pegkerr: (Both the sweet and the bitter)
I usually post these promptly, but I'm over a month late. We had a lovely Christmas, something we were rather worried about. Our family breakfast on Christmas morning was the heart of our Christmas every year, and the girls and I wondered what it would be like without Rob. We wanted to keep our precious ritual, but we wondered whether it would be possible to find any joy in it with an empty place at the table. We solved this by moving the breakfast to the new coffee table in the living room, where we lit Rob's memorial candle. To our relief, the breakfast gave us comfort rather than pain.

Here are a few pictures:









pegkerr: (candle)
Today is the anniversary of the awful day that Rob and I learned that the suspicious PET scan he had recently received was not lymphoma coming out of remission, it was leukemia (caused by the first chemotherapy he'd received) that would go on to kill him a little less than three months later.

It is Samhain, the day when the souls of the dead are said to approach as close as they ever do to the living, Halloween, the day before All Soul's Day.

It seemed to be an auspicious day to do a Tarot reading, and given the day, the anniversary, and the fact that I most usually use my Harry Potter tarot deck, it seemed right to find a Deathly Hallows Spread. I found one quickly:


1 2 3



1: The Elder Wand - something that is both winning and losing
2: The Resurrection Stone - what has been lost and will not, cannot, come back
3: The Invisibility Cloak - what you've come to accept

Here is the Tale of the Three Brothers and the Deathly Hallows:



I drew three cards. All three were reversed. I thought about the reversals, but the reading seemed clearer if I just ignored them.

1: The King of Cups



The King of Cups. The book about the Harry Potter tarot says this can be the archetype of the injured King, the man who fell into guilt and learned wisdom through pain and suffering.

Well, I don't know about guilt, but this card to me is plainly Rob. Cups are water. Rob was born in November, and that is under Scorpio, which is a water sign. Wounded, pain and suffering: check. He won because he defeated lymphoma, but he lost, defeated by leukemia. And I lost him. Cups seems right, as he is right at the center of my grief (emotion, love).

Edited to add: I've thought more about why Rob's card would be in this position, the Elder Wand position. The fact is, when it came to fighting cancer, Rob thought he was undefeatable. And for a while, it looked as though he was right. He went through four or five chemos, radiation, four surgeries, immunotherapy. He beat the odds to an extent that it astonished his doctors and his--arrogance, I guess, that he would always beat them almost irritated me. At one point, I asked him how long he thought he would live with lymphoma. "Oh, fifteen to twenty years, I guess." Eyebrows raised, I asked the doctor. "I met you a year ago," the doctor said, "and in that year, eighty percent of my patients with your diagnosis have died."

Like the eldest brother in the tale, Rob was undefeated. He beat lymphoma; he was lymphoma-free when he died. But he was taken out by a stealth opponent, who betrayed him, arising directly as a result of his chemotherapy.

He fought cancer for four and a half years, but I think he only really understood he was going to die when the doctor told him so the day before. Like the eldest brother in the tale, Rob died in his sleep, rousing only the last few seconds before his breath stopped to see me and Fiona, keeping watch over him.

2: 6 of Cups - Happiness



What has been lost and will not, cannot, come back? Well, the thought that happiness is lost and never coming back — isn't that a kick in the teeth. Yet, yes, the happiness I had being married to him is over. That is what grief is about. Note that this card specifically references Felix Felices. We always said that Rob was lucky in his fight with cancer...until he ran out of luck.

Another tarot book talked a bit about how this card (if you ignore the reversal) is about the past, previously, formerly. Memories. Thoughts of past loves. Faded, vanished. Longing, yearning. Traumas, mistakes.

As I enter this season of the anniversaries leading up to Rob's death, this also feels right. This feels like I'm looking back at those painful points (Halloween when we learned of the leukemia, Thanksgiving, when he entered the hospital for the last time, Christmas, when we were so sad to be apart, and the end of January, when he died).

Edited to add: After thinking about it, I realized: Harry used up the Felix Felices (gone, never to come back) to appeal to Slughorn on behalf of his mother (gone, never to come back) in order to get a truth he needed. An interesting play off the concept of memory/nostalgia incorporated in the card.

Thinking some more about why this card is in the Resurrection Stone position. The second brother in the story could not stop looking backward toward his lost love (nostalgia), feeling that all his hopes of happiness were tied to her. But she was gone, and the knowledge destroyed him. This card is a warning, like the warning that Dumbledore gave Harry when he was spending too much time gazing into the Mirror of Erised at his lost family: "It does not do to dwell in dreams, Harry, and forget to live."

3: Princess of Disks



This card, I'm pretty sure, is me. Luna is a character we meet in the aftermath of grief. The book says,
"Love, warmth, protection, being in tune with nature, being at rest with oneself, caring, growth.

The Princess of Earth (Disks)
[I was born in April, under the sign of Taurus, which is an Earth sign] is a somewhat shy but very creative and warm-hearted young woman. She is trusting and open to new ideas and willing to follow through on her plans, no matter what. She is reliable, kind, and in tune with the cycles of nature within herself and within the world around her. Her insights are powerful, not necessarily at a superficial intellectual level, but because they express a deeper sense of truth....while her unshakeable belief of nargles and blibbering humdingers exposes her to the ridicule of her fellow students, it expresses a deeper truth: that this world is full of magic and surprises, if only we open our eyes and believe. She also acknowledges that sometimes knowledge is only achieved through pain. She can see and befriend thestrals because of the death of her mother."
Yes. I can see thestrals now. And yes, I think my pain and my grief has led to a lot of growth in the last year. I would hope I am reliable and kind. I would be honored to be like Luna in these ways.

I've created a Widow's music playlist. Many of the songs explore the myriad aspects of grief. I like playlists that follow a narrative arc: the beginnings songs focus on widows who want nothing more than to follow the beloved into death (the first song on the list is "I Am Stretched on Your Grave") and the last one that closes it out is a song that is suggestive of the sort of wisdom that Luna has mastered, understanding death as she does. (One my Harry Potter fanfiction stories puts it this way: "Because you know death...Because you've faced it and fought it and feared it and denied it and accepted it and you understand it, as much as anyone still living still can.")

Danny Gokey
"Tell Your Heart To Beat Again"

You're shattered
Like you've never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you're never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again

Beginning
Just let that word wash over you
It's alright now
Love's healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
Cause your story's far from over
And your journey's just begun

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again

Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far
'Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven's working
Everything for your good

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again
Your heart to beat again
Beat again

Oh, so tell your heart to beat again
pegkerr: (I need hardly add that I have rarely bee)
Today, I threw away the turkey dinner in the freezer.

We got our Thanksgiving dinner for four years from Open Arms of Minnesota, a service which offers free food to families dealing with life-threatening illness. They offer their clients a full Thanksgiving dinner each year. You can choose whether to have it delivered fully cooked or frozen so you can cook it yourself.

Rob's family, knowing he was gravely ill, had flown in from all over the country to see him. Our plan was to spend Thanksgiving dinner at his brother's and to cook the dinner Open Arms had given to us sometime later, just for Rob, me and the girls. A nice celebratory dinner for just the four of us.

But on Thanksgiving Day, Rob woke up that morning with a fever of 103. I called his brother's, hoping that at least my girls could go over there while we were in the emergency room, so they could see their grandma who had flown in from California. Nope. One out of town relative who'd flown in had a terrible cold, and we couldn't risk the girls being exposed to something they could give their daddy.

So I arranged for the girls to go spend Thanksgiving at my sister's celebration instead, and then took Rob to the Emergency Room. We spent the entire sad day in the ER, getting hungrier and hungrier (all the restaurants around the hospital were closed by the holiday), tormented by the pictures of the family gatherings and feasts that our families texted to us.

Rob was admitted to the hospital hours later. His mom and brother delivered Thanksgiving leftovers to him later that evening.

He never went home again.

That frozen turkey and pumpkin pie and all the rest of the fixings have sat in my freezer ever since. At first, when we hoped he would be home soon, we thought, "We can cook it for Christmas." When he died in January, I thought, well, I'd get around to cooking it eventually. It'll keep okay in the freezer. Even though my girls were gone, Fiona to a new apartment, and Delia back to college. Fiona said she'd take it and cook it for her roommates, but every time I asked her about it, she put me off. Too busy. About to move.

Finally, I took everything out of the freezer tonight and threw it out, because I just couldn't bear to look at it any longer. And I cried my eyes out for about a half hour. All that kindness, all that hope, all that celebration, all that tradition. Gone into the garbage, leaving just me, alone and with a broken heart behind.
pegkerr: (Rob's last)
This is such a typical picture of Rob: He's sitting at our dining room table reading something, with a daughter on his lap.


A girl sits on a man's lap at a table. Both are looking at a card the man holds.

Specifically, it's Father's Day ten years ago: June 15, 2008. So it's a Father's Day card he's reading, and he's proudly wearing a shirt that the girls colored for him with fabric markers. The shirt reads "Dads Make the World Go Round."

Of course, he kept the shirt. He wore it often. Of course, I still have it, frayed around the collar.

A t-shirt on a bed. The lettering reads "Dads Make the World Go Round."

Today is Father's Day, ten years later.

I think of the shirts you see sometimes for sale at resorts: "My Dad [or my parents] went to ______ and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

My children's father is gone. Not to Vegas, not to Harry Potter's World at Universal Studios, not to New York City.

He's just gone.

And all I have (apologies to the girls, who so lovingly colored it) is this lousy t-shirt.
pegkerr: (Default)
Everyone's home for the holidays

IMG_2257.jpg

I have my Christmas manicure, so I'm ready

IMG_2258.jpg

Stockings!

IMG_2264.jpg

Breakfast preparation! Here is our Christmas star, uncooked:

IMG_2267.jpg

And golden brown, hot out of the oven:

IMG_2268.jpg

The table is set with yummy things
IMG_2269.jpg

Rob and the girls

IMG_2270.jpg

Me and the girls
IMG_2273.jpg

My place setting:
IMG_2275.jpg

Delia:
IMG_2277.jpg

Fiona, rejoicing as she does every year when Delia gives her extra pastry stars to eat:
IMG_2280.jpg

Rob enjoys his breakfast:
IMG_2281.jpg

For the fifth year in a row, I am the only one in the entire house awake during Christmas afternoon
IMG_2285.jpg

Merry Christmas from us all!
pegkerr: (Default)
Snapchat just received. At first I couldn't figure out WHAT was on her head. And then I realized: it's probably the only candle in her apartment. Love and lussekatter to you all.

IMG_2179.PNG

Edited to add: This was my reply:

IMG_2182.PNG
pegkerr: (Default)
Week 20: Twelfth
Once again, we gather around the table to celebrate the end of Christmas.

Week 20 Twelfth

Yes, yes, this card should be named 'Twelfth Night' But I am limiting my card titles to one word. Not quite satisfactory, but I couldn't find a one word that would substitute (unlike finding "Hogmanay" as a substitution for "New Year's Eve.")
Again, this card was an experiment with different media. The table cloth and napkins are tissue paper, the forks are cut from aluminum foil. And the plates are from the foil wrapped around the Hershey's Kisses we had inside the miniature stockings.
We did indeed manage to gather around the table this year, although it was a Twelfth Night dinner this time rather than breakfast. That's just the way the schedules worked out.

Week 21: Severus
He was the bravest man I ever knew.

Week 21 Severus

This was the week that Alan Rickman died, and I made this card in honor of him and in honor of one of my favorite of his performances. Once I started thinking about Severus, I started making connections between his situation and mine (and not all of them are flattering, to say the least). This gets into personal stuff, so Elinor Dashwood will leave it there for now.
It was the last day of the previous week, January 9, that was Severus Snape's birthday. Rowling deliberately chose that day because it was the feast for the Roman God Janus, the two-headed god who guarded doorways, looking both into the past and into the future. An extremely appropriate choice for the ambiguous Severus Snape's birthday, and an appropriate thing for me to ponder, as I think about my career--where it has been as well as where it is going.

Week 22: iPod
I lost my iPod in the snow and felt helpless without it.

Week 22 iPod

At least by process of elimination, that's where I figured it wound up. I never got it back. I held out a week, gritting my teeth, and then I bought a replacement. Screw the fact that I am unemployed. I need one to organize my life.

Annoyingly, I found out when I upgraded to the next model, that I can't synch it on my iMac. The software on my desktop Apple is too old. Planned obsolescence is pretty damned annoying.

Week 23: Three
There are three things I do to help myself.

Week 23 Three

This was a tough week. Again, Elinor Dashwood will not provide many details. The three stones represent three stepping stones, the sort to keep you above the water you would drown in otherwise (I tried and tried to find an image of three stepping stones, but for a variety of reasons, what I found just didn't work. So I used an image of stacked stones). The stones represent three things I do throughout the week for self-care. The stones are carried by a manatee, and if you haven't found the site Calming Manatee, really, what are you waiting for?

I know what the next card is (Card 24) and I worked on it today, but I had tremendous trouble with figuring out the right fixative to use. I had an image with words superimposed over it. I printed the words on waxed paper, but every fixative I used just smeared or blurred the words. I have an idea for how to fix the problem, but it involves a trip to the store. So I started working on the next card (Card 25), and finished it, too. I worked on the cards OUT OF ORDER! I felt SO GUILTY! And I will not scan and show this past week's card until I finish the card for the week before.

This means we are almost halfway through the year! (It also means it's been half a year since I've had a job--groan). [livejournal.com profile] minnehaha K. impishly suggested that we could swap decks and I would do the rest of hers and she would do the rest of mine. I firmly vetoed this idea. But then she made the clever suggestion that we would each do the jokers of the other person's deck, one at Week 26 and one at the end. Which I think is a really cool idea.
pegkerr: (Default)
Week 17: Biopsy
After the second of two biopsies, Rob hovers at the brink of awakening.

Week 17 Biopsy

I took a picture of Rob right right before he awoke from the anesthesia, after a double bone marrow biopsy. Something about his posture, the angle of his face, the lighting (and the suffering of which he never complains)...something made me think of religious iconography. (Which would certainly bemuse Rob, as he is an agnostic.) A saint in a religious trance or something. Religious ecstacy.

That impression and that word, 'ecstacy' triggered a memory of an image I'd had stashed in my soulcollaging cache of images, "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa," a central sculptural group in white marble set in an elevated aedicule in the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome (google it to see). I flipped that image and scaled Rob's down to fit in with it. Note the angel holds an arrow, indicative of the sharp point just used to do the biopsy. It pleases me that the arrow is pointed at the site of the cancer.

Week 18: Yule
Light a candle, sing a song.

Week 18 Yule

There is a Peter Mayer song about the winter solstice called "The Longest Night." Here are the lyrics )

I've always loved that song, especially given that I'm vulnerable to Seasonal Affective Disorder. This card is trying to juxtapose the thoughts of this song with Christmas (the wreath) and Solstice (the diamond candle), which fell during the same week. "Yule" is a concept that would encompass both of them.

Although I like the concept, the card just didn't turn out to have as much impact as I'd hoped. Just not vivid enough or something.

Week 19: Hogmanay
The year comes to an end.

Week 19 Hogmanay

THIS card, on the other hand, turned out SPLENDIDLY. I had a great deal of difficulty, however, managing a decent scan of the card, because it is difficult for scans to capture the way it glitters. It's much more scintillatingly impressive when you hold it in your hand than I can convey here. "Hogmanay" is an old Scottish word referring to New Year's Eve (and I resorted to it because I'm limiting the titles of these cards to one word, and "Newyear' just didn't look right to me). The monks are a reference to the poem I wrote and posted earlier about our trip to Mayo Clinic the day before New Year's Eve, and the silver light and the glittering spindrift was made from nail polish. The very same nail polish, as a matter of fact, that I used in my New Year's Eve manicure. I think they captured the sense of the 'icy spindrift' (and the cones of silver light) extremely well!

And the Chinese fortune was from the fortune cookie I opened on New Year's Eve. My family has been gathering together and eating Chinese every single New Year's Eve for years. Perhaps this fortune was a wry commentary on the job hunting process.
pegkerr: (Default)
My sentiment about 2015 is pretty well summed up by [livejournal.com profile] alfreda89 on Facebook:
I just brought three kinds of salt to the crossroads. Judith Tarr brought flamethrowers and stakes. Somebody has a machete.

A bunch of us are making sure 2015 *never* rises again."
I hope 2016 goes better. Here's my New Year's manicure to start it off right:


pegkerr: (Glory and Trumpets)
After YEARS of searching, I have finally, finally found a menu for Christmas morning that EVERYONE likes all the components.

Christmas breakfast 2015

This was a new experiment this year: a 'snowflake' made of puff pastry layered with Nutella. (The gold-rimmed plate it is resting on is from a set that belonged to my great grandmother).

Nutella Snowflake Christmas 2015

Fiona tackles her favorite part of the breakfast, the pastry stars that go with the fruit.

Fiona pastry star Christmas breakfast 2015

Then we made these rolls, which are crescent roll dough, rolled up with raspberry jam, ham and swiss cheese and cut into spirals.

Delia Christmas breakfast 2015

Peg Christmas breakfast 2015


Gifts were wonderful. Everything was wonderful. Our Christmas Eve dinner last night with guests was wonderful. A very satisfactory holiday.

Christmas 2015


Merry Christmas from our household to yours!

Christmas breakfast 2015
pegkerr: (Default)
Week 13: Networking
Over coffee, we meet to build connections (and maybe help me find a job).

Week 13 Networking

I had six networking meetings that week, all in coffeeshops, I think. The background of the card is latte art. I cribbed the rest from business cards exchanged that week. The LinkedIn Profile QR code is mine. I have been uncertain about what business title I'm applying for, so I had cards made up in two styles, one saying "Marketing Specialist" and one saying "Wordsmith." The stylized typewriter in the upper right of the card is the graphic I created for my card. The other logos are the business logos of some of the people I met during the week.

Week 14: Thanksgiving
We gather together to give thanks and to enjoy good food and each other's company.

Week 14 Thanksgiving

The pictures on this card were cannibalized from an old Pillsbury Thanksgiving cookbook I had been keeping around. On Thanksgiving day, we went to family gatherings at both Rob's brother Lance's house and my sister Betsy's house. And then, since we had been given the ingredients for a Thanksgiving dinner by Open Arms of Minnesota, we cooked our own turkey and had yet another Thanksgiving feast on Saturday night, just Rob and me and the girls. That meant we had leftover turkey for the first time in years.

The Thanksgiving card finished the Autumn cycle (the first card I made, Smithereens, was the last card for summer. I have now picked out the paper for the backs of the cards. Here is Summer:

Summer

And here is Autumn:

Autumn

The paper for Winter and Spring are the same pattern, except that Winter is white with gold accents and Spring is green with gold accents.
pegkerr: (Default)
I have many reasons to be grateful. One is that these two beautiful girls are home from college for the weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving from our household to yours.

Fiona and Delia Thanksgiving November 26 2015
pegkerr: (Default)
In honor of my dad, Allen Kerr, who served in the United States Navy:

2_A_Kerr003
Mom and Dad, wedding day

Today is Veteran's Day (I'm sneaking this under the wire) and Friday would have been his birthday. So I post these two pictures from another occasion, his wedding day with my mother, as they're the only pictures I have right at hand of him wearing his uniform.
pegkerr: (Default)
Fiona has a work shift and wants to get back to her apartment, so we held our 12th night celebration today, a few days early.

On the menu was sweet rolls, bacon, fruit salad and cocoa:

Sweet rolls

twelfth night table 2

Twelfth night table

twelfth night gifts

More pictures behind the cut )

Happy Twelfth Night (early) to you and yours:

Family 12th night
pegkerr: (All we have to decide is what to do with)
We have been visiting with family this week, but I wanted to get pictures up of our Christmas morning breakfast.

The menu included chocolate eggnog bread pudding,

Chocolate bread pudding

bacon, and fruit with pastry stars:

bowl of stars

Here's what it looked like, all put together:

the meal

Family gathering

More pictures under the cut )

All done
pegkerr: (Default)
Fiona was over last night to make the Lussekatter! We also put up our new (artificial) Christmas tree, which looks lovely.

IMG_0881_2

Lussekatter and cocoa for breakfast. Mmm....
pegkerr: (Default)
It is really an advent carol, but almost entirely unknown, I think. About its origins Mudcat.org says:
John Taylor, Postbridge aged 85, Tune not recorded in Killerton Ms but can be found in the Rough Ms. Baring-Gould gives a second version which he says is closer to the broadside ballad.
K3 p297
from Sabine Baring-Gould and the folk songs of South-West England


The gorgeous version I have is by Jennifer Cutting's Ocean Orchestra (here you can hear small sample).

I found another artist who put the whole song online, giving it a different title.



Here are the lyrics of the version I know )

Advent

Dec. 1st, 2014 06:10 pm
pegkerr: (A light in dark places ice candle)
Some things just must continue. Despite the cancer, despite the girls being off at college.

Advent 2014

No matter what.
pegkerr: (Default)
From our home (with a very low table) to yours.

Happy Valentine's Day!
pegkerr: (Default)
As longtime readers of my online journal now, the happy custom we've created for our family is that after Christmas, I shop the 75% Christmas sales and then use them to stuff the miniature stockings I have on the table for our Twelfth Night celebration. Usually, we have this as a breakfast. Today, we did it as an afternoon snack: the girls and I had the day off school and work because of the weather, and Rob got up early to go to work.

Twelfth night 2013

Twelfth night table

Happy Twelfth night

Twelfth night snowmen

We had [livejournal.com profile] aome's Gingerbread Scones:

Mmm, scones

Happy Twelfth Night!

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