Monday, September 30, 2013

Keep Walking

It's so hard to believe this is the third year I will celebrate my father's birthday without him. Although I still miss him terribly, I am grateful to be in a different place than I was that first year he was gone. I still have an aching void in my heart today. I want to make chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin pie. I want to buy and wrap western shirts and cowboy boots. I want to sing Happy Birthday, tell him to make a wish, and kiss his cheek...
The following is a personal narrative I wrote for my Writing class last semester. It is based on a letter I wrote and released that first year (six months after my father's death). Each time I read this, I am brought back. I remember how much I hurt because that is just how much I loved him. How grateful I am for my father's love, his many examples to me of forgiveness, kindness, charity, and optimism. Daddy was my person.

As with any trial or loss, there are good things to glean through them. It is sometimes difficult to see and feel God's love all around us as we travel through the cold darkness of grief. How grateful I am to have arrived to this place--this day--stronger and surer than ever before that life and love are ETERNAL. I will love you forever...until we meet again, Happy Birthday Daddy! xoxoxo

Dearest Beach-Comber,
            If you find this letter, know that it was written more as a token of gratitude for the sea than anything else. I wonder what beach you’re standing on and what burdens you might carry today, whether your favorite beach is as comforting a place for you as my little beach has been for me, or if what I have to say will resonate with you in any way. I realize the probability of this message in a bottle surviving the open sea, washing up on the shore, and reaching you is against all odds.  I only know I must release this and keep walking …
My soul felt as cold and gloomy as the weather in Carlsbad that May of 2010.  A fog-laden layer of cold air sat over the California coastline for most of the summer.  I too had been socked in. How glad I was that the Sea and sky above her didn’t mock me with warmth and light.  It made it easier for me to come and lay my burdens at her feet. I walked miles and miles each week marveling at her ability to nurture me on any given day. On those occasional beautiful Southern Californian days we had that summer, I instinctively came to her anyway, knowing she always gave to me exactly what I needed. I lapped up her warm, delicious offerings like a hungry, orphaned child. Unable to find peace and comfort on my own, I sought refuge, clarity, and communion as I met the Sea each day and walked her water’s end.
As I met with the Sea daily at her shoreline, I mourned the loss of my father: my beloved, steady parent and friend. Together, the Sea and I questioned out loud the notion that God never gives us anything we cannot handle.  She allowed me space enough to travel through the questions, knowing the answers would come and meet me. Many times when simply walking beside her was not enough, I’d throw off my sundress and step into her, as if to say “I need a hug today.”  Within her, all my thoughts and feelings moved as freely as her liquid currents. Intuitively, I laid back, releasing what seemed like buckets of salty tears and choking childlike sobs into her buoyant, maternal crèche – preserved for just a moment.  She felt kindred to me. Her ebb and flow was not much different than my own soul’s stillness and searching, or my heart’s break and continuum.  Centered in her wise, watery wake, I was once again able to reconnect with my own breath, reaffirming there is a rise and fall in everything. As an unassuming counselor, she whispered;”This is the rhythm of all living.”
Deep into July, I realized I was no longer trudging through the sand and my grief. My walks naturally became more leisurely. Like the sore, tight, and weary dancer who soaks in Epsom salts, an ample portion of my pain and stiffness had been drawn out through the soles of my feet, pulled away, and released into her vast oceanic basin.  I occasionally stopped to garner pieces of her: smooth stones, diminutive driftwood, small shells, and cloudy shards of glass. I took this precious time to gather myself as well. I carefully sifted and sorted, discovering lost pieces of self, either forgotten or shelved.  As I travelled home with gauzy pockets wet and weighed down with her treasures, less obvious were those intangible gifts gleaned through grief.
Ironically, August brought answers in the form of questions. “Could it be possible my father’s death -- the worst thing that has ever happened to me –is the thing that will lift me up and deliver me to my best and truest self?”  I thought, “Can this surging tide of grief be swallowed up in something meaningful – something good?” My suffering moved me—no pushed me— towards truths. At that point, I had no choice but to look and stare down my realities and either befriend or change them. As never before, I found myself contemplating what I wanted to accomplish and become before I died. Time spent in thoughtful introspection aroused the realization that I had made life too small for myself. I was living a boxed life. And although there seemed to be no easy way out, my profound loss forced me to let go of the lid, freed again to both reach and surrender. With a little more faith in every footstep, I finally began to see God’s handwriting in the sand.
            The last days of September brought the end of summer and my father’s birthday. Just days before, I felt myself slipping backward. Armed with sunshine and serotonin, I caught myself and fought back. I realized what Daddy would want for his birthday. Although I wished with all of my heart I could have bought his present and beautifully wrapped it for him, as I did in years past, I decided to write and release my gift to him. As cathartic and restoring as my walks had become, I had withdrawn from living.  With the Sea as my only companion, I distanced myself from everyone and everything else that I loved.  My father died. That was the awful truth. But, I knew in my heart, if he were there with me, he would have said, “Honey, all I see you doing is going to the beach every single day. You can keep walking, but start living!” On what would have been my father’s 71st birthday, I gently let go of the bottle and began to do both.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Spiritual Ink

Theres Nothing to writing   Quotes about Writing 
            I can remember all of my teachers throughout elementary school referring to me as a writer. Girlishly giddy, I wondered if that was really true. In junior high my favorite English teacher, Ms. Hennessey, said that "I should really think about writing someday" because my stories were so beautiful. When I think about my child-self, my little girl memories, all that young girl wanted to be was a storyteller, a poet, an actress, a person who gathers words like a florist chooses flowers and then arranges them in beauteous bouquets, delivering them to delighted recipients. I believe there has always been a writer within me. For me, writing is spiritual and connects me to all living.
            Secretly, I have never stopped hoping that one day I would become that writer my teachers all recognized in me. At a certain point, I’m not sure when, I abandoned that youthful dream and I connected with other callings that fit: homemaker, wife, mother, and now grandmother. I found usefulness, beauty, and nobility in each of these roles. I love all of these defining hats, but what I still want to be, in a dreamy far-off kind of way, is a writer. When I write, I can see things that I can’t otherwise see. I become less "stuck" and my thoughts and feelings flow freely from my fingertips. I am able to make peace with my past and frolic with the future in a way that gently moves me towards God and quietly reassures me of our infinite worth to Him as flawed and fragile human beings. At my keyboard, things make perfect sense, in flashes and glimpses, and thoughts and emotions line up into black and white rows. Those little lines feed me and fuel me, like a power smoothie sliding down the back of my throat. Somewhere along the way I forgot I am a writer. My pink and white dreams faded and I shelved this intrinsically natural and creative piece of me.
            At forty seven, I needed to write like middle aged men need sports cars. The unexpected death of my sweet father left me murky, tangled, and teary. I know now that my loss and introspection placed me on a path back to myself. I found writing as one of my first markers. When I was engulfed in grief, I wrote about it. When I was lonely, displaced, and as I watched my only daughter and last child bolt from nest to New York, I wrote about it. When I needed to find a class (any class) to fill my nights while my husband travelled on business, I chose an Adult Ed. writer’s workshop and began writing as therapy. It was there I began to reconnect with my own wholeness-- physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
             This past semester  has been an extension of all of that. As time consuming and stressful as it sometimes was working and going back to college, I welcomed the opportunity to write each week for English class, as I excavated and polished the raw, the emotional, and the very spiritual. My love for the written word and my ability to massage thoughts and feelings and lay them down, line upon line, is inherent. It is real. I have been refreshed in the basics, giving me the confidence to continue nurturing this heavenly gift. As I leave this first, and oh—so—important writing class, I do so with a renewed gratitude and reverence for all  of the written word around me, those words and teachings written by the hand of God, and for the secular writing  that continues to both inspire and sustain me. I have joyously reclaimed my right to write in an active form of communion with myself, God, and my pen.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


If you know me well, you know that Valentine's Day is my favorite day of the year. I adore hearts, all things red and love. What's not to like... I mean love? My heart's especially full this year. My husband and I were married on Valentine's Day. For us, this usually means really celebrating a lot in one day. This year's no different, but we've got a head start on our day. It's suddenly dawned on me that this day isn't just about us anymore. I mean it still is, but it's expanded in a way I never thought it would. I've always been about perfect pictures and I didn't see this everyday family portrait coming.
 So far this month has been filled with school, sickness, work demands and  a lot more ... But, it's still our love month! I'm grateful for weekends (even if we spent an entire Saturday and Sunday sick in bed). I can't remember ever being sick at the same time. Who has time for that when you're raising kids? Someone has to always pretend they're well if nobody else is! It was sort of novel to lay around in pajamas all weekend together, comparing aches, pains and temperatures. Aside from feeling lousy, it was kind of fun. I know, I must be losing it.
Last weekend we spent an entire Saturday together gathering things for a Valentine's Day love package for our daughter in NYC. My husband has always had two Valentines since the day Megan was born. He loves his other girl and I love that. I usually do creative stuff for Meg, but this year we joined forces. We had such a great day together. It was ordinary stuff like picking out Godiva truffles, searching for the perfect Hallmark cards, with pit stops to places like Victoria's Secret and Free People. My husband didn't seem to mind. She really is the crowning jewel of our love, making it only natural for us to want to make sure she knows she's loved and remembered on this day of days (our day). She'll have a Valentine of her own soon enough. She let us know this morning her package had arrived in the nick of time. Whew... we were sweating it! We barely made it to the post office on time before it closed. Next year we'll start earlier.
On Monday night I said, "We should make a Valentine's date with Kali and Ryder this week!" As much as I love those little Grand babies of mine, I couldn't believe those words flew out of my mouth! My husband said, "On our Anniversary?" I think I blew him away. The fourteenth of February has always been sacred to me, a couples only day of obligation. I laughed out loud, "Well, maybe not on Valentine's Day. How about this week though?" We picked out love related children's books, Valentine cards and assorted V-Day candy for them on Saturday, so we were ready! We agreed a date would be fun, but maybe before Valentine's Day. So we invited the littles and their parents to dinner last night.  And guess what those babies brought with them?... handmade Valentines for Papa and Grand Ma-Ma. It was a LOVE FEST! 
I am not at all sure anything else that is planned for tomorrow is more important or better than anything I just listed. WOW... I never saw that one coming. I have to say, I always thought I would identify Valentine's Day with candlelight dinners, long stemmed red roses, lingerie, and fancy hotels. I still really like those things. I'm not old yet. But, I love our life together- just life. And if I had to be sick this month, I'm glad it was with him. And if I had to raise that blended family of ours all over again, he's the one I'd want to do it with.  Even if I dreamed up a perfect daughter, she couldn't have possibly been as amazing as the one I had with him. They say a picture is worth a thousand words... But, I'll add just three. I love them (all of them and those not pictured). Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Older and Wiser

The past two weeks have been tough. I am not complaining because I chose to go back to school. I chose tough. I usually do. Why you say? I ask myself that same question almost daily. Somehow I have survived all these years without a bachelor's degree. Can't I live without one? The truth is... I am a woman in search of her self (yes, I intentionally separated her from self). I must descend to my own depth. It's how I do it. I am leaving behind my old safe role of wife and mother for a time. That season has served me well. I am more because of those roles. Saying goodbye to what was has been a bittersweet journey for me. I have shed thousands of tears not because it's over, but because it's different. The murk has finally settled.  It's time to plunge downward into the deep and seemingly bottomless and see what's left to explore. Please understand descension is not a bad thing. As I descend, I touch on a strength and a certainty that is shaken loose from within me. I rediscover that easy is not always synonymous with better.
My parent's relatively early deaths started this process for me. I didn't understand then that this began as I sat next to my dying father. I can remember holding his hand and saying out loud, "This is it? I hope it was happy Daddy. I hope you know how much you were loved and it was enough. Was your life what you wanted it to be?" I think I processed those questions for both of us. That conversation was the catalyst for something that I didn't even understand was happening to me at the time. And so I left my first role as faithful daughter behind as I eulogized my father (as I did my mother) and threw fistfuls of family soil over his casket. That was the beginning of a three year process: my own private dive into my depth.  
Barely able to catch my breath, I was faced with my husband's temporary unemployment and a daughter (my baby) on the brink of college. Many decisions were made like going back to work to help out until Pat could find a good job fit. This was done out of necessity, not giving much pause to consider what state I was in. I just channeled all my grief into tangibles like work and helping my family, ignoring the widening chasm within that desperately needed attention. Again, saying goodbye to another role, (at least in the way I had grown comfortable in it) a role that had defined me for thirty years. I descended deeper to a place of such intense loss and void, forcing me ever downward. I still  struggle to find wholeness there. There are days I am able to enjoy it for what it is: a job well done; a  deserved repose after a lifetime of giving and nuturing. Occassionally, I am blindsided by my internal struggle that feels like Gloria Steinem and June Cleaver engaged in a tug of war. if you know me, you know that I will always and forever cheer for June!
I have descended to this place of unformed as I re engage in a new kind of life and now college work. Occasionally, I indulge in if only I had gone back sooner, quickly realizing that's counter productive. Intentionally, I chose motherhood as my magnum opus and it came first. All of this now is a late second. I have no regrets. But, today.. I am my own  great work. That feels incredibly selfish and foreign and strangely exciting at the same time. So I choose rough, different, and challenging for my upward ascension. In my fifties I will birth something new. I am feeling my way around a new mode of being and lifestyle. I have less time to fuss, nest and cook. And oh how I love all of those things. But, (to be honest) they come very naturally to me. I have come close to perfecting the art of a being a homemaker. I want to be measured against something more challenging and rise to my hidden potential. It's time. I have space enough.
And so I continue my quest for balance, understanding that it's more critical than ever. I was never a carefree college girl. I am a wife: (first and always) an eternal companion to a wonderful man. I am a mother to three amazing adult children, who I want to spend time with. I am a Grand Ma-Ma and the best of me needs be present to delight in that roll (my just reward- lol...). I love it so! Last week I learned the hard way(after coming down with the flu) that balance will always be a challenge for my personality type. I want straight A's. I want to entertain and spend precious time with family. I want to serve in a church capacity. I want a clean and beautiful home. You get the picture. Therefore, I am going to be gentler with myself this go around. I am not as young as I used to be. I can't go without sleep. There is strength in setting limits; knowing when enough is enough and finally accepting that good is better than perfect. This self inflicted form of abuse has taken it's toll on me. Today I will place value on my well being above all else. And I boldly declare, older is definitely (in my case) wiser, with or without the degree to back it up.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Be the Change

My January (note to self) chalkboard was inspired by my sister, Lynn. She will forever and always be a cheerleader... my cheerleader and a cheerleader to many others as well. I would be lying if I didn't admit to (for over a few decades now) secretly rolling my eyes about this way of thinking and rejecting it as a mantra of sorts (at least for more than twenty seconds) when she would so often suggest to me, "Be the Change, Julie." In case you don't know me, I will publicly confess here and now to being the sister whose energy goes down... down... down when things are less than ideal. I have been accused of "sucking the life" right out of Lynn (and others) when things go badly. I'm told I can sometimes drain a room without saying a thing. I am the wah...wah... wah... (think baby or sad trombone) to her Rah! Rah! Rah! (think pep rally, pom poms and life coach)! I think by now  you get the picture!

My blog is dedicated to her today. The little sister who has inspired me to be the change I want to see in myself... in the world! In 2013 I've decided:

  • to be the spouse I want in my marriage 
  • to be the art and the creativity that motivates me and breathes life 
  • to be the woman who inspires me
  • to be the voice that speaks with gentleness
  • to be the mother the world gathers around
  • to be the friend I can confide in
  • to be the sister I can rely on
  • to be the mother in law I never had
  • to be the example of Him that lights my path
  • to be the balance I seek
  • to be a companion, not a critic
  • to be the health and sanity I want for years to come
I CAN BREATHE when I approach my life this way. I didn't get it before and I do now. Thank you, My Sister. It would be so much harder to navigate my life without you in it. I love you! xxoo


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Something from Nothing

"Thoughts, rest your wings.
Here is a hollow of silence,
a nest of stillness, in 
 which to hatch your dreams."
~ Joan Walsh Anglund
Home is undeniably my haven, my nest, and the place I seek refuge from most things that weigh me down or trouble me. It's the place in which I seek solace and inspiration as well. I love the visual of resting my wings. I have created a home using a palette of white neutrals with less and less black accents over time. I am not sure I did this consciously, but intuitively I think I did it with a knowing(ness) from within me that acknowledges I needed a purer and gentler space to enter back into each day to rest. I close my eyes and I see myself in my mind's eye and I am collapsed (draped really) across my long, white down sofa with my own pair of white feathery wings outstretched in exasperation. Can you see me? Those of you who know me well, know I have a flair for the dramatic... For me, I energize by becoming very still. It took me a few decades to embrace that it's okay to sometimes do nothing. In fact, in doing so, you actually are working on something... YOU!
I'm absolutely alone today without distraction, commitments, or people coming and going. God must have known I needed this hollow of silence today for my daughter left our home at five am to return to New York. As I have openly admitted, I hate her departures. I find myself thinking about her leaving and my tears leak out days before she actually gets on a plane. I know. It's a bit twisted. But, (I think) therapists call it "anticipatory grieving". I tell myself it's healthy because it has a clinical name. Unfortunately, it doesn't make the process any easier. I woke up this morning (after quietly crying myself to sleep) feeling as if I had stuff missing on the inside. The idea of breakfast wasn't at all appealing until about eleven o'clock, at which time I made myself eat a cup of bland oatmeal and washed it down with some OJ for sustenance. How grateful I am to be gifted an entire day without even the intrusion of a doorbell or phone call. God giveth and He taketh away...

Hollows can be empty, sunken... and sometimes I think I like that. The dark angel within me is given permission to emerge and melt into my melancholy. Suddenly I am part of the contrast to all of this glowing French white paint that surrounds me and is just too radiant for a day like today. There is something so cathartic about giving yourself consent to sulk. I can only truly do this comfortably when I'm alone and don't have to apologize or feel guilty about moping, not showering or even getting properly dressed for the day. You get the picture. I know, it's not at all pretty or brave. I am secretly overjoyed my husband flew out today on business. He means well, but even he makes it difficult to find my bearings sometimes. He doesn't share my need for aloneness. In his absence, I am pardoned of  conversation and even smiling and nodding if I don't feel like it. I like that absolutely nothing is required of me today.
It's almost six pm. Where has the day gone? Some might consider today a waste. A pity party you say? Nay, I know better... I have given myself permission to just be. To dwell for a bit in the dark, allowing myself to think about why my heart hurts so much when Megan leaves? To then again remember it's because she's so wonderful and recount all the reasons why. Today I allowed myself the opportunity to whine aloud asking, "Why can't she go to school in California like her cousin?" I smile because I already know the answers to that question, but it feels good to whine anyway. Within my nest of stillness and silence I have prayed and meditated, asking for peace, comfort and acceptance for what is, remembering to give thanks for what isn't. I have even worked a bit today, but at my own pace. I've cried and I've smiled, planned, envisioned, dreamed, and renewed. Tomorrow I will emerge stronger for all of it, ready to face the busyness and what the world requires of me beyond the safety of these doors. Today was not an obligation. I loved that. I needed it. In my quest for balance in 2013, I am learning I need more repose in my life... in my soul. Sometimes a perfect day is filled with nothingness. I think I am going to calender in more do nothing days this year...  simply because I can. 

  • Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    Someday is NOT a day of the week

    One of my greatest illusions is that "Someday" I will have the time and courage to take action on my dreams and aspirations. One thing leads to another, life takes me for a long ride (instead of the other way around) and unlike Monday, Someday never comes. While I have been busy postponing things, half my life has sped on by. I question, "Have I used my years, my days, my minutes wisely?" Yes and no.
    Rather than beat up on myself, my childhood, my choices and the like, today I choose to take on 2013 from a different vantage point. Today is the day I stop living for Somedays and start living in the gloriously imperfect here and now. For me, this means embracing flaws, ignoring limitations, (as I often fixate on them) and living life fully while I am here. I've discovered without risk, nothing new ever happens. And I find myself suddenly sickened by the status quo. What have I been waiting for? Perfect days, a perfect body, perfect timing, perfectly perfected talent and ability...  At fifty, I've discovered perfection is an illusion. At best it's perception.
    There's something (rather several somethings) that I've earmarked for Someday. My Someday begins now, in 2013. I am finally realizing that it's far easier to get started by taking one small action now instead of some grand action Someday. Today I will eat more colorful fruits and veggies (maybe not eat all raw). Today I will take a yoga class in hopes of becoming a Yogi one day. This month I am going back to college (again) and I'm taking a few classes each semester in hopes of finishing a degree of some sort. Today I write (because I love to) not just because secretly I have wanted to be a writer ever since I could hold a pencil and form sentences. And (not to brag) at age seven, I was esteemed a great writer. There... I finally said it out loud. Wide Open Wednesdays resume today with the hope of becoming so much more.  After all, a dream without action is just a wish...