new ms-related pieces: diagnosis story & chronic illness lit

Screenshot 2019-11-05 10.03.42I’ve written two new pieces about multiple sclerosis and chronic illness for your reading pleasure:

HealthCentral: Diagnosis story

How and why did it take two years from the initial onset of symptoms for the medical community to diagnose me with multiple sclerosis? This essay details my journey to learn something that would change the course of my life.

istock-846475966Chronic illness lit: Finding solace between two covers 

Over on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s MS Connection blog, I paid homage to writers who’ve shared their stories of strength and struggle while living with chronic illnesses. When you’re feeling down, reading about the experiences of others can provide an existential balm.

An excerpt:

Sometimes I just need to relate.

I need to see my experiences, my struggles confirmed instead of negated and misunderstood. I need to remind myself that I am not alone in my fatigue, in bouts of cognitive fuzziness, in my hair-pulling frustration.

I have been reading books written by those who are living with multiple sclerosis and other chronic illnesses. I’ve been quite voracious about it, collecting these tales as a way to see myself reflected, helping me feel seen and heard.

Works I noted as being inspirational include: the collection of stories Bodies of Truth: Personal Narratives on Illness, Disability, and Medicine; Sonya Huber’s Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from a Nervous System, and Andrea J. Buchanan’s The Beginning of Everything: The Year I Lost My Mind and Found Myself. (My praise for Nicola Griffith’s So Lucky — a novel about a character with MS who solves a murder mystery — got edited out of the final piece.)

Read the rest of the essay here.

Image credits: HealthCentral and MS Connection.

‘uncomfortably numb: a memoir’ available for pre-order

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The memoir in which I chronicle the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, the death of my mother from a fast-moving cancer, and the changes that accompany those two things is now available for pre-order.

 

publishing news: memoir coming in spring 2020

August 2019 book promo

The memoir on which I’ve been working for several years, Uncomfortably Numb, is being published by Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing in the spring of 2020.

While chronicling the onset of symptoms that ultimately led to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Uncomfortably Numb tells the story of not only finding an uneasy peace with the permanent uncertainty of living with a chronic illness, but also of coping with the premature death of one’s mother and the ensuing collateral emotional damage.

Here’s the Publishers Marketplace announcement of the deal:

August 2019 Publish announcement

Image credits: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing and Publishers Marketplace.

 

‘mr. clark’s big band’ in ‘southborough living’ magazine

southborough living

Mr. Clark’s Big Band: A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room is featured in the second issue of the new publication Southborough Living.

The article includes a summary of the book, as well reviews of the award-winning work of creative nonfiction.

To view Southborough Living magazine, go here.

Image credit: Southborough Living.

2017-2018 southborough middle school group continues in ‘mr. clark’s big band’ tradition

The current Big Band members at the Trottier Middle School in Southborough, Mass. — led by the larger-than-life music director Mr. Clark, of Mr. Clark’s Big Band fame — are continuing to carry on the school’s tradition of sharing their music with their unique brand of unbridled enthusiasm.

33784860_2243272132366728_5795502403910369280_nThe Trottier Middle School’s Facebook page recently featured a video of the 2017-2018 Big Band playing “Uptown Funk” during a school assembly. Seeing the joy on the faces of the middle school students reminded me of the Big Band students I observed during 2012-2013 school year, whose journeys I chronicled in Mr. Clark’s Big Band: A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room. I really miss the time I spent in the Trottier band room observing Mr. Clark and those students hone their skills and tell really bad jokes.

However …  I’ll get an opportunity to revel in Big Band tunes during their June 14 Jazz Night performance at the Trottier Middle School at 7 p.m. Proceeds from the event will benefit the American Cancer Society.

You can get an audio preview of this year’s Big Band repertoire by listening to the middle school musicians perform on WICN 90.5 FM Jazz+ for New England on Howard Caplan’s “The Saturday Swing Session” on Saturday, June 9 between 11 a.m. and noon.

*To watch the video of “Uptown Funk” performance, click here*

 

educators’ podcast: ‘mr. clark’s big band’ teaches how to help students with loss

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The “10 Minute Teacher” podcast recently featured Mr. Clark’s Big Band, specifically how Mr. Clark and fellow educators at the Trottier Middle School in Southborough, Mass. were willing to try novel and untested means to help their students through the grief of unexpectedly losing a fellow student.

Vicki Davis — aka “Cool Cat Teacher” — conducted the brief interview with me, asking whether teachers reading the book would find strategies to help students cope with the complicated feelings they experience after a peer passes away. My response included something Mr. Clark once told me, “If you give your students what they need, you’re never going to fail.”

You can listen to the podcast by:

Image credit: Cool Cat Teacher.

‘mr. clark’s big band’ goes to southborough library & the symphony

southborough library photo

The book talk/signing at the Southborough Library finally — finally! — happened after being rescheduled three times following snowstorms and a bout of the flu.

claflin obrien and clarkParents of current and former Trottier Middle School students who attended the reading at the library (see video below) told me they were mentally and emotionally brought back to the days when our children roamed the halls of the middle school, when some of the kids played music for Mr. Clark, and when all of the students mourned the loss of their friend, Eric Green.

Two days later, Mr. Clark and I chatted about Mr. Clark’s Big Band with music fans at the Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra’s final performance of the season, a season in which music educators were celebrated.

Some current Trottier Middle School students attended the show in Milford’s historic town hall and stopped by to greet Mr. Clark, who couldn’t play the trombone with his pals in the Claflin brass section because he recently had elbow surgery (see the sling he’s sporting in the photo below).

claflin obrien and clark2Several folks also paused at the book table to fondly remember former Algonquin Regional High School music director Dennis Wrenn, the man who helped Mr. Clark get his job in the Southborough school system and who is mentioned several times in Mr. Clark’s Big Band.

It can sometimes seem like a small world indeed.

Image credits: Southborough Access Media (first image), Scott Weiss (other two images)