Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I will be offering free Kindle downloads of both my books for the first five days of the month.

Here are links to each:

THROUGH MY EYES: Overcoming the Emotional Injury of an Abusive Relationship
BREAKING THE CHAINS: Overcoming the Spiritual Abuse of a False Gospel

Offering hope and inspiration to others by sharing my journey is a far greater reward than any financial compensation I could receive. But Amazon only allows me to give the books away periodically. I thought this was a great time because domestic abuse and violence are such hot topics in the news at this moment. Allstate is also doing a Purple Purse campaign (www.purplepurse.com) to focus attention on the financial abuse that holds so many women captive in abusive relationships.

I was contacted last week about attending a luncheon in connection with the Allstate Purple Purse initiative next month and I of course accepted the invitation. When I hung up the phone, though, the first thought I had was that I had not personally experienced financial abuse. And then I remembered the financial bullying and intimidation; the threats of "You'll get nothing if it's the last thing I ever do," bank accounts being closed, being cut off from any financial resources, cash denied, having to wait five months for a court date to mandate spousal support during the divorce process. And my ex-husband was, at that time, making hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. I'll never forget him telling a judge that he HAD to have BOTH a brand new full size truck and a Lexus to drive. But when I had asked for cash to buy gas and food, I was refused and told that my dad (who I was living with) wouldn't let me starve.

Interesting, isn't it, how an abused woman will diminish abuse in her own mind? Even years later. Those who have experienced it know exactly what I'm talking about.

We are hearing so much about domestic abuse right now. The only thing that bothers me is how focused all discussion is on the NFL and Commissioner Goodell. It's important that domestic violence is handled appropriately in the NFL. But this discussion cannot be all about the NFL.

Football (no matter how violent the sport is) doesn't create an abuser. Abusers are everywhere. And sometimes you would never imagine how they behave behind closed doors based upon your impression of them in social settings. This includes church settings because abusers are drawn to environments where men are the recipients of trust, respect and authority simply by virtue of being male.

With God's help, I will be speaking about the role religion sometimes plays in keeping women trapped in abuse at our WRC Candlelight Vigil, October 11. It certainly played a role in my feelings of hopelessness. I believed God would be mad at me if I left.

I have a few hopes for this free giveaway. I hope many of you will read one or both of my books. I hope you'll be glad you invested time in learning and understanding how it feels to be spiritually, verbally, mentally, emotionally or physically abused. I hope my story will enlighten you to red flags so you can avoid an abusive relationship. I hope my story will help you be a better friend to wounded survivors. I hope my story will inspire self-awareness and insight. I hope you will relate to me and feel less alone in your struggles, even if you have never been abused (because there's so much more than abuse in my books). Selfishly, I hope a few of you will review the books on Amazon after reading, if you've found them helpful. And even if you didn't, I'm open to constructive criticism.

Most of all, I hope my life will point you to Jesus and the promise of Romans 8:28.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


My brothers and I are trying to make a big decision about my dad's grave marker. Here's the backstory and then I'll ask for feedback. I'm not saying we will rely entirely on your input to make this decision, but I'm curious as to what my friends think. And even if we decide against what we're considering, I will get to share the story. Those of you who knew him will have a good laugh. And Dad would like that.

First of all, I have to tell you a little bit about my dad. Some of you reading this did know him. He was a wise-cracking, joke-telling, relentless cut-up. If you spent any time around him at all, he made you laugh. And you may also have experienced a few jokes being at your expense. Virtually nothing was off limits if he felt comfortable with you and, come to think of it, I don't remember anybody he wasn't comfortable with. My mom would sometimes worry that he might hurt or embarrass someone. I remember hearing her get on to him (on the way home from church usually) from the back seat of our car when I was a kid. "Jerry," she'd say, "you can't joke like that. That wasn't funny." He would just laugh that big laugh of his and say, "Ah! Sure it was!" 

I also remember him making jokes about how he wanted to be laid to rest (always going for the laugh). I'm sure he didn't expect his suggestions to be carried out, but a part of me thinks he would like for his humor to be the thing remembered about him most often. And I think he would prefer a laugh over reverence. I really do.

My dad battled Parkinson's Disease for 17-18 years. He progressed slowly for a long time and then began to decline more severely over the last three to four years. But he never lost his sense of humor. He would at times be confused about who we were or what his relationship was to us toward the end. But he could still remember jokes and could even be spontaneously witty. My brother and sister-in-law provided an apartment for him that was connected to their house and Dad was never alone. He had the best care. You know, the kind money cannot buy; the kind that only comes by way of love. He only had to be admitted for professional care the very last month of his life, which is amazing if you knew the extent of his physical needs. It was absolutely necessary at that point. And when he was more cognizant, Dad had communicated that he understood the day would eventually come numerous times. But when we followed through on this, he struggled to adjust. He got agitated with us and even mad at us a few times. We knew that agitation and depression and a whole host of emotional challenges came along with the physical symptoms of Parkinson's.

One time while visiting him along with my brother, he forcefully instructed me to go start the car because WE were leaving. My brother said, "Dad, you're not going with Shari." And he said, "Who says?" followed by, "Shari, go start the car." His tone communicated that he was the dad; meaning he was boss

I've watched both my parents suffer through terminal illness now and, let me tell you, it's so hard. It's the kind of heartbreak you can't understand unless you've endured it. My dad was always so young for his age. He looked young, acted young, and had his health until he turned 60. And then he was hit by a steady stream of health issues in succession. In addition to his Parkinson's, he was diagnosed with CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia). He was actually getting bloodwork as part of a thorough evaluation for his Parkinson's diagnosis when we learned of his CLL. A few years later, he had triple bypass surgery. Those were the big issues, but they weren't the only health challenges. And because of the toll of illness, he really started to age. In the last few years, I just couldn't get used to him looking elderly. I guess I just expected him to always look young and healthy for his age -- like my dad! 

He died just before his 78th birthday and he looked his age or older. But if he'd stayed healthy, I think he would have still looked a good ten years younger than his actual years.

It's hard to write about this and not get off track as I reflect. I've diverted a bit. But I know you understand and don't mind.

Well, one day my brother was visiting with him and my dad insisted he wanted "out of here." My brother said, "Dad, we've talked about this. You know the only reason you're here is because you need the kind of professional medical attention that we can't give you at home. You are here because we love you." And Dad said emphatically, "Fine. Put 'WAS LOVED' on my tombstone. Now get me out of here."

I need a laughing head emoticon here. This is funnier if you knew our dad.

My brothers, sisters-in-law, John and I went to dinner last week and laughed as we remembered these words (and others) from Dad's last weeks. I had volunteered to look at grave markers and make suggestions. So a few days later, I texted some ideas and sketches. Todd texted back that he still was leaning toward "was loved" as a memory of Dad's humor. I suggested we go all the way and add "...now get me out of here" under "WAS LOVED" -- because I think Dad would not only think it was hysterical but be proud of us for choosing humorous over "proper." I also think he would love giving people a good laugh as they walked by and read the epitaph. 

"Get me out of here" isn't about the grave. We know he's not there. It's the memory and the laugh. I just love giving him the ability to make people laugh "from beyond."

I'm pretty certain it would be considered an odd way to honor him in the minds of some. But it fits him. And yet, we don't want to do anything that would seem inappropriate or in bad taste. Thus, the dilemma.

My brothers and I all love the idea of making Dad laugh and getting to share this laugh with him one day when we are all together again. We are so tempted to do this. But it's a big decision. 

I'd love to know what you think, and your reasoning pro or con. We may not actually go through with this. But, hey, at least I've been able to share the laugh with those of you who are reading even if we can't bring ourselves to actually go through with it.

I really want to know if you think this is a crazy idea! Tell me what you really think! And please feel free to share any funny memories of Dad. I know some of you will comment on my Facebook page, but I would love to have your comments here if you can figure out how to leave them on my blog.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Today my husband and mother-in-law were scheduled to be interviewed along with Dr. Ian Flinn of Sarah Cannon Research Center in Nashville on Doctor Radio (Sirius/XM) about the approval of a new breakthrough drug in the fight against chronic lymphocytic leukemia. I spent a considerable amount of time on the phone, upgrading my XM service to online listening and listened to the half hour preceding their scheduled interview, which focused on silent reflux and esophageal cancer. It was very interesting. And after hearing what the guest doctor had to say, I'm thinking I may never drink another soda. I already have nearly eliminated carbonated soft drinks from my life, but I do still have one occasionally. The program was very informative and I was eagerly anticipating the upcoming half hour devoted to patient experience with newly approved CLL drug Zydelig (pronounced Zy DEL ig).

Well, the moderator went over ten minutes into the scheduled time for Dr. Flinn/John and Marian by taking additional listener calls for the acid reflux doctor. And after that delay, another moderator arrived late due to a patient emergency. He seemed unprepared for the interview and cracked a lot of jokes, eating up more of the time. There was more banter back and forth between the hosts than I would have expected for this kind of topic. Also disappointing. But then when he did get around to focusing on the subject at hand, he never even acknowledged the patient guests (let alone asking them any questions). He directed his questions only to Dr. Flinn, which was not what Dr. Flinn had in mind. And then the time was up without John or Marian even being mentioned.

If the late (as in tardy) moderator had been involved in the pre-interview process, he probably would have understood what everyone else's expectations of the interview were. The whole idea was to talk to patients who had been involved in the clinical trial for CAL-101/Idelalisib/Zydelig. Dr. Flinn wanted them to share about their experience as patients. But that's how it goes, I guess.

Throughout the conversation, the moderator (who is also a doctor) joked about how his expertise was tumor related. He didn't seem to be that familiar with hematology and asked some questions that I knew the answers to. I felt like that was one of the most important messages for listening patients to get from this quick chat. I can never emphasize strongly enough to newly diagnosed patients the grave importance of consulting a specialist in your specific disease. A general oncologist cannot possibly keep up to date on every form of cancer. Sometimes they are less informed than you or I could possibly comprehend; especially when it comes to new treatments. It's not a dig on general oncologists. It's just a fact. The field of medical science and oncology in particular is constantly and rapidly changing. I know this to be a fact in blood cancers just since my husband was diagnosed in 2007. We have seen major changes and developments in treatments during that time. And one of the biggest is the recent study of kinase inhibitors like idelalisib and ibrutinib. Chemotherapy is being replaced by these drugs. And for John, this low-toxicity oral medication taken morning and night is succeeding in keeping him in good health after FCR (the gold standard chemo for CLL up to this point) failed to give him any remission at all.

I have to be honest; I was extremely disappointed in this program after anticipating John and Marian's participation and announcing it to my CLL friends. I don't know how many tuned in and wondered what was going on. But since I advertised it on my blog and on Facebook, I just thought I'd give an explanation. They intend to reschedule another interview in the future. If and when that happens, I'll definitely share the information.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Husband and Mother-in-Law on Sirius Radio Tomorrow: Talking about their experience with CLL and the Clinical Trial for Zydelig

Tomorrow my husband (John Howerton) and my mother-in-law (Marian Kibler) will be LIVE on Sirius Radio. They are being interviewed about their participation in the clinical trial of the newly approved drug (named Zydelig), which started out as CAL-101, became GL-1101, then generically named Idelalisib. It now has a brand name Zydelig. John began taking CAL-101 in May of 2010. Marian has been taking it since October 2010. Both have had great results. 

John has had no side effects or toxicity. Marian did have a serious bout of pneumonia in 2011, but we don't know that it was or was not a side effect of the drug. We just know that some patients have experienced issues with lung inflammation early in the study. 

Here's the info in case you want to tune in:

The interview will be part of the Oncology Program of Doctor Radio (channel 81) which airs at 11:30 to noon Central Standard Time and 12:30 to 1:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Agreement, Approval or Integrity: What do you want in a friend?

There was a time in my life when being misunderstood or misjudged by others was excruciating for me. I’m still not completely comfortable with it and I’ll slip back into over-explaining myself on occasion. I take steps forward and steps backward. But today I’m a lot more accepting of the fact that being misunderstood, misjudged, and even disliked are all just a part of life on planet earth for everyone, including me. Not everyone who comes into contact with me is going to love me, like me, approve of me, or even understand me – no matter how hard I try to facilitate all of these things.

There is freedom in letting go of what has been, for me, much more of a longing than an expectation.

I am prone to sticking my neck out in all sorts of ways. And I recently shared a controversial blog post I agreed with on Facebook. The post addressed a much-hyped movie on the day that its promotion tour began (more than six months ahead of the release). I knew when I shared and agreed with this viewpoint, I would likely spark disagreement and maybe even defensiveness in some who were openly excited about this movie and the books the movie was based on. I was pointing out the reasons I thought they were actually harmful.  

I knew I might be called a lot of adjectives (closed-minded, judgmental, etc.) to my Face(book) and/or behind my back. I also knew there could be friends who remained silent, but felt personally offended or judged by the position I was taking. I realized some readers might even misinterpret or misunderstand my heart. (I’m actually not a judgmental person. And I wasn’t sitting in judgment of anyone who didn’t share my convictions.) I wanted to provoke thought because I like it when my thoughts are provoked and I gain insight into myself.

I am always intrigued by a book or movie becoming a smash by way of “I must read/watch this because everyone else is and all my friends are urging me to” or even, “I am curious.”  I’m especially bewildered at the notion that if you don’t get on the bandwagon with everyone else – or worse yet, you oppose the bandwagon – you must be in some way closed-minded or unwilling to “read outside your comfort zone” as if reading fiction about a steamy affair is somehow a valuable education, worthy of any discomfort, simply because it’s being devoured by millions of others.

I’m a pretty naïve person, but I think this way of thinking is naïve. Millions of people go wrong every day. If you’re a liberal, you have no problem believing millions of conservatives are wrong. If you’re a conservative, you believe the opposite. Nobody on either side of the aisle is swayed by numbers alone, nor are we swayed by the educations and/or degrees and/or positions of status that those of the opposite viewpoint hold. The value of something isn’t necessarily determined by how many people think it’s good. And history has shown us that.

Plenty of people would urge you to read something spiritually inspiring and you might not catch that fever at all. But sex sells. We all know it. I think, plot or no plot, good writing or bad, we all must surely know in our hearts that the explosion of a certain book series and the upcoming movie is primarily because it’s sexually edgy, graphic and titillating. The actual writing being good or bad doesn’t matter to most readers; including some highly educated readers. I know that because I watch morning television. I think Savannah Guthrie is brilliant, but she isn’t timid about telling the world how much she loved the books. I don’t consider her less intelligent. I don’t view her as evil or even immoral; just human. And I still like her. But I don’t get it.

And yet I do. Sex sells.

Let’s be real. Nobody bought this series for great literature or for the great plot – even though I have been told there is a plot and a story behind all the edgy sex. It was the nature of the books that sparked the initial interest of most readers. The only thing I don’t understand is why anybody would deny the obvious. You know it. I know it. We all know it! Don’t we?

A counselor once explained defensiveness to me this way. He asked me if I felt defensive after certain accusations were thrown at me by a loved one. I said, “Actually, this time I didn’t. It was ludicrous. It made me mad, but I knew I didn’t have anything to defend.” And he said, “Good. Because any time you feel defensive inside, it’s a clue to you that you have something to protect. There is some kernel of truth there – maybe only a partial truth, but something you are protecting. Otherwise you wouldn’t be defensive.”

Learning this has been a huge tool for me in examining my own heart. When I feel defensive, I start looking for whatever it is that I’m trying to protect. And I get defensive a lot of times when I’m not even sure why I’m feeling defensive. Sometimes a trigger is involved (from years of emotional abuse). It takes investigation to gain insight into my own heart. It isn’t always right on the surface. And sometimes it takes hearing something from a friend that challenges me and what I think. Sometimes it’s a book I read, a blog or even a quote. Anything that speaks to me on a level that prompts me to look more deeply.

I think this is how we grow. Therefore, I am not tempted to choose my friends based entirely on how much we agree on or how much we have in common. If you’re my friend, one thing you know about me is that I welcome disagreement and opposing views. I don’t like debates because, in my mind, debating represents a winner and a loser at the end. But I love discussion and sharing and trying to understand where someone else is coming from as I also try to examine my own heart for inconsistencies and hypocrisy I have yet to confront in myself. Two people disagreeing, but gaining insight into themselves and each other – now that’s a win/win to me.

As I read comments challenging my position on anything, I take to heart the opinions of others. I think about what is shared with me. I try to watch my tone and question my motive in responding in certain ways. I try not to make it about “winning.” I try not to be sarcastic, because that (in my estimation) can represent contempt – even veiled contempt. I’m sensitive to that and never want anyone to feel that from me. I try to show respect even when I disagree. And most of all I try to make sure the person I’m conversing with knows that our differences of opinion do not threaten our warm relationship – not ever. Actually, I might be wary of someone who never disagrees with me. Honesty, integrity and sincerity are very important to me in a friendship; far more valuable in any given relationship than total agreement. I have no desire to be placated. To me, that’s the ultimate in condescension and doesn’t show any respect.

Two (of the many) things I deeply value in my husband are 1) that he will always be honest with me and 2) he is never unkind in his honesty. If I ask him to tell me something, he will tell me the truth even if he knows it is not exactly what I want to hear. But he is not mean spirited or hurtful. I always know he loves and respects me. There is never any contempt.

Some of the friends I value most in my life are ones I have been able to disagree with vehemently, but still remain close to. Our interaction may get messy sometimes, but we love each other enough to clean up the mess and not let go of each other. Disposing of the friendship has never been an option. 
No. Matter. What.

So my words of wisdom for anyone reading today are not a warning about what books or movies you should or shouldn’t see. I’ll leave that choice to you. My words of wisdom are simply these:
Always keep friends in your life who tell you the truth and show you respect with their honesty/integrity. Don’t choose only friends who agree with you on everything and tell you what you want to hear, or do what you want them to do. When a friend never challenges you or steps out of line in meeting your expectations, they may not feel safe to step out of line for fear of unpleasant consequences. If so, they aren’t being completely genuine with you. They are being controlled by you. I’ve been in those kinds of relationships and I would never want to be on either end of one again. I want my friends to feel complete safety in challenging me and vice versa.

But even if our friends simply do agree with us on absolutely everything, where is the opportunity for self-discovery and personal growth in that? We need friends who share a different perspective with us. We all need to be challenged. We all need to examine our hearts and our motives. Sometimes it’s the role of a loving friend to spark self-discovery. Sometimes there’s a discovery that needs to be made even when you’re right on an issue. Because we’re not always right in the way we express our convictions, even when we hold the right conviction. And we're all inconsistent because we're human.

All this to say: I haven’t changed my mind about the value of the “art” I referred to above. But I’m so thankful I won’t lose any friends because of it. And none of them are in any danger of losing me.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Desires of Our Hearts

I love it when I God catches me by surprise and speaks something randomly into my heart. Not audibly, of course. It's that still small voice we believers recognize as the Holy Spirit prompting our thoughts. This happened to me yesterday as I shared the cliff notes to my past and all that God has done for me in the last decade.

I was explaining to someone how I felt in an abusive marriage. I didn't have any hope of an emotionally fulfilling relationship. I was just trying to make it the best it could be and count my blessings instead of focusing on my hardships. I think I was pretty successful at that, since I endured 27 years of abuse. But when I'd feel very low and discouraged, I would remind myself that God was equipping me through suffering to help someone else "down the road."

I was so aware that those who have suffered themselves have the most to offer to another hurting person. I can go back in my mind, to spots in different homes, and visualize where I cried and thought of Romans 8:28 and sincerely told the Lord, "If the only good thing that comes from all this is that I can help someone else later on because I really understand, that will be enough for me." And I truly meant it from my heart.

As I was expressing that to someone yesterday, it was like someone whispered inside my head, "And He will give you the desires of your heart (which I recognized as Scripture). I gave you the desire of your heart." I couldn't remember the entire passage. But I had the feeling at that moment that He was telling me this was a desire that was aligned with His will for me. Not that I was being rewarded for being "good." Just that I was in His will to desire someone else's good through my suffering and everything that was happening now was tied to that desire.

This morning I looked up the passage in Psalm 37:3-5 and read the fuller context...

Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.…

When I read it, I saw myself during those years. I did not have that Scripture in mind as I prayed that way. But, in essence, I see now that I was dwelling in the land and cultivating faithfulness to the Lord. I was committing my way to Him and I was trusting Him even though I so often felt "slayed" by my circumstances.

I can't say that every desire of my heart has been in accordance with God's will or even pleasing to Him, for that matter. But the desires that have been aligned with His Word, I have received.

When I was saying that to God all those many years ago, I never had the slightest idea that I would do more than help a few friends get through difficult circumstances. But God has redeemed my suffering in much greater ways than I even hoped for. God gave me the ability to write and He's given me opportunities to share my testimony with others. He brought me to a community where I've been able to use my influence and abilities to raise awareness and money for the fight against domestic violence. I've been blessed with so many opportunities to connect with others through shared experiences, trials and triumphs.

So many times our desires are for ourselves rather than for others. And God does not promise to grant all our selfish desires. But I believe He longs to grant the desire of our hearts when the desires of our hearts are aligned with His plan and His love for humanity.

I felt compelled to blog about this. If you are going through hard times right now and struggling to imagine how God will bring anything good out of what you're suffering, hold onto the promise of Romans 8:28.

He will do it.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Thoughts on Books and Moms...

In the last week or so, I have found my thoughts going in the direction of a possible third book. Even though my audience of readers is small and probably always will be small, I love writing. It's not about "selling" books. It never will be. It's about the writing and it's about the readers. My reward is the feedback from readers and the money/awareness I've been able to raise for our Women's Resource Center.

Helping other women and friends to overcome the wounds of domestic abuse and domestic violence in whatever way I can; that is a huge "payoff" for the years I struggled. I must also confess that sharing my own journey has been far more liberating and healing than I expected it to be. So much emotion (some of it I didn't even realize I still carried) was purged as I wrote and rewrote THROUGH MY EYES. I can read it now without any tears. But that in itself was a journey.

There are two subjects my mind keeps wandering toward when I think about another writing project. One is our CLL journey. My husband has "battled" chronic lymphocytic leukemia for seven years now. His mom was diagnosed less than a year after his diagnosis. My dad also had CLL. But all three of these CLLers have had a different CLL journey. My dad was asymptomatic from diagnosis to his recent passing. He is one of "those patients" who lived many years without needing treatment and died with CLL instead of from CLL. He was diagnosed in or around 1997 and died this March from end stage Parkinson's disease. He was diagnosed with both at or around the same time. His CLL diagnosis came out of a routine physical. And I remember being told he had "the good cancer." That's another blog post or book. But in Dad's case, it turned out to be true. He never had anything but an escalating white count. He never got sick. He never had enlarged nodes. He never needed treatment. But in the last 17-18 years of his life, he had other serious medical issues that included triple bypass and Parkinson's. CLL turned out to be the least of his concerns.

My husband's CLL journey has been a different kind. We had a real scare when he failed chemotherapy in 2009/10. His has not been the most aggressive kind of CLL, but it has been nothing like my dad's CLL. If you've read my blog or been my friend, you know John's journey. And I have documented it here on my blog if you want to know more. I won't go down that road in this blog post. But he has been in a nice remission and enjoying good health for four years now on Idelalisib. He was in an early clinical trial and a little pill taken morning and night has controlled his CLL beautifully. It's amazing that this little pill has been able to do for him what chemotherapy could not -- and without all the side effects and toxicity to his body.

My mother-in-law is somewhere in between my dad and my husband as far as her CLL progression. She entered an Idelalisib (formerly known as CAL-101) trial as an older patient having never received treatment for her CLL. John's trial was for patients who had failed or relapsed treatment. They offer new trial drugs to the patients who are in the worst situation first. Marian looked fine, but her platelets were steadily falling and she was becoming anemic. She had a few enlarged nodes as well. But they weren't visible. When her platelets dropped below 100, we started to discuss treatment options because to wait for her to be in a dangerous condition would be foolish. Especially at her age. John was doing so well on CAL-101, she felt that choosing the clinical trial was almost a no-brainer. And it turned out to be a good choice. She is also doing beautifully and still dancing at 81.

Which brings me to the other book that is dancing in my head right now. Tomorrow is Mother's Day and my thoughts this week have been drifting constantly to my mom, obviously, but also the other Mothers in my life. My mom died in 1987, just two weeks after her 49th birthday. I was 28. It's tragic to lose your mom that prematurely. Tragic in so many ways. I will always hate that she didn't get to meet the majority of her grandchildren. Tragic that they missed out on having their Grandma Jane in their lives. She has the most gorgeous (inside and out) granddaughters, whom she would absolutely ADORE and be so proud of! She didn't get to know a single one of them. She had just three grandsons when she died; Danny, Jared and Justin. And they were all just kids. She now has ten grandchildren and six great grandchildren. The family reunion we will have in heaven will be so wonderful. I often find myself thinking about the things I want to tell my mom when I see her again. And I could write a book about those things alone.

However, my thoughts this week have also been focused on two other mothers I have in my life; Marian and Rebecca. John's mom has loved me like one of her own from the first time we met. She is an absolutely lovely person and such an "easy" mother-in-law. Without her, I wouldn't have John. And I'm so grateful for her "middle son." But I'm also thankful for her. Nobody could ever replace my mom in my life. I would have loved to grow into a more mature relationship with my own mother over the last 27 years. But having a mother-in-law who is both a friend and a nurturing mother figure fills a gap in my life that wasn't filled from 1987 to 2003. I was motherless. But because of my surrogate mom, I don't feel motherless anymore. In some ways, I have become more of a typical daughter in that I feel free to argue a point even when I'm wrong and sometimes that "me do it my way" little girl comes out if I imagine I'm doing something differently from the way she would choose to do it. But even that is such a gift. I'm able to be completely myself with Marian. And there is no fear whatsoever of rejection or disapproving consequences. How many daughters-in-law can say that about their mothers-in-law???

My daughter-in-law Rebecca is the other mom in my life who has occupied so many of my thoughts this week. My son hit the jackpot when he married Rebecca. And so did his kids. I am so thankful my son has a spouse and best friend in one person. I'm thankful she has that in him as well. They complement and bring out the best in each other in so many ways. It's wonderful to watch their relationship and their family grow (from the sidelines, as a mother). I feel so blessed to be here to see their happiness and, even more than that, to see them serve God and pursue His calling in their lives as a unit. They are raising sweet, compassionate kids. I see those little hearts developing into caring individuals; each in their own ways. They are all so unique and special. And I thank God all the time for the gift of Rebecca in their lives and in mine. It's a pretty amazing blessing to watch your grandchildren enjoying the world's best mom as their own. And I know this is something not all mothers-in-law can say about their daughters-in-law.

So, you see, I am doubly blessed even though I am without my own natural mother. And I could write a BOOK of my deepest thoughts, emotions and observations to and about each of them -- or one book dedicated to all three. And I just might do it. When my second book on abuse was finished, my editor wrote to me that maybe my next book could be a joyful one -- like the joys of a happy marriage. I don't know how many readers there would be for a whole book filled with my gushing about John and our life together! Of course, there will always be a bit of that in any book I write. ;) But a whole book might be overkill and might have to come with a barf bag. LOL.

I didn't enjoy Mother's Day for at least five years after my mom died. I couldn't look at any Mother's Day card in any store without tears streaming down my face. The loss of a mother is so terribly deep. And I always feel so grateful for friends who have had their moms throughout their lives. I have a friend who is with her 94 year old mother right now, hearing her mom say that the trip they're on is the best of her life. It put a huge smile on my face for both of them. I got to hear words like that from my mother-in-law after our recent ten day cruise together. We had a lot of fun together and sharing a cabin was a breeze. She even made coffee for me every morning. And I stopped by the sports bar and grabbed a glass of wine for her to sip while getting ready for dinner a time or two. We made memories to last the rest of our lives. And I hope to one day do something similar with Rebecca.

I'm thankful that Mother's Day is not a painful day for me anymore. I can remember my mom with smiles and happy tears. And I'll think about all the things I want to tell her until I see her again. I'll always wish we could have had more time. And I'll always grieve the loss of her holding my grandbabies and watching my son, nieces and nephews grow into the beautiful human beings each of them are. But I am focused on my many blessings more than my losses. And I know we are not parted forever.

I love you, Mom. I love you so much. I have so much to tell you when I see you that I might just have to write a book before I get there.

Happy Mother's Day.
Hug your moms. Hug them tight.