DEATHLIST!?!?!

Actually, it’s God’s list!

What is this thing?

Are we talking a hit list? Is this a book put out by the bad guys? Is the list before or after the fact? Did some newspaper reporter unearth a hidden file or did a hacker get access to this “Deathlist” by accident (or on purpose)?

Nope.

Actually, it’s God’s list! He uses it to keep track of when everyone is born and when they will die. We think our deaths are random because we don’t know when we’ll die. But of course, God does. And okay, we know He’s omniscient, but He’s plain tired as heck of keeping all this “stuff” in His head. Besides, He’d rather play golf any day of the week. And He plays a lot of golf.

You’re in for a treat. Because the novel Deathlist by Kathryn Atkins challenges humans’ thinking about death, and therefore life, but also we get to see how God and the other two parts of the Trinity spend their time. We find out Jesus likes to ride mountain bikes, and the Holy Spirit loves to wear designer clothes. All three of them like to play golf. As do I.

There’s more to the Deathlist, of course, but we can’t tell you everything, or you wouldn’t have to read the book. And speaking of which, the book Deathlist is due out in early 2022.

See ya.

~ Death

“I Quit!”

What if you knew when you were going to die?

Hi. I’m Death and well, I quit.

Those words start Kathryn’s novel, which is called Deathlist and will be published early in 2022. How do I know? Because I’m your female protagonist. It’s my story, but it’s also your story. You. Yes. You. Everyone on the earth will be a part of this story. And some of the crazies I hang out with will be in it, too. Of course.

God plays a key role, as you’d expect, and so do Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But we will all have a run-in with the ol’ devil and well, human beings will put up with some pretty hard stuff as the story unfolds. And me? I’m going to give up my good looks, my designer wardrobe, and a perfectly lovely life in Heaven to save humankind.

“Wait! Why are you quitting, Death?”

You’re saying that to me, right? OR at least you’re thinking it. But you might also be thinking if I quit, if Death quits, you won’t die. Sorry, but It doesn’t quite work that way. And in the meantime, I’ll let you think about this:

WHAT IF YOU KNEW WHEN YOU WERE GOING TO DIE?

That, dear friend, is the gift of the Deathlist. Because in the novel, you will find out that the Deathlist lets you know that. You can make travel plans, decide if you want to take a job or not, stay single or get married. All sorts of stuff. Write the novel, create a cool new invention, or whatever, because you will know exactly how much time you have! Cool, right?

No?

That’s the thing some people like the idea. Some don’t. Anyway, I have to decide if I want to help God or not. And to do that, I have to become human, which means I can’t wear my gorgeous clothes anymore, or change into a blond or a brunette in the blink of an eye. AND… I have to defeat the devil. As a human!

I’m getting ahead of myself. I’d love for you to read Kathryn’s book. Stay tuned here. We’ll be giving you updates as launch day draws nearer and nearer. In the meantime, think about if you’d like to know when you’re going to die. I can’t tell you, by the way. You’ll have to find it yourself. And you do not have to know, by the way. It’s your choice. You have FREE WILL. We all do. Even me.

I gotta run. I can’t be late to collect souls. It’s all planned, you know. The day you’re born and the day you will die are in the database called the Deathlist.

Death on Earth

Death wakes up. Disoriented.

“Where am I?” she whispers to the cracked dingy walls.

From the open window, the aroma of freshly baked bread wafts in from the nearby bakeshop, followed immediately by stale urine odors rising from the alley three floors below. She stretches and then remembers. She’s no longer a female. She’s no longer a powerful part of the team in Heaven. And she is no longer Death. She’s a human on Earth, her body reeks of New York summer humid, and her mouth tastes the bitterness of her predicament.

Sitting up and running her palm across the scratchy morning chin stubble, she says for the millionth time, “Why did I ever let the Trinity talk me into this?”

Large Life Lessons from a Tiny Splinter

A splinter is a metaphor for life’s challenges. AND a lovely way to remember being a kid.

When was the last time you got a splinter? I can’t remember mine, but having spent the better part of the last precious hour I didn’t think I had in trying to remove one, I was blessed with seeing the life parallels it presented me.

I used to get splinters all the time when I was little and my dad called them a splinter in your “finner.” I remember mom and I would bend over the dumb thing, almost drooling with concentration.

We were both younger. I could see what I was doing without magnification. Mom celebrated these intimate moments, I think, almost as much as squeezing my blackheads. Funny what you remember.

Mom and I were both determined to remove the splinter. And we fought to wield our weapon of choice. She liked tweezers. I chose a sewing needle. Not a pin. Heavens, no. We used to burn the needle and tweezers to sterilize them back then. I wonder if they had peroxide in those days…?

So many thoughts poured through me and the parallels to our lives kept shoving through my consciousness as I pretty much bullied the thing out of my finger. Blood flooded the gouge. My glasses got fogged over with my hot breath urging the thing out but to no avail. Could I ignore it? Not a chance. It was a battle of wits. A fight to the finish. Good versus evil. My honor was at stake. I was a splinter remover of note, having removed dozens over my young, reckless childhood. Yay for reckless childhoods. Do we even allow those now?

A splinter is a metaphor for life’s challenges.

Some people take them head-on, and won’t give up until the obstacle is overcome or removed. Some people put up with the tiny, dark subcutaneous interlopers–letting them fester and get infected. Others don’t want to take on the excruciating pain (you know it’s still in there because it hurts like hell when you touch it) of digging underneath and pushing, pulling, or sucking it out. (I was never successful at that last one). We soften the skin by soaking it. Dry. Dig. Soak. Repeat. “OUCH!”

The lessons are these. Some days, life gives you splinters. And you have tools: Tweezers and needles. And Moms and Dads and light and antiseptic. Do you remove the splinters or put up with them? What’s your vibe? How’s your life? 

  • Perseverance
  • Lots of light
  • Magnification
  • Focus
  • Patience
  • Correct tools
  • Eating (I’d skipped breakfast)
  • Managing (ignoring) the pain
  • Relief
  • Satisfaction (I got it, finally)
  • Removal of an offending problem
  • Hurry is a hazard
  • Memories of Mom and Dad
  • Carving time
  • Softening first (a challenge for my personality)

I’d love to hear what you think, OR what you do with your splinters. 🙂

Growing Out of Anger

Anger was born in Wichita, Kansas. She didn’t have a plan to be born, but she was. It just happened. So she grew up with the letter A, maybe a Scarlet Letter A on her pinafore. On the inside of her. She was a three-year-old when she felt herself wearing the A. It didn’t go away this A. It seemed to be stuck on the pinafore. I didn’t want to leave: not with scissors, not with love, not with a change of clothes. Anger grew into a teenager, a young adult. And as she passed through middle age, she found herself increasingly aware of the need to change her name.


In the early days of the next year after this inspiration to change her name, she went to the Oracle well. It was said to be the place where people went to change their names. It smelled like cinnamon and allspice and fairy dust.

“I’m here to change my name, please,” Anger said.

“What would you like to be called?” the Oracle said, handing her small dog a treat.

“I would like to be called Zen.”

“Why Zen?”

“I would like to be that kind of person from here on out.”

“Okay, Zen,” she said. “But your name does not define you. Your behavior is the key.”

SCENE: Zen née Anger left the Oracle, whose name was Blanche. The Oracle’s apartment was on the fifth floor of the cute building nestled in one of California’s famous wine regions. Behind the building, the vineyards spread back like marching bands in neat rows all the way to the low mountains, humming in the distance.

Zen left the main street where cars whizzed past, threatening to topple Zen back into her Anger persona. She quickly looked down at her chest. No. The Z for Zen was still attached to her starched white pinafore. “I’m looking for the caretaker of this vineyard,” she said to the first person she saw in the field.”

No hablo ingles,” the man said.

“Sh –,” Anger started to blurt.

Zen interrupted Anger, smiled and said, “Gracias,” and walked on to another person she saw in the distance.

What was Zen doing? She had no idea. As a newly named person, she felt the Oracle’s advice had something to do with acting and behaving differently. What would be more different than working in a vineyard or at a winery?

“Hello,” she said to the next person she met in the vineyards, her feet now caked with dusty rose clay, mud, and dead leaves.

“Hello,” the person said. “Did you just come from the Blanche’s place?”

“Yes! How did you know?”


 “I wish I had a dollar for every person who comes wandering in this vineyard wanting change themselves.”          

“That’s weird. I thought it was a really unique idea.”

“Sorry. You’re not unique at all.”

Anger started push its capital A onto the front of the pinafore. “I think you’re wrong. In fact, I don’t want to work here at all.”

“I’m glad. We don’t need people in our vineyard like you. It makes the grapes unhappy, and we can’t have unhappy grapes. They make bad wine.”

The sun had started its descent onto the distant, now whispering, mountains. Shadows extended from the windbreak of trees across to the vines near where Zen was standing. The cars from the nearby street had slowed, and then largely vanished from the soundscape. Zen paused to listen as she inhaled the wet dirt smell, and heard vines creaking in a soft shifting against their stakes as they settled into a peaceful evening.

The vineyard person was gone when Zen turned to speak to her. Zen heard a voice in her head that said, “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence…”

            She left the vineyard. Kept her name Zen. And went placidly to live the rest of her life at peace.

Death Stinks

Death’s stench is a metaphor.

She really does smell bad.

When we first meet Death, we learn that she has come to really hate her job. More than that (almost) is the fact that she smells like rotten flesh. There’s a putrid emanation from her skin that she can only control with enormous effort. Any distraction and the smell seeps out her pores in an asphyxiating cloud of stench. No one wants to be near her. She’s like the person on the bus that you just can’t avoid because, dang it, the bus is full and you have to get to work.

Nobody’s perfect.

It’s a metaphor

Instead of calling it a stench, let’s call it a metaphor. Let’s think about “those things” we don’t like about ourselves, that we know we have, but think they’re part of us. We can control it sometimes, but it takes concentration. Or discipline. Or it’s a trait we cannot shake. We don’t have the energy, enough motivation, or the education. But some of those are choices.

Within reason, we can change lots of things. Our gender, our height with high heels for women, or great camera angles if you’re Tom Cruise, who is about 5’8″ tall. We know of people who are born with nothing, or some other variation of “less than.” Abandoned. Crushed. Disabled. Enslaved. And we realize that they are not lucky. Except that sometimes those are the very hurdles that make these people all the more driven to do better. They learn to read on their own. Or find a way to compete in sports, their way. They seek freedom or asylum. They may be different, but they figure out how to use that as leverage or as a superpower.

The problem is that many times fear of the unknown makes the task at hand seem unsupportable and impossible. Both failure and success are scary in their own way. For instance, I have been afraid to publish my book Deathlist because I don’t know if anyone will like it. Or if they’ll like Death. Or like me. Death is a hoot, but she’s also a lot of work. And she does stink sometimes. But if she’s like me, or if I’m like her, I should say, we both need to be more accepting, but also more willing to change our smell, our attitude, our fears, our hopes, and our goals.

Saving My Humanity

Death stinks. My imperfections are not quite as smelly…I don’t think. Maybe they are. Like Death, I might try to save my version of humanity. My family, and my friends and neighbors, and of course my dog. However, Death has friends in higher places. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to name three. And while they abandon her, she still keeps trying to overcome her “imperfection” and to save the human race and her job. Guess we’ll have to see how we do.

If she can hang in with her odor, so can I with my “whatever’s.”

Photo compliments of Pexels.com.

What if Death Quit Her Job?

Would we rejoice?

Maybe. But what about her?

Death has had nothing but sadness in her day job. No one likes her. No one wants to see her coming. She clearly does not enjoy her work. Who would? Coming to work is depressing. “Hello, Mrs. Jones. I’m going to take your soul today.” And guess what? She has very few (no) friends.

And you thought you had a bad job.

Somewhere along the way, Death ended up collecting souls as part of the team in Heaven. Eventually she finds out why. And that’s not to say everyone goes to heaven after they die. No. That’s not it. And that’s not Death’s job, you see. She just makes the rounds according to the schedule and collects the souls so the other departments can get them to the correct eternity. You know. If you sin too much, you go to Hell. If you’ve accumulated enough brownie points, as it were, you get to spend eternity in Heaven. Everything is free there. Free health club memberships, country club passes, zoos, museums…It’s all free. It’s fun in the beginning but well. Everything gets boring after a while. Even Perfection. And free booze.

Back to Death. She definitely wins top prize for “sucky job” and to offset her terrible work life, she buys beautiful clothes. Her retail therapy outings have earned her the nickname Coco for Coco Chanel, her favorite designer. But she can wear Vera Wang, too. Betsey Johnson, Calvin Klein. It doesn’t matter as along as it’s expensive and gorgeous. But Chanel is her bestie.

When our story opens, Death quits. Yup. Finally, she’s had it up to here. The cruise ships are the absolute worst. Bodies and their attached souls float around in the ocean shivering their lips off, and Death has to handle each person. Some are still alive, and in every manner of scared to death. And then Death comes by. Imagine. Cold. Wet. Make it freezing, soaked. Almost drowning or recently drowned. (What a crappy way to go!) “It’s okay, Mr. Smith. I’m here to help you pass peacefully.” BAM. Mr. Smith bops Death in the jaw. “Oh, no you don’t!” The arguments over the years would make your hair hurt. Seriously. Death has heard them all. But now, she’s decided to quit.

And it’s not pretty. You can read all about it in my book, Deathlist, coming to a bookstore near you. There’s a lot more to it than Coco Chanel and Death, however. I’d hang on to your bucket seats. It’s quite a ride. Funny. Philosophical. Profane. Good and evil. Life’s purpose. High concept stuff wrapped around a book in which God plays too much golf, and the Holy Spirit is almost as much a clothes horse as Death. And there are epic battles afoot, Stay tuned for more posts about this crazy novel. Until then, I’m thinking we want Death to keep her job. Just sayin’.

My Last Day on Earth

With One Foot Dangling Over the Edge of the Universe

“If today were the last day of your life, would

you want to do what you are about to do today?”

~ Steve Jobs

Rumor has it that Steve Jobs asked himself this question every day in the mirror. It’s said that if he had enough days in a row when the answer was no, he’d do something else. Jobs was dead at 56.

Today, we watched another visionary dent the universe (almost literally). If today were Jeff Bezos’s last day on earth, he’d probably be okay with it. I’d be okay if it were my last day having watched his accomplishment from way down here. Good for him. Good for them. I like my brother, too, and I’d take him up with me.

WHAT’S IT FOR? Going into space isn’t for anything, except to DO IT. They didn’t make money, they spent LOTS. They learned even more, and they proved their worth to themselves, if no one else. Did anyone else really matter? Probably not.

WHAT DOES IT REMIND ME OF?
The Bezos launch reminded me of years past when we raced for space with other countries. Now our local visionaries compete with one another, and the media runs amok. It’s all wonderful. We used to rely on a war machine to feed for innovation and invention. Now, our CEOs feed their curiosity and, okay, their egos, but that’s okay.

IT’S MY LAST DAY ON EARTH [Pretend!]

I watched the rocket ship, walked my dog, listened to an amazing woman Melissa Renzi share her poetry, her love, and her vulnerability.

THIS IS THE POEM FROM MELISA RENZI’s BLOG POST on 7/6/21

(I challenge you to get through it with dry eyes.)

Love more today

Inspired by and in honor of Danay DiVirgilio

Love more today
Not tomorrow, not yesterday, not next year

Love more today
This very second, right now
You can do it, I believe in you
Be present with the feelings
All of them, all of you
This is not new
Since the beginning of time

In the infinity that is and was always
There is only one thing
And that thing is Love

Love more today
Not tomorrow, not yesterday, not next year

I see you, I hear you, I love you
I feel your Love, I feel your fear
I see you shedding a tear
All the Love you’re withholding
Give it up, give it away, let it go
Your life is unfolding

Love more today
Really, it is the only way
Close your eyes, yes, let’s do it right now
Send your love to someone who needs it the most

Send your love to someone who is easy to love

Now to someone who is hard to love
See, love doesn’t know the difference
Love is the great equalizer
Breaking through barriers of time and space

With total ease and infinite grace

Love is bigger than here and now

Love is wonder, love is how.
Love is deeper than good or bad
It’s so much wider than happy or sad

Love is not a drop in the ocean

Love is the ocean

So love more today
Not tomorrow, not yesterday, not next year

Really darling, there is nothing to fear
Open your eyes to the wisdom of love
See the world through its freedom, a dove

From high up above and all the way down

Love the whole rainbow, love the whole town

Love the sadness and love the grief
Love the Joy and love the belief
That Love is forever

And before I go, I want you to know:

It is okay to laugh and it is okay to cry

It is okay to ask “Why?”
Yes, really I ask you, I ask you to try

To love more today
In honor of the Spirit that is Danay

-Melissa Renzi

Amherst, MA

July 2020

*The words “Love more today” first appeared in an email from Michael DiVirgilio, sharing the news of Danay’s transition with family and friends. He asked friends to “Love More Today” as a way to honor her memory.

PS – I wrote this poem just days after Danay’s transition last summer. I read it at the memorial service under the trees in her backyard. Her presence was felt that day in the palpable Love that was there. And in the breeze of the trees above. Today it is a year. Honoring this beautiful human, friend, teacher, mother, mama. It was such a joy knowing you, friend. I treasure you always. Thank you for showing up in all the ways you do in my life and in the life of so many.

Good things, darling.

Love more today.

# # #

I hope it’s okay with you, Melissa, that I shared your poem. If this were my last day on earth, I would be happy, hanging one foot over the edge of our shared universe. Thank you for writing this piece and letting us know you better.

Thanks to Pixels.com for the image.

Confirmation Bias

“People are prone to believe what they want to believe.*”

How much of what we think we believe is true? How much do we believe it because we want to or because it fits our previous decision on a topic, a medical issue, a political candidate, our hobbies—ANYTHING.

I like to think I’m challenging myself to grow in new ways by reading different genres of novels, a variety of non-fiction books on a broad spectrum of viewpoints. But am I really? What about podcasts?

How can we be sure we’re not seeking agreement with where we are now? What are the signs? Are we doing the same things again and again, but thinking we are doing something different? I pride myself on my creativity. My fearlessness. But I now must challenge myself to understand if I’m really just confirming what I already think or know. So, I’m going to try the following. I’ll let you know what I find out.

  1. Make a list of the last six novels I read.
  2. List the last five non-fiction books I read (not purchased, read).
  3. What were the last four classes I took?
  4. Name the last three times I ate a food I’ve never eaten before.
  5. Summarize the last two conversations that I shared with someone twenty or more years younger than myself and twenty or more years older than me.
  6. When did I try a different browser than the one I normally use?

Confirmation bias keeps people in a rut. Scary but true. Stepping out of our rut is REALLY scary!

Change scares everyone to an extent. Knowing when you’re suffering from confirmation bias might be the first step to changing your mind, even a little. We’re not suggesting which way to think, but we would like to know if you are brave enough to confirm that you have confirmation bias. Or not.

Source: * Psychology Today

Image compliments of Pexels.com

The First Time

First times are sacred. First times cannot be repeated.

Do you remember it? Was it good?

No, not that!

When was the first time you knew you were smart?

When was the first time you knew you were alive?

WHAT??? This is too hard a question.

I will answer that. I knew for sure I was alive when I was pregnant.

Why are first times sacred?

They make us feel alive. First grade. First date. First kiss. First “time.”

And yet we don’t savor them. We don’t even seek them out because we fear we will look stupid. Fail, fall. And yet that is how we grow.

First times cannot be repeated.

… There is no second first time.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Did you fail? Fall? Get flustered?

The last time I was doing something for the first time was six years ago when I started flamenco dancing. Which is my left foot? Still having trouble with that one. It was ridiculously difficult, but now I love it.

WITH FIRST TIMES, there’s a glorious sense of WONDER. Excitement. Magic.

What is your favorite first time story?

Photo compliments of pexels.com.