Musings

Dorm shopping: today vs three decades ago

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I was working on a blog post of the things I didn’t grow up with when I stumbled on a post from Real Simple called The Ultimate College Packing List – 26 Things Every College Student Needs. I passed right by it and then scrolled back up a minute later because, really, I AM interested to see how much things have changed since I went away to college 32 years ago. Let’s go through the list and compare! Continue reading “Dorm shopping: today vs three decades ago”

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Life

An unexpected message

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I haven’t watched much TV in the past year or so. It used to give me so much pleasure to get involved in a show, (Downton Abbey, Scandal (through season 4) and my favorite binge watch of all time – Breaking Bad) but somewhere along the way I decided to spend more time reading and less time on television. Partly too, I was having trouble sleeping and they say less screen time, especially at night, is key.

Recently I let Liam (my 11 year old) talk me into watching a show he loves called The Flash which is a show about an (accidental?) Super Hero who is super fast and stops criminals from doing criminal things. I wanted to make him happy so I agreed to watch the first episode and much to my surprise I really liked it. It’s been a few weeks and I’m only on episde three, so there you go.

Last night, after watching the third episode, I decided to browse around Netflix and see what else was on. I wanted something no more than an hour and after several minutes of scanning titles, I settled on Hannah Gadsby’s, Nanette, because I had seen several people mention it on Twitter as a must see. It looked like a fairly typical standup comedy show but I was not prepared for what it turned into. In my opinion, everyone should watch it.

Hannah Gadsby is a lesbian who doesn’t know how to categorize herself. She makes jokes about coming out, people’s reactions, people who have suggestions and critiques of her. That she’s not lesbian enough for some and that others don’t think she should treat her mental health issues. So many opinions about how she should live her life. She jokes about it until she doesn’t. I really don’t want to give anything else away but it was an extremely powerful show that made me think and emathize and also it made me cry. A lot. Totally unexpected for a “comedy” show.

This is basically the TED talk of all TED talks that every human should see.

MC

Life, Uncategorized

This and that

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My brother and I, age 8 and 6

Today would have been my brother‘s 53rd birthday, so far he has missed 32 of them. It used to be a very painful day for me because our birthdays fall just 10 days apart and we often had a dual celebration when we were growing up. They say time heals all wounds and while that doesn’t fit in most cases of lost loved ones, it seems to have dulled the ache over the past three decades. These days I sometimes fleetingly think about what could have been if he hadn’t died, but living in the past is good for no one. It’s all about accepting our current reality.

Time is a true healer and the things that seemed urgent and insurmountable a couple of weeks ago are background noise today. I mentioned in a previous post that my dad had been the victim of a fraud scam (to the tune of $4,400). I was so angry about this and to be honest, initially, I couldn’t fathom how he could have fallen for the scam which is known as the “grandparent scam“.  After hearing him tell what happened I understood how he could have been duped and only felt the deepest heartache for a man who has only approached life with optimism and trust in his fellow humans. He has given the shirt off his back on many occasions over the years and is always willing to lend a helping hand. He is the last person who should have been the victim of a scam. My siblings and I have pitched in to make him whole and it has been a learning and growing experience for all of us.

That same week we were at the bottom of our patience reserves with our pre-teen. Every day was bringing more fighting than peace and my husband and I didn’t know how we were going to survive the summer and quite possibly the rest of his years until he was safely through his teen angst. We called in an expert and came up with a plan together to at least get through the next few weeks. It hasn’t been without its bumps but it no longer feels insurmountable. I’m constantly reminded that below all the turmoil is a good kid with a big heart and he often makes me laugh. The other day he posed the question “what if Wakanda didn’t exist” and then proceeded to tell me how all the other Marvel plots would fall apart if that had been the case. He is even making a Marvel lover out of me(this is a genre I had always avoided)! He loves magic and jokes and is always trying to entertain us. He is not out to get us! I have to remind myself he is trying to come into his own now and it’s time to loosen the strings.

This week will bring our contractor back to us. In the middle of our home renovation project, he had the audacity to get married and go on a honeymoon. The nerve! No, seriously, he is a great guy and I’m so happy for him and his new wife. He has been a tremendous worker and cares a great deal about his craftsmanship that I have no doubt we will be blown away by the end product. We are definitely in the final weeks of the project and the house will be back together by the time September arrives.

Happy Sunday.

MC

Writing

Friday writing

Good morning from Friday morning. It has been ten months since I moved to a four day work week with Fridays off and you know how people who retire say they don’t know how they had time to work, that pretty much sums it up. The idea behind Fridays was to make time to write and I think it started out pretty good but then life crept in and took over my “day off”. Errands, exercise classes, cleaning, school holidays and other not so fun things.

A year ago I had just started an online fiction writing class that I squeezed in while working a full workweek. How is it I no longer have time/make time to write? What happened to my WIP? I abandoned it at the end of the six week writing workshop, that’s what happened. I still hold those characters in my heart though and maybe it’s time to revisit and dust them off. What have they been up to this past year?

Today I declare a day free of errands, meetings and obligations. Today I will write and maybe it will go poorly or maybe it will go great. Maybe I will write pages and pages of giberish. There will likely be guilt in the back of my mind for other things I should be doing but I’ll have to try to mute it. The house couldn’t be in any worse shape than it is now so another day isn’t going to hurt much, right?

Cue the ABBA soundtrack and happy writing.

MC

 

 

 

 

Musings

Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again!

*spoiler inside*

Film Title: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Today is all about light and happy (it’s my Birthday!) so I thought I’d say a few words about that new Mamma Mia movie. I am a fan of ABBA from way back and feel like there is nothing better than a little ABBA Gold, their greatest hits album, to pull anyone out of a funk and I’ve been in a serious one lately. A couple of my friends saw the movie was out last week so we made plans to see it on Monday night. Guys, the theater was PACKED! I haven’t been to a theater so packed and on a Monday night in ages.

So a little backstory. Back in 2002, Jim and I visited London and the Cotswold area of England which had been a HUGE bucket list item of mine. When I met Jim the year before, I had been in the midst of planning and saving to take this trip on my own and he ended up surprising me with tickets for Christmas. Mamma Mia, the musical was a fairly new phenomenon and he got us tickets. It was icing on the cake. A cherry on the sundae. The play was amazing and fun and I ended up seeing it three or four more times over the next several years. One of those was a girls’ trip to New York and it’s with this group I saw the first and then the second movie.

While I saw the trailer, I did not read any reviews or other articles about the movie so as not to spoil it. The week before I watched the first movie on Netflix so I was primed to go. So I was completely taken aback when I learned Donna was dead. What?! No Merryl Streep in Here We Go Again?! But really, they made the best of it. They flashed back to Donna’s younger years from when she graduated from college and found her way to the island that would end up being her home for life and how she met the three men who were the questionable dad to her daughter Sophie. Lily James who played the young Donna has an amazing voice and screen presence. It was fun and cheesy and ok, it was a little sad.

The preview seemed to highlight Cher as an addition to the star-studded cast but she didn’t come in until nearly the end and I have to say she was a little weird. To be honest I’m not a huge fan and thought she upped the cheese factor significantly with her rendition of Fernando (played by Andy Garcia who was also weird in this movie).  There were definitely some drawbacks and it didn’t really measure up to the first because, most notably, Streep’s absence until the very end of the movie when she ghosts/sings a song to her grown daughter. It was a low note to end the movie on. The montage as the credits rolled was somewhat redeeming.

Overall, it was a fun movie and I will likely see it again when it comes out on DVD.

MC

 

 

Writing

Not writing

write-until-it-becomes-as-natural-as-breathing_tw.pngI haven’t been writing. At. All. No words have been transferred from my brain to paper or computer in over a month and it feels like a dam is going to burst. I’ve barely even tried to write. I had been toting around a journal wherever I went for months on end and I finally even dumped that on my bedside stand no longer making a pretense that I might just write something down while I’m waiting somewhere.

I barely recognize myself these days. I keep telling myself I’ll feel better when the house is back in order. I keep telling myself we’re almost there. Just a few more weeks and then I can reboot my life. I am in a funk and it’s not fun. Don’t get me wrong, there are pockets of joy. I take them as they come and wrap myself around them trying to pull every spark of that good energy close to me to savor.

But yesterday was a very bad day. My dad was swindled out of a large sum of money that he cannot afford. We had our eleven-year-old at a therapy appointment because we can barely tolerate his attitude and behavior on a daily basis, only to be told he is suffering from an advanced case of teenageritis. A form email rejection for a job I applied to a couple of months ago without the benefit of even a phone interview. I spent the day crying until I didn’t know what I was even crying about anymore.

But today I dust myself off and tackle the issues at hand. A new day. A fresh start. I am resilient. I can do this. Fake it until you make it. I am re-committing myself to writing every day. It’s the only way back for me regardless if I hit the publish button or not. I am writing.

MC

books

Summer Reading

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Guys, summer is here! Since second-grade when Sister Yvonne Therese threw down the gauntlet with a summer reading challenge, I have been all in on summer reading. To be honest, I’m all about reading all year long. There is no such thing as no time to read in my book (see what I did there, hehe) and summer is especially sweet to me when it comes to reading time because there are so many more places to read in the warmer months and with school in the rearview mirror, it’s a more relaxing family time too. Outdoors is probably my favorite place to read this time of year. The hammock. The park on a blanket. A covered porch. The beach.

Speaking of the beach, on Friday we leave for Dewey Beach, our family summertime getaway for the last eight or so years (minus last year when we mistakenly went to Florida instead). I usually clock in about 4 or 5 books during the week and it is pure heaven. One year it rained most of the week and it didn’t matter much to me because I was able to sit on the porch outside our unit and visit other worlds while still having the beach in my sightline. I also love being under a covered porch during a rainstorm, book in hand. That year, the place we rented was stocked full of books and there’s nothing better than finding a great book from someone else’s library.

I spend a lot of time in the weeks preceding vacation culling my books to bring. Much of it is also dependent on the library as most of my books come in hardcover or electronic form based on what I have on hold. I had been anxiously awaiting the new book by B.A. Paris and was hopeful it would be coming with me to the beach but since it only came out last Tuesday, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get it. I got a notification on Wednesday it was waiting at the library and I didn’t know whether I should collect it right away or wait until we were close to leaving for vacation. I don’t have much willpower when it comes to books I want to read and so I collected it Friday and finished it over the weekend.

My vacation list so far: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bordain, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn and I will likely pick up something at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth (probably Less by Andrew Sean Greer – 2018 Pulitzer winner).  The rest of the list will depend on what comes up on my hold list. Elin Hilderbrand’s The Perfect Couple or All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin are my top hopefuls. My super secret trick is to request the large print edition which comes quicker and is actually more comfortable for me to read these days since I need readers most of the time.

I also have a few books loaded on my Kindle: There There by Tommy Orange, The Goldfinch and The Secret History by Donna Tartt and I’m currently reading Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway which I want to read in every spare minute so I’m pretty sure it won’t be making the trip with me. I know all this makes for a very big reading goal for the week and I’ve already received a comment from Liam about how all I do on vacation is read. I will have to be cognizant of spending time with the family too!

If you are looking for something good to read during your summer vacation, here are a few from my already read pile that I highly recommend.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney (psychological thriller). I rarely give a book 5 of 5 stars but this one got them. A woman is in a coma and we go back to the events that preceded it. A page-turner with lots of twists!

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances (psychological thriller). You are probably seeing a pattern here and this also gets 5 of 5 stars. It’s set in London which is one of my favorite settings for a novel. This is about a mom and her son’s girlfriend and has a bunch of twists.

The Wife by Alafair Burke (psychological thriller). 5 of 5 stars. I loved this book so much that I checked out two of Alafair’s earlier book from the library and may tuck them in my beach bag next week. The wife of a well regarded and bestselling economics professor has a secret past and one event snowballs into a big scandal for their family.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (romance). Jasmine’s writing is wonderful. This was a well-done story of a best man who needs a date for the wedding of his best friend and ex-girlfriend. I wanted this story to go on and on. Another 5 of 5 stars!

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (current and historical fiction set in Memphis). I loved this story which was ripped from the headlines of the 1940’s about an orphanage where kids were stolen and sold off to wealthy families. 5 of 5 stars.

The Flower Arrangement by Ella Griffin (romance/fiction). I may have written about this one before because it was my favorite book of 2017. I loved the characters and the setting and how they were all intertwined in Lara’s flower shop, Blossom & Grow.

Happy Reading!

MC

 

 

 

 

 

Life

Kate Spade

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The death of Kate Spade, only a few days old, has hit me hard for reasons that are hard to explain. I have read story after story, all the same version with very few details and I’m trying to make sense of it all. I do not own a Kate Spade bag, nor any high-quality statement bags save for a heavily discounted Coach bag purchased at an outlet because I can’t pull the trigger on anything over $100. I am all for clothes and shoes but for some reason cannot make the leap for an expensive purse.

I think what bothers me about this death as with all suicides is that the person did not see better days ahead. Could not comprehend in that moment or in the vastly larger blocks of time of their depression – days, weeks, months, years – that things would eventually change and make living bearable. Life is hard and we don’t always know in what ways for the people who walk among us. Some of us cannot comprehend a life that is so bad it is not worth living anymore. We think of them as selfish or weak. I do not.

Like most others, I experience those times when I’d rather not live either. Life can be HARD. I too have experienced many bad days on end where it seems like it would just make sense to pack it all in. Just drift into the nothingness of death so as not to have to deal with the hard stuff. Thankfully, these are fleeting thoughts because I remind myself that whatever it is, this too will pass. I also don’t have the guts to formulate and follow through with an actual plan. There is also the fact that my brother took his own life when he was 21 and I was 19. I saw the devastating results of suicide first hand and I couldn’t do that to someone else. Instead, I chose to seek help from a professional when necessary.

It doesn’t really matter what the backstory was for Kate. She was in so much pain that she couldn’t live anymore. Mental health holds a stigma as does addiction and these are a deadly combo when left untreated. My heart goes out to her family, for their long road ahead and the public scrutiny this death seems to demand. For many years I chose anger and denial in dealing with my brother’s death. I also succumbed to addiction as one of the byproducts. I had to forgive him and myself and even though it has been a hard road, I am better for my trip down it.

There was also a time when I was passionately involved in suicide prevention. I anonymously answered phone calls, often late into the night when the other person would cry or lash out or simply hang on the line in silence. Do suicide prevention hotlines work? Do people use them? I never felt adequate enough when I was on the other end of the line. Their voices and hopelessness stayed with me through the next few days as I went about life. Eventually, I couldn’t do it anymore for my own mental health. I wish I had answers but I don’t.

If you think you are out of options with nowhere to turn, please reach out. The National Suicide Prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

RIP Kate Spade.

MC

Life

The Office

Yesterday I sat in my half-completed office, the new floor tiled and clean. Empty of all but the relics of construction detritus. I pulled a chair in from the nearby deck and just sat and envisioned the room as I see it Friday afternoon which I’m pretty sure will be the day it’s all put back together. I cannot tell you how good this feels after nearly six weeks of slow progress. There is still so much more but for now, this is everything.

For the past 15 years I have been in our house, this is the only room that remained untouched, bearing the scars of wallpaper hung sometime in the 90’s. The furniture is mish-mash and the room has served as a dumping ground for all things brought into the house – bookbags, ski paraphernalia, lacrosse gear, stuff we didn’t know what else to do with. I have tried to organize it and make it nice but it rarely looks better than a forgotten space. We decided a couple of years ago to finally redo the room we could never quite bring ourselves to call “the office”. Wainscotting was purchased in a moment of optimism but has languished in the basement for two years. One vision had us adding a fireplace but we found the cost, done right, was exorbitant for the size of the room and the use we’d get out of it.

Currently, it serves as a mudroom, office, dog feeding station, maildrop, command center, quiet reading area, shoe repository, recycling center and holder of random household things. I have my work cut out to change its image among our household members as a more refined place, a place of respect that deserves better than our cast-off coats and shoes. Our contractor caught me sizing up an area of the room yesterday and mistook it for displeasure in the work they’d done. Really, I was deep in thought about how to make this room really sing and work for us and I quickly assured him that wasn’t the case.

I have an old, old glassed-door (ugly green lining hides the contents) bookcase that has served as a centerpiece for organizing the room and it was a hand me down from my grandfather’s office of the 1950’s. When I was a child I  used it to house my library of books and I was our household’s self-appointed librarian and even put library card slots in all the books. I had a small table that served as the checkout desk. I’ve been thinking of letting the piece go because it doesn’t fit my new decor scheme, but I’m definitely struggling with this.

There is also the light colored desk that was a hand me down from an aunt and has a black leather top and old-fashioned drawer nobs. There is a sturdy, dark wood bookcase. The comfortable love seat was a new addition last year. None of it matches or looks right in that bespoke way of homes filled with old treasures that don’t match. I still have work to do in the envisioning of it as a whole. I’m just happy to be a little closer to that day.

Writing

Ideal writing conditions

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I am a creature of habit and someone who likes things the way they like them. Writing is no different. My number one rule is a quiet, empty house. This is an extremely difficult rule to employ since I share said house with a husband and 11-year-old. I am also ok with writing while everyone is sleeping or outside so I’m always encouraging Liam to go help his dad when he’s working outside.

This is very simply because if I am working at the computer, the questions start coming from Liam. What are you doing? When can I use the computer? What can I do? It leaves me a bit frustrated to be honest. I rarely try to write anymore when they are around. My favorite time to write is in the morning as that’s when I have the most energy and imagination. Sometimes I get up at 5:00, make myself a cup of coffee and then Murphy, our golden retriever will look at me with sad eyes that say “what about me?”. He will sit next to my chair and stare at me until I get him a treat and then he’ll lie by my feet realizing I’m not taking him for a walk.

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Since our house has been torn apart for the last month, I no longer have my writing room and that’s been really hard. I have the computer set up on the breakfast bar in the kitchen but I sit at it and cannot form any thoughts. I’m consumed instead by how long this renovation is taking and how much longer it’s going to be before the house is put back together. Right now all we have completed is the dining room floor (which looks quite nice) and by the end of next week, the floor in the office should be done and then the room will be back together shortly thereafter. I’m not going to think about the kitchen. Nope, not thinking about the kitchen which is still weeks away.

I have come to realize I have to make myself write, no matter what the conditions or it will never get done. Sometimes I obsess over the young people I see in the obituary pages (we still get a newspaper delivered!) and think I don’t know how much longer I have here. Pretty dour, right? It’s usually a passing phase but mortality is a real thing. I never thought much of it until I turned 50 and suddenly have retirement staring me down. I remind myself of Meg Ryan’s character in When Harry Met Sally who is obsessed with her singleness and says she’s going to be 40, someday. She’s more like 30 but in her self-pity has aged herself by a decade.

I have now gotten so far off topic, I better wrap this up now. I’m writing today and that’s a good thing. It’s still early and Liam isn’t up to ask me what he can do and interrupt my momentum. I will try to shed my anxieties about mortality and writing and just get on with it.

Happy writing.

MC