2019 Attitude of Gratitude Challenge–– Bloggers Flood The Internet With Positivity––JOIN US!

url

I’m still out here, despite a pathetic year of blogging–– wherein I’ve abandoned my own love of this space, and worse, missed out on so many posts from bloggers I truly admire and respect. Trust me, I think of it most days… and have continued to struggle with my effort to get back to this sacred space. And, it is sacred. Recently I read a gorgeous post from Gunmetal Geisha, that speaks to so many things I feel and some of what has held me back. It was on my list to write this post, but her writing nudged me hard. And here I am.

This annual “Blog Hop” if you will, means a lot to me. I love reading every single post and connecting annually with so many great writers. I hope you’ll stick with me and read this entire post–– brief I’m not, but heartfelt for sure––then, I hope you’ll decide to join me this year. I know the holidays are hard for some people, and it’s a busy time of year, but pause for a moment and share the good things from 2019.

imgres-3

Now, on with the details:

It’s the 6th annual Attitude of Gratitude! In the past I’ve called it 50 Happy Things, but the goal is the same: to see bloggers unite to flood the internet with gratitude. Happy-Gratitude, it all = Good stuff! For the past few years I’ve opted out on New Year’s resolutions and decided to go with intention. I decided to focus on gratitude; it’s always timely. In the past, many of you have found it hard to participate in December, so I put it off until January… and now I’m a week late––but better late than never! The (InLinkz) Link-up is effective from today until January 31st at 11:55pm. Share this with your blogging friends; join us in spreading gratitude!

The holiday season has a way of rushing in every year, making it hard to remember that throughout the year there are blessings. There are so many things that bring joy, so many happy things; yet it’s easy to lose sight of this fact, as we manage busy lives. For the sixth year in a row, this is an opportunity to hit pause and focus on all the good things that each of us has in our lives.

In 2014 I followed in the footsteps of Jen over at Jenny’s Lark, and wrote a list of 50 things (in 10 minutes) that I was grateful for in 2014. The list actually became 60 things, because I still had time, and a lot to be grateful for. The exercise was originally a spin off a Daily Prompt challenge. Those Daily Prompts are something to be happy/grateful about, if you haven’t checked them out yet, do it now! Jen’s an incredibly talented woman, artistically and articulately. She works to help others at work, and then comes home and creates beautiful artwork and gorgeous writing. Check out her blog for a dose of true magic. Jen and I had so much fun with it in 2014, that we added links to each other’s blogs, and other bloggers followed suit.

In 2015, happy-gratitude exploded as I invited a few bloggers and suggested we all come together and share gratitude. Bloggers begat more bloggers, in a blog hop of sorts and it grew… and grew… and grew! And once again, Jen had another great idea: focus on happy and be grateful. It’s about choosing happy, choosing positive, over the negative things that we could focus on. Gratitude or Happiness–– Chicken or egg?

The 2015 project–– something I thought would be small and easy–– turned into something huge, with 74 bloggers joining in. I met so many cool new bloggers, and my happiness and gratitude grew exponentially.

In 2016 a lot of bloggers bowed-out. As the inauguration loomed, many said they just weren’t up for it. That year, I needed all of this positivity more than ever! There were 30 bloggers who shared their happy thoughts and gratitude.

2017 and 2018 brought lots of wonderful new bloggers to the challenge, as well as several who have contributed year after year. For 2019, I hope more of you will join us to

FLOOD THE INTERNET WITH POSITIVITY

This year: 

1) Please read my post/list and leave a like and a comment. I’ve worked hard on this, and it feels good to be appreciated. I’ll do the same. What’s not to like; it’s gratitude!

2) Add a link to this/my post in your post, so your readers come back to read mine; I can add their link to the collection, and enjoy the fruits of my labor. It’s a bigger tidal wave of positivity if we’re all linked. It’s more fun! In addition, I love reading all of the posts, and once they link to me, I’ll add their link at the bottom of mine.

3) Set a timer for 15 minutes. Really; do it (it’s in red, clearly I mean it). This isn’t your usual post. It’s meant to be as spontaneous as you can be. It’s not supposed to be finessed, but from the heart. You’re not explaining every thing you put on your list, you are just listing as many things as you can, in 15 minutes. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write things that make you happy, or things you’re grateful for. Don’t think too hard; just write what comes to mind in the time allotted. If you use the numbered mode and just type what comes to mind, it’s easy. I fix typos after. When the timer’s done, finish whatever sentence you’re on and stop writing. If you’d like to add links or photos, do it after the timer; but keep your list short and spontaneous.

4) Be sure to click on the blue link at the bottom of my post, and add your info to the inlinkz, so that folks can find all of us in one place. I will also add each of you to the bottom of my post. I update it daily.

5) Include instructions in your piece, or better yet: provide a link to mine, and ask your readers to join us.

6) When you tag your piece, or share it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media, use these hashtags #AttitudeOfGratitude #BloggersUnite so our impact is collective.

7) Finally, IF you add a blog post that is not related to gratitude or this challenge, I will remove it. Sorry, but them’s the rules. 

Each year I read every post. Those places where we meet, and where we are unique, are a beautiful thing and a great way to start the year. how Admittedly, it’s hard not to go back and edit my list, each time I find something wonderful on your lists… but it gives me things to focus on next year. When I express gratitude, I find myself feeling happy, and if I list happy things, I inevitably feel grateful–– either way, it’s win/win! I guarantee, you’ll find yourself smiling, feeling grateful and happy, if you spend 15 minutes reflecting on positivity. Couldn’t we all use more of that? Think of this as a blog party, to share happy, grateful thoughts. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here’s  my 2019 Gratitude list (not in order of preference):

  1. My family
  2. My 4-year-old grandson, Amitai
  3. My gorgeous new grandson Avinoam. January 29, 2019 was very special!!
  4. My kids­- building adult relationships with them. Loving them so much.
  5. My husband- 33 years (plus 5 more) of laughing, fighting, loving.
  6. Popcorn with brewers yeast
  7. Frozen dark chocolate covered bananas, nightly.
  8. Boats on still water.
  9. The view of the bay and San Juan islands, EVERY day
  10. Amitai- each and every chance I get to chat with or see him.
  11. Going to the movies
  12. My husband putting the toilet paper on tp holder.
  13.  Whistler, Port Townsend, Home–– my happy places
  14. Water, to drink, to bath & swim in, to look at.
  15. Driving in my car, with the radio. Road trips!
  16. Music, EVERY day!
  17. Personal growth, therapy
  18.  Sleep— I need a lot more of it
  19. Orgasms
  20. Puzzles
  21. My dogs Gracie and Luna
  22. Air flight, any travel
  23. Fresh flowers
  24. Time on the bike
  25. Gary Chapman: The 5 Love Languages
  26. First snow of the year
  27. Christmas ornaments & my tree
  28. Birds, birds, and more birds
  29. Girl’s night out
  30. Hiking solo & with friends/family
  31. Alexa, and the music she provides so I can dance in my kitchen daily.
  32. Dental floss
  33. WA state ferries
  34. My writing group.
  35. Good books. My book group.
  36. The blogging community- you guys rock!!
  37. Sun on the water; clouds on the water.
  38. My laptop
  39. The Internet–– it’s magic! Google is my friend.
  40. The Oscars & annual party (this year #25)
  41. Green moss on trees
  42. Mountains & ocean
  43. The Pacific NW- it’s a magical place
  44. Regular dinner parties with friends
  45. My work at Hospice- The people I serve, the people I work with.
  46. Sunsets
  47. GREECE. What an amazing trip with my family!
  48. Sushi, sushi, sushi! Every Friday, and any other day.
  49. My cell phone—a computer in my hands
  50. Fresh sheets on my bed, and a cool pillow
  51. Fresh seafood
  52. Fall colors
  53. Great food!
  54. Old growth forest
  55. Designing and working on our new forever home
  56. Views from our new property
  57. Museums–– art and more art. Always art.
  58. Hummingbirds at my window every day
  59. My sea glass collection
  60. Yellow post-it notes, and now the little colored one for editing my novel.
  61.  Love.
  62. Kindness.
  63. Friends who fill my life with joy. I am so grateful for each of you.
  64. Shoes. I might have a problem.
  65. THIS. Take a minute and be reminded that despite all this cray-cray, there is a lot of good! I’m grateful.

Please leave your thoughts in the comment section; I’d love to hear from you!

YOUR TURN!

Check out these bloggers’ lists:

Rochelle, Lish, Na’ama, Dawn, Plaridel, Jackie, Francine, April, 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

 * * *

200-1.gif

KAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, no spam.

©2011-2020 All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

Remembering.

It’s been 8 years today, since my mother died. Eight years ago today, at this very minute, I was at a bat mitzvah, and my mother had been dead for six hours. A lot’s happened since then. My impressions of my mother, of that time, of all that came before and after have changed. You can dig through and find those posts, but trust me, it’s been a wild ride. The most meaningful thing that’s changed since then is that I now work at Hospice. I go into the room where she died, all of the time. I sit beside other people as they die. I comfort families, talk to patients, and I help make this process a little gentler. When I was there, I didn’t understand that others could help me. I’m go grateful for the amazing people who work beside me each week, now.

This is what it looked like when it happened: https://talesfromthemotherland.me/2011/12/31/peace/

But here’s where I was just after my mother died, New Year’s Eve day 2011.

 

What Comes After? A “Stop, drop and Roll” approach to a New Year.

There is only one thing for me to write about right now, but I’m not really sure what I think about that. I’m not sure what I feel, yet.  Mainly, because I don’t actually know, what comes after. After years of watching my mother change and then deteriorate. After months of seeing things accelerate faster than we could adjust to or comprehend. After weeks of daily falls, many of which led to hospital visits, bruises, breaks and finally the broken elbow that led to the end.  After nearly three months of Hospice Care in which we knew what was coming, but could never seem to grasp when or how. After, after, after… so many things that I tried to prepare for, but inherently knew I couldn’t be ready for.  Stop, drop and roll. Prepare for a disaster and you hopefully will know what to do, when it comes. Not this time.

My mother died almost four days ago and it is still sinking in. The day she died was by far the most surreal day of my life. If you’ve been following, then you know (from What Doesn’t Kill You… and Peace) that I was sitting with my Mom, holding her hand and trying to ease the very profound fear she seemed to experience, in the thirty minutes leading up to her death. I know that I did, calm her, help her. But in the end, when the room went silent and I felt her finally leave me, I just went a little numb. Ok, maybe a lot numb. And, I’ve stayed like that for four days now… The sounds from that night, those last minutes, play back in my head at odd times. As I lay in my own silent bed at night, I hear that rattled, difficult breaths she took.  As I close my eyes to sleep, I picture how smooth and calm her face was a few hours before she died, and how young she looked again. I see the smile, the very slightest smile, that she made when I told her that I knew she loved me and that I was grateful for her love, and then (right then) watched her take her last breath. But mostly, I just feel outside myself and numb, as all these things, mix with the daily hum, and wash over me… hour by hour.

Friends and family have called. I have spoken to some and not to others. Not playing favorites, but unable to speak, depending on the moment. The gratitude I feel for all the kindness and love that dear friends have shown in these past weeks is overwhelming, an shakes me almost as much as the loss itself. The friends who came to my mother’s room, just to see her and say goodbye. Humbling. The friends who wrapped me in blankets of warm meals, hugs and sweet words.  They were my family, my shelter and I am so very thankful. But now, it is hard to face anyone with ease. It’s hard to think beyond where I am right now. Writing, feeds me and helps me process, but speaking strangles me.

I’ve ventured outside for only two things and both times I felt so exposed. Having come out of the strange cocoon that I was in for four days, I don’t feel like a butterfly. I feel raw and exposed. Part of me wants to say to each person who says: “So, did you have a nice holiday?” or “How are you?”… My mother died, she’s gone!  The part of me that wins stays quiet, smiles and says, “Ok, thanks.”  I know the grief is bubbling to the surface and I know this is normal. This is what happens and it will pass… I believe that, even if I don’t know what comes after that. For now, I am sitting Shiva… alone.  I don’t know how else to do it right now, but I’m listening to myself and doing what I think I need. Solitude. Surrounded by beautiful flowers people have sent, my Christmas tree that still sparkles (despite its dry, sinking branches), and the security of my house for the few hours it is silent. (Thank goodness school started today; thank goodness my husband returns to work; thank goodness for silence.)

The day I left Hospice, I went home, and I wrote the post Peace in my car, in the dark. I didn’t proofread it, or check it; I just hit send and then felt ready to go inside. It was the first “letting go.” I knew that once I left my dark car, and went inside my house, it would all be different.  It was. From the minute I came in, it all just amped up. I had to shower and go directly to a Bat Mitzvah, for a 13 yr old girl who I adore. She is such a sparkle in my life that I would not have missed her big day for almost anything.  My mother had asked us (my sister and I), repeatedly, not to leave her; and the night before she died, I told her:  “at 8:00 A.M. I need to leave you, Mom. to go to M’s Bat Mitzvah. I don’t want to leave you, but I’m at peace with this decision. IF you don’t want me to leave you, you will need to leave me first… before I go at 8.”  Those were my very words. My mom really liked the family whose Bat Mitzvah it was, and I will always believe, that despite her fears, she let go and left me, just in time for me to go and be with them. Call it dreamy, call it whatever; I believe it was a gift.

The Bat Mitzvah was amazing, beautiful, and yet so strange to be in a huge room full of people, when my mind kept going back to the fact that my mother had just died. “It’s been four hours… five… six,” my brain kept registering. Such a shock to hear the Rabbi say her name out loud for Yahrzeit , as having died that morning. The party, after,was a blur: of wonderful people; fun music; silly, delightful 13 yr old girls imitating Justin Bieber and dancing; meaningful conversations with people I care about… bold color, sound and movement. Ten hours, eleven, twelve.

After that I went home for about three hours and knew that if I stopped, I’d pass out. I had slept less than 6 hrs in four full days. I hadn’t even tried that in college, let alone at this age!  My husband had had surgery while I was gone (on him, not him working) and was not really able to provide any support, nor I for him. “In sickness and in health,” bah. I had been surviving mostly on Ritz crackers and Kool Coffee creams (decaf). I hadn’t left the building, except to get something from the car, once.  So, it would have made huge sense, to just get into bed and pass out.

Instead, I had decided to go to a Bikers and Babes New Year’s Eve party that other friends had been pushing for me to attend. I know: what the hell was I thinking?  Well, I was thinking this:  In a 24 hour period, I had “finished” and submitted my novel to a publishing company (the biggest goal I’ve had in many, many years– BRAVO!); I’d sat with my mother as she died; I’d attended and done a reading at a Bat Mitzvah (a very meaningful and important life event for a young girl I love); and now I wanted to just kick the shit out of 2011 and really send it packing. I dressed up like a biker chick, flannel shirt and bra showing (why the hell not, I figured by then) and went out to laugh, dance, wear glow sticks and see 2012 come in. While I did not drink (it might have killed me) and I was slurring my speech from exhaustion; it was so amazing to be with friends and so many crazy ass people, the same day I’d washed my mother’s body and said goodbye to her. How prophetic, I believe, that my Mom did not linger one day more. She died before 2012 could come, and in doing so, she allowed me to walk away from all that this very hard year has symbolized, and be open for a new one. She didn’t drag all of that pain into the New Year, nor did she herself enter one more year with all of that suffering. It was a beautiful thing. I am so grateful to her.

2011 was a wicked bitch of a year. Can’t sugar coat this one folks. It wasn’t all about my Mom, not by a long shot. There were lots of other demons I dealt with and sent packing. It was a lot of struggle with some sublime, life changing experiences as well. Writing my novel and seeing it to completion, brings me so much satisfaction and pride, whatever come of it. Truly. Being in Yellowstone, for two weeks alone, still sustains me and brings tears of sheer joy to my eyes, at moments that just jump up and slap me.  I will always remember those days of finding myself again and knowing that I would, in fact, make it. I am grateful for finding a wise, old friend in Siyo Yona, a wonderful man, who found me on a mountain top, and has stayed beside me since. I will never hear Eddie Vedder sing Society or No Ceiling and not be transported to a place of solitude, clarity and peace.  In my mother’s last few weeks, she too came to love those songs and we listened to them together many times. Music, my life long friend, who never fails me.

I’m going into this New Year with a perspective I’ve never had: total wonder. The world is wide open right now. I am letting go of so many years of holding on. I’m ready to be honest in all things important, wherever that takes me. I’m excited to write, write, and write some more… regardless of whether it gets me anywhere other than where it’s taken me so far. I’m ready to let old pain go and move on to whatever comes next. I feel entitled and free to really reach for what I want, what I need… not just what I think I should do.  There are so many amazing things that have presented themselves that I’m excited to finally explore. I’m so grateful to be free of my mother’s suffering and the suffering I felt in watching her, even as I dread really accepting that she is gone.

I go into a New Year with no regrets in how this all came to an end. The day after my mother died, I told my children this:     “There is one really important lesson I hope you all learn from me. There are ways in which your father and I differ, and this is one of them. I am not always practical, he is. I did not eat well this week; I didn’t sleep for days; I got virtually no exercise for the past many weeks… and I didn’t do this mindlessly. I didn’t do it without thought. But, central to who I am is my belief that there are precious moments in life that we can’t miss. You skip meals, you stay awake, you are present and real. The simple ones are the ones when a good friend, who you rarely see (this will come later in life) is in town for one night, and you stay up until 2, knowing that work will be really tough the next day. You do it to reconnect and share a moment with someone who has meaning in your life. That one is easy. Then there are the hard ones: when you sit with someone you love, when they are dying (or truly suffering) and you let go of your own discomfort.  You might miss some meals, or not get enough sleep, but you are there with them in their most vulnerable moment, and you try to show some grace, some compassion and love.  Perhaps you will do it for me, or someone else who you don’t know yet, but who you will love deeply. You are present and real. There is always time to eat, sleep and get exercise… later.”

I hope my children remember, as they go through life, that this is central to who their mother is and what she believes. Who I am, and who I want to be remembered as.

For now, I’m stuck in this specific moment, and there are no real short cuts, I think.  Stop, Drop and Roll…  No matter how much or how little warning you have,  no matter how many times we think about the things in life that we need to face, and silently practice who you will face them, they can still just blow you away. All those years of fearing my mother’s death, that I would be an orphan: well here it is. It came in the dark stillness of a hospice room. It came to the sound of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. It came despite the fact that it terrified me, even as I prayed for it. My mother left me, and now I will begin to live without her, and without all she has meant, for so very long. In the end, it didn’t matter if I visualized it hundreds of times; or if I imagined what I would feel, or do, or think. Stop, drop and roll only takes you so far;  for now, I still feel the burn.

Happy New Year folks, and thanks for sharing the journey… so far.

Stop! Really. Read this.  Please note:  If you enjoy these posts hit “Like” and make me smile. It also helps my blog grow and that is the point. Go back and hit Like.  Thanks. Then, be nice and “Share” them with others; ’tis the season. Better yet Like them; Share them and then do something nice for yourself: “Subscribe.” You won’t get any spam, you can sign up with an anonymous name (I won’t know who you are, unless you tell me),  and you will get an email each time I post.  Think of it as a Holiday gift to yourself.  You know you want to. Go ahead, make my day (sorry about the gun, but this is serious business).

 

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Middle Of the Road, With John Pavlovitz

I’ve been traveling, and editing my novel, and not blogging a whole lot. But, I read this amazing post by John Pavlovitz, who often thinks things I think too. So I’m sharing it. I sit right in the middle of the road with him. This quote hits on a truth I feel daily: “

Feel free to leave a comment; let’s start a conversation.

Here’s John’s Blog post:

WomanRoad






















*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Summer Reads: The Overstory

40180098._SY475_

THE OVERSTORY, by Richard Powers

This book swept me away. I mean, lost deep in the forest, and not wanting out, swept away. At 512 pages, this was not a short or easy read, and it shouldn’t be. This is the story of our planet’s most important living creatures: trees. The fact that Richard Powers wrote a book about trees and their magical mystery and made it both compelling and personal, is why (in my opinion) his masterpiece won the 2019 Pulitzer prize for fiction. The way Powers weaves history (hence my shelf placement), nature and science, and fictional lives is compelling and seamless. This is a book that I feel I’ve been waiting my whole life for.

Okay, that’s a big statement, so let me tell you why. I am the product of a father who loved nature and the forest. He lived to be lost in the woods, and he shared that with me and my siblings. I lost him when I was only ten, but have always felt the pull to nature and the mystery of forest. I NEED to be around big trees and quiet woods, the way other people need to ski, read, or sing–– all things, I also love. From the first pages, Powers pulls the reader into a world where trees feel; reach out to us; speak a silent, mysterious language; fight for survival, and are ultimately rely on man, when man uses them carelessly and without understanding their importance on this planet.

Richard Powers weaves several stories over time and the history of people and the trees around them. These stories, different and compelling individually, all come together in the age of environmental activism and the fight to save some of the biggest trees on Earth. This tapestry of story telling is compelling and beautifully done. They meet in ways that might be missed, due to some of the nuances and clever storytelling. This book kept me spellbound through most of the book. Each story had its own fascinating arc, within the arc of the overall book. I looked up so many facts, and found myself looking at trees differently, even though I’ve always been a tree hugger.

There was a line in the book that has haunted me: “What you make from a tree should be at least as miraculous as what you cut down.” A neighbor recently cut down several massive (HUGE) evergreens in our neighborhood, and I burst into tears, having just finished this book–– I swear, I felt them crying. They were removed to get more sun on their yard. Those trees were at least 100 years old; they housed humming birds, and countless other species. They survived the sprawl of our town. And they were cut to expand lawn.

The Overstory has many of the stereotypical elements of Pulitzer winners: it’s verbose at times; it’s heady and intellectual, while telling a good story; it’s longer than it needs to be. But it won this elite honor because it’s that good. This book demands your attention. It’s not a book to read for fun. The subject is too important, and the stories are too detailed to read for distraction.

Since I finished, this book has continued to spin in my head. The characters in this book are living in my head. I’m hugging more trees; I’m thinking more about my impact in the natural world. The history here is on my mind. As we build a new home, I want to believe that what we are making something as miraculous as the trees that were cut down for the lumber. However, I’m not sure that’s possible. A tree can’t really be replaced. The Overstory is that rare book that I will read again… a long time from now, when the spell has finally worn off.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Summer Reads: Four Friends

Rumors of my demise are probably pretty accurate. I had a blog. I had readers. I loved it. and lately I barely exist in that world. I have been writing, writing, and writing more for my novel. I’m editing like crazy and re-writing. I’m deep in there. And I’m reading, a lot. I’m sharing some of my book reviews, pretending I’m blogging. Bear with me. Have my back. I miss you.

42036541

FOUR FRIENDS, PROMISING LIVES CUT SHORT, by William D. Cohan

** I am vague in areas to avoid spoilers.

I heard about this book when Willian Cohan was interviewed for something on CNN. They gave a little plug for the book, and I was intrigued. Having grown up in Massachusetts, and as a college prep tutor, I know a lot about Andover, and the story sounded compelling. However, I found this book very disappointing. In fact, I returned it once about half way through, but decided I should finish it to write a fair review. I bought it again and wish I hadn’t.

I was turned off by page 24 in this book, when Cohan writes about the death of a childhood classmate, Brad Morrison. Referring to Morrison’s death, Cohan summarizes with: “his life snuffed out in an instant, a victim of appallingly bad judgment.” I was barely in to this book and found this comment so incredibly harsh and insensitive. Brad Morrison was 14 years old! I wondered how his family would feel reading this, and commented on that in my notes. I subsequently found this comment by Brad’s sister very powerful to read: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1…The rest of my review hits on this point repeatedly: there is a shocking lack of empathy or human concern by William Cohan for the subjects in this book, or their friends and families. As a journalist, he does not need to sugar-coat or report only the good, but is there a need to denigrate these people? It put me off to a negative start, and nothing changed my mind throughout this book.

As other reviews have noted, the author beats the reader over the head with Andover. Yes, it’s a very prestigious school. Many readers may not have heard of it before, but sixty pages in, when Cohan finally introduces the first “friend,” I was getting really sick of hearing about how special it is, and how only the elite of the elite get in, unless they are special, or token minorities. The Andover bits are peppered with misogynistic comments; catty observations, and holier-than-thou storytelling. It came off as vapid and repetitive. Interestingly, the first chapter (about Andover) is titled: “Not for Oneself,” when everything Cohan reports about these four men (except Jack Berman), seems to focus for the most part, on very egocentric lives.

The story of Jack Berman, the first of the four friends, is the one story that truly held my attention and speaks to true tragedy. The child of Holocaust survivors, Berman’s story is powerful and inspiring. Berman was not raised in a privileged, pretentious home; he worked hard, was highly intelligent, and his parents built a life from nothing. His older brother recognized Jack’s incredible intelligence, when Jack was quite young, and sought a better education and life for his little brother. Berman did not arrive at Andover with a legacy, or wealth; he got in on his strength of character and academic accomplishments. All of these stories end in tragedy, but Jack Berman’s is the only one that does not stem from his own failings (as suggested by Cohan). This story is truly heart-breaking–– about a man who was good and righteous. He did not ride on coat tails, he forged his own path to success and his life ended in the most horrible of ways.

Unfortunately, all three of the other stories focus on hubris, entitlement, legacies that are hard to live up to, and boys (then men) behaving badly. None of the subjects seem to be actual “Friends” of the author, and at times, the reporting reads as jealous nit-picking and salacious gossip–– for instance, it was not unusual for young people to be smoking weed, or doing cocaine in the mid-seventies and early eighties, but Cohan reports these activities as if those involved are criminals, with intense focus on these foibles, and little attention to their strengths or accomplishments. Granted, there is some very irresponsible behavior (serious car accidents, over-use of drugs, etc), but there is too much focus on this aspect of their personalities, and not enough on the good.

These four men all graduated from one of the most prestigious, rigorous college prep schools in the world (again, be prepared to hear that over and over), and yet Cohan makes it sound like all but Berman got through without any effort. I don’t buy that. They failed exams and partied, but we don’t get to see the hard work and focus that must have been part of their success and graduations from Andover. I found it very tedious and repetitive. There’s little depth in the reporting, but a litany of bad behaviors, about four boys who become successful men, then die tragically.

And that is another key thing that bothered me in this book: all of these deaths are indeed tragic. These men died young, and all of them in unnatural, shocking ways. Yet, aside from Berman, Cohan tells each story in a way that seems to indict each man in his own death. While I see that there were decisions made that led to these tragedies, I found this storytelling akin to the trolls who weigh in on tragedies in online news stories––arm-chair analysis, based on hearsay and presumptions. After Berman’s story, this repetitive (Engquirer’esque) style of reporting turned me off this book. Having bought the book a second time, I finished it.

The author frequently quotes friends, family, and acquaintances of the subjects, but intersperses very bold statements between quotes, as if they are continuations of the quotes; when in fact they appear to be Cohan’s assumptions. For instance, about John Kennedy and Carolyn Bessette (who is dragged through the mud in this book–– zero compassion or balance in reporting!); Cohan is quoting Sasha Chermayeff (a close friend of John) about his marriage: “He took these incredibly super sexy pictures of John and Carolyn where they were like on fire. She even said to me,’We were like on fire during that session,’ and you can tell”… (same paragraph, but outside quotes:) But she was fickle, Chermayeff continued. Caroyln was married to John but had fallen back in love with Bergin. “She wanted it all…” This kind of “reporting” or storytelling is very misleading, I believe. Cohan slips these observations in, stating that Chermayeff stated this, but it’s not in quotes. This happens often in all of the stories, but particularly in the JFKjr story. In addition, there are countless editorial mistakes that really jumped out at me (as an editor)–– dates and details that change, with no explanation. I read this on Kindle, so maybe there were glitches (?), but I highlighted many of them.

Finally, the book gives about 60 pages to the first three men, but about 135 to John Kennedy. This came off as particularly exploitive and sensational. As others have noted, there is nothing new here, but I felt that Cohan put an exceptionally negative spin on almost all aspects of John’s life. He is painted as an entitled, (excessive) drug using, angry, promiscuous, risk-taking, careless, (insert endless other negative assertions) boy and then man. There is little compassion for the young man who grew up in a spotlight not of his choosing. That he did many things that young people his age did. He wanted a happy life, and lived life fully… and died in an accident that can’t be fully explained, because all 3 passengers died tragically, that day. To insinuate that it was due to Carolyn’s pedicure (I’ve run late for silly reasons), or John’s hubris, is underestimating the power of fate. We make a series of decisions every day, that sometimes end in horrible ways… when on another day, these same things might go very differently.

I found this section particularly salacious and insensitive. I wasn’t looking to learn anything new about JFK Jr; I doubt there is much more to learn. The man’s life was lived under a microscope, and after his death everyone with a story came out to talk. These stories were reported endlessly, as they are on the anniversary of his death each year. It’s sad. Cohan didn’t need to focus double the space on one “friend,” when all four men lived lives that were full and ended equally tragically.

I tried to read each story as written, but found the overall arc of each one focused too much on negative details, and hurtful interpretations. There is too little good here. There is too little about the other things that made each of these people human, and fully fleshed out. It’s sad that William Cohan, a “friend” of these men has written a book that takes away from their lives, rather than telling a more balanced story, that brings compassionate light to their lives and deaths. I was very disappointed, and can only imagine that the families of these men, are too.

Final note: this is an easy read, and each story is told separately. If you’re on the fence, it doesn’t take a big chunk of time to read this book.

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Friday Fictioneers: When It All Falls Apart

Couldn’t find the muse last week; this week the muse found me. Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for her weekly patience and work, and for the wonderful photo by Valerie J. Barrett. I welcome honest, constructive feedback; please take a moment and share your thoughts.

vintage-kitchen-tools-valerie-barrett

 

When It All Falls Apart

Standing in the kitchen Ella’s face flushed, as Sam explained for the second time why he needed space. Why she wasn’t good enough.

“I wish we could iron out our differences, but I think we’ve just grown apart.”

The kettle whistled an alarm, as Ella slammed her hand on the counter. She ignored the pain that shot up her arm.

“We haven’t grown apart; you stopped trying months ago, Sam!”

“What do you want me to say?” He groaned.

“I can’t spoon feed you answers anymore, if you don’t even love me.”

Ella took a deep breathe, and let go.

(100 words)

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

 

 

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | 27 Comments

Friday Fictioneers: He Leaves Me Hanging

Computer issues and shadowing Rochelle in Israel… in the same cities, but we never ran into each other. I’m back! I’m grateful for Ms. Wisoff-Fields and her hard work each week, and the photo prompt this week from Susan Eames.

This story was inspired by an old diary I recently came across, when I was in love for the first time. We dated for three years–– seventeen to nearly twenty, and as these things often go, it ended with a broken heart, and growth.

As always, I welcome honest, constructive feedback.

finding-a-signal

© Susan Eames

 

HE LEAVES ME HANGING

As he kissed me goodnight, I felt him leaving me. I wanted to hold on, beg him to stay; I wanted him to go and let me breathe again. It was all in that one kiss.

“Is everything okay,” I whispered, waiting for the blow.

“Sure. I’m just tired.” His eyes betrayed him. “I love you.”

I clung to the hope his lies offered.

He left me hanging, and we lingered in a bittersweet ending for weeks. When he finally said the worlds: “I think we should see other people,” I breathed a sigh. And cried for weeks.

(98 words)

*     *     *

GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | 53 Comments