Category Archives: hurdles

13 Months: Through The Looking Glass (Reflections on entering the 2nd year.)


The 21st is a hard date to face each month. A month ago I was standing on the other side, the Looking Glass in front of me, looking over my shoulder at the first year, my past, hesitating to step through to my future, but really, what choice did I have? I can’t live in the past, with regrets, and wishes don’t make the future a reality. So, I stepped through and I find myself here, on the other side, insecure in my uncharted territory with a million decisions to make and myself the ultimate consultant.

I am fine most of the time, well maybe ¾ of the time, as long as I stick to my routine. The decisions are hard, the weekends can be hard but I’ve gotten used to the nights. I’m fine and some of the time I even enjoy the time alone, to think, to write, answering to only myself. I have a home that stays clean, food that I like to eat in my refrigerator and half as much laundry to do each week. I’ve almost stopped waiting for someone to come home.

It is different here, on the other side of the Looking Glass. The world looks different and feels more uncertain, but I am trying to create a landing pad, a place to feel at home and friends to share some good times with. I am making different memories while struggling to keep the old memories alive, the good ones, the laughter, and the adventures shared. This side of the Glass has a long road stretching out ahead and I am traveling light, taking only what holds memories, is beautiful or needed, letting go of so much. Not just hopes and dreams, but also the weight of all that is carried through a lifetime.

A Looking Glass is for looking through, but once I’m through it, I can look forward and while I can’t see too far down the path, I can see a day at a time. I can plan a day at a time. I can live a day at a time, with gratitude that I have these days and that I have this path to walk on. I am fine, most of the time, but having the support of my family and friends is the buoy keeping me afloat. You’re asking, me answering, I’m fine most of the time. Thanks for asking.

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Filed under change, choice, death, grief, hurdles, Life thoughts

Hawk Watching & Halos of Light

hawkYesterday, marking 8 months, sent the hawk to watch over me as I sat at my desk, paying bills, checking the emails coming in and contemplating my life as it is now, a long floating journey to an unknown landing. The hawk, who usually lands at the top of a nearby towering pine tree, landed in the tree closest to my window, closer than ever before, and sat contemplating me in between gazing at the landscape. I felt protected somehow.

Each month that goes by brings new challenges and just when I think I’ve gotten a grip on things, a new mess is dumped in my lap. Does it really take a year to get things straight? I’ve been told many times to wait a year, that it takes a year to get used to things, to settle things and to figure out a new place in the world. It feels like forever at eight months.

The hawk stayed watching me for over an hour perched in the tree. I felt his presence and it was somewhat comforting, making my day less lonely. The house was busy last weekend, with a visit from my eldest daughter and my youngest, my little granddaughter. It was family filled, busy, chaotic and reminiscent of the many family gatherings over the years as we all came together to introduce little Margie to friends and family. My daughters surprised me for my birthday with a homemade chocolate raspberry cake (our family birthday tradition) and everyone sang. During the singing, as Nicole videotaped, she noticed a halo of lights moving around me and near the cake. Of course it was a reflection of the candles, but yet, it hovered near me, above me and next to me during the singing of Happy Birthday. It startled Nicole and when we watched the video the next day, we were all a little teary and speechless.

fullsizerender-28Sometimes there are things that can’t be explained. Sometimes the longing for what was is overpowering. Birds appear, Honda Pilots escort me as I drive, lights appear, and yet, as I fall asleep asking for a little help getting through all that I am dealing with, it is harder to feel the connection. I want to believe that I can communicate with my partner of 37 years because how can such a strong connection be gone, even with the separation of time and space? It seems so much stronger than that.

I am dealing with the messes, the stuff, the remnants of odds and ends left undone in the wake of a sudden departure. I am tired of “adulting” as Danielle calls it. I am tired of being the only one to deal with the complications in my life that used to be shared. Divide and conquer. Now I’m left with cleaning up the works in progress that Gary left. My life, without these, seems painfully simple and I suppose one day, it will be.

The holidays are a particularly challenging time when the aloneness is in juxtaposition to the blatantly obvious togetherness and celebrating going on everywhere. It is possible to feel alone even in the middle of a group of people and it is especially hard during this solstice, the darkest days of the year. The cold, dark night sends me to the couch to get under a blanket and zone out watching television.

I am looking forward to the return of the light, the coming warmth and the signs of spring to come. I am hoping that I can have a rebirth too, and enter into a life that feels more like I fit in somewhere, that I can make new, happy memories and land on a solid foundation.

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Dodging Acorns

img_2689If life imitates art, then I guess it can also imitate fables like Chicken Little. My life is a lot like that lately and I find myself dodging acorns. On many days it feels like the sky is falling and I’m looking for someone to tell so that I can be reassured that it isn’t really falling, it is just life. Life with it’s suddenly appearing hurdles and inconvenient inconveniences. As my sister reminded me, there is never a good time for an inconvenience.

These minor annoyances aren’t the real acorns, the real acorns are the larger life hurdles that pop up suddenly when I realize there is yet another new situation to navigate such as negotiating a car repair, or taking the trash out every week. These things aren’t huge, but they are new to me because I always had a partner to share the responsibilities of keeping a home.

Then there are the larger acorns looming ahead, things I will encounter soon, negotiating a car deal, going through every item in my house in an effort to “downsize,” finding a home, packing everything in my home and moving. I thought many of these decisions would be things Gary and I would be deciding together, like where we would go on our next vacation, but in this new life, the one where I am alone, it’s a new, unfamiliar game.

I try to remember to take one day at a time, or sometimes an hour at a time. I navigate running into well-meaning friends and acquaintances that hug me and ask how I am doing when my only answer is a slight smile and tear-filled eyes. I get through each day, but I don’t see a future yet. I get through each day but the days without plans are hard. I get through each day, but I don’t have a lot to look forward to at this point. I’m working on those positive affirmations. I’m making lists.

Things I am grateful for:

A comfortable place to live

Food to eat

My friends and family

A rewarding job

My health.


Things I am learning:

To change heater filters

To add washer fluid to my car

To handle car repairs and maintenance

To make a fire and enjoy it alone

To eat dinner alone


Things I want:

A home.

A life with purpose.

A life filled with friends and family.

A clear sky, or at least one with very little chance of acorns.


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The World has Changed in Seven Months


                         Looking for light.

Today marks seven months that Gary has been gone and in those seven months everything has changed, in my life, in the country and in the world. Nothing is familiar and nothing is the same, holidays coming and going like mountains to climb and descend. The anticipation is somber and the days are long. Seven months ago the embrace of family and friends provided some security in the foreign world in which I was now forced to live. I gathered courage from their encouraging words: “You’re doing so well” and “You are so strong.” The truth is I am not so strong and much of the time paralyzed with the insurmountable tasks of unraveling my formally entwined life. The truth is there are many lonely days and nights as I learn to live alone and to be alone. The truth is that I cannot see much point (or fun) in cooking for just me and I miss cooking and eating together with Gary. I haven’t figured out how to have purpose and I spend evenings watching mindless television. The best I can do is take myself to yoga to practice breathing.

I have tried, over the past seven months, to focus on moving forward and to feeling gratitude. I have expressed gratitude to my family and close friends. I write about gratitude and make lists of things I am grateful for. I am very grateful that Gary did not suffer for long and that we, his family, did not have long roles as care givers, watching him drift away. I try to remember how much worse it could have been and I know others who did have to suffer much more. I am grateful for my job and to be part of a caring community. I am grateful to live in California for many reasons, but to be honest, the climate in our country, the overwhelming negativity and hatred expressed by so many, has hit me hard and like others I know, has intensified the grief cycle I was already immersed in.

It is hard to believe it has been seven months. It was somehow easier at first when I had so many tasks to take care of. I could lose myself in the busyness of it all. Now, those things have settled down a little and I find myself face to face with the holiday season. Normalcy, with Gary barbecuing turkey and thoughts of him making latkes next month, is gone. I haven’t found a new normal yet. I haven’t figured out how to do more than exist and get through each day and am floating without a landing in sight.

I think that now many people share these feelings. Of course there are many others alone, those who have also lost loved ones and those who are separated from loved ones, but now there are also many who have lost faith and confidence in our future as a country. Families are estranged and friendships are strained. For me, an already sensitive person, it sometimes feels like a very heavy burden. Life can change in a minute and there are no guarantees. Life has changed dramatically and each of these many minutes over the last seven months have felt like a trip into a dark tunnel that I travel hoping to see if there will be any light at the end.

Life certainly isn’t perfect, including relationships. Governments aren’t perfect either, but somehow losing the familiar, the known, someone who honestly cared, is a difficult idea to comprehend. The loss of hope, optimism for the future, the future as we expected it, is a crushing weight and wearing a mask of positivity can be exhausting.

Seven months, from the hope of springtime, to the darkness of winter. The months come and go and I long for the light to return, for some sign of hope and the chance that things can feel normal in a way, a different kind of normal, but one that sits comfortably and allows enough space to breath in and then to exhale.


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Lingering in Twilight


               A sign and a reminder.


The hours between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. when twilight approaches and the daylight hours are coming to an end bring a shadow of melancholy. The daytime is busy with work, errands, exercise and occasional plans with friends. Then twilight encroaches with stillness and quiet. I am not preparing dinner or readying a welcoming home as I have done for most of my life. There are not children here needing to be driven to lessons or supervise homework for. I come home to the house as it was when I left in the morning, put away my school things, lunch bag, and change into fresh clothes. I take care of “business” answering emails, bringing in the mail, paying bills, washing daytime dishes, and watering plants. The night looms ahead with it’s empty hours and solitary dinner.

I used to look forward to some quiet time after the energy filled day of teaching and being surrounded by so many people. I came home and enjoyed a couple of hours decompressing and finding my voice again. I enjoyed planning meals, surprising Gary with something healthy and delicious when he arrived home or better yet, cooking together, and looked forward to settling in on the couch to unwind together watching TV, or back in the days of Charlie, going for an evening walk. We went to movies frequently (I have seen one movie in the past five months) and loved to go out to our favorite restaurants. That is all in the past now.

I look for new ways to fill the twilight hours, so I can get to the evening, when I can retreat to old habits of reading, writing or my new habit of watching mindless TV. A few times a week I go to yoga class and find comfort on the mat, in the repetition of familiar postures and in the energy of others seeking solace. Occasionally I have an early dinner with a friend and relax in the company of conversation. I attend my grief support group and share with others traveling this uncertain road. Nothing replaces the familiar routines of my life though. Creating a new routine is trial and error with some things bringing relief and others bringing a new onslaught of loneliness and sadness.

The days are bearable, and the evenings a welcome relief, but the twilight is painful with its solitude. I wonder how people adjust to being one, instead of two (or more). I look out at the lights twinkling in the Valley and think about all of the people alone in their homes and wonder about this new phase of my life. I’ve been cheering others on in my role as an encourager for most of my life, providing support and positive affirmations, celebrating successes and reassurance in times of struggle. I have not practiced doing this for myself. My life now can be anything I want it to be, I just never really thought about what I wanted before now.

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My first solo trip, I am in the Bay, San Francisco and Berkeley to be exact, and I’ll be honest, I am not totally alone, staying with my cousin and visiting my daughter, but I flew here and am navigating the cities myself. I have used Lyft, Uber and BART. What started out, as a scary unknown has become a familiar luxury, and an interesting adventure.


These amazing sunflowers were taller than me!


The Lyft and Uber drivers have been pleasant for the most part and some have been really interesting. I have been able to view the city without worrying about navigating it myself so I have seen amazing architecture, bustling streets, people walking, biking, taking dogs for a stroll and the many homeless people here.


BART is like a ride at Disneyland complete with the voice announcing incoming trains and the stops along the way. Interacting with the other riders is pleasant and people aren’t afraid to strike up a conversation. It is so different from the solitude car culture of L.A. that I am used to.


Walking around Berkeley is relaxing and the homes and gardens charming. The climate brings out the best in both vegetables and flowers. The front gardens are sometimes tame but usually haphazard, with a variety of flowers and whimsical decorations. Walking gives me time to think and I don’t distract myself by talking on the phone, or listening to music. I want to hear the world around me and notice everything.


This first solo trip gave me a lot of anxiety as it was approaching, but I feel like I have crossed a hurdle and can relax a little, at least in this one new experience, and hopefully in the other new solo areas of my life.


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Filed under change, hurdles, Independence, Life thoughts, Walking

Holding On-On Hold

FullSizeRenderToday is the third day in a row I have waited on hold with the Social Security office. I have received different information from every person I have spoken to and all insist I must talk to the original clams specialist with whom I met at my office appointment. The problem is that person omitted information, which caused me to file a claim incorrectly. It’s a moot point though since she will not pick up her line when I am transferred to it, answer messages from the interoffice system sent by the kind lady who answers the phone for questions, or return my calls from voice messages I leave or from the messages sent by the nice phone lady. The claims specialist’s mistake could potentially cost me thousands of dollars. I have sent in the needed paperwork but haven’t received confirmation of their receipt.

This is the 10th week I have spent making phone calls, being placed on hold, inadvertently (or perhaps purposefully) being disconnected and speaking to endless bureaucratic workers who really have no interest in me, my confusion or my grief. As the weeks slip by, I’ve memorized the music played by each institution as I wait on hold. I’ve been listening to the same music now for 25 minutes, but I know it oh so well from the many previous sessions.

This is the 50th day (not including weekends of course) I have spent wading through paperwork, trying to understand things I don’t understand easily and those I don’t want to have to understand. I am unraveling a life entwined and trying to get a grip on how to survive on hold.

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Learning to Eat

Everything is unfamiliar. My husband of 34 years, Gary, died on April 21st and I find myself drifting, falling continually no longer sure of my life.  I know who I am, but who am I now as half of my marriage?  The huge, gaping hole is everywhere; in my living room, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the bedroom and sadly in Gary’s “drum room,” his sacred space of music and memories.  There is one car in the driveway and a closet half-filled with clothes that will never be worn by him again.  I don’t know what to do with these unnecessary spaces. I sit on my side of the couch, sleep on my side of the bed and use my sink in the bathroom.  There is too much emptiness.

Everything is unfamiliar.  I have to learn to eat again but eating at home requires shopping for food in the stores we used to frequent.  I find myself going to new markets void of memories, buying small amounts of food; two nectarines, three bananas, two individual containers of yogurt, almond milk for my coffee.  That should last a couple of days.  Other meals are eaten out or brought in.  I haven’t cooked in two months because cooking for myself doesn’t make sense.  Eating at our family kitchen table, the table that needed six chairs for many years because we were a family of six, including my mom, sharing conversations and meals, feels like I am merely giving my body fuel.  Our specialties:  taco night, huge salads, sautéed vegetables, linguine and clams, chili, delicious barbecue (Gary’s specialty), my mother’s family recipes of chicken, pot roast, brisket and of course latkes, now seem like distant memories.  I find myself wondering why I need a fully stocked kitchen.

Everything is unfamiliar.  The bookends of my day, the good mornings and good nights, have vanished and the stillness of a quiet house is louder than I ever could have imagined.  There is endless space and it is energetically empty.  Half-finished books and others waiting to be read and gathering dust are finding their way to the “give away” box.  Those are the easy things to part with and I tackle them first.  Anything that has no particular memory attached to it is easier to let go of.  Papers are the best because so many are unneeded and so easy to shred.  I am seeking lightness and this helps.

Everything is unfamiliar.  I find myself evaluating my own clothes and books.  What do I really need?  Will I ever read that book again?  Do those clothes make me feel good or are they just around because they are still wearable and I feel guilty getting rid of perfectly good clothes?  I need to feel good, feel pretty, and feel like I am somehow still the me I have always known.  I need to feel that all of my possessions have a meaning, are beautiful or serve a purpose and that there is somehow an order in this chaos of my life.

Everything is unfamiliar.  Learning to eat is sometimes easier while on the couch watching TV.  Making plans with friends at the end of the day is a way to have something to look forward to.  I am falling, with moments of touching down on new experiences thankfully providing moments of distraction before I begin to fall again.  I am drifting from task to task, unable to focus very long on any one thing before I am overwhelmed with sadness, or sometimes lately, anger at the unfairness of it all.  I make lists each day of things I need to do, have to do, or want to accomplish and long for list-free days filled with fun and adventure. I daydream of a new, familiar life that will allow me to breath deeply and relax with an exhale. I will learn to eat again, at restaurants with friends, at my daughters’ houses, on the couch watching TV, maybe at the kitchen table enjoying a cooked meal.


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I am a duck.

Persistance is the only way to survive.  We must go towards our goals, our beliefs, our passions and what we know to be true and right, regardless of the obstacles to happiness, serenity, and comfort.

I want to be surrounded by ducks.

When sadness overcomes us…When thoughtless words hurt us… When people speak untruths…When we must watch others suffer…When those in power make decisions based on greed…When those without power bully others in order to feel powerful…When hard work and devotion is repaid with lies and unnecessary cruilty…We must persist.

Take that!

Go forward toward goodness and light while turning a blind eye to those with aims to hurt.  Learn to be a duck.  Water rolls off and though words leave a more lasting impression, eventually they too will blend into the murky water they came from.  Grow feathers.


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Making a Difference

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I spend my days making a difference in small lives, in small bits, minutes at a timeI always knew I wanted to do this and I can remember back to 2nd grade, being asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I never hesitated.  I knew I wanted to teach, to spend my days with children, helping them learn what they would need to succeed.  I have been doing this for 30 years, but  realized 20 years ago, that the youngest children in elementary school were the children I felt at home with and I loved spending my days operating at a dramatic level, performing my teacher act complete with props.  Puppets, alphabet pointers, counters, games, blocks and books, and a healthy dose of make-believe aid me in my endeavor to pass on the foundation of education, the recognition of letters, numbers, symbols.  My students learn life skills, manners, social skills and ABCs.  They learn to count and to count on each other.  They live with me for 6 hours a day and I have the awesome responsibility of giving them all they will need to succeed.  I face obstacles (illness, family trips, doctor and dentist appoints and the threat of a shortened school year) that keep them out of the classroom,  parents overcome with their own lives or mistaken in their belief that “it’s only kindergarten” and it not as important as other grades, a government that does not put education first and a school district consumed with financial worries.

With these obstacles, I still must succeed.  When Davis Guggenheim’s new movie Waiting for Superman arrives, perhaps it will inspire conversation, or will motivate a movement to save public education from elected officials and from itself.  I have hopes, yet daily, I must go to class ready to do my best regardless of these obstacles and needed changes.  I spend my days making a difference in small lives, which will one day grow from the nurturing and education I can give them.

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