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.

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! 🙂

babies, joy, living and growing, new life

Contagious Joy

What is it about babies that enthralls us?

Why is it, when a stranger walks by with a new baby, we crane our neck to catch a glimpse of it?

How do they have the power to make a smile appear on our faces without us even realizing it?

How do they manage to turn even the grumpiest of humans into a ball of putty in their hands?

I watch my grandson two days a week. Today was one of those days. I woke up and found myself a bit off. I was feeling disgruntled at the world for no particular reason. Yet I knew, or at least suspected, that time with my grandson would fix that. Would fix me.

How do babies do that? Is it their newness to this world? Could they, who just a short time ago were a part of the miracle of creation, refresh our spirits just by the marvel of their very existence?

It seems they can.

This power to transform those around them, isn’t limited to my grandson. All babies have this power. It seems everyone wants to see a new baby. It’s as if by just catching a glimpse at one, some of that newness will rub off on us.

None of us can remember being that small, yet we all were. Perhaps by seeing a new baby and even more so when we get to hold a new little baby, we are brought back to that time when we ourselves had been freshly created.

Babies seem to subconsciously remind us of the endless possibilities that we each came into this world with.

When a baby smiles, their joy is contagious. We want to ‘catch’ what they have. A sense of wonder. An appreciation for the little things. An understanding for the need for what is important. Human touch. Human love.

When my grandson woke up this morning, I had the privilege to be the one to go in and get him up. His surprise upon seeing me and the smile that lit up his face was indeed catchy. My morning grumpiness dissolved and did not resurface for the rest of the day.

Babies are good medicine. Their smiles and laughter are infectious and spark smiles and laughter within us. Their peaceful countenance while sleeping exudes a peace we all long for. They meet each day with an awe and curiosity that when observed, stirs our spirits.

Babies come with a contagious joy, transmittable by sight alone. How lucky we are when we catch it!

living and growing, remembering


If you could go back to one 24 hour period in time, when would you choose and why would you choose it?

I woke up one morning thinking about this.

The first thing that came to mind was people that I’ve lost. If I could choose just one day to go back to, would I use the 24 hours to be with them?

Both of my parents are gone. Of course I would jump at the chance to be able to sit with either of my parents, even if just for a few minutes. Just being with them would cause my heart to swell.

I imagine just wanting to express to them how much I love them. Perhaps there was something I had wished I had expressed to them while they were alive? If there was, I would share that with them. But when I think about doing that, I imagine the conversation, and I know that any thoughts I shared now, thoughts that may have remained unspoken while they were alive – would be met now with a smile from them, and that they would respond by saying, “I know”. I firmly believe that they are both in heaven, and in that place, they have full knowledge of my heart for them. So although my heart misses them, I realized that a chance to have a 24 hour ‘birds eye view’ of our relationship, and a chance to remember it more vividly is not what I long for most.

So which 24 hours would I choose and who would it be with?

The thought I kept coming back to was time with my kids and my husband. Without any doubt, I would go back to a day when they were all very young and I would choose a day where we were all together.

Within the span of eight years, I had five children and two miscarriages. In those eight years I spent more time pregnant than not. If I think of it in months, I was pregnant 50 out of 96 months! Those first years were wonderful but they were also exhausting! I don’t remember as much from those days as clearly and deeply as I wish I could.

So I would like to go back to that season and pick just a normal average day. I would like to see that day through the eyes of present-day me.

Everyone tells young parents to ‘enjoy this time… it goes by so quick’! But when you are severely sleep deprived, survival is really the name of the game. You absolutely enjoy the moments and are filled with wonder and awe and appreciation for your beautiful children but you are doing it at a deficit more often than not.

So I would love to go back and just revel in them. To revel in us. I think I would enjoy them in a new way – even the squabbles. I would love to see my younger self and my husband’s younger self interacting with them. I have a feeling I would be surprised by what I saw.

As I was imagining going back in time though, a funny thing happened. I realized that I don’t actually need to. Even though I can’t remember those days in the detail that I wish I could. Even though sleep deprivation, pregnancy, raising babies, toddlers and kids, all took a toll on my memory, I discovered I did remember what mattered. I discovered that I am able to clearly and deeply see that those days were good because they were filled with love. And love is the most important part of ‘us’. It’s the part that I will never forget.

clarity and direction, Discovery, enlightenment, living and growing

Saying Yes to Me

It’s finally sinking in. When we say yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else. I use to think it was possible to say yes to everything. But the everything I was saying yes to, didn’t include myself.

For some, putting others first becomes so important that they lose sight of what they themselves need. This has certainly been true for me.

I use to think that by putting others first and saying no to my own needs I was living some kind of higher calling.

There are times when we do need to put others first. But when we do it so frequently that we start to lose sight of our own needs….that’s a problem.

What happens when the only person we say no to is ourselves?

I love to help. It gives me great satisfaction and makes my life feel meaningful. And helping others is good. It’s what we all should do.

I am a caregiver. It’s every inch of who I am. When I don’t have someone that needs care, I find myself seeking out ways to help others.

Here’s the thing though. Need is everywhere. It is easy to be distracted by the immense needs around us. But what about the needs within us? Even those who love to help sometimes need to help themselves.

Turning that helping hand inwards can seem foreign, self centered even. But just because something doesn’t feel familiar, doesn’t mean it’s not right. Healthy habits seem to be much harder to learn than unhealthy ones! Listening to ourselves and responding to what we need is not only healthy, it’s essential.

Sometimes we have to say yes to ourselves. I’m finally seeing that checking in with myself, seeing what I need and then helping myself to get those needs met – is something I must do.

I’ll never stop saying yes to helping others. But seeing my own needs as valuable and worthy…. that’s a step in the right direction. A step towards a healthier more balanced life, a more balanced me. It’s going to take practice though. All healthy habits do.

So these days, I’m practicing saying yes to me.