Remembering And Moving On

Today I got caught.

I got caught in the place in between…..the place between remembering and moving on.

It’s not a bad place to be.  But when you remember, and you find yourself in a sad place, that’s when you get caught.

It’s a dichotomy.  Actually it’s a di-caught-omy.  And the thing that did it to me was the single Asian pear that became the biggest harvest ever.


This was the Asian pear from my back yard.

It was the only pear produced by my Asian pair tree…..the Only pear this year.  But that is a wonderful thing!  A good thing.  A great thing!

Two years ago, before we moved into this house, Andrew asked me what I wanted for my birthday.  “I would like an Asian pear tree,” I said.  So Andrew gave me not only an Asian pear tree but also four lilac bushes, and we set out to plant them in the back yard.  We started with the pear tree.  “Dig a three-foot deep hole.”  That was one of the instructions for planting.  As it turned out, mixing the fertilizer stuff with the mulchy stuff was much easier than digging the hole for all of it!

It was a hot day.  We had moved in some furniture and were sweaty and tired.  Poor Andrew!  He was sweating and digging, digging and sweating…..well, trying to dig, I should say.  He looked at me and said, “Maybe we should ask Jerry?”

Our lovely neighbor, Jerry!  God bless Jerry!  Jerry was willing to join us for everything from handyman jobs to laugh-out-loud conversations in the middle of the road.  (I’m recalling that there may have been more of the latter!)  Andrew went to get Jerry and when he saw what we were doing he looked at Andrew……and he laughed!  He laughed and laughed and laughed!  “You’re never going to dig a three-foot hole in the Lemont dirt!”  Of course his response was all in fun, and telling this story is something I know Jerry has done on numerous occasions! Anyway, Jerry helped us dig a hole, we planted the pear tree and the lilacs, and we crossed our fingers.

Jerry             IMG_7139

(The first pic here is of neighbor Jerry laughing – notice the gardening tool in his hands! The second pic is of Andrew and neighbor Mike, who brought us a snack!)

Since then I’ve kept a fairly good eye on that tree.  And I’ve been hopeful since day one that it would take hold and eventually grow some fruit.  Last year it looked good in the spring, it was growing well, and after I learned about Reiki I would go out and visit it, sending it healing vibes.  This spring I went out into the yard not expecting to see anything on it at all, and what did I see?  One pear!  One Asian pear that had come from One blossom on my One tree!  Excitement!!!!!!

Today the pear was ready to pick!  The girls and I shared it while we were all here together.  I think Andrew was here with us too, and I think he was laughing at the whole scene (one pear, four girls).  Actually, he was probably feeling a little proud.  I’m a little sad that since it was an opportunity that we needed to take quickly I didn’t get to invite Jerry and his wife, Susan, to share in the pair cutting.  (They know about it now!)

IMG_4301                     IMG_4320


That Asian pear was the sweetest, most wonderful thing I’ve ever eaten in my whole life.

Earlier this week I caught a glimpse of the Asian pear tree in our old back yard.  Wow, is it loaded!  I sure loved that tree.  If anyone ever cuts it down I will cry.  Bob, the head of maintenance at Grier, will attest to the fact that I would.  Years ago there was a new guy helping with lawn care, and he didn’t quite know the ropes.  He was trimming bushes and really did a number on the pear tree.  I’m surprised it yielded anything after that!  I called Bob and I cried.  I literally cried over the phone.  “Please, Bob, don’t ever let anyone do that again!”  Bob was sympathetic (and maybe a little disturbed).  Thank you, Bob, for your understanding.

[For the record I just need to say how much I miss Bob, Little Bob, John, Bill, and all the guys who work tirelessly to make the school’s campus a beautiful, functioning place. Thank you.  Sorry, I got caught again….now, back to the blog.]

I would pick bags of pears and take them over to the school.  I’d give my friend, Yong Sook, full bags just for her, and she’d eat a whole bag in one day!  I’d make muffins, pies, and pear pancakes, etc., etc., etc…….  I’d have a basket sitting under the tree so the Grier girls could grab one that was ripe on the way to riding or wherever.

Sigh.  I remember it well.  I remember it well, and the remembering is good, but I can’t hold tightly to it.  The bit of sadness of this moment pays tribute to the gratefulness of the past moment.  I am also very grateful for this very moment.  This very moment is the Only one we have right now, just like that Only pear on the tree.

I imagine I will always be getting caught.  A snag here, a tug there.  I’ll get “caught” between the old and the new, and it will be okay.  And at that same moment I will be ready for what’s ahead.  I think what’s ahead can be pretty good if I let it.


I have a new tree to love.  It provides a really cool tie between what was and what is to come.  One pear will lead to many pears, and many memories pave the way for many more to come.

There’s another dichotomy, too.  There can be something new and beautiful that rises up out of a terrible tragedy.  Trimmed branches grow again  Life can spring up from almost nothing.  And healing comes after death.

Here’s to remembering….and moving on.


(Follow up note:  Jerry and Susan have relocated and I don’t get to see them like I used to.  When I got in touch with Jerry to ask for permission to use his part of the story he told me that he had fallen while trimming tree branches.  He broke some ribs, his back, and his leg!  He will be in a wheelchair for 10 weeks.  Please send prayers, good vibes, and healing intentions for this fabulous fellow and his patient spouse!  I have no doubt the he will rise to trim again!)


Darcy’s website:

Darcy’s Etsy store:

You Are My Pothole

You are my pothole, my only pothole….You make me happy when skies are grey…..Sing along!!!!!

Well, maybe not.

I ended up being grateful for a pothole just recently.  You know how time and time again rotten things happen to us, and then low and behold something good comes out of them?  This was one of those times….and I ended up singing that silly song!

I drove up to Burlington, VT for the Level 1 Biofield Tuning class (more on biofield another time).  I went all by myself, and the trip lasted 5 days in total, with all the travel.  The fact that I made this journey is pretty epic for me at this point for several reasons.  One, I haven’t gone away by myself for a long time.  Two, I’ve never gone away for so long (I don’t think….).  And three, I’ve never driven so long and far without company.



Another thing that made this trip especially interesting is that Andrew and the girls and I would travel this route north twice a year, for the most part, heading either to Middlebury, VT to visit his parents or to Essex, NY, on Lake Champlain, to vacation for a summer week with family.  So the route was familiar, only my previous experience had been doing it while playing “the rhyming game” with the girls or pontificating on pertinent points with Andrew!

I thank my girls for letting me go off so I could “follow a call,” so to speak.  They did just fine without me, and at 25, 20, and 17 I’m not surprised.  They are independent and strong young women.  And I thank Andrew for blazing the trail up north and giving me so many great things to remember while I did this trip solo.

I may not have taken this class had it not been for Andrew.  Finding out that it would be in Burlington, VT (a town we had visited numerous times during our treks by the lake) made me say, “I can do this!  I know Burlington!”  It made a new experience a bit more familiar.


I know, you’re wondering about the pothole.

First, I have to backtrack to a few days before I left on my trip.  Cut to downtown State College, PA and the moment Grace and I discovered that we had a dead battery in the Veloster (crazy name for a car….Grace takes it to Grier and back every day).  Dead battery means call Triple A.  Ah, Triple A!!!  Find the card.  Pull out the card.  The card is expired!!!!

Neighbors Jerry and Susan come to the rescue with a jump start!

I vow to call AAA.  (I need to buy jumper cables, too…..)

Now cut to the moment I’m packing for my trip.  Oh, I forgot to call AAA.  I pick up the info they mailed me (Side note: I get so many mailings from various places and they tell me I need to renew or resubscribe, but I swear that I just renewed a little bit ago, so it can’t possibly be time to renew again!)…..yes, I pick up the info and tuck it in my folder.  I don’t have time to call now, so I’ll call when I get there…….

You know what’s coming, right?…..Anyway, I leave for my trip the next day and stop to get gas.  I pull out of the gas station lot and my eyes fall upon the beauteous AAA building right across the street!  Oh, look, AAA is right there!  I could stop, but really, no really, I have to get on the road.  I’ll be fine.  I’m going on this “zen” trip to learn how to help people improve their quality of life, so I’ll be Just Fine!

The trip up actually does go really well despite pouring rain.  And the next few days go just great!  (More on that later!)  So we get to the last day of my classes and I’m driving to this “out of the way” bagel place (Andrew and I loved to find “dive-y” type places that seemed more real.) and in the distance, on the road, I see this dark spot.  Is that a patched spot?  A puddle?  I kind of looks like, KATHUNK!, a pothole!

This was a HUGE pothole, and I didn’t swerve in time!  But the car’s wheel didn’t pull, and I thought maybe it was ok.  Then the tire light on the dash came on……

Oh no, I forgot to call AAA!!!!  (Swears loudly)

To make a long story short I met Seth Helper who supported and advised me (even though he didn’t know me) and I called a tow truck, etc.  After my credit card caught some drag time the tire got fixed pretty quickly, and I did make it to my last class, albeit only a half hour late.

But here’s what makes me sing the pothole song….. When the blessed tire guy checked out my flat he looked at the Other tire on that side, and pointed out that there was a prominent bubble in its side.  Even I, musician and mom, knew that that didn’t look good…. He said if I hit the highway the next day with that bubble in there the tire probably would have blown!  (And who knows where it may have blown, causing an accident, or who knows what kind of trouble….)

You are my pothole, my only pothole!  Sing along!  And here’s the moral of the story!  When you are told once, twice, and then three times to do something….you’d better do it!!!  We are not left on this Earth to experience things all alone.  And even if we ignore the first admonition, or even the second or third, we are still not alone!  I am thankful for that pothole, and as annoying as it was, I’m glad that I was given “another chance,” so to speak, which helped me avoid an even worse disaster.

In the end I was able to finish my class and even got a quick trapezius rubdown from one of my classmates!  I had a nice visit with my sister in law, and I made it back safely to Lemont, ready to digest my experiences and move on toward exciting things for all of us.  (I also got a new AAA membership….)

I’m sure I’ll be writing more about biofield tuning and where I’m heading with that and my new reiki experiences.  Actually, I don’t know exactly where I’m headed with it all, but that is the beauty of it….

The beauty is…….


The beauty is that the guidance you need is out there.  It may be quietly knocking at your mental door or blowing out your tires!  You just need to pay attention to it, and then follow it.  Look and listen for the signs (and maybe symptoms?) and you won’t end up singing the pothole song!

And as for the jumper cables…..maybe I’ll get them next week……

: )



My Journey Toward Healing

I have 21 blog drafts.

Yes, I have been writing blog posts; I just haven’t been publishing them!  I haven’t finished any of them either…..

But it’s okay.  No negative self talk here.  Lately I’ve been thinking about the process of writing; I realized that I’d sort of forgotten how writing helps me to think things out.  As for these 21 drafts, I started them because I had ideas or questions….and perhaps some possible solutions. The fact that I never published them is neither here nor there.  Maybe I wrote just enough to get myself to a better place.  And if writing does help me think things through it has done it’s job….I had quite a lot to think through…..


So, yes, I write for myself and if eventually others read what I write and are encouraged by my words, then all the better for it.  I’ve found, too, that what I end up writing and then understanding at the end of a post is sometimes very different than what I had intended when I began.  My writing has inadvertently taken me to places that I didn’t think I would go….places of deeper understanding that I didn’t see coming.

Yesterday I came across an advertisement for a class on writing as a form of healing, and I thought to myself, “Hey, I’ve done that!”  (The writing, that is, not the class.)  So, I got the bright, old idea that if I wrote out my thoughts I might bring myself to a place of brighter understanding…..and maybe I’ll even publish a post!  At the very least I can let all of you know what I’ve been up to.

I am pondering my journey.  A lot has happened since Andrew’s death.  I know that I would not be where I am had he not crossed over.  I know I’m on the right path.  I can feel it in my gut.  It is only when little uncertainties get into my brain that I sometimes start to doubt.  I look back on my last year and a half or so and I can easily earmark numerous things that have happened, people who have just shown up, coincidences that I know were much more than coincidence…and I know these things were meant to be.  There have been just too many synchronicities to count, and I shake my grateful head, wondering how and why and what will happen next.


You know, I have always wanted to have a job that was super helpful to other people.  Yes, raising children is an important job, and helping a singer to feel more confident is commendable, but I was always just awestruck after being taken care of by a great nurse or doctor.  I’d think about these people for days, weeks…..I still think about them.  That someone can be so helpful, or brilliant, or willing to do a “dirty” job in order to make a person feel better…..well, that kind of person is just amazing to me.  (I’m thinking especially of the hero nurses that helped me during my hospital stays.)  This feeling of wanting to be more helpful has continued to gnaw at me from the sidelines.  I have so often thought that I’d like to be able to help people like that.

Then I heard about reiki. “Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.” (   After lots of research on this “life force energy” I signed up for Reiki I and II certifications classes.  Six months later I can say that reiki has changed my life.  In March I will take an ART (advanced reiki training) class, and possibly take the master class level as well.

I also discovered biofield tuning, which is a process of healing by the use of tuning forks whose tones bring the body back to its original vibration.  I’m taking a Biofield I training in Burlington, VT in April!  Musical healing….who would have thought……!

I’m very excited about my new direction, as I feel that these healing modalities will allow me to help people the way I’ve always wanted.  I plan to have clients and give distance sessions.

Maybe you are thinking that all this sounds a little out there?!

Well, I don’t do things on a whim.  My brief descriptions don’t do justice to the time I spent before making any decisions.  If Andrew were here he would concur and tell a story of how long it once took me to chose a brand of butter.  I know (have researched) and have seen (actually felt) the workings of these modalities.  I understand the science and believe the unexplainable.  These processes are not religious, but they are spiritual in nature.  In fact, before we had chemicals, etc, we had knowing and faith.  These things have had a very profound affect on me, and they are leading me to be a better and healthier person.


My long-standing book club girls and I met recently, and as we all caught up with each other I found myself saying, “I like myself better now.”  Thoughtfully, one of the girls said, “Well, we liked you before, too.”  Thanks!  : )  That’s what book club is for.  (Am I intimating that we don’t always read books?!)

I believe it is true that it can take a disastrous event to bring a person to a better life.  Looking back, I realize that I used to hold so much anger, jealousy and impatience in the palms of my hands…..Even though some days are still not easy  I feel like I am in a much better place now, even though there’s not anything that I, myself, have done to get me here.  The only thing I have done is just be open minded…..

I am so grateful.  I am fully aware that I still have many faults, but I’m not going to agonize over them.  The fact that I’m imperfect is not going to keep me from moving straight forward.  And I’m thinking that this new direction can only help me with all the other stuff going on in life…..


In the end I want to love myself, love others, and bring myself and hopefully others to a place of healing.

This “without” experience certainly has a lot of “with” in it.  I’m truly excited to see what will happen next.  I’m sure that being open is a key.  Living life with an open hand, releasing old beliefs and biases, not remaining stuck to what others believe or have taught you, going with your gut, your love, your heart, your being, being humble, releasing the grumpy thoughts that tie you to a place of pessimism……

Wait….I think I’m staring my next blog post!……Hmmmm, I wonder if I’ll finish it?!?


You can learn more about reiki at

Eileen McCusick’s new video on biofield tuning:

A Different Day……

A Different Day

I see things differently every day…..

I think I can now say that it has finally sunk in.  Not that it hadn’t sunken it at all before, and not that I won’t feel the weight of it tomorrow.  But I have definitely settled in a bit. Time is definitely a factor in this healing equation.  This new, different life is going to happen whether I’m ready or not.

It has been over 6 months since Andrew passed away, and I find I’m shaking my head less often.  My shock and disbelief have settled into a seat that’s a little further back on my mental train, and I’m left to ride on, looking forward through a glass that is slightly less foggy.  People have gone back to their own seats and now look toward their own destinations.

So here we are, starting a new year.  Black Friday started on Thursday, Cyber Monday started on Sunday, Christmas came and went, and we did it.  We made it.  We got our tree, gave our gifts, saw a couple friends and some family, and began this “new normal.”  It was different, but it was OK.  It was all right.  Next year we’ll do it all over again.


I imagine that 2016 will be just as much of a surprise as 2015 was.  I think after you live through horrible things you learn to change your expectations.  I’m less surprised at everything that happens; I guess I’m somewhat desensitized.  I get less ruffled when things glitch.  It’s all relative.  Don’t get me wrong, there are days when one little thing happens, and it makes me feel like I’ve hit rock bottom.

In the past four years, in addition to “regular” life surprises, my dad passed away, my mom gave in to Alzheimer’s, Andrew and I retired from jobs, Hope started college and we moved.  Then Andrew passed away……and Grace had to start back to school without him.  How much can one family withstand?  The answer is “a lot.”  And a lot of people withstand a lot of stuff.  We all become different people as we experience these “different days” and survive everything that happens to us.  I have to say that I look at people, and life in general, a lot differently than I used to.

A friend said to me, “Life is just one tragedy after another.”  I agree.  It’s true.  But I have to add that life is also one joy after another.  I can’t help but laugh at some of the bright, quirky things my girls say or do, and I can’t help getting a kick out of hearing a friend burst out laughing on her end of the phone…..

You never know what will hit you next.


So I’m glad it will be 2016.  It’s not that I expect it to be a better year; I’m just more aware that anything can happen at any time.  That’s not such a bad lesson to learn.  Also, I’m glad that 2015 is over.  (Plus, 2016 is an even number. I like even numbers, I don’t know why.  I always feel a little better on the first day of an even numbered year.  Crazy.)

The future is a mystery.  Many things are mysteries, and there will be more surprises, I know.  Who would ever have thought that I’d be frosting cookies in a local bakery…that I’d have the voice students I have now….that I’d have an Etsy store…?


There is one thing that I haven’t mentioned yet…..hope.  Some may call it faith, maybe some call it optimism.  What ever it is, there must be a little of it left in me or I wouldn’t be able to wake up tomorrow…..

Have I said yet that I am grateful?  I think I am more grateful now than I have been my entire life.

Tomorrow will be a different day.  I’ll probably see things differently than I did today.  And who knows what I will come to think and feel next year?

My life moves ahead.  Yours does, too.  None of us know what’s out there in the distance.  I hope we can all relax, take our time, travel along with the surprises and be grateful for what we have.
Addendum to A Different Day

I actually wrote this piece several weeks ago, but when the day came that I had scheduled to post it I couldn’t post it.  It seemed too positive.  It seemed much too optimistic and “got it together” to post.  Things weren’t going really well, and I didn’t feel I was handling the glitches very well.

I tried waiting until I felt like I was living up to what I wrote. I waited some more. And today I realized that if I wait until I feel I’m worthy I’ll never post anything!  I realize that it’s OK if, in my own mind, I don’t always live up to what I write.

Tomorrow will be a different day again, and I’ll probably feel differently about many things. At least I hope I do….and I’ll have another chance.


Why the pink tool bag?

                                   Why the pink tool bag?                                       IMG_7902

This is a photo of a pink tool bag.

Why?  Why the pink tool bag???

I was in a store, I can’t remember which one, and Hope and I were in the tool/home improvement section.  She was looking for something that would help her in her bike-building process, and I was meandering about as there was nothing I needed.

I came upon this pink tool bag.  Now…….I am assuming that this tool bag was meant for a woman.  And I am also assuming that the bag is pink because pink is associated with the female sex.


I don’t need a pink tool bag.  I don’t want a pink tool bag.  Someone, somewhere thought I might want one, I guess.  Perhaps they thought I would like the bag, and buy it because it is pink.  Would the pink bag help me to take care of my maintenance issues in a more feminine way?  Or would I have more fun, feel more confident as a female, fix with flair if I had that pink tool bag at my side?

I have had to get used to fixing some things myself, which is not to say that I didn’t fix things when Andrew was here.  In fact, I think it might be safe to say that I have been more of a handy woman than Andrew was a handy Man!  Bob, head of maintenance at The Grier School, can attest to that!  Andrew didn’t call him for everything, but he called him a lot!

I am not claiming to be handy woman extraordinaire, but I can handle a few things on my own.  When there’s something I can’t handle I ask for help, and I’m so grateful to those who are willing to pop over and spend some time with hammer in hand.  And I’m proud to say that I now know the “year” of all our cars and when their inspections are due.

Men and women know these things, men and women take care of all that needs to be done, and we don’t need pink or blue bags in order to do them.  (That being said, if you like your camo carry-all or your fuschia furniture, who cares?!)

Maintenance issues aren’t the only things that I’ve had to get used to taking care of.  Everything has now redefined itself…..every part of my life.  I am redefining myself, from the pink bag dilemma to the checkbook register to the way I need to function in the world…….

I’m fortunate to be able to take my time a little bit and look for the direction that I need to take.  I have heard people say, “Find out what you love and find a way to make money at it.”  Andrew sure knew what he loved.  All his “student friends” from all his years at Grier and in Tyrone can attest to the fact that he loved students and was just overjoyed beyond belief to help them find the education they needed or take the best pic to send to parents.  And in every photo he took you can feel a bit of the artistic, loving genius that focused the lens.


For me it’s a little different.  I love a lot of things, most of them creative…, music, art, writing…… I’ve often felt like that jack of all trades…. How content we all would be if we could make a living doing what we love, right?!

Andrew with monster face

In the days shortly after Andrew’s memorial service, after my brother-in-law flew home and the crowds thinned out, I started treasure hunting for sapphires in Andrew’s gravel (Please see my Gravel Story post if you are confused!).  Even though the rough gems I found were far from their faceted end destination I was inspired by the process.  I got out some colorful beads and a watch face that I had bought months before, and while the girls were watching TV (I’m not always totally interested in America’s Next Top Model!) I made myself creatively busy…..

One thing led to another, and now I have an Etsy store!  I will unabashedly put a plug in right here for myself because people like it so far, and you just might be curious anyway.  It’s  I don’t know how successful this venture will be, but at least for now I’m doing something I love.  And I’m learning a lot….it’s really interesting to try to figure out how to make an online store work.  For instance, my listings won’t come to the top of searches right now because I’m an “untrusted” quantity.  People will have to “favorite” my shop and give “reviews” before Etsy will trust me to make a big enough cut for them!  The art is only part of it all…..SEO stuff, choosing the right words, the right items…..

IMG_8468 (1) IMG_8773 IMG_8972 IMG_9060

Anyway, I don’t know if this experience will be the defining one for me but it is at least something to get excited about.  I like that it’s different from what I’ve done before.  Everything I’m doing right now if different than what I’ve done before.  And I am forced to become different now, too…..

Andrew was such a big personality.  When we went places together I really didn’t have to say much.  He was the extrovert and I the introvert… was a pretty good match now that I come to think of it.  25 years of not having to come up with small talk!


That’s not true, really.  I had to do my share because everywhere I went with Andrew he was looking up someone that he knew from some other time in his life.  I distinctly remember him sitting on a hotel bed with the phonebook in his hand when he couldn’t remember if he knew someone who lived in the town we were visiting…..

Andrew was the perfect example of how to converse in social situations.  He was totally comfortable because he truly believed that Everyone wanted to talk to him!  What confidence!  He looked at a group of strangers and said, “What fun!”  I would look at the same group and say, “God, help me!”  He’d pick up the phone and just know that the person on the other end would be pleased as punch to give him their time.  I pick up the phone with a sweaty palm and pray the person isn’t home!

Please don’t think that I am socially inept….the part of my world away from Andrew’s side consisted of many wonderful people that did not make me sweat… theater friends, my book club girls, my students and colleagues…. but when I was at a party or just anywhere with Andrew I really didn’t have to say much!  In fact, looking back, I think sometimes I didn’t have a chance to say much…… Every once in a while I did have something to say and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise!


So.  Here I am.  I’m filling in the spaces…..those empty spaces.  The dead silences that happen within conversations.  Sometimes it’s really awkward.  Sometimes it’s really lonely to be the one saying it all.  But to be fair, sometimes it’s nice not to have to wait for an opening.  I’m stepping into those empty spaces whether I want to or like it…..and I’m doing it.  I really am.

I’m filling in the empty spaces all over the place.  My friends and family are filling in spaces too.  And even though no one can fill up Andrew’s space they fill up the whole entire area all around it.  I don’t want Andrew’s space to be filled up anyway.

So I reach into my purple toolbox….Oh, I didn’t tell you that I have a purple toolbox!  Yes, I admit it.  I love my purple toolbox.  Dawn gave it to me; I’ve had it for years.  Anyway, I reach into my purple toolbox for the little picture hanger thingy that Jerry and Mike got at Walmart and I intend to put one of Andrew’s photos up in my studio….fill in that big, white space over the piano…..

And then maybe I’ll make a bracelet.  I think I’ll make Lori’s.  It’s the pink one.

Lovely, Lovely People

Lovely, Lovely People

The world is full of lovely people.  How do I know this is true?  I know them all, that’s how.

Ok, I don’t know them all, but all of them that I know are lovely!

I’m saying this on the heels of my husband’s death.  People were, and continue to be, so kind to me.  It’s actually overwhelming.  I knew that my friends, family and acquaintances were kind people, but these people seem to have shown themselves as the ultimate super people.

We have had a drastic experience, and my people have jumped in with an equal and opposite reaction.  Imagine those old-fashioned justice scales.  On one side is so much sadness and grief and mystery and confusion…..and on the other side are all these wonderful people that I know, people sitting there smiling, legs crossed, waving and nodding, all crowded on to that little weighing plate.  “We’ve got your back!” they say.  These are people that have scrubbed a rug, baked a dinner, cleaned the house, mowed the grass, stayed over night, written to Harry Styles’ personal assistant, gone to lunch, helped with finances, traveled hundreds of miles, wrote heartfelt words, and…and….and…..I could go on and on and on.  I can’t possibly list all the wonderful, generous things these people have done for us.


So all these folks are evening out that scale.  Everything they have done and felt for us adds to their lovely weight that sends the pointer straight to the middle.  I guess that pointer represents me, and now that they’ve pointed me in the right direction I can function with a lot less tilt!

I am so fortunate, I know.  I wish I could lend my people to those who are hurting, hurting even worse than I, those who don’t have people of their own…..  I feel guilty, even, that I have been surrounded by so many lovely people.  It’s hard for me to imagine that people could care that much, that they would care about me, about us.  I would say that surely I do not deserve such affection. But I can not imagine what life would have been like in these past few months without these friends….

And I think everyone deserves that care, that affection.  In fact, everyone out there in our lives, in our world, the people we know, the people we don’t, everyone deserves our best care.  Not everyone’s scale is tipping way out of proportion, so it shouldn’t really take all that much effort to be helpful……

It’s really amazing how losing someone changes you.  I’ve heard and used the phrase “it’s all relative.”  Relative to what the girls and I (and our friends) have experienced through losing Andrew, everything else hardly makes me bat an eye.  When that scale you’re riding dips way down into life and death those silly, annoying things that happen don’t matter, let alone make sense.  I know you have dealt with loss, and you know what this feels like.  Perhaps we need these heavy times in our lives….

I am so changed by these lovely people in my life.  I see them in a whole new way now.  They are not only helpers but also life teachers.  I am humbled and overwhelmed in the best way possible.  Have you ever been touched in the heart so deeply that you have to cry, maybe you feel like you will burst?  I can’t describe this very well at all.  Music is like this for me.  When I hear perfectly skilled musicians play the most beautiful notes in the most sensitive way it touches me so deeply that I can hardly breathe.  This may be too much information and may not make sense, but this is exactly how I feel as I think of these gorgeous souls, and the fact that I cannot live without them.

So often I have grumbled about people……the sour-faced server, the fast-paced lane changer, the person who has betrayed all trust….

But now it’s all in perspective, now it’s all relative.  I have seen lovely people.  I have witnessed lovely people in action.  Lovely people have loved me and I think I’m ready to love them back.

It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it. 

It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.

These are frequent, infamous words of my mother.


She said them often to me, so that must mean that I frequently said nasty things!  And I was probably saying them to my sister. Thankfully (and hopefully!) she has forgiven me after all these years.

Isnt it interesting how you can change the entire meaning of your words by your tone?   Take for example the phrase, “That’s just great.”

1.  Your child comes home from school and shows you his artwork. “That’s just great!”

2.  You head to the laundry room to start one of this week’s loads, and the start button on the washer does nothing. “That’s.Just.Great.”

See what I mean?!  I know you know.

This is also a great acting exercise.  We theatrical folks would love this… “How many different ways can you say this phrase?!”

Tone is really important.   My niece, Charlotte, and I have had a conversation about how it can be difficult to determine a person’s tone from a text.  We think things like, “She didn’t use any exclamation points…is she mad?!”  Charlotte and I, both, are “expressive texters.”  We like exclamation points and icons. But we also understand that there are different texting personalities out there, and you can’t read too much into a message.

The words we say and how we say them can really hurt someone, though, even if they’re said without thinking, out of anger, out of loss of control……  My late husband, Andrew, and I were both very hurt in the past by someone’s hot-tempered, unkind words said in a very unkind way.

So I guess I have to disagree with my mom for some cases, then.  Although is is a really great quote, and I will continue to use it, I believe that what really matters is what you say AND how you say it.  The words we speak, the tone we use, and how we act really show what’s going on inside us.  When you hear disturbing words it’s a real red flag….

This reminds me of a song by David Wilcox (the American David Wilcox).  He’s my favorite singer song-writer and Andrew and I, along with friends, got to see him perform numerous times.  He has written lots of winners but the one I reference now is called “Run.”  The song is about a girl who goes out on a date, and at first all is well.  Then she witnesses her date being rude to the waiter.  (Can you imagine!?)  Of course the lyrics tell her to “Run!”  In other words, watch out for those moments that make you feel just a bit uneasy.  And if that person’s words make your jaw drop you’d better catch the first flight out!  If he/she made you feel uneasy once it will probably happen again.  And you may look back and realize they had been doing/saying “interesting” things all along, and you just didn’t want to admit it.  No one should stay in a relationship like that…….

I’m not saying you should ditch every friend that says something off-putting!  We are human; we all need to dish, to vent… forgive, and to be tolerant to a certain degree.  But I do think it pays to be a little wary……

Andrew was the kindest person I’ve known; he was definitely not the kind of guy who would be rude to the waiter.  As I’ve said before, and like myself and everyone I know, he was not perfect.  But I wish he were here now so I could tell him how much I appreciated his kindness.  I didn’t say things like that enough.  Probably none of us do.  Oh, once in a while I did. I hope that when no words were spoken at all he knew that I admired him.

I tell my girls, “Be as kind as you can possibly be.”  I think they usually are, maybe not to each other(!), and I’m always impressed when I see them say or do something that is particularly helpful.

I used to play the piano for funerals.  Honestly, I dread these kinds of events when I have to attend them, but when I was providing a service, creating an atmosphere, those events became for me really sweet moments that helped people in their grief.  Anyway, I have heard lots of lovely things said about people who have just passed away.  I think we turn the person into a mini saint of sorts, not only because it’s socially appropriate to say good things about them, but also because we want to focus on all the good things the person did, the kind things they said, the generous or humorous way they behaved.  The good things become the important things, the things that really matter, the things we want to remember.

Were you ever in a situation where you had had a fight or were just totally annoyed at the core with someone you love?!  Mmm hmm!  So you’re in the midst of this steam and irritation, and then something else happens. You find out that someone else has really hurt your person!  How could they do that?!  All those feelings of anger or irritation we were just feeling take a vacation!  Why?  Because deep down we know what really matters in life.  We know that those little annoying things, although they do have some importance, are not the end-all and be-all.  It’s then that we want to retract all the things we said, and “how we said them” and focus on the core of life….which is love, itself…. Love for the person who was hurt, love we need to return to the universe.

When someone says something mean I think it’s helpful to look inside them and be curious, to try to understand what might be going on inside them.  That reminds me of a quote I think I put on instagram one time!  It was something about not judging another person because you don’t know what trials or challenges that they’ve had to put up with that day.  Perhaps understanding that everyone has their own challenges helps to make their situation explainable, even excusable.

On the flip side, when we regret something we’ve said we need to look inside and be curious and understand, and even fix, what’s going on inside.  We hope others know that we have our bad days, and can forgive us……

Today is the day to speak words of admiration and encouragement, especially to the people we love.  I have said these words so often in the past several months: You just never know.  Tomorrow you may not have those people in your life, and you’ll want to be sure that you are proud of what you’ve said, and how you’ve said it.


If you’d like to hear “Run” by David Wilcox you can catch him on youtube:


Really, we just want things to be fair.

But where do we get the idea that things SHOULD be fair?

As we think back to our childhood I’m sure we all remember a parent saying something like this:  “It’s your sister’s turn to play with the Barbie now, you have to be fair.”  “Wait in line for your turn.”  “She gave you too much change, it’s only fair to give it back…..”

These comments sound quite reasonable and moral; we were taught well, and we live out these courtesies within our families and at our workplaces.  It’s only natural that we would expect fairness in return.

But then there are these foggier examples:  “When my brother was my age he was allowed to date, why can’t I?”  “Why does she get to go to bed later than I did when I was her age?!”  “Why do you pay more attention to him than to me?”

Sometimes “fair” is not clear cut.  Sometimes, especially as a child, it’s hard to understand the reasoning behind the “fairest choice.”  There can be a legitimate subjectivity that can lead to the fairest choice.

Similar thoughts about fairness crawl into our adult being….. “Why do I always choose the slow line!?”  “I’ve worked here longer than he has!”  “No wonder she’s successful, she’s related to the producer.”

It seems that although we need to demonstrate fairness we need to remember that life may not be fair, and there has never been any warranty saying this would be so. 

Doesn’t sound fair, does it!

I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer.  But I do think we have to alter our thinking.  I, personally, would really like get rid of those highly elevated feelings I get when I feel I’ve been treated unjustly (think combustion)!  I think it’s totally normal to feel jealousy, hurt, or anxiousness….all because we feel we are not getting what we deserve.  We are justified in feeling these things, but we need to do something constructive with them, not let them overtake us.

So I think the first thing we need to do is ask ourselves if we actually are getting what we deserve!  An objective look is always a good idea. I know that my own view gets skewed because I see only through my own eyes. Obviously, the choices we make open the door for the consequences that walk in.  Have we done absolutely everything we can to bring fairness our way?  (Maybe I’m in the slow line because I don’t plan well and shop at the busiest time?  Maybe my boss awarded my co-worker because he looks more professional?  Have I taken every opportunity I could to work hard and put myself where I can be noticed?)  There are variables here, too.  You might make the very best decisions, yet life still may seem to treat you unjustly.  You might make the worst decisions yet get to live high on love and wealth.

Certainly we do not deserve all the unfair things that befall us. I call this the Shit Happens theory.  In these cases it’s totally understandable to feel angry, hurt, or vengeful. 

Hope broken arm

So what do we do with these feelings we get?  I think it depends on the nature of the unjust event.  Does it require a call to action?  I don’t think there’s much we can do when we’ve waited in the left merged lane like good, little, proper drivers and the rude speed demon passes on the right and squeezes his way into the lane 50 cars in front of us.


I suppose breathing techniques or refocusing thoughts might help.  Or if we have not had the life opportunities that another person has we can’t turn back time and put ourselves in their place.  Maybe the answer is in being curious about why we feel the way we do so that we can come to a better understanding…..or maybe we should just stop comparing ourselves to others?

My best suggestion for the “small stuff” is just to accept what happens and learn what you can from it.  It doesn’t make sense to get all fired up and sweaty.  I once heard the phrase “bless and release.”  I say this to my daughters all the time.  It’s a handy little thought that helps me to acknowledge something negative that happens but then to let it go. (I know too well, however, that some things are harder to release than others!)

As for the “big stuff,” some of it you can change, and some of it you can’t.  When that team member gets recognized for his hard work and no one notices your efforts perhaps it’s time to reevaluate that job and what you want in life….?  That situation may be changeable and may bring you to a much better place (scary and unknown, but better).  Here’s my unchangeable situation, though….I don’t think it’s fair that Andrew died, whatever the reason, and I can’t bring him back.  All I can do it move forward without him, and try to think like he would, hopefully taking his advice on decisions even though he’s not here to physically give it.


You will make your own decisions on this.  You will make your own life decisions which may or may not lead you to unfair situations.  Perhaps the best we can do is to be fair to others, keep calm when life does not seem fair, and try to focus on the things in life that are most important.

The Gravel Story: It’s All Rough

This is the gravel story.

I was trying to think of a really great second post, something lighthearted, not too sad.  My first thought was “the gravel story!”  It’s a great story.  But after I wrote it I realized how sad it is, too.  It’s great, but it’s sad.

I’m writing it anyway.

I can’t avoid telling stories because they aren’t happy.  That’s what life is going to be for me.  Everything that happens, no matter how funny, interesting, adventurous, newsy or scary, everything will have at least a tinge of sadness because Andrew is not here to live out these things with me.  That’s just how it is.  We need to tell about the joy, the love and the happiness while also including that tinge of sadness.  This is OK.  It will be OK.  So here it is….the gravel story……

Some have heard it already, but it’s definitely worth a re-tell.

What you need to know before I continue…..  One, my daughter, Hope, got me hooked on sapphire hunting.  Two,  Andrew enabled my addiction.  Three, we’ve found some really nice sapphires in gravel from Montana mines, and I’ve made jewelry from them.

(Sorry for the interruption, but before I go much further I feel I need to tell you that my brother-in-law, Kim, and my father-in-law, David, who live in Montana, have been very instrumental in this pursuit of the big blue bling, always suggesting activities for visits.  Cousin Mairin has enjoyed the search, and my sister-in-law, Liz, has been seen with her fingers in gravel, too, so henceforth I’m calling it a Wilson family thing, whether they would agree or not!)


At the end of June Andrew went to Montana.  He loved to visit his family and, being the extroverted soul that he was, he loved to connect with anyone and everyone he knew while there.  He’d always fit in an adventure or two just because that was the way he lived.  He arranged to go sailing with his friend Bill, so on the day before he passed away he got to spend time doing one of his favorite things in the whole, wide world…..  And they sailed on Canyon Ferry Lake outside of Helena…..

Over to the Lemont part of the story…..

On that day I got a text from Andrew.  It was a picture.  Actually no text at all.


I respond, “Cool.  What is that?”  I thought he and his dad went to a ghost town or something.

Then I get this pic…..


I’m thinking, “What on earth?……..”  Then it dawns on me!  The first pic was of the store at the sapphire place, and the second was of the bag of gravel and sifting screen that he got for me!  He texts, “Sapphire place and your next bag of treasure!”

I say, “YAY YAY YAY!!!!!!”

He says, “I will check the check-on luggage limit and probably put some in my carry-on.”  (He had a plan already.)

I say, “You are WONDERFUL!”

As it turns out, in Montana Andrew had gone sailing with Bill and when he saw the sapphire place he thought of me, as he always did, and stopped to get me a bag of gravel that I could sift through at home.

If you knew Andrew you have witnessed this kind of caring from him.  He always had other people in mind…. He always had me in mind.  He loved me so much.  He loved the girls so much.  Of course he wasn’t perfect, but I don’t think there’s anyone left in this world who could love me more.

I’m so glad that Andrew was happy.  He sailed, he hiked, he took photos, and he was thinking of his family in the midst of his happiness.  He didn’t know he was writing his final chapter of life. What a huge lesson to all of us left here…..we don’t know which chapter we’re writing, do we?  Did we choose the right book to write?  (Sigh.  That’s another post.)


Back to the gravel….it’s not the end of the story……

That gravel could have been “long ago lost and forgotten,” but thanks to Grandpa David it made a comeback!  Andrew had told his dad about getting the gravel for me, and in the nick of time David told Kim to check the back of Andrew’s rental car.  Sure enough, there it was.

Kim wanted to make sure that I got Andrew’s last gift to me, so he and his friend, Tom, made plans to send the bag to me in PA.

So now we’re present day…….I have gone through about half of the bag.  I’m rationing it.  And I’m saving the parts that I’ve gone through just in case I’ve missed something!  I’ll go through them again someday.  Here’s what I’ve found from that bag so far.


It’s all rough; that’s what these beauties look like in the raw.  I don’t know what the big chunk is.  I’ll do some research and probably send the best pieces off to be examined and possibly heat treated or faceted.

Just so you don’t think I’m totally crazy, I’ll show you what some of my other sapphires looked like after this process……

IMG_4219 IMG_4272







Andrew was so excited to surprise me with that gravel.  What a great gift!  I cannot describe to you how it felt to open up the package when it arrived, to retrieve the last physical, earthly, well-planned gift that Andrew could ever give to me.

Yes, it’s all rough……the things we have to search through, the joys that we have to find hidden in the dirt, rocks, dust, and all the rest that we really don’t want…..

It’s a gravel story, and we will tell it every day.






With And Without Experience

People ask me how I’m doing.  I don’t know whether I should tell the truth or not.  Usually I make up some kind of mixture of truth and tact.

My husband, Andrew, died in July.  This July.  July 6th.  He had a heart attack.  He was only 55.

So as of today he’s been gone two months.  I think I really thought he would never die.  That sounds strange, I know.  But now the totally unthinkable has happened, and I’m learning how to live without him.  In a way he’s still here… us, in the love for our new house, in the stuff that he loved that sits around here…..

But mostly, we’re without.

Now it’s just my daughters and I.

I don’t mind when people ask how I am.  I’m glad people reach out in any way at all.  I’m not an extrovert.  That was Andrew, the first to knock on a door and make a friend.  For the most part I’m not comfortable knocking on doors or picking up the phone to ask for company.

So if you asked how I am, and I gave you the straight answer, I would say that I am having a hard time because this is not the experience I signed up for.  I’m not pitying myself; I realize that no one receives the grand experiences of their wildest dreams.  My husband had some grand experiences in all his travels but he also lived and loved the experience of every normal day….finding a penny on the sidewalk, finding out something new about another human…..

But even with that I KNOW that this new experience I’m living is not the adventure he would have wanted for me.  He would not have wanted there to be no choice for me, this life without.

Still, this has to be my experience, even though I have no experience…..

He would want me to do this well.  I owe it to him.  All the love he gave, all the days he worked, all the early mornings he worried….I have to take what he gave and keep giving.

So that’s the challenge….to do well what I have never done, what I never intended to do.

I am not alone.  I realize that everyone I pass by every day is probably fighting his or her own battle to meet challenges and succeed.  I am not alone in that I have some wonderful people in my life.  I know that their strength and knowledge will help me.  I am not alone, too, because I have my daughters here with me.

It feels like mission impossible.

But…. Tomorrow will come, and I will do what I need to do.  It is what I want to do.  And I want to do it well.

If you are a friend reading this, thank you.  Please ask how I am.  Please tell me if you’re OK.  If you are someone who has lost a spouse I hope you find the strength to do what you need to do.  Whoever you are I hope you can “do today” with or without experience and do it well.

080706ESSEX Lake