Remember when you were a kid, on the first day back at school, you'd have to write "what I did on my summer vacation?"  I remember always thinking mine was boring.  I went to day camp, lugged a back pack up a steep hill, that seemed to never end, ate a gross lunch, and was afraid I'd get a tick.  Also, that I'd drown in the pool.  Looking back I realize how lucky I was to go to camp!  Now people ask me how my first summer without Mike is going.  Well, I made a commitment to do what we would have done together, take road trips, have fun.

At least once a day I get asked the dreaded question.  "How are you?"  Don't get me wrong, I love when people check up on me.  This question can come from someone who doesn't know my husband died, someone in business, that I haven't spoken to in a while, who hasn't heard, so, what to say?  My standard answer is "fine," and then deflect back to them, "how are you"?  Then there are the people that know.  "So, how are you doing?"  Now, it has a different inflection, kind of sad, or they're struggling because they feel bad and don't know what to say.  Then I usually make a joke, like, "well, my husbands dead, but my hairs clean, and my earrings match, so that's a win."  The truth is, it's just not an easy answer. 

Grief is not linear, there's no race to the finish line.  It's forever, so the object of the game is navigation.  It can hit you at any moment.  Sometimes someone will just say "sorry to hear about your husband", and I'll burst into tears.  Today, someone came into my office that didn't know.  He asked how I was, and I said "fine, how are you?"  Then (for reasons unknown) he went into a monologue about how fantastic he was because he's a runner, and he's so healthy, because he's a runner, and everything amazing, because he's a runner.  It was obnoxious.  And then, (much to my own surprise, because I'm usually not so blunt), this popped out of my mouth. "My husband was a runner, and now he's dead".  Yes, I actually said that.  I wasn't upset, I didn't start to cry, I just said it.  Obviously, I shocked the guy and I apologized, I didn't mean to put a damper on his running health.  I assured him that Mike didn't drop dead while running.  It was kind of funny. 

As we go through life we are bound to have grief at some point, one way or another.  The most important thing to remember, at least for me, is that grief is the price we pay for love.  No love, no grief.  A lot of love, a lot of grief.  I think it's worth it.  I saw an instagram post that described grief as absorption, adjustment and acceptance.  I think that's pretty accurate. 

So I stuck to my goal of summer fun and road trips, small ones, day trips, an overnight here and there.  Mike and I did that a lot, sometimes planned, sometimes spontaneous.  I feel like I'm doing it for both of us now.  My husband was an expert at having fun and he left me that legacy.  When I'm laughing I feel like I'm honoring him.  Important to note: grief and fun can coexist. 

Aside from all the big intense feelings that come with the loss of a partner, I also miss the little things, the dumb minutia of everyday life around the house.  Think about what your partner does for you on a daily basis and if you haven't already, thank them!

For example;  Mike loved taking care of the pool.  He was like a mad scientist with his little chemical mixing set.  Before he switched to law he studied marine biology, so he appointed himself Mike Cousteau when it came to the pool.  OK, so I hired a pool guy, that was an easy one. 

But then there's my nemisis, THE TRASH.  For some reason, no matter how many reminders I set, or sticky notes I post, I cannot remember to put the trash out on Friday mornings.  So at 6:30 AM when I hear the (very noisy) trash trucks barreling up my hill, I leap out of bed and make a run for the door.  Yes, I'm that crazy neighbor, looking like Gladys Kravetz in my pj's racing to beat the trash truck.  Every freakn' Friday.  And now it seems like they actually slow down when approaching my driveway. I think they mock me, I'm the route entertainment.  And it's not just one trash bin, no it's three.  Don't know how it is where you live but we have one for regular trash, one for landscape trash and one for recycling trash.  I only have two hands!  And no, for all you smarties, I can't put them out the night before because then the coyotes, raccoons, and other critters will come and tip them over for a late night snack.  

Then there are the poor humming birds. Mike religiously made hummingbird nectar and filled the feeders as soon as they we're empty.  Now they're circling, and humming, "where the hell is that guy?" 

And oh, the fireplace, it's wood burning.  Mike loved getting free fire wood.  Anytime he'd see a neighbor had cut a tree down he'd be filling up the car.  He was like a kid in a candy store. We have the biggest wood pile in the neighborhood.  Lets' not forget this is Southern CA.  The logs I have aren't split.  I used one one night and it never went fully out, it smolderd inside and set off the CO2 detectors at 2 AM, that was fun.  So unless someone would like to stop by with an axe, I'll be using Duralogs from now on.

Summer adventures so far, have all been road trips not too far from home.  Ojai, Summerland, San Luis Obispo, Las Vegas, Solvang, Santa Barbara, my backyard, and our land in Joshua Tree, 2 empty acres of a few Joshua trees and many, many tumbleweeds.  I've managed to avoid Covid, and I haven't been on an airplane since, but stay tuned for bigger adventures to come.  Here's a few pictures of summer.  I love taking pictures, hope you enjoy them...

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Webster defines grief as a noun ~ a deep and poignant distress caused by bereavement.  I define it as a hole in the heart, accompanied by random bouts of sobbing and nausea, and an overall feeling of being run over by a Mack truck.

It's been a month today since My Mike passed away.  I call him that because when we met I had other Mikes in my phone so I put him in as My Mike, before he actually was My Mike, and it stuck.  It still seems so unbelievable that he is gone.  

The things I've learned about grief so far are that, well for one, not enough attention is paid to it in this country.  People wait for you to "get over it", which, by the way, never happens.  You don't get over it, you go around it, you learn to live with it, you experience it in random places like on line at the market, or while driving in the car.  There's no rhyme or reason to the things that set me off so far.  It could be a song, his shoes in the closet, the golf clubs in the corner, an expression, nothing, everything.  You see where I'm going with this?  Grief makes no sense and is profoundly different and personal for everyone.  The only common denominator I can see so far is that we all can agree it sucks.

I've lost both my parents, I was very close to them.  It was extremely painful and sad, but this is different. Loosing a partner, (at a young age), is just different.  It is two griefs.  It's grief for yourself over them no longer being with you and it is grief for them over all the future things they will miss.

Our family has had the most wonderful outpouring of support.  Every gift that showed up at our door, every card that came in the mail, every text, every email, every voice mail, every social media post, our amazing families, the way people showed up has taught me so much about how I want to show up for others.

Sometimes people think they don't know the right things to say to someone that's grieving.  I now know how simple it is.  Any form of "I'm thinking of you", "I'm here for you", "I'm sending you love and hugs". "I'm just checking in on you" etc.  Keeping it simple and from the heart is best.  And here's a few things I've experienced that I suggest you avoid saying to someone that's grieving..."You can move on now" (WTF?), "He's in a better place" (no, that would be next to me on the couch).  "It must be a relief not to have to take care of him anymore", (hell no and again, WTF!) 

Self preservation ~ when in doubt, lie.  I just came up with this one after a trip to the mechanic last week. Yes, my car acted up, great timing.  Naturally, our mechanic asked "How's your husband"?  When I said he passed away, the guys mouth hung open for a solid, very awkward 10 seconds, at least, which of course made me cry, you know, cause that's what you want to do at the mechanics!  

This past weekend I decided to go to the nail salon.  I had not been there in months, for obvious reasons, so naturally everyone made it a big deal that I was back.  Questions like "How are you"?, "Where have you been"? etc.  I knew it was coming, that question, the one I was dreading..."How's your husband"?  I thought for a minute about what happened at the mechanics and I knew that if I said he died, they'd be all over me and instead of enjoying my mani pedi in the spa chair, I'd been crying the whole time.  So I said he was fine.  I lied.  Self preservation.  I was there to enjoy a little self care and I didn't want to cry.  

I love this line from one of the great quotes below.  "I live even as I grieve".  Sometimes it feels OK to dip back into my life, sometimes it doesn't.  I'm going on instinct, doing things that feel good.  And also things that Mike would tell me to do, like "go get your nails done" :)

Here's what April looked like around here, and some favorite quotes about grief that really ring true for me...

"It's hard to turn the page when you know someone won't be in the next chapter, but the story must go on." ~ Thomas Wilder


I'm a big fan of reboots.  Whether you need a rest, or a rush, we all, at some point in our lives, need to breathe and reboot.  Birthday trips have been a tradition for me and my daughter, since she was 12.  Covid put a damper on 2020 and 2021.  And 2022 thus far has been quite the challenge.  

When you're dealing with a loved one that is sick, as I am with my husband, knowing that time is limited, you want to spend all the time you can with that person.  That being said however, the reality of being a caregiver is so hard!  And when someones illness has affected their brain and they are, well let's just say, a lot to handle!  It makes it even harder.  It's a constant balancing act, caring for him and juggling the rest of my life.  So I listen, I listen very closely and I imagine his voice and I know just what he'd say to me.  He'd say.  "This is fucking bull shit!  You're not sick.  Don't you dare go down with this ship!"  And so, with the help of many angels, a little birthday reboot 2022 went according to plan.  Although we didn't binge on baguettes in Paris, pasta in Positano, or grape leaves in Greece, we did go to one of my favorite towns and had a perfect little overnight in Ojai. 

My daughter picked the place, Ojai Rancho Inn.  Although to a millennial the vibe is country hipster, to me this was a complete throw back to summer vacations when I was a kid and the kind of cabins in New Hampshire my parents always took us to.  

We loved this place and would definitely stay here again. We rode bikes on the path behind beautiful Libby Park, ate our way through town as usual at some old favorites and discovered some new ones.  We window shopped, found a great new crystal store.  And we were supposed to take a pottery class but that plan went astray.  Other activities included hamocking, lounging, blabbing, and pudding on the patio (that's a nod to my Mom).  

We stopped at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market on the way home.  One of the stands was giving samples, the farmer held out a spoon with their farms homemade nut butter.  Maple Almond.  I tasted it.  I fainted.  Bought a jar.  Took it to the office on Monday.  Ate the entire jar.  With a Spoon.  The entire jar!  I think it's crack.  Send help. 

Finished off the weekend on Sunday with an amazing spring equinox sound bath. 

I'll list links with the pictures below.  I'm not affiliated with any of them, just sharing fun stuff if you ever find yourself lucky enough to be in magical Ojai CA for a weekend.

 The Dutchess was a new discovery that was recommend by a friend.  Part bakery, part wine bar.  It seems to be a trend.  They had gluten free treats, so naturally we had to have them all.  Love this place.

Eating one of my favorite things, lemon olive oil cake :)
For bike riding, you can rent bikes at The Mob Shop  The ranch offers free bikes but they were too big for us lol.
And what we do best, eat!  Mid-day snack at Papa Lennon's
Birthday diner at Osteria Monte Grappa
Lunch in Santa Barbara at Mizza
This pizza was OMG!
Around town in Ojai
Club Magic Hour for tea                                                            
Shopping at Fig
Getting in our steps around town.
Sunday's sound bath by Pamela Robins.  You can find her on instagram @Meditatingwithanimals.  If you have never experienced a sound bath I highly recommend it!  And when you can do it outside lying on the earth, it's even better.  It was total bliss. And yes, she has a Teepee!

Spring is in the air, so don't forget to breathe and reboot!