Life

Condolences

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If you knew that my first experience with a close loved one’s death was a traumatic experience in that I was one of the people to find my brother after his suicide (when I was nineteen), it may not surprise you that I haven’t always dealt with the loss of other people’s loved ones in the best of manners. Quite honestly, I would do anything to avoid a funeral home and a casket (open or closed) for many, many years. In fact, it was (and sometimes still is) hard to talk to others about their loss but I have always thought the best route was to send a condolence card. And now Facebook seems to be the place others go to express their thoughts and prayers.

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Life

A Yellow Notepad

This morning as I was doing my own kind of meditation where I lie in bed and send prayers and good thoughts for the day, I asked God to help me see what I should be in the world. On Sunday night we went to mass at a local Catholic college and it was amazing. For me, amazing doesn’t happen at mass all the time, but that night I felt so in tune with what the priest was enthusiastically asserting in his homily and it was all about being who and what we are supposed to be.

It didn’t come to me in a thunderbolt as I mulled this over in bed today but my thoughts drifted to a letter I need to write to a family member to set my side of the relationship right. It’s something I let go too long but it’s never too late, right? The letter needs to be hand written, something I haven’t done in many, many years.

Into my mind popped a vision of a yellow notepad, a notepad I used abundantly during the summer of 1988 to write letters to my brother, Jeff, who had taken his life 17 months prior. I was in the anger stage of my grieving process. It was the summer after my sophomore year of college and I was unable to find employment where my parents lived and so my uncle generously found me a well paying flag person job and I went to live with him, my aunt and young cousins 100 miles from home.

Standing in a u-turn on a major highway, alone for 12 hours a day gives a person quite a bit of time to think. I did a lot of that, headphones in my ears as I listened to the soundtrack of that summer: Walking in Memphis, Simply Irresistible, Hands to Heaven and everything by Phil Collins. When I hear these songs I can be transported back to that summer like it was last week.

Back to the yellow notepad. I would be exhausted at the end of the day and even though I had a boyfriend living nearby, I mostly spent the evenings in my room, scrawling out these lengthy messages to my dead brother. I was trying to come to grips with the why, a nearly fruitless endeavor for suicide survivors. This was long before I heard of the concept of a suicide survivors group. I also eschewed therapy, preferring to go it alone (a common theme in my life).

I wrote on those notepad pages until my hand hurt and then would carefully pull the pages from the pad, fold it in thirds as though I were about to tuck it into a number 10 envelope and then deposit it in the top drawer of the dresser. By the end of the summer the drawer was full but I was no closer to the answers I sought. If I packed them up as I left for my dorm that fall, I don’t remember.

Writing on that yellow pad was an integral part of my very long recovery process. Like the songs of the summer of 1988, I can’t see a yellow pad without remembering the angst of my nocturnal writing during those summer months. If I could write a letter to my 20 year old self, I’d tell her it was going to get better. Time heals all wounds is a trope no grieving person ever wants to hear even if it is true.

Somehow, over time (lots and lots of time), my heart patched over and I was able to work through my grieving process. I was able to go on and work with other survivors, listen on a hotline as people called in with the things that weighed heavily on their mind. Is remembering the notepad part of God’s mission for me? I think it is, at least for today because it was the first image I saw when I looked at Twitter this morning. I will keep seeking the clues He sends me.

MC

books

Favorite Books of 2018

Before we get too far into 2019, I thought I’d take a look back at the books I most enjoyed in 2018 and would highly recommend to others. My tastes veer toward mystery, suspense, psychological thrillers, and current fiction as well as British fiction (I have a love affair with London and England that began in the summer of 1981 when Lady Diana married Prince Charles for all the world to see). British mysteries are a favorite!

I have to say it was a wonderful reading year for me. I am a pretty tough critic and usually I don’t hand out to 5 (out of 5) stars very often – though I would lean a bit toward four and a half for many if that was allowable on Goodreads.  In 2018 out of the 83 books I read, a stellar 19 were 5-star reads (22%) versus 2017 where only 11% were. Let’s get to it. They are in no particular order and I’m not going to list them all here because we’d be here all week. Continue reading “Favorite Books of 2018”

Writing

A New Routine

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Today is day one of my new, unemployed life. What came before, these last two weeks was just the trial run. A period similar (but certainly not as devastating) to the events experienced after the death of a loved one. The period that is suspended in time where your tribe gathers around. Makes daily inquiries as to your well being. There is much to do in those first few days. Organize and prepare for what lies ahead. A pre-planned getaway to Florida followed my first week away from the job and there was a flurry of activity awaiting me there. But now I am home and everyone is back to work and school and I’m here to let the dust settle around me and find a new routine.

This is exactly what I have wanted for months on end. Time to write. Time to see if I have what it takes to birth a book. I’m hopeful because it is early days and I see nothing but time stretching ahead of me. I have a bit of money saved and with unemployment kicking in soon, I’ll have enough to get me through the next few months. I know how lucky I am. If I can’t make it work now, I don’t see how it’s going to happen for me. I know I have to sit my butt in front of my computer and let the words out, even if they are gibberish and nonsensical.

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Musings

Bingeing

Over the past couple of years I’ve gotten away from watching television. There seemed to be no time to keep up with all the shows people were talking about: Game of Thrones, This is Us, Big Little Lies. And Grey’s Anatomy is still on! The last shows I properly binged on were Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad, two shows so good but as different as could be.

Instead I was reading every chance I had and you can see the numbers of books read climb as my TV watching diminished right up to last year where I managed 83 book. Now I have all the time in the world and I’m finding it hard to focus on one book for very long. I had always loved movies so I started going again and have seen The Favourite (astonishing) and On the Basis of Sex (this calls into question what am I actually doing with my life) in the past week. And since I’m solo here in Florida, I turned on Amazon Prime and was delighted to see Lady Bird on there, a movie I had hoped to see in the theater. It is exactly the kind of quirky movie I love. The next night I watched Beautiful Boy, a heartbreaking movie about a drug addicted son that I wrote about here.

This brought me to yesterday. I am trying to go between the books The Alice Network and The Gifts of Imperfection but cannot stay focused. Instead I perused a few YouTube channels I follow but still nothing held my interest. I cleaned around the house and by 6:00 I found myself collapsed in my chair and started looking for something on Netflix. After the requisite 30 minutes of scrolling I settled on You.

I am now properly hooked after binge watching the first four episodes. I don’t know whether it is good fortune or bad but there are only 10 episodes right now so it won’t be a situation where I’m bingeing for days in a row. While You is no Breaking Bad, it is definitely keeping me entertained and surprised.

What are you watching?

MC

Life

Beautiful boy

I watched the above titled movie yesterday and I have a feeling it will stay with me for quite some time. It deals with the extremely difficult topic of drug addiction and the relationship between a father (helpless parent) and son (addict). It really blew me away in it’s unflinching portrayal of the damage drugs and alcohol can play in the life of a family.

It hit a little too close to home, though, as we lost a nephew to drugs just two and a half years ago. I met my sister-in-law more than 20 years before when I started volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline. She was the director of the center and I felt an immediate connection with her as we bonded over losing our brothers to suicide several years prior. Suicide prevention, dealing with the aftermath and support to survivors is God’s work. She is amazing at it and just recently retired from doing it full time for many years. It is work that takes it’s toll and I found I could only do it for a few years before it started contributing negatively to my own mental health. It was through this relationship that I met my husband – she is married to his brother – and I got to see their three kids grow through the years.

Unfortunately drugs became part of one of their twin boys life and after a long struggle, they got the phone call no parent ever wants to hear. I’m sorry but your son died of an overdose. I know they did everything to prevent getting that call but addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet portrayed the father and son but I couldn’t help slot my family members into their parts. To say life isn’t fair seems like a hollow admonition. A beautiful boy was lost and his family is forever altered.

MC

Writing

Girl seeks inspiration

Lately I’ve been writing posts that may never make it out of the drafts folder. My thoughts seem so lackluster and a little hollow. Here’s what I did yesterday, blah, blah, blah. I’m trying to scrape meaning from something, anything, so I can turn it into a brilliant and soul crushing observation. Inspiration is just slightly out of reach, though. Well, maybe more than slightly.

I’m currently on my own for a few days at our home in Florida, getting it ready for renters who will arrive at the end of the month. There are still a couple days left and I want to use the time to really get started on writing something more than a blog post. I’ve got my legs draped over my favorite chair, alternating between The Alice Network and a Brene Brown book I picked up yesterday but I can’t stay focused and the task of writing morning pages holds no interest for me.

I’m content, though. It’s quiet and peaceful. I can just sit here pecking away at the keyboard on my phone, a cup of coffee by my side. No one to care if I shower and dress. My lovely journal is within reach and day is starting to dawn outside.

These are the kind of days I rarely get back home. I feel laying around, particularly now that I’m unemployed, will be unacceptable to me when I return. That I will feel the need to earn my keep by making things nice around the house. Being super mom and super wife. School volunteer and job seeker extraordinare. Right now is kind of a bubble. Anything and everything is possible if only I could hear what the universe is trying to tell me. I’m listening.

MC

Writing

Writing with pen

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For as long as I can remember I have always had preferences when it comes to pens. Fine tip. Blue ink. All pens are not created equal though and it took a while to settle on my implement of choice which is the Pentel R.S.V.P., blue ink, fine tip (of course) and I’ve used them for years. Unfortunately as things go with pens everywhere, they have a penchant to go missing often and sometimes second or third best will have to do.

I’ve decided to return to morning pages and a pen is required for this activity. I needed something strong and solid to capture the muddle of thoughts I have after being released from a job I’ve held for nearly nine years. I have never been quite in this position before. I am a long and loyal employee and only left my previous employer of 20 years after much hand-wringing and emotional cross-examination.

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Life

Music for pre-teens

We are at a stage in life where Liam is becoming more interested in music and that is awesome. We have been bringing him along with us to live music (mostly free shows during the summer season) since he was a baby and over the past couple of years he has gone to several (paid) shows with us and is starting to find his own way.

I had bought tickets for my husband Jim and I to see Brett Dennen in November but Jim ended up being away so I brought Liam as my date (pictured above). This was a bit different than shows we’d been to in the past and he was really surprised when people stood up to dance (even a guy older than dad – lol) in their seats and in the aisles. It was high energy and a lot of fun but I couldn’t persuade him to get up and dance with me. Maybe next time.

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Life

I’m messing up my resolutions already

I’m not sure why we circle around the date of January 1 to recalibrate our lives. Lose weight, eat healthier, exercise, set new goals. The only goal I banged out of the park in 2018 was my reading goal which I consider research toward my goal of one day writing a novel.

But this year, as I was on my last minute shopping run to Barnes & Noble, my eyes lit up when I saw a daily calendar of writing prompts by Writer’s Digest. I have really missed the daily prompt on WordPress which was way more than just a prompt because it allowed me to connect with other writers and discover new voices and I admit it keeps me away from blogging regularly because I no longer get that daily email.

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