Life Isn’t Always Beautiful or Fair

Me and My Girls

It feels like a lifetime ago instead of 8 years. My heart aches for the loss of the beautiful soul taken way too soon. It’s hard to believe that nearly two weeks ago we lost you.

The picture above was one of those rare, magical times where we all seemed to be of the same color coordinated mind and it was too perfect not to convert into a photo op. Now I’m just grateful to have this little memento.

These women and their smiling faces held many of my cherished moments in my memory bank of a prior career. They were all smart, kind, well meaning, and with good hearts filled with kindness. They cherished their families, especially their children.

Imagine my shock when two of the ladies here (and one of the men not pictured) reached out to tell me that the lady in the white blouse standing on the far right was dead. Not only dead, but violently murdered. Shot and killed by her ex in what was being called a domestic violence case.

The response from all of us who knew and worked with her was utter devastation. What about her two young daughters who she used to bring by to show off? The ones she couldn’t stop talking about? They were her whole universe! Her reason for being. What was their world going to be without her? Weren’t they teenagers now? To lose a mom at any time is hard, but in this way during this time? My heart still bleeds for them. I can’t begin to imagine their devastation.

The news reports say she’d finally permanently broken it off and had stopped by the house one last time to get the last thing she’d left behind. Her cat. Because that was a big part of who she was. A lover of animals. She shouldn’t have lost her life.

Truth is, we all remember her ex. I remember thinking he was a bit of an ass and way too possessive. Hot headed, too. But never in a million years did I expect this. I knew they fought sometimes, but I never had any inclination that he had been this violently volatile. So many memories tumble out and I wonder what we missed and if there was anything we could’ve done that might have altered this path and then I realize that those thoughts are pointless.

Live in the here and now. Ache for those left behind, and do what you can to live life. Don’t squander it. In my own way I’ll try to do right by her girls as they deserve to be taken care of and to know that their mom was loved.

And if you are reading this and you are a victim of domestic abuse, know someone going through it, or even suspect it… PLEASE, I’m begging you, reach out for help. Call the Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or check out their website HERE!

Yeah… as if COVID, quarantine, and murder hornets weren’t enough, right? Don’t worry, I’m hurting, but ok. My support system is strong and I’m working both my day job and writing my next novel. What’s been going on in your world?

Fuck You, Cancer!

Insidious,

You sneak in,

Like a thief,

Unseen.

Entering the body,

Forcing it

To wage war on itself,

Sapping strength,

Muscle and bone,

Like a pestilence,

Stealing health.

And much needed time.

Confusion, devastation,

Questions and doubt…

“Why me, God?”

Or maybe

“Why them?”

Like a vampire,

You suck life and vitality

Leaving behind

A hollow reflection

That reverberates,

Aftershocks of destruction

To crumble

friends and families;

Those left behind,

And think you’ve won.

But that’s the battle,

Not the war.

Some things you can’t

Take.

They belong to the fighters.

The fierce warriors

Who stare you down,

Refusing to let you take

The love they give,

The life they live,

They never back down.

They fight and believe.

They are heroes,

Fortitude and fury

They battle until the body grows

Weary.

They teach…

Love, compassion,

And take back

What you sought to destroy.

For friends, family,

And mankind.

Help and hope–

To restore faith, belief,

And healing.

The beauty of sharing strength

Of loving support,

Of community and humanity,

And remind the world…

It’s not how you die

But how you LIVED!

I lost a dear childhood friend to cancer today after a 6 year battle. Even more, two amazing kids lost a mom and a loving husband lost his wife. A brother lost his baby sister and two parents lost their baby girl.

A year and a half before that, there was my father-in-law. And before that there was another few friends and an uncle…and the list goes on. Cancer has reared its nasty head in nearly everyone’s lives, but the miracle is in their relentless pursuit of life. Of living. Of never giving up, even if their bodies give out.

https://youtu.be/AHZCAcSh7ls

Lost, Broken, or Hope? Which Are You?

My heart hurts today. I just can’t sit here and say nothing. Am I the only one who feels it lately? All this hate, rage, toxicity oozing out of social media?

Can you not feel its destructiveness to your bones? I can.

There’s already so much pain and desolation and fear in the world. Must we really rabidly spew more hate into it? For the first time in a long time I hid someone’s posts from my Facebook posts from my feed because I couldn’t stand the hate messages wrapped up as “activism” anymore. Every message was filled with vitriol, spewed hate, and fanned the flames of extremist behavior while denigrating anyone who might value something other than what she believed.

I felt sad. Sorry for her. That she was so unhappy and filled with poison and looking for someone to blame. But I couldn’t be in her universe anymore. For me. I couldn’t condone her messages of verbal violence against others. That’s not a solution. That’s not helping make this world better. That’s just more of the horrible cycle of fear and hate and violence.

Listen…

I live in Florida. My heart broke for all the lost young lives. I ache for their families. It hit very close to home. The violence is not ok. I think we all agree on that. Gun control? Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. I don’t pretend to know. Do I think mental health issues play a big part in the violence of today? Absolutely. Do I think teachers should have to carry guns? No.

Billy Graham, who has been a religious leader to many, also died this this week. He lived to a ripe old age. Good for him.

Death isn’t death. Everyone finds their strength to move on from different sources, faith in God being a big one. So when I see the same people shouting hate comments at political leaders due to gun control laws, then spewing filth, nastiness, and wishing violence on a religious leader, I get sick to my stomach. I begin to wonder just how broken you are to fan more fuels of hate after such a painful week, and I walk away.

I feel sorry for the person, but I forgive them and I leave. Because I can’t be around that. I refuse to believe that the world is so broken and disgusting that it now only filled with rage and hate and finger pointing.

I don’t like people who extol hate and vicious rage. Who fan flames of doubt and violence. I may love you as a person, but it doesn’t mean I like you. Or that I’m blind to a person’s effect.

I guess what I’m asking is this… Have you considered the message you’re sending out into the world? Is it truly representative of the person you are? Are you helping to make the world a better place? What things have been hurting your heart lately? What things have given you hope or joy?

Gone; Never Forgotten…

Jonathan, circa 1988

I remember driving in to work, singing along to the radio, when the emergency interruption happened. The announcement? That a plane had just flown into the first twin tower. I got a sick feeling in my gut.

I pulled into the parking lot and rushed into work, only to be interrupted by our loss prevention guy asking if I’d heard, ifI thought it had been done on purpose. At that moment I responded with, “God, I hope so…” But that niggling feeling would go away. And then the second tower fell, the question was answered.

As it was, I’d been barely holding it together before the towers. I was reflective; missing my baby brother who died in August of 1988. His birthday? September 11.

So on this day I miss him, I grieve with our country, and I wonder who he’d have been…

Thankfully, in a couple of days I’ll have something to celebrate….


My anniversary is coming up!

Life Lessons in Losing and Loss

Steps

Losing and Loss. Both can teach such strong lessons. But what we learn is entirely up to us. How we choose to view these potentially defining moments.

For example, Derek Redmond, a runner in the Barcelona Olympics was supposed to be a shoe in to win the gold, but the unexpected happened….

Imagine training your whole life for this one moment, and then something like that. I remember the first time I saw this… I knew it was a hammy. I’m pretty sure he did, too.

But he also knew he had a choice. What would you have done?

What he did blew my mind and had me in tears, applauding his courage.

His father ran out to him. (Yeah, that was his dad…who, in today’s world would’ve probably landed himself in jail at the very least for interrupting a sporting event.) He asked him what he wanted to do. At that point, there would’ve been no shame in giving up. But he didn’t come to the Olympics to give up! He may not have won, but he finished. And he had his father, who held off all the officials who tried to stop him, and the crowd supporting him.

In my book, that choice he made in what had to be one of the most devastating moments of his life, made him a winner. And someone to look up to.

And when it comes to loss, we have choices, too. Nothing has brought that home, lately, quite the way the attacks on Paris have. And yet, through the fear and terror…people reached out. Despite the danger, people reached out via Twitter to let others who were stranded and with nowhere to go where they could find a safe place, an open door.

The rest of us watched in both horror and heartache, offering what comfort we could by letting Paris know, much like they’ve supported us through some of our hardest times in history, that our hearts and thoughts were with them. We put up pictures and banners on Facebook, hoping to let them know we stood by them.

There was courage and friendship and unity. In that moment, it was all about love and support…as it should have been. (Unfortunately, that didn’t last, but that’s all about hate and politics, which I choose not to give a foot hold on my blog.)

I think we were all praying this sort of prayer for those stranded…. (I thought it appropriate to select a song from Les Miserables).

And in honor of all our French friends and allies… How awesome that this scene in Casablanca was already there for them when we needed a reminder that freedom requires folks to stand up and protect it?

So that’s what’s been on my mind lately… What about you?

Thankful and Thoughtful

Today I’m Thankful. For friends. For family. For freedom. For success.

And for heartbreaks. And losses.

Because they gave me a chance to experience the love and friendship that came before.

This last week I lost a close personal friend. It was unexpected. Came out of nowhere. I stood up in her wedding. She was only 30. She was one of those people who asked me for sex advice. Who laughed and flirted with me. Who I Dommed, just a little bit…all for fun. She’d come to my pleasure parties. In fact, I threw her a pleasure party before she got married because she had a dear, adventurous heart and wanted a sex swing. But at the core of it all, we were friends of the heart.

I was a mentor for her professionally. She was a supportive friend. We shared a passion for dogs. Talked about arranging a play date for our girls. Sadly, it never happened, and now it never will. Life happening, and us not spending as much time together as I’d have liked are my big regrets. But she lived big and loved bigger, so I’m thankful for the time I had with her.

I’ll never forget her. And I know she’s smiling down at me as I remember our shared laughter and the irreplaceable moments. We had a friendship that lasted a lifetime.

I’m also thrilled and thankful to announce that I’m sharing a part of myself in one of the coolest projects with one of the most amazing people I have the pleasure of knowing.

Yep! I’m finally announcing my super secret surprise.

August McLaughlin, the host of Girl Boner radio and author of suspense thriller, In Her Shadow, invited me  along with several other authors and experts to contribute to  a project of love.

Embraceable
This book, all about empowerment and strength, will be coming out soon. Isn’t the cover charming? To read more about the book and the various contributors, CLICK HERE! If you’d like to help spread the word and join in the blog tour for the book, click there, too. The way to sign up is there, too.

Finally, I’m also thankful for my newest nephew who, after a scary introduction into the world, is thriving. My sister was due to have her first child this May. He actually arrived much earlier… Like. February. He was in the NICU for a long time as he was a micro premie, born at 1.5 lbs. It was a scary time for our family, and was the beginning of my radio silence. These days, though, he’s a ray of sunshine and a ball of energy…and enjoying his first snowfall. I’m sure my brother is looking down from heaven, enjoying his nephew’s laughter and grins.

So, despite all the craziness and challenges…. I’m both thankful and blessed. God is good, and I have faith that he has a plan. I just don’t know what it is. 😉

What are you grateful for?

Tomato Power

If you thought I’d be talking about the health benefits of the tomato, you’ve come to the wrong place. Instead, I’m going to be showing a little love to the badass women of country music. Why? Because a few days ago an industry “expert” basically said that the way to have a successful country radio station was to play less music by female artists. In fact, he referred to them as the tomatoes in the salad, and males as the lettuce.

Not gonna lie, I almost threw down a Cheeseburger in Paradise reference (you know, I like mine with lettuce and tomato), but instead I thought I’d share some responses from some kickass female artists. Here’s Miranda Lambert, taking to Twitter and posting Keith Hill up on his BS:

 And if you don’t know what makes Miranda awesome, how about a bit of the power and emotion she brings into her songs… Tell me this song doesn’t tug at the heartstrings and nostalgic memories.
Yup. Tomatoes. For sure.
And then there’s one of my all time favorites, Martina McBride (Click her name to get to her FB page and see the rest of her statement.):

Wow…..just wow. Just read this from a major country radio publication. How do you feel about this statement? I…

Posted by Martina McBride on Tuesday, May 26, 2015

This one’s a Tomato for sure. I mean, who can relate to a message of love from parent to child? Who on EARTH would want to hear THAT?

Here are a few more Tomatoes….

Trisha Yearwood, who wraps her voice around your heart and squeezes

The double tomato of Reba McEntire and Linda Davis (Hillary Scott from Lady Antebellum’s mom) from back in the day.

Or this old school/new school Tomato combo of Dolly and Carrie Underwood.

I’m also pretty sure the legendary Patsy Cline would be shocked to hear her music has been relegated to “Tomatoes.”

I’m not gonna lie, ya’ll know I have a quirky sense of humor. I almost made a Cheeseburger in Paradise reference (you know, “I like mine with lettuce and tomato”), but decided instead to focus on my love of tomatoes. To be honest, I can’t eat lettuce as a standalone, but tomatoes? Love ’em!

So what I’d really like you guys to do is to share your love of country tomatoes by leaving a Twitter link to some of your favorite “Tomatoes” songs and/or artists. I’d also love to hear why you love the artist or song you share….

The Final Goodbye (A #MemorialDay Story)

By U.S. Navy photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Navy photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I wrote this story a while back to honor those our country has lost defending our freedoms, and it seemed only right I share it again this weekend.

The Final Goodbye

He stood alone. As he gazed out at the white crosses that covered the beautifully manicured lawn he felt the weight of his 48 years drag his shoulders down in a way he never had before. It had been a long time since he’d been back to this place, and he’d hoped to never return.

“A parent should never outlive his child.” Grief scratching at his throat.

He blinked back tears that stubbornly refused to fall. Part of him clung to the image he had in his mind’s eye. Full of laughter and vitality, that precious dark head bent over to kiss his young wife’s distended belly, before he turned around to say goodbye. David promised to come home soon.

He shook his head as the pain threatened to suffocate him. Not like this. This had to be a bad dream. He just needed to wake up and everything would be okay again. Unfortunately, the folded triangle of fabric pressed tightly to his chest told him everything was all too real.

His bowed his head, fingers digging into the precious flag. Alone with his grief he dropped to his knees and cried out to the only person who could hear him.

“God, if you’re listening…this is too much. Almost more pain than I can bear! My boy was a good son, a great husband. He was going to be a great father. He loved you. Loved this country. He wanted so badly to follow in his grandpa’s footsteps. Did you really have to take him, too?”

The hand on his shoulder felt familiar. It had been decades since he’d experienced that touch. He looked up to find his father standing beside him. He wore the same dress blues he’d been buried in 40 years ago and he hadn’t aged a day.

“Dad…” he choked out, blinking, sure this was some sort of hallucination.

There was a wealth of understanding and regret in his father’s eyes. “Hello, son.”

“I’m finally losing it, right? Hallucinating? A psychotic break caused by grief and stress?”

“No, son. You’re not. God heard you…. So did I. We’ve never been far away. When you called out, I asked him to let me go to you.”

Although none of this seemed real, he decided to go with it. Maybe he was dreaming. What harm could it do?

“It’s all so damned unfair, Dad!” he railed. “First you, then my son? Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of him. Proud of you… But did the price have to be so high?”

His father wrapped strong arms around him, something he’d missed most of his life. He soaked in the comfort, gaining some strength before he let go. With a bolstering breath, he straightened his spine, threw his shoulders back and raised his head.

“I’m proud of you, you know.” His father looked at him with the same piercing blue eyes as his son. “I’ve watched you grow into a strong, honorable man. I know it wasn’t easy for you to let David join the service. After the way you lost me, it would have been all too easy to encourage him to go a different direction.”

“It wouldn’t have been right. Being a soldier was all he ever wanted.” He shrugged, his smile, bittersweet. “To be a hero, just like his Grandpa.”

“It may have served you better not to paint me with such a heroic brush,” his father laughed. “I appreciate that, by the way. The way you kept me alive in your heart. The way you shared me with your family. It meant everything to me.”

The man shook his head. “I didn’t do anything all that special.”

“Yes you did,” his father smiled. “It may seem like nothing to you, but it’s what gave your son the courage to chase his dream. He knew the danger, but he also saw your gift. When his number was called, he didn’t worry. His son and wife are in good hands with you. He knows you’ll keep his memory alive, just like you did for me.”

“You’ve seen my David?” Tears finally flowed, unchecked.

His father nodded. “Of course. You didn’t think I’d let your son get to heaven without a welcome party, did you?”

“He’s okay? My boy. You’ll look out for him, Dad?”

“Of course.” His father nodded his head. “He’ll be loved. Surrounded by family, both military and kin.”

With one more shuddering breath, he clasped his father’s hand and squeezed.

“Tell him, Dad.” He bit his lip as his voice broke. “Tell him I’ll watch over his family down here. I know he’ll be watching out for them with you. And please, tell him I’m so proud of him.”

“I will.” His father smiled one last time before fading away.

As he stood, gazing out at all the soldiers that came before, he could have sworn he heard David’s voice on the gentle breeze.

“I love you, Dad.”

Squeezing the flag to his chest, he nodded.

“I love you, too, son. I’m proud of you.”

Paying My Respects to #JimmyMcIver this Holiday Season

Ever meet someone and felt fortunate to know them? That was my friend Jimmy McIver. Thanks to my passion for poetry and music, Ande Lyons introduced me to this fun, fabulous soul via Twitter. It wasn’t long till we were sharing poetry via email. He called his “Cowboy” poetry. They had that authentic, old range cowboy feel to them…including inflections, and they were terrific. I’ll cherish them and our chats about our shared art.

He also shared music with many of us, causing us to refer to ourselves as “Jimmy’s Ladies.” The conversations ran from encouraging to hilarious, to a bit off color, but regardless, they were always entertaining. Imagine our sorrow and disappointment when we saw the following message….

Jimmy

He was always so kind and cheerful that many of us probably thought we’d have him to enjoy forever…. God had other plans, and he was called “Home.” I thought it was appropriate for my daily holiday song this month to be a country one, because that was his favorite…and he always got a kick out of challenging my knowledge.

One day we’ll all be called home, so I hope ya’ll appreciate my choice. And for those of you missing someone special this holiday season, please know I’m giving you a big virtual hug.

Life is Short. Live it Well!

live_laugh_love_quote-2325Yesterday I received the news that an old friend and mentor passed away. She was 66 years older. For a moment, sadness overwhelmed me. But only for a moment. It was hard to be completely sad when I knew just how passionately she lived her life.

Truth was, when I met her she’d just come back from being on leave. She’d battled cancer and was on her way back. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the brightly colored scarf wrapped around her head, I would never have known. She was bright, vivid, and vivacious. She attacked life. She always had an ear for anyone who needed it. She played as hard as she worked, and she always made sure to recognize and acknowledge a job well done in an industry where criticism came more frequently than praise.

So how could I be sad? The party in heaven just got a little wilder. To honor her, I’m going to share a few songs that I feel exemplified the way she lived her life.

Bare Naked Ladies were one of her favorite bands. I remember carpooling together to Orlando and listening to their music the entire ride up, laughing and talking and generally enjoying each other’s company.

Remember the way I said she grabbed life? This song was more than a philosophy for her.

She marched to the beat of her own drummer and encouraged those around her to do the same…

And she was definitely always the life of the party (with a vial of Visine in her purse to cover up the red eye giveaway if we had to be up early the next morning).

Yeah, it goes without saying that I was honored to know her and I will cherish all the memories she left me with.