Friday, April 30, 2010

before and after

My three year old nephew, Gabe, told my sister, "Uncle Jeff died, but he still has his imagination."
I love this idea. The belief that 'his imagination' or mind is still intact brings me huge relief and comfort.
What I find interesting is that I am completely willing to believe this to be true. I know that some of my willingness comes fromt he need to believe that Jeff is still with me and the other comes from the somehow inexplicable belief that our society or maybe species has that children and the dying have some inherent knowledge that is lost to the rest of us while in adulthood and good health.
Why is this? We only humour our little ones when they tells us that elephants also come decorated in green polkadots aside from the standard issue 'pachyderm grey'. We smile patronizingly when patient in hospice swears that they will go on a vacation to Disneyland before they pass.
But if a member of either of these two groups tells us something of life 'before' or 'after', we are apt to stare hopefully and relay these messages on to all who will listen. We claim that it is because they are closer to the 'before' and 'after'....But I worry that this is part of the fairytale we tell ourselves.
I do often think of the things that Jeff said to me the night before he died. I know he was feeling ill and he was the classic stereotype of a sick guy making him feel crabby and sad. But some of the things he said, although painful and sad, they also give me 'hope' of sorts, that he knew something I didn't....
So, I will cling to my hope that Jeff still retains his imagination and hang off the words of little ones and those whose bodies are beginning to fail to house their soul....Even if it is a silly belief, it brings me comfort to believe he is with us, holding me when I cry, encouraging me and smiling at his little ones.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

hawaiian wedding part two

when it was time

to get ready for

the wedding.

i’m of course

going tie-less

because i still

don’t know how

to tie one and

my wife is

no longer here

to curse and assist me.

we took our

seat in the

sun and as the bride

started walking

down the aisle,

maddy started to squirm

and make some noise.


we retreated and

i kept one

eye on maddy

and the other on

the wedding.

i knew that


would have been

up there with

the others,

and i would have

been here doing

what i am doing

and i kept it together

until i looked

down and noticed


name listed on

the wedding program.

after the wedding

maddy took her


place in the photo

(as i look at the photo and think about the sentence i just wrote, i figured that someone reading this may take the sentence literary and think that kevin would have been holding liz, but the visual made me laugh out loud so i’m leaving everything as-is).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Can't Compete ....

.... with a memory.
Especially a memory that has become gold-lined over the past 2 + years.

I'm referring, of course, to my teenagers' memory of their father.
Don't get me wrong .... he was a great husband (the best I ever had .... ok, so he was the only one I ever had .... whatever). He was a very good father. He was an exceptional man with a strong moral and spiritual compass and he always strived to do the right thing. Always.

But let's face it ..... he was (..... brace yourselves .... ) human.

But now that he's gone (and maybe this is more relevant because he died suddenly and unexpectedly) I think he's attained mythic proportions in the minds of some of our children (as well as in the minds of many adults).

I am the parent who is left. The one who has to say, "No" .... and has no one here to back her up.
I'm the one who seems hell bent on ruining the lives of my teenagers .... just me. Because, of course, Jim would have let them do whatever their sweet little hearts desired (again .... whatever).
I am the one .... the only one .... upon whom to vent and throw up every emotion.
I am the one who has changed.
And there seems to be a consensus that I am the only one who has changed.
What. Ev. Er.

I am the one .... the only one .... who gets accused of having no idea who my children really are. Deep, down inside.
I'm the only one who constantly gets accused of being a horrible parent, of not understanding, of asking too many questions (in my quest to understand them better, which evidently is a horrible faux pas), and of being selfish beyond belief ..... because I sometimes do things for me so that I can keep a small grip on sanity.

I'm the one who gets accused of not loving my children enough because I'm dating someone now.
I'm the one who's told that their love for me should be all that I need.

Fortunately .... for them as well as for me .... I have developed broad shoulders and an even broader sense of humor.

And .... I am also the one .... the only one ..... who can NOT wait until they each have a child who ends up JUST LIKE THEM.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Relay for Life was this past weekend. This is our 5th year as "Team Dippel" and we've got it down to a smoothly orchestrated event. The usual suspects attended and we had a great time walking the track, eating unhealthy snacks, and spending some quality time together.

Grayson felt it more intensely this time, recognizing the meaning of the event in a way he has been too young to understand in past years. He cried and quietly told me how much he misses his Dad. He asked me about the luminaria ceremony and the hope for a cure. I think each of our team members get something personal out of the event, and it changes each year. Unfortunately, each year we know more people impacted by the disease, so our thoughts are with more than just Daniel. My thoughts are always on Daniel, how he should be there wearing a purple shirt and walking a lap with the other survivors. Clearly he isn't, or I wouldn't be writing for this blog.

I'm less bitter now about that part of the event and more able to appreciate those survivors for the lucky people they are. Some of them are still undergoing treatment and it is heartbreaking to watch them struggle to make their lap. A battle of will seems to be taking place, and it is a private hell that we glimpse for a moment. In that lap, the survivors, healthy and unhealthy alike, seem to be giving the finger to cancer, and it is humbling and inspirational to watch. One of my nephews asked why they are considered "survivors" - and he pointed to someone who was obviously still very sick. I smiled at him and said "they're still here....", to which he responded "good point".

Survivors aren't all cured yet, and some may feel as if they never are cured, but they are still here. I hadn't really thought of it that way until Garett asked the question, and then couldn't help but apply it to myself and to my fellow widows/widowers and our families. We will likely never feel completely healed or "cured" of our loss. We are still fighting the fight, but we are still here. We are survivors.

Happy Tuesday! - Michelle D.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The View Approaching Five

Every once in awhile I am shocked by the fact that Phil has been dead almost five years. This week I met several new people, and shared a bit of my widow story with each of them. Every time I told someone how long it has been since Phil died a little voice in my head asked, has it really been that long?

Believing that 56 months have passed since Phil flashed his beautiful smile at me is difficult when I can still clearly conjure the image of him laughing at a joke only he thought was funny. There are still moments now and then when I shake my head in disbelief that THIS is my life. When I hear a newly widowed person's voice I am taken back to a time when I could not imagine a life that did not include Phil. The kids and I speak often of his crazy tricks, ridiculous nicknames, and the fun-filled adventures he gleefully led for anyone he could talk into joining the game. All these memories recall a man overflowing with life. I still have a difficult time reconciling the larger than life image I have of the man I love with the daily reality that he still isn't coming home.

As I thought this week about the early stages of my own widowhood, I started taking stock of the ways my life has changed over the last five years. How do I view my widowhood now, and how does looking back make me feel?

The last five years have taught me that widowed people are warriors, and I am proud to be a widow warrior. I have fought despair, I have battled with depression, I have guarded my family with a fierce determination, and even in the face of a beast called grief, I did not quit. Over the past 56 months I have laughed more than I cried (which is a feat as you all know!); I have reached out more than I retreated; I have allowed my feelings to have a voice even when I didn't like what they had to say; I have tried new things, and taken some chances; I have risked loving again knowing that this love may also be lost; and I have allowed the lessons that loving Phil taught me to impact my daily life. Looking around me I have discovered that the view from year 4.8 is positive, hope filled, and actually, lovely.

There was a day some 1,680 days ago when I was certain this would not be the case. I am here to tell you that survival is possible, and that a life you may not be able to imagine right now is somewhere down the road. You get there by taking just one step at a time.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


My family began battling cancer in 2003 when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with colon cancer. Five years later my wife, who was pregnant with our third child, was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. Despite a valiant fight, cancer claimed the life of mother-in-law on April 18th and of my wife on July 23rd. I am now raising three girls all under the age of ten. It's a constant battle between my feelings of misery about the devastating losses in my life, and the gratitude I feel for the gift of three amazing daughters who need me now more than ever. This is my challenge, and these are my thoughts.

I was simply moving stuff out of the basement. It’s time to move. The house is too big for us without Lisa. It’s just me and the kids. The cost is too high, it’s too much to clean, and I don’t have that many hours left in the day to take care of everything that needs to be done here. I need a smaller, less expensive, easier to clean house.

I bring up an old air conditioner from the basement (how long has that been down there). I walk back downstairs to get more junk (is this project going to take me all day?), and grab a broken lamp to bring back up (this lamp use to be in our bedroom. Is she really gone?). Put the lamp next to the front door, pause and take a look around the house (what is going on here, why the emotion, am I really going to miss this place, there is so much sadness associated here I want to leave, don’t I?). Back downstairs again and grab the box of Holiday decorations (ah crap, this is getting difficult, I didn’t expect this. Keep moving Matt, too much work to do today). Place the box next to the lamp and now the emotion is on me like a wet blanket (It’s official. I am starting to rebuild my life. I’m scared). I sit down on the box and breakdown.

I did what I could for 2 years. I tried to keep things as routine as possible for as long as possible. I did it for the girls. I could tell that it wasn’t so much that they lost their Mother. It was “How will my life change?” “What chaos is in store for us Dad?” So for 2 years, I kept the chaos away. I kept living in a house that was too big for us; taking care of a house that is too much for me to clean; paying bills on a house that is more than a now single income family can afford. For 2 years I blocked the inevitable.

But the time has come. This is the first major step. I am starting to rebuild my life. And it’s a horrible feeling.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stamps, Please

While at the post office I needed to buy a bulk amount of stamps for the AWP. I ask the lady if she can show me what designs they have available. She asked me if it was for a wedding or shower, "No," I replied.

She pulls out a Frank Sinatra set, another she had nearby, as well as the Purple Heart stamps.

"Do you have anything else patriotic, like the American flag or red, white and blue?"

" Well, uhh, I don't think it gets more patriotic then the Purple Flag Stamp" she replies rudely.

"I know, my husband has one." As I went on to look at the different designs, trying and hoping not to have to explain.

"Well, isn't he pretty young to have one of those?" She stated...almost insinuating that I was lying.

Here it goes...I have no other choice....she had to ask....

"Well, he was killed and unluckily most who have received them are young."

"What? So was he killed, like, uhhh, in Iraq?"


"I only see old men in old cadillacs with those on their license plates." She replied.

I spent the next ten minutes explaining more to her about military widows and their heroes. Though there was an ounce of me that wanted to just walk out and never walk back into that post office again, I knew that if I hid and never went back I'd be caving into my own emotions. Never allowing others to be awakened to a certain groups realities.

I ended up leaving with a beautiful roll of different American Flag variation stamps and more and satisfaction in knowing that one person, at the Buda, Texas USPS, understands the daily sacrifices being made and and one of many military widows those living to carry on their legacy and create a life from the rubble.

Also....there are currently 60 different stamp designs to choose from ;D

Some see a hopeless end, while others see an endless hope.
~Author Unknown

Friday, April 23, 2010

lucky me

"Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened." ~ Dr. Suess

After Jeff died, I had this quote printed in vinyl to stick above my bed to remind me just how 'lucky' I am.
I read it in the hard moments when the kids are in bed, the phone hasn't rung in two days and my poor-me's are flowing.
It reminds me that I'm lucky. We're lucky. Everyone of us who were touched by Jeff's existence is lucky.
He wasn't 'perfect'. He was FAR from a saint. But still, thoughts and memories of him make me smile. And his ability to laugh was second to none.
I got to share his life, his laughter, his love.....And I'm lucky for it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

hawaiian wedding part one

on april 16th,

i flew to the

island of oahu

with madeline.

we were there to

celebrate the wedding of

one of


best friends in

the whole wide world,


all of her best

friends from college

were there.

i was honored to

be invited,

but i anticipated it

being a tough trip.

we arrived and i

was instantly transported

back in time.

i had been

here before.


had been here before.



i knew

that i had taken

five trips to

hawaii with


but i can never

remember which

island is which,

and i was unsure

that i had ever

been to this one,

that is,

until i hit

that baggage claim area.

it was a few

years ago.


was working on oahu,

and instead of

flying home to

see me for my birthday,

she flew me to


maddy and i

jumped in a cab

and the memories

continued to kick

me in the stomach.

i remembered the highway,

i remembered the street

lined with high-end shops.

i remembered the

hotels along the beach.

and as we pulled

into the driveway

of the hotel i had

chosen online,

i looked across the

street and

saw the hotel


stayed in all

of those years ago.


maddy and i went up

to our room.

a corner room,

looking out at that

other hotel

from my past.

i remember us standing

on the balcony

of that hotel,

i even have

two photos

of the moment,

but i won’t share them.


eyes were closed

in both of them

(this was in my pre-digital slr camera days so my timing often sucked)

and i can just

hear her telling

me to delete the photos.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm Not "Normal" .....

..... and finally, FINALLY .... after 2 years and 4 months ..... I'm OK with that.
It feels good to finally feel OK with things not really being OK.

I don't think I will ever feel "normal" again. I spent a lot of time fighting that. I wanted to be "normal". I didn't want to be a widow. I didn't want anything to do with widowhood and everything it brought into my life .... and the lives of my children.

But I've stopped fighting. And that, too, feels good.

Don't get me wrong ..... this is not the life I would have chosen. And if I could .... I'd certainly go back to the way it was before December 17th, 2007.
If I could .... I'd wake up from this bad dream to find that's exactly what it was .... and nothing more.
But that's not the path I was given.
This one, without Jim, is.
I know that I will grieve for him until the day I draw my last breath and then join him.
I know that there will always be waves out there, waiting to catch me unaware.
But I'm done with hating where I am and where I'm going.
I'm done with hating not being "normal".

I'm choosing to be OK.
I'm choosing to be OK with this "new normal".
I'm choosing to enjoy my children and their accomplishments ..... the way I would've wanted Jim to enjoy them.

I know it's not easy.
I don't think it will ever be easy.
But I do think it's better than wishing my life away.
I think it's better than hating my life.
And I know that it's better for my children.
Even if .... I'm not normal.

It took over 2 years to get here .....
but I am NOT normal.
And I'm OK.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Everybody Needs Somebody

I was listening to a song this weekend and for some reason I heard a loud message in it that I've not heard before. For whatever reason I felt like Daniel was trying to tell me something. Still trying to figure it out, but thought I'd share it here.

So here you are now, nowhere to turn
It's just the same old yesterday.
You made a promise to yourself
That you were never gonna be this way.
And the only thing that you've ever known is to run. So you keep on drivin faster into the sun.

But everybody, needs somebody sometimes.
Yeah, everybody, needs somebody sometimes.

You don't have to find your own way out,
You've got a voice, let it be heard.
Just when it feels you're on a dead-end road,
there's always somewhere left to turn.

So don't give up now, you're so close to a brand new day.
Yes you are.
And if you just can't bare to be alone,
then I'll stay.

'Cause everybody needs somebody sometimes
Yeah, everybody, needs somebody sometimes

Well maybe I've been too caught up
To see what you've been going through
All that I can say is I'm here now.

And everybody, needs somebody sometimes
You know they do
Everybody needs somebody sometimes.

Keith Urban - Everybody

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Grief Timeline?

The day Phil died I had no idea what kind of roller coaster ride I was about to board. In many ways I felt I was shuffled onto the first outgoing cart marked "grief," and told to put my lap belt on low and tight. Maybe I would have managed the twists and turns of the journey better if someone handed me a grief timeline that mapped out the course that lay ahead. I would have appreciated having my grief start date clearly noted in red, the days when getting out of bed was going to be a challenge highlighted in yellow, all anniversaries/birthdays/holidays circled in green, and the most important thing of all...the grief end date...circled in bright orange highlighter so that I would know when my grief had officially come to an end.

Not only was there no mourning road map forthcoming, but grief kept me on a circular roller coaster ride. Riding through the dips and surprise upside down flips might have been worth it if I felt I was going somewhere, but to end up right where I started and still suffer a case of nausea from the experience was completely infuriating. I remember very clearly after the one year anniversary of Phil's death feeling that I should have arrived somewhere by then, shouldn't I have moved to a new level of grief? I desperately wanted to graduate already!

Yesterday one of my widowed friends told me that her counselor said you can expect to grieve one year for every five years that you were married. She wondered what I thought of this idea. The first thing that came to mind was that since I was married to Phil for five years and two months, then I should have been done grieving his loss three and a half years ago. There have been so many times over the past nearly five years I have wished someone could tell me how long this whole healing process would take. I do understand the desire to calculate the effects of the death of a loved one on our lives, and even the desire to create some kind of measuring stick for healing. But if someone had provided me with a grief end date, I am sure I would have focused on nothing but getting to that day. If graduating from widowhood were possible, I would have taken whatever extra courses were needed to meet the early graduation deadline. And I think that I would have missed the whole point.

The brutal nature of grief forced me to live one day at a time. As a person who tends to jump ahead to the next thing, or tries to figure out how extra effort on my part can bring about a desired goal sooner than expected, the unpredictability of grief made living outside of the moment impossible. No other life experience has so firmly placed me in the present. When my babies were born I wasted precious time thinking about their next milestone, instead of reveling in the current one. When Phil and I were happily married I wouldn't take the time to sit on the couch and watch a TV show with him if the laundry wasn't finished. Accomplishments tended to be put aside as I reached for the next goal, because living in the moment was not enough. I was always focused on taking the next step.

In the aftermath of Phil's death, the inability to go back in time paired with the lack of desire to move forward into the future without him bought me some much needed time. Time to allow the reality of his physical absence to sink into my shell shocked brain; time to figure out who I was without him; and time to slowly discover that I was strong enough to weather this devastating storm. If I'd known that I was only expected to grieve Phil's death for one year I would have located the end date and run full speed ahead to get to the finish line. Flying past the lessons I needed to learn, the healing effects of camaraderie, the small blooming of the first flower in spring...all in order to say I was finished.

So, no, I don't think there is a measuring stick or a formula that can predict how long a person will mourn the death of a person they love. But I do think the small markers on our own personal measuring sticks are much more important than we might suspect. I think healing happens in centimeters, and each small dash is a triumph.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 365

Ezra at school in front of the impromptu memory wall
set up yesterday on the death date of Art, his dad.




beautiful day.

I am


At day 365

not just standing

but rooted



joyful to take the next breath.

The grief is not gone.

Do not be fooled.

It will lurk within me

surface at unforgettable moments

until I draw my last breath.

But today


I am

I am

grateful to Art.

Grateful for the life we had together



for all those people

none and unknown

close to me

and distant





I stand here

because of all of them

because of me

because of Langston, Pallas and Ezra

It's day


and the



glorious on my face.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Your Final Moments

When I came across the excerpt below, it made me not only reflect on what may flash before my eyes in those final moments, but comforted me in knowing that what flashed before my husband's eyes when that time came. A life he enjoyed watching.

So here's to us...and our journey to enjoy the ride, and when the time comes...our final moments...


“I’ll go out there and make my mistakes. I’ll fall down, get hurt, cry, laugh, love, and get back up. I’ll stand on the highest mountaintop and go into the deepest caverns. I’ll roam across the world, visit the moon and swim in outer space. I’ll let my imagination run wild and let my spirit soar. Why? Because when my life flashes before my eyes in those final moments, I want to have something worthwhile to watch, with plenty of love and laughter, good times and bad. I don’t want to regret a thing and I plan not to. Remember, it’s not usually the things you do that you regret, it’s the things you don’t do and leave unsaid. Laugh out loud. Cry in the rain. Love with all your heart and soul. Get hurt. Tell the truth. Go crazy. But never forget that you only get one shot. One shot at this day, one shot at this minute. One shot at this age. One shot at life. So make sure your life is one you will enjoy watching in your final moments.”
-Anna Floyd

Friday, April 16, 2010

Photo from BitchNewYork

I have realized through my recent, brief and unsuccessful foray into the world of widowed dating that I am most definately not looking for Jeff. It is not that I am measuring how certain men stand up to the man that Jeff was. It's that I am looking at them through not only my eyes, but Jeff's as well.
Yesterday, as I stood in line at the bank, I furtively checked out a spiky haired, bad-ass in a leather jacket. "Yummy...", my inner voice whispered. "Yeah and check out his studded ass!!!", my 'inner Jeffrey' bellowed with mirth in reference to the bejeweled rivets decorating curliqued crucifixes on the man's back pockets.
Hmmmm....Now that Jeff pointed out these...uber-embellished buttocks, I couldn't help but also notice the overdone and excessive use of flaming skulls on his motorcycle helmet clutched in his hand.
I realize that Jeff's 'voice' is also my own, but it is with the remembered view of Jeff's world that causes me to see these guys as he would and choose my action accordingly.
I'd not looking for Jeff (he was one of a kind); I'm just hoping to find someone that Jeff wouldn't refer to in derogatory terms....such as 'Mr. Fancy Pants'.
And, yes, I know I shouldn't judge a man by the copious amount of rhinestones on his pockets....but, occasionally, Jeff and I do.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

more birthday

two saturdays ago,

a whole bunch

of people

came together to

celebrate madeline’s

first birthday.

her actual birthday was

on march 24,

but this was the

first time we could

get (almost) everyone together

many of our

family members flew in

(two even drove from the mn)

and a lot

of madeline’s friends

showed up.

it was an

amazing day

for the humans.

in that backyard

that sold


on the house,

we celebrated all

that is good

in our lives

even though we

were missing

the one person

who would have

had the biggest smile.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Time in a Bottle ....

I found myself thinking about time recently. About time with Jim.
Past time.
I thought that I wish I could have bottled up certain times in our life together so that I'd still have them.
The bottles would sit up on the shelves along with our photo albums.
Any time that I found myself missing him (and when did I not?) I could open up a bottle, take a deep breath of its aroma, and go back to that time.

My heart loves that idea.
My heart aches to go back in time.
My heart would want to stay back there.

And therein lies the problem.

As much as I want to go back to those times and live them again .... I can't.
I have to keep moving forward.
For my children, yes.
But more importantly .... for myself.

I cannot live in the past.
I cannot let my heart stay in the past.
If my heart stays in the past it will never get the chance to live again .... to feel again .... to love again.
And Jim wouldn't want that for me .... or my heart.
I sure wouldn't have wanted that for him had the tables been turned.

Sometimes it's very hard to choose to move forward.
The past calls me back .... it beckons to my broken heart with the promise of never breaking it again.
And my heart never, ever wants to be broken again .... so it longs to stay in the past .... where Jim is.

But my mind works overtime to turn my heart forward.
My mind knows that living in the past is not living.
It's dying.

My mind wants to experience life again.
It wants to be content more than sad.
It wants to find happiness instead of depression.
It wants to feel joy again.

So my mind works hard to convince my heart to face today ... just today .... and take a chance on living.
Yes, it might get broken again.
In fact, it will get broken again. More than once.
But before it gets broken it will feel again.

And then my heart realizes something important ...
It would never trade all of the feelings it experienced with Jim .... even knowing that it would end up broken in the end.
My heart cherishes the time it had with him.
And the love it received.

And so my heart turns to today .... just this day .... and prepares itself to feel.

I think it's a very good thing that I can't put time in a bottle.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Time to Be

I had some time this weekend - me time. Me and Michele time if I'm completely truthful, but it was me time just the same. A couple of days with no cares in the world.

This weekend it all came together. A sudden realization that the opportunity was there and so was the free airline ticket. The last minute recruitment of a fabulous Grandma to take charge of my little guy. Last minute registration for a 10k run and 48 hours of "prep-time" for the run: chips, queso, margaritas....I mean what good training program doesn't include those three ingredients? :) Don't forget the pedicures and non-stop girl talk and people watching. It was a recipe for relaxation and much needed fun.

Michele was packing for this sudden trip and started to put some work in her bag. In a moment of rebellion, she unpacked the work and left it at home. Yay! I also pretended to be gainfully unemployed for the weekend. All responsibilities shirked! Best friend time coordinated! Mission accomplished! I soooooo needed the break, and it was like a mini-vacation in my own town. I enjoyed every second. And, other than some sore legs today - I'm in much better shape than I was last week. My energy is restored, batteries charged, once again ready to take on the world.

Friends can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered! Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I'm OK?

Today looked like this....

I got up.

I laughed before the big toe of my left foot hit the floor.

I left at 8:15 for an 8:30 class that was a 20 minute drive away.

I drove lateness, some things never change.

I didn't know anyone in the class.

I didn't feel like knowing anyone from the class.

At the class, I didn't eat the granola bar, tossed the too sweet yogurt and drank 4 little bottles of water (borrowed from my the table mates, the ones I didn't know.)

I drove home and sang till I coughed.

I made a semi-nutritious lunch for my kids out of food I already had in the refrigerator!

I made a really nutritious lunch for myself. (Spinach, yellow peppers, avocado, pine nuts and goat cheese. Tossed with more balsamic vinegar than olive oil.)

I braved Target at 2:30 pm shopping for clothes with my two youngest. We didn't run over anyone while we were telling each other jokes.

I put together a telescope. I saw the pink-purple flowers of the Morning Glory way in the back yard REALLY well.

I dropped off my daughter for her (as of this minute) first successful sleep over in over 1 1/2 years.

I was truly interested listening to Ezra's hypotheses about weapons, bombers, fighter planes and tactical ways to win over an enemy.

I paid attention as he went on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

Just he and I went to see Avatar. It was a 7:45 pm movie. He's usually in bed by 8:30. We didn't get home till 11:00.

Now at almost midnight, I am laughing again.

I'm OK.

His death didn't destroy me.

Didn't remove my essence.

Didn't consume me.

And I'm still standing

and I find my feet are encased, ensconced in this new earth.

I wriggle my toes and notice that I cannot move the earth that covers them.

I laugh so hard....I pee.

My friend said, "How are you doing?"

Today, I didn't lie.

"I'm ok." I told her

And I am.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ain't No Love

Ever since TT and I went to the David Gray concert,
I've become more consumed in his lyrics and songs.
This song is one of them (as it played we both looked at each other like "what is this?! I love it!")

I emailed it to a couple of my widow friends a few weeks back,
telling them that the lyrics nailed down my life when I was disillusioned by grief's grip
and forgot to let the love that Michael and I still share...
guide the way.

The bitterness,
and void took over,
and it definitely was
not paved by love.

But just as he says "Nothing ain't no good",
I've learned that there is good..
because he is there guiding me.


Friday, April 9, 2010

turning tables

Photo by Mike_Rowe1

I'm sure that every widow/er has done it....Wondered if their spouse would have 'managed' had the tables been turned. Pondered over the differences that their loss would have created rather than their spouse's.
Jeff was known for his laughter...Would it have returned?
Would he still be sleeping with our little ones tucked up in our bed each night, two years after my death?
Would he have fulfilled his physical needs in the arms of another by now?
Would he worry about his abilities as a grieving parent or still feel his trademark confidence?
Would he need to learn to rebuild his definition of himself without the constant reflection I provided him? Or would he just still know?
Would he have gone back to work on the sea, leaving our kiddos in the care of someone else? Or would he devote every second of every day to them?
Would he still feel a palpable hole in his heart where I once resided, years after my passing?
Would he talk about me or shy from voicing the memories?
Would he be coping better than I am?
Would he succeed where I have failed....or fail where I have succeeded?

I will never know how he would have reacted....Just as I could have never know before losing him, how I would fare after his death. But at times, I do wonder.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

a year

a year?


a year.

what a difference

a year doesn’t make.

or does it?

march 24 and march 25.

one year later.

but a year,

a year

is nothing.

it’s a second.


it’s a minute.

or maybe it’s an hour.

doesn’t matter.

we continue doing what

we need to do.

every second

of every day.

but march 26?

it’s the same as

january 29 or august 5

of whatever.

right now we

are right where

we need to be,

in the one place that

will help us

to do those things

that we must do.

what am i talking about?


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's No Longer the First Thing .....

.... that I think of in the morning.

It occurred to me the other day .... that my first thought in the morning is no longer ..... "Jim is dead".
In fact, my first thought now isn't even about Jim.

This realization gives me mixed feelings.
I feel happy that grief doesn't occupy my every thought now.
But I also feel sad ...... that it doesn't.

I know that it's good to move forward (please note that I said "move forward" and not "move on" ..... I don't believe that I will ever "move on" ..... as if I've finally gotten "over" Jim's death and am now on a path to a new and better life).
I'm happy most days that I am moving forward .... one step at a time.

But sometimes I feel sad about it, too.
I know it doesn't make sense .... to non-widowed people.
And I know that it does make sense .... to you.

Some days it feels .... that in moving forward, I am leaving him behind.
And that makes me sad.

I don't want to leave him behind.
I know .... in my mind ..... that I am not really doing that.
But the heart can play tricks on the mind, can't it?

I know that Jim will always be with me .... that he will always be in my heart.
But as the crushing weight of grief becomes easier to bear .... my heart tells my brain that I'm forgetting.
It tells my brain that this "moving forward" indicates that I'm now doing just fine and that I don't really need him.

My heart misses him just as much as it ever has .... and it seems to resent my brain for not constantly focusing on that loss.
My heart and my brain sometimes seem to be at war.

I expect that they will reach an agreement with each other .... some day.
But until then .... I'm glad that my mind knows that Jim will always be a part of me.
Even as I move forward.

Even though he's no longer the first thing ....

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Forty Years Ago Today

Forty years ago today you were born. I think angels must have been singing (or at least giggling) when they bestowed that gift on your parents. If only they'd known what trouble you would get into...they might have been better prepared! :)

You: cracked open your brother's head with a hoe (earned him a few stitches), pinched the dog's nose with a crawfish (earned yourself a few stitches), wrecked your car into an indian pointing tree, threw a keg party or two while your parents were out of town, broke a beer bottle over your head (earned yourself a few stitches), got your car stuck in the mud at Lake Travis (earned yourself a few stitches). Yes, I think you can see the pattern here....

You: loved your pet rabbit and your many dogs like they were family, stopped hunting because you didn't like killing, two-stepped outside in the dark quietly singing songs to your baby sister when she wouldn't sleep, took your younger brother on a wild golf outing when he was sick and tired of being sick and tired, made sandwiches for the homeless in Jackson Square on our honeymoon, spent numerous Thanksgiving Days serving food to the homeless, gave your heart to our little boy the second he was born, got emotional and teary-eyed the first time you took him fishing, worried about your family when you were sick, loved your mother so very much, and did everything you could to see the world as a glass half-full.

You: could make me laugh at anytime, could make something fabulous to eat out of nothing, could find the fun in the most mundane things, made fun of me (and everyone else) all the time, thought you knew everything at all times (you thought you were wrong once - but you were mistaken...), were the best father, and the best travel companion, drinking buddy, husband, and best friend a girl could have.

You: are missed.

Happy Birthday Daniel. I wish you were here to celebrate it with us.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Me and Betsey

I don't do lawns. There are many jobs I have tackled to prove that I am a strong, capable woman, but lawn mowing has never been one of them. Growing up my brothers mowed the lawn, after I married my husband mowed the lawn, and after he died the lawn took on a life of its own. Because who the heck was going to mow it now??

This was a very serious dilemma after Phil died, and whenever I thought about lawn maintenance I was stomping mad at him for dying! This isn't one of those jobs you can just get done once, it is an ongoing problem. First I called a gardener. The estimate for the front only was affordable, but the price for the front and back was more than I could justify. There were no available neighborhood kids, my boys didn't know anymore than I did about how to use the lawn mower, and the person who was supposed to teach them was permanently unavailable. So the lawn grew. And it grew. And it grew until the widow in the office felt she was living in a forest. So I told myself, "This is not rocket science, get out and mow the damn thing."

First I stood over the red lawn mower and tried to figure out how the starter worked...and where the gas went. I walked around it in circles like a hunter evaluating her prey. I don't know why I felt I had to pounce on it, but I imagined it running away from me for some reason. After much to and fro, a few trips to my computer for tips, a grudging call to my brother for another walk through of the instructions, and several false starts I finally got the machine started. Then it promptly died. At this point I am already sweaty, extremely frustrated, and in tears. I cursed at the stupid red mower and sat on the concrete crying. Damn Phil for dying, and yes, I know that is a terrible thing to say. It wasn't the worst of it I can assure you.

After another self pep talk about all the things I could do, and how this can't be that hard, and the fact that if I didn't mow the lawn it may consume the house I stepped up to the lawn mower again, and this time I had a talk with it. I said something along the lines of, "Look, can you give me a break? My husabnd is supposed to be doing this, but he is dead and I have no idea what I am doing." Then I decided my lawn mower is a girl, and I named her Betsey.

Betsey and I tackled the lawn forest. Every time she died, I revived her. As each row of grass was felled by Betsey's blades I grew more confident in my approach of the next row. Some parts of the lawn went down easily, for others I had to put Betsey up on her two back wheels and use her more like a machete. She never failed me, that girl is tough. By the end of the mowing experience I was dripping sweat, covered in grass clippings (who knew there was a catcher?), exhausted from the effort needed to maneuver Betsey through more grass rows than I could count, and as I cut the last row--completely elated. I conquered the lawn forest, and proved to myself that I am even capable of mowing the lawn. Then I sat down beside my new friend and had a beer.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Greener Grass?

Sometimes I wish he had died instantly. Here one moment, gone the next.

My friend, whose husband did die instantly, wishes she had a chance to say good-bye like I did.

Only, I’m still not convinced that he heard Langston as Langston took Art’s arm and wrapped it around himself and clung to it like a protective shield.

I don’t think he heard Pallas’s wailing “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” as she laid down next to him. (Just the memory of hearing her little voice, crying out …. God. No words to describe it. Maybe it’s better that way. I say sobbing like it's happening this very moment.)

I’m still not convinced that he had not “already left the building” by the time the doctor came in and used the word "dying."

My memory of him is tainted with the recollection of his 6’6” frame only caring 150 lbs.

His sense of humor gone.

His blue eyes dull, open, not seeing.

My memory of being split into three between him, our children and myself is painful. Will I ever stop questioning if I did enough for all of us, gave enough, loved enough?

I imagine if he died quickly.

I imagine the same grief.

The regret at not having a chance to say good bye

And I want that.

Rather than the memory of him wasted, gone but still here,


unlike the man I married.

His last breath was not like it is on T.V.

His mouth got dry from days of his lungs refusing to quit.

His lips peeled.

His tongue swelled.

He emanated a sweet-sick decaying smell with every breath.

His hands did not respond to my touch, his eyes did not flicker to my voice.

There were no sweet kisses.

No embraces.

Just me, sitting on his bed waiting to see him take his last breath

Looking at his sunken face.

His color turning waxy.

Relieved that is was coming to an end.

That good-bye with

his dry lips,

his swollen tongue,

his decaying breath,

his cold hands,

clouds what I remember of the real him

I can still conjure that smell!

And I just want

the crystal clear memory of the strong, tall, athletic funny man I choose to spend my life with


What Has Endured

Before my husband Phil died I could have easily created a long list of my personal beliefs. This list would have included ideas about both the tangible and the intangible; broad concepts and specific ideals; God and mortal beings. There would probably even have been a mention of death and eternity...but only in the abstract because my beliefs about death were untested until August 31, 2005.

The day I lost my husband was the same day that theory became reality, and faith became more than just a concept to which I paid lip service. Grief is the ultimate test of faith. Faith requires trust. Death robbed me of a sense of security, making the idea of trust incomprehensible. And the whole vicious circle renewed itself daily as I tried in vain to determine why I was living a sorrow filled nightmare. My inability to escape the reality of widowhood forced me to evaluate my beliefs and determine whether they could withstand the blinding glare of grief.

I imagine the following personal truths as tall pillars that I view through a cloud of dust and rubble created by a major earthquake. Though everything around these support beams has fallen, they miraculously remain. I rub my eyes to look again, because for any structure to survive an earth shattering experience of this magnitude seems impossible...and yet these columns stand tall amongst the debris of loss and grief.

I believe in everlasting love. I believe that God is not a being who resides in a structure, but a spirit who lives in the hearts, and hands, of loving people. I believe that the length of your life is not an indication of your impact on the world. I believe that time is indeed a gift. I believe that human beings have the power to heal each other. I believe that shared experience can bond individuals in a unique and life changing way. I believe that our lives are a tapestry and each experience, wonderful or terrible, adds richness to the final fabric. I believe that tomorrow is only a dream. I believe that life is too short to hold grudges. I believe that people are inherently good. I believe that buying lemonade from my daughter at her new job is more important than spending an extra hour at my own work. I believe that the people who come into my life do so for a reason. I believe that kindness changes lives. I believe that this too shall pass. I believe that life is a gift, but like all gifts must be opened to be appreciated.

These are a few of the pillars that have survived my personal earth quake. I lean on them when I feel unable to stand. When grief occasionally stirs the dust of sorrow, I look for them to steady my course. My widowhood experience has taught me that when faith requires me to walk forward blindly; those pillars will guide the way.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sure of You

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. ‘Pooh?’ he whispered.
‘Yes, Piglet?’
‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. ‘I just wanted to be sure of you.’”
A.A. Milne

I'd be lying if there weren't moments where I begged for a sign, dream, feeling that you were here...around.

Like a detective I'd search for clues or signals...but my magnifying lens, in turn, seemed to blind me.

It's not a matter of the physical...that was something I had acclimated to not having or needing long before you were taken. It was more of that sense that in my deepest moments of despair you'd appear out of smoke to wipe away my tears.

But I forced it.

I begged and pleaded.

And it equated to me not feeling what was there all along.

Your presence...unfaltering a place that I could not see with my eyes, or figure out with my mind...

but felt it lodged, deep in my heart.

I'm sure of you.

I'm sure of you.

Friday, April 2, 2010

lost and found

Photo by Nullalux

I often can't help but thinking that I have mourned each facet of the loss of my love at least once. Each sad thought, each emotion explored or mulled over for its' initial contemplation. I feel that often times, I am going over previously pondered thoughts and ruminating. Picking apart and reassembling.
When I find a grief spot that I had not touched out of avoidance or by simply not being at that 'stage' yet, I am surprised. New territory can be terrifying and lonely.
As I get farther down this widows timeline, there are far fewer of these new frontiers and I now know where to look and turn for support when they arrive. I am pleased that there are less new ones....but I find that rethinking previously explored territory is often deeper and more thorough.
Although there are books, other widows and theories to act as a rudimentary compass, there are no maps for this journey. We each have to decide our own path to the destination known as 'peace'.
I just really hope that my revisiting of old places does not signal that my trail is going in circles!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


been sort of

dreading this day.

have to get madeline

a passport for our

upcoming trip to the banff.

excited that my

3.5 month-old baby

will have a passport

and will be traveling

outside the country.

also really excited

about the trip,

but i’ve found that

dealing with government

institutions is less than

thrilling since



applying for a passport

for a minor shouldn’t

be an issue.

the rules dictate that

both parents must be physically

present for a passport

application to be filed.

for most families,

this is likely just

an extreme inconvenience,

trying to find a time

when both parents

can meet in the same place,

to focus on the same objective,

at the same time.

but for me,

it’s a process that creates

an extreme amount of anxiety.

anxious about walking

into the passport

office with

madeline’s birth certificate,

social security card.

and, um, her mother’s

death certificate,

anxious about explaining

why i’m alone.

anxious about trying to

convince the people

in the office

that i’m not trying to

obtain a passport

in order to

kidnap my child,

and take her out

of the country.

anxious about talking

to another unflinchingly cold

government employee.

anxious about dealing with

another bureaucratic nightmare.


maybe i’m worrying about

this a little too much?

let’s just go.

it can’t be

that bad.

packed up madeline

and headed to the glendale.

found the passport office

and sat down

with all my paperwork,

filling in everything

but the boxes

asking for madeline’s

hair color

(sort of blond, sort of bald…how do i answer that one?)

and the ones

specific to


no box to check

for “deceased.”

just gonna have to

rely on the rather


death certificate

to help the woman

behind the counter understand

my situation.

nervously walked up

to the counter

and said,

“i need to apply for a passport for my baby”

she looked me

up and down,

(yes, i look like an unshowered scumbag in need of haircut, but seriously…)

then leaned over the counter,

through the open glass,

staring down at madeline.

then her eyes shot

back to me.

“is the mother coming in?”


here we go.

“no. she’s dead.”

she simply stared at me.

no reaction.

after a very uncomfortable

few seconds that found

another seemingly heartless

government worker

winning yet another

staring contest with me

(seriously…do they train these people to be unresponsive robots?).

i said,

“i have a death certificate.”

“give it to me.”

she demanded.

so i did.


let’s just get

this over with.

she looked everything

over and disappeared

with my documents.

back 5 mins later

and we’re done.

good…i’ve had

enough for one day.