A current game among teenagers is called “Never Have I Ever.” It is supposed to encourage lively, and often embarrassing chatter.

When I ask it of myself, the effect can be far more emotional and enlightening.

I can vividly bring to memory moments so crystal clear I can almost taste them, when I said, “Never have I ever been happier.” The sense was so strong that I wanted to find a way to freeze it so I could thaw it out on a less happy day to remind myself what I had known.

I also recall some days that were so dismal I gave them names like “Remember Dequinder.” This was a response to complaints. For example, I’d regularly say, “You think this is bad, girl? Do you remember Dequinder? Now that was some ugly bad stuff!”

Dequinder is the  street I lived on in Michigan when I was pregnant with Lara, and Leslie and Brett were mere tots. It was an old farmhouse stuck in the middle of a farrow field on an old gravel road near nothing….for at least ten miles.

It was the only place that Lawrie, my first husband and father of my children, could find to rent. We had no car, so Lawrie hitchhiked, sometimes through snow, to get to his $1-an-hour job about an hour away.

We had no phone, no TV, no neighbors–unless you count the mice I got to see daily when I went down the old stairs, opened the heavy furnace door and shoveled in some quickly fleeting coal. Perhaps the mice were eating it.

Food was scarce, and everyone was cold, hungry and cranky. I was so miserable then that I promised before I ever complained about anything again, I would always remember Dequinder.

I bet many of my readers have one or more sayings like this–when things go well or especially when things go bad.

Recently, I have been running a long stretch of negative “nevers” that have taken their toll on me. We all have those stretches.

Sometimes the stretches can seem perilously long. That’s when it’s good for others to be perceptive observers, like my readers. Some of them have for over 32 years shared with me many ups and downs.

Funny how the ups always seem shorter than the downs. Perspective. When Ron died, almost 12 years ago, it seemed to go in slow motion, and I wondered if I would ever get back to full speed

Then my health began giving me more troubles, and I started to doubt myself. That is always a bad chink to get in your armor.

I started to desperately search for short cuts so I could be the person who I knew I used to be. I got married to a handsome, charming man who I thought was to be my happily-ever-after.

Eight years later, when that door was slammed shut, it took a lot out of me. This intensified the financial problems that had been growing since Ron’s death and left me in a very precarious position.

My children thought it better for me not to live where I had no family nearby. I needed to put my house on the market. I was advised homes sell better empty, so one of my daughters volunteered to seek a place for me near her.

She did a lot of work to make this happen. I don’t do long distance driving, so I did not see the place until the day I moved in with my two dogs (my beloved boys, as I call them).

I felt like I was doing emotional splits, one leg in my beloved home in Los Banos  and one in Fresno, as I was trying to see if a new life was possible in another city.

My poor health, the divorce, the move, the selling of the house all were stresses.

But the worst “Never Have I Ever” for me was when my beloved poodle Rowdy died a week ago. The last of the air in my sails left me. I have heard that many readers are worried about me. I am touched.

Right now, my house still has not sold, so I may be moving back to Los Banos. A lot is up in the air.

I am working at trying to get to know this new world. And there is so much to get to know. I especially love the daily paper being delivered each morning.

I have begun to open some very interesting doors and tell myself that perhaps some positive “Never Have I Evers” may still lie ahead. Or I may have to turn in a different direction.

Don’t worry. Never have I ever stopped writing. Happier days must lie ahead for us all. Or at least we won’t face any more Dequinders.