The Year of Living Minimally – Week Fourteen

Yes, there’s stuff – a ceramic dog, a broken chair, a heavy glass ashtray. We filled the St. Vincent de Paul donation bin, and we filled the dumpster, too. We’ve hauled bags and boxes to the curb, where ‘pickers’ have picked and taken their share. We had walls painted and carpet installed.

I’m writing this post on Wednesday morning (10/18). Four weeks since my father-in-law died unexpectedly. Nearly four weeks since we began this massive clear-out. The house is almost ready. We’ve been so busy, every day. 

We’ve reduced Ray’s house to a shell. 45 years of living, making memories, gone. Ready for someone else to breathe life into it.

Our footsteps echo throughout the empty rooms. On Thursday, we contacted our realtor and locked the door behind us. 

Now, I turn back to our own home. Next week’s post will focus on whatever I can manage to accomplish. One thing I am sure of – living minimally is the way to go.


The Year of Living Minimally – Week Thirteen

A quarter of the way through this year-long project. The focus is still on ‘the other house.’ But what a lot of work has been done in just a few weeks’ time! Seven rooms, an attic, a basement, and a garage. Donations and discarding. Discarding isn’t easy, but it’s necessary.

Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists posted this (excerpt): “Initially, I didn’t want to let go of anything. If you’ve ever lost a parent, a loved one, or been through a similarly emotional time, then you understand exactly how hard it was for me to let go of any of those possessions. So instead of letting go, I wanted to cram every trinket, figurine, and piece of oversized furniture into that storage locker in Ohio, floor to ceiling. That way I knew that Mom’s stuff was there if I ever wanted it, if I ever needed access to it for some incomprehensible reason. I even planned to put a few pieces of Mom’s furniture in my home as subtle reminders of her.”

We felt the same way – Jim had the emotional ties, I was being practical (don’t toss it if it can be used). But the clothes, the coats, the hangers, the photographs, the curios, each item held a small memory for my husband. The memories would remain, even without all the stuff.

We are not defined by what we own. Not by the car we drive, or the square footage of our house or apartment. We’re not measured by our possessions. There is joy in knowing some things will be put to use by others.

In California, some folks have literally minutes to evacuate their homes. Minutes! What do you grab? (My external hard drive – it holds my books and my wannabe books).

As Joshua noted, he didn’t need his mom’s stuff to remind him of her. We don’t need Ray’s houseful of stuff to fuel our memories. 

I began this project by tackling little things – a couple of drawers in the bathroom, the kitchen. I donated some books, some clothes. Larger projects await me in my own house (the garage, my writing space), but I’m ready.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twelve

Collectibles.  Are you a collector? Perhaps it’s a generational thing. Young people, more mobile, tend not to collect things. Folks our age inherited our mothers’ (or grandmothers’) china, tea sets, cake plates, etc. I know, we have a china cabinet full of these things. Nobody wants them. I’m not sure what to do with them. I cannot throw them out. 

I am not a collector.  This is the extent of my collection, and these little pieces were gifts from my husband in the early years of our marriage.
They’re tiny, and they’re housed in a little display case. It’s enough!

The work continues at my father-in-law’s house. It’s okay – our condo is in great shape, comparatively speaking. But a house occupied by the same person since 1972 had a whole lotta stuff in it.

This is on a wall in the basement! Jim’s dad and my father would have gotten along well.

We’ve dropped off clothes, lugged furniture and mattresses to the curb, hauled countless broken and non-working items to the dumpster. We’ll bring the electronics to the recycling place. We’re getting there. And balancing the arduous work with moments of gratitude. We grieve, we cry, we curse the collectibles! We smile, we laugh. We’re okay. 💚💚💚

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Eleven

The focus shifted, rightfully, away from us this week. We honored my husband’s father (above) with the military funeral he deserved, and I know that he’s now at peace, after years of living with a cruel disease.

Apart from the viewing, the Mass, and the burial, there was work to do at his house. And that work continues. He clung to his independence, living alone in the same house he’d lived in since 1972. There were memories in that house. And lots of stuff.

Look, it happens. It would have upset him more if we’d started cleaning out the excess while he was still alive. So we have our work cut out for us. Clothes, shoes, blankets, linens. Books, DVDs, CDs. Food. Furniture. And so many photos. Donate, keep, or discard. I’m mindful that there’s a lot of emotion right now, so if my husband insists on carting a few things back into our house, I’m keeping my mouth shut. ❤️

Our Day of Remembrance


I wasn’t sure what to title this annual tribute. My previous posts about December 13 are listed here, if you want to revisit them:

We were all affected by the Aquinas fire in 1977, whether we slept through the event (as I did) or witnessed it first-hand and survived. 39 years later, that memory is as sharp as it was then.

My classmate Michelle Dumont Vezina ’80 writes, “I experienced December 13th somewhat as an outsider looking in. We stayed up late that night studying for finals. We must have been in a deep sleep when everything was happening.

“I remember calling my parents to tell them. They had heard that morning that the largest dorm at Providence College was on fire. They assumed McVinney was the largest because of its height and thought I had been in the fire. They were relieved when I called.

“My mother picked me up that morning for what became the beginning of Christmas break. The campus was quiet, eerily so. I remember looking at Aquinas Chapel from my dorm room window, thinking about the girls who died.

“At that time, I had never experienced death of anyone close to me.  I didn’t really understand the feeling. No one really understands until they lose someone close to them.”


A survivor, Kim Fasolo Martin ’80 writes, “December 13, 1977 changed every part of me down to my soul. For many years, I tried to figure out a specific event in my life that I was saved for, such as my marriage or the birth of my child. It took me decades to realize that I was saved for many reasons. I try to give the lessons that I learned from that terrible night to anyone who will listen. These are some of these lessons that I live by:

“Be kind to people. Tell your loved ones how much they mean to you and how much you love them every chance you get. Never go to bed mad at anyone. Cherish your friends. Do not judge people for how they act until you know what has happened in their life.

“There are so many more lessons that I learned and am still learning.

“All the women who suffered this tragedy on December 13, 1977 share a bond that cannot be broken even if we have not spoken to each other.

“Sometimes, out of tragedies, there is good and when this happens,  we have to share this good to anyone who will listen.”

The Aquinas fire claimed the lives of ten women living on the north end of Aquinas Hall’s fourth floor on Dec. 13, 1977. Katie Andresakes ’80, Jackie Botelho ’79, Barbara Feeney ’81, Donna Galligan ’81, Sallyann Garvey ’81, Gretchen Ludwig ’81, Cathy Repucci ’81, Laura Ryan ’81, Debbie Smith ’78, and Dotty Widman ’81.

Happy Book-iversary (to me)!

99centsMy first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was published on August 12, 2012 – nearly four years ago! (It was republished with a new cover in April 2013.) In those four years, I’ve written and published six novels, all of which have given me tremendous pride and a sense of accomplishment. I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing, and that is sufficient. Well, pretty much.

New novels can trigger a sales flurry, but sales drop off after a time, even for beloved best-sellers.

So….for the coming week, every one of my six novels will be discounted to 99 cents for the e-book (Kindle version). I have no control over the print price, but if you come to the RI Authors Book Expo on December 3, 2016 , I’ll have print copies available for a great price.

You can grab a three-book series, described by one reader as “writing (that) draws wonderful pictures of the characters and allows you to really ‘fall into’ the book ~ which is one of my favorite things about reading.” Or read about a group of classmates readying for their 25-year high school reunion and visiting old grievances. A novel about a young woman pursuing her dream of becoming a best-selling author, only to face a harsh reality check. And finally, a lighter story involving two friends who gamble on a dream of turning a rundown farm into a premier wedding venue. If you’ve already read these books, here’s a chance to give some gifts. In any event, I’m grateful – so very grateful – for all the positive feedback and encouragement I’ve received, from friends and strangers new friends, over the past four years.

When Despair Wins


When I was in my late teens, a girl I’d known in high school committed suicide. We weren’t close, but it shook me. From what I understood later on, she was distraught over a failed love affair. I think my dad took it harder, especially as the father of three girls (and me in the middle always going through some sort of crisis). She saw no other way, and had no hope that tomorrow could be better.

In college, my best friend learned of a relative’s suicide via telephone. We were on our way to a friend’s house for a weekend of fun with others. I told him I’d stay back with him if he felt it too difficult to attend the party, but we went. When I look at photographs from that weekend, I see a forced smile, eyes full of pain and sadness.

And yesterday I learned of another young person who took his life. I didn’t know him, but I do know one of the people affected by the tragedy of despair. She is left reeling and broken.


I used to consider suicide a hostile act. I don’t anymore. My heart hurts for the person so consumed and overwhelmed by despair that there’s no room left for hope. The permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Summer of Our Discontent


Getty Images

Three weeks into summer, and don’t you wish it was New Year’s Eve already? There’s plenty to be grumpy/sad/depressed/angry about:

Donald Trump. The politician who spews hatred and racism is not going to ‘make America great again.’ He’s not. And we learn that this man who cares more about winning than just about anything else may not even want to be President. He wants to win. And he does not care about you.

Hillary Clinton. Do not assume that #I’mWithHer, just because I’m most definitely not with him. I’m not. I don’t think she deserves the presidency, based on her careless, selfish, and unwise choices regarding her role as Secretary of State.

Terrorism. Libya, Iraq, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Baghdad, Somalia, Turkey, Brussels, Pakistan, Kabul, Congo, Yemen, Orlando (Florida), Cameroon. Just this year, and these are only the ‘major’ attacks (in which more than 30 people have died).

Rio. The 2016 Summer Olympics, the leading international sporting event, are being held in a city that is known for its violence. With the opening ceremonies just weeks away, news headlines out of Rio have been dominated by muggings of athletes, body parts washing up on the shore of Copacabana, and a murderous shoot-out in a hospital. Police officers have gone on strike. A drug-resistant super-bacteria has just been discovered on the beaches, possibly caused by all the raw sewage being dumped in the ocean. And don’t forget Zika.

Black Men Being Killed. Based on a tally from The Washington Post, Philando Castile was the 123rd black person to be shot by police in 2016. The day before Castile was killed, Alton Sterling was shot by Baton Rouge police, while he was on the ground. And this past Thursday night, a 25-year-old black man killed five Dallas police officers, aiming for white cops in particular. This has to end.


That’s a lot to despair about. So we need to find hope. Perhaps in your children’s eyes. They’re looking to you for guidance – so teach them what’s important. Do you pray? (You should!) Prayer isn’t just about asking for something. It’s also a way to express thanks.

Please enlighten my mind with truth

Inflame my heart with love

Inspire my will with courage

Enrich my life with service.

Pardon what I have been

Sanctify what I am;

And order what I shall be.


God Awaits You at the Door

That’s a quote from Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez. It seemed appropriate today, as I learn of yet another colleague gone too soon.

goodbye meme

I’m nearly 58 years old, and it’s not unusual for my friends’ parents to pass away. Just this past week, the father of a high school friend died. I’ve attended plenty of wakes and funerals for men and women in their 80s and 90s. I try to prepare for the day that my father-in-law, now 84 and tethered to an oxygen tank, passes.

But when it’s a contemporary…well, it’s sobering. Difficult. Sometimes tragic. Steve never smoked a cigarette and died of lung cancer. Lucy’s husband killed her and then hanged himself. Danny had but three months from his cancer diagnosis to his death. Sue, Tom, Steve, Jack, Tim, Elaine, Kathy, Susan, Ellen, Sally, Lili. And now Jeff.

Working for Hope Hospice, I’m not immune to death. In the two years I’ve been there, I can’t tell you how many familiar names I’ve seen on paperwork. Death is inevitable, of course. We hope that it comes when we’re ready, but does it? Nothing is promised to you in this life…except that, one day, it will end. Rest in eternal peace, Jeff.



Common Threads – Life and Death

I’ve been a poor blogger in 2016 so far – please forgive me. These past five weeks have been challenging on diverse levels, and winter fatigue is real. Perhaps I’ve simply become less tolerant of ice and snow….

Dan Connor 1958-2016

Dan Connor 1958-2016

Back in October, I received a message from a college friend (thank goodness – sometimes! – for social media, as it’s allowed me to reconnect, with purpose, to so many friends and colleagues) that her twin brother, also a Providence College graduate, had been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer.  I knew Eileen well in school, but her brother Dan and I traveled in different circles. Still. We’re 57, which most days still feels more like 37. Or 27. Certainly too young to die.

Dan had about three months from his diagnosis. He passed away on the first day of February, surrounded by his loved ones and the good people at Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island. His wake was last Friday, at the end of yet another snowstorm here, but when my husband and I exited the funeral home, the sky had turned a brilliant blue, and the sun, low in the western sky, lit the clouds on fire. Danny was home, in God’s loving arms.

So even though I wasn’t close to Dan, I felt a bond with his sister, and learned that his partner for the past twelve years, his fiancee, was a girl I knew in high school. Laurie and Dan had a special love, one that sometimes comes later in life.

We meet people every day, and sometimes we reconnect after years apart. I believe there’s always a purpose, a meaning, in these connections. Maybe we’re unable to grasp that meaning at the time. Accept it as an opportunity to give love where needed.

Wishing peace and comfort to all of Dan’s family.