Heartbreaking to remember

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Charles Dickens was right: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Some of the worst occurred on September 12 as I walked along New York City sidewalks, which were plastered with pictures of missing people. I struggled to maintain my composure as I looked at thousands of faces taped to every available inch of fence, lamp post, mailbox and store window. “HAVE YOU SEEN…” was emblazoned across the top of each poster by relatives or friends desperate for news. The never-ending gallery was heartbreaking.

Late in the afternoon my photographer friend cruised past police barricades to shoot Ground Zero. I walked home with her daughter, Shane, when suddenly the unmistakable hum of an airplane engine buzzed overhead. Without thinking, I pushed the child up against a building and shielded her, while staring upward. People around us on the street also stood frozen with fear…each one thinking, “No, not again.” It turned out to be a military plane, our military, but the incident left us shaking and anxious. The horror was still too fresh.

That evening, I joined Barbara and her daughter at a prayer service in their synagogue. I might have been raised as a Roman Catholic, but that night, I understood Hebrew.

When we returned to their apartment, I made the first of many calls to US Airways to see about retrieving my suitcase, which had been impounded at La Guardia. After hours on hold, an airline employee asked for a description of my bag in order to locate it.

“It’s black,” I began.

“And I bet it has wheels and a pull-up handle,” she said.

This didn’t look promising.

She tried another approach. “Okay, if I open your suitcase, what will I see that tells me it’s yours?”

“Well, I have a pair of black slacks, a black turtleneck…and, um, a black skirt.”

I was in New York for Fashion Week, for God’s sake. Editors wear black, not Hawaiian prints. But I learned a valuable lesson: Something in your luggage must be easy to identify.

Miraculously, the airline found my black-wheeled-suitcase-with-handle in the impounded baggage. However, when I returned to Michigan, I marched into “Frederick’s of Hollywood” and bought the loudest leopard bikini panties – with a strategically placed red heart – that I could find. For many years, they were the final item I packed on every trip. I wanted to be sure that if another airline employee ever asked, ‘If I open your suitcase, what will I see?’ I’d have a much better answer.

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers and Anchored Together.

Don’t forget sunscreen

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Labor Day weekend approaches and a friend of mine expressed a desire to go for a clothing-optional getaway. I, myself, once visited “an adult-only, clothing-optional retreat” north of Tampa – FULLY CLOTHED and carrying a NOTEBOOK – in my role as a reporter for The Tampa Tribune. (I wrote about the clothing store located in the nudist colony.) While there, I discovered most clothes-free destinations have more rules than a boarding school. Here’s the skinny on what you need to know—and what you shouldn’t do—at a nude beach.

  1. It’s not polite to stare.

Once you’re on a nudist beach, don’t stare, gawk, point, or giggle. Obviously, you will be required to look at your fellow sunbathers at some point, whether greeting them or fetching their Frisbee from your beach towel. Hint: Wearing sunglasses helps, but regulars insist that at a certain point, you simply stop noticing all the bare skin.

2. Don’t expect supermodel bodies.

Contrary to popular belief, most nude beaches are not sexy places ripped straight out of the pages of a men’s magazine. Patrons come in all sizes, shapes, and states of physical fitness, and very few look like Liam Hemsworth in the buff. (On my brief visit I noticed a lot of surgical scars, too.)

  3. Put your cell phone away.

Never, ever take anyone’s photo without their permission.  Many nudist beaches even prohibit photography.

4. Look for posted signs regarding clothing-required venues.

Pack a beach tote with readily accessible garments in case you need to suit up to use the facilities. Most nudist beaches and resorts require you use a towel to sit on public chairs as well.

Finally, don’t forget your sunscreen. Areas that are normally protected by swim trunks and bikinis will need a lot of it, preferably one that’s gentle on sensitive skin.

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of Anchored Together and The Anchor Clankers.

Family reading

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Have you considered a family book club this summer? Even if it’s hard to get your crew motivated, don’t give up. No matter how much they balk, you’ll have a good time discussing the book (and anything else that comes up!)

It’s a great way to spend device-free time together. You don’t have to choose a serious or literary book. (It can even be one of their required reading selections.) Family book clubs have no rules, except read something and have fun. 

Here are a few tips:

  1. Any family member can nominate a book.
  2. The whole family votes on which books to read.
  3. Be realistic regarding the number of books you’ll get through and the length of each. 
  4. Make discussions special. Combine it with something else your family enjoys. Go to a restaurant. Have a picnic. Dress in character.
  5. Mixing reading levels is fine as long as the youngest can listen to audio versions of advanced level books, or an older person reads to a younger. Young readers love when older family members read their picks. Older siblings get a kick out of feeling nostalgic rereading kiddie books.
  6. Naughty words and/or scenes are hits.
  7. Take turns leading the discussions. Be flexible, but prepare questions in case there’s a conversation lull. Many books come with discussion guides.
  8. Be open to unconventional genres and reading tools (like audiobooks or e-books).
  9. Don’t cancel, even if everyone hasn’t finished the book.
  10. KEEP IT FUN!

Award-winning author Renee Garrison has written two books on her life with midshipmen at the Sanford Naval Academy, The Anchor Clankers and Anchored Together.

Getting teens to read

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During the teenage years, enthusiasm for reading can wane. Maybe it has to do with getting smartphones, which provide a different type of entertainment. Or the desire to spend more time with friends. Maybe it’s because they now also have assigned summer reading for school, which sucks a bit of the joy out of this pastime. 

If any of this sounds familiar to you, and you’re wondering how to get your kid’s nose back into a book, you’re not alone. One way to encourage summer reading is to make it relaxing and offer some escape, especially after the challenging year we’ve just had. (We all need a beach read sometimes.) So don’t pressure them into anything too challenging. This is a chance to use their imagination. Or break out the Harry Potter set and let ‘em re-read old favorites. And if your summer plans involve a long car ride, try an audio book to make the trip go faster.

Reading has so many benefits, including increasing language fluency and vocabulary.  But it also helps our kids to empathize with others by learning about unfamiliar experiences. What better way to spend their summer?

Award-winning author Renee Garrison has written two books on her life with midshipmen at the Sanford Naval Academy, The Anchor Clankers and Anchored Together.

Caring for Mom

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She starts each day slamming kitchen cabinet doors, in her never-ending search for a coffee cup, spoon or napkin. She is angry and wants me to know it.

My mother-in-law has dementia and she lives with us, now. We’re trying to keep her safe, out of a facility. She resists our help.

Next month we shall celebrate her 96th birthday. In one brief moment of clarity at the breakfast table, she looked directly at me and said, “You know, there is such a thing as living too long.” I say nothing.

Even though we know Mom’s dementia behaviors are symptoms of a disease and not intentional, dealing with them is often emotionally and physically challenging. We see a range of unpredictable behaviors including aggression, mood swings, and repeated questioning or manipulation.

“Why can’t I live alone? Why did you steal my car? Where are my things?”

Dementia behaviors like aggression peak after a disruption in their routine. (Living with family is a disruption.) She becomes particularly aggressive around sunset.

Still, we persist.

This is Mom, a kind, giving person who would be appalled to see how the end of her life would play out. We remain calm and supportive. We have to.

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers

and Anchored Together.

A little R&R (reading and relaxation)

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If you aspire to read more books, you may find that reading also can help you relax. Studies have shown that reading for just six minutes can reduce your stress levels up to 68 percent.

So instead of deciding which shows to binge-watch next, head down to the library. Whether you prefer science fiction, romance or a good mystery, devoting even a little time to a book will give you a chance to let go of the day.

Award-winning author Renee Garrison recently released her second novel, “Anchored Together.

A golden anniversary

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Fifty years ago, Walt Disney World Resort opened in 1971, featuring the Magic Kingdom, two hotels, lakes, lagoons, golf courses, and a campground. Roy O. Disney delivered the dedication speech, which included the following words:

“Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney… and to the talents, the dedication and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring joy and inspiration and new knowledge to all who come to this happy place… a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn—together.”

I visited the park with the Sanford Naval Academy Drill Team and Band. My father, the school Commandant, arranged for the midshipmen to perform in front of Cinderella’s Castle. It was exciting to watch, and also to walk through the underground tunnels usually reserved for cast members. I recently found a Polaroid picture from that day – no, Dopey was not my date. (However, given my outfit, I look as though I ought to be working in It’s a Small World.)

Impossible to believe that fifty years have passed, since it seems we all still need “a happy place.”

Award-winning author Renee Garrison has written two books on her life with midshipmen at the Sanford Naval Academy, The Anchor Clankers and Anchored Together.

Looking for luck

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I’ve never found a four-leaf clover.

Yet, Alabama realtor Frankie Osborn has collected sixty-five-thousand pressed clovers with four leaves or more – including two prized clovers with NINE LEAVES! (As the Irish lore goes, the first three leaves stand for faith, hope, and love; the fourth harbors the luck.) 

Osborn has a few tips for finding them: Visit a field on a warm but cloudy day (the leaves curl up in direct sun), and scan for a square among the triangle shapes. Bring along a small bag to collect your trophies, and, once home, press them to dry in a phone book. (Hopefully, you still have one.)

I’m going to give it a try. We all could use a little more luck, right?

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of Anchored Together and The Anchor Clankers.

Renee Interviews Chris Gibson

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Author, Content Creator, and Multi-Media Expert Chris Gibson will speak in July at FAPACon 2021, the Florida Authors & Publishers Annual Conference. His YouTube channel blasted past 30,000 subscribers recently.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about. 

 Born in Dallas Texas, my early background was an Executive Vice President of Marketing for several Fortune 100 companies. I decided to follow my passion and became an internationally known and respected holistic health and lifestyle expert with four bestselling books on effective alternative healing: One book,  “Acne Free in 3 Days,” sold over 1 million copies and landed me on several best sell lists as well as national TV and Radio shows. 

What inspired you to write your book? What is the story behind the story?

I have a passion in self -directed health and wellness. I write to help others find alternative lifestyle changes that positively impact their lives and health,

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

With my books it was being taken seriously as a self-published author in the beginning. However, I was relentless and in things for the long game. 

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?

 Appearing on my first TV show I understood the power of visibility and credibility on a books path to success. 

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

Too many across genres to list – but my favorites are self help, law of attraction, books by self-made people. 

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?

Because I script my YouTube videos and have an active blog – I do write every day.

What are your interests outside of writing? My YouTube channel, travel, and creating media.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.

My best advice is to be on top of and in the game with your book and its promotion. Have a budget before launching it so you are able to get it visible and treat your book as a business. Network with other authors and develop a presence on social media. 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of Anchored Together and President-Elect of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Time for Happy Thoughts

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I read an article that said everyone can develop skills to improve our optimism. As the product of parochial schooling, I confess to being skeptical.

But the one thing I am sure of is that every optimist surrounds themself with positive people.

Mother used to say, “You are only as good as the company you keep.”  If you’re around gloomy people, there’s a good chance you won’t be smiling. I am now making it my mission to dodge negativity. I plan to surround myself with supportive friends who have positive outlooks. As they say, if you want to soar with the eagles, you have to stop hanging out with the ducks.

Optimism is a learned habit, and it can be contagious – even during quarantine. Surround yourself with people who can infect you with positivity.  Then, pass your new good mood on to a friend or stranger – let somebody have that parking space, let that person with only a few items cut in front of you at the market.  The simple act of doing something nice for others is actually a good pick-me-up all by itself.

Award-winning author Renee Garrison’s latest book is Anchored Together.