Blog, Uncategorized

The hardest thing I’ve ever written

No assignment or submission has ever been as hard to write as my brother’s obituary. As with any death, the loss has left a gaping hole. I am both relieved that Timmy did not suffer and angered that his sudden loss has made it impossible to say goodbye. All the moments we’ll never share and all the things we’ll never do have taken center stage in my heart and mind. I won’t be able to wish him a happy birthday in two days (and remind him of our 15-year age difference, as only a little sister can.) I can’t tell him about the last concert I attended or sit at my window seat and swap wildlife pictures across the miles.

Instead of doing the things I can’t, I did the one thing I can: write. And while he’ll never see it, or anything else I write from here on out, I know he appreciates the sentiment, the tears I typed through to get the words out, and the message of love and loss and hope I’ve tried to honor him with.

LITTLE EGG HARBOR, N.J. — Timothy P. Lynch passed away on May 8, 2023, at the age of 60. Tim will be remembered as an avid outdoorsman, who preferred the woods and waterways of the Pinelands to anywhere else. He was an artist in his career as a stonemason and in his photographs of nature. Tim’s pictures will serve as a constant reminder of his enduring love and appreciation for the wildlife that calls New Jersey home.

Tim was an eternal prankster. He smiled brightly. He laughed fully. He loved with his whole heart. He was a giver with no expectation of getting anything in return. He went out of his way to help anyone who needed it. Tim loved his dog, his garden, his kayak, his iPod full of music, and above all else, his family.

Tim was welcomed into heaven by his brother, Tommy, his uncles Bill and Jack Bergen, and his father, Thomas P. Lynch, Sr. He leaves behind his mother, Marilyn Lynch, sisters, Kathy Elliott, Laura Lynch, and Jen Sinclair, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

Timmy will be missed, and his loss is not easy to accept. But we take comfort in knowing that he is shining his light down upon us and blessing us with his protection and presence every day until we meet again.

“Life without you…all the love you passed my way. The angels have waited for so long…now they have their way. Take your place.” Stevie Ray Vaughan

Rest in peace, Timmy.


How someone else’s book launch party launched me

You are one decision away from an entirely different life. 

I’ve scribbled this Mel Robbins quote at least a dozen times since I came across it. I understand how one choice is all it takes to change the trajectory of a life. While I have many examples, bad and good, the one that springs to mind revolves around a book launch party.

I should start by saying that I am a true introvert who needs time alone to recharge and avoids new social situations at all costs. But a year ago, I promised to stop dragging my feet and make my writing a priority in 2022. When Tammy, a local author I had met once, scheduled her book release party on January 16th, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to further my 2022 goal.

But true to my introverted nature, panic shot through my nervous system as I drove to the launch party. I willed myself to keep the car moving forward instead of slamming on the brakes and going back. While I was nervous about this new social situation, I was terrified by the prospect of derailing my writing goals yet again.

I parked around the corner from the event and called Chris, my husband. I told him I couldn’t do it. It was going to be a disaster. My hands shook. A swelling lump suffocated me. I was sweating even though it was a mild day. Chris (always the calm to my storm) reminded me why this was important for me to do. He told me how strong I was, how cool it was that I got to do this and that he would get in the car and meet me in half an hour if that’s what it would take for me to go inside.

As he talked, my legs inched closer and closer to the door. Before I hung up, I told him I could do it but made him swear not to leave the phone just in case. And then there was nothing else for me to do except step inside. So, I did.

Here’s the thing that happens when you get brave—the universe somehow catches that wave of courage, and it rewards you. For me, it came in the form of Sheila, another writer I met at the local Women’s Fiction Writers Association get-together months before. She stepped right up and introduced me to two other writers with her, Kristi and Christel.

Before I knew it, I agreed to attend a write-in (whatever that was) at Sheila’s condo the following day. I remember calling Chris on my way home, giddy and saying something like, “Not only didn’t I die, but I’m going to hang out with them again tomorrow!” I felt like a kid coming home on the first day at a new school. Meeting people with the same passion and creative energy fed my own. Plus, it was nice not to feel so alone.

At Sheila’s the next day, she, along with Kristi and Christel, encouraged (read: FORCED) me to join a virtual WFWA write-in through Zoom. I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew I didn’t want to do it. Before I could come up with a viable escape plan, we were all Zooming and meeting with a larger part of the WFWA tribe. And again, a decision I made (albeit via peer pressure) sent my life further down the writing path.

In the year since my first write-in, I have come so far in this writing journey, buoyed by the connection with fellow writers, in-person and across Zoom. I’m querying a book I am proud of and want people to read! I’ve published essays! I’ve cannonballed into the deep end of the freelance writing pool and am building my business and creative portfolio. 

My journey isn’t anywhere near done. In fact, it’s just getting started. But, had I not walked into that book launch party, I would have still been stuck wanting what I now have: a group of friends and writing allies who mean the world to me and for whom I will always carry a heart full of gratitude.

Remember, You are one decision away from a completely different life.

And once you make that decision and start living that life, you will never want to go back.


The Santa picture that broke me

We’ve all seen those silly Santa pictures and chuckled. I did, too, except I was also relieved that none of my kids behaved that way on Santa’s lap. Getting the perfect picture meant a lot to me. So much so that I would literally break a sweat making sure everyone looked as perfect as possible.

And then my youngest kid totally threw all of my planning out the window.

A month before his second birthday, I sat him on Santa’s lap, and, well … he absolutely was not having it. At all. Not even a little. And after about thirty seconds of absolute embarrassment and horror, something inside my tightly wound body snapped. It broke me. And it made me so much better.

I no longer put a whole lot of stock into catching my kids at their worst. It meant more to me that each picture captured who they were at that particular moment in their lives. My daughter’s kindergarten picture day came exactly three days after she launched herself from the swingset and scraped her chin all to hell. My oldest’s third-grade picture day happened right after his dad shaved his head down to the scalp. My youngest has blessed us with some of the most memorable pictures purely by being his emotive self.

Insider gave me the chance to talk about how that Santa picture broke me and made me better. I now have a deeper appreciation for those snaps that capture authenticity rather than obsessing over the appearance of perfection.

Did you have a moment like this in your parenting journey? I would love to hear about it if you do.


Divorce as a SAHM

If your relationship has been declining, you may not want to consider that you’re headed toward a divorce. But this is exactly when you need to start thinking about your future without your spouse. A little preparation can go a long way in formulating and executing a successful exit strategy. This is especially crucial when you have children and no tangible financial way to independently support them.

I know a little bit about this because, in the year preceding my divorce, the alarm bells continuously sounded. Every day, there was some further sign that my marriage was ending. Soon, instead of wondering what would happen if I got a divorce, it changed to what would happen when I got a divorce. And that forced me to make some plans.

I was a stay-at-home mom then, with three kids from 10 years old down to a newborn. We didn’t have a ton of money, but not having any of my own was downright terrifying. I let the terror paralyze me for a little while until one day, I knew I had to act. If I wanted to put myself in a better financial (and mental) place to go through a separation and divorce, I needed to build up some resources.

Mother Untitled gave me some space on their website to share how I got through those trying times. Divorce is an emotional and mental rollercoaster. But doing it when you don’t have a paycheck in your name feels like you’re riding that coaster without a seatbelt. With a little planning and a few actions, you can give yourself a lap bar to provide some measure of stability during your divorce.

Do you have any pre-divorce preparation tips you wish you knew at the time?


The Ghost of Boyfriends Past

We all have relationships that we would LOVE to go back and erase. Stop our former selves from ever even looking in the direction of that person to save us from a whole lotta heartache, stress, frustration and pain.

And then there are those former loves who never actually leave our hearts. All sorts of things conjure those memories–a song, a mutual friend, a favorite sports team. Those are the relationships we might like a chance to do over. Most of the time, though, we don’t get that opportunity, so we continue to pine away for what might have been.

However, I did get a second chance to reconnect and try out a past relationship in a more mature headspace. And Insider gave me chance to spill the beans on that time I ghosted a guy in high school and went on to marry him 17 years later. Shout-out to my husband for being so cool with the fact that I’m sharing some of his pain with the world. What guy wouldn’t want to be outed for listening to Exposé when he was 16? I wonder if this is why he stopped making eye contact with our neighbors?

Your turn: Do you have a long-lost love that you still think about? Even if you’re in a good space, do you sometimes wonder if only things had been different? Or have you ghosted someone who absolutely deserved it for one reason or another. Drop me a line and fill me in on the good and the bad of your ghosts of past relationships.


We’re Not Blended …

My husband and I came into this marriage with a whole lot of battle scars and fresh divorce decrees under our belts. While we muddled through to find our footing, we dragged our combined five kids along. What could possibly go wrong? We loved each other and our kids. And isn’t that all it takes to succeed at this blended-family thing?

Nope. As it turns out we were wrong. So.Very.Wrong.

Scary Mommy gave me the chance to pull back the curtain on parenting in a more scrambled than blended situation.

Have you been successful at blending your family? Or is yours a little more scrambled and scattered like mine? Maybe you vacillate between the two. Whatever it is, I would love to hear about it. Drop me a line and let me know whether you’re killing the step-parenting gig or it’s killing you.


Why I Write

“What is it about writing that makes you want to do it?” The old office chair creaked as Dr. Raymond leaned back. It was the first day of my first creative writing class. I didn’t dare look away because that would have begged him to call on me, so I did everything possible to avoid his oversized glasses as they tracked across the room.

The reality at that time was that I didn’t have an answer, except it checked off a box in a college catalog. It likely worked best with my attempt to sleep in until at least 10:00 a.m. every day. I was a college sophomore, fresh from switching my major for the fourth and final time. I officially branded myself as an English major, although I didn’t know what the hell I would do with it.

I did know what I didn’t want to do; I didn’t want to work in an office. I had spent summers and school breaks helping my sister at a law firm, where I earned a repurposed Burger King crown that dubbed me “The Copy Queen.” I cringed when the phone rang, and everyone else was tied up because it meant I had to answer it. And I usually couldn’t understand what the person said on the other end, which made for some interesting messages. [“Some guy who sounds like he has a stick up his butt is on the phone.”]

So, knowing this, can you guess what I did for the first fifteen years post-college? I worked in offices. Because as I discovered, the very thing you swear you won’t do is the thing you have experience doing and gets you a job the fastest.

My first paid writing job didn’t come until after I turned 40, when I started writing SEO content. It was cool to get paid to put together blogs and articles for other people, but it wasn’t the stuff I wanted to write. It didn’t allow me to use my voice or wild imagination. The kind of writing that moved me was the stuff I spent very little time doing as an adult.

Here’s the crazy part – I had been doing it my entire life. I loved making up stories where none existed. It was a way I entertained myself throughout life. It was the stuff that came in whispers through my brain while on vacation or in the middle of a work meeting. I’d hear or see something that made me think, “What if” or “I wonder what would happen” or “Wouldn’t that make a cool story?” Even though I listened sometimes, I didn’t pay them too much attention.

I think it took me so long to listen to those whispers because I needed time to get braver. My imagination is a powerful force that I thought was best left inside the confines of my skull because other people may not understand. I think I needed the time to grow up and into this notion that these voices may entertain other people, too.

And I suppose that’s where this comes full circle. After 25 years of muddling through, I can finally answer Dr. Raymond’s question, “What is it about writing that makes you want to do it?”

I write because I can.
I write because I should.
I write because I need to.
I write because it terrifies me.
I write because it invigorates me.
I write because it makes me feel safe.
I write because it makes me feel vulnerable.
I write because it’s like air filling my lungs.
I write because I have stories to tell in a way only I can.
I write because I want to make my family proud.
I write because I want to make myself proud.