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A while ago.

I wrote this last November. I don’t know.

Here’s the thing.

It’s my brother’s birthday in an hour. We’re not close; I won’t pretend we are. I’d probably get him socks or something as a present. Maybe money. One Christmas, we gave each other $20.

He wouldn’t be able to name my favourite musician. I only know his because of all the Bob Marley stuff he owned.

He used to come home drunk a lot. He used to give me all his spare change because he couldn’t count it. He used to fight with our dad, really fight. Then he gave me a hug in the kitchen when our dad died and he suddenly found himself the man of the house.

He hung himself in a domain not far from our family home in June.

Over love. What else? What else drives us to do the unthinkable, to tie a noose and drape it around our necks and just let go?

My brother had never been in love before. He didn’t know how to act in a relationship; how he should treat someone and expect to be treated in return. He was in his mid-thirties but didn’t understand how these things worked.

Last year, before Christmas (not the $20 one), I helped him get away, to clear his head, to sort out feelings he didn’t know if he liked.

He told me he loved his girlfriend, he thought he loved her, he couldn’t think around her and he didn’t know what to do. I said well, love makes you feel a bit wacky sometimes. We laughed a bit. It was kind of awkward.

I spoke to his girlfriend on the phone. I asked her if she could leave him be for awhile, just to let him figure things out. Give him a break. They’d been in constant contact and things were a bit much. We’d heard things about her that weren’t so nice.

She asked me if we could all meet up for dinner sometime. I asked her if she’d been faithful to my brother. I could feel her trying to hold onto me through the phone, feel her trying to keep me on side. She laughed as she said that she needed one person in my brother’s family to like her.

In the end, she agreed to back off. We sent my brother off after having an early Christmas. My sister gave him Bob Marley jandals. It was sweet, that Christmas, actually. Felt nice. My sister, she tries her best to do things right.

His girlfriend rang him constantly while he was away. She went up to see him, they went away together. He took her somewhere for a nice weekend, got her a present, told my mum she complained the whole time about everything. They were on, then off, then on.

My brother came home, bounced from my mother’s to my sister’s to his own house to his girlfriend’s to my mother’s to my sister’s. Maybe not in that order. It all sort of melded into one long phone call from my sister, into talk of restraining orders and drugs and booze and she’s a prostitute and she’s cheating on me and it’s all a game, she made a bet to say she could get me and she did.

It melded into he’s on his way back and I don’t know what to do, he’s got nowhere to go, but I’ve helped him all I can.

It melded into a phone call late at night, saying can you come round? Just come round please. The police are here. They’re saying they found a body and they think it might be him.

I think the second thing I said after that was it’s all my fault. It’s all my fault, because I didn’t offer him a couch. I didn’t offer him any sort of practical help. I didn’t offer him a way out, a hand up.

It’s all my fault, because I didn’t try hard enough.

So I tried to make up for not offering to help by offering to identify my brother’s body instead.

My sister and I went together, with my mother’s sister, to tell her.

My sister and I went together to tell our uncle and our aunt. We woke them up in the small hours to deliver news they might have been expecting for years, yet were still unprepared for. My uncle asked us to leave. My aunt broke down.

I called his now ex-girlfriend at my aunt’s insistence that as we were all awake, she should be too. I told her my brother had killed himself, and she echoed what I had said. It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault, you know that, don’t you?

I’m diplomatic. I said we all have our parts to play.

My sister and I played ours to the hilt, my sister in particular organising the details – the coffin, the service, the pallbearers. She is strong and in control when others are not, and sometimes I am a little like her.

My brother’s ex-girlfriend came to our house, was there when my brother came home in a coffin, was at his side when the lid came off, holding my mother’s hand and sobbing, while my sister and I stood back and let her have her time.

I hugged her first, though.

The stories came out. Who talked to my brother last? My sister, we thought. Compared to his ex-girlfriend’s story, my sister talked to him a hour or so after she had. They’d talked about AA, his ex-girlfriend said. About changing. Not about getting back together, though. She was in Queenstown, busy, with work. She had meetings. She spoke to him at 1pm, my sister at 3, we worked out.

We didn’t have my brother’s belongings back yet, the things he’d had on him when he did it. My mother was going nuts wondering if he had a certain jacket with him; thinking it might have meant he’d come home before going out to kill himself. Thinking it might have meant she’d missed a chance to stop him.

My mother was falling over herself to include my brother’s ex-girlfriend; determined to honour her relationship with him as she believed he would want. I tried to express that I didn’t think it was appropriate for her to be there all the time.

We got his things back from the police in a big brown paper bag. My sister and I got his cellphone. We looked at the outgoing calls, the incoming, and the texts. He’d cleared his inbox. His outbox held just twelve messages. Most imploring my sister or his ex-girlfriend to call him, one telling her he loved her, one that said ‘u colgrl’ that we puzzled over for awhile. We sat in the dark of my car, pulling apart last words, trying to work out scrambled letters and call times.

We sat in the dark of my car, realising that his ex-girlfriend had lied about when she had talked to our brother; that it had been two hours after my sister had last heard from him.

We didn’t tell our mother. My sister left to take time out, feeling that she wasn’t coping. His ex-girlfriend came around that night. I asked her not to be there the next day, and she waited til my mother came out to ask her what was wrong.

I screamed at her on the street. For lying, for trying to be seen as much as possible to be the grieving girlfriend, for simply being alive on the footpath outside my house when my brother was not. I screamed and cried and generally made with the histrionics and I watched my mother finally, finally click. I watched his ex-girlfriend roll her eyes at me behind my mother’s back, then saw her get in her car and leave, saying she’d call tomorrow.

In fact, she called not an hour later.

And not long after that, my mother began to remember why she’d disliked my brother’s girlfriend in the first place.

So while I was writing this the time clicked over and it’s officially my brother’s birthday. I didn’t intend for this to be the long-winded story-of-my-life post it’s become.

Instead, I just wanted to say happy birthday to my brother.

And to let you know that if you’re thinking of killing yourself, then don’t.

If that sounds harsh, maybe it needs to be.

Maybe you need the kick in the face to stop thinking that you have nothing to live for.

Cannonball #6

I am not ashamed to say that I am a Jodi Picoult fan. Apparently, I enjoy formula and even more than that I enjoy not taxing my brain too much. Heather Gudenkauf’s The Weight Of Silence promises a Picoult-like premise: Toni Clark’s young daughter Calli and her friend Petra go missing. Complicating matters further are Toni’s relationship with her abusive husband, and the history she shares with a local cop – as well as the fact that Calli is a selective mute. Calli has not spoken a word since an incident involving her parents years ago.

Gudenkauf attempts the multiple-narrators style, and in all honesty, it doesn’t work that well for her. She writes wonderfully for Toni. She then writes everyone else like Toni, and when ‘everyone else’ includes her teenage son Ben, her ex boyfriend (now deputy sheriff) Louis, and Calli herself, it has a jarring effect on the story. Possibly the only character who stands out from Toni is Martin, the father of Petra; however, they are shallow differences. That’s really the whole problem with ‘Silence’: it’s shallow. The characters are typical, without depth, and therefore you don’t really care about them or how things work out for them. After awhile, they blend into one, and the story takes on a ‘check the boxes’ feeling. Young girl with unexplained medical mystery? Check. Alcoholic father? Check. Mother with murky romantic past? Check. Red herrings thrown in to keep the mystery alive? You betcha.

By the time the story gains some momentum (and it takes awhile), I found I was reading merely to find out why Calli didn’t speak. It was a strong enough hook to keep me reading until the end, but unfortunately I was disappointed by the reasoning behind Calli’s muteness. There’s also a fairly unnecessary epilogue that undoes any of the goodwill Gudenkauf may have built over the course of her story. The resolution of the central mystery is also unsatisfying – you’ll work it out fairly quickly for yourself. Stick to the Picoult if this is your kind of thing.

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CBR4

I just finished two books, officially making me three books behind.

arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh

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luck

Lately I’ve taken to giving thanks for everything under the sun, including but not limited to

His sacrifice
my husband
my husband’s adorable family
that i have the ability to do things like go for a (slow, breathless, fat) jog
and the resources to listen to music
and go to the dentist
thanks for the thought that in my life i could have more than one career
(choices, who knew there were so many?)
my own unadorable but still loveable family
(even though we don’t really talk)
my job, that stresses me to the max and forces me out of my shell and places me at the limits of my abilities
the idea that God will force and push me to exactly where i need to be
and i will not break beyond repair
no
not once
not even slightly.
He made me better than that
and every day now, I think: thanks for opportunity, Lord.
because there’s so much i’ve got.

Been a busy couple of weeks. Parachute was incredible. Bryce Avary and Aaron Gillespie were fantastic; I even got to shake Bryce Avary’s hand (he asked my name, twice, and I was so nervous I gabbled over him). Relient K were a dream.  High fived Jon Schneck, just sayin’.

Most impressed by these guys though. On the Saturday at Parachute we went to the RK interview, and I was a little (probably unfairly) disappointed by the direction of it ’cause it was mainly about food. And what kind of food they would be, and what kind of car they would be, and hey, what’s Mood Rings about anyway (because this is really hard to get, you guys)? Just general silliness, which is cool, and it was at times funny and engaging – despite the awkward interviewer who appeared to have quickly read the band’s wiki before coming onstage to talk to them. Oy.

But.

On Sunday, we went to the Showbread/Ascend The Hill interview.

And my soul said, this is more like it.

Probably helped that the interviewer was a labelmate. Came across as a natural conversation, after a somewhat stilted beginning (where it was clear the bands were absolutely having a laugh at his expense), that led to a place where they talked freely about their faith.

Come&Live do some amazing work for God and if you haven’t yet checked them out, please do. All the music is free; the passion and talent of the bands involved is immense and you won’t regret it. Because it is free. But also, very, very good. We signed up as donors. Part of my brain wonders if that’s weird, but the other parts told that part to shush. It’s an area my husband and I love and an idea we want to see flourish.

Sidebar: Jase from The Ember Days was manning the stall when we visited, and was lovely. He kept trying to give us stuff, for us giving them stuff. We left loaded with swag and warmness.

One thing that is always going to stick out to me. During Showbread’s two sets over the weekend, they made a point of being available. For a chat. For prayer. For whatever. I went to see them at the C&L stall after their show on Sunday with my friends and sisters-in-law – we talked really quickly to Josh Dies; he was super nice and really patient, considering it was going on 11.30PM or something and all his friends seemed to be loaded down with bags and pillows, probably waiting to leave. And also considering that my in-laws went hilariously crazy over meeting him (one of the highlights of the weekend, the older one telling the younger one to ‘stop stealing my thunder’ then pretending to high kick her in the face). That accessibility, that humility, really amazed me.

I guess I just compared it to one of the bigger bands there, whose lead singer got very quickly into the back of a van, put his hood up, and wouldn’t acknowledge anyone (weird, right, we don’t own them and they don’t owe us anything…but there that is).

It must be also be said again that Aaron Gillespie’s worship set was amazing and it is to my deep dismay that I didn’t get to shake his hand. Maybe next time.

None of this makes much sense. It’s 2.09am here. I could probably have added ‘for all the bands at parachute’ to my list and it would have been more concise and probably more enjoyable.

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Things.

Finally, finally got two of my backed up reviews written and posted. Gah. I’m so slow recently. I’ve got one more review, of Heather Gudenkauf’s The Weight Of Silence, to write before I’m all caught up. I’ve started Shine by Lauren Myracle, though. Pretty good so far.

In other news, my bible reading is coming along. Although I haven’t picked it up since Friday, I did manage to finish Genesis last week. I sort of abandoned the bible reading plan – it just felt easier to read it in order. I might skip around a bit later, especially when it comes to books like Leviticus where I’ll need a break.

Interestingly, an email went out at work last week about setting up a bible study group for the kids. I work with youth offenders, so this would be huge for both me and them. There are a few Christians at my work, and while they’re not exactly covert they aren’t all that open either. I still feel a bit new (despite having worked there for over a year, I didn’t start full time until near the end of last year) so that may just be the culture of my workplace. I’m not sure…it’s a funny place to be, at times.

The countdown to Parachute 2012 is nearing its long awaited end…two more sleeps and I’ll be on my way to the great north, to see three of my see-before-I-die bands. Can’t believe it.

Cannonball rima.


Warning: sort of spoilers to be had if you haven’t read The Declaration.

I had the sequel to Gemma Malley’s The Declaration on standby and was intrigued enough by that first book to carry on with the second soon after I’d put it down. The Resistance switches its focus to Peter, Anna’s Surplus friend (now boyfriend) from The Declaration. They’ve set up house together with Anna’s baby brother Ben and are slowly trying to work with the Underground to get to the heart of Pincent Pharma, the company responsible for Longevity.

The events of the last book are recapped succintly, and it’s on with the action fairly quickly as Peter finds himself working at Pincent Pharma, under his grandfather, Richard. Richard has plans for Peter and Anna; as Peter attempts covert operations at the company, Richard is busy working in details to snare our heroes. There’s also some focus placed on Jude, Peter’s half brother, and Sheila, Anna’s acquaintance from Grange Hall. At first this appeared to detract from the story, but as it progresses and Malley begins to pull her knots tighter, having these different perspectives becomes a strength.

In saying that, it takes awhile to learn what happened to Mrs. Pincent, something I thought would be quite major – however, the information is given in a couple of throwaway lines. An interesting choice, but perhaps the right one, given that what happens near the end of the book is a clustertruck of awful. I don’t mean awful as in unreadable, but awful as in ‘ohmygoodnessohmygoodnessthat’sHORRIFYING’. The Resistance’s big bang shock is a good one, and I admit I gasped when I read it. It seems dark for a book like this, which reads like it’s geared to the younger set; but really, The Resistance is altogether more grown up than The Declaration. The characters have been through a lot and, if the ending is anything to go by, have a lot more left to do. The dialogue is much less stilted here; the characters more fully fleshed out, and despite some implausibility regarding an escape, it’s fun to switch off and see what happens. I think I’ll be picking up the next book (The Legacy) but it’s not a rush-out-and-read-er.

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Cannonball wha.

Everyone knows death is inevitable. The Declaration explores what would happen if it suddenly was off the table – if, with the simple use of a pill, we could in fact live forever. But it wants to go deeper than that – what does an eternal existence cost?

The world Malley presents in The Declaration is set in 2140, yet in all honesty it does not seem much different from our own time, but with one crucial difference: the use of Longevity, a drug designed to make the user stop aging. However, in exchange for the privilege of using Longevity, one must sign a declaration promising never to have children. This is in order to preserve the world’s dwindling resources. With so many adults – or Legals – choosing Longevity, the strain on resources is enormous, and there are massive penalties for having a child after signing the Declaration. Such children are called ‘Surpluses’, and it’s through a Surplus teenager named Anna that we discover more about this strange and rather bleak future.

The Declaration is definitely in the ‘young’ camp of young adult, or at least for those with a high tolerance for some shoddy prose and basic dialogue. That’s not to say that it’s not enjoyable – though Anna herself is a bit of a blank, her male counterpart Peter is more interesting, and the villains are suitably malevolent. The story checks all the requisite YA boxes and more often than not does so very well. Again, the writing is not the best, yet something keeps you reading until you finish; I’d put this down to the author’s understanding of a good winding mystery. The twists towards the end were surprising and solid enough so that I didn’t feel like I’d wasted my time on an inferior book.

As with every second YA book out there, The Declaration is the first in a series (a trilogy, I believe), and Malley is clearly setting up a card house to play with in the coming books. It’s an easy read that won’t tax anyone (the preteen set included), so I’d recommend it if you’re after something interesting and quick!

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