Words and Wonders

I can hardly believe that I haven’t written a post since Auntie Greta passed. I can say it isn’t for a lack of stories or events, travels, crisis, or celebrations. I hope I will sit down and write some of them out, if not for sharing, at least for myself. It feels too daunting to go back right now and pen them all out, so I will start with a more recent one that is at least already partially written.

This is another Yellowstone National Park story.

This years trip included Beth, one of her daughters Syd and Syd’s 18 month old Rio. I was blessed to be there with three generations for sure, as each age group added a special layer to the entire experience. I am use to traveling with this quick witted bunch who can take any misstep – physical or spoken – and not let it pass without some really good poking fun at it (well, not Rio, but if his purposeful blinks he would send my way were accounted for, then he likely was getting in on the parody as well).

I get together with Beth and the girls fairly regularly and we discuss just about anything and everything . So for this trip, I had an inspiration that I should take a book of poems that we could randomly choose one per day and be part of our discussion(there is alot of car time in Yellowstone in getting from favorite spots to another). I was thinking some Mary Oliver since we were about to be immersed into the grandeur which is Yellowstone. I went to the library and as it was just a week from that location being closed for some renovations, there wasn’t a Mary Oliver book to be found. I went to the section that would normally house them and instead, selected a book of short quotes, poems and thoughts by a person named Atticus, The book was: The Truth About Magic.

Each day, someone would randomly pick a number between 1 and 247 and we would turn to that page and read the excerpt and give our thoughts. Sometimes it was a long discussion, sometimes a nod in agreement or it was a “nope, get another page” since it didn’t resonate with any of us (and why we were getting to a different selection, we would discuss why it fell short of our points of view).

As an example, our first selected page was:

If I’m honest,

very little in life

has compared

in immensity

or magnitude

before or since

to the electric

and wild feeling

of the first time

I kissed

a girl.

We all changed the last line to “a boy” and proceeded to agree that while we couldn’t agree with his statement, we have had those kisses that reached your entire being and were pretty great and so, with this selection, we got to hear about the different kissers in our lives.

With this, our week was set up with views of Buffalo, elk, wolves, grizzly bears (first time for me seeing wolves and Grizzly on multiple days), mountain sheep, coyotes, badger (oh, that’s a fun story), eagles and osprey, waterfalls, mountains, valleys, hot springs and the sharing of words from a book and the stories they brought forth from each of us.

One evening, we were headed to the Grand Prismatic. I had the idea last year to view the Grand Prismatic in the evening ,as we had only seen it first thing in the morning on years prior, and I always lamented that with the air so chilled in the morning and the pool always at it’s inherent intense heat, the steam kept me from seeing it with any clarity. We never made it last year, but we agreed to make it happen this year. On our journey there one evening we decided to drive up and check out to see if the swimming hole in Firehole Canyon would also be worth hitting in the evening (we didn’t have our suits with us to give it a try that day, but it was worth scoping it out),

As we headed up the canyon, there was a family or two swimming in the river at the bottom of the canyon. We wondered why they would swim there, when the actual swimming area was so much better, but “to each their own”, we said as we drove on by. When we got to the swimming area farther up the canyon, no one was there swimming! It was around 7pm and the air still quite warm, so we thought that we had hit the jackpot on selecting the best times and place. The road just past where we would normally pull off to park was coned off with large signs to not stop or park anywhere nearby. Turns out an Osprey family had made a nest and was raising their chicks and the park didn’t want them bothered. We totally got it and slowly passed by as we marveled at the osprey in the nest. We couldn’t wait to see them again the next night when we came to swim.

The next day, we began early so as to catch the wolf pack feeding the pups (more stories here, but trying not to make this an entire novel). We were back at camp for a dinner of spaghetti and sausages (yum) to which I had some wine to pair. We headed to the other side of the park from where we were staying and once again, there were people parked at the bottom of the canyon with suits on and heading toward the water.

It is about a 20 minute drive up through the canyon with the swim hole near the top. As we traveled the beautiful turns with the river rushing through the rocks, over cascades, with the water gushing to a tune that made us all feel like we were chosen for this moment, I looked at my still near full cup of wine and stated that once we got to the swim hole where we were sure to be the only ones once more, I would chug my wine and let the cool water be the great equalater. I knew as soon as this new word left my mouth that I was sure to be made fun of in short order. I literally started counting down from 5 in my head. I maybe got to 3 in the countdown before they both bellowed out the word once more and roared in laughter. I rebuked them as I too guffawed, for the many times in just that day alone that they had found so many instances to make fun of me. Sydney said that the beauty of it was that I was the eternal spring of words and events in which to find humor in. She then decided that we would all have to come up with a poem by dinner the next day with the title: “Eternal Spring”

As if the universe wanted to show us all that we are knuckleheads, we arrived at the swim hole only to finally see that it was boarded up and no one was allowed to go down to the area and swim. We weren’t the chosen ones after all and everyone was being denied use due to the close proximity of the Osprey nest. We laughed all the way back to camp at our stupidity and lack of awareness to anything but the beautiful osprey the day before.

The next day, we could each be found throughout parts of the day contemplating our poems due that evening. Beth claimed that she would do a Haiku. Sydney informed me that mine was not allowed to rhyme and after much thought, we decided that Syd’s had to incorporate the word “Equalater” in it since this was our new favorite non word.

I wrote one that felt as if I was combining some of last and this years emotions of the trip during a stretch where we were sitting on the porch of the Roosevelt Lodge and watching butterflies play in the flowers as Rio scampered on the deck in front of us.

Feeling that mine more somber than I thought we were all expecting, I wrote a second and called it my extra credit submission.

Here are the submissions as we shared them at dinner. Starting with my extra credit, I read:

Eternal Spring

Water rising through the ground

never ending

Where is the source? Do we care?

Pure and filtered by nature.

The river is dry, the pond grows stagnant

yet, like good friends,

it continues to give.

Then Beth read her Haiku:

Cackles, guffaws, chuffs

Like a geyser, laughs come like

an Eternal Spring

Following was Syd’s poem: Eternal Spring

Laughs, like water

From an eternal spring,

Begin in my belly

As we start to sing

Moving fast

Or moving slow

There is no stop

To the endless flow

Happiness abounds

No one is a hater

Everybody loves

The great equalater

We howled and voted Syd the winner.

Then I went ahead and read my original composition,

Eternal Spring:

My heart was heavy in the winter of grief

I journeyed to Yellowstone.

Buffalo carried on, rivers flowed,

water fell in trickles, cascades

and roaring over falls.

It was as if it couldn’t wait for the

next spot it might get to.

Natural reminders that life was bigger

than the burrow I had hidden in

and it waited for no one.

Friends and nature warmed my soul

and in that

I found my peace in the eternal spring

flowing from the magnificence

of lasting friendships, open land, wildness

of the animals and

a power within.

The next day was to be a limerick day about our time in the park, but I think I’ll leave that for another day as I’ve already exceeded the limit of what experts say will be read.

Love Sally

side note: If you do go to the Grand Prismatic near sunset, look at your shadow in the steam of the excelsior geyser right before you reach the prismatic. You will see a rainbow around your shadow and while you can’t always see rainbows around other peoples shadows, if you stand with other people, you will she your shadows move even when you are not. It is super cool. Oh, and you really need to head to the overlook to see the prismatic’s full colors as even in the evening, you just don’t get the full view that you see from the overlook.

My Auntie Greta

My Auntie Greta has recently passed. It wasn’t sudden and she hadn’t been able to place who I was in her life the last time I had seen her, but still it is tough to know when you have once more lost the ability to reach out and physically touch a loved one.

She was one of my mother’s siblings and it always felt like she was the most like my Mom. Truth is, Greta was older, so it was likely my mom who emulated her more than the other way around, but when you’ve lost one, the other becomes more cherished.

I was recently contemplating what were the lasting memories that I have about her and initially I drew a blank. Instead, it was the emotions I had of her that came up way before any memories began to surface. It was her grace of having gone through life altering difficulties and still coming out of it with love in her heart and an amazing capacity to move on from it. It was her smile and laughter that she always showed. It was her ability to listen and care without judgement. Whenever you got to visit with Auntie Greta, you really felt that she was really there with you and she made you feel like she loved being with you. She loved her family and also claimed others as family who she loved as well.

Then memories bubbled up:

My oldest memories are from when we would go to Granda and Grandpa Hively’s house after church on Sundays and sometimes would stop off at Berger’s Bend (the intersection of road just below Grandma’s where Auntie Greta, Uncle Don and my cousins lived. – they are the Bergers).

Aunt Greta and family were also the ones to share in our vacation times as a family when I was young. Being dairy farmers, there were no breaks from milking, so our vacations were of when we would stay at the family pond in an old chicken coop that was cleaned out and used as a cabin. The Berger’s would bring their tent, and for a few days, we could eat, sleep, swim, fish and play at the pond minus the morning and evening chore times.

My recollection of those times is that the parents would feed us kids the obligatory hamburgers and hotdogs and then put us to bed and then rake out the coals and cook big juicy steaks for the adults. We would sometimes awake to their laughter and chatter and the plume of a big fire – as after the steaks, they would throw on a hollowed log standing it up on the coals and thus creating a spectacle of fire shooting out through the top (something that still happens at the pond to this day)

Like most of the Hively’s, Auntie Greta was creative, artsie and a sewer. She would see a design and the next thing you knew, she was making something and showing everyone how to do it. There was a time when every new bag, purse or blanket seemed to come from her or because of her. She would cut jeans apart and make visor covers or another type of purse for your collection. I still have a few.

When she came for a visit, you could be sure that not only would she take pictures of your time together, but you would see the last several rolls of developed film of her previous trips as well. She definitely helped keep Kodak in business.

She loved antiques and the sales and auctions that would have them. I think she felt that it was just as good to go and observe an auction sometimes as it was to get something. She and Uncle Don would tell stories of who and what they had seen and the escapades of people over-bidding or some other shenanigans that were viewed during a sale.

With Aunt Greta around, I knew I was never going to be the only one in the room still sporting a turtleneck shirt. She may be the only person who had as many as I did in her dresser drawers.

I think we will all take solace that she is now in heaven and once more knows everyone around her and the laughter and hugs are plentiful.

I’ve certainly been blessed with tremendous Aunts and Uncles on both sides of my family and I hope the ones still here know how much I love them too.

I love you Auntie Greta. I am so thankful to have had you be a part of my life.

A Most Amazing Week

My amazing week didn’t start on a Sunday or a Monday, but on Wednesday of last week.

On Wednesday, I was lucky to have a happy hour with my three favorite nurses from Ted’s time in the hospital. They are young, vivacious, funny as heck, and have more stories than I do. The same ones that I have gone to previous lunches with, skied with, had up here and paddle boarded on Evergreen Lake with, and maybe a few other drinks here and there in between. One is married to a young man who lost his wife and so she and I can discuss spousal grief from different perspectives, which has been good. They all seem to go through life, travels, and dating for the two, with great smiles and open hearts. I cannot even convey how lucky I feel to still be included in their lives.

On Thursday, I met up with my old work team for dinner and drinks. I had been into the office for the first time in six months just a few days prior to give and get some long overdue hugs. I hadn’t wanted to go in for fear of getting sucked back into the work vortex. Dinner out with the team was fun and good to hear all of their current customer service horror stories and get updates on their lives and families. It was nice to be missed but also nice to know that they were doing just fine without me and there isn’t pressure to return.

Friday was a Mom’s night inclusive of the husbands since we were celebrating Christmas and one of our member’s recent decision to retire. It is both interesting and wonderful that there are more of us out of the work grind right now than in it – even as some of us are not of retirement age yet. As is always the case with a Mom’s night, the food was wonderful, the drinks were plenty and the laughter was loud and plentiful. It’s been over twenty years that we have been getting together and each year just seems to add another richness to the pot of stories, life events and times shared together.

On Saturday, a small group of friends gathered over at the neighbors for their famous Feuerzangenbowle – Flaming wine. It is a Christmas spectacle that we have shared together since they moved into Barbara’s house several years ago. We missed last year, so it was good to be back to sharing that once more. Again, the food was divine, the seasoned and fortified wine was amazing and the company was the kind that fills one’s heart with love and good memories.

Sunday. Well, I would be remiss if I didn’t start Sunday out with the BEST WORLD CUP SOCCER GAME EVER!!!. Yeah, yeah, I haven’t actually watched more than a handful of world cup soccer games to compare with, but I can recognize excellence, nail-biting drama, leads, comebacks, overtime, and penalty kicks for the win. Messi and Mbappe lived up to their hype and then some. I was nervous even though neither were my teams. If you didn’t get to watch it, well, you missed one great game. I didn’t have any skin in the game, but I did make homemade empanadas that I took to Saturday night’s gathering and more for Sunday’s brunch with the Adams gals in support of Argentina and Messi to get a cup.

I met up with my Adams gals for brunch and for our art project of painting Christmas bulbs to commemorate 2022 and sending some of Ted up in fireworks at the July 4th memorial in Ohio. I have now known four generations of the Adams family. Gen 2 is my age and so I have known gen 3 and 4 since their births. Creative, artsy, beautiful, sarcastic, and fun, we have traveled together, hung out, and they, like the other groups this week, make me feel so lucky to be a part of them. We ate the empanadas in showing support for Argentina and also French onion soup in support of the French team and then settled into painting. Feeling that I have absolutely no talent when standing next to any of them, I contently watched and provided backup when I could. They gently kept nudging me to pick up a bulb and paint one myself and so I finally did. I mimicked some of what they had done on theirs and pleaded that they could at least do like the gal at the local pottery painting business does and go back over it after my final attempt and polish it up a bit so that when all is said and dried, it looks better than it was. To say I came home with priceless memories and keepsakes in the form of hand-painted ornaments to commemorate Ted would be an understatement. (I’ll take some photos after I’ve given the boys theirs so as to not ruin their surprise)

Sunday night was then over to our friends whom we have been doing dinner and a TV show on Sunday nights for years (except for when Ted was in hospital, vacations, or other previously scheduled events). More good food and good times.

Monday began with some true luck. I sometimes awake before I want to get out of bed, so I might skim the news, do the Wordle and maybe the mini crossword or spelling bee and then once tired, slip back into a nice snooze. I should say that when I do wordle, I am not one of the people who put in the same word every time. I tend to put in the first five letter word that comes to mind. Yesterday, was a bit of a miracle as I watched each letter turn green in succession on the first attempt. Not sure if the word came as one that has the good grouping of letters to use, or if I was thinking of this new slate that my world is being drawn upon.

One could say that the day couldn’t get any better than that, but it did. I had an appointment at the blood donation facility in Denver to give what they call is a Double Red donation. Since I have O- blood type, they like my blood in any shape or form, but a year or so back, I was asked to give a double red at one of the local community drives. It wasn’t an issue and I had the extra time to do it this time (they take the blood out, put the plasma back in, blood out, plasma back, etc. until they have all the red blood cells and none of the filler and it can take 1.5 hours to complete). Anyway, as I was being checked in, the gal had me step on the scale to check my weight as there are height and weight parameters to meet when donating double reds. I cringed at the scale. A year of emotional eating plus this past week of food with so many gatherings made seeing the number on the scale undeniably horrid to see. I sat down while she took my blood pressure and hemoglobin level. She finished those and consulted a chart and stated: “honey, I’m afraid to say that you don’t weigh enough today”. I busted out so loud in a ruckus laughter as no one in my entire life has ever said that I didn’t weigh enough for anything and especially as I was currently feeling as big as a cow. She laughed and said that she could write me a note to show all of my friends that I don’t weigh enough if I wanted. I have visions of me holding the note under my buffet plate on Christmas Eve and pulling it out and flashing it to anyone giving me a side look at taking some of everything onto my plate. It turns out that giving double reds at the facility has different weight/height requirements than when doing so at a mobile drive. She said that they would still gladly take my whole blood donation. We went on to laugh about quite a few things and when we finally emerged, it was like we were the circus that had just come to town as all eyes were upon us with questions of what had just happened behind the closed door of the side show we must have been to them.

Today is the last day of this incredible week, so I wonder what will fill my heart and make me laugh today.

Have a Merry Christmas week!

Love Sally

The revolving door.

Yesterday I received an email of what was to be showing up in my mailbox later on. I do like that the post office will take pics of what is being delivered on any given day. Some days, I look to see what to expect and some days, I just let it arrive and get my surprise when I open the mailbox.

When I opened my email showing today’s mail, it had a card showing it was addressed to Sal & Ted Fill. I was in the middle of something else when I had checked the email, so I didn’t spend too much brain power on who would still include Ted on the address block of an email. I briefly considered that it was just someone who hadn’t updated their address file and this was a likely in their computer generated printouts or maybe it was deliberate so as to let me know that while they knew Ted has passed, they wanted to include him onto the recipient portion of the envelope to let me know that the card enclosed was still inclusive of their thoughts for the both of us.

My day was full, and included me going out to meet my old work group team for dinner and Christmas Cheer, so it wasn’t until I got back home, fed the pets, and began the walk up the drive to the mailbox that I even remembered what was expected to be there. One third up the drive, it occurred to me that it was likely a Christmas Card from an old pal of mine (from the later 1980’s) who our main points of contact – for the past maybe 15 years or so – has been through Christmas cards. I hadn’t gotten a Christmas card to him and his family last year. Well, no one got a Christmas card last year, so heck and darn, he doesn’t know that Ted is no longer here.

Here’s the thing with communicating with people about someone’s death, the longer everyone in the conversation has had to process it, the easier it is to talk about. Conversely, when you have to tell someone who doesn’t know, it brings up emotions like it has all of a sudden just happened yesterday once more. It is like some emotional revolving door that takes you back to the starting point and you don’t exit again until you have once more made a full revolution back to the beginning and then stayed in there just a little longer until you can again exit once more.

I considered writing a note and putting it into a card back to them, but knowing myself and that if I left the reply to being a project, it was likely to be put off and possibly buried in the pile of correspondence to be done. (if you have sent me anything in this past year and not received a written thank-you, you can be assured that you are in that pile). So, I looked up his email and wrote a reply before I could think too long and hard on what was the proper thing to say. For me, the longer I ponder on the words, the less likely they are to make it onto any platform. (- I have a fairly long list of drafts of posts that have never seen the light of day because the longer they sit, the more I pick them apart and feel like they are the drivel that my mind will convince me of.)

So last night, I went back through that revolving door, crying as I had to tell someone once more that Ted is gone and try to summarize where I am now. That door does seem to rotate quicker than it once did, so I am thankful for that. I am also hopeful that with an email instead of a mailed card, we can communicate on a more accelerated manner and therefore catch up more quickly.

It is still those little things that seem to creep up and bite you when you aren’t looking, but I’m glad to hear from my friend and glad that I can reply.



What I Hadn’t Imagined

Life is a surprise, or as Forest put it: A box of chocolates. You can’t always guess what you will get.

As I was decorating the tree this week, I had to acknowledge to myself how the things that we tightly hold has absolute truths can change. I am one of those purists when it comes to my Christmas Trees. They need to be real, they need to have the decorations that mean something and carry a story with them and it shouldn’t have too much tinsel (or any in my book, but that is a fight I’ve never won). I battled Ted for years about not putting bubble lights on the tree as I considered them to be gaudy and unrefined. I won that fight for several years until he found an antique set that most closely resembled the ones of his youth and could show me that it was a call back to the ages of people putting real candles in their trees to illuminate the tree in winter’s darkest hours.

Fun Fact (or just possibility in this case): It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens.

So in this year of my world being shaken up like a snow globe and me awaiting to see where the flakes will land, I am finding myself decorating a pre-lit artificial tree! How does this happen to a gal that is too frugal and too headstrong to ever get an artificial tree? Let me tell you.

It is a combination of factors really. Recently the neighbor who lived next to us for our first twenty plus years in Evergreen has also died and left to me the remainder of her personal belongings – why is a long and sad story for another time. She was so special to us that for years, we spent every Christmas Eve over there having delectable food and treats and the boys would open gifts from them. When young, the boys would stop in at her house nearly every day on the way home from school. It was one of their safe havens growing up.

So, after clearing out her small room at the last of the assisted living facilities she had been in, as well as her small storage unit, I’ve been left going through the remnants of what she demanded to be kept as the sizes of her accommodations shrunk along with her bank accounts. Among the boxes of personal items in the storage unit was her pre-lit Christmas tree. It sat on the deck in it’s large red bag for a week or so as I wasn’t sure if it should go into the give-away pile or the sell pile. I decided this week that I should at least set it up and see if it was worthy of either pile. She kept quality items, so I was hopeful it still was in good enough shape to make one of the classifications.

It is interesting the things that hold emotional energy for you when someone you love passes away. I opened the tree with pure curiosity as I had never assembled an artificial tree in my scores of years on this earth. Upon getting it quickly assembled – just three sections to piece and plug into one another – I marveled at how easy it was. There was one portion of the lowest section of the tree where the lights were not illuminated, but I felt certain that I could get help from someone familiar with these in finding the issue. As I straightened out some of the fake bows that had been smooshed and bent in it’s many moves in the past several years, I was transported back to how beautifully Barbara and Valerie had decorated this tree in the years that it was next door. Having never put the lights on our own tree – Ted never allowed anyone to mess with the lights as he had his own specific method – I began to ponder using this tree. It would eliminate half of the work (as it was already up and lit) and the need for daily watering. Having it already associated with special memories also took the negativity out of it being not from the forest around us.

Traci came over to assess the bad light sections and while we found a few broken bulbs and replaced them, we still had a bad section. even after and after checking the fuses and rest of the wiring. Short of testing every bulb, we decided to leave it for another day. I awoke at 2 am – as is pretty normal for me – and googled what other people do when sections of their pre-lit trees go out. Turns out there is a handy dandy tool that does that very task. I found the “light keeper pro” at one of the Home Depot’s near Galen and Ciara’s and since I had to meet up with them anyway, I decided to grab one of the last in stock that was there.

I can honestly say that it does indeed do as it advertises and after locating 3 different problem bulbs, I quickly had the entire string working in less than 8 minutes of unpacking the tester. So much faster than manually testing each bulb.

I carried the tree upstairs, put it onto the low round table (that was also from Barbara’s things) and with mixed emotions, I began to decorate. Ted and I always got one ornament a year, from either: our travels, or something that was special to us, or just something that made us laugh. I realized that I hadn’t gotten one this year. Sitting here writing this, I think that I’ll have one of the solid black bulbs that we have (Ted liked them for their wonderful reflectiveness of the nearby lights) and have fireworks painted on it as a commemoration of some of Ted’s ashes being shot up in the fourth of July fireworks at the farm pond this past year. It feels perfect and maybe we can do three so that the boys can also have an ornament with fireworks on it as well.

Just another thing I wouldn’t have imagined being on my to do list or part of my orbit. I couldn’t have imagined having a house cat a year ago, having an artificial tree, or going back to having friends and family over for Christmas eve gathering, yet all of those are now what is happening. I’m so very grateful for life to show me that I can evolve and still grow and change. And to have so many people who support me with their thoughts and prayers, time and energy, food and laughter. I couldn’t have had better people – past and present – be a part of my life.

I hope that you too have time to see where life has has given you unimaginable bits of goodness and surprises.

Love and Merry Christmas,


One Year

It’s hard to fathom that Ted has been gone for a year already. I have one of my favorite pictures of him and I together in Yellowstone on the refrigerator and I still find myself saying “dammit Ted” to him in my head every time I open the door.

I’ve gotten into my own routine. I’m still dealing with bills, but they are fewer and fewer and if I read the terms correctly, per Colorado law, all bills must be submitted within a year of medical services rendered. So, barring slow mail, I should be at the tail end of those. I still have accounts I need transferred into my name and struggle to get the paperwork on a few, but that too is tapering off.

I’m still not working and honestly am busy with so many other things, I’m not sure if or when I will return. It is way easier to be open, curious, and observant of what life has in store for you when not working constantly, so if I can keep life rolling without work right now, I will.

I was speaking with a friend this week and when asked how I was feeling lately, the image of a freshwater spring popped into my mind and I was able to relay that I feel like muddied water that has been filtered naturally through the rocks, sand, and soil of the earth and that I was finally coming out cleaner.

I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but Ted’s death had indeed felt like a deluge that had pulled debris from all hillsides and tributaries feeding into my stream of life creating a murky flow of wreckage, rubble, and waste. It is compelling that nearly anything we can dream up in life can correlate to nature. And so it was that time, friends, family, books, poems, experiences and all of those hugs ended up being the natural filters that cleaned the sediment from my lifestream and let me flow more clearly once again.

It is now reached the point where I am remembering mostly only the happy times. The times he surprised me and did the unexpected, the parties, the skiing and camping, the tenderness and the laughs. Yes, there are still memories of him driving me mad, but those seem so trite at this point.

We had worked together for 18 years of our marriage and after that he was always home when I was home, so I had never considered that I would be a year without him, but here I am.

Dammit Ted, I still miss you every day.

I’ll close with yet another poem that I came across one day that relays my feelings oh so well.

Tis a Fearful Thing
by Yehuda HaLevi (1075 – 1141)

‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –
to be,
And oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
And a holy thing,
a holy thing
to love.
For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.

Hug your loved ones and say nice things.



First day of Spring in the Winter of Grief

If I continue with the analogy that grief is a winter season, then I can tell you the exact day of my spring equinox.

Like any spring, there were warming days – Ted’s memorials, time spent with friends here and elsewhere, heartfelt conversations, and lots and lots of hugs, only to be followed by the hard frosts of lonely nights, seeing a couple engaged in an activity that had once been associated with my life with Ted, watching TV without my feet being rubbed, and the hollowness of losing that person who had stuck with you through thick and thin.

Grief is the cold wind that finds the cracks under the doors, the open flue of the chimney, and the uncaulked window and makes you clutch your arms around yourself to keep from shivering to death. It comes at you in so many ways that you cannot initially begin to know where the drafts are from or how to remediate the issues.

Slowly, you begin to notice the biggest issues – literally and figuratively – and begin to address the ones you can and get help with the ones you struggle with.

My spring equinox story goes like this: After a few months of traveling and memorials, I had an opportunity to spend a week in Yellowstone. It was with the friend who had originally taken Ted and me there on our first trip to the park four years ago and with whom we had returned with a larger camping assembly of framily (you know, the friends who are family) two years ago. I had known that Yellowstone was one of those special places where I would take and leave some of Ted’s ashes, I just wasn’t sure I was ready to head back up there when I was first invited.

Here’s the thing, my mind had been working hard to convince me how hard it would be to go up there and spend this time without Ted. It wasn’t until I realized one day that all of the arguments to not go, were in my head and when that generally happens, it is the opposite I need to do and follow the heart, who knew that nature is always a good place to heal. So, I told my friend I would go and started the planning of a week in Yellowstone with just her and I.

We were driving separately: 1. because I committed to attending a sweat at the Wind River Reservation that my cousin was setting up (just a few hours outside of the park and on the way home, so that fit right in and is another good story for another day). 2. because we both have a lot of stuff and for a week of camping, one should be comfortable. My tent use to sleep the entire family and the dog, but now it is my personal camping condo. I have my cot, a bedside table, a reclining camp chair that I can read in if I am up when the rest of the world is not, rugs where needed, and storage bins for necessary items. My car alone was plenty full with the EZ-up and tent and chairs on the roof and food and everything else inside. No way we could have fit both of us in one car.

Another sometimes necessity for any long road trip is a good book or two on audio. The drive to Yellowstone Canyon campground from my house is around 10 hours, so while I like a good amount of silence for the meditative state a good road trip will put you in, I also like a good book as well.

I put out the text to some of my audible pals asking for some recommendations. A catalog of choices was thrown my way ranging from hot steamy sexy erotic novels, to historical, to just fun reads. I rejected anything with romance – not wanting to be hit over the head with what I am now missing, and used my 5 credits to get a book or two from their list and a few that just sounded nice at the time.

My friend needed to take her pup up to her family who was spending the weekend at other friends hunting cabins and lodge in northern Colorado, so we left the night before and took one of the cabins there to facilitate the pup drop off and reduced the second-day drive by a few hours. It was a perfect transitionary space to go to between home and a week in Yellowstone and got me a few hours into the book I had settled upon for the drive up.

It was the book that when I was browsing through Audible’s selection, had sounded nice and sweet and something that wouldn’t stir at an already troubled psyche. It was a children’s classic that I had never read. It was “The Secret Garden”.

I’ve had many books be transformative for me as I really enjoy letting the words create this other world that we can sink into. I like to ponder the occasional turn of the phrase that strikes me and like a good jerky, has me pausing the play and chewing on it until I know I can digest it and move on. The Secret Garden drew me into the characters and ultimately reminded me of the magic we all have inside of ourselves. Listening to the book peeled back the layers of my grieving heart and somehow reminded me that I was still that same person that had gotten the crazy, fun, innovative, handsome Ted to love me and that my magic was indeed still there as well. There was a point in the story where the little boy feels so alive and thankful in life that they all begin singing the doxology. I was right there with them, all of a sudden knowing that life was still amazing and that while I had been feeling like Ted was the one stoking my internal fires all these years, I knew that the fires for all of us burn and the people in our lives can’t take any of the fire with them when they leave. I cried as I sang the doxology with them, but it wasn’t tears of pain, it was seeing those clouds part. I might have even had a fist pump or air high five with the universe for giving me this book and the time to experience it in the way that was needed.

It was also in these same moments that I felt Ted’s spirit go from being so very far away from me to resting deep inside of me. I realized in that moment that it had felt like a fight this entire time. The only times that we didn’t speak or that I had put up any energy to keep Ted away was if we fought and that extreme was not often. Suddenly, I recognized that all of this time, it felt like we had fought or something, and with an unexpected shift in my heart, we were once again together. It was a watershed if not tear shed moment of another kind to be sure.

So, that was my spring equinox.

Upon arriving in Yellowstone, it was raining but as soon as we checked in, the rain stopped and we were able to put up our tents, and the EZ-up over the picnic table, and get all organized just before the rain once again settled in. I recounted the transformation that I had experienced on the way up, we cried and laughed, did a shot, and knew that if Ted had any say, he had helped in giving us the rainless window in which to set up camp.

Throughout the week, we went on to recount many stories of Ted from previous years and both sent some of Ted over the upper falls as it was and is one of the special spots we shared in each trip there together. We each picked our own spots, silently said another goodbye, and sent a bit of Ted over the rushing power of the downward falls all the while also experiencing the lightness and positivity of the mist rising, kissing you with droplets that pull away that are hesitant to descend.

Little side story from just after sending Ted over the falls.

As it happened, we were completely alone with no other visitors at the upper falls when we had our personal ceremonies with Ted’s ashes. Just after we finished and I took the picture above, a few people showed up. One was a young man in full motorcycle gear with a helmet still on. He was taking some pictures when I told him to give me his phone and I will take one with him at the falls. He said that he did not like getting his picture taken, so “No, thank you”. I said that a wise woman once said to me: “go ahead and take the pictures now because you will never be as young as you are today”. He laughed as he took off his helmet and said that was funny because it was his birthday. He then relinquished the phone to me and I snapped a few photos. He went on to tell us he was hobbling because he had broken his leg and under all of his gear was a big leg brace. He recounted some of his journeys thus far starting from his home in California and said he just stopped in and wasn’t even spending the night. I opened my arms and announced that I was going to give him a hug for his birthday and that it was from his mom where ever she might be as I know she is thinking of him on his own version of a personal walkabout. He allowed the hug and returned it with good strength and warmth. I have to believe it was another synchronicity that will stay with both of us.

So, that was my marking of spring in my seasons of grief. My flipping of the switch. Yes, I still get sad, and yes, my mind can still talk me into feeling alone in a world where I know better, but those days don’t feel as hollow as they once did and I thank the Universe for putting a particular book and people and situations in front of me when I have needed them.

And Thank you all for helping get through this year as well.



Borrowing From a Great Poet

Today it is snowy and cold and as happenstance would have it (or google connecting the dots) one of Mary Oliver’s poems popped into my feed about the snow. As I read it, I was struck by how much it felt like a poem of grief if only a few lines were changed.

So, here is my edit.

The grief - like snow
began slowly.
a soft and easy sprinkling

of flakes, then clouds of flakes
in the baskets of the wind
and the branches
of the trees ---

oh, so individual and unique.
We walked
through the growing stillness,
as the flakes

prickled the path,
then covered it, 
then deepened
as in curds and drifts,

as the wind grew stronger,
shaping its work
less delicately,
taking greater steps,

over the hills 
and through the trees
until finally,
we were cold,

and far from home.
We turned
and followed our long shadows back
to the house,

stamped our feet,
went inside, and shut the door.
Through the window
we could see

how far away it was to the gates of 
Let the fire now
put on its red hat
and sing to us.

BY Mary Oliver - slight changes by SJF

I will admit that in the winter of my grief I freely took to warmer climates of friends and family, often traveling like a snowbird to the refuges where my soul was out of the harsh climate that felt like the long winter that never ends.

I’d say my “April” came much later, but like spring, my heart did feel the warmth of a changing season. I’ll try to recount that particular transformative day in another post.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. I am grateful for all I have and continue to experience.

Love to all.


Not the Expected Phrase

Languages are a topic in our house these days. I am attempting to learn Spanish, so am often trying to converse with Devin in the limited Spanish that I have grasped thus far. Muy poco if I am honest.
Devin has also picked up a new Xbox playing companion from Germany, so he has been talking about their conversations as this other player has never taken English. I guess this young man (19 yrs old) has learned all of the English he is speaking with Devin either on social media, YouTube or from the actual playing of the games with American counterparts.
Devin claims this young German is neither difficult to understand nor does he miss much from what Devin converses about.
Last night, as they were discussing the learning of English though these discussions, Devin asked the young lad if there was anything he had learned from Devin in the short period that they have been playing. He relayed that there was one phrase that he picked up that he had not heard anywhere.
I’ll admit that my mind cringed at the thought of some of the language that has been shouted in the heat of some of the games and battles when I am not in the room. I was nearly ready to pen an apology letter to this lad’s mother, when Devin said that the phrase that the German fella hadn’t heard until Devin’s utterance was in calling someone (or maybe him, it wasn’t clarified) a “silly goose”. I busted out laughing as that phrase wouldn’t have crossed my mind as something learned between two cultures on Xbox in hundreds of guesses.

In other news, we lost the bees. Honey and bees were gone when I went out to check the hive recently. We will either get a new set of bees in the spring or may just let someone else use the protected hive space for them to try their hand at running a hive. One of Ted’s nurses is first on the list of someone who wants to have a hive and could use the space. We shall see what happens in the spring.

The universe always evens out, so with the loss of bees to care for, came a new dependent to care for.

Our neighbor who use to live next door, passed away this week and as I met with her daughter to help clear out her current space (she had asked in the will for me to handle her personal belongings), it was determined that no one had stepped forward to care for the only constant in her daily life these past 12 years or so – her cat. They had been feeding Birdie and visiting all they could since Barbara’s death, but poor Birdie was left alone in a small apartment with his human gone. They had put word out to as many people as possible, but still were not able to find someone to take him. It broke my heart to see him just sitting on her chair seemingly waiting for her return, so I said I would take him home until a home could be found.

Devin said he would let him stay in his room and after one night of having a purring snuggle buddy, it was relayed that we should just keep him and not try to get anyone else to take possession. I think the mutual comforting is healing for the both of them.

Thus far, Birdie has been a very chill and clean kitty that only brings more fond memories and stories of times when he was our neighbor and not our pet.

Well, that is the most recent updates.

Love, Sally

Memory Lane

Yesterday was a trip down memory lane for many reasons.

First of all, Devin’s surgery went well and we are now just onto managing a good recovery.

Heading into a surgical facility didn’t so much as trigger memories of taking Ted to the hospital, as it is set up as an outpatient surgery center and thus has a different feel to me. Preparing to go, did have me thinking of Ted’s nurses – that I still keep in touch with – and thoughts of who would be on the care giving side today that would touch our lives.

Once there, they took Devin back and prepped him for surgery and then came to get me. Poor Devin was so nervous now that he was in a gown, hair net on, and had spoken to the anesthesiologist, that he was prepared to back out, go home and live with the ankle in the current condition forever.

The anesthesiologist came back again to discuss another point and assured Devin that while he would still be breathing on his own, he would be to the point of not knowing he was even in the room or remember anything. I joked that if it were me, I would ask to be allowed to stay awake to see the surgery. Dr. House scoffed and said that people don’t want to see it in real life, let alone on themselves. I begged to differ and said that I had only been under a local and had surgery in this very place just a few years back and had a really nice visit in the surgery with the surgeon and staff. To my surprise, Devin’s nurse then stepped forward and said that it must have been with Dr Moore that I had my surgery as she is one of the best. I confirmed her suspicion and liked that she had guessed first try who my surgeon had been. She went on to say that we again lucked out with one of the best foot surgeons for this visit. She used Dr. House for her own Dr. as well. In fact, probably three different nurses commented on how lucky we were to have him as Devin’s doctor. This helped Devin overcome the jitters enough to have everyone sign off on the paperwork and wheel him into surgery.

Dr. House (yep it is his real name and he has a much better bedside manner than the TV DR House) met with me after the surgery, showed me the xrays taken after the correction was made with the plate and screws, and proclaimed that there wasn’t ligament damage and they were just able to properly put the bones and ankle placement back to where it needed to be.

A bit later, once they had gotten Devin awake once more – the recovery nurse said that he had a bit of a hard time waking up – I had flashbacks of when Devin was young and had a bunch of dental work done and they had similarly sedated him to do the work. He was nonsensical and goofy both then and now as he came out of the haze of sedation. He was being such a pistol, that the nurse at one point turned and jokingly asked just how many kids at home did I have to deal with as this one seemed to be a full time project just now. 🤣

The anesthesiologist came back and was relaying stories from putting Devin under and since Devin had been a jokester, to test if he was getting sedated, he asked him for a joke. Apparently, Devin was already under before he could answer, so the Dr. filled in with a joke of his own. The anesthesiologist admitted that he didn’t get the joke and as he told it to us, it also didn’t make much sense. He retold it as: There was a Reverend, a Priest and a Rabbit that entered the hospital and something about giving blood and the rabbit being type – O. He left and came back a few minutes later and said it was suppose to be: A priest, a minister, and a rabbit walk in to donate blood. The rabbit says, I think I might be a typo. Ba dumm dumm. (sounds like a joke my brother would have said to Devin on the many banters they have had)

Devin has zero recall of any of the recovery time in the facility. I don’t think it was until we were partially home that he started to retain any memories of our conversations. Several times, he asked how he got dressed and conversations that we had already had twice were brought up like they were new.

Once home, we ate, got him comfortable and seemed to be going all without a hitch until he called me in to show me that he was bleeding through all of his bandages and wrap. We elevated the foot a bit higher and I called the doctor’s after hours number and left a message. He called right back and said to add a bit more compression with another wrap and keep it high and bleeding should cease. We did and it did.

We will see how today goes. They say day two and three are the worst for pain and issues, so fingers crossed that we stay ahead of it.

Assume all is fine if you don’t hear from me. Or as Jimmy Buffet sang “If the phone don’t ring, you’ll know it’s me.”

Thanks for all of your good thoughts and prayers.

Love Sally