Finding Sustenance, and Moving Forward, in a Time of Grief

You sustain me.

Whether it’s macadamia nuts and honey from Hawaii; cranberry skin care from Maine; gift cards from Texas, Maryland, and beyond; or a homemade meal and a handwritten card, your love lifts me up and gives me strength.

The loss of a loved one, in my case a spouse, is one of life’s most challenging curve balls. But when you factor in a missing daughter, too, the grief can become unbearable. I’ve known since the day she was born that Jocelyn was different, just as a mother recognizes every facet of each child’s individuality. It was that uniqueness that led her to participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, to enroll in theatre, and later, to forge her own path as a healer, going into inner city neighborhoods to help everyone she met. My grief for my daughter has been unfolding for years now. It’s like that familiar, albeit somewhat scratchy, sweater you grab to stave off an early morning chill.

But the grief for a spouse is different than that of a child, especially when you don’t get to say goodbye. When time and distance and life separate you in ways you simply cannot overcome. People say the happy memories will sustain you. But what if the unhappy ones more readily come to the fore, threatening to suffocate you with anger and sadness?

Quite simply, it’s a choice. You can choose—I can choose—what I think about, what I ponder and pray about, what memories will hold a place in my heart. Whether for my husband or my daughter. And it took a greeting card with a quote from Oliver Wendall Holmes to remind me of that.

“I find that the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving,” Holmes said.

I’m standing in this moment of grief, wearing widow’s weeds, but moving only forward. Never back. I know I was a good wife, who saved her husband’s life at least four times: when I paid for his quadruple bypass surgery; when I ordered his orthopedic team off his case, for refusing to acknowledge that a beet-red foot with an open wound was the cause of his raging bone infection and demanded they treat him immediately; and when I insisted he let me drive him to hospital, because I suspected he’d had a stroke. (He had.)

But the most recent incident was in 2015, while I was still recuperating from bilateral knee surgery, and my surgeon had not even released me to drive yet. When Butch didn’t come home from taking our beloved Labradoodle for a drive, I called him—and heard the strain in his voice. I had tried to convince him to go to the doctor throughout the weekend, but he refused. So on that Monday I was worried, and while working on another book deadline, I waited 15 minutes, then 20. When he failed to answer my repeated calls or return my texts, at the 30-minute mark I grabbed my car keys and drove around town looking for him.

I found him in the Dunkin Donuts’ parking lot, hands gripping the wheel so tightly he couldn’t let go. One side of his face drooped, and he couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. I yelled for someone to call 911, and then finger fed him sugar, placing it on his tongue. By the time the ambulance arrived, his blood sugar was 28. People have died with higher levels than that—and he nearly did. Would have, had I not gone looking for him.

The bone infection happened in February 2014, after he fell and broke his leg. I was in the middle of filming an episode for the Dr. Phil Show and facing a major deadline for Pretty Little Killers. Butch was hospitalized for the better part of a month, so I set up camp just outside his room, where I could keep an eye on him through the connecting window. Armed with my laptop and several notebooks full of materials, I interviewed people from there, and took care of him, too, all while meeting my deadline. There’s a reason they say you never leave someone you love alone in a hospital. And I didn’t, wouldn’t.

You haven’t left me alone since Butch died, during the last 50 days. You have given me cinnamon cake and carried homemade cavatini to my door, pruned my flower garden, taken my calls and taken me to lunch, or just bought me a cup of coffee. Many cups of coffee. You chauffeured me when I couldn’t drive, opened your homes to me, and in one case you drove four hours round-trip, just to loan me some money—showing the kind of self-sacrifice that is crucial to surviving grief.

Your personal gifts, your written expressions of love, sympathy, and encouragement, continue to buoy me, and will in the days to come. Yet I know I can never repay you. Not entirely. So I will do what I can, and thank you—from the bottom of my heart.

Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 2016. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April 2016.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

People Cite Trump as Reports of Hate Crimes Against Muslims and Gays Increase After Election

First came the stealthy knock, carried out under cover of darkness.

Then the sound of footsteps, running away from the house.

And then, the horrible message: “TRUMP is our president now. Get out of our neighborhood now FAGGOTS!!”

I hate that word. I refuse to utter it and hate to even type it. Or share it on social media, which I felt forced to do today.

Corey Hurley found the note, printed in black ink on a piece of plain notebook paper. It was lying at his feet when he opened the door after being awakened at 3 a.m. Thursday morning.
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“I was terrified,” Hurley said during a telephone interview. “I knew things were going to start getting a little crazy . . . but I didn’t know it was going to (happen here).”

When I first read the note, posted on a stranger’s Facebook page, I was carried back to 1992. To the day when I took time off work to visit the principal at Kingwood Elementary School, an hour away from Clarksburg – and begged administrators to stop the harassment and name calling. The same name as appeared on the paper found at Hurley’s feet, paper that any child in America might use to complete a homework assignment. The same word directed at my son, Zach, then age eight.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the last 24 hours have seen a significant increase in reports of hate speech and hate crimes around the country. Most have been directed at Muslims, but some in the gay community are being targeted, too.

Like happened to Hurley – and his partner, Kyle Chester.

And my son, who in didn’t know even what sex was at age eight. Much less sexual orientation. All he knew was that the boys in his class didn’t like him. And my visits to his school, and even later, a letter from my children’s therapist, did little to change that.

“This one that you sent me (that Hurley and Chester received) looks like one of the more aggressive that I’ve seen on the anti-gay front,” Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said.

That unit monitors hate crime traffic. Beirich said the Harrison County case is one of “many, many instances we’re hearing about across the country, where people are seemingly victims of what appear to be hate crimes and reference Trump.”
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This is the first time since 2008, when another President took office. “We haven’t seen an outbreak of what looks like hate incidents since Obama was elected,” Beirich said, “when something similar happened.”

But then, the SPLC saw a “rash of hate incidents (against) black people,” because some people were angry about having a black President.

It’s a different dynamic now, though. “In this case,” Beirich said, “people who look like they support Trump or have sympathies with Trump are attacking minorities.”

Numerous reports have been fielded, she said, of “Muslims having their headscarves pulled off and a ton of incidents in schools . . . there seems to be a rash of these incidents across the nation.”

By the time Zach was in high school, the situation was no better. “I always got threatened in high school. I didn’t tell you because you would have just made it worse.”

One day during a break from theatre practice, Zach was walking outside near the football field. The players were tossing a ball around when “one of them threw the ball at my head, and very narrowly missed me.” Zach threw the football “all the way across the football field so they had to go into the woods to get it.”

Some of the players approached Zach as he walked back into the school. One boy wanted to fight. “So I just stood up to them and let him get into my face and I wouldn’t back down.” The football player turned and walked away.

Hurley, a lifelong Harrison County, West Virginia, resident, has never experienced this kind of violence. “It’s always been more accepting,” he said. “I’ve never had any problems with my sexuality from people before, so I was kind of shocked to see that it happened here in Clarksburg.”

Frightened and shocked, Hurley woke up Chester, who took action. The Lexington, Kentucky, native made sure their home was secure – and then told Hurley they had to call the police.

They did. Chester spoke to Deputy Chief James Chamberlain, with the Clarksburg City Police Department. And patrol cars drove by “a couple of times” afterward, but that’s all. When Chester called later this morning, an administrative worker told him the police couldn’t do anything else. Not until, Chester said, they had “concrete evidence as to where it came from or who did it.”

It’s difficult to understand how police could gather concrete evidence when, 12 hours later, no officer had shown up to even begin the investigation. I tried to reach Chamberlain, but he did not return my call. However, not long after, Hurley and Chester did get a phone call. They were told to go to the Clarksburg police station and file an official report. A “very nice” officer collected the hateful note left at their door.

So now, the investigation into a potential hate crime has begun.

Beirich said it’s hard not to link this kind of hatred with the President-elect. “Trump is referenced in some way. If you’re going to use the word ‘Trump,’ you obviously think this is somehow connected to your support of the President-elect . . . Given Trump’s xenophobic, racist, and so on comments during the campaign,” she said, “it’s not surprising that some people would feel emboldened to do these things.”

While the SPLC doesn’t yet have a tally for how much hate speech, or how many hate crimes have occurred since Trump became President-elect, Beirich said it’s “several dozen.”

They don’t yet know how serious it is, but sadly, incidents like these are happening in America’s schools. At all grade levels. “We’re particularly concerned about stuff happening in schools, involving children,” Beirich said. Muslim students, especially, are being targeted. Being told to “get out of the country.”

The SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program has specific information available for teachers, to help them deal with the backlash.

“It’s tragic to see this happening,” Beirich said, while urging all victims to report such hatred to police, as well as the SPLC. And urging police to officially investigate.

“Any of those kids could have kicked my (butt),” Zach said. “I stood up to them – no, I didn’t back down from them. There’s a big difference.”

I asked him to clarify.

Zach did. “Standing up to someone is when you realize that something bad is happening and you actually confront them about it. Not backing down is just standing your ground if someone confronts you.”

I asked him if it worked.

“It definitely helped,” Zach said. “If I had acted in a different manner, maybe more submissive, they would have tried to do more. But if you let them know you’re not going to back down, they have a little more respect for you.”

Respect. That’s what this boils down to. It’s all Hurley and Chester really want, too. So they’re getting their friends involved, to help spread this message:

“We’re human beings, too, just like everybody else,” Chester said, “and we deserve the same rights and respect that anybody else does, in any neighborhood across the country.”

Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

Day 32: Stopping to Smell the Roses

I’m nearing the end of my long, literary journey, having driven more than 2,500 miles to date, from West Virginia to Arizona, and complete strangers have turned into new friends, as I stop and smell the roses – both literally and figuratively. The roses, you see, are the people I meet along the way. Each one unique, with his own fragrance or other gift of beauty.

Like Mandy (not her real name), a single mother of three who did what I did when her children were in danger: she took them and ran. But to do this, Mandy had to give up an excellent job. Although she’s since found another one in Pascagoula, Mississippi, her situation isn’t ideal. And her take-home pay isn’t enough to live on. So she and her brood currently live in a shelter. Not ideal circumstances. Not by a long shot. This woman is not only lovely inside and out, she is kind and smart and clearly a good parent. I met her when I stopped for the night in Mississippi. Even though she was at work, she didn’t have a babysitter so her children were with her. Undeterred and determined to provide for them, she went about her duties while they looked after themselves, until the middle child came up and politely interrupted us.

“I need a time out,” he said, after admitting what he’d done to one of his siblings.

I believe you can tell a large measure about a parent by her child, and that blew me away. How many children honestly admit their mistakes – and ask for discipline? I observed Mandy’s kids while they were there and found them to be quiet, well-behaved and very respectful. Clearly their mother has done a remarkable job. In fact, other guests were enjoying their company, too. Immensely.

But I was taken back in time to 1988, when I covered my first homeless story. Then, a woman and her daughter were living in the mother’s car, after also escaping an abusive relationship. It dawned on me then how dangerous it is for homeless children, whose parents may have to leave them inside a vehicle while they go on job interviews, or who are trapped inside a shelter and often targeted by homeless predators. Those dangers are above and beyond the daily psychological and emotional stressors, of not having your own home to go to. Of not having a routine, or a safe place where you can simply be yourself.

That first story taught me something, so since then I’ve given away my leftover (and utterly too large) restaurant portions to the homeless, and tried to help them in other ways. I know that the biggest percentage of homeless people are themselves either runaways, military vets, or mentally ill. Some of these folks also have addiction issues, often self-medicating to try and relieve their pain. This is yet another danger for the children exposed to these problems.

I’ve also been homeless myself, for a couple of brief moments in my life, but never to the point where I had to rely on a public agency for temporary housing. I was fortunate, because friends and family came to my aid. Mandy? Not so much. Like many women who protect their children when abuse comes into play, her family turned its back on her. Thought she was crazy to go to such lengths to keep her little ones safe.

There is a very long waiting list for Section 8 housing, which is all Mandy can afford, so I’d like to ask for anyone reading this who knows someone in the Pasmagoula area to reach out and help me find Mandy and her children a nice, safe home. So they don’t have to continue living in a shelter, which is not conducive to safety or good health – especially for little ones. You can contact me directly, using Facebook or Twitter or my contact info.

I believe people naturally want to help others. They just have to know when a need exists, and what they can do to help. I believe no one wants to let a hard-working mother like Mandy and her three little ones live in a shelter, so let’s help them.

We can do this!

Note: The photos accompanying this blog were taken on the road, at coffee shops or rest stops, or simply (and safely) while in traffic. Next time, I’ll share some of the stories – and more beautiful scenery, captured with my iPhone – during my visit to the Cochiti Reservation and Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you’d like to guess where I’m going next, and why, I’m hosting a contest at my Facebook group page.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller) and Pretty Little Killers , released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18, 2014, issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

Me Before You: Neither the Novel Nor the Movie Disappoint

Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers.

I love watching movie trailers. So when I saw the one for Me Before You several months ago, the first thing I did after leaving the theatre was Google the title, where I discovered the newly-released flick was based on the 2012 fictional novel by British journalist and author Jojo Moyes.

I don’t always have the luxury of first reading a book before seeing the related movie, but I did with Me Before You. How could I not? Moyes’s book has thousands of reviews at Amazon, with an average of 4.6 stars, which means it was either a good story or well written. Or both. Turns out, it’s both. I love Moyes’s writing style and the way she weaves a complex, compassionate tale about the wealthy, albeit depressed Will Traynor, a quadriplegic, and his upbeat, cheery caretaker, Louisa Clark.

Like many women, I also love a good love story.

While taking Megabus to New York City recently, I had nothing but time so I opened the Kindle app on my iPhone and began reading. The bus pulled out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, about 11 p.m. I couldn’t stop turning the electronic pages until my eyes grew so heavy they would barely stay open. It was after 1 a.m.

On my way home from NYC, I began reading again. By the time I finished, I was glad I had thought to pack some tissues in my backpack, because, as my father would say, Me Before You is a real tearjerker.

Last weekend, some friends and I went to see the movie. As we left the theatre, I couldn’t help noticing an older couple behind us. He was wiping his eyes. One of my friends saw it, too, and once outside we wondered if he had lost someone like Will. Or if the couple had a loved one who committed suicide.

That’s because, at its heart, Me Before You is a love story, but it’s one which also deals with the controversial issue of assisted suicide, or euthanasia. Will Traynor doesn’t want to live as he is, trapped in a chair while in almost constant pain. He wants to be the “me” he was before the accident that turned him into a quadriplegic. Before “you,” or Louisa Clark enters his world.

Several excellent articles have been written about the ethical and moral dilemma euthanasia raises, so I’m not going there. I will say that, having faced and overcome suicidal tendencies in the past, I can understand why Will made the decision he did. But as someone who has never been trapped in a wheelchair, I am not in a position to judge anyone who makes the choice he did.

Louisa, or Lou, as her family calls her, is such a bubbly, joyful character that we root for her, in her efforts to change Will’s mind. She is one of those people you’d like as a friend, a woman whose smile never fades. (Well, not for long.) Who is sure to pick you up, when you’re feeling down. Or goad you into finding a reason to laugh over your miserable lot in life. She is literally an adult Pippi Longstocking, with the stockings to prove it. I can’t wait to see how Lou fares in her life after Will, since her life “before (him)” was dull and boring.

If you’re a reader, get the book. You won’t be sorry. (Then take your significant other to see the flick on date night.) In the movie, the story arc of Me Before You is unwavering, and actors Emilia Clarke and Sam Claftin give a spot-on performance. However, it omits two other supporting storylines: gang-rape and the legal questions that arise from assisted suicide. Moyes tackles both topics deftly, in a poignant way that left this reader longing for September, when her sequel arrives.

* * * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Effective June 2, 2016, Ms. Berry’s blog began appearing each Thursday, rather than Monday, as it once did. Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

“You’re Going to Sell a Million Copies”

That’s some powerful positive thinking going on, and it’s what one reader told me in a message a couple of days ago. Oddly enough, I woke up this morning feeling the same way, that belief having taken root in my brain. I sat up in bed and realized that today is the day Shatter the Silence comes out. Yay! So today is going to be amazing. I’ve never sold a million books before, and I can’t wait to see how that feels!

Maybe it’s the power of the story that has bouyed me with that belief. When writing Sister of Silence, the first book in what is now a series, I thought of it as a book for women. But then men began writing to me, thanking me for writing it. For helping them to “be a better man,” as one man put it.

Shatter the Silence is a love story, so that places it in the romance genre, but since this book is a true love story, it’s also memoir. And guess what? Men are loving it! That’s almost unheard of, when it comes to romance. (So I’m told. Not sure if I believe it.) But this book is about a police officer who worked as a deputy sheriff, when I was a news reporter at my first job. I know we live in a time of great mistrust when it comes to law enforcement, and I understand that, but I think this true story will help restore your faith in the men and women who walk the thin blue line.

Maybe I believe this book will sell a million copies because of something Sarah Rosier Nora posted on my Facebook page this morning. “Readers, get ready to laugh, cry, and fall in love all over again. You’ll root for the real couple in SHATTER THE SILENCE!” Sarah works in a library and reads a lot of books, so she knows a good book when she sees one.

I also believe selling a million copies can happen, though, because in less than one hour—at 10 a.m. (EDT)—almost one-half million people will be talking about this book. That’s when my Thunderclap campaign for my newest baby goes live—thanks to you. All of you, on Facebook and Twitter, who shared and asked your friends to support it. All I had to do was ask for your help, and you gave it. Not only did we meet our minimum goal, we exceeded it! Thank you so very much. YOU are spectacular! And I am so grateful. I truly do love my readers, because you give me something to strive for—that next story. Which I write for you. With much love!

I also love everyone who helped me get this book out the door. And cannot thank you all enough. I hope I remembered you all in the acknowledgements section. If I didn’t, please let me know and I’ll do that in the next book. You’ll be joining a long, long list of folks, too, because I’m thanking everyone by name who took part in the Thunderclap campaign.

It’s a beautiful day here in Morgantown, West Virginia. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the weatherman promises it’s going to be semi-warm (What can I say? This is WV, where it could snow tomorrow.) If you want to read a good love story, I’ve been told this is it. Get your copy today!

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══ SYNOPSIS ══

Shatter the Silence is the romantic and long-awaited sequel by New York Times Best-Selling Author Daleen Berry. The sequel to Sister of Silence, Ms. Berry’s 2011 breakout memoir about surviving abuse, Shatter the Silence is set in 1990s Appalachia.

This romantic memoir weaves accounts of the true crimes Ms. Berry covered while working as a news reporter with details of her divorce, her ex-husband’s ongoing harassment following their divorce, and finally, her love affair with the police detective who became first, a colleague, then a friend, and ultimately, the man who helped save her life.

══ CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR ══

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Cruising the Caribbean: Danger Finds Daleen On the High Seas

***CONTINUED FROM LAST MONDAY . . .

Most of the time aboard the Grandeur of the Seas, I was either walking the track on the upper deck or immersed in a good book somewhere, hidden away in a quiet corner of the ship. After all, I had all those calories to walk off—and the sun to watch, as it painted the horizon with its bright orange glow each morning. And then again each night. With book in hand, I watched the tossing seas, or enjoyed the gentle rocking which accompanied my reading. Sapphire colored, the endless waves were as soothing as a massage. I felt healthier than I have in years.

And my top “meeting a tall, dark stranger” experience came the morning I woke before 5 a.m. and stumbled up to deck ten to get some reading in before breakfast. Warm ocean breezes kept me company as I read the Pulitzer Prize winning book, All the Light We Cannot See on my iPad, while curled up on a chaise lounge. Then suddenly, an interruption.

“Is there anywhere to get coffee?” an older man with silver hair asked, as he ambled by.

“It was so early I didn’t look, but if you find some and come back by here, let me know,” I said.

A few minutes later, still absorbed in my book, the same fellow returned. He bore a gift: coffee, creamers, sugar and even pretend sugar, and a stirrer. “I brought you some of both,” he said. It was the most romantic moment of my entire cruise, on land or water, and I was touched by his kindness. I never saw him again.

Night comes to downtown San Juan, Puerto Rico.

An aside: I, and perhaps every woman who waited in the long lines outside movie theatres in 1997 to see Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Titantic, have always wondered how it felt to be those people, the ones on that ship, those who perished, those who survived. Jack and Rose. I could only imagine, but strains from Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” wafting through the ship lent a helpful air in that department.

Speaking of which, did you know Titantic had its own newspaper, The Atlantic Daily Bulletin? Neither did I. But how fascinating!

A beach scene near Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or “El Morro,” built in San Juan during the early 1500s.

Many people I met onboard tell me that cruising is the perfect antidote to the winter doldrums. One such woman said that before her first cruise, the approaching winter would leave her depressed. Now, twenty years later, she is cured. Apparently, sailing 28 days out of the year in a series of three back-to-back cruises can do that for you, and several people I met do just that.

Meeting new people was the highlight of my cruise. Which is how I learned quite a few of my fellow seafarers had been on that same ship last year when it became the SS Norovirus. They said that 2015 experience was far worse than our second day at sea. That’s when the waves were so tumultuous they held many of us captive inside our cabins, until our collective nausea passed. Alas, it was my first and only negative experience onboard.

Well, except for my near misadventure on the high seas, a week later. It happened the night before we reached the Port of Baltimore, where our cruise ended. I was inside the Palladium Theater with friends who had crowded into nearby balcony seats. I was standing and talking, telling one of them about my bilateral knee surgery. He wanted the phone number for my fabulous surgeon, and I wanted him to have it. I went to retrieve it from my cabin. Turning and twisting and trying to walk at the same time, I missed one very large step. Instead, I pitched forward, but somehow managed to catch myself with both hands. My full weight pushed against a plexiglass barrier of sorts, which had been installed above the copper banister for probably that very reason, causing it to burst apart at two seams. The entire episode took mere seconds. My friends watched in horror, and said I came quite close to taking a tumble over the rail.

Well, shiver me timbers!

I say all that fancy footwork and the adept twisting of body parts, albeit without a sword, goes to show what a good pirate I’d make. Captain Jack Sparrow would be proud. So no, I don’t think I’ll wait 21 years for my next cruise.

* * * *

My fifth book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Crossing Another One Off My Bucket List 21 Years Later

Which story shall I tell you first? The one about how I almost broke my neck taking a tumble from the balcony onto the theatre seats below? Or how it felt to peer up at the underbelly of a jet airplane performing a very low-altitude landing few feet above my head?

This 10-day cruise on the Grandeur of the Seas, one of the vessels targeted by the Centers for Disease Control, and which its passengers nicknamed the “Norovirus ship,” was number 21 on my bucket list. Why 21, as compared to a more general number like 20 or 30? Maybe that’s the logical place to begin.

Once upon a time, there was a bridegroom. I left him standing at the altar in 1995, one week before the wedding—after realizing that no, seven combined children did not us the next Brady Bunch make. He gallantly offered to let me take the cruise alone, but I declined. I had my four children to tend to, and solo sailing didn’t seem wise. I’ve been waiting ever since to walk the gangplank.

Instead, I later ended up studying aviation and getting my private pilot’s license. Which is a great segue into the airport story.

Which came first, the runway or the beach it abuts? I don’t know, but either way, tourists from around the world flock to Maho Beach on the tiny island of St. Maarten. (Maybe it’s a Dutch thing, since the airport is technically governed by the Netherlands, rather than France.) It offers the bold and fearless a feat unlike any other: the chance to be blown into the ocean whenever exhaust fumes from a jumbo jet scorch the faces pressed into the fence behind it.

I wasn’t there long enough to experience that personally, but I did see a little FedEx courier plane take off. And I’ve watched the YouTube videos since then. Trust me, not nearly as exciting. I did stand underneath a Boeing 747 on its final approach to Princess Juliana International Airport, named Number 11 on the “Most Insanely Dangerous Airports Around the World” list. And yes, it was exhilarating. More so for the fellow in front of me, who had an even better view. But still.

For sure, this is not something my flight instructors ever let me do.

Incidentally, our tour guide told us the story about how he once led a little, old man of 80 to that same fence. The fellow was as excited as a child with two fistfuls of candy. Afterward, he said he’d waited decades to cross “feeling the fierce heat of the jet blast at Maho Beach” off his bucket list. It was all he’d dreamed it would be.

I admit, it did rank up there in the “experience of a lifetime” category, far better than the famous Sarafina’s café and bakery, which boasts delicious French pastries and a clean restroom, as well as a rude and rushed French wait staff.

Labadee, Haiti

Among the ports I visited—San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private Haitian island—snorkeling at Cokie Beach at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands was my favorite adventure. Even though I could have tumbled over backwards and perhaps drowned in the rough waves, if not for a local named Bob who suggested I remove my flippers and then led me into the water. There, he offered his arm while I donned them again, followed by my snorkel mask. Hands down, it was best day of my 10 days at sea, and I will forever remember swimming with entire schools of beautiful, shiny fish as they wove to and fro amidst the coral reef.

Of course, all that snorkeling worked up quite an appetite, so afterward I ate Nemo for lunch. He was fried and lathered with homemade hot sauce. The side dish? Johnny cakes, a delicious fried dough known as a local culinary delight. It was well worth abandoning my gluten-free diet in West Virginia just to dine on that one meal. (If you ever make it here, skip the fast food and ask Charlotte at Sun Seekers how to find the fried fish and Johnny cake hut. Charlotte is sweet and helpful, and the food will not disappoint.)

With its brightly colored buildings and rich history, San Juan was lovely, too. Except, after disembarking, it took more than an hour to find a taxi. The hot Caribbean sun made the outside wait unbearable. So I walked most everywhere, and stumbled into Mejunje PR, a friendly family-owned wine bar that features delicious, homemade steak empanadas and fabulous mojitos. And their baños was super clean and clearly decorated by a wine lover. While there, I was serenaded by some local musicians who sang off the cuff, which washed away the frustrations of waiting for a taxi that never came.

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

* * * *

My fifth book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

An Anniversary I’d Rather Forego

I’ve been struggling with this column for days. I even went into semi-seclusion for a week without realizing why—until yesterday—when an old friend offered his condolences.

My sister Lisa died two years ago today. The call came that morning, while I was working on The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese. Trying to meet another deadline. It was BJ, my former brother-in-law. I knew the minute I heard his voice it wasn’t good. I hadn’t talked to him in probably six months, if not longer.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m okay,” I said. “But you must not be. What’s wrong?”

“Well, I’m okay, but your sister isn’t,” BJ said.

At least, that’s how I remember it. BJ called me first, he said, after their oldest daughter called him with the news. “I knew you’d want to know.”

This past week it seems like it’s been that long, some 730 days ago. At other times, it really does feel like she was standing right there next to me—and then I blinked, and she was gone.

I’m still trying to figure out what to write, even as I carry out the task. Do I talk about my 2011 trip to Tennessee to help her start her life over, after she did a stint in jail? Or how, just a few months later, she jumped bail, sticking me with the tab? Or how, in return for helping Lisa, another sister accused me of killing her? (Funny, I don’t remember being her dealer.) Maybe that’s a starting point, but I’m not quite ready to write that story. Not yet.

What I think I’d like to say is this: until the drugs took over, Lisa was never without a smile, a funny joke, or a way about her that suggested that life was far too short to be taken seriously, so why not enjoy it while you can. She and I were polar opposites: I was quiet and serious; she was loud and rowdy. I liked pencils and books and wearing dresses. Lisa liked to run and climb and scuff the knees of her jeans. We fought like cats and dogs when we were children, but we were also best friends.

“Your graduation picture was on the bathroom mirror the day she died,” BJ later told me at the funeral home. He said it was the only family picture Lisa still had.

When Lisa eloped to marry BJ at age 15, I think she did so because he really saw her. She had become invisible to us; I had already flown the nest and was expecting child number two. Mom was working full-time, so she needed a babysitter for our three younger siblings. Dad was absent. Again.

Lisa liked the excitement marriage to a long-haul trucker driver promised, and she often went on the road with BJ. She also liked the way he pampered her, taking her to car races and concerts, buying her clothes and cars and not one, not two, but four different diamond wedding ring sets over the course of their life together.

Then came the day when Lisa, BJ, and our entire family traveled to Nashville, Tenn., to meet their first daughter, He Young. Lisa had never been happier than when that beautiful little Korean baby doll was placed in her arms. When their second little girl, Kang Hee, joined their family, it seemed like Lisa’s life could not be any better, richer, or fuller.

Who can say what causes one person to become an addict, while another one turns up his or her nose at the stuff? What forces have shaped our genes, long before birth, predisposing us to addition? And why is it easier for one person to later kick the habit—cigarettes, liquor, narcotic painkillers—while another person dies an early death from them?

I wish I knew. But I don’t, and I know I’m not alone. From loved ones to medical and psychological experts, there is a large army of people who want the same answers.

Here’s what I do know: Lisa loved our “uncle” Bruce, and at family dinners, those two could laugh loud and long, inspiring a sense of wistfulness in everyone around them. None of us had quite the same relationship. She was an excellent cook, far better than me, and she regularly whipped up a big breakfast of biscuits and gravy, fried eggs and potatoes, and bacon on the weekends. And our three younger siblings delighted going anywhere with her, for she was so ornery and so much fun that she was less like an older sister and more like a favorite aunt.

Lisa was also generous, opening her home to a stray friend in need more than once, letting them live with her and BJ for many months or more. She also loved watching football with our father, especially after the move to Tennessee made their home a perfect pit stop, whenever Dad passed through on his way back to West Virginia.

There was the Lisa from her West Virginia years, and the Lisa she became after moving to Tennessee. Her daughters mostly only knew the second one. I hope they eventually get to know the other one, the girl with the easy smile who loved to laugh and crack jokes and make delicious country meals that many people will only eat if they go to Bob Evans.

Scratch that. That many people today never eat, unless they cook at home, in their own kitchen.

Because that Lisa was the real one. She was my sister.

* * * *

My latest book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

The Return of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang and Other Big Surprises!

News Flash!!!

I have lots of exciting news to share, but first I really need to apologize to my readers, for keeping you waiting all this time. I have a good reason, several really, why I couldn’t get myself back to blogging, but to be honest, they’re just wimpy excuses. Because when you can, and do, crank out a book in just under three months following major surgery, as I did with Nancy Styler’s book, Guilt by Matrimony, what are a few bumps in the road, in comparison?

Those bumps include being unhappy with my agent’s representation, and, in particular, the portrayal of this latest (my fifth) book on the new TV show “Crime Watch Daily.” That led to a bout with the winter doldrums, which came in October—when it was still warm and sunny, and nary a dark cloud in sight. It was pretty depressing.

A friend was fooling around and came up with this spoof of a book cover for my Vintage Berry Wine columns. I love it!

Until I sucked it up and did what I do best: I began networking. I reached out to everyone I thought could help me and began interviewing them. People at the major TV networks, author friends, people in the publicity world, and so on. I also Googled the problem, and feel so much more empowered now. Especially since there’s a book here somewhere, probably fiction, maybe self-help, for other unwitting authors—even bestselling ones like me—down the road. Time will tell.

Around this same time, I also became ill. In part from being stressed and depressed, but also from the fragrance and chemical sensitivity I fight every day. Then, as if an earache wasn’t enough, my dentist had to place a crown on my lower left molar. My mouth was open for four hours for that visit alone. By the end of the week, I had more pain. Not less. Over the course of the next two weeks, I developed a nonstop headache and pain radiated from my left ear all the way to my throat, which only ended after two more visits to the dentist, a root canal, and a prescription for meds to help relax my lower jaw. I couldn’t talk much, so many phone calls went unanswered. Eating was also a problem, so I sipped soup.

With all of that, you might think it’s been two terrible months. But guess what? It wasn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact!

Because that’s how I choose to view it. I could look at all the negatives, but if I did, where would that get me? Instead, I choose to focus on the positive—because that’s what works! That’s why I’m where I am today, instead of someplace worse.

For instance, while feeling too glum to write much of anything, I reached out to a dear family friend who lost a loved one in death. Turns out that my visit to her home renewed a friendship that had long since withered—but which was as healing to me as it was to her. If not more so, because by giving, I received exactly what I needed, at just the right moment. And that friendship has the potential to bring even more beauty and healing to both our lives and to those around us, as time goes on.

A smile, and a child’s love, makes the coldest day warmer.

I also looked for light and peace in the small places, finding it in the face of Haiden, a little preschooler I have fallen in love with. She is such a joy to be around: polite and well-behaved and smarter “than your average bear.” Haiden is, quite simply, adorable. She is just what I needed to take my mind off the stressors in my work life.

I caught up with some other long-time friends from the law enforcement world, and came away with the certain knowledge that sometimes issues are not as clearly defined as we might believe. Also, there are two sides to every story, but unless we know the backstory, understanding the current topic at hand will be difficult. So, from that visit came another potentially huge project for 2016. It’s timely and perfect for today’s police-phobic and Black Lives Matter society. I think it will garner a lot of attention when I roll it out next year.

Last weekend, while studying topics like blogging and time management and leadership, Diane Tarantini and I came up with a brilliant brainstorm. It may be the biggest idea either one of us has ever had. (In case you’re a new reader and you don’t know Diane, she’s a wonderful writer and blogger whose very presence inspires everyone she meets. We’ve been collaborating for some time now, honing each other’s writing and marketing skills.)

Leslie Pietrzyk, winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, Diane Tarantini, my partner in crime, and me

The idea for this new and top-secret project—which is so hard for me to keep under wraps, my fingers long to tap out the letters right now—was born during our Saturday session. By 3 p.m. Sunday, we called it a wrap. The beauty of this secret? It. Was. So. Much. Fun! There was nonstop laughter (and coffee, since Diane is the java queen!) as we created this amazing new media. We hope you love it as much as we do, when we roll it out right after Christmas.

Now, I’ve saved the best for last: I finally searched through all of my old yellowed clippings and my gazillion computer files. I was surprised to realize that I began working on a compilation of my Vintage Berry Wine newspaper columns in 1995. That was four years after I left the Preston County Journal, and should tell you how long ago my children began begging me to compile their childhood stories into a book. Now, those stories will be available in book form before 2015 ends.

I hope you’ll share this news with your loved ones—and keep coming back for more of the insights I learn and share with you here. I promise next time I won’t leave you hanging for so long.

* * * *

My latest book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

New True-Crime Book to be Featured on National TV Show

Mum’s the word for another week, I think, before I can say which TV show will air a segment about my next book, Guilt by Matrimony. I can say this: the host is not only handsome, but he asked great questions. The show promises to be exciting and I can’t wait until you see it. (Meanwhile, you can still preorder your copy of this true-crime book and have it before the November 17 publication date.)

My trip to Colorado in late September was a whirlwind, as most of them are. Autumn in Aspen was lovely—except technically, I never made it to Aspen. I was a few miles away in Snowmass, since most of the interviews took place at the Viceroy, a lovely resort where you can ski-in, ski-out. There was no time to sightsee, unless stopping off to grab a few photos in Georgetown, a little mining town along I-70, counts. (Although I practically inhaled a five-star omelet at the Snowbridge Inn. Their chef, and the service throughout, is fabulous!)

Guanella Pass in Georgetown, Colorado

My photos from the trip are largely missing. I only got a few, thanks to my cell phone taking a dip in the loo inside Denver Airport. (No, I did not flush it. Instinctively, I retrieved it. May I just say, “Yuck!!!”) In an instant, I became one of those silly (or not so much, now that I’ve joined their ranks) women who carry their cell phones in their back jeans pocket. Whether from the desire to have it on their person or simply because they don’t want to risk scratching it, I couldn’t say. In my case, it was the latter. I’d been on the phone with tech support for days, trying to figure out a months-long issue with intermittent, empty text messages. The good folks at Apple said it was my carrier, nTelos, who said it was my hardware. Apple finally saved the day, sending me a spanking new iPhone. (Speaking of which, you are far better off to spend $99 on AppleCare, which gives you unlimited tech support and insures your iPhone, than on any cell phone insurance I’ve ever found. Apple’s customer support is second to none!) After transferring all the data from my old phone to my new, voilà, all was well!

Well, almost. The empty text bubbles transferred, too. Making me realize it was my carrier. (This problem has yet to be resolved, since it means spending even more time with tech support.) At that point, I was out of time. I packed up my old iPhone and the case and made my usual middle-of-the-night, mad dash to the airport. Once there, I barely had enough time to make the plane, and in the process, I left the iPhone’s waterproof case behind, on my front seat. A very expensive mistake, I would later learn.

Have you ever tried taking pictures from your AirBook Mac? That little laptop has a great app, Photo Booth, from which I took the only pictures of glowing aspens I was able to get while there. (Except they weren’t glowing very much, being so early in the season.) Of course, the laptop is a little unwieldy, trying to balance it while simultaneously smiling for a selfie without dropping said electronic device. I don’t recommend it. Instead, keep your case on your phone, so you won’t need to put it in your back pocket, and then you’ll have it for all the pictures you want to take. (And all the calls you need to make, so the TV crew and your agent don’t think you were abducted by aliens during the drive from Denver to Snowmass.)

Unlike most visitors to Colorado this time of year, the seasonal colors weren’t the highlight of my trip. Meeting Nancy was. Nancy Styler is everything she seemed to be over the phone—and much more. Kind, far too kind—and forgiving of everyone who turned against her during her and her late husband’s short and tumultuous time in Aspen. I found her, as did many other people I interviewed, generous to a fault. She is also the tiniest thing, about a size 2, and a few inches shorter than me. Lovely on the outside, it is her inner beauty that catches you off guard and makes you think, “Can she possibly be this real?” She is, for sure.

The Viceroy, in Snowmass, Colorado

For instance, I forgot to wear my compression stockings on my flight, so my legs, thanks to the recent surgery, were quite swollen. I couldn’t even see my ankles. The first thing Nancy did was insist that I let her check for edema. Then she made me sit, and propped my legs up on pillows so they were higher than my heart. Nancy then massaged them, pushing the fluid out. Throughout the next two days, she reminded me to take it easy and keep my legs up, whenever I could.
That is this reporter’s objective takeaway, and I was relieved to learn that the impressions I gleaned during our telephone interviews had not been wrong. In fact, after meeting Nancy the first time, I was so taken with her that for the next two days, we had a kind of 48-hour slumber party, where we laughed and talked and cried and laughed some more.

Aside from everything else, Nancy Styler has a killer sense of humor. Yes, I just used that word, on purpose. The woman who was wrongfully charged with murdering Nancy Pfister, of Buttermilk Mountain fame, is guilty of killing in one sense: she can look at all that’s happened and still laugh at life. She can even laugh about some of the times during her wrongful 100-day incarceration. But it’s her ability to laugh now, after the fact, after losing everything she held dear, including her husband, Dr. Trey Styler, that I find remarkable.

Nancy and Joe Tomocik, an old friend and former supervisor at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

I know now that laughter has kept Nancy going strong, alive and hopeful. Like so many of us who, without it, would have been toppled by life’s injustices.

We were laughing a few minutes after we met Saturday in the lobby of the Viceroy, and we were still laughing when we parted company Monday morning in Denver. That’s when Nancy told me what happened the night before, while I was sleeping. I was completely out of it, not having slept much the entire trip. Sleeping so deeply I was snoring.

What she did, after I was asleep, was make sure Trey would forever remain in Colorado, near their son’s childhood home. She didn’t mean to, it kind of just happened that way. When she flew from Boston to Aspen, her carry-on luggage included three bags of Trey’s remains, since his last wishes were for her to scatter some of them there. Before Nancy left, it was too painful for her to scoop them from the mortuary container into the bags, so her sister did it. But that Sunday night, while I was asleep and Nancy was in the bathroom, quietly trying to find something in her purse, what she found instead were Trey’s ashes, all over the place.

They were on her cosmetics, her wallet, her cell phone, and anything else inside her purse. Trey’s ashes had escaped their plastic bag, fallen out, and gotten on everything. Not just a few ashes, either—an entire bag. So Nancy took her pocketbook, dumped it upside down on the counter, and tried “to clean up Trey.” She was laughing so hard, she told me the next morning, she was surprised she didn’t wake me.

As we both were, so hard my ribs hurt. I’m sure hers did, too. She told me how “most of Trey” had gone down the drain.

“Oh, Nancy,” I said, “Trey would be so happy, knowing he will be in Colorado forever, compliments of the public waterworks.” If tears weren’t running down our cheeks by then, I’d be surprised.

Time was short, as we had one last meeting with the TV producers, so Nancy ran an errand. While she was gone and as I did my face, I felt grit beneath my fingers from where my cosmetics sat on the countertop. I looked at my hand, seeing small flecks of ash on my fingertips. I knew what it was: Trey. I scooped everything up, packed it away in my suitcase, and later told Nancy that I hoped she didn’t care.

“I’m taking a little bit of Trey home with me, to West Virginia,” I said, laughing. “I’m sure he’ll love it there.”

* * * *

My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”