books, Uncategorized

Top Reads of 2019

Looking back through my blog content, I didn’t spend much time talking about my 2019 reading list. I might have mentioned a book here and there but the only time I blogged about books this year was for my 2018 list which I published in late January (better late than never?!). This year I set a goal of 70 books and finished 77 as of today – this number astounds me because I used to read a couple dozen books a year. The benefits of sobriety! I’ll take you through a few of the best books in a few different genres that I enjoyed.

Best Audiobook: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik BackmanCE614EF4-2442-4A44-AA13-7479D8C58148.jpeg
There is a lot of debate on book Twitter if audiobooks even count as books read and I’m here to say they absolutely count. If you listen to a book and take in all the information from the book you have every right to count them on your “read” list. I have tried to read A Man Called Ove many, many times because everyone told me it was good, but it didn’t take until I listened to it while I sweated it out at the gym. All this time I had been pronouncing Ove wrong – this is one of the benefits of listening – hearing things pronounced correctly.

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Life, Uncategorized

A Trip to the Medium

The idea of seeing a medium has been bouncing around in the back of my mind for years. Nearly thirty three years since I lost my brother, Jeff, to suicide. There was no note. I was gutted. Why had this happened? I needed answers. John Edwards was a fairly new phenomenon back then and he had been a guest speaker at my college at the time. I don’t remember what he said that night, but I knew there could be an answer to my questions by visiting him. But I didn’t persue it.

There were a couple of local psychics in my hometown and one reached out to a family member a while after my brother died. She said my brother had visited her on the night he died and he wanted her to tell my mother he was OK. He mentioned very specific jewelry in her posession that no one else would know about. I imagine she was terrified to bring this information to my mother knowing we were a devout Catholic family who didn’t go in for other wordly nonsense.

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Life

Merry Christmas Eve!

 

 

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It will all be over in twenty four hours. The build up and planning and anticipating will be over and we can rest easy into another blessed Christmas morning. But before then, there will be lots and lots of work. A labor of love. Traditions and rituals to observe. We’ve decorated, shopped and watched all the Christmas movies. We’ve witnessed the build up of advent and the journey to Christ’s birth. It has been a particularly spiritual journey for me this year as I attended weekday mass on many occasions during the month, and isn’t that what the season is about.

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Life

The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect hinges on the theory that a small change (such as a butterfly flapping it’s wings) can cause a much larger event halfway across the world (such as a tsunami). I think of this often when I’m trying to retrace how life gets off course for me in just a short amount of time. Three weeks ago, said life was humming along. I had a faithful morning routine which entailed prayer, journaling, exercise and morning pages – all before my job which starts at 9 a.m. I had weekly commitments I didn’t veer from. AA meetings, yoga practice, meditation, meal planning, laundry and cleaning routines. And then the thing happened that knocked it off kilter.

What was the one thing that caused my life to tip over as though it was teetering on the edge of a cliff? The first chink came with a funeral which caused me to miss my weekly yoga practice. The funeral wasn’t optional as it’s crucial to be there for the important people in your life during times of loss. The funeral, also, was ripe with life lessons for me and caused me to think hard about some things like bucket lists and what’s really important in life. Next came the death of our beloved Murphy and this has caused much sadness and perhaps a low grade depression. Getting out bed in the morning became difficult but Thanksgiving was coming and a trip to Florida was on it’s heels.

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Life

Pet Grief

It’s been just over a week since we had to say goodbye to our beloved golden retriever, Murphy. He’s been part of the family for 11 years (almost to the date), having arrived just a couple of weeks before my son Liam’s second birthday. An (active!) toddler, an exuberant puppy, a full time job and a busy life.

There was puppy training, potty training, play groups and doggy daycare to squeeze into an already packed life. Then there was everything I’d read about dog food and decided I better make my own which was no small task. I worried over teething and sleep schedules. Again. For isn’t a puppy so much like a baby in many ways.

But here we are, a blink of an eye and it’s eleven years later. A teenager and an elderly dog whose time has come up much too soon. How do you say goodbye to an integral part of your family? At 100 pounds and no longer mobile, I called a vet who makes house calls. It was time.

It was a peaceful and gentle process. The vet as compassionate a man as I have ever met. He has called, emailed and sent us a sympathy card, making sure that we are all doing ok. Even checking on our cat Stella who is no spring chicken herself.

But a pet death is not like any other. A close bond forms over the years with the primary family members. Murphy loved people, giving his tail an enthusiastic shake at the mere approach of anyone new, and people loved him too. No one knew him like we did though, and the grief is like a tight knot holding us together. The fact that he’s no longer holding his post by our entrance door, a constant source of pain, a phantom pain, that reminds us each time we come home of his absence.

It’s a time of grief, to be felt for as long as necessary until it dissipates little by little as time goes by. Keeping the memories close, sharing our heartache, restitching our sense of family.

MC

Life

Building daily habits

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Back in September, I started a daily journaling exercise called the 6-Minute Diary. The basic outline is that for three minutes in the morning you answer three items:

  • Three things to be grateful for
  • A couple of sentences on how to make the day great
  • A positive affirmation

At the end of the day you complete three more exercises:

  • Your good deed for the day
  • How you’ll improve
  • Three great things you experienced that day

I just passed the critical juncture (66 days according to research cited by the author of this book) for establishing a solid habit. This is 66 days of positive thinking first thing in the morning and last thing before going to bed. I have to say it works for me and makes my days a little more meaningful. I have to put thought into my daily good deed. I have to think about how I can do better tomorrow. Even on a bad day, there have to be three good things.

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Life

Synchronicity

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The term synchronicity shows up early on in week three of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (which I am currently halfway through!) and she likens them to answered prayers (which she says are scary). She tells you to be on the lookout for them every week there on out. One minute you are wishing, praying for something and the next thing you know, it’s right there. A weird coincidence. I don’t think synchronicity is scary but I’m not always paying attention for it either. A couple weeks ago it bowled me over.

If you have been following along these last several months, you might recall I have been unemployed since early January. I had a few weeks before unemployment benefits would kick in and from there I would have 26 weeks to find another job. I scanned the job listings casually at first, looking for a good fit. I was steering away from marketing jobs which I’d been doing for the last fifteen years, wanting something a little different. I also wanted to work part-time so I could spend more time writing. What is out there that fits this description? Retail, service jobs, low paying jobs. I am cool with less money but after thirty years of work history, I didn’t want something at minimum wage level. This is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

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Writing

Holding onto Fall

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Ambling through a breezy park, the day is brisk
and nearly empty of others like you,
hoping to catch Fall by her tail, to keep her a bit longer.

The colors have faded or dropped to the ground
allowing sunshine into the thick wooded part of the path,
as though nature were opening herself to you.

Further along, the geese are taking in their last moments
at the foot of the man-made pond,
a last bite before they move along to destinations south.

 

Who will be left in a month when the temperatures
fall further and the fish sink to the bottom of the pond
where they’ll wait out the long winter, dreams of children with their crumbs of bread?

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MC

Writing

Surviving a week without books or media

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My week of reading deprivation ended on Tuesday night and while parts of it didn’t seem so bad (staying off social media for the week), there were other things that were so so hard, particularly when it came to no reading. The ban which is part of Week 4 of The Artist’s Way, a 12 week course in finding your higher creativity, included not only reading but television, YouTube, podcasts, visiting web sites, Netflix, movies – virtually anything that included being exposed to someone else’s ideas. I was able to listen to music, although I kept that to instrumental pieces and it was truly a godsend.

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