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smaller coyoteI am over my worry allotment for this month. It’s not without some very good justifications. My mother, Tina died suddenly at the age of 86 in April and just like that all of the older generation that I knew is gone. There are still relatives out there but we haven’t traded even a Christmas card in too many years to count. I have a feeling that to my son’s generation of twenty-something’s I am now firmly in that older generation anyway.

Feeling out of kilter from the loss of a parent, no matter the age is normal. The grief comes in mostly small bits and pieces and creeps up on me. Things that I can usually roll with, like a snarky comment from a coworker get under my skin more easily these days.

It’s odd what has left a hole in the routine of my day.

In the last months of my mother’s life we were mostly talking about television and weather, which was fine with me. It was about the connection, no matter how momentary. My son, Louie who’s 25 does the same thing with me when he calls to tell me about the overturned car on Clarke Street or the coyote he just rode by on his bike. I call it the news of the day and having someone who will take those calls every time reminds us we’re tethered to the world. No matter what happens there’s someone who cares.

However, there comes a point when something reminds us that it’s all very temporary and for a moment I’ve lost my footing. When that happens there are ripe opportunities for change in some very different directions.

I could have done some serial dialing and lamented to everyone who would listen that I had lost my connection to something important. There would have been some sense of kinship for a moment but in the end I would have felt worse.

The other obvious choice to me was to make changes based on what I really wanted to be doing in the first place. The phrase that keeps running through my mind is to run my own race. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a terminal cancer survivor of just four years and three years over my expiration date and counting. No doctor can explain it, which is fine.

Surviving a terminal diagnosis should have been enough for me to really be bold and make some daring changes and it did to a point. I started eating right and exercising more and lost 86 pounds. That’s noteworthy but for the most part I was grateful to have my old routine back.

But then my mother died, quietly in her sleep and there was no one in my life who I could call and comment on the rain without an awkward pause.

One of my mother’s last comments to me though was odd because we had ventured into newer territory. She asked me how the crowd-sourcing was going for the new thriller. I was raising funds from family and friends to venture out into self-publishing for the first time in 20 years with the fourth book. She said, “You’ll be fine. That’ll be easy for you, no problem.”

I’ve been coasting ever since on that off-handed confidence my mother gave to me about my ability to not only write but market a book. Every decision I’ve made since that moment and in particular, since April has come with this other idea. In the end, what will be left are the people I love and the things I’ve created.

Traditionally, I’ve wanted to gather a lot of professional opinions and sift through all of them to discern what would be the next move. There have been very mixed results.

The new thriller, The List, the first in the Wallis Jones series is coming out in November and it’s been easier to make decisions about what to do next without all of the normal hand-wringing. There’s a speaking tour in the works to benefit some readers’ local charities and we’ve been busy contacting book clubs with offers. There’s more clarity and even more fun this time. After all, as my son said, “let’s get clear about two things, it’s just a book and you’re still alive.” The news of the day. More adventures to follow. Tweet me @MarthaRandolph and let me know what changes you’ve been making in your life. Sign up for special offers for The List and announcements for upcoming events!


What the Campaign is About: I’m asking for help to raise $2,500 to self-publish my next book, a thriller called The List.

There are two ways to live a life – in theory or in practice. One involves talking about what might happen and the other requires taking risks and letting go of the outcome. I was stuck in the first camp for a long time, which meant I preferred to turn over most of the work, the rewards and what I saw as the risk of failure to a traditional publishing house. The results are Wired, The Sitting Sisters and A Place to Call Home – three great books that have been well received. It seemed like enough.

But then in 2009 I was told I had cancer and only a one percent chance of living longer than one more year. I walked out of the doctor’s office shaking, trying to come up with something comforting to say to my 21-year-old son, Louie. Instead, he looked at me and said very firmly, “You weren’t listening. They said there was hope.” Something clicked and I realized that I was going to have to figure out how to be present for every day I had left rather than stare at my death.

It turns out that for now the doctors were wrong about the year but I’ve had four more operations for cancer since then. I’ve had to learn how to live with cancer without making it the focus and to be grateful for the rewards that come along with being reminded that life isn’t a guarantee.

The biggest reward I’ve gotten so far is learning how to ask for help from friends and family. At times I’ve really needed it because I couldn’t walk very well or because my face was bandaged and I couldn’t speak. I’ve learned that help can also be about just needing comfort and company like watching a scary movie with friends or throwing together a potluck or learning how to ride a bike again. That one took four spectacular spills but eventually I stayed on the bike. This past year I even started acting like I plan to live a long time and lost 86 pounds.

It doesn’t have to be complicated.

So, I’m doing my best to let go of old ideas about everything and learn to live in the moment. To make writing more about why I started – to share something – including the journey to get the book in your hands as well as every conversation afterwards. If you want to join in you can take a look at the different things you can get by making a donation. You can even be a part of what is turning into an amazing journey just by letting your friends know about The List Campaign. Share the link Or use the share buttons at the site.

Thank you so much for your ongoing love and support. I am really looking forward to seeing what comes next, whatever it is – and to walking through it, to enjoying it with all of you.

What the Book is About:

The List is a novel of suspense about a happy family caught between two old political powers that have always existed behind the scenes, invisible to most of the public. The two sides have battled over control for hundreds of years actively recruiting new members at a young age to groom them for politics, Wall Street, Corporate corner offices and the military. Good Old Boy networks, private clubs and political action committees were all formed with the same idea in mind to grease the wheels of life because we all want to ensure a nice, fat piece of the American pie, especially for our children. However, families find out a little too late that once they’ve joined there’s no out clause.


What You Can Do & What You Can Get*:

  • First Level: $25 – You receive a signed copy of The List.
  • Second Level: $35 – You receive a signed copy of The List and your name in the dedication.
  • Third Level: $50 – You receive a signed copy of The List, your name in the dedication AND a password that lets you read the next three chapters of the sequel, The Keeper.
  • Fourth Level: $100 – You receive a signed copy of The List, your name in the dedication, a password that lets you read the next three chapters of the sequel, The Keeper AND a Skype visit from me to a meeting of your book club.
  • Fifth Level: $250 – You receive a signed copy of The List, your name in the dedication, a password that lets you read the next three chapters of the sequel, The Keeper, a Skype visit from me to a meeting of your book club and a character in The Keeper named after you. (Only two available at this level.)
  • Sixth Level: $500 – You receive a signed copy of The List, your name in the dedication, a password that lets you read the next three chapters of the sequel, The Keeper and a Skype visit from me to a meeting of your book club, AND an appearance by me, to speak at an event** for the local charity of your choice. All proceeds from book sales on that day will go to your charity.


*All rewards will be processed after March 31st at the close of the campaign.

**Event to be organized by the person or group who chooses this level.


Every year, for the past five years, I’ve tried to adopt a new attitude at the start of the calendar year, instead of making up a list of ‘ought to’ that will only haunt me long after I’ve give up on them. It dawned on me one New Year that focusing on a word, like courage or abundance leaves more room for God and offers me the opportunity to be open to His plan instead of my need to fix, manage or control the bejeebus out of a situation.

So, for this year the word that has kept coming up is ‘Believe’ with a capital B. It’s a big word and comes from the notion of believing for everything good, which in my case takes a lot of faith and a willingness to be uncomfortable.

I like control, a plan, knowing what’s coming next and none of that is possible if I’m opening my life up to big growth, positive change and a much larger Master Plan.

So why do it?

That’s when I can feel my shoulders relax just a little because I remember that my methods have never, ever gotten me very far and have often left me feeling lonely and discouraged talking way too much about me and ignoring the blessings right in front of me.

If my closed fist, squeezing as hard as I can around the events in my life has failed, I have nothing to lose by relaxing and trying it God’s way instead. That is going to require me to let up on myself just a bit and be okay with the pace that comes out, fast or slow, on any given day. Frankly, to be okay with big events actually turning out right and without my intervention or manipulation. They just go right. To even be okay with making mistakes and they still turn out well.

A short recap of everything that’s gone right lately easily shows me that sticking with God’s plan has been worth my learning to let go. In the past year, I’ve lost 86 pounds and soon, I’ll be starting out on Maintenance, which is brand-new territory. Updates to all of the photos on the site will be coming soon.

The last of my old debt is getting paid off and my entire financial life is becoming healthy. Yeah, new territory. There is interest in the new thriller, which means a new book in 2013 and traveling across the country speaking to different charities. There are even two different movie companies interested in two different books of mine. A lot of change, one day at a time.

It’s like I can feel these deep shifts from within my spirit and I have no idea what to do with all of it except to hang on and Believe. Happy New Year Everyone! More adventures to follow.


From left: Mary, Katherine, Mimi, me, Linda, Libba and Tammy. Great women who are part of the Class of '77. Go Green!

It took me 35 years to get back for a high school reunion at my alma mater, St. Agnes School, class of ’77. In the intervening years the school merged with our brother school, St. Stephen’s and has become known more by its initials, SSSAS. A rose by any other name is still a rose and I owe a lot to my high school, like my profession.

Miss Meyers, a history teacher, took me out into the hall and gently taught me how to take copious notes. When I got there in 9th grade I had no idea how to do that and that talent would serve me well, years later as a journalist. Mrs. Fuller was the first person to tell me I was a good writer and submitted an essay I wrote to the school magazine and then told me about it. She correctly gathered that left to my own devices I’d have stuck to the middle of the pack and not sent in a single word. Her faith in me would come in handy years later when I sent my first novel, Wired around and would get all of those letters of rejection. Miss Levins taught me about Fitzgerald and Hemingway and her favorite, Faulkner and set me on the road to being a published novelist.

All of the teachers at St. Agnes never gave out multiple choice questions and instead we had to work out math problems by hand and write essays, a lot of essays. The answers had to restate the question and then build a concise argument that led to a logical conclusion, every time. Not only did that make me a strong writer, I became good at looking at a problem or an opportunity from every angle looking for solutions.

My favorite moments this past weekend, though are the ones where I realized 35 years can go by but in the end it doesn’t matter. Time compresses and suddenly I realize these women are a part of my family and I really need to do a better job of staying in touch with many more of them. More adventures to follow.


Leela and Nana

I’m off today to my 35th high school reunion to meet up with people I haven’t seen since I was 18 years old. I’ll pause here for a moment so everyone can do the math.

In the meantime, I’d like to introduce all of you to the newest member of my extended family, Leela, Louie’s new dog who he rescued from the shelter just ahead of euthanasia. Not something I even like to think about, especially when it comes to Leela.

Louie introduced us by telling Leela, “This is your grandma.” I bent down close and said, “Nana, call me Nana.” I figured I may as well go with it and get this ball rolling and set the pattern for any future grandchildren as well. I’ve been allowed to walk her once so far, with supervision and have gotten her a new sweater and toy, which seemed very Nana-like.

Leela is of course, the best at everything. She never barks too much, walks on a leash perfectly and crawls up into my lap to curl up whenever I sit down. Louie may have more stories but I’m editing all of them down to the ones I plan to repeat, a lot, which will let everyone know how wonderful Leela is. It’s my job, I’m the Nana.

Happy Friday everyone! Plenty of new stories next week, fresh from the reunion. More adventures to follow.


Hanging with my son, Louie, enjoying the day.

I have wondered for a very long time how anyone did anything that was good for them for longer than say six months, top. How do they keep going after all of the hurrah’s, good for you’s and the newness of a new place wear off?

Frankly, I don’t know because once the applause died down I found it too easy to slide right back to where I’d started and then some.

Regain the weight, and then some. Pile up the debt, and then some. Stop dressing up, and then some. Stop going out with friends, and then some.

It’s really easy especially when that little voice in the back of my head starts saying, what’s the point, are you really happy yet?

I was so convinced that happiness was a destination that when I got somewhere that garnered applause I was sure that this is where happiness resided. This is where all of those successful people found that little something that kept them going. When the feeling didn’t last I figured I wasn’t there yet and the idea of another long, arduous journey sunk me back into a feeling of hopelessness. I’d give up and slide backwards.

It never occurred to me that happiness can occur right where I stand and to bite off anything in life requires taking small bites, one right after the other, one day at a time. Not day after day, which sounds gargantuan and impossible, and is too much to take on in the face of that inevitable question – where will this get me? That’s an unanswerable question, by the way. Who knows?

But one day at a time, be right where you are, revel in it, enjoy the day. In other words, go local. That was great advice from my friend, Jesse Garza. Be right where you are and notice everything, enjoy everything, be a part of everything and know that it’s enough. Build from there instead of some unforeseen future or some distant past. Both are not happening right now. Besides, the future will probably look really different from what I expect and the past is my interpretation so who know if that’s accurate anyway.

It’s not always easy sticking to the present. Sometimes I feel like some of the bigger things I still want are stuck, mired in time that resembles mud. But then Jesse’s advice come’s back to me and I look around wondering what I can do today to be of service, get out of my head and actually have a little fun. Before I know it, things have changed as they always do and my life has grown bigger. As a bonus, I wasn’t whining about the past or the future to anyone along the way and I managed to be there for friends and family too. So, just for today I think I’ll put that rock down and go make cookies for that baby shower. More adventures to follow.


The 'new' Me at the end of summer (that's a herd of guinea pigs in the background)

The summer is officially over as of last Saturday and with that goes my first season of triathlon training. And by the way, no, I didn’t sign up for a triathlon this year. Like I said from the beginning, this year was all about figuring out how to stay on a bike, which if you’ve been following along took me a few tries and a really nice scar on my right ankle, learning how to swim faster, run faster and get to know some new people.

I did okay, not great, against my expectations, which is a victory.

To recap, I lost about 35 more pounds, bringing the total to 75 pounds lost so far and only 15 to go till maintenance. Also known as the Promised Land. I’ve been at that weight before but the idea of working at staying that weight is the new part. I really didn’t get that maintenance would take just as much forethought, till now.

But, now it’s the Fall Season and I live in Chicago, which means soon it will get very, very cold outside and if I don’t care to go backwards and regain weight I’ll need a new plan of action.

It’s a tiny bit tempting to take a break but I’ve done that enough and I know that’s a slippery slope. Better to get started before my entire brain even catches on that sitting down was a possibility.

I already belong to a great gym that’s in my neighborhood that just put in a pool, has an erg (rowing machine) and classes at ungodly early hours and late at night. No excuses. Next week, I set out to create a new pattern and see what happens. The weight lifting class and the boxing are my first stops. I’ll let you know how it goes. More adventures to follow.


I have had this list for a long time that in a nutshell started with, when I, fill in a blank and ended with, then I will, fill in another blank.

It covered every area of my life. Career, money, love, health. Everything felt incomplete and way out of my reach.

I had no clue how to obtain a thinner body, a better job, a bigger book deal, a good man and it all seemed very necessary in order to be happy. The magnitude of it made me give up a lot of the time and run around in circles with all sorts of plans that I started and stopped. My life was frustrating and choppy and never quite got me anywhere.

Then, everything changed. Somewhere along the path I got so worn out I stopped and decided to challenge God. It was the only language I knew – contests were my thing. I know a lot of great preachers say, thank God for the great good that is already being created for you, but I had way too much anger and fear to thank anyone for anything.

However, I could throw down a challenge and maybe, this time, I could stand back and take my hands off the wheel. I was just desperate enough, thank goodness.

Okay, here I am about six years later and I never stopped letting God in, in fits and starts and my list is gone. I weight 70 pounds less, I have a better job, my latest book is on a really good path and that man thing, I’m giving a whirl.

The point is, I’m no longer looking to the future for a start date on my life and that presents an interesting idea.

I’ve never been in this spot before. The whole maintenance of life where we basically have the baseline for what we want and are going along with what comes next, doing our part and enjoying how things are in this now moment. I can’t really say much more than that just yet, it’s all so new. But I can tell you I’m happy to be here and I’m excited to find out what it’s all like. No more waiting to find out if it’s possible. More adventures to follow.