The New Hope

​This year, 2016, has been tough. And it seems it was a hard year for many people. It seemed as if life imitated art as I read how many of my friends lost friends and loved ones. It seems that this year has tested our patience, our heart, our sanity and ourselves. 

But this year also had some really great moments. In my life, it started with celebrating New Years Eve in the great city of New Orleans with my man. Then there was prepping for the sibling reunion, all the hard work, and the new connections it would bring. What a wonderful weekend. 

Four weeks later, we would loose my beautiful mother. Words cannot describe. The amount of love and support from my family, my friends and my boyfriends amazing family has been truly a miracle that brightened dark days.  

Dad moved in and again life forever changed.  We moved forward with his liver cancer treatments. Two moves plus moving Dad in and putting their place up for sale. Fumbling though being a caregiver, Dad having a serious fall then recovering in rehab over Christmas were a few challenges. 

Then the start of a new job with a fantastic company. A girls trip with my three soul mate sisters, a cruise with a close friend and her daughter, and so much more happened this year, that it would take another year to write. Finding my inner strength was essential, my own voice in a sea of extranious noise. 

My hope for 2017 is to transform the struggles of 2016 into a life so spectacular that it lights up the whole world. To turn all that pain into power, to harness the strength of survival and channel it into love so pure, that it fills the cracks deep within and heals the broken parts of myself.


We did it. We survived our first Christmas without you. It was hard. Then it was OK. And there were moments of true joy. And then moments where my heart felt it would burst. Through it all you were in our hearts, and I think whispering around us, in the warm breeze, in the sounds of the birds and in the spirit of Christmas. I could feel you close, even if not able to touch you. We will be OK. You made sure we were strong. We will continue to move forward every day and make you proud by finding beauty in this world and many reasons to smile. Love and miss you always Mom. – Me

We all have hard times that we have to get through.  And some are harder than others. This was a tough one.  This was a big one.  What do you do when these times come about?  I don’t know.  My guess, or at least what seems to work for me, is just putting my head down and get through it.  I am not sure that there is a formula for getting through the hard parts.  I know that is not the popular thing to say, as many writers have made millions writing thousands of books on how to get through it.  The secret – It’s just time.  You put one foot in front of the other and take many, many baby steps.  And after time, a lot of time, you look back and see how many miles further you have traveled.

I received many messages of love and support about how hard this first Christmas without Mom would be,  And it was; there were moments that were brutal. I have always said that my life is like a sitcom, but this Christmas was more like a dramedy…Dad took a bad fall and had to be in a rehab facility building up his strength during Christmas.  But we were allowed to sign him bust him out for Christmas.  Never did I think I would be spring my Dad out of rehab for Christmas, but I live for adventure. And I have never seen anyone so excited to be home.

Christmas Eve, after everyone went to bed, I sat on the couch sobbing while looking at the beautiful Christmas tree, wishing, hoping, aching, for my Mother.  I cried for everything I have lost and would never have again.  I mourned the things that we would never do together, my mother and me.  The gifts not bought, cards not given, and adventures not to be had. And I fell asleep for a bit, there on the couch, by the tree with so many of her ornaments.  And I thought I felt her arms around me, heard her voice whisper on my ear. And I woke up feeling very loved.

And there were moments when Joy came in, like the sun breaking through the clouds.  Christmas morning came and there were gifts and smiles and so much love.  Seeing Dad excited, looking at all wrapping and bows and ribbons.  Unwrapping everything with childlike enthusiasm.  And my wonderful man, our second Christmas together, much different than we thought it would be. Watching them both get gifts that they loved. And there were Christmas carols, and the Christmas movies, and Christmas stockings, and then…Christmas dinner.

And I swear I could hear her laughing and see her smiling.  She loved Christmas. And at that moment I knew.  We were going to be OK.  We had finally turned a corner in this thing called grief.  We got thought it, we survived. We laughed and cried and remembered.  And at the end of the day, we were all OK.  And that’s the thing about love and grief.  Even when you feel like it is going to kill you, it really doesn’t.

Today it has been six months since Mom went into the hospital for her procedure.  I met her at the hospital to stay with her so she wouldn’t be alone.  The time spent with her then in priceless.  And we just had Christmas.  And finally, FINALLY, the sadness is not overwhelming. And I think she would be proud.

I looked at pictures of my mother from several years ago when she was still happy and healthy.  She was so beautiful. Always smiling with that mischievous look in her eye.  I had forgotten what that smile looked like, she had been tired for so long by the time she passed.  I choose to remember her that way – beautiful, happy, smiling, free.

And finally I can smile.

The Visit

I drove my father to see his remaining older siblings over the Thanksgiving holiday.  It was a long drive but very much worth it.  Out first stop was Dad’s 93 year old sister.  She is the oldest of them and has been the matriarch of the family since their mother’s death long ago.   It was great to not only see her, but see Dad with her as the two if them had a chance to talk and catch up.

This was the fist time I had the chance to see just the two of them together.  Usually seeing her is reserved for family reunions when many others are around.  I might get a glimpse or two of a conversation between the two of them, but not much more than that.  It was interesting to see the dynamic between these two, and one could defiantly tell that she was the oldest.

It was so sweet to see Dad tell her about what life had been like since Mom’s passing, and her gently saying things to console him.  And then she would give advice as the older and wiser of the two.  One of the things she said has stuck with me.  When Dad was telling her about all the changes in his life – moving twice, learning a new area, figuring life out now as a widower and how much he wished could keep the family compound but it was just too much for him to keep up himself.  She wisely smiled and said  “Yes, but life changes and you must change.”

She lost her husband several years ago and now lives in an assisted living place where she is very happy.  She talked to Dad about how she too had felt the same way but now things are much easier.  That part of her life was over, and she had change too.  She talked about finding comfort in that acceptance. The way she phrased it, with a little smile, it was more poetic than melancholy.  The acceptance of change and going with it. While Dad does not need assisted living, he understood the message.

And indeed there is a beauty in the simplicity.  Life changes.  We must change too. Circumstances and situations change.  Don’t fight it, go with it, ride the wave and go with the current and you will find safe shores.  It happens all the time – we get a new job, move to a new place, start a new relationship, start a family, start a new personal journey.  Our lives are spent adapting to life’s changes.  And life is beautiful.

Life may never be the same, and it is not always easy.  But what we need is often just on the other side of change. The change of seasons brings the colors of the leaves, and we can choose to celebrate the beauty. Little did my aunt know that she was giving advice to me too.  Or maybe is all her years and wisdom, she knew. Maybe what was in that smile was knowing she was giving advice to two during the visit.























The Glamorous Life

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. – Ernest Hemingway

One of the things I have heard over and over in writing is write what you know; write from the heart.  And I do believe in this when it comes to not only my writing, but others as well.  I write for myself, because these things must come out.  I write because it is in my soul.

Recently my writing has not been glamorous. It has been about pain and grief and confusion and finding your way. Because right now, in this moment, that is what I know.  And that is the thing about life, many times it isn’t glamorous. Many times we are just trying to get through it the best we can.  And those bad times do not last.  Whatever it is, it will not be like this 10 year from now, or 5 years, or 1 year or even 6 months from now.

This space, this pen on paper or words on the screen, is a safe and cathartic place. So it pours out of me in all of it’s raw, unglamorous and unpolished glory.

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader – not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. – E. L. Doctorow

When you write from the heart, others will connect with it.  Because you cannot hide the emotion or passion. Or comes out not only in the words, but in the flow and rhythm of the writing.  It cannot be faked or taught.  It just is. And to me, as a writer, that part of the process is sacred.

The best compliment anyone could give me is that my writing made them feel something, made them think. Because the glamorous life is wonderful, but cannot be sustained. We all love to read about exotic travels and adventures. I hope to have some soon. But sometimes real life gets in the way.  Real emotion.

I never understood how the holidays could possibly be a hard time for anyone. It is such a festive happy time.  A time of celebration, giving, and family.  But now after suffering loss, I do understand.  While I still love the holidays, there is an acute awareness now of all those who not with me.  Next year will not be as hard.

No one promised us an easy life, and there will always be tough times here and there.  The secret is reaching deep down into yourself.  It’s about tapping the joy and strength that is  within, where the soul meets the heart.

It is about finding what inspires you, even when it is dark inside.

And it is about being still and listening to the whisper of God’s voice.  At least it is for me.

So it’s not glamorous right now.  But it is real and it is what I know and it is from the heart.  And the heart, no matter how ragged, never looses it’s shine.

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

Winter Camp

Life is a learning experience. And sometimes you just have to find the humor and laugh a bit. I found this moment when getting my father’s things together for him to go to the senior rehabilitation facility.  Since he will be there a few weeks, they had a list of things to make sure he brought with him.

I think I must now know what parents go through when preparing their child for summer camp.  I went in his closet and gathered everything I thought he might need. And he definitely has the closet of a man who has lived in South Georgia.  It’s is 35 outside and he has 4 sweaters.  I had to dig in the bottom of a back drawer to find the thermals and a few sweatshirts.  (Santa will be bringing him warm clothes this year…).  His favorite blanket, pillow, glasses, house slippers all added to the pile.

But before any of those items can make it to his room, they must all be labeled.  So I got out the trusty marker and wrote his name on everything.  This is definitely like summer camp.  He gets fed three times a day.  They have activities for him to do.  There are doctors and nurses on staff.  They make sure he is not bored and stays busy.  He gets to meet new friends…

Then I go down the list admittance gave me …Underwear, check.  Shirts, check.  Pants and jeans, check.  House shoes, check.  Tennis shoes…um??  He is 80, he doesn’t wear tennis shoes.  And sweat pants for him to work out in?  Oh, dear…I saw a trip to the store in the near future.

While at the store I fought back the mischievous urge to buy the flashy fluorescent colored tennis shoes and went with the more sensible looking ones.  Only to have to return them because they were the wrong size.  Only to have to return them again because his feet were swollen and he needed a larger size. He now has some jazzy new sweat pants and matching shirts.  No doubt he will be stylin’ and profilin’ in the physical therapy gym. All he needs now is a great pair of sunglasses.  And he is scheduled for a hair cut and shave later today.

I have noticed that he is in the sweat pants all the time now when I go see him.  He may never wear jeans again. At some point when I visit him I am fully expecting to hear ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man playing in the background as he walks down the hallway.

Yes, he is a man on a mission; that mission being to work hard and get strong enough to come home.  Until then he will be whooping it up at Winter Camp.




Limits of Faith and Hope

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. – Mother Teresa

We all have those times when life can get tough and very interesting.  Not necessarily in that order. Starting last Monday, life has been an experience in both.  My wonderful father took a bad fall and spent a few hours on the floor.  I found out about this when I came home early from work to take him to a doctor’s appointment.  Upon the advice of said doctor, I took him to the emergency room.

When I was younger I used to wonder how a fall could be so serious.  When you are older and not as strong or as coordinated as before, when bones are brittle, things can go downhill fast.  No broken bones, but he did have a badly bruised liver.  When you already have liver cancer, as he does, that can be very serious.

Very weak and shaky, Dad required critical 24-hour care for many nights, and still does to a large extent.  Days and nights spent with him at the hospital, talking with doctors, nurses, social workers and such.  Deciding what makes sense and what doesn’t. Keeping a loved one company, helping them eat, drink and be comfortable.  I was exhausted, but having a better time than he.

After several days in the hospital, he was cleared to go to a rehab facility.

Rehabilitation. Every time I here that word I think of the catchy Amy Winehouse song.  And the nurses must have thought I was a bit crazy as I sang the song under my breath.  It’s the little things.

But  this is physical rehab, though probably no less grueling.  After being reassured that he was only going to spend a few weeks there, Dad was happy to go.  And the place is the best in the state.  We are so blessed – the staff at the hospital where he was first admitted worked tirelessly to get him in. He will have full physical and occupational therapy, as well as emotional.  They treat the entire being, not just one aspect.  He is next door to an award winning geriatric hospital.

And often times, when the emergency is over, we fall apart. And when I got home on Friday, after returning from the facility he is, I just sobbed.  He is OK, is will be OK.  The relief I felt was palpable.

There is no sounder sleep you will have than when you know your loved ones are safe.  And for the first time in a while, I slept without worry:  He is surrounded by very qualified people.  He is being well looked after.  He is comfortable and is actually enjoying the facility. He will get stronger there and be able to return to life as normal.  But it has been hard getting to this point.

A friend of mine reminded me that when things like this happen, you have to look at it upside down.  God works in mysterious ways and to truly have faith in the process.  But that can be hard.  That is when you just have to put on the gloves and hold on tight to the rope, because it is going to be quite a ride.  And yet, still know when to let go and trust.  Sounds like a paradox?  It is.  But we can do it if we just have faith and trust.  Something I am working on every day.

I hold on tight to my faith and believe that this is a good thing.  That Dad will have the physical and occupational therapy that he has needed for probably over a year (he is stubborn and refused to go).  That he will have the socialization he needs with people his age.  That he will have someone who will help him to understand that is is normal to be a little depressed after you loose your wife of 49 years, move in with your bossy daughter, start a new cancer treatment and face the first holidays without your partner – all things he is dealing with but has been too stubborn to admit has him down.

And then I let go of control and know that I can relax and let them take the wheel. I let go because I have faith that God has my father in His hands and is guiding every detail of Dad’s recovery.  I let go because there are things that I have to tend to in my life.  And I let go so I can breath and take a break.  Someone else has the responsibility for the next few weeks.

Christmas and New years may be a little different this year, but we can make it work.  Knowing that Dad is getting better is cause to celebrate.  We went down and decorated his room. A Christmas tree is in the corner, stockings hang, a message that we love him.  His favorite blanket, comfy clothes, and some pictures.  We even sang some silly Christmas songs.

Yes, this is what makes life memorable.  In between the trips and glamour are the every day miracles and niceties.  The times spent with those loved. It is how loved you make others feel. It is truly what you give that makes you rich.

And in that giving, there is hope.  How much Hope can the human heart hold?  I don’t know, I’ve yet to find that limit.

The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness. It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things. – Thomas S. Monson

Oh Christmas Tree

In life there are many firsts.  Some of them good, some of them bad, some fall smack dab in the middle.  This first is bittersweet.  It is the first Christmas without my Mom.  Which means many other firsts too – the first Christmas tree without her, the first gift wrapping without her, the first year of my life that I will not be buying Christmas gifts for her.  You never realize just how many gifts that a person would enjoy until you lose them….and you still see gifts around the holidays that they would love. But somewhere along the way, you have to find more sweet than bitter if you are going to survive the holiday season.

This past weekend was time for another first. We went to pick it out, and Dad searched and found just the right tone.  I admit, I have never had a real one.  Growing up we always had an artificial Christmas tree.  This dates back to, what I have been told, the first Christmas that Mom and Dad were married.  They got a real tree, and loved it.  And then the holidays were over, and it was time to take the ornaments off and put the tree, well, whereever real trees go after Christmas.

This is where there was an impasse.  Dad firmly believed that it was the woman’s job to handle the Christmas decorations, including the disposal of the tree.  Mom felt that it was the man’s job to carry the large Christmas tree out the curb.  Both my parents are very stubborn.  Neither one was willing to budge.  And so there the Christmas tree sat, needles brown and falling off- through New Years, past Valentine’s day, and St. Patrick’s Day.  It was the Easter tree, the Maudi Grad tree…

I have been told that late in the spring, when they moved from that house, the movers finally took the tree and put in on the curb.  Thus there were no more live Christmas trees.

Until now.

So we went to the nursery and  found the perfect 8ft Christmas tree. And it does indeed smell wonderful.  And we have been decorating it a little each night.  And that is the hard part.  Because my mother collected Christmas ornaments for over 40 years.   And now I have them.  And they are wonderful and beautiful and amazing and make me feel close to her….but they also make me aware that she is not here. She Loved Christmas

I sobbed while hanging the first few ornaments on the tree. It was surprising how hard it was to see these glistening ornaments, some I remember as a child and was not allowed to touch (Small klutzy child + delicate ornaments = disaster). There were all the angels, and animals and Christmas mice, and even the cute little Christmas Octopus ornament (I bought that one for her).  There was the little sequin drum that she made with my sister and cousin.  There was the ball with the cork oriental building inside. There was the Christmas Skunk ornament (it sounds weird, but is really cute).

And there was putting up her absolute favorite Christmas display – the nativity.  It is a sight to see.  While it is not an ornament on the tree, it is a display that was very close to her heart.

Slowly, as each ornament is hung, and each display or decoration is arranged, and the tree  glistens with its lights, it gets just a tiny bit easier.  Because I do feel like she is near.  And because she did love Christmas.

And so as I smell the scent of the tree, and see her ornaments hanging, I find the sweet in the bitter. I find the comfort in the quiet glow of the lights and the soft sound of Christmas carols…I miss her so very much, but know somehow, someway, she and Santa are having a great conversation. I hope she puts in a good word for me.

Season of Thoughts

To Wear it well

We must let go of the life that we planned so as to accept the life that is waiting for us. – Joseph Campbell

This is the time of year of festivities. Parties, gifts and resolutions.  And it is usually about this time of year that in addition to enjoying all that this happy season will bring, I start thinking about what I want to accomplish next year.

Most of the time, the things on my list are the usual:  Travel more, spend less, smile more, loose that 10 lbs that has been on my hips for the last 5 years. For this next year though it is quite different.  My goal for next year is quite simple: To wear it well.

I want simple things to not take so much energy.  Things like putting on my pants, going through daily routines…breathing.  To put it quite simply – grief is bitch.  Grief is like that bad roommate you can’t get rid of.

But the fact is that Grief will be with me for quite a while. So I must learn to wear it well.

What exactly does that mean?  It means that You hold your head high, smile anyway and get on with it.  It doesn’t mean you still don’t feel it in every part of every bone, you just don’t let it wear you, you wear it. Right now, I feel like Grief is cutting off circulation, because it is a very ill-fitting outfit that is tight in all the wrong places and loose in all the wrong spots.

From all the research I have done, grief never really leaves you. So I have to learn to wear it well. And defiantly better than I have.

Ultimately, I would like to make this grief a place from where love can grow and prosper.  I would like to make it a beautiful garden of compassion and goodness. I want to do more than wear it well; if it has to be with me for my life, then I want it to make me a better person. I just don’t know how to get there yet.

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. – Rumi


The Smell of It

As a parent, it’s my responsibility to equip my child to do this – to grieve when grief is necessary and to realize that life is still profoundly beautiful and worth living despite the fact that we inevitably lose one another and that life ends, and we don’t know what happens after death. –  Sam Harris

It is funny the things that you miss.  And as cliché as it sounds, the laundry smelled so good when Mom did it. I never thought I would miss that smell so much. I cherish anything I find of her original laundry.   And I finally found out her secret.  I found her stash of fabric softener and smell good stuff.  The one problem?

I cannot find it in any stores here in the Atlanta area.  Seriously…in a city of millions…I can’t locate any of it.  Dad and I are both searching for it.  Where did she get this stuff?  Did she ship it in from another country?  Or planet?  Because this stuff smells like Love.

It is somewhere, and somehow I will find it and get as many bottles of it as possible.  Love in a bottle cannot be overrated, neither can the magical smell of laundry.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other. – Abraham Lincoln


Hard Candy Christmas

Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life. – Anne Roiphe

Tis the season for all the holiday festivities. It is also a very bad time for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.  And while the grief cannot be fixed or erased, we can, if we choose, still find the beauty in every day.  We can, if we choose, appreciate the happiness and joy around us, and maybe even have some of it seep in.

And so it goes this holiday season.  The Christmas tree is going up this weekend.  A big real tree.  I’ve never had a real Christmas tree but have been told that they smell wonderful.  And there will be Christmas music and carols.  And lots of Christmas lights.  We are going to see a large light display, complete with hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows by a fire afterward. The house will have a lot of Christmas decorations, some old that have been passed down to me, and some new.

This Christmas will be hard, and that cannot be changed.  It cannot be fixed.  But. But, we do not have to drown in it either.  We can still smile through tears, celebrate through grief and see joy in the world. A broken heart still beats. The world still turns and life goes on.

So, bring on the eggnog, Christmas carols and fires.  Let’s light the house up with Christmas displays.  Let the stockings be hung, the dancing Santa’s dance and the angels sing.  No doubt my mother is one of those angels now.  May we hear her voice this Christmas, and all others to come.

I think faith is incredibly important because you will become overwhelmed with what’s happening and you will have waves of grief, but when you turn to your faith, I believe God will give you waves of grace to get through it. – Joel Osteen