Writer’s Block: Book serves as wake-up call

by Elyse Kaner

A few weeks ago when I read about the death of author and Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow, as fast as humanly possible, I called the library to reserve a copy of a best selling book “The Last Lecture,” which he co-authored.

Sadly, Zaslow was killed last month in a car accident in Michigan while on tour promoting his latest book. His sudden passing is morosely ironic.

Years earlier, Randy Pausch, a computer science college professor at Carnegie Mellon University, had approached Zaslow and asked for help in writing a book.

Pausch in his 40s at the time had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Ten tumors were found on his liver. His prognosis was grim. He was told he had only six months to live. The book would center on Pausch’s last lecture. Pausch’s intention was not only to say goodbye but to leave a lasting legacy for his three children.

“The Last Lecture” was published in 2008 and became a national best seller.

The book details how Pausch chose to spend his precious remaining time. It spoke to achieving childhood dreams. How he remained active throughout his illness, how he came to grips with his diagnosis and how he handled the illness. Family time together, of course, was paramount.

Although it was Pausch’s last lecture literally, it in no way is a last lecture. The book’s sagacious insight will continue infinitely, serving as a lesson on how to live. More important, the book serves as a wake-up call for anyone treading this plane.

The book got me to thinking. What is it that I once loved doing as a child and why am I not doing it now? With that in mind, I have once again taken up reading for pleasure. (I am usually mired in news stories.)

As a child I used to love combing through the stacks on the second floor of the Superior, Wis., Carnegie Library in search of classics. “Don Quixote” and “Silas Marner” come to mind.

After seeing the film remake of Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” months ago, I went Eyre bonkers and checked out every remake of a remake of a DVD (redundant, I know) that I could find in the library. I reread the book, which allowed for more imaginative interpretation than the films. And I enjoyed it so.

I couldn’t wait to return to “Jane Eyre” at the end of the day to peruse a few more chapters. When I finished reading the book, a certain amount of sadness swept over me. I had lost some (literary) friends.

But we mustn’t forget our “live” friends. Thanks to the Internet and my newly found quest to wring out every bit of happiness possible, I, as I’m sure many of you have done, have reconnected with childhood friends.

Having them back in my life is a blessing, a reminder of where we’ve been and where we’re going.

I once attended a workshop in which a presenter asked “when did we stop dancing? When did we stop singing?” which leads to further introspection of why did we stop doing these things in the first place.

Here’s another one. When did we stop cooking? After reminiscing with a fellow colleague last week, I began exploring favorite foods from my childhood.

Why not bring some of those dishes back? If it made me happy then, could it not make me happy now?

Beanie weenies (hotdogs and baked beans combo) and tuna salad sandwiches were my favorites.

I recall my mother saving empty, frozen orange juice tin cans and baking banana bread in them. Yum! Not too sure about the beanie weenies making a big comeback in my household (perhaps I enjoyed the name more than anything else), but lately, I’ve been on a banana bread-baking kick. The aroma alone of the bread wafting through the kitchen brings back pleasant childhood memories.

Nothing beats freshly baked goods from scratch. The bread goes great with butter, hot tea and a good video. Fire up the DVD player.

“Jane Eyre,” anyone?