autumn days

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Finding Comfort in Tradition

My children and I find great comfort in tradition.  We love going out to a restaurant on our birthdays, hosting for a cozy party of 25 on Thanksgiving, sharing dinner with aunts and uncles for Christmas Eve, visiting grandparents on Christmas, and hosting our sixth annual Blueberry Muffin Festival on New Year's Eve. 

For the last occasion, families gather with us to drink root beer, devour blueberry muffins, play the piano and card games, eat popcorn, and make merry in a variety of other ways.  Each year our friends sign our tablecloth, so we can look back at the wonderful people that have gotten to join us for our annual festival.  We also dress up like polar bears and read the books that inspired this party.  Irving and Muktuk: Two Bad Bears, by Jill and Daniel Pinkwater.  We find such great comfort in these traditions. 

Our family is now dreaming of finding other awesome books around which to create parties.  Groundhog's Day or April Fool's Day may be next.  The sky is the limit.  We are celebrating the comfort of creating new traditions.

Holding On and Letting Go

My dear partner was so efficient in running a family business, building a dream home, managing our finances, and caring for his friends and family.  As those who loved him reach out and try to support each other in ways my partner was able, I find myself taking on the continuation of the dream home, managing finances, and loving on our loved ones.

As we gather in a variety of ways, I ask myself often what my partner would be doing in each situation, what questions he would have asked, who he would have reached out to.  I want to hold people in the same way he did, being the friend that asked questions and paid attention to the answers, the considerate one who made sure everyone was greeted and offered a beverage.  I have my own strengths in relationships, though now is my time to pull my partner's strengths into my own, to hold him close in my heart in these ways.

My children and I held onto cable to watch college football, hosting gatherings of my partner's family and high school friends.  As the season winds down, we are saying our goodbyes to traditions, these specific gatherings, and the college sports that have filled our home for the last 18 years. 

In each day we are saying goodbye to what once was and making way for the unknowns that awaits us.  We step boldly into the great unknowns of our lives.  We are trying new things, holding our loved ones closer, growing in new and uncomfortable ways.  Behind every closed door, there is an open window, a silver lining, a shift in perspective.  We are ready.  Blessings.

What is best for us now?

As the surviving parent of our little family for the last eight weeks, I often ask myself what is best for our children.  When I acknowledge thoughts running through my mind of renting out our unused rooms to friends or donating everything or selling our home to backpack around the world, I pause to ask myself if this will benefit my children.  I miss my partner dearly, as do our children.  We are still in the fresh stages of our multifaceted grief.  I have managed to keep our children healthy, our bills paid (knock-on-wood), and our routines stable.  Sitting here in the middle of such holy days of winter, I find myself inwardly asking, what is best for us now?

I wonder at the sea of possibilities in creating our new normal: running farther from home, growing our compassion through travel, nurturing our skills as global citizens, learning to surf amongst unknown waves.  I still hear my partner's words and lessons in my mind, his human opinions ringing clear, emphasizing balance in everything.  What is best for us now?

My children and I continue moving forward to embrace what feels right.  I wake up each new day to make the most of each moment with our beautiful children, to stretch my practices of mindfulness and patience and grace and humor and determination, to be the responsible adult with roots and wings, to give thanks for being alive another day with these extraordinary people, to breathe deeply and step boldly into the great unknown of our lives.  I continue to provide nourishing meals, balance in social and unstructured time, to help my children learn the value of manners and responsibility, to maintain strong academic expectations, to feel the enduring love of their daddy, and to help them stay both safe and full of wonder.  Intentional parenting is a tough job, and now is my time to acclimate to moving forward without a coparent.

What is best for us now?  We go into the next moment, finding the delight in being together, in learning and growing and expanding our compassionate awareness and global citizenship in the ways that feel good.  There are only right answers and ideas.  We follow our hearts together, balancing one another in our needs and desires and practicalities. We continue to connect with one another and those we love.  We will find joy in the moments of our lives.  For now, this is what is best for us.

Dreaming Bigger

I never intended to be the single mother of three young children.  Now that I am in this position, I wouldn't change anything (other than keeping my partner safe from cancer).  Now I get to choose how to shift my perspective in search of the silver lining.  As I rebalance and find ways to make our lives sustainable, I find great joy in creating the reality that feels good for my children and myself.

I talk often of dreaming big about the possibilities within our lives, and then dreaming far bigger than that.  I talk, yet I know I can definitely dream bigger. 

My partner died eight weeks ago.  I have been on my own with my children most of that time.  My children and I have just returned from the trip we created, planned, and packed for together.  In the olden days, the packing team was my partner and me.  Now it takes my two older children and myself to make it happen.  We are rebalancing, exploring the possibilities within our new normal.

Dreaming big.  As I flow through the layers of fresh grief, I find light in the possibilities.  I dream of blue glass light fixtures in my living room.  I dream of painting bedroom walls.  I dream of replacing some of my mother-in-law's golden red d├ęcor with blues and greens.  I dream of hosting weekly game nights and holiday parties and book clubs and dance sessions.  I dream of welcoming chickens, ducks, and bees into our family.  Dreaming bigger.  I dream of traveling the world with my children.  I dream of regular community service.  I dream of running a successful home business.  I dream of a fuel-efficient winter-capable vehicle.  I dream of a childcare swap that makes space for a weekly bath, balance with homeschooling, and grocery shopping alone.  I dream of my children sleeping without me at night.  I dream of having two hours alone each evening after my children have gone to bed.

I am thankful for dreaming and recreating my own reality.  I am thankful for intentionally finding the silver lining, for finding what is best for my children and me.  I've asked myself often, "What is best for my children?"  Today is the bath I heard the answer.  The best thing for my children is for me to find my own joy while protecting their spirits.  Imagine being raised by a mother who thrills at all the new things she gets to learn (Learning to fix the dishwasher can be awesome!) and experience and create and dream.  Dream a little dream.  And then dream bigger.  Join me.  Let's get on with living these lives we were meant to love.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

This Holy Moment of Togethering

I am so thankful for the help and companionship of cousins.  My late partner's big loyal Taiwanese family rocks my world every single day.  They are beyond my wildest dreams.  In ways small and large.

At this moment, my two older children are experiencing a wondrous outdoor adventure with cousins, aunts, and uncles.  There wasn't enough room in their snow-safe car for the rest of us, so I got to stay home to play with our youngest daughter for several hours.  Just the two of us.  As the newly single mother of three young children, time alone with one child is simply awesome.  What are we doing to live large with this gift of time?

We started with a snack, brushing teeth, and then... a nap.  We read lots of children's books together, vacuumed and swept, drank tea, climbed furniture, listened to upbeat music, stomped in the snow.  Our party list continues with drawing, singing, dancing, playing, eating, laughing, cuddling, resting.  Bliss.

I am so blissfully thankful for these holy moments of togethering with my wee one.  This holy time to bond with my babe on Christmas Eve.  What a awesome gift.

Carrying our Past into our Present

The winter holidays are a special challenge for those who have lost someone dear.  My partner died seven weeks ago, allowing me to deeply understand the fine balance of past and present and open wounds many deal with each year.  Thanksgiving presented an obvious absence for our family.  In trying to come to terms with my partner's death and keep his memory with us, his photograph and possessions are prominent in our home.  At home I am reminded of him when I spend time in our prayer room, look outside at snow-topped roofs, pay bills bearing his name, and upon so many other reminders.  We want to hold onto him, his sounds and smells and voice and touch, for as long as we can.  This is a way of tending to a constantly open wound as we move forward into new challenges and adventures.

We have gone on vacation to a new place for the end of December.  We packed no photographs.  We remember and talk about our children's "Papa" often, sharing with each other what he would have said or done or packed that we've forgotten or what he would have eaten for breakfast every morning or that he would have been the one teaching our children to swim. 

Last night my partner's cousins began to text about how they were honoring our beloved on this seventh week of his death.  There was a picture shared of his photograph and the sacred meal placed before it.  My sister-in-law set up this space to honor her brother and told us of dreams she has had of him.  I have dreams that amplify his absence, showing me others cannot take his place in our family, acknowledging our greatest loss.  Even in dreams I cannot see him yet.  I hope to.

In our winter adventures away from home, I focus less often upon my beloved partner.  Seeing his face through his sister's text pulled me back into the devastating grief, opening the wound that had closed a little by staying focused on the present moments.  I understand why some people remove their lost loved one's photographs from their lives.  We can hide our pain from ourselves in some way by hiding evidence of the life we've all lost.  After reading the texts, I looked around at our cousins and their loving Taiwanese grandparents, the lively conversations in Mandarin, a home full of laughing climbing children, the evening my partner would have loved to share with us.  I shared my sister-in-law's words and photographs with those at dinner.  We talked about our grief, how nobody could negotiate in business on the level of my partner, the words he would have said, how he would have prepared for this trip, how he helped many people visit this vacation destination yet never came here himself.

We will again return home to bills and photographs and the holes left behind by death.  We will continue to deeply grieve our loss.  For now, in this moment, I again return to my gratitude.  I am so thankful for this life I got to create with my partner, how I get to still be alive and joyful with our children, how I rise to the occasion of single parenting with patience and grace, how I get to type here in a room full of slumbering children, how I get to rise alone and be quiet for a few minutes today, how we get to be someplace new with people we love, how my children and I have many adventures awaiting us in this day, that we get to create new memories together by living in the moment.  What blessed lives we lead.  I am so grateful for our gathering together, our togethering.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Family Determination

When parenting with my partner, I had someone to back me up, to help me stay balanced, to make way for my alone time, to push me to be a better example for our children.  Now that I get to parent these beautiful children alone, I pull upon my own determination to push me to stay healthy for my children, to find ways to shower alone (instead of with all four of us), to creatively make time to be with other adults, to get my responsibilities completed while parenting, and to find personal balance while with children around the clock.  I am thankful my children are nine, six, and one year old.  My older two are somewhat independent and helpful with their younger sister.  Now we move as a team.

My partner used to plan wonderful vacations for our family, do much of the packing and shopping, and all the driving.  I prepared all details of food and children.  He brought luggage into the hotel room, I washed dishes unloaded food, he put clothes and books into their places.  We managed these trips together.  Yesterday my children and I left home to a yet-unexplored-place to find adventure on our own, as a family of four once again.  We have never taken a trip or even an overnighter without their daddy.  For this journey, my two older children made piles of their clothes and supplies with the help of a list.  I checked and packed the piles.  It took me two days to pack everything.  I stayed up until 3:00am the night before our departure to pack everything, in part because of our wonderfully full social time.  Each older child packed snacks and entertainment to share with their little sister.  They worked as a team to meet each other's needs so I got to focus mainly on driving.  Upon arrival, we worked together to unload and unpack.  Yes, they've been rewarded for their vast efforts and good attitudes with Cheetos, screen time, and a very grateful mama.  My children have more responsibility than most children their age in our culture.  I trust these new skills and determination will help them to care for themselves and others for the rest of their lives. 

Every time I mow our lawn (with a baby on my back or entertained nearby by older siblings), I feel such gratitude for my father making me mow the lawn as a child.  I say out loud each time, "Thank you, Dad, for making me mow the lawn."  He now laughs when I tell him this, but I know this is one of many ways he was teaching me I could manage simple-yet-overwhelming tasks on my own.  I am so thankful for being responsible for household tasks at an early age that benefitted my family.  I mowed the lawn so my dad had time to repair and maintain our household while my mom tackled laundry and shopping.  My family worked hard to support each other.  It was not fun.  It was hard work.  Lucky me, now I get to carry that determination and ability to work hard with me.  I get to share it with my children.  They get to see now that their hard work and cooperation make it possible for our family to take trips.  It wouldn't happen otherwise.  I am so grateful for my children accepting the responsibility in these challenges and their determination to support each other.  What a gift.

Working and playing together

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mixed Tapes of Memories

In the olden days, back in the 1980s and 1990s, we young people recorded our own mixed cassette tapes.  We made them for ourselves and gifted them to others to share our love for particular music.  I recorded some of my favorite music off the radio and then listened to it hundreds of times.

At my partner's memorial service, my sister-in-law's husband spoke about how my partner had spent hours piecing together songs for his sister, carefully cultivating in her a love for his music, and hand writing the names of songs and bands onto the paper inserts of tapes.  On their first date, the love of this music helped my partner's sister connect with the man she would marry.

Six weeks after his death, I see my partner everywhere.  In every new situation and location throughout my days, I see him there in the times we shared.  18 years together just wasn't enough.  When I stumble upon one memory that brings on a landslide of them, it is like a mixed tape we made together.  I play back the emotions shared, the color, the scene.  At our Thanksgiving three weeks ago, I saw him there answering the door to welcome cousins, declaring the turkey complete, cutting and serving, making sure everyone had a drink, leading a scavenger hunt for all the children, and washing dishes while also entertaining.  Making our big bed in the morning, I think of purchasing the cozy bed, picking out bedding with him, cuddling our babies together there, how he corrected my middle-of-the-night lyrics as I soothed a newborn, of how he had to sleep alone sitting upright for months of coughing, of how he was then too sick even to sleep sitting in bed, of how he won't ever sleep in his beloved bed again, of how deeply I miss him.  These are mixed tapes that play in my mind.  I watch them play from beginning to end, varying in length, and I sometimes choose to pause them so I can back step into the present moment. 

Moving back into gratitude and finding the silver lining, I feel so thankful to have had the opportunity to create these memories with my partner.  I am thankful for the easy times and hard times.  I am thankful for working through thickness of relationship to get to a lighter place of being together.  I am thankful for how we taught each other how to dig deep, to grow together, and be present for each other.  I am thankful we chose to bring three children into our world, to grow together to raise them lovingly and patiently and responsibly.  I am thankful for the home we made together, for this foundation from which I am able to carry on for our family.  I am thankful for these mixed tapes of memories I get to hold for as long as I choose.

Remembering My Man

My partner died five weeks and six days ago.  We found out almost six months ago he had stage four lung cancer.  This disease claimed him quickly and brutally, not leaving him good days to take a trip or write one card to his young children or make more than one video recording to talk about his life.  When my beloved was starving and his organs were failing and he was in excruciating pain in a hospital bed, I was able to let death claim him, to relieve him of his personal hell on earth.  I was able to say goodbye to this dying and dead body, to be there to wash his body, to move him into the crematorium incinerator.  My children were there for every step as well, lovingly held by aunties and uncles.  I said goodbye because I had to.  I did all I could to stop the cancer.  I did all I could to shrink the tumors with prayer, love, peace, and essential oils.  He took every step he could to stop it with the best medical choices the western and eastern worlds had to offer.  Our friends and family lit the world with research, connecting to those with research, and with infinite prayer.  We couldn't stop the angry cancer.  And here I stand, without my life partner, raising our children as a single parent, saying goodbye to my partner's dead body.

One or two weeks after his death, I could only picture my partner's dead body, not his living body.  I had let go of his body, but not who he used to be before diagnosis day.  June 27, two weeks after his birthday, one week after Father's Day.  While my older two children were in school and my wee one slept on my back in a carrier, I watched the four short videos my partner had made.  In these videos he addresses his children about his medical condition.  Day one was diagnosis day, one of our longest days.  In each successive video, the viewer sees his color change, his increasing thinness, and the devastation of a life murdered by cancer.  He detailed for his children the steps he was taking, the research being done by specialists all over the country, talking about the kindness of strangers, and how his children gave him the strength to go through anything necessary to survive.  My beloved fought to the very end of his life to stay here with his children.  He wanted to be here to raise them, to comfort them, to support them.  I had a good long cry after watching these medical videos.  They helped me to reconnect to the man I knew, even if it was when he was fighting for his life.

After three weeks of fully saying goodbye to my partner's body, arranging and speaking at his memorial service, saying goodbye to so many visitors, and visiting his photograph and ashes in our prayer room each day, I was struck by realizing the only partner I recalled was the one who had lost weight from his cancer-defying diet.  (Between rounds of chemotherapy, we took professional photographs that now represent him in our prayer room.)  He lost 15 pounds on the ketogenic diet, one more way he put everything he had into making it through cancer to raise his children.  That slimmer man was the only one I could remember.  For a few days I experienced the devastation of not being able to remember my old sweetheart with his beautiful rounded cheeks, the playful man with the irritatingly playful jokes, the one who courted me on the dancefloor.

To pull the memories of my whole and healthy beloved back to me, I pulled out his boyhood photos.  We have his framed photos from his mother's collection: first grade, third grade, and fifth grade.  He is my boy.  I love him like a son, like a husband, like a best friend.  That is the soul I love.  That is my man.  Now I can finally remember him in his healthy splendor again.  As I remember him in his healthy, busy days, I understand and grief the enormous loss our family has experienced, the loss of this amazing, beautiful, generous man.  He was a modern day hero to many, even with his various human details.  (I could go on for years about how he helped make our world a better place and how he pushed my many buttons with his wit and high expectations.)

I woke up at 3:00 this morning, as it is a snow day and we get to sleep in.  I woke to think today is the day to watch our wedding video for the first time ever.  I don't know what I'll find there, past a good cleansing cry, but I hope I am able to see the man I was privileged to marry and grow with.  This is the man I choose to remember.  This is the man I choose to share with my children.  And sadly, this is the man I also choose to let go.  Grief is an odd place where we hold on and let go at the same time.  I choose to step fully into my life as the mother of these extraordinary children.  I choose to release all that holds me down in the density of death.  I choose to be joyful and present and healthy for my children.  I choose life.  I choose to hold onto the man I love, and also to let him go.  What a fine balance.  I remember.  I remember it all.  I choose to focus upon what feels good: my best friend as a whole, healthy, determined, loving husband, father, son, uncle, friend, mentor, and brother.  What a privilege it is to have loved and lost (better than to never have loved at all), to know such depth of being, to have grown in these infinite ways, to have grown roots and wings, to get to raise these incredible young people in these intense times, to know that the sun continues to rise, the seasons come and go, and the heart continues to expand and overflow.  I choose to remember.  Everything.  Exhale.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Good Grief

Grief.  Many on the outside of grief think it is something to be passed through to find the unburdended glow at the end of the tunnel.  For those of us in this grieving process, we know the emotional devastation with our loss shifts, though it does not disappear.  Our family's greatest loss was only five weeks ago.  Attending support groups, I have had the privilege of meeting families feeling fresh devastation eight years after a death.  Each child processes in their own way in their own time, shifting in their grief as their brain's mature.  One child lost her dad three years ago and still is terrified and overwhelmed by her feelings of loss.  This is normal.  This is our new normal, this lifetime processing of grief.

Our daughter is nine years old and doesn't want to talk about her dad, his dying, or her feelings.  Her good friend of the same age saw my partner after he died; he is processing this loss in the same way.  Our daughter listens as our six year old son and I open up about our feelings, our memories, our loss.  We hug, we cry, we model what grief can look like.  Our daughter is processing her emotions in her own way.  When she is ready, she will talk.  For now, she cries over seemingly-unrelated battles with her brother and watches us directly process our feelings.  Our son wears his emotions on his sleeve, as do I.  Our one year old daughter will spend much of her life processing in her own ways as well.

In my world right now, I vacillate between overwhelm at paperwork/schedules/housekeeping/emotions and wanting to run far away from home with my children to a warm, quiet beach.  This is when I pause, take a breath, and intentionally focus upon the overflowing of my heart.

I am so very thankful for the people in our lives.  I am so very thankful for our home, our cats, our routines, our ability to turn anything into a special occasion, the grace of forgiveness and compassion within the family, the comforts and traditions of this life we've built together.  And so much more.  I am so thankful for the relationships I get to have with my children, everyone in my partner's family, the friends we have gathered and now consider family.  I appreciate the details and vastness of everything in nature.  I appreciate getting to feel so many emotions flowing through me, letting them move through, and feel a great lightening of my load afterward.  I appreciate the feelings of laughter in my belly and tears on my cheeks.  My love for my people keeps me going.  There is such beauty and grace within relationship.  Now that's good grief, Charlie Brown.

I know I will continue processing the death of my partner for the rest of my life, as will our children.  I also know we will feel supported in our relationships with those we love.  (When we do not feel supported, we work to resolve those challenges.)  What a gift to feel such buoyancy in these challenging times.  Regardless of all the tasks I want to get to, especially with my whirlwind of emotions, I know what is most important.  It's all about heart.  We get to keep coming back to the heart.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Stretching of Public School Snow Days

In the dark, alone in the kitchen, when my children would usually be dragging themselves around on the floor looking for socks and breakfast, I get to be alone.  My children are sleeping in three different beds without me.  Snow days.  As homeschoolers, snow days meant we got to stay home and play in the snow and drink hot chocolate with my partner, watching the snow and freezing rain fall.  I had already expected to be with my children and meet their vast needs all day.

Public school snow days feel a little different.  On these days, I am surprised to find my young children with me, to get to meet their vast needs all day, while also needing to get my own business-as-usual done anyhow.  I am again surprised at my new full life as a single parent.  For our first snow day yesterday, we had a couple neighborhood children with us so their parents could work.  I was the mother of five children for several hours.  This was a wonderful and busy experience.  Before bed I got a little of my own work taken care of.  Today is another snow day, full of freezing rain-slicked surfaces.  There will be more children joining us, more indoor projects, and less work completed.  Now I know what it feels like to parent young public school children when there are snow days.  It is like much of parenting and life, both bitter and sweet.  I intentionally focus on the sweet.

I trust I will eventually get our errands run, our mail opened, our floors dried, our laundry folded, my meals prepared.  I trust I will somehow get to my surrogate grandfather's memorial service far away tomorrow with the necessary items in hand.  I trust I will find the details needed within my deceased partner's texts and emails to negotiate with the builder of our "dream home" (that we will sell asap).  I trust I have it within myself to get through this day with grace and love and patience and gratitude.  I trust that what is most important will be done.  The holding of hands, drying of tears, filling of bellies, warming of toes, reading of books, stacking of blocks, coloring of pages, cutting of snowflakes, connecting of hearts.  Despite my endless list of tasks, I know it will all be okay.  We are buoyant creatures.  I am thankful just to be alive with these miraculous people, complete with our daily fears, tears, and joys.  I treasure getting to experience the stretching of another snow day with my children.  I would not trade this day for anything.  Such infinite blessings.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Holding Hands & Holding Hearts

Hands.  What simple yet complex parts.  One of my favorite parts of my 18 years with my partner was his hands.  His soft fingers that rubbed my own.  The security in fingers entwined from the first night we met.  Loving touch.  Holding hearts by holding hands.  The stability of knowing we could hold hands and be together through thick and thin.  The strong hands that pushed on my back as we together labored with our beloved children.  The hands that rubbed our children's fresh wounds.  

Together our family got to watch ET the movie a year ago.  This photograph brings me to tears.  In it I see our youngest child sitting on her daddy's lap, touching her daddy's hand, each comforting one another in their special way.  I miss this moment.  So much bitter and sweet in the bittersweet story of our lives together.  Such beauty and pain wrapped up together in our human experience.  I appreciate the contrasting emotions we feel all at the same time, the depth in how we love one another, the ways we stay connected, the vastness of it all.  I am thankful for these hands and the loved shared by holding each other.  

Radon Testing

Our area is known to hold high hazards of radon poisoning.  My parents-in-law and husband died of cancer far too young.  One thing they had in common was living in the same tall home with a basement.  Radon exposure 15-20 years ago is one possible culprit.  Our current home has now been tested for radon.  We will have results in a few days.  Regardless of the outcome, we are going to have a company come install radon release pipes and other safety measures.  I am not taking chances with the health of my children and myself.  I will not take these calculated risks with my children.

Just two days ago, our North Clackamas School District sent out a letter recommending every single home be tested for radon.  Radon poisoning symptoms resemble those of lung cancer: a persistent cough that doesn't get better, difficulty breathing, chest pain, the coughing up of blood, wheezing, hoarseness and recurring respiratory infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis.  (Another culprit of non-smoker's lung cancer may be asbestos in old buildings.)

I appreciate having information on radon testing and treatment to clean our home's air.  I appreciate taking steps toward our family's long term health.  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hand Prints & Autumn Leaves

My beautiful partner was in the hospital for three weeks before he died.  Each day I would go to see him as early and often as I could manage while juggling the needs of our three young children.  Each day as I walked through the parking lot, I looked up at the trees as they shed their leaves and looked down at the ground covered with brilliant yet fading colors.  This was meditative, soothing, and comforting for me.  I found many metaphors in these moments for the phase of life my family was experiencing.  The trees were losing their leaves as my family was experiencing our greatest loss.  It felt right, like we were engaging in a natural yet devastating process, going within ourselves to pull out whatever would help us get through each moment together, to make the most of the finite time we got together.  

Now that most of the leaves have fallen, and my beloved has gone from our hands, I cherish the comfort brought in those moments with autumn colors.  I cherish the hand prints we created in the last days together for our children to hold tight to their daddy.  I cherish all the moments we had together.  I cherish the love that will live on in my heart for all of my days.  I cherish this life I get to spend with my children and our family.  We are so very blessed in love.

Finding Comfort

Each year I get to spend an evening with the same lovely ladies.  My long-time friend invited me to join her book club a decade ago, a group formed with her mother and many high school friends.  What a gift.  Each December, we gather with our homemade hot chocolate, buckets of popcorn, and cucumber sandwiches to catch up on each others' lives and watch a movie.  It is such a blessing to feel safe in a warm group of friends, to be vulnerable and honest about how hard it is to gracefully raise my beautiful children with high standards (for my children and myself) and miss my partner so very deeply.

This year we got to see Elf (with Will Ferrell).  The holidays are different once we lose people close to us.  Watching the movie was wonderful, though I found myself reflecting on watching it with my partner, laughing together at home in front of the screen, how he won't be able to watch this movie again, how I won't get to hold his hand and look into the face of my beloved again.  In a bitter sweet moment, I was surprised to feel gratitude for trusting I will get to be with my partner in some way again when I die, a very long time for now.  I find comfort in a variety of ways.  I am thankful for the traditions of gathering with my beloved friends each year, feeling so loved and held and embraced.  I am thankful for liquid chocolate and the comfort of routines.  I am thankful for the coming together of friends.  I am thankful for the opening of hearts and the holding of hands.  Such blessed lives we lead.  

And Above Us Only Sky

I have a great love for the sky.  Especially on the days when I feel so very low to the earth, I dream of flight.  I dream of being a bird and swimming through clouds.  In the last four months, as my family moved through my partner's battle with cancer, I found myself often drawn in gratitude for the sky.  Admiring the vastness and freedom of it all.  Looking into the clouds is like opening the Bible or tarot cards and divining the meaning we need in that moment.  This allows me to make space for wonder and miraculousness and awe.  I am also pulled to repeat Ani DiFranco's words, "Cuz humility has buoyancy, and above us only sky."  Here are some photographs I've captured while falling more deeply in love with our sky.  What a blessing it is to dare to dream of flight when we are often firmly bound to our roots.  Blessings abound.

The Last Sunset

For the last year or so, since his aunt died of lung cancer, my partner has been talking with our family about sunsets.  "Not everyone gets to see the sun set over the ocean.  Some people never get to see an ocean in their whole lives.  This could be someone's last sunset.  We never know if this will be our last sunset at the beach."  Since our oldest daughter was a year old, we've taken a few trips each year to the Oregon Coast.  What a gift to take in so many sunsets as a family.  Now that the love of my life has died of cancer, our sunsets at the beach are forever changed.  One day I hope to take in a sunset overlooking the ocean with a grandchild.  Life changes and shifts.  I am so thankful for these people in my life, for the gift of loving and connecting so very deeply.  I am thankful for looking forward to the next sandy sunset I get to share with our children.

My partner and our three children taking in a very special sunset together