About When Life Throws You Lemons…Make Cranberry Juice
When my kids were learning to walk, I remember walking behind them, ready to catch them if they stumbled backward. I never dreamed that thirteen years later my kids would be walking behind me, ready to catch me if I stumbled backward.
I was 42 years old when I was diagnosed with a benign, operable, brain tumor. Doctors predicted a short hospital stay followed by a speedy recovery. Complications arose, giving me unexpected life-long obstacles.
A divorced mother of two beautiful, talented, wonderful children, I had high hopes for a bright and happy future. I had a secure job that I loved, and I was beginning to date again when my brain tumor was diagnosed.
My life since that fateful day has been focused on regaining basic human functions: breathing, swallowing, walking, etc. I am working again, and trying to be a good mother to my two beautiful, talented, wonderful children.
Putting a positive spin on life’s disasters doesn’t always work, but looking for, and accepting, positive things in spite of life’s disasters works. Instead of making lemonade out of lemons, I add life’s sweet sugar and cranberries to my lemons. This makes life much more palatable.
Q: Do you write on a computer or with pen/pencil and paper?
A: I always write electronically–either a computer or on my ipod. People may think I’m playing games, but I’m usually grading papers or writing my blog.
Q: Biggest Career Surprise
A: I am a marine biologist, and I teach at a community college near San Francisco. A typical weekend had me taking my kids to meet students either for whale watching, tide-pooling, counting fish, or harvesting whale bones for display. I had a brain tumor removed in 2006, which was supposed to be “routine, simple, with no lasting effects.” A complication ensued, keeping me in the hospital for many months and leaving me with some life-long challenges. My career changed drastically after that, and I wrote When Life Throws You Lemons…Make Cranberry Juice! about my experiences with doctors, nurses, therapists, friends, and family. While my story certainly can come off as tragic, flashes of my wicked sense of humor lighten the tone of the book.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: After my appearance on Ellen, my book will take off and I will write another. In ten years, I will still be teaching biology, but I will also spend much of my time writing and promoting my collection of books.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I would love to continue a novel I started several years ago. It was a murder mystery, set at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It had a fun, sometimes gory, story with a bit of science thrown in!
Q: My other “next” project is The Brain Tumor Diet! Good title, right?
A: Where do you write from? (location and description)
On my ipod touch, I can write from anywhere! Most of the time, though, I’m at the dining room table or in bed on my laptop.
Q: Have you ever abandoned any books/novels in progress?
A: I stopped writing the murder mystery described above when my life became more complicated because of all my brain stuff.
About Shari Bookstaff
Shari Bookstaff grew up in Milwaukee, WI, dreaming of becoming a marine biologist. She made it to California and is currently a biology professor, teaching at a community college near San Francisco. While her specialty is marine mammals, she recently expanded her course offerings to include a class on the human brain. Inspired by her own medical trials, Shari continues to merge her personal and professional interests.
Shari lives with her two children (and two dogs) in a small town just south of San Francisco, near the ocean. While her disabilities make life harder, she is determined to continue walking on the beach, attending concerts, and cheering at football games.
You can find more about Shari and When Life Throws You Lemons…Make Cranberry Juice on her website at http://www.wix.com/lemonsandcranberries/lemons
I have learned that life’s lemons were raining down on me, whacking me in the face; whereas life’s cranberries were so small I could walk on them, squish them like a mosquito, and not notice them. Lemons included sickness, death, and dwindling finances; while cranberries were as simple as a smile, eye contact, or a pat on the back. Some of my cranberries snuck up on me and surprised me.
I went to a Monday Night Football game, hosted by the Houston Texans, with my family just after Thanksgiving, 2008. As Matt’s guests, we parked and entered the stadium through areas designated for players’ families. Once inside, we had a long walk to our seats, so an employee brought me a wheelchair. When I finally got to my seat, I stayed put the entire game.
After the game, the wheelchair guy came back and took me to the player’s post-game reception. We met up with Matt at the reception, but before he got comfortable, Abby asked him if we could go on the field. Abby and Andy had never been on a football field, and they had wanted to go on one for years. We walked out onto the field and it was awesome. We looked at the spot where Matt had tried to throw a touchdown pass, and the spot where the ball was kicked for field goals.
Then, my sister Stephanie asked me if Steve Young was an announcer for Monday night games.
I said, “He might be. Why?”
She said, “I think he’s right over there.”
He was. Steve Young was on the other side of the field, conducting post-game interviews.
“Wow!” I thought. “Another chance to meet my biggest celebrity crush?”
I hobbled across the field, towards the bright television lights, moving faster than I had moved in two and a half years. He was busy working, so I was not able to say hello to him again, but feeling that rush of adrenaline that made me nearly run across the football field worked more magic than a week’s worth of prozac! Part of me was still a woman. Part of me could still get goose bumps over a man. Part of me was still ambitious enough to chase down Steve Young. Part of me was still alive.