Love letters and the long way home….

Shame is a psychopath with a fake badge.

Guilt – it has some value.
Guilt says,  “hey,  that was a bad call.  So not you.  Go apologize.”
It’s crisp.  Clear. Put things right because you’re not gonna want to haul this around.
“Acknowledge. Own. Forgive. Learn. Grow,” Guilt counsels.  Go clean off and get back in the game.

Shame doesn’t care about you or what you carry.
It serves no redemptive purpose;  it’s there to punish you for being.
And it will use whatever raw materials it can sieze from your untidy life
to assault your sense of worth with trumped up charges about your circumstances
until it hijacks what it’s after:  your identity.

I send Allison several letters and packages that first year and don’t hear back.
Edith assures me that this happens sometimes.  A testing period.  To see if I’ll stay or leave again.
This idea stings deep,   not because I don’t understand,
but because it escalates the beatings my heart’s been taking for years,
blungeoned by a single blunt word:  Abandonment.
There.  I said it.
I remember the first time it was used to describe what I’d done.

It was the Summer after.
I’d turned in an article to a little publication and was eager to read my words in print.
I wanted so badly to write and this editor had contacted me,  interested in teen pregnancy stories.
I froze as she skimmed through my copy and slowly stabbed,  “wait, you gave your baby away?”
I could barely remain inside my skin while she red-penned my heart in disapproving silence.
I’d felt fried in hot oil by “your baby deserves better than you,”
and now here was the  flip-side:  “who abandons her child?”
A shame sandwich.
The girl I used to be gets snuffed out in the squeeze.


In the years that followed I would put away my typewriter and pens and wordy dreams
and decide I didn’t fit with the fresh faced girls at the beautiful college campus where I’d won a second chance
with an essay and a visit to the dean to explain why my high school transcripts
bled with red pen as well.
I found my place instead in the world of nature and greenhouses and flowers and fields,
places that didn’t look too hard beyond the dirt and clay of me.
I would build a life with my limp and keep to the edges,
always a little on the outside.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Now It’s March 2010 and I’m driving to Greensboro through the slushy white of a rare late snowfall.
I hold on my lap a birthday gift for Allison that I’ll deliver to Edith in person this time.
I need to walk through those doors and put my eyes on the voice at the other end of the line,
on the one who reads and approves and mails off my packages to Amanda.
This is the voice that has assured me that she still welcomes my offerings,
doesn’t find them intrusive – I’ve asked and Edith says keep writing.
She relays Allison’s gentle words of thanks.
She is still not ready to respond.

I’m learning to keep my palms up and the openness hurts like a wound un-bandaged
but something free is happening in these wild and vulnerable places,
coming back to life as I unpack my love for her and these shards of my soul shut down.
Each time I dive down to find another pearl to send her,
I recover a part of myself as I pick up my pens again and really,  really write.

And as I pull into Greensboro,  I’m looking for something that I can’t define.

Edith meets us in the parlor and and I find myself searching her face for traces of Rose’s.
I ache to see it.  A picture?  Something in her file?
It’s been over two years and I haven’t heard back.
I wonder what I thought I might discover by coming
and pull some air back into the hollow of a powerful heartache
as I realize I won’t find it here today.
I’m still knocking.

I want to come inside.


“You thought you’d left it all behind
You thought you’d up and gone
But all you did was figure out
How to take the long way home.”
– Roseanne Cash

I won’t leave you here,  I promise.
Thanks for coming along for the ride;  this summer series is setting something loose in me.


  1. Elephant's Child on July 9, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    ‘I found my place instead in the world of nature and greenhouses and flowers and fields,
    places that didn’t look too hard beyond the dirt and clay of me.’
    Places which LOVED AND RECOGNISED the dirt and clay of you.
    Two of me (at least) are reading your words. One who aches and bleeds with you while another me in the background applauds your courage, your determination and your love.

    • jennifer on July 11, 2016 at 10:23 am

      There you go healing me again:)
      Strong words that prune back the vines that sometimes grow around my branches:)
      I appreciate you and your loving listen,

  2. Jane Brocious on July 9, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    If I could say it better than Elephant’s Child, I would. What an exquisite story you are writing! Much love to you, Young One!

    • jennifer on July 11, 2016 at 10:20 am

      Your words always sing me home:) Thanks so much for coming along, Jane.
      It means more than you know:)

  3. Lindsay on July 10, 2016 at 6:55 am

    Oh dear Jenn…I had a lot of reading to do since the last time I came here. Heartbreaking yet full of hope… I can’t wait to read the next part of your summer series. I have no words left. I don’t know what you are going through. I can’t say ”I know how you feel”, because who can? But you got my support. And a wish that this story knows a happy ending.


    • jennifer on July 11, 2016 at 10:18 am

      Thanks for coming along, Lindsay. I still keep the beautiful bite of art you sent me
      front and center in my world today; it’s a strong song of hope in these places.
      See how what we send out ripples! Thanks for your kindness and care,

  4. LISA MORELAND on July 10, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    I lost a child, in a different way… deep in my soul, I understand the courageous hope of keeping your “palms open” for several, unresponsive, silent years. Blessedly, divine urging kept that hope burning.

    • jennifer on July 11, 2016 at 10:16 am

      Oh friend. I hear you and lean in, holding that tender ppace with care.
      There is so much beauty in these fragile spaces. I sit with yours now and share slow the air of it
      with you. Thanks for your trust and courage. Much love to you and your burning hope,

  5. Susan Troccolo on July 10, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    I’m moved to tears so often by this summer series and I know I’m not alone or unique in this. You touch on powerful places for many of us as women. Thank you thank you for trusting us with your story, for allowing us to place our own feelings on the template of your open heart, and yes, thank you for not leaving us here! As others have written, I see in you the nurturer from the very beginning—the gardener, the one who tills the earth, or who tills the soil of her child’s mind: in many ways they are similar.

    • jennifer on July 11, 2016 at 10:11 am

      I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the perspective shared, Susan. Really.
      It’s hard to speak into your own shame storm sometimes. It’s grace to have others along.
      Thanks for trusting me with your tender places, as well. We heal together.
      Much thanks,

  6. Barbara on July 10, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Palms open… it’s painful, but so courageous and ultimately the only way to feel love, as well. My heart aches for your young self and the shame others tried to inflict on you. I’m glad you’ve been able to use it to grow even more beautiful, shedding it like a cocoon. Thanks again for trusting us with your story.

    • jennifer on July 11, 2016 at 10:08 am

      Exactly. Numb the bad and you also numb the good.
      Thanks for hearing and coming along with, Barbara.
      It’s grace to have a place and a people safe.
      I’m so grateful for you and your care,

  7. judy Hartman on July 10, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    Ooph, my heart just aches for you, Jennifer. I want so badly to hear that you have received a reply from Amanda, and that she has come to realize what a beautiful person you are. I am looking to a day when you can take her in your arms and tell her all that is in your warm and generous heart. I would so love to see you in a place of peace, free of any guilt or shame, forgiven and loved and able to move forward in the light of warmth and love. xo

    • jennifer on July 11, 2016 at 10:07 am

      Thanks for your generous heartshare, Judy. I’m writing this in the way that feels the most real to me
      so my past and present tenses richochet back and forth furiously:) I hope I don’t miscommunicate in the mix.
      This post is heavy with the past. The heart I carry around presently isn’t nearly as cumbersome, I promise:)
      Your kindness is felt and appreciated:)

  8. Wanda on July 11, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Thanks for taking us on this journey with your, Jennifer.

    • jennifer on July 12, 2016 at 5:46 am

      I’m over the moon for your company, Wanda.
      It’s joy and healing to share.
      Thanks for being here,

  9. gotham girl on July 12, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Squeezing your hand! What a journey….

    • jennifer on July 14, 2016 at 4:52 pm

      Thanks, Robin:) (squeeze)

  10. Connie Smiley on July 12, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    Oh Jennifer, I’ve had some catching up to do. To think that I almost missed your story, this sad and beautiful, healing story. I couldn’t put the book down, and I’m glad you’ve come this far, and I’m glad the story isn’t over. Thank you.

    • jennifer on July 14, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      Thanks, Connie:) I love the way restoration happens; thanks for loving it alongside of me:)
      I so appreciate your company,

  11. Mimi and Tilly on July 14, 2016 at 6:52 am

    I took a deep inhale of breath when I read your truth here, Jennifer. I wasn’t expecting the rawness and vulnerability, and it is so beautiful, it took my breath away. Thank you for speaking so profoundly honestly about shame. Something that I have felt trapped within for years and that I am moving through and beyond, too. With love to you. Em

    • jennifer on July 14, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      Thanks for hearing me and letting your heart lean into it, Em.
      It still amazes me how beauty and pain can walk along together so closely.
      Pulling for you as you journey along. Much joy and comfort along the way,

  12. Kimber Britner on July 14, 2016 at 7:45 am

    Such beauty in the journeying. Raw and deep and good.

    • jennifer on July 14, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      Thanks, Kimber. I appreciate:)

  13. Karen Woodfin on July 14, 2016 at 8:20 am

    Keep going, girl! This is good. You are good . God is good. ❤️

    • jennifer on July 14, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      You’re a good friend:) Thanks so much!
      Big love,

  14. Mary on July 14, 2016 at 8:55 am

    I believe you have a book spilling out of your pen…. And I think it will free a lot of women our age, trapped in their teenage hell. Very nice work.

    • jennifer on July 14, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      I really appreciate your encouragement, Mary.
      Just so much. Big hug for that:)

  15. Cathy on July 14, 2016 at 11:40 am

    I never knew you had been trying to get in touch with Amanda all these years with no response. It’s really sad when all you do is give with no response and don’t ever give up. Can’t wait to here if you ever connected or not. I sure hope so.
    (((((BIG HUG))))) to you!

    • jennifer on July 14, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      So much more to write, Cathy; she’s given me so much. You’ll see:)
      It’s a bigger story than maybe my words are able to say. I appreciate so much that you care
      so big; I can feel it. Amanda has her own story and it’s valid and powerful and good and she
      is right on time in hers. I love that we’re both free to walk our own paths in our own unique ways.
      But I hear you and hug you back:)

  16. Susan on July 14, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Oh, I know of those places on the edge and living outside, I truly do. And you know that I would never add to your hurt and I don’t know quite how to say this but I will stumble through and mention, with a whole lotta love, that this story, your story, is your legacy, for yourself and for Amanda and for all of us who grew into the women we are, with all the pain and unfinished business of families and broken hearts and changed paths.
    What I’m trying to say is the way you write, the words you choose, your deep, sharing soul is going a long way to help so many. There. xo

  17. Louise Gallagher on July 15, 2016 at 10:46 am

    “Acknowledge. Own. Forgive. Learn. Grow,” Isn’t that the secret for all life beyond shame?

    As I read your story, there are moments when I want to go back in time and slash that editor’s red marks into oblivion and cry out in frustration for how unkind, unfeeling, someone could be to treat the precious gift of your words, your heart, your soul with such cruelty and unfeeling’ness.

    And then I remember, when we know better, we do better.

    She did not know any better.

    Thank you beautiful Jennifer for sharing this journey, for taking me along for the ride. It is a ride that will be with me always.

  18. Kathy on July 17, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    I am blown away by your strength and perseverance. This, you, proves that love is stronger than ANYTHING else in this life. Love you, k

    • jennifer on July 18, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      Thanks for your generous listen, Kathy; I appreciate the kindness.
      Just so much:)

  19. ELK on July 18, 2016 at 6:29 am

    from my own dirt & clay are thoughts of you today … and the next life chapter

    • jennifer on July 18, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      I love your dirt and clay and send big thanks
      for your kindness and love,

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