Wednesday, February 18, 2015


In the past couple of weeks, I have come to realize what an amazing community of people I have in my life.

Some I see regularly,
Others not so much.

Some I talk to a lot,
Others randomly.

In the morning,
In the afternoon,
In the night,
Really all hours of the day....

In Person,
On the phone,
Text Messages,
and every other form of communication you can think of.

I just want to say THANK YOU!!!  and I hope that I am there for you too.

I have been asked a question quite a bit lately and I have had a hard time answering it, but you have done it just the same.

"What can I do to help?"

You have held me in your love and support, and that is what I have needed.

Now that grief has lessened its initial grip, I have some things that I would like to suggest.  Some will be hard while others easier, but they are all important to me...

1.  This is a doozy, so I am going to start with this:
     Talk to your parents/spouses/significant others about end of life care.
When my Dad brought up what the subject for the first time, I balked.  I didn't want to talk about it, but he asked me to stay and it ended up being (believe it or not) a beautiful conversation.  Be honest.  Be accepting.  And realize this very important fact, if you talk to 10 people, you will get 10 very different decisions and wishes and they are all OK.   The conversation that I had with my Dad and the ones that he had with everyone else in the family made it so we KNEW what to do and there were no discussions and indecisions about what to do.  It strangely made it easier.....

2.  This is a practical one....
      Airlines have eliminated their Bereavement fares.
I have immediate family in 2 states separated by the majority of the continent.  Death/illness/accidents do not come with a 14 day advance warning.  Airfare purchased the day of is EXPENSIVE!!!!  Set aside some money for airfare if you are like me and have family far from you.  I had started a fund after the October health scare, but did not have near enough.  I was helped out by a friend who works with an airline, and if I did not have that option, family would of helped out.  Don't let financial issues keep you from being there.  I know money is tight, but trust me, family, especially in hard times is worth everything.

3.  Accept your emotions as they come.
    I have ugly cried.
    I have laughed.
    I have felt this is just weird.
    I have ached.
    I have been sentimental.
    I have been numb.
    I have had no appetite.
    I have been oh, so tired.
    and it is ok.  I am on the very strange journey of grief.

4.  Accept support when it is offered.
     If you are like me, and fairly independent, this may be a little hard.  People, who love you, just want to help in any way they can.  The support will be from expected and unexpected sources.   Accept that this is a time you are in need.

5.  Please know that I will be there for you....
    One of the greatest gifts of all of this is the firm knowledge that I have AMAZING people in my life who love and support me.  I feel the same about you.

The words that demanded to be put down are gone, so I will end this here.....

Feeling secure in my community,

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ramblin' Wreck....

My Dad passed away early in the morning of February 5th.....
The same day, 19 years earlier, as his only sibling, his sister Betty.

He had been transferred from the hospital to a hospice center, as per his requests.
He passed quietly in his sleep, as he wanted, not hooked up to machines and monitors.

I did not believe his death was a possibility until the transfer to the hospice center on Monday, February 2nd.  I believed up until that point that he would recover again.  I knew it would of been a longer and more drawn out recovery, but I believed it would happen.

The issues attacking his body had other plans.

My Dad had very specific and defined views on his end of life care, and while they were hard to listen to when he told me about them a while back, I understood his reasoning and logic behind them.

It made parts of this whole experience, while I can't really say easier, more straightforward.

There were no questions or debates on what to do, we knew the steps that needed to take place....

And in the end, his death set him free.....

His death, however for me, triggered a massive loss of my self confidence.

I became the drama queen, which I am normally not (and DID NOT LIKE BEING)...
A Ramblin' Wreck...

I reached out and made missteps...
I was an open wound over sensitive to everything.
I was beyond quiet and could not seem to be anything else.
I accepted help from someone and by doing so hurt another.

I spent quite a bit of time on my own at my Dad and Ann's house and sat with my emotions.  Whenever I would visit in the past, Ann, his wife, would go to bed early and then Dad and I would stay up a little later and talk.  This time, Ann went to bed as usual, but I didn't have my normal conversations.  It was silent.

I grieved the silence.

I grieved the end of a two way conversation that had been going on for years, since we patched up our differences.

I accepted the past, not wishing it could be different.  Our path got us to where we needed to be and the things we learned and the mistakes we made got us there.

I loved.
A man who was human.
A man who accepted my humanness as well.

I love my Dad.
Death will never change that.

I will miss him.
Time will ease the pain, and leave the love,
but the longing will remain.

As we spent the weekend in Georgia together, we each chose a memento.  There were guns and fishing reels, but since I am neither a hunter or a fisher, they did not seem appropriate or right.

What I ended up feeling what was right, on the surface, probably won't make much sense either, until I explain it...

His Georgia Tech class ring.

I know,  I know.
I am a die hard University of Georgia fan.  (I met UGA, the dog, as a kid and some players and immediately threw my loyalty to the Dawgs.)
Georgia Tech is their instate rival.  My loyalty to the Dawgs always baffled my Dad, but he knew why I loved them and we always had fun on game days with it.

I willingly and openly chose a Tech item.
One that I wore as a kid and into Junior High....

I got a chain for it and wear it around my neck.

The Georgia Tech fight song or maybe school song,  I'm not quite sure which has a line in it that goes as follows...

'He was a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer.'

He was also my Dad.....

Charles Harold Murphy
November 11, 1938 -- February 5, 2015

Bye Dad.
Your Daughter

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Good with the Bad....

There are certain realities that you have to face when dealing with the impending death of a loved one.....and this post will be about mine.

From the ages of 16 to about 23, my relationship with my Dad was...
and pretty much
non existant.

That is not any easy thing to admit to..
and it does not mean that I did not love him during this time, or that he did not love me.

Although, I think we both forgot that at times...

Hurt occurred on both sides through words and actions.
Invitations were not issued, offers were not made, promises were broken, and time was not spent together.

At our worst, it was like a field of land mines, a small misstep would lead to a large disaster.

Near the end of our troubles, without explaining to him why I was doing what I did, I did not speak to him for nearly 6 months.  I had to break the cycle of our behavior.  Looking back, especially after we talked about it later, I should of told him that was the reason why, but I did not have the tools at the time to do so..  I just needed the hurt to stop......

We, then, started the long, slow and sometimes very awkward process of rebuilding our relationship.  It had some starts and stops, but once we got real about the core issues of what had been going on, it got better.

I'm not going to go into the details, somethings are meant to stay private, but I am telling this because in dealing with his illness and impending death, I have been dragged back into the past by my self consciousness and find myself envious (I know, it's not my finest moment) of those in my Dad's life whose relationships seem (at least to me) simpler and without the drama.

There are things you can wish for...
that are never going to happen.

I can not go back in time and not say the words or feel the emotions that I did,
nor can my Dad, to avoid the time spent apart.

What I am trying to focus on is this....
We rebuilt our relationship, essentially from scratch, to form the bond we have today.  It is stronger than it was, because it is more honest than it was.

I am immensely proud of that fact and I know that he was too.

So that is my bad,
that I accept along with the good....

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sitting With It....

On January 9th, my Dad suffered another seizure and unlike the last time, recovery is not happening, and today, we received the news that it is time to begin the process of letting go.  It hit me today, HARD, that my Dad will not be here much longer.

Deep Breath, Melissa....
My emotions were all over the place this morning, so I decided to sit with them today and not put them off or shove them down.

 Pema Chodron's "When Things Fall Apart, Heart Advice for Difficult Times" is one of my all time favorite books and I go to it often when I am having a hard time and today I almost immediate found this passage.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy"

Today, I let room in for grief.  I sat with it.  I acknowledged it.  I cried.  I laughed at memories when friends called and I talked.  I felt the heaviness of it on my body and mind.  I shared the information that I had held close to my heart because sharing it would make it all to real.  I have even let the anger be.....

Today, I let it be real,

and in letting be real, I have found some truths that will never be broken.

My last phone call with my Dad, the day before he went back into the hospital, was beautiful and left nothing unsaid.

The last time I saw him in person, it was an amazing visit full of long conversations and ended with a long hug.

I am so incredibly grateful for my brother, sister in law, niece, cousin, my dad's wife, and all the others who live in Georgia who have been there in person day in and day out during his illness.

I know that I am in a process and can not take every day to just 'sit with it', but I needed it today and came up with some things to do everyday to acknowledge whatever I am feeling.....

And lastly, I am so incredibly grateful for your love, support, and acknowledgement of how hard this is.  I am beyond words in awe of you.


Sunday, January 18, 2015


I have been working on my New Year's Resolution of completing the 2015 Reading Challenge and decided to take on #18 which  asked me to read a Pulitzer Prize winner.  I chose the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning book 'The Goldfinch' by Donna Tartt.

It was not a wise decision.

A bit of a warning, if you are a fan of Donna Tartt or 'The Goldfinch', run away.  This is not going to be pretty.

I got the book on my Kindle from the library and started.

I read for hours and only got 20% complete and I'm a pretty fast reader.
My first foray into finding information began and it turns out this book is 775 pages long.  Great, I already have a 500 page adventure on my list, and now I had another one on my hands.

For those first couple of hours, my thoughts were I knew this book was a work of fiction, but some facts have to be acknowledged.  A lesson in physics, explosions, and just general architecture would of been helpful, because a major portion of the 'plot' I COULD NOT BUY because it was sooooooooooooooo inconceivable.

I chugged along for a couple of days and got to 50% complete.
Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah is the only way I can describe this novel.
Where was her editor?  Was there a red pen shortage that made her editor call in sick?  There was A LOT of useless information, characters, drug use, incidents, etc. that bogged down the novel and hid information you needed.  Do not get me wrong, there are glimmers of an amazing writer buried in the 775 pages. There are amazingly crafted sentences so pure and full of emotion, I would stop and just absorb them and made me even more frustrated with the rest of the novel.  The problem is this, they are so few and far between.

I went to a party during this time and a lot of my friends who read were there and I mentioned that I was reading 'The Goldfinch' but didn't mention the author.  I said that I could decide if I was going to like the book by the end or struggle to even finish it because it drove me that crazy.....and a friend immediately said, "It must be written by Donna Tartt!"  She had stopped reading another novel by her 50 pages before the end, because she could not take another word.  50 pages...from the end.  

A discussion began about books that people either LOVELOVELOVE or ABSOLUTELY CANNOT STAND with no middle ground.  You either love it or hate it....  Donna Tartt's books lead this list.

I went on Goodreads, a great book site, and did something I rarely do while reading a book, I read reader reviews and they were either "This is the best book ever!" or "How did this win?".  I was feeling like I was going to be in the second category....

I continued onward,
or I should say, I procrastinated until my phone, computer and anything else was exhausted, then I would read.

Me, the person who normally looks forward to reading was avoiding it.  Sad day....

I plugged onward and finished....
I read my Pulitzer Prize winning book and really, really did not like it.  I  picked one that did not mesh with me, but I still have faith in the Pulitzer Prize because some of my all time favorite books are winners. 
I still think this 2015 Reading Challenge is a good idea, even though #18 was a disaster.  

Oh well,
onto the next book.......


PS, Thank you for all of your ideas for books on the numbers I did not have a book for!  :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What? How? I'm confused....

I am asking you to bear with me on this one....
for my Money Savings Challenge resolution I once again went to Pinterest and got an idea, but I kept reading reviews that it had some flaws, so I decided to tweak it.

It's the 52 week Savings Challenge where the original plan is to put $1 in week one, $2 in week two, $3 in week three, and so on and so on......culminating with $52 in week 52.  With a Grand Total of $1378.00.

You do not have to be a math whiz to figure out that in the month of December, you are going to be putting just about $200 in savings.  

The success rate for this did not seem that high......

But I liked the idea of putting money away every week, so I thought about my options.

Option #1.  Save $26 week and still end up with $1352.00
Option #2.  Save every week, but have a low month, then have a high month and end up with $1378.00 and maybe a little more

I'm choosing option 2....and it will look like this...

Week 1 $1                                       Week  18  $10                             Week 36   $20
          2 $2                                                  19  $11                                       37  $36
          3 $3                                                  20  $12                                       38  $35
          4 $4                                                  21  $44                                        39  $34
          5 $52                                                22  $43                                        40  $33
          6 $51                                                23 $42                                        41  $21
          7 $50                                                24  $41                                       42  $22
          8 $49                                                25  $13                                       43  $23
          9 $5                                                  26  $14                                       44  $24
        10 $6                                                  27  $15                                       45  $32
        11 $7                                                  28  $16                                       46  $31
        12 $8                                                  29  $40                                       47  $30
        13 $48                                                30  $39                                       48  $29
        14 $47                                                31  $38                                       49  $25
        15 $46                                                32  $37                                       50  $26
        16 $45                                                33  $17                                       51  $27
        17  $9                                                 34  $18                                       52  $28
                                                                   35  $19

I promise there is a logic to this....
On odd numbered months, you build... 1,2, 3,4....
And on even numbered months it decreases 52, 51, 50, 49,.....

It ends up with some very easy months and a couple of heavy saving months, but they are spread out. 

I hope to add extra on the light months and actually be ahead at the end of the year.

I also wanted to challenge myself on those $200 months and see if it is realistic in addition to my other savings that I do.

The plan for this money...
If everything stays on track and I do as planned financially this year, I will take half and add it to my Emergency fund and the other half will go towards travel/season tickets/fun for 2016. 

Save on...

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge...(Updated)

Yes, I found this on Pinterest and no, I am not ashamed of that.....
So without further ado, here is the list and my planned book for each item.

1.  A book with more than 500 pages.
              Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

2.  A classic romance.
              Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

3.  A book that became a movie.
              In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Phillbrick

4.  A book published in 2015
            The Season of Migration by Nellie Hermann

5.  A book with a number in the title.
             Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

6.  A book written by someone under 30.
             Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

7.  A book with nonhuman characters.
             Fluke by James Herbert

8.  A funny book.
             Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

9.  A book by a female author. 
             First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

10.  A mystery or thriller
              The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

11.  A book with a one-word title.
               Motherlunge by Kirstin Scott

12.  A book of short stories.
              The Turning by Tim Winton  (updated...)

13.  A book set in a different country.
              (France)  Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda

14.  A nonfiction novel. 
               A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon

15.  A popular author's first book.
               Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts

16.  A book from an author you love that your haven't read.
                Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich

17.   A book a friend recommended.
                 Walking Home: A Poet's Journey by Simon Armitage

18.  A Pulitzer Prize winning book.
                  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

19.  A book based on a true story.
                  Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

20.  A book at the bottom of your to-read list
                 TBD at the end of the year...

21.  A book your mom loves.
                 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

22.  A book that scare you.
                Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

23.  A book more than 100 years old.
                A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain

24.  A book based entirely on its cover.
               TBD.  I'll know it when I see it.

25.  A book your were supposed to read in school but didn't.
        (a disclaimer on this one, this was an option in college, and I chose another book)
               The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

26.   A memoir.
                The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

27.  A book you can finish in a day.
      (note, I read really fast, so I just picked a book a random)
                 The Major's Daughter by J.P. Francis

28.  A book with antonyms in the title.
                 Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman

29.  A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit.
                  Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy (updated)

30.  A book that came out the year you were born (1971).
                  The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

31.  A book with bad reviews.
                   Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (Updated)
                   found from this list of bad books....
                  (This is a portion of a review on goodreads..."Occasionally offensive not because I am an                Austen purist, but because I'm not an idiot, the book barely escapes being so awful as to not receive even one star."

32.  A trilogy.
                  The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss (Updated)

33.  A book from your childhood.
                 Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

34. A book with a love triangle.
                 Embers by Sandor Marai

35.  A book set in the future.
                Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

36.  A book set in high school.
                The Blackboard Jungle by Evan Hunter

37.  A book with a color in the title.
                 White Oleander by Janet Fitch

38.  A book that made you cry.
                 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (updated)
                 Nobody Don't Love Nobody by Stacy Bess (updated)

39.  A book with magic.
                  The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

40.  A graphic novel.
                  Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley

41.  A book by an author you've never read before.
                One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

42.  A book you own but have never read.
              The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

43.  A book that takes place in your hometown.
      ( note, I went with the city where I was born, Willington Quay, Northumberland, England)
               The Fire Eaters by David Almond

44.  A book that was originally written in a different language.
               Night by Elie Wiesel (I am ashamed to say I have never read this)

45.  A book set during Christmas.
              Pelican Road by Howard Bahr (updated)

46.  A book written by an author with your same initials.
               Lost Laysen by Margaret Mitchell

47.  A play.
              A Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

48.  A banned book. (There are quite a few books on my list that would fit this category)
              The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

49.  A book based on or turned into a TV show.
             About a Boy by Nick Hornby (it's a movie too)

50.  A book you started but never finished.
             Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

And there you go...
yes, it is ambitious, but I believe it is doable.

Some books are ones I've been meaning to read for a long time.
Others are on book lists that you need to read in your life.
One is for my book club.
I even managed to get the latest book by my current favorite author, Sarah Addison Allen.
Quite a few of them break me out of the genres I have been reading.
Plus, I looked for books that I had never read to fill the challenge.

I could not be happier to be attempting this.
In fact, I have already read 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood.  Wow is all will say about it.

Off with my nose in a book,