Sharla Dawn Gorder

Writer – Speaker

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© Jem Sullivan

I am sitting at my laptop in a hotel room overlooking the dawn on another coast.  The palm trees here are impossibly tall, and the sun is not where it’s supposed to be. Ha!  We’ve been visiting family and friends in Southern California for the last week, and I’m overcome with gratitude for these people and this place. (I’m actually a little teary as I write this.) I spent a decade of my life here (the ’80s) and formed friendships so indelible, that even my neglect is powerless to erase.  

I planned this trip with this goal in mind:  to reconnect.  I have been so humbled and inspired by the response of my friends, some I haven’t seen in twenty years or more.  Thank you so much for taking the time to brave the LA traffic (and rain?!) to get together with me. I love you all—Melendy, Pattie, Keala, Linda, Kimberly, Susan, Caren, and (hopefully) Jinny. 

I’m republishing this story—the third in a series of three—that I wrote last year, with this suggestion:  Do whatever it takes to be a friend, to rekindle old friendships or deepen existing ones.  Social media is a bridge perhaps, but will never be the Island itself—the lovely warm respite—that true face-to-face (not face-time to face-time) communion offers.  Thank you my friends.  


 

Youser Manual, Part Three

I found a letter in an old keepsake box—a love letter actually.  Across the top of the single sheet of notebook paper, in careful cursive, was the salutation:  To Sharla with love.  My heart fluttered a little to read those words.  The letter was dated March 10, 1975.  We were sixteen.

It is not hard to recall this love from my adolescence.  It was a good love, a strong love, a true love.  It is not hard to remember this love because it was an enduring love—and to this day remains good, and strong and true.  In fact, we had lunch together, this love and I, on Saturday.  Along with my husband and son.  Continue Reading

You might call it coincidence, intuition, or even wishful—or magical—thinking.

            The scientifically inclined among you might attribute it to synchronicity, “The Law of Truly Large Numbers” or (if you wanna get really fancy) the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.  The more religiously or mystically attuned might call it a small miracle, a manifestation, or an answer to prayer.

            I call it freaky.   

            We’ve all been there.  You’re in the kitchen foraging for a snack when a long-lost friend crosses your mind—just as your phone pings.  You’re driving down I-10 thinking about pancakes, and a billboard advertising the same flashes by.  Or you almost run over a toad in the road while—on the radio—Three Dog Night waxes philosophical about Jeremiah. (He was a good friend of mine.)  And for a week every station seems to be playing an inordinate number of frog songs.  Ha!   

            I was walking the beach at dawn last Friday, as I always do, and singing, as I often do.  I’ve developed a fun habit of learning song lyrics or inspiring literary passages as I walk.  I’ll pull them up on my phone, or even print them out, and practice them as the sun rises.  Continue Reading

            My friend Laura said I’d ruined it for her.  I felt a little bad about that.  It really was beautiful.  But the truth is, it’s just not my style.  Maybe when I was younger, but not now.  

            See, there is a seashell that I simply don’t like—and ironically, it is among the prettiest, hardiest, and glossiest on the beach.  We ran across a whole slew of them while beach-combing after a storm the other day.  Laura bent down and picked up a fat one—as big as half-smoked cigar—and I said, “Oh, I don’t much like olive shells.”  She looked at me like I’d said I hate ice-cream, puppies and newborn babies. I knew I had some splainin’ to do. Continue Reading

(I love this story—a re-post from 2016.  Happy fa-la-la-la-la-ing, y’all.)


And we’re off!!!

‘Tis the season, y’all—in case you haven’t noticed.  It started well before Halloween this year, and now we’re already nearly a week into that post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas countdown.

And folks are cranky. 

It doesn’t help that this hectic holiday season falls within days of the most contentious political race in recent memory.  We’re starting out frazzled.  And we’ve still got 25 days to get through—and ideally, enjoy. 

And I think we can.  I certainly think we should.  But, for many of us, it will take conscious effort.  For me it will.  I have so much on my plate right now in addition to the cooking, shopping, decorating, hostessing and the other fa-la-la-la-la-ing that the season entails.  It’s mostly good, exciting stuff—marketing my book, teaching my classes, writing my blog, getting ready for a big family vacation, collecting seashells and sunrises…

But it is also a wistful time for me—and for most everyone I know.  It seems we have all lost someone we love, and for better or for worse, the holidays shine a spotlight on that empty place at the table, that empty stocking on the mantle.  We wonder what we will get them for Christmas, before we realize that they are no longer with us.  It’s an emotional time. Continue Reading

         The sky at dawn—so much lovelier with clouds.

         Likewise, the beach—so much more interesting after storms.

         The metaphors that these observations suggest to me sometimes seem trite, even reductive, on the surface.  Clichés, song lyrics and memes abound: Every cloud has a silver lining; what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; after a storm comes a calm.  (Don’t try telling that to the folks in Panama City—yet.)

         Still, I see it every morning—the sky at dawn really is lovelier with clouds.  The beach truly is more interesting after storms.  And despite the fact that bright sunny days and tranquil seas are the metaphors we’ve all come to associate with happiness, I’m learning that it truly is the inclement weather that enriches my life and inspires me to become a better human.  And it’s not just because stormy days make me appreciate the sunny ones.  No, I think I’m on the verge of learning to appreciate the storms themselves. Continue Reading