A Decade of Writing


Happy New Year! And happy new decade. Wasn’t it just yesterday we were freaking out about Y2K??!

Ten years ago, on December 31, 2009, I was still working as a fraud investigator. My work environment wasn’t good, but it would grow worse throughout 2010 until I finally had enough.

We lost our little pug, Jessie, in May of 2009.

While we were dog-less, we took a trip to Lugano, Switzerland, in September that year.

Then by October, my husband indicated he was ready for another dog, and our little Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Bonnie, arrived in early November.

After I finally quit the job that was making me physically sick, I began writing my first novel in 2011. And here, on the final day of 2019, I’ve published nine novels and one non-fiction journal. And I can’t wait to begin my new book!

Thank you, all of you, for reading these blog posts, for taking a chance on an unknown author, for being a loyal reader, for buying my books as gifts for yourself and for others, for posting reviews, for letting me know that I write books you like to read! I am grateful, so grateful.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-two


minimalism-is-the-pursuit-of-the-essence-of-things-not-the-appearance-quote-1

I can’t claim to have been successful this week. My ‘Big Three’ ~ the garage, my office, and the extra bedroom, look the same. They all need major purging, but I didn’t touch any of them this week.

Some weeks, Thursday rolls around and I reflect on what I did, what I didn’t do, and what got in the way. Sometimes there are good and valid excuses for not making the progress I’d hoped to make. Some weeks, I can’t find an excuse. This was one of those weeks. Sure, I kept up with the day-to-day necessities. But I didn’t accomplish anything related to this project. And I have to own that.

I’ve written previously about this Christmas being particularly minimal, and I’m happy with that. I thought I was done – mostly food gifts for siblings and friends, a few asked-for books for my husband. Then, this past Sunday, I met a friend for breakfast – yay! – and afterwards, she suggested we stop in to one of my favorite boutiques. She had a little shopping to do. I was feeling confident – my shopping was done, and as much as I love the place, there was nothing there that I needed.

1fb034bda5c487db8d6fe2ab88fcd3eb--minimalist-quotes-minimalist-living

But then…..I was surrounded by stuff. Fun stuff, shiny stuff, sweet stuff, adorable stuff. Buy me! No, buy me! Wait, buy us both! Okay, not really. But I felt something inside – pressure? guilt? – something that kept telling me I could buy just a few more things for the people I loved. So I did. Forty bucks of stuff – true, it was all food, and the recipients will enjoy everything, but still. I bought only because I felt an internal pressure to buy, not because anyone told me to, not because any of it was necessary.

And I’m not saying it was wrong! Giving gifts is fun, and being with my friend was a treasure. I even got a kick out of watching her choose items, ask for my opinion, knowing she’d make others happy. And the boutique is a small business, so I’m very happy to patronize them, even if it was just forty dollars’ worth.

This weekend, with nothing else on my calendar, I’m determined to tackle my office space. I’m not even sure I can take a ‘before’ picture. It’s horrendous! But check in with me next week, and together we’ll see what I was able to accomplish. 😉

 

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 Six


This week, it was time to go big.

Goodbye, bench. You were falling apart and, sorry, quite useless.

Our old neighbor made this bench about fifteen years ago, and we bought it. It looked sweet on our back deck, and when we sold the house and bought a condo, we picked up the bench and put it in the back of Jim’s truck, and carted it across town to the new place. But we didn’t use it – I never sat in the back – there was no shade. ☀️ The wood might be recycled, but not if it’s been treated with chemicals. 


The dining room table and chairs! Yep, gone. Hey, I’m serious about this project. And no, we’re not going to eat the rest of our meals while sitting on the couch, nor are we going to eat out every day. I have a smaller table (Eastern Butcher Block, any locals remember?) and chairs upstairs. They’re going to be repurposed for our dining room. We’ll have more space. And we don’t host large eating events anymore. (And we took care of this ‘heavy lifting’ project on Wednesday, since I knew I’d be out of commission from Thursday).

I posted this photo on a community Facebook page and within hours, the table, chairs, extra leaf, and pads were carted away by a grateful stranger in my town.

Cut It Out


And they did. The malignant melanoma on the back of my thigh was excised yesterday afternoon.


It was no bigger than a nickel. Discovered three weeks ago during my first-ever total body scan, I received a few shots of Lidocaine, then a shaved sample was removed for biopsy.

The results came back the following Friday – cancerous. The spot that never scabbed over and continued to weep had to come out. My appointment was scheduled for Wednesday the 23rd, just shy of three weeks from the initial assessment.

I don’t know why, but I always thought of skin cancer as a ‘lesser’ cancer. Breast cancer is bad. Colon, pancreatic, ovarian, liver, lung – all really bad. Very scary. Why did I think of skin cancer differently? Is it because I could see it? (Well, not this one, on the back of my thigh). Would a nickel-size spot on my mammogram have me as calm? On my lung? I know in my heart I’d have been panicked.

And that’s not to say I wasn’t worried. Two Valium an hour beforehand did little to allay my anxiety. The procedure was over in about an hour. The lidocaine lasted into the evening. I slept last night without any sleep aids.


Today it hurts. I’m taking Tylenol, extra-strength, and resting at home. I’m very much aware that there was trauma. And I am leaving the bandage on for now.

Is all of this TMI? I’m a relatively private person (and here I am, showing you a picture of my thigh!). I guess I just want you to get your checkups. I don’t think this is the last of my skin issues. But I plan to be diligent. Be like Martha, at least in this. ❤️❤️❤️

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Three


I should have titled this series “The Year to Living Minimally.” (Can you tell I’m doing revisions on my seventh novel?!)

Last week I cleaned out some drawers. This week I cleaned out some more. Don’t worry, though, I have plenty more!


Utensil drawer and gadget drawer. What I tossed out from the top left photo is not really visible, but there were packets of salt, pepper, soy sauce, ketchup, etc. all in the back. Old. Ugh.

I used to love collecting kitchen gadgets. Some things I never even used – vegetable curlers and brown sugar softeners. A cheap little microplane and a spreader with a chipped handle. I’m keeping the Pampered Chef turkey lifters, even if I only cook one turkey a year. 😉


I hate these drawers! Truly the junk drawers, filled with screws and tape and batteries and tools. They’re really my husband’s domain, but I fixed them up, and put a pile of operating manuals (for small appliances we no longer possess) into the recycle bin.

This next one was more emotional…



I donated my piano last year, and was happy to see it find a new home. It wasn’t the piano I’d grown up with, so I didn’t have an attachment to the instrument. And I hadn’t played in a very long time. But I still have an antique sheet music cabinet (my mom was so happy when she found it for me!), and it was filled with music. Look at the close-up at the bottom left of this collage – my sister and I took weekly piano lessons from Mrs. Bowser, and in April 1969 (I was 10), she rewarded us with the musical score to Oliver!


My sheet music collection includes pop favorites from my high school years, hardcover, spiral-bound books (Great Songs of the Sixties, Big Bands, Timeless Classics), as well as all the classical music I practiced so hard to get right. “Rhapsody in Blue” – I never mastered it. Now I’ll listen to it on CD or through my iPod or Pandora, and I’ll enjoy it.

My friend Lila is accepting the sheet music. She’s the Music Director at Providence College, so I’m glad it’s going somewhere good. There is one book of music I can’t part with, though.


I mean, I tattooed my name on his chest! 🎶💙🎶

Our Day of Remembrance


grotto-300x286

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.