Monthly Archives: January 2016

Putting things in their places

photo 2

Seven months. Seven months. It seems impossible.Just the other day, I made him softshell crabs for dinner. And yet, it seems like he’s been gone so, so long.

We emptied his room out within the week of his death. I didn’t want to erase him from the house, (as if that were possible–he imbues every splinter, every molecule of air,) but I couldn’t bear to have it look like he’d be home any minute either. We moved his couch up from the basement–the one that was the scope of his world for months after his accident. Frank’s desk went in there. Pictures. Family Mementos. The antique table and all the games. We had it painted.

And there it stood still, a catchall for things we couldn’t deal with just yet. Not his room. Not Frank’s office. Not a game room. Just there.

The bathroom, essentially his, was the same. Stuff piled in the tub long after it was repainted. No shower curtain up. Just sinks, a toilet, and light fixtures.

I bought a new shower curtain yesterday, and put it up today. Then hung a picture, a big wooden star. It looks like a bathroom again. Frank and I also started putting his room back together. We hung pictures and rearranged the furniture so that it’s not all thrown in  haphazardly. Best of all, we hung his bows–in all states of their creation–on the wall.

photo 1

The top one is an arrow–two, in fact, from where he got a bullseye in a bullseye. If I remember correctly, it was at seventy yards. That’s where he usually shot from. Robin Hood would have been proud. That wasn’t the only time he did it, but it was the first. The rack it and the bows are lashed to? He built it as a frame to hold the bows while he varnished them. It was cathartic, putting it all together, hanging it on the wall. And not without a few tears.

This moving on thing is harder than anyone has any idea until they’re faced with doing it themselves. I’ll just leave that there now.



Filed under Uncategorized


The electrician came this morning; a man I’ve known for years.Well enough to be happy to see him; not well enough to know if he has a wife, kids, though I know he has a dog. He installed a new light fixture in the walkout basement workshop Chris built and we had enclosed properly just a few months ago.

“This is new,” he said.

“Our son built the frame and we had a roof put on recently.”

“Oh, so he can work on ATVs and stuff out here?”

“Yeah,” I said. He died last June, I didn’t say. There was no reason to. He knows me well enough to feel that instant moment of sorrow, to go home and tell his wife or dog how bad he felt, but not well enough for that information to be relevant to his world.


We planted trees for our kids in the old house on Country Farm Lane, trees grown too big in the ten years we were there to take with us when we left. Here along the river, we planted new trees. Apple trees for Scott and Chris, a Kwanzan cherry for Grace, and a Magnolia for Jamie.

In the Halloween blizzard of 2011, Gracie’s tree was damaged by branches weighed down with snow on leaves. Christofer’s toppled. Scott’s tree, that had never really thrived, held on with little damage. Jamie’s, despite all the heavy snow on leaves, held strong, the branches popping back to their places as the snow melted.

We trimmed Grace’s tree, and it looked pretty sad for a while, but even the split in the trunk healed. It flowers abundantly despite the scars spied among the foliage.

Scott’s tree continues to hang on, wiry branches stretching in every direction, but it always flowers, always bears a little fruit.

Jamie’s tree grows ever-outward. It blooms randomly throughout the year. April. July. September, I’ve even seen those fuchsia and white blooms–two, five–in January.

Christofer’s tree, we braced as upright as we could get it. The roots replanted themselves, but it never quite got back up again. It blooms profusely, and bears more apples than we can use, but it grows sideways out of the hill, reaching down instead of up.

Had I written all that into a novel, these melodramatic metaphors, it would have seemed heavy-handed. Cliche, perhaps. Even saccharine-sweet. And yet, there you have it. I couldn’t ignore the real-life symmetry, children and trees, if I wanted to.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since–ergo, this entry. Maybe it’ll stop floating through my mind now.


Filed under Family, Uncategorized

The Power (and evil) of Reviews

I’m a fortunate author. I get emails and FB messages, cards in the mail saying how much readers loved Seeking Carolina. It thrills me, every time, and is typically followed by the thought, “if only they’d put this up on Amazon, or Goodreads, that’d be really awesome.” Then I feel bad, because how greedy is that? Isn’t it extraordinary that friends, family, long-lost acquaintances, strangers would take the time to send me a personal note about how much they loved my book? Yes it is.

It bothers the crap out of me that I have to worry about such praise going up in a public venue just so the machines powering the industry can rank me, promise me visibility. It feels really wrong, and yet, without it, my future work is in jeopardy, because–as we’ve all found out somewhere along the line or the other–it’s about numbers, first and foremost.

The general population doesn’t know (and shouldn’t) much about the publishing world. I’m a “little” author. I’m not in bookstores, on talk shows, in magazines. My work is fairly invisible to the reading world at large. I blog. My publisher promotes my book on sites trafficked by romance readers. But my reach is limited. Nora Roberts doesn’t need reader reviews. I, and other small authors like me, do.

In a world where any potential publisher, agent, reader can look you up and make a judgement based on the numbers they find, the slope gets really slippery. On the one hand, I want no part of it. On the other, I have no choice but to drink the Kool-Aid. So I’m going to go out on a limb here, and ask–If you’ve read Seeking Carolina, consider putting up a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble. It matters. Thanks.

Hmmm…cherry Kool-Aid isn’t so bad. Leaves my tongue red though.




Filed under Romance

For you foodies

Oy, what I made last night. Speck e mozzarella involtini di pollo (involtini=rolled, pollo= chicken. Now doesn’t it sound way better in Italian?) It was extraordinary.

Frankie D and I visited his nephew and his family in Milford, PA last weekend. Lovely little town. It reminds me of Cape May. It also happens to be the home of Fretta’s Italian Food Specialties. The tiny store by itself is worth the trip. Drying sausage and sopressatta hanging everywhere, porcetta, scamoza, pancetta, marinara sauce, soups, pastas and more–all either house made or imported. For Frankie D, it’s better than Home Depot.

We bought a bunch of stuff, but two things smacked me in my culinary-brain–speck, and scamorza. Speck is a Tyrolean ham, a kind of super-concentrated proscuitto. Scamorza is smoked mozarella. The play of smoke and spice and sweet begged to be made into an involtini.

Involtini: I filleted the chicken nice and thin, layered the speck, then the cheese, and rolled it up nice and tight. A little egg wash, a dip in bread crumbs, and a quick fry–in olive oil, of course–just to get a crust. I put it in the oven at 375 for about forty minutes. (The Hollandaise sauce, I will admit, came from Trader Joe’s. It’s light and creamy and lemon and I’ve never made a better Hollandaise myself. Note–it would have been just as good without the sauce.)

Potatoes: russets, cubed small. Olive oil, garlic, salt and paprika. Into the oven at 375 for about an hour. Take it out, give it a stir, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Toss on a little parsley and put it back into the oven for about five minutes.

Broccoli: simple sautee in olive with garlic and salt. Make sure you get a little caramelization going.

I’m a good cook, but I have no technique training. I don’t use recipes. Every night is like an episode of Chopped, without the gross ingredients. From my first pot of sauce (gravy,) my culinary know-how has been the result of a good palate, and trial and error, same as I learned how to mother (sorry, Jamie!) write, and do just about everything I do. Sometimes my attempts end up less than stellar. And sometimes, they’re so far beyond what I ever expected, it balances the failures out. Like this one.


photo 2

Hollandaise sauce. Roasted lemon and parsley potatoes and sauteed broccoli on the side.

photo 3


Filed under Cooking

Trying again

The harder it is to get words out, the more I know I need to. I’ve started this post several times, then deleted it when it just wouldn’t happen. I almost did it again, just now, but I’m going to push through it and see what happens.

I failed. I’m a bad mother. The proof stares me in the face daily. I let one of mine die. The fact is in his empty room. In the images I’ll never get out of my head. In dreams I have no control over. A mother’s job is to keep her children safe, fed, loved. Two out of three isn’t bad, but that one I failed at? Yeah, it was the most important one.

There. I said it. Ridiculous, of course. I almost just deleted this post again; the stupidity of such a statement infuriates me. But that’s the whole point–I’ve been holding back from these pages, from writing any of this, because it causes those I love grief. It makes people uncomfortable. And yet, the more silent my sorrow, the deeper its shadows grew, the more tenacious its hooks. No one wants to be that person, the one everyone avoids because all she talks about is her grief. The person who gets so mired, her black hole just keeps getting deeper instead of less ragged. There has to be a balance between that person and the one who holds her sorrow too close. Doesn’t talk about it. Puts up a brave front. Both are in danger of letting the shadows tell lies we start to believe.

Silence killed my son. He was hurting far worse than we had any idea because he kept it to himself. Whether there’s something beyond this life and he’s having many adventures, or death is simply the end, he is no longer here with me, with us. That doesn’t mean I failed. I fought for him from the day he was conceived, fiercely. Sometimes harder than he fought for himself. I gave him everything I had. More than I ever knew I had to give. That it wasn’t enough doesn’t negate all I was able to do. I did–and continue to do–the same for all my kids. For them, it has been enough.

Modesty is for Suckers started out as a writer’s blog, and morphed when Chris died. It will be a writer’s blog, still. But my life motto isn’t just about writing. A form of modesty has kept me silent, and, like a sucker, I let it. I tag all my entries. If you get here and the content isn’t what you’re interested in, don’t feel you have to say anything. I’m not looking for anything from anyone–just a place for my voice.


Filed under Life's honest moments


I hold it true, what’er befall;

I feel it, when I sorrow most,

Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.

from: In Memorium by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Leave a comment

Filed under poetry