Why do we do it?

Last night we had chicken Provencal for dinner (or our version of it). It was delicious. But beyond the taste of it, or the nutrition of it, what mattered was how that food came to our table.

The ingredients: chicken, broth, tomatoes, rosemary, onions, garlic, leeks, red and green peppers, carrots, and a little bit of red wine. It was served with boiled baby potatoes. The only thing not from our land? The wine. Everything else was organically produced and harvested by us as a family. Yes, even the chickens were raised and processed by us. Dessert was a spoonful of raw honey. Yum.

Why do we do it? We believe in knowing where our food comes from. We believe in eating organically whenever we can. We believe in the idea that if we are going to eat meat, we either need to do it ourselves or know the farms where it came from — yes, I mean looking in the eyes of beef cattle, knowing, really knowing, where our food comes from. But really, we do it for the joy and emotional peace it gives us. No, the day the chickens move into the freezer is a day we dread. But I also know how carefully they have been raised, the way in which they have been treated. The planting, tending, harvesting and processing of the vegetables? Just plain fun. The caring for the bees? They fascinate me, inspire me, humble me. They create this peaceful, organized, supportive society, and make honey while they do it!

Why do we do it? Because digging in the earth, tending to animals, learning from the bees and chickens, all of those things remind us that humans aren’t the be-all-and-end all of the world, that other creatures and organisms have such worth. Growing our own food nourishes our bodies and feeds our souls — that’s why we do it.

The Boston Red Sox and love.

red sox
The Boston Red Sox. Really, you write a post about love and the Red Sox? Have you lost your mind?

The Boston Red Sox are intertwined with love in so many ways for me. As a child, I went to Fenway with my dad, and they are some of my best childhood memories. I saw Tiante pitch! As a almost-teen, I went with my parents to see Carl Yastremski’s last game. When things were tough in our house, we always had the Sox. My grandma? She would sit on the porch with me at night, sitting in the dark, listening to the Sox on the radio. These are great memories, memories filled with love and joy.

As an adult, our children learned to love the Sox early on, and I have so many great Sox memories with them. Long car rides at night listening to the games on the radio. Sam and Ben’s first game at Fenway? We saw Schilling pitch, and Sam made us laugh until it was hard to breathe when he said innocently, “Wow, that guy looks just like Schilling,” as he saw a pitcher come out of the bullpen. We saw the Sox play in Cleveland in snow, having to buy winter clothes to go to the game, but had the best mustard ever on dollar dogs. We saw them in Toronto, needing to get Ben a new baseball hat because his had blown over Niagara Falls, and still have a handful of dirt from their field. We laughed until tears ran when Sam developed a crush on the NESN sports announcer Hazel Mae, and almost broke his neck racing across the house every time she was on air. When she sent him an autographed note for his birthday, he framed it, and it was the only thing he dusted in his room. Ben? Ben was so enamored of the Sox, that he wrote an essay to go to Varitek’s summer camp without telling us — and won a full scholarship! Both Sam and Ben met Kevin Youkilis, Ben met Varitek, and for all of us, Opening Day is like a holiday.

Then, in 2013, the Red Sox saved us. Literally. After October 9th, we were so broken, so sad, so tired, so overwhelmed. By seven at night, we were fried, unable to function much at all. Each night, we sat together, the three of us, and watched the Sox. We could yell, cheer, express emotion, and for a few hours, pretend it was just that Sam was out, not that he would never come home again. It gave us something simple and pure, something that we could focus on other than the pain.

The night the Sox won the World Series that year? It was the first time we saw a purely happy look on our youngest’s face. We could yell, hug, dance around, and tear up — but in happiness. I will always believe that Sam made sure they won that year, knowing his baby brother needed it.

That year, there was a double rainbow over Fenway on the first night of the series. This year? There was a double rainbow over Fenway. I said that night that the Sox would win, and I was right.

For me, the Sox kept us going at our lowest point. Our love of them gave us something simple to hold onto, and it is so appreciated.

So, if any of you have any connections to David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, or Terry Francona, please thank them for me.

Yes, love — the Red Sox and love.

Love, just love.

As this weekend comes to a close, I join so many others in the sadness of the violence and hate that seems to be so prevalent in our world right now. It makes me reflect on what it means to love, both specifics and generalities.

Many of us think of love pretty much purely in the romantic sense. To be clear, I write romance novels, so I get the romance thing. But love is so, so much more.

This past three days, I have seen love shown in so many ways. Yes, it was my birthday on Friday, a day that has been difficult since Sam’s death. This year I can say I felt more at peace than I have on any other of the last five birthdays. And much of that peace came with my recognition of the the love that came my way or that I was fortunate to witness over these last days.

Friday started with a “lil humid dance” sent via text from across the globe, then throughout the day, people called, texted, messaged me. I spent the day with a professional group that inspires me more than I can express — these are people who actively and assertively seek to help the most fragile and marginalized every single day. To just sit in a room with them is an honor! Then we came home, and I was given a surprise.


I had asked for bookends to hold my books on the mantle. My oh-so-talented husband not only made the bookends for me, he took the time and effort to make them tree of life bookends. Wow.

Later, we went to a local restaurant for dinner, and one of the people we love most was working there, and seeing her brought us such joy. At the end of the meal, she arrived again, with a treat, and had her co-workers sing to me.


Why am I telling you this? Not because I want you to go, “wow, that looks really yummy.” Instead, it struck me that love is all around us if we take the time to notice it. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t in a dark time, it means that even in the darkest of times, there are people who bring light and love to us.

For me, so many people took the time to reach out, many knowing that I would be struggling on that day. Those “reaching outs” matter — think of how much gentler and kinder the world would be if we all made the choice to reach out as much as we can.

Want to win a free book?



My Post (7)

As it was cold and gray today, I thought it might be fun to post a give-away. Every person who shares this post, comments on it, or shares a link to my author’s FB page, website or twitter account will be entered to win a signed copy of one of my books — you pick the book!

If you are commenting on this post, tell me which book you would like if you are the winner!

The winner will be announced Sunday night.

What do I miss?

The other day, someone I hadn’t seen in years asked me what I missed most about Sam being gone. I said I missed the laughter the most.

Sam could make me laugh so hard I had trouble breathing, usually as he did one of his “bits.” He would find an absurdity in the world, and just keep commenting on it, getting everyone around him going with how silly it was. Or he would try to prove something, like that he could get more grapes in his mouth than anyone else, and the whole time, you would just laugh as he kept up the running commentary.

After I had this conversation, I thought more about it. Is it the laughter I miss the most? I certainly miss the laughter. But there are so many other things to miss. Sam’s ability to call out people on their views in a way that didn’t make them defensive. Sam’s ability to see the wonder in people who others overlooked. Sam’s enthusiasm about every meal, every book, every movie, every song.

But then I realized what it is that I miss the most. I miss holding him close in a hug, him towering above me, as this grown man said, “Love you, Mom.” I miss hearing his voice tell me he loves me at the end of every phone call, at the end of every text exchange.

So yes, I miss the laughter, the thought provoking conversations, the wonder with which he looked at the world, but I miss hugging him the most.


Stop! Now think for a moment or two…

Lately, I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how stressed they are, how they feel the world is so chaotic and negative right now. Let’s be clear, I do feel the stress of the world, and am as sad and frustrated as anyone. But I also know enough about myself that if I only focus on the negative, that I will only feel negative feelings.

For me, this is where the gratitude part of Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude comes into the discussion. In order to survive the grief of losing Sam, I needed to actively, consciously, and almost aggressively recognize for what I am thankful. I start each day with an out loud conversation with myself. I say who I am grateful for, and what — and yes, it was awkward in the beginning, now it is part of the day. It isn’t all roses, puppies and unicorns. There are days when I may say, “I am struggling right now with XYZ, but I am thankful for this part of it.” For example, “I am struggling with my relationship with (name), but I am still so thankful that he/she is in my life because_____.” Sometimes it is mundane stuff, like I am thankful for our health insurance, or thankful for the great pizza from Brandon House of Pizza the night before. Sometimes is it more global, such as I am thankful for the work of the Nobel committee in recognizing greatness.

It would be easier to instead start each day with what is wrong with my life, or what is wrong with the world, but that is now how I want to live my life.  By choosing to focus on the gratitude, the irritations seem less important, and I find myself so much more open to accepting others.

So here is my question for you — how do you want to live your life?



Winter is coming…

Fall is quickly coming to an end in Vermont. While there still is some beautiful foliage, the reds are gone, and most of what remains is fading yellow. Many of the leaves have fallen, the trees are looking bare, and even the fields are turning duller colors.

Each day we have a few less minutes of day light. I love winter. I love the cold, the snow, the raw stark beauty of it. But I don’t like the lack of light. Getting up in the dark, and often coming home from work in the dark, wears on me.

Now we are beginning to have the little snow flurries, colder winds, a chill in the air. Yesterday, as we harvested potatoes, snow flurries danced around us.

To offset the darkness, our wood stove will be going pretty consistently for the next months, the cheery fire visible through the glass. Candles start appearing in the house, not because we need the light, but because they give such a warm and soft light.

Now the knitting basket has moved back to being next to my chair, the spinning wheel has taken up its winter spot next to the stove, and we are beginning to settle in for the coming winter.

Sweet potatoes? Carrots?

Over the last weeks, we have harvested a LOT of carrots and sweet potatoes. Now some were huge and perfect, some were smaller or were chopped in the harvesting process. Once we had cleaned and sorted all of them, we had a pile of ones that I wanted to use quickly, before they could get soft or rot.

I roasted a huge tray of sweet potatoes, and started looking for recipes. You have to love the internet when you can type in “savory” and “sweet potatoes” and have a recipe for savory sweet potato puffs pop up. That definitely is my new favorite recipe! Then, I still had a ton of roasted sweet potatoes, so I googled “sweet potato bread,” and another amazing recipe popped up. Hours later, I had a tray of puffs cooling, and three loaves of bread — one loaf in the freezer, a half headed off with our oldest son, a half going to college with our youngest, and one on the counter for our enjoyment this week.

Then the carrots. Anyone who spends a lot of time with me knows that I love cooked carrots. They are one of my favorite foods, and one that I will go for when I want comfort food. But we have a lot of carrots right now. Many are in storage for the winter, but I had a bucket with the less than perfect ones needing to be used. Some were roasted with beets. Some were peeled and sliced into carrot sticks for lunches. The rest were made into an absolutely amazing carrot cake. My whole life I have wanted to make a carrot cake from scratch. I don’t know why I hadn’t before now, but now I have, and I will make it again and again.

As the weekend comes to a close, the house smells of great food, the wood stove is keeping us warm and toasty, and all is well.

The Creative Process

I always have stories running around in my head. Characters arrive, often in bits of dreams, and they “need” to be heard, and over time, they become full stories or books.

Lately, I have been so consumed with the publishing process for Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude, that I haven’t written as much as I normally do. Over the last few weeks I had written just a few new chapters in the sequel to More Than I Can Say, and had only picked at a new non-fiction for teens.

Tonight, the dam of writer’s block broke, and I couldn’t write fast enough. The funny thing was that I would be working away on one, when an idea for the other would flit through my mind, so I would switch documents and work on the other for a bit. Thank goodness for Google Docs!

Thank you!

This weekend we delivered a bunch of copies of Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude to local homes. A couple of the recipients weren’t home when we stopped by, so they left notes to us on their doors.

People buying my book left me thank you notes. I can’t tell you how emotional it made me. I can’t adequately express how thankful I am for the support we have been shown. Wow, just wow!