Though She Be But Little

Last night, Parker was lying in my bed surrounded by a herd of stuffed animals. We were talking about a little cow that Samantha picked out for her when she was a baby and laughing about a giant rattle that five year old Grant had picked out.  After a quiet minute, she asked me “Is this my first birthday?”  I was a pretty tired and didn’t understand what she was asking.  As I was about to explain that her brother and sister actually picked out the gifts for her before she was born, she said

“Without dad.”

I guess that speaks to how numb we all were last year.  She didn’t remember her birthday last year and, in fact, didn’t realize that she was ten when he died.  Not really the night before your birthday conversation you would expect to have with your kid.

Today we are off to Williamsburg.  Parker’s summer is camp is having a camp reunion.  Most of the campers live locally which is likely why it is on a Thursday night.  She is excited to see the friends she made this summer and spend some time with them.  I am happy for a mother-daughter get away with the bonus of Samantha joining us for a few hours too.

Happy Birthday to my sweet, strong, smart, incredible Parker.

And though she be but little, she is fierce. 




Random Connections

I have said many times that there are times when a memory hits seemingly out of nowhere and throws me for a loop.  This weekend that happened again and it seems a good example to explain what happens.

I went to see the movie The Martian with my sister-in-law and a good friend of Dave’s.  In the movie, one of the astronauts gets left behind on Mars and perseveres despite numerous obstacles.  After many, many trying events, the astronaut finally gets angry.  My mind flashed back to the day in the oncology office when Dave’s doctor told him that he had three to six months to live.  After the doctor left the room, Dave turned his back on me for a minute to collect himself.  It was that palpable emotion that took me back – that sadness and frustration when hope has all but been taken away from you.  The very hope that you had been clinging to and that had been helping you get through the toughest of times.

I got lost in my head for a while after that and disconnected from the movie in front of me.  I had to pull myself out of that memory and choose to shut down those devastating memories.  Luckily my sister-in-law said something unintentionally funny which helped a lot.  I don’t know if she noticed but I got chatty after that.  It helped to keep my mind out of that dark space.

Random, right?





I am lucky to work for a school system that offers a lot of classes and workshops free of charge to enable teachers to continually learn and improve their craft.  This fall I am taking three classes that are challenging and, at times, mentally tiring but are amongst the best classes that I have taken with the county.  (Well, two of them are.  The third one is useful but the class is not exactly exciting!)  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to work with a teacher from another school and some of her students.  It was fun to be in a different building that has a similar make up to mine and see what great things were going on there.

We had a break between our school time and the class reconvening at another location so we grabbed a bite to eat.  The conversation inevitably turned from math talk to personal chit chat.  When I mentioned that I had a twenty year old, she was surprised and said that I didn’t look old enough.  (Confession – I ALWAYS appreciate when people say this.)  I mentioned that I started having my kids pretty young, at least by today’s norms.  I told her that starting a family right away was Dave’s idea.  And I let her know that Dave had passed away last year and that I felt fortunate that we did start our family when we did.  That he got to see our oldest graduate from high school and go off to college.  And that all the kids are old enough that they will always remember him.  She said that although it is sad, that it is a happy story too.

Later when I was thinking back on the conversation, I was reflecting on what a shift that was in my thinking – considering myself lucky first and foremost instead of just mourning our loss.  Progress, my friends.



Quite a Kid

Last December, one of Grant’s friends lost her father.  Afterwards Grant was determined that he wanted her to have a Nintendo DS with a particular game that he knew she loved.  This is a pretty generous gift, and when I offered to pay for it, he insisted that it would mean more coming from him.  I recently stumbled upon this essay he wrote for school which gives more insight into his thinking.



Everybody needs an “escape”. The kind of thing you turn to when nothing in your life seems to be going your way. You might take refuge in a favorite TV show, delve into the pages of a favorite book, or simply go on an hour long internet surf, anything to help relieve you of the monotony of life. My escape comes in the form of an incredible device, which allows me to traverse worlds beyond my wildest imagination, discover strange creatures, and meet new people. A device so amazing, yet small enough to fit inside your pocket. It’s a little invention known as the Game Boy.

While you may scoff at the idea of a toy very clearly designed for young children being enjoyed by someone who should’ve outgrown it by now, there’s a strange charm to the little plastic brick. It’s the odd feeling one gets when they flick the small switch nestled on the toy’s left side, watching as the screen slowly lights up and hearing that familiar jingle.

Bwaaaaa… Ba­ding!

The pixelated sound of pure joy coming to life in the palm of your hand. It doesn’t matter if you just lost your baseball game. It doesn’t matter if your parents just got into a huge argument. It doesn’t matter if you just found out you got a low score on the latest math test. The small electric heap of plastic you hold in your hand is here to make you happy, if only for a brief moment. Any sadness left in your body is drowned out by the familiar click of the two big red buttons. Any stress is relived when you hear the familiar sounds of ​Super Mario Bros. ​emanating from the tiny speakers beside the screen, where all the action is taking place.

The next thing you know, you are completely immersed in a world that makes no sense. A world where everything is colorful, where you are the hero, and where everything goes your way. Until finally, your mom comes up to your room and tells you it’s time for bed.

You can say what you want about video games. Say they’re a waste of time (an honestly pretty valid claim), say they’re only for “nerds”, and say they’re only for anti­socialites. But I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart that the small handheld waste of time has gotten me through more sad times than any cartoon or toy could. It’s escapism in its purest form, and whether you think it’s good or bad for you, it’s made me the happiest little nerd in the toughest of times.

Taking Issue

I posted this on Facebook yesterday but thought it was also worth sharing here.  Throughout this process of grieving I have learned a lot about myself but in no way would I presume that what I have learned could be turned into a “things not to do” list for others to follow.  Everyone has to do it their own way.  On her list is not dwelling on the past.  Your past is part of the fabric of who you are.  You can’t control your memories good or bad.  Yesterday I passed some emergency vehicles and immediately the image of EMTs and firefighters rushing into my house that final Sunday popped into my head.  That memory took me back to a time that I don’t care to revisit but there was nothing I could do about it. That happens more often than I would like but not because I am “dwelling” there.  Anyway, here is the rest of my two cents and a link to the article, if you are interested.



i scrolled past this several times yesterday but seeing it again this morning made me click. i take issue with the wording in the title “13 ways not to grieve” as that suggests that there is some right or wrong way. the last thing people who are grieving need to think is that they are grieving incorrectly. grieving is personal. what works for me might not work for you. she mentions that mentally strong people don’t feel sorry for themselves. i disagree. i think it is okay to take a beat and feel sorry for yourself and acknowledge that things suck. i am not suggesting you make it your full time job but taking the time you need is important too. the article mentions her keeping her husband’s belongings “like a museum”. i haven’t gotten rid of dave’s things. it’s not a shrine. it comforting to have these physical reminders of him. only the person grieving can decide what their “ways to grieve” are. i have been around several people lately who are grieving all in very different ways than me. i don’t think that i have the answers for them. i do have the encouraging words of support and hugs though.

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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