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?

Heart Storm

Destroyed, gutted,
Knocked down and weak.
Holding back tears,
And fighting to breathe.
Digging deep for center,
She tamps down her turmoil,
Dons a cloak of inner peace
Slides on her masquerade.
She’s fitted herself for battle,
Fierce warrior to arms,
Unaffected, not untouched,
She battles strong and true,
Sharing hope, giving strength
Even when she’s nearly empty
Unrelenting, ever protecting
Unflinching, she faces loss
Vulnerable, yet powerful
She powers on,
To be the backbone,
A pillar of strength to lean on
For those who own her heart.
She hides away,
They need not see
When she breaks,
The tsunami that sweeps through,
Wrecking her.
Standing amidst destruction
She finds renewal,
Rebuilding herself…
…to start over.

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!

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?

Left Behind

Let me go.
I’m not here…
Chase your life;
Face your fear.
Find your passion
Feed your soul,
Reach for things
That make you whole.

Celebrate
Our memory,
Of laughter, tears;
A legacy.
Embrace the joy.
Never forget;
Keep moving forward,
Let go of regret.

Honor my gift,
Cherish and share,
The joy in remembrance;
You’ll find me there.
So open your arms,
Set yourself free,
And smile when you think back
On memories of me.

It’s been a while since I’ve been on here because life kind of got away with me. But today I was inspired to write something special. Something specific.

I was at a celebration of life service today. The mother of a friend passed away, so I went to help their family honor her. It also reminded me of some of my losses, but instead of focusing on what I hoped they knew, I found myself focusing on the message I’m pretty sure they wanted those of us left behind to hear.

A lot has been going on in my universe this last year. I started a new day job; one that I love, but limits the amount of time I have for writing, but it allows me to help change people’s lives. My sister gave birth to our first nephew on my side of the family….waaaay early. There were fears that we could lose them both, but they’re both thriving these days. And then there’s the step-dad. As most of you know, he’s more a father to me than my bio dad. Keep him in your thoughts. He’s battling cancer. I effing HATE that word.

What I’m trying to say is…. Please be patient with me. I still love you guys. I’m still here. I’ve just had a lot going on…. Including a project that I can’t say anything about yet. But I will. I miss you guys.

Birthdays…

  
For me, it’s the birthdays that are hardest… Not the anniversaries of their deaths, but the celebrations of their lives…taken way too soon. 

I could drive myself crazy wondering “what if,” but what’s the point? My precious brothers were still lost to us way too soon. So I try to smile. I remember the silly moments and the laughter… Terrorizing my younger sister because that’s what siblings do.

I remember how proud Jonathan (the one in the navy shorts) was because I was the “cool” babysitter for him and his friends. The one who would pile drive or body slam them into couches.

I remember little Paul with his big voice and bigger heart. How he could charm anyone with a couple of words and a friendly smile… A joyful addition to our family, lost to us so quickly, leaving only two years of memories behind.

Today is Jonathan’s birthday… 

I wonder if he knows he has a namesake? Another beautiful angel with a warrior’s heart and a smile to melt the hardest heart. The premie miracle who battled his way into this world as a 1.5 lb. fighter, determined to prove how strong and resilient babies truly are. I’m thrilled and blessed that he’s a little tough guy and 100% healthy. He’s the pride and joy of our family… (And now over 12 lbs.)

If I seem bittersweet, just know I’m paying my respects. Remembering my brothers with love in my heart, and wishing peace and hope on this great nation.

To Honor Those Who Have Served….

I wrote this short story a couple years ago on Veterans Day. I’ve brought it back, touched it up a bit. Thank you to everyone who willingly, selflessly took on the job that so many can’t or won’t. Regardless of your roles, you are all heroes to me.

I Bled For You

He was tired. Mentally, emotionally. The weight of guilt and grief and anger were a heavy mantle around his shoulders. Today, when his little girl came home in tears because of him, had been more than he could take. Feeling like a failure, he’d gotten into his car and drove.

Pete knew he should have probably let his wife know he was leaving. She would worry. She was a good wife. A better mother. She didn’t deserve all the hardships and sacrifices she’d been forced to face, mostly alone. He just couldn’t help himself. After looking down into his 6 year old’s tear stained face and coaxing the story out of her, he’d needed an escape. He didn’t want her to see the rage that was floating close to the surface.

Looking around, he found himself in the middle of nowhere. Up ahead, to the right, there was what looked like an old abandoned church. The tiny building with its dark wooden doors flung open seemed to beckon him from the road. As he pulled up and put his car into park he noticed the decay. Tall weeds surrounded the building everywhere except along the rubble path and the steps made of carved gray stone. The white paint curled and chipped with heat and age.

Stepping out of his vehicle he looked up at the little cross at the steeple. He walked carefully up the steps noting the cobwebs in the corners of the door jams. Although the doors were open with welcome, it was obvious to him that no one had been here in a long time.

He contemplated the dark, scarred wood that made up the cross in the front of the sanctuary. His feet led him forward, down the aisle. Stopping at the second pew, he glanced down. They were in good condition.

“What the heck,” he thought to himself as he sat down, “I’ve got nowhere to go anyway.”

Gazing up at that cross he started talking.

“I didn’t ask for this war. I believe in this country and what it stands for. I enlisted hoping to better myself. To make a difference. I wanted to provide a better life for my wife and my daughter.”

He laughed bitterly. “Little good that had done,” he thought. That same little girl that he’d wanted to give the world to, whose birth he’d missed because he’d been deployed, was the same adorable face that had looked up at him, eyes swimming in tears.

“Excuse me for interrupting, but it sounds like you’re having a crisis of faith, son,” a voice came from beside him.

Looking over, he saw a gentleman sitting beside him. He had been so lost in his thoughts that he never even heard the man join him. In coveralls, little chips of wood and sawdust in his dark brown hair and clothing, the man was fairly nondescript. Pete figured he was probably a carpenter.

He tried for a friendly smile, but only succeeded with a grimace, “It’s been a rough day.” He snorted softly as he rolled his eyes, “Who am I kidding? It’s been a rough few years.”

“Care to talk about it?” The man asked warmly. “Sometimes it helps to tell a stranger.”

Pete didn’t trust easily, especially after the welcome he’d received when he’d gotten home from overseas. This war was doing some crazy things to this country he loved so much. Something about this man called to him.

He found himself speaking, “My six year old came home from school today, crying.”

He swallowed hard, blinking back tears of his own as her precious face swam into his memory, “She was playing with the neighbor kids in their yard when she overheard a couple of the parents talking. One of the parents said that they thought it was ridiculous that we were even in this war. That our soldiers were out there murdering innocent people for a selfish cause that nobody agreed with. As other parents nodded agreement someone else added that they couldn’t believe that soldiers just went along with it. According to these people I should have voiced my disagreement and insisted on coming home.”

Pete ran his fingers through his razor short hair and looked into the sympathetic brown eyes. “They never considered the damage their hurtful words would do to those innocent six year old ears.”

He huffed out a breath, “Who am I kidding? I doubt they even cared. I came home from the war to be greeted by picketers, hate and angry words. Why should they care about how their words affect my wife and daughter?”

“Only your wife and daughter?” The man beside him asked, eyebrow raised in a very astute question.

“No,” Pete answered. “Not just them. I left today because I was so filled with hurt and rage. I didn’t even tell my wife I was leaving. She’s probably worried sick. I didn’t want them to see me that way! I feel betrayed! I serve for love of those same people who hurt my daughter. Who mocked my trip home. I’ve done it so they can enjoy their lives. Enjoy their freedoms. They don’t know. They have no idea what I’ve seen. What I’ve heard so that they can taunt me and make my daughter cry. I still hear the explosions in my head. The screams and chaos that follows never quite go away. I carry it all with me. In my heart. Scarred on my soul.”

He looked at the kindly stranger whose face was filled with such understanding, “Part of me wants to scream at them. I bled for you. I died a bit for you. Don’t you see I do this for you? How can you turn away from me so completely? How can you make my wife and child so sad for love of me?”

The man gently put his arm around Pete’s shoulder. “I know how you feel. It’s not easy to be turned away by the people you love so much. When all the things you’ve given up or missed seem unnoticed and unappreciated. Hang in there. Give them time. One day someone will realize what you’ve done and how deeply you loved them. Go home to your wife. Your daughter. Give them a hug. They love you.”

With that little bit of wisdom, the carpenter stood up and walked away.

Pete thought for a moment about what the man said and turned around to thank him for his kindness. The man was gone. As he looked back toward the cross, prepared to head back home, he looked up again. For the first time he noticed Jesus. He shook his head. He didn’t remember him being there when he first walked in.

Shrugging he walked to the car. As he pulled the car back onto the road he realized three things. First, the guy on the cross had a very familiar face. He looked an awful lot like the guy he’d been chatting with. Second, as he thought back to that man, he remembered the scars he’d seen on his new friend’s wrists. Third, those voices in his head had stopped screaming for the first time in years the moment he’d entered that church.

He bowed his head for a moment to say thanks. Someone understood his sacrifices all too well. It was time to go home.

Happy Birthday, Baby Brother

I still remember the day it hit me.

Oddly enough, we were coming by the house to pick out your funeral clothes…and to pick up more stuff for us to wear. Mom couldn’t stand to be in the apartment anymore. Too much hurt, maybe. Or just too many memories. Either way, it was the second time we came back home after getting the news you wouldn’t be coming home with us.

I threw open the door and called out….”Hey, Jonathan!”

I forgot. For one moment, between the car and front door, I really forgot. Until the moment I called out your name. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. You were gone.  I cried….harder than I ever had before. Tears of the heartbroken.

You may have been four years younger, but you were one of my best friends. It was habit. To tell you about my day. To laugh with you. To find out about yours…and I knew you’d be excited to be staying at Auntie Marta’s for a while….except you wouldn’t be there with us. Not ever again.

Just so you know, it’s been 26 years since I last saw you…and I still remember you. Still celebrate your laughter. Still miss your smile. And I try to live each day in a way that brings honor to your memory.

And I’m not alone in my grief. So many others are doing the same thing around the world…because someone desecrated your birthday. I’m glad you weren’t here to see that. It would’ve broken your heart. But you would’ve been proud…of how people rallied to be there for one another. To give comfort. And hope.

So today, I’ll smile through the tears….I’ll be the best me that I can be. Because I know deep down, it’s the best way to honor your memory.

I love you.

Unforgotten

My Sister, My Brother & Me

My Sister, My Brother & Me

I feel you reach out
On gentle breeze,
Your soft touch
A comforting caress.

I hear your mischief
In the laughter of children;
A reminder as they play
Of innocence at its best.

See your warmth and care
In a puppy’s soulful eyes
The head resting on my knee;
Comfort to give and take.

On salty tears,
I recall the bitter and sweet,
Both joy and reflection
Of what was and will never be.

With love,
Goodbye is never final.
The heart holds tight,
Memories live on forever.

Hey Baby Brother,

Tomorrow’s your birthday. It blows my mind when I realize you would’ve been 36. It doesn’t feel like 26 years since we lost you. Part of me wonders where the time went, but that’s how it goes, right? Life happens. You move on? Wish I could tell you it was easy for us all, but you know that’s a lie.

It’s strange, really. I’ve always had a harder time around your birthday than I ever did around your death. Not sure why that is. Of course, it did not help matters when one of the worst tragedies to ever happen on US soil also happened on your birthday. Part of me wanted to lash out… Like I wasn’t dealing with enough? Because, you know…it’s all about me. Except it’s not. More families lost loved ones, like we lost you….senselessly. My empathy kicks in. We know how it feels only too well, right?

I found a great guy… It took him a long time to win your stubborn big sister over, but he finally did. He knows me, heart and soul….even all those secret places I usually hide. Of course he’s heard about you. In fact, not only does he share a September birthday with you, he knows how close we were and how hard it is for me around your day. We decided to get married close to this day to help infuse this time with some good memories…and to honor your life.

You’ll be happy to know, we still feel your presence. We’ve never lost our connection to you and we keep your memory alive. Do you know that most of your best friends are still in touch with us? They still bring you up…talk about how much they miss you. Just goes to show…age has nothing to do with the impact a person can make. You taught me that. Live life to the fullest. Look for the good. Who knew a 10 year old could be so smart?

Anyway, enough being maudlin. You know it’s not really my style. I hope you like the poem I wrote for you…a little reminder to myself of all the ways you’re still with me. Yeah, I’m still writing. Still singing, too. 🙂

Love you!