Another One

I tried to live today like I want my year to be. I wanted to run, read, do a little cleaning, watch a movie, spend time with my son and husband, and eat sushi–all activities I’d like to do for the rest of the year. I actually got to do all of those things, but nothing quite turned out the way I wanted or expected.

My 5k run wasn’t horrible as far as speed or conditions, but I felt absolutely uncomfortable in my body. If you watched me run, you probably thought I had major tics or was having a seizure. I kept moving my shoulders, trying to relax, tucking and untucking my shirt, adjusting my hat, and just flailing about. Nothing felt quite right. I could only focus for a few seconds here and there, but mostly it was just crappy. BUT, the sunshine was wonderful, little wind, and the 27 degrees felt much better than it sounds.

I didn’t read what I should have, but I read the last in a graphic novel series (Fence) that my son and I have been reading and it’s highly enjoyable. I feel no guilt whatsoever for not reading anything for work or my committee.

My son and I took down the outside Christmas lights and decorations. I wish I had a photo of my son taking down Darth Vader and hugging him close. It was damn adorable. My husband made us a lovely ham dinner for lunch and I got a smidge of vacuuming done, but no other cleaning took place. I ended up doing a bit of yoga instead and I think my time was well spent.

For a while everyone did their own thing, so I watched “Blackbird” starring Susan Sarandon. Have you seen it? It’s about a woman who wants to end her life because her ALS is starting to restrict what she can do. She invites her family over for the weekend so they can spend time together and say goodbye. Not really uplifting per se, but I feel very strongly about dying with dignity and wish every state in this country would allow people to die how they choose. Most people don’t even get the chance to die where they want much less dying how they want to.

I didn’t intend to watch this film today, but I borrowed it from the library a few weeks ago and it’s been sitting in front of our television since then. I couldn’t remember what it was about until I put it in and figured, “What the hell.” I’ll be honest, though, I haven’t finished it yet. I just watched a scene where the woman with ALS gives everyone a gift at the table, including her wedding ring which she gives to her husband. I was crying before we got to that part and completely lost it at that moment. I figured it was a good time to stop.

We picked up sushi from our favorite restaurant and brought it home for dinner. We decided we’d have a nice living room picnic and watch “Titans” on HBO Max. Of course, the one thing I really wanted was mistakenly left out of our order–miso soup! It always makes me feel better for anything that ails me. I whined for a few minutes then ate my absolutely fantastic raw fish and rice with my family. At one point my son and I argued and there was slamming of a door and sighing and generally feeling pissed off, and then the moment passed and we finished eating and we were ok. The three of us sat around after watching an episode and just chatted and laughed and enjoyed the moment.

My lovely son being the person he is, stopped and said, “You know this is great. Just hanging out, talking and laughing. This is really great.”

It is. It is really great. THAT is what I want this year and next year and every year I’m on this planet to be. I want it comprised of good conversation, lots of laughing and loving, good food, exercise, reading, time outside–preferably while feeling good inside this body but I’ll work on that. There will always be disappointments and disagreements and grief and stress and more crying than you would think is possible. But I also know there will also be at least a few surprises and encouraging words and acts of kindness and moments of happiness and laughing and many memories. There are so many good memories with those we’ve lost as well as with those that are still here. But there are more good memories to be made.

So let’s go make those good memories, ok? Even a great conversation over the phone or on Zoom can create a great memory. Let’s connect while we can and while we’re still here.

Hugs to you all, my friends.

Breathe Easier

I’ve always loved this time of year: the lights, the music, the food, the gifts and the cheer. But there have been tough holidays, too–the first Christmas without my brother was incredibly horrible. My grief was so overwhelming that I had to smoke a joint before I could leave my room. Last Christmas, the first without either of my parents, I cried every day of December and silently sobbed numerous times on Christmas Day. And I know, for many of you, this Christmas will be lonely or filled with grief. Many of my friends lost a parent this year, a friend lost her adult son, and I lost two friends just in the past month. Or maybe you can’t be with your loved ones because of COVID-19 and you’ll miss the gingerbread cookies or that spiked eggnog your stepfather makes or you’ll just miss the comradery, the hugging, the love.

So…what do you do? How can you get through this holiday with some kind of good cheer?

There’s always Zoom or FaceTime or phone calls. It’s not the same but it can ease the loneliness a bit. Or how about driving a few hours just to drop off a little gift and give a few friends a great big smile at how silly you look?

Penelope Twinkle Toes

Since I know this year has been tough on so many, I wanted to do a little something for a few of my friends. These women are colleagues who have become friends and they’ve done a bit of extra hand-holding with me this past year and although I hope I had reciprocated their kindness, I needed to do more. Hence my adorable outfit. 😉

Since I was little, I loved unicorns. Remember those Lisa Frank stickers and notebooks with the pastel colored unicorns and rainbows and all that jazz? I loved that shit. Still do. And now that I’m closing in on 50 years old, I can embrace my weirdness. I can fly my freak flag high—and wear a purple unicorn onesie wherever and whenever I want. So I traveled over two hours to briefly visit with a few of my friends with a goodie bag of treats in the hopes of making their day. And mine. This was seriously the best gift I may have ever given myself. I absolutely LOVED seeing their surprised faces. It brought me so much joy! It made me a bit envious of Santa–except the landing on roofs or going down chimneys–that part doesn’t look like fun.

I’ve done a few other gift drop offs since my Santa Unicorn day–sans the unicorn outfit–and hope to do a few more. A visit, even if it’s a masked 6 feet away visit, is the best gift anyone can give or receive right now. And if you can’t do that, just send a note. Seriously. Please let people know you’re thinking of them and care for them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived–that is to have succeeded.” My friend, Tracy, died of cancer last month. She was 47. One of the very last things she ever wrote me was that I was one of the sweetest people she’s ever known. Her words made ME breathe easier. I didn’t know what to do for her and said as much, but then she gave me the ultimate kindness of telling me I’ve done ok. That I’m a decent person.

I don’t know if I made my friends breathe any easier when I showed up at their homes and work places in a unicorn costume, but I made them smile and laugh and tear up a smidge. For now, that will do.

Let’s strive to have more lives breathe easier.

May you all experience joy and good cheer during this holiday season. Hugging you all from afar.

She Flew Away

It’s been a year.

It was cloudy here this morning, much like this day last year. As my husband and I started to watch CBS Sunday Morning, I kept looking outside just after 9am. I kept looking for that sunbeam. I kept looking for her.

You see, I missed the moment Mom died. I left her bedside 5 minutes before she died. My sister was with her, as was the hospice nurse and doctor. The hospice care had just arrived as I was about to leave for my own doctor’s appointment. I remember telling Mom that I’d be right back. Before I even got across town to the doctor’s office, my sister called me.

I had a lot of anger towards Mom for that. For dying when I wasn’t there. And then the hospice doctor told me that just after Mom died, the sun broke through the clouds and shown through the window for just a minute, as if Mom was saying that she was ok. It gave me comfort for a bit, but then that pissed me off, too. I kept thinking, “Really, Mom?!? You sent a message to Bonnie and the doctor, but not to me?!?” Yup. I was that angry and irrational.

But as this year has passed, my anger has turned inward. I was so mad at myself for leaving that day. I really did believe I had the rest of the day to be with her and I felt like I needed to get this appointment out of the way. It was with the surgeon for my broken arm 3 months before, and it still hadn’t healed the way I thought it should, so I wanted to get some clarification. But it could have waited. Nothing was more important at that moment then my mother.

And yet I left.

Like most human beings, I am extremely selfish. And I don’t always make the best choices. On October 4th, 2019, I made a bad choice and I’ll never, ever forget it.

I know if Mom was here, she’d say that it was ok. I was her baby and my health should have come first. But it really didn’t. She was on her deathbed for fuck’s sake! I was absolutely foolish to think I would have the rest of the day with her, and even if I did, why was that enough time when I knew I would never get her back? That I would be motherless for the rest of my life?

Mom & my boy.

So…this morning…no sunbeam. My sister said she saw lots of birds, which makes both of us think of our parents, and she was going to bake today in honor and memory of Mom. I planned to (and did) the same. But I still kept looking for some damn sign.

I have never thought of myself as spiritual. I’m agnostic, which means I don’t know what’s “true” as far as religion goes and have faith in just about nothing. But since 3/4 of my family has died, I am constantly looking for signs that they’re out there. I can’t help it. Part of me thinks it’s ridiculous, but the other part misses my brother and parents so much sometimes that I can’t function so I need to think that they are somehow ok.

This morning, after watching the cloudy skies for a while, I took a quick walk with my son then gathered my running gear to go for a 5-miler. The music I listened to was just background noise as I kept my eyes on the road or sky, thinking about Mom. I tried not to remember last year, but instead thought of myself as a teen, watching Mom cook in our kitchen while I told her about my day. I thought of her knee-slapping laugh when my brother said something extraordinarily naughty and funny. I thought of her face lighting up when my boy entered the room.

I glanced up at the sky at the 2-mile mark, and saw one crow flying alone. No other birds, no other crows, just one bird flying west. I ran along and watched it for as long as I could.

“Hi Mom,” I whispered.

Eventually, the crow flew away and I kept running.

Once I got back home, I’ve basically been baking non-stop. Almond lemon cookies, banana bread, and for the first time, rum cake. Mom made rum cake for every single Christmas and it was always one of my favorite things she baked. I didn’t use her recipe for my first try, and although my family says it’s great, it’s definitely not as good as Mom’s. It’s not as boozy as hers was! I’ll try it again near the holidays.

I had hoped between the running and the baking, I’d feel a bit better, but I don’t. I still can’t believe it’s been a year. Most days it feels like a decade, and other times I relive Mom’s last few days so much that it seems like yesterday.

I want to ask a favor of you. If you knew my mom, I’d love for you to toast her tonight with a cookie or a piece of cake or a drink of any kind. Remember something good about her–about her cooking in the school kitchen, about her laughing at a joke, about her loving her kids and grandkids. And if you never knew my mom, then think about your own–whether living or gone, and toast her. Give praise to her if you can. Let’s send some love out to the universe tonight. ❤

Lack of Appreciation

Do you ever feel like you should be more grateful than you are? Do you ever think, “I know I should appreciate this but…”

Right now my life is ok. Some cool things are happening at work, I’m reading and running a lot, and my family is mostly healthy. My house is still standing, we’re not in the path of a wildfire or hurricane, and we currently do not have a virus that could affect our health for the rest of our lives.

And yet…I’m sad and angry but with a few hours of happiness and contentment thrown in.

This afternoon, my son and I took a walk together and chatted about school, work, history and video games. His dark humor and laugh remind me of my brother so much sometimes that it either takes my breath away, makes me tear up, or brings me joy to see some of Phil alive in my boy.

But once our walk was over, I took another walk alone on our rural road to try and center myself. I just felt so out of sorts today. I can’t focus on much, my right hamstring was tight and achy, and I’ve felt the urge to cry all afternoon and evening.

Thoughts of my mother have been pressing on me all day. As I walked tonight, I felt suffocated by the lack of her presence. I miss her. She would often reassure me when I didn’t think I knew what I was doing as a parent. She would coddle me when I got hurt. She never stopped being my mom, even when I needed to become her parent.

And right now I just really want my mom.

But…I can’t have her.

Hence my long walk trying to sort my shit out and be ok with myself and the world and to find a little peace in nature and this rural life I lead.

Take care of yourselves, y’all. Virtual hugs to you. I hope you’re all at least ok, if not more than ok. I hope you’re well and happy and finding peace wherever and whenever you can.

1096 Days

For several days now I’ve had this stomach ache. You know the kind that sits in the center of your belly like a tight knot of worry and dread? After Phil, my big brother, died, I had that stomach ache nearly every weekend for a year. Our family saw him for the last time on a Sunday morning and he died that afternoon. So each weekend afterwards I would relive that day over and over. I would take walks alone so I wouldn’t cry in front of my husband and son. I would stand a quarter of a mile away from my house and sob on the side of the road. It happened so many times that I still tear up occasionally when I walk that hill because my body expects to cry.

And now it’s that day once again. July 23rd. I hate this day. A good friend has a birthday today and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to celebrate with her on this date. My life and my family’s lives were so torn apart that day. And no matter how much I work through the grief and keep putting one foot in front of the other, my life will never, ever be the same. As much love and kindness as I get from my friends and family, there will always be this gap in my life and this bit of unreachable joy because Phil isn’t here to make us laugh or to tell stories or to just be here. To just be.

There’s also this little bit of guilt that I’ve been hanging on to and I don’t know what to do with it. While my brother was in the hospital, his partner and I went to talk to him to basically convince him that it was ok to die. It was ok to say he had enough. Once he made that decision, the bravest thing I’ve ever seen by the way, he couldn’t look me in the face. I held his hand and cried on his bed, then I left. We went back to the room where my sister, mother and doctors were sitting and told him that he was ready to “go.” Then everyone went back to Phil’s bed to say goodbye.

But I didn’t. I told my sister I had said goodbye and had already told him I loved him and it was their turn to have time with him. But why didn’t I go back? Why didn’t I take one more look at him and touch him and say “I love you” one more time?

I remember telling my sister to tell Phil that Dad loved him because our dad didn’t come. He just couldn’t. And I didn’t want to be too selfish and take more time with Phil than the others….but I also think I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to look at me again. I *was* being selfish. I should have gone back into that room one more time, no matter if he could look at me or not. I should have spent every imaginable second I could with him.

But I didn’t.

And I deeply, deeply regret that.

So now I go on. I try to remember the great times we had, the laughs, the stories, the hugs and the so many “I love you”s. I will talk out loud to Phil when I need him and imagine him talking back. Tonight my sister and I will toast our favorite brother and tell those stories and laugh and hug and say “I love you”.

And we will keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Sucker-Punched

Out for a morning run,

one foot in front of the other.

Stop to chat with Gene.


“Lost one of our neighbors this morning.

Kidneys shut down. He was only 61.”

Moment of silence.


State our good wishes for the day,

keep on running.

One foot in front of the other.


Making my way up a hill,

leaves cascading down from the trees

tickling my face.


Close my eyes, smiling, enjoying the moment,

a flash of memory of my brother laughing,

recognition of joy.


My breath is gone.

I double over, clutching my body,

pain flowing through my limbs.


Yet I trudge on.

Determined to finish.


My body straightens,

even as the pain in my shoulder grows.

That damn raven digging in.


My legs are heavy now.

No more thinking.

Just one foot in front of the other.

Grief Sucks

I’ve had the great fortune to have some really happy days lately. My last post was about a particularly good run I had. This past week I had a wonderful 47th birthday with my family (physically distancing) and yesterday I had just an incredible day with my son, exploring Fort Knox (this is in Maine, not the one filled with gold in Kentucky) and eating good food and having thought-provoking conversations.

But when I got up today, I could feel grief weighing me down immediately, like it was sitting on my shoulders. Today is my brother’s birthday. Phil should be turning 52 today, not remaining 49.

As I trudged to the kitchen and made my coffee, I glanced at my phone sitting on the counter. “Do I really even want to look at this today?” But I did. The first thing I saw was a Facebook post I created the year before my brother died, wishing him a happy birthday and telling the world how amazing I thought he was and how proud I was to have him as my brother. Then I saw a post my sister wrote today on Phil’s FB wall, telling him how much she misses him and although she’s glad he’s not having to experience the pandemic, wishes he was here for everything else.

That was enough.

I drank my coffee, swallowed any tears that were trying to form, talked with my husband and got dressed to go for a short run. As I laced up my sneakers, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I could feel the sobs all the way in my belly and working their way up. My husband came out to see why the hell was I going to run outside in the heat, but when he saw my face he just came to me and held me and I let it out. But it seemed that once I started, I just couldn’t stop. I finally let my husband go and I was able to say or rather hiccup, that I just had to get outside. It was just a 2 mile run and although it would be bad, I just needed to leave the house. I couldn’t breathe and felt trapped and needed to be someplace with no walls.

It was really 85 degrees when I left with 49% humidity. So not quite this bad.

So for 2.12 miles, I stopped thinking or feeling. I listened to my music and just focused on my task. It was certainly brutal (so much respect for you southeastern U.S. runners!), but it took me out of my brain for a little bit.

Once I showered and stretched, I watched a virtual Drag Queen Story Hour that made me happy for a bit, but then I just sat at my desk, put my head down, and cried some more.

Grief is not just sadness. It’s heavier than that. It affects my physical body, my mind, my heart, my appetite, my world. After almost 3 years since my brother has died, I can say that I do have good days now. With Mom and Dad both dying last year, the number of really good days in the past year I can count on one hand. But the fact I can count any is an incredible thing and gives me hope that I will have many more. But when days like these hit, when you just want to curl into yourself and cry and shut everyone else out, they still hit really hard. I still don’t know whether to embrace them or fend them off, so I do a little of both.

I’m letting the tears come today but also hiding a little bit from my son. We’re still spending some time together and working on a Father’s Day ice cream cake for my husband, but I’m going into my office more or on our porch and just sitting and remembering. We’ll toast Phil this evening like we always do, and we’ll remember him together. But right now I just want to be by myself and re-watch the video of Phil reading to little Briar and hearing Phil laugh and joke. I just want to wallow in my grief and in how much I miss him today.

And every day.

Love You Forever

Do you ever wake up with a bellyache because you’re nervous or anxious about something? Maybe it’s about a speech you need to give or you’re starting a new job or you need to go to a funeral. That last one might seem odd, but I’ve experienced so many types of funerals, burials or celebrations of life in the past 3 years that I now know I will wake up with a bellyache before every one.

But I also hurt before any of the firsts. The first holiday season without my brother, the first Fathers’ Day without my dad, and now tomorrow will be the first Mothers’ Day without my mom. I didn’t feel great yesterday but I didn’t know why. I actually forgot about Mothers’ Day for a bit. But then I was reminded–by the news, by library programs, by the world. And today I feel awful–and it’s not just the fact that it’s May 9th and snowing. (WTF?!?) Or that I had to take a few kitties to the vet to get their shots. Or that I had a crappy run on the treadmill.

It’s because I miss my mom.

I know there are others of you out there who are missing your mom today, too. It might be because you live far away from her and it’s impossible to see her right now. I get that, but call her. If you can, drive to her house and talk to her outside. Or if she’s in a home, talk to her through a window. Go do that, ok?

And if you’re a member of the “My Mom is Gone” Club, then do what you can to honor your mom this weekend. Even if that just means to sit down for a few minutes and think about the good she did for you and the joy you brought to her. (And if your mom was downright awful to you, do what you can to just be you.)

After my crappy run, I got into my pajamas, wrapped myself in one of my mom’s sweaters and have been binging “The Handmaid’s Tale”. I folded clothes for a bit and sobbed. I stared at a few photos of Mom and sobbed some more. But now, to honor my mom, I will get off my butt…and bake a cake. Because that’s something she would have done, too.

Tomorrow, on Mothers’ Day, I will think of my kick-ass mom when I go for a run, then again as I’m eating some of that cake. And I will keep thinking of her as I make my child be my slave on this Mothers’ Day of 2020.

I think of you every day, Mom. I miss your smile, your laugh. I really miss seeing you light up when my son walks into the room. I love you and miss you so, so much.

“As long as I’m living, my mommy you’ll be.”

Serenity Now

Ever feel like “Red”, the angry bird that has a short fuse and explodes a lot? Or how pissed off Michael and Janet Jackson seemed in their Scream video? “With such confusion don’t it make you wanna scream…Stop pressurin’ me, stop pressurin’ me.” As a library director in the middle of this pandemic, this is exactly how I feel. I’m angry, confused, and just trying to do the right thing while voices from every side and direction continue to yell at you about one thing or another.

And I do mean yell. We have a library listserv in my state and lately it’s been downright awful. Mean people suck. And there not only mean people out there but rude and judgmental ones, too. (And I mean JUDGY!) Lately some of the comments on the listserv reminds me of why there remains the stereotype of a shushing bitch that we have tried so hard to demolish. And not just on the listserv but even among Zoom meetings or on social media. The library world is a small one, and the Maine library world is even smaller, so when you talk smack on one publicly, many of us listen and sometimes smack back.

There are also many Maine librarians that have been super heroes and awesome to the nth degree during this pandemic. Because that’s who many of them are and I try to ignore the others…or talk about them behind their back because you know we’re all doing that. But then I find myself lashing out at some colleagues at the end of this week. Some deserved it, others didn’t. I apologized to those that I knew I should, because that’s what I do and it is certainly not done enough, especially among co-workers and colleagues.

So to try and deal with all of this anger and confusion and grief, I attempted to do a few things this week to help me cope. Unbelievably, I did NOT eat my feelings this week. That was new! I attended a talk via Zoom on mental health co-sponsored by my son’s school, I talked to friends about all of it and I ran.

I’ve tried to begin running in earnest once again, starting 6 weeks ago with a running app called “Running to Lose Weight”. First off, I didn’t lose an ounce. I actually gained back weight, but I loved the routine so much that it didn’t matter. Instead the app eased me back into running with walking breaks until I was finally running my typical 3 miles again by the end of the six weeks.

Today I even hit a PR, at least a personal record in the past few years. I never, ever try and go for fast because I’m not. I would love to increase my distance back to my 10-mile Sundays that my brother used to be in awe and proud of. But that won’t happen for some time or maybe even ever again. But I’ll try. And maybe, just maybe, I can find some kind of peace while I’m out there or at least when I’m back home. I need to find a way to channel that anger, and not just just anger but all of these intense emotions that I seem to lose control over these days.

My “I kicked ass” face.

I know it’s ok to have all of those feelings–anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, and even intense joy. (Don’t let people take your happy moments away from you either, because they’ll try!) But I’d also like to be able to take a deep breath and find that moment of clarity and tranquility and carry on with whatever discussion I’m having with people and not lash out.

Hopefully I’ll find that bit of serenity when I need it. Until then, hang on because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Late to the Party

I am a librarian. I’ve been a librarian for nearly 23 years, with over 14 of those years at the Pittsfield Public Library. This library was one of the libraries I used as a kid (although I didn’t like it then). It’s close to where I grew up and it’s my second home–as it is to many people in the community. I used to be the Circulation Librarian, until a year ago when I was hired to become the director. It wasn’t a job I always wanted, but it’s a job I have become to love more than I thought possible.

On March 16th we had to close our doors to the public due to the health and safety concerns of COVID-19. Some of my staff and I cried that day because it was surreal and sad and our patrons are the lifeblood of the library. It’s not the building nor the books or films or programs. It’s the people. For a while we were still able to leave books for people in a secure location where we never saw each other (except by camera), then we did that by appointment only, and then we stopped it completely. Now tomorrow, April Fools’ Day no less, will be the last day the staff and I can go into the building. We will still be answering emails and conducting online programming and we’ll still be able to “see” and assist some of our patrons. But not all of them. So many of these folks we won’t be able to help again until we can re-open.

I’ve read a lot about grief over the past 3 years, and even in the past 2 weeks the articles about grieving what our normal once was. But I didn’t grieve quite as much because I was still going to the building where I worked. I couldn’t help as many people, but there was still a smidge of normalcy there. But tonight? Tonight I feel like I felt the evening before I went to say goodbye to my brother. Or that morning at 2am when I called my sister to tell her to come to the hospital because our father was dying. Or the morning when I was at work and the nurse called to say Mom was actively dying. Strangely enough, this really does feel like all of those awful moments. Those moments when you know your life is forever changed.

I know we’ll come out the other side. I am confident of that. What I don’t know is who will be there with us. Or who will be there with you.

But we’re here now, right? Let’s try to keep moving forward together. Reach out to those you think about, even if they just cross your mind. Those little moments of acknowledgement matter.

You matter.

So let’s be alone together. Just know that when this is over, I may be hugging you a whole heck of a lot.