Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Little Things

Memories spill, pinged from the gray mush

passing for my brain

from the strangest sources.

The line from a book, a song lyric.

Coming across How It’s Made

while scrolling through the TV channels will pull out

The clear image of carrying him to his bed,

the warmth of his baby breath on my neck.

Watching him re-create with blocks

geometric designs far beyond his three years.

The light in his eyes when he got his first bulls-eye. The

fear there concerning bats, and non-vocal deer. The way

his hugs felt, so all-encompassing. I can almost feel the press.

Or it might be the weight of this sorrow.

Or it might be both.



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Filed under Family, poetry

Trying hard

Ten years ago today, Chris took the fall that would change him completely, and ultimately lead to his death. Despite all the physical and mental pain during those years, I got to spend a lot of time with my son. I cherish every conversation, even the ones I didn’t wholly understand because he talked serious science and theory I had no idea about. He knew that. But I listened. I tried. I learned. And that was what was important to him. He called me turtle. He loved me more than he loved anyone else in the world. I have that. Oh, wow. I have that.

Finding and holding on to the joy of all I do have is something I have to work hard at lately. More so than during those first days of this grief. I’m trying. I’m succeeding. And yet I find the tears welling up from so deep inside me it hurts coming out happening more and more often. I have to keep reminding myself of all I do have. I have to remember that there are so many people who’ve lost more in far more terrible ways, that this all could have gone even worse for us. I have to hope my son is off having many adventures, in a place I can’t reach him now, but will someday. And I have to know, that one way or another, he’s free of all those things that caused him so much pain here.

One foot in front of the other.

Day by day.

So if you have some joy to share, please do. I’ll take all I can get.


Filed under Family


Seeking Carolina releases in less than a month. I have final files and a cover for Dreaming August (book 2) and have started edits for Waking Savannah (book 3.) I’m also writing the first in a spin-off series (tentatively titled Bitterly’s Bachelors,) complete with two more in the series, outlined and waiting.

Bear with me. There’s a point to this.

Some have said to me that they can’t believe I’m still able to write, that I can focus on it at all, given my situation. Fact is, writing is the one thing that never falters. It’s my north star. It’s my anchor. It’s my wings. The focus doesn’t scatter, but sharpens. Clear and precise. When life knocks me down, writing gets me back up. It shoves braces under my butt and against my back so I don’t crumble. Honestly, if I ever stop writing, you should all be very, very worried. Fair warning.

What I can’t do is focus on several things at once these days. Used to be I could juggle editing, helping out in my capacity as Queen Nudge at Hadley Rille Books, writing, outlining future projects, home life. In times like this, when my brain can only handle so much, I have to let a few of those pins drop. Read that as, I have to let all but one pin drop. Writing. MY writing, has to take precedence. I can’t flip between projects, editing one day, writing the next. It takes too much mental energy I don’t have to flip that switch. Same goes for home life stuff. I can focus on my immediate family. I don’t have the fortitude for the usual phone calls to my siblings, my parents, friends. I feel the empty space of letting these things slip away for the time being, but, as my mom says, “It is what it is.” Feeling bad about it is one task too many for my poor brain, my heart.

I guess this is my shout out into the vastness of cyberworld, for any and all those colleagues, friends and family reading this–I’m sorry. I really am. I know I’m not there the way I have always been. And I know you understand, you’re not angry or upset. I guess I just feel the need to acknowledge this rift, and maybe, in a small way, fill the space a little bit.



Filed under Writing is Life

France Awaits

My parents called last Sunday.

Dad: “We want to take you and Frank on a river cruise through France.”

Me: …silence.

Mom: “Why aren’t you jumping up and down?”

Me, after a moment’s hesitation: “It’s that plane thing. I’ll let you know by the end of the day.”

WTF, you ask? Why did I not give an immediate YES to a river cruise through France? I hate to fly. I don’t just hate it, it’s the one thing that can blow my cool. It’s not flying. I’m not afraid of being in the air or anything. It’s being squished, belted into fourteen inches of chair-space with no place to put my legs for eight hours. Eight hours packed in like sardines. And being an overseas flight–in the dark. It’s enough to get me hyperventilating just thinking about it.

My amazing stepson gave me a standing offer a while back–if I ever wanted to fly, he’d get me an upgrade to business class. I called him. It’s all set. My own bed! My own cubby! Restaurant quality meal, including an ice-cream sundae if I want it, movies. This, I can do. I called my parents and told them we’re in.


Why wasn’t I feeling it? I’ve never been to France or flown first class. A river cruise through the country, then a few days on the Riviera, in Cannes? Two weeks in Europe? Of course I’m excited. Something kept niggling at me, and it manifested in a single thought and instant shame–We never could have done this before Chris died.

Ker-pow. Right to the gut. Like the fear of finding him dead no longer hangs over me, so too has the fear of traveling too distantly lifted. And that makes me feel terrible in ways I can’t describe.

There was a brief time when I thought he was ok–really ok. I wrote about it here on this blog only a few months prior to his death. I believed he was going to finally start living the life he worked so hard to have. I believed we would no longer live anticipating the next catastrophe. Through earlier years, we’d learned not to travel too far. Frank and I had to drive home through the night more than once because he was in crisis. It hadn’t happened in a long while, but until he moved out and seemed to be on his way in his own life, we were prepared for that mad dash if ever we did go away.

Friends tease us for always going to the same restaurant in town every weekend. Well, first of all, we love it. If I’m going out to eat, the food has to be better than I can make it. They treat us like family there. But that’s not the only reason we went there most Saturdays since it first opened. It’s close. Chris spent too many lonely weekends home alone. We had to walk that line between being with him and keeping our date nights–for us, yes, but also so he didn’t have the guilt of ruining our evenings alongside the loneliness. I’m not sure we succeeded in that, because while we did go out, the cell phone sat on the table with us, just in case. I always found a reason to text him. Did he want us to bring food home for him? How about dessert? And instead of going to the movies afterwards, which is what we’d always done before, we’d come home and watch a movie with him.

My life, our lives, revolved around Chris. There were things we didn’t do because we didn’t want to leave him. That was a rock and a hard place, because leaving him left him vulnerable and lonelier than ever, but sticking close made him feel bad. There was no right choice, so we made the one we could live with. During the ten months prior to his death, Frank and I learned to let go of that fear. He was fine. Happy. Social. He enjoyed the freedom of being home alone. Then he moved out and “empty nest” became a thing of beauty I truly loved.

Empty nest has a totally different meaning for me now. I can’t love it any more. It implies things I can’t even think about, and hurts too deep down in my soul. But I do have to find a way to let go of the life that existed before Chris died. All of it. It’s gone. I have to learn to live without his smile, his hugs, hearing him sing his heart out. And I have to find it in me to embrace the peace that comes of knowing not only is he free of all that mental and physical pain, so am I.


Filed under Family

The Sorrow and the Joy

In a recent email conversation, author and friend Stephen Graham King sent me this quote he once found on a chalkboard years ago, and remembered:

“The most helpful discovery of today has been that right in the midst of my sorrows, there is always room for joy. Joy and sorrow are sisters, they live in the same house.” Macrina Wiederkehr (The Song of the Seed, A Monastic Way of Tending the Soul)

Simple and true. A lesson that took all I am to learn, after Brian died. There was joy–my son, Scott, was born a month later. Jamie went from adorable toddler to precocious little girl. Scottie did all those infant firsts. I don’t remember much of it. I lived in a black hole for the first full year after my husband’s death. Climbing out of it was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I learned the lesson well. I came to understand about those sisters, Sorrow and Joy.

Tangling with the immense sorrow in my life right now are so many joys that I refuse to allow sorrow to dim. GrandWilliam turned four. We bought him a “Merida” bow and arrow set that he’s over the moon in love with. Watching him master it, then reenact scenes from the movie was epic. Gioia’s smile is sunshine beyond reckoning. My kids don’t like when I talk about them online, so I’ll just say the simple fact they exist is my greatest joy.

I have Frankie D, my love. Date nights or grocery shopping, there’s no one I’d rather spend time with.

I have both of my wonderful parents, a younger brother who dove 20 feet to the bottom of the Mediterranean to get me sand, a younger sister who sends me daily pictures of her dogs just to make me smile, and an older brother who is and has always been my best friend.

I have friends. Beautiful, wonderful, caring friends who truly love me.

And writing. My creative mind might only be able to focus on my own stuff right now, but it is able to focus–a joy in itself that keeps me from spiraling, from wallowing. I have a novel coming out in October with a publisher I am truly honored and thrilled to be writing for. Two  more are slated for April and October of 2016. The everyday joys that go along with edits and galleys and final proofs and covers and all the things a writer dreams of continue. I feel them. They make me happy. Life in general does. That isn’t canceling out the sorrow of Christofer’s death, but it keeps me from falling back into that black hole I will never fall into again.

And even he brings me joy, crazy as that sounds. We were close, my boy and I. Closer than most mothers and sons. I got that for twenty-five years. Some hard years, some great years, but I had them. Remembering makes me cry now, but I know from experience that it won’t always be that way.

What are your joys? Share them here or elsewhere, but share them. Joy is contagious. It seeps out into the world and makes a difference to someone, like my friend’s did yesterday, in the quote in his email.



Filed under Family

Don’t Call Them Junkies

Junkie. What does that word conjure? Need I say more? Probably not, but I will.

How dehumanizing a term, just like all the others we use to put people we don’t understand, people who make us uncomfortable, in their place. Maybe such words don’t start out that way, but it’s what they become. We get this instant image, and the cringe that goes along with it. Or the apathy. Or the disdain. Usually the disdain. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard/read something like, “He knew what he was doing when he put that needle in his arm.”

Yes. He did. He knew the horror. He knew the risk. And he did it anyway. Doesn’t that say a whole world of things that get dismissed shortly after the above is stated?

A friend recently sent me an article, and a link to a rally happening in DC this October, organized by Face Addiction. The video is compelling. After it came another video done by Chris Herren, former NBA basketball player and now a speaker for addiction recovery. I don’t agree with everything Mr. Herren advocates, but one thing he said really hit me. When he speaks to school groups, he looks out over the crowd of teens and asks, “What is it about you that you feel the need to change every Friday and Saturday night?”

This, this is the part that even within the community working so hard to combat this thing killing our loved ones gets overlooked. It is the most basic, fundamental answer necessary to change. What lies behind the choice to use drugs? Answer that, you’re on your way. Address it, you’re further. Conquer it, you’ve won.


Filed under Family