Shadows and Sunlight


When I step out of the shower my favorite thing to do is to dig my face into my towel and breath in through my nose. I smell my home, my life, clean, comfort. When I was near the shore I smelled beach, moisture, vacation, humidity. Life is wonderful and heartbreaking, amazing and fleeting.

I’m sitting in a room surrounded by treasured belongings that were once my husband’s aunt’s. The wooden trinkets and books make me feel she is actually here with me. The photo albums I made for her are now here. I can’t read the lines I wrote to her inside of those albums without fighting the sadness away. Holding her antique books makes me want to sit and read every page, touch each leather binding.

All of the special things we accumulate in life; one day they will be left behind. Special and treasured as the keep sakes are, they symbolize our defeated impermanence and the victorious passing of time. I know the glass is half full, none of it escapes me, not the blessings nor the heartaches. Still we are all going to be gone one day and the beautifully bound leather books will be here with the ivory candle sticks and the small wooden horse.

I once visited a friend who was moving into a house that came with all of the belongings of the deceased woman who lived in it prior to my friend purchasing it. The woman who had passed away had no one to claim her belongings, not one living family member or dear friend. My daughter asked if she could keep a few things she liked that day and when I see those things I am reminded of that woman who died alone. That woman’s white and blue painted cookie tin is in our kitchen and when it catches my eye it speaks to me.

“Loss and Possession, Death and Life are one,
There falls no shadow where there shines no sun.”
-Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

Older and Wiser

My Dad once told me “getting older is wonderful” (and I wrote about that in a past blog) but I’m starting to think he meant getting wiser is wonderful or getting to the point in your life where you feel on top of your game is wonderful. Jerry Seinfeld’s interview on Howard Stern was rerun recently and he had a refreshing view on aging which I agree with but it also addresses getting wiser and mature but not old in an elderly sense. I’ll paraphrase what he said here: “The war is over… (and) it’s a very nice place to be…
If you’re a little lucky in life you should enjoy getting older because you’re gonna see more. When you’re young you can’t see what’s going on so well. 
When you’re older (…you say) oh I see what’s going on here. 
I love that.” It reminded me of something a friend once told me which was roughly: In your 30’s you’re “am I doing this right?” In your 40’s you’re “I have arrived” and in your 50’s you’re “F–k you.” (a little graphic but you get the point) I believe these concepts are what could be wonderful about getting older. Diane von Furstenberg said in a June 2013 interview with Talk magazine, “Yesterday for lunch I met the most incredible 90-year-old woman…I just thought, Oh, my god, I still have time ahead of me.” -smilingbug


Diane von Furstenberg. Photo by Robyn Twomey.

Remembering Them


There is so much going on each day: we’re laughing, complaining, being silly, working, sending text messages, paying bills, watching shows, running errands, making meals, posting meaningless thoughts on twitter, taking ridiculous photos, cleaning, dancing to our favorite tune. The amount of silly going on here is quite high although we are also working, cleaning, scolding, doing, rushing… like any other busy household. My daughter’s favorite cause is a local children’s cancer organization called Shining Stars. We have their bracelets and totes scattered around and at times I wear a bracelet for a few days and look down at the bold words “CANCER SUCKS” and pray for them, remember what some of them are dealing with while I run to the market or mop the floor. There is so much to do in this life, so many responsibilities, to-do lists and keeping up with day to day living. Then there is all of the fun, the movies, celebrations, family times, lazy days. Meanwhile I think of my friend who lost his battle with cancer and how he didn’t even read the magazines I took to him. No amount of to-do’s or favorite movies could capture his attention, not even food interested him. Do not miss the opportunity to appreciate your ordinary day, seize it and be grateful for it. -smilingbug



I heard a statistic on the radio that said 65% of people are unhappy. On the one hand it seems like a high percentage, on the other it seems understandable. I asked my daughter what she thought about people being unhappy and she said “everyone has a problem.” My sons answer was a word: perspective. Sadly, some people are dealing with unimaginable heartache, stress, pain. But others’ pain is self inflicted or imagined while their lives are generally very good. It’s true that life is filled with struggles and challenges but it is also filled with joys. The Helen Keller quote says it best, “Although life is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” One of my kids told me I had to watch a video about a teenager dying of cancer and how he wrote a song to tell his family what life meant to him. At the beginning, the teenager named Zach says “you don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living.” It is said all of the time (carpe diem) but imagine really living each day and each week as if you did not have countless ones left to live. Perhaps it can not truly be captured unless one has looked at death in the face like survivors of near death experiences, cancer or other illnesses. Zach’s song is called Clouds and since I saw this video I look at the clouds in the sky and remember Zach and people like him. There is a time in the video when Zach is overcome with joy and says “it makes me want to keep going.” What an amazing young man. I hope everyone clicks on the link and watches Zach’s story. Life isn’t perfect but appreciate everything exactly as it is right now. Don’t wait to be happy. -smilingbug

My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech
Click here, 22 minutes you’ll cherish.

Don’t Sweep My Feet!


Every time I sweep I think of my Grandma saying “Don’t sweep my feet or else I’ll never get married” each time I swept her workspace at our family business. It was a superstition of hers. She said it every single time anyone was sweeping, without fail. She never worried if it got old or lost its punch. She was married and had been most of her life to my Grandpa. I miss him so much and it’s difficult to believe that he has been gone almost 17 years. It just doesn’t seem I could have lived all of this time without him being near but here we are. Talking with a niece recently about a loved aunt who passed away she told me that she imagined our aunt with all of her friends who were also gone, sipping wine, reading on the beach and enjoying their favorite pleasures. She joked that her warped Catholic view of the afterlife made her feel better about missing our aunt. Atleast she has a vision of the afterlife. I thought and joked to her “I have to work on my warped view of the afterlife” but no matter how I try I can’t make anything of it. I miss those people who are gone. All of the life events that pass, I wonder how this could be going on, day after day and year after year, without them. It’s not possible that they could be absent from these meaningful moments. My daughter says she isn’t afraid of dying but is afraid of losing all of the memories of this lifetime that mean so much to her. We are here for a tiny flash in the scheme of time but we are so attached to this life. A man on PBS talking about mother’s day today said “Dinosaurs were mothering their offsprings 65 million years ago.” How can the scrapbooks and memories of each one of our lives stack up to that? I remember a good friend who was losing a battle for his life saying that he was ok with dying but didn’t want to miss everyone. It breaks my heart and yet it’s a part of life that is as normal as the sun rising and setting each and every day. What I got most from my niece’s conversation about those who have passed was a loud and clear reminder: Appreciate the joys and the highs, count bleasings. -smilingbug

Sex and Death

I heard an interview last week that Howard Stern did with James Taylor, recorded in the early 1990’s. I am not old enough to have been a James Taylor fan when he had his first number one hit “Fire and Rain” but I bought his greatest hits CD in the 90’s (when people were still buying up CDs) and I was addicted to it and a fan ever since. The feeling that I got from hearing him in the Stern interview was total peace. He spoke so serenely and seemed to be at total ease with life. The sound of him playing his guitar and singing was hypnotic. All I could do was say “wow” while I listened in awe. But the thing that stuck with me the most was what he said his songs were mostly about: sex and death. Sex being the magic potion in life and death being the undeniable finality to life, this made me admire him and be sad for him all at once. Sex and death. It so poignantly reminded me of how awesome and fragile life is, all of it. James Taylor is an amazing person. I wish he was still writing lots of songs. “How sweet it is” to hear his soothing voice. -smilngbug

She Loved Us & We Loved Her

Make up, looking in the mirror, is that me?
Children in black clothes, rushing, formal attire
Sad faces, serious faces
Where am I?
This is it, this is really it

Dad’s face, my face
How old are we?
I feel twelve, we look so much older
Many, many people
Friends, Strangers, stories

“To this day when something big happens in my life I wonder if she would be proud of me”
“I’m lucky enough to have been her god daughter”

“We had just met and she threw me a baby shower, at her home”
“She wrote a note to say she would miss him”

Shaking hands, hugging, smilng, crying
Faces that cause crying, words that cause laughter
We aren’t meant to stay here forever
It still hurts

Black dresses, black suits, driving rain
Ushers, ties, jackets
Kneeling down, crying
“I’m so sorry, I’ll see you right away when I go there”

Cars driving, how could this be?
Prayers, words, trembling voices
Loud organ music, suits, hugging, crying
A photo being handed around, brief smiles
A handkerchief, wrinkled and held tightly

“She loved us and we loved her”

People gathered, words, tears, laughs

“A second mother, an honorary grandmother”
A child speaks, then there are chuckles
I do not want to say goodbye to the casket
I touch it as it passes, want to stop it and hold on to it forever
Do not leave, please stay
But now it is carried away

Cold rain, mud and ice, umbrellas
Tightly crumpled handkerchief, like a child’s blankie
A crank lowers, flowers are removed
Staring at the casket, keeping my eyes on it
Maybe it will stay forever if I keep my eyes on it

It is too low to see
Silent Sobs, cries, tears
With God now, safely wrapped, cradled

“May the angels take you to paradise”
“Rest with God, rest in peace”

White table clothes, silver platters
Sliced beef, warm rolls
Framed photos, black and white memories
Wine, cocktail napkins, music

Somewhere over the rainbow 
Slide show flashing, a life of wonderful times
Talks, reconnecting, sharing
How they got the news, how we met
Who traveled from where, when we will see each other next

“Thank you for being who you are, she loved you so much”
“I got all of the updates, she loved those little boys so much”

The sun comes out, the circle of life goes on
“She would have loved this party,
Don’t you think?”

Death: Part of life but so painful


“You always think you have more time” I told my mother in law.  “No,” she disagreed “not at our age, people have died much younger.”  So sad and undeniably part of being human.  My brother in law recently went through the pain of losing his younger brother, the hurt from that loss unimaginable.  A long time friend in the community passed away recently and it’s still shocking to think he isn’t here.  Death is such a definitive part of life and yet it’s so difficult to reconcile.  Since our aunt passed away last week we have been walking around numb and dazed.  Monday and all of the responsibilities of life called so here we are, pushing on as everyone says “she would want us to do,” and of course as we must.  My Mom said “she was called back to heaven to do other work there” and I think of her having no idea she was about to leave and wonder how that can be.  It is so heart wrenching that she will not be with us that I don’t even want to think about future family time without her.  I know she would want us to have those times, celebrate life and be happy.  Maybe missing her so much is selfish.  Meanwhile believing in our destiny and putting faith in what God has planned for us is everything, so why then does it hurt so much, why aren’t we programmed to have a resistance to this sadness and heartache.  The human condition, I guess, the lessons and growth and reasons we’re here.  My husband said “it’s all part of the journey” but it didn’t make me feel better either.  During the night when I toss and turn, each time waking up and thinking “it’s true, she is gone” I think of the Mom in town who lost her husband unexpectedly last year or the children who went to school at Sandy Hook in December.  So much pain yet such a real part of this life.  My sister says to focus on the beautiful blessings around us and of course this is true, and I am so grateful, but it doesn’t lessen the pain.  She wasn’t my aunt for my life time and yet an amazing, loving person can touch your heart so deeply.  I’m the first to say “appreciate each day” however, the loss weighs a million pounds and it’s on my shoulders, on my neck muscles, behind my sore eyes.  Thinking of the last phone call, the last email, the last letter, why did that have to be the last one, but of course I know the rational reasons.  “My dear—…We leave on Friday—…I wish all of you were going with us—… Much love.” -smilingbug

Every Day a Gift


Every death that I’ve heard of in the last couple of weeks of this year has taken me back a bit because I think to myself “that person was probably planning for 2013, ready for new year’s eve, thinking of 2012 as practically behind us as we prepare for 2013.”  My daughter asked me this morning what age I think I will live to be and I told her no one knows how long we have here.  Tonight my neighbor knocked on our door and I thought it was my husband so I told my daughter to let him in.  Instead she told me to come over and I greeted my nice neighbor Brian with a big smile but what he said turned my face to shock and sadness.  He told me that one of our downstairs neighbors died today while at work.  She was 49 years old, I thought she was younger.  We called her “Pinky” because of her bright pink lipstick colors.  In the summer she was on her road bike daily.  In the winter her skis were outside of her door.  I know we make more noise than she liked but she still smiled at us.  Now every interaction I had with her is coming back to me and I’m sad.  When I stood in shock talking to Brian he said “life is fragile” and it’s a statement that cannot be over used for it is so intensely true.   All I can think of is Pinky not being here anymore, how she left her apartment this morning thinking she would be right back after work.  She rode the bus to work so her car is sitting in it’s spot.  Every day here is a gift. -smilingbug

Smell the roses


I was walking through my kids’ school yesterday and I saw this awesome Cookie Monster that someone made in wood shop sitting on the side of a hallway.  Everything seems so wonderful at a school to me now and when I was a kid I wanted out of there so badly.  Is it the grass-is-greener effect or a case of not being able to appreciate things as they’re happening, I wonder.  When I went back to a homecoming football game a few years after graduation from college I literally thought they had put in a new turf field or changed the mascot because everything was so bursting with color.  It was all exactly the same as when I lived there and went to every game. I just didn’t take it all in when I was living it, it was there and I took it for granted.  A friend of mine passed away recently and he knew he was going to die for about three months.  He said he was ok with leaving and accepted that it was his time but the one thing he worried about was missing all of the people in his life.  Faced with the end of one’s life the wood shop class or football game colors mean nothing.  But the people we love, there is no way to reconcile the thought of not having the relationships we treasure.  All of the philosophies about seizing the day or living in the moment– all of those go out the window and the one thing that doesn’t is the love for the people in our lives.  The time we have together in this lifetime will come for all of us one day.  Show or tell people what they mean to you often. -smilingbug