I had no warning. The view that soothed my heart and healed my anxieties whenever the world became too much for me was gone, just like that. I allowed this loss of control, this loss of beauty to break me. I shut myself off from the outside literally by not going out, closing all the shutters and blinds, and only looking out my front window and door.
I even avoided my morning ritual of communing with my Goddesses because their altar is in front of a window that looks out onto the healing view I’ve embraced for 20 years.
Then this morning I decided to come to terms with it all. I sat down before my altar and asked my Goddesses why this happened and what I must learn from it.
I asked, “Why did you allow me to lose this beautiful view that was so healing for me all these years.”
They replied in full force, as they always do.
“It was never yours to lose.”
Damn. But wait. They weren’t done.
“The beauty is not gone, it’s still there in your mind and heart. The peace it brought you is still yours to embrace. You just have to work a little harder to find it now.”
They are right. The hills, the horses, the skyline is all still there. I just have to find a way around the barn to see it. So it may not at my fingertips, but yes, it’s still there.
They weren’t finished with me yet. Yep. There was more.
“Focus on the beauty that is yours to behold.”
I think they were referring to my flower beds that have been sorely neglected of late. I’m not even going to take a picture to show you how unkempt they’ve become. It’s too embarrassing.
My Goddesses bring me strength and healing. And sometimes they do it with a compassionate swat upside my head.
A tribute to my Mother in Law, Lauretta Ruth Babcock Phillips.
I love creating Powerpoint presentations for my day job. It’s fun. The biggest problem I have is keeping my word count down. (Oops, hello? Writer.) But I have to tell you, I’ve spent the last week agonizing over the at first seemingly unsurmountable and daunting task of creating a Powerpoint slideshow for my mother-in-law’s memorial Saturday. I had to make sense of so many photos, put them in order, and create the story of the life of a woman I barely knew. And, it had to be perfect.
It’s been bittersweet, like popping a red hard candy into your mouth thinking its cinnamon but it turns out to be cherry. Surprisingly sweet and unexpected.
I hardly knew David’s mom. By the time I came into her life she’d been struggling with dementia for a few years, but was still able to live at home with her daughter and son in law , Kathy and Tim, as her caretakers. We brought her to our home for a few Sunday dinners, we took her to parades in the village.
But a short time after I’d met her, she was removed from her home and placed in a facility that cares for the elderly, especially those struggling with dementia and Alzheimers. We visited her and brought her cakes and cookies, and photo albums of better days in the hopes of helping her remember bits and pieces of the good times. It was hard on David, because when it was time for us to leave, Mom would cry. When the pandemic struck, our chances to visit ended. David never got to see his mom again.
She passed away in January of this year due to complications from COVID.
The thing I remember most about Mom is her infectious smile and her laughing eyes. But there is so much more to her, I’ve learned this past week.
Mom went by many names, with her given name of Lauretta a derivative of two—her aunt was Laura and her mother, was Etta. Growing up in Maryland, as a young child she was known by her middle name, Ruth. She was also known as Ruthie, Wolfie, Laurie, and Mom, of course.
The woman I knew when she was alive was simple. Like I said, she had an amazing smile, and loving, laughing eyes, (I can’t say that enough because words do not describe her beauty and the love she expressed with a simple look, that still is witnessed years later in her photos). But by the time we met, she didn’t speak a lot. She loved sweets, and judging by the gardens around her house and from stories I’ve heard, she loved flowers. There were hints of humor and generosity in the stories shared, but I never experienced this first hand as she was already very ill.
Now, preparing for her memorial I’ve learned that Lauretta Ruth Babcock Phillips was not a simple woman at all. She was so much more. Vibrant, kind, loyal, loving, adventurous, curious, silly, endearing. Most of all, she was adored by everyone who met her.
Thank goodness Mom loved to take photos. She kept boxes and boxes of pictures, dozens of albums, framed photos and portfolio’d pictures that now sit on shelves in my husband’s office. And while there are not too many with her in them, comparatively speaking, we’ve found some lovely photographs of Mom throughout her life. She was very photogenic.
She also enjoyed traveling. We’ve found pictures of her global wanderings that brought her throughout the United States, as far reaching as Alaska, a trip she took with her sister, Sue.
She even went to the UK, proof in pictures of her standing in front of the House of Parliament along the River Thames.
She loved camping, and spent many a good times at Kindervolk, a camp owned by her best friend Bev and Bev’s husband Eric, up near Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks. David has shared with me a lifetime of adventures he experienced there as a child. Good times that were recorded often in photos by Mom, so there were very few pictures where she was included. Luckily, we found one labelled on the back in her familiar handwriting, “High Tea at Kindervolk.” She was a fun lady.
Her fun times included a four-seater plane ride with her son, whitewater rafting, a trip to New York City with her daughter, dressing up in period clothing (we aren’t sure why!), and celebrating the holiday’s with her extended family of stepchildren and their kids. We weren’t able to find those pictures, I only know that from stories shared. They went to amusement parks, had family vacations together, went back home to Maryland to visit her other best friend, Peggy and her children, and made sure she left a lifetime of good memories for loved ones to hold on to through the years.
Speaking of loved ones, we found long forgotten pictures of her husband, Earl. David’s dad who passed when David was a young boy. We found lovely vintage shots of Dad and the kids, of Earl standing beside a Model A Ford that he lovingly built himself.
We can’t forget the furbabies she surrounded herself with throughout her life. When visiting their home, you were most assuredly greeted by any given number of doggies and cats. Photos show mom lounging or snuggling with any of these beloved pets, including Colleen, Smokey, Blacky, Stubby, and Patches, among many, many others.
Lauretta was so very proud of her offspring. There are volumes of snapshots of David and Kathy (his older sister) as children, from birth to adulthood. Kathy in band, at graduation, on her wedding day.
And David, running around in a superhero cape, cowboy gear, competing in Karate events, and standing in front of his first car. And more. Too many to describe here.
Another area of her life that encompassed a huge part of her heart was her schooling and her career. She was an alumna of Syracuse University School of Nursing, and lived her adult life serving others at Little Falls Hospital as a nurse. And the few photos we found of her in her nursing uniform presented a woman who loved her role as a healer.
So as we prepare to say goodbye to the remarkable woman who brought into this world a remarkable son who became my remarkable husband, I’ve had the heartwarming task of finally getting to know my mother in law. And when Saturday comes, I will not be saying farewell to a woman a barely knew.
I will be remembering and honoring a woman who left a lifetime legacy of love, laughter, and great memories for all who knew her.
Lauretta—Mom—you may be gone, but you will never be forgotten.
I had always wondered what the appeal of guest blogging was. I didn’t understand it. It intimidated me. But then I read a few in support of fellow authors and thought that it would be fun. But I never saw an opportunity to guest blog.
And then I joined a promotion page and mailing list for romance authors. And here I am.
It can be addicting. The authors who offer these opportunities provide questions or guidelines, then let you do your thing. They can be informative, and they provide a glimpse of who Janina Grey is behind the scenes.
If you haven’t seen the previous blogs I’ve done, check them out at:
To celebrate, we offered my first novel, TEN BUCKS AND A WISH, for free on amazon.com. That jumped it’s rank up from being in the millions to making it to #209 as of this morning. WOW!!!! To think that many people were interested enough in downloading it just blows my mind. THANK YOU, Debbie Gilbert, for being an amazing Publisher and mentor.
It was fun checking the rankings throughout the week as they change hourly it seemed. And just went I thought the ride was over and sales would start dipping again, I’d make a new “high” rank and it would blow my mind all over again.
I shared posts through Facebook writing groups I belong to that connect me to readers and other writers. I sent a plea out to my fellow writers of CNYRW asking them to share the news of my new release. Their response was overwhelmingly supportive. I’ve been a member of CNYRW since 2004 or 2005 I think, with a short break when Life pulled me in other directions. But the support and knowledge I receive from these amazing authors is what keeps me going, even when they do not realize it.
Which brings me to another great experience that happened this past week.
Saturday, I sat in on an online workshop hosted by CNYRW, Growth Hacking a Best Seller with Liz Pelletier (Publisher of Entangled Publishing. I believe I felt a shift in my mindset, bringing me from a writer who is happy with writing to a writer who loves writing and wants more than just being happy with writing.
Then on Sunday, I sat in on a lecture by my new friend and fellow WitchLit author, Laura Parry, Deathwalking: Psychopomp Work in the Modern World. My current book, LOVE IN THE FOREST, features a character who has been nicknamed DeathWalker because she communicates with the dead. I never knew there was an actual “thing” called deathwalking. I thought I’d made it up. So thanks, Laura, for that very educational workshop.
Jumping back to the start of the weekend… we had an impromptu fire with a couple of friends we called last minute. Friday night marked the first fire of this year we’ve shared with friends. It felt good to hang out under the stars and just BE, without any major worries about possibly infecting and/or killing one another accidentally.
Finally, last but not least and saving the best for my grand finale… I got to see my kids and my grand furbaby MISO. For the first time. All together. And we hugged. A LOT. We decided to start up a D&D adventure, as all of us were enjoying the game in other parts of our life. During COVID those games fell a part, so we thought, why not? it gives us a common thread and reason to come together, and fills a gap left with the absence of our other games. It’s easier for me to have family members in the house, all of whom are vaccinated, and we are keeping it under Ten as per the COVID guidelines.
OUR FIRST D&D SESSION IN PERSON and the first time I’ve gotten to see my kids together SINCE LAST SUMMER. L-R, David, our amazing DM, Anthony, Jolene, James, Brett, Allie, and THE MIGHTY MISO MY AMAZING GRANDFUR BABY at Allie’s Feet.
So, last week was fill with abundance and gratitude on so many levels.
David and I repeatedly state how blessed we are with our lives, and how blessed we are for all the people we share this journey with, whether in person or virtually.
Thank you, everyone, for making my life so magically wonderful on so many levels.
LOVE IN THE FOREST is now available in ebook form from amazon.com! WOW!!!
The idea for this story was born from a Tarot card reading while on a writer’s retreat at Thistle Dew. I was in my room, had just finished the last of my “Release Day” posts for TEN BUCKS AND A WISH, and I had been mulling over my publisher’s challenge to write something new—another Contemporary Romance.
And, always up for a challenge, I did just that. I didn’t know where to start, so I pulled out my Tarot. And, using the concepts me and my friend and fellow author MJ Compton have shared with our co-CNYRW’ers, I read for my characters. I didn’t know their names yet, but I knew that in time it would come to me.
And it did (of course).
So, here is the spread I used to create Brooke Meadows. Unfortunately, I don’t have the image of the spread I did for Joshua Quinn, but it doesn’t matter, he’s a hunk who needs healing. What more do we need to know?
LOVE IN THE FOREST takes place just outside the village of Demilune, in the Adirondack Mountains. While Demilune is fictitious, it is named after the town I always wanted to live in, HalfMoon, New York.
There’s a great little drum shop (Beats and Things) in Demilune, and a jewelry shop called Nurtured by Nature Designs, and an awesome pub with a pool table (every pub needs a pool table, no?). And a sandwich shop with Boar’s Head cold cuts.
Brooke and Josh meet at the Earth & Sky retreat camp, where she works on the books as the camp photographer. And while it’s not in her job description, she fills in as crisis counselor when needed. And messenger. Of the Dead. Which is how she got her nickname, DeathWalker. (An endearing little tag, no?)
Weeks before Josh even knew he’d be attending Earth & Sky, Brooke began receiving messages from Josh’s dead wife, Rosalie. So naturally, when Josh arrives, it’s Brooke’s job to make sure Rosalie’s messages get to Josh.
But Josh, a hunk of a CEO of the world’s most popular dating app Quirkyflirt.com (don’t google it, I couldn’t afford to buy the domain) doesn’t believe in that sort of thing. But he does believe Earth & Sky are in cahoots with his board president to get him to retire early as part of a takeover plan.
If you want to know what happens you’re going to have to wait until… OH WAIT!!! You don’t have to wait!
LOVE IN THE FOREST GOES LIVE JUNE 2! By the time you read this, you’ll already be able to order my second romance. You won’t have to wait! Hurry! Stop reading. Get your copy now.
I’ll make it easy for you. Just click on the link below (where it says “Happy Reading!”)
Step into the mystical and magical forests of Upstate New York, where Earth and Sky camp photographer Brooke Meadows has taken refuge from the demons of her past as she uses her ability to communicate with the dead to heal loved ones left behind.
Unable to cope with the loss of his wife and daughters three years prior, Josh Quinn, CEO of the number one dating site Quirkyflirt.com, is ordered by his board president to take a break from his Big Apple Headquarters. He finds himself at Earth and Sky Retreats, where confronting his grief has led him to experience a life-altering transformation and re-evaluation of reality.
Will Josh leave behind his fast-paced, high society life in the concrete mountains of New York City, for the magical, bewitching world Brooke reveals to him in the foothills of the Adirondacks?
Will Brooke acknowledge and accept her own journey of transformation and healing as she and Josh explore the winding paths and summits that lead them to find love in the forest?
My little side garden, about as cultivated as I get.
Many decades ago, a woman named Margaret Alfano changed my perception of gardening with a single sentence. I pointed to a purple flower growing in her lawn in pristine Mt. Sinai, Long Island, and said, “Even the weeds are pretty here.”
She shook her head in dismay, the wisdom etched in her wrinkles as she scrunched up her face in a look of pity. “Dear. Weeds are only flowers growing where people don’t want them.” She then went on to tell me the “weeds” I’d commented on were violets, and that she used to dig them up and replant them, but now she just let’s them be, as nature intended.
I never forgot that wisdom, or Mrs. Alfano. She was not only an activist for wildflowers, but a champion of her community, fighting a good civic fight whenever the people needed a voice. While visiting Long Island pre-Covid, I found her grave and gave thanks as she now rested beneath the earth she loved and nurtured.
Two lifetimes and 300 miles later, I look around my Mohawk Valley home where I’ve allowed Mrs. Alfano’s sage advice to guide me in the nurturing of my own property. Maple saplings grow where they will. Lavender bushes pop up occasionally here and there. An apple tree appeared out of no where a few years back. Forget me nots, phlox, peppermint and spearmint, scallions, coltsfoot, chicory, and other nameless herbs and wildflowers grow where they decide. And thanks to Mrs. Alfano, I leave them be, creating a magical, wild place of harmony where song birds and chipmunks, bunnies, deer, squirrel, beloved crows, woodchucks, turkey, and other mostly unseen creatures gather and commune.
A few years back, a small circle of daisies appeared in the back yard, presenting as magically as if the Fae themselves had planted them. I warned David of their existence, and he made sure to mow around them until I could contain them (ha!) within a circle of stones.
The following year they spread to around the outside of the stone circle. So I enlarged it. Lovingly, mind you.
The following year another daisy cluster popped up, about 20 feet to the west of the first patch of daisies.
And another appeared to the north the following year. And yet another to the east the year after that. So every year, for a good part of the summer, we have pockets of unmown lawn where the daisies decide to play.
This year our mower broke down, and after borrowing a good friend’s trailer, we trekked our 19 year old riding mower to the local hardware store, where after a week we were told we had to retire the old guy. So we borrowed Wayne’s trailer again, put him out by the road with a “FREE” sign and he was gone by the next evening (the riding mower, not Wayne).
We finally picked up a new riding mower and FINALLY got the chance to mow our foot and a half high lawn. (Sorry, NEIGHBORS!)
So while David mowed, he did some hefty maneuvering around our little Daisy Pods. It looks a little funny, but I don’t have the heart to cut them down. And thankfully, neither does he. Best guy ever.
It was then I realized I don’t garden my property. I guard-en it. And all the wild things let me know where they want to live, and I let them.
After all, they were here first. We are just guests.
In the early morning silence, rising sun casts crystalline shadows over shimmering snow. Silence permeates wooden floors, frosted windows, aging walls. I sip coffee, reading, subconsciously listening to the Music of the Rising Sun. It weaves around me, a rhythmic beating mingled with the rhythmic breathing of my sleeping cats, keeping time with Mom’s old clock clicking, ticking minutes away. It beckons me softly, on invisible waves of sound. Ebbing and flowing. Ebbing and flowing. Rising and falling. Cascading softly. When I finally notice… I crook my head and listen. Silence. Refocused on my reading, my heart listens again. The music pulses like strains of violins In the far off distance. It builds and lulls, builds and lulls. I struggle not to notice, enraptured by its beauty. My subconscious sings along in the early morning silence.
After I wrote this poem this morning, I decided to research a bit to see if there were sounds recorded in the Universe that might match what I heard. I listened to a number of NASA recordings of the planets, some similar. Some not. Then I thought… does the Sun make sound?
And what I found most closely represents what I heard this morning as the Sun was rising.
So in essence, I heard an early morning Sun Symphony. I also read that Sun sounds sound like a heart beat. And that is what this tone was doing.
I am humbled and awe inspired at the same time.
This recording is the closest sound I could get to what I heard. The steady tone in the background, not the Om sound, but the more musical sound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kg…
Blessed be all that is and all that shall be in the Universe.
I could be a hoarder if I did not have people around me supporting me with lots of TLC, annnnnd if the spirit of my mother did not haunt me regularly telling me to get rid of things. But those very things I hang on to, those chachkah’s that she always complained were dust collectors, are usually linked to a memory of her, or my children when they were young. Or my sister. Or cousin. or close friend, or happy times.
Oy. You see what I’m dealing with?
Don’t get me wrong. The downstairs of my house is clean and kept and organized. It’s ready for company. However, the upstairs is a bit different. For the last year, it’s been like those files in the back of your brain where everything you can’t let go of but don’t have the energy to process goes hidden and unchecked.
All four bedrooms on my second floor have become an extension of the attic, an extension of my life, the file cabinet of memories sometimes too tender to process.
My husband and I moved downstairs to the library in the front of the house after my last surgery, last January, since I could not climb stairs for a while. We liked it so much we made it our permanent bedroom. Bright and sunny, big windows, an entrance to the front porch (and you know how I love my front porch!). So our upstairs master bedroom became the room for the garage sale that never was and the Good Will collection site.
My daughter’s room held her things left behind when she went to college, and then moved into her own apartment. My son’s room held most of his memorabilia from his youth, then furniture from my mom after she passed.
The guest bedroom is the entrance to the attic, and so of course that held all our seasonal stuff that didn’t make it to the attic because, well, I wanted to go through it and weed out the stuff we didn’t use anymore. What is that saying about good intentions?
So anyway, something monumental recently happened in my personal life, and afterwards it was like I woke up from a coma. These past two weeks I’ve purged and cleaned out our laundry room, started purging furniture I don’t need anymore, bought a new vacuum (a Dyson!), and cleaned out my son’s room, making it my office. I wish I’d taken a “before” picture of it, but I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to post it.
I’m in the middle of painting the trim of the office and painting the desk from my younger years and I got caught up in memories of my mom and my childhood and it was paralyzing. The pain of my mom being gone collided with her spirit voice urging me on as she has been the last few days and I needed to take a break. So here I am.
My mom never stopped. Except when she was struggling with depression or physical ailments. She was always wallpapering, painting, cleaning . . . or, okay, yeah napping or enjoying her front porch. I used to be just like her, until a few months before COVID hit. Devastating news hit my family and just as I was straightening up from that blow, we were quarantined and the world as I knew it turned upside down.
But this past week, the light grew brighter, the emotional storms settled down, and life started to right itself. And the old me woke up, with my mom prodding me to get my act together and get my house in order. That meant purging and wallpapering ’til midnight, stopping only to cook dinner and eat.
So here is my desk, before and during the renovation. I was going to strip it down and keep the wood finish, but Jeana pointed out that painting it white would brighten it up. Thanks, Beana! She was right.
In my youth, this desk held pens and paper, crayons and pencils, blank paper, magazines, cool things like rocks and shells, and anything else a ten year old thought was important to treasure. I’d forgotten about it until I opened a drawer, then it all materialized in my memory as if the drawers were full again.
During my teen years it held make-up, brushes and combs and clips and things, and and note cards, magazines, love letters from my boyfriend in the Navy, and secret-notes-folded-up-into-triangles-from-my-best-girlfriends. To prove my hoarding testimony, I found those notes recently in a box in the attic. Some are actually blog-worthy.
The desk went on to be used by my son, Anthony, and it held similar things like paper and crayons, coloring books, rocks and stuff, and action figures.
My daughter, Allie Rose, took it over at one point and kept similar items minus the action figures. It then was donated to Herkimer High School as a prop in Allie’s junior year. And I forgot about that old desk after that.
She reclaimed it and brought it to her dad’s house sometime between graduation and college and it took on a life of its own there, any claim I held to it gone forever. Or so I thought.
Last year it came to my attention that my old desk needed a home, and like a stray puppy or kitten, it found its way back into my life in time for the holidays.
This most recent January it became the altar for my mother in law, who passed away from COVID.
Now, with me moving my work office upstairs, I needed a desk for my Janina Grey office downstairs. We were ready to shop when I remembered my old childhood friend turned altar for mom-in-law.
And this is where we are at today.
So now, with first and second coats on the old desk, I’m up in the attic painting trim and listening to Zeppelin, as my mom scolds me for not putting newspaper down to catch paint splatters. She’s also correcting me to paint in one direction and use a smaller brush in certain areas.
My response, “Thanks, Mom. For teaching me how to paint, wallpaper, and repurpose.”
Not only does it keep me close to mom, but it brings new life to old memories. And it’s a great form of therapy as well.
I’ve got to get back to painting! Look for pics of the new office once the trim is done!
Welcome to Bicolandia! A region located in the Southern part of the Philippines. This blog is dedicated to anything and everything we love about Bicol. Let me tell you about the things that I find interesting in my side of the world.