What of Love?

So many human hearts are confused or angry or sad or feeling forgotten. So as it always does in sad or joyous times, my heart wrote a poem. As you read, I hope it soothes your heart.





Posted in All lives matter, Inspiration, Peace, Philosophy, Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments




I write from the root of the bloom.  In all the messy, tangled places of my soul.  In the darkness that catches fire and spreads to seek the light.  In solitude that sniffs the air for bits of oxygen called words.

I write from the root of the bloom.  In a place no one knows.  Or can see.  Like love until it’s set free.  Mine unto paper. Smoothly and frantically.  Quietly out loud.

I write from the root of the bloom.  Boldly.  In stillness and wonder.  Sadness searches for words.  Joy finds them.

And I am transformed once more.






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size matters…

IMG_9084I’m not supposed to be blogging.  I’m really not. At all.

Yet, here I am.  Again.

Why, you ask?  Because I’m a writer.  What does that mean, you ask?

Being a writer means I have control over how I arrange my words on paper.  It means I have an overwhelming desire to write. A lot.  What it doesn’t mean, at least for this red-headed chick, is that I can rid my writer’s brain of a thought once it settles in with a glass of wine and a blankie, like it owns me.

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned, it’s that once this gust of a word storm in my head occurs – it. can’t. be. stopped.

This torrid tale begins with a desk debacle.  A where is Karen going to write today? debacle.  I started writing at the cute little glass top desk I found at a consignment shop two years ago.  It fit my dream.  And so I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.

As I wrote I quickly amassed seventy-five, eight by eleven pages that ran the gamut from the preface to the end.  Realizing my dilemma, I developed a sixteen folder system that efficiently kept all my writing on various subjects at my fingertips.

What does this have to do with anything, you ask?

My tiny little desk no longer held my folders, lap top, iPad and reference books.  It no longer held my dream.  So I adapted as best as I could.  I erected an old card table; one that wore messy painting oops and wobbly legs.  When I looked at it I was reminded of our journey down here…wobbly legs and all.  This also led me to affirm once again, that in the midst of great uncertainty: anything and everything is possible.

And I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.

But every time we had a showing the messy card table had to be put away and then gotten back out.  Writers are strange creatures.  We are also creatures of habit.  At least this one is.  The temporariness of my other table bugged me. As whispers of OCD filled the air.

Feeling frustrated, I took all my writing toys and moved upstairs to our large pub table in the media room adjacent to Sam’s office.

And I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.  Another hundred some pages.

I wrote the death and grief chapters. I wrote the ending.  I even wrote a surprise after the end.  I wrote the preface.  But still…something felt off.

There is no door between me and my husband’s office. Uh huh. Now. He’s not home very often. BUT. Writers are cave dwellers.  We need a space no one has breathed their words into.  It diffuses our creativity the way kryptonite kills Superman’s mojo.  I felt like a guest in someone’s house.  How could I dream mighty words if I didn’t feel at home inside?

There’s still so much work to do.  Probably the most important work of all.

Due to the temporariness of our almost four year sojourn down here – what with the eighty boxes in the garage and another forty in the attic, things have always felt temporary here.

In the media room upstairs there is a DR Dimes table that used to be our dining table, just sitting there all by its lonesome.  It’s a big, beautiful, tiger maple top table.  HELLO!! (This makes me think of Adele and how I can’t wait to go to her concert in October). Ahem. The table.  Its legs are currently black which messes with the feng shui color scheme of my office. Sorry. Eventually I’ll paint the legs charcoal gray.  The interior decorator that lives next door to my writers brain deems it so.


Today my sweet husband moved the table downstairs to my office.  I can think of nothing better than writing on a table that lived and breathed in Maryland.  My memory place will feel the love and laughter that sat around this beautiful table.  It will be a safe haven for my words until I’m ready to release them out loud. My writing home until we move back to Maryland.

On Monday I will sit myself down and dream mighty words once again.  And while I’m positive this table that comfortably seats six, will be able to house all my writing needs – I know it will never be big enough to hold all my dreams.

Dreams can’t be held.  Only released into the Universe so they can breathe.

ps.  Of course once I’m all settled into my desk, we’ll probably get an offer on the house.  wink wink

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Conquering the Hill

image1I thought I would write a poem as I’ve always done to honor Preston on this, his Ninth Angelversary.  However, on November 21 I had a very vivid dream that told me otherwise.  So vivid I could smell the fresh, cool air like Autumn was waving Winter into existence.  I felt my beloved boy’s soft cheeks and kissed them repeatedly as his hair brushed against my face while I hugged him.  It was as if I had a visitation rather than a dream.  The universe spoke and I couldn’t help but listen.

In my dream, as always, Preston was small.  He was sitting at the top of a hill that looked a lot like my parents’ property on South Mountain where I grew up.  The hill my sister, Julie and I used to sled down.  Sam and Samantha were standing beside him, each wearing their big, signature smiles.  Tucking his chin into his chest, Preston kept looking down the hill and kicking his legs.  I asked him if he wanted to run down the hill.  And all at once I heard a voice I haven’t heard since this bittersweet time of remembrance a year ago – the very first time I heard his voice in a dream.  He excitedly said, “Uh huh.”  So I lifted his body into my arms and ran the length of the hill with him.  Reaching the bottom I stomped my feet and jostled him about, saying “Ta dah!”  He belly laughed.  I felt the bravery and joy of a true belly laugh vibrating through the permanence of the air as if electrons were charging my very soul.  As I turned to run back to the top I noticed several different footprints that ran the length of the hill.  Their various sizes imprinted into the earth claiming my heart and soul for all eternity.  In my dream I stood gazing at the footprints for what seemed to be forever.  And who knows – maybe I did stare at them seemingly for hours as I held Preston in my arms while my body lie slumbering.  That’s the wonderment of dreaming, isn’t it?

Once at the crest I stomped my feet and jostled him about again, and somewhat out of breath proclaimed, “You conquered the hill!”  We all laughed even more, the way we always used to laugh – Heartily.  Our bellies pressing outwardly toward whatever was pressing in on us.

While I never ran up and down one hill with Preston, I appreciate the metaphor that was my dream.  While carrying whatever life threw at us.  At him.  We always laughed.

Equally, I know my dream was about the book I’m ‘carrying.’  And I’m touched beyond the capacity  mere words will allow.  Since writing it I’ve had so many dreams about Preston – far more than before I started working on the book full time.  It’s simply unexplainable in the conventional sense.  But nothing about our red-headed boy was simple or explainable.  Getting so close to what is stored in my memory place was one of the things that kept me from fully immersing myself in writing, years ago.  I thought it would take me to a dark, scary place from which I’d never return.  The only scary place was ‘thinking’ about what might scare me.  Inaction was the scariest thing of all.  My dreams and my writing have only served to enlighten me.

Without giving anything away, I will say that there are many unexplainable things in the book.  This much I know to be a truth by which my heart operates – you cannot look at a single star in the night sky without seeing all the shiny things in your peripheral.  In looking back at our twenty-three years with Preston and being shamelessly vulnerable in my writing; I’ve realized far beyond what I knew before, that love and wisdom forever dwell in all the broken little pieces that light up the sky.  And that is the essence of my book, the truth before us and all the shiny little things that abound.  I’m so happy to say that the book is three fourths of the way done.  I can just about see it all grown up and out there in the world by itself.  I simply cannot wait to share with all of you what my soul has heard.

Be extra kind this holiday season.  LOVE YOUR PEOPLE.  The world is without so many precious souls.

I wish everyone Peace and Love.  Miss you all.



Posted in Angels, Christmas, Inspiration, Loss of a Child | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments


Preston Edward Draper, July 19, 1983 – December 20, 2006.  The simple yet profound mark between his birth and death is known as the dash.  Its intention is clear and to the point, it denotes the space between the beginning and the end – determined by how we live our life…our dash.  There’s even a well known poem called The Dash.

In interviewing educators, special ed aides and peers of Preston’s for the book I’m writing, I’ve been moved to tears by the affect his dash has had on those who knew and loved him.  Awestruck by the stories they’ve shared with me, some of which I’d never heard.  Profound moments that changed their lives forever.  We were so very blessed to have had such amazing human beings to teach, love and be a genuine friend to him.

Many people have asked where I am in the writing of my book. I’ve written 150 pages so far, with at least 150 more to go. And I know he’s there in every word I write. Most especially, in the stillness in-between the words. I look forward, with great anticipation, to finishing the educator interviews and moving on to interviewing family and friends whose stories and thoughts I can’t wait to hear.

As I sat at my desk editing a chapter on the first day of December, this poem came to me. I hope you enjoy its inspirational message.

In this season of celebration and joy. And most of all, love. Whether it be love that stands tall in front of you and speaks your name, or eternal love that gently whispers in your memory place – I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy & Healthy New Year.

Merry Christmas sweet angel. #angelversary


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Autumn’s Caress

Poetic musings on a gorgeous Fall morning…


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Mot Juste


“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”

I’ve been reading the poet/philosopher, Rumi’s works for years.  So I could think of nothing better than to cite some of my favorite Rumi quotes that are relevant to where I am currently in my life’s journey.  I love and embrace his message of acceptance, openness and a universal connection to all things.  I’m still working at being a better observer and an even better listener.  Without a doubt, writing has helped me to experience everyday life in a multi-sensory way.

Writing has enabled me to not just stop and smell the roses, but to physically bend down and touch the delicate softness of their petals.  It’s turned my head to imagine an entire bed sprawled across my lawn.  And to move them from room to room in various compartments of my brain, so I can enjoy them in a different light.

“There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.”

The morning I sat down to write the first paragraph of my book: the one that came blasting loudly into my head, so as not to be ignored, while I was in the shower.  As I hurriedly dried off, scared and on high alert; not yet fully cognizant of what was about to happen.  Panic stricken as I worried I wouldn’t be able to write down my words as fast as my brain was composing them.  A new awareness washed over me as briskly as the hot shower water.  All my senses rose like goosebumps, higher and higher on my damp skin.  In that instant – I knew.  I really knew.  THIS was the beginning of the book.  I threw on a rob, my hair still wet.  Sitting in my new white leather chair my family had given me for Christmas.  Hands shaking.  Fear and excitement pulsated through me like a rushing river of white capped adrenaline.  I reached for my writing pen.

And I heard the voice I had been stifling for years.

That morning.  That magical insightful morning.  I became a listener as well as a writer.

Revealing teardrops punctuated the paper as I wrote.  Knowing in that singular moment the old me had been re-shapened by my words and I would never be the same.  My words, imprisoned for so many years, were finally free.  A series of life events had freed them: this time I knew not to turn away.  I’d acquired all kinds of heavy armor through the years.  Initially wearing it for my protection, it had become itchy and burdensome.  Suffocating.  Like a sweater adhered tightly to my skin on a scorching summer day.  Inappropriate and unnecessary.  But that morning…purified by the waterworks, I sat with my body and mind, my heart and soul: naked and aware.  Enlightened for having listened.

“Why do you stay in prison, when the door is so wide open?”

And so I continue on my quest to sharpen my ears to hear the eerily magical sounds of silence – present only to my imagination and vulnerability.  The words find me easier now, as if being aware and open enlivens what was dormant to my once dimmed eyes and ears.

“What you seek is seeking you.”

In the living of our daily lives we are witness to a host of sensory moments.  The ones we seek and the ones that seek us.  Each and every one – full of inspiration and courage, sadness and pain, laughter and friendship.  And love.  Constants in our ever-changing world.  We step away, we take a breath.  We listen.  And we try our very best to be open to the lessons – free from that cumbersome sweater we sometimes proudly wear.  Knowing that…

It is only in the quiet that we can absorb life’s wisdom.

The next several months I am going quiet.  Initially to pack up the rental and to finish all the last minute to dos at the house.  Then to unpack, to nest, and to breathe in all that I have missed.

I look forward, with great excitement, to becoming reacquainted with objects I haven’t seen in two and a half years.  To merge the old with the new ones that I’ve found.  And to listen to the rhythm  of our new home and location.

I can’t wait to re-open the workings of my book thus far to see where I left off.  To be mindful of its cadence.  And to absorb its wisdom so that I may continue on.  In the writing of my book I’ve been surprised and in awe on several occasions.  One of which has been learning that there is not three, but four characters that exist every time I sit down to write.  First there is myself: the writer.  Second there are the words: the writing.  Third: the shadow, the most imperfect part of me without whom I couldn’t write one single word.  Last and most surprising, there is the book: a character and a life unto itself.     Like a brilliant mentor pulling from me that which I didn’t know existed.  This book isn’t at all what I thought it would be.  It’s much like watching a metamorphosis in real time.  Full of challenges and surprises, all delightful and intense.

A newly discovered sixth sense.

It has elevated my conscience and unconscientious mind to a far greater height than I ever thought possible.  THIS excites my spirit.

My book isn’t just about disabilities, illness and death.  Oh no.  It’s a memoir about life and the living of it despite all odds.  It’s about a family life full of humor, sarcasm and an unsurmountable amount of love, joy and acceptance.  It’s about an unstoppable sense of community.  There’s even a phantom character along with other story lines that are woven in between Preston’s lessons that don’t apply to disabilities at all.  Or maybe they do.

It is my hope that when you read my book you will laugh as much as you cry.  That you will find yourself nodding your head because you can relate  to something I’ve said.  It doesn’t matter whether you’ve loved or known a child with disabilities or not.  This is a story about unconditional love and laughter, unbelievably horrible circumstances, and an unyielding spirit and energy force that, at times, defied logic.  It’s about growth and pain, endings and beginnings.

I need to fully immerse myself in the book so I can experience it from all angles.  So that, hopefully, I can see, hear and feel its darkest, funniest and its most enlightening moments as they appear to me.  My fingers need to scan the creases and dog-eared pages in every one of Preston’s life chapters.  Some pages are turned way down while others just a bit.  Whatever the case, I need to examine and question the reason for their depth.  In the hopes that the simplicity along with the complexity of our family’s life can inspire or touch someone else’s heart.

The idea of this book of mine has been with me for awhile.  Most recently though, it has come to sit within my soul.  This is my calling.  Chills shoot up and down my spine as I say this short but powerful phrase aloud.  Owning a truth that has been suspended inside of me for so long is scary and freeing, at once.  And now I must get back to the full time work ethic that will ultimately help me find those exact words, the mot justes that will best describe an indescribable life.

My silent teacher guides me…and I listen.

“Respond to every call that excites your spirit.”

So here I go into the quiet.  Inward.  Toward my heart of hearts.  My fear and intuition.

To fully owning my gift.

Always keep your eyes and ears open to the wonder of our world.


Until next time.  Be well.

And cue the magic.

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Maryland My Maryland


Please feel free to hum along to the tune of Maryland My Maryland while reading.


Dear Virginia,

Sorry Virginia.  I’m just not that into you.  It’s not you – it’s me.  There are parts of you I love.  Seriously. But the parts that genuinely make a difference…the ones that can make or break a relationship.  Well. They are what makes you.  YOU.  And being the realist that I am – I would never ask you to change what ultimately cannot be changed.  My husband’s Hokie roots will always have us coming back for football games and tailgates with friends.  And I suppose that’s what it’s come down to, Virginia.  We can still visit each other but we can no longer live together.  It’s just not working.

It turns out that I’m allergic to your tall pines that surround our house.  Ironically, one of the traits I found charming about you at first.  And every time my husband or I step outside, your most vile “no-see-um mosquitos,” or as I like to call them…vampires from hell – attack us through our clothing.  The first mosquito bite sent me to the doctor’s office, certain that the flaming hot boulder on my leg was a horrible spider bite.  Only to be told, quite matter of factly, that – nope: it’s nothing but a mosquito bite.  Not classy Virginia, not classy!

Maryland, as polite as she is, has been dropping hints for awhile; sending her proverbial messages into the universe for us to see.  Initially, I was too blinded by your beauty, Virginia.  But now, with my rose-colored glasses off: after having spent much time with you and your nasty mood swings, after I’ve seen you in the harsh light of dawn – I must admit…Maryland’s beauty and charm is undeniable.

My husband recently asked me what Virginia taught me.  Hmmmmm.  (Note to self – keep it classy).  Got it.  Virginia taught me that building mini Saks and Nordstrom “stores” is a senseless act that needs to be stopped!  I’ll never forget how traumatized this city girl was the first time I began “shopping” in this mockery of a store, only to realize that the walls were closing in on me as there really was no where to go. Nowhere!!  This is cruel, Virginia.  Really cruel.  Virginia also taught me that, as much as I complained about Maryland snow at times – I missed it terribly.  I missed looking out my window at the pure untouched beauty of a world blanketed in snow.  I craved making hot chocolate and sitting by the fire after coming in from a walk in the snow.  Virginia absoposilutely taught me that this neck of the woods IS the south and without a doubt y’all, things really do move sloowww down heaah!  One word prompt: HOUSE.  As for the house, please refer to the quote at the bottom that best encapsulates our particular house story.  (Still keeping it classy).  And lastly, the most important lesson of all. I miss our family and friends.  I realized that the preciousness of our history together is invaluable.    I can’t make enough trips up the road, nor they here, to keep on creating enough new memories.  I’ve often questioned why we continued to make new Maryland friends that fit while Miss Virginia thang surely seemed to be an utter MISfit.  Insert lesson here… The universe speaks and eventually we learn to listen.

And due to the fact that you are so. big. (and by big I mean beautiful and grandeous in stature), we are forced to travel hours in between many of the places we do like to visit.  And don’t EVEN get me started about my husband’s commute.

Maybe you’re just too big for your britches, Virginia.  Or for ours…

We like little Maryland.  She has such an endearing quality, what with her quaint little towns that beckon you in, her seaside villages, her inner harbor, antique shops, her blue crabs, her lakes and rivers, her rolling farm fields and mountains, and her Ravens who we love.  I know what you’re going to say, Virginia.  While, yes, you do have some of these attributes – it’s simply the remarkably, impressive way Maryland presents herself in one tiny package that makes her glisten so splendidly in our eyes.

I suppose there’s a reason the Black Eyed Susan has always been one of my favorite flowers.  I’m just a Maryland girl at heart.

I hope we can remain friends, Virginia.  It’s not that I don’t like you – it’s just that I like Maryland more.  We get each other.

It took us moving away to realize that the ordinary, the mundane everydayness of Maryland is exactly the stuff that extraordinary is made of.  So thank you, Virginia, for pointing that out to us.

I honestly did leave my heart in Maryland.  And now it’s time to go back and reclaim it.

So I guess for now, there’s only one thing left to do.  If you listen closely you will hear my heels click together three times as I say.


“There’s no place like home…there’s no place like home…there’s no place like home.”


“Life is infinitely stranger than anything the mind could invent.”

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living past the dying


My head has been swirling for the past couple weeks for many reasons.  Two of which are the sudden death of Robin Williams and the ongoing debate over the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  In regards to the ALS debate: I ask you this – When was the last time you heard a conversation or saw a commercial about curing Alzheimer’s, Cancer or Heart Disease? Okay.  Then when was the last time you heard a conversation or saw a commercial about curing ALS?  Yep.  That’s what I thought.  Our silence about this insidious disease is allowing it to claim more victims with each passing year.

I’ve been amazed and so disappointed at the rude, ignorant comments that have been left on some ice bucket challenge posts.  Ignorance is never bliss people.  Knowledge is power.  And asking questions is a form of kindness, intelligence and love.  So ask away.  Learn something new.  Next time you watch a silly ALS Ice Bucket Challenge post – Listen to your friend’s gasp as they receive a shock to their body and mind.  Think of the ability they have to run away from the shock, as most of them do, to grab a towel as they dry off and warm up…comforting their body.  Remember that from that point on, they can get back to life as usual.  Then please join the rest of the country and continue to donate millions to find a cure for ALS.  And please remember, it’s not about the ice bucket.  It never was.  It’s about raising awareness and raising money.  It’s about ALS.

Through all this (and more) I’ve learned, once again, that life is funny.  And people are funnier, still.  Even sad people like Robin Williams.


Life is confusing and hard.  We set goals.  We make plans.  We fail and we fall.  We get up again and again, feeling a little more bruised for having fallen so much.


Life is beautiful and grand.  We set goals.  We make plans. We watch them fall into place, like that last piece of the puzzle as we exuberantly exclaim, “There, I did it!”  Almost forgetting the frustration of trying to make the edges fit so you could fill in the center.  And we feel grateful for having connected all the peculiar pieces together so well.  Remembering that odd piece that didn’t seem to fit at all…until it was so obvious you wonder how you ever missed it.

So where do we start?  On the edge?  Or in the center?


Feeling, still, mystified by the affect that the death of Robin Williams had on me:  as a sadness fell over me, a verbal gasp followed by, “What??” as I heard the news.  As if I personally knew him.  Obviously I didn’t know him nor have I ever met him.  But like many, I felt a connection due to his openness. His humanness.  Such an endearing person.  A multi-talented individual.  A person who by all accounts was giving and loving.  Apparently generous to a fault.  A larger than life personality.  A wonderful father. Husband.  A lovely human being.

So why then, couldn’t he…no matter how much his family loved him, live past the dying on the inside? No matter how hard they secured his edges with their loving arms and hearts – his center remained empty.  No matter how much or how often they worked together to fill his center – his edges fell away.


I don’t claim to personally know anything about depression.  But here’s what I do know.  Several people who I know and love have shared their struggles with me.  And frankly, I’m sick and tired of having “closeted conversations” about mental illness with them.  I’m fed up with the fact that they feel they can’t talk about their illness in the bright light of day without fear of judgment!


Every smile we see has a thousand frowns that came before it.  A singular moment that attempted to define a human being.  A million teardrops that washed away the hurt.  And then back to smiling.  And perhaps my sadness lies in the sheer fact that all the while Robin Williams smiled.  As he made other people laugh and smile – he wore an internal frown.  I’m not saying don’t smile.  I’m not saying don’t be positive.  What I am saying is that what society tells us is confusing and misleading.


Society often tells us – Chin up!  Cheer up! You can do this!  Or better yet – Be Strong! These encouraging words are all fine if you’re not trying to slay an internal monster, invisible and unknown to others.

Strong is one of those undefinable words like normal.  Go on. Try.  I defy you to define it.  What if being strong steers us away from getting to the root of the problem?  What if being strong means letting go of all you know and crying until your brokenness begins to heal.

Society doesn’t always tell us to get to the root of the problem.  It tells us to dig it up and start over, albeit in the same diseased plot of ground.  And to smile.  And so we walk around wearing our smile masks proudly.  Our humanness hidden.

Living past the dying on the inside is in knowing that no matter how broken you are, there is hope that it will not break you.  No matter your brokenness – be it a few scattered pieces or a hundred thousand pieces. This will not break you. 

But please – feel free to be broken.  To tell your broken story.  And to ask for help from another broken human being.





I suppose that in the end, Robin William’s comedic, genius mind, along with his beautiful heart and soul, couldn’t overpower his tormented mind.  The mind devoid of hope, inside the face of a million smiles.

And while we are all saddened by his passing, I know the angels are laughing like they’ve never laughed before.

 I now have a renewed hope.  To be honest, a hope I’ve never given much thought to: That ALS now has the eyes and ears, the hearts and minds of our country.  And that, one day, a mask will be something solely worn for Halloween.

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings a tune without the words and never stops at all.”  Emily Dickinson

Posted in Courage, Death, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments


It was one year ago today that my fingers nervously prepared to hit the publish button. I chose this piece, “from the cellar,” because it best sums up our life and most accurately describes our life philosophy. It’s been so wonderful getting to know all of you and hearing YOUR fascinating life stories. I hope you enjoy the read!

NESTpirations ~from our not so empty nest


“We must let go of the life we planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

Parents are delivered into their empty nest in a multitude of ways, across different spans of place and time.  Some run longingly, while others drag their feet.  For most it’s a chance to reclaim your house and date night, while forging a new adult relationship with your children.  Sadly, for others, it marks the end of a relationship that can no longer be sustained – a dissolution of a family under one roof.  Whatever category you fall into, parents eventually see their empty nest as a new beginning.

We are given different layers of life, each seasoned with a distinct flavor that may feel foreign to our palate at first.  Initially, the empty nest is that strange inedible taste you swear you’ll never like.

My husband, Sam, and I are…

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