The End of One Era and the Start of Another


This morning, I came down the stairs from our bedroom, and could hear an unusual noises coming from the basement. When I opened the door, holding two bottles for the lambs, they were standing on the bottom stair, looking very proud of themselves.

After investigating, I found that overnight, they had decided to break-out of their sleeping quarters. Sigh… They had a really good time last night.

In hindsight, their decision to explore their world last night pushed us into a decision we’d been discussing for the last two days. We knew it was time to start their transition to the barn with Ellsy, but wanted to do it slowly as to not shock them. So, as of last night, our plan was to take them down to the barn for a couple hours today, then bring them back in at night. We were going to expand the hours in the barn day by day.

Nope. With their freedom romp last night, it was clear that they are ready for the big barn. So while they played on the deck, we finished their new pen in the barn.

Then, we took them down to the pen and barn. Now, they’ve visited before, but this was different. Hila went first, and since she hates to be away from Lana for even a minute, she was yowling, which didn’t impress Ellsy a whole lot. Then we got Lana, who loves an adventure, and when she got down to the pen, Ellsy came over to rub noses with her.

We moved them into their new (temporary) pen. This is just transitional, giving the three of them time to get used to living together before we let them out all the time with Ellsy.


They love their new home. Lots of room, new sights and smells, and interesting sounds.

However, Ellsy isn’t quite sure about sharing his space. He decided to stand out in the pouring rain and look in at us all…


We gave the lambs their bottles, and then left them all to get used to their new situations. We’ll let you know how it goes!


My Comfort Zone

I haven’t felt truly comfortable in my own skin since October 8, 2013. That day, even as I  didn’t feel well (I was sick), I knew who I was, what our plan/goals were, and felt pretty comfortable in my own skin.

Then Sam died, and since then, every day brings new learning, new experiences, and a constant sense of being a bit out of my comfort zone. Now, I know that optimal learning happens when you are a bit out of your comfort zone, and that’s great, but sometimes I feel really out of that zone.

Sometimes, however, I/we consciously decide to push ourselves out of our comfort zone purely for the new learning/new experiences.

Thursday night was one of those times. We went to see Twiddle at the Paramount Theater in Rutland. Yes, as you all know, we’ve been to see Twiddle several times before, but again, this was a different experience. First, it was going to be an inside show — we’d only ever seen them perform outside before. Second, we were going just the two of us, not going with our sons. Going with our sons has several benefits. First, we love spending time with them. Second, when we are all together, I can be with people that make me feel safe and loved, and if I want, I don’t really have to interact with other people.

Thursday night, we shifted all of that. We went to Rutland, excited about the concert, but with the knowledge that we might, gasp, need to interact with people we didn’t know. We also had reached out to their band manager and one of the members of the band, to ask if we could connect with that musician for just a few minutes. You see, I wanted to see him in person, and thank him for his work on opioid recovery awareness, and I wanted to give him a copy of my book. Yup, that was a really, really big step for me. Giving a copy of my book to a stranger who I admire, that was a really not-in-my-comfort-zone thing to do.

A while before the venue opened, we got in line with the other concert goers. And we started a conversation with the people behind us. And they were awesome. Then, I got out of line to find the manager, got back in line, and both of us got out of line to go see the band member. After an emotional couple minutes meeting him, we walked back to the line, expecting we needed to go to the end of the line — which was now a LONG, LONG line. As we headed toward the end, the people behind us earlier stopped us, and invited us back to our original spot. The line inched along, and we had great conversations with them.

In the theater, we had to grapple with the intense emotions of being in place with so many wonderful family memories, especially an America concert there, and seeing Arlo Guthrie there. We had to struggle with the regrets that we never saw Twiddle with Sam. And through it all, we talked to new people, sang, danced a little, and felt the love.

Yup, all in all, I was completely out of my comfort zone that night. And what a good thing that was.


You really wanted more sheep pictures, right?

Our lambs are amazing! They make us laugh, they are fascinating to watch, and we love their devotion to each other. So, here are a few pictures of them from the last week.




This is Lana, clearly thinking that if she takes a nap by the bucket with the lamb formula powder, it might make her bottle come sooner. She was wrong.




This is the two of them, looking at their reflections in the dishwasher, clearly thinking that there were two sheep stuck inside…




Here is Hila, who loves my computer bag.  Yes, I wipe lamb spit off it each day.




And here are the two of them, so excited to eat a little bit of lettuce. We are slowly weaning them off the milk, adding more grain and hay each day, and are starting to introduce some greens. They were so excited!!


What a week!

This week brought some truly intense and beautiful emotions. On Thursday, I was the keynote speaker at a Women’s Day, and got to spend time with some of the most amazing young women. Their warmth, honesty, and openness was a joy to behold. Many of them have struggled greatly in their lives, and their willingness to listen to me speak about grief, hope, and love was a gift for me.


Then Friday, I received a note in the mail from someone I have known more than twenty years. The whole note was beautiful, but at the end, she added this:


I sat and cried. What a gift for her to share that memory with us. Sam so loved his siblings, and at the time she described, Sam would have been six years old, keeping his baby brother company and protecting him.

Then today, a package arrived in the mail, and I found this inside:

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A rainbow tree! A hand-painted rainbow tree! It made my heart swell with love and gratitude.

As I’ve said before, we will grieve for Sam for the rest of our lives. But this week, the people who have joined in our journey through reading the book and being part of our lives have reminded me again of the how good people are.



Should they roam?

Our chickens (laying hens) are basically free range. If you aren’t familiar with the way chickens can be raised and live, that means that at night they go (by choice) into a coop, and we close the entrances to the coop to protect them. They hop up on their roosts, fluff up their feathers, and go to sleep.

Each morning, we take them a feeder of grain, which we put somewhere out on the lawn, or under the deck if it’s raining, and let the chickens out. They roam our land all day. They visit the compost pile, wander around the beehives, walk up and down the driveway, take dust baths, and eat bugs and greenery as they wander. They are happy as they explore, and you can hear them talking to each other as they travel.

Most of the time, they will head back to the coop when it is time to lay an egg. Chickens like to lay eggs in a safe, warm, protected spot, so we have nesting boxes in the coop. They climb in, sit a while, lay an egg, then leave the coop and make a huge amount of noise drawing attention away from that precious egg.

Sometimes, they get into ruts where they instead lay eggs other places, such as hiding them in the hay barn. Then we take a day or two and keep them in the coop so they get back into the habit of using the boxes. They complain incessantly when they have to be inside all the time, so we try to limit the number of times a year we do this.

Yesterday, a hawk got one of our hens. That is a sad event for us. We care for them deeply, and hate to have them taken that way. We could keep them in all the time, and they would be safe, but they would lose the joy of wandering and exploring.

Each time we lose one, which happens about once a year, we talk about keeping them in full-time. Each time, we come to the conclusion that freedom comes with risks that we are willing to take.

Time to Reflect

Today I had some time to reflect on our last week. In that week, we had two very different book events for Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude. One was at the local library, one at a local theater. One was hosted by the library and a local support group, the other by the United Way.

Both events were very well attended — pretty impressive for winter nights in Vermont! One was full of people who knew us personally, and almost all of them knew Sam. The other had many people I didn’t know, and the number of people who knew Sam was small.

In thinking back about the two, it was a gift to be able to do them back to back like I did. One was very, very emotional, as I watched beloved faces struggle with the emotions of the conversation. The other way more nerve-wracking as I spoke to my largest audience yet as an author.

What did I learn from them? I learned that love is what matters most. I learned that my sons and husband are even more amazing than I thought. I learned again that we have incredible parents, friends, colleagues. I learned that people would willingly shove themselves out of their comfort zones to join us for the events.

I learned again how loved we are, and am so very thankful for that love.


Love is in the little things.

Last night we watched Morgan Freeman’s episode on love on The Story of Us. What struck me was the very end of the episode, when he talked about small examples of love changing the world. Exactly!

This week we have seen so many examples of love. People sending little notes about my post about the chair. People sending a cheery text before my book event tonight. A son helping out with chores. Offers to make sure we have dinner before Thursday’s event. Hugs. Sheep wanting to rub noses with us. A chicken wanting to be held. Friends stopping by the house.

Love, it is love. Love doesn’t have to be loud or showy. It doesn’t have to be expensive — in fact it doesn’t have to cost a cent.


No new memories — and that chair…

One of the hardest lessons for me in losing a child is that you don’t ever get to make new memories with that child. No new birthday photos. No family photos with everyone in them. And therefore, you hold onto the old ones with all your strength.

This week marked a milestone for us, one that is knocking me around more than I would have thought.

In 1998 and 1999, I scrimped and saved to give my husband a surprise for his birthday in 1999. He had wanted a recliner, and finally, with help from our parents, I bought him one for his birthday. I remember going to pick it up with him, with baby Sam in his backpack. The joy and excitement as we picked up one of our very first new pieces of furniture and brought it home was more than I can describe.

It wasn’t the nicest chair even then, brand new. But it was sturdy, fit in the space, and was a symbol of love. My husband would sit there and give Sam his bottle. He’d read to all three (at the time) of the kids, with them balancing on his lap. When Ben was born, I can remember Sam sitting on his lap, holding his new brother, so excited to have that tiny baby join the nightly reading time.

As the kids grew, sitting in Daddy’s chair was still a joy. They read there, slept there when sick or scared, watched TV in it, and even as big kids, could still be convinced to cuddle with us in that chair.

Years went by. The chair showed its age. It began to have some shiny areas where the fabric was fraying. Then the seat began to tilt. Then it really tilted, so it was hard to sit in comfortably.

Finally, we agreed it was time for the chair to go. And our kids disagreed. It needed to stay, so it moved into our two youngest sons’ room. Years passed, and it was still used almost daily. When the youngest went to college, it finally reclined for the last time, then just became a spot for stuff to gather.

This week, with some reorganizing of the house, we made the decision that it was time for the chair to go to the landfill. It couldn’t be fixed, was grubby, and it was time to let go of it.

It’s just a chair, I know that. But it also was a chair that Sam sat in, slept in, dreamed in, cried it, and on one memorable occasion, threw up in it in truly impressive fashion. It was part of his life, and saying goodbye to it hurt a lot.  I will miss that chair, what it represented, all those hours and years of love, laughter, and being whole.



The little things…

It is Sunday. For many, many years, Sunday afternoon our kids were home, we had a big Sunday meal together, and then we watched a movie. And every time, Sam would fall asleep watching the movie, and snore. He could snore louder than anyone, and that includes me, a master snorer.

As the kids have grown, our Sunday afternoons have gotten quieter. When our youngest is home from college, he joins us for a meal and a movie, and sometimes our oldest son does as well. If it’s just the two of us? We don’t usually do the big meal, instead opting for snacks, and watch a movie or something together.

Sundays are the hardest day of the week for me since Sam died. The only time he didn’t do the meal-and-a-movie was when he was at UVM, and even then, he often got a ride (or took the bus) home for the day. I miss hearing him come slamming through the front door, asking what was for lunch, usually dragging mud in on his shoes or even on his bare feet. Then he would regale us all with what he had seen, heard, learned, tasted, or just plain experienced since we’d seen him last.

I miss those conversations. I miss the mud. I miss him taking out the ketchup and pouring it over almost any meal. I miss the arguing over what movie to watch. I miss hearing him pick on his brother about setting the volume on the TV to an even number. I even miss the snoring.

Grief is funny. Sometimes it’s the big things that hit me really hard, like birthdays or holidays. Sometimes it’s the little things, like not hearing snoring on a Sunday.