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.


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



The Longest Nights


It’s Winter Solstice season.  The time when darkness blankets our hemisphere.  Snow covers the bare branches of trees.  The natural world is still.  We humans bring greenery into our homes.  We light up our lives with candles and string lights and warming foods and music that evokes happy memories of family and togetherness.  We gather to rejoice the celebrations that have evolved from this time of darkness and our deep human need for connection and hope.  We seek comfort and love for the long months ahead.

Winter Solstice was our holiday.  Two secularists having come from Christmas families, we made the holiday our own.  In Madison we hosted warm, welcoming potlucks for our community of friends and brought our nearby loved ones even closer in recognition of the longest night.  Each year we would gather in a circle before beginning dinner to hand out candles and fill our little apartment with the warm glow of firelight.  We would share our joys of the year past and our hopes for the year future.  It was a beautiful, life affirming ritual that Tim and I treasured.  It meant something to us.

As the Solstice draws closer, I am struggling.  This whole month has been a challenge and this week I am feeling the darkness in my entire being.  Just functioning feels like a challenge.  I am struggling to be the mother that I want to be.  I am struggling to just be.  I am missing Tim with ever aching piece of my being and caught in a spiral pained nostalgia.

For that life we had.  Just last year.

For that love I had.  That love I will never have again.

I am growing tired of the sadness.  The constant grief feels thick and sticky, clinging to my being, waxy, oily, stubborn stains.

I’m exhausted.


I try to power through.  I roll out butter cookie dough for the babies to cut into stars and snowmen.  I find small thrills in the Amazon boxes that arrive with special gifts have have chosen for my children and parents.  Byron excitedly decorates the house with stray ribbons and gift bags taped to the walls and cabinets.  I put on Christmas music and sing Rudolph over and over again forever, just to make them smile.


The thing that Tim and I loved about celebrating the Winter Solstice, was celebrating the return of the light.  The longest night would pass, and we would know that from that point forward, each day would bring a bit more sunlight.  The winter would lie ahead with the promise of the Spring that followed.

Because it’s all temporary.  The darkness.  The winter.  Our lives.

It’s all a constant and even cycle driving through time and space that we cannot control.  That controls us.

We can’t escape the darkness.  It’s there.

So we light candles.  And sing songs.  And bake butter cookies after eating half the dough.

So I try to trust that I might see a metaphorical Spring again.

Because it will return.

The flowers and buds and smell of earth will return to the natural world.  And maybe it will return to my life one day too.

And I want to be able to feel it when it does.


So for now, I shroud myself in winter.  I feel the darkness.  I let it in.


I’m lighting a candle for you, Tim.


It Gets Worse.



I haven’t posted regularly.  You may wonder why, or not, maybe you didn’t notice and that’s ok.  I haven’t posted much lately because I’ve been sad.

Really.  Fucking. Sad.

I thought the first couple months would be the worst.  That numb dark fog that hung over my life, choking me of my joy and motivation.  Then things started to feel ok.  I started to have a good day now and then.  Maybe several good days a week.  I started feeling moments of excitement for what my future may hold as I started piecing together the plans and visions that emerged from the chaos.

But then I got sad again.  Really sad.  The kind of sad that makes it hard to function.

It might be the holidays.  All this forced cheer that is expected of us mere mortals just because some baby who grew up to either be a really important dude or just a man living with severe mental illness was supposedly born on some arbitrary day in December.

It might be the new snowfall that blanketed our yard in pristine white fluff and reminded me of all the days I watched Tim play in the backyard with Byron.  Their cheeks blotchy and red with cold.  The hot cocoa I would stir over the stove while watching them from our kitchen window.  The cozy afternoons that would follow.  The reminder of the life I used to have, last year, last century, whenever that life existed.

It might be the reality of raising young, highly energetic, highly demanding children alone.  Forever.  Or at least until they grow up and go off to live their lives as they should and leave me.  Alone.  Forever.

It might be the long nights and dark days.  The disappearing light.


Or maybe it just gets harder before it gets better.


There is an emptiness that comes with losing your person.  A jagged chunk of myself died with Tim.  A gaping hole that can never be filled.

I’m working to patch it up.  To function and live.  Because that’s what Tim would want for me.

So that’s what I keep doing.

Some days are harder then others.

I’m trying.



Thanks giving.


We have entered the winterish season.  The natural world is dormant, almost dead.  The days are short and gray.  The once verdant fields and mountains are brown and gray, icy with frost and snow powder.  It feels right, this dark, desolate season of existence.  It makes sense to see the dead frozen corpses of wildflowers lining the highway.  It’s helpful to see the natural world a reflection of my internal states.

It’s harder too.  Thanksgiving day will mark six full months since Tim’s official transition off of this earth.  Six months since the day in the hospital that he released that last breath and I cradled his dead body in my arms.  Six months since that little slice of hell ended and my odd, awkward, painful second life forcibly began.  Six months feels significant.  Half a year.  A lifetime.  A blink.

With the holidays upon us I’m not thrilled to be entering into this supposed season of joy and peace.

I don’t feel a lot of joy and peace.

Joy and peace can totally fuck off.

Something I do feel, that is good and healing and happy to feel, is thankful.  I’m thankful to have had Tim in my life for 12 years.  To have grown into adulthood with him.  To have explored and traveled with him.  To have had babies with him.  To have sat next to him at dinner every night talking about anything or everything or nothing at all.  To have slept in the same bed with him. To have fought with him.  To have held his hand.  To have had nights out at shows and evenings at home with Netflix.  To have lived a life with him.  For 12 years.  I got to have him for 12 years.

With the 6 month mark coming up and the natural world transitioning, I am more raw now.  I feel more.  I remember more.

When I go to bed at night I am flooded with memories of Tim.  Not usually the stuff you think you will remember, like the nights I gave birth to our children or our wedding day. It’s the everyday stuff that comes to me most often.  The way his face looked when he laughed.  Seeing him come in the door just before dinner.  Cuddling next to him in bed.  Driving in our car.  His voice.  His warmth.  His physical presence.

It has taken time for the numbness to wear off and for the memories to return.  And I’m thankful for that.  It’s harder.  I hurt more and more often.  But I hurt because I need to hurt.  It hurts to loose your soul-mate.  To watch him die twice.  It hurts to face the rest of your life without your life-partner and father of your children.

But I HAD a soul mate.  My children HAD a father.  And I’m thankful for that.

Not everybody gets to love the way we loved.  Not everybody gets to connect the way we connected.  We were lucky to have crossed paths in this chaotic Universe…it’s possible we could have never even met…but we did…and we connected…and we worked on our connection to make it stronger…and we got to have that. And I would rather have had that and lost it then to never have experienced that kind of love and connection at all.

So, for that, I’m thankful.  Because I was loved.  I had a soul-mate.  And I still love him.