Remembering Katie, during Suicide Prevention Week

Sept. 8-14 is National Suicide Prevention Week. Many of us have known this painful loss. One of the hardest lessons is that sometimes you have to violate the rules of ordinary friendship to keep people safe. All names but mine have been changed to protect the privacy of others.

Katie didn’t have friends: she had best friends, more than anyone I knew. And the proof spilled out of her closet – a rainbow of satin that ruffled and ruched and flounced and flowed from the 14 dresses she’d worn as bridesmaid in 14 different weddings.

Satin bridesmaid dresses
Satin from 14 bridesmaids dresses flowed
and flounced from Katie’s overcrowded closet.

At Katie’s church, they considered her gifted with that special insight that comes only from God. She had a way of knowing things that no one could know. Part of what drew her to that particular congregation was meeting one of the men there, whom she’d already met in a dream when she still lived halfway across the country. In the dream, she wasn’t a bridesmaid. She was his bride.

Katie had answered our ad for a roommate. She seemed lively and fun, five feet of bouncing energy whose blonde curls were as abundant as her smiles and – well, to be honest, her hips and breasts and all the rest of her. Katie was frequently on a diet and just as often, our friend Craig would report, with some puzzlement: “I saw Katie at the bus stop on my way to work today. She was eating an ice cream sandwich at 7:30 in the morning.”

Well. That was Katie. And besides, what’s the big difference between an ice cream sandwich and a Boston cream-filled donut? One’s just colder. Continue reading

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The Secret of Getting Past the Gatekeeper in Any Business

Whether you work in sales, internet marketing, or are simply looking for your next gig, gatekeepers can feel like lions that stand between you and the person you want to meet. How do you get to the person who matters?


Entry gate at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine. Carlene Byron photo

I’ve been re-reading some Dorothy Sayers’ short stories lately and have been delighted by the wit and wisdom of one of her “minor” sleuths, Montague Egg.

Continue reading

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You Can Enjoy Life All the Way Into Your 80s!

“Life is long. You never know what will happen next!”

Morgan Freeman, 79, Academy Award winning actor
Top “voice” actor in documentaries and animations

All my life, I’ve looked forward to being old enough that I’d be at least relatively wise. Something seems to have happened in the intervening years.

Life Goal: Get Old, Get Wise

I’m more than halfway to my goal age of 80 and while I’m no longer so sure of wisdom, I’m finding that aging comes anyway. For some reason, it’s less exciting than I expected.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a Yankee and we don’t give in to age easily. So, for example, you’ll find me on early weekend mornings building retaining walls in my garden. Shuffling 22-pound blocks around as I make my unprofessional efforts to create their best arrangement is better strength training than I’d ever get at a gym.

But the first warning that I’d hit a pothole in this aging process came when I attended a sportsmen’s show with my widowed father, age 84. Continue reading

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God Rewards a Disobedient and Unsubmitted Wife

At the time I am writing, family relationships are one of the several subjects that have become a litmus test of faith in American Christianity. God’s story of life in God’s family, as depicted in the Bible, is much more nuanced than any list of rules we can locate there.

Today, it is still common for women who ask their pastor for help with an abusive spouse to be asked what they are doing to make their husband so angry. And on the reverse side, women seeking to follow God have been taught they must obey their husband, whether or not their husband’s direction is godly.

But when we look for clarification of the rules in the Bible, one of the subtle stories about how women live out their faith and trust in God is the story of a woman named Abigail, whose wealthy husband Nabal was unhospitable, ungenerous and probably flat out greedy. You get the sense from the story in 1 Samuel 25 that maybe one way Nabal became so rich was by refusing to participate in the usual community philanthropies that were expected of any person of means. Continue reading

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The Wrong Way and the Right Way to Steer Clear of Self-Righteousness

No one wants to be labeled “self-righteous.” But it’s pretty easy to fall into that trap, even when you don’t care at all about God. 


I had just finished offloading my cart of dinner party fixings to the cashier’s conveyor at the market. It was going to be a pretty typical dinner party for us: a low-fat imitation boursin, made from Neufchatel and tofu, to go with veggies and crackers; a couple of chickens that we would bake with lots of garlic and fresh rosemary from our patio garden; a home-baked dessert; and with dinner, a choice of flavored selzer or cran-blueberry cocktail, since none of our guests drank alcohol.

The skinny lady with the perfect blonde ponytail who had checked out ahead of me looked at my order as the cashier began ringing me up. Just before she started rolling her cart away, she volunteered her opinion of my supplies, founded in the righteousness of current dietary fashions: Continue reading

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How to Stop Beating Yourself Up in One Easy Step

Those thoughts batter your mind late at night … just before an important meeting … calling you a fraud, a failure, and worse. Would you try a one-step remedy to shut those voices up forever?

How often do you find yourself thinking:

If ‘they’ knew
that I [did / am / think / want]
whatever ‘it’ is
that horrifies and shames me
about my [life / behavior / identity / thoughts / desires],

I would be an utter outcast
instead of just feeling outcast the way I do.

How often do you find yourself listening to voices in your head that tell you:

You [bad word]!
You mess everything up!
You can’t get anything right!
You always have failed!
You always will fail!
You’re a complete and total failure through and through!

Some people tell you those voices are recordings that you’re playing back from the past. For some people they probably are. For some people, the voices say things that no voice they ever heard could have said — for example, bad words from languages not spoken in their country. Attempting to reject the voices does not seem to work: negating a negative is no more successful in the mirrored corridors of the mind than in logic or in law. For some people, stating affirmations about their own true identity helps to overcome the voices.

The One-Step Method to Overcome Self-Hatred

There’s only one effective way I know to throw self-hatred out the door. Continue reading

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