Another Year

Fall represents a time of coming in. The harvests are in and hopefully, people are celebrating a bounty. The daylight hours shorten. It is a time of coming in, physically inside, inside the heart, inside the mind.

When October arrives I begin to brace myself for the journey through Jim’s birthday, October tenth. Jim (my husband) died in October 2012. The day before his birthday was his last hospital admission. Then my birthday arrives, October sixteenth. October seventeenth in the early evening hours, my husband of twenty-one years died. On November seventeenth we took his ashes to sea on a glorious San Diego morning.

Each year I wonder what this period of time will look like. Will I want to be with others? Will I want to be alone? Will I celebrate my birthday? It took me two years after his death to celebrate my sixtieth birthday. Will I be sad or grateful for this time in my life?

This year I found myself wanting to be alone and settle with my heart. It was a quiet day on Whidbey Island, where I was house sitting. I decided I really did not want to take phone calls. I was in a good and quiet place and I wanted to savor that time and the contentment I felt.

I still have a small amount of Jim’s ashes, ready to be given to the Rocky Mountains, when I get there. Three weeks before my house sitting gig was finished on Whidbey Island, I took two teaspoons of the ashes to Callahan Firehouse Glass in the town of Langley and had a memorial pendant made. I did not want a pendant for my neck, I wanted something larger so he could ride on the mirror in my rig. I gave them my order and told the artist to be creative.

Just before I left Langley I picked up the pendant. The woman who creates this artwork was at the store to give me the pendant. She told me that she does ceremonies around each pendant she creates. She spoke with Jim while blowing the glass. And remembered the stories I had told to the woman who had taken my order.

The pendant is beautiful. The blues in it match his eyes(light blue) and his Modern Morgan Kilt(darker blue). The white that sparkles through are his ashes. Now Jim gets to see my world. When the sun hits it just right there is a diamond flare of light that hits the bottom or top of the glass. I think it is Jim winking at me.

This feels like another step in the continuation of moving forward and embracing my life. This year there was a settling in, a feeling of comfort within myself that has not been there since he left.

And, speaking of Jim…Today is Giving Tuesday. When Jim died, with the help of Grossmont College where he worked most of his adult life, I created a scholarship in his name, the Jim Fenningham Memorial Scholarship. These scholarships help students afford to attend college and create careers for themselves. I have met a few of the students and each semester the college sends me a letter that the student who was awarded the scholarship writes. When I read these essays it gives me hope for the future no matter what the age of the student

If you would like to donate to Jim’s Scholarship today or any time please do so. Here is the link to the Change Makers site. Change Makers are students that achieve if supported. If you donate today the scholarship will receive double the amount of your donation. I already did my yearly donation earlier in the day. In the memo section type in Jim Fenningham Memorial Scholarship so that the donation will be directed to the appropriate area. It is a good time to donate. Remember that tax season is right around the corner.

I am feeling grateful for another year. I am glad that I allow myself to adventure into my feelings, good or bad. Each year I see my own growth and am thankful. I am thankful for the time I had with Jim. I am thankful that I am still here and growing. Today is a good day.

New Friends

Last week I spent six days with friend of mine, Mary and her dog, Shay in Idyllwild CA. Idyllwild is in the mountains approximately one and a half hours north and east of San Diego. It is a delightful small mountain town that relies on tourism and second homes. Mary gets to enjoy this town as her first home.

Jim, my husband, was first the Director of Admissions and Records and then the Dean of Counseling at Grossmont Community College, in San Diego County. He had many people working under him. More than half of them were women. I heard many stories about these colleagues of his over the twenty one years we were married.

After his death, six years ago, several of these women stepped forward to support me in this life change. We went to dinner. We went to the movies. We walked on the beach. We talked, a lot. Over time, as expected, many of these friendships have faded. There are a few that remain and continue to deepen over time. I am grateful for these few.

Mary & Janet-finished the raise bed garden

Mary is one of those friendships that started while Jim was still living. Since his death we have met up several times. Over the past few years we have become closer friends. I enjoy spending time with her. We walk, we talk and mostly we enjoy each other’s company. Mary inspires me with her political and social activism. She inspires me with her can do attitude. There is a comfort level between the two of us that is often found in much more mature friendships than ours. In the six days Elsie and I spent with her we did projects (put together a composter, built a raised bed garden, stained boards for her new deck) and boy did we talk. When stupid accidents happened (I am the queen of these), we laughed, cleaned it up and moved on.

I am so thankful for our growing friendship. It is important to me. I like friendships that show promise of deepening and strengthening. I like friendships that make me laugh and encourage me to grow and become more.

Yvonne is another woman I initially met through the college. She and I are tour guides in San Diego. Since Jim’s death Yvonne and I have found time to do “stuff” together. We explore pubs together. There is nothing better than sharing a beer and catching up with a good friend. When I am on the road the phone will ring and there is Yvonne calling to catch up. I appreciate these calls when I am alone out there in the world. Each one means so much. For that moment in time I feel a little less alone. It reminds me I am part of something greater than myself. It is a good reminder.

Today I am thankful for Mary and Yvonne. Today I am thankful for my family of friends.



Coming Home to Yoga

Have you ever had these moments in your life where it felt like you were coming home, invisible arms are there to welcome you? It may not be a physical place, it may not be an emotional place but still it feels like you are welcomed in and it is comfortable and real and important. It is your place.

I have been practicing yoga since the 1970’s. Those early classes were quite interesting as the eastern Asian flavor of those classes were strong. I would practice faithfully for a time, sometimes a semester, sometimes for years and then it would be abandoned, although, obviously not forgotten, as I would return to it again.

Jim, my husband who died 5 1/2 years ago, and I practiced yoga for a number of years. We started with a private center that eventually closed and we did not practice much. One day Jim asked me if I wanted to take a yoga class at  Grossmont College. Jim was a dean at this school. He had heard that the teacher, Jennifer, was getting rave reviews. Once again I returned to yoga. We took a several semesters and yes the students were correct. Jennifer is a superb teacher.

We also belonged to they YMCA. One day, at our local class they had a guest instructor, Lisa. I realized I had met another extremely good yoga teacher. I immediately went home and told Jim. We began a regular Sunday morning practice at the McGrath YMCA, where Lisa is a regular teacher. Jim and I practiced yoga routinely until his death. We even did yoga in his hospital room.

Both of these women continue to be dynamic teachers. Even better, they are both my friends. After Jim died, Jennifer invited me to attend classes at the college when I felt up to it. I was always invited. She also took me, as her guest, to Rancho La Puerta. The Ranch is a spa just south of the border, in Mexico. I could practice yoga to my heart’s content and enjoy many other amenities of the spa. I felt loved and taken care of.

Lisa and I have remained in touch, although I no longer belong to the YMCA in San Diego County. I delight in our continued contact and remain inspired by her as a teacher and a friend.

As I have begun to travel more, yoga has gone from a regular practice to an infrequent one. I know I could practice on my own, yet I feel much more inspired when I take a class and practice with others. I have gotten lazy and dealing with depression last winter did not help. I preferred to hole up rather than venture out, even when I know yoga is something I love doing and knew it would help me feel more whole and complete.

Today I attended a yoga class at the Kula Wellness & Yoga Center. As I walked through the front door I felt like I had come home. It was warm and inviting and welcoming. The people and the teacher were glad to see me, even though it has been more than two years since I had been there. I felt like I belonged. The class was a mixed level class and focused more on poses than a flow. We took a short time to meditate and relax before and after class. The breathing exercises cleared my sinuses. There were people of all ages in attendance. My body was happy to stretch and get the kinks out. My spirit is extremely happy at the moment and I am generally very content this afternoon. When I practice yoga, the world looks just a bit brighter, even on a gray and somewhat rainy day.

Why is it that those good things I do for myself often get shoved to the side? Why do I postpone or put them off? Is it the human condition? Who knows. I often have to remind myself that it is OK to stop my day and go to class. There is nothing else that I may be doing, which cannot be put off for an hour or two so I can focus on all levels of my being by taking just one class. Slowing down is OK. Being aware is OK. Taking care of myself is OK and a must.

Today I bought a 5 class pass. Since I am going to be in NJ for a few more weeks, the pass will encourage me to return to Kula for more yoga so I can continue to feel happy and content and stretched out. On these gray days, I choose not to be on my bicycle or hiking when it is only 40 degrees out (brr), yoga is a good and thoughtful alternative for my whole being.

Once again I have returned home. Ahhhh…..


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.



An Adventure of Another Sort….The Jim Fenningham Memorial Scholarship

Daniel & Janet  Awards Breakfast

Daniel & Janet
Awards Breakfast

This morning, with the support of my good friend Tammy, we went to the Grossmont and Cuyamaca College Scholarship Awards Breakfast.

You may ask, why was this an adventure? I elected to introduce the recipient of the Jim Fenningham Memorial  Scholarship this morning. I know, I am up in front of people all the time when I am “on the tour bus”, but this is way different. I had to speak in front of people in a whole different way and it took courage for  me to do this.

I did well. I reminded myself to do what I do all the time and that is relax and speak from the heart. It helped to introduce such a good young man with an abundance of enthusiasm for his chosen career path. Not only have I gotten to know Daniel a little but now I feel like a bit of Jim is with him also. How delightful.

Tammy, Daniel, Janet

Tammy, Daniel, Janet

It was also very good to have Tammy with me. She was the person who suggested a scholarship in Jim’s honor instead of a memorial service that even Jim would not have wanted to go to. I appreciate her unwavering support any time I ask for it. She loved Jim and I know she loves me. I could have thought of no one better to sit next to me and take the photos while I presented this award. I am grateful for her ongoing friendship.

Over twenty scholarships were awarded this morning. The awards went to all ages and ethnic backgrounds and they honored many different areas of study. I admit, I was not sure that this morning would be interesting, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself attentive and interested in this breakfast. It gives me such hope to see so many students moving through adversity of all sorts to get to a place where they excel in their fields of study. These students represent all of our future and it is good to know they are there, interested and actively involved in their pursuit of education and learning. Many of their stories were  very touching. It was an honor to be there and to support them and to know that this will be an on-going role for me.

I am going to include a copy of the essay that Daniel wrote to win this award. He is seeking a career in acting. The scholarship this semester was awarded in the Theater Arts. Jim acted, danced, juggled and performed. He loved anything to do with the theater. Next semester it will be awarded to a student seeking a degree in the social sciences. It is exciting to be a part of this process.

Enjoy the essay. I did.


                                                                               My Dream

I am a Mexican-American low-income student living in the United States pursuing
an undergraduate degree. I was raised in Tampico, Tamaulipas Mexico to Mexican
parents, but my mom had the great vision to give birth to me in the U.S so I could have
more opportunities, and so I was born in McAllen Texas. Her decision to have me in the
States was the best decision she could have make because thanks to that I am now
here pursuing my dream of becoming an actor. I lived in Tampico until I was 18 when I
came to San Diego for my senior year. The plan was to come and graduate to here to
have more opportunities and to decide if I wanted to study in the U.S. or go back to
Mexico. After a year here I decided a wanted to stay, but first I had to ask my uncles,
whom I lived with, if I could stay for college. They said yes, and my parents supported
me with whatever decision I made. I stayed and would later payoff because of my
career choice.

I think that by just being in the United States studying is a great personal
achievement. My family is still in Mexico and I just get to see them during summer and
the holidays, and I think that is the biggest sacrifice I have made in my entire life. The
obstacle of being separate from my family is worth it because I am fighting for my
dream. As I already mention, I want to be an actor and I want to pursue a Bachelors
Degree in Theatre or a BFA in acting. I want to transfer to Cal State Long Beach to get
my degree and keep moving forward from there and start building my acting career. I
still have left at least a year at Grossmont, but looking forward to it to see what other
great acting classes I can take.

Besides of having a full-time schedule; I am in Grossmont’s touring show, which
tours around elementary schools around San Diego. We have rehearsals Tuesdays and
Thursdays from 8 to 11 am, and even though it is early I am always excited for every
rehearsal because of the great purpose of the touring show, which is taking theatre to
the children. I am very proud to be involved in this great project and I try to give my best
everyday even in rehearsals and help my fellow actors with whatever they need. I am
excited to be in this play because it’s my first play ever, but I am especially excited to be
in a play so kids with Mexican heritage can know that there is an opportunity in theatre,
and I wish to inspire Mexican-American children to fight for their dreams.

For the last two years attending Grossmont I struggled with commuting because I
didn’t own a car and took me two hours to get to school. I recently got a car but there
are other expenses that this scholarship would help me with. My parents help me with
what they can, but I will find the way to keep studying here to follow and accomplish my
dream. If I am selected for this scholarship it would be a big step forward in achieving
my short term goal, and help me fulfill my dream and motivate me to keep moving

Janet & Daniel Officials of the college & the district

Janet & Daniel Officials of the college & the district

To support this scholarship, 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:
Selam Gebrekristos
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