Do You Think About Death?


My great-grandmother Kate standing near the grave of her late husband. (picture from a relative who uploaded it to


It’s something I think about occasionally; a fleeting thought, a sad reminder or at times it comes when thinking with regret about something I wish I would have done before a loved-one passed away. I do think about how I hope to die; peacefully in my sleep after a nice meal on a beautiful summers day spent with friends and family when I am really old.

After I’m no longer using this body I have considered donating it to science, but I am kind of hoping it is old and used up before that happens. Maybe I can put an age clause on my after life disposition; If I am “X” years old and in a state of interest to science please donate, but If I am old and have used my body to the fullest please cremate me. I think that is reasonable, don’t you?

The right to die or “Death with Dignity” is also on my mind. I live in Washington state, one of only 5 states that allow for “death with dignity” along with Vermont, Montana, New Mexico and Oregon. Oregon has been in the news recently because of the story of Brittany Maynard, the young woman with an terminal brain cancer who has moved from the San Francisco area of California to Portland, Oregon so that she can have the right to choose when she is ready to die. From a CNN interview;

“”I’ve had the medication for weeks. I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms,” she wrote on

“Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain.””

I hope I am not faced with that choice or need to choose, but I am thankful that my State does allow for that option if I were to become terminally ill. I have watched a couple of people deal with the end of the lives of loved ones, who are having little to no quality of life, yet they have been medically kept alive because they are holding out hope or because the medical system just does not allow for an assisted end. Just because a life can be extended does not mean it should be extended. A rational adult in control of their faculties should be able to make a decision about how they want to live their life and how, if necessary, they want to stop living their life. They should be able to do it humanely and peacefully rather than being forced to end it in trauma because the medical system isn’t set up to treat humans humanely.

During my husbands 10 days in the hospital last December, right before he was moved to ICU, a nurse asked me if my husband had a living will and told me to bring it into the hospital. My husband and I both have completed living wills and have made it clear to each other what the other is to do if we are facing making that decision for the other. The nurses request was frightening at the time, but I was glad that I did have an answer even if it was one that I didn’t want to face.

In a recent “Fresh Airinterview conducted by Terry Gross on NPR’s she speaks with Caitlin Doughty, a mortician, who has written a memoir and has a series of uTube videos about death, dying and some other pretty weird stuff. Her memoir is “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory.” An excerpt from the interview;

“On how she once romanticized crematory work, and how that compared with reality

I think it was probably more romantic than it actually ended up being. I thought of the idea of … the open-air pyre and leading the body to it and placing it on the pyre and everybody’s weeping and it’s beautiful. But the reality that I found is that modern crematories are really industrial environments and the body goes into large industrial machines and oftentimes I was the only one there. And it’s hot and it’s dirty and you get covered in dust [ashes] as you’re working.”

I have never had a romantic or mystical view of cremation or dying, but I guess that is because our western culture just doesn’t do that sort of thing and my family is a rather stoic lot. Several members of my immediate family have been cremated, my father’s mom and dad, my father and most recently my mom’s mother. My father’s parents, my grandparents, were cremated and their ashes were spread in area’s that meant something to them. My grandfather was spread in a field he used to love to go with his dog to hunt duck and pheasant and my dad and I spread my grandmother’s ashes around their home on the lake.

I took care of my fathers final arrangements and picked “him” up from the funeral home after he was cremated. I remember the person at the mortuary warning me before  giving me the wrapped square package that it was heavy so that I wouldn’t drop it when they handed it to me. It was heavy, the size and weight of a large brick, but wrapped in paper that looked like it could be used to wrap a wedding gift. It took us a couple of years to decide what to do with his ashes. Finally we decided, my little brother, my grandfather(my mom’s father) and I, to pack into the North Cascade mountains on horses and spread his ashes in a place that we thought was special to him. That is a day I will always cherish and remember.


Grandpa Chuck and my little brother Andy sharing a drink on top of the mountain after we spread my father’s ashes.

My grandmother, who passed away on mother’s day over 6 years ago now(wow time does fly by), was cremated and set in a mausoleum at the cemetery where her mother is buried. There is a spot for my grandfather to be beside her when it’s his time to go. I like the idea that they will be together someday, hopefully a long time from now, for eternity in their little spot on the wall.

Today, my wish is to be cremated and my ashes spread in Clear Lake near my grandparents home and around the lake where I spent many happy years as a child. I say today, because things can change, life goes on and some other place may develop that enduring impact on me that that place of my early childhood had on my life. In fact, I hope it does; that will mean that I have been truly living my life, tasting what it has to offer, enjoying it, finding pleasure and other places to be myself.

Do you think about death? Do your loved ones know your wishes after you are gone? Do you have a living will? Do you want the right to choose if necessary “death with dignity”?

Charmed by Simplicity

I have been stressed out by a good many things in these past couple of years; including by job, my husband’s health, the poor economy and the state of the world. As some of you readers know I had been giving meditation a try; but not faithfully or successfully or I wouldn’t be so freakin stressed-out. Right? I have also been working on being less negative and “snarky,” again with the best intentions but not my usual follow-through, as demonstrated by the last two sentences. Oh well, I’m a work in progress.

Simplicity articles and stories fill me with envy and a desire to sell everything and find my simplicity path, but which path there are so many, it’s not very simple.

This story by David Wallis, Increasingly, Retirees Dump their Possessions and Hit the Road, in the New York Times talks to several retirees about how they sold everything and are now permanently traveling. One couple has been spending the last two years living in a tent in different parts of the world, another couple stays in short-term vacation rentals in different countries every few months and yet another woman lives on something like $150 per month by working on organic farms for room and board or couch surfing around the country.

A comment from one of the traveling couples;

““We simply traded the money we were spending for overhead on a house and garden in California for a life in much smaller but comfortable HomeAway rentals in more interesting places,” Ms. Martin said by email from Paris.”

Sell everything the house, the cars and the possessions that weigh us down and travel the world with just the necessities of life seems like a pretty awesome way to spend your golden years.

A Sandy Keenan article in the New York Times, “Freedom in 704 Square Feet” featured this quote from a neighbor of the featured couple who, to have more time to live rather than maintain a home, live in a small house in Portland, Oregon;

None of this has gone unnoticed by the neighbors. Kim Conrow, 65, who lives next door, marveled: “On weekends, they actually go places and do things. They’re not tied to the projects most of us are tied to. I’m so charmed by the simplicity of it.

A smaller house with less overhead, less to clean, less to worry about and maintain. We purchased our townhome during the market dive, but of course we were not close enough to the bottom when we did buy and are still underwater, even if not quite as bad as some of our neighbors. This adds to the stress, because if we did want to sell it, it’s going to cost us even more money to truly get out from underneath the obligation. And we may need to sell because living in a house with two sets of stairs doesn’t work all that well for a guy that is on oxygen. But he does climb the stairs several time a day like a trouper.

I purchased a book, Secrets of Simplicity – Learn to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno about 6 or 7 years ago. It has lots of helpful lessons about how to curb your wants and focus on your needs, help you realize how much you have already in the way of family, friends and things and how to appreciate them now, and how to change a habit like “shopping” and start a new one like “exercising”. One particularly funny passages in the section on “Focus” she is telling the reader about being in a yoga class and her teacher was talking about Prana, which means breath.

“One day my teacher, Laurie Goldstein, was talking about Prana, which means “breath” or the “life force,” arguably the most essential part of yoga. In my distracted state, I heard “Prada.” Suddenly, instead of taking deep cleansing breaths, I found myself mentally wandering through Saks purchasing high-end designer goods. Though I cannot liken my shopping addiction to a chemical need like that of nicotine, alcohol, or even caffeine, the battle to avoid shopping is one I fight every day! As evidenced in my yoga class, sometimes the temptation creeps up even when I have the best intentions.” 

For me this was funny, but also, sadly a little too close to home; because I do find my mind wandering to a beautiful new coat from Barneys or some pretty bauble from Nordstrom or just some random shopping for something at Target. And I need nothing right now, absolutely nothing, yet my brain still starts thinking about when I will have the next opportunity to shop. When the urge starts to get too strong or I have fallen off the wagon I pull out this book and it helps me re-focus on what’s important.

Do you ever long for a simpler life? Or are you living one? What is your secret?

Oh Wine ~ The Wine Loft

The Wine Loft

The Wine Loft at Percival Landing was a recent discovery in downtown Olympia. A tiny little brick building not too far from the Olympia Farmers Market that was once a bank. I have walked or driven by this place dozens of times and always wanted to stop in, but just had not. Now it will be a regular on my downtown circuit.

They offer wine tastings on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of every month, a 10% discount on cases or mixed case purchases, the tiny store has an impressive variety of wines, ports, sherry’s and more in every price range.

I scored a lovely split of Sancerre and am trying a new wine from Italy, Scarzello, I will let you know if I liked it as I have all the cooking magazines out today and am going to whip up something new for dinner tonight!

Any favorite wine recommendations?



Walk for Wishes Day

What a wonderfully fun day in the sun with friends walking for a great cause! I wrote a while back that I was going to participate in a Walk for Wishes event with my buddy Logan and as promise some pictures from the day!

The team of Logan's Hero's at the Walk for Wishes - Make a Wish Walk!

The team of Logan’s Hero’s at the Walk for Wishes – Make a Wish Walk!

I didn’t realize my “fisheye” effect was on my camera at first, so the first dozen or so pictures have the funky effect on them! Such a fun time walking with all my Ninja Turtle team.

Blitz the Seahawks mascot was hanging out with the Wish team today!

Blitz the Seahawks mascot was hanging out with the Wish team today!

There was so much going on at this event; balloon animals, face painting, snacks and prizes, Blitz from the Seahawks, a huge guy from Halo, bouncy houses and lots of sunshine!

Brandy and Logan listening to an inspirational Wish Kid!

Brandy and Logan listening to an inspirational Wish Kid!

The young boy who spoke has suffered from kidney decease all his life and was lucky enough to receive a transplant last year. His wish was to meet the band Macklemore and he said the excitement of the wish and the wish itself truly helped him get through some very sad and scary times in his life. For a very young man he did a wonderful job!

Team Logan walking the course!

Team Logan walking the course!

I'm a Frenchie fan and so I had to capture one of the cute little canine walkers!

I’m a Frenchie fan and so I had to capture one of the cute little canine walkers!

I had such a fun day!


I made some new friends, was inspired by so many brave kids and selfless volunteers, got to spend the day with Logan who is such a cool, sweet and wonderful guy and to top it all off got in a nice workout! Absolutely no better way to spend a lovely Sunday!

How did you spend your Sunday?



Where Did I Come From?


I had every intention of writing and publishing a couple of new stories this week, but when I started researching a question for a story some how I ended up looking something up on and I have been completely sucked into it, spending most of last Sunday just looking around.

Wow, so much interesting information. And, one of my grandmother’s relatives has done a huge amount of work on that part of the family tree. She had posted pictures of family, places they lived or had gotten married and filled in several generations of family  – it was so cool!

  • My Great, Great Grandfather George came through Ellis Island in 1907
  • My Great Grandmother Kate had like 10 brothers and sisters
  • My fathers mother was married once before she married my grandfather
  • My Grandma Jean’s father passes away in Texas and never had any other children with his second wife.

Now I have to check in with one of my great aunts that is still with us and get some more details on my Dad’s side of the family.

Sorry for my distraction, but it can really capture your attention.



Too Much S#%T!

A past poem I wrote contains the line: “my possessions own me” and that is feeling more true than ever this week. I am being drug down by all my stuff. Why do I need 12 plates when I rarely feed more than my husband and me? Why do I have 4 sets of salt and pepper shakers, why do I have 4 containers of kitchen utensils on my counter, why do I have all this space for two of us and two dogs? It’s just more time spent cleaning than having fun and enjoying life. I don’t enjoy housework, why have such a big house? (and my place really isn’t that big) And these are just the things I see from my kitchen, let’s not even look in my bathroom or my closet.

Several New York Times articles on money, retirement and family life touch on the nature of “stuff” and “possessions”. In this one, “The Way We Live: Downing in Stuff” by Penelope Green she interviews a researcher on a UCLA study of 32 typical middle class families and all their stuff. One quote really got me thinking…..

Finally, there was a direct relationship between the amount of magnets on refrigerators and the amount of stuff in a household.”    uh oh!


That is a lot of magnets on my fridge!

This article on retirement and happiness, “For Some, Tis a Gift to be Simple” by Ron Lieber talks about a study by two researchers that are looking into the field of happiness;

“….they were trying to help answer one of the next big questions in the emerging field of happiness studies. Already, scholars in the field have established that experiences tend to make people happier than possessions. What we do, it seems, has more potential for lasting satisfaction and memory-making than what we have.”

Experiences tend to make people happier than possessions” and I am sure they are not taking about the experience of acquiring those possessions. Vacations, time spent with family, time spent in pursuit of learning something new or time spent with friends are the things that make people happy. Shit, no wonder I feel weighed down.

And this piece from the same article also intrigued me because shopping and acquiring has become a solitary, computer driven endeavor for me; focused on finding the best deal, using that coupon code and getting cash back for stuff, if I am truly honest, I know I don’t need.

“Once upon a time, with roots that go back to medieval marketplaces featuring stalls that functioned as stores, shopping offered a way to connect socially, as Ms. Liebmann and others have pointed out. But over the last decade, retailing came to be about one thing: unbridled acquisition, epitomized by big-box stores where the mantra was “stack ’em high and let ’em fly” and online transactions that required no social interaction at all — you didn’t even have to leave your home.

And this recent New York Times article by David Wallis looks at retirees that dump their possessions and hit the road;

SOME call themselves “senior gypsies.” Others prefer “international nomad.” David Law, 74, a retired executive recruiter who has primarily slept in tents in several countries in the last two years, likes the ring of “American Bedouin.”

They are American retirees who have downsized to the extreme, choosing a life of travel over a life of tending to possessions. And their numbers are rising.

A life of travel over a life of tending to possessions” there it is again possessions and what it does to weigh down and anchor your life. Shedding a bunch of my possessions and removing that burden from my life seems like it is just the answer I am looking for to feel better, worry less and live a happier life.

Now I don’t think I could ever go to the extreme simplicity route and pick a number of items, most articles seem to pick 100 and live with only those. But being much more mindful of the need, verse want, verse acquiring for entertainment would, I think, be a big step in the right direction.

What about you – do you have more possessions than you really need? Do you ever feel weighed down by all of it?

Back on the Wagon

Writing Books  I have not written much nor published anything new in the last couple of weeks. I have been consumed by work and worry. I should instead be happy, enjoying my life and of course writing. I have “fallen off the wagon” of writing daily. How do I get back on that wagon?

A writer friend of mine, that I also work with, stopped by my office the other day and gave me a nudge. Thank you Todd!!

My dad called the other day and also gave me a poke! Thank you Dad!

I have gotten some of my favorite writers advise books out and am getting inspired.

I am swinging my leg back up on that wagon tonight, look for something new this weekend!

How do you reignite your passion when the flame has flickered?




Walking for Make-A-Wish

With 6 weeks until the fundraising walk I am reblogging this post in hopes of gathering a few more donations! Thanks again to everyone who’s donated or walking with us!

Random & Rhyme


The little boy in the picture is my good buddy Logan. He was diagnosed with Leigh’s disease about two years ago after years of diagnostic testing. Leigh’s is a Mitochondrial disease. You can read more about Leigh’s disease here and here. But the short explanation is:

“Leigh’s disease, genetic mutations in mitochondrial DNA interfere with the energy sources that run cells in an area of the brain that plays a role in motor movements. The primary function of mitochondria is to convert the energy in glucose and fatty acids into a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The energy in ATP drives virtually all of a cell’s metabolic functions. Genetic mutations in mitochondrial DNA, therefore, result in a chronic lack of energy in these cells, which in turn affects the central nervous system and causes progressive degeneration of motor functions.”       There is no cure.

Logan is the sweetest…

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I have been thinking about the death of fashion designer L’wren Scott since her suicide was reported several months ago.  We were about the same age, she was beautiful, in what seemed to be a happy relationship with a business that seemed to be growing and successful. I have been trying to understand what drives someone to take their own life, to be so depressed that death seems the only option for release.  And is there anything I could do to help people in my life that might be in that much despair. And with yesterday’s announcement of the death by apparent suicide of Robin Williams it brought all the questions flooding back again: Why? How could I have helped? Is there anyone I see or in my daily life that is struggling? What could I do? What should I do?

I know and love people with addictions and thankfully they have figured out ways to get clean or stay sober and I am in awe of their commitment and the work that they put in every day to get this far and live a sober life. I try to understand the addiction part, but I don’t know that I will ever truly understand. I just hope if they ever need help or are feeling themselves slipping that they will reach out and ask for my help or the help of someone who loves and cares for them.

I have a couple of friends that have taken antidepressants at different times in their lives, after a divorce and after a terrible breakup and job loss. They describe the despair, lethargy, sadness, loneliness and the difficulty doing even the simplest tasks. I just can’t imagine how hard that was for them, but I am so thankful that they were strong enough to seek help and that it actually worked for them. Both are now no longer taking drugs and are happy, back into life and feeling better.

I have been looking a few different sites about suicide prevention and I found the step-by-step advice on easy to use with helpful information – Know the signs, Find the Words and Reach Out.  Find resources and have them on hand so that you are prepared, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255. They also say if you think the situation is critical take the person to the nearest emergency room or call 9-1-1.  They have a lot more information to help you approach a conversation with someone you care about and love. If you need help they also have a link at the top of the page “GET HELP” that will link you to resources, help and someone to talk to about how your feeling and what you need. Please call.

I hope everyone has at least one person in their lives that they know loves and cares about them and wants them here with them and to help them find a reason to live.

Take care of yourself and take care of each other.

Mindful Living

Eating better, a coffee addiction, stress, lack of exercise and “living to work, rather than working to live” have all been on my mind lately. With probably one of the most stressful stretches of work in the last few months contributing to my sleepless nights, poor eating habits and coffee addiction, I am trying to make changes in my life to break the cycle. But man it is hard! Habits you are in are hard to break and habits you want to get into are hard to form.

On the eating better front, I try to buy healthy food and snacks; but when I get home exhausted and stressed out I don’t feel like cooking and cleaning up and end up eating something unhealthy or ordering in food that is also less than healthy and expensive. And then the healthy food I did buy on the weekend with good intentions ends up going to waste adding to my guilt over wasting money and food. It’s a vicious, vicious circle.

My coffee addiction, at least one or two “skinny vanilla lattes” every morning is needed or my day doesn’t really get started. My husband bought me a really nice Pasquiani espresso maker a few years ago for my birthday and I love it. I love it for many reasons, first I don’t have to get my clothes on and run to the local coffee place for my latte in the morning, second it’s much cheaper to make the latte at home with my own ingredients. But I still sometimes end up going to Starbucks or wherever to get another one because I just can wake up. And according to a recent New York Times article by Anna North the coffee addiction is just another fast food problem in America, here’s an excerpt;

“But the notion that lattes are a sign of privilege may be off-base. Kyla Wazana Tompkins, a professor of English and gender and women’s studies who’s a former food journalist and the author of “Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the 19th Century,” told Op-Talk that “the latte, while it may be attached on a certain level to too much upper-class food knowledge and pretension, it really is no longer an upper-class drink.” She explained: “No matter how many kale salads Starbucks puts in their case, Starbucks is a fast-food purveyor.” The latte, she argued, “is a high-calorie food that’s being pushed in an industrialized way largely to working-class people.” And, she added, “it’s important to think about the explosion of all of these industrialized lattes, all these frozen lattes, all the Frappuccinos, as links to a larger problem of creating cheap, high-calorie, low-nutrition food for working-class people.”

I am not sure I totally agree with the “high-calorie” bit, while it is true you can get an 800 calorie frappuchino at any coffee outlet, just like you can get a 1,500 calorie meal at McDonalds, it is still about choices. My choice rings in at a reasonable 120 calories. But that gets back to what are the choices we are making in our lives. Do we consume 1,500 at lunch and then go back to our homes and sit on our butts watching TV or playing video games and then consuming our 1,5000 calorie dinner and going to bed. Or are we ordering a reasonable meal, getting some exercise and only occasionally indulging in a high calorie treat? We all have choices and make them everyday, either mindfully with intention or mindlessly to compensate for things that are missing in our lives or just plain out of a bad habit.

I also wrote recently about my attempt to “Learn Something New” and my new SUP boarding fun. But this also comes down to making time for exercise and doing something that is good for your mind and body. With 50+ hour work weeks, stress and the demands of family, pets, kids etc it can be very hard to fit in those things that are fun and good for you, but I am trying to make time for them because when I think about their importance to a healthy life I know that they are as critical as going to the dentist regularly and healthy eating.

Stress, work/life balance and taking better care of myself all seem problems I can’t seem to get control of and it’s my fault because I make my choices; consciously or unconsciously. Sometimes it feels like I take one step forward and two steps backwards in my conscience living attempts. But, I know it’s for my own good to keep trying, keep learning and keep improving and I will get there some day.

Do you have any tips for mindful living and making better life choices?