True Icy Love

I have written about the constant and unwavering love of our animals many times. As you know, just about a  year ago, our two lambs Lana and Hila came to live with us. After they lived in the house until they were big enough, and it was warm enough for them outside, they transitioned down to the alpaca barn, moving in with our elderly alpaca Ellsy (short for Ellsbury, honoring Jacoby Ellsbury who played for the Boston Red Sox).

Ellsy has always been a very smart alpaca. Very curious. Beautiful, gorgeous fiber. And scared of his own shadow. When we had other alpacas, we had to hand-feed him because he was so docile and submissive he would give up his grain to the other alpacas. When his last alpaca buddy passed away, the vets suggested giving him a couple of lambs to protect, feeling that at his age, any new alpaca would be so dominant over him, it would be a problem.

So we brought Lana and Hila home, and eventually, they moved in with Ellsy. And the most amazing relationship was born. Months later, they are such a close-knit family. They share their food, they play together, they are together day and night. Ellsy has gone from being an exceedingly shy alpaca to being very assertive when he feels someone or something might be a threat to his babies. The funniest part? He now plays like a sheep. He plays tag with them, running and jumping like they do, and it is so much fun to watch his joy and love.

Right now, Vermont is in the midst of a nasty storm. Sleet and freezing rain have fallen for the last 30 hours, and everything is coated in a thick layer of ice. Everything. And Ellsy…

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Now, why is he covered in ice when he has a nice dry barn to keep him out of the elements? Because of true love. True icy love in this case. Lana and Hila like playing out in the sleet. When he was alone, or just with alpacas, Ellsy would stay inside for days instead of venturing out in unpleasant weather. But if he stays inside now, his girls will be unsupervised and away from him, and he can’t let that happen.

The sleet continues to fall, snow is coming later today, and Ellsy follows Lana and Hila faithfully, keeping an eye on their safety, playing when they want to play, and never going inside until they are ready for their nap. When they nap, they go into what was their lamb pen, and curl up, and Ellsy comes in, cushes (the way an alpaca lays down) by the opening to the pen, and sleeps a bit. Now, he’s completely warm himself, that thick layer of beautiful fiber ensures his comfort, but still.

This is the image of true love. Ellsy loves his lambs so much, he stays out in the weather, getting coated in a layer of ice himself, to be with Lana and Hila.

Everyone and every creature should be loved that much!

The end of a year, and of a decade…

2010 started with hope and joy. It was going to be the decade when I finally became a published author. We were looking forward to what would come with our children, and full of hope for our professional futures.

Ten years later, we have weathered storms, survived crippling loss, welcomed grandchildren, left our comfort zones far behind, laughed, cried, traveled, mourned, celebrated, and so many other things.

As this year and decade come to a close, and we face the uncertainty of what is coming for us as a family, the one certainty is love. Relentless love. That is all that matters for any of us.

Go into 2020 loving relentlessly. Love loudly, proudly, consistently, even when it is hard to do. Love with all of your heart and soul.

Sending love to you all!

 

 

 

 

Complicated Love

It is Christmas Eve, a time for both reflection and insanity. It is the time to make sure all of the last minute tasks are done. It is the time to make sure we are ready for all of the family meals over the next days. It is time for the mine-fields of emotional entanglements that are always part of family life.

It is also the time to think about love. Complicated love. Love that has joy, laughter and hope. Love that is tinged with grief and sadness. Love that looks both to the future and to the past.

As we enter Christmas Day, I encourage you to look in your hearts. Is there someone in your life from whom you are estranged? If so, reach out in some way. A text, an email, a call if you are brave enough.

Time is not promised to us. Life is not promised to us. Everything can change in an instant. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of assuming there will always be enough time. Make people the priority, and find the time now before it is too late.

Wishing you love, hope, health and peace!

 

Three Tattoos

Those of you who have read Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude know the story of my first two tattoos. To be clear, prior to 2013, the only time I had ever thought of getting a tattoo was after a night of too many martinis while living in Madrid. I also planned on getting my nose pierced at the same time. While I didn’t go forward with the tattoo, I did make an appointment to get my nose pierced but cancelled it when my mother (over the phone) told me that it was fine for me to get my nose pierced as long as I also planned on paying my own college tuition…

Fast forward to late 2013, after Sam’s death. We knew that Sam had planned on getting a tattoo of his favorite tree of life emblem on his 21st birthday. As Sam didn’t live to see that birthday, we (my husband and I) decided to get that tree in his honor, with a star above it because we talk to Sam looking at the stars. That appointment to get our tattoos was one of the most profound, spiritual and emotionally fulfilling events of my life. I learned more about the human spirit, relentless and unconditional love, and generosity that afternoon than I ever did attending church services.

Later, after the birth of our first grandchild, we each got a second tattoo. This time, we both were getting them as a way of symbolizing why we keep going each day, but the actual tattoos differed. For me, that second tattoo was on the top of my foot, symbolizing putting one foot in front of the other. It symbolizes our four children, Sam’s favorite place, our grandchildren, and our place in the universe.

This past spring, after my husband’s diagnosis of ALS, we each got one more tattoo. Mine is an infinity symbol, with a note written by my husband, recognizing that at some point, he will no longer be able to write. It is a daily reminder of the infinite power of our love.

Each of the tattoos has been done by the same artist. He makes us laugh, he cries with us, he makes us think about life and death with blazing honesty and openness. He has been part of this journey in a very unique way, and again as I say so often, Sam brought the most amazing people into our lives. Without Sam wanting that particular tattoo, we would never have gone to get one in his honor, and wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have new people teach us so much about stereotypes and finding love and support in the most unusual places.

Musings…

It has been an interesting and busy week for us. Some medical appointments, endless paperwork, time with family, iffy weather, and lots of interesting conversations.

As we get closer to Thanksgiving, I know I will spend more time thinking of the joy and excitement Sam felt about the holiday. There was nothing he loved more than people he loved sitting together at a table, sharing a meal. Add mashed potatoes, and he was in his element. I miss hearing him insist that I recite the planned menu over and over. I miss him good-naturedly complaining about watching a documentary about the Pilgrims. I miss hearing him plan the annual weigh-in with his friend Brian. I miss him grinning in joy as he looked around the family table.

This past week, we were showered (as we always are) with the most incredible love. Friends drove long distances to join us, we had family time, we clarified future goals, set plans in motion, and in all of that, we had people cheering us on and supporting us.

In the end, what I realized anew is that love is all that matters. Not weather, not wealth, not professional accomplishments. At the end of the day, what matters most is that I have left the world a better place than I found it that morning. Did I treat people with respect and dignity? Did I hold firm to my moral beliefs? Did I open my heart and mind to new experiences? If I did all of those, it was a good day.

It’s Time!!!!!!

I am so very proud to share the front cover and full-wrap cover of my soon-to-be-released novel, Tomorrow and Yesterday!

Tomorrow and Yesterday will be released in January 2020 by Between the Lines Publishing. In a change from prior novels, this one is being published under my name instead of my pen name. I am thrilled with the book, and can’t wait for you all to read it.

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Let’s welcome Matt Taylor!

Today I am thrilled to welcome author Matt Taylor to the site. Matt writes:

Greetings!  I’m Timothy Matthew Taylor, but do call me “Matt” to better avoid the “Toolman” jokes.  My apologies if you were born AFTER that shows popularity, and don’t get the joke.  It’s part of me getting old, I guess.  Anyways, I’m honored to be featured on this blog!  I was asked to write a little about who I am, and why I write.  So, let’s get to it, shall we?

I’m a writer for various mediums: stage, screen and now books!  I was born in the deep south of the great state of Alabama.  I’m a die-hard fan of Alabama football, as well as the states beauty.  Yes, it’s true a lot of the history of my home state is anything BUT beautiful, yet it is the heart of dixie, and so many people there have nothing BUT heart, and love in it.  I grew up in Mobile, Alabama on the gulf.  Graduated high school in Mississippi.  Went to college in Tennessee.   Worked for a decade in Florida.  I guess I got a lot of the south covered.  I’m married to my beautiful wife, Jennifer, and have 3 amazing (and troublesome) boys: Jackson, Jacob and Jameson.

History is a HUGE passion and part of my life.  I’m a certified genealogist, where I consistently get to look through historical records to help people find more about who they are, and where they came from.  I also live near Boston, the city where American history was practically born, and for 5 years I served as a historic guide in that beautiful (and traffic-filled) city.  History, however, is not why I write.  I write for the flip-side of that coin: fantasy and fun.

Before I came to the North, I spent 10 years at the Most Magical place on Earth, Walt Disney World, working to entertain millions of patrons from around the world every year.  I loved every second of it, especially all the time I got to spend with my dear friend, Goofy.  Disney is without a doubt the greatest storyteller on Earth, and they were able to fine tune my love, and passion, for writing and telling stories.  They gave me the tools, the knowledge, and ultimately, taught me how to think outside the box, that would one day lead to the creation of my first childrens book, “Carol, The Ancient Yuletide Troll.”

So, how did Carol come about?  I’m a Christmas baby, born December 22nd, so Christmas is WAY up there in my passions.  I’m also a HUGE fan of wordplay and puzzles, always switching words around, and always looking for a new perspective to see things.  Well, one day the song “Deck The Halls” was playing.  The lyric, “troll the ancient yuletide carol,” was sung.  This time, however, I heard it differently, thanks to my passion for wordplay.  I thought, “What if there was an ancient Christmas troll named Carol?”  What’s her story?  That was the beginning that ultimately led to writing her story, the first of many more to come.  One for each major holiday in her world. 

This story, along with the beautiful illustrations done by my dear friend, Allison Cain (you can find more of her work through her handle: hatterandholmes), has really opened doors, with more talks to move her to a new medium in the near future, who knows what’s going to be in store?  Well, Carol is currently IN stores.  She can be found in any major online bookstore worldwide, and through the website of my publisher: Morgan James Publishing.

Thank you so much for your time!  Carol and I hope to see ya’ll soon!

#1 Release

Please check out Matt’s book!

My Comfort Zone

Today I had several conversations about my comfort zone. The conversations were with different people, but all were centered around the same idea — that I haven’t been in my comfort zone in more than six years.

Before Sam died, we seemed to be on an upswing. He was in therapy, on medication for his bipolar disorder, and had a great job, and was about to move into a new apartment. I was in my comfort zone. My kids were (seemingly) doing well, I had a job I loved, our first grandchild on the way, a great marriage — life was good, and I was completely comfortable in it.

Then Sam died, and even after the immediate pain and shock wore off, I realized that I would never be the same person I was before. I’d never be as comfortable in my own skin as I had been before losing him.

More than six years have passed. There have been great moments of joy and celebration, often celebrated with tears running down our faces. We have welcomed three grandchildren, seen our children grow and flourish, published books, traveled, and achieved so many things that we had wanted to do, but still, it is not the same comfortable feeling of before October 2013.

Then we have faced this ALS diagnosis. Everything is new. Medical tests. Appointments with doctors and other providers. Discussion of things to come. Truly invasive (and sometimes offensive) questions. Uncertainty. Fear. Humor. Figuring out how to eat Keto while traveling. Making house renovation plans. Being told at least ten times a day that self-care is important. Yes, all of those bits and pieces are part of our new life.

Facing the future of unknowns is exhausting and at times, can be overwhelming. Good friends and family who will look unflinchingly into that future with us make all the difference.

So, yes, I am still fully out of my comfort zone. Maybe this uncomfortable zone is my new comfort zone…

Six

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Tomorrow will be six years since Sam died. Six years. How can that much time have passed? Some days it feels like it was yesterday…

As we come on another anniversary, I have been reflecting on how much my grief has changed over these six years. Now, I can go days, weeks sometimes, without sitting sobbing in my missing of him. I laugh and smile when I talk about him, or think of him, more than cry when that happens. I can now remember him better in my mind (picture him) alive rather than dead. But the grief is still there. It still hits like a freight train, sometimes when I expect it, and more often, when I least expect it.

I also have been reflecting on what I miss most. I miss Sam walking through the front door and slamming it so hard the handle on the shade would fall off every single time — he never slammed it in anger, it was always in enthusiasm. I miss hearing him yell, “I’m home, what’s for dinner?” I miss him running in to tell us about a new song he’d heard. I miss the muddy footprints on the bathroom floor that he’d leave because he was always barefoot. I miss the hugs that seemed to not end, and how he put his whole heart and soul into each hug. I miss the recap every single Sunday morning of what had been on SNL the night before. I miss hearing his “I love you.” I miss the text messages, the messes, the hair in the bathroom sink. I miss hearing his opinions. I miss seeing his devotion to those he loved.

I also have come to understand how much I grieve for what was taken from us in terms of future memories. I grieve for the fact that we never got to see Sam hold his first niece, who he was so excited to meet. I grieve for not getting to see him dance at friends’ weddings. I grieve that we never got to hear Twiddle live together. I grieve that he is not here to help us on our journey with ALS.

Six years. The last time we saw him alive was on the bleachers at Otter Valley six years ago today. The last time we talked to him was six years ago tonight, when he called to say good-night. Six years ago tonight, he told us he loved us for the last time.

How much I wish I could hear him say it one more time…