All Together Now

blog fall colorsThe days grow shorter, the leaves come down, the temperatures drop, and I’m already thinking in terms reviewing 2015 for lessons learned and memories to save. This was not an easy year for me–too many deadlines, more than a few disappointments, even disappointments I have to honestly label as betrayals. 

And the issue with a betrayal isn’t (usually) that somebody has abused my trust. Some people do that. It’s the lingering sense that I’m not smart enough to see the Undertoads hopping in my direction. I’m STILL not smart enough to see the Undertoads coming, gorsethough I’ve certainly thinned their ranks as the years have gone by. Undertoads are the thorns on the flowers of life. Their lies steal stuff–money, property, time–but they also steal trust and self-confidence, and for that, I hope the cosmic scales weigh them heavily. 

But 2015 has also been a terrific year. I’ve published a lot of material I’m proud of (some of it on this blog!), I’ve maintained dear friendships, my loved ones are mostly thriving, and my health is in many ways quite good. More significantly, my dreams are in tact, and that’s an enormous sign of a life on the right track. 

EdinburghMontageSeveral experiences are topping my current list of Wow! for 2015, about which I’ll be blogging in the weeks to come. The first was being in Edinburgh last spring during a solar eclipse. With my nose in a book or a manuscript, and me having an allergy to what passes for news these days, my awareness of the coming event was vague. Eclipses happen, seen a few partials, the light gets funny…. they move on. 

But this one was nearly a full eclipse. The entire outline of the moon was visible passing in front of the sun, and it so happened this occurred in the middle of a lovely, sunny morning. EVERYBODY went outside, stood around, chatted, and watched (indirectly if they were prudent) what was going on intell stories the heavens. Business stopped, gossip stopped, deadlines were pushed aside. 

The light became beautiful, ethereal clouds drifted past, making the outline of the moon even more observable, people got quiet. Many pictures were taken, but for once, the selfie-angle photo was aimed away from the self. Magic was in the air, along with a sense of “I’ll remember this when I’m old and feeling un-special.”

For a few minutes, nobody was grouchy, nobody was unappreciated, nobody was worried about the afternoon’s presentation. To a small and benevolent degree, the Daniel final PEACH coverindividual isolation we glorify as privacy and “personal autonomy” was muted in shared wonder.

That was my first morning of a trip that had many moments of wonder, but it was also a Big Deal. Everywhere I looked, I saw strangers… and I didn’t. I saw people, regular, hard-working, heart-hoping, people, just like me, and it was good. 

The Undertoad took a kick in the tail, too, and that was also a fine thing. 

Have you started your year end retrospection yet? Any Wow’s or Wonderfuls to share? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Daniel’s True Desire, which is one of those accomplishments this year I’m proud of. 


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54 comments on “All Together Now

  1. Three of my four boys have birthdays this month, the three with autism go figure, and birthdays always make me reflect on the last year in their lives. As the twins get older their accomplishments seem fewer but they still have them. Jonathan is going to his junior high ceramics class by himself and with the help of another student in the class, he is doing very well.
    Matthew is talking more at school and to us at home. He started going outside with Luke to play with the neighbor kids. The fact that they include him is just so wonderful.
    Then there is Seth. You saw the birthday video. Even though he was asking over and over again for more presents it wasn’t the things he was wanting, he just wanted to unwrap the package. Last year he finally got that part and this year it was all about that. Last year he blew out his candle for the first time, after a lot of effort. This year he blew out all six candles, five of them in one try. He has enough words now to make his feelings known and although it sometimes tries my patience with him, it’s a skill he didn’t have last year.
    You hear and see people celebrating the little things but in our house we truly do celebrate the smallest things that most people take for granted.

  2. I started my ” 2015 look back” last week.

    My daughter went to England for 5 months in January. It was hard to see her walk away knowing I wouldn’t see her for a long time. It was hard to let go but rewarding in many ways. She came back much more self confident and more determined to go to law school.

    I set a goal to put obedience titles on two of my corgis; Celeste (the barking wonder) and Greg who is quiet and shy. We accomplished our goals and are working on three more titles. I enjoy training them and was thrilled to participate in our clubs versatile corgi challenge. Training the dogs is fabulous for both of them and I learn SO much in the process.

    My Lady Celeste blog is a huge accomplishment as well. Three of us work hard reading, writing and formatting the blog. I have learned that some authors expect reviews and others are grateful for them.

    I have had a few disappointments and an undertoad experience or two this year as well. Getting a full time position at work in another department has frustrated me. Am determined to find something different and challenging in 2016. The undertoad experience was a good life lesson- people are not always who they say they are- image and reality can be different.

    • I love the diversity in your report–a little mom, a little dog fancier, a little work place, and some book lover. You accomplish much, and seem to have a natural talent for balance and integration. Best of luck with the dreams and the dogs!

  3. I don’t so resolution but this year has been very mixed, found some great new authors, worked too hard, made some new friends and am back reading every day, so all in all a great year. Am at last sorting health out, so 2016 will be bigger and better than ever

    • I’m widgy-ing through some healthy knot holes too. Why is it, you must your most relentless when you have so little relentlessness to draw on?
      But good on you, for your persistence, because with health in hand, not much can stymie you for long!

  4. I’ve had many “wows” this year. One is my 5 year old daughter is beginning to read! I’m so proud of her! I have 5 children – all of which have deep fondness of books (guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?). There have been some disappointments but I’m just happy to be alive. My children are healthy and though my house is most days messy (I work a full-time job with lawyers – mentally draining), I take Sundays to clean and started a tradition of baking cookies with the younger girls (ages 13, 7 and 5). All in all, every day is a good day (even with it’s ups and downs) and every year is brand new!

    • Lawyers! Oh, my condolences. A challenging bunch, but trainable, with patience and reason. I bet if you took in a batch of cookies the training might proceed more quickly, too… just a thought.

  5. As in most people’s lives there’s the good and the bad (and the ugly lol). My husband got laid off and hasn’t found another job as yet but my oldest daughter married for the second time and this one is a keeper for sure. And my youngest found a job in her field which is wonderful although those schhool loans are endless. And my health is good so that’s a big one!

    • School loans… yep. I realize now why my father stayed at Penn State as long as he did. One of the benefits of teaching there was a big tuition discount for “faculty dependents.” When you have seven of those… Thanks, Dad.

      Will hope your husband finds not only a job, but a better-than-ever job.

  6. I celebrated a BIG BIRTHDAY a week ago, which always gives me a bit of retrospective.

    It’s been a year of healing after Mom’s death last year. I’ve learned who my true friends are…..and who my true friends AREN’T.

    I love your term of *Undertoads* because it describes those who seemed to betray me at my most vulnerable….my feelings and trust….yet they carry on, pretending they are just *carrying on* because that’s what you do. Grieving is difficult but when we grieve and then are betrayed, it takes twice as long to heal. I understand that now. I am stronger because of it.

    • Once bit, twice shy.

      I don’t think it’s fair to read Jane Austen as a romance novelist, but her brilliance as a writer is demonstrated (to me), by that single scene in Sense and Sensibility, where Fanny Dashwood is convincing John, that really dear, to keep that promise made to John’s dying father (to properly look after the other Dashwood ladies) would be patently unkind. Dishonorable even, not at all what the late Mr. Dashwood truly intended…

      By minimizing, rationalizing, denying, blaming, spinning, Fanny arrives gently, inexorably, to the morally bankrupt conclusion that lying, cheating, and stealing are the high ground that poor (stinking rich), victimized (privileged) John must take to preserve his own honor (and fortune).

      It’s a study in the cleverness and allure of evil, and I wonder who, exactly, was Jane’s inspiration, because their venery deserved to be immortalized for all time.

      Glad you are following the Dashwood’s lead, and moving onward in strength.

      • That scene in S & S has always fascinated me…and confused me. I always thought, while not ideal, the Dashwood ladies were better off. That if they had been *allowed* to stay with Fanny and John, they would have been miserable. Jane was clever enough to immortalize the evil but to show what cleverness and sheer sense of survival can do!

  7. Last night I closed the third play of the year for me. Each of them was an enormous challenge and each was as an amazing WOW! by the end. To do three plays – on top of working, dealing with family “stuff” and navigating the ever-changing waters of depression – is a dream come true and a challenge unlike any I’ve faced yet.

    But if I have to choose one thing above all others, it would be the second show – which I produced, directed AND acted in. I’m exhausted just remembering it! 🙂

    • Oh, what a year!

      I lump mental health issues in with the Undertoads. They are a misfortune nobody deserves or does anything to merit, and they hurt like the dickens. Depression is also such a liar…

      I wonder if the sheer volume of your activity wasn’t part of your successful year though. Exercise has been shown to be as effective at combatting depression as either talk or medication alone, to have a better rate of retention, and to show more benefits longer once terminated.

      Acting, directing, managing family all requires that you be up and moving rather than sedentary. Good on ya, and here’s to even greater success in 2016!

  8. I don’t know that I’m official in my introspections, but as an avowed introvert with extrovert tendencies I tend to reflect a lot. The last couple of years have been tough. I lost my dad and grandmother, and finally saw that my mom was no longer the force she’d always been. The recent losses have taken a toll on her as well. We’ve all been at sixes and sevens since daddy left, but the one great thing I realize is that as long as there is life, there is hope…and where hope abides, possibility flourishes. And so I go on in the belief that I still have something of worth to contribute, and that moves me ever onward 🙂

    • Losing a parent is such a tough transition. Condolences on that loss, and on the loss of the mother you had when Dad was still around.

      Your attitude reminds me of a friend, a therapist in fact, who lost her dad when she was in mid-life. She said it helped her focus. Yes, we become the “elders,” the ones who are likely to go next, but WE’RE STILL HERE, and we have much to give, and as you said… hope abides.

      Here’s climbing the mountains with the best views.

  9. I’m not usually much of one for navel-gazing. This year has had a lot of ups and downs, for me. However, I do have one positive, in that a little over a week I start a new job. 🙂 That makes me very happy indeed!

  10. In 2015 I came into my own as educational and social justice advocate. I attended three national events (Chicago, Orlando and DC), won 2 elected positions, was recognized at a city-wide event for volunteering, lobbied 6 members of Congress in Washington, testified in a focus group for a national organization, screened candidates, and attended my 3rd protest! This is my Fall awakening as at the tender age of 59 I have decided to Speak up, even if your voice shakes! Courage has never been my strong suit – in fact, I’m prone to anxiety attacks. But I found that standing up for others and myself is a joyful experience that helps modify the anger and sadness of injustices. Anyway, that’s my 2015 – along with the other mundane stuff like breaking my foot. Congrats on your Scotland trip and the prodigious writing you accomplished this year, Grace. P.S. Do you have two personnas? The Grace and the Patricia? I think I’d like to have an alter ego!

    • Good lord! LOOK OUT WORLD, Mary Reed is in the house!

      I’m fascinated lately by the older female demographic. One thought that haunts me: Are we what femininity looks like when un-coupled from reproductive limitations? Without having to worry about how the fellows will treat us, gender pay gaps, date rape (one hopes), glass ceilings, leaning in… we can become fierce in ways I (at least) wasn’t capable of earlier in life.

      I like this. I like it a lot. When I read about your year, Mary, I’m reminded of Robert Browning’s words. “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be…”

      (And yes, I write under a pen name…)

  11. Sometimes nature is amazing! I watched the lunar eclipse last month & that was more spectacular than I had expected. We were also lucky enough to take a family vacation in Florida in August. First one in 8 years. We drove down from NY. The drive down was not so bad, but the drive back was stressful. I don’t think we will ever do that again!

    • I-95 is not for the faint of heart. The way down, it mostly gets easier as you travel south, which means on the way back… tough post-vacay re-entry. I dodge off around Fredericksburg, and go cross country from there.

      GLAD you got a vacay though. As a culture, leisure isn’t what we do best, but its benefits are beyond doubt.

  12. In 2015 felt age catch up with me. Disappointed I can no longer multitask or walk fast. But as an observer I notice more and I understand more of life!

    • When the studies came out that said, “NOBODY multi-tasks, but some people can switch between tasks more efficiently than others…” I was much relieved. I tend more toward the ADHD end of the spectrum, where trying to do more than one thing at a time means much efficiency is LOST.

      As for walking fast… if you are anything like some of my friends, your idea of being unable to walk fast or multitask means that you’re still twice as fast and well organized as I will ever be. The tortoise and hare both finished the race, and we can take comfort from that.

  13. When I was younger there were times that I felt people let me down, not because of what they were or did, but because of what “I” expected of them. But that was on me. I’ve learned not to do that.

    Back in the day there was a popular song (can’t remember title or who sang it) about a woman who found a snake freezing to death. She took the poor thing in, warmed it by fire and saved its life. As a “thank you” the snake bit her and as she was dying of the snake bite the snake looked at her and said: Hey, I’m a snake!

    Never died from any of the snakes that I saved, but there were a few times I felt betrayed.

    • What an interesting song. Shakespeare said it to, in the sonnets. “Love is not love, which alters when it alteration finds.”

      Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, snake gotta snake…
      And you’re wise to remind me: There’s a difference between people not being what I expect and hope them to be, and willful, malignant misconduct.

      Big difference.

    • One of my siblings will finally, finally be able to move much closer to family in 2016. That will leave me without any family within hundreds of miles… and that gets me to thinking.

      Could be some bigger changes in 2016 than I had planned!

  14. My boys were in a terrible automobile wreck last month. One had a crushed foot and seven surgeries later he is beginning to heal. It has been hard for us but WOW, HE STILL HAS HIS FOOT.

  15. Hi Grace, and everyone!

    I started 2015 without any plans or resolutions – no real dreams or expectations either. I decided that I was just going to welcome the bad, the good and hope for no ugly!

    And few things really did happens that took away my joy. But just for a time. I grieved and picked up and stood again.

    My diabetes reach the all time bad A1c 12 in June . Really bad. But this week after so much work, and really sacrificing – it went to 7.2 – which is not good yet – but I am 16lbs lighter, no numbness on my left toe, no more hip pain and no crashing in the afternoon. So its good, not goal but an improvement – after beating myself for the past 2 days, I decided it is good and I will do better in another 3 months.

    I have met some really neat people this year. What a joy! To me that is the very best ever! It just gets exciting to know that regardless of the people we loose for whatever reason, God brings new people into my life and I get a chance to love again, laugh and enjoy it.

    But most of all, God is great and through all the trials and tribulations of life – not that I understand the whys, and what reasons for those hard things happens, I know that He is ever present and holding my (our) lives in His hands. I don’t have to know the reasons – He ask of me that I trust Him (ha, and I fail horrible at times – but He has not given up of me yet!)

    Grace I just finished Lady Eve’s book – I am totally reading out of order but I love it to… no suprise there… I am about to finish Maggie and Ben story today… right after I finish this…

  16. I don’t generally look back but this has been one of the years that fits the old country song about “If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all” in some things. Right now I’ve got no working kitchen appliances, the stove and microwave just quit yesterday When I tried to get hot water this morning, at the kitchen sink, it didn’t happen so now I’m wondering if I’m not having more electrical troubles. If so that’s my landlords problem, not mine.
    Good news is I’m still winning books and other things in contests on Facebook so my luck isn’t totally bad. And, I’ll be a grandmother again on February 29 of next year. After losing a daughter in September of last year to a major, very rare, birth defect, I’m glad, for my daughter and her husband and their kids that this one, their second son, seems to be perfectly healthy.

  17. I’m not ready for the year to be over yet, so I haven’t begun to think back over it yet. My highlight of the year is still to come, a trip to Las Vegas to see my son and his wife, and then on to the Palm Springs area to see my sister and spend Thanksgiving with her family. The year has certainly not been too trying, more ho hum than alarming, for which I’m thankful.

  18. I love your word Undertoad.
    My Wow was discovering the SCA. Society for Creative Anacronism allows me to play out my fantasy of living in 13th Century Scotland. If you ever start a new series I suggest around the time of the Scottish revolution and The Bruce 1296-1319 apprx.
    Thanks for all your great books that keep me looking on the bright side of life.

  19. This year feels like a bookmark. So many of my friends and family have gone through some amazing changes, not all good. I don’t embrace change, but I’m beginning to see the inevitability of it. I’m trying to be less frightened and more open to possibilities. It isn’t easy, but I’m beginning to see that change doesn’t have to mean “bad”.

  20. I’ve dealt with my share of Undertoads this year, too! My personal accomplishment this year was having hip replacement surgery and keeping up with the exercises so I didn’t have to go through organized physical therapy. My activities are almost back to normal, except for that pesky vacuuming. I hope to be riding my elderly horse again before the snow flies. We’ve been dealing with the affects of arthritis and the mild exercise will be good for both of us.

  21. I honestly hadn’t started thinking about how close the end of the year is getting until reading this post. This past year has been full of ups and downs. My husband and I managed to take a few long weekend getaways – which is unusual and wonderful. We even took a short family trip with both kids – every one of those might be the last since our eldest is looking at grad schools to work on a doctoral degree. Even today’s ‘life celebration’ of our dear friend who passed last month had some high points – around 300 people attended to share stories of his life.

    For what it’s worth Grace, I can’t imagine having as many deadlines as you have this year, but every book publish has brought joy, and a bit of introspection at times, to many readers. 🙂

  22. I have enjoyed a couple vacations with friends this year. The first was a trip to the Brewers’s spring training in Maryvale in February and the second was a road trip to Denver in June. We were happy to see two Brewer wins and were awed by the scenery around Denver. The highlight was a tram ride to the top of Pike’s Peak. Truly a wow!

  23. This year was full of things I never did before that I went into saying, okay feel the fear and do it anyway. and surprise, I could do it. But nothing major. My only disappointment was not selling some property that’s becoming burdensome for me. But I stay ever hopeful that some dear soul will show up looking for just the thing I have. have a great week! t

  24. I would love to win! I believe I have just enough room for one more of your lovely books on my shelf before I have to go out and buy and new bookcase!

  25. I know that my writing journal and art doodles have really piled up—so that’s how I know this year has gone by and it does seem to have gone by quicker than before. I love your heroes, Grace. I love falling in love with them–looking forward to spending some rainy days soon with Daniel.

  26. I start my retrospective thoughts every morning I am alive. I feel people take life for granted. I no longer do! Everyday is a blessing and for that I thank my lord! It really puts things into perspective.

  27. Wonderful that both our sons began college this year. Wow that I persisted where my boss was ready to give up. Wonderful that mother’s condo sold quickly. Worst is that hubby hurt his lower back again. Wonderful to find Grace as a go-to author! Cheers!

  28. Deep feelings and inner healing. I’d say this can summon one of the most precious teachings/rewards life has for us.


    At what price?

    Disappointment and betrayal are the Under Toad one wants never have to find in life. But this is as to expect to learn how to ride a bicycle without your knees been ever scraped.

    When I was married I thought my husband to be of a dependable carácter,a honest person and in love with me to boot. It took me great suffering to finally accept to endure the truth about his real character and the fact that he did’nt love me and only stayed in the marriage for (long story short) the financial security I provided him.

    Money, property, time, trust, self-confidence…right as you said Grace. And much more.

    But now that I’m out of the woods and I have harvested the rewards life had for me through that difficult experience I know that the question one must ask oneself whenever betrayal and disappointment show in one’s life is not

    “How in the bloody hell can I have let myself been deceived sooooo much????!!! “How can I have bought into this lie?”


    “In what form buying into this lie has been convenient for me?”

    Because always, always, in our INnerTUITION whe know the truth. As I knew back then that something was going amiss but acting on that feeling and rocking the boat so to say required a strenght and a courage I did not have…yet.

    This strenght and courage are part of the rewards that experience had for me.

    The uncomfortable truth. In a sense the cycles of life are cycles of growth in accepting such uncomfortable truths. And when faced they reward us with a missing piece of our most precious belonging: our true self.

    The uncomfortable truth is always the TRUTH we must face. And when we do that we are rewarded with the deep feeling and inner healing that our live is again fully in our hands.

    P.D.: Grace, your stories have provided me with wonderful moments and for that I thank you much, much more that words can convey.

  29. 2015 was a hard year for me. In between trying to care the best I can for aging parents I sometimes struggle to recognize and trying to bring my first aid training business to a new heights, both my successes (work) and failures (family) left me exhausted.
    That being said, nothing is ever all good or all bad, and I had some wonderful times in 2015: my writing is moving forward, I enjoyed two brilliant trips (NY & Scotland), I joined a brilliant group of authors in my hometown, I met wonderful people, both online and face-to-face and my husband, William, kept his official position as the most solid (and handsome…) rock in my life.
    Another positive point: not too many Undertoad this year! Maybe I’m just getting better at spotting them, or those cosmic scales protected me.
    Annie (aka Kelly Ann Scott)

  30. I love your term “under toads!” It is so much like “undertow.” Both are sneaky, hidden, and tend to latch on and try to pull you under when you least expect it. I’ve had one or two of those in my life, but none lately, thank goodness. Now that my son is married and gone for good from home I find myself reflecting a lot more often these days. I had that “big” birthday–60–this year. I have regrets, but every day I find more and more to be thankful for instead of regret. My health is better than it has ever been. I maintained a 65 lb. weight loss for the second year, continued a regular exercise regimen, and have had better general health than ever in my life. I do regret that I didn’t do this 30 years ago so that I could appreciate this feeling longer. (What is that they say about hindsight and 20-20 vision?) However, I think I appreciate having good health MORE now than I would have 30 years ago. That’s the one realization I have had this year—I appreciate everything more and see much more value in the “little things” than I ever did. The “not stuff” things–good health, trustworthy and dependable friends, a leisurely meal with pleasant company–are coming to mean more and have more value than “stuff.” I, too, am now the older generation that my son’s generation looks to. (Glory be, I have become my parents! What a sobering and awe-inspiring responsibility!) I guess that I have finally lived enough to have a different perspective and focus, and that’s why this year has been such good year. No lottery win, no sweepstakes announcer at my door with roses and a check, no Prince Charming on a white horse, but there were lots of laughs, restful nights, peaceful afternoons, laughing family meals and evenings with my purring fur baby cuddled on my lap.

  31. Hi Grace,
    Ironically my husband and I were discussing how this year has been filled with both good and bad things happening. We had moved last December from New England to South Carolina to be near our grand-children and our time with them has been wonderful.

    On the other hand we didn’t know how much work it would be to do some “up-dates” on the home we bought which was built our 100 years ago! On the other hand we’ve been thankful that we had no damage to our home with the terrible flooding that South Carolina recently have and also send our prayers to those who have lost their home.

    It’s the time of year for us to think back and not only appreciate all the good things that have happened but also to reflect on how we were able to help each other get thru the trying times as well.

  32. I’m almost through Year 2 of running my own business, and the client list has grown. I’m hoping my profits will reflect that, but it’s still satisfying to know that I’ve satisfied others with my work. I’m sure you know the feeling! 🙂