Done, and yes, it’s International Overdose Awareness Day

Tonight I finished the checking of the interior proof of Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude. As I said in an earlier post, the interior design of the book is so beautiful it still makes my throat tighten with emotion every time I look at it.

It seems fitting that I would finish proofing a book about losing someone to an overdose on International Overdose Awareness Day — although that was never my plan. Every single day, thousands of lives are lost to overdoses — the CDC estimates that more than 72,000 Americans died from overdoses in 2017.

Let that number sink in for a moment. More than 72,000 people. 72,000 mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. Husbands and wives. Best friends. Cousins.

More than 63,000 died in 2016. More than 72,000 in 2017, and the projections are that more than that will die in 2018. These numbers are not decreasing, they are increasing. If

We continue to have this idea that overdoses only happen in dark alleys or flop houses, and only to the homeless, the unloved, the outcasts of society. Yes, people die of overdoses in flop houses and in dark alleys. They also die of overdoses in mansions, cottages, apartments. They die loved and mourned (even as they live), as their families and loved ones agonize over them. Many of them wait, begging for support and services of mental health organizations, in a system overwhelmed by need, and bogged down by insurance and payment red-tape.

Every single one of those more than 72,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2017 was someone’s daughter or son, a child born into this world full of promise and potential, and no matter what, that promise and potential was taken from this world.

So today, as everyday, I live my life as a mother who lost one of the lights of her life to an overdose. Sam did not die in a flop house unloved, he died in his grandparents’ house, surrounded by absolute love and acceptance.  Sam was not an outcast of society, he had a job, had incredible friends and a loving family, and showed love and light to everyone he met.

And an overdose still took him from us, and we can’t change that.

So I ask you, no, beg you to stop and think about how you view those struggling with addiction. Do you talk down about them? Think of them as weak or unable to control themselves? Would you feel the same if instead they were diabetic?

sam smiling

This is the face of an overdose in the United States. This beloved, joy-filled face — and today, as I finished proofing the book, I pledge again to not hide from how Sam died, nor to shun or vilify others who have died or who are struggling with addiction.




A Heat Wave and a New Year

Vermont is in the midst of another heat wave, and as I said a few weeks ago, Vermonters don’t do heat well. Most buildings in Vermont aren’t air conditioned, we are used to being outside a lot, and when it gets this hot and humid, we tend to get cranky. Well, maybe it is that I get cranky when it is this hot.

Over the last few days, we have enjoyed wonderful times with family-friends (non relatives who are more family than some blood relatives). We have laughed, cried, joked, enjoyed meals together, developed new relationships, celebrated, wrestled with deep questions, and just enjoyed the love we share. We have helped our youngest get settled into his new year of college, cheered for our oldest as she starts a new year of teaching, and celebrated with our oldest son as he had another amazing accomplishment in his racing (running). We have picked/washed/dehydrated/canned or frozen bushels of produce, and gotten ready for a family trip next week.

And then, in the midst of that all, we also got ready for the start of another school year for me — making sure that all of the logistics were ready for the first day with students. The year has now started, and what a joy it is to be (again) surrounded by the most amazing colleagues and students.

Hopefully, the heat will break over night. As for tonight, after cold dinner (who wants hot food in this heat?), we are now sitting in the air conditioned upstairs of the house. For a bit, I will proof the book, then I think we will watch a little TV before falling asleep and dreaming of winter.


Checking the interior proof

Tonight I start checking the interior proof of Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude, which arrived on Friday. I will be checking it online, but a physical copy of it will arrive in the next day or two, so then I will hold it in my hands.

When it arrived on Friday, I opened the file for a little peak, and what I saw made tears stream down my cheeks. Many of you know that Sam had a favorite necklace, one of hemp twine, with the most beautiful tree of life pendant on it. He wore it for years, and he planned to get a tattoo of that tree on his 21st birthday, but he didn’t live to see that day. Both my husband and I got that tattoo for Sam, in his memory, the December after he died.

When I submitted cover ideas to the publisher for this book, I had given them a photo of that pendant. Imagine my surprise when I opened the proof of the book and saw that tree denotes the changing of chapters. It is so, so beautiful. So, yes, I cried. I sat and looked at that tree, saw how their choice of font enhances my words, and the beauty and “perfectness” of it made me emotional.

I took a couple days away from the file, needing time to get ready to look over the proof in the detail it requires. Now, I am ready.


The weekend is (almost) here!

The official work week has come to an end, and we are almost at our weekend. It will be a busy one. First, the house needs cleaning, the lawn needs trimming, the chicken coops need cleaning, and the garden needs weeding and picking. Then, we need to plant fall crops, such as the last crop of lettuce and winter radishes.

Once all of that is done, we need to process the crops we pick. I think we probably will press more cider, press grapes, can tomato sauce, and maybe make kimchi. We will make a nice dinner from all of our bounty, then hopefully take a hike on Sunday and see our youngest and oldest children, and see our grandchildren.

Here’s hoping that your weekend is full of the things that make you happy and fulfilled!

Sometimes the good things are really hard…

Tonight our youngest headed back to college. We had a great summer with him, loved every minute of it, and will miss having him around the house. It is a wonderfully joyous event too, as we are so proud of him and his accomplishments, and are excited about him continuing his education. We also are thankful that he is only about an hour away, which helps a lot.

But, it also is another milestone that gives us a huge lump in our throats. We will miss having him at dinner each night, and it again reminds us that it is another milestone that Sam is not here to celebrate with us. In my mind, I can hear his voice, so excited and nervous as he went off to college years ago. I guess what I am trying to say is that we have especially large lumps in our throats tonight. Pride, joy, excitement mingle freely with grief and loss.

Now, it’s time to sit on the deck for a while, watching the hummingbirds, maybe spinning some alpaca fiber for a knitting project, maybe reading for a bit.

Joy and sadness, two parts of all of our daily lives.

Let’s welcome Cortney Donelson!

Today I am thrilled to welcome author Cortney Donelson! As Cortney puts it, she is a:

  • God-wrestler
  • Marriage Lover
  • Witty Parent
  • Homeschool Mom
  • Adoptive Mom
  • Hummingbird Watcher
  • Adores goats, avocados, and books
I wanted to invite Cortney to this blog for several reasons. First, anyone who love avocados, books and hummingbirds automatically is on my list of cool people. Then, I also am inspired by her dedication to her marriage, and their dedication to working with other couples. Finally, I love the title of her book, as it ties in directly with my own upcoming memoir.
I asked Cortney to write a piece for us, which is shared below.


For the longest time, I believed the lie that everything that could be said or written had already been spoken or penned–in some shape or form–by someone else. I assumed there was no original message left to craft. That lie effectively limited my God-given purpose. Fortunately, I now realize there are still ideas to convey, discoveries to make, and creative ventures to pursue.

Writers are not only stewards of words; we are the conduits of stories, messages, and dreams. From a young age, I dreamed about writing fiction and guiding readers on tales filled with suspense and action. Those are the kinds of stories I loved to read (actually still do!).

Instead, my teachers–who saw a logical, confident, and overachieving academic­­­–frequently pointed me to the sciences and declared I was not good with words. They had sight, but not vision. They missed the inner and hidden parts of me that held storehouses of inspiration, passion, and creativity. These parts were so concealed that even I did not know they were there. So, I pursued a career in healthcare and believed that was the end of my dream.

It wasn’t until my adult world fell apart that my secret gift was unwrapped. It would be unwrapped for thousands to experience. Through a marriage crisis no one should ever have to endure, I began writing. I composed short and private devotions to help me find some measure of stability within my tornadic emotions and an intimate connection to my God. These devotions were outlets for my swirling fears. They were healing for me.  Yes, words–both spoken and written–have the muscle to change people.

Later, I was compelled to link the devotions together with the detailed, biographical story of how I was able to walk through my husband’s and my marriage crisis. The story vulnerably outlined my relentless pursuit of health, hope, and a belief in something greater than my pain. This raw collection became my first book, Clay Jar, Cracked: When We’re Broken But Not Shattered. Morgan James Publishing, much to the chagrin of my former English teachers who believed I wasn’t good enough to write, published it in 2017. Those words I penned in my darkest season became a healing testimony for others.

Writers are storytellers, and we will always have stories to share. Our tales–whether fiction or true–contain messages, hopes, and dreams, and if we steward our words well, they will change the world. I discovered that while our stories may be similar, no perspective, no lesson, and no impact is ever the same. Don’t believe the lie that your story­–your message–has already been told. Keep writing, my creator friends. There is always more to uncover.


Please visit her website at to learn more about Cortney and her projects!


Over the last eighteen months, as I have been so busy with the writing/editing/publishing/marketing process, I have not taken as much time as I should, or as I would like, to read books by other authors. I do read a lot professionally, but I hadn’t picked up many other books in a while.

This last two months, that changed. I have read and read, and read some more. I have read novels, motivational texts, pieces from authors I have gotten to know along this journey, books recommended by friends, and books that just caught my interest. I have enjoyed some of them greatly, had issues or grumbled about some, and found some that I wish had been through a more stringent editing/proofreading process as typos or misused words took my mind away from great stories.

As the summer winds down, I know my reading time will get shorter and shorter with the ramping up of the school year. But, it has been a wonderful time this summer, and I have so enjoyed the books I have read.

Here’s hoping you’ve read some great books this summer!

A Farming Kind of Day

Yesterday was a busy, busy day around our farm. We had gathered the drop apples from our trees and decided that we should press cider or they would go to waste. For some reason this year, our apple trees are dropping apples way more often than normal.

So we pressed cider. We hoped that we would make maybe a gallon, but in the end, we pressed more than four gallons. After putting some aside for family members, we then froze a gallon in quart jars and made a gallon of spiced cider. Then we went to check our supply of our homemade apple cider vinegar, and divided up what we had left, and added fresh cider, so in all, we now have three gallons of the vinegar fermenting for the fall/winter. Then we took the remains of the apples and gave the alpacas and non-laying chickens a treat.

Then we picked the garden, cleaned the hay barn, and did the normal chores, finally settling down with our sons for a great meal together. It was a great day!

At long last!

Today, I finally handed in Of Grief, Garlic & Gratitude for the internal design lay-out. What does that mean? It means that as of today, I can’t fuss over the wordings any more. I can’t move sections around any more. I can’t move people within the acknowledgements any more, trying to make sure that placement of their names doesn’t cause hurt feelings. And that is both terrifying and exciting!

To be clear,  I could fuss over my books forever. When I look at my three published romance novels, I could go at them now with one of my purple pens and edit away. In my mind, I am never completely, totally done writing and editing my books — they are living documents in my mind.

But this book? This is different. In my mind, this book is both the story of my journey through my first years of grief after Sam’s death, but it is also the story of my love of/for/with Sam. That’s why the subtitle is “Sam’s love story.” The weight of writing this book has been immense. Yes, it was helpful to me in my grieving process, but it also is putting myself out there in terms of exposing my vulnerabilities in a way I have never done before. I wanted it to be perfect. Perfect. I wanted every word to count, and the editing and proofreading to be absolutely perfect.

So now it is in the hands of the publisher, and it is up to them to take that document that is as near to perfect as I (and my amazing team of editors) can make it. Hitting “send” on that email with the file was almost like the last push of giving birth. I am exhausted, terrified, and relieved — all at once.

Now I wait. I wait to see the first internal design layout, then the galleys. Yes, I get to double-check everything at each step, but the writing and re-writing are done.

What will I do now? I think I will go work on my next novel…


A 25th Birthday

This past Monday was our Sam’s 25th birthday, and the fifth one since his death. Someone, the big numbers hit me really hard. I kept telling myself that 25 really wasn’t that different than 24, or 5 than 4, but it was.

We went into the past weekend with the joy and anticipation of going to see the band Twiddle at their Tumble Down festival in Burlington, Vermont with our two sons, but with the sadness that we never went to see them with Sam in person. The day was hot and a bit humid, and as we (my husband and I) settled in with our lawn chairs at the park, ominous clouds rolled in, and we waited to get doused. A little bit of rain fell, and we thought it would be okay. Then they stopped the group playing (pre-Twiddle) and announced that we all had to evacuate immediately due to lightening in the area. Sigh. Thousands of people had to leave through a couple security gates.

So we walked back to our hotel, knowing we would get an update online when/if the concert could resume. We called our sons (who hadn’t arrived yet) and told them to hold on, and we settled into our hotel room for a few minutes.

The all-clear came, and we walked back down to the park, meeting our youngest son unexpectedly as he came down the street, and we looked up to see a beautiful arching rainbow — and as you know, rainbows often appear when Sam is somehow involved… Laughing, crying a bit, we walked back to the concert, commenting that Sam needed to make his presence known.

The concert was perfection — Taz and Kat Wright joining Twiddle on stage, laughing with our sons, seeing good friends. It was a Sam night, full of love, great music and happiness.

The next day, Sunday, was hard, just plain hard. I remembered the day, 25 years before, when I had been in labor for so long, just waiting to see that baby in person.

Then Monday dawned, and I admit, it was hard to get out of bed, but we had decided that we were going to have a “Sam Day” to honor and recognize his birthday. We kayaked around the Goshen Dam, paddling in almost complete silence so we could hear the loons and the other wildlife. Then we hiked to Silver Lake, saw his tree, and ran into friends — again all things Sam loved.

Finally, we came home and harvested Sam’s garlic for this year. Every single clove of garlic we planted last fall grew into a full head of garlic. Sam was right all along, growing garlic is truly a magical process!

Five birthdays after his death, the loss is still so fresh, still so raw, but we honored his memory by doing things in nature, listening to great music, being with great people. Friends/family called, texted, emailed their thoughts and told us how they celebrated him on that day — and in the end, it was as good of a day as it could possibly have been.