10 years ago on Halloween, I said my final goodbyes to my oldest son. I remember having my family over on Halloween, and my niece, Samantha, applying white makeup to my other niece, Marisa’s, face. My other nieces and nephews all dressed up. I was numb. Disbelief and denial shook my body.

As I walked down the road, I was surrounded by family who understood my need to trick or treat with my youngest son in memory of his brother. A couple walking next to us saw our lights on and children walking up to our door. The man said that he it was the house where the boy had just died. He couldn’t believe they were celebrating Halloween. Luckily for him, he slightly redeemed himself by adding that everyone deals in their own way.

Yes, we do, and we have for 10 years. We’ll always grieve, but we also celebrate Nick’s life and his brilliant spirit.

When I woke up today on Halloween, something had shifted. Maybe it was the fact that my adorable nephew, Liam, was coming over. Maybe it was the matching Minion goggles Luke and I planned to wear. Maybe I channeled Nick and decided to spend my day spreading humor and making people laugh. I wanted to be myself on our favorite holiday that also ends the tumultuous month of October.


Nick sent me so many messages this month. Not just to me, but to those who are open to them and pay close attention. He lets us know that he’s around and guides us daily.

Today, I reclaimed my spirit and Nick’s soared with mine. I enjoyed the time with my mom, my nephew and family, and visits from the fantastic community and children in our neighborhood. They brought laughter into my home, and that is the greatest joy.




I will always long for my son, and every October will threaten to make me fall into despair. But through it all, I hope to rise above it and bring laughter along with hope.

Thank you to everyone who brought our family joy on Halloween.


Everyone Needs a Tribe

When my son became ill, the first thing I did was gather my tribe. Everything else but the fact that my son had cancer was placed on the back burner. We gathered together even on July 4th when everyone already had plans.

The immediate DeTillio, Cammarata, Thomas, Albin, and McCormick clan! 


Janine, Michele, Stephanie, and Sal gather around our matriarch–Momma Rita!

I remember walking down to Clifton Commons where we always watched the fireworks with my siblings and many of my karate family. The rest of my tribe waited for me and my family on the sidewalks, on the fields, and back at our house offering love, hugs, and comfort.

We heal with love, but underneath that coziness was steel lined with determination. There is nothing more solid than a group of people who will do anything for you, who will pick you up without judgment, and hold you until you can find your feet again.

Moms with a purpose and ready to fight for others. 
Family by choice!

Throughout Nick’s illness, my tribe, especially including my group of ladies held us up by bringing us food, cleaning my house, taking Stephen when needed, visiting Nick, supporting me and Luke when we were away from each other so much, and emotionally kept us strong.


When Nick passed, my tribe became the glue that kept me and my family together as we shattered apart.


They let me grieve and do what I needed to do in order to make sense of this tragedy. Again no judgment. Only patience and love, even as they handled their own loss. That’s how it is with a tribe. The loss of one affects us all.


My tribe has grown and our foundation has become stronger.




It’s really hard to explain what we have together, but we appreciate the depths of our connections. When one of our tribe suffers, is wronged, or is ill, we feel it to our core. We have known terrible loss, but we have risen up from it to bring beauty, hope, and healing to our world. And whatever may come, we will always fight like the warriors we are.


As our tribe continues to grow, know that once a part of the family, always a part of the family. No matter where you may be.

Nick always a part of our tribe.

Who is your tribe? How do you support one another when you need it most? How can you let your tribe know that you are there for them? Write a note of thanks to each of them and how they positively impact your life. You don’t need a large tribe, just enough to get you through the tough times and celebrate in the good.




What you Manifest


Photo by Alysia Thomas

I told the adults in my journal writing workshop last week that one of my favorite books is The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I actually listened to the book and loved the dog, Enzo’s voice. I always say that books can purely entertain, but when they are most needed, they can transform.

I found this book the year after I lost Nick. The main character, Denny, suffers loss and is drowning in his grief. I had adopted my dog, Zoey, who found and saved me, so I could relate to Enzo trying to save Denny.

But what transformed me was Enzo’s mantra: “That which you manifest is before you.”

If I wanted to live a full life in the midst of my grief, I had to create it. I had to do the work. “It’s not easy being green,” my dad used to say. And it sure ain’t easy being sad, lost, heartbroken, devastated, and uncertain about life. This path I have been placed on has been treacherous, rocky, happy, crazy, and life-changing, but I have followed it.

This year I am manifesting my passion–writing and bring the art of writing to anyone who wants to manifest it. I was worried about having enough experiences to write about in my daily prompts and bringing all sorts of journaling workshops into the community. I didn’t need to worry, because I have come from a place of joy, wonder, and selflessness. I want to manifest hope, and I do that through writing and teaching.

My other creation for 2017 is publishing my middle grade novel called The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs in October. During 2016, I tweaked it, but it wasn’t until I committed to publishing it through my company that it became real. By focusing on that goal, that dream, the people I needed to help me accomplish this have crossed my path. I see my vision. I see good people who need hope to get them through the hard times, so they can bloom and manifest their dreams.

What do you want to manifest? What is your focus this year, the next six months, a month from now, or tomorrow?

Write the details, see it as a manifestation, not a wish. Create an action plan and stick to it. It’s all before you if you do the work.

Sending Signs

Photo by Alysia Thomas

This morning I woke up and thought of Ryan, a young man who passed away a year ago today from cancer. He planned to attend college and was at that stage of his life where he was excited to venture off on his own. The first year of losing a loved one feels impossible, but our minds numb us to the pain. For me the second year was harder after losing my son. I think it was because I was no longer numb and felt the loss.

What helped me and has continued to see me through missing him even after 8 years are the signs that Nick sends to me, letting me know that he  is alright. Nick always had a strong connection to and love of hawks. Hawks can often be seen around my area, but they would show up as I was thinking about Nick or when I was especially sad. Sometimes they would fly in 2 or 3’s so I knew he wasn’t alone.

Music is another way that Nick checked in. A song would come on the radio as I started the car and it was as if the words were meant specifically for me. My dreams are a big connector to my son. I have often dreamt of him at the age he was when he passed and also as a baby. When we interact, it’s like having my own personal videoconference with him.

Other people have often told me about their dreams of Nick or his signs to them such as seeing a rainbow on his birthday or getting goose bumps on just the right arm.

No connection or sign is wrong, as long as you feel it’s positive and helpful. Knowing what those signs are and writing about them opens your senses to be aware when they happen. Do you have specific signs from a loved one who has passed? What are they? How do you feel when it happens? Is there someone you have recently lost that you would love a sign from? Try writing a letter to that person. Write about some wonderful memories, places where you visited and activities you did together. What reminds you of them–a song, a book, a certain day of the year, or a pet. Ask them to send you a sign and be ready to accept.  I hope today Ryan’s family receives a sign knowing their boy is with them always.

Removing your Block


This image means so much to me. My older son, Nick, said this to my younger son, Stephen, when he was having trouble putting a Lego set together. Nick’s words have become a positive mantra every day that I miss him. Losing Nick to cancer is my block. For the past eight years, my grief has been in my face, blocking and affecting my view of life.

Everyone has a block. Maybe it’s your own grief, fear, trauma, or insecurity. A block is anything that stops you in your path to wellness, your life purpose, or everyday living.

In January 2016, I attended a 40 Days to Personal Revolution program. It’s a self-empowerment yoga program designed by Baron Baptiste. Through journaling, I learned that I shouldn’t feel guilty about my grief/my block. But perhaps instead of having that block right in my face all the time, I could place it under my arm. I wasn’t ready to let it go, and it would still affect me, but now I could see the world without that filter.

I may be able to relinquish my block for a moment, a few hours, and some days I actually put the block down for a bit. If that block shocks me in the face again, I remember Nick’s words, “Nothing is Impossible,” and I try again.

What is your block? How does it filter what you think about yourself and the world around you. What could happen if you placed that block under your arm even if only for a moment? Write it down so you can always come back to what is possible.