Thursday, March 30, 2017

Want to Shake Up Your World?

Able to juggle the schedule of a household of nine to ten people, plus hold the responsibilities of teaching full time, I was always thankful for my memory, an ability to move herds of people and capable of finding tools to keep me organized.  (I use the label organized loosely, however, but that is another posting.) I have found that my brain is not functioning optimally these days, but it is getting better.

My knowledge of grief began in college and is based upon Kubler-Ross' work studying terminal patients. Since Kubler-Ross broke the silence on the subject of grief, for years her stages of grief were utilized for grieving survivors as well as patients.  Grief is not a linear path, nor is it the same for each person. When my parents died almost fifteen years ago, I thought that one day I would get over it.  And now in the aftermath of my husband's death, for me I am discovering that it is not something I can muscle through, but that I will be forever changed and will continue to evolve and adjust no longer as a couple, but as an individual, capable of joy and gratitude. I can continue to dance and learn to do it with a limp.

I like Anne Lamotte's take on grief:

“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

With grief comes self-discovery.  For the first few months, I could barely converse, losing memory of what I was trying to say mid-sentence.  I was understandably preoccupied.  The problem I found, there was so much to be done and it seems that everything is time sensitive and high stakes.  Undertakers, lawyers, insurance companies,  and are all categorized as important, BIG deals.  I needed my head on straight to make the best decisions for me and my family.

Yes, prayer helps.  Physical activity helps as does getting enough rest.  Family, friends and the community at large rallied around us.  All of this helped me get through each day, but I needed a 
peripheral brain.  Here enters the Bullet Journal; life changing for me.  

I cannot say enough about how it has helped me break down big tasks and beat back waves of feeling overwhelmed.  If offers the chance to write down monthly, weekly and daily goals and appointments. For fun, I keep track of birds I have observed and the weather.  My favorite musical artists are listed as are movies to watch, books to read and a diary of what I eat.  Extensive financial pages include a budget, an expense journal and a savings plan. It is my everything journal. The beauty of the Bullet Journal is that it can become whatever is useful for you, it is adaptable. For me the Bullet Journal frees my brain from storing everything I need to remember.

If you want to learn more about Bullet Journals, I highly recommend you start here. There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest and Bullet Journal groups on Face Book.  Let me know what you think.  It just might shake up your world.

The Freedom to Create

I ran my hand across the bolts of fabric organized by color and arranged by shade as I walked down the aisle; batik prints and patterns, some metallic-really works of art.  Up and down I walked, pausing to admire and breathe deeply.  I got the same exact feeling I get at Art Museums, one of peace, serenity and a connection to everything possible.

Getting lost on Pinterest is easy, but I had chosen a small project with fat quarters that I could sew by hand.  My artsy daughter and I headed for the table with the fat quarters.  A knack for color and what fabrics may work together, she offered set after set of possibilities.  Soon I was headed out of the store with a pair of scissors (I immediately marked them with a Sharpie: FABRIC), straight pins, a pin cushion and a floral fabric with coordinating colors. You can tell I am not an avid "fabric-ator."

With a cup of tea nearby, and Netflix I sewed and sewed without expectations for a timeline or quality. I thought of my grandmother, sewing throughout the day tackling one by one the items in her mending basket.  This was out of necessity and probably satisfaction, but not pleasure. Fortunately, I am free to create and have fun. These days I am working hard enjoying the process and not stressing about an end product. Perfectionism gone. My origami bag/lunch bag will be a work of art.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Thoughts While Changing the Cat Box

Lately, I contemplate life while I sift through the cat box.  Really.  

My husband's sense of smell was pretty weak, so I would mention that the cat box was odorous.

"Your turn.  I did it last time.  As a matter of fact I've done it for the last three times," my voice is balance between firm and sickly sweet. I feign that my attention is fully spent on the book I am reading, but I am really waiting for him to pounce on the cat box, watching him out of the corner of my eye.


"Wow," a few minutes later I just can't help it, "I know that you can't smell a thing, but it really, really stinks." My voice changes to understanding and pleading.

I glance over to my husband.  I am not sure he has even heard me.  His nose is in a book.

Tonight, I contemplate my suddenly changed life as I sift the cat box.  How I miss my husband.  He did his fair share of cat box duty. I am sure of it.


The freezing rain sitting on top of the layer of snow is soft underfoot, but will  ice over by morning.  The salt sits by the door in a impractical plastic bag with handles. Not trusting the handles, carrying it from the car and into the house, I nestle it against my body like I would a baby.   Early in the winter, I found a large tin can that holds enough salt to cover the steps and then some.   I broadcast the salt on the steps and walkway in the same way I would feed the chickens leftover cooked rice. I know what I am dealing with when it comes to winter, so far I have survived.

Despite the cold, the snow and ice there is evidence that the ground is thawing. Puddles and mud are abundant.  As the seasons change, so must there be a shift in my thinking and planning.  I realize that I am so unprepared for this next season.  I don't know what to expect.  I don't even know if I have a working lawnmower to manage the nearly 5 acres of lawn.

The challenges that winter has brought are faced day by day.  When I need help, it comes.   Spring is just another season with different set of challenges that I will face day by day.  When I need help, I will get it.  All I have to do is ask and trust that all will be well.

Monday, March 27, 2017

my room

Months passed before I realized the florescent stars that our son strategically placed about the room, twinkle above my head.  Each night I slip into bed, lay my head on the pillow and say a prayer or two with my eyes closed.  What else have I missed in the darkness?
Early mornings when the room fills with sun, three  cats  routinely lounge on the bed, doze and wake to watch the birds light on the feeder.  Every plant in the house is pushed against the south-facing window.  The red geranium is in bloom, a few petals loosened and lay on a leaf.   Narcissus bulbs forced propped against small rocks in antique pottery stand tall and green with a delicate array of white flowers.  Books are piled near the bed. Another stack sits near a chair, close to the window.  Here, I  watch the birds feed, read or sip tea. I sew.  I knit.   I write.  I contemplate life. I pray here.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Short Selfie

A few pounds and born early
Make for a "hopeless case."
My mother prayed to St. Jude.
I lived.

As a kid I got car sick, 
Preferring the shade of forest trees,
Splashing in the salty sea or
Alone in a field
Fingers pink with wild berries-
I ate them as I picked.

I sing with the radio
Often the wrong words.
Baking pies is not my thing,
Picnics are.

I have slept
Floating in the middle of a lake,
Watching the stars fall.

War scares me.
I am not afraid of the dark.
Reading five books at once
Makes me nuts.
I like naps
And I consider myself 
Among the few 
Lucky enough to have found
True Love.

(Inspired by and Adapted from: A Short Collective Biography-Amy Krouse Rosenthal found in Textbook)

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Sitting in the heat of the sun, I plucked plump blackberries popping them into my mouth one by one. Savoring.   Biting into the seeds, the flavor burst through my mouth.

I must partake of the bounties offered to me in this life.  I mindfully accept and if need be will reach for what there is breathing in gratitude aware that I am nourished and supported.

A striped multi-colored hat umbrella sits on my head.

I roll over and think:  Playfulness and joy is part of living.  Life will bring rain, but make the best of it.

Jerry is packing for a trip alone to Florida to stay with a friend.  He is sick.  It is clear that this is his journey.  I want to come, but a man in a van passing out flyers for trash removal takes my attention away and I yearn to return to Jerry who is slowly packing the car.  I remember I just want to be with him for however long we have.  I am unsure he will make the journey.  There is anxiety.  I have no choice, but to let him go.

I had no choice.  Presently the details of my life distract me.   The kids.  The house.  Cooking.  Filing.  Dust bunnies.  Crunching the snow beneath my feet.  Listening to the birds sing.  Blessings on this earth continue without Jerry.  He wouldn't want it any other way.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Island Guru

Living here on this
Island for nearly 40 years,
I still don't know which mountain is which.
You knew.
I didn't have to remember.
I had you.

I carried the notion
That you would
The ageless,
The tireless

This summer
I will
Climb each
And with each step,
I will remember you,
My Island Guru.

Post Script:  My husband and I purchased, renovated and opened the second B and B in Bar Harbor in 1984 and named it The Cove Farm Inn.  Bed and Breakfasts  were the rage.  It was the perfect fit for my husband.  As a native of Bar Harbor, he explored every nook and cranny of the island from the time he was a young boy until this past summer of 2016.  He shared his passion of MDI and Acadia National Park with the guests we welcomed from all over the world. He was referred to as "The Island Guru."  Visitors returned year after year.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Clinomania (n) an excessive desire to stay in bed.

Most days, I bound out of bed ready for a new day.  Not today.  Sleeping for ten hours did nothing to allay my fatigue.  Under the weight of comforters and blankets, I begin to thumb through the reasons for my lack of energy and either disregard or verify each as a possible cause.

Maybe I'm coming down with something?  I swallow hard-no sore throat. No headache either.  My stomach is OK, too.  I guess I am alright.  Just tired.  Wait, it's my thyroid.  It is true, I blame everything on my thyroid.  No.  Just tired, that's all.

My life is altered.  My brain does not function as it once did.  CS Lewis describes, "... it feels like being mildly drunk or concussed...I find it hard to take in what anyone says." I understand this all too well-this grief.

No, I am unable to function as I once did.  I often ask for help feeling like I am hoisting my widow-status for service.  I find that I have trouble carrying loads of wood up the cellar stairs, so I don't think I ought to try to replace the washer in the basement with another in storage.  I need my boys.  Having always had a fear of chopping off multiple fingers and toes, I won't handle a hatchet or an axe, either. I call on a family friend who is a real Maine Lumberjack.  Physical challenges abound, but so do the intellectual ones.   Sometimes, I trip over my words when I speak. I often have to ask for things to be repeated as my brain can only take so much information in.  Rather than become victim to despair, I recognize that this is grief.  No one expects me to be fixed.  Things will get better in time.  Right now I need to be gentle.  I need to treat myself as I would a dear friend. Tonight after a hot shower, I think I will put myself to bed with a good book and a cup of chamomile tea.  I have an excessive desire to go to bed and stay there. That is more than alright.

The Whisperer

"Did you smell it? Did you?" It was all the buzz at school.  The radius of aroma was far reaching, but there was no evidence of the source.  They say that smell activates memory...

                                Jerry is in the middle.  The youngest boy of three.

"Get that thing out of here. Now!"  I imagined his father barking from his chair, CB in hand.  Jerry  would catch skunks by the tail, putting his hand over the gland.  He claims that prevented them from spraying.   Dangling head down (picture the swaying),  I imagine the skunk was lulled to sleep or too shocked and scared to move, I don't know.  The rough and tumble tow headed boy, my husband was once a skunk whisperer.

I can't remember why he stopped catching skunks, but I have my guesses.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


                                                                          Winter Sea

I didn't always like it.  I wanted a life beyond work and bed.  Some cold nights we were snuggled under the layers of covers soon after we ate and the dishwasher was loaded. When I begged him to stay up he responded, "I work hard; I'm tired.  My work is physical...'Night."

Sighing, I hugged him a bit tighter, wrapping my arm around his torso and forcing myself to sleep, when all I wanted to do was get up and play Parcheesi or sit at either end of the couch and stare at each other.  Nothing was worse than coaxing your body to sleep when it isn't ready.  My husband was indeed weary. Instead,  I listened to his even snoring, our bodies fitting perfectly together and soon we were both asleep.

Jerry's passing at the end of October allowed me a few months to prepare for the sometimes brutal impact of a New England winter especially on the coast.  Towns have been shut down for weeks with no electricity and roads impassable-a glare of ice.  Winds can gust to hurricane force.  Access to food, gas and medical services under these conditions can be a challenge.  Jerry loved storms.  He prepared as much as he would prepare for a storm. He knew where the shovel was, the candle and matches sat on the counter and a jugs of water either for flushing or for drinking was handy.  I never worried about salting the steps, clearing the steps, paths or our long bumpy driveway.  During storms, I read or knitted.  He did all the work.  So an approximate six weeks lapse between fall and winter helped me to ease into all the responsibilities that come with winter. I now do the work of two and all the while think of all that Jerry did to make life easy for me.  I do the laundry, dishes, meals, clean up and take care of the dogs and cats. I tend to the wood stove, finances and shopping.  I run from about 5:30 am until 11 pm. I am exhausted despite help too from family and friends.

Tonight, it is just after 8, my eyes close, my chin touches my chest and the book nearly drops out of my hand.  I think back to our early evening, winter cuddles.   I never imagined that this would be his last winter; the last winter of fending off his wife's cold feet and finally relenting-warming them, his body a furnace. How glorious it would be to return, if only for a few seconds;to feel the curve of his shoulders, run my fingers through his hair, and to inhale his familiar scent. I would like to sleep too.

Instead, now I play multi-roles.  You understand.  I am grateful.  And I am plain exhausted.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lunch is Served

One by one, my classmates moved until I was left sitting alone at the long table. 

St. Mary's didn't offer hot lunch like all the other schools did in the city, so we had to bring our lunches from home.  Some who lived a short distance from the school, went home for lunch.  I don't remember much about what was usually in my lunch box aside from fruit like an apple, four cookies (four was the house limit) and a sandwich either peanut butter and jelly or sliced meat. I recall one day that I brought sardines to school.  It didn't go well.

I loved sardines. After school my father and I would often share a tin on saltine crackers.  It was a bonding experience as we both smacked our lips in utter satisfaction.  The intense fish flavor paired with the crunchy saltines became a favorite snack.   One day my mother packed me a sandwich-sardines on soft white bread and a smear of mayonnaise. The wax paper that it was wrapped in did little to trap the fishy smell.  So when I undid the folds of the wax paper in order to eat the sandwich the smell wafted quickly, assaulting the noses of every child in the large room where the entire school ate at once.  This room was in the basement of an old brick building where both my grandmother (at age 4) and my father attended.  There were no windows that opened and the two exit doors at top of each opposite stairway leading to the first floor did little to alleviate the odor.  Three or four long tables were arranged end to end and lined horizontally to accommodate about one hundred kids.

Placing the contents of a can of sardines between two pieces of bread was a messy affair. Eating it was worse.  The oil that the little fish were packed in  dripped everywhere and the bread pressed thin and became soggy in places; the oil oozing through the holes in the bread.  The sight of it all and the smell was just too much.

A few weeks after this lunch-time disaster, my mother with sardine can in hand began wrapping the metal tab of the tin around a key in preparation of packing my lunch another sandwich.  She stopped amidst my screaming,  "Ma, please, please don't give me sardines again.  Please no."

"A sardine sandwich was my favorite lunch.  That or a bean sandwich.  'Want a bean sandwich?"my mother asked, her voice light and promising.

That day I ate lunch with my friends and the peanut butter stuck to the roof of my mouth.


The escapes come often and frequently.  I sit in my wing back chair poised to watch a film.  The slab of chocolate and broken pieces lay on the opened wrapper, my toes touch the floor pointed, raising my knees to  intentionally cradle the contents in my lap.  Birthday chocolate. Precious cargo. These days, I avoid buying chocolate for myself because I have no control.

I guess you could say that we balanced each other out.  This wasn't always the perfect in paradise kind of love.  He loved to eat meat, while I prefer plant based proteins.  He liked the bedroom cold, while I preferred heat.  A soft hearted soul whose kids could talk him into just about anything, especially if it was adventurous and a bit risky, my husband was always full of surprises.  I, on the other hand am more practical and I'd like to think more controlled and logical.  An impulsive, fly by the seat of your pants kind of guy versus a planner, a list maker. We pretty much kept to our roles through over 36 years of marriage, until this summer.

My husband, Jerry never missed a day of work except a few days here and there during hospitalization or following surgery.  This summer, despite lingering unexplained fatigue and pain, he worked through it. Some days it took all of his will to get out of bed, but he made it to work.  In the late afternoon, he would drag himself to the bedroom and lay down.   This summer, work required all of him so by the time he got home, he was spent.

Nearly, everyday for three years, we played Parcheesi.  He was a competitor.  The captain of his football team, a state champion pole vaulter, my husband was tenacious.  These competitive tendencies worked to his benefit while playing board games, too.  Despite feeling rotten, most days this summer he played parcheesi.  He held a stash of Dove Chocolate in the freezer, in a yogurt container labeled, "Frozen Corn."  We were both as serious about our ration of chocolate, as we were about our game. Some nights it was hard to discern whether we played to play or we played to eat chocolate.  In unusual restraint, he allowed us two bits of candy. No more. Both of my candies were unwrapped and devoured before he took his first bite. I always begged for more.  "Can I have one more, please?  Please?  Just one?  Then no more, I promise."

In an unusual stance, he refused my request, " No, save it for later.  We each get two." He wasn't a guy that said no.

I looked at the board and thought about swiping off the smears of chocolate with a sponge after the game.  Seconds later, thinking he might relent. "Chocolate, please?"

Again, I heard, "No."  Strangely, the back and forth resembled an exchange with one of our teenagers.
Night after night played out in a similar fashion.  He held me to two pieces, despite my protests and attempts to wear him down.

Now, I sit in my wing back chair, shoving thick pieces of European chocolate into my mouth.  The first chunk barely melted in my mouth before I shove more in.  I have lost interest in the movie, and  I am not really aware of the quantity of chocolate I have consumed, that is until I look down in my lap and see there are two little pieces left.  Carefully the remaining pieces are wrapped and tucked away for another time.

Everything reminds me of him.  I eat.  I eat.  It does little to fill me up. Vignettes of our life, of him settle in my head replaying. I thought it was the chocolate, but really, I can't get enough...of him.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

on the lookout

It takes two hours for a snowflake to fall from cloud to earth. Can't you just see its slow peaceful decent?-Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Reading this, I snapped the book closed, and without thought clasped my hands together as if in prayer and sighed.  The discovery of this miracle made me stop in wonderment.  Literally, it took my breath away. I stared into nothingness and felt the awe.  I mean I really felt it.  For some reason, I looked out the window.  On cue, (no joke) puffy snow flakes were lightly falling.  Air catching under each, the decent was slow and peaceful. Moments later it stopped.

Rosenthal writes about serendipity which she seems to equate with coincidence.  Serendipity woke me early having checked FB, a friend posted an article claiming that research shows eating chocolate cake for breakfast is good for the brain and for the waistline.  I was all over that.  Before sunrise and before I downed my first almond milk latte, I had fork-full by fork-full indulged in a wedge of leftover birthday cake.

If you like something, you tend to be on the lookout for it.  And if you're on the lookout for it, you tend to find it, or it-Yoo-hoo! Over here!-finds you.  And so it goes, for me, with serendipity and coincidence.  It's something I like, so it's something I notice and attract. -Amy Krouse Rosenthal

This morning, serendipity found me, and I am over the moon excited for what might become today and tomorrow. I think of serendipity as miracles, however small.  Notice, attract, repeat. Notice, attract, repeat. I will be on the lookout, will you?

Friday, March 17, 2017

He Loves Me

Every birthday for the last 35, he would wake me gently, his lips pressing upon my ear, caressing. "I love you, gorgeous. I love you beautiful.  Happy Birthday." It was the first sweet greeting of another new year. 

Today is my birthday.  It is 2 am.  I can't sleep.  My mind wanders to the fact that this year Jerry will not whisper his love on my birthday.  The tears well up in the outer corner of my eyes, but don't flow.  My heart feels crushed.  It aches. Tears then run freely.

I lay in the darkness.  The dog near.  One cat on the extra pillow near my head.  Another nestled at my side.  I try to breathe, slow deep breaths to clear my head and inflate my heart.  I lay on my back, staring at the fluorescent stars on the ceiling of my son's former room, now mine.  " a dream.  Come please. Just's my birthday..." My words desperate.  It would be my fix for the day. The perfect "gift."

Then, I think how Jerry had a mind of his own.  Once he had something in his head, there was no stopping him or convincing him of another course.   He would wander off and not tell me where he was for hours, despite my worry.  An independent, free spirit when he had something he wanted to do, he did it. He jumped out of a plane, waiting until I was on the west coast, and far away to do it. And he told me about it after he had done it. He knew I would worry and try to stop him. When we were trying to cut down on meat, he would come home now and again with a big slap of beef, the size my mother would feed to our entire family. He would sit down and eat it himself with butter melted on top.  My look of disgust, resulted in a remark, between bites, "I know what I like."

I am laughing out loud.  Alone.  I remember just how stubborn he was. 'Bet he still is, I ponder.

Then I realize, that despite my begging, he may come to me in a dream or maybe he won't. My mind desperate to find resolution and peace, wanders. I think of a pile of daisy petals fluttering to the ground.  He loves me.  He loves me, not. I know with certainty, he loves me and always will.

Rex with his nose nestled into his front paws is sleeping. I hear his breathing. Julie purrs, kneading the blankets until she finds a spot to curl.  I slip into a bed exhausted with the crazy ride of emotions and the fact that it is nearly 4 am. I feel so much better remembering I am blessed; I am loved.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

All Will Be Well

After, we walked in silence back to his work place, so he could finish the day.  There was nothing much to say, that we couldn't say without words. I think that is what happens when you have waited so long to hear good news.  His hand in mine, we stopped and listened to the cardinals and scanned the tree tops for scarlet.   The song was from all directions.  We stood.  He bent down and kissed me on the lips gently.  "I love you, beautiful."  Overcome, the tears came and he wrapped his arms around me kissing the top of my head.

I had heard the cardinal song several times on the day of his cancer diagnosis, six weeks earlier.  It was as if they were following me from Bucksport, through Orland, Ellsworth and finally Bar Harbor.  I heard their song and felt a rush of peace and thought, Don't worry, all will be well.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

True Love

My husband built me a bridge to span
Across rushing water
Barren and silent in summer,
Thinning ice in spring,
The stream swells
To overflowing.

He strung a hand hold of
Ropes up the muddy banking
So I could scramble
And scale
Without a slip.

This walk
Gave us both peace
Any season,
Roots twist like veins
Along the path
Leading to the wide open field,
Where Rex
His ears lay flat
Runs at full tilt.
Woods edge the field
Rex leads the way,
Through the forest,
Blueberry barrens and blow-downs.

A remembrance of true love,
A wooden bridge
Spans a stream,
Waiting for me to cross.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Just What Is Going On?

I gently peel back the curtain, carefully revealing the light of day. A frenzy of jays are on the ground and on the platform feeder gorging.  A lone chickadee flits from branch to twig waiting a turn.  A couple of mourning doves feed on the mounds of seed that have fallen to the ground,  the result of the fights between flocks and the gulping appetite of aggressive jays.  A lone crow, slight compared to the thickness of the ravens who visited a few days ago is perched high in the craggy apple tree. Simultaneously a downy woodpecker flutters for space on the suet, the bigger hairy woodpecker gave notice and makes room. It is as entertaining as watching a three-ring circus. For three months, I have kept a log weather and of activity at the feeder.  For three months I have never witnessed a mix of birds feeding at once, always jays with jays, chickadees with chickadees and titmouse alone with their own kind.  Just what is going on?

For days we have been anticipating a big winter storm with nearly two feet of snow.  I think the birds are getting ready.  Keith Carson, our local weatherman says we are "going to be crushed!" I can't wait.

Monday, March 13, 2017

It's Just Messy

Yesterday I couldn't get past stepping out of the shower dripping wet and feeling assaulted by the 22 degree below temperatures that sneak through the cracks in the doors and windows of my house. I seldom skip a daily shower. Today, I couldn't get past the fact that I didn't take a shower yesterday and felt just plain grimy, so I reached in the shower and stuck my hand under the spray to test it.  It had to be hot.

I stepped in and started to rub the soap onto the nylon mesh ball.  Jerry had a stockpile of his favorite French milled soap.  I ordered it every month for him two or three bars at a time.  During this phase of showering I always think of him.  He never used a washcloth or a mesh ball, instead he held the bar and kind of rolled it around both hands to gather a lather.

Days after he died, I took the sliver of soap that he last used, dried it and tucked it in the top drawer with my underwear and passport.  I can't explain why.  Maybe in time of grief no explanation is necessary.  I often act on a need; a deep unexplained need and I just go with it. This is a strange time in my life; a mishmash of emotion that cannot be fully understood.  I feel like one with multiple personalities, often confused by the swirl of opposing emotions.  One moment I feel intense joy, while in seconds waves of sorrow overcome me.  There are times of clarity and times of uncertainty.   Sometimes fear wraps me and strangles, while later I may feel the excitement of opportunity and freedom. None of it makes sense.

I run my fingers over the top of the smooth oval, the soap showing signs of wear through the vein-like lines that run through it.  I bring it to my nose, inhale and tuck it back in the drawer for safe-keeping. Mango scent, one of his favorites.

Each day following prayer, I am quiet if only for a few minutes,  listening to what I need. It may be simple like skipping a shower on a cold day or saving my husband's soap and handling it like an artifact of the MFA. I don't always have to have a logical reason for what I do.  I just do it, act on my intuition. Grief is messy.  Grief is complex and sometimes the wave of varying emotions are confusing and make no sense.  It just is-what it is.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Importance of a Life

He raised his head from his cell phone, our eyes met, "Whatya' think, five or six years old?"

Silent, I wasn't sure whether I should nod or shake my head.  "'Haven't a clue, really.  I have trouble remembering how old I am." I couldn't believe this guy could remember how old my washer was! Wow, he's really passionate about machines.

"If it sounds like a lear jet, then the bearings are gone. It's not worth it to fix it." My washer has seen better days, witness to smelly athletic socks and pockets filled with nails.  Four out of eight kids were still in the house when I first purchased it all those years ago.   Guaranteed multiple loads on Saturdays and through the week here and there gave it regular, intense work outs.

Hogan, the appliance guy pushed this button and that one at the same time, while he read the codes off of his phone to bypass the system and diagnose the problem.  The drum turned and the water splashed against the glass door.

"It's loud, but there's no grinding sound-at least that I can remember," my voice sounded like it was coaxing my washer toward health; urging  it to accept repair.

After about 20 minutes of button pushing and water sloshing, the lear jet took off.  I need a new washer.

Soon after the bad news, Hogan emerged from his van with an invoice. During his house call, I communicated how persistent I was in locating him for his service.  It had been maybe six weeks that we have limped by without a washer; my adult daughter mixing our few pairs of socks and underwear with hers.  All that while, I called people, "Hey, do you know a guy named Hogan who does appliance repair?  He's really good.  We've had him before. 'Just don't know his number." I searched the internet and purposely knocked on a few doors in search of Hogan. Finally, a desperate plea on FB uncovered his whereabouts in less than five minutes and within fifteen minutes I had an appointment scheduled for the next day.

While I wrote a check, Hogan slapped a magnet with his contact information on my refrigerator.  He stepped back eyeing the disarray of photos, art work and a eclectic mix of magnets, some having lost their full capacity to hold anything. 
"Oh, you have one already. See?" He pointed to his magnet that had slid down the door to about belt height.  

"What?" I couldn't believe it.  Long ago, my husband had placed Hogan's magnet for easy access displayed next to other important things like the pediatrician's magnet and a homemade over-sized birthday card from my daughter.

If only I had known that I had his number all the time.   I could have saved myself a lot of frustration.   Since my husband's death, I realize there is so much that I don't know. For instance, I don't know anything about the wood furnace so it sits cold in 22 degree below weather.  We thought we had a little time.  Time to talk about the working details of the house, the lawn mower and the plow truck. Instead his last days were spent talking about love.  My mind is sometimes preoccupied in a swirl of complications.  I try not to dwell on all that I don't know.  I try not to be consumed by my responsibility of carrying the role of single mother and widow.  There is so much my husband did impart to me that was really more important. He taught me how to be compassionate and kind.  He taught me to be generous with my knowledge and time - imparting virtues over knowledge.  Everyday with him was a gift. I miss him.  Oh God, how I miss him.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Too Busy to Bother

Hobbling through the door after a long day of work,  he made a limping beeline to the couch, situated not too far from the door.  He sat and grunted to pull off one work boot and one sock; both removed nearly in one, quick motion.

"What's wrong?  What are you doing?" I asked my husband.

"I've had a rock in my boot all day. 'Never had time. 'Til now." He cupped the culprit in the palm of his hand for me to see.  It was far bigger than I expected.

"It IS a ROCK! How the heck did you work all day without stopping to take it out?  It must have hurt."

"It did," he replied.  "I have a blister now."

Some learn the hard way.  My "boy" hobbled for days.

Friday, March 10, 2017


Yesterday was one of those days when I woke in darkness at 5:15 AM and screeched through the day at top speed until I rested my head on the pillow at about 11:20 PM.   My husband and I were the progressive couple (sort of) he did just about anything around the house from changing the cat box to getting down on his hands and knees and scrubbing the floor.  He did groceries, changed diapers, went to the dentist with the kids and taught them how to drive. I didn't have to bother with outside work like snow and trash removal nor did I have to risk splinters in my hand hauling split logs for the wood stove.   For a few months now, sadly I have negotiated life without him.  The details  of caring for a house and children are all mine now. My days are full. So it is no surprise that at 11:20 PM, I was finally able to tend to my needs. I noticed my ear had been throbbing.

Normally, I change my earrings regularly, however I have worn the same pair in since Christmas day.   My 19 year old son, who is in the Army gifted me a diamond necklace and earrings to match.  Aside from homemade cards and a fistful of flowers I received, this was the very first present he bought me with his own money. It is difficult to fully express how deeply this touched me. Diamond earrings.  I had never had a pair.  I just didn't want to lose them so particular attention was devoted to screwing the backs securely on the posts. Obsessively, I check to make sure I have both and that there is no risk of losing them.

My right ear throbbed.  The earring was on too tight. Quiet and in bed, the pain intensified.  I reached my left hand over to the back of my right lobe.  I twisted the back, but I was not sure which direction would release it.  It pained so. I turned one way, then got nervous and turned the other way. This uncertainty went on for about 15 minutes.

Ordinarily, my husband who has combed through tangles in my hair, dropped everything to scratch my back and massaged my feet without complaining would certainly have attempted to grasp and untwist a tiny earring back on my behalf.  Instead, I needed to find help.

"Eddaejia?" I yelled to my daughter.  Waited for a reply, but all there was was silence.  After all, it was the middle of the night; she was asleep.  It was clear I needed help and soon.  By morning she would be racing around, make-up and hair with no time to help me.  I would look elsewhere.

 I work among angels.  People who truly care for each other. Really.  My friend attempted to release my throbbing ear from the vice, but stopped.  Waving her hands she squealed, "I don't want to hurt you."

"You can't hurt me anymore than I'm already hurt," I  replied.

Right on cue, a colleague with young children steps through the door.  My friend asks her to help.  She bends down to look at my ear. "OOOH,: she says long and drawn out, a tone that carries bad news.

"What? That doesn't sound good." I look up at her, trying to read her face.

"'Just swollen," she replies. Undeterred she grabs the earring back and begins to twist. "Righty tighty, lefty loosey."  Within minutes both earrings are removed and I feel some relief.

For days, I ignored my pain until it was constant.  With no one available to help me at home, I relied on those I work with. How very lucky I am to work in such a kind and supportive place.  It is just another reminder of how I am surrounded empathetic, compassionate people.  I bet they would even give me a good back scratch, if I asked.  How lucky am I?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Doing It!

His arm muscles bulged as he lifted the bags of groceries into the cab. I was looking for someone strong and single.

It was getting cold.  I clutched my unzipped jacket to my throat and hurried into the store.  I couldn't believe it. What was I doing?  I swallowed hard and my eyes stung.  Guilt strangled.  I could barely breathe.  It was as though I had had a torrid affair leaving a tangle of sheets behind. Weeks before my husband of more than 36 years passed away suddenly.  It was clear that the man with the bulging forearms would be used selfishly for my own gain of security.  Whispers of love would not reach into this man's heart. It would not be a tale of true love like the relationship with my husband, but one of convenience; an arrangement.

Picking through the Pink Lady apples in the produce section, I plopped them into my bag one by one.  I don't need a man.  I don't need a man.  The current political climate helped me to muster my strength as a female and convince myself that I could manage on my own and acknowledge the fear pulsing through every cell of my being.  I was alone in my future. The once blissful life spent walking with my husband hand in hand and picnicking in the warm summer sun cooled by a sea breeze was no more.  My world was on shaky ground.  Life alone at best was uncertain.  I can do this, I thought as I lifted the hatch of my Prius and hoisted the bags of groceries into the car. Slamming the back closed, Wait, I thought with a sudden shift of perception, It is not that I can do this, but that I AM doing this.  
Postscript:  I have been told that this is a pretty normal response following the death of a spouse.  A number of widows have reassured me that this happened to them too.  For me, this phase passed quickly. I was relieved.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Learning All Over Again

Living the life of a pampered wife all those years meant that there were things now that I had to tend to and learn how to do again.

Fall brings images of earthy leaves, that crunch underfoot crisp apples picked off the tree and wood piles neat and tidy.  This past fall, all those these were void for me, instead I was spending precious days with my husband in the hospital as bad news trickled in like the drips from a leaky faucet; drop by drop so as not to flood our hearts and minds for what was unthinkable. On October 30th, our children began adjusting to our new lives without their father and me without the physical presence of my husband of more than 36 years.

With brute force, I pulled the lever at the top of the box and opened the damper.  I took a sheet of newspaper and crunched it into a ball as I had seen my husband do over and over, but didn't really pay it much attention.  I've built fires in the pouring rain. 'A cinch. Then came a few dry twigs.  When I placed the heavy logs onto of all this the structure collapsed.  This is how Jerry did it.  It's OK.  My husband a bit unconventional (he did things his way) I knew that flame needs air, I wondered if this would work. Still I scratched the match to the box and then held it under the edge of the newspaper. It took.  Stepping back, I sighed and watched the light spread.  Once it caught, I closed the damper, latched the door and stepped away. Soon afterward I grabbed my red sweater from the hook and pulled it on.  I think it was colder inside than outside.

Something had gone desperately wrong. Opening the wood stove, the barely charred wood was cold. With each passing day, it didn't get much better.  There were many times I went to school (I am certain) with an air of smokey perfume wafting through the halls. There was plenty of smoke to start, but little heat. It had to get better.  With frigid winter temperatures ahead, there was no choice, but to persist.  Instinctually, I began noting elements of fire building that worked and those that did not feed the flame.  I adjusted.

Here's what I learned:

  • Don't use wet wood.  If it sizzles inside the stove, you know you have made a bad move.
  • Use plenty of kindling. Choose wisely.
  • Keep the damper open for a bit of time. (I still get a little nervous with this one and remember the fire trucks showing up, but that is for another story.) Be patient.
  • Always invoke your husband's help. Ask for help when you need it.
  • Remember to keep calm, persist and believe it will happen. Miracles happen.
Last night, I stood by the wood stove my palms feeling the heat.  The red glow of warmth flickered through the smokey window.  I remembered the early days of widowhood just months ago, stepped back, sighed and smiled.  Now, it's mid-March and I have survived most of my first Maine winter, alone.  My husband is rooting for me.  I just know it.  Like the weak smokey flame that grew over time, I too have evolved. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

a routine of GRATITUDE

The bags were heavy.  I was carrying my purse, (that is much like hauling a load of bricks around my neck), my bag from work, a laptop, two heavy bags of groceries and a jug of almond milk. Teetering on the first step under the weight of the load I thought,  It's all about core strength. 'Got none. Get up these steps.  Then I adjusted the load, evening out the weight from hand to hand.  Grunting and pure grit got me up those steps.

With the food put away.  I thought about the morning.  Coffee.  Fill the decanter.  Nearly empty. Not enough for a cup.  I saw a pound somewhere. The cupboards opened and slammed  in a fury.  Where is it?  I don't see it anywhere.  'Should have bought some.  Just in case.  My mind whirled and swirled in the vortex of panic. Ahhh, no coffee.  Can't be. Store's closed. The search continues.

I dip the stainless coffee spoon into the aromatic grounds measuring two heaping spoonfuls. The water hisses.  The microwave beeps.  Two steps to retrieve the almonds milk warmed.  Then the electric kettle clicks and the water is poured into the tube holding the coffee until the liquid reaches the top.  With chopstick near, I stir the mix, let it sit for a varied amount of time.  Sometime seconds or sometime minutes.  This is a gauge of patience or how late I am running in the morning. Then I use a plunger in the tube to force the liquid passed the grounds and into the mug.

The device is engineered for small hands whirrs with the push of a button.  I remember the first time I tried the frother.  It did nothing.  My husband interceded and showed me how I had to aerate the milk from bottom to top and back and forth until I got the right amount of creaminess.  Now I am a pro. The white billowy froth seems to sit atop the coffee.

I am strangely grateful for this routine every morning.  Each step is a delicate orchestration.  With a sprinkle of cinnamon, I grab the pottery mug (a gift from my late husband) and I sit, breathe and watch the birds.  Morning gratitude begins with a prayer and a homemade latte.  All is right with the world, when there is coffee in the house.

Monday, March 6, 2017


Recent widows talk a lot or not at all.  When we talk we talk about the pain.  We talk about the empty feeling in our gut that just won't go away.  We talk about how we fill the loneliness and how we cope with the brain fog.  We begin to talk about our cats and dogs with such love and animation, stories about them rival tall husband tales.

"Oooh, I am devoted to you.  I love you so." looking into his brown eyes I coo.  He was silent, but suddenly without warning leaping legs landed on my chest.  His tail wagged, zigging and zagging the third back end of his body.  Rex loves me.

My feet, two little ice cubes most winter nights, I would start with my big toe and run it up and down my husband's legs, just to acclimate him to what was to come.  He was a perpetual furnace willing to keep me warm.  I never slept well unless I began by draping my arm across his torso, our bodies melting into the other.  Warm. Together.

Now his body presses into mine.  He does not tolerate diving under the covers. I have tried.  Instead he sleeps on the top making the sheet, blankets and comforter taut, because of this my body is routinely held captive under the load of downy fluff as I try to roll over.  He is near.  Prone on his back, his legs splayed I rub his belly.  He smiles.  He actually smiles.  This becomes a pleasurable experience for both of us.  I am in love.

Sitting in my chair sipping my morning coffee, he is under my feet.  Always close. Never far.  My first and last kisses of each day come from the one with brown eyes and a cold moist nose.

Recent widows talk a lot or not at all.  We talk about pain.  We talk about our dogs or our cats.  They fill the loneliness.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Perfect Marriage

                                                                  Sample fare.

Sweet onions are diced and the organic carrots become small chunks plopped into a bubbly brew of split peas.  The bay leaves float until I stir with my smooth wooden paddle that fits just right in my hand, a gift from my husband.  It is Sunday.  This day has become a new tradition to cook for the masses.  Soup fills the biggest pot in the house with the intent of having some through the week, a portion is reserved for a friend who has not been well and the rest for supper with my eldest and his girl.  He is baking the bread.  This day becomes a perfect marriage of culinary delights and precious time with family and friends.  We talk.  We eat. And talk some more.  Just perfect.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Testimony

In the darkness of a fall morning, he drew his last breath and squeezed the hand that held his.  

Days on the oncology ward were filled with family and friends who traveled more than five hours to be with him.  The stream of visitors was steady.  The nurses commented one after the other about how unusual this was, "You must be quite a guy," they all remarked to my husband.  "This is a testimony to how you live your life."

Those days in the Boston hospital stretched into just short of a month.  The days turned into nights and my husband began to confuse night with day.  Sometimes he would wake at 2 in the morning having slept on and off through most of the day.  I reverted to my days of acclimating my sweet newborns to regular wake sleep patterns, but my efforts in the hospital did little to ignite any predictability as to when my husband would sleep or I as the caretaker should doze myself.  So I slept when my husband slept.

My husband was never alone; our eight children, spouses and dear friends each stayed at the hospital through all those nights.  We all found that the tiny little built in couch in the hospital room was quite comfortable and when we moved to a health care facility closer to home, the staff gave us a room with an extra bed.  Our friend Stanley said he wanted to stay.  

A cancer-surviving almost 80 year old dynamo, he sleeps little. Sedated my husband was lulled into a pain-free sleep after a nearly 6 hour bumpy ambulance ride from Boston to our little coastal island. I was relieved that my husband was no longer crying out in pain, but sleeping.  I would see him in the morning and plan to spend the night with him after some sleep.  We both needed sleep after the journey.

No surprise Stanley slept little that night.  Instead he held his beloved friend's hand.  This rough, but gentle lumberjack of a guy held my husband's hand and spoke of love until the end.   This a testimony to my husband and the unquenchable power of love between men.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Today's Top Ten Reasons to Be Grateful Arranged Without Logic or Reason

10.  Geraniums blooming with outside temperature recordings in the teens.
  9.  Rising before sunrise for prayer and breakfast in observance of the Bahai Fast.
  8.  Visiting with friends this evening and swapping Jerry stories.
  7.  Listening to the howling wind.
  6.  Morning, afternoon and evening wet kisses stolen by Rex.
  5.  Sipping afternoon tea with a froth of Almond milk.
  4.  Playing Parcheesi.
  3.  Children who check on their Mama.
  2.  When I ask for help, I receive it.
  1.  MDI boys are Class B State Champions in Basketball.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Ready for Anything

The ravens sounded from the edge of the thick woods, one swooped in front of me landing on the high branches of a bare deciduous.  The sky was a cloudy gray in parts with a mix of blue sky.  I paused to observe and listen.  My eyes squinted in an attempt to locate the other squawking bird. Bare branches mingled with dense conifers which made spotting him a challenging task.  Unresolved observations did little to slow me down as I walked on the edge of the woods along the long paved driveway; the ground was far too wet and muddy for me to venture into the dark cool forest.  The forecast I heard was for clouds.  No mention of precipitation.  At the far end of the drive, fat raindrops pelted me.  It seems they came out of nowhere, and then I remembered the gray skies.  I kept walking thinking it only a shower, after all blue was over my left shoulder and the report was clouds. A few steps more the wind began to pick up.  Still I walked.  Then it began to hail.  Tiny little balls of ice stung at my face and bounced off my head, my shoulders and my chest.  They stuck in my hair and began to melt. Water dripped down my face and soon pants were drenched too.

I held my cell to my left ear, my hand frozen. "It is suppose to get really cold this afternoon, into tonight." my friend offered during the rainy portion of my walk.  Little did I know that  temperatures would drop and that I would return to hours more of school drenched, and I feared very cold.

I dried quickly and without cause for alarm.  I must remember that each walk I take is an unpredictable series of happenings.   I just have to be ready for anything.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Dodging and Facing

The wet gravel shifts under-foot making what was to be quiet walk, quite loud, adding to the chatter in my head.  I am overwhelmed.  Counting on the mental health benefits of movement-I walk.  I pray too, while I walk.  On this cold, drizzly first day of March, I stuff my hands into my fleece jacket, lower my chin, and raise my shoulders to my ears to buffet against the wind.  I walk alone.

His hand slipped into mine and we darted off the sidewalk and into the street to get past the tourists who were walking three by three, shoulder to shoulder making it impossible to walk around them.  It was our summer game.  How long could we maintain our walking speed without tourists' obstructing our path?  And what was the fastest way around them? Together we zigged.  We zagged.  Sometimes hand in hand and other times we would traverse separate routes to see who would emerge from the crowd first.  Heads tipped back, our laughter drifted toward the strangers we left behind; our path clear ahead.

Today I walk alone in fog and heavy drizzle; the rain pools on the side of the road.  March means mud.  Soon the tourists will return in throngs-that will not change.  What will change is that I will dodge the summer masses alone.  My husband's rough hand in mine leading me,  guiding me, only a memory as I face life's obstacles, without him.  I am overwhelmed.