The Project

“I love to take, process and share photos – it fills me up.” Brene Brown

This past week, I decided to go through a cedar chest filled with photographs. This chest contains almost every photo I have ever taken and all the pictures I inherited after my parents passed away.  Who knew that I would find a picture of “The Project.”


Surprise snapshots

The pictures in this chest were snapshots of a particular event and time. These moments often showed feelings of happiness, joy, and, on occasion, silliness. Many of them captured the accomplishments of family and friends. These included high school and college graduations, weddings, and date nights with a significant other.


However, some were the classic school pictures, children playing in the yard, and the occasional vacation photo.  The images taken were future opportunities to reminisce and share with others.


Going through my parent’s pictures, I realized I only knew a few of the people or events on film. But on occasion, I would come across a gem. In one of the stacks were photos taken during my time in public school. One picture in particular caught my attention because it was one of those elementary school projects that, at the time, I was so proud of and, within a few weeks, had quickly forgotten. 

Really, Botany?

I vividly remember this fourth-grade science Project because we usually worked as a team on everything, but this one was completely different. This project would be the first individual Project of the school year.  Tasked with growing an avocado, planting it, and caring for it in my backyard, I thought it would be challenging, but to my surprise, it wasn’t.

The project at 2 weeks


I remember following the directions on the diagram and working with my mom to care for the seed. We gently washed it, inserted three toothpicks into the seed, and placed it in a cup of water.  The seed was only halfway submerged to ensure that it would sprout. 



Every day after school, I would run home to see if any roots were showing. I would lift the avocado out of the water and check underneath, and subsequently, I would be disappointed because nothing had happened in the eight hours I had been gone.

And one day, they were there.

One day, I came home and saw that the seed had cracked just a little, but I was still disappointed because it wasn’t a tree yet. I was amazed at how long it seemed to take. Then, one day, the tree sprouted, and they were there—ROOTS. In reality, the seed sprouted in a few weeks, but as a child, time moving so slowly was frustrating.

The Project at 2 months.

Now that we had roots growing, my impatience kicked in. I waited for my mom to get home so we could plant the seed and see it grow. In preparation for this event, my mom and I went to the store to purchase a colorful pot to place my small tree in.

After a growth spurt, the tree was ready to be planted in our yard. Once this was done, the school Project was officially over. Within a year, it was a beautiful little tree, and being a typical fourth grader, I lost interest once it was planted in the ground.

The Project at one year.


But now it was my mom’s turn to get excited as she waited for the tree to bear fruit.

Avocados were one of my mom’s favorite fruits, and she couldn’t wait for that first avocado to ripen.



Once it had ripened, she made her famous salad. She placed it on the dining room table at dinner, and both my parents were anxious to taste their first homegrown avocado.


My parents said the salad was delicious. To their surprise, I was not a fan of it and refused to eat her salad for many years. 


Wonderful pictures and memories

I am so happy that I decided to look at the pictures in the chest. Although there was some sadness, as many of the pictures contained loved ones who had passed away, it also brought back some wonderful memories from my past.

I was excited when I found the following gem taken when I was in Junior High School. It was a picture of my father in our backyard. He had climbed our avocado tree, showing us how much it had grown.

The Project at ten years.

I love this picture of my dad because it shows how playful he was. Although he’s been gone for twenty-four years, his silliness and enthusiasm for life are still with me. His love of life was contagious and affected everyone around him. I miss him and all that he brought into my life. I am so grateful that this picture helped me remember this side of him. 

Seventeen years of benefits 

Growing up, I would return home from college to visit my folks at least once a month. Once there, I would sit under my science project, now a huge avocado tree. As a young adult, I discovered that one of my favorite things about coming home was the fruit from the tree. Using a couple of homegrown avocados, I would make guacamole, sit on the patio, and dig into the bowl with chips.


Now, the avocado tree was fully grown and beautiful; anyone could lie underneath it and enjoy its shade. I used to enjoy lying under the tree and reading. 


For my mom, the tree provided her with her favorite fruit. She would say that the organic avocados were flavorful. Years later, she commented on what a prolific producer the avocado tree was. It was amazing that they had enjoyed so many years of fruit, all because of my science Project.

The reality of the school project

The avocado tree project was the only thing I ever did in elementary school that had a lasting effect and benefited my family. It also allowed me to try various versions of guacamole until I found my favorite recipe. I hope you enjoy it.

My Favorite Homemade Guacamole


  • 3 large avocados, halved and pitted
  • 1 lime (juiced)
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • ¼ red onion, finely chopped 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 small tomato, seeded and diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

Gently use a fork to mash the avocados. Leave it a little chunky.

Next, add lime juice, garlic, onion, and salt and stir until mixed. 

Next, add in the tomato, cilantro, and jalapeño pepper. Stir gently.

Cover the guacamole, chill for 60 minutes, and now enjoy.

The Art Studio

“I find inspiration for my works of art in my studio and in the squared circle from all sorts of places.” Jeff Hardy


The Perfect Home

After eight years of marriage, my loved one had become too sick to work, so we decided to follow my career instead of his. This necessitated moving from the West Coast to the Northeast, where we immediately began searching for a home with enough room to house an art studio.



After several months of looking, we found the perfect home with a large basement.



Even though the basement contained our washer and dryer, it was 1100 square feet and had great potential. It was quickly converted into a studio with all the necessary accouterment.

Within Months, the Transformation Happened

The space had a steel rolling tool cabinet that held his oil paints and brushes. It also had a comfortable couch, a small refrigerator, and custom cabinetry to house his digital prints. One side of the Studio had wall-to-wall bins to house the large oil paintings. But the space was incomplete without two of my loved one’s prize possessions: his artist’s easel and large-format printer. As the years passed, the basement was no longer the basement. Now, it was the Studio.



 My loved one spent many happy days in his Studio, music on, designing, and creating his next masterpiece. Because of his efforts, we were the recipients of beautiful art pieces throughout our home. On occasion, he had a showing at a gallery. This would mean weeks of preparation in the Studio, but it was incredible to be a part of.  


Years passed, and his illness progressed. Share on X

Time Passed, and Things Changed

However, as the years passed and his illness progressed, his physical limitations became apparent. It was slow at first and hard to watch as it impacted many of the things he loved to do. At first, it was his stamina, how long he could stand and paint a large canvas. Then came the adjustments to what he could do around the house – the regular things like taking out the trash, helping around the lawn, stacking wood, and snow removal.


As time passed, the size of canvasses became smaller (still quite large but smaller than he would have liked.) Even though I can’t say I understood what he was going through, I was a witness. I found that watching a loved one’s life become smaller and seeing how his illness ravaged his body was not only painful but also left me with images and memories that I wish I didn’t have.   


(A couple of years before his death, he was on oxygen and teaching his granddaughter to paint).

His Illness Took Over

It’s funny that when I think back at the last ten years of his life, the image that comes to mind is him sitting in his chair with his computer on his lap. He would spend hours documenting his thoughts on what that next piece of art should be. His eyebrows would furl as he toiled over how he wanted the composition of that next piece of art to be.


For the last three years of his life, he was on oxygen and tethered to a 50-foot hose. This limited where he could go in our home and caused endless frustration. As it became harder for him to be in his Studio, changes were made to ensure his continued ability to create. 


The Final Oil Painting

Several friends relocated his Studio into our library to give him the necessary creative access. I remember the last year of his life as he struggled to complete his final oil painting.

I remember the last year of his life as he struggled to complete his final oil painting. Share on X


I would come home and see the progress every day until it was done. This painting became one of my favorites because of the composition, tenacity, and will to finish it. I cherish this painting. 



And the basement was BACK!

After his death, my friends returned to move everything back to the Studio. Being thoughtful, they asked for directions as to where things belonged. However, I was in no shape to think about the task at hand. So I told them to put it anywhere. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the first time I went downstairs, I found everything was dropped into the middle of the room. All it took was one week after he died for the Studio to no longer be a studio. Now, it was just a plain old-fashioned basement, and the only reason to venture into it was to use the washer and dryer. 


Months passed, and I avoided setting foot into the basement. Going there meant walking around the unfinished canvas sitting on the easel in the middle of the room. There were papers and books on the couch, his paints and tool chests in disarray. Every time I went downstairs, my heart would break a little bit more.

The Assessment

I remember summoning the courage to go downstairs as if it was yesterday. I needed to assess what had to be done and couldn’t avoid it any longer. It took me ten months after he passed away to set the goal of transforming the basement back into a studio.




It didn’t matter that he would no longer be using his brushes and printer or creating beautiful works of art.



What mattered on this long-ago day was that I wanted to honor his memory by putting everything back in its place. It didn’t matter that he was no longer with me. Doing this would make me feel better about setting foot into this part of my home.

The Beloved Artist

Eventually, I hoped that I would be able to sit on the studio couch and share memories with my family and friends of the man I loved, who was an artist. 


Fast forward several years after the loss of my loved one, and I was looking forward to having a party at my home.


I invited some old and new friends to spend time with me. As my new friends arrived, I found they were enthralled with the large and bright art pieces on the walls.



That night, I was the docent and curator of his art. As we walked around, I could show my friends the various pieces of his artwork. The tour would end in the Studio as they glanced at the 100-plus oil paintings. That night, I was reminded of how vital the Studio was in our home. This space had brought both of us years of happiness.

The Table for One

 “We have a normal. As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.” Robin S. Sharma

Suddenly my MOOD Changed

Within a few months of walking my #GriefJourney, I decided to go out to dinner on my way home from work. On my drive there, I started feeling a little apprehensive and agitated.

As I set foot in the restaurant, I was greeted by the hostess who asked me how many would be in my party. I told her I needed a Table for One, and as the words escaped my mouth, I realized I was officially in a bad mood. 

Couldn’t she tell that I was a new Widow? Share on X


Didn’t she know that I was in mourning? Couldn’t she tell that I was a new Widow?



Only Doing Her Job

The answer to these questions was NO. It was not her fault that my husband was dead. She did not intend to hurt me by asking how many people would be in my party. She was doing her job, and I hated every moment as she guided me to a table. As we walked by the patrons, I grew more depressed. It was busy, loud with chatter, and apparently date night, which worsened this outing.


Just One of Those Days

I wanted to blame the hostess for my mood, as It was one of those days. You know, the kind. The kind of day that no matter where you look, there are ‘Happy Couples’ all around. It’s funny that I automatically assumed that the couples were happy. The realization hit me that after a #loss of a spouse, #partner, or an important #significantother, everyone else seems to be happy.  


Was it their date night as I watched a couple holding hands and laughing? Was it a special celebration, an anniversary, as one couple was drinking Champagne?

As I glanced around, I saw a pair that seemed to be flirting. Was this their first date, I wondered, and who planned this evening out?


This restaurant wasn’t the fanciest place, but it had good food, good service, and if you wanted to take a romantic walk afterward, the street had beautiful lights with plenty of little stores to browse through.

As the thoughts of a romantic walk entered my brain, I realized I needed to stop this scenario from playing. I quickly put an end to the idea and picked up the menu. The interesting thing was that I ate alone all the time, and it never seemed to bother me.


I used to travel cross country for work, often in different cities, eating my dinner alone. Over the years, that was the normal routine that I had grown comfortable with.

I would go to a restaurant, order my food, look at my emails, read a book, or play on my phone while I waited for my food to arrive.


Somehow, this was acceptable in my mind because I wasn’t judging that I was alone. I was only alone because of work, and I still had a significant other waiting for me at home.  

Seriously, Happy Couples!

 Since my loved one’s death, my routine was that I would order food from a restaurant and pick it up on my way home from work, avoiding the restaurant experience. This day was different as I didn’t want to cook. I just wanted to sit and order some food and not be bothered.

Everywhere I looked, they were there – all those happy couples. Share on X


Everywhere I looked, they were there – all those happy couples, young, old, looking at each other with undivided attention. 


I recognized that going out to dinner alone when it was not work-related was not my choice. Knowing that I wasn’t on a work trip, this painful recognition reinforced how different my life truly was. The reminder of being alone and that I would be a Table for One for a while was difficult. So whatever I could do to embrace this unwanted change in my life would be important and necessary. Despite seeing the couples, I tried to enjoy my meal, having faith and tremendous hope that my feelings about dining alone would change. 

This is Now

It has been ten years since my loved one died and seven years since I retired. No more work trips or sitting in a strange city having a meal by myself. Enough time has passed that the vulnerability I used to feel doesn’t happen often.


Small changes began by walking into a coffee shop, ordering a vente latte with two Splendas while looking around for an empty table to sit and enjoy my drink. The steps continued to grow as I ventured to lunches alone.

Assertiveness Lead to Comfort

Today I recognize that I can sit alone in a restaurant at dinner and enjoy a good meal. Now I am able to walk into an establishment and tell them I will be a Table for One. My table will be by the window, French doors, or the garden so I can have a wonderful view of the passersby or the flowers. It begins by informing the restaurant that I don’t mind waiting for that nice table. Being assertive about how I wanted that experience to go made things a little bit easier. Things have changed as I don’t often get overwhelmed by couples like I used to, and now I look at them and see that they all don’t look that happy.   

Enjoying the restaurant experience alone doesn’t mean I want to do it on a  regular basis. I prefer sitting at a table with a couple of friends and enjoying great food and a good conversation.  It’s still good to know that I can do it.  

The New Experience

 Walking through grief hasn’t been easy. My past experiences have taught me that it always felt strange and unfamiliar whenever I tried something new. By practicing patience and allowing enough time to pass for healing, I was able to do many things that initially were difficult.  Now I find that these difficult things come with ease. The Table for One was my new something, my new normal, and I fully committed to hanging on long enough to see this change happen.  

Anyone who has suffered a loss can find their comfort zone. Share on X

My hope is that anyone who has suffered a significant loss through #death or #divorce can find their comfort zone. May you navigate your new life with patience and tolerance until your Table for One becomes a reality.