Bright Green Door

I’m back from a writing retreat, one that I scheduled and planned at a cottage near Lake Michigan. I spent the first day alone and then a friend who is also a writer joined me for the remainder; she is working on her book and an amazing project.

Writing has been hard the last few months. In August, my family learned that my mother’s illness was serious; she was very sick. Thirty days later, she passed on.

I cannot find the right words to tell you more about her at this time, other than to say I love her and I am so grateful to have been blessed with her as my mother and guide. I had no concept that grief would be so heavy, numbing, and unpredictable, but since her passing, I am learning more about the impact of loss  than I knew before, even though I have gone through other challenges. At the beginning, grief caused me to switch between two impulses—a total retreat, into myself, to deal with the hurt; and a persistent urge to open my front door, and walk and walk and walk, until I arrived…somewhere.

I felt my mother’s presence over the last few days, encouraging me, happy that I had found yet another place to visit, wanting to hear the details of how the cottage looked, how the rooms were arranged, if it was near water.

Alone at the dining room table, I began to write and feel happiness creep back into my life. I slept well, full of words and ideas for future writing. When it was time to leave and close the door to the cottage, I felt like I could walk through another door. One where I could grieve my loss and yet be happy, retreat for healing and come back renewed.





Happy Mother’s Day – Treasures

This is for mothers everywhere, and for those who have poured their love, patience, and wisdom into the life of another person, whether it is your own child or someone who needed a gift that you were able and willing to provide.

Despite going to Catholic grade school and college, there was a verse in the bible that eluded me for most of my life, until a few years ago. It seems it would have been brought to my attention in religion class, Sunday school, or perhaps recited during the month of May. (I loved the month of May, with its songs that celebrated Mary. Those songs were among the most joyous of the ones I remember from grade school.) I stumbled on these verses during my own reading, and it was like that piece of sidewalk that juts up unevenly from the path and forces you to slow down and pay attention.

In Luke 2:19, after the birth of Jesus, it reads:

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Luke 2:51 says:

“But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

Mary’s reaction came after she watched her 12-year-old son as he listened, questioned, and learned from the teachers in the temple. Even when Jesus was young, his mother realized there was something special about her child. She may have sensed that his path was not going to be easy, and that everything he was doing as a child would prepare him for the challenges ahead.

By the time I read these words my daughter was already an adult, and I knew what it meant to know that your child would have to go through prickly thickets in the midst of sunny meadows. But what really struck me was how my own mother, also named Mary, must have known the same thing about me. Surely there were times when she just watched, observed, being aware of what might be ahead, but allowing me to go my own way. That had to be hard at times, but she did it. I am grateful for her guidance and quiet wisdom.

On this day I want to thank all mothers who have to sort this out—when to step in, and when to intercede and step back—knowing that you cannot completely prevent a loved one’s suffering, but you can love them through it.

Happy Mother’s Day


New Book-Family Stories from the Attic

I am excited about the arrival of a new anthology that features one of my essays. Family Stories from the Attic, published by Hidden Timber Books, was released this month. My essay, Without Words, appears in this wonderful anthology that holds stories about what we learn from the items our loved ones once cherished enough to hold onto. My story is about a different way of coming to learn more about someone when they are no longer able to talk with you. Through the words of the 22 writers in this book, you will come away with what it means to be in family, and how many questions are left unanswered if we don’t seek the deeper meaning in these artifacts. If you are blessed enough to have family members around whose stories you do not yet know, spend a little time with them, ask them about their favorite memories, lessons learned, or people they loved growing up. Then be prepared to sit and listen.

I hope that you will consider picking up a copy of Family Stories from the Attic; it is available from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and some independent bookstores will soon be carrying it. I’d love to hear from you if you read it, and let me know how conversations with your family members are going.

Peace and blessings,


Who Is Your Family?

uprooted tree

I just spent an amazing weekend with my sisters. I call them my sisters even though I grew up as the only girl in a family with my four brothers. Maria is my cousin; I used to babysit her and we also played together; I went to her track meets. Tina and I met at summer camp when I was in grade school, became friends and have stayed close for decades even though we never went to the same schools, never lived in the same neighborhood and since college, have not always lived in the same city. Marie and Yolanda are my sisters-in-law, married to two of my brothers who are twins. I may not have had a sister in the home when I was younger, but I have been blessed with women who have come and stayed in my life.

We were so busy with each other, talking, eating, walking the streets of St. Joseph near Silver Beach, we did not watch TV, or listen to news. The only updates we were interested in were the ones pertaining to our own lives. And the laughter – how we laughed! My husband said that at one point while he was in the family room, he heard the roar of our laughter, first one voice, then another, and it just continued to roll. He knew we were having a good time, and he also knew not to ask what had driven us to laugh like that.

On Sunday, after we enjoyed a sendoff feast, a low country shrimp boil, steaming with red potatoes, sausage, and corn, along with cornbread and lemonade, I tidied up the house and settled in. There wasn’t much to clean up, because this kind of family leaves each other better off. While they were here, my family chopped vegetables for meals, cleaned and dried dishes, and tossed towels in baskets to be washed. When it was time to leave, we hugged our goodbyes and said, “I love you.”

And then I turned on the news and saw a line about Orlando. Another assault, more evidence of the lack of regard some on the planet have for the bodies and hearts of others. Another sign that some confused, lonely, or maybe vengeful people lack an understanding of what it is to walk in love with one another, or do not respect the truth that we are all worthy of love. This morning it took a while to get started, I felt off, disoriented, stunned. Each assault like this seems to creep a bit closer to my spirit, and today I am at a loss about how to stop them. Looking for answers, I went to campus for a walk, intending to listen to music or a podcast. But the noise in my head was too much, I could only be silent, walk, sit on a stone ledge to gather my thoughts, and then walk some more.

People who do not own guns are considering whether or not this is the time to purchase one. I shudder at that thought but it is a choice some have already made, and others will now do the same. Some who are concerned are arming themselves through activism, others with prayer. Those are the approaches that appeal to me. I grieves me to consider the family, friends, and neighbors who will no longer be able to see their loved ones because of the murders in Orlando, and the loss of lives because of rage, despair and intolerance is happening across our country. I pray that the injured and those who lost someone through violence have family to love them through this hard time, and I appreciate my sister-family for being here with me this weekend all the more. Peace and blessings, Ramona