Sharla Dawn Gorder

Writer – Speaker

Buy The Book HERE

© Jem Sullivan

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

Youser Manual, Part Two

I got unfriended a couple of weeks ago.  It wasn’t very nice.  Yet it was very necessary.  And I swear I’m not sitting here snacking on sour grapes when I tell you this: I am relieved.  A little sad.  A lot baffled. But nonetheless relieved.

Unfriend.  What a hostile sounding word.  Everybody knows what it means in the context of social media—to remove someone from your list of “friends” on Facebook.  But fortunately, that can happen without you even knowing it, and you may not have been actual friends to begin with.  In real life however, when you are “unfriended” you usually know it.  And it hurts to be “removed.”   To be dismissed.  To be rejected.  (Abandonment issues, anyone?)

I have been removed, dismissed and rejected before.  And I have, myself, been the remover, the dimisser, the rejecter.  Sometimes the end slowly evolves; other times, it’s like a you’ve stepped on a landmine.  Whoa!  What just happened?  Is that my leg over there? Continue Reading

What if your husband came with a “user manual”?  Or your boss?  Or even your new friend at the club?  What if you, yourself, came equipped with a little booklet of instructions designed to help others understand how you best function, what might cause you to short circuit, and, perhaps most importantly, what helps facilitate enjoyable or helpful “usage” of you (yousage, ha!) in the context of important relationships in your life? 

What if? 

Would your user manual resemble the tome issued with the 1975 Betamax video recorder, about 9000 pages—translated into every language but Pig-Latin?  Or would your instructions fit neatly on a label—machine wash, drip dry?  Or maybe it would be something in between?

For weeks I’ve been pondering the idea of a “relationship user manual” or “friendship user manual,” based on a business article that my husband shared with me last month about a guy named Jay Desai.  He is the young CEO of health technology startup, PatientPing.   Continue Reading


Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.
We cannot cure the world of sorrows,
But we can choose to live in joy.
                                                     Joseph Campbell

Easier said than done—as is most good advice. 

(Spoiler alert:  The “Godwink” post script to this story is freaky.)

The world feels scary right now—rife with sorrows, cluttered with angry voices, drained of joy. Children die as they crouch beneath their desks clutching makeshift shields by LL Bean and JanSport—flimsy backpacks no match for bullets. Politicians and pundits alienate us from each other and from our own true selves as though it is their job to “disunite” this nation (so ironically named for the opposite—the United States).  Beloved icons grow old and die—or worse, ignore the first part, and go ahead and die young without even consulting me.  The hard stuff just keeps on happening.  I’m reluctant to turn on the TV.  Social media is often worse. The radio is too noisy no matter what the volume.  And silence screams loudest of all when anxiety and fear turn my brain into a bad neighborhood after dark.  Continue Reading

I’ve begun writing a column for the Island Times Newspaper inspired by my photos of Pensacola Beach at dawn.  I’ve gone ‘round and ‘round in my head about what to call it:  Sharla Dawn at Dawn, seems a little egotistical.  Crayon Dawn requires too much explanation.  Beach Musings—a play on Pat Conroy’s 1995 title, Beach Music—is a little abstruse (as is the word “abstruse”), and Sucking Marrow, had my editor rethinking her decision to hire me.  (Ha!  Not really.)

But, of course, that one was my fave. 

Then, on second thought, I wasn’t sure I really wanted the work “suck” to be associated with my writing any more often than absolutely necessary.  Continue Reading