To Quote Shakespeare…

During assorted times in my adulthood, I have found particular phrases or mantras comforting. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you have heard me mention “It is better to be kind than to be right” on several occasions. I still believe this is true. Hammering home your point hardly feels satisfying when the other person is left cut off at the knees. One of the courses that I am taking right now teaches how to effectively coach others (in my case, teachers). In an ideal coaching conversation, the majority of the talking is done by the person being coached. This means the coach (me) needs to take a breath, pause, take another breath, pause some more and consider what I am going to say. Why am I talking? Am I keeping the focus on the other person? I wonder how much better lots of relationships would be if we communicated more like this.

More recently the mantra that has been going through my mind is “To thine own self be true”. I am not sure if I am applying it the same same manner as Mr. Shakespeare intended, but it keeps popping into my head. I am not suggesting that I am putting myself and my needs before all others. After all, that would be in deep contrast to my previous mantras. I think it is because at the right old age of 40 something, in my second year of widowhood, I believe more strongly than any other time in my life, that my words and actions are not contingent on what others may say or think. They represent me. The words that I chose to speak and the things that I chose to do ARE me. I don’t think that I have ever known myself so truly or understood myself more fully. It is powerful and empowering. Perhaps it took being alone. Being more of an “I” than a “we”. A sliver of a rainbow after the storm.



Thoughts on Grief

I’ve been thinking a lot about grieving lately. On Thursday, I went to a funeral for the mom of a young gal with whom I work. The service was conducted primarily in spanish, but the emotions are the same in any language. I was moved by the connectedness of the family as they supported each other through their grief. I understand why you would have a funeral for your loved one. There was an opportunity to say goodbye or goodbye for now, depending on your faith. It was a time to literally be held up by your friends and family. I get it.

Last weekend I had lunch with a friend whose husband died of colon cancer earlier this year. She and I became friends through the Hopkins group, and I am grateful to have her in my life. Our grieving processes have been very different. She has sold a home and moved. She has donated and sold things that she didn’t have room for in her new place. I get that too. However, I still have a closet full of Dave’s things and his shaving kit still sits on the counter in the bathroom. One thing we definitely have in common is missing our best friends. We talked about how much we miss the conversation and companionship. It is not possible to have the same kinds of conversations with your children, even if they are grown.

I work with a woman who suffered an unimaginable loss in the last year. She wears her grief outwardly, not necessarily by choice I don’t think, but because that is how her body is reacting. Ultimately this is probably a healthy way to be – to let it out. I do everything in my power to keep it from showing to the outside world. In fact, I have said many times that if you didn’t know my history, you wouldn’t guess it from the way that I act. This is a double edged sword because people assume that I am fine. And I am fine. Except for the days when I am not.

More than anything, I grieve for my kids. I am not mom and dad. I am just mom. Each of them had a special relationship with Dave. This is not something that I can replace, and I wish that they could have had it for much much longer. It comes up in bits and pieces. Little things like Parker commenting that we didn’t cook out all summer and how much she missed that. I am sure she missed the actual grilled food, but I think it is also about the entire experience. She would sit on the deck with Dave and they would laugh about silly things the dog had done or talk about one of their random topics. We would all sit and eat dinner together, sometimes being silly and sometimes more serious, but we were all together.

Sometimes it is more intense. When Sam was last home her phone met a watery end. Luckily I had my old iPhone that she could activate. After she got home from the Verizon store I commented out loud that all my old texts were gone and that I hadn’t thought about that. She told me that she had deleted her texts from Dave because she couldn’t handle it. In the last text that he sent her, he asked her if she was awake. He probably needed something and was seeing if she could help him. She feels guilty because she never answered him. I have reassured her that I am sure she didn’t answer because she more than likely just went and saw him. The guilt that she feels about this breaks my heart. I would do anything in the world to take that away from her.

And sometimes it is more global. I grieve for Grant. He talked about things with his dad that he is never going to talk about with his mom or sisters. I imagine that is how it is with boys and their dads. He is surrounded by women who genuinely just don’t get it on many occasions. One of the most touching gestures after Dave died came from a friend of Sam’s. His parents had divorced, and he spent the majority of time with his mom and two sisters. He wrote Grant a note saying that although he didn’t know what it was like to lose his dad, he did know what it was like to be the only guy in the house. He gave Grant his phone number and told him to call him any time. So much maturity and understanding for a 19 year old. He forever has a special place in my heart.

1 year, 3 months, 17 days.



PS I’m thinking about getting a dog.

PPS This is one of the best things I have read about grieving.  (If you click on it, it will open in another window bigger so you can read it.  It’s worth the read.)

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Crying at Work (again)

Today’s tears were happy tears.  Tears of gratitude.  Tears from being moved by the kindness of another.  I got an email from Camp Kesem saying that a (very generous) donation had been made in Dave’s name.  Lisa, a friend who I have gotten to know because she is a faithful and supportive follower of this blog, after hearing about Camp Kesem and watching the video was moved to donate.  I appreciate this more than words can express.  I won’t embarrass her by revealing her donation amount, but I know that because of her another child will be attending camp next year.  What an incredible gift.  A child will get the chance to be around others who know what it is like to have a parent with cancer.  A child will get the chance to also let that worry and stress go and just enjoy being a kid.  I’m sitting here shaking my head because I just don’t have the words.  Thank you, Lisa.




This is the note that I sent to the Camp Kesem counselors the evening Parker got home.


I just wanted to say a huge thank you for all that you did this past week. Parker/Peanut Louie had an absolutely amazing time. We talked the better part of our three hour drive home, and she shared so many amazing stories. My husband and I spent the three years of his illness wondering/worrying about the impact it was having on our kids. This eventually turned into wondering/worrying about how they would deal with his death. Dave was an amazing dad and did everything he could to prepare the kids to deal with what was to come while letting them know that they would be okay. I have spent the last year doing my best to ensure that this is true. You all provided so many opportunities and avenues for Parker to express herself and share her story and even grieve in such a loving and supportive environment while at the same time being joyful and having fun while making new friends. This is truly a gift for which I am so truly grateful. Thank you.

She is already looking forward to next year.

Robyn Tremaine
W&M Class of ’91 : )

PS A special thank you to Squirt, Nala, and M&M. You ladies are amazing.

Camp Kesem William and Mary just released their camp video which captures the spirit of this remarkable place.



On the Other Hand…


Warm and idyllic days like today always make me miss Dave more.  Not because we shared so many together, more because they remind me of the days and weeks leading up to his death.  It doesn’t matter that it is September and he died in June.  There is something in a sunny, mild, bluest sky kind of day that triggers emotions and memories that I don’t tap into day to day anymore.  Which makes them tough to deal with.  On the other hand, when I can work past these feelings, these are the days that make me feel the most peaceful too.

Today is my first day off without the kids being home too in a while.  I have enjoyed running some quick errands by myself and reading on the deck soaking in the warmth.  I appreciate and am grateful that I have the choice to work part time.  It works for our family.  I have this choice because Dave worked so hard and made sure we would be provided for after he was gone.  It is also due, in no small part, to a woman named De in our benefits office.  She created in us a sense of urgency, which got the ball rolling just in time, which in turn has allowed the kids and me to have the options we do.  I am quite sure I never thanked her, but her expertise and guidance has made all of the difference in the world for us.

Lately, I have been mulling over how I might be able to help others who are walking a similar path to ours.  I know that I have said it before but I believe that we weren’t supposed to come out of this experience without having learned something.  I also believe that somehow helping others in this process is something I should be doing.  I just haven’t quite figured out what that means.  I’m open to ideas and suggestions.



Out of Nowhere

Today I was sitting with some colleagues at work.  We were in between training sessions and were catching up a bit.  Without thinking I opened up an envelope I had received through the pony (our internal mail system).  Inside were a couple of file folders.  Inside those were random assorted papers of Dave’s – licenses, recertification paperwork, letters.  And in the blink of an eye, I found myself crying.  I was embarrassed but could not stop.  I dabbed my eyes.  I commented about how silly I felt.  The tears still fell.  I have no idea what happened.  Even thinking back on it now is making my eyes water.  Sometimes there is really no reason.  The grief is just there.




Toilets, Flirting, and other Life Lessons

This morning I decided to make a hot breakfast. (Hello, oven bacon. Why didn’t we meet sooner?!) As I was stirring the eggs, I thought of how much Dave loved to make breakfast. He liked to grill and cook in general but breakfast was definitely his thing. Then my mind meandered to the beginning of the school year. I think about him all the time but especially so as we get ready to launch another year. There are so many things that we talked about when it came to work. I think that he would have been enthusiastic about my second year as a resource teacher. He would have urged me on to whatever the next step might be. He was the ultimate cheerleader.

I was also thinking about the passing of another principal recently – one whom Dave worked for and admired greatly. In reading about him in the paper, I couldn’t help but think about how much his style of leadership reminded me of Dave. Perhaps those years that Dave worked for him rubbed off in a way that I didn’t realize until a few weeks ago.

Then I started thinking about Grant and how he graduates this year. How incredible it is that it is already time again to welcome another kid into the post high school years. Dave and Grant had a really unique and special relationship, very different than his with either of the girls. He would be so proud of the man that Grant is becoming. I know I am.

Time marches on and there are new challenges to be faced and milestones to be reached. I have learned a lot about myself in the last years. I would have always said that I was a strong and capable person. I still believe that this is true. Historically speaking, I have never been all that great at making decisions, but I have definitely learned that I can plan trips with a few clicks of the mouse and that traveling with the kids is something easy and fun that I can do to create new memories and strengthen bonds. We already have two more adventures in the works for this fall and winter.

I have also realized that there are some areas for growth.

By way of example, right before we left for Williamsburg to pick Parker up for camp, I noticed that the toilet in the master bathroom was running. I lifted off the tank cover and jiggled a few things trying to determine why the water wasn’t shutting off. In my efforts, something broke off into my hand which in turn caused a geyser from the tank. Who knew water could travel so fast and furious into the air?! Clearly, I will not be hiring out my services as a plumber any time soon. I tend to think that I can handle things myself. I am still learning when I need to ask for help.

At a recent hotel stay, a man got into the elevator with me, and I think he was flirting. If memory serves, the conversation had some familiar characteristics. Then again he could have been drunk or crazy too. I am not really sure. This is obviously an area that has long been ignored. I’m not anxious to figure it out any time soon. However, note to self, if I do decide to become more social, I am going to have to brush up on my people reading skills. Seriously.

School starts next week. Grant’s last year of high school. Parker’s last year of elementary school. Sam’s junior year of college. I am looking forward to seeing what adventures this year brings.  We are ready.  I think.