what I learned from writing my first book

Grateful for [a] Saturday Night Fever

Dea safe while her mommy dances.No, not a real fever where one is very sick, especially now, but rather a dancing disco fever. I was a disco queen in my late teens and early twenties and I am not embarrassed to admit it. Dancing made me happy and I would go into another world and dance away most of the night. Over the years so many of my boy- friends made fun of me for my love of disco music. But, who is laughing now? I live in NYC as we are all in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic and I am so thankful that I kept many of my 70’s disco dancing albums, especially Saturday Night Fever where one can dance to almost all the music on the album by the Bee Gee’s, Tavares, The Tramps singing Disco Inferno and really let loose with Ralph McDonald’s Calypso Breakdown. Read more

Alison Rand A Place Called Grace

To Rome, With Love (From A New Yorker)

Rome PandemicAs I was going out today to buy fish at a local market on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, of course donning a mask and gloves, due to the corona virus, there was already a line outside stretching half way around the block, as we distanced ourselves six feet from one another.

The man behind me was wearing a N95 mask so I asked him how or where he got it. He reported he was Italian, from Venice, but living in NYC and had gotten the masks in Italy. He was personable and we began to chat from six feet away. It was the first time that I ever tried to speak Italian with a mask covering my nose and mouth. He even understood my muffled Italian which was flattering and said “you speak Italian well,” the phrase all the Italians used to tell me when I lived in Rome, knowing full well that I didn’t. But it passed the time until we could enter the store to buy food. Read more

Alison Rand A Place Called Grace

Dea’s Point of View

I smell something new. My nose is twitching.  Sniff- sniff- sniff. I am sniffing something so good- it’s high up on a shelf in the kitchen. My human mother, Alison, (really the only mother I ever knew because I have not seen my biological mother Roxie since I was 2 months old), tells me not to snoop. “Dea, down. Down!” She says firmly. I get down and then resume my job of sniffing.

I can’t help it. I know it’s not food but it’s something good. And I think it’s for me. I think most things are for me. I hope so much that it’s for me that I can’t stop running around the living room ecstatically jumping up and down on the large living room chair. “Dea, get down, no jumping,” she always says. She worries about my luxating patella.

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Alison Rand A Place Called Grace

Being Happy Alone

happy being aloneLiving alone may not be as difficult for me as it is for some others but honestly of late it has been a challenge. The reason I have been able to adjust to living alone after my marriage ended and over other periods of my life goes back to my childhood.  When I was six years old my parents divorced and my older brother and sister went to live with my father. It was just me and my mother until she remarried my step-father. There was an existential loneliness and neediness present in my life throughout my childhood, and while my mother was physically present, I was probably needier as a six-year-old child. This was because I felt as if I had lost my entire family, requiring more emotionally than my mother was able to give.

I married young and loved being with my husband as part of a real couple, but the relationship didn’t work for many reasons. Since then, I have had many love affairs, some I thought might end in a re-marriage or living together full time. They all lasted about three or four years: during these relationships, I compromised as best I could and tried to adjust my ways to better fit theirs. It was tiring and not making me happy. The pain when it ended was so difficult because of my attachment issues. Read more

Alison Rand A Place Called Grace

How Do I Reinvent Myself After 50?

how do I reinvent myself after 50Reinvention is both scary and wonderful: In some ways you get to be a whole new person, and see life from a very different vantage point. The trick is to accept that reinvention is possible—and that it is completely in your own hands. Change is not easy for any of us. We get in a groove, and coast.  No question, it takes guts.

My first “invention” of myself, so to speak, was at age 43. I continued my education and got my Masters in Social Work. After graduation I was thrilled to quickly land a social work position at a hospital. I could not have been more grateful and excited because I actually landed a part time position, and getting part time work in the field, in Manhattan, is never easy. I could only work part time due to my chronic painful sensory neuritis. Read more

Alison Rand A Place Called Grace

What I learned from writing my first book

what I learned from writing my first bookNever in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever write a book—let alone a memoir. However, when I moved alone to Rome, Italy many years ago, my instincts told me to keep a daily diary because one day I would use it in some form. So yes indeed: I wrote in my journal every day for the almost three years I lived abroad. When I decided to pursue my book I relied upon my diaries to supplement my memories and help transport me back to the various experiences I had living in Rome.

The key reason I attempted to write about my time living abroad, was largely due to my relationship with an octogenarian named Grace. She became one of the most important people in my life after the devastating death of my brother, and she not only urged me to write my memoir, but took an active part as my one woman “focus group.” From the outset Grace encouraged me to show her my writing. I was terrified she might think I was a terrible writer and to not continue writing. To my astonishment and joy, she really liked my writing samples that I showed her. Read more

Alison Rand A Place Called Grace

The Challenges and Joys of a Woman Traveling Alone

woman traveling aloneWhen my last serious relationship ended, the first thing I did was to book a flight to Italy, using my points. I got a great deal on Alitalia and knew exactly what I needed to do: go hiking in Sicily with a group of like-minded people, and of course a wonderful experienced guide. Being in nature always helps me with whatever life challenges I am going through.

As the time got closer and I made my final payment, I was excited to hear who my other like- minded travelers would be. Then the news: “No one else has booked the trip for that particular week,” the company reported. I was offered a change of date but my tickets were already purchased with points and I had gotten a wonderful dog sitter to take care of my dog, Dea. No, I was not going to change my plan. Instead, I chose to view this as a new adventure and an opportunity to remain the independent woman I have always tried to be. Read more

Alison Rand A Place Called Grace

A Life Without Caffeine, Even Temporarily, Slows Everything Way Down

A Place Called Grace by Alison RandLook, I know there are an infinite number of worst things to endure in life. However, allow me to vent a bit—you may even be able to relate if you too love your morning caffeine “fix.” Being ordered by my physician to lay off coffee was like losing my best friend—one who gets me up and feeling good every day of the year.

By doctors’ orders, due to a sudden stomach problem, I am now on day three out of a week without my one-and one-half cups of coffee. Yes, I am counting down the days and hours. Maybe seconds. I am also not permitted to drink my one glass of red wine either, but am not missing the red wine in the same way. It is a nice companion at the end of the day; however, this sudden involuntary withdrawal from my one- and one-half cups of my coffee-decaf mixture is causing a bit of a trauma in my life. Read more

Alison Rand A Place Called Grace

Moving to Another Country Alone? Was I Crazy?

How a Bold Solo Move Led Me to A Place Called Grace

moving to another country aloneIt was 1995 and I recently celebrated my 38th birthday when I moved to Italy. I was frankly terrified, since I was moving to another country alone. But on what was perhaps an even deeper, more meaningful level, I was more afraid of the inertia and sadness in my life and acting career up to that point. Just nine months previously I had gone hiking in Italy with a group of fellow hiking enthusiasts from all over the world, and on that trip had fallen madly in love with the country.

The acting career I had envisioned for myself, after a short time as a junior copywriter in the ad business, had resulted in about 50 non-union commercials. However, I was never able to break into SAG or the Screen Actors Guild. I had hoped that one of my agents would be able to slip me into a SAG casting call but that was a rarity. My marriage had ended in a difficult divorce, and the man I had been seeing for some time decided he did not want any more children (I did) so, despondently, I broke up with him. Read more

Alison Rand A Place Called Grace

Dating Woes

speed dating woesIt feels like I have been dating for more than one lifetime, having now tried it in two countries, at home in New York, USA and in Italy. After a serious relationship ended a few months ago – in late 2018 – I knew full well how difficult my dating life might be once again. It had taken me ten years to find the last one, and now there I was again, with an upcoming speed-dating event in my near future.

Speed Dating Woes

At my first speed-dating experience I was told that each “mini-date” would last 5-6 minutes and then a moderator would come by to tell the men to switch seats and go to the next woman… All I can say is the 5-6 minutes most often felt unending, like watching a kettle that never boils. The first guy, disheveled in a wrinkled button-down shirt, khaki slacks and sneakers, sat across from me and stared into space so I had to try to come up with some questions. Read more