The Sister Who Saved Her Family

by Bill Brenner December 28, 2014 Family

My youngest sister, Shira Beth Brenner, was born 29 years ago today, sending rays of sunshine into a house that was in darkness. You might think it’s hyperbole for me to say she saved the family. We were surviving, after all. But we were surviving badly, reeling from the death of my brother barely two years before. Shira helped us smile again. Mood music: I was a bitter 15-year-old home sick with the flu and a Crohn’s…  [Read More]

The Lost Generation of Revere, Mass.

by Bill Brenner November 22, 2014 Addiction

An old friend from the Point of Pines, Revere, sent me a note some time ago. He came across my post on Zane Mead and another on the Bridge Rats gang. For him, they brought up more memories of kids from the neighborhood who died young. Mood music: I’ll keep his name and certain details out to protect his privacy, but here’s some of what he wrote to me: I came across your piece in…  [Read More]

To Duncan on His 14th Birthday

by Bill Brenner September 14, 2013 Children's issues

Note: I’ve often written notes to my kids on their birthday. This was originally written when Duncan turned 1o. An open letter to my second child on his 10th birthday… Mood Music: At 2 a.m. on Sept. 15, 2003, I was jolted awake by your mom shoving me in the shoulder. I had just gone to bed 45 minutes earlier, and I had had a lot of wine the night before. You weren’t expected for…  [Read More]

Punch-Drunk Love

by Bill Brenner May 20, 2013 Love

In one of those bizarre flashbacks triggered by someone’s bad singing, I remembered something amusing about my maternal grandparents yesterday. During a Cub Scout overnight on the U.S.S. Salem, someone in our group started singing the jingle for The Clapper. You might remember the commercial with old people clapping their hands to turn lights on and off with the song, “Clap on! Clap off! The Clapper!” Mood video: I remember Nana and Papa having a…  [Read More]

What Arline Corthell Left Behind

by Bill Brenner May 15, 2013 Love

Erin’s paternal grandmother passed away yesterday. Although she’s gone, she leaves behind memories to treasure and influences to carry on. Memories Grammie had a gift for focusing on one person at a time and engaging them in deep conversation. She did most of the talking, of course. She could, as my sister-in-law Amanda put it, talk the ears off of a brick wall. She had beautiful, penetrating eyes that focused on you and grabbed you like…  [Read More]

Together We Fill Gaps

by Bill Brenner May 14, 2013 Love

I did some more thinking after writing yesterday’s “Burden of Being Upright” post, and I think I have a better perspective. I was frustrated all day knowing that I need frequent wake-up calls. I want to be so good all the time that I’ll never need them. Truth is, I’m always going to need it. But what’s important is what a person does when the alarm sounds. Several years ago, before I was released from…  [Read More]

Don’t Go Away Mad

by Bill Brenner March 28, 2013 Gratitude

A funny thing happens when people share stories of the not-so-happy moments of their lives: You walk away thinking they’ve experienced nothing but tragedy. In reality, there are plenty of uneventful pages in between the drama. Mood music: One time I was asked to tell my story at a 12-Step meeting. Under the format, you tell your story for about 15 minutes. The first five cover the speaker’s ugly path to addiction, the second five focuses…  [Read More]

Why This Catholic Supports Marriage Equality

by Bill Brenner March 27, 2013 Love

Yesterday many friends changed their Facebook profile pics to a red box with two horizontal lines in the center in support of marriage equality. I did as well, though I was more punk rock about it, selecting a red box with four vertical lines (the logo for the band Black Flag). Mood music: [spotify:track:4kFfFe38CRVnTsakUTL4E4] I doubt all this online activism will influence the US Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. The justices march to their…  [Read More]

Love in the Grammar Trenches

by Bill Brenner March 4, 2013 Love

Since Erin and I are both writers-editors, there’s almost a Valentine’s-Day quality to this National Grammar Day. It can be a dangerous thing putting two wordsmiths together in holy matrimony, and yet we’ve managed to keep it going. How, you ask? I’ve been thinking about that. A basic truth about people who work with grammar for a living: Put more than one in the same room for long periods and someone gets roughed up. People…  [Read More]

Why I Skipped #ShmooCon — Again

by Bill Brenner February 16, 2013 Family

Like last year, a lot of people have asked me why I’m not at the ShmooCon security conference in Washington D.C. After all, it is one of my favorite events. Mood music: [spotify:track:3xMZrNrfyKUUqQVtoR13ml] Simply put, it’s too close to the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco the week after next. Being away from home for multiple days for two weeks inside a month is simply more than my family can handle these days. Last year…  [Read More]