Apparently, yesterday’s post was not well thought out. Now my girls are apologizing for neglecting me, which was NOT my intent! I was trying to let everyone know I was doing well and had a good day. Plus, I was doing so well yesterday, I wanted to share some love with all of you, with the photos of our family, including a couple fun ones with two of David’s brothers.
I know some of my dear ones may have worried about me today, but I actually woke up happy and am doing rather well so far. Last year I had a massive bouquet from our daughters, as well as lots of calls and texts from others. Today, I think everyone knows I’m better. Not “over it” by any stretch of the imagination. I won’t ever be “over it,” exactly, but today I’m celebrating love.
All the love.
I’ve just spent the past few hours looking through photos, and there are so many great ones showing so much love, but I’d be here until tomorrow if I tried to include them all. And I’d certainly miss someone, so I’ll leave you with these, my two current favorites:
David 2010? Who knows, but isn’t it great?
David and Sunny (duh) September 2016 by Clayton Jenkins
Wishing you much love, even when it’s not Valentine’s Day!
I almost let January get away from me, but here I am. I haven’t forgotten you, my dear ones! I/we had a number of significant anniversaries and firsts to get through on the wretched grief calendar, but they’re all done now, at least the first anniversaries of all the hard stuff. I’m officially into my second year of widowhood. Yippee.
It turned out the 26th of December was the hardest one-year anniversary, surprisingly. Neither Christmas nor the 27th was as tough, I think mostly because both those days were spent with plenty of dear ones close at hand. The 26th was quiet and I spent possibly too much time alone, remembering David’s last full day with us, the last time he spoke, the last time he told me he loved me–in person anyway. I still hear him so clearly sometimes.
Then the first couple weeks of January I was kind of in a funk, not that I ever love January. Once the anniversary of the celebration of David’s life (January 19) was past, I started to come out of it. I really think that was the last of the “firsts.” I’ve heard from a number of widowed people that the second year for them was even harder than the first. That the first went by in a blur, and the pain really set in the second year. Yikes. I don’t know if these were people who suffered very sudden, unexpected losses, so had that also to deal with, but the first year for me was plenty painful, and not really a blur, not from this vantage point at least.
So I’m cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind me, not including the occasional stab out of nowhere. Those still happen. I still sometimes weep all over friends at church, and the other day, I felt ambushed at the doctor’s office when I had to update my emergency contact info. That was emotional enough. Who is 100% available to me in an emergency, like David was? No one. Everyone else has things to do. Places to be. Then I was faced with David’s name in the spouse blank, which I was NOT emotionally prepared to erase, so I didn’t. I did delete the phone number for him, but then the system wouldn’t let me go on without his phone number. The receptionist was understandably startled when I stumbled back up to the front desk, sobbing, and basically hurled the tablet at her and said, “I am NOT doing this now! And probably not next time either!” At least she offered me a box of tissues. That was kind.
Mostly since Christmas I’ve been spending a lot of time writing for the eight-week workshop I’m doing in Denver, and at the moment I’m working on a memoir of my life and adventures with David, so we’ll see how that goes. It feels right and good to write it, no matter what I eventually do with it.
It has me reminiscing about so many of our adventures. Since I haven’t been out with my camera in a while, I thought I’d share a few photos of other winter days, other places. Remember this?
Courtney’s birthday was yesterday, so that calls for celebration! I remember well the arrival of our firstborn, like our very own early Christmas present. So glad she came into our lives! Plus, she’s coming for a nice long stay over the holidays, which is more reason for celebration. Here are a couple of my favorite photos of David and Courtney, plus one of Courtney and me, where we are looking scary-good — Thanks, Clayton! You’re a genius!
In addition to Courtney, recent birthday girl, Brittany will be with us most, if not all the time Courtney’s here, plus Bailey and Felicity arrive the 27th. Chelsea and Brian will be in and out, I’m sure, but will certainly spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day here. So I celebrate my beloved family. We plan to watch David’s favorite movie, Field of Dreams, on the 27th, armed with plenty of tissues, I promise you.
I’m also celebrating passing the DELF B2 French exam, the one I was obsessing about in the last post. Woohoo! My total score was higher than I expected (but lower than I’d hoped — let’s be honest). Always did love high scores! My individual scores in the four areas of competence were weirdly almost the opposite of what I expected, highest in oral expression, and lowest in written comprehension. Um . . . what? Strange. The director of Alliance Française Denver has agreed to meet with me to help me understand what I did right, and more importantly my mistakes. You can’t learn if you don’t know what you did wrong! Meanwhile, I’m celebrating earning the diplôme.
Also, I’ve taken the plunge and signed up for a more serious writing workshop, one I actually had to pay for and that presumably has higher expectations of me. So I’m celebrating my bravery!
The days are flying by, as they are wont to do, especially at Christmas. I love the lights, the music, and especially, of course, the reason for the season, sweet baby Jesus, come to conquer death and give us hope. Let’s not forget to celebrate that! I don’t know what the next year will bring, but I’ve nearly made it through this one, and with enough evidence of thriving that I think David would be proud. One day at a time.
Thanks so much for all the kind comments on the last post. I send these words out into the void, so it means a lot to me to hear when they resonate with you. You are my treasured dear ones, even those of you I haven’t met, so of course I am also celebrating you!
For her birthday gift, Brittany wanted me to join her for a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert in Denver, which was quite an experience — very cool laser-light-show flashing about the place, plus lots of old-school headbanging by the lead guitarist and choreographed hair-tossing by the women backup singers, all equally Rapunzel-tressed, gently swaying, while whipping their heads back and forth in sharp synchronicity between the lead guitarist and the keyboard player like they were watching a tennis match. Too funny. Then to dinner at The Berkshire Restaurant, where bacon is the featured menu item. Just say yes.
Then, just in case the normal stresses of the season were not enough, I decided to sit for a French level certification exam, the DELF B2, on December 5th, which definitely does NOT qualify as jollity. I prepped several hours a day for eight weeks or so and suffered way more angst than a completely optional exam, having no bearing whatsoever on my future prospects in any arena, should have been allowed to cause me. Oh well. It may have provided much-needed focus for my attention and it did give my French a bit of a turbo boost. In fact, I’ve been spending so much time thinking in French, I just spelled “season” as saison, without even noticing until the red squiggly line protested that saison was not English. I don’t know yet if I passed, but I’m optimistic. On verra (We’ll see).
In a bit of excellent timing, the day before the exam, I learned that a poem I had written for my second Lighthouse Writers Workshop has been included in a new community anthology they’re publishing called All the Lives We Ever Lived. An advance copy was being held for me (in Denver, of course), so after the exam, to distract myself from rehashing all the errors I already realized I had committed on the exam (not to mention those that would occur to me later), I went over and picked up my copy. They will eventually be available in stores like Tattered Cover (April, I think). How cool is that? To see my work in print, even on such a small scale (a page and a half out of 200 or so). Still. Feeling rather jolly about it!
Then taking further advantage of being in Denver, I went to the Denver Art Museum to see the Dior exhibit. Gorgeous! Here’s a tiny peek . . .
Dior Exhibit — Denver Art Museum
Dior Exhibit — Denver Art Museum
Early steps in design — Dior Exhibit — Denver Art Museum
So I’m still pretty busy. I’ve continued my fused glass fun, so that qualifies as jolly, even though my results are never quite what I hope they’ll be. I’m still very much a beginner. Here’s the final version of the first one I made . . .
The busyness, at least the creativity, the push to learn more, the appreciation of beauty, fun with friends and family — all are good things. Even the busyness to a point. But when I slow down long enough to listen to the lyrics of a Christmas carol or watch a Christmas movie or even to stop and think, as David was so fond of doing, I’m finding the tears come pretty easily. This season has been harder than I expected, although I had been warned it likely would be. And of course, the news contributes its share of tragic natural disasters, seemingly inescapable hardships, and increasingly frequent senseless violence. Plus, we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary. By 4:00 p.m. December 27th last year, David’s struggle was over. Mine was beginning a new phase.
Sometimes jolly is hard to find. But maybe I don’t have to. Maybe hope is a better goal. I heard a wonderful sermon recently about hope in the midst of struggle, hope in spite of grief. Hope is not an emotion, she said.* Hope is a choice.. . . don’t let our circumstances define our hope. Usually, it’s easier for me to have hope in the ultimate future, however distant that may be, God eventually redeeming all things, making all things right. But hope here, now, and for however many years I have left on earth, that’s the challenge for me these days. I can’t really imagine my life ever again being as good as it was with David. And yet, here I am. So I’m praying for strength to choose hope for the days ahead, and I’m clinging to hope for our ultimate future. Wishing the same for you, dear ones!
Any words of hope you have to offer in the comments will be very welcome!
I will stand my ground where hope can be found. ∼Lauren Daigle
I’m still stretching my creative wings as much as possible. It seems to be how God is leading me most fully into engagement with life. I’m doing a bit of piano improv (sort of). It’s really more writing music over a given chord progression, which I don’t think is quite the same thing. Improvisation, in my opinion, should be natural and spur-of-the-moment. And what I’m doing is only spur-of-the-moment for a hot second; then I figure out what part of it I like and write it down. Lexi says this is completely acceptable and in fact is how you learn patterns and motifs you’d like to use and build on. I’m choosing to believe her!
On the fused glass front, my second version of the fall trees piece was slightly improved, but not enough, so I’ve added a bit more and it will go in for another firing this week. After that, no matter what, I’m calling it done. It is only my first effort, after all. I have also put together my Ile de Ré inspired piece, so here it is with all the frit (smashed glass bits) piled on approximately where I want it . . .
. . . so that will also be fired this week. This one is much more a mixture of opaques and translucents, so guess we’ll see. It’s all a learning process. I’ll take a photo with the light behind it when it’s done.
I haven’t done a lot of writing lately, but thought I’d share with you one of the final assignments for the last session of the writers workshop, the end of September. We were instructed to write a portrait, or rather to describe an actual portrait or self-portrait, so I decided to do both. You can probably guess what I chose first:
David at the Anchorage
It was a quick snap across the table as we waited for our drinks at the Anchorage bar in the harbor. He’s grinning, flashing his dimples, looking off to the side, out at the boats, maybe, so you can’t quite see the changeable blue of his deep-set eyes, but fish are teeming across his shirt in shades of aqua and azure, cobalt and cerulean. There’s a chunky silver chain at his neck that gleams against his sun-kissed skin, echoed by tiny highlights in his eyes and on his slightly uneven top teeth.His hair is still mostly dark, but there are hints of grey at his temples and on his unshaven chin.
He is completely still and sharp, caught in this moment of perfect contentment, but the background is strangely distorted, not out of focus exactly, more like a double exposure, giving a sense of movement to everything but him. And if you look closely, you can see the faintly golden reflection of a Windsor chair just above and to the left of his head, oddly seeming almost a sort of Byzantine halo, and beyondthat the dim red glow of the word EXIT. If this were an album cover, there would be endless discussions of the symbolism of these images, in light of his death a few years later, but there was no awareness of any of this at the time.
When I took this shot, I had no idea how important it would be, how ubiquitous it would be. He’s not even looking at the camera, and yet it turned out to be everyone’s favorite shot of David. It was first on public view in my blog post wishing him a happy 64th birthday. Less than a month later his cancer was diagnosed, and I chose it as his profile picture for the CaringBridge website updates. Since I was on the site so often, Google kept a thumbnail photo icon on my Chrome homepage, that I saw every day until suddenly new graphic icons replaced the screen shots a few days ago. I felt strangely robbed and maddeningly impotent in the face of this unwanted update. But I also used this photo for the celebration of David’s life and I have a stack of extra programs on his bedside table and the 18 x 24 foamboard poster on an easel in the vestibule, so it’s not as if I can’t see it whenever I want.
But he’s looking away. He’s happy, but he’s not quite with me completely. At the time he was, but now forevermore he’s looking away, beyond the blue.
Sunny at the Rio
Of course, it’s not an actual self-portrait. These were the days before selfies were hourly occurrences. David took this shot, trying out my new phone’s camera. A quick snap and it has been my favorite picture of myself for years. I love the way the afternoon light is streaming down at just the right angle, make Sunny seem even sunnier somehow. And although I am not especially happy to have my picture taken, I’m obviously happy to be with David, happy with my new phone, happy with the margarita almost out of frame, but ready and waiting.
If you look closely, you can sort of see the large graft on the side of my nose where the cancer was removed, and you can certainly see that my nose is a bit cockeyed as a result. “Picasso-esque” David and I called it. But that’s not what draws my eye. I see the glint in the green eyes and a smile so big, I can almost pretend I have dimples.
Mostly I see joy. And sunshine. And I know I am still that person.
True. I absolutely do know that, but by this time last year, David was on hospice, so those memories are a bit more on my mind than usual. Also, tomorrow (Sunday the 18th) is the 40th anniversary of the day we were wed, so that’s got some emotional weight as well. I’m trying to learn to let go of random markers like that, at least as a source of regret. I’m choosing instead to be grateful that we did have almost 40 years together, even if it was almost.
And I’m looking forward to lots of time with family and friends coming up over the holidays. We ALL miss David so much, but he is a part of all of us, so when we’re together and reminiscing, somehow he’s present and it is good.
Also: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HELEN! Forty years ago, she let us co-opt her birthday for our wedding day. Thanks again, Helen! She turns 91 tomorrow and is still going strong. The rest of us can barely keep up! If you don’t have her contact info to send a birthday wish, leave it in the comments and I’ll be sure she sees them.
Wishing all of you rich times with your dear ones! Bless you!
A few weeks ago, there was an artists’ studio tour here in Fort Collins, and I definitely took advantage of it. I visited three on Friday afternoon, another ten or twelve on Saturday, plus a few more on Sunday. What a treat. I’ll leave a few links for you at the bottom. If I give them to you now, you may never come back to finish reading this post!
One of the studios I visited was that of Cole Thompson, a photographer working entirely in black and white. His work is stunning and he very kindly talked with me, rank amateur that I am, about various aspects of how he produces his images. I love his work and he has inspired me to learn more about photography. One of these days, I may even do a post with black and white images, but not just yet. Although I love the drama and the artistry of black and white, I have to admit color feeds my soul in a way I seem to need right now. So for the moment, I’ll take my black with a splash of vibrant color. Like this . . .
During the studio tour weekend, I also stopped by to see Sibyl Stork, whose work I have loved for years. She’s the artist who taught the watercolor class I took (and LOVED) just before our 2016 road trip out to Portland, right before David’s cancer was discovered. It was good to talk with her again and to check out all her fabulous new work. She doesn’t have a class available for me right now, but I’ve got a lot going on at the moment anyway. Another possibility for the days ahead.
Today is ten months since David’s been gone, and I’ve had a few rough moments recently, times when the irrational questions resurface. Questions like, What?! Really?! Forever?! (here on earth, anyway). But as I wrote in the last post, I’m making a concerted effort to be present in the here and now and to let the day’s own troubles be enough for the day.
In fact, I’ve been so open to trying various creative things, in my efforts to come back to life, that I’ve gone a bit overboard and now have to reevaluate and maybe scale back a bit. Pro Tip: You know you’re not listening quite well enough to the still small voice of God when you have to get life advice from a Dove chocolate wrapper: “You can do anything,” it said, “but you can’t do everything.” Hahaha. Okay. Got it.
One of the activities I’m keeping for now is Kathi Dougherty’s fused glass open studio on Thursday afternoons. Hers was another studio I visited, and her work is an absolute celebration of color. For my first project, I wanted to play with the hues of fall foliage, since that has always been one of my favorite things. Kathi has done some gorgeous pieces on this theme, but of course I didn’t want to copy hers, so was a bit paralyzed at the start until she directed me to begin by collecting my colors. THAT I could do. I definitely also wanted sky and water. You know how much I love blue, even aside from how it reminds me of David.
Since for this first project I wanted to work primarily with crushed glass, called “frit,” I then smashed larger pieces to create a pallet of colors with which to work.
I could have made a plate or bowl, but I chose to do a flat art piece (using the term “art” VERY loosely). Mostly the point for me was to play, experiment, create. I read this yesterday in Girl, Wash Your Face:
Creating is the greatest expression of reverence I can think of because I recognize that the desire to make something is a gift from God. — Rachel Hollis
I agree and I am grateful for that gift. And as much as I would love to effortlessly produce truly beautiful things, the chance to try is enough, and the learning that comes from mistakes is a bonus. Here’s version one of my first piece →
Not horrifying, but not fabulous. I love how the light comes through, but I didn’t realize the small black “branches” would be as prominent as they are, showing through the translucent glass, as you can see. That was not what I intended and they bug me. Fortunately, it’s possible to add glass and fuse?/fire?/heat? it again. I don’t really know the lingo yet. But onward — and hopefully upward — to version two. I’ve added some opaques and I’ll see next Thursday if it’s improved or not. Here it is awaiting a second turn in the kiln:
My next project is inspired by this photo looking west from Île de Ré, the beautiful island just across a bridge from La Rochelle. This is possibly my favorite photo from our various trips to France, so I don’t expect to improve on the photo, but I’m super inspired by the colors.
Here’s what I’ve done so far:
I think it’s therapeutic for me because there are no rules, except reasonable caution for the sake of safety, and there’s no hurry. Kathi and the other regulars I’ve met are kind, so that’s a welcome change from the news, anyway. And I do think there’s something transcendent about the simple act of creating, that somehow taps into the image of our Creator God, put in each one of us.
Here’s a bit more from Rachel Hollis:
The freedom to carve out the time and have a safe place to create art is a blessing of the highest level in a world where so many people are unable to have either.
I am grateful for both the urge and the opportunity to create. Wishing you both as well!
I’ll leave you with a colorful October family photo from thirty years ago. Yikes. Half my life!
Please leave a comment if you have a minute, even if it’s to tease me about the enormous eighties red bow in my hair! I love hearing from you.