Life Topics

Thank you boys

Adam & Colin

Thank you boys for making me your mother.
There you were in my loving arms.

Thank you boys for teaching me that life’s plans are fleeting.
Ready for the party until someone was crying or had to go to the hospital.

Thank you boys for helping me appreciate time. Birthday party planning
and school trips.
The days were long and the years were short.

Thank you boys for showing me that I could be helpless
especially during the bedtime struggle when the night seemed endless.

Thank you boys for making me the mother I always hoped to be.
Making so many mistakes that you thankfully will never remember.

Thank you boys for your devoted love.  It is pure and sometimes undeserved.
I am only human.

Thank you boys.  You’re grown now, but you have taught me all I need to know.
My heart is full.

I will love you forever.

Life Topics

Breakfast for Dinner

Wikipedia defines Croque-monsieur as a hot ham and cheese (typically Emmental or Gruyère) grilled sandwich. It originated in France as a fast-food snack served in cafés and bars. More elaborate versions come coated in a Mornay or Béchamel sauce.

Why do I care about a fancy French sandwich definition? I really don’t, but it got me thinking…

I was at the seafood section of the grocery store the other day, and a mom said to her two young sons, “Dad’s making Breakfast-for-Dinner tonight.” I asked myself while scanning the price of scallops (13.99/lb!!!!!), “Is there anything better than having Breakfast-for-Dinner?” I love that there’s no planning involved, just grab a box of cereal or the frying pan. Quick and easy. And, I believe that every time a dad cooks Breakfast-for-Dinner an angel gets their wings.

Later that night, after a dinner of Tilapia ($4.99/lb), Jamie asked me if I liked Panini’s. We had just watched a commercial for some drippy obscene meat-filled grilled sandwich, commonly known today as a Panini.  It didn’t really appeal to me. After a minute of though, I said, “Yeah, I like Panini’s, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to have one”.

We both looked at each other and realized that grilled cheese IS the original Panini!  This sandwich of melting goodness reins at the top of my comfort food pyramid, right next to mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, an of course, anything prepared for Breakfast-for-Dinner.

Sandwiches, when I was growing up, were your basic bologna & cheese, peanut butter and jelley, cream cheese and jam. I don’t remember my parents every making grilled cheese, but I do remember when all options were exhausted, you could slap a couple of cellophane wrapped “cheese products” between bread in the skillet. The aroma that comes from the pan is almost as good as the taste. You can see the melting cheese ooze from between the bread, and know that in moments it’ll be ready, and in seconds it will be devoured. And, let’s not forget the role of butter in this equation. The taste is enhanced depending on how much butter you slather on the bread, and, well ……..forget about it!!!!

Yesterday morning we had friends over for breakfast, and had left over French toast. So, when it was time for dinner, Jamie put together a grilled cheese sandwich with French toast, cheese (from the deli, not cellophane) and prosciutto. I don’t think he’s ever heard of a Croquet-monsieur, but that is what he made. A gilled cheese on steroids, if you will.  His perfect storm of a Cheesy-Breakfast-For-Dinner-Panini was a mouthful of culinary comfort. Ooooh La La.

Clarence, are you there?

Life Topics

Putting Charlie to Rest

iStock_000058582528_LargeWe put Charlie to rest today.  It was a small funeral with a handful of family members and Mom and Dad.  His box of ashes sat in front of us as soldiers went through the honor ceremony.  We blessed ourselves through prayers while the wind lashed out at us.  My middle-aged graying cousins, who I hardly knew, stood with us as the grieving do, but there was no crying, no sorrow.  In fact, no one really knew Charlie.

Charlie was 88 years old when he died last week.  Dad found him when he went to check on him.  Charlie was a brother and an uncle, never a husband or a father, and he was barely that as he kept to himself, afraid of human contact.  Dad is the baby of the family, and at 80 years old himself, was Charlie’s main caretaker.  Anxiety ruled Charlie’s world.  He was a recluse because of his fear of people, and would only go out to doctor’s appointments.  Other than that, he would sit in his chair, in his apartment, in his building and reject the world outside.    He spent most of his life living with his other bachelor brother Chris, who also cared little to socialize.  But, at least Chris would be the life of the party when he did go out.  They bickered constantly.   Charlie was like an old cat lady, without cats, wearing tattered clothes and talking to himself.  Chris died a few years back, and Charlie was left alone, which was probably how he preferred it.

People didn’t visit Charlie, and he liked it that way.  He would occasionally call my Dad and always say, “hello this is Charlie from Wareham”, which my brothers and sister found amusing.  So, we never called him Uncle Charlie, we would always say, “so, how is Charlie from Wareham doing?”  We did see him more when he spent some time living with my parents.  He had his routines that drove my mother up a wall, but not my Dad.  He had a severe lack of hygiene, as well as being nearly deaf.  He would painfully try to engage us, but would never hear the answer and would refer to my sister and I as Ann or Joan.  Our names are Susan and Jo.  He would go back to drinking his tea once the ill-fated conversation was over.

When I spoke to my cousin’s before the funeral, there was a consistent theme.  While they all felt sorry that Charlie was gone, they each said, “I hardly knew him, but I’m here for your Dad.”  I guess that’s what funerals are all about, being there for the people who are most effected by the death.  Prepared or not, it’s got to hurt on some level.  My Dad has always been loyal to his family, even when they weren’t loyal back.  It didn’t matter to him.  Because having an open heart, enjoying people, having contact is the right way to be.  There will surely be a lot of tears at my father’s funeral, and everyone will have known him well.

So, why do we say the dead are at “rest”.    I think everyone needs rest from this crazy world, but the ones who really need the rest are blessing themselves in the wind and holding back the tears.

Rest easy Dad.

Life Topics

I Sigh

I sigh when things are done.  No more to do.  It’s over.

I sigh when things go wrong.  What can I do now?  Let me think.

I sigh when I’m happy.  So many possibilities.  Can it get any better?

I sigh when I’m completely frustrated.  Where do I turn?

I sigh with delight.  My love brings me to happy tears.  Laughter soon follows.

I sigh with the weight of the world.  So tired at the end of the day.

I sigh to feel my own breath.  To feel that I’m alive.

I sigh.

Life Topics

Have Dinner with Friends







Have dinner with friends.
Their stories are your story.
Feel the air of contentment
when you listen with your

Sip from the cup of gratitude
knowing the connection is
real.  Get drunk on the
satisfaction that they have
your back.  Laugh until the tears

Toast to the simple day,
knowing that things can be
complicated.  Waste not
a moment for life is

Hug them like you’ll never
see them again.  Honor them
like you will see them often.

Share a meal, and eat every
morsel of their life, their story,
for it is fleeting and

Savor each course,  and each
conversation, knowing
their words are love…
knowing your relationship
will grow with each day.

Have dinner with friends.

Life Topics

What I Know

They say write about what you know.  I don’t know what I know.  I guess I can do laundry, fly an excel sheet, take care of a dog, raise two children, chew gum and walk, give up smoking, take up vaping, kill a bottle of wine, knit a sweater, take out the trash (if I have to), almost balance a check book, recite lines from a movie, walk like a chicken, sing badly, play solitaire, half read a book, edit video, send an email and attempt to “dress for success” (not usually done well).  Are any of these things worth writing about?

Instead, I sit at the keyboard trying to dream up an interesting topic.  Find one thing that makes you want to keep reading.  Are you still with me?  Good.  I’ll take baby steps to figure out where I’m going with this.  Kick around a few ideas.  Do you want to see me walk like a chicken?  Probably not.  Can I interest you in a spreadsheet demo?  No.  Maybe some dog tricks?  I’m at a loss, as I fidget and scratch my back with a pencil, wondering what to put on this blank screen.

Here I sit in the glow of the computer.  The 11 o’clock news is on in the background, with the dramatic music to make everything seem urgent.  The dog lies at my feet, breathing heavy, ready for bed.  My laundry basket sits in a dim corner of the bathroom, overflowing with a hint of yesterday’s odors.  I take deep drags from the vape blowing out stress and anxiety, thinking about what needs to be done tomorrow.  I know, I’ll make a list, YES a list!

Not like a “bucket list”, but much simpler.  You know, take notice of how I do things, and try not to do them anymore.  Live in the moment as they say.  Do all the usual stuff, but do it differently, better.  I will think of it as a “don’t” list.

Here goes:

  1. Wake up and don’t dread the morning.
  2. Take a shower and don’t curse your body in the mirror.
  3. Have breakfast, and don’t forget the medication.
  4. Go to mass and don’t fall asleep during the sermon.
  5. Say “I love you” and don’t just walk away, hold his eyes.
  6. Walk the dog and don’t forget the poop bag.
  7. Do the laundry and don’t leave a load in the dryer to pick thru all week.
  8. Call your parents and don’t cry when you hang up because they are so old.
  9. Text your sons just because and don’t forget the little hearts after you say ILY.
  10. Watch a documentary and don’t judge the hoarder, the family or the victim.
  11. Talk to the neighbor and don’t just give a small wave.
  12. Eat the ice cream and don’t feel guilty.
  13. Knit that sweater you’ve been working on for 2 years, and don’t get discouraged.
  14. Work on the computer and don’t lose track of precious time you could have with Jamie.
  15. Say your prayers and don’t leave anyone out.

My eyes are drooping so I have to go to bed now.  This life of mine, like most, is made up of small pieces that have made me the person I have become.  Sure, I can walk like a chicken and work a spreadsheet, but how can I be a better friend, daughter, Mom?  More important questions.  Will people think of me as negative if I feel guilty about the ice cream or too busy to talk to a neighbor, or have a bad body image?  Maybe they won’t even notice.

I finally know that I have to work my “list” in a positive, thoughtful way to make my journey one of love, generosity and faith.

“Time for bed McDermott.  Do you want a treat?”

Life Topics

Writers, Let’s Be Friends

Writing is solitary work for the most part. An idea strikes – or a deadline – and you withdraw to some quiet place to wrestle it onto the page. You’ve spent an hour or five in the echo chamber of your own mind, often beset by the mean rantings of the inner critic: no one cares, this has been done before and by better people, you’re a fraud/sham/loser, etc. etc. You know the drill. It takes boatloads of courage, self-mastery, and determination to complete a project, much less share it with the world.

At the same time, it’s exhilarating, it’s brilliant, and yes, it’s fun. You’ve invented a world. You’ve pulled a rabbit out of a hat. You’ve danced with the Muse and you’re high on inspiration. It’s a thrill! But just like those terrible self-attacking low points, these joyful, mighty, soaring times are experienced alone.

And that is why we need the company and friendship of other writers.

There is not ONE writer who has not experienced these peaks and valleys. They have faced their inner tigers and lived to tell the tale (quite literally!). They know what it is like to rev themselves up to get started, to inject energy and purpose into the boggy middle, and to stay the course with stamina and guts to cross the finish line. Their stories, their encouragement, their understanding, all of this is food and drink to you, just as yours is to them.

Some people complain that writers compete and can’t be trusted. This has not been my experience at all. For one thing, no one is writing the same thing, so there really is nothing to compete about. Even if we’re both poets, our visions, our approaches, and our goals are different; we may be walking the same general road, but we’re not walking it in the same way. But even more than that, I have come to believe that most people love to share a good thing – and writing is a very good thing. It’s a source of joy and self-discovery, of connection and meaning, and most of us want to see even more of that in the world.

This morning, I was very fortunate to speak with two writers face to face. We chatted about what’s important to us, what challenges us, and how and why we keep going. It was nourishing and inspiring. (Thank you, Jo and Kayla!). I came away from the conversation happy and eager to get cracking on my new book.

I want to live in a world of creative kindness, excitement, and inspiration and I know you do, too. It’s a blessing to belong, to speak the same language, to cheer and be cheered on. And so I say: Writers, let’s be friends.

Life Topics

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Poem by Portia Nelson from the book “Life is Messy” by Matthew Kelly

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost...I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place
but, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall's a habit.
My eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.
Life Topics


I fancy myself a wine enthusiast, a drinker, a partaker if you will.  Yes, I drink to an uncertain excess if the truth be told, but just shy of drunkenness.  I hate to be drunk and avoid it at most costs, but it happens on occasion regretfully.  I come from a family of non-drinkers, so I’m the unnamed black sheep. I usually sit with my family drinking wine, while they have their tea.  Eyebrows are raised, silence ensues as I pour my first glass.   My wine bottle gets cracked open at cocktail hour like clockwork.  Six o’clock on Thursday and Friday, if I’m not working that night, and 4 or 5 o’clock on the weekend days. I have my standards.   I try not to drink during the week, but Thursday is close enough to the weekend to count.

“Are you a wino” my mother asks with an accusatory tone, as I stand in her kitchen.  My only response is simple and quiet, “Perhaps I am mother.  Perhaps I am.”  What can I say?!?  “Yes mother, I drink to make you miserable” is what she may want to hear, but it’s not true.  I drink because I enjoy it.  I like the taste, the smell, the feeling.  I think she envisions me as the loveable “wino” character Otis in the Andy Griffith Show; disheveled, falling down, slurring words – a person to be embarrassed of.  I think it’s the idea that her daughter could be “a drunk” that really disturbs her.  I am nothing of the sort.

Most of my friends end their day with a wine or two.  I have no judgement.  However, I found a few years ago, that drinking wine during the week effected my ability to concentrate and focus the next day.  So, I changed it up and only drinking on weekends, with the exception of special occasions, holidays and vacations.  Sipping wine while I knit, watch TV or chat with a friend is a great pleasure.  I am relaxed and happy to share my time and my life.

I write this after having a bottle of wine, no effects of a wine stupor.  I am not drunk.  Why is there such a stigma around enjoying wine or alcohol?  Why must I justify my actions to those who do not like alcohol or those who don’t drink it?  Explaining why I drink wine reeks of insecurity and self-doubt.  I can’t do that.   Is it not possible to partake without being seen as having a “problem?”  I think so.  But, for many, the perception is that one drink is too much.  Is one cookie too much, is one bowl of ice cream too much?  Where are these invisible standards that we must adhere to?  Who makes up the rules?

People know what works for them, so let’s live and let live.   Perhaps we should.


Jo McLaughlin

Jo is a media professional working in Massachusetts. She is the founder of Dilettante life, and the co-host of the podcast Dipstitch (, available on Spotify and Apple podcasts). She enjoys writing for Dilettante Life observing life and sharing experiences.

Life Topics

Lovely Fields

I went home to a place I’ve never been.  Mountains confronted the sea, with only small cottages dividing the two.  Roads were narrow with sheep crossing, slowing the pace of a racing mind.  Passing a sign that said, “Amazing Grace Country”
didn’t do the landscape justice.  The dewey air and the dramatic clouds loomed over you, up and over a mountain gap, winding and forbidden.  The village below a world away, covered in drizzle and filtered light.  Quiet and content.

From afar, white dotted meadows speak another language. The bleeting is absorbed into your subconscious like music you can’t get out of your head.  Tractors bounce through the country roads looking like they have no place to go.  The terrain is rocky and rough, smelling like an earthen musk with hints of heartache.  She lost so many to America.

All of my grandparents wanted to leave the lovely fields.  Poverty was a shadow
that walked next to them every waking hour.  A better life seemed possible, seemed
real.  I walked the damp fields, feeling happy that I was able to marry stories
of childhood with this place.  A true connection was born, not imagined.  My
mind and body finally followed my ancestors, who had been waiting for me to
come home.