Featured

Bibliotherapy Transition Team

A few years ago I finally transitioned away from chronic pain through bibliotherapy. Dr. John Stracks, the CEO of my Bibliotherapy Transition Team, introduced me to the writing-for-healing workbook, Unlearn Your Pain. 

One of the book’s first lessons asked me if I had any particularly stressful or traumatic events in my childhood. If I answered yes to that little ditty, my next assignment was to describe any of the following: deaths, moves, taunting, teasing, emotional or physical abuse, changes in schools, or changes in family situations. 

Every time I completed a paragraph, pain slipped away not only from the sciatica ripping down my leg but also from the stenosis at the base of my backbone that had been squeezing the life out of the nerves in my spinal canal. The mysterious agony of fibromyalgia began to subside as well. 

I was writing away my pain.  

The next part of my transition team came with a memoir writing group. On my first day I came with no writing of my own and listened to stories about the family cat, road trips to the West and baking cookies with Grandma. My stories were about an alcoholic family that turned out alcoholic children. I had no fond memories of family vacations or beloved family pets. I slid out of that classroom into the endless dark corridor. A class member caught up to me and urged me to come back the following week. 

“I can’t write like that,” I said, “my writing is too dark.”

“Everyone has their own story to tell. Come back and tell yours.”

And so I did. My classmates read their written stories out loud. I heard my words fall loosely on the table in front of me. Shame kept me from lifting them up and out. Pain relief continued at a more dramatic pace as I wrote and shared stories of my distressed childhood. A year or so in, my words managed to reach across the table to the writing teacher, then to Veronica, then down one side of the table and up the other. I created my own blog and posted my weekly writing for public view. Public! Readers nurtured me with their comments, wanting more. More! 

“You should write a book,” friends said.

 “A book? Never thought of it,” I said.

And then I did.

Writing teacher Beth Finke included one of my stories in her memoir, Writing Out Loud. When I submitted a writing sample to Tortoise Books, publisher Jerry Brennan emailed, “I heard you read your story from Beth Finke’s book at the Book Cellar. Send me your manuscript.” 

Manuscript? I had written 500 words a week for four years but I didn’t have a manuscript. Beth told me to find a big room, spread all my stories out, then pick them up one by one in chronological order and number them. 

“Then you’ll have a manuscript,” she said.

From Jerry Brennan’s edits, I revised, revised, revised. Each sentence brought its own ache. This twenty-five-year old physical torment transitioned to an end with the final chapter of In That Number.

I have enormous gratitude for all those beautiful and gracious souls in my transition team.

WGN Interview with Bob Sirott: “Campaigning then vs. now”

Regan Burke is author of “In That Number: One Woman’s March Up From the Streets of Protest To The Halls of Power and Beyond” and political organizer. She’s worked in the campaigns of Adlai Steve…

Click to hear 10 minute interview: Campaigning then vs. now

From left, President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter participate in the State Funeral for former President George H.W. Bush, at the National Cathedral, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

Loving Those Enemies

FeaturedLoving Those Enemies

The results of the November 3 presidential election are exactly what I’d hoped for. I hear complainers wishing for more of a landslide. Joe Biden won 52-48 percent. We used to call that a landslide. Perhaps ol’ Joe should have claimed it.

Modern mystic Dave Chapelle says we have to remember that half of the United States doesn’t agree with us. I say it lke this: 71 million people in the United States hate me. And 75 million people love me. Ok. Ok. Maybe not me, maybe it’s Joe Biden or Kamala Harris they love and hate. But if I allow those voters to love and to hate me, the reality is easier to swallow.

The bitter pill is, how do I not hate the 71 million in turn? How doI love them? I know the government to-be will keep more of them from dying of covid-19, fix their crumbling roads and bridges and secure their futures through Social Security and Medicare. I’m grateful for that. And equally grateful I’m removed from those decisions.

The truth is, anytime I’ve tried to stop hating someone who hasn’t been on my side, much less hated me, I’ve fallen short. Oh the people I’ve hated! All the ex’s—husbands, bosses, boyfriends, co-workers. And the parents.

My father gave me good reason to practice hate. I recently received a message from a friend I didn’t think knew my father:

Your book reminded me of an encounter with your dad. Your description of one of his 4-step cons made me think about his pitch to me. He came to my office with a guy I knew who was supposed to build his credibility. He then revealed he was a VERY SUCCESSFUL businessman / lawyer. He had an important venture that I would want to invest in. He first wanted me to invest $50,000 into a newspaper, aimed at the business I ran. No, not interested. Second, advertising at $25,000 for a two-year commitment would help my business. No, not interested. Third, can we put you on the masthead as an advisor? Your name would guarantee success. No, not interested. Fourth, can you recommend any high-net-worth people? No, can’t do that either. He was smooth, business-like. A real confidence man.

This is the latest addition to a long list of my father’s marks in his get-rich-quick schemes. It’s taken years of writing to shake off hate and slip into love. He’s been dead over twenty years but I only recently stopped fearing calls that might begin with the four frightening words, “Your father called me.”

Small love allows me to say, “he had a traumatic childhood”. Big love comes from grace. It disallows understanding or analyzation. I’ve just started to love my father, not because of those memories where he deserved love, but in spite of those memories where he didn’t deserve it.

It’s a beginning. 

And now, for the 71 million.

Featured

Halloween Daydream in 2020

At my third floor window I languish in the maizey leaves clinging to the honey locusts before their final abscission. A man strolls out of the building across the street and stands at the edge of the sidewalk.

What exactly do I believe in these days? Smelling babies. Talking to dogs. The Post Office. I believe I’m armed with more knowledge than any old trickster.

Oversized orange buckets swing from each of his hands, full to the top with candy bars. Even a daydreamer can spot Snickers and Three Musketeers. He’s in a grey suit and tie, his face hidden by the ubiquitous mask. Is he waiting for a ride to a party?

I’m the day-of-the-dead queen costumed in veil and beads armed with loaves and fishes and bellies of the beast.

CostumedChicago kids are allowed to walk around in small groups trick or treating as long as they keep moving and don’t bunch up on the street. A masquerade of tiny witches and goblins approaches the man in the grey suit. They retireve candy bars from his swinging plastic pumpkins. I squint in the brewing dusk to see that his grey suit is actually a doorman’s uniform. Building overlords have chosen him to stand in thirty degrees to guard the front door from trick-or-treaters. I’m offended for the doorman. This surmised slight ruffles my daily itch for anger. 

I climb into and out of death everyday.

At the beginning of October Mayor Lori Lightfoot appeared as superhero, Captain Covid, to announce the city’s guidelines for Halloween. Fitting, since Halloween is a month-long event in the windy city, thanks to Mayor Daley II who loved Halloween. I do too. 

There’s a full moon this Halloween, a Hunter’s Moon, they call it. The last time Halloween revelers in Chicago saw a full moon was a few weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. It’s not exactly like the 2016 Cubs winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years, but Chicagoans love to celebrate any milestone. 

Not this year. 

The pandemic has dampened celebrations. The governor shut down indoor bars and restaurants starting midnight Friday on Halloween weekend.

Captain Covid pleaded for mercy to keep the Chicago bars open at least for the weekend. No, no, said Governor Pritzker. The risk is too great. Chicago party-goers are scary, unpredictable, unruly. 

I’m no longer a party animal myself, but their disappointment is mine too. One of my yearly delights is gawking at the outrageous costume parade rollicking in and out of the bars on Rush Street. Some years I’ve dressed Henry in his skeleton sweater to be in that number on our late-night walk. Instead, we’ll go outside to view the Hunter’s Moon, descend into the Druid bygone, and muse about fattening the game, the hunt, the slaughter and the preparation of winter provisions.

I see all the past and all the future, in the moment, aided by the magnetic Jesus stuck to the corners of my eyes.

Thank You Zoom. Thank You Facebook. Thank You Amazon.

This week, six people I know announced they’d tested positive for Covid-19. A few are sick, some are asymptomatic (a word in daliy use now). One of the blessings of Zoom is that some of these covid-positive friends were able to join about 200 other participants on my October 21  Zoom book launch with WBEZ’ Monica Eng. Another blessing? Friends from far afield who wouldn’t have been able to come to Chicago for a book launch party, zoomed in too. 

And then there’s people from long ago. Matt Person and I lost contact over thirty years ago. Here’s the message he sent via Facebook Messenger:

Hi Regan,  I’m the (Gary Hart) Road Warrior from Cape Cod who said yay Missouri and Indiana yesterday! Thanks for your stories and the awesome interview. We met in St Louis (in’84) and you were a mentor to our group, (Marc) Dann, (Pete) Giangreco. We then all headed to wonderful Indiana where Janet Reed and I worked in Jeffersonville. I returned home to Cape Cod. A decade later I became chef at the US Embassy in Reykjavik for a year. I’m sending you a hug from my partner Jill and myself, with appreciation! Such important experiences, ‘84, ’88. Good and challenging times! Best, Matt

Over on Amazon, a stranger, “Uptown Girl” buried her book review in a reply to a previous Customer Review

While sex, drugs, and rock & roll are the salt, pepper & salsa of Regan’s delightful book, the constant is her life-long history in politics. I—like everyone—was shocked that Hillary lost in the last election—man, she took some hits, so it warmed my heart when Regan wrote: “I never failed to be completely starstruck by her brilliance, kindness, and sense of humor. She listened to people’s problems and laughed at their jokes” (p. 231). I was not surprised with her other description of Bill and Hillary together: “Hillary Clinton [dressed in a grey tweed suit and black high-heeled feet] is not the kind of woman who knows if there are leftovers in the fridge.” In blue jeans, Bill jumped to his feet, invited the group into the kitchen, and started pulling food from cabinets and containers. (p. 178). I needed to hear all of that. But what wormed its way into my heart and mind was that Regan never lost her faith in God. A god that could take her in—warts, addictions, and bad men. She writes: “I call myself a Christian. I love the same Jesus whose friendship saved me when I was a child. I trust that my despair, my depression, my addictions and my character flaws don’t change the universal goodness of God” (p. 229). Amen, sister. Thank you. I await your sequel. – Uptown Girl

The notes, comments, snaps, yowls and yowzas from these and others about my book are more nurturing than any I’ve received in all the hours I’ve been alive. The words, your words, nourish my spirit. They teach me to feed love and kindness to others—a virtue perpetually under construction in the daily restoration of my soul.

Thank you.

Order “In That Number” at ReganBurke.com

Thank You Zoom. Thank You Facebook. Thank You Amazon.

This week, six people I know announced they’d tested positive for Covid-19. A few are sick, some are asymptomatic (a word in daliy use now). One of the blessings of Zoom is that some of these covid-positive friends were able to join about 200 other participants on my October 21  Zoom book launch with WBEZ’ Monica Eng. Another blessing? Friends from far afield who wouldn’t have been able to come to Chicago for a book launch party, zoomed in too. 

And then there’s people from long ago. Matt Person and I lost contact over thirty years ago. Here’s the message he sent via Facebook Messenger:

Hi Regan,  I’m the (Gary Hart) Road Warrior from Cape Cod who said yay Missouri and Indiana yesterday! Thanks for your stories and the awesome interview. We met in St Louis (in’84) and you were a mentor to our group, (Marc) Dann, (Pete) Giangreco. We then all headed to wonderful Indiana where Janet Reed and I worked in Jeffersonville. I returned home to Cape Cod. A decade later I became chef at the US Embassy in Reykjavik for a year. I’m sending you a hug from my partner Jill and myself, with appreciation! Such important experiences, ‘84, ’88. Good and challenging times! Best, Matt

Over on Amazon, a stranger, “Uptown Girl” buried her book review in a reply to a previous Customer Review

While sex, drugs, and rock & roll are the salt, pepper & salsa of Regan’s delightful book, the constant is her life-long history in politics. I—like everyone—was shocked that Hillary lost in the last election—man, she took some hits, so it warmed my heart when Regan wrote: “I never failed to be completely starstruck by her brilliance, kindness, and sense of humor. She listened to people’s problems and laughed at their jokes” (p. 231). I was not surprised with her other description of Bill and Hillary together: “Hillary Clinton [dressed in a grey tweed suit and black high-heeled feet] is not the kind of woman who knows if there are leftovers in the fridge.” In blue jeans, Bill jumped to his feet, invited the group into the kitchen, and started pulling food from cabinets and containers. (p. 178). I needed to hear all of that. But what wormed its way into my heart and mind was that Regan never lost her faith in God. A god that could take her in—warts, addictions, and bad men. She writes: “I call myself a Christian. I love the same Jesus whose friendship saved me when I was a child. I trust that my despair, my depression, my addictions and my character flaws don’t change the universal goodness of God” (p. 229). Amen, sister. Thank you. I await your sequel. – Uptown Girl

The notes, comments, snaps, yowls and yowzas from these and others about my book are more nurturing than any I’ve received in all the hours I’ve been alive. The words, your words, nourish my spirit. They teach me to feed love and kindness to others—a virtue perpetually under construction in the daily restoration of my soul.

Thank you.

Order “In That Number” at ReganBurke.com

Book Launch Party

Book Launch Party

“In That Number” Book Launch hosted by Skyline Village Chicago via zoom, Oct 21, 2020, 4:00 pm Chicago time with NPR/WBEZ reporter Monica Eng. Register here

Cousin Barb Violi, Omaha Nebraska

In another world and time uncertain, we’d be having a rip-roaring party at Half Sour in Chicago’s South Loop hosted by Beth Finke and Mike Knezovich. Iliana Genkova would pass around campaign-like buttons and cookies with the name of my book tattooed on top. We’d all be happy, joyous and free for a few brief hours away from the worries of the world.

Sigh. We’ll have to settle for a Zoom Book Launch. Please pull up your own refreshments and join us. Monica Eng has graciously agreed to lead the discussion for my book. You’ve heard her reporting on Curious City (most recently about rats!), Thursdays on WBEZ’s “All Things Considered”.

I’ve always wanted to be a published author but I never dreamed my writing would be so well received outside of a small circle of friends and fellow writers. I’m truly humbled. Thank you for reading my book and paying such generous compliments to me in person, on email and text, Face Book and Twitter and Zoom, and even a card in the mail!

A particular thank you to those who’ve encouraged me to compile years worth of 500-word essays from memoir writing classes into a book. It was a harder task and a longer trip than I imagined but well worth the effort. If you’re a writer, keep laying down those words. There’s power in the story. If you’re not a writer, thank you for supporting us; allowing us to make mistakes, grow weary, and to brag when we find that one perfect word for that one perfect sentence in that one perfect paragraph. 

Allow me to share my joy with you through a smattering of quotes. In order not to embarrass anyone, I’ve kept most anonymous. 

See you October 21!

  • I passed two days immersed in your life story. I identified with so many places and events. I am 100% with you on the last paragraph on page 246.
  • The beauty and skill of every page, and the achievement of presenting your life story of engaging encounters is thrilling. That’s what made me want to read it all.
  • Helloooooo, It’s incredible. Who knew our white-haired “older” friend had such an XXX-rated past? I await the movie!!
  • It’s a great book about a great woman!
  • My dog wants to know why I get so absorbed in Regan Burke’s terrific book “In That Number.” But it’s easy to get caught up in this fascinating memoir of life, love, addiction and local and national politics.
  • …a work as sui generis as Regan Burke herself. I have a feeling that we’ll look back on this event as more than a book launch – more like an opus launch, with much more to come after this one!
  •  It’s a fantastic memoir about alcoholism and politics, family and recovery, from a woman who’s met everyone from Bill Clinton to Vladimir Putin. (And Rick Perlstein says it’s great.)
  • My husband read your introduction out loud to me last night. So well written –you had to get a lot into that  short intro. “Want me to read the whole book to you?” He offered, “you know I could.” He hasn’t offered to read a book out loud to me in decades. Can’t say that I blame him: when he used to read to me, I’d fall asleep, often without him knowing. There he’d be, diligently working to read out loud, take a brief look up and…zzzzzz. He must feel confident I won’t sleep through this one. He’s right..  
  • Pot brownies at her sister’s wedding. 🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂. I’m enjoying this book. It’s so well written.
  • This story is appealing to many different groups.  It’s a redemption story, a woman’s empowerment story, an AA story, a friendship story, a political struggle story,  a “how I did it,” story,  a slice of baby boomer history and Rock-in-roll , and  a special Chicago/Illinois-political tales story all wrapped up in one book.
  • This is a beautiful wonderful story about a smart strong woman who faced all kinds of adversity and succeeded and built deep friendships.  Also the context of a couple of decades (yikes, we’re talking decades) is fun.  There are so many parallels between the 60s/70s and now.  It’s a story that has all sorts of resonating themes.
  • Am so delighted with this book – she is a brilliant writer and its a brilliant story of a life so well lived despite all the huge odds – the whole world should know. 
  • Who will like this book: 1. Anyone who likes Allan Sorkin shows, and Primary Colors. 2. Aging boomers who like the music, and a brief recount of early early political activists. 3.  AA members 4. Democrats 5. Every Democratic political junky in or formerly from Chicago/Illinois  6. Gary Hart and Bill/Hilary Clinton supporters 7.  Dead Heads and vintage rock-n-rollers 8. Every person who likes heros who survived struggles and find purpose (half of the best sellers list is this theme). 9. Anyone who’s been to Bahamas, Barcelona, Chicago, Dupont Circle, the Capital, the White House! 
  • I am on the second chapter and have many superlatives to expend— she is a wonderful writer, sharp, fun, exacting, goes to the heart of the matter.
  • I’m so enjoying this book.  I have to use a magnifying glass to read it.  I really laughed at the lima bean story. My kids didn’t like them either. But I told them I had spent hours stuffing peas with mashed potatoes.
  • Masterfully written, this memoir takes you on a true adventure – it starts with an eventful childhood, through the ups and downs of youth, the dealings with alcohol, drugs and religion, to making it to the highest echelons of politics. In That Number is inspirational and moving. Loved it! This is a book you must read, and you will read it in one go!
  • What a life’s story! I smiled, gasped, whimpered, and rejoiced as I traveled with Regan though her extraordinary life.
  • I love her writing style. She writes with intimate detail, intelligence, wit, and profound insight. Plus, it is a book for our present moment. I highly recommend “IN THAT NUMBER”.
  • “I could not put down this memoir. It is a tale of redemption and rebirth. Regan Burke writes of all the pain of growing up the daughter of two alcoholics and well-dressed grifters ‘who didn’t pay their bills, lied, and cheated, but still had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres every night before dinner.’ Her story is that of the Baby Boomer generation: from sex, drugs, and rock and roll, to various political campaigns in Illinois, and finally to the Clinton White House and beyond. In That Number is a touching narrative of survival, loyalty, and compassion from a woman who has seen it all.” – Dominic A. Pacyga, author of Chicago: A Biography
  • “I highly recommend this wise and wonderful memoir about politics, about families, and the politics of families. Reagan writes like an angel-and sometimes, even better, like the devil.” – Rick Perlstein, best-selling author of Nixonland and Before the Storm
  • “Regan’s unmitigated honesty in In that Number serves as inspiration and challenges each of us, even in the face of adversity, to live, see the birds, and reach higher for ourselves and our communities every day, and in every way we can.” – Laura Schwartz, White House Director of Events for President Clinton, and author of Eat, Drink and Succeed
  • “Tales of early life with a flim-flam father, Woodstock years of drugs and alcohol, and working in Bill Clinton’s administration…Regan Burke weaves her life story in a refreshing, artful, and oftentimes witty style that endears readers to the author and leaves us wanting more. What will she do next?” – Beth Finke, author of Writing Out Loud: What a Blind Teacher Learned from Leading a Memoir Class for Seniors
  • I was so happy to receive your book. I read it within a week, maybe too quickly, excited to follow your narrative and really enjoying the flashes of recognition as I came across pieces I remember from classes at CLL. So much great writing in these pages. I also love the way your writing journey bookends the story and serves as inspiration for readers—the Epilogue leaves us on such an uplifting note. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping your book-debut experience is as joyful and satisfying as it can be. Congratulations again on the results of all your hard work. I think you did an amazing job! – Linda Miller, Teacher, Memoir & Creative Writing, Center for Life & Learning, The Clare and Newberry Library

Book Launch Party

Book Launch Party

“In That Number” Book Launch hosted by Skyline Village Chicago via zoom, Oct 21, 2020, 4:00 pm Chicago time with NPR/WBEZ reporter Monica Eng. Register here

Cousin Barb Violi, Omaha Nebraska

In another world and time uncertain, we’d be having a rip-roaring party at Half Sour in Chicago’s South Loop hosted by Beth Finke and Mike Knezovich. Iliana Genkova would pass around campaign-like buttons and cookies with the name of my book tattooed on top. We’d all be happy, joyous and free for a few brief hours away from the worries of the world.

Sigh. We’ll have to settle for a Zoom Book Launch. Please pull up your own refreshments and join us. Monica Eng has graciously agreed to lead the discussion for my book. You’ve heard her reporting on Curious City (most recently about rats!), Thursdays on WBEZ’s “All Things Considered”.

I’ve always wanted to be a published author but I never dreamed my writing would be so well received outside of a small circle of friends and fellow writers. I’m truly humbled. Thank you for reading my book and paying such generous compliments to me in person, on email and text, Face Book and Twitter and Zoom, and even a card in the mail!

A particular thank you to those who’ve encouraged me to compile years worth of 500-word essays from memoir writing classes into a book. It was a harder task and a longer trip than I imagined but well worth the effort. If you’re a writer, keep laying down those words. There’s power in the story. If you’re not a writer, thank you for supporting us; allowing us to make mistakes, grow weary, and to brag when we find that one perfect word for that one perfect sentence in that one perfect paragraph. 

Allow me to share my joy with you through a smattering of quotes. In order not to embarrass anyone, I’ve kept most anonymous. 

See you October 21!

  • I passed two days immersed in your life story. I identified with so many places and events. I am 100% with you on the last paragraph on page 246.
  • The beauty and skill of every page, and the achievement of presenting your life story of engaging encounters is thrilling. That’s what made me want to read it all.
  • Helloooooo, It’s incredible. Who knew our white-haired “older” friend had such an XXX-rated past? I await the movie!!
  • It’s a great book about a great woman!
  • My dog wants to know why I get so absorbed in Regan Burke’s terrific book “In That Number.” But it’s easy to get caught up in this fascinating memoir of life, love, addiction and local and national politics.
  • …a work as sui generis as Regan Burke herself. I have a feeling that we’ll look back on this event as more than a book launch – more like an opus launch, with much more to come after this one!
  •  It’s a fantastic memoir about alcoholism and politics, family and recovery, from a woman who’s met everyone from Bill Clinton to Vladimir Putin. (And Rick Perlstein says it’s great.)
  • My husband read your introduction out loud to me last night. So well written –you had to get a lot into that  short intro. “Want me to read the whole book to you?” He offered, “you know I could.” He hasn’t offered to read a book out loud to me in decades. Can’t say that I blame him: when he used to read to me, I’d fall asleep, often without him knowing. There he’d be, diligently working to read out loud, take a brief look up and…zzzzzz. He must feel confident I won’t sleep through this one. He’s right..  
  • Pot brownies at her sister’s wedding. 🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂. I’m enjoying this book. It’s so well written.
  • This story is appealing to many different groups.  It’s a redemption story, a woman’s empowerment story, an AA story, a friendship story, a political struggle story,  a “how I did it,” story,  a slice of baby boomer history and Rock-in-roll , and  a special Chicago/Illinois-political tales story all wrapped up in one book.
  • This is a beautiful wonderful story about a smart strong woman who faced all kinds of adversity and succeeded and built deep friendships.  Also the context of a couple of decades (yikes, we’re talking decades) is fun.  There are so many parallels between the 60s/70s and now.  It’s a story that has all sorts of resonating themes.
  • Am so delighted with this book – she is a brilliant writer and its a brilliant story of a life so well lived despite all the huge odds – the whole world should know. 
  • Who will like this book: 1. Anyone who likes Allan Sorkin shows, and Primary Colors. 2. Aging boomers who like the music, and a brief recount of early early political activists. 3.  AA members 4. Democrats 5. Every Democratic political junky in or formerly from Chicago/Illinois  6. Gary Hart and Bill/Hilary Clinton supporters 7.  Dead Heads and vintage rock-n-rollers 8. Every person who likes heros who survived struggles and find purpose (half of the best sellers list is this theme). 9. Anyone who’s been to Bahamas, Barcelona, Chicago, Dupont Circle, the Capital, the White House! 
  • I am on the second chapter and have many superlatives to expend— she is a wonderful writer, sharp, fun, exacting, goes to the heart of the matter.
  • I’m so enjoying this book.  I have to use a magnifying glass to read it.  I really laughed at the lima bean story. My kids didn’t like them either. But I told them I had spent hours stuffing peas with mashed potatoes.
  • Masterfully written, this memoir takes you on a true adventure – it starts with an eventful childhood, through the ups and downs of youth, the dealings with alcohol, drugs and religion, to making it to the highest echelons of politics. In That Number is inspirational and moving. Loved it! This is a book you must read, and you will read it in one go!
  • What a life’s story! I smiled, gasped, whimpered, and rejoiced as I traveled with Regan though her extraordinary life.
  • I love her writing style. She writes with intimate detail, intelligence, wit, and profound insight. Plus, it is a book for our present moment. I highly recommend “IN THAT NUMBER”.
  • “I could not put down this memoir. It is a tale of redemption and rebirth. Regan Burke writes of all the pain of growing up the daughter of two alcoholics and well-dressed grifters ‘who didn’t pay their bills, lied, and cheated, but still had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres every night before dinner.’ Her story is that of the Baby Boomer generation: from sex, drugs, and rock and roll, to various political campaigns in Illinois, and finally to the Clinton White House and beyond. In That Number is a touching narrative of survival, loyalty, and compassion from a woman who has seen it all.” – Dominic A. Pacyga, author of Chicago: A Biography
  • “I highly recommend this wise and wonderful memoir about politics, about families, and the politics of families. Reagan writes like an angel-and sometimes, even better, like the devil.” – Rick Perlstein, best-selling author of Nixonland and Before the Storm
  • “Regan’s unmitigated honesty in In that Number serves as inspiration and challenges each of us, even in the face of adversity, to live, see the birds, and reach higher for ourselves and our communities every day, and in every way we can.” – Laura Schwartz, White House Director of Events for President Clinton, and author of Eat, Drink and Succeed
  • “Tales of early life with a flim-flam father, Woodstock years of drugs and alcohol, and working in Bill Clinton’s administration…Regan Burke weaves her life story in a refreshing, artful, and oftentimes witty style that endears readers to the author and leaves us wanting more. What will she do next?” – Beth Finke, author of Writing Out Loud: What a Blind Teacher Learned from Leading a Memoir Class for Seniors
  • I was so happy to receive your book. I read it within a week, maybe too quickly, excited to follow your narrative and really enjoying the flashes of recognition as I came across pieces I remember from classes at CLL. So much great writing in these pages. I also love the way your writing journey bookends the story and serves as inspiration for readers—the Epilogue leaves us on such an uplifting note. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping your book-debut experience is as joyful and satisfying as it can be. Congratulations again on the results of all your hard work. I think you did an amazing job! – Linda Miller, Teacher, Memoir & Creative Writing, Center for Life & Learning, The Clare and Newberry Library

Across the Universe with Agnes

 In May 1990 Agnes collapsed and was taken to the hospital. I was in Chicago and flew to New Jersey immediately. Therese fetched me at Newark Airport and drove straight to Point Pleasant. My mother was unconscious and attached to a breathing machine. When I caressed her hand, I noticed her freshly painted nails.

“We went for a manicure a few days ago.” Cousin Therese whispered.

Agnes had dementia the last five years of her life. Whenever I visited her, we’d have dinner, go to a movie, shop. Her lifelong carping and criticism must have died with the missing brain cells. She was softer, easier to love, without the booze. More than a few times I caught her walking out of a shop with unpaid goods. I thought she just forgot how to pay.

The official cause of death states, “Alzheimer symptoms due to alcoholic brain syndrome.” A few years earlier, alcohol and cigarettes had been removed from her life. But she didn’t know it. Her dementia had progressed to the point that she involuntarily mimicked both lighting up an imaginary Marlboro and sipping an imaginary scotch-on-the-rocks. Wet brain (formally known as Korsakoff syndrome) is caused by alcohol robbing the brain of vitamin B1. The deficiency slowly destroyed her brain cells. The damage progressed beyond the point of no return until she died. She was seventy.

When I was a young wife and mother living in married student housing at Michigan State, my mother would occasionally send me exquisite sweaters, blouses, shoes and boots. My husband was a graduate student. We had a baby. Our only expendable income came from my babysitting jobs. My mother’s part-time job selling shoes supplemented whatever she could beg, borrow or steal from relatives. I gladly accepted her gifts, never questioning how she could afford them.

Agnes taught me to shoplift when I was twelve. At the time I thought we were learning together. She was, in retrospect, more experienced than she should have been for a beginner. I became a successful petty thief until I found God in my mid-twenties and changed my ways. 

In dementia Agnes carried a small red leather clutch purse. She incessantly opened it and fingered through its only contents—lipsticks. The nursing home crew gave her their old lipsticks because the sound of them click-clacking as she rifled in her bag calmed her down. Besides, if her purse was filled with lipsticks, she was less likely to lift them from the other residents.

The day she died, Therese suggested we visit the nursing home to thank the staff. Agnes’ nondescript empty bed sat in a room with five others. Her closet and dresser overflowed with garments I’d never seen before.

“Is all this my mother’s?” I asked a nurse.

“No. We couldn’t stop her from taking other people’s clothes so we gave up and let her keep them.”

I thanked her for letting my mother make her own way across the universe.