Archive | Life Stories

Friendly’s, Dylan and endless possibilities

Beth and Jenna Mende Conny share moments with Bob Dylan while driving to Gettysburg, PA, to get ice cream sundaes at Friendly's.Warning: This video will likely be a yawner for you. (Although it does get a bit more interesting, aka arty, around the 2 minute mark.) Not for me, however. It was taken on one of my favorite days–more accurately, during a lovely shared moment with my daughter Jenna.

It was my birthday and we drove from Frederick to Gettysburg to get a Friendly’s milkshake. (She was treating.) We used the 45-minute drive well. She had just gotten her driver’s license and this was one of her first “road trips.” I had just gotten my iPhone and was making my first video. We were both taken with ourselves and endless possibilities.

Bob Dylan was playing in the background–another something we shared that day. She had just discovered him; I too had discovered him at 16.

Unfortunately, you can’t hear Dylan sing because YouTube blocked him out: copyright issues. But if you remember “Like a Rolling Stone,” you can hum along in time with the windshield wipers.


Lifenicity Storytime #1 – Introduction (sorta)

One morning I got up and decided that instead of sitting in front of the tube, I’d sit in front of my laptop, turn on the Web cam and start talking. I wasn’t sure what I would say. I just needed to hear myself speak. No script, just a meandering. The start of a conversation.

I’ve since recorded other pieces, which I’ll post from time to time. It’s funny though. I don’t know who I’m talking to — and yet I do know. Somewhere out there in ether, ether land, is someone like me, who understands the language of the heart. I imagine us sitting together, sipping tea, listening intently to the stories of our lives and nodding; on occasion, squeezing each other’s hand.

This story, then, and those that follow, are for us. Sit back, watch. I’ll make us some tea. I’ll go get the chocolate.


Are your eyes listening?

Writer Sarah Stup quotationsI love this quote and most especially its author, Sarah Stup.

Sarah is a gifted writer and one of my all-time favorite clients. She has autism and literally types to speak. And what lovely things she shares about life and love. She also writes about difficult things, like the experience of autism —  its sights and sounds, the loneliness.

Of all her pieces — and I’ve read hundreds — this is one of my favorites:

Are your eyes listening?

by Sarah Stup © 2006-2013

Are your eyes listening? 

That’s what needs to happen to hear my writing voice. Because of autism, the thief of politeness and friendship, I have no sounding voice. 

By typing words I can play with my life and stretch from my world to yours. I become a real person when my words try to reach out to you without my weird body scaring you away. Then I am alive.

With writing I reach out to try, and autism or hate or walls of doubt can’t hold me. I am pleased to be typing away — typing away loneliness, typing away silence, using paper to hug you and slap you and join you. 

Click, click, clicking keys are my heartbeat. Listen with your eyes.

There’s lots more of her writing on both her site and blog. Visit!


9/11 — Refilling the skyline

World Trade Tower photo, looking from the ground up, taken by Joseph M. Conny, Beth Conny's husband.

The Twin Towers from the ground up (photo by my husband, Joe Conny)

I grew up in lower Manhattan, just a couple of miles north of the World Trade Center. The Twin Towers were part of the landscape, like the Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building. They were thin and beautiful and dominant; you could see them from uptown.

I was in Frederick on 9/11, in the Starbucks on Rt. 40, and I overheard a woman saying that the Towers had collapsed. “You got that wrong,” I said. “The Towers are huge. They can’t just collapse.” She insisted and starting talking about planes and terrorists. It made no sense. I hurried home, turned on the TV, and it still made no sense. Watching the Towers crumble was surreal, the stuff of movies. I still can’t believe it.

Now, at least, there is a new Tower rising from what had been a gap in the skyline. And the new building is astoundingly beautiful, a sculpture really. It glistens and seemingly twists and, perhaps best of all, you can see it from uptown.

A rendition of the new Word Trade Tower.

A rendition of the new World Trade Tower.


A toast to my Aunt Dotty on her 80th (and 90th) birthday

Beth Mende Conny shares an essay by her mom, Judy Korotkin, who wrote a birthday toast to her sister Dorothy Marks in celebration of Dotty's 80th birthday.

My mom, Judy Korotkin (left), and birthday girl Aunt Dotty Marks. Happy 90th!

My mom wrote this piece for her sister Dorothy and read it to our extended family as we toasted Aunt Dotty on her 80th birthday. Dotty recently celebrated her 90th B-Day. And while Dotty has slowed a bit in the intervening years, she still subscribes to Vogue

(Note from Beth: May we all love our sisters the way these two love each other. Truly touching.)

By Judy Korotkin

One of my earliest memories is warming my toes on cold winter nights in the double bed Dorothy (Dotty) and I shared. Ethel, being the eldest, had the single bed in the “girls’ room” we occupied growing up in the Bronx. The other rooms were shared by my mother and father, with the third small room going to my kid brother, Kenneth.

Being the younger of the three girls, and closer to Dotty in age, she was the one I went to when I was in trouble.  Dorothy was always in the middle. Ethel would complain to her about me, and I would cry to Dotty about how Ethel teased me. Even today, Dorothy is still the glue between Ethel and me. We still complain about each other to Dorothy.

Ethel and I talk, of course — as sisters, we’re close. And sometimes we talk about Dorothy and tutt, tutt about about her “problem.”

You see, Dorothy has a shopping problem. She is a born shopper, a knowledgeable shopper, a passionate shopper, a dedicated shopper.  As a matter of fact, if there was a degree conferred for looking for bargains, for knowing the name of a designer, for checking seams, for knowing how to find someone cheap to shorten skirts and slacks, for keeping track of which store is having a sale, Dorothy would have a Ph.D.  Continue Reading →

In search of a new persona

Writer Beth Mende Conny and her beloved aunt Shirley Strumpf

My Aunt Shirley and me

This piece was written by Shirley Strumpf, my beloved aunt.

We feel we lose our persona only when we think it’s dependent on outside forces.

Like me — daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother; all jobs, all roles. Take them away and the question of who or what I am arises. Only with hindsight comes the realization, a realization that is painful to accept, that these roles were and are dependent on others.

Now comes the new role I choose for myself. The new role I call O’Freedom. O’Freedom makes me aware of the fact that I no longer want my persona to be dependent upon others. But then unpleasant questions arise. With the disappearance of my co-stars, does my own persona diminish?

No, to both. It is just recognizing that I’m still in the play but I now choose to play a minor role. Because I am letting go, letting go to explore my new role, O’Freedom. And by letting go, I am also allowing these closest to me to also explore and grow.

This new role, O’Freedom, is hard because it is no longer dependent upon how I role-played  before. There are no longer any parameters that society and I agreed to adhere to. O’Freedom, my new persona, is limited only by going back to the old roles and thinking that they are what I am missing or need now. I think the most difficult part is admitting this. As the song says, “Letting go is hard to do.”

A new path is always scary. Especially when you realize you must go it alone. Not because there may not be anyone to go on the journey with you, but in going with someone else on the journey. If your companion is not a co-explorer, you will wind up back in the old role of feeling needed in a dependent way again.

The day you were born

Beth Mende Conny writes an essay of love in celebration of her daughter Julia's 27th birthdayYou were born on this very day 27 years ago at 8:25 a.m. (BTW — Happy Birthday) That morning I woke up about 5 a.m. because I had to pee. (But of course. Pregnant women do two things during pregnancy: knit and pee.) I went into bathroom and my sac broke. And because the only other experience I had had with sacs was at the grocery store, I wasn’t quite sure if this was significant.

Ah, but then, my first labor pain. Holy shit! Fuck! Women in labor are truck drivers only with fouler mouths. I waddled back to the bedroom and gently screamed at your Dad to wake the fuck up.

“I think my water broke,” I said, and God’s truth, this was his reaction: Continue Reading →

Jenna’s red shoes

My Jenna Girl, circa age 4

My Jenna Girl, circa age 4

One night, several years after my dad died, he popped into my mind. (He believed in reincarnation, and I’ve often imagined him popping up all over the place.) I was feeling a quiet sort of sad, the kind too personal to talk about. So I slipped into my bedroom, turned out the lights and sat in my rocker, looking through the window and into the past.

Suddenly the door burst open. “Why’s the door closed?” It wasn’t a question, really. It was more of an accusation. Jenna, my youngest, was only four and had yet to grasp the meaning of closed doors.

“I’m thinking of my dad,” I said.

“Why?” Another accusation.

“I miss him.”

She walked over (more like grumped over). “Are you crying?”

“A bit.”

She frowned as she studied me. This was new, perhaps confusing. Crying was something kids did, not mommies. And then, sweet thing, she softened and slipped into my lap. Continue Reading →

My mother tries to kill me

Writers Beth Conny and Judy Mende Korotkin and learning to drive a car in L.A. Beth Conny is the founder of WriteDirections and

My mother, Judy, and me, circa her driving days. (Note: I am still alive.)

My mom ran away from home in her mid-50s. My sister and I had officially left home, and it was her turn to fly without a net. And fly she did, to L.A. She had no place to live, no job, no friends or family; just a few thousand bucks she had inherited from her uncle. But she had a dream: to sell her screenplays to Hollywood.

She also had a car — which she didn’t know how to drive.

The car was a puke orange Datsun, circa 1830s, rustier than a nail. Its skin flaked to the touch, and because it had been rear-ended, it required a chain and lock to keep its trunk closed. But the car had pep, four tires, a steering wheel and the requisite number of mirrors. It also had the right selling price: $1. Continue Reading →

The Great Protector

Beth Mende Conny, Julia Conny, motherhood, essays, parenting

Julie and the Great Protector

Sometimes Julie wakes in the night. There’s a bad man in her dream or the backfire of a car, and she calls, cries out to me: “Come, come. I’m scared.”

It’s all I can do to get up. Like a sunken vessel being pulled from the deep, I rise slowly. My feet touch ground as I grab my robe and struggle to find the arms, then the belt. I make my way down the short hall to her room. She’s under the covers whimpering, too scared to sit up, afraid of the dark or perhaps the cold that comes when you wake suddenly.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, sitting beside her, trying to open my eyes, focus on her face.

“I’m scared,” she says pitifully.

“What are you scared of?”

Sometimes she can tell me, sometimes she can’t because she’s already slipping back into sleep. Either way, her fear has dissipated. Like a flash of light, I have entered her room, chased the shadows away and exorcized her demons. The world has become safe again for democracy and little girls. I’m faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap flights of stairs in a single bound when I hear my sweetheart cry. Continue Reading →