Monday, December 23, 2019

Let Your Light Shine

“Come as you are. The perfect gift you can bring is your heart.”
Lyric from At This Table - Idina Menzel

As we come into this season of light; the light of Advent, the light of Hanukkah, the light of Christmas, the light of love, of joy and of hope, it is sometimes hard to see the light inside ourselves because we have loved and we have lost. Our stories have changed. Our traditions are different. We are not the women we once were and yet we are becoming new women we were meant to be. It's important to remember in this season of giving, that really all we ever have to give is Love. Love is all there is. It can only multiply and it cannot be divided. It is important to remember that you will always have your heart and it is the perfect gift to share this season.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Regardless of where you are in your widow’s walk, I know it can be dark. It is lonely. It is sad. You miss him and the life you lived. And yet, I also see a spark. A spark of hope, a spark of new life, and there is love. There is always love. This season of light often brings us to a place of feeling overwhelmed, unprepared, and sometimes eaten up with “I don’t want to's.” It's easy to become paralyzed and it seems so hard to move forward, to step out in the new light and to begin again.

One of the things I have really tried to focus on in my new, busy and sometimes complicated life, is to focus on where I am now with all my being, with all my focus, and with all my love. To be there in the present moment. To be fully present with the person I'm with and to be fully focused in the moment. It is a simple concept but also hard to achieve. It is, however, the best gift.

Being focused causes to you really become a part of the time you are sharing with the person before you. Your focus is on them, their words, their tears, their laughter, their hope, and dreams. You are “present” in the moment and paying close attention to them. It liberates you to be able to be yourself too. To share with someone, you trust and to open your heart to them. It’s important to share your story, to learn from it and to move forward inch by inch, day by day, and sometimes, second by second. It is the only way to healing and towards letting your light shine.

Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper this week focused on the lyrics to Idina Menzel’s newest song, "At This Table." It is a place where we want to be. We long to be gathered around a table with each other in a place that is safe to be just as we are, right where we are. We long to be loved in this present moment. To share light, we don't have to be the perfect person we think we should be or hope to be, but rather to be "perfect" in this moment, just as we are right where we are and to be loved for who we are. Now. It is here and only in this place of new hope, sometimes surrounded by the darkness, that we can begin to let the light of our love shine through. Again. Our flame, like a candle, will grow, and dance around and become stronger over time. We will nourish our light, we will share it with others, and most of all, during this season of love, we will be the light to someone else also lost in darkness.

At This Table - Idina Menzel 

At this table, everyone is welcome
At this table, everyone is seen
At this table, everybody matters
No one falls between
At this table, you can say whatever
At this table, you can speak your mind
At this table, everything's forgiven
There's enough for everyone

So come as you are
Remember that the door is always open
Yes, come as you are
The perfect gift that you can bring is your heart
So, come, come as you are

At this table, there will be no judgment
At this table, mercy has a seat
At this table, we're all sons and daughters
There's no place I'd rather be

So come as you are
Remember that the door is always open
Come as you are
The perfect gift that you can bring is your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are.

My son recommended that I listen to Dolly Parton’s podcast, "America." I must say I’m impressed. As fate would have it, today they played a song referred to in another author’s book about her depression. The song, Light of a Clear Morning, gave her hope and helped her through a very dark time in her life. I think it is perfect for us as well on our widow's walk. I found it beautiful and helpful. It gives us hope and leads us to the light of a brand-new day. 

Light of a Clear Blue Morning - Dolly Parton

It's been a long dark night
And I've been a waitin' for the morning
It's been a long hard fight
But I see a brand-new day a dawning
I've been looking for the sunshine
You know I ain't seen it in so long
But everything's gonna work out just fine
And everything's gonna be all right
That's been all wrong
'Cause I can see the light of a clear blue morning
I can see the light of a brand-new day
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
Oh, and everything's gonna be all right
It's gonna be okay
It's been a long long time
Since I've known the taste of freedom
And those clinging vines
That had me bound, well I don't need 'em
Oh, I've been like a captured eagle, you know an eagle's born to fly
Now that I have won my freedom, like an eagle I am eager for the sky
And I can see the light of a clear blue morning
I can see the light of brand new day
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
Oh, and everything's gonna be all right
It's gonna be okay
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
I can see the light of brand new day
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
Ooh, everything's gonna be all right
Everything's gonna be all right
Everything's gonna be all right
It's gonna be okay
And I can see the light of a clear blue morning
I can see the light of a brand-new day
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
Ooh and everything's gonna be all right
Everything's gonna be all right
Everything's gonna be all right
It's gonna be okay
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
I can see the light of brand new day
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
Everything's gonna be all right
Everything's gonna be all right
Everything's gonna be all right
It's gonna be okay

During this season of light, don't get so caught up in the crazy that you forget about the love. In the end, it is all we have to give and it is all that really matters. The rest will come and go, as we all know so very well, and it is best to give the gift of your presence, your love, your laughter, and your smile; the gift of your light. In this season of light, let your love light shine. 

"There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung...
All you need is love, love.
All the need is love.
The Beatles

Tuesday, November 26, 2019




I am grateful for what I am and have. 
My Thanksgiving is perpetual.
Henry David Thoreau

As we embrace Thanksgiving upon us, it is important to remember to just breathe and know that love lasts forever. It can be such a difficult day, and at the same time so wonderfully beautiful because of the legacy love has left us.

This year, John and I are hosting our first Thanksgiving together since our new marriage with our children, our grandchildren in "our" new home and celebrating our new life together.  I do realize that for many of you can't even imagine that your life can be different. However, it is true to some extent that we are the result of our choices. We have a unique opportunity to recreate ourselves in widowhood and become all we want to be. I’m living in this bold, bright beautiful new life because I chose to say “YES” to a series of difficult, mindful and absolutely life-changing choices.

My first Thanksgiving after Kevin passed away, I was invited to go to Cleveland with my daughter’s in-laws.  It was sooo good to do something different. I still remember waiting in line at the airport, alone, surrounded by so many others, and thinking how different it was to be there and not at home for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful adventure. I had an amazing time visiting new places and seeing things I had never experienced for the first time. I loved it. When we had our “new normal” for Christmas that year, I could barely breathe.  Each holiday will bring its own challenges and successes. We have to stand tall and do what “feels” good for us, even if it’s at the risk of moving forward in a new way. It can’t be the same again, because it isn’t. As the years' pass, our emotions go through transformation. Some moments so difficult and painful; other minutes breaming with tears of joyfulness, fondly remembering our loved ones and the legacy they left us.

I have really been trying to stay focused on gratefulness. It is important to remember what we do have to be grateful for. Sometimes we try to limit our love because we don't want to be hurt again but we can't spend too much of our life boxed into the grief - we must step out and live again.

Thanksgiving has always been a special time in our family - my parents moved into our family home over thanksgiving, Kevin and I got engaged on Thanksgiving Day in 1978 and we moved into our family home over thanksgiving. John and JoAnn hosted their first family meal in "our" "new" home, their home. But I must say it feels "good" to do something new and different and not be worried about letting go of some of the traditional things. We have hosted Thanksgiving at our Lakehouse for probably the last 20 years... so this is very different, but with two new grandbabies, a new marriage, new family, etc. it's nice to experience something different. I'm looking forward to it.

No matter what you do to get through today, do something for you. You must find a way to make this new life work for you. You can surround yourself with family and friends, and you can spend quiet time in reflection and renewal, but as my daughter’s sister in law says... "You do YOU!" You must! No one else can. Don't let someone else make the choices for YOUR new life.

It is Thanksgiving today. It is a beautiful day no matter where you are. One of our leaders is in Las Vegas with dear friends --for the first time she is doing a very different Thanksgiving. I’m proud of her. Another leader is in Chicago with her children, dining at a fabulous restaurant that has been on her bucket list forever, way before she lost her husband... she made it happen! Do something for you. Take a walk. Invite another widow for coffee and conversation. Write a long-overdue letter to someone you love someone that needs you to be you so they can heal, and move forward. do something that brings you joy. 

As we sit on the verge of all the holidays, steaming towards us at a thousand miles an hour pace, please set aside time to find some inner peace. to take that second breath, to have another cup of coffee. Treat yourself to an inspirational read. Replay and sing that favorite song of yours a second time. Take a long, hot bath with candles and some cheer! Do what it takes to get through the day without breaking your heart. 

Please don't misunderstand me. The tears may come, and that's ok. The seat at the head of the table is empty. The candle of lifelong love for your soulmate never goes out. Your love will never be replaced. Let your heart be open – to grieve and to grow - replace your fear with faith - enjoy the love that surrounds you and have a second dose to carry home with you.

Maria Shriver, one of my favorite author's shares, “We all need others to help us with our work and our ideas. We all need others who can help us see ourselves, love ourselves, and find our way forward. We are all dependent, independent, and interdependent at the same time. None of us are an island, and yet way too many of us feel like we are alone. So, this holiday season, may we each try—in ways big and small—to step out of our comfort zone. May we notice someone who is struggling and offer them a hand. May we buy someone a coffee. May we thank someone for a gesture (even if it happened long ago)."

On Thanksgiving, over 40 years ago, Kevin asked me to marry him and to be the father of our children… I said "YES!!!" to my soulmate, my best friend, my husband, and the father of our three amazing children. What a wonderful adventure we had together! 

Today, my heart is brimming with love, gratitude, and thankfulness for all the wonderful new gifts of love and new life, both in marriage and in the birth of new babies and in the promise of upcoming marriages – Blessings and grace surround all of us in every moment of every day! Remarried now to a widower that truly "Loves me just as I am for the new woman I have become" we are just beginning our brand-new life together, full of love, and laughter and hope. It's a life I had imagined, only in my dreams. It's important that we take time to stop and recognize all the blessings we find along the way to say "Thanks!" I'm grateful for my faith, all my family- old and new, all my friends, and all my new friends-- friends I would never have met if I had not been on this journey… 

“To love is not to possess,
To own or imprison,
Nor to lose one's self in another.
Love is to join and separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
It is to be perfectly one's self
And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
To another--and to one's inner self.
Love only endures when it moves like waves,
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moon's own predictable harmony,
Because finally, despite a child's scars
Or an adult's deepest wounds,
They are openly free to be
Who they really are--and always secretly were,
In the very core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide.”
― James Kavanaugh

Happy Thanksgiving to each one of you! I love you all always! Enjoy every second!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Being Grounded

“Traveler, there is no path. The path must be forged as you walk.” Antonio Machado

I found myself grounded while traveling in Italy in an unusual way. I was walking up the aisle of the Duomo of St. George in Ragusa, Italy, feeling I was totally secure and grounded in the moment. It felt as if all my life was meant to lead me to the very moment I was stepping into. I was overwhelmed by all the emotions of the changes I am experiencing in my new life, as I moved forward on rich, ancient, patterned marble, looking up towards the beautiful alter, full of gold and glory. I felt overwhelmed by the majesty of the transformation in my heart and my soul. So grateful to be taking each step forward, and realizing that it was the cumulation of all the previous steps I have taken to be standing right there,  now in the middle of the beautiful place. 

Psychology Today defines being grounded as “ the ability to be completely aware and conscious during the present moment. Michael Daniels defines being grounded in Shadow, Self, Spirit as “a sense of being fully embodied, whole, centered and balanced in ourselves and our relationships.” It also implies a deeper connection to our “authentic self”

The journey of widowhood does call us to review, reflect and refresh our lives and to determine our next steps. Suddenly we are faced with a labyrinth of new decisions and possible directions - not knowing which way to turn. We turn to others; family, friends, trusted advisors; but ultimately, we must turn within ourselves to find the key to our map for our future. To begin again, in this new life, and to become grounded again so we can grow and move forward. 

Let’s be honest. It’s hard to be grounded after a great loss. It takes time. It takes lots of time and plenty of devotion. My answer is certainly not yours and your answer won’t work for me. The richness that being in MWC is that we have a “Thrive Tribe” and other women that know this walk of widowhood well can help guide us and lead us, or even just listen as we work to find our new inner voice, to ask good questions, seek, study and surmise good answers that will help us feel more whole, more grounded and more ourselves.

A member once asked me, “How can I find contentment?” I told her I could not give her her answer, but for me, I find contentment when I take the time to go outside and take a walk. Just the very act of my two feet connecting with the planet earth, walking my dog Sadie, and admiring the grass flowers around me and the beautiful sky above me gives me peace.  I find myself content, grounded and reconnected. The very act of stepping out forces my thoughts out of my body and projects them out into the world; bringing the new day into focus and seeing things outside my physical limits. Truly, even in a time of great stress, fear, loss of focus or even great grief, just making myself go outside and walk, despite the temperatures or weather, helps clear my head. 

I have studied being grounded from a variety of sources. They all seem to mention the connection to the earth, working with your breathing, and meditation. Meditation means whatever you chose to use as a way to give praise, share joy and find inner peace. It’s not about religion or spiritual law, it’s about you finding a way to share your heartfelt emotions with the greater God of your choice and owning it as a way to feel your inner peace. 

Prayer, music, devotionals, yoga, all can work together to help you find a little bit of quiet for your soul. Also, I recommend that you put clear boundaries on your daily problem-solving time. As an example, while I was unemployed for several years after I lost my husband, I found myself spending hours and hours worrying about the same things over and over and over again. Finally, I decided, after my walk, my devotional time, my breakfast, I would spend xxx amount of time-solving the issues that had to be resolved for that day. Some are short term issues, and some are long term problems that need resolution, however, you only have so much time, money and energy to resolve the problems of the day. I would spend my time, whatever I determined that I need to do that day, write down the issues, pencil in the solutions and do whatever tasks I had to do that day until they were done. But after my self imposed “boundary time” is over, I’m done. I can’t pay any more bills, or spend another minute trying to solve a long term issue - In other words, I have done my “work” for the day on my problems and they are NOT ALLOWED to have any more of my time or my day. Each time my stubborn mind would try to go back to my problems, I push it back and think, “No, I have already dealt with that today, and I’m all done until tomorrow.” I realize that this may sound a bit “Scarlett O’Hara-ish” however it helps a great deal and I highly recommend you try it. I meet lots of people that can spend their entire day spinning about the same problem for hours on end and still have no better solutions. All those wasted hours worrying won’t solve anything more than a few focused minutes can. Truly, most likely, you won’t have more money, more time, or a better solution just by spending more of your precious time worrying about your troubles. Trust me they will be there again tomorrow and you can work on them then. Otherwise, you will just waste most of a beautiful new day worrying about something you truly can’t resolve any better than you already have with the time you have already spent focusing on it. Move on and get grounded. 

Sometimes we struggle to believe it, but we do have total control of our attitudes.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” Viktor E. Frankl

To a very great extent, we are the summary of our choices. 

Almost everything I have studied about being grounded and centered includes the following suggestions: 
1. Breathing exercises. Sometimes we just need to STOP, Focus and BREATHE. There are many types of breathing exercises. Here are two examples—try the one that works best for you. To the count of ten, take a deep inhalation through your nose. Hold your breath for the count of ten. Now exhale through your nose for a count of ten. Repeat as often as needed. Another breathing exercise involves taking ten slow breaths, one at a time, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Then to the count of ten, exhale through your nose.
2. Walking meditation. This exercise is about using walking as your focus. Try walking slowly, being mindful of each step you take. Feel the ground beneath you. This is best done outside in nature, but you can really do it anywhere. (Obviously, my favorite!)
3. Play music. Play instrumental music and give it all your focus -noticing all the instruments and the mood of the music. (I love music too. I add to devotion/meditation time in the mornings and evenings.) Music plays a huge role in soothing us and helping us feel grounded.
4. Stop, focus and listen carefully. If you’re talking to others, listen carefully to every word they’re saying. Focus. If you feel inclined, write down the dialogue in your journal. Practice being mindful by just being present. We get so distracted by electronics, it’s very important to be present in the moment when you are with others and enjoy your sacred time with them. Truly listening can bring great gifts of understanding, compassion, empathy, joyfulness, and hope. The human connection is real.
Brene Brown shares I was sure of one thing: Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” We need connection with others and we need to find a connection to be our true, authentic selves. 

Find a true, trusted friend that you can safely share with- the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s important to have someone we can share our roller coaster ride of emotions with safely.. Take time to look outside yourself,  do something for yourself and something for someone else. All of these practices help us become better humans. When we give of ourselves, we just have more to give. Love is always multiplied and never divided. 

It is important to take the time to do the work to become grounded. You deserve it and we want to know the authentic “YOU”! You are beautiful and it takes time and devotion to figure who the new you are along the way. The journey is long and hard, but the rewards and rich and enlightening --It is an ongoing project with lots of twists and turns and you will find out much about yourself as you continue moving forward. I wish you the best of luck. It is a great feeling to love the new you and to feel grounded wherever life takes you - even if it is down a marble aisle in the Duomo of St. George in Ragusa, Italy.

“We are, all of us, molded and remolded by those who have loved us and though that love may pass, we remain nonetheless their work--a work that very likely they do not recognize and which is never exactly what they have intended. The Desert of Love - Francois Maurice

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Being Adventurous: Courage to Choose!

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.” Mark Twain

Being adventurous is not always traveling alone to Fiji. It can start as simply as dinner out by yourself for the first time ever. Going to the movie…alone. Letting yourself pick and chose what YOU want to do. In marriage, we are bonded to our soul mate forever. We can’t even begin to imagine a life alone. We don’t want to and for the longest time, we don’t have to. But in Widowhood, we find ourselves ALONE. Sometimes for the very first time ever. All of us, no matter where we are in our lives’ journey should learn to be with our selves alone. We should learn about ourselves. Find out more about ourselves. Push ourselves to grow and learn and laugh. And to be adventurous. We deserve it.

“Everything happens for a reason, and part of that beauty of life is that we're not allowed to know those reasons for certain.” - Aron Ralston, Between a Rock and a Hard Place

While I never ever lived alone a single day in my life until I lost my husband, my first attempt at being adventurous happened in my teens. I lost my soul mate first boyfriend to suicide at the age of 16. My mother, my rock and my sustainer, was recovering from major surgery. I was on my own to figure out what to do with all my feelings. One thing I knew about my mother was, that although she came to America from France on a freighter with my father, she didn't like to do things some things alone - like eating out. So, I took on that inherited “fear” and made myself do things alone after Philip died. I went to the movies alone. I went on big riding adventures on my bike alone. When I was older, I even went to dinner with myself at a nice restaurant – alone – hugely pregnant with twins on Valentine’s Day no less. I think we must make a serious commitment to do some of our favorite things alone.

When we’re married, or with family, we are seldom alone. We make all our decisions and share our adventures with someone else. However, doing things alone, from road trips to restaurants, makes you learn more about your true authentic self. Where do you want to go? What do you want to see? What do you feel like eating? What concert would you go to alone? I have gone to many! Alone!!

When we set expectations for ourselves, and align them with real goals and timelines, the results are our adventures. We can do anything we chose to do if we do it. We must be smart about it. Think about it. Plan it. Prepare for it. Save for it. Give it a date and a timeline. Then just DO IT!

 “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” – Walt Disney

I love to walk in the park near my house. There were days after work, I would just stop and go for a long walk. I always carried a minimum – careful to lock my belongs in the trunk and always have my key and cell phone. Connecting with nature, for me, gives me great peace and balance. It helps settle my thoughts and organize what all I need to do in an order I can work with. But you do have to think outside the box to find ways that help you be you. What works. What doesn’t. While I love adventure and most exercise, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find my jumping out of an airplane or going on a zip line. But then again, I said I would “never” go on a cruise, and I did go on a cruise and it changed my life. Forever and for good! It was important for me to be adventurous in order to learn that about myself.

Many of you know that I did go to Fiji alone. I met a friend the 2nd week, but I wanted to go alone for me, and honestly, for you too. I wanted to see how I (WE) did. What would scare me? Would I enjoy it – the long flight – the complete solitude, the planning adventures for each new day alone, every single meal alone, cooking for one, or going out to restaurant or bar for HH… scary stuff. But I enjoyed it and I was proud of myself for doing it. Nyla went to Hawaii for two weeks to celebrate her anniversary -- alone. She did it! She always inspires me to greater heights – she drives all over the country on adventures all the time. She is careful and she plans, and she stays in touch, so people know where she is, but she has a blast! She is a great adventurer. She wanted to see Paul McCartney perform and so she found a concert in Dallas, she got one ticket, jumped in her car and she went. She said it was fabulous! She has no fear of traveling alone. There are many of us, as widows, that have dared to be bold and adventurous and have stepped out of our comfort zone to Be Adventurous.

The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” 
-Aron Ralston, Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I’m following Oprah and Deepak’s Meditations these next three weeks on Miraculous Relationships. Today’s meditation was on Miraculous YOU! It’s perfect! Oprah shares that: “The One thing that is REQUIRED for any relationship to flourish: Knowing who we really are.” 

It is the secret to your freedom. Widowhood gives us a chance to truly become who we really are. Now. Who we want to be. Who we dreamed we could be. All that we are; just as we are. Once you take the time to really get to know yourself, you will start to love her --the new "you" all over again. And she can be anything you want her to be…

I encourage you to start small. What is it you want to do? Pick something. Anything. Like I said, a movie, a meal, a hike, or a trip. Just pick it and plan it and do it. Let me know how you feel when you get back. Share with your fellow wisters. Keep us bonded together tighter in unity to remember there is power in our connection and that you will inspire and encourage others around you.

“The One you are looking for is the One who is looking.” Francis of Assisi

We are the summary of our choices. We didn’t choose to be widows, but we do make many choices in our widowhood. Those individual decisions lead us to the life we are living. We can change them. We can adjust them. We can expand them. We can tighten them… It is up to Us and Only Us to decide what is best for US. You must do YOU. No one else really can. And you owe it to Us for You to be YOU! It’s up to you if you to decide how you want to live this new life we are creating. You can stand in Fear or you can stand in Faith, but you can’t stand both places at the same time. Become the Woman you’ve always wanted to be. You can be adventurous by just daring to be authentic you! I dare you to choose to be Adventurous!

“I am becoming the woman I've wanted,
grey at the temples,
soft body, delighted,
cracked up by life
with a laugh that's known bitter
but, past it, got better,
knows she's a survivor--
that whatever comes,
she can outlast it.
I am becoming a deep
weathered basket.

I am becoming the woman I've longed for,
the motherly lover
with arms strong and tender,
the growing up daughter
who blushes surprises.
I am becoming full moons
and sunrises.

I find her becoming,
this woman I've wanted,
who knows she'll encompass,
who knows she's sufficient,
knows where she's going
and travels with passion.
Who remembers she's precious,
but knows she's not scarce--
who knows she is plenty,
plenty to share.”

Jayne Brown

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

A Happier, Healthier You…
Some tips from my Maman!

“Her soul is Alive. And we are drawn to her.”

- Captivating – Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, John & Stase Eldredge


As we focus on health and healing this month, I must consider and share some of the healthy tips I’ve learned from my Maman.  Michele Darroquy Ichon is 90 and she is my hero, my mentor, my solid rock. Always there for me, no matter what. She is quiet, she is humble, and she is filled with a silent power, tenacity and beautiful resilience I can only hope to mirror. She’s a widow too.

She was born in 1928 in France. She survived World War II with her family. She met and married my Father in St. Jean de Luz, a tiny fishing village in the south of France and came to America with my father on a ship after they married in 1956. They had nothing and began to build a beautiful life here. She became Vice Consul at the French consulate, where she served over 30 years.  She raised three successful children and has 5 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren, with two more due this fall.

“We desire to possess a beauty that is worth pursuing, worth fighting for, a beauty that is core to who we truly are. We want beauty that can be seen; beauty that can be felt; beauty that affects others; a beauty all our own to unveil.”  - Captivating – Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, John &  Stase Eldredge


When she rescued me during Hurricane Harvey, by giving me shelter in my childhood home for several months, I learned much about her daily rituals that have kept her healthy, both inside and out. I think we could all learn from her applied wisdom and gracefulness.

Here are some lessons I learned from her:

She sleeps till 8 every morning. She gets up, makes her coffee, sets her breakfast spread in the dining room to watch the birds and she overlooks her lovely garden. She prefers not to be disturbed until after her breakfast, no earlier than 8:30 or even 9.

She goes outside and walks her garden every morning after breakfast. If there are weeds to pull or flowers to trim, this is the time she does it. She is always working in her garden and it shows. It is always a sheer delight to see all the glory she has there to behold. But it takes time, devotion and dedication. She told me long ago when she lost my dad, and after I lost Kevin, she reminded me again…"Go outside in the garden and dig, dig, dig. There is healing in the soil. It will help you.” Her garden is her sanctuary. I call it “Church of the Great Outdoors.

She bathes and dresses for the day, every day. Not the yoga pants I often find myself wearing until I must go out in public. No, she puts on slacks and a nice top, shoes, and some jewelry. Every day and mostly to stay home.

She exercises every day. I’m not sure how many times, but several times a day, between chores and reading, she walks the hallways of her home. Up and down the halls, over and over at a nice clip. She walks well, sometimes using a cane, which she tends to drag behind her…

She stands tall, shoulders back and never slouches. Something she taunted me with since my childhood, and I still must remind myself most days.

She reads. She is an endless source of information; from history, fine art, classical music, French cooking, gardening, world politics, child-rearing, and life coping skills, she’s learned along the way. She reads a variety of books, at least two at a time, for hours a day, to keep updated, and informed and always learning, growing and sharing her knowledge. She has the best vocabulary of anyone I have ever met, even if she speaks with a strong French accent.

She stays calm. When she realizes she can’t fix or conquer something out of her control, she lets it go. Period. No sense worrying any about something you will not be able to change. We could all learn from that.

She eats well and cooks for herself. You should know that my Maman became a widow at 53. The same age I did. While I lived on my green couch for about three years eating peanut butter from a jar with a spoon, or making an occasional grilled cheese, or egg, she cooks a nice meal for her lunch every day! She rarely eats bread. She treats herself to one or two cookies or a piece of chocolate. She buys a little filet mignon once a month, as she is on a very limited income, but she treats herself. Her only medication - one high blood pressure pill.

She stays in touch with family and friends. She’s not a talker and doesn't enjoy being on the phone, however, she does always speak with her family in France and her friends here. She stays connected. When she is invited, she goes. There are so many things she is interested in that she is always thinking, planning and attending interesting events. Concerts in Roundtop at Festival Hill. She taught French for many, many years at the Harris County Precinct Tracey Gee. She took Spanish. She’s in a French literary group. She meets once a week with friends from the French consulate she worked with years ago, as well as fellow friends from her church, St. Cecelia, where she has belonged since I was 4.

She listens to the French news, at 5pm, which is focused on World news, much more international than anything we see here with our local news. It keeps her informed, up to date and this is another hard “do not disturb” time that she doesn’t like to be interrupted. Don’t call during the 5pm news!

She has a scotch at 6pm every night. Whether she is here, or in France, it doesn’t matter. It’s time for her scotch. Period. If she goes to a party and they have bubbles, she drinks the champagne. If we go out for Mexican food, she orders a margarita. Only one, and only on occasion. Moderation is her constant.

She goes to bed later that I do. About 10:30 or 11:00 she goes to bed. She may read, she may not. But she has had a good full day and she makes the time to rest. She sleeps well. She is peaceful. She is calm and she prepares herself for the next day.

My Maman is an inspiration to me. She has lived a good, healthy life, filled with lots of love. However, she has overcome a lot to be the wonderful woman she is. I’ve learned so much from her. I’m not recommending you adopt all her tips, but I am challenging you to set your own standards, determine your personal guidelines for health, and make your decision to stay committed to living a happier, healthier life!

“A woman is a warrior too. But she is meant to be a warrior in a uniquely feminine way. Sometime before the sorrows of life did their best to kill it in us, most young women wanted to be a part of something grand, something important.” - Captivating – Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, John & Stase Eldredge

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Galveston Bay - West End at Sunset
Nesting - Beyond the Sea

Rachel Hollis
Girl Wash your Face!
Know this one great truth: you are in control of your own life. You get one and only one chance to live, and life is passing you by. Stop beating yourself up, and dang it, stop letting others do it too.

I got to spend some time on the sea recently. The gray clouds touching the sea, drawing me in, pulling me forward into the tumbling tide, towards the moon and back again, to the shore and life, life past, life present and finally life future, sunrise leading the way before me. I stood there in awe of the wave’s majesty and how the moon can push and pull us. How the sun breaks through the sky, like the birth of a new babe. Calling us, showing us to step in, to stand tall and to begin again and again. Over and over and over again… the grays, the sea, the sun, the sand the salt. I stood there just beyond the sea and reflected the light of all that surrounds me and all that is in me.

It is no coincidence that it was my turn to write for Modern Widows Club this month. I’m nesting for sure! In a strange new way. I’m moving out of my home of 30 years just before this trip to the beach. Packing and touching every single part of me. We bought this house when our twin daughters, Claire and Nicole were 4. It is the only house our son, Chris, has ever known. I dreamed of this house when we bought it and now, I’m letting it go, to be loved again by another man, joining another family beginning a new chapter in another story.

Beyond the Sea - 
Thomas Love Peacock

Beyond the sea, beyond the sea,
My heart is gone, far, far from me;
And ever on its track will flee
My thoughts, my dreams, beyond the sea.

Beyond the sea, beyond the sea,
The swallow wanders fast and free:
Oh, happy bird! were I like thee,
I, too, would fly beyond the sea.

Beyond the sea, beyond the sea,
Are kindly hearts and social glee:
But here for me they may not be;
My heart is gone beyond the sea.

I’m moving into a new house! Amidst all my boxes, I'm letting go of the past and moving boldly into the future. I find I want less. I need less. I want more experiences than books, more moonlight strolls than paper goods. More spending time with loved ones than the clutter that kept me captive for at least three paralyzed for years. I want to live the new life I have created.

I’m reminded daily by how our choices define us. We are the result of our decisions, our commitments, our lessons teach us new realities. Many of us became alone not by choice, but by fate. The loss of a loved one, a lover or husband that walks away, our children as they grow and move away - and here we are.

We are called to do our own “nesting” and to touch and feel all those items that used to bring us Joy--as Marie Kondo teaches in the "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up". We have nothing in our homes, nor our souls, we didn’t collect along the sandy beach called life, and we have taken these material things into our hearts and our minds to keep, to hold onto and to remember forever all the memories they held- both the good and the bittersweet.

Carolyn Moor, fervent, resilient leader of MWC came to stay with me a few days a couple of years ago. We were out and about all day, on television, lunch at the fancy, beautiful Petroleum Club, Happy Hour with some of our MWC members, then finally she passed out roses and shared her story at our meeting. We came home exhausted and tumbled into bed. I had been “preparing” for her visit for months - spending time organizing, cleaning and decluttering, as you would for a royal visit. 

The next morning, I made Carolyn breakfast, and she quietly took it all in. My home. And she responded. "This is not YOUR home, this is the home our raised your children in, it is your FAMILY HOME, but it doesn’t reflect who you are when you are out. You need to make this Home YOUR home. Now. It’s time." Those words wounded me straight to the core, but only to realize she was right, ohhhh so very right. 

I realized that I had become a captured prisoner in my home, all the memories and all the clutter; a list of what Kevin had eaten for the day which I kept only because I believed that by keeping it, somehow, I could continue to hold on to him. It was a Lie. And as Rachel Hollis says in her book “Girl Wash Your FACE!” it was one of the many lies we tell ourselves that keeps us stuck in a cold, dark space.

Nesting is about making your space YOUR space. Let go and get rid of what you don’t want, don’t need. Make some room for comfort, for healing, for hope. It is time to make your house the new you home. I bought a couple of chairs from Pier One, a bright new tablecloth that made me happy, Let go of some of the books and moved some of my favorites to my bedside, coffee table for easy access.

Many of you know I lived on my green couch for 3 years. I’m letting it go. My friend is taking it so I can come visit her and reminisce. But honestly, I don't’ want to “sit” there anymore. I want to be beyond the sea, on a new shore, in a new home, waiting for new experiences in my brand-new life.

I challenge you to take a chance and make the choice to make some changes. It is easy to get overwhelmed. 

Here are my tips:
  • Stay calm
  • Choose a room
  • Set a time for 15 minutes - if you want to do more, you add another 15
  • Start in a corner, or a drawer or a tiny space you want to change
  • Sort = Keep, Donate or just Throw away
  • I threw away my Jr. High autograph book because I realized I only look at it when I clean
  • I never come home from work and say “Gee I feel like looking at my Jr. high autographed book k tonight”
  • Think of all those you can bless by getting the bags of stuff you don’t need to someone who does
  • §Find a charity you want to support --there are so many. Many services will come right to your front door.
  • Pick a date, make an appointment and set your goal on freedom from clutter.
  • It won't happen overnight, so take your time. And make sure it’s YOUR timeline not someone else’s
  • No one’s schedule or reason is yours but your very own
  • I promise the uncluttered space is so refreshing, renewing, and rewarding. It will give you calm and peace

Galveston Bay - Sunrise

Beyond the Sea
Somewhere beyond the sea 
Somewhere beyond the sea 
It's far beyond a star
We'll meet beyond the shore
I know beyond a doubt
Somewhere waiting for me
My lover stands on golden sands 
And watches the ships that go sailing
She's there watching for me
If I could fly like birds on high 
Then straight to her arms I'd go sailing
It's near beyond the moon
I know beyond a doubt 
My heart will lead me there soon
We'll kiss just like before
Happy we'll be beyond the sea
And never again I'll go sailing
My heart will lead me there soon
And we'll meet, I know we'll meet beyond the shore
We'll meet just as before

Just Do it - Not because I say so, but because you want the freedom it brings. Stick with it. Plan to work on certain spaces and mark it on your calendar.  You can’t do your whole house in a weekend, but if you mix hard work with something fun, you truly can get it done. I will work in the morning and treat myself to a walk in the park with Sadie after lunchKeep it simple, be consistent, but DO IT.

Just beyond the sea, the sky is calling you
Stand firm in the sand. Let the moon guide you home…
Beyond the sea; just beyond the sea.
Just beyond your clutter, a new life is calling
Reach for it, baby! I beg you! Reach for your new life.
It is there waiting for you!!!