Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Dream Interpretation...

Ever had a strange dream you couldn't shake? I did. Last night. It wasn't even a bad dream - it was sort of nice, but has left me with this nagging feeling. I don't know why I have this nagging feeling.

I dreamt that I was at a gathering and someone from my past was there, along with his whole family. He's not exactly the kindest person in my memory, but in the dream he was very laid back and nice. There were a ton of people there (I'm not really sure where we all were) and all I remember is I had to get to my next destination, and I didn't have a car. He just kind of lingered on the outskirts of the crowd in my dream, like he wanted to talk but didn't want to make the move to say anything. While he was mainly silent, it was as though he was very sorry about any angst he's caused, and wanted to build a friendship.

The dream ended when his family gave me a ride to my college, where I was going that day (mind you, in the dream, I'm my current age) and then he called later to make sure I made it okay.

Super strange. I welcome anyone's thoughts on what this dream means. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Miles to go before I sleep...

I haven't written in quite awhile. I made grand plans to get back to writing more, but life has again taken me down a new fork in the road! 

I have, however, been lucky to keep writing in my life, if only a little at a time. Recently, a dear friend from high school - who is now a professor at a local university - asked if I would be a panel participant on writing books at their annual writing conference. I was very excited not only to be a part of the panel, but to see my friend, Beth, whom I haven't seen in nearly 10 years. I presented alongside a very thoughtful and talented man named David Masciotra. (David Masciotra is the author of five books: "Mellencamp: American Troubadour" (University Press of Kentucky, 2015), "Barack Obama: Invisible Man" (Eyewear Publishing, 2017), and the forthcoming, "Half-Lights at Evening: Essays on Hope" (Agate Publishing).)

I was struggling recently with the fact that I haven't made the time to finalize the edits on my newest novel, which I'd hoped to have out already. I'm reminded of one of my favorite poets and a line from his poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening: "The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep." And that, my friends, sums up my writing at the moment. My almost-published book is one I am so proud of and love so much, but I have bigger obligations right now and a lot to do before I can rest. So, it will eventually get done, but right now I must stay focused on taking care of family.

Have a wonderful holiday! 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Social Media

Have you heard of this new (okay, is it considered old now because it was really hip like, a month ago?) app called

Kid1 asked to download it and wasn't thrilled with my "Ummmm, no," response. I am not a big fan of him downloading anything I don't really know about. So I downloaded it on my phone in order to check it out and see what it's about. (My job is largely social media, so it doesn't hurt to see what it's all about.)

Apparently, it's an app where people can anonymously send you messages. Which, I mean, sounds like a wonderful app for all the people who are more comfortable blurting out what''s on their mind while hiding behind a screen and a keyboard than talking to people face to face.

And in the days of combatting bullying, I feel like this is the exact opposite of what ANY gradeschooler should have access to! Isn't there enough bullying and name calling already? Do we really need to give people an anonymous way to insult another? Because I feel like kids who want to use this aren't giving each other warm and fuzzy sentiments, but I could be wronf!

I signed up ( if you're on there and can teach me more about this thing) so I can try and figure out the ins and outs of it. I'm searching for some articles to demonstate why this is a bad idea, and welcome suggestions.

What other apps are kids using now that need to be deleted or closely monitored?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Under Construction


Please bear with me as I clean up the blog a little over the next couple weeks. I have quite a few blog posts to put up, some to reactivate, and some to remove. I'm hoping to start the process tomorrow, and have it done by the end of the next week. So not only will there be new material, but lots of other things to read about (or read again, lol)! In the meantime, please take a moment to answer this anonymous poll to help me determine what posts to start writing more about. Thank you!

What would you like to see more posts about?

Monday, October 16, 2017

What Makes A Good Mom?

If there's one thing I've learned about parenting, it's that the internet is an endless abyss of people telling you what you are and aren't doing right. We search Pinterest for ways to make our child's room fantastically unique. We scroll through Facebook seeing the Halloween costumes that are way out of our price range and yet call us to purchase so our kid isn't ridiculed. We read articles about how to give our kids the best organic lunch, shaped into an artistic outdoor scene sculpted in the late hours of the evening.
And if I really stop to think about it, my kids don't really care about any of that stuff. Sure, they'd love new paint in their room - but they'd rather be painting a big piece of paper with mom or dad. Because that's what they're really looking for - quality time.

I've said it before but unfortunately, it needs to be a constant reminder for me. I don't have a lot of time with them between work and other responsibilities, and sometimes I lose sight of the need to spend some quality time with each of them. Today, amid the muck of Facebook, I came across this article and it gave me a new bucket-list to do before the end of this year: 30 Little Things That Mean A Lot to Kids.

My mom did a lot for me growing up. Laundry, taking us to practices, cleaning the house, shopping for school clothes. I don't remember any of those things though, at least not in the sense of a memory of her actually doing them. What I do remember, though, is her waking me up for high school at 6 a.m. with a sock she made into a duck puppet, just being goofy. I remember her helping me to make pies the right way when I wanted to experiment with baking. I remember that on Tuesdays, she would "sleep over" in my room and we'd talk about school or boys or troubles until we were both too tired to talk.

I think about my beautiful girl and how many times I tell her I'm too tired. (Which, by the way, is far too many.) We do lots of things together, but I'm starting to think she has a far better grasp on how precious the time we have together is than I do. Or perhaps she just appreciates it more. Some days, when I'm really tired, I think Oh my goodness, I wish she would learn to play on her own! Then there are days like today, when I look at her get up, get dressed, make her own breakfast, pack her own lunch, and head out the door to school that I am blindsided by the fact that in a very short time, she won't be asking me to color with her anymore. She won't be asking me to do her makeup or make up a dance or listen to the song she wrote. 

We do a lot for our kids, but I think we can always do more. Not in terms of buying them more or taking them more places, but rather in giving them time and attention in the comfort of our own homes and neighborhoods. Sure, she loves heading out to mini-golf or shop, but she'd be just as happy coloring a few pictures from the big coloring book she bought herself at the school book fair. I hardly remember vacations we went on or going to a pumpkin patch, but I will forever remember that ridiculous sock puppet and the beautiful woman who made something so inane and silly one of the dearest pieces of my memory.

What is your favorite memory from growing up?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Missing the Old Times

Writing this novel has definitely brought back some memories for me. Part of writing any story is research. If it's set back in history, you need to know every detail and every aspect of that time, from politics to what a button on a jacket looked like. This makes your story more authentic.

So as I wrote this one, I definitely spent a lot of time reminiscing on my own experience of being a teenager way back when: the emotions, the highs, the lows, the friends, the broken hearts, the laughter of sleepovers. I spent many hours speaking to people around the age of my characters and their high school experiences, as well as their hopes, dreams and regrets from then and today. 

Needless to say, all the reminiscing definitely made me nostalgic for those days. I don't want to go back (I think living through my dramatic teenage years once was enough, and I love watching my kids build their own lives in the here and now!) but I definitely miss the people from those days. College was okay and I have some wonderful friends from my college years, but it just wasn't the same. I spent my college years testing boundaries and in many aspects, hanging around some people I should have distanced myself from, searching for whatever I felt I was lacking in my life at that time. (Don't get me wrong - I also had some amazingly awesome college buddies!) Every day there was something and someone new, so it was a rotating door of new and unfamiliar, which I don't particularly do well with. 

High school was never like that - there was familiarity. There were the same people, eight hours a day (and sometimes more), weekends filled with no responsibility and no jobs but rather just fun and camaraderie. I definitely miss the lesser responsibilities sometimes as I'm drowning in work and running kids to ten different activities, but, I know someday I'll miss what I'm doing now just as much. 

My dad has a hard time remembering current affairs, so often, what we talk about is those years around when I was a teen. He likes remembering some of the friends that came through our doors and laughter that would infiltrate the entire house. Perhaps that is why I am feeling so nostalgic lately; they were indeed good (and easier) times, and I really miss some of the people I knew and loved.

I think that's one of the hardest parts of growing up. These amazing human beings come into our lives for a little bit but they stay in our hearts forever. Life is like a big apple pie where each slice is something important to us. We get older, get jobs, get bills, get families, get homes, get more responsibility and as the pie is sliced yet again, it cuts back on that slice of time we have available for the people outside our immediate circle, no matter how important they are to us. 

And perhaps that is why getting a note or email or social media message from one of those familiar faces just saying "Hi, thinking about you, wishing you the best" is one of the sweetest parts of my day. No matter how much time and distance comes between us, know that I am thinking about you - and that you made my life better just by being in it. 

It's been a very long, very trying week, and I find myself hoping for one of those messages. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Red Thread of Fate

As a romance writer, I tend to focus a lot on the idea of fate - someone ending up exactly where they are supposed to be and who they are supposed to be with. It's sort of the idea from Japanese legend, the Red Thread of Fate: the idea that two people are tied together because they need to be a part of the other's life.

Writer Lucia Ortiz Monasterio says: "For the Japanese, who know so much and intuit more, human relations are predestined by a red string that the gods tie to the pinky fingers of those who find each other in life. Legend has it that the two people connected by this thread will have an important story, regardless of the time, place or circumstances. The red string might get tangled, contracted or stretched, as surely often happens, but it can never break. This legend, so much more aesthetic than that of the twin souls, occurs when it is discovered that the ulnar artery connects the heart with the pinky finger (which is the same reason why in many cultures promises are made by two people crossing their pinkies). The thin vein running from heart to hand extends through the invisible world, to end its course in someone else’s heart. But unlike other amorous superstitions, the Japanese one isn’t limited to couples, or a single person who one is destined to find. It speaks of a type of arterial ramification that emerges from a finger toward all those with whom we will make history and all those whom we will help in one way or another."
This is true for many of my characters - not just in love, but in life. In The Touch, AJ is pulled towards a town he's never been to before, and ends up finding that he needed to be there for both love and for paving a future for his kind. In my newest book Fifiteen Years, coming out soon, the main characters are tied together by a red thread of fate. No matter how far away their lives have taken them, they can never quite lose sight of one another, as though they were destined to meet again.

While the romantic background of the red thread of fate is the stuff romance novels are made of, to me the most interesting part is that idea that we are tied to other people for a while or a lifetime. When we stop to think about all of those who have made a difference in our lives and how we came to know them, we are reminded yet again that our paths intersect with those we are destined to meet. Perhaps it is a love, perhaps a friend, or perhaps a perfect stranger who touches our lives for just a moment.

It's a pretty incredible concept to think about, isn't it? That people don't randomly enter our lives, but rather, we are destined to meet them for one reason or another; that we get close and then grow apart but are still connected somehow in the grand scheme of life.

And as a romantic at heart, I believe in the idea of destiny; that no matter how twisted or damaged the string gets, you are still connected to the person you are tied to.

Do you believe in the red thread of fate? Have you ever felt that connected to someone?

(From Pinterest)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

New book coming soon!

I am so, so, so very excited!! It has been a few years since I've published, and truth be told, I needed the break to renew my creativity! I have five manuscripts sitting here, waiting for editing, and I just couldn't find the time or the energy to get it done. 

Until now.

While there are still four awaiting their turn at editing, one is in the final stages of publishing and I could not be more excited about it! Add in the fact that my friend's beautiful daughter is the cover model, and I am just ecstatic to have it be out and in people's hands. 

So, what are you reading right now? Finish it up, because Fifteen Years will be out soon!

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Lesson From My Son

This week has been one of those weeks. What are those weeks, you ask? Well, I just told my daughter to go take a bath and her response was "Mom, I already took a bath this week." Yes, this week.


Life's been a little overwhelming lately to say the least. My full-time job is full speed ahead and we have more work than time it seems. Hubs and I (and sometimes my wonderful mother-in-law) are running kids to dance classes, cross country, and drama practice. I'm visiting Dad as many days as I can, and handling all of his affairs. And tonight, when I asked my hubs what I should blog about, he said "The impossibility of us keeping the house clean. Or Hugh Hefner." So yeah, it's one of those weeks.

But right smack in the middle of this week, my son presented me with a life lesson. I'd woken them up early because it was either wake up early so I could run to Jewel before school and pick up a Lunchable or something, or they were going to be eating crackers and stale chips for lunch. He was already tired from a lot of homework and drama and running two miles the day before, but he got up and moving as he always does without a complaint.

Then, he goes to a full day of school and back to drama practice for two hours (where he is eleven, mind you, and memorizing SHAKESPEARE lines for the school's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream). When hubs picked him up at five, he still needed to run two miles since he'd had to miss cross country practice that day, and hubs gave him a choice: run the neighborhood, or pick where he wants to go.

You know what he chose? A park near the house with hills. HILLS. One of the last days of our 90+ degree heat in September, tired from a long day, and given the choice to take the easy route or the hard one and he picks the hard one.

He's eleven. Did I mention that?


I'm not gonna lie. I would have picked the neighborhood. It's close, it's flat, it's comfortable, and there's no travel time there and back. Which would mean more time for homework and relaxing before bed. 

He never ceases to amaze me. He ran two miles up and down a hill, just because he wanted the challenge. He is determined to help his team get to state, and he's working so hard to make that happen. (Side note: there wasn't even cake at the end. Or bacon. Or wine. He ran for fun. I don't understand this concept, but he doesn't understand how I write something longer than a page for fun so we'll call it a tie.)

I guess I needed the reminder, because lately I haven't been pushing myself to take the road less traveled, as written by my favorite poet Robert Frost. Things have gotten done, kids get where they need to be, lunch food finally got purchased, but that's really just skating by. So instead of watching a ton of television (except the debut of Will and Grace and This Is Us), I took his example and pushed myself to go a little further this week. 

Thanks to my little buddy, I finally finished the manuscript I've been picking at for four years. It meant a few late nights, hours of writing and editing, and a little bit of sleep loss, but a book I fell in love with writing years ago now has an ending that feels right. Instead of watching six hours of reruns of Friends (no judging here, because there are definitely weeks where a Friends binge is the most productive thing I do and that is a perfectly acceptable thing), I finally got something finished that I've been wanting to complete.

Now, I don't fully consider this week a victory because somehow my daughter bamboozled us every night into thinking she'd already taken a bath per direction of the other one, BUT, I'm just going to write that off as her enhancing her acting capabilities. 

Hopefully you can "run some hills" this week and check something off your "I want to do this" list.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sights and Scents

Have you ever stopped in your tracks, your sense of smell infiltrated by something both recognizable and unrecognizable at the same time? You can't quite figure out in that moment - or, maybe you can - why it's familiar, but with it comes a sense of peace? Or perhaps something you catch a glance of sends you into a sort of deja vu?

Sometimes it's the scent of a certain detergent or a memorable cologne that sends you on a trip down memory lane. I've certainly experienced that sensation. Moments of closeness brought back to the surface of my memory from nothing more than laundry. It's in these sweet moments that I gather material for my writing. These memories rise to the surface of my thoughts and become one more character trait for someone I'll write down the line. 

Every story needs a hero; that person who makes you forget all the pain and the suffering and overcome all obstacles in one's path. Each character has unique traits, but as I've mentioned before, each one I write houses just a sliver of someone I know or knew once upon a time. Instead of being housed only in a photograph or the recesses of my mind, the joy that they brought to my life for however long is captured and shared. I still walk past someone in a crowded place once every few years and a scent catches me off-guard, and I find myself twenty years younger in the middle of a smile.
I guess the same could be said for the sights and scents that bring back the bad memories. If you know me or follow my social media, you know that I love flowers. LOVE THEM. I buy fresh ones for my desk every week (although I've been slacking on that a bit lately), because they just bring a little bit of cheer to my day. Hubs, bless his heart, doesn't do the flower thing very often and that's okay - he does plenty of other sweet things. So I pick them out one morning after I drop the kids at school, arrange them in a pretty vase, and set them out to glance at when the day gets a little tired.
Often, it's roses sitting in that vase. Pink, yellow, peach, white - they're all so beautiful. But the one flower you will never see in there is a red rose (except, on occasion, when someone gets them for me and I don't want to be rude!)
You see, I don't like red roses. Once upon a time, red roses symbolized romance and love and butterflies in the stomach. They were something I looked forward to on a monthly basis from a beau who, looking back, hid his negative traits behind a blinding array of red roses and gifts. At that time in my life, I knew that those flowers would arrive in the middle of the month and I lived for it. Naive and lonely, I adored that symbol because it meant that I mattered to a boy. All the beauty they possessed, though, didn't make up for the ugliness that hid underneath, tucked away until something brought it out.

It's odd how something as simple as a flower or a scent can take you back to a place you either loved being or wished you could forget. What is something that brings you back to another time?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Violence, Media, and Kids

Sometimes, I love phones and iPods and tablets and laptops. Those glorious little devices often make me wonder how on earth my family managed to get ahold of me or get anything done before they existed.

And sometimes I hate them. Like today.

Today, a tragedy struck our town, and worse it seems, our school community. The details aren't known, but unfortunately, some that may or may not be true have become known to our kids.

My 11-year-old received a text message that provided a pretty detailed story about what happened and it hit him pretty hard (and mama bear is very unhappy about how this happened). He had a lot of questions about how something like that occurs, and then opened up a bit about what he was feeling. He is like his mama: he wears his heart on his sleeve. He worries about things. He's been worried the past week about Texas and everyone in it, asking for updates on if they're rescuing people, are they getting to the nursing homes, and so on. He's wondering if another country drops a nuclear bomb near Chicago, would it's devastation reach us? His heart is just about the biggest I have ever seen in a kid. (Don't get me wrong, he can be a pain in the butt sometimes. But his heart is still huge.) Then something so very pertinent and honest and telling came out of his mouth:

"Mom, I just don't understand it. Every time you turn on the news, there is another shooting in the Chicago area. Why are so many people dying? There's one story after another with bad news. It seems like it's all bad news." Then later came his next question: "How do we help to stop the violence?"

He's 11 and he sees it. He hears about the violence going on in the city and state he loves, and unfortunately, sometimes a little closer to home. He sees the news and the shock value the media go for, filling every half hour newscast with as much tragedy as their teleprompters can handle. He's carrying a weight that I don't think at 11 I even knew existed. He wants the world to be a better place, and he wants to make it a better place. 

I wish we could shelter him from all of it. We could take away all electronics, we could sell the television, but as today has taught me, he will still hear about it somewhere. And it probably will only be a shred of the truth, regardless of whether he hears it from little mouths at school or big mouths on the television. What is most difficult is that we have to have these conversations far earlier than I ever imagined. When I was 11, I didn't really know about storms unless they were hitting our neighborhood. I didn't know about how many people were hurt or injured daily in Chicago. It boggles my mind that kids today know about these things and have to grow up far sooner than they should.

I wish I could give him a step-by-step plan on how to fix everything, but I can't. We talked about the importance of being the best person you can, of helping others, of listening, of being there for people. We talked about how he can go into a career where he can build opportunities for kids to get on a better path in life. We talked about how from now on, we're going to start our day and end our day with good news, and that at least one of those should be something we did to make the world a better place that day.

Tonight, I had one of the hardest, most honest conversations I've ever had to have with one of my children. I couldn't hold back the tears as the tragedy of the situation behind the need for our talk really sank in. There has always been violence and always been tragedy, and I couldn't tell you if it's gotten worse over time or if it's just more reported thanks to mass media. And, I don't have answers for how to fix it, other than we need to start loving each other a little more and stop spreading gossip and hating a little bit less. I plan to hug my children just a little bit tighter from now on, that's for certain. 

Remember how they edited the Wyle E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons so that our children wouldn't be scarred? 

I WISH the worst thing my kids heard about was that crazy coyote getting blown up by ACME.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What is the answer?

I have two beautiful, smart, and for the most part kind children (let's face it, they're kids, and they bicker with each other NON STOP). We've tried to instill in them pride in their family and heritage. From Mom's side (me), they are English, Irish, French, Scottish, Slovak, Czech, and much more. From Dad's side, they are Hispanic. They are a wonderful mix of so many cultures and backgrounds and have family members of all different races, and we love talking about it because I never want them to feel like they are better or less than anyone else. Their friends aren't defined by color - they're defined by their personalities or some skill they accel at. Everyone is just a person.

Growing up, I've been teased and bullied, and I've been the teaser and bully. But never, ever, have any of those instances been about race. About being a girl, or hitting like a girl, or not wearing the right clothes, or something like that perhaps, but NEVER have I been discriminated against because of race - because I'm white. And there is, unfortunately, an insane amount of privilege that comes with that one piece of who I am. And no matter how much I believe that all people are created equal and how much I try and teach our kids that we don't judge others, especially on looks or skin color, I know that how I expwriwnce the world is far different than how my husband does. Even though I try to have a better understanding and he educates me constantly, I find that as knowledgeable as I think I am, I am never knowledgeable enough - but I want to understand more. 

Take for instance the time the radio DJ was talking about interracial couples - it didn't occur to me that was us. Because I see him just as hubs, and don't view us as different. He'd caught the looks from others or snide remarks that I'd never even noticed. Or the time we went on vacation in Virginia, and went to a nice little pub where I hippity-hopped through the front door without a second thought, only pausing inside when hubs seemed a little out of sorts. When I asked what's wrong, he said, "Did you see the 'decor' out front?" (There had been some things that could have indicated it may not be welcoming for him.) I hadn't. Because I've never had to feel worried that I'm going to be discriminated against because of my skin color whether it was a restaurant or a business or anything else. It hadn't even crossed my mind. 

What really hit home for me was this past year, when our son had an incident with another child who made a disparaging comment about two races of people (Hispanics included). He had come and asked me if he could talk to me privately, and I was a little worried about what was going on. Maybe he'd flunked a test, I thought, or maybe he had a question about the puberty classes they'd just started at school. When he told me, through dry-heaving sobs, what this child had said, I did what a mama bear does: pulled him into a bear hug, told him it was wrong of others to say that, that it wasn't true, that being Hispanic was a wonderful thing, and then I called for his dad to come up. Because in that moment, I did not know what else to say. I knew I couldn't understand that experience and I couldn't say "I know how you feel" because I didn't. I'd never had someone say something like that to me. 

I don't fully think the kid thought through what they were saying, and the situation was handled appropriately, but regardless, it was the first time in our son's life that he experienced someone saying something to hurt him simply because his nationality and skin were different. "Are there people who think I'm bad just because I have tan skin? Because I'm Mexican?" he asked. And that was a turning point for me. I couldn't tell him no, because that's not true. There are people who will think that, and he will have to deal with this again. And again. And again. No matter how much I want to protect him, I will only ever be able to do so much. I could comfort him as any mother would, but sweeping the issue under the rug wasn't going to make the situation disappear. And what would doing that teach him? There are times where you tell your kids to turn the other cheek, and there are times where you take a stand. Mom and Dad had to stand up for him and show him that it is not acceptable for others to make those comments (and we did). He had to stand up for himself and say it is not acceptable for others to treat him as less than. And we also needed to remind him that we will always be there in good and bad times, and we will face the bad times together - and remind him again that no one is less than anyone else because of skin color. 

I could sit here and tell you a million great things about my kid but I shouldn't have to, because he doesn't need to defend who he is. He knows who he is, he's proud of who he is, and he works very hard to maintain a good reputation. And none of his accomplishments or pitfalls have anything to do with his skin color.

It's not the first time or the last time that it's going to happen to him, as is evident in the many news stories dominating our timelines, especially today. 

So I stood in the doorway that night and listened as my husband talked to my son about racism, but this time, it took on a new meaning. My hubs spoke about times that he's been picked on for his heritage and background; times that he's been attacked for it whether physically or emotionally. And he talked about how to deal with it, how to protect himself in those situations, how to talk to a trusted adult, and so on.

And then I went to my room and cried because I knew that was the first day of the rest of his life: a life where he'd notice people's skin color because now, someone had pointed out to him that he was different because of it. In today's world it was only a matter of time until it happened, and it would be naive to think any differently. 

He's learned about Martin Luther King, Jr., in school. They are learning about the history of our country and both the good and the bad that came with it. He's learning how African Americans have not been treated well or fairly, and that other nationalities have faced discrimination throughout history. But this was a real-life lesson for him on current events because bias still exists for so many and no matter how far we've come, we haven't come far enough.

I don't have the answers for what's going on or what can change the world. Every day, the news shows us another example of the hate that fills our world. It will take education and understanding and trust and camaraderie to change the narrative. Saying it shouldn't exist or pretending it never happened or telling people to get over it is not the answer; it starts with acknowledgment, understanding, kindness and knowing our past to help reshape the future. And I don't have the answers, but I am more than willing to listen and try to garner a better understanding.

So when my son asked this morning why there are the riots in Charlottesville, I found myself remembering a sad little boy whose world changed last year.

"There are people out there who believe they are better than others because of the color of their skin and they are out there shouting it to the world. And there are others who are standing up against it, fighting for equality."

"Is it going to happen here?" I wonder if what he's really asking me, with that concerned look on his face, is if he and his friends are safe. How do we change this narrative? How do we find common ground and rebuild a better future for every generation today and in the future? How do we become more aware of the inequalities and come together to change that?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

How Many New Normals in Life

Two weeks ago at kid2's annual checkup, we gingerly bounced into the exam room and waited for the doctor. This was going to be a GREAT checkup - no shots for the peanut, no sniffles or fevers - just a plain old, well-kid checkup before she starts the 3rd grade.

So when the doctor said, "Do you notice this swelling?" I found myself caught a little off-guard. I hadn't noticed the slight swelling on the side of her neck but sure enough, it was there.

Without saying a lot more (since little, worried ears were in the room), she just said that she was a little concerned it could be an enlarged thyroid, and she'd like to have it checked via ultrasound.

To avoid rousing any doubt or fear within my little one, I just smiled and talked about how the only ultrasound I ever got to have was when I had a baby in my belly, and that got her talking and thinking about something else. She giggled when I jokingly asked the doctor if maybe she had a baby in her neck. Meanwhile, I was trying my very best to cover up any worries I have. I know, a thyroid problem is small in the grand scheme of medical issues, but let me assure you that for a mama, any type of issue that is going to cause her children distress suddenly launches you ten thousand feet further down the worry scale. From a splinter to the scariest medical condition, seeing your child in any amount of worry or pain or fear or discomfort is just about one of the hardest part of motherhood.

And while it seems ridiculous to worry right now, I cannot help but think of the times where I wasn't supposed to worry. How many times in life do we get used to a normal, just to have a new normal come in and replace it? Did I appreciate that last night with hubs before we became a family of three, and again when we went from three to four? Did I appreciate the normal-ness of life the night before mom was diagnosed with brain cancer and we began a very new 13-month normal? Did I appreciate the normal we'd become accustomed to before Dad's stroke, and we had to start navigating a new normal?

I can't help but wonder if tonight is that last night of this being what our normal life is before kid2 has to make some major life changes (and the rest of the fam, too). I wonder if this is her last night of being a bippity-boppity worry-free eight-year-old without the concern of any medicines or nutrition plans or all of the things even adults can have difficulty handling. I wonder if tonight is the last night I can promise her that shots or blood draws aren't happening tomorrow because she is terrified of all of that and has been for years.

In an instant - literally, in one single second, in the middle of the doctor's office - I felt as though everything she's ever done to drive me nuts disappeared and all I could think about was how much I loved every single inch and trait of the beautiful girl in front of me.

I'm praying pretty hard that the ultrasound tomorrow reveals nothing and that this is all just a week's worth of worry that I'll tuck away in my distant memory and forget in a year. Really, really hard. Everyone has to learn at some point in life that we are constantly thrown obstacles that teach us whether we're going to be the people that learn to adapt and triumph or crawl and hide; I just pray that she doesn't have to learn such a lesson at this age.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Characters in a book

I get asked quite often how I form a character in a book and if the character strongly resembles anyone in particular from my life. There are, of course, a lot of answers for that, but the general answer is that yes, most characters are based off of attributes of people I know.

Now, I have never written a character that is a single representation of a single person. Let's take for example AJ McCallister, the Healer from my first novel. He's a mix of a few different people. AJ is kind and courageous, strong and loyal. He also is anxious and brooding and angry. He feels both saddled and blessed by his gift, and he wants to both protect others and hide away from the world. AJ is innocent and yet still jaded by what he's seen and experienced, and he's extremely thoughtful and careful, almost to a fault. And each of the pieces of his personality that make him great or make him weak are the very things that make him unique. He's got pieces of my strong and courageous husband, a couple of close friends who are loyal and fearless, and even the innocence of past teenage love. 

There's Helen, who's modeled and named after my mom's best girlfriends and their wonderfully beautiful motherly instincts; and Matthew, who is always willing to help and is shaped after one of the best neighbors I've ever known. 

And Addie, who is a little bit me and a little bit my girlfriends. She's fiesty and smart and strong and weak and just wants to be loved.

Each character has aspects of various people I've cared for and loved, which makes them special to me - and makes them come to life in the stories. 

There are also characters who have nothing to do with anything other than my imagination. Luckily, I've never known anyone as dark and deceptive as Devin. And Benjamin is just a fun representation of a kindly old man. 

Writing is an outlet for daydreams and imagination. It's also a way for me to cement in history the things I've adored about certain people in a way that keeps them going in perpetuity. And that's the real magic of a story - being able to read it again and know that the best parts of the people I've loved are captured forever in words.

Speaking of which, I'm off to finish another chapter in my newest manuscript. I've written about AJ more in depth before on my blog, if you care to read on - otherwise,  if you haven't yet, you can read his book by downloading it free tomorrow at And then try and guess who that trait is based on! 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

We are all just doing our best

Dad had another unresponsive episode today.

They seem to be happening more frequently, and he seems a little weaker every time. His appetite is getting smaller and it's evident he's getting tired. I hate that he is spending the last of his time on this earth stuck in a wheelchair or bed, losing his memory and when he does talk, wondering again what's happened to him. 

As I sit here next to him on the bed, I want to memorize everything. Every dimple in his not-as-often smiles, every strand of grey hair, every wrinkle on his face. 

He's comfortable, and that's what I keep reminding myself. After years of medical issues and of course the last almost two years of chaos for his medical care, he's tired. Tired of doctors and nurses and blood pressure cuffs and insulin finger pricks and shots. He's tired of others giving him a bath and helping him with the bathroom. He's tired of feeling like a prisoner in his own mind. At least that's what he's told us - he can't get as many words out as of late. 

So, we sit and chat. It's mostly me asking questions or recounting old stories he's told me, with him chiming in with a "yep" or a few words addition to the story. Anything that helps him feel comfortable. Sometimes it's staring at the ceiling for an hour as we squish in a hospital bed. 

We haven't always seen eye to eye and we've had our differences, but at the end of the day he's my dad. If there is anything I've learned from having kids it's that as parents, we just do the best we can. We cheer and support our kids, we make mistakes, we live our lives the best we can. And for every person, that's different. One person's pro is another person's con and we shouldn't judge them on that - we are all just doing the best we can as parents and as children. 

For tonight, we are just relazing here in the room we've come to know as "home". He's got a smile on his face and I was so happy to hear him greet me the same way he always has: "Hello there Allison P., the P stands for pretty." <3 div="">

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Weird Abyss in Between

In case you haven't read my blog, here's a quick background to catch you up.

Me = 30something-ish mom, wife, two young kids, full time job, dad in nursing home with dementia

Okay. Now onto the topic: the weird abyss. The abyss I'm referring to is my role at this very moment in time. I'm caught in that weird abyss of being a mother to my kids, and being the daughter taking care of a dad on hospice care and in the nursing home when what I'd most like to do is watch him sitting on a dock, showing the kids the proper way to bait a hook.

The abyss is not an ideal place to be, as I constantly battle the struggle of managing time between the most important people in my life. If you don't know what it's like to have a loved one with dementia, please read this. It will help give you a little insight into why it is extremely difficult to bring young kids around a grandparent - a grandparent they love very, very much - when that grandparent begins turning into someone very different. Hence, the dilemma - I find myself short on days we can all be spending time together because life schedules and dad's mood and behavior match up. Thus, the need to choose who I'm spending time with has become a situation I'm far too familiar with.

On one side is my dad: the man who raised me, took the fam on cross-country trips to see the grand canyon, made my dream of performing dance in Europe a possibility, helped me pay for my college education, took me fishing, never missed a recital, taught my kids how to fish. You get it - and the list goes on and on. Now his days are in a nursing home because he needs quite a bit of help and it is the safest and best place for him, but he's lonely. While he's never been a really emotional guy, he makes it very known that he's lonely. I've seen him cry in the last year more than I have in my past 30something-ish years, and it breaks my heart. Some days he is barely awake and other days he'll talk about this or that. And while we try and be there as much as we humanly can (meaning, every single day when possible), he is still lonely in those times we are not, and I can't help but want to be there with him for whatever time he has left, trying to cheer him up. I know his days are growing shorter, and I just want to hear his stories and make him as happy and peaceful as possible.

On the other side are my beautiful babies, who really aren't babies anymore (but they still look at me with those big, baby doe eyes), who ask me when I'll be home or are we going to go somewhere together. The past year I've missed more school events and homework checks than I care to admit, because there just isn't time in the day for everything to get done for everyone. As I sit on the edge of the bed every night I can't help but remember that the time with them is also very precious. They're never going to be this age again. They're never going to have the same ideas for made up games and they're never going to make a baseball catch quite like the one I miss, and I don't want to miss a moment of it.

But I have to miss something. And here I am in the weird abyss where, no matter what choice I make, no matter who I choose, someone I love very much gets hurt and I miss something. I feel a tremendous guilt over not being there with him like I was with mom's battle against brain cancer, but here's the thing: I was single then and working full time, but no kids. I had nothing but time to give her. It's a lot different - and a lot harder this time around - because I have other obligations that also need - and deserve - my time and attention.

I don't write this because I'm looking for an answer - there isn't one. I write this because somewhere out there, someone is feeling like the knot in the middle of the tug-of-war rope too, and perhaps just knowing they aren't alone might help them from spilling tears in their mint chocolate chip ice cream for just one night. To that person: you're doing the best you can. Keep your chin up and keep chugging along. You're not alone, and you've got this.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Third time's a charm

Okay, lets try this one more time.  For those having trouble with searching, I did try and make a fix - if nothing shows up with your name, try your whole name, and try first and last name. I added all of those in as tags so that should help! I will leave names up through Thursday! 

Saturday, June 17, 2017


So, one of the questions I get asked most about writing is if I shape my characters after people I know. The answer is, yes and no. Another question is, on the blog, who are the mysterious people I write about (ha!). I've gone through on some posts and added names, which I will leave only for the next 48 hours, at which time I'll revert them back. If you're curious if you're one of the people I've written about, go take a peek. You can use the search box up top or just peruse ;) 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


The mind works in mysterious ways. Like dreams. The other day my best friend Nancy from college texted me in a panic: was I okay?

Ummmmm, yes, why? That sort of creeped me out.

She said she had a terrible dream that I was hurt and she was worried about me, wanted to make sure I was okay. Ironically, her text came the same day we got the crushing blow that Dad probably needed to begin hospice care. She and I have ALWAYS been like that - we just know when the other one is having a really bad time because of a dream or a feeling. I filled her in and of course, then the reason for her dream seemed a little clearer.

I've always remembered my dreams and honestly, hardly have a night where I haven't had a dream about something. Some of them have led to my ideas for novels, some make me wake up in a panic, and some make me laugh when I'm retelling it to someone. Most of the time I don't give them a second thought - since I'm a writer and a daydreamer, my dreams often reflect a story I've been thinking about recently or a fantastically crazy plot line. But lately, I've had one particular dream scenario that keeps repeating itself and has really made me, well, uncomfortable.

This theme has focused around someone from a long (long, long) time ago, and trying to find a way back to being in each other's lives in some capacity. Not romantically (sorry, no hot and bothered dreams here, I'm pretty happy in my romantic status with hubs), but as friends. The entire length of the dream is spending time mixed among other friends doing something (it always differs - last night, it was escaping a mall which let me tell you, I have NO translation for because I LOVE to shop and find it hard to believe I'd be willingly trying to leave), and then we can never seem to get to the crux where we're like, yeah, we can move forward as friends. It's like a movie that drags on far past the part where it should have been resolved - we just can't seem to get to the end. So there is no end. Every time. Then I wake up, and I'm wondering what the heck my dream is about.

This isn't the first time I've had this dream. It's been a recurring dream with a recurring star for nearly two decades. It's not all the time - it pops up randomly here and there, but I've never given it too much thought. Though now, it's like a non-stop midnight movie I can't turn off and so I really stopped to think about it this morning and focused on why it is recurring more now. Other than yes, I would have liked to stay friends with this person, but that path in life just wasn't meant to happen.

I searched a dozen dream decoding blogs (oh boy, if you haven't done that for one of your dreams, do it - some of it is fascinating, some hilarious!). I think when I look at life today and why that dream may be happening, it comes down to the chaos that seems to be daily life right now. We're going non-stop: running kids to activities, working full-time, spending as much time with Dad as we can while he's still talking and laughing. And when I look at the dreams, the people in them, and the story behind them, they start to become a little easier to decipher.

The dreams are always amidst chaos - people are walking around everywhere, getting from here to there. There's always a sense of rushing in the dream - getting from one place to another or doing something that needs to happen quickly. Sometimes it's trying to escape somewhere, or trying to fix something that needs to be fixed ASAP. Just like life today.

Then there's this person. Someone I knew a long time ago and cared about very much. Someone who knew me during a much less chaotic time in my life, when I had less responsibility and more time to just have fun. Someone who knew me well and who I knew well. So perhaps my mind is saying maybe I sometimes wish I was back in a time where there was less adulting to do; when I was around someone who represented everything calm and collected.

And then, in every dream, we just can't connect. We both know we want to talk, but we just can't seem to make that happen. Sometimes, even others (including our close friends) are telling us we need to make time and we just can't seem to get to that point. Which to me, sounds like the giant disconnect between the calmer life I'd like right now and the current chaos, which keeps me just out of reach of finding that calm.

I was worried for awhile about the "who" that was infiltrating my dreams. It's not someone I think about during the day, and someone who so rarely comes up in convo (like, maybe once a year if that). So why were they in my dream? But if I look less at the "who" and more at the "why", it makes sense. Somehow my subconscious is seeking some reprieve from the day-to-day of now, and reminding me of times when life was a little bit easier.

Now what to do about that, well, that's another problem for another day! :)


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Eb and Flow of Friendship

It's always fascinating how we move through life and connect with other people: friendships, colleagues, family. The way people drift into one's life, make some memories, drift out... and sometimes, if you're lucky, drift back in. Like a friend I'll refer to as Mr. D.

Mr. D and I were friends back in high school. We hung out in the same crowd, but I don't know that we ever got to know each other very well. He dated a couple of my friends, I dated a couple of his, and we had a mutual best friend in common. He was what I considered a bit of a wild child, always fun and outgoing. He dyed his hair blond at times and always had this big, goofy grin. 

We didn't spend much time together, or at least talking. We did, however, share a birthday.

Once we left for college, we didn't really have the type of friendship where we would have kept in touch. Somehow, though, every year on our birthday, I received a text or email from Mr. D with a birthday message. Every year! And after the first couple years, it became one of the things I looked forward to most on my birthday. We didn't talk the other 364 days in the year... we didn't really know much about each other, although we still share that same best friend... but despite anything else happening in our lives, those messages still came through on that one day. And I'd wait, each year, as the clock ticked just past midnight and that little "ding" popped through on the phone.

In 2005, my mother passed, and in 2006, his. And that somehow became another life event that drew us together as friends. On Mother's Day, we both understood what the other was feeling. On Christmas, how hard it was to be without them. Suddenly the birthday messages weren't the lone exchanges; now a couple more days a year were added on. And Mr. D was decidedly better than me at reaching out; he is a genuine person who really cares about his friends.

Somewhere in the last year, he's become someone I consider to be a close friend. We haven't seen each other in person in probably close to 15 years and we live halfway across the country from each other, but he's one of the people I know will answer when I need a friend. He will understand the topic whether it's missing mom, crazy high school shenanigans, or trying to figure out something in life. The past year and a half, as Dad's been battling his illness, Mr. D has been there for my random texts and worries because he understands the pain in a sick parent, and he's done more than his fair share in trying to keep my chin up. 

It's pretty incredible how you can not see someone for so long and still feel like they make an impact in your life more than most can. Mr. D has made an indelible mark on my life since the time we were 16 years old, even if I didn't realize it until I was older. And if you'd told me at 16 that Mr. D would be someone I talk to more than most, I'd have probably thought you were crazy.

When my kids worry that a friend is leaving their school and they're scared they'll never see them again, I remind them of my friends like Mr. D. Sometimes people go on different paths in life. Sometimes people move far away, and sometimes we don't see them for a very long time. But sometimes, the people who are physically the farthest away, are some of the closest people in our lives.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Getting Social

I'm a writer and a pretty social person. Expressing myself through written words is my norm, and I often find I do better typing my feelings out than saying them in person. And I don't mind sharing those feelings because my hope is that if there is someone out there feeling the same way, they can find comfort in knowing they aren't alone.

Which is part of why I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I dislike how easy it is for people to be bullies behind the comfort of a computer screen, but I do enjoy seeing photos and updates from my friends and family about what they are doing. As a child, I loved opening our Christmas cards because I thoroughly enjoyed the updates; with Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, it's like a constant flow of Christmas cards year round and I love it!

The other aspect I love about it is reconnecting with old friends or family I never would have met otherwise. Whereas we used to have to wait for reunions or family gatherings or, oddly enough, things like funerals to catch up with people we had lost contact with. Now, with just one of those tools I mentioned early, we can reconnect - or connect for the first time - with the people we want to know more about. I've connected with distant cousins and been able to catch up with high school friends. And one of my absolute favorite things happened last week:

I received an email from someone I'd lost touch with.

I absolutely adore emails and letters from people I cared so much for once upon a time. There's thousands of reasons we lose touch with someone: different paths, distance, arguments, life in general. This particular person and I had just taken different paths because we had different views, and while we weren't angry with each other, we each remember being agitated by the other. It's sort of interesting to look back at someone you were upset with years and years ago and the reason why; so often, it's simply a lack of communication. 

I look back at myself a decade or two decades ago and realize how much I read into things, and how I didn't always act appropriately to say the least. If I was angry with someone, I was angry. Today, I find that even when I don't agree with others or don't get along with them, I still hope that they have an incredible life and find whatever happiness they are looking for. There's really not much room - or time - in life for hate and anger, because we don't have enough seconds and minutes and hours as it is.

And so I was overjoyed to get this email and message back and forth about how they are doing, some old memories, and so on. Sometimes, it is a beautiful thing to have that re-connection and forgiveness of the past, whether that relationship will move forward with more correspondence or not. As a writer, those letters - those written words - are just about the best gifts I can receive. ;)

~ Allie

Friday, June 9, 2017

Broken Hearted

Twelve years ago when mom was in her final months of life, we called on hospice to keep her comfortable. They were amazing, but as wonderful as they are, you pray it's a service you will never need again. 

Unfortunately, today, we began hospice for my dad. After the last year and half with dad battling dementia, I thought I was prepared for this moment. I thought I would be okay. And when the nurses pulled me out into the hall today to tell me what I already knew - that Dad's time is running short, they believe - I burst into tears.

I've seen him wage a war against this disease since late 2015. We've seen the ups and downs and ins and outs of what it does to him and what it did to us. And after watching it wreak havoc on his mind for so long you start to think, him finding peace will be a good thing. Until that peace grows so close you can see it waving in the distance. Then you want to freeze time and savor every moment you have together.

Dad's been pretty out of it for quite a few days now. He mostly sleeps, and when he isn't sleeping, he's pretty groggy and out of it. Today, when I arrived, he could barely open his eyes. He'd turn his head towards my voice but it was almost as if he couldn't remember how to actually raise his eyelids. After a nap of about 40 minutes or so he woke up, and for the first time in months, he was clear. There was no confusion. No asking me why we were "riding the rail cars" or where he was, no asking me if I'd gotten married or what my name was (on the bad days). There was just Dad. The man I grew up with, for the next 50 minutes, was there next to me - albeit with a weaker body.

So we talked. Real conversation for the first time in months. We talked about some good memories. We talked about my kids. We talked about how he knows his time is getting shorter and he isn't scared; how he's had a good life and he hopes we have, too. I was blessed to hear him say that he was grateful that I was there to take care of him, that I have been a great daughter - words I needed to hear after the chaos that has been this disease. He talked about how my younger brother was a good dad, and how he knew he'd be okay. Then I called my husband and asked him to bring my kids up while my dad was doing better. They were there within 15 minutes, and Dad talked to them, watched his granddaughter perform her recital dance, and listened to his grandson talk about his latest feats in baseball. There was no anger, no agitation, no anxiety, no curse words. It was just Dad/Grandpa, and it was magnificent. 

It was strange, honestly, to talk so candidly about the fact that he knows his time is short. But it was also such a blessing. I mean, we said things we never would have said. I reminded him that he was free to go, because we would take care of everyone and everything, and he just said he knew we'd be okay. I can't imagine anything about this is easy for him, but today, he showed a wisdom and dignity and calm I don't know that I could possess if I were in his shoes.

I'm not sure what the next few days or weeks or months will hold. That 50 or so minutes of clarity today were an anomaly of sorts. However I know that no matter what, we've said all we need to say and there are no more words needed to share how we feel. Which makes a difficult situation just a little easier to bear.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Six Foot Four

Today I found myself in a familiar place, walking the same path I've walked for what feels like a million times, though I know it's much less. The tiled floor with it's soothing blue and tan marbled pattern leads me 167 steps towards the ancient elevators that will lower me down to his floor. This isn't his home; I refuse to call it that. The nursing home, while fantastic, will never be his home. It's not filled with precious memories of Christmas stockings and antiquing finds. It holds a few photos and some other decor but we all know the truth; the sterile room could never be much of a home. I wish there were a different way to give him the best care, but as a big guy, this is the safest place for him. But it's not home.

Tonight was not a good night. He was so groggy when I arrived and sat down on that ugly couch in the main room next to him, sitting in the wheelchair that's now become a necessity. "Hi Allie," he mumbles, hardly understandable, without even looking. His eyes are pointed in another direction and he tries to shift towards me, though he cannot seem to refocus his eyes in my direction. Yet he knows it is me simply by the sound of my voice. I can't help but smile because some days, he's not able to remember me much. 

Some days, he's not the Dad I remember. Dementia robs people of who they really are. When he gets agitated and angry at times, I pray that somehow, the people around him know that it isn't the real him; it isn't the man I grew up with. Sure, he was a pain in the butt sometimes, but we all are. We all have qualities that are less than enjoyable. But like all of us, he has always had a really good side. I hope that that side is the one people can eventually see.

I try talking a little bit but he has so much trouble responding - the words are barely a whisper on his lips, and even then, only one or two at a time. He does manage to say "I love you," and blow me a kiss. That's the Dad I remember from before this dementia. 

I help him get a bib on for dinner and it strikes me again just how demeaning this disease is. This man once stood six feet four inches tall while waiting for my dates; now, on his best days, he's a little bit smaller as his back and knees force him to lean over. He was a policeman, a salesman, Charming Charlie. He was the best fishing buddy to my kiddos, who dearly miss their time at the creek with Grandpa. Each time they ask if he'll be able to go soon, it breaks my heart. That vibrancy has been replaced by this disease, and now I'm putting a bib on him so we can minimize the spills at dinner. 

Tonight he wasn't hungry, and chewing was a chore. We carried on, both his hands holding one of mine as I scooped each bite so he could eat. Each bite fed to him by the hand of another is yet one more blow to his ego; another reminder that he is no longer the man he was one year ago, five years ago, a lifetime ago.

He let me rub his arm tonight, which he normally never does. Usually once we get the lotion on, he's good, but tonight, he would look until I'd rub his arm again, and then smile. And as he got into bed and drifted off to sleep I listened as he took some deep breaths, then quiet until the deep breaths started again. Sitting next to him, his hand in mine, I couldn't stop from thinking back to how the nights were just like this during Mom's last months. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel the same: torn between wanting him to fight and keep truckin' as long as he can, and wishing for him to find peace, even if that means leaving us. 

This disease sucks, plain and simple. I wish there were more thoughtful words to express it, but that's the truth. Tonight, my heart is just broken and I wish there was more I could do for him.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Parenting: Advice Needed

One of the hardest questions I face right now, having a dad with dementia and two little kids, is how to help them maintain a relationship that doesn't negatively impact them or the other.

Here's what I mean: my kids want to spend time with their Grandpa, but sometimes Dad will say inappropriate things or change moods in a heartbeat. As an adult, it's extremely hard to not take personally what he says sometimes; imagine an 11 and 8 year old attempting to chalk it up to the disease, which they don't fully understand. 

And when the kids don't come, Dad notices, and it of course makes him sad. Then other days he'll say, no, don't bring them up because I don't know what I'll say. So he knows - which sometimes just makes him sadder.

I am trying my best to balance it, but I haven't figured out that perfect solution yet. They exchange cards and video messages, and we take them up in the early mornings when he's a bit less confused and agitated. And the kids seem okay now that he is stable in a nursing home instead of the constant roller coaster of home, hospital, nursing home, repeat. But it's difficult on everyone. The kids don't understand the dementia; they want their Grandpa back; the one who used to take them fishing and regale them with far-fetched stories (think the movie "Big Fish"). They already feel robbed, particularly my daughter, of not having met my mom.

And then there is me, hardly holding it together lately, because after 13 months of watching Mom battle brain cancer and ultimately lose (12 years ago this past week, actually), I'm now having to watch Dad slowly disappear and become a stranger while I try and provide him the best care possible. We've been going back and forth with the memory loss for a couple years now, and now we're at the dementia diagnosis, so needless to say it's been a long train ride of unfamiliar stops and reevaluating the route to take.

I think the biggest fear I have, as a parent, is what my kids are going to have to go through one day. Are they going to watch me wage a war against cancer? Or are they going to be helping me to eat dinner at 73 because I can't remember how to use a fork? Seems stupid to think about, I know, and my parents' illnesses do not mean I automatically will end up with the same fate - I get that. But I can't help but wonder and worry. I can't predict the future, so for now all I can do is make every minute I have with the people I love count. That's all any of us can do.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

15 Years Ago, Watching ER

Fifteen years ago today, I sat with my mother on an ugly, blue floral-patterned couch and stared at a bulky television set and watched one of our favorite television shows to watch together: ER. (Previous favorites included Golden Girls and Sisters, of course).

That particular night, my favorite character was set to meet his demise. For two seasons, we'd watched him struggle with a brain cancer diagnosis. The stroke-like symptoms, the difficulty speaking, the seizures - each moment of his (television) pain broke our hearts a little more. And of course, in true television-viewer fashion, we were SURE that they could never kill off a character so beloved to the audience. But. They. Did. (Do you see where my concern over the fictitious life of Daryl Dixon is valid? No one is safe on TV.)

And in two of the saddest scenes (seriously, if you choose to click this link or click this link and watch, get your tissues ready), mom and I sobbed over his death. Like, legit sobbed. Part of it was the loss of a character on a show I loved, and part was because you can't help but imagine what life would be like if that happened to you or someone you know. We had already watched mom battle and defeat breast cancer. I distinctly remember saying to her that night, on that ugly couch, that I could not imagine how horrible life would be if that ever happened to her. That only made me cry harder.

Exactly 3 years and 8 days later, it did.

Ironic, a bit, that mom died during brain cancer awareness month. Really, she'd only been given a few months to a year after that initial brain cancer diagnosis in early April 2014, but she was always big in supporting breast cancer and the Relay for Life and all that. Part of me wonders if she held on as long as she did, and died when she did, to serve as a reminder to keep pushing on for a cure.

If you read my blog, you know all about my mom's story so I don't need to rehash it. But what I do want to say is this:

Life is short (Hello, cliche! Yes, I said it.) It really is. Mom didn't imagine going to bed on April 9 that on April 10, she'd be diagnosed with brain cancer. Life can change in an instant, just like that.

Every moment you spend not truly living is a moment wasted. Whether it's on fear or anger or jealousy or stewing or whatever it is, the clock keeps ticking and those are moments you will never have back. You have to learn to let go of that stuff and let it dissipate into nonexistence; when you can move forward with the good in life and let go of the bad (easier said than done sometimes), you won't be wasting those important moments anymore.

I try and explain to the kids that life is like a tree. Your path starts out like the roots, growing for nine months until your debut. From there, you set out on a path and while it might seem scary, you'll start taking many different routes in life. Some of them aren't great; we all make mistakes. That's when you find a new path and follow that one for awhile. You'll make new friends and lose some; some you'll find again. You'll love and lose and learn. Eventually, your history looks like a tree in winter - lots of branches going in all different directions but hopefully, you still find yourself growing and moving upwards towards a sky full of opportunity. And while the branches look sad and bare when it's coldest out - or when times are hard in life - even your mistakes turn into something beautiful down the road.


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