Eagle Watch

Last week, I took my parents out to a bird watching place I like to go to every now and then to get away from it all and to get back to myself. I knew that January 10 was going to be a terrifically sad day for all of us and I wanted to take my parents, both avid bird watchers and nature lovers, to the place that takes me away from the distresses of life.

Thursday was overcast and cold, but we bundled up and drove the 45 minutes it takes to get to Eagle Watch, my mom and I chatting in the front while my dad daydreamed in the backseat of my car. When we arrived, the lake was quiet and we had the place to ourselves. We didn’t see any eagles, just a few great grey herons and little birds. We moved from the first bird watching pavilion over to a second one that had a picnic table so we could eat our sandwiches and for Mom to sit and rest her knee, a knee that she had replacement surgery on just a few weeks ago. As we were eating our food, we at last saw our bald eagle that we were so hoping to see that day. He swooped in on giant silent wings, perching on a tree on the far side of the lake. As we watched, something spooked him (perhaps the fishermen quietly fishing in their John boat off in the distance) and he took off, flying over the water with his talons outstretched like he accidentally dropped his own lunch. He made a circle over the lake and then glided back over the tree line away from us and sailed off into the overcast skies.

We finished up our food quietly, each of us lost in our thoughts, cleaned up our trash and drove back home, sure that it was my sister that sent that magnificent bald eagle to let us know she was there with us, too.


Almost Twenty-Five

Meghan will turn twenty-five next week. I’m not quite sure where the years went to, but they have been filled with so much learning, so much laughter, so many long talks and so many quiet times, too. I read millions of words to her during her childhood and told stories upon stories about my family and David’s to her. Memories of growing up with her have been floating through my head lately.

So many life times in the span of twenty-five years have been lived.

I feel as though the tip of the iceberg has barely broken the surface

dear joe

Dear Joe,

Today is your birthday. Today you turn 19.

Nineteen. That sounds so old, yet at the same time it sounds so young. One minute you were swaddled in my arms, winking up at me, the next, you’re driving yourself to work and running errands. You like “dropping some knowledge” on me, showing me that you still love to learn and that your curiosity about the world around you hasn’t stopped just because you’re out of high school.

This year has been a transition year for all of us, a year that has perhaps drawn us closer to each other than any other year. I’m not sure why that is, but Dad and I are beginning to see you as an adult, an equal. I mean, you will forever be my Joey/Just Joe/Joey Joe/ Joe Joe/Great Big Huge Boy/take your pick of nicknames, but you’re learning to take care of adult things now, enrolling yourself in your survival EMT course and applying to be a wildfire firefighter. You even ‘fessed up to having a girlfriend because keeping a secret and not telling us the truth about where you go on the occasional weekends that you venture out, keeping that a secret was eating you up.

You’re learning to take care of things on your own.

I see in you a jokester, a listener, a calmness. You still are amused by life around you, I think you always will be amused and laugh at the silliness that Life presents. You know when to be serious, but also when to not take yourself seriously. You are decisive and confident in your decisions. You’re ready to try new things (baking your first loaf of bread and cooking me supper one night while Dad was traveling!) and if you mess up, you keep trying till you get it right.

There are a million things I could tell you about what it’s like to get to be your momma, what a true gift you are to us all, but I think you already know that and that you will only become embarrassed.

Today is your birthday, and you are nineteen. Thank you so much for being my sidekick, my buddy, my helper, my “sunny, sunny boy”, my friend, my Great Big Huge Boy.

I love you,


girls weekend

Two girls.

Hot Springs.

Lake Hamilton.

Stand up paddle boarding.

Browsing the shops downtown.

Underwater photoshoots irrupting into laughter.

Quiet mornings and peaceful sunsets.

Two days that ended all too quickly.


highlight reel

The highlights of the past week:

Meghan moving into a new apartment off the town square. It's part apartment, part tree house and she couldn't be happier.

On my way back to my car Saturday after visiting Meg, I stopped to really look around me and found hidden details that I had never seen before.

Last Sunday, David bought a new mountain bike as an early Father's Day present since he has to travel on the actual holiday and he took me along for his inaugural ride. It was fun, exhilarating and slightly horrifying. I came home with scrapes and a gnarly black and blue welt on my left thigh from taking a corner too tight on the trail. David says I've got street cred now, I say I prefer sticking to the pavement!

I hope you all have a good weekend filled with laughter and fun, and Happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there!


Inside Adventures

Milk and cookies and home made dog treats, oh my!

It's how I pass the time while Dave is away on business trips.

I don't think Joe and the dog mind so much.

A Walk In The Woods

We've had such a very rainy, very cold spring so far this year. Normally, the dogwoods would've bloomed out by now, my windows would be open every afternoon and the mountains surrounding Fayetteville would be covered in the heavy green lace of fresh green leaves covering tree branches.

This morning, we woke to a light dusting of snow and temperatures in the low 20's.

Sigh . . . .

But, on those rare occasions when Spring does make her appearance, it has been beautiful. Last Thursday, my brother and sister-in-law were in town for a whirlwind, day long visit to see my parents. It's not often that Stephen and Ute get to be Stateside since my brother lives in the United Kingdom, but when they are over here, my parents and I drop everything we're doing to be with them and make the most of their time here. 

My brother loves hiking and backpacking and exploring, so Mom and I decided to take all of us out to Mt. Kessler Thursday, a large sports complex/park just south of town. I sometimes run the trails out there as well as hike and explore with Langley (who absolutely loves the place). And Thursday was one of those rare spring days where the skies were bluebird blue and the air was warm and you could trick yourself into believing that winter had finally left the building for good.

Langley romped and ran to her heart's content, not knowing the term, "Pace yourself!" (and she woke up Friday morning stiff and feeling sorry for herself. She got lots of treats and belly rubs to help make her feel better).

Dad, Mom and I tried to identify all the little wildflowers that we came across.

Stephen and Ute walked ahead of us, holding hands and stopping to take pictures every now and again.

We hiked and explored and got dirty and ate a picnic lunch until it was time for me to head home to greet Joe after school. 

Just a taste of spring, just enough to get us through this last little blast of winter.

That was all we needed.




Time has seemed to have changed since the early days of January with the passing of my sister. I have days of fierce inspiration, creativity and accomplishment, then the world turns upside down and reality reminds me that I am not intended to be alone to create or accomplish or live a "normal" life. 

There are days when I look at my life and think that you couldn't have made it up if you tried. I never would've guessed that my life would've turned out the way it has when I was younger. When I was growing up, I assumed that I would marry a man who taught at the local university just like my dad did and that we would live in the same house in a college town and never move. Instead, I married a man who would first be a soldier and then a special agent for the CIA before becoming a security specialist for Walmart. I never would've imagined losing my second child just four hours after he was born. I never would've imagined losing my sister twenty years later. 

I never would've imagined such a life when I was younger.

I spent the first three days of this week at our local hospital keeping my mom and dad company while my mom recovered from knee replacement surgery. She sailed through the operation just fine, only to scare the daylights out of my dad and I later that afternoon when her blood pressure and heart rate dropped drastically and the entire ICU staff came running to her aid. They got her stabilized and all the monitors calmed down and thankfully, there were no more episodes. I realized during all the excitement of nurses scrambling about the room, that I would never make a good nurse because at the first sign of crisis, I would probably break down in tears, just like I did when Mom almost lost consciousness. 

My mom and I had wonderful talks during her recovery time in her room while Dad napped on the couch by the windows. We talked about marriage, we talked about grief and what an awkward emotion it is. We talked about Julia and we talked about Christopher. We discussed how best to answer the innocent question of how many children do you have (we decided that the truth is always the best answer). We talked about the new-to-us invention of dry shampoo. I told her funny Meghan and Joe stories and she told me funny Dad stories. She slept off and on, falling asleep suddenly while mid-sentence, only to wake up minutes later to finish up what she was saying. We talked about the different nurses and how nice everyone was. We talked about how much marriage changes your life, about how we can't imagine a world where we weren't married to the men we chose. We talked about how neither of us believe in destiny, that we believe rather in choice and that we would never want to know what is in our future. We talked about how being cooped up in her hospital room and how looking out her hospital window across the busy road and interstate in the distance felt a bit like being in an airport terminal in a different city, just how surreal it felt to be in a world filled with people in scrubs and surgical masks taking care of patients to the incessant background music of beeping monitors.

Surreal is how my life has felt since the beginning of the year, really since I first found out about Julia's cancer. Everything changes and I am learning how to adapt, how to put aside myself to take care of those that need me more. I am also learning to finally be assertive and braver than I have ever been in the past. I have the mind set now that there is nothing worse than what I have already been through, so why not try something that scares me to death? I've survived the hardest experience that anyone can survive, so what're a few "no's"? 

This is just another new normal.