Posted in A Round of Words in 80 Days, A Round of Words in 80 Days 2018, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, Round Two, slices of life, The 12 Week Year, The 12 Week Year 2018, The 12 Week Year Three, Writers' Resources, writing

I Think I’ve Got It Now! #ROW80 Round 2 /#12WeekYear 3; Midweek 7

Hi there, ROWers and friends!

Yes, you’re seeing this right. It’s Wednesday, and I’m here….on time, even! – to offer up my plan for this week, taken directly from my accountability group, and presented to you with progress accounted for.

Looking at this checklist shows me that I am resisting doing the family financial stuff, and letting other things get in the way of my marketing learning and practice. I have a few ideas why this is happening but will be giving it more attention in the coming weeks and rounds.

In the meantime…

last Wednesday, I asked people what their least favorite books were. The one response I got was the same as my own attitude – I don’t generally read books I don’t like – I set them aside. Most recently, I did that with Dark Mirror, by Juliet Marillier. The two main characters, both children, jumped seven years in age – and became strangers to me. I can’t invest in them twice like that…too much is unknown.

But I do have least favorite children’s books:

  •   Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: I know this is a classic, and many people love it – but the rhythm changes dramatically, and without warning partway through. I feel that this spoils the story, and cheats children out of the beauty of a rhythm that had been established. I just can’t seem to get past it.
  • Love You Forever by Robert Munsch: Although Mr. Munsch is one of my favorite children’s authors, this one gives me the creeps. Love is not about stalking your children into their adulthoods, or always considering them babies even when they’re long since grown! Love is seeing someone as they are, with all their flaws, and being willing to spend time with them and sacrifice for them if need be. This book gives a very strange concept of love, with a mother actually putting a ladder to her grown son’s window and cradling him in her arms while he sleeps…it suggests that kids don’t REALLY grow up, and I don’t think that’s a great message.

But now – let’s get to know each other with -yup – another question or two:

 What characters resonate with you?

Which characters do you love to hate?

I’ll post my answers next Wednesday!

Notes:

  • Wednesday: Weekly Action Plan
  • Sunday: Weekly Wrap-Up.
  • Final Review: after Week 12.

Goal Status:

  • Blue with Overstrike: Completed.
  • Green: In Progress.
  • Black: Still Waiting.
  • Black with Overstrike: 86’ed.
  • Red: Goal Change.

Writing:

I complete one Star Trek: Enterprise fan fiction story each day, using the Story A Day prompts.

I brainstorm, do needed worldbuilding and character work, create a rough outline, and write a first draft of my 2,500 word limit short story for the Little Bird Writing Contest, using the prompts.

  •  I finally got to this! 301 words in first brainstorming session.

Revision:

I complete a final polish of “Storm at Song Glass Cabin” and submit revised version to Exploits in the Adirondacks anthology publishers for professional editing.

  • Downloaded one crit from an accountability partner – thanks, Lauren!!!

I complete spot revisions for each day’s Story A Day fan fiction piece.

  • Sunday’s mammoth piece done; 1/3.

Blogging:

I decide on a spring/summer blogging schedule.

  • Early brainstorming in progress.

I post and adhere to this schedule.

I respond to all pending comments.

I revise my About page, based on Pixels to Platform learning.

I add a Welcome page, based on P2P learning.

Social Media

I update my Patreon page, with apologies to my Patron (sorry, Fallon!)

I share my Patreon page on other social media, because no one can be my patron if they don’t even know I want any!

I keep up with #AllStarTrek, ROW80, #accountabilitygirls. P2P Facebook group, and general Twitter, Facebook, and email.

  •  Some attention to each of these, but skimped on ROW80 (sorry, fellow ROWers!).

I post and browse at least once on Instagram and Pinterest, because I miss them.

Learning:

I complete Pixels to Platform Module Two.

  • Gathered some images, and did some research. #babysteps.

I watch Module Two Video Two.

I assess Video Two Play Sheets/devise schedule for completing them.

I doublecheck time for group call;  am prepared to participate; submit at least one question.

  • Group call time verified; simmering questions.

I watch the DIY-MFA free Stop Dreaming, Start Doing! videos, and participate in the discussion of same.

  • Watched 1/3 currently available.

I finish reading voiceover ebook.

  • Done…simmering and contemplating next steps.

Family Finances:

I read two financial articles.

I investigate Fiverr.

I post three items to yard sale site.

I choose three more items to prep for sale.

I find titles for Gus and motorcycle.

I handle two administrative tasks.

  • I’ve pulled the materials for these and placed them prominently on my desk, where they will stay till completed. #babysteps again.

I add regular auto withdrawals to planner.

I check Paypal for other auto payments and list.

I rough out family budget.

Hometending:

I complete 3 hometending cycles in my room.

  •  2/3 in progress.

I complete one each in garage and porch.

I complete 2 each in common rooms – bathroom, dining, kitchen, and living.

Yardtending:

I move rest of downed branches to containment.

  • Moved one largish branch more closer to containmnent, but not quite INTO containment.

I move slate to front yard.

I weed/clean flowerbeds.

I mow backyard as possible.

Lifetending:

I choose three recipes to make this week.

I make them.

I facilitate Gabrielle visit on Monday.

  • Done – possible weekend plans, as well.

I take Noli to dog park Wednesday and Friday.

I get Noli’s license.

  • Done, and tag on her collar – so she’s all legal!

I take a long walk with Noli each day.

  • Sunday- Tuesday; check.

I get at least 4 hours of sleep each night.

  • A bit short Sunday, but nearly 8 hours on Monday.

Soultending:

I meditate and journal each morning.

  • Sunday -Tuesday, Check..

I read one inspirational article.

  •  Done – one on “taking the waters” from Mindfulness Newsweek Special Issue.

I meditate and journal 4 evenings.

  •  1/4; Monday.

I light a candle and read from Sleep 4 evenings.

1/4; Monday.

Use a sleep meditation each night.

  • 1/7; Monday.

ROW80

The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have A Life!

ROW Along, or Cheer Us On!

We’re On Facebook, Too!

Noli on the go! Photo by Gabby Monlea, age 13.
Posted in A Round of Words in 80 Days, A Round of Words in 80 Days 2018, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, Round Two, slices of life, The 12 Week Year, The 12 Week Year 2018, The 12 Week Year Three, Writers' Resources, writing

Now I’m Late Again: #ROW80 Round 2/#12WeekYear 3 EOWeek 6 Wrapup

 

Hi there, ROWers and friends!

It’s Tuesday –way past time time to share my Week 6 Wrapup. I’ve been Working on Week 7 since Sunday…it just seems to be that kind of a month, but I am checking in more promptly than last time. (Here’s my last update). 

Sunday was a tricky day. I stayed up well past dawn Sunday, slept 3.5 hours, and got up in time to do my usual morning things and take a long walk with Noli and Miah (my 16 yo son), before getting ready to head out to my weekly writer’s group meeting.

I came home late, and tired, and spent the rest of the evening playing Cake Mania 3, because I needed that.

Monday brought our twice a month visit from Lise’s best friend, Gabrielle extra driving for me, and an extra teen in the house.  By the time we were home again, it was closing in on the end of the day, and I hadn’t written my Story A Day piece yet (or even checked the prompt!).

I’m finally here, to answer my three wrapup questions:

  1. What did I accomplish last week?
  • I realized I habitually expect myself to do four times what I CAN do.
  • I decided to work on that.
  • I completed a major revision and passed the draft on to my accountability group for critique.
  • I regained forward momentum with Pixels to Platform.
  • I explored voiceover freelancing.
  • I wrote a StoryADay and shared them at ff.net.
  • I decluttered a bit and made a modest profit from doing so.
  • Family, home, and dog stuff.
  1. What’s on deck for this week?
  • More Story A Day
  • More Pixels to Platform
  • Polish “Storm Glass” and sumit)
  • Updating blog and Patreon
  • More decluttering
  • More voiceover research
  • More family, dog, and hometending
  • Learning how to set reasonable goals
  1. How do these things serve my greater purpose?
  • All support a sustainable writing career – and/or a a sustainable income that will allow me to nurture and tend my family – my primary life goal.

How would you answer these three questions?

Notes:

  • Wednesday: Weekly Action Plan
  • Sunday: Weekly Wrap-Up.
  • Final Review: after Week 12.

Goal Status:

  • Blue with Overstrike: Completed.
  • Green: In Progress.
  • Black: Still Waiting.
  • Black with Overstrike:
  • Red: Goal Change.

Writing:

I write one new StarTrek:Enterprise  fan fiction piece each day for Story A Day May, and post to ff.net.

  • Held one story back because it wasn’t working.

I brainstorm ideas; do character work as indicated; and create a rough outline for the Little Bird Writing Contest ( 2,500 word limit).

Revision:

I complete “Storm at Song Glass Cabin” revision/submit revised copy to anthology publishers.

  • Revision completed; it’s with my accountability group for critiquing.

I complete spot-revisions for all StaD stories prior to posting.

  • Daily except Saturday; story wasn’t finished at midnight.

Blogging:

I move everything from Squarespace (expiring 5/16).

  • I looked at what I need to move; shouldn’t be a huge problem to copy/paste into a Word file).

I decide on a spring/summer blogging schedule.

  • Considering a pared-down effort with a shifted focus.

I post in accordance with new schedule.

I answer all back A-Z and all new comments. (I got to more; maybe all.)

I continue A-Z visits through letter I, using the format I used during April.

Career Building/Learning:

I listen to two past Story A Day podcasts, and all daily prompt videos.

  • Keeping up with the videos for daily prompts.

I catch up with Pixels to Platform Ambassador duties.

I complete P2P Modules 1 and 2.

  • Worked on Module 2; mostly assessing, with a bit of brainstorming and setup.

I complete two 11:11 flash fiction course sessions.

I complete reading Voice-over book.

  • Currently at 54%

Family Finances:

I offer first 3 items on yard sale site.

I investigate Fiverr and consider what I have to offer.

I go through cash receipts and bank statements.

  • Listed out monthly bills from bank statement,

I find five more items to sell.

  • 2/5.

I locate titles for motorcycle and Gus (our vintage truck).

I create rough budget.

I create cold-call pitch for unlabeled hot sauces.

  • Not happening this week; need a bit more time to think about it.

I read one financial/business article.

Yardtending:

I move downed branches and old wood to fire pit or containment area in former garden.

  • I have a willing son – and a plan of approach. Moved several small/medium branches.

I move slate to front yard.

  • This needs to wait until enough branches are moved to allow access.

I get contact info for refugee family relief; offer outgrown playground toys.

I see if lawn mower is working; mow yard or facilitate kids doing it.

  • Mowed broad strokes of front yard and a bit of the back before getting rained out.

I clean out/weed flower beds.

  • #babysteps to cleaning out 1/3 beds – the most cluttered.

Hometending:

I complete 5 rounds in my bedroom.

  • 5/5 rounds complete.

I do one round each porch and garage.

  • Garage done.

I do two rounds each in bathroom, dining room, kitchen, and living room.

I catch up with laundry and dishes, then maintain.

  • Both much closer than last week,

I make a rough list of regular hometending tasks and typical frequency.

Lifetending:

I watch Enterprise each day: #itswritingresearch.

  • Yes.

I take Noli for a long walk at least once daily.

  • Every day.

I take Noli to the dog park twice.

  • 1/2 Tuesday, for about 3 hours; kept her home with digestive issues Friday.

I get Noli’s license.

  • Postponing till next week.

I make Instant Pot chicken, bone broth, and chicken soup.

  • YES!!!! ALL of them!

Make pasta bakes for kids.

  • Done Wednesday night, when it was cooler out.

Make Cheddar Bay biscuits.

  • Done! Lise loves them; Miah found them OK.

Soultending:

I meditate/journal every morning.

  • 7/7; 4:44 minutes, using Insight

Meditate/journal 3 evenings.

  • 3/3; 1:11 with Insight Timer, then sleep /relaxation meditation to promote sleep.

I read from Hygge book.

  • Regularly.

I read one inspirational article.

I focus on getting at least 4 hours sleep for each 24.

  • Every night this week!

ROW80

The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have A Life!

ROW Along, or Cheer Us On!

We’re On Facebook, Too!

A moment in my life….at my Command Center, with pistachio ice cream!

 

 

Posted in A Round of Words in 80 Days, A Round of Words in 80 Days 2018, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, Round Two, slices of life, The 12 Week Year, The 12 Week Year 2018, The 12 Week Year Three, Writers' Resources

Now You See Me: #ROW80 Round 2 /#12WeekYear 3 Midweek 6

 

Hi there, ROWers and friends!

 

It’s Wednesday –time to share my Week 6 Action Plan, and I haven’t been here in way too long. I really can’t say why, other than that Life Happened. (Here’s my last update).   

Just a couple things to cover before we get to the check-in:

Recently, I joined Slack with other members of my small accountability group. I’ve been creating daily and weekly checklists there, so, to simplify my updating here, I’m recreating each weekly list as it appeared at the end of the current session.

In my last post, I asked a few questions designed to get to know you better, and promised that I’d share my answers, as well.
So…

  1. What are your favorite books?

  1. Why do you love them?

  • In both cases, these books shifted the way I view life, the universe… and myself. And they keep on doing that – I reread them every few years, and always take away something new from the reading.
  1. What’s the most recent book you read?

Since I’ve been away a while, I’ve just got one two-part question for today:


What’s your least favorite book, and why do you dislike it?

Next Wednesday, I’ll share my answers, and bring you a few more questions.  Until then, please drop your answers into the comments, and I promise I’ll put them to good use. =)

In other news – there’s more black than I’d like on this update  – I’ve been focused on a few specific projects, and on helping Noli adjust to our home and her new life.

What are you adjusting to, in your life, this week?

 

Notes:

  • Wednesday: Weekly Action Plan
  • Sunday: Weekly Wrap-Up..
  • Final Review: after Week 12.

Goal Status:

  • Blue with Overstrike: Completed.
  • Green: In Progress.
  • Black: Still Waiting.
  • Black with Overstrike: 86’ed.
  • Red: Goal Change.

 

Writing:

I write one new Story A Day May (ENT fan fiction) each day, and post to fanfiction.net  in their own file.

  • Keeping up with this; getting great feedback on the stories.

I brainstorm ideas; do character work as indicated; and create a rough outline for my entry to the Little Bird Writing Contest ( 2500 word limit).

Revision:

I complete “Storm at Song Glass Cabin” revision and submit revised copy to publishers.

  • 2/5 pages complete; working my way through the tangles.

I completepot-revisions for StaD stories prior to posting.

  • Yes, daily.

Blogging:

I move everything from Squarespace (expiring 5/16).

I decide on a spring/summer blogging schedule.

  • I’m considering a pared-down effort with a shifted focus).

I post in accordance with new schedule.

I answer all back A-Z and all new comments.

  • I got to more; maybe all.

I continue A-Z visits through letter I, using the format I used during April.

Career Building/Learning:

I listen to two past Story A Day podcasts, and all daily prompt videos.

  • I’ve been keeping up with the videos for daily prompts.

I catch up with Pixels to Platform Ambassador duties.

I complete P2P Modules 1 and 2.

I complete two 11:11 flash fiction course sessions.

I read Voice-over book.

  • Currently at 27%.

Family Finances:

I offer first 3 items on yard sale site.

I investigate Fiverr and consider what I have to offer.

  • I’ve taken an early peek, and brainstorming has commenced.

I go through cash receipts and bank statements.

I find five more items to sell.

  • I’ve found 2/5.

I locate titles for motorcycle and Gus (our vintage truck).

I create a rough budget.

I create cold-call pitch for unlabeled hot sauces.

I read one financial/business article.

Yardtending:

I move downed branches and old wood to fire pit.

  • Discussed with Miah; will begin soon.

I move slate to front yard.

I get contact info for refugee family relief; offer outgrown playground toys.

I see if lawn mower is working; mow yard or facilitate kids doing it.

  • Mower is working. After I discovered this, I mowed the broad strokes of the front yard. Also mentioned mowing to both kids, casually.

I clean out/weed flower beds.

  • Began with the most cluttered. #babysteps.

Hometending:

I complete 5 tending rounds in my bedroom.

  • 1/5 complete.

I complete one round each in porch and garage.

  • Garage complete. It’s going to take a LOT of effort to get it the way I want it.- but I’m willing to make that effort!

I complete two rounds each in bathroom, dining room, kitchen, and living room.

I catch up with laundry and dishes, then maintain.

  • Both are closer than last week.

Make rough list of regular hometending tasks and typical frequency.

Lifetending:

I watch Enterprise each day: #itswritingresearch.

  • So far, yes; except for the when the station was out.

I take Noli for a long walk at least once daily.

  • Every day, so far.

I take Noli to the dog park twice weekly.

  • Tuesday, for about 3 hours;1/2.

I get Noli’s license.

I make Instant Pot chicken, bone broth, and chicken soup.

  • Chicken done; separation for bone broth in progress.

I make chicken salad.

  • Done (and being consumed!)

I make Cheddar Bay biscuits, and pasta bakes for each family member (we all have different preferences).

  • Made pasta bakes for the kids, but decided I’d rather have pesto tortellini.

Soultending:

I meditate/journal every morning.

I meditate/journal 3 evenings/week.

  • 1/3; sleep meditation.

I read from Hygge book.

  • Daily, I think.

I read an inspirational article.

I focus on getting at least 4 hours sleep for each 24.

  • Every day this week.

ROW80 –


The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have A Life!

ROW Along, or Cheer Us On!

We’re On Facebook, Too!

LIfe has been just a little crazy since Noli-girl came home – but in such a sweetly goofy way! =D
Posted in #atozchallenge, #atozchalllenge 2017, Blog Hops and Fests, Blogfest Entries, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, My Poetry, poetry, slices of life, The 12 Week Year Two, Writing Sample

Y is for “You’ll Always Be a Part of Us”: #atozchallenge Day 25

Accept What’s Ahead

Why do some live while others die

Why is that fact so hard to accept

Accept that death is inevitable

Accept that my beloved is no more

More of him is what I want

More time and more love denied

Denied his touch his kiss his embrace

Denied his laughter and his smiles

Smiles that made my heart beat faster

Smiles bestowed with great generosity

Generosity of heart love freely expressed

Generosity of spirit always with a willing hand

Hand holding my hand in sweet intimate caress

Hand him over unwillingly to whatever’s next

Next year and the next and the next lived without him

Next to me still is where I want him yet to be

Be my lover my companion my friend and husband

Be my children’s devoted silly father forever

Forever is a thing that doesn’t exist in the physical plane

Forever alive is a fantasy no one gets to claim

Claim him as my own forever but death took him away

Claim what I can that I was loved long and sweet and well

Well of tears and sorrow born of a love that sustains me

Well past the time of separation on this mortal coil

Coil my heart and soul around all I hold so precious

Coil his love inside me as protection for the future

Future uncertain and gaping wide before me

Future days and years waiting for me to live through

Through the acceptance and the resistance

Through sorrows and joys and laughter and tears

Tears of grief at his life so soon ended

Tears of future joy as my saddened heart recovers

Recovers from this sudden devastating blow

Recovers the beat and pulse of a single life

Life continues on though he is now gone

Life without him, but he’s still here

Here in hearts and souls that love him

Here within his children’s very selves

Selves that would not exist without him

Selves that carry so much of his nature

Nature sees that we have means to continue

Nature ensures something can carry forward

Forward past the length of time he lived

Forward into a future as yet still unknown

Unknown joys and sorrows yet await us

Unknown peace and turbulence ahead

Ahead as behind he’s there in every step

Ahead whether the trail is level or rough

Rough

Step

A few years ago, long before I knew where our story was going it go, I wrote a poem about our love, titled, It Levels Off Up Ahead. The name came from something Jim and I said to each other repeatedly during a rather grueling 3 mile hike to Montana’s Lava Lake.

The thing is – it never did level off then, or, really, since. Even now, as I adjust to the realities of widowhood and raising our children, it hasn’t quite levelled off, because finances will be an issue at least until we know the status of Jim’s life insurance. I know it’s probably fine, as we certainly aren’t trying to defraud anyone, and that the review is simply a formality – but needing those funds makes a huge difference, as there are bills to be paid, two adult-sized and still growing hungry teens to feed, and a house in need of some rather urgent repairs. I haven’t worked outside our home for more than a decade, so that I could be available for homeschooling. Just at the point where I was considering a return to the workforce, Jim launched his business, and my initial small contributions became a full-blown partnership that left me with little time and energy for my writing or looking for another job.

And now, the kids and I need some adjustment time to settle into our new lives. I want to wait until fall, and stay with part-time work, because my ultimate goal is to be able to support our modest lifestyle from home – with writing and writing-related endeavors that make use of my skills and passions.

If the insurance doesn’t happen soon, though, I will have to re-evaluate.

The trail ahead hasn’t leveled off – and yet, I feel strangely secure, even with the concerns I’m dealing with. Why?

Because, in some sense, Jim is still here with me. When he was alive, we were never rich, but we always found a way through the lean times….and more. We managed to find and create joy even in the times when we were struggling to make those frayed and stretched ends meet.

To Jim, now, I say, “You are always a part of us. For the rest of my life, you will be a part of everything I do. Every breath taken by our son and our daughter is, in a way, also your breath. And you love and laughter still sustain me, still provide a delightful anchor through the many, many changes of life after your death. And I will love you always.”

Rejoin us a little later in the day, when we’ll wrap up our #atozchallenge with the Zen of grief.

You don’t want to miss these Y posts!

Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Blogfest Entries, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging from A-Z April 2018, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, My Poetry, Parenting, poetry, slices of life, Writing Sample

Z is for The Zen of Grief: #atozchallenge Day 26

 

Being Within Zen

Zen is more than just a word

Zen is a way of life and being

Being a thing of mind and soul

Being a matter of acceptance

Acceptance that what is is

Acceptance without resistance

Resistance wastes energy I need

Resistance intensifies the inner pain

Pain can crush if I fight against it

Pain part of the process of mortality

Mortality brings permanent separation

Mortality is simply a fact of every life

Life and death are the yin and the yang

Life and death are forever intertwined

Intertwined in an endless circling dance

Intertwined and immutably inseparable

Inseparable as our two souls while we lived

Inseparable and each a part of the whole

Whole of the grief I feel at life’s impermanence

Whole of the pain at the loss of my marriage

Marriage of two human souls bound in one love

Marriage of life and death in perfect harmony

Harmony of corporeal reality

Harmony and flow circle and spiral

Spiral through cycles where we live and we die

Spiral of birth and growth and death

Death is the endpoint of each life

Death is the beginning of what’s next

Next breath next heartbeat next meal

Next level of consciousness or energy

Energy that maybe swirls through the air

Energy that might fuel the universe

Universe contains so much life and death

Universe holds more than we can ever know

Know that death is not truly the end of all things

Know that in some way he is still somewhere

Somewhere within this universe we share

Everywhere within the confines of my soul

Soul now bereft of his physical touch

Soul now with my own ever intertwined

Intertwined in life in ways that remain

Intertwined after his death in ways that sustain

Sustain me as I learn to live in new ways

Sustain through grief’s sharp jagged edges

Edges that are less distinct than they seem

Edges that soften when touched with Zen

Zen makes of death not only a sorrow

Zen blends bloom and decay into grief’s garden

Garden

Sorrow

 

I’ve often described myself as religious rather than spiritual. I’m not fond of doctrines or agendas, proscriptions and rituals that others devised, and I’m intended to follow whole, without question.

I need something more than that.

I need something that requires my active participation, my mindfulness, and my awareness that the life I live is more about my own choices than any external divine.

Zen matches my personality, and my approach to life – and death.

I come again to that Welcome to Night Vale quote:

“Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.”

We were all born, and we will all die. Those are immutable facts – the brackets of a lifetime. But that can’t be the whole of the story, because lives are fueled by energy, and lives touch other lives; changing them, creating memories, adding layers and levels to others’ living.

I am not who I would be if I hadn’t known Jim, and loved him.

If I hadn’t loved him, and agreed to make my life with him, our children would not exist, and all that they’ve brought to me life wouldn’t, either.

I would be a different version of me, living a different version of my life.

Life with Jim wasn’t perfect. He and I were imperfect people living imperfect lives, carrying the scars and wounds of a lifetime into our relationship. There were issues that cropped up again and again, and never truly got resolved in his lifetime.

But that’s not to say that it was a bad life – because it wasn’t.

It was very, very good – often magical. Jim and I didn’t come to each other from a place of need. When we met, we’d both independently decided we’d be happy alone rather than settle for someone who didn’t truly suit us. As a result, we complemented one another very well, and lived our lives together with a general state of harmonic teamwork. We were friends who delighted in one another throughout the two decades of our marriage.

So, while I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of heaven, I know that, as long as I live, as long as the children do, as long as there are people in the world whom Jim’s life touched and changed, he’s still here, in a sense. He lives on in the way he’s affected the world, and the energy he gave in his life.

It’s not the same as having him here, but it allows me to find the Zen of acceptance – most of the time – and to accept the lack of acceptance when I just can’t find it.

And, for me, that’s enough.

Which works out well, since this is the final day of the #atozchallenge. Join me again in May for the wrap-up festivities.

Before you head off for your Zzz’s, check out more zesty Z posts.

 

Brancing out in the last months of his life. Jim as Chef Bluebeard, selling his “flavor enhancement sauces” in July 2017.
Posted in #atozchallenge, April CampNaNoWriMo 2018, Blog Hops and Fests, Blogfest Entries, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, My Poetry, Parenting, poetry, slices of life, Writing Sample

X is for X’ed Out of Our Future: #atozchallenge Day 24

 

Sign X Away

X marks the spot

X the place to sign

Sign we’re losing him

Sign of a changing future

Future a little darker

Future schism approaches

Approaches with the crazed growth

Approaches with multiplying cells

Cells that mark the spots

Cells that create spots

Spots on his pancreas and liver

Spots on the emergency room screen

Screen the predicts the future dimly

Screen that offered fictional hope

Hope that it was only a fatty liver

Hope it was a minor sign of aging

Aging love growing

Aging love deepening

Deepening understanding of who we are

Deepening ability to communicate

Communicate a love that remains

Coommunicate a love that sustains

Sustains us as we face his illness

Sustains us through devastation

Devastation marked out with an X

Devastation growing near and swift

Swift passage of time flies by

Swift moving cancer ravaging

Ravaging his once-strong body

Ravaging this man I love

Love can’t cure him

Love can be an embrace

Embrace while we have the chance

Embrace what is as best we can

Can this strange nightmare be true

Can we still find pockets of joy

Joy marked out in X’s and O’s

Joy an art form in times like this

This is life wrapped in death

This is death still clothed in life

Life twists and weaves

Life lived at two speeds at once

Once we thought life almost a dream

Once we thought we’d grow old together

Together we face this concrete reality

Together until death came and he slipped away

Away from disease and away from great pain

Away from wife and children and life’s promise

Promise

Pain

It all started to change on August 24, 2017 – although we didn’t recognize it for what it was at the time, and, by then, it was already well in progress in its hidden state.

The what was Stage 4 pancreatic cancer that had made a leap to Jim’s liver. We’ll never know how long it lurked there, unnoticed – but Jim had been feeling less than great more often for a few weeks, maybe even a few months, before that day.

I remember the date so well because it was the day after our twentieth anniversary. We’d gone out to dinner, just the two of us, and eaten rich foods.

The next evening, he told me, rather casually, that his right side had been bothering him all day, but the pain was intensifying, and now he was worried that it might be appendicitis. The pain didn’t go away, and then he had a spell of vomiting and severe chill, and I all but insisted we were going to the emergency room.

That’s where we first heard about the spot.

It came, couched in comforting language, and after the likely diagnosis of a sludgy gall bladder irritated by the rich anniversary meal…”and we found a small spot on your liver. It’s probably fatty liver disease, but you should have it checked out in the next week or so with your primary care physician, to rule out cancer.”

Yup. It was just that casual, the moment that changed our lives.

Jim didn’t check into it with his doctor. Maybe he was already worried it might be true, and didn’t want confirmation. Maybe he thought that, since he had an answer, and he’d struggled with his weight most of his life, so fatty liver made sense. I can’t say, because, when I mentioned it, he basically dismissed it by saying that he hadn’t talked to her yet, but he would.

So it would be mid-November, almost 3 months later, before he received that terminal diagnosis. Would it have been better to have known sooner, to have been able to trace back all his odd health complaints in the intervening weeks to that one deadly source?

It’s hard to say. He was increasingly plagued by belly pain he thought was maybe an ulcer, or the sludgy gall bladder again. He was constipated more often than not. Occasionally, he vomited, but attributed it to the stomach pain. He never said so to me until after he was diagnosed, but he was increasingly exhausted, and his appetite faded.

Looking backward, it seems obvious, but it wasn’t at the time.

We were growing his hot-sauce business – a dream he’d had since before I met him –  and took our first romantic weekend away, to Acadia National Park, which was a dream from early in our marriage.  In truth, we argued rather a lot, but it seemed to clear air that had long been heavy – one of those places in a marriage where we needed to clean house – and things felt better, after that.

He decided to get to the root of not feeling good. He had a colonoscopy, which, to our relief, was negative. But, at the same time, his right leg was swelling painfully, and, eventually, he went to the emergency room, was admitted with deep vein thrombosis that probably would have killed him in days if left untreated, and then the diagnosis of terminal cancer was made – the culprit of all those random, seemingly minor, concerns.

But it was that first X – the spot on the emergency room ultrasound screen, that ultimately X’ed Jim out of the future we’d hoped to share.

Check out our next post, when I say, “You are always a part of us,” to my late husband.

X marks the spot for more extraordinary X posts.

Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Blogfest Entries, Blogfest Entries, Blogging from A toZ April Challenge, Blogging from A-Z April 2018, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, My Poetry, poetry, slices of life, Writing Sample

W is for When It Ends, It Begins Again: #atozchallenge Day 23

Life Begins Anew

When the last breath comes life changes

When it ends that’s where it begins

Begins to dawn on me that it’s all new

Begins with that alien word widow

Widow the label that ends a marriage

Widow for the rest of my life I’ll be

Be the only parent they still have

Be the one who survived when he died

Died with so many good years still ahead

Died so that last line can’t be the truth

Truth maybe for me but not for him

Truth is I’d rather not do this alone

Alone with the years stretched far ahead

Alone but yet not because he’s still here

In the children who share his eyes and smile

Here in my broken heart and in my wounded soul

Soul still trying to grasp what’s been lost

Soul to soul we were for so long not long enough

Enough love to fill my life to overflowing

Enough time to intertwine on so many levels

Levels of grief that shift like ocean waves

Levels of solitude now mine to explore

Explore the empty bed and things now unsaid

Explore the emotions that ebb and flow

Flow as the tears that move like the tides

Flow into a new way of life and living

Living my way into each new day’s dawning

Living and growing even though it seems strange

Strange to make so many decisions without him

Strange not to have him here chatting and laughing

Laughing our way through twenty years and more

Laughing even when life was tragic and shattering

Shattering us as he held our dying newborn

Shattering me as I held him on his deathbed

Deathbed that had been our marriage bed

Deathbed he made with his very own hands

Hands that will never again build or cook

Hands that can no longer hold or caress

Caress me with his love and tenderness

Caress me with his passions in his eyes

Eyes that were windows to all that he was

Eyes I adored and will never see light up again

Again I will sleep this night here without him

Again I smile at the shelter dog in his spot

Spot he doesn’t need she happily fills

Spot where my life has become something new

New bed of my own where our marriage bed was

New life new belongings in a strange new reality

Reality

Was

 

For over twenty years, Jim was my reality. It would be a lie to say that every moment of our marriage was wonderful, or that there weren’t problems from time to time. Some were external and beyond our control – like the death of our secondborn at 12 days old.

Others were internal – arguments we never really settled between us. Maybe we would have, if there had been more time.

Or maybe not.

I’ll never know, now. I can guess, from the ways we’d grown in our marriage, and were still growing. From the business we were building together, and the bonding we were doing while we did that. It was his dream, not mine – and it was a dream that died with him.

Other things have changed, too, since his death. I know it’s inevitable – and yet, there’s a little stab of something like guilt when I take apart the bed we shared, and in which he died, and buy a new one he never shared with me. When I adopt a shelter dog to share that bed, because I wasn’t sleeping very well when I was sleeping alone. When I rearrange the bedroom we shared, but which now is mine alone.

In so many ways, in so many choices from the tiny to the enormous, I’m moving beyond a marriage I valued and was committed to – beyond a man I still love with all of me, and whom I talk to about the changes: “Babe, do you SEE what I’m doing here?! I’m COOKING! For ALL of us! And it TASTES good!” “So, what do you think about this new dog in our bed. I know, I told you I probably wouldn’t get another one after you died, but it’s lonely, and she snores, and she loves to snuggle.” “Hey, did you know that Charlotte Rae, who was Mrs. Garrett on The Facts of Life, was Sylvia Schnauzer on Car 54? Or that she did stand-up in the 50’s, and was really, really funny?!”

It helps, this bridge of talking to my dead husband while I remake my life and figure things out I never expected to need to before last fall. It’s not exactly what I wanted – but I know beyond doubt that Jim would want me to enjoy my life, not sit around mourning him for the rest of it.

I know that because we talked about it, when he got sick, and long before that, when it was all theoretical, and not anything to do with our real lives….

But now, he doesn’t have a real life anymore, and I do. My goal now? Finish the raising of our children, and make the most of it, as joyfully as I can manage.

Join us again tomorrow, when we explore the way Jim was Xed out of my present.

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