A Gym Where Nobody Knows My Name

Chances are, you’ve been a member of a gym or fitness club sometime in your life. You probably made some friends and they helped motivate you to work out. What do you do when you burn out even though everyone knows your name?

My gym experience started in an auspicious way. I snuck into Vic Tanny – the first fitness chain in the US – a few times with a friend to use the hot tub for my notorious knee injury in the 80’s. One day, I got busted. I threw up my hands and signed up. Best thing I ever did. I’ve continued to belong to fitness clubs ever since. I joined the last one to meet others from my neighborhood. I played competitive tennis as a member until diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer and subsequent double boobectomies in 2013, but it was a partial knee replacement a year later that really slowed me down. I tried physical therapy, fitness classes, and yoga, but nothing made the impact I needed to get back into fighting shape.

Typical day in 2016:

“Come on, let’s go to class,” I said to myself.

“But I’m in the middle of writing,” myself countered.

“You’re always writing,” I said.

“In a minute.” I adjusted my focus back on the computer and another day passed.

In January, I set reasonable goals for myself. All are within my own control. Priority #1 is to become fit and strong once again. How would I accomplish my goals if I couldn’t motivate? After being a member for sixteen years, I needed a change.

My kids are members of 24 Hour Fitness, so I checked it out. I looked forward to a gym where nobody knows my name. It would be fun to start fresh and meet new people. Maybe I’d learn something new.

During a three day trial, I checked out a few classes including yoga. The gym filled with Boulderites. I rolled out my mat between a middle-aged woman who had a lot of plastic surgery and a cross-dresser complete with blond wig. I had found my people!

My membership came with a free hour of personal training. After a wicked session with TRX, (straps used by Navy Seals when stationed on ships), free weights, and dead lifts, my muscles groaned. But it felt good to wake up with sore muscles. I hadn’t considered weight training, but remembered hearing how it strengthens bone. My anti-cancer medication, Anastrozole, obliterates estrogen which is what my cancer ate, but also dissolves bone. I don’t want to become shrinky dinky because of skeletal fractures. That would not be good, at all. I’m short enough at 5’4″.

With the help of Brian, the fitness manager, and Sam, a personal trainer, I am officially locked and loaded with sessions bought through a package. Soon, they’ll set me loose to train on my own. Oh, wow… That’s coming up soon. Scheduling me for gym time started a new habit. Endorphin addiction will keep me going.

In the meantime, I’m learning all kinds of torture chamber methods to wake up my minuscule muscles. I trained today and can feel them crying out for mercy. They are total wimps and woosies.

“Pipe down,” I said to my whiny muscles, “You need to be exercised. It’s good for you! We can try new adventures again knowing that I won’t hurt myself because of your puniness.”

“All right. You don’t have to yell.”

I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, two people know my name at my new gym and that’s A-okay.

Clowning around at 24 Hour Fitness

Do you belong to a gym? Do people know your name? Are you a gym rat or a occasional user? I’m striving for the rat category.

When Destiny Packs Your Bags

ducks in a row

Doesn’t it always seem when you get your proverbial ducklings to trot single file, Destiny senses your achievement and watches like a lurking bully? Just as you hit your stride it jumps from the bushes and scatters them. Yup. Big D loves to mess with us. We can’t predict what life has in store for us, EVER!

“You think you’re in control of things? Ha!” says Big D, “You crack me up, Susie Lindau.” Destiny always has other plans in order to teach us life lessons.

This was the year I wanted to hunker down to finish projects, enter contests and get into super shape. Most important to me was to start a regular routine to balance my life and accomplish more in less time. Destiny buckled over it laughed so hard.

When my brother, Joe, died in March, shock pulled more than five weeks from my stellar equation to reach 2017’s goals. During that time I shelved most of my writing, but made some positive changes. I write in a gratitude journal every night and refocused my goals after finally learning about the fragility of life. You’d think breast cancer would have taught me that.

Destiny crosses its arms and shakes its head.

But Destiny also taught me to take opportunities presented NOW. I won’t wait for a better time in the future. You never know what’s ahead. Since adventure’s my thing, I decided I wanted to travel a lot more, but I wasn’t sure how I would balance that with hunkering down. I figured once things settled down after the funeral, I could get a ton done and plan an adventure sometime next fall. Ha! In hindsight, Destiny and I both share a laugh over that naive thought.

My husband and I returned home between Joe’s death and the funeral and discovered water pouring through the ceiling of our house from my demon washing machine. I took it as a cosmic joke and cliché moment about how life goes on and most of the setbacks are fixable. I figured we would patch up the ceiling and move on.

“Gotcha, Destiny.” I clucked my tongue and winked.

Big D shook its head. It had other plans.

So we’ve been inundated with workers since March 14th. Driers, contractors, drywallers, painters and soon the wood floors will be redone. My routine has been blown to hell. Instead, I carve out a few hours each day while workers come and go.

Then we heard from our insurance company. Are you sitting down? Because the water leaked out of the room into the hall, ALL of the wood floors on our first floor will be refinished along with my son’s room. The furniture has to be moved out. I threw up my hands and shook my fist at the Destiny. “Quit screwing with us, Destiny!”

My stomach has been knotted while waiting to get back to a normal life.

Then I discovered we need to move out of the house for almost THREE WEEKS! Another setback. We planned to drive to Breckenridge and stay at our second home. That’s cool, I guess.

One night, we picked up where we left off with Outlander. I had been so inspired when we started watching the historical fantasy about a woman who travels back in time to the 1740’s. My 100% Irish dad shocked us a few years ago when he said he had a Scottish grandmother. I did some research and she immigrated to America from the Melville Castle area. I wondered if my love for fish tropical in tanks and of the edible variety had anything to do with a connection to Herman?

“Wait a minute,” I said to my husband, Danny, after turning off a gruesome episode where a duke becomes headless, “See if there’s anything available in Scotland!” We bought a dinky timeshare unit in a lodge at the bottom of Peak 7 in Breck to use the amenities and park our car. We always forget to trade it and are about to lose two weeks.

After Danny researched availability, he came out of his office, smiling. “There’s a place in Dailly, Scotland.”

“What?” my eyebrows rose to my hairline and I took a look at his computer. We couldn’t find a trade in the US. It must be destiny.

A small smile curled in the corners of The Big D’s mouth as it peered over my shoulder.

That weekend, I caught up with a few blogs before skiing. Sacha Black announced the Bloggers Bash in London. One of our goals is to travel around and meet my virtual friends. “We could meet my friends!” I said.

I bought two tickets to the Bash and Danny booked our stay in Scotland for a week. We still needed to book the second week.

Why don’t we go to Paris the second week?”

“Really?”

“We can go anywhere, but that’s your favorite place, right?”

I would let it sink in over the weekend.

I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference and had several mind blown moments thanks to Donald Maass and several other knowledgeable writers. Between classes, I spoke to my son, Kelly. “If you want to visit me this quarter, you should come out next weekend,” he said. “I have to work hard the last few weeks of school.” He’s attending Icon Collective Music Production School in Burbank. He graduates in June.

I LOVE visiting Kelly in California, but I would come home late Sunday evening and would have to repack to fly out again. Thing is, my mom comes for a ten day visit over Mother’s Day. Would I ever have time to do revisions after those mind blown moments? I remembered my new thoughts about opportunity and booked flights for early Friday morning. With the pressure of a trip, I wrote a brand new, much better first chapter and revised the second. Maybe cramming in writing between workers coming to the house was a good thing.

Monday morning I checked AirBnB’s in Paris surprised at how many lovely apartments near the heart of Paris only cost around $100 per night. I made a list of favorites. Then I noticed the walls in the Parisian apartment photos. I needed to pick a color for the bathroom that had been damaged. Most of the French rooms depicted neutrals in gray, taupe and tans. We have a very French house and I was sick of the green paint in the bathroom.

I drove to the paint store and picked out a few colors, then asked the decorator, “Is gray still a popular color?”

“It is,” she said, brown curls bouncing as she walked toward me from her desk.

“I was thinking about warm gray,” I said. “Something with a little brown in it.”

She pulled a few colors from a new line of paint. They all looked pretty much alike. When I returned home with a fist full of paint chips, I selected a taupey color called “Quicksand” and called the painter.

Destiny chuckled in the background.

I didn’t pay attention to its giggle.

Another cosmic joke came the next day. The house filled with painters. They spent the day painting the guest bedroom and the adjacent back sink area and bathroom.

After they left, I checked out the rooms. “Are you kidding me???” The walls were a light shade of green. It made the tumbled marble tile look pink. I screamed. “No!” Then I checked the code for the paint on the chip against the can. Exactly the same. How? How?

I figured this had to happen to other people and spoke the contractor. Nope. This NEVER happens.

At this rate, workers will be around for a while. I predict a lot of travel in my future. Quit scattering my ducks, Destiny!

Related posts:

A Cosmic Joke After Trauma

I Celebrated a Birthday, but Failed to Save a Life

When Death Sits on My Face

My Demon Washing Machine is Haunted

How to Be a Gaper

Gaper Day is a tradition at ski resorts. Even if they don’t have a party, the last day of the season brings out the gaper in most skiers and snowboarders. We drove to Vail for their closing day. They had their spring splash the weekend before, but it didn’t dampen the party atmosphere.

What’s a Gaper?

How to be a GaperThis term generally describes someone whose helmet slips back on their head creating the dreaded gap between their noggin protector and their goggles, revealing loads of forehead. This usually accompanies first time skier attire: Jeans, firefighter, camouflage or blaze orange deer hunting jackets… You get my drift.

On the last day of the season this is expanded to skier attire circa 1970-80’s or full on crazy costumes.

We went all out this year. Since I donated my old gear long ago, I chose a fairy costume because who doesn’t like fairies? Skiing with wings did nothing help me float above the slushy snow. It must have been in the 60’s! Rarely have I been overheated while skiing. It was a great spring purge.

How to be a gaper

We hit Aspen Highlands on their closing day, but it was much colder.

Aspen Highlands closing day party

It takes a gaper to know a gaper.

gapers in Vail

The end of the season went out with a lot of giggles and a few hearty guffaws. Don’t worry. A-basin will be open until June.

I’m donning quite a different outfit Friday night for Pikes Peak Writers Conference’s Heroes and Villains Party. Stay tuned…

Do you like dressing up? When was the last time you wore a wig? Danny really rocked his dreadlocks. Ha!

Related Posts:

Gapers Cheat Summer – Another Photo Adventure

Back on the Boards!

 

 

 

Wild Conversations Overheard in Malibu and Boulder

Eavesdropping, overheard and entertained in Malibu and Boulder.

I’ve overheard a lot of wild conversations. I’m an eavesdropper by nature. Shh! Don’t tell anyone… It can be very entertaining.

Here are three conversations I’ve overheard. I just had to share:

#1. While visiting Malibu, I walked through a parking a lot filled with sports cars and other gleaming top-of-the-line vehicles. A middle-aged couple walked toward me while holding hands. The man talked in a loud voice for my benefit, I’m sure.

“What was I supposed to say to the guy? Yes, I loved your script, especially the part when they humped in every scene.”

Dogs? Teenagers? Who knows? Gotta love Malibu.

#2. While hiking on a trail north of Malibu, I overheard a wild story. Two young ladies leaned in while another spoke. I tried to keep up with their brisk pace.

“My friend, George, who worked as a waiter, flew in from London for a few days. It was his birthday. We went out to celebrate, but he drank way too much and got wasted really early. When he realized he was making a fool of himself, he went outside to get some fresh air.

He walked out to the alley, sat down next to a dumpster and fell sound asleep. At one point, he woke up because his shoes felt too tight, so he took them off. Then he crashed out again.

We didn’t know where he went, so we stayed at the bar and hoped he would show up before they closed.

When he woke up a little later, a few hookers had gathered around him. He tried to stand up. One of them was concerned and said, ‘Babe, you don’t look so good. Can we help you get home?’

‘My friends are inside,’ he said, so two of the hookers helped him to his feet and brought him back into the bar.

When he stumbled over to us, I noticed he was barefoot and carrying his shoes. I asked him why he wasn’t wearing them.

‘My shoes are too tight.’

We helped him over to a booth and looked at his feet. Then we totally freaked out. While he slept in the alley, someone had driven over them. He never felt a thing.

We took him to the hospital. He had all kinds of broken bones. He had blown his money on the plane ticket and had a huge hospital bill. He flew home on crutches with casts on his feet.”

I couldn’t hear the rest over all the giggles and the oh, my Gods. Poor George. If you’re reading this, I’d love to hear about your recovery.

#3. One weekend in September, I walked out of a Boulder, Target store and overheard a tall CU student. He spoke loudly on his phone.

“I bagged a heifer,” he said with a thick Texas accent. I imagined laughter on the other end of the line. “No, she’s really cute.” The receiver of the call must have argued. “No, no, no. She’s my girlfriend.” He paused and then said, “Isn’t that what they call a female buffalo?”

A misfired joke about dating a young woman who attends CU. Their mascot is a buffalo.

Here are the morals of the three overheard stories:

#1. Sex sells, but oversaturation in any medium can get old and tired and so would the actors. *budumbum*

#2. Binge drinking can get anyone into loads of trouble. Remember the buddy system and steel-toed boots.

#3. Be careful when trying to impress your friends. They might get the idea that you’re misogynistic or need a lesson in Dad jokes. By the way, a female buffalo is a cow. Not much better. 

Have you overheard a conversation worth remembering? 

Related posts:

Random Acts of Chat – Dave Barry, Stephen King, Erma Bombeck and Jesus walk into a bar…

When People Think You’re Crazy – I entertained others with my conversation with me, myself and I, in a grocery store.

Daily Prompt – Chuckle

5 Things You Must Do for Your Birthday!

5 things to do for yourself on your birthdayHate celebrating your birthday? Always disappointed? I had a very Happy Birthday on the 11th and celebrated it BIG time this year. How? Easy. I depended on myself to have fun.

5 things you must do for your birthday:

#1. Take control. Plan your day in advance.

Waiting around for someone else to plan it is too much pressure on friends and family. Make it easy. Do it yourself.

Me – I didn’t want to exhaust myself with appointments and running around all day. Instead, I planned two outings and dinked around with a new toy I bought for my birthday. My son, Kelly, picked it out. *hint, hint* You’ll find out soon enough.

#2. Lower your expectations.

Oh, sure it would be great to be asked out to lunch or walk into a surprise party, but what if it doesn’t happen? Don’t let disappointment ruin your day.

Me – I didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary. I stuck to my plan.

#3. Pamper yourself.

Make an appointment for a massage, facial, nail or hair appointment. Or why not meet with a fortune teller. Ha! Hopefully they will tell you the next year will rock.

Me – I got my hair cut. Then I took a long nap and watched a movie. Why not? It was my day!

#4. Go out for a meal.

Whether you go with a special someone or go by yourself, be sure to pick your favorite restaurant and eat something delicious.

Me – I met my family in Denver for dinner at one of my favorites, Venice Ristorante.

Interior of Venice Ristorante from their site

#5. Enter three highlights into a gratitude journal at the end of the night. There’s a lot to be thankful for. You lived another year. Yay!

Me – It’s been exactly one month since my brother, Joe, passed away. I’m remembering him through my journal by living my wild life.

Many people hate birthdays since they feel horrible about being one year older. Get over it! Remember the alternative. I’ve faced down my own death (evil death!) and tried to breathe life into one who had passed. Birthdays are what life is all about. Bring them on!

This was all I needed.

Five things you must do on your birthday

Do you celebrate your birthday? What’s your favorite thing to do?

Related posts:

I Celebrated a Birthday, but Failed to Save a Life

When You put Your Dog in Charge of Your Birthday – VLOG

I’m Planning on a Happy Birthday!

When Death Sits on My Face

I went to a therapist for the first time with the intention of getting over my brother’s sudden death after trying to save him. When my father died, it hit me harder the second six months. I needed some coping skills. I wanted to expedite the process of grieving. Get over it faster.

“I know you want to move on quickly. Are you avoiding the death of your brother?” my therapist asked.

“Are you kidding me?” I said and threw my hands in the air while looking skyward. “Death is sitting on my face.”

It has taken up residency in a part of my brain and won’t move out. I would love to give it an eviction notice. Better yet, break down the door and beat the crap out of it.

While sprawled out in a recliner, death takes control of the remote and oozes a lens over my eyes throwing everything askew. My clouded perception warps sunny days and blows a draft through my heart. I shiver.

I’m done with death.

It’s a lying, cheating, deceitful son-of-a-bitch. I don’t want anyone to die ever again.

When I told my friend, Bill Hurtley the funeral director, he laughed.

“That would be a disaster.”

I imagined airlines for the elderly and low profile nursing homes replaced by skyscrapers. Soon there would be more golden agers than any other age group.

“So what?”

It’s been a struggle. Death comes in waves. My waves are timed different than everyone else in my family. While one of us is chillin’ in the water doing the backstroke, another is drowning. It’s unpredictable.

The water metaphor comes up all the time. It’s ironic how we arrived home to water pouring through the ceiling. “You should immerse yourself in death,” said my therapist. “Write about it.”

“Do I have to?” I felt like a kid who was told they couldn’t go out for recess, but had to stay inside to do homework.

Here goes:

Back in Wisconsin, I had a beautiful dream about water. I soaked in a vast infinity pool in a room where everything was covered in cream-colored marble. Gorgeous. Alone, the sound of water soothed me, although the temperature was cooler than I’d like. I stepped out and walked down endless smooth steps as a gentle waterfall trickled past my bare feet. I smiled and woke up.

I’ve had a strong desire to swim ever since. I’m desperate to wash away this broken feeling in my gut. Thoughts of baptism and rebirth keep seeping from my subconscious. Weird.

We grow strong attachments to the ones we love. When they die, it tears a part of us emotionally and physically. That feeling is real. The gouge, torn in my flesh, seems irreparable, infected, and sore. Unpredictable triggers throw salt on the open wound.

Then I imagine water pouring through me to repair the damage. I remember that feeling of walking out of the pool whole again. What was that?

Hope, a little peace, maybe even happiness.

Skiing after my brother's death carrying weight in every turn.

I went skiing last weekend. I’ve skied after breast cancer, a partial knee replacement, and after my dad’s death. But with this shock, I carried the weight of death in every turn. Yet at the end of the run, I smiled. That’s hope.

Life moves on and I go skiing.

My brother died on March 11th, two days after my mom’s birthday. My birthday is April 11th. In a week, I’ll lock death’s guest bedroom door and will sneak off to take a holiday from grieving, if only one hour at time. I’ll take baby steps toward that marble pool.

Things will get better. Death will stop sitting on my face. It will pack its bags and the wound will heal. I wish I could expedite the process. If only I could snatch the remote from its rotted fingers and hide the batteries.

How do you handle hardship? Have you ever wanted to kick someone out of your head?

Related posts:

I Celebrated a Birthday, but Failed to Save a Life

A Cosmic Joke after Trauma

 

I Celebrated a Birthday, But Failed to Save a Life.

Have you ever taken a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation class? I took one for a babysitting badge when I was in Girl Scouts. I remember the plastic dummy and going through the routine while hoping to God I’d never have to use it. Flash forward a few decades.

On March 9th, I flew back to Wisconsin for my mom’s eighty-seventh birthday. My brother, Joe McCartan, ordered a cake and I picked up flowers. Mom was so surprised! Over dinner that night, she told us she planned to live a long time. For her one-hundredth birthday, she wants a stylist to dye a blue streak in her hair. I love her attitude.

My brother is the king of joking around. I couldn’t get a picture of him when he wasn’t mugging for the camera.  When I left Colorado it was seventy degrees. Check out the temperature on my brother’s iPad.

Two days later, Joe drove to the butcher to buy steaks to grill and went to a chiropractic appointment. In February, he slid on black ice and crashed his car into a telephone pole. It exacerbated an already sore back.

Later, the three of us watched the UW Badgers cream Northwestern by thirty points. Being a yawnfest, Joe texted on his phone. He’s a highly sought after, free-lance, on-location sound technician for major networks, television, movies and corporations. Very excited, he read the thread out loud. It regarded a commercial he had been hired to record. The company wanted to shoot tight shots of musicians playing the oboe, violin and cello. He had texted the high school music teacher, who had all kinds of ideas.

“The kids will love being in a commercial.” Joe was stoked.

“Sounds like you contacted the right person,” I said and yawned. “I think I’ll take a quick nap.” I walked upstairs to my room.

When I returned downstairs, Mom played Words with Friends in the kitchen while the steaks thawed in a pan. I had planned to walk the dog, but Joe had already left with Charlie. I opened my laptop and wrote my last post about daylight savings time. After dinner I thought it would be fun to play a game and take some group selfies.

Always pretty high energy, Joe burst through the door led by their Collie.

“I just missed you,” I said, looking up from my computer.

“Yep,” was all he said. Then he ran up the back stairs to his apartment behind my mom’s Victorian. I heard his footsteps overhead and then settled in to proof my stupid post.

He moved in a year before my dad passed away and has been taking care of Mom. He’s been a godsend, taking her to appointments, shopping and the little things, like setting the table for meals. He brings her tea and puts her eyedrops in before bed. My mom is super sharp, but has glaucoma and hasn’t been able to drive for years.

When Joe didn’t come downstairs, Mom said, “What’s taking him so long? We need to get the steaks on the grill.”

I shrugged and more time passed.

“Go check on Joe,” she said. “I don’t want to eat at 8:00.”

“Give him a few more minutes,” I said, knowing he liked his privacy.

A few more minutes passed and I ran upstairs.

I opened his door and peeked inside. “Hey, Joe!” I shouted. You have to walk through a kitchen to get to the large open, living and dining space.

“Joe! Time to make dinner,” I shouted through the doorway.

No response.

I stepped inside and saw him chilling in front of the computer. His arms relaxed on the armrests, his head was cocked backward and his mouth hung open.

“No wonder you didn’t hear me. You’re sound asleep.”

Still no response.

Something was wrong. “Joe! JOE!” I raced up to him and patted his pale cheeks.

No response.

“Oh, my God!” I felt for a pulse in his neck, but couldn’t find one. His lips were white. He wasn’t breathing. I screamed to my mom. She called 911, hysterical when the operator didn’t understand what was going on. I used my fingertips on his wrist and heard quick taps racing across the surface. Were they mine? 

Just like I’d been taught all those years ago, I started mouth-to-mouth and alternated with the CPR technique I’d learned on the Internet. One, two, three, four, staying alive, staying alive… I’m sure only minutes passed, but it seemed like an hour before the first responders arrived. They tried everything, but couldn’t get a pulse. Hope slipped away.

The paramedics came and hooked up a CPR machine and breathing tube. I went downstairs to check on my mom. Her friends, Kathy and Roger Roth, consoled her on the couch. Time passed. I ran back upstairs. “Did you get a pulse?”

“No, nothing,” one of the paramedics replied. I felt so guilty. I didn’t do it right. I could have saved him, but I failed! I couldn’t stop sobbing.

After answering tons of questions about his health, I went back downstairs. By that time, the funeral director, Bill Hurtley, and the priest from across the street, Fr. Dooley, had arrived. I got to know and love both of them when they took care of my dad’s funeral. Bill brought my mom back from her catatonic state with his dry humor.

Anxiety filled my empty stomach with broken glass. I turned to Bill for support. “I wrote a stupid blog post and didn’t come upstairs in time. I screwed up. I could’ve saved him.” Tears streamed down my cheeks.

He looked me in the eyes and said, “You found him relaxed in his chair, right?”

I nodded.

“There was nothing you could do. He threw a clot,” Bill said.

“What?”

“A blood clot. Believe me, I see a lot of dead people,” he said. “It’s what I do. Heart attacks are pretty uncomfortable. The victim has time to react, so we usually find them on the floor. Throwing a blood clot is painless. It happens to runners all the time. They go for a run and as soon as they sit in a chair, they die.”

“Why am I here if I couldn’t save him?” I asked.

“For your mother,” he said. “If she would have discovered him, it would’ve been a shock she would never have recovered from.” He took a moment and added, “Don’t blame yourself. Even if someone throws a clot in the hospital, no one can save them.”

An autopsy would have cost five to six thousand dollars. Bill insisted it would be a waste of money. Pulmonary embolism. It’s what people get from sitting too long on planes. Who knows where Joe got his clot. Surgery two years ago? The accident? Bumping into something and not telling anyone about it? We’ll never know. He wasn’t on blood thinners. I’m taking a baby aspirin now.

Alive and vibrant one minute and then gone the next. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.

My little brother, who towered more than a foot over me, who did lotus position yoga with me when he was little for giggles, who I took to all kinds of concerts and events when I was in high school and college since I feared our almost ten year age difference would cause us to drift apart. My little brother who I loved dearly is dead at forty-nine years old. I was only a few steps away. How can that be?

He was a saxophone player in a band and was a local celebrity. He worked with people all across the United States. His Facebook and funeral home page are filled with heartfelt shock and condolences. We planned his funeral for March 25th at St. Paul’s Church across the street from their home in Evansville.

Being the writer in the family, I had to write his obituary. It was tough enough when I wrote my dad’s and felt tremendous pressure to do Joe’s life justice. His friend and co-worker, videographer Eric Janisch helped fill in the work details. You can read Joe’s obit here.

Two things I discovered on my own might help others.

  • I couldn’t get the image of him sitting in the chair out of my head. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw him. I must not have blinked the whole time I ran toward him. I stayed up all night. It was the same the next day as neighbors and relatives arrived. My husband, Danny, flew out that afternoon. As I drove toward the Dane County Airport I noticed some perfectly formed trees silhouetted in the snow. I picked one and stared at it as I drove toward it. I closed my eyes and saw the tree. It totally worked. That horrific last image of Joe disappeared, at least from my retinas.
  • Exhausted, I didn’t dare take a nap. Experiencing the shock all over again upon waking is the worst. In the past it has taken weeks for my brain to wrap itself around death. I wondered if saying it out loud to myself would speed up the process. I gave it a try. “Joe is dead. He died and you couldn’t save him. He’s not coming back.” I repeated it again before I picked up Danny and then twice before falling asleep. It worked.

Danny and I have lost half our families in two years; his bother and mom, my dad, then his mom’s boyfriend of fifteen years and now, my brother. It’s devastating to lose the people we love.

What about that quick tapping in Joe’s wrist? I hadn’t told anyone. Even though others shared the cause of death idea, I still wondered if it was instant as the funeral director and doctor claimed.

Days later, I remembered. “Make sure to lay your fingers across the wrist or you’ll feel your own pulse,” the instructor had told the Girl Scouts. I held my husband, Danny’s wrist in a different way. A strong slow pulse throbbed beneath his bones. No quick tapping on the surface. It had been mine I felt, not Joe’s.

There was nothing I could do. He had already passed.

How am I? Better. I’m grateful for the time we had together. Looking back, the timing of my visit seems serendipitous. I’ll embrace my grief and will remember him always.

Joe McCartan

Spring is emerging after a long winter dormancy. I see everything more intensely now and understand life’s fragility. Everyone will die. Life is impermanent. The trick is to live each day with appreciation and wonder.

In memory of my brother, I will start a nightly journal. I’ll list three positive things that happened during the day. He would’ve liked that.

What about my mom?

Many of her friends have offered to help. At this point, she won’t consider moving to Colorado with my brother and dad inurned in Madison. We’ll do whatever it takes to celebrate her one-hundredth birthday. I want to see her rock that blue streak.