At the Women's march

At the Women's march
All Lives Matter

Never Again

Never Again
We Won't Go Back

Saturday, October 2, 2010


I had forgotten that I have to moderate comments to my blog before they can be published, and today I just came across a slew of wonderful comments that I had not seen before. I want to thank all of you who have been reading my posts – and been sending good wishes and kind comments.

For the next week I’ll be busy kvelling over my daughter, Jenny (not a grandchild this time!), who’ll be playing in an International Amateur Pianists Competition, so I won’t be back in these pages for a little while.

Meanwhile, if you’re on facebook, look for the page for “The Complete Book of Breastfeeding.” I try to keep it interesting!

Thanks so much for your interest.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


GRAND Magazine just named one of the Top 12 GRANDparent Blogs Award, "in recognition of your commitment to grandparents and their grandchildren while providing outstanding content. The winning blogs were chosen based on content, ease of navigation, web traffic and overall look and appeal." Thanks, GRAND!

My colleague Rosemary Carstens was absolutely right when she wrote on my Facebook page that this blog must be a joy to write. It is – especially now, capping a week when I had two Red-Letter Grandma days.

The first one was last Sunday when I was in contact with every one of my five grandchildren, either by phone or email, hearing about what they’re up to. And the second was the day before yesterday when I spent a wonderful day with Anna, the college freshman who is – happily for me – attending a university only an hour’s drive from my house. I saw her dorm room, I met her lovely roommate and another nice classmate, we had a good lunch, and lots of good conversation. I am a lucky granny indeed.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


When I wrote the first edition of this book back in 1971, I started off the Introduction with the following paragraph:

"If you were living at some other time or in some other place, you might not need this book. You might even wonder about its purpose, since you would be getting much of the information in these pages from your mother, your aunts, your older sisters, and your neighbors. They would share with you their breastfeeding experiences and those of their mothers before them. As you saw them suckling their infants, you would pick up the “tricks of the trade” without even realizing it. It would never occur to you that you would not nurse your baby, because every baby that you had ever seen would have been fed at his mother’s breast—except in the extremely rare case when a mother was too ill to nurse."

At that time I knew hardly any grandmothers who had nursed their own children and who could therefore be helpful to their daughters when their babies were born. Now, 38 years after that first edition was published, the situation is very different. Many of today’s young moms were breastfed themselves and so do have the benefits of motherly help. Still, we grandmas don’t know everything about breastfeeding – aside from the fact that our nursing days are long behind us. Furthermore, there’s so much new research about breastfeeding and so many lifestyle changes in our daughters’ lives that there’s still room for a book a new mom can keep by her bed, underline, and consult without turning on her computer or getting out of bed. One new section in this edition is addressed especially to grandmothers -- focusing on how we can be of most help to the woman breastfeeding our grandchild.

And so I hope that this brand-new 4th edition of THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BREASTFEEDING will become the breastfeeding “Bible” for still another generation. The beautiful new edition is just coming into bookstores now. For this edition I consulted Laura M. Marks, M.D., a Connecticut pediatrician who nursed her own three children and counsels mothers about breastfeeding and other child care issues. Laura has another connection to me, too. Her mother, Lynne, is one of the super grannies whose story of an activity she has done with her grandchildren is in SUPER GRANNY.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


My granddaughter will be graduating from high school on Friday, June 25. I’m looking forward to attending because I love her and am very proud of all that she has accomplished during her high school career. (Don’t get me started bragging about her!) She isn’t the first of my grandchildren to graduate from high school – she has two older cousins who are both in college now – but I couldn’t make it to their graduations since they live in Germany and I live in New York.

Anna’s school is only a 2 ½-hour drive from my home, so it’s easy to get there. However, my presence at her graduation is still up in the air. That’s because of what else will be in the air. If the weather is fine on Friday, the commencement exercises will take place at 10 a.m. in the field next to the high school. If the weather is iffy, the program will be moved to a little later in the day, about 1 p.m. In either case she’ll receive enough tickets to accommodate a doting grandmother. But if it rains or hails or if there’s any other kind of precipitation, the ceremony will be held indoors and if that happens, each student will be able to have only two well-wishers, in this case Anna’s mother and father.

To get to the 10 a.m. ceremony I’ll have to leave my house at 7 a.m. to allow for traffic or other unforeseen trip-slowers. I may not know until the last minute if the ceremony will be postponed for an outdoor celebration, or if it will take place indoors and I won’t be able to be there at all. Well, if life were always predictable, it would be boring, wouldn’t it?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Over the past several years my husband and I had talked about end-of-life issues, about our desires to be organ donors or, failing that, whole-body donors. So when I learned that there was no hope of his regaining consciousness from the stroke he suffered last October at age 88, and when the hospital told me that he could not donate any organs because he was not brain-dead, I asked the social worker on the Palliative Care unit to find out which medical facility we could donate his body to. She had never heard of anyone’s doing this, but she made some phone calls and learned that Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn wanted to take him.

A representative from Downstate called to tell me that a memorial service would be held in the spring to acknowledge his final gift and that if we wanted to, we could say something at the service. I did want to, although I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do it without crying, inasmuch as I still, so many months later, almost invariably start to cry whenever I tell anyone about his death. Then I remembered the beautiful essay that Anna, my 17-year-old granddaughter, wrote about her grandfather’s death and about her thoughts inspired by the doctor’s words “We don’t know much about the brain,” which made her think about a career in medicine. My daughter (Anna's mother) who went with me to the service and I decided that it would be easier to read Anna’s words than our own.

Many of the 200 first-year medical students were at the service, as were students in the College of Health-Related Professions, medical faculty, and representatives from families of six donors. The ceremony began with a small chamber group of students, a choral group, and a speech by the director of the anatomical donor program, talking about how much more the medical students learn from three-dimensional study than by even the best pictures. Several students recited short, poignant poems, a group of about twenty lit one candle for every donor, and all the families present received a beautiful orchid plant, “because flowers represent life, and then death, and then blooming again.” With our orchid we received a card “to the family of David Olds,” with a note of thanks signed by the eight students who had worked with David, along with a photo of all of them.

The note reads: “We cannot even begin to describe the incredible knowledge and wonder that has been imparted to us through our encounter with human anatomy. We can say with the utmost confidence that such a generous gift has played an irreplaceable role in building a solid foundation of medical knowledge; the things we have learned will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Thank you for helping to train us.”

My daughter and I took turns reading Anna’s essay, in between a few tears and even a little laughter. I appreciated her words coming to our rescue when we really needed them and could resonate to the feelings she expressed. I especially liked her description of the vigil we kept in the hospital for those four hard days: “We laughed and cried and laughed again because we were honoring my grandfather, whose sense of humor was one of his outstanding traits. My family, including my cousins and aunts, and of course my parents and my grandmother, became much closer as we were remembering him and finding ways to cope with our loss.”

When, later, one medical student said, “That must have been a hard decision to make – to donate his body,” my daughter replied, “It was his decision – we were just carrying out his wishes.” We ended up feeling that David had made an important gift in this, the last demonstration of his generous soul, and I appreciated the meaningful help from my granddaughter at this difficult time.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


On this post I’m not bragging about my grandchildren as I am wont to do – it’s all about me. I was thrilled last month to learn that I was being honored by the American Society of Journalists and Authors with its Career Achievement Award. The ASJA is an organization of more than 1300 freelance writers of nonfiction, all of whom have met the Society’s admission standards. The award was presented at the ASJA’s annual meeting at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. This was a really big deal for me. And so in a shameless blast of blowing my own horn, I am reproducing here the beautiful introduction made by fellow member Andrea Warren, a gifted author. (I have bought and given to my grandchildren several of her books for young people. Look them up!) I’m also posting my acceptance speech.

Here’s Andie’s generous introduction:

When I joined ASJA in 1987 and attended my first conference that year, one of the special people I met was Sally Wendkos Olds, this year’s Career Achievement Award Honoree.

Like everyone who meets Sally, I encountered a lovely woman who remembered my name, went out of her way to say hello and to talk to me whenever she saw me, and who was interested in me as a person. There’s a genuineness about Sally that you notice immediately. She is friendly and welcoming by nature. She is curious and generous, and genuinely concerned about the less fortunate. She sees a need and she addresses it, often by writing about it. She is a life-long learner who delights in travel, sometimes to the far outposts of the world.

For ASJA she has taken on the toughest of assignments. A member for over 40 years, she served as president in 1980-81 and launched the “I Read Banned Books” campaign and formed the Professional Rights Committee, which became the First Amendment Committee. She has served on numerous committees and has chaired at least a half dozen. She has moderated and served as a panelist on numerous ASJA conference panels. She helped ASJA explore print on demand, and helped edit both editions of the ASJA Handbook.

She began freelancing as a young mother in 1957 and sold her first article to appear in a major publication to Parents magazine ten years later. She went on to write more than 200 articles appearing in some of this country’s most prestigious publications, including such periodicals as Reader’s Digest, Parents, Woman’s Day, and The New York Times. Several of her articles have been reprinted in textbooks and anthologies.

She has appeared numerous times as a guest expert on radio and television and as a speaker to both general and professional audiences. Though she has written on every imaginable topic, the majority of her articles have addressed family life, psychology, human development, women’s roles and women’s rights, working parents, and helping the less fortunate.

Sally is the author or coauthor of eight books for the general public and three college textbooks on psychology and child and adult development. These books have been used by more than two million college students. She has made contributions so solid that several of her books have been in print for decades. The Complete Book of Breastfeeding, considered the classic in its field, was first published in 1972 and will soon be out in its fourth edition. In fact, two of Sally’s editors from Workman are with her today.

Sally has lived a most interesting life. She is a marathoner and has written about it, and in fact won one of her two outstanding article awards from ASJA for a piece on that topic. She has also used marathoning to raise money for cancer research. After her visit to Nepal, she raised money to build a library, install sanitary facilities, and to provide surgery for a child with cleft palate in a remote Nepal village she had visited. She belongs to many professional, political, and educational organizations. She has participated in oral history projects related to the Holocaust and to 9/11. And she has received a long list of awards in recognition of her service to others. One I will mention is being profiled in the 2006 book Feminists Who Changed America.

Sally is also the mother of three lovely, creative daughters, Nancy, Jennifer, and Dorri. Jenny lives in Germany and cannot be here today, but Nancy and Dorri are both here. Dorri, in fact, is a panelist on Sunday morning’s web design workshop.

Sally also has five grandchildren, ages 10 to 27, and her granddaughter Anna is also here today. Because Sally mines the earth she stands on, her most recent book is Super Granny: Great Stuff to Do with Your Grandkids. In connection with this book she blogs at

Missing today is Mark Olds, Sally’s devoted husband of 54 years, who died this past year. Mark would have been incredibly proud to see her honored by us today. He always supported her work in ASJA and often attended our events with her.

The Career Achievement Award is the highest honor we bestow on one of our members. Sally was nominated by Bonnie Remsberg, her long-time ASJA friend, who began her nomination with the words: “This one is overdue.” I know we all second that. Please join me in greeting and congratulating Sally Wendkos Olds.

Andrea Warren

And here are my words of acceptance – and thanks:

Thank you, Andie. and thank you to the awards committee – and the conference committee – and all the other hard-working ASJA committees.

I am so grateful to the Society, not just for this wonderful award – but for having helped me in so many ways to be considered worthy of it.

Joining ASJA was by far the best professional decision I ever made. The Society has been a major player in my career – and my life.

I once went to a panel where a successful New York writer (not a member) was dispensing advice on breaking in to freelance writing. “Well,” she said, “you go to parties where you meet editors and you talk to them and you tell them your name and then when you call them they’ll remember you and they’ll buy your writing.” O-kay. I don’t know about all of you – but invitations to those parties never arrived in my mailbox, and that was so far from the way I got into freelance writing that I could have been living and writing on a different planet.

I wrote my first magazine article in 1957 as a new mother in Ohio, far from parties with important editors. I had read the articles in a free magazine from my diaper service and said “I can do better than that.” Well, they bought my submission – and sent me a check -- for five dollars -- two years later.

This did not seem like the most promising career, so I went on to have more babies and hold a string of part-time jobs. I’m happy that two of my “babies” are here today, my daughters Nancy and Dorri. and my “grand-baby,” Anna.

Some ten years later, in 1967 and now living in Illinois, I sold an article to Parents Magazine, and found that I loved the whole article-writing process – getting the idea, doing research, interviewing, organizing, and then putting words to paper.

I couldn’t get over the realization that I could get paid for doing something I liked so much – and for writing about issues I cared about.

So I signed up for a workshop taught by Richard Dunlop, a writer who kept talking about this wonderful organization called the Society of Magazine Writers.

And life suddenly looked like one big collection of articles. I sent out queries and manuscripts – and when they came back in my self-addressed stamped envelopes I ironed them – yes, I put them on an ironing board and ironed them so I wouldn’t have to retype them before sending them out again.

I kept elaborate charts about what was where. I wrote an article for a church magazine which brought payment of 100 -- copies of the magazine. Then I met with editors on a visit back to New York, and came home with assignments. And in 1969 I managed to amass the bare minimum of writing creds to squeak into the Society of Magazine Writers, which we now know as the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Soon afterwards, readers of an article I had written about hyperactive children asked me to recommend a book to them and I couldn’t because there wasn’t any. I wanted to write this book and I wanted to find an agent who could help me do it.

Combing through the ASJA directory, I found Julian Bach, and a member he represented called him on my behalf. Julian taught me how to write a book proposal. He said it was worth putting time into a long one because he was sure the book would sell and the proposal would help me. He was right on both counts.

Meanwhile, Peter Workman, the president of Workman Publishing, became a father and told Julian he wanted to publish a new book about breastfeeding. Julian turned to me because of the writing I had done about health. He didn’t even know that I had nursed my own children.

The Complete Book of Breastfeeding was published in 1972, and the fourth edition will be published this summer. I’m delighted that Suzanne Rafer and Erin Klabunde, my editors for this edition, are here with us today.

Soon afterwards a college division editor found me -- through the Society directory. McGraw-Hill wanted to take a new approach to textbooks, teaming an academic with a writer for a popular audience.

I had never imagined writing a textbook – but for the next 25 years I went back and forth between textbook and trade writing, with good cross-pollination between the two.

Back to 1969 and my first Society meeting in New York, where I was now living: At dinner I happened to sit next to Mort Weisinger, one of our founders. Mort became my guru, and through our friendship, I learned that I could call fellow members with questions and get honest answers, and share both ups and downs in this crazy business.

When I had cover-line articles for six months in a row in leading women’s magazines, Mort kvelled over me. And then there was that really bad day, after two articles I had written on the basis of go-aheads were both turned down. Mort suggested that I list among my specialties in the directory, “Writing Queries.”

A better suggestion came some years later from another member, Mary-Scott Welch. When Scotty learned I would be trekking in Nepal, she told me I had to be in touch with her cousin, Marge Roche, an artist who had been there many times.

Marge and I went to Nepal together -- four times -- and ended up doing a book, with my words, her art. My agent at that time – Julian had since retired – loved the book but couldn’t place it anywhere. Who came to my rescue? ASJA!

In 1999 I had served on a committee looking into the new concept of print-on-demand publishing. After ASJA affiliated with one of these publishers, iUniverse, my book, A Balcony in Nepal, came into being. It meant a lot to me to bring the stories of the villagers I had lived among to the niche audience of readers who care about this disappearing way of life.

Besides these career-changing highlights, ASJA has helped me in so many other ways:

Members who became editors offered assignments. Members too busy to take an assignment passed them on to me. I found my present terrific agent, Linda Konner, through the society – she’s a longtime member. I can’t count the number of members who have gone out of their way to help me out, have shared contacts and sources and warnings, and have even shared that most secret of subjects in American society – money.

In a sense we’re all competitors, all trying to get our words in the same space. And yet I have never met a more collegial, more generous group of people.

I can honestly say that some of my best friends are ASJA members, and, friends, I am thrilled to be receiving this award from you. Thank you so much for this great honor.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to take your grandchildren places from an early age. There’s a whole world of attractions your own children loved that you want to introduce the grandkids to -- the zoo, the aquarium, museums, shopping, ball games, whatever. Now as a grandmother you won’t let the little one(s) out of your sight. But there are times – especially if you’re taking more than one young child – out to a public place, when even the most vigilant parent or grandparent can lose sight of a child for a few seconds, or minutes, that seem like hours.

As I was taking the Long Island Rail Road into New York City the other day, a mother and her three small children on their way to the Museum of Natural History were sitting near me. I looked up to see the mom writing on the arm, near the wrist, of her little boy. “Now, we’re going to stay very close to each other all day,” she said, “but just in case we get separated, you just go up to a policeman or a mom with kids and you ask them to call this number.” It was her cell phone number. She then pulled his sleeve down over the number so it wouldn’t be visible unless he chose to show it – to that police officer or other mom. I thought this was a terrific idea for using modern technology. I’m wondering what other grannies think.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I have not been back to these pages for six months. It’s been a hard time for me, grieving for David, making the transition to living alone for the first time in my life, and at the same time working against a tight deadline for the forthcoming fourth edition of my first book, THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BREASTFEEDING.

I know I’m not through the hard times yet. As friends have told me, “You get through it – but you never get over it.” But I do feel the need and the readiness to come back and share some of my thoughts about grandparents and grandchildren – and some of my thoughts and experiences about this new chapter in my life, a chapter I didn’t choose to open but now need to make the most of.

I remember the words my friend Norma (who’s been my close friend for more than 60 years and is now a loving grandmother herself) told me some years ago, “There’s no hurt so bad that a grandchild can’t help to heal it.” How right she is! My grandchildren have been such a comfort and such a joy.

Right after David suffered his stroke last October, Anna, 17, and Nina, then 9, came with their mother, my daughter, to stay with me in the hospital for the four days until he died without regaining consciousness. They stayed all day, went in to see their Opa although it was hard for them to see him unable to respond to them, held his hand, talked to him. My eldest grandchild, Stefan, 27, who was in college upstate in Oswego, New York as an exchange student from his university in Germany, flew down immediately and also stayed for days. Meanwhile, Lisa, 13, and Maika, 21, stayed in touch from Germany, conveyed their love for their grandfather and for me, both from a distance and then in person when I went to visit them in February.

My times with the grandchildren – whether it’s been taking a walk and having a talk, going to visit a college, playing a game, cooking together, whatever – have indeed been healing. Part of the healing has come from feeling their love and their compassion. Another part is simply rejoicing in their youth and their vitality and the sense they communicate that life goes on, that life is worth going on with, and that the present and the future hold many joys, despite the inevitable pain that is also a part of existence. I feel very lucky to have these loving young people in my world.