The dreaded, but delightful, eye contact

Last night we went to the grocery store, and it struck me how many people look down at their feet as they pass people in the aisles, not making eye contact. Why? Why do we do that?

Think about when you see young children in stores, or other places, and they tend to look at you and say “hi.” And we all like that, and almost everyone responds when a little one greets them. Why don’t we do that as adults? What changes in our souls that we no longer feel we can greet others?  Or even it we can’t say hello because it seems like too great of a gesture, why can’t we make eye contact?

So, as you know, I’ve been trying to “do a Sam” over these last years. I make eye contact, even if it’s just a second or two, and I say “hi” a lot. Sometimes I get no response, sometimes I get the look that says the person thinks I’m crazy, but usually I get this brief instant of bemusement before the person responds. The funny thing is, if it happens in someplace like a store, it becomes almost a game. When I see that person in the next aisle, there is a smile. By the third or fourth time, there is a “hello again.” By the dairy aisle, we are laughing about seeing each other in the checkout line. Inevitably, we are both smiling by then.

It’s a really small thing to do, to just make eye contact or say hello to another human being. But we have no idea of what impact that may have on someone, just knowing that someone else noticed they exist.

Don’t we all want someone to know that we exist?


The importance of quiet

The last couple days of my life (professionally) have been noisy. Very, very noisy. Not bad noise, just noise. Lots of noise. Constant human voices.

Normally, at the beginning and end of each day, I have some time outdoors or at home where we are quiet. No human voices talking, or very little talking, soft music, time to let the day consolidate in my brain, time to focus on finding my center again. The last few days, I haven’t had the time, and I can tell when that is the case because I become more frustrated with others, and am quicker to irritation.

Tonight, after another very noisy day, I took some time to stand (and walk) outside in the dark, just hearing the silence. How beautiful it was! Just a couple minutes of not hearing relentless chattering made me re-calibrate, and I found my center again.

Just my own opinion, but I think everyone should find that silence at some point every day, just to be able to hear their own hearts, and remember who they are.


SpongeBob and us…



Many, many years ago, okay, about sixteen or seventeen years ago, Sam wanted to start watching this show on TV called SpongeBob. This was when I was home for the summer when I was still teaching. He asked, and I forbid it. It seemed stupid and too loud to me, so I just plain said it wasn’t allowed. I didn’t say that often, so it was a bit of a surprise to Sam.

And he ignored me, and watched it (with Ben) when I wasn’t around, usually when my mom was watching them. When I would find out, I would yell about it. Then one day, in his completely Sam way, he calmly asked, “Have you ever watched it? How can you say it’s garbage if you haven’t really watched it.” I really hated when he would reasonably question authority like that!

So I did. I sat down on the couch and watched an episode with them. And by a week later, we were watching it as a family when we had TV time in the evening. Turned out, I loved that silly show. I loved the devotion between the friends. I loved the humor that went right over the kids’ heads. I would still grumble, making it sound like it was a concession on my part, but truth was, I liked it as much as the kids.  And I still do.

As the boys got older, there were still times when SpongeBob was on, and we would laugh. We watched the movies, one of them even in the theater (a big deal for us)! We sang along to the songs and we watched it in Mexico in Spanish.

After Sam died, I made a playlist in his honor, and shared it on FB, and it is shared here in one of my prior blog posts. In that list was The Best Day Ever song from SpongeBob. Here is the link if you don’t know the song:

The Best Day Ever

The thing is, I learned a lot about myself in learning to love SpongeBob. I thought I was too smart, too educated, too politically correct to watch such a show, and it took a little boy to make my stop and think, and in doing so, I learned something and made some great memories.

Today I learned that the creator of SpongeBob has passed away. I thank him for his creativity, and for helping us make some great memories.


Love and Leicester School

I met my husband in the spring of 1991, because some teachers at the local elementary school thought he was an amazing single dad, and they helped us meet. When we married, all of the faculty and staff were in attendance, they were some of the first people to visit us at the local hospital when Sam and Ben were born, and when Sam died, they were with us immediately. The spring after his death, they dedicated a buddy bench to him on the playground, knowing how much he loved that school community, and how much he loved sitting on a bench and talking with new people. When my mom broke her leg last year, they were the first non-family members there to visit her.

Keeping in mind that I met most of them in 1976, we have a lot of years together. There have been marriages and divorces, births and deaths, ups and downs, and through it all, that little school community has stayed together as a family.

Yesterday, one of the teachers got married. When we got there, we walked in to hear a chorus of “over here,” and we joined the “Leicester School Section” We sat together for the beautiful ceremony, then sat together for the reception. We laughed, we cried, we talked, we remembered and we celebrated. We ranged in age from 83 to 19, then joined by the grandchildren of the bride, bringing the age range to 83 to 2.

At one point, all of the current and former members of the Leicester School faculty and staff were out of the dance floor with many of their daughters and our brave son, dancing with streamers and ribbons, laughing, just enjoying being together. Again, the age range was 2-83. It was a beautiful site — love that goes beyond blood, goes beyond age, goes beyond political beliefs or anything else.

Plain and simple, it was Leicester School love, and I am so very thankful that community has been a part of my life for all these years.



As we wait for our Thanksgiving meal to finish cooking, I would like to ask something of you all. If you are reading this, whether on Thanksgiving, or some point in the future, please take a moment to think of people in your life. Is there someone in your life that you spend a lot of time thinking “if only” about? Is there a family member or friend that you have stepped away from due to some perceived issue? I’m not talking about someone who has abused you in some way. I’m talking about the friend from college who really mattered to you, but after a spat, you drift apart for years. Or the cousin that due to a family divorce, you haven’t connected in years.  Your child who you don’t speak to often because you don’t like his/her spouse, life choices, decision to move across the country, etc.

If there is someone like that in your life, I am asking you to find a way to reach out. Could you send a text that says you are thinking of that person? A text or email that reminds them of a good memory? A note sent in the mail that just says that you care, no matter what? It doesn’t have to be picking up the phone and talking for hours, it can be something smaller if that feels more comfortable. Just do it!

Some people you reach out to will not be ready to accept that overture. That’s okay. You will know that you tried, and I hope you will keep trying.

We don’t get to know how long we will live, nor how long people in our lives will live. But we can decide to not live with regrets about wishing that we had reached out when we had the chance.

Wishing you all love, peace, joy and time for gratitude today and every day!

Busy with a touch of sadness

Today was busy from start to finish, but one that gave us joy even as we swallowed the too familiar sadness as we prepare for Thanksgiving. We delivered copies of Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude, delivered a shipment of alpaca/wool rovings and drop spindles, covered firewood, cleaned, and cooked. Oh, we cooked. Pumpkin and maple pecan pie, stuffing, chex mix, winter squash, cheesecake and pumpkin bread. We listened to great music, watched the snow fall, then finally sat down together to watch a favorite movie. Everything we did today was familiar, and gave us pleasure — if only Sam could have been with us in person to prepare, regaling us with his yearly plan for competing with his friend to see how much weight each could gain in that one meal. Tomorrow at some point, we will talk about that set of memories, and it will make us laugh again, as it did when it was actually happening.


A good day

Today was one of those days when it all seemed to come together, and now, as the day comes to an end, it’s time to sit, watch a movie and do some writing.

What did we do today? We moved hay, cleaned barns, packed fiber/drop spindle orders, washed and blocked a knitting project, and packed books to ship tomorrow. Then we made cookies, brownies, beef stew, chicken pie and chicken broth, and bagged and froze lots of brussel sprouts. Through it all, we listened to great music, laughed, talked, and had fun.

Here are some pictures from today:

Relentless Love

Yesterday was a really weird day. So weird, that I couldn’t write about it last night, as I needed to reflect on it.

What happened? Things that caused extreme emotions…

First, there was a work glitch that upset me. Not a big deal in the scheme of the universe, but it bothered me a lot.

Then, while I was trying to let that go, we picked up the mail. In the mail was this envelope:


And I admit, it almost drove me to my knees. I know, it sounds stupid if you haven’t lived it, but that piece of mail drove a spike of pain through me. It was a fundraiser for the Lincoln Library, and Sam used to take a client there, and I’m sure he signed up because he liked to sign up for every mailing list. But here we are, more than five years after his death, and he’s still getting mail. And it hurt more than I can express.

Then my phone buzzed with a Facebook message. It was from someone Sam loved so very much, someone we love. She sent a note about my book, and shared a story with us about a day she spent with Sam years ago. And it made us laugh. We laughed, and then we scrolled down, and there were two pictures included with the note. Both pictures are beautiful, but this one took our breath away — it is such a Sam picture, and we had never seen it before, and it just made our hearts sing.


It was as if Sam was popping in to say hello, and to remind us of how much love we all share, and that friend said that reading the book reminded her of how Sam should be remembered, for his relentless love.

After the ups and downs of emotion, I realized again that love is what matters, period.

Little Things

I started today with the most beautiful note about Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude. The note was from someone that I admire and love, and greatly respect her opinion. Her warm words washed over me like the absolute best of hugs — you know the kind, the long, strong hug from someone you love that makes the world seem right.

One of the things she mentioned in that note was a memory about the two of us listening to the song “Clouds” by Zach Sobiech. Check it out here: CLOUDS

I asked her to listen to that song after our youngest had gone to a Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership event, and heard it there. He’d gotten in the car to come home, and insisted we listen to the song in the parking lot. That’s how much it meant to him.

I fell in love with that song, and the next day at work, I asked that friend to listen to it with me. And she did. And she held my hand, cried with me a bit, and made me feel loved and supported.

This is an example to me of the idea that little things matter in life. That friend taking the 3-4 minutes to listen to the song meant so much then, and still does now. The friend sending a text to just say hi? That matters. The friend handing me a tiny giraffe eraser? That matters.

One of the things I’ve learned in the years since Sam’s death is that big things matter, but sometimes the smaller things matter even more. Sometimes we get so hung up on the big things, like I want to get that really special gift for someone, when just picking up the phone and calling to say hi would matter just as much.