Knitting My Way to Clarity

Knitting’s addictive and it’s soothing, and for a few minutes anyway, it makes me feel closer to my mother.” ― Anita Shreve, Light on Snow

I am knitting.

“Not writing?” You might well ask.

No, I’m knitting. Knitting, I have discovered, is very conducive to writing, which, for me, always happens after a lot of thinking. Knitting allows you to sit and think.

Here’s my dilemma. Maggie’s Girls has too many characters. Some have to go. Maybe they will show up in another book but now they have to leave this one. The problem is, I have become fond of them. So, I’m knitting and I’m thinking. Who should I kick out?

Thinking is one of the great benefits of knitting, second only to the fact that you can’t eat while doing it. Something you can do while writing. Unfortunately.

I have a friend who often refers to “my culture”.  As in, “You know how in your culture…” Huh? I thought we were from the same culture. Obviously, from her perspective, we are not.

We have come through, more or less, months of nastiness, name-calling, finger-pointing, and shaming. Life-long friendships have been shattered and families polarized because it turns out that maybe we didn’t know each other as well as we thought. And those cracks continue to widen as we head into a new year.

Knitting my way through two small sweaters, ironically, one red and one blue, I have thought a lot about “my culture”.  And where I do come from and, upon even further thought, how that culture formed the values I try to live my life by.

I learned to knit when I was ten. Here’s what I remember: bright pink yarn, cream-colored needles with black tops, and lots of holes that were not supposed to be there. I remember my mother, my beautiful, hardworking, talented and extremely frustrated mother, trying to teach me what to do with my hands, the needles and the yarn I kept tangling.

Here’s a snapshot of “my culture”.  I am a blue-collar girl born in what was then considered to be a working-class suburb of Boston, two generations removed from Ireland, Italy and Switzerland. I was the second in my family to go to college, following my cousin to Salem State College in Salem, Massachusetts. My parents worked four jobs between them to pay for it.

My mother and father came of age in the heart of the Great Depression. Life was hard and nothing was taken for granted. They used and re-purposed – although it was not called that – everything and never missed a chance to earn a little extra money. For years my mother spent her evenings after working all day managing a bakery, making Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls – popular then – to earn some spare cash.

My grandmother was a dressmaker who carried her sewing box into the homes of wealthy Boston women in order to measure them and then make their clothes. My mother, too, was a talented seamstress tackling things liked bound buttonholes and French darts. I, on the other hand, was a disaster when it came to anything involving the needle arts.

Still, as was expected from girls of “my culture”,  I slogged my way through it all: several ill-fitting skirts and dresses, one quilt, a hooked rug, a crewel picture and numerous knitting projects. None of the output was more than marginal. My head was always in the book I was reading or the story I was making up. My mother despaired, often taking whatever I was making a botch of from my hands to fix and then finish for me.

Maggie’s Girls is a story of mothers and daughters and of sisters – several groups of sisters. This should not come as a surprise as I write Women’s Fiction. The older women, the Hudson sisters: Honoria, Grace, Stasia and Charlotte come from the heart of “my culture”.

It turns out that I do a lot of ripping out when I knit. Sometimes, I lose my way in the pattern and as the Irish say, it all goes wrong. Not at all unlike what I have to do as a writer when a character takes an abrupt right turn from the plot.

So I sit and I knit and I think about which characters have to go.

Sometimes, for just a moment,  I feel my mother’s hands gently guiding mine and then she’s gone.


When the Writer Goes Missing

It’s Gerard,” she called over her shoulder. “St. Gerard Majella. He’s the patron saint of women in trouble in childbirth. My mother was devoted to him.  Brid Sheerin  – Francesca’s Foundlings. 

Two years ago, I wrote a story, Francesca’s Foundlings, about a young woman who developed a life-threatening complication during her pregnancy.  I try to make sure that my fiction is as accurate as possible and I did considerable research on this condition before inflicting it on my character.

Last July, in a twist of fate where life mirrored fiction, my daughter faced this same condition as she awaited the birth of her child. There are 2,986 miles between Boston and Dublin, Ireland. Never have I been more thankful to live in a time of texting and instant messaging as I awaited news of the latest scan of the baby or reading of her blood pressure.

“Do NOT come,” she kept ordering me from her hospital bed during that seemingly endless week when I learned the true meaning of words like: harrowing, terrified, courage, hope and, at last, very early on Friday morning, pure joy.

I spent the month of August in Ireland, watching the swans glide along the Royal Canal, helping one very tiny boy discover the world he arrived in so precipitously. When you are taking care of a newborn, that’s really all you do. Life stands still. It provided me with a lot of time for quiet reflection. Ideal conditions for a writer.

McCullough’s Women and Francesca’s Foundlings are stories of friendships between women. Some are related and others start out as enemies. Maggie’s Girls, the third book in the Lynton Series, continues this theme but also explores what it means to be a mother. Toward the end of Francesca’s Foundlings, the reader meets Maggie Kennedy.

Maggie’s Girls is her story. Holding my grandson, I thought a lot about the bonds that develop between and a mother and her child. I think you will like Maggie. I hope you do.

How this writer feels.
How this writer feels…

Home now, once again thankful for the videos and photos that greet me every morning, I am trying to get back on task and focus on Maggie’s Girls.

I want to thank all of you who kept checking my Facebook page for updates over the last few months. I am sorry I neglected you but as you now know, it was for the best of all possible reasons. I promise to be better about posting on the page. I am excited to get back to writing.

I am also grateful to St.Gerard for hearing our prayers. My mother, like Brid’s, was devoted to him.


Where the Names Come from

“A rose by any other word would smell as sweet.” –  William ShakespearePicture of a rose“So where do you get the names for your characters?” People ask.

The answer is, I beg, I borrow and I steal them. I also make them up.

Here are some examples:

Desmond Sbeerin

I love the name Desmond. We have a dear friend who lives in Dalkey, Ireland with that name. I borrowed the name from him and he was gracious enough to let me. I chose Sheerin as the family name because, while not as well-known as Murphy, or even Malone, it is an Irish name. Once again, I borrowed it. My maternal great-grandfather, Patrick Sheerin, owned a bar or “saloon”, not unlike the original Ceol agus Craic, in Boston around the turn of the last century. From the first moment I envisioned this character I knew his name was Desmond or Des Sheerin.

Francesca Chiesa

Francesca Chiesa was my paternal great-grandmother, my father’s beloved Nona. I always loved the name.  I asked permission of the “senior” cousin on that side of the family to use it. I am happy to think that Nona’s name lives on in my novel.

Nick Benincasa

Nick’s name is stolen, from a saint, no less. Di Benincasa is the family name of St. Catherine of Sienna. I thought it was a perfect name for a plumber of Italian descent.

Drew MacCullough and Lilah Patch

Two examples of names that I made up from thin air. I wanted a Scot name as a counter-point to Brid’s name, which is Irish, and I liked the sound of MacCullough. The character was neither an “Andy” nor an “Andrew” and thus Drew McCullough was born.

Lilah was conceived in a moment of whimsy with a nod to a dynamic lady I once worked for whose name was Lilla. I liked the way the name sounded and I think it fits this character.

Here are some general guidelines I use when choosing a name:

  • Match the name to the nationality or ethnicity of the character or use names popular at the time the character was born.
  • Don’t use weird names unless you want the character to be viewed as weird, in which case, a weird name fits.
  • Make sure you offer an explanation if the name is unusual or out of time or place. An example of this would be Franny explaining to Nick why her name is Francesca.

I was still working in corporate training when MacCullough’s Women was published. My boss congratulated me on my great pen name. I laughed and asked, “What do you mean?”  He said, ” Your name, Ferrari. Like the car. Great choice.” I said, “I am Kathleen Ferrari.”  He said, “I know. Great pen name.” I tried again. “No,” I said,”I was born Kathleen Ferrari. It’s my name.” He couldn’t get over that.

I have been married twice. Both times I have taken my husbands’ surname as my own. Shortly before I was married the first time, I needed to get a passport in a hurry. This required a trip into Boston to the federal building for immediate processing. My father drove me “in town” as he, a Boston boy, always referred to the city. The plan was for me to take the train home. At the last moment, my dad decided he would stay with me. Luckily, as it turned out, because the birth certificate I had with me did not have the seal of the city where I was born embossed on it.  “This won’t work,” the man behind the counter told me. At the sight of my dismayed face, he looked at my father standing next to me and asked, “Is this your daughter?”  He then explained that if my father signed an affidavit swearing that I had been born where and when the birth certificate I had with me said, they would accept that as sufficient proof to process the passport request.

We then had to wait for them to make the actual passport. I fretted that my name on the passport would not be the same as my soon-to-be married name. My father’s patience was wearing thin. He turned to me and said, “Listen. You’ll always be Kathleen Ferrari.”

I smile when I see the name on the books covers. He always believed I could be a writer. Using the name he bequeathed to me is my small way of thanking him for having faith.


My Dad
My Dad


Is there a fictional character whose name you particularly like or will never forget?


Going-to Girl signs up for NaNoWriMo

“It’s the witching hour once more – when the Muse comes out to play.” Belle Whittington


With some trepidation, I have signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month known as NaNoWriMo. If you have never heard of it, this is an internet-based creative writing project held every year during the month of November. The goal is to produce 50,000 words – the minimum for a novel – in thirty days.

It took me almost four years to finish writing Francesca’s Foundlings. I had retired from my day job to focus on writing, so this came as a surprise to me, although it shouldn’t have. I am a world-class procrastinator – my father used to call me “The Going-to Girl” because that was my standard answer when asked when I would do something. I am my own boss accountable for my time only to myself – unlike when I wrote MacCullough’s Women. Then, I got up before dawn and wrote for two hours before starting my day job.

In 2007, long before I conceived the idea of the Lynton Series, I fell in love with the idea of writing a novel about a mother and her daughters. This is, of course, a much-loved and familiar theme beautifully done by Louisa May Alcott in Little Women. The twist in my story is the mother has two daughters, one biological and the other her stepdaughter. Yes, I know. Also done before in Cinderella – that wicked, wicked stepmother- by the Brothers Grimm and others.

The vilification of stepmothers is a theme close to my heart because I am one. Trust me a more difficult and less appreciated role does not exist. I wrote copious notes describing characters and potential scenes and then abandoned the story to finish and eventually publish MacCullough’s Women. While I was writing Francesca’s Foundlings, I realized Franny seemed to have no girlfriends. I knew while she was married to Drew he consumed her life but what about BD – before Drew? A light went on and the idea of how Maggie’s Girls could become part of the Lynton Series was born.

Just as Lilah Patch, the catalyst of Francesca’s Foundlings, makes her brief appearance in the Sheerin Gallery in MacCullough’s Women, first Maggie Kennedy and then her stepdaughter, Cookie, find their way through the door of Franny’s doll shop in Francesca’s Foundlings.

Maggie’s Girls will be the third novel in the Lynton Series. The focus will change but you will still find within its pages those familiar Lynton faces, I hope you have come to enjoy.

My plan is to use the discipline of NaNoWriMo to produce a first draft of this novel by –dare I say it? – November 30.

Writers are often a superstitious lot. I am no exception. Before I start a new novel, I like to find a talisman to help me focus on the project.

Yesterday, while treating myself to a visit to the League of NH Craftsmen shop, I found this. I thought it was appropriate for NaNoWriMo. We all remember Aesop’s tale of the race between the tortoise and the hare.



Francesca's Foundlings

At Last: Francesca’s Foundlings

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to a develop a thick hide.”  Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird was first published in 1960. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and gave to American literature, Atticus Finch, one of the most beloved characters ever imagined by a writer. A reported forty million copies of the book have since been sold.

Harper Lee never wrote another book after she wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. Her recently published Go Set A Watchman is the original draft of a story that evolved into the book so many of us first read in school and came to cherish.

I realize it might seem very presumptuous of me to compare myself to Harper Lee. However, if Harper Lee hesitated, you can only imagine how hard, indeed, terrifying, it is for the small indie writer to “do it again.”

I have wanted to be a writer since I was in the fourth grade. My father, always my champion, urged me on. Life and a lack of courage intervened. I wrote and published MacCullough’s Women four years ago to see if I could be a writer. Enough people told me they enjoyed it for me to feel good about having written it. I had written a book. “See that, Dad!” I told my long-dead father.

While I was working on MacCullough’s Women, the idea of creating a series of four books set in my fictional little city of Lynton, New Hampshire began to grow. My novels are character-driven and I love my characters. They are almost real to me. As much as I was happy and relieved to finish the book, I also felt a sense of loss. What was going to become of Franny? Were Brid and Neil going to have more than a fling? Would Sofia ever grow-up?

I am happy to offer you Francesca’s Foundlings, the second book in the Lynton Series. Francesca’s Foundlings is the story of an unconventional family, complete with an imperious cat and a grieving Tibetan terrier, created from need and bound together with love. In today’s global world, where individuals often live far from the families into which they were born, you will discover more and more families like this one. Maybe even your own.

Cover for Francesca's Foundlings
Cover for Francesca’s Foundlings

The Lynton Series is about women and the men they love. Women who though flawed, prove themselves to be resilient and willing to change in order to meet the challenges life throws at them. Women very much like those who read my books.

Roskerry Press has just launched the e-book version on Amazon (link to Kindle version).  If you do read it soon, please post a review.

The paperback version will be released later this fall.

Thank you all for your interest and support. My readers (you!) are the best.









Why I Vote

Have you ever stopped to ponder the amount of blood spilt, the volume of tears shed, the degree of pain and anguish endured, the number of noble men and women lost in battle so that we as individuals might have a say in governing our country? Honor the lives lost for your freedoms. Vote.”  Richelle E. Goodrich

 Will you vote today? I ask because so many people won’t. One of the many political canvassers who called yesterday told me turnout is expected to be light this year. The caller asked me to please vote.

I vote, and I always will, not from any deep-rooted sense of civic duty but because of the actions of one man whose name was never on a ballot.

Shortly after I turned twenty-one, I registered to vote. It was June and I drove to the town hall with my birth certificate in hand. With no more fuss than that I became a registered voter.

I came home from college the following November to cast my first presidential vote. It was exciting. I lived in a small town with only one polling place, the gym at the high school. When I reached the head of the line of people waiting to vote, the woman checking off the voters could not find my name on her list. I was bitterly disappointed.

My parents were both there. My mother was a poll watcher and it was my father’s school. So, of course, he was there.

I imagine most small towns in America are the same. In my rural Massachusetts town, everyone knew everyone else. My father, the school custodian, was standing near the door of the gym, making small talk with people as they came and went. I walked over to him. “They can’t find my name on the list.”

“What?” He said. “Come with me.” I followed him across the busy room to where the town clerk was standing.

“She registered last June and she’s not on the list,” my father said after first addressing the man by name. A name I have long forgotten.

“She must be.” The man walked back to where the woman was checking in the voters. Reading over her shoulder, he scanned the list. “ You’re right. She’s not here,” he said. My father said nothing.

“You know, Bud, now that I think about it, there may be a list with more names in a folder at town hall.”

“Let’s go get it.” My father turned and started toward the door leaving the other man no choice but to follow him.

The three of us drove to town hall. Dad and I watched as the town clerk unlocked a file cabinet drawer.

“I thought there might be more. These must not have been added to the voting list.” He was happy to provide a solution.

We drove the ten minutes back to the school. The town clerk handed the list of names to the lady guarding the voting list. “Add these names. We somehow overlooked them,” he said. “And give this young lady her ballot.” My father smiled, thanked the man, and returned to his post near the door.

I voted, casting my ballot for the man who would win that November day. Less than two years later, he would resign the office. My father did not live to see it.

Politics are messy and the rhetoric grows increasingly ugly. Constantly bombarded by social media and intrusive phone calls, it is easy to become disillusioned with the process. It’s easy to talk yourself into believing that your vote doesn’t matter.

Thirty years before that day in the school gym, my father landed in North Africa with the Allied forces. It was the start of a bloody trek up the boot of Italy, including the battle for Monte Cassino, that would result in the liberation of Rome.

Evil today does not wear a swastika. Instead, it hides its face and waves a black and white flag. Evil’s intent, though, remains the same: murder and enslave people and deprive them of their right to be heard.

“What’s the point of voting? My vote doesn’t matter. Nothing ever changes.”

What my father knew and taught me that day in 1972 was the point of voting is that we can.


John L. Ferrari in Italy during WWII
John L. Ferrari in Italy during WWII

What they left Me

“There is no death, daughter. People die only when we forget them,’ my mother explained shortly before she left me. ‘If you can remember me, I will be with you always.” ― Isabel Allende, Eva Luna

This has been a cold and stormy winter. I have lived in New England all my life, first in Massachusetts and now in New Hampshire, with time off for good behavior on the coast of Maine. The cold and snow should not come as a surprise to me. This winter, however, has seemed endless with no sign of spring.

Last weekend, in protest against the continuing gloom, I decided to have a small dinner party as a belated celebration of St. Valentine’s Day. The color scheme was red and white and the weather, in a rare spirit of co-operation, provided a backdrop of pristine new snow.

I have noticed that many people set their tables with new dishes and contemporary glassware when we are invited out these days. I am told, “It was time for something new. We decided to get rid of that old stuff.”

Not me. I still use my old stuff. Setting the table last Saturday, as the snow fell outside, the ladies came back, as I knew they would, and watched me to make sure I was taking care of the things they left me.

I arranged the red and white roses in the cut glass vase my mother gave me when I was first married more than forty years ago, remembering, as I always do, the story of why it was given to her.

I grew up in Littleton, Massachusetts during the fifties when it was a small town referred to as “ going up to the country” by my Boston area relatives. Everyone knew everything about their neighbors and there was a fair bit of cattiness among the ladies.

That being said, people quickly banded together in times of trouble. The mother of one of mom’s friends was very sick and needed an operation that would require a blood transfusion. This was before blood was easily banked and available. The woman had the same rare blood type as my mother – A Negative. My mother went down to Concord and donated as much as she could. After the woman’s death, her daughter invited my mother to come and select something from her things as a thank you. Mom chose the vase. As my hands linger, fussing with the roses, I think as I always do when I touch this vase about my mother’s generous heart.

The dishes I use are cream-colored and sprinkled with nosegays of spring flowers. The pattern is called “ Old Ivory Selma” and it was made by the Syracuse China Company. Below the label is stamped “Made in America”. These dishes belonged to my great-aunt and godmother, Viola Duggan. She wanted me to have them, her son told me, because my mother and father had given her the set as a wedding gift in November 1940. I think of the many happy, boisterous meals these dishes have served our family. Whenever I use them, I see my mother and her Aunt Vi, standing at the kitchen sink deep in conversation washing and drying them by hand. I hear my Aunt Vi say as she often did, “Now listen, Gertrude.”

There is a wealth of Waterford crystal on the table. Water glasses, wine glasses, salt and pepper shakers in the Lismore pattern, crowned by the glittering chandelier hanging overhead. My mother-in-law, Bernice O’Connor, gave the Waterford crystal to us and whenever I use it, I think of her. Waterford has a gem like quality, glittering brightly in the glow of the candles. Even the most pedestrian wine tastes better when it is served in Waterford; it makes everything seem more festive.

Bernice was like that, too. She was a military wife who carefully collected and protected the crystal as she moved from one army base to another, rounding out her collection when her husband was the Military Attaché to Ireland. She could make having a cup of tea at her kitchen table feel special. I miss her and when I stand back to admire her crystal, I remember how welcome she made this late-to-the fold daughter-in-law feel.

“Why do you keep that old stuff?” I am sometimes asked. “The kids don’t want it.” Maybe they do and maybe they don’t. I keep it and I use it for me. Standing in the doorway making sure the table is set correctly, those three much-loved ladies are back with me again and I love it.


A table set with memories.
A table set with memories.

For the Love of Grace

You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.—Robert Louis Stevenson (author, Treasure Island)


Admiral Grace 2002 - 2013
Admiral Grace 2002 – 2013

Grace trotted into our lives during a time of great sorrow. Our English Springer Spaniel, Admiral Halsey, had recently died tragically. He was six and half years old. Almost demented with grief, I desperately needed another dog. Grace was available because at the last minute the family she was destined for decided they didn’t want a black dog. Grace was left behind when her brothers and sisters went to their new homes. All her life she was slightly anxious and those two weeks alone with her mother may have been the reason why.

Halsey was a beautiful dog, bearing a striking resemblance to his grandsire, Salilyn’s Condor, who won Best of Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1993. He completed four levels of obedience, earning the equivalent of a PHDog. Grace had big paw prints to fill. Knowing her as I do now, I realize if she had found those paw prints she would have squatted over them, the same way I have seen her squat over Halsey himself in the dog cemetery on Bailey Island.  Grace was not impressed. You could almost see her thinking, Halsey, Halsey, Halsey! Who gives a damn about old Halsey? whenever his name came up.

A smallish English Cocker Spaniel, Grace was not, as they say in the dog world, “typey”.  Her nose was too long, her chest too narrow and her feathers not curly enough.  Grace, however, thought she was “such a pretty girl” because we told her she was and so did the many people who admired her during her walks around the North End of Nashua. We named her Grace, after Admiral Grace Hopper. All our dogs were admirals thus outranking Mike who is a commander.

Serious Grace

Grace distinguished herself in other ways. She failed Obedience Level One and had to repeat it. Ate her Gentle Leader. Never learned “Leave it.” but cleverly taught us to “Trade.” (for food, of course) instead. She was also iffy on “Come.” but would turn up for an obnoxiously loud plastic whistle we used as a last resort. She took the longest of any dog I ever owned to become housebroken, reluctantly agreeing after six months that, okay, the dining room was not part of “outside”. No roll of toilet paper was safe in her presence. When she was bored, she would go seek one out for her amusement. She was the only dog I have ever shared a bed with, causing us to upgrade to a king-size mattress. This did not last long because her idea of sharing consisted of sprawling horizontally between us pushing with all four legs. One of us woke up with a nose in the face and, the other, something worse.

She threw world-class temper tantrums with such force they caused her steel crate to move across the room and had long conversations with us making sounds like the chatter of a monkey. We referred to this as Grace’s “monkey talk”. One weekend before she was a year old she ate two pairs of prescription glasses costing over a thousand dollars. On the positive side, unlike Halsey (Halsey, Halsey, Halsey…) she was willing to dress up. She had several spiffy coats and happily posed for pictures.

Dressed for winter
Dressed for winter

She inherited a dog nanny from Halsey. Devoted to Halsey, Nanny was slow to warm up to Grace (Halsey, Halsey, Halsey…). Grace chose to ignore this and with her needle nose wormed herself straight into Nanny’s heart. Every Tuesday and Thursday, she would wait for the sound of Nanny’s bike bell and off they would go on an adventure.

She started licking the air when she was four; her long pink tongue, reminiscent of a frog’s, repeatedly flicking in and out of her mouth. This can be a sign of serious neurological problems so we took her to see Dr. Lisa Anderson, her vet. Nothing was physically wrong but it seemed Grace had “issues”.  Dr. Anderson sent us to a specialist in animal behavior, otherwise known as The Dog Shrink.

In my writing, I often explore relationships between men and women. How do you know if a man loves you? When Mike agreed to sit for a two and half hour session of family counseling while Grace slumbered on the floor at our feet, I knew for certain he loved me. (He still has no idea what that appointment cost.)  The Dog Shrink felt that Grace needed to bond with Mike. She was confused about the order of our pack. Mike needed to be the one to get up with her, feed her and walk her until her confusion cleared up. Because he loved me, he did, balking only at the suggestion that, at first, he loop her leash through his belt and take her everywhere, including the office. Grace figured it out. Every morning from then on they shared a banana unless the person responsible for the banana purchase screwed up. Mike made sure that Grace understood who that person was. As for the air licking, it was her way of coping with stress, and as a coping strategy, The Dog Shrink considered it to be very benign. She implied we should be careful not to cause the dog any stress!

Three years ago Nanny decided Grace needed a cat for companionship. We had a cat when Grace arrived but she was long gone. Nanny and I went off to the Humane Society and found PeekABoo, soon shortened to Booder. Within two weeks, Booder owned Grace.  Grace had several dog beds scattered throughout the house. The fancy wicker bed with the sheepskin in front of the fireplace in the living room was her first choice  as a spot to snooze. Booder liked it, too, much to Grace’s dismay. On the days Booder got there first, Grace would sit and stare at Booder who in turn would stare back only moving if I inserted myself and told her to get out of the dog’s bed.  On rare sub-zero winter days they would share.IMG_6532


Two years ago, I pointed out to Dr. Anderson that the top of the nails on Grace’s left rear foot were scraped. Sometimes, on our walks I would hear the sound of her nails dragging on the sidewalk. Dr. Anderson checked her reflexes and confirmed they were slow in her left hind leg. She said it was probably a sign of degenerative disk disease. “And where does this lead?” I asked. “Over time to paralysis.” she said.  There was a surgery. It was very expensive, the recovery was at least six months and the end results were often not ideal. “Is she in pain?” I asked. I was assured she was not. I decided not to put my neurotic air-licking ten year-old dog through it and the doctor supported my decision.

The following year the weakness in her leg became more noticeable. Dr. Anderson suggested we could try acupuncture and sent us off to Dr. Gretchen Ham. Grace loved Dr. Anderson but she adored Dr. Ham whose beautiful office on top of a New Hampshire mountain felt more like a study in a country house. Indifferent to the handful of needles Dr. Ham stuck in her back, Grace loved the ultrasound machine the doctor ran up and down her spine. She would tip her head back and croon sounds of pure joy. Dr. Ham gave us another good year.

In November we put a gate on the stairs going to the second floor after Grace took a terrible fall from which she walked away, although I don’t know how. By June, I knew. Her right leg began to give way on her, too. Mike and I noticed that her vision was deteriorating and Dr. Anderson confirmed cataracts advising against surgery. Grace slept more and more both here and in Maine. Nanny shortened her walks, letting Grace meander where she wanted. Having avoided the sun her entire black dog life, she took to basking in its heat  while sprawled in the grass sometimes rolling over to rub her back, her now silver ears spread out around her. She began falling more and more, both forward and backward, sometimes all four legs would go out from under her. I began to dread opening the crate in the morning afraid this would be the morning she would not be able to come out.

Sometimes, she seemed confused when she woke up. Not sure where she was or who we were. I had two tearful conversations with Dr. Anderson. She told me she could not make the decision for me but that in her professional opinion people err on the side of waiting too long. On Tuesday, I watched Grace fall backwards in a heap three times trying to get out of her bed, only to walk five feet and sink to the floor.  I don’t know if she was in actual pain but at that moment I knew for certain life was very hard for her. I knew the question was not how much Grace loved me – I never doubted that – but how much I loved her. I realized that even though my heart was breaking, I loved her enough to let her go.

Last Wednesday, Dr. Anderson gave Grace a sedative and she fell asleep in my arms and then we sent her on her way. The last words she heard were,  “Mama loves Grace.”

I know that many organized religions believe that animals don’t have souls and don’t go on to a better place. These same religions make a point of telling you that God is love. Anyone who has ever been loved by an animal knows that love is pure, unselfish and true. I believe that Grace ran toward the light arriving in a place filled with sunshine, soft grass and mountains of marrow bones there for the snatching. I hope that when my time comes I am judged worthy of joining her and that some times before I get there she cocks her head and remembers: Mama loves Grace.

Our beloved Gracie – how we miss her.












The Squeak Who Roared!

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will.”― Vince Lombardi Jr.

Among the many treasures my marriage brought to me were eleven nieces and nephews. My blog today is about one of them: Brigid McEvilly Wilson.

Her uncle nicknamed Brigid and her younger sister, “The Squeaks” because like most little girls they talked in high-pitched voices when they were excited.  Despite the nickname, Brigid tended to be on the shy side. While she was reserved, in everything she did, be it Irish Step Dancing, swimming, or her beloved horseback riding, she always participated with her whole heart.

One day I was sitting on the deck with my mother-in-law watching a swirl of grandchildren racing around and she leaned over to me and said, “Kathleen, you watch Brigid.”

We offered all of our nieces and nephews the opportunity to go to Outward Bound when they turned sixteen. Brigid was one of the kids who decided to go even though it involved getting on an airplane something she was terrified of and avoided whenever she could.

My husband and I picked her up at the end of her course. I was horrified to see a raw and painful abrasion on one of her legs extending from her ankle to mid-thigh. At that point it was several days old and it still looked awful. We asked her what happened.

“I slid down the rock face and scraped it. They said I could go home but I promised Gib (her grandmother) I would finish. So I stayed.”

Yesterday, she participated in the Timberman Ironman 70.3 in Gilford, NH. There were 2000 participants competing in an open water swim, bike race and half-marathon. Watching to see her as she came out of the water after her swim, I was slapped smartly on the arm as she flashed by me as if to say, “Hey, pay attention.”

Waiting for her to finish the bike race, the chair next to me was unoccupied, as her yellow bike streaked around the turn, I thought I heard her grandmother say,“Kathleen, you watch Brigid.” Her grandmother is gone now and when I turned the chair remained empty.

Brigid finished her race with a time of 5:57:48. We had such a wonderful time watching with her dad, Eamonn McEvilly and her husband, Todd Wilson, our brave and beautiful Brigid.



Facebook’s Siren Song

“One can be absolutely truthful and sincere even though admittedly the most outrageous liar.”  – Henry Miller

It is considered a “Best Practice” of blogging to end each post with a question. The point being, if you end with a question, you will stimulate your readers to make a comment. I admit that I haven’t had much luck with that, and as was recently pointed out to me by the anonymous blog reader I live with, I haven’t been doing it in my last few posts.

Today, in an effort to change things, I am going to start with a question. How soon after you get out of bed do you log onto Facebook?  You get up, brew your coffee, and log on. Right?  Okay, maybe you don’t, but the chances are great that you are “on Facebook” at some point because you are reading this blog.

Writers are funny. We are just like you, each with our own unique pluses and minuses; we also are constantly observing and taking notes.  What I have noticed is that Facebook provokes a whole spectrum of reactions. From what I have observed, people fall into three general categories: Love, Indifference, and Terror.

People who love Facebook are “on” it constantly. “Wait, just let me check my Facebook.”  Do you say that?  Are you one of those people who live your life in fear that you might have missed “liking” something? Have you ever said, “I can’t believe that she or he didn’t like that!”? Do you often push poignant, patriotic or religious requests to “please like this page or picture” out to you friends?  If you answered yes to these questions, then you love Facebook.

Indifferent Facebook users are people who originally got “on” to please someone else.  They are told, “You have to get on Facebook.” So they do. These people can by spotted instantly when they have no profile picture. You often hear them saying, “Nah, I’m never on that thing. Who has time for that?”  However, they often know or even better, live with, someone who loves Facebook and that person or persons reports back to them all interesting developments. My husband falls into this category. He misses nothing but remains pure. Sometimes these people even check Facebook out themselves. The difference is, they don’t hear its siren song.

Terrified peopled are those who believe Facebook will steal their souls, their spouses, children, pets, home, money, etc. I know some of these people. They believe Facebook is out to destroy them and all civilized society.

My Facebook story began with little fanfare five years ago. I had a friend who was battling cancer who asked me to join and be friends with her. I would have done anything she asked me to; it was not a big deal to signup. I made the usual mistakes like posting what should have been a private message on my page. Fortunately, the message was pretty tame, so no harm was done.

My daughter moved to Ireland in 2009.  Facebook provided me a way to know what she was doing in real time and also chat with her spontaneously. I saw pictures of her new friends and the neighborhood where she lived. It was a wonderful way to stay connected.I have two nieces in Arkansas I have never met, but because their mother post videos of them on her Facebook page, I feel I know them.  After I published my book, MacCullough’s Women, I set up an author page to connect to my readers.

Facebook is not without drawbacks. Like most powerful tools, it should be used with care. The information you place on your Facebook page can be seen by others and may be remembered. People both stalk and lurk, so security and privacy is critical.

I think, used correctly, Facebook is a good thing and brings people closer. I do check Facebook everyday, sometimes before I have my coffee.  What about you? Which category do you fall into?


My Facebook Page
My Facebook Page