A Letter


Dear Mom,

It’s August now, almost four months since you left us. Typically, the heat has been stifling. Hoping the same isn’t true for you.

All summer, when memories of you brought tears, I welcomed them. They say the only way out is through, and I knew my kids were watching, so I showed them how to grieve. I cried openly; I named my feelings; we all reminisced. Surprising thing was, I found myself smiling a LOT. I was overwhelmed more by love than grief, simply grateful for the life we shared.

When I bit into the first homegrown tomato of the season, you were here with me. When the hummingbirds visited, they were your old friends. When I made the first bouquet of flowers from seeds I started last winter – the flowers I intended to be bringing to you in Personal Care – instead of feeling sad, I was grateful you’d been liberated. Relieved I didn’t have to walk down a long hallway and turn into a dark room where you “lived” with your infirmities and worries. Back then, a bouquet was a feeble gesture in the face of excruciating illness. Now the same bouquet transported me to your garden on Miller Avenue, or our mother/daughter trip to flowery Victoria, BC, or a thousand other places where you modeled treasuring the beauty in everything.

Truthfully, I was disconcerted by how often thoughts of you brought me comfort, not grief. I knew I’d get there eventually, but this seemed fast. I felt guilty over how seldom I cried and how often I smiled and laughed and just held your memory close. I worried I was disrespecting you by accepting your loss too quickly.

But maybe you made this easier for me by always talking openly about death. Maybe it was because we left nothing unsaid. Maybe it was the mercilessness of your illness. Maybe it was just how well you loved me.

The heat has been stifling, but this morning, I walked outside to a new world. The heat and humidity were gone; left was a perfect cool morning portending the new beginning of fall. I immediately thought of you and how you treasured moments like this one. How tears of awe would fill your eyes with overwhelming appreciation of the beauty of this world.

The leaves rustled on the trees. The honeybees danced in the crepe myrtle. I sat down on the stoop and cried.


Happy Anniversary (Knock on Wood)


On Monday, Rich and I celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. Part of me is totally in awe and wants to shout it from the rooftops. But I was raised Presbyterian with a minor in superstition, so even the thought of that freaks me out.

I’ll admit it: when someone on Facebook writes a gushing post about how perfect and incredible their partner is, I can’t help but think, “Who are you Continue reading

Fifty Shades of Grace


Last fall, my husband added two raised beds to our garden. As a child, Rich loved walking into his parents’ yard and eating berries plucked from their raspberry patch. He wanted to give our kids (and himself) and same experience now.

He finished the beds in October, but planned to wait until spring to plant the bushes. Every time I looked out our back windows, the empty boxes struck me as barren and ugly, so I asked if he would mind me borrowing them for the winter. I figured we could fill them with spring flower bulbs and have an abundance of easy blooms in April. I hoped that having a gorgeous crop to look forward to would help me when I inevitably struggled through the bleak months of winter. Continue reading

Flippin’ The Bird


My daughter, Jillian, adopted a conure last spring. A friend of ours was moving, and wanted to find a new home for her little parrot, and frankly I was afraid that if we didn’t take the thing, it might be set free.

Her name was Jennifer, which we changed to Bee. Her diet was mostly seeds, which we changed to healthy pellets, fresh fruits, brown rice, and vegetables.  I was a little leery of her, being a life-long dog lover, but that soon began to change as well.

When Bee met Jillian, the first thing she did was bite Jillian’s Continue reading

Rainy Day Helicopter Parenting


We’ve had an extraordinarily warm, sunny fall; so much so that it’s October 24th and I have not yet turned on the furnace. But the clouds rolled in last night, and when I flipped on the outdoor lights and opened the door to let the dogs out early this morning, our back porch was a puddle.  And the big drops were still dripping.

Scooter, our terrier mix, zipped out to run the perimeter. Millie, our big purebred, took one look at the wet and instantly decided Continue reading

Part or Whole?


Today started as a normal Monday. As I dragged my butt out of bed, the dogs danced, urging me to go directly to their food bowls. Instead, I headed for the coffeemaker. After my requisite two cups, I led the way downstairs for their breakfast. Then, since the weather was gorgeous, I went along outside while they took care of business. I sat down on a step to wait. And that’s where the normal ended.  Continue reading

Bigger than a Breadbox


My mom grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It’s located in the Laurel Highlands of western PA, 60 miles east of Pittsburgh, and was a bustling city in the mid-20th century when the Bethlehem Steel mill provided lots of jobs and kept the local economy humming.

My mom lived in Johnstown her whole life, graduating from Ferndale High School and then Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital’s School of Nursing. She worked for a short time in town, and then decided, as young women tend to do, that she needed a new adventure. So she moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

It would be hard to overstate the differences between Continue reading

Unexpected Flight


The drive to my kids’ middle school can be absolutely magical. The road hugs the side of a meandering creek, and depending on the time of year, we see some spectacular wildlife. In spring and summer, we’ve looked down the creek to see five startlingly white Snowy Egrets gathered to fish. We see Great Blue Herons camouflaged in the shallows hunting their breakfast. Perhaps most striking to me are the plain old mallard ducks, still floating in the icy waters all winter long. I see them as I drive by, in my layers of clothes, still shivering though my seat heater is blazing, and I marvel at their ability to float all winter with a soggy bottom.

Right now, late fall, is miraculous for the variety of birds we see as they pass through on their way south. I can’t name any of them, but I enjoy their variety nonetheless. Large geese walking the bank. Tiny black and white bodies bobbing on the water’s surface in impressive numbers.

Last week, I was driving to the school at what was, for me, an unusual time. It was late morning, and I was returning my son, Richie, to classes after Continue reading