Tree2The December sky is gray here at the beach and the water, darker, almost black.  The tree outside my window is bare and crooked branches jut at odd angles.  I love looking at the tree with its strangely-jointed limbs and often find myself staring at it, my eyes following the jagged pathways carved on its trunk. It is not a graceful tree, nor is it particularly beautiful, the way some trees are.  This one is unusual, yet it commands my attention by its very ugliness.  Perhaps there is some meaning in that, but, today, I don’t care much about meaning.

The air is still and cold. I’ve lit a candle and it sputters on the table next to my desk.  On the bookshelf across from me are scattered photographs of my family.  In one, Emily, my daughter-in-law, and I are sitting together, both smiling, laughing really.

We were attending a wedding and the wine was flowing.  My granddaughter, Virginia, was about three years old, and she was having a ball, dancing beneath the fancy tent set up in the pavilion.  Emily and I had been dancing with Virginia until we could no longer move–we were both tuckered out.  Someone had chosen just that moment to snap our picture.

Looking at it now, I am amazed at the ease with which we share the space, our shoulders touching.  We seem to be leaning into each other, the love between us palpable.

When the word ‘mother-in-law’ is thrown about, usually lots of jokes and laughter result.  People love to swap ‘horror’ stories about the mean or vicious or foolish thing someone’s mother-in-law has done.  I’m convinced one of the reasons the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi made it into the Hebrew canon is that that story shows a dramatically different side to the oft-maligned mother-in-law/daughter-in-law connection.  In the Old Testament, very few stories about women are included.  In many of the vignettes, the women remain unnamed.  Not so with Ruth and Naomi.  They are named and their story is of some length.  And the words, now used in many wedding songs, still stir.  ‘Thy people shall be my people and thy God, my God.’

We have forgotten, perhaps, when young lovers marry, such an act not only joins two individuals; a wedding joins two families. When Emily came into our family, she was happy and excited to do so.  She loved my son, but she also loved us.  She loved playing bridge and singing Christmas carols around the piano.  She loved cooking and eating the family favorites–Lavila’s cookies and chicken salad.  She loved playing bridge and taking walks, our family spilling across the entire street on occasion.

And we loved her; I loved her.  I loved the way she laughed, uncontrollably, when something really struck her–it was a series of giggles that seemed to rumble out from her body like a gurgling stream.  I loved talking about God and faith and ethics and men and women and families and problems and friends and food and drink and all the delicious subjects we found together.  I loved teasing her and her teasing me back.  I loved the way she loved my son and I loved the way she mothered my granddaughter.

I loved the insightful, careful way she showed her love to me.  She is the one who discovered my passion for the Tudors, a passion I had kept under wraps for almost 20 years.  She is the one who came to visit  when my husband and I relocated and I found myself unhappy.  She thought if I could see some family members there, in that new house, I would feel more like it was my home.  One of the things she taught me was to be attentive–to look closely and carefully at the other person–really ‘see’ that person–and then act in ways of love.

Today is December 1.

Six years ago today, Emily died.

That event reminds me of the tree outside my window– graceless, bizarre, unfamiliar.  The edges of chaos touched my neatly arranged cosmos and everything shattered.

There was no meaning then; there is no meaning now.

My tree will never be anything but grotesque, but I love it anyway.  I find myself clinging to the hope that as I continue to gaze at it, something will be revealed–something unexpected and oddly beautiful.

One Year Anniversary of Cancer Treatments

One year ago today, I received my last chemo treatment.

It was a long day.

Since I had opted to get my chemo intravenously rather than via port,  my veins, never great to begin with, had deteriorated considerably.  I did everything the nurses told me to do to alleviate my ‘vein’ problem.  I drank huge amounts of water prior to arrival and I pumped a one-pound dumbbell, hoping to plump up my veins.  To no avail.

It took a special IV team almost three hours to get the IV started.  After at least 5 or 6 attempts, I requested some sort of relaxer.  The nurse gave me a pill to hold under my tongue.  In a New York minute, I was loopy–I didn’t care if they found a vein or not.  Finally, one brave vein, deep within my muscle tissue, allowed the needle.

Even though it was a rough start, I still remember the elation I felt as my husband and I walked through the hospital doors after having spent almost 8 hours getting the chemo.  I was jubilant!  The day was clear and the flowers of fall– yellow and red mums, multi-colored pansies–lined the sidewalk.  This was my last treatment!  My last treatment!  I felt like tossing my hat into the air and showing my totally bald head to the world!  But I didn’t.  Instead, we drove through a fast food restaurant and I enjoyed hamburger and fries–not exactly the best diet for a cancer patient, but I wanted to celebrate!

Slowly, over the next few months, my hair came back.  It took forever to grow, or so it seemed to me.  And, of course, it came back gray–I’d been hoping for red or blonde, even.  There is a little curl to it now, when before, it had hung straight as raw spaghetti noodles.

Even more slowly,  my energy returned.  About a week after treatments, I could drag myself out of the house and walk up to the stop sign in our neighborhood—not very far, maybe a two houses down from my own.  But I did it, almost everyday.  Being outside cheered me up and reminded me there was a world that had nothing to do with cancer, a world I couldn’t wait to rejoin.

Now, one year to the day later, I’m engaging life at full throttle.  I’m busy with work, making new friends, adjusting to my new home.  I have big plans for the future and high hopes these dreams of mine can come true.  If something doesn’t go my way or a blue mood strikes, all I have to do is remember where I was one year ago.  Amazingly, the disappointment disappears and I am grateful to be breathing and healthy and cancer-free.  I am humbled by my cure (I won’t be officially declared ‘cured’ until I’m cancer-free for five years) because I know not everyone makes it through this journey.  I am deeply grateful.

Cancer changes people.  While I have not had any huge epiphanies or deep spiritual insights, cancer has made me more filled with awe and gratitude for our amazing world.  It has revealed the kindness and generosity coming from dear friends and from people I barely know.  I’ve been showered with love and prayer.  When I consider these blessings, even as I write these words, tears of joy spring to my eyes.

Unlike others who have travelled this road, I do not think cancer has made me a better person or turned my life in a newer, freer direction.  I am not grateful I got the disease.  But I am extremely thankful for good doctors, loving friends and family, loving strangers.  I’m happy to find that one year out, I’m feeling great.  I’m excited about my life–this life–not some fantasy life I will never have, this life, the one God and I continue to weave.  I am thrilled to find myself, one year out, still me.   Me with scars and memories of all sorts, me with hair, without hair, just me….on the planet with the great jumble of souls that populate it, me a part of it all.

Book Review- The Anne Boleyn Collection II by Claire Ridgeway

I first discovered Claire Ridgeway at the Anne Boleyn Files and the Elizabeth Files in 2011, when my own debut novel, AT THE MERCY OF THE QUEEN, was accepted for publication.  I was thrilled to find all the information Claire had gathered on those websites.  Not only did I locate a woman who loved the Boleyn saga as much as I did, I also stumbled upon a woman whose passion for her subject led her to dig and dig and dig until she could find the truth.  Or as much of the truth as was possible.  That said, I’m excited to say Claire, already author of several books about The Boleyn’s, has another ready–The Anne Boleyn Collection II.

In The Anne Boleyn Collection I, Claire gathered many of her online articles into a book.  In ABCII, she offers special subjects not necessarily included in her online work.  Meticulously researched and delivered in Claire’s easy-to-read style, this new book gives us insight into such things as the much-maligned character of Sir Thomas Boleyn, Anne’s father.  Rumors of his pandering his daughters to the king’s appetite are put to rest and a much clearer, more realistic biography is drawn.  Claire gives the same leave-no-stone-unturned treatment to Elizabeth (Howard) Boleyn, Anne’s mother.

The book covers a variety of subjects, from the infamous George Boleyn to religion to Anne’s sister, Mary.  My favorite part examines Anne’s years spent in France and the Low Countries.  The book has illustrations and at the end of each section, a fully detailed bibliography is supplied.  There is also a long list of sources at the end of the book.

This book is a must for Tudor fans and anyone interested in the history (and the story) of Anne Boleyn.  It’s fascinating, factual and fun!

You can purchase the book here:

In The Footsteps of Anne Boleyn-Book Review

After participating in the August Blog Challenge, I have decided to blog more than my usual blog-once-every-two-years-whether-you-need-to-or-not routine.  I’m going to being this new episode in my writing life with a book review of In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn by Sarah Morris & Natalie Grueninger.  This seems fitting since Natalie is the one who issued the August Challenge and got me started blogging on a more regular basis.


IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ANNE BOLEYN is a MUST read for all fans of the Tudors and, especially, for those of us who are fascinated by England’s most notorious queen.  But this book is unique–for it is both a study of the life of Anne Boleyn and a study of her travels.  The authors combine a love of history with a love of architecture as they trace Anne’s life through it’s stages and across countries.  They also include information about how to get to these sometimes remote areas and who to contact for more information.  Part guidebook, part biography, and part art and architectural study, this book is a fount of information, all 285 pages.

The book is divided into five parts:  Early Life, The Courting Years, Anne the Queen, The 1535 Progress, and Boleyn Treasures.  In each section, the authors have meticulously researched Anne’s life and, using various sources, have determined where Anne most likely travelled.  The result is a tour of England, The Low Countries and France no Anne Boleyn fan would want to miss.  I intend to use this book as my own guide for my trip to England next year.

Not only do the writers describe the places they visit with great detail and accuracy, they include wonderful photos to whet the appetite of the traveler, whether the traveler be an arm-chair tourist or whether she is planning a real trip.  There are maps from the 16th century to help readers see how the places have changed over time.  And in their journey to discover as much as possible about the mysterious queen, they have uncovered some new information about where Anne traveled and how she lived.

This is a MUST READ for history buffs and Tudor fans, for travelers and explorers, and for anyone who wants to learn more about Anne Boleyn.

Here’s a link to the book:

Next to Last Blog Challenge Day–Yippee!

John Looking a Bit Ragged

John Looking a Bit Ragged

Today’s blog is about a secret teenage crush–Oh, I had a doozy, though it was more of a tween-age crush.  When I was twelve, I feel madly in love with John Lennon. And, of course, the rest of the Beatles.  But it was John who moved me.  I loved his sense of humor, the rebellion roiling just beneath his cool surface, and his sexiness, though at that time, I really didn’t know it WAS sexiness.  I just adored him and his nasal voice.

The crush never left me.  Unfortunately, he left us all or was taken from us.  I loved his confessional time with Yoko, his house-husband experience, his foray into being a real father with Sean.  I love the personal lyrics, the gentleness under a rough exterior.  Somehow, he made me feel I knew him. 

I used to have fantasies that when I grew up, I’d move to NYC and deliver pizzas (I knew he did eat them) and I’d deliver them to the Dakota.  He’s answer the door; somehow, I’d be wearing a short skirt and I’d be on roller skates (I cannot skate at all) and he’d fall madly in love with me, leave Yoko and we’d live happily ever after.  Okay, so I was 35 when I had this fantasy….

I often wonder what he would be doing if he were still here.  I can imagine him still playing music, still doodling and writing.  If only….

Day 27-5 Questions for a Person in History

Today’s blog challenge has me stumped.  There are so many folks in history I’d like to question–Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, Thomas More, Cardinal Wolsey, and Thomas Boleyn, among others.  Moving forward, I’d love to ask Queen Elizabeth I about Robert Dudley, Shakespeare about where he found inspiration, and Marlowe about what happened to him.  Now leaping forward, I’d chat a while with Napoleon, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abigail Adams….well, you get the point.  There are so many fascinating people who inspire, intrigue and elude us.  Here are my questions:

I would ask Jesus the following:

1) (lyric from Jesus Christ, Superstar) Do you think you are who they say you are?

2) What is the reason/purpose/point of suffering in this world?

3) What was your mother like?

4) Who has inspired you?

5) What is God’s dream for humanity and how can we live into that dream?

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  So many questions, but I had to select only five…

Which person in history would you like to question?

Family and grandkids-Blog Day 26–10 Things that Make Me Smile


Family and grandkids

I guess we look a bit like the Addams’ family here!

Today’s post is about 10 things that make me smile.
First, there’s my family, especially my grandchildren. Just thinking about them during the day brings a smile to my face.
2) Music. I can smile when I hear a really lovely piece of music or a playful one. Or when I sing in the car or in the shower.
3) Writing. Telling a story makes me smile inside, even if the story is a sad one. I’m just happier when I write every day.
4) Here’s a weird one–a clean house. I love it when my house is all spotless and sweet-smelling.
5) Books. I look at my dear friends, and I do believe they ARE friends, surrounding me and I feel a deep satisfaction!
6) Nature–for its beauty and variety and buzzing activity. I saw a gray fox in the yard a couple of nights ago. That makes me smile.
7) Remembering–all kinds of things–my first kiss, the prom, riding around with my girlfriends–and hanging out with those same pals at our yearly get-together, moments in the lives of my children, moments with my folks, moments with my husband (like the time we were so busy talking we missed our turn and drove an hour out of the way before we discovered our mistake!)
8) Chocolate!
9) Travelling–or dreaming about travelling.
10) Having someone say they enjoyed reading one of my books–that’s the best smile ever!

I wish I were clever enough to add pics to all of these blogs. But I feel lucky if I get just one added. I’m going to take a class in how to do blogs next time my son gets home! Maybe my ineptitude will make YOU smile!

Blog Challenge: Day 18

Today, I’m supposed to write about my favorite on-line places to shop.  I don’t really shop much, on or off-line.  I like ebay and have purchased several things there.  I’ve also bought books from Amazon, though I often feel a twinge of guilt when I do so; I want to support the Indie bookstores as much as possible.

When I shop for clothes, I go to consignment stores.  I love the ‘re-cycling’ idea of buying something that still has good wear in it.  Plus, the price is usually right!  I love browsing around in antique and junk shops.

But please, do not make me go to a mall.  Malls make me dizzy.  No really, they do.  Maybe it’s the lighting or maybe it’s the enormity of the building–I really don’t like malls.  I prefer mom-and-pop specialty shops where you can chat with the owner and things are different, unusual.

As for online shopping, I guess I have a lot to learn!