Americans seem to be caught up, via our current government, in a maelstrom of unkindness. And unfortunately our resistance efforts, our shouts and complaints, do not seem to have much power against the declarations of a president intent on voter suppression, denial of asylum to refugees and immigrants, defense of bigotry, reduction of medical care to the poor and disabled, and unjust expulsion of non-citizens who work hard and pay taxes. Somehow our resistance falters in the face of this governmental machine churning out cruelty with apparent ease.
So, here is what I propose we do: implement a new form of resistance by countering every mean-spirited directive from the White House with as many small acts of kindness as we can muster, so that those acts become the center of our lives, rather than the madness emanating from the Oval Office. For each report of intolerance or malice, let’s resist by going out of our way to perform kindly actions, demonstrating that goodness still rules in our country, that most people are capable of charity and love.
Every time you hear a report of or come across mean-spirited behavior, do something to counteract it. First, speak out against that behavior on the spot. After that, pile up a raft of daily acts of kindness--send a get well card to someone you barely know, call a friend who may be lonely, thank a congressman who espouses your values, write a check to a charity (victims of Hurricane Harvey need our help), volunteer at a soup kitchen; contribute clothes and household items to Goodwill, Big Brothers, or Vietnam Veterans of America; send an unexpected gift to a relative, cook a special meal for your spouse, pay the toll for the car behind you, tip the kids working at the ice cream stand; if you are fortunate enough to have such people in your life, speak kindly to and generously thank the landscapers and cleaning people who work so hard to keep your life orderly; let someone--anyone--know how much you appreciate having that person in your life. And don’t forget to graciously thank anyone who offers a kindness to you!
Can we erase bigotry and injustice by doing these things? Of course not. But what we can do is flood our little corners of the world with kindness, espousing values of fairness, tolerance, and generosity that America has always been known for. That sort of resistance, if done on a massive scale, could be the most powerful of all.
Over the past few days I’ve had the misfortune of simultaneously having to weed thousands of unwanted plants from my garden and reading Jane Mayer’s Dark Money. For anyone who has not yet read this instructive piece of nonfiction, Dark Money is about the undermining of our country’s democratic system by the infamous libertarian Koch brothers and other billionaire business owners, men who are determined to influence elections in order to protect their vast fortunes. Forget Russian influence--these American magnates are the guys to worry about--far more insidious, in my opinion.
Though I spend hours in my garden pulling unwanted plants, seedlings, and shoots of aggressive perennials, I know that beneath the surface, weeds continue to seed and spread even as I labor, which means I will be weeding again later this summer or into the fall and next year. It’s a tedious task--somewhat futile, perhaps--but one that is unavoidable if I want my garden to thrive and not get completely overrun. As I’ve been weeding I’ve been thinking about the Koch brothers and their right wing buddies feeding their dark money into our political races, unseating Democratic candidates wherever they can. The Kochs and their operatives systematically scatter lies and character assassinations to seed their ideology into the soil of the American populace, poisoning the well of democratic spirit.
With regard to my garden, one might ask, why don’t I just use a weed killer? Why not hire a landscape crew to pull those nasty weeds? Well, it’s not that simple. Weed killers kill nearby plants, so that’s not an option. And the landscapers don’t always know the subtleties of what’s a weed and what isn’t. So, that leaves most of the cleanup pretty much to me.
And what about those dark money guys? Why can’t they be exterminated or brought down by the government? Well, unfortunately they now have their fingers in all branches of our government, and taking them out will be no easy task. Not until the populace comes to understand these billionaire’s true purpose will anything get done. Makes me wonder if, when we rail against Trump, we are aiming at the wrong target.
All I know is, as I pluck and pull and toss weeds into my wheelbarrow, I wish with each yank I could be extricating the dark money people from our society and keeping their evil seeds from spreading and destroying our democracy. Stretch, pull, yank, and toss. I just have to keep at it.
Here’s a link to some reviews of Dark Money on Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/book/show/27833494-dark-money?ac=1&from_search=true
Friday, March 10, 2017
This morning our internet went out. It was working fine until our provider’s service truck appeared at the end of the driveway. The service guy lifted himself to the top of the pole, futzed around for a few minutes, drove away, and lo and behold, our internet was gone.
My first bizarre thought was that government forces were at work: operatives had seen my political posts on social media, didn’t care for them, and cut off my ability to write any more. Yes, truly bizarre, I know.
Anyway, we ended up calling for service, and I was resigned to waiting all day for the technician to arrive. But in the meantime, I realized I had an opportunity. Time I’d normally be using to screw around on my iPad could actually go to something else. I decided to go outdoors and enjoy what will probably be one of our last snowy days this year.
Wandering around the property, I yanked fallen branches clogging the brook, checked out the extent of deer browsing on the azaleas, and traipsed along my woodland paths, enjoying the big furry flakes falling all around me. At one point, the hooty calls between two barred owls caught my attention. The owls were quite close to each other—mating calls? Normally I would look that up on the internet—but, no, not today.
Flocks of house finches and juncos chirped and twittered from the pepperidge trees; they seemed to be enjoying the fresh snow, too. And Sasha, letting the white stuff collect on her golden fur, waited patiently for me to throw her some snowballs.
The peace and near silence were refreshing and brought me back to a place I used to be familiar with—a long time ago, or so it seems. A place where nature held a much larger share of my mental energy. Where I could get totally absorbed in the sight of water flowing in the brook, the smell of wet soil, the sound of a woodpecker drumming on the bark of an old beech tree.
Recently though, in the last few months in particular, I’ve become obsessed with what the internet offers me—the world is at our fingertips, after all—especially the political news. Ever-present and ever-available, it consumes me. Columnist Thomas Friedman said it in an interview a few weeks ago: Americans have a new addiction—we cannot get enough of the troubling and sometimes bizarre news cycles that confront us daily. Gruesome stuff, surely, but I’m obsessed with it anyway. I find I’m itching to check in with the news several times a day to learn what egregious remarks have been made, what damage has been done to our democracy, our civil rights, our health and security. And what, if anything, anybody is doing about it. It’s like watching a horror movie or a TV crime drama full of violence and grisly images. I am enthralled, watching avidly, but waiting and hoping for some sort of fair resolution, some kind of good ending to the nightmare.
But not today. Today I’m free of all that (other than writing about it). And as TV service is out, too, I am released for a bit from my obsession. Thank you, Optimum, for this brief (I expect) time with no internet service and no TV news. It’s still snowing outside. And I plan to take full advantage. I’m going out to throw more snowballs for Sasha.
What an exhilarating day! The Women’s March on NYC exceeded my expectations by miles. I hadn’t been to a protest march in fifty years and hardly knew what to expect, but this march was phenomenal.
As soon as George and I got off the train in Grand Central we sensed the extra energy in Manhattan. We saw women in pink hats carrying signs and banners. We knew we were in for a great day. Approaching 47th Street and Second Avenue we threaded into a throng of excited, energized people. A ragtag brass band of tuba, trombone, and drums pulled us along onto Second Avenue where people were so tight, shoulder to shoulder, we were barely moving as we merged with crowds coming from the east and north. Smiles and looks of determination surrounded us. Thousands of hand-made signs bobbed in the air.
Happy, friendly, energized Americans jammed the avenue. Young people, parents with infants, seniors, people in wheelchairs, Muslims, Asians, blacks, whites, gays, and straights made their way along the route. Women were the intended primary focus of this march, but there were throngs of men, as well.
PROTEST SIGNS GALORE
George and I had brought a sign promoting Equality, Fairness, and Tolerance, but the others signs ranged from obscene to hilarious – many of them championing women’s rights, but far more expressing outrage at the new administration in DC. “NYET, TRUMP!”, “IKEA has better cabinets!”, “UNFIT”, “WE REJECT PUTIN’S BITCH”, "A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN YOUR FACE”, “KEEP YOUR TINY HANDS OFF MY RIGHTS”, “TRUTH NOT TWEETS”, and on and on. One of my favorites was “FREE MELANIA”, which for some reason struck me as hysterically funny. But perhaps the best was “Can we just admit we have taken this ‘anyone can grow up to be president’ thing just a bit too far?”
George and I marched—walked, stumbled, or inched along would be more accurate—for four and a half hours, and I was smiling the entire way. What a joy to be in this energetic, creative crowd.
All along the route protest chants rang out, but my favorite was “TELL ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!--THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” shouted again and again and followed by a huge whooping cheer. All afternoon at regular intervals we heard from behind us a deafening roar of cheering voices, a wave that made its way to us and in which we joined. The sound of thousands and thousands of defiant cries and whistles resonated through the streets of Manhattan all day long.
On the sidelines people were standing on bollards or shinnying up light poles to get a better view of the crowd. People were hanging from building scaffolding cheering us on. Many others just stood and took photos of the marchers. But up in the windows we spotted a brown-skinned woman cleaning office windows; she waved her bright blue cleaning rag at us. And we waved back. Dark-skinned porters at the windows of a luxury hotel smiled and gave us thumbs up and waved, and we waved back. Children and mothers and apartment dwellers hung signs out their windows and waved, and we waved back. “We are all in this together,” I said to the woman next to me. She smiled and agreed.
To be part of this throng of half a million people was utterly exhilarating and empowering. As one sign declared, “This is not a moment, this is a Movement,” an expression of hope, a pledge of continued resistance to threats on our human rights. I was so proud to be a part of this extraordinary event, and, moving forward, to be carrying a banner for decency.
Well, it’s been quite a year. Some goals met, a number of accomplishments under my belt, and some disappointments, as well.
On the positive side, I’ve met my goal of reading fifty books this year, and many of them were superb, giving me hours of relaxing pleasure. A few books were clunkers, but the rest made up for those.
I’ve written three short stories this year and had great fun doing it. I made 75 submissions to literary journals, an accomplishment in itself, and I had four stories accepted for publication. It’s so gratifying to know someone is actually reading my words and finding them worthy of passing on to others. I’ve also written seven blog posts. Now, that’s puny compared to most blog writers, but there’s this little thing called time that often seems in short supply. Maybe that’s because of the 42 mini book reviews I’ve written on Goodreads.com this year. All this sounds like a lot of writing but surely a good deal less than some of my writer friends. My friend Alison McBain entered NaNoWriMo and wrote 50,000 words—an entire novel—in a month!
One major accomplishment for my 2016 was getting this website up and running. It’s a simple one, but I was thrilled that I managed to create it all by myself (with the help of Weebly support, of course).
So lots of great things happened this year in my writing life and the rest of my life, too—plenty of travel and fun times with George and with friends. However, in early November my momentum took a hit, and I was plunged into a funk from which I’m still not fully recovered. The unthinkable happened, and soon a man with the demeanor and intellect of a fifth-grader will be taking the reins to lead our country. It’s an ugly and frightening prospect; a very rocky road lies ahead. As a recent acquaintance quipped, “Is it four years yet?”
So, we will simply have to press on, speaking out loudly against injustice and incompetence and standing up for values we know to be best: unity, brotherly love, acceptance, and equality. Hopefully we’ll be able to somehow make things right.
My best wishes go to all my readers for joyous holidays and a bright new year!
As I set pencil to paper (really!) to lament the immense invasion of TV and computer screens into our lives, I see how my handwriting has deteriorated. And it’s all because, like most people, I spend so much time typing into computers and staring at screens.
Remember, if you are old enough, when television first came into American households, how our mothers complained, “You’re going to ruin your eyesight if you keep staring at that thing!” We ignored our mothers, of course, and continued to gape in utter fascination at “Captain Video” and “Howdy Doody” and “The Lone Ranger.” Our eyes were glued, there was no unsticking them, and thus began the Age of Screens, an era that has now progressed far beyond what those early video creators might have imagined.
Hardly a day, (hah, an hour!) goes by that I am not surrounded by screens—my desktop computer, my laptop, my tablet, my phone, the function screen on my printer, and the television, of course. And beyond home is as bad: the super market screens everywhere (why does my little IGA have opposite the checkout a huge screen advertising septic service companies?), the TV display of financial news at the bank, the screens attached to the equipment at the gym, search screens and self check-out screens at the library; wide screens at bars and restaurants and servers’ ordering screens. (It is a rare and delightful thing to find a restaurant having no screens whatsoever). One cannot avoid screens in taxicabs or airplanes; in fact, a passenger is aggressively confronted with them, and while you might have the ability to shut them off, there are always myriad screens everywhere else. Outdoor signage is increasingly relying on screens. Screens large and small are impossible to avoid.
A common sight in public is a group of people sitting or standing or crossing the street (!), their eyes transfixed on screens—laptops, tablets, watches, and phones. A person sitting in an airport or coffee shop without his or her eyes glued to a screen is perhaps an oddity.
Recently I had the rare pleasure of enjoying a lovely spa where electronic devices were politely forbidden, and yet one woman, wrapped in a lovely white robe, insisted on blithely scrolling away on her phone, completely oblivious to the serene environment surrounding her. And on a long hike the other day, absorbing nature in all its glory, George and I encountered a young man sitting in the middle of the rocky trail, his phone screen before him. What on earth? Taking a selfie? Sending a quick text? Good grief. And it is not uncommon to see a young family in a restaurant, each member with his or her own device at hand, ignoring each other as they stare at their screens. Is there some sort of addiction at work here? Or do we use screens as a way to avoid human contact?
Of course, I am as guilty as the next person; my tablet is on first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I can’t seem to help myself.
Delights of the Electronic Age
But is my plaint justified? Don’t computer and TV screens provide us vast amounts of information and infinitely beautiful images? Don’t they represent convenience and pleasure? Of course they do. And I wouldn’t want to be without them. But sixteen hours a day? Maybe not.
Fortunately the ruination of eyesight our mothers predicted all those years ago has not come to pass. But a mental mindset for information overload has been established—actually, has captivated us—and is unlikely to disappear.
My archaic practice of writing in longhand, creating my first drafts by hand, releases me, at least for a couple hours a day, from screens. Of course my handwritten draft will get typed into the computer and edited on the screen, but for one small segment of the day, I can rely on only a lined sheet of paper and my pencil (which has now become quite stubby). If all the screens that surround us were to suddenly shut down, as they do during a power outage, I would still have my pencil and paper and a brain, which, so far, has not been overwhelmed by screens.
Postscript: For an in-depth discussion on this topic, read this excellent article by Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine. http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/09/andrew-sullivan-technology-almost-killed-me.html
I think I’ve come up with a brand new twenty-first century concept: the Art of Doing Nothing.
Two weeks ago I was rehearsing in the chorus of the Dvorak Requiem at Berkshire Choral International in Sheffield, Mass. Nestled in the Berkshire Mountains, the organization is fondly referred to as “summer camp for choristers.” The week was packed with rehearsals, classes, recitals, meals, and other fun activities, and though I had promised myself some time off for pure relaxation, it wasn’t happening. Just like home, there was too much to do; every hour seemed consumed by some activity. My afternoons were “free” time, but I managed to fill them anyway by going to the gym or finishing a book I’d brought.
By Thursday I’d had enough. I decided to stretch out on a lounge chair by the pool at the B&B where I was staying. Ah, relaxing with a good book in hand, what could be better? Unfortunately, I’d brought the wrong book, one with disturbing images of death and dying, not very restful. Putting the paperback aside, I realized I had nothing to do. I began to stare at the sky. And smell the minty monarda in the garden. And listen to the whirr of the sprinkler. Only the blue sky and treetops were in my line of vision. I had come to a stop like an antique clock that has wound down to stillness. I was doing something I never, ever seem to find time to do. Nothing.
I sat in that state for perhaps a half hour, enjoying the empty sky, the rare inactivity. After a while, my self-imposed schedule demanded I rush off to my next event, but those moments by the pool were precious and forced me to see how little time I spend truly relaxing.
Certainly here at home there is little time for real rest. Between writing, doing laundry, gardening, walking the dog, feeding the cat, checking emails, shopping, fixing dinner, etc., etc., etc., there never seems to be a spare moment. Reading, which should be relaxation, really isn’t; while I’m reading, I’m working to understand and absorb the author’s words and thoughts. Watching TV should be relaxing, too, but there is so much noise associated with it, is it restful? Sleep would seem to be doing nothing, but it’s not. The body and brain are working to settle, to slow down, to prepare me for the next day; and the subconscious is surely hard at work. So sleep is not the same as consciously doing Nothing.
The practice of doing Nothing has eluded me partially because of fear. The work ethic I was raised with is so deeply ingrained, it has made me afraid of indolence, indolence that could perhaps become an ugly habit and ultimately render me a mindless, sedentary blob. Now, there’s a frightening thought! So I’ve developed the habit of pushing myself to keep going, maintain a schedule of activities, press on, move ahead, and keep busy. As a result, the days and weeks and months fly by at an alarming rate. Good grief.
So this past Sunday, with not a single activity on the calendar, I decided to experiment. I did garden chores and some reading, and after George had headed off to his golf game, I lay back in the hammock, my book and reading glasses on my chest, and for a few moments I felt nothing but the swinging of the hammock and saw nothing but the sky and clouds through the shimmering green treetops. I wasn’t reading or gardening or bird watching or eating or sleeping. I was doing absolutely Nothing.
And did this indulgence turn me into a slob? Was I damaged by those moments of inactivity? No, it was pure bliss. For a few minutes I was experiencing true relaxation, unadorned rest. Aaaaaaaah. Until I remembered with a start I had to walk Sasha before George came home from golf. I leapt off the hammock and went to find her leash.
So I haven’t gotten there quite yet, but at least I now recognize that doing Nothing is OK. It’s not a sin. It’s a refresher, a glimpse at purity and rest. Lovely, lovely relaxation. Maybe we should all practice it for a few moments daily or at least weekly. I recommend you experience Nothing—give it a try.
I guess you could call me a nature lover. My husband George and I can often be found on weekends hiking or bird watching. On these outings we secretly long to come across something special, which, even if we don’t have a chance to photograph it, will make an imprint on our memories. We rarely do see anything extraordinary, but recently over the span of a week, we got more than our fair share of nature’s drama. Let’s face it—wildlife in this part of the world is taking over!
On a recent bird watching workshop in Northern New Jersey included our first sighting of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Sounds like something out of a Disney cartoon, but the bird really exists—a large grey bird with a downward-curved yellow bill; the bird is not often seen, but it can be heard making a low kuk-kuk-kuk sound in the forest. Great find!
The next day, as our group ambled along listening for songbirds, what should we see a mere fifty yards down the trail but a big black bear. We had a staring contest with it for a while, until he or she ambled away, and we continued warily with our birding. Then, after much discussion of survival tactics if one meets a bear in the wild, our leader, scanning with his binoculars for bear eyes in the brush, said, “You know what? Let’s get out of here!”
The morning after we returned from our trip, I was relaxing on the back patio with my golden retriever Sasha. She wandered off, and moments later I heard her in the front yard, yelping and crying as though being attacked. Coyote! I thought and ran to her rescue. Calling her in, I was faced, only a few feet from the house, with a female deer, a wild look in her eye. Sasha, her tail between her legs, dashed into the house, and I approached the doe (who had just attacked my dog!) with “It’s all right. All right,” as though she was the one needing comfort. Then I saw what I suspected to be the problem: a tiny fawn, only hours old, staggering along the driveway, trying to reach his mom. Sasha must have startled them and paid the price. The two deer soon wandered off the property, the fawn barely able to walk on his tiny new legs but obediently trailing his mom.
The next day as George and I blithely pulled into our driveway, George slammed on the brakes. “What’s that?” A large dark blob sat on the side lawn. We realized it was the huge snapping turtle we had seen last year. Her head, the size of my fist, was raised in alarm. She was no doubt looking for a nesting site near the brook. We left her to do her thing, kept our curious Sasha inside, and suspended all weeding in that spot.
The following night we heard a horrifying sound. Coyotes, very close to our house, were yipping and howling, as they do when they’ve made a kill. Oh, no, had they found our baby fawn? We pulled the covers up over our heads and tried not to think about it. Fortunately the next morning I spotted the two deer grazing in the woods, the fawn staggering a bit less, the doe a tad more watchful.
Just when we thought we’d had our fill of wildlife for a while, we got a different sort of show as we were sitting in the sunroom. Our resident Barred Owl, fierce and enormous, swooped down to snatch one of the gazillion chipmunks on our property and flew off to his nest at the top of the hill. Can’t get much closer to nature than that!
So, we may have more than enough wildlife around here, most of it right in our yard; we really don’t need to go hiking to find it. My good friend Anne, a lover of city life, used to say “I don’t really like Nature. There’s just so much of it!” Yes, Anne, it can be overwhelming at times. But to me, it’s an important part of living the good life, and I wouldn’t be without it. Even though it does seem to be closing in on us from all sides!
Keeping my nose to the writing grindstone is usually not difficult for me. Writing short stories, blogs, and book reviews, is, after all, my favorite thing to do, and I can, at least for a few hours each day, ignore the usual distractions—pet care, laundry, shopping for dinner, etc. But the month of May? It’s really tough.
First of all, there’s the garden. With shrubs bursting into bloom and the foliage of perennials pushing up taller and taller every day, my acre of garden in southwest Connecticut is an exciting place this time of year, and there’s much to attend to. Shrubs that didn’t survive the winter need to be dug out, perennials that have seeded themselves where they shouldn’t must be pulled or transplanted, bare spaces must be filled with new shrubs and perennials.
There are flowerpots to be planted with colorful annuals for summer pleasure. There are dead or drooping tree branches that must be removed. And, despite yards and yards of expensive mulch, there are irrepressible weeds that need to be yanked. So, there’s much to be done, and getting to my writing, usually my number one priority, is not easy.
And then there are the birds. May is the month of the amazing annual bird migration from southern climes to New England and Canada. And while I usually chain myself to my writing desk between nine and eleven in the morning, that’s the exact time the birds pause in our garden to forage for insects or gather nesting material. It’s a show too good to miss, and I’m always on the lookout for a passing warbler or oriole, as well. I need to be out in the yard with my binoculars at that time of day, studying these lovely creatures, not closed up in my dark study putting together sentences! And if I hadn’t made such an exception the other day, I wouldn’t have seen the huge White Egret at the edge of our pond or the tiny Orange-crowned Warbler feeding among the weeds or the brilliant American Redstart flitting through the trees.
And then there’s the weather. On a rainy or windy or brutally hot day, I’m OK. Those aren’t good gardening or bird watching conditions, and I can get a lot of good writing done then. But give me a gorgeous mild day in May when I can smell the lilacs and the fresh-mown grass and listen to the house wrens and song sparrows, and I simply must be outdoors.
So, that is why May’s my least productive month in terms of writing. That’s my excuse for not getting much done, and I’m sticking to it!
Families fascinate me—how they evolve and what ignites the personalities that develop as a result of a particular family dynamic. As I began writing scenes and chapters of my book Nobody Home: A Memoir, I had no idea where they would lead me. I only knew that, as I delved into memories of my mother, recollections I had thought long-buried flooded through me and onto the page. It was a profoundly pleasant experience re-connecting with all those mental images, grappling with the less pleasant ones, shaping them into chapters, and forming them finally into a book. I was compelled to keep writing—shared experiences with my siblings, my mother’s baffling words and actions, my own life challenges—there seemed always more and more to write about. And perhaps with my mother, long-gone from this world but always in my head, guiding the pen. As I wrote, not only did I remember so much more about my childhood and early adulthood, I came to understand so much more, about my mother and myself.
I’ve read quite a few memoirs, both before and after I wrote Nobody Home, and I can’t help comparing them to my own. Written by authors with many more literary credentials than I, many of these books have one thing in common—finding a way to make sense of connections to parents. The drama of the memoir expresses itself in many ways—each author has his or her own take on it—but since our parents are the source of all that we are, going on a journey of parent- and self-discovery has great value.
On my bookshelf I see Wild (Strayed), A Good Enough Daughter (Shulman), Elsewhere (Russo), Dreams from my Father (Obama), Bettyville (Hodgman), Jesusland (Scheeres), Lit and The Liar’s Club (Karr), The Glass Castle (Walls), Angela’s Ashes (McCourt), and Growing Up (Baker), among others. All are stories of adults trying to capture on paper what it was like to be raised in a certain type of household with a parent who had a particular way of making life difficult. The author’s reflections on that relationship take readers to an amazing place. What a charming set of talented authors, what fascinating parents! And yet these writers all survived their ordeals, gained perspective on their lives, and came to be successful despite their haphazard upbringings.
When I present my author talk, I speak not only about Nobody Home. I also encourage my audiences to write their own memoirs. I believe everyone should examine their life stories, whether they are accomplished writers or not. Everyone, I think, should try to set something down on paper to memorialize the bond between themselves and their parents. There are many benefits to examination of this crucial connection, not the least of which is passing down family history to the next generation. And the task need not be done alone; there are lots of writing classes out there, some addressing memoir specifically, that can help one shape his or her story.
So, have you ever tried it? Writing a true story about your relationships with the people who raised you? If not, I highly recommend it.