blog, blogger, death, letting go, living and growing

Looking back at the Landslide

Ten years have passed since my father died. Ten years! Shortly after he died I wrote my first blog post. It was called, “A Landslide”.

In that post, I commented about how my Dad’s death felt like a landslide and I was suffocating under the debris.

I ended that post by considering what happens, over time, when a landslide occurs. In time, flowers push through the new earth and life returns.

It feels surprising to me that my father has been gone ten years. I don’t know how it’s possible.

I miss his physical presence. His ability to take over and take up a room. I miss his self-confidence. I miss his absolute complete amazement and appreciation of me, my husband and my kids. I miss knowing that if I ever got in a pinch all I had to do was call my Dad. He was a force to be reckoned with and that force was always on my side!

When my dad died, I poured my energy and time into my mother. It seemed like the best way to honor him and it helped ease the grief. Now they are both gone and I find this anniversary has things to reveal to me.

Ten years reveals that the loss can still make me cry. When I stop to think about it, it breaks my heart that they aren’t here.

But ten years reveals something else as well. I don’t constantly feel the physical separation their deaths caused like I used to. They have somehow become a part of me. It is as if they move and walk with me. I take them wherever I go.

Ten years ago I had hoped that life would return after the landslide. And it has. It’s a different life than before, but life is indeed present. Like the layer of the new earth that a landslide brings, both of my parent’s deaths brought new challenges into my life. A new way of living was required.

Initially, this new way of living felt heavy and unnatural. The vacuum created by the physical loss of them threatened to pull me under. Their deaths, their final act of helping me to grow, meant I had to stand on my own two feet fully and completely for the first time. I needed to learn to push through the grief each landslide brought and discover how to live without their physical presence.

A time of laying fallow was needed. Time was spent recovering from the seismic shift the landslide created.

Now, as I had hoped, new flowers are blooming. I’ve learned to stand, then walk and even dance again.

dying, letting go, living and growing

The Vigil

Ten years ago this week, the vigil began.

My father, barely coherent, drifted between this world and the next.

In a hospital bed on the first floor, my dad had already finished entertaining the last outside visitors he would ever have.

My siblings and I had started staying overnight at my parent’s house, sleeping on the first floor so my mother could go upstairs to bed and get some real sleep. Months before this, we began to circle the wagons around him and my mom. They were both worn out.

All of his life, he had been the one out in front, leading the way. He led the way even in death, but we were determined he would not be alone. He might have to go first, but we would travel alongside him for as long as possible. His path would be paved with love.

My dad had always loved music. He was known for only singing the first few words of a song and then loudly humming along to the rest of it. While his tether to this world was loosening, I played him two of his favorites. “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”. When the songs ended, he smiled and said, ‘That was nice.’ He had instructed us that he wanted the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” played at his funeral. I played that as well. These songs, long associated with him, would now be the music that paved his path to heaven.

Several days before he died, my mother, sister and I offered to do the rosary with him. Although I was raised Catholic, I never really understood how to pray the rosary, but I knew it held meaning for him. Google came to our aid and we prayed through it with him. Although he wasn’t speaking much at that point, he appreciated the gesture and his lips sometimes moved as we prayed. His path to heaven was paved with prayer.

With only a few days left on this earth, his body continued to prepare to let go. This man, who even in his 80s had more energy than most…this man who commanded people’s attention wherever he went….stopped all activity. He stopped speaking and went to sleep.

At first, it truly was sleep. But the deep sleep one enters as they transition from here to there had begun. We watched and waited.

Until early one morning when rest gave way to death and all was quiet.

The vigil was over.

There’s an emptiness when a vigil is over. You came together for a purpose. You remembered. You prayed. You kept watch. But when that stops, when the reason for the vigil has been taken away….what does one do next?

It’s been 10 years since the vigil for my dad took place. Here’s what I’ve discovered. After a vigil, figuring out how best to remember the one who is no longer here can take some time. But remembering alone isn’t enough.

You must let go of the vigil and live.

birding, lifestyle, personal

Flash Mob at Dawn

I’ve always wanted to experience a flash mob. The kind of thing where you are out somewhere and suddenly people start singing and/or dancing. To experience something like this was even on my bucket list.

Until this morning.

While the sun was still rising, I let my dog out into our backyard. It was much earlier than usual and I went out with her so I could stop her if she started barking.

It was on my back porch stairs that I suddenly found myself in the middle of a flash mob! It started as one voice singing and soon that one was joined by a multitude.

I couldn’t see these singers. They were disguised by the burgeoning green on the trees all around me.

But oh how they could sing!

The first voice I heard was that of a Northern Cardinal and then a House Sparrow chimed in. As if on cue, an American Robin joined them followed by a Song Sparrow. Of course, the Blue Jay waited to make it’s entrance. If the Blue Jay thought it could out sing the others, it was wrong! More and more Song and House Sparrows raised their voices until there was a cacophony of song filling the air.

I’ve always wanted to experience a musical flash mob. This morning I realized that my idea of what that might look like was limited. That limited thinking almost caused me to miss the thrill of experiencing the flash mob that was right outside my door.

I’m crossing, ‘experience a flash mob‘ off my bucket list. I have discovered that each morning I can be surprised by the music all around me. Right outside my door there’s an opportunity to experience a concert where the song list and participants change from day to day but the music never ends!

babies, childhood, childhood songs, Discovery, Grandchildren, grandparenting

I’m Just a Kid Again….

I watch my grandson two days a week. Turns out it’s a great fit for my personality. I like to babble…sing songs…dance…and that tends to appeal to kids.

I love the wonder of it all. His face when I expose him to a new song or sing and dance along to an old favorite.

Recently I learned something new about something old – because of my grandson.

I have a play list of songs I share with him. Some are favorites of mine from when I was a kid. Recently Youtube played a song but it wasn’t one on my playlist. It was an old song but not one I ever remembered hearing. And when it played I marveled at what I was discovering.

When I was growing up, the expression: “Wake up you sleepy head, wake up get up, get out of bed!” was a common one. I had it said to me as a child and I can remember trying to cajole my parents out of their bed with the same expression.

So I was quite surprised when I was playing with my grandson and this song starts to play – “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobin’ Along”. The chorus stopped me in my tracks.

“Wake up!! Wake up you sleepy head,

get up, get up…get out of bed,

cheer up…cheer up, the sun is red…

live, love, laugh and be happy”

What??!! This expression came from a song? Did I have this song sung to me when I was a child? I don’t remember. But it is now one I find myself humming constantly.

There is one line in it that feels especially poignant….it says:

“I’m just a kid again, doing what I did again, singing a song!”

That’s just how I feel when I’m with my grandson. He doesn’t just remind me of my own kids when they were little…he reminds me of myself. And through him I am re-discovering the wonder I felt as a child. And I find that, I’m just a kid again, doing what I did again….singing a song!

appreciation, living and growing, mothers, photographs, remembering

Captured in a Photograph

I keep this picture of my mom on my desk. You can see her standing just outside of her front door. She’s leaning casually against the railing and there is a big smile on her face.

It’s one of my (many) favorite pictures of her. It personifies who she was and how she lived.

If you were someone she loved and you appeared at her door you would be greeted with an exclamation of how delighted she was to see you. Then she would hug and kiss you.

Sometimes she would be so excited to see you that she would forget to say hello. So a few minutes after your visit began, she would stop whatever she was doing, look at you and say ‘hello‘. I can still hear her, “Hello, Beth“. It was as if her excitement at seeing you got the best of her and when she started to calm down she would remember the importance of a traditional greeting. Of course, no one who received her warm welcome thought twice about her skipping the formal hello.

This picture captures how she loved. Behind the glass screen door is the front door but you can’t see it in the photo because it is wide open. That openness embodied how she loved. You were welcome anytime. The door to her heart was always open.

There are other things I’m reminded of when I look at this photo. She often looked younger than she really was. She dressed casually and it gave her a youthful look. She never quite mastered the art or desire of dressing up. And her hair….once a startling red….had dimmed to a soft brown. It never truly turned gray. All these things, along with her quick and easy smile made her approachable.

Her casual lean against the railing belied how her body felt. Her smile was genuine but her body was often uncomfortable and in pain. In the picture you wouldn’t guess it looking at her and that was just like her as well. She rarely complained and when she did she quickly felt badly both for burdening you with her struggle and for not being able to handle her discomfort without expressing it.

She felt weak when she complained. But there was nothing weak about her. She was happiest when she could help relieve you of any part of your own burden. She was rarely one to try and solve your problems. But oh how she could listen!

She would often be surprised when a total stranger would open up to her and share some struggle they were having. But to those of us who knew her, it made perfect sense. Strangers seemed to sense that she was someone that they could trust. Her openness would never betray that trust. You could tell her anything and if you asked her not to tell anyone, you could rely on her keeping it to herself. Not once in my entire life did she ever betray my trust. Even once her battle with dementia began…she continued to be the best secret keeper I have ever met, never forgetting what she shouldn’t share.

It’s not that she was without fault. She would be the first to tell you she wasn’t perfect. But this photograph captures all of her best traits. When I look at it, I am reminded of her warmth and generosity. I see a kind and good person whom it was safe to be yourself with.

All these things….so much love…captured in a single photograph.

imposter syndrome, living and growing, owning it

An impostor, no more

I’ve never forgotten it. The first time I took my first born, infant daughter for a walk.

She was in a stroller and as I was pushing it, I felt as if all eyes were on me. There was no one around me, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that if anyone saw me they would know I was an impostor.

They would know that there was no way THIS baby was mine. No way I was a mother. They would know just upon seeing me that I was only pretending. This wasn’t real.

I was suffering from impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome happens when someone doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and worries about being exposed as a fraud. They can feel this way despite evidence that they are indeed competent.

This feeling continued for the first few weeks after my daughter was born. And then one day, it was gone. The odd thing about this was I only felt this way when I was outside with her in her stroller. The experience seemed so foreign that it felt unreal.

I haven’t thought about that too much over the decades since. But it strongly came to mind the other day. I was out with my grandson. We were going for a walk and he was seated in a stroller. We had walked for quite a while before I remembered that old feeling. It dawned on me that even though this too is a new situation, and I am still a newly minted grandmother, I have no feelings of being an impostor.

I expect that people look at me and see a grandmother out for a walk with her grandbaby. He is real. He is mine and I have no doubts about my competence. I have trained for this for decades.

I am most assuredly, an impostor no more.

clarity and direction, family, happy place, living and growing

Happy Places

Last night I was listening to a meditation app designed to help you fall asleep. As it sought to guide me into a relaxed state it asked a question.

What is your happy place?

I thought for 1/2 a second and couldn’t think of one. I chastised myself and insisted that I think more on this.

And then I saw it. It was a large table with all my kids around it. Son-in-laws and grandbaby all fall under the umbrella of ‘my kids’. Ten of us…together.

We were laughing. Some of us so hard that we were crying. There was no undercurrent of discomfort for my empathetic heart to pick up on. Only enjoyment in each others company.

My heart was happy imagining this. I had discovered my happy place.

This was kind of big deal for me. And here’s why….last month my husband and I went out and purchased a dining room table. For me, it is the first brand new dining room table I have ever owned. We’ve been married a long time. And in that time, including our new one, we’ve now owned 5 dining room tables! Three of them were given to us. One we bought second hand for $250 dollars and used until it fell apart.

But table number 5 was different. We were buying it new. The sticker shock was substantial. After we bought it, I came home and had a bona fide panic attack. My husband and I have always been practical people. We never minded second hand things, if they worked we were fine with them.

But our family has grown. Our table no longer fits us. And that didn’t jive with my image of family times spent together. So we went out and bought a table, that fits all of us with room to grow. I also made sure that it was a beautiful table and one I would not need to replace again.

But beauty often comes with a price tag, literally and figuratively. This was not a table for finger paints or playdoh or hot wheel races. Did I mention we were a practical people, use to second-hand things? With a new grandbaby, this table fit us but we would need to treat it with care. Hmmm. That would be an adjustment.

But I made my peace with it. Because more than anything, I wanted us all to be able to sit around that table.

Then last night, that meditation app asked that question….what is your happy place?

And I realized in that moment, I hadn’t just bought a table. I had invested in my happy place.

labyrinths, living and growing, prayer, seeking God, spiritual growth


Have you ever walked a labyrinth? Do you know what a labyrinth is? People often expect it to be a maze, but it is not. There is a clear route to the center and back out again. But the road inward is not a straight shot. There are many twists and turns. Labyrinths have been used for centuries by all kinds of religions. Christians have been known to use them as a form of prayer and introspection.

When I walk a labyrinth, I follow the path to the center, bringing my worries and concerns to the Lord. Sometimes I might focus on just one word on the way in and sometimes I am quiet and open. Once I reach the center, I see it as a figurative way to meet God and I spend a few moments there. As I take the path out, I feel refreshed with the assurance of him by my side.

I have discovered it to be a profound experience.

The most popular design for labyrinths where I live is the Chartres Labyrinth. It’s based on the labyrinth that was inlaid into the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France in 1201 A.D. Scores of people have visited the Notre Dame cathedral to walk it.

I have found labyrinths in a variety of places…in church basements, on church grounds, randomly in the woods and at big outlet malls.

I enjoy them so much I bought a finger labyrinth. Like the name implies you ‘walk it’ with your finger instead of your feet. It too is a peaceful form of meditative prayer.

The first time I walked a labyrinth I was overwhelmed by the effect it had on me. The twists and turn on the way in reminded me that even though I sometimes feel far from God, he is still right there in the center of it all. I only have to look to see him, but sometimes my eyes focus on the path right in front of me so intensely that I forget there is more. The labyrinth is an opportunity to slow down and see things in a new way. A chance to see God in a new way. An opportunity to see myself or situations in a new way.

It can be hard to slow down. To take a deep breath. But a labyrinth affords you the chance to do so. When you are on the path, despite it’s twists and turns, you can trust that even if you think you’ve lost your way, the road will lead you to God. And in walking the path you are reminded that even while God is at the center of everything, he is also walking right along side of you.

Chronic pain, living and growing, sleep

The Problem with Rest

When I was younger I never knew how to rest. If I was awake, I was moving. There was always something that needed to get done.

About 10 years ago, that changed. My kids were mostly grown, perimenopause was kicking my butt and I knew I needed to rest. The problem was, I didn’t know how. It was foreign to me. I wasn’t even sure beyond taking a nap, what it meant to rest.

I began to read and study books on the subject. I was determined to figure it out. I led small groups on rest. I realized that if I didn’t know how to rest, maybe other women didn’t either. Sounds ironic, but I ‘worked’ on resting. And eventually, I started to figure it out.

Rest was good and necessary. It was so much more than sleeping. Rest nurtured the soul.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that I was diagnosed recently with an autoimmune disease that both demands more rest and recoils from rest. Nowadays, resting creates stiff, inflamed joints. Pain travels from joint to joint with each day bringing it’s own unpleasant surprises. The one thing all my joints dislike is stillness.

Sitting still for more than 10 minutes or so and I get up out the chair like I’m 95 years old. Going to bed means hours of stillness. Hours of my joints being immobile. Immobile joints become painful and weak.

So, I have a new problem with rest. My soul still requires it. My mind has learned to appreciate it and most of my body still needs it. But my joints….well, they have a problem with rest.

So, a new journey has begun. I’m figuring out how to rest all over again. Rest, or how to do so without causing pain, is the problem I’m working at solving now.

I need to find new ways to rest. New ways of looking at rest. Even the most primal form of rest, sleeping, requires a new approach.

I’m taking my new problem and heading back to the drawing board. The advantage I have this time is that I now appreciate its benefits. I’ve experienced the value of it first hand for long enough to know that going back to ‘not resting’ is not the solution. Instead, I need to discover new ways of thinking of rest and new ways of actually doing it that work for this latest version of me.

I have a problem. And I won’t rest until I solve it! 🙂

Love, Uncategorized

Love expressed…

Expressions of love can appear in so many forms. On a Valentine’s day not so long ago, it was expressed in the form of a little song, quickly made up and sung off key.

A few years back, my husband, Scott, a school teacher, had a two hour delay because of a storm. Because of this, he was home when I went to wake our teenage daughter up. As I opened the door to her room, he quickly stepped up beside me. We walked in together and spontaneously I started to sing – an old song from when our kids were young. My husband joined in. Then we launched into a Happy Valentine’s Day song sung to the tune of Happy Birthday. As we did that, Scott walked around the other side of her bed and together we bent down and kissed her.

And then we left her to get ready for the day.

And a thought occurred to me.  Never, growing up, had my parents come into my bedroom and sung to me.   Scott said that he had never experienced that either.

Yet we had just done that. We had done something we weren’t taught. Later, I realized that over the years, we’ve done similar things like that with all our kids. Spontaneously loving them through song or dance or hugs or kisses.

And I thought about how as parents, it seems that our desire is always to give to our kids some elusive thing we didn’t have as children.  It’s a desire, older than time itself.   Regardless of what our childhoods were like we want more for our children.

But usually that ‘more’ comes in the form of things, or opportunities.  But on that particular Valentine’s day, it came in the form of songs and kisses and two parents, united in their purpose to love on their daughter when the opportunity presented itself.

Some days we feel guilty about the opportunities we let pass by. Opportunities to express our love for one another.

And some days, we manage to express it just right.