Black Tuesday

The last time I felt this way, was the day after I was fired.  But this time, I found others grieving with me. We wore black as a symbol of our mourning.

Facebook becomes a refuge where HRC supporters commiserate together. There is no work being done today, only time on social media to find some antidote for the poisonous reality.

If you say to me “accept it and move on” or “your fears are just speculation,” you are missing the depth of my grief and the collective depression of my sisterhood. Blogger John Pavlovitz put into words the aching in our guts in his post “Here’s Why We Grieve Today.” Read his blog to understand why this is different from other political losses.

This election became about so much more because of the hateful speech and criticisms. When in history has a nominee been threatened by shouts of “Lock Her Up!” or called a “Nasty Woman” in a debate? This election was about good triumphing over bad, the white pantsuit in contrast to the red hat, the life-long civil servant vs. the businessman bully.

On Tuesday, the country chose the devil. On Wednesday, the devil presented his plan to undo the work of the past 8 years, to go backwards from protecting our environment and providing healthcare to everyone, to chase immigrants and refugees away from safety, to turn back the clock for women and their personal freedoms.

Black Tuesday. The day hate trumped love.


Crossing The Finish Line

I grew up the daughter of a feminist. Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Betty Friedan… these were my mother’s heros. I remember long conversations among my mother’s friends at our church about women being excluded from ministry and the fight for ordination. It was the 70’s, the height of feminism and the struggle for equality; 50 years after Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony secured the right to vote for women in the United States (1920). According to Wikipedia,

“The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has always been highly controversial regarding the meaning of equality for women. Middle-class women generally were supportive. Those speaking for the working class were strongly opposed, arguing that employed women needed special protections regarding working conditions and hours. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress and was submitted to the state legislatures for ratification. It seemed headed for quick approval until Phyllis Schlafly mobilized conservative women in opposition, arguing that the ERA would disadvantage housewives.”

Missing several extended deadlines for state ratification, the ERA eventually died in 1982.

Along with equal rights, equal pay and equal opportunity, my mother was passionate about a woman’s right to choose, her fundamental right to decide what is best for herself and her body. In 1972, the Supreme Court made the landmark decision known as Roe v. Wade.

“The Court ruled 7–2 that a right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, but that this right must be balanced against the state’s two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting women’s health and protecting the potentiality of human life,” as stated in Wikipedia.

The TV show Mad Men is one of my favorites. But, it took watching it from the very first episode to appreciate the portrayal of blatant sexism as a sarcastic testimony to the reality of the time. “You’ve come a long way, Baby,” the slogan made famous by Virginia Slims cigarettes, capitalized on the feminist movement to sell, sadly, cigarettes to women.

Watching the events of the past week in Philadelphia, I was struck by the enormity of nominating the first woman candidate to lead a major political party in the race for President of the United States. I cried tears of hope and elation that we just might be able to see a strong, deserving woman in the White House. I don’t think women in younger generations grasp the struggle and fight it’s taken to get to this place. Nor do they understand how long Hillary has fought for the rights we have, the battle wounds she’s endured to get to where she is, and the extra scrutiny placed on her because of her gender.

As a woman in a leadership position with my company, I’ve experienced first hand the discrimination and double standard that comes with my gender. The expectations for women in leadership are different from those of men. We are expected to be nurturing, understanding and forgiving. If we assert our position with strength – as men often do – we are labeled, written up and investigated. But, it makes us stronger. It makes us resilient. It makes us smarter and more capable. If we don’t let it ruin us, we become better communicators and more powerful leaders.

Hillary Clinton pushed hard for health care reform and lost. She learned that she has to involve others more. Hillary Clinton was in office during 911. She learned how to fight for the people of New York and what was right. Hillary Clinton chose to follow the precedent of a private email server. She learned the hard way this was a mistake, but the law of the land deemed this was not criminal. Hillary Clinton sat with the President and his advisors in the decision to take down Bin Laden. She learned how to make the tough decisions faced by the leader of the free world.

Watching Chelsea talk about her mother, I felt the same pride and admiration I have for my own mom. My mother became a minister in mid life, was ordained, and worked to help victims of sexual violence, led congregations during times of transition and continued her fight for women’s rights and equality. As recently as 2005, my mother felt the pain of being ostracized and belittled because she was a woman in a traditional male role.

I heard an interview this evening with Caitlin Moran on Fresh Air about the movement away from feminism. Talking to young women who are repulsed at the idea and deny being called a feminist, Caitlin asks, “What do you mean? And, you run through what being a feminist means, sort of like voting and rape being illegal and not being a legal possession of your husband.” Caitlin says, “Women are feminist by default. And you live in a feminist world. The first world is feminist. You are educated equally to boys. You’re expected to go into equal employment with boys. In a marriage, you are legally equal. So, you know, you cannot deny we live in a feminist world.”

Young women, my sisters, WAKE UP! Our mothers and grandmothers fought hard to create the opportunities we have today. But, we’re not done. We still don’t have equal pay for equal work. We still bump up against the glass ceiling. We still are measured at a different standard. Hillary Clinton is our anchor in this relay race for women’s rights. Join us and let’s cross the finish line together.

Hello from the other side

Dear Beau,

I didn’t really like you much when you first came to live with us. You were annoying and disruptive to my peaceful existence. The house was all mine after Fred died. At times, it might have been a little lonely but I really didn’t mind. It isn’t easy growing old. I was 13 and a half when you arrived and my bones ached, my insides didn’t work right and I had to take pills with my food. One day, you’ll understand how it feels.

As obnoxious as you were, I have to admit that you brought me back to my days as a young pup. I guess it was fun romping at the beach with you and taking your chew toys. I give you credit, as much as I tried to intimidate you, you never gave up trying to make me your friend. Thank you for that.15 months

You’re looking good, kid. A solid 77 lbs, you’re probably full grown. I bet you’re finally neutered, too. Now that you’re all grown up, you need to know what’s expected of you:

  1. Bark at strangers. It’s your number one job. Heck, bark at everyone. It’s hard to know whose strange and who isn’t.
  2. Walk in front of Mom. You’re there to protect her no matter what she says.
  3. Always, always be the first one in the car so you don’t get left behind!
  4. Cuddle often. It’s the only reason Mom lets you on the big bed.
  5. When you have to go number 2, go off the trail so Mom doesn’t have to pick it up (even though she does anyway).
  6. Eat fast. Someone might take it from you.
  7. If Mom gets the watering hose, RUN!!
  8. Practice your “sad puppy” look. You’ll get more treats.
  9. Chew the furniture. You’ll get more toys.
  10. Give lots of hugs and kisses. Mom will give them back.

It took two of us, both Fred and I, to take care of Mom. It’s up to you now, kid. If you need some help, just look at our pictures on the mantle and we’ll help you figure out what to do.

Looking back, I guess it’s a good thing Mom got you when she did.





Remembering Ethel

My sweet Ethel left this world today to join her life mate, Fred, in that place people talk about over the rainbow bridge. A place where dogs run and play, free of pain and aggression, full of joy and as many bunnies as a dog can chase. The place over the rainbow bridge where I told Steve to go when he passed.

“Find Fred, Steve,” I told him as he lay quietly in the hospital bed last fall. “He’s waiting for you.” Tears started rolling down his cheek and I heard him choke up in his comatose sleep.

I can see Ethel joining them in that beautiful place, running free and sharing big sloppy kisses with Fred and her human dad. The bleeding tumor is healed, her appetite restored. She can see as far as the mountain top, clear and bright again. Her body moving as fluidly as the river and her ears flopping like the wings on an eagle.

Ethel was my problem child. Aggressive to other dogs, she would twist and lunge on the leash knocking grown men to the ground. We had an understanding though. She couldn’t get away with that when Mom was walking her. I learned to be alert, on guard, attentive at all times. She mellowed with age and eventually lived up to her nickname “Sweet Ethel”.

With people, she was all hugs and kisses, an 80 pound lapdog. She loved the car. “Let’s go!” was her favorite command. We’d find her in the car long before we were ready to leave. She didn’t want to be left behind.

Fred wasn’t much for the water. He’d wade in the shallow part. But Ethel, she loved swimming. She would fetch sticks in the water for hours. Retrieving on land was boring but nothing distracted her when she was swimming for sticks.

Stroking her soft thick coat, I whispered softly “Find Fred, Ethel. Steve will be with him and they are waiting for you.”

A New Year begins

As the New Year takes on momentum, I think about the life changing events of the past year. In February, I let go of my dear Fred. As the vet put it, he had earned “The Best Dog Ever” title. Helping him pass was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I still miss him every day. Going through this experience, I learned how to blog and found my written voice.

About the time that Fred left this world, a yellow lab named Betsy was romping with a black lab in Eastern WA. She conceived and had 10 pups. I brought Prince Beau home in June and this 17 pound pup has rocked my world… and Ethel’s, too. He is now full grown at 74 pounds and a full blood retriever… of tennis balls, socks, underwear, pens, reading glasses… Check out my new version of the 12 days of Christmas at

In June, I traveled to Salt Lake City for the marriage of my cousin Michael Ruff to Alisha Martinez. It was a fun wedding and I especially loved the s’mores on the patio for dessert.

Family and friends surrounded me for my 50th birthday. The driest summer on record and it poured rain on August 14th. There was no dampening the celebration. Thank you to all who made this such a special day, especially my dad, Rich, Mark, Tamara, Beth, Rob, Tori and Ella.

While 2015 brought much joy, I also had more personal losses than any other year I can remember including my father’s close friend Bill Holsman who I thought of as an uncle and my mother’s sister, Diana, who I never knew due to the brain damage she suffered at an early age. 

Losing Steve, my husband for eight years, in November was most significant. He suffered after his kidney failed and an infection invaded his body. Still, 54 is too young for a person to die. I met Steve in 1998 and he’s been my greatest fan ever since. Always encouraging and supportive, Steve was one of “the good people” and he was a positive influence for all those he touched. Through his illness, I received the priceless gift of reconnecting with his family, my second family. I am so grateful for this and will cherish these relationships forever.

In December, I celebrated my 15 year anniversary at Wesley Homes. Work consumes most of the hours in my days. However, I am so fortunate that I have a career where I can make a difference in peoples’ lives: building a new community in Puyallup, redeveloping our campus in Des Moines and working with inspiring residents and dedicated staff.

I have been so blessed to have a wonderful family: loving parents who support me unconditionally, a talented brother, and a sister-in-law that I adore. My life has been truly en-Rich-ed by an incredible partner and I’m inspired by my friends who are forgiving, supportive and true.

Best wishes for 2016. May it bring you joy, peace and love… all in magnificent abundance.

Sweet Lonely Ethel

It’s been two months that Fred’s been gone. People asked me how Ethel would be as an “only dog”. I thought for sure she would relish the opportunity to have ALL the attention. After all, she LOVES being petted and won’t let you stop once you start.

Occasionally, I’ve brought her to work with me and my co-workers seem to enjoy having her around.  She doesn’t make trouble and stays in my office. I’m not sure she enjoys it though. When we go to leave, she can’t get out the door fast enough.

The past few years, I’ve asked neighbors and friends in similar situations how their surviving pet was after losing the other. I often heard that they didn’t want to have another dog brought into their home… the surviving dog didn’t want another dog. Ok, in both instances an animal psychic was involved.

So, I wondered, “Does Ethel want to be an only dog for a while? Or, is she lonely?”

We visited my parents for Easter and Ethel loved having us around all day. She especially loved the hike that was part mud and part snow. She even joined Coal and Jemma – her canine cousins – swimming in the cold stream running by.

Now that we’re home and she’s alone every day, I wonder if she misses having another dog around. Is she depressed? Is she lonely?

A week ago, she stopped eating and had little energy. I took her to the vet and for $185 I learned she had an upset stomach and got some pills that I had to bribe her to take. She’s better now but drinking a lot of water and having accidents in her bed.

Hey, Ethel…  How about a puppy?

From a friend

My dear friend Kathy recently lost her golden, Hercules. She shared this wonderful poem…

We have a secret, you and I, that no one else shall know, for who but I can see you lie each night in fire glow?

And who but I can reach my hand before we go to bed and feel the living warmth of you and touch your silken head?

And only I walk woodland paths and see ahead of me, your small form racing with the wind so young again, and free.

And only I can see you swim in every brook I pass and when I call, no one but I can see the bending grass.

And only I hold you in my heart, feeling you near, and keeping you with me always and forever, more.

(I added the last line) Thank you dear friend. We walk together feeling the sorrow of having loved and lost one of God’s beautiful creatures in a very special way.

Compassion creates understanding

I’m a fan of Yogi Tea. Every tea bag comes with a quote. They are always calming and zen-like. Tonight, my quote was “Compassion creates understanding.” It brought to mind something I learned this past year.

Sipping my Chardonnay one evening on the deck at Anthony’s Homeport in Des Moines with my friend Melinda, she asked me if I had a personal mission statement. “No. What’s that?” I asked. She shared three words that described how she wanted to live her life with a brief description for each. They had to do with integrity and honesty.  I started thinking about what mine would be. About a week later I had them.

Passion – I live my life with passion, fully engaged and present in the moment.

Forgiveness – I strive to forgive others and ask for forgiveness for my own hurtful actions. Dale Carnegie wrote “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”

Courage – I face each day with courage and resilience. That is how we learn and grow, by facing our fears and trials, not running from them.

I wrote these words on my bathroom mirror and looked at them every morning. One day, it dawned on me.

The sum of all three – passion + forgiveness + courage = compassion.

“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching    


“All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
Cormac McCarthy, The Road    

I picked up Fred’s ashes today. They came in a cherry box inside a cardboard box with his name on the outside, Fred Tremain. I never called him Fred Tremain. It was always Fred Dog or Freddy Boy but mostly just simply Fred.

Margaret called me last week from Wilderness Animal Hospital to let me know they had Fred’s remains, or cremains as I heard them called. I don’t know why but I’ve been avoiding picking them up. Somehow, it felt like the last step, the final act, the harsh reality that Fred’s body is gone for good. I’ve been numb. At work, at home, I feel numb. When my thoughts slip into the emotional memories of my last day or the final minutes with Fred, I quickly brush them away. It seems strange this steady decrease of emotion that’s significantly less each day. Part of me wants to still feel the deep sorrow, to dignify his passing, to hold on. The other side says to move on, to heal, focus on the future.

I saw the box come out and sit on the counter while I waited for Ethel to get her nails trimmed. When it came time for me to go, Beth gently picked up the box and respectfully handed it to me with one arm reaching out in a supportive embrace. The box was heavier than I expected. Tears surprised my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. When I reached the car, I sobbed as I held the box tightly to my chest.

Ethel and I made it home. Back to the nightly routine. Walk, dinner, clean up, check email, go to bed. The box titled Fred Tremain sitting unopened on the counter.

Loss is Spiritual

In meditation, I look for the energy of Fred’s spirit, but it isn’t there, at least not in the way that I expect it to be. I expect to feel  him still beside me, heeling – or healing – at my ankle like he did in his physical form.

That’s what we do when we grieve. We try to hold onto something that gives us hope. The Rainbow Bridge poem is a perfect example. Written by an unknown author, it talks about a meadow where pets run free, waiting for their owners to join them before crossing over the Rainbow Bridge … to where? Heaven?

I don’t claim to be a theologian or even a very good Christian but isn’t the promise of going to heaven at the center of Christian belief? Don’t we strive to follow God’s commandments and Jesus’ teachings so that we, too, can pass through the pearly gates? I believe in God’s grace and forgiveness. But, I’m not sure that it is only about an afterlife in heaven.  I believe that creation is bigger than just our world, that there is more than one right way to believe, that oneness transcends a single lifetime.

Last night my teacher, Michael Baugh, quoted Gangaji asking “When a body dies, is awareness any smaller?” Contemplating this, feeling into this, I concluded that awareness doesn’t change. It is still complete.

A day after Fred passed, Ethel and I were sitting on the couch watching our favorite show. On the bookshelf next to me, I had created an altar for Fred with his photo, paw print and fur clipping. There was a candle on the shelf that had been given to me for Christmas. I’d moved it over to be part of the memorial. As I stroked Ethel’s ears, her head in my lap, I started smelling that candle for the first time. It was a clean, fresh scent, like warm clothes straight from the dryer. At first, I didn’t know what the smell was. I smelled my sleeve. I buried my nose in Ethel’s neck. The odor was coming at us in powerful waves. Then, I looked at the photo of Fred. His eyes imploring me to understand. “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m still here.”

Love Dogs ( a Rumi poem)063

One night a man was crying
Allah Allah His lips grew sweet with the praising

Until a cynic, said so!
I have heard you calling out
but have you ever gotten any response?

The man had no answer for that
He quit praying
and fell into a confused sleep

He dreamed he saw Hitter
The guide of souls
in a thick green foliage

“Why did you stop praising”

“Because I’ve never heard anything back”

This longing you express
is the return message

The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union
your pure sadness that wants help
is the secret cup

Listen to the moan of a dog for it’s master
that whining is the connection

There are love dogs
no one knows the names of
Give you life
to be one of them.