No, I’m Not.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

 I can’t tell you how many times I have heard these words.

“You are so strong!”

Or “You are so brave to do that by yourself.”

Let me tell you - I am not. I travel by myself not by choice. It’s because if I want to travel and go anywhere, that’s what I have to do. Lee isn’t here to go with me. So it’s me, or don’t go. 

I try to fix things on my own because I need to. Lee use to do it, but he’s not here. So it’s me, or I hire someone.

I ride my bike on my own often because Lee isn’t here to ride with me. I have friends that will ride, too, but they have their own families and lives and things to do. They can’t always ride with me. So I have to go alone.

I’ve eaten in restaurants alone definitely not by choice! Lee isn’t here to join me. In Italy, I had to go eat in a restaurant by myself or eat in my hotel room. If I want a good meal, I have to go out and ask for a table for 1. It feels weird. I feel odd sitting with myself at a table in a nice restaurant. But if I don’t do it, I won’t be going.

And really - I’m not strong. But HE is. My faith in God pulls me through. He placed me here in the land of the living so I need to keep living. And when times get hard, he always carries me. Because HE is strong. Not me.

Finding My Way Back Home

Yesterday I was out on a mountain bike ride with a friend and we were trying to find a trail. Actually, it was a pump track and I had used it several times. It was near my house so we decided to ride over and make some loops. It was at the top of a hill and as we arrived, we looked around. Where was it? It was simply gone. Then, through the weeds, I spotted a few berms. Could this really be the track? Honestly, I didn’t realize someone had to take care of a pump track. I figured that if all the weeds were removed, it would stay clear. But it didn’t. It was not only overgrown, but rocks had resurfaced and edges gone. I felt - sad. It was sad to see such a beautiful track destroyed by neglect. 

We decided to give it a try anyway. We tried to follow the best lines we could, and every now and then we could find berms and rollers. When ridden properly, it does not require pedaling or pushing, but a “pumping” action to maintain momentum. It is hard to maintain momentum when the surface is eroded and weeds in the way. At one point we finished, and decided to ride the gravel road back to the Main Street. But we lost sight of our entry point. All we could see were weeds. 

Then, in the distance, I caught sight of a straight line of rollers that led to the road. I pointed and said, “Over there!” I kept my eye on the rollers and went straight through the waist high weeds until we found the rollers and the road. 

What do we do when life makes a change? Everything that was once smooth and rolling changes?  Your change in life may have been slow over time, or within an instant. How do you go through the weeds? Do you still ride it out? 

I hope this encourages you to take another step forward, ride through life with all its weeds and rocks, find new adventures, and keep rolling. The road is there - it may be off in the distance. But you will find it.

Chapter 1: The Ultimatum

I never imagined that I would become a widow. The term seemed distant and unrelated to me, yet here I am—a widow . But being a widow does not define me; it is not my identity. Instead, I am someone who has experienced immense grief and is still on a journey of healing.

Though I may not have all the answers or know how to alleviate the pain of others, I can share my story in the hope that it resonates with you, even if just a tiny fragment, and brings solace in your own struggles.

Grief does not always stem from the loss of a loved one's passing. We can mourn the loss of various things—an occupation, a friendship, a marriage, or even a life we once knew.

I want to acknowledge that if you have recently suffered the loss of someone close to you, reading this chapter may be triggering. If that is the case, feel free to skip ahead to the next chapter.

First and foremost, I would like to introduce you to the life I had before loss. Two years after graduating from college, I married the love of my life. Our paths crossed during a church Bible study, and I was immediately drawn to Lee. Once we went on our first date, we spent every day together until we exchanged vows. I worked as a teacher, while he was in construction. We built a family with two kids and two dogs. Our marriage lasted for 34 years before he passed away.

Our union, like any, had its imperfections, but it was as close to perfect as any marriage could be. We were opposites in many ways. I, an introvert, was silly and playful, while he, also an introvert, had a quiet and reserved demeanor. His love language was acts of service, while mine was words of affirmation. Lee possessed an incredible work ethic—he built two of our homes single-handedly, all while working full-time and commuting. He would toil away until dark, sometimes even late into the night, with floodlights illuminating his work. He was undoubtedly the hardest working person I knew.

Moreover, he was immensely talented. He possessed the skills to construct and repair just about anything. Not only did he build our homes, but he also crafted much of the furniture within. However, his dedication to work often turned him into a workaholic. He rarely took a moment to rest. When he was at home, he would engage in household chores or spend hours in the garage with music blaring—apologies to the neighbors! Lee had a passion for serving others, and we embarked on numerous service-oriented mission trips, ranging from assisting with Katrina Relief to building homes in Mexico, providing clean water in Africa, and aiding in the cleanup efforts in Honduras.

In 2019, we embarked on a trip of a lifetime. Our itinerary included visits to Venice, Rome, Florence, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast. We stayed at luxurious five-star hotels, indulged in amazing cuisine, went on boat rides and hikes, and even had a private tour of an olive farm. I grappled with guilt over spending so much money on a lavish vacation when we could have saved it for another mission trip. Yet Lee insisted that if we didn't seize the opportunity for a luxurious vacation then, we might never do so. Little did I know, did he somehow have an inkling of what lay deep within him?

One month after we returned from Italy, our lives were turned upside down. At the time, Lee was working in Stanford and commuting three hours each way. Due to the arduous commute, he stayed in Palo Alto during the week, only coming home on Wednesdays and weekends. On this particular Wednesday, I had dinner ready and was waiting for him to get home. I finally called him and asked where he was, thinking he was at the end of the commute. 

“Palo Alto,” he replied. 

“Why are you in Palo Alto? Aren’t you coming home?” 

“I can’t. I have to work this weekend.”  I was confused. It’s true, every now and then he had to work. But during the upcoming weekend we had made plans to go buy a new car. I knew he had planned on coming home. 

“What does working or not this weekend have to do with coming home tonight?” I asked.

“Well, I have to work now on Saturday.”  

“So we’re not going to get a car?” 

He then said, “Oh, no, I forgot! We can’t! I have to fly out to Portland.”  What? I admit. I started getting angry. His story was getting stranger and stranger. 

“So you’re telling me you can’t come home on a Wednesday because you are working on this upcoming Saturday and yet you are flying out to Portland also on Saturday? This makes no sense. You need to explain this better to me because I am not understanding.”

He then was worried. “Oh no! I have to tell my work that I can’t work on Saturday because I’m going to Portland.”  

“Lee, I don’t think you are going to Portland this weekend. You are leaving in a few weeks. If you are going this weekend, we need to cancel the car appointment. Send me a copy of the plane ticket and I’ll check for you.”

So he texted me a screenshot of his Southwest “ticket”. But it wasn’t a ticket. It was a Southwest ad. It was then that I teetered between worry and anger. What was he trying to cover up? Was he losing his mind? Was he in trouble? I couldn’t figure it out.

I finally gave him an ultimatum. “Lee, that’s a Southwest ad. Not a ticket. I need to know what’s happening and I need the truth. So you need to either tell me truthfully what is going on, or you need to come home and go to a doctor!” Lee never went to the doctor, so I really didn’t think he would say what he said next. 

“I’ll go to a doctor.”

Did I just hear him correctly? Did he say he would go to the doctor? Oh no. Something must actually be wrong with him!

The next evening I called him and told him I made an appointment on Friday. It was set for 3:30 so he would need to leave work on Friday at 12:30 to get to Folsom in time for the appointment. When I called him, he was even more confused. He was still convinced he was going to Oregon.

Friday came and at 12:30 I called him to make sure he had left work in time to make it to the doctor appointment. He had not, but really had just lost track of time being busy at work. I let him know I would meet him at the office. At 3:30 I called him from the office because he wasn’t there. He said, “I’m in Fairfield. I’ll be there in 20 minutes.” Fairfield is a 1 hour drive, minimum, from the doctor location. He kept saying, “I’ll be there in 20 minutes.” And he hung up.

Soon it was 4:30, and so the nurse at the office called him for a wellness check to make sure he was safe to drive. He answered and let her know he was still in Fairfield and was trying to get to the freeway. He was lost. She asked him the typical questions - what year is it? Who is the president? What is your name? He answered all of them fine and so she deemed him safe to drive.

At 5:00 the doctor’s office closed so I called Lee and asked if he would meet me at the hospital to go to emergency instead. I was very surprised to hear him say yes. As he rolled into town, he called and asked if I would meet him at Chipotle first because he was hungry and I agreed. Chipotle was just 3 blocks from the hospital, and by now it was 6:30 and I was hungry, too. 

I’ll never forget the sight of seeing him walk toward me in the Chipotle parking lot. He was as slow as molasses and dragging his left side. He didn’t seem to notice. I asked how he was and he said, “Hungry.” So we ordered, made small talk, and I stared at my watch wanting time to move so that we could get to the hospital.  I tried to act like everything was normal, but I knew it wasn’t. I was scared. 

We ran into our worship leader at Chipotle. Josh was there with his family and I was happy that someone else saw how Lee was doing. I knew, also, that he would pray.


After dinner at Chipotle, I told Lee I would meet him at the hospital. It was a 3 block drive … straight with one left turn and one right into the hospital. I drove out first, which probably wasn’t a good idea. I went through a light, but he didn’t make it. I got to the hospital and waited, waited, waited. So I called him. 

“Where are you?”

“I think I am at the hospital, but I’m not sure.”

“Describe the building.” He did. It wasn’t the hospital. He made the left turn, but turned into the wrong building. He was parked at the building next to the hospital. So I drove over to him this time and parked. I got in his truck and told him how to drive out, go one block, and turn in to the hospital. All I can say it that it felt like an eternity. He must have been driving 10 miles an hour. When he parked, he took up almost three spaces, crooked. At this point, I didn’t care. I knew I could move it later. I just wanted him inside where he could get help.

We entered emergency and I informed the staff I thought he had a stroke. Although they were busy, this must have been a key phrase because they brought him back right away. No waiting! Yes! I went to wait in his emergency room while they ran a series of tests. 

Then the nurse came back in.

She pulled up his MRI. She exclaimed in a loud voice, almost with panic, “Oh my goodness! He has a HUGE tumor in his head!” She put her hands out to exaggerate a large size. We were shocked. What did she just say?  “You have a huge brain tumor! It is so big!” 

Good grief. Did she really yell that out? What happened to bedside manners? Was she even suppose to give that news to us? 

She left the room and we sat. Confused. Staring. Looking at each other. 

The next few hours are a blur. The doctor came in and explained that Lee had a large brain tumor and that the small Folsom hospital would not be able to help us. He explained that he was being transferred to a hospital in Sacramento that could manage the diagnosis better. He went by ambulance, and I drove by car.

Our lives changed.

The Diagnosis

I did what you're advised not to do: I turned to Google in search of information. My first query revealed a word that caught my attention—Glioblastoma. A distressing image accompanied it, depicting a man with a large mass on his brain. Against my better judgment, I delved into the article. Its contents were filled with despair and hopelessness. If Lee had glioblastoma, I understood it to be a dire prognosis—a death sentence. Glioblastoma was the most aggressive form of brain cancer, with a life expectancy of merely 12-15 months. It was classified as stage 4, and there was no known cure.

Despite my findings, I chose not to share this information with Lee. There were other types of brain cancer, and some brain tumors were benign. I couldn't be certain of his diagnosis, and I didn't want him to worry unnecessarily.

A surgeon came in that evening and stated that he would be able to do surgery in the morning, first thing, and remove the brain tumor. They could then test it and let us know if it was cancerous and what our next steps would be. He then showed us a new picture. I stared at the tumor. It was - - ugly. That’s all I could think. 

Lee and I agreed. Let’s get this thing out of his head! It was horrifying, ugly, and invasive. We just wanted it taken out. As soon as possible. So the next morning we did just that. Lee went in for his first brain surgery.  After about 5 hours, the doctor let us know that it was successful and he was able to remove almost the entire tumor. He was sending it in for testing so that we could find out if it was benign or not.

Lee went home the next day with a huge scar and staples in his head. And he felt great! He could walk and talk normal. His left side no longer bothered him. He felt wonderful. Other than being a little tired, he was back to his old self.

After 3 days of waiting, we received the biopsy results. I read the word that I didn’t want to read. 


I wanted to cry. But I wanted to be strong for Lee. And I didn’t want him to know what it was. But I also couldn’t hide it from him. He asked me about the results and I told him Glioblastoma. So, he did what I did…and he Googled it.

I don’t remember much more. Except that life changed. How do you live the rest of your life when you have 12-15 months left?

Lee turned to worship. Literally. I continued to work. And each day I came home, he was watching a music/worship video. The same one over and over and over. “I Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel. He blasted it for hours and hours and hours. 

Sing a little louder

In the presence of my enemies

Sing a little louder

Louder than the unbelief

Sing a little louder

My weapon is a melody

Sing a little louder

Heaven comes to fight for me

Sing a little louder

I'm gonna sing in the middle of the storm

Louder and louder, you're gonna hear my praises roar

Up from the ashes hope will arise

Death is defeated, the King is alive

He was praying that God would fight for him. And no matter what would happen, he would praise God. 

Lee spent the next 1 1/2 years enduring cancer treatment. His treatments included radiation daily for 30 days, 2 more surgeries to remove more growth, 1 surgery for a brain bleed, a device that he wore on his head called Optune, and many different types of chemotherapy. On top of that, we hired an onco-nutritionist that gave us advice on eating and health. He tried CBD and THC. We tried everything.

He also spent the next 1 1/2 years doing what he did best - serving others. He worked around the house. He trimmed trees. He built a veranda. He finished things that he never finished. He went on bike rides while we was able. He tired to live as “normal” as he could. 

All the while, we both remained hopeful. Maybe, just maybe, Lee would be one of the few to beat the disease. We knew of a woman who had lived with glioblastoma for 20 years. Perhaps he would. So we lived with hope.

That’s the piece of advice I would give to anyone facing a terminal illness - remain hopeful. You never know. You aren’t in charge. God is. He will number your days. 

I truly believe that the day Lee lost hope is the day that illness took control. 

I still remember the day. Through the 15 months, he slowly lost ability to think logically and he lost the use of his left side.  At one point he was in bed and demanding to use the restroom. He was always soft spoken, loving, kind. But the cancer had changed his brain and he was confused and illogical. He angered easily. He often times had hallucinations and they scared me. I reminded him that he had a catheter on and he could not get up because he couldn’t walk. He was mad and demanded again to get up to use the restroom. So I told him if he could sit up, I could help move him to a wheelchair and get him to the toilet. By this time, I had done a lot of lifting and turning him and my back was giving me problems. I simply was not strong enough to pick him up and put him in a chair. But he still demanded to sit in a chair. For 30 minutes he struggled to sit up. He would get partly up, then would fall back down. Over and over again. Then, he gave up.

He gave up.

He fell back and stopped. He stopped trying and never tried again. He gave up hope. He lost his will. And the disease quickly took over.

To this day, this is a portion of my grief. Could I have done something different to help him stay hopeful? After this, he only lived a month or month and half more while his body and mind withered away. He went over a week with no food, and over 3 days with no water. It was a quick, yet slow death, all at the same time. 

Throughout Lee’s total months, my goal was to keep him alive. I tried everything I could - from diet, to sleeping downstairs on the floor by his hospital bed. I tried to get him to eat but struggled when he could no longer swallow. I tried to make smoothies, give him straws - but even the ability to swallow those things stopped. His body was shutting down. It was quitting. And nothing I could do would stop it.

So I stayed with him and laid beside him. Before he died, family came over and I played his favorite music for him. He hadn’t spoken for days, yet an hour before his final breathe, he gurgled out with a strained voice, “I love you.” His breath slowed. Then stopped. He breathed his final breath and we knew he was gone.

Goodbye, Lee. I love you. 

Chapter 2: First Days

Right after Lee passed away, I felt a slight sigh of relief that he was no longer suffering. I had been sleeping on the floor by his bed and was severely sleep deprived. All I wanted to do was crawl into my bed upstairs and sleep. It felt great to sleep in a bed again.

Then I went into “busy” mode. I had so many things to do. Since his passing was gradual, we knew where he wanted to be buried - at a historical cemetery in Folsom. It’s by the bike trail and since we both love to bike, we thought it was a good choice. It’s not the prettiest of cemeteries, but it was kept up and we liked the historical aspect. 

My first months in busy-mode kept my mind occupied. I was sad, but not able to deal with my emotions yet. Our family went and chose a plot at the cemetery but there weren’t a lot of choices left. The one we chose was simple to find and by a nice tree so we liked it. 

At the same time, I was making preparations at our church for a celebration of life. I put together a slide show with music and asked friends and family to speak. I decided to bring Lee’s bike as a decoration and put his pictures out in the lobby by it. I thought it was unique and definitely represented him. 

The day or so before his burial, the cemetery called us and let us know there was a problem. They started digging Lee’s hole and ran into something - an unmarked grave with a body! This cemetery includes five historic burial grounds that are hard to distinguish where one runs into another. The historical grounds include the Negro Bar Cemetery (later referred to as Citizens Cemetery). The Negro Bar Cemetery was a cemetery started as early as 1846 for the Negro Bar mining camp. The cemetery also includes the American Legion Cemetery, Jewish Cemetery (est about 1861), Odd Fellows Cemetery and The Masonic Cemetery. There is also a New Masonic Cemetery (est about 1924) but there are no markers to show its location. The memorial home called me and let me know that they felt that the body they ran into was a pioneer that had been “tossed” there and buried since it was not in a coffin or any type of box, and the body was tossed sideways while others in the area were buried the same lengthwise direction. They stated that it was probably a miner, or someone who had escaped Folsom prison because some bodies had been tossed there. So - we had to choose a new plot.

Our family went and chose a different location. We tried to choose one near our favorite spot, but again, there weren’t many choices. We finally decided on a spot I wasn’t thrilled with but it would do. We also decided to have a double-depth companion plot. This would take up one space, but we both will be buried there - Lee on the bottom and me on the top. This type of plot is cheaper and one burial container is used rather than two. Honestly, I didn’t want to put a lot of money into it because I believe that it is only our body but not our souls so it really doesn’t matter. 

We did decide not to have a graveside service but just a celebration of life at our church. Looking back, I’m glad we didn’t. At the time of his burial, we arrived with just family and looked at the container, coffin, and grave. Something didn’t look right. As they started to lower Lee down into the grave, our son stated, “I don’t think that’s a double depth. It’s only going to fit one coffin.”  He was right. I turned and asked the attendant. He quickly made a phone call and quickly returned.

“You’re right. We forgot to dig double-depth. We will have to bring him back (to the morgue?) and come back once a bigger hole and new container is delivered.” He apologized. So, back Lee went into the hertz and we drove off.

Two days later we were able to go back to the site and he was buried this time. It was quiet and we were able to say our goodbyes for the second time.

It took almost ten months for the headstone to arrive. I designed the headstone with a picture of our house that Lee built. It was minimal, yet beautiful. We ordered a permanent container for flowers so I went down to bring the flowers, and the container wasn’t there. They forgot to order it. Months later, it arrived and I brought flowers again. The next day I went back and the flowers were gone. Thieves! This has happened almost every time I have brought flowers so I haven’t brought them for almost a year. 

All of this occupied my mind. About a month after he passed, I returned to work. Yet I had not dealt with my grief yet. I found that my mind was in a fog. Life didn’t seem “real”. I could not make any type of decision. I couldn’t figure out what to wear to get out the door, let alone how to care for staff and families at a school. 

You will find that grieving may cause you to make big, rash decisions. “They” tell you not to, but it may not matter. It just happens. I worked as a school principal and loved my job. Yet, I knew I couldn’t make a decision and living day-to-day was hard. So at the end of the school year, I left my job. I knew a principal needed to be able to pour into staff and I just had nothing left to give.

First big decision.

I made other decisions. Perhaps it was me trying to control things. After all, I had tried to control keeping Lee alive. And it didn’t work. So now I would control my environment. I started with our closet a few days after Lee died. He hoarded clothes. He had a zillion plaid, button down shirts and Carhardt tan coats. Part of his illness included him making purchasing decisions that didn’t make sense. So I cleaned out his closet. Piles and piles of plaid shirts, coats, shoes. I cleaned them all out and kept a few shirts for a friend who offered to make me a quilt. Later, I regretted cleaning out so quickly because his sister wanted one of his sweatshirts that I had already donated. I wished I had waited a bit longer.

About nine months after he passed, I decided to look for a new job. I took a position at a school near my house. I was excited for it but quickly realized that wasn’t what I thought it was. My manager was probably the most unkind person I have ever worked for and coming off a difficult season, I decided I didn’t want to work there. Third big decision. I sent in my resignation. (Thankfully, the school decided to move me to another position at a different location and I ended up staying.)

So for me, I would say that I was “busy” the first full year after his death. I still had not coped with losing him nor dealt with my own emotions. 

Chapter 3: The Stages

The journey through grief is an intricate and deeply personal one. As I reflect on the stages of grief, I realize that my own experience didn’t neatly align with the prescribed order. It was a tangle of emotions, a chaotic blend that left me questioning whether I had skipped some stages or revisited others. The truth is, grief defies a rigid timeline or a predetermined sequence. It ebbs and flows, defying our attempts to neatly categorize it.

During that initial year, denial held me tightly in its grip. I wasn’t denying the reality of my loss; rather, I was avoiding facing the depth of my emotions. Keeping busy and making poor decisions became my shield against the pain. Denial became my refuge, shielding me from the rawness of my grief.

Time, they say, heals all wounds. But grief follows its own rhythm, completely indifferent to our longing for a linear healing process. Days flew by or dragged on, unconcerned with our desires. I found myself spending over a year in denial, the passage of time seemingly irrelevant to the intensity of my grief.

It was in the second year that the weight of my loss settled upon me like a heavy fog. The quietude of the house became a painful reminder of the absence, and I felt the void more acutely. Friends gradually ceased their inquiries, their visits waned, and life continued moving forward while I felt trapped in a standstill. For over three decades, I had been a spouse, a wife. Now, labeled a widow, I grappled with a sense of identity lost.

The realization that I was no longer married, that the vows of “till death do us part” had indeed come to pass, was a harsh blow. I had expected a lifelong journey with my beloved, but now that path diverged abruptly. The script I had written in my heart clashed with the biblical truth that earthly marriages dissolve in heaven. The knowledge caused months of anguish, pushing me further into the grip of depression. 

In search of solace, I explored various avenues. Medication was offered, but the prospect of side effects led me to seek alternatives. Group grief classes, self-help books, breathing exercises, and conversations with family were all attempted, but none brought the desired relief. I discovered that each person’s path to healing is unique, and what works for one may not resonate with another.

It was through a persistent pursuit of healing that I found a breakthrough. Seeking therapy, I initially encountered challenges in finding the right counselor who could truly understand the complexities of my grief. After months of searching, I discovered a counselor who employed cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) techniques. CBT allowed me to confront my suppressed emotions, while EMDR helped me navigate the traumatic memories associated with my loss.

Though the journey has extended beyond two years, I have come to accept that grief is not a hurdle to overcome but a companion to walk alongside. The weight of depression has lessened, though its presence still lingers. I have noticed how the experience has influenced my relationship with stress, amplifying its impact on my life (and work).

If you find yourself treading the path of grief, I implore you to release the expectation of following a prescribed pattern. Embrace the fluidity and unpredictability of your emotions. Grant yourself the grace to navigate this complex journey at your own pace, for there is no definitive timeframe for grieving.

Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness but an act of self-care and self-compassion. If you feel overwhelmed, reaching out for support can provide the guidance and understanding needed to navigate the labyrinth of grief. Above all, be gentle with yourself.

Chapter 4: Unraveling Anger’s Threads

In the intricate tapestry of grief, anger emerges as a formidable thread, weaving its way through our emotions. For a year, I convinced myself that anger had eluded me. I believed I had surpassed this stage entirely. I wasn't angry at God or Lee. I held firm to the understanding that a grander plan, beyond my limited perspective, was at play. I embraced the belief that all things work together for good for those who love God.

But as life would have it, anger ambushed me when I least expected it. It struck within the walls of my workplace, as I struggled to cope with the demands that once seemed manageable. As an Assistant Dean in charge of school discipline, I cherished my job and the incredible individuals I worked alongside. The school's mission and the opportunity to guide young scholars filled me with purpose. However, the behaviors of students had escalated, casting a heavy burden upon our administrative team. The stress had intensified.

In the past, I would have found solace in sharing my thoughts with Lee, my rock and confidant. Together, we would navigate the complexities of my mind and find balance. But now, returning home to an empty house, I confronted the weight of the day alone. Fatigue seeped into my bones, compounded by the exhaustion lingering from my experience with Lee's cancer and passing. It became clear that I needed to restore balance to my life, to protect my well-being.

Making the decision to transition to a different role within the same school was a formidable choice. It mirrored the choice I had made when Lee first passed away—a decision to step down from my role as principal, recognizing my own emotional depletion. The echoes of that past decision reverberated through my thoughts, amplifying my emotions. Anger engulfed me.

I resented how this experience had transformed me, how the stress no longer dissipated upon leaving work. I fumed at my own fatigue, at the necessity of making such a life-altering decision. It saddened me to part ways with a position I cherished, knowing that self-care compelled me to do so. For weeks, I teetered on the precipice of uncertainty—weighing the prospect of enduring another year, hoping that the stress would subside, against the allure of a less stressful role that failed to ignite the same passion within me.

Amidst my internal struggle, my administrative team offered compassion, attempting to understand the depth of my emotions even as I grappled for clarity. Ultimately, I chose the path with less stress, relinquishing a job I held dear. And that decision, laced with anger, left me sad. I was angry at the loss of a position I had adored. And when tears spilled in front of my peers, anger fused with embarrassment, a potent cocktail of emotions.

Yet, even after two long years, I found myself grappling with a disconcerting question: Shouldn't I be feeling better by now? Society's expectations, and perhaps my own self-imposed ones, whispered doubts into my ear. But the truth, as I would eventually learn, is that healing is not bound by a linear timeline. Grief is not a hurdle to clear but a journey to navigate, each step unique to the individual traversing it.

Anger, like grief itself, defies predetermined schedules and expectations. It gnaws and subsides, rises and retreats, creating a tumultuous inner landscape like the berms on a pump track and as I grappled with the remnants of anger's grip, I began to comprehend that healing, true healing, doesn't adhere to arbitrary deadlines. It unfolds at its own pace, in its own time.

So, I reminded myself to wait and be kind to myself. 

Chapter 5: Getting Back Up

Now that grief has come, how do you get back to “normal?” First of all, you will. But “normal” will look different now. There will be a void.  You’ve already started. The first important things to getting back on your feet are understanding grief and dealing with your feelings. Now it’s time to focus on you for a while. You can’t recover mentally or emotionally if you aren’t taking care of yourself with diet and exercise. Find something you enjoy to do and do it. 

One thing Lee and I loved was cycling. I find joy when I am on my bike. I try to ride a few times a week just so I can get outside and enjoy nature. When I get outside, it does a few things. First, I refocus on God. I look around to all the beauty He created, and enjoy nature. I get exercise - that’s a good thing! Taking care of your physical body will help heal your emotional body. I usually go along, and it is my time to think. I find that when I am on my bike, I am my most thoughtful and creative self. I use the time to listen to worship songs and it causes me to focus on praise rather than the hardships I am enduring.

For you, it may not be an exercise. It may be something totally different.  Here's a list of activities that can help occupy your mind, promote healing, and provide a positive outlet during times of grief:

1. Engage in physical exercise: Regular physical activity, such as walking, jogging, yoga, or swimming, can help release endorphins and reduce stress levels.

2. Practice mindfulness or meditation: These techniques can help you focus on the present moment and promote emotional well-being. There are many apps that you can try as well. Calm and Insight Timer are popular apps. I enjoy both! My favorite is Portal. It’s a sound-scape app. If you happen to own earbuds that allow for an immersive experience, Portal is a wonderful way to escape into the rainforest or redwood national park. 

3. Spend time in nature: Take walks in parks, forests, or by the beach to enjoy the calming effects of nature and gain a fresh perspective. “And why do you worry about clothes? See the wildflowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.” Matthew 6:28 

4. Read uplifting books or listen to podcasts: Seek out inspiring stories or motivational content that can uplift your spirits and offer new insights.

5. Explore creative outlets: Engage in activities like painting, drawing, writing, or playing a musical instrument to express your emotions and promote healing.

6. Connect with loved ones: Share your feelings with trusted friends or family members who can provide support and understanding during difficult times.

7. Seek professional help: Consider therapy or counseling to process your grief and receive guidance from a trained professional.

8. Volunteer or help others: Contributing to a cause or helping those in need can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment, helping to shift your focus away from grief.

9. Practice self-care: Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as taking warm baths, practicing aromatherapy, or indulging in a hobby you enjoy.

10. Learn something new: Enroll in a class or workshop to acquire new skills or knowledge, keeping your mind engaged and providing a sense of accomplishment.

Remember, healing takes time, and it's important to be patient and kind to yourself throughout the process.

Make time for the activities and people that nurture your spirit, and eventually, you will find your way home. Part of my difficult decisions with work relate to this very fact. In order to fully heal, make time for yourself, fun activities, and people that nurture your spirit. 

Chapter 6: Navigating Loss on Multiple Fronts

When you're grieving the loss of a spouse, you're grieving the loss of so much more than just a person. It's like an avalanche of emotions, where companionship, shared activities, friends, vacations, dining out, physical touch, shared responsibilities, a supportive presence, family time, and love all become tangled in the web of grief.

A year after Lee's passing, another blow hit me—my son and his family moved to a different state. Now, I found myself grieving him too. I adore my son, and it breaks my heart not having him close by anymore. He reminds me so much of Lee, especially as he grows older and starts to resemble his dad. They both have that incredible talent for fixing things.

My daughter and her family also made a move, albeit to a nearby town. They're still within reach, but not as close as they used to be. I grieve the loss of the easy accessibility to seeing her and spending time with my precious grandkids. It used to be a mere 10-minute drive or a breezy 20-minute bike ride, but now it takes around 40 minutes by car. Time and distance have a sneaky way of rearranging our lives.

And it's not just people that I'm grieving. I miss my jobs too. I genuinely enjoy working in school administration, and I long to get back to it—when the time is right, when I feel ready.

Holidays have lost their luster as well. The family gatherings are no longer as complete or joyous without Lee's presence. It's a reminder of the void that can never be fully filled

But here's the thing: these feelings of loss aren't exclusive to those grieving the loss of a spouse. People who have gone through divorce or experienced the passing of a family member can relate to many of these same emotions. It's tough, no matter the circumstances.

Now, let's talk about supporting someone who is grieving. It's crucial to approach them with sensitivity and understanding. That means being mindful of what we say. So, here are a few things to avoid:

1. "I know how you feel": While we may think we understand, it's essential to acknowledge that each person's grief is unique. Instead, let them know that you may understand a part of what they're going through.

2. "It's time to move on" or "You should be over it by now": Grief doesn't follow a set timeline, and everyone processes it differently. Instead, encourage their healing process without imposing expectations or timelines on their grief.

3. "At least they're in a better place": Although well-intentioned, this statement may invalidate their pain and emotions. Allow them the space to express their grief without minimizing their loss.

4. "You need to be strong": Grieving individuals may already feel the weight of being strong, so this statement can add to their burden. Instead, offer support and reassure them that vulnerability is okay.

5. "Everything happens for a reason": While this phrase may seem comforting, it can come across as dismissive or insensitive. It's best to avoid assuming there's a greater purpose behind their grief.

6. "I know someone who went through the same thing, and they're fine now": Comparing their grief to someone else's journey may invalidate their emotions or make them feel inadequate. Instead, focus on actively listening and providing a safe space for them to share.

7. "You should be grateful for what you still have": While gratitude can be helpful, suggesting they should be grateful may downplay their pain. Instead, offer empathy and acknowledge their loss.

8. "Time heals all wounds": Be patient and supportive, recognizing that healing is a personal process. 

9. "Don't cry" or "Be strong for others": Encouraging someone to suppress their emotions may hinder their healing. Instead, create a safe environment where they can freely express their feelings.

10. "Let me know if there's anything I can do": While well-intentioned, this puts the burden on the grieving person to ask for help. Instead, offer specific ways you can support them, like bringing a meal or running errands. I am not one to ask for help. I am so thankful to the friends that went ahead and did something to help on their own. 

11. “But he (or she) had a good life. My friend Grace added this one in for me! Stating this does not negate the fact that someone died and had a difficult death. 

Remember, providing a listening ear, empathy, and offering practical support can be immensely valuable during someone's grieving process.

Chapter 7: Embracing Change, Finding the Road

As we continued our journey through the overgrown pump track, navigating the weeds and eroded surfaces, I couldn't help but draw parallels to the changes we encounter in life. Sometimes, the once-smooth path we were accustomed to takes an unexpected turn, and we find ourselves facing challenges we never anticipated. The track symbolized the challenges we all face at some point, and it became a powerful metaphor for resilience and perseverance.

As we emerged from the waist-high weeds, spotting the straight line of rollers that led to the road, a surge of determination coursed through me. It was a moment of clarity—an assurance that even when life takes an unexpected turn, there is always a way forward. The road might be obscured by the surrounding uncertainties, but it's there, waiting for us to rediscover it.

In that moment, I realized that embracing change is not about avoiding the weeds or eroded surfaces; it's about navigating through them with courage and resilience. It's about acknowledging that life's challenges are part of the journey, and they hold within them the potential for growth and transformation. The pump track had changed, but it didn't diminish its significance or the joy it could still bring if we approached it with a different perspective.

Just like the track, our lives are meant to be ridden. We may encounter unexpected obstacles, setbacks, and moments of doubt, but it's in those moments that we discover our true strength and resilience. We find new ways to navigate the uncertainties, and we adapt to the changing landscape with a renewed sense of purpose.

So, my dear friend, as you embark on your own journey through life's twists and turns, remember this: change is inevitable, but it doesn't define us. We are defined by how we face those changes, how we ride through the weeds and rocks that come our way. Embrace the challenges, learn from them, and keep rolling forward with unwavering determination.

The road may seem distant, obscured by the uncertainties of life, but trust that it is there, waiting for you to rediscover it. Embrace the unknown, seek new adventures, and let the twists and turns of life become the catalysts for your personal growth. With each step forward, each pedal turn, remember that you have the resilience and strength within you to overcome any obstacle that comes your way.

As I conclude this journey, I encourage you to keep riding through life's challenges, knowing that you are capable of finding your road, no matter how winding the path may be. Embrace the change, cherish the lessons, and let your spirit soar as you discover new horizons.

And so, my friend, may your ride through life be filled with resilience, adventure, and an unwavering spirit. The road awaits you—go forth and find it.

Years Come and They Go. Lessons Learned and Moving On.

March 2019 was my last post on this blog.

And how life has changed!

2019 when I last wrote, I was working as a school principal and about ready to go on the trip of a lifetime - to Italy with my beloved, Lee. We took the trip in June and it was amazing. The best trip EVER! Here are life events since that time:

  • Travel to Italy on grand trip!
  • Lee diagnosed with Glioblastoma brain cancer
    • COVID hits USA
    • 4 types of chemo
    • 3 brain surgeries
    • 30 days radiation
    • Immunotherapy
    • Trips to UCSF for treatment
    • Home therapy
    • Hospice
    • Lee passed away March, 2021
  • Lee’s mom died
  • Lee’s dad died
  • Cycling vacation to BryceCanyon/Zion
  • Left principal position - stress of hospice and Lee’s death just too much to handle
  • Brett moved to Texas with his family
  • Lauren moved to Fair Oaks with her family
  • Sammy (dog of 16 years) died
  • New job
  • Remodeled bathroom
  • Remodeled guest room (where Lee’s hospice room was)
  • 3 different bikes
  • Changed job this year (same company)
  • 3 grandkids and 1 more on the way
  • Cycling vacation to Italy
I never thought so much would happen all within 4 years. FOUR YEARS!! Good grief. No wonder I feel worn out. That’s a lot to handle in four years’ time. 

So, this blog will be taking a turn. It use to be all about teaching. But I’m not teaching any more and it is no longer my focus. In fact, I’ve left teaching a few times to go into administrative work and the past few times, returned to teaching. But no more. I can proudly say I’m done teaching and am happy to move on.
I hope to write about life lessons. You see, I’ve learned more in these past 4 years than I have in…well, I don’t know how long.

#AppMaddnessChallenge Bracket

Sunday, March 24, 2019
I enjoy reading George Couros’ Principal of Change blog. He is an inspiring leader and in his recent post he tried something new - #appmaddnesschallenge - inspired by a visit to the New York Knicks game.  He encouraged others to try it as well... so here it goes! The #Appmaddnesschallenge Bracket - set up like March Madness basketball bracket.

Here are my top 8 last used apps according to the battery usage on my iPhone: (*This would be totally different using my iPad.)


I was surprised at my list of 8 but I’ll go with it!

Round 1

1. Weatherbug vs Accuweather

Interesting that my number 1 and 8 spot are both weather apps! Weatherbug is a recent download. What I like best about weatherbug is the map that shows lightning strikes! It shows how far away the strikes are - and where. It also shows a map of current fires. Being in California, the fire part is useful. We rarely have lightning - but most recently we have had some storms with lightning and I downloaded the app to see how far the strikes were from school. They were 3 miles away! However, Accuweather is my go-to weather app. I love how it gives a minute by minute forecast for rain - something very useful when it comes to deciding indoor or outdoor recess! It has radar, future radar, US satellite, watches and warnings, alerts, and even Zika risk from mosquitoes when traveling to other countries.

Winner - Accuweather

2. Instagram - SportsTracker

Eeks. Do they really have to go against each other? I get inspiration from Instagram. I prefer visuals so I like it over Facebook. I enjoy watching my daughter and son-in-law’s stories so I can keep up with their running. (@loloverun and @mrsetht) I was surprised to have SportsTracker show up because I am a Strava fan. However, I did use SportsTracker yesterday to track my MTB ride. If Strava were on the list, it would probably win. But it wasn’t so -

Winner - Instagram

3. Mail - Music

Eeks again. I have to choose? That’s tough. I see this as productivity vs. entertainment. I love listening to music. But...I have to give it to mail. It’s a must for work. I just use the regular Mail app from Apple and all my email streams to the same location. Easy Peasy.

Winner - Mail

4. Messages - Podcasts

Tough again. I text often and prefer it to the phone. But I love listening to podcasts as I commute each day. Currently in my library...Stuff You Should Know, The Joycast, Dr. Death, GastroPod, How I Built This, and Up and Vanished. I like Ted Talks Daily but too many posts caused my library to fill so I just listen to it every now and then.

Winner - Podcasts

Round 2

1. Accuweather - Podcasts

Accuweather helps me figure out weather I want to head out on a bike ride or call indoor recess. However, I can also go outside and make a pretty good guess. And - a little bit of rain won't hurt me, right?  Podcasts entertain me while I drive to work. They distract me from a long commute.

Winner - Podcasts

2. Instagram - Mail

Hmmm. Mail can be quite distracting. I find it is best to check just a few times a day. And I can always check it at work on my computer. Sometimes it's best for me NOT to check my email on my phone. I end up replying back short, quick texts since I don't like to type on my phone. It's better for me to reply on a computer.  Instagram is more of an inspiration to me. Again, I like to see my daughter’s stories and videos on Instagram. I just like hearing her voice. Family wins.

Winner - Instagram


Podcasts - Instagram

We all know social media can be too much of a distraction. As much as I enjoy Instagram, if I want to truly connect with others, it has to be real. I need to make personal visits. When I want to see my daughter, we will use FaceTime or talk on the phone. And she comes in 2 weeks to visit! Woo hoo!

Winner by Pam Jimison Apps- Podcasts

Podcasts help me enjoy my commute. I can choose inspirational, informative, spiritual, or suspenseful stories. 

This was a fun process. If someone were to ask me my favorite app, I don't really know what I would choose! I have apps for entertainment, productivity, information - it's a tough choice. Want to take the challenge, too? Use the hashtag #AppMadnessChallenge. I'd love to see your winner! 

How Do You Learn?

Friday, October 12, 2018

When was the last time you learned something new? 

I mean - totally brand new? I had to contemplate this question myself if I was going to ask you the same! I think for me, it was back in April when I had my eye surgery from a torn retina. I was on bed rest and had to lay on my side and do nothing. That's a hard request for someone who always likes to be on the move! So I signed up for Skillshare - a site that has hundreds of online classes on many topics. I had a 2 month free trial and took as many classes as I could. I had a blast learning new things - brush lettering, creating hand-drawn wallpaper, ink and watercolor, doodle art, and much more. I chose things that were of interest to me. I love writing (I was the kid that loved writing research papers!) and wanted to improve my handwritten documents. Plus, I love making things. I found that I could learn the new material easily because 

  1. It was visual (I am a visual/spatial learner)
  2. I was passionate about the topic
  3. I practiced using hands-on application (I am also kinesthetic)
  4. I could pause and repeat (I forget easily and need to see it again)
  5. I made the time to do it

How does your child learn best? I loved studying Howard Garner's Multiple Intelligences when I was in college. I find that it is quite true and I loved sharing the theory of multiple of intelligence with students. I consider about my own kids. My daughter excelled in school, especially reading and writing. She was driven to do her best (and she still is!). My son did not really like school. He wanted to pursue art and music, originally. He grew up thinking he "wasn't smart" because spelling was difficult for him. I knew he was brilliant. He just didn't feel that way because he was comparing himself to others that were linguistic. He pursued his music career until one day the science behind wires intrigued him. He set out to study physics and graduated from Berkeley with a Physics degree. Lauren is body and linguistic "smart" and Brett is musical, spatial, and logical "smart". God has given each the talents and abilities they need to do HIS work. 

You see, there are several types of "intelligences" and schools often focus on linguistic (spelling, reading, writing) and logical/mathematical (math). So, if students struggle with reading or math, they deem themselves as "not smart" which simply isn't true. (Another great reason to study the Growth Mindset.) These areas CAN be improved even if they are not the strongest in this area. Most likely your child is "smart" in one or more of the following "intelligences":

  • Spatial: Art, the ability to see things in the mind, conceptualize. These students do well looking at pictures in order to learn.
  • Body/Kinesthetic: the ability to move the body to solve problems. These students benefit from movement, acting, sports, building things, taking apart things, hands-on activities
  • Musical: sensitive to sounds, tones, music. These students benefit from songs in order to memorize, etc.
  • Linguistic: the ability to make meaning of words. These students do well reading, writing, journaling
  • Logical/mathematical: the ability to conceptualize logical relations. These students enjoy numbers, charts, graphs, data
  • Interpersonal: the ability to interact with others. These students enjoy group work, collaboration, teams
  • Intrapersonal: the ability to understand one's own goals and feelings. These students enjoy working on their own, planning, journaling
  • Naturalistic: the ability to make distinctions in the world of nature. These students enjoy animals, plants, being outside
Most people tend to know their own strengths and reading through the list, you may have an idea which appeal to you most. It's fun for kids to learn about their own strengths. Here is a fun self-assessment if you want to try it out! 

Please - share with your kids that God made them just right! He has given them specific skills, talents, interests, and "intelligence" to do His work in the world. We need people with skills in ALL these areas!