Sharla Dawn Gorder

Writer – Speaker

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© Jem Sullivan

 Stop counting your blessings.

            Yes, you read that right.  Just stop.  Stop counting your blessings; I think I’ve got a better idea. 

            I’m not averse to enumerated lists, mind you. Heaven’s no!  I confess that I’m rather compulsively drawn to the lure of the list.  I recently ran across a spiral notebook in a box of old diaries from when I was about 15, that was nothing but lists:  lists of everything I’d eaten when I’d been on a diet, (which was always), lists of everything I’d spent (when I was trying to save my allowance for Joni Mitchell’s new “Court and Spark” record), lists of everything I’d borrowed (Diana Swift’s off-the-shoulder Indian print maxi-dress, which I still haven’t returned), and everything I’d loaned (most everything in my closet).  There were shopping lists, homework lists and prayer lists. I even ran across a list of every “boyfriend” I’d ever had—it was alarmingly long for a fifteen year-old!  Ha! 

            No, I love me some lists—I write a “to-do” one just about every day of my life—and at the very top of each one is this cryptic reminder:  TIS.  (I’ll decode that for you later.) Continue Reading

(Here are a couple of stories from my newspaper column in the Island Times.)

Today on my walk, I came upon some itty-bitty footprints, a toddler’s, I assume.  They were perfect little “Hang Ten” feet like that ubiquitous logo from the ‘70s I loved so much.  The sweet little feet were pointing toward the Gulf, but I followed them for a few paces away from the water and toward the street until they suddenly disappeared.

         It made me think of that lovely old poem, “Footprints in the Sand,” but from an entirely different perspective. Continue Reading

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