Casual moments – living with intention


The adrenaline has worn off and I am left with a muddled mind and a body that feels full of lead. ¬†ūüôā ¬† ¬† I am no longer “holding on” for a big event (though a few more are still before me) and I find that I am longing for vast amounts of time by myself. ¬†I think my brain simply can’t process the last few weeks. ¬†It tries to make sense out of how I got from there, Russell still with us, to here, Russell not with us and it simply doesn’t register.

While I am trying to re-enter my world and get back to some kind of a routine, simple tasks that were previously ones I could do on auto pilot are now monumental tasks. ¬†I have been driving for over 30 years, yet there are moments that I feel like I’ve just gotten my license. ¬† I seem to have forgotten how to look both directions at an intersection. ¬†Thankfully other drivers seem to be in much better shape than I am. ¬†I wish they made giant black sashes for cars that say “Caution, in mourning.”

I have about 3 hours a day that my brain fires on almost all its cylinders.  These sometimes come in one long stretch but most days I get a few minutes here and a few minutes there.  Definitely makes larger projects a titch more challenging.  While I am easing back into working this week, even what used to be short days at the farm seem daunting.  The fact that it is spring is a giant gift to me.  Freezing cold days would surely leave me hiding under my covers.

One of the other things I have found happening as the adrenaline wears off is my muse is much quieter these days.  Oh, I still have thoughts run through my head throughout the day.  But I am not finding it necessary to carry my journal with me everywhere.  Nor does the muse rise up in my throat, pushing all other thoughts out of the way.  While this makes it easier to get other tasks done I was enjoying the desire and need to speak of all running through me.  Writing now becomes another thing that I must do with great intention not just something that flows out of me as easily as breathing.

All of these new realities speak to my continuing commitment to living my life with authenticity and intention. ¬†This is where the real work begins, in baby steps moving forward. It would be easy at this time, in this moment to close my heart off to the world. ¬†Jumping back into work, boxing up all of Russell’s things, moving on with my life – all of these maybe necessary things to do. ¬†But not right now, not quite in this time and in this moment. ¬†Grieving is not something to be rushed through and set aside to return to “normal” life. ¬†Grieving is a long haul process, not a quick “get it over and done with” kind of thing. ¬†I intend to take my time and keep my heart open as I move forward.

The conversations with folks over ¬†the confusion and mystery of what has happened continue to occur. ¬†We are all still grappling to understand why and how. ¬†Being open to continuing these conversations and sharing my real feelings is part of my commitment to keeping my heart open and living with intention. ¬†I deeply desire to continue to live in “real” experiences and emotions. ¬†Listening to stories of how others are dealing with Russell’s quick exit from this life can be heart wrenching. ¬†And it is also heart warming. ¬†The love continues to flow as we all grieve.

One conversation that has stuck with me over the last few days is the one I had with Bishop Braxton of the Belleville diocese. Bishop Braxton has reached out to me several times to express his condolences.  He and Russell often had long conversations about theology, philosophy, and ministry in their work with the people of the diocese.  Russell very much enjoyed these intellectual conversations and would be pleased to know Bishop Braxton remembers them fondly.

As most of us have been grappling with, Bishop Braxton has been questioning the how this could have all happened. ¬†The quickness of it has left us all reeling. ¬†And questioning the fleeting reality of our own lives. ¬†In our most recent conversation Bishop Braxton talked about his last encounter with Russell. ¬†He talked of how causal it was and the fact that if he had known then it would be a final conversation with Russell he would have talked of more “real” (my word) things. ¬†He wouldn’t have ended it at a “casual conversation”

That is what I keep coming back to, “casual conversations”. ¬†We spend most of our lives living in casual conversations. ¬†We don’t live our lives thinking “what would I say if this was my final moment with this person.” ¬† We move through our days on auto pilot, just getting it all done. ¬†We talk with folks, but we don’t often slow down and really communicate with each other. ¬†To do so takes intention, authenticity, and being vulnerable to the world. ¬†It’s what I and many have been living more fully in the last few weeks. ¬†And that is a gift of this time, and this moment that I don’t want to lose.

What if we all lived our lives with profound awareness and connection to one another? ¬†What if we all lived our lives with intention knowing that there is no guarantee that our lives won’t flip upside down and inside out in a blink of an eye? ¬†What if we all lived our lives saying YES to the opportunities to BE with one another in an authentic way in every moment? ¬†What if we chose ourselves and others over tasks everyday? ¬†What if we knew that every casual conversation might be our last so we might want to make it a little less casual?

These thoughts, these longings in me to live my life less casually and with more profound awareness are what keep me from rushing through my grieving and just “getting busy”. ¬†I don’t want to cover it all up with the stuff of life. I don’t want to think “the funeral is over, time to get on with it.” ¬† I am thankful for the gifts of connection, feeling deep love for all who cross my path, opening my heart, and living each moment with awareness and intention. ¬†I am thankful that I continue to give myself, our kids, our family and friends permission to “tap out” an any moment with no explanations necessary. ¬†I don’t want to lose my high need to tell everyone at the end of a conversation “I love you. I appreciate you. You matter to me” and mean it. ¬†I want to always remember that it can change in a blink of an eye or in one tiny step. ¬†I want to live my whole life following my heart and doing what I want to do now, not wait until the tomorrow that might not come. ¬†I want to witness to our kids that living real is a viable option and may lead to a great and passionate life. ¬†And I want to 100% support them as they choose the path forward that works best for them, not just choose a path I or anyone else would choose for them.

Living with awareness and intention can be very emotional as we open our hearts to the world.  But the reward is well worth the rawness.  The reward of knowing that we are connected by threads we cannot see, but can definitely feel is healing and joyful for me.  If I can help even one person feel that our casual conversation was really much more than I continue to honor the path I started down with Russell.  As the hard work of making daily choices to write, to call people, to work, to dream, to do more than just hibernating commences I am hoping to live my life with intention in each time, and in each moment.    I choose to live my life in profound realness knowing each casual conversation might really be my last.

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Moving forward


Before I write all that is racing through my brain and body today, I must say THANK YOU! ¬†Thank you to everyone who was able to join us in some way on Thursday to celebrate Russell and give him the best send off we possibly could. ¬†One of Russell’s deepest fears was that he was never doing enough. ¬†And that at the end of his life, no one would care. THANK YOU for helping us make it crystal clear that Russell was deeply cared for and that he had done enough. ¬†WELL DONE to us all!

As the kids and I move forward into what our new “normal” will be I am doing all I can to help us talk, cry, sleep, laugh, be silly, be sad, be angry, simply BE whatever it is we need to be in every single moment of our day. ¬†I have had many conversations with them every day about all of being gentle and honest with ourselves and each other. ¬†While there are many others who I know are deeply grieving our loss of Russ, our kids are my #1 priority.

I am being very vocal with them and others that I am giving us a full 6 months of doing exactly what we need to do for ourselves in every moment of every day. ¬†We may need less time or we may need more but 6 months seemed like a good place to start. ¬† I am using a move that I understand is used in wrestling, that of tapping out. ¬†When a person has had enough and concedes temporary defeat, they are allowed to “tap out” and be released from the hold they are caught in. ¬†My kids and I will be using this when any part of a situation just becomes too much. ¬†No explanations are being asked of them (or myself), we are simply to tap the other on the shoulder or arm to leave the situation and do whatever we need to for our own healing and peace of mind.

The grieving comes in such fast waves at times there is simply the need to keep all focus on breathing in order to take the next step. ¬†Giving ourselves permission to “tap out” and just walk away from something that threatens to drown us may be one way to keep ourselves sane in a world that just makes little sense anymore..

Soren has also suggested that we each create a 6 month bucket list.  I love this idea for us and we will be sitting down in the next few days to each make a list of the things we most want to do.  Our lists will do doubt include trips to visit family and friends we have reconnected with; places we want to see; new things want to try; old things we want to return to; and lots of other things as we choose to focus more deeply on living a passionate life.

As I move forward there is so much I look forward to and yet much of it remains firmly in the future as today’s menial tasks continue to seem monumental. ¬†Here are just a few things I look forward to.

*I look forward to the day family and friends events that are mainly joyous occasions.  For now, as much as I need family and friends, each gathering has such deep threads of memory that I frequently hit walls of grief that want to knock me to the ground.

*I look forward to the day that someone saying they are suffering from allergies doesn’t leave me wanting to drag them to the ER. ¬†For now, ¬†I sit with letting go of the fear that I missed something critical the week before Russ went to the hospital.

*I look forward to the day that I am tired because I’ve spent a full day working at Avalon. ¬†For now, taking a shower and getting dressed leave me exhausted. ¬†Actually just the thought of them sometimes is too much.

*I look forward to the day that the kids feel like they can just be kids again. ¬†For now, ¬†I wish people would not ask them what their future plans are. ¬†None of us can make a decision past are we going to leave the house most days. And I wish that no one would say to Soren “You are the man of the house now.” or say to any of them “it’s your job to take care of your mother right now.” ¬†They are my children who are very lost as they grieve their father. Their entire lives are one giant memory of being connected to Russell. ¬† I am doing all I can to not shove them into adulthood or into roles that in no way are theirs to fill. ¬†We are gathering lots of support around them so that they can simply be sad and angry and confused and whatever else they need to be. ¬†I am their mother and it is my job to take care of them. ¬†They love and support me, but it is not their job to become an adult and “take care of” me.

*I look forward to the day that all I think and do is not in reference to Russell’s final journey. ¬†For now, I keep thinking “a week ago this is what happened.” ¬†Fridays used to be a great day for me filled with farm, family, teaching, great times. ¬†Now, Fridays are a very, very rough day as they all feel like stepping back into a rabbit hole.

*I look forward to being able to work at any task for longer than an hour without feeling exhausted. For now, I feel like if I have accomplished one or two tasks I have had a successful day.

*I look forward to being able to play cards again (one of my favorite things with my family) without thinking how strange it is without Russ’ unique strategic twists. ¬†For now, ¬†playing cards is not really one of my favorite things to do and just makes me feel very sad.

*I look forward to wanting to cook again.  For now, I am so thankful for the meals being brought to us and all the gift cards folks gave to us so we can grab something out.  For now, just cleaning the house enough to be able to cook is a mountain of a task.

*I look forward to writing of more than this particular journey.  My muse whispers thoughts of other things and other paths to explore.  For now, my voice comes out with stories of Russ and our journey with and without him.

*I look forward to the day that simply writing a blog and sharing with whoever most wants to hear it is enough. ¬†For now, I feel a driving compulsion to share with EVERYONE in every electronic way that I can. ¬†Writing a blog for people to chance upon reading isn’t enough. ¬†I feel compelled to write a blog; post on facebook; send out emails; in every way possible send out the my thought threads to folks around the world.

* I look forward to the day that conversations and being with people is more important than writing as much as possible.  For now, my dragon butterfly muse is much, much more in charge of my waking day.

*I look forward to the day that I can simply breathe without each breathe needing an extra long, very consciously made exhale.  For now, I have to remind myself to exhale audibly or I find myself holding my breathe and feeling as if I will faint.

*I look forward to the day that I can play with my kids and have us just be happy.  For now, we find our joy in snippets of time and are happy to have at least those.

So, for the next 6 months know that we are walking each step, taking each moment (a day is even too big of a commitment) slowly and as gently as we can. ¬†We will be committing to do those things we most want to do and allowing ourselves to feel it all. ¬†We will be “tapping out” without explanation when we simply can’t handle any situation. We will be living our lives as well as we can and encouraging others to do the same. ¬†We will be sleeping as long as we want and napping whenever we need to. ¬†We will be eating when we can, whatever sounds good. ¬†We will be exercising, playing, working, grieving, celebrating, crying, laughing, traveling, hibernating, yelling, silencing, breathing – living a life that is WELL DONE.

Russell’s final gifts

Ah, the day has arrived. Or actually a bigger “the day” has arrived. I had seriously considered not even turning on my computer this morning. The last few days I have spent hours in front of it, tied to it almost like it’s my life line. Well, I guess it is one of my life lines. It is my most constant link to all of you throughout the world who are reading my story – the story of US – that I continue to tell as my way to honor and remember Russell Peterson‚Äč. It is my way to hear and feel you reaching out to me and our family as we walk this foggy path before us. So how could I not get on for at least a little while before I wake the children to prepare for our day ahead.

As I ponder the day before me, I think of all of the many gifts Russell gave to his in his final days upon this earth. More will come to mind in the future and I can write of them then. For now I am grateful for all that he was and all that he gave.

*Time to tap into love and him – he hung on for many more days than he probably “should” have after his cardiac arrest on March 13. I believe it was for no other reason than the raw fact that we NEEDED it. All of us who love and admire him needed more time. It gifted us with the chance to say goodbye with love reigning in our hearts, rather than just confusion and anger.

*Organ donations – because of Russell’s donations many, many people have experience healing. Most touching is that his heart valves were going to be able to be used for children needing them. Such poignant joy. Sign your driver’s license as an organ donor. We can save lives!

*Each other – his final journey is reconnecting me and our whole family with folks we haven’t seen in years. This is a balm for me now and will continue to be so in the years to come. As you share your stories and your hearts with us you hold us up; which also holds you up as well. The WEB of Healing and Love Kirsten Peterson‚Äč and I started weaving last week, is now a WEB for us. We hold each other. We reach out to one another. We LOVE each other.

*A pulsing, living center of love and light flows through each of us as we have opened our hearts to share in the rawness of this shocking journey. As our story is told perhaps we can help even one person smile in some way or feel connected to something bigger than themselves.

*Stories of Russell and the love of a good story – Russell loved nothing better than a great story. They are definitely being told right now. And I have no doubt Russell is smiling with the telling of each and everyone.

*My muse awakened – Russell was a poet. A quiet, almost silent poet in recent years, but a poet none the less. i believe that he has shared his gift with me, making my own desire for writing even stronger. It is not just my voice that I raise, it is his as well. I write now because I can’t tell Russell in other way about the fascinating stories I hear all day. He would so want to hear ALL of this story because it is so REAL. So I write for myself and I write for him and I write for all of us to remember!

*Pay it forward – Kirsten and I both firmly believe that sharing our stories is leading to changes around the world. Each person who is a little bit kinder, or reaches out a little bit more, or become an organ donor, or does some kind of good deed, all because of Russell, is our way of paying it forward.

All of us carry pain and hope together with us, somehow standing in the center of the two. As heavy is my heart feels for the good byes I say today, my heart is also singing with joy at the people I will see and hug who I have missed. Such an odd, mysterious gift we have been given.

I truly love you all. And I honor the gift that it is to be filled with such overflowing love. In this time, in this moment the world is holding us all up!

Standing in the center – Kraken and Dragonbutterfly

My musings are the fairy dust I am scattering upon the path in front of me before I take a step. ¬†I know that I am standing at center in a magical place filled with light and love that is allowing me to walk this grieving path unconsumed by the darkness that threatens to reach inside and swallow me whole. ¬†If I didn’t have the gift of an awoken muse and the active love of everyone around me, I wouldn’t be able to speak. ¬†And speak I must or I will hide under my covers and no one but my kids will be allowed inside. ¬†So, I speak my words and see the fairy dust settle on my path, and I take another step (baby though it maybe) forward.

Today, I write of the Kraken and the Dragonbutterly Рtwo deeply contrasted mythical creatures for me.  They speak to the two realities within me Рdark and light, grief and healing, alone and together, freedom and entrapment.  And they point to the place in between in which I try to stand.

First the simple list I created of what these two mythical creatures are for me:

KRAKEN                                                  DRAGONBUTTERFLY

mythical                                                   mythical

water only creature                                 sky creature who also swims and can walk on ground

silent                                                       calls out and talks to me

swims                                                      flies

wants to destroy                                     wants to protect Рcan destroy

dark                                                       light

drags things down into the dark            can lift self and rider up into the light

strangles things                                     fires things

slimy                                                      scaly and sparkly

solitary                                                  can live alone or with others

untouchable                                          can be partnered with

icky                                                        pretty

many tentacled                                     wings and talons

caves in dark, solitary places               caves in high places

loves the cold, dark                              loves the sun

My breathing and grounding are all part of my knowing that I stand in the center of these two realities, these two imaginings.

When the Kraken arises in me with deep pain and anguish I feel myself slipping into being dragged down into the depths and being swallowed whole. ¬†And the Kraken wants to take everyone in our wake down along with me. ¬†Staying in the dark depths of silence and grieving is a very real part of this journey. ¬†I am experiencing these moments and these feelings. ¬†Even if I don’t speak of them often I am feeling the depths of despair and fog so thick it is hard to see. ¬†And I know that I need to allow myself to feel all of this. ¬†I just don’t want to be swallowed completely with no chance of return. ¬†The great danger of the Kraken is that it is very strong and its’ multiple tentacles can reach from many directions. ¬†The great gift of the Kraken is the quickness in which I can get to the solitude of darkness and hide away for a time.

When the Dragonbutterfly arises in me I feel my heart open and I climb aboard ready to soar into the sun.  I can scream loudly to the whole world my pain and I can shoot fire to create a circle of safety around me.  But the fire is both protective and life giving.  It destroys and it warms.  With Dragonbutterfly I can soar above it all and still settle back to ground to settle and re-ground myself.  I live in the light of possibility and healing with Dragonbutterfly.  Her talons can protect and also draw love towards us.

Both of these are real for me and necessary for walking this path I find myself upon. I must go to the depths alone to be able to soar into freedom. ¬†I must cry to be able to sing again. ¬†I must walk in the center of the path so that I don’t swing too far to one side or the other. ¬†If I swing too far, I deny the necessity to grieve and to hope all at the same time.

There is already so much darkness in our world that threatens to swallow us all whole. ¬†Writing and speaking my truths are the way to wholeness for me. ¬†Sharing my musings are the way for me to continue to honor the story of US – Russell’s and my journey together. ¬†When I can stand in the pulsing light and love filled center of the tension between Kraken and Dragonbutterfly, all is well. ¬†Because somehow, as pure gift to me, it is in that center that I can feel it all – pain and love, hope and despair, light and dark, death and life. ¬†And it is in this center, this gifted place, that I most feel Russell’s presence and for that I am so very, very glad. ¬†It is out of this center that I do all I can to share the story of US so I can most deeply honor Russell’s gifts to us all.

I do not know exactly how it is that I am able to stand in this center place through so much of this journey.  I simply know that I am.  And I know it is a gift for which I am eternally grateful.  It is a gift from Russell; a gift from the divine; a gift from the threads you all are weaving to hold me up; it is a gift of knowing I am never ever alone even when all I feel is alone.

So I stand in the center with Kraken on one side and Dragonbutterfly on the other, both released to be part of this healing journey.  There is great power and honor in standing with the mystery of them both right next to me.


Today I am grateful for many, many things. For…

* the constant outpouring of love and support from so many people who loved Russell and love us. The world continues to hold us up!

*menial tasks not feeling quite so monumental. Doing laundry, dishes, shopping were actually manageable yesterday.

*facebook which gives me not only a place to share my journey but a chance to visit others’ journeys as well. I am a huge communication junkie. I love reading people’s stories, seeing their pictures, getting comments on my own story. I loved facebook for the good things it can be before this part of my journey. Now, I am a little addicted. smile emoticon

*the tasks I have been able to mark off of my to-do list.

*Jill Coffey Wenzel taking Hinata to the barn yesterday. Poor pup is so confused why I am not going.

*Food and flowers being delivered. Being fed and seeing pretty things help me breathe a little more evenly.

*Stories and more stories of Russell.

*an evening with dear friends last night whose families have journeyed with Russell and I and our children for a very long time. To hear all the laughter and cry the tears while sharing stories was much needed.

*family who stands with me and says yes to anything I or my children need right now.

*my sister-in-law, Kirsten Peterson, who can make me laugh maniacally like no other. As much as I wish I didn’t have to walk this path right now, I am thankful for her partnership along the way.

*images and musings about Krakens and Butterflydragons, and the place of groundedness in between them.

*the fact that is spring. I am fairly sure if it was winter no one would see me for months on end.

*all my “people” who are sharing their wisdom about insurance, social security, school withdrawals, preparing a service, and so much more. Plus it’s given me a great joking point that I have “people” to handle things for us. smile emoticon

*Avalon Horse Farm and the community who has given me the gift of time without worry to grieve and walk this early part of my grieving journey with the freedom to simply be. They have taken over all of the work of the farm and been amazing in their spring cleaning/beautifying. They are keeping my dream alive and thriving. While this is the work of many, many folks it is the drive of the Co-op Team- Denise Wottowa, Nicole Martin, Carrie Montgomery, Emily Hall Butchart, John Wottowa, and Kenny Fulton (hope I named everyone) – who are leading the way.

*my children who are beyond amazing as they stay true to their own paths of grieving in all its rawness. I am so very proud of them as I know Russell is as well.

*my awakened muse. If I lose my ability to write at this time, I believe the darkness will consume me.

*everyone who is continuing to hold their thread in this Web of Healing and Love. You are the world holding us up! Thank you for continuing to do so. Love you all!

Heavy Hearts – Musing #5

Written at 7:20 pm on March 20.

It is with the heaviest hearts that we write in this moment, in this time. And we  find we are almost at a complete loss for words.  
After several consults with multiple neurologists today, it has been made crystal clear that Russell will not be returning to walk with us again in this world.  Last week during his cardiac arrest he was without oxygen for a long period of time and sustained substantial, irreparable brain damage.  We have been living in hope that perhaps he could somehow be okay. It started becoming clearer a few days ago that was probably not the case.  We have asked all the questions we can, examined all the tests, received multiple opinions, and had dozens upon dozens of conversations.  
     And so we have decided it is time to take Russell off of the breathing vent, let nature take its course, and let him go.  Our final prayer call out to all of you for him is that this final part of his journey on earth be quick.  
¬† ¬† Our hearts are breaking and we stand together knowing we have done all that we can.¬† Thank you for your support and love now and for all we know we will receive in the upcoming days.¬† We are deeply grateful for the Web that you have all helped weave around Russell and our¬†family.Russell’s final gift to us was to give us the time we needed to gather, say our good byes, and make sure his kids would never be alone.¬†¬†
      The stories you have all shared with us are part of the healing as we move forward.  While we are not really okay in this moment, we have faith that we will someday be okay again.  The world is holding us up.