Review number 214!

Thank you so much Christine L. Miller, Ph.D  for this wonderful review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Dr. Miller has an enormous sense of what my family and I went through during our son/brother, Paul's battle with bipolar and after his suicide death seventeen years ago. Though it has been that long, Paul is still missed - forever. Thank you, Dr. Miller, for your sensitivity and understanding. Madeline Sharples’ book about her son Paul’s suicide and its aftermath is a searingly honest portrayal of the most intimate details of family life, encompassing everything from mundane daily events to the emotional vortex they were all thrown into.  There is no sugar-coating how difficult the onset of his psychotic bipolar disorder made their lives, no shying away from the occasional resentment she felt about his mental illness dominating their daily existence, or how his unapologetic re-entr … [Read more...]

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Sales are down

Maybe reading a heartfelt and sensitive review will help get you over to Amazon to buy a copy of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. "A beautiful yet heartbreaking story..a must read! As parents, we do everything we can to help our children become strong, healthy, well adjusted and morally upright adults. Yet there are obstacles that we cannot foresee and cannot even begin to understand until we see all of our efforts unravel right before our eyes. This is what Madeline and her family experienced with Paul. He developed a severe mental disorder that caused him to become someone that his family could barely recognize. As hard as they tried to understand, encourage, and help Paul, his illness took over time and again. The ebbs and flows, the highs and lows, the abstract hope and then disillusionment became their norm. In the end, no amount of intervention helped Paul to overcome his disease … [Read more...]

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Launching a CD takes months

For the last several days I’ve been on a mission to finish all the online “paperwork” necessary to produce the CD of my son Paul’s music. On July 11, I wrote that the CD was almost ready, giving credit to the folks who have helped me with this project. However, little did I know how much more work I had to do. Doing the job of picking out the music, enhancing the music, and building the CD took months. While producer Patrick von Wiegandt  made the music sound so professional he also provided his expertise about what the launching of a CD entails. Early on he directed me to two sites: CDBaby for digital sales NationwideDisc to produce hard copy CDs complete with a sleeve with front and back cover art (artfully created by my photographer friend, Paul Blieden). It literally took me months to fill our their very detailed forms. I won’t go into all the gory details here. Let it suffice to say, that I’ve just finished – hopefully in enough time to have everything ready for the lau … [Read more...]

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Paul’s CD is almost ready

Last December I wrote that I was intent on putting out a compact disc of my son Paul's music and have all proceeds go to charities that work toward erasing the stigma of mental illness and/or preventing suicide.  And I am pleased to say that it is almost ready to go. My plan now is to launch it sometime in the week of September 23 to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of Paul's death. As the date gets closer, I'll let you know where and when the launch will take place. I must credit the three people who have helped make this project a reality: Martin Borsanyi, Paul's friend from their Crossroads high school jazz ensemble days, copied all of Paul's music from the original cassette tapes that Paul left us onto CDs Patrick von Wiegandt, a brilliant recording artist and singer and musician (he leads a band called Swanky), produced and engineered all the songs. He also helped me pick the songs for the CD and the order in which they will appear. Paul Blieden, photographer ex … [Read more...]

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A Strawberry Marina now in place of Paul’s tree

In December 2013 we removed the tree we had planted in September 2000 on the first anniversary of  our son Paul's death. We had to because the tree we called  Paul's Tree was undermining our property.  We have finally planted a replacement. Though it's much smaller than the tree we had removed, it promises to become fuller and laden with a strawberry type of fruit high in antioxidants. It's called an Arbutus (strawberry) Marina. Right now it has a display of pink flowers and buds that attract many hummingbirds. One feature of this tree's beauty is its red multi-branched trunk that perfectly matches our home's  red tiled roof. Our new Strawberry Marina tree is bringing me joy already. While my garden maven Mike Garcia and his Enviroscape team were planting the tree, they produced two videos about it. I also took a few photos to share here. … [Read more...]

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Remembering Stanley Lelewer, chair of Didi Hirsch Board of Directors

My dear friend, Stanley Lelewer, died on Sunday, December 1. I’ve known Stan since eighth grade in Glencoe IL. He used to be the driver when his brother David and I went out on movie dates. He was in my brother’s class at high school, three years a head of me. After I moved to California I didn’t hear about him again until I saw him on the news talking about the suicide death of his son, who shot himself on the beach in Santa Monica. Six years later when our son Paul killed himself in our home in Manhattan Beach, a mutual friend said I had to meet Stan. Small world. I told her I knew him from our very distant past. This friend called Stan and told him about Paul. Within minutes he called and an hour later he was at our home. He was my savior. He knew what to do; he knew what to say. And since we had a personal relationship, he told me to call anytime day or night – and I did. We also met his wife and the four of us went out to dinner. He took me out to lunch as well. Stanley and w … [Read more...]

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Paul’s lyrics – found after 25 years

I received a note just after the first of the year from one of Paul’s friends from Crossroads High School. Martin and Paul spent a lot of time at each other’s homes on the weekends writing and recording music. When they were at our house we could always expect a new recording waiting for us to play in the morning. We’ve kept in touch with Martin and his family since Paul died. Martin said in his note, “I was cleaning out some very old files and found two old hand-written lyrics by Paul, both written aged 16-17 I'd say. One is a straightforward love gone wrong song and one is a rather harsh reproach of hippies who've sold out.” Having something else that Paul created is such a gift – it helps fill in another piece of the puzzle, showing his prowess as a writer along with his playing and composing talents. The two pages that I received in the mail from Martin yesterday are ripped and faded, but no less valuable to me. The other page is barely readable I’ve copied Paul’s l … [Read more...]

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Remembering Paul on Rosh Hashanah

Poster courtesy of Mike Purcell, founder of the Facebook page, Putting a Face on Suicide So the Jewish High Holiday, Rosh Hashanah, is over. It begins a ten-day period of reflection ending with our Day of Atonement (a fast day) when we go to synagogue to pray to be sealed in the book of life for another year. Even though I’m not religious and I question the existence of God, and it is hard for me to pray or even say the pray word, going to high holiday services always makes me cry. Especially the reading on Rosh Hashanah that spells out who shall live and who shall die. (listen to Leonard Cohen's rendition.) On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by … [Read more...]

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Putting a Face on Suicide – it never ends

I'm at Facebook’s Putting a Face on Suicide page again today, still wondering what goes through such beautiful young minds that tells them to kill themselves. Some of these young folks are 14, 16, 19, 22 years old and had so much to live for. We must find a way to save our precious ones who look like they should be so full of life. And in the words of one of the people who came by the page: “Cherish your loved ones, be kind to people, we will never know how long we have to enjoy someone.” Paul was twenty-seven … [Read more...]

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Happy Birthday

This is the thirteenth year we are celebrating Paul’s birthday without him. He would have been forty years old today. So as I’ve done in past years, I’m sharing some of my memories of him. It’s amazing how clearly these things continue to stay in my mind and continue to beget even more memories of our boy, Paul. Happy Birthday, Paul, always with love. · I’ll always remember he slept without closing his eyes all the way · I’ll always remember he walked fast and way ahead of us · I’ll always remember he had long, thick, black eyelashes surrounding clear-blue eyes · I’ll always remember he played the piano, legs crossed at the knees, leaning way down over the keyboard · I’ll always remember he liked to wear second-hand clothes and didn’t mind if they were ripped · I’ll always remember the way he stood at the pantry door munching almonds · I’ll always remember he liked to climb – trees, rocks, up the highest diving boards · I’ll always remember he was meticulous … [Read more...]

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What I Miss

Paul loved playing the piano What I Miss Twelve years didn’t erase him. He is still with me everyday. The memories haven’t dimmed. I clearly see his face, his clear blue eyes, his buzzed hair in my mind. I miss hearing him play his music as his bent fingers lightly trickled up and down the keyboard. I miss hearing his footsteps on the stairs and hardwood floors as he prowled around the house at night. I miss hearing his deep voice as he said, “hello” when he came home from work I also miss his expertise. He solved our computer problems at night leaving carefully written instructions in his childish printing for us to find the next morning. I don’t miss his smoking, I don’t miss his bad moods during his last few years, I don’t miss that his sickness sometimes made him angry and me angry at him. No, I don’t miss those things. But, I don’t think about them. I just think about the things about him that I miss. 2008, 2011 … [Read more...]

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The sound of one hand

Almost from the time Paul was a baby my husband read Zen parables to him at bedtime. As he grew older he developed an interest in them and especially liked the two books by Paul Reps: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones and Zen Telegrams, and Be Here Now by Ram Dass. Coincidentally in this month of remembering Paul's birthday, I came across a New York Times article about an exhibit of the art of Zen Master Hakuin (1685-1768) at the Japan Society Gallery in Manhattan until January 9, 2011. And I am elated to know the exhibit will be at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from May 22 to August 17, 2011. Hakuin, besides being a an artist, was a poet. And he was the Zen Master who came up with the koan "What is the sound of one hand?" It was later popularized with the addition of the word "clapping." My Paul indeed liked that koan. Here is Zen Master Hakuin's poem that elaborates on the koan. An ant goes round and round without rest Like all beings in the six realms of existence, Born here … [Read more...]

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Like a Buddha

photo by Madison Poulter Here are a few of the Buddhas in my collection. I began to gather them around me, not because I follow the religion, but because Paul always seemed so like a Buddha. He sat cross-legged in his room with his musical instruments or papers around him on the floor. He also had a very calm expression on his face during most of our conversations. He spoke slowly and clearly and looked me right in the eye. So I have my Buddhas almost all over my house to calm me as well. The Link's National Resource Center for Suicide Prevention The Link Counseling Center, located in Georgia since 1971, is a nonprofit community counseling center. The Link provides quality, affordable, confidential counseling, psychotherapy, and support groups to all ages. In addition to counseling and psychotherapy services, The Link also offers three specialized programs: Suicide Prevention and Aftercare, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Children and Adolescents in Crisis and Grief besides … [Read more...]

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The first day of the eleventh year

We went to the cemetery yesterday to visit Paul’s grave. We couldn’t find it right away, and my mind jumped to the thought that he wasn’t dead after all and of course it wouldn’t be there. But that was just a fleeting thought. It was there – right in front of me. It had ants crawling all over it, and I wondered why they had chosen his gravestone and not the others. Could it be that he was so much younger and more succulent than the other dead people around him who all died in their 80s and 90s. Another silly thought because everyone around him had been reduced to ashes as well. All the succulence burned out of every last one of them. It’s always anticlimactic to go to the cemetery. I worry over it, I think about it for days before, and then once I’m there, I lay down a stone, touch it, brush away a bit of the dust, shed a tear or two, and then we go. We spend maybe five minutes in all, and we drive away. Writing poems about him seems more productive. Here is yesterday's tweet. … [Read more...]

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More 140 character poems – remembering Paul

The 10th anniversary of his death is soon. 140 Even after 10 years I know by the first note it is Paul’s music. I try to listen, but, usually I press the forward button and shuffle through. 140 The sands of time don’t heal. The memories, good and bad, don’t leave don’t lesson the pain I feel every day even after living with it 10 years. … [Read more...]

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Thanks to the Crossroads class of 1989

for remembering Paul at your 20-year reunion. Paul is one of two from the class of 1989 who is no longer with us. It made me cry to see your thoughtful "and as a whole we really missed Shaw C. and Paul S. They will always be a part of our class and in our hearts" comments in the 2009 Alumni News. It's so nice to know others remember him. … [Read more...]

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A special gift

On Sunday afternoon we went to the Wellness Community annual event at the Palos Verdes botanical gardens. We participated in the silent auction, ate some appetizers, I tasted an iced coffee latte with soy and a green tea soda, and Bob did some wine tasting. He was wearing a hat that said Manhattan Beach and a woman pouring wine asked him if he really was from Manhattan Beach. When he said yes, she wanted to know his name. He told her, and she knew exactly who he was because she had once been Paul’s teacher. The coincidence was that she was recently going through her school things and came across a photo of Paul taken when he was in 6th or 7th grade at an international event at the school. He was wearing a sombrero and serape. Bob brought me over to see her, and I immediately recognized her. She then promised to send us the photo. And, sure enough she did – with the sweetest note. She said how blessed we were to have him in our lives for the short time he was with us. What I come a … [Read more...]

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Making a memory list

Paul -- 4 years old I spent some time a few years ago trying to make a list of all the things I wanted to remember about Paul. It became an endless task -- and frustrating too -- because I came upon things that I could no longer remember. Luckily we have his music, loads of photos, some of his writing as well. What I fear the most is after Bob and I are gone, memories of Paul will be gone too. Remembering Paul I’ll always remember he slept without closing his eyes all the way I’ll always remember he walked fast and way ahead of us I’ll always remember he had long, thick, black eyelashes surrounding clear blue eyes I’ll always remember he played the piano legs crossed at the knees, leaning way down over the keyboard I’ll always remember he liked to wear second-hand clothes and didn’t mind if they were ripped I’ll always remember he stood at the pantry door munching almonds I’ll always remember he liked to climb – trees, rocks, diving boards I’ll always remember h … [Read more...]

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Back to Paul’s country

Paul was thrilled to be accepted at the New School's jazz music program as a college freshman. He had always loved New York -- even as a little boy. He never minded the fast pace, the smells, the sounds. He thrived on them -- until he had his first manic break. After that he was certain people were lurking in doorways out to get him and his girlfriend. But, he couldn't stay away. We'd bring him back to California for hospital treatment and a short spell of quiet and rest, but as soon as he could he'd go back. Back and forth, back and forth, so many times I didn't keep count -- until he came home for good two and a half years before he died. We go back to New York often -- it still attracts us. Maybe because Paul is still there everywhere Another View of New York New York City Union Square, the lower East side Paul’s country. He blossomed there He became a musician there While he learned about the real world Of cold fourth floor walkups, Dealers hustling on street c … [Read more...]

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A bi-yearly ritual

We go to the cemetery every year on Paul's deathday and his birthday. I always dread it -- probably because it punches me with that jolt of reality right into my gut -- and yet, afterward, I always say to myself that I should go more often. Of course I don't. Twice a year is all I can take. The rest of the year I still let my mind think magically and imaginatively about the boy I miss so much. Three Cemeteries On a cool, sunny day in Normandy the breeze does not disturb the graves at the American Cemetery. No matter where you stand, looking diagonally, horizontally, or straight back and forth, each alabaster white grave marker each chiseled engraving is in perfect precision and symmetry as far as the eye can see. The grass covering the graves mowed just the right height a shade of green from a Technicolor garden. The surroundings – a rectangular reflection pool the curved wall inscribed with the names of 1,557 Americans missing in action, the center bronze s … [Read more...]

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