Saturday, December 25, 2021

Christmas 2021

 December 25, 2021

My second Christmas without Rick.  I foolishly thought this one would be easier, I was wrong.

With Jordan's help, I put up a Christmas tree.  With Rick's voice in my head, I painted cards, and I didn't get enough painted, so New Year's cards will be sent to those I missed.

But, it hasn't all been sad, friends have sent surprises, called  and sent wonderful wishes and love.  Family has done the same.  Jordan and I did our traditional outdoor Charlie Brown tree and we baked cookies. I had breakfast with my brother's family yesterday.  Both sisters invited me to their family gatherings today. But I chose to stay on the farm this Christmas day.  I need the outdoors, the space and the healing of of this place.

Last night was a good healing ugly cry.  My friend Christine is right, a good cry always makes you feel better.  Today the sun came up and as I glimpsed a few messages on FB, they were all full of love and kindness.  The song from years ago is right, " why can't every day be like Christmas."  If we could just capture that feeling and push replay any time we felt animosity toward each other.

It's warm in Alabama this week,  and that makes me envious of those who have snow and cold. The dogs are still sleeping, the wind is blowing and I smell the coffee brewing.  I wish all of you the Happiest and most Loving of Christmases today.  I hope your Christmas wishes come true.   

Friday, November 19, 2021


 November has always been my favorite month, Thanksgiving my favorite holiday.  I have been laboring hard the past few weeks, getting this farm ready for a winter's rest.  I watched the lunar eclipse ( well parts of it )  and thought about Rick, hoping that he was somewhere seeing the magnificent spectacle of a cold autumn night and mother nature's magic.

This will be my second holiday season without him.  I think the reality of it is that it's actually the first that I am fully aware.  Last year's season was just a passing of time, between family members with Covid and the crater of darkness that his passing created, the sunrises and sunsets happened without fanfare. I did decorate a tree and paint a few cards but that empty space consumed me.

It's not that you get use to the emptiness it just becomes a part of who you are.  Learning to live a life alone after spending 46 years with someone is a jigsaw puzzle of emotions and decisions.  Each of  us will or has handled loss differently.  When my parents and brother died, I threw myself into work but when Rick died I faced the ugliness of grief head on.  Covid and the isolation that it brought to the world caused so many of us to grieve alone.

I can tell you this, we who survived that grief and loss are not to be taken lightly.  My tolerance for greed, hate and ugliness has disappeared.  I know how quickly life can change, how precious moments are and those who have walked this path seem to be in agreement with me.

So Thanksgiving will continue to be different.  I will cook a bit this year.  I will as always ( even in the darkest of days) think of things to place on my gratitude list.  For me, friends hold a special place on that list, without those who stood by me  my life would be so cold and empty.  My animals, this farm gave me healing energy when I thought there was none and family, who even in their grief stood by me.

My hopes for the coming winter's rest is that creativity will blossom for me and that my body will continue to remain healthy and strong.  For others who are in the throes of grief, hold on.  Life changes, you will change, that's all I know.

Saturday, October 23, 2021


 October 23

It's been awhile, but to be honest getting the farm ready for winter is labor intense, especially when you are the laborer.

This morning there was dense heavy fog shrouding everything with a chill.  I made a pot of coffee, gave the dogs their morning treat and settled on the sofa to watch my day begin.  As always the birds came to say hello and eat their morning meal, I could hear the geese on the neighbors pond and the occasional ping of acorns as they dropped on the tin roof.

Most mornings I still shed tears, maybe I always will.  The stillness and silence and emptiness of the dawn reminds me Rick is gone.  I tried talking with the dogs, but they do not converse.  So I sip hot coffee and remember, good times and bad as I plan the day.  My old leather day planner is over 30 years old and it remains a  good and steady friend.  It has become my compass when there is darkness and a guide when life overwhelms me with its business of continuing.

After the fog lifts this morning the task of privet war begins.  Privets, hedges if you will, have tried their best to claim my back fence.  After a meeting with the saw today, they get doused with white vinegar and I dare them to rear their ugly faces again.  It has become personal, this battle of who controls my back fence and I intend to win.  My oldest sister battles them with a small torch and I warn them, I have one of those as well.

Fall is doing her best to appear, but she is slow to make an entrance down here in the south.  I love her and I wait for her.  I know that fall brings a calmer pace to the farm,  and not only does the earth begin to rest but I get to turn my energies to my creative side.  Finally with fall and winter, art and music get my attention and the labors of spring and summer wait for their turn sometime in the future.

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Power of Music

 August ended, September has arrived and he brought cooler temps, well 80's for highs and 60's for lows.

As I write these words this morning I am listening to Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers.  It's a big deal because I am listening to my old vinyl  and I am happy.  Before he died, Rick had gotten us a new turntable and gotten our old albums out of storage.  Last week, I finally started cleaning and shelving the albums, the first one I played....Delaney and Bonnie.

Listening to the music that helped to shape who I am has been such a release of emotions, good and bad.  Rick had given some of our albums to our nephew Michael many years ago.  Sadly Michael passed away and who knows what happened to those albums.   Frankly there are albums in my stacks that I looked at and thought why did I/we buy this.  I am sure at the time of purchase the reason was valid.

It is exciting to hear albums that I haven't heard in 30 years or so.  Rick was such a lover of all things new and technical.  When cds came out, he was jubilant.   We have have 100's of cds, but there were many obscure albums that  we owned which were never transferred to cd and I missed them.  My morning coffee  and evening reads  are truly more pleasurable listening to music that was as much a part of my life as Rick.

Gram Parsons was a major influence on our music.  His voice, his harmonies inspired us to put that raw emotion into what we created.

Another album that I have listened to this week, Leon Russell and Marc Benno, Asylum Choir.  Hearing Salty Candy again made me laugh and their version of Sweet Home Chicago brings back many memories.

I truly believe in the arts, without them I fear we humans will not survive.  Every trip we ever took to a new city, we visited museums, galleries, and listened to local musicians, watched local theatrical productions, ate foods we had never experienced, tried to always meet locals.  Learning as much as we could about about other places and people and absorbing new cultures was always our goal.  Everywhere we traveled , we expected to have a good time and you know, we always did.  

Music is powerful, it can bring joy, tears, trigger old memories, create new ones and be your best friend. I would be the first to admit that our taste in music was about eclectic as you can get.  Music educated me and opened my eyes and heart to the world around me.  Music was the bond that helped us share 46 years together, music introduced us to many of our dearest friends.  For several months after Rick died, I could not listen to music of any kind.  I knew in my heart the healing of my gaping wound would never take place until I could hear music and let it bathe my emotions.  I was right.

I hope there is music in your life today. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

A Life of Resistance

 July was quite a month, much rain, very hot and a great deal of work to do here on the farm.

August has been much of the same, but honestly I had rather deal with the rain instead of a drought.

This morning a friend shared an essay written by a Hopi Indian chief a few weeks ago.   The words were words I desperately needed to see and read.  I have printed a copy of it and it will be my morning meditation for awhile.

Before I share it with all of you, I will explain why I think these words resonated with my spirit today and felt like manna from heaven or a long drink of crystal cold water.

Several years ago when I was very sick and there were doctors from three different hospitals in Birmingham trying to figure out what was wrong, one of them suggested they reach out to the Mayo clinic on my behalf.  18 very large vials of blood later, several pages of questions about my health and my family's health, and encouraging words from the doc the package was sent to the clinic.  A few weeks later, I received basically a book/report from Mayo and the doctor at UAB.  I finally had answers and hope.  One of the biggies from Mayo was in depth information about my genetic makeup and DNA.

It turns out one of the diseases I was dealing with was because of my genetic makeup.  I am Irish, Native American and African American mix.  I found the results fascinating because my whole life since I was a child, I was drawn to people who looked different than me.  Friendships were always easy for me with those whose skin was not my color.

With all that being said, Native American culture has been something I have studied for years, the other interesting thing, through the years when I would meet elderly African Americans they always asked what tribe I was from. After getting that report, there were  many questions answered.  This essay that I am sharing with you today is about living a life of resistance.  It's not what you think, when you hear that word resistance and maybe you will be like me, when you read it you too will decide to follow a life of resistance.

Hopi Indian Chief White Eagle commented a few days ago on the current situation:
′′ This moment humanity is experiencing can be seen as a door or a hole. The decision to fall in the hole or walk through the door is up to you. If you consume the news 24 hours a day, with negative energy, constantly nervous, with pessimism, you will fall into this hole.
But if you take the opportunity to look at yourself, to rethink life and death, to take care of yourself and others, then you will walk through the portal.
Take care of your home, take care of your body. Connect with your spiritual home. When you take care of yourself, you take care of everyone at the same time.
Do not underestimate the spiritual dimension of this crisis. Take the perspective of an eagle that sees everything from above with a broader view. There is a social question in this crisis, but also a spiritual question. The two go hand in hand.
Without the social dimension we fall into fanaticism. Without the spiritual dimension, we fall into pessimism and futility.
Are you ready to face this crisis. Grab your toolbox and use all the tools at your disposal.
Learn resistance from the example of Indian and African peoples: we have been and are exterminated. But we never stopped singing, dancing, lighting a fire and rejoicing.
Don't feel guilty for feeling blessed in these troubled times. Being sad or angry doesn't help at all. Resistance is resistance through joy!
You have the right to be strong and positive. And there's no other way to do it than to maintain a beautiful, happy, bright posture.
Has nothing to do with alienation (ignorance of the world). It's a resistance strategy.
When we cross the threshold, we have a new worldview because we faced our fears and difficulties. This is all you can do now:
- Serenity in the storm
- Keep calm, pray everyday
- Make a habit of meeting the sacred everyday.
Show resistance through art, joy, trust and love.
Hopi Indian Chief White Eagle
July 9th 2021

Friday, July 16, 2021

One Year

 July 16, one year ago today my life changed forever.  There have been days that I didn't think I could go on and days I wished I wouldn't.  Part of me left with Rick, maybe he didn't mean to take it with him, but he did.  

All has changed, nothing has changed.  I'm keeping the farm the way he wanted, the dogs are fine, the chickens are happy.  It has been a cooler wetter than normal summer.  That means some crops have thrived some have not.  The blueberries were the tastiest ever and the hens are laying like crazy.

I almost see him sometimes out of the corner of my eye, I feel him daily.  I hear his voice urging me on, saying you can do this.  

I am finding my way, I have stumbled blindly so many times and fallen.  I find the strength to get back up, though it takes awhile and there is nothing easy about it.  The love and support of friends and family has been my fuel, without them, without his voice in the back of my head the will to live would have withered.

Today there is weed eating to be done,  the chicken pen/house has to be cleaned.  I slept very little last night, but all through the darkness, his voice was there for comfort, "you can do this."  Before I go to sleep tonight, there is one more thing that will have to be done...I am picking up my guitar for the very first time since he left and just for him I am singing a song.  That's my gift for him on this unwanted anniversary.

I think of the phrase he told everyone he met... How you doing, they would say?  and his answer..".I am living the dream."  We had an incredible dream together, I am left with the fragments but somehow some way, I am putting them back together and adding new parts.    Nothing will ever be the same,  but my answer now for that same question,  How you doing?...."I'm ok."   

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

4th of July

 July has arrived, on the 16th of this month a year will have passed since Rick died.  It seems like yesterday, it feels like forever.

The Fourth of July was our last holiday to celebrate, who knew in 12 days he would be dead?

His sister, Mary Lois invited me to her daughter's house for the holiday.  My nephew Haven invited me to his house.  I chose to stay home alone.  I got up that morning, feeling a kind of sacredness and a realization of the difference between lonesome and loneliness.  For me, I will always be lonesome because I miss him so much.  But I am not lonely.  Keeping this farm going, friends calling and visiting, daily chores,  still sorting out my life has kept the loneliness at bay.  But missing I miss him.

On Monday, the 4th I decided to take a leap of faith, a giant one.  I got out my paints and canvas and started to paint.  Other than my cards, I had not painted since his death.  Deciding on a subject to paint was easy, I had taken a photograph of flowers in the kitchen window a couple of months before he died.

He loved the photograph and kept asking me to paint it.  I did do a small water color card of the image, but me being my usual self critical self did not believe him when he told me he liked it.  I wish that I  could have bottled his confidence in my art and drank a sip every day.

So with a prayer to Rick, I sketched out the canvas with the image from the photo, but I added something that I did not capture with the camera.  I added my broken heart.  Tears and paint cover that canvas, but something happened to me as the salt and acrylic blended.  I felt at peace with myself and love from Rick.

I knew that for creativity to come back to me,  I couldn't push or force, it would come when the time was right.  I still have not picked up the guitar, but I now know, that too will come when the time is right.

This grief process is  not for the impatient.  Sure you can push it to the bottom of your soul, but I can assure you it will fester and come out in ways you never expected or might not recognize.  I didn't deal with the grief of my parents or my brother and my body and heart taught me how powerful and destructive unrecognized grief can be.

So in a very unusual way,  Independence Day brought me my independence and started the loosening of the chains on my creativity.  My celebration was not the average one, but it was the celebration I sought and needed.

There are two photos with this blog this morning, the original one I took of my kitchen window and the painting.  Fireworks of my own making.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

This Morning

 I awoke this morning with a heart overflowing with gratitude.  I was thinking of friends  and family members who have stood the test of time with me these last eleven months.  Some of them pulled me from the depths of darkness and never knew it.  I can't remember a morning since Rick died that I have not cried .  Many who grieve tell me the nights are the worst, and I agree nights are tough.  But for me, mornings are the toughest.  I have never liked Daylight Savings time, but now I dislike it even more.  The evenings drag on forever, the sunsets seem to hide on purpose waiting until I am coming out of my skin before they show their color and the stars take over the skies.  

There is something about night that allows me to breathe a sigh of relief.  I have made it through another day.  I might cry myself to sleep, I might toss and turn but I know the sun will rise tomorrow.

And then tomorrow comes.  The mornings were when we planned our day.  When we talked about about serious stuff, fluff, nothing and everything and tossed around ideas for columns and our blogs, as we drank our morning coffee.  We would sit on the deck or the screened porch,  if the weather gods were in our favor.  I would often chastise him about his phone, because even then it was in his hands, but that was Rick and for whatever the reason, he wanted to be connected 24/7.  We would pet the dogs, talk about how we lived in a piece of heaven and discuss breakfast, and listen to the hens cluck.  The mornings were sacred and we would both be a bit out of sorts if something robbed us of that time. 

So this morning before I looked at my phone, I spent some time sending love to those who have gone through this hard season with me.  I carry all of you in my heart, like tokens and charms of love and kindness.  Sometimes I call your names and see your faces, almost able to physically touch each one like a prayer bead.

When I did look at my phone, I laughed and cried.  My nephew James, the publisher of our daily paper and one of the papers that Rick wrote for had tagged me in a FB post.  Last night at the Alabama Press Association Awards, one of Rick's columns that he wrote for a paper in Birmingham, 280 Living, won first place for best humorous column.  Rick would be beside himself with joy.  Winning that award was something he had strived for.  I hope he is somewhere this morning drinking champagne and laughing, because that is what we would have done today.  Congratulations Babe, I kept telling you it would happen!  This morning just got better.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Summer's First

 She is the first for the summer of 2021.  I fell in love with gardenias as a child.  My grandmother Mamie had them in her flower garden.  Each time I smell that rich sweet, yet earthy fragrance I feel a beckoning. I think the scent is like the siren's call, reminding me summer is here, enjoy its bounty.  The purity of those white petals against the  malachite of her leaves gives me indescribable joy.  When I saw this first blossom on Monday by my grill, my first thought was of Rick.  I think he sent me a gift, because so far there are no other blossoms, plenty of buds, but no other blooms.

Every summer, I fill the house with gardenia blossoms.  She makes the heat and humidity of summer tolerable.  There are a least a dozen bushes on the farm.  Most are taller than me, some have the circumference of my Outback.  Some years the flowers are small, but if this first one is any indication of this year, they are going to be large.

Our friends, Keith and Roberta's wedding was one of those wonderful memories forever etched in my brain.  Rick and I were in the wedding party, we took the photographs, it was the day before my birthday and it was in NYC.  They had gardenia bushes in full bloom for their flowers.  Not sure where they got them in March, in NYC but I think of their wedding and the happiness we all shared when I see gardenias.

The temps are rising, so is the humidity.  There is rain this morning and for most of the week. But the gardenias will bloom and as nature has shown me so many times since Rick has died, life goes on.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021


 " Blessed are those who do not fear solitude, who are not afraid of their own company, who are not always desperately looking for something to do, something to amuse themselves with, something to judge. If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself."  -Paulo Coelho

A friend sent this quote to me this morning and I smiled.  I believe in synchronicity.  I have been thinking for the past couple of weeks how being alone during the pandemic with my grief has been a gift.

It's been ten months now since Rick died.   Three, almost four seasons have passed and each has brought endings, beginnings, darkness and light.  Those first few weeks after that horrible night were hot and oppressive.  The shock and knowledge of tasks that had to be done, completions of projects he had started, moved me forward in a weird slow motion .  It was mid-July, all around the pandemic was hitting its stride and other than phone calls, emails, cards and messages the outside world had disappeared for me.  My brother and his wife, their daughter and grandson who lived with them became the only humans that I saw on a regular basis and even that was social distanced.

There were some projects on the farm he had started that I couldn't do by myself, but with the help of a couple of friends,  and my nephew they were  completed.  I spent most days on the phone those first couple of blistering hot months taking care of the business that a spouse gone suddenly left  behind. 

I was beginning to understand grief.  I had buried my parents and an older brother, but I pushed my grief far  down into the recesses of my heart, went back to work and tried to understand when unexplained tears came.  But this isolation,  taking care of business, maintaining the farm and the hours of being alone day after day made me face my grief for Rick, made me acknowledge how I dealt with pain, sadness, exhaustion and who I was.

Fall brought comfort yet  deep grief as well.  The blue skies, the changing of the leaves and cooler temps brought with them memories of how much Rick loved fall, but how much I loved it as well.  Walking through the crunch of brown leaves,  the geese arriving at a nearby pond and deer walking by my front windows triggered sobbing and wailing that I had never experienced before.  Being alone,  I made myself find gratitude even when my face was buried in a pillow wet with tears.

Winter and its starkness and grey skies gave me a different perspective on holidays.  Not being with friends and family, not pushing through  each holiday trying to hold on to old traditions,  I began to understand what was important to me.  It was not being in a house full of people, opening gifts, and yet never really connecting with anyone, what did matter was wishing peace to all those I loved, blessings of good health and joy and how wonderful a fire was on cold winter night or the sweetness of a cup of hot tea or cocoa.  Those surprises of handmade gifts that appeared in the mail, roses that appeared out of the blue, a painting that sits on my mantle. The bare trees gave me a strange connection to grief.  I felt the loss of all those leaves that  had fallen and yet I knew the trees would see leaves again in the spring.  Nature brought me memories of Rick, and all that time alone gave me the gift of fully grieving my loss.

Spring brought a cruelness I did not expect.  I had anticipated new beginnings, the excitement of renewal.  The clear blue skies and the explosion of new growth made me angry and sad.  I had spent the holidays and his birthday alone, for some reason I had not given much thought to being alone for my birthday and when it arrived in March, along with forsythia and violets and honeysuckle and green leaves it hit hard.  I realized the grief still lurked in every cell of my body, waiting for each opportunity to stab a bit more.

My fellow widow friends tell me this year of firsts is the worst.  The firsts are not always the big ones you expect either.  It's the first cup of coffee without him, the first meal you cook, the first hummingbird you see, the first snowflake, the first ripe blueberry, the first time you get sick and realize you are alone and the dogs are not very sympathetic.

I made it through what would have been our 47th anniversary on May 5th.  On July 16th I will face the anniversary of his death.

So here is what I have learned about myself during all this time alone.  I have faced grief head on, and though there were times I wish it had killed me, it didn't.  Other cultures deal with grief differently, I think most of us deal with it as I had in the past.   We were sad, we cried some tears and hurt, yet we forced ourselves to continue life as usual.  For me, grief in the pandemic has been a sacred ritual, a cleansing of my mind, and spirit.  I know what is important to me and what isn't, that working to the point of exhaustion  brings sleep when nothing else will,   I have learned to let tears flow freely, that it's ok to experience anger and fear and that breathing always helps.  Being alone has made me much less tolerant of BS, much less tolerant of hate, and very much aware of how loss and suffering have come to so many since 2019.   

My wish for myself and all of you continues to be peace and good health.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

April 1

 March came in like a lion and pretty much behaved that way towards me the whole time she stayed. April 1, today is beautiful and cold, we will see what she brings.

Losing Taz at the beginning of the month was a true heartbreaker for me, but I got my first vaccine that next week, I felt hopeful.

My friends in the widow's club had urged me to prepare for all these firsts, this first year of widowhood.

I was ready when Rick's birthday came in January and  I faced Valentine's Day bravely.  For some reason I had given no thought to  my birthday in March.  That first birthday alone knocked the wind out of my sails.  I was not ready to face my 69th birthday alone.  There were calls, and cards and messages, but it was a very difficult day.

As often happens we had violent weather in March, my chicken house flooded twice, a massive tree fell on my backyard fence, limbs fell on the chicken pen.  I was lucky, many across the state lost their homes, some lost their lives.  Rick loved spring, but I have always faced it with a bit of fear and lots of respect because we live in a tornado alley.  Being alone with the dogs as warnings came was frightening.

Unexpected repairs cropped up in March along with vet bills, and as Rick would say, life happens.

Another first I had not given much thought about, taxes.  For most of our married life, I had paid the bills, but he always handled the taxes.  Suddenly I was faced with personal taxes and his business taxes to sort. Panic and anxiety raised their ugly faces.

March/spring always brought excitement because we/I live on a farm.  Lots of physical work (added to what is done daily) plans for the growing season,  and routine maintenance. I pruned fruit trees, readied growing beds, mulched blueberry bushes, and I have learned to operate our John Deere mower.  I admit, I am in even better shape than I was when I taught 12 to 15 yoga classes weekly.

The scariest part about March, I found myself becoming a procrastinator.  That has never been a part of my personality but it has surfaced and now I find myself pushing to take care  of things that have to be done.    

It has been 8 months since Rick died and there are still days I find myself on the sofa sobbing.   It's not the work or living alone that gets me, it is the sheer emptiness of not having him  here.  I am reminded daily of the hole. Seeing the first hummingbird, the first dandelion, the fruit trees blooming, the first butterfly or bee has been gut wrenching, because those were moments we delighted in together.  The Sipsey River has been at a record crest this week and each time I drove by I looked the other way.  He would have been there taking pictures.

I write these blogs, not for sympathy but in hopes that as others join this club I can help them navigate their path and transformation.  I knew many widows, friends and family.  I knew their hearts were broken with their loss, but none of them ( at least not to me) talked about what it was really like to lose that spouse or partner.    I try to paint an honest and open picture of how my life has changed, my transformation since day one.

I get my second vaccination next week, I hope April is kind, to me and to all of you.  I hope it is a very long time before you become a club member.

PS. the photo is my wildflower garden

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Story of Taz

 She came to us on a frigid February night, a scratching on the door so faint, we thought it might  be the wind.  But the scratch became frantic and when I opened the front door, there she sat.  She was a little fur ball the size of a five pound bag of sugar, shivering in the cold darkness.  I brought her in, wrapped her in my warm fuzzy robe and fixed her some food.  She gulped the food, and inhaled a small bowl of water.

I made her a warm bed in front of the fireplace.  We went to bed and minutes later I felt something on my feet.  She had somehow jumped onto our bed and found the place she would be for the rest of her life.

We named her Taz and she created her place with Caliou  and in our hearts.   As most dogs who appear at our door, she had some serious health issues, but we have a good vet and as Rick always said with each dog that appeared and we wrote the vet a check,  we didn't really need to go on vacation anyway.

She bonded with me.  I think because we both had an intense love for fine leather shoes.  She never chewed my shoes, but she would go to my closet and pick out the finest leather, bring it to the sofa and sleep with it.  You could hear these soft little moans of love for the smell and the feel of the leather.  Her biggest delight and greatest joy was when she dragged a 30 year old pair of knee high Gucci boots onto the couch.  

Taz arrived during the midst of some treatments I was receiving and after each one, when I would be so ill, she would curl up beside me on the sofa, never leaving me, even when my head  seemed to stay in a waste basket for hours heaving.  Rick always said she was a gift and he was right.

After Rick died in July, she truly became my shadow, never letting me out of her sight.  If I left to pick up groceries or supplies she met me at the door. I would pick her up and tell her I would always be there for her, I would never leave her.  At night, just as she had since the night she arrived, she slept with me.

I knew she was was aging, that is the heartbreaker about loving dogs, their time is so short with us.

In February when the snow and ice came, she struggled with our daily walks to the barn.  Her breathing was starting to be more labored.  I knew there was heart and lung damage from all those years ago, and I made sure every day I told her how much she meant to me, how much I loved and needed her.

The first week of March, breathing became difficult and I took her to the vet.  I was fearing the worst, and it was not good but we had hopes with the right meds her little heart might beat awhile longer.

On March 4, at 1:15 am she woke me up, she wanted to go outside so we did and she walked around the back yard one last time.  We came back into the house and around 3:30 that little tiny heart that was so big, beat for the last time.

I have grieved deeply for her.  I look for her everywhere,  and now not only do I reach for Rick at night, but Taz as well.  The big dogs, Kodak and Hook miss her too.  But Rick and I talked often about the aging process of humans and dogs and we had decided months before he died that Kodak would be the last rescue.  It takes tremendous resources to take in rescues, it's expensive ( they always have health issues, usually serious ones) and the bond that forms is unconditional love on their part and gratitude and love on the human part. 

Love on any level comes with a price and sacrifice.  Whether it is for another human or a creature, to love with all your heart means if you live long enough, that heart will be broken.  But what can I tell you, lasting love is so worth it.

RIP  Taz.

Friday, February 26, 2021

I Know

 "I don't believe, I know."   - Carl Jung

I read this quote this morning and began to think about what I know today.

1. I know  my life changed forever with Rick's death on July 16.

2. I know  the moon still rises and the sun still shines.

3. I know  I am stronger than  I thought I was.

4. I know  grief and loss is always a part of life.

5. I know  Jason Isbell is right, it gets easier, but it never gets easy.

6. I know  the love of friends and family is the best gift I have ever received. 

7. I know  I still have the ability to laugh at myself.

8. I know  rainy days can be great and sunny days can be heartbreaking.

9. I know  my daily mantra has become, keep me healthy and strong.

10. I know  there are no answers to most of my questions.

11. I know  a cup of hot tea, a good book and a fire in the fireplace is comfort.

12. I know  my dogs bring me great joy.

13. I know  walking in the woods is medicine.

14. I know  life  goes on.

15. I know in the scheme of things, I know nothing.  Strange but true.

In the words of Sarah Breathnach, I don't have to just believe anymore, I know.  Sending you all wishes for peace and comfort today.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Winter Storm

 We have been issued a winter storm warning.  If it were for snow, I would be so happy, but this one is for ice.  Those of you who have dealt with ice you know this can get ugly.  My hope for these next few days,  beautiful scenes and no loss of power.  I added another layer of cedar shavings in the hen house yesterday for warmth, more hay in the nesting boxes and I encouraged the girls to huddle.  The pantry is full, my propane tank is full and I will make sure to charge my phone fully today.  I have bird seed and suet and will leave the faucets on a slow drip.  The cold won't last long but it has been bitter the past few days.

There is a difference in dry cold and wet cold.  Both can be bitter and deadly, but my bones and body react to wet cold more extremely.  The joints ache, the migraine knocks, the lungs demand oxygen.  Layers of clothing, hot tea, hot baths and deep breaths, those are my remedies this morning.  

I walk regardless of the weather.  Walking through these woods is my saving grace, my healing balm. Each day is different, the light is changing.  As spring approaches, somehow the light becomes more effervescent and even on grey cloudy days the skies seem to weigh less, and there is more air to breathe.

Some of the trees are starting to bud and everywhere you look, even in the middle of February, the earth is awakening here.  Daffodils are pushing through the wet soil, spots of white appear and you know soon there will be toadstools and mushrooms.  Patches of moss are spreading and the shades of green on a cold winter's day appear in stark contrast to the blackness of dirt.  A wood hen hammers on a tree, a squirrel yells obscenities and the dogs bring me a turtle and that was my walk yesterday morning.

Day is breaking now, songbirds are singing, reminding me this is Valentine's Day.  My mom always told  me that this is the day birds mate, maybe that is why there is so much music this morning.  Even the crows are joining in and the hens jealous for attention ,have started their morning clucks.  

Valentine's Day was never an over the top celebration with Rick.  Sometimes he picked up flowers at Walmart, sometimes he forgot to get a card, sometimes I got perfume but he always picked up a bottle of wine and I cooked something special for dinner.  If you are with your Valentine today, give them an extra hug and kiss, you won't regret it.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Fire and Rain

 February 1, 2021

For many years the house  I grew up in,  was heated by two coal burning fireplaces and a coal burning Warm Morning heater in the kitchen corner.  It was only a four room house so we stayed cozy most winters.  We lived in coal mining country, coal was cheap and plentiful.

I learned early the value, the beauty and danger of fire.  I remember the warmth of flames and embers on skinny little legs covered by a flannel nightgown and the yells of my mother warning me not to stand to close.  I can close my eyes and still see the grate holding the burning coals, the glow and depth of the red embers and oily smell of burning coal.  It seemed that even the belly of the heater had a glow when daddy would pour a scuttle of fresh coal in its mouth.

I suppose it was those winters that instilled in me a love and respect of fire.  As I grew older I realized that fire had played many roles in history, and that it had been a part of many stories and myths.  I think in wonder of what it must have been like to live in that earliest of civilizations when man and fire found each other.

When I worked at the addiction center, those with  PTSD, trauma and grief were required to come to my class.  As I listened to their stories, as I pursued my studies and involvement in helping those in recovery,  I understood that fire could be a release in many ways.  I encouraged students to write letters to those who had hurt them, to those that they needed to forgive but couldn't find the voice or courage, write letters.  Write letters describing in great detail, pain, hurt, anger, hate, fear, sadness, grief  and then...burn that letter.

Let the fire release and take away all those words and feelings.  Fire is extremely cathartic and healing. It can be an incredible first step in forgiveness and letting go.

Because Rick's death had been so traumatic for me, I knew at some point I needed to light a fire. I had wanted to do it on his birthday, but the weather would not let me.

Last Sunday, our good friend Fred ( who happens to be a trauma counselor at the center where I had worked) came over and helped me burn and release.  We spent close to six hours burning a fire almost as big as my great room.  Now much of the wood that was the base of the fire had been there since last spring when storms had blown down trees and limbs but Rick just never got around to burning it.  Since I order many of my supplies I had saved boxes for the past few months and a couple of months of newspapers as well.

As the fire started to burn, I had a long handled pitch fork, and Fred brought his "poker" that he uses in the fires with his work.  I had prepped the area around the mound, raking away pine straw, making sure there was no plastic, glass or metal in the pile.  As the fire took life and began to burn, we talked a bit at first, but then Fred started to explain that fire was much like life, and to live, it had to breathe.  We spent the next few hours, poking and prodding that fire with Fred reminding me to breathe, to let the fire breathe and to let go.

Once the fire had burned down to smoking logs, Fred left.  The clouds were rolling in and there were sprinkles dropping from the sky.  In an hour or so, I knew there was still unfinished business with me and the fire.  I went back out and grabbed my fork and started the poking and prodding, soon there were flames rising from those log, tears were falling down my cheeks, and rain and darkness were moving in.

For an hour in the rain and the darkness, I stood and watched those flames finally begin to wither.  All I could think of by then was James Taylor's song, Fire and Rain.  I had seen them both.

Today in Ireland, the Irish celebrate St. Brigid.  She is much older than Christianity, she was a Celtic goddess, so beloved by the Irish that the Church canonized her.  She is the Goddess of holy wells, fire and healing, and poetry.  With my Irish heritage, it seemed fitting to write this blog about fire and healing today.  Perhaps it is in my genes, this love of fire, poetry and healing.   I  can tell you this, that fire last weekend was healing in many ways.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Sunrise Magic

 There is power in the sunrise.  I have always loved to watch the sunrise and set, but to be honest even though Rick and I were always early risers we didn't always stop to watch the magic.  That changed with the isolation Covid 19 brought.  We began to look forward to the sunrise with the anticipation of small children waiting for Santa.  Watching the sun come up became a ritual with coffee, conversation and observation and I have continued that ritual, though the conversation is one sided, unless you count the comments of the dogs barking at the shadows of the morning.

Every sunrise is different, much like our lives.  Some mornings it is only shades of grey finally meandering into a semblance of light.  Then there are mornings with color so beautiful that the Great Master artists would weep because they cannot replicate the beauty on canvass.  

As the sun stretches across the horizon, you feel the earth begin to awaken.  Birds start to sing, chipmunks and squirrels and deer slowly move through the dead leaves and bare trees.  The sun rise brings the promise of a new day.  A new day brings the promise of hope, possibilities and opportunities .

The sunrise reminds me that there is comfort in knowing yesterday is now behind me.  What ever yesterday brought, good or bad is now stored in my brain as a memory and this new day brings the ability to create new and even better memories.  If there is sadness, it helps to remind you of your strength and courage, because you got out of bed to see this new day.

I hear the hens clucking each morning, they are reminding me they have done their duty, eggs are laid and now it is time for me to feed them.  I walk through the morning light, sometimes in rain, wind and fog to feed those chatting girls, they rub against my legs, wanting me to reach down and smooth their feathers, demanding that corn be given in gratitude for their hard work.

As the day brightens, my world becomes more clear. There are dew drops hanging on brown dried leaves and I breathe in air so clean and crisp it makes me laugh.  That is the magic of the sunrise, it makes the ordinary sparkle like the precious jewel that it is.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Happy Birthday Rick, I Love You More

 All of these firsts, you know they are coming, you think you are prepared...but you are not.

Today Rick would have been 70 years old.  I would have painted him a birthday card, cooked any  meal he wanted, bought him a gift,  and we would have had a bottle of champagne tonight.  Last year we spent his birthday weekend at Mentone which is a beautiful artist community in the mountains near us.

As we celebrated his birthday last year, we talked about plans for my birthday in March, plans for our anniversary in May and possibly a trip back to Ireland in the fall.  Covid hit mid-March and our plans were put on hold.  On July 16, the day he died, all plans were cancelled and my normal disappeared.

Today is his birthday, tomorrow will be six months since he passed.  People keep asking how am I doing?  I have no answer for that.  I say ok, but ok is relative to each day.  All I can do is share with you what I have done in six months.   Get out of bed, get dressed, take care of animals, do chores around the farm, take care of the house, breathe, walk in the words, cry, handle business affairs that were left by a sudden death, reach out to friends, read, paint,  deal with surprises, mourn for all those I know that Covid has taken, do everything I know to stay healthy, talk to Rick constantly, and slowly begin to patch my life and my broken heart, knowing that the hole never heals. 

I know he has many friends and family who miss him,  but missing him is only a part of the picture of my life without him.  I reach for him, strain to hear his voice, hunger for his touch, remember his smell, thirst for our conversations with our morning coffee, say absurd things to each other, laugh over the mundane,  and shed tears sometimes,  being in the car together, writing songs and performing together, walking these woods...this list could go on for days.

My friends in the widow's club keep telling me this year of firsts is the worst, I believe them.  But I still make myself find gratitude every day, in sunsets, frozen fog, emails and calls . There is still so much beauty in the world and I truly look for it every day and you know, I always find it.

So today on his birthday, I hope he is celebrating all the beauty that he saw and captured in his photographs, that he is feeling all the love from his friends, family and me.  Today, no matter how much I miss him, I celebrate his birth and know that he touched many lives because he lived 69 years. 

Happy Birthday Rick!   I love you more.

Friday, January 1, 2021


 Five in the morning, January 1, 2021.  I think the world breathed a collective sigh at midnight.  For those of us who survived 2020 and our loved ones didn't , today has probably not been one of celebration but of realizing that we made it.

Rain is coming down this morning and it is unusually warm, a very mild 65 degrees and storms are approaching.  I can feel the atmosphere changing, the pressure is shifting as though 2021 is pushing her way into our lives.  Maybe this is her way of showing us there is strength left in us, that we are stronger than what we think.

New Years was one of Rick's favorite celebrations.  He loved the idea of a clean slate, of starting everything anew.  He was the resolutions king.  He would make a list, then a mind map, then a recording of his resolutions and listen to them almost daily.  My attitude toward the New Year drove him crazy.

Basically, I make a Vision Board and look at it daily.  That board usually contains pictures of places I want to visit, music gigs I want to play, pictures of the two of us enjoying life, family and friends. And of course always positive thoughts.  That was in the past.  This year, I am still trying to figure out how to function without Rick.  I have come to understand that I can't fix the hole, it has to heal itself.  I have to honor how I feel every day and what it takes for me to survive each day.  To make a Vision Board, you have to have a vision, mine is still out of focus.

I spent yesterday working on the chicken pen, again.  Just when I thought those girls were housed in the perfect coop, a hawk tried to invade their home.  I reinforced the netting across the top of the open run and fingers are crossed that did the trick.  I am grateful for my hens, they entertain and provide me with problems that have to be solved.  The three dogs do that as well.  Hook has a nail that is  ripped because he dug a hole six inches deep by the back fence, so that Kodak could escape daily.  The fence is fixed, now to work on Hook's nail.

My hopes for this year are simple, we as humans open our hearts to kindness toward each other, we as a world work together to end this pandemic, and I find my way to the life that is waiting for me to resume.

I hope that 2021 lifts the burden that so many I know have carried.  I know there is much work to be done on ourselves and that there is still a rough ways to go.  Responsibility has to be accepted, sleeves rolled up and we must be willing to work hard for each other and our world.  I think our world is worth it, the human race is worth it.  

As the wind and rain grow more energetic outside this morning, I know there is always sunshine behind every dark cloud, you just have to make it through the storm.  You might come out of the storm bruised and beaten, but when the sun peeks through, there is hope.  And that is what I have for 2021, hope.