Friday, March 11, 2016

Three Gifts Grief Gave Me

On the first anniversary of my dad's death we celebrated him

Six years ago today, at this time, I was running errands around town. I had cramps. That evening my dad came to take my son James to his guitar lesson, and when he brought him home again, I probably said, "Bye Dad! Love you!" A few hours after that, I stood in my dad's shed with my mom, a couple police officers, and an EMS guy or two. My dad sat there too, hunched over his work bench. He had slipped away. That is what the police officer in my parents' driveway told me when I arrived. Lights flashing on the ambulance in the road. Me hoping the quiet that greeted me meant everything was okay - no rushing, no emergency here.

How can it be that something that has been true for six years still seems like such a shock sometimes? So unreal. So NOT true?

Grief is full of surprises. It hasn't been shy about sharing its tricks with me. It also brought many gifts.

First, grief doesn't go away. There is no "getting over it". Grief beats in my chest like my heart. It is always there, even when I'm not aware of it. Sometimes, I am tuned in to my grief. On days like today, I deliberately, mindfully tap into it. I take its pulse. I listen in, wondering how powerful it is now - is it moving forcefully? Gently? Most of the time, I'm not thinking about it. I'm so used to my grief at this point that it is like any other part of me. My eyes, my nose, my grief. The truth is - it has always been there. I've been losing and grieving those losses since I first claimed anything as mine. My dad's death forced me to feel grief in ways I had never let myself feel before. And now, I cannot unknow my grief. I am grateful for its presence and the way it has allowed me to feel deeply, intensely, without censorship, judgment, or expectations that it will go away some day. It's so much less intimidating now. We work together.

Second, "until death do us part" is mere poetry. Love lives on, way past the time the body holding it expires. And the Spirit was never really contained to begin with. My dad's love is a constant, like grief, moving in me, around me, and through all the people and places my dad touched. And, also, through the people and places that touched my dad. It is in my children even if their Papaw is but a faint memory. It gives me so much comfort to know in every morsel of my being that even in the absence of his body, my dad's Spirit lives on. Eternally. Not that doesn't keep me from wanting one last hug. I'd still love to see his face. Hear his voice. And, at the same time, I feel his Spirit. I relish in the cardinals he sends to check in, the guitar picks he leaves in random places, and the pennies he sends us from heaven. He is all around.

And finally, I was wrong in the hours, days, months, and years I spent feeling all alone in the world. Feeling damaged and broken, unworthy. I was always wondering, waiting, needing, and wanting confirmation that I was being held in some way, by some one. I didn't know it but, I was (good) enough all along. I was wise. I was whole. I was loved from the moment I became but a twinkle in my mother's eye. I have never been alone. Nope. By virtue of my humanity, I am deeply rooted in Creation. Connected to the Source - our Creator - and all living things. I am of the dirt, the sun, the stars, the moon, the lakes, and the seas. I am in the wind and the rain. My ancestors who came before me hold me still. We are all part of a Collective. We are one. And as the Earth spins on its axis, so do I, a magnificent microcosm of all that is, was, or ever will be. What a relief. I am not alone. I am whole. I carry all I need to know within me. I always have. I always will. And, the same is true for you.

There's more. Grief gives its gifts freely. It has taught me at least 100 other lessons in these six years. And, there's still more to learn. There always will be. In all ways. On all levels. The learning never ends.

And so, I thank Grief for what it came to teach me. I still wish it had been another way, and I know that was never a possibility. My dad's death was an important part of his journey, his contract. I am forever grateful for his legacy and for his love, which remains in our midst.

Peace to all the grieving hearts, aware of the losses, that devastate and leave us wondering why. Peace to the grief that lives within us, teaching us what it means to feel. Peace to all. xo

My dad, my sister Sarah, and me

My parents and their grandchildren, except little Aedan who arrived later

One of my favorite photos of my dad

My dad's work boots, bandana, and gloves

You Are Held. For real.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Some Thoughts on Pain and Suffering (with love)

There are many stories I want to share about the surgery I had on July 27, but they aren't ready to be told. Among them though is this new, unexpected, sister story that I really do want to share. Now. Even though it may not be ready either.

It started a couple weeks after my surgery. Everything went well with the surgery and initially I felt great. Then my body (specifically my skin) moved ahead with its own agenda. 

I quickly developed wounds where my skin refused to cooperate. Two weeks ago I had a second procedure. My skin is stubborn. So now, this is how it goes once, usually twice each day: I work up the courage to change my dressings. I peel back the existing dressing on one side of my body. I peel back the existing dressing on the other side. I apply ointment to non-adhering transparent gauze and then place that gauze, ever so tenderly, over my wounds. I cover that with regular white gauze and adhere it to my body with surgical tape. Finally, I adhere a surgical pad over the gauze with more tape. I am very well padded.

There is wincing. And often tears. There is curiosity, wonder, doubt, fear, and occasionally regret.

I have restrictions. I cannot do the things I want or need to do and I've grown weary from asking other people to do them for me. I am walking a fine line between sustaining the strength I know I need to sustain to properly care for myself and withdrawing into my warm, cozy bed. Indefinitely. I cry a lot lately.

I miss the things I can't do now. The things that normally bring me comfort and joy. Bear hugs, bubble baths, and yoga to name a few. Believe it or not, I even miss my ability to do laundry - to carry heavy things.

And every single day I think about the other people. The people who have been doing something just like this for weeks, months or even years. For themselves or for someone they love dearly. I think about how those daily rituals affect these other people. I wonder how they keep going? If they keep going?

I often think about what goes on under our cleverly cloaked faces and bodies. The pain that resides beneath the surface is no stranger to me. I carry it frequently. I know anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and grief from all of it. It creeps up when I am not expecting it. I wonder who is in it with me - at the grocery store, at my son's soccer game, on Facebook. I know there are others. I feel for them.

And now I have a new understanding of another kind of pain that nobody can see. Wounds that are dressed and then dressed again for protection - and hiding. The wounds we don't discuss when we see friends around town. The wounds we carry all by ourselves. 

In these moments I think about the way we treat each other on this planet. I think about the ways we can be so quick to criticize one another. I think about the ways we so carelessly inflict pain on each other - with words, with our bodies, and with weapons. In our own homes, on the playground, in the board room, on the field, and all around town, we hurt each other. Often. It is usually on the defense. We want to protect ourselves from each other's choices, actions, and beliefs. We hope none of it is contagious. We don't want our kids to catch it. We lash out. And we have no clue about how the other person came to these choices, these actions, or these beliefs. And we don't even care. We lash out anyway.

These thoughts have been lurking in my head for days. I write to process things. These thoughts and this experience are things that need to be processed. I kinda don't want to process them though. They aren't easy for me to face. They are heavy. So why would I share them? Why today? Because this morning I woke up to learn that today is World Suicide Prevention Day. And I thought about all those people I know are out there suffering in silence and I wanted to tell them (you... us...) something...

You are not your experience. I am not mine. I am not my wounds, my pain, or my suffering and either are you. I don't care who you vote for or whether you vote at all. I don't care who you pray to or whether you pray at all. I don't care if you kneel before altars in churches or build your own altars on the beach or at home. I don't care if you use your when you mean you're. I don't care where you went to school, where you work, or where you live. I don't care what kind of car you drive or if you even drive at all. I don't care if you swear like a sailor or speak with the eloquence of the Dali Lama. I don't care if your body is covered in tattoos or moisturizer. None of that matters to me (although some of it is really interesting to me and I might want to talk more about it later... Without judgment.). The only thing I do care about is that you don't hurt yourself because of the stories - the lies - you've come to believe about your situation. And, I ask, please do not hurt others.

Ask for help, even if it is hard and you think you might have worn out your welcome.

I will too.

Sit with what you need to for as long as you need to, but please don't suffer alone in silence. It's not necessary.

I love you. God loves you. The Universe loves you. Mama Earth loves you. You are lovable and worthy of all the love you can imagine. It's true.

Heading to the doctor now... letting the tears flow. I'll be the one with the runny mascara. 


Be gentle with yourself. 
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. 
In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. 
- Max Ehrmann

an old favorite


Friday, August 28, 2015

I'll Have What She's Having

Kindred Connection Workshop, 8/15
Photo courtesy of the lovely Heather Heffley of Heather Heffley Photography

Look at those smiling faces.

Sometimes, when I'm having an off day (for example) photos like these make me sad. I feel left out (even when it is completely irrational to feel that way). Sometimes, I am jealous of the women I see looking out at me. I wonder if I can have what they're having? I wonder if there is a place for me?

At this point in my life, I have come to accept my jealousy as a welcome messenger coming in for a landing. She says, it is perfectly okay to want what you think you see in that picture - sisterhood, community, a tribe of kindred spirits. My jealousy reminds me that there is a place for me and it is up to me and only me to own my place in the world, to stand in it, to occupy it.

Arriving at this point wasn't necessarily easy and I still struggle with being here sometimes. I hear the same is true for a lot of women. A lot of people. We all want to feel like we belong somewhere - in community with likeminded people. And when we see others who appear to belong, we can feel left out.

It is a gift to be seen by others. To feel understood. To be accepted despite my quirks and flaws and insecurities. It takes some courage to put myself out there - to show up, to be vulnerable, to risk being misunderstood, to risk being rejected.

Group Hug! Heart Connected Retreat 9/14

What I have found though, is that showing up is always worth the risk. Once I began to put myself out there, I learned there are other people whose hearts skip a beat when they walk into an art supply store. There are other people who go bananas for a cool new pen. There are other people hoarding journals and notebooks for art and writing. There are other people reading through self-help books as if the books were flashcards. There are other people like me. Seeking, growing, learning new tricks. I never would have found them had I not allowed myself to be seen.

Heart Connected Retreat, 9/14

Before I found the courage to go searching for my local people, I took online art classes. I started with the Brave Girls Club and the amazing women I met online in those classes led me to other teachers and other classes to explore. I attended retreats where I met some of the teachers in person and where I was inspired to start teaching myself. I discovered we are all teachers and students learning and growing together. We share our stories and see ourselves in each other's stories.

I am constantly blown away by the generous teachers out there sharing their work and the processes they use to create. It is beautiful.

Not too long ago I received a beautiful package from Brave Girls Club inviting me to join them as a teacher at their newest online offering - Brave Girl University. This, for a learning junkie like myself, is an epic opportunity to continue learning and, now, share some of what I've learned along the way via the courses I teach. I am THRILLED about all of it.

So, if you are curious, or craving a space to learn among kindred spirits, you must check out Brave Girl University! Not to be all bossy pants or anything, it is simply that exciting - command worthy.

This is an excellent opportunity to explore many interests - art, craft, spirit, personal development, meditation, and so much more. It's a place to do deep soul work and have fun while you're at it. For me, maybe most importantly, it is a place where I can continue to learn new things and to build and nurture community. It is a place where all of us can have what she's having. It is a place where we all belong.

School starts September 1st! I look forward to seeing you on campus! xo

Click here to reserve your spot!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Holiday Grace

May we all have compassion for ourselves, and for those around us.

That is what I pray for this time of year - compassion for myself and compassion for others. Over and over. It is actually more of a mantra than a prayer.

This time of year is so tricky for me, and I suspect it is tricky for a lot of other people too. Okay, I know it is tricky. It is so easy to fall prey to expectations - those that come from others and our own - of what we "should" be doing. What we should be planning, cooking, baking, eating, decorating, buying, selling, and how we should be doing it - gracefully, effortlessly, joyfully, gratefully, and with ease. Surrounded by loved ones.

I struggle enough with day to day life when it is not the holiday season. There is a pile of papers on my kitchen counter that is so tall, it could be dangerous. I don't know what to do with it so I move it from one place to another. I'm tempted to throw it all away. It overwhelms me. In the past several months I have missed appointments that I never thought I'd miss and forgotten to respond to a zillion different requests. My voice mailbox is full. I owe people money. My bedroom is a disaster. And, I have no idea what we're having for dinner.

I'm weary. It's only Monday. And, it's GO time. No rest for the weary here. On Thursday we're having Thanksgiving dinner at our house and Pierogi Day on Friday. Two days of crazy, busy, super messy fun.

These are fun days for sure, but they are exhausting days too, and in as much as it makes me happy to spend this time with my family during the holidays, it also makes me sad. When I look around the room at all the faces of those I love most, I am hyper-aware that certain other loved ones are missing. Their absence hits me when I least expect it. One minute I could be helping my husband whip the mashed potatoes and the next minute I am longing to crawl back into bed and hide under the covers because my dad isn't here to play his guitar and sing Amazing Grace before dinner.

You know the woman who just stole your parking spot? She might be grieving.

The man who cut in front of you in line at the grocery store? He might be wondering how he will pay his bill.

The friend who seems to be ignoring you? She might be fighting for her marriage.

That flaky mom from school who won't return your call? She could be waiting… waiting for test results… wondering what the future holds.

We just cannot know what is on another person's heart or mind. We cannot know what keeps her up at night or what keeps her from wanting to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes we wonder, and yet we don't really need to know. Do we? Couldn't we all just drop the inquiry? What if we stopped speculating, comparing, and judging? What if we decided not to take things personally? What if we decided to take responsibility for ourselves, and to trust that others can do the same?

What if we stepped out of our own heads and hearts for just a moment to let love in - to make space for compassion?

What if we just loved each other? I think that would be so amazing.

Because this time of year is so very tricky and our hearts are tender and our minds are over-stressed, maybe we could start with a bit more compassion right now and give it a go through the end of December? Let's just try it. Shall we? What have we got to lose? We have so much to gain. So much.

I'll keep praying… I know you will too.

May we all have compassion for ourselves, and for those around us.
May we trust that we are all doing our best.
May we release judgment.
And, may we make way for love.
And so it is. Amen. Aho! xoxo

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 3, 2014

On Gratitude

This is my second try at this post. I wanted to share how I got here - to November 3, 2014 in relation to gratitude - and how my commitment to a daily gratitude practice has evolved over time. That seemed important to me. I was being defensive. Defending something I started years ago as a way of healing and holding on to hope, when I really only wanted to crawl into a hole and stay there through the holiday season. Something that a few of my Facebook friends were finding trite over time, and decided to complain about and tease in their own status updates… I thought I needed to clarify, to defend, and to justify why I think November is a great month for people to express gratitude on their own and in public.

I don't want to do any of that.

A few months ago I began reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. On page 58 of her book, Voskamp says the following: 

"I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks."

That is why I do what I do and why I want to do it (THANK YOU ANN VOSKAMP!). I want to embrace joy, to be brave, to focus on all thing good and beautiful and true. I want to give thanks for all things, even the small things because I want to bring the fullest Light to all the world.

I don't care if it makes other people uncomfortable. In fact, I -kind-of like that it makes some people uncomfortable. I would invite you to explore the discomfort if and when it bothers you to witness another's expression of joy. That discomfort will tell you more about you than it does about the other person. Go there.

In the past, I have used an art journal as a means to capture my gratitude each day. I have been on  a mission to figure out the easiest, least expensive way to make an art journal because I LOVE art journaling, and find it to be healing and hopeful and fun. This is what I've come up with so far…

Junk Mail Art Journal

I took a catalog I received in the mail (it was a Williams-Sonoma Fall catalog). I glued 2-3 pages together throughout the catalog with a glue stick, to form a series of new, thicker pages. I used plain old cheap craft acrylic paint to cover each page. I glued tissue paper to the covers of the catalog - I used two pieces to completely cover the catalog cover. Some of the words and images from the catalog show through the paint, and I love that. It was so easy to make and it was virtually free because the catalog was junk mail and I had the paint on hand.

Each day this month, my family and I will choose one word to express that for which we are most grateful that day. We will record the words on a piece of paper and at the end of the month we will have a special journal filled with our gratitude. I look forward to seeing how this evolves.

Our first page. 
I stamped part of the quote from Ann Voskamp on the first page, and left the
Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving table, rather than painting it.
I love how the quote turned out.
My sister made a Junk Mail journal too! I love it!

Each and every day, in every minute even, we have a choice about whether to "deepen the wound of the world" with our voices and actions or "bring fullest Light to all the world." Hands down, I choose light. It is absolutely a choice. It is not always easy, but I make it because I believe it makes a difference to me, my children, my husband, and our community.  I make it because I want to experience joy while I'm here on Earth - to balance out the pain.

Gratitude manifests joy. It's been proven time and again. Try it - big or small, in whatever way works for you. Share what you find.

With love and gratitude. Especially to Ann Voskamp. I don't know her, but I LOVE her and her beautiful words. xoxo

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hope in the Holes

Looking Up

I was in eighth grade when I first considered suicide. I decided on pills. That is as far as I got. In the space between knowing without a doubt that the people in my life would be better off without me, and swallowing pills, I found the holes in my story. I saw hope in those holes.

There have been times since then when I have imagined dying. About four years ago, after my dad died and all the pain I had stuffed deep down inside came rushing out and over me, I wanted to disappear. I thought about how the people I love most in the world would go on without me. I knew they would be happier. They would have less to worry about. Their lives would be more peaceful. They could move on. I imagined being shot. Getting hit by a car. Having a heart attack on the treadmill. These were times where I felt hopeless. Helpless. I knew I had to snap out of it - suck it up and get on with my life, and I didn't know how to keep going.

Can you imagine being that desperate? In so much pain that I would even consider welcoming the possibility of leaving this behind?

My people.

It is an infinite amount of pain.

It is painful thinking about it now. I cannot even imagine being in such a dark place now, and yet I have been there. Sitting here in this moment, I am at a loss for words to describe my gratitude for the people I love. I am grateful for every second I spend with them. I know they love me. I know I am blessed. 

In my darkest moments, I still lose sight of the beauty that surrounds me. It is truly unimaginable now - when I am grateful and at peace - sitting in the sunshine. In the darkness, I feel lost. Hopeless. Helpless. Worthless. I lose faith.

There are numerous triggers - things that happen that can send me down a dark path. I run anxious and I always have. In an average day any of the seemingly small things that a person faces can stress me out. Things like social situations, having to make small talk, returning items to the store, driving in heavy traffic… Depending on what else is happening in my life, I might fall into depression.

Mostly, looking back over my life, my depression occurs when I believe I am falling short. It comes from the belief that I am not enough. It comes from my certainty that other people also believe that I am not enough. All the lists of the reasons that I am not enough compiled in my head are the impetus for shame. As I grew older, and especially since I've become a wife and a mother, there was guilt. There is always something to feel guilty about.

With a lot of soul searching and some anti-anxiety medication, with time and yoga and writing and art, with therapy and life coaching, and the support of my husband, I cleared space to come up for air. For the most part, anything that was ever a source of shame is now just a piece of me and my story. It has been rendered powerless. In retrospect it is usually an opportunity to transform into something meaningful. Something beautiful.

I try not to stuff the pain anymore. I don't like to let it fester. I sit with it. I feel it. I look for lessons in it. I thank it. I let it go.

None of this is easy for me. I am not always good at it. It is messy. It can be really ugly. The process of working through it though makes all the sweetness waiting on the other side even sweeter. The beauty is more beautiful. The glory is more glorious. I can appreciate all the goodness in a much richer way now that I allow myself to experience and move through the pain. I am grateful I can say I know what it's like on the other side of the pain. I am grateful for the courage and support required to look up, to move on and out of it.

I haven't solved anything. I'm not cured. Living and working through my depression is a process. Life is a process for me. It is a practice. With practice and knowledge and support, I get stronger. I bounce back more quickly. Things don't look quite as bleak as they used to. I have faith that there is something bigger than me at work in the world, and that I can be of service to that force. I know I am loved. I try to keep my blessings in focus - when I acknowledge those blessings it is harder to fall down the rabbit hole.

This, obviously, comes in the wake of the death of Robin Williams, another great talent gone too soon. He was one of my favorites. I'm taking this opportunity to share a bit of what I know to be true. That even when things look fine on the outside, it can be a facade. Behind the scenes there might be turmoil. 

This is a truth that more of us are coming to accept as we see past the misconception of neat packages, nice clothes, good hair, pretty faces, hot bodies, successful careers, power, money, big houses, and fast cars. Behind it all, we are just people doing the best we can. 

A lot of us are encouraging those who suffer with depression to seek help. I think that is sound counsel. And, I also invite each of us to be a little kinder to each other. To be more compassionate. To search for the beauty and the love and the sweetness in the bramble of the berry patch that is life. The good is in there and there is a lot of it - enough for everyone.

Suicide is not a selfish act. It can feel that way to those of us left behind. Suicide is a desperate act. Of course, it isn't something that can really be generalized. And yet, I feel confident in saying that a person who takes his or her own life is not doing it for selfish reasons. I believe suicide occurs when the victim thinks the world would be a better place without them.

It is an infinite amount of pain.

It us up to each of us to prove to one another that we are each here for a reason - to enjoy the uniqueness of one other and the beautiful experiences that life has to offer. The world is a better place because of us, not in spite of us. That is our challenge actually - to accept that it is better because of us, and to keep working to make it even better. And better. And better.

It would be fun if we did it together.


My sister is a social worker who works with Veterans at the VA Hospital in Ann, Arbor, Michigan. I asked her to share some of what she and her colleagues use as a safety plan for clients with suicidal ideation. While seeking professional help is the very best option for those who need it, I thought this might be of use too:

Very General Components for A Safety Plan

  1. These are the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that describe how I am experiencing...
  2. These are things I can do to feel better, or to distract myself from these thoughts…
  3. These are people I can talk to when I'm feeling down (make sure to have contact information handy)…
  4. These are the professionals I can reach out to… Include the National Suicide Prevention Line, and keep in mind that loved ones can call support lines for help too: 1-800-273-8255 (also include 911)
  5. What can I do to make my environment safe...
  6. How will you ensure you use this plan? (where will you keep it, etc.)

Consider signing it to seal the contract.


Monday, June 30, 2014

It's Worth Celebrating

I was so shy when I was a child that I used to hide behind my dad's legs when he introduced me to someone new.

I wanted nothing more than to stay hidden in the safety of what I knew.

A little over four years ago my dad died, and everything I thought I knew was called to question. I didn't feel safe. Nothing helped me to feel safe.

I had friends who had lost loved ones and yet we rarely talked about it. I always knew that someday when I experienced a similar loss it would be awful, but I never knew how awful. Until it happened. Even knowing that there were others like me, I imagined I was all alone.

This is a truth about grief - that even though there are many of us trying to make sense of the world after a significant loss, we still feel so alone, and we don't talk about it. Each of us will experience loss in a different way - in our own unique way, and at the same time we can relate to each other. I have experienced that understanding - the connection that comes from acknowledging a shared story between two - and while there is some comfort in knowing that I am not alone, instead of feeling better, I usually end up feeling sorry for both of us.

After my dad's death I wrote a lot to help me try to make sense of it all - of life and loss and what comes next for both the living and the lost. Writing about things is the way I've always tried to make sense of them. As I wrote and made discoveries, I felt called to share what I found along the way. That is how I came to this place in my life - a place of creating and sharing. Sharing is rarely easy for me, but I keep doing it because I know there is a chance that something I say or write or make could help someone else feel less alone. As much as I would have liked to stay hidden, I had to come out from behind my dad's legs...

As soon as my dad departed and the funeral had passed and our friends and family went back to their everyday lives, I was left wondering "WHAT THE HELL? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO NOW?" As I continue to move away from my dad's departure there are still no answers to my questions. There is no way to know whether it is normal to get pissed four years after a loss because all of a sudden I remember that my dad isn't coming back.

After a life altering incident, you hear a lot about the "new normal" and for some people maybe that makes sense. Maybe the promise of a new normal is comforting to them. Some of us, however, were okay with the previous version of normal. We dig our heels in and refuse to accept this new version of life as normal. It will never be "normal". What I now know is that there is no normal - new or otherwise. The unexpected surges of grief, the anger, the sadness, the joy in memories that come to mind - none of it is normal or abnormal, it just is.

I try to deal with whatever comes up as it surfaces. The gift in that is that I get to decide what to do with it. I can write my own guide book on a daily basis.

My parents would have celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary today. My mom and I are together with my family in northern Michigan and we talked a bit about whether a widow could still celebrate her anniversary, even though her husband has passed. We decided she can. And, she should.

She dipped her feet in a fountain…

We toasted love and its legacy over a beautiful lunch with our sweet friend Suzanne...

We did some shopping, and my mom even picked out a beautiful turquoise ring as an anniversary gift! Here she is pointing to our location on a map of Michigan…

And we topped it all off with some ice cream…

Isn't she the cutest?!?! Look at her beautiful new ring!

I have actually come to love the fact that so few of the answers I sought were available to me after my dad's death. It gave me an opportunity to look within, and to decide what was true for me and what was not. As I trusted in my own authority, I was liberated - bound only by my own self-imposed limitations. 

My mom and I could have decided that it isn't necessary for a widow to celebrate her anniversary once her husband has passed, and that would have been fine too. Even without my dad though, June 30, 1972 marked the beginning of something that continues to be worth celebrating. I am so grateful we chose to celebrate it.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! Cheers! xoxo