Day 4 – My siblings


Yes, yes, I know that it is the 6th day of Christmas and I am writing about day 4.  This is the one I intended to write on Monday.  However, I dove deep into caving up on Monday –  hiding under my covers while reading, napping, lots of hot tea, watching New Girl, vegging with my kids – and completely forgot about writing.  Then, Tuesday (the 5th day of Christmas) I re-entered working and got caught up in re-organizing projects.  Writing just wasn’t part of my desire for the day.

There is a decent chance that starting tomorrow I am going to go back to writing about whatever enters my brain.  I still have many gifts I am grateful for I wish to blog about and I also many other ideas that are ruminating near the surface, almost ready to be written.  So we shall see what tomorrow brings.

For tonight, I write about with gratitude about my 4 siblings.   My appreciation and love for them has increased profoundly over the past 9+ months.  I’ve always been extremely thankful for the fact that I enjoy spending time with all of them.  That we, as adults, often seek to all be together at family gatherings over many other event possibilities is a joy to me.  I know that this is not always so in all families.

Oh we have our moments of frustration with the actions of one another.  We don’t always see eye to eye.  But even on the tail of disagreements we come back together with a quiet knowing that we love one another and will be there for one another as soon as one of us speaks the need.

This year I have felt the steady, quiet, gentle, powerful presence of each of my siblings.  We aren’t always the most talkative group and that is okay.  I have experienced each and every one of my siblings stepping up to stand next to me during this cuckoo luckoo time.  In the crazy aftermath between Russell’s death, planning his funeral, and the weeks right after I had powerful experiences of their loving presence.

My brothers, Jason and Jeremy, showed up with my parents at the funeral home when it was time to plan the details of Russell’s funeral.   I didn’t know they were coming and was happily stunned by them being there.  To me, it felt like having 2 solid guards/bouncers show up to stand in fierce protection of me.  Their presence felt like this amazing wall of love, strength and caring. Jason became the perfect proofreader of the obituary as my brain stopped being able to function coherently.   I often think back on that afternoon and can easily recall how incredibly loved I felt by these two in those moments.  Jeremy has found the most amazing dragon items for me and even helped me find the idea of the butterfly dragon that tattoos my arm.  I have no doubt these two brothers would stand firmly with me against danger I might face.

My brother, John, spent many, many hours sorting through pictures to pull together one of the most beautiful slide presentations I’ve ever seen.  He had very confused and little communication from me. Yet he somehow saw into my heart and put into visual form all I wanted this slideshow to convey about Russell and his life as I knew it.  I have not yet been able to look back over this slideshow but I have it waiting for me when I am ready.   It is beautiful, creative, loving, and as amazing as John himself is.  John exudes a boundless joy and wonder with the world that he has carried with him since childhood.  This brings great joy to me everytime I am with him.

My sister, Becca, was one of my constant contacts in those first shocking weeks after Russell’s death.  I spent more time with her than I had in a long time before that.  She helped me laugh, create new art things, step outside of my own thoughts, and always said yes to doing something or simply hanging out together.   The jewelry she creates have been powerful touchstones for me.  My tree of life necklaces she made for me barely left my neck the first 6 months of this journey.  I felt the reiki energy she charged it with pour into me at my hardest times. Now, as bracelets are my new things, I wear the chakra bracelet she gave me for Christmas and smile at how cool it is to have such a creative sister.

Each of these siblings I consider friends and am so very happy that they are part of my regular life.  I love looking at pictures of family trips, adventures, and just simple nights of playing cards or games together.  I look forward to many more of these times.  I am filled with gratitude that they are part of my life for more than just the biggest events of life.

I love you my siblings.  Thank you for supporting, loving, and being there for me and my kids.  Know that you are deeply appreciated and I am so very, very happy you are my brothers and sister.


Day 3 – The gift of my children


After a brief detour yesterday, I am back to matching the gift I’m writing about with the number of the day of Christmas we are on.  You know, “on the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me 3…”   I find this a fun challenge for myself and love the thought of matching up as many days as possible with that same number of gifts to write about each day.

Well, on this 3rd day of Christmas I do write about the 3 gifts my true love gave to me, our 3 spectacular children.  The greatest thing Russell and I ever did together was parent our 3 children.  Even in those times when things weren’t quite right between us as a couple, parenting our children and helping guide them through childhood was a mutually loved endeavor.  I can honestly say there is nothing in this world that I am prouder of than my 3 children – Kateri, Soren and Demetri.  And I know that Russell loved them more than even he could ever express to them.

We’ve had a number of opportunities over this holiday season to witness lots of toddlers and young children reveling in the fun that comes during this time of the year.  My kids and I have smiled watching little ones run around, talk of Santa, look adorable in holiday clothes, and just be the little bundles of wonder that they can be.  It has brought back lots of fun memories of when my kids were younger and I have enjoyed sharing stories with them of their younger years.  Wow, were they adorable, magical kids.  And they are growing into magical, adorable still, and fun to be with teens and adults.

I love nothing more than spending time with these 3 fascinating human beings.  Our ability right now to understand and support each other has been a powerful gift of this time, this moment for me.  Our need for silence at any given moment is something we all respect and honor for each other.  Our desire to be silly at times and simply play like children has been a balm to my wounded heart.  Our willingness to give each other space while also being open to listening no matter what else might be happening is a gift that I deeply treasure and hope continues for the rest of our lives.

Soren is a daily inspiration to me to get into better shape.  I have watched this young man transform his body, mind and spirit over the last couple of years.  Even as I have slid way backwards in the physical health aspect of my being, he continues to make daily strides to stay on track and make healthy choices.  Our conversations when it is just he and I always leave me curious to learn more.  Watching him figure out how to articulate what he most needs right now in an honest and yet gentle way with me is an honor to witness.  I watch him begin to spread his wings and desire to break free into new open spaces.  He is brave, loving, funny, strong, gorgeous, creative, and smart as a whip.  He is seeking a clear path forward that leads him to a better understanding of himself and I seek to cheer him along in any way I can.

Demetri, my munchkin baby, now towers over me. I swear he is growing at least 1 -2 inches a month. Every time I turn around we are going shopping again.  He is one of the sweetest, kindest young men I know.  His smile can light up the room. And I love how he gently cares for me right now.  He can make intellectual connections especially in science and math that make my brain spin.  The stories that he writes make me smile in their creativity and the depth of his characters.  Only my brother, John, could talk faster at his age than Demetri.  Somehow his speaking can keep up the speed of his brain even if I can’t follow it all the time.  Demetri is learning to speak his truth about what he most believes about himself.  I stand in awe of him.  He can engage in activities like reading or playing a game so completely that the rest of the world drops away.  He remains my snuggle kid, often hugging me several times a day.  He has the biggest heart especially for animals and all of nature.  He is a young man full of compassion, love, passion for all kinds of myths, a growing sense of his own style, and much joy for learning.  I love when he calls me Mater because of his learning of Latin. Seriously, what young teen chooses to learn Latin just because they want to?

Kateri has grown into such a strong, empathic young woman.  She is deeply committed to her family and her friends, being willing to be there for them no matter what.  As can often happen with young women, she has little idea of how truly beautiful she is. I watch her with the care she is giving to her horse, Walter, and know that she has embraced the full understanding of being responsible for another living being.  Not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about what more she can be doing to heal this horse of hers.  No matter how tired she is, or what the weather is, or what else is going on she goes out to take care of him.  I see this faithfulness of hers in her love for me and her brothers as well.  She is constantly tuning herself into what we might be feeling, seeking ways to help if she can.  She is making daily choices to seek new ways to heal, grow, learn, and understand herself better.  She is fun to be with, loving, beautiful, an excellent teacher, smart, silly, and deeply connected to those around her.  I am so proud to be able to watch her train young people and be a role model in so many ways.  I love that at 18 she still likes spending time with me.

I am humbled to be the mother of these 3 wonderful human beings.  I am in awe daily of the ways that they are growing during this cuckoo luckoo time of ours.  I am honored that they consider me trustworthy enough to share their stories, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their lives with me.  I love them more than I ever thought was possible and believe them to be the absolute greatest gifts of my life.


Day 2 – The Gift of Avalon


If I have learned nothing else in these past 8 years running Avalon Horse Farm, I have learned that flexibility is one of the key traits that needs to be practiced at all times.  Last night I knew what I wanted to write about on this second day of Christmas.  But today, it has become clear that it is much more important to write about the gift of Avalon’s community.   They are a gift to me that I can never quite grasp what I have done to deserve such faithfulness, love, and outpouring from over and over again.   I stand in awe of being part of a community that is truly magical.

Avalon was named with the following in mind.  We shared this understanding of Avalon in our first communication with this community over 8 years ago.   It remains true for today in more ways than I could have imagined.

  “Those of you familiar with the King Arthur stories will recognize Avalon as the place that was between the worlds.  It was not heaven, but it also was not the bustle and mundaneness of ordinary life. It is our intention and desire to create for you an experience with your horse that is outside of the bustle and ordinariness of everyday life.  We want your experience to be close to other worldly.   We have done much over the years to make this Vision a reality.  Most importantly I believe that Avalon has become for many, many people and creatures a place of Sanctuary.  A place where the rest of the world can fall away.”

Avalon as sanctuary has been my deepening desire for a couple of years now.  I have settled into recognizing that this place is more than a horse boarding and teaching facility.  Oh I think folks come to us seeking these things.  But they stay because they find peace and healing and space to dream.  Folks come to us when they need what we can offer and they leave when they are ready for something new.

This year this community and this space has been my sanctuary, my place of breathing and healing.  The space itself heals my wounded spirit.  The animals humor me and make me smile.  And the people, wow the people, stun me day after day after day with their embracing of me in whatever way I can show up each day.  Never have I been part of a community of people who are more generous, loving, dedicated to dreaming, and willing to jump right in to make new things happen for the whole farm.  And never have I been part of an entire community who loves my kids and I with such faithfulness.

Every year the people of Avalon have gone in on a gift for me and for the farm.  Years past have brought wheelbarrows, rakes, round bale feeders, chiropractic gift certificates, a car, miniature horses, paid off vet bills, heated hoses, and my Willow puppy.  I have been surprised with more wonderful things than I could ever imagine.

Well this year, it’s gotten even bigger. This community led by the force of nature that Denise and John Wottowa can be, has pulled together the funds, the workforce, the supplies, and the plans(thanks Dad)  to build our Avalon Sanctuary Retreat Center.  IT IS HAPPENING!  My desire to have an inside, retreat space to offer concentrated programs focusing on healing of humans’ hearts is going to happen!  The unbelievable outpouring of talent, time, and funds has made us more than meet our goal to build and BUILD NOW!

This gift is beyond my imaginings and I am deeply filled with gratitude for this amazing Christmas gift.  It is a gift for me and a gift for the whole community.  It is a gift of belief in my dreams for what we can do at Avalon.  It is a testament of faith in me.  It is a community gathering around and saying YES!

The added piece of this gift for me today was that the excited, pumped up community that all wanted to be there for the giving of this gift listened to my need for space today.  They heard my sadness, my feelings of being overwhelmed by missing Russell, my need for alone time and allowed the gift to be given to me in a quiet, few people involved, way.  I know that everyone wanted to be there to watch me receive the gift cards and money and plans for this project.  I am touched to the depth of my being that everyone allowed me to say what I could handle. Know that I felt your presence with me and am thankful for you all!

I do not have adequate words to say thank you enough to these people who obviously care about more than I can really comprehend.  I am blessed to be surrounded by people who allow me to be me all the time.  What an amazing gift that I hope I never take for granted.   I definitely didn’t know 8 years ago upon naming this Avalon to create a space of being that it was exactly what it would become that very sanctuary space for me in the hardest time of my life.

I love you Avalonians.  Thank you for this Christmas gift and for the gift you are for me every single day.


The twelve days of Christmas – Day 1

family1Stirring inside of me as I’ve prepared for Christmas are the ideas for a series of musings around the topic of gifts.  As I’ve purchased, wrapped and given gifts I’ve thought a great deal about what I experience as my greatest gifts right now. Much has been rambling through my mind and heart as I think of all the things I have in my life that leave me feeling full of gratitude and joy.

I am going to attempt to write about 1 particular gift for each of the next 12 days of the traditional Christmas season.  Oh, I have grandiose ideas of sticking with the theme of the song, you know the thought of 1 thing for the first day, 2 for the second, 3 for the third, etc.  We will see how far along I can get into this idea and stick to the numbers.  They aren’t that important but it is a fun sounding challenge to see how I can play around with this song and use it for my writing.  We shall see what happens.

Today is easy.  I am thankful for the gift of my 1 amazing family (not everyone pictured here).  In all of the times and all of the moments of this year, I have been filled with love and gratitude for this family of mine.  For the ways in which they have embraced me and my kids, allowing us to be however we need to be in each and every moment, in every gathering has been a balm to my aching being.  Every time I am with them I leave feeling a little more renewed.  And definitely a lot loved. I smile, laugh, cry, nap, drink, play cards, talk and so much more with this family.

The silliness of our gatherings, the realness of being authentic human beings, the commitment to tradition, the willingness to try new things, the desire to spend as much time together during the holidays as we can, and the constant thread of caring are gifts without measure.    I am fully aware that I am blessed to have a family that I want to be with and spend time with.  I am appreciative of the enduring awareness that they would all be there for me and my kids with one spoken word.

So today, on this first day of Christmas, I revel in my 1 amazing, loving, silly, awesome, wonderful family.  In this time, in this moment and in every time, in every moment I am thankful for the gift of a family who loves to be together.  What a miraculous, glorious gift we are!  Love you family!!!





I love getting gifts for people, especially at Christmas.  I love trying to find just the right gift, something I know each person will love.  I love the shopping for them, wrapping them, and putting them under the tree.  I love watching them open it.  It’s all just a wonderful part of the holiday season for me.

This year things are off.  Oh I’ve had fun shopping for gifts and wrapping them.  I think I’ve found some gifts that are ones people will like.  A few are even ones that I know will be huge hits.  But it is all just off.

As I check in with myself each day I notice the following thoughts running through my mind several times a day:

*What if I got all the wrong gifts?

*I can’t possibly have gotten enough yet.

*Maybe I should start over.

*What was it they really wanted?

*What if it’s all a bust?

Even this morning as I prepare for our Christmas Eve celebrating I find I am having an internal battle with myself.  Should I go out one more time for a few more gifts for the kids?  Or, is it all okay and I can just relax for a few hours?  I hear these same things from my kids as they wonder out loud if they’ve done okay with their gift buying.

As this rattles through me I realize it isn’t about the physical gifts.  It is about the fact that the one gift I wish I could give to us all was having Russell back.  I can’t make the pain and confusion of this time go away.  I can’t magically make it all right again no matter how much I wish I could. And since that isn’t something I can do no gift, no matter how awesome it might be, is going to feel like enough.

I know for a fact that all of us have put a lot of effort and love into our gift purchasing for one another.  But all of us recognize deep inside ourselves that we are trying to fill a gap that can’t be filled.  We are making great efforts to spoil one another, bring as much joy to the time as we can, and focus on each other.

I will embrace the joy of these next few days and allow myself to be however I need to be.  I will encourage my children to do the same.  Together we will enjoy as much as we can.  And together we will miss Russell and wish he could be with us.  In this time, in this moment I am most grateful for the gift of my children who have always  been my greatest gifts.


When the final straw is a gas hose



All morning I found myself humming the song “Just put one foot in front of the other” from the cartoon Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  Over and over again I hummed and sang the few lines I remember from the song.  “You put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.”  It became a mantra as I tried to motivate myself to leave the house on another dreary, gray day.  I was feeling pleased with myself when I actually did it and walked out the door.

As I let my mind wander with what was truthfully realistic for me to accomplish today I decided to stop for caffeine and gas, caffeine being the more prominent thought in my head.  I left the gas pumping while I went into the gas station to get some tea and a couple of scratch off tickets.  Back in my truck, I was pleasantly surprised when I scratched off one of the tickets and found I had won $3. Every little bit makes me smile.  I  started the truck and pulled away.

Immediately I heard a loud thunk; thought what was that and my brain started working again.  At the same time I was stopping and other customers were pointing to me truck, I realized I had driven off with the hose still attached to my truck.  Aw shit!  I drove back to the pump and got out to see the hose just dangling from my truck.  Somehow I managed to not break and sit down sobbing right there.  I removed the hose, placed it next to gas pump and went inside.  I almost collapsed onto the counter as I asked what I would owe or what paperwork I needed to fill or what I needed to do.

I came very, very close to babbling my whole story to the ladies behind the counter.  The story of Russell, Walter, struggling with the holidays, missing the sun, longing for Costa Rica which I’ve never been to but dream of living in daily; the whole, long, sordid detail almost came tumbling out of me in great, heaving sobs.  Somehow I kept it together and said none of the things pushing to break free from inside of me.  I focused on the hose and what I needed to do in the moment alone.

I walked out with the manager who was very quiet.  When we got out to the truck and I was apologizing profusely, I asked her what I needed to do – paperwork, payment, anything?   She said usually she should have someone fill out paperwork but she wasn’t going to worry about it today.  She told me most folks just drive off and that the hoses have quick releases on them.  I thanked her and got into my truck.

It was in there that I collapsed.  That hose was simply the final straw of the morning.  All of it came flooding over me like a giant wave.  The tears just poured from me as sobs came flooding out of me.  I just sat there for awhile allowing it all to be released and felt and honored.  Then I took a big, deep breath, wiped my eyes, decided that I would still go to work and not just go home and hide, and I drove towards the farm.

I am trying.  I really am trying to keep moving forward with my healing.  I do my best to focus upon the positive things that happen each day.  I do my best to focus on the love in my life and the ways in which I still feel Russell’s presence.  The little milestones or bits of sunshine that happen each day do keep me able to at least tread water in the rough sea of grieving.  But the holiday season that started with Thanksgiving and our anniversary is weighing upon me more than I had anticipated.  When just getting out the door to go to a job I love is hard, the time involved planning for events and shopping for dozens of folks seems monumental.  The lack of consistent sunshine, always a winter challenge for me, seems like a voice saying “Just stay home where it is warm and safe and you can hide away from the world. The horses are fine. The farm is fine. You don’t need to go out. Stay here.”

But here I sit today, in my office at Avalon still humming to myself “Just put one foot in front of the other” over and over and over again.  That gas hose was a gift that opened up the flood gates to my tears which needed to be released. And it opened me up to write again which has been something that has felt very far away for a few weeks and I’ve missed it.   I’m planning to paint a new room addition today with bright colors.  I’m planning to snuggle with my Willow puppy. I’m planning to have conversations about new possibilities for learning and growing with the horses.  I’m planning to find listen closely to my heart and what it most needs right now, in this time, this moment.  I’m planning to allow myself to simply be in the moments of the day and allow myself to float upon the waves of my life.  All because of a gas hose.