I've just carved out one Saturday a month to attend the Suncoast Writer's Guild meetings.
While there are writer's groups all over, the Suncoast Guild has many exceptional members.
I'm happy to oblige when they sometimes ask me to present a writing seminar for them. But I find they teach me as much as I teach them.
I don't have the same aspirations of the other guild members. I don't want to write a book, as most of the other members are doing. I've always loved newspaper writing and I'm content to concentrate on that.
And to tell the truth, the guild members are much more ambitious than I am. I like being with them because their creativity is contagious. So is their energy and enthusiasm.
Linda Lou, one of my favorite members, recently challenged me to "write something you're not being paid to write. Write something just for the joy of writing."
That spurred me on to a different kind of writing that I found to be joyful and empowering. I think I'll go on doing that.
Another member, Phyllis Reading, just tickled my memory bank and got my creative juices flowing when she shared a little essay she wrote called "Chocolate Covered Strawberry Moments."
What a delicious way to describe exquisite moments so precious that we hold them in our heart forever.
This is what Phyllis wrote about her chocolate covered strawberry moment with her mother.
"I remember the time I went to visit my mother when she was getting on in years. I felt I had to help her as much as I could in my time there.
While I was busy cleaning and cooking, she asked me to sit and talk to her instead. But I was doing what I thought I should do.
The radio was on and a waltz tune filled the room. I asked her if she could waltz. She said, 'Not very well. I never was a good dancer and now I have a bad leg.'
I stopped what I was doing and said, 'Well, I have a bum leg too because of my fall off a bicycle.'
I took her hand, helped her out of her chair, then we waltzed – her bum leg and my bum leg together.
As we danced around her small living room, the music sent us to a world of ladies in beautiful ball gowns with their gentlemen partners dancing and dancing. It was a wonderful chocolate covered strawberry moment."
Phyllis was so grateful she took time for that waltz because her mother passed away a year later. It's now one of her most cherished memories.
As I read Phyllis's little essay, it brought to mind my best chocolate covered strawberry moment with my own mother.
At the time, my mother's mind was gone, stolen away by the cruel thief we call Alzheimer's disease.
Every time I went to see her in the nursing home, those visits tore me apart. But while I was there I kept chatting with her even though she had lost the capacity for speech.
Worse of all, she no longer knew me. The doctor said her mind was totally gone.
When I told my friend Andy Babinchak I was going to visit my mother even though I knew it would tear me apart emotionally, he told me he was going to pray day and night that I would have a good visit.
"It will be a special visit, you'll see," he promised.
During the day of the visit, my mother didn't even look up when I went over to talk to her. There was no recognition of my presence at all.
Her face remained blank while her hands nervously fingered the baby beads they had given her. She didn't even lift her head when I talked to her.
After I was with her for a while, I left to go to the ladies' room. When I came back to her room, something astonishing happened.
Mom looked up at me and her face lit up. Then she said the first word she spoke in over a year: She said my name, "Pattie," as she lovingly stroked my face. For just one brief moment, I had my mother back.
There was not a greater gift anyone could have given me.
On the way home, I thought about my friend Andy's prayers. It was proof positive that prayers are powerful.
It was also somewhat of a miracle that I got to hear my mother's voice. She died a year later without ever saying another word to anyone.
But I stored that precious moment in my heart to keep forever.
I find that our best moments tend to disappear into the ever-busy, clogged computer we call "our mind."
One event gets layered on top of another. We may have wonderful moments we think we will never forget. But often, those moments are lost in our daily living.
That's one reason why I'm keeping a personal journal. When I read over it, I'm reminded of special times I have forgotten.
Phyllis is right when she says certain chocolate covered strawberry moments will warm us forever.
Ponder this for a while: What chocolate covered strawberry moment warms your heart?
If you want to share a special moment, send me an email.