Grief and Gratitude

9 08 2017

When we lose a loved one, there is an enormous hole left in our hearts – in our lives – that we know will never be repaired.  What we don’t know until it happens in us is that, while the wound  is never healed, it does get filled up with the love and support of our families and friends and even people who were strangers before we were so grievously injured.

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the day we lost our dear daughter Jessica.  The pain of that loss will always be with us, but the kindnesses shown to us every day by all of you helps keep it manageable. It keeps the rest of our lives in perspective.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating, especially today:

When we lost Jessie, we lost the person we loved the most in the world, but we did not lose the only person we loved, so we continue on. We celebrate her joyful (too short) life and we celebrate the life that we continue to live with the help, encouragement, and comfort of our friends.

Love one another.

Be kind, always. 

Don’t miss a thing life has to offer you.

Smile from your heart, like my Jessie did.



With best cousin ever, Katy Little, when they were both little.


Happy. Up to no good. Happy.

March to your own drummer – Be your own drummer!

Ready to roll with Grandma – always.

Not spoiled, just loved!


Good Form

15 04 2015

Although you’d never know it by my looks, I lift weights.  I am not very strong (yet) and I am age-flabby and a bit – ahem – on the high side of my body fat ratio goal. I do, however, remember, from thirty-odd years ago, when I was a real gym rat, how to work out.

I know the proper technique, the right exercises for each muscle group, gym etiquette – yes, there IS such a thing. I also know when someone is headed for a serious injury because they don’t know.

Such was the case a few weeks ago, when two early-teens-ers visited the weight room on spring break. They looked more like future computer geniuses than athletes. There was something about them that stirred my  mommy senses, so I kept an eye on them. It took less than two minutes for me to see they were going to hurt themselves, so I did what I had to do, even though I wasn’t at all sure how they’d take it.

“Don’t lock your elbows. You’ll damage your joints.”  I cheerfully called across the room. What I got in response was stunning. “Thank you!  Thank you for your help,”  replied the older boy, with a direct look into my eyes and an earnest braces-sparkling smile.

When their mother popped in the get them, I introduced myself and congratulated her on raising two polite young men. She smiled. “My younger son is autistic.” I knew; so was my daughter.  I seem to have radar for folks on the spectrum. I know what it is like to parent a child who is “different.”

I love the weight room.  I love the energy and inspiration that the strong and fit bring to the place. I love the determination of the beginners.

When someone who strikes us as “out of place” comes to our playground, we should try hard to fight our initial judgment – which is usually, driven by our bratty inner child who operates out of jealousy, fear, or too little coffee – uncharitable, to say the least.

Jumping to conclusions is the one exercise we all seem far too willing to do. Let’s practice good form and exercise kindness. Lots of reps. Strengthen our hearts.

Of Lions and Lambs

11 03 2015

March is a month of emotional highs and lows for me.

My mother, who is strong and healthy and happy and funny, celebrated her eighty-fifth birthday yesterday.

3-11-15 b









My sweet daughter would have been twenty-five on the first, but she’s been gone for almost five years.

3-11-15 c












To honor my Jessica, I am sharing this (just ignore the commercial lead-in) video of another child with challenges she does not deserve to have (Jessica was autistic) and let you in on some lessons I am so fortunate to have learned from the experience of mothering one of these special children.

The lessons are:

  1. Special needs kids get to do some awesome things “regular” kids don’t, but never forget all the things our special kids will NEVER be able to do, and don’t ever begrudge them a single gleeful moment.
  2. Special needs kids are capable of great joy, so never assume that “they don’t understand,” or that their feelings can’t be hurt. Every kid deserves our attention, respect, and kindness. Don’t dismiss any of them as “less than.”
  3. There are a lot of really great people in the world. Some of them are professional athletes; some are doctors; and many are the folks who work at the grocery store, live next door, or drive the trash truck.

Be nice to everyone.

Chances are most of us deserve it and, without a doubt,

ALL of us need it.

A Different Christmas Song

10 12 2014

Ho! Ho! Hum.

Everywhere I look, there is someone bemoaning the season.  Folks are out of sorts because they’re out of work, out of money, out of energy . . .

For many, just plain out of gratitude.

This will be the fifth Christmas without my beautiful Jessica. She was only twenty when she left us. She still believed in Santa Claus.

When I think of that enormous loss, the un-healable wound, I think I need a different Christmas song: Everything I Own  sounds about right. Then I remember what a magnificent gift it was to have had such a wonder-filled twenty short years.  I also remind myself that there is no going back, only going on, and that to accept the sadness but refuse all the goodness that still surrounds me is just wrong.

It stinks not to be able to fill your child’s Christmas stocking. It is lousy that you can’t get off work to visit your friends.  Things were better before you lost your job.  I don’t dismiss ANY of these kinds of problems.  I must, though, take exception to the idea that you let your holidays be defined by what you can’t do or don’t have.  In spite of the hardships, which visit every one of us, I wish you a happy season, filled with the celebration of what we DO have.

Don’t find yourself singing a different Christmas song.  Sing FA-LA-LA-LA-LA at the top of your lungs, even if your gay apparel is a few years old and your holly’s a bit wilted! Consider the people in your life who make you smile and warm your heart. Tell them.

Joy to the world.

Mom and Apple Pie

30 04 2014

Part of growing up is competing with your parents.  It’s natural. It’s also expected that, at some point, the pupil becomes the master.  This is not always the case.

My mother never liked to cook. She did it well enough, but without enthusiasm.  We ate good food, but we did not “dine,” growing up.  I, on the other hand, delight in all things gustatory. I am the queen and commander of my kitchen. I am talented, creative, fearless, and rocking excellent, when it comes to preparing deliciousness  .  .  .  but I can NOT make an apple pie that even comes close to the ones my mother (still, at age eighty-four) bakes to delicious flaky-crusted, cinnamon-perfumed, apple-y sweet perfection.


I can make perfect pie crust from scratch.  I can use the same variety of apples. I have good cinnamon.  My oven is properly calibrated.  Blueberry, pumpkin, chocolate cream, pecan, peach, coconut custard: I am the master of all these, and more, but there is something about apple pie  .  .  .  mine is very good, but never as good as Mom’s.


After years of trying, and coming up short, to recreate the perfection that is Mom’s Apple Pie, I have come to the only conclusion left to me.

She’s magic.

I’m good with that.

One of the great wonders of the world is the unending wellspring of love that pours from mothers to their children. Surely, the only explanation for that kind of emotion, the boundlessness of a mother’s heart, the ferocity of her devotion is that mothers are magic.  I don’t believe in much, but I believe my mother is magic. If you need proof, you should taste her apple pie.


The Empty Nest Hope Chest

28 08 2013

I have a charming neighbor, who has six – yes SIX – children, between the ages of 2 and 16. She’s a little bit harried. Who am I kidding, she’s meeting-herself-coming-and-going busy.  Last night, we visited while she cleared dinner plates, kissed boo boos, checked in with teens, and wrangled toddlers toward baths.

She and I have a shared love of making art, so when she mentioned that she’s been making some new craft objects, of course, I had to see them.  Wow! She’d made several gorgeous filet crochet table runners, just drop dead beautiful fine handwork. Ruefully, she placed them back into storage, telling me she doesn’t know what to do with them; she’d love to use them, but with six kids . . .

That fleeting look in her eye, that moment of dreaming of an orderly house, stain-free upholstery, and quiet relaxation at the end of the day – snapped back to reality by a crash and a wail – made me want to give her hope.  Hope.  Hope chest!

“A hope chest is what you need!” I cried, “An Empty Nest Hope Chest!”  She paused, then smiled broadly, going with me into the idea.  When we were young, we had hope chests for our first place, when we left our parents’ house.  We should have similar vessels for the things we’ll use when our children leave us for homes of their own.

Ah, the possibilities: the delicately beautiful threadwork of her crochet pieces to replace Big Bird placemats; wine glasses made of crystal instead of plastic juice glasses; books with leather bindings and endless chapters, not pop-up activity booklets.

I could see the idea had done the trick. She was still smiling faintly, when I left, dreaming of the time when she would be sitting in her orderly, quiet, perfectly lovely house . . .

Wishing her kids would visit more often.

Not Hollow Words

21 08 2013

“I know how you feel.”

These are the words I never want to say, but I must.

These are the words I never want to believe, but I must.

These are the words that, when said truthfully, mean only one thing. They mean that at least two hearts share the same gaping, gruesome, indecent, and irreparable wound.

Early this week, I learned of the tragic and untimely death of one of our neighbors’ children. The young man had been a dear and loving friend of my Jessica, who also left us far too soon.  There is nothing I can do for these parents. There is nothing anyone can do.

I know.

I know how they feel.

What I can do is to remind, encourage, exhort you – every one of you – to not miss a single chance to show love to the people who are important to you. Show love to people who need to be shown love.  Show love to yourself so you can love others.

Trust me, please. You do not want to know how surely I know this is the way to live.

I know that the loss of a love does not mean the loss of the ability to love.

My wounded but working heart goes out to all those others who truly know how it feels to lose a child.  This is my small but earnest gesture of love to you.