Thursday's Where Truth is the Dare

Question of the Day: Where Truth Is the Dare   [QUES OF THE DAY] [Paperback]

It’s Thursday again – and we all know what that means! Here is this week’s question.

Truth? or Dare?

What is the most important thing you want, that you didn’t grow up with?

I’ll be posting my answer next week because I want every one to come up with their answer spontaneously and not be guided by my answer. I cannot wait to hear your answers! :)

Thank you all for participating. I will be doing this every Thursday so I hope you’ll all be back.

My answer to last week’s question “Despite beliefs, ideas, or feelings, that may change,what are you absolutely certain of all the time?

I am certain that I will always love my children and my husband. I know that God has a plan and I need to trust he knows what’s best.

Finding Katie by John J. Smith

Finding Katie

About the Book (from Amazon):

  The very wealthy and very sheltered Preston Meadows lives his life protected from even the hint of harm. His world is safe and secure until someone kidnaps his sister, Katie. Against his parents’ wishes, Preston sets out on his own to find her. Preston works hard to blend in with the “regular” people roaming the streets of Dallas – but the real world is zany, insane, full of danger and ruthless criminals. Preston soon begins to learn more about himself and finds he has a knack for foiling certain crimes. In his adventures, during his search for his sister, he makes friends with some of the strangest people he could ever imagine. Along the way, Preston falls in love, comes face-to-face with a self-described Drug Lord, and discovers a side of himself he never knew existed, especially after the Drug Lord kidnaps his girlfriend.

About the Author:

John J Smith

I write under two name John J. Smith and pen name Jonathan Black. Why do I do this? I’ve been told when a reader sees my work they have an expectation, hence the two names. I have won several awards under each name.

I’ve been called a prolific Fiction writer. I enjoy writing romance and mainstream as John and paranormal and paranormal romance as Jonathan.

Several of my novels have been converted or rewritten into screenplays; for which I’ve also have won several awards.

I reside in Plano, a suburb of Dallas, Texas.

Guest Post on Writing Fiction by John J. Smith

 I have always been an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction and have written technical documents over the years but writing fiction came to me late in life, so to speak, and I am so glad I did.
My previous employment had me on the road full time and one night, after growing tired of writing technical documents, I decided to try writing a novel; it didn’t go well. Not at all. I broke every rule. And after several eye-rolls and bellyaching laughter, I decided to go back to school. I took “several” creative writing classes and then worked with a professor on a consulting basis and then finally with other writers where I learned that technical writing and fiction writing were worlds apart. Although I like technical writing, I found I loved writing fiction and became addicted.
Unlike technical writing, fiction has a formula. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end, but best of all, there are characters. Characters that you love, and characters that you love to hate, and the more I started creating characters the more I spent writing fiction and less time writing technical documents.
 To me, one of the most exciting things about writing fiction is you have a story like Finding Katie. It was a thought that I carried with me for about six to nine months. I wanted a character that had the best in life: money, career, expensive taste and collectables but unhappy. Easy formula, but I wanted you to like him, so, I had to give him a big heart, a soft heart. Again, good, but why would you like him. I then thought, he has to be on verge of brilliant and he had to have a special talent, again, that wasn’t enough for you to like him. I mean, it’s impossible to feel for someone who has everything. Okay, now, let’s make him naïve. I created a paradox, he’s incredibly smart but naïve, incredibly rich but has a huge heart, incredibly handsome but shy, but I also threw in that if something was going to happen, it happened to him. All of that made up Preston Meadows.
Preston Meadows is a young man who loves his sister and is willing to risk his life to save her. A young man who had been sheltered from all harm. A young man who was basically imprisoned by his father to serve his father and make his father rich. I then plucked him out of his safe place, dropped him into a ghetto, and watched him grow.

To me, that is excitement. To create a character and put that character into a story that you dreamed up is exhilarating. Writing fiction can be exhilarating. I still write non-fiction, and technical documents, but I love writing fiction.

 I have written stories that sort of parallel with my life but I think all writers peel a little piece of themselves and put into their stories. Over the last few years that has become less and less but I still find myself using something that may have happened to me that day and it happened to that character that night.

Book Quotes:

 Although still in tears, I heard my mother snicker and say in her usual snobbish tone, “The Meadows never occasionally stay away. in the winter we vacation in Hawaii…My mother is infamous for dropping names of any sort.
I got out of be and slipped my feet into my leather slippers purchased from Michael Toschi Grotto, then put on my monogrammed satin robe purchased from Vintage A. Sulka & Company
 My mother’s lips puckered for a beat as if she were going to respond until she saw me out of the corner of her eyes. Her mouth dropped open as if she were going to hurl pea soup. Her face turned beet red from embarrassment. Daggers shot from her eyes and ripped through my body, metaphorically speaking that is. In honesty, she had a look that now made my left eye twitch. …I knew she was going to do or say something moronic. Either way, I knew I was in for one hell of an embarrassing moment. …and she closed the gap between us, I looked down to see if my periwinkle was ticking out of my pajamas and peeking through my robe, but the coast was clear…She licked her fingers and smooth my hair down as if I were still a child…turned twenty-one in July.
…  loved Katie with all my heart, but when her mouth jumped into gear, she was even worse than Chandler in the mind-numbing lecture department.

Chandler was a large and handsome man with a solid frame with cold dark blue eyes, which had a way of intimidating people. Now my mother was a different story. when she gave you the eye, you knew the most embarrassing moment in our life was about to happen. That’s when my left eye would start to twitch.


 (My favorite quote from the entire book) Why is it when two people have different beliefs, one has to be wrong?
He turned over on his stomach, still dazed, then when he struggled to his feet he stepped in more dog feces and slipped again, WHAM! And landed on a pile that looked as if it had been dropped by a St. Bernard with dysentery…I knelt in front of him. “You’re the first guy I’ve ever seen kick his own butt.”

I then looked at Sandia and she had a grin that frightened me more than Jose. I honestly believed her thoughts would make Satan hurl green pea soup…Then I felt Sandia’s hand on my ass.

(My second favorite quote.) I loaded a tray and backed out into the main room, and began serving the homeless, the hungry, and the forgotten, and as I place a plate down in front of each person, my heart went out to them. How could a country that was supposed to be so rich have so many poor? How could a country pride itself on sending money to other countries when the number of poor here grew daily? I needed to be more careful when I picked out candidates for congress, the senate, and the presidency. I was beginning to believe I was voting our country into poverty.


 When I was making my way back to the kitchen, something about five-feet-ten inches tall and medium build came down the steps from the rooms upstairs. I wasn’t sure if it was a man, a woman, a man dressed like a woman, or a woman who looked like a man but dressed like a woman. The only thing I knew for sure was it was a tall Negro with a hungry look on its face. It scurried over to me in a tippy-toed fashion and stopped close enough to me that I could smell and feel the moisture of its breath…”My name is Too Loose.”

…I nailed my foot to the roof twice, although the second time stopped me from falling but left me embarrassed as I dangled from the roof upside down until the laughing stopped and one of the workers helped me back up.


 Butt-naked, she rolled out of bed, which made me gag, slipped into her thong, and then with a sight that would cause most people to go blind, she bent over and struggled into her shorts. Trust me, a size twenty-two butt jammed into size twelve shorts is mind boggling.

Two Garland police officers were standing with Low Down, and a third stood close by me, keeping vigilance as if I was the criminal here. He asked, “Is there a dark cloud hanging over you? In the last week, every call I’ve been on you’ve been involved.” I looked at the officer and said, “This was not my fault.”

 My Review:

Preston Meadows is a quirky, sheltered, genius of a little boy in a man’s body. He is funny. He is kind. He is caring. And, he is generous. He can also hear what people are thinking. Preston is like Lucille Ball and Dick Van Dyke rolled into one character. All he wishes to do is find his sister, Katie, who has been abducted by the badass drug Lord, Delgado. What he finds is his true self. He meets the most unsavory characters and they fall like dominos behind him as he foils one bad plot after another. The more Preston tries to do accomplish good deeds, the more havoc he reeks in the neighborhood. And, one more thing, Preston LOVES his stun gun.


 His vocabulary, or should I say Preston’s proper speech and the way it set him apart from the average man on the street is endearing. It is comical to travel along with Preston as he learns the “street lingo” and tries his best to fit in with hookers, transvestites, addicts, and the poor in the shelter where he has found a home. I’m still wondering if he ever figured out why everyone kept threatening to “pop yo ass”.
John J. Smith has written a book like no other book I have ever read (and I have read many.) It was enchanting. Finding Katie had action, drama, comedy, and romance; yet it was also enchanting. While I loved every bit of this book, the comedy will stay with me for a long time (possibly, because I channel Lucy and could picture myself in some of Preston’s scrapes.)

John J. Smith managed to capture the personalities and eccentricities of the rich as well as the poor, and everyone in between. The book is rich with characters who have names as large as their personalities; Sistah Goldenhair, Maxine PoopsAlot of BarksAlot, Fonzie Dale, Ms. Garza, Sandia, Low Down DD, Too Loose, Petey, and Camel.


 As you close the book on the laughter, the tears, the good works, and the chase, it’s hard to believe that you have only spent a week in the life of Preston Meadows. Even though the book comes to a well-written conclusion, Finding Katie leaves you wanting to spend more time with Preston. I definitely recommend adding this book to your stash. 

Thursday's Where Truth is the Dare

Question of the Day: Where Truth Is the Dare   [QUES OF THE DAY] [Paperback]

It’s Thursday again – and we all know what that means!

Here is this week’s question.

Truth? or Dare?

Despite beliefs, ideas, or feelings, that may change,

what are you absolutely certain of all the time?

I’ll be posting my answer next week because I want every one to come up with their answer spontaneously and not be guided by my answer. I cannot wait to hear your answers! :)

Thank you all for participating. I will be doing this every Thursday so I hope you’ll all be back.

My answer to last week’s question “What are you tired of taking the rap for?”

I’m tired of taking the rap for things I didn’t do because others are good at manipulating. I have always been someone willing to take responsibility for my own actions, right or wrong,  and I’ll take the consequences.

Question of the Day on Face book found my blog and posted my Thursday’s Truth or Dare. How cool is that. To thank them, I am posting their Face book link here:

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My Crazy Life – A good old-fashion Southern wedding and Boucherie

March 21, 2012

            I had the privilege of being asked to create (that’s stretching it a bit) the wedding cake for a friend of mine. Since the arthritis in my hands prevents me from doing intricate work, I was happy that it was an outdoor wedding and she would be happy with a simple cake. I also made cupcakes (my favorite – my OWN piece of cake) and my famous bread pudding with praline sauce (no, you may not have the recipe).

Bread pudding from the oven.

As I have written before, food is a way of life here in the South and when we celebrate, we celebrate big. The wedding was no exception. But, first, we had to find the venue. Baking and transporting a cake for two and a half hours turned out to be the easy part (almost). The back of the suburban was full (we had removed the back seat) of cake and bread pudding which we hoped we had secured enough for the trip. Our first scare was about twenty miles from home when a truck came skidding to a halt as we were approaching on the four-lane highway. The driver did not look as though he had any intentions of stopping before entering the highway. Instead of seeing our life flash, Hubby and I were seeing cake flying before our eyes. Thank goodness all the layers were safely in their own boxes and on a rubber mat.

We continued on our journey and that is a story all by itself. We live in South Louisiana and we were on our way to Mississippi for the wedding. What we had no idea about was we were on our way to no man’s land. The directions were interesting as they offered a number of ways to get to our destination (the middle of nowhere). It was quite interesting to meet up with friends once we arrived and to listen to the different stories of how they had all arrived. It seems we all took different routes, all claiming to have taken the “easy” route.

We took Interstate X to Street Y to Highway Z to Lane A (we had to begin the alphabet over – there just wasn’t enough X,Y,Z to make this trip happen). I have to admit, even though the mileage wasn’t quite accurate, the landmarks we were given were. We turned down a two-lane road and almost had our second mishap of the day. The driver of a pickup truck stopped at a stop sign and then started to pull out – in front of us – and once again, we saw cake flying. Luckily, with a lot of horn blowing and braking, we managed to escape harm.

We were bumpity-bumping along the last leg of our journey and Hubby and I both burst out laughing about the same time (turns out we were both thinking the same thoughts). Originally, we were unsure if we would be making the trip to the wedding and if we hadn’t, then the bride would have been transporting the cake; and that may not sound like much of a big deal but you have to know her. She is full of energy, always going at a hundred miles an hour. We were thinking of M.J. transporting an assembled cake – all three layers of it. We were both picturing her be-bopping along the very bumpy country road, forgetting all about the cake until she reached the house (get the picture). Between laughing and wiping his tears, Hubby said she could have offered everyone a spoon! Well – that inspired more laughing. Hubby and I travel well together. We talk and laugh, never even turning on the radio.

Digressing to earlier in the week (the day before), here are a few pictures of the cake baking process. M.J. and I had originally discussed a two layer cake, but then the basket I found to hold the cake just needed something more so I added a third layer. Hubby has always been my frosting guy. I don’t have the patience it takes to work the icing to a smooth finish. I had to give him credit for icing my cakes when I was taking cake decorating classes. He compares it to finishing concrete. He just uses a spatula instead of a trough.

The shopping process was so much fun. I am not one to go out shopping, but when I have a mission, I can really get into it. I needed baskets to house the cupcakes and the cake. It was an outdoor country wedding and one of my favorite and in my mind, I knew exactly what I needed. I wanted a square basket in a darker natural twig color large enough to house the cake and the magnolias that I planned to surround the cake with for decoration. My only dilemma being – would I find what I had pictured in my head.

I also wanted to find two shallow rectangle baskets to serve the cupcakes in as well. It was a pretty tall order, but I had confidence that I would find exactly what I needed at Hobby Lobby (I am infamous for projecting what I want- always good to hedge your bets). Imagine my excitement (no I did not run through the store shouting I found them, although I was tempted) when I found exactly what I was looking for.

The next items on the list were the perfect cupcake papers. Anyone who bakes knows that once the cake comes out of the oven, you cannot tell what the original paper looks like. I wanted these to look special for my friend, so I was looking for an outer paper to set the cupcakes in once they were frosted. It has been a while since I have ventured out shopping and I was excited to view all the new products that available. I found a parchment colored toile with a brown design (how perfect is that – it matched the baskets) and a plain parchment paper cup. I was beginning to want this wedding to be my own!

M.J. loves peach and wanted peach ribbon. What happened to peach?! There was no peach ribbon in South Louisiana (at least in Houma). My plans were to wrap each layer of the cake in a beautiful peach satin ribbon – so much for that idea! I did find beautiful coral ribbon as a back up in the event we could not locate peach ribbon. I ended up purchasing cream satin ribbon as a base to go under the too thin coral ribbon – yeah – no wide ribbon. I did not find peach ribbon at Michael’s but I did find the beautiful coral ribbon (as a backup) there.

After a stop at the local cake shop for flavoring, I was on my way home content with my purchases – after a trip to Wal-Mart, that is. I did need cake mix and pans for the bread pudding and LOTS of good ole Southern sugar – the base to all of our fine desserts! I admit – I do use a bought cake mix, simply because I haven’t found one from scratch that is as moist. Sometimes the box is best. I do make all of my icings from scratch though – none of that fake stuff for me.

For anyone wishing to make a wonderful cake icing, the flavoring is Crème Bouquet not Almond as most people think. It smells a little like almond and has a touch of that flavor, but it is not Almond extract. The flavoring is worth the stop and the cost at the local bakeshop. For the chocolate icing, there is none better than the old-fashioned Hershey’s Chocolate Icing off the back of the container of Hershey’s Cocoa. It is sinfully good. You don’t even need cake to enjoy it!

Getting back to the wedding, there was also the old-fashioned Boucherie or Cochon-de-lait – the roasting of the pig. There were many other goodies that are found at almost every Boucherie – Blood Stew (doesn’t that want to make your toes curl?) and pork stew and grilled grillades. Guests also feasted on potato salad and baked beans, and of course, no Southern meal is complete without white beans and French bread. And, as you will find at any Southern gathering, a table loaded with desserts. I am happy to report that my bread pudding was devoured in record time and, yes, I am human – I just loved all the comments it was receiving!

Roasting the pig.

Did I mention that there had been a rainstorm the day before? It was a bloody, muddy mess! Instead of the wedding taking place by the pond, the couple exchanged vows under the porch (thank goodness for those Southern porches!) It also presented problems with parking as you can see by the pictures. The friends next to us were stuck and need to be pushed out of the little ditch. In the process, they came very close to sliding into our car. There were a few white-knuckled moments there.  Needless to say, they decided to let Hubby pull out first. I was waiting up the drive because trying to cross that muddy ditch was like a “Lucy” moment just waiting to happen. And, when I say up the drive, I mean WAY up the drive. I certainly did not want to wear mud home! Hubby gunned the engine and sailed through the ditch with mud flying everywhere. I think the burb brought home about a truckload of Mississippi mud on the sides.

Muddy mess!

I also ended up being the “unofficial” photographer of the wedding and with the permission of the bride, here are a few photos for you to enjoy. Congratulations, M.J. and Sean on your wedding and thank you for inviting us to be a part of it.

Wedding Cake
A toast to the couple
The cake shot

You can view additional pictures by clicking on this link:  My Life. One Story at a Time.: My Crazy Life – A good old-fashion Southern wedding and Boucherie

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Half in Love (surviving the legacy of suicide) by Linda Gray Sexton

Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide
About the Book:

As the daughter of Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Anne Sexton, Linda Sexton witnessed her mother’s enigmatic presence but also her multiple—and ultimately successful—suicide attempts, which led her to struggle with an engulfing undertow of depression. In Half In Love, Sexton conveys with powerful and unsparing prose her urgent need to escape the legacy of suicide that consumed her family—a topic rarely explored, even today, in such poignant depth.

Linda Gray Sexton tries multiple times to kill herself—even though as a daughter, sister, wife, and most importantly, a mother, she knows the pain her act would cause. But unlike her mother’s story, Linda’s is ultimately one of triumph. Through the help of family, therapy, and medicine, she confronts deep-seated issues and curbs the haunting cycle of suicide she once seemed destined to inherit.

Linda Gray Sexton was born in Newton, Massachusetts in 1953.   As the daughter of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Anne Sexton, she grew up in a home filled with books and words and an attention to language, and at an early age she, too, began to write. Afternoons were sometimes spent together with her mother, reading aloud from Anne’s favorite poems.

By the time Linda was an adolescent, she had begun to write poetry and short fiction seriously, and spent many special hours curled up on the sofa in Anne’s study, discussing her own fledgling work as well as her mother’s growing oeuvre.  Gradually, Anne began to rely on her daughter’s opinions, and dubbed Linda, “my greatest critic.”

Linda left her lifelong home of the east coast in the spring of 1989, and moved her family to Northern California, just in time for the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake.  There, while working in a soup kitchen, becoming Bat Mitzvah, and running a Meals on Wheels program for her temple, she finished her first memoir, Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton, which was named a New York TimesNotable Book of the Year and was optioned by Miramax Films.In 1982, Linda and her husband moved to New York City, where she made a very brief foray into the world of writing soap opera, though throughout she stayed devoted to her love of fiction.  But her most important work was raising her two sons, who were born in 1983 and 1984.Linda graduated from Harvard in 1975 with a degree in literature, and then continued to live in the Boston area.  After the death of her mother, Linda became the literary executor of the estate at twenty-one and edited several posthumous books of her mother’s poetry, as well as publishing Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters.Concentrating at last fully on fiction, she published her first novel, Rituals, in 1981;Mirror ImagesPoints of Light and Private Acts followed over a ten year period.Points of Light was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame Special for CBS television and was translated into thirteen languages.   

Having tea with film director Martin Scorsese in his home and discussing his interest in her book was a high point of Linda’s career as a writer.  Searching for Mercy Streetwill be reissued by Counterpoint Press in April 2011.  On the West Coast, with a big enough backyard at last, Linda added three Dalmatians to her family—the type of pet she had when she was a child.  She developed a passion for showing them in both the breed and obedience rings, and she bred and then whelped two litters of puppies on her own.  She and her new husband are avid sailors on the San Francisco Bay and own a sloop named Mercy Street.  

Sexton’s most recent memoir, Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide, is about her struggle with her own mental illness and the legacy of suicide left to her by her mother and her mother’s family.  Through the help of family, therapy and medicine, Linda confronted deep-seated issues, outlived her mother and curbed the haunting cycle of suicide she once seemed destined to inherit.

In pre-publication praise, Erica Jong, author of “Fear of Flying” and “Seducing the Demon,” says:

 “In a country where someone commits suicide every seventeen minutes, where bipolar disorder is rampant and poorly understood, Linda Sexton’s beautiful book is a cry for health and sanity.  It willbring hope and understanding because it explains the way suicide blights families from generation to generation.” 

Joyce Maynard, author of “Labor Day” and “At Home in the World,” writes: “With brutal honesty and total lack of self-pity or sentimentality, Linda Sexton has dared to explore a subject more taboo than almost any other: not only suicide, but what comes after, for survivors.”

Linda is now at work on a third memoir, and lives in California with her husband and their Dalmatian, Breeze.

You can find Linda at  You can find her other books on her website as well as articles and essays she has written. One that I particularly enjoyed is Along the Bridal Trail: Wearing a white wedding gown at fifty-six. 

Author Interview:

I would like to thank Linda for taking the time to answer the following questions. Some of the information can be learned while reading the book, but I felt it was important to bring some of the facts to my readers in the hope of encouraging them to read the book.

We all want to leave a legacy of love and laughter and perfectness to our children. After all of your research into your family’s history of bi-polarism, alcoholism, and suicide and how much of these disorders are passed on through genetics, does it frighten you to think that you may have no control over what is passed down to your children?

ANSWER:  Yes, of course it does.  I worry about my kids a great deal.  This is why I’ve been so upfront about the risks they face.  I want them to be on guard about all the signs and symptoms of these diseases.

 When the details of your suicide attempts were made public to your friends, what did you feel knowing that they knew you tried to kill yourself?

ANSWER:  Several of my best friends knew and came to the hospital to visit me.  I felt ashamed and embarrassed.  Suicide is so taboo—which is why I was determined to write Half in Love.  I wanted people to know what happens to someone who hopes so strongly to die.  And I wanted families and friends to feel comforted and less alone with the confusion of the situation.  It was very difficult for my friends to understand, though they wanted to.

 You mention in the book that after your mother died, her oldest sister and your father’s sister both committed suicide, and that you wondered about your cousins. Have you spoken to them about the legagy of suicide? If so, what has been their reactions?

ANSWER:  I haven’t been in touch with them.  They were very angry about Searching for Mercy Street and I haven’t spoken to them since the publication of that book, much less this one.

 “We took it personally because no one better educated in the torturous twists and turns of those half in love with death bothered to explain it to us in any other way.” Is this where the title of the book came from?

ANSWER:  Yes, that is part of it.  The rest of it is from the epigraph in the book, taken from Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” which says: “many a time I have been half in love with easeful death.”  I wanted people to understand how easy it was to be partially in love with the idea of easing my pain, of finding a way out.  That pain is ferocious and the desire to die also.

 “As a child I had watched the way she made her illness into a career. The love and the attention her disease brought to her were plain to see. Once depression became subject matter, she began to write about it more and more openly in her poetry. It even won her praise and respect and to me that somehow felt unfair. The aspect of public acclamation confused me.” Did you feel your mother was “in love” with death? Did you feel that being a writer, perhaps she glamorized it?

ANSWER:  Yes, I did feel my mother was in love with death. She often said so, in both her poetry and in her life.  And yes, sometimes she did glamorize it.  But I think underneath she felt helpless before it.  If the medical possibilities had been different, with more and better medications available, I believe she would be alive today.

 Is there anything else you would like to add? Is there another book in the future?

ANSWER:  I hope that Half in Love will bring many people away from the cliff of suicide and closer to life.  That was my profound wish while writing the book.  Now I get innumerable emails from people reacting to the book, and all those who write tell me how much Half in Love means to them.  Apparently there are many people out there who connect.  And yes, there is absolutely another book in the future.  For a writer, there always is.

 Book Quotes I wanted to share:

In December of 1997, I fell into a pit of loneliness and sorrow and couldn’t climb out. I couldn’t talk with those I loved about my grief or my despair, so afraid that by speaking about such things, I would make them even more real. I worried, unconsciously, that even if I described the pain wrapped around my heart, I would not be heard. I worried, consciously, that others-no matter how close-would perceive me to be preoccupied with myself in unattractive ways. Who could really understand how I felt and refrain from making negative judgments about it all?

 I had nothing planned that night. Suicide simply came up from behind and took me in a bear hug.
 Unconsciously, my mother had bequeathed to me two entirely unique legacies, and they were inextricable and mysteriously entwined: the compulsion to create with words, as well as the compulsion to stare down into the abyss of suicide. Both compulsions have been with me for as long as I can remember.
 After my mother died, her oldest sister and her father’s sister both killed themselves, handing the legacy down and on to another generation in their own families. I wondered about my cousins.
 Perhaps in self-protection, perhaps simply in weariness, by the time I had reached late adolescence, I no longer took her attempts to die seriously, not did I feel compassion when she grew depressed enough to try. In fact, part of me simply wished she would succumb. There could be no peace with her engaging in such dramatic convulsions, and each attempt hurt us all: the big rejection, a slap in the face. We took it personally because no one better educated in the torturous twists and turns of those half in love with death bothered to explain it to us in any other way.
 Depression is a country with no borders. In my mid-thirties, just after my children were born, I found myself to be a citizen there. Having suffered a postpartum depression, as had my mother, I could not look back and see the safe ground where my life and I once were, where the lives of other people continued to move; my depression changed from the low-grade chronic variety I’d experienced for the majority of my life, starting from when I was fourteen, into what is termed the “clinical” form of the disease. I had vanished into the twilight zone.
 On Rituals, which was published by Doubleday: I had found a niche; confessional fiction instead of confessional poetry.
 To me, the phrase “wish I weren’t here” meant more than it might to another mother: to me, it could never be an empty or idle threat, even though Nathaniel was a markedly dramatic child, who might only be using the theatrical sound of the phrase to communicate his distress.
 I always promised myself that I would never wind up on a mental ward. That I would never have to have my stomach pumped. That I would never live, however occasionally, behind a locked door.
 “Why did you do it?” His voice reeked with an awful despair. “Why didn’t you tell me how depressed you were last night? I would have come straight home. When I think of all the years I tried to make sure this didn’t happen-“ he broke off; …
 The belief that love can conquer immense pain in the life of the ordinary person is another way in which the legacy of suicide continues to be handed down generation to generation, damaging all the family members. This misperception traumatizes those who experience the loss of someone close (certain that if they had only been more worthy, their friend, or family member would…
 (At the outpatient clinic) One of our exercises the previous day had been to fill out an hourly schedule for the approaching weekend, and then trade your sheet with the person next to you, w ho hopefully, would have some good suggestions. (Why the staff thought other disturbed people could provide answers to questions as large as these escaped me.) It made me feel depressed.
 (On writing the book) Yes, it always came back to the story-no matter how humiliating-because the story was just another aspect of my mother’s life and therefore of my own. yet I doubted, and worried that I would never grow strong enough to let it loose on the page. As J. M. Coetzee writes in his novel Elizabeth Costello, some experiences are too dangerous to be put into words-too dangerous for the reader, but even more dangerous for the writer, who may feel overtaken and undone by them.

 My Review:

 My mother would not allow me to date when I wanted to. My father would not let me drive the car. We all have the same thoughts; I am not going to be my mother or my father. I am going to be a better parent. But, what do you do when your mother is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet and the legacy she leaves behind is one of suicide? You do what any mother would do, you promise to be a better parent and a better person.

 But, what happens when your good intentions are derailed by bi-polarism and alcoholism? Linda Gray Sexton writes an amazing memoir depicting her life in “Half in Love (surviving the legacy of suicide.) This story is not for the faint of heart. It is a heart wrenching, soul-gutting honest accounting of a life filled with struggles. What do you do when those closest to you turn away because they think your depression and attempts to take your life are simply bids for attention? What do you do when your trusted psychiatrist decides you are too much of a risk to continue treating?

 When I was approached to review this book, I have to admit that the topic peaked my interest. I wanted to see if it would answer a question I had long been pondering. Why is it some of us come so close to the edge and then step back, while others take that last breath and step off the ledge and take that flight into oblivion? Is it our genetic makeup? Is it simply our cowardness? I soon learned there are huge differences between being depressed and wanting to die (those of us who step back from the ledge) and being “clinically depressed” and wanting to end your life.

 I do not want to simply read a book; I want the book to teach me something. I want a book to make me feel. I want the book to speak to me. Half in Love accomplished all. Linda Gray Sexton has a story to tell and she does not sugarcoat it. She sticks to the cold, cruel facts, even as she betrays herself as less than a human being and a horrible mother. Linda teaches us the truth of mental illness and the devastating effect mental illness has on families. The book does not glorify her mother’s mental illness or her own.

 Linda’s accounting of her life gives insight into the difference between depressed and being clinically depressed. She takes the reader through her day-to-day life and the dark debilitating depression from which she struggled, and how she reached the point where she stepped off the ledge and attempted to end her life not once, but several times. She shows us how many people manage to function in their daily lives with no one the wiser to the depths of their depression. Her story enlightens us to the effects her suicide attempts had on her children and their relationship. Linda also shows us through her story how she went to the brink and came back a stronger person and able to overcome her mental fascination with ending her life and her mind’s call to commit suicide.

 While I cannot begin to put myself in her place, I now understand more deeply about how a clinically depressed person thinks and how their thoughts can guide them either to attempt suicide or to successfully achieve the goal of ending their lives. Half in Love is an intriguing story and there were so many phrases that I wanted to quote to entice my followers into reading this book that I ran out of sticky notes (as noted in the photo). I think this book will help someone who has lost a love one to suicide or knows someone who is suffering from depression or bi-polarism. The book gives us insight into the mental anguish that humans are able to hide from the world, especially from those who know and love them. Every person is different, and every story is different, but there are common threads that weave throughout the stories of these individuals.

 In addition to writing about her own personal life, she also gives the reader insight into her mother’s (Pulitzer Prize winning author, Anne Sexton) illness and how her illness may have directly or indirectly led to her success as a poet. I definitely recommend reading this book and having finished it, I would now like to read Searching for Mercy Street, the prelude to Half in Love.

Notable Statistics (taken from Half in Love):

  • In the United States, someone commits suicide every seventeen minutes.
  • Nearly one million people worldwide take their own lives annually.
  • There is twice as much suicide in America as there is homicide.
  • Ninety percent of the people who commit suicide suffer from a mental illness, such as major depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Mood disorders are medical conditions, just like diabetes or heart disease.
  • Fourteen million Americans suffer from a major depressive disorder each year, and 730,000 of them make a suicide attempt.
  • Suicide is the third-highest cause of death among teenagers, following by a small margin accidental death and homicide.
  • Fifty percent of wives caring for a depressed husband will develop depression themselves.
  • Adult children of depressed parents have five times the rate of cardiovascular disease.
  • Among the adult children of depressed parents, the rates of anxiety disorders and depression are three times higher than those of the general population.
  • The tendency to commit suicide is now considered to be partially heritable.


Disclaimer / Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book with no obligation for a positive review. No compensation – monetary or in kind – has been obtained for this post. Cover art and book description courtesy of the author, publisher, or PR firm.

Linda has graciously offered a copy of Half in Love (surviving the legacy of suicide) to be given away to one lucky commenter.

For photos of the author and to enter for the chance to win a copy of the book, follow this link:  My Life. One Story at a Time.: Half in Love (surviving the legacy of suicide) by Linda Gray Sexton

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Thursday's Where Truth is the Dare

 Question of the Day: Where Truth Is the Dare   [QUES OF THE DAY] [Paperback]

It’s Thursday again – and we all know what that means!

Here is this week’s question.

Truth? or Dare?

What are you tired of taking the rap for?

I’ll be posting my answer next week because I want every one to come up with their answer spontaneously and not be guided by my answer. I cannot wait to hear your answers! :)

Thank you all for participating. I will be doing this every Thursday so I hope you’ll all be back.

My answer to last week’s question “What do you now have more patience for, and what do you now have less patience for?”  I have less patience for complete idiots (adults whom I am acquainted with) and I have more patience for the children they try to manipulate.

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