Remembering Ryan…

On Saturday in honor of our son, Ryan, who passed away two years ago, my husband Michael and I sent two sky lanterns floating into the night sky.

They went pretty far and climbed really high.

High enough I hope Ryan saw them.

If he did, I hope he smiled.

Miss you, Ryan – every day!

1988-2014Ry's Lanterns

#‎Inmemoryof‬ ‪#‎MissyouRy‬


Happy Father’s Day!

For our family, Father’s day is laced with small smiles shining through tears as we wish there were more memories to be made with Warren, Joseph, and Ryan.

My dad, Warren Catlin died when I was young, and so was he. For years, it was hard to face this holiday with only his pictures. But now, I see glimpses of him in my son’s eyes and smile, and in the faces of other family members. Even after all of these years…he’s still with me.

Michael’s dad, Joseph Wozniak instilled in Michael a love for the game of golf. I don’t think there is ever a time when Michael approaches a golf shot that he doesn’t hear his dad’s voice in his head…He still carries his dad’s putter in his golf bag, so Joe never misses a round.

I’ve seen my husband, Michael guide his children with faith and a gentle spirit. Sharing with them the things he loves. A few years ago Ryan made his dad a mix CD. On it, he wrote “Happy Father’s Day.” Michael listens to it all of the time, remembering shared music moments with a son who is no longer here to celebrate Father’s Day with him.

I was remembering their love and their legacies when I started looking through our pictures for some of our son, Ross and his boys.

First, I found the one of him gently grabbing Dax’s hand leading him away from the dangers in the parking lot that a toddler doesn’t yet understand.

Then, I found one where he is walking with and calming a fussy Slayde.

And my heart swells. He’s a good dad.

A patient dad who will teach his boys about things they will grow to love. Like football and music. And those little boys will look up to and look like their daddy.

And in each moment, big and small, new Father’s Day memories are being made, built on a legacy of love.

Happy Father’s Day! ‪#‎HappyFathersDay‬

13435401_10154140927923260_205142291658739742_nFrom Top left: Michael, Ross and Dax, Ross and Slayde, My dad, Warren, with me, Ryan and His Grandpa (Michael’s Dad) Joe.



quotescover-JPG-94It was around 6:30 p.m. last evening when messages started coming at me from all different forms of media. Texts. Facebook. Emails.

I had two friends in crisis, one child in need, and a beloved family member who was spending another evening facing the heartbreak from a terrible tragedy that happened earlier this week.

Swirling around with these things was debris from an argument with my husband earlier in the day. An argument I wasn’t fully over yet – even though he’d already apologized – I was having one of those days when I wasn’t quite ready to let go of my anger and forgive.

With all of this weighing on me, by 8:30 p.m., I was done.

I’d reached my limit.

So, I laid out a pillow and blanket for my husband, and before he even got home from work, I made my escape.

I needed my bed and a dark room so I could focus on this problem, and pray about that one. My head was spinning, and my heart was slowly going under.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those nights where it’s all just too much.

We all have our limits.

I didn’t know where to begin. I had prayers I needed to say; for grieving friends, friends facing major challenges, friends needing healing, and for the forgiveness I wanted to offer my husband that hadn’t yet reached my heart.

The turmoil inside was like a bowl of tangled spaghetti – I couldn’t unravel it all.

I was starting to feel hopeless.


A dangerous place to be.

So I gave up.

Instead of thrashing, and grasping, and trying to keep the thoughts in my head from making trails down my face, I reached for His hand.

And let Him pull me up.

Although I’d reached my limit, I turned it all over to The One who has none.

And He gave me rest.

And this morning, I woke up.




The problems may still exist, but I’m reassured.

It’s like somewhere in between the darkness and the dawn I’d had a big cup of His Mercy…

And I feel new this morning

So I got up and headed downstairs. I stopped by the coffee pot and grabbed two steaming mugs.Then I made my way into the den, where I found the one my soul loves curled under the blanket I’d left out for him.

And I hugged him, and I held him.

And I apologized. And I forgave.

And I meant it.

And I began again…


What’s Your Untold Story




As a young child, my father became ill. Terminally ill. He passed away when I was just five years old.

His death brought much change into my life. We moved across the state to be closer to family. I had to change kindergartens halfway through the school year.

My mother remarried quickly. Another move. That marriage fell apart quickly. Another move.

And it changed the way I thought of myself too. I was different from my friends; I was “the little girl without a daddy”.

Dad and I

But, I marched on. And I never let it stop me. Or sideline me.

Or did I?

With all of the loss in my life I felt anyone could lean on me in his or her time of sorrow.

When my husband lost his dad and then less than a year and a half later lost his mom it was a painful time. But I was strong. I thought I was the perfect person to help him in his deep grief. But was I?

When we lost our son (my Stepson) Ryan, the strong person I had always been began to unravel…

This loss was harder, the hurt much deeper. This time I couldn’t be strong.

Life and Art, Art and Life

I’m currently in the process of editing a fiction manuscript I’ve written called Envelopes of Hope. In this book, the main character, Haddison Chandler lost her husband and her child in a devastating car accident four years ago.

Immediately after her loss she tried reaching out; she kept going to church, she started therapy. But eventually, she shut down, turning inward.

The book opens with Haddie in a stuck car. A blizzard is coming and her car is literally stuck in the snow and ice. Like her car, Haddie is stuck, too, but she can’t see that.

The mind is both powerful and protective. We remember things we should forget, and forget things we should remember as we try to get over our heartbreak to the other side of sadness.

I’ve been open about my grief over losing Ryan. I have a journal I’ve kept I call Meanderings in the Mindfield. I’ve recorded most of the events surrounding his death and my feelings about them, I still add to it often.

While working on Envelopes of Hope, my feelings about the death of my dad began to seep into Haddie’s character journey. As she was forced to face her pain, I began to see the ways in which I stuff mine down into a locked vault deep in my soul.

For example, I seldom discuss my childhood, not the good times, and especially not the painful ones. The hospital that took care of my dad during his illness was hours away from home. My mom stayed with him there, while our aunts and uncles cared for my brother and me. This led to long days of hanging out with our cousins, which at the time seemed like a never-ending sleepover. But from my adult vantage point I find it difficult to look at the pictures captured during that time, knowing they were taken in the last months of my dad’s life.

I constantly talk to others about the importance of sharing their feelings about their loss, yet I’d chosen to grieve silently. The grief I felt about my dad’s early death was my untold story and being unable (unwilling) to acknowledge my pain was keeping me stuck.

What’s Your Untold Story?

We all face pain in our lives: broken hearts, divorce, loss of a job, the death of a loved one, a dream that didn’t come true…

And in this fast paced world we often stuff the pain down deep, where we don’t have to think about it and on we go.

Until we find ourselves searching, trying to find that next thing, when what we really need is healing.

How do we tell our story? Who will listen?

How do we tell our story when the pain is so raw? And who do we trust with our pain?

Some people pour out their hearts to a close friend. Some go to a grief group and discover kindred spirits who share a similar story.

I’ve done a little bit of both.

But for me, healing came when I allowed my naked emotions to flow from my pen onto the page.


I’ve written over 55,000 words in my Meanderings in the Mindfield journal. Words I’ll probably never read—they’re just too honest.

Grief is such a murky place, but God revealed Himself during my heartbreak.

He was reaching out to me, by speaking to me through scripture, showing me signs through nature, and sending people with similar experiences who bravely faced down their pain to comfort me on my grief journey.

Unearthing my buried feelings in ink opened the vault to the heart of that little girl who thought she’d faced all of those changes alone.

Guess what – she didn’t. I was raised with a foundation of faith, built by my mom, and enriched by time spent at my childhood church.

And that faith has seen me through.

That faith has allowed me to (finally) hand my untold story to the Wonderful Counselor. His healing grace has chased away the clouds of my past, so they no longer block the love I have to offer. In Him I am light.

The Tapestry of Your Past

Is there pain buried deep inside of you? Do you have scars you don’t dare look at?

If so, it’s time you told your hidden story.

As we enter into the second month of this brand new year, I want to encourage you to take the time to look at the tapestry of your past and to finally open any buried vaults.

Call a trusted friend, book an appointment with a counselor or pastor, find a support group, or just open a new notebook and start writing on that blank page.

It’s important work to do. And you never have to do it alone.

God is always there for you.

He is the courage you need to look at those dark places. Ask Him to guide you.

Yes, your history will always be a part of your story. But, if you let Him, God can walk you out of the pain and into the light where past hurts no longer have such a grip on your future.

Make 2016 the year you give your untold story to Him—He’s been waiting—there’s nothing too difficult for Him, and no part of you that He can’t heal.


A reluctant step…

I didn’t know this day would hit me so hard, but it has. Michael is at work, the girls have gone home, and I’m looking at the Christmas tree, the nativity set, the carolers, and I know they have to go too…and…

I’m a wreck. Crying and ranting, and raving. And most of all reluctant.

There is something about losing someone, especially a young person that makes you look at the bigger picture. Often.

So I sit here, clinging to that last page in the calendar. I don’t want to let any of it go, not the decorations, not the laughter the girls brought with them while they were here, not the holiday season, not 2015.

Certainly, there wasn’t anything about 2015 that made it my best year ever I think as I walk myself through the disappointments I faced this year. They were mostly professional and I can live with that.

I think of friends who faced real hardships; lost loved ones, serious illness, cheating spouses and unwanted divorce. And I can’t do anything about their pain. My thoughts, my prayers, my love are all I have to offer. Tears flow again. I wipe them to clear my eyes so I can focus on the bright spots, joyous moments that lit up the place and made the year overall seem better than most. I’ve spent the last couple of days writing down goals. 2016 is a blank canvas and I have a lot of hope…after all, it could be my best year yet…


Walking out of 2015 means we walk further away from 2014, the last year that Ryan was here with us. Tears cloud my eyes again.

And so I’ll say it again, I’m reluctant to move from 2015 to 2016.

One of my goals for 2016 is to try to live more like Ryan did.

You see, Ryan had an amazing ability to live in the moment, knowing real joy was found in the simple things in life like: coffee (or should I say sugar water with cream) in the morning, making music with friends, and time spent walking in nature.

I’ve wondered how, at such a young age, he understood so fully what life is all about.

Then my phone buzzed with this text from his dad: “Hey Honey, look outside, it’s snowing.”

He knows I’ve wanted snow all holiday season. So he took time out of his day to be sure I would see it.

Like his son did, Michael lives in the moment, enjoying the simple things, like a few snowflakes on New Year’s Eve….

So I filled my coffee mug (no sugar for me, thank you) and found myself smiling as I watched the tiny flakes blow in…we may be saying good-bye to 2015, but Ryan will always be with us.

December, Day 25: Light

Last night at mass the Deacon talked about how this time of year we don’t see much daylight, mostly it’s dark, a lot.

During this season we light up our homes and businesses with twinkling lights leading us to Christmas Day.

Then he asked: “What will you do after those lights come down, will you continue to walk in the darkness or will you walk led by the light?”

No one has to walk in darkness because born on Christmas day is “The Light that leads to life,” “the blessed Hope” is here.

Jesus. Is here.

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12 (NLT)

May you feel the Light of the World in every pore of your being this Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you!