Oh, what a difference a year makes. September 22, 2015, I spent the day in Glacier National Park with Mary & David, who I met at the Gibson Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Missoula on my way to a Haven Writing Retreat. Before meeting my new friends to hike the Trail of Cedars to Avalanche Lake, I spent some time alone gathering damp debris in the shadows of Mount Vaught to create this birthday greeting for my father.



The following day, dad’s birthday, our retreat began. I recall one of our first group exercises: “believability and voice.” I wrote about my poignant time, alone on Lake McDonald’s rocky beach and I remember crying in the midst of my new Haven sisters, mere strangers then.

It is amazing to think I had no idea then as I poured out my heart and soul about what my amazing father means to me, the unrelenting pain of losing Celeste, or my longing to find my birth mother, that fast forward one year to the day… I would welcome her into my heart and home.

I am contemplating my reunion with my birth mother later tonight, and honoring the blessings that my Haven I sisters have become in my life.

I am also thinking of a 14th C. quote by Meister Eckhart my favorite client “Kate” shared with me this past year. “If the only prayer we ever say in our entire life is “thank you” that will be enough.”

Trail of Cedars


Trail of Cedars
Avalanche Lake


In italics below is my journal entry from two mornings ago. Think of it as a 5-minute writing prompt like Laura Munson teaches – no explanation, no comment, no discussion. When a person finishes, the person to the left reads their entry, and so on. Pretend for a moment you are sitting to my left. Respond to this prompt in a comment below, please.

What do you say to your birth mother when, after nearly a half-century, you two reunite for the first time?

For days I’ve felt bound momentarily, or I’ve woken suddenly like now, with a frisson of anticipation for your arrival. For forty-nine years, I have imagined your looks, your hair and eye color, the sound of your voice, the touch of your hand, every sense of you, even the smell of your skin as I lean in to hug you. The excitement surrounding your arrival this Thursday feels like falling in love for the first time. As the anticipation consumes me, it thrills me, and I wrestle to accurately describe the feelings languishing in the pit of my stomach trying to make sense of my nervousness. Lying here before dawn staring up at the endless darkness I wonder if my aching stomach isn’t reliving some fear of rejection. Why feel fear at all?

I wonder whether my B-mama is a missing puzzle piece for happiness. Countless times I’ve heard or read, I must make my happiness. I’m not so sure those times had it right, though. Seeing you for the first time and getting to know you will undoubtedly provide inherent pleasure. Coming to terms with who and where I come from feels empowering. I feel a new sense of self, especially self-worth, emerging. Ancient depths are surfacing, and I feel a surprising satisfaction in solitude. I have been alone in my thoughts about you for so long I am at home in the solitude.

I close my eyes and feel myself descending into my private world to relive the only closeness I have ever known us to share. Such familiar longing seems to intensify as your arrival approaches. Soon I will replace my solace with a new reality. That will look like what?

Now, I can disconnect from the “real” world. I feel safe in my imagination for my intuition, creativity, and faith is all that has sustained me for forty-nine years. It makes sense they would become my comfort zone. In two days, however, my comfort zone is expected to change forever. My imagination will become real. My faith realized.

I am ready. 

I will stand in your presence for the first time soaking up the beautiful essence of the moment. Peering into your eyes, I will wrap my arms around you with unconditional love. Then I will say the words I’ve waited a lifetime to tell you. Two powerful words when spoken with gratitude is enough. I will say, “Thank You.”


Snow Dump

The heavens dumped a lotta snow on us yesterday. I am grateful. I love snow country and my Montana Muse. A steady snow fall began midday and by late afternoon was dropping large flakes of Queen Anne’s Lace. The snow brought me a beautiful revelation and opening for my memoir.


SEG snow.jpg

Jammer! Laura’s lovable Golden Retriever.
Laura's House
Haven II by nightfall.


snow dump


Moscow Mule

Portland is unique. I enjoyed spending an afternoon with my law school pal, Matthew, who is also a writer, before boarding the Empire Builder for Whitefish. Powell’s City of Books is an enchanting place and the burgers at Tasty n Alder scrumptious. Matthew introduced me to a Moscow Mule proper like in a copper cup.


Rolling into Whitefish under the moonlight at the first flush of the morning is invigorating with the air a cool 34 degrees. I adore snow country and my Montana muse.

whitefish depot

moonlight train depot

My breakfast view at the Bar W Guest Ranch hours before my Haven II adventure begins. Soon after Celeste died in May 1990, I recall hoping to escape to a dude ranch out West where I thought I could collect the pieces of my heart. Instead, I found myself on bed rest at home for four months coping with the unexpected pregnancy of my second daughter. Elyse was due Christmas Eve; one dazing year after a medical resident at Bayfront Hospital ordered an MRI the previous Christmas Eve, and Dr. Solomon of All Children’s Hospital diagnosed our baby with a brain tumor. Celeste was 2.5 months old then. The youngest ever diagnosed with a brain tumor. I am finally at that dude ranch weaving pieces of my heart into my memoir, Between the Lines.

Bar W 2



Pacific Northwest – Seattle, Gig Harbor

The sun rises behind the Cascades casting salmon shadows on the east side of the snowy cone-shaped Mt. Rainier. Fully expecting a steady drizzle of rain from the Seattle region, either that or the best cuppa coffee in the world, instead Sunday unfolds beneath a dry, crisp blue sky accompanied by the sunshine that appears to have followed me from home.

By mid-morning, and after proper introductions with Sophie, Lucas, Alf and Jake, Dawson’s four-legged and fin-waving companions, the four of us head out for green eggs and ham, and a plate full of sourdough bread, at Kelly’s Cafe in Gig Harbor.

A Pacific Northwest Sunrise by Ken Stanback, Seattle photographer.


After breakfast Dawson and I, and his parents, David and Meg, are the first car to load. The ferry stands tall in the water gliding super fast atop the frigid waters shuttling us across the Puget Sound as we climb the interior metal stairs to the observation level. Everything seems bigger here in the Pacific Northwest. The shoreline trees and mountain peaks tower over our water passage, even the seagulls are portly. Appearing at the same time on the horizon is the Seattle Space Needle and Great Wheel, and my trepidation for heights, though my fear eases as the ferry draws nearer to shore revealing the wheel’s enclosed bucket seats.

Seattle 2016-01-24

Settling in next to Dawson and Draco, a blue silver dragon with a striking red tongue from the Pikes Place Market, the Great Wheel carries us 175 feet into the air providing stellar views of the Olympic Mountains to the west and Mt. Rainier to the east peering above a line of stratus clouds.

Dawson & Draco

Olympic Mountains at sunset facing West Jan. 24, 2016 by Susan E. Gregory

Olympic Mtns sunset 2016-01-24

Seattle Sunset facing East Jan. 24, 2016 by Tim Durkan, Seattle photographer.

seattle sunset 2016-01-24

Moonrise over Seattle Jan. 24, 2016 by Tim Durkan, Seattle photographer.

moonrise seattle 2016-01-24

Train Caper

Follow me as I return to my Montana muse for Haven II. The adventure begins this weekend in the Pacific Northwest with a childhood friend David and his wife, Meg and their son, Dawson in Seattle. From there I’ll ride the rails past the Cascade Mountains to Portland to reconnect with my law school buddy, Matthew, before embarking on an overnight train ride to Whitefish, Montana. Home of #HavenWritingRetreats and Laura Munson our gracious leader and New York Times Best Selling author.

Shout out to another law school pal, Jill, for encouraging me to attend Haven! Thank you for reminding me not to question when the Universe sends me messages ❤

Talk about timing. I began planning this trip two months back, but the timing could not be better for me to go now, soul-wise. I’ve endured a tsunami of emotions, and my workload has been intense since my return from Haven last September, such that many days I had to write before I could breathe.

A dear friend suggested I use my trip to recenter myself. He’s right.

This time around, I will miss my Glacier National Park hiking companions, David and Mary, to whom I’m a good sidekick, and my glacier guide chum, LeAndra. Old and new friends await me on my train caper so, stay tuned!

Empire Builder by Amtrak

Amtrak-Empire-Builder winter

I would love your feedback and comments along the way 🙂


A Memoir.

I’m writing a memoir. Yes, you read that correctly. Fortunately for us both, a memoir is just a peek into my life. Chapters. A full blown autobiographical accounting since my birth would be a yawner. I know, my immediate family and close friends may be the only ones who will read my memoir and still, I write.

I am calling my memoir: Between The Lines. #btwthelines

My youngest daughter describes me as someone who looks a little deeper at scenarios most people overlook. She says I often see the blessings in the mundane, and I make connections between people, places, and intuitive feelings that remain hidden to most. According to her, “I see between the lines.”

I started writing to heal.

Some shitty things have happened to me. I wrote through my first husband’s affairs and my daughters’ teenage years. I captured sad episodes of my second marriage in a journal I penned: Menacing Moments. I write when saner people slumber because I have to make sense of how I feel. Always I write about Celeste.

I have no desire to play the victim. I could not care less about blame. Still, that does not erase the inordinate tragedies that I have lived to tell.

No, I am not a wounded veteran or former POW, I’ve never been homeless or raped, and I’ve never been trapped living in a third world country. That is some bad shit.

You may be thinking, what’s she got that beats the time I ________ (insert your worst tragedy)? I know. You have dealt with tough shit, too.

I learned a long time ago that tragedy is relative. I don’t think comparing tragedies is helpful either. Relishing in them even worse.

I did hold my daughter as she took her dying breath, though. During the fight to beat Celeste’s brain tumor nurses would comment about my strength. They expressed amazement about my resilience, especially since at twenty-two, I too was a baby.

For me, age seemed irrelevant. What did it matter if I was twenty-two or forty-two, battling brain cancer with your daughter would suck at any age, right? All I knew how to feel was love and compassion for her.

Celeste’s illness taught me tragedy is relative. Her worst tragedy took her life. My worst tragedy has been to make sense of life without her.

Yours is all that too; it is the tragedy you proclaim the worst. No one else gets to make that claim. For a long time, my thoughts and words did not feel worthy of publication (even a blog).

Twenty-five years after Celeste died, a friend pointed out that he recognized a lot of love in the wake of my pain and suffering. I decided then my words had value enough to share and the constancy of my love more powerful than any tragedy.

So, I write knowing my words are enough. I write to give others encouragement or a funny reprieve, and by giving I receive.


Susan xx