Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Decade of Change

Last night I realized that on New Year's Eve 1999, Tom had not had a stroke, my mother-in-law was aging but was not yet diagnosed with dementia, I was still working as the long-time Executive Director in a statewide child abuse prevention organization, our youngest son J was still in high school.  On that New Year's Eve, Tom and I danced in the kitchen, ate a midnight supper, drank martinis and champagne and waited, laughing, to see if all the 'puters in the world came crashing down.

Never did we think that in a few short months our life, as we knew it, would come crashing down.  Tom retired on May 1 and had his first stroke on July 11, 2000 - he never was the same again.   He was a brilliant attorney and pilot who couldn't keep a checkbook anymore.

We did rehab, we did recovery, working side-by-side -- we reinvented ourselves and our marriage and we did so with purpose, with joy and with love.   March 2004, he suffered another stroke although much lighter than the first but it took away his ability to drive this time and then the third one came along in late 2004 - that was the BIG one.

During this decade, I lost my 18 year old cat in 2003, my mother-in-law in June 2004 and my husband on November 14, 2004.   A decade of grief and loss.  A decade of transition and transformation.

In this decade there also were so many blessings - my darling only grandson, Evan, was born in October 2004.  I met my wonderful business partner J and we established our amazing business that serves so many organizations with capacity building services, all rooted in community and in participation.   The business is so much more than a business for both of us - it is the outward manifestation of our deepest values.  We are beginning our seventh year of working together. 

I have met and made so many new friends and I have been held and supported by an enormous network of friends and sisters across the country and the world.

I remodeled my house and transformed my living space.  I discovered acupuncture and pilates and have incorporated both into my life as disciplines and routine preventative health care.

I was brought to my knees by grief - I was stripped bare and left myself by the side of the road many times over - not really caring if I lived or died.  I doggedly kept moving forward even when I didn't believe the pain would ever abate.  Year One of Widowhood was unbearable - Year Two was a million times worse - it felt as though I walked around looking fine but really the very skin was scorched off my face.

I met other widowed who held me up when I had no legs on which to stand and who laughed and CRIED with me nonstop and sometimes both at the same time.   Then a step at a time a new life began to emerge from loss.  I began to be able to hold others and listen deeply with those ears that grow from hard, real experience.  I began to want to pay it forward to others.  One day I actually laughed out loud with joy and didn't immediately feel guilty for being happy when Tom was dead!

Slowly this new life - the life that will never be the same again - the life that is different but a life that is full and joyful emerged and I am blessed beyond imagining.

Here this afternoon I stand - after a decade of loss, of pain, and of blessings so huge that I am filled with awe and gratitude.  It is so good that we cannot see a day ahead - life is just that - life - and we only have the moment in which we stand.

Here's to a new decade - here's to each of you who have stood by my side and made my time on this earth a blessing.  Namaste. 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Year End Reflections

Yes, this is the time when many of us reflect on the year that is closing.  On balance it has been a year of learning and growing.  In my work life, it is my "shelter period" as I spent seven months as the Interim Executive Director of the battered women's shelter and now have begun a tenure as the Interim Exec at a family homeless shelter.  Very easy to count one's blessings when you are surrounded by so much need every single day. 

In my grief journey I have moved to a new seat in the auditorium.  I can honestly say that I have integrated so much of the intense pain and suffering - I am not whole - I will never be whole in that way I once was.  But I am here - standing on my feet - knowing that I am able to reach out to others and pay it forward.   Coming to the understanding that IT will NEVER be OVER is a huge milestone. 

As I write this tonight I am feeling a little blue - missing you know who and yet strangely content in the midst of my sadness. 

Each year, I set my Intentions for the year ahead.  I put those intentions on a huge flip chart paper and post it on my studio door where I see it many times every day.   I save those pages from year to year.  In 2005 (just two months after Tom died) the primary Intentions on my sheet were:

- Breathe
- Drink Water
- Get Sleep

My intentions for this year (2009) are:

What a difference.  For the most part I have incorporated those elements into my life this year.  Now, I am thinking about my 2010 Intentions.  That is my task for the next few days - I have written a draft - it is a work in progress.

2009 was a difficult year for so many in our country and around the world.  I hope the year ahead holds greater peace and prosperity.  Reflections............and holding those in pain close in my heart during this time of reflection and sadness. 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Peace & Grace on Christmas Eve


We need to stop.
Just stop.
Stop for a moment.
Before anybody
Says or does anything
That may hurt anyone else.
We need to be silent.
Just silent.
Silent for a moment.
Before we forever lose
The blessing of songs
That grow in our hearts.
We need to notice.
Just notice.
Notice for a moment.
Before the future slips away
Into ashes and dust of humility.
Stop, be silent, and notice.
In so many ways, we are the same.
Our differences are unique treasures.
We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts
To nurture, to offer, to accept.
We need to be.
Just be.
Be for a moment.
Kind and gentle, innocent and trusting,
Like children and lambs,
Never judging or vengeful
Like the judging and vengeful.
And now, let us pray,
Differently, yet together,
Before there is no earth, no life,
No chance for peace.

September 11, 2001
© Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek

Used with permission from Hope Through Heartsongs, Hyperion, 2002

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Shed away your tired old coats my darlings.
Shed the tears
that tear you from within.

Like a snake
who has outgrown her skin,
writhe and scrape
until the dull old scales
fall away.

Slough off the remnants
of your worn-out self.
Peel away the layers
that no longer suit you,
that constrict you,
so a shiny,
lissome you

Glide effortlessly
into the new year

Enter your new beginning
with grace,
warm, bright, glistening,

Stacey Ann Murphy 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Walking Hand in Hand on the Widowed Road

Today I shared a meal and a million tears with my friend who recently began the second year of her grief journey.  Even though we have emailed regularly, this is the first time we have seen each other since just before her husband passed.   She has not wanted to see many people and that is just the way it is.  I get it.

So many people want to tell us how to grieve.  So many want to give us their theories on why our husbands are now in "a better place."  Or why it is not healthy to be so isolated - or to cry so much, or to keep "carrying on so when it has been a year" - or, "you are so strong - your faith will get you through" on and on and on.  GET AWAY!!

We each choose our own path on this hellacious journey - there is no right way - there is no wrong way to grieve - there is only YOUR way.  PERIOD.   The widow road is one of suffering - it is impossible for one who has not experienced the death of their dearest partner to understand the depths of that pain.  We all say - "they mean well."  Well, maybe they do - but it doesn't make it any easier.  This was the first thing J wanted to talk about today. 

We spent three hours in a Perkins Restaurant - eating, talking and crying together. Truly a 40 napkin lunch.   I listened with my ears and I listened with my heart.  J's husband is my dearest brother-friend Michael of whom I have written about in this blog.  We talked and laughed and we cried over and about Michael.

I could feel her searing pain leap across the table.  A couple of times the raw intensity of it stunned me.   And that fact surprised me.   Today I thought - my god, the journey is akin to childbirth!   In labor, you experience so much pain and yet, when that baby is placed in your arms, the pain recedes into the background.   And so, here I am at five years and the pain has receded - I have walked through the fire, I have been transformed.

I read widow blogs and I weep with my widder friends and identify closely with their loss and pain.  And yet today, sitting across the table from J, I realized I had forgotten some of the immediacy, the reality of the raw and bleeding PAIN - how devastating, how crippling it is.  How you really do not care if you are on the planet or not, DEATH, ha - bring it on.  How the pain becomes embedded in one's body, mind and soul and how, without warning, it brings you to your knees.   Sitting with J today was like having the skin singed off my face. And I remembered - how I embraced my pain, how I grieved my loss, and how I walked my path.  Now that PAIN has receded and its remains are forever held deep inside, so deep that is buried in my very DNA.  

I am grateful to be standing here whole and transformed.  I am honored to stand witness, to be a companion to J and to others as they walk the widowed road.  Namaste

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Here We Go...

Just a quick drive-by.  I am finally feeling better.  Hooray!  I baked cookies and made candy this weekend.  I actually did some housework and feel like I have a bit of energy.  Deb came tonight and I had a massage.  Tomorrow I start my new gig actually working in the homeless shelter - the retiring Executive Director's last day was Friday.

I am checking blogs and I will do my best to update here during the week.  We are preparing for snow tonight - stay warm.

Friday, December 11, 2009


I have been doing one of three things.....keeping these items close at hand, initiating the organizational assessment for my new client or napping.  Yes, that is correct - I still have this cold.  Am I better? Yep.  I am well?  Not so much. 

I have about forty things I want to blog about but just have not had the energy to do so.  Every day I think, "this is it - I am well" - oh well.  Here I am - as I have blogged many times, "still on the planet."

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah - I will light the candles but no latkes - as yummy as they may be, I do not need a big bunch of fried food right now. Rats!!!

Winter finally arrived and it is cold in Minnesota - cold and beautiful.  Of course, we need to acclimate again and remember we are tough and resilient in the face of below zero weather.  I pulled out my winter coat yesterday and was so happy, for the first time in years,  I actually remembered to get it cleaned before I needed to wear it.

This weekend I am looking forward to baking cookies and making truffles to give as gifts with my homemade jam and pickled beets.  I may still have this crappy cold but at least I am feeling ready to do some fun stuff besides use tissue and do client work.

Happy Friday --  stay warm.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Trying to heal.......

Sorry I have been offline this week.    I worked in my home office on Monday and Tuesday and then worked in my own office the balance of the week - I have too much work ahead to not catch up after being gone for a week.

I  have really struggled to beat this wretched cold.  Deb came last Sunday and did a massage and lymphatic drainage, I had acupuncture with Julie on Friday and today had a European Facial with Marta - she did more lymphatic drainage and used the full-spectrum lights.  Julie also prescribed a raw chinese herb formula, which I have cooked up and am drinking.   I even saw the western medicine Doc this week and that is unusual for me.

This afternoon I made a yummy chicken soup for dinner. Tonight I feel a bit better - finally!!

I have begun my new leadership transition gig in Minneapolis in a Shelter for Homeless Families and next week I will start going to the shelter - this weekend is one of laying low and getting well. 

I hope you are enjoying your weekend.  Stay warm.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Feeling pretty punky - sleeping, taking zinc, chinese herbs, lots of fluids and more sleeping.  Here is a photo of my beautiful granddaughter, O and my mother.  This picture was snapped at the Frank Family Winery outside St. Helena.  I have more to come but first - I need to get well.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Still in California.  I have lots of photos to post when I get home.  Unfortunately, I have come down with a really rotten cold and feel cruddy.  I am flying home on the red eye tonight.  More to come......

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Going home is always sobering.  I am so fortunate to still have my mother with me and I know this fact well.  Her gradual decline brought on by getting older continues.  This is inevitable and it is my honor to be a helper and companion on my mom's elder journey.  One of the more frightening complications about this journey is her deep denial of things.  For instance, she does not take her medications as prescribed, it is really hit and miss.  "I do NOT have have high blood pressure, I just went to the doc and it was perfect," this is a frequent response if I mention her meds or the high blood pressure.

She does not take care of her feet (when I arrived her feet looked like Howard Hughes').   Even if I arrange it she does not follow through *including if I pay for the pedicure/foot care in advance*.   The condition of her feet is a real health issue.

She has fairly severe osteoporosis and does not take the Fosomax - if she does not want to take it, that's fine but she needs to acknowledge the consequences.  At this point, she absolutely denies she has brittle bones (this time she told me the doc had given her a bone density test and pronounced her bones were perfect and she could stop the med) - OMG, she is so bent over it looks painful.  She has lost about 3 inches in height in the last 3-4 years and now her head is bent forward on her neck and precedes her body.  She is at risk for fractures if she falls and spine compression fractures just from walking upright.

Here is the rub.  Mother hates that she is aging - and she is in denial about it.  She tells folks that she is 70 (she is more than a decade past 70) and really believes that people are fooled.  So of course she cannot have high blood pressure, osteoporosis and a host of other age-related things.  She admonishes me to "never tell anyone how old you are because you look so young!!"  Hmmmmmm, could it be that if I say my age then others can count on their fingers about hers?????  I  bite my tongue a lot of time.

Some of this is endearing, some of it is really frustrating and some of it is downright dangerous.  I am respectful of my mother and I do not say some of the things that should be said, she will not listen anyway and doing so only alienates us.  I worry leaving her here in this two-story house.

We went to the retinal specialist yesterday = she has 20/200 sight in her good eye and 20/2000 or "fingers only" sight in her other.  They now think she may have bleeding in her macula in the good eye and suspect that she may have the beginnings of glaucoma.  I am taking her back to the doc this morning for extensive testing.  There are no corrective lenses that will help her see better at this point.  The eye doctor has given her occular vitamins to take and provided a list of other vitamins and fish oil to be taken twice a day with meals - I am afraid that she will not follow through once I depart.  One blessing - this is a new doctor for mother, he is top notch and most important she likes him! 

There are other things going on besides the health and hygiene situations that are too private to go into.  Suffice to say they are worrisome.  I know that she must make her own adult decisions.  My mother is not incompetent - the problem is - she is not totally competent either.  Time will tell.

Today, I am grateful that I can hug my mom and spend this Thanksgiving surrounded by my family.

ps The Grands are here - there will be photos to come!!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Home for the Holiday......

I arrived at the San Francisco airport at 11:30 pm Friday night and got to the hotel at 1 am.  Here is a photo I snapped yesterday morning right outside the hotel of a plane landing at SFO.  After breakfast yesterday, I hopped the Napa Valley Shuttle bus and headed north.  I am at my mother's home in Yountville - it is a bit drizzly here in the early morning hours - the forecast for the week ahead is for days in high 60's nearly 70 degrees - I'll take it!!

We are off this morning to pedicure/manicure, shop and get out for a bit.  Mother no longer drives although she keeps her car in the garage and ready to go - as she says, "just for you when you come home."

Enjoy these days of preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday.  More to come......

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Getting Ready.....

This is a photo I snapped from my car at my mother's house last November.  That is Stag's Leap behind the trees.

I love Yountville and I love the Napa Valley.  Most of all, I love my mother.

Tomorrow I am leaving for Yountville and my children and grandchildren are arriving on Monday.  We are going to have an amazing family Thanksgiving.

I will walk each day and post some lovely photos.  I am packing and anticipating the trip.  Blessed be.


My friend Amy came through surgery successfully.  She was moved last night from ICU to Oncology.  She is in pain and sleeping most of the time and will do so for the next few days, according to her son who updated us yesterday.   Please continue to keep Amy and her family in your prayers.  She is an amazing woman with the world's biggest heart. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Friend Amy

Please keep my friend Amy in your hearts and prayers.  Amy is one of my widda friends - she was such a wonderful companion to me and to so many others.  Amy and her husband have seven children the youngest is only seven years old.  Amy has been battling lung cancer since June and this weekend they discovered the cancer is now in her brain.  She is only 47 years old.

Amy is about to have brain surgery tonight.  Please, please say a prayer for Amy, her husband and children.  Golden healing light.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


When Something of Great Value is Lost

I awoke this morning with a low grade case of the weepies - like a computer virus running in the background just waiting to make a break for it.

So strange, I was jolted awake at 3 am and instantly remembered 3 am five years ago.

Once all the tubes and machines were removed from Tom - his room got eerily quiet; compared to the preceding days and nights it was almost silent. No more millions of docs, nurses, respiratory therapists, neurologists, etc, etc, running in and out of the room at all times of day and night. The toughest decision I will ever have to make was done and we were waiting for something else now.

That last night the ICU nurses, who had become our little family, fixed everything so I could sleep in the same bed with Tom. There I was cradled against him like so many times before - his arm draped around me, my head on his chest.

I spent most of the night reliving the amazing things we had done together and telling Tom how much I loved him. I must have dozed off and at 3 am, Cheryl our night nurse came in to check on us. As she was leaving she said two things I will never forget - "I don't know what you are saying to him in here but every once in awhile the heart monitor really picks up :-)" and as she was walking out the door she said something that I came to understand so well in the months and years ahead - "enjoy his warmth."

Oh weeping shadows on the wall. Of course there are tears; we cry and feel terrible when something of value is lost.

I saw the Soul Reader yesterday and it was wonderfully amazing. I had a personal training session yesterday and I am having a massage at home this afternoon. I am happy that I have learned to take care of myself and have left the acute days of grief behind.

For those of you who are still in that agony - there is hope. I have been visiting a lot of widow blogs this week and I weep with you and hold you. Your raw pain resonates with me - I do remember and I will always remember those darkest of days. If you are reading this know that the widows' walk gets easier over time and different days are ahead. I wish I could sit quietly beside you and give you a hug, a tea, a glass of wine, a listening ear, a hand to hold. I send my heart across the miles between.

I am grateful for each of you, I am grateful for all my sisters and brothers who have been with me and I with them in these last five years - I am blessed beyond belief. I am grateful for the incredible transformation this grief journey has brought to my life and I am heartbroken that I had to lose the love of my life to get here.

I am sure there is more to come today................

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Guy

April 23, 1935 – November 14, 2004
(Text of the Ramsey County Bar Association Memorial in Tom’s Honor)

We are here today to pay tribute to Thomas W. Murray - a beloved husband, a proud and loving father, a patriot, a consummate professional, and a kind and decent man.

Tom was born in North Dakota, although having lived 64 of his 69 years here in St. Paul, this wonderful city of ours truly was his home. While the circumstance of a North Dakota birth foreclosed him from native St. Paulite status, he approached it far more closely than those of us who claim residency for, say, a mere 30 years or so.

It was here in St. Paul that Tom grew up, attended school (all the way through law school at William Mitchell), returned from four years of service as an Air Force officer, raised his three sons, pursued his career, lived first with the mother of his sons and again with his soul mate and widow, Suzann.

It was here in St. Paul –

• that Tom diligently and lovingly cared for his aging mother;
• that he faithfully and successfully served employers that included two of this city’s great companies: Twin City Barge and First Trust Company of Saint Paul;
• that he concluded a dedicated and distinguished career, confident in his accomplishments, and with then good health and renewed vigor, embraced retirement from the work-a-day world as a long-awaited opportunity to pursue – with his beloved Suzann – new adventures and to resume postponed adventures (including his love of flying).

It also was here, however, that Tom’s dreams were interrupted by the fortuity of ill health – a stroke not many months after his retirement. It was that event – and how both Tom and Suzann responded to it – that told all of us as much about Tom as we had learned about him the many years of prior association.

Mind you, what we already knew about Tom was far from insignificant:
• he was smart and insightful – a fine judge of people who knew how to size up a challenging situation;
• he greatly enjoyed tennis and golf, but like most of us, was very fortunate to have a day job;
• he was a patient and empathetic teacher and mentor . . . someone who always had time to counsel and guide the Trust Company’s newer officers;
• he dressed well – conservative, understated, and proper – but with a certain elegant flair . . . the “right” dress shirt, even once in awhile with a gold collar bar;
• he was a man of great integrity and impeccable commitment to the highest ethics of the legal profession – he treated his colleagues and clients with dignity and respect;
• he was the first (and we believe only) officer of the Trust Company to drive a Porsche – and he loved that Porsche, at one time telling Suzann that he wanted to be buried in it – only to be reminded by Suzann that such an arrangement likely would not be viewed favorably by the authorities at Ft. Snelling;
• he deeply and unconditionally loved his sons, David, Paul, and Mark, and was immeasurably proud of their accomplishments;
• he genuinely liked people – to whom he naturally offered a smile and an encouraging word;
• he was social and reveled in friendships.

Tom was a longstanding member of the “Heart Association,” whose membership included such luminaries as the late, great Judge Edward J. Devitt. The active core of Heart Association was, and remains, lawyers from Briggs and Morgan and officers of the Trust Company. As family and careers have caused paths to diverge, Heart Association nonetheless has remained a significant common thread.

While many of us have drifted from the frequent meetings of younger days, an annual event of ongoing significance is the Christmas holiday gathering at the McNeely residence. It was a poignant event in 2004 – Tom was not in attendance. He was looking forward to it – which he specifically mentioned to Suzann just a couple of days prior to his fatal stroke. We all were looking forward to seeing both Tom and Suzann at McNeely’s again this year because it was at the last few of these events that we learned even more about our friend Tom Murray. It was here that we saw year over year the courage and commitment that both Tom and Suzann brought to his stroke recovery. It was here that we saw confirmation that adversity deepens love for those who accept one another unconditionally. It was here that we deepened our understanding that life is what it is – not merely to be accepted, but to be embraced.

Tom nearly achieved the allotted three score and ten years. During that span of life’s lessons learned – some painfully, most joyfully – the fundamental humanity and goodness of Tom Murray was established, and we all are better for Tom having shared his life with us. We find Tom's spirit - and solace for our loss - in this prayer of an aviator:

Eternal Lord, who makes the winds and clouds obey Your will and who protects the eagle in his flight and the dove seeking safety, uphold me as I soar into the sky and fly above land and sea. Pilot my ship safely through the air, and give me nerves which are steady and relaxed, a mind, calm and composed, as I sail on to my destination. Give me a successful take-off and at journey’s end a safe landing, that no harm come to me and those entrusted to my care.
Hold Your protecting hand over me as I pass through storm and clouds.
Above all, keep me in Your grace and favor . . . and let my last landing bring me safely into Your presence. Amen.

(Presented by John B)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Day

It is 1825 days since you died. How can that be? Yes, I have walked, stumbled, staggered, whimpered, raged and wept through the agony of the first years of the grief journey to arrive here this morning. Yes, most days I now feel squared away - more balanced - more integrated about your leaving. Today, not so much.

I have been awake since 3 am. My heart is bruised - it is not a superficial wound. It is deep. It is lasting. To make it even more "interesting" - I have that inexorable tape loop running in my head today. You on the floor in the bedroom - the paramedics - the ER - the ICU.....and on and on it goes - until 4 days later - the unthinkable, I kiss your beloved feet after your spirit has passed from the body you no longer need.

The fiery cauldron of grief stripped me bare; burned me beyond recognition and shared its dark truths with me. One thousand eight hundred twenty-five days - I am transformed. Most days I appear perfectly normal - my newly grown skin, while tender to the touch, hides the scars inflicted by the blows suffered during the most intense parts of the grief journey. The pain now is different - it is very deep within - and balanced by the knowledge of what we were privileged to build and share. Unconditional love.

Today, I want to howl and scream and whimper all at once. I laid in bed and wept in the middle of the night and early this morning. My heart is broken and it will always be so. Oh yes, there is life after death and new life after widowhood. But life will never be the same without you.

Always in my heart - never far from mind.........

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On the Eve of November 11

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

The Last Day of My Old Life

On November 10, 2004, I had just returned from Philadelphia after a visit with one of our children and our new grandson. I had a miserable cold. Tom stayed home from Philly - he was recovering from cataract surgery and it just wasn't practical for him to travel right then. We planned on taking another trip east in the next couple of months anyway. (Note to self: if you think you are in control you are delusional).

Today, I am trying my best to remember what that day held. I am sure Tom and I had coffee together and he had his cinnamon roll. I know I went to work that day - I have no idea what I did. We had just moved into our new office space and so I probably organized my desk and files. I was not involved in a leadership transition having just finished the Way to Grow transition the end of October. (another note to self: at times we think our work and activities are so crucial - HA!)

I know I came home in the early afternoon and took Tom to the Ophthalmologist for his final check-up on the cataract surgeries - there had been two in the past three months. When I drove up in front, Tom came out of the house - he looked so handsome. He was wearing black jeans, a black cotton sweater over a beautiful yellow button-down shirt, black loafers and his leather bomber jacket - and of course, a big smile on his face.

The doctor pronounced Tom's eyes healed. In fact, his eyesight was so improved after the new lens implants that he no longer needed glasses. He died with those brand new eyes.

The rest of the day was just like all the rest of our days. We probably had a glass of wine and ate a nice dinner. Tom was coming down with a cold (caught it from me) and so we went to bed early. Take nothing for I said - this was the last day of my old life.

More to come...................

Monday, November 09, 2009


About the past - so many happy memories. The birthday that Tom handed me a beautifully wrapped gift and inside the card he had written, "I love you. P.S. I hope you like the earrings!" I did and I still do = I wear those gold hoops whenever I need a little boost or an angel on my shoulder. But oh, how I laughed and how we hugged.

That was the last birthday (June 25, 2000) I had before Tom suffered his first stroke. On July 11th we were having dinner in a local restaurant and Tom fell over at the dinner table - we were busy planning our wedding anniversary trip - one second he was there and the next he was "gone". Tom had just retired on May 1st - poor guy never had an opportunity to do the things of his dreams.

Life was never the same again but oh it still was sweet.

We worked hard together in recovery - over the years we reinvented ourselves and we reinvented our marriage. We fulfilled those vows about "in sickness and in health" and oh how we loved.

It was not perfect - I do not have Tom on some big old pedestal. We had plenty of challenges. Many days I stopped on my way home from work and paused at the top of Mounds Park to take a breath before going home to care giving.

Tom had plenty of frustration at being cognitively impaired as a result of that stroke. He had spent his career as an air force officer and attorney - now he couldn't keep a check book. Oh yes, there was enough frustration to go around. There also was boundless love - the kind of love that defies the odds - the real stuff. Deep and lasting.

Today as I continue my vigil - I am thinking about all the blessings, about the dancing in the kitchen, about "camping on the floor in the living room" watching the Mississippi roll by outside the big, big window. About falling asleep warm in embrace and awaking in a big pile of quilts - about so many things that were. I am blessed beyond belief to have these memories. The beat goes on.............

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Days of Remembrance

If you have been a reader of this blog for long, you know November is the month my husband died. I found him on the bedroom floor on November 11 and his spirit left his body on November 14. It is nearly five years since this journey of loss and bereavement began. In some ways it seems like forever - in some ways a few heartbeats.

In the early days of widowhood from the depths of misery and desolation, I cried out, "when will this be over?" It was a question I asked so many of the widowed that had walked the path ahead of me. I now know the answer to that question. It is "never". It changes but it is never "over" and I suppose it is not supposed to be.

This journey has left its mark. I see the invisible stigmata of widowhood writ large upon my life. I am not the same person who walked out of Woodwinds Hospital alone that Sunday morning. I am a better, more caring and more present person. I am stronger and more resilient. I have good boundaries and I choose carefully how I spend my time and with whom I do so. I have spent a great deal of solitary time the last 5 years and it has been important. I am not lonely (except for missing you know who) in fact, I relish my time alone.

I have wept more tears than I thought one woman could ever produce. I have been held close by my friends and held them close in return. I have been blessed with sisters and brothers of the heart and soul who have been my stalwart companions on this broken road of loss and grief. We have held each others hands as we traveled towards the light - even in the days of being in the black hole of suffering and mourning - we helped each other steer towards the light. My mantra from the depths of the black hole was, "what I am supposed to learn while I am down here AGAIN."

Today - I feel whole - I feel the loss of Tom has been integrated into my life. I am no longer broken. I will long for this man until the hour of my own death - I will shed tears, I will awake in the middle of the night and suddenly remember what was lost. My memories are sweet. I knew unconditional love. I miss my lover, my friend, my flyboy, my husband. And every year, this will be the time of remembrance. That is just the way it is.

Monday, November 02, 2009


Here's who I want to be when I grow up ------

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

BOO - this is my "ghost" jack o' lantern - it is one of those white punkins - I am such a kid. I love carving jack o' lanterns! This is a sacred night for many - the night where the veil between the living world and those who have passed over is very, very thin.

Blessings and fun.........

Listening to the Still Small Voice

"How do geese know when to fly to the sun? Who tells them the seasons? How do we, humans know when it is time to move on? As with the migrant birds, so surely with us, there is a voice within if only we would listen to it, that tells us certainly when to go forth into the unknown."

~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Friday, October 30, 2009

Remembering Michael

Today is the one-year anniversary of the passing of my dear friend, mentor and brother in spirit, Michael Groh. Michael was a unique, dynamic and adventurous soul - a true entrepreneur, a brilliant strategist and (at times) overwhelming presence. I was fortunate to meet Michael in 1993, right at the outset of my tenure as the Executive Director of a statewide child abuse prevention organization. Michael had been involved since the late 1970's as a supporter, consultant, advisor and co-creator of bringing this *at the time* very special parent-driven program to our state.

After our first lunch, Michael volunteered to become an advisor to the me and to the organization, which was experiencing very serious internal problems. He not only served as an advisor - he became our strategic planning consultant twice in the nearly 10 years I served the organization and helped us to develop a more positive culture in the early days. He was on hand to help identify obstacles to success and brainstorm possible solutions but he also ALWAYS helped to point out and to celebrate our successes no matter how big or small. Michael was good at calling BS and good at helping us think new thoughts.

On the personal front = Michael became my friend. He supported my decision to leave the organization and helped me to see my way to developing this consulting business that lives and thrives today as the Dendros Group. We had many, many lunches - especially sushi - and many, many long phone and park bench conversations over the years. We were there for one another in our individual loss and grief journeys - we were present and stood witness to many personal triumphs and achievements. I miss him dearly.

Today - I celebrate Michael's life. Michael worked nationally and internationally for more than 40 years helping nonprofit organizations and their leaders make tough decisions, formulate and implement strategy, develop strong income streams, and most importantly step into and live up to their highest aspirations. Michael - thank you for being in my life - it was and remains a blessing. Rest in Peace. You live in our hearts forever.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

500 Posts

The fourth anniversary of this blog was in June. Four years.

I began this blog journey in the dark - in a raw place of loss and grief. When I began to write I never thought about anyone else reading - I just needed a place to pour out the hurt. I needed a place write my heart. The blog was a place to prove I was still on the earth and to cry out for the one who had left me behind.

In four years I have been transformed. In four years I have found you - my blog buddies, my friends, my sisters and brothers in sorrow. I have found new hope. I have learned to laugh again. The past few months my posts have been quite sporadic even so, I love this blog and I love each of you who have held my hand, given me encouragement, shared your own life journeys.

So tonight - Five Hundred Posts. I am struggling a bit right now and yet I know - that everything I need is right here - I need to continue to listen to my heart - follow my intuition - I send my love and hugs across the miles between to each of you.

Om Shanti.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Changes Upon Changes

I have been reorganizing my house - that has required that I look through many things - boxes of photos, vacation mementos, silly little gifts tucked into the corner of a drawer, theater tickets safely hidden in a jewelry stand --- all the things that bring Tom so close inside my heart.

Yes, some of the reorganizing is like a new wind blowing through the house and some of it evokes memories so vivid that they lacerate my heart. Forget the new wind blowing for a minute.

Next month will be five years since his Angel Day - five years, one half of a decade. Yes, I know he is dead - that's right he is dead.

All I can say tonight is --- is I want MY husband back.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Summer's End

The summer went by so rapidly. My consulting assignment was very demanding and now it is about done. The new Executive started her work a week ago and I am only helping to orient and make a smooth transition for everyone.

My dearest, best friend J arrived with her husband in late August. The first day she was here she slipped and fell and broke her wrist, which required surgery. She stayed an extra nearly two weeks to recuperate and her husband went home. My friend V left the end of August and is home packing to move to Minnesota. Big changes ahead my darling blog buddies.

As you can see from my photos - one of things I promised to myself and delivered on this summer was preserving food for the winter. I have canned raspberry jam, ginger peach jam, crab apple jelly, dilled green beans, pickled beets, whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sauerkraut and made frozen pesto. Applesauce and apple butter are on the schedule for next weekend. It is great to capture the bounty of summer's goodness and look forward to eating it next winter.

I know I have been MIA but I am back and have lots of new things on my horizon. I hope you are enjoying these last days of summer as Autumn arrives - today is very blustery and even I little chilly - I started the wood pellet stove this morning to take the chill off and it is so cozy and pretty.

Take care - a lot more to come.....

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Nine Nine O Nine

Tomorrow - the anniversary of the day Tom and I married. Tom loved our wedding date - when we set it he said, "nine, nine" how can I ever forget. I think he was talking about more than the date. :-)

We reveled in our nine, nine, ninety-nine celebration without a thought that one of us might not be here for the next set of "9's".

Last night I laid in my bed and longed for my husband - I know, I know in the deepest part of me, I know he is gone from this earth - yet I just want to hold him and be held in his arms one more time.

I have walked this path of grief, of pain, of healing, of coming to my own terms of the loss of the love of my life. The days of wild-eyed wailing are over. And yet, last night I hugged the pillow and cried - not the gut wrenching sobs of the past - but the tears born of the ache I will always have for HIM - my man, my companion, my friend, my teacher, my love. Remembering.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Catching Up.......................

This is the longest I have gone without posting in the four years that I have been tending to this blog. It seems very strange = here is my story.

Of course, I am still doing the executive transition project - it is nearly done, the new CEO begins September 21! I shall be released! The work has been crazy-making and one of the most profound blessings in my entire consulting career.

My friend V was here for a month and we had a lovely time. He has decided to relocate here from Seattle and will return in October - much more about that to come. :=)

My best friend J arrived on August 23 - a few hours after getting here, she slipped, fell and broke her wrist in 4 places. She had surgery on August 27 and has been staying with me to recuperate. It has been a very trying time for her = painful and filled with tons of heavy duty pills, therapy and rest. She is healing nicely though and the rehab therapist tells us that she is going to have a complete recovery of the use of her wrist and hand.

Yesterday was the Farmers Market and as you can see from the photos, I put up ginger peach jam. I made pesto for the freezer (and our tummies last night). Downstairs is 60 pounds of tomatoes awaiting the canner later today, which I will tackle after I go to my personal trainer for a Pilates session this morning.

J has her follow-up session with her surgeon on Tuesday and is departing for home on Wednesday. Twelve days later we welcome the new Executive to the beloved organization. Once she is on board - I will have plenty of spare time.

Even though I haven't been posting, I have done my best to drop by my dear blog buddies' sites. I hope you are still dropping by here for a visit and I promise that I am truly back on the planet.

As summer turns her face towards Autumn I hope you are enjoying these waning days of warmth and the bounty of the harvest. The journey continues....... Namaste

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Still on the Planet

Life is rolling along. I am beginning the end of this all-consuming, 5 month long organizational transition project. It has been an amazing journey of service, hard work and many lessons. The economy is taking such a toll on nonprofit organizations. I have been engaged in this work for the past 22 years and I have NEVER seen such a tough funding community. It is frightening - things will be more difficult in the funding arena in 2010. I do not know what we will do to serve the least among us - those needing the basics - food, shelter, health care, freedom from abuse --- safety and security.

I expect to be about done and welcome the new Executive Director of this organization sometime around September 15 - I will spend a bit of time helping her get oriented and then I will have a break. What a blessing - I haven't had much summer this year.

My friend V is still here and we are enjoying our time together - it is much different to have this be more than a visit - just everyday life.

My bestest friend, J and her husband are arriving for a visit on Sunday and it will be fun to take a few days off and just play. I hope you are all enjoying your summer. I will be more present soon. Namaste.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Life Moves Forward

My friend Vince arrived from Seattle last night. He is staying for a month. We are trying this on for size. Walking a new path. I will keep you posted. Yes, life does go on.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Bounty of Summer Begins

Yesterday, I canned 10 half pints of raspberry jam, put up 3 quarts of dilled green beans and dried a lot of my homegrown herbs. It is very satifying to preserve food for the winter. It will be so nice to open one of those jars and taste the summer sunshine in a glistening spoonful of raspberry jam. It is particularly important to me because I can control the amount of sugar - this jam is made primarily with light agave syrup and a bit of organic cane sugar. The agave syrup is much lower on the glycemic index scale and better for you than a big blast of refined sugar. I put some of the jam in a small container to use now and it is good.

When my children were small I did a lot of summer canning. This year, I made a personal pledge to preserve as much local food as I can for the winter ahead.

The Farmer's Market and my own little container garden are bursting with summer's bounty. I had so much fun yesterday - I am bitten by the bug.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Soon - Soon - Soon

Things are going to slow down a bit now for me - I am beginning my deliberate start out of the organization in transition. We are in the early stages of Executive Director interviews.

I come to an organization in transition and from the first day I prepare to leave. Now is the time to make it more transparent to everyone in the agency. Soon, I will leave like: water across thee elements or water off a duck's back, quack, quack. That is the beauty of doing this work - arrive, work side by side and work hard - and leave without a ripple.

I will be posting more regularly very soon. Thanks for your kind words of support - it is a tremendous mission to provide safe sanctuary and support to battered women and their children. Mission matters!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer in Minnesota

However, one would never know it from our weather the last few days. It is socks and sweatshirt weather with zero sunshine. This is NOT what we are used to here in the Northland. Even in the winter - it may be cold - but it is sunny. We get a grumpy after a few gray, cloudy days.

Here are a few photos I snapped with my IPhone when I came home from Pilates this morning. I also harvested my first zucchini, which I will eat for dinner tonight - it is so neat to grow these things in containers - nature is amazing. More photos to come - I will take some tomorrow with my camera.

It has been a very difficult week - a very difficult week - OK, OK, OK - I won't repeat myself again. I am delighted to be home - rain, sun, clouds - no matter. I am here and going to read, write in my journal, watch a movie and just relax. I hope your weekend is all you need it to be.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Veggies

My little container garden is beginning to produce vegetables. I have harvested arugula, herbs, salad burnet, the first tomatoes and lots of Italian Parsley. Right behind now are tiny zucchinis and yellow pear tomatoes. The eggplant have set on the plants, the peppers are coming along, the bush beans have their first little flowers and the rainbow chard is beginning to look like chard!! I also have brussel sprouts and 3 other types of tomatoes. I will be swimming in tomatoes - my plan is to can, can, can later this summer. Whole tomatoes, sauce, ketchup, and tomato paste - all from my kitchen.

I will take photos soon and post so everyone can see the amazing amount of food one can grow in pots - I am happy. It is about the only thing I have had time for so far this summer. Sorry for my blog-silence these days - I will return to regular posts soon. The client work should slow down in the next 3-4 weeks.

I haven't visited with you as much as I usually do and will try to make the rounds and catch up. I am so looking forward to life returning to normal. Cheers.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I came back from vacation to more than 500 unread emails and lots of work. I am really glad that it is Friday. I have a busy and highly creative day ahead and am looking forward to it.

The organizational transition in which I have been engaged in since March is moving along quite nicely. We are in new program development and human resources restructuring mode now. The search for the new executive progresses and I should be ready to quietly leave in September.

The garden is exploding with color and lots of veggies. I will take new photos and post a bunch this weekend. Have a wonderful Friday - it is a beautiful day in my backyard, hope it is in yours too.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


That's right I am on vacation.............hooray!! My friend V arrived this morning after being stranded in the Sea-Tac airport for 12 hours - poor guy!

What are we going to do?? Well, cook some great food (tapas is one thing on our menu), drink some good wine and perhaps a margarita, go to a museum, see some fireworks, sit on the patio in the new chairs (that's them in the photo) and just have a good time. I need this time off so much. The past few months have been extremely stressful and worthwhile. I am tired and ready for this quiet, relaxing break.

I hope you have a terrific holiday weekend - I will try to post more during my vacation.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Birthday News

This has been an incredible birthday and because I am having a birthday weekend - it is not over yet.

My life contracted after Tom's death. I was surrounded by my angel-friends - thank God. However, the entire fabric of my life was bound so tightly around me, it was dark and suffocating and lonely. Solitude is imperative; isolation is different. The isolation (and it was there even when I was in the company of others) was profound - it was to a greater degree that I was even aware.

This birthday was a living embodiment of how my life, my TRANSFORMED life, has expanded.

I worked at my interim executive director job all day on the actual birthdate and was overwhelmed at the amazing outpouring of good wishes and love. I got so many emails, voice mails, text messages, facebook postings and phone calls with Happy Birthday wishes. I got cards, notes, a cake from the staff at work, flowers from the board of directors. It was so lovely. At some point during that day I realized how expansive, how loving and how different my life is today than a few years ago. Transformed!!

I am so grateful - I am so blessed - I am humbled, honored and filled with joy. I saw Shellie, the soul reader, yesterday. It was incredible. I will blog more later - now I must go and enjoy some more of this birthday weekend. Namaste.

PS The photo was taken on my sixth birthday.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I took these photos just after dawn this morning as I wandered around the yard with my coffee and my IPhone. I will take better photos this weekend with my real camera. We are expecting a beautiful and much cooler day today. Enjoy yours!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Still on the Planet

Such a busy time. I am preparing to take a break - V is arriving from Seattle the evening of July 1 and I will be off work for a week. I am so looking forward to time to myself and time with him. I got an email from QuitNet this morning reminding me about one of the best things I have done for myself in a long time. So here my friends are my quit stats for June 23, 2009:

Your Quit Date is: Sunday, April 23, 2006 at 9:35:00 PM
Test Time Smoke-Free: 1156 days, 6 hours, 41 minutes and 55 seconds
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 17344
Lifetime Saved: 4 months, 12 days, 11 hours

The garden is looking wonderful - I will have photos to post soon. My plan is to take Friday off for a long weekend - time for reflection on my birthday. It is really HOT here in Minnesota - heat index 105 degrees - if you are in the heat take care of yourself and stay cool. Blessings

Monday, June 15, 2009


It has been a weekend - I did not feel well Saturday and Sunday but am back to normal today. The client work continues to be incredibly stressful. Here is the progress on the garden so far this year. The pots lined up against the wooden wall are all vegetables and edible flowers. It is fun to watch them grow - cucumbers, zucchini, beans, hot peppers, eggplant, edible lavender, and parsley. The space in front of the house has four types of tomatoes, basil, chamomile, chives and lots of edible flowers.

We are in drought here in the Twin Cities - I am thankful for the hose - all my containers are mulched. I watered the lawn and trees in back very deeply during the spring and they are doing well in spite of so little rain. Soon I will post photos of the back gardens - very beautiful. I will keep the photos coming as things grow strong.

Monday, June 08, 2009


Paul Wellstone was a man of values and honor. He had a huge vision of a world of equality and peace. He would not compromise his values and beliefs.

Grassroots leadership - a world based on mutual respect and one where children feel and know they are valued and loved. What a tragedy to lose this man - I am honored that I had opportunities to meet him and spend just a bit of time with him. He always remembered people - not just "hiya, hiya, hiya" but remembered you. He truly cared about this world. He will never be forgotten.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

You CAN Do It!

I just got this from my friend William - such a good life lesson and fun to watch. Thanks Will. Namaste

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Summer Room

I am so happy with the new look of my room. I recently purchased these new things and it feels so good to slip into bed and draw up the soft cotton champagne-colored quilts. It is just perfect.

Now I have the burgundy/gold/purple/green of my heavy winter quilts and shams and these beautiful ivory and gold summer bed linens. It makes me feel like a princess. Very summery.

As you can tell, it remains a very, very busy time for me. I am still in the shelter doing the leadership transition. The project is going well - transitions are always stressful - this one is no different. Most important, we are making progress - they will walk in the sunshine one of these days, they will sing the song of their dreams. It is worth it.

As I went to do this post tonight I noticed that this is my 480th post since I began my blog - June 20 will be four years - oh my, four years. What a joy it is - what a joy each of you are - my friends, my dearest blog buddies - my companions on this journey of transformation. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summer is on the Way

I spent most of the weekend outdoors - planting, digging, raking, mulching,refurbishing pots, just having a really good time. This year I planted very few flowering annuals - almost 100% of all plantings are edibles. You can see my three large barrels are planted with a huge number of herbs - I am hoping to dry most of my herbs for the winter. The other large pot on the stairs is filled with Brussels sprouts. I have loads of johnny jump ups, pansies, chamomile for tea. In the front (where I have not yet taken photos) there are pots filled with tomatoes, eggplant, Italian parsley, chili peppers, yellow pear tomatoes, bush cucumbers and bush beans. I am very excited.

I still have all my tomato sets that I am growing and will plant them next weekend. I also will be planting pots of lettuce to grow in the shade under the big tree in the backyard. Salad right out the backdoor.

This was a relaxing weekend. I will post more photos soon. I hope you had a lovely weekend - summer has begun.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

At Last - Such a Blessing

After a year of attending services, volunteering my time, making new friends, taking the orientation classes and searching for a spiritual home - yesterday I made the commitment and signed the membership book at Unity Unitarian Church in St. Paul. I am so happy. I am now officially a part of the community of those who are living their values through commitment to social justice and living a spirit-filled life.

This spiritual home is filled with music, with devotion to families and with laughter and community-building. I am blessed today as I begin my life as a full member of this very special community.

It is a beautiful, sunny day here. I have music playing and am preparing to go out to "dig in the dirt" and get those veggies planted. My heart to yours - much more to come.

Monday, May 11, 2009


I have been dreaming every night and remembering big pieces of these dreams. They are vivid and colorful. Some are about my current client and some are about my future. And still others are about things of which I have no knowledge.

A week ago, I was dreaming that Tom was having surgery and that I was here in bed. "Oh no, I have to wake up and go to the hospital," I thought. Then directly on the heels of that thought was - "Oh no, Tom is not in the hospital, he is at work." As I "went back to sleep" = I was suddenly thrust into consciousness with the thought, "Oh my god, Tom is DEAD!' It was the strangest feeling. I awoke weeping and suddenly it was like it was all new news. I felt devastated and very disoriented.

Dreams - who knows.

I took this rainbow photo last Thursday night from my deck with my IPhone. I wonder what is at the end of that rainbow. Love and hugs to each of you.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The backyard is awake and ready for

ready for fun, for flowers, herbs, vegetables, BBQ's, picnics and just plain hanging out and enjoying the sun and summer.

I spent most of the weekend cleaning the garage, raking the yard, cleaning the flower pots in preparation for planting my tomatoes, eggplants, squash, peppers and tons of herbs. This year I am going to plant even more veggies in containers than in previous years. Because of the huge 100+ year old cottonwood tree that stands sentinel in my yard - it is difficult to grow those things that love and require the sun. I grow those veggies in pots in the front of my townhouse.

My backyard is filled with my roses, daylilies, hydrangeas, and lots of other perennials. I have lived in my home for nearly 14 years and have lovingly tended the backyard. It is a joy to prepare the yard for another season of growth. Digging in the dirt - feeling the sunshine on my back - listening to the chatter of the birds. Heaven - right here at home. There are more photos to come. Talk to you soon.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More Spring.....

Here are my tomato seedlings sitting in the garden window being overseen by the Viking, which is a gift from Tor my dear blogger brother from Norway. The other photos are my stove turned into a summer plant stand :) and the backyard starting to get green. The lilacs will soon be blooming. Spring, spring, spring. Hope you are enjoying the new season too.