Unexpected Second Life

I had my life planned.  It was a good plan.  It was an altruistic, fiscally responsible, family-friendly kind of plan.  It was a dependable and worthy plan.  My plan blew up.

I don’t have a plan anymore.

In May of 2017 I was a part time Music Therapist and full time Stay at Home Mom happily tending to the needs of my young children, cooking healthy dinners, doing mediocre housework and generally enjoying the life that comes from new babies and happy marriages in Madison Wisconsin.

In May of 2017 my husband and our two kids left for a three week East Coast Extravaganza!  A family adventure that would bring us to see most of our friends and family throughout the Northeast through a compact, kid-friendly and well thought out travel schedule.

In May of 2017, my husband died in a hospital room in New York City.

In May 2017, my life imploded in what continues to be the most profound, painful and mind-altering experience imaginable.  Welcome to my journey.  Welcome to the inner workings of my mind as I process, grieve, expand, continue.

Welcome to my unexpected second life.




It’s the Vernal Equinox today.  When I woke to my daughter’s cries at 5am, it was -2 degrees outside.  The world outside is coated in a thick, icy layer of snow.  We are encased in winter, trapped in what feels like an endless forced hibernation.  And yet, it’s the first day of Spring.

I have always relied on the seasons as a source of inspiration and motivation.  The changing seasons bring me comfort in the constant of change and the life-force rhythms that exists in every layer of our beings.  We experience freeze and thaw, growth and stagnation, bloom and wilt, harvest and rot.  There is a time for everything, and we must give ourselves the permission and grace to experience these transitions and stagnations.

It’s seems appropriate that the Spring Equinox remains frozen this year.  And infuriating.  In many ways I am still frozen in my own journey…yet I see the promise of change on the horizon.  The path ahead of me is getting increasingly clearer.  I will close on our home the second week of April.  With the help of family and friends, I will move and unpack the boxes that contain my old life, clean up my possessions, and decide how they will fit in this new life I am creating.  Some may go.  Some may be put back into storage for another phase.  Some will adorn a new home for the new life ahead.

It’s exciting to be on the cusp of something new.  To feel the power of possibilities ahead. It’s nerve wracking.  And sad.  But I am growing more and more thankful for the life that lays ahead.  I’m having mostly good days now.  I’m feeling more confident in myself and who I want to be.  I’m still working out a lot.  I still have a lot of triggers.  My trauma and loss still sits in the forefront of my existence…but they are bringing integrated into a bigger whole.  A stronger whole.

I’m curious to see what challenges lie ahead, and how I will manage them now, as RoseAnna 3.0.  I’m excited to be taking real steps towards going back to work as a Music Therapist and Mental Health Counselor.  To actually feel like I will be ready for that in the coming seasons.  I’m looking forward to diving into the pain that I have been holding onto and really allow myself to feel everything I have had to dampen for the sake of survival.

This Spring is an important one.  May will bring the anniversaries.  It will also bring a new garden.  A new home.  And new beginnings.  And I know Tim would be excited and proud of that.  “…May we create the best possible Universe together…”  I’m working on it.



Sad Happiness

It’s hard to imagine, but my baby boy will be four tomorrow.  He is growing physically, mentally, and emotionally by the day.  He is brilliant, like his Papa.  He is creative and expressive, like his Papa.  He’s analytical and curious, like his Papa.  He is strong and solidly built, like his Papa.  He never fucking shuts up…like his Papa.  He is Tim in incredibly beautiful, wonderful, meaningful and sometimes infuriating ways.  Every day I am thankful to have these incredible little children, and the connection they give me to Tim.  To have this physical reminder that he was here, and in a way, lives on in their genetic code.  Their co-creator.  Their father.

And in me.  In bearing Tim’s children, my body absorbed pieces of his DNA.  I physically contain parts of him on a molecular level.  I carry his always in my heart and blood and mind.


We hosted Jack Byron’s birthday party on Sunday.  A fun, wild little event where we danced and ate chocolate cake.  I spent the day prepping and putting out all the excitement I could muster.  But really I was sad.  It was hard not to disassociate, as I have found I sometimes do.  In this atmosphere of fun and celebration I felt a deep ache for Tim and his presence in our lives.

I have no doubt that tomorrow will be similar, as I bring cupcakes to pre-school, give gifts, and decorate “the whole world”, as Jack Byron has requested.

Because these happy occasions are forever tinged with the weight of grief.  That dark ocean who’s waves splash over me at the most inopportune times.

There is no escaping it.  I am learning to live with it.  To accept it.

Maybe one day I will know pure happiness again.  Maybe not.  Who knows. Either way, I’m learning to roll with it.  Accept whatever joy I can feel and allow the rest to pass through.

Tim.  Know that you are loved.  Know that you are remembered.  And on these “happy” days.  Every day.  You are here, in them.  And in me.

Vacation and Other Big Things


It’s been a big few weeks.  An exciting few weeks.  An overwhelming few weeks.

On Valentines Day I got on a plane with my two wild, out of control little children and flew, by myself, to visit Tim’s family in Florida.  Not only did I fly, by myself with two very wild children, I got a rental car by myself and drove the hour from Tampa to Sarasota by myself, then checked into our vacation rental that I got and paid for, by myself, and spent the week in Florida, in a rental apartment, with two kids, by myself.


I’m proud of myself guys.

I feel smug and superior, and while I would normally tamp down those types of feelings, I’m just going to let myself have this one.

Because I took my two wild little children and brought them on a week long vacation that I paid for, ALL. BY. MY. SELF.

And it was fun.  We spent a lot of time with Tim’s family and the kids got to soak up time playing with their grandmother, aunt, uncles, and cousin.  We went to the Botanical Garden and visited the tree Tim and I took photos in front of every year since Byron was born.

We went to the aquarium and the beach.  We visited Tim’s great aunt.  We picnicked with his aunt.

We went to at least three different playgrounds.

Nobody got sunburned.

I did it all by myself.


Because I can do this.


Want to know what else happened on our vacation?  The reason it’s taken me a full week to post about said vacation?


I put on offer on a house.  And negotiated the counter offer.  And hired an inspector and applied for a mortgage.  On vacation.  Alone.  With my young, wild children.


And in a few short weeks… it will be MY house.

A perfect, sun soaked, vintage home in a little village with lots of character and even more modern updates.

And I’m doing that by myself too.  Buying it.  By myself.


Because I can do this.

The Rings



Rings are a big question with widows.  What to do with the rings.

When you marry, you exchange rings as a symbol of your enduring love and commitment to one another.  They encircle your ring finger, a public display of your connection.

I am married.  I have a person.  This is my proof.

We tap our rings on tables and nervously twist them around our fingers.  They become a part of us, these circles of precious metal, warm and solid as a good marriage should be. They become everyday like morning coffee and arguments over housework.  They become part of you.

And then one of you dies.

(It’s going to happen, guys.)

And you go on living with your life split open and your person in a box in your cupboard and a ring on your finger.


When Tim and I married, we chose to have rings made by Jade Moran, a jewelry designer on Highland Ave. in Somerville.  We liked her organic, modern designs and the trailing succulents in her studio.  We liked her.  We couldn’t afford custom rings, so we had rings made with existing designs in white gold.  They were special and unique.  They were exactly what we wanted.

Two weeks before Byron’s birth, Tim lost his ring in a snowbank on Johnson Ave. in Madison, somewhere on the walk between our apartment and the hair studio.  Disappeared in the frozen white powder covering the city.  He bought a cheap replacement the next day. $80 on sale at JC Penny.  It was good enough.


One the second day of Tim’s hospitalization at Tisch NYU, his body was being pumped with IV fluids.  I stood at his bedside as the nurses worked him over.  “His fingers are swelling, we need to remove his ring”.  She popped the band from his finger and slipped it into my outstretched palm.  I fumbled for a moment, unsure of what to do with this piece of information in my hand, a slid it onto my finger.  It clinked against my other rings.



After Tim died I kept the rings, all three, on that finger for several weeks.  They needed to be together.  At least something could be together.  I twisted and worried on them.  The skin on my finger started to get red and calloused.  I kept them there.

Then I started to get tired of the weight.  Three rings on one finger felt excessive.  One wasn’t supposed to be there.  I slipped off two, my aquamarine engagement ring and Tim’s silver ring, and placed them on a small lacquer box on my dresser.

Eventually even just the wedding ring felt unfair.  This little band, a display to the world that I was married.  But I’m not married.  But I am.  But not.  I’m raising these kids alone.  I’m personless.  I’m alone.


In October, five months after Tim’s death, I went back to Somerville.  I had unfinished business there.  I drove into the city, down the familiar streets of Winter Hill, and pulled into a spot on Highland Ave.  It was time to do something with my wedding ring.  I walked into Jade Moran’s studio with an idea.

My original plan was to have the ring melted down and completely recreated.  Like my life.  On fucking fire, hot molten metal flowing into an unknown mould.  Burn it all down.

But Jade looked at me and said “Are you SURE you want to melt your ring?  It might be a bit…traumatic.”

And I cried.

And she was right.

So we started brainstorming, and within minutes, we had a plan.  She would create two new rings to flank my existing ring.  The bottom ring would be an organic star scape with aquamarine, amethyst and ruby chips, the birthstones of the children and myself.  The top ring would hold a moonstone Moon, Tim’s birthstone, our celestial light.  The inside is inscribed with “starstuff”.  Like all of us.

My wedding ring would be polished and resized to fit on my middle finger, leaving my ring finger empty.   Like the gaping hole in my heart.  Free to be whatever it is.


They arrived today, my rings.  My Widow Rings.  I slipped them on my finger and made a silent commitment to myself and my children.  We will move forward together.  Tim will always be a part of us.  We keep going.  With these rings, I, me, wed.





I hit a landmine today.  It’s a pretty common occurrence.  On a good day.  This morning I drove Jack Byron to daycare and headed over to the pottery studio to trim and carve a set of mugs I’ve been working on.  I stopped by the grocery store to pick up food for the coming days and drank my favorite kombutcha while gliding through the aisles.  I ran into an old teacher and went through the same conversation I have every time I see a person post loss.

“Yes, it’s horrible.  I’m ok, thanks.  The kids are doing great.  We are doing ok.  Thanks.”

I got home just after my mom put Claira down for a nap, opened up a package that had arrives from Amazon, and ran down to the basement to put some packaging in the recycling bins.

Then I stepped on it.  A landmine.  My mom had opened a box of the kids toys and placed them on the shelf.  A plastic bin of kinetic sand and plastic dinosaurs, the one that left our dining room table and floor littered with grains of sand.  The canvas shopping bag from the Willy St. Coop.  A fabric bin I bought on clearance at the Hilldale Target, filled with wooden blocks.  Books Tim had read to the kids in the rocking chair in the corner of Jack Byron’s bedroom, next to the window and radiator, under the planet mobil.

Little innocuous artifacts of the life I lost.  The husband and father we lost.  The existence  we shared in the home that is no longer ours.

And the grief ocean that exists inside of me swelled over the banks of my resilience and emotional work and washed over me, pulling me back into the waves.

This is not the first time this has happened.  It will most definitely not be the last.

In the corner of my parent’s basement is a stacked wall of the remnants of my life.  Boxes upon boxes of personal belongings and memories.  I have not touched the wall since moving to Vermont 8 months ago.  I did not pack these boxes, an army of earth angels  (ie, amazing friends) did.  I don’t know what’s inside these boxes.  I don’t remember what I saved.  I just know that whatever is there is what I thought was important to bring into this next life.

When Tim died, I didn’t just lose my husband and soul-mate.  I lost my life.  I lost my home.  My belongings.  My business.  My job.  My lifestyle.  My nearby network of friends.  My hopes and dreams.  My vision of the future.  My sense of security.  My fear.

One day I will have to go through these boxes.  A new home, with new beginnings and new dreams.

I dread that day.

I excitedly anticipate that day.

The process of opening these boxes will open the sandbag walls and steel doors I have erected between myself and the grief ocean.  These boxes that contain my past.  And what I believed to be vital to my future.  Whatever that is.  The ocean will engulf me fully, pull me under.  Into the rip tide, scraping my body across sand and coral rocks.  Submerged and momentarily drowning.

But I’m ready for that.

I’m ready to swim with the current and pull myself back onto shore.

Banana Bread Cookies to Successfully Compromise With Your Resident Tiny Dictator.

Step One: Put on matching outfits for no particular reason.  Preferably with a trendy, rustic, lumberjack kind of vibe.

We made cookies today.  I wanted to make banana bread with the black bananas that were rotting on the counter, but Jack Byron was having none of that shit.  He wanted cookies.  COOKIES.  So I told him we would make banana bread cookies and that REALLY pissed him off, but then I told him he could crack the egg and we were good.

This is not my recipe.  I totally lifted it from this website.  But I did make some changes, so at least I have that.

They are soft and subtly sweet.  They could easily be made vegan if you aren’t into animal products as much as I am.  They are good for killing time on a Saturday in January when you feel trapped in endless boredom and kid fights.  They are pretty good. 

So here goes.
Banana Bread Cookies to Successfully Compromise With Your Resident Tiny Dictator.

2.5 cups flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar +1 T molasses 

2 over ripe bananas 

1/2 cup butter

1 egg

1/2 cup Greek Yogurt 

1/2 t Baking Powder 

3/4 t Baking Soda

2 t vanilla 

1/2 mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts 
Mash the bananas.  Stir in the rest of the wet ingredients.  The butter too, mash that in.  Good.

Put in the dry ingredients (not the chocolate and walnuts).  Let your kids mix it.  Keep quiet about the chaos they are creating, they are LEARNING.  Thy are QUIET.  Ok, take over for a bit.  Ok, done.

Mix in the chocolate chips and walnuts.  They kids lost interest and left.  You’re good.

Plop that shit on a cookie pan.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven.  10-12 minutes.

Feed to children.  Eat while staring out the window, longing for the freedom of youth.  

Compromise tastes pretty good.

Appreciation and Regrets

I was triggered this morning.  It’s nothing new really, it doesn’t take much.  I was triggered by something that reminded me of how my sense of appreciation and regret has changed over the course of the last 8 months.  

I saw a post on a Facebook mom groups, one that I treasure, filled with women that I know and truly love and respect.  The post detailed a disagreement with a spouse over a vacation.  He apparently wanted to get away as a couple for a few days.  She didn’t want to leave the baby.  Her reasons for feeling that way were valid and completely reasonable.  I could see myself in her situation feeling the SAME way 9 months ago.  There were plenty of times I did.

But RoseAnna 3.0, the person I am now with the perspective I’ve gained, was internally SCREAMING.  
Even several hours later I can’t shake the feelings.  Of anger.  Of jealousy.
Because I took my time with Tim for granted.  I was overwhelmed with needs of our baby and toddler and he was getting the short end of my attention and affection.  It’s a common situation that every mother of young children experiences.  I was in the thick of it with my children and I didn’t have the physical or emotional energy to be with Tim the ways I wanted to be. I told him over and over “one day the kids will be older and we’ll have more time for (insert whatever fun thing)”.

And now I regret that.

We didn’t go on that dinner and movie I promised him at the end of our family vacation.  He wanted to go the week prior but we thought it would be too much of a hassle to arrange childcare.  

I’ll never spend another moment wrapped in his arms.  I’ll never have another conversation with him.  I’ll never experience any aspect of our life together ever again.  

So now I appreciate the boring, mundane, irritating and downright infuriating parts of our lives together.  The things I didn’t like.  The things I took for granted.  

I thought we had time for that dinner and movie.  

But we didn’t.
And you don’t know if you will either.  You might not.  
Friends.  Just take the fucking vacation.

Kitchen Sink Chicken Soup for Grown People 

The the next best thing to Roast Chicken Season is Chicken Soup Season.  They are the same thing.  Because I’m gonna let you in on a secret….your roast chicken from last night is still alive with possibility.  Yes.  Let your inner conservationalist and cheap-skate rejoice.  

Praise be the humble chicken.

This is not a recipe you will find on Epicurious.  William Sonoma doesn’t want to talk about it.  This is a recipe your grandmother probably made.  This recipe is never the same no matter how many times you make it.  It is a recipe made by a grown-ass adult who has their life in order and knows how to not waste food and money.  You are going to become everything you dreamed you could be.  
Go take a gander at your fridge.  Veggies?  Check.  Grains?  Check.  Leftover chicken carcasse?  Oh, FUCK YES, Check.
Kitchen Sink Chicken Soup.

Veggies.  Whatever. Onion, Celery and Carrots recommended.  

Grains, or potatoes, or both, or neither.

Chicken Carcass.

Salt and Pepper.  Other assorted seasonings/herbs.

Take those veggies (including potatoes) and chop them up.  Yeah, that size is fine. Just make sure they can fit in a spoon.  Throw them one by one into a stock pot or large Dutch oven.  Salt between each type of veggie is added. (Save leafy veggies for later).  

Take that glorious chicken and TEAR INTO THAT LADY.  Dig that meat out of every crevasse and crannie.  Get your fingers dirty.  So gross.  So satisfying.  Get comfortable with it.  It’s a dead animal and you ate most of it last night.

Put the carcass (bones) on top of those veggies and cover it all with water.  Put in the glop from the roasting pan too.  That’s pure flavor.  Keep the meat to the side for now.  

Add more salt and pepper. Add herbs or whatever.  I like to use thyme, rosemary and sage, or cumin, garlic and cilantro.  Whatever combo you want will work.

Let it cook at a simmer, uncovered, for at at least 2 hours, until the skeleton is falling apart.  The broth will be more rich and flavorful the longer you cook the bones.  Season to taste if needed.  Add meat.  Add grains if desired.  Keep cooking.

Once the grains are cooked, add any leafy greens.  Let those cook too.  

Serve in fancy handmade stoneware bowls.  

Or whatever bowls.  

You know what that tastes like?  Accomplishment.

Revisiting Northampton: New Year

Tim and I had our first date in a Starbucks in downtown Northampton, MA.  He checked out my butt as he walked away.  He liked what he saw. (It’s still pretty epic).

We fell in love over coffee and Thai food and “i *heart* Huckabees”.  Our first apartment was on Conz Street, infested with termites and leaning dramatically to the side.  

Our weekend get-always were Northampton.  

Our youth was Northampton.

The day after Tim died, our dear friends Sam and Maddy drove me out of Brooklyn and up to their home in Northampton.  For the next 48 hours they cared for me with nutritious food and hot baths as my mind began the process of processing the events of the previous 10 days.  I drifted through in an altered state of consciousness, my brain disconnected from my body.  Unable to feel or think much at all.  I walked for hours.  I spent money frivolously.  I floated trancelike past the shops and restaurants we had enjoyed for so many years.

I returned to Northampton for New Years weekend.  My parents generously offered to care for my little ones so that I could have a desperately needed break from moming.  I drove back down I91, past the tiny Vermont towns scattering the route, and back into the Pioneer Valley.  My old home.

It was blissful to be back in that space of existence, to be among the familiar sights and sounds of my college days, the days before Tim, the early days of our relationship, the first two years we loved each other.  I stayed with Sam and Maddy again, now in their new home.  To spend some much needed time with two people I love dearly.  To sleep until I woke naturally.  To read and wander and just be an independent human being in the world .

We spent time driving.  We ate good food.  I got a new tattoo of a passage from Tim’s journals, in his handwriting, in our old stomping grounds. I unfollowed all my widow groups on Facebook.  I enjoyed the mental space.  I spent time sitting in front of the wood stove, sipping his favorite cocktail.

Arabesque: Bourbon, Lemon, Honey.  Shaken with ice.

It felt good to feel again in that space.  To be there with people who understood.  To reestablish myself in a region I had come of age in.  

To just sit and be. (“You rock, rock”)

It’s a new year.  It’s 2018.  Tim doesn’t exist anymore in 2018.  His memory remains imprinted on my heart and mind.  His writing remains in journals and notebooks.  His photographs scatter my walls and shelves.  His physical belongings remain in boxes in my parent’s basement.  His words are permanently etched into my skin.  But Tim isn’t here.  
I’m here.

RoseAnna 3.0


Losing Tim changed me.  I think that’s a phrase we might take lightly, or maybe it’s a phrase I just used to take lightly.  I am a changed person and I did not fully comprehend what exactly that meant before it actually happened.

Trauma shapes us on a molecular level.  It changes our neurology.  It changes our being, our perceptions of ourselves, and our world.

I held Tim as he died the night of his heart attack.  I looked into his eyes as he struggled for breath and a I rubbed his chest and lovingly told him that he would be alright.  It would be alright.  It’s quite likely that the last words his mind as I knew it processed were “I love you”.  I hope so.

Tim’s heart attack.  The decisions I had to make in the hospital.  My life since that point.  It has changed me.  I am not the person I was before 8:30pm on May 15th 2017.  This is frightening and powerful.

I have always thought of myself as a positive person.  I had a lot of faith in the Universe and my naive concept of Karma.  I was a planner.  I wasn’t especially spontaneous.  I was generally happy, warm.  I had a lot of positive energy.  I trusted the process.


I’m mostly sad now.  I get angry a lot.  My temper is shorter.  My sense of humor is dark.

I don’t take shit from anyone.

I’m also empowered.  I have full confidence in myself and my ability to handle ANYTHING.  I have a lot less fear.  I recognize my power.

I’m still very kind.  (I think.  I hope.)


I’m still figuring out who I am.


I bought a car this past week.  A new car.  It was not my first time buying a car.  I wasn’t even my first time buying a car alone, but it was my first time buying a car as who I am now.  I felt confident and calm about the process as I never have before.  When negotiating with the salesman, I didn’t get overwhelmed by his skilled persuasiveness.  I didn’t feel influenced by his body language and power plays.  I looked him in the eye, made my expectations known, and watched his eyes change as he realized that I realized I was the one in charge and a woman who would get what she wanted.  It was a powerful experience.  It opened my-self to recognizing the extent to which I have come to own my power.


It’s interesting to be in such an in-between space in life.  To have such a wide open path forward even with the constraints of raising young children and committing to living in a rural area.  My life is still in free fall in many ways, and I have accepted this space of being.

I recognize that there are factors that must come into place before I have a clearer idea of what this new life will be.  Finding a permanent home for myself and my children is a first step.  Transitioning into a professional position that supports my career and financial goals will be next.  Neither of these things can be forced.  I must be patient for the right opportunity to come into being while simultaneously working proactively towards creating these opportunities.  It’s a lot to process.  It’s life.


With the holidays, for the most part, behind us (thankfully) I have been reflecting on who I am in the world right now.  What I put out into the world.  I am not a positive person, but I strive to be a positive force.  I am irreverent, but I deeply value respect.  I am unbalanced and emotionally volatile, but I am focused on keeping myself afloat as best I can.  I’m a mess.  I totally have my shit together.  I know what I want.  I’m still figuring out who I am.  I’m more honest and transparent then I ever have been.  I don’t know how else to be.


I wonder what people think of me.  The people who are meeting me for the first time. The ones who have heard my back story.  The ones who only know me by their initial impressions.  I wonder how the people who have known me forever see me now with my guts hanging out and my soul ripped open.  I wonder how others perceive me.

I don’t care how others perceive me.

(but really, I do.)

Because I want to be a positive force.  I want to bring joy and light into the world (even if I don’t necessarily feel it in myself right now).  I want to do good.  I want to BE goodness.

I don’t know who I am right now.

I know who I want to be.


“…may we create the best possible universe together…” – Timothy Bragdon