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Especially For You
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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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Fathers and sons, swells and circles

The Embarker takes off for her 50th year. Photo by Jean Perry, The Wanderer, Mattapoisett, Ma.

The Embarker takes off for her 50th year. Photo by Jean Perry, The Wanderer, Mattapoisett, Ma.

Earlier this week, I had a chance to join my dad for a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

We watched a marine sling lift lower his 19-foot sailboat into the water at Mattapoisett Boatyard to start its fiftieth consecutive season.

Climbing aboard, we adjusted a few things, raised sail, pulled the Embarker to the end of the pilings, and headed off into a light breeze.
On one hand, her launch was a nondescript event befitting a minor luxury that my family has long enjoyed.

Yet it’s been fifty years. Where did it go?

Reaching this benchmark means so much to my father. Nearing 79, he is experiencing a dwindling circle of dear friends while facing his own natural limitations. For several years we’ve worried about his balance on the spongy fiberglass deck. Sailing alone is out of the question—not because he cannot do it, but hustling to the bow to pick up the mooring is problematic.

A dad’s gift of affirmation

Still, I don’t foresee much preventing him from heading out into Buzzards Bay in decent weather, even during a gusty southwesterly skirmish that typifies a summer afternoon there. At least one of us will be along to assist.

And appreciate the time together, dashed by salt spray on a tack, or settling in to the rhythm of small rollers easing us downwind.

Reminded again, as a good friend of mine insists, that we dare not take this moment for granted.

Taking stock of the circle of seasons, and how things come round with those we love best.

I’ve been thinking about what being a dad means this week.

The most vital thing I learned from my father is not his just tenacious and beneficent work ethic. He built a company that provided for hundreds of people. That continues to be an inspiring achievement, driven in part by his engineer’s skill set and entrepreneurial zeal. And also by something deeper, as both a provider and humanist, to help others have meaningful careers and sustain their families.

For me, the bedrock he provided was validation. An openness to accept me as an individual pursuing other dreams. Unconditional support when I wavered, not without firm admonishment at times, but softened a bit like a large swell pushing the boat’s stern off-wind.

As a dad myself, hopefully I continue to convey some of the same.

An affirmation of our children’s passions and life choices. Appreciating who they are rather then trying to mold them into some likeness of myself. Celebrating their steps forward, while acknowledging the occasional gaps, their anxieties, or when pain resurfaces about the loss of their brother, or the occasional divides and contradictions that span a family.

Year in and out, we crave acceptance and forgiveness. Acknowledgment of our strengths—and support for our shortcomings.

We dare not take this moment for granted

Sailing again out towards Nye’s Ledge, my dad’s memories remain clear. He and his longtime friend, John Flood, also a civil engineer, took an inaugural sail on Embarker on November 11, 1967. It was a mild day in the 60s with only 10-12 knots of wind.

My dad had never docked a sailboat before. Returning to the boatyard dock, he knew enough to turn it into the wind. “We missed it by three feet,” he laughs.

There would be other November sails returning her for the winter.

We’ve heard many of the stories, and longing for them again, we settle in, listening to the light thump of a breaking wave.

My dad, Bob Brack, on board. Photo by Jean Perry, courtesy of The Wanderer.

My dad, Bob Brack, on board. Photo by Jean Perry, courtesy of The Wanderer.


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