What do you know?

A lot, it turns out.

This week in writing class we talked about fan fiction, two-line horror stories, and characterizations. We shared the writings we had two separate friends write for us.

I asked a friend here in Bismarck whose known me for two years and the boy who grew up across the street from me, but one I haven’t seen since high school except on Facebook.

Can you decide which is which?









First characterization

She is brilliant at defusing awkward situations with her generous laughter. She is an easy audience for any story-teller as her empathy dial was always turned up to eleven. This often put her on the outside of the mainstream as those in the most need of empathy themselves, lie outside the mainstream. She is delighted in sharing and keeping secrets both consequential and frivolous. The world she lives in is often difficult but she knows it can be easier when made into a game. To coin a phrase, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

Second characterization

She is a generous, kind and fun to be around person. She listens to you. I mean really listens to what you are saying. She gives with her whole heart. She is beautiful inside and out to those around her, however, she doesn’t see it in her own mind. She has a contagious laugh, and a beautiful smile. She likes to have her secrets and knows how to keep secrets also. She is a dreamer of better things and happier times. She has a hard time being who she really wants to be because it may, or may not, fit the ‘norm’. She has an affection for the wild side of life, but worries about upsetting the ‘normal’ side of her life. She can be persuaded to try things on the encouragement of friends if it is a good time. Especially if it’s a walk on the wild side and something she is keen to try. She is phenomenal and I’m glad to be her friend.


Raging Sadness

I’m not well-acquainted with grief, personal grief. I don’t know its stages, haven’t read studies on how long it lasts. I’m still able to say I’ve only been to a handful of funerals, mostly because I avoid them. I don’t want closure, I’ll remember them living, thank you very much.

I realize now, how cautious I am about the amount of emotion I release into situations I deal with. Looking back over the past year or two, I see the pattern. I see how tightly I hold myself in check. It isn’t until I’m caught off guard, till someone finds that bare patch of flesh I don’t know I have, that I begin to understand the scope of the maelstrom I hold leashed inside me. I thought about Spank Me today, with almost a sense of yearning.

In the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a front row seat at the fire in my soul. Helplessly scorched as I watch him build sand castles from beaches he never visited, I shake my fist at him in impotent fury. Finally forced to abandon my Facebook feed because everything he posts he tags with her sweet name, I work on repairing the cast iron doors that keep it all enclosed. I weld and seal, sure I can fill the gaps, stop the painful flares.


As the melted iron drips on my shaking hands, I curse him for his lip service to a job he never bothered with while she was alive.

Meanwhile, the man who shouldered the actual responsibilities of her father mourns quietly, respecting the shattered feelings of her mother and younger brother. He asked permission to come and tell her goodbye.

The father that couldn’t be bothered with a living daughter, called the M.E. and Mortuary and invited himself.

On that last day, the day we all took our turns saying goodbye, step-dad approached me and asked if it was a good time to talk to her mother. His respect and careful handling of the situation, let us feel protected for a moment.

I entered the Mortuary shortly thereafter to find him taking a moment with her for himself, suddenly available for her now. He had not even the thought of waiting until her mother came in. It has always been about him. I know that. He shows up when she reflects prettily upon him, where there is limelight to share.

I want him to disappear off my radar again. I want to tear him limb from limb for daring to act the bereaved father when he never bothered to act the responsible one. I want to scream at the top of my lungs his deceit. I want the world to know the right of DNA is the only thing he ever willingly shared with her. I want everyone to shun the sappy, sloppy walk down a memory lane he’s cobbled from her memoirs.

I want to scream, and rage, and cry at the offensiveness of it all.

Instead, I drop my visor and resume my repairs.

Assignment – Who were you?

For reasons unknown, the writing class I am taking at the local college has shrunk from the six students who signed up to two of us who regularly make an appearance. It’s an observation, not a complaint. It makes for a wide-ranging, free form class that has become very engaging.

This week’s homework is to ask two friends to write a short paragraph about who you are. One friend/sibling that has known you since you were young and someone who has only known you as an adult.

jen and me

The stories my sister could tell you….but now is not the time.

kids first four

Any of these three knew quite a bit about that girl in the pig-tails.


I know exactly two people who can tell you anything  truly relevant about the heart of this woman.
The exercise is to give the writings to the teacher and see if he can guess who (I suppose which is better used in the case of only two students) the writing is about. You see, it came to light last week that I feel and am more myself now than I ever have been in my life, and think people who knew me before would be righteously scandalized. I care less about other’s opinions of myself than at any other point in my life. While the other student (who moved here a year before me, also from Pittsburgh) works hard every day to appear like she belongs with the people who live here. She takes steps to make herself disappear into the population here.

I’m going to ask a friend I grew up across the street from to write a quick description. He lives and works in NYC and we’ve only seen each other once or twice since high school. I’m going to ask a former co-worker to write the other one. She knows things about me, no one should probably know….

I’m curious, I admit it.

If I wanted to know one thing about you that only a sibling or your best friend would know, what would that be?


Good Grief


It shows up in the oddest moments, lighting the darkest corners.

A few days ago I sat in a funeral home with two of my sisters, listening to the endless litany of explanations regarding cremation. The writer in me perched on the edge of the couch in unfettered curiosity while the sister in me kept a careful eye and hand on my younger sibling as she nodded through each statement. At forty-seven, she is not quite two years younger than me. Sitting next to me, here in the funeral home, she is the indomitable woman, checking boxes to order the cremation her firstborn.

My niece, a vibrant, beautiful girl of unimaginable potential, overflowing with love, filled with laughter and blessed with a flair for the dramatic. She was a popular performer on the local stages, known for her wit, her compassion, her tiny five foot frame and that Ethel Merman voice.

Her mother scribbles her initials on the contract, the room solemnly silent, so unlike her daughter’s life. She hands the clipboard back to the funeral director who nervously clears his throat and moves to the next paragraph.

“This paragraph states that you understand that the cremation is irreversible.” He clears his throat again, handing over the pen and paper.

I glance at my youngest sister, sitting across from us, a quiver tickles at the corner of her mouth as she meets my eye. I swallow the giggle that threatens to erupt as I picture my niece’s reaction to that particular gem in her funeral planning.

The surprised flip of her fiery red hair, the quirk of her eyebrow and miffed moue of her lips. “Irreversible you say? This is just coming up now?”

Her infectious laughter at the absolute absurdity, echoes in my mind. A little sparkle of the good grief, the moments that make you smile through your tears. It happened again when her mother reluctantly declined to attend the cremation and take the opportunity to push the button.

Noting her hesitation, I whispered, “Are you sure you don’t want to?”

She scribbled her initials, “Nah, I’d like to, but she’d think it was gross. I’ve already taken a lock of her hair, she’d be like, MOM! That’s weird AND gross! Do NOT come push the button you sicko! ” It was a pitch perfect rendition of her daughter’s voice.

Youngest sister and I are caught picturing it and forced to look away from each other before the giggles escape. Another glimmer of good grief, like a rhinestone flashing in the spotlight. It reminded me of the lyric, there’s no people like show people, they smile when they are low.

The radiant memory of this beautiful girl will forever catch me unaware, reminding me to smile, laugh, and go, on with the show.








A Quiet Moment

Wednesday, March 16 


I’m sitting here on the couch at my sister’s house after four emotionally draining days. She’s finally settled into an exhausted sleep on the couch across from me. It’s taken a strong drink, a little pill and three sisters playing massage therapists. 

There’s been an endless run of concerned friends all day and I finally turned the porch light off. Grief is exhausting and so many people want the comfort of her voice and face. But for now, she sleeps, blessed forgetfulness in the midst of tragedy.

Sunday night I received a distraught phone call from my youngest sister. It took her three tries to finally tell me that our niece had been found dead earlier that day in her apartment. She was 26 years old and never could you have known a more loving, talented, hilarious, beautiful, life affirming, air headed girl. 

Yes, there are lots of questions we will have to wait more weeks for the answers to. Yes, it’s impossible to believe that life is going on out there without her. It is, at times, equal parts unimaginable and comforting that she left us so close to mom. So hard to see the world without her perennial light and song and laughter. So hard to say goodbye. 

I’m angry that this is the way four sisters who live in three different states are brought crashing together. I’m angry that we we didn’t do more for each other. I’m angry that we were all so hurt in different ways that we refuse to rely on anyone even each other. I’m angry that we have to hurt like this, that a mother has to go to a mortuary and say goodbye to her beautiful girl. I’m so angry at the loss of such a wonderful life. I’m so ashamed that I don’t know my sister better than her friends. I’m so thankful for the people who love and care for her, here where she lives. 

I vow to do better. I must do better, we must do better. Somehow we must overcome our mistrust and find the ways to take care of each other as family should. Be willing to let each other in, to share our blessings and our burdens, to accept without judgement what we are and love and lift each other when it’s easy and when it’s heart rending.

It sounds so simple, why does it bring to my mind the perilous and deadly routes on Everest? 

When Everything Changes

I haven’t posted for an abnormal amount of time, it seems to me. And even this little bit isn’t really a post, just a way to hold space. johann-strauss

In all the crazy business of life there are those happenings that make your world stand still while everyone else spins on around you in oblivious cacophony.

Tonight my world is crystallized in disbelief. Waiting for the reality to hit. I’ll go and hold her hand, offer my shoulder, and try and believe it will be enough.


The Magic Men Live show is coming back.

So far, I haven’t bought a ticket.

I have been thinking about these dimples though.


And that got me thinking about another set of dimples I rather admire.

It happened on Facebook, about a year ago, I minding my own business, when my friend and fellow author Liz Madrid tagged me in a post. Of course, I immediately wanted to see what she was up to and I innocently clicked over to where she was….

She was at Photographer Michael Stokes place.


Mr. Stokes said, No Valentine yet? How about BT Urruela?

 Oh boy.

Liz Madrid said, Dimples, Carly Quinn

 I said, “Seriously Liz? You think I have time for this?” Sigh, “It’s such a busy weekend what with the kids off school and so much writing to do. What? Oh fine, if no one else is willing to step up for this poor man.”

A face only a mother could love.


If you know nothing about BT Urruela, you should go look the man up and not just because his gigawatt smile could light up the entire East Coast. In a world that seems to be spiraling downward in hate, fear and apathy, his story is a little flame of hope.

 And to make things a little more interesting, he’s also a romance novel author.

Yeah, you read it right.

I bought his book, co written by the talented KL Grayson 

I was curious about his depiction of war, given his personal experience. The title, A Lover’s Lament didn’t give me much hope for a happy ending, but I was quickly pulled into Katie and Dev’s story. The book is fast paced, gives a sometimes hard to read perspective of life as a soldier and as a loved one left at home. If you love a good second chance story, this is a great one. Oh, and the sex is smoking hot.  As an aside, I found the book flowed beautifully between the two author’s voices, and I felt it was one of the best depictions of a male character I’ve ever read in a romance novel, a real man. Dev is just a man trying to do his best in his chosen profession, a breath of fresh air in the romance world. Katie is a girl still smarting, wounded in high school, struggling as life piles on the traumas that come with living.

I love Realistic Romance, I love reading stories that could happen to the people in my life, to people I know.So, if you are looking for a bit of real romance, I’d encourage you to check out A Lover’s Lament, I think it will warm your heart, cough, and a few other spots as well.