I Swear


Yes, I do.  I swear.

Just the other day I had a long discussion with a woman friend about social behaviors and courtesies.  With some friends, a swear word may pop out of my mouth during both carefree and care-full times.  With others, my language is kept suitable.  I would prefer not to use bad words.  As my writing expands, I am more aware of the superior impact of well-chosen words over the alternatives.

Recent inner dialogue I’ve been having with myself has included consideration of how I want to be perceived in this new normal of a life; it includes being well-mannered.  I don’t want to swear and ought to stop cold-turkey.  In fact, at church services this past week I even made a silent promise to avoid swear words and asked for God’s assistance in keeping that commitment.

On that same Sunday I finally had time to read the prior day’s Wall Street Journal.  Oh, my goodness, the issue included an article written by Emma Byrne entitled “The Many Benefits of the Occasional Swear Word.” (WSJ, January 13, 2018, p. C3)  What?  Really?

Dr. Byrne noted researchers have found that using off-color words when in pain actually reduces the pain’s impact.  This is true not only for physical pain, but also social pain – leading me to infer swearing may help relieve emotional pain.  I use inappropriate words more frequently since Rick’s death, and it is way beyond time to wipe them from my personal vocabulary.  Somehow saying shocking words have allowed me to express my frustration and pain in a way that called others’ attention to my neediness.  As I noted in my last post to this blog, I am feeling “whole” in a way I haven’t for over eighteen months so I don’t need them anymore.

Just over sixteen years ago Rick had his first surgical procedure for his newly-diagnosed bladder cancer. He was discharged from the hospital with a catheter.  I know I don’t need to describe the immense discomfort a man experiences from one of those.  As he sat home, waiting for the days to pass until he could be released from his unwanted tether, he discovered HBO’s “The Sopranos.”  There’s a lot of profanity in that show.  I think just simply watching others say words which rarely, if ever, crossed his lips, provided some relief from the physical discomfort.  Over subsequent years his personal relationships, motorcycling, bicycling and lifelong learning habits were all better tools for coping with his disease.

There are better tools in my toolbox, too.  So I will stop cussing.

I swear!

Stepping On and Out


A lot of people make New Year’s resolutions.  In the past I promised myself I would lose weight, always say “thank you” and take other steps for self-improvement.  Not anymore.  As I enter the second calendar year a widow I turn more to bucket lists, challenging myself to explore my outer and inner world.

Here are two external experiences I want to try this year to test my bravery and overcome fears:  take a zip line tour and try out scuba diving in a local river.  I have already found a girlfriend who wants to try zip lines, too, and we’ll give it a go – I’m terrified of the thought of hanging off a narrow wire and flying through the air, high above the ground.  There are a lot of pro dive shops here, so I’ll choose one which offers an introductory scuba excursion – again, I’m afraid of going so deep into the water that I have to rely on an air tank.

My inner world also requires some attention.  I find I am becoming restless with solitude.  Formerly I seemed to need almost an entire day of seclusion to regain the necessary energy to engage with others.  Sunday was often that day, and if I had another activity that took up most of that day, I struggled the next several days, seeking silence and sleep.  Now I don’t want an entire day, or even a full day – I’ll go out bicycling on my own or call up a few friends.  This shift is a good thing; it indicates the way I present myself in the world is becoming more aligned with my reality.  It is not so exhausting because I am not pretending to be all right when I’m not; I’m really all right so much of the time now.

I enjoy writing posts for this blog most of the time, but other times I struggle for appropriate material.  While I am willing to share a fair amount about myself, I do not want to cross the line by writing about others in a way that makes them uncomfortable.  Thus I refer to my beloved stepdaughters, but I try not to reveal anything private.  As I step further into 2018 I need to find a way to continue to post in a way which meets both my and my readers’ expectations.

Time with friends is something I enjoy more than ever – individuals, team mates and neighbors of both genders.  It feels good, albeit a bit scary, to step out with someone with whom I have a budding friendship.  Life demands different characteristics to come to the forefront in different situations.  Humor, commitment, empathy, judgment and competitiveness all have their place in my world, but sometimes I need to back it down and other times step it up.  Upsy-daisy!


Time Changes


I flipped through a book on leadership not too long ago and found not only passages highlighted by Rick, but even a handwritten list of significant changes he had made to improve himself. I’ve shared the list with his daughters and we all agree each item on the list resonates true.

The book is Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within by Robert E. Quinn. Rick read it while transitioning from an executive role to leadership consulting. The major theme throughout the book is that “we must continuously choose between deep change or slow death” (Page xiii). Using his own resilience and self-knowledge, consultants, books and counselors, Rick had already taken huge strides into a life of greater integrity before he opened this particular book.

I do not have the strength of character I saw in Rick, but I end 2017 stronger and more self-aware than ever before.

“Time heals all wounds” is simply poppycock. I will always have our love embedded inside me and I will never stop feeling his absence. Time, however, does change things. I admit that I probably have tinted my memories of our good times a rosier hue. Remembering arguments and misunderstandings hurt, so I don’t linger on those. I revel in the knowledge of our passion and commitment to one another – we truly had an unusually close relationship.

If I had tried to continue with the life and activities we shared, that surely would have been a slow death for me. A widow cannot remain the same woman she was before; she has to undergo significant change. If you’ve been reading my posts, you know I have picked up activities and friends, and discarded some of both. I have tried to find my way to the best of my ability and overall I am satisfied with my journey so far.

Recently I was at a party to celebrate the publication of a new book.  Also in attendance was a couple to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for pushing me into writing. Last year a local city’s marketing staff was looking for someone to write lighthearted posts about cycling; this particular couple, as leaders in the cycling community, was asked for recommendations and reached out to me. It was just a few months after Rick’s passing and I turned them down flat. After further consideration, I realized I was the perfect candidate for the writing assignment. That grew into a second assignment with the same municipality and this personal blog. At the book party two other possible writing assignments emerged.

With Rick by my side I was a different and more joyful woman. I am undergoing deep change to live more abundantly in my new life. I love my family, I value my friends, and I look forward to 2018’s adventures!

Clothes Make the (Wo)Man


It’s hot; it’s cold.  You’d think at my age swings in temperature wouldn’t affect my body as much as they do.  And there are certain unreasonable rules of life.  While I still had hot flashes they seemed to come unbidden after I was dressed and had on my makeup.  Now when temperatures reach 80 degrees in Florida in December it seems to trigger something akin to those irksome hot flashes.  The other night I was at a party which spilled out into a lovely lanai area, but there were insufficient breezes to keep me cool and dry.  Thank goodness I didn’t wear a holiday sweater!

If I am bicycling, then I expect to swelter.  If I am off to a social event, then I certainly don’t want to be a woman who “glows.” (Some Southerners say that horses sweat, men perspire and women glow.  I am definitely a woman, but I do more than glow!)

Some of my cyclist friends are so efficient they don’t even have a bag on their bikes – the lighter the load, the faster they ride.  I have a big bag behind my recumbent bike seat that has a folded tire, at least one tube, assorted tools, a lock and some first aid items.  There’s the inevitable mobile phone and ID, too.  This time of year the bag also may hold a brightly-colored vest, windbreaker and full-finger gloves!  I may start out shivering, but in a few miles I start stripping off the extraneous clothes and stuffing them in my bag.

I have been going through my closets again.  Do I really need to hold onto more than a few wintry coats in case I ever find myself in northern climates in the winter?  (Uh, maybe not.)  Do I really need black pants in a light weight, mid-weight and thick ponte knit? (Yes.)  Even if Pantone’s 2018 Color of the Year is Ultra Violet, does that mean it is a “must” to have a purple tee-shirt, purple blouse and purple sweater?  (Definitely!)

Going through closets also means assessing my need to hang onto Rick’s clothing.  Most of his items were donated long ago, but there are some pieces with which I am loath to part because they were favorites of his.  I also keep his bright yellow bicycling vest and windbreaker hanging next to mine for no other reasons than that’s what we always did and it brings me comfort.  I have come so far in these past 18+ months, yet every day — multiple times a day — I think of him and wish he was still here.  (I’d even cull my clothing to give him more closet space!)

As you think of loved ones no longer at your holiday tables this season, I wish you love, peace and joy.




I almost took the leap last week. Dogs are wonderful companions and it will be twenty-six years this Christmas Eve since my last beloved dog passed away. I have been getting more and more sturdy and stable in my new life, and have been considering what other challenges I might take on. While noodling around on the Internet, looking at various dog breeds and rescues, I saw a really, really sweet furry face. I read up on her and with much trepidation, drove to a no-kill shelter a few counties away.

The little dog was so cute, yet so scared of people she would not make eye contact with the seasoned volunteer, much less me. We spent time outside with her, trying to interest her in meeting me, playing with a ball – anything – but she desperately wanted only to return to her kennel and kennel-mate. She came from a hoarding situation, so she prefers being around dozens of dogs.

I can’t bring a dog like that home to be an “only” dog, even if I provided her with human companionship, exercise and a healthier life.

This thought process naturally led to introspection. I’m an only child, an introvert and I attended seven different schools for twelve grades. So I am opposite from this rescue dog – in many cases I prefer not being around dozens of people. This past Sunday I was with friends from sunrise to sunset and didn’t get my usual “down” time. Within a few days, I was desperate to be by myself – silence is golden!

My core remains static; my exterior is transmuted by life.

Good and Evil


A recent post of mine addressed the momentum of accusations of sexual harassment and abuse. Daily we are learning of others, men so far, who have used their power to take advantage of women and men in a sexual manner. Once one person speaks up, then usually other victims chime in.

Overall this seems to me to be a good thing. As actress Emma Thompson told The Guardian, ““Does it only count if you have done it to loads and loads of women, or does it count if you have done it to one woman, once. I think the latter.” If our culture can reduce harassment and abuse, hurrah for us.

However . . . .

Physical touch has tremendous power for good, as well as for evil. Just think of times when a partner’s embrace comforted you in times of pain, or when a hug with a friend lifted your spirits. We can’t swing the pendulum entirely away from any physical touch between individuals.

Now that I’m widowed, I don’t touch anyone with regularity.

I miss it, so when the opportunity arises, I am grateful for the warmth given to me. One of my woman friends is struggling in her life, as I have been in mine. After a recent dinner together, we parted with a good long hug, bringing smiles to our troubled faces. There are two men in my life now who also have challenges and we are secure in sharing casual hugs of support when we meet. A final example are the hugs my stepdaughters give – making me feel cherished in their love for their father and now for me.

Years ago I conducted sexual harassment training for my employer. I was specific and strict in the organization’s expectations for proper behavior. A year or so later, an older manager told me how my training had affected his behavior. His young secretary’s husband was dying and when she could manage to come to work, she often broke down and sobbed. One time he wanted to give her a hug as she cried, but didn’t because of my admonitions. I felt badly – I do want people to touch one another in a positive way and I have to believe that can happen organically between/among people with good intent.

This past summer I attended a group’s national convention. On our name tags we had the choice of using green, yellow or red dots. A green dot meant we would accept a hug, yellow was a caution to ask for permission and red signaled no desire for physical contact. I think if we simply assumed that everyone wears a yellow dot and we ask permission before touching another, we’d make great strides in our culture.

“One is Silver and the Other Gold”


Yesterday morning I put my on “big girl panties” and dragged down all the Christmas decorations from the garage attic.

The second Christmas after Rick and I married we were in Michigan, living in our first home together. He was working and I had not yet found a new job – and we were just a few miles from a topnotch mall. I decided our tree would be mostly golds and whites and at the mall I found dozens of beautiful ornaments for our live-cut tree. As we traveled to various countries and regions over the years, I looked for commemorative ornaments to personalize our Christmas trees. Once we began to spend most holidays with my parents and then just with my father, we bought a large artificial tree which dwarfed our living room.

That big artificial tree followed us to Florida. Here’s a tip for people moving to Florida – no one, not even a thrift shop proprietor, wants a used artificial Christmas tree! We tried three nonprofits before we gave up and trashed the thing.

The last Christmas Rick was alive, in 2015, I bought one of the very skinny artificial trees that is only about 2-feet in diameter. It is bizarre looking, even covered with ornaments, but easy to navigate as it takes up such little space. I didn’t worry about all the holiday decorations not used that year, and last year I was too bereft to decorate — so this time I went through every box and tossed unused items. As I was on a roll, the tree is now up and perhaps today I’ll set out my grandmother’s crèche set. No one is due at my house until after Thanksgiving, so we’ll just keep my early decorating a secret, all right?

Last night I cried. This morning I cried. If Rick was still here my world would be full of gleaming gold; now it is streaked with silver threads of age and loss.

Timing is Everything


Here in Florida I have friends from several worlds:  bicycling, dragon boat racing, my neighborhood and other activities across the county.  There is minimal overlap among these worlds, and I navigate them comfortably.

At this stage of life and in this retirement-oriented community, there’s no predicting who will connect with another.  Relationships are developed without regard to geographic origin, career or financial resources, but rather for common interests, life experience and even simply proximity.  Rick and I biked alongside a few men for years and now I also dine out with them and their wives.  A single woman in my dragon boat club has become a good friend with whom to have fun evenings out and about.  A neighbor hosts the best mahjong gatherings.  Another woman has helped me develop contacts for writing assignments.  Before this time in life I would never have met them; today they are important to me.

I don’t, however, expect these people to be lifelong friends.  There are people in my past who were there when I needed them.  Aging and health, interests and other demands on our time will erode some of the friendships I so treasure now.  Other friends will surface when they are wanted in my future.  I hope I have served as a trusted confidante for other men and women in my life, and currently have some acquaintances for whom I provide support.

Sunday I several hours conversing with a wise friend.  Through her mindfulness practice, she has noted that when she remains in the present, without regard to the past or the future, she is not only balanced and serene, she is nowhere.  True present is elusive; once you give your mind permission to focus on the present, it is already in the past.  Friends may come and go, yet their value in our lives are memorable and immeasurable.

Wherever you go, there you are.  ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

Wheels Go Round


The wheels are spinning in my head all the time.” ~ Justin Berfield

In the past few weeks people have been telling me that I look happier and smile more than I have in a long time. I think they are right. I have been ridding myself of some wasted emotional energy, setting new goals and feeling less sorry for myself. My mind’s wheels have been turning.

So many of my posts have been about my grief – and recently I’ve been reflecting on his experience in the last years of his life. As long as I knew him, he was strong, self-confident and virtually fearless. Of course his career, personal and health challenges stressed him. Long before we came together he developed coping skills which brought him some measure of calmness: clearing his mind while motorcycling and sweating out his stress through sports. Time with family and good friends also brought him joy and release.

An amazing man.

Besides knee replacements and assorted other surgeries, Rick’s bladder was poked, prodded, scraped and ultimately removed over the course of our marriage. How many of us could experience all this and not lose some zest for life? (Certainly not I!) While he was positive and upbeat with me and others, I now wonder if I failed him. Did he put on a smiling face while inside he was filled with anxiety? Were there times when he would have unburdened himself to me if I wasn’t so frightened myself? Why couldn’t I set my self-centered terror aside and focus all of my energy on Rick when he needed me most – when he could no longer use his well-honed coping skills?

In addition to this rotation of thought towards Rick’s experience more than my loss, I sometimes wonder if he would be pleased with the new life I’m building. I’d give anything to talk with him and get his input on the choices and decisions I’ve made. There are some undoubtedly which would annoy him beyond measure, but for the most part, I believe he would be supportive. Dragon boat racing, playing mahjong and writing would be viewed positively; the increased closeness within his family would delight him.

Rick taught his daughters how to maintain their car, including their wheels. They know how to check tire pressure and change a car tire; I never learned from my father or even their father. Earlier this week the low tire pressure indicator lit up on my car’s dashboard. After verifying the process with a neighbor, I found a tire gauge, checked each tire’s pressure and then used the dusty compressor in my garage to fill the tires up to the target psi.

If ever there was a time to hear a chuckle and a “Good job” from above, that would have been one of them!

Enough Already!


I set aside a draft post on Harvey Weinstein and sexual harassment, coercion and violence. I can imagine my friend who already thinks I’m crazy for blogging about my personal issues screaming in frustration – but never fear, I won’t be writing about my sexual experiences in this post.

What in the world is wrong with us?

It seems anytime a person does something that seems incorrect to others, there’s an avalanche of nasty tweets, snarky posts and bad press. It can be about attire, behavior, beliefs – anything – and “we, the people” are all over it. We give our unsolicited opinions, we pick fights with friends and strangers, we get stuck in nonsensical repetition. It is driving us crazy! People try to step away from social media because they’re sick of the negativity, or they stay online, searching for baby animal videos because they just want to see something cute. People avoid the news – real and fake – while others can’t turn away from their news channels.

We can be so talkative and critical much of the time – and other times our lips are sealed and our fingers frozen. What happened with Harvey Weinstein and others of his ilk? Where were those who knew of his predatory behavior? Every one of us knows when something is not right.

Think of all the times you now know you should have spoken up or taken action. When was a childhood friend bullied? When did your acquaintance tell a racially-offensive joke? When did your group chortle at someone walking by who they stereotyped in some way? When did your male colleagues talk about a female employee’s physical attributes in a sexual manner?” Yep, I thought so – you’ve experienced all of these. Even more, you may – I have – been part of the problem. I’ve admitted before to telling dumb blonde jokes which natural blondes found offensive – and I’ve done much worse.

So if we know how to behave and when to speak up, why don’t we? Those poor women sexually victimized by Weinstein not only have to heal, some have to live with not speaking up to protect future targets. I feel certain if those women felt they would not be penalized in their personal and professional lives, they would have done so. Why can’t we stop “going along to get along?” Why can’t we do what is right and respect others who do what they believe to be right (within the law)?

None of us have the answers. I look back on the decades of my life and know my beliefs and perceptions have changed on a myriad of issues – surely you can do the same. So what gives us the right to assume we know what is best for others? Why can’t we show compassion and empathy – and maybe, just maybe – recognize that we do not have the right answers all the time.

Hush. Listen. Reflect. Look in the mirror. Do the right thing.

(ditto for me!)