Forced Family Fun Time

This is the first time in a very long time, if not forever, that I have chosen to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas alone. I haven’t stayed up for the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve in so long that I don’t consider that a ‘holiday of celebration’.

It’s not that I have chosen not to celebrate the holidays, it’s simply that I have chosen to celebrate them in a way that puts zero percent pressure on me.

My childhood Christmases, as I recall them, weren’t horrible. As kids, we didn’t make a list for Santa of what gifts we wanted, so sometimes we got something we liked, and sometimes we didn’t. Although we were far from ‘poor’, at least one gift was clothing of some sort, underwear or socks, often, and one gift had some educational purpose (my mother, the school teacher!). Luckily for me, my educational purpose gifts were books – either Nancy Drew and/or The Bobsey Twins – so those were always gifts I liked because I enjoyed reading.

As adults, all now living in separate dwellings away from home and all having very different lifestyle, buying gifts for siblings became even more difficult than buying gifts for parents, though that was also difficult. Brad and I were the single ones, while Mark had fulfilled our parents’ wishes by having a spouse, a child, an actual home with mortgage, etc. Brad was often strong enough to omit himself from attending some ‘family time’ events – for me, especially once the folks moved to Florida – I felt far too guilty to do the same.

My older brother, Mark, was less than a year older than me. We had, however, nothing in common. I saw a lot of my parents in his behaviors, and I was still struggling to break away from doing what my parents thought (wanted) me to do with my life. I literally felt like an outsider at these family events, because, once Mark and Sally had a child, everything focused on the grandchild. And I’m not afraid to say it – in my opinion, the grandchild was often obnoxious, needy of attention, had no boundaries or respect for people older than she was, and had a sense of entitlement. I will never forget the year she got up from where she was sitting, walked over to me, turned around and bent over and let out some gas. She then turned back to me and said, “Smell my fart, Aunt Jody”. Everybody but me managed a chuckle, but I was mortified not only by the behavior, but by the fact that none of the adults thought it was improper.

In order to escape from some of the sense of being an outsider and to excuse myself from what I considered obnoxious conversation (my niece would say things like, “When I have to fold dad’s underwear, he always reminds me that the brown side is the back”), I was pretty insistent that I help with the clean-up from our meal together. As I know I’ve mentioned before, I find washing dishes in a sink of hot, soapy water to be therapeutic, but it was more because I needed to just get away from this forced family fun time.

I do remember actually enjoying the time in the kitchen with my sister-in-law, Sally. Sally was a totally type B personality and easy to be around. We’d have conversations about nothing I’d remember the next day, but there was no pressure in being around her. In truth, I have to credit those moments with Sally of being my fondest memories of our grown-up family Christmases.

When I moved almost 6 years ago, my love of cooking and playing hostess propelled me to offer to host Christmas for my best friend and her family and invited my beloved brother to be there as well. Then, my best friend’s husband’s health took a turn for the worse, and he chose to no longer come along. Then COVID struck and my brother and I opted for a quick day visit for him to come here – we social distanced or masked during our whole visit. Of course, he’s always quick to remind me that I try to do too much in terms of a meal, but that’s part of who I am. In 2020, planning for my bestie and her son to visit, I have to say that I was a little disappointed that only my bestie came. WAIT! Not that I wasn’t grateful to have some one-on-one time with her, since the pandemic had been keeping us apart, but since she doesn’t enjoy cooking, I could have made anything for a meal and she’d have enjoyed it.

So, for 2021, I decided that I truly needed – and deserved – holidays that involved absolutely no pressure, no need to get dressed and cleaned up for the occasion, no need to rush through trying to clean my place good enough for company, no need to cook a meal that included things other people liked that I wouldn’t normally cook for myself, zero stress over having to buy gifts for people who are just too difficult to shop for, having to wrap said gifts (this is where having my brother here was handy, because he enjoyed that task and I abhorred it!). No need to have the TV on to entertain others, especially since I don’t think watching parades on TV and listening to celebrity commentators talk qualifies as fun. I will still keep up my tradition of putting a candle in a cupcake, lighting it, singing happy birthday to Jesus, then blowing out the candle and enjoying the cupcake with my coffee. After all, that’s what Christmas IS about!

No forced family fun time, no pressure on myself to cook a feast, no presents to give or receive, and absolutely zero guilt about not doing any of it… Sounds like a perfect day to me!

Fill Your Own Cup First

Some of you might be familiar with the words I chose for my title. I’m quite avid in reminding others to “fill your own cup first, then nourish others with the overflow”. I’ve quoted these words to others for quite a few years, but honestly have only recently learned to take my own advice.

You see, the premise is that we can’t pour into other’s cups if ours is empty. But recently, I realized that, in addition to that fact, I can’t nourish myself, either, if my cup is empty! Learning self-care and the balance between self-care and caring for others is definitely like a high-wire act with no net below.

I found this post on a social media site and realized that it said exactly what I needed – and have wanted for a while – to say. It helps me realize that self-care isn’t saying I’m more important than anyone else is, it’s merely saying that I’m equally as important as anyone else is! What a change in mindset that is!

DEFINITE LIGHT-BULB MOMENT!

I’m sharing this here because I know I’m not the only one who suffers with the guilt of self-care. It’s my hope that it will provide that “light bulb moment” to one or more of the people who read this and help those people also learn to step – albeit slowly – across that high wire with purpose and belief in themselves that they can successfully keep the balance.

And that’s all I’m gonna say ’bout that…

How To Avoid Turning The Holidays into The Hellidays

Good advice for all of us during the holidays!

Dr. Eric Perry’s Self-Help Blog

Written by Dr. Eric Perry
Image Credit: Pixabay


The holiday season is upon us. Everywhere I look I am greeted with reminders that Christmas is around the corner. I have to admit I love the look and smell of a douglas fir completely decorated with colorful and bright ornaments. It brings back wonderful childhood memories. To some of us, the holidays are a dreaded time of year. The bombardment of constant reminders may actually cause anxiety as we look forward to forced family fun time. Family get-togethers may bring flashbacks of past painful interactions.

Of course, we love our relatives but perhaps we also believe the expression “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Having to interact with family, during the holiday season, may feel like you are traveling back in time, to a place where you had no say and personal boundaries were nonexistent. The holidays can be stressful, therefore…

View original post 609 more words

Are We Related?

My amazing brother, Brad, wrote this about our family dynamics! Trust me, he is completely and wholly my brother by heart, blood lines be damned!

commonsensiblyspeaking



~~~

I can’t recall exactly how old I was when I found out. I might have been 10 or 11 years old. I had taken a leisurely stroll through the kitchen/dining room area on the way to play outside. My parents were sitting at the dining room table in a deep and serious discussion, but as it was not anything about what kind of trouble I was currently in, I paid it little mind. But in my passing I heard one word that blared like a trumpet through the other conversation. That word was adoption.

It barely registered at the moment. But after some thought, it lit a spark in my rational thinking. Why was this word even used in a conversation by my parents? I started to think hard on its context. There were my sister and brother, Jody and Mark, six and seven years older than I respectively…

View original post 477 more words

Are we “Back to Normal”?

I can no longer count how many times that people I know, in my small circle of people I know, have bemoaned wanting to return to normal after the effects of the pandemic and all of its rules and regulations.

I admit, I survived being in lockdown pretty easily. Changes in my life were minimal. Yes, I went a long time without a haircut and a manicure/pedicure. Yes, I had to forego my one monthly ‘girls’ lunch out’ with my bestie. Yes, going to the grocery store was a shortened trip with a list and lacking the joy of shopping every aisle, perusing every product that caught my eye. And yes, I didn’t get to make my 3 to 4 annual day trips to Lancaster County. And, of course, a mask was required inside the store and the doctor’s office when I had an appointment.

My life is built, by choice, of being a ‘homebody’. I have some outside living space when I need a bit of fresh air. Taking out the trash requires a small walk to the alley and back. But because I don’t frequent bars and/or restaurants, don’t enjoy shopping (except for the grocery store and an occasional thrift store), have an Amazon Prime account for shopping as well as for movies and books for my Kindle, I didn’t really do without much. I usually only get to visit my brother 2 or 3 times a year, so while that didn’t happen for a long while, it also wasn’t something that is part of my normal routine. Hot and humid summers make me tend to stay indoors, as do snowy winters.

Meanwhile, I heard/saw in print my share of bemoaning of others who felt the claustrophobia of not being able to go and do freely. And I do understand that. But my internal hopes were that this forced lockdown might mean families with parents and children-at-home reconnecting with each other without all of the outside distractions and activities that usually meant them not having any real family time.

I thought, more than once, that schools being closed and children attending school via the Internet was a bit of a time-management crunch for parents, but also hoped that it would give those parents a greater appreciation of what teachers do in the many hours that they have those kids at school. Not only should that have been a lesson in what it takes to educate today’s children and youth, but also how each of their children behave in a learning session. Most often, I thought about the fact that, learning from home meant that those children were safe and free from bullying by classmates, more so of school shootings which seem to happen far too often.

I just finished reading an article in the New York Times that read, in part, “The deadly gunfire in Oxford, Mich., on Tuesday added one more episode to a growing list of fatal shootings on school property in the United States this year, following a lull in shootings earlier in the coronavirus pandemic.

“According to the news outlet Education Week, there have been 28 school shootings resulting in injury or death so far in 2021, with 20 of them reported since Aug 1. The publication says that at least nine people have been killed by gunfire on school property this year, including two people who were shot by police officers.”

Now I’m learning of various news briefs about shootings happening in malls and other stores. I know that this time of year always seems to make this kind of thing more – regular, for lack of a better word – but it sure wasn’t happening when only necessary stores were open during the lockdown!

I was always a bit trepid of the words “back to normal” as a result of the regulations of the pandemic. I’ve been around the sun enough years to know that ‘normal’ isn’t so much better, but is mixed with joy and pain, just as our lives were during lockdown. It’s really tough on my emotional empathy to keep seeing new and more stories about more aggression and violence returning and taking back its place in a world where we were much safer in lockdown.

I’m not saying that lockdown is the answer. But it makes me so sad that the need to go “back to normal” which many pushed for reintroduces a lot of negative actions that I guess I naively hoped we’d all grow away from during the lockdown.

I never wanted to go “back to normal”. When asked, I would always say something to the effect that I’d like us to discover a “new normal”. I guess that’s the Anne Frank in me showing…

What Are You Willing To Allow?

This touched a nerve for me – the lack of boundaries from childhood forward – and I hope you might find some valuable information as well.

Dr. Eric Perry’s Self-Help Blog

Written by Dr. Eric Perry
Image Credit: Pixabay


Unfortunately, there are individuals who believe they are doomed to duplicate past mistakes and to repeat the same pattern of negative experiences. They mistakenly believe that it is their fault or their destiny to attract negative behaviors from others. They expect to experience and accept horrible behaviors from people they have allowed into their intimate circle of friends. Throughout their lives, their personal boundaries have been chiseled away to the point that they are nonexistent or minimal. Without healthy personal boundaries, they have adapted to allow toxic behaviors. They have become highly tolerant and resistant to behaviors that would cause individuals with healthy boundaries to sound the alarm and run.

It is important to point out that the allowance of negative behaviors, from people in your life, is not because of a law of attraction but has everything to do with the…

View original post 620 more words

The Psychopath Behind The Mask

Good reading!

Dr. Eric Perry’s Self-Help Blog

Written by Dr. Eric Perry
Image Credit: Pixabay


“Sometimes mortals can be more horrible than monsters.”~Rick Riordan

Hiding in plain sight under the guise of normalcy, they patiently wait to pounce on their next target. The psychopath is a dangerous animal because they are camouflaged to look like you and me, but they lack a key ingredient of what makes us human; a conscience. The main characteristic of a psychopath is the lack of a conscience. Unlike most humans, they have no inner voice helping them distinguish right from wrong. Their moral compass is broken and has been replaced by a desire for self-gratification at any cost. They have an insatiable need for psychological and physical control over others and will use charm, intimidation and violence to get what they want.

Most of us can easily point out the imprisoned psychopath who has been caught and convicted for heinous…

View original post 1,002 more words

Thanksgiving Day, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving Day! Even if you don’t live in the United States where Thanksgiving is a national holiday, having a specific day on which to take time to stop and be thankful is something you can still add to your own traditions.

I’ve started this blog post 3 times, after trashing my first 2 attempts. In March, I made a decision to take a sabbatical from all ‘official’ holidays in 2021. Which isn’t entirely true, I guess. I took a sabbatical from all of the preparations around those holidays that seem to center around food and/or gifts. I felt like I needed to reconnect with what the meaning of each holiday was, not what tangible things were associated with them.

A few years ago, a social media site friend started something where, from November 1st through Thanksgiving Day, we listed one reason daily for which we were thankful. If you ever watched the movie “Miss Congeniality”, you know that, sooner or later, everyone wanted “world peace”; and when those participating couldn’t think of an answer, they just read the posts of others and borrowed one, changing a couple of words.

As those posts came up in my history, I read my answers, surprising myself that I had some good and probably unique answers among mine! But I’m pretty sure I had some “world peace” answers as well, because we all tend to be grateful for certain things.

I don’t know if I could find 25 different things to say I’m thankful for without becoming passe and boring. But I’m going to try and come up with my top five here.

#1. I am truly thankful for our service men and women have had and who are, giving up being with loved ones on holidays in order to be out in the world maintaining our rights and freedoms. While we should be thanking those people each and every day, this year gave me the opportunity to be more reflective on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Patriots Day and Veterans’ Day and the history behind those holidays. I didn’t need a cook-out with friends; in fact, I enjoyed those holidays much more because I gave reference to their true meaning.

#2. I am always thankful that I know and have a lot of positive people in my life who bring me joy in sharing a part of their lives with me. Some are acquaintances, some are friends, falling in categories from casual friends to good friends. And then, there are those great friends and best friends, people who support me and acknowledge me in good times and bad, and who never judge me for what I think, what I feel, what I do.

#3. Though I’ve recently learned that my landlord is someone who will lie in order to ‘cover his butt’, I am still thankful to have a livable apartment, although, the longer I live here, the more I wish I didn’t.

#4. I’m thankful to have savings I can use to replace my beloved car, even though I don’t like taking a chunk from them. And I’m certainly thankful that I have several months in which to find something I’ll be happy with rather than have to settle for something. No doubt, it will be the last car I ever purchase (unless my car is in an accident and doesn’t survive) and even though I only put between 1500 and 2500 on it a year in miles, I don’t want to drive something I’m not happy with.

#5. I am over-the-moon thankful that I have an amazing brother and that we have the relationship that we have. He (and my bestie) gives me advice whenever I ask and sometimes, even when I don’t specifically ask! When he sees that my thinking might be somewhat skewed, he’s willing to suggest the “what if” questions to help me look at something in a different way. The innate trust we’ve been able to build between us is something I know other people don’t have with siblings, and I try never to take it for granted.

My life, when I look at those things, helps put into perspective how much I do have to be thankful for. And so today, when I make a sort of “compact turkey dinner for one”, I will remind myself that, while I am a long way from having everything I want, I DO have everything I need!

Take some time to reflect on the many things you have for which to be grateful, and carry them in your heart every day.

When it rains, it pours

Those of you who have been around the earth for a while might well remember that the statement I used as the title for this post is a tag line for a very popular product. Do you remember? Let me give you a hint:

Tag line and logo for Morton Salt

When I was thinking about this title, I actually decided that using the tag line for this particular product could be misleading. I suspect most of us keep a few dried pieces of rice in our salt shakers because dampness will make it clump together and the rice absorbs any dampness. Plus, any time we add salt to any broth, etc. while making a meal, the salt literally dissolves in the liquid. So I’m prone to question why rain wouldn’t make the salt either clump up or dissolve, in each case making it unable to pour?

But that’s not the point of this blog post and just an off-sides perception.

When we use the phrase, “When it rains, it pours”, we are not talking about salt at all. For most of us, it’s a way to say that bunches of things keep happening in a quick manner and we find it difficult to catch our breath as we deal with one then another and then yet another. And boy, oh boy, it’s been pouring in my life over the past few weeks!

My car is sick. I adore my car, my PT Cruiser. She’s a 2006 model which I bought used in 2010 and we have had many happy years together. She had just over 40,000 miles on her when I bought her, and I’ve only added another 40,000 miles in the almost 12 years she’s been mine. She was my transportation for all of my annual visits to Florida in the winter, from 2010 through 2015. She was my transportation for all of my trips to the area in which I now live when I would come up to visit this area and spend weekends with my bestie and family. She’s what makes my 2-hour drive each way to see my brother comfortable. She’s never cost me any money other than normal wear-and-tear. Until now… I haven’t confirmed it with a diagnostic test yet, but my mechanic thinks what is probably wrong (something he can’t repair) is going to cost somewhere between $600 and $1000. Here’s the kicker – she’s old enough now that the high end of her blue book value is only $1900, and as fond of her as I am, that doesn’t seem like a wise investment. So, while I can still use her right now, she won’t pass the inspection that’s due in May, 2022, so it’s time to start looking so that I don’t feel rushed into making a decision.

So that’s #1. I recently got a phone call from the landlord for this building to inform me that there is a rent rate increase. I was a bit terse when I reminded him when I spoke with him in January that he was saddling the tenants with the trash bill, something the previous landlord did not do (to the tune of $230 per year) that he assured me that he’d never raise our rates, but that meant that he couldn’t also be paying for everything. We’ve always paid the water/sewer bill.

But here’s the kicker on this… He informed me that he was raising everyone’s rent by $25 per month, from $775 to $800. Hold the phone! I’ve been paying $795 a month since I moved in here, so he’s gotten an extra $20 a month from me for the entire time they’ve owned the property! That really got under my skin – I’ve overpaid $680 to date, and he still wants me to pay a total of $800 per month. So I had to write him a letter and explain that it would take me 136 months, or 11.66 years, to use up the entire credit I should have been given for overpayment of rent, and assured him that if I were still living and living here in 11.66 years, I would increase my rent payment accordingly.

So that’s #2, and while it isn’t going to cost me more money at this juncture, added to the issue with my car, it weighs heavily on me.

I am happy to tell everyone that, after months and months and months of you hearing me complain about not having the kind of service I expected in my doctor’s office, I was ready to make a move when my Medicare kicked in effective July 1st of this year. (Surely, if you follow my blog, you remember what kind of fiasco I had getting a Medicare plan in place!). The front office staff at the doctor’s office suggested I try the newest addition to their staff, and because making a change requires starting over and getting medical records to a new office, I agreed. Well, Ronna is everything that Keith wasn’t! She’s on top of everything I mention to her. Instead of typing everything into the computer as she goes, she makes herself handwritten notes and then apparently does that on her own time. She’s sending me for a large amount of blood tests before I see her again in January. She also wants me to have a vascular screening test done. The good new is that it can be done in the facility across from the doctor’s office. The bad news is that it’s not a test covered by insurance. The total cost of the test is less than $100, and I do understand the reasons that she’d like to have it done, but with a newer car purchase on the horizon, I’m trying to pinch every penny possible.

Because that’s going to cost me money, I’m counting it as #3.

Now, in case that isn’t enough… the project I’m working on with my brother is going to require an official outlay of some moneys paid. I’ve known that since we first talked about taking on the project but… Just minutes after hanging up the phone from talking with my landlord, my brother called me and told me what the requirement for money would be upfront, and I was not prepared to have to come up with that much initially.

#4, as that phone call was, pushed me over the edge and I broke down. I hadn’t mentioned to my brother about my issues with the car and paying for another one, so he didn’t really understand why I was falling apart. I ended up telling him that I couldn’t finish the call right now because I needed time to process what was required (and because I was sobbing at this point and that made it difficult to even talk). I had myself a really good cry, and then I got myself together and wrote dear brother an email explaining everything else that was going on around me of which he was unaware. Once he learned that, he could understand why I was feeling overwhelmed, and we’ve moved on from there.

I used to be the “crier” in our family. If any of you remember back to those sappy Hallmark greeting card commercials, let me just say that 99% of them made me tear up. My parents were always telling me to ‘suck it up’ and ‘quit crying’ and never really understood that my emotional side was always near the surface. And then, many years later, it seems I’d finally mastered crying “at the drop of a hat”. There have been several times over the past years when I was hurting for some reason and knew that if I just had a good cry, I’d feel better. Thinking back to a few really painful times in my life might bring a tear or two to my eyes, but there was no great sobbing release to be found.

And so, the blessing in all of this difficulty is that I had a great sobbing, cleansing cry and felt the release that accompanied it.

Good thing I got that all out of my system, because I found out this week that a friend from New Jersey I haven’t seen since December, 2019 (crappy pandemic) and have only kept in contact because of the Internet passed away at the young age of 35. I haven’t cried about that, though I am very sad. I think I’m still in a state of shock…

We’ll count that as #5 and hope that’s the limit….

Post Script: I kept this in my draft folder overnight with the intent to publish it today. I happened to go back and read my somewhat recent post on “Pain and Suffering” and it reminded me that it was time, once again, to pull up my big girl panties and keep moving forward… Sometimes I do have a moment or two of intelligent advice!

The Little Black Box

I have a little black box. It’s nothing special. In fact, it is nothing more than one of those portable file folder carrying boxes made of black plastic, with a latch on one side and a handle on top. It is a ‘leftover’ from my days of being a sales director for three different hotel properties, all owned by the same owners, and it served me well when traveling from location to location, keeping pertinent information handy for each property.

Since I’m a large activist for re-use, re-purpose, recycle, I decided that this box was just the right size in which I could keep important papers (like my certificate of birth, school diplomas, divorce decrees and other legal documents, etc.) and also some important treasures in the form of cards or letters that I didn’t want to discard. I keep it in an easy-to-reach location just in case I would need to retrieve it quickly and escape my dwelling.

Over the years, I’ve added a meaningful card or letter to it, but merely popping open the latch and dropping it in. It’s been eons since I’ve actually looked at what was inside the box.

Recently, my brother asked me if I had saved a copy of a letter that was sent to each of us, identical in nature and addressed to both of us in the heading. I didn’t think I had kept it, but knew that, if I had, it would be in that black box for safekeeping. So I opened the black box in search.

I did not find the letter. I honestly didn’t expect to, but if there was even the slimmest chance, having it could make a big difference in a project we’re working on together. However, in order to look for the letter, I had to withdraw each item from inside the box, and I was surprised to find things in there I didn’t know I had saved!

I knew I would find obituaries from the newspapers of loved ones; along with any programs or other printed information regarding their passing. I knew I’d find a letter I’d received just a few short years ago from my friend, Marnette (aka Prin), and different birthday cards which contained emotional messages or which made me laugh out loud when I read them.

What I didn’t know I’d find, and which I had told myself must have gotten lost in my last move, was a notebook full of page-protector sheets for each of the poems I had written back in my 20s and 30s. I truly believed that those words were forever lost, and I can tell you that I was extremely happy and excited to open the notebook and see what was inside!

What I also found, and didn’t remember I had chosen to keep, was a personal journal I had written in (almost) daily between August of 1992 and April of 1993 to put into words what and how I was feeling over an unexpected and instant death of my significant other. I added one additional entry in January of 2014, in which I’d written where I’d found the journal and where I was going to keep it. It was exactly where I’d said I was going to put it, but I honestly don’t remember making that decision. I started looking through the first couple of pages and realized I wasn’t in a place at the time to go back through and read it, so it’s tucked away again in case that time ever comes.

There is a VHS tape tucked in the black box from my visit to Niagara Falls with my then boyfriend, Randy. He took video of many sites and sounds during that trip, and it’s the one and only time I’ve ever been to the falls. To be honest, I’d watch it again right now if I had the means!

There was a small jewelry box and a blue folder I didn’t recognize. The blue folder is actually the appraised value in 2011 of the item of jewelry that is in the small jewelry box. This was another thing I had completely forgotten I’d even had, though I suspect I’d tucked it away to become part of my estate when my time on earth was over. I’m considering having it re-appraised, to see if it’s gone up or down significantly in the past almost 11 years. If it has gone up in value, and there is no fruit borne from the project my brother and I are working on, I may end up selling it. But I’m not in any hurry right now.

I admit that it was a bit of a shock to realize that this little black plastic box contained items that were not only near and dear to me emotionally, but that also had some financial value! I have pulled the notebook containing my poetry out, and am considering sharing some of that time in my life in this blog through its words. Since I haven’t written here for a while because my plate in life has been heaped to overflowing recently, this will allow me to add some posts!

I am going to look through all of the miscellaneous cards and letters, not only to enjoy the memories but to see if there is still an emotional attachment to them. I suspect that all of them will be returned to the box.

It still makes me shake my head in disbelief that such an inexpensive small plastic box holds a world of irreplaceable treasure!

If you’ve got a little black box of your own somewhere, I encourage you to find it and go through it. You never know what kind of treasures await you there!

P.S. To my brother: Since it has been deemed that I will leave this earth before you, keep this little black box in mind as one of the things you’ll want to find and sort through first to make your work as my executor a little bit easier!