Booth for One – CHAPTER TWO

Hello, loyal readers. I’m back. 🙂

There’s so much to say. So much to share. Many of my followers are also my Facebook friends, so there won’t be many surprises here as I’ve been regularly posting on Facebook.

Throughout that time, I realized that I needed to take my pain and my challenges off Facebook and move them to a bit of a more remote spot. My FB audience and my blog audience are two different intended recipients.

For those Facebook friends, I apologize as most likely, the next few posts are going to be a repeat for you. But it’s important to my walk through this life that I recount it in my way. I’m hoping it will help me continue to process.

Because I’m not okay.

I know it’s OKAY to not be okay. I know that. But I’m really not okay. I’m overwhelmingly sad and my grief actually seems to be intensifying. I’ve lost touch with the widow blogs I follow, and need to get back to them because they TRULY are such a valuable resource. I hope to become that resource one day as well. I hate that I will need to, but I hope I’m doing this right. Because if future widows are anything like me, reading a real and raw and honest story from someone who has been there themselves, might save their lives.

Chapter Two is my Life in the Dominican Republic.

Alone for the first time in my life, DR for the first time in my life, and a WHOLE 180 from anything I was living just a few months ago. I am working on writing this out in a way that makes sense; the things that have happened that have led me to where I am today – physically, mentally, emotionally, geographically, and spiritually. There is a lot of humor in my tales, that’s for sure. But it’s not all funny. Just as always, it’s going to be a bipolar swing of writing styles and moods because I write true to myself in that moment. And always, when things are funny, I turn to tell him and he’s not there. When there’s overwhelming sadness, pain, and loneliness, I turn to him for comfort and he’s not there. It’s not for lack of company. It’s him I miss.

We used to talk and half-joke that for both of our sakes, he had better die first. We both thought if I were to die and he were left alone, he would crumble into a tiny ball. Maybe even end his life. Man, how wrong we were. I think back to very trying times; the loss of his mother and my father, the loss of countless loved pets. And in those moments, he made me proud with this strength. When the chips were down, when there was conflict or disagreements, when someone needed a hand, this unassuming gentle guy became a force to be reckoned with. He had a beautiful talent for being strong and converting into a mountain when a mountain was needed.

And I gotta tell you, I think he would have handled losing me better than I have handled losing him. Gone is the strong bad-ass woman who could overcome anything.  Recently some memories came up on FB that took me back to a time when I really liked who I was. I looked at those memories and thought, man that was my time. I felt alive and fulfilled. And I was killing myself.  I remember coming home from that trip and throwing up for two days because I was exhausted. And he was there. And when I said I was going again 10 days later, he didn’t flinch. He knew it was what I had to do.

Looking at those memories made me proud and sad at once. All of a sudden I feel like an old woman looking back on a younger stronger me. But the memories were only 2 years ago. And it reminded me. That Lisa died. She’s in the urn with him. And I miss her. I miss her because she would have handled this better in some way or been stronger. I think she would have made him proud.

Until next blog very soon, thanks for reading. I hope you come back.


~ Lisa


Shine on

Today was a big deal and a big step for me.

Anyone who worked with Michael or who saw Michael coming or going from work knows that he had some beautiful dress clothes. I dressed him well. ❤ He always liked to look his best and he wore a shirt and tie to work every single day, even if it wasn’t required.

While I won’t part with his infamous tie collection, I decided it was time to part with his work clothes so that they could be worn by others.

Hanger by hanger I went, taking the clothes off the hangers – but before I folded them for the donation box, I inserted these into every pocket. Every suit coat, every shirt pocket, every pair of dress pants. For those who weren’t at his memorial service, these were handed out. Well, I should say they were available and hardly anyone took them 😦 so I was left with a lot. And now, the next person who wears these clothes will know they were donated by a wonderful man. Maybe they’ll plant the seeds in his honor.


I only kept a few of his clothes. Got rid of all of his winter coats, and even the suit he wore at our wedding. I don’t have a use for them anymore. And I know that if they help even one person get a job or have the confidence they need to change their day, then it was worth parting with them.

The winds of change continue to blow my direction and they’re getting stronger and stronger. I’ll have more news to share soon. For today, I wanted to celebrate this tough step and pat myself on the back. This wasn’t easy. And I got through it. ❤




Greetings, friends 🙂

I haven’t written much. Been in a funk of epic proportions. Been going through some stuff at home, stuff with my health, stuff in my mind, stuff in my heart. Going through the motions, attending appointments, and adulting as best as I can. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But I’m considering every sun that sets a victory.

So, what can I update you on. I guess I’ll start with my health. Neuro appointment today. She doesn’t think it’s MS but won’t rule it out. My MRI shows significant degeneration in my mid spine. I also have a new diagnosis of carpal tunnel and a new diagnosis of small fiber neuropathy. Both are caused by the RA and both are painful and difficult to deal with. Basically, it feels like my nerves and my bones are collapsing little by little. My RA is unchanged. I’m still not on Xeljanz because of nightmare-y insurance issues. I’m trying to navigate new insurance that is provided by the State of MN or Hennepin County or something. I really don’t understand it all. It’s like reading a foreign language and I don’t know which way is up. This is a combination of widow’s fog and whatever neuro condition is happening. My short-term memory is fried and my cognitive skills are fried. Anyway, I have insurance but I don’t understand it, so it appears I’m the holdup with the correct drugs getting into my hands.

In life news: I lost my small claims suit, so MBB Construction essentially got away with ruining my floors, my life, and my bank account during a time when I was losing the love of my life. C’est la vie. I’ve let it go.

I’ve been doing lots and lots of serious thinking about my path, my life, my future, my truths, myself. This tsunami is far from over, and it’s been an immensely painful experience so far. But I can say this: I have an inner peace that is untouchable. I also have knowledge that I wish I didn’t have about relationships and people in my life, but they are still truths. I know SO MUCH truth. I live in truth, I speak the truth, and I am not afraid of any truth. Nothing can hurt me any more. You can’t break what’s already broken. This new truth and knowledge for me, represents pain and freedom all at once. And it all comes back to this. Words mean nothing. Actions speak everything.

When people SHOW you who they are or what they care about, believe them. 

There will be some significant changes in my life very soon. I’m reaching a crossroads and I’m getting signs from something bigger than myself. I had been ignoring those signs or reasoning them away, but I can no longer ignore them. The winds of change are swirling, and Michael is behind them. I hear him and I feel him. And I know I’m headed in the right direction.

Which brings me to the theme of my life right now. I found it as a meme, and loved it so much I wrote it on my mirror.


I guess that’s the slow change I’m feeling. Aspiring. To anything. I used to just hope I’d make it through the day without killing myself. Now, I am looking at the life in front of me as though it may actually happen. It’s not a life I wanted, never a life I would have chosen. But it’s the life that’s been handed to me. I’m feeling some fight come back. I’m starting to care. I’m redefining what I want. And most of all, at the very front of my mind and my heart is my HUSBAND. Michael is HERE. With me. Guiding me, steering, gently nudging me towards some things and away from others. Towards some people and away from others. He’s become by conscience, my compass, my guiding star. And I KNOW that if nothing else, as of this very moment he is proud of me. I’ll keep living my life to make him proud until I find my own motivation. For now, that’s enough to keep me looking forward in his name.

I’ll make him proud. ❤


~ Lisa

PS – here are the puppies of Michael’s litter! Seven puppies keeping things VERY busy at the casa:


Josie, the puppy’s mom, is after Michael’s middle name Joseph. ❤

PTSD 101

PTSD is most often associated with those who have seen battle and war. But it’s a very real condition that anyone can experience after a traumatic event.

My PTSD started almost immediately after Michael passed away. My mind was flooded with images of my father and Michael in their worst dying times. My heart was overflowing with what if’s and omg when I rolled him over did I kill him and wondering if I did a good enough job caring for them. My mind raced all over the place, searching for things I didn’t say or didn’t do. Wondering if our last goodbyes were what they should have been (yes). Wondering if I helped them leave this life peacefully (I hope so). Wondering where they are. And when I would close my eyes, the haunting images and memories of very painful and difficult times overtook me. Then, the panic attacks started (first time in my life I’ve had panic attacks or anxiety). The middle of the night wake-ups to Michael screaming, even though he wasn’t there. Jolting up in bed because I think I hear him calling me. Reliving the horrific hell that was the last few weeks of Michael’s life. Images of my dad thrown into the mental slide show just for fun.

This ticker-tape slideshow runs constantly in my brain. Every time I close my eyes, the movie is playing. Even if I blink too long. The horror movie is always playing if I just pay attention.

My crazy energy is back, for now. I’m painting in the middle of the night again. PTSD. I have a hard time falling asleep unless I’m pretty medicated. I wake to horrific sounds, and then can’t sleep. Get up. Make coffee because why not. Paint. My hands can’t hold the paint brush for more than a few minutes, so I’m switching hands a lot. This woodwork is going to take me forever!

Here’s the bitch. Studies have shown that therapy and medications are the best treatments for PTSD, but nothing cures it. PTSD CHANGES your brain. First, the area of your brain that helps you make decisions, the pre-frontal cortex, is altered in people with PTSD. It’s the part of your brain that calms you down when you realize you aren’t in danger.  Cognitive therapy can teach me how to put those memories away and find a mental place for them, but I personally believe I need to experience this in order to move past it. I know I’ll never forget, nor do I want to. But I DO want to get to the happy memories and move past the pain that we all endured.

Secondly, the part of your brain that alerts you to danger, the amygdala, triggers the “fight or flight” response and is there to ensure survival.  Those with PTSD tend to have an overactive response, making it hard to think rationally.

And finally, the part of your brain that regulates memories, the hippocampus, is working to remember the event accurately and make sense of it. People with PTSD often times find they cannot stop thinking about the traumatic event because they cannot make it make sense. It’s an involuntary obsession that you can’t stop.

I think it’s important to acknowledge this component during my journey. I think people use the term PTSD too lightly. It REALLY is a real condition. It’s MORE than having bad memories of an event or struggling with understanding something tragic. It’s more than “just” an emotional condition. It’s a mental AND physical manifestation of pain and trauma that’s so unbearable, that your brain changes to help you accommodate it all. And it’s lasting. It’s not the sadness that comes after any loss. It has very little to do with Michael being gone, and everything to do with watching him and caring for him while he died. It’s deeper than grief. It’s the real deal.

And along with everything else, I take this one moment at a time. I’m doing the best I can, and that’s all I can do. I tell myself this every single day. ❤


~ Lisa

Health and Home

Hi friends 🙂

There’s a lot going on right now. We’ll start with my health.

Rheumatologist appointment on Tuesday and that was kinda bad news. My RA is not improving (which I knew), so now it’s time to add “biologic” drugs to my treatment. There are two to choose from, and they are running things by my insurance company because they are very expensive (the nurse told me as much as $3000/month?!?). But, if the insurance company doesn’t cover it, they have copay cards to give out. Both of these drugs are pretty hardcore with a horrifying list of side effects per usual, so that sucks.

Rheumatologist increased my poison pills to 7 a week instead of 6. So I took those tonight. I’m tolerating them pretty well. Some nausea and sickness sometimes, but overall not too bad.

Which drug will it be? Both of them have several-page pamphlets filled with medical jargon and warnings… Hmmmm…..

I’m also still experiencing a wide range of neurological symptoms so I’m seeing a neurologist in a couple of weeks (first available appt).

And through it all, I’m reminded that all of this is grief. Losing Michael. Some people die of a broken heart when their mate passes away. I guess the powers that be don’t think I deserve to have that peace yet. So, instead of dying of a broken heart, I’ll live with a broken heart and broken body. The stress of losing him was just too much for my system to bear. It had been pushing back these diseases when I was a stronger person, but the overwhelming loss and stress that came with saying goodbye to the love of my life finally broke the dam. Happily or sadly, depending on how you look at it, none of my conditions are life-threatening. Just life-sucking and life-ruining.

In other news, my daughter is moved in and settled. I’m making friends with her kitties. I’ve introduced Baby Faye and Cass to them and both dogs did GREAT meeting them. The cats aren’t so sure yet. I’ll post pics of my pups in a new post soon so that those of you who don’t know my dogs can meet them.

Charlie (orange) and Lucy

My sister is officially putting her house on the market this weekend and will be moving out to MN soon. She’s going through so many life changes and it’s understandably overwhelming for her at times. She’s lived in the same state all her life and she’s 9 yrs older than I am, so this is a big deal. It’s a big deal for her and for me.

Things are so, so different now. I think back and realize that in the span of a few months, my entire world has changed. Our home no longer feels like “our” home. In a FEW MONTHS, I’ve gone from a secure, very happily married woman with a partner and a plan and a home and life I loved and a successful rescue – to an overwhelmed widow with soon-to-be two new roommates, two cats, a house that’s completely changed, new health issues that are affecting me greatly, a rescue that is struggling to stay alive, a body that doesn’t work sometimes…just an entirely different life and big picture than it was a couple of seasons ago. How in the hell could ANYONE wrap their head around all this? My mental state is so out of whack.

Work in the house continues, depending on my motivation and ability to hold a paintbrush. Here’s a sneak peek! Our house has a TON of wood. Solid doors, window frames, door frames, banisters, ALL in that lovely 80’s Golden Oak I believe it’s called? Well, I’m taking it white and bright. I tried it with the matching stain, but it’s so much work and I’m not able to do all the sanding and prep work required for SO much staining. I kinda reluctantly decided to go white and quickly realized I freaking LOVE it. Here’s a sneak peek! Old door in the background, new door in progress in the foreground 🙂

door preview

I have SO many doors to do, both sides. the hallway is full of doors. The white is dramatically changing the look of things. It’ll take a bit of time. I’ve been low on motivation and kinda bored with this project so it’s taking longer than it should. It’s just WHITE paint. Boring. And it’s on doors so it needs to be perfect. It’s super easy for paint to pool in the panel insets and then it drips, no matter how careful you are. You have to catch drips and if you don’t, you have to sand them and paint over them again. You have to remove hardware or paint around it. I’ve been using a kids’ watercolor paint brush set for the details and edges. I tried a roller but it left roller marks; almost a “texture” to the door that I didn’t like, so brush it is. It’s a little labor intensive but man…it’s gorgeous when you see the whole picture with the paint and the floors.  Oh and for what it’s worth, for any DIY’er: SPEND THE MONEY for GOOD paint. I’ve been using Sherwin Williams which is super pricey, but it DOES make a difference. This particular paint is zero VOC so there’s NO paint smell, and it’s super thick for doors and cabinets. I also like Dutch Boy low VOC paint. But for projects where you need lasting results like doors, windows, baseboards, etc., Sherwin Williams. Spend the money. You’ll be glad you did, trust me on that.

Here’s another before and after. Golden Oak to White. Also, fresh (darker) grey paint on the walls.

blinds before

Another cool project I did was the banister and the handrail! I LOVE how it came out; do you? Buh-Bye, Golden Oak.

banister before

Other projects include my daughter’s apartment downstairs. I can’t show you the inside yet because she’s still unpacking, but I converted a mess of a basement into a really cute apartment for one. The front door was a fun project. Purple front doors rock. Note the doorbell and the “porch” light? I made the sign myself with separate components.

alyssa front door

So, this is how I spend my time when I need an outlet and when my hands and body allow. I get very cabin fever-y in the winters because I can’t get outside and spend time in the dirt, so I need some sort of creative outlet.

And yet at the end of the day, I sit and I see all the changes…and none of it matters, does it. All the work, all the colors, details, fine lines, accessories, special touches…in the end, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a way to pass time, really. A distraction. And I guess that’s okay too. Anything to get through each day. It’s truly, indescribably, unbelievably, seemingly insurmountable, ongoing horror. Each moment of each day. It’s a bad movie I can’t walk out of. A nightmare I can’t wake from. A reality I don’t think I’ve truly processed or accepted yet.

Lastly, a friend sent me this today. Please take 4 minutes and watch it. It’s so perfectly true. I remember when I first lost Michael. Everyone was saying all the things we say when someone passes away. Everyone was saying what we were all TAUGHT to say. And then, there was my girlfriend Lynn. And she was the true embodiment of this video. She literally just said “OMG Lisa your life fucking sucks”. And at that moment, I fell in love with her all over again. Acknowledgment.

And that’s all my news for today. I will post pics of my dogs soon. Thanks for tuning in.


~ Lisa

Michael’s Ring

Something really hard happened today. I stopped wearing Michael’s ring.

Rings zoom

I didn’t choose it. And I’m sick about it.

I have worn Michael’s ring, literally, since the day he died. I put it on my ring finger, topped it with a black band he bought for me last year on my birthday, and wore it like that for a little over 3 months now.

The ring was just about the closest thing to him I can think of. When he was in and out of hospitals and procedures, he wouldn’t let them take off his ring. He was adamant about it. One of the few times he was obstinate or uncooperative, it was over that ring. Sometimes, the surgical staff (who were wonderful people) would take it off after he was asleep and put it back on him before he woke up. Sometimes, they covered the whole thing with surgical tape and let him wear it even though he wasn’t supposed to. Shhhhh. That ring was everything to him. And when he died, I couldn’t bear to take it off of him. I was devastated. My lovely friend Cindi asked the mortuary guy if he could please get Michael’s ring. And when that man presented me with that ring, I broke down. I put it on my finger, and there it stayed. I have always felt him in that ring.

Lately, I’ve had some health concerns. I haven’t posted about them because I thought people might over-react, but then I wondered why the hell I’m censoring myself on my own blog.

I’m dealing with terrible back issues that are getting addressed this week (this is a progressive degenerative condition so I know what’s happening here), but two more recent developments have come in to add to things, and I’m basically in horrific pain 24/7. Not exaggerating. My feet, my knees, my hips, my entire left leg and foot, my lower back, my upper back, my upper right chest, my neck, my shoulders, my hands, and my wrists ALL hurt like a mother. I’m not kidding. I have a high pain tolerance. I don’t whine. This is BAD. All over.

It started with a bump on my finger. I thought maybe it was a callus. But it was getting bigger, and painful. Then, it got so big in just a matter of a few days, that my finger is starting to change direction. Then, my thumbs started hurting. My knees. My hips. then, I didn’t recognize my own hands. HUGE swollen knuckles. And then, I couldn’t tie a shoe because my fingers and thumbs won’t bend. I can’t grasp a doorknob. Or bend enough to shave my legs in the shower. In a matter of days, the pain has become unbearable and the lack of mobility is increasing fast. It’s coming on hard and aggressive. And it scared me a little. So, I went to the doctor today.

For starters, I have pleurisy. I’m taking anti-biotics and steroids. Hoping that resolves soon. It’s really painful. Second, we’re almost positive I have an autoimmune disease. That’s basically a condition where your body is attacking itself. I think it’s rheumatoid arthritis, (which is QUITE deceiving because it’s an autoimmune disease where your body is attacking the joint and bone tissue and not your typical arthritis although it presents like arthritis), and my doctor put his money on Psoriatic Arthritis, which is another auto-immune condition but I don’t think it’s mine. They drew a lot of blood today and will have results in about a week.

My doctor kept telling me not to worry. I kept telling him I’m not worried. Because, I’m not. This newfound perspective of mine doesn’t fear death at all. In fact, if I do get bad news I don’t know how I’ll feel about it. I’m just not digging being in this kind of pain around the clock.

Regarding my spine and leg issues, I have an MRI tomorrow and an appt with my neuro-surgeon next week. I know what to expect, I’ve been down this road before. It’ll be time for surgery, I can’t have that done right now for painfully obvious reasons, and then we talk about a bunch of bullshit therapies that basically buy me time until I land right back there again. It’s like a big circle. Round and round. It’s madness.

And through it all, until today, I wore his ring. I took it off to put on lotion earlier, and my knuckles and hands are so swollen right now, I can’t get it back on.

Now, it lives on top of my ring. My ring has been in our hands for several weeks. And now his ring covers mine, in our hands. I’m worried that I may never put it on again. Maybe I’ll get used to it. Maybe I’ll stop living a lie by wearing it on my ring finger. Maybe this is the universe’s way of telling me it was time to take it off. Or maybe it’s just shitty luck and none of this means anything. I just know that my heart is breaking and my hand feels so exposed and vulnerable. It’s amazing what a piece of metal can become when it’s one of the only things you have that meant something to the man you loved.

Rings display


~ Lisa

What will they think?

What other people think

I’ve always struggled with this. What people think of me. Sadly, I’ve made more than my share of “enemies” (by enemies, I mean people who hate my guts!). I suppose Winston Churchill was right when he said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”  Most of the “enemies” I’ve made have been from rescue. Volunteers or employees who decided they didn’t like working for me or didn’t like a decision I made, so it became personal. I’ve joked many times about the “I hate Lisa” club that seems to grow in front of my eyes. I see the passive-aggressive Facebook posts and memes (well, I did before I left FB, no more!). Almost every “enemy” I’ve made has been about the dogs. Me being about the dogs, them wanting it to be about them, and then a nasty parting of ways. Them telling others their side, others joining the IHL club, and so it goes. It’s the cost of doing business when your business is based on so much emotion. It’s unfortunate that grown people behave that way, and it’s even more unfortunate when it’s blatant and public.

I’ve learned to accept that.

But now, it’s a whole new “what will they think?”. I’ve been doing lots around the house. I’ve been throwing away lots of things that we had planned to get rid of for a long time (damn the procrastination – all of the “we have to” projects are now “I have to” projects. And hey, I have nothing else to do, so I’m doing them). From the outside, it may appear that I’m gutting the house and moving on and just cruising right through this, but really what I’m doing is tending to the things WE always needed to do. But, what do they think?  What do they think of the recliner in my driveway that says “Free” on it? Do they think I’m getting rid of “his” chair? I’m not. He didn’t have a chair. He wasn’t Archie Bunker. It’s an old recliner that’s been in our basement for the entire 6 years that we have lived in this house, and we don’t have a finished nice basement (I don’t have a finished basement- the “we” just won’t leave my vocabulary yet). It’s just a basement. And the recliner just needs to go. Nothing more.

What will they think when I go out and maybe have some fun? What will they think if I decide to trade in Michael’s car (that neither of us loved anyway)? What will they think if I take a vacation? Will it look like I didn’t love Michael? Or maybe will it look like I sure got over this fast?

Who are “they”? And why do I care?

Let’s circle back. Vacation. I’m really thinking of taking myself on a trip someplace. I want it to be someplace warm, and not overly family-friendly. I’d like to not be vacationing with a lot of kids, and I’d like it to be a cool place for me to travel to solo – AND has to be domestic. Ideas? Let me hear them.

And, what others think…why am I worried about this? Why am I afraid to do something kind for myself, for fear that others will judge me? Nobody has said or implied anything like this. My mind is running away with it and I’m not sure why…

In other news, I’m still doing crazy things around the house. The latest undertaking is staining the wood in the house. ALL the wood. Window frames, door frames, banisters, doors. My house is FULL of wood and it’s ALL that 1980’s golden oak. So, why not take on a huge project that has lots of potential to be an epic fail? I’m staining it all Mission Oak which is dramatically darker. I think my mood medication needs to be adjusted. I don’t want to be sanding and staining in the middle of the night. My energy levels continue to be almost unmanageable.

I talk to Michael all day long. I miss him so much. I don’t know when the complete emptiness will become more bearable. I know that’s a big part of why I’m taking on so much at home. When I’m sanding, I’m not thinking of him. It’s not a conscious effort; I think it’s just where my instincts are taking me. I made a deal with myself that I was just going to be a passenger to my instincts unless I feel like I’m making unsafe decisions. I don’t want to change what I feel like I need to do to cope; I’d just like to not NEED to do all of this to cope. I know, I know…time and patience blah blah blah. And none of that helps when I’m climbing into an empty bed every night, or have something fun to share or need advice or need a hug from someone who loves me unconditionally. Someone who really made the “what will they think?” question not matter so much. Because he loved me and that’s all that mattered.

That’s all for today.


~ Lisa