Her Hands

Her hands, so tiny and delicate, rested gently on her mother’s breast as she suckled, filling her belly with the sweet, tepid, nourishing elixir of life.

Her hands grasped the soft, squishy cushion of the sofa as she righted herself, tenuously stepping into the next phase of life.

Her hands stuffed the pack she hoisted onto her back as she ambled out the door, skipping towards the bus stop. 

Her hands, now large enough to shield her ears, muffled the horror emanating from within her home as her father used his hands to unleash his rage and fury upon one of her brothers. 

Her hands were splayed over her coffee-colored hair as she cowered, curled into a ball, when it became her turn to bear the brunt of a father’s wrath.

Her hands clasped a bouquet of freshly-cut, virgin-white roses as she fled from one man into the arms of another who vowed to love, honor, cherish, and protect her “until death do us part.”

Her hands caressed the pinkish, pulpy, plump cheeks of each of her boys as they traded the toasty, snug, floaty space of her womb for a chance at life.

Her hands bandaged the bruised and bloody knees of her tow-headed toddler after he tipped his tricycle onto the jagged, unforgiving, gray slab of cement. He sucked in air between sniffles and sobs as her fingers worked their boo boo magic. 

Her hands scrubbed and de-cluttered the rooms of her once bustling home, preparing the walls for a fresh slathering of color. One by one, her sons, now young men, donned their wings and flew the coop, leaving her with an empty nest and an opportunity to reinvent herself.

Her hands wiped the sticky, jelly-stained face of a child who reminds her of a young boy who too, often wore the evidence of a made-with-love, PB&J sandwich. This yellow-haired youngin’ calls her Mamaw.

Her hands clutched a damp, wadded tissue used to soak up the salty tears spilling from her orbs as she retold the story of her tumultuous, terror-filled childhood within the confines of the safe, tranquil, confidential space of a therapist’s office.

Her hands slid across the smooth, shiny, woody grain of the table, grasping the shaky, fidgeting hands of another. She is now the counselor, dedicated to helping other women as they reveal their struggles to her.

Her hands, the appendages of a devoted, faithful follower, have been clasped in prayer umpteen times as she petitioned for grace or peace or forgiveness for the wounded, the sick, the down-trodden, the lonely, the addicted, the bereaved.  

Her hands brushed her stiff, shoulder-length, whitish-gray hair as she marveled at the woman reflected back in the shine of a mirror. The lines etched on her face serve as a roadmap of a life well-traveled.

Her hands gestured a final goodbye to her treasured family and friends as the bell tolled, calling her home…….

Reading Recap #7

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2019 was the Year of the Pig. For me, it was also the Year of the Book. I read sixty-one, a personal record, and found myself locked in a tie with my favorite bookworm, Nick B. I’m blessed and grateful to have the gift of time to pursue this lifelong passion. In addition to providing relaxation and escape, reading also influences my writing. I’m exposed to different styles and voices, and learn from writers who are more experienced, polished, and published. I posted my most recent titles below, but want to mention a question and answer found within one of the selections.

Robert “Robbie” de Villiers was just sixteen when he was diagnosed with leukemia. The year was 1944 and the survival rate was low. Robbie succumbed to the disease. In 1949, five years after Robbie’s passing, his family started a fundraising and education organization in their son’s name. This foundation, in existence for over seventy years, became the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In the book containing Robbie’s writing, he opens with a question, “Have you ever considered what the mere ability to read means?” His reply—”Our education, our success in life, may depend on the books we read.”

Here is my list:


  • The Uncoupling-Cauvery Madhavan I met the author on Twitter. Her book takes a peek inside an Indian arranged marriage.
  • the next person you meet in heaven-Mitch Albom This is the sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven
  • Where the Heart Is-Billie Letts After being abandoned in a Walmart parking lot, a pregnant teen takes up residence in the store. 
  • Sourdough-Robin Sloan This quirky, techie, story has a unique main character—a sourdough starter. (Thanks, Nan, for suggesting the last two titles.)


  • Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis This book could also fall under self-help.
  • Hello Nobody: Standing at the Door Alone—What To Do When Everything Changes – Janet Haney I met this local, self-published author at a book fair. Our journeys are eerily similar.
  • RAR. de Villiers- A Boy’s Philosophy: Writings of Robert A.R. de Villiers 1927-1944 A tribute addition from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Over The Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love – Jonathan Van Ness I’ve never watched the Netflix show, Queer Eye, so I was unfamiliar with the author. I always enjoy a glimpse into the life of another.
  • Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered -Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark This memoir tells the life story of the two authors, true crime fanatics and creators of the Podcast, My Favorite Murder. I highly recommend this selection to my favorite true crime fanatic, Laura Jean.


  • Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms: Who And What You See Before You Die – David Kessler This quick read (160 pages) is full of stories from hospice workers, doctors, nurses, and social workers and the deathbed visions they witness and hear about in their work with the dying. It reminded me of a longtime favorite book, Final Gifts.
  • Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief – David Kessler Mr. Kessler co-authored, On Grief and Grieving, with Elizabeth Kubler Ross, M.D., best known for her Five Stages of Grief theory.
  • The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter – Margareta Magnusson. I’m working on an essay about clutter, so this selection served as research for me.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I hope some of the titles resonate with you. If you have any suggestions for me, I’m always looking for my next read. Happy New Year. I hope it’s full of growth, joy, good health, and books!

Reading Recap #6

It’s been three months since I’ve posted a reading recap. I continue to devour books at a record pace, all thanks to the free time “retirement” provides. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue to pursue this lifelong hobby. Reading is relaxing, cathartic, educational, enlightening, enriching, something you can do alone, and can be totally free thanks to libraries and book sharing with friends. My Goodreads tracking system says I’ve read fifty books this year, which is well above my modest goal of fifteen. Below is my list categorized by genre. If I feel a book is worthy of explanation or special recognition, it is noted. Books make a great holiday gift. Consider adding one or two to a stocking or tuck one under the tree—bow is optional.


1. I Liked My Life-Abby Fabiaschi This book has a spiritual slant, which I enjoyed. There’s a quote in the book by real-life poet and essayist, Adrienne Rich, that’s become a favorite:

“If we could learn to learn from pain, even as it grasps us.…”

2. Mornings on Main-Jodi Thomas

3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine-Gail Honeyman I loved this book! It’s funny, quirky, sad, tragic, but most of all, very well written.


4. Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and The Drug Company That Addicted America-Beth Macy

This book should be required reading for all Americans. An eye-opening account of our current opioid/heroin epidemic and its origin. SPOILER ALERT: Corporate power and greed are outed. Kudos to Ms. Macy for sharing this behind-the-scenes look at how this crisis began, who created it, who enabled it, and what’s being done to combat it.

5. Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever-Karen Kingston

I first read this book about fifteen years ago. I had to dig through old journals to locate the title. I reread it for research on an article I’ve started about clutter and its relation to EVERYTHING! If you are a New Year’s resolution type of person and think clutter is well, cluttering up your life, read this book between now and January 1 and get ready for a happier, more grounded you. Oh, and your home will be tidier, too.

6. The Last Ocean: A Journey Through Memory and Forgetting-Nicci Gerrard This book is about dementia and its impact on patients, caregivers, and family. Dementia, like cancer, will touch us all in some way.

7. Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives-Michael Newton, PhD. I would categorize this book as “spiritual/educational.” It was written a few decades ago, but its message remains relevant. An interesting read if you care to learn more about where we came from and where we’re going when we leave this planet.

8. Make Miracles in Forty Days– Melody Beattie

I finally read this gem recommended by a friend. The book is about gratitude and making time each day to jot down ten things you’re grateful for. You do this for forty days (or more) and watch as your miracle unfolds. I’ve reached the forty day mark, but found real change occurring just days into the practice. I plan to make it a daily habit, like brushing teeth. I highly recommend this book and its message.

9. The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith– Gabrielle Bernstein

In my book, Carried By a Feather, I briefly discuss the only two real emotions—love and fear. Fear is how many of us navigate life. If you can find a way to dismiss your ego and all of its negative self-talk, you’ll find your way to LOVE. Ms. Bernstein’s book reiterates this message.

MEMOIRS (My favorite and most populated category.)

10. Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives– Becky Aikman

This book is about six strangers, gathered by the author, who come together once a month to share their experiences as they navigate widowhood.

11. maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, And a Mother’s Will To Survive– Stephanie Land

Ms. Land recants her tale as a single mom who worked as a maid to support herself and her daughter all while harboring a dream of relocating to Montana to pursue a college degree. She shares what it’s like to be poor in America, and how she ultimately dug her way out. I read it in a day.

12. Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing– Jennifer Weiner

13. It’s Okay to Laugh– Nora McInerny Purmort “Funny” isn’t the only f-word in this tale of life and loss.

14. Hot Young Widow’s Club– Nora McInerny

15. Good Mourning- Elizabeth Meyer A New York fashionista turned funeral planner. This sentence pretty much sums up the gist of the book. She’s a little braggy about her designer clothes and shoes, which does nothing to move the story forward. If you get past that, it’s an interesting read.

16. Calypso- David Sedaris. I recently had the pleasure of attending an evening with Mr. Sedaris. He’s hilarious, quirky, and a gifted writer. His books never disappoint.

17. Born to Run– Bruce Springsteen. I finally tackled this wordy memoir—754 pages in the Large Print version. I’ve been a devoted fan since the mid-70’s. I enjoyed and appreciated this peek into his life.

18. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love-Dani Shapiro

19. devotion: a memoir– Dani Shapiro

20. Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage- Dani Shapiro

Of the three memoirs by Ms. Shapiro, I enjoyed Inheritance the most. It also happens to be her most recent body of work and one that’s relevant to our culture’s current fascination with researching our roots. Thank you, Ancestry.com.

Twenty titles this go-around. There are sixty-four days left in the year. I think I can knock off at least ten more books before the ball drops on 2019. I’ll keep you posted.

Happy Reading!

Reading Recap #5

I set a goal to read fifteen books this year. At the time of this post, I’ve read twenty-eight. At this pace, I’m on track to add fifty books to my Goodreads tracking system when 2019 comes to a close. This would be an all-time record for me, and one that would put me hot on the heels of the king of bookworms, Nick B. Below is a list of the twenty-four books I’ve read since my last update. It includes fiction, memoirs, and a few “how-to” books. I’ve grouped the list by genre, and included a comment or two on a select few. Oh, and five stars (*****) indicates that I especially enjoyed it and therefore, highly recommend it.


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo– Stieg Larsson

The Story of Arthur Truluv-Elizabeth Berg

Night of Miracles– Elizabeth Berg

The Couple Next Door– Shari Lapena

A Stranger in the House– Shari Lapena

Stop Dressing Your Six-Year Old Like a Skank-Celia Rivenbark

What Alice Forgot-Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers-Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies-Liane Moriarty


Dying To Be Me-Anita Moorjani *****

Lucky-Alice Sebold *****

Born A Crime-Trevor Noah *****

After Life: Answers From the Other Side-John Edward

Once More We Saw Stars-Jayson Greene ***** (The premise of this book is both sad and tragic, but the story is worth sharing. A beautiful tribute.)

All Over but the Shoutin’-Rick Bragg ***** (This is my favorite book on the list. Mr. Bragg is an exceptional writer. Like books I’ve read by Pat Conroy, I felt somewhat sad when I finished this one. I wanted more.)

No Happy Endings-Nora McInerny

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There’s Life After Death-Annie Kagan ***** (I purchased this book when I couldn’t check it out at a local library. It now sits on a shelf with other spiritual books. It’s a keeper.)

The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After-Julie Yip-Williams ***** (Spoiler Alert. If you google this title, you’ll learn that it does not have a happy ending. Don’t let that keep you from reading about the life, experiences, wisdom, insights, and lessons the author gained as she successfully navigated her way through life legally blind, and then later as a young wife and mother diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer.)


On Writing-Stephen King ***** (I own this book, and first read it about five years ago. I reread it while working on my forthcoming memoir. If you feel inclined to pen your own work of fiction or non-fiction, I encourage you to read Mr. King’s book. His advice is spot-on, and he’s actually funny, which is refreshing for me as his works of fiction are generally much too scary for me to read.)

Writing Down the Bones-Natalie Goldberg ***** (I’ve owned this book for years. This was the third time I read it. It contains valuable advice for any wannabe writers.)

Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything-Lucy Hone, PhD. (I’ve mostly shunned books about loss as I traverse my own journey of grief. In some ways, I feel like I could write my own grief guide. This book was given to me—a kind gesture from one grieving mother to another.)

Fraternity: An Inside look at a Year of College Boys Becoming Men-Alexandra Robbins ***** (This book is a must-read for any parent of college-bound kids, male or female. I found the stories and research contained within its pages disturbing and even somewhat horrific.)

Caregiving Elderly Parents: Real Stories From Two Caregiving Baby Boomers-Marky Olson and Dauna Easley ***** (This book was co-written by my friend and mentor, Dauna Easley. She and her long-time friend, Marky, share their experiences caring for aging parents.)

Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-by-Step Guide-Fauzia Burke ***** (If you are planning on self-publishing a book, this guide is for you. It’s easy to read and full of useful information on how to market your book.)

I will soon add another book, Carried By a Feather, to this list. I’ve actually read the manuscript countless times, and am anxious to read it one more time in its final version. This is my debut memoir, and it’s coming soon………..






If You Build It; They Will Come

Okay. We really didn’t “build” anything. We purchased a pricey, fancy-schmancy, squirrel-proof bird feeder, filled it with equally pricey no-mess bird seed, hung it in a tree, and they came—birds young and old, male and female. Business at our Seed Smorgasbord was sluggish at first, but once word got out you might say these winged creatures flocked to our neck of the woods. My guy and I often spend time on the deck observing the comings and goings of these avian beings. Binoculars aid us in identifying certain markings, and then we flip through our Birds of Ohio guide to determine the exact species. We’re up to fifteen types now, all of which have been alphabetically chronicled in an Excel spreadsheet. Yep. We’re officially Bird Nerds.

Just weeks after our initial foray into all things birds, we expanded our operation with the addition of a hummingbird feeder. According to our handy, dandy bird book, only the Ruby-throated Hummingbird spends time in the Buckeye state. So far we’ve witnessed only a male (or perhaps more than one male) stopping by to quench his thirst with our free nectar.

It seems logical that some bird families would take up residence near a 24-hour diner, which is exactly what happened this spring as two robin couples chose our yard as a place to settle down and start a family. Nests were constructed, eggs were laid and then hatched, producing triplets for each set of parents. I wish I could report that the infant mortality rate was zero, however, that’s not the case. Sadly, I’ve found three fledglings who didn’t survive. And that’s not all. We’ve also had three adult birds meet a natural or unnatural demise as well.

At first I was a bit distressed over finding the remains of so many birds. Is it possible this new-found hobby that brings so much life, song, and beauty to an otherwise tranquil landscape can also contribute to the low-lying cloud of sadness that hovers over our homestead always poised to shed its droplets of grief? And even more so, am I ready to take that on? The obvious answer is “yes.” Our backyard bird oasis is merely a microcosm of the yin and yang of life—good and bad, positive and negative, beginnings and endings. And in the creature world, survival of the fittest is the norm not the exception, as is the very real existence of a food chain. (You can thank me later for the science refresher.)

I recently resumed my role as a volunteer with a local hospice after completing a mandatory one-year hiatus. I’m generally assigned one patient at a time, whom I visit  weekly or bi-weekly. I enjoy the camaraderie and connections gained via time spent with these individuals. I’m a captive audience of one as they share stories about their life, family, careers, hobbies, and more. I guess hospice volunteering is another way I invite “endings” into my life, though I don’t look at it that way. I am grateful for the opportunity to create a bond or friendship that won’t be defined by its length, but instead is focused on sharing, caring, and creating a space where reflection, laughter, and tears abound, often all within the same visit. I had such an experience today with my current patient who has chosen to spend her final days at the home she shares with her husband. Her hospital bed has been placed next to a large window where she can pass some of the daylight hours observing her own flock of winged friends who visit the feeders hanging within her view. I haven’t asked, but I’m hopeful that a connection to nature comforts her and provides her with some sense of peace.

This post’s (slightly modified) title is taken from a favorite movie, Field of Dreams, and its clever storyline that connects this realm with another. And so it seems fitting that it should be wrapped up with a quote from another treasured flick, The Lion King:

“It’s the Circle of Life and it moves us all, through despair and hope, through faith and love, ’til we find our place on the path unwinding.”

The Circle of Life is a real, normal, and necessary part of human and animal existence. And for me, the birds that stop by to nourish themselves within the confines of our yard serve as a reminder of this cycle. An “end” isn’t just for the elderly or infirm, but also happens to the young who seem so full of life and potential. I have witnessed both.



Spring is the season of birth. Nature comes alive in vibrant hues as trees sprout leaves of green and perennials burst through the ground, dotting the landscape with shades of yellow, red, orange, pink, purple and blue. And creatures large and small meander among us, preparing nests for the arrival of their offspring. There are two birthdays worth noting from my teeny corner of the planet.

First, I would like to wish a belated Happy Birthday to this blog, Joan’s Jottings. I launched this site in March 2009 with the help of my midwife and fellow blogger, Jane. For more than a decade, this blog has provided me with a place to create, vent, share, and hone my writing skills. Here are a few stats worth noting:

This is post number 167.

I file these jottings within fourteen categories, including books, cancer, family, humor and life.

My most consistent writing came during my dive into the online dating world where I posted weekly about my matches, churning out a record forty-six entries. During this time, I developed a following of sorts, which mainly consisted of my very married female friends. These ladies vicariously entered this brave new world of mate hunting from the safe and cozy confines of their living rooms.

The second birth is not really a birth yet as she is still incubating, awaiting the perfect and precise moment to make her debut. I am, of course, referring to my BOOK and not a post-menopausal miracle. I have been nurturing this embryo for nearly six months, investing more than 220 hours of labor. She currently weighs in at approximately 36,000 words, divided among eighteen chapters. After completing the first draft, I conducted a self-edit and then handed the manuscript to three exceptional beta readers, Dauna, Jane, and Nan. These ladies provided me with valuable insight into the flow and content of the story as well as pointing out errors in grammar and punctuation.

Armed with the information provided by my beta readers, I completed a second edit which prepared the budding manuscript for a more microscopic critique performed by someone with trained, unbiased eyes—a professional editor. During a first pass, Miss Miranda used her knowledge, experience, and little red pen to clean-up and perfect my draft. I am currently working through her corrections and suggestions before handing the manuscript back to her for a second go-around. After all of the editing is complete, she will make a third and final proofreading pass. Her insight and expertise are aiding me in elevating this work to a higher level. Also, her initial comments have provided me with the motivation and stamina I need to continue to plow forward with this project. Her summary began with these words:

“Your memoir is powerful, and I enjoyed reading it. I think you did a great job of describing everything and providing the reader with powerful emotion.”

I hope to announce the birth of my book sometime late this spring or early summer. I have selected a name, but am not ready to share it just yet. Once she arrives, I will exchange my writing pen for another new and unchartered realm—the world of marketing. This critical and important step will be crucial to introducing my baby to as many people as possible. When the time is right, I might humbly ask for your help in sharing her, but more about that later.

I will continue to update my progress as I waddle through this final trimester. I look forward to introducing you to my baby girl.


The Room

It has been a calendar full of days since the boy entered the room, dumped his bags on the floor and plopped onto the bed for a power nap. This very brief, impromptu trip home served one purpose-the boy required yet another visit to the dentist to repair a chipped front tooth. Once the incisor was bonded, making it whole again, this student was re-deposited on the grounds of the university. Who could have known that this would be the last time the boy graced this space with his physical presence?

This particular room is of average size and comes complete with a smallish closet and one south-facing window. The furnishings are few-a queen-size bed, five-drawer dresser, a desk and a chair on wheels. The once Bomber blue walls have been slathered in a somber gray, a shade that matches the aura that drapes itself over the house, often coloring the mood of its inhabitants. Two large, black-framed photographs that once adorned the walls were never re-hung after the paint dried, however, there is a plan to complete this task in the near future. The room is tidy and dust-free. A well-worn black, blue and gray striped comforter cuddles the mattress. The bed sheets have been laundered, washing away any lingering scent of the boy who once lounged, studied, slept and dreamt between these cottony, woven threads. On sunny winter days, the blackout shade that normally conceals the window is flung wide open, inviting light and warmth into an otherwise dark and depressed space. There are a few photographs of the boy scattered throughout the room. One is a collage of wallet-sized school photos, Kindergarten through twelfth grade, a sort of visual age-progression of his growth. Another image, captured nearly twenty years ago, is of a smiling father and his toddler son snapped during the elder’s cancer pause.

A chunky, space-hogging computer rests somewhat sad and lonely atop the desk. The boy spent oodles of life-snatching hours tap, tap, tapping away at the keyboard in a Herculean attempt to conquer some online game. These rapid-fire clicks confirmed that there was indeed life behind the (frequently) closed door. Today, only an eerie kind of quiet seeps from the room. The faint blue light that once flickered from the base of the monitor has now been extinguished. There simply is no logical reason to keep this somewhat massive machine connected to its electrical source. The cord has been unplugged much like the cord that once tethered the boy to this lifetime.

The boy also spent time in another room located about thirty miles away. This home away from home, part and parcel of the landscape of a rural, picturesque, idyllic college town, was located on the third floor of a dormitory built of stone. This somewhat small and cramped space also served as a place where he studied, slept and just hung out, but unlike his bedroom, these quarters were shared. The boy had been co-existing in this room for the better part of six months, save for time spent at home during Thanksgiving and the school’s interminable winter break. He returned to this place of higher learning in late January, just about five weeks before an unexpected, unfathomable and life-altering event would occur.

A trusted source has revealed that the boy’s father, a lovely soul who resides just beyond the veil, visited this particular dorm room on March 6th, 2018.  He most likely arrived around the time the boy slumped to the fake wood floor, slipping into unconsciousness. As his son prepared to make the transition from one life to another, the father was there to escort him home. Once the pair arrived on the other side, it is likely that a huge reunion ensued as the boy was re-connected with grandparents, great-grandparents, and other members of his spirit family. It seems possible that two former childhood friends also attended this gathering, having made their own premature transition in the latter months of 2015.

Back on earth, the boy’s mother remains in human form, having been left behind by her son and one-time spouse. Though time was up for the father and child, it seems obvious that mom’s earthly mission is not yet complete. She still inhabits the cozy, ranch-style house where she and the boy shared their earthly journey, however, an emptiness now permeates every crevice of this residence. This place that was once full of hope and visions of a future for her only offspring, now serves as a constant reminder that the boy will never again live within its walls.

For the most part, the boy’s room remains much as it was on that Tuesday afternoon one year ago when he scooped up his bags and walked towards the door, intent on a punctual arrival at the dentist’s office. It is extremely likely that just before the boy headed down the hall towards the garage, he stopped, turned and took one last sweeping glance of his space-a sort of quick and final OCD inspection confirming that he had gathered all of his meager belongings. As his feet finally crossed the threshold, the boy had no idea that he would never again return to this room.