Do We Always See The Signs?

Wednesday night as I was putting on Roxy’s collar to let her outside I heard a strange knock against the screen door. I looked out the door and saw a cardinal fluttering about. It seemed as though it was hurt and couldn’t take flight. I hesitated to open the door in fear Roxy would attack it but then it flew, wobbly, to a near by rhododendron bush. I stepped out the door, with Roxy in tow, and stood on the front lawn as she sniffed her way around the front lawn.

I heard another noise, turned around and saw the cardinal fly up toward the ceiling of our back porch. It looked like it was trying to find a place to land but there are no rafters there. It settled on sitting on the brick landing. It just sat there. I quickly turned around and took stock of Roxy’s whereabouts to ensure she didn’t pounce on the bird. Roxy was long gone in the neighbors yard.

It was a quiet night with a star filled sky. I stared at the stars and allowed my thoughts to wander for a few seconds. Then I called Roxy to go inside. I turned and the cardinal was no where in site. Roxy came bounding accross the lawn and headed to the porch. I stopped her because all of a sudden the cardinal was flying up toward the ceiling of the porch again. Roxy bolted up the stairs and started jumping up against the house in an attempt to catch the bird. I ran up, yelled at Roxy and opened the door. Surprisingly she listened to me and went right in. I closed the screen and back doors in hopes to drown the noise of the fluttering cardinal.

The photographer in me rushed to my camera to get a picture. I had my 100mm macro lens on. I was psyched! I walked to the door and saw the cardinal sitting on the brick landing again. I stared out the window, started to turn the door knob and then stopped. Roxy was staring at me and I didn’t want to arouse the bird again if she was hurt.

We walked back into the den and assumed our usual spots; Roxy on the couch and me in the recliner. We were both minding to ourselves when the bird body-slammed itself against the window screen a few times and was gone. I was freaked out and worried abou the bird’s safety. In the morning I mentioned to Mark what had happened last night. His reply was, “I think there is a nest inside the bush and she is protecting it.” I stood there dumb-founed. That aspect never occurred to me.

As mothers we are protective of our young.  We are willing to do anything to keep them from harm (even dive-bomb the enemy if necessary).  As Mother’s Day approaches I think of the fierce love I have for my daughter Emily and how I would do anything to protect her.  I had someone post that the bird appearing may have been a sign. It hasn’t appeared again.  Could that beautiful cardinal have been a sign to let me know that my mother still watches over me? I am choosing to think so.



Stream of Consciousness

Mother’s day is nearing and I have been thinking about the day and what it has meant to me in the past vs. how I may feel this year. My mourning process is only eight days old, yet, I am light-hearted.  I feel more connected to my mother than I ever remember being as an adult.  Why?

Since I have consciously, and unconsciously, started to celebrate her life, I have a few more memories. I have spent more time looking at the few pictures of our family, smiling and and being happy. I haven’t dwelled in the past when she wasn’t physically with me.  Instead I have tried to keep her memory alive in my head and my heart. (I don’t mean to sound sappy).

Ah ha! Just writing that last sentene made me see another difference.  I am keeping her alive in my heart. I am starting to breakthrough the pain and anger and envy by realizing that to keep her alive I need to keep her in my heart. It doesn’t mean I won’t have sadness and miss her, but, I will also experience joy and laughter.  Missing her doesn’t you mean I have to feel guilty being happy.

Marianne Williamson, author of, A Return To Love, says we approach life either by fear or by love. If I am feeling anger and envy, I can’t be feeling love. And if I fee anger and envy what do I fear?  Until just recently, I was afraid to feel anything but sad when thinking of my mom. If I tried to look at her with love, and did not feel loved back, what would happen? It was easier to be fearful and remain numb. But now I have experienced joy because I am looking at life with love. And I want more of it.

Loving is so much easier than fearing.


You Make Your Own Day

What a wonderful weekend  this was. I can’t remember a better weekend. There were no special events, just a couple days with Mark and Roxy.  As I reflect on the past few days, I don’t think I will be writing “just” meaning nothing very special anymore.  Days such as these are what miracles are made of.  The sun was shining and I was with someone I love…is there anything else? Yes, Roxy was with us too. At the beach, as we watched Roxy run into the water and then run out and then run in again and lay down in the water. I remembered our days at the beach when I was little. I don’t remember much but I do remember Coast Guard beach and running in and out of the water. I was with my parents, Stephen and Debbie (my brother and sister).  I remember being pushed over by the waves and running back in. We vacationed every summer for a week in Eastham, MA. We rented a cottage. I think it was pink but am not sure.  I found pictures of my brother, sister and me on the split rail fence, each of us wearing our sailer hats.  I also remember a nearby rooster and chickens that chased me.

Making new memories helped me to remember some of my past. Small, single memories of days with my family.  Memories of my past that make me happy for what I had; not sad for what I missed. I even stopped at the cemetery today to check on the my Grandmother’s and Mother/Father’s graves. Each year Mark and I clean up and plant flowers on my family and his family’s graves. It always reminds me of going to Brockton, MA each year to tend to my Grandma Meeche’s family’s grave. On today’s visit, however, I remembered a little more. I remembered my father placing the lawn mower into our station wagon, along with the clippers. The drive to Brockton that seemed like forever; it might as well been to Disney World. Once there my father cut the grass, trimmed the evergreens and we all helped plant flowers.  Afterward we would have a picnic right in the cemetery.  When I remembered that I actually called my brother and sister to make sure that it happened. I can’t imagine picnicking in a cemetery now.  My brother even remembered that our lawn mower was a golden color.  It’s odd the details we remember.

I am starting to think that remembering more of my time with my mother can help to counteract the memories I wasn’t able to make with her. Instead of painfully mourning, I am going to look forward to remembering. I am going to wake each morning and choose to be happy. My daughter’s daycare provider, Gayle, used to say, “You make your own day.”  Well she was right. I am going to make my days happy.

Here is one part of Saturday that made me smile.



Today I Choose Joy

I was awakened this morning by my dog, Roxy. She just had to go outside and would not accept “No” for an answer. My husband always gets up early on the weekends so I decided to do dog duty today. Roxy was exited and running in circles as I put on my shoes and her collar.

I opened the door and she was off, smelling every inch of territory she covered. I just meandered along watching her in a zombie-like state. Suddenly she stopped. I looked in the same direction as Roxy and saw some robins on the ground pecking for morning breakfast. As soon as she moved the robins flew away. I kept looking in the direction of where the birds had been to keep watching the beautiful streams of sunlight. They were shining on the grass, the plants and through the tree branches. I just stood and stared. And then it happened; I felt myself smile. I was awake, alive and happy. But how could that be? It was only 25 days until the anniversary of my mother’s death. I was supposed to be mourning.

Roxy and I came back into the house. I was awake and couldn’t go back to sleep. I could still feel the smile on my face. I remembered Mark and I have plans to go to the beach with Roxy today. And then zoom! I remembered something else. One of the few pictures of my mother that I have is of her at the beach, sitting on a blanket. I smiled again. Without consciously knowing it, I was smiling. I had experienced joy in that moment and decided to choose joy for the rest of the day. I am going to celebrate my mom’s life while at the beach. My heart is already lighter.

Swan at W. Dennis Beach-2

To everyone that read’s this, I wish you a joy-filled day.

Turn Gray Skies Into Blue

Each weekday morning I start my day off with logging into my g-mail and reading the daily Girlfriend In God (GIG) message. Each issue of GIG starts off with a scripture reading and is followed by a story that helps to illustrate the reading in today’s world. Today’s reading was,

“God will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy (Job 8:21, NCV).”

The parts of the message that spoke to me are quoted below. Whether you believe in God or not, please finish reading this blog entry. I am just sharing a reading that I think has started to heal my pain.

We all want a life filled with happy endings, but we seem to be living lives that could well be described as “joy-less.” Every day is lived at the mercy of the world. We are like Charlie Brown who admits, “I have a new philosophy. I’m only going to dread one day at a time.”

God is our one and only source of joy, and stands ready and waiting to saturate every circumstance with His presence. As His children, joy is ours to claim. Really? If that is true, then where is it? Why are so many of us facing each day with a sense of dread instead of a confident celebration?

Maybe it is because of the Joy Stealers who lurk in the shadows, waiting to crush joy wherever they find it. I have great news for you, girlfriend. Nothing and no one can take your joy without your permission. So, don’t give it! Choose joy instead.

Choosing joy requires us to identify and eliminate the “joy stealers” in life. You may be allowing a person to take your joy. Maybe some painful experience from a shadowed yesterday is an obstacle of joy in your life today. Perhaps a fearful circumstance or a broken dream is the culprit.

I know life can be painful. I know it is often hard and unfair. I also know God is in control. So if God really is God (and He definitely is), then we can and should be people of joy. I have read the final chapter of the Book, and we win!

After reading today’s GIG I began to think about the concept of choosing joy and removing the “joy stealers” from my life. I have been allowing my mother’s death to be an “obstacle of joy in my life.” Perhaps instead of believing mourning has to involve a lot of pain and anguish, I can explore my relationship with my mother (as short as it was) and the questions I have. Instead of dwelling on the void that was left in my life I can explore the ways she has affected my life. Taking this perspective may have moments of sadness but I can also have joy.

Even though I have choice, I believe God is in control. Believing and accepting that brings me joy. Tonight I choose joy. Tomorrow I may feel some sadness but I won’t let it overshadow and steal the joy of my day. I will experience the sadness and let it pass.

Perhaps I am really on my way to not mourning but accepting that she is gone and being thankful for the time I had with her and for the gifts she gave me (even gifts I haven’t realized I have). Stay tuned for tomorrow. As good as my intentions are, stating this and living this can be a challenge. Why don’t you choose joy with me and if you identify a “joy stealer” don’t allow it to be a thief and own your day.

I believe this is the correct link to GIG if you are interested.



So Many Firsts Missed

Today I started a new job. It wasn’t my first job, but it was my first day at my new job. I was driving home from work and became sad. I thought of the “firsts”, or significant events, that I didn’t get to share with her:

  • Buying my first bra
  • My first boyfriend
  • My first period
  • My first day of high school
  • Buying a prom dress
  • High school graduation
  • Leaving for college
  • College graduation
  • My first job
  • Getting engaged
  • Shopping for a wedding dress
  • Helping me get ready for my wedding/getting married
  • Buying my first house
  • The birth of Emily
  • My divorce
  • All of Emily’s firsts
  • Marrying Mark

Looking at this list makes me wonder how not having her with me during some of these times has shaped my life (or I let shape my life). My father re-married about 14 months after my mom died. She and I had a contentious relationship from the start. She wasn’t nurturing and did not celebrate much about life. I wonder how some of my “firsts” would have been with her by my side and in my corner.

I can remember feeling jealous of friends who had their Moms with them when they shopped for their prom dress, helped get them get ready for college and/or shopped with them for their wedding dress. The most difficult time for me was the birth of Emily. My mother-in-law was wonderful but it wasn’t like having my Mom there. So many firsts with your first baby and so many questions. Was I nurturing enough? I never felt like I was. Did I encourage her enough? Was I strict enough without losing her respect?

I am not angry liked I used to be. That anger has been replaced with sadness and a lot of questions.  I don’t have many memories of my mother, and our family, in the nine years I was lucky enough to have her in my life. I wonder what our relationship would be like and what her relationship with Emily would be like. Grandmothers and grandchildren seem to share a special bond. I am sad that Emily didn’t know her Grandma Eleanor.

Tonight I mourn all the “firsts” that I missed with you mom. I hope you are proud of Emily’s firsts and how I mothered her through them.


A Time To Mourn, A Time To Heal

“Time heals…” What does time heal? Where did that expression come from? I usually think about that statement in terms of death; when reading condolences written by others for someone trying to deal with loss. Upon hearing that I usually think to myself, “Time doesn’t make things better. It just helps you to have more good days in-between the bad days.” I came to this realization less than 10 years ago. That may sound like a long time ago for some, but for me it isn’t that long. Not when I put it into the context of the event I am referring to … the death of my mother.

My mother died the day before my ninth birthday, May 28, 1970. For many years, the anniversary of her death overshadowed my birthday (stories for another time). But as I have grown older, and perhaps a bit wiser, I have been able to separate the two . Tomorrow, April 28, 2014 will be 30 days before the 44th anniversary of her death. I am still struggling with the loss of her from my life. It begins one of the “some of the bad days that happen in-between the good days” times. I have been struggling a lot over the past year not having my Mom to talk with, to listen to, to garner wisdom from and to hug and be hugged. My therapist says I have yet to mourn her death. How can that be? I am 52 years old, soon to be 53. Is it possible to live that long and not be done mourning?

I decided to look up the definition of mourning and found a web page titled, Will I Grieve Or Will I Mourn, by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. On the page there were two quotes that rocked my soul. The first quote:

“We need to acknowledge that this experience of grief and mourning is part of the soul’s life.”  (Thomas Moore)

There have been many moments in my 52 years of life when I have felt empty or soul-less. It is as though I am floating in the clouds, looking down at life and watching, but not participating. My soul felt lifeless.

The second quote:

Grief is the constellation of internal thoughts and feelings we have when someone we love dies. Mourning is when you take the grief you have on the inside and express it outside of yourself                                                                                                   

After reading both quotes I had a sudden realization and a flutter in my heart. My therapist is right! I need to mourn for my mother, Eleanor Mary (Bates) Aspinwall. I haven’t allowed myself to feel the raw emotions of my loss. Instead I have locked them up in the vault of my being and pretended they don’t exist. I am tired of hiding from my grief and don’t want to fight with myself anymore.

Over the next 30 days I am going to spend time each day reflecting, through journaling, in hopes I can mourn and move toward peace. I am scared and know it won’t be easy, however, I don’t want to the live anymore with the alternative. Join me as I try to move from grief to mourning in hopes of unlocking my soul and my heart.

Gratitude…it is so under rated

As I sit here on the eve of our 15th wedding anniversary to the love of my life I am so grateful to have him as my partner in life.  Just three short weeks ago, I was racing home from Cape Cod to be at his side in the emergency room.  He had called me to tell me he wasn’t feeling well.  After I pressed him a little he admitted he was having “discomfort”, code word for chest pain.  I told him to call “911” and frantically started on my way home.  It was a long ride home with so many thoughts going through my head; making deals with God for everything to turn out OK and trying to keep my composure while avoiding getting a speeding ticket.  Tonight, nothing gives me more joy than to see him on the couch with Roxy and know he is recovering and still here.

About two months ago he and I both started eating healthier. His doctor had told him to stop eating flour, eliminate sugar (except naturally occurring sugar) and to just eat meat/fish, vegetables and fruit (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and apples).  In essence, we were starting toward the road of eating Paleo.  Since starting cardiac rehab we have both really gotten serious.  It has been a tough but a necessary shift in our eating.

As I said in an earlier post, the sugar break is hardest for me.  I thought I was doing OK until I wasn’t feeling well yesterday, morning.  I didn’t feel hungry when I left the house and didn’t pack a lunch.  Just before noon, I began to feel hungry.  I ordered a sandwich in a wrap and potato chips.  I don’t each chips often anyway but yesterday they did taste good.

Immediately after eating my lunch I was upset with myself.  How can you just lose perspective for those few moments and eat what you will regret 15 minutes later?  It really wan’t worth it.  When I got home and looked back on my day I realized what I had eaten and then realized two of my triggers…being tired and not planning. Wow.  How many times have I heard that when we get tired or run down we can start to crave carbs!  I guess it must be true!  I stopped beating myself up at that moment.

What a difference a good night’s sleep can make.  Today was better.  Tomorrow I will wake up and try again.  It is so much easier to make an error, self-correct and keep going.  Starting over is much harder that just straightening out my path.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to start and end each day with my husband by my side.  I am also grateful for the ability to change my perspective of “not starting over” but instead “self-correcting” and continuing.  God is good.  Life is good.

Note to self: always be sure your underwear fit before leaving the house for work

I know I already posted today but as this blog progresses you will probably see that I write from a stream of conscientiousness. 

Have you every had the unfortunate experience of finding out that your underwear don’t fit because they are cutting into you but you are not at home?  Oh, come on now.  Really?  Anyone that thinks a wedgie is bad has never had this happen.  I should have known there was a reason that the pair I put on this morning were at the bottom of the drawer.  Anyway, it is not comfortable.  So what are my options?  Its either go commando or go home.

Well I live too far from home and I am in too much pain so … what do you think I did? 

Day three and still kicking …

Well this blog thing is getting a little easier… just like changing my eating habits and going Paleo.  I have been dabbling in eating Paleo for some time now however, it was really just two days ago that I became ready and committed to eating that way.  I like to do everything perfect and 100% so this is a big challenge for me.  I don’t think it is so much a perfectionist thing for me; it is the competition or challenge to myself that makes me that way.  I can be rough on myself and need to learn its OK to not be “perfect” all the time but I don’t want to lose that competitive spirit that keeps me striving for more.  It is a balancing act.

So to paleo eating.  I had already eliminated grains from my diet before Tuesday, 15 October 2013.  I decided to start with that when I had read in several places about the inflammation effects they can have.  Well, I am proof that since I have eliminated them, my joints do not ache on a daily basis and that makes it all worth it.  I was beginning to believe that after turning 50 that my body was supposed to feel that way because I was “getting older.”  Well, I get a little older each day and don’t ache anymore.  I have reduced my dairy down to only 1/2 and 1/2 in my coffee.  That is going to be a tough change.  But the toughest one of all will be … SUGAR.  Yes that wonderful, sweet taste found in chocolate; my downfall.  With Halloween right around the corner, there are candy dishes all around the office.  I can’t get their screaming out of my head when I walk by one.  “Just take me.  One bite isn’t going to matter.”  Well I suppose it wouldn’t but when you walk by 5 dishes in 20 minutes it adds up. 

I have already read many suggestions for helping to beat sugar cravings but am open to more. 

Have a great weekend.  Here is a picture of how beautiful fall in New England is.