Thoughts for a Thursday – Dear Amanda

True to her seemingly tireless nature, and owing sadly to her mania, in addition to everything else she did, my sister Amanda was also a (self-)published author of several books. The Young Physician’s Guide to Money and Life stands apart from her other publications as the only one with a co-author (the endlessly wonderful Dave Denniston of Freedom Formula for Physicians Podcast) as well as the only one published posthumously. In fact she essentially abandoned the then unfinished book to Dave.

Besides furnishing his own writings, Dave braved organizing the chapters, finalizing editing, coordinating design, and generally seeing this arduous project to completion. He approached me to write a preface, and was incredibly respectful and supportive. It greatly comforts me to know Amanda spent time working with someone like him at the end.

When I drafted my preface, I found that though I wanted to address potential readers, I also had a lot I wished I could say to Amanda. So I ended up writing two different versions. Dave wisely chose the version intended for the book’s readers to include. And here below is what I wrote to Amanda then.

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It Is Completely Okay to Speak Ill of the Dead

Hundreds of people reached out to me after Amanda’s frighteningly sudden suicide.

 

Elementary, middle and high school friends of hers from Taipei emailed me. Former teachers and professors from her high school in LA tracked me down. Her colleagues and mentors from undergraduate and medical school in northern California contacted me. Even people she worked with very briefly (as briefly as mere weeks) reached out. Many, many people attended her viewing with extremely short notice. Her colleagues in Tucson put together a wonderful scrapbook of her residency for Mini. Amanda’s boyfriend, Mini’s dad’s family stepped up communications, and I got to meet Mini’s Nana a third time and her paternal aunt for the first time. Even people from around the globe who connected with her in the blogosphere have written me here and privately.

 

From all the hundreds of people, and the tens of thousands of words that were exchanged, a pattern quickly and unmistakably emerged. No one had a bad thing to say about Amanda. Obviously she has said and done not so great, even terrible things, all of those things just categorically vanished from conversation. I know that people reach out, driven by decorum or empathy, could never think to say to me– as I grieved my sister’s death– A Bad Thing about Dead Sister. I get it. Only, this complete and total avoidance, created a bizarre alternate reality.

 

People praised Amanda’s bubbly personality and seemingly boundless energy, without addressing her hair-trigger temper and tendency to steamroll others, or even acknowledging her (at times apparent) mania. People expressed awe over her prolific writing, without noting the glaring lack of editing and her pushy spamming. I did the same gliding over. I found it hard to speak to flaws of hers or mistakes she made when people very obviously omitted them, so most of the time, I didn’t. This was irresponsible of me, and I’m working consciously to change.

 

I don’t mean that I ought to be more confrontational towards or more critical of any party. I just want to shed the blind-eye comfort of unthinkingly, by default, skirting difficult topics, such as poor behavior of a dead, loved one. I can’t speak for everyone grieving, trying to find ways to cope. I’m only one person processing her loss. But I’m saying it’s okay! Go ahead and speak ill of the dead when it’s necessary, productive, or simply unavoidable.

 

I was fortunate that not one person who came forward to meet me did so with malice. No one abused me on the subject of my sister’s death, her mental illness, or her suicide. Hardly anyone even said anything ignorant or “tone-deaf” to me. But why stop at finding myself lucky? There is still work here to do. We still need to engage, to speak, and to strip away stigma so that fewer lives might end in tragedy.

 

We can always do more by being honest and kind than we can operating on either virtue alone. So that’s what we ought to aim to do.

Final Lines Friday: Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Earlier this week I finished Salt Houses, finally. Can y’all believe I started it at the end of March?! Nevertheless, here it is, the final lines:

 

“The song alights within Alia, a remembering akin to joy. Her mother’s garden, a courtyard somwhere in Kuwait, as she sang to a baby at her own breast. She sits in the dark, listening to the ancient, salvaged music.”

Booties I Have No Business Buying: The Velvet Collection

This is made by Dries Van Noten. I’m unfamiliar with the brand. I don’t know if they’re ethical or fair trade or “green”. I don’t even know if they’re comfortable. All I know is I don’t need it.

When will I wear this? The correct answer is “never”. Currently, I have this one pair of pinkish/nude-to-me-ish pumps, plain as can be, with a wooden stacked heel and I’ve started to think of that different-colored heel as distracting and hard to match outfits to. These booties are far too advanced for me.

I frankly enjoy the antique vibes these are sending me, but I can barely dress myself in rags and I don’t need the psychological challenge these would present.

Now this is a bit psychedelic colors meet I don’t even know what kind of embroidery. But obviously I am not this cool, and I’ll never be this cool.

… and an electric blue sequins sequinsed? stiletto pair for good measure.

 

Happy Thursday y’all, and remember, don’t buy dumb stuff.

(S)LOW BUY: April 2019 Spending Breakdown

I know every month I change things up, but I’m learning that curbing unnecessary spending involves fighting a moving target. When I started spending breakdown for January, I had a problem buying random stuff online I don’t need. It turns out, when you address spending honestly and a pattern of frivolity stares right back in your face, it becomes pretty easy to cut out those types of charges. During my review of purchases the next month, I noticed that I tended to let purchases made on Amazon slide, because I mentally designate them as convenient and useful. I learned I needed to guard against laxness on this front.

So in March, with my online shopping and even buying from Amazon more under control, I looked at all unusual purchases I made. Good or bad, if they’re not in the realm of regular spending (gas, groceries, and other consumables), I noted the purchase. Even having cast a broader net, I felt that my only truly unnecessary purchase was the one made at a convenience store at the airport.

That made me think though, I don’t only go to the convenience store at the airport! Much to my detriment, a Wawa opened near me. Another big convenience store sinkhole happens en route to and from NY, where we often travel. I didn’t used to consider these unnecessary purchases, because we always buy drinks and food. Often the purchase constitutes meal, so it’s easy to justify as necessary. I know that with enough planning ahead, I can preempt these types of purchases. While traveling it would save me time on the road, money, and I can make heathier choices by preparing the food myself.

But let’s take a closer look at April first:

April 3 — $166.17 at The Container Store — so y’all remember how I was organizing my arts and crafts cabinets? I found these containers that were the perfect size for the cabinets and created an easy filing system so I bought more.

April 5 — $15.67 at Refresh and Co. and $23.29 at Food Court — spent while traveling. I am still learning what conveniences are worth a premium to me, and since I’m not a fan of rest area food offerings, they should be cut out.

April 8 — $3.29 at Wawa — I bought an energy drink because I didn’t want to make coffee. No excuses here.

April 10 — $100 at Free Library of Philadelphia — This is my first time donating to them. The problem is I donated because they were offering a free tote. That was not a good reason, and even when giving to charity, I should scrutinize my motivations.

April 10 — $19.96 and $11.71 on Amazon.com — I bought reusable straws and Feeling Good: They New Mood Therapy by David Burns for my dad. The book came recommended by someone who also suffers from depression, and I thought my dad might find it useful. I could’ve looked harder for these items in person at places I already go, but 1) I didn’t want to end up buying plastic straws in a pinch and 2) I don’t go to bookstores currently as I’m trying to read what I own.

April 13 — $7.02 at Wawa — energy drinks and some snacks breakfast.

April 17 — $12.19 at Wawa — energy drinks and snacks dinner.

April 20 — $45 at MSG Merch — we took my dad to watch boxing. I bought a hoodie I didn’t like, because I was cold and I didn’t bring one of my many, many sweaters that I do like.

April 20 — $25.00 and $39.52 on Amazon.com — these were presents for someone’s birthday.

April 22 — $33.16 at Z Market — rest area breakfast for three on the road with my dad.

April 24 — $5.13 at Wawa — energy drink and snacks breakfast.

To sum up, I spent $72.12 at rest stops, which I could have avoided by preparing my own drinks and snacks before trips. I spent $27.63 on 3 meals from a convenience store, whereas I could have eaten better for cheaper with more planning. I also spent $45 on clothes due to lack of foresight. These are the main areas I would like to tackle as well as a continuing to be vigilant against thoughtless online purchases. Overall though, I’m happy that developing the habit of honestly reviewing my purchases is making me a more conscientious consumer.

Until next time, squirrel friends, happy Wednesday!

Poetry Ptuesday: Wonder by Maya Angelou

A day

drunk with the nectar of

slowness

weaves its way between

the years

to find itself at the flophouse

of night

to sleep and be seen

no more.

 

Will I be less

dead because I wrote this

poem or you more because

you read it

long years hence.

 

Poetry Ptuesday: In This Story by Caitlyn Siehl

in this story, your mother isn’t the villain.
in this story, you find a way to pick the lock, to wake up, to climb out of the tower yourself.
in this story, you’re angry.
in this story, you meet a dragon and
it is afraid of you.
in this story, you don’t need to be saved.
in this story, your mother raised you
to recognize a prison from a home.
in this story, they don’t fall in love with you before they know you.
in this story, they aren’t better than you.
in this story, you have claws.
in this story, happily ever after has bite marks in it.
in this story, you are free and terrifying.
in this story, you get away.
in this story, you bleed.
in this story, you survive.

 

You can buy Caitlyn’s book of poems “What We Buried” on Amazon.

PS. I apologize to anyone for whom bringing back Amanda’s picture on the front page is not beneficial for where they are in their grief right now. I just miss her, and her picture belongs here for me. I hope you are all doing okay.

300th Post! YES it’s about PLANTS!

Well, looky here, my our this blog’s 300th post!

I ain’t lyin’! Also, yes, I did edit down the number of exclamation marks

I have been extraordinarily busy and very absent on this blog, but we still made it to 300! I don’t have any of the more time-consuming serial posts ready yet, so this is just a boring plants update that I’m personally super excited about, because I’m a boring person.

Remember this wall guy? You wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t have a picture to back it up, but he’s even more glorious now

Just look at him go. He’s living his best life!

I also recently purchased some new quiet time friends. I have 3 terrariums that were sitting empty because I’m a serial tiny fern killer. (I feel bad even just saying it. It’s the only plants I couldn’t keep alive, I swear!) I have, however, worked out a new solution for this problem that I deduced was due to lack of moisture in the air where the terrariums used to sit. So when I had an afternoon free I visited a nursery near me.

But not just any nursery! I went to a local nonprofit here in Philadelphia called Greensgrow! Greensgrow Farms works to promote urban green spaces and help city dwellers grow their own food. They hosts workshops such as how to create a visually pleasing, viable container (window boxes rule the land here) and what to plant to help out nature’s pollinators.

their selection of planters
some of their plants for sale

Due to their smaller selection, I was only able to find two terrarium friends. But I couldn’t leave behind this gorgeous milky Nephthytis so I came home with three plants.

Yes, I keep a dog bed and harness tethers in my 0-60 in many, many seconds, all wheel drive, top safety pick crossover vehicle. I’m a soccer mom of dogs after all.

Please note that Nephthytis is TOXIC to cats, dogs and horses. I use the ASPCA’s handy guide to research all the plants I want. This was an impulse purchase, and I had to reorganize my plant guest room to accommodate it. It is the only plant I own that is not pet safe, and she lives on a high shelf now, out of reach of my “munch first, vomit later” mutt.

unrelated but this also happened while I was away in CA and I’m glad she’s happy

I have other, other great news! DWM is getting its first writer/contributor! Her name is Christina and she helms BuenQamino, a gluten-free, dairy-free, autoimmune friendly travel blog. We met at community college and later transferred to the same university. I’m very excited to have her on board; it’s about time we get some quality content on here 😉

Happy Sunday everyone and happy 300th post to me!

Poetry Ptuesday: Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Poetry Ptuesday: The Night Migrations by Louise Gluck

This is the moment when you see again
the red berries of the mountain ash
and in the dark sky
the birds’ night migrations.

It grieves me to think
the dead won’t see them–
these things we depend on,
they disappear.

What will the soul do for solace then?
I tell myself maybe it won’t need
these pleasures anymore;
maybe just not being is simply enough,
hard as that is to imagine.

Motivational Monday — Courtney Act

The finale of Dancing with the Stars: Australia just aired. I haven’t seen the show but I know of one of its contestants this season, a very special Miss Courtney Act aka Shane Gilberto Jenek, by way of another hit TV show Rupaul’s Drag Race, which I have watched for years.

Courtney has already built up a strong and profound history of advocacy and education. Here is a clip of her being ya best pal and explaining some fundamentals:

You seeing this? Accessible, fun, intelligent and warm, and that is just a glimpse.

What I really want to bring up here, though, is one of her post performance interviews on the show Dancing with the Stars (AU).

So, again, and the whole thing, because it so bears repeating:

“You remember those times when you’re living in shame or you’re hiding something about yourself that you think you should be ashamed of and I guess it’s just a message of whatever benefit you think you’re receiving from minimizing a part of yourself, you have no idea how wonderful it is on the other side when you shine a light on that dark place and you live it.”

 

Happy Monday.

I’m Trying! — to Organize My Arts & Crafts Supplies pt 1

I’m planning a cross-country move for my parents. So why would I be organizing my house right now? Well Tamar, did you watch the show?

gif credit u/tampire on tenor

Procrastinating on a chore with other chores is my very bread and butter.

When we first got my parents their apartment down the street from us, I migrated a lot of my arts and crafts supplies to their place, because I thought I’d be spending a lot of time there basking in their company and working on my lil nuffins. It turned out, chores and errands continued to run the day, and my mom never even taught me how to use a sewing machine! So guess where all those supplies have to go? That’s right, back in my house.

Here is everything that was not in the cabinets (the “underutilized storage” pictured) set out on the sofa, ft. Abbie who wouldn’t get out of the way.

Fear not, friends, per my “I’m trying!” (featuring an exclamation mark meant to denote excitement, not exasperation, seriously, how’s your head) series, I’m gearing myself up to try out my supplies, and will soon report back with results.

But first, I must organize, which will give me the chance to review what I have, and drive home the realization that I don’t need to consume more to start creating. So let’s see what resides in these underutilized cabinets:

Lizzie is judging this mess
she judges this mess too

 

I started out by taking everything out, and along with what was already out, grouping like items. Then I relocated things that did not belong. Dog things went to the dog cabinet, and the video game controller went to the media console. I gave away my squiggly pen holder. I love it because it’s so ugly, but then everyone refused to look at it much less use it, so it had to live in the cabinets, which is unfair to the life this beauty was meant to live. So I talked my dad into taking it, and, he promised, to feature it prominently in his new home. I also donated this puzzle that I’m sure I’ll never complete again.

 

FUN STORY: I finished the whole thing and found I was missing a single piece. I couldn’t find it so I dismantled the whole thing to regain our counter space, and lo and behold I FIND a piece? I had to put the puzzle together again immediately to figure out where it was the original stray or a subsequent, unrelated stray… I never want to see this puzzle again. Wow that is not a fun story.

 

Infuriating tale of puzzle gore aside, the next step here is understanding how much space each category I return to the cabinets needs and planning those spaces properly. Tune in again for progress updates!

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