No Memorial Service For Me

I recently lost my gram. This beautiful woman was such a vital part of me and was inextricable from my life. I feel as if a part of me has died with her. I was blessed to have been by her bed days before she left us to hold her hand and tell her that everything would be okay and that I loved her. To which she replied very lucid, “I love you too, I really do.”

I attended her memorial service to be there for my mom. She was the sole caretaker for the last years of gram’s life, while the rest of the family were off living their lives or too busy to care for the dying. At the end mom couldn’t even leave the house to go to the store or get the mail and yet the family still did not call or come to help. It was a great burden and took a toll on my moms health.

Mom and I did not want a memorial service for gram. Gram would have hated it. Another family member who is very much about the “show” insisted. That is what a memorial service is, a “show” for those who need to pat each other on the back and reassure each other that they were important to the deceased. Those who stand up and read a poem to the deceased while choking back tears, but hadn’t seen the deceased in years. Or the person who recounts a childhood memory and claims to be the deceased’s favorite but hadn’t seen or talked to the deceased in a decade. Who are these people to stand and speak out about a person that they had not loved or respected enough to come or call in years? Yet they have the gall to stand and speak as if they were a part of this persons life.

The whole service turned my stomach. I left before it was over. At the graveside I had had enough of the posers. They could continue their small patting of the backs and crooning over their very distant memories as they attempted to convince themselves that they showed the deceased love, comfort, concern and basic respect.

Memorial services are for this very type of activity. A funeral service ritual came about out of the necessity to transport bodies long distances after WWII, when the body needed to be preserved at a funeral home and a service held later at the deceased’s hometown. The booming and lucrative funeral service industry was born. Now it is big business to capitalize on people’s guilt. People that were not there for the deceased can assuage their guilt with the best and most luxurious coffin, service and buffet meal after while they read poems, recite memories from decades ago and make themselves feel better about neglecting to cherish a relationship with an aging person that was inconvenient for their life.

I do not want a memorial service. If you want to express your love for me, do it while I am alive. When I leave, those that were there in the end will have a party and drink my favorite wine, telling stories of our mutual adventures together. When I leave my body, cremate me and spread my ashes in my chosen places. No headstone, no grave. I will live on in the hearts and memories of those that loved me and showed up until the end. No posers allowed.

To my gram:

We said our words in person and there was no need for me to pretend that we were important to each other. We were together till your end and I will carry you in my heart till my end.


Journeying Through the Underworld

I have been in bed sick for the last week. Welcome to Sofia! It was bound to happen at some point and glad it is now out of the way. When I am sick, I am out and down for the count. No walking around, or passing myself off as well. I envy those that can…and think they have super powers. Sickness overcomes my body, mind and spirit. I travel in and out of consciousness and feel on the verge between the two worlds. Often I succumb and dive down deep to the underworld where things are dark, shadows take shape and speak secrets. I have done this as far back as I have memory. As a child, I remember one Easter being so sick that I hallucinated several Peter Rabbit’s jumping out of my closet and hopping around my room. This time around in Sofia, as I lay on my couch/bed staring at my map wall..I noticed that the land mass of Europe, from where France meets Spain and all the way East past Romania, it looks like the shape of a wolf. Take a look.

wolfSee the nose pressed up against Spain, the ears standing up, Italy is the front leg and Greece is another leg. Okay, my map is clearer or maybe it is like seeing shapes in clouds and just helps us organize and order our world. Which is what I am in the midst of doing here in Sofia. I am trying to order my new world. For instance I studied a few words in Bulgarian; Da-yes, Ne-no, Blagodaria-thank you, Molya-please. The important ones, or so I thought! I should have studied how to call a taxi and give addresses in Bulgarian. In response to my Blagodaria…Merci! I was told it is easier to say and so it has been adopted. I finally stopped pointing at streets for the taxi’s and use my full hand to indicate direction. Pointing with one finger is rude here. I still have not mastered the head shaking side to side to indicate yes or Da. It is opposite what it is in the States. I say Da and shake my head up and down to which the taxi driver looks at me perplexed. And when I give a driver the address and he nods side to side, I repeat the address until I finally realize that he is saying yes or Da. Strange how one simple gesture carries so much weight in meaning and I didn’t even realize it. Well, this is what traveling to foreign cultures is all about. I try to remember that as I wait outside the grocery store for a taxi that isn’t coming because I gave the wrong address. I compare my journey to the recent stay in Italy and know that it gets better and easier to communicate and get around …just about the time it is time to leave. I find myself trying to rush the process, so I can be comfortable and not feel I am missing anything. The truth is, I am not missing anything, I am experiencing it all, each moment I am here. I just experienced being sick in Sofia, the sunrise this morning, the making of the coffee, the sounds of the twin 4 yr olds next door going off to school. I don’t look back on Italy and feel I missed anything, even though at the end I didn’t want to leave. I know it will be the same here. Until that time, Sofia will be my belly of the wolf.

Reno Roadtrip

Reno 2014 726

My twenty year old son, mom and I took a road trip to Reno this past weekend to celebrate my mom’s birthday. I did most of the driving and as always I passed photo after photo opportunity. I always notice the most photo ops while I am behind the wheel of the car. You know that perfect light meets matter moment and you catch it as you are whizzing by at 65 miles per hour. Or the tractor is plowing across the field, leaving a cloud of dust behind and the sun is situated at just the right angle…these moments kill me as I fly by…missed shots that I silently mourn as I keep on keeping on. Sometimes I call them out to my son hoping that at least someone can capture them but once called out the moment has passed and the shot isn’t THE ONE. I entertained the idea of having someone drive me around for a “driving photo shoot” just so I could see how many shots I could capture that I feel I miss while driving. The one I am still mourning from our trip to Reno is the “ghost diner” along hwy 39 in Cali. It was complete with old neon sign, frosty cones and whispers of teens gone by pulled up outside.  I may have to drive this route again just to shoot that one.  Happy drive-by shootings!

A Photo Book on Pompeii

I visited Pompeii in November. I took a lot of photos but I didn’t feel that any of them ever captured the feelings of the place or what happened there. It was an overcast day when we went and it matched the surrounding ruins perfectly. I haven’t been able to shake the feelings that it generated in me even now. I just made a photo book of photos I took in Pompeii along with poems about the people and devastation of losing an entire city. It was and still is a tragedy for all time. It has changed me. If you are interested in the book…click on the link at the top.

Addendum: 100% of the profits generated from the book sales will be donated to The Great Pompeii Project. A preservation project developed by the Italian government to save the ruins, art and history of Pompeii. Much of it is crumbling away and lost forever to us. Please consider purchasing the book as a donation to this project. 

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Venezia Biennale Day One

Day one of the Biannale was overwhelming. We went to the Arsenale and saw the exhibition curated by Massimiliano Gioni. The exhibition was organized as a progression of natural to artificial forms. The exhibition began in the beginning of man as a concept in the primordial ooze of life and step by step made it’s way up the evolutionary ladder to the over evolved being that he is today. The exhibits showcased crucial milestones of man’s evolution…such as the wheel, rituals of adolescence, base instincts and the role ego plays throughout.

My emotions were stirred at a base level and I felt as if they progressed in waves as I moved from room to room. Some rooms moved me to tears…the room with the plastic people all wrapped in grey agony. The sea of screens showing videos of stories flashing and flashing before my eyes. It was an instant of gratuitous envelopment of our media saturated society…thousands of lives that happen just like that and we all watch vehemently. I can say that this exhibition was life altering. Enjoy the photos.


Our class listening to our art professor Shelley Jordon


Laura and Dany sketching


My Favorite Pirate Mug full of Italian Roast


Awww…the warm taste of familiarity. The sleepy rising to meet your day that is filled with the structured routines that we build our foundations of security on. The walk to the coffee pot, the much anticipated first sip of coffee, the brushing of the teeth, the daily breakfast all done a million times before in the same way, with the same emotion.

Have you ever noticed when you go on vacation and your familiar routines are disrupted that you feel a combination of freedom and anxiety? We love the feeling of new and the break from routine but when in the throes of it we only want routine back. We strive to make the new a familiar routine and we are never quite relaxed and satisfied until we do.

Two days before I fly out to Italy and the one thing that is bringing me both pleasure and angst is the routine cup of Italian roast Tully’s that I am savoring and facing the thought I will no longer have. It doesn’t matter that it will be replaced with an exquisitely perfected cup of frothy milk and espresso served up in a land of Tuscan hilly sunshine, under a Sienese statue…all I can think is that I will not have my favorite pirate mug full of faux Italian roast every morning.

Let the insecurity reign until my Siena becomes routine!


I was married to a drug addict for six years and after years of abuse to my spirit, I left him to deal with his own demons. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. In the all knowing hindsight, I , of course wish I would have done it earlier. But it is what it is. My son was the diamond that came out of that coal. For ten years after  I left him, I held my breath, I waited, I closed up, I retreated, I moved far away, I shut down. Every knock on the door was greeted with terror and fear. My two kids and I could not move far enough away to feel safe. Then he killed himself. I cannot begin to describe the mixture of emotions that swept through me. My son was ten and his father was dead. It was a long two years for us, sleeping on the floor next to his bed, looking at him and seeing only his father looking back, his anger thrown directly at me. We danced the dance of two locked together in grief. At times neither of us wanted to be that close to the other, yet there we were. I only cried when he couldn’t see me, little did I know that when I finally did cry with him, the true healing began.

That was in 2004. Two days ago I burned his letters, cards, our wedding book in the wood stove at my grams. The letters were sent from him when he was deployed on the USS Truxton in the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm. I was ready to let the last little bit of him go. My son, Chad was wandering around the house and knew what I was doing, at one point asked me, “is that it? No saying anything or doing anything?”  I replied, “yes. It has all been done. That’s it.” We both got out our cameras and took photos of the flames. Cause that is what we do, when the words won’t come.


8 Days until we Leave for Italy

I am doing the waiting game. I never seem to win this game however. I am ready to go and have been since we left Portland. At least here at my grams house I can be helpful and spend time with family. But I am really ready to get on that plane. So ready that I have even imagined it step by step, like what I will wear for comfortable sleeping, where I will put my laptop and dvd’s for easy viewing, will I wear the stylish shoes or my comfortable slip ons. Yeah, my brain drives me crazy sometimes.

Things about Gram’s and the reservation life that I enjoy: It is sometimes so still and quiet, at night you can see a blanket of stars against the black sky, everyone knows each other, the post office is a hang out, people shake your hand, it is so beautiful with trees everywhere and if I want the ocean is 15 minutes away, photo opportunities are everywhere, the negative ions feel great, dogs walk down the middle of the street and have the right of way and hanging with the family is never dull and will be missed.

There is one restaurant/cafe here called The Little Chief and it is your typical small town cafe, where the men gather every morning for coffee and talk about the state of the world or who grew the biggest tomato. The long suffering waitresses put up with their sideways advances and brush them off, the owner is also the cook and they make the best homemade hash browns ever, fried in real butter. On Thursdays you can eat there for free and it closes down daily at 2pm. They have a jar out at the register for donations for my trip to Italy.

Last week was The annual Run to the Rogue event.  It is a 234 mile relay run/walk in memory of the Siletz Tribal ancestors who were forcibly removed from their homeland in Rogue River country in the mid 1800s and marched north to Siletz and the confinements of the Coast Reservation. Mom and I gathered with a group of about 50 other people up on Government Hill where the annual pow wow is held and after a man sang a Whale song accompanied by a hand drum, we all followed the color guard down the hill and across town to where the road comes into town from out there, off tribal land. We all stood and watched in reverence as 3 kids dressed in shorts and hoodies started off walking for the first leg of the relay.  Everyone disbursed and went to The Little Chief of course. It was a holiday feel around town, the clinic shut down, the school brought the students down and it was observed, that this was a day to remember. I didn’t take photos as I don’t at most tribal gatherings, they have a different view on photographing sacred happenings.  But here is a full moon shot taken from Siletz.


Well Hello Universe!

Can I just begin by saying I am eating the words of the last post as I write this? The Universe has a funny, strange and at times sadistic sense of humor. Just sayin. But I see that some journeys, okay all journeys have many, many detours, road blocks and huge scary cliffs that you find yourself hurtling off into the abyss. So my journey down the path of acupuncture ended abruptly when I found out that it costs $75,000 to go to school and then you have to start your own practice to work. WELL…no.

But to be honest I am not sure my new path is any less crazy and unpredictable or expensive for that matter. I pretty much decided to give up trying to decipher what my path is (studying puritan’s beliefs did this) and just give it over to the Universe and boy does that change things up. Let’s see, since I have done that I have faced childhood demons of the worst kind and decided to love the people that destroyed parts of me anyway, became integrated completely with my shadows, decided to love everyone, fell in love with myself, changed my major to Art History, and now am going to Italy to study the masters and learn to say, ” atraversiamo!”

So this blog will still be about healing at all levels. It will also be about following your passion, taking huge leaps of faith, listening to the Universe, and traveling in Europe! September 24, 2013 will find me on a plane bound for Dublin, Ireland. Where I will find my way to Siena, Italy to spend the next three months studying painting, drawing, culture, Italian language and how to make a very good cappucino. Unlike the last blog where I was sure I was on the path made especially for me…I have no clue whether this is the “right” path for me, I just know that when I got the notification that I had received a Gilman scholarship to go to Italy, every part of my being was already packing to go. There was no doubt that this is where I passionately wanted to be. Step by slow and small step, it has all been unfolding. I keep my eyes open and ready to take into account any signs that this is not supposed to happen but there hasn’t been any signs like that. In fact there has only been signs that point to go, do this, love it, feel it, embrace it, revel in it, rejoice …YOU ARE GOING TO ITALY!  Chiusure Siena Italy

When people ask me if I am going to Italy to study, I say, “yes.”  I don’t say maybe or I hope so. There have been obstacles, like the program I initially applied for and listed on my Gilman scholarship being suspended and having to scramble to find one that was twice the cost and would let me apply past the deadline, get it approved by Gilman, madly apply for more scholarships with a deadline two days away, arrange for alternate housing since I am taking my son with me and various other hoops. But I never saw these as signs not to go but what I saw was incredible amounts of help being given me to make this happen. At one point there were four different advisors from two different college campuses, a Gilman representative, and a study abroad program representative all working on finding me an alternative program and making this happen for me. I watched with that objective eye as all the pieces came together like a puzzle. The ending picture was of Siena, Italy.

Come back and follow my travels…it will all be here. The Universe will be our tour guide, I will be documenting my thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams for all to see. I promise it will be crazy amazing and full of all of life’s vulnerabilities and joy. Cause it is all love after all…right?

Dreaming of where I am

I am 46 years old and I am just now learning to be happy with where I am now, doing what I am doing now and knowing what I know now. Every year I make a manifestation collage of places I want to visit, things I want to accomplish, dreams I want to come true. It is a wonderful thing…it really is. It keeps hope alive and gives me something to focus on, hanging directly across from my bed. Last year every single cut out photo symbolizing a desired manifestation came true in some form or another. It wasn’t always as I had intended but it was curiously amusing how many different ways one thing can manifest. Something for another blog entry. I kept a close eye on the board this year, just to see what it was developing. For about 2 weeks it looked as though a long held and highly cherished dream of mine that has monopolized a large part of my collages for years was about to come true. In fact the reality of it matched the magazine cut out almost perfectly.

I have long cherished the dream of having an artist’s retreat, where fellow creatives can come and retreat and/or hold workshops, educate and share their wealth of information. I envisioned sitting at a long table with a diverse group of people sharing food and drink under a deeply dark starry sky. A place, ideal for this setting came open in Costa Rica. It was so close to a realization for me that I could taste the rain forest mist in my mouth and hear the hummingbirds outside the windows of the restaurant. I slept, ate, and breathed arrangements for this to manifest. I researched all there was to to know about moving, living and thriving in Costa Rica. The deeper I delved into what the reality of living there meant to me, the more parts of myself I had to examine and bring into light for the answers. It was a wonderful assessment of what “I” really want. Something that I just hadn’t done in quite awhile and now had the catalyst to do it.

I realized that I want my family around me. I love my children. And not just because they are MY children. I like their minds, their company and their energy. They really aren’t children anymore and I would use the word “offspring” but it sounds really stiff. My daughter is married and due to have my first granddaughter in December. My son is 18 and still lives at home but travels often with his skate team. I invited them to come with me on this dream journey. They all gave it fair consideration but ended up declining the offer. This was a blow.

I have always clung to my dreams and felt that the worst possible thing to ever happen to someone is not death but giving up on your dreams. It was a fate worse than death. I went through a range of emotions likened to grief. I was grieving the death of a dream that had been my companion for a very long time. It was a dark couple of weeks and I felt hopelessness creep in. A type of resignation set in that I wasn’t comfortable with. I have a friend who I text with daily and we have surprisingly long and deep conversations by text in the middle of work days. While I was processing this loss he asked me in his characteristic way, “what is stopping you from going?” Up until this point I had been focusing on this decision before me, of whether I go without my children or stay without my dream. It had become all consuming like something does when you give it that much power over you. I had blinders on and could not see anything peripheral  My friend has this way of pointing out what should be the obvious to me and it helps me see things clearly. He and I could quite possibly solve all the world problems if we ever had time to talk face to face!

The light bulb moment was that perhaps real happiness is being happy with where you are and with what you are doing at the present time. I  realized that what makes me happy is my children, my family and my friends. I would be unhappy to live far from them and only see them occasionally. That made me think about the fact that I have that…here and now. Then I began looking back through my past and realized that I had always been on the move and when not on the move, I was thinking or planning of being on the move. My happiness was over there…always. I almost missed it. I almost missed what makes me truly happy because it is right here under my nose, within my arms reach and right now. I think I may have set up this precedent long ago and it became a pattern. When I was a child, I was a dreamer and due to my chaotic homelife I always wanted to be somewhere else. Reading books helped with that need to be somewhere else and then as soon as I could, I left home and I kept going. One home to the next. One life to the next.

The feeling of grief was replaced with peace and a deep sense of happiness at feeling like I belonged to myself at last.  Not attached to a place or surroundings. I belong to my present wherever my body, mind and spirit are at physically.  I don’t feel like anything was lost. I feel like something valuable was gained. I can be happy where I am right now, doing what I am doing and I can still dream of doing all of the things on my manifestation collage. I can do them from where I am. As another wise friend told me, “do it from here, have an artist’s retreat for a weekend once a year, then get bigger and let it unfold.” Dreams do come true, in the most amazingly unpredictable ways. Keep on dreaming everyone.

The beautiful Poas Lodge is still for sale in Costa Rica.  It is a wonderful dream and I will visit!  Follow this link