A Sam Story — maybe a couple of them…

As I have shared, the last week has been very difficult for us. Often as we tried to make sense of the news, I implored Sam to intervene, or if he couldn’t do that, at least give us a sign of his presence around us.

On Friday, I was outside feeding the animals when a small squall hit. As the sky darkened then got lighter, I begged Sam to send us a rainbow to show us he was with us. When it didn’t happy, I admit, I yelled and swore, telling him to “just do it!” As tears ran down my face, I turned from where we normally see rainbows to get hay, and as I turned back, a rainbow filled the sky.

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That rainbow helped. It helped a lot.

Then yesterday, we went for another medical appointment. Coming home we felt a little more centered than we had in a week, just from getting some information. As we drove south, another weird squall hit. Again, I implored Sam to give us a sign of his presence by sending a rainbow. I know my husband begged him too, just not out loud like I do. I again admit to swearing, telling him (Sam) to listen to me, and give us a rainbow. Then I started muttering about him not listening to me, and the rant went on…

Just then, I realized that we had been behind the same truck ever since the squall had started. This little white truck. Looking at it closely, I realized what the back of the truck said, and I started to laugh, poking my husband to get him to look too. What did the truck say? It said “Rainbow Acres.”

 

The moral of the story? Sometimes what we most seek is right in front of us, and we are so closed-minded that we can’t see it.

Another Unwanted Journey…

This past week, we started on a new journey, one not wanted and one that is terrifying. We haven’t yet fully internalized the magnitude of that journey, but it is time to write about it because it is time to see if I have fully integrated my own message of unconditional love, connection to nature and gratitude as a way to live no matter how great the darkness or how scary the journey.

This past week, the love of my life was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This diagnosis came completely out of the blue, as we had known something was going on, but had no idea this was a possibility. ALS? Seriously? We can’t win the lottery, but we can have a disease that occurs in a rate of less than 20,000 people a year?

We are just in the beginning stages of understanding the plan of care, the prognosis, and all of those details. Right now, it is completely and totally overwhelming, raw, and all-consuming.

One of my first sensations upon hearing the diagnosis was actually feeling my heart break — you all know how much I love my husband, and how much we have planned to live to at least 150 years old to do all we want to do together. Then started the rolling waves of crashing emotion. Fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, and then it would start all over again. I have cursed the universe, have used expletives in very creative ways, and probably will continue to do both.

Then, knowing that we needed to keep the news very quiet until we could see our children face-to-face to tell them, we had to stay quiet and answer the normal, “How are you?” questions without breaking down. Only a few people knew during this incredibly long, stressful week, and they bore the weight of being our supports while also having to hold our secret.

Now that secret no longer needs to be kept, we are sharing this news. And I am wrestling with how to find gratitude right now. The love? That’s easy. Gratitude? That’s much harder.

But, if I truly believe it can help, I need to try…

I am grateful for our parents’ support, even as they struggle themselves. I am thankful that Hila is getting better by the day. I am thankful for medical insurance. I am thankful for the few people who knew this week and held our hands, handed us Kleenex, brought us food and chocolate, and reminded us of how loved we are. I am thankful for moments of breaks in the stress, such as watching the lambs run and play. I am thankful for the love we share as a family and as a couple. I am thankful for the strength and humor of our biological and non-biological children. I am thankful for sunshine, fresh asparagus, music, and inappropriate humor.

We do not know exactly how this journey will unfold, but I do know that we have chosen to undertake this journey as we have with others before this one — with love, humor, openness, honesty, a healthy dose of expletives and sarcasm, and a fierce optimism and full out battle mode. We promise to ask for help, we promise to not try to do it all ourselves. We will do what we have to in order to fight this disease until there is a cure, and we will also hold to our priorities that love (and gratitude) are at the center of our lives, no matter how great the darkness. We promise to live every single moment with love, purpose, and hope.

Truly, love is all that matters.

The countdown has begun!

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Today is May 8, 2019, and it is only 13 days until Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude will be in stores. Now, I know that it has already made its way into some stores, and maybe, just maybe has been sold to customers. But the fact remains, the official store (and print copies sold through online retailers) release date is only thirteen days away. That is pretty exciting.

Again, as mentioned in one of my FB posts, if you send (or post) a picture of the book in a store, I will send you a “Do A Sam” gift!

 

 

 

A sheep story…

As some of you know, our little Hila had a health scare last week. She suddenly came down with what is called polio (it’s not really polio), and it is caused by a combination of not having yet developed enough of a particular bacteria in her stomach, and a lack of thiamine. Thankfully, we caught it early, and the vet thinks she will make a full recovery — but as of right now, she still is partially blind, and very subdued.

Today, we decided that her sight had improved enough that we were ready to send Lana and Hila out into the pasture to graze freely for the first time. Opening the gate, Ellsy raced out and rolled in the burdocks and evergreen needles, and now he looks like a giant pincushion, sigh. Lana came tearing into the pasture, and just ran and ran and ran. Hila finally ventured out, clearly nervous with her limited sight. Here is Lana, just admiring her new playground.

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A half-hour later, I went out to check on them, and bring the lambs back into their normal pen, so that they wouldn’t get stomach aches from eating too much new stuff. I couldn’t find them! Not in their barn. Not behind the aviary. Not anywhere that I could see them. Then I heard a “baaaaaa” and turned to find the two lambs in the chicken coop. Clearly, they had decided it was a cool little lamb playhouse! Later, Paul would tell me that Lana had actually climbed up into the coop itself, and was standing in the chicken door looking out proudly while he mowed the lawn.

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So the girls were in the fenced part of the coop, so I shook the grain bucket at them, thinking they would come running. Nope. So I climbed into the coop. Yes, it was a sight to behold. They ran out. I followed them out, and they ran back in, and we did this over and over. Finally, I cornered Hila, and picked her up to carry her back to the pen.

There I am, hot, tired, carrying a really mad, squirming, heavy lamb down the hill, and suddenly, Lana decides that we all are playing, and she starts taking running starts and jumping on my back. Yes, in the end, I had muddy hoof prints all down my back.

We made it back to the pen, and I let a very thankful Hila down, and they scampered off to find water and grain, and I went to find a cold drink and a hot shower.

 

Thank you for the memories!

Today I had the opportunity to talk with two people who gave me the gift of time with some great memories. First, I spent some time with a friend who has been part of our lives since our youngest was about five, and has shared many, many Otter Valley Walking Stick Theater moments with us. We talked theater, and we talked grief, and we teared up, and we laughed. The second was a professional with whom I shared a case many, many years ago. I shared with him a recent note I had received about our shared student, we laughed, we mourned, and after our conversation, I had the gift of the time driving home thinking about that student, and that group of students, and smiled at the memories.

Giving others the gift of the time to share memories is such a wonderful thing to do. Thank you!

A Give-Away!!!!!!

With help from some literary friends, we have organized a give-away of Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude. To enter, you write a post on Facebook about gratitude, with a couple of caveats to formally enter you in the contest. Full rules are listed below.

The post explaining the give-away says:

Good morning all, hope you enjoyed the holiday weekend.

Women’s fiction author Kris Francoeur (aka Anna Belle Rose) would love to share her new memoir, Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude. This is the story of how Kris faced the loss of her son Sam to a drug overdose and how the practice of gratitude helped her heal.

Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude comes out May 21st from Morgan James Publishing. She’s offering to give away five copies of her book to people who share stories from their lives, something for which they are grateful. This book can be a wonderful encouragement for Mother’s Day for mothers where the day is complicated. It can be ordered here: https://authorkfrancoeur.com/anna-belle-roses-books/

She’s glad to send a free copy of her book to every fifth person who makes a Facebook post that contains these three items:

1. The tag #garlicgratitude

2. A mention of Kris Francoeur’s new memoir Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude (say the author’s name and book title and include this link: https://authorkfrancoeur.com/of-grief-garlic-and-gratitude/)

3. Write something (any length, a few sentences or a few paragraphs are both fine!) to let us know something for which you are grateful. Can be about how you faced tragedy or just something you’re thankful for in general.

We’ll go out and look for these pieces by searching for #garlicgratitude (so please don’t forget that!) and then Kris will privately contact each fifth person (#5, #10, #15, etc) for address information so she can mail you a paperback.

Sending love and hope and light to all who read this.

About Kris Francoeur:

My name is Kris Francoeur, and I am an author, educator, speaker, wife, mom, grandmother and farmer living in Vermont. I love to spend time with my family, travel, hike, kayak, knit, spin (fiber), garden, cook, and love time with my bees, alpacas and chickens.

Currently, I have published three romance novels with Solstice Publishing, and have one in its early stages. All of my romances are written under the pen name of Anna Belle Rose, and they can be purchased in paperback format through my Book Store page on this website, or in e-book or paperback on Amazon.

So — please go onto Facebook, and post away, following the instructions, so you are entered to win!

Love, Music, Gratitude, Grief and Forgiveness

Last night, we went to Middlebury to see a local band, Hamjob, perform. Now, if you follow my social media fairly regularly, I post about them a fair amount, because they write a song about Sam, aptly entitled, “Sam’s Song.” We’ve listened to the song a lot, but missed the official launch party for their first studio album, because I had a book event. Last night was going to be the first time we’d seen the band perform, and therefore, the first time we’d seen the song performed in person.

The lead singer of the band is someone we’ve known a long time. He was friends with Sam in high school, and they shared an apartment the year prior to Sam’s death. But this was the first time we’d seen him in person for a long time.

So, leaving the house to go see them perform last night, about the same time we would normally be getting ready to call it a day, we were a bit emotionally charged. Not nervous, but churning in our own emotions. We were meeting one of our sons, and three good friends there, and we were so glad for the company.

We got there, and got to spend a few minutes before the band played visiting with that lead singer, and then with his bass player, who we’d gotten to know via social media. Then we hung out, listened to great music, waiting to hear “the song,” and in my heart, I wasn’t sure how I would react. Suddenly, we realized that one of Sam’s good friend, one of the ones involved in the great sheep trip, was there. We hadn’t seen him in years! Hugs, a few tears, just the joy of holding the hands of this wonderful young man for a moment was such a joy.

Then the song started. And while the band played this fabulous song, which so many there clearly knew, I realized that Sam’s spirit had made its appearance again. In that room were people who had falling-outs, all of whom love Sam, and (thankfully!) love us — and they were all there, and as that song played, there were hugs, tears, more hugs, and it was as if those angers and hurt feelings disappeared. As that song played, many of the people Sam cared (and cares) about most were in that room, and they were together, and the love he shared so broadly was clearly in view.

The night was perfect. Great music, love, laughter, shared grief, shared gratitude for the community Sam gave through his friendships.

Wow!

It’s been a bit of a whirl-wind lately. The end of winter (hopefully), all of our work and school schedules getting busier, and then lots of book logistics and events. All of it is exciting, and keeps us busy and looking forward.

This week also saw an uptick in activity about Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude being released next month in stores. The kindle version of the book vaulted to #85 on the Grief list on Amazon, which was amazing. Then I was interviewed for an upcoming article in VTDigger, booked several radio interviews and several podcasts, and was invited to several more book events.

All of it is so exciting. Obviously, I would much rather have Sam coming home for Easter dinner on Sunday, then preparing for an interview about losing him, but I still hold onto the idea that he is proud of our commitment to love, the earth, great music, and gratitude.

Let’s welcome Lynne Marino!

Today I am thrilled to welcome fellow Solstice author Lynne Marino!

Please tell us about yourself. 

I was born in north county St. Louis, which is part of where “Five Things” takes place. My grandparents were German immigrants who had a small bank account and an enlarged work ethic. My father’s side of the family have an amazing sense of sarcastic humor. I lucked in the marriage department, as my husband is a far better cook than I am (it’s an Italian thing). I have two children that we tried to instill a sense of humor into regarding life and all its vagaries.  Like my characters in “Five Things”, I strive to find something good in every day. As Mel Brooks might say, “Hey! You’re alive! Shut up and quit your complaining.”  Oh! And I could easily spend the rest of my life touring Roman ruins. Do you know of any in Ohio?

What are some of your favorite things to do?

Sleep! Just joking. I like to walk dogs, dance with my husband, read, read, and read some more. Did I mention reading? I also like to hike, if it’s a flat path. Seriously, one of my goals in the next few years is to walk the length of Hadrian’s Wall, although I hear there’s a bus that will take you to every spot along the wall, so faking it for Facebook is also a possibility.

Why did you decide to write novels?

To empty out all the “wouldn’t it be funny” and “what if’s” running around wreaking havoc in my head. You know, people really stare at you when you laugh out loud in public settings.  

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?

More than I want to think about. My characters do some crazy things.  And, they can never keep their mouths’ shut.

When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first ms?

I won a contest for best story in the fourth grade. After that, I think I was hooked.

Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?

No, I’m half German. There is no flow, there are only schedules.  Really, just joking. I try to write every other day for at least four hours.  After that, I try to put in some time studying marketing.

What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing – or are there constant interruptions?

Are you kidding? They haven’t a clue, but I love them so I will put down anything to help one of them out – if they need it.  And there’s the rub.

What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?

My husband and I do ballroom dancing. No laughing. Seriously (and I really hate being serious), there is not a time when I haven’t come out of a dance class or a dance party when I haven’t felt happier than I did before I went in. I also love to people watch, and walk dogs.

Where do your ideas come from?

I think they’re a mix between watching people, hearing stories, reading the news, and incidents in my own family life.

Do you feel humor is important in your writing, and why?

Humor forms the basis of everything I write. The drama comes second.

What kind of research do you do?

Whatever is necessary. For example, when I wrote the “Cha-cha Affair”, I had to research Medicare fraud and cheating the IRS. That was interesting. With “Five Things”,  I researched public health campaigns and academic tenure, as well as Italian hand signals. Researching the meaning of those hand signals was a blast. It’s amazing the things you can tell someone with those hand signals, and they don’t even know it.

Do you have a favorite author? Favorite book?

Frederick Backman is my favorite right now, but he didn’t write my favorite book. Probably, “The Book Thief” is my favorite, and I will confess to loving the Harry Potter series.Who are some of your other favorite authors to read?

Carl Hiaasen, Jennifer Weiner, Markus Zusak, Gillian Flynn, Jojo Moyes, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Charliane Harris, and every author at Solstice Publishing.

What do you think of critique groups in general?

My critique partners are necessary evils. Just joking. You are a lucky writer if you have a small group of writers who will tell you the truth. Sometimes you don’t want to hear it, but if more than one of them is saying the same thing, you’d better listen up.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully, not in the mirror. Seriously, I intend to write several more books that I hope bring tears of laughter and joy to people.

How many books have you written, how many have been published?

I’ve written five novels, and only tried to publish two.  I am half way through a third comedy romance that I like enough to try and get it published. It’s called, “The Third Time’s The Charm”.

After you’ve written your book and it’s been published, do you ever buy it and/or read it?

A one-word answer. No.

Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?

I like all my protagonists, or I wouldn’t have been able to finish the books.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

Ha! Finishing the book.

If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?

Thinking about writing.

What is your greatest desire?

I’m living my greatest desire.  I’m writing things that make people laugh about life.

Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?

Make sure you enjoy the agony of writing. Have your writing professionally edited prior to submission. Do a cram course in marketing before your first few books come out.

Please tell us about your latest book.

I had two comedy romances published within months of each other, both by Solstice Publishing. The first was, “The Cha-cha Affair”, and the second was, “Five Things.”

What can we expect from you in the future?

More humorous novels with all too human characters, and a short story collection called, “Tales Of The Tucson Almost-Angel”.

How do we find out about you and your books?

Go to Solstice Publishing online to find out about me, as well as the publisher’s other authors. I also have an author page on Amazon and Facebook, as well as a website.  Click on the links below to find out more.

https://lynnemarinoauthor.com/

https://www.facebook.com/lynnemarinoauthor/

https://www.amazon.com/Lynne-Marino/e/B07G2Q86FS?ref=dbs_p_pbk_r00_abau_000000

http://solsticeempire.com/