Unexpected Joy

There are perfect moments in our imperfect world.

The hardest part of being an adult is that the people you love are in many places, and so you simply cannot be with all of them at once. On some level we accept this fact, in order to function. The motherly portion of my heart is split into quarters and hovers over the four States where my adult children live. My sisterly heart is similarly torn yet holds together: I understand that my siblings are unlikely to walk through my front door, since the surviving four are all married with children and live one to four hours away. And one is moving further than that soon.

We’d had a beautiful day at church. It was the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, and my husband blessed flowers and herbs that people brought. The Sisterhood made an amazing yet healthy lunch of seasonable things — salads with fresh tomatoes, a salad of watermelon, brown rice, feta and cucumbers, roast chicken with shallots, farmer’s market peaches with whipped cream for dessert. He’d come home and was having a post-liturgical nap, the blessing of a day of rest. I drove some friends home from church, changed out of my good clothes, and was decompressing when my cell phone rang.

It was a very local call from someone who lives far away. My younger brother was driving home from seeing our sister to the south, where he and his dogs had visited. He and his wife are in the process of moving two thousand miles away; she and the kids are settling in while he attends to last minute East Coast business, which includes visiting us all. But I thought we had had our moment when we all went out for dinner in New Hampshire last week.

Sometimes you are hanging out at your cluttered desk, barefoot, in your hippy cotton dress, with your straps showing and your hair down, and something amazing happens that transforms your day.  Isn’t it wonderful to be surprised by joy?

I had left the front door unlocked.

My brother was calling from my living room.

I turned around, cell phone in hand, and there they were, he and the dogs.


The drive here had been grueling. I got to play with the canine niece and nephew while my brother snagged a nap, and then I got to feed him while we talked. We gave him Mock Convent Pilaf (recipe and story to follow) and talked for several hours. Then it was time to say goodbye again, which is what life is, a bunch of practice departures leading up to the final one, after which, if God so grants, we get to see everyone good again.

But “goodbye” is a compression of “God be with you.” And it implies so many other good things: God be with you till we meet again.

It implies: we will meet again.

Meanwhile, hug everyone while you can.



I apologize for taking so long to update this website. I just graduated from Fairfield University’s MFA program in Creative Writing. I started to apply in 2010, after my brother’s death, but when my middle son announced he was getting married I postponed my application; I couldn’t do both things at once. But I have been writing all my life, sometimes for publication and sometimes to meet an inner need, and I wanted to have mentors and peers, and to master new technologies.

I had always joked that, with four children and a small parish to attend to, the only way that I could go to grad school would be if they had it on a desert island where nobody could find me. Fairfield University came close — they have a limited residency program located on Enders Island, off Mystic, CT.  We go there for ten days at a time, four residencies followed by a semester of being mentored by correspondence, followed by one residency where you give a class and a reading. Enders Island is a place of great beauty, one kind in summer and another in winter. It inspires, and the memory sustains. During the time I undertook this program, I continued working both as choir director and as a substitute teacher, and I was diagnosed with and started learning how to live with diabetes, I became a grandmother, and I had articles and a poem published, leading to a friend helping me establish this web site, all after the age of fifty.

If you have a dream, pursue it. If you cannot pursue it now, stalk that dream. Find ways of approaching it from behind, of taking on parts of it, of doing the things that you can do now to sustain your spirit and hone your skills until you can do the thing that makes your heart soar. Whenever I became discouraged with my writing for the degree, I remembered that they had awarded me a fellowship for the first semester, and told myself “If they didn’t think you could write, they wouldn’t have given you money.” And I reminded myself, over and over, that I would still be two years older at the end of two years if I didn’t do this. Alumni and alumnae from the program also offered me both support and living examples of how to succeed despite all that takes place elsewhere in life while you’re writing.

Tell people your dreams. The people who love you will help you, and the rest, you probably didn’t need. I am and ever will be grateful for the support of friends and family who prayed and who fed us, who read things and critiqued and who reminded me that I’ve got this. The ugly voice in my brain that asks what I was thinking, who ever died and told me I could write, still makes an appearance, but it is getting easier to rebuke and silence that voice. Sometimes the desire to prove it wrong is the boost that I need to finish a page; all of us need a good challenge.

Whatever it is that you think you should be doing more of, go do it. Write, draw, paint, mentor, sing. God put good things in you that this weary world needs. And if you don’t do it now, then at the end of two years, you will still be two years older.