reflection

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.

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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 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


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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.

Book-a-Day #Giveaway! All the Rest of her Days by Jane McCarthy


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In All the Rest of her Days, Jane McCarthy captures the difficult emotional realities beneath the 1950s patina of rectitude. A point brilliantly made that when tragedy befalls a family, there is a happy ending but rarely a happy ever after.

Sixteen-year-old Maggie is pregnant and the fabric of her family is shredded. The secret must be buried and lies must be told.  It will sadden you, excite you, and make you weep for the characters and rejoice in the successes.

“With sensitivity and empathy, Jane McCarthy tells the story of a boy given up for adoption in the 1950s, when an unwed mother was a pariah. Maggie Porter’s decision to give up her baby has ramifications across generations and continents, and McCarthy explores all facets of this 20th century tragedy.”

~ Betty Cotter, author of Robert’s Woods and The Winters

“All the Rest of Her Days is a poignant and provocative tale that touches our hearts as well as our minds. McCarthy’s epic-like, multi-generational saga confronts its characters with difficult choices that challenge their sensibilities in a way that’s every bit the equal of such genre stalwarts as Judith guest and Alice Hoffman. Wonderfully crafted and beautifully written, this is a tale certain to engage and enthrall.”

~ Jon Land, USA Today best selling author of the Caitlin Strong Series

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Jane has always been an avid reader, preferably accompanied by a cold glass of Pinot Grigio. As a Registered Nurse she learned much about the human response to sadness and joy. Friendships are important to her. She admires loyalty, integrity, and a sense of humor, which are the framework of who she is. All the Rest of Her Days is her first novel and she is writing her second. She lives in Narragansett with her husband and is willing to travel reasonable distances for book signings and discussion groups. Find her book here.

You can WIN a copy of this book! Just leave a comment below. One winner will be chosen at random and the author will contact you directly. Contest ends one week after publication.

 

A Winding Stream


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I’m in the habit of doing ‘soft’ releases – minimal fanfare and proclamations. Nevertheless, I’m incredibly proud to announce the publication of this new book, and the first in my portfolio that’s non-fiction.

A Winding Stream chronicles the two-week canoe and camping trip that my maternal grandfather, Earl R. Handy, made with his friend, John B. Hudson, in 1924. 1924!  Five years before the Great Depression, seventeen years before Pearl Harbor. In June of 1924, the Snyder Act granted US citizenship to all American Indians. George Mallory and A.C. Irvine died attempting to climb Mount Everest. And on the last day of June in 1924, the Democratic National Convention adjourned at midnight with William Gibbs McAdoo and Al Smith deadlocked in balloting.

This little book (54 pages) may be of interest (outside my family!) to those interested in the region, canoeing and camping, the environment, local history, or to anyone wanting to take a quiet journey back ninety-two years. Paddle down the rivers with Earl and John for fourteen days. And if you think you might like to re-create this adventure, please let me know!

Pick up your copy at Amazon and come see me in December at one of my book events!

Thursday, December 1 (6:00pm) – Jesse M. Smith Memorial Library in Harrisville, RI

Saturday, December 3 (11:00-5:00) – RI Authors Expo at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet in Cranston, RI

Focus on the Positive


“Find every opening to reinforce the value of returning to right and reason in your own life.”

~ Deepak Chopra

I thought I’d post this one line instead of Chopra’s entire article (which you can read here if you’re so inclined). I didn’t want to turn it into a political post – haven’t we all had enough of this exhaustive ugliness anyway? It’s Sunday and I’m feeling a little bit lazy, so here are some pictures to brighten your day. Focus on the positive when you can – all this negativity does you no good.

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All photoS by M. Reynolds

Gandria, Switzerland

Gandria, Switzerland

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Wilcox Park, Westerly, RI

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Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence, RI

 

 

Looking Back (Way Back)


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As I’ve been working on recreating this journal written by my maternal grandfather (which will be a book by December), it’s inevitably led to some family tree research.

Over twenty years ago, I picked up on my mother’s love of genealogy and created a binder of information for her. Lots of pages, many, many branches of a tree that went all the way back to King Alfred the Great. (‘Mom, if we’re descended from royalty, why do I have to work?’ ‘Someone married for love, that’s why.’) Of course, the argument can be made that we’re all connected, and the more I do this research, the more I believe it.

My husband’s mother was born in Salzburg, and we have documents, official certificates of births and marriages and deaths. I have Zeinzingers back to the late 1700s, and Strauss, Altmann, Eder. Everything in German!

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This has helped! So has my online friend Eva Merryman – her translations have been valuable in figuring out the who, the what, and the where.

So, how about you? Do you look back? Have you discovered something wonderful in your family history?