Fearing Darkness

I never watched scary movies growing up. To this day I will plug my ears and close my eyes if I ever get the courage to sit through any sort of horror film.

When I was nine years old I watched three minutes of the show “Are You Afraid of the Dark.” I saw a kid get his ankle grabbed by someone who was hiding under the bed. For the next six months I would turn off the lights then jump three feet to my bed to avoid standing directly next to it. One afternoon my sisters decided to hide under my bed and grab my ankles. The panic that I felt run through my body still shakes me when I think about it. As the baby of the family, though, they got in trouble and didn’t speak to me for the next week.

I was so afraid of what could be under my bed in the dark. Afraid of what could be lingering, waiting to grab ahold and pull me under.

The darkness I’m afraid of today is held tightly in my own grip. I welcome the unknown with open arms and a full heart because I know exactly where my demons are within my own darkness.

I fear giving in. I have a heightened sense of self-awareness because of the darkness that I have allowed to consume me. I’ve sunk into the black hole, surrounded by nothing but my own self-defeating thoughts, yet still choosing isolation.

Fear causes us to act or freeze. Fight or Flight when faced with a threat. Choices present themselves in the face of danger, but when fear is silent the choice is not always clear. Not all choices are as simple as putting your hands up when there is a gun in front of you.

It is when fear of failure creeps in questioning your intelligence that the lines become blurred. It’s when the fear of being alone becomes so strong that the idea of settling starts to become an option. It is the panic that sinks in when everyone around you has their own families and successful careers that the overwhelming feeling of loneliness drowns you.

It is the easy way out to allow fear to win and give in to the negativity that can so easily consume. Choosing isolation over socializing, allowing negative, self-depreciating thoughts to run wild, and deciding not to act out of fear rather and rejection is what leads to darkness.

You can’t see in the dark. It blinds you to the love directly in front of you. It forces you to fight yourself to smile in moments that used to bring nothing but joy. It demands you to use all of your strength to be present. It consumes your entire being, forcing you to reach out in every direction fumbling, begging for a light switch to change everything.

Living and choosing to feel, to be present, is one small choice at a time. It is recognizing and respecting that fear is lingering before allowing it take over, to win. Respecting our emotions and challenging our thoughts is a vital part of obtaining happiness. I’ve lived while being numb in the dark, and know now that light is a choice.

It is scary being in the dark not knowing what might be lurking, but it is terrifying when you already know the darkness that you are capable of letting in.

Sunday Stomach

We call it Sunday Stomach.

Although all of her little birds have flown the coop, Sunday dinner at Gramma’s usually starts around 5:00 pm on weekends when she’s not working. Offerings include a protein, a starch, at least three different colored veggies and dessert. You may not have room for it, but there’s always either pie or cake and definitely ice cream to go with it. At the minimum, there are eight of us, but when there’s a full house it can get up to 17 or 18. I don’t ever recall a time when someone has ever been turned away from a meal at Mary’s. We’ve brought friends for Halloween dinners, picnics, and they’ve experienced Sunday Stomach first hand themselves.

Whenever the weather allows, we try to eat outside on the patio that’s right off the kitchen door. Otherwise, that’s a lot of people to fit around one table in a kitchen. What seems like a typical Thanksgiving gathering for some families is an average Sunday for us. We all try to help in some way. Rob and Jason are good at grilling. Debby and Mike are the dish masters. I’m usually the bringer of the ice cream so I help dish out treats. Logan and Erin take orders for desserts. Meghan tries to play “match the lid to the Tupperware” in order to find containers for the leftovers. Then it’s time to play refrigerator Jenga. Ian runs to the basement to fetch drinks for anyone who asks.

Of course, everyone has a favorite meal. Mary will take requests when it’s a special day like a birthday or anniversary. Frequent fliers include four pounds of meatloaf or two trays of lasagna. I’ve been coming to Sunday dinner on the regular since around 1987 when Rob and I first started dating. After all that time, If I had to pick the number one favorite it would probably be homemade pierogies. Any sense of self-restraint or portion control goes completely out the window. Dig your favorite dip out of the fridge and go for it. There are plenty to go around.

BUT – there’s a paradox. You don’t want to stop eating because you get so full but you CAN’T STOP and blammo. Sunday Stomach. We lurch into our cars like bears looking for a cave in which to hibernate. Every time. “Why do we do this every week?” my husband grunts at me. I grunt back, “Idonnknooooow”.

We’re really not gluttons! Meals during the week aren’t nearly as lavish. There’s just something about dinner at Gramma’s that takes the concept of Balance and just throws it off a cliff. Is it the comfort of being around familiar food and faces? Are we trying to recapture something that we never really lost? Is it the beautiful connection of a family that fills both our hearts and our bellies? All I know is that we are beyond blessed to have each other and Mary is a hell of a chef. Sometimes it takes losing a little balance in your life to make you realize how very lucky you are.

Thank goodness she shares recipes.

Karen Padden

Karen, Queen of the Paddens and first of her name. Teacher, Baker, Petter of Cats, Multiple Sneezer and Crocheter of Wubbies. Believes in kindness, always.


Life is hectic for a Lupie.

Balance is where I find serendipity.
Serendipity is whenever events come together happily and unexpected, kind of like luck! The first time I heard the word Serendipity was in a movie that I watched as a teenager. It was a Rom-Com about two people running into each accidentally who fall in love but get separated only to meet again 10 years later.

I like the sound of the word itself, Serendipity, it even sounds playful. It does not come from Latin or Greek, it came from a British nobleman in the mid-1700’s who created the word from an ancient Persian fairy tale. Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale? I digress.

Lupus life is so far from a fairy tale that it’s insane. Living with lupus is living with a traveling circus of inflammation. Lupus has affected everything from my hair to my stomach to my heart and, of course, my joints. It’s an awful relatively invisible disease that requires constant juggling. Along with Dr. appointments, lab testing, imaging, procedures, medications and insurance verifications, there is joint inflammation, pain, debilitating fatigue, and too many other complaints to list.

I think everyone needs balance in their life. Everyone plays the balancing act game, balancing work and home. Balancing healthy food vs. junk food. Balancing emotions like happiness vs. sadness and anger vs. delight. Life is about balancing peacefulness with playfulness too. For a lupie, not only is it important to achieve life balance but it’s finding the right balance of medicine to manage symptoms and coordinate with the right doctors. Then there’s emotional balance, stress management and learning to accept the situation we’re dealt.

It takes a great deal of effort to balance everything that’s going on in my mind and body but when I have a good day, a really good day it is serendipity! It’s as if all the planets have aligned perfectly. That particular serendipitous day would involve feeling good with minimal joint inflammation/swelling, adequate sleep, having my pain controlled and a normal heart rate. It seems like I live my life in an “on hold” manner just waiting to feel better, to feel good enough to have fun, something healthy people take for granted. But when everything is balanced it’s serendipity!

Since my lupus diagnosis, I’ve lived my life waiting for that wonderful day. Honestly, it happens about as often as a blue moon.

On my bucket list is a place in New York named Serendipity. It is an ice cream parlor. One day I hope to get there and if I do it will truly be serendipity!

Michele Palermo

Michele is a retired registered nurse who spent 15 years in Emergency Medicine. That’s where she learned there’s a fragility to life. Diagnosed with lupus after going through a divorce has taught her to be a survivor instead of a victim. With her career shortened by illness she turned to books. She fell in love with the written word as a young child. To her, words convey emotion. Her new passion is writing. As an aspiring author, she hopes to inspire others on this roller coaster called life.

Treading Water

I get to thinking about thinking and watch myself spiral down the drain.

I can almost step outside of my body. Spinning, splashing and reaching up, asking…begging to avoid another night of drowning. 

You see someone said something to me today that I didn’t like. Like a broken record it played over and over. What did she mean? Why would she say that?

I can feel my own shoulders tighten. My jaw is in pain from the subconscious clenching. My own emotions of confusion, anger, and embarrassment have taken over me. My confusion makes me rethink my words, how I delivered them, and if I sounded intelligent or ignorant. My anger forces me down a path of questioning my employment and if I am actually fulfilled in my career path. If I am actually competent enough to be doing what I’m doing. My embarrassment begs me to question my outfit choice if I wore enough or too little makeup, and the dreaded spiral of why haven’t you gone to the gym in three months. The thoughts took the initial minimal feelings and maximized them.

Her potentially non-harmful words took less than 90 seconds to deliver. They may have been said in actual innocent intention, but I chose to overanalyze, in turn ruining my own day with my own thoughts. In some subconscious area of my brain, I must have felt threatened, and in turn, came to my own defense.

My “defense” of over-analyzing myself is what destroyed my day, not her words. Defending myself is opening up. It recognizes that I feel uncomfortable at the moment, but learning to recognize that by allowing others’ words and actions to influence how I feel rather than putting the focus on my own heart I am only weakening who I have been trying to become.

Defending myself is being softer on others. Protecting myself is the realization that I am a blip on another’s radar, not the satellite. 

How we think, matters. How we talk to ourselves inside of our own minds day in and day out is invaluable. We can allow it to fuel us or set us on fire. It’s learning how to tread water before we end up drowning.


I wanted to talk about home. About the house surrounded by fields that my dad would farm and Mom would bring him food. About the yard that caught the snow that my sisters and I would build igloos out of then come inside to warm hot chocolate already made. About the back porch where endless games of Mario were played on the N64 and VHS tapes of home movies would be watched. I wanted to talk about the kitchen where mom would get a week’s worth of supplies ready to go to the lake where we would spend nights in the camper and days on the boat.


But as much as I love that house, home is the feeling that came with me onto that boat. The feeling that was captured when my entire family was on the boat while it idled under the bridge and mom passed out sandwiches and dad tried to tune the radio that always seemed to only work for him.


Home came with when we took the Astro van on a road trip to Washington DC and stayed in the only hotel in the city that allowed dogs. Home is the feeling when we all laugh while telling the story of when that same dog peed on the lady that was checking us in. Home went in that same van to Colorado, up to the top of Pikes Peak. It was getting caught in a thunderstorm 14,000 feet in the air, but still feeling safe.


Home traveled down the street to the shed with the farm equipment, where Dad built an indoor basketball court for my sister so she could practice in the winter without being cold.


Home is having a day so bad that the only thing that will cure it is a hug from Mom and knowing that it will all work out.


Home is having a group text with my sisters and reading their encouraging words and getting a virtual hug from them to make it through the day.


Walking into the house where the creepy clown bank statue is and remembering the times we would tip it over to steal the quarters is like taking a breath of fresh air after being suffocated by the outside world.


I am eternally grateful for my parents building the life that they did so that I can take the feeling of home with me. So that I can offer as much peace and comfort to others as they have given me.


I’m thankful that the love they gave has taught me to watch sunrises as if I have been waiting my entire life for that moment. To listen to music and laugh with my friends as if I may never get to experience their company again. To cherish the moments I get to hold my nieces and watch as my sisters instill their own version of home into their hearts.