The art of storytelling is as simple and complicated as it is to care for another human being. Or ourselves. Stories grow and evolve just like us. While part of the story remains static, change is happening all around. Like life, it’s a great balancing act. But no matter the plot, or person, all the parts, if used wisely and with great thought… make a whole.

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Grief is the love that waters the flowers of our soul. Sometimes they curl up in the darkness to rest. Sometimes they bloom.   karen draper


Last year when we marked our ten year milestone, I said I wouldn’t write any more memorial posts about Preston. When I think back to that statement I realize how silly it was to foretell what I didn’t know. I am still, and always will be, learning. Sitting at my desk as I write this post, I have NO idea what I’ll do next year. I won’t know until I get there, and when I do, I’ll do whatever feels right for me.

Every year on our son’s heavenly birthday, I look at the first two photographs to remind myself that anything is possible. They don’t match the bottom two – they’re not supposed to. How we begin doesn’t determine a life. And whenever we want. We can begin again. And so it goes…

What I really want to do though is talk about grief – a subject that is rarely discussed. As if talking about it prohibits the continuum of life. Or. Gives a misguided perception that if you do, you must still be stuck in it. Whether you’re grieving the loss of a child, spouse, parent, friend, or even a relationship; I hope I can offer a perspective that helps you in the healing process.

Grief doesn’t ask permission. Not ever. Though it does teach us the enormity of love. And the capacity within our muscles and bones to expand into another place. Grief is amazing in its ability to heal and hold love.

Now, almost eleven years after Preston’s death, Sam and I live with grief as a silent partner. He doesn’t visit often, but when he does he’s an all consuming, sometimes, rude house guest. He arrives unexpectedly. He’s messy, opening doors that were closed and leaving windows ajar to let in what may. And when he leaves we clean up after the mess, and begin again.

Living with grief as a silent partner doesn’t mean we’re not joyful. Most mornings we awake happy and well fed by life. It also doesn’t mean that we don’t think of our son everyday at some point, or at many points. Often people have said, “Sorry I didn’t mean to bring him up and make you sad.” Please know that we can’t be made sad by the mention of our son’s name. However, it does mean that when we smile a memory up, we stop and pause at the sheer beauty of it. And for the most part we’re happier than I ever imagined we would be.

Of course there are the days when his presence is felt here on earth as though he never left. When we feel him so tightly around us, our hearts can’t help but be squeezed by our rib cage due to its enormity. That particular pain is the one felt way down deep in the marrow of our bones. Giving us pause at how the pain is so close to what we once felt; realizing yet again that we will always be in recovery. (More on recovery in the book).

Over the past eleven years, we’ve learned that recovery is most forgiving, allowing an abundant space for growth. Reflection. And for love. Each successive year we grow a little more, reflect a little more. And for sure, we love a little more.

So, today, go love someone a little more than you did yesterday. And please, GO HAVE A FROSTY FOR A SPECIAL REDHEADED ANGEL!!!

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Raising my voice on behalf of our disabled son came naturally – I was his mother. His dad and I saw his disability rights as basic human rights. So we spoke his name along with our names on behalf of him. For me, writing was as natural as breathing, but learning to speak my name (on paper) in an even louder voice felt bigger than it deserved. For this introvert, initially, sharing it took a lot of effort. In reality I was being an extrovert on paper. And then one day, one miraculous moment in time, I looked up from the page I had just written and the audience behind me had disappeared. Just like that I’d discovered another layer of my worth.

Slowly and suddenly my memoir began taking shape. It formed itself from raw, real emotions. Recalling twenty-three years of our son’s life stirred up the dust in my memory place. Thoughts on love and joy, courage and compassion, death and grief, celebrating diversity, and how to live a life after the loss of a child began forming themselves from a fully fed well deep in my soul. And the more I wrote, the more it replenished itself.

Eventually, in the most thorough and freeing manner, I came to realize what it means to truly know your worth – that’s it’s not a one time fix. That it’s not a fix at all! And that it shouldn’t end when you’re 40, 50, or even 60 and beyond! Wink. Knowing your worth takes a lot of practice in our ever evolving cycle of life.

Knowing your worth is worth the work!

In preparation for sending out an indecent amount of queries/submissions next week, I spent this week re-reading my memoir and I feel even more excited and hopeful than the last time I read it.

Knowing your worth is defined in tentative beginnings and spoken even louder as you finish each one. And anyone who tries to diminish either of your efforts is simply not worth it.

Never stop beginning.

Never stop finishing.

Never stop raising your voice.

Never stop speaking your name.

Never stop knowing your worth.

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Mirror of your Soul


Poems have been a part of my life ever since I can remember. Growing up, my father wrote poems for my mother on special occasions that usually involved poetic clues to what or where her present was. My oldest sister, six years my senior, used to read poetry to me. So much so that when I saw her coming toward me with a certain book in hand; knowing she was going to read The Raven to me for the thousandth time…I ran!

I’ve always loved playing with words, though. My father taught us that words were precise beings. But we learned early on that words needed to be followed by like actions if they were to mean anything at all.

I guess you could say this poem has been a long time friend. One who pushed me to know myself. It came to me fast, like it had been frantically looking for me in a crowd. It was the one hiding in me since childhood that said, Ahh, THERE you are! I would have never found you had you not turned around! And it’s the first one I officially shared outside of my guarded heart. Written in 2001 for, my son, Preston’s eighteenth birthday, before I knew how to fully receive a poem. Before I knew how a word or thought could take me, and sweep me away to another dimension inside myself. It’s not complicated or intricate, but true in its simplicity. It taught me to fully pay attention to the intent and purpose behind the words. Words like diversity, inclusion, unconditional love, celebrate, real and the ability in disABILITY. And even though he was complicated and intricate, it tells of how I saw him as perfect in his outwardly imperfect body. That, coupled with realizing other people saw him the same way was the greatest love lesson I will ever know. This little poem taught me to care greatly how my words affected others, but it also taught me not to care too much so it wouldn’t affect my writing. Writing can’t be photoshopped or it’s not writing.

It was the tiniest of stepping stones so I wouldn’t notice the step. One that led me to my truest self so I could write my memoir.

Just like a best friend it nudged me over the fence to go explore the field beyond when no one was looking. Together we whispered and laughed at what we heard. Our eyes grew big with exclamation at what they beheld. And when I smelled and tasted the words, each tiny tastebud was forever altered.

All because I offered myself to a poem. And it accepted.

The words took me where I didn’t know how to go. Writing made the muddy waters of love, disabilities, loss and grief clearer for me.

The blank page became a repository for my life’s experiences. Ultimately, I learned that words can’t stay lost if they come from soul work. For me, soul work has been an examination of how and why I felt something – its origination and culmination. Like a living autopsy of my senses, feelings and thought process. And ultimately, my healing and growth.

I’ve known for a long time there’s a reason for all of this. Preston was born the complex way he was so I could discover that, I too, was born this certain and imperfect way. So I could catch his challenges; hold them, soothe them, nurture them. Then release them into the universe so I was ready to hold nothing but his strengths. So all the people in his life could find him and discover the reason they were born this certain and imperfect way. Perhaps every single person who saw Preston, then, through the looking, saw a deeper more vulnerable part of themselves in him. And in the looking formed a connectiveness with him. So they, too, could see the mirror of his soul reflected in their eyes.

What I’ve learned through my life experiences, beyond question or reason, is that – if our ears are tuned in, if our hearts are open; we hear the whispers meant for us. Our truth. And if we’re lucky enough we then interpret them into our own DNA. We evolve. And are forever changed.

In writing it’s important to know how to find and express the right words. In life it’s equally important to know how to find and express the right feelings. And when the feelings meet the words waiting there on paper – something truly indescribable happens. For reasons beyond my control or explanation, I was able to see it all clearly through the mirror of his soul.

I can’t wait for my book to be in your hands. My prayer is that it never leaves you, that, hopefully one or two sentences curl up next to you and carve a niche in your heart or mind because words are really, little human beings on paper. If you get it right. So I hope that as you  interact with all the beings on the pages, you’re left thinking, crying, laughing or reflecting on what it felt like to be in someone else’s life for the hours you sat reading my book.

In my memoir, I write about beginning again and again. And what that means when applied to our concept of reality. This is my reality. My heart – one of them (You’ll soon understand).

This is my beginning. 

BOOK NOTES: I have some exciting meetings coming up. I don’t know what will come from them, but I’m hopeful. I know it seems like forever since I finished the book. I remind myself daily to be patient, and that the process of selling a book is hard work that can take a long time. So, please, hang in there with me. As a BIG tease I’ll give you some clues……

  1. The title is comprised of six words.
  2. The first word is THE
  3. The last word is COURAGE
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(space) required


This mighty little poem is for all (women) – both young, mature and cozily in between.

It’s for the women fighting a physical or mental illness, the ones that are physically or emotionally abused, the ones trying to find their place in this world, the ones who have lost a child, the ones trying to have a child, the ones deployed overseas; and the ones who are fostering love, support and hope in the heart of a child, whether theirs or not.

But most particularly, on this Mother’s Day weekend – it’s for the warrior women also known as (mom). Know that this is not your (only) identity. Whether you have a supportive husband or not, are a single mom or not – we all, (each and everyone one of us) struggle at some point. And at several points. So, please, give yourself a break and stop looking at everyone’s Instagram of life, thinking its their only truth.

It’s for the women who feel like they won’t survive another day if they don’t soon have five blissful minutes alone in the bathroom. And, as well, for the women who, now, appreciate the slippery passage of time.

When you feel like you just can’t do this (life) thing one more minute; either because your favorite TV show isn’t on tonight, or you feel sad, or angry, or lost, or alone – pick up the phone, text, tweet, Facebook, or snap chat another (woman). Tell (your) story, for in the telling there is healing in being heard. Because the female human on the other end knows that (listening) is an act of love.

Please. Fill in your (    ) in this one, overwhelmingly delicate life you have to live. Some will be marred by (expletives), others will be brimming with (joy). Some will freaking break your (heart). And some, some will be blank because they’re no longer deserving of (    ) in your life anymore.

Take all the space you need! Make as many damn (    ), (    ), (    ) as you want!

My poem isn’t a lengthy one, however it’s complex in its simplicity. Just like (life).

Happy Mother’s (Women’s) Day to all!!!!!!

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Letter to my Daughter


I knew you before I met you. That’s how this precious, undefinable thing called motherhood works.

I should have known you would be a night owl, you were born an hour before the clock struck midnight. The next morning as I waited for you to be brought to me I heard the clickety-clack of tiny bassinet wheels growing louder as they neared my room. As each one went past. Then another, my heart began to dart wildly around the room. “Where was my baby girl and why aren’t they bringing her to me?” I worried. This couldn’t be happening a second time. God wouldn’t allow this to happen again like it did with your brother – would he? And then the doctor appeared saying your nurse was extra busy, and that you were perfectly fine. But I secretly suspect they were checking you out extra carefully because of your brother. Then you were placed in my arms, your little head fit in the curve of my neck as if it was made for just that, and I fell in love all over again. Dad arrived shortly after and I watched his heart crumble into you bit by bit as he held you in his big hands. That is your beginning.

And now you’re exiting your twenties. Look at you my baby girl – you’re turning thirty! But before you fully embrace thirty. Take a moment. Turn around and glance back at your twenty-something years – they taught you a lot. You graduated from college and learned to live on your own quite well. You made mistakes along the way and realized they wouldn’t break you, but only grow you. You became an even more independent woman. You tested your hands at perfecting your cooking skills. You traveled. Unfortunately, you learned how unpredictable life can be when you lost your brother – your only sibling. You then learned a new kind of sadness. You also learned a new kind of strength. And love. That is your history so far.

You enter your thirties wiser because of your twenties. And still, you know not what you’re capable of. That is your power.

Your humor and your humility overwhelm my heart at times. And speaking of hearts, yours runs deep. Your diverse circle of friends tells me so. You’ve always been a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of woman who lives her life by being real. That is your truth and your beauty all at once.

People will pass in and out of your life. Continue to take care of each and every soul. Remember the ones who have been there for you when you were in need. And even more importantly, remember the ones who were there to cheer you on – the ones who celebrated you and your successes. Now. Put the people who were there for both under one kind-hearted, flexible roof. Love them. Help them. Cheer for them. That is your tribe.

Then there are the people related to you by blood. The ones who have known you as long as you’ve been in this world. You not only share blood, but similarities that have been passed down through generations. Things both good and bad you’ve inherited through no choice of your own. And traditions that only we get. Love them unconditionally. That is your family.

Listen. Quietly and softly, the way a flower tips in the direction of the sun and then becomes the light. Listen again. This time, loudly and fiercely, the way pouring rain nourishes those same flowers to grow. Always listen to your intuition as often and as carefully as you listen to others. Be aware of its high and low tides. That is your wisdom.

Continue to celebrate diversity. Grow. Be wild in love and learning. Practice kindness daily – to yourself and others. Thrive. Exercise your mind and your body. Travel in and out of yourself. Rest. Open your heart’s door and receive sadness the same way you do joy. Look them both square in the eye and know where they came from and why. Breathe. Discard words like perfect and ego – they’re as useless as a mirage in the desert. Forgive. And please, dance wildly through this one life. That is your joy.

Happy Birthday to you sweet daughter. I can’t wait to see what you do with your thirties. We love you. Always and forever. Without borders or boundaries, in ways that words can’t ever say or define. That is how much you are loved.

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soul ~ noun
the spiritual principle embodied in human beings
a person’s total self
a moving spirit

We are souls. We have souls.

Of all kinds, shapes, sizes and depths. Lost ones too. Me. I’m an old soul.

With Easter right around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot of rebirth. Rejoicing. And reinventing myself – something I never plan on stopping.

Though I like to think I practice soul work everyday…I don’t. Not really. I try, but it doesn’t always work out. Often, I get caught up in the deluge of before and after, and I forget to be present in the pureness of now.

Somedays it feels like my soul has taken a long winter’s nap in the middle of a warm, sunny day. How inappropriate, soul, I think. Or. How wise? Maybe our soul is only half asleep, with one eye opened, listening to our every need, worry and fear. Thinking. Soaking up the sun’s light. And Resting. Storing energy and taking notes for the hard soul work ahead.

For the days when we feel like we’ve done nothing or too much.

Said nothing or too much.

Felt nothing or too much.

It is there waiting for US to wake up. It is there. Always. Lying in the sunlit hammock; protected just enough by the canopy of the tree, as we ramble on about nothing or everything – thinking, Boy do I have my work cut out for me! 

It’s there for the days that feel like we’re digging in rock hard soil that won’t yield to our heavy footed shovel. But the days we feel our most human are the days our soul is working the hardest in the shadows. We just can’t see it. I think there’s a reason that lessons sound so much like blessings.

Then all of a sudden it happens. What moves my soul? we ask. And there it is all rested up. Fierce. And ready to dance or cry. Shake it off or shout it out. Forgive or love.

To help us live from the truest part of ourself.

Then sings my soul…

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soul work


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poem speak


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