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Especially For You
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Excerpts and Empathy

Growing up, I was an avid breakfast reader of the Globe’s sports section, fond of the “Thoughts While Shaving” column.

In his regular piece, sportswriter Ernie Roberts offered tidbits of critiques and impressions regarding players on the doomed Red Sox and Pats, or the vaunted Celtics and Bruins.

My post today adopts some of that short form.

First, if you have not heard about this yet, please consider joining us for a book release party Saturday, October 28 in Kingston, 5 to 7 p.m., at The Beal House, 222 Main Street.

Especially For You tells the stories of people who respond to sudden loss by finding a new purpose. Often this involves lifting others up as they run with the legacy of a loved one, finding a way to heal as they step outside of their own pain and fears.

My book will be available in a few weeks on my author’s website, ordered from your local bookstore, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the Seattle Book Co. More details to come!

Labyrinth shards illustration by Amanda Brack

Second up are links to three excerpts from the book. I hope you can take a few minutes to peruse even a couple of these:

“You Can Do This”  is a short piece about our son, Mike, his battling spirit during double sessions entering the high school soccer season.

Carrying forward our loved one’s voices and legacies – how can we ever forget? – and staying open as their lives, their souls, inform our own is a key thread of the work.

“All Right to Hurt” shows Howard Clery, another father in my book, struggling with rage and craving for revenge after his daughter’s murder.

“This Defiance for Peace” shows two of book’s principals responding with empathy – and action — to tragedies that don’t directly affect them.

As one said, “We want to find ways to express our remorse in a constructive fashion.”

This last one connects to a piece I wrote this week for Psychology Today. It makes the case to renew empathy as a way to bridge the divides when we react to gun violence, racism – you name the issue.

Best regards, and I’ll keep you posted on the book release – ebooks on Kindle, Nook, and iBooks will be first!


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Especially For You set to launch

One journey completed, another just underway.

I am excited to announce that my new book will be published in mid-October! Especially For You contains the stories of families who respond to sudden loss by finding a new purpose.

While it is anchored in my family’s own story, my intent is to mostly share accounts of others who find compelling ways to move forward after catastrophe.

Please consider joining us for a Book Launch Party October 28 in Kingston, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Beal House, 222 Main Street.

We’ll have refreshments, hors d’oeuvres, and music–open to the public!– along with a very special guest.

I believe the book will offer readers handholds of inspiration and hope, especially for those of you struggling to cope with a sudden loss or other trauma. It will soon be available to order on my website, at your local bookstore, or on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers through Thomson-Shore and Ingram. Brief updates on this to follow.

Ready for release, I hope it will make some small difference.

This event will be a unique, spirited co-celebration with my dad, Robert Brack. Bob is releasing his memoir, With Gratitude–Barker Steel and the People Who Made It Work, the story of a family-owned business that grew through four generations to become one of the largest steel reinforcing bar fabricators and construction suppliers in the Northeast.

I am so happy for him being able to share his narrative of Barker Steel’s growth and legacy. It’s an enduring story keyed by the many relationships formed, the contributions of colleagues amidst the tough cycles of the steel rebar industry and demanding growth during Boston’s Big Dig era.

It will be a joy to celebrate our books together.

For me, completing this work of narrative nonfiction has been a long road bumping along many potholes–and leading to a sense of solace. It’s taken seven years to research, write and polish, including meeting and interviewing some three hundred people–many with numerous conversations spanning several years.

I feel ready to release it to the world. It feels intact, and I hope it will make some small difference.

If you’d like to take a peak, please click here to read excerpts and the annotated contents.

Finally at rest, our tears still, the sweat dries; he is extant.

Thanks for your interest, and I’ll keep you posted.


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Keep turning

Photo by Famartin. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Famartin. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Without a doubt, it’s chaos out there.

A world spins out of control. Our dysfunctional divisions widen. There’s no progress in sight to tackle the burgeoning challenges of the day.

It’s enough to make one wonder: What’s the point?

What gives?

And yet, this midsummer I am reminded again to slow down and take in a broader perspective. Informed both by longtime friends and some fresh experiences, what matters is making the most of every moment—or at least, fully appreciating those moments that matter most.

Turning around to face the light. Welcoming our capacity to turn, open to gratitude, even when ugly stuff rears its inevitable head. Perhaps recognizing the mosaic of both in our lives: seeking grace amidst the confusion, and even despair.

It is a choice we can all make—or not. I’m unsure why I still need reminding of this, since the downside of not doing so is so stark, like the sudden flash of heat lightning on a humid, dull horizon.

Should we be surprised by their gratitude, their will to make the best of moments?

Someone recently introduced me to a story I’d like to briefly share about a woman who chose to live in full despite having a rare, incurable disease. Amy Frohnmayer Winn lived with a rare recessive-gene disorder called Fanconi anemia, which results in bone-marrow failure, leukemia, and worse. Her two older sisters also died of the rare, incurable disease.

Amy did not merely exist with her condition. She thrived. Like her sisters growing up in Oregon, she endured having her blood counts monitored and bone marrow biopsied frequently. Her parents, who also raised two sons who do not have the disease, made sure their children experienced everything most of us would want: being active, learning to ski and play tennis, take piano lessons, opportunities to attend college, and enjoy sleep-overs with friends.

Amy’s story was perceptibly portrayed by John Brant in “Running For Her Life” in Runners World earlier this summer, which I highly recommend. She became a dedicated daily runner, covering four miles most days on her favorite trail along the Deschutes River in Bend (an area Denise and I were able to sample last summer with our son!).

Brant writes: “The trick, the task, the challenge, the girl realized with precocious insight, was to be present in the moment; to accept with clear eyes the good or ill, grace or pain, that each moment delivered.”

That’s a potent reminder for us all.

Unidentified trail runner. By Robin McConnell. Courtesy of Flickr.

Unidentified trail runner. By Robin McConnell. Courtesy of Flickr.

The article was recommended to me by someone I’ve only met on the phone, a potential reviewer for my forthcoming book. She suggested that Amy’s passion to live in full and what her parents have done for three decades aligns with some of the people I’ve written about, whose struggles with loss and other tough stuff ultimately transformed their lives.

Her parents, Lynn and Dave Frohnmayer, started a family support group in the 1980s along with founding the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund to learn and share more about the then-little-known disease.

Each of us may know others who, in the midst of excruciating trials, decide to live each day the best they can. We are moved, even astonished, by their guts and forbearance—indeed, their grace—enough so that we catch ourselves getting upset over some relatively trifling obstacle or ordeal.

Should we be surprised by their gratitude, their will to make the best of moments?

As an old friend reminded us recently, “Any day my feet hit the floor getting out of bed is a good day.”

In my circle of friends, we recently lost sweet Marie, only in her mid 50s, after a long struggle with breast cancer that had metastasized throughout her body. “Giggles” was her nickname, and she lived that way to the end. She had an uncanny laugh, and a certain toughness that may have seemed at odds with her small frame.

“Struggle” does not seem like the best way to describe how she lived—the little I really know of her journey in recent years. When we visited her in hospice, she ate ice cream trying to keep up a once-veracious appetite. Marie was still self-deprecating, chortling about the antics of family members, fully herself. Her oldest daughter was about to get married, and she hung on to be at the ceremony.

She, too, appeared to make that choice to stay present. And how vital it felt that we had been able to reconnect a few years earlier.

So, keep on turning. Into that crazy mosaic, under that full canopy.

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today.

“What’s Going On” – Marvin Gaye

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