A Blog of Writing Tips, Interviews, Thoughts on the Writing Process, Book Reviews, Blog Hops, and Things NESCBWI Conference Related.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Coming to terms with "Being at Peace!"

“Being at Peace” whether it is with a person, thing, or an emotion, is a concept I understand but had never experienced. Until recently.
I have always been open about my falling out with my mother (adoptive) several years ago. Our relationship has always been stormy to say the least. The reasons, dark and convoluted for many, and for me today, not ones I will delve into here.
But it has been two and ½ years since I’ve spoken to her. She is now 75, and I know there is always the chance that I might not speak to her ever again. I have worked out this possibility over the last few years and have come to accept the consequences. Choosing to stay away from our toxic relationship has been difficult, but has slowly faded into the background of my hectic life. I think of her at random, when a memory tickles it way to the forefront of a thought.
She’s my mother and I love her, but still…she is toxic. I remind myself when thoughts of her surface.
I was in Florida earlier this week, saying goodbye to a friend who is dying. Her children and I grew up together. I know her as well as I know my own mother. In fact, they have been close friends for almost 45 years. As different from each other as any two people can ever be. They embraced and accepted their differences, sadly something she could never do with me.
Walking through the hospital with my friend’s eldest daughter, our conversation went like this (she didn’t know my mother and I hadn’t spoken at all in 2 ½ years):
“We were all surprised that your mom and dad aren’t coming down to say good bye to mom.”
“Really,” I said. I was surprised as well.
“Well, especially after your father’s bout with cancer last year.”
“He has cancer? I didn’t know,” I said. She stops walking and looks at me.
“You didn’t know?” she asked.
“We haven’t spoken in 2 ½ years,” I reminded her.
“Oh, early last year, your mother had a mini stroke. No one told you?” she asked.
“Not until now,” I said, waiting for the tears. They didn’t come.
I realized I was at peace. Seriously, it was like getting smacked. It struck me so hard. I stammered. “I...I’m at peace with her.” I actually said the words and knew I meant them.
Over the last few years, I had worked out all of the anger and frustration and I had buried her. I had forgiven her for everything. She was old and unhealthy and would never change, never understand, and never admit her shortcomings at being an adoptive mother and a biological mother all at once. I forgave her for telling me, in front of my children, that she wished she had never adopted me. That she hated me. That I was the reason her life had been shit.
Because the truth is, I know all of these feelings are hers and probably about herself. I know that she is an angry person, one who never achieved all of her desires. I understand she has always felt trapped in a life she didn’t want. I am at peace with her, because carrying all of her around had stalled my own life; has been a burden I just could not carry any longer. So much of my energy poured into someone who was so negative, who would never see the real me, because she could not see past her own
I know, by removing her from my life, I have become the person I was always meant to be: a happy, healthy, and loving mother, wife, friend, teacher, poet, and author. I have achieved so much and worked so hard to become this person.
I no longer worry that I won’t meet her expectations, because they were always unattainable, ever-changing before my eyes.
Don’t get me wrong I miss her, but not the mother portion. I miss the educated, intelligent woman, the one that had real fire, who could convey her ideas and argue a point. The woman whose hands could form clay into sculptures, who could paint, could recommend a great book, and talk philosophy. The woman I always wanted as a mother, but never felt connected to, nor a part of.
“She’s old an walks with a cane, maybe even a walker,” The eldest daughter told me. “I can’t believe she isn’t coming to see my mom.”
I can believe it. I can even take a guess at why. But I won’t put that into words here. Instead, I’ll share a poem I wrote while working through this experience
August 2009

The mourning happens
When I most miss you,
My mother.

Each longing a small death,
Leading me through
the family crypt of dysfunction.

I break the lock, swatting cobwebs
of memory from my face, spewing angry epitaphs
etched into granite heart.

I wonder if your skin has papered thin.
Have you forgotten what you need to remember?
Preferring age as your excuse.

The sharp shards of your slated words,
“I wish,” impaling me.
The “never had,” scraping, flaying me, exposing

Gasping, I turn back to my life,
Shrugging off the mourning cloak
Of my life, of you
Locking the crypt once more.

So for now, just for a moment, I wonder if my mother can’t travel because of her health, because she can’t walk, or because coming to see her friend dying would be admitting that she is so much closer to the ending than to the beginning?
I wonder most of all, if she has made peace with herself.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Goodbye To a Friend!

Less than twenty-four hours ago, I was celebrating my daughter’s birthday with a bunch of girls. We were making necklaces and then going to a French bakery for tea and cake, to complete the festivities. In the middle of this, my cell rang.

“Yes, this is Joyce.”
“My mom is very sick, dying.”

So now, I sit at terminal B20, waiting for my flight to board to Orlando. My destination is not the ‘House of Mouse’, but a hospital in Ocala. I’ll be saying goodbye to a woman I have know since I was 5.

Peg Errico has always had a kind word, and a shoulder, and an ear for me. Childhood was spent with her six children. July fourth parades watched from their big front porch at 52 Ramapo Avenue (by the way, the house is currently for sale). Barbeques in their back yard, and an occasional elusive view of grandma Errico in the little house out back.

As we all grew up, we would visit them at the ponderosa, camp with them in the massive tent, which we could almost fit everyone from both families in.

But what I remember most, sitting in the kitchen with Mrs. Errico and talking about everything, while she cooked dinner for her brood. The years slipped away, and after they moved to upstate New York, we would visit. The old farmhouse they bought was massive, and everyone fit. We would go to the Altamont Fair and run through the cornfields playing hide-n-seek, but it wasn’t the same.

After Frank retired, they moved to Ocala, FL, I saw them rarely for a few years.

A few years later, my parents bought a summer place in Willsboro, NY and Frank and Peg Errico did shortly after. Our families were deeply, lovingly entwined, and this was the natural progression of staying close.

I would see the Erricos during summer visits and always tried to plan to see Frank and Peg. A few years back, I stopped going to the lake house. Mrs. Errico called me just before last Christmas, wanted to let me know she wanted to see me.

“I’ll come to the lake,” I said.
“I don’t think I’ll be there this summer.”
I knew what she meant.

“Call me and I’ll come to Florida.”
“You will?”

And I am. Waiting for the flight to board.
I tucked my children into bed last night after booking a flight, explaining to them why I was going and wishing it were a vacation with them, to swim in the ocean and make memories. My son tells me to tell them [Erricos] he loves them; my daughter in tears, her current struggles with mortality rampant at 10; sad that people die. Sadder still, her memories of the Erricos are fuzzy, and hard to recall.

Instead, I leave them semi-asleep in their beds at 5:30 this morning. Wishing I were home, angry with my nomadic self, at how happy a small part of me is, to be getting on a plane, even for this journey.

This trip signifies so much; with her passing, Peg Errico takes my childhood with her. Causing me, to reflect on things I would rather forget. Choices I’ve made, words I’ve tossed around. Peg always had a smile for me, and loved me unconditionally, my successes meant something to her, and she always let me know how much she appreciate who I was.

I go to say goodbye, with a light heart. To give support her children and to show her I loved her.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Decade Gone!

Today my daughter turns 10. It may not seem like a major milestone to some, but it is for me. I find it hard to believe she is changing from a little girl to an emerging teen.  

Her beauty isn’t just skin deep. At 10, she possesses much poise, has a great sense a humor, is learning the flute, is very creative and artistic, and is still young enough to dream big, which she does.

She is beautiful!

With double digits, comes more sophisticated problems; navigating the endless girl drama, the beginning of hormone changes, self image conflicts, confidence issues, and so much more. I forgot how hard this all was. Or maybe, it was so traumatic I pushed it way back into the dark recess of my mind. But either way, I hope she doesn't get to caught up in it all and forget to be true to herself.

What I do know, is that she is a gift. Unexpected, but welcomed more so than any other event in my life. I want her to always know she is loved and cherished, and never want her to question her origins, like I did. She is flesh of my flesh, not adopted like me. Therefore, she was always wanted from the very first moment when I realized she was possible.

I wrote this poem shortly after she was born, knowing my miracle had happened.

So for Kendra on your 10th birthday, here is your poem.


The spark exploded
from within.
I held you deep inside;
the suddenness of your being possessed me.
I knew you existed from that moment.
Whispered you were inside me, an untold story
the first words, the first sentence above:
The Spark.

I warmed as you ignited into a tiny flame;
I had not experienced this before.
Not with your brother
or the one I lost before him.
Only you.
Was it because you were so unexpected,
created from joy? I don’t know.
But there you were:
My Spark.

I whispered your arrival to a stunned face,
hazel eyes dipping, reaching into me.
Those words surprised me, filled me with wonder
as astonishing as you,
I felt it too! he said.
Our Spark.

Now, thousands of hours later, I look at you
and burn inside, womb clenching,
trying to hold on.
The world outside beckons, tempts you
with twigs of knowledge
once consumed by your fire,
your hunger grows.
I can only contain you for a short time longer.
Your Spark.

You are an inferno of life, a fire, a light
so bright,
my own spark pales,
but never does my joy for you,
My Inferno.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Seven Years Of Small Town Living

I love my small town!

New London, NH a NY Times Best Destination

I have for the entire time we’ve lived here. 

Seven years ago, this month to be as close to exact s I can. We came to New London for the first time when the company my husband was interviewing with invited to spend the weekend and check out area. We drove through down Main Street and fell in love. The snow was heavy that winter. We awoke to 13 inches of bright white snow. We drove all around the town, down snow covered dirt roads, looked at houses, dreamed of all the new possibilities and fell in love with New Hampshire. 

My husband moved up at the end of April, the kids and I arrived the day we closed on the sale of our home in Connecticut. We moved into a rental. A safe bet, until we found just the right home for us. 

Our first summer in New London was just wonderful. Our days were spent at the beach; sunset swims and picnics whenever we wanted. Weekends were spent exploring the state. It was the most relaxed summer we’ve ever had.

Then winter struck!

Winter can get to you. Frost heaves the size of Mt Washington, potholes you could swim in if they weren’t frozen solid, sand ground into the carpet, and road salt making jagged rings on your favorite boots. Not the wonderland we remembered from the winter trip the year before.

Now seven winters later - I still wouldn’t trade it all in. It might be February 2, and we are certain to have more snow, but try as I might to get over it all, I would miss this place. I don’t remember exactly when it became home to me. The moment that matters most, is the moment I realized I wanted to call this place my home for the remainder of my life.

Even on the winter days when the people I like the most really get under my skin like a jagged splinter from the woodpile. When words spew forth without a filter from their lips, because cabin fever has set in, and everyone is irritable and waiting for the thaw. Small scandals grow ripe for gossip and even friends get snippy.

I wrote a poem about it.


Sometimes it’s hard to stay friends 
under an umbrella for one.
Bird’s constant chirping 
about this friend, that friend. Gossip
growing old, growing cold, mean.

Frog can’t decide, stay and 
listen, go and share. Rain like tears, 
glisten as Bird prattles on. 
Talks of Duck’s tail, Squirrel’s hoarding.

Mouse takes a chance on friendship.
Robin, stop! Our friends 
are who they are. Bird you are 
flibbertigibbet. Everyone says so. 
Robin blinks, thinks and stops.

Frog smiles.

On these days I think about why we chose to live here, and, I try very hard to find something good in everyone. To come up with an excuse as to why they are acting or saying the things they are. 

I don’t always succeed!