Year Four-How Are You Doing?

Jim and me on our last travel adventure together, Peru

Jim and me on our last travel adventure together, Peru

October 17th was the fourth year anniversary of Jim’s death. He was and still is (in a way) my husband. He died from metastasis of salivary gland cancer. We had a really good relationship. I miss him still.

Each year at this time I have people call me and ask how I am doing. It always baffles me, a little,when this happens. I don’t miss him more on the day of his death. I miss him every day in little and big ways. Does it mean I think of him all the time? Well no. I might find myself doing something and then think, Jim would have loved this or he would not have. I know my friends are being kind and thoughtful and I appreciate that. I am just not always sure how to answer that question. At the time they ask, I might be doing fine or more than fine. Usually I am busy.

Big Waves

Big Waves

This year I was bicycling from Monterey to Pacific Grove and back, seeing a chiropractor (I slipped on the step to my RV & thought it might be a good idea to get an adjustment) and enjoying the day outside.

While biking, I stopped to watch the waves for a while. You may have guessed by now, I love the ocean and the bigger the waves, the better. I met a woman, Phyllis who was sharing the same bench with me. I am a strong believer that not much happens by accident. Phyllis has been divorced, widowed and now married for a third time.

I have found, since Jim’s death, if I want to ask a question of someone, I just do. If they want to answer, it is greatly appreciated. If not that is OK too. I asked Phyllis about her experience through grief. I really wanted to know someone else’s take on this.  I follow a couple blogs of women who have lost a partner, yet it is not often I get to talk to someone in person about this topic.

Grief is personal, yet I have found that some experiences are common to many. My question to her was about fear. I am not usually a fearful person. Since Jim’s death, fear has become a close ally. When people say to me how brave I am, selling my home and traveling, I marvel at the comment. If only they knew how fear is usually present in everything I do. I don’t get it. I didn’t used to be this way. Phyllis works with hospice as a volunteer. She said that fear appears to be a part of the grieving process for many. It was for her. Whew what a relief, I thought it was just me.

I am curious why fear? There could be a lot of emotions but why is fear mine. I will not claim ownership, yet fear is certainly close, much of time. I don’t have an answer to that question. Fear does not have to be negative. It is a good thing when it stops me from doing something stupid. It can also be good if it increases my awareness of my surroundings. Fear, though can also stop me from trying something new or different or reaching out to others. That is not good.

imagesEach day I walk through fear, to other side and open my eyes to the world as it is right now. I step into my RV, thank Elsie for her presence, have faith that all is well with the day and move on. On the days I stay still, I read and contemplate and enjoy the quietness of the ocean and the forest and for the next few nights a view of Hearst Castle.

I refuse to let fear control me. Since fear seems to remain present in my life, I will consider it an ally. It will teach me and then one day,  I truly believe it will not be present in my daily life. As an ally I can call for fear when I need it, thank it and then put it back in it’s place until I need it again.

Moving on through my life.img_4873



unknownThis month, October is always a marker month for me. First, it was when I was born. The real marker for me, however, is this is the month that Jim, best friend and husband for twenty one years died from cancer.

As I approach the date of his last admission to the hospital and then his death, I think it will get easier as time passes, yet, each year as this month rolls around, I find myself once again thinking of Jim and the events that came to pass. I know it has changed my life, yet I am not always certain how. There are the basic real life changes.

  • I am single, widowed, or something in that range.
  • I have to figure out how to do everything on my own or at least contact the right people to help.
  • I sold my house in July and currently, am full timing it in my Roadtrek.
  • I don’t have someone to talk to whenever I want. It has made me reach out to my friends more yet I miss the easy companionship we had.
  • Learning to cook and eat for one has been an interesting challenge for me. It is not as much fun for me to create a meal for one.

There are many other challenges that could be included here. I think you get the gist of it.

I have been thinking about Jim’s and my friends as this month has rolled in. I am so thankful to so many of them. Without their help and kind, loving support my walk through grief would be very different.

I have been thinking a lot of a good friend of Jim’s, Doug. For the entire time I have known Jim, Doug was a presence in our lives. I heard many Doug and Jim stories from Jim over the years. When we got married Doug and his former wife paid for our honeymoon to San Francisco. We had wonderful personalized tour of San Francisco with Doug and Lisa. They met us at the San Fransisco airport with a car rental and off we went into the city for four days. It was a delightful time.

At our important events Doug was there. The event I remember the most was around Jim’s death. Four days before he died, the phone rang in the hospital room and it was Doug. I thought he was still in the Los Angeles area. He asked if we wanted company and we both said, of course. Then he announced he was in the hospital lobby and up he came.

Doug spent the final four days of Jim’s life with me and him. There was nothing that was too little that he wouldn’t do for Jim. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for me. Doug was a firm presence for me to hold onto as we progressed through those four days. When I wasn’t there, Doug was. He and Jim talked and laughed and remembered times. They also caught up one more time on each other’s lives. When Jim died, Doug was there in the room as a witness to this important event as well. There could not have been a better friend and I want to honor that in this posting.

He remained in San Diego for a few days to make sure that I had my feet underneath me. When he drove back to LA and his life it was with the final words, “if you need anything, just call”.

After Jim died the Doug and Jim stories continue. I received an e-mail from Doug about a year or so ago, sharing with me the phone call Jim and Doug had the day that Space Shuttle blew up. It was a very intimate moment between two good friends. I have no doubt that this deepened and secured their friendship. I was going to share the e-mail with you, here but I cannot find it. Of course.

This is what friendship is about. We can laugh and share the good times, yet it is the sharing of the intimate and in your face painful times that marks those special and meaningful friendships in ones life. It is not often you find that friend who you can laugh, cry and share with over many years. Some may never find the depth of friendship that was shared by Jim and Doug.

Jim was fortunate, very fortunate  to have such a friend as Doug. Doug, I think would reciprocate that thought and feeling.

I have never needed to call but I do stay in touch by e-mail and Facebook. Doug travels the world with Nancy, his partner of many years. He leads a full and diverse life. I am glad that I continue to be a part of it even on the periphery.

Today I am thankful for the presence of Doug in Jim’s life and in mine. I benefit from their friendship. It helps keep Jim alive to me and reminds me, once again, how special our relationship was.

Today I am grateful for Doug. Doug-Thank you.


Pondering My Way Down the Olympic Peninsula

Ruby Beach, Olympic Peninsula

Ruby Beach, Olympic Peninsula

I have been on the Olympic Peninsula for the past several days. At the most Cat and I are moving south in increments of 25-35 miles per day. It is strange to be moving so slowly and it is still something I am getting used to.

Sometimes it feels like time is almost standing still. I feel like I am moving slowly through my day. I have a lot of time to ponder, big issues, small issues, issues in general. More specifically I have time to address my issues. Sigh.

Selling my home was a big step for me. It is one I do not regret. I knew I needed to move from there and it was time. I feel a bit lost. I am certainly hoping for some sort of “Ah-Ha” moment on this trip. I don’t care if it is big or small.

Shortly after Jim’s death, I met a man, who’s partner died over 12 years ago. He had been moving about since that time. He had traveled all over the world, never once returning to the home they shared. It was shut up and waiting. Shortly before I met him, he had returned to their home for the first time. He was honest with me and told me that he had been running from grief, responsibility and more. He had been having fun, experiencing many things in his distant travels. He had been running from his grief.

When I sold my house I wanted to be sure that I was not running from my grief. I wanted to be responsible for my life.  Since Jim’s death I wanted to make sure that I was not running from all that had happened in my life. Yet, here I am, wondering if I too, am not running from my grief and my responsibility to figure out what is next. Is it OK to be running from grief? Well maybe a little. Maybe the important part of this whole topic, right now, is to acknowledge and be aware that this is happening. Probably the most important thing is not to be too hard on myself. It is OK to be human and fallible.

Cat and I are getting along well, mostly. I feel we are still negotiating on becoming a team. We work well together. As I have been traveling with her, old issues have surfaced for me. Long standing issues. Long, long standing issues (self worth). It may be why I feel a bit sad and out of sorts today. I am still figuring out life. And some days, well, it kind of sucks. I know better than to wallow for long though and in an hour or so or by tomorrow morning I will pick myself up and feel better and move on.

IMG_2939 IMG_2991I am enjoying seeing this part of the world. it is beautiful and different than other places I have been. I love the misty ocean in the mornings and the beautiful clear lakes. The rain forest has been amazing, although not very wet since we have been here. The Big Leaf Maples are often shrouded in moss. Everything speaks of moisture even when not present.

Quinault Lodge

Quinault Lodge


Well, enough wallowing time. I am sitting in a beautiful lodge on Lake Quinault. Tomorrow I think we will leave the Olympic National Park and head south on the 101. it is a long day for Cat, 40 plus miles. Elsie and I will travel with ease early in the day and then set up camp. I will have time, then to explore.

What would help me is to have my family and friends remember me. I am only and e-mail or phone call away. It is because of my huge base of support that I am able to be out there in the world.

Today I am thankful for every single person that I know. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.


Change-Big Change is Coming

Search-Colorado-Springs-MLS-Homes-for-SaleThis past Monday, my realtor and I went “live”. My home is up for sale. I have been working on the house since February getting it ready for this moment. My broken ankle slowed the process down for a few months. Now that I am walking and doing better each day, it is time.

Today, Tuesday, two interested parties came to view the house. When I received the first call, I was nervous and excited and a bit anxious and scared all at the same time. There are so many mixed feelings with this move.

cardinstallation_02@2xEver since I was diagnosed with breast cancer I feel as if my life has been tossed up in the air, like a deck of cards. While I was picking up the cards from this incident, Jim was diagnosed with cancer. Up went the cards again. Eight months later he was diagnosed with a metastasis from the original cancer, up the cards went once again. With his death all those cards have been taking their time coming down. I have been slowly picking them up, one at a time. Picking up each one has certainly been taking time. No set schedule here.

I thought I would sell our home  3 months after Jim died. I now understand that was way to soon. Grief needs time and I needed somewhere comfortable and secure and safe to manage the initial stages of grief and loss. There was nowhere better than the home where Jim’s and my relationship flourished.

Janet driving in the alley in Chicago(3)

Me & the Trek

I have been trying to figure out what is next in my life since Jim’s  death. I have been waiting for a grand moment of awareness. It has not arrived. I am going looking for it. Miss Elsie the Cat and I are going to make my sweet little Roadtrek into our home for the next year. It may be longer than a year or it may be shorter but I have decided to go traveling. I love to travel. I enjoy learning and meeting new people and exploring this grand country I live in. And to create some expansiveness, I am including Canada in my travels, as well.

Link to Listing

I don’t plan to set out until the house sells, unless it is on the market for a while. If that happens then I will be heading out before it sells. Maybe I will figure out where I want to live. If not it will be one grand adventure. I look forward to seeing friends, friends who I have known forever and newer ones as well.


The nervousness and anxiety comes from the unknown. It is a little overwhelming to put my trust out there in the universe that all will be OK. I have moved several times in my adult life. Each time has been just a wee bit harder than the last one. I am not sure why that happens, but I do think it has to do with age. Maybe as I have gotten more mature I have found myself more settled with each move. I do have friends in so many places and I hope to meet up with as many as I can. It is time to catch up.

I am getting ready to roll. What should I take? What should I leave? Where am I going? Is this crazy?

Then there is the house. It takes a bit of effort to dismantle a house. I have been in the process of doing this for the past few weeks. I still have a ways to go, yet even this is manageable as long as I don’t get too stressed.


Miss Elsie

And then there are the memories. Sigh. Even this is OK. It can even be therapeutic. And the bottom line here, is I need move ahead with my life. I want to create adventure and exciting, happy challenges. I am ready. Miss Elsie, well who knows but she is coming along for the ride.

Getting ready, change is in there air.




Reading & Grief

imagesI love to read. I have loved to read ever since I spent a summer ,sitting under a tree, at the lake reading “Gone With The Wind” when I was a young girl. A good non-fiction book will get the same attention as a fiction book. I really love to read.

After my mom died, it took almost a year before I could get back to reading. A book just could not hold my focus. I acknowledged that this was part of grieving for the loss of my mom. One day I picked up a book, and I was off again.

When Jim died I once again found that I could not read. Six months after his death I started to read again. Reading fiction is my book of choice. I have tried several times to read history books, self help books or spiritual books, books I have loved to read in the pass, without success. I have temporarily lost interest.

Fiction novels, now there is a different story. I have been reading and reading and reading. I love going to the library and wandering the stacks. I never know what will catch my eye. Often I will pick up 5 or 6 books. I come home knowing that some of them may never be read. I start them and if they don’t hold my interest, back to the library they go. Sometimes I will really love a book and the writing style of that particular author. I get online and go to my local library and request the rest of that author’s books.

A few days ago I finished a novel titled “Broadchurch”. I loved it. Now I have requested the BBC television series based on this novel. I anxiously await picking up season 1 at the library.

imagesI also discovered the pleasure of audio books this summer. I loved that I could connect with the library on line and download audio books onto my iPad. Some days I got so caught up in the story I was a little disappointed when the driving day ended. A few times I found myself listening to the end of the story while I ate dinner.

My therapist strongly recommended that I do something fun and get out of the house every day. Often I will take my latest book and go to the local coffee house and read for a few hours. It is good to get out and be around people without having to converse with them. I have been going to this particular coffee house enough that they know me by name and know what I usually order (Earl Gray with Vanilla, Steeped). It has certainly become a comfort zone for me. Oh, they also have this wonderful green arm chair there that I love to sit in.

I understand that reading is an escape. It also is such a joy. I feel that if I need to escape into a good book then so be it. I am happy I am reading. Grieving shows up in the most interesting ways in my life. I have not been able to completely grasp why I stopped reading when my mom and Jim died. I believe that grief is so all encompassing that it is hard to get myself focused on something that makes me think and often feel. I believe that reading fiction is easier for me because I don’t have to think as much and I can just get carried away in the fantasy of it all. A pure and wonderful escape.

I have attempted, over the past three years, to understand this process I am going through. So much of it is a mystery. I think I am done with it and then, there it is again. Maybe when I start reading non-fiction again it will mark another passage through grief.

Meanwhile, anyone have any good books to recommend?



I Sold The Bed


“Today, I close the door to the past, open the door to the future, take a deep breath, step on through and start a new chapter in my life. ”

The above is a post someone placed on my Facebook page. It is very fitting for my life at this moment in time.

January 1, 2016 began with the emotional sale of my bed.


My Bed

January 1, I sold my bed. January 2, I am not sure what I will be doing. Next week, I know a little of what I am doing. What is next in my life is still totally a mystery, but here is what I  do know. This coming spring I am planning to put my home, Jim’s and my home, on the market. I am getting ready to step through that door. Well, almost ready.

Remember a previous post “Anyone Want a Bed?” After all the emotional trauma, I continued to pursue selling my bed. I had several different offers but it was waiting for Sandy. She and her boyfriend drove, almost 6 hours to pick up the bed on Friday. And what a delightful couple they are. As we walked into my bedroom to introduce my bed to it’s new owners, I became overwhelmed. This couple was so kind, they patiently waited while I shed a few tears and then we got down to business. We dismantled the bed and moved all the pieces to their truck. And just like that the bed was gone.


Sandy’s bed

I know I should tell you it was easy, that I was ready for it go and I am excited to experience what is next. If I told you that I would not be telling a complete truth. Selling the bed has been emotionally hard. I have found myself to be teary eyed and quick to shed a few tears since it left my home. I can’t quite define what this is about. It could be fear of the unknown, the loss of the familiar, grieving for the loss of Jim (just a little), or none of the above or all of the above or something else. Who knows. I will wait it out and know that each day will get a bit better.

I don’t regret selling the bed, I just wasn’t ready for the personal fallout from selling it. Miss Elsie the cat has had to adjust too. Right after they left she walked into the bedroom and meowed a lot. It felt like she was asking where the bed was. Funny she has experienced so much newness since I bought the RV but this one made her uncomfortable. Once I moved the air bed into the bedroom and made it up she has been fine.

As you can tell,  I do have a bed to sleep in. And if I find myself not comfortable in the bed, there is always the floor. I have slept there often since Jim died. I once heard a quote “Comfort can be found the closer you are to the ground”. I believe there is validity to this statement.

I don’t find the above to be depressing, it is just honest. I am slowly moving ahead and that is what this New Year is about for me, moving ahead. Step one is the bed. What is next?

Anyone want to buy a Lazy Boy Love Seat?

Just because I love her here is  a photo of Miss Elsie.

Just because I love her here is a photo of Miss Elsie.




IMG_2577Last week I was driving to an appointment. I was listening to something on the radio that triggered me to emphatically say out loud “Darn it Jim!!!!”. At first I thought it was anger, yet as I focused on this statement I realized it was not anger. It felt more like frustration. As I parked for my appointment I decided to take a few moments and explore this feeling.

What I found frustrating was that Jim had reached a point in his life, on this planet, where he became accepting of his impermanence here and I do not have that understanding. A few days before he died he told me “whatever happens, I am ready for it”. If he got better he would be delighted yet if he got sicker and died he was OK with that as well. For his friends who read this, he also stated that he had seen or spoken  to everyone he needed to and he was ready for whatever was next. When he died he was at peace.

Here is what I am trying to figure out. How does someone get to that point in their life? How does someone reach an acceptance and peace.  Maybe when you are confronted with the strong possibility that life is near an end the acceptance and peace happens. If that is the case, well, I am definitely not there.

I used to be an RN. I worked with children for most of my career. The outcome of sickness is very individual, yet, I noticed how wise many of these children with cystic fibrosis, cancer and other diseases became, as they approached the end of their short life span. I was not alone in this observation, most of us who worked with them noticed this. I often felt that they became wise old ones by the time they died. They often left me feeling more in touch with my true essence and I felt them to be my teachers.

How do these young ones reach this acceptance? I believe, like Jim, that acceptance and peace arrives as death becomes close. It was as if they lived their whole lives in that short time.

Can someone reach that place without dying? i would like to believe so. Maybe yogis or wise ones understand this, though I am not sure.

This is an interesting topic to contemplate. I don’t find it negative or depressing or anything. I mostly would love to know how to reach that place in my life and remain alive to embrace it and share it with others.

I am glad that Jim was at peace. It was definitely helpful for all of us who loved and knew him. More than anything I wanted him to have peace and acceptance. It helped him to die with such grace. It was an honor to be in his presence.

Three years ago on October 17, 2012, Jim Fenningham died peacefully with those who loved him observing this passing. He was loved.

I miss him still.

And, I am doing OK.


How I Am Doing

Jim & Janet on the lower Colorado

Jim & Janet on the lower Colorado

I have managed to get through another birthday and another anniversary of Jim’s death with grace. Since these two dates are 24 hours apart it is hard to mention one without the other. I am not sure that I will ever mark another year without connecting it with the other mark on the calendar. And, it is OK.

I know my last post was about Jim and the scholarship, yet I never thought of mentioning how I am doing. Now that I have been asked by several people, I thought I would try to answer that question here. Since you have been such a faithful audience over the last few years maybe you would like to know and if not, that is fine too.

I am doing OK. Some days, I am doing great, others not as great but not bad either. I am glad to say that I am doing more than just surviving. I would like to think and feel that I am embracing life as much as I can on each given day. Sometimes it is more than others. I, however, am not sitting in my house with the curtains drawn.

Jim and I always embraced life. It was one of the things I liked about him. We were always able to marvel at life and the world. I want to continue doing that. My RV is certainly helping me achieve this. Miss Elsie the cat is also helping me achieve this. All my friends, near and far, help. Everything helps.

Miss Elsie

Miss Elsie












Grief is a funny thing. There are days when it is strong and there are more days when it is not. Someone once told me that grief softens over time. I would agree with this statement. I like the mental image that creates for me. I am not sure if grief ever completely goes away. Now I am not sure about this because, I am traveling through it and not observing it from afar. Sometimes I think it is gone and then it shows up again. If grief is going to continue to present itself to me in my life then I would like to think there is a way to make it my ally. One definition of an ally is to form or enter into an alliance with. If I can make it an ally I can grow with it and let it teach me and maybe then it won’t grip me so strongly, when it presents itself.

Grief will definitely be a continuing part of my life. As I age things happen to people I know. If fortunate, when I reach the age that my father reached (95) I may know no-one my age as I may be the oldest still around. I wonder as I reach into my 60’s how my parents and friends in their 70’s and 80’s reach an acceptance that death is a natural progression of life. I know that I am not there yet.

If you read this blog, you know what I have been up to in the past year. Traveling is certainly a big part of my life. I love to see what is out there and learn new things. Exploring will certainly continue to be a part of my life. As long as I can move I will venture off to see new places and visit those beloved places as well.

Me * RT

Me * RT

Since Jim’s death I have avoided large groups of people. They have overwhelmed me and I am not comfortable there. This year I have decided to put myself out there a bit more and try out larger groups of people. It is kind of like trying on clothes; if they fit then I may keep them and if they don’t; I will put them back. My first adventure into this realm was riding in the “Bike the Coast” event two weekends ago, in northern San Diego. The biking was fun. After the ride I met two very nice women. We sat in the shade and talked. I felt like this adventure out into the broader world was a success for me.

I want to take advantage of the groups that meet around the greater San Diego area and try them out. It feels like I am also testing out what it feels like to be single. Until this point of time I have not felt single, or married, or widowed. I have been just living and being. I am not sure what being single is, it has been so many years yet, like groups I might just try them on for size and see what if feels like.

This year I want to focus on abundance in my life. I want to know that I am open to abundance in all it’s unique and unusual forms. I want to continue to be thankful for each day and for the people who help support and lift me up. Without all those known and unknown to me who have encourage and supported me I know I would not be as far along as I am in discovering the latest chapter in my life.

Today I am open to receive abundance in my life.

Today I am thankful for making an ally of grief.

Today I am thankful for those who love me and support me, no matter what.

Today I am thankful.

Another Year-Three to be Exact

Jim ready to Fly to Baja

Jim ready to Fly to Baja

This Saturday, October 17th will mark the third anniversary of Jim’s death. For those of you who don’t know, my husband, Jim died from cancer just past his 60th birthday.

It is a funny thing, sometimes it feels like three years or more and in some ways it feels like yesterday. Henry a friend and fellow runner, Jim was a runner, said last weekend he still expects to see him come around the corner for their Saturday morning run at the beach. There are times I still think he is coming home. I know better yet he still is a presence. Sigh

In lieu of a big celebration to honor his passing, shortly after his death I created a scholarship in his name at Grossmont College where he dedicated most of his work life before retirement.

He originally was the Director of Admissions and Record. He ended his career there as the Dean of Counseling and Student Services. He was absolutely dedicated to the students and his staff. Even when people were upset with decisions he made, I never knew anyone who did not like and respect him.

Usually at this time of the year I send out an annual plea to support this scholarship with your end of the year, tax deductible donations. I am trying to raise $25,000 to create a perpetual scholarship where no one will have to donate again and the scholarship will remain there for a long time to come. The scholarship, in the fall goes to student studying the arts. In the spring it helps a student studying the social sciences.

This year is going to be a bit different and here is why.



Jennifer DeMarco is a friend of mine. She was also Jim’s and my yoga teacher and mentor for several semesters at the college. I can’t even begin to tell you how much she has affected both of us and her other  students. She makes them think,change and broaden their thinking. Yoga is not just her job, it is her passion. She is an adjunct professor, meaning she teaches at more than one school and is considered part time and has little to no insurance.

She was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer and will be having surgery tomorrow, Friday, October 16. Her son has set up a site to raise money to help her with the financial side of dealing with a tough diagnosis. So far they have raised over $9000. However, we all know cancer treatment costs way more than this.

Jennifer DeMarco

This year when you consider gifting, please keep Jennifer in mind, she can use all the support that any of are willing to offer her. Above is a link to the fund raising site. Click on Jennifer’s name to donate to a very good cause, to help a very good person.

If you would like to make an end of the year donation to the Jim Fenningham Memorial Scholarship, which would be gratefully appreciated, you have two ways to do this.

  • Click on the GoFundMe button on the left side of the blog page.
  • To contribute directly to Grossmont College, please make checks payable to:

Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges (FGCC)
Mention that the contribution is for The Jim Fenningham Memorial Scholarship

Mail contributions to:
Scholarship Specialist
Financial Aid Office
8800 Grossmont College Dr
El Cajon, CA 92020-1799
Tax Deductible Contributions per section 501 (c) (3) of the IRS Code; EIN 45-2692818

Jim & Janet before the trip

You can also donate to both causes. There is no limit to giving. There are so many causes that need help and I know for most of us we have to use our money wisely. My feelings on giving is to give to what you feel most passionate about, but give. If it is a little, good. If it is a significant size donation, good.

It makes a heart feel good to give and it certainly is appreciated.