Weeks After My Daughter’s Death, and I Still Don’t Know How She Died

grieving Mar 13, 2020

Grieving a 21-year old is complicated enough without dealing with an ongoing investigation.

I can’t talk about the particulars. Even though forming sentences about this agony is the only mental activity that gives shape to this bottomless grief.

Something took my daughter, yet I can’t speak of it. How can this be true if I can’t chew it and swallow? I figured out just now the reason my throat seizes up when I think of her. It’s because I can’t give voice to what I’m thinking, let alone feeling. It’s literally stuck in my throat.

There’s no turning back. And there’s no going forward. I am gagging on my existence, two and a half times her age, a travesty now that she’s gone.

But she was right here. She was right here, last I saw.

Last I checked, she was here in this world. She was doing fine, I thought. She walked among us. She was needed. She had two boxes of contact lenses in her bathroom drawer. She had a purpose, and...

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Convert Journal Entries Into Publishable Essays

writing Jan 21, 2020

Years ago, I attended the wedding of a friend’s daughter.

Ten months later, my friend’s annual Christmas letter informed her readers that the newlyweds were no longer together. In less than a year, the marriage had ended.

I was curious what had happened. And who wouldn’t be? I had sat in a small town’s Knights of Columbus Hall with hundreds of strangers, and watched this close-knit family dance to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” new groom included.

But I would never get the skinny on the breakup. The author (a.k.a mother of the bride) wrote, “ I won’t go into details because it’s not my story to tell.” I’ve never forgotten that small phrase, and have used it myself ever since.

As a memoir writer, learning which tale is yours to tell is no small responsibility.

I received a blank book for my eleventh birthday, and I’ve been journaling ever since.

For your eyes only, journaling is different from article writing, and...

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This Goodbye Makes Everything Else About Downsizing Seem Easy

downsizing Jan 24, 2019

The lunar eclipse took Rosie.

I felt so sure that what was before the eclipse would stay in the past, and what came after would be on the other side of some chasm, with no going back. Now we’re doing life without our beloved dog, with the excruciating understanding that change takes many forms.

It’s like living in an altered state, the first days after one you love dies.

The last time the sun was just over there sinking behind the winter trees, Rosie was still alive.

The day before, I left a half-filled glass of water on the counter and said a casual goodbye to the dog. The glass is still here, and she’s not.

I feel like all this work sorting for the move has been set back two months. I’m back to wandering this place with no idea what to pick up and what to leave.


Yesterday, the day after she died, the kids and I took Rosie’s wooden body to the vet and laid her on the floor, wrapped in a white blanket and placed in a blue canvas bag with...

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If It Should Have Been, It Would Have Been: Getting Rid of Half-Finished Projects

divorce downsizing Jan 20, 2019

In the process of downsizing, you’re going to come face to face with half-finished projects and reminders of hopes that never came to pass.

This is especially difficult for creative people with hobbies like sewing, gardening, woodworking, electronic tinkering, and even reading, etc.

I don’t care how much appreciation you have in your enlightened heart, or how many times you thank objects that don’t spark joy. The downsizing process challenges you to peel the memory from the object.

When you hold in your hands a half-finished quilt top or a video game you haven’t beaten yet; or a component of robotic hardware that hasn’t been programmed; it’s hard to uncurl those fingers and let go.

Last year I found a simple syrup recipe of hatch green chilis and spices. After testing it, friends and family certified it “Awesome” and I saved it to my files.

Thinking I’d make up some gifts, I bought 12 bottles and seals from an eBay shop for the...

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Clients say the coolest things.

marketing writing Jan 18, 2019

“Keep up the great work, Jen! If anyone needs a #copywriter THIS is your gal!”

~a tweet by Sandi Krakowski, my copywriting mentor


"Oh my gosh... I just received the revisions of my wimpy video scripts. I didn't realize they were that wimpy until I read what Jen McGahan did to tweak them. Answer to my prayers, not even kidding. SO GOOD, I want to attend my own workshop! Thank you, Jen! Can't wait to get the revised and NEW emails. Sleeping well tonight... ahhhh."

~Jami Amidon


"The virtual event was  HUGE success!! I had a goal of 5000 registrations, and we were 100 people short of 6000!! :D"

~Rosane Oliveira

 


"Your questions and suggestions have delightfully and insightfully stirred the pot of our offering, and the words, pieces, and structure are becoming clearer since talking with you."

~Carol Stotts


"Allow me to say THANK YOU! What a brilliant mind you have - I love it !!!!! You have presented the total perspective of the concept and I love what you...

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Downsizing after Divorce: The True Story That Begins Long Before You Move Out of Your Dream House

divorce downsizing Jan 17, 2019

My current obsession with downsizing is at its peak now, but this story started years ago.

When we moved into the two story house in the far reaches of the Austin suburbs 19 years ago, I told everyone, “I’m never leaving. Someday someone will have to clean out these closets and sell this place, because I’m going to die in this house.”

I loved my house and just knew it was our forever home.

In 2000 my husband and I decided to leave the San Francisco Bay area with our two-year-old toddler and settle in Austin. Tired of the frantic San Jose pace, the lack of elbow room, the high prices, taxes, and intense commutes; Austin was to be our new home base for the high tech research and development department my husband ran for a Silicon Valley company.

We sold our 1549 square foot starter home in San Jose and bought a 4000 square foot dream home on nearly 3 acres in Spicewood, Texas, close enough to Austin to enjoy its “weirdness” and culture, but far...

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