May is mental health month

With mental health care on the chopping block, it is important to keep in mind organizations that can help. Here's a list of groups I've compiled, which also include suicide prevention sites. Helpful Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Organizations American Foundation for Suicide Prevention bringchange2mind Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services Healthline NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Stop A Suicide Today Survivors of Suicide Bereavement Support Association, Inc. The Compassionate Friends The Jed Foundation My son Paul was diagnosed with bipolar disorder soon after he turned twenty-one. And after struggling with it for almost seven years, he took is life at age twenty-seven. Suicide is a huge risk for those suffering with mental illness. We must continue to work hard for health care parity, i.e., that treats physical illness and mental illness equally. It didn't exist when Paul was s … [Read more...]

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Thoughts of gratitude in the new year

The holiday season has come and gone once again. As always, I view it as bittersweet. The holidays bring up too many reminders of my son Paul who died just three months shy of his 28th New Year’s Eve birthday. We visited his gravesite on his 45th birthday – as we do on his death day and birthday every year. I also view the holiday season with gratitude. Besides my continued good health, the love and support of so many family members and friends, and my ability to live a productive life, that I can even think in terms of being grateful is a miracle. However, as bad as life was after Paul died, and as much as I continue to miss him, I have found out that with such a tragedy come unexpected gifts. Paul’s death has made me a stronger person, physically and emotionally. It was as if I accomplished getting stronger through brute force. I met and interacted with people who had been through similar experiences; I took writing classes and workshops; I went back to work outside my home with … [Read more...]

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Another novel milestone met

I just sent off draft seven of my novel to another reviewer. I very much value this person’s judgment because of her experience editing books for the Oxford University Press and that she helped me revise and edit my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On.   I spent the last two and a half months working on this draft, looking for repetition, places where I told the story rather than showed it, and rewriting in response to some earlier review comments. As a result I cut out almost five thousand words. It’s now down to 85, 485 words. It’s still a little heavy for a novel, but in the right range. I’ve asked this reviewer to especially assess the content - are the story and its characters worth even pursuing at this point. My problem is the more I read and work on this material these days, the less confident I get. I said I don't need her to edit, except for giving me possible suggestions on where to delete/add stuff. After I sent my manuscript off to my reviewer today, my h … [Read more...]

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The April PAD challenge ends today

I feel so accomplished. I finished Robert Lee Brewer's April 2016 poem-a-day (PAD) challenge – 30 days of prompts from the Poetic Asides editor at Writer's Digest. Robert's prompts are a little out there but always a challenge, meant to find the quirkiness in my brain. Here are a few of my favorite ones this month, with my poem responses. 6. Write an ekphrastic poem. An ekphrastic poem is a poem inspired by art. You can pick your own favorite piece of art if you wish. Or you can use one of the examples below: Frieda Kahlo How could I not write about Frieda Kahlo? That little dark-haired woman With eyebrows that kiss at the center of her forehead Just above her nose, And a mustache hint on her upper lips. Here she lies prone on sand and shells, A vessel to promote life, The roots and leaves growing wildly From her open chest. I’ve also seen her with a necklace of thorns The blood seeping slowly down her neck. 16. Write a poem about (or at) a food establishment. … [Read more...]

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I’m getting ready for a big long walk

  I’ve started training in earnest for the May 21 American Foundation of Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness overnight walk in San Francisco for suicide awareness and prevention. I walk in memory of my son Paul who took his life in 1999 at age 27. He was bipolar and severely depressed at the time of his death. The recent data, according to AFSP, about suicide is astounding: Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined. General In 2014 (latest available data), there were 42,773 reported suicide deaths. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 15 and 64 years in the United States. Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. A person dies by suicide about every 12.3 minutes in the United States. Every day, approximately 117 Americans take their own life. Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of … [Read more...]

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What happened in November

Since returning from our three-week trip to Central America, Raleigh NC, and New York City on November 6, I’ve been intent on getting back into my daily writing routine. Here’s what I did in November to start moving in that direction. Please note that I didn’t spend this month just writing. I think reading and seeing movies, opera, and plays are all grist for the mill and great learning devices. In November I: Wrote a poem every day to fulfill Robert Lee Brewer’s November 2015 PAD challenge – wrote the last one today Wrote a journal entry every day to fulfill my personal writing challenge Wrote a piece for Naturally Savvy – I have a blog there called Savvy Over 60 Wrote a piece about how I got my book published for an Authors Publish anthology - not accepted yet Read: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Marilyn by Gloria Steinem, Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, and Room (the second time) by Emma Donoghue Started to read: The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, … [Read more...]

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Book reviews – a roller-coaster ride

This week my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, received six new reviews for a grand total now of 198 reviews since its release in 2011. However, the reviews were not all good - three 2-stars and three 5-stars. Happily though, the week ended with two of the five-star reviews, leaving me with a huge sigh of relief. Even after all this time, my stomach turns over every time I see that a new review has been posted.  I don't suppose that feeling will go away as long as I put my writing out in public. Here are the two five-star reviews that came in, in the last two days. Thank you so much Sara and Joanne. Thank you for sharing your lives with my readers. Your words honor me and my book. A Must  Read: I found this book when I was still in the early stage of my son being diagnosed, fighting the struggle of his almost everyday behaviors, and at that point I was open to anything. Even with my son being substantially younger than Madeline's son, the book touched me and although I am for … [Read more...]

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Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk – recap

Just wanted to share a few photos and tell you a bit about the AFSP suicide prevention and awareness Out of the Darkness walk Saturday night June 27. After a moving presentation - about the epidemic-like statistics of suicide and the numbers  of people struggling to stay alive - outside Boston's City Hall, we began walking at just past 7:30 pm. It was thrilling and inspiring with so many folks cheering us on along the way - thanking us and even offering free hugs. At first we walked slowly in a pack. Then after the numbers of walkers thinned out, the pouring rain and cold slowed us down. However, I'm not a quitter and neither was my walk companion, Keith Alan Hamilton, a fellow poet, very dear friend, and my newly adopted son. I loved getting hugs from his girlfriend Dee who was out to root us on as well. I knew I had to continue no matter what - I wanted to do my 44 supporters proud. They helped me raise a grand total of $3617, making me the top … [Read more...]

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We Love Memoirs – Sunday Spotlight

I had a fabulous experience yesterday - Sunday June 21. I was in the hot seat for the We Love Memoirs’ Sunday Spotlight. We Love Memoirs is basically a Facebook social group consisting of memoir writers and aficionados that allows no self promotion. That is except for the Sunday Spotlight. For that one day I was told I could promote, post relevant photos, links, and information about my writing work, and talk about it until I couldn’t talk (actually tap on my computer keys) anymore. Also those coming on-line to chat with me were told they could ask me ANYTHING, and that I'd be there to answer their questions ALL DAY LONG. So I sat down at my computer at 9 am and except for two 15 minute breaks and an hour for lunch (I needed to pay some attention to my husband on Father’s Day), I was online fielding questions and comments until 5:15 pm. The interesting thing is the people on-line were from the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, other foreign countries, and the US – so when … [Read more...]

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A special to honor the Out Of Darkness walk

The Boston Out of Darkness overnight walk for suicide prevention and awareness is the night of June 27 – less than two weeks away. And I’ve been very aggressively training for it. I’ll need to walk 16 to 18 miles that night, so I want to be well prepared. Yesterday I walked almost 10 miles, so I think I’m right on track to be able to complete this personal challenge. I'll be posting photos of my team S.O.L.E.S. and me in this hat. In case you’re wondering why the walk is at night, here are my thoughts – it’s to bring the suicide word out of the darkness. We need to speak that word so we can help prevent it. If people will talk about their suicidal thoughts maybe others can help prevent those at risk from acting upon their thoughts. I wish my son had talked to my husband or me. I still think after almost sixteen years that maybe I could have changed his mind had he only told me what he was thinking. Here's one of the S.O.L.E.S. team captains, Deborah Lee Rose, wearing the&n … [Read more...]

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My life changed in an instant

I started my long-awaited consulting job this past Wednesday and with that my life’s daily routines  changed in an instant. I get up more than an hour earlier so I’ll have enough time to workout before I have to be at work – at 7:30 am!!!! Also, the amount of time I have to train for the Boston Overnight walk in June has been cut in half. I drive to work rather than walk downstairs to my home office. I need to be dressed in business clothes with makeup on rather than in my grubbies and no makeup when I work at home. I haven’t watched any television for the last several days – I sure miss my daily dose of Jeopardy – nor have I read one word of any of the books stacked on my beside table. But most important of all, most of my writing time has been snatched away. So far I’m clinging to daily journaling – usually right before I go to sleep, but my other writing has stopped. I was going great with the April Poem A Day prompts – until this week. Though the prompts stopped … [Read more...]

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Draft five of my novel is with five beta readers

  Last June I sent Draft Four of my novel-in-progress to five beta readers. This past Sunday I did it again. I sent Draft Five to five different beta readers. I also sent the manuscript to one of the first five beta readers and asked her to let me know if she thinks I created any damage as a result of all the cuts, changes, and rewrites I made to this latest draft - to comply with current guidelines for lengths of novels, I cut almost 9000 words. Hopefully, I left enough in tact that I didn't ruin anything. However, I have a safety net. I have saved every single draft of my novel. I can always add something back in if necessary. You can probably tell from the above, I consider getting my novel out in public both scary and exciting. However, it gives me a much-needed break from it. I've asked my readers to send me their comments by June 30 or sooner, so now I have time to blog, write some new poetry (I plan to participate in Robert Lee Brewer's April Poem A Day Challenge t … [Read more...]

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A walk for suicide prevention

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know how obsessive I am about writing. My life is about the actual writing or thinking about writing when I'm not at my computer. I also am obsessive about exercise. I workout in some way every day - either at the gym or taking long walks in my beautiful beach neighborhood. Working out and writing were instrumental in saving my life after my son Paul died by suicide in 1999. Since my son's death I've also become obsessive about working toward erasing the stigma of mental illness and helping to prevent suicide. I've volunteered and participated with others whose mission aligns with mine. I've also written much about mental illness and suicide here and in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. This coming June 27-28, I'll take an amazing journey in Boston - another way to memorialize my son and show what I stand for.   The Out of the Darkness Overnight Experience is a 16-18 mile walk over the course of one nigh … [Read more...]

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In memory: suicide prevention resources

I usually post suicide prevention and mental health resources in December in memory of our son Paul. He would be 43 on his December 31 birthday. This year I’m sharing about the suicide prevention groups I belong to on Facebook. These groups vary in that some are open, secret, or closed. But in all cases they are caring and sensitive to the needs of someone trying to survive the death of a loved one by suicide. If you want to join, just ask, and some kind person in charge will more than likely accept you into the group. I’ve listed these in no particular order except for the first one. I was actively involved with Putting a Face on Suicide as volunteer admin for a couple of years. This organization has been priceless in always remembering our loved ones on their death and birthdays. I look forward to seeing my son’s face on that site on his New Years Eve birthday. Putting a Face on Suicide - A project that lovingly pays tribute to those lost to suicide. 2792 Faces on Day 29 (Pa … [Read more...]

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CD launch time is almost here!

I’m getting more and more excited. We’re having a party to launch the CD of my son Paul’s music this coming Thursday. I just ordered refreshments, I’m thinking about the logistics of bringing CDs and books to the venue, and I’m in the process of making up the program – all the details that go beyond producing the actual CD. From the FB event and eVite invitations, we’ve received definite and maybe RSVPs from 45 people so far. It looks like the event will be well attended. Hopefully more people will tell us yes in the next couple of days – maybe some of you who read about it here, today. Here’s the details: Date: Thursday September 25, 2014 Time: 7 to 9 pm Place: Pages: a bookstore Address: 904 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach CA And here’s a photo of the actual CD. My husband Bob Sharples wrote: "This compact disc is an introduction to the jazz piano of our son, Paul Sharples. Listening to it brings to me memories of evenings when Paul simply played for himself in … [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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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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Call to action – April Platform Challenge – Day 19

As part of the April Platform Challenge my task today is to ask you to do two things: Please click on the share buttons - they are big and prominent at the top of the right side bar on this page Please sign-up for my email feed – see the little box just under the share buttons. It has room for you to type in your email address. Please click Submit when you've finished. And one more thing that is not part of my assignment: Please join me at the LA Times Festival of Books on the University of California campus either or both Saturday and Sunday June 21 and 22, from 12 noon until 2:00 pm. I’ll be at the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Society booth number 970. Hopefully I’ll be signing lots of copies of my book: Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide (Lucky Press, 2011). You can’t miss me. I’m the one with the long gray hair. … [Read more...]

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Thank you for sharing my memory of Paul

A big thank you to all of you who have donated and/or signed up to join me on September 25 for the Didi Hirsch annual suicide prevention Alive and Running 5K. Now that I'm on the 5K committee I was asked to set a fundraising goal. And at the outset I set my goal only at $500. But thanks to you I just upped it to $1000.00 and I'm only $48.00 short of reaching that because so many of you responded to my Ask. Just to give you a little background, I first discovered Didi Hirsch after Paul died. My husband and I participated in their eight-week Survivors after Suicide workshop. And as depressing as those sessions were, they had a lasting effect on me. I also found out that as horrific a story of loss as mine was, it could always be worse. I also reconnected with a person I've known since grade school in Glencoe, IL through my involvement with Didi Hirsch. Stan Lelewer's son killed himself about six years before Paul, and when he heard about Paul through a mutual friend he was … [Read more...]

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