New Beginnings


Fairy 1
It's wonderful to look at a blank page, a clean slate, a new oven and see possibilities.  I had not blogged in so long that my account had gone dormant...sleeping...waiting, I suppose.  The last year was once a new beginning and I tried to fill every second, every space, with projects and plans and constant motion.

 I allowed some things to fall away imagining that I was clearing, making space for simply breathing.  By the end of 2016 and the beginning of my 62nd year I was exhausted.

All I can say with certainty is that I am here, updated and wide awake and we will see what unfolds.

(Of course that will involve rediscovering how to update and improve on this blog adventure)

Just a thought

There are four walls that make my home.  There are doors with locks in three of them.  I have a wonderful fence that Jules and I worked very hard to build to keep our kitties safe. 

 I used to leave my car unlocked in the driveway with my bag inside.  Three times, said bag was stolen.  I know, I should have learned after the first time, but I was na├»ve and live in a lovely subdivision where we all wave to one another and keep an eye on each other and the children, I didn't think I had anything to worry about.  Even the second time I was surprised.  The third time the deputy scolded me and I had to take off the rose colored glasses and get serious about protecting what is important. 

Over the years I have picked up strangers who needed a ride.  Paid an enormous vet bill for a couple who lived under the Rappahannock River bridge.  Took Walking Joe and his dog to a motel and paid for them to stay safe through a winter storm with food and shelter.  I rarely passed a panhandler without offering money for a meal.  I gave to lots of charities and shelters and have adopted nine cats and two dogs over the years.  I always believed that if we are blessed, we share the blessings.

BUT... Every stranger who needs a ride isn't safe.  Helping people who, for whatever reason, choose to live under the bridge and are unable to provide follow up care, will come back for help when infection sets it and safe shelter has been refused.  At 72 Walking Joe had crossed the United States with Cocoa, talking to Angels, trying to understand why his wife and daughter had been killed, but he checked out of his motel early, in an ice storm, and took the money to walk on to North Carolina.

  And when you give twenty dollars to a panhandler on your way into the mall only to be berated and chastised for not offering more on the way out... well you start to get jaded.  I started to wonder who I was really helping.  Wanting to believe I was doing something kind, even noble...  I convinced myself, while I was waiting in the 7-11 parking lot, for the gentleman from under the bridge to buy snacks, that I might need that giant Colt 45 and cigarettes too, if I lived under the bridge. 

I started having difficulty justifying the choices they were making when some months later I saw them with their three legged dog walking down College Avenue.

Now... having said all of that about my big hearted desire to help any and all people who appear to be in such trouble, I can't help but compare my little life and my little house in my little subdivision... with our country and the people who are so adamantly opposed to our new President and his plans to build our wall.

No matter how sad I was for the people under the bridge, or walking with Angels, or holding cardboard signs... I couldn't bring them home with me.  Actually, they wouldn't have been happy here.  They told me stories of being in jail in Arizona and families in California but they wanted to be free.  To come and go as they please.  To rely on others to provide for them.  To refuse to let the dog be sheltered with the SPCA to heal.  To live by their own rules and answer to no one.  I have rules.  In my house, you abide by my rules.

If I think for a minute about the people coming across our borders illegally, I am torn.  Some are fleeing dreadful situations and mean no harm to anyone....they are looking for a better life for themselves and their families, but others are not.  There are those who have no difficulty breaking the laws to get here and continuing to break our laws as a way of life.

I used to be fearless but now I am older and a little wiser.  I am not a racist because I lock my doors at night. 

Our President is not a racist because he wants to be able to lock OUR doors at night. 

When Shannon was little, I would not have brought strangers into our home.  I would not have trusted the world to be safe and gentle and kind and everyone wanting only what's best for everyone else.  She trusted me to keep her safe so she didn't have to be afraid.  I learned to lock doors.

I know there are those who disagree, and I'm okay with that, but I hope they bring all this big political stuff home.  We are a big beautiful diverse family but we have to have rules.  We have to understand that everyone doesn't want to be a part of our family.  They don't want to follow our rules or abide by our laws.  We can't just leave the doors and windows open and hope for the best. 

Our President is trying to find a way to do what is best for all of us.  He wants those coming into this country to be as safe as those who were born here, but that requires making some difficult and often unpopular decisions.  

I guess after all this rambling, all I really want to say, to those who might be so angry about our new political environment is, remember we all live here.  We all want to close our eyes at night knowing that someone, somewhere is keeping us safe.  All of us.  Think about this country as our home.  Our shared home.  And when you lock your door tonight or stand in your fenced back yard with your children or your dog, feeling safe and protected, you are not being hateful.  You are not being elitist.  You are not being racist. 

You are being careful with... and protective of... all that you hold dear. 






I've written all sorts of things this morning... and deleted them.  Started again... and deleted that. 


Easing back into the process of finding something relevant to write about is more challenging than I had hoped.  I suppose it is like exercise or dieting or staying on a budget or keeping a tidy house full of wonderful and creative organizational skills... OUCH... even the thought is challenging !  So before my mind explodes I will simply say that along with making coffee, scooping poop, feeding kitties, getting dressed and glancing at the pond, my mornings include a quick Facebook check on all of my friends.  What ultimately follows is joy, sorrow, concern, sighs of relief, smiles generated by babies and puppies, and a prayer. 

I struggle with prayer.  Not the conversation with God part of prayer, but the requests.  I never prayed harder than I did for my child.  She left this life anyway.  I prayed for my husband when he suffered a heart attack, and he is still as trying as ever.  I prayed for my friends Cathy and Donna and Sue and they joined Shannon.  I prayed for my brother and I am incredibly grateful that he is improving every day. 

I never felt that God wasn't listening or handing out favors to a select few, I simply questioned my understanding of prayer. 

Facebook is always bringing prayer requests to many, from many.  Some days my heart aches for everyone who is frightened or lonely or hopeless or helpless and the list is so long that I have to ask God to be sure and check Facebook for anyone I might have missed, knowing full well how ridiculous that must sound... even to God.

What I have come to know is that we can't change the course of another's path through prayer.  I believe that Shannon was only meant to be on the Earth for 23 years and when the time came for her to depart, no depth of desperation in my pleading prayers could have changed that.  Her little life touched more than she could have ever imagined and she did it all in 23 years.  Then she got to go Home.  She didn't choose the moment, she didn't plan the storm but accidents are just that.   I had to love her enough to respect and trust and survive that that was her path, a path that was set in motion with her first breath.  That even if she had missed the thunderstorm, had left Mom's at noon instead of three, had taken a different route home, or been driving a newer car with more safety features, it wouldn't have changed her destiny.

Now, when I see a request for prayer, I ask for healing, but if that isn't to be, I ask for peace.  I have come to know that when we are sad or afraid, when we feel lost and alone, just knowing that there are others thinking about us, talking to God about us, sending love to us and those we us strength beyond our selves.  We know that if we take a moment to fall apart or take a breath or have faith in hope... that there are others, holding us up, keeping our loved one in that safe place, no matter what the outcome.

So I suppose that is my most relevant thought this morning.  If you are struggling, sad, frightened or challenged beyond what you can understand, you are not alone.  Friends and strangers alike have immense compassion and when you share your hope, we rally to your side.




Mom Me Mel When I was little, maybe five, my hard working, take on any task despite the mid day sun in July Mom, decided that she was going to trim the wild roses that were growing well into the path to the garden.  After several hours, she collapsed onto the grass. ( I have to admit that I don't actually remember this event, but she told me the story often. )  My Dad had a grocery store a short walk from the house but didn't find my Mom for some time.  Fortunately when he did, he got her into the house and cooled her down and she made a full recovery.  When she asked me why I didn't go for help I said, " I thought you were dead and I didn't want you to be by yourself."  Have to love five year old logic.

Shan and MeI always wanted to be a Mom and the sweetest, most wonderful day of my life was the day that Shannon was born.  I was twenty and all I knew for certain was that I had no idea that a heart could hold as much love as I had for that new human with the incredibly bright blue eyes.  

Shannon was wise and gentle and brave and fierce and loved wide open.   


Shan Digger

When Shannon was four she flitted into her bedroom one spring morning while I was making her bed and announced quite matter of factly that she couldn't wait to get to Heaven.  More than a little curious, I sat on the floor and she plopped into my lap.  "And why is that?"  I asked, noticing that she smelled like sunshine and Vanilla Wafers.   "Because Mom, it's always warm, and they never turn the lights off."   It was that simple.


Shan Mom
How could I possibly be sad on Mother's Day?  These two wonderful women hold my life in place, like the cover of a cherished book, hard bound, sturdy, beautiful, inviting... a cover that  secures the chapters from beginning to end.  Some of the chapters still unwritten but held together and inspired by my Mother and my Daughter.

In the last days of  her life, my Mother said to me, "I love you very much."   The memories of those days are blurred by unfolding events that were beyond our control, but I will always hold dear those  last whispered words.  

My last conversation with Shannon, a lunchtime phone conversation was so ordinary.  We planned her Monday morning job interview, where we were going to have dinner, what time she would be home from Gram's, what time I would be home from work, what time Denise would be there.  But that conversation ended with "I love you Mom." The  last words I would ever hear her say.  We should all be so blessed.

Being Shannon's Mom is the most precious gift I will ever receive.  Mother's Day can not be sad for me...even though I am without my daughter and my mother ~ it is a day of wonderful memories and tenderness.


We cannot know how life will unfold, so we allow the sorrows to become a part of us, as much as the joy.  We allow life to teach us to live with more love than fear.  We allow ourselves to be braver than we thought we could be and gentler than we ever imagined. 

I so love the line from Steel Magnolias when Sally Field says of her daughter, " I realize as a woman how lucky I am.  I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out."

We choose each other.  How incredible that Shannon chose me to be her Mom for her whole life.

Happy Mother's Day to all of the amazing women in my life.

Shan Bunny

Where does time go?

For a lot of years, I have found such comfort in writing.  Just finding a way to get the millions of thought threads out of my head and into the light of day has helped me to clarify and understand the chaos and cobwebs.  This year has been different.  I have spent more time journalling privately and quietly, while trying to keep up with life.  The rambling hasn't felt relevant enough to share.

I thought that being retired would mean an abundance of time.  I would finally catch up.  I would write and paint and garden and take long photo walks.  

This year I have done very little of any of those things and the idea of finally catching up and more time ... an urban legend.  

Where does all of the time go that was once devoted to a forty hour work week?  I should have forty extra hours every week for all of the things that I never seemed to have time for in the work a day life.

Okay, I will admit that I spend way more time watching mindless television.  Big Bang Theory is my go to mood booster.  Thank goodness it is in reruns on several channels and with the DVR, I can record and never be without a quick fix.  Also, being 61 seems to be the expiration date that our warranty is good until.  I pretend that I can go just as long and just as hard as I did at 50, but the very thought of lifting a 28 ft. ladder or hoisting this ever expanding backside up a telephone pole seems impossible and exhausting.

On especially bad days, I console  myself with the thought that perhaps I am having a brief flare up of last summer's Lyme disease.

Today I realized that this is just my month.  From Shannon's birthday on April 5th, until her Heaven day on May 1... my body remembers.  In the deepest part of me where I feel her hand in mine, hear her laughter or grumbling, hold the truth of how incredible it is to be her Mother, there is an ache that never leaves.  

We imagine, before we know, that eighteen years is a long time.  Plenty of time to heal and "move on".  But eighteen years passes in the blink of an eye...and feels like an eternity. Even when your mind is occupied, your body remembers and that ache finds its place.

April is my time.  Time to plant flowers and watch old movies.  To revisit photo albums and reread letters.  April is a time of rebirth and renewal and wonder and the promise that no matter how cold and desolate the winter may have been, the warmth returns and life awakens and peepers sing at dusk and the bluebirds and chickadees find their way back to last years homes and lilacs bloom along with the honeysuckle and wild roses.  Of course this year, April has also taught me a thing or two about grumpy honeybees who swarm, and relocate, and rear lots of new queens just to kill off the extras.   The once gentle girls are angry and confused and doing all they can to find a new normal when the Queen Mother has abandoned ship and taken 60% of the family with her.


My days begin and end with two thoughts... requests for miracles for those who need them, and absolute gratitude for every blessing.  I make every effort to be optimistic and kind, to see the light despite the shadows, but  sometimes I take my Pollyanna hat off and throw it across the room.  Other times that same hat is knocked off and pitched by someone who just needs their moment of utter despair, a well deserved, validated moment of despair.   There are days that I mourn the loss of all of the wonderful people who have left too soon.  We need those moments of utter despair, to feel deeply and remember tenderly.  Then we take a breath, like stepping out of a warm bath, cleansed... and realize how precious every moment is. I'm learning.

I found an opened can of tuna in the pantry the other day, and the peanut butter in the refrigerator.  I raced to the computer to look up the warning signs of impending dementia.  

Thirty minutes ago, I was sorting the last month's mail when I remembered that I hadn't answered an email or paid an overdue bill.  I had a notice that my blog was not being optimally utilized.  I put the towels in the drier but I'm sure I didn't turn it on...and I can hear that the back door is open so the cats can go out but it's raining.  The vacuum cleaner is in the middle of the living room floor where I started to use it yesterday when the UPS man rang the bell at our house by mistake and the phone rang at that same moment announcing that I had won a free two week membership at the YMCA.

Is it any wonder I put the tuna in the pantry?  Sophie has just joined me to remind me that it's dinnertime and she can't open the can by herself.  It's raining and she can't go outside and I can hear my cellphone dinging an incoming message.  Time doesn't really GO anywhere.  It just rolls along with us in our chaos and cobwebs, Pollyanna hats and cold peanut butter, bee stings and birthdays and the best we can do is take a breath now and then and just smile.





New Year New Beginnings

Well, I am one week into 61.  I wish I knew how to do it.  Resolutions are great but follow through...not so much.  

I seem to do my best thinking in the bathtub and this morning I had some serious revelations, I guess like the things Oprah "knows for sure"...

  1.  Big Bang Theory is my mood elevator, that, and pizza with banana peppers.
  2. Breasts WILL sag if you live long enough...and I am there !
  3. People will disappoint you if you set your expectations too high.
  4. The vertical ridges in your fingernails are a sign of aging...but you can buff them out.
  5. The quena flute is beautiful but extremely difficult to play.
  6. You can fret about removing trees but won't notice when they are gone.
  7. Clutter multiplies when you aren't looking.
  8. Excess weight is greatly affected by gravity causing a wrinkly face and bulging thighs.
  9. I can't write without Shannon...and one of the sweetest things anyone said to me in 2015 is that "it's like she isn't really gone."
  10. Honeybees can make your heart lighter, and I am already feeling a little withdrawal as they cluster to survive the cold.

There is a feeling of warm anticipation looking into 2016.  Maybe because it is a 9 year.  I'm not an expert at numerology but I do think there is something cool about numbers and especially the number 9 because it was Shannon's favorite number, and she never explained why...but here is what I realized this morning...

Shannon was born on 4 ~ 5 ( 9 )   She left this life in 1998 ( 9 )   This year is 2016 ( 9 ) and it has been 18 (9) years since she returned to Heaven.  

In numerology the number 9 has this meaning "Number 9 is the number of Universal love, eternity, faith, service to humanity, humanitarianism and the humanitarian, leading by positive example, philanthropy and the philanthropist, charity, self-sacrifice, selflessness, destiny, life purpose and soul mission, generosity, a a higher perspective, romance, inner-strength, public relations, responsibility, intuition, strength of character. "

So there you go.  It's going to be an amazing year and I am much closer to where I am going than where I began, and I may not age gracefully but I will age and it's all going to be OKAY.

Merry Christmas


  Instead of traditional Christmas Cards, this year we sent baby chicks and honeybees, to far away friends we will never meet, in honor of you, our friends and family, near and dear.

 Thank you for another year of always being there, listening, sharing, laughing, praying, crying and loving.  

  We wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a New Year blessed with peace and love.


 "A single chicken lays an egg every 24-26 hours, providing over 200 eggs or chicks per year. In addition to providing food source for a single family, these eggs and poultry can also be taken to market and sold, raising funds for medicine, clothing and more."

 "In the process of searching for nectar, bees pollinate plants. The placement of a single colony can potentially double local fruit and vegetable yields.  Many farmers that keep bees are able to harvest honey during the non-growing season to earn extra income, producing 60 pounds or more of honey each year."

With lots of love,

Jules and Jan

Dirt Cookies

Where do we go when sixty looks differently than what we were expecting, planning for, looking forward to?  What do we do with the newly gifted free time?  How do we adjust to the hours that for forty years were structured by the demands of a JOB?  How do we cope with sagging and crinkling and graying and a brain that wanders aimlessly searching for enthusiasm and purpose?  How do we feel relevant and necessary?  How do we redefine ourselves when we wake up at sixty and the terrain is unfamiliar and we've lost our map?

Walking around in this fog with a candle and wet matches has demanded some serious contemplation.  Shannon taught me the vital importance of lists... so today I am making a list...

Up at six ... Herd cats ... Coffee with bees ... Hmmmmm   and that's where the trouble begins.  Starting the day isn't the problem.  Putting the day to good solid soul filling use is where I stumble, so I'm adding a little writing to the mix.  A daily dose of clarity.

Have you noticed how easy it is to offer advice to someone else?  Their shared problems or questions or crises are easily addressed.  But looking inward, staring at that familiar face, your forever friend in the mirror and knowing exactly what to say, without judgement or criticism, with total acceptance and compassion ?  Not so easy.   

So we begin again.  Sixty should be full of promise and wonder and adventure.  Sixty should not be about saggy breasts, crows feet, losing 15 pounds overnight, battling clutter, pajamas to WalMart, drive through fine dining or wearing a carpet path between the refrigerator and the recliner.

Sixty does mean that we are going to lose people we love.  We are at the age where our parents have either met or miraculously and wonderfully surpassed the average life expectancy of 78.9.   For some of us life is all about our children and grandchildren, for others cruise lines and golf courses.  

I must find something many of us... life hasn't unfolded according to plan.  But life is beautiful and a gift that we can't just rip the paper off of and throw in the closet.  



Last night I saw a piece on TV about Haiti.  Women making and children eating dirt cookies.  It haunts me.  Even as they were eating dirt cookies, those little faces were bright with smiles and hope.  

I know it sounds cliche but I walk around in a home, safe and warm, with a full pantry and more clothes than I will ever wear and all I see is the clutter...or even more ridiculous, can't find anything to eat !  What if all I had to fill that empty space in my belly was dirt cookies.

Maybe this morning I just needed to remind myself of my blessings.  Open my heart to the truth that anything is possible.  Get dressed and ready for a day of amazing grace .  Maybe this morning, Heaven sent me an image to hold close, an image that is so much more compelling than wrinkles and weight and soulful purpose.  Maybe this morning I simply need to remember that another woman, not all that far away, has no time to worry about sixty or saggy breasts or fast food... Another woman is buying a five dollar bag of dirt to make dirt cookies... with a smile on her sweet face.







 Innocent, open, gentle...when the world is frightening and change inevitable, we hold on to hope to keep us afloat.  When those moments come, and they always do, when hope diminishes and courage falters and we are afraid that our own tears will drown our next is there.

 Always.  Unfailing. Invisible, perhaps, but steadfast, boundless and inexhaustible.

We hold that space for one another when life leaves us desolate and fragile. 

We are here for you.  We hold on for you.  Love, eternal and without measure never leaves us... never says "Good bye".

Living with Bees

Life offers so much and lately I have been grasping at straws, looking for ways to stay optimistic as friends face challenges and difficulties that result in broken hearts and struggles to stay afloat.  

The chairs by the hive give me a moment of calm.  Nature has ways of enlightening us from the inside out if we can be still long enough to let the magic happen.  Healing is a process.  It doesn't restore us to who we were, but allows us to evolve into who we hope to be.

My prayers have changed for those I love...inspired by experience and gifted wisdom.  Bless those who are facing unimaginable challenges.  Give them strength and hope and comfort.  If healing is not to be, allow each moment to be filled with love and grace and appreciation for all that is.

As strange as it may seem, quietly sitting with bees, watching their attention to detail and necessity, inhaling the sweet fragrance of warm honey and new comb, listening to the gentle hum of life constantly replenishing, reminds me of the Greater hand that holds us all, reminds me that  nothing is without meaning, and I am grateful.

Bee morning



Sometimes my most profound thoughts seem to rise with the steam while "Sharking" the floor.  Tempted to keep them to myself, afraid that what my heart holds might cast a shadow on your joy, then trusting that there is someone out there who feels just like me and might need to know that they are not alone, I decide to write.

We all have two things in common.  We come into this life and we will leave it.  For some of us, we are given an incredible gift.  We are there when our baby takes its first breath, and we are there when they take their last.  We open and glow and fill with the wonder of that first breath and we wander through our lives searching for ways to fill again, following the last.

But we hold our memories dear and talking about our children is as soothing to us as you feel talking about yours.   I know it's challenging.  I know that you worry that you will say the wrong thing or make someone feel sad... you won't.  We live with that absence every day and the saddest part is when there is no one to open our heart to.  We worry that we will see that "deer in the headlights" look on your face or even worse, pity if we mention our child. 

You see, what time does...and it certainly is NOT allow Love to float to the surface and buffer the grief.  Shanbeach

Before I wear out the delete button, rethinking every thought, I will just say this....If your heart is full of memories with no place to go, share with me.  I take great comfort in knowing that Shannon is surrounded by the loved ones of those of you who have shared your Angels with me over the last sixteen years, and I am too familiar with sadness to ever shy away.  What I know, like Oprah, for sure, is that our tears really do flow from the same source.... whether that be from sorrow or from joy and it connects us in ways we may never understand.

Yesterday my favorite 15 year old helped make the traditional Christmas wreaths for the cemetery,  a tradition I continue for Mom.  Beanie told me over pancakes at Frost's Diner, that she feels like she knows Shannon.  When she visits she sleeps in Shannon's room, never hesitating to move all the Stuffies off the bed or laugh about the glow in the dark moon that shines beneath the shelf holding the collection of cassettes from the seventies and eighties.  Standing in line at Michael's, she asked me if it bothered me for her to talk about her kitten that is in Heaven.  I asked her if it bothered her for me to talk about Shannon.  Neither one of us had to say a word... the smile between us said it all. 

Conversation about death is difficult, awkward, scarey... but conversations about love are warm and gentle.  Death doesn't diminish love.  Or erase it or make it less real.  It simply requires that we accept a new language... and a willingness to risk being seen for who we really are... who we may have become because of our relationship with death.

I had a dream the first Christmas after Shannon returned to Heaven.  I dreamed I was taking cookies out of the oven and turned to see her standing in the kitchen as beautiful and bright as ever and I started to cry.  She looked at me with love and amusement and said, "What are you crying for?  I've only been gone for a second."

We laughed.   I put the cookies down.    I held my sweet Angel.  

I suppose a second only feels like forever, to us.