thoughts

Skin – Your Body’s Largest Organ


I’d put off the ‘body scan’ by a dermatologist for a while. But when someone my husband and I both knew died as a result of a malignant melanoma, we knew we needed to make the appointment. He’s 60, I’m 59, and like many people our age, we’ve had more than a couple of blistering sunburns.

I could never tan, but it didn’t stop me from trying. And the result for me was a melanoma on the back of my thigh, where I’d never see it. 


It will be removed in ten days, the earliest available date. Thankfully, it’s still in an early stage, and hasn’t affected my lymph nodes. Numb me up good and take the damned thing out, I say.

No one I know likes these preventive procedures. Colonoscopy prep is inconvenient. Mammograms hurt. And having someone inspect every inch of your skin, well, it just underscores the fact that loss of elasticity and gravity are cruel reminders of aging. But that’s how you find out. I’m glad I found out.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Four


Living minimally doesn’t always mean donating/recycling/tossing out things. I’m still purging (bags of shredded paper mostly), but this week I’ve been focused on health issues, and thinking about other ways to clear out the clutter.

I’ve pared down my email by unsubscribing to many newsletters and websites. It was all too much! I was receiving as many as 140 emails a day – recipes, health tips, political articles. I’ve deleted a lot of them. I still follow plenty of blogs, but I’ve changed the delivery of most of them to Saturday morning, when I don’t mind taking the extra time to catch up.

Late last year, I cut my Facebook friends list by about two-thirds. It was right after the election, and I had serious doubts about even continuing with Facebook. I decided to keep my author page active, but cut down on the number of connections on my personal page. There were some hurt feelings, which was never my intent, and I reclaimed as friends those who reached out to me. Social media has helped me find new readers. It’s enabled me, the introvert, to be social in a way that’s not anxiety-producing. But I try to limit myself to morning and evening – an hour or so at the beginning and the end of the day. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – it’s enough.

Think back to a time before social media. We kept in touch with friends by calling, writing, getting together. We certainly didn’t call our friends several times a day to

  • Tell them what we ate for breakfast
  • Describe what we were wearing that day
  • Let them know we were tired
  • Tell them what we ate for lunch
  • Moan about traffic
  • Tell them which restaurant we were in for dinner (and what we ordered)

I’m guilty, too. But I’m trying to be more mindful, trying not to clutter your feed with meaningless posts. In the end, each of us chooses what will bring us joy, inspiration, laughter. 

Next week, back to filling the recycle bin! 

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! 🎶💙🎶

Thoughts from the Cliff’s Edge



I wrote my first blog post on my birthday five years ago (and maybe ten friends read it). Here I am, entering my sixtieth year, and I have something to say:

  • Don’t tell me it’s just a number. I know the number. It’s 59, dammit. 😉 And yes, I’m very aware that I’ve just entered my sixtieth year.
  • I talk to myself a lot these days, especially in the supermarket when I’ve forgotten my list.
  • I still make mistakes, but I laugh about them. Mostly. 
  • I used to pull all-nighters. Not so much anymore, unless insomnia taunts me until sunrise.
  • Kids know so much more then we did, and we thought we knew everything. They’re way too grown up, though, which is a little sad. Kids shouldn’t have to worry until they’re sixteen and driving. Then everybody worries.
  • I rarely wear makeup anymore, unless I go out. And if I go out without makeup, I’ll definitely run into someone I don’t want to see.
  • I don’t wear perfume, either. Deodorant, yes. Sunscreen, definitely.
  • I wish I’d worn a lot more sunscreen in my younger days.
  • I don’t miss full-time work at all.
  • I have never made a “bucket list,” and I never will. There are places I’ll never get to see, things I may not get to do, and it’s okay. I’ve traveled a lot. I’m not done traveling, either, or learning. But no lists.
  • Well, maybe one. Today begins the Year of Living Minimally. Throughout the coming months, I’ll be posting about this journey. 
  • There were a few Mr. Wrongs in my twenties and thirties, but at 35, I met the man who could not have been more right. I’m very grateful for that, and for him, and for the hands of my father and his mother who guided us to each other. However long we have together is a gift, something to be cherished. 
  • And speaking of gratitude, I’m thankful for coffee in the morning, a good bed at night, and air conditioning in the summer. And for you, the reader of this blog post!
  • By the way, I was just kidding about that title. Really.

Tell me something good today. Or make me smile. After all, I only turn 59 once. 🎉🎂🎶🎈🙌

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! Whispers from the Tree of Life by Fran O’Donnell


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During her early years, Fran O’Donnell often thought of rhymes and phrases, wanting each sentence to form a rhythm and pattern. She enjoyed the association of words as she envisioned the world around her, likened to the vision of an exquisite silhouette from the branch of a beautiful old tree. Words and trees became her friend and companion as she grew hungry to learn more about them. Her book, Whispers from the Tree of Life, is a collection of poems written over many years from her involvement in life, observations, inquiries, experiences, love, and conclusions of and in her life.

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Fran O’Donnell writes about what is natural in human life, particularly in the life of an artist and of someone who connects nature to human existence. The free verse and easy language allow the poems to flow along as if carried naturally by wind or water. The artificial is omitted. Fran’s poems are self propelled, organic. The poems are not couched philosophical rhetoric. Fran is an observer of nature and weaves it into her memory poems as she remembers or thinks of others and as an expression of how one strives to identify herself to herself as changes occur over time and the perception of self is recycled. Fran’s use of apostrophe and her nature metaphors for the workings of the inner self allow the reader to empathize with the poet whose persona remains steady throughout the collection. It would be difficult for anyone who has passed through a good portion of life and who has kept an eye turned toward nature not to both appreciate and enjoy Fran’s expression of living.

~ Marc G. LeVasseur, Associate Professor of English, Community College of Rhode Island

Buy the 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.

 

 

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

 

 

October


photo by m. reynolds

photo by m. reynolds

October

For Better or Worse


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Oh, those pesky vows. How they can interfere with one’s selfish pursuits.

Shortly before I married my husband, 22 years ago next month, one of my former co-workers stood in front of me. She was middle-aged and divorced. Giving me a smirky smile, she said, ‘Oh, you think he’s so perfect now. Check back in ten years when the magic’s worn off. Believe me, it disappears.’

Thanks for that, I replied. And I’m sorry your marriage didn’t last, but bestowing your bitterness on me didn’t work. I reflected on that exchange this week as I’ve been thinking about marriage. Commitment. Vows.

Jim and I met up with a couple from New York earlier this week. Sometimes we only see them once a year, but it’s always enjoyable. They’ve been married for longer then we have. They’re two pieces of a puzzle, they’re just both.

Then there’s the woman who, after thirty-odd years of marriage. is still gushy over her husband. It’s sweet, yes, and a bit off-putting sometimes. But she can still get corny after thirty years with the same man, so who can find fault, really?

‘In sickness and in health’

The guy who acts like a seven-year-old when he has the flu. The woman who is unbearable once a month. And now, as I see more and more frequently, the partner with a life-threatening illness. Every day can’t be sunshine and flowers. Every relationship is tested during the most difficult times – illness, financial challenges, raising children. That’s also when a marriage can be at its strongest. Stresses are everywhere. Saying “I Do” means saying “I Will.” I will love you even on the days I don’t like you. I will laugh with you, not at you. I will support you and respect you. I will stand by you, no matter what. And I will love growing old with you.

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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?