even a training course for future facilitators. In 2018, I enrolled on Jane's training course for facilitators. It consisted of a dozen or more modules, broken down into weekly meetings, discussions, and lots of homework and sharing with our fellow trainees. Jane was available for our weekly coaching calls during which we watched videos and discussed readings on a range of topics related to death and dying. We shared our reflections with the class and learned from our colleagues' feedback and experiences.
     Since receiving my accreditation, I have gone on to facilitate a project with a group of seniors identified as "Experiencing Social Isolation and Loneliness." My training has been invaluable for opening up important conversations around getting older and end-of-life planning. In January of this year (2019), I co-facilitated an Elders Circle of Wisdom and Knowledge and have been invited to speak on our life stories and their relation to the choices we make in life. What I've realized is that by exploring death, I feel more alive. By opening up the conversation around end of life and dealing with the practicalities ahead of my time, I feel as if I've done a service to my loved ones. And best of all, by creating a proactive, end-of-life plan, I feel freer to enjoy my life.
     This Spring (2019), I will begin offering my own end-of-life planning service based on Jane's Before I Go Solutions® programme. As an accredited facilitator, I feel I can offer a practical and much needed service. It is estimated that about 75% of people acknowledge the importance of a good end-of-life plan, yet less than a quarter have actually done anything about it. This inevitably creates problems for loved ones when finances and property are put in limbo by the government and the legal system because there's no will or other documentation in place. Many people ignore making an end-of-life plan because they assume their family will know what to do. I can tell you, that is not always the case. Having a Power of Attorney and Advanced Directive ensures your wishes are respected. Believe me, your family will appreciate that you took the time to think this through.
     Sure, death and dying can be scary topics to talk about. I felt that way too. But opening up the conversation and talking about them has opened up my eyes and ears and my heart. Talking about these things has reduced the fear and given me the confidence to help others too. I look forward to helping you take control of your life by addressing the inevitable and creating a positive end-of-life plan.
     If you wish to know more about my end-of-life planning service, please email me at docforpeace@yahoo.com.
     To learn more about Jane Rogers' Before I Go Solutions® programmes, please visit  www.beforeigosolutions.com.

Dr Michael Williams is an accredited Before I Go Solutions® facilitator who helps folk like you create your own positive end-of-life plan. He is also a professional storyteller, story coach, mentor, and speaker. For more than 40 years, Dr. Williams has worked internationally with men and women, young adults, and children in educational, community, and therapeutic settings. 

To learn more, please visit   MICHAEL WILLIAMS STORY COACHING


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