Sunday, February 28, 2010



I don't remember how Art kissed.

I remember how it felt.

Warm, sensual, desired, sexy, girly, vixenish, delightful.

When the connection was right, our kissing opened a door

that lead to ....

I kissed a guy last night.

He's not the first one that I have kissed

but last time, back in the earlier months I kissed for and

with the need to connect, to feel a male body intently intent on my own.

I kissed back then to shoo away the loneliness, the loss and to carry in the idea that I was still human, desirable and wanted, even in the craziness of grief.
I kissed back then to fill a need that, as a woman, is not "polite" to express.

I kissed to see if I could wihout tears.

Last night I kissed to engage.

I know now that I'm desirable

I know now that I'm "catch."

That power changes the way I kiss.

I kissed him coyly.

I kissed him knowing firmly where I will draw the line.

I kissed this man to see if I liked the way he kissed. (I did)

I kissed him with delight and adventure and exploration.

When I kissed him,

warmth came, vixen appeared briefly.


too far away to see.

I laid in his arms and it was pleasing to me.

As I crawled into my bed last night,

I'm still lonely.

And I'm confident.

it's completely bearable.

I can wait.

I can do this kid/life thing on my own if I have to and we will be better than OK.

The grief has settled (FOR THE MOMENT ONLY)

and what is leaves in its wake is patience and clarity.

Art and I had a unique, strong relationship.

Now, on the cusp of 46 yr old, I take all that (and my wrinkled belly and droopy boobs) and march out to find a new relationship.

As a different Kim (with a wrinkled belly, droppy boob and an ass that won't stay up no matter how many butt exersises I do.)

This new confidence?
I am not sure it was worth his death.

But it's darn nice result of it!

Here's to a lot more kissing!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


I wanted to touch base on guilt, as I believe it has played a role in my grief with Michael's loss.

The guilt that he died and I lived

The guilt of the things he never got to experience that I know have been.

The guilt of having eyes to still see this world's beauty and ears to hear its melodies.

The guilt of knowing that he would have handled this pain, loss, and life better then I could, if it had been me to go instead.

The guilt that is created in my over-thinking mind...fictional and factual.

The guilt has sub-sided though, as I know it is a belt of weights I buckled around my waist...a belt that never was supposed to weigh on my hips, my being, my soul.

You see, guilt was never a component of our life (even though I may have used it as a defense mechanism in a disagreement...bad Taryn), so it makes no sense that I would make it a part of my life now, and the love that is still ours.

But I apologize, to Michael and the others around me, for the moments where I let guilt's claws take their grasp on a moment that could have been put in the light it deserved.

Now I can't say that it doesn't creep up at moments where life is a-glow and I feel as if I'm surrounded by a bubble of positivity...but those are just the workings of my brain....
not my heart.

“Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death.”
-Coco Chanel

Friday, February 26, 2010

the bomb

Image from Heberger

Occasionally, I will meet a stranger in a line-up or a clerk at the store who notices my oft-perceived masculine purchase of a hammer, a litre of oil or a case of beer. Sometimes, people standing closeby will make a comment about my husband and how lucky he is that I'm buying him this case of beer, picking up the oil or replacing this hammer.

When Jeff first died, these comments hurt. They broke me. They reminded me, as if I needed it, that he was gone. Dead. And I was alone.

I felt hurt and angered at these people. I wanted to scream at them that they were not only sexist but insensitive and nosy. So I'd just simply say, "My husband is dead."

They'd stare at me in shock and search my face for signs of jest. I'd stare back with tears streaming down my face wishing they could understand and hating them for not.

Now, I actually find some form of morbid humour in shaming these people into submission. I find it amusing to watch the horror, embarassment and guilt cross their face. I know I shouldn't enjoy it. But it is kind of....funny.

I don't wear my black veil and dark clothing. I think my eyes have mostly lost their hollow depths. To anyone looking at me, I look like one of them. The 'normal' ones. The intact ones. The married ones. There are no markers to alert someone of the bomb that I carry around. The thing that most people don't want to talk about. Death. Grief. Mourning.

Many people shy from these topics. Steer around these landmines. Avoid discussion of this eventuality.

So when it enters a conversation so abruptly and without forewarning, it's sudden unexpected elephant in the room and no one knows how to remove it.

I find that use of this giant pachydrem to chase away masogynist and preconceived notions is endlessly entertaining.

"What did you do to upset your dog so much that he's on antidepressants? Ha ha ha"

"My husband died."

"Hey Sweetcheeks! Can I buy you a drink?"

"My husband died."

"I am sure your husband will be able to unplug the toilet with this snake in no time flat."

"My husband died."

Dropping the 'bomb' has its' uses and I am finding it so....perfectly perfect that Jeff is still providing laughter and protection to me in death. (Although I realize that this is most likely a cruel and immature way to get my kicks)... Honey, you the BOMB!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

another 25th

fucking 25th

i thought we were

going to skip this day?

here it is, 25th #3,

#3 of a billion yet

to come.

not awesome.

have a shitload of

laundry to do

after the trip,

but it’s been

exactly three months since


died and i can’t stand

looking at the washing

machine, let alone

trying to use it.

i don’t remember

if i mentioned this before, but


loved the

washer and dryer.

after using shared

laundry facilities for

11 years,

she was ready for her own.

she made sure that

these machines got

delivered the day we

moved into our house.

now i have to walk

through the office so

i can avoid looking at the


machines in the corner

of the kitchen

(house is small, kitchen = laundry room).

funny thing is,

i did most of the laundry.

her job was to fold.

(i hate folding clothes).

didn’t leave the house

during the day.

just spent time with madeline.

she did this

for a little while.

sort of epitomized

how i felt.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Venting ....

..... I am angry this week.
I'm more than angry.
(I'd say that I'm pissed but I don't want to appear un-lady-like.)
I'm angry at a certain person and the anger is magnified because he's not even here to notice or deal with it.
Yep, I'm angry with Jim .... who's been dead for 2 years and 2 months (but who's counting?).

How dare he leave me here to be a single parent?! Parenting was already challenging enough (a nice word for horribly difficult) when there were 2 of us, but at least we had each other.
At least we gave each other the strength we needed to stand firm.
At least he was here to listen to the teacher messages and read their e-mails.
At least we backed each other up on tough and unpopular decisions.
At least there were two of us to bounce ideas off of.
At least we were both here to share the blame when the kids were unhappy.
At least ......
At least he was here.

And now it's just me.
It's just me who gets the messages.
It's just me who makes the decisions (and I don't know what the hell I'm doing most of the time).
It's just me gets the blame.
It's just me who feels like I suck as a parent now.
It's just me who worries and wonders what the future holds for the child who just doesn't care.
It's just me who is constantly guessing at what works with bigger-than-me teenage boys.
It's just me who feels like a complete failure.
It's just me.

And I hate it.
I, like the rest of you, didn't sign up for this.
I know that he, like each of your spouses, didn't choose this ..... but sometimes, on weeks like this one, that doesn't matter.
Yes, it's irrational.
Yes, it's immature.
Yes, it does no good.
But there you have it ...... I'm still angry.
And I very much want to quit.
I want to turn in my parenting badge and say, "I give up. I can't do it anymore. Find someone who knows what they're doing. I quit."
But I can't seem to find the person in charge who will take my resignation.
I don't know where to go or who to talk to about quitting.

And so I write.
And vent.

And keep breathing.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Do You Mind?

Hi honey,

It has been such a long time since I have written you a letter. In fact, my eyes are welling up now realizing that I talk to you all the time in my heart but those words are no longer committed to paper. Remember the letters I wrote to you every day for the first year? I spilled my frustrations, feelings, fears, and memories across every page. More often than not the ink ran because I cried all over the journal paper as I scribbled frantically all the words I desperately wished I could speak into your ear.

In the last four and a half years the pain of your death has changed for me. My heart has healed some, and the open wound that used to bleed all over the place has slowly been stitched up by time, leaving a scar that permanently altered the shape of my heart. At first I held on fiercely to the pain of losing you because it was the only way I knew how to hold onto you. When I felt miserable I somehow associated that with being loyal to you and to us and to all that we were supposed to be. I feared happiness more than I feared loneliness. I would have rather been dead than alive, and was seriously annoyed by the fact that I kept waking up every day. But slowly I have found reasons to live, despite the void that losing you has caused.

There have been times over the years when I just wanted to ask you one question. The urgent thing I needed to ask has changed a million times, but the desire to ask just one more thing remains. So today I have one really important question to ask, and since you haven't yet materialized for our meeting (and I loved that one dream when you did...why did you only show up once?!) I have decided that I will resort to letter writing once again.

I know that you watch me, and the kids...I feel you now and then as if you are standing over my shoulder...and I know you have met Michael and that you've even had a few talks with him. But what I want to know is this: do you mind?

Do you mind that I hold his hand like I used to hold yours? Do you mind that his arms have begun to feel like a place I could call home? Do you mind that there was a time that I could never imagine loving someone as much as I love you, but I do love him that much? Do you mind that he sleeps on your side of the bed? Do you mind that he bought me a gorgeous engagement ring with the same center stone as the one you bought me? Do you mind that he thinks I am a princess too? Do you mind that he knows that in many ways your loss is his gain? Do you mind that I took him to the lake with our best friends, and we had a great time? Do you mind that I love that he doesn't think sleeping past 8:00AM on Saturday morning is a mortal sin? Do you mind that I am relieved to have a partner that loves to dance? Do you mind that he takes me to sushi at our favorite place? Do you mind that I added photos of him and I next to the photos of you and I that are spread all over the house? Do you mind that he helped pick out Caitlin's car, a job you would have surely done. Do you mind that when someone says the word husband, I am beginning to associate that word with him? Do you mind that his love has helped me to see the future in a sweeter light?

And, yes, I know that is more than one question.

In addition to the questions burning to be answered are the things I am desperate for you to know. Here they are in no particular order: I love you, and I will love you into eternity. Loving you changed me. Losing you changed me. I can feel you when I run, and hear your voice. Please stop being so bossy. I am still afraid to say good-bye to you. My heart sometimes aches for you so much that I feel it is breaking all over again. Moving forward is really hard. I miss your laugh, and your giant smile. The kids miss you, and we talk about you every day. Your family is not the same without you. My family is not the same without you. Our friends speak of you often, always with love and admiration. You have a 5K dedicated to your memory. I know you want me to run on dirt more often than asphalt when training for the marathon. Some days I still forget that I can't call you to tell you something funny. Michael admires you, and knows that you will always have a place in my heart...I have a scar to prove it. Your life meant something to so many people. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to be your wife, and when I get married again I will need to know you are somewhere near, smiling. You taught me to be willing to take risks. I hope you are proud of how far I have come, and that you know I take you with me wherever I go.

And I have an answer for you. Remember when you asked me if I knew in advance that our marriage was going to end after a short time, would I be willing to marry you anyway? The day you asked that question I couldn't commit to an answer. I wasn't sure if the pain of divorcing (because of course I didn't even think about death) would be worth a short time of loving bliss. Today I know better. The answer is yes. I would marry you all over again, and live through this whole god awful experience, just to love and be loved by you.

The thing is, deep down I know the answers to all my questions...I just wish I could hear you say the words.

I love you,


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dance Party

Ezra at the end of our latest dance party.

I'm never sure how they start.

But there is this collective agreement.
A collective need to release the energy.
And so one of the kids turns the music on and we are having
We take turns recording our latest and most definitely best dance moves with our Flip.
We don't care if we are out of rhythm (which rarely happens because they inherited my dancing ability, not Art's...phew.)

We don't care how silly we look.
We watch ourselves in the reflection of the large dark windows,
calling to one another when we think we have done something really cool.

"Hey Langston watch this! Hey Mom did you see this? Hey Pallas does this look stupid?"
We are laughing and moving and sweating.
Are legs carry variant loads of our body weight, our hips gyrate, our belly's tighten as our minds focused on giving our bodies just the right command:
jerk your shoulders back, but gently,
wiggle your butt but only on the third beat,
swing your arms to the left, then only the left to the right.
We each try to imitate something the other one does.
And then I am playing mom again.
Time to get ready for bed.
We are panting and smiling and grateful for the trust, the intimacy, the freedom to express ourselves to music.
And in those moments, I see us as a family.
A whole family, not one missing a dad,
but one that is strong and loving (and has good rhythm.)
and I know this is what we do for each other.
We dance
We trust
We release and in that dance party, all is well.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Do You Have a Lighter?

I've been able to reach the life I deserved. Just as stated above. But then the sparks fizzled...went that life slipped through my fingers with fate's plan.

This past weekend though, in the presence of those acquainted with the loss of their love, their soul mates, the sparks reignited, pilot light by pilot light.

I am coming to learn to ignite the sparks and reach the life I now deserve as Michael's widow.

I apologize for clouding the hero he taught me to be with grief's evil grasp.

But i have not perished.

And I will win this battle.....

This life without you here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fill the Void?

The thought occasionally enters my mind now and then that maybe I should date. I'm lonely. I want someone to talk to. Someone to spend time with. Someone to care about and have care about me. But then, I wonder, am I just looking for Jeff? No one is EVER going to measure up to him. No one is ever going to have his sense of humour, his sexiness, his strength, his gentleness. I don't want to replace him. I know that would never be even remotely possible. And I worry that anyone I find would be exposed as glaringly lacking compared to the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

But I'd love to have someone to hold my hand. Am I too damaged now? How do you date one person when you're still in love with someone else? Would anyone even want to have anything to do with me when I would obviously leave them in a nanosecond if it were possible for my love to return to me? I don't think I would want to be with someone under those circumstances.

I don't think Jeff would want me to live in loneliness for the rest of my life. But what WOULD he want? What is best for the kids? Should I stay solely a mommy and a widow for the rest of my existence...or do I allow myself to feel the comfort of another person. Does this mean that I am less of a wife to Jeff? Does this mean that I am a bad person?

I stare at his picture and weep. I listen to his voice on his messages and attempt to cling to the moment he left it and feel that he would know what I should do. But, it's messed. It's wrong. It's a strange and foreign concept. How do you ask your husband if you should date again?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

good memories

we headed to the pasadena

to have

dinner with chandra and derek,

who were in town

from the bay area.

decided on a sushi restaurant.

it’s an extremely loud place,

but madeline was comfortable,

quietly surveying the room.

i think she remembered the place.

i was there with


(madeline inside),

last november,

to celebrate a night

of feeling okay enough

to leave the house.

she loved sushi,

but ate only veggies and edamame

’cause she was pregnant.

she was really looking

forward to

going back there someday.

instead, i sat there

with one of her best friends,

telling and listening to stories



chandra’s been writing

for madeline.

this will someday be the greatest

gift that madeline will receive.

after a lot of talk,

we walked back

to our car and

headed home.

during the short drive home,

i heard a song

we always joked that

it was to be

played at my funeral.

instead it played at


wildly inappropriate.

but perfect at time when

i needed a laugh the most.

i smiled again,

the song ending

as i parked in front of



a peaceful day with lots

of good memories.

sleep is in order.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Missing me .....

For the past few weeks I've been aware of something: I miss me.

Yes, I miss Jim .... still very, very much and still every minute of every day, but I also miss me.
The "before Janine".

I liked her. I liked her humor and her sense of fun. I liked that other people thought she was funny and they enjoyed being around her (mostly).
I liked that she laughed .... a lot.
I miss her sense of joy.
I miss her talkativeness (is that a word?).
I miss the fun she used to have.

I miss the kind of mother she was.
I miss the kind of friend she was.
I miss the daughter and sister that she was.

It's not that I don't like the "after Janine" .... it's just that she seems so very different.
She has some better qualities now. She's kinder and more compasionate.
She's quicker to listen and slower to speak.
She doesn't worry about the future or little things that don't really matter.
She's more grateful for the love in her life ..... from everyone.

But still ..... I miss me.
And I wonder ..... will I ever get some of the "before" stuff back? I know I'll never see the whole "before Janine" again ..... she died the day Jim died.
I've heard several loved ones say that they lost 2 friends that day. Many of them think that the "before" me will return. Some of them understand that she will not.
But I wonder if some of her qualities will come back? I'd like them to.

Especially her sense of fun.

I think I could use a little more fun.

But then, couldn't we all?
: )

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


So whether we wanted to or not, it appears that we have survived another date night holiday! Welcome to the other side people - only 363 more days until Valentine's Day! ;)

This was number 5 for me as a widow. Easier by far, but still - melancholy. Valentine's Day was my first date with my husband. He was a dashing 16 year old boy who came to my house to pick me up with a single red rose and heart-shaped chocolate cake he'd baked himself. I started calling him Betty Crocker that day, and teasingly called him that for the next 19 years.

Years later, we gave up Valentine's Day. In college, we'd broken up two years in a row on Valentine's day....we figured with the first date and the later high drama the day had been used up and we didn't pay much attention to it anymore. He'd always give me flowers "around" Valentine's, but not on the day, and the biggest acknowledgement we gave the day was ordering a heart shaped "Jeff's Special" pizza from Mangia. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel like Valentine's shouldn't be a difficult day for me, it wasn't one that we made a big deal about....BUT, it is a day you celebrate the romantic love in your life. It is a day for me that causes more than a little nostalgia. I'd like to have him here to not celebrate with. I'd like to be together to smugly thumb our noses at the Hallmark holiday and know with a deep contentment that no mere card, vase of flowers, or extravagant meal could define our love.

Instead, I posted Mr. Potatohead on Facebook as my valentine, was given beautiful flowers by a very thoughtful man, and I celebrated with the little guy: heart-shaped cinnamon vanilla french toast with special powdered sugar for him, yummy coffee for me, the first really beautiful weather we've seen in weeks, a mother and son workout session in the afternoon, and homemade spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. All in all, not a bad way to spend a day that is supposed to be about love. Perhaps I wasn't celebrating romantic love, but I was feeling the love all day regardless (except for the school project part of the day...not feeling the love then at all!! ;) ).

Good news, if you're reading this, you've also survived another Monday!
Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Warning Labels

Since Phil died in August of 2005 I have met thousands of widowed people. That fact astounds me. I speak to a new widowed person daily. Every single day, and I am just one person. And yet I am still surprised by death, both personally and professionally. What? Our loved ones die? Since when? But he was so young! What about the kids left behind? How will the family make it on one salary? She was sick for such a short time! But the doctor's felt the battle was almost won. Why her, why him, why ours, why us....when will this dying trend stop?!

You and I both know the answer to that last question all to well. The circle of life goes on and on whether we like it or not. Another undeniable fact is that we are each an intrinsic part of the ongoing cycle of life and death from the day we are born. Seems like all humans should come with a warning label that reads: subject to death at any time.

But I wonder if our ability to forget this obvious reality is just a universal coping mechanism. Would we laugh and play and enjoy carefree moments if everyone we love wore this warning label? Would we step into the already uncertain world of love, if we were constantly aware of the fragility of life? In the early stages of grief we are first slapped with the reality that death is personal; it happens to people we love. As I began to process the fact that Phil was actually dead, I also stood face to face with the now undeniable certainty that everyone else I love will die too. My only hope to avoid the fallout is to pray that I go first (I realize this isn't very nice of me).

So when Michael asked me to marry him my brain flew immediately to these words: Till death do us part. I said those words to Phil without a second thought, and I meant them. What I couldn't know then was how powerful, and ultimately painful, those words would become. What Michael is asking of me is not just to say Yes to a life of committed love, but to an uncertain period of committed love. And that is way scarier to me. I can say Yes to forever, but can I say Yes to for however long he lives...because I am now keenly aware that no one lives forever.

It seems to me that forever is made up of our everyday moments. If I use that criteria, then I can stop tallying the days we might have, and enjoy the ones we do. Looking back, I now understand that even if Phil came with a warning label I would have recklessly (read naively) loved him anyway. I am trying to remember that even though Michael's warning label is much more visible to me than Phil's ever was (okay, Phil's was painfully clear on the emergency room table, but it was too late at that point!), he also deserves the chance to be recklessly loved.

Maybe I have just assigned a personal meaning to the phrase, "Love with reckless abandon"...and that would be to love recklessly, and intentionally, in the face of certain death. This would have been impossible for me not that long ago. In fact, I think it would have been impossible had I never loved Phil. But he taught me the value of reckless love, and I am determined to drum up the courage to honor that lesson.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

This is my support group.
I'm second from the left holding the baby. No, not mine

Art hated Valentine's Day
Every year, annoyed by the hoopla he'd say,
"No darn card company or flower company needs to tell me how to tell you I love you."
So today I give the finger to Valentine's Day.
Who needs you.
Who wants you
I hate you for reminding me of the big fat whole that exists in my life this and every stupid day I draw a breath.
This fingers for you, Valentine's Day
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 13, 2010

In the Box

So a little story... a story I love to tell :)

It was February 12th, 2009, and I decided to do something I had given up after Michael's passing...create homemade Valentine's Day cards. Making cards was one of my favorite things and with it being a dismal part of the year, I was secretly hoping it would lift my spirits. Michael used to love recieving them and seeing all the little touches I'd add to make it special.

So I pulled out my box of paints, papers, embellishments and more. I grabbed enough to strat creating and sat at my kitchen table. The first card was made without a hitch, but it was as I created my second one that it happened...grief decided to make an uninvited visit, and the tear's soon followed. Oh, what I would do to have spent that Valentines with Michael, to just hear him say, "I love you"...those thoughts and more clouded my brain as fast as the tears clouded my eyes.

But no!! I could not let this stop me..."I just need to find even brighter papers and paints, maybe the perfect quote on vellum....I'll go back to the box and continue forward. " was what I told myself. So I got up, went back to closet and pulled out the box, digging for something...I didn't quite know what. I sifted through a rainbow of colored papers, paintbrushes, cardstock, and more. I lifted one stack and noticed a tiny sliver of paper with the ink of a sharpie seeping through the back.

I knew it had to be something written by Michael, he always wrote with sharpies. The pain from my very recent breakdown gave me a moment of hesitation is which I feared to turn it over and read it's words.

I put my hand into the box and slowly pulled out the ruled paper. Sitting on the floor, I flipped it over....

"Happy Valentine's Day"

Written in his handwriting (all caps)....waiting for me in that box, in that closet, in my office....waiting for me to find it 2 days before Valentine's Day, to let me know he was there.

"A box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid."
-J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, February 12, 2010

Stinking flowers

When people die, no one really knows what to do. Call? Visit? Send cards, casseroles or flowers?
I can personally say, that most of the above were very much appreciated. In the fog of grief, many of these overtures were not remembered, unfortunately. So, please, don't be offended if the thank-you card never arrives.
The sympathy cards were kind reminders that other people loved Jeff and missed him too. That we were not alone in our grief and that our family and friends were thinking of us.
The food was a lifesaver. My children were fed. There were all sorts of snacks for visitors to graze on. I never once felt the need to go to the store (even if I hadn't been on sedatives to prevent me from having the energy to scream obscenities into the void).
I found it hard after Jeff died to be at the centre of such hubbub and pain. I had difficulty feeling that I was needed to alleviate other's pain and suffering.
Talking on the phone was unbearable. Speaking face to face was often worse.
I didn't want to talk. I didn't want to communicate. I couldn't get out what I needed/wanted to say. And most often, I didn't want to say anything.
But the flowers were lovely....initially. They were thoughtful and generous. The sentiment was kind.
Then I had to water them. It was more than I could remember and wrap my head around. One more thing I had to accomplish with the energy that I didn't have. I'd sit in the chair by the window staring at the flowers that had adorned the church during his funeral. The happy pinks and purples with the vibrant greens. They seemed futile, smug and ridiculous. They screamed at me, "Life goes forward. We are happy, happy, happy flowers." I wanted to yell at them, "Fuck you, you preppy little losers. I hate you." Instead, I threw wadded up wet tissues at them with the vigor of one who despises something so intensely that thought may just blow it to pieces.
Then they began to wilt. And they reminded me that 'everything dies'. They rubbed my nose in the lesson that I had just learned so painfully. Everything is fleeting. Nothing lasts.
I watched as their once oh-so-smug petals fell to the floor. As their leaves turned transparent and brown.
I felt strangely pleased by their deaths. They deserved it for being so fucking joyful. They knew nothing about life and sadness. Had they even been picked yet when Jeff died? Did they even know what pain was?
But then, I eventually got around to feeling that I should clean them up. And I couldn't do it.
Putting away the vases and throwing out the flowers meant that his funeral had happened and he was indeed dead. That time was still marching on. That I was removing the last vestiges marking the loss of his life from our home.
So those bloody flowers stayed for a long time past their past due date....Always reminding me that Jeff was dead. And that things die. And that life sucks.
I eventually threw the flowers in the composter hoping that this would make me feel that they would be reborn in some other fabulous growing green thing. The vases (aka white cheesy grecian vases adorned with fake plastic ribbons) I held onto until last week. I thought I'd feel guilty releasing these icons of his death. But I didn't. He had never seen them....and it was my last 'screw you' to those stupidly joyous giddy buds.
I will never give flowers to someone mourning again. The care, the upkeep, the reminder and the in-your-face optimism is too much for a person in pain.
Instead, I will send a fabulous casserole with no return address so they don't feel that they need to send a bloody thank-you card for something they would have preferred didn't happen.
(Sorry if I sound ungrateful.....just wondering at the reasoning behind this tradition)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

on my terms

after lunch with liz's friends

stopped at the dry cleaners.

the lady behind the counter

asked for the name.


she said,

“oh! did she have the baby?”


how did she remember


i’m the one who did

most of the dry-cleaning runs.

“yes, she had the baby.”

(i hope she leaves it at that).

she said,

“how is liz doing?”

double fuck.

now i have to answer that question.

“well, liz passed away the day after the baby was born.”

here come the tears

(both of us).

we talked about what

happened and how madeline

is doing.

i left rather quickly

after that.

it was a tough encounter..

i’ve mentioned before

that i like to

tell people about


but i realized today

that it has to be

on my terms

and i have

to be ready

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy Ending?

Someone recently asked me if I thought my current relationship would have a happy ending. I'm sure that person just meant to ask if I pictured being with this man from now on, but I was a bit stunned by that question and just said, "I hope so." As soon as those words came out I instantly thought, "Of course not".

Does that sound horrible?

I don't mean to be all gloom and doom, but I honestly don't believe that there's a happy ending (here on earth).

I used to believe that .... but now I know differently.

That doesn't mean that my life won't be happy .... but the ending will not be happy .... for someone.

Even if I were to marry again and we both live to be 100 (God forbid) ..... whoever is left behind first will be grief-stricken ..... no matter our age or how long we were together.

I do not look at the future in the same way I did 2 1/2 years ago.
I cannot make far-ranging plans.
I cannot picture myself 5 years out ..... or even 1.
I now know that there are no guarantees.
And that's OK.

It's made me appreciate today a lot more than I used to.

I am learning to enjoy what I have, while I have it.
I'm learning to be happy again.

I think I'd rather have a "happy now", rather than a "happy ending".
Because it's really all we've got.
And that, too, is OK.

"Happy now", my friends.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Every Choice

It's a song day. I've loved this song for years, and it has applied to so many different times in my life when I've been faced with making a choice. Since becoming a widow, the idea of choice has been a constant theme in my life. At first just choosing to get out of bed was a conscious decision. As time has passed, it has become a choice to live my life with as much optimism as I can muster, a choice to believe I can have a good life in my present and future, while learning to live with the past.

Thought I knew my mind like the back of my hand, the gold and the rainbow, but nothing panned out as I planned. And they say only milk and honey's gonna make your soul satisfied! Well I better learn how to swim, cause the crossing is chilly and wide.

Twisted guardrail on the highway, broken glass on the cement. A ghost of someone's tragedy. How recklessly my time has been spent. And they say that it's never too late, but you don't get any younger! Well I better learn how to starve the emptiness and feed the hunger.

Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road. You can stand there and agonize til your agony's your heaviest load. You'll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile. When you're learning to face the path at your pace, every choice is worth your while.

Well there's always retrospect to light a clearer path. Every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh. You start at the top, go full circle round, catch a breeze, take a spill. But ending up where i started again makes me wanna stand still.

Stepping on a crack, breaking up and looking back. Every tree limb overhead just seems to sit and wait. Until every step you take becomes a twist of fate.

Up on the watershed, standing at a fork in the road. You can stand there and agonize til your agony's your heaviest load. You'll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile. When you're learning to face, the path at your pace, every choice is worth your while.

Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Saying Yes

As a parent, I have often found saying NO to be easier than saying YES. Over the years I have made a conscious effort to consider the questions my kids ask me before I blurt out a negative response. Many times I realize that the reason I say NO is that I don't want to take the time to weigh the pros and cons of the request. I will confess that there have been more than a few times that I have squashed one of my children's earnest pleas with a backhanded motion that means absolutely not...and then found myself in their room an hour later apologizing and reconsidering.

After Phil died I noticed that this pattern of saying NO off handedly applied not only to parenting questions, but I began to see the tendency popping up in my daily life. When asked out to dinner with friends...I could think of one hundred excuses for not joining the fun. I might avoid a party, a luncheon, a baby shower, birthdays, graduations--you name a social situation and I can assure you I found a way to avoid it. But more than the lack of desire to participate in all things social, was my complete disdain for life in general. I said No because it was easier than putting out the effort that saying YES would require. Saying No was taking over my life. And I didn't care all that much.

With some prodding, encouraging, begging, and a bit of blatant ordering my friends and family helped me emerge from the cocoon that I so frequently used to hide from the outside world. The first few months after Phil's accident actively participating in life was impossible; grief paralyzed me initially. Then I just didn't feel like having fun; depression began to sink in with the reality that Phil wasn't coming home. After some time I stepped out a bit, and learned that I was capable of enjoying life, just a little. Finally I took the leap and opened up my world... I began to say YES.

Saying YES to life has brought me countless gifts; most unexpected, many impossible to imagine four years ago, and all of them sweeter as a result of my personal experience with death, and the mighty aftermath that follows.

But death is not strong enough to keep me from living. And so, I took the leap and said YES, once again.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ezra Update

Ezra came back to me again, expressing his lack of desire to live.

I called Our House where the kids and I receive grief support.

I spoke with Lauren who is in charge of children's support. She said I need to get Ezra help.... immediately.

She said it's great that he trusts me enough to express his feeling. She said it's good that I have provided him with a safe place to talk openly.

She said to call ________ (a therapist experienced with children's grief) and tell her Ezra needed a suicidal evaluation.

She said to keep her posted.

I said I need another massage gift certificate.

And then I said "Fuck."


Two days later, I ask him

"Ezra, how would you commit suicide?"

He says, fully exasperated, in a tone that is too large for his 7 year old experience

"That's the problem!! I don't know how!"

He continues thoughtfully, "I mean I could jump off a cliff but the nearsest clif is in the Grand Canyon and I can't get there!"

I pull him onto my lap laughing, squeezing him too hard, my nose crushed in his neck.

God I love this child.......


He has his first therapist appointment this week.


I am in bed thinking about him. Thinking about me.

I can handle this. I am 100% sure I can handle this.

It is the first time since Art's death that I have felt open enough, expansive enough, sure enough and strong enough to deal with their emotions -- train wrecked as they may be.

And I sigh.

Cause Art knew I would be Ok. I think that is why he felt it was OK to leave.

I hate that.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Happily Ever After

I try not to think too much on all the things we would have done, family we would have built and life together we would have lived.

I try not to imagine it too much, for their is a pain associated with the what-ifs and that which we were unable to fulfill as the soul mates we are.

We lived our fairy tale. Our own Disney movie.

Like a knight on a white horse, you came and saved me from myself, took me to a safe place and calmed all my fears and hurt. I wish we could mourn together the losses we both share, for I know you mourn them too.

I think people look at me now and think all is shattered all is lost with the possibilities we once shared.

Not all was.

It isn't.

We did live happily ever after, even though it the plot took a twist and all the characters we would have wanted to add to our tale never came to fruition.

The fairy tale ending didn't happen though, and I will admit that.

For what we share has no ending.

Friday, February 5, 2010

fear of losing more

Jeff's gone. I know that. The kids know that. But he is still such an enormous part of every day, every moment, every breath.
He is thought of constantly. Cherished. Missed.
We talk about him multiple times everyday. To feel close to him. To ensure that my children who were so young when their daddy died, exercise those memories so that they are not lost. So that they can remember who their daddy really them.
But I worry about forgetting. In the days after Jeff died, I made pages of 'Jeff'. This list contained everything from his righthandedness, to his favourite beer, to what he wanted to name our babies. These items were concrete. Firm. Easy to sum up.

How do I write lists including the joy with which he would dance or sing, the way his breath on the back of my neck would comfort me or how he made me feel when he held my hand? These things are sensed. Felt.
I wish that they would know the smell of their father. I always told him that he smelled of wood. Or that they could see the ease with which he shovelled ice on the boat.
I am afraid that they will lose him again....or more, if I don't cling to these memories and relive them over and over.
I want them to know him. I want them to remember his love and devotion to them. I want them to feel his strength, joy and kindness within themselves...because he was a truly great man. And he would be so proud of them. As I was of him.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

other people's memories

i decided to

tackle a package i got

from someone liz was very

close to during the

young part of her

life in the mn.

it actually arrived on


i knew it was going to be a tough one

so i waited.

waited until i thought i

could handle it.

why i chose tuesday is

beyond me.


photos from a childhood

i didn’t know

along with a pendant

given to her by


when she was 13.


asked her to hold on to it

for safe keeping.

now it is madeline’s pendant.

someday she will wear it

until then, i’ll keep

it safe.

this was too much.

felt like i was going

to puke

or pass out.

had to go outside

and sit on the porch,

fresh air suppressing the vomit,

a chair keeping me from

falling to the ground

like a ton of shit.

luckily there was someone here with me,

to help me through,

to cry with me.

madeline slept through the

whole episode,

silent in her basket.

i hate this.

and i hated this day.

but i do love madeline.

and that helps.

a lot.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's Not the Same ....

My life changed drastically and permanently on December 18, 2007.
Nothing is the same.

I am not the same.
I will never be the same.
And I'm finally OK with that (I'm not so sure that everyone else is).

My children are not the same.
And I'm OK with that, too.
I don't have to like it, but I'm OK with it.

My home doesn't feel the same.
My activities don't feel the same.
My routine is not the same.
My thoughts and my feelings are not the same.

There is not one damn thing in my life that feels the same.
Not one.
And most days .... I'm OK with that.

However there are those days when that total difference rips into my gut and into my heart.
There are those days when I crave sameness .... when I feel as if I will die from all of the differences.
But .... nothing changes. Life goes on.
The differences remain.

The newest difference in my life is love.
It. Is. Not. The. Same.
Not at all.
I have to keep reminding myself of that.

It can't be the same.
He is not Jim.
I am not the Janine I was.
Some days .... I am very sad for that difference.
But most days .... I'm OK with it.
Because it has to be.
Our relationship would not work, would not grow, if I expected the same.

So I move forward, somedays with more tears than smiles, but most days with more smiles than tears.

And I cling to the fact that both hurts and heals me:
...... it's not the same.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Meet bouncing baby boy Christopher - the newest addition to David and Leslie's(bro and sister-in-law) family. Christopher was born yesterday (yes, for today only he can't say "it's not like I was born yesterday"!). I haven't met my newest nephew yet. I intend to today and I can't wait!

Although my own days of having babies are past, it is so amazing to see the miracle happen for someone else. Suddenly, where there was just a bit of a belly - now rests a lovely little life, eyes closed most of the time, resting up and growing, preparing to experience the world. It's such a wonder, birth. Out of nothing (snips, snails, and puppy dog's tails) comes a life! A tiny perfect little life that is just beginning. The expression on the faces of those who are present at the birth of a baby is life changing. In that perfect moment - wonder, hope, and joy, hearts bursting with love. Really, all of the best things that life has to offer.

Welcome to the world baby Christopher! Thank you for all the joy that you have already brought your Mommy and Daddy (and Avery and Joseph too), and thanks in advance for all of the joy you will surely bring the rest of us. I can't wait to meet you!

Happy Tuesday! - Aunt Mickie :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Music Was Our Refuge

The epitaph on Chris’s grave marker says, “Music Was My Refuge.” It is a most appropriate way to remember a man who was a church choir director, a pianist and an organist, a community theater actor, a Norwegian Folk dancer, and a longtime patron of the opera and symphony.

Music is what brought Chris and I together. I met him when he hired me to sing in our church choir nine years ago. Many of my finest memories of our relationship revolve around music. Whether we were performing with the choir, enjoying an opera together or listening to our favorite Peggy Lee Christmas album, music always played a prominent role in our lives.

In the months after Chris died, I started planning a concert in his honor to raise money for the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA). Choir members were truly devastated by his death and welcomed the chance to perform for him one last time. And I wanted a way to memorialize Chris near the one-year anniversary of his passing.

I spent countless hours organizing the Chris Diez Memorial Concert. I planned everything from the music we performed, which included songs from our wedding and some from the funeral, to publicity and ticket sales. His friends, the current choir director and an army of volunteers helped bring my vision to life. And on January 10, 2010, 600 people packed the church to share in a beautiful musical tribute. I welcomed the audience and also sang some solos throughout the concert. Just over $9,000 was raised for the ABTA. The afternoon was a remarkable success.

People conveyed their surprise to me afterwards that I was able to talk in front of 600 people let alone sing in front of them. They just could not grasp how a recent widow could put together such a large-scale event and grieve at the same time. But what they didn’t realize was that by doing, I was grieving. They weren’t mutually exclusive activities.

Over the past year, I have learned that grief comes in all shapes and sizes. And for me, doing something tangible--pouring my blood, sweat and tears into this concert--was a healing step in the grief process. The concert was not just about Chris or the American Brain Tumor Association. It was also about me and my journey through grief.

So, in the end, I guess that music was my refuge as well.