5 years and …… she needs to pay off her credit card…. first…

Today, 5 years ago, John died.  5 years ago, I was telling my children that their dad died.  After I watched him die and said to the team after they said, I don’t think he is going to come back.  I finally said ok.  So they stopped and I came over to his side and he stopped. I only remember parts of it.  I was stunned.  I was using my manners and I was so afraid. I wished I had stayed longer but this intense feeling of needing to go to my children took over.  My brother drove me home.  At home my friend was with my children and we walked in and I said to her , just leave.  She said what happened.  I pulled her into my room and said, he died.  I have to tell my children, just get your daughter and I need to tell my kids.

So Sean my brother and I sat down and I told my kids.  it was awful.  it was in some ways worse than John dying.  Kaegan screamed a scream that I will never forget and Anna begged to go to the hospital.  Will just folded.  It was horrific and I don’t even want to type the details because I want to just put them to rest.

and then other people arrived and then they left and I cried and then I got on facebook and somehow that night I went to sleep. but it was not good.

so the next day started, some bread arrived.  people started calling and so it began.

3 weeks later, I went back to work.

7 months later I quit my job and started over. I don’t really remember much of those 7 months but getting by,

We traveled, I went back to school, I tried a job, I started my own business, the kids did ok.

This year, I started to love myself, I got a new job, a boyfriend, I had surgery, life got happy… but man did it take awhile.  I have cried so much, for forgiveness from John, from loneliness and then begging God to please let me find someone to love again, I guess the worst part has been the loneliness.

I had to stop there and pause.  I was overcome with being so thankful for not being so lonely anymore.  I picked up the phone and called Dennis to tell him,  how glad I am that he is in my life.  I wondered earlier in the week if I would be able to feel ok talking to Dennis on John’s day, but I was fine.  He lets me share as much as I want and he said, he wanted to give me space on this day and he mentioned that five years is quite the milestone for all of us.  I cried some more that he said this to me.  He is as gentle as they come, as sweet as I dreamed of and I can’t believe that I get to have a chance to love again.

My kids did well today, no one was really sad or shared that they were.  Anna who is more verbal, did say as she kissed me good night that we got through another one. Kaegan was stressed with her senior project, Will was mad I did not take him to a soccer game.  Life goes on.

Earlier in the day, I overheard Kaegan talking to someone and I figured it was John’s mom.  Kaegan had called her.  She never usually calls, and if she does it is usually Kaegan.  I think that she probably talks to the others maybe 4 times a year on the phone and maybe and if she also see’s them.  They usually see her in the summer but this summer she said she would come down here and see them.  It never happened.  First it was her house was going to be painted and now she is says she is paying her credit card off.  I listened to Kaegan tell me this and she even rolled her eyes.  I thought, how in the world do you put off loved ones, especially grandchildren for a credit card.  What possesses her to even say this out loud to Kaegan?  I have used this blog to vent, when I was angry and so much as been towards her and her treatment of me, and now the kids. Part of me always knows that this is how she is, and in some ways it means less visits which can possibly less hurting feelings of avoiding her and the things she says.  The kids now just only want to visit for a couple of days and especially not on a Sunday.

I am grateful to God to have a full and loving heart and I pray that I will never ever be like her.  I will though pray for her and her waking up to her mistakes.

So that’s five years.  Grief, trauma, loneliness , anger.  So much as eased off and mostly love and joy surround me.  I don’t think I look like a widow.  I’m fine with being a widow, I am proud of it and my journey.  I will always miss John but somehow I know he is always present in some way in my life.


The Lake House

Several years ago as my new friendship with what is now, my best friend was blossoming, she dreamed out loud for me one day.

She owns a very nice lake house and she randomly one day said to me, One day, you will come here with someone and have a romantic night.   That’s the simple sentence, but she had it all thought out and it was dreamy.   I believe I was year 3 of grief, I had done some hard work, but no dates or romantic partner seemed to be on the horizon.  I did like her lake dream for me.   Several months later, we were at Folly Beach and I was touring several of my friends from our church retreat around the house I had rented a few years prior for my family’s healing from death at the beach.  The beach house was beautiful and as we all admired it and stretched out on the chairs, the new owner suddenly appeared!  after I started furiously apologizing he took our gaggle of women for a tour.  As we toured, behind me my bestie was smiling and had already started dreaming again.  Later she confessed to me her new romantic paperback novel idea….. I mean, she shared her daydream of this man, being single and meeting me and then suddenly he would fall in love and I fall in love and It would be at the beach house where I healed.


ok, so that did not happen nor the novel.  But My bestie had great ideas.  AND one is about to come true.   I’m taking my new love to the lake house.  I had forgotten about this dream, but as I was brainstorming ideas for a gift for his 50th, I envisioned a fancy hotel room nearby that we could go to that would give us one night without children.  But we would be close by…… as I thought about what we could do, I suddenly thought of the lake house….. well the lake house is only an hour away… the lake house is free, the lake house has access to a hot tub.  the lake house has fun activity choices like beautiful walks and kayaks.   The lake house has an outdoor fireplace.  Suddenly I remembered my bestie’s dream.  OMG, it’s the dream.  She dreamed this for me.   When she did, I liked it, I wanted that dream, and then more years went by.  I think I liked it because she loved me so much she dreamed what I really wanted and needed.  She envisioned it for me and then she just held space for it.

So I sent a little text to her,  May I make a Lake reservation?……   for romance?    She quickly texted back with a fast date.  (she moves and envisions fast).   I quickly shuffled ideas to manage the FIVE children that ultimately be WAITING.    I planned a great weekend for them.  Ok, one day and one night.    They all agreed.

So today I’m shopping for groceries and presents for the lake house trip.  I hope it goes well, I think it will, I think if he and I just get to read a book and no one interrupts to tell us that an animal just puked or that their device did something, then we will be so happy.  It’s his 50th and he deserves some adult romance.   and by adult romance, I mean, long walks, long conversation, a fire and maybe a hot tub.  ohhhh  and reading.   because that’s all we adults really care about right?   🙂



this past week, I have gone to sleep smiling, I stay busy during the day, I wake up smiling.  I have been a writing machine, I have been a talking machine.  cooking machine,   I was telling my new friend that he had put a shot of something into my life.

Is it serotonin ?   Is it adrenaline?

He said.. it’s dopamine.


I googled it.  and I saw addiction. so I exited quickly.   ohhhhhhhhh.

Then he said, it’s more addictive than cocaine or heroin.  It’s called a runner’s high, it’s what writers talk about when they get a surge to write like Stephen King.

Dopomine.   = Dope


yes friends, I’m just going to admit it.  I am high on the dopamine right now.  It is some good stuff.  I am suddenly confident so that when a job posted recently I went bonkers calling my tribe and saying.   I need you to assist me in making sure I get this job.   I will have that job.

Dopamine is helping me rally.

I spent an evening with my children’s youth group at the youth conference in my family’s most sacred place, Montreat.   Dope.

I stared and watched my own children laugh and talk and be so at peace.  I watched my beautiful friends children laugh, eat, dance and have serious conversations and I just sat and rocked in a chair and it was bliss.

Dopamine.  damn I love you.

My Journey back to finding new me

I forgot how when I feel such intense feelings such as grief, I need to write.  Deep new raw grief was so intense that the only way for me to function was to let it out.  So I remember creating this blog so I could just let it out.  and so I did.  Sometimes a lot and sometimes…. very little.

The past year, I changed my career up and what a healing thing to spend my days hugging, snuggling, caring for little ones again.  For me I think this was the catalyst that began to ease my pain of my grief.  Love.   Loving others allowed me to pour this love I want to share with everyone, into little tiny people who need someone to love them as much as their family does until they can be back together.   So my love was shared and my love did not just reside in my body and heart but it could flow.

Then this past Feb, on my yearly retreat with the women of my church, I celebrated feeling like my heart was full, that I did not feel like falling apart, but I felt like celebrating this new person I was becoming of being Ashley.  Ashley, mom of my 3, Ashley a caretaker, Ashley the friend, Ashley a sister at sea.   but I did realize that maybe…. maybe I was ready to see what it might be like to meet someone to do things with.

I had prayed many times before the deep of night, when I would wake up and suddenly be still with my loneliness.  I would feel it, and it seems like this ache , the ache of missing love would make me cry out, please. God, please, please don’t let me have to do this life without someone to share things with, please.  please god, I will be good.

So I tried to explore putting myself out there.   It was not good, as I tried to look around, suddenly I became really self conscious and I had the most horrible self talk to myself.  I’m not good enough, I’m not thin enough, I need to settle for this type of person,   This lasted maybe 2 full weeks before I started realizing that instead of having fun, I was creating some sort of hell for myself.   Slowly, I imagined what I wanted to find again but first, maybe I needed to do some self care.

Ok, self, what is going on?   Family is good, friends are great, job is good, oh me ???   well I”m just ok, I mean, what do I like to do?   I like to…. watch Netflix??   drink wine???  talk to friends?   eat???

I started thinking about what I have always loved, being outside, looking at nature, walking and hiking, exploring.   But these years of grief that included so much of my body being sick, really changed my body.   My body was not keeping me from exploring because it took so much energy to move my body.  So I resisted.

I barely had self care.  So slowly in Feb, I started some self care.

First I turned off the get to know a man stuff.

then I went to the Dr.

I got my hair done

I started saying yet to just going out more.

I started noticing how other people did self care…… they took care of themselves.

What ever my personality type is, I put myself last.  and here I was all by myself and I had a list of things to do for myself.

I wanted to help myself so I needed some help.  I needed some accountability, some structure and I needed to look at what it was that was holding me back.  I needed goals.  So I went to the doctor and I said yes.

yes I’m going to have bariatric surgery.   but I needed to take care of me in order to have this.

I needed to take all my meds, I needed to put nutrition into my body, I needed to move my body.

I faced my weight and I made some goals.

So started to walk more.  I sweated so much.

I started to eat salads more.

I went to doctors upon doctors.  I did testing, I logged food, poop, sleep,

I got a pedicure, I got another haircut.  I laughed, I took pictures even though I did not like my pictures but I wanted my kids to see me have fun.  I also put the brake on an unhealthy friendship that was keeping me from fully loving myself.

I opened my heart soul door for someone to come in.

and suddenly just like that……

someone did.

first of all, I want to write that even if I’m giddy, I know someone could just become part of my big beautiful friends but no matter what , he… helped me see that I am all of the things …. right now….. right now without having to have a body look a certain way.

My friends and family love me so much and tell me they love me a lot.  I know they do, I trust them.  I accept it.  but opening up and being vulnerable to be romantic feels raw and scary especially if you have any bad self talk.

but suddenly,

being able to be myself in communication that did not include face to face, it allowed me to just be.  and this person wrote back.

and we connected by our words, connected over common thoughts.  it was really easy.

It was not forced or concerning like the few only months before.
I do think the person that suddenly showed up actually was  and is, a really nice person.   Maybe the others were too but I knew just by communicating that it was not easy.

He suddenly was easy.   It’s only been 6 days.   ha!

BUT he suddenly evoked all these powerful emotions that are so strong,  they literally keep me from sleeping.  I’m exhausted.   so I realized tonight in the middle of the night that I needed to write them out.

What I am feeling is joy.   Joy of being recognized for what’s inside of me and someone saying, I like that.  tell me more.  Joy of someone wanting to know more a lot.  Not just tell me more once a week like my best best friends.   I now have loads of friends and loads of best friends and my best friends make fun of me for having so many best friends as I say… but I think and I say, it takes a lot of people to be me.  because I’m soooo much.   God made me to love others but being this means….  I have a lotta love and I have to share it.   So the past 5 years I have found this way ….. to have LOTS of close friends so that I don’t overwhelm anyone.   because I know I can do that.  It’s ok, if it’s with the right person, like with John.   He was grounded and could almost be immune to how much I was so that I did not totally wear him out but honestly he would roll his eyes at me right now and say, that’s not true you wore me out…

ok but anyway.

so even if suddenly he …. is not he.    I wanted to capture this emotion and celebrate this.

He looked over to me when we met and he recognized me and stood up.  He immediately came over to me and smiled.   Hello.

and it was easy.   There was no look that I have seen by people when they judge you for your out side.   Even my dearest friends, some still do but I found the common.   When someone really is goodness and they get to know the inside of you, and you click then they love the outside of you.

or maybe it’s just magic.

or God

or John

or the universe.

I don’t care, but being accepted for me was affirming and being accepted and wanting to be close to me was super affirming.   Being close to me and then telling me it was wonderful, that was what is keeping me up .

joy of love.  I’m not saying like love love.   but love flowing in the gentle friendship/romance way.   not in love….

It’s day 5 of gentle new affirming romantic feelings and my door is wide open.  I am wide open.  I feel a stillness in my soul of just knowing that it’s possible that I can find love again.  To me, this told me that he or someone really can love me .

and I’m wide open to being me, this new me.

Am I ok alone?

In the last 3 months I’ve had more people ask me, have you thought of dating again?   See if you have been with me on this grief journey, I saw a really strange reaction from myself since John died.

  1.  He died= me shocked.
  2. Me shocked and realizing I’m a widow.
  3. Me realizing raising 3 kids is going to be hard.
  4. Me being in such mourning that I think my thinking was off and I thought about who will I date.  Odd to think about this now.
  5. just a few months later, I was chatting with a couple of males and I myself thought romantically about them.
  6. Sudden realization they are assholes.
  7. Lonliness
  8. alone
  9. a quick 3 month Match membership.
  10. booty call
  11. busy life, busy life….. great friendships…
  12. Realization that I’m ok.
  13. All of a sudden more people ask if I want to date.
  14. Me weighing more than any time of my life but not really feeling like changing that.
  15. Watching Whoopie Goldberg say, she does not want to get married, she wants to just be with herself.
  16. Me grinning.  Then someone asks me again, have I dated ?

So yesterday I was fine being by myself.  Then I have a dream of someone just hugging me and I could feel their sweat shirt in my hug.  I burrowed my nose into their neck corner and breathed in their scent.  For a dream, this was especially vivid.  I woke up and relished that feeling.  I do missing hugging.

I have a few people who hug me.  I mean I don’t really want to cuddle with a girl.   I have a guy friend who seriously hugs me and has held me. but he is married and well, it’s just not ok for me to ask for that.

So today, I wish I could snuggle and hug like crazy.  So I thought of all the other things that you forget.

like fartting.  I don’t want anyone to fart on me.  well, I guess it’s ok if I really know them.

ok but I don’t want to be fussed at.  I just want someone to really like me and I not ever be wrong and that I”m a dream to be around even if I”m not.

I don’t want someone to get on my nerves.  I don’t want to be mad about their mouth noises.  or smell or if they don’t do something I wanted them to do.

I don’t know what it’s like to date anymore. I don’t know the rules of dating and I don’t really want to.

When I tried the Match.com thing, a man that I talked to, seemed so nice, and we had several common things then…. he did not like my dry responses of humor and said that I was mean.  I’m not mean? what dude?

then one day he just did not reply and I was ok with this and so I did not pay 50 bucks to look at other single men and not really like anyone based on pics and strange bio’s.  I mean, how weird is that.

So if I do it again which I think might be the only way to date again, what would I say about myself.

Hi, I’m a mom of 3.

I like to watch TV shows and read.  I love music and occasionally like to go hear music but I also don’t like to be hot or too cold or too wet.  I”m 43, I’m done with that.

I love to camp, and have campfires.

I like to cook.  I love to travel.  I really like being with my girlfriends and laughing.  that is my most favorite thing to do.

Dear men,  I’d like to do something with someone nice.  I would like to go see waterfalls and views.  I would like to travel to places I’ve never been to and see stuff.

I would like to watch tv shows.  I will also sometimes go to the movies.

I would like to try new foods.  I would like to be treated like really well. I would like you to adore me a lot at first and then it can calm down.  I would like to have surprises a lot.  I would like to laugh loudly.  I would love to have someone make me laugh.  I would like your ideas to sometimes be better than mine but I want to come to that conclusion.

I’d love for someone to do something for me that I hate to do.  like get my oil changed.  go get groceries.

I would like to nurture someone that is male and hug them.  I’d love to make them laugh and also make them yummy stuff and watch them enjoy it.

but I don’t want to fight.  I don’t want to hurt your feelings or hurt mine.

crap, someone sent me a pic of a winter walk and frozen water and that’s what I wanted to see today.  but with someone to admire it with me.  then they send the pic and it’s what I literally just wrote about.  yeah, I like that.

so now because I wrote all that I feel sad.  it’s winter and cold and I think I like winter.  and I wish I had someone to bring me a beer or glass of wine and make me dinner.  then watch a movie.  or meet some other couple to have dinner and we all laugh.  that would be nice.

fuck now I’m sad.


shut up and love.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m about to enter the month of October.  Or I’m coming off of 2 weeks of reflecting on grief as I hear the news of tragic deaths in my community and I watch as my children grieve for friends, for other families and it pulls at our own grief of missing John.

So this morning when I read an article about a woman bitching about how women are not naggers when they have to ask their husband to do everything they want.  I want to bitch slap this writer.

Instead I remember that I so used to be her and now I’m not.  But at least I also have another argument that I could retaliate with as far as perspective besides my ol faithful widow card.

I think same sex couples get on each other’s nerves and one has a more controlling personality and so they say what they want more and they probably fight.  That’s my safe  let’s not go there answer.   but…. because I’m sad for some families that have had the rug pulled out from under them and everyone is saying, what can I do, I can tell you.

shut up and love.

so here it goes…

Dear Gemma,

Shut up and love.  Now Gemma, I hear you, I totally hear you, I know he should have called the cleaning service but because he does not think like you it does not mean he is less than you.  He actually was aware of the cost and thought oh crap, she will get pissed if I spend too much.  He knew he should just do it himself.  But you choose to go and do the laundry and pick up his stuff on purpose because you were just mad he did not call the cleaning service like you proposed.  The idea really is you felt guilty for not have a perfect bathroom, he does not feel guilty but that pisses you off so you threw your guilt over to him and by God, he got it.

Girl, I know this game.  I was a freaking pro at it.  and you know what.  I am so damn sorry.  If I could say sorry more and teach anybody anything, it would be to shut up and love.

Because guess what Gemma, my husband is not here anymore.  the rug was pulled out from under my family and now I”m going to tell you what I have learned since I met Grief.

*I was an asshole and so was he but we are all humans and so therefore, we sometimes are assholes.

* quit trying to be perfect.  there is no perfect, instead just appreciate.  look around and appreciate.  appreciate that garden, appreciate that spider web, appreciate that there are 5 piles of stuff on your kitchen counter.

*remember when you would be really pissed and have bad thoughts.  well seriously I have to tell you that you do feel guilty when it happens.  and that makes you throw up a lot, develop a gag issue, get really sick, drink way too much and have panic attacks.

*remember how you get so annoyed at the bitching about that one little thing that was like every single day and you imagined hitting them or telling them to shut up?  Well, imagine standing there 4 months later and remembering this and crying and wishing you could hear them bitching about what ever was bugging them every day at that moment.  wishing you could hear them when you really wanted them not to be like that but you would give anything to hear that bitching.

*that mess up present that they did not get right, for me it was several things.  I wear the diamond stud earrings in my ears everyday almost because I want that fight to remind me of how stupid I was.  remember that stupid bracelet he got you, I have one too.  I was pissed that he spent $ on something that was not really me.  Well now, I wear it and I almost cry, and I turn the beads on it lovingly and say thank you to myself but to him so he can hear me say it, and know that I’m so sorry I told you I did not like it.  I love it now and it means so much to me.

* remember when you are doing all the housework, or laundry or whatever it is that you do right and all the time, well there are things that he does that you are just not admitting to.  what is it?  I”m a feminist.  I know how to do all the things he did.  right?  HA!  I don’t fucking know how to buy tires, or I don’t know how to screw things to the wall.  I do not know how the riding lawnmower is a gear shifting things or what< I can ride the hell out of it, but I don’t know what kind of motor it is.  I did not know you can jump a lawn mower with jacks.  I do not know how to make onion rings like he did,   God dammit I miss his onion rings.

*I miss him calling our son, my big boy even if the son is 14 and really is a big boy but you miss him saying that even though when you heard him say it when the boy was little, it annoyed you.

*I just think you do need to have my perspective because the only thing that is going to help us in our self absorbed world is to listen and love and I need you Gemma to stop and listen to me because writing an article that talks bad about your partner is not really going to do any good but cause more bad feelings to come up with other people who are annoyed with another’s petty silly faults.   Let it go.  because I promise, you miss it.  and you don’t want to have to miss it.


so shut up, and love.



cremation and crucifixion.

2nd blog in less than 24 hrs.  but I have really messed up not writing about how grief is everyday in my life just with me thinking about things but also in how I guide my children though thoughts and questions.

So I’m downstairs folding clothes, watching a BBC series… just doing the mom thing when Anna comes down the steps.



Mom I have a question.


Mom you know how we have Dad’s ashes.  ….

Pause from me.  actually if there was a brake sound that what it would be.   I also paused the TV.

Yes, we have his ashes.

She says, because he was cremated.


Well does that mean they burned him?


I paused because how I answer this is very important to her vocabulary, her soul, and grief.

Anna, when a person dies, are they alive?


that is right, their soul goes to Heaven.  (this is what my family believes).

So yes, the body is burned and his ashes are what is left.  but Anna is not something I like to think about,

she says oh I’m sorry,

No, Anna, I just mean, it’s a hard thing to think about and you have a good question but it’s hard to think about.


So then she says so cremation is what they did to Jesus?

Wait. what?

No they crucified Jesus, on the cross.

What is the difference.

Cremation is an act of what happens to a non living body, just like another choice is burial.

What else can you do to the body.

I shared that I thought maybe in some cultures that were near the ocean that they might send the body out to sea.  (or is that some children’s movie I saw?)

Then Anna says, well, what if a boat comes along and sees the body.

Well, Anna, I don’t know, I have never thought of that thought.

Well what is crucifixion?

That is how Jesus died and two other men that day.  That is how they killed him.


Well cremation and crucification kinda sound the same.

Well, one is an act after death and one is a way of death.

Oh, ok.  well thanks…….

sound of feet running up steps.

me,   jaw open, staring.

For Anna, she is very much like me, she is a happy girl, who loves people, who hurts when others hurt, who feels things deeply and thinks deeply.

One thing I have worried about is if her childhood has been happy.  Childhood is for being free, growing, developing and playing.  I have tried to provide this, but we have also been tangled up in dealing with grief.

I don’t want her life to be about stories of how she worked through things.  but I guess it might be in someways.