this is how it happens

tim-gouw-165094Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

We can practice love as a deliberate strategy to dealing with the pain of loss. It requires practice to respond to anguish with love, but it works. Each time a wave of grief threatens to tear you apart, ask yourself, “What does love ask of me now?”  – from The Four Things That Matter Most by Ira Brock, M.D. 

I used to never consider traveling back to the same place unless of course it was to see family and friends. I thought, why spend the money on somewhere I have already been? But now, if I feel a connection to a place, I want to go back and experience it again and again. Maybe it has to do with being parent-less and getting ready to put my home away from home, the house my mom lived in since I was a junior in high school with all of our family portraits on the walls, memories, and reliable snacks in the cabinet, on the market. I want centering, grounding, comfort. I want to experience that some things never change.

I just finished reading, The Four Things That Matter Most by Ira Brock, M.D. According to Brock, they are: Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you.

Today when my daughter was standing contemplatively at the sliding glass door in a sparkly princess dress too big for her and holding a stuffed Minnie Mouse, I could hear my mom sigh, “What a great picture.”

When I heard a bird singing but couldn’t identify what kind it was, I had to stop myself from picking up my phone and imitating the bird for her on her voice mail. She would get home from playing bridge, listen to it and laugh, call me back and say, “That’s very good, Linds.” I would then tell her that Will had been home from school the last two days to which she would respond, “Poor Will”. She would tell me she didn’t have a lot planned for the weekend and we would talk about her upcoming visit to Florida. I’d hang up but first, I would say, “I love you.” Even though, she would comment on occasion that she didn’t grow up saying this, and didn’t always find it necessary, I did it anyway and she did too. And I think she liked it, even though maybe it was awkward at first.

Yesterday, when I had lunch with a friend, a friend I adore and don’t see all that often, mostly because we are at different stages in life, but also because I don’t see anyone that often other than my kids and husband, she asked me with so much heart how I was doing.

That question again. A sigh, this time from me. I appreciate it. And if it doesn’t come, I am miffed, but when it does, I feel my answer is never quite complete, inadequate. Honest but not sufficient.

It feels as if I am dancing around the edges, as if my feelings are the lacy or sparkly border of a Valentine’s day card made out of pink construction paper. Getting to the center is where the meat is, the real message.

In so many ways, I am o.k. I feel at peace, mostly. And partially I feel this way, I think, because of all the I love you’s and thank you’s I said to my mom over the years.

Recently, during a meditation, I saw my mom’s death from a distance. And thought to myself, wow, it really was beautiful and surrounded by swaths of light and love. In fact, it was light and love. I also heard this message, this is how it happens.

With my son home sick from school, I looked at our fruit bowl and saw so many browning bananas. Like the little spots of discoloration popping up on my own skin. I thought of an easy recipe for banana bread, one that I had found on line last Spring when I was home visiting my mom. She loved it. And then another time when I was back, I asked her what she wanted for breakfast – meals being one of her few sources of pleasure and variety in her day – to which she replied, sweetly and enthusiastically, “I think I’ll have some of your banana bread.” I told her regrettably that I didn’t have any but that I would make some for her again. Anything to perk her up and see sunshine on her face.

So much has changed, so much so that it feels as if giant boulders have been shifting around inside of me trying to settle into their new places. I am letting the experience change me. I wouldn’t want to be the same person I was before. The experience of losing my mom has taught me to be more loving, more understanding, just plain…more.

And that it is never inappropriate, mushy, overly sentimental or too much to say in any way we are able to, I forgive you. Please forgive me. Thank you and I love you.


i can just tell


photo by Phoebe

Dear Blog, it has been four weeks since my last post. Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been four weeks since my last confession. As a kid, I was always majorly intrigued by confessional scenes in movies like the one in Flashdance! The dimly lit space I imagine smelling like Frankincense, the mysterious presence behind the partition, the downtrodden expression on the confessor. Dancing, welding, confessionals, leg warmers, hot dogs. For some reason, I recall hot dogs, am I right about this? And the ice skater friend with the sweaty boyfriend and the pervy father. What a movie!

My current state of mind in this particular moment is supremely grateful for my friends, my husband and kids, my mother-in-law, our various babysitters, my siblings, my aunt and uncle who live near my mom, my mom’s friends, her caretakers and nurses, and the random stranger angels that the universe has kindly thrown my way. Like the one at the airport who saw me with the most loving and knowing expression in her moon shaped, chestnut colored eyes. I was alone with my three kids standing on line to get a boarding pass for my “lap child”, sobbing. After saying goodbye to my sweet mom and one of my closest and best friends who came to spend a couple of days with us, I was in bad shape. Always in airports.

This friend who came a visiting, asked if she could do anything to help while we stood talking in the kitchen. Well, there is one thing. I told her she could take my mom’s Cocker Spaniel, Betty, to the vet to have her anal glands expressed. She had been scooting on the floor and her bottom was clearly in need of attention. A google search informed me that this is not something human beings have to worry about, fortunately.

But the visual of my friend backing out of my mom’s driveway with my 7-year-old daughter in the back and the dog in need of anal expression riding shotgun, is a vision I will not soon forget. Nor will I forget the look on her face when I told her I would need to get her prepared for the appointment with gloves and goggles. Fortunately, that was a joke. But talk about angels, she is the real deal, that Sal and I love her very much.

When I got up to the ticketing counter, the woman with the kind eyes, said, “I know how you feel, I haven’t seen my mom in two years.”  When I asked her how she knew that I was crying over my mother, she softly said, “I can just tell.”

Angles of all sorts are getting me through this time. Especially in airports. Must have something to do with wings and flying. But I take great comfort in knowing that when life is hard, we are never truly alone. And that we are supported by seen and unseen forces. I believe we are very much loved, appreciated and divinely guided.

And every glance, text, email, voice mail, hug, gesture, card, shared meal, walk, are the bones that hold us up. As Glennon Doyle Melton says, “We belong to each other.”  We really do. I can just tell.


the truth of who you are

I am holding the preciousness of my daughter’s 7th birthday yesterday close to my heart. It speaks to everything I am feeling right now. The ups and downs, attachment, joy, gratitude, disappointment, elation, bittersweetness, and challenge of letting something we love go.

She had a good day. And at the end of it, she laid flat on her stomach crying in her bed  because it was over.

Earlier in the day while she was at school, I walked with my youngest as the Autumn sun streamed through the leaves. I saw a man, a neighbor driving away in his truck with a huge flag for the person I am not voting for, waving proudly in the air. I felt my chest tighten. He raised his cup and looked at me through his glass window. I waved back feeling proud of myself for actually doing so.

I then felt slightly ridiculous that for a split second I thought about not waving. I don’t want to be someone who doesn’t wave or smile because of a difference in opinion.

But sometimes I forget who I am and who I want to be.

I really want to see underneath the surfaces and beyond the layers of story and opinions that keep us separate.

Although I fail at this pursuit regularly, I prefer to operate from soul to soul. The best in me and the best in you. Or like we say in yoga, Namaste, the light in me honors the light in you.

But I’m human. And sometimes I mess up, make mistakes and act out of fear or anger instead of Love.

Forgiveness is important too. And acceptance. I’m trying.

Today, I am blissfully thankful for this touch of Fall weather sweeping through. The heat is finally calming down, thank goodness. I am not sure if it will stay but it is a welcome change for now.

And things are always changing. Always in flux. Why is this so hard to accept? Because we tighten, we attach, we hold on to our memories, our ideas for how things should be. It makes us feel safer, maybe more in control. The future is uncertain and that is for certain! Pema Chodron reminds us to recognize impermanence even celebrate it as it is a “principal of harmony” that exists in our world. When we see it, she teaches us to name it as such. The leaves and acorns falling, the relationship changing, the birthday ending. Impermanence.

I didn’t really feel like writing today because I have too much to do while the baby sleeps, namely take a shower and attend to a massive amount of laundry. I didn’t know what to write. But I am writing what is in my heart. What is making my chest feel heavy and my heart feel like a sinking ship. By giving name to what it is; the worry, the tinge of sadness, the fear of the unknown, the shimmer of gratitude and love, I feel like myself. Not the one who doesn’t wave but the one who does no matter what.

Because I am in awe of the miracle and mystery of all of it. And all I can really do today, in addition to the laundry and grocery shopping, is surrender to it all.

“Being who I am. Just being who I am. That’s the big trick. I spent so many years trying to be someone else; trying to be what I thought I was supposed to be, or what someone wanted me to be. And then trying to get what I wanted for me from the scraps, or by sneaking around and doing things behind other people’s backs. Exhausting. Let me tell you, it’s an exhausting way to live. But the cancer stripped me down. Nothing left to lose, as they say. So this year I said to myself, fuck it, no apologies, I’ll just be who I am. I’ll see how that works.”

The more I stopped trying to be a perfect little human for everybody else, the more I stopped expecting other people to be perfect. The more I trusted myself, the more I trusted other people. It’s the darnedest thing…

I wanna tell my kids this. I wanna tell them not to care so much about what other people think. Not to be afraid of saying what they want, what they need. I wanna say, don’t dim your light; don’t live small. You’re not damaged goods; you don’t need to be fixed. Just be who you are -’cause that’s what the people who really matter want anyway. The truth of who you are. ” – Maggie Lake from Marrow; A Love Story by Elizabeth Lesser. 


Life is but a dream


Life is but a dream…

Row Row Row Your Boat. I sang this to my baby girl today. And she smiled. Such a bright light. A bright light drowning out the noise.

The sadness, the horror, the violence. I bet the mamas of those slain men sang them this same song when they were babies. When their eyes shone bright with innocence, purity, and trust. Like all of us moms, they had dreams for their children, the loves of their lives, the pulse of their worlds, that they would grow up to be happy, healthy, and safe. Certainly alive.

They can’t drown out the noise. They don’t have the option to do so like I do.

We eventually go to bed because we have to sleep. We shut our eyes from pure exhaustion. For a moment in the morning we think we have been spared, that the nightmare from the day before was exactly that, a scary dream. Or it was actually someone else that it happened to. Which doesn’t make it anymore terrible and heartbreaking but it doesn’t impact your every breath in the same way.

You have survivor’s guilt but you bargain with the powers that be that you will behave differently, will be more giving, more helpful to everyone. You won’t talk shit about anyone anymore. You will not take one minute for granted. You are so thankful.

If only you could go back ,you think, and do things a tad bit differently. Kept a better eye on them. Kept them on the phone a bit longer. Not have let them go there. Told them to be careful. Told them you loved them louder and more often. But you don’t want them to live life being fearful of their every move. That is no way to live. We are free for fuck’s sake. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave after all.

But it is not your fault. You know that.

After a few very brief moments, the pit in your stomach is there again and it’s growing all the way up to your throat. You feel like you could throw up or you want to go back to sleep but of course you can’t. You want to numb it, take something, drink something, feel something else. Anything but this. Please G-d, anything but this. It has to be a mistake. It feels so surreal. Like you are just going through the motions.

Everything is different. Everything is tainted. You will never be the same. This is not a dream. This is real. This is very real.

People who pray will pray. People who paint will paint. Many will talk. Many will cry. Many will help. Many will not. Many will post to Facebook. Most don’t know what to do. Those of us who write will write. Because we can’t just sit here and do nothing. We don’t want to be insensitive. We don’t know if it is our place to say something, do anything, because we can’t possibly imagine what it is like. What they are going through.  We were spared, we are so grateful. This time.

It will be in the news, it will be everywhere. Constantly. Until it isn’t. Until the next horrific event happens. Until the initial shock and devastation is a little less raw. A wound. A scab. A scar.

Some reach out, some hide, some can’t take it. Some say helpful things. Some say annoying things.

For a moment there is something that gives you a glimmer of hope. Again. A glimmer of hope and peace. A view of the big picture. We can’t know, we aren’t meant to understand. We will do better. But then the light goes out. Again. And it happens again. Again. Again. Again.

We say ENOUGH! Or NO MORE! OR shout something else. But nothing changes. Or does it? Is it changing? We just keep being asked time and time again to come together and love each other more, and let things go more. To be more compassionate.

We can protest. We can lead with our hearts. We can sign petitions and write letters. We can speak the truth. We can volunteer. We can raise money. We can speak from our hearts, from our fears and insecurities. We can give voice to what we really think. We can talk honestly with one another. With our neighbors, our in-laws, our friends, those who are similar and those who are different, our bosses, people that intimidate us, our kids.

But more than anything, we have to stop being fearful. Because we don’t want to live being fearful.

This is the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But until we are all brave, we won’t all be free.

yes, you are creative

shadow    artwork by my daughter and me.

Sometimes you just have to get out the paint and make a mess. Get your hands dirty, stain the deck, leave sparkles in your midst.



And please remember yes, you are creative. It is not whether you are an artist or not, you most definitely are! How are you an artist? Maybe it is through paint or music or the way you cook or write or move or tell a story or decorate your house or simply how you live your life and organize your days and nights.




We want to hear from you. We want to hear what you have to say. We want to witness how spirit moves through you with color and texture and words. Share what makes you alive and what makes you laugh and what makes you scared and how you find comfort.


It is all about love anyway and we all could use more of that.

Pom Pom


Sitting on my front steps this morning, stealing a few minutes of quiet before lawnmowers and obligations, I enjoy my watered down coffee while breathing in all of the signs of life around me.

The little marigold seeds sprouting up, the cool but humid air, and the Magnolia tree with its new white cottony blooms. They look like little pom poms.

This reminds me of my grandmother, my dad’s mom whom we called Pom Pom. The name, coined by my sister, had something to do with a hat she had made.

Pom Pom knitted beautiful sweaters, blankets, hats and scarves. My cousins called her Gammie and Gammie Maine because that is where she lived before she went back to New Jersey.

And before New Jersey, it was Scotland and Connecticut. That’s when she was Alice.

But to me, she was always Pom Pom.

When I think of her, I think of peach colored pants, the polyester texture dimpled like Ruffles Potato chips. Later, they were replaced with soft velour that my mom bought for her.

My mom would call her to check in and make sure she had enough chocolate. When I think about those phone conversations, they feel like a tangible example of unconditional love. My mom, always there for her.

Pom Pom was the most flexible grandmother I had ever seen. She would sit in a chair cross legged with hips as open as a book, watching t.v. enjoying a Scotch and maybe a cigarette.

She was so beautiful in her old black and white photographs. I used to look at them, admiring her elegance along with her perfectly coiffed hair and posture, stunning smile, and lovely nose. Sitting with her handsome husband; my dad’s dad and her three boys.

She looked happy. Before her husband died so young and she had to move back to the states from Scotland with my dad and his brothers.

She eventually married again. This time to a man with a son and a daughter. Thank goodness, she found happiness again.

I recall her saying things like, “Good Night Nurse” and “Watch your tongue, Bud” and telling me how lucky I was when I would pull a juice box out of the fridge.

I felt that I never knew her very well. But I always loved knowing that she was one of five girls, a colorful and beautiful bunch of sisters.

Sometimes when she visited us in Arizona or New Jersey, she seemed sad or distant. I wondered if she would have rather have been somewhere else.

But I fondly remember her the last Thanksgiving with my Dad before he died. She sat at our dining room table with the china with the letter B on it, wearing a cowboy hat that I put on her head while we listened to the song, “I’m too sexy.” She was a good sport that night!

This remembering today makes me feel incredibly grateful for my mom and my mother – in-law and that my kids have had so much time getting to know them. Being picked up from school, vacations, playing card games and Scategories, making macaroni and cheese along with various desserts, and the best part…hearing lots of I love you’s – indelible memories they will treasure forever.

It also encourages me to love the heck out of people even if they bug me or I don’t quite “get” them. It feels like a nudge to believe that people are doing the best they can.

I knew my grandma loved me even though it wasn’t something she said. And it was interesting, we never spoke about religion and I don’t think of her as being particularly religious. But before she died, she asked me to “speak to the Lord for her”.

It felt like a gift, like a window into her soul and an acknowledgment of mine. This, I will carry with me forever. And in some way, I feel like I am getting to know her more now, a slow and sweet unveiling of her spirit and her story whispering to me through the breezes and the blossoms.













“Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.” – Tolstoy

“Surrender to kindness.” – Stephanee Howell at

Kindness is like a tree. It grows from a tiny seed and then roots and sprouts in different directions creating new life and beauty along the way. We can’t see how deep or how far reaching the roots travel or know how many lives have benefited from the shade and oxygen the leaves provide.

When thinking about kindness, the Mother Theresa quote, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love,” comes to mind.

And no where is this more true for me than at the grocery store.

I often complain about going to the grocery store. There, I have bumped into people, hid from people, thrown up in a reusable shopping bag when pregnant with my second child, and strolled around with an older bagger who pushed my cart while I held my new born baby not knowing where to put him while I shopped.

Once, I had a panic attack when I left my two year old daughter in the shopping cart and sent her for a “ride” with my groceries in the very steep cart escalator. I screamed and flailed and freaked out until an employee came over, stopped the escalator, walked up the other side and grabbed her, fortunately unharmed, out of the cart. She was holding my phone at the time and had, unbeknownst to me, recorded the whole ridiculous event. She seemed to not think much of the whole ordeal while I found it terrifying and humiliating.

Another time, I had a meaningful chat about life after death by the nuts (maybe not a coincidence.) And the day I lost my dad, the clerk at the register lifted up a bag of prunes forgotten by a miserable man who had scolded me after I spilled a container of yogurt, and declared that, justice had been served!

Last week after shopping, I watched a man help an elderly woman struggling to push her shopping cart over a ramp. Before I could put my cart aside to help her, he eagerly asked her with a voice like liquid honey, “Do you need some help?” I smiled at him and he winked back with a twinkle in his eye.

Seconds later, feeling bolstered by the kindness I had just witnessed, I watched as a young guy stopped his car in the middle of the parking lot on a busy Sunday afternoon to usher an adorable family of ducklings across the street to safety.

I stood with goosebumps and tears in my eyes.

And just the other day when I started in on a long winded diatribe about chicken pot pies to a woman who I had never seen before working at the register, she didn’t look at me like I was crazy. She simply listened. And then cried.

I explained to her that I was disappointed that they didn’t have the chicken pot pie in the deli that I like. I wanted that particular variety because I thought my mom would like it. She was coming into town for the first time since starting chemo and it was hard to find the right food to eat. As I rambled on, she stopped scanning my groceries and looked at me with tears in her eyes. She told me she understood how difficult it is to watch those we love go through something so hard.

Then she asked me if she could hug me. It was my turn to cry. And I cried. And cried. And cried.

It was like any other day, but it wasn’t.

Sometimes I want to do more to help others. I feel like I am not doing enough.

But If I have learned anything from these kind interactions with strangers while engaging in such an ordinary task like grocery shopping, it is that small kindnesses do matter. And they are contagious.

“There are only proofs of love”, Gretchen Rubin writes in her book, The Happiness Project. Most people cannot read minds and don’t know how loved and appreciated they are unless we show and tell them.

When I grocery shop, I always forget something important like toilet paper or cookies. Or I spend too much money. Or I am there for too long. Or I would rather be doing something else. But I am starting to change my tune because I have experienced great kindness there too.

And I will never forget that hug and how it changed not only my day, but me.

For a very sad but touching tale about the impact of kindness: