Friday, December 31, 2010


Originally posted Tuesday, December 30, 2008 (after nine months of widowhhood) on my blog.

It’s here again. The brief agonizingly sharp pain of awakening. Like from a coma. Or a nightmare and realizing that it is reality.
I walk around as an automaton. I feed the kids. I wash my face. I buy chicken feed. I seem to be moving. I seem to be alive. Sometimes, I believe it myself. I think, “Okay. We’ll be okay. I can do this.” People tell me that I look good. That I seem to be healing. It’s not me. It’s the robot that applied my make-up. It is the instinct that drives me. It’s the habit of years of doing before my life ended.
Now, I put the bleach in the fridge. I forget to feed the fish for weeks and one of them dies of starvation. I mean to buy Christmas gifts for people. But Christmas passes and I still haven’t done it. I don’t phone people back. I don’t even remember that they called. I leave the house a mess until I impale my foot on a thumb tack dropped days before.
People say that they too suffer from this affliction. Yes, I used to laugh at my forgetting ways and ‘mommy brain’. This is different. There is no one at the helm.
Often, I hear myself talking. But I don’t really know what I am saying. I am gone. I am asleep. The lights are on, but no one is home.
Then, I wake for short periods of time. I wake and scream. I lock the bathroom door to get the only privacy I can get. I sob and cry out. I pull my hair. I want to throw up. I swear. I rage. I want out of this hell.
I worry that what is happening will cause more grief for my children. Will cause judgement from others. But I can’t help it. I can’t stop crying. I can’t pour out the pain fast enough to get it together to hold these two little souls close and tell them the lie again, “It is going to be okay.”
I have no one to call. Jeff died. Everyone else who lives in this house is under four feet tall. People outside this house have their own problems. Everyone tells me to let them know if I need help. I won’t. They have families and lives they need to attend to. In all honesty, I often don’t want to talk. To see anyone. To maintain these fucking ridiculous social graces that no longer mean a rat’s ass to me.
I know this keeps going. I know that it is too long. I know that my lack of healing is a burden. I know that it is more comfortable for everyone if I just maintain the façade. So I do. And I close up again. And my children can see a mother who doesn't cry out and moan from the loss. I go back to my hiding place inside. I curl up in the foetal position and resume my slumber until the next time I wake to find that it is true. And he is gone.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

way better.

after complaining

non-stop about

how much i hate

the holidays,

something interesting happened

this year...

i suppose i could

wait until the

end of the post

to tell you that

i actually

enjoyed this one,

but why keep

you in suspense?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Didn't See it Coming ....

... yet again.
A wave hit me yesterday.
And I never saw it coming .... although I should have.

I have found that there are 3 types of waves for me:
1.  the waves that come out of nowhere, for no rhyme or reason, but crash upon me anyway.
2.  the waves that I expect to come .... a certain date, experience or something that I know will bring on a lot of emotions.  It's easier to stand up under these waves because I know that they're coming and I can brace myself for them
3.  the waves that I didn't see coming ..... but should have.  These waves hit hard and then I get frustrated with myself for not anticipating them .... for not knowing that they would come.

I haven't had a wave in a while, even though Christmas week was one big teary week for me.
But yesterday .... I should have seen it coming.

C had to have a routine medical procedure done and needed help since he would be sedated and couldn't drive home afterward.
So I went .... no problem.
He went back into the procedure area and I waited in the waiting room for an hour or so, reading.
They called me back when he was in the recovery room.
He was still asleep when I walked in.
I took his hand and watched him sleep.
I looked at his iv and the monitor recording his blood pressure and heart rate.
And then .....
..... this part is always difficult to explain by those who've never experienced these "waves".....
it's like you're standing there, in the present, as I was .... and then something grabs you by the back of the neck and pulls you forcefully ..... fast and hard ..... backwards through a dark tunnel.  At the speed of light.
And then you're not there ..... in the present.  You find yourself in the past .... standing there.

I was standing at Jim's hospital beside, on what was to be the last day of his life, though we didn't know that.
I was looking at his IV and his monitor.
I was holding his hand.
And I think I stopped breathing for a few moments.

And blinked .... and was back at C's bedside.
My heart should have been monitored at that point.
I sat down .... I didn't trust my legs to hold me up for another second.
And while C slept, I thought about the last time that I was holding a man's hand, standing at his bedside.
And I was surprised.
Why in the hell did I NOT see that coming?!
I'd not been in this position since December 17th, 2007.  Why did my brain never clue in to the fact that this might bring up some emotions .... that it might be hard?
I never, ever saw it coming.

And so I wonder .... do these third type of waves come because I am now living less with my grief, and more with my "after"?
My grief is not with me 24 hours a day as it once was.  It's no longer the first thing I think of in the morning or the last thing I think of before I go to bed.
Oh, it's there ..... it will always be there ..... but I don't think I "wear" it full time, the way I once did.  I think it resides in a back pocket, or like a necklace, close to my heart.
But it no longer defines me.
I hope.

So yes, I still get hit by waves, but far less often than I used to.
And when they do hit, they do much less damage.
I'm able to lean into them and take them for what they are .... a temporary rush of emotions that I allow myself to feel (most of the time).

I got hit by a wave yesterday.
I never saw it coming.
But maybe .... just maybe .... that's a good thing.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Different New Year

It happened. I actually made it through a holiday without being bitter. Now let me be clear, it doesn't mean I didn't feel sad or have the streaming video of memories run through my brain at different times, but it wasn't bitter. For the first time in 6 holiday seasons, I didn't have flashes of envy and moments of evil thoughts towards families and happy people in general.

I'm sure it had more than a little to do with my overall state of mind. I'm happy. I've been happy for a while, and dealing with life (and death) is definitely easier when you feel so good. I've thought a bit about the difference this year and wonder how much of it can be attributed to my new relationship and how much is also the simple passage of time.

Daniel has been gone for 6 Christmases. On Christmas day I sat for a moment and thought about our first Christmas without him. It had only been 6 weeks. We spent the holiday at my house. My parents came to me, and we struggled through the weekend. I remember wanting to throw up throughout the opening of presents and trying desperately to keep it together so Grayson would have a good day. I remember sitting in my room for a moment and thinking I couldn't live through the day. My mom came in for a moment and she hugged me as I sobbed and I wasn't sure I could leave the room again without it being obvious to everyone else what a mess I was. Grayson asked me if we could call Daddy on his cell phone and tell him Merry Christmas. That question was a kick in the gut I wasn't sure I'd recover from.

The Christmases since then have been a roller coaster of emotion, but each one has been smoother. We don't miss him less each year, but the missing him has become more normal. I think the realization that I don't miss him less has made it easier for me to miss him and still lead a normal life. Missing him is a normal, usual part of our lives now. Every milestone has the "Daniel should be here" label attached to it, and although it still hurts, the hurt is a normal part of life now. He should be here. He isn't. It sucks. It is what it is.

He wouldn't want us to let his death color all things gray, so we don't. We enjoy life. It is the only way we can truly honor his memory. I enjoy life, because it is the only thing that makes sense to me. He would want it that way, and Grayson and I both need it that way. We are still here, and we still (hopefully) have lots of life ahead of us.

Looking back has been my habit for years, but I am beginning to find it not too awkward to look forward. I can see a future for me. It is different. But, as I've said before, different doesn't have to be bad. Different can be unexpectedly good.

Here's to a very different New Year. I think it's a toast I can drink to.

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Struggle with Acceptance

Since Phil's death, grief has caused a long struggle between the desire to overcome and the need to accept the realities that widowhood has brought into my life. The concept of acceptance when applied to Phil's death has always felt like giving up to me. So, I stubbornly planned around any roadblock that would slow what I thought was forward progress, though I had no clear destination. I think I believed that if I kept moving I could outrun the need to accept the fact that the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with was not coming home.

One woman I met just a few months after Phil died shared this idea with me, and I have never forgotten her words. When she was surrounded by the pain of either loss or loneliness after the death of her husband, she would challenge herself to "rest in the riddle." This was a foreign concept to my stubborn, planning, determined mind. I remember wondering HOW exactly she did that. Can you force yourself to rest in the riddle? Since resting would mean being still, would acceptance sneak up on me unbidden? What I can see now, that was not so clear then, is that I was terrified of being frozen in grief. IF I stopped what would happen to me. Would the darkness swallow me up? Would accepting Phil's death mean he was forgotten? What would I have to let go of in order to meet the acceptance criteria?

I have struggled with this answer for five years, and it has taken me every bit of that time to find a path towards acceptance that didn't feel like giving up, or somehow failing Phil. Eventually I embraced the concept that my life is a tapestry. By making my every relationship, word, effort, endeavor, friendship, challenge, and tragedy a part of my life work...nothing is ever left behind. Accepting Phil into my life tapestry, and weaving a pattern with his love so beautiful that it becomes a piece of the whole that is noticeably more vibrant than many others gave acceptance a purpose. His love shines through my weaving, but only if I can allow him to become part of me instead of an idea outside of myself. That thought turned out to be a form of acceptance I can live with...and a worthy place for the kind of love Phil and I shared.

As the New Year dawns we will each be faced with choices about what to add to our own piece of life art. Your loss will color the final product, but so will your love. The lost moments we so long for are often the smallest gestures, the quietest moments, the most unimportant seeming are still creating those every day, and are slowly stitching them into your own personal tapestry. Stitch with flourish.

Wishing you all peace, hope, and love in the New Year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Canary In a Coal Mine

Ezra age 1.75 with Ricki (with a dad)
Ezra 8.75 with Ricki (without a dad)

I feel like a canary in a coal mine.

The sadness being the air that I sometimes think will kill me.

All week long the sadness has been spillozing out of me: hovering above me like my own personal little dampener, echoing at the end of my laughter, pushing through my sighs, sealing my senses shut for moments. It sneaks up on me, shouting “Boo!” or knocks gently on my bedroom door, “Can I come in?” (as if I said no, it would go away!) Or announces its presence with callers, trumpeters and confetti!

It shows up at Trader Joes as I reach for the milk, in the conversation with the Apple Care person or as I blow cool air over my hot tea. It shows itself when I find the hairbrush … in the refrigerator.

It is thick and … indescribable. My smiles come slower and never reach the normal height.

I remember when it arrived. It’s been longer than a week. It was a few days before Pallas’s birthday. I suddenly found the planning for her birthday to be not so hard as it was last year. There was surprise, pride and joy! I’m functioning! I turn to him to say “Hey, this birthday throwing thing isn’t so hard!”

Only he didn’t answer.

Later I look at Pallas. A low, heavy moan rose from my belly. “Oh honey. Damn it Honey. You’re missing this. You’re missing all of this! ….and everything else.”

That is when sadness slipped in, started to get thicker than it had been for months. The difference between now and last year is that I know there is no outrunning it. So I sit down and let it come. It finds me in places.

At Pallas and Ezra’s school holiday celebration,

When a tall man moved passed me and

for a brief moment

I thought

“Hi Honey.”

And like going directly to jail in Monopoly, I went directly to sobbing. (I didn’t know I could do that!)

It found me in an email from my mother-in-law

Acting as if everything was fine between us

Like nothing had happened at all.

It found me when I called after our mailman, running to give him his Christmas gift. “Arthur, wait!” I sang. I never called Art Arthur but the sadness didn’t care.

It found me at the ranch, where the kids and I are now

When I was walking by myself, from the main house to the house off the garage. I turned the corner and walked right into it’s soft, cushy, familiar, frightening deafness.

It found me in another email, this one from a neighbor reminiscing about seeing Art and the kids heading down the side walk towards his house for a swim.

That is where I am right now. Stuck in this sadness. It’s socked me in, layering around me. There is no escaping this. So I don't even try. I sit with it. I nod my head, I sigh, I cry. I have learned to keep walking. The direction I walk is not important. The sadness always has an end. I just need to get there.


Written on Christmas evening

This morning Pallas stomped off, mad that she did not get the gifts she wanted. I follow her to the bedroom. She was back in bed, under the covers, thrashing. I sat at the end, listening to her tirade of the perceived inequality of the gift giving.

“And the worst thing is…I wish daddy were here.”

Her words come at the same moment I am thinking them. We both started to cry. We laid in bed, hugging and crying.

We cried for awhile.

And then we were done. As we leave to rejoin everyone, I felt lighter as if layers of sadness had fallen away.

Then I remember, sharing the sadness has a way of doing that. Knowing that I am not alone, that someone else misses him makes it bearable.


PS Ricki is a parakeet

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Stocking Full of Memories

****This is a re-post from last year, but still one of my favorite moments in seeing the spark reignite in my family, as if the light had been turned on and they looked past his death and forward into his life. I'll update next week on what gift they made/got for him! Merry Christmas****

Last Christmas my family started incorporating Michael back into Christmas by filling a stocking full of gift-cards, gadgets and more that Michael would have loved....but I could use. It was heart warming to see them remember and bring to life some of his favorite things and places from memories passed.

This year, my family arrived and handed over Michael's stocking. It was light. At first, I had thought maybe they had run out of ideas on what to put in his stocking. I slipped my hands in ready to grip on to something.....that something was paper. Sheets after sheet filled the green velvet stocking sporting his name.

I opened one up to see stories and memories written by those who had known Michael. Some that had only known him briefly, others that had just were affected by his kind and giving nature, and my family, who had seen first hand the makings of my soul mate.

I started reading one in front of them before I announced that I would rather read them in private at a later time. After my family departed, I ran straight to the pile of words that made up moments in time, like a child down the stairs to see what Santa brought. The tears streamed down my face as I reminisced and re-lived some of the magic and mundane moments that others had shared with Michael.

It truly was the best gift. For in reading those letters, Michael came to life in my heart this Christmas day... our love boiled in the cauldron in which is permanently located in my soul.

My chest pounds even as I type this.....with the love that never flees. It may feel dormant at times, especially those times in which I wish he was here the most, but, like any moment in time where i feel that, I am reminded that it is still coursing through my veins more then ever.

I love you baby...and am so in love with you. Merry Christmas, my love.

“A place in thy memory, dearest, Is all that I claim; To pause and look back when thou hearest The sound of my name”

- Gerald Griffin

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas together

Photo from here...

Tomorrow is the day that we have all been building up to in the last few months.
I am sure that, like me, you are overwhelmed, tired and emotional. Preparing for this day is, at the best of times, exhausting.....but alone, it seems unsurmountable.
Please remind yourself to breathe deeply. To be gentle with yourself and to allow peace into your heart.
And although you may feel alone, you are not. I am here. And you are here.

“May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace, the gladness of Christmas give you hope, the warmth of Christmas grant you love.”~Author Unknown

Thursday, December 23, 2010

it's more than a haircut.

maddy's bangs were

getting a little long

and i've learned

that i suck

at cutting hair,

so i took

her to a professional.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"You Should Be Happy" .....

.... is what someone told me last night.
Actually, the entire sentence was .... "All of your children are home.  You should be happy."
I felt like I had been slapped in the face.
I was on the phone, explaining to this person, through tears, that I was feeling sad.
And that sentence was the response I got.

Most people would probably agree with that statement.
But you who read this blog are not "most people".
Thank God.

My response was to almost yell into the phone, "Don't tell me that!  Don't tell me what I should be feeling!"
There was quiet on the other end.  But no apology.  No attempt at an explanation.
I said, "I AM happy that the kids are home.  But it's very bittersweet.  Yes, we're all together.  But we're not ALL home.  Jim is not here and that makes me sad.  Very sad.  Yes, even after three stinking years it makes me sad."

It's been a difficult week.  I'm content one minute, in tears the next.
I don't remember being this emotional last year, but then I AM a widow and so my memory is not what it once was.
I AM happy to have all of the kids here.  And so very grateful.
But the presence of seven of us is a huge reminder that there are not eight.
Just like the stockings that are hanging over our fireplace.
This is the first year that I did not add Jim's.
It just seems too painful to constantly see it there.
The stockings are such a visible reminder that he is not .... visible.

So yes, maybe in the eyes of some people I should be happy.
I am blessed.  My children are all healthy and they are all home.
I have many loving family members and friends.
I am financially secure.
I should be happy.

And I usually am now.

But this week, this month .... I am sad.
And there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

Except ignore the ignorant, thoughtless words of people who don't know what the hell they're talking about.
Sounds like a plan .....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wrapped in the Warmth

The holiday season is on me - not upon me, but really ON me - like a rash...I'm totally covered up. ;-) I'm not complaining, it is the fun things that are burying me, too many parties, too many friends, too much love. Clearly you can never have too many friends or too much love. My cup is Niagara Falls.

This year is a different one from the previous 5. This is our 6th Christmas without Daniel. Hard to believe. Grayson was 4 the last time he had Christmas with his Dad. His belief in Santa was firmly intact and his most wanted present was a trampoline. This year, G is less certain of Santa, but very certain of the meaning of Christmas and his most wanted gift is a home gym. My big boy is still a little guy in some ways, and so very grown up in others. What a gift he is to me. I am grateful for him all of the time.

This year I have an additional gift or two in my life. A fantastic boyfriend and his feisty and adorable daughter. Who would have thought it possible? I certainly didn't. I definitely entertained the idea and was open to the possibility, but I don't think I really believed it could happen. Well, hell is freezing over, and no one is more surprised than me.

So this year, I find myself wrapped in the warmth of Christmas in a way I haven't been in a very long time. If I have a spare moment, I'll relax and enjoy it. If I don't have a spare moment (which is looking very likely), I'll just scury forward knowing that the warmth is waiting for me when I'm ready to slow down. It's really a great feeling.

Merry Christmas! - Michelle D.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Feelings

Street lightning christmas decorations Bokeh 7

I just returned home for an early Christmas celebration with my extended family. This is somewhat of a novelty, and we now live close enough to be a part of these type of celebrations on a regular basis. I had a good time, and love my family, but I did need to get in the right type of space to handle it.

Earlier in the week I wrote about this on my personal blog. It is always difficult being around my family because each of my brothers have been blessed with very long marriages. While I enjoy all of their company, I can't help but be reminded by them of what I no longer have. I usually try to keep my visits brief, as too much time together seems to drain me emotionally.

Driving over there the kids and I were listening to Christmas music on the radio. We were having a good time, then suddenly Michael's favorite Christmas song came on. Immediately my daughter looked to me, and we fell silent. By the end of the song we were both in tears, and she had her arm around me while I tried to keep focused on my driving.

Throughout the day there was a lot of laughter, and a lot of sharing stories. Comments were made by everyone about how happy they were, or how blessed they have been this year. Each time I would hear this I felt myself pulling away. Eventually I would find myself sitting off to the side, needing to take some space. While I had anticipated this, and prepared for this, I didn't think to prepare the kids for this. On the way back home to San Diego, my daughter began talking about how hard it was to hear these conversations, with me sitting there, not feeling quite as blessed. She felt angry that my family was being insensitive, and felt like she should have said something.

Soon into this conversation my daughter was in tears, really feeling her grief. She spoke of how much she misses Michael, and how others don't seem to get this. She talked about her anger that we had him in our lives for only such a short time, and how others around us seem to bask in their good fortune, while we sit there feeling hurt. Soon the boys jumped into the conversation, and it went in many directions. They spoke of their birth mother, and how she had died before they could ever meet her. There was so much emotion in the car, which led to quite a deep conversation about how they judge the quality of our life as a family.

In the end we agreed that we needed to appreciate the blessing we have, and at the same time feel fine about our anger. We need to be proud of our accomplishments, even if they don't compare to those around us. Our life as a family, and the lives that my children have lived, has been a difficult one, yet we survive. I reminded them of how proud I am of them, and given the hardships that they have had to face, they, we, are doing just fine.

May each of you feel comforted during this holiday season.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wonder Woman Returns

On Tuesday night, I went on a second date
dressed as
Wonder Woman.

I know...right?!

The back story: We tried to get together and then he was making cracks via email about how busy I am and then he asked if I was out saving the world, or something like that.

He made a joke about my invisible airplane. His last comment to me before we met was "Don't forget your cape!"

And like someone shoving me in the chest, I reacted. I thought "I'm gonna wear my Wonder Woman costume."

Wonder Woman
I bought the outfit in 2006 one month after Art was diagnosed with cancer during his first battle.

I wanted to be a queen that year until Langston, then age 9, pointed out the Wonder Woman costume and said "Mom, you should be this!" I laughed as I paid for it at the register.

Art almost fell over when I met him at the door after he was being escorted home from a chemo treatment.

My friends thought it was the best costume .... EVER.

And then I put it way.

And then, three years later Art died.

So on Tuesday, I'm sitting outside a wine bar, in my car, dressed as a blonde Wonder Woman. And I'm on the phone talking to a widow friend of mine.

"This is stupid." I say.

"No it's not Kim. It's who you are. You are Wonder Woman!"

I take it in.
I feel my superpower rising.

She is right.
I am Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman is back, I think.

Wonder Woman with the faults that do not make her weak but actually make her strong.

Wonder Woman is real.
Wonder Woman has been who I have been all this time, since the moment he was diagnosed to this moment, one year and 8 months after his death.

I realize Wonder Woman is back.

I wear it to meet this guy who is laughing so hard he can't talk for a moment.

I stand there laughing too because he enjoys the joke so much, because I had the balls to say "Fuck it" again and show up in a costume for a second date.

The next day I am laughing because he was written out the lyrics to the Wonder Woman theme song and sent them to me and he asked me to accompany him to a Christmas party.

He likes Wonder Woman.

The costume will not go back in the Halloween box.
It will stay with me, in my closet so that
I can remember
that Art's death
has brought back
Wonder Woman.

It's nice to see her again.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


If I had to choose between loving you and breathing, I would use my last breath to say, "I Love You."
This Thursday will mark our 5 year wedding anniversary. As I've stated through the years, this day has always been more difficult for me than any other...including the day he was killed.

You see, I don't define Michael's life and our life together by the day he was killed, I've always defined it by our eternal love, and no day signifies that more than when we exchanged vows.

We clasped hands from the first moment, rocking into each other, looking into each others eyes in a sort of dream like gaze, exchanging words that were more than words, letters that when compiled and verbalized explained our unfaltering devotion and feelings towards each others. Verbalized our future and our present, all that we were thankful for the other teaching/allowing us to experience.

With the go-go-go of the past couple of months, it feels good to sit here and reminisce about a moment that lives on in me forever, and through those that for a brief period in time, saw the union of two souls connected beyond measure.

I miss looking into his eyes, kissing his lips, knowing that that moment in time all was as it should be. But the angst of separation is still overpowered by that which surpasses all the physical, something that words haven't been created for, yet we exchanged them that evening. The knowing...the absolute knowledge that we will spend eternity together, even if briefly in two different realms.

One of the last letters Michael and I exchanged, I told him there were no words created for just how much I love i created one. I called it: loveinity.

I loveinity you baby (and am so in lonveinity with you)...Happy Almost Anniversary, My Love.

Friday, December 17, 2010

two hands where four are needed

I recently found a "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff Workbook". It is full of quizzes and exercises to force you to look inward at yourself. This introspection makes me realize that I am pretty 'normal' if not, less 'sweaty' than the average person. I've been really enjoying 'getting to know myself' in the 5 minutes I take now and then to complete a section. And it's interesting to compare 'me' now to 'me' before.
I am much more chill than I once was. Less worried about many of the problems that plagued me before Jeff died. That's not to say that they don't annoy/pester/frustrate/even terrify me - just less so now. Most of these issues will not kill me. They MAY force us to live in a cardboard box but, hey, at least we'd have a roof over our heads!
BUT when I read the tip the other night that directs you to do ONE THING AT A TIME, it made me jealous. That green eyed monster made me want to live the life of the people who have the luxury of completing one. task. before starting something new.
I know I felt that I was busy and always needed before, when I was a non-widow. But I was just a pussy.
I now cannot fathom walking down the hall without a pocket full of lego to deposit in my son's room, an armpit full of drawing tools to return to my daughter, a hand shoving the vacuum before me, a signed permission slip hanging from my teeth while dragging the laundry hamper along behind me on my way to the back door to stack firewood, fix the shed door and dig an irrigation ditch next to the driveway.
I am not sweating the small stuff. I am just trying to stay on top of two people's work with just two hands and one head. And sometimes, it really blows.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

my reminder.

sometimes most times

when things are

at their most

difficult, madeline is

there to

distract me. remind me

just how happy

i can be.

and she does this

just by growing up.

today, she sat

silently mostly quietly

on my lap in

a theater in hollywood

as we watched

a movie.

there was a little

talking, but mostly

it was laughing

at the right times

(indicating that she either gets the jokes or she laughs when others laugh, either way it's a good sign).

then on the way

home we crossed

a major potty-training milestone

(i'll spare everyone the details in an attempt to not embarrass future madeline)

and i couldn't

have been any

prouder of my

little big girl.

today, as i smiled

in that theater,

as i cheered

her latest accomplishment,

i realized that

no matter

how hard things

have been,

no matter

how hard things are,

no matter

how hard things become,

she has been,

she is,

she will be the

reminder that something

great is just

around the corner.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Subconscious Mind ....

.... is sometimes a lot more powerful than I'd like it to be.
Maybe it's bigger than the rest of my mind.
Or maybe it's just a lot more determined to be in charge.
All I know is that it's very aware of the date on the calendar and it seems hell-bent on forcing my emotions to react to that memory .... even when the rest of my mind is going along quite contentedly.
Or so I thought.

This Saturday, the 18th, will mark the third "anniversary" of Jim's death.
I always enter this Season of the year with trepidation and caution.  I know that Thanksgiving through January 7th (his birthday) will be bumpy, wavy and unpredictable.
But I've done better this year.
I've been less emotional and more in control.
Or so I thought.

I woke up yesterday feeling like an elephant was sitting on my chest, accompanied by a very dark rain cloud.
And I couldn't figure out why.
Physically I felt fine.
The weekend had been good.
The kids are all well.
I laid in bed, wondering why I felt like crying.
And then I remembered.
My conscious mind caught up with my subconscious.

My subconscious is counting down the days.
It's reminding the rest of me that this time of year has sucked since 2007.
It seems to resent my conscious mind for feeling more positive.
I feel like it wants to drag me back into the dark days of grief.
And I don't want to go there.

And so I'm not.
Oh, I'm sure I'll struggle with my emotions, but I'm stronger now than I was last year.
I refuse to let my subconscious rule on this issue.
I refuse to allow it to overrule what I told the kids a few weeks ago.

I told them that we are done with making the 18th of December an annual funeral service for Jim.
We're done with making it a day to be sad and depressed.
It's time to celebrate Jim, rather than mourn him.
That's what he would want.
He'd also want us to celebrate the Season.
And I told them that was not only OK, it was great.

I knew that they'd be invited to parties that weekend.
I knew that they might struggle with the decision to celebrate or mourn.
And I wanted to free them of any guilt for wanting to be happy that day.
I think they're good with it.
They're ready to be happy.

And so am I.
In spite of my huge subconscious.

I know this post sounds crazy.
It does to me when I re-read it.
But I think .... I hope .... that you will "get it".
All of you on this path will know what it's like to have your subconscious remind your conscious mind that it should be grieving.  You've most likely experienced that sadness that seems to blindside you.
You know what it's like to feel an overwhelming sadness for seemingly no reason ..... only to realize that it's because of the date on the calendar.

I know I'll continue to be emotional this week.
I know that I will shed some tears.
But I will also choose to celebrate.
I will celebrate the Christmas season with friends and loved ones.
And I will celebrate Jim .... and what we had ..... and the children we have.

In spite of the date.
In spite of my subconscious.

All thoughts and prayers would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Heavenly Day

Musical Tuesday: feeling great today, this is one of those songs that expresses it perfectly.

Heavenly Day - Patty Griffin

Oh heavenly day, all the clouds blew away
Got no trouble today with anyone

The smile on your face I live only to see
It's enough for me, baby, it's enough for me
Oh heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day

Tomorrow may rain with sorrow
Here's a little time we can borrow
Forget all our troubles in these moments so few

Oh because right now the only thing
That, all that we really have to do
is have ourselves a heavenly day

Lay here and watch the trees sway
Oh, can't see no other way, no way, no way
Heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day

No one at my shoulder bringing me fears
Got no clouds up above me bringing me tears
Got nothing to tell you, I've got nothing much to say
Only I'm glad to be here with you
On this heavenly, heavenly, heavenly, heavenly day

Oh, all the trouble gone away, oh
For a while, for a while anyway
Heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day

Monday, December 13, 2010


Our family received an amazing, unexpected Christmas gift of a very cool new TV. This weekend we went about shifting, rebuilding, figuring out cable connections, and placing the new gadget in the place of our old big screen. Somehow amidst the chaos, the daunting task of moving the old machine out to the garage ended up happening when the kids and I were home alone. 

As I stood looking at the old television, I remembered the day Phil and I brought it home. He we so excited. We bought the new big screen as a part of the house remodel that we did the year before he died. After months of scraping ceilings, removing wall paper, redoing floors, and repainting walls the house was finally ready for new electronics. Phil and I made a deal; I could do whatever I wanted with the home decor as long as he got to choose the new TV. Boy did he take advantage of that deal....his set of choice was huge. So moving it out of the house was no small feat.

I called the kids into the room and said, "We need to move this TV out to the garage." They looked at me, then looked at the monster set, and then we started discussing how to make the move. As we stood in our living room together brainstorming what to do I realized how many times over the past five years the four of us have needed to work as a team. Because we've been here before, the four of us, facing a task that usually is done by two adults collaborating, deciding, and then acting. But when Phil died I needed my kids to step up when one set of arms was not enough. I needed help when the plumbing overflowed, or the fence fell down, or the shingles were flying off of the roof in the rain. When I couldn't call out, "Honey!!" I instead called "Kids!" One or more of them would come to my aid, and somehow between us we solved all kinds of everyday problems. This seemed especially true during the holiday season when decorating, buying presents, purchasing and transporting a tree, hanging lights, and just making it through the hustle and bustle was so much harder in our single parent home. Whenever I reached the end of my rope, I counted on the only other hands in the house to tie a knot for me.

Grief has definitely stolen a portion of my children's innocence. They make statements now and then that cut me to the quick with their honest observations of life in the aftermath of loss. More than once I have wished I didn't have to count on them to be older, wiser, and sometimes braver than their years might suggest. The scars that grief has left on my kids are visible, and life changing, but as we took that huge television over the last step of our porch and smoothly delivered it into our garage I realized what a good team we have become since death walked into our lives. We are resourceful. We can count on each other. We know our team's strengths and weaknesses. We believe that we can solve problems together. Everyone has a voice. I would like to say that all of this was true before Phil died, and maybe it was, but we didn't know for sure until we were tested.

So this weekend, as we walked out of the garage high-fiving and celebrating another challenging task completed, we spontaneously started singing....we will, we will ROCK you! Five minutes later my daughter walked through the kitchen still humming the tune and I thought to myself...yes, yes we will.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Exhausting Part 1.5

I'm too f'in exhausted to find a decent photo to add

This is a repost from January
Wow. Almost a year ago.
I'm still too exhausted to think.
Not sure how I'll get through tomorrow.

But there are three things I do know, that I didn't know last January

1. That I will get through tomorrow.
2. That this is grief. Friday would have been our 16 yr anniversary.
3. Exhaustion and grief are the most excellent bed fellows. Can't fight them just allow it to be. They will eventually go away.

For that I am grateful.


I am standing,


in the parking lot of Costco

in the arms of

a strange man.

The parking lot of Costco, my cart next to me.

I am unable to find my car.

It's not my car, it's the one I'm borrowing.

Because the one I own is broken and I don't have the energy or where-with-all to make a decision about it.

And when I left the doorway of Costco, striding like a woman who knows

EXACTLY where she is going, I remembered what it looked like.

But as I neared the row, I forgot where I parked.

"This is stupid." I say out loud.

My strides begin to shorten, then they falter and I can't find the car.

And then I can't remember what car I am looking for.

Is the mini-van? No that's at home.

Whose car is it? What does it look like?

And out of NO WHERE....I am sobbing.

I can't find my stupid car cause I can't remember what it looks like.

Is this grief or am I losing it?

Shit where is the car?

Why am I so hysterical about not being able to find the car?

And then I stop, attempt to gather myself (which means I am telling myself to fucking knock it off, get a grip and calm the hell down.)

"Are you OK?" says a gentle voice.

There is a man standing next to me. And just like in the movies, I look down and shake my head.

And then I start to laugh AND cry AND sob.

"I can't find my car. I can't, I can't, I can't remember what I'm dri ving. My husband died almost 9 months ago and I, I, I really hope this is the grieeeef."

And then he looks at me and says,

"My wife died 5 year ago." he says "It's the grief." He smiles.

And then I swear to God,

I'm hugging this guy, and crying in his shoulder and with his arms around me. He doesn't shush me. He tells me about the time he landed at LAX, 8 months after his wife died, not even sure he was at the right airport.

And now I'm pulling away and laughing and then BINGO I remember what car I'm supposed to look for and




We smile at each other. I give him one last hug and we whisper a thank you to each other at the same time because it's our secret. He knows what he did for me. He knows the gift he bestowed on me and he is grateful I willing said yes. And I guess I gave something to him.

He smiles and waves one last time before he turns towards the store.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


This week has been beyond one of my comprehension. One of new experiences, new travels, new bonds, and new horizons for myself and the organizzation.


I found out about 2 months ago that some of my fellow widows submitted my story and organization to L'oreal's Women of Worth. A program that aimed to showcase volunterrs of causes, I then found out that I was one of the top 10 honorees, giving our organization funds to further our mission.


This past week I was flown into DC for the ceremony and meet fellow honorees. I met 9 women that dumbfounded me to be in such presence. Women ranging from 18 to 90, women that were the epitomy of passion, women of a worth beyond worth.


Sitting at a table, it hit me that there are people that in a small way saw the need for a cause that I started due to my own needs to not feel needs to feel connected with others that shared in my need to unify those that believed in the power of heal and healing.


Last night, among those 9 women, my organization was chosen for the National prize, and as I went to the stage...all that hit me....all that by brain could comprehend was his presence. His undying love that I have unearthed through the AWP, my fellow widows, and those that dared not to give up.


I'm now at an event with 13 of the most amazing military widows, and as I sit here and try and absorb all that has taken place in the last 48 hours...the only emotion I feel is gratefulness, love, inspiration, and appreciation.....the core essence of an undying love....of the presence that never leaves my side.

Friday, December 10, 2010

what it is

Photo from golfest

Talking about being a widow is not something I always do....or want to do.
Sometimes I need to talk about it. Express why I am attending a social engagement alone. Assure others that I'm not a 'cast off' - that my husband left me because he was physically unable to stay....not because he found me in bed with my tennis instructor. Now and then, I have to purge the sadness by letting even grocery store clerks know that my husband died. At these times, I am quite skilled at wedging it into any conversation under any scenario.
Other times, the whole story of his loss seems a nuisance. I dance around the topic of the whole event until it is entirely necessary to mention the fact that he dropped dead for fear of having strange, unexplained holes in my stories and sounding like a lunatic.
I found myself in the latter situation tonight. I held off talking about it for as long as I could....and finally just stated, "My husband died in 2008".
I did not want to hear the "Oh! I'm SO sorry! I had no idea!" As I answered, "Yeah, well, it is what it is." And I realized just how over-used but very astute this saying is.
I felt slightly....resentful. Not for being a widow. I just didn't want to be different. I wanted to be one of the moms talking at the table about runny noses, bullies and fuel economy. I didn't want to feel marked by loss. I didn't want to be pitied. I didn't want to explain again what life is like alone. Because often, now, it just is.
I don't really know different anymore....because this is now my reality. And it is what it is.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


i dislike them.

i always have

(and i'm pretty sure i've mentioned that here before).

but i do these

things for maddy,

mostly because her mom

loved them,

and partially because i

can remember what it

was like to be

a kid before

high school brought

on my cynicism

and jaded me

beyond repair.

anyway, on saturday

brooke and i

took maddy to

see santa claus.

after a short

wait in line,

waiting to see santa.


she was able to

sit on the old

man's lap

and tell him

what she wanted

for christmas.

on the walk

from the car

(trying to prep her for her visit)

i asked her

what she wanted

santa to bring her...

she didn't have

an answer, so

i told her to

tell santa that

she wanted grapes

and loud musical instruments

and books.

(i figured that santa would enjoy hearing something other than usual barbie and whatever other toys children beg of him).

when the moment arrived

and he asked her

what she wanted,

she told him that

she wanted "his presents"


maddy and santa.

oh well.

i didn't really

care what she

said, i was just

happy things didn't

end up like they

did last year.

after we left

santa's lair,

outside of santa's house.

outside of santa's house.

with a giant tree, a car, brookie and some strangers.

we ran into

this frightening character:

so happy.

and instead of running

away from the

snow person as she

did last year.,

she decided to

embrace him


my little girl

is growing up

so fast.

after a short

nap, we continued on

with the pre-holiday events

by heading to

target to buy some

ornaments and lights,

then out into the

parking lot to

pick out a tree.

looking for a tree.

fake snow.


we found our tree...

as we stood

in the parking lot,

watching the man

tie the tree to

our car,

i told maddy...

"i bought a christmas tree at this same place when you were still in your mommy's tummy."

she smiled

then looked at me

with a quizzical look...

"where is my mommy?"


i've been worried

about this very moment

since the day that



how in the fuck am

i supposed to

explain this to her?

(this is an exasperated exclamation (read, a rhetorical question)).

she's a little

over two and a half

years old.

i should not have

to explain this

to a child

of her age.

i could feel the

tears coming to

me eyes and

i was instantly

sick to my stomach,

and had to swallow

hard to keep

from puking.


the crazy thing is,

we talk about her

mom all of the time.

i talk about the

photos that are on

the walls,

and the things in

the house

that her mom used

to use, and

i tell her about

the places we visit

that i once visited with

her mom and

so much more,

but not once

as she asked

that question.


i said the only

thing i could.

"maddy, your mommy died."




the truth.

"but where is she?"

i couldn't do

it anymore.

i was bawling.

"she loved you very, very much."

that's all i could say.

then i did

the only thing

i could do.

i pointed to

the christmas tree

on top of our car.

"are you excited to decorate the tree?"

"yes, daddy. i'm excited."


while i composed

myself by hacking

branches from

the bottom of the tree

(you know, to make room for those presents from santa)

maddy and her brookie

worked on some

holiday treats.

making some holiday treats.

soon it was

time for maddy to

help me forget

about what happened earlier...

standing in her

pajamas, she hung

some ornaments on the

tree, and for a few

minutes i smiled.

and i didn't

hate the holidays.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The "After Me" vs. ....

.... the "Before Me".

We all know that we are changed after the death of our spouse.
We are changed because of the death of our spouse and everything that follows in its wake.
But how am I different now?
How is the "After Janine" different from the "Before Janine"?
Let me count the ways .....

1.  I am less naive. 
I know, really know, that happiness is not guaranteed, nor does it last forever.  I know that being a good person, citizen, friend, son, father, husband, Christian, community volunteer/leader, etc. will not keep you from dying ..... not even at a young age.  I know that being a good wife, mother, etc. will not keep your husband from dropping dead.
2.  I am less controlling.
I now know that I really can't have control and that I never did, even if I thought so.  I know that I cannot keep bad things from happening to my family.  I know that life is sweeter when you accept the fact that it's not yours to control, but to enjoy.
3.  I parent differently .... for good and/or bad.
See #2. 
I know more clearly now what really matters .... and what really does not.  I know that my children are already their own persons and that there are some things that I cannot force them to do .... or not do.  I know that the decisions they make are theirs and not a reflection on my parenting (mostly).  I know that Jim and I both raised our children to be independent so even though there's now only one of us here, I need to keep stepping back to allow them to experience independence.
I no longer keep the strict parenting rules that I did when Jim was here (and when there were six of them here).  I give in much easier in arguments.  I don't enjoy arguing a point with them the way I sometimes did (when I had support).  I say yes a lot more than I say no.
4.  I don't "sweat the small stuff".
This is directly linked to #2 and #3.  Life is too short.  I'm not going to waste any more time on worrying about things that will not matter in the end.  The often-used question, "Will this matter in 10 years?" really carries weight with me now, except that I sometimes shorten the time to one year, or even to .... tomorrow.
5.  I am stronger now.
I know that I can survive anything, now that I've survived the worst thing that could have happened to me.
I know that I can accomplish anything that I want to accomplish.  I know that I can fix a lot if things around the house if I just take time to read.  :)
6.  I am not afraid.
I no longer fear death .... or a loved one dying.  This is directly related to #5.  I've been through Hell .... what is there left out there for me to fear?  Nothing.
Don't get me wrong .... remember #1.  I know that there are plenty of bad things that can happen to me, or to my family, but I don't fear them.  If something happens .... I will move forward.  One step at a time, and sometimes many steps backwards.  But I will move.
7.  I am quieter.
I'm not really sure why this has changed, but it has.  I used to be fairly out-going, once I became comfortable around/in a group of people.  I'm still comfortable, but I speak less often.
I think that maybe, just maybe, it's because I now listen more.
I hope so, anyway.
8.  I'm more compassionate.
I think I've always had compassion for people, but not for all people.  This has changed quite a bit.  I now can see the other side of issues and understand why people suffer/act out/are depressed/say stupid things, etc.  I try not to make snap judgements about their character, but really look beyond what they are showing to the public to see what's going on.  And when I see suffering, my heart breaks.  A lot more than it used to.
9.  I'm more honest.
I've always had a knack for speaking into people's lives and saying things that are hard to hear (again, for good or bad), but now I'm a lot more honest about myself and what I'm feeling.  I don't hide my feelings as much as I used to, nor do I hide my true thoughts as often.  Not always a good trait.
10.  I say "I love you" a WHOLE lot more.
Jim and I said "I love you" every day.  Several times a day.  Every time we left each other, every time we hung up on the phone, every night before we went to sleep.  Mostly.  Of course there were those times when one of us felt snippy (mostly me) and didn't say it, but that was rare.  We also said it (and I still do) to our children every day, every night, every time we left them.
Now I say it to my friends.  Often.  I let people who matter to me know that they matter.  I want people to know that they are loved.  I don't want to let it go unsaid because ..... well, you know.  There will come a day when that person is not here to hear it.  And there will come a day when I am not here to say it.
I don't want anyone guessing. 
I express love more and I feel love more.  I love a lot easier than I used to.  And I think that's a good thing.

I could go on and on in the ways I've changed, both positively and negatively, because of Jim's death, but I thought I'd just give you a round number of 10.  Nine or eleven just seemed awkward.  :)
I could also write a list of the ways I'm the same, I guess.  But I think that list might be a bit shorter.
How can I be the same?
I can't.
And how can anyone understand that unless they've walked this path?
They can't.

So, while it sucks that so many of you understand .... I'm thankful that you do.
And I'm glad that I've changed.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Small Stuff

Recently I reviewed the results of a personality assessment I took at work. It evaluated you on four criteria: dominance, extroversion, patience, and conformity. I'm high in three in and low in one...guess which? ;-) I would have bet I was high in two and low in two, oddly enough I'm not as low on patience as I thought.

It would be interesting to see how my patience levels have changed in the past 5 years. I think I'm less patient in a lot of ways. Life is short. What are they waiting for? I don't have all day. I could die tomorrow. You probably know what I mean. But on the other hand, the small stuff, you know that stuff they tell you not to sweat? Traffic, rude people, spilled milk? I don't even notice those things anymore. They aren't even a blip on my radar. (Okay, maybe when I have PMS they are a blip)

I was recently asked what really makes my blood boil. I couldn't think of anything specific. I do have a couple of things that annoy me, but boiling mad? Not much. Lying, and the lying liars who lie. That's about it. Oh, and self-centered-ness (is that a word?). I am disappointed by people who can't think of anyone but themselves. Otherwise, my widow brain just can't be bothered to get too upset about much.

I think BC (before cancer ;) I could have made a laundry list of the things that piss me off. Now, not so much. Will it matter when I am dying that you tailgate others when you drive, or throw your underwear next to the hamper instead of in it? Will it matter at all to me that you forgot to return my call once, or that you voted for Bush/Clinton/Nader? Will I hold it against little G forever that he throws his backpack in the middle of the living room floor and walks away when he gets home from school? Not likely. I'm no Mother Teresa, and I can get peeved at little crap, but most of the time I let it go pretty quickly. I'm not sure if that is patience or if being a single, working mother I just don't have the time to care! Whatever the reason, it's a good thing. Not sweating the small stuff feels pretty darned good.

Happy Tuesday! - Michelle D.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Driving home.

A casual drive into the storm....

I'm having computer problems, so I'm writing via my iPhone. Today I moved into my new home. It's a home I fell immediately in love with. During the past few days I have trying to coordinate so many things at once, and found myself amazed at how smoothly it was all going. As others have pointed out to me lately, life seems to be going my way.

If life is going my, then why did I find myself in tears last night?

It was the end of a very long day. Most of my things at my temporary home were packed up, and many of them had been driven over to the new house. I had my cousin helping me out. Then late in the evening I realized that the next day was the big move, and I would be completely on my own. The problem was that I had two cars to move, yet by the next day I would be the only driver. You see I haven't been able to part with Michael's car. He loved that car, and we took so many wonderful day trips in it. When I shared my dilemma, my cousin was quick to offer to follow me out to the new house.

I shouldn't be surprised, but as soon as I got into the car, and began driving it to my new home, I began sobbing. I was driving home, and he would never be there. I was driving home, and I would be expected to be happy. I was driving home, and I needed to be open to new possibilities.

I was driving home.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Value Added

I said good bye to this guy a few days ago. Actually what I said was, “Let's just call this what it seems to have turned into, a friendship.…”

I did it in an an email cause I tried to break it off once before over the phone and I moronically then asked him if he wanted a second chance (I KNOW!!! I KNOW…not my finest moment in the newly learning-to-date world.)

I hit send, then slammed my fist into the table.

Then my head.

And then the stupid fucking tears started

I was so mad at thim.

Why did he not see my value?

Why did he keep stringing me along?

And then I went “Huh.”

as I lifted my head and swiped

at my tears with my hand.

I see my value.

That’s why I sent the email.

I see that as much as a cliché as it is, life is to short to be treated poorly or to try to GET anyone to like me.

And I see that in letting him go

Another will come. I can feel him coming now, like a tug in my gut.

In letting this one go, I opened the door for another one to enter.

I got into my car whistling.

There is beauty in Art’s death.

The beauty is that I am here

Alone, without him

And I see




And the value feels added, like something I didn’t have before.

In this new life, I realize now, it wasn’t having Art that gave me value (like I had thought).

It was who he loved that gave me value.

And he loved me.

All my opinionated, brilliant, sometime off the wall ideas.

He loved my hearty laugh and hated the way I would interrupt him.

He loved how quick I was and how much I appreciated his amazing brilliance.

He loved how when we argued and we would switch sides.

He hated my ability to chill him with just one look

And he loved the way I kissed.

But it was not his love that made me valuable.

It was his acceptance of me that made me see my value.

And now it wasn’t until he was gone,

that I really saw how much he loved me.

Anyway, I’m in my car singing after the head banging and the crying.

And I’m singing loudly and quite well, thank you very much,

Because in his death I discovered my value.

And it feels like value added.