There Are No Tears For You

This morning I buckled down to go through all of the court papers, emails and bullshit of the divorce settlement that has dragged on for two years as my ex sporadically hires an attorney to file motions when his obstruction and non participation don’t work. I long ago decided not to spare another tear for him, and I’ve remained stoic each time a roadblock has been placed in the way of selling our properties in New Hampshire or getting money the court has ordered him to pay. When I left, I had no job, a $500.00 bonus check from work, a cashed in investment and the belief that anything was better than remaining near him.

Eventually, I thought, we’d come to an agreement to split what we’d both worked hard for over the years and I would have the money to buy a house, fix it up, take my daughters on vacation, have some fun.

It hasn’t worked out that way.

And I am crying today, not because of the thousands in legal fees I’ve had to pay while he’s ignored the court and made excuse after excuse not to do the right thing. I’m not sobbing because he ignored my pleas when he wasn’t paying the mortgage on our NH home which jeopardized my ability to buy a home here. I’m not even weeping because he told me “no one died on his watch” and I am responsible for the death of my daughter.

I don’t cry for him.

I cry because the last weekend of my daughter’s life, when she needed me, I was too busy going through the last minute papers he’d filed with the court for an upcoming hearing. Instead of having a little patience and time for her, I was sucked into the giant fucking abyss of his trying to get out of splitting our marital property when I should have been with her.

That is why I break down and dissolve into tears. Every court notice, response, email, and summons is a reminder that I wasted the last few days of my daughter’s life worrying about this man who lives on spite.

Alana and I dreamed of the day the divorce would finally be over. She talked about finding me a man who loved and respected me and twirled me around a dance floor. We fantasized about the trip we’d take to Key West, the place we had the best vacation ever, and the things we would do. We’d straighten out her school loans and get her back to college. We’d live the life we deserved, away from the belittling and bullying we’d lived under in New Hampshire.

Our lives, already better in South Carolina, would only get better.

And now, every moment spent on fighting my ex is a reminder of all the things Alana and I never got to do because, as the Taylor Swift song Alana said reminded her of her father goes, “he’s just mean.”

So today, through the blurriness of my tears and the despair in my soul, I dive into the dirty business of my divorce and pray that this will be over soon.But make no mistake, I don’t cry for my ex or what he has done, I cry for my daughter.




Family Rules


When we left New Hampshire, we left an environment where Alana’s mental illness was considered attention seeking and my support of her getting healthy was considered being a sucker.

As we settled into our new routine in South Carolina, Alana came home one day with a sign listing our new family rules. They were so unlike the ones we lived under before. We were used to criticism rather than compassion, angry explosions in place of laughter, bitter rants instead of gratitude. It wasn’t until we were out of that place that we could understand how unnatural it was.

With the upcoming arrival of a grand daughter who will never physically know her Aunt Alana, these are the things I learned from Alana and hope to pass on to the newest member of our family:

We use our words

We feel our feelings

We lick faces

We make mistakes

We practice being kind over being right

We celebrate little victories

We pop the bubble wrap

We’re never too old to play the floor is lava

We will hug you fiercely and we will love you forever

I Will Love You For A Thousand Years And A Thousand More

Always a smile.

I am a writer unable to write since the death of my daughter. As much as I try to force the words to come, they are so interlaced with pain and grief that they stick on my fingers and won’t pass through a keyboard. It’s hard to type with eyes overflowing with tears. I wanted to write about a subject Alana always felt I should write about to remember her on the day my world changed and she died, but I can’t. Instead I’ll remember her by the words she wrote, and I read, at her Celebration of Life. Someday I hope I can write again, but for now I rely on her, like I did so much when she was alive.

Alana loved our family and that love extended past our nuclear family and encompassed all of the Maynes clan. In describing our family relationships, she said, “We’re not like, Oh, they’re my cousins. We’re more like technically we’re cousins but we were all kind of raised together, took family vacations together, tortured and traumatized each other. Just consider my cousins my younger sisters and brothers, that’s easier. Plus when I have kids they’ll be aunts and uncles, not whatever you call cousins.”

And she loved her sister, Sarah.  When someone complimented a hat she wore and asked where she got it, she said “My sister actually made it…special..just for me..” and she wrote, “Sarah’s gifts are always so coveted that I find myself getting quite territorial over them. Get your own awesome sister, people. Mine’s taken.”

When we moved to South Carolina she wrote: “Things that excite me about moving: 1) Being able to hug my Sarah whenever I want. 2) Big whirlpool bath tub. 3) Finally having high ceilings so I can jump up and down on my bed!”

She said “the hardest part of moving isn’t the packing or the goodbyes or coordinating traveling with 4 pets. It’s resisting popping all of the bubble wrap.

She thought personal space was a term coined by people who hated cuddling and the high point of her day was “the moment you walk in the door and your dogs make you feel like a rock star just for coming home.”

She loved her dogs, Pippin Pablo Escabar and Baxter Rodriguez and children. “Have a new found respect for those of you with daughters. I just spent a half hour getting a ponytail to hold up with a tiara and another half hour explaining why even though the dog is technically large enough to be a horse, we cannot buy him a saddle and ride him. Even though, it is an awesome idea and difficult to argue with the logic.”

Alana didn’t feel the same way about some adults, though, as she did with children. “Some days you’ll move mountains and change the world, other days you’ll be thankful to not pop off at idiots. Little victories,” she wrote.

She was an avid observer of the world. One day she saw a mother tell her young daughter in the check-out line, “You’re driving me crazy. Do you see anyone else dancing in line?” The little girl turned around to see if anyone else was dancing and Alana busted out running man and started rapping, “It’s tricky.” She wrote, “Don’t let other people dictate when you dance, kids.”

And she tried to hard to look for the best in people. “Just when I’m ready to get frustrated the universe reminds me in a two minute walk you can change someone’s perspectives.”

She excelled at the sarcastic comeback.

“A date told her, ‘I underestimated you girl. I thought you’d be all make up and shoes. Shoot, she replied, You do know what happened to the last man that underestimated me. She paused, Neither do the police. Turning compliments into awkward silences for 25 years,” she wrote.

She had a more difficult time figuring out the southern mindset:

“At work someone asked, You got a husband?
You got a gun?
Well, maybe you’ll find one down here.
Oh yeah! There are gun shops EVERYWHERE! I’m just waiting on my bonus.
*awkward silence*
She meant a husband not a gun, huh? For the record, this is a totally acceptable conversation to have in the South.”

One day at a gas station she overheard two guys talking about her and described the conversation.That ain’t her real hair! Hey, girl, that your real hair?
Yep. Wanna give it a tug?
Shit, come grab this girl’s hair, B! You thought she was rocking a weave!
So glad I rocked the natural curls today.

And as much as she tried, Southern men puzzled her. “So far every conversation has consisted of the following: Can I see your tattoos? What does that one mean? It gets hot here in July and August, did you know that? Where’s your husband/boyfriend?
Yes, look. It gets hot everywhere in the summer. I’m one of those independent Yankee women you’re mom warned you about, run.
I’m struggling with all the small talk.”

She wrote, “I am practicing being kind over being right.”

And she practiced gratitude. For those of you who don’t know, she struggled with mental illness and that informed a lot of the last few years of our lives together. One day she wrote:

“Jehovah’s Witness came by this morning and instead of talking of the evils of pornography or drinking we spoke of mental illnesses. This amazing woman has an adult daughter with bipolar and we shared the heartache and struggles of loving someone who suffers daily from a disease many people don’t understand.
I am so blessed to have Renee Maynes as my mother and support system. She’s taught me that I’m deserving of the love, patience, and the understanding she’s given me.
There’s no magic wand or quick fix for mental illness. There’s a lot of tough work, trial and error, moments of doubt and sorrow, but it’s so worth it.
Today I’m grateful for those who’ve opened their hearts to me and supported me when I wasn’t capable of thinking clearly.
I’ll end with this: the stigma of mental illnesses is alive and well. A lot of people will judge or brush you off. Call you dramatic or tell you to suck it up. Love those people. Educate them. Be patient with them. An open dialogue is the only way to change hearts and minds.”

Alana worked hard to conquer her demons and be a better person.

“Today I’m grateful for mistakes. The big ones, the small ones, the ones that set into motion a series of events that ultimately make you stronger, wiser, and more compassionate. It’s easy to get caught up in judging yourself based on the mistakes you’ve made, but enlightenment comes from embracing them and seeing their importance.
Love to all my mistake makers today!”

And I don’t know if she actually wrote this, but it was in her notes and sums up how Alana lived.

“So, there were two choices: I could close myself off, resign myself to the fact that the world is an imperfect place and I could carry my hurt like a security blanket. Or, I could forgive myself. I could decide that loving people isn’t a weakness and trusting people isn’t a flaw. I could decide when others wrong me that’s a reflection on them, not me. That’s the beauty of it. Something that could have damaged me and made me bitter ended up opening my heart in ways I never knew. So, yes, I believe there’s always a choice.”

And when Alana was faced with the choice to be happy or be sad. Well, you know the one she made.

It’s only fitting I close with the toast she gave at her sister’s wedding. She was so happy to finally, as she put it, have the brother she always wanted in Dorri and so thrilled that her sister had found the man of her dreams. That night, under a warm SC sun, she stood in front of the crowd and said this:

“Here’s to life’s worries. Because in life you only have two things to worry about: Whether you’re well or sick. If you’re well you have nothing to worry about, but if you’re sick you only have two things to worry about: Whether you’re going to get better or die. If you’re going to get better you have nothing to worry about, but if you’re going to die you only have two things to worry about: Whether you’re going up or down. If you’re going up you have nothing to worry about, but if you’re going down at least all your friends will be waiting there for you!”

Until we meet again, I miss her today and ever day.

The Fairness of Life

Khaleesi of our dog pack

Khaleesi of our dog pack

When I was 16, my  mother told  me that life wasn’t fair. Until that point I’d understood the lessons learned growing up poor but, at some point at least, I thought the scales would balance out and occasionally the good things in life would come my way.

My mother made it clear that was not to be.

Still, I went on to live a good life with ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and though luck always went to someone else, I was okay with that.

Until my daughter’s death.

Words can’t contain the enormity of the hole left behind by a child’s death. As a writer, I’ve spent the days since October 20, 2014 searching for the ones that will comfort me late at night when I lie in bed trying to find sleep instead of heartache. I haven’t found them yet.

In my parent’s grief group I hear the stories of other mothers and fathers who, too, struggle to get through each day while mourning the loss of their child. We talk about the boxes of belongings we can’t bear to part with. The items of clothing and jewelry we wear in a vain attempt to keep our dead child close. And then, the ones who have survived this pain the longest tell us it will never go away, but it will change.

Some day, they say, the smiles will outnumber the tears.

While I wait for that change to come, I remind  myself of the 27 years I had with her. Her exuberance for life. Her love of her family. The way she adored her dogs. How her smile brightened a room. How her tears could break your heart.  Her persistence. Her love of chocolate and Starbucks and Sonic. Her ability to be both wise and foolish in the same instant. Her transition into a woman who had been disappointed and had her heart broken more than a few times, but kept trying.

In my mind, I knew the adult she would turn out to be. I’ll never see that played out.

Life is unfair like that.

But  I also had 27 years to love her and that was worth every bit of pain I’ve suffered since her death. Maybe life isn’t so unfair after all.

Alana Concetta Carpenter 8/17/87 to 10/20/14

christmas part deux and brunch 004

Alana and sister Sarah Christmas 2010

Alana and sister Sarah Christmas 2010

Alana Carpenter on whale watch with her sister, Sarah

Alana Carpenter on whale watch with her sister, Sarah

Alana Carpenter at Calyx Farms.

Alana Carpenter at Calyx Farms.

Alana Carpenter at Greenville Sipping Safari

Alana Carpenter at Greenville Sipping Safari

Alana Carpenter with family at Greenville Zoo

Alana Carpenter with family at Greenville Zoo

“Sometimes, when chaos burns like wildfire around us, we have no other choice but to fall in love with the warmth.” Christopher Poindexter

Alana Concetta Carpenter was our warmth.

My Runaway Heart

Have you ever loved someone so much that you would suffer any indignity to remain with them? Someone you loved so fully you’d forgive them anything? Someone you couldn’t imagine living without?

I have. In time, I hope someone will love me with that level of intensity.

Leaving a relationship like that is hard. The mind is a great deceiver when the heart is involved. Sometimes to protect ourselves, we have to flee. And that’s what I did.

How many miles do you need to put between yourself and your broken heart? In my case it’s 1027 miles. That’s how far I had to run to allow my mind to accept what my heart had known for over five years.

It’s been a tough year. So tough that it’s been difficult to write and too dangerous to blog. Most of the venomous, mental vomit I’ve had to spew has been confined to composition books inked with my favorite Pilot G2 pens rather than committed to the internet to live on forever, a toxic reminder of a difficult time. Because even though I know leaving was the right thing, late at night my inner mean girl whispers that if I’d been stronger, I could have stayed and detached rather than running.


But in leaving I found boldness and courage and the opportunity to remake my life into something I’m proud of. I’ve found that the things my old life told me I sucked at aren’t true. I can finish things. I can stick it out. I can take care of myself financially. I can be alone. I can make friends. I’m not great at everything I attempt, but I can ask for help. I make mistakes. I recover from them.

I’ve found my voice.

It amazes me how much of my old life was based on fear: fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of looking foolish, fear of being thought of as weak. Now I base my decision on my needs, and if things don’t work out the way I want them to, I make a new plan.

I’ve learned that even the worst plan can be reworked.

Most of all, I’ve realized that there is nothing worse than being with someone that makes you feel alone.

I left New Hampshire because I was weak. In leaving I discovered how strong I really am.