Brand building through storytelling

Letters From Rona (blog)

My first mentor

Every child needs a wise adult friend who knows how to listen–and when to speak up. I learned that a lifetime ago, hanging out in the pokiest of basement apartments with my mother’s straight-talking tenant.

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Writing machines I have known and loved

The only interactive exhibit at Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta has no touch screen, flashing lights or sound effects. It sits atop a humble wooden desk, as chunky as my grandmother’s lace-up oxfords and as solid as her corseted bosom. Its button-size keys demand a firm touch, and its ribbon could use a change. On a manual typewriter like this one, Atlanta’s most celebrated daughter composed the 1000-plus pages of Gone With the Wind. When I stopped by one recent Friday morning, the machine had captivated two teenage girls who were pondering the mysteries of this thing called a carriage. A sign on the wall explained how to push it.

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A mother, a daughter and a bargain basement

My mother never managed to teach me how to roll out pie crust or sew in a zipper, but thanks to her I can spot the bargains at a post-Christmas sale and beat the crowd to the only 80-percent-off sweater in a certain shade of pink—one that shows up in stores about as often as a cockatoo lands in your back yard. She knew just the right place to train me—Filene’s legendary basement.

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My bed bug war

For more than a year I’d been reading news stories on the so-called “bed bug crisis” that had Torontonians pitching their mattresses, bagging their clothes, avoiding their friends and scratching an omnipresent, crazy-making itch. I’d dismissed those reports as hysterical distractions from real urban crises. Then, one week before moving day, my cleaning lady squished a tiny brown bug that had been lurking in our sheets. Out spurted blood. Ours.

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How I learned that I can finally dance

When I joined a dance class at my gym, I worried about messing up. At least no one could see me tripping over my feet—no one, that is, except my sisters in klutziness (not a Ginger Rogers in the bunch). Then the other day we attracted an audience: three cleaning ladies who had downed their squeegee bottles to watch us strut our stuff.

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Adventures in customer disservice

Among the unsung rewards of growing older is the confidence to voice my displeasure–emphatically, insistently and sometimes loudly enough to turn heads—when my legitimate needs go ignored by those whose job it is to serve their customers.

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My name is Rona and I am an estrogen addict

I just ran into a 50-something colleague, normally a take-charge sort, who confessed to soul-destroying frazzlement: emotional meltdowns, scrambled thoughts, night sweats that ravaged her sleep. She was tempted to start taking hormones, but had been spooked by another onslaught of scare-mongering headlines. This woman has vanquished severe depression that might come galloping back if she lets herself get run down. “Take the pills!” I said. “I’ve been on them for 15 years and when I’m not on them, you wouldn’t want to know me.”

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The old and the restless: on the move again

“I just read your article on downsizing,” said my friend Karen. “Are you loving that funky loft?” Funny she should ask. Because you see, we’re upsizing now. Or, as my husband prefers to put it, “semi-re-upsizing.”

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Mastectomy in 1811: an unforgettable breast cancer memoir

It’s been 199 years since a now-obscure English novelist, Fanny Burney, endured a harrowing mastectomy, performed in her own bedroom with nothing but a wine cordial to blunt the pain. Nine months passed before she could speak of the surgery to anyone; the thought of it made her ill. Then she summoned the courage to describe—and relive—the whole ordeal in a letter to her sister that captures not only the forgotten suffering of countless generations of women but the power of memoir to console even as it terrifies. What Fanny had to face has more in common with slasher movies than with modern surgery, yet through it all she remained absolutely, unshakeably herself.

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What it really takes to empty the nest

My son was in his mid-20s, with a desirable job and a couple of direct reports, when he packed his briefcase for his first business trip and realized as the limo pulled up at our door that something essential might be missing. If he’d been living in his own place and not in the bedroom to ours, I would not have heard the signs of trouble: first much pacing and slamming of drawers, then the sheepish question “Mom, do I need a passport to fly to the U.S.?”

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