The Return of the Heroes (In Honor of Veterans)

When late I sang sad was my voice,

Sad were the shows around me with deafening noises of hatred
and smoke of war;

In the midst of the conflict, the heroes, I stood,

Or pass’d with slow step through the wounded and dying.




But now I sing not war,

Nor the measur’d march of soldiers, nor the tents of camps,

Nor the regiments hastily coming up deploying in line of battle;

No more the sad, unnatural shows of war.




Ask’d room those flush’d immortal ranks, the first forth-stepping

Ask room alas the ghastly ranks, the armies dread that follow’d.

(Pass, pass, ye proud brigades, with your tramping sinewy legs,

With your shoulders young and strong, with your knapsacks and
your muskets;

How elate I stood and watch’d you, where starting off you

Pass—then rattle drums again,

For an army heaves in sight, O another gathering army,

Swarming, trailing on the rear, O you dread accruing army,

O you regiments so piteous, with your mortal diarrhoea, with your

O my land’s maim’d darlings, with the plenteous bloody bandage
and the crutch,

Lo, your pallid army follows.)

Walt Whitman


Do You Have Lunch With A Crazy Person?

How is your mental health?

I don’t usually come up against moral dilemmas when out with my daughters thrift shopping. The shop has changed hands and no longer can I depend fully on the place to outfit me. I suppose it’s not a terrible thing to buy new clothes from real stores, but still.

We left a little disappointed and with empty hands and walked up the street toward our car. I had noticed an older lady outside of an empty storefront with what looked like a small rummage sale of framed paintings and other trinkets at her feet as we had driven into town but hadn’t thought much of it. In Upstate New York many storefronts are empty and people often have junk sales.

As we approached the lady who was pulling weeds from between the cracks of the sidewalk she engaged us in small talk about the town’s inability to compete with Saratoga Springs because the local government refused to learn about historical zoning and markers. She told us how she had lovingly restored seven houses in the area to their period correct beauty.

She hooked me on many levels–old houses, inept government, nineteenth century period-correctness. She was also beautiful with wavy mid-length silver hair and large and bright hazel eyes. Within a few moments she told us she was in her late seventies.

Claire bragged about the way her ass looked in the black leggings she wore quite well. She said it was due to genetics and keeping active and interested in life. With a dramatic wave of the arm she pointed to the paintings on the sidewalk and the photographs taped to the window of the storefront.

The Grieving Process

“Henry died this year,” she told us as she pointed to an obituary cut from the newspaper.

I scanned it. Henry loved dancing, old cars and the local Catholic church. The pictures showed a very handsome older man — the kind of man who possibly loved too many women at once.

Claire started stories about her time as a frumpy teacher. Stories about raising daughters alone after her second husband ran off with her best friend. About her first husband’s death in Vietnam. About her opinions on politics.

I mentioned that we didn’t have much in common politically. We both agreed that this was not a problem and that mature adults should be able to discuss ideas without having the ideas poison relationships. Since this attitude pleased us both we agreed to be friends and possibly to go to lunch and have margaritas.

“I was a frump until I met Henry,” she said wistfully. “He made me beautiful.” She pointed to one picture where she did look a bit frumpy and then another of her and Henry at some sort of garden party. In this photo she wore a form-fitting red dress and a confident expression of being loved on her face. Henry looked proud and happy too.

“So after your horrible second marriage you finally found happiness,” I said.

Her eyes clouded for a second. “No, it wasn’t always happy.” Claire looked as if lost for a moment but recovered. “So when do you want to do lunch?”

Just then the owner of the thrift store called to me from down the road. “Adrienne, you left something in here!”

I knew I hadn’t bought anything. My daughters looked equally confused. A different lady from the store came out now and called me again. Claire turned her attention to my daughters, asking them about school and such. I strolled down the street to retrieve whatever it was that I’d left behind.

“She’s crazy,” the shop-owner said. “We all loved and knew Henry, but since his death Claire has been terrible. She accosts anyone who walks by the building she and Henry own. Henry left her underwater financially. She tells everyone she’s going to run for mayor. He had her put away a few times. We knew you and the girls would be too nice to step away, but she’ll keep you for hours if you let her.”

I had noticed that her stories trailed off and circled back, but she was colorful and interesting. I thought lonely and grieving. I called to the girls, waved a good-bye to Claire as she kissed the girls as if she’d known them for years and we drove off.

I checked the time and we had indeed been talking to her for almost an hour. I’d actually enjoyed the idea of Mexican food and drink with her. I loved that she was open to discussing politics although we were diametrically opposed on most issues. But she was crazy — or so it was said and I had run off to escape it — partially to please the shop-keepers.

How can you tell if someone is mentally ill?

Okay. So she did seem a little scattered. She did consume most of the air-time in conversation but … maybe she was terribly lonely … and grieving. Maybe she was crazy and needed to be checked into a mental health facility …

I live with a girl who has been checked into mental health facilities. Should I have run from her. We jokingly say yes on some days.

What if good old Henry wasn’t perfect? What if Claire had been hurt enough times that she became unhinged every so often? What if Claire is actually right that the town doesn’t know how to manage its affairs?

Why does this lonely, creative and possibly crazy woman haunt me?


So here’s what I’m wondering:

Would you have lunch with someone who is mentally ill?

Do you chance it?

Do you take the shopkeeper’s warning to clear out as fast as you can?

Who is responsible for befriending a woman like this?

How crazy is too crazy to hang out with?


Further reading:









“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” Jane Austen

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Fiction: Dirty Diapers

When was there a time when Thankful did not have to concern herself with diapers? Now as Thankful scrubbed shit far from her family, she wondered why she had traveled a great distance only to immerse her hands in dirty laundry water again. Her tantrum may have ruined a friendship with Mrs. Markham, who had been a kinder mother to her in a few months than Margaret had been in her entire lifetime. Either way—in Englewood or Arizona—she was pushing other folks’ strollers.

“Say! Anyone at home?” William called as he came around the back gate. “Oh, I wasn’t expecting to see you, Thankful.”

Thankful’s dress and her stylish apron hung sodden and dirty. “I live here don’t I? What do you want?”

“Um, well . . . are you all right?” William asked.

“I’m perfectly fine, William. You must be wrecked after the show you put on for the garrison last night,” she said, punching at the diapers in the basin and giving herself an uncomfortable splash in the eye.

“Funny thing; I’m right as rain,” William replied, tipping his hat back and leaning on the gate. “I always sleep well at army posts. My legs are sore, but . . .”

“Well, that serves you right—hopping around foolishly!”

“I can’t hop, Thankful, so I guess you’re wrong on that. As far as being a fool—well—I don’t mind if I was!” William laughed.

“Why are you here, William? I’m too busy for small talk.”

He didn’t seem to mind how angry and upset Thankful was.

“Well, yes, um, is Miss Peckham in?”

“No!” Thankful replied, huffing as she punched the wet diapers in the water. “She’s not in. She’s doing ‘research’ on the army species of man. She’s man enough—she needs no study.”

“Which way did she go? I wanted to know if she needed anything else from town before I head back.”

“Perfume and plenty of it!” Thankful said.

“What? Oh, your idea of a joke, I guess. Anyway, you don’t seem to know much so I’ll be on my way, Thankful.”

“Oh, yes, girls in trousers are much cleverer than the rest of us!” Thankful muttered as William closed the gate behind him, and was gone.


Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

forget me not promo


Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo, faithful virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He will wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son and Brother;
Whom thou conceivst, conceived; yea thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother;
Thou hast light in dark, and shutst in little room,
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.


***Painting by Beatrice Emma Parsons – Annunciation