Not Just for Coffee!

You know what is something you definitely do not anticipate having to decide in your 30s? What urn you want your husband’s cremated remains to be placed in once they come back from the crematorium. And wow, do they have a lot of urns. But that’s not exactly what this is about. This is about what happens when your darling late husband has charged you with scattering some of his ashes “in a place that’s beautiful,” it’s 3:00AM, your cats are at the vet for boarding, no other living thing is in the house, and you can’t sleep before your flight out of the country. I had just cleaned and removed the labels of two pill bottles** and felt ready to start the next step. The plan was simple: take the bag out, cut a small corner off (thank you to my friend D for this idea), and slowly pour into the bottles until full.

Except there was a problem.

I picked an urn that was narrow at the bottom (where the opening is) and tapered wider at the top. Look, I didn’t think about how they get ashes into an urn. When, prior to this moment, would I ever have thought about these things? Certainly not when I said, “I do.” I didn’t think about how they put a bag inside of the urn, and THEN transfer the ashes in. This means the ashes/bag fill out the shape of the object they are placed in. Simple physics. What this also means is you cannot take said bag OUT of the urn to neatly pour the ashes into the bottles for international transport.


I was picturing my kitchen island, floor, myself, and anything within a 10 foot radius completely covered in the remains of my husband if I tried to pour while holding the urn. Did I mention I picked a marble urn? Those damn things are not lightweight. Past Me was not thinking of Future Me at all here. I stared at it, still turned upside down, for a good fifteen minutes or so wondering how I was going to do this as cleanly as possible. I wasn’t giving up, his ashes were coming with me one way or another, damnit. I don’t know if the wee hours of the morning are prime for inspiration, but inspiration eventually came.

I needed a scoop of some kind, but was absolutely NOT going to use any of my kitchen spoons. I wanted to eat off those things again without the image of cremains all over them. What else would work…? I looked over at our drip coffee maker. BINGO! I had misplaced the scoop a month or so before, and just ordered a new one off of Amazon. It came in a two-pack. Perfect, one to use for coffee, one for ashes. I let Past Me off the hook.

I fished the extra scoop out of the drawer and began to do what clearly would be one of the most confusing images anyone peering through a window would see: Me, at 4:00AM now, scooping ashes with a coffee scoop into empty pill bottles laughing. Dan did love coffee…. a lot. This seemed fitting. And ridiculous. But also, functional?

I placed the caps on the two bottles and neatly closed up the bag, screwed the urn cover back in place, and returned my beloved husband’s remains back to their spot. Done and done. I keep the extra scoop in a plastic baggie separate from the one for coffee and have “ASHES” written in big letters on the bag. You wouldn’t want to mix those up…. ew.

That scoop has served it’s additional purpose well. Occasionally, I wonder if I should leave that in a review. Widows need all the life hacks we can get. At any rate, this is just a glimpse into the weird moments your life contains when you have been through a completely shitty experience. And I thank the universe for it, because I needed that laugh at 4:00AM. © 2020

**I got this idea from another widow. Take the label off and they are perfect for travel. Security is absolutely not supposed to open cremated remains, so this allows them to still be visible if they want to do an inspection. Don’t forget the certificate, and it helps to learn how to say “I have the cremated remains of {mother, husband, cat, etc.} with me” in whatever language of the place you are traveling to. I’ve only been inspected by TSA, but it never hurts to be prepared!


Thought Dumps No. 2

In October, I let go of the opportunity of having Dan’s children. Possibly even becoming a mother at all. Not sure I even want motherhood at this point. I’ll be 38 in less than three months. Some days I think about the decision, yet never with regret. Pregnancy announcements hurt deep, but the pain is strange now. Hurting for something you know you don’t really want anymore. Maybe your mind will change. Maybe it will take a new person to get there. Maybe. So many maybes.

And yet, I’m not seeking out a serious relationship. There is a pandemic still going on, dating seems like so much effort. I’m still clearing out the wreckage, letting things go, saying the goodbyes. Goodbyes that would be tainted were another person along for the ride. Plus, there’s the self-discovery, finding comfort in the loneliness. Making yourself your new home base. I’m falling in love with the “me” time. With my solitude. With figuring out where my life is going.

Where is my life going?

I don’t know. I never liked the “where do you see yourself in five years” questioning. It made me uncomfortable. Five years is a lot of time. What can happen in five years? Cancer. That can happen in five years. Sometimes even less.

Falling in love can also happen. And out of it, and back in it again. Rekindling the fires that slow burned in your heart space. Discovering. Exploring. Interests that you didn’t think you’d like. Maybe past you would have hated them.

But you love them now.

One step ahead, maybe two. Nothing more. This is the middle phase. You don’t have your ending yet. You don’t have the plot sorted. Do people want to read a story that goes “And then he died. And then it got weird…. and then….?” The part that comes after the last “and then” is just too murky to place. It could go anywhere. Or everywhere.

One step ahead, maybe two. Try to enjoy this middle.

Just be present. © 2020

On the Matter of Spirituality

In the present moment, I am sitting next to a pile of notebooks, an astrological journal/planner, a deck of tarot cards, and an oracle deck. Tools for assessing the energies of the day, instruments I am employing to tap into this nebulous, intuitive side that has been bursting to come out since I’m not even sure when. Looking back I believe there were glimmers, I just didn’t recognize the signs as clearly as I do now. The fact I am even typing anything about this is strange in and of itself. Two years ago if you had asked me if there was any meaning in anything, I’d have told you no. Life is just a random jumble of circumstances and in order to not feel crushed by existential loneliness, humans invented systems to try to make sense of things. And maybe that’s still true, but there are just some things my science brain cannot explain yet also cannot help but notice.

I’ve transitioned from being a devout Catholic to an agnostic to a couldn’t-be-bothered-to-think-about-it to a “wow that was some cosmic synchrony wasn’t it?” to a fuck-the-universe-and-all-of-this to what I suppose is my current state of being a spiritual atheist. This path had some pretty stereotypical turns, specifically the part of going from Catholic to non-Catholic, and that is a mostly boring and not worth telling side-story.

The biggest change came through the ways in which my adult life completely came crashing down around me on June 29, 2018. Sitting across from the man I promised to love forever, watching the shock spread over his face as the words “pancreatic cancer” coldly drifted out of the mouth of the oncologist. I wasn’t aware of it then, but the weeks leading up to that moment were already interwoven with weird as fuck signs that there was something occurring beyond what I can wrap my human brain around, and even in the depths of my memories I cannot fully make sense of what happened. In the moments that followed, I didn’t have the capacity to dissect what exactly was going on. I was in survival mode, caregiver mode, keep our heads above water mode. You do whatever you can when the person you love the most is swiftly dying of an incurable disease, including shelving any thoughts of yourself and what this means for you until the time comes when you have no choice but to think of those things.

That comes after the death, in the quiet moments. The moments where you really feel the absence of presence. It was in those moments I suppose my deep dive into my own spirituality began. When you have nothing else to focus on other than how one day everything you thought your life was going to be suddenly wasn’t anymore, you can’t help but hyper-focus on every little detail. As a scientist, I have been trained to pay attention to the micro-details. It’s how you figure out why a procedure works one day then fails the next. It’s how you improve the robustness of your methods. And it’s how I began to see the bread crumbs from the other side.

Do I sound totally out there yet? I fully admit typing this out makes me feel like I am. My science brain/ego gets really noisy when I openly talk about messages from “the other side.” It hates it. It’s embarrassed about it. It thinks I must off. And yet, I don’t know how else to explain things. I’m fully open to and accepting of having a valid, rational explanation for everything. And I’m sure many things can be written off as odd coincidences because you can’t un-notice something to which you’ve become accustomed to seeing. I don’t know. But, do any of us really know? Until we do, I’m just going to keep stumbling through this strange experience: documenting, observing, and noting when the inexplicable micro-moments happen. And the big ones. But I feel the real magic of spiritual exploration lies in those tiny ones.

I’m feeling called to begin sifting through them, sharing what some will likely write off as woo-y woo woo weirdness. Go for it. I’m not for everyone, and neither is my life experience. But, if you’re as curious as I am about where the hell all of this is leading, I welcome you to stay and see what unfolds. © 2020

The Unwritten Stories

The writing begins when you say yes. The plot line tumbles ahead in your imagination, in your favorite habit of playing out all the scenarios long before they happen.  Excitement surrounds you as you share the news.  It spreads, replicating and intensifying.  Everyone is so happy.  You see the trajectory ahead, beyond the invitations and final song.  You see the cozy mornings and late night movies.  The bland conversations about which table matches the kitchen best.  The timeline speeds ahead, moving in the predictable patterns we assume life will display.

Until one ill-fated day it becomes unpredictable in ways you never imagined.  The wrench in the spokes.  The rock striking the windshield at just the right angle and pressure.  The crack is small, but it grows.  Maybe it stops there, maybe you won’t need to replace the glass just yet.  You can still see, still drive.  You accept the damage, the visible blemish in your view.  But the crack spreads.  You can’t stop it.  You can’t make it go away from your vision.  You wonder how much worse can it get.  How much further it can obscure your vision.  Then it’s everywhere.  The damage is too much to ignore now.  You have to get a new window, but you don’t want to.  You wanted THIS window, it was the first.  It was the original.

Eventually you’re forced to take out the cracked window.  A new one is put in its place, but you can’t forget how it felt the first time you were here. The first time everything was untouched, perfect, new. You realize things will never be the same again. That this tale has been stretched out as far as it can go. You want to keep going with everything the way it was, but you can’t.

The reality smacks you hard. Over and over again. It jars you awake in the middle of the night. It creeps on slowly when you aren’t looking, aren’t noticing.

The story you were so happy to live out has abruptly come to its premature ending. You will never finish it the way it was meant to be. In fact, you won’t finish it at all. You’ll be thrust into a new one. A different plot, different characters, different theme. Through no choice of your own, you’re tasked to continue on another path.  It feels alien and unwelcome. There’s so much contraction, the resistance is palpable. How can any other story be welcome when the first felt so right?  You don’t know, but you’re writing it.  A new story you aren’t sure you’ll finish this time, but everything be damned, you’re writing it. © 2020

Thought Dumps No. 1

I used to criticize my husband about his coffee consumption. Every day he would fill his zombie-themed tumbler with 30 oz. of liquid energy and schlep it around for the morning. Sometimes it would come home empty, sometimes it had a few ounces left. “You know you probably don’t NEED to make that much coffee each morning, you don’t even drink all of it. And we buy fancy coffee now. What a waste!” He informed me that he did, in fact, need all of that coffee, and that he would make MORE at work and add it to the tumbler. My 12 oz. coffee having ass looked at him in bewilderment.

Now I drink 24 oz. just to get my day started, often adding more to my intake as I chase the energy only holistic mavens seem to magically embody after smelling a package of tea. I can only imagine the smirk on his face right now as I pour the last of the pot into my giant ass mug. I can hear him pointing out what cup I am on for the day, and sarcastically asking if I really need to drink THAT much coffee. Touché, my love. I hope you are eating up every minute of this on the other side. © 2020