What 40 Years Looks Like


Aquinas 1940

This page is from the Providence College yearbook, ‘Veritas,’ in 1940, the year my father graduated from PC.

Forty years! What is that to you? Blink of an eye? (As we get older, doesn’t time speed up?)

I’m 59, and 40 years ago, I was a college sophomore living in an all-girls dorm on the campus of a Catholic college that my father attended (no girls back then), my older sister attended (she was a senior at the time), my cousin attended (Class of 1973), and my younger sister would attend. Providence College is, for some, a family tradition.

Forty years ago there were no cellphones, no email, no terrorism threats, no Netflix or Hulu, no personal computers, tablets, or iPods. There were no ATMs. No AIDS. The Berlin Wall stood. Jimmy Carter was president and if you ate a meal in Raymond Cafeteria, you might have heard Debby Boone singing ‘You Light Up My Life” over the piped-in music system.

When people die young, at the very beginning of their adult lives, one can’t help but imagine what they would have become. The ten girls who died in the Aquinas fire that snowy night will always be young in our memories.

Always remembered as the bright, youthful, beautiful girls they were:

Kathryn Jean Andresakes ’80

Jacqueline Luiza Botelho ’79

Barbara Jean Feeney ’81

Donna Bernadette Galligan ’81

Sallyann Garvey ’81

Gretchen Kay Ludwig ’81

Catherine Anne Repucci ’81

Laura Marie Ryan ’81

Deborah Ann Smith ’78

Dorothy Anne Widman ’81

PC

 

It’s #RIAuthor Month! Meet Mary Catherine Volk


Believe in Forever

 

Mary Catherine Volk is an author, spiritual medium, and inspirational speaker. Her book, Believe In Forever: How to Recognize Signs from Departed Loved Ones, is based on firsthand experiences and details the specific ways that contact with the other side occurs. Our loved ones send us signs to let us know they are at peace and that we will see each other again. This book teaches the reader how to navigate this new method of communication. The numerous stories in this book will give you chills as they touch your heart; teaching you to trust your own intuitive ability. Believe In Forever is a perfect book for anyone grieving a loss or curious about life after death. A personalized autographed copy of the book makes a wonderful holiday gift and is available on her website. www.marycatherinevolk.com

Mary Catherine Volk was given the gift of knowing that death is just a transition after experiencing a Near Death Experience at age six where she was greeted by her deceased grandfather, who told her that she would be all right and returned her to her hospital room. Mary has spent her life teaching and reassuring others that the signs they are receiving are indeed real messages of love. She is always delighted to see the shining light in people’s eyes when they receive confirmation of their unique signs. Once you acknowledge them, you will receive more. Ask and you shall receive!

Mary Catherine Volk

Mary Catherine lives by the sea in Narragansett, Rhode Island, where she enjoys the beach, writing, acting, learning, community and social activities and spending time with her daughters and two new grandchildren. She is founder and owner of www.insigniagems.com a jewelry company specializing in American flag jewelry. She is currently working on two new books: a sequel to Believe In Forever and a children’s book to teach parents how to answer their children’s questions about seeing departed loved ones or angels.

The book is available through Stillwater River Publicationsthe author’s website, on Amazon , and through local bookstores.

GIVEAWAY! The author is offering a print copy of Believe In Forever to one lucky recipient. All you have to do is leave a comment below. The winner will be chosen at random and the author will contact you directly. Contest ends one week after publication. US residents only, please.

Meet over 100 local authors on Saturday, December 2! The Fifth Annual RI Authors Expo

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It’s #RIAuthor Month! Meet Yvette Nachmias-Baeu


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I did not begin to write seriously until 2009. Having said that, I have always found writing to be the way I am able to best express myself. Words and the way they are put together intrigued me and stringing them together to create a narrative has become my greatest joy.

My first book was prompted by the death of my husband.  The notion of life and what it means, death and how it affects us, became a meditation on loss and what life actually is.

A Reluctant Life (a memoir), my first published book, was a winner at the New England Book Festival: Honorable Mention in 2012. It is at once a guide to grief, a vibrant memoir, and a lucid meditation on the purpose of life and death. It stands easily alongside Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and Joyce Carol Oates’ A Widow’s Story.  Read reviews of the book here

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Clara at Sixty (a novel) is the portrait of a woman who, after losing her husband at an age when life begins to contract, returns to the world of fumbling, emotionally-confused relationships. The series of mismatches are sometimes passionate and exciting adventures, sometimes funny, but ultimately sad. Still grieving and searching for her identity, marginalized by a society that views women past their prime as invisible, she knows she must come to terms with the loss of her husband, the death of too many friends, and the new reality of “being an older woman.” Her search to find meaning for the last chapter of her life is the universal struggle that begins at birth and changes over time and circumstance. Clara, in the end, discovers her way forward. Read reviews of this book here

Yvette other cover

Best Friends (non-fiction). This book of letters tells the story of two aspiring young women, Beth and Yvette, whose correspondence spans a period of twenty-seven years—from San Francisco to the return to their roots in New York City at the beginning of the sixties, where they’re part of the Downtown art scene of the time and their circle includes friends who will later become famous, to the end of the eighties when their lives have spun off into widely divergent paths, one of them tragic.

Best Friends is scheduled to be published next month.

Yvette

Yvette Nachmias-Baeu has been a psychiatric nurse, a professional actress, an advertising producer at a major New York agency, a farmer, and a creative entrepreneur. Her first book, A Reluctant Life, a memoir about the death of her husband and the process of grief, won honorable mention at the New England Book Festival. Clara at Sixty is the fictionalized sequel. Learn more about Yvette at her website.

Books are available as paperback and ebook at all outlets and through her website.

Meet over 100 local authors on Saturday, December 2! The Fifth Annual RI Authors Expo

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The Year of Living Minimally – Week Fifteen


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But what about all the mental clutter???

This week, I took a break from hauling stuff out of our house. After a month of doing just that at my father-in-law’s, I needed a respite from dealing with what now seems like not-so-much here. Still, I have places to tackle in the upcoming weeks (the garage, my office area, the extra room upstairs that has become a repository for everything).

But this week I also needed to clear up and organize all the mental stuff that’s accumulated on my virtual plate. I have a hard time saying ‘no’ to requests. I enjoy editing and proofreading, especially now that my book is finished and going through its own proofing – plus it pays well. I’ve offered to host Rhode Island authors on this blog during the month of November, as I have for the past couple of years. The dates are filled, and I’ve asked the authors to write their own posts – all I have to do is upload the post (after proofing!) and add links and photos. But each blog post takes time to get it right. And the authors, well, some of them submit early, and some of them don’t realize how much it helps me. I’ve decided that, after two notifications, I will not chase anyone down. I’m happy to feature them, but I’m not going to stress out if they don’t submit a blog post to me. Then there’s all the paperwork involved with the death of someone. I handle this stuff better than my husband, so I’m making calls, writing letters, filling out forms, following up. There’s money involved (getting and paying), so it’s important to follow through.

I’ve unsubscribed to countless mailing lists (sorry if you were one of the ones I chopped) – I don’t have time for all of them, and/or I was never reading them anyway. For the blogs I follow, I’ve set delivery of the posts to Saturday morning, when I have an hour in the morning to peruse them.  I’ve stopped following many of the news channel posts on social media – it’s depressing, even if I agree with the writer! I skim the headlines and read what I want, but if I feel that bad news is intruding into my life, it’s time to rethink those subscriptions. The nightly news? First 5-10 minutes only, then my husband and I watch a movie or a documentary on Netflix, usually about food or travel. Then there are the people who thrive on negativity, are heartless in their opinions, or just enjoy stirring the pot. They’re not for me.

I’m walking toward simplicity. Cleaning up the other clutter is a big step in that direction.

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 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


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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:

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/2012/12/12/ten-young-women/

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/2013/12/13/bring-all-the-priests/

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/2014/12/12/what-december-13th-means-to-us/

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/2015/12/12/the-memory-of-sense/

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 http://www.riauthors.org/riexpo/ , 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


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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.

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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.