Hope, Inspiration, Life, light
2

I love seeing the sun shining brightly on the trees this spring.

The sun seems to shine more brightly this spring after our dreary winter. It’s really nice to wear sunglasses again! The rainy weather of winter dampened my spirit of hope in much the same way as the mighty waters flooded the banks of the James River.  The sunny skies with bright hues of azure lifted the heaviness of the blues that were weighing me down.  The greening of the trees has quickly filled in the emptiness of the barren branches of the trees and ushered in the transformation of nature and my heart. It’s amazing how good it feels to embrace life this spring.

 

Every evening as the sun starts to set, I go outside to marvel at the brightness of the sunlight striking the tops of the trees on the embankment above my deck. The darker forest green leaves at the top of the willow oaks are illuminated by the rays of sunshine and they appear chartreuse for those final moments before sunset.  The warmth of their greenish yellow appearance causes me to pause in awe of the wonders of creation. I know that there is always light in the midst of darkness, but it is often hard to find that light in the shadows. I cherish the brightness of each spring day’s final bursts of sunlight that remind me that there is always light in every day. My perspective shifts, and I see hope in all circumstances.

 

 

Read More
Uncategorized
2

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Yesterday I started writing about hope. Ultimately I caved after the sun didn’t show its’ face all day. My writing was as bleak as the sky of another wintry day. Mary Oliver the gifted poet died and so did my words on the page. I just wanted to sit down in my despair and stay there. I sat on the couch whining about my fractured fibula and decided to not move a muscle. Being immobile added to the depression gripping me and hope seemed like an impossible dream. My pen only managed to write the next paragraph.

Gray skies outside seem to be our new normal in Richmond. I’m not sure if Seattle gets as many rainy days as we do these days. To make matters worse, every day brings more tension between our politicians and the many people who are currently not working due to the government shut down.  The lamenting of those suffering from unthinkable tragedy in Nairobi ways heavy on my heart.  Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?

The sun came back out today, and my gloom shifted. I wonder if the light we see around us is a ray of hope in these valleys of the shadows.  Sometimes the light of hope surprises us where it shows up.  Today it arrived while I was making a cup of tea.  My Yogi teabag quote prompted me to pick up my pen and finish what I started yesterday. The quote is, “Spread the light: be the lighthouse.”  We may be down, but we are not defeated as a fitness coach once told me.  I want to be a light every day, but days like yesterday come and throw shade my way. The good news is that when we are down, others seem to have been spared from that pit. I do believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it emerges every time we reach out to others. I will spread the light and let it shine just like those who have helped me rise up out of despair.

 

Read More
Inspiration, Life
2

Practicing the Art of Being Kind

I’m trying to break out of the negativity that the world news ignites in me.

I’ve decided to embrace two words that keep turning up on random corners in my neighborhood.  Yesterday I noticed a hand-painted sign in a nearby gallery in plain letters saying, “Be Kind.” When I saw the same words on a white washed board with red hearts in my neighbor’s yard, I decided to find out if this was some kind of local movement.  Maybe you have spotted some of these Be Kind signs too. My curiosity sent me to the web where all answers live these days.

I learned that this message is more than just a local movement. It was created here in Richmond by Gini Bonnell.  After struggling with the myriad of bad news that enters into our daily lives, she responded by painting a white board with Be Kind and placed it in her yard.  Her neighbors liked it so much that they wanted one of their own. Then the requests for more Be Kind signs snowballed with calls from not only our community but schools, businesses, groups, and individuals from as far away as Australia.  An article appearing in Boomer magazine in July stated that Gini had now made more than 550 signs.  She is really excited about how many people have joined her in carrying this message into the world including our Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

Seeing those Be Kind signs helped me realize that to be kind one must take action. Seeing and doing are not the same. I can practice the art of being kind in my small corner of the world. Even though I’d like to be kind, I’m skeptical sometimes.  The homeless man who sits on a bucket even on rainy days near the expressway with his crumpled cardboard sign of “anything helps” haunts me as I turn the corner wondering if he is really homeless or just looking for a handout.  My judgment and good intentions often limit my actions, but I’ve decided to take action on being kind for the next 30 days. Kindness to my neighbors or the strangers.  Be Kind! I’m telling you so that I can be held accountable, and to invite you to join me in practicing the art of being kind. I’d love to hear your stories.  Please contact me through my blogsite at www.heart-heeels.com.

Read More
Blogging, Grief, Inspiration, surviving the anniversary of a loved one's day of death
0

Reflections of our loved ones

Seventeen years ago, my Mom died of a fatal heart attack. The melancholy that drifts in around the anniversary of her death threatens to overcome me each year.  I decided to take a walk around the gardens at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to shake the blues and the dreariness of this winter day.  As I rounded the edge of the museum, I was surprised by the peacefulness that swept over me.  The 24-foot-tall sculptural head of a girl named Chloe carved by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa summoned my attention.  The gray barren branches of the large oak tree behind her stood in stark contrast to her meditational visage, radiant even with closed eyes.  Chloe’s powerful pose reminded me of my Mom’s determination to raise her 3 daughters to be strong women. I could always count on her encouraging words whenever life became hard to navigate. She often ended those conversations saying, “Everything will work out, and I’ll be thinking about you. Hold your head up high!” These words have been implanted in my heart, and I often use them to encourage my sons in their own challenges. As I turned to leave, I took this picture that shows the strong presence of the oak tree next to the imposing presence of Plensa’s Chloe. These towering images both represent to me the reassurance of my mother’s words. Her comforting words are as permanent in my mind as the images of oak and marble that spoke to me from that image.  Throughout the seasons of our lives, the words of loved ones can anchor us over time and space.

Read More
Uncategorized
0

Heart on the Sole of my boot and the Christmas Rush!

Today while scurrying around my bedroom in the Christmas frenzy which happens every December, I happened to see a heart that I had picked up on the sole of my favorite Frye boots. It made me pause to wonder how it got there. Regardless of the way it adhered to my right boot, I realized that I should really slow down and stop this madness.  A timely reminder just as I was about to head out to go shopping for gifts for my family and friends. Maybe this heart is a sign to change my focus in giving to others. Will a pair of wool socks really make a difference in my son’s stocking or should I just dedicate an hour every week to meet him for coffee?  I think a cup of java and heart to heart conservation is the obvious answer to that question! So, I decided to post this heart on the sole of my boot as a way of keeping me anchored in love rather than obsessing over finding the perfect gift for everyone. I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season. In the meantime, I’m heading out in my Frye boots with my special pink plastic heart glued to the sole of my right foot.  May your journey be filled with love always!

Read More
amazing golden retriever dogs, dog love, grace during grief, Grief
2

I love the way my dog loves me!

Almost 16 years ago at Thanksgiving, my family and I adopted a golden retriever who has given us unconditional love every day. I’m so thankful for her undivided attention by our sides all these years. When we selected her, I recommended that we get the runt of the litter. My sons and husband stared at me like I had lost my mind. They thought that was a terrible idea, but I persisted. I reminded them that our other 2 golden retrievers had been roly-poly fluff balls and lived relatively short years. (Our first golden named Nugget had died at 6, and our second golden named Kelly had lived to be only 8.)  After an hour of playing with the puppies, they decided that I could make the final decision.

I chose the smallest and slimmest girl puppy, and we began our journey back home. While traveling, we had a fun time trying to think of names that suited her.  Finally, I said, “Let’s call her Maggie after my grandmother,” who had died when my sons were very young. Without hesitation, we all agreed that was a great name for our darling golden girl.

Maggie continues to be a ray of sunshine in our lives. She has traveled over the miles of ups and downs that we have seen in her long life. Maggie loved retrieving in her younger days. When she was a puppy, I taught her to retrieve the newspaper and take it to my husband David in bed. On the days after David died, she would grab the paper in her mouth at the mailbox and race upstairs to make her speedy delivery.

After several weeks of watching her frustration and confusion as to his whereabouts, I sought help with our dog trainer Sally. She confirmed that Maggie was grieving just like all of us. Sally took her to her home for a month until we could begin to manage our own grief better.  When Maggie returned, we were better equipped to cope with our grief and to love Maggie in spite of our sadness.  She still wanted to take the paper up to our room, but I was able to teach her to take it to one of my sons instead. (It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about her wanting to bring the paper to David after he died.)

The days and years that followed our loss have held changes for all of us. But, Maggie has remained our faithful and loving companion all the way. She doesn’t move so quickly these days due to her arthritis, but her devotion to us has never faltered. Maggie takes her sweet time when fetching up the paper, but she can almost knock you down racing to her food bowl. She’s kind of a dog foodie.

Her reddish furry coat is turning white especially around her face. Our time together won’t last forever, but I know I’ll treasure her devotion and unconditional love forever.  She loves me with all of her heart!  As I think about her almost 16 years of greetings, handshakes, boundary border keeping, running, walking, swimming, fetching, begging, eating, hiking, exploring, and ever present desire to settle in by me, I just love how my dog loves me!

 

Read More
Blogging, grace during grief, Inspiration, Moving forward one step at a time
9

15 Years of Silver Linings after Loss

May 16, 2017 means that 15 years have slipped by since my husband David suffered a fatal heart attack while playing basketball with our son Andy at St. Christopher’s School.  That day seemed to shatter our rose colored world of happy endings, but the hands of those surrounding Andy, Ben and me made sure that our tragedy didn’t define our destiny. There are no words in our English language that can ever fully capture our gratitude for the shoulders we leaned on or the hands that reached out to us during those darkest hours.

After spending the week-end on a scout hike with David and Ben at a boy scout hike, our friend Briscoe described David in a sympathy note.  He wrote about the wonderful campsite that David and Ben had created where “everyone had a great time, and in the center of it all was a big guy with an even bigger heart making people laugh.” These words still ring true about my big-hearted husband who loved and lived life to the fullest. In some ways, he lived more life in his 45 years than many of us can fathom.  It makes our hearts happy to know how much love David shared.  We have found solace over time in hearing and sharing memories of his life.

We have surely grieved in agonizing ways, but we have found countless silver linings scattered along our way that have kept us moving forward one day at a time.  From the first moments after his fall to the cold hard floor of the gym to this beautiful blue sky May morning, we have been privileged to receive glimmers of silver light lining the storm clouds that hover overhead.

The first shimmering silver lights were the first responders who worked on his lifeless body in spite of knowing full well that he might not recover. I recently met the man who gave my husband mouth to mouth resuscitation until the medical team arrived. It is odd that in 15 years, I never had met Brock Lively who tried desperately to revive him.  You have to admit that Brock’s last name is interesting given his willingness to step forward to help David.  You simply can’t make this stuff up.  He told me about rushing over to help Andy and the other boys that huddled over David. Brock said, “It was like everything was in slow motion.”  His description summed up our foggy recollections of that first hour.

Although Brock and I had never met until this January, his mother and I were friends through church. I knew that his own father had died at an early age leaving her a widow with 3 children to raise.  When Brock and I talked recently, he told me that losing his own father at an early age had motivated him to learn C.P.R. He wanted to give others a second chance at living even though his father didn’t get one. Knowing that he tried to help David in spite of his own loss was a ray of sunshine I hadn’t expected to learn about fifteen years later.  Helping others find hope in their stormy times encourages me to write about transforming our losses. My sons and I have helped others face adversity in their lives. Our compassion grew out of our own loss in much the same way as Brock’s.

There are so many connections or silver linings that have given us new directions and full hearts in these 15 years. This short blog can’t contain them all.  We want to give you our thanks for lighting our path. Without these illuminations, we may have lost our way in the shadows of death. We know that silver linings really do exist! In memory of David, we hope you will continue to brighten another’s journey! A song written and sung by the Honey Dewdrops named “Silver Lining” inspired my title today. From their lyrics, “You’re my silver lining when it don’t look good, I’m always finding, you’re my silver lining.” (www.TheHoneyDewdrops.com)

Read More
Blogging, grace during grief, Grief, Inspiration
0

Grieving makes you hungry sometimes!

After my husband died, hundreds of people came to see me to offer sympathy. After several hours I excused myself from the living room where some still were gathered. I just couldn’t shake another hand or shed another tear because I was exhausted. I fell across my bed as my son Andy came in to check on me. He wanted to know how I was doing. I swallowed hard and replied, “Right now I’m starving.” I asked him if he would go down to the dining room to make me a plate of food from the banquet laid out by my friends on our dining room table. He disappeared and returned moments later with a silver platter. As he sat the tray in front of me, I realized that he had brought me a tray consisting entirely of homemade brownies. I smiled at him as I reached for one of them. He told me that they were really good. It was one of those moments I can never forget. Eating brownies from a silver tray with Andy was a bitter sweet moment of grief. Grieving makes you hungry and why shouldn’t I eat a whole plate of chocolate brownies!

Read More
Inspiration, Parenting toddlers, Rock climbing
0

The rock collection that we inherited.

Several weeks ago, my late husband David’s cousin called to say that she found a box in their garage labeled “bowl of rocks…. Butterworth.” She had been in the process of moving some things out of the garage when she stumbled upon this treasure. She laughed as she asked me, “Do you think your son Andy would want these?” I replied with excitement, “Of course he would like them, he loves rocks!” I explained to her that David’s Aunts,  known in our family as the “Weaver Aunts” because they were his mother Maud Weaver Butterworth’s sisters,  had given him several bowls of stones from around the world already.  Getting this call long after they had passed away was most unexpected.

Andy’s interests in rocks began when he was a toddler. Whenever we visited the three Aunts’ home, a home that was far more formal than our own, Andy would make his way to a beautiful mahogany book case with glass doors that were always locked. He would persuade one of them to get the tiny key and unlock the case so that he could begin his examination of its contents. As Andy pulled out the rocks one by one, the stories of faraway travels attached to each one would follow. The rocks taught Andy about places like Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, Russia, Norway, England, Scotland, and Canada.

Our journeys in life are meant to be shared through the stories and collections that we pass along to one another. As a young mother with very inquisitive boys, I marveled at how a collection of rocks could capture their attention for such great lengths of time. I also appreciated the fact that the Aunts allowed the boys to examine the many valuables scattered throughout their home which was a lot like a museum. Those rocks shaped Andy’s love of geography, travel, environmental science, geology, national parks, and climbing…rocks!

When I received the box and opened it, I found a paper adhered to the bottom of one of the rocks in the bowl that said, “Bering Sea, July 1975.” I recalled seeing this rock some 25 years ago in Andy’s tiny hand as we sat listening to the Aunts tell us about their visit to Alaska. We watched with great interest their slideshow of Alaska not long after that. I wonder what would have happened if Andy had not been so interested in the contents encased in the Mahogany cabinet with glass doors. I am so grateful for the lessons he received from opening those doors. The development of Andy’s passion for the great outdoors was an amazing outcome of those visits. He now works in the natural world nearly every day as a field guide in Utah surrounded by some much larger rocks! The old rock collection that we inherited, while small, is wonderful, and the Rocky Mountain collection he works with today is vast but no more valuable than that “bowl of rocks…Butterworth”.

Read More
Grief, Inspiration, Life, Moving forward one step at a time
1

I’m all about the color blue!

While my husband David and I were in our wooing stages of getting to know each other, he sent me a card that had a crayon box on the outside. Inside the card a blue crayon drawing said, “Color me blue when I’m without you.” Whenever I see a crayon box, I remember those words. Time spent together was never long enough and times apart seemed like forever.

That card pops into my head whenever I’m having a rough day since he died. Rainy, cloudy, and cold days can really stir up the color blue……. color me blue when I’m without you…it will soon be 15 years and that’s an ocean full of blue! A whole blue sky with no puffy white clouds kind of blue. Blue-footed Booby bird kind of blue for keeping one foot in front of the other after his death.

But, life goes on and we learn to color other shades of blue. Turquoise blue to give you hope on winter days. Steel blue for standing tall at funerals. Tiffany blue for falling in love with someone else. Superman blue for seeing your sons become strong men.

Color me blue when I’m without you! What if I had known how much blue there would be in my life? I’m all about the color blue!

Read More
1 2 3