Category Archives: Inspirational

Welcome Tema Merback

Join me in welcoming Tema Merback to Highlighted Author.

Tema was born to a Holocaust survivor, Dina Frydman from Radom, Poland and Leo Balbien who was rescued by the Kindertransport from Vienna, Austria.  She was raised in a loving home by two people whose lives had been shattered by the Holocaust, though in entirely different ways.  She attended Granada Hills High School, worked countless jobs, and became a Kathryn McBride Scholar at Bryn Mawr College, following her passion for literature and art history.  As she married and had children, her desire to write was deferred by the demands of a family.          

Through the years, several writers have approached her mother with hopes of telling her miraculous tale of survival.  Unbeknownst to Tema, her mother had long ago determined that only she could bring this book to fruition, that only she would write it with an intimacy and compassion that no one else could.  In the Face of Evil is the result of a collaboration of two forever bound souls, a mother and a daughter. 

Ranking #12 on Book Movement, In the Face of Evil has received outstanding recognition, including Silver Finalist in the category of Young Adult Literature for the National Jewish Book Awards for 2011 and being an eBook of note on the prestigious International Raoul Wallenberg Website whose members include Nobel Laureates and International world leaders.

You can find more at The Jewish Journal, April 26, 2011, by Ryan Torok:  A daughter tells her mother’s story of the Holocaust, The Jewish Journal, May3, 2011, by Ryan Toro:  Holocaust Book Reading Brings on Reunion and More, and MalibuPatch, April 29, 2011, by Jonathan Friedman:  A Novel Idea to Tell a Survivor’s Story.  


Welcome, Tema.  Please tell us about yourself and how you came to write In the Face of Evil.

When I was a child I knew my mother was different.  I didn’t really hear her accent but all of my friends did and would ask, “Where is your mother from?  Is she from Hungary?  She looks like Zsa Zsa Gabor.”

“Poland, she’s from Poland,” I would answer.   To my friends my mother’s foreignness was other worldly.  She might as well have been an alien from another planet.   She was an enigma even to me as I tried to fathom the differences between her and my friend’s parents.  It wasn’t such a stretch of the imagination for me to conclude that I didn’t really know my mother.   From time to time I wondered why my mother had no father, mother or siblings.  What had happened to my grandparents?  I wondered why she had a tattoo on her forearm and why during the summer she wore a Band-aid to cover it up.  Later when I asked her why she wore the Band-aid?   She would shrug and say she didn’t want to be stared at or endure the inevitable questions that the indelibly blue A-14569 would elicit from strangers.

In the 50’s and 60’s no one spoke of the Holocaust or World War II for that matter.  I don’t remember ever learning about it in school, at least in terms of the Holocaust.  I was about nine when I finally began to persistently question her as to the mysteries that surrounded her.  You see, I didn’t just love my mother I was in love with my mother.  She was so startlingly beautiful that all of my friends would constantly comment on her beauty.  It was like an aura that shone so brightly that even children were taken with her.  Forget about the countless men that were drawn to her.  Even with four children in tow between the ages of three and nine they would come up to her and hit on her, using any excuse just to bask in her glow.  She enjoyed being beautiful but was never comfortable or secure with it.  In other words, she never really owned it.  It was just some fluke of nature, something she hadn’t earned.  I, however, only wanted to look like her and be like her.

She was hesitant to share her past but I must have been relentless because little-by-little she began to share her stories.  At first, she spoke mostly about her family, reminiscences of incidents and events, family history and the city she came from.  Her eyes would light up in reverence as she spoke of her father, mother, sister and brother, her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Then as suddenly, her eyes would cloud up and fill with tears as I continued to badger her for an answer as to what had happened to them.  Eventually, she shared it all with me and I became part daughter, part psychologist, and part family historian.   It became a routine that on Sunday morning I would climb into bed with her and having saved up a hundred questions during the week I would interrogate her.  I was insatiable for answers and this hour usually ended with the two of us sobbing.  I would wrap my arms around her feeling guilt that I had provoked such sorrow, wanting to comfort the pain that could not be comforted.  I felt like the parent, the protector of this soul that had known such horror and lost so much.  It seemed inconceivable to me that anyone could survive what she had.  In my efforts to reassure her I would promise to never leave her and profess my love of her for all of time.  “Mommy, when you die I don’t want to live another day.”  She would laugh and say, “Of course you want to live.  Life is the most precious thing we possess.  Believe me, even with all of the evil in the world there is nothing sweeter than life.”  So would another session end with her hugging me, “Besides, I am not leaving so fast I will be with you a long time.”

My mother has kept that promise to her child of being with her for a long time.  The days and years have flown by as they tend to do and I feel that the circle that is life gets ever smaller.  She is older now and not a day goes by that I don’t worry about her fragility.  Yes, she is still beautiful but not in that effervescent lusciousness of youth.  Her beauty is more haunting and like a mirror her face reflects the years of deprivation and loss that were her teens.  Yet, her spirit is as pure and incandescent as it ever was.  It is a mystery to me how anyone who has witnessed what she has could hold such an enduring belief in the goodness of mankind.  Today, she often reminds me of an ancient philosopher of Greece.  Ever the pragmatic idealist, she has long resigned herself to the inexplicability of life.

It is important to remember during these rapturous days that are summer that even with all of the imperfections and disappointments that come with the daily task of living, there are miracles to be sure.  My mother lives by example and she is an example to us all.  Be sure to appreciate all that you have been given and all those that you love.

I always knew that one day I would write and publish a novel, the question was never if, but rather what and when.  Subject matter presented itself wherever I looked, however, for some reason I was not prepared to tackle the one story that was personal, the one that threatened perilously near my heart.  Creating the story of my mother’s survival of the Holocaust seemed a journey through Hell and one that might prove to be too painful to revisit.  Then it struck me, what if the memoir became a novel written in the present, in the voice of my mother as it occurred.  The journey would become one of hope, a passage from ashes to redemption.  A novel of an adolescent transformed into womanhood set against the background of world conflagration. “In the Face of Evil” was born.

I am currently writing my second novel.


About Dina Frydman Balbien

Dina Frydman was born in 1929 in Radom, Poland.  Radom is situated about forty-five minutes by car from the capital city of Warsaw.  Her parents Joel and Temcia Frydman were hard working people that owned and worked at their Kosher and non-Kosher butcher shop.  Dina had an older sister Nadja who was six years her senior and a younger brother Abek that was three years her junior.  They were an educated middle-class family, religious yet modern.  They saw the future as a bright beacon of possibility, a place where Jews would find through education and hard work equality and success.

In September of 1939 when Dina was 10 years old all of the Frydman family’s dreams and aspirations were ended when the Nazis conquered Poland.  From that moment forward until sixteen year old Dina’s liberation at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp life become a deadly game of survival.  From work camps to death camps Dina did, through countless miracles, survive.  Sadly, none of her family would share that fate.  Her mother, father, sister and brother were murdered at Treblinka and Auschwitz.  Only two of her cousins from her extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents survived.

After Dina’s liberation she spent time at DP facilities in Germany and a school for orphans at Aglasterhausen, Germany before immigrating to the United States in May 1946.  She lived in foster care with a family in Philadelphia and attended Overbrook High School for two years.  In 1949 she moved to Los Angeles, CA to live with a cousin that offered her a permanent home.  She graduated from Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights and through necessity went to work.  OnApril 5, 1952 she married Leo Balbien, a Kinder Transport immigrant from Vienna Austria who served in the US Army.

Dina was a full-time mother to her four children:  Tema Nadine (named for her mother and sister), Joel Abraham (named for her father and brother), Joshua Nathan (named for both of her grandfathers), and Sarah Gail (named for both of her grandmothers).

In the last twenty-five years Dina has spoken to schools and synagogues in California about the Holocaust.  In 2008 her daughter Tema Merback began a novel based on her amazing story that was published in January 2011.  In the Face of Evil:  Based on the Life of Dina Frydman Balbien has received critical acclaim from readers throughout the world and now has been honored by the National Jewish Book Council as a Finalist – National Jewish Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature.  The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has also recognized In the Face of Evil as an e-book of note by recommending it on their prestigious website .

The novel, like The Diary of Anne Frank, spellbinds the reader with its ability to recreate the world in which Dina lived prior, during and after the war.  Written in Dina’s voice we experience her transformation from child to teenager to woman while surviving occupation, destruction and imprisonment.  Through it all Dina’s strength, perseverance and positivity all factored into her survival.   She retained and exemplified the only possession left her by her loving family:  Morality, ethics, love and forgiveness.

Her life is an inspiration to friends, family and all who read her story.   Dina lives in Thousand Oaks, CA with her husband Leo.  They have seven grandchildren.



What they’re are saying: 


“This book is the outcome of three miracles.  First, the mother Dina Frydman, lived through the Holocaust, surviving an unbelievable, all too true set of tragic experiences that wiped out her entire family:  occupation, ghetto, work camp, slave labor, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen (in its final stage of total collapse and chaos).  Miraculously, she came through with her goodness, honor and affirmation of life intact.  This book reflects those qualities.

Second miracle:  for decades, in an incredible feat of memory, Dina relived and told her stories, recounting them with pitch perfect recollection, including a vivid gallery of portraits of friends, family, victims, persecutors, and with vital scenes of the kindness and cruelty of strangers, the love and incapacity of family, the support and saving help of friends.

Third miracles:  Dina’s daughter, Tema Merback, absorbed these stories and reproduced them in this authentic, gripping, moving account.  What the mother could not do – put her testimony in a book – the daughter has done and without losing any of the fire, or the suffering, or the heartbreak or the moments of relief and of despair.  In the end this book communicates an irrepressible, overflowing life force and decency and hope in the face of the most inhuman crimes ever.

As authentic, as compelling, as devastating as a survivor’s account written at first hand, this book snatches memory and life from the jaws of oblivion and gives them as a gift to its readers.

This book was a mitzvah to write and a mitzvah to read.”—Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, Founding President, Jewish Life Network; Founding President, CLAL:  The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership; Chairman, United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 2000-2002.


Tema Merback, October 16th guest speaker at Santa Monica College for their Literary Lecture Series.    

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In the Face of Evil



Seventy years have elapsed since the end of my childhood and the beginning of World War II. The destruction of community and family that followed the German invasion and conquering of Poland precipitated and forced me into an unnatural adulthood. The odd windfall of this calamitous event is a searing imprint of memory. Faces and voices have followed me my entire life offering up their advice and counsel, whether desired or not, shadowing each step as I steered my course through the seas of life. At times they have proven to be more real to me than yesterday’s events. Often, these friendly ghosts have capriciously danced through the corridors of my dreams as real and alive as the last day that I saw them. Like the story of “Brigadoon,” the mythical community of book and song that reappeared every hundred years and for one shiny bright inexplicable moment sparkled through the mists of Scotland, so has the vanished world of Radom, Poland returned to me in dreams and at times in waking just as it was long ago. The joyous community with its various degrees of religiosity, the marketplaces and shops, the places of learning, the observance of holidays, the intellectual liveliness, and of course the devotion and celebration of the Sabbath are all safely locked inside the reels of memory that play like a film in my mind, alive again.

Although I have tried at times to put the war behind me for both mine and my children’s sanity, like the tattoo that I bear, it is burned into me and has colored every moment of my life. With the passage of time there have been endless books with their endless revelations as to why or how such a nightmare could have occurred, but in the end the only lesson learned is that it happened. The Holocaust happened and millions perished through systematic slaughter. A world of people with their joys and sorrows disappeared and with them went a way of life. The apocalypse has long passed and the years have flown by like the clouds in a windblown sky. Soon there will be no survivors left and the keepers of the memory will be just that, a memory. So it has come to me, the bearer of the torch, the last to remember their sweet sojourn among friends and enemies before I, too, leave this world of bitter sweetness. The tale has now been written of those who lived, that they may endure and that you might know them.

Dina Frydman Balbien

Part 1

Radom, Poland Summer of 1939


Chapter 1

An Ordinary Family

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From the window of our apartment, I look down on the bustling streets. The morning sun shines on my street, Koszarowa Ulica, a busy thoroughfare in Radom’s Jewish quarter. Placing my hand on the window, I feel the warmth radiate through the glass. The bright August morning pours into my bedroom, casting away the shadows of a doubt-filled night. The ordinary ebb and flow of life seems to continue in a reassuring cycle of sunrises and sunsets.

Across the street, the shopkeepers are opening their stores. Michal the baker comes out and looks at the sky. A smile spreads across his plump face as he brushes some flour from his prominent nose. Mrs. Rabinowicz greets him, and with a last wistful glance at the sky, he follows her into his bakery. The birds’ songs crescendo in the tall chestnut trees lining the street, adding to the symphony of daily life. People hurry through the busy streets in pursuit of their daily callings. Bicyclists weave among the horse-drawn carriages, or dorozkas1, the principle form of transportation throughout Poland’s cities. Life seemed normal enough on this warm summer day in 1939. I rub my eyes in an effort to dispel the dream that still plagues me, trying to make sense of the visions of the night. It has been two years since my beloved zaida2 passed away. Last night in my sleep, he came to me. Reaching across the barriers that separate the living from the dead, he touched me in an urgent gesture to communicate. Standing at the foot of my bed, silently beckoning me to acknowledge his presence, he hovered; his large immaterial body shimmered before me. His eyes, the color of blue ice, bore into me through the veil of death. He conveyed a warning I could not fathom. The ghostly apparition had disturbed my peaceful slumber and I had brusquely shooed my grandfather away, reminding him that he belonged in the afterworld of the dead.

I awoke with a horrible feeling of guilt and remorse. Why had I not reached out to him full of the love we once felt for one another? I had not asked him why he was there. Instead, in the imaginary landscape of my dream, I had told him to leave and not to return. How could I have sent my beloved grandfather away? I tried to brush the vision from my mind and replace it with the happy memory of my grandfather as he was in life, Jekiel starke, meaning Jekiel the strong in Yiddish. Rhythmically swaying in his rocking chair, he impatiently waited for our cherished daily routine—when I climbed on his lap and kissed him. Together we would rock as he told me stories of his youth, the security of his arms enfolding me, his white beard tickling until I was reduced to giggles. The fond memories of a favorite grandchild encircled me in a blissful cloak of warmth and safety, shielding me from the terrors of the dream.


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Twitter:  @tema1953








Welcome Elliott Flies

Please join me in welcoming Elliott Flies to Highlighted Author.


Elliott is a resident of Saint Paul and is an attorney for a Minnesota insurance company. He and his father, Kenneth, wrote Retrieving Isaac & Jason to raise awareness of adoption issues and to encourage others to find their own unique families.

Elliott (known as “the writer”) is actually the human “translator” of the heart-warming story told by a yellow lab named Kai. Her grandfather, Kenneth, (whom she simply calls “Gramps”) also helped out.  Ken resides in Eagan with his wife Millie (also known herein as “Granny”).

Proceeds from the sale of Retrieving Isaac and Jason will go to The Sharing Foundation, a non-profit organization which empowers young lives in Southeast Asian orphanages.

Elliott is represented by Lien Public Relations.


Welcome, Elliott.  Tell us a little about yourself and your featured book, Retrieving Isaac and Jason.

My new book, Retrieving Isaac and Jason, is the story of two men in a committed relationship who adopt two boys from Southeast Asia.  The story is told through the eyes of a clever and funny yellow lab retriever named Kai.  I have a legal background and this is my first book.  What inspired me to write this book was living through the joys and frustrations of international adoption, being part of an atypical American family and wanting to record the story for my sons.  I hope readers relate to the joy I receive from my family.


What they’re saying:

“a deeply personal and very human story of two dads adopting two Asian boys, filtered through the pen – and point-of view – of Kai, the most erudite Labrador Retriever punster to fill a page. Kai writes about her “pack” with unconditional love, lacing her story with joy and wit, as her two dads (whom she calls “the leader” and “the writer”) drop her off with Gramps and Granny in Trout Valley while they travel to Cambodia to “retrieve” their first son, Isaac.

In using a dog’s voice to tell their story, the father-son writing team avoids any tendency toward cuteness. In their hands, it is a clever conceit by which they fully dramatize the need of gay couples to gain recognition as a family without making speeches, waving banners, or occupying any public places. 

Readers will fall in love with this non-traditional family, and may find themselves becoming very careful of what they say in front of their pets, especially Labrador Retrievers.”—Sally Childs, the original director of the Jon Hassler Theater and Rural America Writers’ Center

“It is a such a beautiful, heartwarming story…I laughed, I cried, and I didn’t want it to end. There is so much love in this family, and it is told with a perfect mix of education (about the adoption process), humor (by the adorable pup narrator, Kai), and emotion (about the joy of having Isaac & Jason join the family). This story has such great life lessons, and I highly recommend it!”—jrnyc11, Amazon customer

“Put this book on your “must read” list. It is a treat. A story of love, commitment and determination told through the eyes of Kai, a gorgeous and witty labrador retriever. Whether you love children, animals, or just want to laugh and cry, you will not be disappointed. What an amazing bond there is between the members of the “pack”, it really warms the heart.”—Carol M Tempesta (Mamaroneck, NY, US)

“This is a beautiful tale about the desire to build a family. The story, written through the eyes of Kai takes your breath away. You feel like you are on a fantastic treck with the main characters to create a family. For adults and children, a beautiful read.”—Lucy, Amazon customer




Retrieving Isaac and Jason



IN this heartwarming tale, Kai the Minnesota-born yellow Labrador Retriever recounts how she and her two dads adopted her human brothers. With a unique canine voice and perspective, we learn about the arrival of Isaac in 1999 and then Jason in 2002. Relying upon her innate abilities to see things through the eyes of obedience devotion known only to a young yellow lab dog, Kai deliver a gift of love through her words and stories that will make readers laugh and cry as they follow Kai’s amazing journey to create her own pack.




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My name is Kai, or so I’m  called. Officially, with the American Kennel Association, my full name is Kai (pronounced like “hi”), Waters of the Sea. I really had no choice in the matter, come to think of it. They just showed up one day at the little kennel next to the big white house where I was born, asked a lot of personal questions about my lineage, and peered at me and my siblings like some sort of governmental inspectors. Being the boldest of the brood, I decided to go check them out first. Bounding across the yard, I bumped right into the blonde one before I could really stop. A mere six weeks old, I wasn’t fully up to speed on all of my important functions quite yet.  I sniffed them thoroughly determined that they weren’t  from around here. They had no fine country odor or farm-fresh scent. I fixed that pretty quickly by peeing in the dark-haired one’s lap.

Despite their big city smell, I decided right then and there to adopt these two wayward souls and form our own new pack, or family as they call it. These dads obviously needed mentoring on the important things in life, such as digging up flowers in the garden, chasing pesky felines, and cuddling up with a fresh rawhide chew next to a roaring fire. My first challenge was finding us a place to live. My mom’s kennel was certainly too crowded, what with my seven brothers and sisters constantly yelping and falling over each other in their collective effort to get fed. Luckily, after a rather long car ride, we found a nice house in the town of Minneapolis. We retrievers are good hunters, as you may know, whether it be for waterfowl or a good place to call home.

I immediately set about re-initiating the house into a proper canine dwelling. I set up several comfortable sleeping places-on the cool basement floor for hot and sultry summer days, in the upstairs bedroom surrounding by mounds of blankets for those chilly winter nights, and in a strategic living room locations where I keep constant watch over the front and back doorways. There was much more speak in this house than I was used to. Quite a bit of territory for a six week old puppy like myself to guard.

I also undertook the Herculean task of training my two dads to let me outside at the right moment before my yet-to-mature bladder let loose on the kitchen floor. These two proved quite trainable. After no too many accidents, they learned to let me outside as soon as I would head toward the back door and whimper. Who says you can’t teach old humans new tricks?

That was several years go no and much has changed. I’ve grown quite a bit, trained my dads well, and live a pretty comfortable life here along the banks of a great river. They call it the Mrs. Ippi, or something like that. I think it’s named after that snooty women with the ugly poodle-schnauzer mix up on the 36th Street.

I decided to record the events of the past few years because they have been so strange. I should have know something was up when my dads began spending long evenings filling out endless forms relating to their finances, health and fitness to raise a child. “Adoption,” they called it, whatever that meant. I’ve learned that adoption is a process by which families of destiny find each other, kind of like when I was adloped by two dads by in 1997. We also visited on a few occasions by some lady they called a “social worker.”  She was nice and all, but kind of nosy about some pretty personal details, if you ask me. I guess all of these strange goings-on related in some way to the arrival of a tiny new person to our house (and later, another one).  Believe you me, it has really shaken up the normal routines of my life in many ways.

And so I am sharing with you this intimate diary of events leading up to the separate arrivals of two little boys, my brothers.  Lord knows my dad has no time to write anymore, what with all that diaper changing and baby rocking. So it is up to me, as usual, to take upon myself another important task. I’ve already cornered the market in our house on chasing squirrels, barking at phantom noises, and chewing the excess paper off of that funny looking roll next to the giant water bowls they call toilets. How much can they expect a dog to do and still get 16 hours of daily sleep.

So please bear with me as I try to recall what has transpired before my own eyes to re-tell the things I did not witness but which were told to me in excruciating detail. All in all, it has been an amazing journey. Aside from a few bumps and bruises from some rather intense stick chasing and ball retrieving that I endured last summer, these were the years that I adopted my third and fourth persons and, as I have come to find out, my best friends. I have done my doggoned darndest to tell a fair and impartial story, but you can expect that my version of these important events might be flavored with a bias towards the more important things in life: a good morning run, two regular feedings per day, and plenty of naps. After all, this really is a dog’s life, and my dads and little brothers are lucky to share in it.



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Welcome Diane Dettmann

Please join me in welcoming Diane Dettmann to Highlighted Author.


Diane is an author, presenter and teacher. She was a literacy staff developer and taught at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. She co-authored Miriam Daughter of Finnish Immigrants and presented the book at international conferences in Finland and Canada.  Diane was recently featured in the national education association today This Active Life. Her inspiration has touched and helped others through their healing after a death of a loved one.  “Working your way through grief after the death of a loved one takes energy and courage,” says Diane. Often angels float in and out offering support. The sudden death of my husband at the age of 54 surrounded me with many angels. Friends, family and total strangers floated into my life just when I needed them most.”

Diane lives in Afton, Minnesota, where she enjoys writing and spending time with her loving husband, Allan.


Welcome, Diane, please tell us about yourself.

I’ve enjoyed writing ever since I was five years old. As child, I often sat on the front porch steps and scribbled nonsense words on a rainbow tablet. I started journaling in junior high and took creative writing classes in high school. My tenth grade English teacher read aloud to us everyday and inspired me to follow my writing bliss. As an elementary teacher and literacy trainer in the public schools, I encouraged students to express their creative energy in dance, art and most of all—writing which in turn nurtured mine. My master’s program in “Curriculum and Instruction” pushed me deeper into the writing realm as I researched and wrote my thesis paper, “The School of Bliss: A School Designed for Students’ Happiness” which I presented at a national women’s conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. A year later, I began the rigorous process of National Board Teacher Certification that required hundreds of hours of writing. When I received my results, I was not only excited that I passed, but elated that I had received a perfect score on my writing section.

Being a self-motivated writer, I enjoy exploring new resources and ways to nurture my writing. I read books by authors like Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron and Anne Lamott. I love reading non-fiction, especially biographies and memoirs of famous people. The first biography I remember reading as a child was about Carol Heiss, the 1960’s Olympic figure skater. I couldn’t put the book down. It inspired me to practice another love in my young life—figure skating. My years of journaling and free writing were like ice-skating practice—they developed my writing skills while I enjoyed the flow of the pen across the page.

I finally got serious about writing in the 1990s. I started my own local writer’s group, “Quill and Thought,” published a few articles in education publications, and participated in writer’s nights where I read my work. In 2003, while reading journal entries about my husband’s illness and death, I realized how hard I had struggled to make sense of my life after the devastating loss. I knew I had a story in me, but was not sure how to share such a personal journey with the world.

In 2010, after rereading my journals and seven years of numerous starts, stops and working titles, I attended a writer’s conference in California. After nervously reading a section of a chapter to a critique group, their positive feedback inspired me. I returned to Minnesota, connected with Adair Lara, a memoir consultant, who encouraged me to keep going. A year later Twenty-Eight Snow Angels: A Widow’s Story of Love, Loss and Renewal finally reached the hands of readers.


What they’re saying:

“In this well written memoir, Diane tells of her emotional journey in touching detail.”—Mary Ann Grossmann, St. Paul Pioneer Press

“The reader is drawn in and captivated by Diane’s vivid account of her grief after the death of her loving husband . . . a powerful story of love, grief, hope and faith all can learn from.” –Mary Jacks, M.S. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Twenty Eight Snow Angels: A Widow’s Story of Love, Loss and Renewal by Diane Dettmann is an honest record of a widow’s difficult struggle that is inspirational…

Dettmann is brutally honest about her long battle with losing her beloved husband, and readers going through that dark valley will appreciate this story. It is well written and well edited. The author’s portrayal of herself, John Hohl, family members and her second husband, Allan, are believable and add to this memoir. This is a book that will touch many lives in a positive, helpful way.”—Alice D. for Readers Favorite

“Symbolically, the Twenty-Eight Snow Angels are for the 28 years that Diane and her husband, John, were married. One snowy night, Diane literally went out into her back yard, lay down in the snow and created snow angels. As you read her story, you will be amazed at the courage and fortitude Diane demands of herself as she faces daily challenges by pushing herself through her grief and learning to face a life alone and succeeding! It is indeed, “A BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN STORY OF A LIFE RENEWED”. Diane Dettmann has accomplished an extraordinary achievement in sharing the sadness and grief of her very private journey from Denial to Acceptance.”—Sharon D. Anderson, Ph.D.





Interview on KAXE 97.1 fm with Heidi Holtan

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Twenty-Eight Snow Angels

Book trailer





Twenty-Eight Snow Angels



The following excerpt takes place six months after my husband’s death. It begins with a description of my struggle to make it on my own as I coped with my grief. Facing the responsibilities of a new job that I started a few weeks after John’s funeral only added more stress to my life.



Chapter 14 Comfort

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THINKING MY JOURNEY through grief would be like a fifty-yard dash and my life would return to normal when I crossed the one-year finish line in June, I kept pushing ahead. However, no matter how hard I tried, I still struggled to get through my days. My brother Tom’s and John’s deaths had created an intense anxiety about my own mortality. Life continued to be a daily process of putting one foot in front of the other and just getting through it. Tired and exhausted, my life tilted and swayed while my heart slammed in my chest. I felt like I was dying. Every afternoon the dismissal bell signaled the end of the day. When the children filed by my office with their packs bobbing on their backs and smiles stretched across their faces I knew I had made it through another day.

One gray spring afternoon as I drove home, a sharp pain ran across my chest. I gripped the steering wheel, praying the ache would stop. When the pain intensified I panicked. Instead of heading home on Interstate 94, I took the I-494 exit and drove to the hospital where my clinic was located. Terrified I was having a heart attack, I pulled into the emergency room parking lot. I sat in the car and tried to calm myself down, but nothing helped. My breathing quickened. My heart raced. Afraid I was dying, I ran toward the ER doors. Part of me wanted to turn back, but something pushed me on. I told the nurse at the desk I thought I was having a heart attack.

She guided me into a curtained area where she checked my pulse and blood pressure. A doctor appeared carrying a chart and a clipboard in his hand. He jotted down my symptoms and directed the nurse to run a few tests. After an EKG and a blood draw, the nurse hooked up an IV and rolled me into a private room. She adjusted my blanket, nestled the call button next to me and said she would be back shortly with my dinner.

For the first time since the night of John’s death, a sense of comfort rolled over me. When my supper arrived, I devoured the salad, vegetables and chicken. Even though the meal was served on a plastic tray, it tasted like a gourmet meal prepared at a fine restaurant, quite the change from microwave popcorn and frozen dinners. After dinner

I called my sister to tell her I was in the hospital and left a message at work that I would not be there in the morning. Later, the nurse stopped in to check my monitors and helped me wheel my IV into the bathroom. She settled me back into bed and said my doctor would run tests in the morning. Then she handed me a small cup with a white pill in it and poured me a glass of water. She said the pill would help me sleep. I swallowed the tablet and leaned back into the newly fluffed pillows. Feeling drowsy, I clicked off the television and closed my eyes. The hum of voices in the hallway lulled me to sleep.


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