"Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it, because action has magic, grace, and power in it." Goethe


Sunday’s Song: Smiles and Sentimentality

This week brings me to another marking of time. March 8 will make four years since Sam left this world. Five years since knowing we were in a very bad place. Terrible, terrible times.

I look back sometimes and wonder how we made it. I would not wish what we experienced on anyone.

But if you just keep moving…

Today, our daughter Skyped with me from 5,000 miles away. She’s been ice skating on a frozen lake. She tells me of her adventures, the friends whose names I did not know five years ago. We laugh, we visit, and I am aware of the arrival of a new day. Happiness. Joy. Peace. Living.

I sit with our son at Mass. I visit his family  tonight. Laugh at the constant motion, constant buzz of his house, filled with family and laughter. Good food, good conversations. Laugh at the antics of two little girls we did not realize would be  coming to us.  Happiness. Joy. Peace. Living.

Never ever could I have predicted the days we lived five years ago. Never ever could I have predicted the happy circumstances my family lives today.

Smiles from living in the moment we are in. Sentimentality from remembering a good man who would be smiling at all of us.

Wherever you are,  whatever sadness might stun you, overwhelm you, paralyze you, breathe through it. One day, it will get better.

Maybe not in four years, or five. Maybe later. Maybe sooner. Just keep at it.

Walk —when you cannot take one more step, take just one more. Sooner or later, you will walk into sunlight. The ice will glisten like diamonds on a frozen lake and you’ll marvel at all the colors you see.

Wait—when you cannot wait one more second, a child might arrive. Or two. And they will bring laughter from a well that until then was unopened.

I have watched my children’s smiles return. I have seen real joy in their eyes.

This is a gift from walking and waiting.

So, smile when you can and remember what you must, but know that a lot of good is right down the road. Live to see it.

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Friday’s Five: December

Today I left the house wearing a Santa hat. Last minute decision, but it is December and it was a bone chilling 27 degrees.

I think it changed my interactions with people because after all… red velvet with huge white pompom is a distraction.

I was able to continue a gift giving tradition Sam started years ago. Today wasn’t the day I planned to do it, but the opportunity came and I was quite happy knowing this took place with me wearing Santa gear. People were inconvenienced for a moment because this impromptu event took place on a country road and cars were delayed momentarily, but not one person honked. And the recipient…delighted. Hat, perhaps??

Onward to a rosary group. Lots of prayers said for lots of people with women who are deeply different but connected in prayer. While there, cardinals kept coming to the feeder. Brilliant reds.

Then, a low tire pressure stop at a garage. The attendant wished me Merry Christmas as I left…I am positive it was the hat. Positive. Makes people feel happier. Joyful. Merry. Isn’t that a great word?

The lights of the season are everywhere. Store windows, interstate tree groupings, hotel reception areas. So welcoming.

The little things that invite us to be better versions of ourselves. December, you delight.

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Friday’s Five

It is four months until Christmas. Yes, I keep track. 

Kisses from an eleven month old who lavishes them on demand. 

A two year old’s outstretched hand…and little voice saying, C’mon Loulou.

Knit blanket almost ready to send to #welcomeblanket project for immigrants.

Netflix nights.

And, while I sit in a comfortable spot writing tonight, my prayers are with the folks across southeast Texas who are bracing for Hurricane Harvey. Latest tracking shows it’s a Category 4. Pray for Texas. 


International Widows Day: My Part in Raising Awareness

I follow Modern Widows Club on Facebook and learn about challenges and opportunities for widows around the world. This is not a club I ever knew existed pre-widow life, but I am glad that it exists. It is a place people on the widowed life journey can go when they seek information, reassurance, solace, and a network of people who walk a similar walk on this road through life.

I certainly didn’t know there was a Widow Awareness Day. Apparently, it is today. June 23. I bet a lot of people don’t know that either. Truly, I don’t need a day set aside. Believe me, I’m well aware of widowhood and all its intricacies. However, some people DO need a day (plus more) set aside. They are living in societies where widowhood is treated like a disease, like it is something that they brought upon themselves and should be punished for or cast out.

The times we live in are interesting. What the hell is wrong with people? I guess that is one of the repeating questions of my life.

The word widow is another label humans insist on using to define people. Oh, I know I am one. But I am also a daughter, a mother, a wife, a friend. My parents are both dead; I am still their child. My children are grown and away from home. I am still their mother. Some of my dearest friends left this world too soon. They are still with me in spirit. And, of course, my husband is gone. He left and I became a widow instantly. But I did not stop remembering I was his wife. How we define the words or labels given to us can surely vary.

These labels can be stripped away, collaged over, refashioned and reworked. I am a human. A human with many names: Agnes, mom, sister,  writer, artist, cook, friend, teacher, mentor, encourager, grandmother in training, mother-in-law, advocate, traveler, believer…

Does a loss change my label? Really? Did I stop becoming a daughter when my parents died? Did I stop being a wife when my husband died? Words, as much as I love them, have a way of limiting us if we allow it. There are parts of me I would say that are not dead, but waiting, like quiet places of sanctuary, around the bend. The daughter room, where I hear my daddy playing organ music as I dance and jump on the oak stained floors in our front room. Where Mama’s voice calmed and encouraged me through many days– her words, “Be good to yourself” reverberating even now. The best friends room–where Nancy is waiting with a cigarette to share and we will sit and laugh and remember. Waydean waits too–for long dinner dates and an even longer follow up convo in a parking lot. We never got through talking. Ever. Ami–there’s a new project to make or a book we must read.

And Sam. I think the rooms where he is are open and sweeping. There are fish biting and berries to pick and hands to hold. And things only we know to remember.

So, to the world, those parts of who I was are dead. But they are not. They are very much alive in the remembering, recalling, and reliving. Loss adds, not subtracts. It adds a depth that does not leave, a well that I can reach into and pull out a moment at will. I have insights now I did not have pre-loss. Rather than feel sorry for widows, let’s respect their place of insight. We have traveled to depths and heights many have not. But, at the end of the day, I am more than a widow. I am a woman who is walking, like the rest of us, toward a final destination. I do not require special treatment. There is no need to be afraid of me. We are not nearly as complicated as we sometimes seem. We are humans who will die. We begin dying the minute we are born, changing and re-changing into something new based on our experiences and our relationships and our learning.

One day I was a child. The next, an orphan. One day a bride, wife, lover. The next, a widow. Putting a word on it does not change the fact. The rooms that make me “me” are still within me. They have not died. Sometimes they wait. Sometimes there are no labels on the next door yet. Or maybe there are. Maybe the labels  say  choice, possibility, future, strength, wisdom, opportunity.

As a writer who knows the recursive nature of the work, so it is with living. We take who we are, honor all that is inside us, and use it to remind us, to resurrect us, to reinvent us into the people we are today.

We have not lost as much as we shall gain: a wisdom that is won through the depths of despair, darkness, and deep pain. It is not necessary to expound or explain all the intricacies of the reality of living without one we have lost. But I know I understand people much better now. Widows share an  understanding  that people who have not experienced it cannot fully grasp.

I know because I did not know.

On this International Widows Day, I’ve decided to pray for widows and orphans.To look for ways to change the lives of widows who need help in finding their voices. To post this piece of writing as a witness to the fact that as a human, I have many names. Widow is only one.


Sunday’s Song: March

I’ve been thinking for awhile about this month. Exactly one week from today it will be a year. A year without my Sam.

365 days to learn to live without him…but the truth is I’ll never live without him. Every day, a reminder. A remembrance. He’s here.

There are things I know and things I don’t. I’ll start with what I know. It’s more important anyway.

1. Never stop praying for widows and orphans. Tell them. We get strength from knowing you’re with us on this journey. I’ve met many widows and learned many stories during this past year. Prayer is the only thing that universally seems to help. Just knowing someone is interceding for you when you really don’t have any more words is a gift.

2. Tell your stories and listen to ours. It helps to bring our loved ones back, through moments recalled. It helps to hear stories we’d long forgotten or may not have even known. It helps to be able to share a memory without thinking it might make you uncomfortable. We lived and loved and made a life with someone. It mattered. It matters.

3. I’ll never be over this. Why would I want to be? There’s not going to be a day when I’m “ok” again if that is defined as how I used to be. I am forever changed and I’m still figuring out what that means every single day. 

4. Every day is a challenge, not just angelversaries ( the day our loved ones passed) , anniversaries, birthdays, special days known to us alone. There comes a point we have to give in to this new reality. It doesn’t mean we are accustomed to it. No. It doesn’t mean we have accepted it. No.

We walk with it. We keep moving.

Which brings me to this word: March.

The month I kept thinking about. The month when Sam was born. The month he died. And all the days and Marches ahead. And within that word, another meaning: move. Move forward, keep going. Day by day and step by step. March on. Yes. Minute by minute is not a cliche. It is a truth.

I am indebted to the friends I’ve made this past year, and to the ones who stayed throughout the days. It was hard,  I know.  It  is hard. We sometimes don’t  know what to say or do, or we say or do the wrong thing.

There is no instruction manual.

At some point, we just all have to admit this grief thing really sucks. It’s horrendous and ugly and brutal and unkind. It’s a mental and physical war. It’s  a level of exhaustion I’d never known–mentally and physically. It is torment. Insomnia. White noise. Brain fog. Numbness and searing pain. You feel your soul cry. It is an attunement like no other. 

I am  learning to move again. Moving toward good things while I have this window of time. How big a window? We do not know. But today I saw an orchid bloom that I thought I’d  killed from neglect. Life is filled with surprises. Watch for them.

I wanted a book club and a bible study and by chance ( ?),  ladies showed up in my life with those very opportunities.

My sister and I travel when we can. My dearest friends and I meet for food, for movies, for laughter.

Sara and I opened our etsy shop. 

Samuel  and his beautiful  wife have  a baby on the way. 

I teach adults. I write. I create art.

The snow fell in big drifts.The jonquils spread their sunshine across the yard. The ducks and geese and cardinals show up.

I still say Honey, I  cleaned out the lint trap. 

And in the silence  I hear him say, OK good. 

And I hear him say a hundred other things. Because we can all move on with our days but our loved ones come with us. They are with us, marching ahead, just around the bend, and sometimes, they double back and we know it. You only understand that if you’ve lived it. I don’t want you to understand. I just want you to believe me. I’m living it and I know it.

I don’t want to dread any days of my life. I’ve already seen enough of that. Loss teaches us something. It taught me no fear.

I’m really not afraid of anything anymore. I say my prayers and ask for God’s help and keep moving. That’s what I do. 

What will  the  next  year bring? We cannot know for sure. We can meet it with determination, though. We are here for however many minutes, and we have something to do.

March on…

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February 14, 2015 Random Rambles

Jonquils are blooming.
There’s ice/snow in the forecast for Tuesday.

And that pretty much sums up life.

We just never know what’s next.

Today: 70 degrees and a watercolor workshop with Sara.
A winter storm watch starts tomorrow.

Roses from my son. Just like his dad used to send. My heart caught when I woke to those this morning.

Sweet Valentine surprises from my daughter and a handmade heart from my new friend Pam. It’s going on my prayer board.
Sweet things.
Messages of love from my sweet friends. This is how we make the days. We have help.

Tonight Modern Widows Club sent up paper lanterns with our loved ones’ names on them. My Sam is listed on the second row.
Kindnesses. Thoughtfulness. Honoring.

A lady I never met wrote his name and I can share this with you. You may never think of it again. Or you might. We just never know.

I posted funny valentines today and laughed a lot.
I have a lot of good in my life.
Good and bad. Happy and sad.
That is how it is.
But let me tell you something about February 14.
It’s a day on the calendar.
People are born on this day. They die. They fuss. Fight. Kiss. Pretend. Love. Respect. Remember. Get it wrong. Get it right. It’s another day.

If you get all bent out of shape because it’s Valentine’s Day, I beg you: stop.
You have the power to stop. Maybe not this year. But one year.

The lady who founded Modern Widow’s Club had a horrendous February 14 fifteen years ago. Her husband died in a wreck as she sat beside him. But tonight, she wrote our loved ones’ names on paper lanterns and sent them to the heavens ablaze with light.
Time didn’t make it easier. She decided. And it was probably harder than we can imagine. But she decided.

So. Happy Love Day. If you think you have no one to love, love yourself. Then you’ll realize there are many just like you who need that too.
We are waiting on you.

You are not alone.
Make whatever is next matter to somebody. God bless… ❤️


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Friday’s Five

Five different kind of blessings this week, dear reader. I’m thinking of my Sam and the many memories we shared. Our 26th anniversary was Wednesday. I don’t know how to count it now that he’s gone. I get the ” ’til death do us part” thing, but my heart says I’m still married.
I recall five sweet things about Sam:
How he’d grip two pecans in his palm and crack them for us to taste as we walked under the trees…
How he’d come checking to see that I was safe on my solo walks around the place…
How he’d hum and sing a bunch of different lines to different tunes all day…
How he’d remind me to remove the lint from the dryer screen—I still say, ” Honey, it’s cleaned.” I can almost hear his affirmations.
How his old high school football team beat the cross town rival tonight for the first time in 14 years. I listened to the game like he used to do– on the radio–can picture him smiling tonight.
Sweetest guy. Sweet memories.
I hope I’ll always remember.

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Friday’s Five

A review of five of the week’s gifts:

One, quite surprising:
A person from my past crossed my path, found herself telling me all of the drama going on in her life, and then stopped mid sentence to tell me what a good listener I was.
I have to smile at that because even I know nothing could be further from the truth. I have to really work at paying attention. But, maybe God decided to show me it is possible.

My friend D and I are reading One Month to Live by Kerry and Chris Shook. We are off schedule because it’s designed to be read in one month, after all. But we are lenient with one another. I hope we always have a book we are reading together. I highly recommend it as a way of staying connected and honoring the gift of friendship.

Speaking of friendship, my pen pal for forty plus years and I have decided it’s getting time to meet in person. Can you imagine what that will be like? We are proof you can form a precious bond with someone you’ve never met. Our letters are a lifelong diary of sorts. It’s amazing to think we may really meet.

I sat on another friend’s porch this week and learned the process of mosaic work. The result was beautiful, but I was most struck by the fact that several of my friends are artistically gifted and each one of them shares that gift freely. There is a level of self assurance in that, and I like being around it.

Finally, porches and pets. A summer ritual has been spending at least part of each day outside, either noticing nature or feeling the porch tile under my bare feet. The trio of dogs shows up without fail, each one getting her moment of ball throwing, ear scratching, or belly rubbing. I just sit without rushing and realize the gift of that. A swallowtail usually flutters by. Today, a hummingbird made her return visit to the red geranium on the front steps. Peaceful moments. Gifts.
Find yours.
God bless…

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Friday’s Five

Grateful for all the blessings God sends. So many more than five from the week…
From today alone:
1) getting an email from a cousin who still addresses me as “Agnes Lou”–sweet southern ways, folks…
2) plans with my sister to book an art retreat cruise next year–and all the reasons we know it’s meant to be…
3) fitting into my mother of the groom dress and knowing in one week and one day, I’ll have a daughter in law, “officially”…
4) celebrating an early birthday lunch with an old friend and not rushing through it…
5) a text from a friend who was folding clothes and for some reason, she thought of me…and reached out… made my day sweeter.
How often do we have those chances, friends? To send a text, make a call, write the note? It all matters.
I’m also celebrating the fact my gown laces instead of zips. That fettuccine Alfredo I enjoyed today will not come back to haunt me. We can just cinch a little looser. 🙂
Look for the light, friends. And if you are searching and struggling, you are not alone. Just keep going.
God bless…

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First Fourth like This

The popping of firecrackers alternates with the hum and buzz of cicadas and crickets. The random frog is croaking too. A party. There’s a concert out there tonight, folks.
Just like a song that takes you back, I’m there.

My neighbors down the road are putting on a show tonight. I think of decades of former Independence Day celebrations, some delightful, others– more subdued.

Different. That’s what this one is. Just me.

My toes aren’t in the sand this year. I didn’t even look for the red/white/blue t shirt. The one I usually wear.
Sam isn’t out by the pond setting off boxes of fireworks while the kids and my mom and I clap and whistle and repeat “oooooh ahhhhhhh” as he smiles at us, shakes his head, and lights some more.
There’s no deer meat grilling, no extra pieces “accidentally” dropping for the the newest trio of dogs .
Nobody fished at the pond today. The earthworms are ready, probably wondering why we aren’t upturning leaves and rocks and old metal tubs to gather them up.
One year I spilled a container of purple hull peas in the truck on the way to the in laws’ Fourth of July celebration. Not sure why I remember that.

Different years took the kids and me down the gravel drive to see the July sky come alive with glittering sparkles of fire. Not tonight. Not this year.

But I’m grateful for the years. For those days. For those times.
Days pre-Sam when I’d go with my mom to family reunions and eat too much fried catfish. Days my first family ( the one you get born in 🙂 ) would be on vacation together, watching a freedom fireworks show from the bank of a river or lake or hotel balcony.
Good times.
And today, freedom to remember. I have seen a lot. I’ve seen my mom sit in a wheelchair on a nursing home patio while my husband positioned her perfectly so she could catch a glimpse of something he knew she couldn’t see that well any longer.
I’ve seen my kids twirling sparklers, spelling their beautiful names in the summer night. I can still see that smoke trailing away, the glowing letters like golden whispers, hanging in the air.
I’ve also seen people confined by their minds and limited by their fears. Not free , right in the middle of the USA.
And I’ve seen my Sam fighting like hell this time last year, knowing he might not be here today. But he fought anyway. And on his terms.

Tonight, I’m still celebrating freedom, like a worn out warrior maybe, but I’m still walking.
I put my youngest on a plane this morning and shared a sweet visit with my son and future daughter in-law tonight. They are free to live, and are.

I consoled dogs that think this is too much noise, and I listen as the pops and echoes grow louder. There’s no fading into the distance yet. Good.

I walked outside earlier, for old times sake. Saw those long ago kid days of spitted watermelon seeds. Saw our long ago new house in progress, the two of us laughing in lawn chairs in the front yard.
Saw those red bobbers floating on rippling water, our feet dangling off the bridge. Happy and free.

I’m independent today in a way that I never thought I’d be, not this soon. And I’m going to tell you, it’s not always so great. But I’m also here to tell you, there were good memories today. Old and new ones.
I live in a country where I can do pretty much what I want when I want. I stopped by church this morning, worshiped my God the way I like to. Saw the cemetery nearby where my father is buried. Someone took time to leave flags on every veteran’s grave. Dozens of American flags fluttering. This has probably been going on for years, but I only knew it today. Like so many of life’s ways. We miss things. We really do.
A few miles away, there’s a patriotic bouquet on my Sam’s grave. A shiny plastic windmill is twirling in the breeze near his name. I bet there’s a show in that sky too. Those people down that road are shooting off fireworks and passing around beers, eating some decent BBQ. Oblivious to me writing this. Not realizing their little lights are giving me happiness. Because I am free to honor his memory in my own way. And I’m hoping somehow we both are seeing some night lights tonight and smiling. We both are hearing those repeating pops and snaps and thinking … so many good things. The mind is always free, friends. Free to dream. Happy Independence Day.
Live free to feel and think…and celebrate all the moments. As many as you can.