A big, scary, painful, precious mess

I’m writing this post on Thanksgiving and feeling grateful for so many things – family, friends, dogs in general and Lexi in particular (despite how she smells because I’m pretty sure she rolled in something dead and it seems that one bath isn’t going to quite take care of it), the portobello mushrooms Chad will be stuffing for our vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner, the opposing thumbs that make so many things possible…

But yesterday was hard. The death of someone I very much liked and admired reminded me (again, again, again) of how fragile and precious life is. It shouldn’t have, but the news blindsided me, made me weep and quietly rage at the cruelty and unfairness that is cancer. She was only 40 years old. There are no magic words that will make her death okay with me, no platitudes that make it easier to accept. I feel sad and angry, and yesterday was hard because I spent the afternoon printing and packaging orders for art and note cards, the profits from which will be donated to metastatic breast cancer research because, sadly, I very much like and admire Lisa Adams, and she has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

Stage 4.

I cried a lot yesterday.

But today is Thanksgiving, and one of the first things I saw this morning, my eyes still bleary with sleep, was Lisa’s daily reminder, “Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can’t find it, create it. Some days this may be hard to do. Persevere.”

So today, I’m focusing on love, the thing I am most grateful for of all. I’m focusing on the people who have ordered hundreds of art prints and note cards in support of Lisa and her Sloan-Kettering metastatic breast cancer research fund; the response has been magnificent and  humbling. I’m focusing on my generous, loving Facebook community, who jumped in to comfort me when I said I was sad; I wept then too, but with love and gratitude. I’m focusing on the people who love me in spite of my many flaws, and the people I love who, over and over, fill my well on days like yesterday.

I think this post is kind of rambling, full of joy and sorrow and love and awe and loss. And maybe that’s the point in the end, that life is just this big, scary, painful, precious mess, and the best thing we can do, the most important thing we can do, is hold onto each other.

This Thanksgiving, I’m so very, very grateful for all of you.



p.s. Some happy news! I drew Christy Wilson’s name from the hat and will be sending her the hand-lettered piece of her choice.

p.p.s. If you’re interested in purchasing the Find Beauty print or note cards (or anything else in the shop), for three more days you can get free shipping on orders of $30 or more.


  1. Pam on November 28, 2014 at 9:06 am


    • j on November 28, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Hugs back to you, Pam. xox

  2. Julia on November 28, 2014 at 9:18 am

    I love you so so so so much, J. That is it.

    • j on November 28, 2014 at 9:20 am

      And I you, Julia. Gratitude abounds. xo

  3. Mary Moellenhoff on November 28, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Hey J… Love this. This news was hard on me too. Particularly because I lost another online friend just last week. I think the main difficulty is that you do not have the same closure when it is an online friend. Our closure is through posts like this. Well done and thank you for writing this.

    • j on November 28, 2014 at 11:42 am

      Mary, that’s a good point. I think you’re right about the closure (or lack thereof). On the flip side, I was so very, very comforted reading the comments that everyone posted after we all heard the news. It is reassuring when you feel sad and angry and flailing a little to be among people who feel exactly the same way.

      Thank you for commenting. xo

  4. kjomo on November 28, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Dear J ~ As I am reading this post, I was watching a taped View show. It has Tony Bennett & Lady GaGa singing…And, I HAVE to share what they just started singing! “Heaven, I’m in Heaven”! He is SO good to us! I was just sobbing, as I took in your words.
    I hope this touches you and gives you some Peace.
    With Love from MN,. ~ Jo

    • j on November 28, 2014 at 11:44 am

      It does, Jo. Thank you so much. Always. xo

  5. elizabeth marie on November 28, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Gobs of love to you.

    • j on November 28, 2014 at 11:47 am

      Thank you, Elizabeth. And gobs back to you too, my friend.

  6. Lyn on November 28, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Love your thoughts spilled out on to words that overflow to my world across the other side of this big bold country (sometimes world) and seep into my heart! Gratitude for you and your beautiful, messy, but very wise vulnerable heart. Xxx

    • j on November 28, 2014 at 11:48 am

      That is EXACTLY how I feel about you, Lyn. Big love.

  7. terrepruitt on November 28, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Oh Judy . . . (sending hugs!)

    • j on November 28, 2014 at 11:48 am

      Thank you, Terre. xo

  8. Joanne Marie Firthj on November 28, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Oh j. You have no idea how grateful I am that you wrote this. It helped settle some feelings I”m struggling with. The kind of feelings that are so mixed up they make your head spin. The dark hole of sadness and the light of gratitude and love filtering in, making a ladder for me to climb out and find some joy. Find some joy and feel it before the sadness grabs me back down. A lot of falling and even more climbing. Thank you for this.

    Hugs to you. Big ones that last more than 6 seconds.

    • j on November 28, 2014 at 11:50 am

      That is a beautiful, perfect (and heartbreaking) description of how it feels a lot right now, falling and climbing back up. I really am so, so thankful we all have each other. More-than-six-second hugs back to you. <3

  9. gr82brees on November 28, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    I am so very sorry for your loss. I love your BIG, BEAUTIFUL, RAW, AUTHENTIC, get-out-of-my-way-I’m-spreading-love heart!

    • j on November 28, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      Oh my, how I love that description. Thank you so much. I feel a little bit invincible now. <3

  10. KjM on November 28, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    It is true, J. For some hurts, words don’t work. Time does. Hugs help.

    Knowing you’re thought of often and loved provides a measure of comfort.

    Knowing the person is now beyond the reach of pain does…something…eventually.

    Were I there, perhaps my hug would help. Failing that, and the failing’s mine, know you are thought of often.

    • j on November 28, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      Actually, Kevin. Your words always help. Thank you. And someday, I’ll get that hug. ; )

      • KjM on November 29, 2014 at 10:58 am

        Ah, my dear J. You are the one with the gift of honest, raw words. I envy you. As to the hug…who knows? 🙂

  11. lunajune on November 29, 2014 at 8:00 am

    Years ago I use to say, ‘ things will get better’ ‘ we’ll get over this’ and a few other things
    but life is really not about getting over, hoping it will get better… it is a continual flow, it comes, it goes it gives, it takes, it unfolds, it changes, it blossoms, it decays, it dies, it’s reborn, all the while revealing itself little by little to us. The light that is us… I can absolutely guarantee it is never gone ♥ it slips it’s physical bonds, unties the string that held it Earthbound & it shines soo bright. As I type these words more undoing is on it’s way, dear old friend, breast cancer, sweet new co-worker’s friend committed suicide . Life as much as it is fragile it is remarkable, as much as it is painful, it is joyful, it is more that words can express, but try to express it we all do…..so celebrate, give thanks, remember to share your love….more than anything give it away at every opportunity you get, it’s all we have, it’s all we take with us.

    and again I am always reminded when facing the end of this form

    Death is nothing at all.
    It does not count.
    I have only slipped away into the next room.
    Nothing has happened.

    Everything remains exactly as it was.
    I am I, and you are you,
    and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
    Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

    Call me by the old familiar name.
    Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
    Put no difference into your tone.
    Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

    Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
    Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
    Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
    Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

    Life means all that it ever meant.
    It is the same as it ever was.
    There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
    What is this death but a negligible accident?

    Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
    I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
    somewhere very near,
    just round the corner.

    All is well.
    Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
    One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
    How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

    Harry Scott-Holland (1847 – 1918), a priest at St. Paul’s Cathedral of London

    • gr82brees on November 29, 2014 at 9:34 am

      Just brilliant all the way around. Thank you for this lunajune.

      • j on December 6, 2014 at 8:55 am

        Oh my goodness, Luna. This is lovely and perfect and so what I needed – both the poem and your words before it. YOU are a light. Thank you for shining my way. xoxo

  12. lunajune on November 29, 2014 at 8:03 am

    a little side note on ‘comments’
    it’s the way we share our thoughts…
    express a little of our soul
    I know there are lots of negative things out there
    and technology allows people to just open their’s and let it drop
    but I am very glad you will keep them…
    it is in the sharing that we connect…
    and it’s that what social media is all about…
    remembering that no matter where…we are connected

    sending hugs

    • j on December 6, 2014 at 8:57 am

      I’m glad I’m leaving them on too, and very glad I asked for inputs. As usual, my community is wiser than I am. Thank goodness for all of you. <3

  13. Rosie Grey on November 30, 2014 at 8:31 am

    As words fail me reading this, I’m sending big warmhugs!

    • Rosie Grey on November 30, 2014 at 8:32 am

      … warm hugs… in case you are wondering what warmhugs are 😉

      • j on December 6, 2014 at 8:57 am

        That made me laugh. I like “warmhugs.” It SHOULD be a word. Thank you! xo

  14. Alarna Rose Gray on November 30, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    Dear Judy,

    I just read your email newsletter, and see I have missed a whole important conversation about blog comments. As an irregular commenter, at best, I’ve probably contributed to some of the anxiety at times when comments are few. And I’m just here to say that your blog is one of those beautiful, thoughtful places that sometimes put me in a place of reflection, rather than inviting comment. Sometimes, as has been the case of late, I’m not in a good place for that kind of meditation, so I don’t visit until I am. But you should never interpret that as a negative on anything you post…quite the opposite. We need more places where we can feel comfortable to be quiet, pause and think. And, when the time is right, to add something to the thought process. It’s one of the things I love about this space. Just want you to know that.

    Anyway, big hugs to you. Cancer IS cruel and unfair. And its okay to feel that, and to be lost for words, and to be mad and sad and grateful all at once. Take care xo

    • j on December 6, 2014 at 9:02 am

      I seriously adore you, Alarna. I actually feel the same way about your blog, so this rings very true to me. Thank you so much for saying it. I guess I was in a place where I needed reassurance, and I’m grateful I asked (even though I didn’t know that’s what I was asking for at the time). This community of writers, readers, artists – creatives, all – is invaluable to me. My personal evolution would not be possible without it, that I know for sure. xox

  15. Karin on December 1, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Cancer has affected my family a lot. Both my grandmothers had breast cancer — and fortunately, they beat it. Then one of them had lung cancer. My grandpa had several cancers all at once (they caught it late and it had spread everywhere). Even one of the dogs I grew up with passed from stomach cancer a few years back.
    I’m reminded often of the high risk and cost of such a deadly disease and grateful for those who survived it. I am truly sorry for your loss and I can tell she meant a great deal to you.

    Here’s hoping it doesn’t damper your holiday spirit too much. <3 After all, she's in a new life now, wherever that may lead her.

    • j on December 6, 2014 at 8:52 am

      Thank you, Karin. I think maybe there isn’t anyone left on the planet whose life hasn’t be touched by cancer. It feel sometimes exhausted and sometimes furious, often both. It’s such a terrible disease, and so indiscriminate. I’m sorry for you losses too, my friend. Big hugs.

  16. Nina Badzin on December 5, 2014 at 4:39 am

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. And I think it’s really great you did that fundraiser. Are you still doing it? I’d love to buy more cards. I’m out and you know I love your work.

    • j on December 6, 2014 at 8:49 am

      Hi, Nina. Delayed response, sorry! I’m not getting emailed about new comments for some reason. But yes, I’m doing the note cards through the end of December. Thank you so much for supporting the cause!

  17. Annie Neugebauer on December 9, 2014 at 8:24 am

    I’m sorry I missed this, and I’m very sorry about your friend. You have such a beautiful, honest outlook, j. Reading your posts always makes me feel something. I’ll keep you in my thoughts this season.

    • j on December 10, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Thank you, Annie. xo

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