Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary


November 2012

Book Review ~ Suicide – Living With the Question ~ Ruth H. Maxwell – Author

Book Review

Suicide – Living With the Question

Ruth H. Maxwell – Author

We’ve all been affected by the sudden and unexpected death of someone who is close to us or whom we’ve known personally, peripherally or even just cared about from a distance. It is especially perplexing when that person has taken his or her own life, and even more so if they were young and appeared to be healthy, happy and successful. It is all the more horrific if it is a family member and absolutely unthinkable when it is your own child. Ruth H. Maxwell’s book, Suicide – Living With the Question, is an unflinching, honest and poignant narrative of a journey through uncharted territory after the unthinkable has happened, a journey that no parent should ever have to make. The opening part of the book documents the challenges that she and her family and their friends were faced with after her son Bill took his own life just days before his 36th birthday. It is a book that has essentially taken her 23 years to write. Maxwell said, “It took me many years to write it. It was like peeling an onion, layer after layer. A bit like life.”

Suicide – Living with the Question moves far beyond the personal narrative and into the realm of spiritual, philosophical and psychological questions that arise in our attempt to understand such an inexplicable event and find the meaning within. It is written on a personal level in clear, accessible language, and balances the reflective process with research based science. One of the most important aspects of the book is the examination of social norms and prevailing attitudes about the subject. It takes a hard look at the subject of self esteem and the images we project of ourselves and various societal factors that lead to denial and, consequentially, the inability to recognize the signs and signals when someone may be at risk.

I have the deepest admiration and respect for the strength, patience and great fortitude it took to write this important book. I must confess that it also required courage for me to read it, because Bill was my cousin. Reading the book has been a stunning revelation to me and a journey of self discovery that brought me to tears on more than one occasion. I learned of Bill’s death when I was far away from home and had fallen out of contact with much of my extended family. I couldn’t begin to fathom how or why something like this could possibly have happened and never talked it through it with anyone. I still hadn’t completely come to terms with the tragic death of my own younger brother not that many years earlier and now Bill’s death was something I couldn’t really wrap my mind around. I was at a loss as to what to do. Before I knew it, years had passed and I had never taken the time to try and understand it or to fully reflect upon it. Reading Ruth H. Maxwell’s book provided a bridge back to that lost part of my family history and gave me back a piece of myself. It allowed me to emotionally process the narrative of my cousin’s death and the effects it had upon his immediate family, close friends and colleagues. On a personal level, the book also helped me to examine my own questions, and to acknowledge my sense of loss as well as feelings of grief, guilt, shame, blame, regret and acceptance, and a whole spectrum of other emotions.

I think one of the most important conclusions in the book is the significance of post- traumatic stress disorder and clinical depression as critical factors that may contribute to a decision to take one’s own life. The way this book raises awareness and sensitivity to these conditions, and the importance of bringing it all out into the light of day conveys a timely and powerful message. It is a profound reflection about loss, redemption, hope, forgiveness and perseverance and an invaluable resource for educators, counselors, health and spiritual practitioners, parents, friends and all of us.

“When the truth can be told and not judged or evaluated, love follows, for it flourishes in the light.” Ruth H. Maxwell

Michael Gillan Maxwell is a visual artist, writer, editor, teacher and educational consultant. He lives with his family in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. 


Lunch Lady Cookbook Mondo Fandango Lentil Soup

Lunch Lady Cookbook Mondo Fandango Lentil Soup


Hey there boys and girls! This is Lunch Laddy Michael Gillan Maxwell bringing you the latest edition of the Lunch Lady Cookbook. I don’t know about you, but after I’ve been outside in the crisp autumn weather doing manly things like wearing flannel shirts, raking leaves, tossing the old pigskin around, cleaning gutters, cutting firewood and wrangling Cocker Spaniels, it takes some stick-to-your-ribs hearty fare to keep the Lunch Laddy’s depleted afterburners chugging away.


It’s times like this when Cup-a-Soup just ain’t makin’ it. You need something to stoke the furnace. It’s time to pull out the big guns and make it from scratch and while you’re at it, you might as well chef up a power packed protein and antioxidant bomb with plenty of fiber to move the mail.  It’s the right time of the year for Lunch Lady Cookbook Mondo Fandango Lentil Soup.

Pull together the following ingredients, and commence to slicin’ n’ dicin’

1 package red lentils

2 cups chopped celery

2 cups brussels sprouts (cut in half)

2 cups chopped carrots

1 chopped onion

16 oz. chopped baked ham w/bone

16 oz. can diced tomatoes with green pepper and

8 oz. can tomato sauce

6-8 cups water

2 -3 coves of garlic

Worcester sauce

Hot sauce

Spices ~ sea salt, fresh ground mixed pepper, basil flakes, garlic powder

Chopping Vegetables

Combine tomatoes, tomato sauce, carrots, brussels sprouts and celery in a stock pot.

Rinse and drain lentils, then add to stock pot with other ingredients.

Bring to boil then turn to simmer.

Slice ‘ dice onion, garlic and ham ~ sauté until onions are caramelized ~ add to stock pot.

Season generously.

Simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring frequently.

Boiling Cauldron

Top with Pecorino Romano Cheese and serve with massive piece of buttered crusty rosemary olive oil bread

Lunch Lady Mondo Fandango Lentil Soup and Bread

Beverage Pairing ~ Brooklyn Brown Ale (or 2)

Brooklyn Brown Ale

Musical Pairing ~ Plenty of gutbucket blues with reverb drenched chainsaw guitars ~ early Stones, Black Keys,  Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside

And if your guests give you any kind of grief at all, then it’s NO SOUP FOR YOU! COME BACK ONE YEAR!

The Soup Nazi “No soup for you!”

Until next time, this is the Lunch Laddy signing off for The Lunch Lady Cookbook.

Party hardy and eat hearty. Bon apetit!

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