Will the circle be unbroken?

If you’re at least as old as me, you might remember wearing a POW/MIA bracelet back in the early 1970s.I remember sending $3 and receiving mine thru the mail a couple of weeks later. His name was Fredric Mellor and he was from Rhode Island. I lived in Massachusetts at the time and was pleased that I had been assigned the task of holding hope for a fellow New Englander.

The years passed and the bracelet was lost, probably somewhere between moving to college, back again, then moving out when I got married. The Vietnam War ended. I was busy raising a family. The bracelet was gone. But, I always remembered his name and occasionally wondered if he had ever returned home.

Fast forward twenty years: In 1996, I met a man who was also a veteran of that awful war. His job was driving the traveling Moving Wall monument around the country. When he brought the Wall to Massachusetts, we spent time together. He educated me and reignited my passion for those who had been lost – especially those who had never been accounted for. Seeing Mellor’s name on that Wall touched me deeply. Ordering a replacement bracelet was easy and, with the click of my mouse, I soon had a brand new one bearing Mellor’s name. Modern convenience also led me to explore further. I learned that he remained MIA, among those men who never returned home to their families.

This time, I made sure the bracelet followed me during two subsequent moves, giving it a safe spot in my jewelry box. I didn’t wear it after my visits to the Moving Wall, but I’d see it whenever I went into the small, oak drawer and I’d say a little prayer for Mellor. He had started to feel like family and the fact that I had never known him mattered little. We were both Rhode Islanders now, which made me feel even more connected.

Now, another twenty years have passed. Thursday, I was waiting for my turn at the hairdresser’s. I picked up the latest edition of the local weekly paper that had been left on the empty seat next to me. Thumbing thru to pass the time, my eyes were drawn to an obituary that bore a familiar name. The headline read “Colonel Fredric M. Mellor.”

I was stunned. There was a photograph, finally putting a face to a name I had held close for nearly five decades. He was young, serious and handsome in his US Air Force uniform. His eyes were filled with pride, ambition and determination. Mellor was the first Rhode Island casualty of the war in Vietnam. He was a pilot. He was killed in action in 1965, about six years before I first wore his bracelet.

And he was finally coming home.

The article documented an impressive career. Mellor served his country well, enlisting as a radio operator but quickly applying for pilot training because he had always loved airplanes. He had earned a Bachelor’s degree in Military Science. On August 13, 1965, he was flying the lead aircraft on a mission to conduct photo reconnaissance of a suspected missile site in the Republic of Vietnam. He crashed due to hostile ground fire and he survived ejection from the plane, establishing radio contact as he tried to escape the enemy. But, contact was lost. Despite a two-day search, neither Mellor nor his aircraft were found.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for Valor and the Purple Heart medal, among others. But the fact that struck me hardest was that he had married and had a daughter before being deployed for active duty in Vietnam. She would probably have been a toddler when her father disappeared. She’d be in her fifties today. I wondered if she could even remember him. His parents and a brother were no longer living. Somehow, he felt even more like family now.

Mellor’s remains were recovered and identified on July 13, 2018, exactly one month shy of the 53rd anniversary of his death. He is expected to be received in Rhode Island September 26th with military honors. I’m planning to be there to welcome him home.


*As of June 20, 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel, US Military and Civilian personnel still unaccounted for totalled 1,597.


I sat looking around the table, gazing at these ten women who are my friends. Conversation ebbed and flowed, mostly including the entire group but occasionally breaking off into more intimate exchanges between two or three. I thought to myself, “How did I get so lucky?” I was surrounded by fierce, amazing women who are loving and caring and genuine. They have known me since we were 18 years old – another lifetime, really – Before cable television, VCRs, cell phones or the Internet. More importantly, before marriages, divorces, children, grandchildren. Before our parents became old and died, before our spouses got sick or died suddenly or left us to fight wars. Before careers that fulfilled, disappointed, ended. The ties that bind us have survived all of that, in addition to our own personal growing pains and an often unforgiving aging process.

Life moves forward and people change. Yet, we are as close as we have ever been. We meet a few times during the year but only once as a full group, without significant others or the pressure of time. For three days, we talk and share and laugh and, sometimes, cry. I learn so much from them. This pool of information, experience and wisdom is better than Google, encyclopedia Britannica and PBS combined.

I sat in awe.

Then, it was Saturday night. We put aside the heavy stuff and the board games. After a full day of feeding each other breakfast, packing a picnic lunch, hanging at the beach and making dinner, we set up a makeshift stage on the back deck. These smart, hard working, caring (and often exhausted) women entertained one another. With a three-day notice, each had put together a routine that included an original character, costume, dialog and song. We had props, music, giveaways and singalong lyrics. I laughed until I cried and I might have peed myself a little. It was a no-holes barred uproarious time, thanks to our prior agreement of no cameras. We returned to a pre-Facebook time when we could let ourselves be inappropriately raunchy, politically incorrect and, well, downright sacreligious.

It was amazing.

On Sunday, we said our goodbyes, commenting how quickly the time went and making promises to do it again, perhaps before another year escapes us. We returned to caring for our grandchildren, our aging parents, our homes and our jobs. We are teachers, nurses, social workers, fundraisers, coaches, caregivers. We are wives, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters. And, in the midst of all of that, we are friends. It’s a role that often falls by the wayside as our lives go in different directions and we juggle to balance all of those things. Despite ourselves, our bond grows stronger with time. They have been part of my life for 44 years. We are unique. We are incredible. We are phenomenal.

And, I am blessed.


Pink skin, freckled noses

Ponytails and blooming roses

Wet towels on the porch rail

Seashells in a sandy pail

Bare feet, shady trees

Bee stings and skinned knees

Scent of woodsmoke and charcoal

Lazy days, good for my soul

Sparklers and ice cream

Fireflies and moonbeams

Picnic blanket in the grass

Cottony clouds that slowly pass

Bike rides and baseball caps

Lemonade and mid-day naps

Stay out late because we can

Then sleep beneath a ceiling fan

Popsicles and swimming pools

Sprinklers for keeping cool

Thunderstorms, another reason

Summer is my favorite season

Babs, unplugged

My neighbors must shake their heads at my comings and goings lately. Seems all I do is load and unload my car: Props, costumes, cases of water, bottles of wine, snacks, chairs, tables, posters, tents….. and, although I live alone, the grocery bags are pretty much a daily thing. They must wonder, “How much can one woman consume?!”

I feel like an event planner at party central, between work affairs, book events, music commitments and my personal, social life. This juggler has too many balls in the air and one of them is bound to drop, unless I make some difficult (but necessary) changes.

I need to find a way to slow down within the confines of a very fast life.

Recently, it dawned on me that I am so harried preparing to run to the next thing that I am not fully enjoying what I am presently doing. As much as I love everything I do, it is humanly impossible to fully engage when your plate is this full.

God, give me the strength to endure my blessings.

Over the past couple of years, I have downsized the ‘stuff’ in my life drastically. Purging was a positive experience and left me feeling lighter and more connected to that which remains. But what about things that are not physical in nature? We cannot throw them into a dumpster or donate them, yet they weigh us down and drain our energy. I need to purge things unseen.

I am staging an intervention. For myself.

When there are two opportunities in the same day, my solution is to split the time between the two, so as not to miss anything. This past weekend, for example, I had two important invitations on Saturday. I attended the first for a few hours in the late afternoon before dashing off to the second for the rest of the evening. Sunday, the same thing. I had a book signing that ended at 1:00pm, which was the start time for a party that was happening an hour’s drive away. I did it all. No regrets. I learned an important lesson. The Monday morning tiredness I felt was different that the usual exhaustion. Instead of bone-weary, adrenaline-driven fatigue that I have been feeling, I was contentedly depleted. Instead of feeling lethargic, I felt slightly energized.

The heart that gives, gathers.

Maybe it’s not only about how much, but what, I do with my time. In addition to cutting back my obligations, perhaps I need to be more discerning about which ones I accept. After all, I like being active. Even those occasions when I swear I am going to sit on the beach or the couch for a day, I never make it past an hour or so. Then I’m desperately looking for something to do.

Sleep is an ongoing problem for me. I average 3.5 hours a night. I wonder if maybe my brain is unable to slow down after a typical day of social roulette. Being this booked means poor nutrition, too. I am far too busy to prepare healthy meals, which is why last summer’s clothes are mostly too tight. Exercise? Ha! You know how that goes… It always seems to be the first commitment to fall off the list.

So, I have a plan. Well, sort of.

It’s not reasonable to disband my responsibilities. Instead, I’ve decided to build in some short periods of time that will allow me to disconnect and refresh. For example:

  1. A quiet hour in the morning with a cup of coffee. Not television, no music, no phone. Not every morning, but when possible.
  2. One hour in nature, preferably by myself. A swim at the beach, a hike in the woods, relaxing under the big maple tree in the yard, a walk along the waterfront during lunchtime.

Along those lines, I’m going to make time for the things that I love to do but from which I have fallen away.

  1. I’m going to start reading again. I always had two books – what I was currently reading and one on deck, for when I finished the first. I lost the ability to concentrate two summers ago and stopped. Reading is a great way to escape without going anywhere.
  2. I’m dusting off my camera equipment. The convenience and improved technology of iPhone capabilities has rendered me lazy. It’s time to put in the effort. Because it was personally satisfying for me to take photographs. And photo shoots tend to be peaceful, since I prefer landscapes.

More is less?

How are additional tasks going to make me feel less harried? I’m hoping that my commitment to these events will result in my saying ‘no’ to some other ones. Before accepting new responsibilities, I am going to ask myself, “How will this feed me?” If it’s all drain and no return, I’m going to do my best to politely decline. I’ll be sitting in the shade, reading a book, instead.


“I’m so busy!” How often do you say those words? For me, these days, it’s too frequently. It has become a complaint, an excuse and a mantra. I don’t like it.

Being active and engaged isn’t the problem. Most of the things that keep me occupied are great. But, sometimes, I need to remind myself that they are also optional. The activities and responsibilities that fill my calendar are choices. I’m there because of a decision that I have made – No one else. I resolved to do each and every one of them because I believed that they would enrich my life in some way.

So, instead of saying that I am too busy, I’m going to begin telling people that I am prosperous. My schedule is no longer too full – My calendar is filled with abundance. I am not busy. I am rich.

I am also exhausted. The blessings in my life are slowly killing me. I struggle to build in some ‘down’ time. As I grow older, it’s a necessity more than a luxury. I wonder, how and why did self-care become an extravagance? I actually used to feel guilty about spending time doing nothing constructive. These days, I’ve changed the way I look at that, too. Sometimes, doing nothing is the most productive thing I can take on. If a week goes by and I don’t spend some quality time on the couch binge watching the Blacklist, it can get ugly around here. Ditto for one morning of Olympic coffee drinking and thumbing my nose at the calendar.

Summer is here, which means fiddle gigs, beach time with my grandson and now, I’ve got a book to market. I know the days are coming when the pace will slow and I’ll have much less enrichment in my schedule. I’m going to do my best to squeeze as much out of life as possible, while I can. Even if it makes me weary. When I’ve had too much joy, you’ll find me on the couch with Raymond Reddington. But only for a couple of hours. There’s still so much I want to do.

Holding for a Friend

Some time last year, I wrote about holding space for each other. It’s something we do when a friend needs us to be present with them. There’s no judgement, no criticism. Physical presence is not even required – They only need to know that you are there, holding a space for them if and when they want to occupy it. My friends have done it for me. It is amazingly comforting.

I am blessed to be surrounded by some strong women who have survived a great deal of grief, overcome some tremendous challenges. We get together to laugh, play games and socialize. Our focus is seldom on our histories as we prefer to enjoy the present. But when there is one among us who is facing a difficult time, we bare our scars like warriors and circle our wagons around her.

But space is not the only thing we hold for one another during troubled times.

When we take ourselves too seriously, for example, we hold humor. You see, I firmly believe that it’s a healthy thing to fantasize about (or even plan) the unfortunate demise of a soon-to-be ex who is causing pain to a close friend. Laughter truly is the best medicine.

If we get pulled down the rabbit hole of self-destructive thought, we hold balanced reality. Just because someone believes it or says it, doesn’t make it the truth! It’s easy to feel your own convictions slip when you’re overwhelmed or being manipulated. It’s our friends’ job to hold up a mirror and reflect our own self worth back to us.

When we lose sight of hope, we hold a vision of a better tomorrow. In the midst of chaos, we hold a peaceful future. We know it’s coming because we’ve been where you are. We survived and it made us stronger. You will, too.

And we’ll be right here, waiting for you. (We’ll try not to say ‘I told you so.’)

Letting Go after Change and Loss

There are always things that no longer serve us well: Routines, photographs, tee shirts. We hang on to them because, well, they aren’t necessarily bad for us. We’ve simply outgrown them. Whether it’s a piece of furniture, a feeling or a relationship, letting go can be really, really hard.

I think it’s particularly true following a period of change or loss. Holding on to parts of our former identity is what helps us cope. Transition is difficult and familiarity comforts us. We grasp things that remind us of the stability we’ve lost.

Sometimes, we get lost in the reeds, though . A sigh of relief is welcome, once the dust starts to settle and the major change is behind us. Our reprieve is extended and we lose our momentum. We might become complacent and even believe we deserve the break. Without even realizing it, we are stuck.

What can we do?

It might be a good time to take inventory – Examine those things to which we are holding on that are just good enough. It could be a relationship that has helped us through a difficult time. Or, perhaps a household item that we’ve kept just because it has been with us for so long. It might even be a perception about ourselves that is no longer accurate or useful.

We bring things with us that we believe we will need in that magical place called the future. But we need to stop and consider that we could have been wrong. Once we arrive at that new place in our lives, we should reassess.

One thing that prevents us from moving forward and getting ourselves unstuck is something that is traditionally thought of as a good thing. It’s the very foundation of what likely kept us going in the first place: Hope.

Let me explain. Maybe we hoped that things would work out with that new guy. Perhaps we hoped that we’d lose the weight and wear that dress again. We hoped that our new place would have room for the box of sentimental nick-nacks that were Mom’s. But he didn’t, we didn’t and it’s not!

Holding on to things that no longer serve us blocks the way of new and better things entering our lives. We want to avoid the emotional pain and fear that comes with letting go. Truth is, that pain will ease over time. Holding on, however, will continue to hurt forever. If we desire peace, then we must be brave enough to let go.

I found peace in the most unlikely place – right in the middle of the most chaotic time of my life. I was letting go of so much – things, places, relationships – the pain was unbearable at times. I often marveled at the irony of feeling an incredible inner peacefulness among such chaos and ruin.

Then, the dust settled. I sat back and allowed myself to relax. After all, I had certainly earned it. It had been a turbulent year and I reveled in the opportunity to sit back and do nothing. The result was stagnation. Without negative energy flowing out, there can be no good energy flowing in.

Anytime is a good time to take inventory and identify those things that no longer serve us. That time following change or loss is crucial. You’ll feel lighter. You’ll find peace amid the turbulence. Determine when hope might be destructive. Let go of the things that no longer serve you and anticipate the flow of good things that come to you!