The Navigation of Grief

for Nancy~

This week, I was thrust into the steel and velvet construct that organically assembles itself in times of dire need. There is no engineer designing the temporary structure; no operating manual or planning meetings. Instead, the whole thing rises in a matter of hours, like a gossamer tent large enough to hold the people, the food, the photos and the gigantic emotions that gather to hold sacred space together.

Just after 5 AM, a week ago, my phone rang with the news that a friend, my best friend’s husband, had died moments earlier. He had been struggling with health issues, recovering from surgical complications, but there was no sign the outcome would be this.

Within the hour, the construct began to rise around her. Women made immediate flight and driving arrangements. Daughters, already there with mother, and spouses stepped into the arms around them to hold the shock of loss among them; too heavy for just one to hold alone.

Calls were made and people silently coordinated the parts they could and before noon on the day that the world tilted over, the work of closing a life was under way. Quietly, out in the world, a relay of family, friends, co-workers and neighbors each stepped in and took on part of the whole.

By the time I could get south and to her door, boxes were arriving with supplies and food; comfort things for the mad crush of all who needed to honor him by being present for a little while. Women arrived and cleaned her house, stocked her refrigerator, packed extra meals into her freezer. They sorted the photographs, wrote the obituary, ran the errands and gently put a drink or food or Kleenex into an empty hand. They took those hands and led them to a quiet spot to close their eyes for a moment.

As swiftly as the news had come, all the whirl of activity dissipated like the strange calm that follows a tornado. Down came the invisible structure and left behind were the artifacts of gathering and a web of open phone lines at the ready for a call, a visit, an offered shoulder for the days ahead.

Now the work begins. Grief is a hero’s journey, fraught with perilous hours between the sunset and the long walk to another morning. And on that walk is every song you danced to, a toothbrush in a glass; a sweater left on the back of a chair; the book they’ll never finish. Waves of memory crash the beach of your solitude, carrying these small things that gather around you.

“I’ll sort everything out and clear this area soon.” We lie to ourselves, to our loved ones about the things we are ready to let go of. But truth be told, that glass had his lips on it. The sweater still smells like him. The aftershave on the dresser is mostly full and if you never smell it again, a large hole will rip in your soul and so you leave it there, right where it’s always been… just because it feels right.

There is no clear route when navigating grief. Though everyone has or will walk this same path, each journey will be different. You need a new map for this uncharted territory.

Where roads used to lead to an obvious destination, now, there is nothing there. Where a spot on the old map used to point the way to a place of joy, now, there’s too much there.

Kierkegaard said, “Man suffers no greater loss than the loss of an imagined future that is no longer possible.”

There are no maps to this new land. Others can only tell you what may be there along the way… or maybe not.

For the woman walking alone now; one certainty holds true for her; the women who flew to her side, the men who quietly went about the work that needed doing, they are all still there. See them? Just off to the side. Giving her space, until she reaches a hand out into the empty void. There will be new hands now, reaching back. Some are strong and secure and have been there for a lifetime. Other hands, so tiny; looking for comfort from her strength to fill them up.

It’s been a week already. A week. The sun is still rising. The dishes still need washing. Autonomic tasks become small meditations as she puts her life in order; a new order. And all the while stopping for a moment to repeat a memory…one more time, so it won’t be forgotten. A smile. The sound of his voice. A glance at his profile in the TV light. She won’t forget. It’s a part of her; not separate.

Navigating this new world on winds of change, grief gales will be running her aground for a while but she’ll find more and more patches of fair wind and sunlight to carry her forward. She’ll make a new map to help her girls find their way too. And when she stops to feel the life around her she’ll feel all those arms who held her close on this most difficult week.

And she’ll feel him too. That unseen hand on a shoulder. That kiss on top of her head. A breath away. Only a breath away.




Chewing on The Immigration Gumballs


The 1996 Immigration “Explained” in Gumballs video is making its way around the internet again. It’s an interesting theory, but it ignores the singular element of what is *humane* in terms of humanity’s caring for each other.

As a species, we face a few overwhelming problems; Over Population and Poverty/Starvation for most of the Earth’s inhabitants.

We can not turn away the most ambitious of the masses who seek asylum here (Gumball guy, Roy Beck’s words; not mine) AND simultaneously remove funding for birth control for a planet that is obviously too stupid to only have as many children as they can care for.

Simple solution: Mandatory MALE birth control. For example; if a male has fathered two children with his legal spouse, a mandatory vasectomy should happen the same day the second child is born. A global mandate of this kind means an instant reduction in the “pink gumball” numbers and, over time, a normalization of the number of humans to food ratio until the world is able to take care of everyone.

And here’s why men would make sure that won’t work: men think their sperm is their property, but women’s bodies are somehow *co-owned* by others. Something has to change and it’s about damn time men started taking responsibility for birth control.

Those over crowded nations and horrific living conditions immigrants flee from might just improve over time with a normalization of population growth. With a population under control and all the pressures of overcrowding reduced to a dull roar, a return to home lands could realistically happen. Not through deportation, but through a welcome move back to a new beginning. Many immigrants move here with every intention of going home one day. And we are not the only nation where people long to go, but we like to pretend we are.

Over population is our singular, over arching issue globally. Access to affordable and effective birth control is the first line of defense for over crowding and growing poverty areas dependent on support from others.

In states like Colorado where birth control is readily available, teen pregnancy and unplanned pregnancies dropped by 40% in the past six years.

We should be following suit with a male birth control campaign in our own country as well to reduce the always growing numbers of those born in poverty that stay in poverty.

Beck’s plan at is not to maintain legal immigration. It is to shut the borders. Period. So if your children or grandchildren are not already US citizens, brace for a battle when attempting to bring them here, no matter which country they currently hold citizenship in.

We are already a nation of immigrants, just like Trump’s wives. And frankly, I’ll take a migrant worker who might get desperate and commit a crime like any American person could over a President who commits treason and endangers millions by making back door deals for his own ego and monetary gain any day of the week.

So here’s the gumball video. It’s very interesting and I’ve gotta say, the visual aide is impressive. All that’s missing is him ending the presentation with the wrap up line he silently implies: “… and let’s get real people. Who really gives a shit about the other useless three billion people anyway?”

Who In The World Am I? DNA Results are IN!


They are here!

The results of my Ancestry DNA test that I got as a Christmas gift are in. I have always wondered what my “special sauce” was, given to me through relatives, now long gone and where on Earth they called home. The results are back and after I laughed for a long time, I had a sense of wonder as so many of these places have called to me, through music, or food, sights and sounds. Some of these places, I have visited; others are still on my bucket list.

I’ve spent my lifetime only knowing that my paternal grandparents were Italian (Sicilian and Calabrese) and my maternal grandparents were Norwegian (mom’s dad) and Czech (mom’s mom). I’ve been trying to build a family tree and have hit dead ends on all lines somewhere around the mid 1800s. Until I launch an expedition to the motherlands to comb through church records, I will probably never know anything specific about the stories of my great grandparents and theirs as well.

But blood doesn’t lie. Even if I don’t know their names and their stories, they live on in the structure of my cells. Maybe, they gave me a freckle on my arm or a color in my iris. Maybe the sound of my voice is similar to theirs or a strange love of exotic food; or the powerful wanderlust that has pulled me to countries far and near.

I laughed when I saw these DNA test results because I have some living relatives who harbor not-so-very-well hidden feelings about some cultures, religions and races that they consider *less than*- and even *terrorists* by circumstance of birth.

Well buckle up girls, because these results are YOUR results too.

Italy/ Greece-32% …

Western European (France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland) 20% …

Scandinavian 16% … (Sweden, Norway)

Eastern European (Czech Republic, Austria, Poland) 12% …

MIDDLE EASTERN (Syria, Iraq, Iran, UAE, Jordan, Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia) 8% …

Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales) 3% …

EUROPEAN JEWISH (Ukraine, Israel, Poland, Belarus, Hungary, Russia) 3% …

Iberian Peninsula (Spain/Portugal) 2% …

NORTHERN AFRICA (Morocco, Western Sahara, Algeria, Libya) 1% 

And trace DNA from Finland, Northwest Russia, and Caucasus- a reference to more ancestors from Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and others.

I am an interesting blend of so many cultures that are currently under scrutiny by people with very small minds.

I’m actually kind of bummed that I didn’t find any Orient, South Pacific Island, South American or Native American sparkles floating around in my bloodline.

Here’s what I know- I am a child of Earth in all its technicolor glory, and I carry a little bit of many, many cultures that make this the amazing planet that it is.

Everyone should have this test run just to see who it is you’re hoping doesn’t get let into America. Because they are not THOSE people. They are OUR people.

Suck it up, Buttercups.

Take it away, Michael…


Hello again!

Wonder from the daughter. What a great eye!

My Joy Photography

With this blog and website, I will share with you my travels and moments I decided to capture. I am working on setting up purchase capability for my photos- so hang tight! They will be found here at SmugMug!

Please feel free to contact me about where some of these photos are taken. I would love to share my favorite hiking spots, trails, National Parks, favorite food joints, etc.!

Thanks for joining me, check back in again soon 🙂

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Donald and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Wall

Somewhere back in our cellular memory, we likely carry the echoes of the luxury of wealth and all it affords, or we carry the scars to the body, mind and soul received while serving the wealthy.

In our comfortable middle to upper class existences, we move through our daily lives like the courtesans and friends of royalty of long ago. We can afford to eat at a restaurant and stay in a hotel while we’re on our vacations. We can hire workers to do the things that we don’t have skills to do or we simply chose not to do. We order our meals and (some) make a show of complaining when the food doesn’t magically appear at the table within five minutes. We wave over our server as if we are French Aristocracy to announce that the wine is corked. We don’t want to see what’s happening back in the kitchen. We don’t want to think about the actual “farm to table” experience and who it was that picked this baby artichoke perched at an artistic angle in the small pool of lemon aioli.

Our new *leader* is talking about walls and sweeping immigration and deportation. Like his hair care knowledge, he has no clue what works and what doesn’t. His policies and those of the GOP will leave America not only looking as ridiculous as said hair, but will bring an economic hammer down on us that will cripple the nation.

Maybe it’s time to start thinking about those people and connecting the dots between everything we expect to be available in our supermarkets and restaurants and those same workers the GOP wants tossed over a wall.


Immigrant farm worker fixing irrigation in an artichoke field.

The Bracero Program. You may have studied it in U.S. History.

During World War II, under the Bracero Program, the United States brought Mexican laborers into the country to remedy wartime production shortages. Named for the Spanish word for manual laborer (bracero), the program began in 1942. I should say, it officially began in 1942, but the truth is that manual laborers had been working farms all along, reaching back to when strongholds of food producing lands were still Mexican territory.

Way back in 1928, when many white citizens were complaining that Mexicans were taking jobs away from “Americans”, a Chamber of Commerce representative from California testified to Congress on the need for allowing US businesses to hire migrant workers. “We, gentlemen, are just as anxious as you are not to build the civilization of California or any other western district upon a Mexican foundation. We take him because there is nothing else available. We have gone east, west, north, and south and he is the only man-power available to us.” The Farm Bureau asserted that “California’s specialized agriculture [requires] a kind of labor able to meet the requirements of hard, stoop, hand labor, and to work under the sometimes less advantageous conditions of heat, sun, dust, winds, and isolation.”

He went on to refer to these temporary workers as “Homing Pigeons”; laboring long, hard hours spending months away from their families but always with their eye on finally returning home.

It’s a fairly simple scenario to understand. Farmers grow food. They harvest and process the food. They sell it to a domestic market or it goes out of the country as an export. The things they grow must be able to compete in those market places by remaining in an affordable, yet profitable price range or they are driven out of business by competition who will sell the market a cheaper product. Selling affordable products means having low over head and that means cheap labor.

According to, this year-2017, the average annual wage of a migrant farm worker is between $10,000 and $12,499.

Let’s be kind and call it $12,000 per year. That’s $1,000 per month. And that means $6.25 per hour.

And now, let’s be honest, companies will always be looking to pay as little as possible for laborers. And most young, healthy Americans feel that work of this kind is “beneath them”. Not all young, healthy Americans. I personally know a few who work regular jobs and on their “time-off” they can be found picking cherries and harvesting other crops for the extra money. They also do it so that their family or their neighbor’s farms will have product harvested on-time and at the market while it is still sell-able.

And that, my friends, is perhaps the most ignored portion of the “illegal worker” situation when considering migrant workers. Produce Spoils. There is a window of time in the world of farming when the product is ready to harvest and when it’s over, if that is your only crop, you are done for the year. It’s a mad rush of seasonal frenzy and then it is the dead silence of a fallow field or an orchard empty of fruit.

Some have expanded their options and now use hoop houses and crops that can be gathered year round, but some solutions to the short grow season only work in temperate climates like Texas, California and Florida. Not so for the corn, wheat, barley and other staple crops of the “Bread Basket” states who must wait out the winter and spring until the ground is soft enough to plant again.

Imagine, if you will, an overwhelming number of Americans suddenly willing to relocate for a few months to work those California fields, or those Michigan Cherry orchards; spending long, hard hours away from their friends and families; living in affordable temporary housing that they or their employer provides. And after the back breaking harvest season, they earn $3.25 an hour less than their friend that is a life guard at the public pool. Maybe you can imagine a rush of newly graduated high school students and twenty and thirty-somethings uprooting their American lives to fill those jobs. Personally, I cannot.

Closing borders and deporting Mexican and South American workers will effectively cripple American food production. And even outside the hotly debated farm worker situation, there are many other industries that will be affected by deportation and it will trigger a series of economic catastrophes as they shutter their businesses, one by one, for lack of minimum wage workers.

Now, imagine if the USA deported every undocumented immigrant tomorrow.

A large portion of the restaurant industry is employing workers just like these. Restaurants in all our major cities would come to a screeching halt and within months they would be forced to close for lack of employees who do all the back of the house work that “our” kids and friends refuse to do because we are “over-qualified.”

Industry data says over 355,000 dishwashers alone work in our restaurants. Most restaurants employ one or two dishwashers.


When a restaurant’s doors close, it’s not just the dishwasher out of work. It’s the bartender, the server, the cooks, the hostess, the sommelier, the managers and the owner. For every one dishwasher there are six to eight other back and front of the house employees. Now multiply that by 355,000. THAT is the impact of deporting these workers en masse.

The same domino effect will happen in farming, landscaping and maintenance services, child-care, house-keeping for private homes, hotels and hospitals. When the manual and hourly workers are pulled from all the jobs they currently do, then businesses close and all other employees lose their jobs as well.


Staff of Helena’s American Ranch House in Shelby County, Alabama. Opened in 2016

Within one year we would feel the nationwide economic impact with the loss of the same laborers that the GOP is so eager to toss over the border. We need to slow the roll here and have a logical discourse about the impact on America that a sweeping edict like deportation will have on the nation.

I have a sinking feeling that the same breed of MBA wielding wizards who crashed the stock market in 2008 are now “advising” the GOP and our current administration. It’s like watching someone standing on a railroad track and the train is a mile away and they aren’t anticipating its arrival. Everyone hears the whistle and these are the only train tracks in town.

Which brings me to the “Wall”. I just have one question for Donald.

Who the hell do you think is going to be hired to actually build this “wall’?

Privileged Americans! If you’re curious about the real lives of these faceless people some want tossed out of the country? Check out Farmworker Confessional.

And while we are busy building figurative and (hopefully not) literal walls, don’t imagine countries like Mexico are going to continue buying our exported products. THAT will be another massive hit to the United States economy. Take a look… and that’s in billions…with a “B”.


Send this to your representative in Washington D.C. and ask them if they are taking these issues into consideration while they wave their flags and cheer on their new quarterback.

If you don’t know who they are, find them here:

And have a great lunch…