foul-weather friendship


I wrote this essay seven years ago and just ran in to again under my Notes on Facebook which have gone by the wayside. So. copying here with minimal editing.

The demise of long term female friendships is tricky. We don’t have templates or rituals how to navigate it and often suffer in silence. We don’t even have a name for it. Which makes it harder than divorces in some ways. Anyway, here it is, just as I wrote it in 2016. I hope it helps someone else out there going through something similar.

Many of the names have been changed, including that of my former friend, as I’m not here to out her. I’ve been married, happily, for eight years now. I wonder if she’s disappointed or what she thinks. It’s liberating to realize I no longer care if she reads it or what she thinks. Neutrality is the goal in these situations I think.

Foul Weather Friend

Last year I did something so heinous, so destructive, so unforgiveable, that it caused me to lose one of my best friends. I fell in love and got married.

Sandy and I had been friends, good friends, for nearly fifteen years. We’d been through many things together—the birth of her two children, milestone birthdays, holidays, business transitions and family trials and crises. Like most good female friendships, ours was based on sharing good and hard times.

I was single through nearly all of our years, traversing these hills and valleys and let’s just say, most of my dating life involved me tripping over one stone or another as I fell back in to the same valley of failure and despair. At least that’s how it felt to me. Sandy was always there with an encouraging word, which usually meant both of us bitching about the shitty man of the moment as I licked my wounds and prepared for battle again in the dating world. She remained steadfast as one of the few people in my sphere, who showed up on my doorstep with chicken soup, unsolicited, when I had the flu.

Sandy included me in most of her family functions and, in many ways, her family adopted me as one of their own. Without a prospect of becoming an Aunt myself through my siblings, Sandy’s girls became like nieces to me and I was often a permanent fixture alongside their Mom at sporting events, birthday parties and performances. It was a fun and warm vibe all around, right up to the moment I met John.

“I think this could be the one Sandy,” I excitedly shared in her living room that early December day. “But Kathy, he lives in rural Pennsylvania,” she reminded me with a look on her face as if she’d smelled something bad. I scoffed at this reaction for two reasons. 1. This was not an unsurmountable issue for me. It wasn’t like he was married or in prison or something like that. People meet in cross-country ways all the time. 2. I was in love and this response didn’t alter my groove. Like many couples in this new world of technology, John and I met online. Not through a dating site, but in a small, intimate writing group on Facebook.

I had begun writing and attending writing workshops and often thought that would be a cool way to meet someone, someone who shared this interest. That’s exactly what happened, but through the internet. I loved our “how we met” story, even though some of my friends were, understandably, concerned.

One friend bought his memoir to better understand who he was. She phoned me in tears saying “this man is perfect for you—he’s been through the hard kind of life you have and I get it. He’s the one person who could understand you like no one else”. Case closed. She was in. My best male friends, a couple, instead took another tack. They got me drunk on martinis one night at their house and insisted I travel with one of them, to the East, on the same flight, to meet John, weeks before we’d planned our first in person meeting. Robert later said that when he walked down the aisle of the plane with me as we disembarked in Rochester, headed to meet John for the first time, that he felt he was walking me down the aisle of my wedding. He met John that visit and was not surprised at all when we reconnected at the airport in Rochester a week later, that I’d become engaged.

Yes, our engagement happened fast. Six weeks after we’d initially made contact kind of fast. On our first meeting face to face kind of fast. I can see it being a lot for people to digest. Yet, I’d been single at that point for nearly two decades, had never been engaged to anyone else during that time, was not a person who impulsively ran in to a serious commitment with a man. In fact, I had never lived with a man during those 20 years of solitude. It was a moment of knowing that something was right. And we both felt the same so went for it. I had no ambivalence and people could see that, including my own family.

The night before I flew back to Arizona, wearing his father’s wedding band he’d proposed to me with, John and I sat in a little jazz club sipping wine sitting close. “We need to change our status on Facebook now!” I quipped to him. “I know, right?” he laughed back, “when should we do it?” Facebook was our domain, seeing we’d met there, so this held more symbolism for us. Even as middle-aged farts, we wanted that moment. “Let’s pull the trigger,” John said, “right now.” We both pulled out our phones, having told only one person who intuited this might happen before I left, and demanded “I better not find out you’re engaged on Facebook, you better call me!” and we hit the button that said “engaged”. It was perfect. But not for everyone.

Rob helped me look at wedding bands via the inflight wifi as we flew across the country catching up. As we sipped cocktails during our layover in Chicago, I had a niggling feeling I should let someone know personally and privately. Not a member of my own family who I planned to tell in person, but my friend Sandy. I had sensed she was struggling with the whole idea of my relationship, and this might be hard for her, so I sent her a private text, announcing my news.

Three days later, I’d not heard back. No response from the text and no acknowledgment among the hundreds of “thumbs ups” and congratulatory comments on Facebook, Sandy remained radio silent. I was preparing that week to take a month sabbatical so was busy closing up my business, home and family issues so maybe it wasn’t so obvious I’d not heard from her until the text came in “So I guess congratulations are in order as I see on Facebook—the girls and I would like to get together before you leave”. Months later, after all had fallen apart and I was doing the post-mortem on this friendship, another friend pointed out “yeah, she said congratulations were in order, but she still wasn’t offering them”.

Married now, over a year, Sandy never offered me congratulations on meeting the love of my life and my wildest dreams, nearly abandoned, coming true in obtaining a darling 3-year-old stepdaughter in the process. I had long given up on ever becoming a parent, one of my life’s greatest regrets, now given the new breath of a miracle. My own family, finally.

“I feel like all of your Facebook posts are passive aggressive slams at me for not being happy enough for you” was one of the first missiles she launched, as I sat in the dealership waiting for my oil to be changed, prepping for my road trip. I had responded that my time was very limited before I left on a cross country drive for over a month but could talk on the phone. She claimed she could meet in person, with her girls, but not talk on the phone because she was “coming down with something.” Nothing made sense.

Shocked, I scrolled through my Facebook posts to see what she could be referring to—there were my usual pictures of food and flowers and of course photos of my new fiancé and me. I found one post where I addressed what I knew would be obvious concerns about a fast engagement we had just launched. I reflected on how every major decision in my life happened very quickly like that—the good ones. I bought my house the first day I went out looking, I changed my entire career on a decision made in one day, I moved my mentally ill brother to live near me on a split-second decision in a parking lot—things like that in hopes of reassuring people who might be worried. Including Sandy, to whom I was still giving the benefit of the doubt. I just didn’t realize yet, how angry she was. “You know me, I worry” was the one and only explanation she ever offered for her dismissive and demeaning stance on my relationship. Yet I never knew what was worrying her so. And she didn’t read as worried to me. She was hostile.

“Well, Facebook is great and all but not the way you want to hear about your bff getting engaged. So excuse me if I don’t want to join the hundreds of your adoring fans on Facebook, wishing you well.” I was struck dumb. How do you respond to such a thing? I was expecting questions and concerns but not this. “I am thinking you maybe didn’t get my text I sent the day after we got engaged”. “Nope” “I hate to do this but I’m going to,” I texted to this long term bff who was refusing to speak to me, as I sent her a screen shot of the dated text with the line underneath indicating it had been “read”. “Well I didn’t get it until a couple days later when I reset my phone,” she replied.

None of this made sense. And I didn’t have the time to deal with it. I literally did not have the time. It was if she was intentionally trying to make me feel guilty or as if I’d betrayed her somehow during the happiest moment of my life since she met me. It was completely disorienting. Confrontations such as this often take their time to bloom in me, the feelings I mean. Later that night, as I reviewed this bizarre exchange, I was no longer confused. I was pissed. I mean, how dare she? She knew I was taking off in two days for a huge odyssey planned for a year, all by myself on the road for days with my thoughts and this was my send off? Bullshit, I said to myself, I’m not taking this on the road. I wrote her an email late that night, letting her know how I felt about all of this including a line something like “Not happy enough for me? How could that be possible as you’ve expressed not one shred of happiness for me at all!” Truth. But, why?

Sad to say, now being happily married for over a year, I still don’t have the answer to that question. But, as the months went on, it got worse with Sandy, way worse. Kate, who’d insisted I let her know if I got engaged on that trip, made another demand on me. She was going to throw me a bridal shower whether I wanted it or not. Kate and I shared one thing in common: we are both siblings of a murder victim. In fact, that’s how we met. “If your sister was alive, she would be doing this, so I don’t care if you think you’re too old for this, I’m going to do it”, she insisted. There was no negotiating. In fact, she planned this thing from across the country, and flew in for it.

That shower was the most elaborate event I think I’ve ever attended. Held at a 5 star historic hotel, she’d pulled out all the stops for an afternoon ladies’ high tea. Custom fresh flowers all over the table included a tiny arrangement for each of the 9 guests adorned with their calligraphied name, and our own tea sommelier who gave us detailed instruction about every single thing we ate or drank. The elaborate affair lasted over three hours with hats and champagne and gifts and loads of good wishes. You see, each woman at that table had witnessed my struggle in the love department for so long. My finding love, at age 55, was akin to winning the lottery. Many shared that the fact I never gave up, was inspiring to them.

The energy around that table was so high and love filled, people were stopping as they passed by to just bask in it. With the exception of one small black cloud. You guessed it, Sandy. I struggled about whether to put her on the guest list or not. I knew that if I didn’t, I was giving her a reason to back out of the friendship while casting blame on me for its demise. I also was in extreme denial that her disconnect over my major life shift would last. I just kept thinking she’d come around. So, I put her on the list. I was actually surprised when she said she’d come. Which she did, sort of. Her first display of resistance was her refusal to RSVP for a couple of weeks past the requested date. I felt awkward about the shower, being a 55-year-old bride who was eloping to Niagara Falls, so was trying to stay out of it after giving Kate the guest list.

Kate needed a head count though, so I suggested she ask another friend to contact Sandy. Sandy finally responded that she would be there, yet let me know “well, finally a name I recognized” explaining why she’d dismissed Kate, the host’s, request for RSVP. She didn’t know who she was, so felt she didn’t need to respond apparently.

Sandy walked up to that gorgeous flower filled table flanked by chatting women in pastels and finery, 20 minutes after the start time, wearing black and holding up the side of her hair “sorry, I’m late, at least I made, it but my hair is wet” she displayed with a chuckle. I was relieved yet cringed inside at the same time. The tea started and Kate asked all the women to begin by going around and saying how they knew me, a reasonable ice-breaker as not everyone had met. During the heartfelt sharing that went on tangents about feelings and how happy my friends and family were for me, Sandy lifted her face, opposite me, and snickered, “don’t let your head get too big over there now.” I think I heard a gasp next to me as I chuckled back “I know, my Grandma’s hat is getting pretty tight right now” refusing to let her see how her zinger had pierced me. It wasn’t the last time I said to myself “I’m not going to let Sandy ruin my day”. She begged out after an hour, before the gifts were opened and group pictures taken, which didn’t surprise me. I did question my decision to invite her, but none of her behavior impacted the joy of that amazing day. It did impact our friendship, in the end.

Like the demise of most important relationships, mine with Sandy, slowly trickled toward its ultimate fracture but not without one event from which there was no recovery. At least for me there wasn’t. Three weeks after that brilliant shower, I was on the plane headed East to meet up with my soon-to-be husband and head up to beautiful Niagara Falls to get married. I’d had a gorgeous dress custom made and friends and family had given me all kinds of treasures to carry with me on our momentous day. Mandy had made a locket with pictures of my sister and mother inside along with a “borrowed” gold bracelet she’d worn in her wedding. My father had given me a couple of tiny family heirlooms from my Grandma to carry in a small pouch sewn from her wedding gown. A new friend had unexpectedly stopped by the day before to loan me a handkerchief carried in weddings for decades around the world from her family tree.

My carryon bag was at my feet filled with all of this love, and my heart was just as full. It was so amazing to finally have found love like this but to be celebrated like that just took it over the top. I had not seen Sandy since the shower and the only contact I’d had in the days before leaving were several text requests from one of her daughters to get together via Sandy’s phone. This was not unusual as she would occasionally send me quick notes like that and many times I’d be able to spontaneously to meet them for ice cream or head over to their house to watch Project Runway.

This week was completely different though. I was heading out to get married in a few days and her nine-year-old daughter who I’d known since before birth, didn’t seem to know this. It was awkward, but I explained to Sandy that, again, I had no time for spontaneous get-togethers that week, considering all that I had going on and asked her to explain to her daughter that I wasn’t blowing her off, I was just busy preparing to travel and get married in four days. “I know you are, but you know Susie, she just keeps hoping” was her response.

“Hoping for what?” I wondered. That I’d not leave, not get married, not notice that none of them were even addressing this major life event unfolding? To this day, I don’t know if Sandy even mentioned my wedding to her younger daughter who had never experienced a Christmas morning without a gift from me or a birthday party without my attendance front and center. It’s hard to say to someone that you deserve acknowledgment, but in this case, I did.

I sat on the plane as it taxied in Philly for my connecting flight and turned on my phone like I always do. I had texts and well wishes from friends and family who knew where I was headed and, to my relief and trepidation, a text from Sandy as well. Relief because, in my denial, I thought she had finally come around and was going to send me off with some kind of “Best Wishes”. I was completely wrong.

What Sandy sent me was a forwarded private text Kate had sent her that morning. Kate, who had organized and paid for that elaborate shower and witnessed Sandy’s rude behavior, had taken it upon herself without running it by me, to address Sandy directly. I had vented to her how bizarre all this was and how I had no idea how to address it. Paraphrasing, Kate’s private text went something like this. “Thank you for coming to Kathy’s shower. I know it meant a lot to her that you were there and you and your girls are very important to her as I’ve heard a lot about you all. It was pretty clear to many of us there though that your heart wasn’t really in to it. My husband and I have met John and he is a wonderful person and treats Kathy like a Queen. Isn’t that what we all want? For our friends to be happy and well-treated by the one they love? I’m going to ask you to find it in your heart somehow to wish her well. I know this would mean the world to her coming from you and your girls. Thank you for considering this. Kate”.

Attached to this forwarded text, were these words from Sandy directed to me, “Just thought you should know. I have no intention to engage.” These were the only words my bff of 15 years sent me off to get married with. And with them, the bottom fell out of our friendship.

I later shared that a piece of my heart closed to her that day and I knew we’d never get that back. She used this text as a mechanism to somehow make me feel bad that day—upset at Kate for having sent it or upset that poor Sandy had to receive it. I knew my friend had made a choice, of all the things she could have chosen, to launch something never intended for my eyes, to try and hurt me on that of all days. I knew, deep down, that our friendship was over.

Again, I said to myself “she won’t ruin my day” and replied with “I don’t know anything about this, and I don’t want to be involved”. I wasn’t about to offer her some kind of apology on Kate’s behalf which I felt she was begging for. In reality, I agreed with Kate but wouldn’t offer that either. I followed her lead and chose not to engage.

I phoned Kate from the airport who gasped. She had no idea that Sandy would send that to me saying “I didn’t tell you I was sending that on purpose as I knew you’d talk me out of it”. She explained that she thought her intervention would be some kind of wake-up call and Sandy would in the last hours, find a way to step over what was bothering her so and offer me some kind of well wishes. She apologized thinking I’d be mad at her.

I was annoyed, but it was because of the way Sandy had chosen to use her message, but I was ok with Kate and let her know that. I knew she meant well. “I envisioned you, on your wedding day, opening your phone and seeing a photo from her of her girls holding a sign they’d made saying ‘Congratulations Kathy! We love you!” That was about the last thing that would ever happen as it turned out.

I heard nothing from Sandy for weeks. I posted pictures of my wedding day, beautiful honeymoon, and times with my beautiful new 3-year-old stepdaughter and John’s adult children, while she remained steadfast to her own commitment: boycotting it all.

 I never received one well-wish or congratulations or a “like” on Facebook. Nothing but that forwarded text. I don’t know how Sandy thought our friendship could survive that. I kind of wish I’d asked her that, like what was in her mind as she made that series of decisions. I do, at times, still wonder what was in her head. Why she thought I deserved that. But then I know it would only confuse and hurt me more.

It was just something she couldn’t get through or accept, and I believe it had little to do with me. She was the one person in my life who took this position and I let her know that when, months later, I wrote her addressing the fracture and explaining I had let go of the friendship. I struggled the most with how to manage this with her daughters. Likely, that’s why I hung on as long as I did.

One month after I was married, I was hit as a pedestrian by a drunk driver in a parking lot. Miraculously, I survived with relatively minor injuries. Sandy who had managed to not offer one word of congratulations on my marriage, got it together to call a florist, pull out a credit card, offer words for a note and sent me flowers. I sighed as I opened the card and shook my head. “It’s like this is what she’s celebrating” I thought to myself, “my injuries”.

I sent her a text of thanks through my heavy heart and received back a consistently bizarre response “I’m sorry I can’t be there with soup and DVDs and magazines and a visit from Susie (her daughter) to cheer you up but it looks like you are in good hands.” She was referring to my husband, of course. She lives 10 minutes away from me, was not out of town, and had become so engrained in her tale of disconnect that she thought I actually knew why she “couldn’t” stop by. Like John had an infectious disease she couldn’t expose her child to or something.

I was too much in pain and sedated on pills and frankly, too apathetic about her by that time to try to even clarify that and replied with “yes, he’s taking great care of me” and left it at that. So many words unspoken. Months later, after superficial texts about recipes and events, like nothing had changed in my life or our dynamic and the myriad of frustrating feelings that had risen inside me, at my Psychologist husband’s suggestion, I wrote Sandy a letter for my own closure. One of those letters you write for yourself without intention to send to find resolution. I knew there was no going back.

There were moments and milestones that had either been lost or defiled so that recovery, for me, was not possible. “You have way more tolerance than I do,” John said to me after I’d shake my head in disbelief after receiving yet another notice of a movie coming out or cookie recipe, avoiding the elephant in the room. “I’d have pulled the plug on this months ago”.

I sent that letter to myself where it sat for several weeks in my Yahoo account, until one day I just knew what I had to do. I had stopped replying to these superficial acquaintance-style texts for weeks yet they would still trickle in. I couldn’t transition to this new world with Sandy. There was nothing left in me that could excuse her behavior or pretend none of it had happened, including my new life. “I saw in all the ways you showed me that this was not a train you could board, so I left the station without you” I ended my letter on and forwarded it to her, showing I’d been struggling with this for weeks when I’d written it, but that it was time. It was over.

Like any relationship that ends, there is ambivalence. For me though, it’s that I’ve viewed the entire friendship through a more objective lens. Sandy was usually there for me when chips were down. She often steered me toward relationships with men that were clearly terrible for me, encouraging me to give them a chance. I remembered the time she invited me to a get together with another woman encouraging her to share with us the play by play of a doomed relationship that had spanned over 20 years. How this woman had decided to give him just one more chance and was asking my opinion. It was obvious to me that a pattern of abandonment was fully established with this man so, being a near stranger to me, I suggested she dig a little further to find out what was different this time for him. Inside I knew though that the odds were ever against her favor here.

Yet Sandy sat across from her cheering her on “I think this time he really wants you! He is serious about you! This is your time!” she cheerleaded on. I hadn’t moved my car out of the parking spot that night before Sandy called asking what I thought of the evening and this gal’s story. After all, I was an expert by that time on failed dating having been in the field for two decades. “I think that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior and I’m concerned she’s headed for a fall again” I replied. “I know, right?” Sandy almost gleefully responded. “I feel so bad for her. She’s headed for a brick wall!” Yet she sat there all evening gleefully encouraging this woman to dive back in to a clear disaster.

I reflected on this evening when I ended things with Sandy, along with her “Get Well” flowers. She is most comfortable when things are falling apart and that’s when she is really there, I concluded. But when dreams are coming true, big dreams like getting married, she not only disappears but she attempts to sabotage on the way. I remembered seeing her do that with other friends who, for example, landed a dream job.

That kind of friendship is slippery and hard to detect. At least with a fair-weather friend, you know the deal. They can’t or won’t be there for you when the chips are down but they are good-time party friends. If you know that score, then just expect that from them and you can still have a good time! But if you have a fox in the hen house, a foul-weather friend, secretly or overtly betting against your dreams, that’s more dangerous I’ve decided having navigated these waters with Sandy. They appear to be there for you, but what are they gaining by celebrating your failures and foibles?

I have guesses about the psychology involved but the bottom line is these are the ones to weed out. Even with their doorstep chicken soup deliveries, it’s not healthy. In fact, I’d go as far to say it’s toxic. Like steroids make you feel a boost in the moment, while they are tearing you down on the inside. At the very least, it’s not enough.

I don’t regret my decision to end things with Sandy and all that came with it. I can’t imagine her in my life now and all of the awkwardness I’d have to endure to not create discomfort by sharing my happiness. That is not the kind of relationship I want to have with anyone. Moving forward in life often involves lots of letting go. Not everyone makes the cut to the next level of evolution.

Sometimes trees have to fall for the forest to flourish. A dead bloom has to be plucked from a bouquet to not spoil its continuing fragrance. Not everyone boards every train yet, in time, we can look back in fondness for beautiful memories and forward into the sun and open track of a bright future at the same time. What’s important is to keep moving. We owe no one the sacrifice of our happiness and if that’s what it feels like someone is demanding, then it’s time to let go. That gives the time and space necessary for reflection and a jumping back in, clearer or making space for someone who will hold your hand or cheer you from the sidelines as you step boldly toward your dreams.



I’m back in Edmonds for a little over a week with an intention to essentially take my book to the finish line.

Again, I’m documenting my writing process on the other blog.

Check here, if you’re interested.


american monster


Just a reminder, the show on Cindy’s murder is airing this weekend — 11/20 at 9pm — on Investigation Discovery; American Monster. I was interviewed at length as was Cathy Hughes our amazing prosecutor, a detective from the case and some of Cindy’s friends. There will be some video footage of her and lots of photos, likely not seen before.

Her killers were NOT interviewed for this.

I hope and pray they do her justice.

American Monster, Brothers and Sisters


This is innocence

Rudi Apelt died of natural causes in prison this morning. Those are all the details I know. My attorney was informed and called to tell me. Over thirty years of having to deal with this evil; it’s over.

I cannot tell you the instant feeling of relief I had that has only deepened over the last three hours since I found out. My shoulders are dropping back to a place they have not visited in a very long time. I feel so free. I didn’t know how deeply I was carrying this trauma that just kept resurfacing, now that it’s gone.

This means no more parole hearings, ever. No more intrusions from his team of champions (although once they got him off death row they did exactly as I predicted in my impact statement–dropped him like a hot potato–not one, literally not ONE of them ever showed up at a parole hearing after spending about a decade fighting for him and his “intellectual disability”).

Michael, although having just launched a huge long appeal, while being on a list of 20 inmates who “have exhausted all appeals” (yeah try and figure that one out) will never be up for parole. So I’ll only have to deal with him sporadically as his appeals present themselves, but not every year like I did with Rudi.

Anyway, he’s dead. Thank God. I just wish my Dad had been here to experience this relief. He missed it by six months. Dad, he’s gone.

No press release yet, but here’s an article about one of his parole denials.



We did a big thing toward the end of last year.

After moving my brother and Dad to PA last Spring/Summer, and before Dad got as sick as he did, my brother asked a not unexpected question.

“Shouldn’t we sell the Sedona house and get another vacation home here?” which caused me to react in near nausea.

We had just spent months prepping/moving/cleaning/sorting/packing/unpacking/listing/selling/etc. to get the both of them moved from AZ to PA with many many unexpected complications. The last thing I could think of was going through that again, dealing with our packed home in Sedona, filled not only with all of our collected family furniture and heirlooms, but all the remnants of my Tempe condo that had flooded 3 years prior. The thought of sorting through, packing, moving all of that stuff was way beyond my ability to fathom, knowing of course it would fall entirely on the backs of my husband and I.

“I need a break from moving for awhile–let’s just let it sit there and appreciate,” I replied.

Then a week or so later, my husband and I started thinking out loud about this. It no longer made sense for us to retain and manage a family vacation home across the country. We knew my Dad would never get back out there again–it was hard enough to get him moved across the country, no matter how amazing my husband made that 10 day road trip through the American West for him. His mobility had made it clear he would not be traveling far again.

Nonetheless, we started thinking about it. Mainly, because I realized this family gathering place meant way more to my brother than any of us. His social outlets are minimal. He’s always relied on our family cottage in Maine and later our Sedona condo as a place to look forward to and celebrate at. Getting there would not be practical for him either–so we had to realize he had made a good point. And frankly, for many reasons, I was just done with Arizona. It was really just staying there out of exhaustion and the fact that my husband enjoyed his trips out there. I had not stepped in that home for a year and a half and to be honest, didn’t miss it. I was ready to let it go, but it was going to be a ton of work.

A fraction of what he sorted through.

So, Alfonse kept talking about a beach house. Which would also be its own huge project, distance and upkeep-wise.

Then my husband said “you know if he likes water, there are a lot of lakes in PA”.

We knew that it was a good time to sell property and so crawled in bed that evening, opened the laptop to just see what was out there in our price range. It would be nice to have a kind of lateral financial transfer from what we could get from the Sedona house, to what we could purchase more locally.

We spent three hours brainstorming and searching. “Kicking tires” as they say. We saw so many things from fixer-uppers to multi-million dollar lakefront homes. We even searched in to NY State, up in the Finger Lakes, realizing what a difference a line makes in terms of taxes (gasp! property taxes are insane in NY).

We hopped all around the State, gleaning ideas of what we liked and what we didn’t want — mainly a project.

Then we stopped on this one listing and gasped. It was one of the most beautiful homes we’d seen–every bit as grand as some of the million dollar-plus ones– and in our basic price range. We could hardly believe it. Suddenly what had just been a curiosity expedition started to seem like something.

We had already planned an overnight to Ithaca that week–something we were doing to get breaks from the intensity of caretaking my Dad and brother–which was kind of in the area of this lake home, so we planned to just cruise it. John called the realtor to see what was involved in seeing it. She had Covid at the time and was quarantining, so we had time to gather the proof of funds required and set an appt. to go back in a few days. We had a sense that we needed to act quickly on this home. It was just on the market three weeks.

View from our lower dock.

Fast forward: we made an offer on the house after touring it that first time. Dad was rapidly declining at the same time. It was a lot to juggle. We knew if we didn’t act fast, we would lose this incredible opportunity and be haunted by it forever, yet my Dad was rapidly slipping from this world. We talked to him about selling the Sedona house which he was on board with, but by the time our offer on this was accepted, he was declining so rapidly neurologically we chose not to tell him. It was clear he would never make it to the house and I just felt like it was too hard to show him where our future was headed without him. He passed within days of us signing the contract for the house. It was a time of very intense emotions.

Yet, having this house in our sites, helped all of us deal with the extraordinary and somewhat sudden loss of our Dad. It was a lot though.

Miss you Dad.

Meanwhile, my husband stepped in to major action mode and took some trips out to Sedona to completely pack up our home there and prep it for movers. In fact, he was in Sedona the day Dad passed and on my birthday. There was just no time to waste. He was the true MVP of the whole situation for us. I was managing everything related to Dad, my brother, the dealings of being simultaneous buyers and sellers while navigating my Dad’s sudden decline/death and pretty complex estate.

We bonded with the sellers who designed and lived in this amazing home for twenty years. They invited us up twice to help inservice us on it which has systems upon systems for everything from multiple heating/cooling zones to specific garbage collection rules (it’s in the woods–there are BEARS!).

My view yesterday from the new sofa where I was stuck for about 6 straight hours.

ANYWAY, I really came on here to share about the SOFA SECTIONAL we got for the new house, but I went on a few tangents. We had very few things we needed to purchase for the lake house between all the furniture coming from AZ, some pieces we repurposed from both our homes in Lewisburg, plus all the furnishings we had accumulated. But our sofa was shot, so we decided our one big splurge would be a leather sectional sofa for the Great Room, that opens with a two story stone fireplace to a large loft upstairs. It is a room that requires a grand piece of furniture. Plus we are a family who likes togetherness in terms of seating.

Exhibit A

The fellas trusted me with making this selection, so I went about the daunting task of choosing a custom made sofa for a room we didn’t have access to yet. I knew I wanted to get it moving as furniture acquisition is incredibly slow at the moment.

I finally landed on a website called Sofas and Sectionals and thought it looked like a good place to get what we needed and I was right. I spent hours and hours perusing their collections and leather options, requesting MANY swatches to see in person. I mean I had one shot to get this right.

This was the house layout when we saw toured it.

The sellers of the home had a beautiful navy leather sofa, but a regular size–not a sectional. I realized how this very tall room needed a darker shade to ground the space. Plus with all the wood–floors, grand window, mantle, etc. needed some contrast. I had many chats with their sales person Matt who never seemed to tire of my questions and changes of mind.

I could barely find any examples of the leather color I landed on with online photos, so made my decision based on a 2 inch swatch I’d received. Which is one of the main reasons I decided to make this post–so anyone else out there searching on either this design and/or this specific leather, they might find this post to help them make their decisions.

We ended up with the Arlo sectional with recliners at both ends, in Bronco Carbon leather (it’s so soft and buttery, yet rustic).

The only photo I had to use to choose with

We were given a 12-16 week window to receive it and requested the White Glove service which meant they would set it up and take away all the packing material (smart move it turned out).

We set up the house, which we named Northstar, very quickly with just enough to get through Christmas up here which was WONDERFUL. We lined up 4 recliners in the Great Room for seating, had our tree and mantle decorated and the kitchen set up enough for all our cooking. Nothing on the walls, but our bedrooms functional. We are still living out of suitcases and have no real decorative elements yet, but it will take time to get fully settled.

Our sofa arrived yesterday- just two days over the 12 week mark- and I’ve barely gotten off it since. It is AMAZING. It fits in this room like a glove, is the perfect color (a kind of mottled charcoal) and is so comfortable right out of the gate. My husband had to go back down to our other house and just missed the delivery, but we will cuddle together this evening while continuing our Round Two binge-watch of Succession (what a show!).

Here are a ton of photos of the sofa in different lighting which I so wished I’d had while making that blindish decision. If you look closely, you’ll see all the recliners we were using stacked up in the library room behind, to be moved around to new spots later today.

So, sharing photos of some of the house in this Winter Wonderland (there will be more photos as we get more settled) and mostly of this awesome sectional. Hope this helps someone else out there make their furniture decisions. I desperately searched the internet for photos of this style and color of leather–so wanted to try and make it easier for someone else. I highly recommend Sofas and Sectionals though-if you have any questions about the whole deal, feel free to ask! I was kind of flying blind when I ordered this, but I know a lot about it now. They made the whole daunting process reliable, affordable and seamless for us.

A video I took this morning of the Winter Wonderland from the deck.

Happy New Year all! I have a good feeling about 2022. My word for the year is RECOVER as last year involved month after month of major life stress/events–even some good ones such as this amazing home. Still, stress though, that I intend to recover from right on this buttery soft sofa.



Right after my husband and I got married and were getting some photos taken, I looked down and something caught my eye in the grass. It was a small square card with the letter C handwritten on it.

“Thanks for coming, Cindy,” I thought as I picked it up and tucked it in my lace bag.

I still have it with my other keepsakes of the day.

I picked up Dad’s ashes the week after he passed. In passing our lawyer had mentioned that the cemetery where Dad’s grandfather is buried, does cremations. So, anticipating what was coming, I had pre- arranged for him to be cremated there- the place just a couple of weeks before we had roamed with a map searching for his grandad’s grave. And we found it.

Dad was still alert and speaking then and remembered being there as a child doing the same search. He remembered the grave on a hill overlooking the mountains in the distance. Just as it was.

When I picked up his ashes that day, I drove back up to the gravesite and just sat the open white cardboard box next to the headstone. I wasn’t ready to take the black plastic box out, which will come in time.

I stood for awhile with them both, in the peaceful air, reflecting on what a miracle it was that my father came back to his roots to complete his life cycle. And how none of us realized this when I felt so drawn to move to this area.

So many other synchronicities that I may write about another day.

When I brought Dad home I didn’t know what to do with that box. We will spread his ashes later next year in grand style , but for now I don’t know. I’ve never been in possession of someone’s ashes before and don’t want to just stick them away in a closet or cupboard, but where do I put them?

As I walked back to our bedroom, John’s piano in our dining area caught my eye. The marble lazy Susan on top was just there, empty.

I knew that was the spot to place the box, at least for now.

When I walked up to set it on the marble circle, something caught my eye.

There she was again at a momentous time, reminding me she’s never far when we need her. No idea how or when that little bead ended up there, and it was the first time I’d seen it- and the only one.

Just one C. There was just one Cindy. And I sure felt her presence that night as I sat with Dad in those final hours coaxing him to look for her, and the motion sensor alarm that I had set in the off position earlier, started alarming. Someone had entered the space and the motion sensor (positioned on the floor for fall risk patients) picked it up. Who else would it be?

So there he sits with Cindy, again.

I find comfort in these signs. I went over to look at it again this morning and there they are, still together.

And here John and I are, still together as well, grieving and dreaming of ways we will take our family name out in style.



Our father, the icon, Jack Monkman, passed peacefully in his sleep this morning at 3:45am. I had been at the bedside for 11 hours, then went home for a shower and sleep and got the call three hours later.

Earlier in the evening, I had turned off both the motion detector devices on the floor the facility placed by the bed for patients who are fall risks. They set off a smoke alarm kind of beep when detecting nearby motion. All of a sudden an hour later, one of them started going off randomly across the room – no one had passed that area or even near it.

I figured Cindy announced her entrance to the space and a few hours later shepherded our father Home.

We will love and miss you forever Dad. And as I told you, we have John carefully tucked under our wings. All is taken care of. Be free. We will be looking for you when it’s our time- and in the meantime, we are going to enjoy every minute of our lives and take the Monkman name out in style.

Jack Monkman 2/1931 — 10/2021



I just finished listening to an Instagram Live where a man I admire and am entertained by daily (George Hahn) was describing someone else’s coming out story. He burst in to tears as he spoke of this and his emotion fueled my own. He talked about how courageous his friend was for making this bold move at this juncture of his life.

This all spurred me thinking about my gay brother, whose life I’m actively involved with right now.

When someone has a chronic mental illness (or any chronic disability really), they tend to get defined by just that. My brother, who is schizophrenic, for example.

When John first moved to AZ at my urging, nine years ago, he lived with me that summer and together we worked toward stabilizing him and finding him a meaningful life. He had been living alone–largely untethered– for years. Left to his own devices to find his way.

John had been out of the closet for decades at that point, but in many ways was living like he still was ensconced there.

When he came to live with me, I looked at his whole life and saw this gap; unrealized. I started investigating ways I could help him get involved in the gay community at age 50–bars were not an option, but what else was there?

That’s when I got the spark about the Phoenix Gay Men’s Chorus, pushed him to audition and we all know what happened there. He spent two years singing with them all over Phoenix and beyond. He even bought a tuxedo and learned, with his challenged brain, songs in Italian and Latin. Memorized them.

I find myself in the same boat here in Pennsylvania and we are working on it. We’ve been very busy the last three weeks getting him unpacked, settled in the house/community, my husband helped him buy a bike, sorting through countless items that were sent here that we are donating, on and on. It’s been very busy. But he’s met his neighbors and yesterday the nurse coordinator at the Assisted Living told us one of his neighbors was raving about how friendly he is. Today he explores the art class there for the first time. We are doing it.

The smoking issue at the house has worked out easily (it’s a non-smoking campus, so we got a house just feet from the property line and I got him a chair he can easily transport and he sits between two large trees and has his cigarettes–which has dropped off dramatically since he moved).

We got him his own large TV for the living room, so he can also have his own space in the house. John admitted he was taking so many smoke breaks because he didn’t want to always watch Dad’s shows and smoking got him his own space. My Dad will be basically living in the sunroom–we all know that. So we are shifting that with John having his own room for music and movies. It’s important he has his own life which is defined by his preferences/choices/style of living. I am adamant that he not become consumed with caretaking our Dad, which is what was happening in AZ. He has enough on his plate taking care of himself.

It’s been a busy and fulfilling time. My Dad comes out in about 2-3 weeks (my angel husband is driving him on an extended road trip in my brother’s car across the country), so we are doing our best to get as much sorted out and set up before he comes. There is a lot to it!

This week we’ve been christening his new TV with a Michael Douglas movie marathon. First, Basic Instinct and last night Fatal Attraction. He served me dinner that he made both nights. It’s been great.

Anyway, back to the George Hahn’s emotions this morning and my own. It brought me back to the time when my brother came out. He had his first serious psychotic episode right around the trials for Cindy’s murder. He lived in Minneapolis then, and traveled to AZ only one time for the trials–toward the end of one of them. It was during that visit that I noticed he was experiencing significant paranoia. I was a Psych RN at the time and came home from shopping with John and pulled my Dad aside and pointed out what I had observed. There was so much denial about that, even within my mental health professionals family. He had to fall much farther before he got proper help and it was during that acute episode that he also came out of the closet. I can only imagine the psychic pressure he felt holding his sexuality in for so long. He had been living out of the closet in Minneapolis for a few years at that point, unbeknownst to our family. Those were likely some of the best years of his life.

Cindy never knew he was gay.

I had one conversation with Marj–our stepmother–about John’s coming out and her response haunts me to this day.

“Well, you know, it’s probably the only community that would accept him,” she said, making it clear that she didn’t think his being gay was really real. He just chose that life because he didn’t fit in anywhere else. Ya think?

I wasn’t the person then that I am today. I was struck dumb by her words. I still respected her as a parent and authority figure, in my 30’s then, and was far away from coming to grips of the damage she had caused in our lives, in my life.

Now this woman was also a mental health professional–a PhD level social worker. And she had spent a lot of time with John that summer before his major break–she was teaching up in that area and would parlay visits to his home for weekends (he owned his own home he called “Little House in the Prairie” there). She shared with me that she saw him losing weight, that he had some medical issues going on that they couldn’t quite figure out, that she had accompanied him to various Dr. appointments but no real diagnosis had occurred. They finally landed on some vague chronic fatigue syndrome.

That Fall I was with John for a few hours before seeing he was completely paranoid–claiming security guards were following him around the Mall. Had she missed all of this? Had he been better about hiding it?

In reality, he was so paranoid about the AIDS crisis, that although he never tested positive, he started manifesting the physical symptoms of AIDS. It was the first glimmer of the closet door peeking open.

I have no idea what kinds of conversations happened between John and Marj that summer, but I do know that one line she said to me, which sums up the entire dynamic.

Marj was a politically progressive person, a “women’s libber” she would be called back in that time, yet her Deep South roots still clung tightly to her basic beliefs. She never accepted John’s homosexuality and God knows the ways she shamed him about it in her unique passive-aggressive way. I know how she shamed me —and Cindy–I know what she said to me about him.

As if John was such a misfit that he went out seeking a community that would accept all the misfits, because they were such misfits themselves that they would take anyone. That’s what I took in her statement–what I take now in it. It makes me shudder, but I’m sure not an uncommon belief.

tweet tweet! a little palate cleanser for us all

It’s not easy to speak out about taboo things. Heck, it took me decades to speak out about Marj, and that started after her death in a private therapist’s office who asked me to circle back to something “your stepmother hit you?” after I glossed over it like it was normal family behavior. She held me to that fire until it all unraveled out. I always credit her for helping me see the truth in my upbringing--as she was on a quest to figure out the root cause of the reason I came to her–a debilitating anxiety disorder that stretched from my twenties in to my early forties.

Speaking out about her has not been easy for me either, but it’s been helpful and not just to me. My posts about hard subjects like that have garnered the most feedback from my readers here on the blog and in private. About their own lives. It’s important to bring things like this to light. But it’s been not unchallenged or fraught with losses, like George spoke about this morning with his coming-out story–necessary losses of relationships.

I was recently challenged about this with one of Marj’s sisters, now elderly, who had offered herself to me as a confidante for many years. A few years ago, I confided in her something I was very worried about, about another family member. I was needing help, as in many ways, I’m this middle child steering a ship I was never prepared for all by myself (until I met my husband who has been an amazing ally). I’ve navigated some very rocky waters with my family, alone. So at her urging, I reached out to her for help.

“Please, talk to me anytime,” she encouraged me. So I did.

I don’t know if it was the results of the election–she’s also still in the Deep South and we are at opposite ends of the political spectrum (as she was with her own sister). But she kind of lost her mind with me. Or maybe she just lost her filters.

I made a Facebook post about some feelings post-election and in this, I used an example of being a survivor of child abuse and speaking out about it to compare to whatever point I was making about recovering from the months of trauma surrounding those heavily-charged politics.

what I typically post about on Facebook–I grew all of these!

Out of the blue, I received a text from this former “step-Aunt”. Now, she had read the blog I originally wrote here about her sister (with a caveat and warning at the beginning that it was going to get real and difficult for her remaining loved ones so maybe stop reading there) and reached out to me in support back then. That was years ago. We never really discussed it, but I believed her when she said she had no idea it was happening. Such is the way of abuse in families–often hidden.

Imagine my blindside, when she vomited in to my text box claiming she was “sick of the crap” I was writing about her sister (as if I do it on some regular basis) and she threatened to expose the sensitive material I had shared with her years ago, about another family member “to friends and family”. She was specific too about how she was going to do that, I suppose, if I wrote any more “crap” about her sister. Of all the responses to her feelings about my post, this was the one she chose. A specific, detailed threat involving the privacy of someone else. Sad.

That “crap” she was referring to is my life story. And something I never asked, nor encouraged her to read. In fact, I steered her against it, knowing it would be difficult for that side of the family. I’ve never asked to read one word of anything I’ve ever written–on my blog, on Facebook, anywhere. She chose that freely on her own–even after being warned in a loving way–yet found a way to blame me for it. It all felt very familiar. Apples and trees, as they say.

another palate cleanser–I grew this tooall these different colors on one plant

It’s hard to talk about hard things. It’s not easy to keep talking about them. You will lose people, as I did with Marj’s sister. Her threats–a blackmail actually–told so many stories in one text that it was clear this was a person who was not–and had not been–safe for me to be around, period. Letting go of people is often necessary along the way to finding your freedom.

I accompanied my brother to his first Psychiatrist appointment here. That Dr. was amazing. After the sheer, scary incompetence of what he just left at the clinic in AZ, this was like gale force winds of fresh air. He spent an entire hour asking John about his history with me present. I was glad I was there as I knew–and it became obvious to the Dr.–that John minimizes things. I filled in many blanks for him and at one point he said directly to John “I see you have a tendency to sugar-coat things, and I’m not here as a person you need to impress. I’m here as a person to help you when things get their worst, so I need to know everything about how bad it gets.”. (Wow, I’m sitting there thinking, just wow).

John agreed and I was still surprised when the Dr. asked about childhood trauma (after John originally said “no” and I pointed out that we lost our mother when John was just 3–about as traumatic as you can get). He then asked “was there any abuse?” and John said “yes, our mother after Dad remarried”. Marj adopted us, so we were required to always call her “Mother”. As you can see, I no longer use that title for her, but my brother does and I’m not saying a word about it.

“Was it verbal or physical or….?” the Dr. asked.

With no prompting, John replied “it was verbal and physical”.

I was so proud of him that he could speak the truth.

this is a Fiesta hibiscus

I had not spoken with him about Marj and the abuse for years. Once during a really rough patch, he blurted out “you left me alone there with her for three years when you went to college Kathy–THREE YEARS!“. But beyond that, he’s been reluctant to talk about things and I don’t know what happened in those three years. I don’t push him on it–if it’s meant to be discussed it will be.

I just know that the last time she hit me, I got in the middle of her beating him and she turned on me. I was in college at that time and home for a weekend.

So he’s speaking out too. That’s good that it just comes to light. I didn’t ask him any further about that, as we are focusing on moving forward. But should he ever need to talk about it, he knows I know and am a soft place to land.

I decided not to tell him about the crazy interaction and ultimate severance of the relationship with Marj’s sister. My brother has few people on this planet who he feels connected to, and I am not taking any of them away from him. If she was nearby and I felt a danger to him in any way, sure. But, like her sister, her focus seemed more directed at me for speaking out, so I’m leaving it there.

But rest assured, I blocked her from all social media and from my phone number.

I may not have been able to protect myself from her sister then, but I know how to protect myself now. If she chooses to follow through on her blackmail, well that would just be a sad legacy for her to leave her descendants, but for sure it has nothing to do with me.

a rainbow of color

Anyway, here’s to telling the truth. Here’s to all the gay people I know (and don’t know) who have traversed all the obstacles they have to step in to their lives–freedom to breathe your own air is a great place to live.

You will lose people along the way, but you will gain more who vibe with who you are.

And God knows, my brother and I have had enough struggle.

It’s finally the time in our lives to be living fully alive–lives that our mother and our sister would be proud of.