For those who know Marlene Buchanan of Snellville, "soft" might not be the first word that comes to mind when asked about her. "Funny?" Yes. "Honest?" Definitely.
But read her first book, Life is Hard. Soften it with Laughter, and get a glimpse into a wise, witty and yes, soft-hearted woman who has a charming way with words.
"My mama used to tell us, Life is hard. Soften it with laughter. And I never forgot that," said Buchanan, who went on to share that same wisdom with her students and with parents. A retired schoolteacher, Buchanan is never at a loss for anecdotes, tidbits of insight, and her own personal experiences. She spins a tale with the finesse and dexterity of a true southern storyteller.
Her first book is a collection of essays, a recounting of everyday experiences spun with humor and blunt honesty. For example, Buchanan shared that once, "I lost a body." At one time, she was caring for a critically ill family member, who eventually had to be moved to a rehabilitation center for care. During that same period, another family member fell and broke his hip. The day after that, her son had to be rushed to the Emergency Room. It was a crazy time for the family, with one event after another hitting hard – the kind of season every family endures at one time or another. It was the type of season that could easily drive some to the breaking point.
"Now I knew that when we sent (Ellie) to the rehabilitation center, I sent along a folder with her that had all of her important information in it, including where she would be cremated in case she died in their care," Buchanan said. Sadly, the family member did pass away during the time that all of the other health emergencies were happening, one after another. By the time things settled down, Buchanan turned to the business of taking care of their loved one's final arrangements, but there was one hitch. She couldn't find her.
A couple of days later, Buchanan did, in fact, find where her deceased family member's body had been transported, and she was able to take care of her final wishes. "They tracked me down so they could get my credit card number as payment for her cremation," she laughed. With respect and humor (a fine line to walk for any writer), Buchanan shares that anecdote and many more in her book.
There's a story about a wolf spider dancing in her lap – while she was driving – and the ensuing antics when she got stopped by a police officer.
There's a story about unruly kittens.
It's not just others' misfortunes and happenstance on which Buchanan shines her humor. She herself has battled breast cancer, one of the most feared and wicked diseases still ravaging both men and women at an alarming rate. Breast cancer is a mean disease, and the treatment is grueling. Still, Buchanan chooses to see the lighter side of life.
"I did my share of crying, lying there on that table getting radiation treatments," she reflected. There are events in her life from which she needed some distance before she could write about them. During her battle with breast cancer, her mother got very sick, and her best friend died, all at the same time.
"We've all had our share of troubles in life. We might as well laugh at them because they're not going away."
"I've always had a tilted view of life," she shared, "but as a little girl, I was very shy. Then I went to college, and wow!" The budding author remembers coming out of her shell during her college years, recalling the transformation with gratitude.
There's more to Buchanan than humor, though. She and her husband have an only son, with special needs. For many, the responsibilities that come with this situation seem insurmountable. As an educator, though, Buchanan set about learning all she could and working to get the services and help that her son needed.
"While your kid was playing tee-ball, ours was in speech therapy," she said. "I became an advocate for special needs children." Over the years, Buchanan has helped others whose children have similar needs, and she still helps them. She took a situation that some might have seen as difficult, even devastating, and she not only helped her son become everything he can be, but she's helped other families realize their child's full potential, too.
Yes, she's funny, and that's helped her get through life with a sunny and positive outlook. But perhaps Marlene Buchanan's most endearing quality is, in fact, "soft."
Life is Hard. Soften it with Laughter can be found on Amazon, www.scribblersweb.com, and in Southern Pen Bookshop in Monroe. To contact Mrs. Buchanan, email email@example.com, or visit her website at www.msratwrites.com. Her book retails for $15.95.