When a Picture Falls Out of a Book

One corner of my kitchen countertop is a mess, always. Stuff just accumulates there.

My daughters’ ponytail holders. My Us Weekly magazines (I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit, I’ve been a subscriber, off and on, for years). Stanton’s various electronic gadgets. Pens, batteries, coupons, Shopkins, the occasional card. Lots…of…stuff.

The other day, I tried to clean up some of the stuff. Scoop the ponytail holders into a drawer. Recycle the magazines. Then I picked up an overstuffed file folder and a coming-unbound book—“Chocolatina” by Erik Kraft, one of the girls’ favorites—and a picture fluttered out of the jumble of paper and pages.

This picture:

When a Picture Falls Out

This picture shows my three siblings and me with our mom and her parents, our Poppy and Grandma. I’m the cute one. Just kidding, friends. 😉 I’m the one wearing the orange shirt.

My brother Josh is making bunny ears on my head. My other brother, Jared (in the striped shirt), would grow up to become the cute one. My sister Jenna is resting her head on the table.

I’m not sure whose birthday we’re celebrating here. If one of them is reading this, maybe they’ll help me out. (Hint, hint…)

I emailed this picture to my family, along with some old friends who have been around us Minetolas so long, and sat at that kitchen table with us so much, that they, too, know all the characters in this story.

Jared replied all: “photo cred: John Minetola?” That would be my dad, and I replied that yes, I thought so. Otherwise, he would have been in the picture.

This was before the selfie stick era, you know.

When this picture fell out of that book, I wasn’t expecting it. But instantly, after I picked it up, I smiled.

I smiled because it was a happy memory. Not a perfect memory—whose birthday cake was that?—but a happy one, because we were all there together. And I’m grateful that we still do gather around that table, many years later, for dinners and rounds of Uno and other normal, nothing-special moments that actually are special in their togetherness.

Poppy, of course, has since passed way, five years ago now. I miss him, but I know he’s in a good place.

I do wish he could have been here to have met Anna. I know he would have loved everything about her—every little thing, from her dimples to the mischievous twinkle in her eye, which is exactly like his.

Poppy did have a chance to meet Grace, about a year and a half before he died. I will always remember the way he leaned over to her—an old man with glasses, looking with big love at my baby—and said, “I hope you live to be 90.” Grace looked back, and I like to think she understood what he said.

Sometimes, our best pictures are the ones we don’t take. But our memories, strong and enduring, of times that touched our hearts and stay with us forever.

“I hope you live to be 90.”

In her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo writes that it can be difficult to organize pictures. Not only do we file them into photo albums, but we also stick them into books as bookmarks, or magnet them to the refrigerator, or pull them out of our photo albums to send to loved ones. Our pictures…end up…everywhere.

Have you ever opened a book, or knocked a day planner to the floor, and a picture or other memento fell out, rousing a memory?

What did you remember, friends?

Reflecting on a past moment, we might slip on our rose-colored glasses. We might romanticize a time, long gone, that we struggled through in real time, years ago.

I’ve had my moments with rose-colored glasses, and romanticism too. I’ve had my moments, friends.

People aren’t perfect. We aren’t perfect. Life is beautiful, and it’s also humbling.

Life is both/and; shades of gray, not black and white.

Our pictures…end up…everywhere.

Poppy loved nature. The older I get, the more I love and seek it out too.

Last week, my parents were in town for the girls’ winter break. One morning, I brought my dad and Grace to Five Rivers, a nearby nature park. We spent some time bird-watching at the visitor center, using binoculars to look out the expansive windows. We spotted many eastern bluebirds, and even an opossum.

“Poppy would have loved this,” my dad said.

I agreed.

“The best thing about a picture,” Andy Warhol said, “is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” I loved seeing Poppy again in the picture that fell out of the book. I so appreciated remembering him, too, when I was bird-watching with my dad and my daughter.

Years from now, I wonder if my daughters will stumble upon an old picture, or frayed certificate of participation that I saved—a memento of some kind. So much of our life is digitized now, but we still keep hard copies of this and that here and there.

I wonder what Grace and Anna might find. I wonder what they’ll remember.

I hope they’ll skim over the imperfect parts. The persistent morning rush and end-of-day crankiness. My forgetting Anna’s teddy bear on “Bring Your Teddy Bear to Preschool Day” (that happened yesterday), Stanton’s coming home later than he’d said (two nights ago).

I hope they’ll skim over those parts, and remember that we loved them. At the very least, that we tried.

That is, after all, what families do: Love. Work. Play. Be there for one another. Try.

This quote made me laugh, so I’ll end with it, for your enjoyment too: “My whole family is lactose intolerant, and when we take pictures, we can’t say, ‘Cheese.’” –Jay London


Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.


You Are Where You’re Supposed to Be

Two Sundays ago, I was sitting in a pew at the neighborhood church that Stanton, the girls and I attend. The pastor announced the next song; I flipped to it in the hymnal. “Lord, When You Came to the Lakeshore.”

The choir director began playing the melody of the song. In that moment, my memory flashed back about 20 years.

My very first job, at age 15, was as an organist for a small church near my Pennsylvania hometown. I probably was in a bit over my head, friends. I knew how to play the piano, not the organ…so I learned as I went. In the beginning, I played the organ like a piano—focusing on one keyboard only. As time went on, I began adding in sounds from the other keyboard, plus the pedals.

The biggest challenge, though, was trying to direct the choir. The choir consisted of four or five regular members (median age: 76), all of whom harbored strong opinions about which songs we should be singing. They didn’t mind so much that I was young and inexperienced; they just wanted to belt out “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” every.single.Sunday.

At this point, you might be wondering how I got this job. (You also may be wondering if I was qualified…) Answer to the first question: My friend’s mother was the original organist at that church, and needed some help with some of the services.

I ended up playing the organ for that church all through high school. I also ended up (eventually) becoming fairly close to my septuagenarian choir members. I invited all of them to my high school graduation party, and they all came. As I’m writing this, I’m smiling at the memory. George, Annette, Eddie…they were all there.

They didn’t mind so much that I was young and inexperienced; they just wanted to belt out “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” every.single.Sunday.

Back to that song, though: “Lord, When You Came to the Lakeshore.” At my hometown church, there was an old lady who always sat in a front pew.

If you’ve ever attended a worship service somewhat regularly, then you know that many people usually sit in the same spot week after week. Similar to having “your” seat in a college classroom, or “your” table at a coffee shop. You get comfortable; you gravitate toward the familiar.

This lady, friends—I wish I could remember her name. I can’t. But she had white hair and wrinkled skin, and she was nice. She also wore a hat, every Sunday.

One Sunday before the service, I was downstairs where the pews are. I was making my way up to the choir loft, where the organ was, along with George, Annette and the gang. I stopped to say hello to the lady. We chatted a bit, and she asked me if I wouldn’t mind playing her favorite hymn, “Lord, When You Came to the Seashore.”

There was still some time before church started, so I said sure. She squeezed my hand. I went upstairs and played that song. When I was done, she turned around in her seat and smiled her thanks.


I like the song “Lord, When You Came to the Seashore.” It’s straightforward to play (which is helpful). The melody is pretty, the lyrics uplifting. I got into the habit of playing it every Sunday before church started, partly because I liked it but mostly because the lady did. Every time after I played that song, she turned around and smiled.

I waved back: “You’re welcome.”

Twenty years later, in a different place, in a different church, I was the one sitting in the pew, and I heard that familiar melody I once knew so well. The title of the song was slightly different—“Lakeshore” instead of “Seashore”—but it was the same song. Hearing that song took me back to 15.

I had to blink myself back to the present. I also had to blink some tears away. Because almost certainly, my old friend has passed on by now. I’m not sure where my “Battle Hymn of the Republic”-loving choir members might be either.

I do know, though, that that small church doesn’t exist anymore.

Has something like that ever happened to you too? You hear a song, or a line from a movie, or something like that…and suddenly, you’re time traveling?

Hearing that song took me back to 15.

For me, time traveling—nostalgia—isn’t constructive. I start to miss people. Places. More than anything, I feel my mortality. I look at pictures of my high school graduation party, for example; I see a younger version of myself (alongside George and Annette); I have to acknowledge, “I’m getting older.”

Sometimes I’m surprised by the people and places I miss. Maybe you are too.

As we move along in our lives, we still may carry within us pieces from our pasts, from our childhoods. Pieces stay with us…still. Because they mattered.

On Monday evening, the day after “Lord, When You Came to the Lakeshore,” I stopped by a yoga class at our Y. I love yoga, but don’t always make the time to practice it. At one point during the class, the instructor led us through a challenging pose.

He encouraged us not to compare ourselves—our bodies, our yoga practice—to our neighbors. Go with your own flow, he said. Appreciate what you can do. Then he said, “You are where you’re supposed to be.”

Friends, those words struck me. You are where you’re supposed to be.

The wisdom in those words, for me, is that this makes sense. This present moment means more than anything. This is right.

Be present.

Whoever you wish you could be with again—whoever you may miss, including your younger, carefree self—whatever time from years ago seems easier than the moment you find yourself in now…no. No, this is it. This is where you’re supposed to be.

(And try not to compare yourself to your neighbor. Everyone has their own journey. Everyone has their own struggle.)

When you struggle, where do you find hope? And when your heart overflows, when your cup runneth over…where do you acknowledge the goodness, the grace, the second chances?

For some of us, the answer (to both questions) may be church, or temple, or another place of worship. For others of us, the yoga mat, or another form of exercise or meditation. Nature. Lots of places.

This present moment means more than anything.

In “A Moveable Feast,” Ernest Hemingway ends his memoir with a beautiful reflection on Paris, a place that “stayed with him” throughout his life. He concludes that when he lived there, with his first wife, “we were very poor and very happy.”

My old friend in that small church can’t perfectly compare to Paris—it’s not the best parallel—but that time in my life was very “coming of age,” as Hemingway’s Paris was to him. I learned then something that has stayed with me all these years, which is work with people. Find common ground; meet in the middle. Wherever you find yourself—whatever odd set of circumstances you seem to have stumbled into—make the best of things.

Leave that place better than you found it, if you can.

Maybe it doesn’t make sense at the time, but you are where you’re supposed to be. One day, you’ll understand why.

“Be where your feet are.” (Anonymous)

Photo credit: Pixabay


Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

But What Will People Think?

One morning this past week, the four of us were getting ready for the day. Stanton left the house first, as a light snow began to fall. Grace and Anna stood at the window (Anna’s chin touching the windowsill) and wondered if then (7:45 a.m.) would be a good time to build our first snow girl of the New Year.

(Answer: No.)

I was wondering if school would be delayed because of the snow. (Answer: Another thumbs-down.) So I made Grace’s lunch, changed Anna’s shirt (“Mom! I had a spill! But it’s not a problem, Mom!”) and began gathering all our bags.

Do you and your kids also have so many bags to locate, pack and get out of the house each morning? I’m continually loading stuff out of my house, into my car and back again every…single…day.

Backpacks. Lunch boxes. My laptop bag. In the winter, bags with the girls’ snow pants and boots so that they can play outside during recess.

I stuffed a granola bar into my handbag. Anna noticed and noted that she was hungry. Grace held up her finger. “Mom! I need a Band-Aid!”

“Mom!” Anna had forgotten about the granola bar because now, of course… “I need a Band Aid too!”

“OK,” I said. I distributed Band-Aids for one paper cut and one nonexistent medical emergency. Then we all climbed into the car.

I drove Grace down the block to her bus stop. Once she hopped on the bus, I drove Anna to preschool.

Someone once said that the major requirement of parenthood is a driver’s license. This might be true, friends.

I distributed Band-Aids for one paper cut and one nonexistent medical emergency.

En route to Anna’s preschool, I realized I had forgotten to pack her sneakers into her backpack, for her to change out of from her snow boots. Sometimes my almost-3-year-old can be amazingly understanding. Other times, she teeters toward irrationality. Not sure which Anna Parker Leddy I’d be getting, I broached the topic: “Honey, guess what.”

“What, Mom?”

I tapped my fingers against the steering wheel. “I forgot your sneakers.” I glanced in the rearview mirror; Anna was starting to frown. “Oh, well, right? You can be comfy in just your socks…”

“MOM!” Anna exhaled. “But what will people think?”

“They will think…your mom forgot your sneakers.” Hopefully, that was all people would think about Anna’s mom.

Anna sighed. “Oh, Mom… How could you?”

Dear Lord. “I know, honey; I know.” But trust me: At some point, for some reason, I’ll fall short of your expectations again.

Forgetting your sneakers? This is nothing.

What people think. I had forgotten we begin worrying about that at such a young age.

“They will think…your mom forgot your sneakers.” Hopefully, that was all people would think about Anna’s mom.

I remember when I was in third or fourth grade. I had gone to the nurse’s office, and returned back to my classroom with a note recommending that I see an eye doctor to get glasses. That day—and I remember this clearly, to this day—I folded the note up and hid it in the palm of my hand, so that my classmates wouldn’t notice. So that people wouldn’t think something was wrong with me. I was maybe 10 years old, and I worried what people would think.

Twenty-five years later, I’m thankful to share that “what people think” isn’t much of a worry anymore. Yes, I care about things…but I’m comfortable—dare I say, confident—with the person I am.

Many of us reach this comfort zone, I imagine, by the time we’re adults. We’ve lived a little. We’ve probably loved, and lost, a little. If we have a young person in our life—a child, niece or nephew, little neighbor—we’re aware, in a way we probably weren’t before, that life is fragile, and precious. That good health, and family, and friendship far outweigh things we once thought mattered so much: the cool table in the school cafeteria, the right logos, the hot ZIP code.

People 1-8-18

On Saturday, I brought the girls to a friend’s birthday party. I enjoyed chatting with the other parents while Grace played (and Anna ran back and forth from the water fountain). It was remarkable—and really nice—how easy the conversation among everyone was.

Easy because, perhaps, all the moms and dads had some shared experiences related to parenthood. When you’re raising a child, you have empathy for those who are doing the same. There’s a kinship, a kindness, a respect.

I’ve been reading a book about teaching children about empathy. The book mentions John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, and his “seven-point creed for life,” which his father gave him. This creed for life includes guiding principles such as “Be true to yourself,” and “Make each day your masterpiece.”

As the New Year unfolds, I’ve been thinking about main guiding principles I’d like to pass along to my own children. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. Be the best YOU.

2. Do your best. Work hard, play hard, get enough sleep.

3. Talk to people—really talk to them. Set your phone aside; then don’t look at it. Look at the people who are with you. And listen to them. Be in communion with them.

4. Make each day your masterpiece. (I love this one; I’m stealing it, friends!) If it’s cold out (it’s been cold out, right?!), bundle up and make the most of it. EMBRACE LIFE. There are no do-overs, girls.

5. Count your blessings.

A quote I’ve always liked—and I’ve probably shared it before—is Willie Nelson’s: “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” You forgot something. You got bad news. Things aren’t perfect. Yet…

You have so much. You have so much, girls. You have so much, friends.

It can be difficult, though, to feel grateful. For me personally, there have been times in my life when I’ve been down. I can’t know for sure, because I never spoke to anyone professionally, but I’m fairly certain there were times when I was depressed.

Even during those difficult times—which I’m so thankful to have walked through and have left behind—I had moments of clarity when I knew, consciously, that life is good. I struggled with counting my blessings, so I tried to “be a blessing,” so to speak, to others. I tried to be kind to the people around me. I tried to write stories that would make people smile, or laugh, or feel uplifted.

As it turns out, blessing others with kindness can help turn your life around too. At least, it turned out this way for me.

When you’re raising a child, you have empathy for those who are doing the same. There’s a kinship, a kindness, a respect.

I would make that my next main guiding principle:

6. Be a blessing to others.

Or, simply: 6. Be kind. Give love away (to quote another great musician, MC Yogi).

One day you’re riding in the back of the car, horrified that your mom forgot your sneakers. But what will people think? Then in a blink, it seems, you’re up front, driving.

From your vantage point behind the wheel, you have a better sense of what people will think.

Did she care?

Did he try?

Did they show up?

You did?

Then you’re standing on solid ground, friends.

Photo credit: Pixabay


Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.


A Different Person Now: Embracing New Seasons

This year, I’ve had the experience of being one of the “older” (or, more seasoned) moms, at my younger daughter’s preschool. For several of the other moms, this is their first encounter with school. They’ve enrolled their oldest children for the first time, and drop them off and pick them up with their younger kiddos in tow—infant car seats, burp cloths and all.

On the mornings when Anna is in school, I walk to a nearby library to write. Several times, the other moms have invited me to join them in the school lounge. Many times, they camp out in there—similar to how I camp out in the library—and chat as they feed and change their babies.

Every time, I’ve thanked them as I’ve bowed out, apologizing that I had work to do.

The other day, I dropped Anna off. I smiled and waved goodbye to the other moms. And as I walked to the library, I realized I had been those moms, when Grace was starting that preschool and Anna was still a baby.

Not so long ago, that was me. My days were more flexible; I had more time for off-the-cuff commiserating about sleep schedules and first foods. But I wasn’t that person anymore; I was somebody different now.

I remember when both my girls were babies, all the cozy moments we had together, all the much-appreciated conversation I exchanged with other parents (some of whom became friends) at parks and playgrounds and anything that was open by 9 a.m. on a Saturday. I’m thankful for that time in our life.

I’m also thankful for this time now, when my children are a little more independent, and I can be a little more independent too.

Ice Skates

Earlier this week, I came across the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I remembered that this book was popular a few years ago. (Usually, I’m a few years behind on a trend.)

Have you read this book, friends? I just started it, but I’m enjoying it. I very much appreciate its message about living in the present and making the most of the present. For example, this passage on pages 117-118 struck me:

“And what about things from your own childhood? Do you still keep your report cards or graduation certificates…Let all those letters you received years ago…go. The purpose of a letter is fulfilled the moment it is received…It is not our memories but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure.”

Kondo’s last line there resonated with me: “It is not our memories but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure.”

That perspective gave me permission, in a way, to consider letting go of some things I’ve kept with me through some of our cross-country moves—some things that have been packed up in boxes since our season in Virginia, nearly nine years ago.

As you know, our family of four moved into our home here in New York this past spring. Seven months later, we’re fairly unpacked. In the basement, however, remain a few lingering boxes.

A friend of ours needed some boxes, which motivated me to unpack some of ours—three, to be exact. On Sunday afternoon, I opened up these boxes.

Opening up boxes—often an exercise in nostalgia.

I like to think of myself as a minimalist, but the truth is, like everyone else, I have more stuff than I think I do. I unpacked towels, a spare set of sheets, a beautiful robe I’ve worn probably three times. I found a hard hat (Stanton’s), an alphabet puzzle (the girls’) and a bunch of cords.

Marie Kondo has a thought about cords: “If you see a cord and wonder what on earth it’s for, chances are you’ll never use it again” (page 110). She advocates for discarding cords that are a mystery to you.

I didn’t discard our cords—I didn’t discard anything, except a few broken toys—but as this week has gone on, I’ve continued reflecting on new seasons…Kondo’s book…and the boxes we keep in our homes, closed up and stored away.

Opening up boxes—often an exercise in nostalgia.

It’s a new season, literally, here in upstate New York: winter. Yesterday morning, snow was falling as I loaded the girls into the car for school.

“Wow!” Grace exclaimed, gazing up at the sky.

“Build a snowman?” Anna asked, hopeful.

“Please get into the car, girls,” I said. “We’re almost late.”

Instead, Anna pointed at me and laughed with delight. “Mom! Snowflakes in your hair!”

I couldn’t help but smile. And I took a moment to take in the snowfall, and the snowflakes. It is amazing that each snowflake is unique.

I was talking with my brother Jared a few nights ago. As we were on the phone, the girls were yelling in the background. “Oh, my gosh,” I said.

“One day, you’ll miss this,” Jared replied.

People say that, but… “We’ll see,” I said.

There must be a happy medium between nostalgia, and Marie Kondo’s magic of tidying up (i.e., throw things away). A balancing act of respecting the past, and embracing the present. Embracing new seasons.

Every holiday season, families gather together. Sometimes when we get together, we find that we revert to roles or personas from our childhood that aren’t us anymore—that don’t represent who we are today. It’s an easy, perhaps even automatic, thing to do. We don’t have to do it, though. We can choose to be the person we are now, all the time.

Until, of course, we evolve into the person we are next. Someone with a little more silver in their hair, and hopefully some wisdom to go along with it.

Yesterday was a little bit of a long day. At the end of it, I was cleaning up in the kitchen. Stanton was on his way home, and the girls were in the breakfast nook; I had just refilled their cups of milk.

I overheard Anna say, “Mom is nice. Do you like Mom, Grace?”

“Yes, I love Mom, Anna,” Grace said, and I could picture her shaking her head a little at Anna. Because I know Grace, and that’s what she would do.

Something I didn’t know until it happened—and I imagine this is true for many parents—is how much I would love being someone’s mom. How much I would treasure that, even on days that are a little bit long, and ones when we’re almost late. Motherhood is an all-season, always-a-part-of-you state of mind.

Luckily, some things don’t change.

Photo credit: Pixabay


Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.


You’re Here TODAY

Earlier this week, I went to a physician for an annual checkup. Although, for me, the last time I had this “annual” checkup was about three years ago. My excuse for this negligence happened to accompany me to my doctor that morning: my 2-year-old, Anna.

Yes, Anna goes everywhere with me these days—literally. Errands during the day (grocery store, post office, you name it). My bed, most nights. The restroom, the locker room at the Y, and now my doctor’s appointment.

I tried to schedule this appointment for when my parents would be in town to babysit, but it just didn’t work out. So that morning, I told the medical assistant at the doctor’s office, “I appreciate that you all don’t mind my bringing my daughter.”

She replied, “Don’t worry.” Then she addressed Anna with a smile: “Would you like some stickers?”

Anna smiled back and shook her head. “How ‘bout lollipops?” Anna’s doctor, the pediatrician, has stickers and lollipops.

The medical assistant laughed and left to find lollipops. When she returned, she gave Anna the sweets and then turned her attention back to me. She asked me when I had last had a checkup.

“Three years ago, which I know is bad,” I began explaining. “I was pregnant with Anna, then I had Anna, then I was busy with both my daughters, then we moved, then…”

The medical assistant smiled kindly. “It’s OK,” she said. “You’re here today.”

You’re here today.

Anna smiled back and shook her head. “How ‘bout lollipops?”

The rest of my appointment went smoothly. The physician turned out to be kind as well, and Anna, thankfully, was happily occupied with lollipops, stickers and coloring books for the rest of our time there. I was grateful to have found such a great doctor’s office in our town.

After we left, I kept thinking back to what the medical assistant had said: You’re here today. Her words stayed with me all day.

You’re here today—what an uplifting message.

The medical assistant was assuring me, Don’t worry about what happened, or didn’t happen, the past few years. Today you’re on the right track. Focus on the present—what’s right in front of you.

Easier said than done sometimes, right, friends?

The next morning, Grace wanted to color a picture to mail to my grandmother. She couldn’t find the crayons. “Mom!” she called.

As it turned out, the crayons were on the kitchen table—truly, right in front of her. “Grace, remember, what’s the secret of life?” I said.

“Look,” Grace replied. Then she looked and spotted the crayons. “They’re right here!”

We both laughed.


Parents often have little sayings or words of wisdom that they say, over and over again, to their children—to the point where, possibly, they become annoying to hear. At some point in my motherhood, I said to the girls, “I’m going to tell you the secret of life. The secret is to look. Open your eyes.”

I don’t remember what prompted me to say that. (Maybe, like this most recent time, somebody didn’t see something that was right there.) And I don’t pretend to know the secret of life.

Myriad talents, from entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs to singers like James Taylor, have reflected on “the secret of life.” I can’t stay the pace with those reflections. Anyway, the “secret of life” spiel I give my daughters is, partly, tongue-in-cheek.

I do believe, though, that it’s important to look—to be present.

The medical assistant reminded me of that “be in the present” perspective when she said, “You’re here today.”

“The secret is to look. Open your eyes.”

A couple of weekends ago, my friend Kathleen came to visit. Kathleen and I went to school together from kindergarten through high school. We’re what the kids today call “Day 1’s”—friends for a long time.

As always, it was wonderful to see Kathleen and catch up. We reminisced about childhood moments. At one point, I grimaced at the memory of something my younger self had done and told Kathleen, “I can’t believe I was that person!”

I thought back to some other memories from the past. Things I wish I had done, or hadn’t. Moments I wish I had been there for, but wasn’t. I thought again—to myself this time—I wish I did that differently.

I wish I had been different.

You can’t go back. You can’t go back, friends.

You’re here today. What you can do is take what you’ve learned from the past and make good with it in your present.

And you can be present.

For all the years-behind annual checkups and annoying little sayings I blame on my daughters, they have brought a joy to my life I know I don’t deserve. They are absolute gifts in my life, friends.

One of the most humbling parts of my day is when Grace and Anna want to show me something they worked on in kindergarten or preschool. They’re so proud to share their newest math worksheet or watercolor painting with me. They hand it to me, beam at me, wait for me to tell them it’s wonderful and bear-hug them.

“Look, Mom!”

“Look! Me too, Mom! Look!”

You’re here TODAY.

Photo credit: Pixabay


Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.


Book Review: The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille

The Cuban Affair Book CoverIn my high school history classes, I remember learning about Mesopotamia (the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, fourth millennium B.C.); the Magna Carta (England, 1215); and World War I. In college, I took a course called Greek and Roman Values to satisfy my history requirement. I didn’t get much formal education regarding current events post-November 11, 1918.

This is why, in large part, I enjoyed Nelson DeMille’s new novel, “The Cuban Affair” (September 2017), so much. I learned so much intriguing history about Cuba, and the international politics surrounding it, in DeMille’s work of fiction.

DeMille traveled to Cuba as field research for this book, and he wonderfully incorporates the local colors and flavors from that trip into “The Cuban Affair.” As I read this book, I really felt Cuba. DeMille engaged all my senses with his descriptions of the climate, architecture and overall feel of the Caribbean island nation. Also, I didn’t realize how close Cuba is to Key West, Florida: just 90 miles.

I really enjoyed learning about Key West too. As always, DeMille gives his main character, Mac, a former military man, a wry sense of humor. (I don’t think you can write a Nelson DeMille book review and not use the word “wry.”) I loved Mac’s wry description of his bar hangout in Key West, occurring early in the novel: “The place was starting to fill up…Freaks, geeks, loveable weirdos, and a few Hemingway look-alikes. He used to live here, and you can see his house for ten bucks. You can see mine for free. Bring a six-pack.” These words helped me see the scene Mac inhabits, and gave me a sense of Key West’s laid-back, quasi-Lost Generation vibe.

I found Mac to be a fairly well-developed character. I appreciated his social-cultural reflections on Maine, where he grew up, and his current hometown of Key West, along with his perspective on military life and, by extension, Afghanistan. Mac struck me as a man who had been to war, as his character was intended. Two examples of Mac’s reflections: “Close by was the Zero Mile Marker for U.S. Highway One, the literal end of the road that started in Maine. I’ve had a lot of profound thoughts about that, usually fueled by a few beers,” and “Portland, though, was a good place to grow up and it’s a good place to grow old. It’s the years in between that are a challenge to some people.” (Pretty deep, right? I found myself reflecting on my own “years in between.”)

At the same time, Mac seemed older than 35, the age he was supposed to be. That’s pretty much how old I am, and some of his character behaviors (or lack of behaviors) didn’t ring true to me.

For example, Mac didn’t have cell phone service in Cuba. Shouldn’t that have driven him crazy? Not being able to text, not logging in to Facebook, not playing Hearthstone? Also, Mac goes out of his way to make snide remarks about novelist Richard Neville, who is a thinly veiled fictional version of Nelson DeMille (I love how DeMille made the last names similar!). DeMille may have been having some fun with his storied alter ego, but it was hard for me to believe Mac really would have cared enough about Richard Neville to prank him with a sweaty Hemingway T-shirt.

Much of the plot of “The Cuban Affair,” once Mac gets to Cuba, depends on a series of circuitous events happening. All these events—from hoped-for encounters to code words to restored Buicks—seem a little convoluted. None of that bothered me, though, because I so appreciated the taste of Cuba and U.S./Cuban history that DeMille serves up in his engaging story. I believe, though, that you need to read this story with some suspension of disbelief. Don’t think too critically about the practicality of the various plot points, and you’ll enjoy it.

It’s a fun story, overall, and funny too. Later in the story, the anti-Castro Cuban “godfather” Eduardo explains to Mac, “‘Almost all Cubans believed that the Castro regime would not last more than a year. That the Americans would not allow a Communist country to exist off its shores’”—to which Mac sardonically considers, “Why not? We’ve got California and Vermont.” I laughed out loud, friends. Why not, indeed?

As an aside, I liked the cover design. I thought the turquoise background featuring red palm trees, one of which showed Mac’s boat, correlated beautifully with the story. Turquoise brings to mind the Florida Keys; red signals Communism. The bright color palette stands out from DeMille’s previous books, many of which present darker, more ominous palettes (“The General’s Daughter,” “Plum Island,” “Up Country”).

I have read nearly all of DeMille’s books, and “The Cuban Affair” is one of my favorites because, to me, it felt fresh and different. I also sensed the hours upon hours of research DeMille had put into this Cuban adventure, and I appreciated that a lot. “The Cuban Affair” is a worthy read.

Photo credit: Simon & Schuster


Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.


The Christmas Presents I Remember

Yesterday morning, Anna and I stopped by our local post office. While Anna munched on crackers and thumbed through a display of bubble mailers, I addressed several flat-rate envelopes and stuck the last of our Christmas presents for family and friends inside. I felt two emotions at the same time—hope, that everyone would like what I’d picked out for them; and relief, that my Christmas shopping and boxing was now (literally!) wrapped up.

For all its festiveness, the end of the year can be a stressful time. Arranging get-togethers and travel plans with loved ones. Finishing work projects. And buying presents. Always…buying…presents.

To be honest, I love picking out presents for people. I especially love doing this for my daughters. Stanton and I are so looking forward to Friday morning, when the girls will open our Christmas presents for them before we drive to my mom and dad’s house in Pennsylvania.

I think Grace will love the blue watch we got her—actually, I know she will, because she told me that’s what she wanted: “a blue watch.” And I can picture Anna’s eyes lighting up when she opens her box of dress-up headpieces. And I picture…ripped wrapping paper on the hardwood floor; hot chocolate with marshmallows in mugs on the coffee table; and staying in our pajamas longer than we ever would on a normal Friday morning.

I thought back to my own childhood. I tried to remember, what were some of my favorite Christmas presents? I thought harder…


What came to mind, instantly—and as clearly as if it had just happened—was my parents’ living room. There was ripped wrapping paper there, too. And my Dad with a big Hefty bag, cleaning up.

I remembered my Dad.

And my Mom. In my memory, my Mom was sitting on the couch, holding a cup of coffee because she’d been up until 2 a.m. wrapping all the presents and baking the last of our Christmas cookies. Although I didn’t know it at the time.

Kids never know, until much later, all the things their moms and dads did for them.

My Dad and my Mom.

My brothers and sister, too—I remembered them. We were all there together. Later that day, my grandparents would come over…and other family and friends…and we’d celebrate Christmas all day long.

I remembered all those things very clearly.

Not one single Christmas present, however, is a clear memory. (Sorry, Mom and Dad!)

Kids never know, until much later, all the things their moms and dads did for them.

Christmas presents are fun—the giving and the getting. They’re especially fun for kids. It’s unfortunate, though, that some of the things related to the fun and festivity of this season can be stressful.

So if you’re feeling stressed right now, friends…if you still haven’t addressed all your Christmas cards (me neither!)…or wrapped your kids’ presents…or crossed off some lingering end-of-year to-do’s…take a breath. Take a moment.


What the people you love will remember…is YOU. That you were there.

That you cared.

They love YOU.

Merry Christmas, all. 🙂

Photo credit: Pixabay


Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.