What I read last week


One of my favorite aspects of social media is being able to share stories that others might have missed. Due to my work, I read so many interesting articles on a wide variety of subjects, features I believe should have a broader readership. If you don’t follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr — or if you didn’t get a chance to read every item I posted — here are some of the fascinating articles I read/shared last week:

UNICEF says 2016 was worst year yet for Syria’s children by The Associated Press

In drought-stricken Somalia, starving mothers forced to choose which child to feed by Dominique Mosbergen, The Huffington Post

Trump gives CIA new authority to direct drone strikes on terrorists by Gordon Lubold and Shane Harris, The Wall Street Journal

White House says cutting Meals on Wheels is ‘compassionate’ by Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

The 10 hardest parts of the funeral industry by Caleb Wilde, Confessions of a Funeral Director

DriveCare devices silence cellphones to prevent distracted driving by Sherri Borden Colley, CBC News

24 million people stand to lose insurance under GOP Obamacare ‘replacement’ by Jeffrey Young, The Huffington Post

For Melinda Gates, birth control is women’s way out of poverty by Celia W. Dugger, The New York Times

Large sections of Australia’s Great Reef are now dead, scientists find by Damien Cafe and Justin Gillis, The New York Times

Meet Diego, the centenarian whose sex drive saved his species by Nicholas Casey, The New York Times

Talking with Jeanette Epps, the first black crew member on the International Space Station by Dayna Evans, The Cut

The bombs of Steve Bannon by Timothy Egan, The New York Times

From an obit writer, the last word on “The Last Word” by Bruce Weber, The New York Times

New York’s secret doors and hidden rooms by Ronda Kaysen, The New York Times

The best argument for saving public media was made by Mr. Rogers in 1969:

Improve any novel by changing its second line to “And then the murders began” by Clayton Purdom, A.V. Club

Did you encounter an interesting news or feature story that I should read? Let me know about it.

A marriage, even in grief


…To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, for as long as you both shall live?

One of the best parts of marriage is that a shared history gives you an understanding of how your spouse will react in certain situations. Over time, you will experience highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies, and all of the middling life stuff that occurs in between.

This weekend, M and I sat on the floor of our library and watched our eldest cat take her final breaths. When the light left her eyes, we pet her soft fur for the last time and weeped.

Once the tears finally abated, the mourning process began. This is something that we experience very differently. Sharing stories about the deceased helps him, as does actively seeking distraction. For me, I need to efficiently deal with the cleanup of Death’s visit and then I prefer to grieve alone, in silence.

These two styles don’t always mesh, and yet because we’ve been together so long, we’ve managed to figure out a way to face such difficulties together. Generally this involves doing what one person wants, followed by the other, trading coping mechanisms until the sadness stops overwhelming all else.

Loss is agonizing, even when expected. But sharing it with someone you love — someone who truly understands your nature — does make it a little more manageable. I am grateful for him, and for us.

Dear ghost,


The gas man came today, and filled the tank for the fireplace. I didn’t request that he do this — had forgotten the task entirely — but it seems you were responsible.

The bill left behind by the gas company says it’s September. I hadn’t noticed the time passing, but I guess that explains why the nights have grown cooler. Had I realized the season, I probably would’ve wanted a fire to take the chill off. Instead, I just wrapped the wool tartan, the one you bought for me in Scotland during our honeymoon, around my shoulders and shivered.

Now that the tank is full, I suppose I could turn on the fireplace. Truth be told, the very thought of doing so, of flicking that switch, hearing the gassy whoosh and watching the blue flames erupt into a fiery dance makes me even sadder.

I always wanted a fireplace, dreamed of it for so many years. And finally, after much scrimping and saving, we were able to afford a house that had one. How many nights did we sit by the fire, draining the tank of all its fuel? How many days did we cuddle on the couch underneath the red blanket and watch the snow fall?

What was once a dream, and then a reality, has now become just one more reminder that you are gone. Ghosts don’t need a fire to see, or a fire to read by, or a fire to snuggle close to the one you love.

I’m loathe to admit it, but sometimes, it feels like I’m a ghost, too. No doubt you’d hate that I feel this way, but I can’t help it. Ever since you left, I’ve been haunting these rooms. I forget to eat. When I get out of bed, I find half-filled cups scattered on tables, the once-white insides dyed a dreary brown from forgotten tea. Copernicus would probably starve if it wasn’t for the automatic feeder, which I probably should fill again. I took a bath yesterday; I was so lost in thought remembering that time we foolishly left the trail in the woods that the water cooled and shriveled the skin on my fingers before I even noticed. Oh look, my slippers, have a hole. Where did that come from?

As I placed the gas company notice in the mail basket, I saw a rather large pile of unopened mail there. The letters and catalogs and magazines just pile up under the slot until I trip over the paper mound, but I’m always too tired to do more than toss them into the basket on the desk. Soon I will need to buy a bigger basket.

Anyway, I don’t mean to complain. This is my life now. So thank you for ordering the gas in advance, for taking care of me when I no longer want to bother. Even in death, you are so thoughtful.


–Bit of fiction inspired by this article in The New York Times

Haunted houses


We appear to have a ghost in the new house.

Last weekend, M and I flew to Seattle to celebrate the birthdays of two dear friends. When the weather conspired against us, we were forced to make an unexpected stop in Salt Lake City, Utah, find other accommodations because our HomeAway apartment couldn’t extend our stay and fly home a day later than planned. Luckily, our new pet sitter was willing to schlep through a blizzard to feed and care for Duncan, Dany, Arya, Brigid and George.

During our absence, however, a shade apparently decided to cause some mischief. Upon arriving at our house for a visit, the pet sitter was stunned to discover the door that leads to the garage standing wide open. This is odd for two reasons: one, we always keep it closed since we don’t want the animals going in there, and two, we specifically locked the door before we left town. So how in the world did the door unlock itself and fling open?

No one knows.

Also, since returning home, two eldest cats have begun scratching at the door to the garage, almost as if to request permission to leave (or permission to allow someone in). M swears there are no other animals in the garage — nor wolves in the walls — which leads me to wonder if the ghost has lost his/her key.

Lastly, in the two months since we moved in, I’ve noticed that certain rooms have unexplained cold spots. The previous owner built the house in 1980 and never mentioned anyone dying in it so I have no idea why these chilly areas exist. More investigation will be required.

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