Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Nearly every day of my life I watch an episode of some version of the program Law and Order. It's my favorite show. I especially love SVU and the Lennie Briscoe episodes of the original. 

The night before last I was watching an old episode and the very first scene showed a dead woman, hanging by a rope in her bedroom.

I am certain that I saw many images just like this for many years before I lost my brother. Some person, somehow both weightless and the heaviest object in the world, exposed in this most horrific way.

It was different then.

I can't see that kind of image now. It feels too exploitative and personal.  I covered my head with my blanket until that scene was over.

Moments later I fell asleep and in my dream, my brother was there.

I have dreamed about him so many times. He always looks whole and normal and alive. 

We don't speak in these dreams, but we talk. Our mouths physically do not move, but he hears my thoughts and I hear his. 

This never occurred to me before two nights ago.


My brain said to his:

"So I found this online thread about you. People were speculating that you died from the Covid vaccine."

His brain said to mine:


My brain said to his:

"I know. I think the obituary was pretty clear. It's getting better, though. Things are changing. Not everything, but some things."

His brain said to mine:



Then the door slammed, just like it always does. The door to the room in which his life and death exist. There is not entrance from my side. The door that I always prayed would shut quietly and peacefully slams just as hard as it did the day he died. Abrupt, jolting, painful. It feels the exact same way every. single. time.


I woke up a mixture of sad and happy, as I always am when I dream about him.

Sad because it wasn't real.

Sad because the door slammed again. 

Sad because, Jesus Christ, he always did this to me. Always. Everything was always on his terms. I wanted him to get better, I wanted to do anything I could to help him get better and he rejected me every time. Even in my dreams he gets to decide when it ends and I am left alone again to grieve.


Happy because I saw his face.

Happy because he was okay.

Happy because his brain and my brain still talk to each other, just like when he was whole and alive and we'd make faces at each other across the room.


 As usual, I didn't get to say what I wanted to say.

I didn't get to tell him that I'm scared I've outlived my usefulness and no one hears me anymore.

That most days I do okay, but sometimes things like a 30 year old episode of a television show hit me like a mack truck.

That I'm still not angry with him, but sometimes it hurts way more than it should because I feel like he broke our deal to be here and help each other manage all of this.

That I am so, so sad. 

I am still so very sad. 

I don't know if I will ever stop being sad.

When Chris was alive we texted all the time. In the last few years especially he would hide away and I didn't physically see him as much as I should have. Of course I am busy and of course we all have our own lives, but also his mental health and addictions made things difficult. Texting was our connection. We said all the words without physically speaking the words.

Just like in my dream.

In the dreams, just like in real life, it feels like there is never enough time for all the words. All the things I should have said. 

I would give anything to have a door handle on my side of the universe.



Sunday, May 7, 2023


 It's unbearable, sometimes.

The stories I've heard over the last 445 days. The absolute agony people live in. The secrets. So, so many secrets.

We try. We try again. We keep trying. 


We hope. Even when hope is hard.

We quietly walk through the woods, sharing our stories together. 

We weep.

We hug.

We keep moving.

It is exhausting. Having hope is exhausting.


Fear is also exhausting. Anxiety is exhausting. Love with absolutely nowhere to go? You guessed it. Exhausting.


Sometimes I think I don't have any tears left to cry. Sometimes I feel like all I've done for the last 445 days is cry and surely, surely by now that well must be dry.

 I am always surprised by the tears. By how easily they come.


My brother took his own life and that is real.


I hate it more than anything I've ever hated, but it is reality and I can't make it go away.


I can't make it go away.


I stopped watching television (with the exception of every iteration of Law & Order  because Chris Meloni is my secret boyfriend) but I still watch YouTube videos. I watch a lot of stupid, mindless things but lately all I've been watching is 1980's commercials. 

I used to pay for TiVo so I could fast-forward through all the commercials. Now I purposely watch them on YouTube. How the turntables have turned. Or whatever.

Around Christmastime I started watching all the old Christmas specials from my childhood that I could find. I legit sobbed my way through the Garfield Christmas special. I remembered every line. Literally every line. 

I watch the commercials now and I think about my childhood. 

I find myself wanting to go back and figure all of this out. Just fix it. Somehow, someway, make all of this okay again. 

It's this stupid, pointless hope. This hope that I could fix my broken brother, fix my own broken brain, and make all of this okay. All of it.

It's not real. None of it is real.

Except the hope. The hope is real.

The hope keeps me getting out of bed every day. The hope keeps me trying even when everything feels so pointless. The hope is probably the main reason I haven't found myself in the exact same darkness that took my brother away.

Just hope.



I just don't want to lose hope.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Then and Now

 When I started the first iteration of this blog, I was thirty-one years old.

Today, I am forty-seven. I will be forty-eight later this year.

My twins were eight years old. I told so many funny stories about them and their lives. 

Today, they are twenty-five. TWENTY-FIVE. Both college graduates. Megan just got a new job, which she literally started today. Jonathan is in grad school, working as a Teachers Aid. He'll finish his Masters in December. 


We had the sweetest dog, named Ginger.

She took her final breath in 2020, and I knew I would never love like that again.

Then came Macie.

I was right, honestly. I don't love Macie like I loved Ginger. I don't love her any less than I loved Ginger, it's just a different love. Each dog is different, just like each child is different. I absolutely adore Macie and although she's genuinely in romantic love with Jason (her middle name is Jolene because she stole my man), she and I are great friends. 

When I started writing about my life Jason and I had been married a little over three years.  In all honesty, we didn't have the easiest time of it for the first few years.

Our 20th anniversary is in July.  I know I could not live without him.

When I started writing about my life I talked a lot about my weight. The gym was not something I took very seriously. 

Today I weigh at least 200 pounds less than I did when I first wrote in this blog. I say at least because I'm sure there was a very long time that i had no idea what I weighed. I'm a certified group fitness instructor. I'm a certified Zumba instructor. I'm a certified Strong Nation instructor. I teach six or seven classes a week and I work out every day of my life. I love it. I absolutely love it.

When I started writing about my life, I lived in a little house in East Tennessee.

Today, I live in a pretty big house (compared to the little brown house anyway), in North Carolina.

My life is totally different than it was back in 2006. 

Except it's not.

It's really not.

I started writing about my life back in 2006 because I was terribly lonely and sad. I felt left out of my family in so many ways. I felt like I wasn't good enough for anything or anyone. I felt like I was a horrible daughter, wife, mother, employee, and human being. 

I started going to therapy and it was really important to me that my therapist LIKED me, even though I was literally paying him money to talk to me (side note, he did like me and it should not make me as happy as it does that he did). I see a therapist now and it's incredibly important to me that she likes me (and side note, she does too. See above).

 When I started writing this blog I wanted everyone to like me. When I got mean criticism on my first book I could barely stand it- honestly that's why I haven't written another book, even though I have several in my head and heart. Today, I want everyone at work to like me. I want everyone in my classes to think I'm a good instructor. I hate when people are critical. 

 When I started writing this blog, I felt lost. 





Did I write about any of that? Oh no. It was funny stories and a lot (Jesus, so much) of me complaining about stupid things. I look back on some of my old entries and I'm absolutely floored at what bothered me. What could literally ruin my day.  So many of the things I wrote about are so, so minor. They seem so unimportant and silly.

I look at what my life looks like now and I am amazed.



In awe.


Incredibly thankful. Incredibly blessed.

I am also still lost. 

I frequently feel alone, even though I've cultivated a really wonderful group of friends.

I sometimes feel trapped by the future, because of the economy, my fears, and my husband's chronic illness.

I almost always, almost every single second, feel scared.

Change is necessary. We can't stay stagnant. I would be really concerned, actually, if my life was in the exact same place as it was back in 2006.


I keep searching for peace. 

I just keep searching.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Little White House

I am in the 47th Season of my life and so far, it's a doozy.

Not as stressful, painful, and life-altering as Seasons 22 and 23. Not as damaging, soul-crushing, and emotional as Season 46. 

Still. Sometimes I think my writer is throwing stuff at the wall just to see what sticks, and frankly? It's pretty exhausting. I get it God, I'm one of your strongest soldiers, but sometimes these weapons are prospering against me. Just a little bit.

It's weird.

I'm 47 which means I'm a fully grown woman. I am married and I own a home. I have children (who are TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OLD GOOD GOD HOW DID THAT HAPPEN) and a very sweet, very cute, very needy dog. I have a responsible job, a decent vehicle, and food in my pantry. I can't live without coffee and I have a passport which allows me to go wherever I want to go. I've done all the things that I always believed would make me into an adult, and yet? I still feel like a kid sometimes.

When I lost my brother last year, I felt like an orphan. I felt completely alone in the world. I felt like there was no one, anywhere, who could understand the depth of this loss. I felt like a little girl, yearning for her big brother. I kept expecting him to show back up and tell me he was kidding, that it was all a joke. A grown-up game of hide-and-seek and I promise I won't even tell on you because I'm so happy you are still here. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I still expect him to walk through my door. I'm told this is part of grief. I think it might be part of hope. Either way, I'm grown and I know it's not real. Even grown-ups like to pretend sometimes.

 This year, in my 47th season, my parents sold their home and are moving away and it's...harder for me than I want it to be. 

I did not grow up in this home. To be fair, the home I grew up in is also on the market right now, looks totally different than it did when I lived there, and I have some real complex feelings about that too, but that's beside the point right now. It was not my childhood home, or even my teenage years home. I did live there for a little while, after Jonathan and Megan were born. When I was alone and scared and needed help to get through the first sleepless, aching, terrible times.  Seasons 22 and 23 were there, and while it was a very difficult time for me financially, mentally, and emotionally (and probably physically to be real, having a baby or babies is a tax on a woman's body that I think we don't really adequately discuss), it was also a time that included a lot of joy.  A lot of laughter, a lot of baby milestones. My brother and my niece lived there part of that time, and our children got to form bonds that they otherwise would not have.  Which was lovely and which I probably did not appreciate enough at the time.


That's the trouble with memories, I suppose. You don't know you are making them.


And memories? Oh, I have them.

Playing Apples to Apples with all the kids. Blasting "I always have to steal my kisses from you" and The Harlem shake and dancing like a lunatic with my nieces and nephews. My brother, my crazy, hilarious, sweet brother doing cannonballs into the pool every Summer. He taught all the kids to swim. My dad in his recliner, rocking every single grandchild at some point or another. Poppaw has the best lap for napping. Having the family together for meals, putting the leaf in the table so we'd have enough room. Sparklers on the 4th of July. The painting in the bathroom and how that became our best family joke. All my mom's decorations, for all the holidays. 

There are hard memories too, and I know those matter. 

 Some of those moments within those walls are burned into my soul forever. I will never forget how it felt to sit in my parents living room and make a call to the funeral home about my brother. I will forever remember bringing the urn with my brothers ashes to my parents home and placing it on their mantle. As long as I live I  will never, ever be able to get past the look of absolute horror and dread and grief on my parents faces the day my brother died. I walked through their door and collapsed into my moms arms and I'm still not sure which one of us held the other up. It was the worst day of any of our lives and my parents, my  parents who did everything they could and tried so hard and have wonderful good hearts, had to bear the brunt of that pain. I don't know how they survived. Sometimes I don't know how any of us did.

Who I am as a person was either forged or solidified inside that home. 

I am not sure how to let that go.


My brother, the epitome of who he  was, is in that home too. The absolute best and the absolute worst memories of him. 

That's the harder part to let go.

It goes though. It all goes. 


I am thankful my parents are still here and so strong. I am thankful for their healing, however and whenever it comes. My greatest desire is that the rest of their lives are as happy as they can possibly be. I know that distance is not stronger than love. I know that good things come again. I know that the first part of growing feels like breaking. I know not all positive changes feel positive in the beginning. 


People are not houses. 

No one can take my memories from me.

Still. I will miss that little white house and all the beauty and pain within it. 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Freely given

 Yesterday morning I woke up in a panic.

This is not unusual. Most days of my life my panic attacks wake me up. This has nothing to do with my brothers death, however it has gotten worse in the last 372 days. 

This felt different though. 

I fell apart a week ago today. Maybe I needed to fall apart. Maybe I've been forcing myself to hold it together for way too long. I have not stopped doing all.the.things. and in fact? I keep adding new things. Anything to avoid feeling my feelings. 


This doesn't work. 

It...just doesn't work.

What happens instead is I spend all week doing all.the.things and by Sunday I am basically comatose. Saturday night to Sunday morning is typically the only time I get uninterrupted sleep. Monday thru Saturday I am up with the sun and doing all the things. I often teach two fitness classes (and twice a week ALSO weight train) before sitting down at my desk to start my workday. I smile and laugh my way through. All my work is "social". Peopley. I am friendly and fun and I smile and then at the end of the workday (which is sometimes really late depending on my workload for my full-time job and if I'm teaching an evening class) I lay down in my bed, turn on YouTube, and stop thinking. Stare at the wall. Get up and take the dog out. Lay back down and stop thinking again.

There is no joy in anything. I am doing the things. I smile and laugh and go through every motion of everything I need to do, but there is no joy.

I am familiar with this. I lost 200 pounds and maintenance is a slog. An absolute SLOG. I have been working really hard for over a year to build muscle and it's just...hard. I pick up the heavy weights and put them back down. Over and over. Week after week. Does my body significantly change each week? Absolutely not. In fact, I struggle sometimes to see the changes even after over a year of doing this again and again. Every workout is not Instagram worthy. MOST workouts are not Instagram worthy. 

How do you stay motivated? People ask me this all the time and the answer is, honestly, I don't. I am not motivated every day to do this. I want to lay in my bed sometimes. I want to cry sometimes. I want to just sleep sometimes. 

I am not always motivated.

I am dedicated. 

That's why I keep doing it.

I know I need to do these things. All.the.things. The work, the workouts, the teaching. I slap a smile on my face and have conversations with people who genuinely love and care about me, even though I feel entirely unlovable and awful most of the time. I am cultivating what comes next. I am making connections for the future, some distant time when this isn't all so horrible and awful. I can't push everyone away, even though that is always my first instinct. Everyone I meet is for a reason and I genuinely, 100% believe this.

I keep believing. It's all so hard, but I keep believing.

I woke up different yesterday morning. My heart was racing, as always, but yesterday? The voice in my heart and my head was booming. 

Your grief is a gift.

Which is ridiculous, right? Because of course it's ridiculous. This grief has weighed me down heavier than a million pounds of stones on my back. I have cried oceans of tears. The enormity of this loss is breathtaking. This grief, this traumatic grief, is the absolute worst thing I have ever experienced.

Still. The pounding. The booming of this statement in my brain.



 On the day my brother died my manager called me and I started talking. I still have no idea what I said. I wept. I spewed. All the pain and agony just came out. All the effort and energy I exerted for years, trying to deal quietly with what had clearly become an a huge issue, pushed through the floodgates. It was coming out. For so long I tried to hide the awful reality of what was happening with him and suddenly, violently, and tragically every bit of this pain was laid bare for the world to see.

I wasn't ready.You can never be ready.

This unburdening continued for weeks. I said everything. I cried. I was honest. I fell apart. 

When I came up for air? I was horrified.

What had I done? This was my boss. This was someone who seemed to like me, but he didn't need to know me in this painfully intimate way. I was so ashamed of myself for being so open. I was so humiliated that I was so...human.

You know what happened?

He has become a close friend. I have been able to support him through tough things. We have continued to have a fantastic working relationship. He's been extremely encouraging and supportive of me in my career goals and is helping me make them happen. He's looked out for me in ways that a brother would, and it's lovely. It's really, really lovely.

Your grief is a gift. Your vulnerability is a GIFT. 


I decided to be myself with another co-worker. One who I have known for a while but haven't felt fully comfortable being myself around.  One day I decided I was going for it. He would either love me or be completely horrified at my behavior, but either way I would know. We immediately clicked. We rapid-fire memes back and forth all day long. We text all weekend.  I feel comfortable with him. He makes me laugh. 

My brother used to rapid-fire memes back and forth with me all day. My friend is funny like Chris was and he makes me laugh like Chris did. Another person stepping in to fill that role. A blessing. 

Neither  of these men are my brother. There is no replacement for him. Both stand in the gap in ways that are beautiful. Completely different, but beautiful.

This is a gift.


I have met so many people, by chance and by introduction, who have losses as great as mine. I have held hands, hugged, and offered tissues to dry tears. I have shared my experience and listened as they shared theirs. I have felt their pain and they have felt mine.

It's hard. It's so, so hard to be so vulnerable with people. 

It's a gift.  Our stories are a gift. Our shared experiences are our connection. It's beautiful. Horrible, painful and completely beautiful.

I don't love many people. Loving is a risk that I am not always willing to take. Too many times I've loved and given my heart so freely, only to have it absolutely stomped upon by the people who are supposed to love me. I'm cautious and I probably always will be. I think that's fair. I think that's actually smart. I don't trust and even though I'm pretty quick to forgive, I honestly struggle to move past. Fool me once and all that.

My brother was an addict and a lot of people think he was a piece of shit because of that and that makes me alternately really sad and really angry.

He was so much more than his addiction. Addiction is horrible. It's a beast. He was not a perfect person. He hurt many people, including me. I'm never, ever going to say anything otherwise. I loved him, and part of that love was an acceptance of sorts. This was the brother I had, good and bad. 

He deserved dignity and respect. He deserved love and kindness. He was not just an addict. He was not JUST an anything. 

No one else is either.

The last few years, people have been increasingly difficult. Lots of hatefulness, lots of rhetoric that is unhelpful and (mostly) untrue. This loss, this grief, has taught me that people are more than their worst moments. They are more than the hateful things they say. People are scared and vulnerable. Everyone is doing what they think is best. I believe this. I don't always understand it, and Lord knows people probably don't understand what I think is best sometimes either, but in my soul I believe that people really think they are doing the right thing. 

If I judged anyone I am no better than the people who think my brother didn't deserve to live because he was an addict.

I am no better than the people who couldn't see, or didn't want to see, all the really beautiful things about Chris, because all they saw was his addiction.

If I only look at these tiny pieces of people, I am not seeing the wholeness of who they are as human beings. No one is JUST an anything. Chris wasn't. I'm not. No one is. 

Recognizing this is a gift.


The process is not easy.

This will never be easy.

I would always and forever rather have my brother here with me. I can't. He's gone to me as long as I walk this Earth. I am accepting this. I hate it, but I'm accepting it.


I want to have joy in my life. I want to honor my brother and his memory. I want to be the Aunt that all the kids love. I want to be a bright light for others. I want to recognize and hold this grief, not because it's fun or easy, but because all of this is a gift to me to force me out of where I was.  


There is nothing beautiful about suicide. There is nothing beautiful about the fact that a beautiful human had a blindingly short life. There is nothing beautiful about the pain I feel, and will continue to feel, in losing this person that meant so much to me.


What is beautiful is turning these wounds into wisdom. Asking for the support you need. Being unafraid in the face of the demons that haunt you. 

Finding joy again.


Not today, but someday. 


Today I'll recognize the gift.

I'll appreciate the gift.

I'll accept the gift.



When I'm ready, the joy will come back.

I will let it come with a grateful heart.


I am thankful for these gifts. This pain. These lessons.