people first :: changing how we speak

Last month Kate and Alex schooled me for not using “people first” language. I was surprised on many levels—I think I am a thoughtful, progressive and intentional purveyor of words, and while I don’t recall my transgression, the conversation that followed was enlightening. For my daughters, and I suspect for most in their generation, this isn’t a matter of being politically correct. It is simply how they speak…how they pay attention to each other and are working to remove identifiers that are limiting and devalue the person.

People first language is exactly that.

A person with a disability, rather than a disabled person.

A child with autism, rather than an autistic child.

A girl with a hearing impairment, rather than a deaf girl.

People without disabilities, rather than normal people.

He has a brain injury, rather than he’s brain damaged.

A man with epilepsy, rather than an epileptic.

If a friend had cancer, we wouldn’t refer to her as cancerous, right? My husband, Steve, has one ear (it’s true), yet we don’t refer to him as single-eared. And by the way, he’s an exceptional listener.

People first language isn’t just about disabilities, but extends to age, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic level. People first language isn’t without critics, but to me, it feels right and worth the effort.

What was so interesting about our conversation was how easily my daughters, ages 27 and 21, navigate this. Alex is studying Cultural Anthropology and Kate is studying Architecture, and  both are multi-culturally competent and see the whole person first. My world of marketing is about specificity, adding value, and storytelling. I create labels for a living (and call it branding), and while I thought I was also culturally competent, I have more learning to do.

For them, it is simple and understood, even the process of learning how someone self-identifies their race or gender, before they call it out. Taking the time to ask someone how they would like to be identified is respectful. Shorthand labels may be efficient, but they are best for objects, not people. They don’t help us get to know the whole person. People first language focuses on what someone can do, or what they need, rather than what they can’t do.

Wheelchair user, rather than wheelchair bound.

Accessible parking, rather than handicapped parking.

She needs assistance to walk, rather than she is crippled.

People with mental illness, rather than the mentally ill.

Also, avoid using the language of disability as a metaphor–lame idea, blind luck, paralyzed with indecision, deaf ears.

There’s more.

People living below the poverty line, rather than poor people.

Also, people aren’t low or high class (though neighborhoods may be), and the term “minority” is more helpful when qualified, as in “religious minority.”

He is working without legal documentation, rather than being an illegal immigrant. He is undocumented, rather than he is an illegal.

A person who is homeless, rather than the homeless guy.

Other gender neutral phrases:

Artificial, rather than man-made

Staff a booth, rather than man a booth

Humanity, or people, rather than mankind

My personal pet peeve: Fathers don’t babysit. They are parents, just like mothers.

This is new to me…in ethnicity, use an appropriate degree of specificity. This may require asking, which rather than being seen as invasive, might reflect that you’re sensitive enough to be accurate.

Dominican, rather than Hispanic

Chinese, rather than Asian

Bengali, rather than Indian

Ghanaian, rather than African

And some may choose to be identified as American, whatever the color of their skin, or their place of birth.

And here’s the big one…if the label (marital status, sexual orientation, racial and ethnic identity, age, or the fact that a person has a disability) isn’t relevant, don’t use it. “My gay friends, Mike and Elliot, have an incredible home” is gratuitous. They are my friends, they have an incredible home. Period. Identifying them as gay first is more about me, wanting you to know I am cool enough to have gay friends, rather than about the hard work they invested in their home.

If you think this is silly, take a moment and imagine that when people describe you, they only use one characteristic as a label. Especially if  that label implies limitations.

My short friend, Kim. My overweight friend, Kim. My gray-haired friend, Kim. My clumsy friend, Kim. My just-past-middle-aged friend, Kim. My blue-eyed-with-a-few-wrinkles friend, Kim. My caffeine-addicted friend, Kim. My wino friend, Kim. My reality-bound friend, Kim. My self-discipline-impaired friend, Kim.

Perhaps all true, but none completely accurate. And none as interesting as the whole story (at least in my imagination).

Some of this requires rethinking and retraining. We’ve done it with other words, and I’m certain we can continue to change how we view and speak, both to and about, each other. Because true connection is what’s required for us to move forward, one person at a time.

A few resources:
Reduce Bias in Language, Indiana University Southeast
Language of Difference, Hamilton University (this was a really helpful piece)
Here’s a view against, from a source you wouldn’t expect.
The Inclusion Project
News media shifts language on immigration, The Pew Research Center





welcoming disappointment

Last week, I was sitting on a beautiful wooden rocking chair, in perfect 70 degree weather, perched on what seemed to be the edge of the world. The view before me was spectacular, the red rocks of Sedona, a few wispy clouds, the afternoon light. I was lucky to be in such a moment, yet all I could feel was disappointment. In fact, it was a full on pity party, and there was nothing pretty about it.

Sedona had been on my pre-60 bucket list, and I wedged it into our Spring Training baseball trip. So here we were. My husband, Steve, was sick and asleep in our hotel room. I wasn’t feeling much better, but had energy to walk out to the viewpoint. I’d wanted to come here for years, to see the red rocks, hike, explore, shop, photograph, write, eat and drink, and decide if a vortex was something I should experience. Uptown Sedona was so crowded we didn’t stop, our lunch at the airport cafe (which should have been our first clue) was weird, and now I was alone, with no one to share the view. No wine (though plenty of whine) to sip. No adventure.

Just disappointment. And rocks. Plenty of rocks.

Yes, this was the site of my personal pity party. I'm not proud.
The site of my personal pity party. Proof that I can feel sorry for myself anywhere.


I told myself I should get over it. It was stupid to feel cheated when this is so incredible.

Then I told myself that disappointment was understandable, it was ok to wallow for a bit, before I had to let it go.

It wasn’t grief, or even sorrow. It wasn’t even sadness.

It was something that didn’t live up to my hype. It was also something that would get a do over. Some disappointments are bigger, and perhaps the do over isn’t so readily available. But this one, it was just a 24-hour period that wasn’t what I had hoped for. This is lower case disappointment, not even deserving capital letters (as in Disappointment or DISAPPOINTMENT). The disappointment was more about the expectations than the reality.

Perhaps it wasn’t bliss, but it sure wasn’t despair.

Also, I had great coffee for the morning. No matter what, I had coffee, so that was something. I made the expectations and I could remake them, too.

When I really thought about it, I saw that disappointment was on a sliding scale, and not such a far climb back to contentment. In my mind, I drew myself a chart. To be honest, my imaginary chart only had three feelings…contentment, disappointment and grief. The others show up because I am an over emoter. I can’t help myself.

So many feelings. Does this look like an inverted wine glass to you?
So many feelings. Does this look like an inverted wine glass to you?


If you told me I could spend a few hours in Sedona, doing nothing but watching the bluest sky over the magnificent red rocks, I would be thrilled. I would consider it a gift, a blessing, wonder and magic. I should be so lucky.

I went to the room to check on Steve, then walked back to the cliffs to watch the sunset. When he woke after dark, we drove to town to find a grocery store and restock on medicine. We had fruit salad and orange juice for dinner, chased with Nyquil. We slept like hell, hacking through the night. The next morning I had coffee and leftover salad on the patio, in the sunshine. We packed, medicated, and drove back to Phoenix. We saw a few more red rocks. Steve never left the car.

It was spectacular, disappointment and all. And now that I understand where disappointment sits on the scale between bliss and despair, I think it’s not such a bad gig. The climb back to contentment isn’t far, if you’re so lucky.



kim writes here

Kim_PortraitAt a glance: Kim, 60, Virgo, marketing consultant, wife to Steve, mom to Kate and Alexandra  (though they’re grown and shining on their own, hundreds of miles away), northern Californian (Davis, to be specific), seeker of layered stories, lively conversations, and creative projects. And always looking for connections.

The long version: By day I work as a marketing consultant at Tackett+Barbaria, a studio I own with my husband, Steve. I’ve done this work for many, many years, and while it’s been fulfilling and meaningful, I think there’s even more out there for me to do. I’ve worked with some of the biggest companies in the country, even the world, and some of the most interesting start ups and nonprofits. I’ve always written for my clients, and now I am writing for myself.

Some days the stories make themselves, and some days require a little more untangling to make something worth reading. Every once in a while, the untangle unravels and there’s more work to do before the story can be told. But I believe in the process and the making, so here I am—listening and learning.

I am a writer, a reader, a photographer, a SF Giants fan, a ukulele learner, wine drinker, coffee lover, world globe collector, gatherer of heart-shaped rocks, happy wanderer, flea market shopper, farmer’s market visitor, recycled crafter, art appreciator, nature enthusiast, cheeseaholic, and prolific salad maker. I try to be a good daughter, mother, friend, wife and citizen of the planet. I believe that love is louder and there is good in (almost) everyone. I value being curious, creative and kind. I try to be someone you can count on. At the very least, you can always count on me to be on time.

My side gig is This Is Plan Be, where I am giving away 1000 Be Kind stickers. Come on over and get yourself a set.

I also write 35-word stories. Always short and almost true, they show up daily. A collection of them live here.

The backstory:  I started Tour of No Regrets in 2008 when I was turning 50 and had the amazing opportunity to travel to India with Freedom from Hunger. I had done other services trips, and went to internet cafes (remember those?) to send group emails home. The blog became a place for me to make a story from every day, and has always been my blog bff, and it (and some of you) waited patiently while I pursued other blogging ventures. Tour of No Regrets has been a little more about what I do, what my days look like, and the moments between the days. Over the years I have posted 1500 pieces, some of which are highly forgettable. But there are a few that I am proud of. Like these:

India with Freedom from Hunger: The Day of the Moment, The Day of Despair, A Day of Reflection
Mexico with Freedom from Hunger: En Este Momento
Today is World AIDS Day
They called her Auntie Peanut
12,755 days

For a year I had a “midlife” blog called Fifty|Fifty Vision  and these were some of my favorite pieces (they’ve since moved to this site):

At Fifty :: What I’ve Learned So Far
Just the two of us :: the selfie duet
We want a husband
Practicing flex(ability)
Choosing teams for the game of life

And there were others:

Life| Served Daily In 2010 I attempted (and finished, with some cheating) Project 365–taking a photo every day for a year. This is where I began to see my life in a new light, and began to love photography.

Coffee| Served Daily  Of course, that led to a project where I decided to collect and curate photos and stories of 1000 cups of coffee. This was the ultimate connective project, and it was a blast. It took a turn I didn’t expect and I had 100+ contributors from all over the world. It took a year and a half, but I made it!

Caffeinated by Design When I finished the coffee blog, I wasn’t quite done with my cup of coffee. I wanted to figure out Tumblr, so I started one about coffee, design, architecture, art and words. It was fun, but I still can’t tell you what a Tumblr is.

Re:design This was my 2011-12 project, a blog for our studio, Tackett+Barbaria. It was a seek and share exercise and helped me connect to some of the fantastic work being done by designers around the world. My inaugural, and perhaps favorite piece for Re:design was a five part expose on buying a $100.00 logo, called Peace o’ Pizza | My search for a cheap logo and world peace.

Thanks for visiting. I’d love to connect with you.

Email: Kim Tackett
Twitter:  @TheKimTackett



Yo era un estudiante terrible

spanish homeworkTranslation: I was a terrible student.

Not back in high school (though I wasn’t stellar), but for the past ten weeks when I went back to the high school for Beginning Spanish.

I wasn’t good. Not only was I not good at Spanish. I wasn’t a good student.

Last fall, we were in Spain with our good friends, Dave and Vicki, and we struggled with the language. Not so much Vicki, but the rest of us. We didn’t have problems communicating, but we could never really carry on a conversation. Those cab drivers who wanted to know about Donald Trump? All I could say was “el loco, no bueno.”

I wasn’t the kind of guest I wanted to be. I couldn’t offer much more than a greeting, a gracias and a dos cervazas por favor. Spain was so incredible, I wanted to delve deeper into the culture and community, which could only happen if I made an effort to speak, listen and learn. It made me hungry (literally) to revisit Mexico and Latin America. I began dreaming of long term stays in charming hillside towns, shopping, eating, drinking and writing…in Spanish.

Vicki had an idea that we could take Spanish classes through Adult Ed, at our local high school. I had an idea that we could have weekly margaritas with our besties. Also, delicious meals of tapas, paella and sangria, bantering in Spanish, and planning our next trip. We would become bilingual, and perhaps I would be much more interesting in Spanish than I was in English. In my brain, this was all very reasonable and possible.

The first class was weird. Here I was with my boyfriend husband, sitting in my daughter’s classroom. I recognized the handwriting on the board, the daily prompts, the books, maps, posters and the Star Wars light saber. It was a back to the future experience and it was kind of freaky.

Steve and I sat with Dave and Vicki, and each couple shared a textbook. We didn’t go out for margaritas after class, but we made an attempt at homework that week. We felt optimistic. We committed to texting only in Spanish. Of course that lasted for three texts before I gave up.

The next week things got a little harder, and we put off the margarita date again. We congratulated ourselves for trying something that was challenging. Except this week we waited to do our homework until dinner, right before our next class.

I wasn’t prepared. And I was  a lousy, inattentive student. I texted my daughters. I checked my Facebook and Instagrammed. I mocked Vicki for being diligent (sorry Vick!) and an over achiever. I watched the clock. I made up stories about my classmates in my head.

The next week I let Steve do the homework, and except for a few pathetic attempts on my part, that’s been our pattern. I tried to supplement with the Duo Lingo app, practicing while I was on the bike at the gym, or when I wanted an excuse to not do the dishes. I contemplated quitting at week 7.

How does one say “ugh” in Spanish? (Google translate claims it’s “uf”)

Last night was our final class. If this was a graded class, I suspect I would have earned a D. While I thanked the teacher after every class (that I can do) I never even learned her name (and that I’m not proud of).

But I did learn a few things.

School is hard. High school must be really hard. I have a super short attention span. Phones probably don’t belong in classrooms. If I want to learn Spanish, I probably need to move to Spain. Or spend more time on Duo Lingo. Or do my homework. Also, I have the cutest boyfriend.

Last night we finally went out for Margaritas after class and it was awesome, especially after a Tuesday night. Clearly we should have been doing this every week. Learning requires some extra sustenance, you know? Remind me next time I try adulting in another language.




holding on and letting go :: remembering pat

The Ram Dass quote, “We are all just walking each other home” helps me when I’m faced with the seemingly impossible challenge of how to live when someone I love is dying. A year ago I had the great honor to walk with Steve’s Aunt Pat. We had a month with her, supporting her son Chris and his wife, Christine, as we all learned how to do this together. After each visit I would write, so I could remember the layers and details of this gift. This is how I process…grief, joy and the act of showing up the best I can. I’ve spent the past 12 months trying to edit this piece to 1,000 words. But some stories don’t fit into a convenient word count, and this is one of them. Thank you for reading. With love and gratitude (and a very full heart), Kim



May, 2014

I’ve never been this close. To cancer, or to death. I’ve always been the one on the other end of the phone. Never the one holding tight as they’re letting go.

It’s quite a remarkable experience. She’s really Steve’s Aunt Pat, but for the past 35 years I’ve also claimed her as my own. Maybe because we’re both troublemakers at heart, I always felt a special connection with her. We loved and enjoyed each other, and always had a wink, a laugh, and most often, a glass of wine, to share.

We’ve been in her home for three days, surprised by how ordinary this feels, as if people do this every day.

Kathy was here for the handoff. It doesn’t seem fair that she already knows how this will go, because she’s done it before. She’s the one we all turn to—who comforts us—as we’re learning how to be the comforters ourselves.

Pat has had two lovely, perfect afternoons, sitting in her patio with her nieces and nephews, telling stories of growing up in San Francisco, skiing at Squaw Valley, births, and a few other deaths. Yesterday her sister-in-law, Liz, gave her a letter, written by her husband and Pat’s brother, Frank, when he was in the service. A letter he wrote to her, his nine-year old sister, postmarked fifty years ago–the same date as his death, just two months ago.

She wants a Catholic funeral, with Kathy singing. And of course, a party afterwards. Russ and Cindy will bring the wine, we promise.

She’s gone through her papers and jewelry, remembering, giving instructions. We sat in bed, and I shared my slide show of every Thanksgiving at her cabin, first meetings with her grand babies, her older, beloved sister, Louise. Five hundred and sixty four slides. It took three sittings to get through them all.

Morphine, applesauce to chase the awful taste, the hum of the oxygen tank, the long tube carrying air to her lungs. Equipment and inhalers, pills and charts for the pills.

She shows us her body, her mastectomy scar from years ago. The tumor that is growing daily, as if it wants to be sure we know it’s the one responsible. She’s amazed and intrigued. And open. She’s so open, it helps us return the favor.

She tells me her tumor doesn’t hurt from the outside. But I have seen it wretch her with pain from the inside. That’s what the morphine is for. That’s what we’re here for.

It’s visible, watching her shed the layers of what was hard…making her load lighter for her journey. She’s had a complex life. More than a few disappointments, and has faced the sorrow of burying her oldest son, Carl B., when he was still a young man. Then her husband, the first Carl, years after he was disabled by a stroke. She’s protected herself, and hasn’t always let us see the soft spots. She’s let a few of us in, but mostly she was the independent one who could do it on her own. She had her own tools, literally. Pat was the strong one who could take care of herself.

Maybe it’s the morphine. Maybe it’s the journey. But we can feel the change.

Yesterday we had an “event” and I’ve never witnessed so much pain. I held her and prayed over her. I have no idea how long it lasted, but we were all grateful when the medicine kicked in and it was over. Three hours later, her recovery felt like a small and welcome miracle.

The tumor seems bigger this morning. She’s tired and a little more wobbly. She’s not eating, but laughed when I had to video chat Steve (who had returned home) to be able to hook up the Nebulizer.

She says, “I am happy. This is working out really well, don’t you think?”

We say, “Well, we are almost ok…but if you’re happy, we’re happy.”

I am so honored to be here. To be this close. To be able to serve her, to be her honor guard.


She’s had some good enough days, some bad days, and a great day. It’s been a week and we’re back. She’s excited to see us, but all of our visiting will be bedside today.

She tries to sit up and I can see it’s harder for her to breathe. She turns away from me and won’t acknowledge what is wrong. I move so I am sitting right in front of her, where I can see what I was hearing. She finally asks for morphine. Steve brings it, along with the applesauce. We don’t take the time for one of her pretty blue dishes and a right-sized spoon. She gets the plastic container, with a soup spoon. We waited too long this time. The medicine doesn’t help. I rub her back…as gently as I can. She doesn’t complain, but asks for more morphine. Steve and I look at each other, and we decide, without speaking, that we will double up for her. She asks how long it’s been. Seven minutes. A very long seven minutes.

And then the pain subsides, I climb into her bed and we watch the Giants game. She tells us about her first marriage, the one that no one talks about.

I realize that out of the 500+ photos I have for her I have none of the two of us, so I ask Steve to take a few. And then I decide to try a selfie with her and my new phone. She’s tickled…I don’t think she’s ever seen one before. She laughs and one photo turns into ten, each one funnier than the last.

When she’s resting I go to her yard and cut a few succulents to bring home. I find a tomato sauce jar and arrange them. She has succulents everywhere, tucked away. I am struck by how healthy they are. I have cut so many, but you can hardly see what’s missing.

We tire her out by five. I leave with my phone and my pictures, and a few new cuttings in an old jar. Also a deep appreciation for the power of morphine.


June, 2014

We had a party for her yesterday. It was to be a surprise 80th birthday party, planned months ago. The venue changed to her backyard, expectations changed, and we all crossed our fingers that she would make it and it would be a good thing.

I made silly coffee filter flower garlands, feeling like I was making 1000 cranes. They seem so irrelevant, but also necessary. If I keep making the flowers, she would make it to the party.

She was even more fragile, as if life had been draining out of her all week. We arrived early to wash dishes, cut flowers, set tables, get ice and beer, visit while it was quiet. Hang the garlands, one for her room, the others for her patio.

Cousins and aunts and uncles arrived. Her sister-in-law, Ellen, from Oregon. Steve’s sister, Sue, from San Diego. Friends from her teaching days. Hugs and just a little awkwardness, and as each took their turn down the hall, following the path made by the oxygen line. This is as it should be, being able to say goodbye.

I don’t know what happened behind the doors. Each person emerged with red eyes, standing to the side quietly, and eventually rejoining the party.

At one point someone asked me to come help her. She was sitting on the side of the bed, trying to stand, agitated and confused. Lynn and I were able to get her back in bed, and we called for Chris. I sat holding her hand and reminded her that Chris was on the other side, holding her, too. She called him by the name of both her son and husband, Carl, and buried her head in his chest. I found Lynn’s hand and somehow we were able to make our way into the hall. We couldn’t do anything, yet we couldn’t move. I got the nurse, and within minutes it was over. Her grandson dove into the room, as only a three-year old can, and we hear her voice…joyful and enthusiastic. “Avery, I am so happy you’re here.”

A few hours later, it was time to say goodbye. I wasn’t leaving the house, but I needed to say goodbye while we both could. I wished Steve were here with me. The nurse was on one side, and Chris was at the foot of her bed. I crawled up onto her bed, and got as close as I could.

I looked into her eyes and wished I could crawl inside of her heart.

I told her, “Pat, we’ve been saying I love you for a long, long time. At every event, every gathering, you would pull me aside and tell me you loved me, that I was special to you, and I was special to Carl. And for the past three weeks, we have said I love you over and over again. You have been special to me, and to my daughters, and to Steve. You have a special place in our hearts and we will think of you and remember you always. So I am going to say again, without crying, I love you. You are special to me.”

She nodded and whispered, “I love you. You are special.”

I kissed her and walked out. I said, “I love you and I’m not crying.”

She said, “I’m not either.”


She died a week after the party. On her sister Louise’s 91st birthday, which is what we all expected. Chris was with her, and said it was the longest 5 seconds of his life.

The last week was much harder. She was in and out. She was confused about what hospice was doing, and thought they had something to help her go. Chris had to tell her she had to do that part on her own.

I felt more empty than sad. But I also felt like it went as well as it could have, relieved that she was still in her home, until the very end.


Chris called Steve and asked if he would do the eulogy. Steve was hesitant and I didn’t understand why. He’s an accomplished public speaker, and this is his role in the family. I said I would help him, that we could do it together.

Later in the week, it was clear that Steve would have a harder time than I expected, though I think he knew, which is why he was hesitant in the first place. I said I could do it…it was in my wheelhouse, I think Pat would be ok with it.

Chris was ok with it too, though I worried that some would wonder why it was me, a niece-by-marriage, jumping into a place that wasn’t mine.

I spent two days writing five minutes of memories. Her joys, Louise, her brothers, her nieces and nephews, her husband, her sons, her cabin. The bear story. And what she found at the end.

“She was at peace with what was behind her, and before her. In her final weeks she was able to give so much love, and in turn, receive our love, and use it for her journey ahead.

Pat showed us that no matter where we are in our own journey, and what preceded this moment, there is always a time and place for discovery, love, joy, and little fun, and especially–most importantly–family.”

I made copies for my father-in-law Vince, who doesn’t hear well, and I wanted him to be able to read along.

It was my gift to her, and to Steve, and Chris and Vince, and the family.


The church was bigger, more beautiful and light-filled than I remembered. Kathy was practicing her singing, and she belonged here. I was in unfamiliar territory.

I walked to the back, circled the lectern, with its giant ceramic bible. I gathered myself. They told me they were changing things, and I would go first, rather than last after communion and Kathy’s song. That was good news, but so soon? Really, so soon?

I saw Steve with the pall bearers. I saw Chris and Christine. I couldn’t talk to him. I just had to stay within myself, so I could do my job. I sat alone on the side, reviewing my lines, imagining Pat chiding me “C’mon Kim, you can do this, you love this stuff.” In my imagination she even winked at me, as she did when we were sharing an across-the-table secret.

Kathy whispered, “You’re talking to Pat, just remember you’re talking directly to her.”

They brought in the casket and I could barely look at it. Steve and I hugged. I could barely look at him, either.

And then it was my turn. The priest introduced me as her niece. Not her niece-by-marriage, but her niece.

My hands shook, but I think my voice was steady. I spoke slowly, and was able to share what I intended. I could hear a few laughs, a few sniffles.

“Pat cherished the stories of our lives, and loved giving us a place to make and share them with each other.”

Steve and I held hands, so tightly, during the mass. We approached communion with our arms crossed over our chest, so we could receive the blessing. Gary had the wine, and I tried to stay with his eyes, and remember this.

Kathy sang. We all cried. I heard Steve sob twice. I saw Vince bent over in grief. In the past two months he has buried his brother and his sister, and we can feel his sorrow.

And then they brought out the incense and the ball swinging over her casket, smoke surrounding her. I thought, “Well, look at you Pat, all of your fancy Catholic stuff…you got it all.” I may have winked.

Steve joined the other pall bearers…his cousins, they have done it so often. For their grandmother, their cousin, Carl, their Uncle Frank, and others. I didn’t watch as they took the casket out of the church.

We followed the hearse up to the cemetery. It was a slow drive. How can it be so slow?

I felt disconnected from the casket and still couldn’t imagine her in there. The cousins stood together, as they removed their boutonnieres and gloves, and placed them on her casket. The man from the mortuary brought us each a flower. We stood in line, everyone in black, sunglasses, flowers in hand…placed them in a row on her casket.

I kissed my hand and touched her. I took an extra second.

One more prayer, then the workers lowered her down. It wasn’t lovely, it was just a job to be done. One of them wore his sunglasses backwards on his head. They do this every day.

Behind us was the grave of her son. Carl B, 1995. I remember how much my heart hurt the day we buried him. Some began walking up the hill, towards his grave. It looked like a movie.

We stood in a circle around him. Chris took off his glasses, and said to us, “I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I feel really lucky right now.”

I think Pat would have loved that we took time for Carl B.

Back at her house, Russ and Cindy opened the wine. Steve and Kathy stayed together in her bedroom. The garland I made for her birthday was still there, I could see the strings of the glue gun hanging like a thread.

His family thanked me for what I did. I told them I was honored. And I was.

And then it was over.


We went to Vince and Adeline’s house, and changed our clothes. We were exhausted, sitting in the living room. We could barely talk…just alone with our thoughts. We heard Adeline fumbling with the phone…returning a doctor’s call. Then we heard her say, “A mass or a tumor, which is it?”

And it starts again.


June, 2015

It’s been a year. My mother-in-law, Adeline became a three-time cancer survivor, but Cindy just finished chemo. We lost Dennis. Kathy lost her mother-in-law, also named Pat. Alex went to Amsterdam, Kate got engaged, Kathy’s grandson, Luke, turned one. Avery and Zeal are bigger. Her house has a new family. Life goes on. But I still have our “selfies” in my phone and they still make my heart break a little, before I remember to laugh.

steve’s project 360

When I do a Project 365, it means I am committing to taking a photo a day for 365 days. Steve’s version is to ride his bike 200 miles in one day. He did, and it’s kind of a big deal, so this is where I brag on him.


Steve’s been cycling for about 30 years, with a few breaks for golf and softball coaching. In his past body, riding a century was what he did for fun and didn’t take a ton of prep work. But his body is creeping up on 60 years and while it’s still fun, these days big challenges require some additional planning and maintenance. A few years ago he started riding regularly, and last year he finally bought a new bike. The bike doesn’t have a name, but it lives inside our house and has never seen a garage.

Steve, Dick, Dave and Mark ride together weekly, and a a few weeks ago they rode the Chico Wildcat 125, which is an intense version of Chico’s Wildflower Century. 125 miles, 7000 feet of climbing, one very long day. Afterwards, Steve said he was glad he did it, but wouldn’t be doing it again, because it wasn’t fun. (Dick, who he has been riding with for 20 years, is out of town, and missed the shenanigans.)

Except he was in pretty good shape, and the Davis Double Century was just around the corner. Literally. He was a little under prepared, but spent a day on his bike alone (or as he said, with Steve A and Steve B for company) for 6 hours, to see how it felt. I encouraged him, because if your husband wants to do something silly, it really is beneficial to all of us to have him ride a bike. He looks great and is grateful and happy…so we all win.

Steve convinced himself that 200 miles in one day, with 7,000 feet of climbing is actually easier than 125 miles and 7k feet. That kind of thinking is why women are able to have more than one baby.

And because these guys are special, they were able to choose their own numbers. Steve took 360. This is the third time he’s done this ride (last time was 1996) and he’s turning 60. Plus full circle, the ride is a loop, all that.

He counted his carbs. He bought the brightest light possible (they were starting at 4:30 am), new shorts, and tested a bunch of power packet stuff. He putzed and futzed and rode as much as he could.  He was nervous, but he also knew that just the attempt was honorable.

And they did it! 12 hours, 200 miles, 7,000 feet of climbing and one hell of an accomplishment. Not bad for the old guys.

They look pretty amazing to me.

4:30 am

4:30 am

Capay Valley, photo by Deb Ford. Steve is fourth.

Capay Valley, photo by Deb Ford. Steve is fourth.

Lunch stop, mile 105. I was just finishing my couples massage with Alex.

Lunch stop, mile 105. I was just finishing my couples massage with Alex.

The text that accompanied this one said "Top of Resurrection, Mile 160 Baby, everything hurts.

The text that accompanied this one said “Top of Resurrection, Mile 160. Baby, everything hurts.”

Text reads: "Got in at 7:30 exactly, we crossed the finish line together!"

Text reads: “Got in at 7:30 exactly, we crossed the finish line together!”

In the aftermath, he napped and ate and took plenty of Advil. He was a little spacey, but I think he’s back to normal. I’m super happy for him, proud and impressed. Also, kind of excited that the backyard may get trimmed up this weekend!