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You are sitting there, quietly, when suddenly, you know. Death is at your shoulder. Again. All of his other visits swirl through your memory. Why is he a he? I have always thought of death as a male, and birth as female. The female part, I understand. But the male part is a mystery. He has yet to make a claim, but he is there, waiting. Animal or human, death is the same. In the long run, the hurt is the same. The loss is the same. A sensitive soul like me, or a pragmatic soul, like my ex, still feels the ache. The new/old soul like our daughter feels it all the more, because she is far away, and may not get a chance to say goodbye.

Champ’s age is debatable, but that he was adopted as Kelsea’s dog is indisputable. That he is preparing to depart is also without question. I sat for hours on the floor of the vet’s office with him laying between and against my legs, snoring gently and chasing things in his dreams. I know he will be free of the burden of his body over the Bridge, and that he will be waiting there for us. I have shared similar sentiments with three friends who have lost fur family in the last few weeks. It’s no comfort. There is no comfort. I so wish there was.

The feeling of grief before a death is, some might say, premature. But I know it to be very real , and inescapable. Once Death is in the room, there is nothing I can do but sit beside him, in uncomfortable silence, and wait.

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Boulder, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Dogs are always good and full of selfless love. They are undiluted vessels of joy who never, ever deserve anything bad that happens to them.” — Steven Rowley

Daily gratitudes:
A good vet
Clouds
Getting along with your ex
Video calls
The mixed blessing of feelings

 

I know I promised Canada, and will deliver on said promise, but today the Front Range was so lovely, I just had to share. I worked late last night, not getting home until 1:00 a.m., and only falling into a fitful sleep between 4:15 and 7:15. Throughout the night, I heard rain, which was a becalming sound. Being a woman who takes short 45-second private tropical vacations because of my internal magma, I continue to have the bedroom window open a few inches, even in the sub-zero nights, so last night, I listened to the comfort of rain falling on the dead leaves of the evil Chinese elm tree, and the long slow soothe of a freight train whistle a few miles up the road. I tried to remember what the whistle signals meant, as my father gave me a document long ago that explained the whistle “morse code” that engineers used. The grey of the morning wore off, MKL arrived, we bought a lovely little Christmas tree, saw some llamas, sheep, goats, and BMWs, braved the weirdness of WalMart, went out for coffee and listened to the bluegrass jam session at the East Simpson Coffee Shop.

I changed the sheets, cleaned the bathroom (not enough), watched an episode of “Sherlock” on PBS. I had a baked potato, having decided (in a rather numb-nut fashion) to stop eating sugar and flour now, just before Christmas celebrations. After all, it’s 10 weeks to Costa Rica.

Now, I am cuddled with Mr. Man, trying to adjust to how my body has  been today, how my spirit has been today, on the 10th anniversary of my Mother’s death. As I have said before, I can instantly place myself  back in each moment of the nine days that I was with her up to her passing – and the terrible days afterwards. I physically hurt, and have shed tears a few times when talking to MKL, who is extra adorable, because he never fails to have a handkerchief handy for me to dry my tears.

While I only occasionally have visitation dreams from people who have passed on, it is clear when they occur. I would love to have my Mother visit me, and it has happened only twice in all these years, except for this year, when she stopped by every night for about four days, as she was poised to assist a friend to the next place. No matter how much I want her to come to me in my dreams, she doesn’t. It’s a hard thing for me to understand, but I know it’s in both of our best interests. Still, it adds a caul to the sadness that I feel for the loss of her, which is there daily, but more potent on anniversaries. I cried through the parent/child dance at the wedding I catered last night. I haven’t done that in many years.

But today was a good day, a beautiful day, and I know that would make her happy, as it made me happy, even with the ache throbbing in my heart to the beat of the bluegrass.

20161211_124006-cropBoulder, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “There is something about losing your mother that is permanent and inexpressable – a wound that will never quite heal.” — Susan Wiggs

Daily gratitude:
The smell of the little Christmas tree lot
Today’s clouds
Siting a bald eagle in flight
Clean sheets
The seasonal reappearance of the Santa Hat

 

 

 

Poinsettias are usually not classified as things that last, but this one, scanty as it may appear, is special. It is ten years old. My boss gave it to me when I got back from ushering my Mother through her death. It was awkward, she said, because it was Christmas, and she wanted to give me flowers, but…it was Christmas, so she gave me a poinsettia. She was my boss then, ten years ago, and after the twisting, turning roads of the corporate world, she is my above boss-boss at my current company.

Poinsettias usually only last a season. And they are toxic to cats. This one has lasted a decade, and Mr. Man has had no problems with it. It is special. It represents my Mother. These were her last days, ten years ago, and I was with her every minute. It is a difficult time for me. As I have said each year, I live through every moment on some subconscious level. This year, with the turmoil of the election and the issues that it has raised for many women, myself included, I have found myself reliving other tragic and traumatic incidents from my past, owning them, writing about them (and wondering if I should make these writings public) and trying to let them find their place in my soul. It is not a peaceful process, but it will have a peaceful outcome. Every memory, sweet or agonizing, is and always will be, a lasting part of me.

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Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “We all have our time machines, don’t we. Those that take us back are memories…And those that carry us forward, are dreams.” — H.G. Wells

Daily gratitudes:
Helping others
Fellow nasty women
Seeing MKL for the first time in three days
My giant coat on bitter cold days
That tickle of courage when I look at terrifying events of my past

 

 

This is Avocado – Avo, for short – facing the cold, blustery world of Bellingham, Washington. When he’s not looking out the window, he’s snuggling, cuddling to the point of being so contentedly limp as to slide off a lap, and perfectly happy being resettled, purring as loudly as I’ve ever heard a cat purr. He, along with his brother, (Indiana) Jones, are new to the world of my daughter and her wonderful housemates. Found far away from civilization, in a field on a nearby reservation, they are clearly bonded, and love to be loved. And I love them, and my daughter, and her housemates. I flew out to surprise her for her 20th birthday, which was yesterday, and she was indeed totally surprised. It was just how surprises are supposed to work. I have spent today, when she still had class and other social obligations, watching the wind and rain in the tall cypress in their front yard, snuggling cats, reading, writing, and meeting her marvelous friends. I’m not used to being in a house with more than one other person (or animal, for that matter), so it’s been an amazing sensation, to feel surrounded by lots of people who laugh, love, and respect each other, who have strong feelings and opinions about our world and the future, and who delight in each other’s company. Adventures to follow…

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Bellingham, Washington.

Quote of the day: “Time spent with a cat is never wasted.” — Colette

Daily gratitudes:
Music
Peaceful times
Smart souls
Laughter
My daughter’s love and openness to letting me into her life

I live in a small town that has its origins in mining. That said, gentrification is taking over and the boundaries of neighboring towns are rapidly blurring with more houses, more people, and more development. This week though, our little town felt little again. We have a strong, vibrant, long-standing Hispanic community here, and earlier this week, one of the little mercados had racist graffiti spray painted on it, and the ice cream/sandwich/wine shop down the street had a rock thrown their window.

And we all hated it.

Tonight, many in our community patronized the Eats and Sweets shop, offering to help, and showing support, and then a whole crowd walked a few doors down to the Las Montanas Market to share the love and again, offer to help in any way possible, and reinforce the importance of this family, the business they run, and the community which they enrich.

We are a community in the truest sense of the word. And our art, which is everywhere in town, reflects our spirit of love and unity.

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Community Holistic Health Center, Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Daily gratitudes:
Kindnesses
Smiles that reach eyes
My handsome husband
A beautiful day
A win at work

 

 

 

Well, not exactly, but the blues are singing a song of me today, and kitties always seem to help, whether it is images on a screen, or the real thing sitting on my heart. Mr. Man does have a tendency to lay on whatever part of me isn’t feeling up to snuff. He’s a wise healing kitty. It was a lovely Thanksgiving, and I hope you all enjoyed it or at least kept family disputes to a minimum. I know it can be a tense time, especially this year.

For me now, we enter into a strange chrysalis-like phase that often lasts from after Thanksgiving until after the anniversary of my Mother’s passing. It will be ten years this year, and seems like yesterday sometimes. Two friends have lost a parent in the last week, and my heart goes out to them. It alters the character of the holidays when a loss is associated with days that the rest of the world associates with a certain celebration.

So for now, kitties.

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Littleton, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Daily gratitudes:
A lovely day
A lovely yesterday with MKL
A Downton Abbey marathon
A long talk with Kelsea
The East Simpson Coffee Shop

We are preparing for Thanksgiving here in America. In our houses, that means that MKL is replacing toilets, scrubbing floors, and vacuuming carpets, because he is hosting this year. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was a small family thing, sometimes with guests in the morning or early afternoon, a few paper decorations around the house, football, and just the four of us for supper, which was always a traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (that my Dad made), gravy, and pumpkin pie (again, from my Dad). With MKL, the family is sons and parents and sisters and nieces and grand-nieces – maybe 13 people. This will be the first year that Kelsea hasn’t been home for Thanksgiving. She’s staying in Washington and, I think, hosting other Thanksgiving “orphans” at her house. Perhaps I will coach her on cooking a turkey, as my Mother coached me, during countless phone calls, when I made my first one, which was just for my Dad and me when I was a senior in college. We had Thanksgiving dinner on a coffee table on the red-shag carpeted floor of my little attic studio in a house long gone in Boulder. That was a very happy Thanksgiving.

In these times of political turmoil in our country, it is nice to have an occasion to try to bring families together. Our differences are so intense, and in some cases, unforgiveable, that togetherness may not be possible for everyone. Politics today is not something that just matters during elections – and while that has never been the case, we have been passive in our approach to it, up until now, when many are finding the need to exercise their freedom to speak and finding their voices. I hope that all individuals can find something to give thanks for this week, regardless of our differences.

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Boulder, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “The most important political office is that of private citizen.” — Louis D. Brandeis

Daily gratitudes:
Doing the right thing
My current read
A hot bath
A beautiful day
The cooing of iridescent pigeons

Frankenstein was a fairy tale, really, just without the fairies. But that was the word that kept going through my mind as MKL and I ventured out with our realtor for the first time to look for our house together.

We’ve been married over a year and still have not been able to consolidate our two houses into one slice of domestic bliss. I understand the whys and the psychology of it. We both fought hard to rebuild our lives after they fell apart, and buying a house was a huge milestone for each of us, so we are each attached to our respective house. We’re don’t really like each other’s houses or neighborhoods. Neither of us feels like there is room for the other in one or another’s house. I’m told by psychologist friends that this is all not uncommon for “older” people when they marry – that they lives are already more settled and so it is harder to uproot to live together.

But we want to. So we’ve created multiple scenarios (so practical!) that we are working through about what combination of renting or selling our houses will work best. And as part of that, we have begun looking for OUR house. It would be nice to start fresh, with no ghosts (literal or figurative) in a place that we can make our home. We are ready to be away from the Los Angeles-like traffic of the metro area, and the bright lights of the big city.

Our search has started in the foothills, close enough that we can commute in as needed, but on-the-grid enough that we can work from home when possible. We looked at four houses. We loved the location of the first one, overlooking a sweeping valley, with nothing but the sound of the wind in the pines and a random rooster. But not the house, and not the road to the house.

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MKL was in love with the garage of the second house. It was two stories tall, could house at least four cars comfortably, and had water. But the house was full of small rooms and angles, and would never accommodate our vintage pool table, or our aircraft carrier-sized bed.

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The third house was a huge no. You could not enter the house and have the oven door open at the same time. Not that I do that often, but I’d like the option.

And the fourth house was like a fairytale cottage. Open and bright, sunny yellow walls, 1910 latches, marble countertops in a brand new kitchen, rooms full of windows. But no garage. And not priced so that we could afford to build one. I refer to it now as the Enchanted Cottage, so when we talk about it MKL knows which house I’m referring too. It even had some mule deer grazing in the side yard. Sigh. I am still enamored.

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So our ideal place is a Frankenstein creation of one view, one garage, and one Enchanted Cottage.  I’m just going to keep believing until I make it real.

Quote of the day: “For the two of us, home isn’t a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.” — Stephanie Perkins

Daily gratitudes:
A beautiful day
MKL fixing things when they go wrong
My Skype last night with one of my girls
My catering family
Housecleaning

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I remember December 25, 1996. Kelsea was 24 days old. We put her next to us on the floor as we unwrapped Christmas presents, and suddenly couldn’t find her, because we’d accidentally covered her with wrapping paper (a.k.a., glee debris). We immediately uncovered her, and she was happy as a little clam the whole time. That was a lovely Christmas day, full of family (because family comes where the baby is), and fireplaces, and good brunch, and cuddling, and naps.

The next day, we went to the House Up Top, since we had a second house in Black Hawk at the time. I remember sitting in the big taupe faux suede recliner, holding my baby girl, and watching the news about JonBenet Ramsey. I’ll never forget that…my little girl in my arms, while hearing about another little girl, blonde and beautiful like my own, whose life was snatched away at age six. It chilled my heart and made me hold her a little tighter.

I worked in Boulder. I had gone to school there. I had lived on The Hill. I had walked by that house. Boulder, at the time, felt small and safe. I walked everywhere alone at night without a qualm. People who lived there at the time were still at that six degrees of separation level. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who knew someone…you get the picture. An acquaintance was the stepdaughter of the District Attorney. Everyone was hearbroken. Everyone had an opinion on the case. Everyone followed every development. Everyone thought the police were totally out of their league. This sort of thing never happened in Boulder.

As a new mother, I felt for the Ramseys. I had my own opinions about the case, still do to this day, best left unsaid except to my closest confidantes. The Ramsey’s sold the house, they moved away. The city changed the street number of the house, because once it sold, it still garnered so many looky-looers that the new owners couldn’t take it. It became an albatross in the real estate market. And the Patsy Ramsey died of her recurring cancer. John Ramsey started a new life, and good for him. Patsy and JonBenet are buried side by side in Georgia.

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JonBenet Ramsey, age 4 or 5-ish

I know it has been 20 years since this happened, an anniversary. But I am disgusted by the massive amount of attention that the media is taking in this case, starting last month, and no doubt continuing through the year’s end. Maybe it’s only been three shows and some new stories, but I feel they’ve been constantly repeated for weeks. It’s all about ratings, I guess. I know that a lot of people who are in Boulder now weren’t there then, but for those of us who were, having such pieces be promoted (I haven’t been able to watch them) dredges up sorrow and pain that it has taken years to settle uncomfortably with. Maybe even by writing this, I’m giving validity to those bringing up old wounds, but I had to say my piece.

None of these exposes and “new” investigations are going to identify her killer. Nothing will bring her back. I think it’s time that we all let JonBenet rest peacefully. Whoever killed her will have to live with her blood on their hands until their last breath. After 20 years, that is, I think, punishment enough. Let’s not punish her spirit, and the rest of us who live with the memories.

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Kelsea at age 4 or 5

 

 

 

I’m not much of a sports fan. I generally like football, but only my own team (go Broncos), though I’m not sure I would had my Father not been a fan. We were season ticketholders at Duke Blue Devil football games throughout my growing up. I remember the man who sat with his family behind us for all those years looked a little bit like Jack Kennedy. But this isn’t about football. This is about baseball.

I learned about baseball at the Durham Bull’s ballpark (featured in the movie Bull Durham), on summer nights when I was a teenager. I would go with friends or with a hipster boy named Charlie who had slightly buck teeth, and always wore a string tie and cowboy boots, and who tried so hard (but failed) to win more than my friendship. Nights at that ballpark were perfect, all the way from the splintered bench seats, to the hot dogs, to the decades-old bull art piece on the side of the neighboring building, whose tail would raise and whose nostrils would blow smoke when it was hit by a home run. It was soft and warm and bright and buggy and felt like everyone there was family.

Even if you’re not a rabid fan, last night’s final World Series game was an amazing nail-biter with the best possible ending (sorry, Indians fans). I’ve been to Wrigley Field a few times to watch the Chicago Cubs, and I love the team, since I do tend to root for the underdog, which it seemed the Cubs always were. Not so now. Their first World Series win in 108 years. I hope the ancient fan in Chicago who was in the news didn’t have a heart attack – or if he did, that he died happy at the end of the game. Here in my little neighborhood in Colorado, people were setting off fireworks. My social media friends across the country were on tenterhooks, all of us, together. It was, I think everyone could agree, a truly great game.

Since the 1830s, Americans have played, watched, wept, and cheered as this sport that evolved to its current place in the history of our culture. It has touched fashion, film, food, art, and literature. In fact, one of my favorite books is called “If I Never Get Back,” and combines time travel with baseball. What could be better?

In a time of dangerous division within our country, last night, our politics really didn’t matter. It was a wonderful feeling to share the experience of watching “America’s game” with the rest of America.

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Chicago, Illinois.

Quote of the day: “Baseball is the most perfect of games, solid, true, pure and precious as diamonds. If only life were so simple. Within the baselines anything can happen. Tides can reverse; oceans can open. That’s why they say, “the game is never over until the last man is out.” Colors can change, lives can alter, anything is possible in this gentle, flawless, loving game.” – W.P. Kinsella

Daily gratitudes:
The man who plays the guitar at lunch at Potbelly
A beautiful day
Seeing MKL
Good moods
My flu shot (let’s hope I stay grateful for that)

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